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Thread: Cassutt and Differential Brakes

  1. #1
    AcroGimp's Avatar
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    Cassutt and Differential Brakes

    Curious if anyone with experience in the Cassutt or similar small high-performance talwheel plane with direct steering can opine on the necessity or not of differential braking. I may be looking at a Cassutt and with my prosthetic am concerned about getting on the toe brakes since I have to move my whole foot, the Cassutt is a bit cramped and the spar carrythrough is on top of your knee as I understand it.

    I might look into rigging a handbrake instead but only if differential brakes are truly unneeded.

    Thanks in advance.

    'Gimp
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  2. #2

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    Since no one has spoken up, I will suggest that you contact Giles Henderson, a well known IAC competitor, who flys one and wrote and article for Sport Aerobatics about the airplane. https://www.iac.org/files/magazines/SA-2013-02.pdf Try ghenderson@eiu.edu

    There also appears to be a Cassutt owners internet forum at http://www.cassutt-racer.com/forums/...208408212de9e4

    Best of luck,

    Wes
    N78PS

  3. #3
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    Thanks Wes. Giles' article in Sport Aerobatics is part of why I am considering the Cassutt, I'll try him.

    'Gimp
    Whether you think you can, or think you can't, you're right.

    EAA Chapter 14, IAC Chapter 36

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  4. #4
    AcroGimp, While the differential brakes in this type of plane is highly desirable, take a look at the Sonex Taildraggers. They use a single hand operated brake and a hard linkage to the steerable, non-swiveling tailwheel. While I wouldn't care much for that configuration, it clearly works as there are a lot of Sonex Taildraggers out there. With a prosthetic, that may be a workable solution for you.

    -CubBuilder

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    Quote Originally Posted by cub builder View Post
    They use a single hand operated brake
    So does a Volksplane

  6. #6
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    Thanks guys, the Sonex is actually what made me think of the 'no differential' braking configuration since like the Sonex the Cassutt uses a direct steer TW. Major difference is that the Cassutt touches down at Sonex cruise speeds (only slightly exaggerating). Giles actually responded and provided a well-reasoned but strongly worded caution against the Cassutt for my situation, but I am getting other indications from other Cassutt pilots that they are not so sure I couldn't handle it - so still researching.

    My desire is for a plane I can campaign in IAC, Sport Air Racing League and possibly IF1 (overachiever), and you just can't beat the fun factor-per-dollar ratio on the Cassutt (Pitts S-1 might come close). My EAA Chapter has a Cassutt III that might be available and that also added to my interest. I am in no hurry as well.

    The challenge is that I usually have to move my entire leg to get my foot onto toe brakes and that could be a big deal at 90 mph in a Cassutt although I was being taught that in a TW plane you don't use the brakes on the runway unless you need to stop right away - but that was in an Extra 300L which I had no difficulty controlling at all (and able to get down and stopped in about 2000 ft).

    We'll see what the next few days present - maybe I can try some taxiing in a Cassutt and get a better feel for how the direct steer TW and powerful rudder (effectve from ~20 kts according to race pilot Jay Jones) work together.

    Thanks for the input!

    'Gimp
    Whether you think you can, or think you can't, you're right.

    EAA Chapter 14, IAC Chapter 36

    http://acrogimp.wordpress.com/

  7. #7
    I have always like the Cassutt and don't want to discourage you if that's what you really want, but there are certainly other options for getting started in aerobatics or racing. The Sonerai I was a world speed record holder in the < 300 kg class (over 290 mph!) and was, of course, designed for Formula V racing and makes a good entry-level aerobatic plane with the right fuel and oil system. The landing speed is a lot easier to handle than a Cassut.

    Quote Originally Posted by AcroGimp View Post
    Thanks guys, the Sonex is actually what made me think of the 'no differential' braking configuration since like the Sonex the Cassutt uses a direct steer TW. Major difference is that the Cassutt touches down at Sonex cruise speeds (only slightly exaggerating). Giles actually responded and provided a well-reasoned but strongly worded caution against the Cassutt for my situation, but I am getting other indications from other Cassutt pilots that they are not so sure I couldn't handle it - so still researching.

    My desire is for a plane I can campaign in IAC, Sport Air Racing League and possibly IF1 (overachiever), and you just can't beat the fun factor-per-dollar ratio on the Cassutt (Pitts S-1 might come close). My EAA Chapter has a Cassutt III that might be available and that also added to my interest. I am in no hurry as well.

    The challenge is that I usually have to move my entire leg to get my foot onto toe brakes and that could be a big deal at 90 mph in a Cassutt although I was being taught that in a TW plane you don't use the brakes on the runway unless you need to stop right away - but that was in an Extra 300L which I had no difficulty controlling at all (and able to get down and stopped in about 2000 ft).

    We'll see what the next few days present - maybe I can try some taxiing in a Cassutt and get a better feel for how the direct steer TW and powerful rudder (effectve from ~20 kts according to race pilot Jay Jones) work together.

    Thanks for the input!

    'Gimp
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    Prof Henderson knows of what he speaks. Not to be negative, but I meet a lot of guys in aviation who ask for advice and when an authority gives them an answer that they to not like, go and get an answer from less experienced individuals that better suits their desires. Unfortunately, in aviation that can get you hurt, so please weigh all of the offered info carefully.

    An acquaintance tried what you want. After trying to fly his Cassutt in IAC Sportsman for a year he got out his welding torch and built an Ultimate. He scores much better now.

    Best of luck,

    Wes

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by WLIU View Post
    Prof Henderson knows of what he speaks. Not to be negative, but I meet a lot of guys in aviation who ask for advice and when an authority gives them an answer that they to not like, go and get an answer from less experienced individuals that better suits their desires. Unfortunately, in aviation that can get you hurt, so please weigh all of the offered info carefully.

    An acquaintance tried what you want. After trying to fly his Cassutt in IAC Sportsman for a year he got out his welding torch and built an Ultimate. He scores much better now.

    Best of luck,

    Wes
    Wes,

    I thought about whether or not to reply to this, and have decided to give it a go in the hopes that this can provide a learning opportunity for all, myself included.

    First off, I am a bit surprised at the assumption made that by continuing to seek input from folks with experience in the subject type that I am somehow dismissing the guidance provided by Giles, far from it - I am adding to it. The reason I am seeking other inputs is to gather enough data to make an informed decision - I am not merely looking for an answer I want, were that the case I would simply press ahead and not seek any input or guidance.

    That said, I do feel I need to add a little context to what Giles said in his reply to me. To clarify, this is what I took from his reply, he surely can add more if/as he sees fit but this is what I took from his message. Nothing in his reply addressed the suitability of the plane for competition, but it did seem he made some assumptions I want to address below about the suitability of the plane for me.

    Specifically, Giles focused on two aspects, one was the differential braking aspect of my original question, the second was what I believe to be an assumption on his part with respect to my ability to provide effective control and sensing via my prosthetic. Now I explicitly asked the first part, I did not really ask the second. With respect to differental braking, pretty much all Cassutt drivers have stated it is not something they would give up - and I can accet that - the question then becomes one of whether or not I can safely use it, as needed.

    The reason I bring this up is that we all operate from our own experience and our own biases. Giles assumed (I believe) that I lack the ability to sense pressures to the level he believes necessary for the Cassutt, and he also assumed (I believe) that I cannot/may not be able to provide the precision pressures to control the Cassutt. That is quite a jump in my opinion and something I believe my experience with 33 make/models from ultralights, the R-22b helicopter, up to 1700 hp turboprop singles would suggest may not be an issue (precision rudder control). Half of the planes I have experience in are experimentals, and include several considered sporty such as the T-18, Glasair I (TD and RG), and the Christen Eagle.

    Now I do not intend to take away from Giles' position about the overall sensitivity of the Cassutt in any way, that is what I was specifically interested in - but I don't believe that he, or anyone over the interwebs, is in a position to judge my specific ability. If I took the first negative reply I have received to questions about flying over the years I would not hold a Commercial, I would not have qualified for a 1st Class Medical, I would not have tried taildraggers, and I would not have tried aerobatics, frankly, I would not even be a pilot if I accepted the first negative answer.

    What I am getting at is that I am approaching this subject (Cassutt as a possible plane) with the same care and research that has brought to me to this point in the first place. Seek data, make a judgment, and press ahead.

    I love the Glasair I RG for example and was offered the possibility of access to one, but as-built I cannot safely operate it without modification because the rudder pedals are top-hung. I have to move my foot up to get on the toe brakes, and the interference with the torque tube is such I don't like my ability to only get about half as much brake as I want - not going to acccept that when flying someone elses plane.

    I take Giles' caution with a lot of appreciation and respect, but if a Jay Jones, who has almost 1000 hrs in the Cassutt including many laps around Reno provides a counterpoint that it is not an issue in his opinion (he has a daughter who is one-legged) then I am going to include that in the overall calculus as well. Ideally, I will have opportunity to more directly examine the Cassutt as a possible plane for me, to include whether or not I feel I can safely taxi it, and then more - assuming I can get access to one for this (same as anybody else I assume).

    I am a Reliability/Maintainability/Safety professional for my day job, and have been for almost 20 years. I abhor stupid pilot tricks, and am not about to become an avoidable statistic. But I also know that everything about aviation is about managing, not eliminating risk - we can do a lot to reduce the risk of accidents/incidents, but we cannot prevent them completely without also preventing flying. I have 27 years of experience making these evaluations, have had inflight emergencies, have had a brake lock-up on landing, and would put my decision making up against anyone's.

    It is entriely possible that the Cassutt may not be an appropriate plane for me due to my amputation, it is also possible it is no more an issue here than with any other plane I have flown. For myself, I need to gather more info, try the plane on, and hopefully get to drive one around on the ground a bit to eventually make an informed decision.

    Now whether or not it is truly appropriate for my competition desires, that is another question but Giles' Sport Aerobatics article suggests that in the right hands it would be fine for Primary and Sportsman, and we know the plane remains competitive in racing. If there were another similarly capable plane I would be interested in it as well, but I think I'd have to design something to have the same overall capability.

    Thanks

    'Gimp
    Last edited by AcroGimp; 09-29-2013 at 10:48 AM.
    Whether you think you can, or think you can't, you're right.

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  10. #10

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    Thanks for the info. As you likely know, you can not "see" through a computer screen the background and resume of the folks that you exchange posts with. And the older I get, the more conservative my advice. As noted above, it is hard to intuit from what people type what level of smarts and experience to target the conversation to. It is easy to offer advice that gets folks over their head and into trouble. And of course, free internet advice is worth what you pay for it and we all know that there are a lot of folks out there offering opinions on topics that they they have little real world experience in.

    So on the topic of Cassutts, I will suggest that you take a good look at stuff like radio installations and starters. Having to bend down and look under the seat to tune the radio can be a real pain, especially if you need to switch from Unicom to box frequency and not all of the local traffic is flying in the same direction. Or the weather is 1800' and 5 and you are trying to get home from a contest so you can go to work on Manday AM. At least in the northeast, a lot of contests are in airspace that requires a Mode C transponder and a lot of Cassutts seem to not have space for that. A B&C O-200 starter is a great thing, if a little expensive. Getting harder to find folks to hand prop you. And the typical fixed pitch prop installation is optimized for speed, so you will find that when you advance the throttle for takeoff, not much happens for a while. The airplane drags down the runway, drags down the runway, finally the prop bites, and it launches. If you try to compete, absolutely do NOT let your speed get down in the box. The thing won't accellerate from low speed. So if you get slow, just take a break, climb up to where you can dive back in, and restart. If you ask too much of the airplane at contest altitudes it absolutely will bite you. And I have had a miserable experience trying to fly formation with an S-2A and a Cassutt. Did not work as the performance envelopes of the airplanes are so different.

    You will want a canopy breaker tool in the cockpit of the Cassutt. If they ground loop, they appear to like to flip over. You can not get out of the airplane when it is upside down unless someone runs over to help or you have a sharp tool to break the canopy (your fists won't do it). We had a guy come out very early one morning and ground loop before anyone else arrived at the airport. He hung upside down in the airplane for 45 minutes before a mechanic showed up for work, saw him, and ran over to help. A very scary 45 minutes I might add as the fuel slowly dripped from the tank ahead of the cockpit and made a puddle on the ground under the airplane...

    Cool airplanes though. I spent some time in the F-1 hangar at Reno one year. Great bunch of people out to have some racing fun in their relatively inexpensive airplanes. I believe that most brought their airplanes in on trailers as the Cassutts do not have large fuel tanks.

    Best of luck,

    Wes
    N78PS

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