Why an RV-7?

Let’s start from the beginning…

Why a homebuilt? I am building a homebuilt because of the rate of return (financially and emotionally). I used to work for Cessna’s Flight Test Department and have some familiarity with their piston singles. Do I love the new (or even old) 172s and 182s? Of course. Would I (or could I) pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for an airplane with a glass cockpit that only goes 120 kt (150 kt for the 182)? Nope.

I think I’d rather spend a quarter of that (over a few years, of course) for a high performance (200 kt?), aerobatic (+6/-3 g) capable aircraft, that I built with my own hands. The idea of creating something from nothing (pronounced “a Van’s standard kit“) already makes me proud, and I haven’t even started yet.

Why an RV? Having fallen in love with the idea of building myself, I scoured the internet and pretty quickly settled on Van’s RV kits. Why? Because there are something like 6,600 of them flying (January 2010) (7000 now in April 2010). It’s a proven design (six? proven designs). Because everyone who has ever ridden in an RV and then written about it on the internet can’t seem to stop praising the airplane, company, builders, flyers, and vendors associated with the RVs. And most importantly, I like them. I like the performance, I like the looks, I like the capability. I do need to score a ride in one…

Why side-by-side seating? I chose a side-by-side aircraft because I am an instructor. I have quite a few hours in a Citabria and a Super Decathalon, and I remember always worrying about the person in the backseat and whether he/she was having any fun. I’ve also sat in the backseat and remembered not having any fun. (Well, less fun. I always have fun in airplanes.) Also, I want a large panel, as I’m pretty set on having a IFR capable (not just minimum equipment) airplane. Even when I am flying alone, the seat next to be will be a nice place to keep stuff. Also, after staring at galleries full of RVs, I just started liking the side-by-side airplanes more.

Concerns I overcame: I do like the tandem seating for fighter-pilot look and for the centerline seating (which would help during mild aerobatics), but for now, I am okay without those two luxuries.

Why a two-seater (instead of four-seater)? I chose a two seater because I am pretty far from needing the third seat (no kids), and the two seaters are more affordable (although the RV-10 does seem like a nice airplane). I hear about this thing called builder’s withdrawal, so maybe the second airplane can be a bigger one.

So now I know I want a Van’s RV 7/7A or 9/9A. If you read the description of each, you’ll see the 7/7A will fit me better. Here’s a description from the Van’s site for the RV-9/9A.

Blazing speed and “wring-it-out” aerobatics are not important for many pilots. Their day-to-day flying consists of local trips, relaxed cross-countries, and occasional long flights. The RV-9/9A was designed to do its best in this environment. More…

So, it’s an RV-7 or RV-7A.

Why a taildragger? A lot of people have a lot of opinions about this, but my decision came down to fun-factor, flying skills, and aesthetics.

Fun factor: It’s just plain (plane?  Ha.) fun to fly a tailwheel aircraft. Don’t kid yourself. I have about 50 hours of tailwheel time, and I just loved tailwheel flying the whole time.

Flying Skills: It takes better stick and rudder skills to proficiently pilot a conventional gear airplane, and maintaining those skills will keep my stick and rudder skills sharp. When I was boring holes in the sky with that Citabria, my stick and rudder skills were at their best, and I’m afraid to admit that I am probably not as busy on the rudders as I used to be.

Also, I think taildraggers look better (no hate emails, please). I can’t really say that much more about it. Anyway, it looks like it’s decided. I’m going to build an RV-7.

Why a slider?Why a tip-up? Why a slider? (Updated January 2010, then again in August of 2012) I’ve heard and read a lot about this decision, but for now, I think I’ve settled on a slider. Back in January of 2010, I thought this:

Before , I was mostly convinced by George Orndorff to do a slider (along with the cool-factor with taxiing on the ground. I’ve read and read and read about this, and people have now convinced me that ventilation on the ground is sufficient with the tip-up propped open about 2 inches, and I think the unrestricted visibility is starting to hit home a little more with me. Along with the instrument panel access, I also think the tip-up looks better on the airplane.

Now, I’m back to slider. Visibility is still great with the slider, and the safety issues (albeit percieved on my part) mostly with respect to either a) bailing out of the airplane at altitude and b) crawling out from under the airplane after crash-landing upside down, have really led me back to the slider.

Here’s a table to help you understand my decision. I stole the format from, but it’s mostly my own content. (Note: I can go back and forth between slider and tip-up in the same conversation if you ask me about it.) Ultimately, when I get close to needing to make the decision, I’m going to ask around and see if people will let me climb in and out of both. It should be pretty evident after that.

Tip-Up versus Slider
Factor Discussion
Safety Tip-Up: Aluminum roll bar assembly is behind the seats and your head.Slider: 4130 alloy steel roll bar is in front of the passenger and pilot.Winner: Slider for both in-air bailout and upside down crawling out after nosing over. People poo-poo these considerations, but I think about this stuff every day.
Visibility Tip-Up: I like the unrestricted view forward and up with the tip-upSlider: People say visibility is still great with the slider, but by definition can’t be as good with the roll bar and center support.Winner: Tip-up by not very much.
Ease of Entry/Exit Tip-Up: Can be a little more difficult, but I think it is just technique.Slider: Slider entry/exit is supposed to be a little easier.Winner: Draw until I can get into both back to back.
Ventilation Tip-Up: I’ve heard that ventilation is similar to the slider with the tip-up propped up about 2 inches in the back.Slider: It’s basically an open cockpit with the slider. Major cool (read “hero-pilot”) points.Winner: Slider by a mile.
Baggage Access Tip-Up: Limited space under the roll bar assembly, but I don’t think I’ll be putting too much back there that is oversized.Slider: Same with the slider. There is a Meske tip-up modification. I think this makes the slider better. George Ordorff of GBI didn’t see the need for the modification, he just told me to use soft-sided bags. Fair enough.Winner: I think with the mod, it’s slider. Without the mod, probably tip-up. Another draw.
Construction Tip-Up: Without experience, I’ve heard the tip-up is easier. Not a big deal for me, but worth noting.Slider: I first heard this is more difficult, but now I’ve heard this one is easier. Make up your minds, people!Winner: Another draw.
Panel Access Tip-Up: Of course, access to the panel is better with the tip-up. I plan on having a modular instrument panel anyway, but maybe I don’t need one with the tip-up. The problem with the better access is rain. I guess rain can find it’s way into the panel when the canopy is open. Maybe with the modular panel, I can somehow design a rain guard for the instruments. This doesn’t solve the other rain problem, which is that the cockpit will be getting wet as I am getting in as well anyway. I’ll have to give this one some more thought. (For the record, I do see myself flight XC in the rain.)Slider: The modular instrument panel will help the access issue with the slider. Cockpit still gets wet when open, though.Winner: Slider. (With the tip-up, the electronics get wet, along with the seat, with the slider, just the seats get wet.)
Ground Ops Tip-Up: Keeping the tip-up open in the wind is a no-no. Better keep that nose pointed into the wind. People have warned about making sure the gas struts stay fresh so the canopy doesn’t get slammed down.Slider: No worries about the wind or propwash with the slider. Supposedly very sturdy.Winner: Slider. (With the tip-up, the electronics get wet, along with the seat, with the slider, just the seats get wet.)

Why an IO-360 (200 HP)? I want the climb and cruise performance. I seem to be able to justify the extra cost at this point in the build (empennage), but I wish money were no object…then maybe I would be putting a 390 in there. Fuel injected is a must for me for a variety of reasons.

Why a 3-bladed MT constant speed propeller? I think three-bladed props look cool, and constant-speed is the way to go for optimum engine operation in various phases of flight. I wish money were no object…so I could actually afford it.


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