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Old 04-10-2012, 09:06 PM
cessnadriver1 cessnadriver1 is offline
Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: Chowchilla, CA
Posts: 46
Default Questions about an RV-4 Build

I want to build an RV-4 and I was wondering what kind of skills were required over the prepunched kit? I'm also wondering how many hours builders typically spend building an RV-4. I am especially interested in hearing from someone who has recently built one (prepunched wing skins). I am young but I am a fourth generation farmer. We do all of our own mechanic work, but I am concerned due to this being a plane. Also, are the plans that much more sparse than others? I have heard that they are.
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Old 04-11-2012, 04:01 AM
bkthomps bkthomps is offline
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Destin/Atlanta
Posts: 1,527

stick with prepunched on your first build, would be my advice
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Old 04-11-2012, 05:13 AM
fixnflyguy fixnflyguy is offline
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Winston-Salem, N.C.
Posts: 973
Default -4 build

The -4 is likely the most difficult RV to build (-3 similar), as there is alot of jigging, and layout that must be done, so a thorough knowlege of understanding plans/blueprints will certainly help. Mine had no pre-punch at all, however I am in the business of aircraft maintenance. I recomend you try and find a local area builder thats got a -3,-4 or -6 that is still under construction if you are serious. It takes a bit of motivation to do any RV, and skills must be attained along the road to completion..not just the metal work, but the wiring, engine systems ect. Look at some builder sites with pictures you can find on this site, or VANs factory site under builders links. Also,there is a great 10 minute Youtube video a -4 builder from Germany put together with pictures from the entire build, start to finish. Good luck !
Bill E.
8A7 / Advance NC
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Old 04-11-2012, 05:17 AM
HFS HFS is offline
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Lemoore, CA
Posts: 238
Default Thoughts on Building an RV-4

I live south of you in Lemoore and have been building RV's since 1985. I've done a -4, a Harmon Rocket II and am currently building a -3. Although I don't need any help with the construction, I'll be more than happy to share my thoughts on your prospective journey with you. I too am (was - now retired) 4th generation farmer - so I had made a lot of "stuff" already when I started building my first ultralite in 1981. Give me a call if you would like to discuss this issue further.

My -4 used to be owned by Mike Smith (since killed on a motorcycle) who was involved with Anderson Pump Co. in Chowchilla. It now resides in Visalia in the care of an old friend.


David Howe
(559) 816-0433
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Old 04-11-2012, 07:54 AM
JonJay's Avatar
JonJay JonJay is offline
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Battleground
Posts: 4,125

If that is the airplane you want to build, go for it. Remember, many of us built our first airplanes from non prepunched kits because that is all you had.
The jigs are simple to build and although the plans are pretty rudimentary, there is a ton of support for you within the RV community.
Keep in mind, you are building for the experience. You can find really nice 4's for under $50k already to strap into and fly. You will not be able to build a like 4 for less.
Smart People do Stupid things all the time. I know, I've seen me do'em.

RV6 - Builder/Flying
Bucker Jungmann
Fiat G.46 -(restoration in progress, if I have enough life left in me)
RV1 - Proud Pilot.
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Old 04-11-2012, 08:04 AM
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ppilotmike ppilotmike is offline
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Denver, CO
Posts: 1,931
Default Build it!

I am currently building an RV-10, which is considered an "easy" build by many. The plans are great, the kit is prepunched and everything goes together very easily. That being said, I would LOVE to build an unpunched kit too. There is definitely more challenge associated with that type of a build, but as one fellow said, you have incredible support from the Vans community. If you're a farmer, you know about hard work. This is just a different type of hard work; involving hours of research, learning from others and careful execution. Not unlike learning to farm. If you have the passion, know how to read and find joy in reading this site, then I'd say you have the required basics to build any one of the kits. It will be harder than a pre-punched kit, but so what! More challenge = more satisfaction in the end. Good luck!
Mike Rettig
EAA Chapter 301
VAF Dues Current: Paid for 2019 on 12/03/18
RV-10 Working on the "Dreaded Doors"
F-14 (Pedal Plane - Daughter's Project) "Flying"
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Old 04-11-2012, 10:37 AM
wrongway john wrongway john is offline
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: TX & CO
Posts: 443

I had the prepunched skins. I've built just about everything under the sun, but no plane either. Unless you have somebody in your area that you can consult with that already has building experience with metal planes--even better if they have done a Van's aircraft-- then I think youíre going to be spending forever scratching your head, wondering what youíre doing is right or not. I certainly did, and eventually sold my kits. It turned out what little I had done was just fine, but gosh, I was so slow. For a first time builder an EAA chapter would be the way to go.

If you do have somebody else that's done this, then great. It's very basic skills, but still, it just helps to speed things up considerably, and itís nice to have the go ahead and nod from somebody that is looking over your shoulder that has been there before. The plans are okay, but I've been told by other builders, they are considerably improved on some of his other kits.

I bought an RV already flying. If I were to consider building again, I will next time listen to those that kept trying to pound it in my head to go with a QB kit which the 4's still don't have that option, but plenty of Van's aircraft do. If money is also driving your decision, just save up for another year or so for that QB. Or as another stated, find one already flying. You can find them a bit cheaper right now than the cost of building one.
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Old 04-11-2012, 12:50 PM
Rick RV-4 Rick RV-4 is offline
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 230
Default My thoughts

I just finished an RV-4 a little over two years ago. I had never built anything other than plastic models before that.

Some things to think about:

(1) Building one is not necessariliy difficult, but you have to think ahead about what you're doing, as the plans don't always give you enough info for bad things that may happen if you don't think ahead for the next step. The newer plans seem better.

(2) The alignment of your parts is everything, and to me was the biggest challenge of not having pre-punched parts. With the RV-8 it's hard to build a really crooked airplane, as the parts align themselves somewhat by being prepunched. With a "4" there's nothing to keep you from building a twisted wing. Jigs are important, but what's more important is having your parts set straight IN the jig.

(3) You'll spend quite a bit of time making sure your holes wind up in the right spot, but once you get a few started, the rest will fall into place.

To me it was all worth it. Not to knock the newer RVs, but I'm glad I went old school with the RV-4. Partly because I like the plane more, and partly because I feel like I really earned the first flight. Now that being said, if they ever offered a pre-punched RV-4 kit, I'd buy it!


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Old 04-11-2012, 03:38 PM
Rion Bourgeois's Avatar
Rion Bourgeois Rion Bourgeois is offline
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Canby, OR
Posts: 21

I built a -4 between 1991 and 2004, before the pre-punched wings were available. In my opinion, it is the best of the line. It is a little lighter than the -8, and I assume performs a little better than an -8 with the same powerplant, and is definitely sexier looking than the -8. I also take great pleasure in telling my RV-8 builder friends that I built my plane when kits were kits and men were men.

However, the RV-8 kit is more sophisticated: all pre-punched and the quick build option. So you can build an RV-8 in less time than you can build an RV-4, especially if you decide to go with any quick build components.

The RV-8 can do anything that the RV-4 can do, and carry more baggage.

And if you are over 6' and 180 lbs, you will be more comfortable in the -8. The -8 was designed to accommodate the Bubba factor.

Building any RV is an accomplishment in which you will take great pride, even a quick build kit.

If you are svelte like Dick VanGrunsven and me, and want the extra challenge and have the time, build a -4. Otherwise, build an -8. Beauty is only skin deep.

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Old 04-11-2012, 07:12 PM
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Chino Tom Chino Tom is offline
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Chino, CA
Posts: 719

The journey is half the fun. I'd take Dave up on his offer
(post #4), his builds are second to no ones, really.
Tom Prokop
Chino, CA
RV-8A,180/CS/Carb, AFS 4500 EFIS/EMS
RV-6, sold, 820 hrs of fun.
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