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I'm building a Van's Aircraft RV-7, two seat sport aircraft.  It's a fantastic airplane that's good at a number of missions:
    • It's fast (200+ mph) so it's a great cross-country airplane.
    • It's slow (stall speed is 51-58 mph) so it's great for getting into and out of small strips.
    • It's aerobatic (+6/-3G) so it's great for just pure sport flying. 
Pilots rave about RV handling qualities and after flying one, I totally understand.  The plane responds instantly to your inputs.  The demo pilot said to grip the stick low with your fingertips and just "think" about the direction you want to go.


I first became aware of homebuilt aircraft about 1997, around the time I started my private training.  I ran across a couple of articles in Popular Mechanics about building a Zenith Zodiac 601.  I love building stuff, but it never even occurred to me to build an airplane.  I went out to the factory with a buddy since I lived fairly close at the time.  I was really surprised at how cheesy they looked in person.  These were the factory demonstrators; the planes that the company uses to sell airplanes, and the fit and finish was just awful.  I knew then and there that I would never build a Zenith.  I started looking around at airshows and reading Kitplanes (remember, the web barely existed then) and started seeing how popular the Van's aircraft were. I didn't have the money at the time since I had just recently graduated from school.

Fast forward 10 years.  After putting off building for a number of years for various reasons (no time, no space, wife wanted a house first :-)), I finally decided that if I didn't get started, I could come up with reasons to put it off indefinitely.  It wasn't the ideal time to start building since we had two young kids at home (5 yrs and 8 mos when I started), but I knew there would never be an ideal time to start and I didn't want to be retired before I could enjoy the plane.  Since we had kids, the RV-10 (4 seater, non-aerobatic) seemed like the obvious choice.

I went to the factory with a couple of friends and got rides in both the RV-10 and RV-7.  While the 10 is a fantastic plane and I still plan to build one some day, there were a few things keeping me from going that route.  First, we already own a four seat airplane.  We own a 1/4 share in a 1977 Cessna Cardinal II that is very nicely equipped.  It won't compete with an RV-10, but it's a quite capable family aircraft.  Second, 90%+ of my flying is solo or with one other person on board and is within 100nm of our home airport.  Finally, about the time I was making this decision, the stock market collapsed, taking a good chunk of our investments with it.  Spending 150k on the RV-10 was more of our net worth than I felt comfortable spending.

I started planning for the build in mid 2008, buying tools, building the practice kits, and attending the sheet metal SportAir workshop.  I had to finish our kitchen remodel first though, so building didn't actually begin until February 2009.

I'm building the straight 7 which is a taildragger.  Van's also makes the RV-7A which is a tricycle gear version.  I went with the taildragger for a few reasons:
    • I think it just looks nicer, especially on the ground.
    • It's lighter by about 15 lbs.
    • I think Van's nose gear design is not as robust as it should be (there have been several cases of nose gear collapsing).
I'm also going with the tip-up canopy instead of the slider.  Although the slider is nicer on the ground since you can open it fully for taxi ventilation, I really like the unobstructed visibility the tip-up provides.

Here is an overview of all of the kit components that must be assembled to complete the airframe.  This represents approximately half the time necessary to complete the airplane.  The remaining time is spent on systems work (engine, avionics, brakes, lighting, etc.).


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