Saturday, January 26, 2008

PETA Rescue Widens

Ercoupe Abuse Reaches Toward Oshkosh

One can only imagine the horror...the horror that veteran PETA volunteer, Brent Taylor, experience when he discovered yet another Ercoupe mounted in dying duck pose atop this strip mall in the very heart of EAA country, Oshkosh, Wi. *
"Oh, the humanity," Taylor cried over his cellphone to our news desk shortly after taking the photo. "I tried to liberate the poor thing, to set it free...but it was Tuesday, and the line next door for half-price tacos was forming fast, so I had to leave it."
It's that cusp of dedication to the Save The Coupes cause that drives us all to find, photograph and defend--if time allows--the Ercoupe heritage.
When contacted for comment, the owner of the Shell station--or someone we assumed was the owner--said, "I don't know how it got there. You know how them Coupes are; they just fly into sparrows on sliding glass doors."
* The mounted Coupe is actually in Wautoma, Wi, as a sharp-eyed reader noted, which is 40 miles west of EAA's heart, Oshkosh.
© PETA: Pilots for the Ethical Treatment of Aircoupes (yeah, that should be PFTETOA, but that's hard to pronounce...but, then, again, so is Ercoupe.
Disclaimer: PETA (Pilots for the Ethical Treatment of Aircoupes) is not affiliated with other PETA organizations, including but not limited to: People for the Ethical Treatment of Airlines, People for the Ethical Treatment of Attorneys, People for the Ethical Treatment of Accountants, People for the Ethical Treatment of Admen

Friday, January 25, 2008

PETA Launches Aircraft Rescue

PETA (Pilots for the Ethical Treatment of Aircoupes) activists (not seen in photo, below) swarmed around this Montana roadhouse chanting, "Free the Coupe!" and "Coupes are human, too!" until the club owner threatened to chase them off with his Navion. "This isn't over yet," PETA person-of-spokes, Delmar Nopheet, said to reporters as he chained himself to a Univair catalog. "Ever since that article came out magazine (he refused to utter its name), Coupes have been the target of malicious and unwarranted smears. We even found a Coupe," he struggled to choke back tears, "being used as a wind Tee! A wind Tee! Don't people realize that Coupe pilots don't need to know which way the wind blows? Have they no shame? Has this country run completely out of Tomahawks?"
The editorial staff at Hangar Flying Theater was shocked and/or awed to learn of these abuses and challenges our readers to help PETA: Save The Coupes (STC). The time to act is now, before more of these adorable little two-seaters can be snatched from hangars and impaled on posts or used for who knows what nefarious purposes. So, don't call Congress. Don't call AOPA. Instead, slap a Save The Coupes banner over your Dennis Kuspinach For President 08 bumber sticker and proclaim yourself a PETA supporter. And whenever you encounter a Coupe being misused, mocked or just poorly mounted over someone's diner, bowling alley or brothel, take a photo and send it to us. We'll make sure it gets the treatment it deserves. Because if we don't Save The Coupes today, they could come for your Musketeer tomorrow.
PETA is not associated with the other PETA, its affiliates or the unleavened bread of the same sounding name.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

To Ercoupe is Human....

To Forget Divine

In the February Aviation Consumer, I, Paul Berge, wrote an article about Legacy LSAs, comparing five models: The Aeronca 7AC Champ, Piper J-3 Cub, Luscombe 8A, Taylorcraft BC12D and the Ercoupe 415C. Apparently some Ercoupe owners took umbrage with my commentary. Here is an excerpt from the article:.

Okay, stop giggling. “Coupes” are cute in a playground way, with their interconnected ailerons and adorable twin rudder. Lacking rudder pedals you drive this low-wing monoplane around the sky. Its ballyhooed “unspinnable” nature is achieved in part by limiting elevator travel.
Flyers used to actively incorporating rudder and opposite aileron in crosswind landings will find themselves mashing the rudderless floorboards as the Ercoupe impacts the runway in a crab. Amazingly, it’ll straighten itself out…the way a dead cow straightens out when dropped off a moving truck.1 Can’t say we’re crazy about this airplane. But, enough Coupers are (crazy) to make this a viable alternative to the previous four entrants.


Now the Fallout, a letter--one of several--from Ercoupe owners. It's reprinted here, unedited, in its entirety. You decide.

Dear Aviation Consumer News Editor,
I have been an avid reader of Aviation Consumer News since the early 1980's and rely upon your publication and the information it provides to the Aviation community. I've been very happy with the value provided.

However your recent article on the Legacy LSA's was very disappointing in several respects. The information presented regarding the Ercoupe was incomplete & inaccurate, a number of the Ercoupes significant advantages were downplayed or ignored, and several comments towards the Ercoupe were less than flattering if not outright derogatory, completely unnecessary, and misleading to Aviation Consumer readers.

* The article states that the Ercoupe 415C is LSA eligible, but failed to mention or include the 415CD which is also LSA eligible.

* The article states that Ercoupes have no rudder pedals, which is not true. Some of the Ercoupe fleet already have rudder pedals, AND they're available as an option for those who must have them (a completely un-necessary option!).

* "Spin proof handling? Need we even offer an answer?" Yes, actually the Ercoupe is certified as spin proof!

* "One broke up in flight due to center section corrosion." Not true. In the case I am aware of some corrosion was found in the center section during the post crash investigation however; the official determination was that the Ercoupe appeared to have been stressed beyond design limits (loss of the tail section and flight control) prior to the failure of the wing center section failure (in a high negative loading mode, due to the prior loss of the tail), and the corrosion was not the cause of the failure. In this case the pilot was likely attempting a loop or other aerobatic type maneuver with two aboard however; regardless of the exact details what is clear is that the Ercoupe was being operated well beyond its design limitations. All Ercoupes should have had the wing spar and center sections inspected per prior AD's (sic). In any case a thorough pre-buy inspection should be done for corrosion on ANY & ALL legacy LSA types! Corrosion is NOT unique to the Ercoupe.

* "(....doing 95 MPH)" Most of the Ercoupes I know have been converted to 85 HP and even the 75 HP Coupes are generally capable of cruising at over 100 MPH - and typical cruise of 100 to 108 MPH.

* "These legacy LSA's are not terribly comfortable, and if you can't fly coordinated and learn to use your feet they'll be neither pleasant nor kind, especially on the runway." The Ercoupe flies coordinated automatically, and are relatively comfortable, particularly without the rudder pedals installed. One can move your legs around or cross them as desired for comfort on longer cross country trips (such as from CA to OSH).

Unnecessarily derogatory & misleading statements;
* "The flight experience is best described as quirky, especially in cross winds, it has no rudder pedals." The in-flight experience is fairly normal compared to a modern aircraft such as a Cherokee or Bonanza, and only 'quirky' when compared to older rudder dominant tail wheel aircraft with lots of adverse yaw. The landings could subjectively be described as quirky however; such a term ignores that the Ercoupe is very capable of handling stiff cross winds that would likely ground other light aircraft, and the beefy trailing link landing gear design makes it MUCH more forgiving on landing than the other types. The Ercoupe probably has the most predictable and comfortable landings and takeoffs of any light plane manufactured in significant numbers. In this it is much more like contemporary light aircraft than tail dragger LSAs.

* "The Ercoupe, top, is an acquired taste savored by owners who can do without rudder pedals. Crosswind landings are faith-based flying." Rudders are an option for those so inclined however; they are completely un-necessary in the Ercoupe. Crosswind landings are the Ercoupes forte, and for the proficient Ercoupe pilot are routine in conditions that ground all other light planes. They are "faith-based" in the sense that the pilot can have absolute faith the plane, if flown properly, will predictably do what is expected so long as the pilot knows the difference between luck and skill. I have landed my Ercoupe in 30 knot direct 90 degree cross winds and have witnesses (Paul Rosales of the SoCal RV group among them) and video to prove it, and others claim to have landed their Coupes in 40 knot cross winds. Try that in a tail wheel LSA. Here's a video link; @ 5:40 into the video you can watch my Ercoupe land however; be sure to watch the other landing and listen to the Bellanca pilot during take off at the end. Perhaps you believe that an automatic transmission is an acquired taste savored by those who can do without shifting gears? Please also refer to the detailed note on this topic at the end of this letter.

* "Amazingly it will straighten itself out....the way a dead cow straightens out when dropped off a moving truck." PLEASE, would the author also use this term to describe a 707 or other transport or military jets using largely the same crab style landing technique?!?!? We can confidently assert that many superior aircraft have adopted the same system. Witness crosswind landings in virtually all large airliners and the Space Shuttle which all touchdown nose high, in a crab, just like an Ercoupe. I doubt that this kind of comment is what Aviation Consumer News readers expect from this publication.

* “We can't say we're crazy about this plane...." You don't say?! We'd never have guessed, and I would ask who is "we" in this case?

* "If you have lazy feet, the 75 HP Ercoupe 415C may be for you..." Or the 85 HP Ercoupe 415-C or 415-CD too. And this is true even if you don’t have lazy feet, but instead are cursed with more intelligence than ego.

* "Last pick is the Ercoupe. They aren't cheap and, in our view, lack the charm of the tail draggers which except for the cub, are all bargain for beginner or lingering pilots." First, I'd say that if this statement is true, then the market may be contradicting the author. However I'd also note that the figures given show the Ercoupe to be priced within about 10% of the other types, which seems quite reasonable given it's very unique features and key advantages. I'd also add that if we're talking beginners or infrequent flyers, the easy to land and easy ground handling Ercoupe may well be the better pick. For those who prefer tail wheel aircraft like the author, I understand that a 'conventional' type would be preferred. With higher cruise speeds and far fewer worries about cross winds, the Ercoupe is also a better pick for those who wish to actually go somewhere in their aircraft. BTW - There are those who would say that no one in their right mind would choose one of the tail wheel LSAs over an Ercoupe in good condition.)

Ercoupe advantages compared to other legacy LSA's;
* Tri-cycle gear for stable landing & ground handling.
* Superior cross wind landing capabilities (I'd be very happy to prove this claim)
* Good brakes (many if not most Ercoupes are now converted to Cleveland brakes)
* Stall resistant and spin proof (when properly rigged and flown within weight & balance limits)
* Responsive full span ailerons.
* Electrical system.
* Excellent visibility. This is a great safety feature for avoiding mid-air collisions at busy airports!
* Windows down "open cockpit" flying experience!
* Higher speed cruise than other LSAs with the same engine
* Mostly metal or all metal construction (only wings are fabric, and many have been metalized), resulting in generally lower costs (recovering a fabric plane is very costly).
* Very simple systems: no fuel tank switching and no flaps.

I would point out that there have been several recent articles in AOPA Pilot & EAA Sport Pilot about the Ercoupe which would be helpful as references, although even more detailed and accurate information about the Ercoupe is available.

Mr. Berge clearly favors the more traditional tail wheel Legacy LSA's, and the Champ in particular, which I noticed he owns. All this is fine and I will be the first to admit that the Champ is a worthy airplane. However in this article the content appears to have significantly reflected a personal bias of the author.

I expect evenhanded and accurate reporting from the Aviation Consumer and hope you will address the article's shortcomings, and / or print the relevant information for your readers.

Sincerely,Dan Hall
Ercoupe Owner Club Region 7 acting Director
1947 Ercoupe 415CD
N3968H @ CNO
(BS Aeronautics, PPSEL, CPSEL, Instrument rated, tail wheel, and 1,300+ hours in Ercoupes)

With regard to cross wind landing it would be prudent to be aware of and perhaps even pass along the following information to AC's normally well informed readership;

The Ercoupe’s crosswind landings are engineering-based! Fred Weick, owner of the patent on the tricycle landing gear and later Chief of Design at Piper, carefully developed and extensively researched landing with the tricycle gear.

The landing gear is based upon the principal that the center of mass is in front of the (fixed and non-swiveling) main gear. Since the nose gear (like all tricycle gear planes) is free to turn, the side loads on the main gear introduce a turning force when the plane is landed in the crab. The nose wheel turns and offers no side-force so the plane simply turns to line up with the direction of motion – as designed by a superior engineer.

The side forces are not enormous. An egg in a saucer in the pilot’s lap will stay in the saucer.
This excellently designed landing system is a key to the Ercoupe’s ability to handle strong, direct crosswinds. Many Ercoupe owners enjoy taunting local flight schools by flying touch and goes when the crosswinds are strong on beautiful Saturdays. It’s fun, waving with a hand raised through the convertible canopy at the grounded students and CFIs as we do landings even with crosswind components greater than 25 knots.


1 We have yet to hear from PETA

Aviation Consumer magazine is not affiliated with Hangar Flying Theater and can be found at:

Friday, January 4, 2008

High Flying Fun

AKA: Stupid Hatz Tricks

by Jeff Cain and Vince Hahn

Question: How high can you legally fly a homebuilt open cockpit biplane without a transponder or oxygen?
Flying 'Eve,' our homebuilt Hatz biplane up and over the Continental Divide sounded like fun. Why not? A cool June morning (45 degrees on the ground) would give us thicker air and the wind was forecast to be over the mountains from the West at only 20mph.
The Hatz is a popular plans-built biplane with a steel tube fuselage, wooden spars, ribs and covered in fabric. Our Hatz, (NX8032Y and serial number 6) was built in 1981 by Ray and Dorothy Hill of Baxter Iowa and was only the second to be built from the then new plans. Eve’s 160-hp Lycoming 0-320 engine and a wooden Sensenich propeller makes her the perfect airplane to hop rides for kids (400 so far): slow cruise and good climb. But how would she do in the mountains? Before heading over the Rocky Mountains, we consulted with EAA Flight Advisor Bill Mitchell, our instructor and flying mentor, to review the route and mountain flying tips.
At 8:15 that morning the wheels cleared the runway outside of Denver and we headed west, climbing well over Boulder’s scenic foothills into clear skies and smooth air. But not for long.
By 9000 feet and only half way to the summit, despite our cruise climb rate of 500 fpm, the air quickly became “a bit” bumpy, as the combination of early thermals, westerly winds and rising mountains tossed us up—1500 fpm--and down at 500 fpm. Using ridge lift and Bill’s carefully chosen approach to the divide over a flat plateau; we were finally able to break into smoother air above 11,000 feet.
A good thing, because as we crossed the Continental Divide westward at 12,000 feet, the snow covered ridge loomed up at us at 11,000 feet. The tour over the Winter Park ski area was cut short, clouds were already beginning to extend along the divide. The top of nearby Mt. Evans to our south (14,264 feet) was covered with cloud and neither of us wanted to spend the night on the other side of the Rockies trapped by weather. Crossing back eastward, the upslope wind along Mt. Evans’ flanks helped us top out at 13,500 feet, where it was cold enough for our breath to freeze on the open cockpit windscreens.
Heading back down the hill riding smooth currents brought smiles, laughs, and warmth. Fingers and toes thawed out by the time we reached the grass runway at Colorado Antique Field (over the pass the temp was only 15 degrees F---plus wind chill) where we were able to warm up and share stories and lies with our Antique Aircraft Association friends.
The Answer:

Aircraft must have a transponder for flights above 10,000 feet MSL, excluding the airspace at or below 2500 feet AGL (FAR 91.215). Oxygen is required for crewmembers on flights at cabin pressure above 14,000 feet or for flights longer than 30 minutes between 12,500 and 14,000 feet (FAR 91.211). With an open cockpit, cabin pressures and temperatures are of course the same as outside temperature and pressures.
Yes, we were legal.
It was a complete gas.
And an altitude record for Hatz biplanes.
Thanks, Ray and Dorothy (pictured above right with the author and the Hatz at Blakesburg Iowa's Antique Airfield, 2005).