The Monday after Christmas dawned clear, calm, and cold here in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains of Nevada – perfect for flight testing (assuming you have thermal underwear and gloves)! It was time to get our Dream Tundra back in the air after significant belly skin upgrades. We also finished up a complete (early) annual condition inspection, seeing as how we took the plane out of service right after completing Phase 1, and this was a great opportunity to do a tip to tail inspection after the flight test phase. In addition, we’ve added a few things during the downtime – things we’ll be writing about in the near future in the pages of Kitplanes and here on the web site. These include a new angle of attack indicator from Alpha Systems AoA, and a T3 tail wheel suspension from Airframes Alaska, plus new stick grips from Tosten, and a pitch trim controller from TCW. We’ve also made a few tweaks to the Dynon Skyview, updating to the latest software – so there is a lot to test and report on!
The first flight went very well, with no anomalies to report. We were pleased that the IO-360 cranked right up, despite sitting for five months, and all of the systems performed as they should. We left the new angle of attack powered off, as it needs to be calibrated – among our upcoming projects. We noticed an immediate and positive change in ground handling with the new T3 tail wheel suspension. The original tail wheel spring on the Dream left the tail wheel with a significant aft rake angle, and this made it very hard to steer on the ground – a lot of force was required to get the tail wheel to turn, as you were effectively lifting the aft end of the fuselage with the rudder pedals a tiny amount with each turn. With a more vertical shaft angle, it was much lighter on the controls – almost like adding power steering. There was no tendency for shimmy, meaning that we have got a pretty nice tail wheel now!
The new Tosten stick grips gave us pitch trim control on a little shelf where the thumb naturally rests, making it much more convenient to make large trim changes on a touch-and-go or go-around—a much needed ergonomics change. The trim speed controller from TCW worked exactly as advertised, providing two-speed control as well as a safety trim function. The safety trim takes a little getting used to, as it cuts off the motor after the trim button has been held for more than a couple of seconds – but this is a good trade for keeping one safe from a trim run-away.
There are a lot of details we’ll fill you in on in the future, but for now, its good to have the “big bird” back in the air, and I need to go do some more flying so we can try out all the new features in more detail. It’s always good to have all of the airplanes airworthy and ready to go, and I feel some travel coming up in the future!