In Part III, our crew inspected the Staggerwing to ascertain whether they wanted to make it the museum’s next acquisition. They decided they did. Now, in Part IV, Jim, Drew and Brian make final adjustments and then take the aircraft for it’s first test flight.
By Thursday afternoon we were running out of excuses to not fly the Staggerwing, we had worked 12 to 14 hour days, Monday through Thursday, trying to make everything as good as we could and then some. With the new Cleveland wheels and brakes installation bled, and signed off so we were legal, we had to get out on the taxiway and “season” the brake pads and discs.
We had run up the P&W 985 the night before and cycled the prop through a few times, the mags checked out perfectly, so things appeared to say let’s go fly it. However, we took one last long taxi up and down the 4000’ runway while accelerating up to 30 mph with a few hard brake applications that certainly heated things up. After one cool down we proceeded to do one more taxi test, checking the toe brake pedal travel and to get a feel for the new brakes. We also wanted to make sure the tail wheel lock was unlocking when we needed it and vice versa. All felt great and we headed back to the hangar.
While the brakes cooled, we recowled the engine and secured everything in the cabin; rechecked all the fairings; topped off all three landing gear oleos; checked tire pressures; topped off the fuselage tank with 29 gallons as well as the two lower wing tanks with 23 gallons each. We also added 10 gallons of fuel to the two upper wing tanks to check the feed once airborne.
First Test Flight
Thursday, at 6:00 pm, my son Drew and I climbed on board. Brian would be our witness and photographer as well as be there to put out the potential ball of fire that we might make. We had about 45 minutes of light left as we taxied to the Northwest end of the runway at Heritage Field. I purposely waited to put off the flight till late in the day as I figured most people had gone home. Wrong! They were there and all were waiting to hear and see the Scarlet Bird fly – it had been a long time.
With the check list complete, I turned to Drew and asked if he was ready. He calmly gave me the thumbs and we trundled out onto the active runway, locked the tail wheel and came in with the power slowly and finally with everything pushed to the panel we rocketed down the centerline and very shortly we were airborne. I must admit it was a rush. Clearing the end of the runway, I selected gear up and a power reduction only to not have the gear transition.
Keeping the climb around 90 mph, we recycled the gear and finally got the red light. The gear was tucked away and the airplane accelerated quickly to a cruise climb of 120 mph and almost 1000 fpm.
We climbed to 2500 feet and felt the Beech out, magnificent machine she was. With another power reduction to 1800 rpm and 25″ of manifold pressure we starting to cover ground around 150 indicated, except for the heat in the cabin, the Scarlet Bird flew like she was on rails and the big P&W was as smooth as silk.
We changed tanks throughout the five that are installed and found all to feed well but kept a hand on the wobble pump just in case we had a burp. With further power reduction and slow flight with 1/4 and 1/2 flap, the airplane was extremely stable, but with the sun setting over our shoulders I decided to head back to Heritage Field.
On the inbound 45 I had her slowed to 90 mph and lowered the gear, which obeyed my command and got the most welcome green light on the panel. Down wind was flow at 90 mph with 1/4 flap and turning base with 1/2 flap and finally lined up but being a little low I brought in some power and a little more flap, the airplane felt solid. Final was flown at 85 till I came over the threshold and slowly brought the power back as the mains squeaked on with the tail-wheel low in wheel landing position, finally bringing the tail-wheel firmly down letting the tail-wheel lock do its thing which kept us fairly straight. I let her roll out the entire 4000` thinking of the new brakes, finally getting on them to check their effectiveness. We taxied back to barn wearing big grins on our faces. We had accomplished what we came out to do and everything went well.
In the final installment of our Staggerwing odyssey,we’ll hear about our crew’s cross country flight in the Staggerwing to bring her home to Concrete, WA. If you missed Part I click here, Part II click here or Part III click here