Eating the Elephant

 

Everyone has heard it before, expressed in various ways - you build an airplane the way you eat an elephant, one bite at a time. Or "you can't build an airplane - but you can build airplane parts." Or "go to the shop every day, build parts, and sooner or later, you’ll have an airplane!"

And it's all true. Building an airplane is just impossible if you stop to think about it - but somehow, we get them done. Celebrating the little victories along the way is one trick - like today, when we finished the second main spar for our Xenos motor glider. That word “glider” should tell you something about these spars - they are VERY long. And in that length, there are lots, and lots (and lots) of rivets. Today, I set the last one. Couldn’t sign off the entire assembly because I am missing just ONE bolt that goes near the root of the right spar - but its on its way from Spruce, so I think victory is in sight.

It’s taken the better part of a year to get the main spars done, but to be fair, we’ve had lots of other projects going on, and the Xenos is a “time available” project. I’m sure I could finish another set in way less time - if I really felt I wanted to do that. The truth is, building spars is educational, and is generating a series of articles for the magazine - but for most people, that extra $4,000 for pre-built spars is going to be the way to go, unless you like working for way less than minimum wage.

Next up - working on a whole lot of ribs, then starting to build the wings. We’ll keep you posted.

Paul Dye

Paul Dye, Kitplanes® Editor in Chief, retired as a Lead Flight Director for NASA’s Human Space Flight program, with 40 years of aerospace experience on everything from Cubs to the space shuttle. An avid homebuilder, he began flying and working on airplanes as a teen, and has experience with a wide range of construction techniques and materials. He flies an RV-8 that he built, an RV-3 that he built with his pilot wife, as well as a Dream Tundra they completed. Currently, they are building a Xenos motorglider. A commercially licensed pilot, he has logged over 5000 hours in many different types of aircraft and is an A&P, EAA Tech Counselor, and Flight Advisor, as well as a member of the Homebuilder’s Council. He consults and collaborates in aerospace operations and flight-testing projects across the country.

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