Bob Barrows Visit & Patrol Ride

March 30, 2010

Bob Barrows called me a few weeks ago and said that he and Mark Goldberg were going to Mexico to visit the Bearhawk kit factory.  Bob said he wanted to stop by for a visit on his return trip home in the Patrol.  Of course I agreed, so today Bob called and said he was headed my way.  At about 4:00 pm I met Bob out at Shade Tree airport.  Shade Tree (MS82) is a little, old fashion airport with a 2400' grass runway where my Bearhawk, the "Miss'ippi Mudbug" lives.

When I arrived, Bob had already landed and was unpacking some of his stuff from the Patrol.  I was really surprised when I arrived and saw that he had fitted the Patrol with some big 29" Alaska Bushwheel tires:

The last time I saw the Patrol was at Oshkosh, and it had 800 x 6 tires like my Bearhawk.

After helping him unload all of his stuff, I took Bob up on an offer to take a flight in the Patrol.  I climbed into the back seat and put on my seat belt while Bob got it started (he prop started it). Of course being still warm, it started right up and Bob came around and climbed up front and strapped in.  He yelled back for me to look in the pouch on the back of his seat for some ear plugs (no intercom here). I dug around and sure enough there was a set of foam ear plugs, still sealed in the package, which I deposited into my ears as Bob taxied out to the end of our grass runway.

As we turned around to line up for takeoff, I noticed that the runway hadn't been mowed recently so the grass was about 6" tall.  I was thinking it might hinder our take off roll a bit, but that wasn't case at all. Bob yelled back "Ready?"  I replied that I was ready and pulled my feet back a bit to keep clear of the rear seat rudder pedals that are each side of the front seat.

Now keep in mind that I'm used to my 4-seat Bearhawk getting off this same grass strip which is slightly uphill in about 400 feet with two full sized people on board.  Here I am 270 lbs. in the back seat and Bob is about 200 lbs in the front seat.  He puts in a notch of flaps, pushes the throttle forward and almost instantly the tail came up.  Our runway has PVC markers at about 250' intervals. With my fat arse in the back, that Patrol lifted it's tail in about 50 feet and then jumped off the runway at about the 250' marker. This is with 6" of grass and a slightly uphill runway.

Bob pulled the nose up at a ridiculous angle and at the halfway point of our 2400' runway we were already nearing pattern altitude. He levelled it off at about 2000', trimmed it up with the lever just over his left shoulder on the roof, and indicated that it was my turn to fly.  I went ahead did some easy turns to get a feel for it. It felt very similar to my Bearhawk but the controls were a bit more responsive with less input needed to roll into and out of turns. I couldn't really see around Bob to see turn and skid ball on the instrument panel, so I just did my best to feel for coordination by feeling if my butt was wanting to slide one way or the other.  The rudder input required is very similar to the Bearhawk in that you want to put in little rudder just as you begin the turn and just as you start to roll out of the turn. The elevator forces were also similar but just a bit lighter and it took less movement to get the effect you want.

I did some dutch rolls to check for rudder and aileron response.  Then I did a few steep turns.  Next I pulled throttle back and held the nose up, slowing it down for some slow flight.  I yelled up to Bob "What is the stall speed?".  He  yelled back, "Probably about 45 mph at this weight, why don't go ahead and do a stall?"

So I pulled the throttle back to idle and pulled the stick back watching the airspeed and sure enough I had a stall break at right around 45 MPH (maybe a bit less).  The stall break was very benign and straight ahead with no tendency to have a wing drop off.  I did some slow flight with turns and felt no mushiness in the controls at all.  I then brought it up to cruise speed and rolled into and out of some turns to check the roll rate. I found it to be a bit quicker than the Bearhawk but still very similar, with lighter control forces.

I was kicking myself because all I had on me was the camera that's in my Blackberry, so these photos didn't turn out as nice as I would have liked.

Here was my view from the back seat of the Patrol:

I didn't want to burn up a bunch of Bob's fuel so I went ahead and headed back toward the airport, starting a gentle descent down to pattern altitude. Final approach speed was 55 mph. One thing I noticed is that Bob never re-trimmed the aircraft after that initial trim.  I asked about it and he said that the airplane trim only changes with weight changes in the rear seat.  Once you get it trimmed up for the weight you are carrying, you usually never have to touch the trim again. Come to think of it, I flew it from cruise speed, all the way down to a stall and don't remember ever feeling like the stick was pulling and needing trim.  Now here I was on final approach at 55 mph and I didn't feel like I needed to trim it any. I guess it's that efficient airfoil shaped horizontal stab.

I waited a little too long to turn from downwind to base leg so I had to add a bit of power on final to make the runway.  I handed it back over to Bob on short final as I was having trouble judging where I needed to be from the viewpoint in the back seat.

Bob sat it down on those big 29" tires  and it felt like we landed on a big cushion. We stopped rolling within about 100' and were turning around to taxi back to the hangar where I keep the Miss'ippi Mudbug. The Mudbug agreed to share his hangar with his little cousin the Patrol so we pushed it back in there for the night.

Here is the Patrol tucked away in my hangar.  If you look just off the nose, you can just almost see my Bearhawk in the background:

Those big ole tires sure make the tailwheel look tiny, huh?  Bob told me that he plans to make a larger tailwheel fork and then put some sort of big balloon type tundra tailwheel on there.

There has been a bit of discussion from time to time about speed enhancements and one of the ones that come up is to streamline the big round shock struts.  Bob made some fiberglass ones for the Patrol that look really good:

They are gapped away from the fuselage bottom when its on the ground but when you take off, the struts move up slightly and the gap closes.  Bob said he got about a 3 to 4 MPH increase with these.  However, he said he lost about 8 to 9 mph with the big tires.  

After flying, we loaded up Bob's overnight bag in the truck and we headed over to my favorite Barbecue joint, "The Shed" for some killer ribs and a couple of draft beers.  My wife Michelle and grandson Cole met Bob and I at the Shed and we spent an hour so eating and drinking beer (Cole had Sprite) and talking airplanes and such.

Bob stayed in our guest bedroom that night and the next morning we were up bright and early to get him back to the airport.  Unfortunately, I had a business meeting up near Memphis and had a 9:00 am flight to catch. Otherwise, I would have talked Bob into another Patrol ride, this time a bit longer. Well maybe on another trip Bob can come down and spend a few days with us.

I got Bob all loaded up and prop started the Patrol for him. We said our farewells and off he went.  Here he is taxing out for departure:

I love that big skylight on top.  I now wish I would have done that on my Bearhawk.

After a quick runup, Bob lined up and pushed the throttle in.  The tailwheel was up immediately and he was lifting off before the 250' marker:

At about the 1/2 point of the runway, he's already WAY up there:

Well that's it!  I'm hooked.  I have made up my mind that I want to build a Patrol next.  That airplane is just a blast to fly.  I love the center fuselage seating because the visibility is so much better. I can't tell you how many times I have seen something on my side of the airplane that I want to share with Michelle and have to put it into a big side-slip or circle back around so she can see it too.  With this airplane, you can look down out of either side and have the same view.

Even from the back seat, the view out the front is excellent (of course you have to look past the other person's head).  Its kind of like on a motorcycle.

I'm not sure exactly when, but be watching this website for an upcoming Patrol build in my future. I love it!

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