Picking a Compressor   November 2nd, 2005

If I was going to build an RV-7A, I was going to need an air compressor!

I figured I’d be using it to power my rivet gun, drill (maybe), some painting now and then, and other miscellaneous air tools. I have no room (and I’m too cheap) for one of those gigantic 60 gallon upright models. On the other hand, I once borrowed a little $100 oil-less compressor, and it was too loud even for Mr. Cheapass.

So, after doing a lot of reading and web shopping, I settled on the Craftsman Professional 25gal, 6HP compressor from Sears.

I ordered it online and paid about $400 for it. I thought maybe it was a bit too much to pay for an air compressor, but when I picked it up about a week later, I was pleased to find it was going to be a worthwhile investment. It fits perfectly under my garage bench, and it is much, much quieter than any oil-free compressor I’ve seen.

It can power my disc cutter, air hammer, and touch up paint gun without too much trouble. I still don’t have a rivet gun or air drill, but I’m sure if it can handle my touch up gun, it will have no trouble with anything else I put on it.

I bought a nice brand-name 100 ft. extension hose for $40 and a wall-mounted hose spool at Harbor Freight (I wanted it to reach all the way to the back yard so I could use the air hammer on some limestone rocks).

So, if you want a mid-size compressor, this one is definitely worth the money. Though I haven’t used it to do any RV-building yet, I’ve found plenty of things around the house that can be done better/faster with a compressor 🙂

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Are You Sure You Want an RV-9?   November 1st, 2005

When I was at the Orndorff’s workshop, I mentioned the fact I was going to build an RV-9A. George suggested I give the RV-7A a second look. It’s faster, stronger, has a longer range, and is not really more difficult to fly. He told me I should at least get a ride in an RV-7 before ordering the first kit.

Then I went to my second local EAA meeting, and everyone there seemed to either be building an RV-7, or want to build one!

So, I decided it was time to get a ride in one! I called a Ron Walker, a local pilot who has an RV-7A, and politely asked for a free ride. Again, I offered to pay for his gas. Again, after rescheduling around the weather, I finally met him at his airfield, and on we went.

This plane was sure fast! After taking off, he handed me the controls, and I played with it a little. For all the talk about an ‘aerobatic’ plane, it was actually very stable and smooth. Sure, it only took a nudge of the stick to put it in a 30 degree bank, but it was not ‘jumpy’ or ‘feisty’, as I’d heard before.

In fact, at one point it was a little bumpy, and Ron suggested we climb to around 6,000 feet for smoother air. He pushed the throttle forward, and we shot upward at many many feet per second more than my trusty C152 will do. Pretty soon we were up at 6,000 ft., and things were smooth again. Ron then proceeded to show me slow flight, stalls, and then did a quick turn that got my heart pumping. After that, we did a couple of touch and go’s at Georgetown Municipal, and then headed back to his airfield.

Obviously, by the time we landed, I was sold on the RV-7A. When I offered to pay for the gas, Ron simply said “Don’t worry about it, any excuse to fly is good enough” He then added I could give him a ride in the ‘152 sometime. 🙂

Ok, so now I’m pretty sure I know what I want to build. Time to get ‘tooled up!

The following postings will detail my quest for the best value in tools….

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Not a whole lot, actually. I am an electrical engineer, and design analog circuits for a living. Not exactly related to building sheet metal airplanes, eh? That’s why after deciding to build an RV, I figured I’d better get some schoolin’ from the best!

So I signed us up for a builders workshop with George and Becki Orndorff in Forth Worth, TX. You see, they really know how this plane building business works. That’s why they offer their weekend class for $250, but for only an extra $50, you can bring your spouse! This way she can not only get pumped up about building the plane, but will actually learn the same skills as you, so she will make the ideal RV-building partner!

I don’t know about the rest of ya’ll, but I couldn’t have asked for a better partner! My wife is just as excited about this kit plane as I am, and I’ve discovered she is not only great at deburring, but she also makes a great riveter!!

Anyway, back to the Orndorff’s class. We showed up at their airport home/hangar/classroom on a Saturday morning, and were greeted on the driveway by George. He told us this would be a special class, because there were a bunch of guys from a school in Monterrey, Mexico, who were driving up for the weekend. They are going to build an RV-10 as a school project (!). George wasn’t sure about their English abilities, so he had hired a local college student to act as a translator.

Well, it turns out I graduated from the same school in Monterrey! I figured this ought to make for an interesting weekend!

The rest of the group showed up a few minutes later, and we got on with the class. They all spoke and understood English, so that was not an issue. We briefly went over aircraft construction methods, riveting, deburring, etc. We then started working on a simple project: attaching two aluminum plates with rivets. After that, we went on to the main project, which turns out to be the same ‘training project’ for sale at www.vansaircraft.com .

The training project is small piece of a control surface with a little spar, ribs, skins, etc. Enough to get a taste of what RV construction is like. We learned all about dimpling, rivet squeezing, back-riveting, countersinking, etc.

By the end of the class we not only had a cute little airfoil to take home, but more importantly, the confidence that indeed, my wife and I can build this sucker!

Sure, I could have ordered the training kit myself. I could have struggled through the instructions, trying to figure out if I was doing things right or if my rivets were acceptable. Again, it’s not like I’ve seen how things should be done before. Now at least I’ve handled a rivet gun and a pneumatic squeezer, and I think I can tell if a rivet is good or if it needs to be drilled out.

So, if you are thinking about building and RV, I would highly recommend you go visit George and Becki, and take your wife along!

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