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Q-talk 67 - FIRST FLIGHT

The first flight of Q-2 N131PS took place on the fourth of July 1997. This flight really started with the weather and personal evaluations. The weather was perfect; calm, clear and fairly cool. I set some personal physical and mental limits months before concerning this flight. The pilot (myself) is more prone to error than the little planes we labor over for months and years.

The final inspection with the FAA was two days earlier and after fixing the details that bothered the inspector the plane waited in the hangar. The fourth was a perfect day, visibility of 50 miles or better with a calm wind. A fire-retardant flightsuit was suggested by a friend and helped to ease some of my wife's concerns.

Casper's airport (my home field) offers about 2 miles of runway 100 feet wide. There was almost no traffic at the field and the tower cleared me to 8000 feet to orbit the field. That's about two thousand five hundred feet AGL. N131PS was ready and as I pushed the throttle to the panel I became calm. Somewhere around 60 kts. we were airborne, no surprises, the climbout was at 80 kts. with all of the engine instruments in the green up to 8,000 feet where I leveled off.

I can suggest a Class D airport for the test flight because the tower is very helpful in keeping you informed of other traffic and the thought of safety equipment on the field is reassuring to the pilot and the loved ones that have the really difficult job of watching you fly for the first time. This was a textbook flight, no surprises. Slowing to 58 kts. I found the pitch-buck speed in preparation for landing and then notified the tower of my intent to return to pattern elevation. I flew a rectangular course above the pattern on the way down and practiced the descent and landing twice. This first landing was great and may have been the best I've done in the 50 or so landings done since. Total flight time was about 40 minutes.

I wanted to fly as soon as I was back on the ground but followed my plan, putting the plane away for the day and doing a complete cowl off inspection the following day. The second flight was much the same as the first.

The third flight was by far more educational. I looked at the fuel filter and it appeared to be clean. This was the first flight away from the field, 15 miles to the practice area. I planned a group of climbs and descents. After the first 1000-foot descent, I pushed the throttle to the panel, causing the engine to run rough and lose power. When I pulled the throttle back to about 50% the Revmaster, Posa combo ran smooth again.

A quick call to the tower notified them of the rough running engine as the sweat collected on a puzzled forehead. Without delay the plane was pointed homeward. 2500 ft. is not enough breathing room when the engine is acting up. To the point, I was able to hold my elevation back to the field and the big yellow truck standing by is another plus for a tower controlled airport for test flights.

When I checked the plane I found a dirty fuel filter. How many times have I read that in the QBA? So, here it is again, please don't look at the filter before each flight, change it before each flight until you find it clean for several hours of flight. This was about 20 hrs. of flight time and about 35 hrs. of running time for N131PS and I was positive that tank was clean before putting fuel in it the first time. Pilot error, builder error almost bit me. The white powder that plugged the filter was not visible until I removed the filter!

Thanks to all of you that wrote in with tips, ideas and thoughts. You made it possible for all of us that followed to build better, safer and quicker. Thanks to all of you at the fly-ins and on the phone that answered my thousands of questions. Special thanks to my wife, Mary, for putting up with me while I built and tested 1PS.

Paul Spackman, Casper, WY



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