Getting started: What does it really cost?

Just ordered your kit and wondering about tools? Have a few tools lying around, but not sure what it will take to outfit your shop? Tools first, then kit? Whatever your situation, we understand that everyone is a little different. We handle the majority of “Complete Toolkit” purchases over the phone for that exact reason. We believe that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to getting a customer going on their build.

So, what does it cost?

Starting from scratch: $3,000

If the only tools you own are for routine home maintenance, or other small metalworking projects, you likely fall into this category. To outfit your shop with the essentials, you will need to buy compressor hoses, wrenches, tool boxes. There is always the “and more”. In this case, “more” means you are planning on going wild and adding a band saw, belt sander, small lathe…The list could go on.

Adding to my arsenal: $2,000

If you have a compressor and hand tools, you are probably in the market for only the aircraft specialty tools. This is by far where the majority of our customers land. Use this number for a budgeting number if you are just in the planning stages.

I’ve got nothing but elbow grease and time: $1,000

It takes a minimum investment of $1,000 in tools to make a safe aircraft. At this point you are just scraping by with the bare minimum. What we whole-heartedly encourage people to consider is that your time also has value. Even at $10/hr, 100 hours can quickly be sunk in not having the right tool to complete a task.

No matter what your situation may be, we will never pressure you into buying something outside your budget. However, we will always be honest with you about the benefit of using high-quality tools on your project. It not only saves you time, but saves in frustration, and you will have a better looking airplane at the end of it all.

Be sure to check out our Top Ten Considerations for Tool Purchases.

Give us a call to chat about what you need at 515-432-6794, or visit us online at to start shopping now.

4 Tire Pressure Management Tips

Winter flying prep can vary wildly by your individual region and ground conditions. Take a minute to review these helpful tire inflation tips to ensure you’re ready for taxi, takeoff and landing.

  1. Aircraft tire pressure must be checked when the tires are cool (at ambient temperature) because heat generated during taxis, takeoffs, and landings can result in elevated pressure readings.
  2. Avoid overinflation as it often leads to uneven treadwear and reduced traction, making the tread area more susceptible to cuts and placing greater stress on aircraft wheels and landing gear.
  3. Wait 12 hours before putting new 7″ tires in service after initial inflation. All tires will stretch after the initial inflation, causing a volume increase and thus a drop in pressure.
  4. Always inflate aircraft tires from the low pressure side of the regulated source.

For RV-ators with wheel pants installed, we just upgraded our Valve Stem Inflation tool to make inflating and pressure-monitoring a snap. Check it out!

Tips courtesy of

Learning and Living the Experience

My brother-in-law, Bill, is building an RV-9 in his basement with my sister Jensie. You may have heard Bill on the other end of the Online Builder Hangouts, guiding the conversation and promoting the Facebook page. It’s a great opportunity for both Bill and Jensie to live the customer experience by asking for help, learning how to use all the tools, and figure out the best way to solve problems during the build.

They are starting where many new builders do. They have had exposure to the techniques, but solving problems that come up in their own shop is just different.

I always tell our customers, “Use the best tools that you can afford.” In Bill and Jensie’s case, they moved to Portland a year ago. In doing so, they left the convenience of a fabulous shop for a basement work area and the bare minimum of tools. Of course, the first step in the plans makes sure that you can do basic craftsman skills. “Fabricate X from a section of angle,” the plans state.

This early challenge in the build leads many of our customers to ask questions like, “Do I need a bandsaw, a belt sander, a drill press?” The answer is, “Need? No. Benefit from? Certainly.” Bill gained some mad skills and techniques making, and remaking, those brackets using a hacksaw and a file; and I believe that is Van’s point.

Bill and Jensie’s experience was the inspiration for our next Online Builder Hangout. We are going to show some tips and tricks on how to use simple tools to get great results. You may still want to have the fancy tools as they certainly make the job easier, but we appreciate that many folks are building on a shoestring, and quality is achievable for everyone with a variety of tools.

Justin Inman – Featured Builder – May 2014

Justin Inman
Justin piloting the Teen-Flight I RV-12 plane around Mount Hood

This month we spoke with Justin Inman, a high school Junior, with an already impressive set of building experience under his belt, and the aspirations, energy and desire to make a career out of aviation. At the monthly EAA 105 pancake breakfasts, you can see Justin and his dad talking with other builders and aviators about what he’s up to, and when most people head home after the famous (or infamous) cakes, bacon, and grits breakfast—Justin heads to KHIO to serve as a TeenFlight mentor to other teens working on the third RV-12 TeenFlight project. (Read more about TeenFlight here)

The May breakfast is where we approached Justin about his willingness to do this interview, and with a good deal of humble enthusiasm, he agreed.

CAT: What’s your home airport?

JI: 7S3, Stark’s Twin Oaks Aipark

CAT: When did you first realize you had an interest in aviation?

JI: I have had an interest in aviation for as long as I can remember. When I was in early elementary school, I had a Sunday school teacher who was a pilot and A&P. He helped kindle my interest in aviation by talking to me about airplanes and flying. Living less than a mile from the Portland Hillsboro airport has afforded me submersion in general aviation airplanes flying over since I was born.

CAT: When did you first realize you had an interest in homebuilt aviation?

JI: My first real exposure to homebuilt aviation was when I took a Young Eagle flight in a local homebuilder’s RV-8 when I was 14. He let me fly a little bit and I was hooked. I could not believe how perfect the controls felt, how pretty the airframe was, and how fast it went. I enjoyed building remote control airplanes, so the idea of building a full size airplane was amazing.

CAT: Who do you credit for being most supportive in your aviation journey? What specifically have they done to help you?

JI: My parents have been incredibly supportive of my aviation interests and have been very encouraging. My most influential aviation mentor is Jerry VanGrunsven. He also has been supportive of my aviation interests and goals. As a TeenFlight mentor, he helped teach me about building airplanes but he has also taught me a lot about being an aviator and a person of integrity.

CAT: As a junior in high school, you’ve got a lot on your plate. How do you make time to focus on aviation? What motivates you?

JI: That’s true, I do have a lot on my plate. In order to maximize my time, I try to prioritize my activities. School and family come first and then aviation activities. However, as I homeschool student I have the added benefit of having a semi-flexible schedule. So on nice days I can sometimes skip out and go flying or build an airplane. I am motivated by people I know in aviation who have built many airplanes and have achieved similar goals that I strive to attain.

CAT: You’re a mentor in the TeenFlight program, what philosophy or state of mind do you bring to each build session?

JI: I try to remind myself that TeenFlight is about learning. I learned a tremendous amount as a student in the program, so as a mentor I hope that the students I help teach have the opportunity to get as much out of their project as I got out of mine.

CAT: How many RV homebuilt have you helped with since you were a TeenFlight participant?

JI: Since completion of the TeenFlight 2 airplane, I have helped build three RV projects: two RV-12s (including mentoring on the TeenFlight 3 project), and an RV-8A.

CAT: What is the one thing you repeat over and over to the TeenFlight participants?

JI: Clean up your messes, put tools away, don’t use metric wrenches on SAE bolts, and try not to finger paint with the Pro-Seal. But seriously, what I and the other TeenFlight mentors try to instill in the students is the importance of teamwork and following instructions. It is easy to not read the plans because the RV-12 build is fairly self-explanatory. However, it is very important to read the plans for clarification and sequencing. Reading for understanding is another item that cannot be emphasized enough.

CAT: If you could pick an airframe, what project would you take on next, and why?

JI: At this point, I would like to build an RV-3 equipped with an IO-320 engine setup with inverted fuel and oil for aerobatics, and a composite constant speed propeller. The RV-3 is a more challenging build than the RV-12 because it does not employ modern pre-punched technology and thus requires the builder to fabricate many more parts. I am also working on my own aircraft design that I would like to build once I have the means.

CAT: How do you spend time outside of school and aviation?

JI: When I am not doing aviation related things, I enjoy spending time with my brothers and hiking. I also play trumpet semi-professionally in various musical groups and put a good amount of time into that hobby.

CAT: How do you plan to spend your summer?

JI: This summer I have an engineering internship lined up that should help me grow towards my goal of being an aeronautical engineer.

CAT: What about college? Have you picked your path yet?

JI: As a junior, I am currently working on achieving good scores on the SAT and ACT tests with the hope that I can attend an engineering college where I will eventually earn a degree in aeronautical engineering. At this point, I hope to attend Embry Riddle in Arizona as a student of their aerospace engineering program.

What to expect when setting rivets with long-reach yokes

  1. If the rivet is ANY over the 1.5 times length it wants to start bending. Generally Van’s specs are slightly under with extra rivets used to increase strength.  The bending does not cause what you are seeing, but plays a part, see below.
  2. I often scuff the rivet set that goes on the shop head on a concrete block, sidewalk, brick; something pretty smooth and flat, but not polished.  Do it one way, rotate 90 degrees and do it again.  This is an old carpenters trick to keep a hammer face from sliding off of a nail when struck.  Since you are on the yoke side, you could rough it up a bit with some 80 grit sandpaper, but I would likely try putting a piece of masking tape on it first to see if that gives just the adhesion that you need to keep the rivet from sliding.  Again, see below.
  3. Finally the reason for both above… as you place a force roughly the weight of a car on that rivet, things want to do anything but stay neutral.  The longer the yoke the worse things get, and this is why:  Obviously the yoke wants to flex when force is applied, the longer the yoke, the more the moment arm.  Like any mechanical thing, with the force applied the yoke wants to bend toward it’s weakest axis.  In this case the yoke will want to spring sideways, top one direction, bottom the other.  This is made easier if the rivet slips on the yoke, the roughness helps to limit this side slip.
    1. This is more pronounced on the longer reach yokes, and the reason you can’t rivet with the DRDT.  Back to the longer rivet, there will always be some tipping, the longer the rivet is, the more it would rather tip, than collapse.  Once it starts to tip, the prior mentioned problems just are exacerbated, thus it is far better to use a slightly short rivet, than a slightly long rivet.
    2. There is a final point to consider and that is the fit of the ram in the yoke.  The reason that we designed around these yokes was not only their popularity, but the fact that the ram goes through the yoke with a pretty tight tolerance.  The ram is guided by the yoke, thus flex in the yoke will also move the ram with it.  Some systems have this section of the squeezer independent of the yoke, and the problem is just made worse by one bending one way, and the other bending the opposite.  Look at the fit of the ram in the yoke, if the fit is loose because the ram is out of tolerance too small, or the yoke is out of tolerance too large, the ram will have ‘room’ to get an angle on it.  Also and more importantly on the thin nose yokes, make sure that if you are using an adjustable ram, that you use a long set for a short rivet.  This will keep the ram further engaged into the yoke, and give it a longer ‘arm’ to align with.

Wayne Johnson – Featured Builder – September 2013

What’s your project: Van’s RV-12
How many hours do you have in so far: Around 510
How many hours left: Just started the fuse kit, probably much less than half way to completion.
Favorite part of building so far: The completion of a sub kit is satisfying. I get to see big assemblies instead if little parts and that gives me a sense of accomplishment.
Biggest challenge so far: Finding a balance between perfect and good enough. My background is in precision machining and everything needs to be nearly perfect. I tend to spend too much time de-burring.
What are you most excited to tackle next: I’m just starting on the fuselage kit and it is much different than the empennage and wing kits. I have enjoyed it all so far but it did tend to get a little repetitive so I could use a change of pace.Advice for new builders: Read and follow the the plans carefully and concentrate on what you are doing. It’s easy to make assumptions about how things should go together and make a mistake, don’t ask me how I know. Measure twice cut once, read twice rivet once. handle: waynej

David Kennedy – Featured Builder – August 2013

Dave Kennedy

What’s your project: Van’s RV-7A

How many hours do you have in so far: Around 650
How many hours left: Not sure, going by average 1,200 – 1,400
Favorite part of building so far: It was rewarding to finish the assembly of the wings and see them hanging on the wall, completed.
Biggest challenge so far: Probably building the fuel tanks. The pro-seal is messy and always wondering if I was going to finish a given section before the epoxy set up to fast. Thanks to my friends, Ken and Bill for lending a helping hand with the final assembly of the tanks.
What are you most excited to tackle next: I am working on the fuselage and the next big step will be to assemble the 3 sections of the fuselage, tail cone, mid and forward section to the firewall. Just about ready to rivet everything together with the side skins and looking forward to rolling it all over and seeing it completed to that stage. handle: Kenntek

Ed Kranz – Featured Builder – July 2013

We are fortunate to have advocate-builders out there, and one of our biggest is Ed Kranz (of fame). Ed is a meticulous builder, and we’ve had the pleasure of helping him out during his RV-10 build. Without further ado, here’s what Ed told us about his project…

Ed Kranz

What’s your project: Van’s RV10
How many hours do you have in so far: Around 900
How many hours left: 1300… maybe. I went the full slow-build path.
Favorite part of building so far: My favorite part is when you start piecing together sub assemblies into something that resembles an aircraft! Oh… and designing my dream panel… I think I’m on version 3 or 4 now!
Biggest challenge so far: Most of the building has been pretty straight forward, and the few parts when the instructions are vague, I’ve been able to rely on the knowledge of other builders. I always read the build logs of a few other builders before I begin a new section, so I’ve been able to avoid most big surprises. The most difficult parts of the build have been building the fuel tanks, and those the one or two “impossible rivets”. Also, since for some reason I thought it would be a good idea to make a timelapse video of the entire build (which can be seen on our website), it can be a challenge to go thru the entire ritual of setting up the camera, editing the video, and uploading to youtube every time I work on the plane!
What are you most excited to tackle next:I’m close to done with the metal work on the plane, and I’m just about to have a baptism in fiberglass… but I’m most excited to begin work on the control systems and electrical.
What’s your Van’ handle: NovaBandit

Dan Weyant – Featured Builder – June 2013

We’ve been wanting to do this for a long time, and we’re really excited to announce that we are starting a new feature in the Cleaveland Aircraft Tool newsletter. We’re putting the spotlight on one homebuilder each month. This month’s featured builder is Dan Weyant near KGTU. We asked Dan a few questions, and here’s what he said…

Dan Weyant

What’s your project: RV-9A
How many hours do you have in so far: Just over 300 hours since my wife (Karen) and I started last October.
How many hours left: ??? That is the big question, I try not to think about that too much.
Favorite part of building so far: I’m having fun with most of it.  But my favorite part is probably when you rivet something together after all of the prep work and you wind up with something that looks like an airplane part.
Biggest challenge so far: I’m just finished with the fuel tanks and while I’m not a big fan of pro-seal, it hasn’t been the most challenging.  I think the thing we have struggled the most with was the metal strip that joins the wing leading edge to the fuel tank. Wound up having to order a replacement rib from Vans, and even after that it was quite challenging.
What are you most excited to do next: My fuselage kit gets delivered tomorrow, so I’m anxious to see the big box and do the inventory on it.  I’m almost done with the fuel tanks, so the next big task is to start riveting the skins on to the wings.  Those are big airplane parts :).
Van’ handle: Very un-original dweyant