Greg Hale brings automotive styling to the cockpit
BY Max Trescott
32 Sport Aviation June 2011 PHOTOGRAPHY BY Brady Lane www.eaa.org 33
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.”
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
“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
“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
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:
Advanced Flight Systems angle of attack indicator
The right panel contains:
Advanced Flight Systems engine monitor
Xenarc MDT-X7000 7-inch touch-screen VGA monitor
The center avionics stack contains:
Garmin GMA 340 audio panel
Dual Garmin SL30 nav/comms
Garmin GTX 330 transponder
34 Sport Aviation June 2011 PHOTOGRAPHY BY Brady Lane
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.”
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
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
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.
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
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
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
RICH OF PEAK
LEAN OF PEAK
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 days...it’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 www.MaxTrescott.com.
For step-by-step explanations on Greg’s modifications and
to see more build photos, visit www.SportAviation.org.
36 Sport Aviation June 2011 PHOTOGRAPHY BY Brady Lane, John Dettor and courtesy of Greg Hale