QuickTalk 15 - FOR BETTER & FOR WORSE - 3+ YEARS OF FLYING A QUICKIE
- Category: Q-Talk Articles
- Published: Monday, 30 April 1984 07:11
- Written by W. N. Hubin
- Hits: 1342
On March 27, 1981, we hauled N142WT to Portage County Airport in northeast Ohio. It sports a nice 3500 ft. x 75 ft. hard surface runway with good approaches. We fine-tuned the engine and began the static running and taxi testing recommended by QAC. The vibration level was reasonable at idle but went through a very bad range before smoothing out considerably toward the top end.
The steering, braking, and side-stick controller all required many hours of use before we wanted to fly. We gradually increased our taxi speeds down the runway and discovered the true significance of the beast's name: it can be very quick on the runway. With the "large" tire option came the discount-house, lawnmower tail wheel with a hard, flat outer profile and 10 mile-per-hour certified operating speed. Since the pivoting axis for the tail wheel isn't vertical, the wheel banks more and more as it is turned away from center and thus the response is very non-linear. The hard rubber, the bad profile shape, the bad geometry, the direct coupling of the rudder to the wheel, the small amount of weight on the wheel (especially near lift-off and immediately after landing), and the smallness of the aircraft all combine to produce directional stability and control that is different and substantially poorer than other common tail wheel aircraft.
Still, we were able to keep it down the center line most of the time (with negligible winds), and we were taking the machine close to life-off speed before chopping power--which causes the most severe directional control problems in most tail wheel aircraft. When our friendly FAA representative arrived on May 6,1981, to bless the aircraft, we felt that we were really ready for first flight. He wanted cotter pins rather than self-locking nuts on all hardware subject to rotation and so he wanted cotter pins for the rudder cables at the point of attachment to the bellcrank. He also didn't like the idea of having a plastic oil pressure line because of its greater susceptibility to heat rupture compared to copper. We argued that the epoxy would be yielding well before that temperature was reached in the engine compartment. Anyway, he gave us his written blessing and I had to hurry off to work.
After work, it was blowing rather well but there was reason to hope that it would die down in the last hour or two of daylight. Standing around were a group of local pilots and builders who were interested in observing the efficacy of the morning's blessing. With only an hour of daylight left, Terry indicated that he still thought it was too windy for a first flight. (With more flight experience--3100 vs. 150 hours--and more current time, I was the logical one to make the first flight but I wasn't about to try it if my partner thought the environment was insufficiently benign.) I had to at least taxi the thing, so I went up and down the runway a few times and then returned and shut it down. Terry came trotting up and said; "I thought you were going to try it on that last one." I replied, "But you said that it was too windy!" "Well, it does seem to be pretty calm out there now." "OK, how about giving me another start?" Oh, oh--the moment of truth is now.
This time I leave the power on full even as the airspeed reaches 45 mph IAS, yet there is no hint of readiness for flight, no impression of getting light on the wheels. The speed builds much more slowly now and finally reaches 50 mph indicated. I start talking to myself. "This machine is not going to fly because it is overweight, because 18 little horses are not enough, and because we built it. I am now 40% down the runway and it is clearly time to pull back the power and do some more thinking..." Aargh! Just then the critter abruptly levitated to 8 feet or so above the runway and now a new set of problems took center stage. Like, how does one fly this beast? Using the recommended speed, it was slowly wending its way skyward but the vibration was far worse than anything I had experienced before. Much of the vibration was visual rather than visceral, though; the instrument panel was vibrating so badly that the non-sensitive altimeter was oscillating about a plus-or-minus 800 feet. The tachometer and cylinder head gauges were also enthusiastically sharing in the dance. I transitioned the long climbout into an extended pattern and soon found myself on final approach. The machine felt solid enough--and the vibration had mostly ceased with the reduction in power--but I had not had time to get much feel for the control response. Anyway, even with considerable experience in other little aircraft, I held it off a foot or two above the runway and dropped it in, the canard giving up its lift rather abruptly. (It is unbelievably hard to convince one's butt to get that rubbing-close to the runway when executing the small rotation required for landing in ground effect.) But the little critter just spread its front legs a little and then rolled straight down the runway. Success!
We weren't about to make another flight until the vibration level was reduced. A call to QAC brought some suggestions from Tom Jewett: check generator rotor balance, try different lengths on the rubber mounts, and try different types of weatherstrip to reduce canopy vibration. We sent the rotor to QAC and their re-balancing did make a big improvement. Making the panel mount more rigid helped reduce the amplitude of the instrument vibrations. Playing with the rubber mounts just seemed to alter the relative locations of the bad vibration band, but some foam combinations did seem better than other for reducing canopy vibration. We finally arrived at a livable vibration level, although the instrument panel was still buzzing considerably because of the aerodynamic buffeting of the canopy to which it was attached.
In the following two weeks, I put about 5-1/2 hours on the machine and was starting to feel comfortable in it. After 7-1/2 hours, I made a takeoff with just a few drops of water remaining on the canard. Wow! Liftoff was late, it wanted to return to the ground once, and the elevators felt much heavier.
We tried using the standard, small-tire tail wheel because the lawnmower tail wheel was so poor, but the 2" smaller diameter wheel produced a higher angle of attack in the 3-point attitude and resulted in multiple takeoffs as well as an extremely scary total loss of tail wheel steering before takeoff and immediately after landing. We quickly went back to the 6" wagon wheel. In fact, we got a six pack from the local discount house because the first one nearly threw off its rubber shortly after we started flight testing.
After 8 hours the left exhaust pipe broke off. It looked like a bad weld and QAC very quickly replaced both of them at no charge. After about 14 hours we got special permission to fly into Akron Muni Airport for the local airshow. Terry drove down and nearly had a heart attack when he couldn't locate the machine on the field. Reason: it was covered up with people.
The next morning was nice and I headed east and north to build up some more time toward the 40 hours needed in the local area. I was enjoying the scenery at about 1000' AGL and noting that a grass strip should be just ahead when the Onan suddenly started to sputter and surge something awful. It would idle but it wouldn't take the power without surging badly. I recalled from my student days that under these circumstances one was to locate a field into the wind that was near a farm where a pretty farmer's daughter lived (as in "Test Pilot" with Clark Gable). There was a long length of open field across a highway to the west and I chose that. I came in high (over high wires) slipping for all the little imitation rudder was worth. I saw then that I had indeed chosen an airport (the sock had blown away a few days earlier) but that I was going to float down to a part that looked more like a road than a runway (it was). The little canard twisted and turned and rolled and squirmed and bumped as it encountered rough ground, little bushes, and soft sandy spots--but it brought me to a safe stop. I shut it off, grabbed the tail, and started the long trek to the beginning of the strip. Borrowing a screwdriver to open the cowl, I could discern no obvious problem; in fact, the engine started and idled--but then quit when the throttle was advanced. Terry figured out what had happened. We had used asbestos as a spacer for the carb heat muff and some of that had been drawn into the carburetor (even when no carb heat was being used the valve allows both sources of air to feed the engine--a poor design feature). By now it was hot, windy, and gusty--out of the south. This, combined with the rough field, made for a long and difficult takeoff; Terry has ever since had great faith in the strength of our canard as he watched it suffer on the takeoff roll. The thermals after takeoff were bad and I dipped low after starting to climb out (a second heart attack for Terry), but the bumpy ride back ended in a decent landing after only one go-around. Later, a flush-riveted metal spacer successfully replaced the asbestos.
A week later I was Tomahawked at a local airport when the Piper turned out onto the runway as I was on a very short final. The Quickie is about as invisible a plane as you can fly, especially on hazy days.
Flight time was building rapidly as most of the bugs were out of the machine; some flights used up three-hour chunks of time, proving the comfortable nature of the reclining position. Terry added some time on the machine after some refresher practice in a Cessna 150 and a Piper Cub. Even though he handled those aircraft very well, the Quickie always wanted to play tag across the runway with him after landing.
After 30 hours I thought it was about time to try a regular grass strip and I chose a 3300 foot runway that was within our flight test area. I discovered too late that the grass was long and water that wasn't visible from the air was on top of the ground in some places because it had been a late spring. No problem, I had thought of everything; just go over to the other, hard-surface runway. Oops--it is narrower than the Quickie's gear and a little trial made it clear that it wasn't going to work at all. Back to the sod. Two tries there produced near success but close doesn't count in this game. So I had to wait for my friend, the manager, to mow a few widths down the driest part. I was able to stagger off and return, muddied, to our home field. (Real Onan-powered Quickie pilots don't brag about short/soft/wet grass performance, thank you.)
After two months, we had our 40 hours of test flying completed and we decided to get the 22.5 hp option from QAC and apply a trim coat of paint in preparation for a rendezvous with Oshkosh. To celebrate the end of our test flying, I did a couple of barrel rolls, which I had previously found are done quite nicely from maneuvering speed. (As an aerobatic instructor, I knew I could do the maneuvers within low load factors; I certainly don't recommend any such activity without a similarly good aerobatic background.) The first roll was fine but I didn't have enough sense to stop with only one. The second one was in fact poorly executed and the engine not only coughed but the prop came to a half shortly before level flight was regained (large prop aircraft don't have this problem). "Oh, you stupid #@$*@#**! Now you've done it, and you can't blame the airplane for making itself into a glider this time!" (I was back to talking to myself.) Options available were to dive to try for a restart or to glide back to the airport. I elected the latter and managed a truly quiet approach and landing, hoping that no one had observed my foolishness (no such luck).
In a short twenty days, QAC had returned our Onan heads and carburetor after adding some 4.50 (?) little horses. The engine was therefore bolted back in place with new head gaskets (there had been evidence of blow-by on the old ones), and the plane was repainted with white and a French curve of blue trim along the side. It flew nicely and definitely stronger than before the hop-up. We indicated 105 mph at 3400 RPM and apparently 120 mph at 3700 RPM (but I now doubt the accuracy of both instruments). It was time to prepare for the Quickie's first real cross-country flight--to Oshkosh, some 500 miles away.
The 5.2 hours of flight time to Oshkosh were a real pleasure as clear to partly cloudy conditions prevailed; three stops were made at pre-arranged airports so Terry could confirm the progress. Once at Oshkosh, I added over two hours of flight time in the fly-by pattern. It is neat to see Oshkosh from that perspective but the traffic is not recommended for the inexperienced or the faint of heart! There was plenty of thermal activity above the runway on these flights. I tried to hold it off just above the runway on landing but a thermal always seemed to get me just before touchdown and take it just out of ground effect, causing the canard to stall and plopping the machine disgracefully down on the runway. I hoped no one was going to ask me where I had learned to fly--but I felt better when a sharp-eyed Quickie builder asked me if it was at all possible to make a smooth single-bump landing in the machine; apparently all the (three) Quickies were having the same problem!
The 5.2 hours back to Ohio were much harder on the heart. I ran into rain showers in Indiana and western Ohio and had to do a lot of detouring; it took a sacrifice of perhaps 10 mph, amazingly heavy backpressure on the stick, and close to one-half of the available elevator travel to maintain level flight in the rain. No one in his right mind should want to try a landing under these conditions! (Garry LeGare knew about this a long time before QAC admitted the problem; see his article in April 1983 issue of Homebuilt Aircraft.)
The only maintenance item on the 12.5-hour trip was the failure of many of the tabs holding the cowling to the baffling and some holding the cowling to the fuselage. Terry finally substituted stainless for one of the aluminum tabs, and supporting the regulator from below (it had been mounted on the right, lower horizontal baffle for maximum cooling) has solved that problem.
(This article answers the question that Merv Brookman asked for many of you out there-"...all I read about is how the Onan isn't adequate. Isn't there at least one Quickie that flies well with the 22 HP Onan?" Yup. Part 2 of this in next issue.)
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