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European Ercoupe Newsletter

No. 42 June 2012


Dear readers,

The unsettled weather seems to be continuing, with poor weather limiting attendance at this year’s European Ercoupe Fly-In at Antwerp and the Air Britain Fly-In at North Weald.  Surely it must change for the better soon?  A meteo blog I follow says that all of June will be unsettled, so I hope if true July, August and September will be glorious.

In September this year it will be 10 years since I took my first flying lesson.  I have this crazy idea to celebrate by spending a week flying around the UK, for instance Cornwall, Wales, Scotland, maybe even Northern Ireland.  Provisionally this is planned for 15-23 September, taking in the Solent Aviation Fly-In at Popham on 16 September.  If anyone else is interested in joining me for this trek they are very welcome.  This includes not only those with Ercoupes, but mythical ones too!

I've written quite a bit of this newsletter myself, so perhaps in the coming weeks others might like to make a contribution? Do you just park your Ercoupes in Germany, France, etc. or do you fly them? If the latter tell us where you have been and enclose a photo. You can write in your language, we will translate for you!

Best regards,

Mike Willis, G-HARY

Ercoupe news

I-ERPG takes to the air

Giorgio Pace writes: Hello Mike, how are you?  This morning my Ercoupe I-ERPG, before N3414G, after G-EGHB, has made the first flight.  This is the only flying Ercoupe in Italy.  The last Italian Ercoupe, I-ZBRL, was dismantled about 1990.

First impressions are very good and it flies very well.  You can see the video here:

Giorgio Pace

G-ARHB's new home

Eric Girardi writes: Hi Mike, Thanks for the informative newsletter! I agree with the comments about the author of the 'Coffin' article, it's not the mental ability of the chap that's questionable, rather his flying skills.  In my youth, with my first Coupe, I actually looked for crosswinds just for fun...  As to the problems maintaining constant altitude, any plane with low airspeed is vulnerable to up and downdrafts through the sheer fact that they stay in them longer!  Anyway, they say a wise man speaks because he has something to say, a fool because he has to saysomething!

Just a bit of background about me, no Ercoupe expert but I have 110 hours on a 1946 415C/D, the N2381H without rudder pedals.  As a self-improver I went to fly in the States, ended up in Mississippi, the middle of nowhere, not enough work instructing, so gravitated towards ferrying, air taxi and aerial survey work.  I used to pick up tired light piston types for a dealer, take them to his base where he'd tart them up and flog'em cheap.  Ended up with 30 types in my logbook, from Tripacer to Cessna 310, 337, and everything in between.  The Coupe was lent to me by one of the guys I flew for, and I used it to go from my base to the various airfields where the jobs were.  I ended up buying it, then selling it when I left the States.  I used to do the maintenance on it myself, as I also used to work for the local engineers as a grease monkey in the winter. I've landed it into anything from huge runways to crop-duster strips, and the odd road!

I then got a job with Air Europe Express, then Cityflyer, and finally Monarch for the last 18 years, all on the A300.  I recently dipped my toe back into GA, and when G-ARHC came up for sale, I couldn't resist! I've flown it just a few hours but it's such a sweet little machine.

HC is settling in it’s new home, Slinfold airstrip near Horsham, W.Sussex. Went through its Annual in Popham with no problems.  I have now flown it a bit, and am very pleased with it.  I am already making plans for a partial respray: top of wings, top and side of fuselage, horizontal stabilizer and tails, generally all the bits of paint that are either faded or crazed.  While I intend to keep to the general period decor, there will be more white on show, the red fades too quickly and is slightly less visible than the white in low light/vis situations.  I'll wait til winter for that!

Regards, and Happy Flying


Fond memories

Steve Mayrs writes: Hello, Mike. Love reading the newsletter! I'd love to own or co-own an aircoupe. As I told you before a while ago, I used to fly G-ARHC at Eglinton Flying Club in the early seventies and then they bought G-ARHD.  So I flew that one and discovered that the trim wheel worked in the opposite direction to HC's!  Was sad that it crashed, but glad no-one was killed. 

Thanks. Happy couping!!

Steve Mayrs

Coffin complaints

Dave Winters writes: Mike, The “coffin with wings” letter clearly demonstrates the writer to be unfamiliar with Ercoupe piloting techniques.  Or, rather, it shows that he has become stuck in techniques required by other less sophisticated aircraft.  He simply does not know how to deal with a craft that needs no funny fiddling to handle crosswinds, so he tries to turn into them, bank into them, etc.  If he’d just lightly tap the brake instead of attempting his exotic acrobatics, his plane would calm down like a purring kitten.

All the same, I recently pulled up a flight aware track of a long Ercoupe cross-country flight, and grinned to see that the pilot held his altitude and course steady as a rock while his airspeed varied from 85 mph to 115 mph as a result of encountering updrafts to downdrafts to updrafts again.  Looked like he was always nose up or nose down, even without moving the throttle or changing altitude.  (Actually, I was previously onboard to witness that journey before I viewed the record online.)  The little ship is indeed subject to whatever winds she encounters.  But, that is why they call the operators PILOTS.  Mule skinners DRIVE asses.  Busmen DRIVE Routemasters.  Cabbies…well, I am not sure what cabbies do.  I think it must be classified as one of the “performing arts”.  But seamen and aviators PILOT ships, boats, and planes.  People who cannot handle cross-currents, upwellings, and downdrafts should get a horse or a bicycle!

For those who take pride in being a pilot, the Ercoupe is a bird for you.  There is nothing more satisfying than greasing another landing onto the runway, impressing your passenger while secretly knowing all along that your sweet little Coupe really deserves all the credit.

Grins, Dave Winters “I fly to rid my mind of petty things.”

PS  I’ve attached a photo of my frequent copilot, Matilda, in her custom leather flight helmet.  If I can keep her away from the jug (in the background) she makes a pretty fair aircrew member.

Olympic Games

Mike writes: Some of you might have heard that there is a month-long corporate event running this summer in the UK. Coca Cola and McDonalds are sponsoring a big televised sporting event. Although it still retains the name ‘Olympics’ in reality it doesn’t seem to have much to do with sport. In publishing terms it is ‘audience delivery’, where the organisers deliver the largest possible audience to the sponsors, and via television companies to advertisers.

This year London is turning into a nightmare. During the games and for 2 weeks beforehand designated lanes for buses, taxis and emergency vehicles will be prioritised for sponsors and VIPs. The predicted transfer delay at some railway stations, like London Bridge, is forecast to be over an hour during the rush hour.

There will be restricted airspace for 50 miles around London, effectively excluding a lot of recreational flying unless you file a special flight plan and have a Mode C or S transponder.

Mobile ground to air missile batteries are being set up, and fighter planes will be based just north of Heathrow. All UK aircraft owners are being mailed a 4 page leaflet on what to do if you are intercepted by a Typhoon fighter struggling to fly slowly, or by a helicopter (a much more civilised interception - see photo!). If you don't follow them they shoot you down, and your licence is suspended too!

Don't let me put you off visiting the UK! Seriously, it could have been much worse, and the CAA and AOPA have done a great job allowing flying to continue at all in southern England. There is a web site full of the information you need to fly during the restricted period 14 July - 15 August. A recent and very welcome change is a VFR corridor from Sheppey to Essex through the restricted zone, but you can talk to Southend and no need for a flight plan.

Full details of restrictions etc. can be found here:

Fly-In reports

6th European Ercoupe Fly-In at Antwerp 2012

Robert Rombouts writes: This year for the 6th time in a row, we had a very promising attendance of 6 Coupes, but sadly we expected terrible weather conditions, who decide it was alarming different.

After informing all the European Coupes to attend the Fly-In, the responses did not come easily, but a few weeks before, when pushing a little, different pilots feel the need to attend.  Antwerp is situated quiet central for Great Britain-Germany-Nederland-France-Sweden in a reasonable fly distance for our Ercoupes.  For Sweden (Sven-Eric) it is different with 13hrs and always the longest distance.

The offer for the European Ercoupe aviators is as follow, as the previous years, sponsored by the European Ercoupe Director:

  • - One free tank fill-up for Erco’s

  • - No landing and parking fee on the International Antwerp airport

  • - Free dinner for Erco Owners and crew, the Saturday evening.

  • - Free drinks during the Fly-In

  • - Free transport to and from the airport to the Hotel.

  • - The Hotel accommodation at social prices.

  • - For every Erco pilot and crew a commemorating trophy.

  • - Three trophies for – longest Erco flight – oldest Erco – surprise trophy.

The following Owners expect to attend or attend the Fly-In:

  • - Sven-Eric Pira, already the 6th time in a row, really congratulation Sven-Eric. But after trying during months to find his Ercoupe motor problem, could sadly not come with his SE-BFX, but did not give up and came in a record time of 3hrs40 VFR at FL 85 with his Thorp T-18 SE-XIP.  I appreciate fully your effort and persistence.

  • - Hilde Van Haarlem with Peter & Hilde’s father came with two planes; the Ercoupe N-99280, the previous G-COUP, beautifully restored; new silver and yellow painting, new inside, a wonderful achievement and result, congratulations for the Van Haarlem family.  In addition, the second plane a Piper Cub N-298SQ in immaculate condition, two splendid planes to be proud.  They bring to Antwerp nice open blue sky, amazing, Saturday it was north of Antwerp beautiful, so you never know exactly which weather will be in this unstable conditions. They depart the same day, Saturday, due to alarming bad weather on Sunday.

  • - Keith Peacock & Andrew Gardner intended to come with the G-ARHB, but due to very bad weather over the Channel could not come and I understand it was terrible over all Belgium.

  • - Mike Willis & Brian planned to fly with G-HARY, the same awful flying condition from the UK, and the Sunday we expected even worse. Sorry Mike & Brian, it was impossible for you too, it was a wise decision not to come.

  • - Stephan Vatter and his D-EJOR was also excused, because the weekend in Belgium was not safe to fly for pleasure. Sorry Stephan, next time better.

During the two Fly-In days, we had hazy blue sky, during the night it was a different story, with heavy rainfall and thunder.

The Saturday evening dinner, booked for 11 persons at the Colmar restaurant cancelled, changed on request by my only remained visitor, Sven-Eric, in a very romantic BBQ at the airport hangar, who was not in freezing condition, and musically upgraded by a charming singer coming straight from Holland.  Honestly, it was a very nice evening, we could talk and did not freeze or win with the lottery, but the food was good.

The normal planned program cancelled; so the rewards were given when it was possible.  The trophy for the oldest Ercoupe was for the N-99280 ( 1903) of Hilde Van Haarlem, Peter & Hilde’s father, given in the bar during their one day visit.  Sven-Eric received the surprise trophy, because he came with a Thorp, and did the trip for the 6th time.

Every year we had on Sunday morning a formation flight of 10 Stampe & Vertongen planes, this had to be delayed 1hr due to low ceiling, at 08:00 we had only 500mtr visibility, and at 11:00 the formation was obliged to fly low to be seen from the ground.  Many visitors came and enough cold Antwerp’s Bollekens beer was welcome with a 23°C in the full hazy sunshine.

Because Sven-Eric Pira and myself we had to return, that’s normal, but with heavy mist in the morning and afterwards the hazy conditions, we decide to stay one more day in Antwerp and will depart on Monday.  For Sven-Eric, who had to fly north, the conditions seem to be perfect in Nederland.  After waiting until midday the mist was nearly gone, 9km visibility ceiling 1200ft at Antwerp.  He had an amazing good and safe trip back in 3hrs50 to Göteborg because he could only fly at FL 55 with his Thorp, unfortunately, FL 75 was not available for VFR.

I was not so lucky, Ostend was IMC with a 500ft ceiling but 6km visibility, a crosswind at EBOS 80° on runway 26 and gusting 27kts.  It is only 51 minutes to fly to Ostend but this are for my personal skill a no go, and have to wait until it’s possible.

This year was badly affected from the awful weather conditions, and nobody can change it, we have to take what’s available. I was so sorry for all the Ercoupe aviators who did all their best to come, next time better, this year it was exceptional bad.

Hoping we will be more lucky for the next Fly-Ins or meetings, we do not give up we look now for the to come opportunities.

Here is the video I made of the event:

Fly save, keep Coupes flying.

Robert & OO-PUS

The alternative Ercoupe Fly-In

Mike Willis writes: As Robert has described above, Keith and Andrew planned to fly in G-ARHB and myself and Brian in G-HARY.  After much deliberation we decided the best chance was to fly to Antwerp via Lydd on the Friday, and return Saturday afternoon.  On the Friday morning I picked up Brian from his house, with the life jackets, and we go to Bourn.  Before I had left home I had checked the forecasts, and although there was some bad weather forecast for the channel, this looked like it might be to the west of the short crossing from Dover to Calais.

However at Bourn we could se the METAR and TAF for Lydd for the first time.  Lots of haze, therefore no horizon, not so good for over the water!  In fact the haze at Bourn was quite bad, although VFR.  After discussion with Keith and Andrew, who were ready with their ‘Coupe at Earls Colne, we decided it wasn’t even worth flying to Lydd for a look.

Huge disappointment, what should we do, we have both planes ready to fly?  So after letting Robert know we cannot come, we decided to have our own fly-in.  We quickly decided on Fenland, a nice grass airfield about 20 minutes north of Cambridge, and I confirmed the café was open – most important!

So we had a lunch together at Fenland, where they had a special dish of the day - scampi and chips.  In fact it was terrible!  Nowhere as good as the steak frites we had been dreaming of, but better than nothing.

So we keep our fingers crossed we can make the next European Fly-In.  Sorry Robert, but we know you understand.

Mike Willis G-HARY

Aero-Expo, Sywell, May 25-27

Mike writes: Yet again the weather proved to be a concern for a fly-in, but this time it turned out sunny, although with a few gusts of wind.  Robert had hoped to fly from Ostend, but has some GPS issues, so was excused.  Andrew and myself had a landing slot on Saturday morning.  If you have never flown to this show, it is crazy.  You book a slot, there are 2 per minute, and try and arrive at roughly the allotted time.  You are supposed to follow a strict approach, joining a holding pattern at nearby Pitsford reservoir, then peeling off for the actual approach.  You do not make any radio call until on finals.  In reality supposedly intelligent trained pilots don’t follow the rules.  We had someone cut inside us at Pitsford, someone else joined long finals, and several were calling Sywell for joining instructions.  Needless to say a good look-out is necessary!  It will be interesting in the future to see how professional commercial pilots flying Ercoupes try this, without air traffic maintaining their separation!

But the good news is we landed safe and sound.  And we were delighted to meet for the first time Liam Boyle.  The Ulster Flying Club had brought two C172’s over from Newtownards, one with Liam piloting and also with Jim McMeekan’s grandson Karl who is starting to learn to fly in G-AROO.

They were interested to see G-HARY and spot the differences with the Alon.  Hopefully in the future there will be time to take them in the air too.

Great that they flew such a distance, outbound via Welshpool, and back via Blackpool.  Maybe next time in an Ercoupe?

Mike Willis, G-HARY

Air Britain Fly-In, North Weald, June 9-10

Mike writes: This is a regular event that the Ercoupes attend, a great fly-in organised by Phil Kemp that we are very happy to support.  Unfortunately the UK had strong winds forecast for Friday to Sunday, with Friday and Sunday wet as well.  Poor Robert planned to fly OO-PUS from Ostend on the Friday, but at Ostend they had 27 kts winds and he was sensible not to try and fly.

The forecast for Sunday was bad, the only possible day is Saturday.  In the morning the wind is strong and gusting.  I leave the house telling my wife I probably won’t fly, I will just check my lovely Ercoupe is tied down safely.  When I get to the airfield it is not so bad.  Sure the wind is strong, but straight down the runway, and gusting too, but I have flown in worse.  True, no one else is flying, but the forecast is it will get better.

I phone Sid and Keith who are getting ready to fly as well, they decide they will try so do I.  It certainly was bumpy until 500 feet, then not so bad.  The ceiling was 2,500, so no problem there.  I got to North Weald first and found there was quite a bit of crosswind.  But no problem to get in, the North Weald runway is wide and long so you have a good chance.  As I taxi to the turn-off I notice they have the fire truck ready next to the runway.  I’m glad I didn’t notice before, a real confidence booster (not)!

I taxi to parking and find that even at 11:15 I am perhaps the 4th to arrive.  I heard Keith call just before I turn my radio off, he is close behind.  The marshallers park us together, and we get a warm welcome.  The brave Ercoupers can fly in while others can’t.  It is not just the arrivals by air that are few, there aren’t many by road either because of the weather.  By the time we depart, around 15:00, there have been around 20 flying in, instead of the usual 100+.

It was wonderful to see one of the Proctors being restored at Great Oakley on display- with it's wings on for the first time. There is hope that it might fly into Air Britain 2014. That would be remarkable - a restoration from almost nothing beating an Ercoupe restoration! (no names mentioned, Derek knows who I mean!)

Take off leaving was “interesting”.  The wind sock was still horizontal, but now at a much greater angle to the runway.  It was difficult to keep a straight line on the ground, I was glad to get airborne.  I’d heard a Hurricane call he was overhead, and turning crosswind to head for home he flew past! 

Even Saturday night the forecast for Sunday was bad.  But we woke up in the UK to sunshine and no wind!  Unbelievable, we get bounced around in the gusty wind for nothing!!!

Mike Willis G-HARY

Trip reports

Compton Abbas 12 May

Mike writes: It was a beautiful Saturday, so Andrew and I decided to go to a beautiful airfield, Compton Abbas in Dorset.  From Bourn, close to Cambridge, you can fly almost in a straight line to Compton Abbas, apart from the end but where you have to skirt a danger area.  The route takes you past Oxford and some glorious countryside.  The visibility was superb, and we did an orbit of Avebury stone circle, a mini Stonehenge.

Compton Abbas is in a wonderful setting, the runway a grass strip on top of a hill above the surrounding countryside.  Madonna owned Ashcombe House nearby, and Guy Ritchie had flying lessons at the airfield.

After a lovely lunch we flew back, this time via Salisbury and to the west of London. 

When I got back I found that a friend of a friend, Howard Curtis, had taken some photos of us at Compton, a lovely memento!



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