By Martin J. Filiatrault, EAA Lifetime 482031
This piece originally ran in the March 2023 issue of EAA Sport Aviation magazine.
This is Falsi-Fighter, my own personal pseudo-warbird. I chose the RV-8 because of the tandem seating, bubble canopy, and excellent performance. What I really wanted was a P-51, but that dream was considerably beyond my reach, so I chose the next best thing.
I bought my first RV-8 pre-plans set from Van’s Aircraft in 2001. By the time I was finally ready to start building, the airplane had been redesigned and I had to buy a new pre-plans set. The empennage was built in 2015; the quick-build fuselage and wings were ordered in June 2016 and received in February 2017. Work continued slowly and steadily until I received my airworthiness certificate in April 2022, with the first flight in May.
It was a long, winding, and rocky journey with a lot of detours, but I reached my destination after more than 4,000 work-hours; only 110 of those hours were provided by helpers. That’s a lot of hours for a quick-build airplane, and I attribute the high number to the meticulous attention of a first-time builder, a lot of time learning new skills (including painting), and all the mistakes and reworks that come with the process. I received good training from EAA SportAir Workshops, Sherwin-Williams Aerospace Coatings, and Synergy Air that helped me achieve my building goals. The Superior IO-360 engine was custom-built by Allen Barrett at Barrett Precision Engines, and before it even got a chance to fly it had to be rebuilt with a different crankshaft due to FAA Airworthiness Directive 2020-25-12 that proclaimed my original crankshaft unairworthy. The prop is a Whirl Wind 200RV.
The Garmin avionics suite assembled by Aerotronics includes a single G3X Touch, G5 backup, single comm, and autopilot. Classic Aero Designs made my custom seats from canvas sourced by Hooker Harness. The paint is Sherwin-Williams SKYscapes GA two-stage polyurethane; professional aerospace coatings applied by an amateur. My nose art design was expertly re-created by airbrush artist Joe Lucia. Examining the paint job from the empennage forward illustrates the learning curve I experienced, from rough to adequate. This airplane is a monument to a first-time builder, as it should be.
Most of my previous tailwheel time was in Citabrias, so I trained with Budd Davisson, EAA 22483, to help me sharpen my tailwheel skills in his Pitts S-2, and Bruce Bohannon, EAA 169040, provided the best RV-8 transition training available.
David Carrick, EAA 1398993, chief pilot of the Canadian Aviation Museum, was the test pilot for the first flight. The airplane flies straight and true, but the canopy has a skirt vibration that appears at 140 knots and increases with airspeed. This is a common issue with RV-8s that have imperfect canopy seals. I know how to fix it, and it will be fixed before the next flight. As is often the case, the airplane still isn’t finished (are they ever?). Along with canopy work, the wingtips and wheel fairings still need to be painted. But that’s okay; just a few more hurdles. By the time this is published, I’ll finally be flying the airplane of my dreams!
I want to thank everyone at EAA, Van’s Aircraft, Van’s Air Force, and all my good friends at EAA Chapter 113 in Canton, Michigan, and Chapter 194 in Waterford, Michigan, for all their help and support. When the going got tough, they helped me get tough and get going. Special thanks to my Designated Airworthiness Representative Matthew Tomsheck and EAA Tech Counselors Dan Jones, EAA 665288, and Carl Franz, EAA 511275, for their insight and assistance. Also thanks to Steve Thorne for his inspiration, encouragement, and documentation. Look for coverage of the first flights on his FlightChops YouTube channel.
This aircraft flies in memory of Ted Gauthier, a craftsman, mentor, helper, good friend, and endless source of encouragement who will always be missed.
Attention — Aircraft Builders and Restorers
We would love to share your story with your fellow EAA members in the pages of EAA Sport Aviation magazine, even if it’s a project that’s been completed for a while. Readers consistently rate the “What Our Members are Building/Restoring” section of the magazine as one of their favorites, so don’t miss the chance to show off your handiwork and inspire your peers to start or complete projects of their own. Learn more ->