Looking at Spacewalker II; who flies open cockpit?

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snaildrake

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I've been searching for a plans-built design I really want to build. I think my essential requirements are pretty clear now:

  • Easy for a low-hour pilot to fly
  • Daytime VFR within 200 miles of home
  • Enough useful load for two 200lb crew
  • Cruise at 100-120mph on <=6gph
  • Direct drive aviation engine for dependability
  • Able to fly effectively from paved airstrips at 5000-6000' altitude
  • Preferably LSA eligible
The Wittman Buttercup and Christavia Mk II have topped my list, but though they're solid and practical, neither excites me. Now I'm looking at the open-cockpit Spacewalker II, which has similar rag-and-tube construction with a wood wing. It's not the Ryan ST-A lookalike I'd love to have, but it's trim, has a cantilever wing, and is not marginally sized and powered like so many plans-builts. Martin Hone's elegant radial-powered Spacewalker II-RR (pictured) shows its potential.

I never considered an open cockpit before, but mostly I lumped them all together. How about a discussion of the Spacewalker II as well as its variants the Revolution and Sportster? What are the pluses and minuses of flying an open-cockpit plane? What kind of conditions can you fly an open cockpit plane in with reasonable comfort? Has anyone built, flown or worked on one of these planes? -Dan
 

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djschwartz

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Open cockpits are a lot of fun. "reasonable comfort" though is a widely varying opinion. I've flown open cockpit at temperatures as low as 20 degrees F; but, that was short flight in a Stearman Sr. Speedmail in the winter just for the thrill of pretending to be old time airmail pilots. One of the tradeoffs in open cockpit airplanes is that the easier they are to get in and out of (larger cockpit opening) the windier and colder they are to fly in. Part of the equation of reasonable comfort is how much you're willing to spend on flying suits. A good cold weather suit will greatly expand your flying season. Some folks use snow mobile suits but I don't recommend them as they are nylon which is not good in a fire. I'd spend the extra money for leather or nomex. And don't forget keeping your hands and feet warm. "Cabin heat" isn't a practical reality for an open cockpit but having some hot air directed at the feet and hands helps, especially for a passenger. A lot of the comfort will depend on the windshield. It's hard to tell how effective one is just from pictures. Some shapes will create a really annoying buffet on the back of your head. You'll also want a good helmet headset with a very good noise canceling microphone. One of the biggest considerations should be your main passenger. Are they a person that will enjoy open cockpit flying as much as you do? Having a really good intercom will often help in this area. Communication between the seats of a tandem open cockpit is nearly impossible without one.
 

skier

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I don't own one or fly one regularly, but I have had the opportunity to fly a stearman, a waco. I have also been able to fly a couple aircraft without doors on.

I found the experience to be really fun. It's nice to not overheat during the summer when you go flying. I don't have experience with it, but winter flying can be done.

you can find some stories of flying a Bowers Flybaby in the winter here: Fly Baby Stories and Hangar Flying
 

Dana

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I like (prefer) open cockpit flying.

One option is to build an open cockpit airplane with a removable canopy for cold weather flying.

-Dana

Be wary of strong drink. It can make you shoot at tax collectors-- and miss.
 

TFF

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There is a Spezio on Barnstormers that use to be local; it had three decks for the cockpits. One with the front hole closed, one with both open and one with a bubble over both. It was a nice plane and thought about buying it, but I did not fit in it; needed about 6." You could do the same with the Spacewalker. Heck, change the shape of the tail, turtle deck and add paint make it look like a STA Jr.
 

snaildrake

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Heck, change the shape of the tail, turtle deck and add paint make it look like a STA Jr.
Exactly! A Spacewalker ST-A is my (and other's) dream idea -- with a 120HP inverted inline-4 supercharged LOM M332A engine so that the cowling (and fuselage) could be the wonderful Ryan oval section. And of course big fat wheel pants and gear legs -- not that I've given it much thought of course. :grin: -Dan
 

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snaildrake

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I like (prefer) open cockpit flying.

One option is to build an open cockpit airplane with a removable canopy for cold weather flying.

-Dana
Dana, I know your Kolb isn't as enclosed as a Spacewalker, but how low can the temperature get where you still go up and enjoy flying?

If I could fly at 50 degrees, that would mean quite a few winter flying days here in New Mexico -- waiting until noon for the temperature to come up, of course.

As for the canopy idea, the most advanced (and high dollar = $100K) Spacewalker variant, the Warner Sportster, can be switched between open cockpit and either a single- or two-hole canopy. And I saw a reference on the Yahoo group that an RV-4 canopy can fit a Spacewalker.



Has anyone ever used a cockpit 'gasket' to seal off outside air, like the spray skirt on a kayak? Might look funny, since the two logical places to attach it to the human form would be under the armpits (like a tutu gone north) or the neck. :roll: Laugh or not, it might just work. -Dan
 

Dana

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40°F is about my limit. Fingers go first, even in mittens. In an open cockpit (as opposed to a completely open airplane like mine) with heat colder should be doable. I am thinking about electrically heated gloves, though.

Tonneau covers are popular for convertibles, covering everything but a space for the driver. With the heater blowing hot air underneath it can be quite comfortable.

-Dana

Life is like a jar of jalapeños...
What you do today might burn your ass tomorrow!
 

snaildrake

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40°F is about my limit. Fingers go first, even in mittens. In an open cockpit (as opposed to a completely open airplane like mine) with heat colder should be doable. I am thinking about electrically heated gloves, though.
There is great heated gear for motorcyclists. I find out what to get from my favorite online forum of all, Adventure Rider. Gerbings seems to be one of the most consistently reliable electric brands. There is an amazing amount of expertise on Advrider, similar to this place, with the difference being there are about 150,000 registered users there. Good thing all those folks don't want to fly.... -Dan
 

dpowellmeii

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i just helped finished the annual on my friends 1998 spacewalker ii, not bad at all. he is the 3rd owner i believe, fun little plane to fly, i've got about 30-40hrs in it. its got a 100hp 0-235 with a culver wood prop. test flew it the other day after finishing the annual, it was about 50 degrees, not to bad to fly open cockpit in. it's actually about to come up for sale. i pull the power way back when i'm in cruise and burns just a little over 4gph at around 80mph.
 

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snaildrake

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i just helped finished the annual on my friends 1998 spacewalker ii, not bad at all. he is the 3rd owner i believe, fun little plane to fly, i've got about 30-40hrs in it. its got a 100hp 0-235 with a culver wood prop. test flew it the other day after finishing the annual, it was about 50 degrees, not to bad to fly open cockpit in. it's actually about to come up for sale. i pull the power way back when i'm in cruise and burns just a little over 4gph at around 80mph.
Glad to hear from someone who's flown the SWII. A couple of follow-up questions for you:

  • What do you think of the plane's feel and maneuverability - light, heavy, quick, slow?
  • What is the climb rate like with the O-235?
  • How is the comfort level when you cruise at 100mph or more - is that the reason you throttle down to 80?
  • Do you think the design has any weaknesses?
I've heard that the wind blast above 110mph might discourage flying any faster. Thanks! Dan
 

dpowellmeii

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Glad to hear from someone who's flown the SWII. A couple of follow-up questions for you:

  • What do you think of the plane's feel and maneuverability - light, heavy, quick, slow?
  • What is the climb rate like with the O-235?
  • How is the comfort level when you cruise at 100mph or more - is that the reason you throttle down to 80?
  • Do you think the design has any weaknesses?
I've heard that the wind blast above 110mph might discourage flying any faster. Thanks! Dan
- the controls are light and responsive. very nice flying airplane.
- flew it today and the temp was 75. climb rate with one person was about 700fpm, and about 400-500fpm with two.
- wind at 100mph is not bad at all, if anything its a little better. with the faster cruise speed the angle of attack is lower and the wind seems to flow around the windshield better. i cruise around at 80 ish because i'm generally in no hurry to go anywhere and it burns less fuel.
- no weeknesses in the design that i can see.

its for sale.
 

snaildrake

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Does it have much useful load (ie luggage) for two passengers (200 lb ea)?
No one I've heard from talks about using Spacewalker as a cross-country plane except for a solo pilot using the front/passenger seat for baggage, in which case there's 150-200 lbs right on the COG. Otherwise the cargo space in a Spacewalker is very limited, all in the turtledeck behind the pilot's head, on the order of 20lbs max. Sounds like a jacket and gloves or maybe a small backpack. -Dan
 

snaildrake

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Another thought: the Sportster version has both more room for passengers (wider, longer) and more baggage space. The fuselage is stretched by 7 inches and is 3 inches wider. I've never seen one so I don't know where the baggage space is. You can find out more about the Sportster here. -Dan
 
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