On August 24th 2006, 3:04pm PDT, Velocity SUV serial number SUV103 left the ground for the first time under the skilled hands of Steven Murphree. The first flight lasted 8 minutes and Steven brought the plane back to uneventful landing.
I purchased the kit in 1999. It was one of the early SUV kit that was offered with dual yoke, cut-down keel and single pilot-side door. At the time, I was single and most of my flying was done either solo or with occasional friend or two. I did want a decent cross country machine and something that could carry a bag or two. A bit of “ramp appeal” didn’t hurt either. Velocity flew one of the demonstrator to local EAA fly-in where I happened to be attending the show. It was “love at first sight” and the demo-flight clenched the deal. The factory was running the “introductory pricing” on the SUV model. The yokes did not bother me as I have been a spam-can driver for five or so years prior to that. Single door was a bit of nuisance but figured that Pipers and Mooneys had only one doors. More on that later.
The fast-build kit was delivered in November that year and the construction started in the earnest in a rented garage 15 minutes from where I lived. Since I lived at a townhouse complex with a detached one-car garage, building it at home was not an option. Even with that less than ideal setup, I did work on the plane two days every week(end) and made a steady progress. That was, until “life” intervened.
Around late 2001, the progress on the plane started to slow down considerably. Several things happened.
First, I was done with many of the major components of the airframe and starting to get into the nitty-gritty of the systems. I had no problem with the electrical as I have done many electrical projects. Fuel and oil, on the other hands was completely another matter and might as well be black magic to me. I muddled through and connected everything the best I thought how. Then came the endless body work…
Second, my job started requiring many weeks of overseas travel. There were many months where I was overseas alternating weeks making work on the plane practically impossible. Third, my determination to keep moving forward has started to falter. 9/11 and ensuing turmoil in GA, changes in relationship, moving further from the rented shop, etc… All took a small bite out of my resolve to complete the project and fly it.
By the end of 2004, the airframe was pretty much complete except for the cooling baffle and some fit and finish work but the progress was all but stopped. It was my wife (then a new girlfriend) who whipped me into action and got it going again. Recognizing that I was hitting a brick wall, I decided to enlist the help of A&P who specialized in experimentals. Right before Christmas, in a cold rain of Pacific Northwest, we loaded the plane onto the U-Haul trailer. I figured that by Summer, I will be flying.
Summer, it was. But not 2005. Tear-down inspection of the engine revealed cracked case, mis-matched bearing and other discrepancies. A quick inspection turned out to be a full overhaul. The A&P, Lou Kitz also discovered a few things I did on the plane that he considered not airworthy. The biggest of which was that in my attempt to ensure sufficient elevator travels, I have damaged the UNI carbon carry through spar within the Alan Shaw built canard. Rather than attempting to repair the damage, a decision was made to replace the entire canard assembly.
Summer of 2006 turned out to be magic. By July, the plane was in a shape to do an engine start, get DAR to inspect and start testing. Arrangements were made for Steven to do the factory-final inspection, DAR inspection and test flight. After a few final drama, flooding fuel in the cockpit, accidental discharge of fire extinguisher, etc, the day finally came in August when N21HV became an aircraft, both legally, and in reality.
In the days that followed, Steven not only made sure that the plane flew properly, but also I was competent in flying it as well. In my logbook, there is a simple, unassuming entry for September 2nd, 2006. 1.2hrs, 3 landings “Solo Airwork, Touch and Gos”. That little jaunt around Paine Field probably is my second memorable flight next to my first solo. Flying an aircraft I built myself, for the first time, alone in the cockpit!
Since then, I have accumulated 30 odd hours on N21HV. My nose does not “plop” onto the runway when I land. I can land and stop in 3,000ft. I am starting to relax a bit and not worry about every click and burble the Franklin makes out back. I am really starting to enjoy the plane.
Some particulars… N21HV is an SUV. It is a standard fuselage, fixed gear, standard wing/canard with single door and with dual-yoke configuration. It is powered by PZL Franklin A350 turning IVO Prop electric adjustable pitch prop. Fuel capacity is 70 Gal usable. Dry weight is 1500lb. The panel is populated by 2 screen Chelton EFIS 2000, Engine and Air Data Computer, and the SL series radio stack from Garmin.
The fastest I have flown so far is 160Kts TAS straight. It seems a bit on the slow side but the airframe has not really been cleaned up. The surface is rather rough with rolled primer, wing bolt holes are still exposed. There are un-faired gaps between the cowl and the wing root, etc. My guess is that once all cleaned up, I might be getting fairly close to 170. But for now, it’s one step at a time.
Some modifications I made.
- The front oil cooler has exit baffle that extends out that helps pull the hot air out. It reduced the oil temp by 15 degrees or so.
- The top NACA has a pair of VGs to energize the airflow.
- Under the cowl, instead of the usual fiberglass box plenum, I have aluminum baffles more akin to Cessnas and Glassairs.
- The electrical system has motorcycle battery backing up the mains to power the EFIS in case of alternator failure.
- The landing light uses HID light instead of standard Halogen
So what’s next?
- Second Door! As it turns out, my wife loves to fly with me. But she is demanding her own door. Something about climbing over the two yokes, power quadrant, headset wires, ruffled charts, etc to the right seat being “not lady-like”…
- Interior clean-up and installation. With two girls on their way, I will really need to get going on the back seats.
- Dual-stick conversion? I am considering converting to the seat-mounted stick control seen on RVs and Sportsmans with the passenger side being removable. Yoke is very easy to fly but might not be as comfortable on longer flights.
- Second radio. Maybe Garmin 450? Traffic receiver for the EFIS?
Would I do it again, if I had a chance to? Absolutely! Both the Velocity factory support and the Internet group has been very helpful in reaching this stage. I might do some things differently but this is definitely a project I am happy with.