There are numerous blogs out there documenting the RV-12 airframe construction process, some quite thorough, and there are also full instructions provided with the plans, so I won’t bother trying to duplicate either of those. Rather I’ll use this page to document anything that I think would be helpful to other builders, or places where I’ve done something differently. It is organized by airframe kit in the sequence that Van’s recommends and the sequence in which I built. Before we dive in however let’s talk about a few generalities about building an airplane:
Where to build — Having built two planes previously I learned a long time ago that any builder will be far more productive if you can work as close to home as possible. With this build I now have a much smaller garage than with past projects. Nevertheless I’m doing everything I can to do as much as possible at home, including parking my car outside. Once you start construction you’ll find yourself constantly going out into the garage/shop to check this, see if you have that, brainstorm on the fit of this or that, organize your next session’s work, and read ahead in the plans while you actually look at the parts. If your project is remote you lose this ability, and you usually don’t have internet access to look things up which is an increasingly important resource. My advice to those considering a build, or to new builders, do as much as you can at home!
Customizations — There’s a well-accepted axiom in kitbuilding that says that anything you do that is custom, in other words some sort of modification or deviation from the manufacturer, will take 10X the time relative to just following the manufacturer’s plan and methods. Personally, I think that axiom is wrong, I think it’s more like 20X. In my first two aircraft builds I did my fair share of custom mods and learned my lesson. That said, there are simply some things with this build I am going to do differently both to fulfill the mission of the plane and my need for it (explained on the Why an RV-12? page), and because there are certain things I just prefer.
To prime or not to prime? — With the RV-12 for some reason it seems fewer builders are choosing to prime the airframe aluminum parts, rather relying on the 2024 aluminum’s alclad coating for corrosion protection. With my first build especially I agonized over not whether to prime or not, but which primer to use. I carefully evaluated each primer that was applicable and balanced the inevitable qualities of application time and technique versus effectivity. I ended up with a product and application regimen with my RV-8 that worked well that I refined just a bit further with the RV-3. I was so pleased with it that I’ll be using it for this plane as well. I admit I considered not priming, but I just couldn’t bring myself to not prime, I know I would have regretted it later. The peace of mind that comes from fully protected and nicely finished airframe parts is a source of joy and satisfaction to me, so I will be priming. The products and regimen are recapped on the Paint page if you’re interested.
With all this said let’s dive in, I hope you find it useful!
The very first part you build with this kit is the vertical stabilizer. Since I’m building IFR capability into this plane I knew right from the outset that I needed a customization with the very first part; a VOR/LOC/glideslope antenna. The good news is that Van’s RV-12iST trainer has such an antenna at the top of the VS. Though I couldn’t see behind the scene it didn’t take me too long to figure out a mounting system in the same place they did theirs. My past experience helped here with quickly coming up with a design and fabricating the parts. The pictures below should be self-explanatory, but note that the cap on the VS is now detachable via #6 countersunk screws so as to access the antenna. I ran a plastic conduit inside the VS for the antenna cable routing. I’ll string the RG-400 cable when I’m wiring the plane and crimp the terminals on at that time. I mounted the VS and marked the location where the conduit meets the top of the fuselage then drilled a hole in the top that I’ll put a snap bushing in when the time comes. The cable will be routed down the left side of the fuselage with the trim wiring bundle and up into the VS to the antenna.
With the empennage parts finished it was on to the tailcone which goes fairly quickly. It’s a big part so it really feels like you’re building an airplane!
The wing kit has been received and unpacked at the company hangar due to space constraints at home. With the emp/tailcone now complete I transported the spars and other parts home to begin wing construction.
I’m getting the itch to flush-rivet at least the leading edges of the wings, maybe the entire wing, details to follow as I research this and wing construction progresses. Why would I do this? Two reasons actually, and drag reduction is not one of them — any drag reduction would likely be too minimal to measure with an airframe this slow. My interest in flush-riveting is for maintenance and aesthetics. Once you own and operate an airplane that you like to keep looking nice you realize that you’re constantly wiping down at least the leading edges of all parts exposed to the wind (bugs). I’ve developed a post-flight bug removal regimen that I think works pretty well (a story for another section), but suffice it to say I expect to be constantly rubbing over round head rivets. I think that will complicate the process and eventually maybe even erode the paint off them if they’re standing proud. The second reason is cosmetics, even though pulled rivets are clearly visible I think they still look nicer than the dome head variety.
At present I’m researching everything relating to this effort and still haven’t made a decision. There will be a couple of other tweaks with the wings as well, stay tuned.
Rear spar stub fitment
Ordered but not received yet.
Expect to order soon.