From Odd to Awesome
This Aerosport Quail fits the bill
Being exposed to homebuilding and experimental amateur-built aircraft at an early age, I could consider myself to have a leg up in my knowledge of various types of light-experimental airplanes. For years I’ve poured through vast libraries of Experimenter, Light Plane World, and other magazines (and newsletters), and it’s always been a treat to me. So it would stand to reason that when the time came for me to actually consider finding or building a plane I could call my own, I had some really good seeds planted in my brain. I could almost say that I already knew just what I wanted.
For the sake of time and budget I decided to first consider finding a small, single-seat airworthy light experimental (sort of like trying on a pair of Birkenstocks for the first time) to decide if I really wanted to go down the road of building, flying, and maintaining a homebuilt. But unlike a pair of affordable low-risk sandals, the idea of owning and maintaining an already constructed plane would be a big deal for me, regardless of how many years of homework I felt I had under my belt—none of which could have truly prepared me for the world of choices I would have when seriously considering such a plane.
In addition to single seating, I knew that I wanted something all-metal, as I felt that aspect could help maintain a lower cost of operations. Although I would keep my mind open to all sorts of designs meeting my basic criteria (LSA), the world of light-experimental aircraft would virtually unfold before me once my search began.
This story is not about my search for the right light plane. Hopefully that can be the topic of a future atrticle. During my year-long search, I have discovered other worlds of light aircraft I never knew existed, including the builders and pilots. And through this search I have made countless new friendships and learned more than I ever thought I would in respect to the hundreds of potential aircraft that would meet my basic criteria. From the odd to the awesome, I look forward to sharing a few of them in later articles. For now, though, I’ll tell you about one such experience with a little plane known as the Aerosport Quail.
Photo by David Gustafson, Sport Aviation, February 1977
Introducing the Aerosport Quail
First introduced in 1971, the Quail was designed and built by Harris L. Woods (EAA 948) of Holly Springs, North Carolina. Designed with the homebuilder in mind, this lightweight all-aluminum high-wing strutless monoplane featured a fully enclosed cockpit and tricycle landing gear with a castering nosewheel. Although it had been built around a Rockwell two-stroke engine (kind of an early snowmobile engine), Harris was quick to modify the design for use with a 1500 (45 hp) or 1600 cc Volkswagen (VW) conversion.
Photo by Ted Koston
Photo by Howard Levy
Photo by Patrick Panzera
EAAers may recognize a few of Harris’s other designs such as his earlier constructed Woody Pusher introduced in the early 1960s. Plans were quickly made available for the single engine, two-seat parasol monoplane, sporting an open cockpit with a tailwheel undercarriage. This successful design would spur Harris to enter the plans-built and later kit-built aircraft markets as Aerosport Aircraft. Beginning in 1970, plans would also become available for the Aerosport Rail, followed by the Quail in 1971.
With the Quail, Aerosport would advertise its product as the most complete airplane kit in the world, with the builder only needing to supply the engine, the paint, and the majority of the labor. This kit would not only include all the materials needed for a flyable airplane but would even have the tools necessary for building, including a 16-inch metal bending brake, pop-riveting gun, and a supply of #30 and #21 rivets and ¼-inch drill bits. All of the ribs, except a few straight bend ribs in the tail, were preformed, with the few unformed ribs in the tail, cut to size and ready for forming. With all weldments also being completely finished and furnished, the list of packaged components reads off like a list from a completely disassembled airplane. This was very encouraging for any would-be homebuilder looking for an inexpensive entry-level project.
It is estimated that there were around 375 plans sold by the end of the first decade with some 26 aircraft under construction at that time. Currently, around 12 to 15 Quail are still flying today. However, Harris’s next airplane would go on the records as his most popular plans-built airplane design, introduced in 1973 as the Aerosport Scamp. Hundreds of plans were sold and are still readily available online today. This single-engine, single-seat light biplane with tricycle gear and open cockpit, fully aerobatic aircraft would go further than any other Harris’s designs with dozens of completed examples still being flown around the world today.
It was during my search for a small LSA-compliant experimental that my friend Richard asked me if I had given any consideration to the Aerosport Quail. Ironically it was the discussion of successful yet lost and forgotten aircraft that spurred his memory of the Quail.
I had been completely oblivious to any of Harris’s designs other than the Scamp, so Richard could barely contain himself while bragging about the uniqueness of the little all-metal airplane seemingly lost to time. With both of us sitting behind computers 2,500 miles apart, we both began digging online looking for more Quail info. I must admit, though, my first impression was something like, “Why would you suggest something like that? Don’t ever do that again!”
I found the first one hanging in the Pima Air & Space Museum in Arizona and thought it resembled a paper airplane suspended from the ceiling. And it had clouds painted all over it. Talk about camouflage! I was not impressed in the least. Richard scoffed at my reaction and told me that he had a nearby friend that owned a stunning example of a Quail that flew regularly and was a blast to fly. With his suggestion I would begin to do more homework on the odd little homebuilt and, to my surprise, I have now taken a weird liking to this unique plane, thanks to Jamie Reynolds and his incredibly well-built and fun-to-fly example of the Harris Woods Quail.
Jamie Reynolds and His Aerosport Quail
Jamie Reynolds purchased his Aerosport Quail in 2000 as a previously flown project. After its initial construction in 1979, the original pilot and builder, Joseph Dixon, experienced an engine failure and overturned the plane on landing. Having walked away with everything still intact, except perhaps his ego, and not ready to return to the workshop, Joseph sold that Quail and purchased another Quail in flying condition so he was able to continue his flight adventures. The new owner of the damaged Quail began the necessary rebuild and repairs to the Quail with assistance from one of the original Aerosport builders. However work was never fully completed and the aircraft would be stored until Jamie came along to the rescue.
Like so many pilots before, Jamie started out just another dreamer standing with his nose to the fence peering inward at those marvelous men and their flying machines climbing out from a small grass strip in rural Byran Ohio. He explained, “I had paid for a ride once at an airshow at McKinley Airport in Detroit Michigan, that airport is now a shopping mall I think”.
Jamie was fortunate to encounter Morris (Morry) Hummel, the highly respected father/designer of the Hummel Bird and UltraCruiser, who would introduce Jamie to the world of flight. With Morry’s encouragement, Jamie began taking flight lessons. “I was on the five-year plan for my license, also the eighty-hour plan according to my logbook. I took lessons here and there when I could afford it and was finally able to finish.” He earned his private pilot license in 1993, continuing to rent and fly Cessna 150’s and 172’s until something else could be found to fill his niche.
Expressing the desire of finding his own affordable experimental with which to join in on the club activities enjoyed every weekend, over the surrounding areas around that wonderful grass strip in Bryan, spurred Jamie’s good friend Morry who introduced him to the Aerosport Quail. After Morry described the airplane and its affordable entry costs, Jamie’s interest was peaked. Searching online for more information, Jamie admits there wasn’t much to be found, and what he did find took some time and a bit of digging around. As luck would have it, there was another Quail being built only 60 miles away. So with a couple phone calls and a short trip out of town, Jamie made contact and would find most of the information he was looking for, and he made a new friend at the same time. Feeling confidant his mentor wouldn’t allow him to get involved in a project that would be over his head and beyond his personal scope of knowledge, Jamie purchased the mostly repaired Quail project and began a thorough rebuild, spending the next year’s worth of free weekends preparing it for inspection, followed by registration and his first flight.
Constructed from 6061 aluminum, all of the bulkheads and skins came from the factory preformed and shaped, ready for drilling. Wheels, brakes, and axles were also included with the kit, along with control cables with ball bearing pulleys carrying through to a centrally located bell crank. Push-pull rods and rod ends were furnished from the bell crank through to the controls. The nosewheel assembly and center control stick are both mounted using Teflon bushings requiring little maintenance and no lubrication. The nosewheel is connected to the rudder bar (rather than traditional pedals) and affords the Quail excellent directional control during ground handling.
The Quail’s cantilever wing sections are approximately 11 feet each in length, bringing the total wing span to 24 feet, with a wing area of approximately 84 square feet and a wing loading of 9.1. Running tip to tail, Jamie’s Quail is 15 feet, 11 inches long and standing 5 feet, 6 inches tall at the tail. All-aluminum fuel cells are mounted in each wing with a header tank mounted in the left wing root, gravity feeding down to the engine.
Total capacity on board is 11 gallons if Jamie fills it all the way to the brim and eats a light breakfast.
Cable and pulley systems connected to the control stick angle their way up to a bell crank above the pilot’s head centrally located just in front of the spar. From there the push-pull rods carry out control to the ailerons and back to the elevator. Rudder control is operated by cables, as is also the control to the four-position flaps, which Jamie describes as being very generous and very effective. Pitch trim adjustment attaches to the control stick, varying the amount of pressure it applies to the stick.
Entry into the single-seat cockpit is through a door located under the right wing which swings upward when opened. A small pop-out window is located on the left side and can be opened on warm days during taxi and run-up. Jamie describes his Quail as being extremely easy to enter and exit. Inside the cockpit you’ll find a fixed seat, hand brake, throttle and rudder bars, with the centrally positioned stick and instrument panel straight ahead.
Original Aerosport Quail kits had all the instrumentation needed to safely fly the plane, including tachometer, oil pressure, oil temperature, altimeter, airspeed indicator, throttle, carburetor heat controls, and single ignition switch. Jamie added a compass, turn coordinator, and vertical speed indicator (VSI). When it comes to comfort, Jamie said, “It’s a very comfortable plane to fly. Lots of headroom, although on long flights the legs may get a little stiff, but I’m sure that is the case with a lot of smaller planes.”
The landing gear was built from solid aluminum plate mounted just behind the center of gravity. A set of small drum brakes bring the small craft to a stop, although the “rollout” is generally short on grass strip operations since the total gross aircraft weight is less than 800 pounds. Jamie is quick to admit, though, that the empty weight of his Quail, 592 pounds, is a little over the promoted empty weight of 532 pounds, which is common for Quail airplanes. Not being able to pinpoint the weight gain, Jamie is not worried about it, especially since he’s installed a Hummel Engines, 80 hp, 2180 cc engine where the designer specified a 1600 cc.
When Jamie purchased the Quail, it had been outfitted with the standard 1600 cc engine, which was far more common and within reach of the modest homebuilder’s budget. Originally designed around the 45 hp Aerosport-Rockwell LB600 (two-stroke, two-cylinder, horizontally opposed air-cooled engine), the VW conversion’s mass popularity would simply be easier to deal with. Jamie explained that when he first flew the plane the rollout was a little on the long side, and climb wasn’t everything he had hoped it would be. Since he himself was a little on the “heavy pilot” side, the 1600 cc left the airplane just a little sluggish. The performance was acceptable until he could afford the time and money to invest in a larger engine. Aerosport advertised originally that the Quail would climb out at 1200 feet per minute on an 80-degree day and cruise easily between 110 and 115 miles an hour with a top speed of up to 130 mph with full cowling and wheel pants. The wheel pants were not included in the kit, as they weren’t essential equipment; however, it was an available option along with preformed wingtips.
The Quail’s engine is mounted to the firewall with rubber bushings and utilizes a fully enclosed pressure cowling, including baffling surrounding the entire installation. The cooling provided with the pressure cowling was more than adequate when Jamie was operating the smaller 1600, but once he swapped engines upgrading to the 2180 he began experiencing high cylinder head temperatures. As a last resort he cut the cheeks off, which to his dismay didn’t help a bit. Jamie was bummed with the results to say the least. So he built and installed Cub-style scoops in the front of his cowl and they worked wonders. He says the inlet scoops don’t look as good as the pressure cowl does, and he wishes he had tried a little harder to get the original cowl to cool better, but the scoops solved the problem.
The current engine configuration features a single magneto mounted behind the engine driven directly off of the crank. There is no flywheel since there is no electrical system to support a starter and alternator. A standard AeroCarb throttle body is located below the engine, and although the Quail kit included controls for operating carburetor heat, Jamie has omitted that system along with the removal of any sort of choke, since the AeroCarb doesn’t have a choke.
A stock VW oil cooler sits just above the crankcase providing ample cooling during those mild Ohio summers when Jamie and his Quail are most active. “Oil temperatures have never really been a problem, either that or my gauge is optimistic. I think I’ll test it this coming season.”
The Hummel VW engine uses a Great Plains Force 1 hub attached to the front of the crankshaft, swinging a Sensenich 54 x 44-inch wood propeller, as most all VW conversions strictly advise against the use of any sort of metal or composite prop. Original Aerosport Quail kits included an Aymar-DeMuth 54 x 34 wood propeller.
When I asked Jamie to describe the Quail’s exhaust system, he simply replied, “The four even-cut straight stacks still function properly but are in need of replacement—they are tuned by rust.” I have to laugh and think to myself what a silly question for an old-bug owner like myself to ask.
Jamie’s Quail with the 2180 engine burns regular auto fuel, which is very encouraging when considering the low hourly cost to operate a light experimental. Although future operators may be at severe risk of losing this privilege since bringing outside fuel onto a municipal, or federal funded airport may not be allowed any longer if the proposed FAA changes go through. Those flying from private airstrips should not be affected. However when Jamie finds himself in need of fuel while away from his home airport, he’ll use 100LL. “I keep 4 gallons an hour as a guide for fuel burn; oil doesn’t seem to burn, but the engine does drip a bit. I add just a little every couple flights,” said Jamie. “The engine runs very well after it starts, but I still can’t get the technique down for consistent starting, hand propping, of course. It’ll start just fine usually out of the hangar, but when it’s warm I can [but not always] flip my arm off. But I’m getting better at it.” Jamie continued, “Since I’ve tried starting it warm without pulling a few blades prior to starting, it has been working much better.”
Maintenance for the 2180 is another attractive feature for their operators. Jamie explained his basic care for the engine includes the typical VW maintenance: frequent oil changes and a valve check and adjustment every 25 hours, and standard engine and airframe checks at annual. It’s not uncommon to see 1000 hour VW conversions still flying before teardown and complete rebuild. Jamie’s Quail currently has just under 200 hours on his Hobbs, which dates all the way back to 1979, although at least 150 of those hours have been enjoyed by Jamie over the private grass strip he usually fly’s above.
Performance data for Jamie’s Aerosport Quail with the 2180 cc engine awards him with a 110 mph top cruise. He prefers, though, a more efficient cruise setting of 95 mph with the engine turning about 2900 rpm. Full power climb is 1000 fpm and power-off stall is in the high 40-knot range with half flaps. Fuel management is managed through a single turn valve from which all three tanks (including the header) drain.
A video posted on Jamie’s website documents his first couple of flights in his Aerosport Quail after he spent close to a year completing the project. When watching this video, one should keep in mind the more than adequate (even if a little underperforming) 1600 cc engine configuration. Before flying his Quail Jamie spent time with his instructor flying the Cessna 150. Jamie elected to allow one of his mentors and local “test pilot” to fly his Quail before taking to the sky himself. Perhaps this was a wise decision. “He told me what he learned flying the plane and felt confident I was qualified to fly it,” Jamie said. “I have vivid memories of that Saturday morning; there were a lot of other aircraft and pilots on that cozy grass field. When I was ready to depart, I thought, ‘Well, here goes.’ I wasn’t as scared as I was excited.”
Jamie registered and N-numbered his Quail for its first time in November 2001 under the experimental/exhibition category. When I asked him why he registered his homebuilt that way, he answered, “The FAA doesn’t have a builder for this plane.” Even though the inspector had tried to give Jamie the benefit of the doubt, Jamie had only finished the repairs necessary for his plane to fly and had not actually built the majority of the finished plane. The previous history of the airframe could not be determined, so it was put into the experimental/exhibition category since there was no evidence that the “major portion of which has been fabricated and assembled by persons who undertook the construction project solely for their own education or recreation.” § 21.191(g)
15 ft 11 in (4.9 m)
24 ft 0 in (7.3 m)
5 ft 6 in (1.7 m)
790 lb (360 kg)
VW conversion, 45 hp (30 kW)
130 mph (210 km/h)
230 miles (370 km)
12,000 ft (3,650 m)
Jamie doesn’t mind that his plane is registered as exhibition and explained that the majority of his flights in the Quail are either around the pattern or within close proximity to his fixed base. Other than a little extra paperwork at the beginning of each year, he says he is allowed unscheduled flights within a certain radius of his airport. He does have to register any flights beyond his determined areas of operation. For example, if he was going to fly further than 300 miles from his airport to attend a fly-in, he must apply for permits and may or may not have to have an FAA designee at both his departure and arrival points. It sounds a little overbearing for such an innocent little airplane designed for fun-laden recreational flying., this isn’t really a big deal though since most of his flying is local anyway and that continues to go un-impeded. The alternative, however, is a lawn ornament.
Jamie recalls flying his Quail to the Mid-Eastern Regional Fly-In (MERFI) in Marion, Ohio. “I had a lot of friends fly in at the same time and it was a very enjoyable weekend.” As far as future plans, he would like to return to the shop to make improvements. “I’d like to rebuild the door, and perhaps add a small header tank in the nose with a gauge so I could see a good usable gallon, instead of just being pretty sure I have usable gallons remaining.” There are a few other small cosmetic improvements he’d also like to make, but he says he is still proud to fly his Quail to local gatherings the way it is.
Harris Woods Aerosport Quail resources are far more available now than they were when Jamie began his search online. Jamie’s advice to any would-be pilots and builders of light-experimental aircraft is to join the EAA and e-mail groups, ask for advice and learn from others in those groups, and find other EAAers in their surrounding areas. New plans for the Harris Woods Quail are no longer available, but used plans are still readily available on the Internet; another good reason for joining special groups online.
Thanks to Jamie, there is now a very active online users group of which Jamie is the creator and moderator. The topic encompasses all of Harris’s designs including the Woody Pusher and Aerosport Rail, Quail, and Scamp. At the users group, pilots and builders archive old Aerosport brochures and documents along with files for each individual design and photos of members’ aircraft. The members are scattered all over the globe but brought into one single common location for the exchange of knowledge and passion. This is becoming more common these days with advancements in internet technology.
Discussion groups supporting the homebuilder and pilot of many different aircraft can easily be found these days and are valuable resources for builders and pilots regardless of aircraft numbers and distance between them. Aviation generally has been referred to as a “small world”, especially when EAA’ers are involved, even though experimental aviation is still growing ever more vast, technology is helping make it just a little smaller.
On a Funnier Note…
I would like to finish off the story of this odd little airplane, a lightweight experimental homebuilt, by telling you a little bit more about Jamie. He’s your typical entry-level experimenter turned slightly more knowledgeable and seasoned with a passion for recreational sport flying. He has an all-American blue-collar job and is the kind of guy you would expect to have a loyal dog named Duke or Roy. He also enjoys (in typical pilot fashion) trying to get his old two-seat sports car to run again. Jamie is also an incredibly talented cartoonist with hundreds of hilarious examples on top of a few cartoon books, one of which includes a foreword written by Paul Poberezny. Jamie’s longtime cartoon character buddies, Matt and Maynerd, the two main subjects for his humor, often find themselves around light-sport planes. I would encourage you to follow their antics on Jamie’s website www.CartoonStrips.com. In the meantime, allow me to submit to you this example featuring Matt and Maynerd’s spin around the patch in Jamie’s very own Quail.
Like so many newcomers to EAA and Sport Aviation Jamie Reynolds, like myself started with little more than his nose to the fence that led to a ride in a plane. That’s why it’s so important for us as members of the Experimental Aircraft Association to invite others through the fence and encourage them to pursue their passion for flight. Mentor’s like Morry Hummel have been doing that very thing for years. Someday my generation of new pilots and students will find ourselves fortunate to have knowledge to pass on. We just need to do it.
Before wrapping up with Jamie I asked him if he had anything he would like to add or had a thought he might like to share in regard to flying. It seems appropriate to wrap this story up with those very thoughts. There is no single way I could sum up his thoughts so for that reason I’ll share this moment and allow Jamie to use his own words.
In regard to the flying club and its activities around Bryan Ohio
“We have a group that gather’s at a local, privately owned grass strip – it used to be really great, we had a hard time parking the airplanes on a busy day – we’d get together, and have limbo contests and flour bomb drops, and of course all the families would get together and eat, fly kites, laugh and roast marshmallows.
Times have changed; it’s become pretty quiet out there. I think it is because some of the cornerstones of that group are not able to participate anymore, mostly because the passage of time seems to age even the strongest. Other important people to me who acted as my VW question and answer friends left the area. Scott Casler, we miss you! Scott moved to Arizona, just because of a little snow here in Ohio!
Other friends have had to stop coming because of new careers and family obligations… at this moment I feel a little alone out there at that grass strip; I’m more nervous when I fly because I don’t have the weekly “inspection” of my airplane that always comes with a day of hanging around pilot friends.
But – a lot of that is my fault. There are still many knowledgeable EAA’ers in my area – I just have to ask more questions and make some more friends - this coming year will be a year for rebuilding that Saturday experience, where I can’t wait to get out to the airport, and perhaps like I used to, get out there real early and take off in the Quail, and watch people arrive from my viewpoint a few thousand feet up, then fly in – to my home airport”.