A Two-headed Stick

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No, you have not entered the magical realm of a circus freak show—this really is exactly what it looks like—a control stick with two grips on the top! And while the story behind it might be interesting, it certainly rise to the level Barnum and Bailey hyperbole.

As part of the EAA’s Founder’s Innovation Prize competition, a new idea for presenting Angle of Attack information to pilots was thought up by Jack Horner, founder of FeelFlight stick grips. While lots of AoA systems present relative angle of attack information via sight and/or sound, none had tried to tackle the sense of touch. Sure, pilots have been trained for years to recognize the shake and rumbling  of an impending stall, but there was nothing to tell the pilot if their AoA was perfect for Vx, or Vy—in addition to telling them that they were near the stall. So Horner came up with a stick grip that includes little thumpers aimed at three of the pilot’s fingers. Depending on where you are flying in the speed range, you get a little tap on the appropriate finger. In addition, the system will give a tap for a slip or skid condition on the appropriate side of the hand.

How does it work? Well – in order to give you the whole story, we needed to install the system in one of our airplanes. The system is just invasive enough, however, that a permanent installation was going to take considerable time, and we also felt that we might want to pass this gadget around a bit, so instead of removing the grips (and wiring) from one of our airplanes, we built a bracket to pony it up alongside the aircraft’s regular pilot stick. Appropriate safety reviews have been performed, and full stick motion without interference was ensured. The angle of attack vane, designed to be installed on an inspection plate under a wing, was attached to a bracket on the jury strut of this high-wing, and wiring run along the struts and safety-taped inside the cockpit. The indicator/control box was mounted to a bracket clamped to the glare shield—and she’s ready to test!

How does it work? We haven’t flow it yet, but we’ll let you know in a complete review in and upcoming issue Kitplanes magazine.

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Paul Dye, KITPLANES® Editor at Large, retired as a Lead Flight Director for NASA’s Human Space Flight program, with 40 years of aerospace experience on everything from Cubs to the Space Shuttle. An avid homebuilder, he began flying and working on airplanes as a teen, and has experience with a wide range of construction techniques and materials. He flies an RV-8 that he built, an RV-3 that he built with his pilot wife, as well as a Dream Tundra they completed. Currently, they are building a Xenos motorglider. A commercially licensed pilot, he has logged over 5000 hours in many different types of aircraft and is an A&P, EAA Tech Counselor and Flight Advisor, as well as a former member of the Homebuilder’s Council. He consults and collaborates in aerospace operations and flight-testing projects across the country.

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