Planning for a plane

Well, every blog needs a first post and here it is. It's Christmas Day 2014, presents are all opened and being played with. My presents to myself this year are all geared towards the planned undertaking of the biggest project of my life. For a long time, since my teen years, I've dreamed of building my own airplane. Now that I'm well down the road to getting my private pilot license (first solo 5 days ago), I'm starting to plan to fulfill that dream.

Workshop

A few months ago, I started to prepare my garage to be a year round workshop. My garage is detached and a bit small for a two car garage (21' x 22'), but it will have to do. This fall I (with help from my sons) insulated and drywalled the garage and added some lighting. I'm still going to have to do something to heat the garage - it still gets down to -5C when it's cold out (we've been as low as -20C outside so far this winter). It will probably just be a better space heater.

Tools

I have a fairly well equipped shop for basic woodwork - miter saw, table saw, router, plenty of good cordless tools. In preparation for the metal work involved in building an airplane, I've added a few more tools over the past month - taking full advantage of the black friday and boxing day specials.

  • Mastercraft Drill Press (info)
  • Mastercraft 9" Bandsaw (info)
  • Powerfist Combination 2" belt sander/6" grinder (info)
  • 5" Bench Vise (info)
  • 100 piece Mastercraft Air Tools Kit (info)

My plan is to build a couple of EAA 1000 standardized work tables (info), modified to be on casters. I'll also build a 24" x 24" work table using the same design on which I'll permanently mount the drill press, bandsaw, sander/grinder and vise. This is similar to the table that you can see in Ed and Colleen's RV-10 build videos (see it at 0:11 in this video).

The Plane

Choosing an aircraft has been a very difficult process. My initial mission profile led me in the direction of a 4 seater with decent speed (150KT or better), medium range (450NM), and a payload of 800 lbs or so. My construction material preference was all metal, both because of comfort in construction method as well as the ability to keep the plane tied down rather than hangared. This profile limited my choices a lot. It came down to 3 planes that fit the profile - Zenair CH 640, Bede BD-4C and Van's RV-10. Although it was the ideal choice, I eliminated the RV-10 because of long build time and high cost (easily $150K). After finding some builder reports on the CH 640, I concluded that it wasn't going to reasonably fit 4 fullgrown (3 of them somewhat overgrown) adults for more than a short flight. I was also put off by the fact that there aren't many people building this airplane. This left the BD-4C, which still fit my criteria. I soon found that there isn't much of a builder community for this either. The fact that the wings are bonded intimidated me as did the many questions about the company and its checkered past. With no choices left, I elected to re-examine my mission. My idea was a cross Canada trip with my 3 children. The problem with that mission is that it probably never would have happened, my kids are 14, 17 and 19 and by the time I've completed the build, they're a lot less likely to be travelling with me. So the new mission was one passenger, therefore a two seater.

The selection of the RV-14A was pretty simple. I like the RV reputation, there is a massive build community and from all accounts the company is terrific to deal with. The choice between the RV-9A and the -14A was simple enough too. With the current combined weight of me and my most likely passenger being about 510 lbs, the full fuel payload of 460 lbs was not enough. The -14A gives us about 510 lbs. I also liked the more advanced build for the -14A. The fact that the -14A isn't fully available yet and that there is only 1 unit flying was a negative, but I quickly found that there are a lot of -14A builders out there, some of them completely ready for the finishing kit when it gets released. I know I'm at least 18 months away from needing that kit.

The Plan

I'm planning to attend, along with my 17 year old son, a building basics course put on by Axsys Air in early February. I've been told that I'll get to see a number of RVs there, including a -14A that is being built on site. If the weather cooperates, I'll also be able to go up for a flight in one. I expect that I'll make my final decision about the plane that weekend and order the empennage and a tool kit (probably these) when I get home. That should get me building in March.

Solo!!

After 7 months of scheduling flights around weather, injuries, runway conditions and bagpipes, the big day finally arrived today. I went up for a pre solo check ride with the higher rated instructor, Marshall. We did 5 circuits, 2 of them overshoots - 1 of those because of an actual problem (plane off radio cut us off a bit on landing and wasn't clearing the runway very quickly). Different instructor meant changing a few of the things I did - not a lot. On the last landing he had me drop him off on the taxiway at the end of the runway and I returned to do one circuit. It was a bit surreal, but I was so busy with procedure that it wasn't all that different than with an instructor. Of course, on final, the thought that this landing is all mine did cross my mind. It was a decent landing, probably better than the ones I did with Marshall.

Weather was good, no noticeable wind, skies mostly clear. A lot of traffic today, must have been because it was such a nice day for flying 0.8h dual and 0.4h solo in C-FZRO.

  • Time this flight: 0.8h dual, 0.4h solo
  • Time to date: 23.2 dual, 0.4 solo
  • Cost this flight: $247.38
  • Cost to date: $6,011.56

Back in the air

Weather and runway ice scrubbed my flights over the last two weekends. Scheduled flight for today since it was snowing yesterday. Nice afternoon, no wind, clear skies. I was using 16, there was one takeoff on 34 while I was in the circuit and the Air Canada flight from Canada was about to be cleared for a landing on 34 when I came off - so wind was really light. Sun was low and bright which didn't cause too much trouble. Got passed by a Canadian Forces Harvard II (CT-156) trainer while doing run up - he was at Skywings and taxied out after me. I was at the hold line as he took off - beautiful plane. As for my flight, I did 6 circuits, mostly uneventful. I bounced one landing but recovered ok. That one was after a bad circuit - I was distracted looking for a plane that was reporting crossing 16 midfield to join downwind in front of me. Not sure what that pilot was thinking, I spotted him a good 2 miles north of the runway turning final from crosswind, not even remotely close to what he called in. In any case, it threw me and I blew my altitude by 150' in both directions. I turned final 150' low and it made the approach a mess. It was a textbook opposite of the perfect landings come from perfect circuits idea. My other landings were pretty good, Mark had me land late on the full stop so I could taxi off the south end of 16. This required a different aim point - the intersection rather than the threshold. I adjusted well to that and had probably my best landing. It was a busy day at the airport, a lot of traffic to watch for, but nothing that got in my way too much.

Next Saturday at 9am, I am scheduled to go up with Marshall, one of the higher rated instructors. He'll evaluate me for the purpose of soloing and providing I don't scare him too much, I expect to be soloing after a couple of circuits. As for today, 1.1h in C-GMWH.

  • Time this flight: 1.1h
  • Time to date: 22.4h
  • Cost this flight: $244.86
  • Cost to date: $5,764.18