Why build the RV-10?
Finally Updated - 11/9/2006!
The RV-10 is the latest of the Van's
Aircraft kit fleet. For years I had admired Van's RV-6 kits,
as a fantastic plane that I'd love to own and fly. They were
fast, and could be built with simple aluminum working tools. I
took a demo ride, prepared to put down my money the next week.
It's shocking to say this, but I was disappointed. The RV-6 is a
beautiful plane, as are all of Van's kit planes. But, I knew I
was destined for a family in a short year or two, and the -6 demo ride
showed me that it was impossible to think if it as a family
plane. It was extremely sensitive in the stick...something you
wouldn't want a kid to kick with their feet, and worse yet, there was
no place for the kid in the first place. I decided to keep my
eyes open for a good 4-place kit, but purchase something else in the
My purchase was a beautiful 1977 Sundowner
purchased with my father in a partnership, with extremely low hours on
the engine. Up until about OSH 2005, I was still flying that
My kids were 3 and 5 towards the start of my RV-10 build.
(They're 5 & 7 now in 11/06) We owned that plane from
2000-2005, and traveling by plane in the Sundowner had
given us some great experiences. Both kids took their first trips
within 5 weeks of birth. For those of you with kids, the
Sundowner is a fantastic plane. It's beautiful in the way it
flies, very stable, very precise, with great roll-rate....far better
than any Cessna or Piper I've flown. In fact, after flying my
RV-10 for over 170 hours, I personally think the Sundowner (which is
to fly like a Bonanza) is very equal to the RV-10 in feel.
The RV-10 is also said to fly like a Bonanza, and I found the two very
similar in many ways. They both have extremely good forward
visibility over the nose, and out all windows. The only things
lacking in the Sundowner for me were climb rate (about 800fpm), speed
(about 112-115kts average) and the fact that the plane was built in
1977 and it wasn't legal for me to do all of my own maintenance.
The RV-10 doesn't have quite the baggage capacity of the enormous
Sundowner, but with the extra speed (see below), it will absolutely get
you there faster, which will require you to pack less "comfort" items
to bear the trip. For me, some of the largest benefits
were that I can do my
own maintenance (saving a LOT of money), I got to start fresh with
a bare panel and fill it
with all of the highest tech goodies I wanted (See my panel) , and the possibilities that were brought on by being able to travel cross-country at higher speeds.
After visiting OSH in 2004 and seeing the RV-10 for the first time (OSH pictures) I knew
then and there that with it's performance specs, good looks, and
freedom of maintenance, that the RV-10 was for me. I started
making plans to purchase one. I still needed that extra push
though...which I greatly owe to my buddy Rick. He "let" me help
rivet his RV-4 wing skins one night, and the was so absolutely nice
that he "allowed" me to help rivet and proseal his fuel tanks, that I
quickly realized that I could *DO* this plane building stuff.
That sold me for sure. I decided to order the kit on Dec. 31,
2003, before the kit prices went up for 2004....an annual occurance.
My empennage and tailcone kit arrivedin
late January 2004, and I began work. Initially I saw such great
progress (in appearance) that when I first drafted this writing, I was
450 man-hours into the project and thought I may possibly fly in 2005
sometime. As it turned out though, while I could see some great
progress in 450 hours, completing most of the tailcone and wings, even
with a Quickbuild Fuselage I still had a long way to go before flight.
I pushed on with the build, while trying to maintain at least 2
or 3 nights per week, and many weekends. There was at least 1
month, if not 2, that I didn't even work on the kit, preoccupied by
summer activites or other things, but I tried to at least work a couple
of evenings a week. Having kids will definitely slow you down,
but as I was able to prove to myself, it was still very possible.
In about 1.5 years time, I had got the plane to the point where I
needed to paint it, wire it, put in interior, and do the entire panel.
Surprisingly, it was just before these late steps (about the time
you put the windshield in), that I hit the halfway point in the build,
from an hours perspective. The good thing about this point
though, was when you're actually getting ready for paint, your
motivation goes WAY up, and that allowed me to pack in the 2nd half of
the build into only 1/4 of the overall build time. Yes, in 24.5
months, and about 1700 hours, I had a painted, interiored, and FLYING
RV-10! The only major/minor item left was the completion of the
wheel fairings....which are a real downer if you do them after you
first fly, as it's had to pull yourself back into the proper mental
state for building when you have a FLYING RV-10 in your hanger. ;)
So with a total of about 1900 hours, my RV-10 was complete.
Since I had a QuickBuild fuselage, I probably saved 350-450 hours
over what someone who goes all slowbuild would have.
For those of you interested in building a kit for yourself, there
are many differences between kits. Van's is now doing lots of
great matched-hole prepunched kits, so this RV-10 kit is the cat's meow
in kit building. No jigs are even required to build this
kit. I feel sorry for those old original kit builders who
actually had to spend 5 or 6 years mining for bauxite, to be melted
down into aluminum, just so they could get the materials with which to
build their kits. (joking) Before buying a kit, make sure you get
to sit in one, preferrably fly in one, and you get to see not only the
kit components, but the plans. Van's did it right with the RV-10 Plans. They're of the
greatest quality of any of their kits.
As for the financial perspective on building a kit, I have an answer
for those who ask "How much money does it take to build an
RV-10". My answer is,
"All of it." Van's is well-known for having very reasonably
For building most 2-seat RV's, it's not too hard
to find inexpensive used engines, and other components, especially if
you want a VFR, play-only, plane. If you push towards IFR and
long X/C flights though, the price climbs. Although Van's
doesn't seem to view it the way the -10 builders do, the RV-10 is
really their perfect kit to build for long IFR X/C flights, with 4
seats, and plenty of speed and space. Unfortunately for the
pocketbook, this means the costs go up too. The kit itself
is currently selling for $36,180 slow-build, and $46,230
quick-build * 11/06 (an increase of about $2,000 over a couple years
ago) . Of course, that doesn't include the firewall forward
kit, the engine, the instruments, the paint, the interior, or any of
those other goodies. Now here's an OLD statement I made
during a previous writing.... "Depending on tastes, most builders
will spend a minimum of $75,000 to finish their -10, with probably a more likely figure being
$100,000. And there are many folks just like myself, who
may end up in the $125-150K range when they're done, based on the advanced electronics they plan to load
the panel with.
" Well, after finishing the project, I can defintely say
that my estimates on cost are now significantly different. You
will be very hard pressed to complete an RV-10 kit for $90,000 or less,
and to do that, you'll need to use an old engine or auto conversion,
used prop, skip paint and some interior, and probably have a VFR only
panel. What is much more average among the current RV-10's being
built, is having a plane that ends up costing between $130-175,000.
This is due to the fact that most builders are preferring the new
Hartzell and MT props that perform better, the drastic increase in
pricing of IO-540 engines that we've experienced since I bought mine,
the fact that many people don't paint their own planes, and the
fact that many people don't want to tackle the entire wiring job
including the panel. It's certainly do-able to save some money,
but I can tell you after building one, take what you expect to spend,
and add on 30-40% and then get comfortable with that number....you'll
be happier in the end. Remember that building an airplane like
the RV-10 is building a dream. If you skimp along the way on
something, and later regret it, it will cost you more to do it over
later, so do it the way you want to do it in the end.
It's important that before you throw down too
much of your cash on the kits, that you thoroughly think through the long-range payoff of the
project. Luckily, anyone who's serious about building a
kit, can get into trying it out for the paltry sum of a little over $3000 for
the tail kit, and probably $2000-3000 in tools. The wide
range on the tools is because at $2000, you're going to be doing a
bunch more work than at $3000....the biggest difference being the
spendy "Pneumatic Rivet Squeezer". The most reveled tool in any
builders box. Probably best to just toss down the $6000+ total on day one, and commit to the project. You'll
know soon enough if you can hack it, and if $6,000 is too much for you
to throw away on trying out your hand at building, you probably
shouldn't be building the -10 anyway.
Now that you've been scared away by the last paragraph, let's give you
a little more motivation. Consider you spend $125,000-$170,000
RV-10, what do you have? You could buy more than 2, if not 3 of
Sundowner's for that price. Well, you have a plane that's
worth every penny and more of what you put into it, and will outfly
pretty much anything that's brand new in it's price range.
Although the fit-and-trim might be better in a brand new Cirrus, you're
really building a plane that handily competes with such quality
planes....planes that cost $240-$365,000. You may not have every
last fancy option, but your value will be fantastic, and unlike buying
a brand new production plane, you should have resale value that's high
enough to recover all or more than your original costs. Common
sale prices of completed RV-10's are over $175,000, with nice EFIS
equipped planes selling for even $50-70,000 more than that!
One other motivation that for some reason people these days really seem
to be lacking is the "I can do it" motivation. The RV-10 is
definitely a kit that most anyone can build if they want to. With
it's awesome plans, it's far easier than any of the old kits. And
think a bit about the timing for building a kit. Lots of retired
folks build planes, but why not the younger ones. Sure, flying is
expensive, but so are most fun hobbies. Just ditch the wastful
spending and bad vices in your life, and start putting your money into
something rewarding. Do it now, before you age another year or
two. Commit. You don't want to find yourself 60 years old,
on your 3rd heart attack, not even eligible to GET a medical
certificate, when you finally have worked out the time/money/balls to
get building your own plane. (At least for people in that situation,
you may be able to take advantage of Van's upcoming RV-12 when it comes
out.) If you have young kids, like me,
surely you have duties to raise them, but your kids will definitely
thank you many times over as they grow up, if you took the time to
build a cool plane that you used to take them to all the corners of the
continent in. Just build in the off-hours, and do what it takes
to get the plane done. And if you're short on time, throw away
the extra $10,000 and go Quickbuild. As you can see from my
project, the building goes pretty quick. Enjoy!
As far as travels go, in our first season of flying our RV-10, we've
managed to travel from Wisconsin on a few different trips. We
went to Sun-N-Fun 2006 in Florida, took a long weekend trip (only a 5 hour flight) to Yellowstone National Park, went down to Boone, IA for a quick RV fly-in, zipped over (1 hour) to OSH 2006, did another long weekend trip to Oregon (8+ hours) for Van's Aircraft Homecoming 2006,
and then capped off the summer with our greatest flight yet....
We used the RV-10 to fly to Albuquerque, NM for the Balloon
Fiesta, over the Grand Canyon and into Las Vegas for the night, and
then onto El Paso for the 2006 Land of Enchantment RV fly-in
and a half-day trip into Mexico by foot, giving some great low IFR
experience on the Chelton EFIS in our plane. The kids find it to
be a great way to travel, as they get far more uptight about a 4 hour
car trip than an 8 hour plane ride, as there's so much more to see, and
they get to watch movies in the plane.
Performance wise, we're absolutely thrilled with what we've built.
Looking below at Van's specs for their RV-10, N410RV, we're
finding we're very much inline with what they are able to accomplish.
It should be noted that although a 235HP engine is listed below,
we know of nobody yet who's gone that route, or the 210HP for that
matter except for the factory plane, N220RV. The IO-540 is
proving to be a very nice efficient cross-country power supply.
With our well balanced Aerosport Power
built IO-540, we're able to run our engine Lean of Peak EGT, which
generally gives us about 165kts TAS give-or-take, on anywhere from 8.5
to 10.1 gallons per hour. We can also meet the range specs listed
below, and in fact on our recent flight from El Paso to home, we had
over 1000nm range shown on our Chelton EFIS / with Grand Rapids EIS,
while cruising Lean of Peak at 13,000'. It's definitely got the
right numbers to make the trip possible. It should be noted that
if you buy a carbureted engine, or don't have your engine built with
balanced injectors, you'll probably end up flying about 5kts faster in
cruise running Rich of Peak, but you'll be burning 13.5-14 gallons per
hour doing it...so it does pay, at $4.00+ per gallon, to consider the
advantages of a nice, injected engine, built by a reputable shop.
So that's an overview of my reasons for building, and the experience I
had doing it, along with some flying experiences I've had. If you
check my portion of this website: http://www.MyRV10.com/N104CD , you'll have lots of information and photos available during my build. Going to the root of my site, at http://www.MyRV10.com
, I try to keep links to other builders sites, photos of other builders
works, and many tips on construction and maintenance for active
builders. It should be a good resource for anyone considering, or
building/flying and RV-10.
Dimensions and Specifications
(lb/sq. ft. @ gross)
Loading (lb/hp @ gross)
Capacity (U.S. Gallons / Litres)
|60 / 230
Builder's Choice. The RV-10 is designed to accept engines from
210-260 hp. Propeller choices include Hartzell 2-blade and MT
3-blade constant-speed props.
|Performance with Hartzell Constant
Gross Weight, Statute Units
/ 172 kts
|201 mph /
|208 mph /
/ 166 kts
|190 mph /
|197 mph /
|170 mph /
|169 mph /
|176 mph /
|63 mph / 55
|63 mph / 55
|63 mph / 55
|Range (75% @
|951 sm / 826
|883 sm / 767
|825 sm / 717
|Range (55% @
|1153 sm /
|1070 sm /
|1000 sm /
"When working out how much a project
is going to cost, write down how much you think, then double it . . . .
then throw the paper in the bin and just keep spending money
until its finished!!"
RV-10 40172 VH-DRS
"The world is divided into two kinds
of people, those who spend a great
deal of time saving money, and those who spend a great deal of money
- Peter Cochrane
"Building an airplane is not one
hugely expensive, monumentally difficult, and enormously time consuming
It is hundreds of hugely expensive, monumentally difficult, and
enormously time consuming tasks in a series."
- Brian (9612S)
I fly because it releases my mind from
the tyranny of petty things . . .
Antoine de Saint-Exupry
When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the Earth
with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you
will always long to return.