Probably you’ve seen an act like this before. A crazy-acting farmer or a supposed drunk hops into a Piper Cub or similar aircraft after the regular pilot leaves it unattended for a few minutes. The crazy guy has no flying experience but somehow proceeds to start up the airplane and to take off in the most out-of-control manner imaginable. As he erratically careens around the sky, handling the aircraft wickedly out of control, he nearly impacts the ground over and over. The entire act takes place within a couple hundred feet of a hard-as-concrete surface.
Even though it’s only an act and even if the pilot is actually a gifted aviator, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and fear that nutjob is going to whack the airplane into the ground right in front of the airshow crowd watching in fascination.
So, you may look at the act Greg Koontz performs and you might undervalue the skill involved. Yet, Don Wade worked with Greg to develop this project and reported, “Greg is one the most precise airshow pilots in world. You have no idea how difficult landing on the truck is. You have just six inches either side of the wheels!“
Most of us are pleased to make a “squeaker” landing where the landing gear kisses the tarmac oh-so gently. We beam with pride should someone witness our skill. We’re pleased to do a precision landing that gets within a couple hundred feet of a preplanned target. Our flight instructor might nod approvingly. Even experienced pilots competing on spot landing contests are pleased to landing within a ten or twenty feet of their target… and their runway isn’t moving! An error tolerance of six inches on a surface that is itself moving, well now… that is really something.
Koontz has his American Legend, awesomely powered by the 180-horsepower Titan, painted up to say “Bob’s Discount Flight School.” Hmmm, is that like a discount doctor? The Dodge pickup truck on which he lands is lettered with messages to resemble a plumber’s work vehicle complete with a big rack on top. We’re supposed to believe this might be used for hauling pipe and it merely happens that some crazy pilot might try to land a plane on top. In truth, as our video shows, the rack is quite carefully built to allow Greg to artfully land while in motion. After he touches down he tweaks the throttle to move the main gear into curved wells sized to the Legend Cub’s wheel stance.
He makes it look easy enough but you can bet this is something you should not try at home without lots of experience. Yet the result is great fun.
After Greg touches down with the mains and cautiously rolls them forward into the wheel wells, he holds the tailwheel up as the truck driver slowly decelerates, allowing the tailwheel to settle where planned. Then, as the announcer goes on with the story, the truck driver again accelerates smoothly and Greg is able to lift off and continue flying. It looks so deceptively easy but it surely is pure deception. As I watched the video footage we captured, I knew I’d never try anything so crazy.
The crowd eats it up. Even jaded airshow pilots who have seen it all have to admire the skill Greg applies (along with his capable truck driver) in making the entire act work. The 2016 version of the act — the “smallest airport” — will include 16 venues that started with Sun ‘n Fun 2016 and includes that summer celebration of flight known as Oshkosh. For the show schedule and additional details visit Greg’s GK Airshows website.
American Legend entered the SLSA space early; they were the 10th LSA to achieve their special airworthiness out of a list now 140 strong. They first used the 100-horsepower Continental O-200, later mounting the 115-horse Lycoming O-233, the 120-horse Jabiru 3300 six cylinder, and later still, the still-to-come Superior diesel engine entry. However, from the view of Greg Koontz and many other pilots, the big Titan does a terrific job and, following Continental Motors’ acquisition of ECi in 2015, it might be said that American Legend returned to their roots.
Titan‘s X-340 engine, now offered by Continental Motors, is a four cylinder, 340 cubic inch displacement engine that produces 180 horsepower. Sulphur Springs, Texas-based American Legend said their Super Legend HP with the Titan X-340, offers “fast cruise speeds and the best ever takeoff and climb performance in a Light-Sport Cub.” Company boss Darin Hart explained that to qualify as Light-Sport Aircraft, maximum takeoff power must be limited to five minutes with continuous output limited to 80 horsepower.
Others have used this engine and fought mightily to keep the weight within LSA’s challenging standard of 1,320 pounds. Darin explained, “Special lightweight custom paint and carefully selected panel equipment are helpful to maintain Super Legend HP empty weight at less than 904 pounds,” as required by FAA to qualify as a Special LSA.
Good job, American Legend. Great act, Greg Koontz. Pilots, while you might not want to follow Greg’s aerial antics, I’ll be you enjoy the big Titan power that makes the act that much more entertaining.
Catch the whole act and hear from Greg in this video…