Chapter 28 - First Flight

Yes. It actually flies. This chapter is about the first flight, and everything that leads up to it. The actual first flight report is at the end.

Flying a Cozy

The inspection is over with and the bird's legally ready to fly. I'm trying to do everything the safe, sensible way. I asked in the Cozy list a couple of times for anyone prepared to give me some Cozy time. A Cozy experience flight is one thing. At this stage I need hands on experience, approaches and landings. I got quite a few offers [Thanks people - You know who you are] but, for one reason or another the opportunities didn't work out, so I started trying to get a feel for how to fly the Cozy by email. Dumb idea. I asked over and over in the maillists, and via private email to experienced flyers, for input on things to think about when flying a pattern in a Cozy. I've had some good advice and some bad, and very little that would have actually helped. One VERY respected Cozy flyer, knowing I had 1000 hrs and some jet retract experience, told me to get some time in a Cessna with no flaps and then just "go fly it". I'd "do just fine", he said. I had similar suggestions from others. Take it from me. This advise is probably the most dangerous advise I have ever received.

If you are building, or planning to fly a Cozy, and read only one page in this web site - let this be it.

Your Grand-daddy's C152

Feeling a little uncomfortable with the "just get in and go" input, I continued trying to set up some Cozy flight experience, and finally got a note from Dan Cruger in Mobile, AL. Dan offered to fly down to West Palm with Paul Conner, stay overnight and let me get some time in his bird. All it would cost me would be the fuel for the trip. What a wonderful offer. Paul is a LongEZ builder / flyer who's now building an SQ2000 with a 13B on the back. He's an experienced pilot, ex-military instructor and is very familiar with Dan's bird, including right seat, plus he knows the rotary. OK, so the experience would cost me a few hundred in fuel. Far less than the cost of renting a 40 year old Cessna 152. Another way to look at this might be to consider how many times during the build I'd had to plop down $1500, $2500 or more for various parts. Here's a way to truely "insure" all of that investment for just a few hundred. Sounds like a deal to me, and much cheaper and more effective than a liability only insurance policy. I'd rather avoid an accident than protect myself from the results of one. I'm pretty rusty, so the day before Dan and Paul were due to arrive I rented an instructor and a little old 152 for an hour and get myself checked out while doing flapless approaches ad nausiam. Next morning I took the 152 out again, but after 4 touch and go's I decided this was a waste of time & money, and was getting boring.

Seat of the pants

Dan and Paul arrived on Thursday morning, 2 days after the inspection. so I only had one opportunity to tempt myself. I was roaring down the taxiway on wednesday, fully legal and eagar to fly. I held myself back and put the airplane in the hangar. I'm glad I did. After the guys had settled in and had some lunch, Paul and I went flying while Dan "started in" on my plane. [ more about that later]. It was a little windy and gusty. Paul did the first take off. Seemed like no big deal. He proceeded around the pattern talking me though the speeds and rpm settings. This took me back a few years. I have 200+ hours single jet experience, but most of my time is C172 and PA28-Cherokee spread over 30+ years of flying. I guess I've become lazy. I don't tend to think much about precise rpm settings and speeds much any more when I'm flying. I've gotten into the habit of doing it "seat of the pants". Usually the landings work out fine. If they don't, I fix them. No problem. Bad attitude for a Cozy.

The first thing I noticed about Paul's demo pattern was that, from the perspective of a C172 pilot, the approach angle was all wrong. The VASI's were totally red on final. It was as if we'd done an extended downwind for some reason and were "driving it in" from a very long final. Power was on, and we seemed low, low, low. The perspective didn't change. We were "low" all the way to a squeeky touchdown on the numbers. Hmmm. That was different. We went around and, once clear of the ground, Paul gave me the controls and, with Paul talking quietly in my ear, I proceeded to try and duplicate his pattern.

Turn crosswind at 500 ft. Too late we're rapidly passing 700 climbing at 140kts and 1500 fpm. Brain says - "Turn down wind, then level out at 1000". I had to throttle back quickly to save breaking the 1200ft class C floor, and we hadn't even turned crosswind yet. This is NOT you're grand-daddy's C152. Paul let me make the mistakes and waited patiently while I caught up with the bird. I was perfectly safe, 'cause I was so far behind the airplane, my brain was still on the ground. While I mused about being behind the airplane, we whipped down the downwind, still at 140 kts. I fought her below 120 so Paul could get the gear down, and we were turning base already. Paul wasnt flying it, and I was still climbing aboard, so I guess the Cozy was doing most of the work here.

My first approach seemed fine, except that we were at around 120kts and 50 ft over the threshold. In a Cessna high and fast would be fixable - in fact its my preference. We went around. After a series of maybe 8 or 9 approaches I was starting to get it. If you're used to a Cessna, this bird gets away from you REAL fast, and if you dont have it at 80kts and 10 ft over the numbers you aint landing. At least not anytime soon. On a 6,000 ft runway, maybe time will solve you're problem. With the 3400 ft we had it reminds me of that line from Apollo 13 - It's kinda like hitting the edge of a sheet of paper with a dart from 30 feet. The cozy is like a jet powered glider, which means it doesn't behave a bit like either. The approach angle in a jet is steep, because it glides like a brick when the power's off. The approach angle in a glider is shallow, but you've usually got big spoilers to dump height and speed. The 16:1 Cozy glide ratio means that it just don't wanna stop flying. Combine this admirable attribute with high speeds and landing it "politely" in 3400 ft is an serious art form. Here's a typical pattern as I recall it.

Accelerate to 60kts. Nose coming light. 70 kts ready to fly. 75 kts lift her off gently. On each occasion I did this the nose went a little high and I to push a tiny bit to get it back down. Raise the gear. Quickly establish a 110kt climb and get the gear up. 10 seconds later we're passing 500ft, turn crosswind. Almost immediately, back off on the power to about 2100 rpm or less to keep the speed below 120 and avoid climbing through pattern height. Turn downwind and fight the speed back to 120kts. The pattern is a typically a bit wider than you might be used to in a 172. Make a tight pattern and you'll be using 60 degrees of bank in the turns. No 15 degree bank turn here. We were using 30 or so. Lower the gear, quick downwind checks and radio call and we're ready for base way before you expected it. A few times my downwind and base calls were all one sentence. Turn base, power back to 1500 and look for a 500 ft rate of decent at around 110kts. Turn final and ignore the feeling that you're WAY too low. Watch the speed. No more than 110, bleeding back to 100. Get over 120 and you're pretty much screwed. No less than 80. Watch the rpm. Back to 1400 or less. Even though your brain "knows" you're way too low, and aint gonna make the field, back off on the power some more looking for 90kts on short final. You don't really feel the speed, but it sure becomes noticable when you're on the ground. A little less power. Power's all the way off. The first time I got to this point, Paul said "Don't do ANYTHING". I kept perfectly still. As we crossed the numbers at about 80kts and 10 feet, he said it again. "Don't do anything". 3 feet and 75kts and I want to pull back. "Don't do anything", said Paul once more. I froze, and she gently settled onto the runway, the nose bobbed down onto the gear and we were down. "I've got the brakes" says Paul, and I realize that we're still "hurtling" toward the end off the runway, and those threshold lights are coming up awfully fast. Medium braking brought us to a stop at the last turn off. Hmmm. We went and did it again.

Landing Brakes etc.

In between flights Paul, Dan and I talked about some of the techniques we were using. I was puzzelled that we weren't using the landing brake at all during our exercises. Paul feels that the best starting point is to get the hang of a clean landing. Once you have that down you can start playing with the rudders, landing brake and maybe even some sideslip. I think he's right. One other little trick I notice Paul would use to fix my height on short final would be to stuff the nose down quite steeply for a couple of seconds. Not long enough to build up speed, but long enough to dump 20 feet. The training method was designed to save us being hard on Dan's plane and to keep the danger to a minimum. Unless the landing was absolutely pegged we did a low pass at 10 feet. We did a lot of low passes.

Norm Muzzy sent me an email and made a couple of additional points worth mentioning here.

> First couple flights, don't worry about the nose gear.  
> Leave it down and locked.

> When you fly by yourself, you will find that the plane rotates 
> much easier, and you will over rotate.  

> You want to make sure you are within CG.
> Make sure you put just a bit more fuel in the RH tank than in the LH tank.
> The balance affects your roll rate, and how well it turns.  

A word about seating

On the first flight we put a cushion behind my back to boost me up a little - I'm only 5' 7". This did not work well. The result was that I could reach the rudders easily, but was quite uncomfortable. My headset was against the canopy cricking my neck to the side, and I could only look left with difficulty. This also seemed to put my arm out of sync with the armrest and, for a few minutes, I had quite a nasty cramping kinda pain in my left forearm - so much so that I used my right hand to help my left control the stick a couple of times. When we got back I sat in my plane with the headset on and it Seemed fine. On the next flight Dan had moved the cushion. Now I had no problem with my head hitting the canopy, and my left arm was very comfortable, but I was reclined more and found myself having to hold my neck forward. I badly needed a headrest, something to support my neck. I was busy and forgot the discomfort after a while. This is not a problem with the Cozy. Paul is 200+ lbs and he was totally comfortable. It's an adjustment problem. You need the right seat thickness, rudder pedal setting and neck/head rest for YOU. I'd suggest putting a lot of attention into getting these adjustments just right for you before flying. Once you're airborne you're way too busy to correct these things, and you just have to ignore them.

Lesson 2

Next morning, after trying unsucessfully to get my bird started, Paul & I flew Dan's Cozy again while he sat patiently on the ground. What a guy! It must take a lot of courage to watch a total novice taxi off with the plane you took almost 4 years to build. It also takes a lot of confidence in the instructor / co-pilot. The confidence was well founded. Paul's military instructing experience shone through. I can't remember having a better instructor since I left the air force. Paul knew when to sit quietly, touch nothing, and watch me get into a mess. he also knew exactly when to calmly say "My airplane" and put us back in the ball park. We exchanged control formally and concisely. Most of the time he just sat there and quietly talked me though the stuff I was missing.

We did a few steep turns out of the pattern just to get the feel of the plane. How does she feel? Responsive, and EZ to fly. You point. She goes. End of problem. Flying her isn't an issue, and the left stick is totally intuitive. Except for something like a steep turn you don't tend to move it more than 1/8 inch in any direction, so mostly you're just resting your arm on the armrest and changing the pressure you're putting on the stick a tiny bit. It needs a delicate touch, but it's totally effortless.

Even though it was a bit more windy and gusty than it had been the day before, I was now only about 20 ft behind the airplane, so most of the time I could keep everything roughly where it needed to be. I pinned two landings in a row and we called it a day.

More valuable input on flying the Cozy

Marc Zeitlin read the above and sent me a private email. Marc felt that the pattern I described was way too low and way too fast. He'd rather see a new Cozy pilot learning how the bird behaves in slow flight, and then using the landing brake to give a steeper approach. Here's an excerpt from our conversation published here with Marc's permission:
[regarding climb out]
If you need a Vx climb, it'll be at about 85 mph (74 Kts) - It'll 
look like you're pointing straight up, and will be pretty scary the first 
few times you try it.  For Vy, it's about 110 mph (96 Kts).  However, it's 
pretty hard to see over the nose at these speeds, so unless you've got 
obstacles, I like to climb at about 120 mph - 130 mph (105 Kts - 113 
Kts).  This gives you good visibility, only lowers the climb rate a bit 
(10%, maybe a bit more, but it's still great), and cools a bit better too.

[other pattern speeds]
downwind    - 90kts       (103.5 mph)
base        - 75/80kts    (86 - 92 mph)
short final - 75kts       (86 mph)
over the numbers - 70kts (80.5 mph)

The usual way to deal with gusts is to add 1/2 the gust speed to your final 
approach speed - while that certainly changes things some, it still sounds 
like your downwind, base, and early final speeds were very high.  

The thing that concerned me the most, though, was the altitude and glide 
path.  Being below the VASI is very bad - especially since the VASI is set 
up for larger aircraft that need to have power on approach and fly 
flatter.  Personally, I always try to have two whites until on very short 
final, even on a short field approach.

 >If you don't mind I'd like to post extracts about the flying speeds from
 >you're email. Both make good sense and I think people will learn from them.

Not at all - go right ahead.

 >For example, the DAR who flew his Velocity in 2 days before took off a
 >chunck of winglet because he landed VERY hard. He may well have got too slow
 >and hit by a gust.

I suppose that's possible.

If you've read much of this web site you know me by now. I like to get to the bottom of things. I asked Paul why we didn't use the landing brake, and why we were flying the pattern so fast. Here's his reply:
I would recommend that you save the slow flight and landing brake practice 
until the winds are not as strong as we were experiencing. 

On a calm day, however, it is a great time try lowering the airspeeds on final
a bit. Unfortunately, with the gusty winds we had, that is no time to be
coming in slow and dragging it in. When the Cozy gets around 70 to 75 knots,
the ailerons just aren't as effective against sudden crosswind gusts.  On a
calm day, however, the aircraft will fly very nicely at slower speeds.  The
gusty weather we were experiencing, however was not going to allow us that

There are differing opinions regarding useage of the landing brake,
and also differing opinions on crosswind landing technique with the Cozy.

My personal opinion is that until you really feel comfortable with the
aircraft,  dragging the aircraft in slow with the landing brake deployed
might feel more comfortable after you have more time and landings under your
belt.  Please remember, however that if you find yourself high and fast on
final with an overheating engine, it's time to pull out all of your tricks
from your magic bag, to include use of the landing brake, dual rudder
deployment, and slipping the aircraft if necessary.  I would, however,
practice using the landing brake when conditions are not as windy/gusty as
we were dealt.  Just an opinion, however.  Some instructors like to teach
beginning pilots to land a Cessna at full flaps, while others like to teach
them to land it without flaps initially, and slowly learn to use flaps a
little at a time as they gain experience.  Who's right?  Don't know. At any
rate, a Cessna pilot should learn to land with and without flaps, and with
flaps at different settings.  I feel the same way about the landing brake.
Learn to land with and without it.  Then, when you really know both your
aircraft and your personal skills, you will find what feels most comfortable
to you in different situations, such as crosswinds, gusts, runway lengths,
obstacle clearance, etc. 

I feel that you have learned all the basics to be able to fly the Cozy....
the rest is part of that "ongoing training" that we all continue to learn 
as we practice and get to really know our aircraft.

After a while, the Cozy will literally become an extension of you, and you
will have the confidence to make informed decisions regarding approach
speeds, landing brake deployment, rudder useage, etc based on various
landing conditions.  It's kinda like getting your first driver's need to drive right into New York City on the first
day...there will come a time, however that the new driver feels ready for
New York.  

Later Paul asked me to add the following "disclaimer":
This is only my opinion, and that I am neither the designer nor the builder. 
Not all aircraft perform the same, even when built from the same plans, 
with variations of weight, drag, (smoothness of paint, with or without 
wheel pants, etc) and other factors.

This should, however be a good starting point for most canards similar to
the Cozy. Only experience will determine the final "best" numbers for each
individual aircraft.  Again, only one person's opinion.  
I appreciate the input from these two experienced Cozy pilots. Marc makes good points, but he wasn't there. LNA is only a couple of miles from the beach and it WAS gusty that day. When I flew the Cessna 152 I was quite aware of the wind and gusts. When I flew the Cozy I wasn't. Didnt even think to mention them in my write-up. Why? Because the Cozy rides the gusts so well that I hardly noticed them, presumably because of the double wing design and flexible composite structure. The gusty conditions didn't bounce us around hardly at all, but their ability to catch us on final was still there.

I hope prospective Cozy pilots find the above opinions and comments valuable. Later I'll add my own impressions as I learn how to fly the bird myself.


I reread the first flight chapter in the Cozy Pilots handbook and came across a paragraph that basically confirms what Paul has been saying. Keep speeds up on final on the first flight. Save the slow flight stuff for later.

Three Things

You know the old rule of flying. It always takes three things to get you. Any two and you hardly notice. Add the third and you're dead meat. I've come away from my Cozy experience flying realizing that I had been VERY close to putting myself in a "three things" situation. Without flying with a competant pilot to save my ass I could Ezily have been in very serious trouble trying to fly an unproven airplane on a short runway.

Thing 1. Short runway. i.e. < 5000 ft.
The LNA runway is 3400 and change. If I'd had 8000 or 9000 feet this "thing" would have gone away because I'd be able to get it down somewhere on the runway on the first go. With 3400 feet I might have been up there for 3 hours. If something had occured that meant I needed to get down immediately I'd have been between a rock and a hard place.

Thing 2. Unproven Airplane.
If something had gone wrong with the airplane or the engine I would have had trouble dealing with it. With a long runway, I might have been OK. With a short runway - no chance. For example, let's say we found that the engine temps were off the scale on crosswind. Paul knows how to "crank it and bank it", dump the height with the landing brake, both rudders and a sideslip all at the same time, slap her down on a 2000 ft intersecting taxiway, and taxi back to the hangar as though nothing had happened. I'd rather enjoy watching him do that, but not in earnest, thank you. Given that I'm using a non standard engine, thing 2 has a much higher chance of biting me early on, not because the engine is unreliable, but because my particular installation hasn't been proven. It will be, but until it is I'm at a greater risk in this area. Having said this, I'd still consider a new Lycoming installation unproven enough to be an issue here.

Thing 3. Inexperienced Pilot.
When I say inexperienced, I mean inexperienced in a canard airplane. I don't care if you fly F18 hornets or 757s for a living, or you've got 10,000 hrs in a Cessna 210, the canard is DIFFERENT. Good, yes. Fun, yes. Fast, indubitably, But definately different. Without some inflight instruction in a flying Cozy (remove thing 3) you could get in trouble quickly unless you have a very long runway (remove thing 1).

Slapping myself across the face

So, in summary, I had a ball flying Dan's Cozy, and I learned a lot flying it with Paul. I can now confidently say I'm not only a Cozy builder, but I'm also a Cozy pilot. At least to the extent that I can probably put one down without hurting myself. What I learned most is that any consideration on my part of launching off from a relatively short field in my bird without going through this exercise would have been downright stupid. No other word for it. What concerns me is that the thought had entered my mind and had actually received serious consideration.

Another thought that comes to mind is that I flew an IO360 Cozy. With a turbo 13B on the back and an 84 pitch prop, mine is very probably a LOT faster and more slippery. Paul's reaction when we taxied my bird after flying Dan's was a sign. I think he said something like "whoooa" as we passed 50 kts in what seemed like no time at all. Later he said that the acceleration was dramatically better on mine with 1/2 throttle and zero boost than Dan's IO360 at full throttle. The fact that the parking brake was binding at the time, and the engine is running way over rich, makes this reaction even more interesting. My plane may be much more of a handful than the standard Cozy.

Essential Crew

Since it didn't happen, I can admit publically that Paul and I were planning to fly my bird together. Why? Because my flight restrictions say no one should be carried in the plane during phase 1 unless "required for the flight". By default this is the pilot-in-command's call - or is it the manufacturer's? Why were 2 pilots required for the flight? Because if the engine splutters we need someone to handle trying to get it running again while the other guy flys the airplane. One would have been reading the gauges, calling out the temps and handling the injector, computer, mixture and coil switches while the other would have been very busy pointing us toward the runway and getting us down safely. Would the FAA agree with this logic? I don't know, or care. Safety comes first, legal interpretation comes second. I'd be happy to make a REALLY public case of it, and I'd be even more happy to be there to argue. So - if you're wondering what constitutes "required for the flight", I say this includes anyone you can get to help you out, and improve you're chances of survival in an emergency. But that's just me. Ask the DAR or the FSDO, or even the EAA, and you'll probably get a totally different interpretation of the "required for the flight" restriction. Perhaps this is where the Nike motto comes in.

A serious once-over

There's nothing quite like having an "inspector" whose very own lily-white butt is on the line. Over the past 5 years I've had 5 EAA tech inspections, countless "knowledgeable opinions" and one damn good DAR who all inspected my plane from stem to stearn. Everyone's found something, except the DAR who formally pronounced the bird airworthy and safe to fly. And then along came Dan and Paul. While Paul and I flew, Dan set-in inspecting my plane as only a motivated builder can. He found cables to wire tie and numerous other little things. The one critical item he (or was it Paul) found was aileron travel. It was at 1.4 inches of travel, while the minimum called for is 1.8. I knew about this, but had just kinda pushed it onto the back burner. Paul explained why we might need maximum travel on approach, so we dived in. The elevator torque tube / strong trim was impacting the inside of the pilot side armrest. The parking brake control was also in the way. I removed the leather, removed the parking brake control, and dremelled away a chunk of the side of armrest until, 30 minutes later, we had full required travel. I'll do a layup to fix the armrest later. For now I just put the leather back. No-one will ever know. On the passenger side we had a similar issue, but were only 0.2 out, so I was able to get at it from inside the armrest. I wire tied the parking brake lever to keep it from moving. The rudder travel is within limits on both sides, but it's 1/2 inch more on the left than it is on the right. Paul says they need to be equal. Fair enough.

First flight - almost

We prepared to do some serious taxi tests and, if all was well, fly the bird. It took forever to start, but eventually she fired up and we were pushing against the brakes. Paul released the brakes, and we were still pushing against the brakes. The parking brake was wire tied in the on position. Duh! With the engine still running we called Dan over and he brought the wire tie clippers. Trying really hard to be a gentleman and keep my face out of Pauls crotch, I snipped the wire tie and released the brake. We taxied off to the runway. Temps were climbing because of the delay but we lined up anyway and I called out the temps as we accellerated along the runway. As we passed about 60 kts I called 200F and Paul chopped the throttle. Later he said the nose was getting light, and we were about 3 seconds from lifting off. As we turned off the runway, Paul had trouble with the left brake. Seems the parking brake lever had moved, and the brake was binding. An interesting taxi test, but a wise abort.

We fixed the parking brake and let her cool down overnight. Tomorrow was to be the big day. We got up early to catch the cool calm air, and wheeled her outside. She wouldn't start. We cranked and cranked on both batteries and tried every possible combination of injectors, coils, pumps, mixture adjustments and computer settings. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Not even a pop of recognition. Disappointed we wheeled her back in. Rather than mess with cleaning the plugs I rushed down to the auto store and bought a new set while Dan, Paul and Buly [The pope doesn't like to miss big events] removed the cowl and took out the plugs. They were wet. I installed the new plugs and we tried to start her again. Nothing. I spoke at length to both Tracy and Ed Anderson who were both helpful, but unable to pinpoint the problem long distance. Paul mentioned that his 13B engine always starts within the first couple of revolutions. Something is definately not right with my mixture. We pushed my bird back in the hangar, pulled Dan's back out and went flying again.

After lunch Dan & Paul headed off back to Alabama. As they climbed out over the trees I felt good. No - we hadn't flown the bird, but I'd had two excellent days with two really good people, found a bunch of bugs, and we had achieved the stated objective. I now have the confidence to fly my airplane - once I get the damn engine running properly. Tracy Crooks words came to mind. "I loved flying my Mazda .... after the first six months". Set-up problems with a totally new installation are par for the course. As someone else once said - "if it was easy, everybody would be doing it".

Chicken and Egg

It's obvious that the engine is running way overrich. The EC2 defaults are for stock 2nd gen 460 injectors. I'm using 550 injectors which are standard for the 3rd gen turbo. EC2 Mode 3 (which adjusts the overall mixture range) has to be programmed with the engine running, but the mixture is so rich that the engine wont start, so I had something of a chicken and egg problem. Even if I could get her running the exhaust was so full of soot that the sensor was getting coated in a few seconds. I figured a way out of the loop the day after Paul and Dan left.

EC2 doesn't know the difference between fast cranking and running. I took out the plugs, selected mode 3 with the knob to the left, cranked for a few seconds, then hit the program button twice while cranking. I put the plugs back and she fired right up. No more black smoke. Now I'm in the ball park I can install a new EGO sensor and do some fine tuning. This might help anyone else with four 550 injectors. Just knock the overall mixture down a couple of notches while cranking, before even TRYING to start the engine and ruining a series plugs and sensors.

One other problem I found was a bit silly, but Tracy can add it to his list of dumb things people can do....
The mixture control knob had come off a few weeks ago, and a helpful friend had put it back on for me - 90 degrees out. There are 2 set screws 90 degrees apart. He'd tightened it up with the wrong set screw on the flat so the mixture was 90 degrees out. No big deal until you come to do some mode programming where you match the mixture knob orientation with the program knob. They were out of sync, so I was programming 90 degrees richer than intended each time. I realigned the mixture knob, reloaded Tracy's defaults, copied them to computer B and started to make some progress.

Taxi testing again

With the engine was running much better I took the airplane down the taxiway and back, then up to the FBO and back to the hangar. By this time water temp was 200. Cooling seemed a lot better when the thermostat was out, even though I haven't blocked the bypass hose in the housing. I think I'll try taking the thermostat out again and see what difference this makes. Oil temps have always been below water temps. Now I'm getting a zero reading on the oil temp. Another little weird issue is that turning on the heater blower fan sends the water temp reading off the scale. Not slowly - immediately. Has to be an electrical induction thing. The cowl is getting too hot aft and inboard of the turbo heat shield. My temperature gauge in this case is MGS epoxy and micro. I guess it melts at around 180F, so we're definately over that. The hot gasses are deflecting inboard and impacting the cowl, so I'll have to extend the shield an inch or so in that area. Elsewhere around the heatshield the cowl is fine, even though they're touching. Good job I didnt repaint the cowl yet. It's going to need a bit of cleaning up and maybe some modifications. I hoping to avoid adding scoops, but the possibilty still exists depending on how well she cools in the pattern.

Saturday evening I put the cowl back on and took her down the runway a couple of times getting up to about 60/65 kts, then throttling back. I could have taken her up on either occasion. The engine temps were ok and I had plent of runway left, but discretion and all that. The brakes need to bed in some more and the idle, currently set at about 1650 engine rpm, is way too high. At this rpm the prop is generating a lot of thrust which is working against the brakes. Not what I want for a first landing on a relatively short field. The fly-rotary guys say they keep their idle at around 1800 - 2000. I don't think that'll work for me. I'd never get down.

Sunday I removed the thermostat housing to get the water pressure gauge plumbed. I also made an extension for the turbo shield to protect whats left of the cowl in that area, and lowered the idle with the throttle stop.

A bit of self discipline

The transition from project to airplane needs a bit more attention than I've been giving it. The "project" can't hurt you (at least not much), so you tend to be lazy and not bother with any kind of discipline. The airplane, on the other hand, is an unforgiving beast that can bite really hard if you don't watch out. I've found that I need to make a mental effort to consider this an airplane, not a project. Last week I did some taxi tests. I didn't strap in because I was "just taxiing around a bit". The other evening I did a high speed taxi test. I strapped in this time, but did I remember to latch the canopy? No. It was "just a taxi test". Wrong answer. I downloaded Marc's checklists, modified them for my bird (especially the engine) and printed them out. Tomorrow I'll laminate them and put them in the plane. Any "taxi tests" from now on will be preceeded by formal pre-flight checks, and the bird does NOT go on the runway without me getting out the pre take-off checklist and running through it.

To stat, or not to stat

Watching the water temps with and without the thermostat, I don't think its helping me. The stat stops any water flow until the temps reach 175, then it opens up and lets the water flow through the radiator. Without it I can remove heat from the water from the beginning using the Ferrari fan. With the stat in, the fan doesnt help until the water's up to temp, and by that time it seems like it's too late and the temps run away. If I want to warm the engine quicker, I can always open the cowl flap. A cowl flap is a kind of thermostat. I don't need two. I decided to tackle the job of removing the thermostat.

Removing the stat itself is easy. Plugging the bypass hole behind it needs the water pump housing off the engine. I've been putting this job off because I was "a big one". I dived it at 9:15. I removed the smog/vacuum pump, the alternator and the vacuum hoses, then unbolted the water pump housing. Total time 45 minutes. I took the water pump housing to Charlie to have the hole plugged. He machined a small AL disc to fit the hole and welded it in place. While we were at it, I had a 1/8 npt hole drilled for the water pressure gauge and had Charlie seal off the slightly larger stock hole. The work took about an hour, so I wasn't suprised when Charlie announced the price of $45. I reached in my pocket and, sure enough there was $46 in cash. Every time I go down there he seems to know exactly how much cash I've got in my pocket. I wonder how he does that.

It took a couple of hours to put everything back together with gray RTV and new gaskets. As I left the hangar in the late evening I noticed that the weather was perfect for a first flight. Calm and cool. Pity. The RTV needs to cure overnight, and I'm not quite ready yet because a few other issues need to be dealt with. Tommorow I need to hook up the water pressure gauge, check on the oil temp gauge, check the new idle setting, and test the brakes some more.

To start, or not to start

Next day I fitted and wired the water pressure gauge, calibrated the electronic fuel gauges and did a few other minor jobs. Then I wheeled her out, diligently went through the check-list, strapped in, shouted "clear" and cranked for 3 minutes. The engine made no attempt to start, or even fire, whatsoever. Thinking I'd wet the plugs I took them out. They were totally dry. I think maybe the cranking voltage was too low and the EC2 wasn't receiving sufficient power, so the injectors never got triggered. I charged the battery for a couple of hours, then tried again. This time she fired a couple of times, and the plugs got wet. Paul Conner tells me his 13B fires up within a couple of revolutions every time. My compressions are good, the spark is good (usually) and, as far as I can tell, the injectors are working fine. I think it has to be a mixture issue. If I could just get this engine running right I'd be a lot happier. Frustrated I went home to do something else. Tomorrow I'll retrace my steps with the EC2 programming, start with the defaults and bring the range down in mode 3, then try again.

The owl gives his blessing

Next day, Tuesday 4/7, the weather was perfect. 58 degrees and calm. I wheeled her out, went through my new laminated checklist, strapped in and cranked. Nothing. After a while I gave up and wheeled her back in. The plugs were wet. I installed another set of plugs and put the battery on charge. While waiting for the amps to flow I figured out how to program the high and low limits on the water pressure gauge, put a silicone rubber washer on the alternator B lead and trimmed the IP cover to stop it interferring with the canopy. Each time I change the plugs I've learned to blow out the rotors by cranking the engine. This puts fine droplets of oil all the way down the wing and even on the winglet. I've started putting a newspaper in front of the plugs to catch it all, but a little polish on the left wing helped get the plane back to a 30 footer. (i.e. looks good from x feet).

With the battery charged and plugs replaced I tried again. After a little trying she fired and sweetly. The cowl was still off (I'm sick of putting it on and off), but I decided to taxi her anyway. Over about 20 minutes taxiing and running up to 3500 rpm or so, the water temps came up gradually to about 200. Oil temp still reads zero. Ambiant was about 65. I found that if I reduced the rpm the temp would come back to 180. This is back to what I was getting with the thermostat out. Much better than with it in. It looks as though the temps are stabalized at around 180 - 200. Excellent. I'm getting no coolant pressure reading because the gauge is still flashing on its upper limit, as it was when I powered it up, waiting for me to adjust it. With the temp stabalized I considered a runway run, or even a flight, but the pattern was busy, there was a slight crosswind, and I was getting low fuel pressure on the left tank. The third one did it. I shut her down and set about finding out what was wrong with the left side fuel system.

I removed the fuel filters (again). There was a very small amount of debris on the left one, but note anywhere near enough to impede fuel flow. I put a can under the inlet to the filter and turned on the pump. Barely a dribble of fuel. Hmmm. I climed in the back and removed the seats to get at the pumps. I was about to remove the pump cover when I noticed the sight gauge - empty. This might explain the lack of fuel pressure. But I put 5 gallons in there yesterday. Where did it go? This is called getting to know you're airplane. I've been running on both pumps without switching the return, so all the return has been going to the right tank. It doesnt take long running like that to drain the left tank. I still like my dual fuel system, but I need to settle down and think about how I'm going to use it. I pumped some gas over from the right tank, replaced the filters and turned on the left pump. Pressure. While walking arounf the plane to check that there was no vacuum forming as I transfered fuel (I wont be caught like that again!) I noticed a large "bird dropping" on the left (Char's) wing. I have the blessing of the hangar owner, (a vintage canardian), some EAA inspectors and a Designated Airwortiness Representative of the Federal Aviation Administration, but up till now the hangar owl hasnt had much to say except. Ouuu. Ou. Ouuuuuu. Today he was saying pretty much the same thing, but seemed more vocal than normal. I wonder if the bird dropping is an indication that the hangar owl is giving his blessing. Kevin stopped by and helped out for a while and take a few pictures. The camera caught the prop "bending" in action. Interesting. I hope it's supposed to do that. I let Kevin do the fun job of replacing the gear cover on his back while I installed the cowling. With everything buttoned up I checked the local ATIS. 150/9. Hmmm. right down the runway. I did my checks, yelled clear and started her up. Just like that. Hardly any cranking at all.

I taxied up and down the taxiway watching the water pressure indication. It settled at about 16lb. The temps kept climbing this time despite the big Ferrari fan. The engine seemed to be running perfectly now. Very responsive and happy to idle at around 1500 or so. After about 15 minutes taxiing the temps were over 200 so I decided this was not the day and taxied back to the hangar. After shutdown I found that there's a loose connection inside the fan. It runs very slowly unless I push on the wire, then it runs normally. Wonderful. See what you get when you buy cheap foreign parts. To get at the fan I have to remove, the upper cowl, oil hoses, radiator hoses, intercooler, turbo plumbing, lower cowl and a whole bunch of other stuff. It's probably a 2 day job. I may hold off on this job until after the first few flights. I dont need the fan in the air anyway.

One thing I've noticed that may be of interest. The nice Pilot DNC headset that Char bought me for my birthday is a bit of a liability right now. I can hardly hear the engine with it on, and that's without the DNC. At this stage I WANT to hear the engine. I'm getting used to how it sounds, when cranking, running etc. so I have to keep the headset off one ear. With the headset fully on I can hear very little noise, and feel very little vibration. It's like being in a jet. I think I'm going to like the way this engine feels in cruise, but I'm really going to need an engine monitor to do the listening out for me.

Another day of frustration

So there I was, all strapped in and buttoned up with perfect weather conditions, and still no vrmmmmm. I wheeled her back in and called Ed Anderson. I described the problem - either no fire or all wet, and Ed thought about it. He doesn't seem to mind having his brains picked, and there's plenty of pickins. Ed thought about my problem and suggested that wiring the injector switches so they switch cold start on when they're on, rather than on when they're off, would do what I describe. Another possibility might be low volts to the coils.

Building a Cozy has certainly been a learning experience. Adding a turbo rotary simply extended that learning experience a few more chapters. I'm still learning. In retrospect it'll be fun. Right now it's a bit frustrating.

I checked the cold start wiring and discovered a couple of issues. The first was a dumb mistake on my part that may have been causing some confusion - I'd labeled the switches wrong and had been switching the coils when I thought I was switching the injectors and vice versa. Since all the switches have been on most of the time, this probably didnt make a difference. The other interesting item was that the cold start wiring on the injector switches is correct, but the cold start switch itself does nothing. No ground on pin 30 when switched. Either the PCM panel is bad, or the wire from there to the junction with the injector switch wires is disconnected. It's a bit difficult to check this with the IP cover and canard in place, and I really don't want to remove the canard and elevator linkages right now. Ed suggested that I try switching one set of injectors off during cranking. This would help eliminate a stuck injector. It will also allow me to get a cold start capability without the cold start switch. To eliminate the other issue Ed raised I ran a 16 gauge wire from a fuse on the battery bus directly to the coils. I can "switch" the coils on and give them all the volts I got by climbing in the back seat and inserting the fuse. If this works I'll rewire the coils with heavier wire.

Also at Ed's suggestion I silica blasted all my plugs. All five sets of them. With a clean set installed and my coils "hot-wired" I tried the engine and it fired up nicely, so I buttoned up the cowl once again. The weather wasnt right for test flying today, so I left her in the hangar and spent the afternoon on my back.

Twister, version 4

When most people spend the afternoon on their back, they lie on the couch and watch TV. Not me. I lie under the airplane in a 90 degree hangar and play contortionist.

Looking closely at the Ferrari fan through the NACA I decided I might be able to disassemble it without removing the lower cowl. It would be a tough job, but not nearly as tough as the alternative. Reaching through the NACA with a stubby screwdriver I managed, with great difficulty, to remove the cover from the commutator. This operation is one of those wierd ones where you can look, or you can put your hand in there, but you can't look and feel at the same time. I struggled for over an hour, but eventually got all 8 screws out. When I got the cover off I was somewhat suprised by the fact that it was FULL OF OIL. I don't mean oily, I mean FULL. I poured about 1/2 a cup of black oil out of the cover and into a container. Hmmm. Perhaps this is why the fan wasn't working properly. Remember when I said that I changed the oil, and all the old oil ran out of the NACA scoop. I lie corrected. Most of the old oil ran out of the NACA scoop. About 1/2 cup of it ran into the fan motor and stayed there. It's amazing that the motor ran at all bathed totally in oil. I guess I better find a new way to change the oil.

The rest of the afternoon was spent upside down trying to assemble a fan motor at arms length by feel. Me and the hangar owl had a few terse conversations, but I won't repeat them here. Eventually I worked out a way to hold the four brushes back against their springs while I slipped the cage over the communtator. Holding the motor cover with the other hand and inserting a screw with my left foot I got the thing assembled on the third try. The fan works perfectly again. Exhausted, scratched, hot, sweaty and greasy I went home to unwind and check the weather for the next day.

First Flight

Good Friday, April 9th, 2004 I waved Char off to work and headed down to the hangar early. All the traffic lights were in my favor, and the outside temp was 69 degrees. Good omens. I'd left the bird ready, so all I had to do was wheel her out. I hadn't mentioned to Char that this was probably THE DAY, but I know she's waiting for "the call" any time now. There were no press waiting, no chase plane or friends with handhelds. Just some guy sitting on a lawn chair at the end of the runway watching the planes go by. This was my choice. No pressure and no one to give me advise. Just me and the plane sitting calmly and quietly. No distractions. We'll go if we're ready. We won't if we're not.

The wind was 3kts down the runway. Excellent. Temp and dew point were the same at 69. Hmmm. There was a light mist hanging over the field and visibility was reported as 3 miles in haze. Ah well - can't have everything, I thought. The sun'll burn it off, but I didn't want to wait till the spam canners and whirlybirds infested the pattern. Time to do the deed. This is where the rubber leaves the road.

The engine started. Not easily, but it started and ran fine. I messed with the mixture a little and taxiied to the hold point for 33L. I circled around for a minute to get the coolant temp up to about 135, did a runup and called "Experimental Cozy Novemeber Niner Six Papa Mike, taking the active, 33 Lantana." I opened the throttle about 1/2 way and she accellerated fairly quickly. A couple of gentle kicks with the rudders held her on the centerline. Speed 60kt. Not accellerating fast enough. I gave her a little more juice. Speed 70kts. Better fly soon - the end of the runway is getting closer. Speed 75kts. Coolant temp 170. Coolant pressure 11 psi. Oil pressure 100. If I don't rotate now I'll have trouble stopping. I pulled gently, ready to check forward for the typical over-rotation. She departed the ground smoothly and settled into a climb without any bobbing. Remember that feeling you get on the first solo as you pass the point of no return. I've had it twice - once at age 16 in a piper cub, and once at age 22 in a Jet Provost. Oh Sh.t. I've done it now! This was my third time.

Back to business. Speed 90kt. I checked forward a little to get the speed up. I could probably get a lot more out of the engine by adjusting the mixture, increasing throttle, or adding boost, but I didn't want to mess with it right now. The engine's purring along fine. Leave it alone. Fly the airplane. I held the climb at about 95kts, turned crosswind and glanced left to check my position relative to the airfield. Airfield? What airfield? It had disappeared into the mist. Three miles in haze. Huh. More like 2 miles in heavy mist. At 700ft I had blue sky above, but not very much visibility downward or sideways. Coolant temp 185. Coolant pressure 16 psi. Oil pressure 100. As I leveled out at 1000 ft on a fairly tight downwind I could see the field ok. That's better. It was where it should have been.

Gear still down. Landing brake still up. I throttled back to keep the speed at about 100kts on the downwind. Coolant temp 175. Coolant pressure 19 psi. Oil pressure 90. A glance over my left shoulder confirmed it was time to turn base. I throttled back some more. The tach is hard to read in the sunlight and I didnt want to spend much time with my head in the cockpit, so I just held attitude with throttle and controlled speed with the stick. The stick feels exactly like Dan's Cozy, except that I used the hat switch controlled Strong pitch trim. 500 FPM descent looks good at 90kts on base. A little less throttle, speed back to 80 kts as I turn final. The visibility is much better now and the runway looks about right based on my experience with Paul. Holding the attitude as Paul had taught me I basically just pointed her in the right direction and waited. Over the lake at 30 feet and 80kts. Throttle all the way back. Over the numbers at 5 feet and 75. Excellent. This one is going to work, and I really don't want to go around on the first flight. No "flare" as such, just a little holding back while the last couple of feet bled away.

Touchdown. I held the nose up for a few seconds, then let her drop gently to the runway. Brakes. Where are the brakes? I'm reaching with my toes trying to find the toe brakes when I realize that there aren't any. I touch the rudder on one side, but miss it on the other and the plane squirrles a bit. I come off the brakes. I don't need brakes much anyway. She rolls to about 20 kts as I approach the last turnoff. I taxi back checking the gauges again - Coolant temp 185. Coolant pressure 19 psi. Oil pressure 80. I shut her down outside the hangar and called Char. After pushing the bird in the hangar I walked over to chat with the guy watching the airplanes. "Did you notice the Cozy that just did a pattern", I asked. "Nope." says he. Ah well. My only witness had been looking the other way.

After flight check

The cowl was hot to the touch, but not overly so. Nothing was smoking or melting. I opened the coolant check door to let the heat come out. The small turbo shield extension I'd added on the inboard side had worked and the hot exhaust was no longer wrapping around and heating the small part of cowl between the exhaust outlet and the prop. I removed the cowl and checked coolant. Still full. Oil. Still full. I spent an hour checking everything under the cowl and around the outside of the plane. No problems I could find. I checked the plugs - a little black, but not as bad as they have been. I changed them anyway. There was a little soot on the prop, but again, not as much as I've been getting. I reinstalled the cowl and decided to clean up the slightly singed area behind and inboard of the exhaust. I cleaned it up and added a 2 ply BID layup to get the strength back. Next time the cowl's off I'll do a layup on the inside.

I removed the spinner and retorqued the prop bolts to 35lb. It took about a 1/2 turn on each bolt. While the spinner was off I adjusted the holes a little and recentered it. Paul stopped by to offer his congratulations, and suggested drilling three small holes the size of a safefty pin once I'd got it right. This would help me realign the spinner next time it comes off. Excellent idea.

The "local experts"

I learned later that a few of the "local experts" had been concerned for my safety. Rumour has it that they thought I'd kill myself on the first flight. Well, in case they're reading this, I have a two part message for them. The first part of the message is this:

if you are genuinely concerned for a builder's safety, I consider it your moral duty to approach that builder and politely tell him or her the details of your concerns, then you can back away and leave with a good concience.

Of course, to have a genuine and reasonable detailed concern, you would have to have some understanding of what is being done. I do not believe that ANYONE in the local area had such an understanding, not even Paul, who probably got closer to the project than anyone else, asked a lot of very good questions, and made many useful suggestions. As Paul is well aware, I listen carefully to every suggestion, and took action based on many of them. No-one ever approached me with concerns for my safety. So. What is you're concern based on? Ah yes, of course - you're puritanical belief in FAA "holy water" and engines with big flat topped pistons, pushrods and valves that were designed around the time you were born. This belief is yours forever, but it is not based on science, physics or logic, so keep it to yourself, and STFU.

Oh yes - and please think about why the "Experimental" catagory was created in the first place. If everyone who ever built an airplane ALWAYS built it exactly the same as every previous airplane, we'd all be flying at 20 feet off ramps, man would never have gone to the moon, the FAA would never have been created, and you would never have had a job in the first place. Experimental means just that - pushing out the edge of the envelope for the good of all. You call experimenters fools because they try new things. You have no understanding of the research, care and consideration that goes into experimental airplanes, nor of the redundancy and safety features designed into them. While nothing is ever 100% fault tolerant, these systems are designed to improve on your certified standards. Standards which are constantly evolving BECAUSE of the experimenters. Certainly there are risks in testing new systems. An intelligent and informed person would salute such pioneers, rather than gossip about their perceived stupidity.

The second part of my message to these individuals involves an animated gif of a head and a human rear-end, but I'm too busy enjoying my airplane to design it right now, so picture it in your mind, if you will, and have a nice day.


Index Phase 1 - Flight Testing