From the Cockpit Part 34: Van's RV-10

Ryan Flies


Editor’s Note: This is part 34 of an ongoing series documenting the flights of active-duty US Navy Pilot Ryan Rankin on his journey to fly 52 planes in 52 weeks through the year 2017.

Some aircraft come with great history—illustrious stories of wartime deeds or daring exploration. Others become known for their design quirks or oddly specific functions. But sometimes an airplane is just a well-built machine that feels good flying from here to there, and that’s what Rankin got with the Van’s RV-10. “Just Point A to Point B, doing what airplanes are designed to do,” he says. “I can see why they’re so popular.”

More than just popular, the RV series is the most popular series of homebuilt planes. Like last week’s Thorp T-18, the RV-10 is not assembled in a factory, but arrives to prospective owners in kit form, which they must then craft into a functioning aircraft. Flying out of a small strip in the UK with Colin Law, Rankin can’t help but admire Law’s engineering prowess. “It felt like it was built in a factory,” he says.

Over the course of a 30-minute flight, Rankin assesses the craft. Roughly speaking, flight can be broken down into three phases—takeoff, cruising and landing—and how a plane performs within these three spheres, excelling or presenting challenges in all, some or none, is how pilots differentiate and build preference. For example, does the avionics package lend itself to pilot-intensive cruising or a laidback jaunt with minimal oversight? Does the plane handle predictably in landing, or are special maneuvers required to land in a crosswind? “The RV-10 handled all of these very well and efficiently,” says Rankin. “For me, it was a very honest airplane.” Not that other planes are dishonest, he explains, but some are “nicer” than others.

Soaring over the English countryside, Law points out the myriad airstrips dotting the landscape, remnants of a war less visible from the ground but still plain to see from an aerial vantage. Rankin imagines great lumbering WWII-era bombers lifting off for the fight. “This used to be a warzone,” he says. “And you appreciate that.”

For more about the flight in Rankin's own words and a video of the flight, follow the link below.

Pictured: The Van's RV-10. Photo courtesy of Ryan Rankin.

Ryan Flies

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