Friday, March 22, 2013

Why build an airplane?

Today begins a journey that I have dreamed about since I was in grade school.  I have always wanted to fly and for most of my childhood my dream was to be a commercial pilot when I grew up.  Obviously that dream did not come to fruition for a number of reasons but my desire to fly has never changed.  In the mid 1990's I took the plunge and began my flight training.  I was in the Navy at the time stationed in Bremerton Washington and learning to fly on military pay was not a trivial risk.  Needless to say the experience was everything I dreamed it would be, and more.  After about 47 hours of instruction time I took and passed my FAA check-ride, realizing my dream of being a pilot.

Ok, so now I have my pilots license, what do I do with it?  Well for a while I just poked holes in the air as I practiced my flying skills.  I took a few friends up for fun, and I even managed to get a couple of people into the plane that would not normally think about flying in a small plane.  It didn't take long for me to realize that the "expensive" part of flying was not limited to getting my license so gradually my flight time trailed off and eventually came to a complete stop.  That was about 18 years ago.

Over the past several years I have established my post military career and between that and family life I didn't feel I had the resources to get back into flying. I still maintained my membership in AOPA but even that was a year by year decision.  I felt a need to support the flying community with my membership but it was painful getting that magazine every month and seeing the things that were rapidly becoming a part of my ever increasing distant past.

Last month that changed.  My brother who lives in eastern Idaho called me up and asked if I would go look at an airplane he was interested in buying.  Uh oh, here come those feelings again.  Obviously I couldn't turn him down but I did curse his name and he promptly ignored me (thanks Jim).  Anyway not only did I go see the airplane that Jim wanted to purchase but nested in the same hangar was a completed Vans RV kit-plane.   Oh, what a beautiful sight!  Thus my desire to fly came back with a vengeance, not only fly but to own my own airplane.

The search began that day.  I agonized for weeks asking myself questions like "Can I afford buying an airplane?" and "Can I afford to keep and maintain it?"  The answer to both questions was yes, so the next question was "What kind of airplane do I want to buy?"  I really liked the Piper Cherokee that Jim purchased so I looked at a few of those.  None of them were perfect but you know what, sometimes you can't always have what you want!  When I realized I was thinking that way I knew I had to re-think this whole thing.  Why shouldn't I have what I want if it was reasonable?  I was going to spend a lot of money why not get what I wanted?  To answer that question I had to figure out what it was that I really wanted in an airplane.

After several hours of soul searching I came to the conclusion that I needed three things at a minimum.
  1. The airplane has to be able to carry at least two people and baggage for an extended cross country trip.  Originally I wanted a 4 seat airplane but by the time this thing is complete we will be empty-nesters so two seats will be enough.
  2. I wanted something that could travel at least 150 mph.
  3. I wanted a modern glass cockpit with all the trimmings!
Well, so much for the Cherokee, it only met one of those goals.  AOPA to the rescue.  That day I received one of my many AOPA email articles and there was one about a kit plane that was affordable.  Affordable? What is affordable?  So I checked out the article and the more I read the more excited I got.  Why shouldn't I build my own airplane?

Thus the search for the right kit began.  I have always been a fan of the Lancair aircraft, but trying to build one of those is like eating caviar on a Burger King budget.  I have also been a huge fan of the Velocity kit.  Big main wing in the back, canard up front, pusher prop, and that thing likes to fly so much its hard to get it to slow down to land.  But, its non traditional and I want something that I can insure and possibly sell someday.  Then I ran across and article on Vans RV's.  The last time I looked at Vans they were pretty much all aerobatic type airplanes with two seats (one behind the other).  I want my passenger up beside me and I am not all that interested in doing any aerobatics. Imagine my surprise when I found that they now do side by side seating, and they have a more docile cross country kit, the RV-9.  Hmm, I remembered my reaction to seeing that RV a few weeks ago in the hangar and things began to fall into place.

I discussed my thoughts with my significant other, Amy, and got a hearty thumbs up from her.  I did a lot more research into the RV and the more I read the more I liked what I saw.  Thousands of these aircraft are flying today, thousands!  A huge resource pool of very helpful builders.  A relatively local manufacturer.  And probably most important, a large number of builders have publicly documented their builds via blogs and other web sites like this one.

So, today I am heading to Oregon to not only pick up the first piece of the RV-9A (tricycle gear) kit but hopefully get a chance to fly a completed version of this airplane.  Thus begins the journey that plan on chronicling here on this blog.  Wish me luck!

1 comment:

  1. ...and the journey begins....so happy for you!

    ReplyDelete