Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Finally... our Finch's First Flight

By Peter Ashwood Smith

Biplanes are special! The first airplanes of course had two wings and there is something therefore very nostalgic about a biplane.  Two wings are not just beautiful, that pair of wings together are also very light and remarkably strong, however they present some challenges that monoplanes don't.  Rigging being one of the tricky things to get right!
The brand new Finch propeller shines.

We rolled out our yellow wings Finch biplane today for her first flight of the season and I was the lucky pilot asked to check her out. She has a brand new prop which is slightly lower pitch than last season's which will give a slightly better climb rate at the expense of a few miles an hour of top speed. Prop pitch is a bit like gears on a bike or car, but unlike a car or bike our Finch has only one gear. 

We also made some new "N" struts which are the black struts that keep the wing tips separated. These struts are a very important part of a biplane as together with the "flying" and "landing" wires ( the X wires between the wings ), they provide the majority of the strength of a biplane's wings (like the towers and  wires in a suspension bridge).  A biplane will often fly a little differently season to season just because the wood changes due to humidity variations etc, so when you combine new parts, like the "N" struts, a bit of tweaking to get her to fly straight is expected. Her first flight this season was therefore as expected, a bit crooked, which for a pilot is perfectly safe but rather tiring because you have to keep several pounds of force on the stick for the entire flight since we have no fancy electric trim systems so its all muscle power. However, other than some minor tweaking , which our mechanics will do by adjusting the length or the rear N strut, she flew beautifully and happily sprayed me and Gatineau with little drops of fresh grease and oil. Over the next few weeks other pilots will step back into her and she will be ready at the ripe old age of 74 to take hundreds of teenagers flying again this summer... something she has not done for over 70 years!

The Finch N-strut is shaped like... well... an “N”

Now since we just changed the lower right wing on the Tiger Moth no doubt she too will be a bit crooked on her first few flights and will need a bit of tweaking too.
Volunteers install the new Tiger Moth lower wing

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