HN 434 Super Menestrel from France at a rally at Northampton (Sywell) Airport, United Kingdom, in September 2010
This month’s Mystery Plane is a plans-built VW-powered low-wing cantilever monoplane that comes from France. The structure is fabric-covered wood. Three variants have appeared over the course of about 27 years: The original single seat flew in 1962, the more powerful “Super” version in 1985, and the larger two seat in 1989. The wing is built around a single spar and has constant chord to mid span, with semielliptical outer panels.
The Nicollier Menestrel family of French homebuilt low-wing single-engine light aircraft includes both single- and two-seat variants and a wide choice of engines. First flown in 1962, nearly 100 have been built and others remain under construction.
All variants are wooden framed and fabric covered. The wing is built around a single spar and has constant chord to mid span, with semielliptical outer panels. There are no flaps fitted on the single-seat variants, though they’re an option on the two-place. The fin and rudder are curved, the rudder having a horn balance. The horizontal stabilizer is mounted on the top of the fuselage.
The fuselage is constructed from a simple square section, with a curved decking aft of the cockpit. The prototype was originally an open cockpit design but later flew with a smooth acrylic canopy that blended into the decking.
The Menestrel II has side-by-side seating and is the most popular version. Most Menestrels have conventional (taildragger) landing gear with the mains bearing Vespa scooter wheels and bicycle disk brakes. At least one Menestrel II uses a tricycle undercarriage.
Menestrels have been powered by a variety of engines, mostly variants of the Volkswagen flat-four engine. Early versions of these were entirely air cooled, but more recently the piston heads have been water cooled. Some early Menestrels with air-cooled engines have exposed cylinder heads for cooling but are more fully enclosed inside a cowl that has “cheeks” for the heads since the VW is unusually wide for its power. Water-cooled engines (such as the Subaru) used in the Menestrel II have cowlings which enclose the whole engine without additional fairings, with an air intake behind the propeller.
The first HN 433 Menestrel had a 22-killowatt (30-hp) 1.3-liter engine; later HN 433s have had engines in the 22- to 37-killowatt (30- to 50-hp) power range. Super Menestrels have used 1.6-liter engines, producing 26 to 49 killowatts (35 to 65 hp). The HN 700 Menestrel II uses one of two Limbach engines of 2-liter or 2.4-liter capacity.
HN 433 Menestrel
Single seat. Volkswagen engines, particularly Rectimo-VWs, in the 22- to 37-killowatt (30- to 50-hp) range. Span: 7 meters (23 feet).
HN 434 Super Menestrel
Single seat with enlarged cockpit and increased tankage. Powered typically by a Volkswagen (1.6 liters) in the 26- to 49-killowatt (35- to 65-hp) range.
HN 700 Menestrel II
Side-by-side two seat with span increased to 7.8 meters (25 feet, 7 inches). Powered by a 60-killowatt (80-hp) Limbach L2000 (2 liters) flat-four engine with water-cooled piston heads.
HN 701 Menestrel II
The same as HD 700 but with a 65-killowatt (87-hp) Limbach 2400 (2.4 liters) flat-four engine with water-cooled piston heads.
National origin: France
Designed by: Henri Nicollier
First flight: November 25, 1962
Number built: more than 95
More at www.suukko.com/menestrel/index.html.