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  #1  
Old 02-02-2017, 12:48 PM
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Dugaru Dugaru is offline
 
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Location: Richmond VA, USA
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Default Thoughts on transitioning to an RV-9A (long)

I thought it might be useful to summarize my recent experience transitioning to a new (to me) RV-9A -- if only because I really appreciated finding posts like that when I started looking to buy an RV. Perhaps those building RV-9As might find this interesting also.

Plus I have learned (and continue to learn) HUGE amounts of useful things here, so I thought I would try to contribute for once.

My flying background is probably not too different from that of a lot of RV transitioners. I have about 940 hours, and got the instrument rating in 2010. I trained in 150s, 152s, and 172s, flew a great 1974 172M for several years, then bought a 1979 Warrior that I flew for about 8 years. It was a terrific aircraft and we had many adventures together. I sold that when I got the opportunity to partner in a very well equipped Glasair Sportsman, which had been built by the previous owner in the ?two weeks to taxi? program. I got about 35 hours in that, 18 of which came after we converted the airplane to tailwheel. I got the tailwheel endorsement, but would not consider myself an accomplished taildragger operator (yet). The Sportsman experience convinced me that experimentals are a great way to fly. Unfortunately my partner?s move to Texas, in the wake of an unexpected and awesome job offer, forced an amicable airplane divorce, in which he got custody of the Sportsman.

So I launched another airplane search. The more I looked around, the more it seemed like the RV was a good fit for me. After working with Vic Syracuse for a bit, which included him giving me some absolutely crucial advice about specific airplanes I was looking at (I?ll skip the gory details), he convinced me (I think correctly) that the RV-9 was the airplane I needed for my mission, which includes a lot of light IFR travel in the mid-Atlantic. My tailwheel training convinced me that for traveling purposes, it would be nice to reduce the threat to my dispatch rate posed by gusty crosswinds, so the RV-9A seemed like the call. I bought a well-built and well-maintained RV-9A that I found here. It?s 160hp, slider, carbureted, with a CS prop.

So, thoughts on the transition:

1. Transitioning is easy. There?s a reason the insurance only required a 1-hour checkout -- which was quite a distinction from the insurance checkout requirements for the Sportsman! It?s just an easy airplane to fly. If the RV-9A has any vices or bad habits, I haven?t found or heard of them yet. The Sportsman was also easy to fly, but it?s very different in some ways from ?regular? GA aircraft. Just for example, the sink rate at low speeds and power settings can be very alarming. The RV-9A doesn?t seem to be as much of a departure, conceptually, from ?regular? GA aircraft.

2. With that said, it still makes sense to get checked out by a knowledgeable RV instructor. I was very, very fortunate to get hooked up with John Musgrave at Blue Sky Aero (www.blueskyaero.com). In addition to being a skilled and highly experienced CFI generally, and the kind of GA person we all love to meet, John has given a ton of thought to the things that are different about RVs, and how best to teach those differences to transitioning pilots. In a very short time, I got all sorts of info and tips, big and small, about the finer points of operating the RV. (John also has keen insights into how best to teach taildragger skills, so I?m going to follow up with him on that in a Stearman someday just for fun.) There may be RV transition instructors out there that are as good as John, but I?d be stunned if you could find one any better.

3. I don?t have a technical background, but the wing design of the RV-9 seems like something of a modern miracle to me. It?s perfectly happy flying at a huge range of speeds, including quite slowly for an airplane with its top-end performance. Its high-altitude performance appears to be amazing, although I haven?t explored that much yet. Stall habits seem very benign, and you get lots of warning of trouble.

4. It?s unbelievably easy to land. It may even be easier to land than the Warrior (which, as those of you who have flown one will know, is an absurdly easy airplane to land). It?s hard for me to compare the two precisely, because I probably got a little better at landing as a result of my tailwheel training. But wow, the RV-9A makes me look good, and trust me, I?m no natural.

5. It is REALLY FUN TO FLY. The RV grin is a real thing. I think it?s a combination of the terrific view (likely even better in a tip-up!) and the great handling. It also makes people smile when they see it rolling by on the ramp. I swear, as weird as it sounds, this airplane just makes people happy.

6. It is a legitimate traveling airplane if you want it to be. I considered the Warrior to be a training aircraft at heart, but with just enough performance to make mid-Atlantic travel doable, particularly with an autopilot that made it easier to pass the time. But you had to be a real enthusiast to fly it to, say, Florida (or Oshkosh!) from Virginia. There?s something about a 65-knot groundspeed that?s just depressing when you have a long way to go. With the RV-9A, those days are behind me. 

7. Vans has already said everything you need to know. The piece on the Vans website about how the collection of compromises embodied in the RV-9 make it a terrific airplane for a great many pilots seems to be true to me. Once I realized that I didn?t need four seats, and once I realized what the Cherokee gave up to get them, the design philosophy of the RV-9 just seemed so sensible. Using the same engine as the Warrior, I go lots faster and have more fun doing it.

8. Most of the hotly debated questions about the RV-9 are probably in the statistical noise. For example, I think I?d probably also be this happy with a tip-up. I have not flown in an RV-9 with 180hp; all I can say is that the 160hp and CS prop do not leave me longing for more performance. I?m open to the idea that the CS prop is overkill, but I sure do like flying behind it, so I?m glad someone else basically made that decision for me. 

I hope this will be helpful to someone. Thanks again to so many of you for all the assistance so far!
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Based W96: New Kent International Aerodrome
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  #2  
Old 02-02-2017, 01:29 PM
pmel pmel is offline
 
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Thank you for your post. I go back and forth in my mind about buying an RV. I have a 172 and seem like I'm always lurking on these forums. A buddy of mine has a 4 and another a 6. I have been in the 6 a couple of times and of course it was awesome. I think for the type of flying I do, the 9a would be the right one for me. Again thanks for sharing your experience!
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Last edited by pmel : 02-03-2017 at 08:03 AM.
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  #3  
Old 02-02-2017, 01:43 PM
Rupester Rupester is offline
 
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Well said. I agree on all points.
I would ad only one point .... economy. I have been astounded by the stingy fuel consumption of my IO-320. Most of my cruise time is spent LOP, were I see 6.4 to 7.0 GPH depending on altitude. Even more amazing is when I tally op hours vs fuel consumption for a full year. I am always well below 6.5gph... last year it was 5.9gph over nearly 100 hrs. I attribute the economy to four main factors:
1. RVs climb to altitude very quickly, minimizing WO operation
2. Cruising LOP the majority of the time
3. Throttling back for reduced airspeed and pattern entry takes fuel consumption way low. (Slowing down with a fixed pitch prop requires planning ahead, thus more reduced throttle operation.)
4. Residing at a Class D towered field, where taxi distance to three of four runways is 6000ft or more. I average 1.8gph in taxi mode.
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  #4  
Old 02-02-2017, 02:27 PM
JDBoston JDBoston is offline
 
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Doug,

Even though I am building a 14A after starting on a 9A a few years ago, thanks for writing up your experiences. Care to comment a little bit on the nosewheel of the 9A and any perceived issues there since you are coming newly into the model? I am referring to the perhaps overblown fragility of it, and of course all the other comments about most of those issues being attributed to improper technique.

I had chosen to switch to the 14 largely for the improved design but still am a great admirer of the 9. I am not selling my kit, but I would have to say that if I decided I just wanted to buy a flying plane, the 9 would be it.
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RV-14A
Status: Tail mostly complete, Wings complete(ish), Working on: Fuselage Kit, Finish kit on order (EXP119)
Location:MA
http://vans14a.blogspot.com/
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  #5  
Old 02-02-2017, 02:30 PM
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Dugaru Dugaru is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pmel View Post
Thank you for your post. I go back and forth in my mind about buying an RV. I have a 172 and seem like I'm always lurking on these forums. A buddy of mine has a 4 and another a 6. I have been in the 6 a couple of times and of course it was awesome. I think for the type of flying I do, the 9a would be the right one for me. Again that's for sharing your experience!
Let me know if you're ever in my neck of the woods (Richmond VA, USA), I'd be happy to give you a ride!
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Based W96: New Kent International Aerodrome
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2021 Dues Paid
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  #6  
Old 02-02-2017, 02:36 PM
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Dugaru Dugaru is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JDBoston View Post
Doug,

Even though I am building a 14A after starting on a 9A a few years ago, thanks for writing up your experiences. Care to comment a little bit on the nosewheel of the 9A and any perceived issues there since you are coming newly into the model? I am referring to the perhaps overblown fragility of it, and of course all the other comments about most of those issues being attributed to improper technique.

I had chosen to switch to the 14 largely for the improved design but still am a great admirer of the 9. I am not selling my kit, but I would have to say that if I decided I just wanted to buy a flying plane, the 9 would be it.
Good question. I had concerns about the nosewheel. The Sportsman had started out with a very similar setup and it was no end of hassles - copious shimmy and two trashed wheel pants later, we switched to tailwheel and never looked back. Every time I visited another nosewheel fixed gear Glasair owner I would see a trashed wheel pant somewhere in the hangar. . I've had no similar issues with the RV, but have paid careful attention to the tire pressure and landing speed. I guess time will tell.
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Based W96: New Kent International Aerodrome
(near Richmond, VA USA)
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Last edited by Dugaru : 02-02-2017 at 02:54 PM.
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  #7  
Old 02-02-2017, 02:42 PM
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Raymo Raymo is offline
 
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Having come from a Cherokee 140 to a recently flying -7A, I am relearning how to taxi at low speeds using differential braking, which was not needed in the Cherokee.

Ensure the nosewheel breakout torque is correct; it makes a big difference.
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RV-7A - Slider - N495KL - First flt 27 Jan 17
O-360-A4M w/ AFP FM-150 FI, Dual PMags, Vetterman Trombone Exh, SkyTech starter, BandC Alt (PP failed after 226 hrs)
Catto 3 blade NLE, FlightLines Interior, James cowl, plenum & intake, Anti-Splat -14 seat mod and nose gear support
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  #8  
Old 02-02-2017, 02:42 PM
pmel pmel is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dugaru View Post
Let me know if you're ever in my neck of the woods (Richmond VA, USA), I'd be happy to give you a ride!
Thanks I appreciate that, I have family down by KJGG so you never know...Thanks again
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  #9  
Old 02-02-2017, 02:46 PM
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Dugaru Dugaru is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JDBoston View Post
... Care to comment a little bit on the nosewheel of the 9A and any perceived issues there since you are coming newly into the model? I am referring to the perhaps overblown fragility of it, and of course all the other comments about most of those issues being attributed to improper technique. ...
I should add on the nosewheel issue that it's interesting to compare the Vans design to the Warrior's. My Warrior nosegear didn't require a lot of maintenance, but many did -- including recharging of the strut, re-chroming of the strut, and rebuilding of the shimmy damper. The latter two were expensive. Plus the whole setup likely was heavier than the Vans nosegear. So even though it's fair to say, I think, that the RV-9A nosegear is a *relative* weak point in Vans design, so too is the Warrior's -- and I'm certainly not sure Vans is the clear loser.

Also the turning radius of the RV-9A is tailwheel-level awesome.
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  #10  
Old 02-02-2017, 02:50 PM
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Dugaru Dugaru is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rupester View Post
Well said. I agree on all points.
I would ad only one point .... economy. I have been astounded by the stingy fuel consumption of my IO-320. ....
You'd think I would have mentioned this in my 8000-word essay, because I've noticed it too. For me, the fuel burns are familiar, since I spent a lot of time behind another carbureted O-320 (in the Piper). But the RV just gets much better MPG. It's probably saving me $30 in gas compared to the Warrior each time I fly to and from PA, my standard mission.
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