The fun, excitement and expense of building your own airplane
Tue, 11/27/2012 - 11:41am Carolyn Cary
In the days of yore, when discussing men and their toys, you were probably referring to motorcycles.
Now that reference might refer to the men and women who build their own airplanes.
Yes, it can be done by starting with a kit. Yes, it can be initially put together in your basement or garage.
The most popular kits are for VAN RVs. The RV does not stand for recreational vehicles; rather, they are the initials of Richard VanGrunsven, who grew up in Oregon and began flying at the age of 16. He majored in engineering in college and then spent three years in the United States Air Force.
He originally purchased an airplane he decided needed some engineering changes and eventually began to create kits that enabled pilots to build their own airplanes, and he is now known as the leader in the kit aircraft world.
Let’s say you want to build his VAN RV 4 airplane. The first RV4 first flew in August,1979. There are currently 1,353 in existence.
Your initial purchase will be about $16,000 and after purchasing the kits needed next, say, for instance, the engine, firewall forward accessories, a wing kit, a fuselage kit, VFR cross country instruments, etc., you will have ended up investing just over $62,000, and that figure is on the low side.
Besides the investment, it will take a lot of patience. Some spend 18 months completing the aircraft, and some may take five years.
There are an estimated 155 airplanes based at Falcon Field. About 30 of those are RVs or about 19 percent. All RVs are built by individuals.
About 75 percent of those flying these planes out of Fayette County are ex-military or airline pilots.
As of this writing there are 7,910 RVs based somewhere in the world. The majority of them are in the United States.
So now you have completed constructing your RV4 airplane. It’s going to fly about 180 miles per hour, it will take about 32 gallons of gas to fill it up, and you will get about 20 miles per gallon. The current cost per gallon is just over $5.
Oh, now that your plane is completed, it will cost you about $8,500 and up to have it painted, depending on your choice of design.
We know that we should change the oil in our cars about every 5,000 miles. You will need to change the oil in your RV about every 50 flying hours.
I was privileged to spend several hours with a dozen of the RV owners and their comrades-in-arms, and their devotion to building an airplane and their admiration of each other was catching. They loved building their RV and they love telling you all about it.
I have personally known two men who built their own airplane, David Good and Tommy Turner. I would have gotten into their airplane on the day it was finished and completely trusted the plane to fly. After spending time with the local RV guys, I would get into any of their airplanes with the same confidence.