Deciding to home build or amateur build an airplane is a big decision. You have to have the financial resources, the
organizational and planning abilities and the dedication to devote the time needed to finish. The RV-10 is larger and more involved
than the other Van's kit airplanes. There is also a bit of design involved when it comes to panel layout and electrical systems.
The kit allows you to spend money in relatively small chunks since it is divided up into the tailcone, wings,
fuselage, etc. But there will come a point when you have to write the check for then engine and propeller and you need to be ready
Warning: Side effects of building a RV-10 may include divorce, obsession, financial loss, isolation,
introversion, and delusions of grandeur.
Here are a couple of factors led to my decision to build rather than continue to own a certified airplane:
- Annual Inspection. "It just came out of annual, how could anything be wrong?" After having my airplane held hostage for 6 weeks
by a FBO at Mesa Falcon Field,
The first thing I noticed when I walked up to the airplane was that my cowl was drooping and would rub on the spinner if I started it.
After that was corrected, found I could not put on my shoulder harness because the seat belts were reinstalled backwards. This
is after the Mechanic removed a brand new sealed Concord Gel battery from the battery box thinking it is a lead acid battery and
he needs to clean the battery box. The Mechanic then reinstalls the battery and over torques the terminals internally shorting
the battery. The IA notices that my alternator light is flashing so now trial and error trouble shooting starts.
Off comes my alternator, then the voltage regulator, then finally the battery gets replaced. All at my expense. Then they did some
sort of science project with my stand-by vacuum system at my expense.
I don't mind paying for things that need to be fixed, but I do mind paying for incompetence. This annual did more damage
than good to my airplane. Oh, one more thing and this was kind of funny, they put my nose wheel on backwards and I didn't figure it out
until I had pushed the airplane back and forth 10 times trying to find the valve stem on the left side of the airplane.
- Making Changes. It would be nice to be able to add a light someplace I needed it, add a switch to a panel or change
a radio without hiring a mechanic to do it, an IA to inspect it, using PMA parts that have an STC for my aircraft and then
filing a form 337 with the FAA for a field approval.
- I am young and dumb enough to convince myself that I can do this.
- I am already divorced, have no kids and nothing better to do.
- I love building things and flying airplanes.
- This just seems like a good fit for me.
"Your airplane will be ready in a day or two."
Choosing the RV-10
I didn't want to build something that didn't have the capability of the Dakota that I own now. The Dakota has a
O-540 and can haul 1,000 lbs at 130 kts. The RV-10 can haul about the same weight at 170 kts.
I also considered a Zenair CH-640 based on the CH-2000 production airplane. I changed my mind after reading some
of the negative press on web sites from people that were building them. There were complaints about the kits.
There is a wealth of information on the Vans kits. People have documented every single step down to the smallest
detail on their web sites. It is a great supplement to the plans and instructions. I thought it would be crazy
to pick anything but Vans when I realized the extent of the on-line knowledge base that is readily available.
Making a budget
The Vans web page has a cost estimate calculator. I kept the kit mostly stock but expected to be over
the estimate by a factor of 1.3. The Vans web site leaves out some basic costs such as their fee for crating the kit
and shipping. UPS and FedEx will make a whole lot of money off of your project. The cost calculator also does not include
some essentials like fuel pump, fuel filter and fuel flow sensors. You will need supplies like proseal, epoxy, fiberglass supplies
and a number of special tools. One factor that I didn't consider in my cost
estimate is that the price of everything airplane related goes up by about 2% per year. So when you price an engine that you are going
to buy 3 years from now, don't forget to add that factor to it.
My Engine Choice
When it came time to pick an engine, I didn't really want to be too experimental. My reasoning was that after putting a couple of
years of work into the airframe and a whole lot of money, that I wanted to have confidence in the machine up front keeping me in the
air. Screwing three years of work into the ground because of the engine was not appealing to me. This is my opinion and obviously
other people look at the same situation and make different choices. But I went ahead and chose to by an "experimental" engine direct
from Lycoming. The engine comes down the same assemble line as the certified engines, is run on a test stand, is given an experimental
injection system and is delivered to you without the certified paper work for much less money than a certified engine. That was
as much risk as I was willing to accept on the project when it came to the engine.
This is a summary of my base configuration
- YIO-540 engine from Lycoming via Vans.
- Stock cowl, standard fuel tanks.
- Landing lights, strobe and nav lights from Vans
- Quick Build Wing, Standard build fuselage
- Off road tires, towing package and roof rack.
- Basic interior and GRT instrument panel
- Electrical and Panel details are described on their own page along with a cost trade study. About one third of the
cost of my airplane is in the avionics.