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.
Tuesday, May 21 2013 @ 08:28 PM EDT Contributed by: Kevin Horton Views: 21
Terry and I flew to Yarmouth, NS on Saturday to visit my folks. I had filed a fairly simple route on the IFR flight plan, but ATC was having nothing of that. Ottawa Terminal gave me a long clearance which included four five-letter fixes that I had never heard of before. I was very happy to be using ForeFlight on my iPad, as it knew where these fixes were, rather than my having to search for them on an IFR chart to try to find where these guys were sending us.
We had a nice view of the 6,300 ft peak of Mount Washington as we went through New Hampshire.
There was a lot more cloud in Maine than the weather guys predicted. We started at 9,000 ft, then as we flew east the cloud tops got higher and higher. Eventually we ended up slaloming left and right of track to go around the higher cloud peaks. That eventually become unworkable, so I got clearance to climb to 11,000 ft, hoping we could come back down within 30 minutes and thus avoid the regulatory requirement for oxygen (apparently Canadian physiology is different from that in the USA, as in the USA it is legal to fly at 14,000 ft indefinitely without oxygen, but in Canada we require oxygen if we are above 10,000 ft for more than 30 minutes).
Soon the tops rose even more, and we picked up some ice as we went through the top of a ridge of cloud. That little bit of ice knocked 10 kt off our cruise speed, and it took 10 minutes for it to sublimate after we exited the cloud. The cloud tops were clearly still rising, so we got clearance to 13,000 ft and started using oxygen. The pulse oximeter confirmed that both Terry and I were getting adequate oxygen. I was very happy that I had gotten the oxygen system functional the day before.
You can see Digby Neck in the distance as we cross the Bay of Fundy at 13,000 ft.
Upon arrival in Yarmouth the winds were gusting to 25 kt, which really made it bumpy at low altitude. The landing was better than I had any right to expect, given the conditions.
Sunday was a nice sunny day, so Dad and I flew up to Stanley for their fly-in breakfast. Stanley, north of Halifax, was originally a WWII training airfield. The three runways from the training base are still there, but now they are grass, and they are shorter than they originally were. It is a very active general aviation airport, with numerous hangars, a club house, a bunkhouse (useful if you are in the dog house at home for spending too much time at the airport) and a shower facility.
We parked next to Paul Tuttleís beautiful new RVĖ8. The aircraft is finished, and has passed the official inspection, but Paul must receive the official Transport Canada paperwork before the first flight can occur. Good luck Paul!
We had hoped to stay in Yarmouth until Wednesday, but the weather had taken a turn for the worse, and the weather guessers were clearly having problems figuring out what was going to happen. The weather forecasts changed radically every day. This morning it was clearly workable to return today, and tomorrow was looking worse, so we decided it was better to come home a day early than to risk getting stuck by weather.
We had a bumpy flight back, in cloud most of the way. The good news is that the 25 kt headwinds that were forecast did not appear - the average headwind was less than 10 kt. The bad news is that the temperatures at altitude were quite a bit colder than forecast, so we had to do much of the trip at 6,000 ft to avoid ice. The aircraft is more efficient at higher altitude and the air is usually smoother the higher you go. But, we made it back in 3:08, vs the predicted 3:25, and Terry didnít turn green in the bumps, so Iím not going to complain.
Friday, May 17 2013 @ 08:10 PM EDT Contributed by: Kevin Horton Views: 17
I bought a Contec CMS50D pulse oximeter on eBay, based on a review published recently in Aviation Consumer. It arrived yesterday. Today, a planned all-day meeting finished at lunch time, and the weather was good, so I took some banked time off in the afternoon. I installed the Aerox oxygen tank in the forward baggage bay, ran the O2 lines into the cockpit, and went flying.
I measured the blood oxygen satuation at 9,500 ft, with the oxygen OFF, and found that it was about 94% of my sea level baseline reading. I donned the cannula, adjusted the O2 regulator, waited a couple of minutes then measured the oxygen saturation again. I found that it had increased to 99% of the sea level baseline. I climbed to 12,500 ft, and found the blood oxygen saturation was 98% of the sea level value with the oxygen ON and 86% of the sea level value with the oxygen OFF.
Conclusion: The oxygen system is working as expected. It should prove usful on some cross country flights, either where there are strong tailwinds available above 10,000 ft, or climbing above 10,000 ft will avoid icing conditions at lower altitude.
Sunday, May 12 2013 @ 08:24 PM EDT Contributed by: Kevin Horton Views: 17
We had hoped to fly to Wisconsin on Saturday, to spend several days visiting some of Terry’s sisters. But, the weather took a distinct turn for the worse late in the week, and Saturday had extensive low cloud and cool temperatures. We would have had to fly IFR at 6,000 ft or higher, and the air temperature at this altitude would have been below freezing, which is a good recipe for ice. We’ll try again in a few weeks when everyone’s schedules align again.
I zipped out to the airport late Sunday morning to do a test fit of the latest iteration on the oxygen tank mount in the forward baggage bay. This version looks like a winner, but I need to order some different hardware to secure the tank clamps to the mount. I’ve also got a pulse oximeter coming, so I can monitor the oxygen saturation in my blood stream. That will allow me to confirm that the oxygen system is working properly.
I also should manufacture a shroud to protect the oxygen tank valve and regulator from the baggage that will also go in the baggage bay.
Sunday afternoon I did a short local flight. The winds were really blowing, as a cold front had gone through early in the morning. The winds were gusting to 25 to 30 kt (some of the airports in the area reported gusts to 40 kt, but I don’t think they got this high in Smiths Falls), but there were aligned within about 20 degrees of the runway, so the crosswind component was 10 kt, or less. It sure was turbulent though. The bumps extended up to 7500 ft, and it was so bumpy at low altitude that I had to slow to about 120 kt to keep from getting beat up too badly.
Landings in high winds are good workout, which is why I went flying. Two of the four landings I did went very well. The other two were marred by big wind gusts that hit around the time I touched down, which threw made things not nearly as tidy. But they were all safe.
Monday, May 06 2013 @ 11:09 AM EDT Contributed by: Kevin Horton Views: 21
Back in January, I reported an apparent increase in performance since I reinstalled the engine. I had noted that the aircraft appeared to be several knots faster for the same power setting than it had been when flying over the last several years. My data recording system wasnít working properly, but I hand recorded some data and plotted power vs speed (after correcting to standard conditions). This appeared to show about a 5 kt increase in performance.
A week ago I finally debugged the data recording system, so I recorded data on the laptop for a few conditions. This data showed results a bit slower than the hand recorded data from January. The latest results were 1Ė2 kt faster than what I had recorded over several flights in 2010, but that was quite different than the 5 kt increase I had seen in January.
I took a closer look at the data analysis from January, and I found a glaring, rookie error - I had failed to convert my hand recorded Outside Air Temperature numbers from deg F to deg C. Duh! I redid the analysis and now it shows results 2Ė3 kt faster than the 2010 data. Neither the hand recorded data from January nor the laptop recorded data from a week ago are perfectly clean, so this small difference between the two results is not surprising. Now that I know my data system is working again Iíll gather a bunch more cruise performance data.
Sunday, May 05 2013 @ 03:54 PM EDT Contributed by: Kevin Horton Views: 26
We are having absolutely fabulous weather in southern Ontario this week. An upper high pressure system is parked over Ottawa, and it isn’t moving. Normally, the low and high pressure systems that affect our weather only exist in the lower atmosphere. The wind spins around these systems at low altitude, but once you get above 10,000 ft or so the winds are generally from the west. The westerly winds at medium altitude push the various weather systems from west to east across North America. If you want to get a rough idea of which way the low altitude weather systems are moving, you can normally look at the wind direction at 18,000 ft.
Sometimes you’ll see weather systems that stretch up into the upper atmosphere - hurricanes are a good example of that. But, there are many less powerful low and high pressure systems that extend way up too. Today we have an upper high pressure system over Ottawa, and an upper low pressure system over northern Alabama. These systems disrupt the normal weather patterns because the air at mid altitudes spins around in circles around these systems instead of it’s normal orderly flow from west to east. These systems generally move very, very slowly, and they block the systems to the west from moving further east. These upper systems will persist for an indefinite period, and then suddenly break up and the normal weather patterns will resume. The weather forecasters have a very difficult time predicting when these upper systems will collapse, so the long range weather forecasts are even less reliable than normal if there are upper high or low pressure systems in play. It could be here for another week, or it could be gone tomorrow. So, we’ll enjoy the good weather while it lasts.
Terry went to Toronto on Wednesday afternoon to attend a convention which would finish on Saturday afternoon. Friday afternoon I flew the RV–8 to the airport on Toronto Island (Billy Bishop Toronto City Centre Airport), to have dinner with Terry and stay the night. We had a great meal on Friday night. Saturday afternoon, after the convention wrapped up, I flew her home. Great flights in both directions - 1:02 on the way to Toronto and 1:04 on the way home. Sure beats the five hour drive, or the hassles of airline travel. The airport is on a small island right next to downtown Toronto, and is a perfect way to visit downtown Toronto. The CN Tower is just NE of the airport, so you get a great view of it while arriving and departing.
I had reserved a tie-down spot at the Porter FBO. The staff at Porter were very friendly, helpful and efficient.
This is the view our room at the Hotel Le Germain. The place Terry normally stays when she is at the convention had no rooms available, so we tried the Hotel Le Germain. It is a wonderful hotel, and is highly recommended for a stay in downtown Toronto. Terry took this shot of the Rogers Centre and the CN Tower shortly after take-off from runway 08.
Sunday, April 28 2013 @ 08:06 PM EDT Contributed by: Kevin Horton Views: 29
Iíve wanting to record some flight test data for awhile now, to help answer the question about whether the aircraftís cruise performance has changed with the overhauled engine. But, I found that the EFIS data was not being recorded by the data recording script on my laptop. It took a few hours of troubleshooting, but I eventually ruled out EFIS configuration problems and wiring failures. Today I finally figured out that the problem was a a failed serial port on the four port Keyspan USAĖ49W Serial to USB Adapter. This morning I switched the EFIS to the port normally used for my Event Marker, and the data recording was working again.
After sorting out the data recording, I went flying to do several cruise performance test points. Itíll take a few hours to crunch the data to see what it tells me.
Sunday, April 28 2013 @ 07:24 PM EDT Contributed by: Kevin Horton Views: 28
I was in Washington, DC most of the week, getting home on Thursday evening.
I had tentative plans to fly to Yarmouth, NS on Friday to visit my folks, flying home on Monday. But, the weather story on Friday morning wasnít nearly as good as the forecasts had suggested, with an extensive area of low, cold cloud extending about an hour east of Ottawa. Both Nav Canada and the US National Weather Service were forecasting significant icing in that band of cloud. I pondered waiting a few hours to watch the PIREPs, to see if the icing was really there, but that would have eaten into the short time available for this trip. I decided to cancel and try again later in the season, then the freezing level is higher allowing flight at IFR altitudes without picking up ice. I also hope to have a longer window of free time on some future trip.
Sunday, April 21 2013 @ 08:30 PM EDT Contributed by: Kevin Horton Views: 41
We had a strong cold front blow through on Saturday. I spent a few hours at the airport doing maintenance, but the 30 kt winds put me off any thoughts of going flying. Today was much more hospitable, with relatively light surface winds, so I did a short local flight after lunch.
Sunday, April 14 2013 @ 07:31 PM EDT Contributed by: Kevin Horton Views: 80
I spent the week in Wichita, getting home late Saturday afternoon. Today Terry had a commitment, so I went flying by myself - lunch in Lindsay, at the Airportview Restaurant. More info on the COPAPlaces to Fly site. The restaurant is nothing fancy, but the food is always good. I arrived shortly after a large group who flew in from Kingston, so the restaurant was packed - I was lucky to get an open table, and the last table was taken five minutes after I sat down.
Sunday, April 07 2013 @ 03:38 PM EDT Contributed by: Kevin Horton Views: 90
I had a day off on Friday, so I decided to inspect under the cowling, plus check a few other things. I was happy to see only one tiny sign of a possible oil leak under the cowling - there was just a hint of a possible oil leak somewhere in the vicinity of the fuel pump. I couldnít get a clear indication of where this tiny bit of oil might be coming from. Iíll keep an eye on that. This is a big improvement from last year, when there was oil coming from several different places.
I replaced the removable connector for the #1 Cylinder Heat Temperature (CHT) probe with a butt splice, as that CHT had been reading too low, and there was visible corrosion in the connector. That CHT was right in line with #2 and #3 when I flew the next day, so it looks like this was a good fix. #4 CHT has also been reading low for some time, so I need to look for something amiss in its wiring next time I have the cowling off.
I was dismayed to see that the right fuel tank once again had blue fuel stain at the lower, inboard, aft corner of the right fuel tank. I had first spied this in early 2012, but after cleaning off the blue stain it did not reappear. I kept a closer on it since then, and this is the first time Iíve found fresh stain. It looks like Iíll need to remove the tank, open it up and apply some sealant inside. Iíll acquire the items Iíll need for that task, and tackle it sometime before winter.
On Saturday I flew for an hour, intending to do some instrument approach practice at Ottawa. My previous instrument practice flights at Ottawa have always been productive, but they were very busy on Saturday. I had to orbit for a few minutes before they would accept me for one ILS approach, but they wouldnít let me do any more. Oh well. I headed back to the south west for some sight seeing and a practice approach at Smiths Falls.
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