Monday, September 14, 2009

On building an RV-12

If nothing else, I think I will build the tail over this winter. I'm not a very outdoorsy type in the bitter cold weather anymore and I need a project to keep myself occupied. The beauty of the RV-12 tail kit is that the vast majority of the work can be done in my basement. Because it includes the tail cone, the final assembly of the tail would have to be performed somewhere above ground. I'm not keen on leaving the cars out on the driveway so using the garage is out of the question, but I have plenty of room in the hangar to do the final riveting.

The advantages of starting with the tail are related to cost. The kit is $2,150 plus shipping which is a very small initial expense when compared to the overall cost of the kit. Another benefit is that there is resale value for the tail should I decide that I don't want to proceed with the rest of the build. There will be a very large number of RV-12s built, so there will therefore be a ready market for a completed tail. Why not buy one already done for the same cost as the kit itself?

The more important and difficult decision will be whether or not to continue to build the rest of the airplane. As the build process progresses, both the cost and the physical size of the components increases dramatically. I would be reluctant to build an entire wing or fuselage in the hangar, but if there is a reasonable ratio between time spent fabricating or preparing individual parts before assembling them into or onto a prohibitively large structure, well, that would be different. If I could take a bunch of deburred and fluted ribs out to the hangar to final rivet onto the spar, for example, the time spent in the hangar would be minimized. That's only really important for the three or four months of bitter winter cold; a good fan would keep the hangar at a suitable temperature for all but the worst of the summer days.

Along that line of thought, I asked Wingman Ted, who is currently building an RV-10, what that ratio might be. His estimate is 50-50. So, half the time would be spent preparing parts in my basement, the other half would be spend assembling them in the hangar. This would inevitably slow the pace of the project somewhat, but I think it's important to note that I have an advantage over the more typical builder: I already have an airplane to fly. What do I care if it takes five to seven years to finish an RV-12? And with the option to bail out and sell the partially complete kit any time I want, I don't see much financial risk to the endeavor.

So, why an RV-12 in the first place? Well, I ain't getting any younger and the LSA airplane has the benefit of removing any worries over losing my medical. That is, after all, how I got my RV-6. I think the guy that built it only put 155 hours on it before losing his medical. And, although the RV-12 is 30 knots slower than the RV-6, it is more capable when the winds get higher than my comfort level in the taildragging, small rudder RV-6. And with a nosewheel, the RV-12 would be suitable for flight instruction. That would be a boon to co-pilot Egg!


  1. Hi there Dave! I've really been enjoying your trip right-ups lately. The Chicago pictures were impressive and it appears that a good time was had by all. I just looked at Barnstormers and it looks like an RV-12 could substantially paid for with your RV-6, so there isn't much risk involved at all. A little slower,no aerobatics but a new plane which you built yourself. It may be a difficult decision but some ice options. Jeff

  2. I think that Van came out with the -12 at just the right time. I'm an older pilot who could not pass a medical now. My only option will be to build a -12. With the "baby-boomers" all approaching retirement and the chance for a failed medical, Van has the right product at the right time.

    "There will be a very large number of RV-12s built, so there will therefore be a ready market for a completed tail." I think that you are spot on there. I think with the ease of building a -12, that you will be guaranteed getting the money out that you put in. Judging from the numerous -12 builders blogs, you will finish the build. If I lived in your neck of the woods, I'd be looking for a partnership build. I wish that there was a way of matching builders for fractional kit builds.

  3. I am not so sure about the resale value of the completed tail. Others might want to purchase the tail kit for the same reason you did - a relatively low cost exposure to the airplane building process. I think there is also the pleasure of knowing one built everything vs everything but the tail. Please do not let this stop you by any means - pursue the dream and best wishes.