RV-14 N14YT 100 Hour Report

Added 3/30/2017

Recently I hit the 100 hour mark on N14YT, so it's time for a report on how the RV-14 is working out, and how I feel about the aircraft now that I'm finished building and have some time on it.

First, I will definitely say that this airplane has given me a whole new perspective on flying...literally.  I knew all along that I would love aerobatics. Who wouldn't!  But it really gives you a lot more comfort in airplanes in general when you start throwing them around a bit and get some time in very unusual attitudes.  The airplane is very smooth at flying all of the gentle maneuvers that I have, including aileron rolls, loops, immelmanns, split-S's, spins, 1/2 cuban eights, and even the very sloppy attempt at a barrel roll.  I need to work on those.  No, it doesn't have quite the roll rate of the RV3/4/6/7, but it handles very nicely and has a bit higher roll rate than my RV-10.

The airplane is very smooth flying, and basically flies almost exactly like my RV-10.  Although my goal is to potentially offer transition training in the RV-14, I feel that if someone has a bunch of RV-10 time, there really is no need for them to get transition training in the RV-14.  They are so very similar in characteristics that there is very little I could tell you that would be different between one or the other.  Coming from other types of aircraft, or maybe even other RV's, this may not be the case, but I certainly was fully comfortable in this plane within the first 60 seconds of that throttle going full forward.  This is coming from a perspective of having over 1000 hours of RV-10 experience at that time. 

The airplane itself will make a fun gentleman's aerobatic airplane, a very good cross-country airplane, and a very good IFR platform for both Instrument training and Instrument flying.  It tracks like it's on rails, and has the same light feel as the RV-10, with fairly heavy aileron stick forces at high speed...just what you'd want if you are flying in the clouds.  It is very light in pitch, as is the RV-10, so if a pilot is going to get themselves into trouble by man-handling the stick, it will be in pitch.  Just like the RV-10, this airplane really *requires* a speed controller for the trim.  The pitch is sensitive enough that if you don't slow down that pitch servo, you may have a hard time getting the trim exactly where you want it.  This only is the case when you are >100Kts, so when at any reduced airspeeds you will want full-speed pitch trim.  My Safety-Trim from TCW Technologies takes care of this for me with an airspeed switch, and works great.  The elevator has a trim wedge that is a bit different from all other RV models.  I've never flown the prototypes that didn't have the wedge, but I can tell you that on this production model there is the very slightest sudden "hunt" for lack of better word, that you may find when trimming the last little bit of pressure out of it.  You may reach a spot where a tad bit of trim or a little forward/aft pressure on the stick causes just a small punch of sudden lurch in climb or descent.  It's very hard to explain the feel, but once you get it fully trimmed it seems to feel very good.  Maybe I could call it a sudden break when you get from one condition to a less balanced condition.  It's nothing too drastic and certainly nothing dangerous...but it's just something you may notice if you are sensitive and paying attention.  I would not call it a "bad" behavior.  So far I have not found any bad behaviors of the RV-14.

I will say that the rudder is very effective, and does a great job when both entering and exiting spins.  You can pull to a stalled condition, stuff in the rudder, and it's spinning.  Where people are usually taught "FULL OPPOSITE RUDDER" in spin recovery using the P.A.R.E. technique, I find that full rudder isn't really necessary. Recovery is Power idle, ailerons neutral, rudder opposite as necessary, and then elevator to pull out of the impending dive.  I have tried a spin recovery using the hands-off technique and was a bit surprised.  The airplane entered the spin, and by me letting go of the stick, the stick went slightly forward as I was vertical...causing me to get suddenly light in my seat.  Maybe call it "tucking the nose down" or something like that.  Without adding any rudder, it stopped spinning and I was able to start pulling the elevators and pull out of the dive.  It was not nearly as comfortable as if you keep your hands on the stick, so while it works, I think I'll keep that one in the back of the spin recovery toolbox and just stick with the standard recovery procedures.

Regarding aerobatics, I used to be of the opinion that a roll was a simple maneuver.  I still feel that way, if you are experienced in how to properly execute a roll, but I now feel much more cautious about how a non-experienced aerobatic pilot may perform in a roll.  I had the opportunity to have another pilot learn a roll in the plane, and although it was explained fully, twice, he did not enter the roll properly...causing the roll to really end up being a split-S, although at a higher airspeed than you would normally perform a split-S.  The impending dive showed that people are correct when they say RV's are slippery, as if it weren't for a very quick respons, we would have exceeded Vne.  As it was, I caught it just in time and it ended up just being an exciting maneuver with no major issues, and we were able to try it again...following proper procedures the next time.  It certainly gave me more respect for NOT giving every pilot the benefit of the doubt to fully trust them to perform new maneuvers.

This airplane came about at the perfect time in my flying life.  Well, it could have come sooner and I'd have been happy too, but I wasn't prepared for the financial side of owning the 2nd plane that quickly, so it's good that it took a bit longer than I wanted.  I built my RV-10 in basically 25 months of time.  This airplane would have been completed in a similar amount of time...possibly a bit less, had Van's been faster at getting the pieces to their customers.  Being at the front of the completion list (I was I think #6 of the customers) was a disadvantage, as I had many months of no progress as I waited on them to complete kit components.  As it ended up, it took me about 3.5 years. 

Luckily for me, the delay didn't have any significant impact on my life other than to keep me from having as much fun for an extra year.  I remember being at OSH...I think it was 2012?, when they announced the RV-14.  All my buddies came back to camp telling me I had to see Van's new "RV-14".  At that time, I had been really having a rough time.  I wanted another airplane...a 2 seater, for a few reasons.  I wanted a 2 seater for the reduced hull value and corresponding insurance cost.  The reason for this is I wanted to buy/build a plane that would make a good airplane to train my daughters how to fly, and adding them to the RV-10 insurance seemed like a long shot, since many companies require 250 hours and an Instrument rating, or 300 hours, to be covered in the RV-10.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I figured a 2 seater would be much better that way.  To that end, an RV-12 would be an excellent choice as a trainer.  I could build it cheap enough, very quickly, and use it to train the girls.  The problem is, I had other requirements as well.  I ALSO had dreamed of having 2 airplanes capable of cross-country flights as a family, giving us 6 seats, so we could bring friends for both kids.  Well, the RV-12 will absolutely NOT keep up with the RV-10 for a vacation.  The RV-9 would make an excellent docile trainer, basically flying like the RV-10, but was slower as well, and suffered another major deficiency (or two).  It wasn't aerobatic.  I also really wanted an airplane at least aerobatic capable.  The RV-9 was not.  So this led me to the RV-7.  I had been thinking I'd build an RV-7, but, there were a couple of major issues there as well.  First, the RV-7 just may be too much to handle as a trainer airplane.  I didn't want something that sensitive that would add difficulty to learing to fly.  The added power alone would be a big jump, making it harder to learn than in the normal Cessna 152/172.  But, I could have my aerobatics.  The other thing I really hated about the RV-7 and RV-9 after flying in a 7 is that I really didn't like the high-walled cockpit.  The visibility was kind of crappy, and it felt more like climbing into a tube where yoyu didn't have much shoulder or leg room than flying a nice, comfortable RV like my RV-10.  I also didn't have a lot of head room for my headset and my 6'2-ish" body.  Oh, and to really throw it out as a good option, the fuel capacity was too low to keep up with the long legs of the RV-10 for X/C flights.  I really wasn't impressed with the RV-7 when I flew it enough to WANT to have one, but I was resigned to go with it at that point.  So I knew what I wanted...an easy to fly and land, larger sized, cross-country cabable, aerobatic, RV.

But at OSH 2012 the guys told me I had to check out that RV-14...all the while I was thinking I'd do a 7.  Reluctantly I went to the Van's booth LATER in the week, as I wasn't even excited to see it.  But, upon checking it out I was absolutely amazed.  There was a beautiful looking 2-seat RV, built with a larger cabin, larger fuel tanks, AND, it was built on the RV-10 wing...shortened to 50 gallons of capacity, and was aerobatic capable!  I sat in it, and it had a much roomier cockpit, without those coffin-feeling side walls, and excellent visibility and headroom.  Man, I knew right then and there that the airplane was for me.  I spent the rest of OSH telling people I was going to build one.  I don't even know when they started taking orders, but, as soon as I heard, I started preparing myself mentally.  Soon I had written the first check, for the wing kit, and waited for them to show up.  I hadn't flown in it yet, but knowing Van's, I had faith that this was the airplane for me.

Well, it turns out I was right.  I persisted thru the build, and the urgency was reduced when my oldest daughter told me she didn't really want to learn to fly.  That bought me time because my youngest daughter was only 12-14 years old thru these building years.  She was the one who kept the spark and knew without a doubt that she would learn to fly. She assisted me a lot with the construction, especially the last year of it, and we finished it together.  The first flight went off without a hitch, and the summer of 2016 I had a great time flying the airplane.  For OSH 2016 I spent some great formation flights, flying next to my RV-10 and my RV-10 buddies.  What a blast.  I then started to pick up where my daughter's instructor in 2015 left off, and teach her how to fly and land the RV-14...even though I was not a CFI at the time.  She had been more seriously learning to fly with me in the RV-10 as a right-seat pilot in 2015 and early 2016, but now it was time to sharpen her up.  Come late fall 2016 and I received a couple of doses of motivation shots in the arm to get my CFI ticket.  The RV-14 was fun to fly to practice the commercial pilot maneuvers, and my daughter studied for her private written while I did the commercial written.  I took my commercial checkride in the RV-10 and a rented Cessna Cutlass, and then jammed and completed my 2 CFI (actually 3) written tests, with the addition of the Advanced Ground Instructor test.  Right after the 1st of the year in 2017 I headed south to finish my CFI, and on 1/11/17 I became a CFI.  By that time, my daughter was already very very comfortably completing full flights with me not having to do anything.  She absorbed everything I taught her.  But now, I was able to switch seats and fly Right-seat for her.  For all of the winter of 2017 now, she's been sharpening her skills in the RV-14 left seat, with the occasional jaunt in the RV-10 to give her something new to do.  She's only 5'3" or so, and the RV-14 seats don't go far enough forward, nor do the rudder pedals go far enough aft, for a person her size, so mods were required.  First, we removed the flip-up seat back holder.  It was flimsy, and we needed 4 full inches of seat back tilt.  I put together a simple system to give her that added tilt, and added 3" thick rudder pedal blocks to the pedals, that are easily removable.  This gave her exactly the added seating and control position she needed to fly the RV-14 with excellence.  This spring she will turn 16 and finally be eligible for solo on her birthday, and she will be able to do this in an airplane we built together.  In truth, she is ready for solo today, but we continue to drill at least weekly, to keep her skill level up.

We have found that the RV-14 is plenty docile enough to be used as a trainer, if necessary.  The 172 that I teach in at the local FBO is a slow, wallowy, non-precision flying machine that gives the pilot a lot of time to see things coming while flying in the pattern.  But, it lacks the awesome visibility and crisp responsive controls of the RV-14.  From a safety perspective, yes, there is some benefit to having a slow moving airplane in the pattern like the 172...it's less easy to get behind the airplane in a 172, but, there's one other angle to look at.  The 172 we fly has a 160hp engine.  The RV-14 has a 210hp engine. When you hit the throttle in the RV-14, you need to be ready for it to start moving, and it will start accelerating quickly and climb very rapidly.  Yes, you can get behind the airplane.  BUT, in my opinion, the most dangerous period in a flight is the takeoff. You're trying hard to get AWAY from the ground, to the safety of altitude.  Having good airspeed and good climb is a big help to safety.  Engine failures and everything else, become much easier to cope with when you have altitude.  POWER is also another assistant to safety in that even on the hottest day, at higher elevations, the RV-14 can keep you climbing away from the ground.  So really the only major consideration is ensuring that the pilot-in-training can fly the RV-14 without getting behind the airplane mentally.  It will likely take them a little more time to get initially comfortable in the pattern, but once they do, they will climb faster and be safer quicker, on takeoff.  Most every trainer would be a safer airplane to fly, with 20-40 extra HP.  The other neat thing about training in the RV-14 is that the pilot will automatically be qualified and capable to receive their High Performance signoff.

So the RV-14 as an aircraft, is exactly what we needed, at almost exactly the right time.  I really thank Van's for the foresight to build such an airplane. I know they sometimes need a lot of urging to step outside their norm.  Building the 4-seat RV-10 was certainly a change for them.  Going LSA was a change for them.  And now, building a BETTER RV9+RV7+2seatRV10 was the perfect move at just the right time. Thanks Vans!

From a construction perspective, there are a few comments I have.  First, Van's really needs to NOT pre-drill some holes for you.  They build this kit designed to be made for only 2 various EFIS systems as main choices.  Unless you are going with one of those systems, and hey, maybe EVEN if you are going with one of those 2 systems, there are times you would be better off if they didn't complete some things for you.  In my case, I wanted (and ended up with) a near identical copy to my RV10 panel, and I love it.  BUT, with van's pre-cut subpanel, it made it more of a challenge.  Add to that the fact that I wanted the screens laid out the way I did, and that required a lot of extra work on the subpanel and bracing that wouldn't have been required if they had just let me cut my own holes in the subpanel.  They also drilled OAT probe holes in the wing skins that I didn't need, they drilled 2 sets of headset jack holes...only one of which I needed for my Bose LEMO jacks, they drilled a music jack hole that I never needed, and stuck a lighter socket hole in the center tunnel that I never wanted there.  That kind of stuff just caused me more headache than if they had left it open for me.  Or maybe just drill a simple pilot hole and let ME expand it with a template.  I also am much happier with my new heater vent cables.  If you go stock, you'll have heater vents that don't seal well when it's summer, and won't stay open enough to keep you warm, when it's winter.  Get better cables and it's a great thing.  But the biggest downfall of the kit I think so far is the lack of Van's adding a throttle quadrant option for the builders.  They are absolutely burying their head in the sand on that one.  The RV-10 throttle quadrant fits very nicely, and is VERY comfortable in the obvious center position on the panel.  Not only that but it's very very easy to install with just minor modifications.  All they would really have to do is offer the builder a very minor quadrat+cable+hardware kit and a couple of plans changes and customers could easily be installing a great quadrant in this airplane.  I'm sure if they flew it themselves, they'd find it nice, but all I've ever heard is flack from them.  If you haven't flown a quadrant, do it, and if you have...and prefer them, just make the change and put one in. It's not hard and you'll be very happy with it.  The electrical harness I wasn't happy with in many respects...especially in my configuration.  Personally, if I were doing it all over, I would entirely skip the harness from Van's (as it is I modified it a lot), and just pull my own wires.  They include lesser quality molex connectors that you really don't NEED to use. They're only there to allow you to wire as you go, but when you realize that you're going to later want to add more wires anyway, you'll be stuck pulling wires later.  So my advice is to skp their wire harnesses and just do your own, if you are at all capable, or doing ANYTHING that isn't exactly like their planned systems.  You can probably even save money.  I modified things for the landing lights and am happy with that. I went a different route for NAV lights and I'm thrilled with them.  I would never, ever, ever, NEVER ever ever skip the sun shield on the canopy that I have.  This plane would barely be flyable on a sunny day without it for a balding guy like me.  It cuts the heat a lot.  Then again, when you take your first night flight on either a full-moon, or moonless star-filled night, you will be AMAZED by the view out your bubble canopy.  

I learned never to attempt to even try to pull the canopy jettison lever if you paint and seal in your hinge covers.  Build extra hinge covers and paint them to match during painting...you may want them some day.  I am happy I added the jettison handle, because I do fly with parachutes at times, but it's not a requirement.  The subpanel access is great to have.  Plan your panel well!  The TruTrak autopilot does an excellent job in the RV-14.  Highly recommended.  I'm once again loving my Lightspeed ignition on the Right side.  Never had a fouled plug in the whole time I've been flying.  The IO-390 is a great engine for this plane.  The cooling is excellent, the performance is great.  My oil consumption is awesome and the oil stays clean a very long time.  Pretty dang impressed with that.  The Vetterman exhaust is performing wonderfully for me.  I had an early breakage but they replaced a ball joint with a thicker one and gave me saddle clamps to hold the pipes together and no issues since. They changed the design now and new builders will probably have an easier time than I did even.  Very happy with that.  The hose kit I got from Aircraft Specialty was awesome.  Highly recommended.  NO issues with fuel flow for me, and the brakes work fantastically.  I also just started doing my first year's annual condition inspection and found absolutely no leakage from any hose, anywhere.  Thanks Steve for doing such a great job on those hoses!

For the interior, I'm just finally getting it equipped with Flightline's interior side panels.  Excellent stuff!  Now I have POCKETS!  This plane really suffered from a lack of storage...now that's not an issue.  The seats they made me also have been working great. My daughter and I even got to design our own embroidered seat logo, which gave it our own special touch.  I love that the seat back isn't one of those fully-covered systems that looks like a car seat.  The reason is, I'm actually too tall, at 6'2" to be 100% comfortable with the seat position when I wear a parachute.  I'm about 1" too thick on the cushion on my back.  When I fly with the chute, I pull the seat back cushion off.  If I were unable to do this, I would never be comfortable enough to fly with a chute.  A back chute would put me too close to the stick, and a butt chute would be my only option...but not be nearly as comfortable to sit on...and I'd have to pull the seat cushion out or I'd sit to high and hit the canopy.   So what I have is the best I can do for myself.  My 17 hour trip to Idaho I was comfortable in this airplane, and that matters a lot to me.  In my RV-10 we could easily fly 10 hour days and the seats were far more comfortable than being in the car.  This is similar, but not quite as perfect since you can't recline the seats as you can in that plane.  Interior comfort is important.  The width of the plane is JUST enough to make me happy.  I could actually even be happier with an extra inch per side...more like the RV-10 with it's concave door chambers.  But the RV-14 does a great job.  I can't imagine squeezing in a tighter RV-6/7/9 anymore!  Oh, and before I forget, I got an excellent behind the seat leather storage and tool bag from mission bags.  It's not a 100% perfect fit in this airplane but it does a great job.  Great for keeping things from flying around in the large baggage area. 

Maintenance wise, my inspection thus far at 100 hours has turned up almost nothing.  I have heavier wear on the left outer tire than any other spot on any tire.  Not sure why, but I have had a few landings on ice and other times during our training that we've had the brakes hit pretty hard and maybe I caused the wear.  But the toe-in was set well when I built it, so unless it's further off than I thought, and that's causing the wear, it's something I did.  No issues with the brakes, or fiberglass components so far.  Although I got some mistakenly ground plexi bits from avery that caused me to have lots and lots of cracking holes on my rear window, none of the holes at this time are radiating cracks.  Lucky there!  The rear window sealant I used is also working out real well.  Very happy with the build choices.  Getting in and out of the plane is reasonably easy. The canopy is easy to open and close.  The inspections are very easy to do and it does not take that long to open up the entire control path to inspect and lube all controls.  My backup battery system is working well, and all of the instruments in the panel are performing well too.  I've upgraded the starter.  Didn't really need to.  But, now that it's wired with a single wire, it's working excellently.

From a starting perspective, I find that the IO-390 basically starts the same way the IO-540 does if you do the hot start procedure all the time.  I plug my planes in over the winter and that means it really is a hot start, but it acts that way in the summer also.  You start by MAYBE 1 second of priming, if that, but then when you crank you do it with the mixture at idle cutoff, and the throttle cracked maybe 1/2".  As soon as it fires you richen the mixture to about 2/3 travel, and it'll start running smoothly in a couple seconds.  It acts just like a hot start.

In the pattern I'm using 90 on downwind abeam the numbers, 80 as I turn base, and 70 on final....all in knots.  75 on final if it's gusty.  It will fly final at a slower speed just fine, but will sink rapidly.  Stall is in the mid 40's or low 50's when in ground effect over the runway.  Coming over the numbers at 65-68kts is great.  I climb out at 110kts, or even 120kts if it's hot out.  You can climb out 20-25kts slower if you really want to get some climb angle to get away from the ground to clear an obstacle.  I set trim to 1-2 bars from nose down trim...i.e. maybe 75% nose down, for takeoff.  It flies close to that setting most of the time too.  Mid-travel trim on takeoff will have you pitching up, so you'll end up trimming more nose down.  On landing, you'll land with maybe 2/3 to 3/4 trim up....maybe 4 bars from the top or so.  I don't run out of nose up trim on landing.  That's awesome.  And this is without having my storage/tool bag in the tail for most landings.  I make 99.9% of all landings with full flaps, and actually try to go to full flaps very early on base.  Works great for me.

Everyone always likes to ask "What would you do differently if you were building all over again?", and "Is there anything that you don't like about the airplane?"   Well, it's very hard for me to come up with the "what would I do differently" list.  I'm very happy with how it turned out.  I'd have to think on that one for a while to come up with something I'd change.  I'm glad I didn't have quickbuild options, as building wasn't really all that tough.  The things that made it hard were doing things before all of these various plans revisions came about.  There were many plans errors that I had to face along the way.  Future builders should have it made.  I've heard enough stories about leaky fuel tanks on quickbuild wings that I'd always want to build my own tanks.  And the whole plane wasn't that hard to build. 

The one thing that keeps the airplane from being perfect, in my opinion, is it's "adjustability" for various sized pilots.  It was pretty tough for my wife and daughter, at 5'2" - 5'3", to get anywhere near able to reach the pedals, and be far enough forward to see and handle the stick.  That flip-up seat back prop was too short, and making it longer would make it too weak to be good.  I bought some very high density foam and made a 4" foam bolster to put between the seat back and the bar.  That fixes the tilt. I'm actually shocked they don't complain they are now sitting too upright, but it works for them and they like it.  And the 3" rudder pedal blocks fixed the other end.  What makes me wonder though is how it will work for the 5'6", 5'8", and 5'10" pilots out there.  I think they will do ok but I'm not sure where that breaking point is to where you need to start doing mods to make it fit.  Then on the tall end, I'd say that if you're 6'0" tall, you're ideal for the plane.  You will have no complaints whatsoever.  But, get close to 6'2" and you'll fit ok but be nearing the limits.  I had to mount my rudder pedals aft due to the ladies.  But that means that ideally I can be no closer to the pedals than I am.  If only tall people were flying the plane, I'd move the pedals forward, but in my family the short outnumber me 2:1. Then, when I wear a parachute, I'm now an inch or more closer to the stick than I want.  Not a huge deal, but if I could move that crossbar back 1 to 1.5" it would be even better.  So, from a design perspective, if that bar were further back, but they made some sort of stack-on piece you could attach to the front of it for shrinking the cockpit, it would be better.  That said, building a one-size-fits-all airplane is impossible without making some compromises, and those compromises are modifications.  Even my RV-10, which has a wildly adjustable seat that works for 5'0" people and 6'4" people just fine, you have to add rudder pedal blocks for the short people.  Independently adjustable rudder pedals would be the only solution, and that is not worth the added cost or hassle.  So the airplane is what it is, and that is a very good all around airplane that should fit a majority of pilots for most purposes.

I do have 2 maintenance squawks to deal with yet.  First, I have a very slight prop grease leak at the blade hub.  This happened on my RV-10 after a few hundred hours, but happened on this plane at about 60 hours.  I still have to call Hartzell and see if they can help get it re-sealed.  Next is the fuel pump.  The IO-390 has a service bulletin out, requiring replacement of the fuel pump in my serial number and age range due to non-conforming parts.  I'm still having problems getting my hands on the replacement, or it would be fixed already.  Luckily mine is working well at present, and once I get the replacement I won't have to worry about it again.

So hopefully this gives you a good idea of how the RV-14 is working out for me.  It's been a great addition to the family, and we're looking forward to having many more years with it.  In fact, whereas I was thinking I'd sell it someday to help fill my retirement fund, my daughter has informed me that it will some day be hers.  I'm not sure I'll be able to turn her down on that.  Maybe she'll get lucky and I'll be a sucker and give it to her...but it'll come with the condition that she lets me fly it as long as I can climb into the cockpit, and that she's willing to come visit me when I live in my pop-up camper because I can't afford the old folks home. :)

Have a great time building and flying your RV-14.  It will definitely give you a new perspective on life!

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