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2020 Sweepstakes: Back to Canada2020 Sweepstakes: Back to Canada

The Sweepstakes RV–10 recrosses the northern border

The AOPA Sweepstakes RV–10 flew back to Canada for the first time since becoming an American, and the prominent, red Maple Leaf sticker on its left side ensured it got a warm welcome.
Pilot Briefing February 2020

AOPA Social Media Marketer Kevin Cortes and I hopped in the Van’s RV–10 at its home in Frederick, Maryland, and flew nonstop to Windsor, Ontario, to meet Steve Thorne, creator of the FlightChops YouTube channel.

The 310-nautical-mile flight was the first time Cortes had been in an RV–10, and he flew the entire trip (which was made longer by a direct 30-knot headwind at 8,000 feet) from the left seat. Cortes deftly followed the magenta course line on the Advanced Flight Systems digital displays as it took us over Lake Erie and into Windsor.

I filed an IFR flight plan because of dreary weather along the route, and the border crossing itself was barely noticeable. Detroit Approach handed us over to Windsor Tower (CYQG) and Cortes guided us through the RNAV approach to Runway 7.

We met Thorne that evening and took him flying in the RV–10 the next day. Thorne is building an RV–14 at Windsor, and he was extremely interested in the avionics. As a longtime FlightChops viewer, I was curious to see how Thorne and his team did their video magic and, hopefully, pick up a few tips along the way.

In person, Thorne is much the same as he appears in his program: thoughtful, curious about all aspects of aviation, humble, and hardworking.

When it was time to plan our video flight in the RV–10, he and his crew attached several GoPro cameras to the inside of the cockpit using suction-cup mounts and to the exterior using a hard mount. I suggested we climb above 3,000 feet to find smooth air and get the best possible images, but Thorne disagreed.

“I care about authenticity,” he said. “Not pretty pictures.”

Thorne flew from the left seat with a videographer in the back, and we took off, engaged the autopilot, and climbed to altitude. It was a sunny, cool, breezy day but the RV–10 seemed not to mind the bumps.

Thorne asked lots of detailed avionics questions, and he kept comparing aspects of the RV–10’s Advanced Flight Systems/Avidyne suite to the latest Garmin equipment. It’s human nature to learn by comparing and contrasting, but I found it bewildering to discuss two different avionics systems at the same time.

When I learn a new avionics box—especially a powerful piece of equipment like the Avidyne IFD 550—the only way I can do it is by focusing on it exclusively. I read the manual, go through the tutorials, apply the logic, and repeat.

Each avionics system is its own language. To become fluent, you’ve got to teach yourself to think in that language. Otherwise, you’re stuck trying to translate every word in your head, and that’s time consuming, complicated, and error prone.

I had become fluent with the RV–10 panel and could easily load, execute, and fly flight plans and approaches manually or by engaging and programming the autopilot. But I’m afraid I was a poor representative for Advanced and Avidyne during our 45-minute video flight.

Thorne asked me to show the georeferenced procedure for the RNAV approach to Runway 7 on the 14-inch multifunction display. That seemed reasonable, but it was only after pecking away trying to make it happen that I realized I didn’t have a subscription for Canadian approaches. (I had them on an iPad.)

We left the MFD on moving map which, frankly, I prefer because it displays in track up rather than the despicable north up.

Thorne is a one-take guy, so there would be no do-overs. He wasn’t trying to make a highly polished marketing video. He wanted to show what actually happened, so I’m sure that’s what the segment will be about when it comes out.

We planned a formation photo flight later that evening, but it was scrubbed when an O-ring failed in the RV–10’s right brake. I was disappointed the form flight didn’t happen, but Thorne seemed nonplussed.

“Things are more interesting when they don’t go as planned,” he said. “It makes for better video.”

Well, if that’s the case, expect lots of fascinating material, because hardly anything in my aviation life ever goes as planned.

P.S. A big thanks to Andre Tineghe of the Canadian Historical Aircraft Association for scrounging a replacement O-ring and hydraulic fluid and working late into a Saturday night to get us home in the RV–10 the next day.

Web: aopa.org/sweeps2020

Email [email protected]

Dave Hirschman

Dave Hirschman

AOPA Pilot Editor at Large
AOPA Pilot Editor at Large Dave Hirschman joined AOPA in 2008. He has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates. Dave flies vintage, historical, and Experimental airplanes and specializes in tailwheel and aerobatic instruction.

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