As a teenager, Ken Rieder never imagined he’d build one airplane, let alone fly his own homebuilt aircraft as a professional airshow pilot. Today, Ken pushes the Van’s Aircraft RV-8 to its limit as the lead pilot of Redline Airshows — and he’s building his fifth RV kitplane in his spare time.

Dreams Take Flight

Like many kit builders, Ken’s homebuilding dream started at an early age. In particular, he was inspired by an advertisement for the RV-3, RV-4, and RV-6 on the back of a mid-1980s Kitplanes magazine.

“I remember tearing off the cover and hanging it on my wall, telling myself, ‘I’d like to build one of these someday,’” Ken said. “When the time came, I narrowed it down to the RV-8, which was Van’s newest kit at the time.”

Ken started building his first RV-8 — kit #252 — in 1997. When he completed the aircraft in three years, he was told he was likely one of the first 25 builders in the country to have it finished.

“I loved that airplane,” Ken said. “But about a year later, I ended up selling it for about twice as much as I had in it. As soon as I sold it, I decided I was going to build two more.”

Ken built his next two RVs as an identical pair. He sold one and flew the second for a while before setting out to build a fourth RV-8 stressed for aerobatics, which he currently flies in a dynamic two-ship formation performance alongside his longtime friend Adam Baker (flying an Extra 330) at airshows around the country.

A Family Affair

Experts say the best way to build an airplane is with the support of family and loved ones. That’s why Ken chose to build his fifth RV-8 with his middle son, Austin, who also enjoys flying formation aerobatics.

With four RV builds now under his belt, Ken says the process is much easier than when he first started homebuilding. The biggest challenge is finding time in his busy schedule to work on the airplane between airshow performances, flying as an airline pilot, and running a construction business. With help from his son, Ken expects to complete the current airplane project in less than three years.

“We’re putting together a slow build kit, which means nothing comes pre-assembled,” he explained. “But everything is pre-punched, so you can literally put the airplane together on a table. It’s unbelievable how well the parts fit together. The engineering is just incredible.”

Initial assembly of the airplane’s individual components will take place in Ken’s detached garage near Cincinnati, Ohio. Then, he plans to put the airframe on a trailer and complete the final assembly, including the engine and propeller installation, in his hangar at the nearby airport.

Hartzell’s advanced structural composite propellers are Ken’s prop of choice on his RV-8s, not only for the precision and control needed in formation aerobatics but also for fast, efficient cross-country cruise performance. “I’ve been flying with Hartzell propellers for ten years now, and I look forward to adding one to this latest RV,” he said.

When asked what advice he would give to first-time kitplane builders, Ken explained, “The completed airplane looks complex to build. But actually, each component of it is a simple job. There’s just a lot of simple jobs to finish the airplane.”

Most importantly, Ken enjoys the building process. He added, “I find that I have almost as much fun building the airplanes as flying them!”

The Redline Airshows team, made up of Ken Rieder and Adam “Shakenbake” Baker, is coming to an air show near you! As a longtime sponsor of Redline Airshows, Hartzell Propeller is proud to provide propeller support for Ken’s 200-hp RV-8, helping him accomplish daring aerobatic maneuvers safely and effectively.