“If there were a better airplane out there, I would own it.” – Doug Rozendaal, Rocket owner/pilot
This page is under continuous construction. Check back often.
Q: What’s up with Team Rocket these days?
A: Good question. Mark has stepped back some from the daily grind of making airplane kits, so in 2016, Vince Frazier took over the daily operations. The initial goal was to make enough F1 and F4 parts to allow folks to put together a few of these fine aircraft. We are doing that now. As a matter of fact, there are at least 4 new construction F1s or F4s flying already.
Q: OK, so what do you mean by “make enough parts to allow folks to build a plane?”
A: As parts production continues to ramp up, our goal is to make it possible for you to build a new F1 or F4. Making it easy isn’t necessarily part of the equation! You’ll have to do some homework, source a few easy-to-get parts, and research the available plans and literature enough to know what you’re doing. It’s definitely not for the “100% pre-punched kit” crowd, but then again, they won’t have a Rocket or a Raider when they’re done.
Let me elaborate with a bit of history. In the early 2000’s, Mark was having QB kits built in the Czech Republic. For various reasons, Czech production ceased after about 175 kits were built. Things were quiet for awhile. Then in 2016, Vince began asking Mark about the possibility of getting another kit. The answer was that parts would need to be produced for that to happen. Well, if we’re making parts for one airframe, we might as well make parts for a lot of airframes.
Q: So, what’s the status on getting parts then?
A: CAD drawings for the original parts didn’t exist, or weren’t available. So, new drawings are being made. That takes time… and money. First we made the parts needed to support the existing fleet, i.e. cowlings, wingtips, canopies, engine mounts, gear legs, etc… basically all of the stuff that would be in a “finishing kit” if we were prone to do things the same way as other kit companies. Coincidentally, these are the items most likely to be damaged in any minor incidents, so it made sense to make them first to support the existing fleet.
Next we produced the hard-to-make fuselage bulkheads, ribs, and other formed parts. We delayed the skins and angles until later… because anyone can make those pieces with a pair of snips and a hack saw. Doing this allows people to build a fuselage w/o needing to make the difficult pieces. Makes sense, right? And currently, we can provide most of the skins and angles too… but those are a b*tch to ship, so you can (and should) source these large items yourself. It’s cheaper and we can tell you where to get them. No worries here.
At this point, we have all of the fuselage, fiberglass, canopy, and finishing parts, engine mount, gear legs, related small stuff, and the tail. It’s starting to sound like an airframe to me!
Currently, the only things we aren’t providing are:
1) Hardware. You still must provide your own hardware. This is simply a manpower issue. We don’t have enough manpower to sort out all of the hardware into the sub-kits.
2) Complete wing kits. We’re working on getting these items, but it takes time. Especially when there are 2 choices, the traditional Sport wing, and the completely new design tapered F-wing.
Nonetheless, wings can still be built, per the following:
The Sport wing: Still made from a mixture of RV-4 wing parts, but we can offer a full set of ribs, leading edge skins, and a few other parts. Your best bet here is to find an untouched RV-4 wing kit, or order one from Van’s, and modify it per our instructions.
The tapered F-wing: Development is all but completed on this wing. The pandemic and related events put this project way behind, but we’ve got 3 complete sets of wing parts under construction. Once we validate everything, we’ll announce it’s availability through our newsletter. We’re working on everything as fast as we can!
Q: Tell me more about the wings?
A: The Sport wings have traditionally been based on the very rugged RV-4 wing. We call our version the Sport wing. The Sport wing uses the same ribs, spars, and other components as an RV-4 wing, but the span is shorter and the ribs are closer together.
Currently we do not make the entire Sport wing kit. However, parts are available through Van’s, or from builders who started a tail, but never made it to the RV-4 wings. We can offer the conversion drawings, all of the ribs, and leading edge skins. We did have Phlogiston spars available
We also have all of the proper tooling to make ribs and other wing parts. So, if the RV-4 wing parts do dry up, we’re in good position to start making those parts. We’d do it now, but Van’s parts are cheaper and still available.
Nonetheless, currently we can offer stamped and heat treated main and nose ribs and leading edge skins, if needed.
The newly designed tapered F-wing is designed to replace the older, heavier Evo wing. The Evo wing is not available any longer. The F-wing is designed using modern CAD and simulations, and should give a significant weight savings. In addition, it should have a better CG range than the older Evo wing. We’re working on it as fast as we can!
Q: OK, so parts are available, but it sounds like the builder still needs to source a fair amount of stuff from other vendors, right?
A: Yes, that is correct. I’ll explain more about sourcing parts in a minute, but first let me talk a bit more about what we expect from YOU: Our ideal customer has built one or more airplanes previously, or has a tenacious streak and isn’t afraid to learn. Building an F1 or F4 is NOT the same as building a prepunched, fully documented, cookie cutter RV-8. You’re gonna have to find some of the parts you need, make some decisions, and study the available information to fill in a few gaps in the construction process.
NOTE! As you might expect, since the Rockets are an evolution of the RV-4, building a Rocket (or Raider) is VERY MUCH LIKE BUILDING AN RV-4 as far as the skills, planning, and work required.
It’s not impossible to build one of these aircraft, in fact, it’s how ALL homebuilt airplanes were built until the advent of CAD, CNC machining, and other advances in manufacturing made it possible to pre-punch an entire airframe.
Also, if the entire kit isn’t pre-planned and pre-punched, it allows the builder some flexibility on customizing the aircraft.
Q: I heard that there are Empennage mods?
A: Some of you already know that we decided to make a few changes to the empennage to optimize its design. These changes became the MK3 tail. Please note that the VNe hasn’t changed, we’ve just tried to make the design even better based on what’s been learned over the past 20 years. So, the MK3 is the currently recommended tail for the F1 Rockets.
Q: I heard that the F4 Raider uses a different tail?
A: Yes, that is somewhat correct. If a builder is building an F4 Raider, i.e. the lower powered 4 cylinder version, and intends to fly it in an RV-4 speed envelope, there should be no reason that an RV-4 tail couldn’t be used on the machine. (Or an RV-8 tail.) The RV tails would be slightly lighter than the MK3 tail which is advantageous for the CG with a 4 cylinder engine. You probably should discuss your plans with Vince before diving into the various wing, tail, and engine combinations that should be acceptable.
Q: Is the F1 and F4 pre-punched?
A: Not really. Although, some parts are, like the firewall, #4 bulkhead, some of the optional skins, and portions of the new MK3 empennage. We’re working on getting more items all the time.
Q: OK, now what’s the price please?
A: You can get the items discussed above from us. Currently, the available fuselage, finishing parts, engine mounts, etc…. excluding the non-spar parts of the Sport wing … comes to about $25-30K depending on engine mount, canopy, and cowl choices. Seriously interested parties can contact me for a current quote.
In addition to the items that we produce, you’ll need: wing parts, and assorted hardware, plus the usual instruments, paint, upholstery, engine, prop, and so forth.
Of course, there are lots of unfinished RV-4 kits languishing in garages all over the country. Keep an eye out for them!
All in all, we’ve got the difficult parts produced and we expect you to do the rest. If you’re not inclined to do the rest, we suggest that you find one of the hired guns and negotiate with them.
Q: What about plans?
A: You must have the RV-4 preview plans, and a set of HRII plans, both available from their respective kit vendors. Team Rocket has a photo based manual that shows the previous QB building process. In addition, we have a large cache of relevant documents maintained online, including a “slow-build” fuselage manual, Sport wing conversion drawings, and a LOT of other info. If you have these documents, you have a good start on the information required to build your aircraft.
We also suggest that you make use of the various builder websites such as www.vincesrocket.com and many others. Refer to the links page for more website links, and do a browser search occasionally to look for new pages, which seem to pop up regularly.
We’re working on updating the drawings, as mentioned previously, so that we can produce additional resources. Admittedly, it’s a low priority compared to getting parts built, but our engineer says he’s working on it.
Q: What’s the difference between the F1 Rocket and the F4 Raider?
A: The F1 Rocket is defined by having a 6 cylinder engine, usually a Lycoming IO-540, although a few Continental IO-5xx are out there. All F1 Rockets use the Sport wing or previously used the Evo wing. Evo wings are no longer available. However, as of August 2020, we are working on a new tapered wing and are making prototype parts for it. Follow our website and newsletter for more info on that.
The Sport wing is a clone of an HRII wing, aka a converted RV-4 wing that has shorter span, closer rib spacing, and usually larger fuel tanks.
An F1 Rocket uses a Team Rocket empennage too. Currently recommended is the Mk3 empennage, which is available from us.
The F4 Raider is a 4-cylinder powered version of the Rocket. The engine, wing, and tail choices muddy up the picture, but we’re trying to offer choices that will allow builders to use more economical engines, wings, and tails. Refer to the illustration above for more info.
There are often surplus RV-4 or RV-8 parts out there for sale. You can use them in various combinations, with a bit of planning, to build your dream plane. The good news is that there are 3 flying F4s out there, so this isn’t an untried concept.
4 cylinder engines, Lycoming or equivalent clones, in the horsepower range of 180 to 200+ are appropriate for an F4.
If you’re using a 4 cylinder engine, which is what defines the F4 Raider, you can use the Sport wing above.
Note: You MUST fly the F4 Raider to RV-4 speeds and loadings if you’re using an unconverted RV-4 wing. This is simple physics. The longer span of those wings and the slightly heavier weight of the F4 fuselage demand your respect.
The empennage choices include the 4 or 8 tail or the Mk3 tail.
We can’t tell you which one flies better, the F1 or the F4. I’m not gonna touch that opinion-based question. However, Vince is building an F4, 210hp Titan IO-370, with an RV-4 wing and, most likely, a 3-blade Hartzell prop. ‘nuf said!
Q: Can you at least offer some info on the flight characteristics of the F1 and F4.
A: Yes. I (Vince) have 350 hours in my own F1 Rocket. It flies great. Very nimble. Very powerful. Very fast. The higher wing loading helps it ride nicely in rough air. The big engine makes it laugh at short runways… during take off anyway! Landings are actually pretty easy too. The big prop flattens out and really puts on the brakes. And the ground handling is a real snooze. These things are pussycats on the ground (but get proper training anyway!).
The F1s tend to be somewhat nose heavy. However, you can load nearly anything in the back without concern for CG. According to Mark, the F1 is difficult to hold in a spin because the nose falls out. Now, the resulting dive can get hairy though. These things really pick up speed quickly downhill.
The F4 flight characteristics are reported to be very much like the RV-8, which is exactly what you’d expect. Lighter wing loading, a wee bit more economical, and still plenty fast. What’s not to like?
Q: What’s the difference between RV-4 wings, HRII wings, and Sport wings?
A: Don’t let the wing name confuse you. All of these wings are descendants of the RV-4 wing. The HRII wing came first, then the Sport wings were cloned from the HRII wing. Any of these can be built from RV-4 parts… because they are all peas in a pod.
Skins aren’t thicker unless you use a one-piece main skin to eliminate the skin joint. We don’t like that though. It needlessly adds weight to the outboard skin.
Q: What are the mods to make an RV-4 wing into a Rocket wing:
A: The fuel tanks are typically made larger. The tank root rib moves outboard slightly to clear the wider fuselage. Finally, the ribs are spaced closer together and the span is shortened by about 7″ per wing.
Q: How much are EVO wings?
A: Only about 24 sets of EVO wings were produced previously, versus about 150 Sport wings. At this time we do not plan to offer EVO wings. We hope to have the newly design tapered F-wing available in the near future.
Q: How much are the quick build kits?
A: Sorry. We don’t directly offer QB kits at this time.
However, QB kits are now available through any of several “hired gun” shops! Any of these shops can help you to construct your QB fuselage. This will be an agreement between you and the affiliate. Team Rocket will not be involved except to send parts to your designee.
One shop is currently offering to construct your QB fuselage for around $12,500. That price is for labor only. Additional parts, or options, would be extra. Other shops may be more or less. Contact the shops yourself.
Please note: We don’t recommend any shop over another. That is up to you to decide.
Q: How complete are the slow build kits?
A: You can find a relatively complete parts list for fuselage, empennage, and finishing kits here. Things are changing fast and this website simply cannot keep up. Contact us directly to discuss options, costs, and simply so we can get to know you.
Notice: We may never have a complete Sport wing kit, but we keep getting closer. We have all of the tooling to produce Sport wings, we are offering main and nose rib kits. Next are partially punched skins. We’ll keep working on getting the rest of the parts also, but for now, some of them will have to come from other well-known sources.
Q: What’s the difference between the F1 Rocket and the F4 Raider? (For those who didn’t get enough from the chart above!)
A: Everyone is familiar with the F1 Rocket, a well-proven, 6 cylinder Lycoming powered, aluminum airframe, ultimate sport plane. The F4 Raider is our answer to those who wanted a lighter, slightly more sedate, but still an amazing performer, with a 4 cylinder Lycoming engine.
The primary difference is that the F4 uses an extended engine mount to move the 4 cylinder engine forward. The prop remains in the same position as on the F1.
The lighter weight of the 4 cylinder engine requires that the battery and other heavy accessories be moved up in front of the firewall. Whereas the F1, which typically is nose heavy, has the battery behind the baggage compartment.
The lighter weight of the 4 cylinder engine also may require a constant speed metal prop for CG reasons, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Naturally, installations will vary and other items, such as smoke systems, extra baggage compartments, or other equipment could be moved around as required to obtain the correct CG on the F4.
Q: What do I do if I have severe buildertitis and the only cure is to start banging rivets immediately?
A: Hundreds of HRIIs have been built using a mix of Van’s and Harmon and F1 parts in the past. It is still a viable option. Ask Vince for more info, or browse www.vincesrocket.com for more info on slow building a Rocket or Raider.
Q: What options are commonly found on the Rockets or Raiders?
A: There are a few cowling choices,
and there are a couple of canopy options. There are two basic options: a sliding canopy and a tilt-over, aka “flopper” canopy.
The slider seems to be the most popular, but the flopper is certainly a viable option. Rather than trying to describe each and every detail of the canopies, let’s look at the pros and cons, then YOU decide.
A: Blake and Vince Frazier, Scott Burge, Toby Konnersman, and possibly Mark Frederick and maybe others, will be at the EAA Airventure show each year. We’ll be in the homebuilt vendor area at the north end of the show, just south of the warbirds. We’ll be in space, 644 and 645, for the 2024 show.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to say?
A: We will add more information here as time allows. Until then, www.vincesrocket.com was the very first Rocket web site on the web. Of course, that means that it is a bit dated, but, nonetheless, it still is packed with good info, including the FAQ page. Please have a look at those FAQs also. When you’re done, visit the More Links page too.
We all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. Wilbur and Orville Wright, many others, then Ray Stits, Richard Van Grunsven, and John Harmon http://www.harmonrocket.com/ all deserve a tip of the hat. John deserves applause for picking up where Van left off and getting all of this Rocket madness started.
Another tip of the hat goes to Mark Frederick, still Rocketing down in Taylor, Texas for first putting the Rocket series into kit form back in 1999. Mark is currently building a supercharged Continental powered, Evo wing race monster. And, no, it’s not available, but you can go watch Mark race it someday.