I’ve only ever owned one aircraft though I haven’t given up on the idea of owning another one soon, probably as part of a syndicate. The one I owned was a 1948 Luscombe Silvaire 8E, a classic two-seat all-metal aircraft with lots of nice retro touches (contemporary, of course, at the the time of manufacture).

The max weight of the Luscombe is 635kg which is only a fraction higher than the current 600kg limit for a Light Sport Aircraft which are so popular at the moment. Performance too is very similar with a cruise speed of 110mph, take-off roll of 350 metres and just 250 metres needed for landing. Stall speed is a lowly 48mph despite having no flaps.

I regretted selling it almost immediately even though the money came in handy at a difficult time. Just like I regret crashing and later selling my 1980 Ducati 900SS Hailwood Replica. And the 1953 MG YB sports saloon. Note to self and anyone else who’s reading: hang on to your prized possessions.

The Luscombe Silvaire is a great little aeroplane, easy to fly and it never fails to put a smile on the face on all who fly in her. Easy on the pocket too, thanks to the fuel burn of 15 litres (4 usg) per hour. Most parts are reasonably priced and easy to source and it flies on a Permit in the UK, which also helps keep the cost down.

The most expensive running cost is not the aircraft itself but hangarage, which back when I had the aircraft was £170 a month and closer to £350 a month these days.

The insurance company insisted that I had 5 hours of training with an instructor, even though I already had a tailwheel endorsement in my logbook. It proved to be a good idea. Flying a tailwheel aircraft like the Luscombe is all about the taxying on the ground, take-off and landing. In the air, it behaves just like any similar size and performance aircraft.

The difference between a tailwheel aircraft and a nosewheel aircraft is that in windy conditions, the aircraft will try to ‘weathercock’ into wind and you have to keep it straight with a combination of rudder, ailerons and occasionally a dab of brake on one side or the other. So, landing in a crosswind takes a bit of getting used to. More than once, I had to admit the ‘sporting crosswind’ as one pilot called it, was too much for me and I put the aircraft away rather than go flying.

I was only ever caught out once and that was landing in gusty conditions. The Luscombe’s big wing caught a sideways gust from the right, moved left about 4 metres and instead of lining up with the runway, I was heading for other aircraft on an adjacent grass taxyway. Full power, go around, try again.

Another time I landed long at Gloucestershire Airport and had to taxy to the parking apron via the entire perimeter track, with the aircraft trying to weathercock the whole. Good practice, I suppose, but I bet the staff in the tower were laughing at my antics.

LUSCOMBE SILVAIRE 8E
Cruise speed  110mph
Stall speed  48mph
Fuel burn (cruise) 15 litres/hr (4usg)
Take-off roll 350 metres
Landing roll 250 metres
Engine Continental C-85, producing 85hp. Fixed-pitch two-blade metal prop
Wingspan 10.74 metres
Length 6.1 metres
Max weight 635kg
Useful load 286kg
Fuel capacity 94 litres
Seats 2
Manufacturer Luscombe Airplane Corporation, USA
Owners Club European Luscombes

 

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