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European Ercoupe Newsletter

No. 54 August 2015

Welcome

There have been some great Ercoupe happenings in 2015. The European Ercoupe Owners Fly-In was a great success, despite the lousy weather on the Satuday that prevented several from flying in. If the weather had been better it would have set a new record for a European event. There's other Ercoupe news in this newsletter too, and in the next one we will include reports of the Ercoupe Owners Convention in the US and Oshkosh, both events celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Ercoupe.

If you have any news, stories, trip reports, anything then others would love to hear them. Just send them to me for inclusion in the next issue.

Best regards,

Mike

Mike Willis
Alon A2 G-HARY

Ercoupe News

From an ex-Ercoupe owner

Derek Tregilgas writes: Great newsletter as usual - well done, although it's very sad to see that you don't even have a single comment to make about '495' this time around. Not too surprising of course since she's now tucked away at the back of the hangar looking like some pathetic kid's attempt at building a spaceship out of rusty pieces of Meccano! But I haven't given up as yet.

The main reason for this mail though is to tell you that I've bagged myself an Auster to play with until such time as the Ercoupe or the Proctor find themselves with a flying permit once again.

It's a 1961 Auster J/1 N Alpha with a 130HP Gipsy Major. I'm delighted to have found a Gipsy powered version that will give us all a feel for operating it prior to strapping the Proctor to our backsides (the Proctor has the Gipsy Queen 2 rated at 210HP). The taildragger experience will also be very useful.

I just had to send you some pictures of my new chariot having just delivered it from Andrewsfield to Great Oakley.

The first showing the beast before departure from Andrewsfield, followed by my very first landing at Oakley (flaring a little high of course!), and finally the man himself posing with his Ercoupe replacement! She flies beautifully though, and the sound of that Gipsy is just gorgeous.

I'm in Abu Dhabi right now where the temperature out there is a mere +43c! I love the heat but even that's a little bit over the top for me ! In a couple of hours I'm off to LHR with my trusty 747 strapped to my backside and will spend a few days at Great Oakley next week getting to grips with the beast (weather permitting). The plan is to attack the circuit until I can reach some level of consistency towards putting this thing on the ground with some level of dignity! It's a bit tricky I have to admit - especially having just stepped out of the 747! 

I'll let you know how it all turns out of course, but in the meantime I hope you're well and getting a bit of Ercouping in, and hopefully will catch up with you soon,

Cheers for now,

Derek

 

Fellow Stearman-lover

Daniel Arditi writes: Thank you Mike for the latest newsletter! I love the Stearman too !!! This is me with one of the Stearmans that fly down here in Argentina
;-)

Very best regards !
Daniel

 

 

Buying a perfect Aircoupe

Robert Tomkins writes: Recently (last December), I bought what I thought was the perfect Alon A2A Aircoupe. Previously (last summer), I was hot for an Alon A2 and went as far as a pre-purchase inspection.

Regarding finding an A&P, the only way is to use the resources of the Ercoupe owners association (yes, join today). The tech group is also an alternative source. While these aircraft are exceptionally simple, they have their quirks and you need to find someone that really knows the aircraft.

My saga began when I was at Stearman field near Wichita finishing up my ATP. During (frequent) breaks during my training, I would wander the field and look for interesting aircraft to lust after and interesting people to talk to. Of course, I found a 1945 Ercoupe in perfect condition and a kindly old gentleman, who was hanging on to it the end. This airplane was the archetypical barn find and had been completely restored. I noted the name of the mechanic that had helped rebuild it, Earl Long, and found out that he had restored multiple Ercoupes (Aircoupes).  Just as I passed my ME ATP, I found a new listing for an Alon A2 nearby in Ponca City, OK. So I rented a car and went down to see it.

It had been owned by a recently deceased IA (mechanic) and looked good on the surface. The owner had given it to a non-aviation friend in his will and this guy was trying to sell it. At first glance, one would think that ownership by a mechanic would be a good thing, but as you will see this is more than often not the case. Anyway, I found a local CFI and we started it up and flew it around. It was fun to fly and easy to land. The open canopy during 90 + temps was the clincher. 

I filled in the suggested AOPA aircraft contract (note there is a clause that makes the deposit non-refundable. Make sure you take this out! Later when the aircraft failed the inspection, the sellers wife interpreted the contract in this way and the guy refused to refund anything, ouch).

Naturally, I contacted Earl Long. There are two options, the A&P can go to the aircraft or the aircraft goes to the A&P. Given the aircraft had been in annual, it was supposedly airworthy and could fly the short hop to Wichita. This is better for the mechanic as he has all his tools and a familiar working environment. I arranged for the CFI to fly it to Wichita and Mr. Long got to work. 

To say the least, the aircraft was in bad shape. In the opinion of the mechanic, immediate repairs were required. Looking at a major restoration rather than minor repairs, I exercised my option and cancelled the contract (and lost my deposit). However, I was pleased that Earl Long had been so thorough and saved me from an expensive and painful restoration project. As far as I know, the Aircoupe was unloaded to a local mechanic for pennies on the dollar and it will be restored.

However, once bitten........  This last November, I was back in the U.S. and the aircraft I had been flying in Europe was returning to be sold (Liberty XL2). I needed an aircraft to replace it in Europe and my home field 7FL6 had lots of Ercoupes sitting around. So, I joined the hunt again.

This time I found a rare Alon A2A (built by Alon under the auspices of Mooney) near Denver. The key selling factor was the engine had been rebuilt and had 7 years until TBO). Again, it was owned by an IA and was supposedly in pristine condition. This time, I asked Earl Long to fly there without me and do the pre purchase inspection. While I was not there, the seller and his broker indicated that it was the most complete inspection they had ever seen. Mr. Long spent two days taking the aircraft apart and putting it back together. As advertised, the engine was the cleanest that my mechanic had ever seen. There was some hail damage and some small surface corrosion on the aileron but everything else looked good. Two items, the left rudder cable was worn to minimum tolerances and the right fuel tank needed to be resealed. These completed by the seller and I came, got checked out in the aircraft and flew it back from Colorado to Florida.

The flight was a joy, with a fuel burn about 5 gallons per hour and around 110 knots. After adjusting the rudder settings in Fort Smith, the aircraft flew perfectly - hands off- and I got back. To get the aircraft ready for European flying, I had a wish list of modifications that needed to be done. I got in touch with Lynn Nelsen, who did these for me. He is a real pro and a gentleman.

Anyway, his brief was to complete the mods (strobe lights, LED lights, alternator, Skytech starter, avionics, etc.) and not to complete a full inspection of the aircraft. However, he had a bad feeling that something was not right. Unfortunately, there was not sufficient time for Lynn to go beyond the installation of the mods (another Aircoupe was booked for an annual). One would think that with the previous inspection and the fact that the seller provided an annual as of December, all would be well. Unfortunately...........

With the help of a neighbour at 7FL6, that also owns an Alon A2, the aircraft was dismantled, packed in a 20 ft container and was on its way to Germany. The saga was daunting and not relevant to this story. However, if anyone is interested in shipping aircraft by container to/from the U.S. to Europe, I can tell you how not to do it.

After considerable delays, hassles with German customs, etc. the aircraft finally arrived at EDAZ, Schoengagen airport outside of Berlin. This was chosen because my A&P often goes there as he must sign off the work done by the German Cirrus affiliate. I unfortunately live near Frankfurt and the A&P has his workshop near there, but there was no space. This turned out to be fortunate as a fellow "Couper" and all around good guy, Hartmut Beil, was also at the field and he kindly offered to help me put things back together. I thank my lucky stars as the Cirrus people took one look at the airplane and refused to do anything. Hartmut found us an empty hanger and under supervision of the A&P, the aircraft was re-assembled. 

During this process, Hartmut found issues. Nothing serious, just troublesome: incorrectly installed cotter pits, the wrong hardware, etc. At the same time, my A&P was becoming increasingly disturbed by the quality of the paperwork and logbook entries. It seems that the previous owner has completed the letter of the FAA requirements, but at the barest minimum. It seemed that he did not appreciate the spirit of the regulations. Since his ownership, the only entries were the standard stickers that the ADs had been complied with and a return to airworthiness. There was no repairs noted, oil changes, nothing. Even the repairs completed after the items uncovered during the pre purchase inspection were not there. There were missing 337s, STCs and it was almost impossible to find when ADs were complied with (as scraps of paper were found, undated and unsigned). It took three weeks for me to organise the paperwork, obtain missing documents and fill in the blanks.

As one could surmise, the sloppiness of the workmanship and the incompleteness of the paperwork has made everyone very nervous. While Hartmut and I are sorting out the aircraft (under supervision of my A&P), problems keep popping up. The propeller is polished aluminium and has light surface corrosion. Nothing that cannot be sorted, but input from the Ercoupe Tech group has convinced me to have the prop overhauled. In fact, this should have been done by the previous owner or uncovered in the pre purchase inspection, but alas. In any case, the propeller has not been serviced since 2000!

The left rudder was bent, repaired in 1997 and still on the aircraft. Hartmut and I agreed that this had to be replaced. Thanks to Vern Gregory, a perfectly serviceable left rudder arrived and has been installed. Currently, the fuel system is contaminated and the entire fuel system has to be cleaned out. Given the Alon fuel system is subtlety different from other Ercoupes (quite frankly squirrelly), it is difficult to uncover where the problem is. In any case, it will be weeks before the only shop at the airport willing to help us has a slot.

Now (and finally) for the punchline. We will assume that you are bitten and an Ercoupe (or Aircoupe) is in your future. Firstly remember, these aircraft are at least 45 years old. You have to expect that there will be issues. Go on the AOPA website, Air Safety Institute, and take the free online course, "Aging Aircraft". This will give you insights of what to look for. Secondly look at the Ercoupe owners association website (join immediately!), there is a good guide by Ed Burkhead on how to have a pre purchase inspection done - "Buying a Coupe". Next there is a list on that website of coupe mechanics. Start calling those nearest to where the aircraft is that you are targeting. There is also a list of EOC wing leaders with telephone numbers. Call the one nearest to your targeted aircraft and ask them for their help. I would recommend both having an EOC recommended mechanic and a Ercoupe owner get involved to make sure you have the clearest picture possible.

Beware aircraft owned and sold by mechanics. In my experiences, they might be inclined to do a quick (and cheap) fix without necessarily following the spirit of the FAA regs. After all, they know what they did and are comfortable with the repairs. That does not mean that anyone else knows exactly what they did and why. When your new mechanic has to unravel what was done, it may mean going back to first principles and that can cause a lot of unnecessary expense and time.

Finally, recognise that makes Ercoupe aircraft so special are the community of Ercoupe owners. Never have I known such kind and helpful people who understand how deep the Ercoupe obsession goes. Without the help of my neighbour who helped me pack the aircraft, Lynn Nelsen providing skilled work and the tireless efforts of Hartmut Beil, I would be in deep trouble. I am sure that you will find lots of Coupers eager to help. When my saga is finally over and I am airborne again, I will not forget those who helped me get there. In time, I look forward to the time when I can help others bitten by the Ercoupe bug and help them out.

Kind regards and the best of luck,
Robert
N5478F – Foxy

 

Trip reports

9th European Ercoupe Owners Fly-In, Antwerp. EBAW  16-17 May 2015

Robert Rombouts writes: We had an unbelievable weekend during our yearly Fly-In at Antwerp EBAW, and feel so sorry for all the Ercoupers who could not attend during this 25th Stampe & 9th Ercoupe Meeting.

15th Friday, a wonderful sunny day, I landed at Antwerp around 13:30 lc. Nearly 45 minutes later, when I had lunch, Sven-Eric Pira arrived all the way from Sweden with his nice Ercoupe SE-BFX, already his 8th year he attend the Fly-In, only once the weather was so terrible that it was unreasonable to do the trip. Congratulations Sven-Eric and happy you came again this year. We are not getting younger every year, I feel it.

The next arrival was Mike Willis and Brian Clark with G-HARY - sorry Mike and Brian but the welcome committee was drinking a nice beer in the sunny airport roof terrace, Sven-Eric and myself we didn’t see your arrival, sorry next time better, promise.

Finally the last arrival of the day was Ulrich Hertig alone with his beautiful D-ENUC, sadly his son Adrian had health problems and Ulrich had to miss his dear co-pilot.

From Italy, Giorgio Pace and Angelo Pastore could not do the trip to Antwerp, the weather was terrible over the Alps, and we are so sorry they could not join us, this already for the second time, but don’t give up, next year we will have our 10th Meeting and I am sure the weather will be perfect.

Robert Tompkins was also not lucky, his imported Alon N5478F from the USA was not ready to fly and was obliged to give up his flight trip, but the good news was he came with his wife Barbara to join us by car, thanks for coming Robert and Barbara.

Our Friday evening with all the arrived Coupers, was relaxing during a buffet dinner at the “Colmar” near Sven-Eric’s hotel. The advantage was that we could choose what we like on a huge buffet, perhaps a good idea for the next 10th Fly-In instead of the BBQ.

Saturday 16th, you cannot imagine such a huge weather difference with the day before - rain, low clouds, and bad visibility, a real panic weather for a Fly-In. The result was that from the Nederland’s, Hilde van Haarlem, Peter and Roland with N99280, and Rob Maatman & Frank Surink with their freshly restored blue Ercoupe PH-NCE, both Ercoupes could not attend, we were so sorry, but Frank Surink with his wife Desiree and family joined us by car, also thanks for the support.

We didn’t expect anybody with this bad weather, but no, Hartmut Beil arrived with his shiny polished N3330H from Berlin. The EBAW tower advised us that an Ercoupe is arriving “Low of Fuel” and that with a low visibility is not an ideal situation when you intend to fly safely. After landing, we advised Hartmut to tank immediately before we had to push his plane to the fuel station, he was again lucky to arrive in Antwerp.

Finally the last arrival of the day, an enormous surprise, from Switzerland Hans-Peter Reusser & Bruno arrived with their polished N94804 from LSGR Reichenbach, as they told us the weather was perfect outside Belgium but not enjoyable the last 60 miles, luckily they are very professional pilots, and arrived save and well in Antwerp, an incredible surprise.

An extra local Mooney M10 from Danny Bals N9516V joined us, a brother of our Ercoupe family, with his M10 we had 7 Ercoupes on the static all together in front of the entrance, an ideal place we received, especially because it was the 25th Fly-In of the Stampe Museum and we are happy to join their Fly-In with our Coupes.

The evening BBQ was as usual, with a quartet producing nostalgic songs, the four types of meat, and salad bar, we didn’t freeze this year that was a plus. During this gastronomic BBQ it was also time for the trophies. The longest flight was for Sven-Eric Pira with his 964 Miles, who else can beat that distance in Europe, congratulation Sven-Eric you deserve it without any discussion. The oldest Ercoupe was Hartmut Beil with his serial number 3955 a 1946 415C, and still looking immaculate. The surprise trophy was without doubt for Hans-Peter Reusser and Bruno coming from Switzerland for the first time, a fantastic achievement. Ulrich Hertig won the lottery for a full fill-up fuel tank, he is a lucky Couper because last year he also got it.

Returning all back for a good sleep, and preparing the return for Sunday. The restriction was that no departure was permitted from 13:15 lc until 17:30 lc, during the Military display. As a result everybody preferred to depart in the morning. Filing a Flight-Plan is mandatory when you depart from a CTR, because you use the ATC of Antwerp when you depart. Hartmut who depart without, tried to convince me that no FP is required.

Sunday 17th, a beautiful sunny day, all departing Ercoupers will return in marvellous save weather conditions and could enjoy a marvellous trip back home. Only Sven-Eric stayed until Monday because he like to do it more relaxed. The weather conditions for Monday were not so promising, I didn’t take the risk and also depart after the Military display, which was a good decision because on the coast we had on Monday gusting winds until 32 kts.

Everybody arrived home safe and well, Sven-Eric did the trip in one day to Strömsund ESNA Sweden, he had such a tailwind (that 32 kts) that he flew like a rocket back, marvellous, you are a fantastic pilot Sven-Eric.

The 9th Fly-In is already passed, we had a good time and Meeting all together, sorry for the bad weather on Saturday, but that I could not arrange.

Thanks to all the Ercoupers attending this event, next year we will have our 10th Fly-In and that’s must be a special one, I already make some plans how to organize it, some changes will occur, perhaps the BBQ with another alternative, so that we can talk better to each other, chose the food we like will make it more attractive.

All my thanks to the kind Ercoupers:

Sven-Eric Pira for his fidelity during all the years to attend this event, and the longest distance to fly until Antwerp with his SE-BFX
Hans-Peter Reusser and Bruno for their first time, and coming all over from Switzerland with N94804
Mike Willis and Brian Clark for attending as only UK Ercoupe, crossing the Channel with G-HARY.
Ulrich Hertig and his wife Nikolas for the second visit to the Meeting with D-ENUC.
Hartmut Beil and his beautiful polished Ercoupe N3330H.
Danny Bals who was so kind to join us for the static with N9516V.

The car visitors:
Robert and Barbara Tompkins, next year it will be much better Robert, when you come with yours N5478F.
Frank Surnik and his wife Desiree, also next year better.

Sorry for the ones who could not do the trip but had the strong intention to come:
Giorgio Pace and Angelo Pastore, unable to cross the Alps.
Rob Maatman, because of the weather on Saturday.
Hilde Van Haarlem, Peter and Roland, also the same weather problem as Rob and Frank Surink.

I hope you all had a good time in Antwerp, it is always too short, but this mean that we have to continue and looking for 2016 the 10th European Ercoupe Owners Fly-In.

Fly safe and happy landings for all, thank you for joining this Meeting.
Robert and OO-PUS.

 

“The Dutch try and kill me”

Mike – the title reflects the first words Hartmut said to me after landing! Hartmut writes: Soft, very soft is the airplane moving through the mist. The wind seems not to exist anymore. Finally airspeed and ground speed are in agreement. The engine is humming uninflected along. A pleasant feeling, albeit not what I expected. Until the German /Dutch border visibility was fine, but I had to face a strong head wind all the time.  It is if the Dutch would have their own agreement with the weather gods.  Always a challenge for us pilots.

If only I wouldn’t have to fly that low. I am below 1000ft MSL and forward visibility is not great. From a flying standpoint, the conditions are marginal. Let’s hope I can go straight to the airport without delay. After all, fuel is down to the VFR reserve soon.

Only 15 miles to the airport. I’ll make it, no doubt. Let’s hope, the Dutch did not put a tower up here. It is bad enough that they turned on their fog machines. There, a village. The church’s tower is almost reaching the clouds. Well, not really. Bad better not to come close anyway.

Humming along.

My GPS shows I am ten miles out of the airport – I better call the tower and announce my arrival. I monitored the frequency since a while and to my relief I could recognize aircraft movements on the field. That means the visibility will be good enough to land in Antwerp. This is good. I would hate to find an alternate; I was low on fuel already, approaching my half hour reserve.

Antwerp tower was calmly answering my calls. I advised on the fuel situation and the marginal visibility and the controller just steered me through the mist. He directed me with a little to the left, go straight, steer right and after this went on for a while, he stated the runway is in my one o’clock position – cleared to land. Sure enough, there it was and Antwerp international came into sight, just as you would come into a clearing out of a thick forest.

Nothing easier than to land, give the Controller a hearted thank you and roll calmly to the other Ercoupes that were already on display. It seems that I was the last one arriving – again! But then another one came after me – our friends from the Swiss also made it fine here.
Let the Ercoupe Meeting begin!

Hartmut

 

A special treat

Leslie Miller writes: Hi Mike, I do hope all is well with you. Nothing changes much here, but with the aid of lovely friends I am doing my utmost to attempt a few challenges -- On Monday we hopped on an Airbus 319 to Glasgow in hopes of going the next day to Loch Lomond for a flight in a seaplane.

The weather was ghastly all through until late morning Tuesday, however we drove to Loch Lomond where it was grey, & overcast. When we left to find a toilet the seaplane had arrived. After an hour the weather became brighter, and soon we were able to fly - wonderful! Later that day hop on an Airbus 320 back to Stansted - great!

Some weeks ago I went gliding for 35 minutes, reaching 4.000 ft., a perfect way to fly.

Very best wishes,

Leslie


Links

Ercoupe mailing lists

For a continuous discussion on Ercoupes, or a daily digest, do register for these Ercoupe mailing groups:

Social and general content http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ercoupe-flyin/
Technical information http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ercoupe-tech/

Ercoupe Web sites

Ercoupe Owners Club www.Ercoupe.org
Robert Rombouts' site www.ercoupe-be.net
Harmut's Ercoupe Maintenance & repair site www.ercoupe.info
Ernst Viehweger's German Ercoupe web site www.viehweger.org/deutsch/fliegen/erco-0.htm
Mike Willis' site www.ercoupe.co.uk
California Ercoupe Owners site www.calcoupers.org/ 
Ercoupe photo album www.Ercoupe.net 
Dave Abrams' site http://ercoupe.com
Ed Burkhead's site http://edburkhead.com/Ercoupe/index.htm

Don’t forget – any contributions to the next newsletter very welcome – email them to me at mike@ercoupe.co.uk