In 1991 I fell in love with the Falcon XP, a radical two-seat canard machine capable of nearly 100mph on a measly 52hp Rotax 503 two-stroke.
In 1999 four of us bought her and I flew her back to Manchester from Dunkeswell in Devon.
But although she was a spectacular machine to fly, she was definitely accident-prone. Within a month she was blown over in a storm and damaged.
On landing at Cranfield for the LAA Rally in 2002 the undercarriage broke – for reasons which remain obscure today – and she needed repair again. And in 2004 the engine failed on base leg into the LAA Rally at Kemble, and although I managed to get her into a field okay, a small stone jammed in between the nosewheel and its fork, and she groundlooped. At this point she was an insurance write-off, and the syndicate was disbanded.
But one of the members, Mike Hadland, bought the remains and has painstakingly restored her, incorporating a two-piece canopy that makes entry and exit slightly less daunting and allows the pilot in the front seat to reach the instrument panel in flight.
And yesterday I was asked to do the initial test flight. It was a wonderful experience and a privilege.
The testing went very smoothly. there’s a lot more headroom in the front seat than before, and the whole thing worked flawlessly.
A canard flies somewhat differently to a normal machine. Takeoff is generally longer than for a conventional machine. It won’t stall in the normal sense. it’s designed so that the front wing (the canard) stalls first, allowing the nose to drop before the main wing loses lift. As a result you can apply full power, pull the stick back, and she will ‘nod’ upwards at around 200 feet per minute. I was getting around 85mph maximum speed, which with a machine weighing the best part of half a ton and only 52hp is quite amazing!
It was a very special event, and after a 14 year wait it deserved a celebration cake, provided by Mike’s friend Malcolm (or at least Malcolm’s wife Lois!)
And I think Mike himself was pretty chuffed too!
As soon as he receives his Permit to Fly, he’ll be able to check it out for himself.