After the war, another little airplane that had quite the following was the Luscombe. It came in a variety of flavors; the 8A and 8F were very popular.
When the airplane came out, it was powered by the typical engine of the day, the Continental A-65. Horsepower for the airplane was 65 and she was a light weight; this combined with a relatively small wing area, gave the airplane a higher than normal cruise speed compared to the other airplanes of the era powered by the same engine.
While the Cubs and Champs and Chiefs cruised at 80 mph or less, the Luscombes were pushing 95 mph. Flying that fast on 4.5 gallons of gas per hour was very economical.
One of the big differences between the Luscombe and other side-by-side airplanes is that the Luscombe had sticks in place of wheels, or control yokes. This had its positives and negatives. In airplanes with tandem seating, sticks posed little problems. In airplanes with side-by-side seating, sometimes a stick protruding out of the floor could impede entry into and exit from the cockpit.
Another detriment to ease of access for the Luscombe was the small doors. The airplane had them on both sides, but they were small. Little people and contortionists had few problems, but for tall or big pilots, entry and exit could be problematic.
Once inside the airplane, most aviators found the airplane Spartan, but comfortable enough. As with many airplanes of the day, the original airplane lacked an electrical system, lights, and radios. This was strictly a day VFR airplane back in the 1940s and remains so through today.
Most of the Luscombes did not possess gyroscopic instruments, another factor keeping the airplane in the VFR operational arena. And truly, it did not need them; this is an airplane for flying around the patch in the late afternoons and maybe on Sundays. It could go cross-country, but this airplane’s forte was short joy rides.
Although certified by the Civil Aeronautics Authority (the precursor to the FAA) as a standard category airplane, many of the old-timers would go out and perform acrobatics in the airplane. Of course, she did not have much power, but at altitude a pilot could put her nose down and the airspeed would build fast. Aerodynamically, the Luscombe was a slick airplane and more than a few pilots got in trouble because of those characteristics.
For those who like the airplane and have no problem flying it, they claim it is one of the most wonderful flying machines they have ever flown.
I fall in that group.
© 2011 J. Clark