David L. DeWinter
May 26, 2002
Click the pictures to enlarge.
It finally happened. After several years, and several fly-ins, I got the chance to take up Ron Herron's offer to fly one of his Little Wings. Ron had his single place (short fuselage) and the new two place (stretched fuselage) machines with him. Ron had just 'finished' the two place and still had a couple of bugs to work out, but the single place was ready for a workout.
The day before the flight, Ron allowed me to taxi the machine over to the FBO to get fuel. It had been several years since I last flew a tail-dragger, but I got it over there in one piece. The left brake, however, wanted to lock up if it was pressed too hard.
Anyway, Saturday morning was to be the day to actually fly the LW. Yeah, I had to use a seat cushion behind my back to adequately reach the rudder/brakes, but what the hell. I'll take the short jokes. LOL
After buckling in, Ron hand propped the VW powerplant. Damn. On powering out of the grass, that left brake locked up. Ron unlocked it and off I went. I figured that I would test it while taxiing and if it did it again during the final left turn to get to the runway, that I'd abort the flight. I 'drug' the brake a little while going straight to help clean out some of the rust that builds up on those brakes when they sit for awhile. It didn't lock up for those two last left turns, so it was a go.
I planned to bring up the rotor nice and slow and at the same time, check out the directional control. It had Dragon Wing rotors and you DO NOT want to over-run and flap those blades.
The rotor tach didn't work to well so it was pretty much useless to reference. Normally, I look at the blur of the blades to get an idea of speed, but the view out of the LW is quite different than when you're in an open frame machine. More reason to just take my time.
I had thought about just running up the blades down the runway, taxi back, then take-off. That didn't happen. I found that the directional control was a non-issue. The ship tracked straight down the center of the runway without doing anything noticeable on the rudder pedals. May have been a little different if I had been more aggresive on the throttle, but I don't think it would have been a big deal then, either.
As I ran down the runway, passing the Air Boss location, I thought I caught a glimpse of a red flag. Naw, couldn't be!!! It was green when I taxied out to the runway. I was a No Radio flight, so a visual was my only option to confirm it.
I figured the best place to confirm it was in the air. I mean, it had been several years in the making, I couldn't stop now. :) The blades were coming up nicely, I could feel the drag, so I came in with the power. The LW lifted off from the three point attitude just as Ron said it would. Like he would be wrong. LOL
I felt like I was in a tamed down Cub. Even the Cub requires more work to stay straight. I climbed up a couple hundred feet and turned left crosswind, then for a left downwind. Yeah, I know, the gyros were supposed to be on a 'right' pattern and I just plain ole forgot. My Bad.
I left the downwind and went out and played a little bit. Feet flat on the floor, left elbow resting on the window ledge, and the left hand just resting on my leg, and the Little Wing just cruised straight and level. Give the cyclic a nudge left or right and it just banks into a coordinated turn with no surprise.
Push or pull the cyclic and let go and the LW just simply returns to straight and level. If anyone could possibly PIO a LW, they need not be flying. The LW is simply the most pitch stable gyro I've ever flown.
After playing around for awhile, it was time for a pass down the runway to test the wind conditions. (That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)
Yep, the red flag is out. The Jump Take-off contest was getting ready to start. But there sure was a crowd around Ron's Little Wing display area. I think they could all see my smile as I "checked out the wind" on the low pass.
There was still plenty of runway ahead to land, but on a first flight, I decided the best thing to to was to go around and set up properly for a landing. That's also my story and I'm sticking to it. :)
As I taxied up to the LW display area, a large crowd had gathered. As I SLOWLY rolled off the pavement and onto the grass, the crowd all took two steps back. From my view it was really funny to see. I mean, I rolled off the pavement about as slow as you possible could, but just the fact that it was off the pavement made the on-lookers step back.
I shut down the engine and that's when the questions started flying. (pun not intended) Questions such as, "What was it like? Was it hard? What had you been flying?", etc.
Well, I just have to say that it was the most docile flying machine I had ever flown, including fixed and rotor wing. It was also the easiest machine to fly. Why? Because it was designed and built RIGHT!!
And all day long, people were asking about the flight. I don't think Ron knew that he had such a following, read 'interest', for his machines. To those of you building them, you are NOT going to be disappointed.
And yes, I did see the Air Boss about my flight during the Red Flag. But it was all worth it!! Gave me a smile the rest of the day.
Dave DeWinter, Lovejoy, Ga.
Dave is an A&P mechanic, Flight Instructor, and built and flown an RV-6, Bensen Gyrocopter, and a Dominator gyro. He is currently contemplating his next project.
(We think we know what he really wants!)