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Canada’s oldest Ercoupe page 3

Story by jack croft • photos by nick wolochatiuk

You can do things with an Ercoupe that would lead to serious trouble in other types. For example, because of the interconnection of the controls, it’s not possible to slip an Ercoupe. On a cross-wind landing, the pilot must crab the airplane to touchdown. The main gear takes the shock of the crabbed landing, then makes the directional correction. A maximum 30‑degree crab angle can be made on landings, something that would be very difficult for a tail-dragger to do without flipping. Trevor has his own technique for slipping an Ercoupe. Well, it’s not really slipping, it’s what he calls the “falling leaf” manoeuvre. With some engine power (about 1,500 rpm) and the speed pulled back to about 50 knots, excess altitude is rapidly peeled off by rolling the airplane left, then right. As the airplane is turned in each direction, back pressure on the control wheel is released. Releasing the wheel allows the nose to drop and build up speed so that it can roll out of the turn. Consequently, the airplane just goes “whoosh” sideways down to the left, and then the same manoeuvre is repeated to the right. This method can bring an Ercoupe down at a sink rate of about 1,000 fpm. It is a very specific technique for losing excess altitude and is clearly listed in the Ercoupe Instruction Manual designed and approved for the aircraft. I think you would scare yourself silly if you tried this in a Cessna. “Personally,” says Trevor, “when I’ve been on final and have to roll off some altitude with non-pilots, they think it’s fun, but pilots just about freak out. Apparently this is not the kind of thing you should do, except you should do it with an Ercoupe. It’s a safe and proper procedure.”

Over the years, there have been many ADs on the Ercoupe, but one that should be of particular concern to Ercoupe owners is the elevator trim tab directive. An AD was issued to install a metal tab stopper to prevent the trim tab from rising above the level of the elevator. The stopper prevents it from fluttering if the trim tab wire should break. Tab wires have snapped on some Ercoupes, resulting in severe buffeting throughout the empennage and the entire fuselage, which could cause in-flight airframe breakup. There have been instances where someone has taken the liberty of bending these stops up about 15 or 20 degrees to get a greater range of trim tab movement. When bent, the stopper is no longer effective. The problem happened on Trevor’s aircraft about eight miles from the airport at 1,500 feet. “Suddenly, the whole airplane began to shake. I couldn’t figure out what was happening, so I immediately throttled back to minimum flying speed and kept the controls right back and made a safe landing at the airport.” Later, the trim tab stopper was checked and, sure enough, it had been bent, rendering it ineffective for preventing this kind of incident.

I asked Trevor why he flies, and his response was an echo for many of us who have the privilege of owning a pilot’s licence. “I just want to go up, wander around the sky and sightsee. The whole joy of flying is flying. It’s an end in itself. What a marvellous feeling to temporarily defy gravity. There’s nothing I like better than to go out on a warm summer evening to an uncluttered patch of air with the canopy open and enjoy the colours of a sunset. The air gets velvety smooth, the sky is blue and the sun is crimson red. Nobody else seems to want to take the time because they’re in a hurry to get somewhere. When it’s a trying work week, I’m up at least three times. My problems disappear, and, at the same time, I’m reminded of who I am.”

After our conversation, Trevor donned his leather flight helmet, and we climbed into the little yellow Ercoupe, opened the canopy and took off. We didn’t go anywhere in particular–just wandered around the sky. |

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