March 25, 2013
By Ian J. Twombly
It was every kid’s dream. There we were, battling for position, weaving in and out, trying to get the upper hand on each other. Then finally, right before the finish line, I won. I savored the victory and it was sweet.
Well, maybe that’s a small embellishment, but we did race and I did win. And that’s all that matters. Recently fellow editor Dave Hirschman and I had a chance to put the 2008 Get Your Glass Sweepstakes Archer to the test. Members are always curious what airframe modifications do to sweepstakes airplanes, and this year we had the unique opportunity to conduct a very unscientific assessment of the mods.
The AOPA Air Safety Foundation owns a 1978 Archer. It’s a stripped-down airplane that is used for training and research. That training shows with its lack of wheel pants and older interior and panel. But matching that Archer to the sweepstakes Archer was a reasonably good way to test the latter’s modifications.
Hirschman and I are both trained to fly formation, so we decided the best way to neutralize any outside influences would be to conduct the test on the same day, at the same altitude, and on the same heading. If you’re a close follower of this year’s project, you know the Archer sports vortex generators designed to improve low speed handling and reduce stall speed, a number of different gap seals and fairings to reduce drag, and Speedpants, an aftermarket wheel pant, also to reduce drag. Thus, we decided to test climb performance, slow flight, stall speed, and max forward speed.
Hirschman took off first and I joined up soon after. Then we transitioned to line abreast (side by side), and Hirschman began to call out the maneuvers. First we tested slow flight. I’ve talked before about the performance of the VGs, and they didn’t disappoint. The control response is so much better at slow speed that you feel like you could hang out at the stall buffet all day. I did just that as I watched Hirschman stall his Archer.
Then I reduced power, pulled back, and stalled 208GG.
We compared the indicated airspeed difference and found them to be off significantly. Hirschman said his indicated airspeed was showing about five knots lower than mine when he stalled, even though visually we knew that was impossible. It justified the approach to the test we had taken.
After cleaning up the airplanes we added full power to check climb rate. With its newer engine and prop, I expected 208GG to be far and away better at this task. But the result surprised me. Hirschman initially pulled back more than I did, and he shot above me before stabilizing. I caught up easily, however, and then stabilized. But instead of gaining on him in the climb, I found we were pretty evenly matched.
Then came the real test—speed. We leveled out, settled in, and added full power. At first we were dead even, which completely shocked me. Then I asked Hirschman if he had leaned out his Archer. He had. I leaned 208GG and shot by. The gap seals, wing root seals, and Speedpants had done their job. Later we decided I was only about three or four knots faster, but that was enough for me.
Afterwards I was slightly disappointed with 208GG’s performance. But then it dawned on me. Hirschman had an unfair advantage in his Archer. The sweepstakes Archer’s upgrades mean she has gained some weight over the past year, and my diet means I weigh in at probably 50 more pounds than Hirschman. Those two factors combined put my ship about 125 pounds more than Hirschman’s ride. It’s no wonder climb, stall, and cruise performance was down slightly.
The bottom line, however, is that the Get Your Glass Archer does better than book numbers in both climb and cruise speed. Anytime that happens, you are having a good day.
Next week: The Archer is beautified
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