Ask a Man Who Owns One

Copyright (c) Private Pilot 32:7 (1997): 62-63. Used with permission.

By Skip Stagg

WE FIRST NOTICED the aircraft at Fullerton Airport in southern California. The bright yellow-and-blue Army Air Corps WW II training colors really stand out.

We wanted our readers to get a close look at a fine aircraft and at a man who owns and operates one.

The AA1 normally resides at the El Toro Marine Air Base's flying club. Despite the Army Air Corps training colors, nobody at the Marine base seems to mind a small, two-place Grumman taxiing between the F/A-18s and the C-130s for take-off. The normal crew complement consists of Chris Heid and his Brittany Spaniel, which usually accompanies him on his flights.

Captain Chris Held, USMC, usually commands a Boeing-Vertol (Sea Knight CH-46 out of the base, located in southern California. His mission for the Marines is search-and-rescue. Chris first flew at an early age and continues to do so as a Marine aviator. For fun flying, he, like many of us, looked around for an inexpensive aircraft that would meet the one fundamental requirement that could not be compromised: It had to be fun to fly. The second requirement-cost, both of operation and maintenance-was also an important consideration. After looking at the other two-place aircraft on the market, he elected to purchase the Grumman.

Skip Stagg: Why did you purchase the Grumman? What did you like about it, and do you like the way it handles?

Chris Heid: I purchased a 1969, AA1 Grumman Yankee because I'm always interested in flying and I wanted a small aircraft, at least a two-seater. I looked into all kinds of different aircraft that were in the lower price range in the two-seat category, like the Cessnas and Ercoupes, and I just thought the Grumman had a much better look to it. Performance was certainly a little bit better than the average Cessnas, and I liked the low wing-it's very maneuverable. I believe the wing-loading is a little higher than some of the Cessnas and very responsive. Besides, it's a fun plane to fly; great visibility-the bubble canopy gives you an incredible view in flight.

SS: Do you like flying with the canopy open?

CH: Yes, especially in summer, without an air conditioner, obviously, you've got to have some way to keep cool, and popping the canopy open a couple of inches gives enough air flow to cool you down.

SS: What's the operating cost?

CH: I generally burn about 6 or 7 gallons an hour, depending on where or how I'm flying. Annually, it's probably going to cost me about $600, and the only things I've done to the aircraft since I purchased it is put a new alternator on and I had U.S. Propeller re-do the prop. They did an overhaul on the prop, repitched it and rebalanced it.

SS: Why did you decide to do that?

CH: I was getting a little bit of vibration and once I pulled the alternator off and had the prop off, I saw a little bit of corrosion on the prop. I thought I'd have it re-done. They repainted it for me it looks great.

SS: How long have you had the aircraft?

CH: I bought it last August-1996

SS: What do you usually use the aircraft for?

CH: My own personal pleasure sight seeing, flying over to Catalina. I occasionally take the aircraft at lunchtime and grab some lunch at an interesting airport. Having it right on base makes it nice. Also, I've used it to go to San Diego for a weekend. I use it to get away. I've done some camping in it, too.

SS: Where did you go camping9

CH: Up in northern California I flew to Paso Robles. I have some friends up there.

SS: How is the Grumman on cross country flights?

CH: Oh, just great. I took my dog and girlfriend and went over to Kingman, Arizona for the airshow and had a great time. It's not too far from Laughlin I went there to check out the casinos. I stayed just under gross and flew out there at 7,500 feet; I came back at 8,500 feet. It was a good time.

SS: What kind of true air speed were you getting at altitude?

CH: About 105 knots. It indicated maybe 120 on the m.p.h. air speed.

SS: How long did it take you to get over there-it's about 200 miles cross-country.

CH: Yes. I stopped in Twenty Nine Palms and got some gas there on the way out because we had probably 15 to 20-knot headwinds going out. Then on the way back, we loaded up with gas and were able to make it all the way back to Long Beach (that's when I had the aircraft based at Long Beach) from Kingman. I think we had about a 10 knot tailwInd that day, so it helped us out It took about two hours of flight time to do.

SS: You have the LORAN on board. How do you like that?

CH: It's great. It's obviously a lot cheaper than replacing it with a GPS. Eventually, I will get a GPS. They make a slide-in replacement for the Apollo II. I'll eventually put that in there. I've heard talk of them decommissioning LORAN stations here within the next 10 years.

SS: They're already gone in Hawaii. Would you recommend to someone else who was looking for inexpensive aviation to fly the Grummans?

CH: I've heard a lot of people talk about getting into the Grumman as an initial trainer. I didn't have that much Cessna time before, being a military pilot, so the speeds and performance weren't really unusual to me. But I've heard that people who start out in the Grumman and never see the Cessna speeds and its stall characteristics don't have a problem staying in the Grumman. But I've also heard a lot of horror stories about Cessna pilots maybe working into the Grumman without a whole lot of background information on their stall characteristics. They run into some problems. So, yes, I'd highly recommend it. I think it's a great machine and very inexpensive, compared to what else is out there.

SS: It doesn't have a stearable nose-wheel. Do you find that a problem, or would you feel that anyone transferring from, say, a Cessna to a Grumman would have any problems with that?

CH: No, I don't think so. You'd use as much rudder as you can to get the nose-wheel to start turning, but you still have to tap on the brakes a little bit, eventually, to get the thing to turn.

SS: You were using a technique of keeping the nosewheel lightly loaded while we were taxiing. Can you tell our readers about that?

CH: If you have about 1,200 rpm on the engine and you pull the yoke back in your lap, you have enough air flow across the rudder so that you don't really have to use brakes. You're keeping the nosewheel lightly loaded, and you can use the rudder to steer yourself, for the most part.

SS: That saves on brakes and tires. What is it you like most about the aircraft? Just fun to fly, or easy to maintain?

GH: I haven't had a lot of maintenance problems with it at all. It's a very simple Lycoming 235-C2C engine and it uses maybe a quart of oil every four or five hours. It's a great way to get in the air inexpensively and look good while you're doing it.

SS: Performance with just you in it, of course, is pretty good. With two people in it, it was falling off quite a bit there.

CH: The standard weight-and-balance sheet I've seen has a couple of 160-pound people, a full tank of gas and 10 pounds of gear. That puts you at a maximum gross of 1,500 pounds. Obviously, you're getting 400 to 500 feet per minute when you're in that situation. With a single person and a half a tank of gas, it becomes very responsive and very maneuverable. You can get an 800 to 900 fpm climb.

SS: The Grumman is a lot more responsive than the Cessna 150, and certainly more than the 172. Is that some thing you favor in an aircraft?

CH: Yes, I like it. Obviously, the wings are a lot shorter. The wing4oading is a lot higher, compared to a Cessna, and it just gives you the maneuverability and the ability to get yourself out of a bad situation--if you happen to put yourself in one.

SS: Do you have a cover for it?

CH: Yes, I have covers for the wing, canopy, tail and the horizontal stabilizer.

SS: You also mentioned you take your dog with you. Does she sit in the front seat with you?

CH: No, she sits in the back. I've got a 45-pound Brittany Spaniel. I put a little cotton in her ears and put her in the back. She just goes to sleep and thinks she's riding in the car. She wants to know when we're going to stop so she can get a drink of water.

SS: It must be quite a sight. Would you consider buying another Grumman?

CH: Yes, I sure would. I would definitely like a low-wing aircraft and some thing with good visibility. If I could afford one, I'd own a Tiger, or maybe a Cheetah.

SS: Do you have any plans to sell yours?

Stagg, Skip. "Ask the Man Who Owns One." Private Pilot 32:7 (1997): 62-63.