How long does it take to build an RV?
That’s probably one of the most difficult questions to answer accurately. There are so many variables and factors that affect building time, almost any answer will only be true for a small number of builders.
As a rough approximation, based on builder reports we estimate 2000-2200 hours of work will complete an RV-3, RV-4 or the big RV-10 from the Standard kit. The more advanced RV-7/7A, RV-8/8A and RV-9/9A standard kits with pre-punched parts take about 400-500 hours less. The most modern matched-hole RV-14/14A kit might take about 1000-1300 hours. The RV-12iS takes the least time: Perfectionists always take longer than average (perfection is a common affliction in airplane building, regardless of model), but most RV-12iS builders average around 800 hours — and a few have completed the whole thing in about 650!
Building from a QuickBuild kit will typically cut these times by 40-50%. QuickBuild kits are available for the RV-7/7A, RV-8/8A, RV-9/9A, RV-10 and RV-14/14A.
To give you some idea of the possible variation, one builder using a QuickBuild Kit for an RV-7 reported 25,000 hours to complete. At the other end of the spectrum Jerry Scott, of Chino, California, completed an award-winning RV-6 from an older Standard Kit (manufactured before any pre-punched components were available) in 85 days. That included paint, avionics, upholstery — everything. Try that on your calculator! There are only 2040 hours in 85 days… so if Jerry worked 12 hours a day with no breaks and no days off, the complete airplane only took 1020 hours. We’ve often wondered what he could do with a QuickBuild!
What can you do to help ensure you finish your RV in a reasonable amount of time?
Keep the airplane simple. Extensive avionics, besides being expensive and heavy, take a lot of time to install. Even small changes to the airframe can consume mind-boggling amounts of time. A fancy paint job can add several long weeks of work. Work consistently. If you can spend a couple of hours on your project every evening, your airplane will take less time to complete than if you work one long day every weekend. Momentum is important.
Make your shop comfortable year-round. You can’t do good work if you’re miserably cold or hot, and you’ll avoid the shop… not the way to get a project done.
Get your friends and family involved, at least to a point. An extra set of hands can save a lot of time, even if they are just shoving clecoes in holes or handing you tools.
Make as many decisions ahead of time as you can. Especially when installing systems, things will go much faster if you’ve thought it through and bought the parts before you actually need them. If you can reach up, grab what you need, and keep building you’ll get done much faster than if you have to stop and page through catalogs at every decision point — especially if you’re doing the research during prime building time.