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.
Sunday, March 09 2014 @ 08:10 PM EDT Contributed by: Kevin Horton Views: 8
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: 20
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: 16
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: 30
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: 29
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: 34
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.
Sunday, January 19 2014 @ 07:03 PM EST Contributed by: Kevin Horton Views: 68
I spent several hours at the airport this weekend, and pretty much finished the installation of the four pipe exhaust system.
The large heat muff mounted over the pipes from cylinders #1 and #3 added a lot of time to the installation. First, I had to loosen the #1 pipe at the cylinder so I could rotate it a bit, to get the tail pipes at the correct spacing the match the two holes in the heat muff. Then, I found that the outer shell of the heat muff was perhaps a bit smaller than ideal, so it took quite a bit of clamping pressure to get everything lined up properly. Even with all that I was unable to get the two screws that secure the two halves of the shell together to thread into their nut plates. I ended up leaving those two screws out - the two clamps around the whole thing will hold everything in place.
The hardware that connects the tail pipes together has mount points for supports that by design go pretty much straight up to the engine mount. But, the engine mount is fixed to the airframe, and the front end of the exhaust pipes move with the engine. It is far better to hang the tail pipes off the back of the oil sump, so all the supports move with the engine.
On the right side, with the large two pipe heat muff, the heat muff outlet interfered with a straight shot from the exhaust system mounting point to the oil sump. I puzzled over this for quite a while, and eventually ended up fabricating a horizontal bar that connected the two mounting points together, and then extended to the right. This allowed the support on the right side to pass outboard of the heat muff outlet.
The second horizontal bar provided a convenient place to secure the fuel pump drain pipe and the sniffle valve drain. The breather tube was secured to the main horizontal bar which sits right on top of the two exhaust pipe supports.
I’ve got two things left to do:
The MS21919WDG12 “Adel” clamp that secures the breather tube is quite close to the tail pipe from #4 cylinder. These clamps come in a number of different variants with different materials. The “DG” ones in my collection have Chloroprene cushions, rated to 212°F (100°C). I’ve ordered a MS21919WCJ12 clamp with a Fluorosilicone cushion, rated to 450°F (232°C). I hoped it would be in stock at Aircraft Spruce in Toronto, in which case I would have it on Tuesday. But, it has to come up from one of their US warehouses, so it’ll be delayed. I’ll fly with the current clamp, and replace it as soon as the new one arrives.
When I started to mount the second heat muff, on the #1 cylinder pipe, I discovered that the end plates were cracked. I’ll fly with just the big dual pipe muff for now, and order new end plates for the second muff from Robins Wings.
I left the cowling off in the hope that the new Adel clamp would arrive on Tuesday, and I would install it before flying. But, given that it will be delayed, I’ll try to get flying sometime this week, assuming we get the forecast good, but cold, weather.
1 comments Most Recent Post: 01/20 01:02PM by carpero99
Saturday, January 11 2014 @ 08:07 PM EST Contributed by: Kevin Horton Views: 30
We had a forecast unseasonably warm day today, so I headed out to the airport to scrape the ice off the pavement in front of the hangar. Hopefully the airport will succeed in getting the ice off the runway, as we got hit by quite a bit of freezing rain over the last 10 days, and the runway was like a skating rink.
While I was there I finished installing the right fuel tank. This consisted of installing the 74 screws that go around the periphery of the tank, and reinstalling the wing root intersection fairing and the access panels on the bottom of the wing.
Monday, January 06 2014 @ 08:09 PM EST Contributed by: Kevin Horton Views: 56
I also made some progress on the exhaust system today.
I had noted when I was last at the hangar that the ball joints on the pipes from cylinders 2 and 4 were touching. This was obviously not correct, and I feared that perhaps I would have to ship the exhaust system back to Vetterman exhaust for an adjustment.
I called Clint at Vetterman while I was at the hangar, and he gave me the info I needed to solve the problem. The holes on the flanges that bolt to the cylinders are slightly larger than the studs. Thus it is possible to rotate the pipes slightly before they are torqued in place. I loosened the nuts, replaced the lock washers, rotated the #4 pipe outboard, and the #2 pipe inboard, then retorqued the nuts. Now I have more than adequate clearance between the ball joints, and the #2 and #4 tail pipes are parallel, whereas before they were close together at the ball joints, then spread apart at the outlet.
I forgot my camera, so I didn’t get a shot after tweaking things today.
Update 11 Jan 2014 - Here is a shot showing the clearance at the ball joints after loosening the pipes at the cylinder, rotating, and torquing them.
Monday, January 06 2014 @ 08:02 PM EST Contributed by: Kevin Horton Views: 35
My planned flight at work fell apart today, as the ramp at the hangar was a sheet of wet ice. It would be very unsafe to start engines, as the idle thrust would push the aircraft around with the wheels locked on the ice.
After I cancelled the flight, I took comp time for the rest of the day and headed to Smiths Falls. One of the other hangar tenants and I cleared the snow off the hangar tarmac, then I attacked reinstalling the right fuel tank.
The tank is secured to the wing by three different means:
three bolts in each of seven Z angles that are riveted to the back bulkhead of the tank. You can see the Z angles in the picture on this page, from way back in 1998 when I was building the fuel tanks. The bolts are inserted from the aft side of the wing main spar, and thread into nut plates on the Z brackets. There are three access panels on the bottom of the wing to allow the bolts to be reached. Nine of the 21 bolts are easily accessed, but the other 12 require sticking an arm in an access hole, then reaching either inboard or outboard through lightening holes in the wing ribs to reach the bolt head. The aileron pushrod is in the middle of those lightening holes, so there is very little room for your arm to move. The holes for these 12 bolts cannot be seen, so you have to work by feel. If you drop a bolt, it skitters aft along the lower wing skin until it hits the rear spar, and then you have the fun of flailing around with a magnet on a stick to retrieve a bolt that you cannot see. Surprisingly, I managed to get all bolts inserted without drawing any blood, or inventing any new words. I only dropped one - that one came out on the third try with the magnet.
There is a single 1/4" bolt that attaches the front end of the fuel tank to the fuselage.
There are many dozen flat head screws around the periphery of the fuel tank skin, securing the edge of the skin to the wing skin.
I got items 1 and 2 done today, as well as reconnecting the fuel line, fuel vent line and fuel sender wires. All I have left to do is reinstall those many dozen screws, an easy but tedious task.
A very sharp cold front came through today, so the temperature has crashed again. I won’t be doing any more work in the hangar until it warms back up again - possibly on the weekend.