The Aeronca Champ, a Timeless Aircraft
The Aeronca Champ is one of the most timeless aircraft every designed. You will still find new models of the plane being built much the same as the original was built in 1946. 64 years later and its still a very sought after aircraft.
The Aeronca Champ was originally designed to fix all of the problems with the favorite trainer of the day, the Piper Cub. While the Cub is a great airplane, it had its issues as a trainer. The pilot had to fly from the back seat. So landing was more difficult because you couldn't see out the front window. The pilot also had to look at the instruments on the front dash, which may have been obscured by the front passenger. So the designer put the pilot in the front. The Cub is also not the easiest aircraft to get into. So entry and exit to the Champ was improved.
So how is the Champ as an aircraft? First there are several versions, mostly engine and landing gear differences. The original is a 7AC, no electrical system and a 65hp engine. There are several other variations up to 90hp in the 7EC and 100hp in the new 7EC LSA from American Champion. It is important to note that the only light sport versions of this plane are the 7AC-DC, early 7EC and the new 7EC LSA.
Horsepower can be misleading on the Champ. You would think that more is better. As you add more you add a little more weight. I fly a 7DC with 85hp and it performs very well. More hp also means more gas. The 85hp continental burns about 4 gallons per hour. As you add horsepower the fuel consumption will also go up. The only real difference is climb performance and takeoff run, however, there is very little difference.
The Champ is a very forgiving airplane. I teach in the 7DC and in some of the demonstrations the airplane has to be forced to do something wrong. Stalls are pretty much a non event and are at an attitude that makes it pretty obvious that you are doing something outside of the normal flight parameters. The landing gear can take a pretty rough beating and can help smooth out the worst.
Entry to the front seat could be better but its not impossible. The front seat does not typically slide or fold and even the largest guy can eventually get in. Once in the cockpit is very comfortable. There is plenty of room for the tallest or shortest of pilots. Most pilots can see over the dash although, I have had some students that sit on a cushion to get just a little more height. Cabin width is great and feels very non claustrophobic.
Before we get to settled in, there is one important thing to remember. We have to start the engine. In most of the Champs there is no electrical system so the plane has to be hand propped. Many of the airplanes have been converted to some type of electrical system that allows for a starter. My Champ has a starter. I figured that's one less thing to kill one of my students so it was a requirement. Recently, we had a starter problem and we were forced to hand prop the plane. Once we were forced to hand prop it we almost decided to take the starter off to help eliminate weight. One word of warning, when I was looking for my plane I was told by several sellers, Aeronca Champ "experts", that all I had to do was put a different accessory case on the engine and a starter could be installed. Not so. Make sure your engine can take a starter or one is already installed. Don't take the advice of an "expert".
One other issue that has come up on Aeronca Champs is the wing spar. Most, significantly most, are Ok but must be inspected annually. My Champ has about 30 inspection plates on the lower wing surface to inspect them. Metal wing spars are better but wood is good. It just has to be looked at every year.
Ok, so how is it to fly? Take off in the Champ is straight forward. When the tail comes up put a little back pressure on the stick and it will fly off very quickly. Landings are easy at about 55 on final. If you learn to do slips, you can put it on the runway almost from any altitude. Everyone gets a kick out of doing slips in an Aeronca.
Specs as I find them (not necessarily those published)
Stall about 38mph
Best Rate of Climb 55
Speeds in the pattern 65-60-55
Cruise 85 @ 2350
Takeoff distance 450 feet
Landing distance 700 feet
Seating 2 tandem
Pilot front seat
Gross weight 1300 7DC
The Aeronca Champ is one of the best flying and most forgiving aircraft every built. Take a flight and see for yourself.
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