Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Bucket List

The new bucket list over there on the right sidebar has listed as one of its items 'Build an airplane.' Make no mistake: I am under no illusions as to what that means. Even a "quick build" kit requires years of effort and devotion. My take on the whole thing is that it is a great thing to do if you're trying to productively fill your time, but not so much if you're at the stage in life where you have to find time. Keep in mind, though, that my viewpoint on this is heavily biased by the fact that I already have an airplane. I'm afraid my motivation would be in great danger of flagging during the years of effort required to build something as complex as an airplane if I, you know, already had one.

The number of hours that go into a project like this are staggering. For example, Bob Collins is building an RV-7A, and recently completed one part of the canopy that took a total effort of 235 hours spread across three months! As a comparison, the only significant building project I've completed (the kayak) took a total of 80 hours, spread across six months. A few minutes of introspection into my working habits, patience, diligence, and competing demands on my available time indicates to me that I will have to select from one of three possible strategies:

- start now, with the goal of completion being very, very far in the future. There is an RV-6 based at Bolton than took 14 years to build. That approach is viable in that it spreads the time and dollars demands to a sustainably thin level, but creates other issues. For example, what if that 14 year builder had decided halfway through that his flying needs would no longer be met by an RV-6, and that he needed some other model? Given that to this very day I cannot decide which plane I would want to build, this path seems rife with risk.

Another problem is that you can't economically test yourself on a smaller project such as building a tail. The tail kit isn't hugely expensive relative to the remainder of the plane, but you need a lot of tools to build it. The cost of the tools and building a work shop easily exceed the cost of the tail. And, of course, if you decide not to press forward after the tail you have a lot of tools on your hands, and a tail with no airplane.

- wait until I'm either fully or semi-retired. This would alleviate the time concerns, but exacerbate the funding concerns. Between being on the dreaded fixed income by then and the increased building pace dictated by having more hours to fill, it would be harder to afford.

- Build something simpler than a "legacy" RV. This is where something like the RV-12 would appeal - it allegedly requires roughly half of the hours of one of its bigger, more complex brethren. Still, it has a canopy. Having followed Bob's progress on his canopy this summer, I'm not sure I could ever get that part done. An open cockpit RV-12? Hmmm.

Well, there is in fact a fourth option: modify the bucket list.


  1. If you really want to operate a backhoe, fly up here. My wife's parents own one and there's plenty of stuff to dig up on their property (woods, field, etc). I'm certainly they'd be happy to give you some instruction on it and let you loose. Just give me a heads up.

  2. The fairing actually took 65 hours (66 including today). The entire canopy (so far) has been 230+ somce Feb 07.

    Seeing as how it's your bucket list and all, why don't we just swap "airplanes."

    I'll throw in my kids' 3 prize winning Pinewood Derby cars (the secret is embedding lead shot.)

    I love the blog as always.