The first flight in a new airplane is exciting, even when it’s an old friend with a bigger engine. I had flown Huskies many times, but never the new 200 hp Aviat Husky A-1B-200, and as I started to throttle up, I was watching the edge of the runway for any indication that the airplane was trying to turn; it wasn’t. Also, I had a plan: I was going to do a standard Husky three-point, short-field takeoff rather than lifting the tail in the normal manner. What’s the fun in flying an airplane with a big motor if you’re not going to go for the gusto?
Short-field takeoff technique in any Husky is pretty rudimentary: a) suck the stick to your navel and hold it there, b) feed in the power, c) try to keep from yelling “yahoo” when the main gear comes off first and d) release back pressure to the edge of the bungee-induced stick pressure. That’s it! Pretty hard to screw up. That was the plan anyway.
Flaps full down, stick full back, throttle full forward. As the runway began streaking past, I was hyperattentive to my butt: I was looking for the telltale feeling that, as the wings started to lift, the gear was extending and was getting ready to fly. In 180 hp airplanes, you can feel it coming. In the 200 hp bird, however, there was virtually no warning. We ran down the runway for a few seconds, stick back and tail down, when the airplane simply leaped off the runway, main gear first, with just the slightest warning. When I started to release the back pressure, however, I found I wasn’t being rushed to get the stick forward as in small-engine airplanes.
I’d expected more performance with the bigger motor, but I hadn’t expected the short-field takeoff to be even easier than it already was. Incidentally, we were almost at gross weight, wind was probably at three knots, and it was 85 degrees, yet I didn’t see the second runway light as we left the ground, so we were off in 250 feet.
The addition of the 200 hp IO-360-A1D6 is yet another step in the development of what started in 1983 as the A-1 Husky. By the time Aviat got to the 1B-200 version, they’d made some substantial changes, most of which were aimed at not only improved short-field capabilities, but also better handling and more utility; not that there was anything wrong with the way the aircraft handled before.
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