Can aviation lead us back toward normal? Globally, governments have ordered their citizens to stay at home and all the rest, as you’ve heard ad naseum. Some places — Florida, as a sunshining example — is more open than others but much of civilization remains restricted. • Article updated… see at bottom —DJ Again I ask, “Can aviation lead us back toward normal?” Asking Too Much? Does it seems too much ask that aviation — numbering somewhere around one million pilots globally plus the industry that supports them — provide the path back to better times? I certainly don’t know the future but we’re about to get a first real test of aviation’s resiliency as Sun ‘n Fun 2021 begins on Tuesday April 13th. Sun ‘n Fun has for years been one of Florida’s largest spectator events so even if attendance is off it still implies a very large gathering.
Luscombe Silvaire Aircraft Company Silvaire LSA-8
Phone: (951) 682-5385Riverside, CA 92509 - USA
Welcome Back to the Shiny SilvaireFrom its mid-century origin in Kansas City, Missouri, Luscombe moved to Trenton, New Jersey. It was was later manufactured in Dallas, Texas, then in Fort Collins, Colorado before moving to Riverside, California under the direction of John Dearden who achieved LSA acceptance for Luscombe Silvaire Model 8. Now, Luscombe Aircraft Corporation (LAC) has gone cross country again, this time to Jamestown, New York in the western part of the Empire State. Here's another brief article with more history of this iconic name. Aeronautical engineer Steve Testrake and Stephen Young acquired the Luscombe assets in June of 2019. The pair established the new corporate entity to hold the assets and build a new factory. "Our goal," said Steve, "is to revive the legacy of the Luscombe." The two Steves will start by building parts for owners of an estimated 1,600 Luscombe aircraft flying today. That will start some cash flow for the new enterprise and will surely be a great relief and a treasured resource to those present-day owners. "Then, we will start assembling complete airplanes using LSA regulations," confirmed Steve. "Built as a Light Sport Aircraft to ASTM industry consensus standards," Steve said, "the Model-8 is … an all-metal airplane originally designed and still constructed to USA CAR 4a standard airworthiness requirements." CAR standards preceded today's Part 23 rules. In New York state, Steve noted that he and his partner want to retain the vintage look of Luscombe 8F Silveraire. That doesn't mean it's old fashioned, though. Hidden behind the classic panel and glove box doors that were popular from 1942 to 1959 lies state of the art power management panel and instruments." (See panel images at bottom.)
A Different Kind of "Green"Nicknamed "Green Acres" is LAC's base-level Luscombe LSA. "It is our lowest cost in the lightest package, intended for operations the way the original Model 8 was flown: very basic," said Steve. He suggests: "Bring your own handheld radio and GPS" much as it was in days-gone-by. Standard equipment include stainless steel firewall and exhaust systems, fresh air vents, a 50-amp alternator, and Cleveland toe brakes for the pilot." Dual controls are available as an option. While the basic "Green Acres" Luscombe Model 8 is deliberately equipped in very basic instrumentation, it does come with two USB charger ports and two 12-volt auxiliary power outlets. Model 8 is powered by a Continental O-200 engine producing 100 horsepower, making the light aircraft a performer; the original had only 65 horsepower. "All of our option packages include Hooker harness safety belts, emergency locator transmitter, and carburetor heat," added Steve. "LAC has committed significant resources to sorting, inspecting, and cataloging our parts inventory," the company reported. This is no small task for such a vintage design. "We have also worked extensively with the professional aviation archivists at AirCorps Aviation in Bemidji, Minnesota to develop a digital archive of Luscombe’s large collection of historical records, engineering drawings, and production work orders. We have inspected and are refurbishing production jigs and tooling to resume production of those hard-to-find parts. LAC is developing close working relationships with the local metal working specialty shops "to leverage the rich Western New York and North Pennsylvania manufacturing base. Using the original Luscombe jigs, restorations [can be] expertly crafted in our 25,000-square-foot hangar at the Jamestown Airport (KJHW). Steve has self-financed the Luscombe program so far but he said the company will generate revenue by producing parts for the vintage Luscombe fleet. Such production has carried many established companies through lean times. Indeed… “The design has been orphaned so long that parts can be extremely hard to find,” he said. “There’s a lot of pent-up parts demand. Owners of existing airplanes have been tremendously encouraging.” Steve Testrake promised to keep me updated on the developing Luscombe plans and I will report that news to readers. We are planning a video interview for Sun 'n Fun 2021, where the new company will exhibit.
Technical Specifications Luscombe Model 8 LSA
- Maximum Stall Speed — 42 knots
- Maneuvering Speed — 100 knots
- Never-Exceed Speed — 126 knots
- Cruise Speed — 105 knots
- Demonstrated Crosswind Component — 20 knots
- Takeoff Roll (sea level) — 600 feet (add 20% on turf)
- Landing Distance Over 50 Foot Obstacle — 1,000 feet
- Fuel Capacity — 2 x 12.5 gallon tanks, total 25 gallons
- Endurance — 4 hours with 45 minute reserve
- Powerplant — Continental O-200 producing 100 horsepower
- Propeller — Sensenich, fixed pitch
- Base Price — $110,500
Of all the airplanes earning rave reviews over the years, one model stands out above most others in the distinction of handling quality. Over and over I’ve heard from pilots of a certain, umm… maturity, and Luscombe is the brand often mentioned. After flying many airplane models, I’d be hard pressed to tell you which one I thought out-handled the rest. What does that even mean? Handling can be quite personal. Some like a docile, forgiving airplane. In all honesty, that’s probably most of us. It’s annoying (and possibly threatening) to be forced to constantly stay on top of an airplane. Other pilots prefer fast response and a light touch. Luscombe offers a delightful combination of light forces with great response that will make most of us feel comfortable. That’s magic! Welcome Back to the Shiny Silvaire From its mid-century origin in Kansas City, Missouri, Luscombe moved to Trenton, New Jersey.
Luscombes and Champs with a New Lease on LifePilots of the world, meet American know-how building American airframes powered by American powerplants. This month, we offer not one but two such airplanes, the Luscombe Silvaire LSA-8, and the American Champion Aircraft Champ. These flying machines offer not only homeland availability but homeland pricing as well. Neither is subject to constant price increases from a soaring euro, and when Europe finalizes acceptance of ASTM standards (see "Europe, EASA, and Light-Sport Aircraft" page 36), these planes may be a compelling purchase for Europeans. An LSA-8 or Champ might seem downright cheap in Europe (approximately 55,000 euros plus shipping). Globalization works in both directions! Two-thirds of the approximately 1,270 airplanes in today's current light-sport aircraft (LSA) fleet (as of April 2008) were built overseas, but recent entries by American companies joining the LSA parade could change those numbers. At times of rising LSA import prices and skyrocketing fuel costs, these are two affordable aircraft Americans ought to consider. The Luscombe Silvaire Company hails from California, at historic Flabob Airport. American Champion, based in Rochester, Wisconsin is a longstanding company that's only a short flight from Oshkosh. LUSCOMBE NOSTALGIA Though I've had the privilege of flying more airplanes than most pilots, I'd always heard about but never flown a Luscombe. "Marvelous handling" is what some knowing pilots would say. "Superb performance," exclaimed others. I didn't experience one for myself until I went flying with Luscombe Silvaire Company President John Dearden. Why did I wait so long? What a terrific little airplane! Okay, it's a taildragger, and I know many pilots lack taildragger experience. My first 35 flying hours were in a Citabria, a relative of the Champ, which hints at how long I've been flying, but if you have only tricycle-gear experience, you may look at LSA-8's high deck angle and wonder when your next ground loop might happen. All I can say is, looks can be deceiving and rumors are often wrong. With 60 years of history and many thousands of aircraft produced, Luscombe ranks as one of history's most successful airframe producers. The maiden flight of Donald Luscombe's original design was on December 17, 1937. The first variation to achieve success was the Silvaire (a name retained by today's manufacturer). More than 6,000 units were delivered. Most American pilots know the Model 8 series, 8A through 8F, of which another 1,200 units were delivered. Add in about 200 four-seat Luscombe Sedans and two-seat tricycle-gear versions and you'll tally at least 8,000 Luscombe aircraft. Luscombe Aircraft once built the predecessor to the LSA-8 at the rate of 23 per day-yes, per day. In 1948, the company produced 2,700 airplanes in one calendar year. That high production rate may have been relatively short-lived, but it proves that the tooling that Luscombe Silvaire Company owns today holds the potential to build a lot of airplanes. Dearden says his company has more than a thousand machining dies, and on my visit to his California shop, I felt like I saw most of them. John said that the former factory had production hours down to about 400 per aircraft when it was pumping out significant numbers. Today's Luscombe LSA-8 is built new to meet ASTM standards, but it was originally designed and is still constructed to CAR 4a standard airworthiness requirements. "Our Light Sport Luscombe using the 100-hp Continental O-200A powerplant matches or exceeds the performance of the original Luscombe top-of-theline 8F in every way," said Dearden. While many imported LSA are furiously building the infrastructure to support their designs, the LSA- 8 boasts time-proven low-maintenance requirements. Thousands of aircraft mechanics are familiar with Luscombes, and parts are readily available from the American factory and other suppliers. With thousands of the originals still flying after 50 years or more of service, Donald Luscombe's durable design has an enviable track record. FLY MY SHINY AIRPLANE Finally, after all these years, it was my time to go aloft in a plane from the much-storied Luscombe 8 series, specifically the new iteration of it under sport pilot rules. I was ready. Despite my anticipation, getting in the aircraft proved a little more challenging than with some LSA (although I'm admittedly not as flexible as I was earlier in my career). The technique involves putting your hand on the far seat and your foot on the foot peg. While leaning well inside the cockpit you then lift your other leg. After getting one leg inside, I found the door opening to be fairly tight; I had to use my hand to pull in my other leg. Once inside, you realize this is an earlier design. The Luscombe LSA-8 has a 39-inch-wide cabin, which is half an inch narrower than a Cessna 172 and measurably narrower than most modern special LSA (S-LSA). Nonetheless, it seemed roomier than the number suggests, thanks partly to the fact that neither Dearden nor I are large men. Perhaps the simple interior also made the space feel larger. Fancy interiors are fine, but they take up space (and add weight). The LSA-8's luggage compartment is large enough for big bags and has a 75-pound capacity. However, the allaluminum LSA-8 weighs between 830 and 890 pounds empty, which means you have to watch weight carefully. With two larger occupants, you may have to forgo luggage unless you're willing to launch with less than the full 30 gallons of fuel. I absolutely loved that you can open the windows at any time. When you do, a lovely breeze fills the cabin and your visibility increases. You also get to hear that Continental O-200 in operation. A Rotax sounds quite different. The aircraft's window-latching mechanism is simple yet secure, so you feel comfortable opening a window in flight. An opened-window Luscombe might work as a photo platform, and the great controls of the LSA-8 lend themselves to accurate flying. John noted that if you open both windows you get some buffeting, so if you try one or the other, you may find one superior. On a warm summer day, flying with your arm hanging out the window is just plain fun. The flap T-handle located above the center of the panel has a somewhat unusual mode of operation, though I had it figured out by the end of our flight. You twist the spring-loaded handle to the right to release the detent and can then reposition from 0 to 15 to 30 degrees. You have to remember which way to rotate, and you'll find the twisting motion easier, John explained, if you relieve the pressure on the flap surfaces by first slowing the LSA-8. The design allows deploying flaps at 90 mph, but slowing first will make the surfaces much easier to set. On the plus side of the handle location, the flap lever is readily available to either pilot/passenger, befitting its dual controls. The trim control is a forward-facing knob with crank-handle operation and is less intuitive than the flap lever. Though clearly labeled-you turn the knob clockwise, when viewed from the front, to lower the nose-you'll have to learn the direction to go without lowering your vision to read the placard and mechanical position indicator down by the knob between the seats. The LSA-8's trim control gives results, but it has so little resistance in its movement that you get no feedback. However, except for special investigations such as slow flight or trying to max out cruise, I didn't use trim much. The LSA-8's pitch control is so cooperative that it simply isn't that big a deal how the trim control operates. You can largely ignore it if you wish. Another pilot observed that the relatively small trim surface of N104LS, which appeared to be the original size, had surface area added. He also noted that after one landing the surface was deployed to a good percentage of its range. Indeed, the trim surface appears to be relatively small compared to trim surfaces on more recently designed aircraft. Luscombe has a built-in theft deterrent via the fuel shut-off knob, which has a removable handle that would make it much harder for a thief to supply fuel to the engine. EASYGOING TAILDRAGGER Too many pilots look at a taildragger and conclude they don't have the experience (or the patience to acquire the experience) to manage one. Even with a lot of taildragger experience, I was uncertain how the LSA-8 would behave on landing approach and touchdown. The fairly steep deck angle led me to conclude I would need to use the rudder pedals well to avoid the dreaded group loop. Essentially, that impression was wrong. While you can never ignore rudder pedals when landing a taildragger, the LSA-8 proved to be quite stable to land. My three landings went well. The effort was easier, with better results than expected. The first two landings were made without any flaps, and both went exceeding well. I did not experience the need to dance on the rudder pedals-that recommended series of tiny but steady movements to assure the tail stays behind the nose. On my third landing using the full 30 degrees of flaps, I had a much shorter flare window. I overflared and overcontrolled a bit, so my touchdown was less smooth than I preferred it. Regardless, the LSA-8 set us down easily. Once aloft, I was keen to explore the much-admired handling of the Luscombe. What I discovered with my Dutch roll exercise-trying to keep the ball centered while rotating on the longitudinal axis-was that you lead with the ailerons and follow with the rudders. This is the opposite of some LSA born out of the ultralight movement, in which you often lead with rudders. But most general aviation pilots will easily understand the action. Contrary to some highly evolved general aviation designs, you must use the rudders, as the LSA-8 exhibits significant adverse yaw without using the foot pedals. I also explored the LSA-8's behavior by operating the rudder pedals without the ailerons. Except for some initial adverse yaw, the LSA-8 responded quite well to rudder-only input. Interestingly, the LSA-8 comes around to coordinated flight better with rudderonly input than with aileron-only input. What this likely illustrates is that responsive and effective ailerons such as on the Luscombe LSA-8 cause the adverse yaw. No matter. The effect diminishes quickly and is easily controlled. I performed 45- to 60-degree bank steep turns with 2550 rpm from the 100-hp Continental O-200 fourbanger, and the LSA-8 held altitude without effort. John observed that at 2,500 feet mean sea level in Florida on a warm day, we flew with the airplane slightly lean. He suggested 2600 rpm, which is near full power. When flying behind the Continental engine and not a Rotax, I had to be reminded to pull on some carburetor heat when reducing power significantly- for example, when checking power-off stalls or normal descent sink rate. Because of a panel ledge just above the knob, it was a minor challenge to actuate the carburetor heat, specifically in pressing the detent button to pull the knob out. On a downwind run, we saw 111 knots. The upwind run showed about 98 knots, for an average max cruise speed of 105 knots or 120 mph. Climb rate was about 1,000 fpm off the runway near sea level. It sustained later at 600 to 800 fpm at about 75 mph indicated. My power-off descent with engine idling (which brings increased disk drag) showed about 800 fpm. For comparison, the slowest descending LSA can achieve 400 fpm or less; a few descend faster. WELL-BEHAVED LSA The pleasure I experienced flying the LSA-8 with John revolved around the design's good manners. I figured performance would be good, and I'd heard handling was responsive. No one had mentioned how easy the Luscombe might be to fly. Indeed, the LSA-8 is quite accommodating to those who are new to the design. I explored the stall and stability to satisfying results. Power-on and power-off stalls, plus accelerated or banking stalls in both directions, showed no tendency to stall break. Going into a right accelerated stall, I noticed only a little wiggle in the rudder. To the left, the LSA-8 showed no such tendency. At most the power-on stall showed a bit of wandering at the point of highdeck- angle incipient stall. Luscombe officials report a full flap stall of only 44 mph or 38 knots. Numbers in this low range are hard to verify with accuracy, but it was easy to discern that our forward movement was modest. When I checked longitudinal stability by trimming to level and then disturbing the stick forward, the LSA- 8 approached redline (of 145 mph) but did not exceed redline without any adjustment or pressure on the controls. The plane stabilized after two-plus oscillations, which is a fairly quick recovery. I got essentially the same results when I pulled the stick aft and released. Power response was proper and expected. That is, reducing power resulted in a dropping nose (that might exceed redline without pilot input or trim adjustment). Conversely, adding power raised the nose, but you should pay attention to trim if you wish to release the stick. REFLECTIONS "The Luscombe Silvaire Aircraft Company (LSAC) is dedicated to manufacturing new production Luscombe aircraft and to serving the existing fleet," said John-but LSAC is only one of two operations serving the Luscombe community. Team Luscombe LLC, an affiliate of Luscombe Silvaire Aircraft, holds the type certificate (ATC-694) for all Luscombes ever made. Based in Chandler, Arizona, it has built a reputation for its quality restoration and rebuilding work on Luscombe aircraft. More information on the company is available at www.LuscombeHeritage.org. Dividing the tasks, Team Luscombe holds FAA parts manufacturing approval for many new manufactured parts and can supply serviceable parts from an inventory built up during more than a decade of service, restoration, and parts sales. Fortunately, though, new original equipment manufacturer parts will also be available from the Luscombe Silvaire Company itself, manufactured using the original Luscombe factory tooling and techniques. I'd come to fly the LSA-8 expecting good performance and snappy handling at the cost of stability, but what I found was a docile, pleasantto- fly airplane that also happened to handle nicely and perform well. The LSA-8 offers quite a nice introduction to taildragger flying, though proper training is recommended. John said the Luscombe had a reputation for being hard to land or a handful to fly. When the Luscombe was first certificated in the 1930s, many pilots were flying biplanes that stalled at 20 mph, he said, and the livelier Luscombe monoplane seemed like a high-performance airplane. My experience certainly did not match the outdated reputation. The LSA-8 is very much a new airplane, with the shiny, polished-aluminum look of aviation's so-called golden age. And it has an S-LSA airworthiness certificate to prove it. With a price tag below $90,000, it may answer a need for some. I was charmed in many ways by the Luscombe-its gleaming, polished- aluminum surface, the great handling, zippy yet economical performance, surprisingly easy landings, and good old American hardware. Factor in a reasonable price and service from people in the United States, and maybe you could be charmed, too.
|Seating||Two, side by side|
|Empty weight||830 pounds 1|
|Gross weight||1,320 pounds|
|Wing area||140 square feet|
|Wing loading||9.4 pounds/square foot|
|Useful Load||490 pounds 1|
|Payload (with full fuel)||310 pounds 1|
|Cabin Interior||39 inches|
|Fuel Capacity||30 gallons|
|Baggage area||Aft of seats, 75 pounds 1|
|Notes:||1 At base price weight. Optional equipment can boost weight to as much as 890 pounds, reducing useful load and payload accordingly.|
|Standard engine||Continental O-200A|
|Prop Diameter||Two-blade metal|
|Power loading||13.2 pounds/horsepower|
|Cruise speed||104 to 111 knots/120-128 mph (depending on altitude)|
|Stall Speed (Flaps)||38 knots/44 mph|
|Never exceed speed||126 knots/145 mph|
|Rate of climb at gross||900 fpm|
|Takeoff distance at gross||500 feet|
|Landing distance at gross||600 feet|
|Range (powered)||6 hours (no reserve) 720 statute miles|
|Fuel Consumption||about 5 gph|
Luscombes and Champs with a New Lease on Life Pilots of the world, meet American know-how building American airframes powered by American powerplants. This month, we offer not one but two such airplanes, the Luscombe Silvaire LSA-8, and the American Champion Aircraft Champ. These flying machines offer not only homeland availability but homeland pricing as well. Neither is subject to constant price increases from a soaring euro, and when Europe finalizes acceptance of ASTM standards (see “Europe, EASA, and Light-Sport Aircraft” page 36), these planes may be a compelling purchase for Europeans. An LSA-8 or Champ might seem downright cheap in Europe (approximately 55,000 euros plus shipping). Globalization works in both directions! Two-thirds of the approximately 1,270 airplanes in today’s current light-sport aircraft (LSA) fleet (as of April 2008) were built overseas, but recent entries by American companies joining the LSA parade could change those numbers. At times of rising LSA import prices and skyrocketing fuel costs, these are two affordable aircraft Americans ought to consider.
Are you uncertain about the certification used for LSA? Do you find imported S-LSA too expensive? Are you struggling to accept an engine such as Rotax, with its liquid cooling, 5500 max rpm range, and gear-driven prop? If you ask yourself these questions, you could choose the Luscombe featured in this article or select the newest entry from American Champion Aircraft, the Champ, which sells for under $90,000, or $100,000 nicely equipped. Like the LSA-8, the Champ is a familiar aircraft certificated under traditional federal aviation regulations. Luscombe can boast of meeting CAR4a but, technically, it’s certificated under ASTM standards. As with the Luscombe, a Continental O-200 powers the Champ. For some, this is enough to suggest a purchase. One shortcoming is that the Champ has limited useful load, given its empty weight of 920 pounds. Unlike an S-LSA approved under ASTM standards (such as the LSA-8), the Champ can weigh more than 890 pounds because American Champion continues to build its LSA-like airplane under Part 23 certification.
Clyde Cessna. William Piper. Walter Beech. Al Mooney. William Boeing. You knew all that. But do you recall the name Donald Luscombe? You probably should. The Luscombe Aircraft Company built some 8,000 aircraft, 6,000 of them the Silvaire model alone. And they once pumped out as many as 23 per day, yes, per day! In 1948, Luscombe produced more than 2,700 aircraft in a calendar year. That’s more than twice as many as all LSA companies combined have sold in three years. Fortunately, it isn’t just a history lesson. Thanks to John Dearden and staff at Flabob Airport in Southern California, the Luscombe was revived as the LSA-8 earning approval as a Special Light-Sport Aircraft. Lucky me, I went flying in it with John and a pleasure it was. Great manners in a responsive, good performing, all-metal, Continental-powered LSA that is 100% Made in the USA. Selling for around $90,000 LSA-8 looks inexpensive compared to euro-denominated LSA now running to $130,000.
Luscombe Silvaire Airplane Company recently announced winning SLSA approval for their Silvaire LSA-8 entry in the Sport Pilot sweepstakes. Silvaire is model 43 to earn its Special LSA airworthiness certificate. Luscombe Silvaire set the base price at $90,000 for a VFR model with night capability and flaps (neither of which were standard for modest aircraft in the days when Luscombe was first made). “Great Airplane,” exclaimed Carol Winell Dearden speaking for the Southern California manufacturer. Luscombe is based at the Flabob Airport in Riverside, California…“Historic Flabob” their website proclaims. Owned by EAA Board Member Thomas Wathen’s Foundation, the iconic airport is also home to EAA Chapter #1 and the Wathen Aviation High School. Flabob and Riverside are a very short flight away from AOPA fall 2006 Expo in nearby Palm Springs Nov 9-10-11, this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Come out and see the new Luscombe Silvaire along with more than 20 other Light-Sport Aircraft.