PREPARATION BEFORE BUILDING
Note: I have created this web site to help other Builders that are just starting and to allow those who are thinking of joining the group to get a preview of what they are getting into. I know that when built the RV-6A, I had a lot of questions and some things were learned the hard way, through trial and error. Some parts of my RV project were done twice because I screwed it up the first time. Whenever I made a mistake I couldn't fix easily, I simply re-built the parts (ribs, spars etc.) again and again, if necessary until it was done right. This sounds kind of anal, but I would much rather have a plane I can feel safe in and know was done correctly.
I have therefore created this site to allow those of you building an airplane to learn from my mistakes, and to share with you ideas, tools and tricks that I learned along the way. This web site is NOT an official Bearhawk web page. The views, opinions and suggestions contained herein are not necessarily that of Bob Barrows or anyone else associated with the Bearhawk. Anyone using the tips, techniques and/or suggestions, does so at their own risk. The author of this material is not an expert on the subject, is an amateur builder and is writing of his experiences while constructing this experimental aircraft for entertainment purposes only.
Now that we have dispensed with the legal stuff . . . LET'S BUILD!!!
The first step in building a project of this magnitude is preparation. Everything you do must be done as perfectly as possible, with no shortcuts and no "that's good enough" workmanship. Remember, some day you and your loved ones will be sitting in this creation at 5,000 ft. You don't want any doubts about it's proper construction.
Your workshop (in my case two car garage) reflects your workmanship. It must be clean, well lit and organized. You greatly decrease your time to build and increase your enjoyment by knowing exactly where everything is so you can lay hands on it when needed. Your workshop should be located really close to your house (attached to it if possible). It is so much easier to go out and work on your project for an hour or so every night after supper if the project is close. I get a surprising amount of work accomplished while waiting for my wife to get ready when we are going out somewhere. It sure beats watching TV.
The biggest and most important part of your preparation to build an airplane is education. Read everything you can on aircraft construction techniques. I recommend Tony Bingelis' series of books on aircraft construction techniques and engines. You can obtain many of the books and tapes from the suppliers listed on the Suppliers Links page. I also joined EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) and received some books from them as well as support from a local EAA chapter. Another advantage of EAA is the technical counsellor program. If you have an EAA tech counsellor come and inspect your project a couple of times during its construction, you can save a lot on insurance and more importantly (for me anyway) is the piece of mind you get from having an expert check out your work periodically.
If you are a new builder or just like to have step-by-step type instructions, you might want to consider buying the Bearhawk Builder's Manuals. I would also suggest the government publication 43-13-1B Acceptable Methods, Techniques and Practices-Aircraft Inspection and Repair. There is a wealth of information contained in this lengthy document which is required reading in my opinion..
Another invaluable tool for information is the Bearhawk Builders Forum located on the web. I highly recommend that you subscribe and participate in this group. You can subscribe at the bottom of this page. This is a group of builders that are either currently building or are already flying. The newer folks write in and ask questions and the more experienced ones answer. Bearhawk builder Benton Holzwarth maintains an organized archive of archived discussions grouped by subject. I find now (I wish I would have figured it sooner) that whenever I get ready to start on particular phase of construction, I will look in the archives and pick up all kinds of hints and read about common mistakes others have made on this particular part of the building process. This helps prevent all kinds errors.
Bearhawk builder Russ Erb has put together an excellent Bearhawk Reference CD. This is a very detailed look at the step by step building of the Bearhawk with tons of pictures, links and data. In my opinion, everyone even thinking of building a Bearhawk should buy this CD and study it carefully.
If possible find some Bearhawks builders in your area or nearby and then visit some of them and see their projects. Also you can look at several builders websites by going to my Other Builder's links page. You will find that some of sites are simply showing off the person's airplane. Some are designed to chronicle the building process and have pictures of every step. Check all of them out and you'll find a wealth of information there.
That's it - educate and start building. Get some practice scraps of aluminum and start by practicing your riveting. Drill, deburr, dimple and rivet 25 to 30 holes and then drill some out and re-rivet them. Keep at it until you feel confident in your skill then start on the real thing. Get some scrap steel and start practicing your Gas/Acetylene welding skills. Take a welding class at your local Junior College or Tech school. Do something every day on your project. Even if its something as simple as reading the plans or cleaning your shop. If you stay focused and do a little everyday, before you know it all of those parts will be an airplane. It worked for me when I built my RV-6A and I'm doing the same self-education process with the Bearhawk.
Happy building and write me if you have any questions.
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