Coming together

It's been a busy past week. My tool kit arrived from Cleaveland Tools last week. Nice 50 pound box with a lot of little pieces and a few big ones. All I did with the tools was take inventory. The air compressor arrived the week before last - when I opened the undamaged box for it I found that the large fan shroud that covers the whole top of the compressor was shattered into hundreds of pieces. I called the manufacturer and found out that they don't support he product in Canada. They were will to ship the part to a US address, so I had them ship it to the hotel we were staying at in Arlington, WA for the Building Basics course (which we just returned from). The part was waiting for me there, so I'll put that together this week. My Van's order arrived while I was gone as well.While we were in the US, I went and spent a bunch of $$$ at Harbor Freight. Here a partial list of what I picked up.

  • 4 drawer tool cart
  • angle air drill
  • inspection camera (on sale, didn't need it, but I thought it would be good to have)
  • a 20" rolling stool and a taller fixed bar stool
  • a 3 shelf utility cart
  • a bunch of compressor fittings and hoses
  • a blower with heater attachment
  • a variety of shop supplies

Now the training... My son and I made the 12 hour drive down to Arlington Washington to take the Building Basics course from Axsys Air. We were the only students and had a great experience learning from Glenn, their chief instructor. The course was built around the Van's practice wing kit, so we each built one of those. A great exposure to all of the tools and processes. We got to bang, squeeze, pull and drill out our first rivets and learn the best ways to do it all. Since we finished 1/2 day ahead of schedule, Glenn took us each up for a ride in their RV-6A. This was a whole lot of fun. My son got a chance at the controls a bit and I had them for about 20 minutes. It's a lot different than the Cessna 172 I train in. Much more sensitive and responsive not to mention faster. I'm really looking forward to getting my plane built now. That will start soon now that I have pretty much everything I need (I've got a nice to have pneumatic cleco tool en route). This week I'll finish the shop setup and then get building the toolbox practice kit. Then it's on with building the plane.

Tool update

The tools are all either here or on their way to me. I received the DRDT-2 and a torque wrench on Tuesday. My air compressor should be here soon, it shipped on the 19th. And the full tool set that I ordered from Cleaveland Air Tools shipped from Iowa yesterday.I also received the tool kit practice project and plans CD from Van's on Tuesday. I ordered a couple of items from Van's earlier this week, a 1"x12" piece of AS3-063 sheet metal that I need to make a gusset for the left elevator, and 1 oz of ProSeal to glue in the trim ribs.

More tools

I'm spending money at a furious pace now. Cleaveland Aircraft Tool contacted me yesterday and suggest that I order my DRDT-2 from aircraftspruce.ca instead of from them. Their reasoning was simply one of cost, I checked out the prices and found that it likely was going to be cheaper to buy it on this side of the border between shipping and duties/brokerage charges. So the Cleaveland order was adjusted and I placed an order with Aircraft Spruce. I also ordered a 3/8" torque wrench.This evening I sat down and searched through the air compressor options I had and decided on a Pulsar 28 Gallon model from Home Depot. It is oil filled, can do a bit better than 5 CFM at 90 PSI and comes in under 300$ (not including shipping).Yesterday I ordered CD plans and the toolkit project from Van's. On the paperwork side of things, I received the response to the letter of Intent, so I'm good to build whenever I'm ready. I also submitted the forms needed to Van's to transfer kit 91081 to me.I'm expecting everything I've ordered to get here before the trip to Seattle on Feb 13th.

Tools and training

I have just purchased the tools from cleavelandtool.com. No idea how long until I get them. I was quite surprised at the shipping cost, $14.60. This is for well over 100 pounds of tools, shipped from 2 locations. I was expecting 10 times that cost. It offsets the price of the tools a very small amount - they cost a little over $2,800 US and the exchange rate to Canadian is terrible right now. This purchase will be most of my tools cost, but there are a few specialty tools that I'm still going to have to buy, torque wrench, tubing bender and tube flaring tool that I know about now.I also confirmed and booked the Building Basics course with Axsys Air for February 14-15. The course is held just north of Seattle, WA, about a 14 hour drive away. My 17 year old son, Andrew, and I will travel down for this.With the help of my 19 year old son, Tim, I managed to shuffle things around the garage so I can get my van back in. I don't expect that I'll be doing much on the plane, other than reading through the plans some more and determining what work needs to be done, prior to the Building Basics course. I do know, so far, that there isn't going to be a lot of work that I can do before the pre-cover inspection. Since that inspection is expensive and will need to be done on the fuselage as well, the empennage and wings won't be completely finished until the fuselage is ready to inspect. I suspect that I'll be ordering the fuselage a lot sooner than I ever imagined.

I have a plane

We picked up the kit from Calgary today. I built an open topped 36x20x96 crate and we brought it down to fill with the contents of the second Quick Build wing crate as well as parts of the empennage. The load took us about 2 hours, end result was loading the crate I built with the horizontal stabilizer on top of it as well as the large 360 lb wing crate onto the back of the 17' trailer. The loading of the big crate went easily thanks to the 2 snowmobile dollies I picked up for Costco last week. A couple of the built components went into my van and we headed home. Unloading was pretty painless, but it leaves my garage unusable as a garage for a little while.

Costs today - $8,900 for the kit, $250 for shipping, $45 to feed the crew. I also spent about $40 on materials for the crate.

Next steps include:

  • Submit Letter of Intent to MD-RA
  • Send bill of sale to Van's to have the project changed to my name
  • Order my tools, probably the Cleaveland Airframe Tool Package, with an upgrade to the pneumatic squeezer and the DRDT-2 dimpler
  • Reorganize and cleanup in the garage to make room for the project and hopefully my van. I think this will involve a large high shelf across one end of the garage that I can use to hold big pieces. I also want to get my tool table configured and possibly build my second work table.

Buying a project

Well, it looks like I have a plane to build. I've agreed to purchase a partially completed RV-9A project from a builder in Calgary. The project consists of

  • Empennage kit with Electric Elevator Trim option, mostly completed. The trim tab isn't quite finished. The elevators, horizontal stabilizer, vertical stabilizer and rudder are all pretty much ready for pre-cover inspection after which the skins can be riveted together.
  • Quick Build wing kit with Float Fuel Sending Units option. Nothing has been done with this portion, so the wings are about 80% complete as per Van's description of the quick build kit

I had a long visit with Ken, the builder of the kit. He kindly showed me around the project along with some of the tools and processes. The quality of his work was readily evident, it was his second build, having built a Challenger II previously (which he still owns and flies regularly). We verbally agreed on a sale and I will be making arrangements to pick the project up in the next couple of weeks. Logistics shouldn't be too bad as one of my son's friends has a truck and trailer that I can hire for pickup. With the wing crate weighing 360 lbs and stretching nearly 12 feet long, it will take some assistance to get it all loaded and unloaded.

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Changing my mind

I guess the time to change my mind is now, before I've purchased anything kit specific. I've decided on building the RV-9A now. This came down to a question of money. The RV-9A is a cheaper kit, but the big difference is in the engine. The -14A uses a Lycoming IO-390 engine that is not widely used and my only option would likely be new for somewhere in the 40-50K range. The -9A uses any Lycoming engine in the 118-160HP range, the higher end would be an O-320 which I should be able to find easily enough in the used mid-time market for 20K or so. That brings my total project cost down to the 70-80K range. The one problem with the -9A is the lower payload, which I mentioned in my earlier post. I did some basic calculations and found that I'd likely have to drop about 10 gallons of fuel to keep under gross if I'm travelling with my son. That still leaves a range of about 450 NM which is pretty much the most I'd ever want to do with one segment. We're also starting our mission to lose 100 pounds between us, so that would help a lot.

Since I made the decision to go with the -9A, I found someone who is selling their partially completed project and is only about 90 minutes away from me. It's a set of factory completed wings and an 80% complete empennage kit. He's asking $8,900 for that, which would be about $10,000 less than what I'd pay to get that myself - it also would save me a year of build time. I'm going down to have a look at the project this afternoon.

In anticipation of possibly getting a project going very soon (rather than in the spring as I was planning), I've started to prep my workshop more aggressively. I built my tools bench based on the EAA 1000 work table plans, it's 30"x30" and is on casters. I also started on the first of my two work tables - got as far as I could with materials on hand. These come together very quickly. I've got about 4 hours in on the tables.

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.