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N147EW Flys!

August 31, 2014 2 comments

Sunday Aug 31, 2014

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After four years and seven months of building and preping, N147EW (aka the Eagle) took to the air. It was just me, Denise, and Dave Stevenson at the hangar this morning as we checked the airplane out for the last time before the first flight. I wanted this event to be low key. Spectators would just make me nervous and add pressure that could cloud my judgement. The airplane was ready as far as I could tell and the conditions were right so I decided it was the day to fly. I started the engine with 18 gallons of fuel on board; more than enough for this flight. After a smooth taxi to the east end of the runway I did a standard run-up and mag check. All systems go! I checked for traffic and called out my intention to take-off on runway 25 for a first flight. The next guy in sequence to take-off radio’d back “good luck”.

The winds were calm. On take-off the engine rpm rose to 2100 rpm initially. It’s a fixed pitch prop so I didn’t expect full redline rpm or the acceleration of a constant speed prop. It accelerated briskly enough however and I lifted off at 74 kts. What a rush! The machine I built in my garage was flying and lifting me up into the sky. I climbed out at about 105 kts and about 1000 fpm, keeping the speed up to promote cooling of the cylinders. This is a new engine that is not broken in so CHT’s are always a concern. I didn’t need to worry. They never got above 380F. At 500 ft AGL I turned crosswind while continuing to climb. The engine was running smoothly and only a small amount of elevator trim was needed to keep it climbing with little or no pressure on the stick. Turning downwind I reduced power to 25 inches manifold pressure and climbed up through pattern altitude at 500 fpm while radioing my intent to climb to 2500 ft MSL above the airport for flight tests.

A check of engine pressures and temperatures showed everything was in the green. I checked aileron trim and it was almost neutral. No heavy wing! A tiny adjustment of the aileron trim and I was flying hands off! Leveling off at about 2500 ft I followed a race track pattern above the airport. The air was smooth and  everything was operating normally. The controls were light and responsive but twitchy. I flew five or six big ovals around the pattern, never getting too far from the airport just in case a problem arose.

Maximum air speed was 136 kts indicated (142.5 KTAS) at 2500 ft, 2400 rpm and 25.5 inches of manifold pressure. That’s only 78% power according to the Dynon. Not too bad I think for cruising with no wheel or main gear leg fairings. It will go faster later with the full set of trim on and more altitude.

On the last lap I slowed down and dropped into the pattern. The base leg was a little fast at 78 kts and I held it there all the way to the numbers. As for the landing, let’s just say it was good enough (thanks Dave!). Total flight time was 0.5 hr. After taxiing back to the hangar I shared hand shakes and high fives, and of course, the famous RV grin. The guy (Bob) who wished me luck on the radio came by to congratulate me and see the airplane. I pulled off the cowling to inspect the engine and found no leaks or issues at all. The only squawks I had the whole flight were the engine idle, which was set too low, and the intercom volume was too low but I didn’t want to mess with it in flight. I adjusted the idle screw with the cowling off and increased the intercom volume from 50% to 70% on the GTR200. I’ll check those settings next time.

In summary, I can’t believe how nicely this airplane flew today. It’s a nice machine. Thanks Van! I admit I had some anxiety about all the things that could go wrong. After all, it was built in my garage. But the airplane was ready to fly. And fly it did. It gave me no reason to be alarmed. It felt more solid than any Cessna I have ever flown.

Now, 39.5 hours more to go in Phase 1 flight test and then Denise can ride along with me.

Special thanks to Denise for supporting me throughout this project, and Dave Stevenson for giving me the help and confidence to go fly it today.

Update: I added a link to a short video of the highlights of the first flight taken from the ground by Denise.

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N147EW is Airworthy! – 4 hrs

August 23, 2014 2 comments

Saturday Aug 23, 2014

After weeks of delays waiting for the FAA to approve the paperwork (and a vacation to see our new grandchild), N147EW had it’s airworthiness inspection today performed by DAR Matt Hlavac out of Ramona and was granted a special airworthiness certificate. In the inspection he found one issue with missing safety wire on the oil drain valve which I quickly remedied. Here is a photo of Matt going over the firewall forward section. He did a pretty thorough inspection based on a 7-page checklist.

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However, two weeks ago I did something that almost blew the inspection today. I decided to replace the lock nut on the fuel injection purge valve control arm. This is no big deal but when I put the new nut on I put the spherical bearing on the bottom of the control arm instead of on the top. I just didn’t notice that it was swapped. Here is an old photo of the control arm connection on the purge valve. The bearing is clearly on top of the arm.

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The problem is the nut physically runs into the steel fuel line if the bearing is mounted on the bottom of the control arm preventing the valve from fully going to the idle cut-off position. When I got into the airplane to start the engine today I did the standard procedure which is to put the purge valve into ICO position and run the fuel pump for 30 seconds to purge air out of the lines. Normally the purge valve shunts the fuel flow back to the right tank but because the valve was not fully closed it dumped a bunch of fuel right into the cylinders, totally flooding the engine. It simply would not fire up after several attempts.

Well this was completely atypical behavior based on the last four times I started the engine (before I changed the purge valve nut). We noticed fuel dripping from the filtered air box so I knew it was flooded. I decided to let things dry out for about 15 minutes. When I tried to start it the next time I pulled the mixture to idle cut-off and did not use the fuel pump. After about 8 blades it fired off and ran normally and I warmed it up a bit then ran a mag check for Mat. However, on shut down I pulled the purge valve knob to ICO but the engine kept running. That’s not supposed to happen. I shut it down with the mixture control and began to examine the purge valve control cable. That is when I found the problem with the bearing mounting. It took only a few minutes to fix it and then restart the engine and show Matt a normal shutdown. Crisis averted but it almost caused a failure of the inspection, a delay, and some money to get Matt back over here again for a recheck. It just shows you what a “minor” change can do if you don’t thoroughly check it out.

After that it was just the final paperwork and then Matt gave me the official airworthiness certificate. That is Matt on the right in this photo.

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