I’ve been a pilot for many years, obtaining my private pilot’s license around 2005. Since then I’ve rented small Cessnas and Pipers to fly. However, I’ve always had the itch to own my own airplane. My wife and I lived in Sacramento for a while, and a nearby pilot was selling their Cessna 140, which is a perfect plane for low and slow flight, which I’ve always fancied. I flew it a couple times, and was pretty sure it was a perfect fit. However, at the time I just couldn’t pull it off financially, and so I had to pass it by.
Over the years since, I’ve mused with building different aircraft. Everything from a Kitfox to a Cub clone to even a small helicopter. However, I’ve never really moved beyond the notion. I had looked sparsely at the Van’s line of kits, but at the time really wasn’t interested in sleek and fast (for some odd reason).
A couple years ago I joined our local airport’s association, and met a couple who had built an RV-9 18 years earlier. It’s a pretty plane, really, and fast. But at that time, I was busy checking out the local airplane for sale ads and not considering building.
That brings us up to now. I’m not sure what started it, but I was bitten by the building bug again! I’ve been out of flying for a while, even though I’m commanding a Civil Air Patrol squadron at Livermore airport. I think it’s been a combination of a couple things. First off, life in general. We own a house here in Tracy, work has been terrific, and with the COVID-19 pandemic in full force, I’ve been working from home full time. On top of that, several people have been encouraging me to get back into flying.
I first started thinking about a partnership, but I really didn’t care for the involvement…manaing an expensive airplane with people I probably don’t know well. I then looked into what I felt I could afford in the used plane market. There were some things that interested me, but mostly older planes. Then I got the crazy notion about building my own. It as then that I started researching it. How much would it cost? How long would it take? Where would I build it? What tools would I need?
I felt comfortable with my skill set. I’ve always been good at building things, even designing and making things from wood. I have a 3D printer and have designed and printed parts that I actually used to fix things. I also have a good base of hand tools, and know how to use them. It was at this point that building started to look achievable.
I went back to looking at kit manufacturers, looking for answers for the questions I had in my head. I chose Vans for a number of reasons. Firstly, the reputation. Vans has been making and selling kits for a long time. As mentioned before, I even know a couple who had built and who fly one. Secondly, cost. The Vans kits are not that expensive! I could purchase the whole RV-7 kit for $24,000. One thing I appreciate about their approach is that they sell their kits in “components”, which would allow me to break down the build process into manageable chunks. I also wouldn’t have to store the rest of the kit somewhere as I went along.
Vans has a number of different planforms. Everything from a small, single-pilot aerobatic RV-3 to the newest side-by-side RV-14. They even have a kit which has removable wings, so you could trailer it back and forth to the aiport. I’m not ready for the whole detachable-wing thing yet. So, I settled on a 2-pilot, side-by-side RV-7, which is small and sleek…and aerobatic.
This blog will follow our progress as we plod along…from the first order through the first flight…in what will probaly be a 2.5-3 year journey of building our very own Vans RV-7! I hope other pilots (and yet-to-become pilots) will find it informative and useful.
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