Saturday, May 23, 2020

First Steps - the Horizontal Stab


It didn't take long at all for the RV-8A tail kit to arrive from Van's. I think they like to gt tail kits in the hands of fledgling builders to get the hook sunk as deep as possible. I would also posit that Van's sells a hella lot more tail kits than any of the following kits. 

Over the years, I have had countless people tell me that this blog, or one of my YouTube videos, or my scintillating personality was the biggest reason that they started a build. Van's actually asks first-time builders who influenced them to buy a kit. That person gets a $100 referral fee from Van's. 

Despite the dozens of people telling me that I was their inspiration, I had received precisely $200.

Don't get me wrong: they didn't owe me a thing, and I do not resent their decision. It was reward enough to know that my efforts with the blog had made a difference to someone's life. Maybe not always a successful difference, but it's still nice to have been involved.

Scott texted me this photo:


Well, there ya go! 

Scott has already added his name to the list of people wanting hangars, but there's no telling how long that will take. He's as eager to get started as I am, so I offered to give him some space in my hangar. The RV-12 doesn't fill the hangar, so it's not a problem at all to have a tail kit being built behind my plane. I even had workbenches back there already, but you wouldn't have known it - they were buried under piles of hangar detritus. I straightened it all up and we (I really like the "we" in this sentence!!) got busy with the first steps in the manual.


The manual is the old style, which is large pages of plans (think blueprints, but no blue) and an assembly guide that demonstrates the very essence of minimalist writing. And ambiguity.

I have been irrevocably spoiled by the RV-10, -12, and -14 style of build instructions.

The first step is to build the forward (or aft, I don't remember precisely which) spar for the horizontal stab. The large channel piece pictured below comes in two halves. We laid them out on the bench.


There are two thick aluminum doublers to be straightened/de-bowed, cleaned up, edges broken, and cleco'd into place. Scott did nearly all of that work, while I puttered around the hangar looking for things to do - I was there solely as a source of suspect advice and to help hold parts when needed. I'm not complaining - I think it is essential for him to do as much of the early work as possible. Once he gets up to speed, we can possibly start dividing the work.

It's his build - I am there to provide help and support as needed - just what I want! I want to be involved, but I absolutely do not want to be essential. He has a key to the hangar and can work whenever he wants to, with or without me.

It took a couple of hours (he is exhibiting a notable fastidiousness, and is also showing that he's a quick study  - both good things!!) to get to the point of getting the parts cleco'd together.


Obviously his brand new clecoes have not arrived yet - look at the tight formation of those copper veterans!

Check your work early and often!


The last thing we did on the first day was to final drill all of the #30 holes. That being a relatively simple task, we both enjoyed a bottle of lubrication.


His tools are scheduled to arrive later today. If/when they do, we'll start on the aft spar.

Schmetterling Emerges from Hiatus

Thursday, February 7, 2013 - that was the date when my RV-12, N284DG, took flight for the first time. While that didn't entirely signal the demise of this blog, it definitely changed the nature of it. Schmetterling Aviation slowly yet inexorably retreated to the back of my mind - I found YouTube to be a better way to share the experience of flying; this blog was better suited to documenting the build process than the usage of the finished project.

There has been no appreciable shortage of maintenance work to be done on the RV-12, but that is not the same as building. The work is of a different nature - maintenance work is quite often much harder (and less fulfilling) than building. Parts have had ample time to become so accustomed to their position on the airplane that the refuse to be parted. Screw heads get rounded out and become very difficult to remove.  

The primary cause of this particular recurring problem is a lazy maintainer that didn't replace a worn screw with a fresh one when he had the chance.  

I have three nicknames for that guy: me, myself, and I.

I have been flying the RV-12 for more than seven years. I am still madly in love with the way it flies, although I would be lying if I said it satisfactorily addresses every flying need/want I have. It cannot fly IFR, for example. While it would not be the perfect all weather airplane, I would like to be able to file an fly in marginal VFR/light IFR now and then. Also, it isn't actually slow, but I could use another 50 knots every now and then too. 

I also miss the work of building. One thing that I like to tell people is that "Building an airplane is not something you do, it is something you become." It invades every open space in your brain. The Build never fully recedes into the background. It's always there. I have a couple of hours with nothing I have to be doing? Go do some building. The next subkit is taking awhile to show up on your driveway? Read ahead in the plans to make sure you have the tools and supplies you're going to need.

And the worst of all: spouse wants to take a one or two week trip in the camper. Or you have to attend the wedding or graduation of some young kid you barely know. It's torture!

I missed it. I started thinking about building another plane for myself. The FAA regulatory regime has changed - I no longer need an LSA. I could BasicMed myself back into any airplane smaller than a King Air. 

So, what would I build if I could? As of this writing, I 'm not 100% sure. I like all of the Van's models, but I'm pretty sure that I have it narrowed down to an RV-8A, an RV-9A, or an RV-14A.

Yes, all three are nosewheel airplanes. I liked my tail-dragging RV-6 just fine, but there are downsides to having a tailwheel, primarily having to do with takeoffs and landings. They are very different in a taildragger. Crosswinds become a much larger factor. It's also a little bit harder to stay competent in a taildragger after a layoff from flying. 

Case in point: Ohio winters.

I like the RV-8A for the tandem seating - it feels more like a military fighter. Sitting on the centerline is very beneficial when it comes to formation flying and aerobatics. The downside is passenger comfort. They're back there alone. They also don't have much in the way of forward visibility. That makes it very difficult to fly from the back seat, and I let a lot of people fly the plane when they ride with me.

I like the RV-9A as a travel plane. It is far more stable than the rest of the bunch, with the possible exception of the big four-seat RV-10. It's a bit small, though.

I like the RV-14A because it is aerobatic and roomy. It's really just a bigger RV-7A. It is also the only one on my list that has the modern-style build manual of the RV-10 and RV-12. That's a big factor for me. The downside is cost - it's bigger and therefore uses more expensive materials like aluminum. Building an RV-14 would be roughly 20% more than an RV-9A.

As of this writing, the kit prices are:

RV-8A: $25,925
RV-9A: $27,800
RV-14A: $36,335

Those are just the kit prices - that isn't even half of the finished cost. I would also be more likely to put a bigger engine in the -14 than the other two. For the RV-8A and the RV-14A, I would also want a constant speed prop and a few more fancy boxes in the panel. 

Engine, avionics, and covering (probably vinyl - paint is too expensive) would be somewhere in the neighborhood $50,000 - $75,000. Realistically, the -8A and -7A would cost in the $85,000 - $100,000 range. The RV-14 would range from $100,000 - $140,000.

I currently do not see a financial path to any of those destinations. I'm at the finishing stages of my first book (tentatively named The PapaGolf Chronicles), but I have no faith in it netting me $140 grand. Time will tell. If you are reading this in my third book, well... I guess I was wrong.

So, you are surely wondering what event has prompted the revival of this blog?

The Civil Air Patrol.

Well, more or less indirectly. A guy I met in CAP had developed an interest in building an airplane and was referred to me as someone that might know something about doing so. Fair enough. I'm always happy to try to talk people into life-changing events and activities, just so long as I personally have no vested interest in the endeavor's success.

He was thinking of building an RV-8A.

I was thinking that I want to be involved in that. I told him that I would give him as much help as he could stand. He ordered the tail kit about 32 seconds later. I'm in it now!!

His name is Scott, a fact only slightly less important (to me) than the fact that he is a veteran F-16 pilot. I'm not going to go into my decades-long interest in that particular jet, but I can tell you that I am ecstatic about the prospect of having all of my lingering F-16 questions answered. I have a very realistic Virtual Reality (VR) F-16 simulator on my PC - so realistic that I often struggle to learn the correct procedures, right along with my innate inability to land the doggone thing. Having a source of real world knowledge is going to be great! 

I have already been disabused of an idea that I read somewhere - I read that the F-16 is so light and powerful that they didn't even use the afterburner on takeoff. Not so, according to Scott. I have changed my simulated flight procedures in response. 

Guess what! It's a LOT more fun with the afterburner.