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Old 04-08-2006, 09:56 AM
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Default The unvarnished truth about building airplanes

...this copy originally posted by Randy Lervold as a reply somewhere else in the forums. Copied here because it's too good not to spotlight.

"Here's the unvarnished truth about building airplanes as far as I'm concerned...

Simply put, building an airplane, any airplane, is not for everyone. And whether you are or not does NOT make you any lesser person, just different. (some might say the builders are the strange ones) Building an airplane is a long term project that I think requires tremendous self-discipline and dedication over an extended period of time -- years in fact. Anyone contemplating building an airplane should look at themselves objectively in this regard. Shorter term projects such as re-doing the interior on a certified plane, building r/c airplanes, or restoring a motorcycle might be a better fit for some folks due to the shorter time frame and clearer path.

I am now building my second RV and let me make a confession... while building my first plane, an RV-8 (slow build), I became discouraged and considered quitting several times. In fact even building my second plane now I ride the emotional roller coaster. I'll go for several months and be highly motivated and very focused and make significant progress. Then I'll get burned out and get discouraged and can barely force myself to go out there and do anything. I've learned that that's when it's smart to just take a break. Sometimes it's just overnight, sometimes it's a couple of days, and sometimes it means taking a month or two off. We are all different in this regard, you just need to figure out what's the right pattern for you and how long you can maintain your focus. [snip]

Having built an RV-8 and now an RV-3B (not complete yet) I can say unequivacolly that no one should attempt an RV-3 unless you've built an RV before. The only exception is if you have ready access to a previous RV builder who can guide you out of the woods when you run into the enevitable dead ends. Frankly the reason why is NOT the lack of prepunching or fewer manufactured parts, it's the lack of information. If you didn't know how an RV went together in a general way you'd simply be at a dead end LOTS of times. Yes, occasionally there are mistakes in the plans or manual, but they have all been easy to spot if you know "the path". What really makes it difficult is information that simply isn't there. The RV-3 drawings and manual just don't have as much info, for example there are no 3D (isometric?) views at all. This leaves you scratching your head trying to figure out how various subassemblies or parts go together. Quite frankly the biggest challenge is mental, and some nights I'm just not up to it so I either do some mindless task like deburring or dimpling, or just knock it off until my brain will engage again. Yes the RV-3 is more work physically with all the skin trimming and such but that's not the insurmountable part.

[snip] ...consider the big picture also and what suits you as a person. For those considering building I've tried to make some real world comments on my experience building my first plane on my RV-8 site which can be found here. Taking an airplane construction project on requires changes to your lifestyle, no way around it. You'd be well advised to think it through carefully.

Don't get me wrong, building my RV-8 was probably the most satisfying accomplishment of my life. But if I couldn't have finished it then it might have turned into one of the most frustrating experiences of my life, and there were times that's what I thought was going to happen. I believe we each ought to set goals for ourselves that stretch us, but that are ultimately achievable, and we each need to be realistic about what those goals are.

Sorry for the rant, but I thought this dose of reality might help those considering diving in."
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Randy Lervold
RV-3B, finish kit, www.rv-3.com
RV-8, 368 hrs, sold, www.rv-8.com
EAA: EAA 105 President | Technical Counselor | Flight advisor
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