Airplane GEEK

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What Our Members Are Building/Restoring — Florida Van’s RV-10

By Blake Gambsky, EAA 1104249

This piece originally ran in the September 2021 issue of EAA Sport Aviation magazine.

I began building my RV-10 on March 26, 2015 (326 is part of my tail number). The project began with my friends from Wisconsin having taken me for a ride in their recently completed RV-10, and since then I’ve had the RV grin.

During my college career in Florida, I decided it was time to start the project during my time off from classes and work. I got the empennage kit knowing that my 20-by-20-foot garage would be sufficient to begin the project.

Throughout the five years and six months of building, I seldom got tired of driving myself to put the next section together. I would say the hardest part, or rather the most boring, was the repetition between the two wings. But knowing the outcome was going to result in my bird was drive enough for me to push through the project.

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It came as a surprise to my family when I called my mom and said, “Mom, just so you don’t freak out when you come to visit me in Florida [they still live in Wisconsin], there’s a plane in the garage.” But throughout the years of growing up there was no passion I had in my life more than aviation.

I began the airplane from scratch, not the standard kit, with no prior A&P mechanic experience. I’ve always been a quick learner, and have always been mechanically inclined. My dad taught me most of how to use power tools as he was well versed in the carpentry business, and my strongest knowledge was toward physics. So learning techniques of construction came naturally to me.

Most of the project was on my own. I had help from friends here and there throughout the build when it came to the two-person jobs such as the bottom wing skins. Unless you’re almost 7 feet tall with long arms you can’t hold the gun and the bucking bar to rivet the remaining parts of the wing.

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When it finally came time to start designing the interior, pick the engine, and avionics suite, I began at Oshkosh! I knew right off the bat I would stick to the Lycoming engine. I’m a believer in Van’s when it comes to its performance testing and trust in such a reliable company. The difference in the matter came when I decided to use the Thunderbolt YIO-540-EXP200. I had the engine painted to match the colors that I selected for the rest of the aircraft as well, with the red crankshaft and black cylinders.

When it came to the avionics suite, I’ve always trusted Garmin. Visiting avionics booths, I saw some cool avionics here and there, but nothing compared to the ability to integrate the Garmin G3X with the rest of Garmin’s products. I’ve never been a fan of mixing and matching to make something work. The G3X along with a Garmin navigator, autopilot, comms, and transponder/ADS-B made it so that I could have one reliable company available for support.

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The stock panel in the RV wasn’t enough for me as it didn’t provide the visual aesthetic that I wanted to make the “complete” feel in the airplane. So I reached out to find finishing and came across Aerosport Products’ 310 panel. With that, along with the throttle quadrant armrest, I knew I had the finishing design that I wanted.

After retrieving my interior for the aircraft, I sent the color swatches to Aerotronics Inc., and it happily painted the 310 panel for me. I was super happy with the outcome and match to the interior of the aircraft and was excited to finally finish and get the certification done.

After a while of flying and breaking the engine in, fixing some minute issues and enjoying finally getting to fly my airplane after five years and six months, I chose Ormond Aircraft to do my paint job. I selected these colors a long time ago for the interior, so it was a matter of drawing them on a 2D print of the airplane. It took me about 10 hours of drawing on an app to get the striping right. I referenced some other patterns that I enjoyed and put it out on the drawing after a few failures — read, I hated my old designs.

After picking the final design, Ormond Aircraft did it all, and made my airplane what it looks like today. And I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out!

I want to thank everyone who was involved in making my RV-10 dream come true!

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