What Our Members Are Building/Restoring — Florida Van’s Aircraft RV-8

By Robert Welsh, EAA 1064380

This piece originally ran in the What Our Members are Building/Restoring section of the September 2020 issue of EAA Sport Aviation magazine.

The second airplane I owned was an RV-8 built by a previous owner. I flew the airplane for more than a year, but I needed a larger certified airplane after my company was awarded a project in the Bahamas. Therefore, I sold the RV-8 and purchased a certified, complex high-performance airplane. I always missed the enjoyment of flying the center-line seating RV, though.

Once I began contemplating retirement, I decided I did not want to continue to carry the operating costs of a high-performance certified airplane (e.g., fuel, insurance, and annual inspections). Therefore, in 2011, I cruised the experimental displays at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh with a greater purpose. I then developed a large spreadsheet to compare experimental airplanes that fit “my mission.” That led me to build my own RV-8.

Since I had previously taken a two-day RV build class through Grove Air (previously located in Indiana), I again contacted Troy Grove for assistance. In 2012, I ordered the RV-8 empennage kit and had the tail components shipped directly to the Grove Air shop in Indiana. I then spent a six-day “vacation” working in Indiana under Troy’s guidance and completed most of the empennage. I transported the empennage components back home to Ohio and began ordering tools and additional Van’s kits.

Because my wife was less than enthusiastic about losing her car garage over several winters, I decided to build the majority of the airplane in my large empty garage on Middle Bass Island in Ohio. This location would be problematic with parts and supplies but offered few distractions. This location also kept my flying skills active through a short flight to and from the island each work weekend. I slowly plugged away most weekends when VFR weather prevailed or was at least forecast. I even rode an ATV across the frozen ice one snowy weekend to continue making build progress. I plugged away for approximately three years of weekends on the island.

The 45-by-28-foot “airplane factory” provided adequate floor space, temperature control, and noise suppression. However, after several visits from EAA Technical Counselor Dave Ross, who won the 2014 EAA Tony Bingelis Award, I had to change locations. He did not believe the FAA would grant me a test flight area over the Lake Erie Islands. I soon decided I better load the partially constructed airplane onto a trailer for transport off the island via ferry boat. When the ferry boat captain saw my cargo waiting in line for loading, he had to walk over for closer inspection. After several minutes of disbelief, he came up to the truck window and said, “Really? An airplane?”

I relocated the airplane from Middle Bass Island in Lake Erie to a rented hangar at Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport (MGY) for the final stages of mounting the engine and installation of wings. I received my airworthiness certificate from the FAA’s Dayton Manufacturing Inspection District Office on April 25, 2017. One month later, I finally completed the sale of my company and was finally semiretired. Since it had been more than 10 years since I had flown an RV, I did four hours of transition training in June, and I made the first test flight on July 7, 2017. I completed the 40-hour test period in August 2017.

Because I had semiretired, my wife and I began looking for a new home in VFR Florida. Therefore, a little time passed before we selected and moved to an airpark community in Crescent City, Florida (3FL0) and I did additional flying in N118W. In 2018, I began working with Scheme Designers to design a paint job. The airplane received its exterior paint job in Tampa, Florida, by Hawk Aircraft Services and was finally fitted with its wheelpants in January 2019.

The airplane is powered by a new Lycoming IO-360, which drives a Catto three-bladed prop. The avionics, powered by a wiring harness by SteinAir, consist of an Advanced Flight Systems 4500 electronic flight instrument system with angle of attack, a Garmin GTN 650, a Garmin GTX 327, and a PS Engineering PMA5000EX. I have a steam gauge altimeter and airspeed indicator as well.

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