Info for Prospective Builders
So, you are thinking about building an aircraft, possibly an RV. You probably have a lot of questions. I'll try to answer some of the more common ones here.
I'll gradually add more stuff to this section as I figure out what people want to know.
Am I cut out to build an aircraft?
How do I decide which aircraft to build?
How much room do I need to build an RV?
What tools do I need to build an RV?
How do I find other builders?
How good are the plans and instructions for the RVs?
How difficult is the construction process?
Where can I get more info about homebuilding?
What about homebuilts in Canada?
Q: Am I cut out to build an aircraft?
A: Some people are always building something, and always finish everything they start. Many people are like me - they only tinker with things every once in a while, and have started quite a few projects that they have never finished. I think the only way to really know if you are cut out to build an aircraft is to start building. Find a way to start building part of the project, and decide after you've built that part whether to go do the whole aircraft or stop and cut your losses. The RV tail kit is good for this. It is not too expensive, and you could probably sell it if you decide building is not for you.
- How will I really use this aircraft? This will tell you how important cruise speed, range, short field capability, etc are to you.
- What building materials do I want? Each type of construction has its own pluses and minuses. Track down local builders of various types of aircraft and see for yourself what is involved with the various building materials.
- Do I want to build from plans only, or do I want a kit? Plans only is a bit cheaper, but the build time will be a lot higher.
- Do I fit in the aircraft. Some designs have small cockpits. Ron Wanttaja has assembled a long list of cockpit measurements of many different types. Find a completed example and try out the cockpit.
Be wary of new designs from new companies. Many of them are marketed before the prototype has even flown. Many of the companies run out of money and go out of business. Many of the designs never live up to the performance claims. Stick with proven designs from well established companies.
Once you have come up with a short list of aircraft types, talk to builders of each type. You should fly an example of any design before starting to build. If you can't find a local flying example, you can probably arrange a demo ride at the annual EAA Fly In or at Sun 'n Fun.
Q: How much room do I need to build an RV?
A: See How Much Room is Needed to Build an RV from John Hovan's RV page.
Q: What tools do I need to build an RV?
A: See What Tools do I Need from the RV-List FAQ for a list of tools. The RV-List FAQ also discusses air compressors, rivet guns, drill presses, pneumatic squeezers and other fascinating topics.
Q: How do I find other builders?
A: Join your local EAA Chapter. Call the EAA - they can give you contact info for local chapters. The company selling the kit or plans of the design you are interested in may be able to put you in touch with builders. If you are interested in an RV, Vans Aircraft will mail you a builders list.
Q: How good are the plans and instructions for the RVs?
A: The instructions and manuals are OK, but not fantastic. All the info is there, but you have to pay attention for little details on the plans that really should be mentioned in the manual. The good news is that Will Cretsinger and Frank Justice have put together supplemental instructions that have a lot of additional info. Vans does provide pretty good tech support, with people on the end of a phone or by e-mail. The RV List is also a great resource. The other good thing is that there are a lot of RVs being built, so there may be someone in your local area who could help out.
Q: How difficult is the construction process?
A: Overall, it is not that difficult. The vast majority of the parts come all cut to size and bent to shape. Many parts have pilot holes where the rivets go. You have to deburr the edges and fabricate some parts from pieces of aluminum angle, etc. You have to clamp the parts together and drill all the rivet holes to the final size, deburr and dimple the holes, prime the parts and rivet it all together. It sounds quick, but many tasks take hours to do.
If you want to get an idea what you are in for, the best thing is to try to visit another builder. Call Vans and ask for a list of builders in your area - they will mail it to you. You can also buy the preview plans. They consist of the construction manual plus a complete set of plans at a reduced scale. If you eventually start building you would probably want the preview plans anyway, because Vans only sends the plans sheets that pertain to each kit with that kit.
You could also buy George Orndorff's construction videos, also available from Vans Accessory Catalog, Avery Tools, and many other places. They will give you a very good idea what is involved in the building process.
- The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) is an association of builders and flyers of homebuilt aircraft. There are local EAA Chapters all over the world.
- Ron Wanttaja has an excellent page of links. He also maintains a Frequently Asked Questions list which covers a wide spectrum of questions.
- Jim Pratt's FAQ site, has lots of info on the US regulatory requirements for homebuilt aircraft.
- The Canadian Owners and Pilots Association, (COPA), has a page of useful info on homebuilt aircraft in Canada.
- In Canada, the Recreational Aircraft Association has many local chapters. For regulatory info, see the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs).
- In Canada, we have to get a series of official inspections done as we build the aircraft.
- As of April 2002, a change to the regulations in Canada allows builders to contract for professional assistance without jeopardizing the amateur-built status of the project. See: http://www.tc.gc.ca/civilaviation/maintenance/aarpe/Recreational/Exemption-Appendix-C.doc
- The requirements to lift the restrictions after the aircraft has flown 25 hours are at: http://www.tc.gc.ca/OntarioRegion/civilaviation/manufacturing/recav/restrictions.htm
- The requirements to fly IFR are at http://www.tc.gc.ca/OntarioRegion/civilaviation/manufacturing/recav/documents/bo32en.doc
- The requirements to remove the restrictions against aerobatics are at: http://www.tc.gc.ca/OntarioRegion/civilaviation/manufacturing/recav/acrobatic.htm
Updated 19 March 2004.
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