THE FIRST FLIGHT WAS GOING TO BE ONE OF THE BIGGEST THRILLS OF MY LIFE. I KNEW THAT, AND NEVER ONCE DID I FORGET IT.
With 40. 3 hours on the clock, my first passenger was my wife, Brittne. Can you tell she liked it?
my airplane. All in all, I ended up with
48 cards after making changes to suit
Some of the flights would last 20 minutes, and some would last two hours or
more, but with 48 flights to make, I figured that would get me close to the 40
hours I needed to prove the airplane and
move it into Phase 2. As it turned out, 48
test flights ended up getting me to about
37. 5 hours. (The RV is a fast airplane, so a
similar test-card program in something
like an Air Camper would probably take
you well beyond 40 hours.) There were
two and half hours in there that were
spent having nothin’ but a good time—and
yes, I did listen to that song a few times
while flying the time off.
Before getting to flight No. 1, I have to
mention that it is of the utmost importance that one considers transition
training in a like-type airplane, if not the
exact model. It is not yet required, but it
is one of the best, safest, and most productive ways to spend your time and
money before the first flight in your
homebuilt. I had 15 hours of RV- 7 time
prior to making the first flight in my RV,
and on the day of my test flight, I flew my
PHOTOGRAPHY BY CHAD JENSEN
first flight in another RV- 7, exactly as I
intended to do it later that day in mine.
FLIGHT NO. 1
All throughout my project, I would always
tell people who asked me, “When will it
fly?” that it would fly on Friday. I didn’t
know which Friday, but it would be a
Friday. I didn’t really mean that, and I
hear people pick a day of the week all the
time, and not know the month or even the
year when their plane would actually fly.
Little did I know that what I had been tell-
ing people over the course of five years
would actually work out to be a true state-
ment. My first flight occurred on Friday,
July 23, 2010, two days before I would
leave for AirVenture. The first flight-test
card had been prepared months earlier,
and I had reviewed it many times, but it
was still going to be the most important
checklist I would have with me on that
flight, other than emergency procedures.
The objectives of this first flight would be:
• Validate engine reliability.
• Explore flight-control characteristics.
• Practice slow flight.
• Explore fuel system reliability.
After waiting out an evening rain
shower at Central Illinois Regional Airport
in Bloomington, Illinois, I gathered my
small ground crew of family and friends
who would capture the big event on camera, man the fire extinguishers, and listen
on the handheld radio, as well as my two
experienced pilot friends for the flight.
These were two friends with RV-7s who I
wouldn’t have to pay attention to, but
would watch over my airplane from a safe
distance while I did my thing. Some people are for this practice, others aren’t, but
this is how I did it, and it’s common practice for professional experimental test
pilots at major aerospace companies.
We started engines at 7: 45 p.m., taxied
out, and after my run-up using my airplane checklist, I switched over to my
flight-test card No. 1 checklist. I was off
the ground at 7: 57 p.m. On departure and
climb-out, as noted on my checklist, I was
not to change throttle or mixture settings,
and I was not to switch fuel tanks. I had a
line on my checklist that read, “Try to