Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Why I sold my airplane

Why I sold my airplane.

If you are in the “I am building” or “going to build” an RV-10 camp then please feel free to skip this entire post and enjoy the many years of posts, pictures, and hopefully helpful insights and building hints on this blog. But, before you go I will answer a few up-front questions:

            If I could go back in time, would I do it again?  

Yes, building my own airplane has become, is, and always will be part of my identity. It is something that defines me and I have an immense amount of pride in what I did. I have absolutely no regrets in this entire process. The day I left the ground in something I built in my backyard workshop is a memory I will never forget. Including the following 40hrs of flight where, technically, I was a the test pilot. I have stories of building and flying this thing that most people will never be able to experience. The friends I have met because of doing this are priceless. The knowledge, skills, and confidence of the entire process is equally priceless.

“Hey, if I can build an airplane I can …”

What will I miss?

There are few things that come front and center with this question. First, the kick-in-pants-rip-roaring take-offs out of the airport. The smooth responsive controls during turns and the slight pull into the seat that you can only get in flight. Second, the compliments from strangers or, better yet, compliments from the tower. Third, just the pride of owning an airplane, especially a beautiful airplane that I built.

What will I not miss?

The annual condition inspection. Something about having to tear apart what you have built every year, well it’s not fun. Actually, just the thought of having to deal with something breaking or any damage to the aircraft was a source of anxiety. The 50kt headwinds we seem to get every time we fly home from Christmas. The massive mountain turbulence that treats you like you’re in a shaker when James Bond orders a martini. Or the very unnerving mountain wave phenomenon. We had a terrifying encounter with this on a night flight home from Sante Fe.

Now on to the rest of the post.

Grab a beer, this is going to be a post that needs it.

Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Good. Take a few swigs, sips, or swallows, however it is you drink a beer, and let’s get started.

How did I get to this decision?

This was not an easy decision.

 I will probably be scoffed at, questioned, or disowned for this decision, but I want to illustrate how hard this actually was. My entire history and life choices have been around aviation. I was that little boy staring at the sky any time an airplane flew over (still guilty of this). I had an airplane blanket throughout my childhood (and it may have come with me when I moved out). My university degree decision was fully based on getting into the aviation industry. I swept hangar floors and washed and fueled helicopters as my first aviation job. Airplanes, airplanes, airplanes. Childhood dream. I got my pilot’s license as soon as I could afford to do so and quickly moved on to my instrument rating. I flew a lot, renting a 172 to get back home for the holidays or out for a long weekend. Moving up into building my own airplane was almost a natural progression. After building, those flights home and elsewhere were happening in style and speed. And it was me, us, we were a family with an airplane that we built. So, needless to say this decision was not taken lightly. In fact, selling the airplane has been a topic of discussion for about the past year now. This topic had kept us company on many late nights and long walks.

But then I realized I am still a pilot and I still built my own airplane and that doesn’t change.

So, what happened?

We weren’t happy

We got this bug, this itch, to leave our current life, home, and area of the country. We weren’t happy with where we were living and the lifestyle we had. So, we decided to renovate our life. We sold our house, the workshop I built went with it of course, and about half our stuff. We paid down all of our debt rather quickly after no longer funding an airplane build. Then we started searching for a new beginning. I even looked for a new career out of aviation just for a new flavor of the day to day grind. We decided to aim West. I had amazing adventures as a young adult there visiting my Dad. So, we moved West searching for this new beginning. Now, don’t get me wrong we love it out here. But there is still one problem, TIME, or the lack there of. More on that in a bit.

I often wonder if I burnt myself out. I consumed aviation and then climbed its Everest (building my own airplane). Working in the industry and then building this beautiful machine caused a great deal of realizations about myself and my industry. Then, I began to question many more decisions in my life. I found I never had the time to do any of the things I really wanted to do. The standard 2 weeks off leaves a lot to be desired. The irony of the situation is that I built a machine to travel and see places but owning it keeps me tied to a desk and prevents the exact thing it was built for. I am an engineer and a builder, I am going to design a way out of this situation! And it needs to be a permanent solution not a duct tape fix (ie: take a few months off, or a gap year), I mean, come on, I’m a builder, a craftsman. I don’t do temporary fix.

As I grow older I am learning that I think I would like to live my life in a series of big picture adventures. Chapters. Passions. I have so many things I want to try, do, build, see that I cannot continue with my past adventures as well, it’s simply a time problem. What good is owning something if you don’t even have the time to use it.

This is a real life, hard knocks, lesson in opportunity cost

When I say “opportunity cost” I want to use both sides of this, time and money. Most of us has had Econ 101, but for a recap here is an example of a time opportunity cost: constant maintenance and use on an airplane comes at the cost of not spending time with your family. Or a monetary opportunity cost example: owning an airplane comes at the cost of your equity being tied in an asset when it could be used to do something else.

I have one child to be a father to and one life to live. My daughter gets older by the day and one of these days she will no longer need or desire my time like she does now. I would like to maximize this time now as much as possible. Also, we all have an expiration date and I have too many things left to do. If I can use a monetary asset I have to create more time for all three of the categories listed above then I believe that this is the best opportunity cost exchange I could have created.

So, what now?

I build things. I am a builder

This is the best summed-up, single word, definition for me. One of things that I have on my long list of things I’d like to do is build a house in the mountains. We moved West, there are mountains, we need a house, houses are expensive here, I build things…it’s time for this adventure to start. But, we didn’t just go out and buy an airplane so why would we just go out and buy a house. We didn’t pay someone to build our airplane so why would I pay a crew to have all the fun of building my house. No, this is MY dream. I am the architect, drafter, engineer, and carpenter. Because I go “extreme” and deep dive into projects. We will be living on site “tiny house” style and building our real house one day at a time. I am truly loving designing the house and knowing that I loved the experience of building my old workshop, I am confident that I will love building the house as well. And then? Were going to stop watching it all literally fly by and travel slower, less planned and more in the moment.

On to the next adventure!


  1. Hi Justin,
    I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog and am about to start building (empennage kit arrives next month). Your post above was a terrific read, thanks for sharing it. Will you be doing a blog for your new home? That’s another project my wife and I would like to do one day down here in Perth... or somewhere else.
    Kind regards,

  2. Thanks for your blog. As a retired Air Force pilot and now an active Airline A Transport Pilot. I understand the importance of family and happiness and I think you did the right thing. I have always wanted to have an airplane and I still don't own one. I hope that I will be able to build an rv-10 like yours. Great work Justin.

  3. You are following your Dreams Justin. Figuring what Time to devote to what is key.

    I also enjoyed your build log and the sharing of joy you have. You have Passion for the things you do!

  4. Great tips !!! Thanks for sharing such nice information. Really it's worth to read blog. Looking forward to see more.
    builders in clapham