French Renaissance Falco

by Alfred Scott

This article appeared in the March 2000 Falco Builders Letter

The original Falco

We're in for a real treat at Oshkosh this year. In addition to our normal group of Italian-American beauties, we're going to have a couple of visitors from Europe. Andrea Tremolada will be flying his Falco over from Italy, by way of Africa, Brazil, Venezuala and Cuba. Say howdy to Fidel for us, Andrea. And Xavier Beck will be arriving in his French Falco by way of England, Iceland, Greenland and Canada.

Two European Falcos at Oshkosh? Yes, you heard that right.

The mishap

We know a lot about Andrea's Falco and only a tiny little bit about Xavier's machine, and the reason is that Xavier speaks French and I do not. And so, over the years, we've had little to report on the Falco. But let's try to make amends.

You may remember Bernard Chabbert's "Falco-issimo" article, originally published in a magazine and later as chapter from his book, Manche et Manette (Stick and Throttle). Chabbert is one of the most respected journalists in France and his raving about the handling qualities had a lot to do with the passion that many of the French feel for the airplane.

Hope springs eternal

It led Xavier Beck to buy an old production Falco, a Series III Aeromere Falco with carbureted engine and fixed pitch propeller. Xavier bought the Falco in 1992, and restored it. All of this was new territory for Xavier, and he took photos of the process because "I knew nothing about it." After two years and 2500 hours of restoration work, the airplane was approved for flight, and the Falco was back in the air.

The Falco under re-construction. Note the lack of dihedral.

It's not clear to us how long Beck flew the airplane, but in August of 1994, the airplane was destroyed when the Falco inhaled its air filter on takeoff. The engine stopped at 100 feet in the air, and they put the Falco back on the ground, with the landing gear partially retracted, and they had the additional misfortune of putting the airplane into a field that contained two enormous ruts-from a farm tractor that had gotten stuck. The landing gear caught the first rut and the propeller the other.

There wasn't a lot left of the Falco when Xavier hauled the wreckage home, but he went back to work to get the Falco back into the air. And this lack of remaining components and structure left Xavier with what designers sometimes call a 'blank sheet of paper'. Accordingly, in the reconstruction of the Falco there are a lot of new ideas and construction techniques, and Xavier called it a 'Falco F.8LBX'.

It's difficult to tell from Xavier's notes, exactly what he did, but I know that he made extensive use of carbon fiber, sometimes with a foam sandwich construction, and he built the wing with no dihedral and full span ailerons. The engine survived the crash and was rebuilt in Sodemo by Magny-Cours, a company specializing in race-car engines.

He was interested in building a Falco that would go very fast and be extremely acrobatic. Xavier says, "I kept the spirit of the Falco and improved on the points, which, in my opinion, could be improved. I feel great satisfaction. I maybe ought to make the ailerons smaller and the flaps larger. I'm getting older."

In all, Xavier spent 6,500 hours restoring the Falco, and the completed Falco weighed 608 Kg (1340 lbs) empty.

Is it fast? Well Xavier set a new city-to-city world speed record at 308 km/hr (190 mph) from Paris to Cannes. The plane was prepared for the speed run by taping over rough spots, screw heads and any other rough opening. "The Falco must go fast; the beast is sleek and ready to slice through the air."

And how does Falco F-PBEC fly? Gabriel Gavard of Experimental magazine flew the plane and he reported "By my standards, the controls prove themselves to be 'perfect' with a resistance that is ideal with speed. Chabbert did not lie. The stick and throttle of the Falco steer a masterpiece. A masterpiece in equilibrium with the mood of the pilot. Because this machine is really usable by pilots of all levels. It goes where you point it and that could be a long distance."

Indeed. It's a long distance from Nevers, France to Oshkosh, America -- and it won't be long before we all get a look at this machine. We'll see you there, Xavier!

At the Cranfield show in England