We'll eventually get to the part where I actually tell you why I think RVs are so cool, but before that you'll have to suffer through a bunch of ramblings explaining how I actually got to that decision, unless you just want to scroll to the bottom of the page.
The first time I had actually heard of building an airplane was when I was still in college, and I stumbled somehow on the website of Quicksilver Aircraft. Even obvious to the most casual observer is that these are ultralights, and not what are called "real" airplanes by people who call themselves "real" pilots. No pilot training is required to operate one of these contraptions, but I knew there was no way I was getting away with that unless I wanted my parents to disown me, if only to keep me from buzzing the house.
In any case, I never really considered building one of these, but the discovery
of these things (if only on the web) was the first step into a larger world. In
any case, Quicksilver's Sprint 2S is pictured below. This picture reminds me of
the well-known ultralight joke - in case you haven't heard it, it goes as follows:
photo courtesy Quicksilver Aircraft
In any case, one day when I was looking for more information on Quicksilvers, I ran across another type of airplane called the Challenger II. It also had two seats (which was an important thing, as far as I was concerned), but it had them seated tandem instead of side-to-side. This airplane is built by a company called Quad City Challenger and there were several interesting things that I learned about it. First of all, the kits for the Quad City airplanes seemed to be only slightly more expensive than the kits for a Quicksilver, and they seemed to be more like a real airplane in terms of cruise speed, control panel space, ability to put doors on it and fly it in the cold, and just in the way it looked. Secondly, I found that Challengers were one of the few ultralight-ish airplanes that is smiled on by people who fly Cessnas, for example. This respect, as I came to learn in the following months, is more rare than I first realized.
Well, I liked these better than the Quicksilvers, and what with all the advantages, I actually thought I was going to build one of these -- I ordered the plans, got a ride in one (it really is a fantastic airplane) and was actively trying to convince my parents to let me borrow their garage. They were less than completely thrilled.
photo courtesy National Ultralight, Inc.
In the meantime, I was coming to the conclusion because the Challenger was a bit more airplane than the Quicksilver, it would require a bit more money (gotta put that instrument panel to good use, after all) and probably lots more time, even though the actual kit prices (sans engines, instruments, etc.) are pretty close to the same price. Well as long as I'm spending this much money on an airplane, I mind as well look for something that's an airplane that's better suited for actually going places and carrying things with rather than just bouncing around the pattern on non-windy days. At this point, I thought, the possibility that I may want to go somewhere and do something is likely, and I would feel silly owning an airplane and still having to rent a 172 anytime I wanted to go somewhere.
Enter the Titan Tornado, made by Titan Aircraft. (These guys also make the T-51 Mustang, a scale model of the P-51. Cool!) The Tornado looks like a Challenger with a pointy nose, but in keeping with the trend, it costs a bit more money and would take a bit more time. The main difference is that you can put a 4-cycle engine in this guy instead of a 2-cycle Rotax screamer, and the aircraft is all metal. Clearly, the 4-cycle engine is an advantage over the Challenger in terms of engine reliability, and the metal construction is an advantage over the Challenger in terms of maintenance. The cruise speed is higher and the aircraft generally seems more robust -- something you could take somewhere without having the travel part of the trip be the actual goal of the trip.
photo courtesy Titan Aircraft
Well, the Titan seems like a good little airplane, but I'm not real crazy about the way it looks. Also there aren't any in the area that I'm able to track down, and I don't really want to be the first person in the area to try something new. Also by this point I'm in a trend of investigating more airplanes that are just a little more expensive and a little more involved. Sure, the Titan's a great plane, but I don't really want to build a pusher. They just don't look like real airplanes! Besides, I can build a Kitfox for about the same price! I mean, they look cooler, right? Well, I thought (and still think) they look neater. They've also got the advantage of being a design that has been around for quite a while. Unfortunately, though, we're back to tube-and-fabric construction (alas!), and the performance isn't really any better than a Tornado. It may be worse, at least as far as top speed. I'm not really sure anymore and I'm honestly not internested enough to go try and find out.
photo courtesy Skystar
In any case, at this point I thought that an RV would be too expensive, so I didn't even bother looking at them. Instead, I started looking at Velocities. (Any reasons for the amazing absense of logical thought demonstrated in this situation elude me to this day.) The Velocity, for those not in the know, is a beautiful fiberglass 4-seat canard made by Velocity Aircraft in Sebastian, FL. I was only dissuaded from building this aircraft after getting the video from the company in the mail and discovering that I didn't really want to work with fiberglass. After further contemplation, I found other reasons for why this wasn't a terrific airplane for me: It's a pretty big airplane, and therefore it has a larger engine (and therefore burns more gas) than any of the two-place airplane I was thinking about. There's also not much of a community that centners around fiberglass airplane building (or, for that matter, canard building) in this particular area. In addition, this isn't such a great airplane for aerobatics (it's so stable!) and apparently it doesn't handle grass strips as well, due to the high speed landings that are necessary with this a pusher configuration.
photo courtesy Velocity Aircraft
After that I settled on an RV. We'll detail this decision more after we all contemplate the beauty of the below picture, because frankly I need a break after writing all that crap. You just plowed through reading it so you might want a break too. In any case, the picture:
photo courtesy Ed Hicks/VAFWWW
Hmmmmmmmm . . . . Very nice. Now the reasons:
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