I Drove N500F

Here's Ken Myers in front of N500F. That's our blue and white spamcan in the background.

That's me. Pardon the "ugly airshow hat."

I just returned [28 July 1997] from today's flyin at Miller Field at Bluffton Indiana where I met Ken Myers and saw N500F.

N500F was Pete Bowers' original prototype for the Flybaby 1A. It spent many years in a flying club in Seattle, where Ron Wanttaja flew it and wrote about in rec.aviation, Kitplanes, and other places.

A few years ago Ken Myers bought N500F from Bowers and trucked it to Indiana where he has since based it at Miller Field (South of Ft. Wayne). I've been trying to get up to Miller Field to see Ken and N500F since then.

None of our field's classic tail-draggers were available so Mike Malone and I were forced to fly a soul-less spamcan (a C-150), which was a considerable embarrassment when seen among all the great old Pipers, Luscombs, Cessnas of the tail-dragging variety and other classics and antiques that were lined up at Miller.

As we flew a low pass along the runway, there it was, in a place of honor in front of one of the hangars. It looks just like all the photos, maroon and yellow, tail down and pretty, with the N number in large numbers down the side. We flew a teardrop pattern landed, parked (Right in front, next to N500F, where we couldn't hide our spam-canned shame), and had a closer look.

The maroon has more of a purple tint that I expected. The plane does indeed have all sorts of fittings left over for various developments that Pete tried out. Trying to figure out what each is could be an afternoon game. "Well this is for cabane struts for the biplane wires, and this must be where biplane drag wires must attach, but what's that there?"

Ken had walked up as we were approaching his plane and explained what the various fittings were. After we had circled the plane a few times and I'd tried on the cockpit for size, Ken directed us to the food and went off to retrieve some photos.

We met Ken's parents and his wife Julie in the food hangar, and over BBQ sandwiches and hot dogs Ken showed us photos of his road trip to retrieve N500F from the pacific NW and some flight photos and aerial photos he'd taken from the cockpit.

Mike and I took a turn around the flight line, took photos, and did the usual fly-in routine, but before we left, there was one more treat in store. Ken had offered to let me drive N500F. I say drive because there was a problem with the carb heat, and Ken hasn't flown it himself yet this summer, but with Ken's kind permission I did take it out on the runway for some fast taxis.

The handling on the ground is thoroughly conventional. It handles like a Cub but with perhaps less inertial moment about the vertical axis. I wondered how the rigid landing gear with cushy tires would feel. This landing gear design is broadly recognized as a weak point in the design from a performance standpoint, but it is dead simple, and makes the wing wire attachment simple as well. The ride is really no more harsh than a Cub with good tight bungies. I assume a really strong wack on landing would tell the difference, but the spring constant on tight bungie gear is high enough that most of the small stuff must get absorbed in those big 800x4 tires anyway. Even running down the runway with the tail up the ride wasn't jarring.

It takes a conscious push to bring the tail up, and the first time I picked it up I did manage to get it a little crooked, but the rudder brought things right immediately, though I ended up tracking left of centerline on each run. The plane really wanted to fly, but with a herculean effort of will and discipline, I managed to restrain the urge. I made three runs, two up and one back (winds were calm), and then Ken mounted up and made a pass himself which I hope I got good photos of, when Mike reminded me that we had to get the rental plane back by 3:00, we had at least an hour to fly, and 2:00 was approaching. I hailed Ken, thanked him, and returned to the Cessna which Mike was already preflighting.

It was a good thing it was Mike's turn to fly PIC as I was googley-eyed for at least half an hour.

Thanks Ken. I owe you one when I get the Tandem Flybaby finished.

Since seeing N500F I'm leaning towards a paint scheme based on N500F, maybe we'll have to start a flybaby squadron for the eastern front to match Ron's western front unit.

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