The first flight of N987MB was today, just about a month shy of 5 years total working on this project. For pretty much the entire build I never really put much thought into the first flight. Even when the project moved to the hangar. Even when I was doing flight training. I was pretty much just focuses always on getting the next step done, and not worrying about what comes after that. Well today my "next step" was lifting her off the ground.
From almost the very beginning of the build I told myself I was going to hire a test pilot for the first flight. From the stories I have heard, a test pilot will be much more likely to handle emergencies better than I could. However, when I went through transition training, I felt very comfortable with flying the RV-7. My instructor thought I was capable of performing the first flight as well. What I think really sealed the deal was what someone at the airport told me. He said it just wasn't right giving someone else the satisfaction of performing a successful first flight and taking that right away from the builder. He said there is just something special about the first time that airplane leave the ground knowing you built it and are in control of it.
This weekend the weather was spectacular. Clear blue skies and mild temperatures (70-80 degrees). The winds were forecasted to be a 10kts or so crosswind on Friday and Saturday, but Sunday was calling for calm conditions up until 10am. Since it had been 7 weeks since I had my transition training, I wanted a last minute refresher. On Friday morning I went up for a little over an hour and did some full stall landings, wheel landings, and a spin. After that I wanted to go through a complete simulation of first flight. So we did that too. I am very glad I took the time and money to do this because it gave me one less thing to worry about. Plus my landings needed to be practiced!
On Saturday I spent a few hours at the hangar finishing up all the last minute details. Mainly installing all of the screws that hold in the floors and inspection panels. My electric screwdriver was priceless.
Saturday night I had a nice dinner at my parents house with my girlfriend, brother and his wife. It was a nice break from working on the airplane, and it is always great to see my family, especially all of us together. I was amazed I wasn't feeling any anxiousness towards first flight on the following day. Once I got home from dinner I made a checklist of everything I needed to do for first flight(RV_Checklist_FirstFlight.pdf). I didn't want to have to think on the fight! I also packed up anything I needed to take to the airport the next day. I just wanted to wake up, get some coffee and a banana, and go to the airport in the morning. I was surprised because I finished up everything I needed to do around 11pm. Since it was a little early for bed, I watched the end of Rocky 3 (It's the one with Mr. T) with my roommate. I felt absolutely no concern for the first flight. It was a nice peaceful way to end the night. One last check of the forecast still showed calm winds the next morning.
4 AM I woke up sweating. I don't know why, but WOW was my brain working overtime. It was running through the script I had memorized for first flight at a million miles per hour. The abruptness I awoke was similar to when I was in college and realized I had a big test that day that I forgot about. For the life of me I couldn't fall asleep. Or maybe I did and it just didn't feel like sleep. Finally at 7am I woke up and got ready and headed to the airport.
The drive to airport was tranquil and unusually calming. Once there I got to work finishing up all the little things I had left. I installed a plug on the bottom of the oil quick drain valve because I was leaking a little oil out of that and I didn't want that to possibly falsely hide an oil leak somewhere else. My fuel gauges weren't reading right, but I knew I had plenty of fuel in the tanks (about 10-11 gallons per tank). But I wanted to have some indication to show if I was leaking fuel excessively. I fudges some of the numbers and the indication was satisfactory for first flight. This will be calibrated later.
My Dad called me up on my cell to have me let him in the gate at the airport. He was flying backseat in my friend Jack Savage's RV-8, who was flying chase on the first flight. He pretty much left me be as I finalized everything with the airplane. Jack showed up as well as my friend Neal to videotape the takeoff. Jack, Neal and my Dad were all chatting it up while I did a thorough pre-flight on my airplane. Once I was done with the preflight, I chatted with Jack a little about the frequencies we would use to talk back and forth once we left the traffic pattern, and the general way the flight was going to take place.
Jack and my Dad walked over to Jack's hangar to get his RV-8 ready. I pushed my RV out in front of the hangar and shook Neal's hand. He of course wished me good luck. Neal also took one last picture of me with my airplane. I climbed into the RV and strapped myself in. I never put on all of the seatbelts before so they needed some slight adjustments. I turned on my Auxiliary battery switch to power up my EFIS's and nothing. I have no way of charging it and I must of wore it down. So I turned my master on and avionics master for the EFIS's to boot up. I wanted the EFIS's to align before I started the engine. Once the EFIS's are started, I prepare the engine to be started. "Clear the prop". I hit the starter button and the blades turn 180 degrees and stop. Damn, low battery. I try again and the prop spins freely now, but won't start. I re-primed the engine and tried to start it again. Vrooooom. Started right up. Time to taxi to the runway.
The winds were light, around 5 kts, direct crosswind to the runway. Airplanes in the pattern and taking off were using runway 16. The FAA restricted me to only takeoff on runway 34 for the first 5 hours of flight. They did this because runway 16 puts me right over the town of Westminster. If I were to have an engine failure on takeoff, I would have fewer safe landing area for both me and the houses on the ground. I taxi down to the runup area before 34 and go through my runup. Everything looked perfect. Jack pulls up next to me and does the same. We watch airplane after airplane take off on 16. We were waiting for a lull to switch the pattern around since the winds would prefer either one. While waiting, I couldn't help but notice my CHT on #3 cylinder was higher than the rest, but about 25-30 degrees. All other engine metrics were perfect. Finally Jack got on the radio and announced he would like to takeoff on 34 because of my limitations. Everyone in the pattern and approaching the airport gladly accepted. Time to go.
My CHT for #3 was not climbing above 300 degrees. I needed to either takeoff soon to get some air blasting across that cylinder or turn the airplane off and let her cool down. I announce my intentions on the CTAF and taxi out to the end of the runway. I stop when I am lined up with the center line. I go through my pre-takeoff checklist one last time. It's time to go.
I probably aggressively pushed the throttle forward. Before I knew it, I was standing on the right rudder trying to compensate for vearing drastically to the left. Luckily the runway at Westminster is nice and wide. Before I knew it my tail was off the ground. My transition training instructor told me to wag the ailerons slightly to make sure the wings were rigged properly and producing equal lift. I had no time for that. Before I knew it, my airspeed indicator was showing 60 kts and I pulled back on the elevator. Airborne.
I changed my climb until I was showing 91 kts - Vy from my transition training RV-7. Got to get away from the ground as fast as possible. I was monitoring my CHT's. #3 was passing through 400 and climbing nicely. I was turning crosswind to a quick downwind and departing the pattern upwards. I called Jack up on the radio and told him my situation. He said shallow out the climb ans reduce power. I pulled back the power to somewhere between 20-22". I don't really remember to be honest. As I continues a shallow climb at about 120-130 kts I saw my CHT for #3 to drop below 400. I climbed up to 4,600' MSL where I leveled off and just took a deep breath. I didn't even know Jack or my Dad were around me.
Once at 4,600' I slowed the airplane down to 90 kts and deployed 10 degrees of flaps. Slowed it down to 85, 20 degrees of flaps. Down to 75, full flaps. I pulled the power back to see how slow I could go before stalling. 45 kts. Still flying. 42 kts....stall! I push forward on the stick, add power slowly and increase my airspeed. At 80 kts I start taking out the flaps. Back to 120 kts. At that time Jack called me up and flew next to me for some photographs. I really don't remember a whole lot of that. I pulled the power back and descended into the traffic pattern, picking it up on the downwind.
I entered the pattern at about 110 kts. Abeam the numbers I was at 90 kts and put in some flaps. Turned base and put in more flaps while slowing her down to 85 kts. Turned final and I didn't add in any more flaps. I kept my airspeed a little high at 80 kts. As I approached the runway, I went over in my head what my instructor told me. Don't flare to high. And also I went over in my head what Jack told me - Don't try to land the airplane. It will land itself. Aligned with the centerline of the runway, a little before my wheels were to touch I fully pulled back any power let in and kept pulling back on the stick. I was intending on doing a full stall but the front wheels touched down first. They touched down gently too. As soon as they did, I pushed the stick forward slightly to make them stick and the tail quickly came down as well. On the radio I heard Jack say "Nice Landing".
I cleared the runway and taxied back to my hangar. It was getting hot in the airplane so I cracked open the canopy. On the taxi back I passed by Neal, who was videotaping on the side of the taxiway. I taxied back to my hangar to be greeted by no one. Everyone was either in airplane or walking back. I turned the engine off and was surrounded by complete silence and my own satisfaction of a completely successful first flight. Neal came walking quickly back to my hangar and gave me a handshake and a big grin. He might of had a bigger RV grin than I did. I walked over to Jack's hangar as he was taxiing in and gave him and my dad a handshake.
After talking about the flight, we headed back to my hangar and pushed my airplane back into it and took the cowling off. We wanted to inspect to see if anything was wrong. Fuel drips, oil drips, anything lose. Anything that didn't look right we looked for. The only things we found were a little fuel was leaking out of the fuel transducer threads, there was some rubbing of the mixture arm on the cowling, and the spinner was rubbing the cowling slightly. No other squawks other than that.
We finished off the day by Jack, my Dad and I going to lunch. We were surprised to run into my two cousins there and their families. They all thought I was joking when I told them I just flew my airplane, then I got another round of handshakes and hugs. It was a great way to end the day to see those smiling, familiar faces.
OK, So thats the long version of the story of the first flight. I wanted to write that while it was still fresh Now here's what you've been waiting for. Video and pictures! When viewing the YouTube videos, be sure to change the playback quality to High Definition (1080) for the best results!
Random Footage from my dad's camcorder, including my takeoff as seen from the chase airplane.
Engine start before first flight.
Jack Savage's RV-8 as my chase plane.
Now for the nitty gritty technical details of the first flight. All the CHT's were good except for #3. The max it climbed to was 418 degree before I took power away. The way I see it is it makes sense why #3 is the hotest. #1 and 2 in the front of the engine get blasted by air from the cooling intakes. #4 is cool because the oil cooler is right behind it so air freely moves over it. #3 is hot because it doesn't see any of the above extra air flow advantages.
Anyways, I got the airplane back in the hangar, decowled her and looked for issues.
This one was obvious. Spinner rubbing the lower cowling.
You can see its the screw here doing the harm. I sanded the cowling down some more and reprimed it. I will probably end up reshaping it, but for now let's see what I get.
Here is another issue....
The fuel injection servo's arm is rubbing the cowl. I though I made the bumpout large enough to eliminate this issue. Obviously not. I called up Precision Airmotive to see if they had other arms for the mixture control to swap out. I don't really need the one that I have. They said for *free* they'd ship me a straight one for exchange for this one. That's just too easy.
Other issue was some slight fuel leaking from the fuel pressure transducer. A couple extra turns to tighten it up should fix it up nicely.
And this was unexpected. I broke off the hinge pin where I bend it to hold the side of the lower cowl to the fuselage. Hmmmpf.
Here are a few graphs I made from the data from the first flight.
Here is the CHT's. You can see how #3 is hotter than the rest pretty much the whole time.
Oil Pressure and Temperature.
And Tach speed.
Last Modified: June 13, 2018