Face Off, Piper J-3 Cub vs. Aeronca 7AC Champ

By: Norm Goyer

The Aeronca Champ was also sold to many countries including England.

The Aeronca Champ was also sold to many countries including England.

Both the J-3 and the 7AC recently got a new lease on life. They both are approved for flying with a driver’s license only. There are a few provisions that must be met however. They have to be original or have no STCs that propel the aircraft into non-acceptable performance or weight. So this article is for an original Cub or Champ with a 65hp Continental engine. I feel that I am qualified to discuss these two aircraft as I have hundreds of hours in both and I have owned both at different times of my life. Of course which one I Like better is strictly what I like and not which one is the better aircraft. I base my choice on several criteria; Which is the better primary trainer and why. Which is easier to work on or perform 100 hour inspections.(annuals) Which airplane is easier to physically get in and out of for the pilot and passenger. A most important part is the pilot’s position and ease of control application. In my opinion, the cruise and climb speed for a fun two-place trainer does’t really matter for the average fun pilot. So tighten your safety belt and climb in.

Note the pilot in rear seat. This is a difficult position to fly from.

Note the pilot in rear seat. This is a difficult position to fly from.

The first job a pilot must do is to roll it out of the hangar or untie if from its outdoor storage. Both airplanes are equal in this chore. The same for the walk-around except for the engine look over. The Cub has cylinders that protrude from the cowling and the Champ has a full cowling. During certain times of the year the engine compartment must be searched for bird’s nests. The Cub is far easier than the Champ for obvious reasons. Both airplanes have no electrics, so you have to use your Armstrong starter. Both are equally hard or equally easy to start. Of course we presume you know the safety rules for hand propping an airplane. Don’t attempt to start it by yourself unless the airplane is securely tied down. The safe way is to have someone in the pilot’s seat and someone to hand prop the engine. There are many tricks on hand propping, learn them before you tackle this most dangerous procedure. Some airports don’t permit hand propping.

The Cub had very few instruments but in reality you really don't need many for safe flight.

The Cub had very few instruments but in reality you really don’t need many for safe flight.

The engine is running and it is time to taxi out to the runway. Here the Champ is the easy winner in visibility and control application. The pilot in a Cub sits in the rear seat for solo work. The application of brakes is difficult due to the position of the heel brake between the side wall and the seat, very limited space and if you have big feet or large shoes, it is even harder. The Champ also has heel brakes but their position is easier for the front seated pilot to access. The Champ is easier to taxi as it has a sloping cowl allowing better vision in the direction you are taxing. In the Cub the pilot sitting in the lower and farther back position has to look out the sides and zig zag for better visibility. The run-up before take off is the same but make sure you check carb heat as the 65 Continental will ice up on you and you have to check to make sure you can rid the ice before engine stops.

The 7AC Champ was also available with a tri gear, not popular.

The 7AC Champ was also available with a tri gear, not popular.

When you apply full throttle for take-off both planes are the same, except for the better visibility in the Champ. Both planes climb slowly to altitude. Now we are about to see the real difference between the Champ and the Cub. Don’t bother writing nasty notes to me, I am not going to change my mind. The Cub flies like a real airplane and the Champ is mushy, the controls are squishy compared to the Cub’s solid feel. The Cub is a rudder airplane but the Champ can be flown safely with no rudder in minor turns. The Cub will slide sideways through the skies if you don’t use coordinate rudder ailerons. You can make a 360 turn in the Cub with the wings level, a bit of opposite ailerons keeps the plane level. This maneuver is great for folks on the ground, looks very weird. Some military flying schools started cadets out in a Cub, if they could not handle a cub, they were washed out if they did not improve rapidly. Like I said, a Cub flies like a real airplane and the Champ flies like a fun sport aircraft. They both spin nicely but the Cub is tighter and could spin into the ground unless you break it and recover properly.

The Cub has been copied many times and the Champ has not. Open the side entry and window while flying a Cub and you will never fly a sport airplane again that is as much fun to fly as a J-3 Cub. It will turn out a better pilot than one who learns on a Champ due to its flight characteristics. Easy flying planes do not make good pilots, planes difficult to fly, take off and land are the better trainers. The military found that out. I have not flown any of the new Cubs except the Aviat Husky which is more like a Super Cub than a J-3. I am also an R.C. hobbiest and my favorite scale model is a J-3, the models fly just like a real Cub.

 

Posted in UnderTheRadar | Comments Off on Face Off, Piper J-3 Cub vs. Aeronca 7AC Champ

Doodlebug, You Have a Famous Grandson

By Norm Goyer

 The first aircraft designed and built by McDonnell was the Doodlebug, a small coupe like two passenger. It was not successful and only a few were built.

The first aircraft designed and built by McDonnell was the Doodlebug, a small coupe like two passenger. It was not successful and only a few were built.

I first met the McDonnell F-4 Phantom in the skies of the High Desert. They were all over the area as they and the Republic F-105 Thud were the two aircraft used by the Air Force in Vietnam. George AFB was the training installation before the pilots headed to Vietnam for combat duty. At the time, we operated Apple Valley Aviation only 6 miles from George AFB. George’s pilots and the German pilots also based there became our customers and close friends. We were invited to social events at the base and even had use of their F-4 Phantom simulators. Great base and even greater guys and gals staffing it. The controllers at George would crank up their GCA (Ground Control Approach) for our students who were working on their instrument tickets. It was a sad day when the feds closed George, they were a large part of our aviation heritage in the High Desert. I have never stopped loving the F-4 and its huge collection of records, many still unbroken.

The McDonnell F-4 Phantom was the aircraft which dominated the skies over Vietnam. The Phantom holds many world records for speed and altitude.

The McDonnell F-4 Phantom was the aircraft which dominated the skies over Vietnam. The Phantom holds many world records for speed and altitude.

The McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II is a tandem two-seat, twin-engine, all-weather, long-range supersonic jet interceptor fighter/fighter-bomber originally developed for the United States Navy by McDonnell Aircraft. It first entered service in 1960 with the U.S. Navy. Proving highly adaptable, it was also adopted by the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Air Force. During the Vietnam War the F-4 was used extensively; it served as the principal air superiority fighter for both the Navy and Air Force, and became important in the ground-attack and reconnaissance roles late in the war. The Phantom has the distinction of being the last U.S. fighter flown to attain ace status in the 20th century. During the Vietnam War the USAF had one pilot and one weapon systems officer (WSO), (better known as GIB, The Guy in Back) and the US Navy one pilot and one radar intercept officer (RIO), The pilot had to achieve five aerial kills against other enemy fighter aircraft to become an ace in air-to-air combat. The F-4 continued to form a major part of U.S. military air power throughout the 1970s and 1980s, being gradually replaced by more modern aircraft such as the F-15 Eagle and F-16 in the U.S. Air Force; the Grumman F-14 Tomcat and F/A-18 Hornet in the U.S. Navy; and the F/A-18 in the U.S. Marine Corps.

The Phantom was used by our Air Force, Navy, Marines, Blue Angels and Thunderbirds. Pilots loved the F-4.

The Phantom was used by our Air Force, Navy, Marines, Blue Angels and Thunderbirds. Pilots loved the F-4.

You have to admit that the F-4 Phantom was quite an airplane. I bet you didn’t know who was the grandpa of the Phantom? I know, and soon you will also, the McDonnell Doodlebug was built in response to a 1927 safety contest sponsored by the Daniel Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics with a prize of $100,000. The aircraft was built at the Hamilton Aero Manufacturing factory in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Doodlebug is a tandem-seat low wing taildragger with a fabric covered steel tube fuselage. The landing gear featured widely spaced main wheels. The wings featured full length leading edge slats. It looks very similar to other coupes of the era, especially the Kinner Sportster.

The McDonnell Doodlebug was designed to compete in a

The McDonnell Doodlebug was designed to compete in a “Safety Plane” prize but a series of accidents caused it to drop out.

The Doodlebug was produced too late to compete, but was granted an exemption. The aircraft’s tail folded upward in initial demonstrations at Mitchell Field in New York, and allowed more extensions to repair damages. After a forced landing due to engine failure, the Doodlebug missed the opportunity to be judged in the competition. The winner of the competition was a Curtiss Tanager. The forced landing caused McDonnell a back injury, but the aircraft was demonstrated throughout the start of the Great Depression. In 1931 the Doodlebug was sold to NACA as a demonstrator for leading edge slats. There it is, the grandpa of the famous F-4 Phantom.

General characteristics McDonnell Doodlebug

Capacity: 2

Length: 21 ft 4 in (6.50 m)

Wingspan: 35 ft (11 m)

Wing area: 196.5 sq ft (18.26 m2)

Empty weight: 1,250 lb (567 kg)

Gross weight: 1,800 lb (816 kg)

Powerplant: 1 × Warner Scarab radial engine, 110 hp (82 kW)

Performance

Maximum speed: 96 kn; 177 km/h (110 mph)

Posted in Bird of the Week | Comments Off on Doodlebug, You Have a Famous Grandson

Latest on Diesel Powered Aircraft

By: Norm Goyer

This the Thielert Centurion which is the latest diesel to be installed in aircraft.

This the Thielert Centurion which is the latest diesel to be installed in aircraft.

The fact that 100LL aircraft fuel is going to be withdrawn from production due to its source of lead in the atmosphere has spurred a frantic search for a replacement. It seems that aircraft fuel using lead is the sole survivor and the environmentalists want it stopped. The pressure is growing and it appears that 100 LL will soon be history. The logical substitute is diesel fuel as this is also used by turbine powered aircraft and diesel powered support vehicles at all airports. So what’s the problem? Diesels have a very long history of not working very well in aircraft and pilots have a prejudice about their use because of the history of failures. It is also a fact that diesels engines are classified as “compression ignition” engines. So? Our Lycomings, Continntals and even the huge radials and V-12s currently installed in our aircraft fleet have moderate compression ratios that does not cause failure of connecting rods and for creating cracks in the case from the constant hammering of the diesel engines. In order to prevent this self destructive damage diesel engines have to have very rugged construction and more metal means more weight. Big trucks are not hampered by heavy engines but small aircraft are. Not too many years ago the FAA tackled this weight vs strength situation and their solution was not acceptable to aircraft owners. After a certain number of hours the diesel engine was to be removed from aircraft service and a new diesel installed. Sales of existing diesel engines came to a slowdown.

The French SMA diesel was adapted from a Renault F-1 auto engine.

The French SMA diesel was adapted from a Renault F-1 auto engine.

The use of diesel engines dates back to the dirigibles of World War I. The diesels use of minimum fuel and its anti fire properties sounded good to designers, in reality they didn’t work that well. Diesels never became popular after decades of attempts. The designers now claim that new developments in chemistry, metallurgy and engine design such as turbos and fuel injectors have solved the problems. I would not bet money on this, history is not with the diesel in airplanes.

The first manufacturer of aircraft diesels to produce a certified design for the general aviation market was Thielert, located in the small town of Lichtenstein in the German state of Saxony. They produce four-stroke, liquid-cooled, geared, turbo-diesel aircraft engines based on Mercedes automotive designs which will run on both diesel and jet aviation fuel (Jet A-1). Their first engine, a 1.7 litres (100 cu in), 135 hp (101 kW) four-cylinder (based on the 1.7 turbo diesel Mercedes A-class power unit), was first certified in 2002. It is certified for retrofitting to Cessna 172s and Piper Cherokees which were originally equipped with the 160 hp (120 kW) Lycoming O-320 320 cubic inches (5.2 l) Avgas engine. Although the weight of the 135 hp (101 kW) Thielert Centurion 1.7 at around 136 kilograms (300 lb) is similar to that of the 160 hp (120 kW) Lycoming O-320, its displacement is less than a third of that of the Lycoming. It however achieves maximum power at 2300 prop rpm (3900 crank rpm) as opposed to 2700 for the petrol Lycoming. This is the engine that Redbird is putting into their restored Cessna 172. The problem with this unit is that the clutch in the gear box must be replaced very 300 hours with a rebuilt clutch from Germany. This will take at least two days labor to replace the clutch. Thielurt designer of the engine is now in jail for fraud. This engine has an extremely poor reputation.

The French SMA Safron Diesel engine is used in some European aircraft.

The French SMA Safron Diesel engine is used in some European aircraft.

Another Diesel engine which is under development for aircraft use is the SMA from France. This Renault engine made its mark in F-1 racing cars. SMA Engines, located in Bourges, 150 km south of Paris have designed a four-stroke, air-cooled, turbo-diesel aircraft engine from the ground up, the SR305-230. SMA’s engineering team came from Renault Sport (Formula 1). The 230 hp (170 kW), 305 cubic inch (5.0 liter) jet fuel engine first obtained European certification in April 2001, followed by US FAA certification in July 2002. It is now certified as retrofit on several Cessna 182 models in Europe and the USA, and Maule is working toward certification of the M-9-230.

Interest in diesel aircraft in the United States has been more limited. However, doubt about the future availability of avgas has raised awareness of diesel alternatives. In March 2008, the Indus Aviation team led by Aldo Sibi (Director Of Production, Chief Mechanic and Head of Research and Development) prototyped the world’s first diesel powered Light Sport Aircraft, N211GD. This airplane was built and flown in 30 days. This novel aircraft, although a prototype, sparked huge interest in alternative fuels in the industry.

This Cessna 182 has an SMA Diesel engine installed.

This Cessna 182 has an SMA Diesel engine installed.

Europe has always loved diesels in their cars and in many of their airplanes. The pilots in the United States have trusted our Lycomings, Continentals and our auto engines for so many decades the switch is much more complicated.

Posted in UnderTheRadar | Comments Off on Latest on Diesel Powered Aircraft

Jet Blue Emergency – Aircraft Stopped on Runway – Slides Deployed – LGB Closed

A Jet Blue Airbus has stopped midfield at Long Beach Airport, slides have been deployed and passengers have been evacuated.  Fire trucks are rolling out with more on the way. What makes this emergency so interesting is that the passengers are lined up next to the aircraft.  Had this been a medical emergency they would have taxied the aircraft to the gate.  All airport activity has currently ceased operation.

Jet Blue Emergency at Long Beach Airport. Slides Deployed have been deployed and passengers have been evacuated fire trucks are on the scene. All airport operations are currently closed.

Posted in Today In Aviation History | Comments Off on Jet Blue Emergency – Aircraft Stopped on Runway – Slides Deployed – LGB Closed

Who was the Copy Cat?

Who was the Copy Cat?

The de Havilland Tiger Moth was built as an advancement of an earlier de Havilland biplane.

The de Havilland Tiger Moth was built as an advancement of an earlier de Havilland biplane.

By Norm Goyer

All you have to do is look at the new batch of 2014 autos now being introduced, they all look alike. The designers claim that wind tunnel tests dictate the main shape of the look alike cars but common sense tells one that a new feature or a trick look was propbably copied as well. Most of us are familiar with the Tomahawk and Skipper puzzle. It is obvious that someone copied somebody else design. In this case there was a common thread running through the mystery. One designer worked on both aircraft at both Piper and Beech. I owned a Tomahawk for several years and liked the airplane, never flew a Skipper. Nobody seemed to care and eventually both fell by the wayside.

A few years earlier back in the 1930s a very similar situation occurred, the Tiger Moth developed by de Havilland from an earlier biplane suddenly had a twin being built in Belgium and France. The two aircraft were very similar. The Stampe had a differnt shaped rudder and the gas tank in the upper wing center section was set into the wing a little lower. Eighty years later folks attending airshows still ask the question, “is that a Stampe or a Tiger Moth?” In fact both of these fine little training biplanes were very popular in their own countries.

Many Moths were built with hatches for cold climates.

Many Moths were built with hatches for cold climates.

The Stampe SV.4 was designed as a biplane tourer/training aircraft in the early 1930s by Stampe et Vertongen at Antwerp. The first model was the SV.4A an advanced aerobatic trainer followed by the SV.4B with redesigned wings and the 130 hp/97 kW de Havilland Gipsy Major.

Only 35 aircraft were built before the company was closed during the Second World War. After the war the successor company Stampe et Renard built a further 65 aircraft between 1948 and 1955 as trainers for the Belgian Air Force. Let’s take a triip back in time courtesy of the reference books and learn a little more about the battling bipes.

The Stampe had a rounder rudder and revised wing gas tank.

The Stampe had a rounder rudder and revised wing gas tank.

Several Stampe SV.4s were used in the films The Blue Max and Von Richthofen and Brown, playing both British and German aircraft. The SE5a aircraft used in the film Aces High were modified SV.4s. The aircraft were fitted with revised engine cowlings, modified tailfins and dummy machine-guns to look the part of First World War scouts.

In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade there is a scene in which Indiana Jones escapes from a Nazi airship in an SV.4. The film makers took artistic license in fitting an open canopy machinegun turret in the aft cockpit.

The planes ‘Dorothy’ and ‘Lillian’ in High Road to China (set in the 1920s) are depicted by SV.4s, fitted with Lewis Guns.

The plane in “The Mummy” was a modified version of an SV.4, having a tail gun turret added.

A licenced SV.4C version was built in France by SNCAN (Société Nationale de Constructions Aéronautiques du Nord) and in Algeria by Atelier Industriel de l’Aéronautique d’Alger, the two firms completing a combined total of 940 aircraft. The postwar SV.4Cs were widely used by French military units as a primary trainer. Many also served with aero clubs in France, numbers of which were later sold secondhand to the United Kingdom and other countries.

The Stampe was also built under license by many other European countries.

The Stampe was also built under license by many other European countries.

de Havilland Tiger Moth

The Tiger Moth was more popular than the Stampe because there were more built and sold. The Tiger Moth trainer prototype was derived from the DH 60 de Havilland Gipsy Moth in response to Air Ministry specification 13/31 for an ab-initio training aircraft. The main change to the DH Moth series was necessitated by a desire to improve access to the front cockpit since the training requirement specified that the front seat occupant had to be able to escape easily, especially when wearing a parachute. Access to the front cockpit of the Moth predecessors was restricted by the proximity of the aircraft’s fuel tank directly above the front cockpit and the rear cabane struts for the upper wing. The solution adopted was to shift the upper wing forward but sweep the wings back to maintain the center of lift. Other changes included a strengthened structure, fold-down doors on both sides of the cockpit and a revised exhaust system. It was powered by a de Havilland Gipsy III 120 hp engine and first flew on 26 October 1931 with de Havilland Chief Test Pilot Hubert Broad at the controls. One distinctive characteristic of the Tiger Moth design is its differential aileron control setup. The ailerons (on the lower wing only) on a Tiger Moth are operated by an externally mounted circular bellcrank, which lies flush with the lower wing’s fabric undersurface covering. This circular bell crank is rotated by metal cables and chains from the cockpit’s control columns, and has the externally mounted aileron pushrod attached at a point 45° outboard and forward of the bellcrank’s centre, when the ailerons are both at their neutral position. This results in an aileron control system operating, with barely any travel down at all on the wing on the outside of the turn, while the aileron on the inside travels a large amount upwards to counter-act adverse yaw.

From the outset, the Tiger Moth proved to be an ideal trainer, simple and cheap to own and maintain, although control movements required a positive and sure hand as there was a slowness to control inputs. Some instructors preferred these flight characteristics because of the effect of “weeding” out the inept student pilot.

And that dear friends is the story of the Stampe and the Tiger Moth, different planes but not really, shall we say a coindidence.

Posted in Bird of the Week | Comments Off on Who was the Copy Cat?