Saturday, May 23, 2020

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.