In order to get some hands-on time with the tools required to build a metal airplane, I took the Synergy Fundamentals class at their facility in Eugene, Oregon. The class was a one-day introduction to the processes and techniques of sheet metal fabrication required to build a Vans RV.
I arrived at the Synergy hanger at the Eugene Mahlon Sweet Airport at 07:00 to meet with our instructor and classmates. Once everyone arrived we took a brief tour if their builder assist facilities where we were able to see several RV-14s and in various stages of being built. Once we finished the tour we jumped straight into class. The first hour or so was spent on a description of the tools required and the basic processes. Once we finished the lecture our instructor let get started in teams on the two kits. Each team had a bench and tools necessary for the kits.
Since the kits are well built with tight tolerances it’s mostly an assembly process. We were able to practice most of the high-level skills like clecoing, deburing, match-drilling, dimpling, riveting and metal bending. The most challenging aspect was learning the jargon and properly interpret the instructions and assembly plans. Overall, I left with more confidence about the process and a healthy respect for the amout of work required.
As soon as the class was over, I grabbed the last fight out of Eugene back to SFO.