Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Artificial Speed

Believe it or not, there are some easy, inexpensive ways to fly faster

Sadly, that’s most often not the case. The reality is that a high-gloss wax job makes the airplane look so much better, you THINK it’s flying several knots faster. Usually, that’s wishful thinking.

I say “usually” because there’s at least one product I know of on the market that can have an effect. LoPresti Engineering in Sebastian, Fla., sells two surface preparations specifically intended to clean up an airplane both esthetically and aerodynamically.

The first, Speed Coat, goes on like standard paste wax, but the second, Knot Wax, is a more complex product that demands stripping all existing wax from the surface before application. When Dave LoPresti sent me a test kit of Speed Coat, I was a little dubious.

Wrong! I flew the airplane for the before, noted the speed, landed and applied LoPresti Speed Coat, refueled and went back up the following morning to check the speed. There was no question. At full throttle, 2,700 rpm and 8,500 feet, my Mooney scored something between one and two knots better groundspeed on three average, two-way GPS runs with Speed Coat in place. (Winds were calm, and temperatures were nearly identical for the before and after tests.)

Several years ago, Gretchen Jahn, then president of Mooney and now president of Remos, tested Knot Wax on a new Ovation, and said she saw roughly the same two-knot improvement.

Of course, one of the more frustrating aspects of applying these tricks is that the results may be hard to measure, especially incrementally. It may be next to impossible to see any airspeed change by employing only one of the techniques above. Collectively, you should be able to see a small but definite airspeed change by employing the ideas above. If you don’t have GPS and trust your airspeed indicator, you may be able to see a higher indicated airspeed, perhaps as much as three to five knots.

For many pilots, speed is the ultimate goal—the more the better. If you’re buying new, it can cost major bucks to step up progressively from 160 to 180 to 200 knots, but there are a few tricks that can let your existing airplane fly faster without a major investment.


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