April 17, 2008
By Ian J. Twombly
By Ian J. Twombly
It was another successful Sun ’n Fun Fly-In in Lakeland, Fla., last week. Members were really excited about the airplane, and many had questions about specific components or additions we’ve made to it thus far. We’ll answer some of those questions this week by discussing the performance seen on the flight south and then back to Frederick, Maryland, and next week we’ll get in to a full question-and-answer session (so e-mail in those questions).
The Aspen Avionics EFD 1000 primary flight display was a big hit in the airplane and inside AOPA’s Big Yellow Tent. Most wanted to know what it’s like flying behind the first-ever installed certified unit. The answer can be summed up in one word—cool. I’ve been saying that it’s just like flying with steam gauges, except with more situational awareness and with greater ease than an HSI. That solidifies the point that learning the PFD is easy, and flying with it is both fun and useful. Having flown behind it now for about 15 hours, I can say that I felt like I had mastered it after less than four hours of flying. Because it is simply a digital representation of the attitude indicator and directional gyro or HSI, basic flying can be done immediately. But add on approaches and it takes a little bit longer to master. Without question the Aspen is easier than any electronic flight information display that I’ve used.
Other than the Aspen, the paint and interior were a big draw. Most people mentioned the seats. The biggest question was in relation to the black leather. Probably because we were in Florida, many members were concerned that black is too hot. We were also wondering about this when first deciding on the color. But thanks to a couple of factors, the seats have been quite comfortable so far. At least one day during the show it touched 90 degrees and sitting on the seats was no problem, even in the mid-day sun. The day after the show, the temperature reached about 80 degrees in Naples, Florida, when we showed off the airplane, and it was completely comfortable getting in. This is probably for two reasons.
First, there is a section of perforated leather in the center that allows the seat to breathe. But a bigger impact is probably the new LP Aero windows. The company says that the light gray solar tint on the Archer’s new windows blocks 99 percent of UV light and a large portion of infrared light. The result is a window that keeps the cabin as much as 20 degrees cooler, according to LP Aero. And after having to turn on the heat in the airplane at only 5,500 feet on a warm sunny day in the South has made me a believer.
Since pilots are always looking for more speed, we decided to add one modification that would hopefully help the Archer gain a few knots. Laminar Flow Systems’ Speedpants were the answer. They’ve added a nice aesthetic to the airplane, and thankfully, given the Archer a boost of about four knots. When the airplane is only doing about 115 knots true, that four knots is pretty nice.
Thanks to the Speedpants, the wing root seals from Knots 2U, and the gap seals a previous owner installed, the Archer won’t be blazing through the skies, but it is doing a respectable 120 knots true in standard conditions.
The newly overhauled Lycoming O-360-A4M by Penn Yan Aero is also performing very well. Engine temperatures are all normal, and it’s burning about a half-quart of oil every two to three hours. That’s a good number for the break-in period. It’s also producing lots of power, given that I had to significantly reduce power at 9,500 feet to keep from overtaching it. I don’t recall having to do that in other Archers I’ve flown.
A special thank you to Chris LeCroy of the Naples Pilot’s Association. Chris put on quite the show for the Archer in Naples on Monday, and many people showed up to get a detailed view of the airplane. The airplane has been such a big draw that most people who came had already seen it the previous week at Sun ’n Fun. But the few hours I spent there were great. Talking to members about the components in detail is a treat and I can’t wait to do it again as we take the airplane on the road to the shows. But beware; anyone who hosts the airplane will have big shoes to fill. LeCroy even got catering!
Next week: Q and A session 1
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