RV-12 First Flight

RV-12 First Flight by Dan Masys
AirPlay Second Quarter 2011

My RV-12 transformed itself from a project to an airplane on Friday, February 4th when the FAA Designated Airworthiness Representative (DAR) handed me the long-awaited Special Airworthiness Certificate after a detailed two hours of inspection by two A&P/IA’s and the DAR’s supervisor from the local Flight Standards District Office (FSDO). Seems that DARs can keep their credentials only when they have their work periodically monitored by the FSDO folks (a sort of ground-based check pilot function). Although I was initially not thrilled with having three sets of opinions about every detail on the airframe, it turned out to be a good outcome since they found I had put an extra washer on each of the prop bolts which should not have been there.

The inspection occurred late in the day on Friday, so we put the new airworthiness inspection in its little transparent plastic shrine on the baggage bulkhead, and called it a day. Saturday was spent reassembling the bird and performing taxi tests. The big event was a cold but clear Sunday morning, February 6th. 

The Rotax engine in the RV-12 takes quite a while to come up to operating temperature, and is placarded against revving the RPM much above idle until the oil temperature is at least 121 degrees F. With all systems go and no traffic at John Tune at 7 am on Sunday morning, RV-12 N122LD slipped the surly bonds and floated skyward in the still morning air. A few turns around the pattern, combined with some slow flight practice, constituted the busy first twenty minutes in the air. This was long enough to determine all systems were working (except for the trim indicator and one EGT indicator – due to a couple of flaky wire connections), so it was back to the airport for an easy first landing in the still morning air. Returning to the hangar for the post-flight inspection of the engine compartment, the pilot exhibited the famous post-first-flight “RV grin” (for the third time!)

Family Reunion
Later in the day, the buyer of my first kitplane – an RV-7A – arrived from Roanoke Virginia with his wife. This gave us the opportunity to have a little reunion of all three birds that my wife and I built with the RV-7A on the left, RV-10 in the middle, and new RV-12 light sport on the right:

We also did a little loose formation flying to get pictures of the RV-12 in the air:


First impressions
The world of Light Sports is distinctly different than the performance envelope of the RV-10 that is our other aerial steed. The 260 hp RV-10 pushes one back in the seat on acceleration for take-off, and leaps into the air climbing at more than 1500 fpm and 120kts indicated when lightly loaded. The transition to cruise is a very noticeable event, as the constant speed prop is set for cruise rpm and the plane converts its climbing energy into a solid-feeling 170kt cruise, not unlike getting ‘on the step’ in a sailboat or power boat. In contrast, the 100 hp RV-12 seems like it has an electric motor up front.  Going to full throttle and takeoff RPM in the -12, with the engine turning 5000 rpm and the prop about 2200 rpm, is a leisurely affair with the distinct impression that the engine is not laboring very much, and the airplane gently lifting off at about 50 kts and drifting upward at an unhurried pace. Best rate of climb is 76kts indicated, and gives about a 700 fpm rate of climb at standard temperatures and low altitudes. Trimming the plane for cruise doesn’t require much if any change of the throttle, since the cruise engine RPM of 5000-5200 isn’t much different than the takeoff power setting. With its wheel fairings installed and an excellent, slick paint job done by Stephen Port’s paint shop, N122LD cruises at a pleasing 124 kts (a little faster than Light Sports are supposed to, but hey, it’s an RV!) and has well balanced controls and perfect kitplane manners. And doing all this while burning only 5.2 gallons of autogas an hour makes it both economical and fun. Hats off to Van’s aircraft for designing another winner!

Dan Masys