The kit was picked up in July first flight was December of 1980.
1980 hours of flight time and almost 12 years later, our Long-EZ is showing remarkably little signs of wear and tear. Just recently, I decided to install a new pitch and roll control system. Over the years, some play had developed in the phenolic bearings in the roll control system in the cockpits as well as in the wing roots. I have now installed ball bearings in place of all four phenolic bearings and, also, have replaced the three universal joints in the control system. have also installed a ball bearing pivot in the forward control stick. There is now essentially zero play or slop in the pitch and roll flight control system.
Part of the reason for doing this was to try to improve the performance of my Navaid wing leveler (auto pilot). Doug Spears, designer of this unit, had called me and explained that the biggest problem he had seen with his autopilot was in EZ's. He says that any play at all in the linkage from the autopilot servo to the actual control surface (aileron) will greatly degrade the authority of the autopilot and ruin its ability to track accurately. The other factor that really hurts autopilot capability is friction in the control system. The ball bearings have essentially eliminated any friction. I am looking forward to testing the Navaid I in the near future. While at it, I replaced all rod ends in the entire control system. There was noticeable play in all of these rod ends but none had excessive play. Now there is essentially no play.
I have carefully examined the entire airplane for signs of wear, fretting, etc. and I must say, I am surprised how little evidence there is of this. Over the past 12 years, we have made several improvements to our Long-EZ, some of which I will try to cover here.
One of the most useful things we have is a vinyl bag which fits closely into the area above the centersection spar behind the passenger's head. This bag, which has a strong zipper, was custom made for us and has been in continuous use since 1981. In it we store our tiedowns and ropes, control locks, cleaning rags, Zero Static polish (for paint and Plexiglass) as well as the waterproof canopy cover which we bought years ago from Herb Sanders in Memphis. This bag, when full, fits snugly in the cavity over the spar and, I believe, contributes to reducing the noise level in the cockpit. I would highly recommend having a bag such as this made for your Long-EZ.
For several years now, we have had a gas strut installed in place of the throw-over strut on our canopy. At first, I did not like it much, but once I got used to it, I think it makes a lot of sense. I installed it so that when the canopy is closed, the gas strut actually applies a small amount of pressure, holding it closed. This means it takes several pounds of force to open the canopy the first several inches. The force goes to zero for a few more inches then gradually pushes the canopy with increasing force to the fully opened position. The gas strut firmly holds the canopy open allowing taxiing in the strongest crosswinds, with no problems.
As my friend, Ralph Gaither, has pointed out several times, the gas strut is also probably safer than the throw-over strut since you can close the canopy simply by pulling it with one hand (in the event of an inadvertent canopy opening in flight, for example) whereas the throw-over stay requires two hands to close. The gas strut makes a nice, clean installation but it does require a heavy beef-up of the cross brace in the center of the canopy. The plans call out arrow shaft must be replaced by a heavier aluminum or steel tube which must be securely bonded into each canopy rail. (I had this cross brace fail 3 times before I finally got it strong enough.) The gas strut puts a lot more stress into the canopy frame just in normal use of the canopy.
Another item of interest on 26MS is the use of stainless flathead allen screws in the cowling, on all the aileron and rudder hinges and on the wheel pants. Many builders have asked about these and I have told them on an individual basis. After nearly 6 years of using these screws, I feel confident in recommending them. These are not "aircraft" screws - they have the standard 820 countersunk head and are installed using a chrome plated, brass countersunk washer (similar to a Tinnerman washer). The fiberglass cowl, or wing skin, is countersunk using an 820 countersunk (not a 100 degree aircraft countersink) just enough so that this chrome washer fits into the countersunk hole flush with the top skin and no more. These screws are available from Garrett Industrial Supply which has stores all over the USA. I used the store in the LA area.
Garrett Industrial Supply
6015 Randolph Street
Los Angeles, CA 90040 213-723-6777
The screws are stainless steel, flat head, socket cap screws, 10-32x5/8", part #30477. The washers are available from Aircraft Spruce or Wicks, part #NAS 390BIOP. I bought 100 of each and found that I used almost all of them. I always install these screws in the cowling using Loctite. First, it prevents the screws from vibrating out into and damaging the prop. Second, it provides some lubrication which prevents galling during installation into the K-1000 steel locking nutplates. If you do not use Loctite, you will have these screws galling and ruining themselves. (Believe me, after 6 years using them, I should know!). I use the removable Blue #242 Threadlocker by Loctite.
For more than 1100 hours and six years, we have been flying with a bigger engine (a subject I can't cover!) but, more importantly, with an Ellison throttle body instead of the Marvel Shebler carburetor. To be absolutely honest, I went with the Ellison initially because it was physically shorter, more compact and would fit inside the cowling contour more easily. I had flown an Ellison on my 0-235 some years before and had not had much success. Ben Ellison had changed the design a little and made a couple of improvements since then so I decided to give it another try. I am very glad I did. With 6 years of experience in all kinds of conditions, I have been completely satisfied.
The Ellison Throttle body works extremely well, a dramatic improvement over the carburetor. I get at least one gallon per hour across the board better fuel economy and much, much better mixture control fidelity. On top of that, the unit is lighter weight, much simpler design (far fewer parts) and has proven to be extremely reliable. Best of all, though, I have had extremely good support from the factory. There have been two "AD recalls" where I received a letter from the factory explaining a problem that had occurred on a few throttle bodies and that, if I sent mine in, it would be modified free of charge. In addition, I have had excellent response when I have had questions on installation and tuning.
On the negative side, I have had the o-ring seals on the mixture tube leak slightly which required replacement, and I have heard from several other owners that they had had similar problems. A few owners have complained about the Ellison to me, but I have noticed that they have not gone back to a carburetor! Nor would I - ever! What with all the fuss over the past several years about composite versus metal floats in carburetors, the Ellison does not even have a float bowl! One other thing, I have never experienced any sign whatsoever of induction icing with my Ellison. cannot say the same about my 0-235 with a carburetor!
Another interesting improvement, especially in fuel efficiency, has been an electronic ignition system which I purchased from Klaus Savier over three years ago. I removed my left magneto and installed an aluminum plate over the hole. This provides a surprising amount of room between the engine and firewall for easier access. The installation of the triggers and magnetic coil pickups is fairly straightforward. Klaus provides an excellent installation and operations manual which. should be followed closely to the best of your ability. You cannot afford sloppy workmanship here. My installation has required essentially no maintenance, I have never had to adjust the timing, it just simply keeps on running with incredible reliability.
I am very pleased with the improvements, among them; considerably less fuel flow for the same power, much better and smoother idle, and a noticeably quieter running engine, particularly at altitude when it advances the timing to approximately 44 degrees before top center! The engine has been generally much easier to start also. Klaus' electronic ignition system is a capacitive discharge system (not an inductive system) and as such draws very low current. Sally and I were returning to Mojave from New York a year or two ago when our alternator quit charging. We stopped to see if it was just a loose wire (it was not, it was a voltage regulator which had got water in it during a two hour flight in heavy rain). We elected to fly over 400 nautical miles to Newton, KS, where we were repaired by Bill Bainbridge. The important thing here is that we were able to run, without any problem, for 2-1/2 hours, depleting the battery (no charge), and the electronic ignition ran flawlessly all the way.
Our airplane was the first Long-EZ to use the "heavy duty" Cleveland brakes, the 3/8" thick discs and the large diameter brake pad actuator. In fact, we flew for several years with these brakes before George Varga did the research through Cleveland's data sheets to come up with the current so called "heavy duty" brakes. The brakes we had came off Peter Garrison's "Melmoth" after it was destroyed in a biz accident at Orange County airport back in I or '82. Recently, I installed some new brakes. These are designed by a VariEze builder/flyer, Phil Mattingly, who bought the business from Fred Rosenhaan. These brakes are quite different from the Cleveland design in that the 3/8" heavy duty disc is simply a flat disc that bolts to the wheel rim in 3 places.
The brake assembly is a double puck arrangement, that is, each brake uses 4 brake pads and these are actuated by two hydraulic piston assemblies. The brakes are very powerful, smooth and, best of all, they seem to last a long time. I installed them 15 months ago, have over 250 hours of flight time on them and I still have not had to replace the brake linings! For me, that is remarkable. It seems I was always replacing the linings on my Clevelands. I have been extremely pleased with these Matco wheels and brakes (the wheels are slightly narrower than Cleveland 5OOx5 wheels and fit the Lamb tires better). You will have to purchase the whole set, including wheels, brakes and axles. Phil tells me this brake is standard equipment on some Glassair models and on the Venture.
The linear voltage regulator together with Bill Bainbridge's (B&C) lightweight starter pretty much caps it off. These have both been excellent value and I would go the same route again. The starter has been a gem - never misses a beat and cranks my engine in any amount of cold weather without fail. Other than getting water in the voltage regulator (my fault), it has been flawless as well.
We have an excellent instrument panel now, King KX-155 Nav/Com, King transponder, and King KLN-88 loran, together with a full gyro panel. This enables us to fly "California" IFR and, more importantly, to maintain IFR proficiency. We have an Alcor fuel flow meter (the simplest and the best in my opinion but, sadly, no . longer available). Knowing your fuel state with complete accuracy increases dramatically the utility of an already very versatile airplane.
This airplane is in constant, at least weekly, use and has given Sally and me untold joy. It has carried us faithfully for probably over 300,000 miles through every state except Hawaii. I cannot imagine how we would manage without it.