Flight Training - June 2020 - 8

UNUSUAL ATTITUDE BY DAVE HIRSCHMAN

Editor at Large DAVE HIRSCHMAN
happily owns an RV-4-but still
appreciates exotic aircraft such as
a Zlin 50 (shown here).
dave.hirschman@aopa.org

MY FAVORITE AIRCRAFT
Here's a simple-sounding aviation question that I often struggle
to answer: What's your favorite airplane?

I've got some pat replies-"The one I'm flying," or "The next one"-and a few
dodges-"To own, or to fly?" or "It depends on who's paying for fuel." These are all a
bit disingenuous. The bond between airplane and pilot comes down to flying qualities-and those elude easy definition. Pilots know great-flying airplanes when we fly
them. And we never forget our first loves.
European fliers regard the B├╝cker Jungmeister as the Stradivarius of its age. It was
unveiled at the 1936 International Aerobatic Championship and remained competitive
for 30 years. Another single-seat aerobat, the Zlin 526 from the former Czechoslovakia,
is prized for its impeccable control harmony, smooth-running Walter engine, swept
leading edges, and aesthetically appealing symmetry. The de Havilland Chipmunk from
Canada won converts for its superior handling and sturdy construction.
Americans wax poetic about the PT-17 Stearman Kaydet and North American T-6
Texan. They were rites of passage for pilots of the Greatest Generation.
The favorite-airplane question got me curious about flying qualities and their
changing definitions. One of the first came from the U.S. Army Signal Corps' requirement for what became the first military airplane-the Wright Flyer. The specs included
"perfect control and equilibrium at all times" during flight around a closed course.
The Wrights evidently met that requirement, although no pilot today would say the
primitive Flyer was blessed with perfect control. In 1943, the U.S. Army Air Forces came
up with its own flying quality metrics. NACA took the science much deeper in the late
1940s and 1950s, and the U.S. military went wonky in 1969 with a report setting a blizzard of technical parameters.
8

FLIGHT TRAINING JUNE 2020

In general aviation, aircraft control
systems have long included enhancements
such as bobweights, springs, balanced controls, servo and anti-servo tabs, differential
ailerons, vortex generators, and hydraulically boosted controls.
The art of mechanical refinement was
on display 50 years ago with the buttery
smooth handling of the Beechcraft Baron,
T-34 Mentor, and King Air. A Cessna Skylane makes pilots look good when landing
in a crosswind or on a short mountain
airstrip. And a de Havilland Beaver is a
ballerina on wheels or floats.
Stronger, lighter materials and the
ability to manufacture complex shapes
have improved aerodynamics even more.
The two-panel wings of a Cirrus SR22
or an Icon A5 are just the beginning. At
the ultra-high end, fly-by-wire systems
pioneered by the military and airliners are
making their way to corporate jets.
The raw, nervous energy of a Pitts
biplane, the elegant refinement of a
Bonanza, and the brute force and ergonomic perfection of an Extra reflect
decades of large and small improvements.
As for my favorite airplane-it's not the
art deco Beech Model 17 Staggerwing from
aviation's Golden Age, or a wondrous Merlin-powered P-51 Mustang.
No, my favorite aircraft is the mechanically simple, economical, sporty, no-frills
Van's RV-4. It's an airplane that pilots wear
like a jacket. The control stick is in your
right hand, where it belongs, and the seat is
on the center line. Control harmony is sublime, ground handling is second nature, and
the airplane's versatility is commendable.
A well-equipped RV-4 can take
off and land at a grass strip, fly in the
clouds, and loop and roll with alacrity. A
lightweight RV-4 (ideally attached to a
constant-speed propeller) has handling
qualities as superlative as a Jungmeister,
Chipmunk, or Zlin. The RV-4 also gets
25 miles per gallon or more when flying
cross-country at 175 mph.
Connoisseurs will scoff at my pick
of such a common aircraft as a personal
favorite. It's like choosing Budweiser at a
bar full of exotic IPAs.
To me, however, it tells a bigger story.
We're living in a moment in aviation
history when the art and science of aircraft
control is so advanced that even a humble
kit airplane can have handling qualities on
par with some of the most renowned aircraft of all time, and that's astounding. FT



Flight Training - June 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Flight Training - June 2020

Contents
Flight Training - June 2020 - Intro
Flight Training - June 2020 - Cover1
Flight Training - June 2020 - Cover2
Flight Training - June 2020 - Contents
Flight Training - June 2020 - 2
Flight Training - June 2020 - 3
Flight Training - June 2020 - 4
Flight Training - June 2020 - 5
Flight Training - June 2020 - 6
Flight Training - June 2020 - 7
Flight Training - June 2020 - 8
Flight Training - June 2020 - 9
Flight Training - June 2020 - 10
Flight Training - June 2020 - 11
Flight Training - June 2020 - 12
Flight Training - June 2020 - 13
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Flight Training - June 2020 - 15
Flight Training - June 2020 - 16
Flight Training - June 2020 - 17
Flight Training - June 2020 - 18
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Flight Training - June 2020 - Cover3
Flight Training - June 2020 - Cover4
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