Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Backcountry Monster: The Legend Of Bigfoot
Expedition Aircraft introduces a tailwheel version of its bush-country workhorse
Walking around Bigfoot, I try to anticipate how it will fly. I tell myself it will handle much like the big Cessnas—say, the 206. It will be heavy on the elevator and will feel substantial, not unlike a big rig going down the interstate. I notice the vortex generators and extensions on the wing. In fact, the wing itself is impressive. It’s an ingenious, high-lift, one-piece cantilever design that was carried through from the very first FBA-2C design by Bud Found and his brothers, Dwight, Gray and Mickey. The lack of any struts allows the cabin doors to swing 180 degrees like barn doors—regardless of flap setting—making loading really big stuff a snap. Five full-sized adults load in from four doors.
Bigfoot, the tailwheel version of the Expedition E350, features a high-lift, one-piece cantilever wing design that was carried through from the very first FBA-2C design by Bud Found and his brothers, Dwight, Gray and Mickey.
Strapping into the left seat, one gets a little bit of a de Havilland Beaver feel, probably owing to the Bigfoot’s pedigree. The cabin is an austere-but-whopping 53 inches wide and—thankfully—the rudder pedals and seat adjust enough to accommodate those of us on the shorter side. If I had any complaint, it would be that the glare shield is a little too high, and the seat could use a smidge more vertical adjustment. The yoke is center mounted, like the Beechcraft of old, and it’s a behemoth configuration that looks like it could hold up a truck. It feels good in the hand.
Starting this beast introduces no special witchcraft, other than all the people looking out the FBO windows. Bigfoot draws groupies like a free Justin Bieber concert, and it’s fun to be the guy with the backstage pass. It’s quieter than I thought, with 315 Lycoming IO-580 ponies under the cowling doing their best to shake off the morning. This beefy engine is the same one powering those Extras and Edges at the Red Bull Air Races.
Taxiing is pretty easy with the castering tailwheel and its 25-foot turning radius. Visibility over the nose is surprisingly good, though I make S-turns out of habit. Ted doesn’t seem to mind, as he breaks the tension by telling me not to do the usual taildragger thing and lift the tail. “Keep the tail low,” Dirstein says, “And let it fly off. You’ll be surprised how fast that happens.”
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Labels: Piston Singles