Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Prop-Driven F16

Nowhere near the F16 jet fighter that any pilot would give an arm and a leg to fly, the Eagle 150B is a strange looking prop-driven bird with three pairs of "wings". Besides the usual main wing and a tailplane seen on most aircraft, the Eagle has in addition a pair of canards that stick outwards from under the engine. Why I liken this bird to an F16 is the feeling one gets when sitting in the cockpit. The side by side two seats in the cockpit are tilted backwards and the bubble canopy gives the pilots an excellent all-round view, both features being characteristic of the F16.

Performance-wise I like the way it handles. There is enough power from the 125hp engine and the controls are light with enough sensitivity for aerobatic maneouvres. Its capabilities are well demonstrated by the popular unofficial Eagle Aerobatic Team consisting of several retired Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) pilots who put in an hour or so of practice each time before performing at various air shows in Malaysia and the neighbouring countries.

Flying with an instructor once, I had experienced looping in the Eagle. Although I would have preferred a more powerful engine, the loop was satisfactory as the plane first picked up speed in a shallow dive and had enough speed still to pull it over the top.

The airframe is totally made of composite material which explains why only a 125hp engine is sufficient to power it. The smooth and shining composite surface reduces drag substantially and the sturdiness of the material makes metal airplanes feel like jelly.

The single joystick rises up from the console between the two pilots so there is nothing between each pilot's legs. To the pilot it's a sidestick, just like in an F-16. On it are attached the electric trim switches (there's no trim wheel). There are two sets of flaps - one on the main wing and another on the canards. The two sets of flaps are coordinated and are operated by switches below the instrument panel.

A C172 pilot (like myself) would consider the Eagle as a more electrical and sophisticated bird. Its also like moving from a sedan to a sports car. On the other hand, the aircraft is also suitable for beginners because of its smooth handling characteristics. Many in fact had learned to fly in it.

Originally designed and manufactured in Australia, the Eagle's manufacturing rights were purchased by a Malaysian company. It is believed that its production line is now non-operational. It's a great plane to fly and I for one shall certainly miss it.

No comments:

Post a Comment