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November 2004
We're getting down to the final installations of things like the air-oil separator. A tube for the exhaust pipe was custom fabricated and welded on for the overboard tube to attach. Later to find it was pressurized from the exhaust and needed to be welded after the heat muff where it worked properly. Next was the weight and balance. We completely re-measured the plane to establish the different stations, and after leveling the aircraft while on the scales, took the weight of each to determine CG. My Legacy with all accessories and gear came in at 1600 lbs even. I had expected it to be a little lighter, but I do have a lot of primer on it that will be blocked down when my painter gets it. We weighed the plane with me and full fuel to further get the min and max CG window. It's a bit on the forward side and I'll need some ballast for my phase 1. What I intend is to move one of the batteries back with the hydro pump after it's painted and when I do another weight and balance, but AFTER paint.

So we had the gas truck out to gas it up for the first time. I was pretty excited and needed to get a picture of this. We felt it was ready for a start up and wheeled it out for a try. And that's all it was. The thing about the LightSpeed electronic ignition system that's not really mentioned, is that you need to pull the engine through with the plugs off to determine which coil is sparking and wire it up accordingly starting with the #1. Not a hard task, but just a minor set back. In hindsight, I really like the system and have no regrets. (More on this later).

We continued working on the plane, going through tightening check nuts, rigging, fitting the nose doors and adjusting the plunger linkage. I swung the gear several more times and verified the squat switch was working and now I need to inflate a balloon to get indicated airspeed above 40-60 KIAS if the gear is to come up. Dump valve works and the gear locks in position. The inspector came out and with all the last minute paperwork we were ready for his penlight and note pad. The inspection went well. It's funny the things they point out and the things they miss. I had hoped for a larger test area, but I got a 100 mile circle. Rats!

I installed my inner gear door micro switches on a tab in the gear well. I have an indicator on my panel in the event the inner doors open. It just lets me know that the wheels are in and buttoned up. Another nice little touch are my landing lights. Rob Logan sent me his hardware off Tweety. I intend to either polish them or powder coat white. The 100 watt Halogen lights are BRIGHT. I had Gary make relays for me so they shut off once the gear comes up.

So after an exhausting Friday going down the nitpick list we rolled it out for another start. The master had been on for most of the day and I needed a jump. The initial start was producing a nice ignition, but it wasn't staying lit. Dave made some adjustments to the fuel delivery and after some steady priming we were getting good fuel pressure. The next crank got it running right away and I just sat in my cockpit enjoying the roar and how well it ran. I did several prop cycles; good. I monitored the engine display; everything green. And I did the ignition checks; astonishing. The motor runs as smooth on one side of the igniting by itself as it does firing top and bottom. Absolutely no drop whether the key is Left, Right or Both even at low RPM idle. This engine runs smooth.

After a busy Friday checking and rechecking, reworking the engine baffling, tying down wire bundles and doing more gear swings I called Peter to find out where he is. He in turn passed the phone to Kirk and said together with Josh Brungardt they were on their way down from Oregon. A day early? Eeek, now the pressure is on! We all had breakfast and set out for Watsonville so Peter could inspect the plane. He liked the weight and balance report and the overall construction and went to work inspecting. He found about six minor squawks that we all worked together on correcting. It amazes me how so many of us can look the plane over and miss little things like a missing cotter pin and loose jam nut, but that's the value of having more than one person look the plane over. It's something I would be happy to do for others now that I have been through the inspection process.

Once we got the cowling fitted Peter strapped in for some taxi runs. Peter, and Josh too, have so much time in a Legacy that they can determine CG just by the stick forces required to keep the nose wheel off the ground and at what speed. Even the subtle rocking when a roll is canceled they pick up. (That comes from the lack of a canopy seal. I intend to fit mine with the inflatable one after paint. It's costing me about 10-15 Knots, but what an aggravation to clean the silicon off. I just don't need one more task).

Back to the taxi runs, Peter got the brakes wore in and brought it back. Upon opening the canopy said "the rudder trim is reversed and we need gas cause' it's ready to fly! Switch the wires while we're waiting".

Peter strapped back in bringing along a fire extinguisher for the ride. He started up and taxied out. The sun was beginning to go down on a day that couldn't be any better. Clear skies and about 68 degrees. I walked out to the edge of the runway with my handheld radio (that's a benefit of an uncontrolled airfield) and waited for what seemed like an eternity for him to position on runway 20. I could hear the engine and prop begin to power up from 3000 feet away and saw the plane began to move. In just a moment the nose wheel came up and my airplane lifted off the ground. It continued to climb as it passed overhead and quickly disappeared towards the coastline. I called Peter and asked him how it was flying and he came back with "Nice. It flies straight Don, you built a good plane". Peter continued to climb to what appeared about 2000 feet above us and left the gear down while he checked everything for safety. He told me to switch to a private frequency and said he was going to bring the wheels up.

Once the wheels came up, my plane completely disappeared and we couldn't hear it anymore. Over Monterey Bay Peter started giving me details. The engine was running great. All cylinders were even in temperature at around 320 degrees except #6. That one was running 15-20 degrees warmer. Now, how does that get any better? Oil temperature was 180 degrees, manifold pressure was at 25 inches with 2500 RPM and fuel flowed at 21 GPH. The squawk he had was that the aileron controls could be loosened up a bit. Everything else was good and it was flying straight with the elevators neutral in level flight. Awesome!

Now the speed report. GPS ground speed was 238 Knots (full power and prop) in a triangular pattern. Not bad considering we did not tape the wing joints, it's in primer and the canopy is not sealed. After another 10 minutes of flying Peter came over for a breaking approach. WOW! It came over fast and loud. It was lit up orange from the setting sun and the strobes were blinking away. As he turned final we could see the landing lights glaring as it came down for a nice landing and passed me by waiting on the runway edge. As he taxied up Dave Saylor came out with a bottle of Champagne and "plastic cups to celebrate the flight of a plastic plane" We all had a toast and got to hear Peter talk about the flight.

After 2200 hours of hard work I find it hard to put into words how it feels to experience all of this. Just so much to soak in that at times it doesn't yet feel real. I was up that night reliving the day and excited about doing my own solo the next afternoon. What a feeling of accomplishment and relief.

Finally the day to fly it for the first time. Before that Kirk, Josh and I did some adjustments to loosen the rigging a bit and Kirk did some panel adjustments. Patrick was the control and switch guy.

After gassing it up, Peter hopped in and went out for some stall testing and put it through some additional paces including slow flight and stalls. He was happy that it was fast and straight. I was happier! Josh Brungardt and I went out for a pre-solo flight and just to see the sights of Monterey Bay. First observation: I'm going to enjoy this planes. A lot.

My first solo flight was exciting. I ran the motor up and did an ignition check. The Lightspeed showed NO RPM drop on the tach. None. I did my "five alive" check and rolled onto the runway. Brought power up to 2000 RPM and released the brakes. With light fuel and just me it was like wild horses pulling me along. The plane got up to speed in a few seconds and was climbing out like crazy. I noted 2500 FPM at 160 knots indicated. So much faster than anything I have ever flown. I switched over to a secret frequency and talked to my wife and kids on the ground. I did orbits over Watsonville airport at 1000 feet above the pattern altitude at 210 knots indicated. Eeeeeeh-yeah! The engine was running smooth, all cylinders around 325 degrees except #6 which was 340 degrees. I don't think it could be any better than that. I headed out over Monterey Bay and did steep turns. Looking off my wing I could see the water shimmering and sailboats below. A glance over my right shoulder and it was clear blue sky. Magic. This is the reward after two and a half years of hard work. Next was a short hop to see Hollister and back for a landing. I was thinking back to the first time I soloed a Pitts. Lots of fun rolling, looping and spinning then it hits you...."I'm going to need to land this animal now...all by my little self".

Coming back in I monitored the Watsonville CTAF and the pattern was pretty full. With 15 inches of Manifold pressure I got it slowed down to 180 Knots and descended down to pattern altitude (where I wanted to be). Upon entering the "forty-five" I climbed to 500 feet above the pattern altitude which bled my speed to 160 Knots and I lowered the flaps 15 degrees to keep the speed there and to further lower it to 140 knots (gear speed). Downwind, I S-turned to space myself from the other traffic and pulled power to 12 inches prior to dropping the wheels. All down and locked I was indicating 120 Konts and initiated my turn to base, brought out more flaps for a 1000FPM rate of decent at 120 Knots. Once I lined up final I brought out full flaps and slowed to 100 Knots with a 1000FPM rate of decent. Everything looked good, did one final GUMP check and focused on my aiming point and keeping my speed at 100 Knots. Upon crossing the threshold I stopped thinking and by instinct (and training) chopped power and slowly began easing back pressure in with the back of one finger as I came into my round out holding it at about three degrees of nose high as I waited for the final sink feeling to begin the final finger back pressure to soften the touchdown while I was "feeling for the runway". Rrrrt, rrrrrrt, Bang. All three on. The mains touched real nice. A genuine sweet touch down, but the nose is difficult to fly down. It's just what it is. A rocket.

My next impression was the blur of everything I was passing. What a feeling! Ahead of me was 3000' feet of runway left and I thought I'd see if this would slow down on its own. Wrong. 2000' more feet and it was still speeding. Time to brake. NOW!. I rolled right to the end. Experiment over. When the wheels are on; I brake.

I applied a little power, turned off onto the taxiway, cleaned the plane up and released the canopy latch. My first solo in a Legacy. Sigh. I love this plane!

So here's the end of this story and the beginning of a new one. I'll start to keep a log of my flights and post pictures of the plane after it gets painted by THE ONLY PAINTER in my book, Steve Green. Steve is a master and a genuine gem of a person.

My plan for the phase 1 of my testing is to spend ten hours of it enjoying the plane and getting to know it . I can't imagine expecting anymore of me or this aircraft than that. From there it will be writing my POH and continuing to fix some little minor warts here and there. My first destination is to visit Jim Thomas. He has been my "Legacy Big Brother" I met him before I bought my kit, got to visit him repeatedly, asking questions and getting an idea of what I was getting into.

To those who have a dream of building and flying their own plane, I can't put into words how truly rewarding it is (though sometimes frustrating and tiring). I have met so many wonderful people and my life is richer for it. I have received endless e-mails and calls of support. Initially I was the pest. Calling Rob Logan and Jim Thomas week after week, stopping by Ron Jones' hangar keeping him from getting work done and now I'm the recipient of the tech support calls. I enjoy, and look forward to, talking about my little bird and helping others. It's the foundation of this whole community. I know my aircraft inside and out and have the knowledge and confidence to maintain and fly this plane. Though I can't see myself building another, I'd do it all over again.

Happy building and flying,

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Copyright © 2005. All rights reserved. This site is the builder's log of Don Barnes and for the purpose of sharing information and opinions related to building a Lancair Legacy. Any person using these images, ideas and tips does so at their own discretion and risk. No responsibility is expressed or implied and is without recourse against anyone related to this site. This site is not affiliated with Lancair International or Neico Aviation Inc., however, we love their aircraft.

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