Italian Executive Airborne.Page 2
Having got settled and my seat position adjusted to my short legs, the supercharged 340hp Lycoming GSO- 480-BIC6 engines were started. They are quite a long way from the pilot and their noise is most discreet -in fact, during subsequent flying I found conversation, even during take off at full power, quite possible and we used no phones, neither between Gasperi and myself nor with the engineer, Chiozzi, who was moving about in the cabin behind.
Upon releasing the parking brake my first thrill was to find that ground steering was simply perfect, with direct connection between rudder pedals and the nose wheel. It was as simple as steering a car and there was absolutely no need for differential use of the throttle and, apart from stopping, the toe brakes were quite unnecessary - which is ironical since they are the most sensitive and easily used that I have met up to date. On production aircraft, full forward movement of the 'stick' will free the nosewheel and then for ramp maneuvering the aeroplane can be pivoted round one wheel with brake and throttle.
I made my first flights at a gross of 6600 lb., the temperature being ICAN +15 (86 deg. F.)., and when Gasperi demonstrated the first take off, using full throttle (48in. Hg boost) on the brakes, we were airborne in 590ft. and 9 sec., and over the end of the runway, barely a thousand yards from the start, we were at about 500ft. and climbing at a very steep angle and 1300 ft./min. A 9k crosswind at 70 deg. Had been completely unnoticeable and, when I did my own takeoffs and landings, gave me no trouble whatsoever. At this point I would add that I am an enthusiastic amateur and no professional, so if I can fly an aeroplane anyone can.
Lined up for takeoff and opening the throttle gently without brake there is no tendency to swing and one just steers quite naturally, easing the load on the nosewheel a little by slight aft movement of the wheel. The tricycle undercarriage and pusher engines tend to hold the nosewheel on the ground and a very positive backward pull on the stick is needed to unstuck - at which she literally jumps off the ground. Some lag in the ASI means that one does this as a matter of judgment and my tendency was to run too far and rather overspeed the wheels. Premature pulling back on the stick simply means that the aeroplane rolls on it's main wheels and the extra drag reduces the acceleration somewhat before she flies away. At full power, because of the highly cambered airfoil used, it is really impossible to stall out the P.166 and therefore one can climb out at an absolutely alarming but perfectly safe angle of incidence. Single engine safety speed of 80k IAS is reached very quickly and the best climb, at 100k IAS, is over 1000ft./min. initially and at a good steep angle. About 20deg. Of the slotted flaps are used for takeoff and if these are raised slowly with the follow-up lever, then it is impossible to detect any sink, although, if snapped up, there is a momentary pause in the climb, no more.
Another effect of the heavily cambered airfoil - which I have also noted in the Scottish Aviation Twin Pioneer - is that bumps and rough air are damped out. When I was flying on these hot, hazy days there must have been a great deal of thermal turbulence over the coastline and mountains, yet I do not recall a single bump. The view downward and forward is as perfect as anyone could get and the passengers have something approaching a Viscount ride, I should say; but I, as a pilot, would prefer a glazed roof to the cockpit, or at least shoulder windows on each side of the central switch panel.
I was much impressed by Gasperi's demonstrations of stability. He trimmed straight and level at 6000ft. 130k IAS and gave full elevator displacement, which resulted in a slow phugoid to +1000ft./min., -500ft./min., +500ft./min. and then settled level trimmed again. Jerking the control column with all one's strength to provide an abrupt dynamic displacement gave simply a slight 'bump' without any change of attitude and the control column had the feeling of a springy dashpot resisting this displacement. A violently induced yaw, with full opposing rudder and aileron, was immediately damped out, while a violent roll required only a touch of rudder to keep straight. Yet, even with this stability, the controls are powerful and light, so that the aircraft is extremely easy to fly and yet it is sufficiently sedate in it's 'feel' to make one regard it as a light transport and not a fighter! Actually, of course, it flies a good deal better than I do and I found myself over-controlling at first and realized that it was much easier to let the aeroplane find her own way through turns. It is possible to do steep turns on either rudder or aileron alone.