What We Learned About Ercoupe ... Owners
Our repetition of the most prevalent myth surrounding the innovative (to spare our server we dare not say quirky) Ercoupe resulted in a torrent of sometimes-angry e-mail. Our apparently pathetic attempt to explain how we got into the mess made even more 'Coupers upset so, here, from Ed Burkhead, of the Ercoupe Owners Club, is how an Ercoupe really lands in a crosswind: "The key to the Ercoupe gear is the same as the key to virtually all tricycle gear planes. A moving vehicle is directionally stable if the front wheels have natural castering (when you're not actively steering) and the rear wheels are laterally fixed. If the vehicle gets catawampus, the rear wheels resist lateral pressure. The front wheels caster and don't give lateral pressure. Thus, the vehicle straightens out. Fred Weick's genius was largely in recognizing that and developing for aircraft the nose gear geometry that gives good stability and yet casters when the vehicle is skidding. At least that was one of the many great steps we like to call, out of respect, genius." We hope that clears it up for everyone.
When Fred Weick decided to sell the Ercoupe with two controls to make flying easier, it was necessary to use a landing gear that could handle crabbed landings. Nothing more was needed than to give the Coupe a fairly strong main gear. It doesn‚t castor. The fact that it has trailing-arm geometry has nothing to do with it. As long as the gear has adequate strength and the rear wheels are behind the center of gravity, you can land the aircraft in a crab with great success ˆ and do it in pretty good crosswinds.
The nose gear of Coupes turns just the same as the nose gear of a Cessna, Piper, a Boeing 747 or the Space Shuttle. In fact, it‚s about the same as the turning of your Ford or Chevy. But that turning effect is only critical when the wheel first touches the ground, to relieve side loads.
Ercoupes, like the modern aircraft which copied from them, have steerable nose gear. Ercoupes just did it first.