Dutch Master Falco
|This article appeared in the September 2013 Falco Builders Letter.|
by Marcel Morrien
When I started way back in 1989 I couldn't foresee it would take to 2013 for my Falco project to make her first flight!
I started my flying career on old beaten club Cessnas and Pipers and after some while thought there should be more than that. What I was looking for was a fast travelling machine with nice aerobatic qualities.
Pondering through Jane's Pocket Book on Light Aircraft the Falco seemed just that what I was looking for. Speed, range, aerobatics and to that very good looking. The Belle of the air!
Flying with Falco Series IV owner Jaap Havekotte in his plane convinced me this was the way to fly!
It seemed as if it was controlled by mind steering. Think left and she would go left. Light and direct controls makes her do what you think she should do. A slight touch of input is enough.
Visiting builder (Bert van Steijn), who just finished the fuselage, gave me the impression that this project should be do-able. I must admit he made it look more easy than it proved to be.
Because of the size and shape of my work area (a two-car garage 10x30') I decided to build the fuselage first and do the wing after separating the fuselage halves.
At first the tail kit was ordered, which proved to be fun to build. I like working with wood and with the kit, very soon aircraft parts took form. The decision was made to continue and more and more kits were ordered.
The project was on its way. Friends and relatives reacted with surprise and sheer disbelief seeing what took form in the garage. Always asking how long will it take you, I answered (until a year ago) three years to go.
Work and family claimed some time too, so progress was irregular and I do have to admit that there were also several periods of inactivity due to more or less difficult steps in the building process. Looking back I can hardly remember them but gluing wing spars to the fuselage and wingtip skins on the wing were among them. You just have to find a secure way to get things in the right position and hold them there while gluing or drilling holes.
The end result seems to be fairly straight, measurement of symmetry gave excellent results which were confirmed by behaviour during the first flight.
During the building process I had to move the project two times, first when my neighbour's garage became available and I combined both, secondly when the family and the project moved to another house, with a larger and heated workspace (we are talking 2002 and the nose wing ribs were just glued on).
A good thing for progress was the offer of a friend (Henk Teuling) to help with the project on a regular basis, once a week an evening. Practically we never reached once a week, but it came close and was it stimulating me to keep going on and good to have someone around to discuss possible problems and solutions.
Preparing the airplane for painting started in 2010. The plywood was glassed over and a micro balloons/epoxy was used as filler. After working hours and days on the wing I decided to have that job done by a professional. I kept filling and sanding. The wing skin is thin enough to be pushed inwards while sanding, so you remove filler at the spot of the ribs while in between filler stays. Clearly that was not for me.
It took a special transport to get the Falco to the paint shop, where they did a very nice job using high solid base paint followed by a clear polyurethane coating, which gives a very high gloss.
In the mean time the instrument panel was prepared. In 2009 I visited Oshkosh where I met with people from Aerotronics Inc. They do general aviation and experimental panels. Together we decided on the components and layout. The electrical kit supplied by Sequoia Aircraft was used as a basis for the installation. Upon arrival it was really plug and play ready!
Engine installation proved to be an art in itself. It took a bit of a struggle to convinced engine and dynafocal engine frame that they were really made for each other.
Fitting the cowling was nice and rewarding work, October 2012 the Falco was again on special transport, this time to the airport for final installation. Unfortunately it took quite some time to get the engine running correctly.
This Falco is equipped with the 180 hp IO-360 engine and according to the Falco plans the injector body has to be modified from push-pull to pull-push operation. This means the shaft of the air valve has to be replaced.
Apparently the replacement was misaligned and therefore the coupled mixture regulation orifice could not work over the full rpm range.
Thanks to Martien van Dijk, chief mechanic at Vliegwerk Holland and his co-workers we got this problem out of the way. He was also the one who did the final inspection before the first flight.
To my great pleasure Martien van Dijk was willing to do the first flight with me as observer, and on June 18 we flew the Falco for the first time.
Slight easterly winds, temp 30 degrees Celsius, clear sky, Rotterdam The Hague Airport (EHRD) runway 06, 2200 meters, long enough to make three touch and gos in a row.
After three high-speed taxi runs we took off, lift off 65 kts, climbed out at 85 kts, raised flaps at 1500' climbed further at 105 kts, If I remember well at about 800'/min. Upon reaching 3000' (top of the control zone) we raised the gear (I had all gear doors installed) and saw 160 kts plus with 25/25.
The aircraft performed flawlessly and was well balanced.
Slow flight gave no sign of a stall at 60 kts (landing configuration) so we took her back in after 40 minutes for landing, 75 kts short final and slowly decreasing above the runway to touch down very smoothly with approximate 65 kts.
Flying your homebuilt for the first time is really exciting and very rewarding, certainly if she behaves perfectly and no corrections are to be done. The next flight I took building buddy Henk Teuling with me and he was as proud as I was. The smile after landing seems contagious.
My next passenger was one of my daughters who found it awesome and cool to be in this plane her father built and was for so many years part of the scenery around our house.
My wife Ada, who never complained when I was away in my workshop, will accompany me to the Old Timer and Frati designs Fly In weekend at Schaffen Diest.
The Falco is a very nice airplane to fly, sensitive, stable, very clean, responsive and very good looking. As preparation for flying the Falco I have been flying the General Avia F.22C, a younger design by Frati, including aerobatics (i.e. unusual attitudes). Comparing the two I prefer (of course) the Falco, she is a bit lighter and more responsive. Headroom is better in the F.22.
Thanks to all at Sequoia Aircraft and co-builders for great support.
Go back to Marcel Morrien