Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Step Up To The Super

Yes, it is a NEW airplane

When unrestricted by a Skyhawk with a window open, a moderately loaded Waco manages about 750-800 fpm from sea level. Optimum cruise height of 6,500-7,500 feet comes up in 10 minutes.

Considerations of cruise speed and fuel burn pale to insignificance in the Waco, but this isn’t a one-trick pony, suitable only for hamburger flights on CAVU Sundays and holidays. Pilots WILL take them cross-country from time to time. While fun is more often the goal than speed or range, fuel capacity is 48 gallons, so the new YMF-5D offers about 2.5 hours’ endurance plus reserve at 15 gph, trucking along at 105 knots max. If you’re determined to cover longer distances, you can add a pair of 12-gallon aux tanks that can extend endurance to four hours and range to 420 nm.

It’s true the more common application of the big biplane is local cruising with perhaps a loop or roll thrown in just to keep things interesting. The Waco is easily tough enough for most basic aerobatics, but it was never designed for hard acro. Roll rate is a leisurely 50-60 degrees per second, so a full-aileron-deflection roll requires about seven seconds. Loops can be pretty much as you like them, depending upon how hard you’re willing to pull. (G-limit is 5.5.) The airplane also does a reasonable hammerhead turn to the left with full left rudder and opposite aileron to avoid rolling onto your back.

The Waco IS an open-cockpit airplane, and that might seem to present problems in winter, but Waco is way ahead of you. The company has paid special attention to the problem of heating the airplane’s two, open-air pits. The windshields do a good job of deflecting airflow away from the pilot/passengers, and heat floods up from the floors to keep everyone comfortable and warm in temperatures that might surprise you. It’s true I was flying in Florida in April, so the problem was minimal, but the heater is alleged to be phenomenal at suppressing the cold of those Battle Creek winters.

The Waco’s 51-knot stall speed makes the airplane friendly down to approach speeds of 65 or even 60 knots if you need to plunk it on and stop it short. The airplane provides so much aerodynamic warning of an impending stall, you’d have to be in a narcoleptic trance not to recognize it. Three-point touchdowns or wheel landings work equally well, and the biplane goes almost exactly where you point it on the ground with the help of that big, steerable tailwheel.

Waco’s YMF-5D is the oldest general aviation airplane design still in production. Fortunately, that doesn’t portend bad things. The model has a good safety record, and a nearly fanatical following among its owners. One of them, a prominent real estate broker in Santa Ana, Calif., once misjudged a desert crosswind, lost control on landing and put his Waco on its nose, doing substantial damage. The tough steel-tube structure kept him from harm, and as he was sitting in the airplane, hanging from his straps and waiting for the crash crew, he pulled out his cell phone, dialed the factory in Battle Creek and ordered a new one. Now, that’s dedication.

Labels: Piston Singles


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