The Big Toot

Tommy Meyer builds his father’s legacy.

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The Big Toot Tommy Meyer‭ ‬built is not the two-seat‭ ‬biplane his father envisioned‭. ‬“It was going to be a side-by-side version of Little Toot‭, ‬with longer wings like a back-staggered Beech‭,‬”‭ ‬said Meyer‭. ‬His father‭, ‬George W‭. ‬Meyer‭, ‬“was going to use Monocoupe landing gear with the wheels turned backwards‭, ‬where the wheels were pointing forward‭, ‬and he was going to cover the wheels with GeeBee-type‭ ‬wheel pants‭. ‬He said it was going to be a Big Toot for Mom and Dad to go flying in‭.‬”‭ ‬

With lifelong dedication, Tommy Meyer built on his father’s legacy by adding a second seat to his father’s renowned design.

A skilled metalworker who worked for Curtiss-Wright‭ ‬and later the U.S‭. ‬Navy at several aircraft maintenance‭ ‬depots‭, ‬George Meyer designed and invested six years building Little Toot‭, ‬a single-seat homebuilt biplane that first flew in the‭ ‬early 1950s‭. ‬He named it after the Walt Disney character‭ ‬that had possessed his son‭, ‬Tommy‭, ‬Little Toot the tugboat‭.‬

A few preliminary drawings were as far as his father got on Big Toot‭, ‬said Tommy‭, ‬now 75‭. ‬“As time goes by‭, ‬Dad developed brain cancer and then cancer in the lungs‭. ‬Before he died‭ [‬in 1982‭], ‬Dad said‭, ‬‘Tom‭, ‬if you get around to it‭, ‬would you build Big Toot‭?‬’‭ ‬I said‭, ‬‘Sure‭, ‬I’ll do it‭!‬’‭ ‬It has taken me 20‭ ‬years to develop the pay grade to do such a thing‭.‬”

Tommy Meyer and Kelly Swafford extend a full-size drawing of Big Toot’s fuselage side in the R.K. Swafford Company shop.

He started work on Big Toot in 2003‭. ‬“I’m not an engineer‭,‬”‭ ‬said Meyer‭. ‬“I don’t have the wherewithal to build‭ ‬the airplane he envisioned‭.‬”‭ ‬But as an‭ ‬engineering draftsman he could build a larger version of Little Toot‭, ‬and the‭ ‬drawings he worked from are the legacy’s primary familial link‭. ‬

“My dad told me‭, ‬I don’t care what courses you take in junior high and high school‭, ‬but I would like you take one course every year‭, ‬and that is drafting‭. ‬You can learn so many things as a draftsman‭, ‬geometry‭, ‬how to figure things out on paper‭. ‬I did that every year through two‭ ‬years of college‭.‬”‭ ‬

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While Meyer was in high school‭, ‬Arlo Schroeder wanted to build a Little Toot and pestered his dad for plans‭. ‬Because he’d built the biplane for himself‭, ‬it had little more than rudimentary drawings and sketches‭, ‬Meyer said‭. ‬“Dad said they‭ ‬were so bad‭, ‬people can’t hardly read‭ ‬them‭, ‬and he asked me to redraw them‭.‬”‭ ‬

Big Toot, with the original Little Toot, at the Meyer Aircraft Company hangar at the Northwest Regional Airport north of Fort Worth, Texas.

With Rapidograph pens and a LeRoy set‭, ‬he completed the drawings in three months‭. ‬The title block reads‭: ‬“Designed by George W‭. ‬Meyer‭. ‬Drawn by George‭ ‬W‭. ‬Meyer‭. ‬Traced by Tommy Meyer‭.‬”‭ ‬For builders who didn’t possess his‭ ‬father’s master metalworking skills‭, ‬in addition‭ ‬to Little Toot’s original monocoque tail cone‭, ‬Meyer drew a fuselage that was all welded steel tubing‭.‬

Meyer recreated the Little Toot’s‭ ‬drawings again when his employer at‭ ‬the time‭, ‬Mobil‭, ‬transitioned its draftsmen from pen and ink to computer‭ ‬augmented design‭. ‬For training‭, ‬it‭ ‬encouraged them to provide their own practice plans‭. ‬Today‭, ‬with a CAD system and roll printer in his home shop‭, ‬Meyer can produce full-scale drawings for every part of Big Toot‭, ‬and almost every part of Little Toot‭, ‬allowing builders to use them at 1:1‭ ‬patterns‭. ‬

Swafford built a fixture, with a sensitive scale, to balance Big Toot’s ailerons.

Designing Big Toot

“If I can draw it‭, ‬I can build it‭,‬”‭ ‬Meyer said‭. ‬To make room for Big Toot’s second seat‭, ‬he extended the steel-tube‭ ‬fuselage 3‭ ‬feet‭, ‬and‭ ‬“I made it wider‭ (‬27‭ ‬inches wide to the outside of the tubing‭), ‬so big guys could get in the thing‭.‬”

Contrary to biplane convention‭, ‬the‭ ‬pilot-in-command sits up front‭. ‬“Everyone told me I was crazy to do this‭,‬”‭ ‬said Meyer‭, ‬“but that’s where the pilot sits in all of the tandem Van’s Aircraft RVs‭.‬”‭ ‬

The bug eyes and cowling almost ready for paint.

Joe Flood‭, ‬who has logged a lot of‭ ‬biplane time‭, ‬including both Toots‭, ‬approves of the position‭. ‬“You can see‭ ‬over the nose in both of them‭, ‬so you don’t need to S-turn when taxiing‭.‬”‭ ‬Both cockpits have controls‮—‬stick‭, ‬throttle‭, ‬rudder‭ ‬pedals‭, ‬and brakes‮—‬so the back-seater‭ ‬can land the biplane‭, ‬if needed‭. ‬Only the‭ ‬front has instruments and avionics‭.‬

Big Toot inherited the structural‭ ‬limits of its predecessor‭, ‬said Meyer‭. ‬Working at the Naval Air Station Corpus Christi‭, ‬his dad shared Little Toot’s designs with the aircraft depot’s structural and aerodynamic engineers‭, ‬said Meyer‭. ‬“They agreed that the airplane would be good for plus or minus 10‭ ‬G‭, ‬just as my dad calculated‭.‬”

The wings are identical‭, ‬except for‭ ‬their span‭; ‬Big Toot’s‭ ‬“are two bays‭ (‬18‭ ‬inches‭) ‬longer on each side‭, ‬and‭ ‬they have full-length ailerons on the lower wings‭,‬”‭ ‬Meyer said‭. ‬Employing a NACA 2212‭ ‬airfoil and 42-inch chord‭, ‬the lower wings are straight‭. ‬The upper wings sweep aft at 8°‭; ‬there is no center section‭. ‬Double flying and landing wires brace the wings on both Toots‭. ‬Hefty‭ ‬cabane struts hold the upper wings above their respective fuselages‭, ‬with‭ ‬gusset plates on Big Toot‭. ‬

Big Toot recognizes the individuals who helped Tommy Meyer bring it to life.

After decades of helping builders‭ ‬restore and create Little Toots‭, ‬Meyer incorporated the accumulated improvements that solved problems and simplified maintenance in Big Toot‭. ‬The fuselage is fabric covered behind the‭ ‬cockpit‭. ‬Removable sheet metal panels cover the forward half‭. ‬“You can totally expose the forward fuselage top to bottom‭. ‬That makes it easier to work on the‭ ‬avionics‭, ‬instruments‭, ‬and brakes‭, ‬so‭ ‬you don’t have to go cockpit diving‭.‬”‭ ‬

A headrest with a sense of humor.

Interior panels keep the cockpit clean and unobstructed‭, ‬and Meyer painted all of his panels inside and out‭. ‬Screws‭ ‬hold the panels in place‭, ‬and Meyer‭ ‬swears by DeWalt’s gyroscopic electric‭ ‬screwdriver‭. ‬A motion sensor activates‭ ‬righty-tighty‭, ‬lefty-loosey‭, ‬with the‭ ‬degree‭ ‬of wrist rotation controlling the tool’s rpm‭. ‬With it‭, ‬he can remove the panels in about 3‭ ‬minutes‭.‬

Building Big Toot

Without apology‭, ‬Meyer describes‭ ‬himself as a sentimental person‭. ‬“If you think that you can build an airplane and‭ ‬say you built every part of it without‭ ‬asking someone for help‭, ‬you’re the biggest liar in the world‭.‬”‭ ‬

Look closely at Big Toot and you’ll‭ ‬see the names of those who helped‭ ‬Meyer‭. ‬Some are under the horizontal stabilizer‭, ‬and all of them are on the fuselage fuel tank‭, ‬what he calls the airplane’s‭ ‬“time capsule‭.‬”‭ ‬Neatly painted on the 6-gallon header tank between the pilot’s feet‭, ‬part of the inverted fuel‭ ‬system‭, ‬is Meyer’s dedication to his family legacy‭: ‬“In loving memory of‭ ‬my father‭, ‬George Walter Meyer‭, ‬final request and dreams‭, ‬build Big Toot‭.‬”‭ ‬

Big Toot came to life in Meyer’s well-equipped home shop‭, ‬which might double as a showroom for Mittler Brothers tools‭. ‬“I have‭ $‬250,000‭ ‬in Big Toot‭,‬”‭ ‬he said‭, ‬and a good portion of that went to the Wright City‭, ‬Missouri‭, ‬company for metal brakes and shears‭, ‬a tube notcher‭, ‬and‭ ‬beading tools that will repay Meyer Aircraft’s investment by making parts for the Toots‭. ‬

Big Toot stands on one-piece main landing gear, wheels, and brakes made by Grove Landing Gear Systems.

Early in the project‭, ‬Meyer met and became friends‭, ‬and later partners‭ (‬see‭ ‬sidebar‭), ‬with Kelly Swafford‭, ‬pilot‭, ‬airplane builder‭, ‬engineer‭, ‬and CNC‭ ‬machine magician who owns and operates the R.K‭. ‬Swafford Company‭, ‬which specializes in production and prototype‭ ‬machine design and repair‭. ‬

Swafford CNCed counterweight molds that perfectly fit the aileron leading edges.

Interested in buying a set of Little‭ ‬Toot plans‭, ‬“He stopped by the shop‭ ‬when I was cutting out ribs and asked what I was doing‭. ‬In explaining‭, ‬I said it took about three hours to build a rib after I cut out all the parts‭. ‬He asked if I had some of that wood so he could show me how quickly he could cut out the parts‭.‬”

Swafford returned several days later with stacks of perfectly cut wood‭. ‬“This should make building those ribs a lot faster‭,‬”‭ ‬he said‭, ‬“and I cut me some out‭, ‬too‭.‬”‭ (‬Swafford has since CNCed a one-piece rib from an aluminum billet‭.)‬

Meyer gave the rib pieces to‭ ‬“a friend‭, ‬Phil Witt‭, ‬a model airplane guy who had a heart attack and the doctor wouldn’t let him do anything strenuous‭; ‬bored‭, ‬he asked for something to do‭; ‬he built the ribs for Big Toot‭.‬”

While still waiting for its wings, but fitted with the canopy, Big Toot shows off its burly six-cylinder Lycoming.

The ribs are‭ ‬1/8‭-‬inch ply with‭ ‬1/2‭-‬inch spruce cap strips‭. ‬The spars have aluminum crush plugs‭, ‬so tightening the bolts that pass through them will not damage the wood’s grain‭. ‬To position those holes‭, ‬Meyer printed full-scale spar drawings‭ ‬and glued them in place‭. ‬He measured‭ ‬again before making holes‭, ‬and‭ ‬“it was off only‭ ‬1/32‭ ‬from one end to the other‭.‬”‭ ‬Steen Aero Lab provided the seamless‭, ‬preformed plywood leading edge‭.‬

He employed full-scale drawings‭ ‬for the fuselage as well‭. ‬Working on a level table topped with particleboard‭, ‬he pasted the profile drawing‭ (‬left and‭ ‬right sides are identical‭) ‬in place and‭ ‬screwed oak blocks to position the tubing‭. ‬“The Mittler Brothers notcher does a beautiful job‭, ‬producing a nice joint‭ ‬for TIG welding‭.‬”‭ ‬After tack welding‭ ‬both sides‭, ‬he applied the bottom drawing and stood the sides on it‭. ‬

To make building and maintenance easier, removable metal panels cover Big Toot’s fuselage from the cockpit forward.

With the fuselage fully tack-welded‭, ‬Meyer mounted it in the rotisserie he made‭. ‬The rotating fixture is essential‭. ‬“To TIG weld well‭, ‬you need to be comfortable‭. ‬Final welding on the fuselage‭ ‬takes hours and hours‭, ‬and you need‭ ‬to work on different joints so the heat doesn’t build up and distort the fuselage‭ ‬because of asymmetric expansion‭.‬”

Little Toot got its landing gear‭ ‬6.00×6‭ ‬wheels from a Cessna 120‭. ‬With a 260-hp Lycoming IO-540‭ ‬in the nose‭, ‬Big Toot would need longer‭, ‬stronger legs‭, ‬so Meyer‭ ‬turned to Grove Landing Gear Systems‭. ‬With the necessary specs in hand‭, ‬Grove designed the one-piece gear‭, ‬fitting it with Grove‭ ‬axles‭, ‬brakes‭, ‬and 6.00×6‭ ‬wheels‭. ‬

With the same size wheels‭, ‬Little’s‭ ‬wheel pants streamline those on Big‭. ‬Like the wheel pants on a Cessna‭, ‬Meyer said‭, ‬a center bolt holds the pant in place‭. ‬Over time‭, ‬they can come loose‭, ‬so he designed an aluminum teardrop that fits on the outside of the pant and keeps the wheel pant nut‭ ‬on the axle from coming loose‭. ‬

A Dallas-area artist created the Toot tugboat artwork (right) that represents the Meyers, father and son.

Cockpit & Cover

The tandem cockpit is 27 inches wide, with the pilot at the front.

A side-hinged canopy covers the pilot‭ ‬and passenger‭. ‬When closed‭, ‬grabbing one of the round‭, ‬red Gold Medal popcorn popper knobs slides it fore and aft to position six stainless steel locking pins into their fuselage-mounted fairleads‭. ‬“I got the idea from the Pitts Model 12‭ ‬canopy‭,‬”‭ ‬said Meyer‭. ‬He drew the‭ ‬canopy with 9‭ ‬inches of head clearance in the back seat and sent full-size drawings to Jeff Rogers at Airplane Plastics‭. ‬“A place in Dallas bent the square tubing‭ ‬that makes up the canopy frame‭.‬”

Hooker Harness’s ratcheted aerobatic double belt and shoulder harness secures‭ ‬the pilot‭, ‬and an array of upholstered‭ ‬and embroidered seat cushions position‭ ‬the pilot and controls‭; ‬a standard belt‭ ‬and harness holds the passenger in place‭. ‬They control their individual cockpit‭ ‬comfort with NASCAR air vents‭. ‬

Meyer designed the hinges for the side-hinged slide-to-lock canopy.

A GRT Avionics EFIS dominates‭ ‬the panel‭, ‬with an EIS engine monitor mounted on a subpanel‭. ‬To its left‭ ‬are the turn coordinator‭, ‬vertical speed indicator‭, ‬and three-axis electric trim controls and position indicators‭. (‬Meyer‭ ‬removed the roll axis while addressing the airplane’s aileron issue‭.) ‬To the right are the altimeter‭, ‬airspeed indicator‭, ‬Trig Avionics TY91‭ ‬com and TT 21‭ ‬transponder‭. ‬The day-and‭-‬night VFR airplane’s switches and circuit breakers are on the right-side panel‭. ‬

Meyer covered Big Toot with Poly‭-‬Fiber and a lot of wet sanding‭. ‬He‭ ‬learned the secret to‭ ‬“absolutely smooth leading edge from a Little Toot builder‭, ‬who explained that wrapping the upper‭ ‬and lower fabric around the leading edge and back to the forward spar didn’t need tape‭.‬”‭ ‬

A GRT Avionics EFIS dominates Big Toot’s instrument panel.

Meyer made it even smoother by‭ ‬sticking a layer of white felt over the‭ ‬pre-doped leading edge‭. ‬“When you‭ ‬shrink the Poly-Fiber‭, ‬it compresses the felt smooth‭. ‬The only tape you need is where the wingtip hits the first tip rib‭.‬”‭ ‬In addition to pre-doping the covered structure with Poly Tak‭, ‬Meyer‭ ‬“melts the edges of the pinking tapes into the glue with a Monocote iron‭.‬”

Grady O’Neal of Glo Custom‭, ‬a light aircraft painting company at the Toots’s home field‭, ‬Northwest Regional Airport‭ (‬52F‭), ‬north of Fort Worth‭, ‬Texas‭, ‬was getting ready to retire‭, ‬Meyer said‭, ‬“and he wanted Big Toot to be the‭ ‬last plane he painted‭.‬”‭ ‬He copied the‭ ‬scheme that adorns Little Toot‭. ‬A Dallas-area artist recreated Little Toot’s whistle and created Big Toot’s father and son tugboat artwork‭. ‬

The N-number‭, ‬N64LT‭, ‬unites Little‭ ‬Toot with its designer’s EAA member number‭, ‬which EAA reassigned to Tommy at his father’s passing‭.‬

Big Toot returned from Dusold Designs with a ceramic-lined stainless steel exhaust system that includes its smoke-oil injectors.

Firewall Forward

Little Toot flies behind a 150-hp‭ ‬Lycoming‭, ‬and Meyer wanted the commensurate power in its two-seat sibling‭. ‬To build engine mounts‭, ‬he found a holed IO-540‭ ‬case with the same mounts as his new Lycoming‭. ‬

Meyer mounted a‭ ‬3/8‭-‬inch-thick steel‭ ‬plate to the table his dad used to make engine mounts and glued Toot’s firewall drawing to it‭. ‬In addition to the necessary holes‭, ‬the drawing includes the‭ ‬thrust line‭, ‬along which the crankshaft should align‭. ‬

To achieve this‭, ‬Meyer mounted a‭ ‬dummy crankshaft to a 15.5-inch round steel plate with four holes tapped for‭ ‬3/8-18‭ ‬bolts that enable the necessary offsets‭ (‬2°‭ ‬down and 2°‭ ‬right‭, ‬measured with a digital level‭) ‬when the plate is mounted over the thrust line shown on the drawing affixed to the table‭.‬‭ ‬

The Lycoming IO-540’s ceramic-lined exhaust system is mounted entirely to the engine.

To mount and move the case on the‭ ‬aligned crankshaft‭, ‬Swafford made slip‭ ‬sleeves so Meyer could locate the starter‭ ‬ring where it needed to be in the cowling‭. ‬“When it was all locked in place‭, ‬I installed the mounts and engine rubbers and welded‭ ‬it‭,‬”‭ ‬said Meyer‭. ‬“It’s just near perfect‭.‬”

Deeming the exhaust system‭ ‬“above‭ ‬my pay grade‭,‬”‭ ‬Meyer trailered Big‭ ‬Toot to Dusold Designs in Lewisville‭, ‬Texas‭. ‬“Mike’s an artist par excellence‭, ‬but he’s not in the aviation business‭. ‬He does race cars‭.‬”‭ ‬

Dusold fitted the IO-540‭ ‬with a ceramic-lined‭, ‬stainless steel exhaust‭ ‬system that collects the six cylinders into two Saber Stacks‭ ‬“tuned like musical instruments‭,‬”‭ ‬Meyer said‭. ‬Injectors used in a race car’s nitrous oxide system squirt smoke oil into the exhaust‭. ‬Without a fuselage connection‭, ‬the exhaust‭ ‬“moves with the engine because the‭ ‬two big augmenter tubes are held by a trunnion that bolts to a boss on the bottom of the oil pan‭.‬”

Standpipe caps pressurize the 9-gallon wing tanks with ram air, and sitting up front, the pilot in command can see over the nose.

Two removable 9-gallon fuel tanks in the upper wing supplement the‭ ‬22-gallon fuselage tank through‭ ‬valved‭ ‬lines‭. ‬In addition to the 6-gallon header tank‭, ‬there is a 2-gallon‭ ‬smoke oil tank behind the cockpit‭. ‬In addition to a cockpit indicator‭, ‬a calibrated dipstick accurately measures the main tank’s contents‭. ‬

The wing tanks are removable‭ ‬because‭, ‬“given time‭, ‬all fuel tanks leak‭,‬”‭ ‬said Meyer‭. ‬Nestled in‭ ‬1/4‭-‬inch bays gusseted‭ ‬to the spars‭, ‬3/16th‭-‬inch clips secure the‭ ‬tanks covered by aluminum panels that look like the surrounding wing thanks‭ ‬to their beaded false rib marks‭.‬

Big Toot’s paint scheme mirrors that of Little Toot, right down to its checkerboards.

Phase 1‭ ‬testing revealed gravity wasn’t‭ ‬sufficiently moving fuel to the main‭ ‬tank‭. ‬Lift’s lower pressure was‭ ‬“sucking fuel from the vented cap‭,‬”‭ ‬Meyer said‭, ‬“so Kelly designed and built the stand-tube fuel caps that pressurize the tanks with ram air‭.‬”‭ ‬

Cowling the Lycoming was one of‭ ‬Toot’s top challenges‭. ‬“Bug eyes”‭ ‬is‭ ‬what Meyer calls the cheeky air inlets on Little Toot’s cowling‭. ‬With his dad’s molds‭, ‬he wondered if it would fit the IO-540‭. ‬“They fit perfectly‭! ‬All I’d have to do is split the cowling down the middle to make it fit top and bottom‭.‬”‭ ‬After‭ ‬hours of sculpturing‭, ‬scraping‭, ‬and‭ ‬sanding the new mold of foam and filler‭, ‬“it really breaks your heart to break the‭ ‬plug out of the mold‭.‬”‭ ‬

With all of its pieces in place‭, ‬Big Toot‭ ‬got on the scales‭. ‬With its front-seat‭ ‬pilot‭, ‬260-horse Lycoming‭, ‬and Hartzell constant-speed prop‭, ‬its center of gravity‭ ‬was at the forward limit‭. ‬Putting the pilot in the back seat really wasn’t an‭ ‬option because there were no instruments‭, ‬so Meyer looked at the prop and its governor‭, ‬which weighed 74‭ ‬pounds‭. ‬

Seeking a solution‭, ‬he called Catto Propellers‭. ‬“Craig said‭, ‬‘Give me all the specs on the airplane‭, ‬and I’ll build you a prop that weighs only 22‭ ‬pounds‭.‬’‭ ‬I sent him the specs with a cruise-speed goal of 155‭ ‬to 165‭, ‬and I had the prop in a week‭.‬”‭ ‬

Pressed for time in preparing Toot for its EAA AirVenture 2018‭ ‬debut‭, ‬there‭ ‬wasn’t time to build the three-bladed‭ ‬fixed-pitch composite prop with the‭ ‬optional nickel leading edges‭, ‬so pilot Joe Flood avoids rain‭. ‬First-flight challenges delayed Toot’s AirVenture debut‭.‬

First Flight

Big Toot made its first flight on June 6‭, ‬2018‭. ‬It didn’t go well‭. ‬The pilot said the‭ ‬Frise-type ailerons‭, ‬which counteract‭ ‬adverse yaw by dipping a leading edge‭ ‬into the slipstream below the wing’s‭ ‬surface‭, ‬fluttered at 130‭ ‬mph‭. ‬“I’m not going to lie to you‭,‬”‭ ‬said Meyer‭, ‬choking up‭, ‬“It just destroyed me‭. ‬I put the airplane away‭.‬”‭ ‬Kelly Swafford came over‭ ‬later‭, ‬Meyer said‭, ‬and told him‭ ‬“We’re going to fix the airplane‭.‬”‭ ‬

Having already made a number of‭ ‬parts for the airplane‭, ‬Swafford had‭ ‬many of Toot’s drawings‭, ‬Meyer said‭, ‬but not the ailerons‭. ‬“I sent him those drawings‭, ‬took the ailerons off‭, ‬and met him at his shop at 6‭ ‬o’clock the next morning to balance them in a fixture he’d made that included a sensitive scale‭.‬”‭ ‬

The aileron’s trailing edge weighed‭ ‬1.2‭ ‬pounds‭, ‬and Swafford started adding weight until they balanced‭, ‬Meyer said‭. ‬“Then Kelly did the math to figure the mass of the counterweight and CNCed a mold to cast counterweights that fit the aileron’s leading edge perfectly‭. ‬There’s 10‭ ‬pounds in each wing‭, ‬and we designed new aileron hinges to carry the load‭.‬”

After putting everything back together‭ ‬and doing another weight and balance‭, ‬Joe Flood‭, ‬who’s logged a lot of biplane‭ ‬time‭, ‬including Little Toot‭, ‬went flying‭. ‬For three days‭, ‬Flood flew‭, ‬filled‭ ‬up‭, ‬and flew again‭, ‬and the ailerons‭ ‬never wiggled‭. ‬“Talking on the radio‭, ‬I said I needed a top speed‭, ‬and Joe said I’m doing 210‭ ‬now‭, ‬and that’s where we redlined it‭.‬”‭ ‬

Pilot Joe Flood pulls Big Toot’s canopy closed before a test flight.

With a 40-hour Phase 1‭ ‬test time‭, ‬Gary Grubb of Hangar 10‭ ‬helped fly the tests‭, ‬said Meyer‭, ‬who doesn’t now fly for medical reasons‭. ‬Meeting at an‭ ‬outlying airport where he could fly‭ ‬some aerobatics‭, ‬Grubb said Meyer‭ ‬needed to change the redline to 230‭, ‬adding‭, ‬“This airplane is fixed‭, ‬and it’s made for hot dogging‭.‬”‭ ‬It is not a two-seat Pitts‭, ‬added Flood‭, ‬“but it has a respectable roll rate of 360°‭ ‬a second‭.‬”

With the ailerons balanced‭, ‬the‭ ‬only Phase 1‭ ‬squawks were oil pressure issue‭, ‬caused by a grounded wire‭, ‬and overly warm oil temperatures‭. ‬“Toot’s bug-eyes push a lot of air through the cowling‭, ‬and we didn’t have the oil cooler baffled right‭,‬”‭ ‬said Meyer‭. ‬“New baffles fixed that‭.‬”

Accompanied by Little Toot‭, ‬Big‭ ‬Toot‭ ‬made its EAA AirVenture Oshkosh‭ ‬debut in 2019‭. ‬Proudly parked by‭ ‬Homebuilt Headquarters‭, ‬few passersby did not stop for a closer look‭. ‬This‭ ‬included the homebuilt judges‭, ‬who‭ ‬awarded the 2018‭ ‬Meyer Special Big‭ ‬Toot‭, ‬N64LT‭, ‬an EAA Plans Champion Bronze Lindy‭.

Photos: Richard VanderMeulen, Tommy Meyer & Scott M. Spangler.

1 COMMENT

  1. Excellent article and I can validate the very large effort that Tommy put into this airplane. I worked for his dad when Tommy was still a boy and we reconnected years later and I stand in awe of the labor that Tommy put into Big Toot.

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