Russell Up a Falco
by Bill Russell
This article appeared in the December 2000 issue of the Falco Builders Letter.
That's a Spitfire wing in front of the Falco. Bill keeps good company.
I guess that for 20 some-odd years, some of my friends and I have been going to Oshkosh and enjoying the wonderful plethora of aviation history and artifacts. And, during those years, I have always admired the beautiful homebuilt aircraft and the workmanship that was on display. Little did I know that I would someday myself build an aircraft like those that I saw there.
Some six years ago, I saw an ad for the F.8L Falco in an aviation magazine and I thought -- wow, what a beautiful bird! I hadn't done any woodworking since junior high school, but I always had enjoyed the thought of having my own shop, and making something useful.
I sent off for the plans after calling Alfred and talking about my interest in building the Falco. He told me to contact a gentleman in my area who had some two years before completed his Falco -- Cecil Rives. After talking to Cecil, I ordered my first kit -- the tail section.
I have had an old Twin Beech for 20 years, and I am also fortunate to have a 75'x75' hangar where I started to build my Falco. The kits are sequenced so that if you find out you're not cut out to build this aircraft, you have time to quit without having spent a great deal of money (unless you buy all the kits up front -- then its your own damn fault!)
After I had the wing most of the way done, I got the feeling that I was somehow "over the hump" and that I was going to finish my bird at some near future time. The fuselage was not as complicated as the wing, but I managed to get the vertical stabilizer out of position by 3/8" even though I measured that bugger every way I could think of.
I then started to look around for an engine and Cecil put me on to a deal where an individual with a Piper Arrow was trading their engine for a newly overhauled one and the dealer that was taking it for a core said I could buy it from him. It turned out to be a first-run engine with nitride cylinders and 1967.00 hours. I had it checked by a shop that I've used down here, and they put it in good condition for some 30-40 additional hours of flying so that I could get the 25 hours required before I sent it off to be overhauled.
When it came time to do the first flight, Alfred was concerned that I was going to get in trouble because of the sensitive nature of the bird's controls. I won't tell you that I was cavalier toward his concern, but I felt that I had enough experience to handle her knowing exactly what Alfred meant when he said that the controls were very sensitive, and many first-flight flyers had trouble with a "finger control aircraft."
I made the flight on a Sunday morning, and no one knew I was going to do it except Ray Thompson, my partner in the Beech, who had a handheld radio and to whom I transmitted the performance figures on the Falco. I am now into 11 hours on my bird, and am becoming more comfortable with the way it flys. In smooth air it is a joy, in thermals it is a tiger!
Lift-off on first flight.
I hope to do the interior this winter, and while that is being done I will send in my engine for overhaul possibly to Firewall Forward in Fort Collins, Colorado. This will take at least six weeks and probably put me into next year.
With the interior and engine done, I'll then take it to P & J Paint, who did our Twin Beech, and have her painted -- red, naturally! I know at the next Falco fly-in I'll be given the usual examination, but I hasten to say that it will not be another Nason Airlines Special.
And the first landing.
As of this writing, I have not finished the nose gear clam-shell doors, although I'm on my second attempt, and the autopilot is not working as it should since it wants to go right when it should go left and the altitude hold puts it in a dive!
But these things will be corrected, and I'm looking forward to the bird being finished to enjoy its excellent performance in some trips I'm planning. In closing, I would like to say that I've really enjoyed the camaraderie and friendship of so many of the Falco owners that I've met, and I would be remiss if I did not mention the great Falco Newsletter that has helped me in more ways that I can say.
Of course, there is Alfred -- when I would call for some information he would tell me "Russell, why don't you read the plans?"