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Old 11-06-2014, 11:52 AM
Brundlefly Brundlefly is offline
Join Date: Nov 2014
Location: northern california
Posts: 7
Default Newbie pilot looking to buy first plane - RV-3 vs Varieze

I'm a low-time pilot, around 120 hours, looking to buy a plane in the $15k range. my mission goals are:

1st priority - stable safe handling - something that is safe for a lowbie.
Xcountry cruise efficiency
performance - cruise speed
comfortable - I'm 6'1 so don't want to be flying for hours cramped.
2-place not necessary. I would like to go on and get my commercial at some point but will probably need to fly my dual hours in instructors plane anyway, not likely to find an instructor who is willing to fly in a varieze or dragonfly.

There are a few planes that have come up for sale that are in my price range that I like.


I'm leaning toward the Varieze, second choice is RV-3. The RV-3 is in the 10k price range, the varieze is 15k. I've noticed that RV-4's go for 40k, which seems like a big difference from the RV-3. Is there something about the RV-3 that makes it a lesser plane than the 4 besides the single seat part?

Given my goals what would be the recommendations for the best plane to buy?

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Old 11-06-2014, 12:08 PM
Mike S's Avatar
Mike S Mike S is offline
Senior Curmudgeon
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Dayton Airpark, NV A34
Posts: 14,473
Default Welcome to VAF!

Charles, welcome aboard the good ship VAF

I doubt you are going to find a well built and flying aircraft at the prices you mentioned---------or are you talking kit price??

You list NorCal as your location-------have you considered joining the Sac RVators??
Mike Starkey
VAF 909

Rv-10, N210LM.

Flying as of 12/4/2010

Phase 1 done, 2/4/2011

Sold after 240+ wonderful hours of flight.

"Flying the airplane is more important than radioing your plight to a person on the ground incapable of understanding or doing anything about it."

Last edited by Mike S : 11-06-2014 at 12:11 PM.
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Old 11-06-2014, 12:13 PM
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Vern Vern is offline
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Peachtree City, Ga
Posts: 967
Smile Welcome aboard!

"The RV-3 is in the 10k price range" is not true. Your info source is not accurate. The least expensive RV-3 I've seen is in the twenties. Most are thirties and up.

The RVs are the best overall value in aircraft I know of. However, I doubt you will find any in your price range. There are reasons for that. You get what you pay for generally!

Hope you find what you are looking for.
Vern Darley
Awarded FAA "The Wright Brothers 'Master Pilot' Award"- for 50 years safe flying

RV-6A N680V / RV-10QB N353RV
Luscombe 8E N2423K 49 years
Hatz Biplane N2423Z soon to be birthed
Falcon RV Squadron Founder
KFFC Hanger D-30
Peachtree City, Ga
770 310-7169
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Old 11-06-2014, 12:13 PM
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Mevans Mevans is offline
Join Date: Aug 2013
Location: Clearwater, Florida
Posts: 64

I will try to help. My experience is in being a large part of a crew that built a Long ez. While I am huge Rutan fan, there are some things you should think about. First, due to the glass layup way of building a veri or long, there is no real way to understand the quality of the buld. The outside glass might look great, but that does not insure the interior is built per plans. Rutan designs are sensitive to uv rays, I would not even look at one that was not white and had not been hangared it's whole life. You would be hard pressed to find a veri that was competed less than 30 years ago. There have been incidents in veri's involving the detioration of the method of attachment of the main wing spar to the center section spar. Veri's or long's are made for long flat pieces of asphalt. I loved building one, but I would not buy a long or veri that was not built by a guy with the last name other than Rutan or Melville.

I know nothing of an rv3, but any rv is more easily inspected to determine condition, and much easier to fix if you find a problem. I know there is at least one other person on here with Rutan experience, and maybe he will have an opinion, if 15 k is your budget, buy a tri pacer, and then build a long ez or an rv. Good luck.
Fuselage in progress
Dues exempt but paying anyway because its the right thing to do

Last edited by Mevans : 11-06-2014 at 12:16 PM.
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Old 11-06-2014, 12:40 PM
rv7charlie rv7charlie is offline
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Pocahontas MS
Posts: 3,332

-4's just cost more because they are more airplane. They will carry roughly twice as much, so they have to be big and heavy enough to do it. Some aero engineer once said that we buy planes by the pound. :-) Something a bit harder to explain is that a -6 costs quite a bit more than a -4. That's probably just market forces.

The only question about the -3 would be whether it's had the wing upgraded; the original wing is basically a 'no acro' wing. Some say that the -3 is the best flying plane ever built (I fly a -4; it might be the 2nd best). Oh yeah, there is the matter of tailwheel experience. The tailwheel RV's are pretty tame as TW planes go, but you do need training and experience to fly any tailwheel a/c solo.

I looked at VE's when I first started flying. What stopped me was landing speed/surface capability and the inability to know how well they are constructed, if you don't do the work yourself or know the builder. With metal a/c, you can look inside & get a pretty good idea of whether the builder was competent. The VE will never be a grass field a/c due to long runway requirements, and the very light weight nose gear/very small tires just not working on grass. I wouldn't be able to base one where I live, or visit a lot of the strips I enjoy. (Velocities can handle some of the longer grass strips, but they're almost an order of magnitude more expensive.)

Dragonfly has the same inspection and runway issues as the VE. I actually owned one when I was a student, but never got to fly in it. It had the original canard-tip gear, and had had the canard broken twice before I bought it, and again by the guy test flying it for me after I reassembled it. When we looked into the crack in the canard, we could see where the previous owner had used 'Great Stuff' insulation foam (*not* the best choice for structural foam) to fill the crushed areas from the previous break. In addition, it likely has a converted VW engine. Not necessarily terrible, but much more finicky and sensitive than a lyc or continental.

Auto fuel will be problematic with almost any fiberglass plane, unless you can be sure you're getting E-free gas. Ethanol attacks most of the epoxies that are commonly used to build the gas tanks, and the foam used in a lot of solid core wings. Most newer aluminum tanks will have sealant that is ethanol proof (might not apply to some built more than 10-15 year ago).

There are lots of instructors willing to fly in experimentals, but it depends on where you live and who you know, I suppose. A second seat might be more useful than you think.

If you can expand your price envelope just a bit and can handle taildraggers, you might want to look at Thorp T-18's and Bushby Mustang II's. They both can have handling qualities and speed capabilities that approach RV performance for significantly less money, but most are scratch-built so quality can be anything from better than RV to pretty bad. If you start looking at them, join their user groups & find a builder/flyer of the type that's willing to look at a potential purchase with you, and help you with asking the right questions.


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Old 11-06-2014, 01:14 PM
Brundlefly Brundlefly is offline
Join Date: Nov 2014
Location: northern california
Posts: 7


There is a RV-3 listing on Barnstormers right now for $9k (I probably should not tell you guys that, if it's a deal someone will snatch it out from under me) I have a call into the guy right now, the ad does not list much detail but it does list about 250 TTAF so it was at least flying. Maybe I'm being naive on the 15k for an rv-3 but in the past I have seen at least 2 that where flying and in that price range.

Thanks for all the detailed info. Yes, the build quality of the ez was a concern. I would prefer to build one myself if it did not take so much time. In addition to those planes I've been looking at the Sonerai. Even though it's a scratch built would the tube and rag construction be easier to verify the quality? Any input on the plane itself in terms of safety and performance?

I'll check out those other planes you guys mentioned.
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Old 11-06-2014, 01:32 PM
Notorious Nate Notorious Nate is offline
Join Date: Jul 2014
Location: Bridgewater, VA
Posts: 31

Originally Posted by Brundlefly View Post
There is a RV-3 listing on Barnstormers right now for $9k (I probably should not tell you guys that, if it's a deal someone will snatch it out from under me)
You get what you pay for.
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Old 11-06-2014, 03:20 PM
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ppilotmike ppilotmike is offline
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Denver, CO
Posts: 1,881

Originally Posted by Brundlefly View Post
There is a RV-3 listing on Barnstormers right now for $9k
Looks like it's a "3" meaning the old wing spar, without the mods that Vans calls for to bring it back to aerobatic status. This might not be a big deal if you don't plan to do any yanking/banking. Also, the engine is a lower powered one than what most install in their 3s, but maybe that's also not a big deal to you. Perhaps the seller has a well-built, well-maintained airframe, with a sparse panel, fixed pitch prop, header tank fuel, basic interior, etc. that just doesn't appeal to buyers.. Maybe.. But you might want to get an opinion from someone who knows what they're looking at before you buy. There are steals out there. The question is, "Who's getting robbed?"
Mike Rettig
EAA Chapter 301
VAF Dues Current: Paid for 2019 on 12/03/18
RV-10 (41PX Reserved) Fuselage
F-14 (Pedal Plane - Daughter's Project) "Flying"

Last edited by ppilotmike : 11-06-2014 at 04:12 PM. Reason: grammar
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Old 11-06-2014, 03:41 PM
aturner's Avatar
aturner aturner is offline
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Clarion, Pennsylvania
Posts: 502

Originally Posted by Mevans View Post
if 15 k is your budget, buy a tri pacer, and then build a long ez or an rv. Good luck.
Based on my experience of having owned a number of different aircraft, certified and experimental, I have to agree. You have a decent chance of finding a safe and reliable certified aircraft for 15K. The Cessna 140 comes to mind, as does the 150. I think the odds are worse with experimental aircraft in this price range. The purchase and operation of any aircraft involves financial risk, but at the low end of the market, the financial risk is lower with a certified bird than with an experimental aircraft. IMHO
-Andy Turner
RV-10 N784JC

Last edited by aturner : 11-06-2014 at 05:05 PM.
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Old 11-06-2014, 05:05 PM
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RV3bpilot RV3bpilot is offline
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: New Ulm, Minnesota
Posts: 269
Default RV3

The RV3 is small inside, 24" wide. I'm 5' 10" and fit fine but I can not stretch out my legs all the way. Also going on long trips cross country you need to have your maps folded so that you don't have try to unpack and repack a map in flight, I did do this on my last flight to Colorado but I had to flip one of the maps which meant that it had to be completely unfolded and refolded. I had to hold the control stick between my knees and keep peeking outside to make sure I was not diving to the ground! Also the whole time I was refolding the map I could not see the dash... It was fun however, I enjoyed the struggle..
The RV3 is very maneuverable and fun to fly but learning to land can be quite the experience until you get the hang of it. All the aircraft I have flown prior to this had long wings 35' or so when I came in for my first landing with the RV3 I was shocked by how much form drag the short wings have at slow speeds and the steep angle of glide.
It does glide though, twice I had to glide back to the ground without engine power, "Experimental Engine". I worked the bugs out of my engine and have been boring holes in the sky, but I have to say a Lycoming engine would have been much better and easier to put in.
I have never flown the other aircraft you mentioned so I can not compare anything to it.
I'll have to agree with the others that I doubt you will find a RV3 for less than 20k.. I spent 35k just to get mine in the air and I don't have anything fancy in the dash, just steam gauges.
Robin Mckee
New Ulm, MN 56073
RV3b N219BB
318 hours and counting
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