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!