Ever wonder what it takes to be the largest kit manufacturer in the world? KITPLANES editor Marc Cook takes a tour of Van's Aircraft in Aurora, Oregon. Join us for another edition of KITPLANES' exclusive Factory Tour video series.
RDD Enterprises, LLC announced the availability of the electrically actuated Speed Bra-X for the Van’s RV-10. RDD’s David McRae headed up the development program for the design, working with Precise Flight, Inc., which holds a number of Supplemental Type Certificates for speed brakes on a range of aircraft, many of which are installed as original equipment. “At cruise speeds, Speed Bra-X deployment will give you a steady speed descent rate of 1000 feet per minute or a level flight reduction of 20 KIAS,” McRae said. “The RV-10 performance envelope is already very impressive and utilitarian; we’ve just added a vertical dimension to it.”
The company says the benefits can be realized in virtually every phase of flight including initiating rapid descents without the need to reduce power, maneuvering without increasing airspeed, quickly reducing airspeed upon encountering unexpected turbulence and increasing wing loading for a smoother ride in rough air.
The Speed Bra-X kit is $3995, and the installed weight is 9 pounds. It offers power-failure protection, and a lighted on/off switch indicates deployment.
For more information, visit RDD Enterprises.
The dreaded letter. Every airplane owner (practically) has gotten one at some point. A problem has been detected with a particular part or piece of your aircraft, and the manufacturer is notifying you via a service bulletin, or the FAA is notifying you via an airworthiness directive, of both the problem and the solution.
The difference between the manufacturer's notice and the FAA's notice is that one is optional (don't do it at your own risk), and the other, bearing the FAA's seal, is mandatory (don't do it in the time allotted, and your airplane is legally grounded).
Kitbuilt and plansbuilt Experimental aircraft do not come under the FAA's Airworthiness Directives. However, the prudent manufacturers do issue the occasional service bulletin when a structural problem with the parts they manufacture or the aircraft they designed comes to light.
Van's Aircraft is particularly good about issuing service bulletins, which is good. And they just issued a major one for the RV-10, which is bad. To date Van's has issued few service bulletins on this generally well-designed machine. The nosewheel construction change (see earlier blog) is an excellent example of an optional fix, which left "unfixed" will eventually bite the flier. That change came about because of builder feedback to the manufacturer. This new service bulletin addresses damage in a tail F-1010 bulkhead, which is integral in the attachment of the forward spar of the horizontal and vertical stabilizers. Cracks have been found in the 500-hour-old factory demonstrator.
The fix? Two doublers for the suspect bulkhead must be installed within five hours of discovering any cracks. The choice? Owners can ignore the issue (not smart), or if upon inspecting their tail bulkheads they see no cracks, they can opt to re-inspect the area every 25 hours until the next scheduled condition inspection (typically done yearly and known as the Experimental's annual), at which time the factory recommends that the doublers be installed.
Doesn't sound too bad until you look at the diagrams in the how-to section. Inspecting the area requires disassembling the tail, removal of the tailcone and its electrical contents including any actuators for the elevator trim, and then drilling out key rivets--about nine steps in the bulletin. To perform the insertion of the doublers one must carefully disassemble the area obscuring the suspect bulkhead--18 steps in all. How long will it take? That's up to the builder, but an educated guess is a couple of days' work at a normal pace.
Our airplane is being shot with primer, prepping for its first coat of paint as I type. Oh well. Timing is everything. And, no, I don't wish we were just now building the tail section (the introductory kit in this airplane). I'll take a couple days of disassembly and repair time over three and a half years of building any day.
VFE. Do you know what it is? That’s the maximum speed at which it is safe to deploy the flaps on your airplane. You set it when you set up the various airspeed limitations on your aircraft before it was certified and, if you built a kit, you probably defaulted and used the airspeed the kit manufacturer suggested for your bird.
The whole reason VFE exists is to keep you from overstressing the flaps, and mechanics will tell you that it is a shame there isn’t some kind of switch to keep pilots in a hurry to “slow down and go down” from deploying flaps when the aircraft is moving faster than VFE.
Bob Newman, an electrical engineer by trade and an aircraft builder by avocation, and his partner in TCW Technologies, both designers of TCW’s popular Safety-Trim Intelligent Servo Controller, were convinced they could do for flaps operation safety what they had done for electric trim safety.
“The Intelligent Flap Controller is specifically designed for use with Van’s Aircraft series of flap actuators,” says Newman. “The IFC receives switch inputs from either of two flap switches, so you could mount a flaps switch on both the pilot and co-pilot’s sticks. If one goes inop, you’ve got the other. And the IFC resolves any conflicts between the switches automatically. Best of all, it gives pilots of Van’s aircraft a time-out switch so that the flap motor cannot get stuck on and run continuously.”
All of these features are great for eliminating wear and tear on the aircraft’s systems, but it is the airspeed sensing switch that will keep pilots from overstressing their machines, Newman says. The switch, which is identical to the airspeed switch in the Safety-Trim, prevents flap extension above a user-defined speed. “What is great about the switch is that it only prevents extension—if you need to retract flaps, you can still do that,” says Newman. The IFC system is compatible with the Safety-Trim, and can even use the Safety-Trim’s airspeed switch.
Van's Light Sport RV-12 was on prominent display at Sun 'n Fun today, with, at times, a three-deep line to see the details of this Rotax 912-powered LSA. Here is a quick, no-frills, no voice-over walk around--hey, we like to keep it simple around here. Van's has been taking orders for the kit version.