by Alfred Scott
This article appeared in the December 1992 issue of the Falco Builders Letter.
Lynette Zuccoli, Tony Chamberlin and Wayne
Milburn pose with her Ferrari-red Falco.
The new world record for inverted flight during the maiden flight of an airplane has been set by Guido Zuccoli in his Falco. He logged about two hours inverted; indeed, he even took off and landed inverted. That would be difficult for any of us normal folks, but not for Guido. He lives in Australia, where everyone's upside down all the time.
I first met Guido Zuccoli at Oshkosh '88, when my friend, Dean Hall, dropped by the Falco booth and introduced him. Guido was an Italian-born Australian who was a friend of Frank Sanders. Both men had a passion for warbirds.
Frank Sanders was famous for his airshows flying his Hawker Sea Fury, and he later formed a formation aerobatic team of SF.260s called Team America. Frank and Ruth Sanders had a shop in Chino, California, where with their sons, Brian and Dennis, they restored and maintained a fleet of warbirds for themselves and others.
Guido's Fiat G-59 at Oshkosh '88
Guido had a similar collection of toys, a Pitts, Laser, T-6, and at one time three Sea Furies, though he's down to one now. He later bought four ex-USAF T.28s from Vietnam, three of which he restored and sold to other collectors. At Oshkosh '88, the Sanders shop had just finished restoring a Fiat G-59, an Italian fighter that originally flew with a Daimler engine and which had only 90 gallons of fuel. The Sanders had fitted a Merlin engine into the plane and had added a couple of underwing drop tanks.
Guido was thinking of adding a Falco to his stable. He knew Mr. Frati, the Falco and SF.260 from Italy. He took a Falco brochure and went out and sat in the shade of the Fiat's wing and read it all. Then he came back to the booth and asked if we could get all of the kits to Chino, California, by Tuesday so he could ship it back in the same container as the Fiat. That was on Sunday, and we were at Oshkosh. You gotta be kidding, Guido.
We soon figured out that Guido meant the following Tuesday. I was going to be in New Hampshire, but Brenda Avery said she could do it. After getting back from Oshkosh, she spent the entire weekend packaging Guido's kits and got them out on Monday by air freight. The kits arrived in Chino the next day where the Sanders stuffed them in around the Fiat.
I told Guido that it would be no problem to get all of the wood kits to Chino, and after he left Oshkosh I was finally able to get in touch with Francis Dahlman, who said there was no way he could ship the main wing spar in time. Craig Bransfield graciously came to the rescue and shipped his spar kit off to Chino.
There was also the minor problem of payment. The Sanders were going to wire us the money and after a couple of days of trying to get things straight with bank numbers and the like, I finally just told them to mail us a check. There aren't many people that we would ship $50,000 of parts to on a promise to pay, but Frank Sanders was one. A finer man would be hard to find, and aviation lost one of its best when he died a couple of years ago in his T-33.
A few weeks later, the Fiat and Falco were nearly lost in a bizarre incident in the Singapore harbor. The dockworkers had loaded almost all of the containers (many of which were filled with cyanide) on Friday afternoon on a ship bound for Australia. When they returned on Monday morning, the ship had listed nearly 90 degrees to one side and was prevented from sinking by the ship's cranes, which hit the dock. The container with the Fiat and Falco were next to be loaded, so they rode out the weekend on level ground.
They arrived safely in Australia a week later, and Tony Chamberlin and Wayne Milburn, who work for Guido's Aerotec company in Toowoomba, set to work on getting the Fiat back into the air and approved by the Australian authorities. Once that was finished, they began on the Falco working steadily at times, but there were other times where they had to pull off the Falco to work on Guido's other planes.
Wayne Milburn built most of the airframe and did all of the installations. Tony Chamberlin did the painting, all electrical work, instrumentation, and the cockpit in addition to helping Wayne. As they built the Falco, back in Chino, Dennis Sanders was restoring a Boomerang fighter for Guido. This was a 1200-hp, radial-engined Australian fighter of the WWII era, that's slightly smaller than a T-6. Guido bought a wrecked airplane, and Dennis and two helpers rebuilt it in 6300 hours. The Boomerang was shipped over last spring with a Falco spar kit for Ian Ferguson tucked under its wing in the container.
Tony reports on the first flight: "After what seemed to be an eternity, the first Australian-built Falco broke ground on the afternoon of the third of December, 1992, at the hands of Guido Zuccoli. It was a big moment for Wayne Milburn and myself-seeing something that we built actually fly. Those of you who have done it know what we mean."
"The first flight went well, no problems except for some left wing heaviness. We decided not to fit a trim tab, but instead to use a 1/4" wooden dowel taped under the right aileron trailing edge at the inboard end. The length is found by trial and error; ours will end up about 12" long for wings-level in the cruise. Of course, the stickload will vary from low speed to high, but the amount of effort required to keep the wings level is an absolute minimum. I've used this method of trimming on Guido's Pitts S1S, and it works well. The best thing about it is that you don't have an unsightly sharp-edged tab sticking out to run into. You really have to look for the dowel to find it."
"Guido, Wayne and myself are sharing the test flying program, and so far we have about 6-7 hours total on the aircraft. There is yet a lot to learn about it, but we all agree that the Falco was worth every minute in the making. Wayne and I also fly Guido's collection-from the Sea Fury, through the Boomerang, Fiat, T-6, Laser to the Pitts; so the high performance of the Falco wasn't even given a second thought when it came to our turn to fly it. But we have to admit it goes well. On the first flight, which lasted almost 2 hours, Guido ran it at 25"/2500, and it showed 179 knots on the GPS at 5000 feet."
"We have the full gear doors (nose and mains), and the Nustrini canopy (which, by the way, is for very short people only). We have done almost everything possible to gain some headroom short of doctoring the seats themselves, which will have been done before you read this. Guido would have gone with the standard canopy right from the beginning if only we had known. We now have the 13-second gear motor in, and it pulls all the doors up much better. Everything closes tightly going up, and when the gear goes out, we give the crank a 1/2 turn just to pull the inner doors closed for the last 1/2", when the gear is locked down."
"I am tidying up a couple of things at the moment, such as replacing the leaking crankshaft oil seal on the Firewall Forward IO-360-B1E (which runs like a Swiss watch, and is so smooth), modifying the exhaust where it rubs on the lower cowling, and the seats."
"A good test of the performance of the Falco (and the engine/prop combination) and a method which Guido uses often, is to dive the aircraft to Vne, level out for a couple of seconds to stabilize, read off the altitude and pull vertical. Read your altitude again at the top when you torque off and note your height gain. For interest's sake, the Pitts gains 1800' (200 hp/fixed pitch Hoffman), the Laser/Stephens Akro - 2300' (200 hp, M.T. constant speed), and the Falco - an amazing 2800' gain, and that is loaded up with a full panel of avionics, too! A word of warning: recovery from an incipient rolling tailslide is not in everyone's capabilities!"
"I think Guido summed it all up when he said, 'You can do everything that the heavy metal does at a fraction of the cost.' We can't get over not having to refuel the Falco after each time it's flown. The other fighters (the big ones) are very thirsty."
The 34th Sequoia Falco is built for Lynette Zuccoli, Guido's wife, which explains the registration of VH-LZF. The airplane has an I0-360-B1E built up by Dick Demars's Firewall Forward. It is a 180 hp engine in name only, and it has been ported and polished for additional power. Guido reports a true airspeed of 165 kts at 21"/2400 at 5000 feet, and a stall speed in landing configuration of 58 kts indicated.
"It's a delightful aircraft to fly," says Guido, "It reminds me of a good combination of my Pitts S1S and the Laser 230. I have flown two stock SF.260's and the Sanders SF.260 with the 300+ hp engine. The performance of our Falco in the vertical plane is similar, as I remember it, to the performance available from the Sanders aircraft."
Guido Zuccoli has a construction business, Steelcon, in Darwin which specializes in steel and concrete bridges and water towers. Some years ago, a hurricane swept through Darwin and leveled huge parts of the city, including his house and business. He built the business back, but the Zuccolis now live in Toowoomba, near Brisbane on the east coast.
How did an Italian end up in Australia? Thereby hangs a tale. The Italians often have strong family rivalries, and like the Montague/Capulet feud that made things so difficult for Romeo and Juliet, Guido Zuccoli is the product of a romance between two members of the more famous Broccoli and Zuchini families.
(Um, make that tall tale.)
As I write this, Guido reports that the flight test program is completed and he has sent the required 22-page questionaire back to the CAA for the 'first of type' certification. "It should be okay," says Guido, "as everything concerning the flight characteristics of the Falco was just about perfect."
I'll give the last word to Tony Chamberlin: "It is a wonderful machine, and we can only encourage those of you who are working away on your Falcos to keep at it. We did appreciate the overnight responses to our faxed questions, and the many helpful suggestions put forward to remedy our selection of problems. The flying is wonderful, and so is telling all of the admirers that the Falco is made of timber, then watching their mouths drop in disbelief! We love it!"
The Air Defense Squadron of the Zuccoli Air Force over Toowoomba, Australia.
Tony Chamberlin is in the Fiat in the foreground, Guido Zuccoli is flying the
round-engined Boomerang fighter, and Wayne Milburn leads in the Falco.
They are actually flying a Vee formation, but the smaller size of the Falco throws
the proportions off.