The Luscombe is a Simple Plane

1946 Luscombe 8A

The Luscombe is a simple plane -- one engine, two seats, made of steel and aluminum and cloth. It doesn't even have an electrical system; no starter, no radios, not even a light for the compass. So why is it so complicated??

I can fly complicated airplanes. Airplanes with flaps and constant-speed propellers, lights and starters and radios. Airplanes with long checklists, point after point that must be checked before the plane is ready to fly. The Luscombe has no complicated checklist. Mags, fuel, carburetor heat, controls free, and we're ready. So why did I take more than ten hours to learn the Luscombe's ways?

Such deceptive simplicity. The plane lives at a modern airport, with airliners, radios, and required radar services. I have special permission to keep the Luscombe there; a waiver releasing me from the radar requirements. The waiver doesn't last forever. Every six months I must renew it. Every six months I must show that my airplane is so simple it can have no transponder. Being simple is more complicated than it looks.

No starter. In the complicated aircraft, I simply turn the key and the engine starts. Not so the simple one. I must have someone to help me, working the switch and brakes while I spin the prop by hand. If nobody is around, I must tie the plane, set the brakes, chock the wheels, so that the plane will not move until I can get inside. This isn't so simple, after all.

Takeoffs and landings. The complicated planes have nosewheels. They go where I point them, and I can relax and enjoy the trip. The Luscombe sits with its tail on the ground, its perky little nose eagerly pointing up into the sky. It goes where it wants to, unless I keep a tight hold on it. Botch a landing, stop paying attention for even a second, and it takes over. Simplicity certainly has its price.

Everywhere I look, my simple airplane gets more complicated. Navigation - not for me the ease of dialing in a distant radio and following a needle to my destination. It's charts and compass and time and distance and keep track of position at all times, here. Keep track, also, of the time, for we must be on the ground by nightfall. Planes with no lights can't fly at night.

The Luscombe is a complex plane. Its complexity hides beneath a veneer of simplicity, disguised, saying "See! Nothing here to worry you. I'll be no trouble, no trouble at all." But as you fly the veneer wears off, revealing the subtle trickiness, the details that try your skill. To fly the Luscombe, you must pay attention to it. In paying attention to it, you become not a person flying an airplane; but a person and an airplane, flying. The lessons never end, and as you become one with the aircraft you realize:

The Luscombe is a simple plane.

Contact me:

Roger Ritter
930 Days End Rd.
Wimberley, TX 78676
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