Monday, November 2, 2009
Breezer II: The Girl Next Door
Familiar and lovely, easy to be with and great to fly
The aircraft’s padded control stick offers pilots a comfortable grip, complementing the cockpit’s cushioned and well-appointed leather upholstery.
“Clear!” shouts Mike Z as he fires up the Rotax 912 ULS with a simple turn of the key. No mixture, no endless cranking: love that Rotax. The single fuel tank is mounted between the engine and the cockpit. My host praises the long, roomy engine compartment. “Easy to work on,” he says.
Twisting in the console-mounted vernier throttle, we bump across Wallaby’s expansive grass field in the hot afternoon light. “I do 100% of my flying with the vernier,” says Mike Z. “I like the precise throttle adjustments. “But,” he adds, “the factory is changing back to lever-actuated throttles on either side.” Keeping back stick to lighten the load on the nosewheel, we’re airborne soon enough and in a cruise climb at around 600 fpm...and that on a hot, humid Florida afternoon. Best climb with two aboard is around 900 fpm, and well over 1,100 solo. Perky!
Airwork (Work? They call this “work”?) turns out to be a stroll in the cloud park with my date, as Breezer handles the bumps without a fuss. It’s a delightfully solid airplane that Cherokee and Cessna pilots should take to readily. Climbing to cooler air, we trim for 100 knots. The air vents are adequate, though on this hot day, a more forceful airflow would be most welcome. “You don’t need much rudder,” says Mike Z. True enough: Pulling 360s left and right, I’m over controlling the pedals (I learned on a rudder ship). Feet, stop dancing! One difference from my earlier date with the Breezer is the aileron control, which feels noticeably firmer this time around the dance club. Pitch is somewhat lighter than roll, although not overly “pitchy.” Mike Z says that’s probably due to gyroscopic stability from the long nose.
Breezer also weighs almost 800 pounds empty, heavier than many LSA. That helps, too, in turbulent air. Doing Dutch rolls, I find I’m putting in a bit of muscle. Maybe I’ve gotten weaker: Time to hit the gym, Jim. But these lateral pressures aren’t objectionable, just not fingertip wingover–like. Once turn is established, just center up and you can carve that turn all day long. Yep, kinda like a Cherokee.
Trimming for pitch is a “breeze” thanks to the stick-top button. Love that feature. Visibility is really excellent forward, overhead and, well, behind, too. Slow flight maneuvers only add to my sense of familiarity and comfort. She’ll hang on the prop in a no-flaps takeoff stall, requiring just a bit of right rudder to keep the ball centered. Very light buffeting presages the stall. Then, just lower the nose, and she’s moving right along again—a very gentle break. With flaps, you get a bit more buffeting, but the Rx is the same: Relax the stick, and she flies herself right out. Landing stalls are equally non histrionic. At stall, relax the stick, twist in some power, and she’s cruising again without any drama. The ailerons get mushier right above stall but maintain decent authority, even at 35 knots indicated and flaps around 20 degrees. Cruising at around 5,100 rpm delivers 105 knots indicated.
Throwing Her Weight Around
Fuel management is a snap, but Mike Z recommends a weight-and-balance calculation for the beginning and end of the trip, due to that forward, single fuel tank. As the go-juice burns off, the CG naturally moves aft. That’s one reason for the baggage compartment up front—to help you stay in the CG envelope. Just for fun, we practice a falling leaf. Slow down, using feet to keep wings level, not ailerons, or she could spin. Indicating 35 to 40 knots, hanging right on the buffet, we float down nose-high at more than 1,000 fpm.
Descend on final, pull up, let her settle and plunk down—all are nominal and friendly. Then we crack the canopy to beat the Florida heat. Watching Mike Z climb away from Wallaby minutes later, I have to smile. Breezer II is so easy to be with. Sweet, fresh and dependable...just like the girl next door.
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