Visiting the Mothership

20 May 2011   firsts   mothership   orders

Since its generally never a good idea to buy a vehicle without at least getting a brief test drive in it, I made a trek up to the Mothership to check things out. Under the guise of visiting friends, I hopped on Southwest to make the trip up to the Seattle area. Visiting friends is always nice, even when its not the primary reason for the trip. Since it didn’t seem right to drive to an airplane kit factory, I hitched a ride from Paine Field down to Aurora State with a good friend of mine in his Cessna 205. We popped out west of the Seattle class B airspace and made the trip down in about an hour and a half.

I’ve seen a couple video’s of various parts of the factory, so there wasn’t anything particularly surprising to be found, other that when the Van’s website says they have the tail kits in stock, they really mean just that - they are in stock, packaged up, and ready for shipping. Everything is very well organized. It is amazing how many parts are kept in stock and ready to ship - Rows of racks of parts, all ready to be collected up, packaged and shipped.

After touring the factory, we went out into the hangar with the finished factory planes. Plenty of gorgeous toys, including the recently completed TeenFlight RV-12. This particular aircraft was built by a group of high school students, with plenty of guidance from Van’s aircraft staff.

Since I haven’t had a lot of opportunity to see too many RV’s, it was nice to get a chance to really look at several of them and admire their beauty. They really are the sports cars of the aviation world.

I took a demo ride in the -9A with Ken. After a very short takeoff roll, we left the ground behind and headed a bit west from the airport to play. Ken setup the plane and passed it over to me to start getting a feel for the controls. After making some nice lazy turns and admiring the very light controls compared to anything else I’ve flown, Ken asked if there was anything else I wanted to try with it. I requested a couple stalls, and Ken was happy to oblige. I must say that I’m quite happy with how tame the stalls on the -9A are. The nose bounces around a little bit, but it stays easily on heading and tries to recover on its own. After running a couple of them, we brought a bit of power back in and Ken demonstrated the slow flight capabilities, which are amazing in their own right. After a bit of slow flight play around 60kts or so, we accelerated back up to economy cruise mode at about 115kts and Ken passed the controls back to me to fly back to the airport. A quick trip back and the RV-grin that started about the time we had left Paine field earlier in the morning was firmly glued in place.

While there has been a lot of work in preparing for this project, the first step, in its truest form, was taken prior to heading back to Paine field. After parking the airplane, the first real order of the project was placed for the tail kit. The first substantial purchase made. And to think - if the trip down had been made any earlier in my vacation trip to Seattle, the tail kit might have beat me home…

And so, I look forward to receiving the first boxes of parts within the next week.