What Our Members Are Building/Restoring — New Hampshire Van’s Aircraft RV-7 – Hangar Flying

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By Dave and Ellen Setser, EAA Lifetime 334330 and 1232638.

I’ve been obsessed with aviation since I was about 5 years old. I started taking flying lessons during my senior year of high school and passed my private check ride a year later. But the idea of building my own airplane didn’t really take root until the Air Force assigned me to Edwards Air Force Base in 1991. I joined EAA Chapter 1000 as it was just forming at Edwards, and it seemed like everyone in the chapter had a project underway. But the airplane that caught my eye was the RV, and a couple of years later I was the proud owner of an RV-6A tail kit. But my Air Force duties, evening classes, and other pursuits kept the project on the back burner, and I eventually shelved it.

Fast-forward to 2002. I was out of the Air Force, in Boston, and had just met my wife-to-be, Ellen, when the building bug struck again with full force. I was hesitant to mention my affliction to Ellen, not knowing how she’d respond. But she was really supportive, and we soon had an RV-7 tail kit and a workshop in the basement. Ellen has always been a full partner in the project, learning to rivet like a pro. Someone who agrees to marry you after you start building an airplane is definitely a keeper!

We started building in a small basement in our rental house in suburban Boston and then moved to a large one-car garage when we bought a house just down the street. That’s where we built the wings and fuselage. We were perpetually short on storage space; the wings and tail were stored in our den for a couple of years. Once the big parts came together, we moved to hangar space at the Nashua, New Hampshire, airport. Building was a slow process, around 16 years more or less. We moved several times in that period as my career progressed, often having demanding travel schedules. Family activities — soccer games, skating practice, band concerts — took priority over building. It’s probably true that engineers…

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