Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Kit Arrives - My RV-14A Adventure Begins

I often buy new toys during my annual trek to EAA Airventure at Oshkosh.  This year I bought the ultimate toy: A Van's Aircraft RV-14A 2-seat single-engine go-fast airplane kit.  Yes, a kit - I have to put it together.  Let the journey begin.

Me climbing into the factory demonstrator for a test ride.  Didn't take much convincing!
The box would arrive about two weeks later.  Not really a box, it was a custom designed wooden crate that required more muscle than mine alone to move it from the truck illegally parked in the street outside my home.  According to the Van's Aircraft website, the empennage kit weighs in at 220 pounds.  I had arranged to borrow some furniture dollies from my neighbor and board member on our local EAA 565 chapter, Don Mahanor.  As it turned out, the good gentleman who delivered the package wheeled it right up the driveway and into my garage.  I only paid for curbside service!  Thanks Old Dominion.  I will see you again - four more times before this project is complete!

Two hundred twenty pounds of sheet metal, rivets, bolts and other bits and bobs, as my British friends are fond of saying.

Van's Aircraft structures the project in separately purchasable subassemblies, of which the empennage kit is the starting point.  Being the least expensive of the four subassemblies, it's the one you start with to decide if you have what it takes to actually build one.  From there you order and build the wing kit, the fuselage kit and the finish kit, which comes with the canopy, landing gear fairings, engine mount and cowling, seats and interior hardware and much more I will only discover later into the project.  Finally the truck arrives with the last large item, the engine that will propel this little metal airplane to wonderful new adventures.

But, let's not get ahead of ourselves.  There is much work to do.  The first work item recommended by the plans is a complete inventory of the items in the custom wooden crate.  This alone took eight hours over two days.  I meticulously stacked items organized by their location on the inventory sheets so I could find them again when referenced in the plans.  A few of the items even resembled airplane parts.  I learned that rivets are sold by the pound, because you use thousands of them, and who wants to count them all?

Conquering the crate!
By the age of fifty-six and nine tenths, I had amassed a reasonable collection of mechanic's tools.  However I had to purchase numerous sheet-metal-working tools that I did not have.  These included a rivet gun, some air tools, (and yes, a bigger air compressor) and numerous bits and dies and deburring tools, among other items.  After meeting the good folks at Cleaveland Aircraft Tools, I decided to purchase a preassembled kit of tools specifically designed for the Van's series of airplanes.

I am blessed to live in a community with a very active general aviation population, and moreover, an EAA chapter with numerous members who are either in progress or have already completed one or more homebuilt airplane kits.  There is no shortage of knowledge at my local EAA chapter.  While I do not know the exact number, there are several dozen homebuilt aircraft either flying or being assembled here at KPGD.

I spent many hours reading blogs, watching videos on YouTube and reading the books that came from both Van's with the kit, and Cleaveland Tools from the tool collection.  Deciding which primer to use highlighted the many differing techniques and opposing advice and opinions on the subject.  You may think religion and politics can ignite passions in people, try talking about anti-corrosion primers with the homebuilder community.  It will always be an interesting topic!

I will be writing more as I progress through the build. I hope you will follow along and enjoy my rantings!

Plans book on rear of table, vertical stabilizer spars in the foreground.