Amy's RV-10: Checking Out a Newborn Engine Before Flight

That Lycoming IO-540 on our nascent Van's RV-10 is about 10 minutes old now, and still a sweetheart. Each engine start tested another function, checking the mags, the propeller, calibrating the rpm, and adjusting the mixture control.

The Airflow Performance Experimental fuel injection system seems a little rough, but overall acceptable during the idle runs, and it produces startlingly balanced fuel flow across the six cylinders on the high speed and takeoff runups, considering no effort has been made yet to balance the fuel flow by adjusting the nozzles using the unique "restrictor" system provided by the company.

The Grand Rapids Technology EIS was used for checking everything (we haven't yet plugged in the bigger EFIS screens), and it performed with the same aplomb as the one in our Kitfox 4 has done for seven years. I like the simplicity of this box. Hit the master and it is on, flashing for you to acknowledge each probe attachment. Once that is done it sets up ready to reel off all the information you need to get a basic read on your engine health. Magneto checks showed both the rpm drops, as well as the exhaust gas temperature rises across the cylinders. The constant-speed propeller checks showed the rpm drop and subsequent rises as well.

We had to wait until after nightfall (who decided that it would be a good idea to have daylight savings time in March?) to view the propeller through a fluorescent light bulb to see if the tachometer matched the actual rpm. Really, this works as a poor-man's tach sync. Here's why: The lightbulb pulses at a fixed rate, 60 positive and 60 negative pulses per second in the U.S. or anywhere using 120 volt household electricity to power the bulbs. When you illuminate a spinning propeller with a fluorescent bulb, it will appear to stop at certain rpm. This is where the frequency of the pulsing light matches the frequency of the spinning prop. For two-blade props such as our Hartzell, we can calibrate certain key rpm, 720, 1200, 1440 and 1800 this way.

What was fun about this task was that for once on this project, I got to be at the controls. There's nothing quite like starting your new airplane for the first time. Of course, I bungled it. The RV-10 has an extra knob in it, labeled primer (but not the traditional kind) controlling fuel to the fuel controller on top of the engine. So the checklist is: fuel selector on, mixture rich, primer in, master on, fuel pump on 3 seconds, off, throttle cracked, magnetos to both, then start. Somewhere in there I got it turning, but pulled the throttle back too quickly and it quit. The second start I flooded it. Now my husband is cranky. He goes to reach around me and start it himself and, of course, it kicks over fine. You've got to love those special moments in a relationship.

Once the big fan out there is spinning in the dark you must use extreme care, because it'll bite. All movement should be around the wingtips, out front and then in, and not too close. Our airplane was tied down and chocked, and I was holding the brakes even still. My husband snapped on the fluorescent bulb and I adjusted the throttle (slowly) to match the requested rpm. We did it twice (and I managed to perform a flawless hot-start on my first try) before concluding that our tachometer pickup was within 2%. That ought to work.

There is still some assembly and checking out to be done (not to mention an inspection to complete) before this bird can fly. But the engine should pull her as advertised.

News: Superior Says "All OK"

We have received a note from Superior Air Parts saying, in effect, pay no attention to the troubles with Thielert Aircraft Engines, which has filed for insolvency in the aftermath of falling share prices. Company founder Frank Thielert and the firm's CEO were ousted earlier this month amid allegations of illegal accounting practices. Speculation was that Superior, a sister company of Thielert Engines, would be affected.

No so, says the company. "Superior Air Parts is continuing normal operations. owned by Thielert AG and is not directly involved with these procedings."

In Austria, according to Thielert, "The insolvency plan shall be presented to the court and all creditors by the new appointed executive board and the interim insolvency administrator until the opening of the insolvency proceeding. A successful continuation of business in the insolvency plan proceeding is required."

Amy's RV-10: And You Built This Why?

Airshows and fly-ins--I love 'em. People who love aircraft, live, breathe, eat, sleep and dream about aircraft, indoctrinate their children, even their helpless pets into the world of aviation, all gathering together to honor, ogle at, and argue about the performance of all man-made objects that fly. It’s fun.

If you are like me, a member of the press with a little notoriety and known to have aircraft builder tendencies, you’re going to get a lot of questions. Really. People want to know.

They ask, why are you building a Van’s RV-10? Why not a Lancair, a Velocity or even (yes, I really did get this one) a gyroplane (after all, I do hold that rating on my certificate). They want to know how my husband and I are doing in the building process (not just how long it is taking), and they want to know where we are building. More sophisticated questioners always circle back to, “Why do it that way?”

Sure, I like the questions, and as long as they aren’t inquisitions I’m happy to answer. We chose the RV-10 after two years of researching kits that might help us carry the same or similar loads as our Cessna 182, but go 15 knots faster. We looked at the composite aircraft very carefully, and shied away for a couple of reasons. For one, my husband abhors working with any form of fiberglass or products that require layups and lots of resins, then curing and sanding and repeating. Our shop is set up pretty well for metalworking, and that naturally drew us more toward the Van’s products. We thought that the 260-hp RV-10 would be a good hauler (nothing can compare to the Cessna 182 baggage area, but the useful load was close). And we had a Marine test-pilot friend who had flown the first RV-10 and told us that it was a sweet-handling machine that would make a solid instrument flying platform. So, mostly-metal airplane with adequate useful load and docile flying characteristics from a company that has been in the kit business for a long time, with a solid track record (did I tell you the last kit we built the company went out of business?), and we were sold on the RV-10.

Nearly four years later, and almost done, I can look back and safely say that it was a good decision. We were never waiting too long on parts, and there were always ample vendors from which to obtain them. Pricing was always competitive, and sometimes you could fabricate what you needed or fabricate something even better than what the factory suggested. As the kit’s popularity grew, so did the mods, of which we’ve availed ourselves. Our airplane has upgraded door latch systems and a Safety-Trim elevator trim system, as well as electric rudder trim enhancements. It also has a Sam James Holy Cowl and plenum system, as well as Sam James wheelpants. So there’s more than just a custom panel and paint job to make this baby really our own.

And that’s the beauty of a kit that you actually build yourself. You can make these changes as you go along and discover what you think are better ways to build your craft. It’s the “education” side of the amateur-built rule explanation. It’s not the only reason we build, but it’s a good reason to consider undertaking a project of this scope. We’re 2300 hours into ours, and are about to go fly. We’re feeling pretty smart.

Chelton Flight Systems, S-TEC to Become Roomies

Cobham's Avionics and Surveillance Division announced today that it was going to merge operations of its two subsidiaries, Chelton Flight Systems and S-TEC, at the latter's Mineral Wells, Texas, facility. According to a press release just received, "The capabilites of CFS and S-TEC are highly complementary, with products from both businesses certified together on more than 500 aircraft types. The move is part of Cobham's drive to develop a fully integrated cockpit and improve its customer focus." Chelton owner Cobham had acquired S-TEC from Meggitt at the beginning of the year. The merged operations will take up residence in the 57,000-square-foot facility currently used by S-TEC.

It's not clear what impact this will have on the Experimental market long term. Chelton, once a frontrunner in high-end EFIS equipment for homebuilts has lost ground to the up-and-coming middle-market EFIS manufacturers (Advanced Flight, Dynon and Grand Rapids, for example) and is being threatened by Garmin's G900X Experimental-class system. Chelton also lost momentum after the controversial closure of Direct-To Avionics, once the sole conduit for systems to the Experimental market.

From the Horse's Mouth: The FAA Won't Re-Evaluate Kits on the Approved List

I mentioned that the FAA had announced at Sun 'n Fun that it would not re-evaluate kits that are currently on the approved list. Here is the official word from the agency.

The FAA said that it "recently concluded that a temporary suspension of kit evaluations is necessary because existing policy and guidance used to evaluate these kits has resulted in inconsistent determinations regarding regulatory compliance." This announcement in February set off a torrent of angst among the kit manufacturers and the building community, most of whom feared that currently approved kits would have their approval revoked.

Not going to happen, says the FAA. "Since publication of the notice of the agency's temporary suspension of kit evaluations in the Federal Register, amateur-built aircraft kit manufacturers have expressed concerns that the FAA would re-evaluate or remove kits on the current eligibility list as a result of re-evaluating previously evaluated kits using the new evaluation procedures. The FAA does not intend to re-evaluate or remove any of the kits from the current eligibility list as a result of developing new evaluation procedures."

This news, good as it seems, does not mean the agency won't alter the way builder assistance is scored for compliance with the existing Amateur-Built rules. But it does give the industry confidence that quickbuild kits as we have come to know them will remain viable.

EAA's Earl Lawrence had this to say: "The policy published today represents a significant victory in the EAA community’s ongoing advocacy to preserve the enormous recreational and educational value of the vast majority of today’s amateur-building practices." See the whole release.

Now the Sounds from Sun 'n Fun

We had the opportunity to field a few podcasts from Sun 'n Fun this year, hosted on our sister site, Avweb. Here are links to those interviews.

Seeing through clouds is the coming technology, but it comes with a price. Grand Rapids' Todd Stehouwer talks about the technological challenges of implementing synthetic vision in an Experimental-class EFIS.

We talk to Kurt Senhert of Legend Aircraft. The first customer-built Texas Sport Cub Experimental/Amateur-Built Kit made its debut at Sun 'n Fun.

Harold Tucker, from ConcoPhillips, talks about, er, oil!

Glasair Aviation's Mikael Via talks about the "51% rule" and implications for the company's Two Weeks To Taxi program.