PTT, Dave Un­win

Pilot - - CONTENTS - Dave­un­win

Some of AERO'S weird but not al­ways wonderful of­fer­ings

Just what is it about avi­a­tion that seems to at­tract so many dreamers, char­la­tans, snake oil sales­men and Wal­ter Mit­tys? From the hun­dred–hour PPL who in­sists on fly­ing the club 150 at­tired like a Ty­phoon pi­lot (a sur­pris­ingly pop­u­lar trend as some re­cent let­ters in ‘Air­mail’ would sug­gest) to the bloke sit­ting in a mouldy Por­tak­abin with a bor­rowed hand­held trans­ceiver who be­haves as if he’s ‘Heathrow Ap­proach’ − I just don’t get it.

And, hav­ing re­cently re­turned from the Aero at ‘Friedrich shop’, I’m even more con­fused, for along with the var­i­ous per­mu­ta­tions of com­pos­ite two-seaters, both high and low wing and side-by-side or tandem, and each pow­ered by a Ro­tax 912, there were a cou­ple of de­signs that were... well, dis­tinctly dif­fer­ent−and could only have come from the most vivid of dreams (or per­haps they were night­mares?)

Dis­played some­what in­con­gru­ously amongst some fas­ci­nat­ing and fu­tur­is­tic elec­tric air­craft in the E-flight expo was the ap­po­sitely named Dis­copter Luft­taxi (see p.13−ed). Look­ing like some­thing straight out of a 1950s sci-fi ‘B’ movie this cu­ri­ous con­trap­tion promised to out-per­form both he­li­copters and aero­planes alike! I must ad­mit I was in­trigued. Most avi­a­tors are aware of the hoary old apho­rism (usu­ally at­trib­uted to Colin Chap­man) to “sim­plify, then add light­ness,” yet the Dis­copter ap­peared to have been con­structed from a com­bi­na­tion of sec­ond-hand Armco, re­dun­dant crane booms and bits of old bridge. Con­se­quently, al­though it ap­peared very ro­bust it must pre­sum­ably be ex­tremely heavy, yet it was plas­tered with ‘Do Not Touch’ signs. Per­haps it was made from a new and ex­otic al­loy, pos­si­bly an ul­tra­mod­ern amal­ga­ma­tion of ti­ta­nium and Du­ra­lu­min, and was con­se­quently not as heavy as it looked? In­trigued, I gen­tly touched one of the crudely welded seams. It was made from heavy-duty steel! Good­ness knows why they were worried about peo­ple touch­ing it. For­get ‘bul­let­proof’−the thing could prob­a­bly shrug off a di­rect hit from a 20mm can­non shell! Two de­sign flaws were im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent even to my un­trained eye: the not in­con­se­quen­tial is­sue of pro­vid­ing con­trol lon­gi­tu­di­nally and lat­er­ally didn’t ap­pear to have been ad­dressed (there were some sort of vanes, but I imag­ine the ef­fects of gy­ro­scopic pre­ces­sion would’ve been colos­sal); and, even more fun­da­men­tally, it re­ally wasn’t ob­vi­ous how the pi­lot and eight pas­sen­gers ac­cessed the cock­pit.

At the other end of the Messe (in fact in pole po­si­tion in the main en­trance) was the EAC Equa­tor am­phib­ian by Re­nais­sance air­craft. With its smooth com­pos­ite con­struc­tion im­per­vi­ous to cor­ro­sion, a sin­gle pusher pro­pel­ler sen­si­bly placed high on a py­lon to keep it out of the dam­ag­ing ef­fects of sea­wa­ter spray, and a prac­ti­cal re­tractable tri­cy­cle un­der­car­riage I’ll ad­mit I was nearly fooled, as from a dis­tance it did look quite be­liev­able.

Upon closer in­spec­tion how­ever I soon re­alised that the in­stru­ment panel had been cre­ated af­ter a trip to the lo­cal air­craft scrap­yard. In fact, I’m not en­tirely con­vinced that all the in­stru­ments scat­tered ran­domly across the panel were from air­craft. Fur­ther­more, con­trols for op­er­at­ing the engine and pro­pel­ler, and even the el­e­va­tor, rud­der and ailerons were con­spic­u­ous by their ab­sence. How­ever, it was only when I read the spec sheet on the nearby dis­play board did I re­alise that the ma­chine in front of me was of­fered in a truly daz­zling num­ber of ver­sions, from a ‘2-seat high-per­for­mance trainer’ to a ‘20-seat all­round[sic] com­muter’. It was claimed to be both ‘STOL & very long range’ and could be pow­ered by ei­ther one or two en­gines, in­stalled in both pusher or trac­tor in­stal­la­tions, in­clud­ing av­gas- or diesel-fu­elled pis­ton en­gines up to 475hp, or a 1,350shp tur­bo­prop. Ob­vi­ously, it would be cer­ti­fied to FAR Part 23 in the ‘Nor­mal’ cat­e­gory, and with its 340kt top speed, 5,000nm range and 36,000ft ceil­ing, the Equa­tor re­ally did ap­pear to of­fer some­thing for every­one. Ac­cord­ing to the spec sheet it was also ‘pres­surised or not’.

Of course, this sort of thing is not new. From Wil­liam Hen­son and John Stringfel­low’s Ae­rial Steam Car­riage of 1842 to the Moller Sky­car, avi­a­tion has al­ways at­tracted some... shall we say ‘imaginativ­e’ de­signs. Dur­ing the mid-1970s Pi­lot’s late and much­missed Ed­i­tor James Gil­bert wrote the ap­po­sitely ti­tled The World’s

Worst Air­craft– and if you can track down a copy on the in­ter­net I highly rec­om­mend it. From the as­ton­ish­ing Christ­mas Bul­let (it was de­signed by a doctor of medicine and shed its wings on its first flight, killing the pi­lot) to the Caproni Ca.60 (which had nine wings but no tail) it is a book that de­lights and dumb­founds in equal mea­sure.

Finally, al­though the Ae­rial Steam Car­riage never got past the patent stage (Bri­tish Patent Num­ber 9478, if you were won­der­ing) in 1933 a steam­pow­ered air­craft was built, pos­si­bly de­light­ing both steam en­thu­si­asts and plane spot­ters. The Besler Broth­ers bought a 150hp engine from the Doble Steam Mo­tors Co. of Detroit, in­stalled it in a Travel Air 2000, and it flew! I bet the pi­lot was well chuffed.

A cou­ple of de­signs were from the most vivid of dreams

Pi­lot’s Flight Test Ed­i­tor op­er­ates a Jodel D.9 from a farm strip and has logged stick-time on ev­ery­thing from ul­tra­lights to fast jets

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