P 40 Flying Tiger, Loehle P-40 Flying Tiger aircraft replica, Loehle Aircraft P40 Replica Fighter aircraft kit, P 40 Flying Tiger ultra lite plane, Ultralight News newsmagazine.

Single place Part 103 ultralights in the United States are defined as single place ultralight aircraft that weigh 254 lbs or less, have a stall speed not more than 24 knots, a top speed of 55 knots, and carry no more than 5 gallons of fuel. To fly a legal Part 103 ultralight aircraft in the United States the pilot does not require a pilot license. Single place aircraft weighing more than 254 lbs. in the U.S. require a pilots license and must be built as experimental, amateur built, homebuilt aircraft. These include weight shift aircraft, more commonly known as trikes, powered parachutes, and powered para-gliders. Single place ultralights in Canada can weigh up to 1200 lbs. and an ultralight pilots license is required to fly them.

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Mike Loehle flew the P-40 prototype to Winter Haven Airport, just east of Lakeland, Florida, for my turn in the cockpit.

A careful walkaround and cockpit check seemed familiar-- mostly because of the similarity between the 5151 and the P-40. As it had been 19 months since I'd flown the 5151 RG, however, I paid close attention as Loehle described the simple systems and recommended speeds.

Finally ready to start, I set the wheel brakes and cranked the Rotax, which came to life quickly. The P-40 was radioless, so the taxi procedure was head-on-a-swivel, basic-airport standard. From the ramp area where I started, taxi to the far west end of Runway 11 at Winter Haven requires a back taxi on the runway.

Lots of arriving traffic persuaded me to avoid tying up the runway with the back taxi; nearly 3000 feet of Runway 11 was left for takeoff--plenty for liftoff and climb within the airport boundary in the Loehle P-40.

Despite little or no headwind to help, propeller blast on the tail provided nearly immediate rudder effectiveness on the takeoff role, and I eased the stick forward to raise the tail for a better view and faster acceleration. Rolling the wheels longer than really necessary, I accelerated to a bit more than 60 mph before easing into a gentle climb.

With the Rotax 582 sounding good and with normal indication on the gauges, I raised the nose a bit during the full power climb to achieve something close to best rate of climb airspeed---around 55 mph. Choosing to leave the gear down probably cost some climb rate, which was determined to be about 800 fpm by comparing the altimeter to my watch.

Turning out of the pattern at 1500 feet, I prepared to raise the gear: Release the top latch by moving a small lever and start cranking. Originally, the 5151 retracting mechanism used a ratchet handle to raise and lower the gear, but a crank on the left side of the cockpit is now standard. Twenty-two easy turns raised the gear against the stops, just as Loehle said it would. As with the 5151 RG, I found there's little enough effort required that I could hold the stick with my right hand and not bobble the airplane.

Also consistent with the 5151 RG is that there is little trim change--and not much increase in speed with the gear up. But the look and feel is fighterlike, which is the point.

The usual checks of roll rate, pitch stability and various types of stalls determined that the P-40 flies conventionally. Departure stalls with power set at 5800 rpm resulted in a notable burble at 42 mph indicated. A straight-ahead approach stall (idle power) first appeared as wing-wallowing at 46 mph and a slight break at 44 mph. Even at the stall, the rudder remained effective, and releasing the considerable stick back pressure had us flying again in a second.

The elevator trim switch is mounted on the floor under the left thigh, It's out of sight, and I found myself feeling for the switch throughout the flight. If I were building my own P-40, I might move the switch somewhere else such as onto or near the throttle.

Because of the low cruise airspeed (around 75 mph for most of my flight), controls are not sensitive, and large wing and low speed also limits the responsiveness. For example, rolling from 45 degrees on way to 45 degrees the other way took about 4 seconds: rather leisurely for a fighter. You'd not like to get into a real dog-fight with the Loehle P-40. But if that news is upsetting, you're missing the point of an airplane like this, which is to create the illusion of flying a warbird--and to do it on low power and at relatively small cost. And once again, the Loehle formula succeeds--at least for me.

Back to the Field

The time to return to Winter Haven came all too quickly. Using my best no-tower/no-radio procedure, I entered the traffic pattern level at pattern altitude and on a long 45 degree leg to the downwind, which offers the best chance of seeing and being seen. Another 22 turns of the gear crank and a down-and-locked indication came as I turned onto a left downwind leg. By now the pattern was free of traffic, permitting my favorite type of approach: in close and steep. A little slip at 65 mph on final helped set us up for touchdown just beyond the threshold.

The intent was to three-point the P-40 on this first landing, but I underestimated the length of the gear legs; the flare had just begun when Surprise! You've arrived. Second surprise: almost no bounce (probably because there's little springiness in the gear). So I let the plane touch down a second time in the tail-high, wheels-landing attitude-and then added power for a second touch and go.

The second landing was actually planned for a wheels-type touchdown and worked even better than the unintentional variety. And the third and final arrival also worked well in the three-point attitude, now that I knew where the wheels were in relation to my seat. The mechanical brakes helped me make the intended turnoff for a short taxi back to the ramp.

Putting the fun back in flying is what homebuilding is about, and my guess is that the Loehle P-40 Flying Tiger is going to do its part for a considerable number of craftsmen/pilots. 
Kitplanes, September 1994

For more information contact
Loehle Aircraft Corp., 
380 UF Shipmans Creek Road 
Wartrace TN 37183

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