Several years ago, I met a guy who was building an RV in his garage. I use the term building loosely. “Storing” would be more like it. He had already received the full quickbuild kit from Vans. Those nearly complete wings and fuselage had been sitting in his garage for years without being touched, because he had hardly made a dent on his empennage.
Until recently, I didn’t think Id ever understand such a thing. After all, the motivation to work on my slow-build Vans RV-7 was never really an issue. But Im getting ahead of myself…
Maybe I read him wrong, but the strange thing to me was that this guy seemed to be looking for excuses to do anything but work on the plane. I guess thats not entirely true, but he told me he was spending time on a long-term project where he was “testing” different corrosion protection techniques…basically prepping and priming some scrap, then leaving it out in the elements to see how it fared. This would be a worthy pursuit if, first, there werent companies selling primer that have already done the testing or, second, while he was doing this, he didn’t have tens of thousands of dollars worth of aluminum parts sitting idly in his garage, just waiting.
Hes Not Alone
The more builders I met, the more I encountered these same symptoms-a complete QB kit sitting in the garage, relatively untouched for years on end. The excuses varied, but in most cases it wasn’t a marriage or family or work, understandable inhibitors of progress. Most of these guys were retired, which was their rationale for going QB in the first place, i.e., “I only have so much time left, and I want to spend it flying.” The guys with jobs and family obligations typically seemed to be the ones making steady and often rapid progress with the “slow-build” kits.
Odd, I thought. In a way, I honestly saw the QB kit as the kiss of doom…in many cases a “less likely to finish” type of thing. For a while, I stuck with that thought. Whenever new builders asked me what I thought about the QB option, I told them it seemed to me that it doesn’t foster getting into a rhythm that will carry you through the project. I told them Ive seen more QB kits stalled out than slow-builds.
While completing my slow-build RV-7, I worked nearly every day on it. “Steady” would be an apt description of my progress. From day one I was driven to finish and fly that thing-there was no question about that. I hadn’t built a plane before, so the learning curve was steep, but it could have been twice as steep, and I still would have finished it. Whatever the factors, nothing was going to hold me back. I say this not to brag but to illustrate a point. Im speaking nearly in third person about my “old self” at this point, trust me.
Fast-forward half a decade to today. As I write this, in my hangar sit the pieces of an RV-8 empennage kit. To use the term “unfinished” would be understating its status. During the course of nearly a year, I haven’t completed a single component. Projecting the rate of what little progress I have made out a few years, its clear that the duration of this project will be 10 to 15 years plus.
Now, you might be thinking it has to do with the fact that I have an airplane to fly. I wont disagree that its a factor, but I had a flying airplane last time as well. While starting my last kit, I had a Mooney at the airport and a little disposable income, yet for some reason I still cooped myself up in the garage and cranked on the project. What I have accomplished on my second kit in almost a year took less than three days the first time.
Im Just Saying…
Anyway, its easy to point the finger at my flying RV-7 and blame it for my lack of focus on the new project, but I don’t think thats all there is to it. If I were truly driven to complete this next airplane, it would get done despite my current flying. I have the time, and I would make the time. Perhaps its the need that I lack. Its ironic, because last time I had no idea just how rewarding it would be to fly this homebuilt sportster. I knew I would enjoy the airplane, but I wasn’t even aware of the extent of it. Even in my wildest dreams I underestimated the degree of satisfaction it would bring to my life, the diversifying effect it would have on my flying, and of course the camaraderie among those who fly their homebuilt airplanes together. For some reason, not even anticipating these spoils, I still had the drive, an unguided need to finish.
Now sits a relatively untouched project. I have no qualms about “Can I do it?” or “How the heck am I going to do that?” I have zero doubt that my RV-8, once finished, will at a minimum stretch the grin on my face. It will be a satisfying continuation to the “overall project” of building airplanes. The goal is certainly achievable. The precedent and path is laid out clearly, yet for some reason my steps are few and far between. I catch myself thinking that a QB kit might be the way to go this time. Would it? Or would I become one of those guys with a QB kit just sitting around collecting dust?
I ask these questions rhetorically for the most part, because I know the answer. The solution to this problem is an incredibly simple lifestyle change. Its just like that New Years resolution to lose 10 pounds. It wouldn’t take much, but it does require change. In the case of my RV-8 empennage, Im confident that if I start spending just 30 minutes on it every time I go to the hangar, itll get done. Another key ingredient, I think, is to place some truth in the statement, “Im building an RV-8,” when in fact the truth right now is, “Im storing an RV-8.” Id like to revive that old self who cranked out the first project. If I can rediscover half of the drive I had then, Ill do just fine. Well see how it goes.