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Project Patrol

Terry Ruprecht's Vans RV-9A

By Chad Jensen, EAA Homebuilders Community Manager, EAA 755575

Terry Ruprecht and RV-9A
Terry Ruprecht and his RV-9A project

I've known Terry Ruprecht, EAA 762620, of Mahomet, Illinois, for the better part of six years now. He is one of those guys with whom everyone gets along and loves to hang out. His airplane of choice is the Van's RV-9A, which fits his mission and personality perfectly. He did the traditional search for the perfect aircraft to build, and like many of us who go through the process with a logical approach, he ended up with what may be one of the best all-around homebuilt airplanes out there.

Van's Aircraft has a reported 7,600 airplanes flying, with probably more that haven't been reported. Of those, nearly 10 percent of the fleet is the RV-9 or RV-9A. The model still has a long way to go before catching up to the RV-4/6/7/8 series, but the -9 has a strong interest group that continues growing. It's an airplane that provides one of the best overall values in homebuilt aircraft, as long as you don't need to turn the world upside-down. Being nonaerobatic doesn't bother most, and it has some great flying qualities that provide fun in even greater quantity.

Terry's involvement in aviation goes back to his father who was a part of the Flying Tigers during World War II, and he grew up living an aviation lifestyle. It wasn't until a bit later in life that he was able to fulfill the dream of flight, after his daughter was grown and off to college, and other responsibilities were handled. He received his private pilot certificate in November of 2005, but one month earlier, in October, he ordered the first in the series of RV-9A sub-kits (the empennage kit) just prior to getting his ticket. He took delivery of the "tail kit" on December 31, 2005, and the first official day of building was New Year's Day 2006. I should mention that he did take advantage of the RV/sheet metal class that EAA's SportAir Workshop offered in Oshkosh in January 2005, and taking that class was enough to solidify his decision to build a metal airplane.

Terry's Selection
Terry chose the RV-9A for many reasons. One of the big ones for him was the fact that he is a fairly low-time pilot, mostly flying Cessna 172s with the Decatur Aero Club in Decatur, Illinois. Being a new pilot shouldn't discourage anyone from building an airplane, and Terry felt the same way. The RV-9A provides a low stall-speed, cross-country capability with cruise speeds of 165 to 185 mph, depending on engine choice. He didn't have a need or desire for literally turning his world upside-down, and the -9A has always been regarded as one of the "less twitchy" airplanes one can build. I have flown both a -9A and my RV-7, and while the -7 is certainly sports carlike in handling and responsiveness, the -9A is no slouch. But it does feel different...more confident, I might say.

The quick-build fuselage with the many systems being installed

Being conservative in nature, Terry didn't take the experimentation too far with the project. The kit he ordered was a quick-build all the way - other than the empennage. For those not familiar with the quick-build kits from Van's, they're an incredible value for the money, but they do have a premium attached to get them that way. There's still a lot of work to do to assemble the kit, however. I won't call the changes to the RV kits "modifications," because they're all widely accepted as standard personalization choices. There are no real structural mods one can do to an RV, so the choices beyond the airframe are just personal taste in nature. Terry has added a few items that he noticed (and really liked) while looking at other RV-9As, and one of them is a choice that I made on the -7 that I built.

The James cowl mounted to the airframe gives a "fast-glass" look.

The standard Van's cowl and engine baffling was deleted from the finish-kit order form, and was substituted with a cowl and plenum system from James Aircraft. There are arguments for either system being superior; both do work well, and it may just come down to preferred looks.

The James Aircraft pressure plenum sits atop the engine, painted nicely to match what will be on the airplane.

The James cowl has two big annular air inlets which feed into a sealed plenum above the cylinders to force air efficiently down through the cylinders' cooling fins.

The Skybolt fasteners on the firewall attach the cowl securely.

Terry also chose to attach the cowl to the firewall with Skybolt fasteners. These are quick, quarter-turn fittings that look very nice on the airplane.

Above are some of the examples of personal touches Terry made to his -9A.

Instruments and Electrical
Other personal touches Terry added are avionics inspection bays (on the boot cowl in front of the windscreen), heated seats for the cold Illinois winters, AeroLED landing lights, aileron push-pull tube boots (to keep stick drafts at bay), a permanently mounted battery charger/minder (an idea he got from fellow -9A builder Dave Burden of Prescott, Arizona), Bonaco stainless-steel braided fluid lines inside the cockpit, and a Gretz Aero heated pitot tube.

The panel all lit up and looking great!

The panel in Terry's -9A is going to be quite functional: dual Grand Rapids Technologies Sports, a Garmin SL30 nav/comm, GMA 340 audio panel, GTX 327 transponder, and a TruTrack ADI Pilot II autopilot. To wire the panel, lights, engine, and those heated seats, Terry used the Aero Electric Connection manual by Bob Nuckolls. There are a series of wiring diagrams in the back of the manual, and the most commonly used model is drawing Z-11.

Lots of wiring behind this panel, all done according to Nuckolls' Z-11

Bob's manual has helped so many builders, myself included, fully understand wiring. It doesn't make it an easy and quick task, but it sure helps shorten the head-scratching part of designing and installing the electrical systems.

The Aerosport IO-320-D2A, 160-plus-hp engine. Nice color, too!

The Engine
The engine was definitely the one place Terry wasn't going to experiment. While the engine itself is technically experimental by nature of being installed in a homebuilt aircraft, the Aerosport IO-320-D2A he has mounted to the firewall is every bit as reliable and trustworthy as any certified engine out there. He was also already familiar with the O-320 from flying the Cessna 172, and being familiar with flying behind a known quantity just felt right. The D2A engine has standard 8.5:1 compression pistons in it, giving it a stock 160 hp.

Precision Airmotive fuel servo mounted vertically under the oil sump Larry Vetterman no-muffler tuned exhaust Lightspeed Engineering Plasma II Plus electronic ignition coils mounted atop the engine

Add to that a Precision Airmotive fuel injection system, free-flowing tuned exhaust from Larry Vetterman, and a Lightspeed Plasma II Plus electronic ignition with a magneto on the other side, and one could argue that the horsepower available may be closer to 170. His -9A should perform as expected, perhaps better than book numbers suggest.

The beautiful Catto three-blade RV propeller.

The Propeller
A brand-new airplane engine is simply nothing but an air pump without a propeller, and Terry chose one of my favorites in the Craig Catto-designed three-blade fixed-pitch composite RV propeller. It's one of the nicest-looking propellers available, and boy, is it a smooth operator. That propeller is a nearly perfect match for the RV (and others, as Catto will make a prop to your design specs) for climb and cruise performance.

The air intake cone is a James Aircraft cowl trait that houses a standard K&N cone filter.

To mount the airplane mover to the engine with the cowl that he chose to use, a prop spacer is required because the plenum system and intake cone (leading to the air box) extend the nose of the cowl four inches further than the standard Van's cowl. Saber Manufacturing makes such an extension from billet aluminum, which is a work of art in itself. Terry actually made a small mistake in fitting the cowl and ended up with a larger gap between the prop flange and the rear spinner bulkhead. He called Saber personnel to tell them of his error, and they told him it's not an issue - they will just make him a spacer to match the gap! Terry has been very pleased with the vendor community he dealt with during the build of his -9A.

In Conclusion
Terry has a little over six years into his project, but he took a cash-only approach to funding, at the expense of some extra time. The plan is to have it turned from project to airplane in the spring to early summer of 2012. Is there time to get it ready to fly to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh? We'll have to wait and see, I suppose. He has been able to stay current during the build by flying at least once a month in the 172 and has taken a few trips in the airplane over the years as well. Traveling is another big reason that he and his wife wanted a faster, more capable airplane, and the RV-9A will fill the bill nearly perfectly. Why nearly? As Terry said, "An RV-10 would have done it, but with a daughter in college..." He did consider a few other types before making the choice, but he kept coming back to the RV-9A. He considered airplanes all across the range from single-place wood taildraggers to canards to tube-and-fabric low and slow airplanes. But when it came down to it, the logical process paid off, and it seems he has made the right choice. I bet he would agree.


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