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Opinion of The Great Lakes Biplane

Daynasdad

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I was curious what the people of this forum think of the Great Lakes biplane. I am a frequent reader and I don't see this airplane discussed often .I was curious what people think of it. I'm talking about the more modern version with the Lycoming IO 360. Look forward to hearing your thoughts thank you
 

Bond007

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Big biplane,not very manuverable.
All depends on what u want to do with it.
007
 

IanJ

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I have no direct experience, but get the impression that it's expensive for what it is, and that most people willing to drop that kind of money on a certified biplane are more likely to go for a Pitts or Eagle for the aerobatics, or a Stearman or N4-N for the vintage militaria, or one of the Wacos for classic biplane action. I had several people recommend the GL to me when I talked about my ideal biplane (not focused on aerobatics, a good weekend flyer). I think it's cool that they're being made again, but too rich for me.

Edit: That said, if the GL floats your boat, go for it! There's nothing sensible about building or owning or flying a biplane, so trying to justify it with rational discussion is a waste of time. :D
 

Lotahp1

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It's a great plane from all I've ever heard. With the oleo gear I've always been told it is one of the "easier" to transition to if you don't have much tailwheel. But none are not doable with the proper instruction. That is a silly reason to buy. It's a strong, proven aerobatic machine that will fly circles around a stock Stearman. I personally love the Ranger powered ones. They just look correct to me. All that said I know some...the front cockpit is smaller than say a Starduster Too or Skybolt front seat and so is the rear. Maybe on the later ones that's fixed and that's only directed towards the originals? Jamie Treat is a great resource for these and can offer a great opinion of them as he has restored several and knows them inside and out.
 
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Great airplane. Just don't expect hot rod biplane performance. In the '70's my AME was a GL dealer and I got to ferry a couple to new owners. Probably one of the nicest handling conventional geared airplanes out there. There are certified and experimental. Not a budget airplane.
 

EAABipe40FF

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Probably not discussed as much because it's not a typical choice for a homebuilder. Fine airplane but more bang for the buck in smaller aircraft.

I recall discussions. There have been NOS parts advertised recently.

Ad says new certified airplane is smaller with larger cockpits.
 
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PittsBird ZB

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I flew 5 hours or so in a brand new one last year. Jumping out of my S-2B into the GL, the GL feels like a big, docile, very fun aerobatic open cockpit biplane. I enjoyed how easy it is to fly and land. Those huge oleo gear soak up everything! Rollout is easy and predictable. Fun airplane!!
 

bipe215

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I flew one a few times and the one thing that stands out in my mind is that it's one of the easiest taildraggers to land. I think I could have had my feet flat on the floor each time I landed it. Rolled out absolutely straight. Had a roomy rear pit but at 6' 5" the turtledeck combing blocked the top panel instruments. Fun airplane though
 

RickRice

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Great Lakes are great airplanes, but don't expect it to fly like a Pitts. Yes, they're aerobatic, but so is a Stearman or a Jenny. Compared to a Stearman, they're nimble. Compared to an S-1 Pitts, they're dogs. Just depends on what you want to do. Everything said in the previous threads about them being easy to land is correct. Back seat has lots of room, but front seat is small. If all you want to do are loops, snaps, rolls, hammerheads, and spins, they're absolutely wonderful, and they're great for those "just before sunset" cruises. If they have the stock short windscreen on the front, you can just about light a cigarette with a match in the rear pit there's so little wind turbulence in the back seat. You can fly through fairly heavy rain and stay dry in the rear pit except for the back of your neck. They're great tailwheel and acro trainers.

Mine had the 200 Ranger and it had a little better performance than the factory models with an O-360. Lots of differences between airplanes, with antiques, experimental, and factory-built models, so you should judge each one on it's own, rather than making assumptions about one based on other GL's.

Hope this helps.
 

Lotahp1

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Rick, Seems like you old Ranger powered one has really found a home at the old reinbeck (spelling?) in New York. I love the nose bowl yours has.
 

jstreat

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Currently rebuilding three 2T-1A with Lyc 180 and one Warner. Great aircraft. No bad habits. As stated above. Not a Pitts, not a Stearman. Just in between. Easy to work on and maintain. Great support from Classic Waco. Also NOS from Henderson and Patty. Go visit J. Duncan's website for the Great Lakes Aircraft Company. http://www.greatlakesaircraftcompany.com

JST
 

RickRice

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Thanks for letting me know my old Great Lakes is now a Rhinebeck Aerodrome. How do you know my old GL (N90242) ended up at Rhinebeck? I looked at their website, but I didn't see it listed in their collection.

N90242 was built by Conway Thorstensen, and the engine was built up by Walt Redfern. I bought it from a Steve Leibler, out of Driggs, ID and flew it home. Steve purchased it from Mike Olson of Yakima, WA, and I sold it back to Mike. When Mike bought it, he intended to do a complete restoration, but never got around to it. After I sold my my first Pitts to Eric Minnis (aka Bully Aero), Mike called and offered to sell N90242 back to me for $25K. I wonder what it ended up going for.

It was a delightful airplane to fly. I sold it in order to go in on a Stearman partnership so I could hop passengers, as the front pit in the Lakes was too small for lots of folks.

N90242 was a pretty faithful reproduction, but with modifications that included the Ranger engine, Cleveland wheels and brakes, and a modified baggage compartment. The old Ranger never missed a beat when I had it, but it blew a cylinder when Mike's ferry pilot was taking it back to WA. One never knows, but I'm guessing the ferry pilot might have been pushing it a little hard. They installed a new cylinder somewhere in CO and flew it on home. I stopped in to see it once a few years later, and it looked exactly like it did when I sold it; they hadn't done anything else to it. I think they pulled the transponder out of it before they sold it, as I saw a cockpit shot of it on Barnstormers and the transponder wasn't in it.

Jamie, I know you had a Ranger-powered GL at one time. Did you notice that it took longer to recover from a spin than the originals or the ones with Lycomings? Mine was the only GL that I ever spun, but as I've mentioned in other posts, it certainly took longer to stop spinning, after initiating spin recovery input, than a Stearman or Pitts.

I only got to go to Rhinebeck one time, when my brother Jim was going to school at West Point, but it was in the middle of the week, so I didn't get to see an air show. I need to get back up there. If I lived in that part of the world, I'd work awfully hard to be able to get on the roster as a flyer for their shows. I've always respected what Mr. Palen accomplished there, and I appreciate his attitude that those airplanes need to be kept flying.
 
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bf92

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There was an original factory Great Lakes at my home airport (KBTF) back in the mid/late 1960's. It was owned by an airline pilot, Jim Hoover, and was powered by a 145 Warner (STC I'm guessing). It was painted dark green with white trim. Does this sound familiar to anyone? Jim gave me a ride in it once for all the times I helped him push it to his hangar after fueling it. I just don't remember the N-number.

Danny
 

Dennis5678

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I have a few hours in a Great Lakes down at St Augustine Airport.
Very fun biplane and enough aerobatics for me.
Yes a large Biplane but I would build a Marquart MA-5 Charger instead because it is a better flying Biplane.
The cost difference building a Great Lakes would not be that great over building the Charger. Resale value would be greater with the Great Lakes.

Put the Great Lakes landing gear on the Charger and change the tail shape.
 
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jstreat

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The Ranger GLAC that I flew was not approved for any acro. Restricted on Ops Limits. It had a Ranger 200hp with an Aeromatic. With that said. The FAA let me attempt acro to see if the Ops limits could be updated. It would barrel roll, snap, and aileron roll fine. The spin was gentle in and out. Took some lead time to stop on point. It would not perform looping maneuvers at all. No matter how my speed. Just to heavy on the nose. Once the Aeromatic was replaced with a Sensenich, it did just fine. I know the Lyc 360 powered version flies much nicer. Very well balanced. It will not climb out like the 200 Ranger. Have not flown the Warner version yet. That is coming. The first one in my shop will have a 165 Warner done under FAA 337 by me. I have the approved data. I can't sign off on the 185 Warner. There is a one time STC for the 165, but not much data behind it.

JST
 

iowaboy

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If you are thinking of building a Great Lakes Sport Trainer, they are very complex and lots of parts to build. There is a Great Lakes Sport Trainer Yahoo group you can join for free. The guys and gals there own factory and homebuilt ships. The Lakes is a very nice plane to learn acro in and do fun acro and like all are saying are easy to land. A PJ260 is a step up from the Great Lakes. It has more room in both cockpits. Larger engine but the same airfoil. The original Great Lakes came out in 1927 I think. They originally had ailerons on the lower wing only. Then later some airshow pilots like Tex Rankin modified one with 4 ailerons all equal size. Then there were some who added the upper ailerons that were smaller than the lower ailerons. The 1970s factory build versions had some with ailerons on the lower wing only and some with 4 ailerons. It is an old grand design. To read on some history you can go to my Great Lakes website. http://www.greatlakesairplane.freeservers.com/greatlakes/greatlakesclick.htm

Harvey Swack is the Great Lakes guro. He got a set of plans to homebuilders years ago. Harvey is 94 years young now. He needs to write a book on the Great Lakes. Incidentally Harvey claims there is not really any better roll rate on a 4 aileron vs the 2 ailerons. He said Nick D'Apuzo did a test. If you put cuffs on the lower interplane strut attachments, it would make the lower ailerons work better and as good as the 4 aileron version.
Now of course the Waco people build a real nice expensive beauty. I bought a homebuilt project once, I decided that on my salary I could not afford to complete it. I sold it. I wish I had not done that.
Mike Townsley in Iowa
 
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Clay Hammond

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Great info Rick. Thanks! Your old Lakes is indeed at ORA now, owned by one of our resident pilots as his personal machine. He flies it for fun as well as in the airshow. I knew Mike Olsen when I lived out in Yakima working for CubCrafters. He let me fly the Lakes from time to time to keep it exercised. I moved away in 2008. When it came up for sale I pointed it in the direction of the new owner. Great flying airplane. We are closing the Saturday shows with it doing a vintage acro routine. Looks great!

Thanks for letting me know my old Great Lakes is now a Rhinebeck Aerodrome. How do you know my old GL (N90242) ended up at Rhinebeck? I looked at their website, but I didn't see it listed in their collection.

N90242 was built by Conway Thorstensen, and the engine was built up by Walt Redfern. I bought it from a Steve Leibler, out of Driggs, ID and flew it home. Steve purchased it from Mike Olson of Yakima, WA, and I sold it back to Mike. When Mike bought it, he intended to do a complete restoration, but never got around to it. After I sold my my first Pitts to Eric Minnis (aka Bully Aero), Mike called and offered to sell N90242 back to me for $25K. I wonder what it ended up going for.

It was a delightful airplane to fly. I sold it in order to go in on a Stearman partnership so I could hop passengers, as the front pit in the Lakes was too small for lots of folks.

N90242 was a pretty faithful reproduction, but with modifications that included the Ranger engine, Cleveland wheels and brakes, and a modified baggage compartment. The old Ranger never missed a beat when I had it, but it blew a cylinder when Mike's ferry pilot was taking it back to WA. One never knows, but I'm guessing the ferry pilot might have been pushing it a little hard. They installed a new cylinder somewhere in CO and flew it on home. I stopped in to see it once a few years later, and it looked exactly like it did when I sold it; they hadn't done anything else to it. I think they pulled the transponder out of it before they sold it, as I saw a cockpit shot of it on Barnstormers and the transponder wasn't in it.

Jamie, I know you had a Ranger-powered GL at one time. Did you notice that it took longer to recover from a spin than the originals or the ones with Lycomings? Mine was the only GL that I ever spun, but as I've mentioned in other posts, it certainly took longer to stop spinning, after initiating spin recovery input, than a Stearman or Pitts.

I only got to go to Rhinebeck one time, when my brother Jim was going to school at West Point, but it was in the middle of the week, so I didn't get to see an air show. I need to get back up there. If I lived in that part of the world, I'd work awfully hard to be able to get on the roster as a flyer for their shows. I've always respected what Mr. Palen accomplished there, and I appreciate his attitude that those airplanes need to be kept flying.
 

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