A Change in Plans

The paper version of my building log was progressing nicely for a while.  I made a form block, ordered some aluminum, made a few MDF router templates, and other such fun things.  I was just about ready to start cutting out some nose ribs when we went to Sun-N-Fun.  We had a good time duing the usual Sun-N-Fun things, and my wife pointed out that it might be worth buying someone else’s project.  This was a reference to this past fall when we spoke via email with the owner of an Avipro kit.  In that case, the kit was in Washington, so just getting it home would have been a major undertaking.  Additionally, it didn’t look like we were even in the same price ballpark.

She suggested that I call him to see if he had ever sold his kit.  Her point was that if we could buy an Avipro kit second-hand, we could see a substantial price advantage to buying a new kit.  In fact, even compared to scratch building, the price could be attractive.  There are a few scratch-built projects that come up for sale from time to time, but the problem with those is that there isn’t much guarantee about the quality of work so far.  At least with a kit, you know that the factory work was good.  That means straight wings and good welding for example.

When we set out on this building adventure, the whole idea was to scratch build for the fun and experience, not as much for the financial savings.  I wanted to be able to turn a coil of aluminum into a bunch of ribs, and steel into a fuselage, etc.  I was expecting to spend 10 years or so, based on my estimations and research.  Tabitha pointed out that by buying someone else’s kit, we would still have plenty of work to do, and we’d be flying much sooner and enjoying the airplane more.

I didn’t hear back from Washington, but I saw an ad for another Avipro kit on Barnstormers.  The price was a little higher than I was interested in, but the ad mentioned some extras.  The best part was the location.  Just outside of Atlanta, it was about a 5-hour drive from our house.  I sent an email to the owner and waited for a response.  I got a reply early in the morning on Wednesday.  The list of extras was longer than I had expected it to be, which made the higher price seem more reasonable, and the pictures that he had looked good.  I arranged a meeting on the shortest timeline possible, which was on Saturday of that same week. 

I spent the next several days working on all of the research that such an adventure would require.  I spoke with Mark at Avipro to see if he would provide support to a kit after a sale to someone like me.  He said he would.  I spoke with NAFCO (since I had just met them at SNF) about financing.  I also spoke with my bank and a couple of insurance companies.  I checked on the pricing for a truck and for a place to store most of an airplane.  Even if the seller would have been able to meet before Saturday, I wouldn’t have been able to get all of my own ducks in a row by then.

We left on Friday afternoon to arrive in Atlanta on Friday evening.  Since it was Jamie B’s birthday, we met up with him and had some nachos.  Then we spent the night at George and Susan’s house, which was a huge help.  They were just a few minutes from the seller’s house.  On Saturday morning we woke up early, just as Tabitha’s parents were arriving.  They live just on the other side of town, which in Atlanta means an hour or two of driving.  Don and I went to the seller (Richard’s) house.  Richard was very polite and had great answers to all of the questions that I was able to think of.  We rode together over to his airport (KVPC) and took a look at the wings.  We agreed to a price and I left a deposit, along with a promise to come back and pick up the airplane in a week or two.

The first step was to call NAFCO and start the process of the loan.  To fund the loan, they wanted for me to reserve an N-number so that they could place a lien on it.  This didn’t make much sense to me, since there wasn’t an airplane associated with the number.  Somehow it all works out, and so I put in the request.  Kevin at NAFCO seemed to think it would take a couple of days, meaning that we might have been able to pick up the airplane after just one week.  It actually took the FAA 10 days to process the request!  As always, they move at the blazing speed of government.  At this point we also met with Claude, the manager of the airport that is very close to our house.  We worked out our plans with him for building a hangar and for temporary storage for the airplane.

My first plan for storage was a shipping container.  I thought about buying one and using it as part of the structure of the hangar.  The 40 foot version was going to be about $2300, which was about as much as my hangar budget in total.  I found that I could rent one for $100 per month with $300 delivery.  Just before delivery, I learned that my local friend in the trucking business (Tommy) could rent me a trailer for the same rate with no delivery fee.  The trailer would be higher off the ground, but the same height as the Penske truck that I was using to move the airplane.  It was also 53 feet long instead of 40 feet, which was even more room to spread out in.  Tommy worked out the trailer delivery, and we processed all of the loan paperwork. 

The best insurance price was with AVEMCO, and they had flexible terms for a project under construction.  With the insurance scheduled to start on Friday at midnight, we finished the wire transfers on Friday afternoon.  This was one day less than 2 weeks after our last trip to Marietta.  On Saturday, we started early at NC27 for the Lenoir Aviation Club work day.  We left there at about lunch time and made it to Greenville SC at about 2:00pm.  We picked the truck up in Greenville because it was much cheaper than the Atlanta area.  The other problem that we had was that most Penske offices close early on Friday, so by picking the truck up half way, we were able to leave later in the day.  We saved about $150 off of the truck rate, and burned about $50 in fuel to drive the truck from Greenville to Marietta.

We made it to the VPC airport at about 6:00, and I had a bit of a headache.  As that headache soon deterioated into nausea and such, it occured to me that I hadn’t had much to eat.  After a mountain dew and a few minutes of digestion, I was back on track.  We met Tabitha’s parents there, and loaded the wings into the truck.

Bearhawk WingsLoaded Up

I don’t have a picture of just the wings in the truck, so above you can see one of the whole load.  It was a 22 foot truck, and there was plenty of room.  We used the original Avipro styrofoam to pad between the leading edge and the floor.  We used two straps to hold each wing to the side of the truck, and it worked well.  We also put foam between the wing and the wall.

Loading the Fuselage

We made it to Richard’s house at around 8:00pm, which was an hour behind our original schedule.  We had a couple of cousins from the area there to help, and they were very helpful.  Richard and his wife Sharon also helped with packaging and padding everything.  As it was assembled, two people could hold the front of the fuselage up comfortably.  Since there are stringers on the bottom of the fuselage, it can’t sit on the ground.  We had Tabitha take the wooden sawhorse support up to the front of the truck, and we put two people in the truck to receive the fuselage.  We let the tailwheel roll and had Richard doing the steering.  We had the firewall almost against the bulkhead in the truck, and used a total of 8 straps to secure the fuselage in place.  We didn’t actually set the aft 4 straps until the very end, which allowed us to keep loading things into the cabin area.  The wingtips, flaps, ailerons, front seats, and lots of other stuff went into the cabin.  The control surfaces and other flat pieces went into a pile behind the fuselage.  I used a series of wood screws to secure the strap hooks to the wooden truck floor (and to secure the front sawhorse to the floor).   It took two straps to hold that stack down, and then another two straps to hold the main landing gear in place.  The goal was to be sure that nothing would be able to move inside the truck, either to damage itself or to damage any other parts (like the wings).  We were finally ready to go at around 10:30 pm, and after a meal with Richard and Sharon at the Mexican place we were ready to go to sleep.

Truck Height

We slept at George and Susan’s again (thanks!) and left the next morning at around 9:00am.  I made it to the airport with minimal stops and was able to back it up directly to the storage trailer.  Not a bad parking job if you ask me!  Unloading the Penske was no big deal, since it was just a matter of transporting the items across a small gap.  The wings and fuselage required some help, and Wesley, Danny, Patrick, and Richard (another Richard) all helped.  With all of the Bearhawk parts in hibernation, it was nice to take a relaxing deep breath and let it all sink in.  It had been quite an adventurous 2 weeks!

Now we just have to tear down the remains of the old hangar that’s in our spot, and build our own.  Nothing to it!

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Hours Logged This Session: 0
Total Hours: 1883.75