A Time for Lists


to-do list

There comes a time in every homebuilt project where you need to start making lists. To-do lists. Up until that time, you are simply working on whatever you see that looks interesting, or following the assembly manual, step by step. But airplane projects are well known for the old 90/90 rule – “ninety percent done, ninety percent left to do!” It is amazing just how many details crawl out of the woodwork when you actually think the thing looks pretty complete. And all of those details take time – so much time. One of the biggest time sinks is simply wandering around the shop, trying to figure out what needs to be done before the darned thing flies.

So when I reach that point, I begin to sit down and make To Do lists. I sit down at the workbench and stare at the nascent airplane, going through my head to remember all the things that I had been putting off because I didn’t have the parts, or simply didn’t want to work on them. I like to make the list in great detail, because I want to try and wrap my head around everything I need to do before the machine is ready for inspection. So along with “Install the wings”, I like to put down “add a ground for the Aux Audio input”. Then there is the ever-popular “look for missing rivets”. In this case, I still have “do some fiberglass filling on the nose-cone” – I tend to put fiberglass work off because of the mess.

The list is a good place to figure out dependencies. For instance, on the jet, I need to rivet on the belly skin, but before I do that, I still need to add some cable retention points in the rear fuselage. But I need to rivet the belly skin before I can install the flap pushrod fairings, because they go OVER the belly skin rivets. Making the list helps to work those little processes out. I like to tape the list to the fuselage by the way – it keeps it from getting lost in the workbench clutter, and it is fun to be able to see things as they get crossed off – signs of progress.

The best part about the list is that it indicates that you’re getting close to the end-game in your build. h sure – the list will grow, almost as fast as you cross things off, you’ll find other things to do. But you know that when you can contain it to a page or two, you truly are getting ready to go fly!

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Paul Dye
Paul Dye, KITPLANES® Editor at Large, retired as a Lead Flight Director for NASA’s Human Space Flight program, with 40 years of aerospace experience on everything from Cubs to the Space Shuttle. An avid homebuilder, he began flying and working on airplanes as a teen and has experience with a wide range of construction techniques and materials. He flies an RV-8 and SubSonex jet that he built, an RV-3 that he built with his pilot wife, as well as a Dream Tundra and an electric Xenos motorglider they completed. Currently, they are building an F1 Rocket. A commercially licensed pilot, he has logged over 6000 hours in many different types of aircraft and is an A&P, FAA DAR, EAA Tech Counselor and Flight Advisor; he was formerly a member of the Homebuilder’s Council. He consults and collaborates in aerospace operations and flight-testing projects across the country.


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