Dave Wilcox's N136DE has a new home

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ChuckerF14

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Prescott Valley, AZ
Dear Sonerai Lovers,

Scanning the covers of the Sonerai newsletter, you will find at least three photos of Dave Wilcox's Sonerai 2LTS. This airplane was certified on April 29th 1997. Dave logged 2097.6 hours in both the tail dragger and nose dragger configurations....always in the breeze produced by his trusty Continental A80. On March 28, 2014 Dave performed an annual inspection and signed away his beautiful bird the following day. The plane continued to fly behind that ol' A80 until it just couldn't make enough oil pressure to keep the new owner comfy. Off came the Conti as preparations were made for a VW based power plant. Unfortunately, personal issues cut that project short. That, my friends, is how I came to be the proud caretaker of Experimental Sonerai 136DE. Photo attached. I'll put a few more photos in my gallery.

There is a great deal of Sonerai lore under the wing of this old beauty. I'll share some short stories as I learn more about her. In the meantime, you can read the stories already recorded in the pages of the Sonerai newsletters.

My plan is to finish the conversion using the Revmaster 2100 I built for my other project. I plan to get my TW endorsement in a friend's Waco this coming April. Until then, I can test my engine and get used to Sonerai manners with 136DE configured as a nose dragger. After the endorsement, and some TW practice in other aircraft, I will reconfigure 136DE to her conventional self. By the time I get comfortable dragging the tail of 136DE, my original project should be ready to break contact with mother earth. Perhaps then, another lover of all things Sonerai will want to become a part of this aircraft's amazing history.

All the best,
Chucker
 

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eschrom

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Harrisburg, PA
Congratulations on your purchase, Chucker! I hope you put another 2000 on it. Dave was a very knowledgeable and helpful contributor to this site and it was a sad day for us when he moved on. Glad to hear his airplane is back.

Ed
 

Mytonic

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Mi
Nice find! I think you might have to build an addition on your shop, blue skies, John
 

wbpace

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Escondido, CA
That is GREAT news. I thought he had parted it out.

Enjoy, and advertise here first when you are ready to pass her on. You never know who might be interested! ::)

O'Bill
 

ChuckerF14

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Prescott Valley, AZ
It's a wonderful bird....and although there is a minor weight penalty, the option of shifting between nosewheel and tailwheel is nice! Hope to find someone on this forum to takeover the caretaker reins when that time comes.

I will be trimming weight where I can during the rebuild. However, I don't plan to dig any deeper than necessary. She needs a whole new FWF and the instrument panel needs reinstallation. The canopy frame needs a minor mod to keep the latching rail aligned with the lugs. Other than that, she should be ready to go.

I didn't realize how hard it was to work in a confined workshop on a Sonerai with the wings attached. If you can't spread the wings, you can't open the canopy. Problem solved yesterday. See attached photos.

All the best,
Chucker
 

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mhflyit

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Jupiter, FL
Chucker - in the picture the mains look like they're already in the tail-wheel configuration on the fuse.
Why go nose wheel? - the biggest weight saving will be removing the nose gear!
If you start with the nose gear you may never remove it.
In my opinion the Sonerai is easier to land than a cub and with correct speed in a 3 point landing will stick and track straight.
 

ChuckerF14

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Prescott Valley, AZ
Great question, Matt!

1. I am planning on getting my tailwheel endorsement in April. I have a friend with a Waco and he has been promising me the training for a couple of years now. I just have not made the time and made my way back to Georgia. I have ambitious hopes of getting N136DE in the air before that occurs. I thought it would be a good idea to feel her out in the most forgiving configuration and get some confidence in a new rebuilt engine. It just take a few hours to convert her back and forth between nose and tail.

2. This aircraft was built to carry the Continental. The tail is so heavy that, with a VW behind the spinner, she'll likely need some ballast at the firewall. The nosewheel will provide some ballast for the time being. I'll need to sort that out when I remove the nose anchor later.

3. I'd like to offer her back to the community as an ambidextrous machine. I believe that is one of the things that made her special in our world....not fast....just special. Dave was able to carry passengers with a dry weight of 690 pounds. The second owner got about 60 pounds off her waist. I may find a few more pounds here and there. She should do fine now that she only has one seat....which was part of her previous diet plan.

Thanks for the input. I appreciate all the thoughts of this community....especially those who have "been there, done that."

Chucker
 

mhflyit

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Chucked- my sonerai once had a nose wheel... the tail had about 5lbs of lead ballast if I recall. Your ballast should be similar and easily removable. I think the nose wheel assembly was 15lbs. All in all about 20lbs removed.
Matt
 

ChuckerF14

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Matt,

Dave had ten pounds of ballast in the tail. That has been removed. There are also two small batteries and an ELT in the tail. Even with the ballast removed, the tail is extremely heavy. Dave put a network of support rods between the longerons to stop them from bowing under tension from the fabric (or so I assume). He also added an electric elevator trim tab. Where the rest of the weight rests is still a mystery.

Dave's gear legs are through-bolted in place. Switching configurations is a matter of removing the bottom pan, removing four bolts, moving the legs, replacing the four bolts, removing or replacing the nosewheel (one bolt and two clevis pins), and trading the tailwheel for a skid (or vice versa). The brake lines are routed such that they remain connected...no need to even bleed the brakes. Dave advertised it as a two-hour job. That may be possible after a time or two around the block.

Chucker
 

mhflyit

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Wow... sounds great but that maybe where some of the weight exists.
Fabric and paint if heavy and thick respectively can be a hidden cause of excessive weight.
Good luck! You'll have a blast when flying.
Matt
 

ChuckerF14

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It has a castering nosewheel. Steering is via differential breaking. Not having to rig the nosewheel steering makes the job fairly quick and simple.
 

Smokyray

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Congrats Chucker! After my enjoyable experience performing a similar Sonerai vigil, I applaud your candor.
I spent nearly three months getting 994SP dialed back in to what I perceived were the melding of Scott’s intentions and my own expertise. I too had to R&R a power plant and shave weight. I found 12V batteries, lead and plastic tubing in the tail of 994SP and other non essential items elsewhere. Keep looking, every ounce counts. The end result for me was arguably my favorite sport aircraft with my original RV4 a very close second.
Don’t hesitate to go to a TW configuration, it’s not rocket science. To quote the Hornet driver who bought my RV4, “I’ve got a hundred night traps, it can’t be that bad”. He got a day in the back seat of a Champ and soloed my Four the next...

Bravo Zulu!
Smokey
 

phzabriskie

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Santa Fe, New Mexico
Congratulations Chucker!!! Dave was gracious and took me flying in his Sonerai, long ago now, 2012. It was my one opportunity to get stick time in a Sonerai and we had 3 hours over the fantastic Arizona countryside. Blue Skies! -Pete
 

ChuckerF14

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Nov 1, 2013
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Prescott Valley, AZ
Tim... The previous owner removed the front seat and controls. I have decided to reinstall them... so more people can share that memory with you.

For those encouraging me to ditch the training wheel: I decided to do just that. My Waco buddy is going to come out and give me the endorsement in 136DE.

That said, is there a reason some of you seem to shy away from wheel landings in the Sonerai?
 

Smokyray

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Chucker, I embrace wheel landings in both the Sonerai and my RV's. I only encourage three point on rough surfaces.
The S2 wheels lands nicely, with improved forward visibility and rudder effectiveness...try them and decide for yourself!
My 2 cents...
V/R
Smokey
 

Pttim

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I agree with Smokey both are useful, I tend to 3 point more than wheel land. I have to work at the wheel landing.
 

ChuckerF14

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Nov 1, 2013
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Prescott Valley, AZ
Replaced Dave's swivel type front rudder pedals with those in the plans. I now have more leg room in the front than in the back. It seems the STRETCH is a legitimate 2-place aircraft. I just need to add some power or remove some weight. Dave flew it at a dry weight of 690# behind an 85hp Continental. I'm looking to get her under 600#. Much of the weight seems to be in the tail and the fabric. Without stripping her and starting with the bare skeleton, I may have my work cut out for me.
 
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