Its not often that the federal government restores what it has taken away but in some ways, thats exactly what has happened with the Taylorcraft, a classic taildragger design. As of mid-2004, the FAAs new light sport aircraft rules actually permit owners of some T-craft to operate them under vastly less restrictive rules that hark back to the days when the airplane first appeared on the market.
Whether the brave new world of LSA will make old taildraggers like the Taylorcraft a hot item, thus driving up the prices, is a crap shoot. Regardless, as of mid-2004, the airplane is back in production and the model can be counted among those types with the longest production histories in GA.
In our view, the Taylorcraft will remain what it always has been: a highly affordable fun flyer for pilots who want to operate an airplane for pocket change and who are content to putt around the pattern or venture off on short cross country flights.
Although it has since been updated, the Taylorcraft is very much a child of the 1930s. It was designed by C. G. Taylor, the very same guy responsible for the venerable Piper Cub. In the early 1930s, Taylor teamed up with William T. Piper, who provided the capital and two came up with what became know as the Taylor Cub. But the principals shortly had a falling out and went their separate ways.
But Taylor stayed at it and the Model A Taylorcraft soon evolved to Model B. The follow-on T-craft was substantially different from the first Cub in that it had side-by-side rather than tandem seating, wheels in place of the Cubs sticks and an entirely different wing. The first Taylorcrafts to appear in substantial numbers came along in 1939 and 1940, just as the Great Depression was ending and World War II was about to begin.
The BL-65, BC-65 and BF-65 were powered by Lycoming, Continental and Franklin engines, respectively. Although a few of these airplanes may retain the original engines, the vast majority now sport Continental powerplants. In 1941, with war looming, the BC-12 was introduced. It has some minor modifications over the previous models but most important, it had better steel in the fuselage tubing. Production was suspended on the airplane during the war but resumed in 1946, with the BC-12D, which sported a new tail. Riding the wave of post-war prosperity, thousands of Taylorcraft were built that year and the majority of older BC-12Ds are 1946 models. The company went bankrupt, despite the high production rate, but it was reorganized and continued building the BC-12 series with 65- and 85-HP engines.
The Model 19, an improved version, was introduced in the late 1940s and a couple of hundred were sold before the company again went bankrupt for the last time in 1957. The model 19 had the 85-HP engine, a gross weight up 300 pounds to 1500 pounds, a 24-gallon fuel system in place of the older 12- and 18-gallon tanks, an overhead skylight, improve brakes, a bigger baggage compartment and other improvements. Early models had all the fuel in a fuselage header tank with the option of a 6-gallon tank in the left wing. Modern T-craft have all the fuel in the wings, which is a safer design from a crashworthiness point of view.
The late 1950s might have seen the end of the Taylorcraft but, improbably, it was resurrected once again by a former dealer named Charles Feris. As has happened before in the GA market, Feris was a Taylocraft bug and spent years tracking down parts, tooling and jigs following the bankruptcy sale. In the process, he got the FAA to approve a Continental 100-HP engine and rechristened the airplane the Model F-19. Feris assembled a group of Taylorcraft old timers, at least some of whom dated back to the days of C.G. Taylor himself, and he began building the airplane at the old factory in Alliance, Ohio.
Still, that wasnt the end of the Taylorcraft evolution. In 1980, it underwent yet more design changes with the introduction of the 118-HP Lycoming O-235 in the Model F-21, which yielded a cruise speed of 110 knots, a real speedster for this class of airplane. In context, the F-21 appeared after the great GA sales peak of the late 1970s but before the mid-1980s market meltdown.
In 1983, the F-21A appeared, with a 42-gallon fuel system and other minor changes; that was followed by the F-21B in 1986 through 1990. The B model sported a 180-HP Lycoming, making it popular as a bush airplane but no self-respecting bush driver would be caught dead in a C-model, which has tricycle gear. The Alliance factory continued to build the airplane until 1994, when it shutdown.
But still, the Taylorcraft line had life left in it. In 2002, a Texas car dealer named Harry Ingram bought the type certificates, formed Taylorcraft Aviation and opened up a new facility in a defunct cabinet factory at the La Grange, Texas Airport. Ingram has big plans for the Taylorcraft line and as of mid-2004, production was back underway.
Four models are offered, including the F-22 Classic for $59,995, the F-22A Tracker for $63,995, the F-22B Trooper for $69,995 and the F-22C Ranger at $73,995. Of the lot, only the F-22C can be certified for IFR.
As we go to press, Taylorcraft Aviation has announced yet another model, the Taylor Sport, aimed the emerging LSA market. Ingram told us that the Sport is essentially the 1946 airplane manufactured to 2004 standards but with a retro look. However, its not too retro; you can have Garmin avionics installed if you wish. That will boost the price $54,995 base but the Sport is clearly one of the least expensive new airplanes available.
Besides better steel than the originals had, the Sport will have a 100-HP Continental O-200 engine, 42-gallon fuel capacity and a claimed top speed of 127 MPH. Instead of the original airplanes linen covering, the new airplane will have Poly-Fiber covering. Awaiting the final LSA production certificates and approvals, the first deliveries were expected in January of 2005.
As are most of its ilk, the Taylorcraft is a dirt simple airplane consisting of a welded steel fuselage and conventional ribbed wings with fabric covering. Control surfaces are also fabric covered and cable operated through yokes in the cockpit, a decidedly uncommon feature is this ilk of airplane.
Systems, if they be called that, are simple. Early airplanes had no electrical systems but the later Alliance airplanes do have both electrical and vacuum systems. As noted, fuel capacity varies by model year with some models having both header and wing fuel, some just header fuel and the later models wing fuel only.
Like most of the post-war designs, the Taylorcraft wouldnt be mistaken for a luxury ride. Two adults of average size will bump shoulders in the cockpit and all but the shortest occupants will find their knees crowding the instrument panel; headroom is also tight, although adequate.
Speaking of which, youll probably want a noise canceling headset when flying a T-craft. The early ones are terrifically noisy and owners tells us the later models arent much better. When the weather turns cool, bring a sweater; the cabin heat isnt especially good, at least by modern standards and the cabin can be drafty.
As taildraggers go, the T-craft is not especially pleasant to fly. Aileron control tends to be stiff and on the sluggish side and adverse yaw is pronounced. Pilots wishing to learn the importance of rudder control would do well to log a little T-craft time. Owners tell us the airplane is widely known as a floater on approach and landing, primarily due to its unusually low wing loading. Its barely 6 pounds per square foot, which is less than some low-performance gliders. By comparison, the Cessna 150, no slouch in gliding flight, has a wing loading of 10 pounds per square foot.
In general, gusty crosswinds are the nemesis of taildragger pilots and thats especially true for the T-craft, again because of that low wing loading. As in a high-performance airplane, the approach speed has to be spot on for if its planted on too fast, the airplane will bounce and balloon and become a real handful to control.
Planting it on hard in a three-point attitude is not helpful if the speed is too fast, for the airplane will happily bounce back into the air and continue flying. Thanks to that fat wing, approach speeds in the 50 to 55 MPH range are the norm, say owners, and even at that, it has a flat glide angle that takes some getting used to. There are no flaps but the airplane can be readily slipped and with a little practice, a skilled pilot can put it right on the numbers every time. Any pilot with Cub, Luscombe or Stinson time will adapt the Taylorcraft without undue strain. Tri-gear pilots with no taildragger time are advised to get a thorough checkout from a knowledgeable instructor. Or buy one of the tri-gear versions which may take the fun out of owning this class of airplane.
Compared to other airplanes of the era, the Taylorcrafts strong point is performance. C.G. Taylor saw his design as a cheap high-performance airplane, thus its much faster than the doddering J-3 Cub. With the 65-HP engine, the T-craft will toot along at about 95 MPH while the 85-HP engine will move it along at 100 MPH. The newer F-19 models with the 100-HP Continental will hit 115 to 120 MPH, leaving a yellow Cub in the dust and even giving later models, such as the Cessna 150, a run for the money.
Rate of climb is also quite good-say from 500 FPM to 800 FPM initially-depending on aircraft weight and power loading. Thats decent performance against anything and the airplane will come out of short and turf fields without complaint. Indeed, its probably more at home on such fields. Climb speed is about the same as the approach speed, about 55 to 60 MPH, yielding a reasonable climb angle with a view over the nose.
In turbulence, the Taylorcraft does better than most airplanes, even considering the low wing loading. The 23012 airfoil provides excellent pitch stability but, as youd expect, the ride can be bumpy. Cross country trips of more than a couple of hours may thus prove trying in green air days.
If youre interested in such trips, the Taylorcraft is better than most at flying them. With the 12-gallon tank, figure on 200 miles, in still air. Some of the later BC-12D models have 18-gallon capacity, which extends the range out to 350 miles. The 19 and F-19 versions carry 19 gallons which allows them to easily keep pace, rangewise, with modern two-seaters such as the Cessna 150/152.
In terms of efficiency, the 65-HP Taylorcraft gets better mileage than any non-experimental design we can think of, short of a powered glider or new-age airplanes such as Diamonds DA40 diesel-powered Star. A speed of 95 MPH on 4 GPH works out to about 24 MPG, outdoing even the vaunted Mooney 201. And with avgas well over $3 a gallon in most parts of the country, well take all the economy we can get, thanks.
Given its simplicity, theres not much to go wrong in a Taylorcraft. The engine may require the most attention, with routine plug and oil changes and magneto inspections and overhaul. Very few owners fly enough to run an engine out-TBOs of the newer models are between 1800 and 2000 hours. Figure on overhaul costs of $10,000 to $12,000.
We think anyone contemplating a fabric airplane should have a hangar available. The elements are brutal on fabric and even hard on the underlying tube steel structure. Nothing can turn a $300 annual into one costing 10 times as much faster than finding corrosion in the steel.
Anyone shopping for a fabric aircraft should have the fabric thoroughly punch tested. If its found wanting, that will be a huge hit against the asking price.
When T-cart owners are asked about ADs, they can be forgiven for chuckling. There are only six against the entire line and the latest one was in 1987, AD-87-03-08, calling for inspection and replacement of the oil pressure gauge hose.
Before that, AD 78-20-11 required inspection of the aileron control stop pins. The other ADs date to the early 1950s and late 1940s-yes, ADs existed then-are too minor to be worth mentioning. The good news is that with the La Grange factory in place, parts support extends all the back to the beginning. Taylorcrafts Ingram tells us the factory has or can make most parts and offers a restoration service for earlier airplanes whereby older airframes can be placed and straightened in the original jigs and fixtures.
Parts and support are also available from Wag-Aero at www.wagaero.com and from Univair at www.univair.com, both companies with a long history of serving the classic airplane market. Theres also an excellent owner group, the Taylorcraft Owners Club and Foundation (www.taylorcraft.org) that offers information on history, modifications, technical advice and the like.
I am the owner of a 1945 Taylorcraft BC-12D. This was a family heirloom that my father owned for 27 years. I have completely restored it and have been flying it for about five years.
This plane strictly day VFR with no electrical system, which means hand propping and hand-held radio and GPS. It is a fun airplane to fly but not on windy days.
It is a typical tail wheel airplane that uses approximately 4 gallons fuel per hour. Performance is as follows:
• Never exceed speed of 140 MPH
• Cruise speed at 2150 RPMs is 95 MPH
• Best approach speed is 60 MPH
• Stall speed, power off, at gross weight: 35 MPH
• Rate of climb, full power: 500 FPM
• Fuel capacity: 18 gallons. 12 gallons in fuselage tank, 6 gallons in wing tank
My airplane is a 1946 BC12 D with a 65-HP Continental A-65-8 engine, 24-gallons of fuel and 1200-pound gross weight. A complete rebuild was completed and test flown on November 14, 2001.
As you are aware, this aircraft fits into the new sport aircraft rule and is the most economical and practical fun flying you can buy at 4.2 GPH and true 90 MPH travel speed.
This is my fourth Taylorcraft. It is a 1946 BC-12D. I have 300 SMOH and near 2300 total time. It was completely rebuilt in 1988. I have also installed a turbine wind alternator and added an auto fuel STC, which makes it very inexpensive to operate. I use a Garmin 196, ICOM hand held and intercom, plus a 12-volt, 7-amp battery.
Its a nice flyer and inexpensive and easy to operate. It burns about 4 GPH and cruise about 90 MPH with climb prop and about 105 MPH with standard prop. I have a short home grass strip so I use a climb prop (41X74) and, on occasion, a 46 X 72 for higher cruise speed.
The Taylorcraft is cheap to operate easy to work on and can carry two people in relative comfort, if you dont mind being close. My aircraft holds 50 pounds of baggage and I also have the 12 gallons nose tank plus two 6 gallons wing tanks, giving me 24 gallons or about 6 hours flying time to empty.
Most times I only fill one wing tank to use as a reserve. This gives me about an hour and a half after the nose tank goes dry.
I think the T-Craft is a good looking very fine flying machine. I have owned over 20 airplanes in my 50 years of flying, with near 10,000 hours flying time. I hold a SEL/SES-MEL, instruments and CFI. So I have flown many different aircraft during my flying career and still believe the T-Craft is one of the best buys today.
-Lee and Shirley Dautreuil
New Iberia, Louisiana
My father has used the BC-12D Taylorcraft for primary student instruction continuously since 1949. Of all the similar aircraft available at the time, they were available at a very reasonable cost, easy to maintain, only a handful of total ADs, modern side-by-side cockpit with a wheel, less susceptible in crosswinds with low dihedral and a firm landing gear that will take quite a bit of side load compared to others.
Cost of operation is minimal at 4.0 GPH, the engines are nearly bulletproof and the airframe will demonstrate most any flight maneuver, including limited aerobatics. Duane Cole, Margaret Ritchie and Randy Henderson have certainly used the airplanes to their advantage during their airshow careers and to the delight of the crowds.
Dad had a new student who, after his first lesson, was shown the advantages and disadvantages of fabric versus a metal plane. Dad explained that a metal airplane is subject to corrosion and possibly unrepairable damage in a hail storm. While a fabric airplane could survive small hail with no noticeable damage or be easily recovered in a severe storm. He did mention that fabric was more prone to vandalism as he punctured the fuselage with a knife and cut the fabric from tail to nose rendering the aircraft immediately unairworthy! The new student was obviously shocked and never returned, unaware that this airplane was due for new fabric anyway!
My father is one of the rare career instructors in the world who was more interested in really teaching the student about safety and good judgment rather than taking their money while advancing himself towards another goal. The Taylorcraft is the perfect vehicle to teach a student how to fly where the nosewheel trainers create drivers. Its a little like learning to drive in a stick shift or a car with an automatic transmission.
While I have had an extensive career in corporate aviation, I always wanted to own a small aircraft. When the time came, I had little choice but to look for a Taylorcraft. I wanted an affordable airplane that would be easy to maintain and enjoyable to fly.
During the restoration, my goal was to not only create an airworthy aircraft, but to try and keep it as original as possible. Since completion, Ive enjoyed taking it to many shows where others have shared my appreciation for Taylorcrafts. While not a Grand Champion award winner, NC94953 has received many awards at a variety of shows, most recently at the 2004 Antique Airplane Show in Blakesburg, Iowa.
I have gained new friendships through this airplane, flying to many shows around the country. The airplane has over 925 hours since the restoration in July of 1997 and will continue to provide many more enjoyable hours. Cost of operation is almost inconsequential and I cant think of another activity that would be as affordable while providing as much year round enjoyment.
Direct operating costs are very reasonable, even with the higher cost of fuel. I use autofuel except on trips due to availability. At 4.0 GPH, that would come to $7 per hour at $1.75 per gallon. I use Aeroshell multi-viscosity oil at $4.75 a quart and add 1 quart during the 25-hour change interval. I would calculate an engine reserve at $2 per hour based on 2000 hours with a $4000 overhaul cost.
Fabric reserve would approximate $1.28 per hour with an average 125 hours annually for 25 years. No avionics to worry about, just a handheld VHF and GPS. That brings the direct hourly costs to $11.23. Im very fortunate that my annual inspections are very affordable due to the fact I am an A&P and am assisted by a very close friend with an IA.
Other fixed costs would be hangar rent and insurance. Insurance has increased significantly since 9/11 but I am still paying less than $500 through Avemco. I carry liability and non-flight coverage only. I rationalize that if I experience an in-flight related problem, it was probably my fault anyway.
Hangar rent varies considerably around the country from $250 to over $5000 annually. My hangar rent and insurance together is $1550 for an additional $12.40 hour. My view on fixed costs is thats the price you pay when you decide to own an airplane.
The great news is that the Taylorcraft factory is back in production having received its FAA approval last May. They are now providing parts for the older Taylorcrafts as well as the least expensive, fully certified, new production aircraft in America.