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Old 12-28-2012, 01:45 PM
smokyray's Avatar
smokyray smokyray is offline
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: TX32
Posts: 1,965
Default X Marks the Spot

X Marks The Spot!

What do get when you cross and RV-4 with an RV-6? The RVX or “X” as I call it! Over the past twenty years I have been privileged to help build and re-build three marvelous personal aircraft. Markedly different, but marvelous nonetheless.
High admission price:
What I have seen in recent years is a trend. The rise in cost of aircraft to double what I spent in 1996 dollars to finish my RV-4. Some instrument panels cost more than my airplane! My HR2 was a rebuild and a wonderful airplane, but with a healthy appetite and costly support structure. Flying has to become less expensive or it will simply become a luxury of the wealthy. Having lived in Japan and seen their version of GA or the lack thereof, rest assured the alternative is gloomy. Ken Krueger and Ken Scott at Vans agreed when they built their mini masterpiece, the KK-1. The ONEX and Thatcher CX-4 all follow this concept.
The Mission:
Why the X? Mainly to practice what I was preaching and get a cool airplane out of the deal. A low cost, fun, efficient airplane. Building a viable, efficient and fun personal machine for low dollars isn’t a new idea. Bernie Pietenpol coined the concept, John Thorp perfected it and Dick Van Grunsven, John Monnett and others have refined it. So how can you keep costs low, performance high and investment sound in today’s economy? Answer: scrounge! Yes, you have to shop around, search for used items for some things, new for others, lower your sights on expensive things and get back to basics. What is your mission? Do you really think you’re going to be shooting an ILS to minimums every day after flying all day on Autopilot? I sure don’t want to but this seems to be the current mentality. Do you want to do aerobatics? Do you land on grass? How long is your average flight? Do you really need an IO-360 and constant speed prop? Do you need an autopilot, dual EFIS and Bose stereo? Would you like to burn Mo-Gas when and if 100LL goes away? When it really gets down to it, you don’t need much fluff to have fun. The lighter the weight, the better they fly.
It Begins:
The X began as a search for RV projects to assemble and build a very low cost, efficient fast back RV-4. After purchasing a project through Cornerstone Ministries, the X began taking form. My costs started with the engine. With some searching I was able to find and re-build an 0-320A for a total expenditure of $6500. I have always liked the “A” as it is slightly lighter and less costly than other 0-320’s and has a hollow crank if C/S becomes an option later. The prop with extension, $1800. Panel? The MGL Enigma at $1500 was a bargain when you looked at total capabilities and future growth potential. Interior appointments? Paint is all you need and it weighs little if you keep it to one coat. Exterior paint? Keep it simple. One color is plenty. Vinyl graphics are reasonable, Vans agrees, all their prototypes have vinyl over solid paint color. I had the luxury of two friends who restore cars and helped me really put a nice automotive finish on the X.
You can too.

Time Out:
Just as the pieces were coming together, 9-11 intervened. My part time job as an F-16 pilot suddenly became full time and I was deployed off and on for the next four years. While away my Dad and my friend Arvil conspired to combine my RV4 bits with a RV6 fuselage to complete what would become a very cool airplane. This required re-jigging the wing, removing one center section bay and attaching and RV-4 empennage to the 6 aft fuselage.
Time to Fly:
Upon returning from overseas, I visited Arvil’s shop and behold, the X! It looked slightly different than a stock six, something I couldn’t put my finger on. It was the dimensions, slightly smaller tail, shorter wings, very RV-4-like. Hmmm, I really like it. Three months later all the ground testing completed, nothing was left but the test flight. I taxied out of Arvil’s back yard onto his 1200’ turf strip between soybean fields; applied max thrust and we were off. Immediately upon getting airborne I noticed myself slightly over controlling the X, in pitch and a bit in roll, it is sensitive! Climb was reminiscent of my 150 HP RV4 and the Catto 2 blade FP prop was nearly perfectly matched. After several flights to adjust rigging and tweak the engine monitor she was settling down as a real performer. The combination of lightweight, tight fairings and the proper prop paid off. We had a winner!
Cost? All tolled, well under $30K out the door. Still expensive in my book, but less than half the 100K+ of the modern RV. Knowing what I know now, we could even do it cheaper the next time around.
The bottom line? My twenty-year-old RV grin is unblemished, maybe a bit refined!

Since building and flying the X I have several new airplane concepts bouncing around my cranium. Originally I wanted to name the X the “RV-5” but Van actually built one back in the early 80’s. It was a single place, VW powered machine that never took off, so to speak. However comma, I believe the RV-5 concept is sound, a low cost, efficient airplane for the future. With many new 80-100HP engines now on the market including the Revmaster, Great Plains VW, AeroVee, UL Power and Rotax. Lycoming and Continental also have revived their early models into lightweight contenders. Avionics have also come a long way with the MGL Extreme mini EFIS, Dynon and others. More aptly, there is an APP for that. There is an iPhone App for engine monitoring and even flight instruments. Seats? I believe one or even one and a half reminiscent of the Sonerai. The KK-1 represents this beautifully as does the ONEX, Thatcher CX-4 and BK-1.It’s hard to argue the viability, utility and economy of the Thorp T-18, even with today’s push-button quick build kits. I think the Van’s Juggernaut could do them all one better with a viable quality kit and engine deals that would bring in even the most skeptical builder. It would have to be more attractive than the current offerings, experimental and basic. As Forrest Gump once said: “Bubba had a good idea”, implementation is the key. Only time will tell…

Rob “Smokey” Ray

The "X"

Last edited by smokyray : 12-28-2012 at 02:05 PM.
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Old 12-28-2012, 05:15 PM
dealfair dealfair is offline
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: George West, TX
Posts: 567

I surely like your thinking there Smokey. It took me awhile to learn "KISS" with my first -4. While I was tinkering with add-ons, my buddies with less equipment would be flying by and saying "see ya later."

Yeah, in March this year, a friend with a -6A flew me from 8T6 to McKinney Aero Country (T31) just using my iPhone & ForeFlight. My old Garmin 295 still offers great capability. It really doesn't take much. During my impeteous youth, I traveled all over the South & southwest in my 65 hp 1946 Luscombe 8A. No radios, just a sectional(s). Sure had a lot of fun.

I'm using your arguments on some friends who want to fly. They have pickups that cost more than some of our RVs. My old 92 Ford F150 can still get me to the airport.

I saw you and X at T31, either late last year or early this year. I can't recall the date; but I was (and still am) really impressed with your trusty steed. I wish you a safe, happy fun flying New Year.

Cheers All,
Deal Fair
RV-4 (N34CB)
George West, TX (8T6)
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Old 12-31-2012, 07:12 AM
Cooperd0g's Avatar
Cooperd0g Cooperd0g is offline
Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: Pensacola, FL
Posts: 32

Smokey, I am hoping to buy a flying RV in about 3-5 years. I have seen enough night and bad weather stuff that I'm pretty much okay with daytime VFR for fun flying. Some of the iPad apps out there are amazing.

ForeFlight has the flight planning, moving map and the ability to get GPS and ADSB from their Stratus, which connects via wifi to the iPad. Meanwhile WingX Pro has the ability for compass, attitude indicator, pitot static info and engine management from the AHRS-G, but no GPS or ADSB. The info also goes over wifi. Of course you could use a plug in or bluetooth GPS with WingX as well since the iPad can only connect to one wifi device at a time.

TruTrack has their iMonitor for engine management monitoring also and that connects via wifi.

It seems like right now if you wanted all of it you could do it with a Bluetooth GPS/ADSB receiver and the AHRS-G and WingX Pro. According to Levil Technology they will be offering the iLevil Plus that will incorporate everything - compass, attitude, ADSB, GPS, pitot static, and engine monitoring. It will broadcast the info over wifi so multiple devices can get access to it. You could even have a full two screen set up with two iPads and an iPhone for back up. A couple of backup pitot static instruments and you have a very light weight, cost effective, and capable VFR cruising machine.
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Old 12-31-2012, 10:41 AM
49clipper 49clipper is offline
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Belleville
Posts: 315
Default catto prop

Hey Smokey, which catto did you use on that? I am looking to change out my Sensenich and Catto says to go 68 x71. He says it will lower rpm on takeoff but with better thrust and then gain rpm at cruise. Sorta hard to understand.
Jim RV-6 O320-D1A
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Old 12-31-2012, 10:49 AM
Tomcat RV4 Tomcat RV4 is offline
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: Jacksonville,Fl. 32246
Posts: 281

Smokey,you have been and are giving me the hope to continue my slow build RV4.I have # 538 !! that I bought from original purchaser several years ago,and progress has been slow until recently.. I got new shop next to home.My original plan was to follow plans except where i noticed something on forem that would safely lighten something...I also plan subaru power and minimum new electric simple panel, and as I have much experience with engines and been steadly collecting additional info relative to airplane use.strictly day VFR. Possibly light enough to register as lite sport ,but won't know til further along.....Thanks Tom
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Old 12-31-2012, 10:54 AM
tclaire tclaire is offline
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: Rayville Mo Midland Tx
Posts: 74

Originally Posted by 49clipper View Post
Hey Smokey, which catto did you use on that? I am looking to change out my Sensenich and Catto says to go 68 x71. He says it will lower rpm on takeoff but with better thrust and then gain rpm at cruise. Sorta hard to understand.
Jim RV-6 O320-D1A
i just change my mt prop to the catto and does what you just said. it hard for me to understand how it works also, but it works and flys great, and smooth...
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Old 12-31-2012, 07:54 PM
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splinter splinter is offline
Join Date: Nov 2011
Location: Valdosta, GA
Posts: 62


From one 'X' owner (non-builder) to an 'X' builder, and from one Viper driver to another...amen, brother! Perhaps I will be able to build my own someday... keep motivating me and it will likely be sooner, rather than later!

Happy new years and clear skies,
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Old 12-31-2012, 09:01 PM
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SmilingJack SmilingJack is offline
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Hilton Head Island
Posts: 1,105

Smokey, great write up , as usual!

But, I have to comment to you and Splinter about the simple and light path vs. the heavy in weight and Technology path that some of us have chosen.

You both had the privilege to fly an AWESOME aircraft! I didn't, so I had to build my own and get as close as I could to that dreamship - "VIPER"!

After flying it for a couple years now the RV has proven to satisfy most of the "Dream". Especially when I read things from guys like you that have had the experience and "seem" to have more fun in the RV then the F-16! Makes me feel like I didn't miss anything (don't answer that! )

So, I built to go Mach 2 while sitting in my hangar making afterburner noise's.

Again, cool write up and great motivator for others to finish.

P.S. - Tomcat RV4....get that 4 done! Need more RV's at KPOU!
John Mastro
10 years of Awesomeness!
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Old 01-01-2013, 06:18 AM
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pierre smith pierre smith is offline
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Louisville, Ga
Posts: 7,911
Default Bargain

Originally Posted by Tomcat RV4 View Post
.........I also plan subaru power and minimum new electric simple panel, and as I have much experience with engines and been steadly collecting additional info relative to airplane use.strictly day VFR. Possibly light enough to register as lite sport ,but won't know til further along.....Thanks Tom
Tom, my buddy, Ray Lawrence, has a 4 cyl Egg Subie sitting on his hangar floor for around $2,000 and only 220 hours or so.

478 232 95 sixty.

Rv10 Sold
46 years ag pilot/CFI
Air Tractor 502/PT-6
Building RV-12, Wings, fuse, emp complete. FWF in progress.
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