Yesterday was the first flight of my RV-9A, done by transition-training instructor Jan Bussell at the controls. Today was my first sole attempt.
I seem to be experiencing plug fowling and I nearly aborted my first takeoff when, during the runup, I had some deep mag drops (I have both a regular Slick mag and a PMAG). Drops on both were about 250 RPM! I consulted with the old timers and two A&Ps who felt I needed to run the engine hard and lean it out (even though I lean aggressively on the ground). Let me add I have a new Lycoming YIO-320, though it has been sitting around for several years.
I did what they suggested and the mag drops dropped to a more reasonable 125 RPM on each mag. I still would have expected the PMAG to show little drop, but it was about the same as with the Slick. Anyway, with some degree of nervousness (more over my own abilities and not with the engine, since it had flown fine the previous day and I am sure Jan would have picked up on any anomalies), I took to the runway, said a little prayer, and applied full power. Before I knew it I was airborne, with all the awe and excitement that come after 5 years of building and 47 years of dreaming. I was actually flying my own airplane!
The engine was running smooth, but very quickly the cylinder head temps, especially on #1, started rising, going to 425F pretty quickly. Jan had told me of this. I kept the nose down, climbing at an anemic 400 ft/min or so at 100 KIAS. Both #1 and #2 peaked at 429F, with #3 and #4 about 5F cooler. Finally, the temps started retreated and, as I circled above the airport at about 1,600 feet (scattered Cu keep me from going higher) they settled at a little below 400F. At full power and full rich, I was showing 2,400 RPM and, IIRC, 9 gal/hr fuel flow, and the Skyview showing 70% power, which was just about right. I kept the engine running wide open until it was time to land.
I circled the airport, trying to get used to the Skyview. The manual pitch trim was very sensitive. It took just some small turns to make significant pitch changes. I was trying to figure out on the display where level flight was, finding the flight path predictor to be right on, but not the artificial horizon line. It can be adjusted, but I didn?t bother. At full power, I was showing about 130 KIAS (I didn?t have the wheel pants or fairings installed), and I stayed between 1,600 to 1,800 feet, with the base of the clouds not all that far above me. After about 30 minutes it was starting to get bumpy and it appeared more clouds were moving in so I decided it was time to land.
I descended and entered an upwind at pattern altitude. (One thing I tried to be aware of was Va, which really isn?t all that high. I caught myself at 136 KIAS and pulled back the throttle back to get closer to Va. It wasn?t that it was turbulent, it was more that I was trying to develop a good habit.) Jan had instructed me to go to idle at mid-field downwind, slow down to flap speed, add some flaps and turn base, adding more flaps and RPMs as needed. He recommended I fly my final at 65 KIAS. Well, I was concerned about going to idle and, short story, I flew downwind and base more like a Cessna, and ended up high and fast. Of course, I had to do a go around. (I could probably have slipped it in, but that would be foolish to try on a first flight.) Back on downwind, I still didn?t go quite to idle, maybe 1,200 RPM, and since several planes were lined up for takeoff, I extended my downwind a bit (and inadvertently widened my approach) to allow one of them to take off. I was still a bit high on final and so I added full flaps and finally went to idle. No problems with the engine and with a speed of 65 KIAS, she started coming down nicely. Passing the runway threshold in a stable approach, I was getting excited as I thought I was going to grease it on, but then she didn?t want to land! It was like my baby was telling me that after 5 years, she didn?t want it to end yet! She kept floating just a few feet high, which I guess 9?s like to do. She finally settled down as she ran out of airspeed (no, I failed to notice the speed). Not a greaser, but not bad, either. I held full back pressure and used little breaking, using up the remainder of the runway (3,600 total length) before turning off. I am thinking an approach should be flown even slower, but until I can get enough altitude to do some stalls, 60-65 KIAS is what I will use.
I already admitted to some nervousness. One can?t help but think that when you go up in your airplane for the first flight that the odds of your having a bad day are probably about the highest they will ever be (for most of us civilians anyway). Having the training with Jan helped immensely. Flying glass is certainly different, though, and it will take a while to figure out all that the Skyview has to offer, and my flying in a Skycatcher helped there. Having a few dozen hours of hanger flying really helped, but a dynamic display is different than a static display. Let me add the aural warnings the Skyview puts out gives some peace of mind. It alert me to the high cylinder head temps and even gave a warning that I was exceeding my flap extension speed (I was on 10 degree flaps and really wasn?t, but the warning sure was nice.)
It is a great feeling to finally be flying and to finally be one of those posters here who gets to announce their first flight in their own airplane. To those still pounding rivets, it is all worth it. Every drilled finger, every toe that felt a dropped bucking bar, the black and blue legs from hitting the steps, tank sealant?. everything, it was all worth it.
I loved building and, of course, I want to build again. It is just that the -9 is close to the perfect airplane for me, so what else would I want to build/fly? But, I still have wheel pants and fairings to do, and a paint scheme to figure out, so no new projects until this baby is done!
The RV grin!