At long last, I finally found an excuse to visit Van's Aircraft and take a test flight in the plane I've spent so many hours building. Although I've been to Sun-n-fun and Oshkosh, I've always arrived later in the week after all the demo flights had already been booked. A business trip to Seattle recently came up, and believe it or not, adding a leg to Portland and returning from there was less expensive than the round-trip to Seattle. Works for me.
I recently took a ride in a local RV6A, and it was a great experience. It was my first time using a control stick (easier than I thought) and I was amazed at just how easy the airplane was to fly. The climb was like riding in a really fast elevator. Turns and maneuverability was amazing. It was similar to the feeling of driving a Miata with the top down. Or like driving a fast go-kart. Small, responsive, with lots of visibility.
However, I was still looking forward to flying the 9 because I was wanted to know just how much of a trade-off there would be for the reportedly better stability and slower landing and stall speeds promised by the 9.
The weather report wasn't looking good as I made my trip to Seattle on Monday. Showers were predicted Tuesday through Thursday, and then sunny on Friday. My tour at Van's was scheduled for Thursday, so I hoped for the best.
The weather in the Northwest was completely different than predicted. It was very nice and sunny on Tuesday through Thursday. I flew (commercial) from Seattle to Portland on a crystal clear Wednesday afternoon in a high-wing Dash 8, passing nearly directly over Mount St. Helens. The view was absolutely amazing. Seeing a volcano up close and personal, and to see the amount of destruction that still exists was awe-inspiring. These are the kind of things I'm looking forward to seeing more of when I'm the one doing the flying.
Thursday morning finally arrived. Van's is about a 30 minute drive south of downtown Portland. When I arrived, there was a prospective builder from Denmark (I think). There was another man (who used to teach at Top Gun) that started a tour about 30 minutes before I got there.
We spent about 30 minutes going through the various rooms of the factory, seeing where the parts are made, where they are stored, and the packing and shipping areas. The entire facility is amazingly clean and well-organized. The complete line of Van's models was in the hanger that day, and the RV-10 was under construction in the back room.
As we were finishing the factory tour, the RV9A was taking off with the person on the previous tour. Since this was the plane I wanted to fly, I waited for it to return. It turns out that all three of us on the tours that morning ended up taking rides in the 9A, even though the other two were thinking that they were interested in the 7 when they walked in the door. After talking to everyone there and taking a ride in the 9A, they were both very seriously thinking that the 9A might be the best plane for them after all, and one was about to order a tail kit to take home that day.
Finally, it was my turn to take a ride. We started up, and taxied to the runway for a quick runup. The throttle was pushed to the firewall, and before I could realize that we were starting our takeoff roll, the nose was pointed to the sky and we were climbing at 1500fpm. I absolutely wasn't ready for that, even though I've heard that the takeoffs are short. We couldn't have been moving for more than about 3 or 4 seconds before we left the ground. All I could say was WOW!
We quickly climbed above a layer of haze and towards the west where it was completely clear. I took the controls after being told to just hold the control stick with my thumb and finger at the midway point. Then, just nudge it in the direction that I wanted to go. That was it. A slight nudge to the right, and the plane promptly rolled to the right and started to turn. My feet were flat on the floor, and no rudder was necessary. A nudge back to the left, and we were once again straight and level. Man, this thing is easy to fly.
Time to try some slow flight and a few stalls. "This is where things get a little interesting" I was told. I expected to see a violent wing drop or something else out of the ordinary. Instead, we slowed way down, the stick was held full back, and the plane shuddered, the nose dropped a little, and it quickly started flying again. A few seconds later, another shudder, another drop, and again flying straight and level. We did this several times, losing only a little altitude each time. WOW. If you learned to fly in this plane, you wouldn't know what to do in a Cessna if you tried to stall it for the first time.
We then did a couple of (really) steep turns, proving that this plane is going to be plenty maneuverable for me, and then headed back towards the airport at about 110knots and 4 GPH. Efficiency that can't be beat.
After a simple pattern entry, a turn to final, and uneventful landing (slow and short) the ride was over.
And a sneak peek at the prototype lab.... RV10 photos...