Fly­ing through his­tory

Pilot - - PREFLIGHT - Philip White­man, Ed­i­tor

Ihave said be­fore that one of the great plea­sures in pri­vate fly­ing is its his­tor­i­cal depth. For a start, any­body learn­ing to fly on the ‘legacy’ US light air­craft that dom­i­nate club and school fleets will ex­pe­ri­ence 1960s tech­nol­ogy, and ba­sic han­dling and nav­i­ga­tion tech­niques that are almost as old as the aero­plane (in­vented, what­ever the myth-mak­ers would have you be­lieve, by the Wright broth­ers in 1903). While almost ev­ery one drives a car that is no more than ten years old or less, many pi­lots con­tinue to fly 1960s de­signs and a sub­stan­tial mi­nor­ity per­sist in fly­ing 1930s and 40s era vintage aero­planes like Moths and Cubs.

Talk­ing of which, hav­ing never flown one but al­ways been in­trigued by them, I am happy to be run­ning in this is­sue Dave Unwin’s flight test of 1946 Aeronca 11AC Chief G-IIAC (see what they did with the reg­is­tra­tion there). The Chief is not com­mon in the UK – G-INFO lists four­teen – which ex­plains why Bob Grim­stead flight-tested the same air­craft thirty years ago (another flight through his­tory – but the in­ter­val is, I hope, long enough for us to be for­given for re­peat­ing the ex­er­cise on these pages).

As you will dis­cover, Dave rather liked the Chief. De­spite its poor brakes and a cou­ple of other mi­nor nig­gles, it is clearly rather a love­able ma­chine and its side-by-side seat­ing is cer­tainly more com­pan­ion­able than the same man­u­fac­turer’s Champ and the ri­val Piper Cub. The Chief will also lift a sur­pris­ing weight of bag­gage, which makes it even more at­trac­tive as a very slow but won­der­fully eco­nomic tourer. I quite fancy one, don’t you?

At the other end of the time and per­for­mance scales sits the Extra 330LX, flight tested for this edi­tion by dis­play and aer­o­batic pi­lot Bob Davy. For all of his ex­pe­ri­ence at the con­trols of some pretty high-per­for­mance ma­chin­ery, Bob was blown away by the Extra.

Years ago, I was for­tu­nate enough to have a go in an Extra my­self – one of the Fire­bird Aer­o­bat­ics pair op­er­ated by Brian Le­comber. No doubt grind­ing his teeth at my in­com­pe­tence, he sat through my var­i­ous at­tempts at slow rolls be­fore tak­ing con­trol to demon­strate quite what an Extra could do. It made an im­pres­sion on me that has not faded with time – this was real aer­o­batic fly­ing, all the sen­sa­tion of a Le Mans sports rac­ing car ride af­ter years of pootling around the lanes in a VW Beetle. As does Bob, I com­mend it to you – no pi­lot’s fly­ing life is com­plete with­out an Extra fly­ing ex­pe­ri­ence in the log­book.

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