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<Why build an RV-7>
In the indelible words of Bluto Blutarski (John Belushi) from Animal House… Why Not!
To answer this question, I need break it down into two parts. First, why build, and why an RV (RV-7)?
I want to build simply because I am passionate about aviation, and because I enjoy building things. For as long as I can recall, I have always wanted to build my own airplane (you read my About Me page right?). If you did, then you know I owned a Citabria for a few year. During that time I discovered that I really enjoyed helping my mechanic perform the maintenance on the aircraft, and I received praise from both him and my builder friends for the quality of my work. When I started getting a little bored with the Citabria, the idea of building came back strong. I was kicking it around one day, talking it over with a friend (3 time homebuilder) and he said, "You should build, you do really good work, and you would make an excellent builder". That was all I needed to hear, it pushed my right over the edge.
While not my primary reason, another important benefit to building your own airplane is maintenance. In a nutshell, if you build your own airplane, the FAA grants you a "Repairman's Certificate" which allows you to perform all the maintenance on the aircraft without having to hire and certified mechanic (A&P). After all, you built it, so you must be the most qualified person to fix it! For a the layman, this might not seem like a big deal, but for the small airplane owner, it is.
The decision to build an RV was a little more objective, and came down to several key factors.
First, and in my opinion most importantly, it's about bang-for-the-buck! You would be challenged to find an airplane that flies as fast, takes-off in as short a distance, carries as much load, and looks as good as the RV line of aircraft. Van's aircraft calls it "Total Performance", and it really is. Sure there may be others that come close, but none with the history and support behind them that the line of RVs do. And you can forget about a factory built airplane, the liability issues with producing a factory airplane increase the cost (for similar performance) by at least a factor of 3, probably more.
Another important factor for me in making my decision was/is builder support! As a first time builder, I can say that there have been several times during my decision making process that I have thought, "What in the world am I getting myself into?" Building and airplane is a big project, not to be taken lightly. For my first homebuilt (yes, maybe there will be more), I wanted as much support as possible. As of the day I write this, some 4084 Van's RV-3/4/6/7/8 and 9s have taken to the sky. For a homebuilt airplane, that is an amazing number… for any airplane(s) that is an amazing number. My point is, Van's aircraft has been around a while, and probably will be around a while longer. From what I have read, the factory support is some of the best in the business, and with thousands of RV builders (fanatics) out there, answers are just a phone call or email away. During my build process, I know that I won't be the first person to encounter problem X or issue Y; somewhere this issue has already been met and overcome by other builders, and I find comfort in that.
Ease of construction was also very imporatant to me, and today's RV kits (especially the 7) come pre-punched, pre-formed, pre-this, and pre-that. This cuts down on the time to build dramatically as the fabrication required on the part of the builder is much less. In addition, with pre-punched skins, there aren't any fancy jigs to build, just line up the holes, and everything should be pretty true right out of the box.
Some of my flying friends have asked why I would build and RV when there are so many of them out there. My answer to that is simple; I want to build a proven design that has many hours or flight experience, and plenty of support for me during the construction process. I don't want find myself either A) up the creek without a paddle because the factory went under, or B) a test pilot for a new design that has limited flight experience. An RV is neither! Besides, in building my first homebuilt, I am sure I will have bigger issues to worry about than how many RV-7's are out there. 8^)
So why would I choose an RV-7? Simple, it looks cool! Ok, there is more to it than that… it looks really cool!
I want to build a fast x-country airplane, so I started considering both the RV-7 and RV-8, but after owning a Citabria, I wanted side-by-side seating. Don't get me wrong, I like the tandem configuration or the RV-8 (like the Citabria), and ironically my wife prefers sitting in tandem (don't ask), but there are times when you want to be able to look the people you are flying with in the face. I also found that giving rides (or receiving instruction) in a tandem aircraft left something to be desired. Sitting in the back of a tandem you have limited (if any) visibility to the instrument panel, and the instructor (in back) always had a hard time seeing the panel over my 6'-3" tall head. And while the specs on the RV-8 may be a little bit better, I really like the sleek lines of the 7 better.
I also wanted an IFR capable aircraft, and while I am not currently IFR rated, I will be be someday. I could be wrong, but the 7 with its side by side configuration and larger panel seems to me to be a better IFR platform, but what do I know. Did I mention it looks cool?
So the decision was pretty simple, an RV-7 it will be...ummm...IS!