Courtesy Dave Clinton
Dave Clinton and his Legend.
t EAA Oshkosh 1987, my first time in attendance, I arrived as number 4 in a T- 28
four-ship formation. Talk about an awesome
experience! I continued my annual trip to
Oshkosh for the next 12 years and enjoyed
participating in many volunteer functions on behalf of
the EAA and Warbirds of America (WOA). Still, during
every convention I would steal away from the Warbirds
compound and roam the grounds, usually in the late
afternoon during the air show. One of the most astounding things you learn by exploring the convention site is
how polite all the people are; they’re courteous to a fault.
What a great place to be in the summer.
During my sojourns I also became aware of the unbelievable talent, creativity, and quality of workmanship
that existed everywhere I explored. After my second year
at Oshkosh, I vowed to build and fly my own homebuilt
Growing up as a “hot rodder” in southern California,
I considered myself perfectly suited to accepting the
challenge of building my own aircraft. Throughout the
years since the end of my military service, I have owned,
restored, and flown a number of warbirds. This, in conjunction with owning a small manufacturing business,
caused me to believe I had the experience and technical
assets necessary to begin a project.
In 1998 I sold my T- 28. I floundered for a while trying
to determine what kind of project to take on. Everyone
has a self-image, and I still imagined that I would like to
fly a hot rod, but without the costs and complications
of a warbird. During my volunteer days with WOA I
had been involved in the moratorium issue the FAA had
decreed upon warbirds, restricting their freedom of flight.
This along with issues of noise and future fuel availability
made me think that a small, fast turbine-powered aircraft
might be just the right thing.
I had been reading about a new company in Kansas
that was producing a Mustang look-alike called the Legend
with an automotive piston powerplant, but it was having
difficulties with engine reliability. Performance Aircraft
was getting a lot of press and ultimately hooked up with
a firm called Turbine Design in DeLand, Florida, to re-engine the aircraft with a turbine. Finally, the Legend was
looking like the bird I was interested in.
A trip to the COPPERSTATE Fly-In in the fall of 1998 afforded me the opportunity to fly in the turbine Legend factory demonstrator. The owner of Performance Aircraft,
Jeff Ackland, sensed that I was a ripe candidate and
allowed me a fair amount of flight privileges during
the demo hop. With a power-to-weight ratio of about
0.4-to- 1, the takeoff on a cool Phoenix morning was
like a catapult shot. Initial climb was approximately
5,000 fpm, and indicated airspeed (IAS) was a conservative 240 knots at 10,000 feet at low torque. I was
hooked and began negotiating
even before we landed. But the
steep deposit and long lead time
on kit delivery made me a little
uncomfortable. I still needed to
perform a lot of due diligence so I
elected to postpone any decision
until the following year.
Part of the concern was the powerplant. Turbine Design was proposing a firewall-forward package
complete with instrumentation and wiring as a bolt-in
solution. Its powerplant of choice was the Czech-built
Walter 601D, advertised as “serviceable” and to be
installed and run “on condition.” This means specific
parameters of performance and maintenance are continually monitored and evaluated to ensure flight safety,
much like running your piston engine past the time
between overhauls (TBO) and then keeping a close eye
on all the data.
“. . . a small, fast turbine-
powered aircraft might be
just the right thing.”