Frequently Asked Questions
The following is a compilation of just about ALL the questions we have ever fielded about our fantastic little Nieuport 11 replicas. We've made so many changes to them that Graham Lee no longer considers them "Graham Lee" replicas. He also disagrees with some of our opinions on the building and flying of the birds. But, we stand by what we did and our observations and opinions on their flight characteristics.
We did build the oversize rudder and heartily recommend using it it until you are used to flying your plane. Then, when you are comfortable with the plane, you can quickly build the "standard" sized one. If I had to do it over, I'd still build the larger sized rudder. The drawing at the right was included in our sets of plans by Graham Lee. It's not in the newer versions of the plans because Graham doesn't think the larger sized rudder is necessary. Well.. we've agreed to disagree on that one. Our reasoning is that there is a short time on takeoff where the very large elevators on the Nieuport can let you raise the tail off the ground before there is enough airspeed to let the rudder have enough authority to "bite" and keep you straight. All of us here in Kansas City have experienced this thrilling little ride and you can kick the rudder against the stops and it will still do no good. (We call it the "Nieuport Stomp.") We feel the little extra size that you get is worth it and if you will compare our planes with photos of other planes, you really can't tell the difference. We feel it's worth it. Graham says it isn't. You make the call.
At station 97, we made our own custom gusset to cover the sleeve joint. A lot of our gussets were made from scratch after using paper or cardboard to ascertain the size and shape needed. It saved some weight.
We did not use the landing gear configuration as shown in the plans for the bottom of the V. We made a sandwich of aluminum plates that were riveted on both sides of the gear legs. It works great and was much easier to do! It is covered in detail in our two video tapes.
Our steerable tail wheel's cables connect to the rudder cables just underneath the seat. We all experienced failures of the lateral tube which joined the forward portion of the tail skid hoop to the fuselage. Our fix, which the designer does not approve of, has lasted over 1350 hours of total flight time between all four of our aircraft and shows no sign of failing at this time. Dick Lemons made the drawing at the right of our tail wheel steering set up. The dimensions are the basic dimensions. Hole sizes will depend on your wheel diameter, pivot and axle bolt size, and clevis pin size. Ours are made from .060" chromolly, and the vertical pieces are wire-welded to the top piece. There is a heavy fender-washer tac-welded under the pivot hole for added support. It's held up great for many many hours. (Like over 400!) We're using the 4" tailwheel from Wicks. There are several lightening-holes in it as well
We are using a 1835cc. VW power plant with a Culver prop. (60 x 28) The engine is all stock with a Weber PIC-30 or Zenith carb and a Vertex Magneto ignition system. We used baffles to convert the cowl to a pressure cowl configuration.
The firewall is 34" in Diameter and leaves ample room for a VW to fit in and rattle around.
We are very satisfied with our VWs. I have 495 hours on mine and it's never missed a lick through rain and really hot weather. Mark and I are the only ones who have had to make forced landings and that was not the engine's fault. (Blocked fuel line on Mark's, empty fuel tank on mine.) If we had to do it over, we'd do it with VWs again. We're not pushing them at all at 2650 rpm cruise and they run cool in the hottest of weather. A good pressure cowling is the key.
Tom tells me the empty weight of a "bare bones" VW is 117 lbs.
The "bare bones" weight of a VW with manifolds, ignition system, carb and
assorted plumbing is 147-153lbs depending on different configurations. Glenn Huff is
flying his Nieuport 12 with an C-90.
We feel a 1700-1835cc VW is all the engine you would want on these little planes. Rotax powered Nieuports are flying very well using a 447 or 503.
The Nieuport 11 is the model of the plane we built. The Nieuport 12 is the two seat version. Both planes are built to 7/8th scale. We are getting 240-50 lbs of measured static thrust out of the direct drive 60 X 28 Culver prop at 3000 rpm. Right now, they climb at about 400' per minute fully loaded on a hot day with a fat pilot in the saddle. (me)
If you don't want to build your own engine from scratch, we would recommend contacting Great Plains engines. They offer a quality product at "reasonable" prices. Phone 1-402-493-6507. (Good guys!)
The Nieuports are great little planes and fly just like they look. We cruise at about 55-65 mph and land at about 35. Rate of climb is a comfortable 400' per minute with the direct drive VW and with a reduction on a ROTAX 447 or 503 they will really get-up-and-go. They have no bad habits and do everything we want them do to when we ask them to do it.
There are no provisions for trim from the cockpit but the aircraft's decalage can be ground adjusted for hands off flight at specific power settings. The planes are very stable in flight and I have flown hands off for thirty and forty minutes at a time when I am just out sight-seeing. If I want to turn, I just stick out my arm and she slowly drags herself around. Hell of a plane!!!
We do emphatically recommend that anyone planning on building and flying one of these little jewels take flight training in TAIL DRAGGER type aircraft and be signed off for solo before attempting flight.
We would also like to emphasize that in NO WAY do we think these planes are designed or meant for ANY FORM OF AEROBATICS!!!! You old P-51 pilots will just have to do with your memories. The flat airfoil and construction techniques are great for a light weight utility aircraft. The plane is stressed for 3 - 5 POSITIVE Gs depending on the gross weight. We have performed lazy eight's, very mild circling combat and chandelles but firmly believe that no 'intentional' aerobatics that could stress the airframe should be attempted or contemplated. The prototype was stunted but the test pilot was wearing a chute and was doing more of a self test rather than a proof of concept test. He also did this without the designer's knowledge or implied approval. If you want to do aerobatics, get a PITTS. If you want to have a hell of a good time for an embarrassingly moderate price, build a Nieuport. Then when you go to other airports be prepared to stop action and answer a lot of questions.
Tom's and my EXPERIMENTAL planes were constructed for an initial total cost of $2859 each (1985-1986 dollars) and were constructed over a period of 16 months. If we had given up on beer we might have done it in a few months less.
Mark and Dick's original ROTAX powered Ultralight versions cost $3500-$4000 each. They also took 16 months to construct. The Experimental versions weigh 400-440 pounds empty, have 12 gallon tanks and fly great!! Mark and Dicks original Ultralight versions were not even close to the U.S. legal weight so they finally gave up and went experimental with the VWs.
We used the Aircraft Finishing System covering process. It's great AND DOESN'T SMELL UP THE HOUSE!! The planes are all aluminum and utilize aircraft quality self-expanding pull (pop) rivet construction. They are light but very strong. They also easily use a ROTAX engine (447 or 503) or HIRTH. We do not have a materials list and the designer will not give you one either. We just bought as we went along. We did use the optional thicker wall thickness aluminum in the longerons and spars.
We are using go-cart style band brakes controlled by a dual cable
bicycle type hand lever mounted on the stick. They work great! We tried using feet
actuated levers mounted on the rudder bar but after a few exciting sorties through the
corn and soybeans, we decided to go with the hand control. We've never regretted it. These
little suckers land so slow that the only time you need brakes is to stop while taxiing
in. We got out brakes from Northern Hydraulics. (Download the supply
sheet that's on the web page.) The Dawn Patrol has two amateur quality video tapes
available that we made to try and cover some of the flight characteristics of the plane
and also show portions of the airframe construction process that had us stumped a few
times. The videos are designed for information and
education only and are not "Hollywood" quality or entertainment. "Star
Wars" they ain't.
Some Brake Questions Answered
I've recently had several calls concerning our brake
set up on the Nieuports. Here's two shots of the left brake on Tom's Nieuport. The
vertical post and cable keep the axle from rotating when the brake is applied. The cable's
anchored to the rear gear leg at the end of the bisector of angle between the axle's
lowest possible point and highest possible point of travel. The band is situated so when
the brake is applied, the band will tighten on the drum in the direction of rotation. If
you set it the other way, Superman himself couldn't squeeze the handle hard enough to stop
those interested, there's a place where you can get tires and tubes for the smaller
Worksman wheels that have almost NO tread and look "kinda" authentic. Dick
Lemons already has them on his plane. The photo at the right is the new tire compared with
one of his old "bike" tires.
You can see the tire (part #TML7502) at:
The Tubes (part # TR-6) page is:
A bunch of us were sitting around the table in the hangar a few days ago solving the problems of the world and, I might add, doing a heck of a job when the subjects of aircraft instruments and the latest Victoria's Secret Catalog came up . The question was asked as to what we think is the most important instrument in our Nieuport panels and the unanimous choice was..
skid and slip ball.
Why? We hear you ask... It doesn't even have any gears of actual moving parts.. It's simple... The Nieuport (except for the 24 and it's a tiny little thing.) DOES NOT HAVE A BUILT-IN VERTICAL FIN FOR INHERENT DIRECTIONAL STABILITY. All its got is a full flying rudder which,since it's not fixed and just kinda floats in place, gives you no built-in directional stability at all. What do that mean? It means that if you relax pressure on the rudder bar while flying, the plane can go into a skid or slip without you knowing it. In fact, torque will automagically do it for you if you're not on the bar and ON THE BALL (so to speak.) We all swear that we've been able to hear that "click" when we really get outta whack in a turn and bury the ball on one side or the other of the tube. If you don't pay CONSTANT ATTENTION to that little booger... It'll quickly and without warning, sneak up and bite you right in the ass.
Mark Pierce does a heck of a demo in his air show act showing how the Nieuport can almost be flown sideways with very little rudder input... Or, another way of putting it would be to say.. With very little pilot attention to the ball. We call it the "Pierce Horizontal Knife Edge." While he's doing it on purpose, a little inattention on your part can have it happen to you NOT ON PURPOSE and at a low altitude at low air speed... You ain't gonna like the outcome!! What happens is that as the plane gets more and more screwed up, you start to feed in aileron to try and keep things "feeling right." Then you suddenly end up with a cross-control stall/spin and THAT'S A REAL BAD THING. (I've done this I might add, in my C-120, on purpose, with my instructor on board, at altitude, and when it finally happens, it's a real shorts-staining shocker.)
There's a whole flock of Nieuports getting built out there and a lot of them are going to be flying soon. We can't emphasize enough the importance of that skid/slip ball.
ATTENTION TO THAT MOMMA...
All of us now have a small length of bungee going from a small sailboat jam cleat attached at the bottom of station 117 on the starboard side going to the extreme starboard end of the rudder bar. After getting in the air, we reach down and adjust the tension of the bungee to attempt to hold the rudder in an approximation of "feet off" so we can fly without the constant attention needed to the ball. It works great BUT any change in rpm will make you have to change the tension on the bungee.
Still... all in all... it's a great help.
Our Construction and Flying DVDs
Please Note: Proceeds from Video sales go solely to help maintain and pay for the Dawn Patrol's web site.
(And, they don't come close either!)
The volume of responses we have received from the magazine articles has been overwhelming. I think the videos will answer any and all questions you might have about the planes. The videos are available in NTSC only. Unfortunately, we are not able to offer them in PAL format. Click HERE for more information.
The chain saw starting system that Tom designed, engineered and built works great! We used a McCullough "Eager Beaver" saw of about 32cc +/-. It works great and a very good look at how he did it can be seen in the 1990 Oct-Nov editions of Kitplanes. It that doesn't help, give Tom a call. I don't know squat on how the built it. The plans give you many options in building the plane. We have had quite a few questions about how we did the pressing of our oval tubing. We had our tubing pressed at a local sheet metal shop that does large air conditioning and heating duct work. They had a 10 foot, computer controlled press. They did all the tubing for two planes in less than an hour and charged us one hour shop time. ($40.00) We thought it was a hell of a deal! We can't help you with a materials list because we didn't keep good enough records from the aluminum company we bought ours from.
We had no problems with the FAA in building the planes. I think it was because we dotted every "I" and crossed every "T" in the building process. I checked in with the FAA several times while we were building the planes and kept asking them if we were doing it right. If you are planning on going the EXPERIMENTAL route with the planes I suggest that you contact your nearest FAA office or contact the closest EAA chapter to get an authorized EAA inspector to help you over the hurdles.
Good luck in building and flying your fighter. It's more fun to fly than
cheating the IRS and you will be amazed at the response you get at different airports when
you come flying in. You can get a lot better idea of what they are like from several
magazine articles I've written about the construction and flying of these planes. The
articles can be found in:
|Homebuilt Aircraft- June 86, Jan 87||Kitplanes Magazine- May, 92|
|Light Plane World - April 86, Nov. 86, Dec. 86||Kitplanes Magazine- Oct, 93|
|ULTRALIGHT FLYING- NOV 85||Kitplanes Magazine- Nov, 93|
|ULTRALIGHT AIRCRAFT- JAN 85||Kitplanes Magazine- Feb, 94|
|Kitplanes Magazine- SEPT 87||Kitplanes Magazine- Mar, 94|
|Kitplanes Magazine- JUNE 88||Kitplanes Magazine- Jan, 95|
|SPORT PILOT MAGAZINE-NOV 88, APRIL 89||Kitplanes Magazine- Feb, 95|
|U.S. AVIATOR MAGAZINE-DEC. 89||Kitplanes Magazine- April, 95|
|U.S. AVIATOR MAGAZINE-JAN-FEB, 90||Kitplanes Magazine- Dec, 95|
|U.S. AVIATOR MAGAZINE-MAR, 90||Kitplanes Magazine- April, 97|
|Experimenter Magazine-AUG, 90||Kitplanes Magazine- Nov, 97|
|Kitplanes Magazine- AUG, 90||Kitplanes Magazine- Jan, 98|
|Kitplanes Magazine- Sept, 90||Kitplanes Magazine- Mar, 98|
|Kitplanes Magazine- Oct, 90||Kitplanes Magazine- Aug, 98|
|Kitplanes Magazine- Nov, 90||Kitplanes Magazine- March, 99|
|U.S. AVIATOR MAGAZINE-Feb, 91||Kitplanes Magazine- May, 99|
|Kitplanes Magazine- May, 91||Kitplanes Magazine- April, 00|
|U.S. AVIATOR MAGAZINE-Jul, 91||Kitplanes Magazine- Sept., 00|
|Kitplanes Magazine-Jul, 91||Kitplanes Magazine- Mar, 01|
|U.S. AVIATOR MAGAZINE-Aug, 91||Kitplanes Magazine- May, 01|
|U.S. AVIATOR MAGAZINE-Sep, 91||Sport Aviation, June, 01|
|U.S. AVIATOR MAGAZINE-Apr, 91||Kitplanes Magazine- July, 01|
|Kitplanes Magazine- May, 91||Kitplanes Magazine- Oct. 01|
|U.S. AVIATOR MAGAZINE-Jul, 91||Kitplanes Magazine- Feb, 02|
|Kitplanes Magazine-Jul, 91||Kitplanes Magazine- Mar, 02|
|U.S. AVIATOR MAGAZINE-Aug, 91|
|U.S. AVIATOR MAGAZINE-Sep, 91|
have also had my book published. It is titled, "YOU WANT TO BUILD AND FLY A
WHAT?" and sells for $14.95 plus $2 shipping and handling. It has almost all the
stories I have written about learning to fly and building and flying the Nieuports. If you
are interested in a copy, let me know at the same address as the video tapes. Thanks for
your interest and if you have any questions, feel free to give me a call or e-mail me.
(Not collect for Gods sake.) If you live close to Kansas City, give us a call some weekend
and we will arrange to guide you to Liberty Landing International Airport on the southern
outskirts of beautiful downtown Liberty, Missouri. We are usually down at the airport on
weekends fighting World War One over again and again. I haven't had so much in fun in
years without having to take my clothes off. We'll be glad to see you.
"Gotha's at 2000 meters over Mervale!!!"
Scramble "A" Flight,
Back to the Dawn Patrol's home page.
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