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Sweepstakes: ‘Wish I could win it’Sweepstakes: ‘Wish I could win it’

AOPA President Mark Baker flies your Sweeps RV–10

The boss’s first flight in the AOPA 2020 Sweepstakes RV–10 took place on a picture-perfect morning with a clear sky, calm wind, and smooth air.
Pilot Briefing October 2020
Photography by Chris Rose

“I’ve been reading a lot about this airplane,” AOPA President Mark Baker said of the red, black, and gold four-seater. “It looks even better in person than it does in pictures—and it looks great in pictures.”

Baker is a highly experienced pilot who has flown aircraft from floatplanes to warbirds to corporate jets, but this was his first flight ever in a Van’s Aircraft RV–10. And the RV–10 is the first experimental/amateur-built aircraft that AOPA has offered as the top prize in its sweepstakes. (The award will take place a few weeks after the November 16 closing of the sweepstakes.)

Baker showed up fully caffeinated, boisterous, and full of questions as he hopped into the left seat and pulled the gull-wing door closed.

“Tell me about this Advanced [Avionics Systems] flight deck,” he said. “Do you find it intuitive to operate?”

Baker owns and flies a Cessna 185 Skywagon so the similarities and differences between it the Sweeps RV–10 jumped out to him.

“The visibility in this thing is awesome,” he said while taxiing to Runway 23 at Frederick Municipal Airport for takeoff. “No S-turns required.”

Baker, who has more flight time in a Piper PA–18 Super Cub than anything else, said the RV–10’s left-hand stick felt odd. (“I keep wanting to grab it with my right hand!”) The placement of the throttle quadrant on the center console was foreign, too. (“It’s different, but I’m adjusting.”)

There were several airplanes in the traffic pattern, and we had to wait for a break in the conga line. Instead of being perturbed by the delay, however, Baker was pleased by it.

“It’s good to see an airport that’s busy,” he said. “Everywhere I go lately is busy, and that’s good.”

The Sweeps RV–10 takeoff roll was characteristically short (about 900 feet), and the airplane’s energetic climb got Baker questioning whether anything special had been done to boost its Lycoming IO-540 engine.

“It feels like more [than 260 horsepower],” he said. “It really climbs well.”

Baker is relaxed and happy in the air. He laughs a lot, and his jokes are mostly self-effacing. (Although I can say with authority that co-pilot blunders amuse him to no end.)

“Hey, look, the [inclinometer] ball’s in the middle,” he said during our climb to 4,500 feet. “Try not to act too surprised.”

Baker engaged the autopilot, then clicked it off two minutes later to hand fly. Steep turns, a lazy eight, slow flight, and a stall series ensued in rapid succession.

“This airplane’s just fun to fly, and that’s what I care most about,” he said of the Sweeps RV–10. “Now, should we try to do some landings?”

Baker performed two touch and goes and a short-field landing to a full stop. Each one was on speed and centerline, and showed off the Sweeps RV–10’s cooperative, obedient nature.

“The position of this throttle quadrant is growing on me,” Baker said. “My first flight’s not even over and I already like it.”

Afterward, your association president was full of compliments for Sweeps RV–10 and the thoughtful and meticulous aviation professionals who restored it.

“It’s responsive and handles beautifully in flight,” he said. “The avionics, interior, and paint are absolutely incredible. Makes me wish I could win it.”

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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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