Stu Horn On His Planes, And Competing With Himself
After introducing two new versions of the Husky sport/bush
plane, featuring 160 and 200 horsepower engines (instead of the
original 180) and better handling around the longitudinal axis
thanks to new ailerons and flaps, Aviat President Stu Horn opened
the floor up to questions.
Asked about the state of the four-seater project begun in a
different, pre-9/11 market, Horn wryly said, "Well, we have a
certain corner of the factory that has a four seat project taking
it up." But the project is on indefinite hold. "We're going to
concentrate on our two-seater planes -- that's where the market
A follow-up question on the six seat all-metal design study that
Horn showed some years ago brought out an unexpected connection to
the new Husky models. Horn explained that the metal design study
was a "paper" plane, never really intended to be built, but to
validate Aviat's advanced paperless CAD/CAM system. The ailerons in
the 2005 Husky -- which give it a better roll rate -- are made on
the advanced system.
Advanced? On most other CAD/CAM systems in use in the aerospace
manufacturing industry, the definitive document is the paper
drawing that the computerized system ultimately produces. Not so at
Aviat, where the part that's definitive is actually the digital
representation in the computer.
The data is dumped directly to computerized manufacturing tools
and the output is ultimately, for example, an aileron rib. And no
trees were harmed in the making of this part.
Not all Aviat parts by any means are made this way. Each new
part done this way still has to obtain FAA approval, an arduous and
costly process, so parts are only converted to the new system when
they're being redesigned for some other reason.
Airline Pilot's Toy?
Asked what sort of
person bought a Husky, Horn said that nowadays, they were 30%
government agencies or other public interest operators, or actual
bush operators; and 70% pilots seeking a recreational airplane,
many of whom own another airplane for long-range cruising.
The Husky once had a reputation as an airline captain's toy.
"Not any more," Horn said sadly. The ongoing changes in the airline
industry mean that those folks are no longer buying sport planes at
the rate they once did.
What Percentage On Floats?
Asked about what percentage of Huskies are on floats, Stu Horn
admitted that he just didn't know. He guessed, maybe twenty
percent? But he explained why it was hard for the factory to know.
"Every one of our planes is ready for floats. Float attach points,
corrosion proofing, all standard. So a customer could add floats
and we wouldn't know about it."
It isn't just floats that the customers don't tell the factory
about, Horn added. Because the planes are so durable, and so
simple, they just don't come back to the factory. "In a way, it's
good news," Horn said. "If there were problems with the planes,
people would call us a lot more."
Horn had an interesting observation about floats. Floatplane
customers in the lower 48, or at least in the lower latitudes,
generally opt for amphibious floats. Customers in the far North of
the US and Canada prefer straight floats. Horn couldn't explain the
preference, but noted that the plane with straight floats performs
much better off the water, and climbs better overall.
Living And Flying In Wyoming
The Husky's rate of climb comes in handy at its home base of
Afton, Wyoming, where you need to cross over some 10,000 foot
mountains when departing the airfield. In the Husky, or its
stablemate at Aviat, the Pitts Special, no problem. "If you have a
flatland plane, you have to climb up, circling," Horn said with a
grin, making circles with his hand.
Wyoming is noted for its wildlife, of course, and the Wyoming
natives that work in Horn's factory are dedicated to their pursuit
of it. "One reason that things slow down in the fall and winter, is
that's when hunting season is."
Could A Husky Fly Slower With Vortex Generators?
Of course, a lot of the performance of the Husky -- especially
its short landing -- is due to its ability to fly controllably at
low speeds. "A skilled pilot, with a little practice, can land a
Husky in 170-200 feet. The very best and most experience have done
it in as little as 120. But even an ordinary pilot can land in 350
feet, and with training and experience that number will come down,"
"You come down on final in the forties, the high forties, and
then ease it back and set down."
Asked if vortex generators would improve the Husky, Horn
emphatically demurred. As he explained it, the mild stall behavior
of the Husky was the result of a bit of aerodynamic legerdemain.
The wing itself is characterized by an abrupt stall break with
little warning -- but when you take a Husky to a high angle of
attack, the tail incidence is set so that the tail, which is
providing downforce to counteract the down-pitching moment of the
wing, stalls first.
When the tail stalls -- with plenty of warning -- the wing
pitches down before fully stalling. The result is an apparent mild
stall with full aileron control retained throughout.
VGs disturb this precise minuet. The stall of 38 to 45 kt may be
lowered by as much as four kt. But the tradeoff is this: the wing
now stalls before the tail, abruptly. In Horn's estimation, the
very small reduction in stall speed that's made possible by the VGs
is not worth the hazardous change in flight characteristics.