The Oldest Flying RV-6

A brief conversation with the original builder/owner.


James Baldwin finished his RV-6 in June 1989, completed Phase I in July, and flew the plane to Oshkosh that year.

James Baldwin of Columbus, Ohio, still owns and flies the oldest, flying RV-6, which he completed in spring 1989. KITPLANES spoke with him about his experiences building and flying the plane.

Louise Hose: I understand you built and still fly the second customer-built RV-6. Is that correct?

James Baldwin: Yes, I believe that’s the case.

LH: And Alan Tolle built the first?

JB: We both showed up at Oshkosh in 1989 with our planes, and I think he finished his first. I don’t believe that plane is still flying, however.

LH: What prompted you to take on the RV-6 project?

JB: At that time, my EAA Chapter (443) had over 200 members and there were about four guys building RV-4s. I appreciated the performance that the RV offered and wanted to also build one, but my wife wasn’t going to sit in the back of one of those tight tandems. When the side-by-side -6 model became available, I had my project.

LH: When did you start your project?

JB: Let’s see. The build took two-and-a-half years and I finished it in late June 1989, so I started in 1987.

LH: Did you build pretty much full-time or were there major breaks?

JB: I retired from North American Aviation in January 1987, which allowed me to work steady and full-time once I started building. You know, building an RV in those days was really different than today. We spent 2500 shop-hours in the build. In 2007, my son and I finished building an RV-10 and it only took 1500 shop-hours and 15 months. It’s so much easier and faster now.

LH: How many hours on the plane today?

JB: 1700.

LH: Have you made any major changes to the plane? New engine or prop?

JB: Not really. I still fly behind the original prop and engine. It has a Hartzell constant-speed prop and an O-320, 150-hp engine, so I use auto fuel when it’s available. I still have old steam gauges in it. I keep waiting for my son to upgrade the panel in his RV-10 so I can get some of that glass, but it doesn’t seem to be happening.

Van’s prototype RV-6 used a single inlet below the spinner for both cooling and induction air.

James Baldwin’s early kitbuilt RV-6 has traditional cooling “nostrils” on either side of the spinner, with a scoop on the bottom for induction air.

LH: Where have you been in the RV-6? What trips stand out?

JB: The plane has been to Oshkosh every year. I missed one year, but my son brought it up to Oshkosh in my place. I also used to fly down to Sun ‘n Fun each year. We flew to the West Coast several times, but today we take the RV-10 on the big trips. You know, my son flew the -10 and I flew the -6 together to Oshkosh one year. I had the RV-6 wide open, while he was holding back in the -10. We took the same amount of fuel at each stop! The RV-10 has an angle-valve IO-540 that produces 290 hp at 2575 rpm. I couldn’t believe how efficient he was able to fly that engine.

LH: Have you built other planes?

JB: Mostly rebuilds. I rebuilt a Taylorcraft, C-140, and C-170. I have had the two Cessnas for 30 years. I recently helped a friend build a Thatcher.


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