Over a Town like Alice

by Ian Ferguson

This appeared in the September/December 1999 issue of Falco Builders Letter.

As soon as the area restrictions were removed from the aircraft Juliet and I decided to use it on a fishing trip. After all, among the qualities I was looking for in an aircraft when I decided on the Falco was the ability to travel to the extremities of this big country. We travelled to an island in the Gulf of Carpentaria called Sweers Island where there is a small and isolated fishing lodge, and lots of fish, big and small, and also crocodiles! We travelled over desert and scrub, stunted forests, swamps and mangroves, rugged rocky hills and parched plains. After a week there we returned home via Alice Springs, across the Simpson desert to Birdsville and Broken Hill. The total distance covered being three thousand and twenty five nautical miles.

The Eastern MacDonnell Ranges

The Falco proved to be a beautiful cruising aeroplane. It developed a true airspeed of around 180 knots (205 MPH) at 8500 feet with an OAT of 12°C, consuming 35 litres of avgas per hour (65% power). Stability was such as to allow comfortable cruising even without an autopilot. Dare I say it! The Falco cruises at least ten knots faster than the SF260B which itself is faster than the later versions of the 260 because of athinner wing and a slightly different angle of incidence. These changes to the 260 were apparently made to improve the stall characteristics.

Parallel red sand ridges of the Simpson Desert

The only problems we had on the trip were with the navaids. The ADF would only point to NDB's within ten miles or so, and the knobs on the GPS seized up on the way to Alice Springs. VOR's are scarce in Australia, and once away from major airline routes the ADF is the primary navaid, so a malfunction is important. This problem is yet to be sorted as I am a long way from a radio technician here. We Australians live in fear that one day we will be out in the sticks and you Yanks will switch off the satellites!

The coastal plain and rivers of the gulf country

We have fifty-one hours on the aircraft and have settled into it pretty well now. The behaviour of the aircraft is as predicted with no vices whatever. The spin is benign in both directions although the rate of rotation is quite high. Flat spins can wait a little while. So far I have only been to 5G positive. VNE has been seen many times, it is not hard to get there on descent. Aerobatics are easy and pleasant. Height can be gained during manoeuvres if required. Certainly full power is not necessary. I stress I am a recreational aerobatic pilot, and I don't attempt the rigid shapes of the competition pilot. Who cares if a bystander thinks my loops are egg shaped!

The Falco is an aircraft for all men (and women) provided he (or she) doesn't have multiple children to cart around. They are likely to be grown up before the aircraft is completed anyway.

Ian Ferguson and Falco at Birdsville