I had caught wind of a special day that had been planned by a member of EAA Chapter 240 at New Garden Airport (N57). One of the older members, Jim (whose last name escapes me at the moment, but he's a gentleman and a scholar!), had arranged to have a P-51D visit the field to give rides to the first 10 (which turned into 12) people to get their names on the list. Before you get the wrong idea about where this story is headed, I was not one of those 12! In fact, that's not what this thread is about really (although seeing the -51 in such a low-key, uncrowded environment was every bit as cool as you think it was!).
Actually, my story is more about the RV-7A I spotted on the way past the main hangar to the ramp. Now, I've been going to this airport since my Dad started taking me as a kid back in the 70's, and as soon as I got my driver's license, this was the first place I wanted to go with my new-found freedom. But I got older, got married, got divorced, got re-married, blah blah blah...so years of "other responsibilities" kept me away until, over the last few years I found myself drifting back to N57 every time I had a few spare hours on a Sunday (my only day off, which is usually reserved for family). Anyway, I digress...
There I am, walking past the open hangar, in which normally resides an odd assortment of planes, ranging from a brand new Pipistrel Alpha LSA trainer (weird thing...looks like a bug), A Fairchild 24 that's immaculately restored, a PT-22, an L-2, a couple of Golden Age biplanes whose makes I can never remember...all of these I've seen and photographed plenty of times. But today there was something different. An RV-7A was tucked in there on the far side, and I was immediately drawn to it (yes, the P-51 was directly in front of me, gassing up at the pump, and I ignored it for the RV...I am truly infected in a sad way.
Noticing that I was smitten (and possibly trying to prevent me from drooling on the plane), a stranger walked over and we started talking about RV's...this one wasn't his (he owned the aforementioned L-2, but he wants an RV-8)...however he knew the owner, and promised to point him out to me if he showed up. This he dutifully did, and that led to more RV talk with Dave Hagerty, who had recently purchased this particular 7A from a gentleman in Kansas. One thing led to another, and I finally admitted that although I've been a fan of the brand for many years, I'd never even sat in one. You know what came next...one minute I'm testing out the left seat, babbling like a kid in a candy store, and the next thing I know, Dave is off in search of some Dave Clarks because he wants me to get a little air time.
Not too long after that, we were airborne. I don't need to tell you guys and gals what a rush I got from the first surge of power, but let me at least say it was just shy of a religious experience for me. I mean, I've flown spam cans with similar horsepower, but I've never felt anything quite like the acceleration this 180hp motor was making me feel in this smaller, lighter airframe.
It was hot, humid, and hazy today, but I really didn't care. We didn't have chutes, so no acro, but some steep turns showed off the responsiveness of the plane. And then Dave said, "Ya wanna try it?" Does a bear fart in the woods? Is the Pope Argentinian? Is that horizon virtually indistinguishable? YES PLEASE!
Two fingers and a thumb (yes, from the same hand, thank you very much) were all that was needed. My turns were less aggressive than Dave's, but the immediate response to every input was so unlike the Skyhawks and Cherokee's I'm used to (again, I know I'm preaching to the choir here). Initially, the sight picture in Dave's tip-up was a little disorienting, and I found myself gaining 500 feet when I thought I was staying pretty straight and level, but once I got used to it, holding altitude got easier. I may need about another 2...make that 2000 hours in the type to get used to it, but if it's the last thing I do, I will find a way to get me one of these things!
I know this was a lot to read, but I suspect there are a lot of wannabe's (and likely as many "already are's") like me here on VAF who understand why I still can't wipe the RV Grin off my face (no pic of that, but trust me, it's there!). Sorry my words were inadequate to express the joy that short flight brought me, after so many years of letting my license collect dust (due to all the usual suspects). I've never lost my love for aviation, but as the dream seemed to be slipping away, I needed this reminder to rejuvenate the passion, and remind me that all the other cr*p life throws at me is worth it if I can somehow end up an RV owner.
Once again, to Doug Reeves, and all the regulars here at VAF, thank you for inspiring guys like me, and showing that it can be done if you want it bad enough. And finally, thanks to Dave Hagerty for his generosity and kindness to this airplane nerd from way back. I am forever grateful, even if it does turn out to be the most expensive free ride I've ever taken! An extra mid-year donation to VAF has been entered in Dave's honor.
(Here's a pic of Dave's gorgeous RV-7A to wrap up this dissertation)