Judgment Day

Inventive design or fatal flaw? On a homebuilt airplane, one person makes the call.

DAR Jon Ross checks an RV-4’s innards. (Courtesy Jon Ross)
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As Thomas finished inspecting the aircraft, Schupp used a Phillips-head screwdriver to reaffix the inspection panels and cover the joints between wing and fuselage: He used no power tools for the whole project, he says, and wasn’t going to start now. Joining the top and bottom cowling took some wrangling, but by early afternoon Thomas was checking off boxes on the conformity inspection record. Next to “Overall Workmanship,” he put an “X” by “Outstanding.” When all the boxes in all the checklists were filled, he issued the airworthiness certificate.

Before he left, Thomas watched Schupp taxi to the runway and back in his newly airworthy airplane. But it would be almost two months before the RV-9A set out on its first flight. Schupp had planned to have a test pilot fly it a week later, but became absorbed in the finishing touches—interior work, painting the trim. When it did fly, he says, it was perfect.

Sarah Brown is a Web editor for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.

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