A Flight Report

By Drew Fidoe

[Editor's Note: A member on the Fly Baby mailing list asked how the Fly Baby flew compared to the Piper Vagabond.  I knew Ross Mahon had flown both (Ross, in fact, did my original checkout in the Fly Baby), and Ross graciously posted a few words.  He ended with the following:

To summarize – If you're comfortable with a PA-15 you should have no problems with the Fly Baby, just recognize that the open cockpit environment is a bit strange at first and the reversal of the hands on the stick/throttle needs some thinking through or training in a similar configuration aircraft.  And the Fly Baby may want a bit more speed in the pattern as it slows down quickly.

... and Drew used Ross' posting as a starting point.  RJW]

Drew AloftRoss's point about the speed bleeding off quickly (especially when slow) is a very good point. 

I was really unprepared for my Fly Baby first flight as I had only Cessna time and a bit of time in an overweight Taylorcraft, before initially flying my Fly Baby 12 years ago, the low inertia/high drag of Fly Baby was a bit of a surprise on my first flight, as my Fly Baby didn't fly like that particular T-Cart, and ended up damaging an axle which resulted in a courtesy ride back to the hanger by the nice man in the airfield fire truck...

After flying Cessnas, when initially flying my Fly Baby I found that the Fly Baby had less pendulum effect.  On that same first flight I (in hind sight) climbed to slowly and this lack of pendulum effect can be amplified by the lack of airspeed.  If the aeroplane feels "tippy" in a climbing turn check airspeed.  My Fly Baby tends not to have a significant "nose break" in a stall like small Cessnas, rather below 50 KIAS with power off it mushes nose high with a large sink rate.

Since that tenuous first flight and experience/stick time in more variety or aircraft, I've found that the (A-65 powered) Fly Baby flys like a low powered biplane but with minimal adverse yaw and the top wing removed for improved visibility.  I was once fortunate to get some flying and circuits in a DH-82C Tiger Moth...with the exception of heavier ailerons and more inertia in the tail when landing, I found the general feel surprisingly similar.  

I fly my A65 powered Fly Baby approaches at 60 KIAS, over the fence at 55 KIAS and keep it at that speed for wheel landings.   For my preferred 3-point landings, I gently bleed off speed in the ground effect for a 3-pointer, holding off for as long as possible where Stringbag then settles on somewhere in the 40's.  Beware that (at least in Stringbag) below 50 KIAS with power off speed bleeds off very quickly.  I cruise at 70 KIAS and can just nibble 80 full throttle with a 72-42 Sensenich wood prop.

For an engine failure, this is extremely important.  If the engine quits the aircraft probably require quite a steep glide angle to maintain airspeed...I have established an arbitrary glide speed of 55 KIAS for my aircraft (also my best rate of climb). 

While all 'Babys have different views over the nose depending upon tailwheel spring set-up, tyre size etc, visibility over the nose on my bird in 3 point and flare is poor, but has never seemed to be an issue.  Prior to a flight after being ground-bound for more than a couple of weeks, I usually review my mental picture of both sides of the aircraft in the 3 point, with a horizon reference.  When in the flare I simply look ahead relaxing my eye focus and concentrate on peripheral vision as Stringbag is blind over-the-nose when in the flare. 

Overall, the Fly Baby (at least mine) has great ground handling.  The gear is a bit narrow however the geometry is fixed unlike some bungee-sprung taildraggers where it feels like the toe-in/out seems to alter as the weight is applied to the landing gear.  I find it best to have enough slack in the tailwheel links/chains/springs for at least 20 degrees of rudder deflection before the tailwheel steering comes into effect...though "direct steering" can be challenging and fun too :) 

A final point about Fly Baby...if it gets very quiet in the cockpit you have probably let the speed drop off too low 8:^)

Have a good flight! 

Fly Baby Mk 1a