4th of March 2007, 4059 hours behind me, Lady Godiva is ready for inspection.

Rolf Hankers, one of the first builders of a RV4 here in Germany was willing to perform the first flight. He has logged hundrets of hours in his D-EFFI, won the aerobatic nationals with her, is a professional testpilot and engineer, did all the calculations about structural integrity for the RV4 here in Germany and is a great guy as well.


Rolf enters EEES after he checked all systems.



Rof said: "Hey, I will taxi down the runway with different speeds a couple of times and return."




...but after two runs I heard the roaring Lycoming, saw the tail come up.....


...and Rolf was airborne!


I was not able to realize what happend right before my eyes: The aircraft, disappearing into the blue was built by myself!!!!! I just had ears for the sound of the engine, begging it not to stop,....



...and it ran just fine.


I was paralyzed and really can't describe how I felt that day.


Rolf had some fun.


...and when he came back for landing....


...and made a perfect threepoint touchdown....


....taxied in....


...I realized that those plywood boxes just transformed into an amazing aircraft!


"What do you want do hear first, the good or the bad news?", Rolf asked me.

"The bad ones!"

"OK, your prop is underpitched"

"What else??"

"Nothing, flies straight and level without any trim, all system work fine, congatulations, nice aircraft"



Rolf and me, seconds after the first flight.

Man, what a day!!! 


Ten days later it was on me, and after some practice with Georg in the back I soloed her. Landing was quiet a task, because I had no taildragger experience, but it worked out better every time, but now and then I'm still bouncing around on landing :o)



The next day I wrote a little report for Dough Reeves, here it is:


Dirk Schlichtenhorst's First Solo In His New RV-4
...from Dirk
" is a report of my first solo in my newly completed RV4.

A little background: D-EEES first flew on March 04th this year with an experienced professional test pilot (RV4-builder as well) at the controls with no problems at all. 5 days later my buddy Georg, flight instructor and Tempco Swift /Yak experienced, but not RV-addicted took the ship up and became familiar with it very soon. So there had been 2 pilots in that RV, but the poor builder still on the ground….

I build the RV during a 4.5 year period and 4059 hours, started in August 2002 with no flying license and no aircraft background. As you might guess, there was a lot of things to learn building it, as well as there was a bunch to do to get my license at the local airstrip. In May 2004 I earned my motorglider license, while at home the empennage and wings had been done. September the same year I extended the license to a full PPL with hours in Cessna 172, Diamond Aircraft Katana, Robin DR400 and Piper PA 28.

With all that done, I was eager to complete the RV asap and put flying to the backburner. All in all I arrived with a completed RV4, 45 hours of flight time and no taildragger experience at all except the old motorglider I learned with 3 years ago, last stick-time in August 2006. So quiet obvious not a very comfortable cushion to do my first solo. I had a plan in my mind how to get prepared, something like: First fly something, step up to a PA18, get some practice with another taildragger, go to an airport with at least 3000 ft runway and so on, but things changed…

11th of March: I was hanging around at the hangar and suddenly an RV9 came in, he read about the first flight at and wanted to say hello. I talked him over to pick me up and let me feel out the handling of the 9, because I thought it would be quiet similar to my -4. As a benefit, Georg took the -4 and we made some air-to-air pics. Wow, big improvement, the poor builder flies side by side with his holy cow :o)

We have March and the weather was amazingly good for this time of the year, only 3-5 knots wind straight on the runway and the forecast told us that it will stay that way all week long. I’m a little too heavy to jump into the rear seat of my RV, but Georg would be a passenger well within the envelope, so he suggested to sit behind me and ‘talk me down’. Yes, memories came up from bad movies……but the RV ran well, weather was perfect, the instructor was courageous (crazy??) and I KNEW that I learn best the hard way, so I took a deep breath and jumped in. Sun was going down and the wind disappeared, peaceful silence everywhere, time to change that and fire up the engine.

Taxi was no problem, I read about taildraggers a lot, was prepared to give right rudder and had a clear picture of what will happen, pushed the power lever slowly forward and…..****, what’s up, too much input on the rudder, correct, overreacted, poor Georg with no rudder an no throttle behind me, corrected again, wow, very sensitive, tailwheel still on the ground, another correction, runway halfmarker passing by, all of sudden the preacher-like voice of Georg : “Just a little forward stick, let the tail come up and take it away at 60 KTS, I have control, you have the rudder”.

Said, done, airborne!

OK, that was a big surprise, no comparison to the old motorglider, the rudder inputs of the RV are just 1/10 to the inputs the motorglider asked for, lesson learned. We climbed out and when I took a short look to the airspeed indicator we where going 120 KTS and up, up, up. Impressive! Time to feel out the controls: Aileron very light, and extension of your thoughts like the promotion DVD told me a 1000 times, elevator stiff, trim sensitive, time to slow down and lower the flaps. 70 KTS, 1200 revs, first notch, and I had not enough power to pull it up to second notch, asked for help from behind, second notch. Lesson learned: slow down to 65 KTS, engine to idle, no problems with pulling flaps to 40 degrees. As soon as the engine turns more than idle there is too much pressure to get the flaps out. No problem if you know that, but….

OK, now the hardest part: Landing. Meanwhile the sun was down to the horizon and we decided to come in 09 instead of 27 because you hardly where able to see something against the sun. Pattern was no problem, I had the numbers from Georg’s flights and added a little extra margin for the passenger, over the numbers with 65 KTS, only the toes on the pedals to avoid breaking, flare, flare, and that thing flew forever, eating up the runway, settled down a bit to hard, bounces up again, down, OK, now KEEP IT STRAIGHT, hey, STRAIGHT I said, ****, left, right, and all of sudden I slipped off the right pedal, ****. Voice from behind: Go around, full power, accelerate, more, don’t take it up, build up speed, more, gooood, now up and away…..puh, another try….OK, feet up into the pedals, that will never ever happen again! We touched down on Monday, Tuesday,W ednesday the next time, snaking down the runway, but we made it home. That night I was barely able to get some sleep, I was sure that I will never be able to manage that beast………

As I knew from my former flying lessons it’s best to go on as soon as possible to avoid the feeling of fear that can easily build up when you are sitting at home, thinking about what went wrong too long, so we arranged another lesson the next day. Monday, no one at the airport, no visitors, friends and so on. We made 5 landings and they came out better each time. Georg showed me how to stop bouncing when he pushed the stick forward just a little ‘on impact’ to keep the tail up, let the speed bleed off and settle down gently. I tried it by myself and had the picture with the third landing. That evening I was sure that I will be able to do that on my own in summer. I had a much better night.

2 days ago we had another lesson, made three landings (not a single good one, but takeoff and landing was straight with a little bouncing at touchdown). Georg told me to make a power off landing out of 2000 ft to get a feeling of what to do if something goes wrong. I came in with that RV glider, touched down and we both decided that I can do it on my own. 10 landings with my instructor behind me, that was MUCH faster than I ever expected, but I was trusting that airplane a kind of a childish way that I never felt for any aircraft before. I spend so many hours with every part of it, it MUST KNOW that it’s me at the controls and it will be kind. Weather was, blue sky, wind straight in with 10 KTS, no gusts, so this is the day.

Takeoff run was beautiful (for me), trim to neutral was perfect. I pulled the stick back, opened the throttle, pushed the stick at little forward after 100 ft, let the tail come up, had no problems to keep it straight, even had time to look at the airspeed indicator and took off. MAN, THAT THING CLIMBED OUT. I tried to climb out shallow, but nevertheless it was more ballooning than flying and I flew solo the first time, sitting on MY wings, looking out of MY canopy, touching the levers I build, staring at the panel I designed and was feeling like Leonardo Di Caprio in the movie “Titanic”, standing at the ships nose with open arms and yelling out “I’m the king of the world!”.

These are rare days in life, which you will remember forever. All those people along the way, friends by now, came to my mind, all the countless hours in the shop, mostly fun hours, all those bureaucrats that couldn’t prevent this to happen, all in all a feeling of deep satisfaction.

Landing was a little thrilling as ever, the by now familiar bounce that I have to work on said hello, but I came to a stop without brakes with a lot of runway (OK, 2500 ft overall length, plenty for an RV, but just OK for the rookie..). A big hug for Georg, a biiiiig grin that will need some plastic surgery to remove and a big day in life.

I will attach the picture of my first landing, it looks so beautiful, you would not expect a soaking wet guy at the controls…:o)

Edit: (See the PICTURES link)

Cheers from Germany, Dirk