Sitting in Airplanes

Inside the Merlin
Inside the Merlin

I sometimes like to think back on how much time I have spent sitting in airplanes. I am sure that it long ago passed the point where I’d talk about it in hours, days, or weeks – probably well into the units of “years.” It has not always been me at the controls of course – I have countless hours sitting as a passenger in a transport, or an airliner, but oftentimes that time in back has been to get to somewhere that I can sit in the pilot’s seat of a new and different airplane. Just this week I spent two solid days as a passenger, flying from the west coast to Florida for the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Florida. It was well worth the effort, because I got to try on some new airplanes for size at the show.

While I was too busy with other business to get any quality flying in (we’ll do that with a number of these airplanes in the coming months), I did get to slide into the front left (or center) seats of a number of new planes we hope to cover for our readers in the coming months. The little high wing, single seat Merlin has promise – it looks good, is built solidly, and has a good record in Europe. When an airplane looks and feels right, it usually flies right – and this one feels great.

Equally small and just as interesting is the BD-17L. Sprung form the mind of Jim Bede a number of years ago, it promises simple construction and features a side stick for those who like fighter-like control. We’ll try to get that one airborne for a review, along with another look at other Bede designs which are still available to builders.

We also got a chance to sit in the Tucano Replica in its US, Light Sport version. Developed in Italy, it adds fixed gear and a prop that limits the original to the LSA restricted parameters, while retaining the looks of the tandem, two-seat turboprop out of Brazil. I liked the roomy feel of the cockpit, and hope to get a chance to fly it soon. Watch for a review of the retractable Tucano Replica in the  spring.

While I’d rather fly that just sit, trying on cockpits is a lot of fun, and gives me an initial feel for how we might like the airplane. Even if I have to spend a couple of days in a coach seat to get the opportunity, it is often well worth it. There are other new airplanes out there we’ll be looking at as well, so don’t forget to check back!

The Tucano LSA
The Tucano LSA


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Paul Dye
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 and SubSonex jet that he built, an RV-3 that he built with his pilot wife, as well as a Dream Tundra and an electric Xenos motorglider they completed. Currently, they are building an F1 Rocket. A commercially licensed pilot, he has logged over 6000 hours in many different types of aircraft and is an A&P, FAA DAR, EAA Tech Counselor and Flight Advisor; he was formerly a member of the Homebuilder’s Council. He consults and collaborates in aerospace operations and flight-testing projects across the country.


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