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Culp Biplane/Skybolt with the M14

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Dec 13, 2014
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I have a couple of inquiries into owning a Culp Special.

I thought I would write something, and start a thread, that way anyone and everyone could read and ask questions if they wished.

I was a Happy Skybolt owner for some 6 years, a close friend and Octagenarion (over 80) approached me one day and said he wanted me to take his beloved Culp Special as my own. He wasn't flying it enough and still wanted to see it fly. I was honored and said, we'd figure it out. I polished up my Cactus Kim (IO540 powered Skybolt and listed it) it sold nearly instantly and is being well taken care of in Arizona.

So the Differences,
Operating a Radial ( any of them) is a labor of love (or hate), it now takes some 40 minutes minimum to get my Culp ready to fly (another 40 or so to put it to bed), pulling the prop 9 blades twice, priming, removing the drip catchers, preheating the oil, as well as opening the pre oiler Accumulator. It's an effort.

The cockpit is tight, I'm 6'1 185 pounds with a backpack chute I can just squeeze in the cockpit. plenty of leg room, takes me a full 10 minutes to get in, get strapped in and ready to start the engine. The Shower Sparks I have are off a PW 985 and are 12 volt, the engine is running by the second blade, it's one of those planes, that you have to know HOW TO START it. Easy if you know, Impossible if you don't.

I've flown several round engines, they are all durable but needy, this is no exception. I love the power of the thing. after the engine start, let the preoil accumulater charge up and close it, close the air valve, open the bypass for over pressure and wait for the engine oil temp to rise.
Taxing is pretty easy if you don't mind NOT SEEING ANYTHING, as in NOTHING, S turns are the rule. No big deal but one can not taxi straight at all.
Run up is pretty standard, CAN NOT relax the back pressure, the tail will rise during the runnup if the stick isn't completely back.

Full power RunUp? NO WAY not unless the tail and the wings are tied down, I wouldn't do it, there is enough prop wash over the wing for the brakes to get light and I honestly think the thing would fly or at least find the edge of the pavement!

Takeoff, LEFT rudder.. a LOT. I don't get to full power until airborne and at 50 feet I typically go to climb power, if I lose the engine I will land straight ahead, I can do this as I fly off a 6000' runway, shorter runways I'd hold off until I have made a 90-degree turn. I guess you could go full power but I think most would exit the runway on the right! It simply flies before you can get it all in.
Climb out is whatever you want, In the pattern, I go for speed nose low, think cruise climb, the nose of the plane obscures forward visibility so I fly a pitch and take what ever speed / rate of climb I get. settles in about 120-140 mph.. shallow S turns again to look for traffic.

Out of the pattern
Rate of climb 2600-3000 fpm maybe more I don't have a VSI.
Stalls very forgiving easy, honest, LEFT RUDDER not right!
Aileron Rolls are a lark, Barrel Rolls are HUGE, one must really bring the nose WAY up in order to not dish out and overspeed in the bottom, I use the leading edge of the bottom wing as a sort of guide. Loops are also a lark and can be started from level flight, you can actually climb doing them. It's a solid 100 hp more than my last Skybolt with about the same weight so it really performs.

Entering the pattern, I do my overhead break the same as my last Skybolt, I fly a descending 180 degree power off while I look at the runway over the top of the wing, you can feel the drag from the prop if you bring the power off, so i power off to zero thrust. 120 mph is what I fly (sorta brick-like) yea I know I could fly slower but I don't, I look over the top of the wing if I slow down I can't see it over the top and lose the runway in the cowl. Over the fence I roll out and as soon as I do airspeed starts falling off to say 100, touchdown about 80 mph, faster for a wheel landing (tail low!) the plane is actually more docile than my old Skybolt with much taller gear it has.

Surprisingly it is more docile that my old Skybolt but also has some issues that could bite, if neglected or ignored, so don't ignore it.

What's the overall take? It's a Really well-behaving airplane, it does draw a crowd, (not something I look for, but some people like) mine is exceptionally well made, with the exception of the oil cooler location I think it was well thought out and well built, I still struggle with oil temps when OAT is above 90.

Would I build one? Let me just say I wouldn't build any of them, I don't have the patience or the talent. I don't think one would ever get their money out of them, just as the other Skybolts never seem to demand the really big money. A Model 12 seems to be the favorite girl in school, commanding top dollar, the Skybolts take the same time and money and don't seem to sell for half of the Pitts. Of course, that isn't why people build airplanes.

Any questions feel free to drop me a note..

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