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Old 06-27-2020, 03:43 PM
Lemos Lemos is offline
Join Date: Jun 2020
Location: Julian, California
Posts: 90
Default I know that it is sometimes said that ?anybody? can build an RV, but really .. can I?

Hi all. First time poster, long time reader. Finally mustered up the courage to register and post.

So I have had a dream of building an airplane for a long time. 20+ years. But I must admit, I have nearly no mechanical skills. I can do an oil change on my car or motorcycle. I can change the air filter on them too. But that is simple stuff.

Can I really build an airplane? Nobody online can give me an answer to that of course, but is there a baseline mechanical ability that one must have to assemble an RV14 kit? Can I learn as I go? Are other builders willing to come to my workshop to help?

Folks on here make this look easy, and talk like assembling the RV14 kit is nothing but matching parts and riveting them together. It can’t be that easy.

I do not want to start a project that I will not finish. I can commit to 5 hours per day 5 days per week. I have the time to do this. I marginally have the money to do it. But, is it normal for me to sit here and wonder if I can do it, skill wise? Is it normal for me to fear assembling the airplane wrong and having it be junk and need to be scrapped?

I guess what I am concerned about is my own ability. If I believe I can do it, can I? Certainly I cannot be alone.

Oh, and if anyone has an RV-14 or RV-14A they want to sell to someone unsure of their own abilities, shoot me a message. In full or San Diego Area partnership.
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Old 06-27-2020, 03:50 PM
YellowJacket RV9 YellowJacket RV9 is online now
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Clearwater, FL KCLW
Posts: 1,330

The mechanical skills to do it are achievable by almost anybody (with time and practice). What separates successful builders from those that don't finish, IMO, is patience and perseverance. You will screw up, you will get mad at yourself, you will question yourself, and be royally frustrated at times. The question is whether you will push through that or decide it isn't worth the frustration.

The 14 kits are far easier to build than prior kits, from what I hear, but there will still be a learning curve and the associated frustrations. As they say, if you want to fly, buy a completed plane. If you want to build, go for it. As a warning, it will cost MUCH more than you plan on.

Chris Johnson
RV-9A - Done(ish) 4/5/16! Flying 4/7/16
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Old 06-27-2020, 03:50 PM
Sam Buchanan's Avatar
Sam Buchanan Sam Buchanan is offline
been here awhile
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: North Alabama
Posts: 4,462

Welcome to VAF!

Your concern is valid for someone with limited mechanical background. A visit to a builder who is well into their project and willing to candidly discuss the process would be invaluable. Maybe your inquiry will shake loose someone near you who can offer a visit to their shop.

Many builders who have had similar concerns have attended one of the builder workshops to determine the level of skill needed. Vans has a practice kit you can build but you will need some basic aircraft tools.

Keep doing your homework and make every effort to arrange for an in-the-flesh visit to an active project. What many prospective builders don't realize if that once the basic airframe is assembled you are only about 1/2 way through the project. Instruments, avionics, engine and paint/finish are areas that require specialized skills. But those skills can be acquired by those willing to put forth the effort.

A fallback option is purchasing an RV that is already flying. Best wishes for whichever path you choose.
Sam Buchanan

Last edited by Sam Buchanan : 06-27-2020 at 03:54 PM.
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Old 06-27-2020, 04:07 PM
wirejock's Avatar
wirejock wirejock is offline
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Estes Park, CO
Posts: 4,765
Default Build

If it's a 20 year dream, you owe it to yourself to try. I believe anyone can.
It's just a new skill.
Start by finding a Mentor. Join the nearest EAA Chapter.
Build a practice kit (toolbox). That should gjve you a good idea if it's something you want to try. The 14 is a good choice. Easier. Better manual.
Larry Larson
Estes Park, CO
wirejock at yahoo dot com
Donated 01/01/2021, plus a little extra.
RV-7A #73391, N511RV reserved (2,000+ hours)
Empennage, wings, fuse, finishing kit, now FWF
I cannot be, nor will I be, held responsible if you try to do the same things I do and it does not work and/or causes you loss, injury, or even death in the process.
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Old 06-27-2020, 04:33 PM
DeltaRomeo DeltaRomeo is offline
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Highland Village, TX
Posts: 4,243

"Can I build a TAIL KIT?" I'd suggest asking yourself that first. If you get frustrated halfway through, you'll know....then you can sell the project and tools online for more than half of what you have in it.

Fairly cheap way to find out.

And welcome!


PS: Yes, you can build a tail kit.


Doug Reeves (your host)
  • Full time: since '07 (started it in '96).
  • Typed in the EMB-505 (Phenom 300). Available for contract work. (flying resume).
  • Part time: Supporting Crew Member CAE EMB-505 Level D Sim @ KDFW.
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Old 06-27-2020, 04:35 PM
Mark Dickens's Avatar
Mark Dickens Mark Dickens is offline
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Collierville, TN (KFYE)
Posts: 1,475

Yeah you can do it. You just have to have a uncompromising approach to it. Failure is not an option, neither is quitting! If you screw a part up, then buy a new piece and do it right the next time (see tabs, trim). Grim determination is what it will take at times
RV-8 #81077 Super Slow Build
Dynon Skyview HDX, Titan IOX-370, Dual P-Mags, AFP FM200A FI, Whirlwind 200RV CS Prop
First Flight 11/20/2016
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Old 06-27-2020, 04:37 PM
rvbuilder2002's Avatar
rvbuilder2002 rvbuilder2002 is offline
Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: Hubbard Oregon
Posts: 9,660

A couple of older (but still relevant) articles archived on VAF that may be of interest....
Opinions, information and comments are my own unless stated otherwise. They do not necessarily represent the direction/opinions of my employer.

Scott McDaniels
Hubbard, Oregon
Van's Aircraft Engineering Prototype Shop Manager
RV-6A (aka "Junkyard Special ")
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Old 06-27-2020, 05:51 PM
E. D. Eliot E. D. Eliot is offline
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: San Pedro
Posts: 1,017
Default Maybe - how badly do you want it?

My recommendations as follows. First, find someone who is building an RV and ask to visit him/her while he/she is working on his/her project. In my opinion, this is the most important piece of advice. Offer to help this person whenever he/she needs or wants you to help. You will fine out quickly if building is for you.

If you decide that you want to build, I'll bet that this person will volunteer to be a mentor. Mentors help you select tools and how to use them and are there when you need a 'boost' to your mental attitude. You will make mistakes and that is a bummer but Van's has spares of whichever part you messed up.

This beings up the $$$$$ question, can you afford to build a Van's airplane? Second question is does your wife approve of the time and $$$$$ that you need to spend? This is probably more important than learning how to use the tools. Get that squared away and don't kid yourself about an unenthusiastic answer from her. Good skills!
Building finally
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Old 06-27-2020, 06:28 PM
drill_and_buck's Avatar
drill_and_buck drill_and_buck is offline
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Bridgewater, MA - KPYM
Posts: 479

?Whether You Think You Can, or Think You Can't ... You're Right?
-Henry Ford

Many before have done it, you can too! All it takes is commitment and perseverance.
Mike Draper
RV-8 N468RV
First Flight 11/13/2011
TMX0360, Dual Pmags, CS
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Old 06-27-2020, 06:37 PM
climberrn's Avatar
climberrn climberrn is offline
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Carson City, NV
Posts: 639
Default Yes, you can.

Building an RV is a bunch of little tasks. Can you drill holes? Can you sand/file edges smooth? Can you follow written directions? There are thousands of small tasks that anyone can do with minimal learning curve. The first rivet I ever set, or saw getting set was on the toolbox kit. They weren?t pretty, but with practice they got better. Perseverance, time and money are the biggest hurdles in my opinion. With those three things, the rest will fall in place. Most of us learned how to build during the build. Even the multiple kit builders started somewhere.

RV-7A at CXP
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