QuickTalk 16 - FOR BETTER & FOR WORSE - 3+ YEARS OF FLYING A QUICKIE
- Category: Q-Talk Articles
- Published: Saturday, 30 June 1984 07:11
- Written by W. N. Hubin
- Hits: 2045
(continued from Issue #15)
Three weeks later while enroute to the Marion, Ohio (MERFI) fly-in, I was more than slightly bemused to find the altimeter suddenly claiming a marvelously rapid climb to about ten thousand feet--immediately followed by dive into the ground. Yes, indeed, we had trashed another altimeter; it and the tach just can't take a "little" vibration. An autopsy by the local instrument shop revealed that a massive internal rupture was the immediate cause of death. Somewhat later we decided to mount the instrument panel to the fuselage; that has not substantially changed entrance/exit ease but it has pretty much solved the instrument-trashing tendencies. Even now, though, holding the cylinder temperature gauge firmly with the hand can easily change the reading by 50?F.
One overcast October afternoon, I caught a few drops before takeoff and discovered a takeoff speed about ten miles per hour faster than usual and a stick-fixed pitch oscillation during a 70 mph climbout.
I did some winter flying that first year and found that (with a heated hangar) starting presented no particular problem and body heat was quite adequate for even extended flight in temperatures down to 30? F or so, especially with the sun out. Starting the Onan does seem sensitive to fuel mixture, though; once we found that adjusting the mixture at the lowest idle speed gave us a lean spot just off which made the Onan hard starting.
In June of '82 I made a two-day visit with a colleague at the University of Cincinnati, about 250 air miles away. I chose nearby Harrison airport, with a 3050' x 50' asphalt runway. When departure time arrived the next morning, it was late enough that I knew thermals would be present and I asked some local pilots about the best direction to turn after takeoff to avoid the rising terrain and trees some distance past the end of the runway. My friend later told me that this convinced them that they had a real green pilot on their hands; a more knowledgeable group would have realized the opposite--a surviving Quickie pilot trying to get old.
About a year of flying had gone by and a very nice day was forecast as I made an early morning takeoff enroute to an old car/experimental plane fly-in at Port Clinton, Ohio, on Lake Erie about an hour away. During the day an unexpected local low-pressure area developed and the winds began to pick up considerably. Late in the day, the winds had subsided considerably, but were still brisk. After taxiing out, the Onan suddenly decided it was idling too slowly and quit! Fortunately, I had just rigged up some little wooden chocks that were attached to a stout nylon rope, which I could pull away, and stow just before jumping into the cockpit, and these allowed me to make a re-start on the run-up pad. There was a 45? crosswind on takeoff and the machine irresistibly drifted sideways a bit as it neared takeoff speed but there was no real problem. I did expect possible problems in landing but after an hour's return flight I found the windsock at our home airport almost calm and indicating down the runway. Lucked out again! I landed and was rolling straight when the machine made an incredibly rapid swerve to the left and headed for the weeds! The pipsqueak rudder was helpless and the poor machine made its first (and last?) off-runway excursion. Damage was minimal--but most of us don't get to laugh off these things like Mojave airport flyers can afford to do. Many hundreds of hours in tail wheel aircraft, including a lot of instructing in such machines as the Cub, Champ, Stearman, Christen Eagle, Stampe, and Pitts--and a little plastic airplane takes me down for the count for the first time! Later it was apparent that the weather was still unstable and occasionally a very sharp-edged, 90? gust would hit the runway; such a gust lifted and swung the tail of the plane a fraction of a second. Light, little machines that land at 52+ mph, have an ineffective rudder (as evidenced by mediocre slipping capability), no differential braking, questionable tail wheel geometry, and minimal weight on the tail wheel are the wrong place to be when the air is unstable, I now believe.
On a gray but so far dry July afternoon, I decided to apply the Quickie remedy to ennui. I caught big, heavy raindrops at 150 feet or so above the ground and suddenly felt like I was fighting for my life. It wasn't at all clear for many anxious seconds the direction the altimeter was going to go, but I managed to turn out and away from the shower, dry off my wings on a very low downwind, and touch down just seconds before the canard got wet again. Later in the day I found and entered an isolated rain shower and discovered that the minimum speed in the rain was up from 52 mph IAS to about 65 IAS! (I had made only one landing with water on the canard--but that was a bounder. It is impossibly unpleasant to be unable to flare a plane for a normal landing; combine a wet canard with a good crosswind and I promise you'll have something to write home about.)
We've tried a careful comparison of 20W50 Castrol with super Amsoil 20W50 Racing Oil. We carefully determined idle speed, cylinder head temperatures, oil temperatures, and cruise power setting and speeds, and then quickly changed the oil and returned for identical in-air checks. The conclusion: we found no discernible difference in the two oils. So much for wonder oils solving the Onan ills.
It had become clear that the Quickie balances very delicately between the lift generated on its canard and the lift generated on its rear wing. Even though we were able to land three-point from the beginning (with a cg in the rear one-third), we tried an upward reflexing of 1/8" on the ailerons. The effect of this little adjustment was amazing! Steering near lift-off and after landing seemed to be much more positive--indicating significantly more weight on the tail wheel. Stick-free stability was considerably reduced, however, and a power-on canard stall provoked some new rolling tendencies, which I interpret as tip stalling on the rear wing. Considering the difficulty in building the wing and the canard with precise relative angles of attack and the sensitivity of the canard to roughness, I think it is amazing that as many underpowered Quickies have successfully made it into the air as has been reported! We may have lucked out a bit on our craft.
In March of this year I found that I couldn't match the sharp turn made by a snow plow while turning from one taxiway to another. With the main gear way out on the canard tips, even a small extra resistance on one wheel creates a turning moment greater than the tail wheel can overcome, so I had to jump out and lift the machine around the bend. Both the Quickie and the Q2 are simply not suited for many airports, especially for many narrow taxiways, because of their wide gear and the lack of differential braking.
In April I flew to a very familiar airport: Kent State University's Paton Field. Even though the winds were light, there was some real roll turbulence over trees that threw the aircraft around during the flare in a heart-stopping fashion--and I made a truly inspired go-around for a second try.
In June it was time to make another appearance at the Akron airport air show. I called the tower and told them I'd be there in 40 minutes and they told me where to go to circle and wait for their green light. I was there right on time and circled for some fifteen minutes before giving up. Such eagle-eyed guardians of the sky! Quickie captains are well advised to do their own high-quality collision-avoidance surveillance/maneuvering.
We experimented with plugging up the carb heat connection and found that it was costing us about 50 rpm. Even though we have never had evidence for carburetor ice, the fact that the heat is always on to some extent may mean that it is not wise to remove it. Also, there has been considerable discussion regarding the voltage regulator allowing a high charging rate, which could cause premature battery failure and engine stoppage. We bought our battery, added the electrolyte ourselves, and used a current-regulated power supply to give it the initial charge; it gave us 3 full years of use. However, it normally doesn't get very badly discharged because we usually don't have long taxi distances and have never run a radio from it.
For Oshkosh '83, careful weather watching suggested another early flight to get as close to Oshkosh as possible so that a weather front wouldn't trap me in Ohio until the middle of the next week. The flight westward was pretty nice until I got close to OSH; then the ceiling came down dramatically. I landed at Dodge County airport (SSW of OSH) to refuel and check OSH weather. They were reporting weather that was below my no-radio-letter-of-waiver ceiling, so I decided to hop on to Fond du Lac and give OSH tower a call from there. On short final at Fond du Lac, I suddenly ran into large drops and gusty winds from a local shower and these made me question for long agonizing seconds whether the go-around was going to be successful. (We had just switched to QAC's large climb prop which isn't and wasn't, and that didn't help.) I finally scurried back to Dodge Co. and Chevetted thankfully on the ground to OSH, returning the next day to finish the trip. The Dodge Co. folks were mighty nice; they even found a place in their hangar for my frightened little plastic airplane. While at OSH I managed to corner Gene long enough to talk him into looking at our canard; he kindly did so, perhaps noting the terror still in my eyes, and came back saying that it looked good but that some parallel-with-the-chord sanding might improve the rain characteristics. We haven't yet had a chance to do that or to try his other suggestion--another 1/8" reflexing of the ailerons, but I'm not very optimistic. I think the real answer is a different airfoil, as the Q2 has gotten.
After about 170 Quickie hours, including landings at some 40 airports in 6 states, here are some observations which are strictly applicable only to our machine:
1. On a nice morning or evening with negligible wind, no thermals, and only scattered clouds, there is nothing as much fun as flying our Quickie. It is very comfortable in seating, it is wonderfully responsive in the air, it has truly wonderful visibility, and its gas and oil appetite are very affordable. This explains the withdrawal symptoms I experience if I don't fly the machine at least once every couple of weeks. Our Quickie has given me some of the most pleasurable flying of my life.
2. If the machine is used for almost any sort of cross-country, one will eventually run into rain and winds that tax the capability of the machine. It can be dangerous then, and flying it can be hazardous to one's health; such conditions have given me the worst moments of some twenty years of flying.
3. The machine really deserves a better powerplant. We were helped by considerable prior experience with engines and probably had some good luck in getting a relatively smooth example of the marque, and so the Onan has served us reasonably well (except for the head gasket problem) for 3+ years. But eventually the low power output will relegate all surviving examples to museum status unless a change is made. Unfortunately it is not at all easy to get efficiency from the necessarily small prop on such a low-down machine; also, one of the machine's greatest virtues--its low initial cost--will be mostly lost. But the machine is so much fun to fly under the right circumstances that we re going to change our engine as soon as it is reasonably clear that a good alternative has arrived.
4. Overall, owning a Quickie is not that much cheaper than owning a two-place aircraft because of the fixed costs (especially hangar charges) which overwhelm the operating costs. We have the fuselage cut and found it useful for building in a small garage, for initial transportation to the airport, and for inspections, but we don't feel it is practical to haul the machine to the airport for each flight. We have also maintained liability insurance on our Quickie; currently we are with Avemco at $165 per year. (Certainly this figure would be much higher for a two-seater with passenger carrying...but it may be worth it. For example, my friend's Emeraude that had been some 18 years in the building crashed not long ago and now the builder's widow has good reason to fear that her meager savings will be used to fill the deep pockets of lawyers.
5. The Quickie is not a good machine to loan out to friends. It handles so differently on the ground compared to other aircraft and is so susceptible to winds and to high flares that chances for complete success are not good. There is too little for the owner to gain and far too much to lose. So far, only Terry and I have flown our Quickie, although he has not flown it enough to feel comfortable landing it. The better (and heavier) tail wheel and the aileron reflexing have significantly improved its ground handling since he last flew it. I am reminded of the reply twenty years ago of a Mong Sport owner/builder to indelicate requests for the use of his machine. He would say, "Sure, go ahead. Just put the cash for what it is worth in my hands before you leave, in case you end up buying it."
6. Hand propping is a tasty enticement for Murphy's Law. Our little portable wood block-with-rope setup has saved the day on many occasions, but with interested pilot-types at airports I usually ask two of them to stand in front of the rear wing with one of them close to the throttle and the switches while I do the propping. Three of my friends have been bitten by the Onan--i.e., they have obtained painfully sprained fingers resulting from kick-backs.
7. The Quickie is particularly dangerous because it is likely to be only the first manifestation of the contagious, virulent disorder known as homebuilder's disease.
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