An RV Sort of Day - Almost An Ace
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An RV Sort of Day - Almost an Ace
By Vern Darley - vern@mindspring.com 

Yesterday was an RV sort of day. After spending several weeks working on radio and intercom problems on Frank’s RV-6A, it was time for a little fun. Steve called me and wanted to do a little formation work, so I asked Jon, a young college student who had just completed his finals and come home for the summer, to ride with me while Steve and I practiced our formation work. Since I work close to the airport, I met Steve during my lunch hour at his hanger and we briefed our formation procedures and rendezvoused at the terminal ramp. We began our formation procedures there and taxied out together on alternating sides of the taxiway, one ship length separation. Steve was lead and I was two. 

Soon we were airborne via a wing takeoff and in fingertip position enroute to our designated practice area. Steve’s RV-4 was a little faster and lighter than Frank’s 6A, which I was flying and he had to give us some power. We did some mild wing work, including some lazy-8 ‘s and a few pitch-outs and rejoins. Then we changed leads and I gave Steve some of his own medicine. Steve’s time as a T-38 IP was evident as he was much better at maintaining position in close fingertip than I was. Plus, Steve had been out practicing in an eleven-ship formation with the Atlanta boys a few weeks before. After his moderate wing work, I gave him a pitchout and rejoin to each side and then went to trail formation. Jon watched Steve as I moved the 6A all over the sky doing rolls and whifferdills. Steve hung in there and only overshot one time. Pretty good for an old guy! After a little echelon practice, we changed leads again and Steve led us back to the pattern. A few minutes after landing, I was straightening out my tie and re- arranging the few hairs I have left and becoming a “manager “ again. No one at the office had a clue! They thought I had been to lunch! Instead, I had chalked up a victory-another RV grin from Jon!

I could hardly wait until 5 o’clock . Mike was driving down for his first RV ride! After spending several late nights helping me with the electronic magic in Frank’s RV-6A, it was payback time. We sat in the shade of the static-display F-16 on one of the chocks while I briefed what to expect on this ride. Mike had spent an estimated 200 hours flying computer simulators and had a good idea of the theory of flight-just not much actual stick time. I strapped him into the left seat, talked him through the engine start, taught him to taxi, and demonstrated the run up. He did his first takeoff and was elated at the RV’s performance-pretty good for a guy who drives a very fast motorcycle! Mike practiced level flight and gentle turns. I demonstrated steep turns and coordination exercises. After forty minutes of this, I pointed down to the grass strip at Luthersville below us, pulled off the power and landed. George, who is building his second Lancair IV, waved to us as we rolled by in the lush green grass. He was overseeing the estate of Harry, an RV-6A builder since 1995 who had just died, leaving his project unfinished. Mike had expressed some interest and I wanted him to see it. However, George told us that Jim, a neighbor on the grass strip, had just purchased Harry’s project and they had moved it to his hanger a few days before. 

George called Jim and soon we were taxing up to his hanger at the other end if the strip. Jim, a retired FAA controller, and his wife Ethel met us in the hanger door. They were standing proudly next to their newly restored 1940 Ford. It was jet-black and had a 351 shoehorned into it. While we were eyeing the Ford, Jim and Ethel were eying the RV-6A and comparing it to the boxes of parts lying in their hanger. I asked if either had ever been for an RV ride before. When “no” came out of their mouths, I got a quick acceptance when I asked if they wanted a ride. Ethel beat Jim to the plane and soon she was strapped in and off we went. She wanted to try the stick and after a few minutes of stick-time, pronounced it to be a great airplane. This, of course, was to be great news for husband Jim, as every builder needs his family’s support in a project like this. After a short flight, it was Jim’s turn. He used about ten degrees of flaps to ease us off the short thick-grass strip and immediately was impressed. The 6A way out-performed his Mooney and 150! Jim was elated at his prospects of completing his 6A and having a bird like this of his own. After demonstrating the maneuverability of the 6A and inviting them up to our monthly RV socials at Falcon Field, Mike and I were off again. Chalk up two more RV grins!

Mike, an eager student, was eager to experience stalls, lazy-eights, and rolls to make his computer–sim concepts real-world. I was quite happy to oblige him with traffic pattern stalls, power-on stalls, steep turns, lazy-eights, loops, rolls, and a few others. Mike did not flinch-he was so excited that his imaginations of what an RV flies like were greatly surpassed by the reality of the RV. 

Soon, the time to land was near and I demonstrated a fine full stop short field landing to Mike. As I was about to pull off the runway, he looked at me and said, “Can we do one more so I can see how you do it?” I asked “one more what?” “Another landing,” he said. So, with over three thousand feet remaining, I goosed the throttle and talked him around the pattern. Mike seemed amazed by the whole experience and began making plans to sell some current toys for future RV joys. Chalk up the last grin of the day!

One more new RV grin and I would have been an ace!


Vern Darley