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  • Writer's pictureJ.K. Caldwell

Taylorcraft BC-12D

Taylorcraft BC-12D
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First Impression: Classy and elegant. A simple design that was similar, yet different from her contemporaries. She has stood the test of time and remains an excellent trainer and weeekend fun flyer!

Design features: Side-by-side seating, dual car-style doors and control wheels. Welded steel fuselage. Steel wing struts, fabric covering for fuselage, wings and control surfaces.

Powerplant: Continental A-65 with wood Sensenich prop. No electric starter. Secure the plane or have someone reliable hold the heel brakes. Be careful hand-propping!

Unique Factoids: The BC-12D, as tested, used Ercoupe cup-style safety-wired spark plug caps instead of traditional leads because of the minimal clearance to the top of the cowling. Unlink many Taylorcrafts, the BC-12D that I flew had three fuel tanks; two 6 gallon wing tanks and a 12 gallon header tank. The header tank fuel gauge consists of a float in the tank with a welding rod that bobs right in front of the windscreen to show fuel level. The original floats were from cork, but they deteriorate in time (about 25 years). Most T-Craft owners now use two Ford Model A rubber floats attached to the bottom of the welding rod! There aren’t many instruments to clutter up the panel, but one on the 1946 model that I flew had a very unique altimeter. Unlike modern analog altimeters, thousands of feet are read on a separate inner dial and the hundreds of feet on the normal outer dial. Also, if you happen to bring your handy Geiger counter in the cockpit, you may be surprised to hear some clicks if it is placed near this distinctive altimeter. As with many aircraft instruments manufactured before 1960, radium was used to illuminate the dials for nighttime visibility. Of note, radium is 1,000 times more radioactive than uranium and has a half-life of 1,600 years so those gauges won’t fade anytime soon!

Ergonomics: This is one of those planes with no graceful way to get in or out. Figure out the technique that best works for you and try to get in and out when no one is looking! If you purchased the BC-12D new in 1946, you would remove your fedora and place it on the hat rack behind the seat before hand-propping and climbing in. These days, the hat rack is handy for your headset bag and iPad case. There is nothing necessarily uncomfortable about the bench seat, but neither is there anything particularly comfortable about it. The seat height is fine for a 6-foot person with slightly more room for someone taller, especially if they have poor sitting posture like me.

Taxiing/Ground Ops: The mechanical heel brakes seem to be a little closer together than other heel-brake planes that I’ve flown, making your taxiing footwork feel like you are imitating an awkward “penguin waddle”. The control wheel is decidedly different from its contemporary competitors, which largely had control sticks. In my opinion, the wheel size is perfect; similar in size to that of a golf-cart and significantly smaller than control wheels in planes like Pacers, Stinsons, and older Cessnas. I have always found those control wheels too big, like an old Cadillac. The trim is controlled with an overhead knob. Full down trim has a mechanical stop and takeoff trim is 2.5 turns from the down stop. The full nose-up trim does not have a mechanical stop and the cable stop can get stuck in the pulley thimble if you run the trim all the way up. The good news is that the vinyl ceiling upholstery is behind you and has a zippered opening so you can open it, pull the cable, and hopefully resolve the situation in flight.

Takeoff: Line up, push in the throttle and let those ponies loose! There will be a significant difference in takeoff performance depending on whether or not you are solo. Lift the tail slightly and let the T-craft tell you when it’s ready to fly. Climbout is around 60 kts.

Approach and Landing: Approach for a three-point landing will be at 50 knots (yes, it is obviously not the original airspeed indicator) for a three-point landing, and it will be at 55 kts for a wheel landing. There are no flaps to be concerned with, so plan either a nice shallow approach thanks to the generous glide ratio or use a slip to increase the approach angle. If executing a slip, you can anticipate running out of rudder before running out of aileron. Three- point landings are preferable for most normal landings, but do not stop practicing those wheel landings! Keeping wheel and rudder skills sharp makes you a better pilot! Once on deck do not stop flying the plane! If accomplishing a three-point landing, plant the control wheel firmly aft while feeding aileron into the wind. Around 25-30 kts, the BC-12 will try to get squirrelly on you. Think “happy feet” and keep her tracking straight. The rudder pedals are steel bar style and have handy (or footy) tabs that keep your shoes from sliding off. Unfortunately, the tab on the right side of the rudder pedal of the BC-12 I flew was bent flat by someone who never skipped leg day at the gym. It caused my right shoe to partly slip off the steel bar, which merely resulted in some slight disconcert while I was doing the “happy feet” dance. When doing a wheel landing, let the mains gently kiss the ground; then give the control wheel a slight nudge forward to stick it down. Slowly push in the wheel to maintain a level attitude. However, around 35 kts, let the tail gently fall back and apply full back wheel. If you keep feeding in forward controls the relatively small rudder will eventually lose effectiveness. This will make directional control difficult or even impossible in crosswinds. This small rudder is the same reason you will run out of rudder before aileron while in a slip.

Wrap-up: The Taylorcraft BC-12D is just plain fun and rewarding flying! Every landing in a taildragger is a learning experience and when you master landings in a Taylorcraft, you know you’re doing something right!

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