In 1995, Van’s decided to re-visit the tandem seating concept. Even though the side-by-side RV-6/6A had become the most popular homebuilt design ever, there was still a significant percentage of pilots who really wanted centerline seating. The consensus seemed to be that a roomier tandem airplane with better cross-country capability would be popular.
A one-of-a-kind demonstrator was built and introduced at Oshkosh in 1995. The response left no doubt about the desire for an airplane like the RV-8. The ground around the display aircraft was beaten into a trench and Van’s personnel were fending off people waving handfuls of cash…but not for too long. The RV-8 went on the market in 1996 and complete kits were available by the end of 1998. In short order, it was followed by the kit for the tricycle gear RV-8A.
The RV-8/8A retains the fighter-like feel of centerline seating, but the wider fuselage contains cockpits that accommodate large people in comfort. Two baggage compartments, one forward and one aft, keep even large amounts of luggage well within the weight and balance envelope. Pilots up to 6’7" fit in the front. A Tall Pilot option is available. (It was used by one successful builder who describes himself as 6’ 10", although we think he might be taller). Passengers almost as big find the rear seat fits them, too. Factory demo pilots have flown demo rides with passengers up to 6’9" and 260 lbs in the back.
The large 42 gallon fuel capacity and efficient airframe provide long range and high cruise speeds, so long distances can be covered easily. The speed and the excellent climb rate provide options for dealing with weather and terrain that simply aren’t available to most pilots. Handling, on the ground or in the air, is typical RV: exciting and responsive, but never "twitchy" or unpredictable.
"The almost perfect control balance and harmony and the excellent visibility make aerobatics a delight. At the aerobatic gross weight of 1600 lbs., the RV-8/8A complies with the +6/-3G standards of the FAA’s Aerobatic Category and can still carry two people, making it possible for a new pilot to get aerobatic instruction before he or she starts rolling and looping."
The sliding canopy is built around a sturdy steel roll bar and fixed windshield. It must remain closed in flight, but the standard fresh air ducts provide plenty of fresh air to both seats. The RV-8/8A is designed to be flown from the front seat, although a rear stick is provided and a rear throttle and rudder pedals are optional.
Like all RVs, the RV-8/8A it climbs well, lands slow, and goes fast. Unlike previous designs, the RV-8/8A was designed to accept the 200 horsepower IO-360 Lycoming. The prototype with this engine demonstrated really remarkable performance. With a single occupant, it would take off in 250’ and climb out at 2600 fpm -- performance that had controllers asking "what kind of airplane is that?!" However, the fact that the RV-8 can accept a large engine doesn’t mean that it needs it. The traditional engine options – 150-180 hp Lycomings – have been retained (probably the majority of flying RV-8/8As are powered by a 180 hp engine) and with these lighter engines, performance is still exciting – and the handling even better.
If you like sitting in the middle and enjoy responsive, agile and capable airplanes, then the RV-8/8A should suit you well.