Flying through history
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.