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
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
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
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
Kitplanes, September 1994
For more information contact
Loehle Aircraft Corp.,
380 UF Shipmans Creek
Wartrace TN 37183