Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Best Of All Possible Worlds

Four if by land, two if by sea: making a great plane greater

Imagine this: You make a two-point landing...or a four-point! Then you back-taxi, take off and fly over to a lake. You land on the smooth-as-glass, sparkling water and beach the amphib next to your friend’s beach party. After lunch, you and your buddy pile in to lake-skim the local waterways at 20 feet. Welcome to amphibious flying, where your landing sites and possibilities for fun increase exponentially with the simple addition of water.

Four If By Land...
Aerodynamically and aesthetically, the Legend Aircraft AmphibCub is a distinctive creature. No longer a taildragger, the plane anchors to wheeled floats with rigid struts. That pretty much levels things up to tricycle-gear country.

I suppose, technically, the retractable wheels fore and aft make the lovely creature a “quadcycle-gear” airplane. And having four wheels bestows interesting characteristics for ground landings. You can land level on all four wheels, just like a flying car; nose-high on the two rear wheels like a tricycle or taildragger plane; or, in a crosswind, on the two side wheels of the upwind float. Now, how cool is that?

Back To The Ground
Presenting yourself to the airplane on land, you look up at the cockpit—and I mean up; it’s a tall bird. Aesthetically, this presents a sense-memory challenge for those with appreciable Cub time. The feeling of newness grows once you climb into that lofty cockpit. And what a sight you’re greeted with. Your head is nine feet above ground. Looking out over the nose to an open, commanding view is a kick...and we haven’t even fired up yet!

The metal Baumann BF 1500A amphibious floats, resplendent in classic Cub yellow, add so much sunshine you want to just soak it all in.

The LSA standard allows another 110 pounds on top of the max legal LSA weight of 1,320 pounds for duck feet, bumping max takeoff weight (MTOW) to 1,430 pounds. The Baumanns add a net weight of 160 pounds, resulting in a 990-pound empty weight and 440 pounds of useful load. Even so, the airplane cruises at almost the same speed as the wheeled version since the floats provide around 100 pounds of lift, helping unload the wing and resulting in less drag.

Taxiing from that lofty perch is way cool. Feed in pressure to the heel brake (Grove hydraulics) to initiate turns, taxi fast enough for rudder control, and you’re good to go. The 100 hp Continental 0-200 cranks a big 72-inch prop that’s pitched at 46 inches for a balanced off-water climb (750 fpm) and cruise (we saw 85 knots) performance.

All the controls are well placed in that roomier (three inches wider than a J-3) cabin. There’s a Johnson bar landing-gear lever on the floor—nice, long and smooth-working. All flight surfaces are cable-rigged but feel near pushrod-tight. And the airplane’s owner, Charlie Pickett, has some very cool modern gear in this classic son-of-a-fun flyer’s panel: a fully rigged Dynon SkyView with EFIS and synthetic vision, a Garmin 496 GPS, Garmin SL-40 nav/com, a PS Engineering PM1200 intercom, an all-electric panel, a...enough, the sky’s calling!

Labels: LSAs


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