I am building a VANS RV-4 aircraft. If your not involved in homebuilt aircraft it wont be too interesting, but if you are a part of that elite group it just might be. My intention is to include ONLY the interesting details, so the rate of change will be quite slow!

Monday, June 16, 2008


First Flight

G-IKON flew for the first time today under a 4000' cloudbase and with a light and variable wind. I went along for the ride.

Takeoff was reminiscent of a winch launch in a glider. The transition from ticking over at the end of my strip, to climbing at a very high rate, being seriously abrupt. With me and about half tanks, gross was 1260lbs. With 160hp and an MT c/s prop on the front takeoff was not a problem. Prior to take off I had done one short acceleration to ensure that I could cope with the torque steer (my strip is narrow marginally more than the span), and that full power was going to come in smoothly. It was so clear that she was extremely easy to track straight, and that getting off the ground was not going to be a problem, I backtracked and repeated the process for real.

She was off in about 60 yds. Being unfamiliar with the trim (or anything else) I had a slight fight to keep the nose down and aim for speed for cooling, rather than climb rate. It is a new engine.

I climbed to 4000' overhead, before letting go of RAF Leeming with 10000' of concrete located just 5NM from my own strip, and headed for Bagby, my local airfield. Once in range of there, I slowed down and did a few gentle stalls and a very brief slow flight practice. IKON clearly has a heavy left wing which needs to be sorted, and that limited how slow I wanted to go. Stalls with small amounts of flap gave the impression of being sporty, but at full flap everything appeared very predictable. I made a clear decision to settle on finals at 70mph until the heavy left wing and stalls, have been investigated further.

Landing, the thing we probably all worry about the most on first flight, was a complete non event. Considerably better than most landings in my Supercub, and I have done over 1100 of those.

So with perhaps 20 minutes in the air, it was time to take a look and see if all was as it should be. It then became clear that the oil had decided to try to migrate to the bottom of the fuse'. It turned out after a lot of swearing, and at one stage believing the cooler was ruptured, that it was all emanating from the cooler/hose junction. It was a bit less than tight! In all perhaps half a pint of oil had leaked, but it makes a great mess!

With full tanks and a little more confidence back in the air for the short flight, 30 minutes including an extra circuit and slow flight, to Fishburn, my other local airfield where she is to remain until I have learned to land short, and can return to my own strip. Time was pressing for my ground crew, who had promised to drive me home, so only two landings before she was pushed into the hangar until tomorrow, when I will take the cowl off and have another good look around. Possibly a very little more oil had leaked, but my guess is that is just some of the mess from before, finding its way out.

A 70mph approache to be safe, faster than I expect to use in the future, resulted in very short easy landing each time. As I said before, quite as easy as my Supercub. Extraordinary!

Looking at the data coming off the AFS one cylinder went briefly to about 410F, the rest of the time they sat at about 360 at the back and 325 at the front. This is probably reasonable, since the lowest power I used was about 25 square. The EGT were giving temp warnings, but in retrospect I think the warnings are probably set lower than they should be. The highest they got to, with the whole flight at full rich, was 1500F at the back. Possibly the sensors are sitting just a little close to the engine end of the pipe.

I need to review the data again, but I don't think the oil got above 170F though that was right at the end of the flight, so perhaps with a longer run it might get to the magic 190.

G-IKON is the first Lycoming style engine in the UK (in this case an O-320 from Superior) with dual P-mag electronic ignition from E-mag. Getting approval for this from the LAA has been quite an interesting journey, though I have now arrived. I will have a longer test period than normal as a result, in terms of hours, chained to the two airfields mentioned above.

And now for the thank yous. First of all to my wife for being so supportive with coffee tea and cake, though I can honestly say the entire plane was built without her ever touching a rivet gun, bucking bar, screw driver or wrench. (She has just pointed out that she did make two aileron pushrod cuffs to keep the draft out! Oops!!)

To Andy Ratcliffe and Fred Parker for supporting me throughout the build whenever I needed > 2 hands, and today, departing from my strip. To Mark Golding who has signed his name about 60 times to my work, for the LAA.

To Andy again, and Peter Pengilly, who supported me in making a case to the LAA for electronic ignition, and finally to Francis Donaldson at the LAA who at all times took a jaundiced view of the idea, which only serves to look after my safety. It appears to be working well, but of course it is early days. US experience is well reported. I will report mine in due course.

There is a short clip of the first lift off here.

And just to remember where in time this occurred two political quotes which cheered the UK in the summer of 2008.

"The one good thing about global warming is that as the waters rise, Hazel Blears will drown first."

That thought just makes me want to burn more fuel and speed the process!

"Our Leader [Gordon Brown] is utterly useless. If you asked him which of the two doors from this room he was going to exit from he would be incapable of choosing. And if someone else chose the door for him he wouldn't be able to make his way there. "

Both are attributed not to the opposition party, but to their colleagues. It is reassuring to see that the true awfulness of our government is understood by Labour party membership.

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