Flight of NC12438 after Restoration
You're just in the process of stepping through that big door into the soft, mohair interior when you're struck by how bright the cabin is. Most cabin bipes, actually all cabin bipes, have a closed-in feeling. Their cabins may be huge. But a little dark. The QDC, however is like an upholstered greenhouse. The windshield works its faceted way up past the main spar to a nearly all glass roof. There is only a short area that is not glass, before the rear windows begin. The overall effect is incredibly cheerful. However, the solarium effect and heat stroke potential is obvious. A pilot could fry his brains in nothing flat.
Then you notice, or rather have pointed out by Alan, the tiny hook which is still welded to the carry through-over the pilots' heads. He reaches back and pulls a translucent, white window blind forward and fastens it to the hook. It looks for all the world like a garden variety, spring-loaded, roll-type window shade that completely blocks the skylight while letting a great deal of diffused light through. The neat part about the blind is that it is accurate to the airplane. 1930's pilots apparently perspired too.
Sitting in the co-pilots seat you have to look hard to find signs of the 1990s in the airplane. In fact, the only obvious one is a manifold pressure gauge attached to tubing under the panel. Other than that, it is totally 1932. You have to look down on the left cockpit side, behind Alan's left leg where there is a small one inch slot in the upholstery. If you snuggle over and look down, you can see the face of a radio and transponder mounted vertically behind the upholstery panel looking up at you. It is far from convenient to use, but it is practically invisible.
As the Continental 220 hp, R-670 (the original Continental was replaced in 1946 because it was such an early version) cranks over and that sound so identified with radials coming to life rumbles back through the codkpit, you suddenly realize the engine is only a few feet in front of you. If it weren't for the windshield, you could literally lean forward and touch the cylinders. This is when the F-2 lineage is noticeable, since that's the way it is in the front pit of that earlier airplane.
With the windows cranked down, elbows on the sills we worked our way past admiring stares to the runway. During taxi Alan scoots up the seat so his butt is half way up the back which allows him to see over the nose.
Since the wheel is of the throw-over variety and there were no brakes on the right side, obviously I was going to have to get a passenger's-eye view of the takeoff and landing. That's okay. I don't think I was up for making my first QDC takeoff/landing in front of several hundred thousand people anyway.
At full throttle, the engine sounded as if it was barely turning over as we began rolling leisurely down the runway. We rolled several airplane lengths, Alan picked up the tail, then another half dozen lengths later, the airplane floated off the runway. I want to repeat that... it floated off the runway. It didn't takeoff. Or rotate. Or do anything else we associate with modern airplanes. The wings developed so much lift, so early, they simply overcame gravity by themselves and we floated off the runway in a level attitude. The takeoff felt like the airplane looks. Very unique and enjoyable.
As soon as we were off the end of the runway, Alan pulled the pin and swing the big, round wheel over into my lap. Even as my hand curled around the polished wood, I began searching for traffic anywhere I could look, which included staring through the openings between the cylinders because they had no baffles and were right in my face at that climb angle.
The airplane was going up at over 800 fpm so it wasn't long before we leveled out and made our way across Lake Winnebago in search of clean airspace.
Even as we climbed I was conscious of the airplane's lighter-than-you-would-expect feel. Everything about the airplane feels, well, it just feels light. Just the way it felt on takeoff. The ailerons aren't light by modern standards but, when put against its peer group, the pressures are quite reasonable and the roll response is too. It's not a Pitts or even a Bonanza, but it is surprisingly quick. Again, the F-2 is felt.
The airplane needs rudder. Not huge amounts of it, but you can't drive around with your feet on the floor without being aware of your rearend trying to move back and forth on the seat. As with most WACO's, the rudder pedal ratio is short, so you don't actually move a pedal so much as pressure it. Also, keeping it coordinated noticeably increases the roll rate.
We were showing a solid 115 mph at cruise and I asked Alan if that was right. He said that was the exact number he uses for flight planning, which is amazingly fast considering. Considering, I could look out at the bottom of the wing panels and see things like polished brass fuel lines hanging right out in the wind on their way to the engine. It's big. It's blunt. It's aerodynamically dirty. It's also fairly fast. Its looks are deceiving.
Power-back and wheel hugged to my chest I could see why the airplane was so successful in the old-time bush environment. I never did get the stall to break and the airspeed was hanging under 40 mph while we sagged down hill at something around 500 fpm. With even a hint of power we could stagger along at 45-50 mph all day long and feel perfectly comfortable.
Back in the pattern that slow speed friendliness was again obvious. I flipped the wheel back over to Alan and he came down final at 60 mph to land on the taxiway (18 Left). As we flared and slowed for a wheel landing, it was as if we were coming to a halt before we even touched down on the mains. Then, as the wind went out of the tail I was again reminded of the F-2 as the tail started down. And down. Then down still more until we were again sitting on the ground at the incredibly steep three-point angle of those early airplanes. Because the angle is at, or close, to the actual stall angle of the airplane, a design practice long since abandoned, if something like the QDC is three-pointed, it slows down even more before touchdown.
A video takeoff and landing