Hank's RV8 Adventure

Hank's RV8 Adventure Around the World as told by Member Geoff Carr

For the last couple of months I have been hosting Hank Cheng ( a B777 captain with Cathay Pacific ) from Hong Kong and his RV-8 at Kilcoy to facilitate the test flying and preparation for an around the world flight. Hank bought the RV-8 kit about eight years ago with the aim of being the first indigenous Chinese homebuilt aircraft to circumnavigate the world. His first problem, where to build it, was solved when a private girls school agreed to host the build. Engineers from HAECO the large aircraft maintenance facility at CLK airport in Hong Kong volunteered their time to come and teach the girls to read plans, rivet, and assemble an aircraft. The girls were so keen they would often come in on weekends to help, since that time a lot of those girls have gone on to careers in aviation.

When the assembly of the slow build kit was at about the Quickbuild stage the project was moved to the mezzanine level above a workshop in the large HAECO hangars at CLK International airport, at which stage I joined the project. Over the next eighteen months whenever Hank and myself were off at the same time we would work on the project. There is a lot to be said about having metal working, composite, spray painting, and woodwork shops literally right under your feet. If a problem arose, a quick call to Bill the floor manager, and a couple of engineers would appear, the problem would be discussed, they would disappear, return a few minutes later with the appropriate equipment, and the problem would be solved. The project caused quite a stir at HAECO, whenever VIP visits were at HAECO, the visitors were shown the project, it was quite amazing how people who spend their lives dealing with large aircraft, can get so excited at this small project.

One of the serious downsides to the project was the unfortunate death of Micheal Tan. Micheal was a B777 first officer, and an electronics whizz kid, he had just about completed the wiring of the aircraft, we said "good night' to him one evening, and found out the next morning that he had been killed in a drifting accident the evening before. Hank was pretty shattered as he and Micheal were very close friends.

After I retired and returned to Australia, I returned to Hong Kong for a couple of two week stints to get the aircraft ready for it's first flight. It was amazing that we were given strict instructions that we were not to go above idle power for our leak check ground run, whilst at the same time the B777-300ER beside us was also running both engines at idle power ( twin 115,000lb thrust engines). Anyway as a B747 added takeoff thrust on the runway behind us we managed to sneak max power to check all systems were go.

If you think CASA are abysmal Hong Kong CAD are worse. They did everything they could to try and stop this project, but Hank is not the type to accept no for an answer. after a greater saga then War and Peace, he received approval for one only flight from CLK, this he managed to stretch to two, for PR purposes. Those flights cost as much as a couple of B777 landings at CLK. But then refused any more flights. After a couple of months of fruitless negotiations, I suggested that Hank bring the aircraft to Kilcoy for the test flying. Cathay agreed to bring the aircraft to Oz in one of it's B747 freighters.

Over the next ten and a half weeks we reassembled the aircraft, I converted the wingtips into 38 litre fuel tanks, got Vans to give us approval to test to 2,000lbs max load with appropriate restrictions, had it placed on an Oz registration VH-FSX, and prepared it for test flying. Peter Lewis for the SAAA did the final inspection and sign off. We managed to fly off the 40 hours in a couple of weeks. After the Phase two approval was given Hank flew the aircraft to Adelaide and back to visit Jon Johansen, it was also a good check out of the 66 US gallon Aussie made bladder tank sitting in the back seat. A couple of days later he departed Kilcoy for Hong Kong via Broome, Bali, Kota Kinabalu, Clark AFB in the Phillipines, and onto Hong Kong to much fanfare and change of registration back to B-KOO. A couple of weeks later he backtracked to Kilcoy for a 100 hourly, departing the Gold Coast for his flight to the States on the 8th of August. He is currently in Hilo Hawaii, and plans to depart at midnight tonight Hawaii time for San Francisco you can follow his progress on

Hanks RV-8 has a Titan IO-360, dual Lightspeed ignition, Catto three blade fixed pitch prop (fabulous prop), Dual Dynon Touch screens, dual VHF, ADS B in and out, HF, GTN 650 navigator, Dynon autopilot. The sad thing is that after he completes his circumnavigation, Hank will either have to sell the aircraft, or donate it to a museum, as there is very little chance that he will be able to fly it out of Hong Kong again. CLK airport authority has expressed an interest in hanging it from the roof in Terminal Two, in the same way they have a Farnham biplane hanging from the roof in Terminal One.

In a few weeks time, I will be meeting Hank at Caldwell NJ just outside of New york to carry out another 100 hourly, before he heads off across the North Atlantic for England. At one stage I suggested he name the aircraft Hankenstein due to the monster of a project it had become. So next time you are suffering builder fatigue, give a thought to Hank, and the massive hurdles he has had to overcome to bring this project to fruition. I wish him well for the rest of the trip.

Geoff Carr