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Thread: Commonwealth SkyRanger 185

  1. #1
    RVBottomly's Avatar
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    Commonwealth SkyRanger 185

    I've been flying this airplane for a while now and referenced it from time to time, but I thought I'd give a bit more of a description of how much I like it, even though it is far from a "bush plane."

    According to the stamp on the door, it was built in July, 1946. It originally came with a C-85. It left the factory at 951 pounds with a gross weight of 1450 pounds.

    I ordered the disk from the FAA and could review its history. A C-90 was installed in the 90s with field approval. (Now there is an STC for an O-200). It was weighed in 96 at 1001 pounds, so she gained a bit. If I go by that, I have a useful load of 449 pounds, which is not very impressive to most of us, but enough. With my pockets full, I weigh 180 pounds. 24 gallons of fuel means I can carry another 125 pounds. Hmm. My wife weighs 115 pounds.

    I'll have to go with half tanks to haul around big people, though.

    Nevertheless, at full fuel with me on a crisp cool day, I was climbing at 700 fpm at 70mph. Today, though, density altitude was approaching 6000 feet and I could manage 400 fpm at 65 mph if I leaned the mixture for peak rpm. My first take off I was making 300 fpm until I decided to lean. It seems best rate of climb drops from 70 to 65 as DA goes up--something to explore further.

    I'm happy enough with that, given what I'm using her for.

    So far I'm burning 4.5 gpm putzing around. I did a cruise test and calculated true airspeed at 6000 feet of 105 mph. I went back and forth; to and fro with the Garmin pilot app on my tablet, and it seemed to average out at around 100+ mph. So I have a speedster.

    The wings are similar in profile to a Taylorcraft, but she also has wing slots on the leading edges in front of the ailerons. The idea was to make it gentle in a stall. I did quite a few stalls and found that it was more abrupt than a Cessna or Citabria, but recovery was immediate if you just reduced stick pressure. No buffet. The only warning I could sense was a subtle change in airflow sound. Hard to describe, but it seems noticeable after a couple tries. Straight and level stalls are exactly at 45 mph, which is where the hand-painted green arc ends.

    I spent some time on my first flight exploring slow flight. I felt fairly good about aileron control in turns as low as 50 mph. Slow it down below that and it felt like a wing was close to stall with significant deflection. Things to store in the back of the mind....

    In the air she flies like a 38 Buick. By that I mean that she takes bumps softer than, say, a Taylorcraft or J-3. Controls are solid--not quick, not stiff--but predictable.

    She is squirrely on the ground though. When I got her, she had a Maule tailwheel and the wrong steering arm. Putting it back to what the drawings showed (equivalent to a Scott 2200 tailwheel and proper steering arm from ebay) helped a lot. But there is some toe-in that makes her want to jump side to side. Plus, she has a huge tail with a relatively small rudder, so cross-wind taxiing is exciting. I feel more or less comfortable now--it's a good workout for the legs.

    The prior owner told me he usually took off from a 3-point position. He also was a retired ag pilot. I tried it once and it surprised/scared me. The plane was up and in ground effect before I expected. The airspeed indicator was just starting to register. I held it in ground effect for a number of seconds until I felt I could have a positive rate of climb. Wind was blowing me crabwise and I was being gentle with ailerons/rudder given how slow I felt. It's another thing to explore, though. I think it jumped in the air after rolling only 200 feet, but was not in a position to actually climb for another 300 feet or so.

    Regular takeoffs are predictable. Once full power is set, the big tail keeps things straight. Of course, if you find that you pointed to the side before the tail took over, it takes a lot of effort to get it back in alignment.

    Landings are fairly predictable. One Skyranger owner says he uses 80 on final. That seems too fast. I've tried 65 and 70, and both seem to work. Power off, she drops somewhere between a flapless Citabria and a Pacer. The oleo shock absorbers are quite nice. Not TK-1 or anything like that, but 3 point landings don't bounce if they are reasonable.

    I need to work on wheel landings, though. I've learned that the Commonwealth does very decent go-arounds.

    So, that's my haphazard pirep. For less than what I paid for a used pickup, I've got a plane I'm starting to feel good about. At first the ground handling had me spooked, but like a horse I used to own, we've come to an understanding.

    Oh, almost forgot to mention the cool features:

    Venturi turn and slip works perfectly;
    No solenoids anywhere. Starter is T-handle pull to engage, Master switch is a cable going to a hefty Cutler-Hammer SPST switch;
    Interior is big--44 inches more or less between doors. Two adults with room for a small cooler in between.;
    Bench seat (non adjustable);
    Gauges look like they belong in my old 48 Chevy grain truck. For that matter, when you climb in it smells just like a 48 Chevy, which I find agreeable and nostalgic.

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  2. #2
    scout88305's Avatar
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    Unique is cool

    “We sleep safely in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.”
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  3. #3
    supercrow's Avatar
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    Had a friend who owned one on this field 40 odd yrs. ago. It was an 85hp and he flew it for a few yrs on wheels and skis when conditions were solid as it was somewhat underpowered for that use. I flew it a few times and thought it was a great flying machine. Needed more rudder and HP for my taste but was a fine plane just the same.
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  4. #4
    skywagon8a's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RVBottomly View Post
    The wings are similar in profile to a Taylorcraft, but she also has wing slots on the leading edges in front of the ailerons. The idea was to make it gentle in a stall.

    I spent some time on my first flight exploring slow flight. I felt fairly good about aileron control in turns as low as 50 mph. Slow it down below that and it felt like a wing was close to stall with significant deflection. Things to store in the back of the mind....
    Just imagine what would happen in the stalls if those slots were not there. They are to keep the ailerons from stalling before the wing does. May even help in spin recovery or prevention.
    N1PA
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  5. #5
    BC12D-4-85's Avatar
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    VG's help a similar Taylorcraft airfoil during slow flight

    Gary
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  1. Commonwealth SkyRanger 185
    By RVBottomly in forum Everything Else (formerly:My Other Plane Is A....)
    Replies: 33
    Last Post: 10-12-2019, 05:26 AM

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