In the past we have done considerable preaching about initial flight testing and pilot checkout. We talk about understanding the VariEze differences, being proficient and current in a number of different aircraft. All these requirements/procedures are necessary and should be followed to the letter to give your galactic wonder every chance of surviving its initial steps toward the stratosphere. By this, we have given some the impression the VariEze is a real squirrel to fly. Not true, the great majority of first-time EZ pilots report no problems and surprise at how easy it is to fly. The reason for our preaching is that the majority of problems or accidents have occurred during the early stages of pilot checkout in cases where basic proficiency is low. (Reference Canard Pusher #11 through 23).
The following quotes represent an average cross-section of comments we receive about first flights. Experience levels range from student pilot to many-thousand hour military pilots. Student pilot? Yes, Bruce Evans visited us recently on his first solo cross country trip - flying his EZ ! Although Bruce has sailplane experience, the EZ was his first powered solo!
Stuart Kingman - "After three years of blood, sweat, and tears I had my own airplane! I taxi tested for two or three days just to get the feel of the airplane, and also because I was scared, and rightfully so after reading of all those experienced pilots getting killed in their EZs! All of my experience rested on 150 hours in a Cessna 150 and one hour in a Grumman TR-2. After the taxi tests, my Dad took out a $10,000 life insurance policy for me, and I lifted N222SK off the pavement and around the pattern! The feeling I had during those few moments were completely void of any fear - it was the most fun I had ever had! The plane flew as if it had been flying for years. Absolutely no problems whatsoever. What surprised me even more was the landing. I had never flown an airplane with a stick, much less a side stick I That first landing was the smoothest landing Ive ever made. Every other landing since then has also been smooth too. N2225K cruises at a true airspeed of 180 mph at 6000 ft and 75% throttle. The engine is a Continental C-9012F turning a Bruce Tifft prop. Empty weight is 597 lb. I am extremely pleased with the airplane. I have never flown a plane even similiar to it. Like Ive said many times before, it flies like a airplane should". "Stuart is 18 years old! - ed"
Bob Woodall - "Just a quick note to say that I flew N301RW, on July 4. Should have written before -but have been very busy getting in the 25 hours and fixing minor items. Had the 25 hour flight test program completed 16 July. No major problems. She trims easily very solid at cruise - starts to roll back and forth undamped at 60 mph indicated but no problem to control".
Dan Hogan - " Add another EZ to the list! N5846 made its first flight with Bob Ohletszs EZ flying chase. Ten hours logged so far - no problems. Thanks for an outstanding design. Quite a change after flying an Ercoupe for B years. P.S. There are seven Ezs now at Chino Airport".
Lee Roan - " Made first flight on October 21 -something I had not planned to do that day as I had not flown much in the last 5 or 6 months and had not yet had the planned Yankee checkout. I made a high speed taxi, got to 70 mph with nose wheel off then was flying. Pulled throttle back but floated past the half way mark still floating. Decided it was time to fly. I took off and flew around the field and came in too fast the first time so I went around and made a good landing the next time. The plane flies good and I have no problems with it".
Jack Day " Bill rogers flew my first flight -first EZ he had flown with cuffs. Says low speed stability is fantastic. Needs more pitch trim".
Norm Ross "The VariEze is a pleasure to fly".
Dr.James Wright - "My VariEze was easy to fly from the first, even on that first flight after getting over making a fool of myself in a way I would have thought impossible (took off without latching canopy -safety catch caught it). If you fly the aircraft it is a dandy little ship with no real problems at all, that I can see. It has been flown by three other pilots - all report same (two are TWA instructors Im pleased with and proud of N26JW - Thank you for a good design and fine support program. When an EZ pilot goes into a new airport he is, indeed a celebrity".
Dan Lee - "After flying experience I can say that my origional faith in Burts design has been justified Its a remarkable homebuilt".
Jennings Chestnut - "It flew well, no heavy wings etc. I have to adjust pitch spring tension, but outside of that its ready to go. I am real proud of the plane".
Don Youngs First flight scared him pitched up and down and did not seem to climb. Made first flight with long canard, narrow elevators and turbulent air. Made both modifications and now reports absolutely perfect. Requires a tad of rudder trim and thats all. Very happy with it".
Roger Klemm - "First flight was GREAT! I personally think you have overrated the EZs "different" handling characteristics. The docile nature of the first flight was wonderful and that was due to all taxi testing and runway flying I did".
J.Steechen - "Im sure you are tired of excited first time fliers but it did fly great, once I got used to the trim. Thank you for the outstanding builder support".
Jeff Danes "First flight per the book. Instructions were perfect".
James Langley " Accelerated to 80 mph, reduced power & lifted off. Everything seemed good so reduced to idle and it settled back to the runway. No problems. Back on the active, repeated the first but brought power back up after liftoff. I was off and climbing at 100 mph - after several trips around the pattern approach was made at 100 mph, near approach end power to idle settled on the runway at 80. Wow! What a thrill it is!"
Bob Hudgins - "Straightened out the weight and balance and now it flies and handles great. I really love the way it handles even in gusty and crosswinds. Ive had no problems" (Bob initially damaged his EZ trying to fly it with cg too far aft).
Tom Bradford - "Your test preparations and procedures were followed and everything worked beautifully. Thanks for 2 years building fun and fantastic very easy VariEze flying".
Rich Clark - "Lift off surprised me. Continuing acceleration with the stick slightly back is a lot different from stabilizing speed with the nose held down. - - - I tried mentally to freeze my hand and succeeded in a series of damped pitch oscillations during initial climb. Roll/yaw Ok. I let out a Texas yell, wiggled the wings for the congregation and settled down to trim out. Descent and approach were smooth. Love those ailerons. Over the numbers at 80 knots, over-flared up to 20 ft, and another series of pitch oscillations. Eventually E-Z-GO got tired of the comedy and sank to the runway. The solid rumbling of gear on runway and straight rollout were reassuring. Why could I not drive it on? Main factors were pitch sensitivity and Cessna training. Also, confusion with left hand throttle where up is go and down is slow. Later - feelin at home expanding the envelope. Sure enough, wont stall, just nods. Heavy back pressure at low speeds. Easy to locate traffic up here in the bubble. High on final, I ease back to 70 knots to below glide slope. Ease power on to hold it. Good flare and soft rumble and Im at jogging speed. Had a lot of confidence before I had flown it, now I have much more".
Steve Darlinton - "I cant put into words how much fun it is to fly an aircraft that I built myself. I always get so excited before and after each flight that I usually forget all the flying data. (Now I write it down!). The VariEze is extremely Eze to fly and has very normal flying characteristics being a little more sensitive in pitch than in roll. Ailerons are not as effective as expected but with a little rudder they come alive. The stalls seem to be non-existent at the present time. At full aft stick 1500rpm 55 mph indicated shes still flying with only very small buffeting and all controls still effective. I have had it up to 178 mph indicated at 7000 ft full bore, 2800rpm (195 mph true). A little rpm goes a long ways in the airplane. My EZ is VariEze to land especially with its built in attitude indicator. (nose canard). If you cant see the runway the nose is too high. Holding the nose off after touch down real ly slows her down and eliminates heavy braking. Touch and gos are fun since the nose gear never touches the runway.
Gion Bezzola (Swiss Airforce Instructor) - "After putting the plane together and carrying out a comprehensive pre-flight check, according to the American Handbook, I did two taxi tests with the nose up, and another with about 30% power to test the elevators and to get used to them. The nose allowed itself to be lifted from the ground at about 50 mph, and to be held there, The VariEze began to dance about on its toes as if she couldnt wait to get into the air. I wished to remain captain in charge, so we stayed on the ground a while longer to test the steering. The direction of flight had to be retained with the brakes up to about 30 mph, and above that, the rudder was sufficient.
I had to remember to bring my feet back when I wasnt using them, otherwise I would have inadvertently used the brakes. The acceleration was very good. We were very excited before the first lift-off, but this was carried out with no cause for alarm. The wings were flat, the stick was exactly in the neutral position. I got used to the lateral position of the stick very quick and then the Eze was flying, one meter above the ground down the runway. I held the speed at about 80 mph. I decelerated by throttling down slowly, lowered the plane and landed like a feather. The steering felt finely balanced and the brakes were adequate.
The first part of the test program, awaited with bated breath, was completed. After four more short flights at a height of 1-2 meters, the inspectors from the Air Ministry arrived and then I was ready for the first big flight of HB-YBG. The five short flights, the taxi tests, the performance of the engine and the faultless work that the builder had done, gave me a lot of confidence in the machine. We worked out that the center of gravity lay in the allowed area when I was wearing a parachute. The motor was running quietly, and so I asked for starting permission from the Tower. That moment was here again - the first big flight in a new plane, a fantastic exciting moment. I had already experienced such a moment in 1977 when I test flew my own construction the Lutibus, HBYAY, and now I was looking forward to it again, even though my mind was full o f concentration. I opened the throttle, lifted the nose at 50 mph, at 70 mph I lifted the Eze from the runway and held the resulting angle of climb.
The angle of climb came as no great surprise to me - I, as a jet-fighter pilot, am already used to such a steep angle of climb! But the fact that this was a home-built machine, powered by only 90 hp, that was a fantastic surprise. We, the Eze and I, had hardly started, and already I was crazy about her. The steering reacted marvelously, and I trimmed it out with short blips on the electric trim switches. I had to keep watching out that I didnt exceed the permitted maximum speed for a wheel-out flight, because the plane kept wanting to go faster. The Eze was a real little thorough-bred!
The airbrake worked very well when it was out, and showed this by slightly noticeable buffeting. I realized something pretty quickly this was probably the most phenomenal plane that I had flown, and I had flow forty different types, Mirage and Hunter included! After about twenty minutes, I carried out a simulated touch and go, and could judge my imagined landing point very well, a fact that was later supported by the actual landing. On final , at about 90 mph, then over the beginning of the runway with about 80 mph on the clock, the Eze was landed with enough pilot visibility. I landed the Eze and held the nose up in order to brake aerodynamically.
Rolling down the long runway gave me time to savour the thrill of the that first flight. I was also pleased for the builder of HB-YBG, who had, through his extremely clean work, given me one of the best flying experiences of my life. The loud hellos from the spectators who had gathered in the meantime, the happy smile of the builder Rudi Kurth, the congratulations from friends and from the officials of the Air Minsitry, was payment enough for the preparation made for this flight, that was threatened at no time by an uncalculated risk. The knowledge that the VariEze constructor, Burt Rutan, knew exactly what he was recommending to future Eze pilots through the handbook, proved to me that a very conscientious pilot was the spiritual father of brand new type of plane.
This knowledge grew stronger as the days past, especially when I took the Eze through the stall test, and through the largest part of the tests. How many crashed planes and their pilots could have been saved had this type of plane been designed earlier, because the behavior of the Eze in extreme conditions is simply fantastic. That a plane can still fly controlled turns when it is stalled, and climbs with full throttle, without the slightest danger of a spin is a wonderful performance of modern aerodynamics. The manufacturers of conventional planes will have to think again if they wish to equal this type of safe flying.
The influence which the VariEze will have on general aviation cannot yet be judged, but I have the feeling that it will be a great influence. After the first flights, I was sure that Rutan had not promised too much. The plane which Rudi Kurth had built was exactly according to the specifications which could be found in the handbook".
Steve Stuff "First landing like all since then, was very easy, due no doubt to the ground-effect flights. Quite maneuverable, very safe and loads of fun".