Learning To Fly An Eze

Summertime in the early ‘90s
From the GIB position (guy in back) I can see Kerrville just off to the right and we turn inside the ridgeline toward final and that Cessna comes out of nowhere and we bank hard left for a 360 and re-enter and now we’re on final and Jim Ivey quickly wiggles his flashy new red-bellied toy down on the runway and we’re rolling and braking and they wave us off into the grass and over to EZ Street. Our 1.5 hour trip sure beats my usual six hour drive to get to the hill country Southwest Fly-in.

Jim and I have flown together to a couple of other EZ fly-ins and we are getting to know take-off distances and how much stuff we can (or can’t) carry and what to expect for fuel burn and such. With the C-85 engine, just the two of us put the weight up close to gross. We didn’t need full fuel for the hour and a half trip today. It will be hot for our afternoon departure so now we will only add enough fuel to get home plus reserve.

On the way to the fly-in we had come to several decision points and easily agreed on the best way to proceed. On the way home settled in at cruise, Jim mentions that he had been a little uncomfortable being rushed during the busy takeoff. We cruise along talking about the whys and hows and options and end up a little wiser. For us there has been a definite learning curve in using this highly heralded speedster in a practical manner. We are getting smarter on how to use his machine.

Our first trip together was several months earlier. Jim had just bought the plane, becoming the seventh owner of Nat Puffer’s original C-85 VariEze. A mid-cities EAA meeting got us together. Fortunately Jim wanted some builder input and I was very interested in helping with some structural details of his well broken-in Eze. We both jumped at any chance fly or work on the plane.

Terry Yake’s spectacular KC GIG fly-in was coming up and Jim wanted to try to make it. We were both excited to be able to fly there. It had been an eleven hour one way drive for me the year before.

Both of us being new to the plane, we wanted to get a feel of how the plane would do when loaded. With only a few days before the GIG, we put in full fuel and made a practice flight around the pattern. It did OK so we topped her off again. His load computation showed little room for baggage. An unplanned early indication of our good fit as a team was when we both showed up for the weekend trip with matching luggage, a toothbrush in a baggie.

With full fuel we expected to go non-stop for the three hours to Olathe, Kansas. But about half way there we were ahead of schedule and ready for a stretch. On the ground I was able to make a couple of cushion adjustments in the back seat that helped a lot. After a quick fuel and distance calculation we put in two gallons. The ensuing takeoff performance was better and we agreed that we could do shorter legs with a lighter fuel load.

We worked well as a team, using the experience of others for planning and then working out in-flight options together. It was never hard for us to reach agreement on something like whether to continue over the top of a broken cloud layer or go low.

We always had plenty to talk about. Jim was an aerodynamic engineer and very detail oriented. He was in my garage when we mounted the engine to the fuselage. I had installed an attach point for the hoist in the ceiling rafters. It was fun to watch him hold up the proceedings to do the mental calculations confirming that the rafters would hold the engine load.

I asked him what the best nose shape was for my plane, round or pointed. He asked if the plane would be supersonic. I said not more than once. He said if I expected to operate subsonic, that a basketball shape would be best.

Flying to fly-ins sure beats driving. And puts some locations in reach that wouldn’t be practical to drive to. But there’s a penalty. Heading out to the fly-in means leaving the unfinished bullet in the garage and loosing a weekend that could have been spent building. But most of us probably make up the lost time with enthusiasm gained from the event.

Summer of ‘96
Several years after meeting Jim, my Eze was now almost ready. I pulled the plane out of the garage for the last time. After the ten mile trip to the airport I rolled it off the trailer into Hangar 30 and began the final sprint to first flight.

Larry, now N2NP’s eighth owner, handed me the keys and says to get some front seat time and stay current. It took three months to get N95BJ through the lists. I guess working through the details of my plane, and then heading out and flying that nimble little sportster is where I began to appreciate the therapeutic benefits of the sunset runs.

I made good use of Larry’s offer. After an uncomfortable 0.7 in the front seat, the rest has been great. It was very fortunate to be totally current for my first flight. What’s the value of making the first liftoff in your plane with three months of front seat time in the bag.

When I haven’t flown in a while it is still a preflight focus point to imagine putting the elevator an inch low and letting the nose gently lift to the desired attitude, without over-controlling.

That was a great environment. Jim and I learned on each flight.
At one fly-in we overheard a fellow saying that he had only run out of fuel twice. His plane had unreadable sight gauges. He checked his fuel with a dip stick and then used timing to know how about much fuel he had left. I noticed Jim used several methods to track the fuel. Vance’s gauges, total fuel on board, plus a kitchen triple timer to track engine run time, leg timing, and a count-down timer showing fuel time left.

Another fellow talked of a mod he had done on the canard to get the nose off quicker. Except for rough field takeoffs, I didn’t see a benefit. Jim didn’t either.

We hadn’t been leaning the engine. I was told it was wired rich and really didn’t work on the C-85 anyway. Since it wasn’t my plane I didn’t push it. But now I like the smoother cooler efficiency above ten thousand feet and would consider trying to get the mixture working.

From that beginning, I don’t think there has been a time when I was surprised or disappointed in how my plane flew. And while I expanded on the capabilities of the C-85 VariEze some, almost everything has been a building block from those early eze days with Jim Ivey.

So much for this little spring teaser. What’s your favorite eze trick?
Bill James, Fort Worth VariEze

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