This blog covers the construction and flying of a Van’s AircraftRV–8, built and flown by Kevin Horton.
I had thoughts of someday building my own aircraft from the time I was a teenager, but never took it beyond the fantasy stage until after arriving at Cold Lake, Alberta as a freshly minted test pilot. One of the other test pilots there was building an RV–4, and he told me fantastical tales of the performance and flying qualities. I did some research, and learned that Richard Van Grunsven (Van), had designed a very well loved all-metal single seater, the RV–3, followed by the two-place tandem RV–4, and the two-place side-by-side RV–6, all with tail-wheel landing gear. And then the RV–6A, with tricycle landing gear. All models had a good all-round performance and were reputed to have excellent handling. I was tempted, but the time wasn’t right. As always, there were one or two things to get done in life first, and then the time would be perfect.
A few years passed, and I eventually realized that as soon as you got one of those roadblocks out of the way another one appeared, and the “perfect time” never arrived. If you wanted to get something done in life, you just needed to get started.
One day I learned that Van had come out with the RV–8, which was two-seat tandem like the RV–4, but with much more baggage space, 10 gallons more fuel and a wider cockpit and instrument panel. I had visions of quite a bit of cross country flying, possibly in Instrument Flight Rules (IFR), so baggage space, fuel capacity and a large instrument panel were all attractive. This was the trigger I needed to get off my butt and start this grand project. I did a demo ride at Oshkosh in 1997, and was very happy with the aircraft, so I ordered the tail kit.
I looked at the tail kit as the litmus test - I would use it to see if I enjoyed the building process. If I did, I would continue. If not, I would sell the tail kit and drop the idea of building an aircraft. I found that the building process was very enjoyable, and was good way to relieve stress after a busy day at work. I carried on, doing a bit at a time, like the proverbial mouse eating the elephant. And one day, many years later, I had an aircraft. And it flew.
Construction started in the fall of 1997, and first flight was almost 11 years later in August 2008. The beautiful Golden Hawkspaint scheme was finally done in the spring of 2010.
The aircraft has about 230 hours on it now (May 2013), and Terry and I have finally started to do some regular traveling with it. We took it to the huge EAA Fly-In at Oshkosh, WI in 2010 and 2011. I got to Sun n Fun in 2012, and we have flow it to Nova Scotia and Wisconsin several times. I try to fly the aircraft every week that I am home, if the weather cooperates.
Monday, April 14 2014 @ 07:51 PM EDT Contributed by: Kevin Horton Views: 13
I was in Wichita all week last week, for some avionics ground testing. The long-awaited first flight of the Lear 85 occurred while we were there, but we didn’t see it as we were beavering away doing testing on an avionics test rig.
Saturday the weather was quite nice, and I found pretty smooth air at altitude, so I took advantage to do some cruise performance testing. I’ve had the impression that the aircraft was slightly faster with the new four pipe exhaust system, but hadn’t gathered any hard cruise performance data until this last flight. I need to crunch the data and convert it to standard weight, altitude and temperature so I can compare it to my previous results. But, I need to finish my taxes first, so the data crunching is on the back burner for now.
Sunday, April 06 2014 @ 07:51 PM EDT Contributed by: Kevin Horton Views: 19
After we decided to cancel the planned Sun ’n Fun trip, we decided we should do something that week, as we had both booked it off work. Terry had wanted to go to Las Vegas for years, so we decided to do that instead. We got some cheap tickets, and spent five nights there. The weather was very nice, and we had a good week, but it was great to get home late Friday night.
Today the weather was perfect, so I did a short flight. It was wonderful to see that the snow is melting, with many areas of bare ground. And I didn’t have to clear any snow from in front of the hangar! Hallelujah!
I kept an eye on the weather for the cancelled trip to SNF and back. The weather for the flight down on Monday would have worked out - clear skies, with a strong tailwind. It would have been pretty bumpy over the Appalachians, but we would have made great time. However, the weather for the trip home on Friday would have been a huge problem. There was a very strong low pressure area over New York state and southern Ontario, with solid cloud and cool temperatures. There would very likely have been icing in the cloud if we flew IFR. It might have been possible to get back VFR, under the cloud at 1000 ft, or lower, but scud-running like that runs a significant risk of an accident. Saturday wasn’t any better for the return, as there was still significant low cloud in the Ottawa area. Sunday was good on the north end of the trip, but there was a significant frontal system with thunderstorms to deal with on the southern half. It would have been necessary to come part way home on Saturday, and finish the trip on Sunday. Overall, I’m glad we cancelled.
Monday, March 24 2014 @ 08:22 PM EDT Contributed by: Kevin Horton Views: 20
My new Odyssey PC–680 battery finally arrived a few days ago, and today’s weather forecast was the best for coming week, so I took the day off. I replaced the battery and cleaned all the connections in the power and ground paths between the battery and the starter. The starter cranked much better than it had previously, so I’m happy. I’m not sure yet whether the issue was really a soft battery, or too much resistance in the power or ground paths. I’ll cobble together a way to do a capacity test on the battery I removed, to see whether it is suffering from the same issues as many other RVers have complained about with the recent Odyssey batteries.
The heat shields I needed to protect the SCAT tube for the second heat muff also arrived, so I installed that guy too.
The hardest job of the day was dealing with the aftermath of the big snow storm we had on Saturday. The volunteer airport snow clearing crew has had a very hard winter. They normally do an excellent job, but this time they didn’t clear all the way to the end of the taxiway, so I had a lot of snow to clear before I could go flying. The short flight was a nice reward after all that hard work.
Sunday, March 23 2014 @ 07:50 PM EDT Contributed by: Kevin Horton Views: 23
We’ve decided to cancel our plans to fly to Sun ’n Fun this year. My work schedule has evolved, and now I must head on the road the week after SNF. This winter has really dragged on, and the weather many days would not be suitable to fly back home due to too much cloud. In the summer, I’m happy to fly IFR in the cloud, but that isn’t an option if the temperature at altitude is below freezing, as there is a risk of airframe icing. If I didn’t have the hard requirement to get home in time to head on the road again I’d be happy to take the risk of getting stuck somewhere for a few days waiting for the weather to improve. But, if I absolutely have to get home, I’d have to abandon the aircraft somewhere and find another way home.
We’ve decided to avoid these issues by cancelling the trip. We’ll save SNF for years when I have more flexibility on the return schedule.
Sunday, March 09 2014 @ 08:10 PM EDT Contributed by: Kevin Horton Views: 35
I had a very nice short flight Saturday afternoon. I had planned to fly on Sunday, as that day had the best forecast. But, the weather Saturday was much nicer than expected, and Sunday’s forecast looked to be degrading, do after lunch on Saturday I decided to grab the good weather, rather than trusting that the next day would be as nice.
It seemed like everyone else at Smiths Falls was flying too, so I headed down to Brockville to do a practice approach and some touch and goes. The weather was gorgeous there too, but no one was flying.
After landing, I took a couple of pictures to try out the new Sony SEL1018 ultra wide-angle zoom lens I had purchased earlier in the day. I’ve only taken a couple of dozen pictures with this lens so far, but I’m really liking it.
Sunday, March 02 2014 @ 07:49 PM EST Contributed by: Kevin Horton Views: 76
We got several inches of fluffy snow on Saturday, so no flying yesterday. The snow stopped early this morning, so I headed out to the airport to clear the snow from in front of the hangar and go flying. The airfield snow clearing took longer than I had expected, so I didn’t get airborne until just before lunch.
The Flying Club’s big Sicard Snowmaster snow blower was busy most of the morning, clearing the runway and the edges of the taxiways.
By the time I got back from flying, the sun on the paved taxiways had melted most of the snow left by the snow plow.
Sun ’n Fun planning is proceeding apace. I’ve ordered my 2014 US Customs User Fee Decal, and have done some preliminary route planning. We plan to spend a day in Savannah, GA on the way down. Savannah was founded in 1733, and much of the old city has survived. Terry read “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”, set in Savannah, and she has wanted to visit the city ever since.
Sunday, February 23 2014 @ 08:30 PM EST Contributed by: Kevin Horton Views: 69
I spent a few hours at the airport yesterday, finishing off an inspection under the cowling. I had planned to go flying after getting it all back together, but the wind had come up much stronger than forecast. There is no anemometer at Smiths Falls, but based on the wind sock, and wind reports from other local airports, the gust were probably over 30 kts. I had issues in the past with strong winds catching the bi-fold hangar door, so I elected to keep the door closed and cancel the planned flight.
The winds were much lighter today, so I took advantage this afternoon and had a very nice one hour flight doing practice instrument approaches at Ottawa. I’m starting to think about flying to Sun ’n Fun in Florida in late March, so I wanted to make sure all the IFR equipment was working properly, and that I had knocked the rust off my personal IFR skills.
Saturday, February 15 2014 @ 09:12 PM EST Contributed by: Kevin Horton Views: 133
While we were in Daytona Beach, Van’s Aircraft released two Service Bulletins to address cracks in RV elevators and horizontal stabilizers. Van’s recommended that all affected aircraft be inspected before the next flight.
SB 14–01–31, “Hoizontal Stabilizer Cracks”, applicable to RV–6, –7 and –8 (and the tricycle gear variants) calls for an inspection of the horizontal stabilizer front spar for cracks, and provides details on a repair if cracks are found. The first cracks were found by Van’s Aircraft during an annual inspection of one of their high time demo aircraft. They checked other local aircraft, and found quite a few with similar cracks. They then developed a horizontal stabilizer front spar reinforcement and instructions to make this modification on already completed aircraft. The modification can optionally be made even if cracks are not found, in the hope of avoiding cracks to develop in the future.
Since this SB has been released, informal info gleaned from the Vans Airforce (VAF) web forums suggest roughly 10% of the aircraft that are inspected have these cracks. The large number of in-service aircraft with the cracks, with no known failures, strongly suggest that aircraft can fly safely for years in this condition.
SB 14–02–05,“Cracks in Elevator Spar”, applicable to RV–3, –4, –6, –7 and –8 calls for an inspection of the elevator spars for cracks. This has its roots in cracks that were found by an RV owner during an inspection. He reported his cracks to Vans, and on the VAF forums. I am aware of two other RVs that were found to have similar cracks. I inspected my elevators after reading the reports on VAF many months ago, and found
SB 14–02–05 provides inspection procedures and instructions for a repair if cracks are found.
Today I did the inspections for both SBs, and was happy to find no cracks. Given the significant percentage of aircraft that eventually develop the horizontal stab spar cracks, I may remove the tail and do the mod next winter. This thread on VAF gives a good perspective on the details of the mod.
Sunday, February 09 2014 @ 08:22 PM EST Contributed by: Kevin Horton Views: 52
Terry and I got back late yesterday afternoon from a week of vacation in Daytona Beach, FL. We were in a nice resort right on the beach, with a room overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. We did many long walks on the beach, ate lots of great seafood, and generally had a much appreciated break from winter.
This is a view of where we stayed, from the beach. All rooms face the beach!
We were looking forward to seeing sunrise over the Atlantic. The first three mornings had fog, but the fourth morning was a winner.
Immediately after sunrise, we went for a long walk along the beach.
Tuesday afternoon we visited a Daytona Beach area RV–8 builder, who is installing a RotecR3600 radial engine (150 hp, 3.6 litre, 9 cylinder engine) in his RV–8. I’ve got a soft spot for radial engines, as I flew the S–2 Tracker for 4 years, with two somewhat larger radial engines (Wright R–1820, 1525 hp, 29.9 litre, 9 cylinder engines - over 3.3 litres per cylinder!). BK is doing a beautiful job with his project. Terry was very jealous of the rear seat heat - he built custom sidewall panels and routed a hot air duct through the side wall to the rear seat and the passenger footwells (the stock ones get very cold).
Saturday, January 25 2014 @ 08:21 PM EST Contributed by: Kevin Horton Views: 60
Yesterday looked like the best chance to get the RV–8 flying again, so I took a day off work and headed to the hangar. It was very cold overnight, with a low temperature of –27°C, and it had been cold for the last several days, so I was expecting it to be miserably cold in the hangar. But, the hangar seemed to have retained some of the heat from the last warm spell we had, so it wasn’t too bad as I did a final inspection of the new exhaust system installation and reinstalled the cowling. Then while the engine was preheating I cleared the snow from in front of the hangar and had lunch.
After lunch the temperature was coming up nicely to –18°C and climbing, so I started the aircraft up, taxied to the gas pump and filled up. After refueling I climbed in, but flooded the engine when I attempted to restart it. I got it to fire once, but never managed to get it running before the battery quickly ran down. Drat!!
This latest Odyssey PC–680 battery doesn’t seem to have nearly the capacity of the previous two I had. I’m not the only one who has noticed, as many RV flyers are complaining that the recent Odyssey batteries aren’t nearly as good as the ones from a few years ago. Several owners have had good success desulfating the batteries using a desulfating procedure published by Odyssey, so I’ll look at refreshing the last battery I pulled out. I only replaced the last battery as Bob Nuckolls recommended annual replacement if you weren’t doing regular capacity checks. I’m wishing I had left it in now.
I pushed the aircraft back to the hangar, into the stiff wind, and over the patchy packed snow on the taxiway, uphill both ways. I was pretty bushed by the time I got it back in the hangar and on the battery charger. I left it on the battery charger for an hour, then it started right up. The wind was really stating to pick up by the time I got airborne, with the wind stock straight out (which suggests 25 kt or more), about 45 degrees to the left of the runway. I did a short flight, with two touch and goes then a full stop. The aircraft worked well, and it felt great to get it flying again for the first time in over a month. I’ll pull the cowling for an inspection before the next flight.