Harmon's Aircraft Projects
We've been making gear legs for experimental aircraft since 1969!
Harmon Lange built his first airplane in Wisconsin and flew it for the first time in 1970. It was a V-tail Davis DA-2A. (N6771) Harmon's second homebuilt airplane was an RV-4 (N683RV). Harmon flew it for the first time in June of 1989.
Harmon's third completed homebuilt, the RV-6A, N164ML, was completed in July of 1998, just 10 months after starting the quick build kit.
Harmon's RV-8A, flew for the first time in November '02. It has the latest equipment including the FADEC System for the Engine control and an EFIS Instrument Panel.
In 2010 Harmon purchased a new home with ample room in the basement for projects. He has since built a RV-12 that was first flown in 2015. The current project is a RV-9A that is 60% complete, but the engine is still not installed.
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Harmon built the Davis DA-2A (N6771) in '69-'70. It was built from plans, is an all-metal airplane, and carries one passenger. The empty weight is 721 lbs. Harmon flew the Davis for the first time in June 1970. That summer was the first year that the EAA held its convention in Oshkosh Wisconsin. He received an award from EAA during the show for outstanding workmanship, and it was featured in Sport Aviation September issue 1971.
Harmon flew the Davis from Merrill, Wisconsin to Texas, and back a number of times in the '70s and '80s. Back then it was considered quite a speedy little airplane cruising about 125 mph on a Continental 85 engine. It was also very efficient to fly, burning only 5-6 gallons of fuel per hour.
Harmon built the RV-4 (N683RV) with his son Steve. They started building it in 1982. Steve was a young boy then and enjoyed working with his dad. Although Harmon never gave up on the project, life sort of got in the way and the airplane building project was put on the back burner. Harmon's machining business kept him working almost around the clock for several years. During those "off-building years," he had to put several additions onto his shop at Langair, build a new house, and create a new place to finish the RV-4 project.
Harmon and Steve built a separate building close to the shop property. This building was soon tagged "The Toy Box" and it was in "The Toy Box" that the RV-4 got some serious attention.
In the winter of '88-'89, Harmon decided the RV-4 project had been shelved long enough and he went to work full throttle to get it finished. In June of 1989, Harmon flew the RV-4 for the first time. To date, Harmon has logged over 1600 hours in it crisscrossing the country many times. The RV-4 has a Lycoming 0320, 150 hp engine in it, and cruises about 185 mph.
In September of 1997, Harmon drove over to Van's Aircraft, loaded up one of Van's quick-build kits, and drove it home. He then had to remodel a room in the back of the shop to make it suitable for building an airplane. In the spring of '98 when completion was nearing, he added a paint room onto the airplane room. Harmon stayed focused on the project, and in June Harmon and Ken Krueger began painting the 6A.
On July 2, 1998, just 10 months after Harmon bought the kit, the RV-6A, (N164ML) took to the skies. Needless to say, it was an exciting beautiful flight. The 6A flew to Oshkosh three weeks later. The RV-6A has a Lycoming 0360, 180 HP engine with a Constant Speed Prop. It cruises about 200 mph. It weighs in at 1076 lbs. empty.
Shortly after, EAA Headquarters featured a story about Harmon and the colorful 6A in the "Sport Aviation" magazine.
The Building Of An RV-8A
Hopes, Wishes, And Outcomes
We all need a good reason to build another airplane right? Well, I was convinced that flying in the RV-4 was not good for my back. Several long cross-country trips in the 4 had me laid up, hurting, Enough said on that. It was time to start building the RV-8A.
The question has been asked of me, why did I install all the fancy stuff? I will try to explain.
I think it was the trip back from Oshkosh in 1999 that started the thought process. For all the years that I have been flying, I considered myself a very cautious pilot in regards to weather. Some might say cowardly. On that ’99 OSH trip, I pushed it a bit too far and had to make a 180° turn in bad conditions. Fortunately, the RV-6A has the wing leveler and I basically made the turn with that. During most of the turn, I had no visibility at all but came out of it without a problem. However, I still remember how totally disoriented and stupid I felt. Had I made the turn a mere 20 seconds earlier, it would have left me with an entirely different feeling. For many weeks after that trip, I was haunted. The first thought that came to mind waking in the morning and the last thought at night was the possibility of cashing in my chips for a mere 20 seconds. Think about that. Life can get pretty short. Another factor that still haunts me is the accident and death of a dear pilot friend and his son, who also got caught in bad weather. So it came to pass that the next plane would have a new type of instrument panel.
To many of the best pilots who are sharp and keep IFR current, the standard type instruments that have been available for many years are the best. But, there is nothing inherently obvious in them. In my opinion, it is better to have the equipment draw you a picture. Anyone can fly a picture. Isn’t that what we do when VFR? We all remember the famous 200 hrs pilot that died in good weather, but with no visibility. I’m sure the Saratoga had the best standard IFR equipment available, yet he died. It happens.
Like everyone else, I have been watching the revolution in cockpit displays. About 6 years ago I sat in on one of Burt Rutan's forums. It was about this very subject. The objective is to have a display that allows you to fly the airplane with the same references, VFR, or IFR, (having the horizon, the image of the ground, and the surrounding terrain.) I didn’t know it then, but sitting in that same audience was a young genius that took up the challenge. Several years later I got to meet him, Greg Richter, CEO of Blue Mountain Avionics. They produce the EFIS 1. Think glass cockpit. I attended his forum at OSH and heard and saw all his neat ideas. He promised 3-D terrain modeling, a highway in the sky, and more. I related that as a machinist I have been programming CNC equipment. It does just what I want it to do, time after time after time. “Why can’t we program airplanes to cut a path through the sky, the same as a tool cuts a path through steel?” Greg said, “We could do that”. So, hopefully, we are on the way.
The EFIS 1 is available with an integrated autopilot. When I first started flying it we had some power supply problems. Greg quickly solved that with new power supplies. I’ve had full confidence in Greg from the start, and he has given great support. The 3-D terrain images on the screen are just great. Take a peek at his website; you’ll see what I mean.
What about the FADEC system? (Full Authority Digital Engine Control). About the time I was getting serious about spending money for an engine, I happened to meet Van at one of our many “Fly out for Breakfast Mornings.” He suggested I look into having an engine built up without the mags, and carburetor, and put the FADEC on. I called Ed Bartow, the man with the most time on an RV and FADEC combination. He was having good results and encouraged me to go for it. The cost was about the same as a new engine. I paid $13,000.00 for the basic engine from Aero Sport. (It’s a 0360 A1A.) The FADEC system was $7,000.00. So, 20k and some change for a fuel-injected engine. I liked the idea that the only moving part in the entire system is the small solenoid on each cylinder that is activated to inject the fuel. Ed has 400 hrs on his system without any problems. With that information, I ordered the system.
The big surprise came when it was time to order the prop. The Hartzel people, after doing some testing, advised against using their prop on the FADEC run engine. They were in the process of a new design so I postponed the purchase as long as I could. In the end, I bought an MT constant speed 3-blade prop. The MT props are made of wood and are not subject to the problems of harmonic vibration that the metal props have.
At this time I have logged over 200 hrs. The FADEC has not missed a beat. It seems to be a bit cold-blooded and coughs some when I start the engine in temps around 30 degrees. During the flight the system re-computes for the high and low cruse. This means that when one changes the power through the 65 percent range you can expect a slight roughness until it changes over. I’m comfortable with that now and can refer to the readout on the Ipaq display to see what is happening. The message comes up as low or high power cruise, stabilizing, calibrating, and complete. Then it is running perfectly smooth again. The Ipaq displays all the info from the FADEC computers, including the percentage of power. That is really neat.
The Blue Mountain display just keeps getting better. Since I started flying the 8A, Greg has updated the hardware to eliminate in-flight use of the DVD drive. All the maps are now on a 1-gig flash card. The DVD is only used for the monthly updates.
I did not intend to discuss the airplane itself in this letter. The RV-8A that I have is a standard quick build kit.