I completed my RV-7 in 2009 and have over 1100 hours on it to date. Living in the Seattle area, there are a lot of weather issues to deal with. In the past few years, there have been a few times that Iíve had to cancel planned trips due to weather. Iíve also had to turn back from coming over the Cascades due to getting stuck VFR on top of the clouds. Itís never fun at the end of a trip to come home and spend the last hour of the flight looking for a hole in the clouds to circle down through. Itís not very safe either!
So last year I decided it was time to move forward on my Instrument ticket. My goal was to use my own plane to train in, so the first hurdle was to put in an instrument panel that would be legal, and would be easy to fly on instruments. I wasnít interested in the basic six-pack with vacuum gauges and a VOR. No! I wanted to have something that I would be comfortable with.
Oshkosh is a great place to look at the latest and greatest. I spent an entire week with one thought running through my head Ė IFR Instrument Panel! By the end of the week, I had decided on my setup and began planning the new panel. The legacy Dynon EFIS and EMS would go away. The Garmin transponder and comm radio are out also.
My new panel has Dynon Skyview 10Ē Touch and Dynon Skyview 7Ē EFIS, Avidyne IFD440 Nav/Com/GPS, PS Engineering audio panel, Dynon Comm, Dynon (Trig) Transponder, Dynon autopilot, and meets the 2020 ADSB requirements. I cut the new panel and had a friend do the graphics and silkscreen work for me. The old equipment was removed, and new equipment installed.
I spent a few months testing the new equipment, learning how to use the Avidyne, and looking for any bugs. I found a couple of minor issues that were easy to clear up. The worst issue though, was the Nav radio (IFD 440 Nav). Although the glideslope on an ILS approach was rock steady, the localizer needle was very erratic. It took a lot of troubleshooting to figure this one out, but I finally narrowed it down to one of the BNC ends on a short coax from the Nav/GS splitter to the Avidyne radio. And sure enough, when I examined the BNC ends, I found one pin had not been fully inserted in the assembly. Hereís a video of what the localizer looked like with the bad BNC pin, and a picture of the bad BNC pin next to a good BNC connector.
With everything working correctly, it was time to begin IFR training. I wasnít interested in going to one of the local schools, renting a G1000 Cessna 172, and spending thousands of dollars to learn a system that I would never use again. I wanted to train in my RV-7, so I had to find an instructor who would be willing to fly with me. Seattle has a great flying community, and I was able to find several CFIIs who could do the job. After flying with several CFIIs, I settled down to three instructors who would team-teach me.
I was concerned about the ability of the RV-7 as an Instrument platform. Would it be too twitchy? Too nimble? Thereís a reason why so many people get their Instrument ticket in a Cessna. Itís just a good, stable, reliable airplane. I have done a lot of aerobatics, formation flight, cross country, and sight-seeing in my RV-7. Now it was time to see if it could survive in the Instrument training world.
We began training with standard maneuvers Ė except the standard maneuvers were done with my foggles on! And the RV-7 behavedÖ OK. Not perfect, but not bad! I had to learn to have a very smooth, light touch on the stick, and really focus on the gauges. It took a few hours of maneuvers to get my skills up to par. Holding altitude, heading, and speed isnít easy at first, but eventually I figured it out.
Approaches, Holds, and course intercepts turned out to be extremely easy with the equipment I had installed. One of my instructors said that flying with my panel felt like cheating, because the instrument scan all happens on one instrument, the auto-pilot can fly straight and level (or a heading and altitude) while I was trying to plan the next maneuver. We moved onto the Cross-country flight relatively quickly, with a flight from Renton (KRNT) to Hillsboro (KHIO) to Astoria (KAST) to Hoquiem (KHQM) to Renton (KRNT). Along the way, we did an ILS approach to full stop, a Localizer to full stop, a VOR to the missed approach, and an RNAV-GPS/circle to land. The cross-country was done in about 75% IMC conditions, and my RV-7 performed wonderfully!
Fast forward a few months, I had racked up a whopping 41.0 hrs of actual/simulated IMC, and it was time to take my checkride. Once again, I had to find a DPE who would be willing to do an Instrument checkride in an RV-7. Sure enough, I found my victim. I briefed him on my equipment, the experimental RV-7, the tailwheel, the panel, etc. Oddly enough, he still agreed to go along for the ride! Because of the experimental nature of the plane, as well as the engine, as well as the panel, I had to be prepared to answer all questions about airworthiness! We spent about 45 minutes going over airframe and engine logs, discussing the work and logbook entries that I could do as the builder, and then going over ADs and service bulletins for the plane, engine, propeller, and equipment. Finally, he declared that my RV-7 may indeed be airworthy, and we completed the checkride.
In summary, if you feel like youíve got a good handle on flying your RV, if you are very comfortable with the instrumentation on your panel, and if you donít want to go back to a Cessna for your Instrument ticket, thereís really no reason for you not to use your RV!