RV-7A Project
Construction Log
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Useful Links
- Van's Aircraft, Inc.
- Van's Airforce
- Rivet Bangers
- RV-List Archive

The easiest way to reach me for RV-related things is over at VAF (username Jamie).
Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why are you building an Airplane?
Some people have a difficult time understanding why any rational-minded person would ever get into something they built in their garage that flies 200mph and takes them to potentially 24,000 ft above the Earth. I suppose when most people think of homebuilt airplanes, they tend to conjure up images in their minds of early wishful thinkers strapping on wings and flapping them frantically as they accelerate from their perch to the earth at 9.8m/s/s. Or maybe they envision someone who has no regard for their own personal safety or the safety of those who would dare to fly with them. I assure you that neither of these is the case with my project or the other 30,000 (estimated) homebuilt airplane projects across the country. Today's hombuilt airplanes must pass a rigorous inspection by the FAA before they are certified airworthy. The RV-7A is an airplane of all-aluminum construction (fiberglass tips, fairings and cowling) using tried and true construction techniques used on countless production aircraft around the world.

If you think I'm crazy for doing this, don't worry. I sometimes have a difficult time understanding peoples' motivations for doing strange things as well. For example, I cannot for the life of me understand how anyone can climb Mt. Everest. It must be painfully difficult. Yet, people do it all the time. Why? We know what's up there. Why not just take a helicoptor to the summit? There's no reason to go. You can see snow elsewhere. Of course, my points are absurd.

I often hear similar arguments regarding the construction of an airplane. People look for logic in it. They ask if it's cheaper than taking the airlines. Is it cheaper than buying a used plane, etc (these questions answered below). The fact is that it is a passion. It's something that I just *have* to do...and that's why I'm doing it. My Everest sits in my garage, ready for me to conquer a small part of it every day. Where is yours?

Q: How were you introduced to homebuilt airplanes?
Many folks involved with aircraft homebuilding seem to have been doing it forever...not me. While I was working on getting my pilot's license, I stumbled across a website detailing a guys trip to Venezuela through the Carribbean (too bad I can't find the page anymore). The strange thing about the trip was that he made it in a homebuilt airplane. I believe that airplane was an RV, but I'm not sure. Anyway, after looking at homebuilts for about 2 minutes I came across RV's, in particular Mike Stewart's website. I read every single page on his site and decided it was really cool. I had to see this plane in person. I noticed from Mike's site that he was a member of EAA 690 so I e-mailed Mike and asked him about the meetings. He responded and I met him at the next meeting. We talked for a minute then he took me down to see his plane. Now...Mike will tell you that his plane is not a "show winner", but believe me, his plane is purdy nontheless. His pride in the plane is very evident every time he talks about it.

Mike then asks what I'm doing the next morning at 7:30 (a Saturday). He says that he and his girlfriend Michelle are flying across town the next morning and he needed to 'warm up' the plane (more like warm up the pilot ;-) ). The next morning I was there early and we loaded in the plane...I was very impressed with the plane vs. all of the spam cans I had been flying recently. His plane was nice, didn't smell like sweat (a typical attribute of rentals), and was very comfortable to sit in.

The thing I was most unprepared for on that flight was the take-off...holy cow!!!! That plane was off the runway in 300 ft (max). It was about that time that I decided I was going to build a plane...and that plane was going to be an RV. We went out south of the field and did some aerobatics... loops, rolls, lazy 8's. His plane felt very, very solid and I was far more comfortable in it than I am in rented Cessna's. When we came back and landed, Mike said "You know what that's called, don't you?". I just shrugged, unable to talk with that silly grin firmly planted on my face.

"That's the $50,000 dollar ride."

Thanks Mike, I'll never forget that airplane ride (my wife says she won't forget her's either!).

Q: Ok, so you're building an airplane, but why the RV-7A?
I chose the RV-7A for several reasons. The primary reason is the reputation of the kit manufacturer for customer and technical support, and the supurb quality of the kits. The other reason is for the general usefulness I see myself getting from this airplane. It's a fantastic cross country airplane with a range of about 1000 miles on 55% power making 177mph. That equates to being on a Florida beach in a couple of hours or to my brother's house in Mobile, AL in less than two (it's a 6+ hour drive). Since it's aerobatic, it will always be fun and it is a joy to fly. It handles like a sport's car, whereas your typical Cessna / Piper handle more like a pickup truck (relatively speaking).

Q: Is building and flying your own airplane cheaper than taking the airlines?
The answer is usually no. If I was just building this plane to be able to go from point 'a' to point 'b', I would not be doing it. I'm doing it for the whole experience and for recreation.

Q: Is it safe?
All RV aircraft are built from sheet metal using the same old tried and true construction techniques of certified airplanes. In fact, metal airplanes were invented to be (relatively) easy to build. You see, metal airplanes really came into the mainstream during World War II. Who built the airplanes of the Great War? Women, the majority of whom until that time had never held a job and certainly hadn't done any serious mechanical work (you know, Rosie the Riveter).

I'm not claiming that building an airplane is easy or that there aren't any risks being taken building and flying it. It's just that for me safety must be weighed along with every other aspect of this hobby. A more appropriate question to ask would be "Is the risk worth the reward?" Absolutely!

I don't want to come to the sudden realization at 80 that the only thing I ever did was watch sitcoms.

To quote Dwayne O'Brien, "I'm not crazy, I want to live, I want to really live".

Q: Will you be able to travel faster than with the airlines?
The answer is usually yes. The AOPA says that a general rule of thumb is 1200 miles or less is faster with general aviation than with the airlines. This fits my travel profile because most trips I make now are long driving trips across the Southeast. They will be turned into rather short flying trips after the plane is completed.

Q: How did you make this website. Do you use Frontpage?
Hmm...no, Frontpage was not used to create this website. This website is running on Debian Linux. I am using PHP to generate the pages and all data is stored in a MySQL database. All code (including calendar rendering) was written by me. The site is hosted from my home office on a very modest PC running a PII processor @ 300Mhz w/ 64 mb of RAM. This gives me virtually umlimited storage capacity allowing me to store as many images as desired.

Q: How do you update this site?
I update this site using a web-based program that I have written. I upload the pictures directly from my digital camera and the program shrinks the images, creates the thumbnails, etc. The only thing I have to do manually is enter the caption for each photograph. This is very fast, although I'm currently experimenting with a way to completely automate the process by simply inserting my camera's memory stick directly into the web server. We'll see if I ever get around to doing that.

Q: Why do you not have many empennage photos/entries?
I built this website after finishing my empennage. I wasn't quite sure how I wanted to document the building process so I didn't take detailed pictures. I hope to make entries almost daily with the rest of the project.