Taylorcraft BC-12D-85

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byGeorge

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A funny thing happened on the way to the forum.

Doing something else entirely, just enjoying my day off flying around. I met someone who put me in touch with an A&P IA who has a 1948 Taylorcraft BC-12D-85 with a fresh annual and fabric test he is willing to part with on terms that I could swing. I called the number I was given and he is based at an airfield about 90 minutes away and has sent me a dozen pictures of the aircraft and of all the entries of the logbook which goes back to 2002 when a total restoration was performed by a previous owner with at least three degrees of separation.

The logbook confirms that he has performed the last five annual inspections and checking online I confirmed the previous owners information and the fact that the aircraft had a reported accident in 1999. Sealed struts were installed when the aircraft was rebuilt (2002) extinguishing AD 47-16-03. AD 50-41-01, concerning bolts, and AD 2008-09-18 concerning float /ski /strut fittings have also been extinguished, and looking at the relevant Taylorcraft and FAA (RGL) web pages, I cannot find any others that apply to this s/n BC-12D-85.

Continental C-85-8F, Sensenich 74CK-2-44 aluminum climb prop, wind driven generator, radio, C mode but no dash B, set chocks and hand prop, EGT and CHT plus all the required instruments, 402 pound useful load, 18 gallon tankage, wheel pants, overall white with a red leading edge and stripe. I'm told it will cruise at 100 mph, but best range (2.7 hrs, 240 mi with a 0+45 reserve) is attained at 88 mph and 5.0 gph.

Is there some reason this is a bad idea? What should I ask before traveling to see it? What should I look at when I get there?
 

Victor Bravo

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I've owned four Taylorcrafts, two of which had the 85HP engine. They are fantastic airplanes, always the "best bang for the buck". HIGHLY recommended!

Since yours is a 1948 "factory 85" I am guessing you already have the 1500 pound gross weight and the larger baggage compartment behind the seats. This has several good points and only one bad point, but the bad won't matter to you if it's your first T-craft.

There is ONE inspection or AD or precautionary check you need to make, because it may not be an AD on your model. There is a main fuselage welded tube cluster where the wing strut attaches to the fuselage, and the landing gear attaches, and the pilot entry step attaches. The one big fatal crash of a Taylorcraft, because of structural failure, in the entire 85 year history of the Taylorcraft... was because of severe rust and damage (and zero maintenance) at this specific place on the airplane.

This was not a required AD when I had my last T-craft. It may be one now. Doesn't matter, you need to look at it HARD, regardless of what anyone or anything says about the struts themselves.

So all you need to do is have ANY competent mechanic or inspector who is familiar with "tube and fabric" airplanes do a thorough inspection of that intersection. Regardless of whatever he/she inspects on the rest of the airplane.

You are looking for serious corrosion, cracks, rust, water damage, etc. both inside the fuselage (under the seat) and outside the fuselage (poking up into the steel tubes with a sharp ice pick). This will all be a normal, expected thing for any mechanic who knows old airplanes.

Depending on where the airplane has lived, there may be a 1 in 1,000 chance that your airplane will be unsafe, or a 1 in 1,000,000 chance. But you have to check that tube cluster. Your struts are already replaced, so forget about the AD (The AD was written by Harry Ingram to sell new struts, not to save lives).

If you post pictures, let us know where this airplane has lived, tell us more about the history, what equipment, logbook repair entries, etc. then myself and others can perhaps give you additional things to look out for, or to be happy about.

If you can get in and out of the airplane comfortably (tolerable is a better word) then you will NEVER regret buying a Taylorcraft.

The BC-12-85 is very capable of being a high performance bush plane that can do 80-90% of what an 85HP Cub can do. It is more comfortable than the Cub, faster on the same power, and more efficient. The price you pay for that is that in a professional bush pilot STOL competition, the equivalent Cub can land and take off in 75% of the Taylorcraft's distance. That means maybe 100 feet difference.

There is one modification/upgrade that makes a huge difference and is highly highly recommended. The clear "skylight" above the cabin in place of the fabric between the front and rear spar. Makes an incredible difference in comfort, safe maneuverability, visibility, fun. You can do it yourself as a field approval, you can do it with an STC, or it may have been done already. Totally worth it, and there is a way to do it without welding or re-covering.

With the capability that the 85HP engine gives you, unless the airplane will spend its life on asphalt... you will want 8.50 x 6 tires. Makes it look better, ground handle better, more prop clearance, and allows you to go 80% of the places that even the crazy Alaska guys go. No need to put the huge Bushwheels on unless you are going to be based out in the sticks.

The Vortex generator STC is a big bang for the buck as well if you want to do STOL flying. Well worth the money, and completely removable.

The stock Lang or Scott 2400 tailwheel leaves a lot to be desired. The Maule is OK if you already have one on it, but the Scott 3200 is better if you want to buy a new, fully approved, heavy duty unit. The very best blend of cost and performance is the Matco, because of its simplicity and more robust lock mechanism, but there are different interpretations on whether you can legally use the Matco. We can talk privately about that.

If you decide to buy the airplane (did I happen to mention HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!! ?) I can give you a couple of things to add to the pre-buy inspection. We have other guys here who have owned T-crafts, they'll chime in soon enough.
 

Dana

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If a T-Craft meets your needs and the price is right considering hours and condition, it sounds great. T-Craft is a great plane, I used to own a '41 BC12-65.

One caveat, if as VB says it has 1500# gross (I didn't know that was a thing prior to the Ferris years) then it's not LSA compliant and a Sport Pilot can't fly it. Mine was 1200.
 

Victor Bravo

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Forgot one detail, Dana's right. When you do the Gilberti/Harer/Bowden STC conversion, IIRC it converts the 65HP BC-12D aircraft up to (1948) BC-12D-85, or BC-12D-4-85 status.

There was a factory 1948 85HP T-craft with no starter or electric (BC-12D-85), with the small baggage sack, and a 1230 pound gross. If you want the starter and generator, you gotta do the 4 inch extended engine mount, you HAVE to put in the big baggage and the battery in the back, and then you get a 1500 pound gross. That makes the airplane into the equivalent of the -4-85.

So if he has a starter and generator or a long engine mount that is one thing, and if his airplane has the small baggage sack and no starter (or a short engine mount and a new age mini-starter) it's another thing.
 

byGeorge

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Per A-696 it has a 1280 lb gross weight. But I will ask (I asked about the legal useful weight, and was told 402 lbs.. Which while not huge, is enough for my purposes, and puts the empty weight at 876 pounds.)
I think the AD you refer to is AD 2008-09-18 which concerns looking for corrosion on the landing gear /float /ski /lift strut fittings to the fuselage. That corrosion being said to be responsible for a fatal inflight structural failure. But I will certainly inquire more on this issue.
This aircraft suffered a 1999 crash which took place in the upper Midwest so it probably lived here.
Since it was rebuilt (2002) it has been hangared (I'm told) in the upper Midwest.
I assume AD 47-16-03 is the "Ingram AD" which was permanently complied with by installing sealed Univair struts.
"Corrosion, cracks, rust, water damage, etc. both inside the fuselage (under the seat) and outside the fuselage," is my greatest concern. I don't want the engine to quit. But airplanes don't crash when engines quit, they invariably crash when a wing falls off.
I learned to fly in a C-85 powered Cub, so...
I don't see how it could be more difficult to get into than the Cub (which isn't hard after you've been told-- or figured out-- how).
Requires 33% more turf for takeoff. So, make sure I have 400 foot of grass-- check. ;)
It already has the skylight.
Per A-696 it should have 6.00-6s, but I will ask. Is 8.50 x 6 the same as 8.50-6? (In other words do they use the same rim?)
Unknown tailwheel type, other than it swivels (is non-steering), I will ask.
It has a C-85-8F, so no starter or engine driven generator, and the shorter engine mount.
It has a wind driven generator for a comm radio and a transponder with C mode. --B isn't required.
It has the cloth baggage "bag" with a wooden lid. A-696 limits baggage weight to 50 pounds. But realistically with 402 usable pounds it's me, my girl, a thermos of coffee, full fuel, oil to the full mark and two extra quarts in a waterproof bag.
I assume I cannot use an approved 337 or STC for a "BC-12D" for a "BC-12D-85."
A curiosity question, as hand propping is fine and I'd rather have the extra useful weight, does moving the engine forward 4 inches affect the cowling?
 
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Victor Bravo

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You hit the jackpot JG.

The short engine mount flies much better, the airplane handles lighter and more responsive. Finding one of the long cowlings is going to be a hard task anyway, and the airplane flies much better with the short mount. Leave that part alone :)

The airplane was certified under CAR 3, not FAR 23. One of the fun differences between those is that you can use any tire approved for the weight, which means you can put 8.50's on the same rims with nothing other than a log entry. The brakes on a T-craft are legendary, and not because they're powerful. Proper adjustment and care will make them perfectly usable, but without that adjustment & care they get to be pretty poor. When adjusted right, they will put the airplane up on its nose. When worn out or mis-adjusted you can't do a 1500 RPM runup without rolling.

If you have a tailwheel that swivels but is non steering (a free-spinning caster)... it needs to come off right now. While originally certified without a steerable tailwheel, you really want to have one. Ground steering on the T-craft is important because it has a long tail arm and will weathervane easily. Figure that out before you fly.

The cloth sack is OK for sport flying. You cannot legally put in the big baggage area of the F-19, but you can have a slightly larger and more useful bag sewn up that gives you a little more room, some pockets for oil bottles, batteries, tools, etc. The new baggage sack can be a little deeper than the stock one. The little pockets are very useful, worth designing in.

The seat on the T-craft is adjustable, it just doesn't look like it's adjustable. You remove 4 or 6 bolts (holding the front of the seat sling to the steel structure) and you roll/unroll the front of the seat sling around the wood piece to make the seat higher or lower. Then put the bolts back in.

The type certificate A696 covers the model B, BC, BC-12, BC-12D, and perhaps the 12D-85 and -4-85. So unless otherwise noted, an STC for an airplane under that TC will be good for all of them.

The 1280 pound gross verifies that you have the short engine mount and the cloth baggage sack.

But one question remains.... does your airplane have the little rectangular steel plates welded across the upper wing spar/strut fittings? The fittings bolted to the wing spar that come down out of the wing and that the strut bolts in between.... is there a small welded plate that joins the two fittings together? That was one of the key structural upgrades Jack Gilberti engineered as part of the weight increase from 1200 to 1280. By the way it's also the upgrade that allows the GW to be 1500 when you do the engine mount and baggage upgrades.

Yes, the "Wiley seaplane crash" was first used as an excuse by Harry Ingram, who panic-lobbied the FAA to issue an AD which favored new wing struts which Harry just happened to be manufacturing. So an AD was issued to address something that had not caused a crash. Then shortly afterward, another AD was issued to also have a look at the part of the Wiley airplane that had pulled apart. A salt water seaplane with years and years of pencil-whipping, which would not have gotten past any decent preflight inspection, finally came apart in the air and killed two people. The T-craft community (including me) quickly was able to see the photos of the broken lower longeron fitting, and it was obvious that this should have been found years earlier.
 
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Toobuilder

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If it is CAR 3 and does not specify a tailwheel in the TC, then that has come to be interpteted within the community as eligible for ANY tailwheel to be installed with a simple logbook entry. The Aviation Products (AKA Homebuilders special from Spruce) is a popular option. I will probably go this route when my Lang finally dies.
 

Victor Bravo

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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Go with the Matco 6 inch solid single fork tailwheel. It's very inexpensive, and the lock/unlock swivel/steer mechanism is far more robust than the Maule or the Scott. The two certified ones use small, highly heat treated, and highly loaded parts that lock/unlock it from steering to swivel. Those parts wear and get sloppy as hell over time.

The Matco has big bonehead-simple steel plates that you can replace if they get worn or broken. You can literally make up a homebuilt piece out of mild steel plate scrap with a hacksaw and a file for a field repair, and it will get you back in the air for a while until the correct (treated) Matco part gets there.

The Matco is less "elegant" from some angles, but it's a better design for the real world.

And you can JB Weld over the machined Matco SLC logo and sand it so it doesn't draw attention. Don't ask how I know this.
 

Dana

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:) If I buy it three things wouldn't be allowed, parachutes, gopros, and dumb*****. :)
According to the original T-Craft manual, that bar that VB mentioned to lower the seat sling is there so the seat can be lowered to accommodate parachutes.
 

Pops

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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Go with the Matco 6 inch solid single fork tailwheel. It's very inexpensive, and the lock/unlock swivel/steer mechanism is far more robust than the Maule or the Scott. The two certified ones use small, highly heat treated, and highly loaded parts that lock/unlock it from steering to swivel. Those parts wear and get sloppy as hell over time.

The Matco has big bonehead-simple steel plates that you can replace if they get worn or broken. You can literally make up a homebuilt piece out of mild steel plate scrap with a hacksaw and a file for a field repair, and it will get you back in the air for a while until the correct (treated) Matco part gets there.

The Matco is less "elegant" from some angles, but it's a better design for the real world.

And you can JB Weld over the machined Matco SLC logo and sand it so it doesn't draw attention. Don't ask how I know this.
Very good and true. Matco
 

byGeorge

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....Has big bonehead-simple steel plates that you can replace if they get worn or broken... The Matco is less "elegant" from some angles, but it's a better design for the real world...And you can JB Weld...
I like bonehead simple. :)
I like tailwheels. But I stink at writing romantic poetry (including to tailwheels), so being less elegant isn't really a problem.
Pa: Don't marry a pretty girl.
Son: Why Pa?
Pa: A pretty girl might leave you.
Son: But a not-so-pretty-girl might leave too.
Pa: But you won't care so much.
JB Weld is amazing. I didn't have a correct size Helicoil. So, I used it to secure an exhaust manifold stud on a (auto) engine. It's held for years.
 

Dan Thomas

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The little old taildraggers have often been on their backs, whether from windstorms, groundloops or heavy braking. That puts the weight on the wingtips, and the wooden spars in the T-Craft have a habit of cracking downward through the strut attach fittings. Your prebuy mechanic needs to pay close attention to those. Here's an accident report that involves such damage, and there is some good info in it: Aviation Investigation Report A94W0107 - Transportation Safety Board of Canada

It was a BC12D-85.

It's the same sort of airplane, in the same area, that some guys took me to look at some time before that accident. It was for sale, and in looking thorough the logs I noticed that it had been blown over onto its back. I asked the owner if those spars had been inspected properly; he said yes. I wondered. It also had hardware-store screws on it, IIRC, and it had a useful load of about 150 pounds, an obviously bogus W&B. I told the guys to walk away from it.

I found the same cracking in my Auster's spars when I took the fabric off for restoration. Auster is British Taylorcraft.
 
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