N558RL flight hours:
RV-8 project was a regular kit (not a quickbuild). Construction began in
November 1997 and it first flew in May 2001. That means it took 3 years 6
months to build it, a commonly asked question.
I live in the Portland, Oregon area which just happens to be where Van's
Aircraft is located... very handy!
I no longer own N558RL, it was sold in early 2004, but not before flying
it 368 very enjoyable hours. I sold it to start another project, this time
a Van's RV-3B. I have put up a web site documenting that project also...
Why I built an airplane
Having owned two different conventional small aircraft I became frustrated
with their limitations. In pursuing alternatives I learned that it is
possible to build your own aircraft and have it certificated by the FAA in
the 'Experimental - Amateur Built' category. I began exploring
alternatives and decided that the RV-8 from Van's Aircraft was the right
path for me.
What's an RV-8?
An RV-8 is a sport aircraft built from a kit purchased from Van's Aircraft.
It is registered with the FAA as an "Experimental - Amateur Built"
category aircraft. Legally, Van's is not the manufacturer, the
builder is. RVs are not funky unreliable contraptions waiting to fall
out of the sky. Rather they are robustly designed, aerobatic capable,
sport aircraft powered by the same Lycoming engines that power Cessnas and
Pipers. RVs however will travel much faster on the same power due to their
lower aerodynamic drag and less weight.
See the links section for access to more
detailed information, but they look like this...
I build an airplane?
|Many non-builders ask me about building an airplane yourself. Below I have
compiled some things I encourage people to consider before making the
commitment. Then, on the Links page, I've provided a
way to find out more. If you are not a builder but are considering it, following are some things
you should consider...
- Lifestyle commitment - First off you need to realize that you're
not just taking on another hobby. Building an aircraft is a much more
immersive experience. It will take up much more of your time and thought
than you may realize. Then, after completing it, you'll be actively involved
in flying and maintaining it. Because of how deeply you become involved
there will likely be other things in your life that either take a back seat
or get eliminated altogether. You'd be well advised to take a look at your
lifestyle before you start and make a reasonable amount of room for your new
- Monetary commitment - Building your own aircraft is not cheap, but
it may not be as expensive as it seems on the surface. It's true, you'll
invest anywhere between $50-80,000 for a well-equipped VFR ship (Of course
you CAN spend MUCH more if you'd like. You could easily drop $30k into the panel
alone!). But there are two factors which will tend to make it more
"doable". First, because of the lifestyle commitment, you simply
won't have the time or want to spend disposable income dollars on some of
your former activities, or those that you would if you had idle time, which
you now won't. Second, because RVs are built in stages over time it gives
you the ability to spread this investment out over several years. Getting
started is almost the easiest part — twelve hundred bucks for the tail kit
and maybe fifteen hundred for a starter set of tools.
- Basic technical skills - May of the sales brochures say that
"anyone who can pick up a screwdriver can build an airplane".
Well, I wouldn't necessarily agree with this. If you have some hand
tool experience, have a least a modicum of mechanical aptitude, then you'll
probably be ok. There are some people however that have truly never built
anything and have no mechanical aptitude whatsoever. Seriously, if you're
one of these then my advice is to buy an already-built RV which are readily
- The most important thing - There is simply no question that the
most important thing in building any aircraft is a network of other builders
in your vicinity. I simply can't emphasize this enough — you can have all the money
in the world, but if you're sitting there by yourself there are things you
won't be able to figure out, and many steps that require a helper, period.
Spouses may suffice, but someone who is also building and has
developed the same skills and understands what you're doing is
invaluable. We love our spouses, but unless they are also builders they
generally will not have the same enthusiasm or interest. A network of
builders groups has developed around the country, loosely called "Van's
Air Force". Living here in the Portland area, home of Van's Aircraft, I
am involved in the Home Wing of Van's Air Force. Our group is
very active and has nearly 150 members. We have monthly meetings, a monthly
newsletter (that I publish), and an annual
fly-in. You can find information
on this group in the Links section.
As valuable as a builders group or local EAA chapter can be, having a friend
or two whom you can exchange help with on a regular basis is the best
resource of all. I've been fortunate enough to hook up with two other guys
that live within a couple of miles of me who are also building RV-8s, Jeff
Jasinsky and Randy Griffin. We've
become good friends along the way and share parts, assistance, and research
I've put up a brief page for each of their projects as well so be sure and
check them out... Jeff's Project, and Griff's
- How long does it take -
While I did keep an accurate log of activities and dates — a builder's log — I
did not log my time. That would seem way too much like work. I truly enjoyed the building process
and wanted to keep it that way. So if you ask me "how much time do you have
in it" I would respond "I really don't know". I can tell you that
I averaged two three hour evenings and one eight hour weekend day over the
construction period. So, the answer to the question for me was three years
six months. Be advised however that in comparing notes with other
builders, this seems to be fairly fast for a non-quickbuild and for someone with
a full time job. Overall I would estimate between 2,000 and 2,500 hours, very close to
what Van's estimates, and I did extra work with my cowling and doing the
painting myself. Once you're flying however the job is not complete. I found it
took nearly another year of making changes and improvements until I considered
the plane "done". Be advised though that the first
flight does not mean the aircraft is done. Having watched many builders bring
their projects to conclusion I would estimate that it takes approximately a full
year after you first fly your aircraft to truly get it "done". There are both
bugs that need to be corrected and likely some things you want to change,
therefore anticipating this time seems wise.
There is a wealth of information on the Internet about building and flying
Van's RV series aircraft. There are many sites with comprehensive links so
rather than trying to replicate these I'll simply provide a few references where
you can find out more. If you'd like more information on RV-8s just check out these
Organizations I belong to:
RV- List Home
Air Force - World Wide Wing
Experimental Aircraft Association
EAA Chapter 105
/ Van's Air Force Home Wing