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What should I buy?

Posted By:
Craig Skinner
#1 Posted: 8/26/2010 18:28:19

Fellow enthusiasts, I need some help. I'm 56 years old and only recently started flying and decided I need to buy or build an airplane. I want an RV-8 but the majority of the General Aviation Pilots I know have told me experimentals are a bad idea for the following reasons. 1. insurance is more expensive. 2. Re sale value is lower. 3. I will not find an instructor to fly with me for my IFR training. 4. Experimental tail wheels are twitchy.

I have landed an old Biplane from the back seat and it did not scare me. I do not plan on re selling. I can get my IFR by renting a 172, and whats an extra 100 bucks a month for insurance? 15 gph vs 10 gph? I know several Reno Air Racers who have told me a RV-8 would be perfect for me.

Have any of you out there listened to similar reasoning when you first started out and bought a production plane like a Piper Archer or Arrow or a 172 and were not happy with it? Did you then get the kit plane you wanted and are happy with it?

I know I'm preaching to the choir, but how many people want a kit plane, buy a production plane and then realize it was a mistake?  Your stories would be welcomed.

First post....Craig Skinner



Joanne Palmer
Young Eagles Pilot or VolunteerHomebuilder or Craftsman
#2 Posted: 8/27/2010 18:43:51

 1. insurance is more expensive.
Somewhat, but then it really depends.

2. Re sale value is lower.
Maybe.  It will depend on the make, model and condition.  (Hey!  That's just like certified!)

3. I will not find an instructor to fly with me for my IFR training.

Maybe, maybe not.  Some instructors are not afraid of instructing in an experimental, some are.

4. Experimental tail wheels are twitchy.

Tail wheels in general are twitchy...


I've had two instructors tell me TO build.  One recommended an RV the other recommended that I build...SOMETHING!


We bought a production airplane because we didn't have the money to build until later.



Ried Jacobsen
#3 Posted: 8/30/2010 12:36:39

Good answer.  The question of production vs. homebuilt is based on several trade-offs.  The answer is different for everyone based on time, age, skils, money, experience, etc.

Get all the cheep advise you can afford, and make the decision you think is right for you!

My current situation and constraints put me in the design/build decision category, your situation is different.

My 2 cents, buy if your in a hurry, build if you want the experience.

Jared Yates
Young Eagles Pilot or VolunteerHomebuilder or Craftsman
#4 Posted: 9/2/2010 08:55:14

I would suggest that you probably don't want to build an airplane just to have an airplane.  The building process is a separate hobby, which is one that I think is fantastic!  Not everyone agrees.  If you consider building as a path to aircraft ownership instead of as a hobby of its own, I think you will likely be disappointed.  Keep in mind that you can also buy a flying RV-8 if that is the type that you want.  So first, I would separate the two issues.  First, decide on whether or not an experimental airplane is the one that you would like to own.  If that turns out to be the case, then decide on whether you are interested in building it or just flying it.

So step one would be to decide on which airplane you would like to have.  Since this is such a large purchase, I would suggest that you do some investigative reporting of your 4 points and a few more.  We posters can give you all sorts of anecdotal and hearsay evidence, which has some value.  But perhaps the best answers can come from your own research.  For instance:

1: Call AUA or the EAA insurance folks and get tire-kicker quotes based on your actual pilot experience for the RV-8, Archer, Arrow, and Skyhawk.  Be sure to consider both the tailwheel and the nosewheel options on the RV.  Why base your decisions on rumors when you can have the cold hard numbers at the cost of only 30 minutes on the phone?

2:  Research the values of the airplanes that you are looking at.  Keep in mind that a low resale value is also a low purchase price when you are the buyer, and right now the values are down on everything.  Barnstormers and trade a plane are great sources.  Most people would agree that if you buy a competitively priced airplane now and take care of it for a few years, you won't sell it for less than you bought it for.

3: Call your local flight school or local instructors (depending on how it is structured) and ask around.  Back when I was a full-time instructor I would have not had any problem flying in a widely proven experimental like an RV, and I didn't get the impression that I was alone in that regard.  Same thing as number 1 here- free phone calls give you real answers.

4:  Before you spend so much money on buying and building, I would say it is a good value to fly the airplanes you are considering, even if it is expensive to do so.  If you had to spend $500 to get a ride in a tailwheel RV, wouldn't that be worth not spending $80,000 on an airplane that turned out to be twitchy by your standards?  I would suggest that the tailwheel RV is anything but twitchy, but you could find out for yourself and have the best results.  By flying one you might encounter other aspects that you hadn't thought of.  You might not like the feeling of the bubble canopy, or you might discover that the bubble canopy is the only way to fly.

Here are a few more:

5: Think about maintenance costs.  If your certificated airplane burns out its highly obsolete incandescent landling light, how much is it going to cost to replace it?  In an RV, you can use off-the-shelf automotive parts, or even lifetime LEDs, all without STCs.  The landing lights are only one example of outdated technology that gets stuck in certified airplanes because of the red tape required to make changes.  Keep in mind that the condition inspection in the experimental will probably be less expensive than an annual in a certified (all else being equal), and the cost of certified parts is absolutely outrageous.  

6: Look at weight and balance, cruise speed, and fuel consumption.  The aircraft that you have listed represent a wide range of missions.  The RV-8 is a 2-seater, while the others are 4.  The arrow with retractable gear is going to have its own cans of worms.  Think about how much you are wanting to carry and how far you are wanting to go for the majority of your flights, keeping in mind that one airplane is not going to fill all of your needs.  You might have to rent occasionally if you need more lift or better IFR capability for instance.

The bottom line of my advice is to place more emphasis on deciding on the type of airplane that you would like to own, then focus on the logistics of making that happen.  You'll go through the purchase process once, but you'll be flying the thing for years (hopefully).  

Dave Prizio
Young Eagles Pilot or VolunteerHomebuilder or Craftsman
#5 Posted: 9/3/2010 11:49:30
 1. insurance is more expensive. 2. Re sale value is lower. 3. I will not find an instructor to fly with me for my IFR training. 4. Experimental tail wheels are twitchy.


1.   Insurance in any experimental will be higher for the first year due to the risks inherent in the first flight and phase I flight test period. They will also reflect your lack of time in make and model. However, after the first year you should see a decrease in the insurance cost, with smaller decreases each year as long as your claims history is good.

2.   Resale is lower but so is acquisition cost. Have you looked at the price of a new Cessna 172 lately?  The resale value of a homebuilt is b very dependent on the model you are talking about, the equipment installed, and the quality of construction. To a large extent you will determine the resale value by the choices you make.

3.   I have never had any trouble finding instructors to fly with me in an experimental airplane, including IFR. Get involved with the appropriate owner/builder group (Van's Air Force) and your local EAA chapter. You should be able to easily find an instructor to fly with you.

4.   Experimental tailwheels are about the same as any other tailwheels. The RV-8 is not a particularly dificult taildragger to master, but it requires a higher level of training and proficiency than a Cessna 172. Of course, the same could be said of a Cessna 180 or a Citabria.

The big question you need to answer is whether or not you have the time, desire, and the discipline to build an airplane. The RV-8 is not difficult to build as experimentals go, but it is still a fair bit of work that can't be done overnight. Talk to some RV builders and get a feel for what they went through. See if that appeals to you.

You can always buy a completed RV-8, but if you do be sure to get the help of an experienced RV builder to help you evaluate the quality of the builder's work.

Good luck with your decision process.

Craig Skinner
#6 Posted: 9/3/2010 13:06:06

Joanne, Ried, Jared and Dave,

Thank you for the replies,  It's all good advice I will take.  Based on everything so far, I have narrowed down my decision. My plane will be a RV. It may be a RV-8 or a RV-6 or 7.  Special thanks to Pete from Lake Tahoe for taking me up in his beautiful RV-6 a few days ago. I had a stupid grin on my face all day long. It was a sweet plane.  My day job involves working on old cars and airplanes so I am ruling out building because I already have too many projects. So I am looking for something that is complete or close to it. I hope to join the ranks of Vans owners in the not too distant future. Any Rv-8 or RV-6/7 near the west coast for sale is something I would be interested in. Thanks again for the help, Craig