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  #1  
Old 09-02-2020, 03:58 PM
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Rightfooted Rightfooted is offline
 
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Location: Oro Valley, AZ
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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!
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  #2  
Old 09-02-2020, 04:17 PM
PhatRV PhatRV is offline
 
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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.
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  #3  
Old 09-02-2020, 04:39 PM
DeltaRomeo DeltaRomeo is offline
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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,
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  #4  
Old 09-02-2020, 05:07 PM
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greghughespdx greghughespdx is offline
 
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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:

https://vansairforce.com/community/s...d.php?t=159829
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  #5  
Old 09-02-2020, 05:42 PM
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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.
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  #6  
Old 09-02-2020, 06:14 PM
rocketman1988 rocketman1988 is offline
 
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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...
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  #7  
Old 09-02-2020, 06:24 PM
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Danny King Danny King is offline
 
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Default RV engineering

Dan,
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.

Jessica,
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.
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  #8  
Old 09-02-2020, 07:06 PM
DennisRhodes DennisRhodes is offline
 
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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 !!!
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  #9  
Old 09-02-2020, 07:28 PM
terrye terrye is offline
 
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Default An RV for an armless pilot

Jessica,
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.
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  #10  
Old 09-02-2020, 07:38 PM
rockwoodrv9 rockwoodrv9 is offline
 
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Quote:
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.
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