Mod Masterpiece - Left Seat
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Mod Masterpiece - Left Seat

Mod Masterpiece


Greg Hale brings automotive styling to the cockpit

BY Max Trescott

32 Sport Aviation June 2011 PHOTOGRAPHY BY Brady Lane 33

Mod Masterpiece


1. Environmental controls for the air conditioning are installed overhead.

2. A smooth spinner without screws on the outside was accomplished with an internal

flange inside the spinner with an attached backing plate.

3. The $144 tail-mounted camera has a 170-degree field of view and is wired to the

onboard computer for viewing in flight and for recording.

4. A 7-inch retractable touch-screen computer plays DVDs or CDs. Software includes

a weight and balance program Greg wrote and avionics manuals.


“The RV-10 impressed us since you could

load four passengers and bags and be well

within the maximum gross weight and CG.

And as a homebuilt, it opened up a lot of

possibilities for interior configurations not

available on certified aircraft.”

—Greg Hale

When Greg Hale set out to

build an RV-10, he had a

simple vision: He wanted

a cockpit interior that

more closely resembled a

Lexus than an airplane. By the time he finished,

Greg made more than 25 major modifications,

inside and out, from a custom nose spinner to

a tail-mounted camera, all of which he details

on his website. The result is perhaps the most

highly modified RV-10 in the fleet and the 2011

Sun ’n Fun Reserve Grand Champion kit plane.

It’s no surprise the project blended the

aviation and automotive worlds, as Greg has

been rebuilding and customizing cars as

long as he’s been flying. His first car was a

1961 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia convertible.

“It was made from two junked cars, and the

paint job was done with Krylon spray paint,”

Greg said. “I still have the spray cap indentation

on my finger.”

While building his car, he found a way to

earn his private certificate by the age of 17

for $550, which was cheap even in 1968. In

college, Greg earned a bachelor’s degree in

aeronautical technology and completed his

A&P mechanic certificate.

His career began in the engineering

department at Beechcraft where he was

responsible for the firewall forward

of the Beech T-34C Mentor before

becoming a production test pilot. After

1,000 hours of flying for Beechcraft,

he worked as a corporate pilot for several

companies. During this time, he

worked with friends to build his first

airplane, a VariEze, in 1978. His career

took him to the airlines, beginning

with Republic Airlines, which through

a series of acquisitions became

Northwest and most recently Delta.

“Once I started flying for the airlines, I

got out of general aviation,” Greg said.

Twelve years ago he earned his helicopter

certificate in a Bell 47. “All of the

old smells came back from learning to

fly,” he said. He was hooked again.

Greg built a one-man helicopter,

a Revolution Mini 500, and it was

his search in Tulsa for someone willing

to share a hangar that led him to Al

Howerton. Al was interested in building

a Van’s RV-8 and at the time Greg

was interested in a Globe Swift, but

realized an RV-8 would be newer and

faster. Their partnership blossomed

from there.

“We built the RV-8 as a fairly standard

airplane in just nine months,” Greg

said. Even so, it had a number of modifications,

some of which found their way

into the RV-10, too. The RV-8’s awardwinning

paint scheme used 14 colors of

automotive paint and was reminiscent

of the street rods that Greg also likes to

build. Over the years he has rebuilt a

basket case 1967 Corvette coupe, customized

a 1977 Toyota Corolla, and

rebuilt a 1966 Mustang convertible for

his wife, Kathy.

Fiberglass Panel and Console

Two years later Greg was ready to build

again. “We were already sold on the

Van’s aircraft, and the RV-10 impressed

us since you could load four passengers

and bags and be well within the

maximum gross weight and CG. And

as a homebuilt, it opened up a lot of

possibilities for interior configurations

not available on certified aircraft,” Greg


As you enter Greg’s finished airplane,

the dominant feature is the custom

instrument panel and central console.

“In 2004 we went to Oshkosh and the

Chelton EFIS was the hottest thing,”

Greg said. “So we decided to build the

instrument panel around a pair of them.”

The standard RV-10 instrument

panel is a flat piece of aluminum, but

since he wanted an interior that flowed

together, Greg designed and built a custom-fit

fiberglass panel with aluminum

panel inserts to hold the avionics. Using

his computer and inexpensive CAD

(computer-aided design) software, he

designed a wood panel to check for fit.

Then he used the wood panel to create a

mold for the final fiberglass panel.

He got the idea for the fiberglass

panel from Lancair and noted at that

time, “Fiberglass instrument panels

were not that readily available for other

aircraft.” The central console, also

made of fiberglass, flows up the center

of the instrument panel, creating space

for a central stack of avionics. That idea

was borrowed from the Cirrus SR20

and SR22.

“The armrest for the console was

made out of 2-inch-thick polyurethane

foam. The base of the armrest is a 1/4-

inch PVC foam lay-up,” Greg said. “I

used the armrest base as a pattern to

cut the 2-inch foam. The foam was

bonded to the base, and then two layers

of glass cloth were applied to foam.”

The armrest was undersized to allow

for a padded leather covering. It opens

to reveal a glove box.

Greg purchased a custom throttle

quadrant from DJM Manufacturing

and modified the throttle to add a “T”

handle, similar to the throttle in the

Cirrus SR22. He also made shorter prop

and mixture levers.

The central console covers the “tunnel,”

a central passageway through which

2 3


Instrument Panel Inserts

The panels were made by Ideal Specialty in Tulsa from 1/8-inch

aluminum. They were black anodized, and lettering was laseretched

into the panels.

The left panel contains:

Dual Cheltons

Advanced Flight Systems angle of attack indicator

Rudder trim

Dynon EFIS-D10A

The right panel contains:

Advanced Flight Systems engine monitor

TruTrak autopilot

Xenarc MDT-X7000 7-inch touch-screen VGA monitor

DVD player

The center avionics stack contains:

Onboard computer

Garmin GMA 340 audio panel

Dual Garmin SL30 nav/comms

Garmin GTX 330 transponder

34 Sport Aviation June 2011 PHOTOGRAPHY BY Brady Lane 35

Mod Masterpiece


Greg flies his RV-10 in formation alongside the RV-8 with the award-winning paint

job that he built with Al.

Modified RV-10 Specifications

“I created flip-up doors

like you’d find in

street rods to cover the

switches. Nobody was

doing that in aircraft

at the time.”

—Greg Hale

TOP: A flip-up door opens to reveal a series of

swithes on the center console.

Left: Greg connects the rudder pedals to the cables

inside the “tunnel” with attachment bolts passing

through “smiley face” slots.

Right: Under the central console is the “tunnel”

where fuel lines, rudder cables, air conditioning

hoses, and avionics cables are routed out of view.

fuel lines, cables from the pedals to the

rudder, coaxial cables to antennas, and air

conditioning hoses are routed out of view.

In stock RV-10s, the rudder cables come out

through the sides of the tunnel to connect

to the pedals. But that didn’t fit with Greg’s

vision for the interior.

Instead, he kept the rudder cables

inside of the tunnel and used a router to

cut a “smiley face” slot on both sides of the

tunnel near the rudder pedals. Attachment

bolts pass through the slots to connect the

rudder pedals’ vertical tubes to fittings

inside the tunnel that connect to the rudder

cables, while maintaining the cables’

original length. A pair of cable covers, one

with a larger diameter than the other, were

slipped inside of each other and over each

rudder cable to prevent the cables from

contacting the air conditioning hoses.

The control stick is from Infinity

Aerospace. Switches on the stick control

the flaps, roll/pitch trim, microphone,

boost pump, engine start, and autopilot disconnect.

The engine start switch goes to a

Smart Start from TCW Technologies, the

same company that makes the safety trim

system used in the RV-10. With Smart Start,

a separate activation switch is hidden in the

airplane. After that switch is pushed, the

pilot has one minute to start the airplane

before the start circuit is deactivated. This

protects against accidentally pressing the

start switch with the engine running.

It’s All About the Entertainment System

Greg previously built a 1932 Ford Tudor

Sedan street rod, and he chose a number

of automotive parts and amenities for the

RV-10, like seat belt harnesses, upholstery,

cup holders, and an entertainment system.

Particularly impressive is the plane’s

in-dash computer and 7-inch touchscreen

VGA monitor, designed for panel

mounting in cars. The monitor, a Xenarc

MDT-X7000, has a motorized display

that retracts into the panel when it’s not

in use. It contains a DVD drive that lets

you view movies on the screen or play

audio CDs. When switched to PC mode,

its touch-screen works like a computer

mouse, allowing you to click, select, and

drag objects on the screen.

Although Xenarc no longer sells the

particular computer Greg installed, a similar

one with a 160 GB drive, the Stealth

LPC-460 computer, is available from

another company. His software includes

operating manuals for the avionics and an

RV-10 weight and balance program that

Greg wrote and gives away on his website.

Slide-out silver cup holders, originally

designed for cars, are installed on both

sides of the instrument panel. Greg found

that the pilot’s side cup holder is perfect

for supporting his Apple iPad in a landscape

orientation. He uses the iPad in

flight primarily for instrument approach

procedure charts.

But he also likes to print out approach

charts as a backup in case the aircraft loses

power. To hold those charts and to have a

place to write down ATIS information and

IFR clearances, he designed and fabricated

a removable desk. A Quick-Clamp universal

clipboard from Sporty’s was modified

for insertion into tubes installed in the console’s

armrest storage compartment.

Cruising in Comfort

Greg liked the seat cushions supplied with

the RV-10, but they didn’t evoke the Lexus

feel he sought. So he used Chuck’s Auto

Reupholstery, a local Tulsa interior shop, to

build the seats, interior panels, and instrument

panel eyebrow. The main interior

covering is tan Ultraleather; tan Ultrasuede

was used for the headliner and baggage

area. None of the hardware attaching the

interior is visible.

“The idea for the back seats was to

have them curve into the sidewalls to

appear like one continuous molding.

The back seat has a one-piece bottom

and top, but is built to look like two separate

seats,” Greg said. “Both seats are

removable in case I need the area for

cargo or for the annual inspection. The

back support for the seat was made from

1/4-inch PVC foam. Heat was applied

to the top edge as the foam was bent to

allow the seat back to cover the cabin

support beam.”

Greg chose to custom fit his seats with

automotive inertial reel shoulder harnesses

from Seatbelt Pros. The front seat retractor

attaches to the back of the front spar using doubler

plates placed on both sides of the spar. An

aluminum cover encloses the retractor front

spar area. A fiberglass cover hides the shoulder

harness for the front seats.

For the back seats, the inertia reel was

installed on the cabin cross bar. A plate

added to the cross bar reinforces it at the

inertia reel attachment points. A cover hides

the inertia reels.

To keep passengers comfortable, environmental

controls are located on a switch panel

cut into the overhead air conditioning duct. All

heat controls are servo operated using controls

from Perihelion Design that allow rheostats to

control the servos positions.

Most of the switches in the aircraft are

hidden from view. “I created flip-up doors

like you’d find in street rods to cover the

switches,” Greg said. “Nobody was doing that

in aircraft at the time.”

Greg used fuses instead of circuit breakers

to protect the electrical system, since

circuit breakers were more expensive and

didn’t go with the interior layout he had in

mind. The fuse panels were installed on the

left forward kick panel. A removable pocket

hides the fuse panel from view. Lights and

light controls are the same as those used

in Cirrus aircraft, though the bulbs were

changed from 28 to 12 volts.

The baggage compartment contains a custom

storage box for holding a roll of paper

towels, 2 quarts of oil, fuel strainer, and tiedowns.

The box is mounted in the aft bulkhead

panel and recesses into the tail cone.

The air conditioning return cover was not

used in the final interior layout. Instead, a false

upper bulkhead panel was installed 1 inch in

front of the upper baggage compartment back

panel to hide the return vent.

Seats: 4

Length: 24 feet, 5 inches

Wingspan: 31 feet, 9 inches

Height: 8 feet, 8 inches

Wing area: 148 square feet


55 percent power at 12,000 feet

Firewall Forward

The RV-10 is designed to accommodate engines

ranging from 210 to 260 hp, and Greg chose

the 260-hp Lycoming IO-540 engine. He

mated it with a three-blade propeller from

AeroComposites, noting he liked its larger

blades better than other alternatives.

The propeller included a spinner, which he

modified to eliminate the screws on the outside.

To do this, he fabricated an internal flange

inside the spinner to which he attached a backing

plate. The spinner close-outs are riveted to

the backing plate.

Since he selected an Airflow Systems air

conditioning system, the cowling needed

modification to reroute some of the hot air

exiting the cowling away from the air conditioning

condenser scoop. To minimize the

amount of epoxy fill required, he recessed the

Airflow Systems aluminum vent into the sides

of the cowling. Epoxy and No. 407 filler were

applied around the outside of the vent and

over the rivets.

Greg modified Van’s standard baffle kit

to accommodate the air conditioning compressor.

New attachment brackets were

made, and the baffling on the forward left

side was made removable to allow access to

the compressor.

He originally installed the fuel valve in

the console, but he said, “I realized that it

was 8 inches above the suggested position

from Van’s. That could make it difficult for

the fuel to gravity feed at low fuel tank levels.”

To place the fuel valve lower, he purchased

another valve from Andair with a 6-inch

Empty weight: 1,848 pounds

Max gross weight: 2,800 pounds

Engine: Lycoming IO-540, 260 hp

Propeller: Three-bladed AeroComposites

Fuel capacity: 120 U.S. gallons



CRUISE 155 knots 151 knots

FUEL BURN 12.5 gph 9 gph

extension, resulting in it being an inch lower

than Van’s standard installation.

He replaced the standard induction filter

with one developed by Rod Bower Aviation.

It consists of a round aluminum can that

encases the filter and a ram air valve that

allows air to bypass the filter. On the ground,

the ram air valve is closed so the engine

receives filtered air. Greg modified the push/

pull cable so that a Mac servo and a switch on

the console control it.

The first flight of the RV-10 was May 27,

2010. In cruise, Greg runs the engine at 21

inches of manifold pressure and 2300 rpm for

55 percent power. That yields a cruise speed at

12,000 feet of 155 knots when running rich of

peak at 12.5 gph, or 151 knots when running lean

of peak at 9 gph.

Van’s Aircraft estimates the RV-10 can

be built in 2,000 hours. Greg said he hadn’t

added up the hours, but he worked on the

plane for about six hours a day on each of

the 14-18 days off he had each month when

he was not flying for the airlines. Add that

up over the five years he worked on the

plane, and it’s likely Greg put in more than

5,000 hours to construct his dream plane.

Now that he has his Lycoming-powered

Lexus with wings, it’s not surprising Greg’s next

project is to fly the plane and have fun. If you’re

wondering what he’s driving to get to the airport

these’s a tiny little Smart Car. “It

saves me gas money so I can fly.”

Max Trescott, EAA 531980, is an aviation author

and publisher, and he was the 2008 National CFI of

the Year. For more of his articles, go to

For step-by-step explanations on Greg’s modifications and

to see more build photos, visit

36 Sport Aviation June 2011 PHOTOGRAPHY BY Brady Lane, John Dettor and courtesy of Greg Hale 37

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