You know, I pondered over this question of owning a plane vs. renting for about 2 years. After I got my private in 96, I was renting planes along like most folks. Different plane every time. Never feeling real safe due to the exurbanite amount of hours on the plane and the shear number of people who have flown them. I could never quite get a good feeling in them, different instruments, different sounds etc. So I decided I would own my own. Once I made that leap (and that's the biggest mental leap), I looked into a purchase of a used plane. The prices were high, and I wanted faaarrr more airplane than I could afford.
Next leap? Building a plane. I have always been handy at things, thanks mostly to my dad who outfitted me with every toy known to man as a kid. Dirt bikes, snowmobiles, cars, boats. But we worked on everything our selves. Nothing went to the shop w/o us spending hours, days, weeks even, turning a simple mechanical problem into a more difficult problem first. (Note to Dad.... Thanks for all the time you spent with me growing up, showing me how things worked, how to fix and take care of stuff. I use those skills every day now. Thanks for taking the time dad)
I had done some construction things, decks, some electrical, engineering in college. But nothing compared to getting into something I built. Not to mention I had no experience with sheet metal at all.
I flew r/c planes for years, building those with my mentor and best friend Tommy Morgano. He is a retired aircraft mechanic from American Airlines. I learned a lot from him. He and I worked on models together for years. He, of course, is a very meticulous guy, having worked on commercial passenger planes for some 40 years. We built several large scale models like the Christen Eagle bi-plane. A 1/3 scale model. I also have a 1/3 scale Extra 300, 1/3 scale Sopwith Pup, a 1/5 scale F4U Corsair, an r/c Helicopter, a 1/4 scale Waco bi-plane, and various other small r/c planes around.
The more I thought about building one, the more I liked it. The thought of getting in a plane I built was so appealing, I could not get the thought out of my head . So off I went on a hunt for the right plane to build. After all, I knew no one who had done it. And picking the right plane was no small task. There were so many things to consider: Airspeed, reliability, cost etc. I think the most compelling reason I chose the RV was there are so many of them flying, I don't have to re-invent the wheel. There are several in my town as it turns out.
After what amounts to 2 years research I chose the RV-6A. "A" means tricycle gear, as opposed to the tail dragger type. There are many RV models available, but I liked the side by side passenger model.
You have to fly at least 150 hours annually to make this cost effective. But then again, what the hell does cost effective have to do with anything when you are fulfilling a dream. That's the way I have looked at it. (Don't you love the minds ability to reason things out?)
Forget logic here. It will never work. Yes it's cheaper to fly delta. Yes I am adding risk in my life. Yes this is going to be expensive. Yes this is going to take 4000hrs.(gaaagg cough:) Yes this will impact my ability to spend time with family. And hell yes I'm going to do it anyway!!!!!
There is something very appealing to me about getting into a plane, that began as a hunk of mass metal, and flying though the snow covered mountains on a brisk wintery day. How many people get to really experience something like this. Every Day, during building, you get to look forward to the next challenge on the airframe , as it slowly takes shape. The work, commitment, challenge, and enjoyment of focusing on many small problems along the way to a completed airplane, is more fun than I can express in words. Walking friends and family through the shop, showing off my accomplishment is also a lot of fun. Many people have come to know me as "that weirdo guy building the airplane in his garage." (which is much better than what they used to say about me)
If you want to learn more about building an airplane, shoot me an e-mail, visit my links page, or Sam's testimonial
Last Updated Tuesday, November 05, 2002