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; http://youtube.com/watch?v=4Ob7toBLP2I @ 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: www.aviationconsumer.com


Anonymous said...

I totally respect Dan Hall's comments and would agree with him across the board. I would also like to add that the Ercoupe is likely the most favorable plane to fly as a large person. I an just over 6 foot 1 inch and weigh in over 300 pounds. Granted, this makes the plane essentially a 1 person plane (plus light baggage), but it can be done. Try getting me in one of the other planes and I just won't fit... mostly too tall. My Ercoupe (just sold it) did not have rudder pedals, so I sat comfortably as I flew from my home base near Nashville TN to destinations as far as St Paul, MN to Orlando, FL. I too made landings in crosswinds that I would never have dreamed of trying in the Cessnas I learned in. My comfort zone was up to 25 kts direct X-wind component with just over 35 kts from time to time. I might add that just recently (last couple of months) an STC has been released for the C and CD models to increase their gross weight to match the 1320 pound limit that LSA allows.

Brent said...

Once again up bubbles the collective angst Ercoupe owners feel whenever an article they view as less than favorable to their favorite flying flivver is printed.
I have read Mr. Berge's article as well as the rebuttals of Dan Hall and Mr. Legan. I fail to see where their analysis/comparison of the Ercoupe is that different from what the author penned in the first place.
Perhaps the author's offense is that he did not rate the Ercoupe superior to the other aircraft mentioned in the article. But then again, what one person views as an objective opinion another views as subjective slander.
It is my observation, that Ercoupe owners display a cult like devotion to their preferred "marque" of aircraft and that of itself is admirable. But that same devotion seems to have narrowed their view to the bigger aviation picture as well as decimated their collective sense of humor, at least about their aircraft.
While Mr Hall, Mr. Legan and other owners always tout those features of the Ercoupe (stall resistant, spin proof, crosswind capability, superior visibility etc.) they feel make it so desirable, they rarely if ever will discuss the reality that Ercoupes are not 100% safe nor foolproof and their pilots are not infallible.
I would encourage them to seek out and read "Ercoupe Accidents, Fact Vs. Fiction 1983-1993". This fascinating study by Ercoupe owner David Fretwell examines the 95 accidents (18 of them fatal in which twenty three people died) over a ten year period. In this study are re-printed all the NTSB reports for these accidents. The author breaks down the accidents into eleven major causes including five accidents that resulted from collisions "with other aircraft and wires". It's truly an interesting study.
Hopefully information such as "Ercoupe Accidents, Fact Vs. Fiction" will help to belay the hyper-sensitivity owners seem to exhibit any time coverage of Ercoupes is not to their collective liking.
Ercoupes are good airplanes but certainly not the only nor the best airplane in it's class. I for one think that an Emigh Trojan is a much more desirable aircraft in that same class of aircaft.

Brent Taylor

Anonymous said...

Don't assume that I believe the Ercoupe is the greatest bird ever built. It certainly is not. I think the strong reaction you see from Ercoupe owners is from the treatment that they receive is one of "that's not a real plane... no rudder pedals and no flaps."
The safety record for Ercoupes is not stellar. I've read them before I bought mine. The problem is that Ercoupes seem to be bought by people who's skills are dimishing (or not well honed) and the safety features of the Ercoupe are relied upon too much. If you are a bad pilot, you will still have an accident.
I won't say that I know the exact numbers, but when I looked up the accident rates, it was pretty clear that the vast majority of them were stupid pilot errors... especially in the fuel-starvation category. I will happily submit what I think is a big downside to the Ercoupe... the header tank (while gravity feeds to the engine... good safety feasture against a fuel pump failure) is just a fireball explosion waiting to happen on your lap should you have a bad enough crash landing. Burning to death is not something I'd like to experience. Hence why there is an STC to remove the header tank and install larger wing tanks. However, now you need 2 fuel pumps (one mechanical, one electrical) and your CG is more aft.
Please re-read my post and you'll see that I don't advocate the Ercoupe above any other plane... I only stated that the Ercoupe was the most friendly to my size.
One last thing... I am the prior owner of NC2273H... Jason Ellingson. Lance Legan is the new owner and is in no way involved in my opinions.

Brent said...

Mr. Ellingston,
My apologies to you and Mr. Legan for inaccurately identifying you both.
Your mention of the header tank is interesting. In "Ercoupe Accidents, Facts vs. Fiction", 11 of the 90 accidents involved fires. Ten of those eleven involved fatalities. But none specifically point to a problem with the header tank.
Thousands of Cubs, Champs, Taylorcrafts and other similarly configured aircraft have been flying around safely for decades with the fuel tank mounted in the fuselage, ahead of the instrument panel and behind the engine. So I do not think the tank or it's placement is a "fireball explosion waiting to happen" when it comes to Ercoupes. Certainly not any more than the other aircraft mentioned above.
I would tend to agree with your assessment about the safety features of the Ercoupe, being relied on to heavily by certain segments of their owners, is a contributing factor in it's safety record.

Brent Taylor

Paul Berge Rejection Slip Theater said...

Another dissatisfied reader writes:
From: john brier [mailto:johnbriersr@yahoo.com]
Sent: Tuesday, January 22, 2008 4:53 PM
To: avconsumer@comcast.net
Subject: aircoupe article

Career ended with mucho type ratings and mucho hours. Now in GA and have a Cardinal and a Forney Aircoupe. That article that was writtten about the Coupe had to be done by someone who has no idea of aerodynamics etc. A real hatchet job on a sweet little plane.

Won't be reading your mag anymore.

Best regards, John Brier

CouperLSA said...

Close may count in horse shoes, but is 40 miles close enough? Your description of the Ercoupe atop the gas station was datelined Oshkosh. Unfortunately for you, it seems the photo shows a gas station in Wautoma, Wisconsin -- not Oshkosh which is 40 miles or so east of Wautoma.
I hope the veracity of your other facts (and opinions?) are closer to reality than this one.

Mitchw62 said...

We went through a similar evaluation of Legacy LSAs as we wanted to add an LSA to our rental fleet. Limited to 1320 lbs, legacy LSA's are mostly Cubs, Champs, Luscombs, Interstate, taylorcraft and Ercoupe. At first we didn't consider an Ercoupe because of the hype: no pedals, no stall, etc.

But we discussed our requirements for a rental LSA.
1. Must have a Starter/electrical system - only the Ercoupe has a starter as original equipment. We decided we did NOT want to sent a student on a solo cross country where he had to prop the airplane to start it. I expect my solo students to stop, find the FBO, become aquainted with the airport services away from home.
2. Trigear - only Ercoupe.
3. Side by side - all the other side by side airplanes were too heavy (Chief). I've done flight training is tandem and it is harder that side by side.
All to new LSAs are still too expensive for our opertion.

N3968H said...

I agree with Jason's posts regarding the Ercoupe. I also see that Mr. Berge was quick to try to be amusing (I am referring to his PETA articles), but wasn't able to pen an intelligent rebuttal based on facts.

My rebuttal letter to AC & Mr. Berge made no claim that the Ercoupe was perfect, idiot proof, or 'the best'. My point was simply that the Ercoupe wasn’t given a fair shake.

Jason's comments posted here hit the nail on the head; Ercoupe owner are collectively extremely tired of 60+ years of often snide & belittling comments about the Ercoupe, often based on ignorance (and / or pride & arrogance).

With that thought firmly in mind, here's a review of the 'objective and unbiased' quotes taken directly from Mr. Berge's article;

"Amazingly it will straighten itself out....the way a dead cow straightens out when dropped off a moving truck."

"....the Ercoupe impacts the runway..."

"The Ercoupe, top, is an acquired taste savored by owners who can do without rudder pedals. Crosswind landings are faith-based flying."

"The flight experience is best described as quirky, especially in cross winds, it has no rudder pedals." (rudder pedals are available)

"If you have lazy feet, the 75 HP Ercoupe 415C may be for you..."

"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." (Ercoupes are pleasant & kind)

"Okay, stop giggling. “Coupes” are cute in a playground way..."

"(....doing 95 MPH)" (try 100-108 MPH)

"One broke up in flight due to center section corrosion." (Nope)

"Ercoupe 415C is LSA eligible..." (and the 415CD??)

“We can't say we're crazy about this plane...." (Ah, honesty!)

"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."

Here Mr. Berge comes out and most clearly demonstrates his own obvious personal subjective bias FOR tail draggers and their "charm", and against the tricycle gear Ercoupe.

Let's see; 4 rag & tube tail-draggers, one all metal tricycle gear model, and the only tricycle gear model of the group comes in dead last in the comparison (with the commentary noted above). There is clearly a personal bias and pattern to the comments, in addition to an unnecessary derogatory tone.

Paul Berge clearly prefers rag & tube tail draggers, and I don't begrudge him that - all of the planes tested are fun little birds to fly. If one has a personal preference for (antique) rag & tube tail draggers, then simply say so and make legitimate arguments, without the juvenile and snide swipes at the Ercoupe.

However I and MANY Ercoupe owners certainly DO take GREAT exception to the comments used to describe the Ercoupe in the Aviation Consumer. Those comments carry a strong personal bias and have no place in a national publication like AC.

Where are the genuinely objective comments about the Ercoupes obvious advantages for most pilots, such as;
* Tri-cycle gear for stable landing & ground handling.
* Superior cross wind landing capabilities.
* Effective / good brakes
* Stall resistant and spin proof.
* Responsive full span ailerons.
* Electrical system.
* Excellent visibility. This is a great safety feature for avoiding mid-air collisions!
* Windows down "open cockpit" flying experience!
* Higher speed cruise than other LSAs with the same engine
* Mostly metal or all metal construction.
* Very simple systems: no fuel tank switching and no flaps.

Does anyone still wonder why Ercoupe owners have lost our collective sense of humor after (re) reading the quotes from the article???

I chose to fly an Ercouep even though I have EMT & spin training, and tail wheel experience; and my next airplane may be an RV-4. For the record; I take far dimmer view of (tail wheel) snobs than Mr. Berge takes of Ercoupes.

If & when the time comes for my next airplane I'm quite sure that I'll miss my 60 year old classic Ercoupe, and frankly would never give up the Coupe if I could afford to keep two planes. I just hope I don't regret the day the keys to my lovely classic Coupe are handed over to it's next 'care taker' (as virtually all former Ercoupe owners have lamented to me over the years).

The Ercoupe is unique, a special gem of design & engineering, and remains a classic and historically significant flying machine. The Ercoupe deserves just as much respect as the Legacy LSA rag & tube tail draggers (more IMHO), and that IS the point !!!!!

Dan Hall

Brent said...

It seems that Mr. Hall is having trouble letting go of his perception that somehow he has been personally wronged because of what Paul Berge wrote about Ercoupes in general. His latest post to this blog is largely redundant and again shows a narrow mind set as it pertains to this issue.
Of course I see no such indignation from the Mr. Hall nor the members of the Ercoupe Forum on Yahoo when it comes to placing my private e-mail on their forum without my consent nor permission.
Seems as if one of your own Ercoupe owners, a Mr. Scroggins from FL (whom is not on my e-mail list), thought that would be a humorous thing to do. Or perhaps it was simply a tit for tat reaction.
Either way apparently Mr. Scroggins from FL does not have the intestinal fortitude to own up to his actions. I would be curious to know how Mr. Hall thinks such actions will help build an understanding of the beleaguered Ercoupe and its proponents outside of their cloistered world ??
But I rant !!
A final note however. One item Mr. Hall keeps pointing out is that of the five aircraft in the offensive treatise, the Ercoupe was the only all metal tricycle gear model tested. Will Mr. Hall or anyone else please inform me what other legacy LSA there is out there that is all metal and tricycle gear ??

Brent Taylor
tail wheel snob

skippermike said...


Had em, flown em. 3 total.

Just try asking the dead and maimed if they are that impressed with Ercoupes.
Goto: NTSB reports and look up Ercoupe.
They are over 60 yrs old now. Fred Wick said he designed them for 25 yrs of service.

PS. How many people are trusting automobile engines that are over 60 yrs?

Only way to own an ercoupe is to do a frame up REBUILD!

Dr. Paul Yocom said...

I own an Ercoupe - actually two Ercoupes one of which is undergoing a full rebuild and restoration. (I am and A+P/IA)I also own a Piper Apache (no Apache bashing please). I love to take the little Ercoupe on an early morning or after dinner flight. It is a wonderful $100 hamburger airplane. I have found that most people who bash the Ercoupe (or Apache for that matter) have never even sat in one more less flown one. It is actually humerous to see just how badly some self proclaimed aviation experts (you know, the I can fly anything types) when they take the controlls of an Ercoupe for the first time. Like any airplane, the Ercoupe is only easy to fly IF YOU KNOW HOW TO FLY IT and respect its' operating parameters. It is a little airplane that you can actually take a nice cross country in - day or night. Crosswinds even very stiff crosswinds that ground other airplanes including other tricycle gear airplanes are safe, smooth, and predictable in an Ercoupe if the pilot knows how to fly it. For those who bash the Ercoupe -- don't fly one as if you do (and learn how to do it well) you may grow to love it, and never be able to bash Ercoupes again. My Dad (RIP) owned an Ercoupe for many years. He was a much better Ercoupe pilot then me. I think that he could land his pristine Ercoupe on a card table in a cross wind if necessary.

Dr. Paul Yocom said...

A humerous Ercoupe story. My Dad had an Ercoupe for many years. He bought it new in 1946. We lived in Canada then. In the 50s, our neighbor two doors down was the local manager for Trans Canada Airlines (TCA). There was a particular very windy, rainy and gusty day. The TCA flights were delayed because of winds. People are standing in the terminal, looking out the window waiting. Along comes this small polished aluminum airplane with a red stripe and double tail that landed. The people in the terminal started complaining that some "little airplane" landed so why could the airliner not fly !! It was my Dad returning from a business trip that he made to Toronto (250 miles away). Howard (our neighbor) called that evening and said "Ken - why the hell did you have to land that little airplane of yours when we were waiting for the winds to die down" ?? Dad could gently land that airplane just about sideways in a cross wind and it would always straighten out right down the middle of the runway -and you were home - safely. Dad taught me to fly in his Ercoupe when I was 14 (including illegitimate first solo). That was about 50 years ago. He was the greatest Dad on the planet earth and I think of him every time I fly my Ercoupe. I bought my first Ercoupe two years ago, and in honor of my Dad my project airplane (currently doing a complete frame up rebuild) just had to be an Ercoupe. Ercoupes, you just gotta love em. Thanks Dad !!!