VA to ME and back without refueling

950nm round trip
950nm round trip, 7 flight hous

I’m just back from this year’s Chicken-Palooza event in. Maine. I took lots of pictures and video and will put together a “documental” on the event over the next week.

In the mean time I thought someone might be interested in the performance of the auxiliary fuel tank in the RV-8. This trip was a perfect example of the type of trip it was designed for long trip with no fuel at the destination.

I won’t know my fuel totals until I fill up tomorrow but the AUX tank worked as advertised. I flew a total of 950nm with no useful tailwind (2-4kts head wind up and +/- 1kts tailwind home).I think I’ve got at least 10 gallons left but won’t know for sure until I go get more gas.

I made it from the Eastern Shore of VA past Concord, NH on the north bound leg before the AUX was dry. I used less than 5 gallons of fuel from the main tanks for the trip up. That left more than 35 gallons of fuel to get home. A typical one-way flight is 24-28 gallons.

The Devastator is a serious long range bomber now!

Another runway morning

RWY03 at 6AM
RWY03 at 6AM

Maintaining a grass runway is a lot of work but sometimes, just the ability to look at it, makes it all worth while.

Death of a starter solenoid

When the RV-8 started having sluggish starts over a year ago, I blamed the battery so I replaced the Odyssey 680 with a Shorai 18. The changed saved me 13lbs but did not improve the engine starts.

The problem was always worse first thing in the morning or after the plane sat for a while.

A thread on the VAF website talked about the starter solenoid. I considered the idea but my plane had less than 200 hours. Still, it would be cheap enough to find out. A new solenoid was less than $10. I ordered one and tossed it in the parts drawer.

Fast forward four months.

Today, while changing the oil, I pulled out the solenoid that had been in the drawer and went about swapping it for my old one.

They say, “R T F M”. Well the new solenoid had no instructions and looked much like the old one so I wired it up the same. But, when I turned the key there was silence. I looked and looked and then realized this solenoid was opposite of the old one. After swapping the wires I turned the key again. Silence.

OK, googled for instructions or a diagram or something. Bingo. The coil has no natural ground. Ground the coil. Turn the key. Propeller spins!

The engine starts like I vaguely recall from a couple years ago. Nice.

I took the old solenoid apart and it looks pitted on both the contacts and the pad. It looks just like all the other examples of bad solenoids.

A swimming hole in Freehold NY (1I5)

IMG_3236I wanted to go fly and the weather was looking good for some “leg stretching” so I decided I’d equip the Devastator for a long range bombing run with 62 gallons of fuel and head north! The destination is a little airport in Freehold New York, just south of Albany. It’s a public airport that doesn’t see too many visitors these days. It sits right near a ridge line so it does Glider training when the occasional student drops in. The trip is just 300 nautical miles from home. That’s easily in range of the RV-8 but since the fields does not sell fuel, it would be 600 nautical miles round trip. I was going to be pushing the total trip time so the option to avoid a fuel stop somewhere along the way was a good enough excuse to put the new AUX tank to use. I packed the plane, tossed in swimming trunks and a towel and set out for the 2hr flight … yes, 300 nautical miles in about 2 hours – RV’s a very capable airplanes ! The trip was uneventful and after a bit of a bumpy decent after the small mountain ridge, I was on final for 1I5 (Freehold Airport). I opted for the deteriorating paved runway because I could not tell how soft or long the turf was. It was a good call because the turf had not been mowed for a week or so and was long. I guess the local group was already planning to do some flying because about as soon as I landed, they mowing tractor pulled out to start cutting the turf runway. The Devastator was safely on the other side of the runway, near the “soaring shack”.

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After chatting with Randal and the other soaring staff, It was time to get down to the task of swimming. I caught a ride in one of the golf carts over to the easiest access to the river. After a quick change into the proper clothing – Randall said they occasionally have “clothing optional” swimmers take advantage of the river – I carefully made my way down river a bit. They’ve had a lot of rain so the river has swollen and was moving pretty quick. Turns out that made the requisite “photographic proof” easy !


There I am ! …  and again, and again, and …

  After the swim, and while I warmed up – the water was COLD! – I had a quick box lunch (all they way from the jungle).

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Erik’s smoked lamb sandwich – yum!

Well, Nick was waiting patiently at home so there was no more time to be spent on the ground. I did my pre-flight, run-up, and was soon back in the air … using the newly mowed turn runway ! A little more than two hours later and I was on short final for the home field. An easy flight. A cold swim. And a great way to burn up about 30 gallons of gas!

Pilots Visit 53VG for the Airport Bum’s 50th

I wont go into a lot of details for now but I wanted to post several pictures of airplanes … because what better way to celebrate turning 50 than to have a bunch of guys fly in, eat food, and tell tall tales !


Six line up for their photo!



A fly-by, hello, and happy birthday on the radio, but could not stay



Ralph starts the arrivals



Bruce helps control mosquitos



Bill’s co-pilot is ready with a camera



Agent Orange









Jack, all the way from the west coast (but not just for the party) …



Vlad, waive for the camera


Wrong view for the camera !



"you grab ahold, like this and then …"



Sunrise … but the overnight pilots seem to have missed it for some reason …



I earned my Russian 50 year wings !

Thanks to all the pilots who made the day so much fun. Thanks also to all of my local friends who came out for a night of great food and wonderful conversation. I pretty nice way to celebrate turning 50 !

RV-8 AUX fuel tank – 22 gallons

IMG_2230The Vans RV-8 has 42 Gallons of fuel split between its two wing tanks.

The Vans website states 855 to 1030 miles range (75% vs 55% power) with a 160 HP engine. That equates to a burn rate of 9.7 to 7.2 gallons per hour. For simplicity, let’s just average that to 8 gph and 156kts. (My personal flying is around 150 kts but then again, I have 10hp less).

That’s a good range for anybody. However, there are a few reasons to want more – wanting to go faster; wanting to avoid landing when flying high with a nice tailwind, or cross country flying to a grass strip that has no fuel service. Oh … one more – buying gas when it’s cheap!

Thanks to the internet, I found most of the solution. Thus, what follows is my solution based on a description from Jon Thocker who stole his solution from Robert Gibbons, who probably brainstormed the setup with his buddies from Team Aerodynamix.

The centerpiece of the auxiliary tank is a circle track racing fuel cell. The hoses and various fittings are pretty typical with the exception of quick-disconnect fittings. The tank has both a fuel pickup and vent with roll over spill prevention.

Here is the complete list, formatted to be a sequence from the aircraft fuel selector, through to the tank, and then out to the external vent. You may have some of the parts in your “spare parts bin” but otherwise the total cost is somewhere between $400 and $500 (and closer to the larger number). You can click on any image for a larger version. You can also find a PDF if this document.


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Fuel Selector Section:

There is an empty port on the standard Vans fuel selector. You will use this port for the auxiliary fuel system.

Next, you need to create a short fuel line from the 6AN to another 6AN. So you need coupling nuts, flare sleeves and some 3/8″ fuel line.

Note: if you want to hide most of the fuel line, then you will need more tubing here and less of the fuel hose later in this list.

The fuel line terminates through a bulkhead fitting and then the quick connect plug. Depending on how your current fuel selector is plumbed, you will need one of a 90 degree, 45 degree or straight fitting.

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That completes the parts needed at the interface into the airplane’s fuel system.

The plug is removed from the unused port on the fuel selector. The 6AN to NPT adapter is installed in place of the plug. A short 3/8″ fuel like is created with coupling nuts and flare sleeves. The fuel line runs from the 6AN adapter to a 6AN bulkhead fitting which passes through the panel that already contains the fuel selector. Odds are good you will need a to make a washer or install a doubler plate to insure stiffness and to create enough thickness for the bulkhead fitting. In my installation, I added both a larger circular doubler below the panel and a smaller circular decorative plate on top.


Fuel Hose Section:

Next is the fuel hose and fitting to the tank. The fuel hose has a quick connect 90 degree fitting on one end and a 6AN 90 degree fitting on the other. (the quick connects have a very attractive gold anodized finish on the ends.) Optionally, you can install a cleanable in-line fuel filter.

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I chose to buy the hose ‘by the foot’ since I standardized both the fuel and vent hoses on a single size rather than use a smaller size on the vent line. I purchased 8ft of -6 hose and used 5ft for the fuel side and 3ft for the vent side. It worked out perfectly.

The quick connect fittings are “valved fittings” which means fuel in the hose will not drain out the fitting when disconnected.

It’s really easy to get cut from the tiny wire braid. My solution was to place the hose nut in a socket wrench and twist it onto the braid. Then installed the threaded insert. Of course, had I been thinking, I’d have checked if Summit Racing had a video – which they do .. (

Summit Racing Instruction Video – AN fitting on Braided Hose

I installed the quick connect fitting and then ran the hose to the tank – which was temporarily in place for checking layout. Then I marked the hose for the cut. I wrapped the hose with tape at the cut location and used a metal cutting blade in my bandsaw to make the cut. I cleaned out any debris after the cut and use a fine grit grinder stone to file away and stray braids. Then I installed the 90 degree AN hose fitting.


Fuel Tank Section:

The tank is a circle track racing fuel polyethylene tank with a polyethylene bladder. The original write up used a 16 gallon tank while my system uses a 22 gallon tank. In both cases, the width x depth of the actual tank measures somewhat less than is specified. Jon measured the 16 gallon tank and found it to be about 23″ x 17.5″ rather than the specified 25″ x 19″. In my case, the 22 gallon tank is 25″ x 16.25″ rather than the specified 26″ x 18″.

The tank is standard with 8AN fittings. Since I used the same hose for both fuel and vent, I needed two 8AN -6AN reducers. If you use a smaller vent hose then you will need one 8AN-6AN and one 8AN-4AN.

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One thing puzzled me. The tank has two 8AN fittings. One is the fuel and one is a roll over vent. They are unmarked. There is no on-line documentation. In the website pictures, both are black or both are silver. My tank came with one fitting in silver and one in black. I ended us using a small piece of 0.021 safety wire to gently probe the two fittings. The black one has a ball in it so I concluded it was the vent.

WARNING: This next section includes misinformation from the manufacturuer

Later, I received and email reply from the manufacturer. It confirmed what I had figured out but then it pointed out a mistake with my intended installation. All of my pictures I found showed the tank backwards from the way the manufacturer described its installation. Here is the message from the representative…

The fittings face the front of the car with the cap towards the rear. The pickup should be the fitting on the right (passenger) side. You can clarify this for certainty by turning the cell upside down and checking
for the ball bearing in the other (vent) fitting. We place removable stickers to identify these fittings but it sounds like your cell did not get labeled.

With both fittings facing toward the front of the car with the cap-side facing the rear, the fitting on the right (passenger) should travel to the right (passenger) rear corner, which would be the cap-side corner on the same side as the aforementioned fitting.

I installed the tank according to the email descriptions and contrary to Jon Thocker’s pictures. When I did my ground tests with minimal fuel, it would not pickup – even with the boost pump on. I attributed it to the deck angle of the RV-8 on the ground. However, the test flight procedures indicated low fuel pressure and sporadic fuel flow.

I put the plane back in the hangar and came up with a couple tests to determine exactly where the fuel pickup was located within the tank.

With the fuel cell oriented so the fill cap is toward from front and the fuel and vent lines are aft, the fuel fitting is on the left and the pickup is toward the left rear corner.


Vent Hose Section:

Next is the vent hose and fitting from the tank. The vent hose has a 6AN 90 degree fitting on one end and a quick connect 90 degree fitting on the other.

Jon’s instructions use a smaller hose so his setup uses 4AN fittings. An advantage of Jon’s system is that you can not confuse the fuel line and the vent line. I solved that possibility by using a different “flow” rating for the quick connect which makes it incompatible with the one use for the fuel hose. I used a 3000 series quick connect for fuel and a 2000 series for vent. In the end, I don’t think this saved me any money. The connector was a little more expensive.

I went with a 90 degree quick connect because I wanted to reduce stresses on the quick connect fitting and assumed a hose running down was better than one sticking out in the open. You need to plan the placement of your quick connect plug to determine which fitting works best for you.


Vent Line Section:

The vent hose terminates with a quick disconnect. From there, the vent line runs down to the bottom of the airplane where it exits with a forward facing vent tube. Since I had used -6 hose, it meant my vent line starts with an 6AN fitting and uses a reducer to 4AN. All of the vent line is done with 1/4″ aluminum tubing.

I wanted the disconnect to be clear of any removable panels. This was to simplify the annual condition inspection. This meant I would need to pas through the bulkhead at the back of the baggage compartment. I didn’t want to weaken it in anyway. Fortunately, there was an unused pass-thru hole (two actually).

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I had to fabricate a washer/spacer and then Installed the 6AN bulkhead elbow. I then added the reducer. This allowed me to transition to 1/4″ tubing. I ran it down the back side of the baggage compartment bulkhead and then, below the longeron, I brought it forward through another vacant hole in the bulkhead. I used a rubber grommet in this hole to protect the tubing. I then routed the line to the bottom of the airplane where I connected to the 4AN bulkhead elbow which passes through the bottom skin. Under the airplane I added another home made spacer and the bulkhead nut. I finished off the vent line with a curved tube with faces forward like the tank vents for the wing tanks.

I used black for the final bulkhead elbow and the nuts to keep with the exterior color or the aircraft (standard blue anodized would have looked dumb).


Tank Ramp Section:

The tank is as far forward as possible, placing it at the same CG as the rear passenger seat. This means the tank straddles the flap actuator bar. The solution is to build a ramp that slopes 4.5 degrees from the back of the baggage compartment bottom to just forward of rear seat’s 5-point harness crotch strap mount.

By placing the forward most ramp leg just aft of the crotch strap mount, the ramp can not move forward or aft.

The two middle legs of the ramp are just either side of the flap control bar.

The ramp also has perimeter blocking to keep the tank fro sliding fore or aft, left or right.

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The ramp is constructed of 1/4″ panel plywood with 2xX stock cut with a 4.5 degree bevel on the top. I created a jury stick with all of the locations and measurements. The ramp is primed and painted a light gray.


Installation Section:

The installation is in two parts. First, the rear seat is removed. This is pretty quick. My rear seat bottom is Velcro’d and just pulls out. If the hinge pins for the back are snug or sticking, I use a small pair of vice-grips to grab the ‘handle’ and pull. The second part is easy as well but one step may be a challenge depending on how long your arms are. In my case, my arm is just barely long enough. I place the tank ramp in the airplane and insure the two lap segments of the seatbelt are fully extended and out of the way. I them place the tank into the perimeter frame on the tank ramp. Here is the tricky part – I kneel on the right wing walk and extend my arm to the very back of the baggage compartment to attach the vent hose quick disconnect to the plug. With that accomplished, I attach the quick disconnect on the fuel hose to its plug. Finally, I use the rear lap belt to secure the tank. I tuck the rear shoulder harnesses backward into the baggage compartment. (Truthfully, I stuff them in an old sock and then bungee them back onto themselves in the top of the baggage compartment.)


Testing Section:

The test procedures started with a leak test. With only the vent line quick disconnect connected, I applied a small amount of air pressure to the vent line at the bottom of the fuselage. This confirmed that both the vent line and fuel line were holding pressure.

The next test was a ground operation test. I first placed a blue, lint free absorbent paper towel under the fuel selector. With both the vent and fuel quick disconnects attached, the airplane was started on a wing tank. The boost pump was turned on and then the fuel selector was switched to the AUX position. Initially, the boost pump indicated air – which was expected. Once the AUX fuel hose was flushed with fuel, the boost pump was switched off. The airplane was taxied for 4 minutes using only the AUX tank. The fuel selector was switched back to a wing tank and after 1 minute, the airplane was shut down. I inspected the paper towel for any sign of liquid.

The third test was in-flight operations. After taking off on a wing tank and climbing to 4,000′ over the local airport, I switched on the boost pump and then switch to the AUX tank. After 15 seconds, I switched off the boost pump. I then proceeded with gentle turns and eventually steep turns. The total test time was approximately 15 minutes. I then switched back to a wing tank and waited 1 minute before starting decent to land procedures.

The final test was a CG and load test. I operator from a 1,940 ft grass runway. My airplane has a cruise pitched propeller on a 150HP engine making it optimized for cross country flying and not for maximum performance at take-off distance and climb. I make three take offs and landings with the tank empty. Then filled the tank completely and repeated the test. To measure ground roll distances, I placed colored flags every 100′ along the runway and placed a small video camera under the wing. The camera looked cord-wise so both the landing gear and the flags were observed. The wind was calm and the density altitude was measured at 420′. Under these conditions, the full AUX tank adds approximately 10-15% to the ground roll distance.

The Google Earth image shows a yellow circle at 1,000 nm and a green circle at 500 nm. These represent an approximate range traveling one-way or round trip respectively while maintaining greater than VFR minimums. The referent circles do not take into account wind or other factors.

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