The internal decision pendulum has been swaying back and forth between the F1 Rocket and the RV-10 for a few days now and it has finally parked on the RV-10 side unless, of course, I change my mind again.
Countless articles have been written on the topic of selecting the right airplane for you, and regardless of whether the decision is which factory-built to buy or which experimental to build, the recommended decision making process is always the same: take a good, close look at your mission and situation.
'Mission' is simply the question "what kind of flying do you do?" This seems obvious, but it can sometimes be difficult when a couple of your favorite types of flying require completely different airplanes. For example, your missions may be carrying passengers or having a stable IFR platform for long trips, or having a plane that can be used simply for casual recreation flights like formation flying or light aerobatics.
There are many RV-6s out there that satisfy both missions (absent the ability to carry the entire family), but mine fails the IFR platform mission. So, let's stipulate that the RV-10 has the advantage over the Rocket for the travel mission, if only because of the 2 extra seats.
The recreational flying mission is well address by the Rocket. Part of the equation for my persional recreaction mission is low operating cost, and while you'd think the Rocket would be disqualified for the increased fuel costs of the 6-cylinder 260hp engine, that actually wouldn't be the case. The Rocket will fly just like a typical 200 hp RV-8 if you throttle it back, which naturally results in a fuel burn similar to the RV-8's. It will also fly like a P-51 if I feel frisky and don't mind burning a few more gallons. I think it's safe to say that the Rocket is the hands-down winner in this category.
There is one occasion where the Rocket is likely to have an increased fixed cost, though, and that is insurance. The RV-10 isn't exactly cheap to insure right now, but that situation will improve as the fleet hours build up and the actuarial tables are refined. I don't think that will happen with the Rocket, and I don't think there will be any discount for being a 2-seater, either.
The RV-10 has both a advantages and a disadvantage when it comes to the building process, and building cost is the primary component of 'Situation.' On the plus side, many, many RV-10s are being built so there are a whole lot of lifelines out there should problems arise, and the RV-10 plans and manual are reportedly far more "first-timer" friendly than the Rockets. Another building advantage the RV-10 has over the Rocket is that the -10 is available in a slow-build kit, while the Rocket is available only as a quick-build. I'd prefer a slow-build kit over a quick-build primarily because it aids the financial situation by adding at least two years to the build time, but also because I consider building this airplane to be a resume should I ever finish my A&P and want to specialize in experimentals. Financially, the problem with the quick-build is that it requires gobs of money right up front. With the slow-build, the cost can be spread across a few years since each major component is acquired separately. For example, the progression for the RV-10 is tail kit, wing kit, fuselage kit, finish kit. The progression for the Rocket is tailkit, everything else, already built and far pricier as a result. Truly, time is money in this case.
The incerased difficulty of the slow-build option in the case of the RV-10 is helped by the fact that the quality of the RV-10 slow-build is state-of-the-art, and asking an opinion from a builder that has an award-winning RV-6 under his belt and is currently building both a -10 and a Rocket got this reply: "a first time builder will find the 10 much like putting together a barbecue grill from Sears."
Note that having spent a deplorable evening a few years ago struggling with assembling a grill from Lowes, I'm going to have to rationalize that Sears sells a more easily assembled grill than Lowes or that grill assembly has been greatly simplified in the intervening years.
The one disadvantage of the RV-10 is the cost of the tail kit. Because it also includes the structure and skin that will make up the aft end of the fuselage (known as the tail cone), the price of the tail kit for the -10 is nearly twice that of the Rocket's. If you consider that the appeal of starting with the tail kit is that it is financially less risky than starting with the more expensive components, starting an RV-10 tail and not finishing it is costlier than abandoning the construction of a Rocket tail. That said, as long as a tail gets finished, and gets finished reasonably well, there is a resale market for it. Because I'm certain that I could complete a tail, I'm ignoring the higher entry risk that the RV-10 has and declaring it to be superior in the build category.
Without putting too fine a point on it, the financial possibilities with the RV-10 are also compelling. Beyond spreading out the build costs over a couple of more years, the -10 also offers the opportunity to have a recreational plane, albeit one nowhere near as capable as the Rocket, in addition to having the travel plane. While I would never consider sharing a 260hp taildragger with a partner, I don't have those qualms about having a partner in a non-aerobatic nosewheel plane, so the possibility of finding a partner got me to thinking.
I'm not entirely qualm-free with having a partner in the -10, having had a partnership before that soured me on the idea for awhile. I think it can be managed in such a way that the benefits outweigh the negatives, though. Let's assume that I have a completed RV-10 that I built for $110k. Market value on that plane would likely be in the $140-150k range. If I'm selling a share of a completed airplane, I'm selling it at half of market, not half of cost. So let's put $70k in the bank. It's possible that some of that will have been borrowed against for construction costs, so let's say I have $50k. I have to keep that money available somewhere in case a buy-out of the partner is ever required (remember, I've had a partner before), and what better place to park that money than in something like an RV-4, many examples of which are available for under $50k. An RV-4 is no Rocket, but the Rocket is a dream that can be deferred for now and an RV-4 is a very fun plane in its own right.
So, having decided on an RV-10, and assuming that I will proceed, the first thing to think about is shop space. The first step in ascertaining the space requirements will be, as always, Google. More on that topic in a few days.
Five minutes of browsing found this:
$41,000 • FLY RIGHT NOW • Cruise along at 180 mph! 2003 Rv-4, TTSN 291, 1986 Lycoming O-320-D2J 160 HP TTSN 2263, Tall stance gear, tall canopy, Electric Flaps, Nav lights, Strobes, full swivel tailwheel, oregon aero foam seats, MX11 flipflop com, Narco X ponder, Northstar Loran, Garmin handheld GPS, Dry pump vacum with AH and DG, electric turn and bank, G meter, hobbs, Metal sensenich RV cruise prop 291hours TT, Lightweight starter and alternator, quick drain on sump, spin on filter, new harness, air oil separator - no oil on belly ! compression 71,75,75,73 over 80, Engine is a first run 2263 hours since new. Plane has a beautiful 6500$ paint job, the metal work on the plane is of the highest level, Recent xponder and condition inspection.
I'd probably look for something lighter and less complex than this one, and with less time on the engine (although as an A&P student I could probably overhaul it myself), but I'm just sayin' is all.