by Alfred Scott
Jim DeAngelo had planned to make his first flight on June 15, the thirtieth anniversary of the first flight of the Falco, but bad weather kept his inspector from arriving in time. This caused a delay of a few days, and Jim flew his Falco on June 19. The Falco has a 160 hp IO-320-B1A engine and weighs in at 1,237 lbs. The first flight was for about 1/2 hour. The right wing was heavy, which has since been corrected with a trim tab. The voltage regulator was faulty and has been replaced.
Jim flew his Falco for the first 25 hours in a semi-stripped condition. No fairings were installed, and the cockpit was stripped bare for inspection. The right seat, center console covers, luggage compartment floor and aft bulkhead were all out of the plane during these flights. This is really a very sensible idea, as Jim was able to check things out with ease. On one early flight, he noticed that one of the fittings in his fuel system was slightly wet, so he just grabbed a wrench and tightened up the fitting in flight. A few days later, he found his aft fuselage filled with fuel due to another loose fitting.
On the early flights, Jim found his Falco would indicate 150 kts at 3,500 feet and 23"/2300. He reports that he will true out at 185 mph at 23"/2300 at 9000 feet. Jim has flown his Falco to 15,000 feet, and it was still climbing at 500 fpm and would indicate 110 kts. On this flight, Jim noticed that his ailerons looked "puffy", and the fabric was depressed between the ribs when he landed. He then remembered that he had not installed any pressure relief holes in the ailerons. Jim has since drilled a few holes, and reports that the fabric did not pull loose.
Asked about his Falco, Jim says "The airplane will live up to your expectations. It's a magnificent machine... a true airplane. The more you're in it, the more you enjoy it. It does shine when you get up high; it's a different airplane."
(Several years ago when I flew my Falco to California, I noticed that the Falco had remarkable performance at altitude. All of the airplanes that I had flown before seemed to become lethargic above 10,000 feet, and the performance would deteriorate dramatically. With my Falco, I did not notice the same kind of performance degradation I had seen in other aircraft. On that flight, I saw nearly the same indicated airspeeds at 12,000 feet that I did at 8,000 feet, and with my carbureted engine I always have the throttle fully open. I've never really understood this phenomenon, and I haven't mentioned it before since it sounds like black magic. Now that a number of Falcos are flying, the builders have noticed the same thing. For whatever reason, the Falco seems to be much happier at higher altitudes than most airplanes.)
Jim DeAngelo's Falco, N684JD, has a Nustrini canopy and is painted in the Modena paint scheme, with blue and black stripes on white overall using Imron paint. The interior is an attractive blue hound's tooth fabric. I haven't flown in the Falco yet, but Jim and others report that it handles nicely. The noise level is low, and Jim reports that he flies without headphones or ear plugs quite often. Jim has had some problem with the reception of his navigation radios, so he took his Falco to a local radio shop who tested the antennas and found that they pegged the needles in all quadrants. The technician went back into the shop and told his associates "See that airplane out there that doesn't have any antennas... it's got perfect reception!" The problem turned out to be in the connectors on the back of the VOR indicator head.
Beginning as a mechanic for the USAF many years ago, Jim has been flying for 20 years and had previously built a Stolp Acroduster. Jim owns a bakery in Wallingford, Connecticut, where he and his wife, Anita, live. Jim had not been looking for another project, but when he saw the Falco he was hooked. Jim began his Falco project in May 1981, and built the Falco in a nine-foot wide garage. He had to extend the garage 10 feet aft and another 10 feet on one side to accommodate the Falco. Jim used all available kits and will tell anyone who will listen that his attitude is "If someone else makes it, buy it." Jim's shop was incredibly cramped, and it is amazing that he was able to build the Falco in such a small space. Indeed, the first time Jim was able to look at the entire airplane was when it was assembled just prior to its first flight. In the shop, the tail section was effectively in a separate room!
Jim has been flying his Falco regularly and by late August had accumulated over 50 hours. The Falco is based at the Meriden-Markam airport just south of Hartford. Jim brought it to Oshkosh and will be attending various airshows this fall, so be sure to have a look if you get the chance. It's a lovely Falco!