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Thread: RV or Harmon Rocket for Competition?

  1. #1

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    RV or Harmon Rocket for Competition?

    Would an RV (was considering an RV7, but assume a tandem RV8 would be "better") or Harmon Rocket, with inverted oil / fuel, be competitive in advanced aerobatic competition? If a stock version of the kit would not be competitive, are there things one could realistically do during construction to make an RV more competitive? (such as to modify airframe to take a larger engine, beef up structure, etc). Would expect to talk to an engineer to make safe changes, if this is even feasible.Or would this be wasted time and money - better to buy/ build a dedicated aerobatic aircraft?Thank you,AMS

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    RetroAcro's Avatar
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    Have you gotten into aerobatics yourself yet? RVs are great all-around airplanes, but they are not designed solely for aerobatics like a lot of other airplanes were. They can do well (and have done) up to Sportsman level competition, depending on the pilot. Are you familiar with the different competition categories? There are five of them. You mentioned "advanced aerobatic competition". There is an Advanced category, but you will not find RVs there. They could fly up to Intermediate, but most folks are uncomfortable snap rolling them, not to mention the fact that most RV pilots don't have enough aerobatic interest to work at being competitive at that level. You'll see maybe 3 RVs each year fly Primary or Sportsman.

    I would suggest getting enough aerobatic training and experience to decide whether or not competition or even competition-style flying is something that interests you. It's not for everyone. Lots of folks seem to want their very first airplane that has some aerobatic capability to be able to take them to the high levels of competition, before they have gotten their feet wet enough to know whether or not it's for them. So just let it happen naturally. If you want an RV, buy or build one because you like it for what it is. You can acquire plenty of aerobatic skills in an RV. In fact, like any airplane, it will take a lot of time, effort, and skill to truly exhaust the capabitilies of an RV. If you get to the point where you want to focus more on aerobatics and compete at higher levels, you can buy a more purpose-built machine. Most RV pilots like them for their all-around performance and sporty handling, but not necessarily for their aerobatic capability. There are extremely few RV pilots who take full advantage of the airplane's aerobatic ability. Would be nice to see more do that, given the thousands of them flying.

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    steveinindy's Avatar
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    I would suggest getting enough aerobatic training and experience to decide whether or not competition or even competition-style flying is something that interests you
    ....and can handle. There are a lot of people who are interested by it that simply have no business doing aerobatics due to either their physical health (it takes a bit more in the way of cardiac fitness to handle sustained inverted flight or really aggressive turns than it does standard flying) or their lackluster flying skills. I have a hypothesis that a fair to significant of the "loss of control" events during low-altitude aerobatics in homebuilts are actually missed medically related crashes where marginal baseline coronary flow or latent heart failure or some other previously overlooked (or at least unreported) condition combines with a relatively low g load to induce either reduced consciousness or unconsciousness. Just a hypothesis since it's hard to back this sort of thing up without black boxes or survivors.....
    Unfortunately in science what you believe is irrelevant.

    "I'm an old-fashioned Southern Gentleman. Which means I can be a cast-iron son-of-a-***** when I want to be."- Robert A. Heinlein.



  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by ams View Post
    Or would this be wasted time and money - better to buy/ build a dedicated aerobatic aircraft?Thank you,AMS
    It think it borders on waste of time and money. If advanced aerobatics is your goal, get an airplane that is more suited for that purpose out of the box.

  5. #5

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    Thank you

    I appreciate the information. The reason I asked was because, when inquiring about a One Design with someone from IAC and it's use in competition, I was told that there were few around to compete with, and to look at the RV aircraft as many owners were doing Sportsman competition. Vans doesn't call their aircraft "aerobatic", but more of an "aerobatic lite". I was dubious about RVs in competition, so I thought I would ask experts. I am aware of the different classes of competion. Thanks for your concern; I'm fit and healthy with good cardio and enjoy unusual attitudes. I just need a decent plane. Thank you again.

  6. #6

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    I have been watching RV-8's come to contests and fly Sportsman. The pilots who bring them seem to do OK. I would not rule out an RV if you are just a little interested in participating in IAC. An airplane is not a lifetime commitment, so you can always move to a different ship if you get hooked.

    I will note that the Rockets are optimized for speed. That makes them a poorer choice for a competition where you have to stay in a box. If you dig into the details of the One Design or the Extra's you will find out that the choice of wing attempts to limit speed. When you are vertical down at 2500', accellerating, and trying to get a roll done before you blow out the bottom of the box, speed is NOT your friend. The programs that you will fly will also require a spin. The competition crowd is regularly entertained by watching a new guy in some super ship coasting away into the distance as they try to slow down to spin. You get penalties deducted from your score whe you fly outside the box. If you visibly force your airplane to spin you get a zero for the figure. If you fly below the box floor (1500' AGL for Sportsman) just for a moment you get a zero for your entire program. The latter rule is for your safety.

    My RV friends post respectable scores at the contests although they complain that the scores that I award them as an IAC Judge are lower than they would like. There are not a lot of guys showing up with RV's, but we may see more. There is a large enough population out there and you can only go to so many fly ins.

    Another advantage of an RV over a One D is the second seat. Winning a trophy is great for the ego. Having a happy spouse come with you to the contest - priceless. That's why I own a 2 seat Pitts rather than a one seat anything.

    Best of luck,

    Wes

  7. #7

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    Even more good information - that was a good point about the wing design and speed. That also addresses one of my questions about if there was something one could do to make the RV aerobatic - I was thinking only about structural design and modifications, but the wing is an intrinsic element to this kit design. Could put different wings on it, but that is pointless - better to find the right aircraft to begin with. Just have to keep looking. Thank you to everyone who replied - all were great comments and I appreciate that you can answer without laughing ( at least online).

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    BTW, there are plans for a two seat OD.

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    I will caution that the two seat DR-109 is sort of an orphan at this point. The one builder that I have spoken to reports that there are holes in the plans where you have to invent parts. There is an individual out there trying to fix all of that, but it sounds like it will be a while before the DR-109 is a project for a first time builder.

    If you are a biplane person, the Eagle is still the standard for kits. Aviat will still sells the kits and guys like Benny Davis provide support too.

    Best of luck,

    Wes
    N78PS

  10. #10
    steveinindy's Avatar
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    I'm fit and healthy with good cardio and enjoy unusual attitudes
    Unless you can pass the military pilot physical exams and other tests (such as a stress echo), you really can't say you have that good of cardio for high G, etc. There are a lot of people whose first indication of severe cardiac problems that have likely existed for some time is a collapse and sudden death. I enjoy unusual attitudes too but there's a big difference between a few loops and spins and trying to sustain consciousness in a 7-9 g turn. The best advice I can offer- and this was given to me by a famous test pilot- was to always remember that the "squishy mass in the pilot's seat" is the weakest link in any aircraft. Just because an aircraft is tested to withstand aerobatic category maneuvers does not mean it's a good idea for the average Joe Q. Pilot to try to push that aircraft anywhere near those limits.

    I just need a decent plane.
    Then I would recommend against the RV series. They are good for basic stuff but I wouldn't want to try to pretend to be Maverick and Goose in one.
    Unfortunately in science what you believe is irrelevant.

    "I'm an old-fashioned Southern Gentleman. Which means I can be a cast-iron son-of-a-***** when I want to be."- Robert A. Heinlein.



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