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RV-8A Greg Hughes, Hillsboro OR


Well Known Member
Last night I picked up an RV-8A project that my friend Jim has been working on for some time in his basement. He decided his priorities have changed but he wants to see it finished and flying, so after much consideration I jumped in feet first to build the plane I have never actually flown but can't stop looking at. I've flown in a few other RV models, and help some on another RV build project, so I at least have sort of an idea what I am getting into. :)

Configuration is RV-8A with a new Superior IO-360. I'll still get to choose the prop and avionics at some point when things get closer to "done." Wings are a slow build kit completed to somewhat less than the QB stage (a few skins to finish, tanks are not yet in the wing, control surfaces to mount), empennage is basically done (parts completed), fuselage is QB kit with a little work done in it. All of the kits are there to finish and make it into an airplane, so just need to get organized and start work!

My friend Justin, who graciously helped moved and has done some of the work on the project in the past, took a few photos so will upload them once they're in hand. And I have changed my signature officially from "wannabe builder" to something more accurately reflecting the new status.

I have a full-time job, so will be figuring out how to best balance schedules and staying productive on this. I'm lucky that I live in Van's country, and have the pleasure of knowing a lot of people who live and breathe RV's. I've also been mostly lurking here at VAF for months, soaking up a lot of great info from this community, and I look forward to sharing progres, whatever it ends up looking like!
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Well congratulations. Building is an addiction as you can guess. I'm currently on vacation and while enjoying my time, a lot of it is spent reading up and figuring out next steps, I even took my build instructions binder with me.

the -8 is a great plane and 360 should make it scoot pretty good.

Welcome to the collective and show us some pictures!
A few photos from the move:

My friend Jim and I as we get the wings out of his basement shop.


There were more parts than my mind had pictured before actually starting the move. They just kept on appearing.


Fuse removal.


Temporarily a tail-wheel.


Justin got in a little flying.


On the truck


Finally unloaded in the hangar. Took quite a bit longer than we'd thought it would!

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Edit: Just quick note of clarification - I purchased this partially-completed kit from my friend Jim Mitchell, who put lots of work into it over several years. Paige Quintana and Justin Inman have also put substantial work into it, working with Jim, and others have been involved, too. So, the photos at this point serve to document where the project sits as it starts with me. :)

Have been spending quite a bit of time getting things ready to do some real work on this project. Honestly, there was more time involved in the "get ready" part of the process than I realized there would be.

I'm a member of EAA 105 here in Hillsboro, OR. Aurora and Van's Aircraft are right around the corner in the valley here. The chapter has a couple of hangars that it improved and set up specifically to allow people to build/work on airplanes, and I decided a few weeks ago to split the rent (and space) in one of them. They hangar is heated and insulated (nice in the Oregon rainy winter, which it seems has just started), well-lit, has electrical outlets everywhere, and a big air compressor plumbed into the building. The chapter even has a decent tool chest with many of the tools needed for this kind of project. Quite a bit nicer for building than the basic T-hangar where my Cherokee lives. It's also conveniently located a less than a quarter mile from my front door. I don't have a garage at my house, but this will work.

There was "stuff" in the hangar that needed to be relocated before I could move in, so that was the first step. Then I cleaned things up and started moving the kit inventory. I finished moving all the kit parts - and most of my tools - to the new hangar this past weekend. And, I got it mostly organized. I've discovered there are a number of tools that I'll need to pick up sometime soon, but nothing that prevents me from getting started now.

A couple photos of the new work location and (just barely) getting started there with work on one of the wings.

Fuse and stored items by greghughespdx, on Flickr

Wings in cradle by greghughespdx, on Flickr

We did some work to prepare for riveting on the remaining skins - Poser by greghughespdx, on Flickr

Teenagers like shop vacs - cleaning out some metal shavings by greghughespdx, on Flickr

And, all the photos will end up here: RV-8A Project Album on Flickr/
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That looks like a great build location Greg. +1 for your EAA chapter having that resource for you guys!
Hi Andy, yes I'm fortunate to be able to take advantage of the location, for sure! Since this whole "building thing" is relatively new to me, it's nice to have a lot of very experienced people around, a good location and a leg-up on tools, too. I've learned quite-a-little-bit from others over the past year on other projects, which is part of what convinced me I could actually do this!
Greg, looks like a great project! I've seen you at various chapter 105 meetings and such, but really haven't had a chance to talk much. I'd like to stop by the hanger at the next breakfast, if you're there, and take a look. If I can help with anything, I'd be delighted. :)
Sounds good, Bruce! See you at the next breakfast hopefully, and will be glad to show you what's up in G-3. :)
Is that one of the EAA 105 project hangars at Twin Oaks?

I was a member of 105 before moving to Spokane, and they were just in the planning stages of finishing and setting up those hangars. I'm glad they got them done! Looks like a great resource!
Yes, that's the hangar. Both G-1 and G-3 are set up quite nicely. It'll make winter building work tolerable in the weather for sure.

Probably should update on the work that's been done the past couple months. Work and life have been especially busy and I had surgery at the end of the year, but I find time here and there. Thank goodness the hangar has heat, or I'd almost never be in there hah. So, a pretty big update this time around.

In the interest of full disclosure and exercise of healthy humility, this is what I did immediately after driving my first rivet in the left wing… Lots of good progress since then, though!

Justin and Aric got in on some left-wing rivet-driving action early on.

In the fuselage, elevator pushrods and bellcranks, rear battery tray, -A gear weldments, and some floor/wall work.

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Lots of work on fuel tanks, including sealing and setting up with a flop tube in the left tank, and all the associated stuff like the trap door to restrict flow out of the first cell, relocation of the fuel sender, etc.

I've really come to .... appreciate .... proseal. :rolleyes:
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Flaps and ailerons and all the avoidance of perfection that comes along with doing that (I've been learning a lot the hard way).

Trailing edge alignment. Ugh. A local friend who knows better than pretty much anyone else guided me on this one: Keep calm and build on. :)

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When you know you have a high likelihood of leaky tanks, its easier with people who are willing and able to provide moral support and friendly help:

Four sessions of seal/wait/test later, I finally found success today. Had to dig out some proseal a couple times and replace in rear baffle corners, and used 290 Loctite to seal one leading edge leaky rivet with great success per Vans instructions. But I didn't have to cut baffle holes. In the end, the only remaining leak was a very slow one, and was located in one of the balloons. I'm calling 'em done!

There are a few guys that I need to say thanks to already and want to recognize, even this early in the process. Young people in aviation is something I'm pretty passionate about, and all these guys are really motivated examples of the future of what we love to do.

Thank goodness for this kid: Justin?s a great help, a good guy, and has taught me a lot in the building process so far. I learned to fly first, he learned to build first. I took him with me on my trip to OSH in 2014, now we?re hammering on my RV together. He?s built a couple RV-12s already and he?s only just turned 18. He loves to build and fly and has even designed a plane or two of his own already. In the future I predict with confidence that his designs will grace the skies, just you watch. (No pressure, Justin. ;) )

Aric's another truly good guy and works at Boeing. He brings a valuable point of view to almost everything in the shop - usually making an unnecessarily complex task or problem much simpler, hah.

Tyler?s new to building, but is a student pilot here in the Portland area, and has helped me drive and buck a whole ton of quality rivets.

And Davis is one of our TeenFlight kids, a member of the class that?s just now finishing an RV-12, N113TF. He also maintains the blog for the class at http://teenflight.blogspot.com/. Aric, Justin and I have all been working as mentors with that group for the past year as they have learned to build the -12. Davis has come over and helped out a few times on the -8A, nicest kid you?ll ever meet and a good hand with a natural ability. He also likes to do fiberglass work. As in, truly likes it. Yep, you understand where I?m coming from on that one, hah.

Thanks to all you guys for making the project so much more fun and for keeping my motivation up!
Learning what it means to do-over quite a bit. Good lessons for me, hah.

Made the shirt to remind me it should all work out in the end:

Haven't posted any updates for about 9 months. Oops! Well, here are a few highlights covering a lot of progress. I'll be leaving a lot out, just because there's no way to cover everything of course, but pictures can help tell parts of the story.

Most recently - just this week in fact - I started early work on the new panel. Working with Rob and family/team at Advanced Flight Systems, with one of their Quick Panel designs. It's extra nice to be a stone's throw away from them and to see them on a regular basis, but really the modularity and clean designs are a blessing to anyone who takes advantage of their stuff. Everyone will have their own ideas and opinions, but Advanced has put together a great system. My blank kit panel was already assembled, so when Rob told me he'd had a panel cut for my 8A project, I headed over and picked it up, and drilled all the rivets out of the old panel flange, and got to work on assembling my new Quick Panel structure.

The Advanced panel is laser cut, and exactly matched hole-for-hole the circa-2004 panel parts from Vans. The "side section" portion of the outer frame is smaller than the stock Vans design, in order to accommodate more electronics in the panel center section. Precision stuff, and great quality. A couple quick hours of drilling, countersinking , deburring and riveting later, and it was ready to test fit and send out soon for powdercoat!

Old vs. New:

Of course, a whole lot more has happened since January. Here are just a few highlights, starting in February and working forward until the most recent stuff:

Video - click to see timelapse - riveting wing skins

Installed some new and different rudder pedals, an alternative to pedal extensions. They have an indent to keep your toes off the brakes while working the rudder. Got them from Paul at http://controlapproach.com/ (who also flies a RV-12 located one hangar door down from me). He makes RV-10 pedal setups and a couple of us have installed these new pedals in 8's.

Plenty of interior type work, prime, and then some bronze paint, etc...

Avionics bay access:

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And more updates...

Service bulletin surgery on the horizontal stab and installing it on the fuse (the first time (of many)):

Lighting and other stuff...

I picked up all my lighting from Mike at Team Aerodynamics - new PAR38 sized leading edge mounting brackets, and four Whelen LED PAR38 lights (two landing, two taxi) as well as Whelen 600 LED wingtip nav/strobe/position lights. Great stuff. Also got a pair of fancier wingtips with landing light mounts built-in made by RMD (which was on my field here but closed in AUgust) and now manufactured by Knots2U. I have those same wingtips on my Cherokee, decided I liked them enough and wanted them on the -8A as well.

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Back to empennage...

Recently most of the work has been on elevators and rudder and stabilizer hanging, fitting, etc. Just last night the tail feathers went on the fuselage for good (I hope hah).

It's been 10 months??

So, apparently I forgot to update this for about ten months. Time to catch up a bit, then.

At last update I was working on installing the empennage and elevator assembly. Getting it all hooked up and moving happened shortly after, and was a motivation moment for sure. Whenever big pieced get added, and especially when you can move something somewhere on the project and something at the other ends moves as a result, well it just feels More Real. :)

Click for some video action:

Made a small modification to the custom throttle quadrant.

Rob and Jeffrey over at Advanced Flight Systems surprised me with an email that essentially said, "Hey there, we have your RV-8 panel cut out and ready to install!" Well, that cemented that decision hah. The Hickmans and team are awesome. Great people and a great product. Their Quick Panels are laser cut and custom fit. This one will have a couple 10-inch 5600 touch screens and most likely an Avidyne 440.

Then things started to get a little, well, confusing and then complicated in the build process. More on that in the next post...
As I was fitting the top-forward fuselage skin, I found that things just were not lining up or fitting right. There were gaps and the instrument panel just wasn't fitting right (neither the Vans panel nor the AFS panel structure. In addition, when I did get the panel to fit and things to line up, the already-drilled holes were quickly getting to be a bit out of whack and mis-aligned...

It actually took a while to figure out what was up. In the end, it was a pretty simple issue (with a relatively complex fix). There are two strips of aluminum that are to be sandwiched between the upper forward skin and both the firewall bulkhead and the bulkhead that separates the baggage compartment from the avionics bay. Before I got the kit, the skin had been installed and the bulkheads match-drilled, without those spacers. Simple mistake and easy to make, but it meant I had to do some significant addition of materials and keeper rivets and additional holes, etc. to ensure a sound structure. The Vans staff was super helpful in validating the issue and resolution, and in encouraging me to work through some frustrating moments. I really like those guys. When I'd get frustrated with the situation, I just worked on something else. Eventually (emphasis on that word hah) everything was properly spaced, shimmed and reinforced. In reality, this was my biggest opportunity thus far in the project to figure out how to deal with something unexpected, difficult to figure out and frustrating -- and which really just had to be addressed. It ended up being a good learning (and character building, hah) experience in the end. I have an extra 6-8 ounces of metal in the plane as a result, but I believe I'll live. :)

Cutting top forward skin:

Get frustrated? Switch to learning how to deal with fiberglass for a while, you'll feel so much better! :eek:

Click for video - really crappy initial fit

These tips were 16 years old when I started working with them. The fiberglass was hard and a little brittle. My approximate order of operations to fix them up was:heat gun for some significant reshaping of the warped tips, followed by foam inserts to help hold shape and provide something to lay up glass on top of, then glass fabric followed by a mix of micro and flox.
These tips were 16 years old when I started working with them. The fiberglass was hard and a little brittle. My approximate order of operations to fix them up was:heat gun for some significant reshaping of the warped tips, followed by foam inserts to help hold shape and provide something to lay up glass on top of, then glass fabric followed by a mix of micro and flox.

In the early phases of learning/adjusting/glassing the tips they honestly looked like a pre-school art project. Looking back at the photos, I laugh. But in the end, not too bad.

Click for video:

I had to learn how not to do things, too. Hah. Some good learning. The nice thing about fiberglass is that if you screw it up you can just sand it off and try again. Well, for the most part.

Don't skip this important piece of equipment. Finding out the hard way how important this is simply sucks. No fun. Wear a real filter/respirator when you're sanding fiberglass, period.

I'd spent a little time helping here and there with the TeenFlight Portland RV-12 fiberglass as part of mentoring there, but really this project was the true learning place for me. It was essentially all new. Metal is pretty easy once you figure it out, and fiberglass wasn't hard to learn either - just different. Now I'm one of those sick guys who actually kind of enjoys it!

Just realized I have no photos of the finished tips. Might have to take a few. Lots of things I have no detail photos of.
At some point, everything started to happen all at once, and in a phase of the project where lots of work results in little visual results. I think those are the phases that are hardest for me to stay motivated in. So I have to keep pushing through it and toss a couple cushion in there and pretend it's an airplane hah.

Discovered the Superior cold air sump doesn't have the same layout or geometry as a standard Lycoming sump, so the throttle cable bracket that comes with the standard kit won't work. Fabrication time. Aluminum first, then later made it up in steel.

Decided my fancy (read: heavy) interior really requires black frames and weldments for the roll bar and whatnot. Found some tough automotive trim flat black paint that I like. Pretty tough stuff.

Took the long way around on the empennage fiberglass fairing. Learned a lot. Again. :)

A break to make some airplane noises:

Finally getting all the top forward skin shim and spacers and whatnot in to address my earlier problems was a big deal. It took a while and in the end worked out just fine. This was actually just recently:

Nice thing was that getting that skin solidly and completely set lets me start on a number of other things.

After a few trim-fit-trim-fit sessions, seeing some good progress:

And honestly, for all the scary posts and worrying that I read online about this whole process and The Big Cut (important enough to get capital letters hah), it was basically a non-event. Warm weather, practice on the flange material for a while before you start, and use a good air tool and it's a piece of cake.

Video - click:

Honestly, I have a thousand more photos but that's at least some flavor of progress. All the pictures - good and bad - are maintained over on Flickr.

Lots of helpful and friendly people here at VAF, as well as locally and at Vans Aircraft, have made this a lot of fun so far. And I'd be truly remiss if I didn't shout out to Justin, who's in a few of the photos. He's a mechanical engineering student at Oregon State as well as a good friend and willing, talented builder/helper/doer. He and others make this project a lot of fun.

The prop is on order from Whirl Wind Aviation (it's a 74RV). The paint scheme and plan is pretty much set and colors determined thanks to some helpful people at the EAA headquarters who went well out of their way to get some color scans done for me. The interior is soon to arrive from the terrific Abby at Flightline Interiors. And the panel from AFS is also forthcoming, and I have their initial wiring harness sections to install now.

Who knows - this thing might actually fly one day. :eek:

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It's good to see you progress over the last months. Some great detailed photos on the build. Look forward to seeing the finished paint and trim. :cool:
Bernie, thanks for the note - It made me realize I have once again failed to update here. :) I post a little more frequently at the Facebook page I set up for the build and lots of photos go on Flickr to help show the progress over time in a chronological order.

Work since the last update has been a bunch of canopy attachment and fitting, fiberglass skirt, started some wiring and panel stuff, fitting of the cowl started, autopilot servos and brackets just installed, some of the FWF and related connections have been done, and a ton of other small stuff that's often barely visible but takes a lot of time.

One highly-visible (and very comfortable) highlight of the late summer was receiving the interior seats and side panels, etc. from Abby at Flightline Interiors. She completely outdid herself, was awesome to work with, and I am super pleased with the results. Memory foam, heated seats, way too fancy really. Fancier than any furniture I have ever owned, hah. She deserves a mention, for sure. :) A couple pictures below, and video at this link.

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Working with sticky goop and teaching myself fiberglass tricks (the hard way).

Cha-CHING! (money well spent, beautiful prop)

Started pulling some wires and painted panel structure back from the fine folks at Advanced Flight Systems (and yes you can fit two AFS 5600 screens plus radios and a dedicated autopilot panel in a RV-8 panel):

Autopilot servos going in. I tackled the wing servo while friend Justin squeezed into the tailcone for the pitch servo. Oh, to be 19 again...

Hundreds more photos on Flickr and the Facebook page, too!

Photo Pro Tip: By the way, the new iPhone 7 Plus has "portrait" mode, which essentially uses the two main cameras to determine what the in-focus subject of the photo is and then lets you blur out all the other stuff. The pitch servo picture above is an example of that. Really helps to clear out the extraneous stuff and bring the focus to what you're actually trying to show. Pretty cool tool for project detail photos! Example of the difference:

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