G-OCDS is a modified Falco Series 2 built in 1958 by Aviamilano.
Here a brief history on production Falcos:
It started 1955 with the prototype called F.8. It had a 90 hp Continental engine. This prototype was followed by a production run of 10 Falcos Series 1 which mainly differed from the prototype by having a Lycoming O-290D2 engine with 135 hp and a slightly bigger wing. With the Lycoming engine the designation changed to F.8L. The canopy had also been redesigned. These airplanes had one fuselage tank in the rear. Serial numbers were 102 111.
The Series 1 was followed by the Series 2 which differed from the Series 1 by having rubber wing tanks, each holding 60 liters. They also came with a 150hp Lycoming O-320A engine, had metal propellers and featured a bigger tail as well. Another change to the Series 1 was the redesign of the gear doors. The Series 2 had inboard gear doors, similar to those offered by Sequoia. Serial numbers were 112 121.
Both, Series 1 and 2 were built by Aviamilano.
Series 3 Falcos were to become certificated to American CAR Part 3 regulations. Again the 150 hp O-320 was used, but now most of the aircraft built had an adjustable propeller. Initially an "Aeromatic" propeller was used but an AD note in the late sixties made most Falco owners move to a Hartzell propeller. The wing tanks were dropped in favour for the front and rear fuselage tank with 70/55 liters capacity. The flight controls were covered with aluminium, as were the flaps. The inboard gear doors were no longer installed, the wheels now staying uncovered like those on the Piper Arrow.
Those airplanes were built by Aeromere with Serial numbers 201 236.
Final production run was by Laverda, now calling it a Falco Series 4. Basicly a Series 3, it now featured a Lycoming O-320B engine with 160 hp and a Hartzell CS propeller as standard. The rear tank now holds also 70 liters, and there was a different exhaust (2 in 1 with muffler) installed. Max TOW was raised to 820 kg instead of the 780 kg used on the Series 1-3. Also the brakes are now operated by a hand lever instead of the single heel brake lever used on previous models. Serial numbers were 401 420.
As there were never any bigger number of one model being produced, it is difficult to say what was standard and what wasn't. There were Series 2 Falcos with CS prop and 150 hp engines, as there were Series 2 Falcos with an additional fuselage tank etc. Only the Series 3 and 4 seem to be more equally built. These are the best known ones in Europe. All the information above is the result of various sources and there may be some mistakes. The more people I talked to the more I believe that each Falco was built individually and therefore differs from the other in some respect. When I wrote to Ing. Frati, whether he could help me with any drawings of the Series 2 wing because I needed new wing tanks he sent me drawings for a Falco which was planned to have metal wing tanks! Whether this Falco was built or not I don't know. Also rumour has it that Laverda stopped with No 417 and that the last 3 Falcos were built from spare parts.
Falcos are rare birds in Europe. It is not very often that there is one for sale, and if there is one they are expensive. It seems that most owners once bought one and kept it ever since. There is one gentlemen who bought his Falco in the late sixties, has flown some 3,500 hours with it and still flies 200 hours each year in it. He is 79 now!!
G-OCDS is a Falco Series 2 with 150 hp and a Hartzell C/S propeller. Built in 1958, it had been in Italy until sometime in the seventies, apperently not flown very much, when it was sold to Belgium as OO-MEN, belonging to Mr Guy Valvekens who not only organizes the "Schaffen-Diest" fly in each year, which is also a Frati aeroplane meeting but also still regrets to have sold it. In 1982, it was sold to England with only 600h total time. It changed owners a few times and was overhauled in 1986. Because previous owners used to race it they redesigned the bottom cowling which I was told gave another 8 kt to the top speed. Due to some landing accidents the nose gear is no longer the original one but a Sequoia one as is the canopy. Further changes are Sequoia seats, a custom made instrument panel, new electrics and a modified front tank to enable the installation of modern (long) avionics. I bought it 1996 with 1100h total time and keep it with the UK registration in Germany.
I changed and modified a few things like installing a GNC 250 XL; EI Fuel Flow; split cowling; new rubber fuel tanks; etc.
So far I have flown the Series 2 and 3 only and the main difference probably is stability in yaw. Mine, the 2 tends to fishtail quite a bit especially in turbulence. The flight controls a less crisp but very smooth on the 2. The 3 provides a more sporty feel and is very stable in cruise. It seems that the 3 generally has a more aft CG than the 2 due to the rear tank. That rear CG makes the 3 easier to land and more gentle during stalls. There may another reason for that, but I believe it is due to the CG. (They both had the stallstripes). Generally the 2 is faster than the 3 due to the missing geardoors on the 3. A lot of different statements are made when it comes to cruise speeds. As far as I can say a typical Series 3 cruises around 140 kt true on 23/2400 at 2000ft. At 7,000 ft with 23/2400, you will see something like 150 to 155 kt true in a standard Series 3 Falco. When flying close formation with my Series 2 Falco, I use 1-2 inch less manifold to stay in formation. So during cruise the difference is not that big (keeping in mind that I also have a different cowling). But there is a major difference when you open the throttle or during descent. The Series 3 just stops accelerating at some point where mine seems to accelerate quite a long time until I see something like 175 kt indicated (180 true) at 2000 ft. (Full throttle 2680 RPM). All the speeds I mentioned are verified by GPS and instrument checks. I even had my static port modified because I had a too high airspeed indication. (I suspect most original Falcos suffer from that as well having high airspeed indications rather than being really as fast as they believe).
With 23 inches and 2400 RPM, I see 145 kt indicated at 7,000 ft witch is confirmed by GPS to be around 160 kt TAS.
There are many airplanes with various desirable qualities and there are even some homebuilds much faster on the same engine! But do they fly as nicely? Are they able to land and take off without any problems from a 1500 ft grass strip? Airfields in Europe are not very big and runways a typically around 1500 to 2500 ft. In addition in my case, it is not only a superb aeroplane with outstanding handling qualities, it also is a true classic! I have flown a SF.260 quite a bit and even though this is also a very desirable aeroplane, I would not change my Falco for it!
When I don't fly the Falco, I work as a professional pilot for a major European tour operator.
Oliver Barth is a professional pilot in Germany. Email: OliverBarth@t-online.de
The Original Falco New Paint Scheme