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Here are some of the most common questions I personally have answered to my friends, neighbors, and family about building an airplane.

   

How do you build an airplane?

Follow the directions.  Measure twice and cut once.  Ask lots of questions of fellow builders.  Learn from your mistakes as well as the mistakes of others.  Van's does offer builder support.

Ok...so that is not what you wanted to hear but in all seriousness, the build process is extremely detail oriented and you have to be thinking and on your toes the whole time.  If you are not paying attention you will spend a lot of time fixing your mistakes instead of building an airplane.  I am not saying that mistakes are not going to happen, you just have to try and minimize them and always learn from them.  There are times where it seems like I am going no-where after spending 5 hours out in the shop, but in the grand scheme of things I am making progress.

Just remember that for every hour you spend in the shop that is one hour closer to being done.

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Where do you build an airplane?

The best place would be somewhere close to where you live; preferably a garage. That way the project is in your face and you wont have to drive somewhere to work on it.  I am using a 1 car space from a 3 car garage to build our plane.  The hard part for me in the beginning was climate control.  Keeping the 'shop' cool enough in the summer was the hard part for me.

Some people actually already have a hangar to build their plane in, me on the other hand, I am stuck in the garage until final assembly.

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Are you going to fly it?

Believe it or not, I get asked this question all the time.  Of course I am going to fly it.  Why would I build it if I was not going to fly it?  I am going to do the flight tests and I will be the one to tweak it so I will be responsible for everything about the plane.  Someone once told me "You are responsible for quality control - if you are not careful, God will beat the FAA to the crash site."

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Who is going to test it?

Flight testing is all in my hands.  The FAA was kind enough to make a great Advisory Circular about flight testing - AC 90-89.  I will put the plane through its paces and I am even working with a friend to come up with a Flight Data Recorder (FDR) and a Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) so I can take notes during the flight tests. 

Basically it will be a tape recorder with an adapter to plug into the headset jack so that I can just talk to myself throughout the flight testing.  I can make notes, record airspeeds based on power settings, record engine readings, etc. and never have to take my hands off the stick.

The FDR will probably incorporate a laptop and a USB or serial connection for recording critical flight data.  I have not decided on whether I am going to try and get a full time CVR setup going or what.  If I can get myself some type of a digital recording device to loop every two hours or something, that would be great.  Since I am going to be using an auto conversion my total testing time will be 40 hours of flight testing.

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Is it a real airplane?

This question gets asked quite often as well.  Most people don't realize that you can build your own real airplane.  There are thousands of RV's out there flying and thousands of other designs that make it in the air as well.  I was going to do a Cozy MK-IV but eventually moved to an RV.  I just know that the RV is a proven design and I got more done in a year on the RV than in two years on the Cozy.  Less time spent building jigs and forms.

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How long does it take to build?

That really depends on how often you work on your project and how many options you modify.  It also is affected by whether you do a quick build or not.  Some people take up to 4,000 hours to build others get it done in 900 hours.  We are going to QB the fuselage just because we are getting impatient and I see the major benefit of having that done for me.  The main one being time.  I know there are some major gaps in the build process but that is affected by our home life and things going on there.  We also have our other jobs with the Sheriff's Office to do as well.

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Last modified: 03/02/09.