So I did it! I bought a wonderful plane. A 1946 Ercoupe in great shape. So lets take a brief inventory of my remarkable little plane.
- Low total air frame time
- Polished fuselage and tail
- Medium time engine
- Pretty full panel with at least one mystery gauge!
- Decent radios
- Average interior
- “C” model upgraded to “D”
- 85 HP engine
- Single leg nose gear
- Fabric wings in excellent shape!
- New battery
- Fresh mags
- Very simple paint – yellow wings with big “N” numbers and the “N” number on the fins
So most of that is great, now onto the obvious squawks.
- Mystery gauge – will I solve that puzzle! Time travel?? Warp drive???
- Mediocre interior – maybe original even – brown Naugahyde – This picture shows the brown material my plane has:
- Paint scheme could use some “pizzazz”!
- Wingtip strobe light dead
- Room to maybe improve the panel for what I want the plane for
So what are my plans and priorities.
Fix the wingtip strobe light. My plane has a very unusual custom tip light that combines a standard Grimes fixture with a custom created housing for the strobe with is a standard Whelen strobe. I think the strobe bulb has died. Here is what that looks like:
I think I can order the strobe tube once I’ve confirmed what I have. Aircraft Spruce seems to sell them:
Put in a new interior. So far I think I am going to do the Airtex kit. Here is an Airtex Ercoupe interior”
I’ve ordered their material sample kit and I am in the process of picking the materials and colors. I am leaning towards grays for the carpet and seats (it doesn’t have any carpet at the moment). So premium cloth for the seats and vinyl for the side panels. Still pondering but I think I am close to a choice.
I thought about fitting Cessna 150 seats which I understand is a popular mod but I think keeping it close to original is better. I also considered adding the large baggage mod but I think I’ll pass on that.
I want to add shoulder harnesses. Alpha aviation seems to sell a decent solution. The Alpha Aviation shoulder harness kit:
They also have another mod I think I will do soon. They have a modification that adds a solenoid on the main battery line to remove the high current draw through the main switch.
I am also hoping to have some sort of ground power charging plug added to the plane so I can keep a trickle charger on the batter while the plane sits in the hangar. Life is too short for dead batteries.
Other upgrades I am considering is upgrading the electrical system to have an alternator instead of a generator. “Plane-Power” looks to make a decent kit. I may hold off on that for a little while.
One of the first things I knew I needed was a decent polisher. I’ve already bought one along with a supply of “Nuvite” polish from “Perfect Polish”. So I now own one of these:
I am sure I will become fast friends with this gizmo! I know I have many many hours using it! I expect to buy a couple of other polishers as well. Some sort of smaller one to polish harder to reach places and maybe some sort of basic car type polish for first step polishing work. If you know anything about polishing airplanes please share!
So lets look at some other places in my plane I am looking at making changes. My instrument panel is unusual for an Ercoupe. Here is a picture of the original panel:
Not many instruments and a couple of glove boxes! I’m not sure how many instruments you really need in an Ercoupe. Also note that there aren’t any radios. Ercoupes almost predate radios! But today you are going to want radios! So lets look more at my panel. It has many more instruments and some radios. Sadly you will see there are no longer glove boxes in my plane. 😦 Here are some pictures of my panel. See if you can identify the mystery gauge!
So lets look at what I have. King Com and Nav Radio. A Garmin in panel GX-150 GPS. A marker beacon receiver. A transponder. An artificial horizon. A turn and bank indicator. A mystery gauge! Also note that my control yokes are upside down. The panel is covered with this sort of “spun metal” finish. The previous owner considered this an IFR capable panel. I am going to admit I am not sure I plan on a lot of IFR time in my Coupe! Also the Sperry “Gyro Horizon” looks to have been used in WWII bombers! And it seems to see the world with a definite tilt. It never straightens out. 😦 It needs to be removed and somehow serviced/adjusted. I am told the clock works really well! OK, so one thing I don’t have to worry about! 🙂 I should note that as part of the plane prepping to come home the 1946 tachometer decided it had had enough so it does have a new tach. It has vernier throttle and mixture controls. I am not sure I like those. Maybe I’ll get used to them.
So I considering finding a more original panel and trying to maybe get it to looking something more like this:
Much more period looking. I have considered moving the radios to where one of the glove boxes was in the original panel. I’ve seen folks do that. As with everything all you need is time and money. Does anyone know how the panel goes in and can then be removed? I haven’t figured that out yet. 😦
Dennie suggested the I get rid of the GPS as he is a huge fan of iPads with the right software. My friend Olan thinks the GPS that came with the plane is a decent one. Not sure. It does need the navigation file updated but that is available. I’d love feedback on the right way to evolve/devolve the instrument panel! I don’t see it as the highest priority but I think it will be part of my plans.
So how about some things I decided for now to to change:
The nose gear. At first I though the dual fork gear was a must. I no longer think so. So I don’t plan on any changes to my nose gear. Also the original Ercoupe came with a funny little faring that would line up behind the gear. That was supposed to be good for 1 MPH! 🙂 My plane has a thing called a “snubber” cable the limits the nose gear travel downward and would prevent the faring from working properly. Here is what my nose gear looks like (note, not my gear, just a picture I found like mine):
Another thing I considered was adding a split elevator and basically making my “D” an “E”. Dennie says my plane lands fine and I haven’t flown it yet so I will hold off on that idea till I’ve decided for myself. So no immediate plan with the elevator.
I do have at least one minor sheet metal repair to get made on the cowl. I have a crack in my nose bowl. This I understand is very typical. Here is the crack:
Kind of nasty. No worries. I’ll take off the prop and get the nose bowl looked at by someone with the right skills to set it right.
I am also going to add some non-slip walkway material on my wing roots as they get very very slippery!
So another thing I know pilots are thinking about now. What am I going to do about the upcoming ADS-B transponder upgrade that the FAA is imposing? I am going to ignore it for now. I will be leveraging the unlimited power of procrastination! I don’t need to do it right away and I think there are just too many things improving in that area. I think there are cheaper and better options in the future. So I’m holding off on worrying about that for now.
Now to some fun things. I think I am going to add some trim and even name the little bird. This presents me with a number of options. As for naming I am drawn to Woodstock. Snoopy’s good friend who is an eccentric little yellow bird. Seems to fit the character of this plane. Here is Woodstock:
So now how to embellish my little plane. So it is very pretty as is but kind of plain. Yes a plain plane! At first I was pretty excited about some sort of military theme. You see a lot of Ercoupes in various military trainer schemes. There is even one that legitimately has a military scheme. Lets examine some of the elements of those. First my plane is going to largely stay polished. Let look at a popular military trainer with the sort of makings I am considering. The Ryan PT-22:
By the way Harrison Ford crashed one of these a little while back trying to land in a golf course after his engine failed. So lets look at individual elements.
- Yellow wings- Check!
- Polished fuselage- Check!
- Stars roundel on wing – add that?
- Striped rudder – add that?
- Glare flat paint on the top of cowl – add that?
- Yellow painted horizontal stabilizer and vertical fin – paint those?
- Fuselage side markings – add those?
Lets look at some very pretty military painted Ercoupes:
So none of those planes actually have any sort of military history. More about coupes in the military in a later blog. But they have been made to be a “tribute” to WWII military trainers. So here is my military paint check list with my current thinking:
- Yellow wings- Check! Yup I am keeping those. By the way my plane has HUGE “N” numbers on its wings. I like that. In fact they are the numbers that were assigned when it was first registered with the FAA. NC2756H. My plane is old enough to even have an “NC” number which is what they did back in the 40’s and 50’s was assigned the second letter to be the airplanes category designation. You can see some of the “N” number on my planes wing in this picture:
- Polished fuselage- Check!
- Stars roundel on wing – I think I will add those. On the top left wing anyways and a big one! Now what type, you have an number of choices.
Here are the range of semi-appropriate roundels:
I think I like the first one best. The start with the red ball center. It isn’t “period” correct but this isn’t going to be a “correctly” marked airplane anyways.
- Striped rudder – Yes. I think I want to do this. Here is my rudder now:
So right now it has my “N” numbers. I am thinking I am going to remove the “N” numbers from the movable surface and either put smaller ones on the fuselage or move them to fixed portion of the fins. Whatever I do I’ll do to both sides. The on the movable part I think a vertical blue stripe then alternating red and white stripes. Something like this:
So I am definitely thinking something sort of like this. Maybe with Woodstock image on the fixed portion.
- Anti-glare flat paint on the top of cowl – I thought I wanted that and now I am pretty sure unless I discover there is an issue with glare I’m leaving the cowl entirely polished.
- Yellow painted horizontal stabilizer and vertical fin – I like the look but again I am going to leave the horizontal and the verticals with the exception of the rudders as I previously described polished. Maybe after getting tired of polishing so much I will leverage the awesome invention that is paint! But for now, no changes.
- Fuselage side markings – Hmmm. Maybe move smaller “N” numbers there? At one point I researched what was done with military trainers. What I found was there was no universal guideline. It was largely up to the airbase where the plane was based. What was usually done was a leading letter for the base designation followed by the airplane serial number. So I’m from AZ and there are three air bases there that might fit. Luke AFB, Williams AFB and Falcon field. Luke would be “X”. So X3381. Falcon Field was “BP” and Williams was “Y”. So OK, that is possibility but what is the regulations about that on a civilian registered plane. Well it isn’t clear. You definitely have to have “N” numbers of a certain size but I couldn’t find any indication you can just put on other numbers if you want to. But lets look at the one of the truly military Ercoupes that happens to also be immaculately restored. Here is that plane back then:
and now one painted to be the same but is not the same plane:
Beautiful plane! Those are about the size of the Roundels I am thinking of adding. I’m not sold on the red trim or the yellow on the tail feathers. But there are those rudder stripes! I also wouldn’t have a fuselage length side stripe like that. But there is “I25196”. By the way “I” indicated Mather Field (CA). The serial number as it was painted originally. I couldn’t find anything in the regs about that being OK. You can see the smaller “N” number on the fuselage back by the tail on this picture of a replica I am thinking about. So “X3381” on mine? Or “BP3381”. I do have a hangar at falcon field! Or no serial number? I am no longer sure. The more I look at that original picture the more I’m convinced the new scheme may not be that accurate. The original photo does not have the upper cowl flat black. I also don’t see evidence of the wing fairings being painted. There is something going on with the main gear too.
The original didn’t have hub caps. The new plane has painted ones. OK, so here is another picture of the original plane today. It now has an “E” on the serial number on the nose. A beauty for sure but a bit of a mystery! Here are some photos of the original XQ-13 as it exists today:
But can I legally do the “tribute” military serial number with airfield designator? If you know the answer let me know!
So one thing I am doing for sure is adding these side cowl badges:
A really nice fellow at Auburn airport gave a me polished up pair of these! I can’t find any history on these. But my cowling sides already have the holes to mount these. So there is something “official” about them I think.
It looks like Ercoupes started out with a painted Erco emblem that was part of a side stripe.Something like this:
At some point I believe that Erco did add this marking and a stripe from the factory. But I have no real idea. If there a coupe expert that can explain the history of the logos I would love to hear it!
So I have wondered what if I wanted to stay with a civilian scheme. So I researched as best I could how they were painted new. Not so exciting. Most seem to have been polished with the wings painted silver. I can’t even find out for sure if they were ever painted yellow like mine. So Ercoupes back in the day came out of the factory pretty plain. Here is a pair in the early days:
Note there looks like there might be those badges on this planes. No painted logo or stripes. I would love to learn more about how they came out of the factory.
So a word about the silver wings. It is common to make the first coats of aircraft “dope” used when covering fabric wings have alumium powder in it to make the fabric more resistant to the sun. So it ends up a very pretty silver. So silver wings are basically because they weren’t being painted!
That isn’t to say there haven’t been some interesting civilian Ercoupes! I thought a bit about sunburst on the wings. Basically adding some red sunburst. I think it was Rodney that suggested the sunbursts did not belong on Ercoupes. He said the only plane that deserved sunburst wings was the Pitts biplane! Here is a wacky twin Ercoupe with sunburst!
Most of the nicer civilian painted coupes that keep the polished surfaces seem to have a side fuselage strip and maybe a little trim on the vertical fins:
There was a beautiful Coupe I saw a picture of in TWA markings but I haven’t been able to find that picture again.
Anyways. Those are the sorts of things I’m thinking about the make my coupe “Mine”.
Lots to think about! Again, all it takes is time and money!
I’ll leave this for now with some pictures I found of my plane with the previous owner at California fly ins. Next installment I’ll share some more pictures of my plane and talk about a few things in more detail. If you have an opinion about some of my ideas for my couple please feel free to add some comments! Now lets enjoy NC2756H:
More soon about the wonder of the Ercoupe and of course the wonder of mine!