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Flex Innovations RV-8 NIGHT SUPER PNP Review

Flex Innovations just released its new RV-8 NIGHT SUPER PNP. This 76" EPO Foam aerobat is a true-to-scale model of the iconic Van's RV-8. Join Mike McDougall as he assembles this RV-8 and then puts it through its paces.

Splash

Introduction

Flex Innovations RV-8 NIGHT SUPER PNP
Wingspan:75.8 in
Length:66.3 in
Wing Area:1120.0 sq in
Weight:10 lbs 2 oz
Wing Loading:20.9 oz/sq ft
Servos:6-DS34 metal gear digital servos
Radio:Minimum 6 Channel (7 for switched lights)
Battery:4200 mAh 5S to 6200 mAh 6S LiPo
Motor:70 size 500Kv motor
Prop:17.5x7 2- blade
Transmitter:Spektrum iX12
Receiver:Spektrum AR8010T
Stabilizer:Potenza Aura 8
Manufacturer:Flex Innovations
Available From:Flex Innovations or through your local hobby shop
Street Price:$559.99

In the late 90's, the Van's RV-6/6A with side-by-side seating was the hottest selling homebuilt design on the market. However, many pilots still preferred the centerline seating of the earlier RV-4 design. They also expressed their desire for a bit more cockpit room and improved cross-country range. In 1995, Van's introduced a one-of-a-kind demonstrator at Oshkosh with all of those features. It was an instant sensation. The display was mobbed with spectators every day and there were pilots standing in line with handfuls of cash wanting to place orders for this new design. The RV-8 officially entered the homebuilt market in 1996 and complete kits were available by the end of 1998. 1999 saw the introduction a tricycle gear version designated the RV-8A.

Fast forward to 2018, and we find Quique Somenzini hard at work on a huge foam model of the RV-8 for Flex Innovations. Thankfully Quique took his time and ironed out all the bugs till he was able to produce a plane that would fly to his exacting standards and still look like a scale version of the Van's RV-8. Flex Innovations was able to bring this design to market in 2019 and RCGroups has secured an RV-8 out of that first shipment for this Review. Let's get the box opened and check out this exciting new RV-8.

First Impressions

My first impression was WOW that's a BIG Foamie! At first I was a little disappointed in the quality of the paint and trim on the plane, but then I realized that this was NEVER intended to be a Master's Level Scale model. It was intended to be a world class FLYING model that also looked like a scale RV-8. Next I realized that the green on the plane wasn't quite as vivid as it appeared in some of the pictures on the Flex Innovations website. I was afraid it was going to be Glow-In-The-Dark GREEN. Instead, it was a very pleasant bright green that looked stunning with the black trim and white EPO foam. The landing gear was impressive - much sturdier than I expected. That huge canopy was crystal clear and the hatch had a positive latch assembly at the front holding it securely in place. The all-white pilot wasn't going to work though, so my wife volunteered to give him a good coat of paint.

Kit Contents

Here's what's in the kit box:

  • Plywood and CF reinforced EPO foam airframe
  • Potenza 70 500Kv brushless outrunner motor
  • ZTW 100A ESC with 5V/10A BEC
  • Potenza Aura 8 Advanced Flight Control System
  • 6-DS34 metal gear digital servos
  • Fuselage with large battery hatch
  • 2-Piece wing with ailerons and flaps hinged and installed
  • 2-Piece horizontal stab with elevators hinged and installed
  • Vertical stab with rudder hinged and installed
  • Carbon Fiber wing and stab tubes
  • Sturdy metal landing gear with plastic wheel pants
  • Scale pilot figure
  • Huge clear canopy
  • Plastic 90mm (3-3/8") Spinner
  • LED navigation and landing lights
  • Internal and external LED lighting w/electronic switch (Night Version)
  • 17.5 x 7 electric SR propeller
  • Complete hardware package
  • 31-Page illustrated Instruction Manual

Required Parts

  • Minimum 6-channel transmitter and receiver (7-channel for switched lights)
  • 5S 4200 mAh to 6S 6200 mAh LiPo Battery
  • 3 Male to Male servo extensions 6" (Non SBUS RXs)

Parts Supplied by Flex Innovations for this Review

For this review, Flex Innovations supplied an RV-8 Night Super PNP at a reduced price to this Author.

Assembly

The 31-page illustrated Instruction Manual details the assembly process for the Flex Innovations RV-8. The Manual is filled with excellent step-by-step instructions and detailed pictures to help guide the builder through the entire assembly process. There were a couple of small areas that I feel needed more details, so I'll point out a couple of helpful hints along the way.

Canopy/Hatch

Before starting the formal assembly, the "Colorless" pilot had be addressed. Luckily the hatch assembly was cleverly designed with a removable insert for mounting the pilot bust. The pilot was designed with a knob on the bottom that tightly fit into a recess in the removable hatch insert. Once the pilot was freed from the canopy, my wife began to colorize his very being. I like the results a whole lot better!

Landing Gear

The formal assembly process began on Page 5 with the landing gear. The self-tapping screws provided with the RV-8 were not exactly Grade 8 hardened steel and could break off if over tightened. Ask me how I know - total operator error. Tightening as tight as they will go and then turning an additional 1/4 turn was not a good idea with these screws. That being said, the provided screws were perfectly fine for the plane.

It was difficult to get the wheel pant retaining plate to tighten up against the landing gear and the whole wheel pant seemed a bit loose. The problem was that the screw would tap into the pant and then into the plate and was not able to pull the two pieces together. The screw opening in the pant needed to be opened up a bit so that the screw could rotate freely and tighten the pant retainer plate securely against the gear leg.

Tail Wheel

Next up was the tail wheel assembly. The tail wheel retaining plate slot was too tight to allow the wheel assemble to slide all the way into the slot. Also, the retaining plate tab was slightly too large to allow the wheel assembly to fully seat against the retainer. All that was needed was a quick touch with a drill in the slot and a sanding disc on the tab corner and the tail wheel assembly slid into place just fine.

Rudder and Elevator

The rudder and elevator were next. The rudder assembly was epoxied in place and the lower rudder hinge screw was checked to be sure it was in place and tight. The elevator halves slid easily into place and were fastened with the provided screws.

Wings

Aileron Servo Warning

The manual contained a warning on Page 19 to remove the aileron servo mounting screws, add blue thread lock to the screw threads, and fully re-tighten the screws. The screws on the Review RV-8 were a bit loose and the holes in the mount seemed a bit large. Rather than switching to a large mounting screw, I followed the recommendation and used blue thread lock on the existing screws. They seem to be holding just fine.

Wing Mounting

The wing tab on one wing would not fully line up with the blind nut in the fuselage. The hole in the tab was slightly elongated, but even though the wing was fully seated and no wires were trapped between the wing and fuselage, the wing retaining screw could not be started. A quick touch with a small grinding bit was all that was needed to provide the proper fit.

Radio Installation

The manual recommended Spektrum SRXL type receivers for use with the installed Aura 8 stabilizer system. The Spektrum AR8010T receiver was chosen for this Review. Since the AR8010T has the required SRXL bus system, only one servo lead was needed to connect the receiver to the Aura 8 stabilizer. The only other lead connected to the receiver was from the ESC - plugged into the throttle port. Coffee Stir Sticks were used as antenna keepers for the RX main antennas and made great antenna protectors for the remotes.

The manual showed a number of alternative receiver wiring diagrams including one for "Standard" receivers. There are reports that some modelers have even been able to use their older non-2.4 radio systems with good results. The Aura 8 was designed with incredible flexibility in mind.

Aura 8 Programming

The installed Aura 8 Advanced Flight Control System came fully programmed for the RV-8. Quique Somenzini established the factory settings for the RV-8 installation and they should be just right. There were Three factory-set Flight Modes - No stabilization, Sport stabilization, and 3D stabilization. The 3D Mode also paired the flaps with the ailerons for increased roll authority.

For those who wish to change the factory settings on the Aura 8, Flex Innovations has some very nice programming video tutorials and a nice WIKI site.

For the purposes of this Review, the Aura 8 was left in the factory programmed settings.

Completion

The completed Flex Innovations RV-8 weighed 10 lbs 14 ounces, with the 6S 5000 mAh battery, RTF ( 12 lbs 5 ounces RTF with the floats)

The plane balanced perfectly at 10-7/8" from the trailing edge of the wing with the batteries installed toward the back of the battery tray.

The transmitter countdown timer was set for 5 minutes and 30 seconds. It was set to start and run at any throttle setting above 20%.

Flying

The Flex Innovations RV-8 is a large foam model a great flying homebuilt. To remain true to its full scale heritage, the model should exhibit stable low speed capabilities as well as exceptional aerobatic maneuverability. It's time to shove the throttle stick forward and see how well this RV-8 flies.

Taking Off and Landing

The Aura 8 was set to FM2 (Sport Mode), the flaps were left up, and the throttle slowly advanced. The rudder was responsive as the tail lifted and the plane tracked well down the runway with just a bit of right rudder to keep it centered. The wheels broke ground at half throttle and the RV-8 climbed out rock steady as the throttle was eased on up. Subsequent takeoffs were just as uneventful with or without flaps. The flaps shortened the takeoff roll somewhat, but did not cause the RV-8 to shoot straight up like on some models. This Flex Innovations RV-8 had great ground handling manners.

Landings for many scale-style planes usually work best with a little power carried into the final approach. The RV-8 was no exception. Just a bit of power kept the approach angle steady all the way to touchdown. Wheel landings were very easy and they looked nice and scale. Rollout was fairly short even on our fabric runway. Mid position flaps helped slow down the approach speed and shortened the rollout distance. Full flaps were very effective. The approach speed was reduced even further and the rollout was much shorter. I don't know if it was Quique's magic touch or just Van's design, but the Flex Innovations RV-8 lands like a dream.

Scale Flight

The RV-8 flew scale patterns just like its full-size namesake. It looked mighty impressive in the pattern and touch-and-goes were a thing of beauty. There's just something special about an RV model in the air. The Aura 8 settings were spot on for scale flight. The model flew very steady while remaining responsive but not twitchy - a real credit to the programming. The recommended elevator compensation values for the Flaps were perfect except the sign was reversed for my iX12 transmitter. Once the value was changed from negative to positive, mid flaps and full flaps would maintain perfectly level flight. Full flap passes, slow and down on the deck, were very impressive. The LED landing and Nav lights added a lot to the scale realism.

Sport Aerobatics

Most full scale homebuilts were not known for their great aerobatic capabilities. Luckily for us, Van designed the full size RV-8 as a true sport aerobatic airplane. Quique put his signature touch on the Flex Innovations RV-8 and created a model with exceptional sport aerobatic capabilities. The Flex Innovations RV-8 was able to easily perform all the typical sport model aerobatic maneuvers. The rudder was very effective. In fact, a slightly lower rate rudder setting in the transmitter may be helpful in the Sport Mode for some pilots. Stall turns were nice and crisp, snaps were quick and tight, and knife edge flight only required a touch of rudder deflection. The elevator was just as effective. Even in Sport Mode, loops were very tight both inside and outside. Spins were nice and tight and recovery was quick and easy. The Potenza 70 motor had plenty of power on 6S and only needed full power for extended verticals or just for showing off fast and low.

3D Aerobatics

Quique Somenzini was involved with the design of this RV-8, of course it's gonna 3D! As mentioned earlier, in 3D Mode the flaps moved in concert with the ailerons. The surface throws for the ailerons and the elevator also increased substantially in this mode. The Potenza 70 motor had plenty of power to easily hover the RV-8. While I'm not much of a 3D pilot, the Aura 8 sure made me look good. For a better measure of the 3D capability of the RV-8, check out this flight video.

Is This For a Beginner?

Aerobatic Scale Style models are not for the absolute beginner. However, the Aura 8 AFCS stabilization system makes this RV-8 an ideal first large scale model for any intermediate flyer. It's a credit to Quique Somenzini's design and programming capabilities that this model is so stable and forgiving.

Flight Photo Gallery

The Texas weather finally cooperated with a bit of sunshine, so we packed up the cameras and headed to the flying field. Early morning sun and light winds made for some very good photography and flying conditions. The flight batteries were installed and Jesse Webb was in position with the Nikon at the ready. Hope you enjoy the results.

Flight Video

Jesse Webb readied the Camcorder as I swapped batteries in the RV-8. He did a great job of capturing the flight, even the parts where I went the wrong way.

Flex Innovations RV-8 (7 min 50 sec)

Final Thoughts

This new Flex Innovations RV-8 is a 3D acrobat in RV clothing. It can fly slow and easy like a well mannered homebuilt, or it can hang on its prop and rotate around its wingtips - all this while letting the pilot feel in complete control the whole time. I like what Quique and Flex Innovations have done with this new RV-8. It's a large EPO foam model shaped like an Iconic Homebuilt that has the heart and soul of a 3D machine. The Potenza 70 motor is plenty stout and the Aura 8 AFCS helps keep the plane tame at all times without limiting the fun.

But Wait - There's More!

I bought the optional float set for the RV-8. I have photos and a video that will be posted in a separate Review very soon. I'll post a link in the comments below when the Float segment of the Review goes live.

But Wait - There's Even More!

Since the Review model is the Night version, I still have to fly it at night. The floats have lights inside as well. Maybe I can get some help at SEFF 2019 to document my night flying. I'll post pictures in the comments as they are available.

Pluses

  • Scale Shape and Outline
  • Aura AFCS Included
  • Electric Power System Included
  • Two-piece Plugin Wings and Horizontal Stabs
  • Huge Flaps and Ailerons
  • Sturdy Landing Gear
  • LED Landing and Nav Lights
  • Internal LED Lights (Night Version)
  • Huge Canopy
  • Generous Hatch
  • Pilot Figure Included
  • Gentle General Flight Characteristics
  • 3D Aerobatic Capabilities

Minuses

  • Minor Part Fitment Issues
  • Errors in the Manual

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Last edited by Jason Cole; 04-17-2019 at 10:31 AM..
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Old 04-17-2019, 09:42 AM
kingsflyer is offline
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You've gotta LUV a RV!

Check out the Review of this RV-8 ON FLOATS!

McD
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Last edited by kingsflyer; 08-05-2019 at 09:07 PM.
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Old 04-25-2019, 06:51 PM
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Did those aileron screws go into plastic?
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Old 04-25-2019, 10:11 PM
kingsflyer is offline
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The servo mounting screws went into wood. The servo arm mounting screw went into the metal output gear of the servo.

McD
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Old 08-05-2019, 06:31 PM
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I've had my eye on this and now you convinced me I need one. I'm a full scale pilot and I built an RV-7 for myself and also another guys RV-7. I have several hundred hours in RVs and did the test flying on a RV-8 and an 8A and checked the owners out in them. The Van's line of airplanes are very nice flying but you can push them and they do great gentleman aerobatics. They slow down good and landings are a breeze. So next stop is the Flex store to order one up. I have a Flex Cessna 170 also and it is a fun airplane.
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Old 08-05-2019, 09:01 PM
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If you like the Flex Cessna 170, you're gonna love the Flex RV-8! Mine still amazes me every time I take it to the field. It is absolutely one of my all time favorite airplanes.

Please post some picture of your plane when you get it flying.

McD
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Old 08-06-2019, 06:44 AM
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And of course they are out of stock.
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Old 08-06-2019, 04:21 PM
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Looks like they may get another shipment in September. I flew 3 batteries through mine this morning and it was wonderful!

McD
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Old 08-06-2019, 06:14 PM
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Rub it in! I ordered and paid for it so I'll get it when they come in. Guess I'll have to go jump in the RV-7 and fly it instead.
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Old 08-06-2019, 07:52 PM
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You win! Actually we both win. In the end we both have that great big RV Grin.

Safe Flying!

McD
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