The first serious cold snap of the season hit earlier this week. The overnight lows were in the -20 deg C (-4 deg F) range for several nights. Saturday my schedule allowed me to spend most of the day at the airport, so I plugged in the preheat at 10:30 AM, then went into Smiths Falls to do some final Christmas shopping. I started the engine just after 2 PM to go flying.

I had planned on measuring glide performance at idle - I wanted to compare the performance at idle to the performance with the engine shutdown. But there was a fair bit of snow on the taxiways, ramp, and on the runway in a few places. I decided I should remove the wheel pants, to avoid the risk of them filling with snow and then freezing to the wheel and brakes. The aircraft has more drag with the wheel pants OFF, which would invalidate any comparisons. So, I switched to Plan B, which was to do some aerobatics.

First, I did a quick cruise performance check at 7500 ft. The speed at 2400 rpm, full throttle, leaned to 50 deg F lean of peak EGT was about 157 kt TAS at a fuel burn of 8.4 US gallons/hr.

Given that it was fairly cold, I decided to try some manoeuvres that probably wouldn’t be possible in the summer. I experimented with loops from very slow speed. I found that I could get the aircraft around loops starting at 100 kt IAS. They were pretty ugly, as the airspeed was very slow going over the top, but they worked.

Next, I decided to try a manoeuvre that I used to enjoy in the Canadair CT-114 Tutor (Canadian military jet trainer) - if you’ve seen the Snowbirds aerobatic team, you’ve seen some Tutors. The Tutor had enough vertical penetration to do what we called a “Vertical 8”. This was a half loop, followed by a roll to upright, then a loop, followed by a roll to upside down, then the second half of a loop. The manoeuvre would look like a figure eight - two balls, one on top of the other. In the Tutor, you started at 350 kt, pulled 5 g on the first half loop, and started the second one at about 200 kt. In the winter, when it was very cold, we could do what we called a “Snow Man”, which was like a Vertical 8, but with a third ball on top. You started at VNE (412 kt), and pulled max allowed g (7.33 g) for the first one, and you were going very slow over the top of the third one, but it would make it around.

In the RV-8, I was quite impressed to find that I could start from 180 kt on the bottom of the first half loop, and have 100 - 110 kt at the start of the second loop. I pulled to idle coming down the back side of the loops, and there was no problem keeping the speed well below VNE (200 kt), as long as I kept the g on.

I really didn’t expect that this aircraft would have what it took to do a Vertical 8.