Saturday, February 17, 2007

Snowing again

So, another few inches of snow will be providing a nice protective blanket on top of the ice from earlier this week. That's nice. I had planned on getting an early start on getting Papa ready for his annual physical this morning, but the sight of the new blanket of frustration floating down from above caused a quick re-evaluation of the cost/benefit analysis of warm comfortable house versus freezing cold hangar. Yes, sad as it is, the issue of the commute to the hangar on the snowy roads was actually a tie-breaker! If not for that, I would have forsaken the comforts of the stately manor for the opportunity to finally do something, anything, with the airplane.

The new snow is still piling on as I glance out the window, so it's going to be a while before start thinking about heading over to the barn. In the meantime, I continue to obsess over the idea of restoring an RV. If you recall, the stream of thought was triggered by seeing an older, formerly flying RV-4 for sale. Sans engine, the asking price was $13,000.

I think restoring a plane that had been flying would be a better fit for me than trying to complete an unfinished kit, which would be the other option at this price point. Fundamentally, I think it's easier to rebuild/replace something than it is to fabricate and fit the original part. Access can be much more difficult on an already finished airplane, but panels can be de-riveted for some of the more difficult jobs. Corrosion is potentially an issue, though, if the plane wasn't well primered and has been sitting in the back of a barn for a decade. A close pre-purchsse inspection of the plane would mitigate that.

If I were to restore the hypothetical RV-4, I would have to decide whether to take the low road (mid-time O-320, basic VFR comm and instruments, portable GPS) or the high road (new O-360, Dynon 180, GNS430). After a little spread sheet work and internet pricing queries, it looks like the low road approach would cost a total of around $40k, and the high road would get up into the $70s. The fundamental difference between the two approaches is what happens at the end: low road approach ends with me trying to sell the RV-4 in the low end of a crowded market. I'd probably break even financially, but that's ok since I'm not doing it to make money. The high road ends with me keeping the RV-4 and trying to sell the RV-6 in the middle tier of a crowded market. In the current market I'd probably end up taking a small loss, but not enough to matter.

Where would I work on it? Down in my basement. I have enough room down there to reassemble the plane and work on it whole, and the cellar doors are big enough to carry it down there in pieces, assuming the landing gear are removed. Obviously it would have to be disassembled again to get back out of the basement, but this is more the rule than the exception in the homebuilt world.

Man, that would be cool. It would have to be a storm of biblical proportions to keep me from walking downstairs to work on a plane.

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