First Flight Report - RV-6 N43BL

Norman Howell

Originally published May 1994

On May 1, 1994, I was privileged to accomplish the first flight on Bob Lapee's RV-6 out of Crystal Gliderport over to WJF. Bob is a member of EAA Chapter 49, and had the aircraft built by Jack Huffman and Jack Hakes, also of EAA Chapter 49. This RV-6 has a 180hp Lycoming engine and constant speed prop, and is set up for light IFR with gyros and a Navaid Devices autopilot. On May 1st I met Jack Huffman at WJF, and he airlifted me and Bob Waldmiller over to Crystal.

Conditions at Crystal were absolutely perfect, and I was pleased with the obviously excellent workmanship on N43BL. After a preflight and cockpit checkout, I fired 'er up and taxied out. Taxi and takeoff were routine, and I was impressed with how straight the aircraft was rigged and how powerful the rudder was. There was no tendency for the '6 to dart off to the side on takeoff, and we climbed quickly to 8000 feet. Oil temp went to 175 and parked, and the hottest cylinder was #3 at 405°. After 25 minutes #3 dropped to 382°, and the engine was running smoothly. This is the type of first flight I like! Oh, yes...the radios were working perfectly and Bob had thoughtfully installed a Bose headset interface right into the armrest....very classy. Having radio problems or having to talk on a %&%$! handheld during a first flight ready adds to the "pain in the patoot" factor, and ready can be detriment if something goes wrong.

After 30 minutes Jack and Bob W. pulled along side for some pictures...actually I pulled along side them. Jack's Cardinal is very nice, but the '6 has a great advantage in power loading and I was able to stay on the wing very easily.

After the photo shoot I headed off to Fox, and when I (carefully) firewalled the '6, we pulled away from the Cardinal like Don Prudhomme off the start line at the Bakersfield drag strip. On the way I checked with Joshua Control on the transponder and mode C output....right on the money. The handling qualities were "standard RV-6," which is to say light forces in all axes with long lateral throws and very short longitudinal throws for normal maneuvering in cruise. Actually, one can longitudinally PIO the '6 at cruise in a high gain task such as formation flight if one is not careful. Guess how I found that out!

With the flaps down and airspeed in the white arc the longitudinal throws increase, and pitch commands are predictable. However, with forward CG and flaps 30°, I could not fully trim out the forces and had to fly final holding a little back pressure. Not much, but enough to make a long-stat check impossible. Despite my best efforts, touchdown was smooth and again the '6 had no tendency to dart off to one side. It ready has excellent handling on the ground for a tailwheel airplane.

There were a few niggling little problems with the airplane (fuel gage inop, VSI at -1000 fpm all the time time, too-flimsy bracket for the g-meter, and the upholstery tends to lean you toward the center of the plane...I've seen this on several RV-6's) but overall it was a ready clean first flight and Bob L. should be very happy with his new plane. You RV builders are lucky...keep working on those projects and let's get an RV flying in Chapter 1000!


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Revised -- 2 March 1997