January 2014

Experimenter is a magazine created by EAA for people who build airplanes. We will report on amateur-built aircraft as well as ultralights and other light aircraft.

Issue link: http://experimenter.epubxp.com/i/247918

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Page 25 of 38

WHAT OUR MEMBERS ARE BUILDING Eric takes the original FRED for a spin in Tullahoma, Tennessee, in summer 2012. Fifty Years of FRED Flying Fun BY MATTHEW LONG "NOVEMBER 3, 1963, started of quite foggy, but that did not stop us continuing the taxiing tests. Ernie [Sherry] took FRED up to the top of the hill and drove him of into the fog, returning in a very excited state, vowing he had been airborne, albeit very briefly…Fortified by the knowledge that it was possible, I really went for it in the clearing conditions and performed the first proper flight. It was just a short hop straight across the field at an altitude of less than a hundred feet." So Eric Clutton describes FRED's first flight just over 50 years ago at the former Royal Air Force airfield at Chetwynd, Shropshire, England, in his memoir An Aeroplane Called FRED, including how the FRED looked a little different then—his first engine was a converted Triumph motorcycle V-twin and his wings could be removed and strapped to the fuselage sides but did not yet fold—but Eric still flies that same plane today as N4499Y in Tullahoma, Tennessee. Not many homebuilt planes are still flying in the hands of the original builder/pilot 50 years after the first flight. When that homebuilt is the original prototype of a design still emerging from garages, basements, and garden sheds around the world, that is something to celebrate. To be sure, Eric Clutton's FRED, more formally the Flying Runabout Experimental Design, is a funny little aeroplane with Rube Goldberg charm. Eric describes it as a 1950s design with 1930s technology because the only aircraft design books to be found in Britain after World War II were from the 1930s. The straightforward wooden 26 Vol.3 No.1 / January 2014 construction is best described as "stout," and the longtravel, coil-spring landing gear is forgiving of rough fields. The relatively low aspect ratio, folding, cantilever wing is wire-braced against twisting and uses the same Göttingen 535 airfoil as the Slingsby T.21B Sedbergh training glider with which Eric was quite familiar as a longtime glider pilot. This thick, under-cambered airfoil helps ensure FRED's docile handling while also ensuring that no FRED will ever be called speedy no matter the engine. Speaking of engines, Eric's own FRED has gone through many. After the Triumph V-twin (barely) got the little plane into the air, the next one was a prewar Scott Flying Squirrel from a Mignet Flying Flea, then a converted Lawrance radial GPU from a PBY Catalina, multiple Volkswagens, a small Franklin, and finally the Continental A-65 that N4499Y still sports today. Most other FREDs have used Volkswagen engines with 1835 cc being the most common displacement. Since Eric's good friend—the late Arthur Tabenor—helped develop that winning combination of airframe and engine, the design is sometimes known as the Clutton-Tabenor FRED. With all the tinkering with engines and propellers to get the diameter and pitch right and the inevitable crack-ups, Eric quips, "Before we finished, I would get so practiced at this propeller making that I wrote a book on it!" Eric's book Propeller Making for the Amateur, still available from the EAA shop, remains the standard reference on both sides of the Atlantic on how to carve your own wooden propeller. Photography by Matthew Long

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