• A Luscombe Story

    A Luscombe Story

    By Jennifer Kimball

    2019 was a year of productivity and surprises--I had recently graduated from an avionics technician program in Florida, and I was ready to move back up to Wisconsin. I sold my last plane (a Vans RV-4) before I started school, but now that I was no longer studying (or paying tuition), it was time to consider a new, slightly less expensive set of wings.

    Being in the market for an airplane is perhaps one of the most exciting things that life has to offer to us aviation-folk. The possibilities are seemingly endless, even with a tight budget. Vintage taildraggers and small light-sport/ultralight aircraft can often be had for the price of a nice used car (or a decent new one, depending on the condition and year among other things). I was looking at several options--an Ercoupe, a short-wing Piper, or perhaps a light homebuilt. It had to be something that didn't require much care and feeding, and aside from the typical vintage aircraft ADs (airworthiness directives) that occasionally need a going-over by a qualified mechanic, these types of planes are fairly easy to keep happy.

    I was just about to settle on a nice old Ercoupe when I spotted a freshly restored (finished in 2019) Luscombe 8A in a nearby hangar. I was actually looking at the 'Coupe that day when I first saw the Luscombe, which was painted red and cream in a scheme reminiscent of a Monocoupe and a Gee-Bee Racer mixed with some art deco lines. I didn't even consider a Luscombe in my search, and I began to wonder why. There was nothing wrong with it--it simply hadn't crossed my mind.

    A Luscombe Story

    I reasoned with myself that I'd be much happier in a lively taildragger than a rather pedestrian nosewheel airplane (don't get me wrong, I love Ercoupes). I've spent most of my pilot life flying various taildraggers from Cubs and Stearmans to Pittses and Vans RVs, so why not continue that tradition? Conveniently, I had my mechanic with me who noted the restoration work appeared very well done--he suggested that if I'm going to buy something old, buy something in mint condition. This one was in about as good of condition as I would be lucky to find around here, so I decided to go for it.

    A Luscombe Story

    A Luscombe Story     A Luscombe Story

    The lack of a starter was a drawback, and the Continental A-65-8 65-hp engine was not a model able to accept a traditional starter, but I found a solution involving a DeWalt drill and a series of gears that happened to be allowed by the FAA for this aircraft. Problem solved. Not a big fan of propping--especially to get from the fuel farm back to the hangars after a flight. It's nostalgic and purists love it, but it's also a major inconvenience.

    Tags: luscombe

    12 Comments
    1. W33's Avatar
      W33 -
      What a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing Jennifer.

      W33
    1. flightsimg's Avatar
      flightsimg -
      Didn't real all but, on that last page, a fine plane looks like!
    1. DominicS's Avatar
      DominicS -
      Great article Jen, and that Luscombe is to die for :-)

      Good for you!!!

      Dom
    1. lnuss's Avatar
      lnuss -
      A very nice article and a beautiful Luscombe, Jennifer. Having done a lot of tailwheel teaching over the years, I loved your comments about tailwheel techniques, including the heel brakes. But hearing a climb rate over 500 fpm from 65 HP sounded strange until I recalled that you're near sea level, while I've spent most of the last 50 years living at 5,000 feet or higher.

      I learned to fly out of a farmer's field near Manhattan, IL (Johnson Field), and took my Private checkride on Jan. 30, 1970 with Delbert W. Koerner in a Beech Musketeer, though most of my training was in an Aeronca Chief. If you're familiar with Willie Howell (Howell Field), I took my Commercial ride with him on Jul 7, 1970.

      So hearing mention of Koerner Aviation was a treat. Thanks for sharing your experience -- it was great.

      Larry N.
    1. toftedal's Avatar
      toftedal -
      Wonderful … thank you so much Jennifer … your adventures are just beginning. Pick up a copy of 'Zero 3 Bravo' by Mariana Gosnell if you have not already read it. She was a Luscombe lady also … great read … and a great airplane.
    1. Downwind66's Avatar
      Downwind66 -
      Very nice story! And that Luscombe is a well restored aircraft that anyone would take pride in owning! Very nice purchase Jennifer, take care of that beautiful aircraft!

      Rick
    1. mekim's Avatar
      mekim -
      A 70-degree crosswind at 17-20 knots: made my palms sweat just reading it. And the Luscombe lands at what - 40? I don't think I ever flew on those days. You are truly a much better pilot than I ever was, and thanks sharing your experiences. I hope you will continue to do so.
    1. b52bob's Avatar
      b52bob -
      Nice story. Thanks for sharing it.
    1. Rupert's Avatar
      Rupert -
      Beautiful Luscombe!!!! And a great story!!! Enjoyed it!!

      Michael
    1. Rupert's Avatar
      Rupert -
      Beautiful Luscombe!!!! And a great story!!! Enjoyed it!!

      And yes, having owned a few Triumph TR-3 sports cars from the 50's I understand about the starter issue. One TR-3 I owned was a '56 model. That was a gap year where they made some TR-2s and some TR-3s. And they didn't waste any parts just because they were building a new model.

      My TR-3 had front drum brakes, a "small mouth" radiator, and flywheel all left over from making TR-2s. So spare parts if one of them failed? Not going to happen.

      When my flywheel went "bad" I couldn't replace it, so I had nothing for the starter motor to spin. From that day forward I had to either park my car on a hill to bump start it or use the hand crank.

      And if you didn't get on compression correctly a hand crank on a car would "kick-back" just as a hand cranked prop would!!

      Michael
    1. Vincew's Avatar
      Vincew -
      Quote Originally Posted by lnuss View Post
      A very nice article and a beautiful Luscombe, Jennifer. Having done a lot of tailwheel teaching over the years, I loved your comments about tailwheel techniques, including the heel brakes. But hearing a climb rate over 500 fpm from 65 HP sounded strange until I recalled that you're near sea level, while I've spent most of the last 50 years living at 5,000 feet or higher.

      I learned to fly out of a farmer's field near Manhattan, IL (Johnson Field), and took my Private checkride on Jan. 30, 1970 with Delbert W. Koerner in a Beech Musketeer, though most of my training was in an Aeronca Chief. If you're familiar with Willie Howell (Howell Field), I took my Commercial ride with him on Jul 7, 1970.

      So hearing mention of Koerner Aviation was a treat. Thanks for sharing your experience -- it was great.

      Larry N.
      Here is my solo card filled ou by Howell. That was a long time ago. Note 1951

      Attachment 219052
    1. stephenjdecatur's Avatar
      stephenjdecatur -
      I read the story, half holding my breath...
      On the nineteenth day of this month, fifty three years ago, I stood on the apron of a long closed airport looking at an airplane that I had ridden in, and even flown before. Today would be something different. It was my birthday and my Uncle (owner of this airplane) had hired an instructor to give me my first flying lesson. Yes, it was a Luscombe (Silvaire, also known as 8F); one of the last built by the third, and final owner of the Luscombe name.
      My Aunt (who I was close to) was also a liscensed pilot. I used to love to listen to her talk about flying this airplane. It always seemed to me that she was really the one who got the most out of her experiences with the Luscombe.
      Thanks Jennifer, for your story. I love to think that this is just the beginning of it.
      Stephen Decatur
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