Status Update and Van’s Woes

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here, mainly because I’m documenting the build on the EAA Builders website primarily. It’s that website that will contain all the “evidence” I need to show the FAA when I’m ready to petition for an airworthiness certificate. It details all the work, along with images. However, I like to keep this site around just for my personal musings (and for anyone interested in the process).

We finally finished the empennage kit in November! The empennage includes the “tail”. This equates to the vertical and horizontal stabilizers plus the control surfaces thereupon (elevators, rudder and trim tab). It’s the first of the 4 major kits in the plane (5 if you count the “firewall forward” kit).

Now we’re on to the wings. We’ve had the 2 crates that contain all the parts for the wings sitting in the hangar for a year now, and I was a bit anxious about what I’d find inside. Fortunately, no major corrosion! This was my primary concern. We did the inventory, and stashed new parts on the shelves. We were both surprised at how few parts go into the wings. It’s also the quickest kit of the build, with the next one (fuselage) being the longest. Still, we’ll probably take just under a year total to complete it. I’d love to be able to do it faster, if we can.

Van’s Aircraft, the kit provider, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this week. They’ve found themselves in a bad financial state after a number of issues. Among these were COVID, then a surge of kit interest, some technical problems with third party contractors (bad primer), and mismanaging the huge increase in demand.

As part of that last point, Van’s decided to laser cut some of their kit parts. This ended up producing stress fractures in some of the parts, which of course is never a good thing. Although a lot of parts are still safe to use, it caused a lot of commotion among kit builders, and Van’s had to conduct additional research and testing to find which parts need to be replaced.

Chapter 11 isn’t a death knell, in and of itself, and the team they hired to help them through the process are confident Van’s will come through it unscathed. They are still formulating the required plan of action to get them back to profitability, so not sure yet what the impact to us builders will be. Most definitely it’ll involve price increases. It’s a shame, but as many builders have said, “Build on!”

About Michael Carter

Programmer, Pilot/Builder and Amateur Radio enthusiast living in the Bay Area of California.
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