Home > VansAirForceForums

-Advertise in here!
- Today's Posts | Insert Pics

Keep VAF Going
Donate methods

Point your
camera app here
to donate fast.

Old 09-02-2020, 03:58 PM
Rightfooted's Avatar
Rightfooted Rightfooted is offline
Join Date: Sep 2020
Location: Oro Valley, AZ
Posts: 31
Default An RV for an armless pilot

Hello all,

I decided to drop into the forum here to ask for ideas. Some of you may have heard my story before. I'm the first armless pilot.

I currently fly an Ercoupe. It doesn't have rudder pedals or flaps, so it works perfectly for me. But the position I sit in is difficult to maintain for cross country flights.

My question now is whether or not an RV or another home built experimental could be built and modified for custom controls for someone like me?

A friend here in Tucson suggested I add a pull bar on one rudder pedal (which I've found has been done on an RV before) and relocate the yoke forward on the floor. There would probably need to be an electronic throttle mixed in somewhere, too. Do you have any ideas on if and how this could be done? Do you have some other thoughts about where and how to configure the controls?

I appreciate your input.

It would be awesome to take an airplane across the country to visit kids with limb loss as part of my nonprofit. The Ercoupe make that unlikely but custom controls in an RV might. Thanks!
Attached Thumbnails
Click image for larger version

Name:	Cockpit Overview JCMS 1.jpg
Views:	267
Size:	643.6 KB
ID:	1941  
Reply With Quote
Old 09-02-2020, 04:17 PM
PhatRV PhatRV is offline
Join Date: Mar 2018
Location: Buena Park, California
Posts: 381

Wow, I watched your story on AOPA weekly show. What an inspirational story.

I think the RV has control stick instead of the control yoke so it can be shortened lower in the seat to allow you to control the airplane in a more comfortable sitting position for cross country flight. The stick control force is very light so you can use your other foot for other control, such as rudder. I can't answer about the rudder modification but other people can chime in.

The RV has electric flap and it can be easily controlled by a flip of a switch. The switch can also be mounted on the control stick, or other places, depending on your comfort level. Since the RV is an experimental, it can be easily modified to fit your ergonomic needs.

Good luck.
RV8 standard build: Empennage 99% completed
Wing -- Closed
Fuselage -- Canopy Done. Fiberglass 80%
Avionics Installation -- 90%
Firewall Forward -- Engine hung
Electrical -- 90%

Donation paid through 2021
Reply With Quote
Old 09-02-2020, 04:39 PM
DeltaRomeo DeltaRomeo is offline
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Highland Village, TX
Posts: 4,141

Jessica welcome!

Get ready for an slew of mechanical engineers to start thinking about how they can help you get into a cross country capable RV.

Welcome aboard and standing by to help,
Doug Reeves (your host)
  • Full time: since '07 (started it in '96).
  • Typed in the EMB-505 (Phenom 300). Available for contract work. (resume).
  • Part time: Supporting Crew Member CAE EMB-505 Level D Sim @ KDFW.

Last edited by DeltaRomeo : 09-02-2020 at 05:06 PM.
Reply With Quote
Old 09-02-2020, 05:07 PM
greghughespdx's Avatar
greghughespdx greghughespdx is offline
Join Date: Nov 2011
Location: Aurora, OR
Posts: 925

Hey there, Jessica. We've seen and done some trial modifications in the past on RVs related to different types of custom control options for pilots who needed something different than standard. In each case it's been custom, of course, but feel free to ping me and I'll be glad to talk with you about it!

Van did some work on hand controls on his RV-12, and the organization Able Flight has done some work I believe. Most of the custom work that's been done in the past has been for hand controls, maybe some ideas would be adaptable to your needs. And of course every situation is somewhat unique. But this thread from a couple years ago might also be useful from a thinking-about-it perspective:
Greg Hughes - Van's Aircraft - Community, Media, Marketing
Van's web site | Instagram | Facebook
Opinions, information and comments are my own unless stated otherwise. They do not necessarily represent the direction/opinions of my employer.

Building RV-8A since Sept 2014
Dual AFS 5600, Avidyne IFD 440, Whirlwind 74RV, Superior XP IO-360
VAF build thread - Flickr photo album - Project Facebook page
Aurora, OR (EAA Chapter 105)

Last edited by greghughespdx : 09-02-2020 at 05:19 PM.
Reply With Quote
Old 09-02-2020, 05:42 PM
DanH's Avatar
DanH DanH is offline
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: 08A
Posts: 9,795

Jessica, thinking out loud here. You may not understand all I'll say, because you may not be familiar with the parts...but it might stir ideas with other folks who are. Let the stirring begin

The RV8A ("A" means nose wheel here) would be the easy candidate in terms of foot control, as the stick torque tube extends through the main spar. It means the torque tube and related parts would merely need lengthening to place a slightly shortened control stick relatively far forward. It may even be possible to lower the forward end just a little. Might need to work on stick ratios a bit, as an RV is mostly flown with stick pressure. However, the -8 has a good stick force vs G gradient in pitch, and over-squeezing the trailing edges of the ailerons will make them less sensitive.

Need a rudder bar with a center pivot you can push-pull with your left foot. Easy to do.

Now the hard parts. Nose wheel RVs steer via differential braking. There is no steering connection to the nose wheel. Offhand, the one control concept which might work would be roughly similar to a Yak-52. The Yak is steered on the ground by squeezing a lever to apply pneumatic brakes while pushing the appropriate rudder pedal. In your case we need a system which applies right brake with right stick, left with left, and both with stick centered. Pressure could be sourced from a master cylinder behind a swivel pedal on your push-pull foot.

Fixed pitch prop, no control required. Mixture can be eliminated with an SDS fuel injection. That leaves throttle. Don't know how much grip or digital manipulation you have available. First thought says avoid the issue; perhaps control with a mouth tube...blow to increase, suck to decrease. Small air cylinders are quite common, and the force required is low.

You'll need a two-axis autopilot for practical cross-country. A RV won't always stay upright when you release a primary flight control to operate a switch or device.
Dan Horton
Barrett IO-390
Reply With Quote
Old 09-02-2020, 06:14 PM
rocketman1988 rocketman1988 is offline
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: Sunman, IN
Posts: 2,343
Default ...and

Also thinking out loud...and out of the box.

It might be possible to set up an accessory to allow, say, your left foot to rest in a stirup on the floor to control the elevator with forward and aft motion. Might need to reverse it for you so that pushing would actuate UP elevator and pulling back would yield down. Would make sense as you need far more up generally than down and pushing with your leg gives you sufficient leverage.

Ailerons and rudder control might be accomplished by securing a linkage to your knee; thigh muscles left and right...

Throttle could be accomplished with the right foot/ankle, much like the gas pedal in a car. Flex forward for increase throttle, aft for decrease.

Electrical controls might be set up like the pedal switches for an electric guitar.

Secondary controls such as com and nav frequencies, radio transfer, lights, etc could be voice activated much like using the Alexa devices....

Interesting problems, all of which have solutions...

Again, just thinking out loud...
Aerospace Engineer '88

Phase I as of 12-02-2020

Dues+ Paid 2020,...Thanks DR+
Reply With Quote
Old 09-02-2020, 06:24 PM
Danny King's Avatar
Danny King Danny King is offline
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Southlake, Texas
Posts: 628
Default RV engineering

When I first started reading this thread you came to mind. I was not surprised to see your post so soon. You have some great ideas. I'm sure you and the other engineers on VAF can solve this problem.

When I first learned about you and heard your story, I was blown away. You are such an inspiration. I'm sure the modifications you need can be worked out by the very capable people on VAF. I will follow this thread closely.
Danny King
Beautiful Doll 80434 TT 1710 hours
I0360 A1B6 200 HP
Christen Inverted Oil
First Flight 12 July 2000
VAF Dues current for 2021
Reply With Quote
Old 09-02-2020, 07:06 PM
DennisRhodes DennisRhodes is offline
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Taylorsville, Ga
Posts: 835

What if , you controlled all stick inputs electrically. ie the RV8 fly by wire. Very doable with todays electronics. A joy stick with compatable inputs would be your interface. Same for rudder inputs .
Where else but experimental could you do this. There will be someone on this site who is capabile of solving this !!!
2020 VAF Supporter
RV9 N908DR
Reply With Quote
Old 09-02-2020, 07:28 PM
terrye terrye is offline
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Vancouver, BC, Canada
Posts: 916
Default An RV for an armless pilot

Carl M. Hay is a paraplegic pilot who built an RV-6 and designed hand controls for the brakes/rudder. Not quite your situation, but if it will help, reply with your email address and I'll copy the article and send it to you. It's in the Sport Aviation magazine May 1996 page 61.
Terry Edwards
RV-9A (Fuselage)
2020/2021 VAF Contribution Sent
Reply With Quote
Old 09-02-2020, 07:38 PM
rockwoodrv9 rockwoodrv9 is offline
Join Date: Dec 2011
Location: Meridian ID, Aspen CO, Okemos MI
Posts: 2,705

Originally Posted by DennisRhodes View Post
What if , you controlled all stick inputs electrically. ie the RV8 fly by wire. Very doable with todays electronics. A joy stick with compatable inputs would be your interface. Same for rudder inputs .
Where else but experimental could you do this. There will be someone on this site who is capabile of solving this !!!
Good points Dennis. If you can control Flight Sim with a keyboard, a joystick should be able to be made to work. Maybe something like a bike shoe in a pedal with forward ankle for down, heal back for up?

On the Ercoupe, aren't the rudders connected to the ailerons? I flew in one about 40 years ago so I may be mistaken.

As much as I like Vans, maybe we should not rule out other planes that may be a better fit. Glastar? Not nearly as fast as RV, but pretty good speed and easier to get inside.

The brainpower on VAF is an incredible asset to make something like this happen.
Williamston MI
O-320 D2A
Flying N376E

Last edited by rockwoodrv9 : 09-02-2020 at 07:41 PM.
Reply With Quote

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

vB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 10:13 PM.

The VAFForums come to you courtesy Delta Romeo, LLC. By viewing and participating in them you agree to build your plane using standardized methods and practices and to fly it safely and in accordance with the laws governing the country you are located in.