Contenders

So, what to build?

The first thing I did was write down the list of criteria that I believed the airplane should meet.

Then, I went through the EAA’s Aerocrafter book page by page and found all of the candidates I was interested in.

Finally, I browsed the Internet trying to find up to date information on everything.

Note that some of the models listed below are no longer even available, but the manufacturers may have other similar or upgraded kits.

Criteria

  • Must be suitable for low time pilot.
  • Live in Arizona, thus 90%+ VFR flying.
  • Not interested in acro.
  • Short distance cross country flying and sightseeing, some 2-4 day trips on weekends, some night flying will be the main mission.
  • Particularly interested in metal construction.
  • Must have power to push my fat ass around at a respectable cruise speed.

Contenders

    • Ran’s S-16 Shekari
      • + All metal
      • +/- Blind rivet construction (easier?)
      • + Not a bad looking airplane.
      • + Distributor based at my favorite airport (GEU)
      • – Average cruise speeds.
      • – Pricey. $25K for kit, no subkits.
      • – Not many flying.
    • Zenith Aircraft 601HDS
      • + All metal
      • +/- Blind rivet construction (easier?)
      • + Pricing OK. Subkits available.
      • + Decent number of planes flying.
      • – Plane not ugly, but not as pretty as others.
      • – Average cruise speed.
    • Zenith Aircraft 640
      • + True 4-place aircraft.
      • – Airplane is very fugly.
      • – Brand new, none flying.
    • Van’s Aircraft RV-6a/RV-7a
      • + All metal
      • + Pricing OK. Subkits available.
      • + Number flying? Many. Many.
      • + Plane is cool looking.
      • + Very excellent cruise speeds.
      • + Van’s has extraordinary reputation.
      • + Will take full fuel and two Bubba size adults.
      • – Not the best low-time pilot choice.
      • -/+ Not blind rivet construction (harder?)
    • Van’s RV-9a
      • + All metal
      • + Pricing OK. Subkits available.
      • + Plane is cool looking.
      • + Very good cruise speeds
      • + Good slow speed handling, low stall speed.
      • + Good choice for low-time pilot.
      • + Van’s has extraordinary reputation.
      • + People that fly the demonstrator verify handling claims.
      • + Will take full fuel and two Bubba size adults.
      • +/- Not blind rivet construction (harder?)
      • – None flying. Prototype crashed (VFR flight into IMC)

At one point, I was convinced that the RV-6a was what I wanted. After talking to some EAA folks, I changed my decision to go with the 9a. Then, out of the blue, Van’s brought out the -7[a]. Then, out of the blue, Zenith brought out the 640. I put off a decision for a couple of weeks, but finally decided that based on the mission criteria, and my preferences for the look of the RV series, the RV-9a was the perfect fit.