That promise to try and make more regular updates I made in the previous
entry? Remember that? Didn't work out. :) Life has been too hectic, and
I've not felt like I had all that much to report. Flight testing has been
progressing slowly due to work and weather, but it has been progressing.
That said, it is time for an update.
Yesterday was a real (to me) milestone in my flight testing. It was finally
tine to get into acro. Spins had to come first, only because I had to know
how it would recover if I botched a particular maneuver. I started very VERY
slowly ... doing stalls with the ball halfway out (both left and right) to
see how the wings dropped, then having the ball all the way out (again,
both left and right). I did a number of these to satisfy myself that it
was consistent and controllable, and it was.
So I then did quick spin entries-and-recoveries where I didn't let it get
fully developed. The spin entry is much more dramatic than in the Citabria,
but it recovered just fine. My goal was to work up to a 2-turn spin because
that would allow it to fully develop which would give me confidence in the
recovery. It spins FAST, so my 2-turn spins ended up actually being 2.5-turn
spins when it was all said and done.
I had been willing to have that flight end with spins, if after they were
done I was feeling tapped out ... but they really did go well, so I
continued on. I did my first roll, and it was -ugly-. I was still carrying
over some technique from the Citabria, and my movements were too "large"
for the RV. So I dialed in back and the 2nd one was better, but still not
pretty. So I dialed back my movements a bit more, and .. oh my god .. does
it roll pretty.
Do it right (mainly, don't ham-fist it and let it do what it wants to
naturally do) and the world just rotates gracefully in front of your eyes.
I was up at 8000 feet over 421 near Siler City so I pointed at the airport
and rolled. I could watch the airport go around right on point in front of
my nose. It was rolling great to the left, so I tried a roll to the right.
Same outcome. It was astounding. By the time I did about my 4th roll I was
just laughing out loud. By the time it was all said and done I had probably
done a dozen ... and in one case did two back-to-back. Wow.
I started at what for the RV was a fairly low speed ... entering the roll
at about 120k. Since I was full throttle doing the rolls it actually
accelerated through them and by the time I was done rolling left then
right then left then right again .. I looked down and it was doing 160k.
I _had_ checked with a friend who is a very experienced aerobatics pilot
regarding entry speeds (he has owned an RV in the past) and he said it
just didn't much matter. That it almost didn't matter for the loops,
though you obviously need some speed to have enough energy to get over
Since -that- went so well I decided to try a loop. I have to say before
the first instance of each of these maneuvers there was a small bit of
anxiety. I think it is kind of funny to have that anxiety hit again after
all those rolls, but before the first loop .. I'd rolled, and rolled, and
rolled .. but when it came to do that first loop, the anxiety came back.
I knew it was because this plane had never done a loop before, so I had
no idea how it would behave. It is the "good kind of anxiety" in the sense
that it wasn't paralyzing, but it did cause me to focus, think through
exactly what I was going to do before I did it, and plan for what to do
if something went wrong. If that distinction makes any sense.
Anyway, the loops .. of course .. were fine. No problems. In fact they
became so comfortable that I finished with a couple of 3/4 loops with a
roll off the backside (i.e. a sloppy half-cuban) to wrap up. I'm glad I
didn't accidentally key the mic because I did a lot of laughing through
this whole process.
It was very bumpy down low, but up above about 3000 feet it was nice and
smooth yesterday. I wanted elbowroom so did all this up at 8000 feet, and
it was glassy smooth up there. Since the air was so nice I decided to do
the one last really scary thing on my list ... flirt with Vne. I had
already been to 180 knots, so it was "just" another 20 knots .. and I put
that "just" in quotes because flutter can appear suddenly with a seemingly
inconsequential increase in speed. So 20 knots is a big leap.
I had to dive for that kind of speed, and eventually saw 200 knots on
the ASI and nothing fluttered. Wanting to explore the margin I actually
worked up to 205 knots, so I now _know_ without a doubt that the 200
knot Vne is safe for my instance of this design.
This was a simple little 0.9 hour flight, but it felt like a HUGE step.
This was almost as big a day as my first flight. One of the reasons I
picked this design was because it was aerobatic, so being able to do acro
was part of the equation LONG before I had ever started doing acro myself.
It felt like the culmination of a 12.5 year delayed gratification exercise.
The Citabria taught me basic acro and forced me to pay attention to the
aerodynamics and what was happening throughout the maneuver. If you don't
understand and pay attention you will no complete a maneuver successfully
in the Citabria. The RV is going to ruin all the hard "work" done by the
Citabria because it is just too easy. I know it isn't as "point and shoot"
as the unlimited acro machines out there, but it is awfully nimble.
I'm up to 29 hours now, so only 11 left to go before I can get out of the
box it is in right now. Slowly but surely I'm getting there.