Measuring Progress


rivet stemsVery few homebuilt aircraft are built in less than a year’s time – at least when built by the average builder. For most, it is a matter of a couple of years from unpacking the first box to enjoying that first flight. Along the way there are many milestones, some obviously major – like having the wings – and some more subtle and private – like the first time the builder sits in the cockpit and makes airplane noises.

Progress is measured in many ways, depending on the person and the project. Some count hours, some count pages in the manual or the plans. Others look at the amount of money spent, and some the amount left to go. Understanding what has been done is always easier than predicting what is left to do, so accurately predicting a first flight date is a gossamer that few can read.

Personally, I find it interesting to track how much work has been performed in odd little ways. Our Xenos motor glider project is a pull-rivet airplane, and to keep the shop neat, we sweep and pick up the many mandrels that are left behind after each “pop!” The day we pulled the first rivets, we picked up the mandrels and dropped them in a plastic jar to make sure we didn’t leave them on the hangar floor to be picked up by a passing tire. And we’ve been collecting them ever since. What you see represents the net debris from the tail surfaces and fuselage.

Now to get started on the those long, long… long… wings!

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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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