By Robert G. Skinner, EAA 773419
This piece originally ran in the October 2021 issue of EAA Sport Aviation magazine.
As long as I can remember I have always looked up when an airplane flew over. I grew up in the very small East Texas town of Joaquin (population 819), which is about 40 miles southwest of Shreveport/Bossier City, Louisiana, and home of the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base (KBAD) flying the legendary B-52. I can remember seeing many flying over leaving black exhaust trails, and I occasionally I got to see them flying in formation. Another big treat was the sound of round engines as DC-3s frequently lumbered overhead on trips into Shreveport Regional. I was in my 20s when I took my first airplane ride in a Cessna 152.
Most of my life aviation was just a distant dream. Something I never expected to be able to afford. I put myself through college in my late 20s. I completed a bachelor’s degree in forestry at Stephen F. Austin State University in 1993 and earned a master’s degree in wildlife management in 1995. That experience opened a few doors to take some helicopter rides doing wildlife surveys and trapping deer for telemetry research. I took a trip to Alaska in 2004 to go salmon fishing. It took three different airplane rides to get to the fishing lodge. When I boarded the airliner for the return trip home, someone called out my name. It was an old friend from college. We sat together for the overnight trip back home and caught up. He told me that he and his father both got their pilot certificates and bought an airplane together. Back home I had a friend who was in the later stages of getting his private pilot certificate. He insisted that I go with him to the local airfield and take a discovery flight. One day I did. My friend asked his instructor to do the flight and let him tag along in the back seat. It was a blast. The instructor pushed the throttle in on the old 172 and down the runway we went. Then to my surprise, he instructed me to take the controls and take off! What? I did and he actually let me fly the entire flight. Wow! We returned back to the airfield and I lined up on the runway, and the instructor once again took the controls. My friend in the back seat spoke up and said, “You should let him try and land. He lands on the simulator better than I do.” Once again I had the controls. The instructor coached me on speed control, and he made one small correction as we made the approach. To my surprise I made a great landing. I was hooked!
A few months later my friend and I were buying a 1975 Cessna 172 together. I hired a private instructor and completed my private and instrument rating. I flew that plane for a few years and sold it to go into another partnership with another friend in a Grumman AA-5A. Then a Grumman Tiger.
The farm that I managed was near the airfield, and I watched airplanes fly over all day. I learned what most of them were, but I kept seeing these small fast airplanes with shorter blocky wings. I was told that they were RVs. I started learning about them and found out that they were kit planes. That got me thinking. I liked building things! I liked airplanes! Sometime in 2006 I made friends with a fellow who was an A&P/IA mechanic who was building an RV-10. Luckily he let me “help” him. I was fascinated, and it was much easier than I expected. I learned many new skills from riveting to fabricating. We flew that RV-10 to AirVenture in 2009.
In January 2018, I got lucky and found an RV-10 project for sale, and I made the purchase. I spent the next two years in my home shop making changes, corrections, and upgrades and ultimately completed the build. I chose a stock IO-540 and two-bladed Hartzell propeller. The instrument panel is based around a dual Garmin G3X Touch, GMC 507, and GTN 650 and expertly built by our friends at SteinAir. Interior is mostly Aerosport Products. Air conditioning makes the Texas summer heat a bit more tolerable.
Many fellow builders, friends, as well as members of EAA Chapter 302 gave valuable assistance and advice along the journey. EAA tech counselors Richard Jankowski, EAA Lifetime 428417, and Joe Waltz, EAA 583321, were instrumental in completing the project. Richard gave me transition training and guided me through Phase I testing. On May 7, 2020, we made a successful first flight. I worked with Jonathan McCormick, EAA 1254859, of Plane Schemer to create a one-of-a-kind design and entrusted Evoke Aviation to expertly apply the art work. I was fortunate to be honored with an Outstanding Workmanship award at AirVenture 2021. An award that I share with the many people who helped along the way.
The RV-10 definitely lives up to all the accolades. It is a very capable airplane. I am looking forward to many years of travel and sharing my passion for aviation with friends and family. If you are considering building I highly recommend joining EAA and if possible find a local EAA chapter. There you will find a wealth of knowledgeable and experienced people more than willing to help you with your own project.
If you’ve built or restored an aircraft, we would love to share your story with your fellow EAA members in the pages of EAA Sport Aviation magazine, even if it’s a project that’s been completed for a while. Readers consistently rate the “What Our Members are Building/Restoring” section of the magazine as one of their favorites, so don’t miss the chance to show off your handiwork and inspire your peers to start or complete projects of their own. Learn more at EAA.org/Submissions.