After a little over two years, I conducted my first flight in N5427W, an RV-7. My son (a film student), was good enough to video the experiance and create this short film (only 6 minutes). I almost titled it "Five of the Best Landings I Ever Made", but I settled on "First Flight: Journey to a Dream."
Turn up the sound and enjoy!
First Flight: Journey to a Dream
The longer backstory:
11/5/2017 was the first flight of N5427W!
N5427W is an RV-7 slow build kit with the slider canopy. I built it in a little over two, very focused, years. I rigidly stuck to the plans except for the "Almost a 14" mod and the "Supertracks" slider mod. As an electronics engineer and software guy, I designed my electrical system and designed and wired my Garmin G3X IFR panel. Up front, I have a brand new Titan IOX-370 engine with a Catto 3-blade prop. She came in at 1040 pounds (unpainted and without pants).
After a final inspection by my EAA Tech advisor and DAR, Dave Prizio on Saturday, 11/4/2017, N5427W was officially an airplane. My first flight was being planned and executed by the team of Richard Wilsher and myself. Richard was the Flight Director and was responsible for the overall flight, and of course, I was the test pilot. Before the flight, he spent a lot of time working with me on the checklists. During the flight he kept me apprised of the schedule, helped monitor traffic, provide comm support (and backup if NORDO), took notes, and generally kept an eye on things. Having Richard on the ground really freed up my brain allowing me to concentrate on flying. Also, supporting the first flight was my son Jack (who is creating a documentary of the effort) and my son Hank and Richard's better half, Pat.
With a new engine up front, it wants minimum ground time and maximum time at 65 to 75% power. So the flight test was an initial 30 minute segment at 75% power, then some slow flight, then if everything looked and felt good, another 30 minutes at 75% power, followed by a low approach and a landing.
Taxi, run-up, and takeoff were uneventful. Then about 500' agl I smell SMOKE! I get to pattern altitude, reduce power, switch off my standby battery (which is in the cockpit) and radio that I am returning for landing. But the thing is, the smoke smelled like wood smoke and I have an aluminum airplane. All the gauges were good, no smoke reported from the ground, and it was definitely not an electrical smell. Then I noticed a few ash flakes floating in the cockpit. That's when I realized what it was. We had massive wildfires in the Corona, CA area recently and some of the smoke and ash got into my vents. By now, on downwind, the smell was diminishing. I decided to do one more slow orbit, the smell was completely gone, everything was green so I powered up to do the test pattern.
The test pattern was a 4 nm by 2 nm rectangle centered over Corona airport. Flying at 2400 feet, this kept me within gliding distance of the airport. Aside from a slightly heavy right wing (mostly because my fat a** was in the right seat) which I could trim out, the plane flew flawlessly. There were zero avionics or instrumentation problems. Everything just worked.
So after 30 minutes at 2400 rpm, the CHTs were right at 400 and the oil temp was right at 200. I did some slow flight and the since everything looked and felt good, we continued with another 30 minute test pattern.
Then, the landing. I got my tailwheel and some aerobatic training in a Decathlon at Sunrise Aviation and my RV-7 transition training from Mike Seager in Oregon. Adequate, but I ain't no expert tailwheel jockey. So I do a low approach with Richard calling height above runway to give me a sight picture. Then I climbed back up and came around for the real landing (and by now, a crosswind had come up).
I came down as gently as I could. But after touching, I was having a small porposing. Slightly bouncing off the runway, just felt like oscillating slightly. Then I hear in my headset, "stick back". Richard, who has ton's of tailwheel time, spotted my problem. Stick back and all was well. When I watched the video, it turns out I had done an inadvertant wheel landing with the tailwheel maybe a foot or so off the runway. More practice to come.
Of course the first flight was the culmination of much hard work which cannot be accomplished alone.
First, without the support and encouragement of my wife, Barbara, this project would not have happened. And while she was happy to provide moral support, riveting required something more tangible. That is where my neighbor Jack S. and my friend Richard really came through. Jack was always willing to shoot some rivets, even when it meant working in the nasty tank sealant while riveting the fuel tanks. Richard came by whenever asked and left his mark on the fuselage and wings. Over the build I had a few guest riveters as well. My son's Hank and Jack pitched in many times, and Jack's friends Andrea and Jennie built a seat back. A coworker, Peter B., checked in throughout the build and got his hands dirty a time or two.
Once the plane moved to a hangar at Corona, help was always a request away. Rick M. really came through when two sets of hands were required and Steve C. provided the guidance needed to tackle that most daunting of tasks, fiberglassing. In addition to those mentioned, many others lent physical and moral support along the way.