I've had the opportunity to fly four different models of Van's Aircraft popular RV series of experimental aircraft, the RV-7, RV-8, RV-10 and RV-12. The responsiveness and fighter-like handling qualities of the RV series have always been impressive. While working in St Louis, I've been checking on the availability of flight options after I finish working in an office with no windows! One of the St. Louis area flying clubs has an RV-6, and I found out that one of my program teammates was an active member. The RV-6 is the most popular model in the RV-series, with over 2675 completed and flown. The RV-6 is no longer in production, however, since it was replaced by the RV-7.
Besides working on my program and flying the RV-6, Mikey is a current F-16 pilot, flying the Viper with the Alabama Air National Guard. Mikey offered me an opportunity for a "dollar ride" to check out the RV-6 and the local flying area. After coordinating schedules, weather and aircraft availability, we were finally able to meet at the RV-6 hangar at the Spirit of St. Louis airport (KSUS) on the southwest outskirts of the St. Louis metro area.
The Red Tail RV flying club's aircraft is an RV-6A, built in a nose wheel configuration, vs. a taildragger for the RV-6 (no -'A') designation. It is finished in bare metal overall, with red accents on the wingtips, rudder, elevator, nose spinner and wheel pants. The cockpit configuration is spartan but efficient, and Mikey had also mounted a Garmin 696 for navigation and situation awareness. One of the best things about the RV series is that they use a stick vs. a yoke, which is a much more natural and comfortable method of roll and pitch control. Since I'm more comfortable with a stick in my right hand and a throttle in my left, taking the right seat for the demo flight was my preference, while Mikey felt more comfortable in the left seat as his normal pilot-in-command position.
The afternoon weather was gorgeous for flying, with temperatures in the high 70s and only moderate mid-Western early summer haze. Pre-flighting and rolling the RV-6 out of the hangar were easy due to the RV-6's light weight and compact size. Mikey gave me a cockpit checkout, noting the airspeed indications in MPH vs. the more common knots, and after a quick start, I got a feel for ground handling while taxiing out from the hangar area to the run up area for runway 26R. After run up checks were complete, Mikey offered me the aircraft for takeoff, which I gladly accepted.
The RV-6 accelerated quickly even with two pilots and full gas, and I felt comfortable with the crisp control responses as I rotated for liftoff on runway 26R while accelerating past 65 MPH. While climbing southwest following the Missouri River, I was re-familiarized with the very crisp and positive response of the RV flight controls, especially in roll. The RV-6 has a very 'fighter-like' feel, with excellent cockpit visibility, very good maneuverability, and light rudder inputs required to stay coordinated in turns.
I cruised with Mikey southwest overhead the Missouri River, past a large power station at Labadie Stacks, then let down for some tight maneuvering and a practice 'strafing run' along a road in an empty field. That's the way to spend an afternoon after work!
I picked up a runway in the distance that appeared to have little activity, so we cancelled flight following and I proceeded up initial for an overhead break and low approach at Washington Regional airport (KFYG). Mikey followed with a tight closed pattern and a touch and go landing, giving me a good sight picture for final and for flaring for landing.
After cruising back along the Missouri, I set up for a normal pattern to the long runway 26L at Spirit airport, since it was closer to the self-serve gas pumps. My positioning on downwind was a little tight, but the great turning capability of the RV-6 made for an easily manageable pattern, and I lucked out with a smooth final and landing on 26L. Mikey had me use back stick pressure for aerobraking on the rollout, giving us a surprisingly short landing roll. Thanks, Mikey, for giving me another 'RV grin', this time in the RV-6. I need to fly the RV series more often!