First Flights

April 1987

Congratulations to all of you who have reached the major milestone of first flight. Although we no longer hear from everyone who gets this far, we hear from enough of you to know that there are a lot of new VariEzes, Long-EZs and even a few VariViggins, a couple of new Defiants and even a Solitaire. It sure is great to hear that so many of you have achieved what must be one of the notable achievements of one's life, the building and flying of a machine that one has crafted with one's own hands. The first flight is the culmination of this experience and, for all of us, is a tremendously exciting and sometimes nervous time. When this time arrives for you, how can you be sure you really are ready? How can you be sure your flying machine is ready?

We have always believed that the pilot must be current, must be proficient in at least two different airplanes, preferably three, and must be rested, relaxed and feeling good before he or she ever attempts a first flight on a brand new airplane. Current means just that. You are presently flying something, be it a Cessna 150 or a Beech Bonanza, it does not matter just as long as you are, or have been recently, flying something. If at all possible, fly another example of the type to be tested. It is dangerous to combine a first flight in a new airplane with a pilot who has zero time in type. If something is unusual, he doesn't know if it's an airplane problem or his proficiency. If you have not flown for a year or more, do not even consider doing your first flight until you have taken a check ride in several types with a good instructor.

Tell him what you are about to try to do and have him really put you through a thorough proficiency check. Have him particularly concentrate on landings, balked landings, approach too slow, approach too fast - how do you handle it? Be as conscientious as you can, ask a lot of questions, be very sure you are feeling good, feeling confident in your abilities. Now go out and check out in a Grumman TR-2, two place trainer or a Cheetah or a Tiger. When you feel good i n this, then try to get a check out in some kind of a taildragger. A Champ or Citabria, or even a J-3 Cub would be good. It's not that you need taildragger skills to fly an EZ, but being proficient in a taildragger simply makes you that much more proficient overall. Now you are ready, but is your newly completed airplane?

The more pairs of eyes that look at it, the more likely you are to get everything the way it should be. Remove the cowlings, canard and nose cover. Invite the local EAA chapter to have their meeting at your home and have them all look at it. At least, try to recruit a couple of EZ builders to look at it. Concentrate on the control system. It is simple, functional and trouble free, but all the bolts must be tight, safetied, and have two threads beyond the lock nuts. Does the stick move freely to all limits without any friction? Friction in the pitch control will make the airplane very twitchy and difficult to fly. Friction in the ailerons (lateral control) will make the airplane unpleasant to fly because you will not know if you are pushing or pulling against control system friction or against aerodynamic loads. This makes it awkward and not much fun to fly. It really is a truly delightful airplane to fly if it has a nice friction free, precise control system.

Of course, the rudder should snap back into the faired position after rudder pedals are depressed then released (they should also do this in flight! If they don't, this condition must be corrected). Also, be sure the elevator shape and canard slot shape is exactly the same as the check templates in the plans. When in doubt,take a "splash" of the surfaces, send a drawing of the splashed shape to us for comment before attempting to fly. Small differences in slot and elevator shape can have large effects on the safety of your airplane at low and high speeds. The next point to concentrate on is the fuel system. Fuel lines should be fireproof and there should be no leaks of any kind, even with the boost pump running. Flush the whole system several times with ga sol i ne.

Clean all screens/filters. Check that all nuts and bolts on the engine, baffling, and exhaust system are tight and safetied. Be sure the prop bolts have been torqued correctly, and re-torqued at the specified intervals. The engine controls are a critical area. You will need help to check these out, and they must be right! Check the throttle, mixture and carb heat for full and complete travel. The throttle and mixture must travel stop-to-stop smoothly with no tendency to hang up. If anyone looking at your project spots a discrepancy, write it down. Make a list of these discrepancies no matter how small they might be.

Do not fly unless all items that could compromise flight safety have been taken care of. This applies throughout the flight test period and indeed, the life of the airplane, but is particularly important for first flight. You will be nervous, you will be excited. This is normal. If you have taken care of your proficiency and your airplane's readiness, your first flight will be uneventful, safe and a memory that will last forever.

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