Troubleshooting the Buccaneer XA
amphibious ultralight aircraft
Some time ago I did a report on trouble shooting the Quicksilver
MX, one of the safest, most inexpensive fun flying machines available on the ultralight
market. The purpose of the report was not to knock the venerable MX but rather to let
owners and prospective buyers know about some of the problems associated with the craft as
it aged, or if it was used in a training environment.
Another aircraft that has been around almost as long as the MX,
is the Buccaneer Amphibian XA. (Not to be confused with the Buccaneer SX).
As a writer
you have to be very careful that your writing does not upset the delicate balance, between
aircraft purchaser and manufacturer.
In the case of the MX, the factory was no longer in business thus
the MX was no longer being built, so when the story came out, the manufacturer could not
be adversely effected by it.
Since the Buccaneer XA, has for all intense and purposes been
replaced by the new SX model, and the builder Advanced Aviation is no longer in business,
I do not feel that anyone can be hurt by the following report.
The troubleshooting is broken down into
Now these problems will not show up in all aircraft as updates to
the XA were an ongoing thing. But many early kits were sold to dealers who later went
broke. Some of these kits are just now entering the market. In the case of resale
aircraft, there is no way of getting update information to the new owner, unless he or she
has been in contact with the someone who owns an XA
One of the first reported problems with the first group of
Buccaneer XA's off the assembly line was in the wing. After less than six hours of flying
in Canada, the trailing edge on the wing bent up 18", about 30 inches out from the
This failure happened in rough conditions, but in conditions that
I would not be afraid to fly a Quicksilver MX in. After the failure was reported,
Highcraft Aeromarine, the original manufacturer, immediately sent a notification to all
owners. A retrofit kit was developed which put an inner sleeve in the effected area.
Unfortunately when owners went to install the sleeve it was found that their trailing
edges were bent enough that the sleeve could not be put in place. Highcraft then
redesigned the trailing edge going to 1 1/2 inch tubing rather than 1 1/4". They also
upgraded the size of the compression struts at this time. With the introduction of
ailerons this went to 1 3/4" in on inner sleeve out past the first set of wires.
The next problem with the wing was with the stainless steel
channel brackets used to attach the wing to the root tube. After landing several pilots
complained about loose flying wires. It was discovered that the channel brackets had bent
back, in some cases over an inch. The factory updated to new aluminium bracket. These
brackets were also found on the tail section on the horizontal stabilizer and rudder. This
area was also updated to the new aluminium brackets.
Another problem found during assembly of the wing kit was that
the two cross brace wires running in an X pattern from the leading to trailing edge were
not tight. In some cases the remedy was to turn one end of the wires counter clockwise
until the slack was taken up. In other cases the wires had to be redone.
Other changes or updates to the wing included, shortening of the
wing tip, the addition of ailerons, to replace the spoilerons, (which requires a new wing
update kit, and the wing fabric had to be sent back to the factory to be
resown) and the
installation of lower battens in wing. The addition of the lower battens, strengthened the
wing and increased the aileron effectiveness.
Another update effecting the wing was the replacement of the
flying wire shackles. In addition to the replacement of the shackle, a spacer was added,
which fits between the two shackle ends. Pilots have reported bending of the shackles, the
spacer prevents this. The new shackle is considerably stronger than the older type.
Many pilots have reported that the duck bills located at the end
of the battens have broken off. This does not present a safety hazard if the broken batten
tip is replaced. If not replaced it can result in the ripping of the wing fabric.
Another problem area on the wing that has been reported is with
the plastic saddles used between the flying wires and the leading and trailing edge. Over
time these crack and break off. At the first sign of deterioration they should be
The Buccaneer airframe has proven to be one of the strongest and
most durable in the industry. Part of this can be attributed to the fact that the hull and
landing gear prevent shock loads from being passed through to the airframe.
One of area that was updated was the main upper boom running from
just behind the pilot to the tail section. With the installation of the heavier 377/447
engines, coupled with rough field operation it was found that this tube would bend
directly below the engine mount, and/or where the leading edge of the vertical fin
attaches to the main tube. This was almost impossible to detect. The main boom is covered
with Dacron sailcloth and the bending takes place under two plastic saddles. The problem
was discovered when pilots started to complain about a difference in pitch control, over a
period of time. What was happening was that with the tube bending it would change the
angle of incidence between the wing and tail.
To correct the problem, a sleeve was added in the area that the
main tube bent, and a set of support wires were added running from the front upper
bulkhead cross member to the lower aft bulkhead. These cables then in effect help support
To correct the bending under the vertical fin, the main tube was
sleeved, and a bulkhead was added that joins all three main tubes together in the area of
bending. These solution cured the problem.
Another reported problem was in the aft vertical stabilizer tube.
This tube was reported to crack or break at the point where it joins into the lower tail
section assembly. The factory updated this tube by installing an inner sleeve.
Pilots have also reported that the leading edges of their
horizontal stabilizers have bent, in the centre. This causes loose fitting fabric on the
stabilizer. To my knowledge this problem was not addressed by the factory. Our solution
was to inner sleeve the leading edge tube.
Probably the most potentially dangerous problem of the airframe
was with the main bulkhead. During preflight several pilots have reported this bulkhead to
have cracked directly above a welded support gusset. The main bulkhead supports the flying
wires and landing gear. The factory solution was to extend the support gusset farther up
the bulkhead. This problem was discovered on some models as late as 1989.
Another reported airframe problem occurred in very early
production aircraft using the 277 Rotax engine with the Eipper style exhaust mounted to
the kingpost. The problem, cracks developing in the kingpost where the retention bolt was
drilled through the tube. The factory updated by first changing to a bracket that did not
require the king post to be drilled. Second by changing to a side mount exhaust and
completely changing the exhaust mount.
Due to the restriction put on the manufacturer as far as weight
allowance, the hull on the Buccaneer XA's was built as light as possible to fit into the
regulations. This unfortunately meant that it was very easily damaged.
The area of damage occurs in several areas, directly below the
pilots feet, where two wood stringers are located. Directly under the pilot seat, at the
step. In the back end of the hull.
The damage under the pilots feet is usually caused by a hard
landing. The impact separates the two stringers from the fiberglass mat. This leaves only
the outer skin and gelcoat to support the craft.
Pilots in Canada strengthened this area by first repairing the
hull with glass and cloth from inside. Then fibre glassing aluminium tubes (damaged Eipper
nose struts, or rear down tubes work great) into the hull directly beside the wood
The damage under the pilots seat is caused by hard water landings
or landing on a runway with the gear up. To strengthen this area, first refibreglass
damaged area from inside. Then mix a quart of fiberglass resin together with a pound of
baking soda. Mix well, then pour it into the step area. Be careful not to much hardener to
the resin, or it will cause the mixture to cure to fast and it will crack. When this
mixture hardens it turns to a rock hard substance, that adheres very strongly to the hull.
The damage to the tail section is caused when the craft goes in
and out of the water. The sand, rocks, etc. will wear through the hull. (As will a landing
with the gear up on pavement). This damage is repaired the same was as the step. Mix your
resin and backing soda together and pour it into the effected area.
One other thing, when doing the tail section it is necessary to
remove the styrofoam floatation from the tail. We have found that this styrofoam can be a
source of attitude instability. In many cases where the craft has been sunk, or left out
in the open the styrofoam will absorb water. One chunk we took out of a two year old craft
weighed over 20 lbs.
Another problem reported in the hull area was with the male and
female Velcro used to attach the body sock to the hull. This Velcro looses its
"stickiness" when subjected to water, or when continually removed and
refastened. The Velcro section that sticks to the hull has also been reported to become
detached, especially if left in direct sunlight.
If either happens this can lead to:
- water entering the hull
- the body sock being sucked into the propeller.
Our solution was to install an aluminium
strip over top of the
Dacron body sock and Velcro strip, fastening the strip by screwing it into the hull. This
strip can be obtained from local hardware, or rug stores. It is used to cover the end of a
carpet where it goes into a doorway. It has a nice little bend to it and comes with its
own screws. After installation we run a bead of silicon along the seam between the
aluminium and the hull for added protection.
Another update to the hull area involved the rear section of the
aircraft. Many pilots, and several writers, who flew the aircraft complained about water
entering the hull during taxiing. To cure the problem a piece of foam was added that
better sealed the rear of the hull off from the water, and the three main tubes were
capped to prevent water from entering them.
Another area that was updated to prevent water from entering the
hull was the main gear support tube. It was found that water would enter between the hull
plate and hull gasket. Siliconing this area help prevent the leaking. Later models came
with a rubber "inner tube" like material which fit snugly over the main gear
support tube and prevented leakage.
The gear leg stop was also changed. This
aluminium plug fits into
the landing gear, acts as a stop and prevents it from turning. The plug is held in place
by a 1/4 inch bolt. The original bolts were fine thread. It was found that these stripped
very easily and were later replaced by a course thread insert and bolt.
Control system :
The Buccaneer was originally designed with spoilerons. The
positioning and size of these was changed several times, then finally eliminated to be
replaced with ailerons.
YOU CAN NOT REPLACE THE SPOILERON SYSTEM, BY SIMPLY ADDING
AILERONS. THERE IS A COMPLETE RETROFIT KIT, WHICH ADDS LOWER BATTENS, SHORTENS AND
STRENGTHENS THE WING, AND REQUIRES THE WINGSAIL TO BE RESOWN.
One of the problems reported in the control system was with the
rudder compression strut. It was found that it would slide down inside the rudder
covering. This caused the rudder fabric to become loose. The solution was to install the
strut, then wrap several layers of tape around the leading edge of the rudderpost,
directly under the compression strut. This prevented it from slipping down.
Another reported problem area was with the rudder cable
attachment clevis pin rings. Because the Buccaneer is usually driven in an out of water it
was found that this clevis pin clips would bend or become entangled in weeds. This
resulted in the clip coming free from the pin. This could result in loss of rudder
control. The solution was to replace the pins and clips with nuts and bolts.
Another problem in early production models was the lower
horizontal stabilizer support cables. These cables also used pins and clips, but were
covered with a plastic sleeve. It was found that the sleeve in hot weather would work it
way off, and that the pin and ring could become damaged or entangled in weeds or grass.
The solution was to reverse the cable so that the attachment point was at the horizontal
stabilizer rather than on the lower airframe.
The teleflex cable running from the joystick to the aileron mixer
has also been reported to break. This was usually found after a severe wind storm. I
actually took off without noticing any damage to the cable during preflight, only to have
the teleflex break 5 minutes from he field. The aircraft is still controllable but does
waddle through the sky.
The solution was to lock the ailerons up during storage outside.
This is quite easy to do. We had a U shaped bracket made up that simply fits over the
mixer and root tube. BE SURE TO REMOVE IT BEFORE FLIGHT!
The ailerons on production models up to about 1988 used cables to
activate them. These have been found to fray, or the pulleys wear. If you have cables
operating your ailerons it is suggested that this be an area that be inspected each
flight. Advanced Aviation changed to a push pull system of later models and this can be
retrofitted to early aircraft.
Many pilots complained about the stiffness of the control system.
It was found that this was caused by lack of lubrication between the cables and guide
tubes used to route the rudder cables to the tail section.
The solution here was to remove the outer covering on the cables
from about 3 inches before guide tubes, to 3 inches after the guide tubes, and to
lubricate the tube with WD 40 or other lubricant on a regular basis.
This modification was especially necessary in the back area of
the hull. If the drag on the cables was to great it would pull the guide out of the
retention bracket. This then allowed metal to metal contact between the guide and rudder
cable. Which could lead to a very serious situation!
The only other area of concern with the control system was with
the mixing mechanism used with the cable operated aileron system. Where the cables joined
in at the mixer they were held in place by clevis pins and clips. These clips touch the
root tube each time the ailerons are moved. Damage to the retaining clips has been
Probably the most troublesome area of the Buccaneer XA has been
the landing gear. The first gear were fibre glass rods. These lasted about a dozen
landings then cracked and broke.
These were replaced 2024 aluminium
gear, these lasted till the
first hard landing or overweight pilot got in to fly. These were updated to 7075 T6
aluminium, which has proven to be more durable.
One problem with the 2024 and 7075 gear was that they were
reported to crack or break at the end where they were cut to fit into the main gear leg
stop. This was remedied by readjusting the cut so that it was round rather than at a right
angle, and by reversing the cut in relation to the hull. This requires the purchase of new
gear, and new gear leg stops.
The tail wheel has also proven to be a problem area for some
pilots. When taxiing in and out of water sand enters the bearings that help the tail wheel
pivot, and into the bearings that allow it to turn. This can result in seizure of the
tailwheel, and the locking up of the pivot. The only solution was to rinse this area out
regularly, and to replace the tailwheel if it became damaged. We found that the wheels and
pivots, used on local super market carts worked very well.