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This adventure originally ran in KITPLANES.
By Scott Spangler
Concretely acknowledgment why a specific aeroplane appeals to a pilot is about as accessible as acknowledgment why they fly. All Bob Bounds absolutely knew aback he aboriginal saw Fred Keller’s Prospector STOL, alleged Plansbuilt Admirable Best at EAA Oshkosh 1989, is that he capital one. “I asked him if there were plans, and Keller’s acknowledgment was a able and absolute ‘No!’,” said Bounds.
Bounds lives in Grant, Nebraska, a baby boondocks of 1200 bodies 20 afar south of the Ogallala avenue on Interstate 80 and 18 afar east of the Colorado border. It is the bench of Perkins County, and he is its now-retired postmaster. “I now assignment in an auto genitalia abundance because my wife, Deb, says I accept to; if I’m not working, I alpha architecture stuff.”
Stuff like a Rutan Quickie and VariEze. From the Grant Municipal Airport (GGF), Bounds flew the VariEze about everywhere, including Keller’s home state, Alaska. “A cross-country aeroplane with diminutive tires, there are not a lot of places you can fly a VariEze, so I capital a altered airplane,” and the Prospector remained at the top of his list.
When a aeriform acquaintance said he’d ridden in a Prospector, Bounds asked if he knew Keller. “No, it was a guy alleged Tom Couples. Maybe he’d accept affairs for it, so I alleged him up.” Couples and Keller were friends, so Keller congenital a Prospector for him. There were no plans, and that wasn’t the alone bad news. Couples’ Prospector was a wreck; it afraid on carb ice and went into the copse in Idaho.
With Bounds’ architecture experience, he said Couples told him, “You should be able to anatomy one with what’s here.” Bounds had never heard of a homebuilder who’d acclimated accident as 3D plans, so he wasn’t so abiding about that. “Still, it wouldn’t aching to attending at it, so I loaded up my son and we collection to Kalispell, Montana,” Bounds said.
“I concluded up affairs it from him, cerebration maybe I can do this.” Affairs the charcoal in 2006 led, in part, to the airplane’s moniker, Checkered Past, said Bounds. “It was borne of a bones and rebuilt from one.”
When they alternate home with the bivouac accumulated aeriform with shrink-wrapped wreckage, Bounds said, “My wife was not actual blessed with me. ‘You were aloof activity to look!’ Yeah, but attending at this, I can accomplish one of these! ‘Yeah, right,’ she said. And afresh it sat in my aerodrome for two or three months afore I got abundant assumption to go assignment on it.”
Bounds started assignment with a band measure, acknowledged pad and Sawzall. Initially, he’d planned to about-face his abstracts into plans, “but I was spending added time at the cartoon lath than in the shop.” Aback he started with the wings, he has some appealing acceptable assets for them. The assembly assets are “mediocre, and the appendage surfaces nothing, [but] I still accept the templates for acid the foam.”
To amount out the blended layup agenda and acclimatization he cut fiberglass coupons with the Sawzall and afresh set blaze to them. “This burns all the adhesive out of them so you can see the layup agenda and orientation.” Labeling anniversary structural biopsy—“this is the batten cap”—he’d bark them afar and accomplish added notes.
Making its aboriginal flight in 2013, Bearcoupe architecture “took seven years,” Bounds said. “Life gets in the way, but I aloof kept chipping abroad at it and formed on it appealing steady.” Aback he had to clamber over the anatomy that abounding his two-car barn on the diagonal, he congenital a bigger boutique in the backyard “and my wife could accept her barn back.”
The Bearcoupe, and the Prospectors that preceded it, were congenital application Rutan-method moldless blended construction. “I didn’t exhaustion bag anything.” Like Bounds, Keller had congenital a VariEze, which becoming a admirable best accolade at Oshkosh in 1980. Burt Rutan presented the award, and that affair led to a Defiant opportunity.
Rutan advised the four-place push-pull accompanying for acceptance and OEM production. Aback that didn’t happen, in 1981 Rutan asked Keller to anatomy a Defiant from the OEM boutique assets and abstract affairs for abecedarian builders. Keller flew the aftereffect to Oshkosh in 1983. Fresh from that build, Keller advised the Prospector.
“The greatest claiming in about-face engineering the Prospector bones was addition out the arrangement of building,” said Bounds. “So I congenital the wings first. Afterwards I got them done, I hauled in the pieces of the assembly and started on that.”
He affected the Prospector’s addition arrangement (designed accurately for Keller by the acclaimed John Roncz), which includes slotted flaps and angled ailerons and the Keller STOL-1 airfoil. The October 1989 EAA Sport Aerodynamics commodity said the arrangement was mechanically simple and uncomplicated, but Bounds replaced its cables with pushrods because “Couples said there was a lot of dash in it.”
With a 34-foot span, the batten in anniversary addition extends added than 3 anxiety accomplished the root. These spars overlap anniversary added and fit into a structural box abaft the seat. “The wings absolutely ambit advanced about 9 inches at the tip, so the batten can go abaft your back,” he said. “You won’t apprehension it unless you see it from aloft or below.”
Like the Defiant, the wings accept “pultruded” batten caps, Bounds said. It’s like an I-beam; builders dig out a canal in the cream amount amid the two fiberglass batten webs and ample it with S-glass braid pulled four strands at a time. “It takes 6 or 7 hours to ample the canal and afresh beach it akin [once it cures].”
Describing the apparatus that wets the strands with epoxy, Bounds said he begin one through the online Defiant groups. “A guy beatific me his and told me to canyon it forth to the abutting architect in charge because I don’t charge it anymore.”
The flaps are huge, with added layers of bottle on the basal to assure them from rocks befuddled up by the tires and prop blast. Anniversary one measures 8 anxiety by 14 inches. The ailerons are 6 anxiety continued and bend at a 25% ratio, Bounds said. There are four notches of flaps to 40°, the ambience breadth the ailerons bend 10°.
In converting the controls from cables to pushrods, Bounds absitively on a centermost ascendancy stick with adviser pedals and brakes for both seats. He spent a lot of time “sitting at my kitchen table with my old accurate book aggravating to amount out the blueprint and accomplish it do what I capital it to do.”
The Bearcoupe’s assembly is hardly best and added than the Prospector, and the appendage is different. “You can accomplish the appendage any appearance you want,” Bounds said. He advisedly replaced the original’s Cessna 180/185 angular outline with the anfractuous contour of a WWII bomber, bare the appendage gunner’s position.
It’s a accolade to the backward Ed Martins, friend, homebuilder and aerodynamics mentor. “He was a acreage boy who admired flying. A B-17 pilot, he flew 30 missions over Germany and had two DFCs [Distinguished Aeriform Cross, which recognizes boldness or amazing accomplishment while accommodating in an aeriform flight]. He had some abundant stories.”
Worried about that B-17 tail, Bounds said the CG computations afraid him: “The CG is fine.” The analytical DAR fabricated abiding of that. Above Bounds’s final numbers, “he capital to see my blemish paper.” Fortunately, Bounds had adored all of it.
Apparently, a homebuilt the DAR had inspected comatose because the architect computed the CG application the spinner as the datum, said Bounds. He afield acclimated the capital accessory cardinal as the accomplishment aback he computed the tailwheel figure, which fabricated the aeroplane alarmingly appendage heavy. “The DAR was a aciculate guy, and by blockage my assignment he was activity to accomplish abiding that I hadn’t fabricated a agnate mistake.”
Keller advised the Prospector for backcountry operations, including carriage 12-foot boards to his basin berth alfresco of Anchorage. They slid into the massive accoutrements alcove through the cockpit, and Keller advised the CG to board them. It commonly wears 8.50 tires, but it can additionally put on big backcountry auto or skis. “The caster pants are aloof for active around, like activity to Oshkosh,” Bounds said. “Nobody makes them, so I had to. I’ve had a cardinal of guys appear up and ask ‘where did you get those?’”
While abstraction a burrow of unsatisfactory acrylic schemes, Bounds saw an ad for the Cessna TTX. “Its acrylic arrangement was bigger than annihilation I could do, so I blanket it.” Afore applying the single-stage urethane, he did a lot of sanding. “As homebuilts go, the Bearcoupe is not a baby airplane. You ample it, afresh block it all out, and do it all by duke with long, akin sanding blocks to abstain ripples. It’s alive on your aerial anatomy strength.”
A Dynon SkyView arrangement with GPS, ADS-B Out and In, and transponder dominates the panel. “All that accessories is accidentally army abaft the rear bulkhead, which makes it accessible to assignment on.” A panel-mounted MGL assemblage handles all the advice and intercom duties. “I installed all of the avionics, and admiration of wonders, it all worked!” said Bounds.
“I accept an age-old O-340 in it. Rare birds, Lycoming alone fabricated them for about two years,” Bounds said. “I anticipate they were fabricated for the accompanying Navion because it bare added ability than the 320 produced, so Lycoming stroked it. Two years afterwards that, they came out with the O-360, and they abdicate architecture the 340.”
Bounds bought the four-cylinder, 170-horsepower Lycoming used. “It seems to cull the aeroplane well; I cruise at 115 knots and acreage at about 40.” It burns 13 gph advanced accessible in a climb, but angular of aiguille at 11,000 anxiety it burns 5.5 gph at cruise. “With 55 gallons of fuel, it gives you abundant to go out a bit farther—and get back—without crowding” the reserve.
Originally, the Lycoming angry a metal Sensenich propeller. Afresh he approved a Catto blended prop and became a fan. “I absent no ascent achievement and acquired 10 mph, and it alone weighs 13 pounds,” he said.
The aboriginal flight in June 2013 went well, said Bounds. Like abounding bairn homebuilts, it had some teething problems. The anti-servo tab arrangement on its all-flying stabilator was wrong. “If you let go [of the stick] it would diverge, afresh alpha accepting worse and worse.” Afterwards authoritative incremental adjustments, “it’s abiding now, and you can agitated it now and it will resume akin flight,” Bounds said.
“It is the gentlest taildragger I’ve anytime flown. I auto at 20 knots, attractive around, and it aloof rolls so straight. And it acreage slow. I abstruse from the backcountry guys that the abstruse to accepting into those strips is to get apathetic aboriginal and annoyance it in a bit. If you appear in too fast, you can’t get rid of the added speed, and some of those strips are one-way in and one-way out.”
The son of a pilot, Bounds has been an aeroplane nut aback childhood, but he didn’t apprentice to fly until 1983–84, afterwards he met his wife. “Here was this tall, acceptable attractive girl, and her dad had an airplane,” a Cessna Cardinal that he busy to Bounds “for $25 an hour, wet!”
His adviser was “a craving aerosol pilot” who’d aloof started his business. “He got paid by the acre, so my wife basically fed him that winter and he accomplished me to fly for free. He was afterlife on administration the airplane. We did accelerated stalls and spins and all the being you don’t accept to do [to acquire a clandestine pilot certificate].”
Completing the Bearcoupe’s Phase 1 testing, “I did some backcountry aeriform hither and yon.” On its countdown appointment to Oshkosh in 2014, Bounds becoming an Outstanding Workmanship award. “I anticipate that was because I was in a sea of RVs. The adjudicator came by and said, ‘I don’t apperceive what in hell this affair is, but it care to win something,’” Bounds said, chuckling. “I was appealing swelled up about that.”
A advisable pilot, aback venturing into a new backcountry region, Bounds flies aboriginal with an adviser who knows the area. The 13,000-hour CFI he flew with in Hanksville, Utah, “knew his stuff.” Abiding to the airport, “where I was activity to bead him off and get my wife to appearance her some of the backcountry strips we’d aloof been to, he asked if he could land,” Bounds said.
“My son is alpine and has absolutely continued feet, so the adviser pedals on the appropriate ancillary are aeriform up and articulation at the top. This guy was short, and he didn’t like the way the pedals felt, so he slid his anxiety up on the brakes. Aback we affected down, he had the brakes bound and—wham!—we went appropriate over.”
Specifications and appraisement provided by Bob Bounds.
The Catto prop “made a few ditches in the berm,” said Bounds. “It wasn’t broken, so I beatific it to Catto, allurement them to booty a attending at it. They asked what happened, and I told them I addled the aeroplane and blimp it in the dirt. Afterwards analytical it, they said it was OK, so they put new arch edges on it, refinished it, beatific it back,” and he put it on the Lycoming, which had undergone its own examination.
The blow of the airframe didn’t book so well, he said. “It tore the cowl off, destroyed the canopy, ashamed the turtle accouter a bit and the appendage halfway. One wingtip was caved in, and it was skinned up actuality and there. The auto and tires were fine.”
With abrupt understatement, Bounds said, “It was, generally, a bad day.” The accept accouter bankrupt Bounds’s larboard collarbone and arm, “and I’m larboard handed.” Because the adviser clearly didn’t get his accouter absolutely latched, he slid advanced and bankrupt his neck.
Like the Defiant and Prospector, the Bearcoupe’s awning swings to the side. Hinged on the right, the occupants access the cockpit by aggressive two accomplish on the larboard accessory leg, sit on the addition and beat their legs into the cockpit.
To accommodate a way out in case of a rollover, Keller kept the cockpit accessible aloft the batten and put an billowing accoutrements aperture abaft the larboard wing. This was clear-sighted because Keller addled the Prospector at Oshkosh 1989 (where it was alleged admirable champion) aback an inaccurate ammunition afterimage barometer resulted in a afraid blackout during a photo flight that concluded upside bottomward in a aureate field.
Bounds didn’t accept the Keller-designed latch that additionally opened from the inside, and he wasn’t absorbed in causing added accident by blame out the accoutrements door, so he removed the latch with his Leatherman tool.
By the time he’d wiggled out of the accoutrements door, bodies were advancing to their rescue. They aerial the Bearcoupe by a wingtip and the EMTs in the accumulation anxiously extricated the instructor. Located aloof arctic of Basin Powell, Bounds said they accept an accomplished EMT accumulation there because “a lot of visiting arid riders get hurt…and it is 115 afar to the abutting hospital.”
At the hospital, Bounds said he was in a panic. “After accepting anchored up, I had to get aback and get the aeroplane off the runway, and I didn’t apperceive how I was activity to do that in the average of nowhere. Aback I got to the airport, the aeroplane was sitting on the ramp. The nephew of one of the guys ran a crane service, so they went out and addled it over after accomplishing any added accident to it that I could tell.”
After abiding home, he and three accompany pulled a bivouac 600 afar to aggregate the Bearcoupe. “We put it in the boutique and started on it again.” His wife was an capital affiliate of the about-face crew. “She’s a grumpy, absolutely acceptable fiberglasser. I get mad and accessible to cull my beard out and bandy stuff. And she aloof stands there, like, OK, aback you calm down, let’s get going.” But she fabricated it bright that “my abutting wife can advice me with my abutting airplane.”
Reconstruction captivated two years, he said, and the hardest genitalia were the cowling and canopy. “A guy in Florida blew the awning as a big balloon and afresh cut it in half,” Bounds said. “He awash me the awning for $500 and offered me the added bisected for $200, adage it would fit no added airplane. If I capital it, he said he’d address it with my canopy, and I said you betcha! So I had a additional awning sitting in my boutique for a brace of years. How’s that for lucky? Of course, I still had to accomplish a anatomy for it.”
Since its rebuild, Bounds and his wife accept fabricated a cardinal of blessed Bearcoupe trips to the backcountry and beyond. And every cruise recreates the phenomenon of the Bearcoupe’s aboriginal flight and the ineffable joy that its abnormal evolution formed out OK.
Photos: Bob Bounds and Scott Spangler.
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