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The Birth of an RV8 - "Mo" is Flying

The birth of this this RV marked the realisation of a long standing dream, Derek Hopkins has wanted to build a RV since he first saw pictures of the RV3 way back when he was still flying around in his famous Teenie Two, affectionately known as “Little Mo”.

It all started when Derek and his son Nigel saw an advert for a partially built RV8 that was for sale in Richards Bay. Within a few days the pair, armed with a large trailer were on their way to Northern KZN to have a look at the machine. They were both impressed by the quality of the work already done on the aircraft and returned later the same day with aircraft.

Derek was never one to waste time and got to work immediately studying the pages and pages of drawings to familiarise himself with every part of the build that he was about to embark on. The wings were his first point of call, the wings were partially built so Derek got busy installing conduits for all the electrical wiring, installing the pitot tube and assembling and sealing the fuel tanks.

The fuselage was the next Item to be tackled, it had been assembled to just below the “Turtle Top” which proved to be a big advantage as the opening on the top left the necessary space to install all the innards in the cockpit before it was closed up completely. The smoke system was plumbed and all the necessary conduiting installed for the wiring. Once the bulk of the internal work was completed it was time to paint the interior before any of the permanent covers were installed.

Once the interior was painted the fuselage was moved to Clifton Electronics for the electrical and avionics to be installed. Derek decided to let a practised professional do this installation as the slightest mistake in the electrical system could have catastrophic consequences.

While the fuselage was at Rand airport the brad new Lycoming IO 360 along with the Hartzel Scimitar propeller and the “firewall forward kit” all of these were ordered directly for Vans in the USA. Unfortunately, nothing could be done with any of them until later in the build.

While the fuselage was at Rand Derek assembled the tail section and the control surfaces and sent them along with the wings to the paint shop at Wonderboom Airport initial coat of white paint, at this stage the final paint design had not yet been decided but it was decided the main colour would be white.

Once the fuselage was back at home an inspection of the under floor section was done and signed off, the floorboards were then riveted into place. The canopy was cut and fitted to the frame this was a daunting job as the blown canopy is very prone to cracking especially if the temperature is a bit low, needless to say Derek waited until he had the perfect weather to attempt the cutting.

The motor and the fuselage were then moved to Wonderboom where the Lycoming would be married to the RV in a perfect union and the fitting of the cowls could begin. While the Aircraft was at Wonderboom the canopy was also finished off and made ready for painting. Derek and Nigel agreed on a striking Blue and Sliver paint scheme and this was communicated to the painter.

The project really started looking like an aircraft now although there were still many hours of work ahead before one could even think of flying her. The project had now reached that point where not much visible change could be seen although hours of work went into all the small things, aircraft builders often refer to the, 80% of the work taking 20% of the time and the final 20% taking 80% of the, time ratio. Many would be builders lose hope at this stage and end up abandoning the build.

Derek was never going to give up on this project and after a few frustrating weeks “Mo” , as she was baptised , was ready for its final journey by road to its new home at Eagles Creek Aero Estate just west of Centurion. The wings were mounted and for the first time she looked like a “real” aircraft.

The registration stickers were added, and the final engine checks done, fuel was added then it was time for the first start. Nigel effortlessly kicked her over and she ran like a dream,he then took her on the runway for high speed taxi test itching to get into the air but unfortunately the paperwork had to be done before she could fly.

Once the CAA gave the green light for the maiden flight things started getting exciting. The flight was scheduled for 2 June, the day after the Newcastle Airshow. Early that morning Derek started checking and double checking everything on “Mo” before her big day. By 12:00 a large crowd of friends and family had assembled to witness a dream take flight. Just after 13:00 Derek lined her up on runway 08, opened her up and she ran like the dream she is down the runway trailing white smoke, not due to any snags Derek decided to activate the smoke system.

Derek and Nigel are currently working their way through the 40 mandatory proving hours so that “Mo” can be issued with her ATF and be released from the 100km limit that is currently imposed on her. I was fortunate enough to join her in the air for a quick photoshoot during one of her proving flights.


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