We like to feature hacks that are affordable and accessible to the average person, but from time to time it’s fun to dream about the projects we’ll tackle when we’re all grown up and stinking rich. [Mike Patey] appears to fall rather comfortably in the latter category, but thankfully he hasn’t lost his “excited kid with big plans” spirit. A talented and experienced experimental aircraft builder, he’s currently working on Scrappy, a small bush plane built to be a short take-off and landing drag racer.
Scrappy started life as a Carbon Cub, a modernized kit version of the venerable Piper Super Cub. The only thing left of the original plane is a part of the fuselage frame, with almost everything else being custom. The engine is a 780 cubic inch (13 liter) horizontally opposed 8-cylinder, scavenged from one of [Mike]’s racing planes, and fitting it required extensive structural changes to the fuselage. The paddle-like propeller was intended for an airboat, and is designed for high thrust at low speeds. The skin of the aircraft is all carbon fiber, and the suspension almost looks like it’s borrowed from an off-road racing truck. [Mike] also added (and test fired) a ballistic recovery parachute. The cockpit instruments are also over-the-top for an aircraft like this, with seven Garmin multi-function displays.
Scrappy is still missing its wings, which will also be heavily modified. From the oil-cooling system to the door latch and gust-lock for the stick, everything was designed and made by [Mike]. We’re enjoying the in-depth build videos that show how he tackles all the little challenges that pop-up in such an ambitious project.
Since the last Concorde rolled to a stop in 2003, supersonic flight has been limited almost exclusively to military aircraft. Many have argued that it’s an example of our civilization seeming to slip backwards on the technological scale, akin to returning to the Age of Sail. There’s no debating that we have the capability of moving civilian passengers and cargo at speeds above Mach 1 safely, it’s just something that isn’t done anymore.
Of course to be fair, there’s plenty of good reasons why the sky isn’t filled with supersonic aircraft. For one, they’ve historically been more drastically expensive to build and operate than their slower peers. The engineering that goes into an aircraft that can operate for an extended period of time at supersonic speeds doesn’t come cheap, nor do the materials required. But naturally, the same could have been said for commercial jet aircraft at one time. With further development, the cost would eventually come down.
The real problem holding supersonic aircraft back is much more practical: they are just too loud. From the roar of their powerful engines on takeoff to the startling and sometimes even dangerous “sonic boom” they leave in their wake, nobody wants them flying over their homes or communities. In fact, civilian flight above Mach 1 over land has been outlawed in the United States for exactly this reason since 1973 under the Federal Aviation Administration’s regulation 91.817.
For any commercial supersonic aircraft to be viable, it needs to not only be much cheaper to build and operate than older designs, but it also needs to be far quieter. Which is exactly what Boom hopes to demonstrate with their XB-1 prototype. The sleek craft will never enter into commercial service itself, but if all goes according to plan during its 2021 test flights, it may prove that the state-of-the-art in aircraft design is ready to usher in a new era of supersonic civilian transport.
All of us dream of reaching a point in life where we have the knowledge, skills, energy and resources to pull off builds that match our wildest dreams. [Mike Patey] is living that dream and with a passion for engineering and aviation that is absolutely infectious, he built Draco, the world’s most badass bush plane.
Draco started life as a PZL-104MA Wilga 2000, which already had impressive short take off and landing (STOL) capabilities for a 4 seater. Its original 300 hp Lycoming piston engine failed catastrophically in 2017, very nearly dumping [Mike] in Lake Utah. He decided it was a good excuse to start building his dream plane, and replaced the motor with a Pratt & Whitney PT6 turboprop engine, putting out a massive 680 hp.
Almost the entire plane was upgraded, and the engineering that went into it is awe-inspiring, especially considering that [Mike] did most of it himself. This includes a redesigned fuel system, enlarged wing and control surfaces, new avionics, oxygen system, upgraded landing gear and an array of lights. The wing tip landing lights are actually from a Boeing 737. [Mike] estimates that the upgrades cost somewhere in the region of a million US dollars. All the highlights of the build is documented in series of videos on [Mike]’s YouTube channel. What we would give for a personal workshop like that…
Try not to let your jaw hit the floor when watching the video after the break.
Parts, tools, and components for aviation and aerospace are sold in ‘Aviation Monetary Units’ (AMU). Right now, the conversion factor from USD to AMU is about 1000 to 1. This stuff is expensive, but there is a small portion of the flying community that prides itself on not breaking the bank every time something needs to be replaced. Theses are often the microlight, ultralight, and experimental aircraft enthusiasts. Steam gauges are becoming obsolete and expensive to repair, and you’re not going to throw a 15 AMU Garmin G500 in an ultralight that only costs 10 AMU.
To solve this problem, [Rene] is turning to sensors, displays, and microcontrollers that are cheap and readily available to build modular aviation instruments.
As with all aviation gear, the first question that springs to mind is, ‘what will the FAA think about this?’. [Rene] is in South Africa, so the answer is, ‘nothing’. If a few American pilots decide to build one of these, that’ll fly too; these are instruments designed for non-type-certified aircraft. That’s not to say there are no rules for what goes into these aircraft, but the paperwork is much easier.
Right now, the design goals for [Rene]’s instruments is under 0.1 AMU per module, robust, RF shielded, with engine monitoring, fuel management, heading, air and ground speed, altitude, attitude, and all the other gauges that make flying easy. He’s using a CAN bus for all of these modules, and in the process slowly dragging the state of the art of ultralight aviation into the 1990s. It’s fantastic work, and we can’t wait to see some of these modules in the air.