When are you going to be finished?
Answer: On Thursday evening. But I might just beat that and get done on Wednesday! (Just don't ask me which week. Or which month. Matter of fact, at this point, don't even ask me which year). Seriously, this isn't a race. I'm not up against a deadline. My goals at this point are to do quality work, enjoy the journey, stay consistent even if it's only 1/2 hour a day, and most important... stay out of debt. As much as I love this, I won't spend money I don't have on a big toy. Most builders who have a flying RV have invested about 2,000 hours, give or take a hundred or two. There's a quick-build option that saves you more time, but you pay for it. At this point, a little over three years into the project, I'm over half way in terms of hours invested.
How are you going to get it out of your garage?
Answer: Well, I've arranged for a big crane to come lift the house up, and I'll just fly it outa here. Seriously, when the time comes, and I have accomplished every last bit of work that I can do here at home, the individual parts like fuselage, wings, etc. will be taken to a hanger for final assembly. I'm going to do all that's possible here at home because once it's out of here, I'm into commuting to a hanger somewhere and it's not as convenient to work every day, or for short periods.
How did you learn how to do this? Did you have any experience or instruction? Did you take a class?
Answer: No experience whatsoever prior to starting. Never touched an aircraft tool in my life. Didn't even know what some of them were. I dreamed about this for a long time. While I was clearing some things out of my life and preparing to jump into this, I did a lot of reading and studying, mostly following the progress of others who have gone before me who have online websites and logs similar to this one. The EAA has classes you can attend but none were ever in my area and I never did go to one. I went to a lot of monthly meetings here in my area, and talked to a lot of builders and got to see projects in various stages of completion. I began to prepare my shop and assemble a tool collection. Finally, I bought one of Van's practice kits. They have a little inexpensive kit you buy and put a nice toolbox together. It involves drilling, clecoing, deburring, dimpling, and riveting. All the same skills you need to build an airplane. That gave me the final dose of confidence I needed to get started. Finally, if you are about to do something you've never done and aren't sure if you can do it right, you can practice on some scrap materials first.
Yeah, but it all seems so intimidating. Weren't you scared?
Answer: Heck, yes! It's very intimidating at first when you think about it. Stacks of drawings, a big thick construction manual, tools and methods you've never seen or experienced before. How on earth does someone get "over the hump" and get started? My best suggestion is to find some other builders and hang out with them for a while. Look at my daily log pages and those of others. Study and read. Go to some meetings. When you find out, like I did, that these guys were no better than me, they were just ahead of me, you will have enough confidence to get started. How do you eat that elephant? Just start on the first bite. I'm still learning. You will learn more than you ever dreamed as you get into this. It's one of the side benefits you get.
The most intimidating thing for most new builders is riveting. How do you learn that and get it right? Well, as it turns out, riveting is one of the easiest tasks and it's very easily picked up. And if you mess one up, you can drill it out and replace it. It's no big deal. Really. The most intimidating part of it, for me, was thinking about all the electrical wiring. I went to a monthly meeting once a few years ago at some guys garage and saw his unfinished project nearing completion. He was in the middle of wiring and had a forest of wires going everywhere and all I could think of was "oh my god... how on earth will I learn how to do that?" Fortunately, he told me that you don't look at the forest. You look at one tree at a time. If you can take one wire at a time from a starting point to an end point, that's all there is to it. I said "yeah! I can do that!" Now it's funny how things have reversed and turned around... people come to my house and when they see what I'm doing in the shop, they look at the drawings and the manual, shake their heads and roll their eyes.. and say something like "oh my god..." to me. I'm now the one reassuring them.
Your wife lets you do this?
Answer: Well, first of all, who among us should have to have our spouse's permission to pursue a worthwhile idea, project, or dream? That being said, of course I would prefer to have her blessing. Jamie and I have a deal. I don't tell her what to do and not do, and she honors me in the same way. In fact, to turn that around and take it the other direction, I believe we are obligated to support and encourage our spouse to pursue their dreams. It's what we're made of! It's what we live for! Within the confines of a few reasonable ground rules, i.e., not spending money we don't have, not becoming so consumed that she feels neglected, etc., she would never take a dream away from me or try to tell me what I can and can't do. And I would never do that to her either. I'm no marriage counselor, and I don't have all of this perfected yet, but I can tell you this much... you have to find a way to negotiate and plan things with your spouse. And you have to take care of her needs. How many of us have heard one spouse complain that the other one is always out on the golf course. Or always at the fishing hole. Or always at the game with buddies, or shopping at the mall or in front of the TV. Golf isn't the problem. Neither is fishing. Or the game. Or the airplane. There's nothing wrong with any of these things. The problem is, if she feels neglected and taken for granted, you're in trouble. Whether you're building an airplane or not! Take the lead. Take care of her needs, and if she's a good woman she'll support your dreams, too. That's my best advice. All that aside, I know I'm a very fortunate man. Jamie is an amazing woman. She tolerates my love affair with my aluminum mistress quite well, as long as she comes first and I don't lose sight of my life's priorities.
How did you get your wife's interest/support?
Answer: I took Jamie to some fly-ins to see all the airplanes. It was like a fun date. I arranged for a friend to take her up on a ride. She loved it. I invited her to some monthly meetings. It made it all real to her. I'll invite her to sit on my lap with me and we'll read a travel adventure online that someone posted with lots of pictures, so we can dream of all the great places we'll fly to someday. I'm sharing my excitement with her, and showing her that it's all for her, too. After all, I don't want to fly off somewhere alone. She doesn't usually come to meetings with me because frankly, there aren't very many girls there and she feels out of place. "It's a guy thing." So when she does come, I go out of my way to connect her to one of the few ladies who may be there. These have been wonderful experiences for her, to hear firsthand from one of the ladies how much she enjoys the airplane, the places they have gone, etc. And she makes a new friend. If you have a spouse who is shaking his/her head or frowning on the whole idea, you're not going to convince them overnight. This is a project in itself. Don't look at it as having to wear them down until they finally give up. That's a losing proposition. Be gentle. But persistent. Jamie overheard many conversations I had with others about the financial advantages of the project; how this is an investment that will hold its value (i.e., you're not "wasting" or "spending" money, it's an investment). That was far better than preaching it to her face. Ask some other ladies how they became supportive, and listen carefully. You'll learn something. These suggestions may or may not work for you, but it's what I have done.
Finally, if you're one of those unlucky few who has an extremely negative spouse... someone that simply will not budge, someone who is so negative that they destroy every single dream you have, I don't know what to tell you. If you want to continue to live in a cage, that's your choice. That's all I'm going to say. You have a decision to make. I know I couldn't live with someone that put the flicker out on every little candle flame of a dream that I ever had. Because if you don't have a dream in your heart, you already have one foot in the grave. If you live with someone like that, it will suck the life out of you. If you're treating someone like that, STOP IT! If you and your spouse don't share each others dreams, how can you share each others lives?
Some interesting anecdotes:
A divorced woman says to the wife, "I'd never let my husband spend money on something like that."
The lady becomes seriously concerned and can't get this off her mind. She finally talks to her mother.
Wise mother says "Better two wings than two legs, my dear."
Burt Rutan was speaking at a forum at Oshkosh. He told the story about how his first wife said to him: "That #@*@ airplane will go (Vari Viggen) or I will!" He took a long pause and said: "I missed her. For a while."
"Are you really going to fly in that contraption?"
Best answer (from wife) - "You would too, if you'd seen him build it."
Here's a very good article written by Andrea Schmidt, the wife of an RV-10 builder, describing things from her perspective. Check it out! Wife's Perspective on Building an RV
Does it come in any other colors?
Answer: Yes. You're working with bare aluminum here. You paint it any color combination you want when you're finished. Or, just leave it shiny polished aluminum. It's your choice. That's half the fun... figuring out how you're going to finish it. Look at these examples:
How fast does it go? How far can you fly?
Answer: That's two questions. Top speed is over 200 mph. There are two fuel tanks (one in each wing) that hold 21 gallons each. That's 42 gallons of fuel. So if you throttle back to, say, 75% power for cruising, you'll have the fuel economy and speed to take you almost 1,000 miles before you need to stop and refuel. That's an amazing cross-country traveling machine.
What kind of engine does it have?
Answer: Your choice. Builders have put all kinds of engines in these planes. Rotary engines, Subaru's, automobile engine conversions. Mine will probably have the most common one... a 4-cylinder Lycoming horizontally opposed 180 H.P. aircraft engine. These engines are the ultimate in simplicity and reliability, proven after over 70 years of use in the aviation industry. It's the same engine used in most production, factory-built airplanes today.
Is this as good as a real airplane?
Answer: Are you kidding? This IS a real airplane. In fact, it's better in so many ways. The ones you call "real airplanes" are the ones we usually refer to as "spam cans". It's extremely well engineered, tested, and proven. Van designed this plane with a devotion to "Total Performance". What does that mean? It means the performance envelope is very large. This plane flies real fast. It lands real slow. It handles like a dream. It's fully aerobatic. I've never seen a person who has owned one of these that wanted to go back to something factory made. I am able to take the time to devote proper attention to every last detail and make sure it's done well, without the pressure commercial businesses operate under to get a product finished and out the door to maximize profitability... which could result in compromises or work that could have been done better. I'm under no pressure. And as a result, I can take all the time needed to to the job extremely well, and save an enormous amount of money at the same time. For more on this subject, see my page "Why Build Your Own Plane?"
You say you've never done this before. How can you be so confident it's done right? You're taking your life (and possibly someone elses) into your hands here. Doesn't that concern you?
Answer: Good questions. What you need to do is investigate. Read. Learn. Do your homework. You don't just dive into something like this without doing a lot of research beforehand. First, you read the manual and reference materials to know the specifications and know what's right and what isn't. It's not hard. Thousands of people have successfully done it. This is a kit. I'm not a pioneer here, experimenting or breaking new ground. This is a proven kit and all I'm doing is assembling it. It's all done according to the highest standards in the aviation industry. If you have questions or issues along the way, you call for help. Vans has a help line open every week day to answer your questions. There are online forums to post pictures, ask questions, and get help. You join a local chapter or group and go to meetings and observe and learn from others. Most importantly, I have regular inspections along the way from an experienced technical counselor, to check my work and make sure I'm on track. Finally, before you get your airworthiness certificate and take it on its first flight, the FAA will do a thorough inspection. And like any factory-made plane, you do a thorough annual inspection and regular maintenance all the time.
The complete kit, and the finished airplane.