Berkut13 Flight Operations
Last updated 12-31-04

"Off we goooo...into the"

1st High Speed Cruise Tests (9/04): Well, there it is folks - my personal goal of 200 kts. indicated at max cruise is a reality! My first attempts at high speed cruise flights were answered with this: 220 TAS @ 5000. This flight was just after I had figured out how to get rid of the left roll, yaw and had adjusted the trim authority - she was flying straight and level with hands off at all speeds. So, I climbed up to about 5000ft and smooth air, and made a few speed runs and the results were great! Even the canard pitch trim had plenty of authority remaining and the trailing edge tracking was spot-on! A complete success!

What was the engine doing? Well, take a look for yourself. All that speed and I'm only burning just over 12 gallons per hour - rich of peak! The prop was dialed in for 2900 RPM, and we are just about there. I did not really give the plane a chance to fully accelerate...only held this speed for about a minute at a time - after all, I'm still testing! Also note, this flight test was performed BEFORE the engine's fuel system was correctly installed (read the "modifications" section for details). There should still be plenty of speed to "tweak" out of this plane in the coming months - even with a 3-blade propeller!!! Remember, I have done nothing with cooling drag reduction, I'm in rough primer, and have not even fine tuned the engine!

Flights and Delays in Phase I (10-30-04): Well, those of you who check in all the time have noticed there have not been any updated for a while. The reason? I have not flown for 28 days in a row! The cause? Life firmly planted its foot in my backside - that's why. My last flight was back on October 2nd when I made a quick run to Cleburne to fill up with some cheaper gas. After that, the weather turned nasty and completely rained-out the next weekend. Dave came to visit the following week so I was playing host, and due to work schedule was unable to fly with him while he was here. Immediately after, I was headed up to Michigan (commercial flight) for Sandy's parent's 50th wedding anniversary party - the weather in TX was perfect, the weather in MI was "dismal" as described by a local weather person. Upon return, I spent the next week and a half with a head cold, cough and sore throat. (sigh) So, it wasn't until Oct 30th. that I was able to take another flight! It was another perfect day - 85 degrees, cloudless sky, light breeze and clear visibility! I was suffering from Berkut withdrawal, so I decided to just enjoy the day and didn't do any testing. I hung out with the local EAA crowd and flew up to Ardmore, OK (just barely inside my distance limits) for a $100 hamburger. The only problem - I left the bloody camera in the hangar! (sorry, no pics this time) On the way back, I took my time and went sight seeing over the Red River, pulled some moderate-G turns, watched a graceful sailplane circling over a field from above, and generally had a wonderful time just...flying. Funny thing was, I added a good 45 minutes to the return trip and STILL beat some of the other planes back to TKI. (LOL) Sunday was a bust due to low clouds and rain again. Oh well, I got my fix and that's the main thing. I'm now only 2.5 hours from the end of testing and only a couple of data points away from true freedom!

Another side note - Texas is known for BIG insects. So, you might ask - "What happens when you hit one of those bad-daddies at 250+ MPH?" Well, THIS is what happens! (that a 7" long splat, by the way) I guess it happened sometime after I took this picture.

Update 11-13-04: No such luck...nothing but rain and low clouds for almost 3 weeks! Dang it! Oh well, I'm getting caught up on other the spinner install. This an several other little mechanical things I've been meaning to the landing light angle, and hydraulic system bleed down.

Completing Phase I Flight Testing & Sandy's 1st. Flight (12-11-04): (updated 12-15-04) Well, I have only two tests left to perform - Vne and aerobatic maneuver proving. So, I strapped on a parachute then strapped on the Berkut (note the blue parachute on my back). Really, this "flight testing stuff" is serious business, and this flight can be considered the final exam. But it all starts like any other flight and after I ran through the startup checklist, I was ready to go. This is also flight #1 with the new spinner. My hangarmate Scott stopped by and took these pictures of me and the plane - here's one just after take off and the nose gear is not quite up yet. Traveling abroad quite abit, Scott had missed every previous test flight, Dave's visits, and even the first flights - this was his first time to see my Berkut fly. It was only fitting that I give him a GOOD look at what this plane (and his) really looks like in it's true element. So, with the tower contoller's blessings, one fast photo pass coming right up! Then it was off to the east and up high to perform the final tests.

Well, it's time - Vne testing. For those of you that are non-pilot types, this is "Velocity - Never Exceed (Vne)"...or basically maximum structural speed. The take the plane up high (8000+ ft AGL), get it up to max cruise, then put it in a dive...accelerate...and hope parts don't come off the plane. Really, that is what you do. While at these high speeds, you bang on the stick (up, down, left and right) with your fist, trying to upset the control surfaces balance and inducing flutter. Sounds fun, huh...well, it isn't when it's YOUR parachute strapped ass that's IN the airplane. Now, you don't go and just point it at the make multiple shallow dives and sneak up and the speeds 5kts. at a time. Here is a shot of one of the early Vne runs - I was not about to worry about pictures during the rest of them. I'm happy to report that plane performed perfectly and I took her to 240+ kts IAS...and most importantly...BACK in one piece. So, I now know a have quite a nice speed margin to work with and the plane is safe, solid and has no more aerodynamic anomalies. So, a great day! ..thank you Lord. On the way back, I threw in a victory aileron roll and watched the world flip over. was a GOOD flight!

With those lasts tests now behind me, it's here...the moment I've been struggling to achieve...5 weeks from when I last flew the plane...GRADUATION from Phase I flight testing!!!!! WhooHoo! And to top it off, I have set a new max cruise speed of 225 TAS, 202 IAS @ 6200ft. - now we're talk'n!! An interesting effect of this speed - while zipping around at some 225kts, I happen to spot a little Cherokee below me that I was over taking...FAST. He had just passed under the canard and by the time I pick up the camera, and pointed it at him...he was almost under the strake! Crikes, that was fast! Just goes to show...with such a hot-rod have to keep you eyes OUTSIDE and looking all the time. A good reminder for us all.

Later that same day, Sandy got her first ride in the Berkut!! After getting all strapped in, she was very ready to share the excitement. I took her up for a short local flight over the two lakes just a few minutes from the airport...nothing too fancy, just a trial run to make sure she was comfortable and had some time to get used to the airplane - and me flying it. She took to it immediately and was having a blast the entire time. I wanted to save some fuel for the trip tomorrow, so we came back in after about 40 minutes...but I think her head was still in the sky. In short, she LOVED IT! (I'm so happy about that I could explode - but I'm saving that for another day)

Our First Berkut Trip Together (12-12-04): Now that Sandy was all jazzed up with that little "teaser" flight, it was time to spread the wings and go somewhere. I had promised my dad the 2nd passenger seat available and wanted to give my friend and helper Tim his first ride too. So, we strapped in and zipped down to Cleburne, TX (CPT) all of 25 mins @ standard 200kt cruise - it takes about 1.5 hours by car. It was a spectacular Texas winter day - 71 degrees, sunny, lite west-northwest breeze, and a clear blue sky....PERFECT! For our arrival, we made a 215kt. fast pass with a photo op for the small crowd of friends and family. Came around for a smooth approach followed by a one-wheel squeaker of a cross-wind landing (regardless of an "inop" wind sock). Tim Cook was on the ground shooting some of these great pictures and I gave him a thumbs-up as we taxied by. We were greeted at the terminal by the rest of the family. We were all smiles while the "fam", and a few others at the airport, got a good look at the plane and I did some Q&A. (If you are a canard driver, you know what I mean) As we had the family together, we were able to get some nice group shots - the new Redmon family portrait welcoming the new "winged" member, and a heart-felt congratulations between Tim and myself. (Trust me when I say, there were times we both thought this day would never come to be...Thank You, Lord!) After the group photos were taken, another un-expected special guest arrived in his very nice R22 helicopter. It was an old instructor of mine and family friend - John Pollock. He had been riding his bike and saw Sandy and I maneuvering around town and thought he'd stop by - I'm glad he did! Unfortunately, I didn't have time to give him a ride...perhaps next visit. Oh yeah...the "scheduled" rides - lets get on with it...shall we?

Dad was up next and according to Mom, he was really excited about finally getting to do it! After a quick back-seat briefing and getting Dad all strapped in, I jumped in and strapped on the Berkut for long awaited and high anticipated flight with my father. One little glitch...the headsets had timed out and shut off - I guess Sandy and I forgot to turn them off when we got out. So, after a little audio diagnosis, we taxied out for our flight. It was a blast! We opened with another fast pass for the now larger crowd (the cops had even shown up by this point in typical "WOW, what's that? mode), with a nice 2-G pull-up and turn back onto downwind. We departed to the south, stayed low and maneuvered over the near-by lake - strictly following minimum separation distances from person or property, of course. We flew around over town and did some sight seeing and I gave Dad the stick to "feel out" the plane. He was quite impressed...but being the Air Force combat pilot and instructor he is, was "missing" the rudder pedals. Ahhhh...time to show off the virtues of canard/winglet configurations. I showed him the massively effective winglet/rudder authority the plane has...and the total lack of need for them in cruise flight speeds. I pulled us into a 1.5G, 50-degree semi-steep turn...feet off the pedals and on the floor..."ball" still perfectly centered. "Impressive, but how can I show you aerobatics without them", he said. Good point! Not to get me wrong here...stomp on the rudder during an aileron roll and the effective roll rate more than doubles and they are needed with other military maneuvers! However, I had to decline aerobatics on this flight as I really didn't feel "confident and comfortable" doing them with passengers just yet. I need a few more hours under the belt...and besides, I'm still too sloppy with them at this point...I want to be impressive and proficient, not just a sloppy show-off. Anyway, we returned to the airport after ripping round the sky for a dirty low pass (slow with gear/speed brake down) for a photo op. Unfortunately, our cameraman was AWOL for that one....oh, well. So, we came around and just landed. I'll let this picture of Dad just after his flight speak for itself! And yes, I SO enjoyed it too! Thanks, Dad.

After taking on some more fuel, Tim got the next ride. Unfortunately, he was the one taking most of the pictures, so I don't have any pics of him getting ready or taking off. I gave him about the same flight as Dad and I, but we zipped over and circled his parentís house for a little bit. They saw us and showed up at the airport for a closer look before Sandy and I had to leave. While up, Tim got some great shots of the back of my head. ;-) Actually, with the lens he happened to be using, he got some great aerial shots of landmarks in Cleburne - like the court house square and the old High School. It just didn't suit a wider view out the front canopy is all. He snapped a few good ones of the downtown area and a few shots across the wing. Anyway, we had a ball zipping around and pulling-G. Interesting side note, after taking on 30 gals of fuel (it was cheap gas) and putting Tim in the back (heaviest passenger I've taken up so far) - I had not "changed" the way I was flying the plane. I was used to light fuel load, and light or no passenger loads for the last many flight hours. The plane does handle differently when loaded up...and like all aircraft requires more speed on take-off and landing to compensate. Needless to say, the T.O. was not my best as I rotated early, floated, got pushed right by some cross wind, lightly bounced on the right main tire, and THEN finally stabilized the climb. (embarrassing) Moral: be a "pilot" on every flight...not an "auto-pilot"!!

Well, the sun was starting to set, and since I have not done any night flying in the Berkut, I wanted to get back before sunset. So, we said our good-bye's to the fam, loaded up the plane and started her up. A few minutes later, Sandy and I were headed off into the sunset on the white wings of the Berkut.

Note to builders, dreamers, and tire kickers - THIS is WHY WE BUILD THESE THINGS. Sandy and I both agree this was one of the best weekends we have ever shared together. And for me, THIS weekend has made it _all_ worth while! ...and the best part, is there will be many MANY more to come in the future. Keep looking up - there is always a way!

A Good End to a Great Year (12-31-04): Well, it's been a while since I've updated this, I thought I'd fill you all in on the "goings on". Don't worry, you have not missed much. Mostly, there have been alot of "weird" weather days here in Texas. It's been warm (78 degrees) and cold (12 degrees)...all within the same 3 day period. Heck, it even snowed one day!!! And when I wasn't out shopping for Christmas presents, we've had low clouds and windy conditions that were not conducive to fun flight - Hey, it's winter in Texas. However, with all the wild weather...we've also had some very beautiful days too, and even more beautiful sunsets. On a few of those good days, I was able to get a few more hours in. I've been slowly working down the long list of friends that wanted rides and worked in a few short flights to test little mods and additions like a mp3 player, avionics software updates, and canopy seals. Today, while Sandy was "doing her own thing", I snuck out to the (nearly deserted) airport to grab some tools and noticed my buddy Ralph was at his hangar working on his...uh...."metal" kitplane project. It was getting a little late in the day but there was still a little time for a short, I wheeled out the Berkut and taxied down to his hangar to see if he wanted to take a step back from the project...oh, say...220kts. @ 2,500ft. @ 10 miles...kinda "back". His lightening fast response: "...I'll be just a second locking the hangar". So, with that, we strapped on the Berkut and headed for the sky! Now all kidding aside, I may not know all that much about "tin can" airplanes with the propeller on the wrong end...but I have to give it to Ralph - his workmanship is superb, systems are well thought-out and exactly executed. I have no doubt that his RV-6A, when completed, will be one of the best built examples out there and a very fine flying machine to boot! Ralph, I want a ride in yours, stop smiling and get back to work! ;-)

In all, 2004 will go down as a great year for us. I even got to have some fun!!! The highlight for sure was the "dream become reality" of the Berkut. Sandy and I have only had a small taste of what lies ahead - air shows to attend, new friends to meet, new places to visit, and adventures to embark on. For those who have helped, encouraged, or just followed along with us - Thank you, God bless you and have a Happy and Safe New Year!

Much more to come very soon.

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