When I first got the plans sheets, I looked at them carefully for a couple weeks and concluded, "This is impossible, there is no way I can build an airplane". The blueprints got used for fire-starter that winter.
The bug wouldn't go away, however. The following spring I got another set of RV plans. Looked at them all that summer. Thought about it. A lot. How would I do this? How would I do that? How much? How long? Bothered the heck out of Roger, a BD-4 builder, who was in the radar group upstairs from me at work. Every lunchtime for weeks: What's a cleco? What's an NAS bolt? Which tools? Where and how much? (I owe that guy a lot, he taught me the basics. Gotta go see him again soon, he lives on an airport...)
Bought the kit that autumn. Never shot a rivet in my life. Never worked with sheet metal (ok, I spot-welded a tool-tray in 9th grade). Never used a reamer. Read all the books, but didn't know diddly. So ... what's the first thing I tried to build? The wing spars, of course (this was pre-historic Van's, where you built your own spars). I'm an idiot - shot all the rivets through the spar caps bent over sideways like golf clubs. Had just enough smarts to take 'em to an A&P before going further. Scrap.
Ok, try something easier - the tail kit. Still an idiot - scrimped on the jig, a flimsy thing. It wobbled. Result was predictable: a month later ... more scrap.
Awright, what's wrong with me?? Go back to page one: what is the philosophy of airplane building??
1) Build parts to fit other parts, assemblies to fit other assemblies.
2) Don't build anything until you have to.
3) Always practice on scrap with new materials or techniques.
4) When in doubt, ask someone who knows.
5) Walk away from it when you're tired.
6) Be committed.
The last one is important. If you get to the end of the build and discover you've REALLY messed up something critical, will you fix it? Will you start over again, build new wings if you have to? Weld-up a new engine mount? Do whatever it takes??
If the answer is yes, you're committed.
I probably replaced half the stuff I built in the first two years - shelves of ruined parts I did over again.
I built the rudder perfectly ... and then dropped it. Big Freaking Dent. Scrap - do another one.
Cut the aileron skins wrong - get new ones.
Bent the flap leading edges wrong - do over.
Made a dozen parts ahead of sequence, to dimensions only. Skimpy edge distances with the holes in the mating parts. More scrap (always make parts to fit other parts, dummy!!)
Then a point in time came when the progress was steady. I was making fewer mistakes, ... then no mistakes. Assemblies got built and joined with other assemblies. Interfaces I had planned years before (wing/fuselage, canopy-frame/cockpit) went together without a hitch. Like a sort of critical-mass. Von Braun said you have to make 65,000 mistake before the rocket will fly. Same thing for new builders - dozens, maybe a hundred goofs before things start going smooth. You have to make those mistakes, there's no other way to learn. You will! And if you're committed, you'll get over it, keep going.
Then, first engine start - that was even more startling than the first flight. Airplane sits there silent for years, then bursts into that unmistakable, growling unmuffled Lycoming sound.
The smell of hot oil, hydraulic fluid, and cockpit leather.
Inspection & signoff. Cockpit papers.
Flight tests, a few glitches.
A point in time will come when you realize you're no longer *building* an airplane, you're *maintaining* an airplane. Out on an airport. Near a runway. With a tower and other planes and engine sounds all around.
Another point in time will come when you drive out to the airport on a Saturday morning. Sky is burning blue. Preflight. Roll the airplane out of the hanger, climb in. The seat is just the way you want it. The panel and controls have that look you dreamed about for years. The paint-job looks just right, exactly like the drawings you made. It will hit you at some point: This thing changed me. It made living worthwhile. If I fly it right, it'll take me on amazing adventures, and if I don't, I could get killed. Even if I do everything right, some freak thing could end it all: a mid-air collision, a smashing wind, a bird strike.
The question will arise: is it still worth it?
700+ RV3 hours
(two more last weekend!)