Sunday, April 1, 2007
The Huskier Husky
An old friend with a bigger engine
|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?|
Unfortunately, nothing in aviation is free, including performance that’s the result of increased horsepower. In the case of the A-1B-200, the empty weight has gone up a total of 70 pounds over its 180 hp brethren, so the useful load has drifted down to 680 pounds, even though it’s licensed with the lighter, composite MT-Propeller. If you use the FAA-mandated 170 pounds for each passenger, that leaves just enough room for the 52 gallons of gas and 30 pounds of gear. However, if you’re talking about “real” people (and both Mark and I are very “real”), chances are pretty good that in some situations you won’t be able to fill both tanks. Aviat, however, has a solution for that (see the sidebar).
On that first takeoff, as the airplane clawed into the air, I begrudgingly let the nose down slightly, to hold the 73 mph best climb-rate speed, which still put us at a ridiculous climb angle. At gross weight, this gives a climb of 1,700 feet per minute, which calls for another “yeehah!” In most real-life situations, once you’re over 50 feet, few people are going to feel comfortable at a nose attitude that high because they’re stone blind. At a more reasonable angle, we were seeing around 1,300 fpm, which is still pretty respectable.
Incidentally, during the taxi and takeoff, you can just about see over the nose (taller pilots can probably see the centerline). This makes no difference, however, because the view on the ground around the nose is excellent. Also, the ground handling isn’t even worth discussing—it’s so easy, and on takeoff, it launches so quickly, you’d have to work to get into trouble. The only thing of note in that area is that the instant the gear begins to leave the ground, you need to get some right foot into it immediately to counteract P-factor or you’re going to be sliding left.
In cruise, the visibility is, as you’d expect, hard to improve on—this is the ultimate sight-seeing airplane. It is, however, also a fairly useful cross-country bird. Aviat quotes 138 mph at 55% power, which is a change from most factory spec charts that quote unrealistic 75% cruise speeds. When asked about the 55%, Mark said it was because using any more power was a waste of gasoline. To increase the cruise speed exactly one mph over 138 requires an entire gallon per hour extra, so 55% is the most efficient setting. The airfoil is the old, flat-bottom Clark “Y,” and when it hits its drag rise, there’s no use trying to push it faster.
In the air, the ailerons, which are designed to be effective at slow speeds, make themselves known with a little more adverse yaw than most pilots are accustomed to. That’s not a negative and will only be noticed by feet-on-the-floor Cessna or Mooney pilots. Those who fly Cubs, Champs and their ilk won’t even notice the adverse yaw.
Pull or push it 10% off trim speed in cruise, then let go, and it will start back to neutral and be dead stable after two fairly weak cycles. This is better than many supposedly more stable birds. Pull the nose left and right with rudder and let go, and it will slowly regain straight-ahead flight.
Stalls, as you’d expect with an airplane like this, don’t amount to much. Even with full flaps, you only get a gentle nod, and if you hold the stick dead against the stop and leave it there, the nose just hunts up and down a little. You do have to baby (or avoid) the ailerons in that situation because, if you ask too much of them, you can feel them trying to stall. This, again, is nothing out of the ordinary. All stalls are in the very low 50s to mid-40s, and recover as soon as back pressure is released.