I’m very happy to report that I made the first flight in my RV9A (N628CR) from Lancaster, TX on Sunday morning the 22nd of February. After 20 minutes of big circles around the airport and some (really) slow flight, I decided I should land so everyone watching could finally go in and eat lunch.
I must start by saying that I’d like to thank EAA Chapter 168 for their support, and for the friends that I’ve made during the building process. If you are building an airplane without the assistance of a local EAA chapter, join one now… or start one if you need to!
Special thanks go to Michael Stephan (RV8) for the many days he came over to buck some rivets, lift a canopy, add a couple extra items to his Spruce order, or solve a problem. Also Don Christiansen (RV4 and 8) for the encouragement, advice, and Tech counselor visits. Robert Cullinan (RV9A) for help and friendship. Owen Bruce for helping to weigh the plane. Mel Asberry (RV6 and DAR) for being an advisor throughout the project. As Mel looked over my builder’s log, he noted that the first entry over two years ago was a trip I made to his airstrip in a rented Cessna 172 to see his airplane and ask questions about this whole “airplane building” thing. The last log entry is him handing me the airworthiness certificate. John and Emily Phillips (RV6) for photos and video of the first flight day. Thanks to Doug Reeves (RV6), for my daily “RV Fix” and helping to build such a strong sense of RV community with others all over the world. Jon Scholl (RV6) for a ton of encouragement and those magic words “You should build an airplane.” Transition training from Alex DeDominices (RV6) and Ben Johnson (RV6A) gave me complete confidence that I could handle the first flight.
Last, but certainly not least, Thank You to my wife Missy for putting up with my long days (and evenings) in the garage, and letting me occasionally watch something on Discovery Wings instead of the Food Network. The one thing that kept me going throughout this project was the dream that someday the two of us will travel to fun places in this plane and see things that only a select few get to experience.
A little bit of info about the first flight. We did the final weight and balance (1048lbs) and airworthiness inspection on Saturday, and those two tasks in addition to the hours it takes to put everything back together wiped out the entire day. On Sunday, things were looking good, with an 8-10 knot wind but it was right down the runway. I wanted to do some final idle RPM checks and taxi/brake tests before making a flight decision. We got the idle RPM set and the brakes were working great, so the decision was made to take it up.
Just about that time, formation groups of RVs started arriving over the airport like an air show was getting ready to start. It turns out the Sunday lunch crowd (minus Doug) chose to fly into Lancaster today.... oh, great... an audience.
I did a full power run-up just to make sure everything was looking good, and noticed that the static RPM was a little higher than I expected.
I got into position on the runway, and it was time to go. I pushed the throttle forward, and it didn't waste much time getting off the ground. I immediately noticed the RPM was over redline, but knowing what I saw during the runup, I knew it was probably suspect and didn't touch the throttle until I had gained significant altitude.
For the next 20 minutes, I did lazy circles around the airport at about 3000', tried some left and right turns, and then performed some slow flight down to a stall. The 9 really doesn't want to stop flying, but I finally saw a break while clean at 51 knots indicated. (airspeed uncalibrated)
I then did a circling descent to pattern altitude, put the flaps down, and flew the final approach at about 70knots. Just at the point of touchdown, the airspeed indicator read 49knots, and GPS groundspeed was 42 knots. (I heard later that the RV6 guys watching thought for sure I was going to stall on final)
All the data parameters of the flight were dutifully recorded by the Blue Mountain EFIS/One so I didn't have to worry about recording anything during the flight. It will take a little time to get used to flying with the EFIS, and knowing where to look for the wealth of information that it provides.
Overall, it was a great first flight. Now I'm just waiting for the 3 days of forecast rain to clear so I can go up again. I already have a list of things I want to check, test and verify.
For a final thought, one thing that struck me just after I felt the earth falling away beneath me was how much this airplane wanted to fly. An airplane on the ground isn’t very agile. It even feels heavy. But once it leaves the ground, it can move in every dimension, and feels light as a feather. These planes were born to fly, and they should all get the chance to fly someday. Do whatever it takes to experience the feel that you get when something that started out as a couple of boxes sitting on your doorstep (with appropriately painted dollar signs on them) finally rolls down the runway and gently lifts off for the first flight.