Italian Executive Airborne.Page 3
Heavy, hazy weather throughout my stay prevented our getting sufficient height above the mountains for safe stalling, except upon the first occasion, when Gasperi was demonstrating and I was not flying. Therefore I can only report on how the stall seemed from the second seat. The wingtip is well washed out and there are spoiler strips on the crank of the gull wing root, so that the stall occurs inboard and full aileron control is available right down till the nose drops. As an additional precaution Safeflight stall warning vanes have been fitted in each wing - it is interesting to see that the stagnation point is well under the leading edge of the high lift aerofoil. A horn will be fitted, not a stick shaker, since there is quite a useable buffet warning for the stall. The wingtip fuel nacelles are of a rather deep section and apparently act somewhat as end plates and have no effect on whatsoever on the stall, instead of it using some wing dropping as usual. "Dirty" and with engine off the stall occurs at 55k IAS, after slight buffeting and results in a gentle symmetrical sink at some 300ft/min.; recovery is rapid after pushing the stick forward, no engine being needed unless one is too low. There is more buffeting when the aircraft is clean and the IAS of the stall is 58k., while there is a slight tendency for a wing to go down, which is easily held by instinctive rudder corrections.
For bad weather flying it is perfectly safe to cruise along at the minimum single-engine control speed of 80k. IAS using 20 deg. of flap. In this position the downward view is excellent for creeping home along the railway. At 5000ft. I was shown a single-engine climb of 400ft/min at 100k, with only 3200rpm and 25 in. Hg. 5deg. rudder trim being required to keep straight. Maneuvering on one engine is perfectly simple and the rudder trim is only needed for comfort, since the control forces are light and it is perfectly possible to fly without re-trimming until it is convenient to do so. DV panels are not fitted but I am told that nothing will adhere to the curved corner windscreen panels, because there is high pressure in this region. On the other hand I found the sloping windscreen tended to pick up cockpit reflections. Another criticism: it seemed to me that in the climb the large, high tail surface areas tended to produce a little "dutch rolling" although there is no sign of weather cocking on the ground or in flight.
Getting into the circuit at Villanova d'Albenga is quite an experience because of the 800ft hills which line the runway and one tries to nip through a slight nick in the ridge and then come down the valley, having turned into line with the runway before hitting the hills on the opposite side - an excellent aerodrome for training designers. The wheels are lowered at 120k IAS and flaps at 100k, both resulting in only slight trim changes, easily held on the stick until one's hand is free to make the small trim adjustment needed. A curious aural effect is that the engine note rises in pitch at each of these actions as the propeller blade angle changes in sympathy with the new speed and airflow conditions. A comfortable approach angle at 85-90k is given by 25 deg. flap and a little power. One keeps the speed constant by the stick and adjusts the height with the throttle, cutting over the hedge to flare out at 75-80k and hold off at about 18in. above the ground, which allows one to sink gently onto the main wheels - finally the nosewheel is checked with the elevator as it comes down.
The undercarriage is beautifully damped and there is no tendency to bounce if one misjudges the 18 in, there is simply a rather noisy touchdown. Little practice is needed to achieve good landings because the controls are responsive right the way to the deck and no brake is needed, either for pulling up or for steering once down. Even inexperienced, with a high hedge to cross, I found only about half of the available 700 yards - there were workmen at the far end of the runway - were needed with this technique.
For a really short descent, full 45deg. flap is given just over the hedge, which acts as an airbrake and Gasperi uses this technique to drop in over the hedge. Full flap on the approach gives a descent of about 1800ft/min at 85k, but it is quite easily flared out to a smooth touchdown, the attitude change being moderate. Gasperi showed me a grass takeoff and landing on the very rough tussocks of Villanova, and the aeroplane performed well with only a slightly longer takeoff run. The roughness of the ground was well damped as she accelerated on main wheels with the stick well back, the feeling being that of an English sports-car on a rough country lane. Just to check on full load performance I did some circuits at the maximum gross of 7700lb., and found that the aeroplane was just as lively and performed well all through its range. The takeoff and landing runs were not noticeably longer although I believe that they were about 50ft more than at the previous weight. The only handling effect I noticed was a certain tendency to sink more rapidly on approach when one cut the throttle.
To sum up, I would say this is a really luxurious executive and completely viceless, which should appeal to anybody who wants fast, comfortable air travel and the ability to be able to use pretty well any aerodrome or field he may come across. The main gear, by the way, has been proven for some ten years on the P.136L amphibian and is pretty well foolproof in maintenance and takes rough handling well. The nosewheel is new, but it has been designed by the same team on the same sturdy principles backed by experience with the P.149 trainer. The pusher configuration is unconventional, but it is very good to be so well clear of the prop blades both in the air for noise and on the ground for safety. In addition to a spacious cabin, there is ample baggage stowage amidship over the wheel bay and a 300lb load can be stowed aft of the wing using a large luggage door in the port side. It would be quite practicable to load a Piaggio Vespa motor-scooter, or perhaps even two if one wanted to be mobile after landing at a small and distant airport.