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Old 06-02-2021, 11:23 PM
Captain Avgas Captain Avgas is offline
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Posts: 1,991
Default Miserable quality loves company.

Well, in reality the proverb is actually: "Misery loves company". But on VansAirforce it might well be interpreted as: "Miserable quality loves company".

In other words people who have built to a low standard tend to encourage other builders to do the same.

A recent thread on VansAirforce asking for advice on whether a damaged rudder skin should be repaired or replaced attracted a lot of disparate suggestions and was revealing. This was the thread

I have started up this new thread because I believe that the time is well overdue for a serious discussion about attitudes to quality control (or lack thereof) in the Experimental Category.

In the end the quality of aircraft being fabricated in the Experimental Category is largely unregulated and virtually entirely dependent on the personality of the builder. It is therefore not surprising that a very broad spectrum of builder personalities tends to result in a very broad spectrum of build qualities. Toss in the fact that many builders are not even that interested in building and the scene is set for a lot of very poorly constructed aircraft.

I have been a technical counsellor for the Sports Aircraft Association of Australia for the best part of two decades and was an aircraft judge for 7 years straight. I have closely inspected literally hundreds of Experimental aircraft. Some of them were works of art...but many off them were truly appalling.

I constantly hear builders say: "I'm building to go, not to show". I tend to interpret that as the builder saying he is not building to the best of his abilities. Another common one is: "It's not a show plane but it's airworthy". But in my experience a lot of them are not airworthy at all.

I believe that when we post on VansAirforce we have a duty to encourage excellence as a standard....not to promote the concept that close enough is good enough. I believe that the safety of the builder and his family and the future of the Experimental Category at large will be better served by this approach.

I'll finish with a quote by Michelangelo: "The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it; but that it is too low and we reach it".

He was a pretty smart guy that Michelangelo.
You’re only as good as your last landing
Bob Barrow

Last edited by Captain Avgas : 06-03-2021 at 02:20 AM.
Old 06-02-2021, 11:45 PM
rv8ch's Avatar
rv8ch rv8ch is offline
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: LSGY
Posts: 4,072

I've seen things that bothered me on aircraft, both certified and experimental. What might be very interesting is to hear about the kinds of things you have seen, kind of like when Vic shares his findings.

One of the most common for me is firewall penetrations that have little or no actual fire resistance. Or when you can see that they are not sealed at all.
Mickey Coggins
"Hello, world!"
Old 06-03-2021, 03:57 AM
David Z David Z is offline
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Thunder Bay Ontario
Posts: 738
Default Define Airworthy

While VAF is a great community, it's not the written airworthiness standard. For that there is the Van's Builder's manual, section 5 has a lot of good info. Next there's AC 43.13 and a couple quick reference guides developed from that. Also Van's builder support is another authority of airworthiness.

For everything we do on our planes, we need to be able to reference everything back to one of these standards. "Good enough" is only good enough if the AC43.13 or Van's says its good enough.

I'm not just concerned about low quality work either, some expect unrealistic perfection as the minimum standard. My plane won't be a show plane either, and I've certainly made mistakes. However, I can reference everything back to the plans, AC43.13 or an email with builder support (and I keep all those emails).
Empennage Passed Pre-close Inspection
Wings mostly done
Fuselage at the "porcupine stage"
Dash 8 day job is financing the RV8
Donation till September 2022
Old 06-03-2021, 05:31 AM
swjohnsey swjohnsey is offline
Join Date: Nov 2018
Location: Kingsville, TX
Posts: 354

The Wright brothers and most of the other air pioneers would have never flown.
Old 06-03-2021, 06:01 AM
Jslow2 Jslow2 is offline
Join Date: Dec 2020
Location: Cement City
Posts: 122

In your example post about the rudder skin, VANS authorized and gave instructions on how to repair the part. In that same post you implied that builders who make repairs are sub standard.

Exactly what standards do you recommend? You obviously don't agree with the kit manufacturer's recommendations.

There is nothing wrong with a builder saying "It's not a show plane but it's airworthy" An airworthy plane has a defined standard, inspection and sign off. A show plane usually has a multi thousand dollar paint job.

I made the same mistake as rudder skin guy, but on the VS skin to rib. I repaired it with two rivets on either side of the mistake hole, as was recommended. I must not have any standards...
Old 06-03-2021, 06:32 AM
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Walt Walt is offline
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Dallas/Ft Worth, TX
Posts: 6,224

High quality/perfection should always be the goal, but in the real world mistakes are made. In that case a standard repair or repair developed by the manufacturer is absolutely acceptable. I'm not a big fan of replacing riveted parts unless it's really necessary, no matter how good you are when you drill out rivets the holes will be enlarged by the riveting process and things aren't getting "better" at this point even though it may look better.

We had an old saying the aircraft manufacturing world, the plane doesn't leave until the paperwork weighs as much as the plane, that's because all the engineering repair documents have to be completed for all the repairs made during the build process. There's a whole engineering dept that does nothing but develop repairs for new planes before they even leave the factory!
Walt Aronow, DFW, TX (52F)

EXP Aircraft Services LLC
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Old 06-03-2021, 06:34 AM
spatsch spatsch is offline
Join Date: Nov 2014
Location: Denison, TX
Posts: 301

I think one of the problems we have is that experimental airplanes have become a cheap substitute for certified airplanes.

Experimental airplanes by name and intend at least in the US were intended for people to experiment and learn. That means breaking the norm and taking the risks you want to take rather than the risks some regulation, guide book, standard allows you to take. Try to defy physics and kill yourself if you want to. It's allowed. Even though I wasn't born in the US I find having this freedom is a very American thing. A freedom I greatly appreciate now living here sometimes being surprised that nobody has taken it away from me yet.

Now that worked well when people approached this with a truly experimental mindset and were aware and willing to educate themselves and take the risks knowingly.

The problem today is that a large number of experimental airplanes are not build because people want to experiment and learn but because it is the cheapest way to get a high performance airplane. As the original builder might or might not understand the ramifications of all those decisions made during a build the odds are when the airplane gets sold the buyer won't. A pre buy can catch many things but not everything.

So what to do?

I don't know.

For the buyers some standard would make sure that whatever they buy has at least some acceptable quality. But we tried standards with certified airplanes and they made them unafordable.

On the other hand if you look at overall statistics experimental airplanes are only marginally more dangerous then your Cessna or Piper. With very little deaths due to structural issues which is what most of those posts are about. Never heard of an RV breaking apart in mid air because of a crack in the skin. That would argue that whatever sloppy/unorthodox/misinformed build practices you see don't lead to deaths at the scale some might expect. So don't fix something that isn't broken.

Oliver Spatscheck
RV-8 N-2EQ -- flying 500+ hours
Fokker DR-1 N-22EQ -- under construction
Old 06-03-2021, 07:01 AM
BillL BillL is online now
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Central IL
Posts: 6,139

Removing freedom to fail is removing freedom to succeed at the same time. RV related, I will defend this concept as creating opportunities for those with the drive and skills to build an airplane beyond what they could afford to purchase and maintain. Even if learning those skills are part of that accomplishment.

Anyone who thinks it is cheap to build their own plane would not have measured the straight value of their time. Education is not free, even if self taught. Time, materials, failures are part of that. At least VAF has members with a wide (and deep) range of skills/experiences to be imparted to those listening.

Along these lines, the OP maybe interpreted as promoting a mind set of quality, but primarily safety to the process.

My personal reflection of quality is best exemplified by this quote: "as we strive for perfection, we oft mar what is well" (poorly quoted Shakespeare I think?) This, as Walt has so clearly pointed out.


Last edited by BillL : 06-03-2021 at 07:03 AM.
Old 06-03-2021, 07:10 AM
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DanH DanH is offline
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: 08A
Posts: 10,206

The buggered dimple thing is a lousy example. As noted in that thread, there is plenty of room for opinion, opinions vary, and no one is wrong.

I'm not worried about Ray and his rudder. He recognized an error and took positive steps toward a good decision. It's like the checkride where the examiner is not concerned with the applicant's mistake. What he wants to see is that the applicant recognized his mistake and calmly corrected it.

The folks who are inspecting RVs for a living, usually on behalf of second owner non-builders, are in fact finding a lot of errors and poor craftsmanship. These are not "replace or replace" debates like the rudder skin. A lot of 'em are outright crazy s###, and in every case, someone found it acceptable.

Half the EAB fleet is below average. Every builder gets to pick his half.
Dan Horton
Barrett IO-390

Last edited by DanH : 06-03-2021 at 11:01 AM.
Old 06-03-2021, 07:13 AM
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MacCool MacCool is offline
Join Date: Aug 2020
Location: central Minnesota
Posts: 676

I should preface by saying that I'm not a builder, and my interest in Experimental Aviation extends only to the flying part, and maybe some maintenance items. ZERO interest in building a plane that I'm going to fly myself or people that I care about.

One of the things that has convinced me that I am NOT an airplane builder is the kind-of Dogpatch approach that I occasionally see proposed or endorsed on some homebuilt forums. As a long-time pilot in the certified world, I see some things on experimental forums that are eye-opening to me, and at least a little bit scary. I don't know if those kinds of issues translate to a higher accident rate in the Experimental world, but I would think that some attitudinal aspects of home-building do contribute. personal approach to Experimental aviation relies heavily on my A&P and less on internet advice.
RV-9A, 2011, bought flying
IFR certified
AFS 5400/3500, G5, 430W, some other stuff

Last edited by MacCool : 06-03-2021 at 07:16 AM.
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