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, September 14 2014 @ 08:06 PM EDT Contributed by: Kevin Horton Views: 13
Today was the first flight since getting back from Yarmouth. It was just a short flight to warm the oil, so I could change the oil and filter. After the oil change, I inspected the exhaust system for cracks. Iíll finish the inspection ahead of the firewall before the next flight.
Thursday, September 04 2014 @ 11:01 PM EDT Contributed by: Kevin Horton Views: 19
Terry and I had a great trip to Yarmouth, NS to visit my folks, brother and sister over the Labour Day long weekend. My sister lives in Yarmouth, but my brother lives NW of Toronto, so it is a rare occasion when we are all in the same place.
We flew down on Friday, stopping in Sherbrooke, Quebec for lunch. We could have done the trip to Yarmouth nonstop, but I was concerned about the high surface winds in the wake of Hurricane Cristobal. It had passed by well south of Nova Scotia, and was currently off the east coast of Newfoundland. It was producing wind gusts well over 20 kt at Yarmouth, and the wind direction was forecast to stay almost exactly between the two runways. The winds at Halifax had gone to over 30 kt. I was concerned about the possibility that the crosswinds when we would arrive might be higher than I was prepared to risk during an aft CG landing. It looked like I might have to divert to northern New Brunswick to find lower winds, so a fuel stop on Sherbrooke ensured that we would have lots of diversion fuel upon arrival in Yarmouth. As it turned out, the winds upon arrival had veered a bit, and while the gusts were still over 20 kt, the wind direction was only 20į left of the runway heading. No problem.
My brother Ron was visiting as well, so I threw him in back on Saturday and we blasted up to Stanley (CCW4), to check out the annual Stanley Fly-In. Multiple RV builder Jerry Wilcox had brought the Wright R2600 engine that he had recently restored. The engine had come from a retired TBM spruce budworm sprayer. Jerry ran the engine for a few minutes in the afternoon to blow dry his hair.
On Sunday I did a couple of short flights with family members.
On Monday Terry and I drove up to Digby, a scenic town on the Bay of Fundy. Terry enjoyed her lunch of Digby scallops.
We flew home on Wednesday. The departure was delayed waiting for the fog to start to break. The visibility was 1/8 mile in the early morning, but it finally increased to the 1/2 mile that I needed to legally take-off. We skirted the south end of a long line of convective activity over the Bay of Fundy.
After the fog and thunderstorms, the only challenge left was very strong headwinds, which had the ground speeds down to 125 kt for quite awhile. We could have made it back to Smiths Falls nonstop, but the predicted 3:25 duration was a bit longer than we wanted after the morning coffee. We stopped in St. Georges de Beauce, Quebec, a very nice airport just across the border from Maine. Lots of red roofs on the hangars, cheap gas, and friendly staff.
Terry and I had a wonderful visit. It was great to see everyone again. And the RVĖ8 is a very efficient way to cover the miles. Iíve been experimenting with lower cruise RPMs. In the past, I usually used 2450 rpm and full throttle, and usually got around 162 kt at 8.0 to 8.2 USG/hr, running lean of peak EGT. At 2300 rpm and full throttle, Iím seeing 159 to 160 kt, burning 7.2 to 7.5 USG/hr. In automotive terms, that is around 25 mpg at 184 mph. Try that in your car!
Sunday, August 10 2014 @ 08:31 PM EDT Contributed by: Kevin Horton Views: 32
The weather today was pretty much perfect, except for a bit of haze, so Terry and I decided to head up to Killarney (CPT2) for fish and chips. killarney is a small town on the north shore of Georgian Bay, which is at the top of Lake Huron. Herbert Fisheries has a commercial fishery there, and some of the whitefish and perch supply their fish and chips stand. The Herbert Fisheries fish is acclaimed far and wide as the best fish and chips in Ontario. The fish and chips stand in a converted school bus was removed at the end of the 2013 season, and it will be replaced by a new restaurant, which is still under construction. In the interim, there is a temporary fish and chips stand in an Atco trailer.
Killarney is 242 nm from Smiths Falls, which is a 1:35 flight at our typical cruise 160 kt speed. We landed about 1120, then walked into town (roughly a 25 minute walk).
The airport ramp was quite busy, with about a dozen aircraft parked.
We found a spot and had just finished securing the aircraft when a beautiful RVĖ7 from London, ON arrived.
The new Herbert Fisheries fish processing facility and restaurant on the right isnít open yet, but their famous fish and chips are supplied from a temporary trailer.
The fish is expensive, but it pales compared to the cost of the fuel we burned to get there.
Tasty good! The fish was wonderful, but the ďsmallĒ chips portion is way too much. Next time weíll only get one order of chips to split between us.
On the way back to the airport, we passed Alain Boucher from Welland, ON, who had dropped by in his RVĖ4 (on the left). He had some crazy story about stopping by after visiting his brother, but I suspect the main reason for his trip was the fish and chips, and the visit with his brother was a happy consequence.
Cornelious Westerís beautiful RVĖ7 was parked next to our RVĖ8.
The airport, with the town in the distance.
The town, with the southwest end of the runway visible at the left.
Saturday, August 02 2014 @ 09:29 PM EDT Contributed by: Kevin Horton Views: 35
Normally Terry accompanies me to the big EAAAirVenture Fly-In at Oshkosh, WI every year, camping with me by the aircraft. This year, however, she needed to spend that week helping a sister, so I had an empty back seat. I offered a ride to Oshkosh to my Dad and brother, but neither could make it. Lee, a coworker with an RVĖ6, jumped at the chance to go to Oshkosh again - he used to go there every year as a child, as his father was building an aircraft. He went a few more times after growing up, but hadnít been back since 1997.
The scheduled activities at the Fly-In start on Monday morning, but most people arrive on Sunday. Sunday afternoon is extremely busy, with several thousand aircraft landing on three different runways (one of which is really a taxiway, pressed into service as a temporary runway). Iím happier avoiding the rush on Sunday PM, so I normally plan to arrive on Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning.
The master plan this year was to fly to Green Bay, WI on Saturday, spending the night with one of Terryís sisters. We would fly to Oshkosh first thing Sunday morning, following the special arrival procedure, described in the AirVenture NOTAM (Notices to AirMen).
The long range weather forecast for Saturday got worse and worse as the week progressed. It was looking pretty grim for Saturday by Friday morning, with very low clouds around our planned US Customs stop at Sault Ste. Marie, MI, and lots of thunderstorms on the ďPlan BĒ southern route around Chicago. Lee and I both agreed that it made a lot more sense to fly to Green Bay a day early, taking advantage of the nice weather on Friday.
We got airborne around 1030, did a quick Customs and fuel stop at Sanderson Field (KANJ) at Sault Ste. Marie, MI, then ripped down to Green Bay, WI.
The weather forecast for Green Bay on Saturday suggested there might be some significant thunderstorms. Aircraft tied down outside are hail magnets, and the aluminum skin is easily damaged. I hoped to find hangar space, so I posted a request on the Vans Air Forceforums. Green Bay RVĖ7A owner Gerry C. was very quick to offer the corner of his hangar - thanks Gerry!
We met Gerry at the airport at 0800 on Sunday, and were airborne by 0830. We went around Appletonís airspace, then headed for Ripon to start the arrival procedure. The procedure is to fly up the railway tracks from Ripon to Fisk, at 1800 ft above sea level (roughly 1000 ft above ground) at 90 kt (about 105 mph or 165 km/h). Approaching Fisk, an air traffic controller on the ground will give instructions on which runway to use. It is one-way communications - your response is to rock the wings. Depending on which runway you are told to use, you follow the route and landing instructions provided in the NOTAM.
After landing, you turn off the runway onto the grass as soon as possible, to clear the runway for the aircraft that are close behind you. Then you follow the hand signs from a team of ground marshallers who guide you to your parking spot. Then you get the aircraft tied down and set up the tents. We landed about 0900, and were all settled in by 1000.
Monday, July 21 2014 @ 05:24 AM EDT Contributed by: Kevin Horton Views: 32
The repaired Hall Effect Module for the Light Speed electronic ignition system arrived on Friday. Klaus replaced the seal, cleaned the oil off the circuit board inside, and updated the unit to the latest configuration (the later ones have an oil shield to increase the reliability of the oil seal).
I went out to the airport first thing Saturday morning to put everything back together and do some other maintenance. When working inside the forward baggage bay I discovered the source of the big oil ďleakĒ that had been troubling me. I had a quart of oil in the forward baggage bay, way over on the left side. The quart had fallen on its side, and the seal on the cap had broken (I had climbed to 9,500 ft during the flight when I had the big oil ďleakĒ). The oil that leaked out of the container had gone down the inside of the skin on the left side of the forward fuselage until it reached an angled brace that went down to the lower left corner of the firewall. Then it went down the cockpit side of the firewall and came out between the firewall and the skin on the lower fuselage, then ran along the bottom of the aircraft.
I was very relieved to understand where the oil had come from, and that it was not an engine issue. I had been very puzzled as to why this oil on the belly looked so yellow, when the oil in the engine was a bit brown. I was also completely befuddled why there was oil on the left side of the fuselage bottom, when there was no oil on the left side of the engine.
I did a ground run and a flight test after putting it all back together. Everything is working nicely now.
Next weekend I hope to fly to Oshkosh for the big EAAFly-In. Itíll be great to meet up with a bunch of old friends.
Sunday, July 13 2014 @ 06:50 PM EDT Contributed by: Kevin Horton Views: 50
The ďUVĒ light bulb I ordered arrived on Thursday. i took a day off work on Friday to look for oil leaks. I was disappointed to see that while some things ahead of the firewall highlighted nicely under UV light, oil wasnít one of those things. Oh well. I cleaned everything up as nicely as I could, then went flying.
After landing it was clear that there was no evidence of a large oil leak, but there was still some oil coming from something.
Saturday I took another look, and noted a drop of oil in a strange place, on the bottom of the Hall Effect Module for the Light Speed electronic ignition system. Everything below there had sign of oil, and everything above was dry. Hmm. I removed the cover on the back of that module, and found roughly one teaspoon of oil inside, where there isnít supposed to be any oil at all. The circuit board attached to the cover was contaminated with oil. The oil seal around the input shaft had obviously failed, allowing oil to sneak in from the accessory case. Drat.
At first I hoped I could find an oil seal locally and change it myself, but online research suggested that it really should go back to Light Speed so they could do the job. This is apparently a fairly common issue with the Light Speed Hall Effect Modules. The good news is that the unit will tolerate a lot of oil inside, and I found no reports of any adverse effect on the operation of the ignition system. But, Iím not sure that the ignition would continue to operate correctly if enough oil got in there, so I need to get this sorted out ASAP.
I boxed it up and shipped it via UPS from Ogdensburg on Sunday afternoon. Iím hoping they can turn it around quickly and have it back to Ogdensburg by Friday afternoon, so I can reinstall it on Saturday. If I have a repeat failure Iíll either switch to the other option for crank position sensing - magnets on a plate attached to the crankshaft, with sensor bolted to the crank case, or ditch Light Speed ignition completely and install a second PMag.
2 comments Most Recent Post: 08/02 08:20PM by Kevin Horton
Sunday, July 06 2014 @ 04:38 PM EDT Contributed by: Kevin Horton Views: 44
The PMag installation took quite a bit longer than I hoped, largely due to poor access to some of the areas I was working in. It was a real pain running the wires to the aft end of the switch console in the cockpit so I could have the CB in a logical location. Access was poor to the mag area on the back of the engine - there were many times when I could only get one hand on a task when it would have been 10 times faster if I could have used both hands.
I finished the installation late Saturday afternoon. I had hoped to do an engine run on Saturday, but I was pretty beat by the time I finished, and I knew that I should do a good final inspection first, and I was too exhausted to do a proper job. Sunday morning I did the inspection, then a short engine run to check the ignition system. The ignition worked well, but the rpm indication on the engine monitor was screwed up - it was reading zero at low rpm, and twice the correct value at higher rpm. This was an easy fix - I changed the engine monitor number of pulses/revolution setting from 1 to 2, and the sensitivity from low to high.
I looked for oil leaks after the engine run, then installed the cowling and went flying. The ignition worked perfectly, but I noted quite a bit of oil on the bottom of the aircraft after landing. I pulled the cowling again, but there was so much oil on the back of the engine that couldnít nail down where it was coming from. The area around the PMag seemed dry, so I donít think it was the source. I checked torque on all the bolts, nuts and hoses on the back of the engine, but didnít find any obvious loose items. I was able to turn three oil hose connections slightly, but I donít think either of them was loose enough to cause such a large leak.
I also need to redo the manifold pressure plumbing for the PMag. I couldnít find one of the fittings I would have preferred to use, so I did a temporary jury-rig job. I think I have found a source for the needed fitting on Monday via another RV aircraft owner.
Iím searching for a UV light bulb, as apparently aviation oil shows up well in UV light. Iíll confirm the UV light shows the oil, then clean the engine, and confirm it is clean under UV light. Then Iíll do short engine run and check again.
Sunday, June 29 2014 @ 07:53 PM EDT Contributed by: Kevin Horton Views: 82
It’s been a busy week. One week ago I had to cancel a flight to Carp, for the EAA Chapter 245 Fly-In Breakfast, due to a hangar door opening winch failure. We quickly determined that the reduction gear box had failed, but the gear box had no data plate or markings on it, so it was not possible to source a direct replacement. We found a larger gear box at Princess Auto, but it wouldn’t fit on the existing mount, so quite a bit of barnyard engineering was required to get it all working again. We (those with aircraft trapped in the hangar) had several work sessions over the course of the week, and finally got it all sorted out on Wednesday evening.
Terry and got up early yesterday morning, to fly to Green Bay, WI. But that plan fell apart at the engine run-up prior to take-off. Terry had noted that she thought the engine sounded a bit different than normal when we were taxiing, but I couldn’t hear anything strange. But, when I advanced the throttle for the run-up, I could tell that the engine didn’t sound right, and the amount of rpm achieved for a given throttle position was quite a bit lower than normal. When I selected the magneto OFF, the rpm increased by 300 rpm, which was very abnormal. This clearly indicated that the magneto timing was much too far advanced.
I left the mag off, and taxied back to the hangar. I removed the cowling and hooked up the mag timing box. I heard a momentary nasty noise from the back of the engine as I turned the prop to Top Dead Centre. That noise didn’t come back, but there was no indication that the mag points were opening and closing at all. We clearly weren’t going to Green Bay, so we unpacked and headed home.
Today I went out to the airport early to dig into the issue. I found that the mag base was broken, and the impulse coupling was very loose. There were signs that the impulse coupling had been hitting the base of the mag. The teeth on the magneto drive gear looked in perfect shape, and I couldn’t see any damage on the teeth on the drive gear in the accessory gear box.
I thought at first that some of the small mag case pieces were inside the engine, but looked around on the floor under the back end of the engine and found that all the missing pieces were accounted for. Whew!
The aircraft currently has one magneto and one Lightspeed Plasma II electronic ignition. The Lightspeed ignition works well, providing more ignition advance than the magneto at cruise power settings for increased efficiency, but it does require aircraft electrical power to function. The magneto will function even if the aircraft electrical system has completely failed, which is a huge plus.
I’ve been watching the developments at E-Mag for several years. They developed two closely related electronic ignition systems that fit in the magneto spot on the accessory case. The E-Mag, like the Lightspeed, required aircraft power. Its brother, the E-Mag model P (aka P-Mag) has an internal alternator, which generates power sufficient at 800 rpm to run the ignition. The P-Mag requires aircraft power to get the engine started, but after the engine is running it will function even if the aircraft electrical system fails, as long as the rpm is kept above 800 rpm. The first design P-Mags had some significant in-service problems, but they updated the design to address the problems, and the latest configuration (series 114) has proven itself in service.
I had decided to replace the mag with a P-Mag when the mag was due for its big inspection at 500 hours. Now that it has failed, I’ll do that change now. I’ve spent several hours planning the mod, making a list of all the things I should require, and I’ll order all the goodies Monday morning.
3 comments Most Recent Post: 07/02 08:16AM by Kevin Horton