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Old 11-14-2019, 06:26 PM
iaw4 iaw4 is offline
Join Date: Sep 2015
Location: Los Angeles, ca
Posts: 81
Default Ratings of Build Quality Etc.

I am not a builder, but I am planning to purchase a Vans. Before I bring a real inspector who can provide a real rating of an aircraft, I wonder whether there are some good quick hints for a non-builder to recognize good vs. bad build quality.

I am also interested in whether there is some sort of guideline document that explains how Vans aircraft should be rated. I understand that there is some subjectivity, of course, but some basic scale info or common convention would be good. if there is a document somewhere, please point me to it.

Same question for interior/exterior, paint, etc.

advice appreciated.

PS: any great builder/inspectors in the SoCal region?
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Old 11-14-2019, 06:42 PM
Ed_Wischmeyer's Avatar
Ed_Wischmeyer Ed_Wischmeyer is offline
Join Date: May 2005
Location: Savannah, GA
Posts: 1,269

Rule 1: Do not confuse cosmetics with quality. There's a zillion planes out there with beautiful paint and interior that are not well built;
Rule 2: About half of homebuilts have poor wiring;
Rule 3: A good plane will show good craftsmanship, but good craftsmanship does not guarantee good quality. There's plenty of ways to use non-aircraft hardware in ways that matter, and ways to screw up systems;
Rule 4: When you buy a homebuilt, in a sense you are buying the builder as well as the airplane. Again, that's a quality hint, not a guarantee.

* When you buy a homebuilt, count on having one major problem, regardless of how good the plane appears or how good the inspection report is.
* When you buy a homebuilt, make sure that you have a support system, folks who know RVs, know GA airplanes in general (IA level), and that you have a place to get it worked on. It's legal for you to work on your plane as soon as you buy it, but as Dirty Harry said, "A man's got to know his limitations."

The first RV I bought was an RV-4 that had only four kind of problems: engine, structure, flight controls and systems. Paid a whole lot of dues with that one, got a closet full of T-shirts.

Don't be in a hurry. Go spend a lot of time talking to RV owners and look at planes critically. I was a tire kicker for several years before I bought, and these days, when I'm a seller, I return the favor and welcome tire kickers.

Don't count on an inspection to be a guarantee.

But with realistic expectations, have fun!

RV-9A at KSAV (Savannah, GA; dual G3X Touch with autopilot, GTN650, GTX330ES, GDL52 ADSB-In)
Previously RV-4, RV-8, RV-8A, AirCam, Cessna 175
ATP CFII PhD, so I have no excuses when I screw up
2020 dues slightly overpaid
Retired - "They used to pay me to be good, now I'm good for nothing."
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Old 11-14-2019, 06:57 PM
rocketman1988 rocketman1988 is offline
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: Sunman, IN
Posts: 2,152
Default Agree

I would add that an "Inspector" that has little or no experience with Experimental aircraft, may not be the best person to inspect one...
Aerospace Engineer '88

Structure - 90% Done
Cabin Top - Aaarrghhh...
EFII System 32 - Done
297 HP Barrett Hung
ShowPlanes Cowl with Skybolts Fitted - Beautiful

Dues+ Paid 2019,...Thanks DR+
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Old 11-14-2019, 07:59 PM
Paul K Paul K is offline
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Grand Rapids, MI
Posts: 1,000
Default What Ed said!

I have been asked to look at a couple of flying RVs locally and unofficially for friends and have developed a couple of quick glance items. THere are some easy areas to observe that will clue you in on how thoughtful and careful the builder / owner are and have been.

Wiring behind the panel should be orderly and logical, not a rats nest and any alterations should be almost as nice as the original installation. To see what they are supposed to look like, look at the methods used on Stein's panels on his web page.

Look at the FWF with the cowl off. I like to see order and not chaos! There should be some thought behind how things are routed. I don't like to see things touching other things! The harder thing can act like a saw or file on the softer thing. Everything needs to be secure. There need to be service loops especially to allow movement between the engine and engine mounts and air frame. Amazing how much movement delta there is between them at start up and shut down. It also needs to be clean and free of rub areas everywhere!

Look at the wing control surfaces and the trailing edge of the wing tip. They need to be in a straight line and with uniform gaps.

Look at the wheel pants and fairings. Don't be surprised if they are a little beat up especially if it is used on non paved surfaces a lot, but, the fit and finish needs to be uniform. If you look at the main gear fairings in relation to the pants, no twist or evidence of miss alignment with the wheels. Give them a little nudge, should only be a little stiff movement. Loose cold be broken brackets. If you can look at the wheels with the pants off, look for oil, rubbing, pads, and if jacked up, no movement at all in any way.

I don't pay much attention to paint initially but because I painted my own 7, I am always amused at shortcuts taken or where the painter just gave up and it became good enough!

I love to see builders logs with hundreds or thousands of photos showing what took place and perhaps why? Fun stuff!

So far we are only talking minutes of effort and if it looks good so far, dig deeper and have that experienced inspector dig really deep. These are just some of the first things I look for that tell a pretty good story without even looking at hardware or detailed methods. I have offered my opinion to consider hiring a professional inspector or to run away as fast as possible.

Hope this helps.
Paul K
West Michigan

Unfortunately in science, what you believe is irrelevant.

2020 donation made, exempt but worth every dime!
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Old 11-14-2019, 08:37 PM
YellowJacket RV9 YellowJacket RV9 is offline
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Clearwater, FL KCLW
Posts: 1,277

On the pre-punched RVs, there are less areas to really screw up on, although I can attest that there are always new ways to make mistakes...

Some of the few critical areas that can be messed up include edge distance on the rear wing spar mounting bolts, and the edge distances where things are bolted to the longerons, especially at the empennage. There was also an SB about some missing wing attach bolts, but that's an easy fix if found.

Also, since fuel system issues are a major cause of loss of power incidents, I would want to verify that the fuel system is built to plans, unless the builder really knew what they were doing.

These are all things than an inspection by somebody who knows RVs should easily catch. Many other common issues should also be caught, but most are easier to fix.

Chris Johnson
RV-9A - Done(ish) 4/5/16! Flying 4/7/16
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Old 11-14-2019, 10:36 PM
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bruceh bruceh is offline
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Ramona, CA
Posts: 2,334

I'm an EAA Tech Counselor and have visited many projects around SoCal in the last several years. After building my RV-9A, I do have an appreciation for varying levels of build quality. I flew my airplane around with some scabby looking primer coats on the cowling for 3 years and no one seemed to notice the airplane much until I had it painted. No airplane is going to be perfect, but some are definitely nicer than others. When I was building, I went to several fly-ins where there were lots of RV's present (Chino, Copperstate, etc.) and looked them over, and took lots of photos. Without taking the cowling off, or looking under the panel, you'll still get a good idea of the quality of assembly and the mindset of the builder. Some areas are really wide open for the builder to do their own thing, such as the panel and interior. A pretty coat of paint shouldn't hide too much, but it can certainly distract the buyer from seeing poor workmanship. EAA does have a "Judging Standards Manual" for awards and it has some good criteria. I've seen some of the RV's that have won Lindy's and they are impressively well built and have incredible attention to detail. Definitely in the top 1%.

I can certainly show you where to look and what to look for. I'm not an inspector, but I am thinking about getting my A&P so that I can do more of this kind of work in the future. Send me a PM and I'd be happy to talk or set up a time to meet. I'm down in Ramona, CA and fly up to the LA/OC area often.
Bruce Hill
RV-9A N5771H flown over 800 hours!
APRS Tracking for KJ6YRP and New Flying Blog
2020 VAF donator
EAA Tech Counselor, Build assistance - canopy/tanks/fiberglass/electrical/repairs
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Old 11-15-2019, 05:29 AM
BillL BillL is offline
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Central IL
Posts: 5,434

Just one builder opinion and maybe not a good one, but have it inspected like a deep conditional inspection (like it has never had one). This will address wiring, fuel system mods, empennage attachment, loose pushrods, spar bolt torque.

Going in with the mind set that "there is something wrong with this plane and they are going to look until they find it".

You can look and see inconsistent rivets, overspray, unpainted areas, pillowed fiberglass attachments and the like, but the other things will be seen by a builder and experienced technician for airworthiness issues now and later.

I could cost $500 -$1000 to do this if they have to R&I the interior and all the inspection plates, fairings etc. If you purchase, it lays the ground work for your next condition inspection.

Get a pro with RV specialty and building experience (regardless of A&P credentials), not just an A&P.

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Old 11-15-2019, 07:46 AM
rocketman1988 rocketman1988 is offline
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: Sunman, IN
Posts: 2,152
Default ...and

"...Going in with the mind set that "there is something wrong with this plane and they are going to look until they find it"..."

That is called a "Witch Hunt"...

...and usually will result in passing over perfectly good and safe aircraft...

There is no such thing as a PERFECT aircraft, and there never will be...perfection is unattainable...
Aerospace Engineer '88

Structure - 90% Done
Cabin Top - Aaarrghhh...
EFII System 32 - Done
297 HP Barrett Hung
ShowPlanes Cowl with Skybolts Fitted - Beautiful

Dues+ Paid 2019,...Thanks DR+

Last edited by rocketman1988 : 11-15-2019 at 07:48 AM.
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Old 11-15-2019, 10:04 AM
Ralph Inkster Ralph Inkster is offline
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Calgary, Alberta
Posts: 928

Talk to all the RV builders at your field, & maybe other fields close by and ask them who they think has built an outstanding RV. Beg to have a look at that plane. Now compare it with other examples you have seen around.
You now have your own rating system.
It's time to work on just my own planes, not everybody else's...
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