A new sport/trainer for the price of a used one -- and they expect to be in production as you read this.
A carrot has been dangling before the noses of economy-minded pilots with a new-aircraft yen for over a year. It seems finally about to come within their grasp.
The carrot is, of course, the Bede BD-1, a neat two-seater designed to sell for $2,500 to $4,200 -- a new airplane for the price of a used one. How does Bede Aviation Corp., Cleveland, Ohio intend to do it?
One of the major price cutting factors is the use of remanufactured engines on the lower-cost models. Six engine options are offered: the remanufactured 65-hp Continental or a new one; a new or remanufactured Continental 90-hp C-90-12F; a new Continental 100-hp O-200-A; and the 108-hp Lycoming. But even the most expensive one, the new 108-hp Lycoming O-235-C1, adds only $1,211 to the basic price and turns the little airplane into a veritable tiger.
If a customer decides that he wants more power after purchasing the 65-hp model, it may be obtained simply by changing engine mounts, powerplant and propeller. All else including the cowling is the same.
I found the 108-hp prototype very pleasant to fly. It is sensitive and responsive to control, yet sufficiently docile to make an effective trainer. During the evaluation we attained cruising speeds close to 150 mph.
Interchangeability of parts is carried to a logical conclusion in the BD-1. Both the fixed and movable surfaces of the tail group are identical to one another, as are the flaps and ailerons. Even the wings outboard of the center section to the tips are interchangeable. While this sameness of major components is intended primarily to reduce manufacturing costs, it should keep dealer inventory costs to a minimum.
The extensive use of metal honeycomb panels in the BD-1 fuselage is also a lightplane first. It is used for the sides from the firewall to the tail and for the cabin floor. The bottom and top aft of the cabin are covered with aluminum sheet, which is bonded to the honeycomb sides and cross formers. The entire fuselage structure is extremely strong and rigid and weighs only 87 pounds less attachment fittings.
The wing is also exceptionally strong, being stressed for nine Gs positive and negative. Wing construction is simple, with only 10 parts (excluding ailerons and flaps) being used for each main panel. Its main structural member is a 6.5-inch cylindrical aluminum spar, which doubles as a 12-gallon fuel tank to give a total of 24 gallons.
A safety lock and hinge arrangement has been developed which permits the wings either to be folded back along the fuselage or removed completely. Fuel lines need not be disconnected when folding the wings. A special nosewheel towing hitch allows the BD-1 to be towed on all three wheels. Both the tow bar and wing rack are compact and light enough to be carried in the baggage compartment. The goal is to make the BD-1 completely roadable for those pilots who want to keep their planes at home in the garage. For those who keep their airplane at an airport, the folding wings will allow compact, less costly storage.
The landing gear, aimed at its destined role as a trainer, is sturdy. It will withstand the impact of eight Gs and is made of 100-ply stressed fiberglass spring.
A set of highly efficient wheel fairings will be available at extra cost and are expected to increase cruising speed by approximately eight mph.
Seated in the cockpit, visibility through the sliding canopy is unexcelled in all directions except directly to the rear.
The Lycoming cranked up easily with the idling noise level about on a par with a Colt. Ground maneuverability is really something extraordinary. The plane is light, and with a full-swivel nose wheel and very effective differential braking, the airplane can turn around almost in its own length. It practically seems to back up.
After a conventional pre-takeoff check and runup, we lined up on the runway. Gross weight was 1,450 pounds, a bit above the maximum aerobatic limit of 1,375. Winds were light, variable and more or less down the runway. Surface temperature was in the mid-sixties.
Acceleration was not particularly startling with full power, but the rudder became effective almost immediately and there was some tendency towards directional over-control. We rotated at 60 mph. The BD-1 became airborne between 65 and 70 mph about 800 feet down the runway. Maximum rpm was 2,300 during the roll and absolutely no torque effect was noted. According to Bede, the torque has been engineered out in the wing fairing -- the vertical stabilizer is not offset.
Initial rate of climb was between 400 and 600 fpm, settling on 600 fpm as the airspeed reached 100 mph with 2,450 rpm.
The Lycoming O-235-C1 develops 115 hp at 2,800 rpm for five minutes at takeoff and 108 hp at 2,600 rpm continuous. The only times we were able to attain these high rpms were at the higher speeds of level flight or diving -- where you don't need it. An automatic propeller would be a valuable addition for an airplane with the BD-1's speed range.
Maneuvering behavior at cruising speeds can best be described as quick. The prototype was equipped with high-rate-of-response dual stick controls. Wheel controls with slower response will be offered at extra cost.
Controls are light and reaction immediate. The stick was hardly moved to get extremely fast rates of roll and pitch in lazy eights and chandelles.
In doing these, we allowed the airspeed to range from around 90 mph on the tops to over 160 mph on the bottom. The feel was good and solid all the way with no tendency to fall off at the top.
Stalls break rather sharply but may be controlled, though the plane gets pretty touchy. Power-on and power-off stalls occur at the same indicated airspeed, but the latter are somewhat more docile. Ailerons are effective throughout.
Stalls with a full 30 degrees of flaps occurred at a calibrated 55 mph (just five mph less than the no-flap variety) with response quite similar to a stall without flaps.
At 2,450 rpm (65 per cent power) we indicated 140 mph CAS at 3,000 feet. This trued out at 148 mph with an OAT (outside air temperature) of 20 degrees C. At 2,550 rpm we indicated 148 mph for a true of about 155.
This airplane is not at all difficult to land, but we still managed to goof our first one. We had spent the previous day flying, of all airplanes, a Ford Tri-Motor.
The BD-1 has such a good feel that the inclination is to set up a slow glide. Actually there is no real danger; but in the vicinity of 10 to 15 mph above stalling, you get a fairly high rate of sink. This airplane has a small wing and a comparatively high wing loading -- over 14 pounds per square foot.
On our first approach, we were a little on the slow side and got a pretty good rate of descent, but felt that ground cushion would stop it. There was none, so at the last minute power and back stick were applied simultaneously. Too much! With the overcontrol and a little slack in the stick there was a mild but rather rapid porpoise going for a moment. Additional back pressure stopped it.
We found that we like to glide the BD-1 somewhat faster than was probably required. This allowed for an easy flare and soft touchdown. Roll out, even at these faster speeds, was not excessive. Once a pilot becomes familiar with the BD-1, operating from 2,000-foot strips should pose no problem.
To give lighter wing loading and more docile performance for training functions, a two-foot removable wingtip extension is being considered.
Deliveries are scheduled to begin this month, with a backlog of orders already a mile long. We'll soon see how the pilot likes the taste of this carrot.
-- Gerald J. Schlaeger
|Engine||Lycoming O-235-C1, 108 hp at 2,600 rpm|
|Propeller||Metal, fixed pitch|
|Wing area||94 sq. ft.|
|Wing loading||14.5 lb./sq.ft.|
|Passenger & crew capacity||2|
|Empty weight||812 lb.|
|Gross weight||1,375 lb.|
|Fuel capacity||24 gal.|
|Oil capacity||6 qt.|
|Baggage capacity||40 lb.|
|Maximum speed||155 mph|
|Cruising speed (75% power)||149 mph|
|Cruising speed (65% power)||145 mph|
|Rate of climb||1,150 fpm|
|Stall speed (clean)||61 mph|
|Stall speed (flaps down)||54 mph|
|Range (at 65% cruise)||600 mi.|
|Service ceiling||18,000 ft.|
|Takeoff distance||650 ft.|
|Takeoff distance (over 50 ft.)||1,050 ft.|
|Landing distance||400 ft.|