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Canada’s oldest Ercoupe page 2

Story by jack croft • photos by nick wolochatiuk

JZH’s control system consists of solid rods with Heim joints and bell cranks for the offset linkages, so that the ailerons, rudders and double-fork nose wheel are all rigidly interconnected. The control rod for the elevator passes from the bottom of the control column back to the elevator. In postwar Ercoupes, these rods were replaced with wires. Trevor’s machine is one of the originals. An exception is the twin rudders, which have wires that run from the bell crank behind the seat back to the control surfaces. Fred Weick designed the system such that the control wheel was all a pilot needed for manoeuvring in any direction, both on the ground and in the air. He also eliminated rudder pedals in the initial design. Today, there are still many Ercoupes flying, including JZH, that do not have rudder pedals. However, owners can purchase Ercoupe rudder kits and have them installed.

Since the wheel operated the ailerons and rudder through the control interconnections and steered the nose wheel, there was little pilot co-ordination required to make turns. Furthermore, the controls limited elevator travel, preventing stall entry and resulting aircraft spins, a safety feature that was supposed to help sell the Ercoupe. Nevertheless, at the time many people believed that the “unspinnable” Ercoupe was not a complete airplane, and therefore Ercoupe pilots were not fully competent. Back in the late-1940s, this led to the issuance of some limited pilot licences in the United States.

Movement of the ailerons is based on differential actuation. For example, in a left turn, the left aileron is at a steep upward angle and the right aileron just barely down from the neutral position. The right rudder is straight ahead and the nose wheel and left rudder pointed to the left. I found the aircraft entered nicely into a turn with just a little bit of back pressure on the control column to maintain altitude. Without pulling back on the control column, the airplane certainly could do a barrel roll. In fact, Fred Weick demonstrated that it could do both rolls and loops. However, as Trevor says, “Inverted flight in the Ercoupe is not a good idea. It doesn’t have an inverted fuel or oil system, and I have no desire to take a 56-year-old airplane upside down or put it through any unnecessary stress.”

One particular feature that attracts pilots to the Ercoupe is the fighter-like canopy that can be opened during flight. This feature brings back the romance of flying in an open cockpit. In the winter it is practical because the canopy can be closed, and, with a good heater, the pilot can still enjoy flying even on the coldest day. Trevor admits that in the winter he wears a snowmobile suit and that the airplane starts off in a heated hangar. When the temperature is down around –20°C, he can still go flying for an hour as long as the sun is shining, because, as he remarks, “Heating in the airplane is partly from the heater, which the manufacturer thoughtfully provided, and partly from the sun, which God thoughtfully provided.” An additional advantage of this type of canopy is that it provides good visibility at all angles, except for directly below, which is the drawback of any low-wing airplane. It’s a good sightseeing aircraft or, as Trevor puts it, “a nice tour-around-the-patch airplane.”

According to Trevor, the Ercoupe offers a different flying experience depending on the opening or closing of the canopy. If the canopy is fully open, airflow over the cockpit is disturbed, producing a greater sink rate and a lower climb rate. Put a passenger on board near gross, and the extra weight changes the flying characteristics again. So you have an airplane with the canopy open or closed, solo or with a full load. Any variation of these parameters causes the Ercoupe to handle differently–different feel, approach speed and rate of climb (500 to 600 fpm in solo configuration; with pilot and passenger, climb with a C-85 engine drops to more like 350 to 400 fpm). The canopy consists of left and right panels that slide down into the fuselage. The best performance from JZH is achieved by placing the right panel as a roof overhead and folding the left panel into the fuselage. This arrangement still provides a nice open-air feeling in the airplane, and there is no disturbance of the airflow over the cockpit.

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Ercoupe 415-C CF-JZH

Engine (Continental)

(upgraded from C-75)

Cruising speed

103114 mph

Rate of climb

350–450 ft./min.

Service ceiling

11,000–14,000 ft.

Take off over 50 feet

2,200 ft. (at 80°F)

Useful load

340 lbs.


22 US gals. © 2011. All Rights Reserved