www.rv3works.com

The RV-3B is my second aircraft project, the first was a Van's RV-8 that I started in 1997 and flew three and a half years later. The story of that project can be found at www.rv-8.com. I sold the RV-8 in early 2004 after flying it for 368 very enjoyable hours. I started construction on the RV-3 in May of 2004 and flew it in August of 2007, a 3 year 3 month construction period.
My RV-3B combines a new IO-320 (see Engine & prop page), with all the latest performance enhancements, with a lightweight composite constant speed prop. This modern firewall forward package, when combined with modern glass panel electronics and the already wonderful handling characteristics of the RV-3 airframe, makes for an exciting finished aircraft often called a "pocket rocket" by those who have seen how it performs.

 

Why?

Since selling the RV-8 and starting the RV-3 I often get asked the question...

"Why did you sell your RV-8 to build an RV-3,
it's only a single place airplane?"

There are really several reasons, but mostly because after flying the -8 for nearly three years I was finally ready to build again — you can get hooked on it. Having built one airplane where I learned an unbelievable amount, I had the urge to utilize what I'd learned and do it again, only better. But why an RV-3 in particular, I mean after all it's only a single place airplane, you can't carry any passengers? Here's why...

Reason #1: Desire to build the "ultimate" RV-3

Even while I was building my RV-8 I wanted to build what I considered the ultimate RV-3 — I couldn't get the vision out of my head. Just after Van's made the new completely re-designed wing available in '98 I began fantasizing about building an RV-3 with all the latest stuff...  new engine technology, lightweight composite constant speed prop, and the latest lightweight electronics in the panel. I'm not sure there's an RV-3 flying yet with the benefit of the new wings and all the latest technology. Someone's gotta do it, I volunteer.
Footnote: apparently I'm not the only one with this vision, there are now quite a few other builder's going down the same road I did.

Reason #2: Less is more

As with many things in life, "less is more" can apply to RVs in many respects also. Less weight means a more responsive feeling aircraft, less complication means less to break and less to maintain, less size means easier to share a hangar and easier to clean, and less money means it's easier to afford. There's something comforting about having less money tied up in an airplane, less of a feeling that it owns you. The trend seems to be toward larger, more complicated RVs — I'm going the opposite direction, kind of a purist thing I guess.

Other reasons:

Airborne sports car - For some reason I've had a lifelong attraction to small, nimble, efficient machines. A small, efficient, high-performance airplane is just somehow very attractive to me, I guess it's just like having an airborne sports car. My choice in cars over the years reflects this pattern as well, I've always preferred something a bit smaller that handles well over something big and powerful. I'm a glider pilot also and truly love sailplanes and soaring. One of the things that is neat about soaring is the small, tight, efficient cockpits necessitated by having a streamlined aircraft. Ergonomics are everything, there is zero extra space, and you are one with the aircraft pursuing your flight mission. Seems to me that an RV-3 is a more purist machine in similar fashion to a sailplane. That said, an RV-3 is still clearly a very practical machine — it has more than adequate baggage space and lends itself well to VFR cross country missions.
No compromise - Think about it, you never have to put up with having your performance degraded by loading a couple hundred extra pounds in it, or having too forward a CG when flying solo. It's just right all the time. That climb to 10,000 feet that seems to take no time when solo all of a sudden takes much longer two up. Then there's the way the plane lights delicately onto the runway when solo as opposed to solidly arriving when two-up. Imagine never having to endure those compromises again.
No passenger hassles - This is both good and bad. While I truly enjoy taking some people up and sharing the wonder of an RV, there are other times where it was kind of a pain... strangers getting in with muddy feet and grabbing your plane in all the wrong places. Also, the plane just never feels right with someone back there unless they are a child or a small woman. Then there's the liability issue. If there's no one with you then you can't kill or injure anyone and have to deal with that. What about my wife and kids? Frankly, my wife doesn't even like flying. She probably went up in the RV-8 with me only a half dozen times the whole time I owned it, and didn't really like it even then. She won't tolerate formation flying at all and starts hitting me on the back of the head if I start forming up on any of my pals I might be flying with. If my kids want to fly I've already offered to pay for their flight lessons. If they get their pilot's licenses they can go through RV transition training and I'll toss 'em the keys to the RV-3. Besides, with so many local pals finishing and flying their RVs now, I can usually get someone a ride in another guy's plane.
Pure pilot's experience - I'm told by people who have flow all the various RV models that the RV-3 is the best flying model in the line, and by far. One of the types of flying I love to do is formation flying, oughta be perfect for that, but especially for flying for the pure joy of it.
Something different - I confess, sometimes I like to have something a bit different than everyone else. Van's various models are becoming so popular that you can't attend any sort of fly-in in this day and age without seeing a whole bunch of planes just like yours. The RV-3 is different, there aren't a lot of them around and there probably never will be... a bit like having a "special edition" of a car. To me the RV-3 is the best of both worlds in this regard: an uncommon distinctive aircraft from the most popular kit company in the world.

So there you have it, my best attempt at explaining why I'd do such a thing. From the comments I've received from other builders and pilots since starting this project, many seem understand the attraction, it's just that few are willing to actually commit to a single place airplane. Well, I am.

 

Goals

As my second aircraft, there is much that I learned the first time that should make this a different experience, and frankly more enjoyable. The first time around it seemed that I spend half my time learning to work with the materials and just figuring out what to do. I remember spending considerable time befuddled as to how many of the parts went together, or figuring out the best way to route a wire or tube, or secure a component so that it would be both durable and removable later on. That time paid off as I really had no major regrets about all the decisions I made during construction of the RV-8, but the point is that I learned a tremendous about building one of these aircraft that I can leverage this time around... it should be a much more efficient and satisfying experience. Now, what am I trying to accomplish with this plane? Following are the goals I've established for myself for this plane...

Weight — To the extent possible with reasonable features, I'd like to make it as light as possible. With an aircraft in the weight class of the RV-3 every additional pound becomes a larger percent of the total. Target empty weight is 800 lbs.
Performance — The goal is to not get left behind by any of my RV-4/6/7/8 pilot pals with their hot O-360s in either climb or cruise. Any RV is going to need a constant speed prop in order to achieve this goal, but this has been a problem until recently due to the heavy weight of the typical Hartzell c/s prop (59 lbs with spinner). Whirl Wind Propellers now has their second generation composite 3-blade 150 series (model 151) available which at 29 lbs opens new doors. In a sense, I'm designing the entire aircraft around this prop.
Pilot ergonomics — I'm a bit of a fanatic about machines being "user friendly". There's just no excuse for not putting adequate thought into an intuitive and functional cockpit. To that end I would like to end up with a cockpit environment (panel, controls, seating) that is easy to use and facilitates good cockpit management, after all, there's no help from the back seat up there on cross country flights in the RV-3!
Serviceability — This means making it simple, making parts accessible, and anticipating the effects of vibration and what can/will wear. Simplicity will be key as complicated assemblies both wear out and take more time to fix. When tempted to make a fancy yet complicated solution, resist.
Durability — Realize that airplanes begin to vibrate themselves to pieces from the very first flight. See it coming and design around it.
Not a show plane — As with my last plane, I plan to build a correctly constructed and well finished aircraft, but one that is not "showy". Rather, one that is built to be flown day in and day out. I'm not building this plane to win awards, but rather to build it the best I can for my own satisfaction and with the above goals in mind. Show planes generally don't make very practical day-to-day aircraft.

This will be built as a fairly standard Van's kit, I have no significant modifications in mind. I will take advantage of the QuickBuild 3B wings, otherwise it will be a standard RV-3 kit. Now, on to building the plane, and let's see how close I can come to the above goals.

 

Thinking of building one?

I've talked with many folks who understand the attraction to the RV-3 and are interested in building one themselves. Frankly, this is not a project for everyone. Early Van's kits were not designed with CAD and there are consequently no holes, no prepunching whatsoever. Each line of rivets must be drawn out and drilled as specified in the plans and each skin must be trimmed usually on three sides. I have made further comments on some of the challenges involved in the top section of the Airframe construction page.

Van's newer kits are so sophisticated by comparison that most builders would be better off starting there unless they have someone close by to help who has built an RV-3 or RV-4 (very similar). I don't mean to discourage anyone, but building any aircraft is a significant undertaking and you want to have the best possible chance of finishing it. The completion rate on the earlier kits was lower, there's a reason for that. If you're considering an RV-3 project please consider all this carefully. I'd be happy to provide what counsel I can, contact me directly and let's talk.

 

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