I have really enjoyed flying various models of Van's Aircraft homebuilt experimental aircraft, and have been lucky enough to check out the RV-6, RV-7, RV-8 and RV-12 in-flight over the past few years. All the RV series aircraft have very responsive flight controls, crisp aileron response, great visibility, and are just a joy to fly. After flying many of the two-seaters, I wanted to fly the RV-10 and check out the feel of Van's larger four-seater.
A few years ago, my friend and fellow Air Force Academy grad, Stan Mars, mentioned that another classmate of ours, James Ruttler, had a son who was building an RV-10 at Bremerton. I followed Jim's progress on his blog, noting that he completed his RV-10 and had a successful first flight in March 2016. Jim later finished his RV-10 with a stunning paint job, and I had seen his aircraft a few times while flying in and out of Bremerton.
Early in 2018, I volunteered to beta-test an innovative CO detector, named Aithre, which Jim Ruttler was developing. I was able to test fly two versions of the Aithre units throughout the summer of 2018 in many different aircraft. I noted that Jim was doing a lot of testing in his RV-10, and tried to coordinate our schedules for a demonstration flight. Just as the beta testing was completed, I happened to fly to Bremerton for a halibut run to the Airport Diner, and saw Jim land and taxi in with his beautiful RV-10. We arranged for a flight attempt in the coming weekend, plus an Aithre beta unit return.
I flew over from Renton in my Warrior on Saturday, on a clear afternoon with strong northerly winds and quite a bit of low-level turbulence. Shortly after I arrived, Jim taxied in with his RV-10, after flying with another local pilot. Jim's RV-10 has a striking blue paint job with white accent lines, plus recently added nose art depicting Aithre, the Greek 'goddess of sight and of bright blue skies'.
Entry into the RV-10 is easy with the huge gull-wing doors. Jim thought they were one of the weak links in the design, with alignment and closing issues, but Jim's seemed to work well. The RV-10 cockpit is quite spacious, with good shoulder room and nice headroom, even for my tall sitting height. Jim's panel was nicely equipped with two large Advanced Flight Systems displays, with ADS-B in/out and a coupled autopilot system. My favorite part was that the RV-10 was equipped with two sticks and a central throttle quadrant. I much prefer a stick over a yoke, and the layout felt right at home from the right seat.
Jim started the IO-540 effortlessly, and we taxied to the active after a run-up and systems check, using the checklists available on the displays. The IO-540 provided nice acceleration on takeoff, and we climbed steeply into the strong northerly winds with our light load. Jim let me takeover and get a feel for the flight controls. While they felt a bit heavier than the two-seat RVs I have flown, the -10 still had that RV crispness, especially in roll. Jim installed a trim system control on his stick, which allowed for easy trim off of stick forces in the climb and descent.
Visibility was great, and I got a good feel for the aircraft while flying patterns at three different local airports - Tacoma Narrows, Olympia and Shelton. The RV-10 on go-around needed a bit more forward stick than I initially anticipated in the climb-out. The power of the IO-540 while departing these three airports at near sea level was impressive.
My overall impression from this short 1.2 hour flight is easily summarized: I want one! The RV-10 flies well, climbs well, has great visibility and cockpit controls, has an intuitive and capable IFR suite, and in Jim Ruttler's example, has a gorgeous interior and exterior.
Jim, thanks for the demonstration flight. We now just need to schedule a formation photo shoot in the spring to get you in the Van's Aircraft calendar!
In November 2018, I was able to fly a close competitor to the RV-10, the Sling TSi, produced by the Airplane Factory from South Africa. The Sling TSi, with the new Rotax turbocharged 915iS engine, is an impressive offering, and gives the RV-10 a worthy competitor if you are searching for an outstanding homebuilt 4-place touring aircraft. Decisions, decisions...