Another RV Project!

So anyone who has been following this blog knows that I am into buying projects to get what I need.  While searching for my engine, I unexpectedly acquired another project – a beautiful and very repairable RV4 with an O-320.

Here is the pic of the plane before disassembly and transport.   The plane had a hard landing after a probable fuel starvation engine failure.  The prop stopped horizontally, so there was no prop strike.  As you can see, the main damage is the landing gear of the aircraft.  Interestingly enough, just like my RV6 project, this one is associated with the initials KW.

According to the person I got this from, the incident occurred 2 years ago.  He lost the engine on takeoff, and in order to miss the plowed fields, attempted the impossible turn.  He almost made it back.  Apparently he had fuel in one tank only.  I am guessing that some of the tank sealant came loose and blocked the fuel inlet – a hunch that was probably confirmed when I found a chunk of crud in the fuel line.

It took Jason and I nine hours to disassemble the airplane and load it for transport.  Luckily, the seller had a tractor and was able to lift it onto the trailer.

Here is the plane unloaded back and home – under the yellowish glow of the mercury vapor lights.  I bought Harbor Freight wheel dollys, and the plane is easy to move around.

Here is an up close of the primary damage on the left side.

Still the left side – this time showing the engine and the very damaged engine mount and firewall.  Of course, the real question is how much structural damage was done to  the inside.

And here is the inside.  Very little damage past the firewall.  Score on this side!

No question about it.  The right side is more heavily damaged than the left side.  Again the engine mount and firewall are certainly toast.

This time, the damage extends to the inside.  You can see the crumpled forward longeron angle that extends backwards towards the rear spar.  Luckily, this is only 24 inches long, so there is no damage or repairs needed to the corner of the aircraft aft of the spar.

For completeness sake, this is the bottom of the plane looking aft.  There is a lot of sheet metal issues in front of the spar, but nothing aft.

While looking at the underside, it is apparent that the exhaust is damaged.  Luckily, no damage is visible to the carb or the oil pan.

Another closeup of the problem corner.

Not sure how this happened, but there is a small dent on the spinner mount plate flange.  This can be easily removed.

No prop strike, but the prop could use refinishing.  The seller noted that he flew in some rain.

Turning my attention to the engine proper, I notice blue nitrided cylinders.

I don’t like this.  The plane supposedly has 787 hours on it, and the oil filter hasn’t been changed since ’08 and 713 hours.

Continuing to walk around the plane, I found a small tear in the trailing edge of the elevator – almost certainly unrelated to the crash.  No biggy, but there.

Look carefully in this picture, and you can see a crack on the edge of the canopy that has been stop drilled (right by the seat belt).  You can also see another smaller crack near the rear that has no been stop drilled yet.  The stop drilled crack was certainly not done in the hard landing.  The other one, who knows?

Here is the carry-through frame.  Look carefully, and you can see some tearing at the angle, right above the rear rudder pedal.  This one is on the right side.

The same spot in the left side is a little worse, with some crumpling of the side frames as well as buckling of the angle.

Where did the side impact come from?  Looks like an elbow of upper body got thrown against the upper ledge of the cockpit.  Note the small tear and bending forward of the roll bar mount.

Now lets talk seat damage.  Here is the floor under the pilot’s seat, and you can see that the right bulkhead is bent from downwards force.

Jumping out of photo order and into logical order, here is the seat that sat above that bulkhead.  He came down.  The recording G-meter reads 11.5 G’s.

The removable floorboard over the damaged bulkhead also shows some damage.

And here is the all-important registration and airworthiness certificate.  BTW, I have the builder’s photos, weight and balance, and the original airworthiness sign off and limitations from 1995.

No damages noted here, but you can see the paint is getting weak.

And here is the very repairable upper cowl.

The lower cowl is more heavily damaged.  It may of may not be repairable.

I had to remove the right flap and aileron to fit the wing in  my trailer.

Here is the fairly nice seat upholstery, along with the pilot’s seat belts.

The wing root fairings have a couple cracks, which probably should be addressed – even though I don’t think these were damaged in the crash.  It was a 23 year old airplane.

So this is an important picture.  Looking carefully, you can see a little crumpling on the fuel tank.  This is probably repairable – or even flyable as is.  What is more serious is the signs of fuel seepage.  Looks to me like someone was running mogas, and it managed to destroy the sealant in the tank.  Both tanks are this way, with multiple weeping rivets and seams.  I am guessing that this was the eventual cause of the fuel starvation incident, as part of the sealant presumable broke loose and blocked a fuel line.  In my opinion, these tanks need to be disassembled and re-sealed.  The good news is that you can see there is no farther damage on the left wing, save the pic below.

I probably put that dent in the wingtip lifting the wing.  I think it will pop right out.

Oh crap!  The right wing isn’t so lucky.  Here, the wheel got behind the spar and damaged 4 ribs.  No damage noted to the spar, though, so that is good.  Again, there are lots of signs of fuel seepage.

Here is an overall pic of the parts of the project not attached to the fuselage.  That is a Cessna 120 project  in the background.

We had a basic transponder.  this may or may not still be ago with the face plate reattached.

This shot is shown simply to show what instrumentation the plane has.

Here is the panel.  Note the radio (lower right) and the recording G-meter next to it.  The seller told me that one wing had inverted fuel pickup.  I have not verified it.  I have also not looked for or at the reported smoke system, but he said it was a blast to fly.

Here is the other side of the cockpit.  There is no throttle for the rear seat, but it would be pretty easy to add – just add a pushrod from this quadrant to the one you would need to mount in the rear.

Last pic, showing aileron spring trim.

So there you have it – an amazing find. I am torn between putting my RV6 project in the hangar and working on this one, parting this one out except the engine, which could go on my RV.


Update – the seller has located the log books (good), and I am waiting for them by mail.  In the meantime, I have struggled with what to do next.  I wanted to check out the engine, and debated removing it from the plane to do a trial run.  I finally hit on a scheme to run it on the fuselage as it was.

Here is the “napkin sketch” version of the plan.  We used an 8 foot board as a spar to hold the fuselage.  The tailwheel was secured to the trailer, and I used longer pieces of steel in place of the jackstands.  These stood on the ground, and ran through the trailer mounts.  They continued up and supported the weight of the aircraft on the new spar.

Here is the aircraft, along with some of my assistants.  We lifted the plane in place with the yellow A-frame, and decided to leave it there as an extra safety precaution.  After lifting the aircraft into position, we removed the drain plug from behind the carb, and spliced an external fuel line to the left  wing.  After replacing the battery, the fuel pump came on as it should, and in a few moments, we got fuel flow to the carb.  We let it run a bit to purge the lines.  Next, we removed the spark plugs, and sprayed penetrating oil into the cylinders.  We spun the prop by hand until the engine registered 25 psi oil pressure – pretty good for just spinning a prop by hand.  We replaced the plugs, and went to start the plane.

Here is an up close view of the false spar and the 2 inch square steel supports, as well as the gas line.

Here, one of my talented assistants is attempting to start the engine.  Unfortunately, there was no response to the key switch.  We determined that no power was reaching the solenoid activator (probably a signal wire tore loose in the hard landing), so we used a jumper wire to activate the start solenoid.

The first start attempt was a failure because the battery was too weak.  (I know – I just replaced it.  The replacement had sat in my garage for almost a year since charging).  The next attempt, my assistant forgot to turn on the mags.  We broke for lunch with the battery on the charger.

After charging the battery, we went back.  This time, the engine roared to straight to life.  You can see it in the video above, and you can tell I was a bit surprised.  I motioned to my assistant to cut the power and bring it back to an idle, but he was not able to slow the engine.  (Of course all you can see is a very unsteady video as I shoot with one hand and gesture with the other.)  I motioned him to shut off the engine, and he did.  The entire run lasted only a few seconds, but it verified the fuel starvation hypothesis as the cause of engine failure.  It also warmed the engine and circulated oil, so I could get a set of compression numbers on the engine.

So I got 77, 66, 75, and 70 out of 80.  These are pretty good numbers for an engine that has just sat 2 plus years.  Also, all of the leakage was identified as piston rings.  These will likely free up after just a bit of running, and bring the numbers back up to all in the 70’s.

After shutting the engine down, we also looked over the carb and the throttle linkage.  The reason the aircraft would not idle is that the bent firewall pushed the throttle cable forward far enough that the throttle could only adjust the carb from full throttle to half throttle.   I had only checked that the throttle on the carb moved when the throttle in the cabin was moved, and did not verify that it reached the idle stop.

This probably concludes my “investigation” until the logbooks arrive, and I can see if there is anything else to look into.  Still not sure whether to rebuild the airplane, keep the engine for my airplane and sell the airframe, or just sell the project.  If I was closer to needing the engine, I would definitely keep it.

I did talk to Vans about the airplane.  The engine mount with the landing gear is $1600.  I’m not sure I need the landing gear, but I’m not sure I don’t, either.  I’m not sure if they will sell a mount without the landing gear.  The firewall is 150 for both parts.  The plans are $225 without the license to build another aircraft.  This tells me that my $4000 estimate to rebuild the aircraft was a pretty good ballpark figure – BUT with an RV6 project rolling and a potential complete home renovation coming up (airplanes aren’t the only things I try to do on a tight budget), I’m just not sure I have time to work on this one.

Oh yeah – one more tight budget note.  I got the bolts to mount the airplane on the trailer for free.  This was because the credit card machine was acting up at Rural King, and the teller kept trying to make it work.  The guy behind me was in a hurry, and told the teller they would pay for the bolts in cash instead of waiting for repeated system reboots.  That was a 45 cent score!


And back again.  I finally got those log books in the mail.  They pretty much confirmed my suspicions that this aircraft didn’t fly a lot of hours after 2008.  They also show that the engine was rebuilt in 1990 before being put on this aircraft.  Also, I cut open the oil filter and found it to be good.

At this point, I have decided to try to sell the aircraft off.  I just can’t justify having two projects, and I really want the RV6 to be done.  The proceeds from this sale will fuel my future project.  I would keep the engine for the RV6, but I promised my wife I wouldn’t stockpile parts long before I need them.  So unless no buyers materialize, this project will be leaving my hangar and going somewhere else exciting.  You can really think of it as an ultimate quick build kit – the repairs will take a tiny fraction of the build time, and the cost will be far under half of what you would spend buying the kit and building, even after you buy all the needed parts.

If you are looking at this post from a for sale add, you can enlarge these pictures by right clicking on them, and selecting “open image in new tab” or similar.  Then, get rid of the “-300×225” at the end of the file name, and click enter.  It will then display in high resolution.