The maiden flight took place in mid-April, which for Minnesota is late winter. The snow had only been gone for about a week or two and there were still some signs of it where the larger piles had been. With the spring thaw at hand our field was a soggy mess, so I decided to take the Waco out to our "auxiliary field" which is an abandoned airport. After spending a little time with our weed-whackers, my buddy Geoff and I had cleared a good portion of the vegetation that had sprung up through the cracks in the no-longer-maintained runway.
The DLE-30 had had only one tank of fuel through it, but this engine is so strong that a good break-in period really won't be needed to power this plane. So with no further ado, we cranked her up and sent her down the runway.
I don't usually use less than full power on take off, but since the Waco had plenty to spare I thought that holding back a bit was at least worth considering. Since we had more than enough runway, I decided to do a half-power taxi run and be prepared to either fly or abort depending on what the plane did.
It really came as no surprise when she lifted gracefully into the air in a very scale-like manner. I held the power at half and entered a broad, left turn. "A real pussy-cat" I thought as I leveled her off on the back side of the pattern. Any trim adjustments were minor and after her first pass, she was flying "hands-off".
Ok, now it's time to crank it up. I pushed the throttle forward and she responded with authority! Wow! I started yankin' an' bankin' and doing some serious "stick wiggling" and the Waco followed my every move. She doesn't give you the immediate response you might expect from one of the modern aerobats, but neither is she supposed to. This is a classic biplane of the "Golden Era" of aviation - one that was so popular that many full-scale versions are still being built, and with good reason!
About then, Geoff leaned over and said, "You should see the smile on your face!" I said, "Hell yea I'm smilin' - I'm having FUN!" Although I had flown a few times down in Florida this past winter, this was my first flight of the season in my home territory! Combine that with the fact that I was flying such a sweet airplane and I was in heaven!
Ok, enough of this for now I thought, let's see how it lands. I powered down on the back leg and brought her into a graceful sweep to the left. I stayed high intentionally so as I approached the final heading, I cross-controlled the rudder to side-slip it down a bit. Sweet! She side-slips like a champ!
With the maiden flight under my belt, I decided to crank up the throws a bit and add some expo to compensate. Subsequent flights were even better as the plane and I got more comfortable with each other.
And on a final note, when it came time to pack up and go home, I was REALLY glad that I had modified the wing attachment. I simply removed the 12 bolts, replaced eight of them into the struts and used the other four to replace the carrying handle. So, aside from a screwdriver to remove the two nylon bolts that hold the bottom wing to the fuse, there was only one tool needed and the disassembly was done in a matter of minutes.
Check out the video to see her in action!