Celebrating 25 years of one hot-looking machine, the RV-8

By Willie Bodenstein

Derek and I in formation with Nigel and Mike on the way to Kitty Hawk. Photos by Mike Puzey

Last Saturday, 11 of October, I was honoured to fly as a passenger in Derek Hopkins's lovely RV8 as part of a formation of seven other similar aircraft to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the extremely popular quick aerobatic-capable kit plane from the Van's Aircraft stable.

Mike Puzey's 200 Hp powered Vans RV 8.

Richard Van Grunsven designed the RV-8 series as an updated, larger tandem aircraft based on the RV-4 design concept. The RV-8 first flew in 1995 and was first shown publicly at AirVenture 1995, the annual convention of the Experimental Aircraft Association held at Oshkosh, Wisconsin in the USA.

Three of the eight Rv8s during the formation flight. Photo by Mike Puzey.

With a top speed of around 220 mph (354.06 Kph) no other aircraft in the Vans RV stable is faster than the Rv8. Often outfitted in military or other attractive paint schemes, the 8's sleek fuselage and centre-line seating, fighter-like slider canopy, reminiscent of tandem two seat fighter aircraft, gets looks wherever it goes. The 8 is not just a good looking, aerobatic-capable aircraft capable of competing in sportsman and intermediate categories:- she also provides fighter like quick responsive handling at the upper end of the speed scale and still has excellent performance on the lower end of the scale.

Eight of the more than 1,500 Rv8s built flying in formation overhead Kitty Hawk. Photo Garth Calitz.

As of October 2019, 1,536 RV-8s and 8As have been completed and flown, proof of Van's genius and the popularity of the company's pocket rocket.

Mike and Nigel in Kitty Hawk in Mike's RV8 on the way to Kitty Hawk.

Overhead Kitty Hawk.

The line up before take-off.

We departed from Eagles Creek for Kitty Hawk in the company of Nigel Hopkins, who flew Mike Puzey's 200 hp RV8 where we were to join the rest of the formation guys. A number of Kitty Hawk based 8's were already there and more arrived. It was stinking hot and we found shade and something cool to drink while the time away.

The pilots, from left to right front row: Martin Louw, Glen Warden, Pierre Gouws, Andre Steenkamp and Wouter van Ginkel. Middle row: Brian Cilliers. Back row: Father and son Derek and Nigel Hopkins.

The briefing.

Walking the formation.

Take-off was planned for 15h30 and after some banter, it was time to get serious and Pierre Gouws, who had led the RV Raptors in the world formation aerobatics championships in China, briefed the pilots on the technical and safety aspects of the formation in Kittyhawk's clubhouse before the pilots walked through the flight.

Taxi to the holding point.

Ready for departure.

The formation from my vantage point.

Our formation was strictly straight and level and did not include any aerobatic maneuverers. However, the RV-8/8A complies with the +6/-3G standards of the FAA's Aerobatic Category and can still carry two people, making it possible for a new pilot to get aerobatic instruction before he or she starts rolling and looping.

The formation from Mike vantage point. Photo by Mike Puzey.

The formation from the camera ship with Garth Calitz as camera man.

The formation from the ground. Photo by Andre Venter.

We were flying at number seven, making up the rear with Nigel and Mike on our left. It was extremely bumpy but all went well and after three circuits, including a flypast overhead the field, we broke away and set course back to Eagles Creek while the rest landed at Kitty Hawk or departed for their home fields.

Breaking for home.

Heading home.

On base leg for Eagles Creek.

Having crisscrossed the country in Juri Keyter's 7 and Peter Lea's 10, the 8 is definitely a different kettle of fish. She may look sleek and narrow, but her surprisingly wide fuselage and cockpit accommodates large people in comfort. Two baggage compartments, one forward and one aft, keep even large amounts of luggage well within the weight and balance envelope. Her large 42-gallon fuel capacity and efficient airframe provide long range and high cruise speeds, so long distances can be covered easily.

The Rv8 fills the niche as a fast sports aerobatic fun plane with long legs to perfection.

Richard "Van" van Grunsven has created the most successful range of kit planes ever. One of the reasons for the success of the company is that there is a design for almost every niche in the market and the Rv8 fills the niche as a fast sports aerobatic fun plane with long legs to perfection.

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