You get a whole lot with very little when flying the Cessna 140. With a metal fuselage, fabric wings and metal control surfaces, these planes were built between 1946 and 1951. It is a surprising aircraft to fly.
Originally fitted with the Continental C-85, an 85 horsepower engine and the Continental C-90, a 90 horsepower engine, the plane has also been manufactured with various other engines over the years. After-market installations of the Continental O-200 (100 horsepower) and the Lycoming O-235 (108 horsepower) engines also form part of the type certification.
The Cessna 140 is the perfect gateway taildragger
Apart from the spring steel undercarriage, she is a fairly easy taildragger to fly. For those looking to ultimately move onto bigger, heavier and more powerful taildraggers, the Cessna 140 is great gateway taildragger trainer to begin with.
Start-up is standard. Once you start taxiing, you can feel the traditional “wobble” of the aircraft. This is typical of most planes sporting such undercarriages. Directional control on the taxi is typical of all taildraggers, made easier by the fact that forward visibility is very good and that the aircraft is light.
Take-off requires finesse
Raising the tail on the take-off run is where finesse is required. The pilot needs to gingerly raise the tail by applying forward stick. Too much forward stick or having the tail too high causes the undercarriage to splay. Conversely, too little forward application of elevator causes it to skip and bounce a little, or “porpoise” for lack of a better phrase. There is a definite sweet spot with regard to the amount of elevator application during the take-off roll.
As always, gyroscopic precession comes into play when raising or lowering the tail of a taildragger. Needless to say, right rudder is required to keep the airplane straight when raising the tail. Precession is one of the reasons, right rudder is required on the take-off roll. Torque, slipstream effect and P factor also contribute to the aircraft’s desire to yaw to the left.
Very easy to fly
Once airborne, she’s a beautiful and easy aircraft to fly. As I’ve said, you get a whole lot with very little. With between 85 and 100 horsepower, she clips along at anywhere between 90 and 95 knots. You can carry two adults, plus some baggage, with enough fuel to go somewhere for a weekend. With 90 litres total and an average burn of 22 litres an hour, you do the maths. In essence, she’s a very capable airplane and can still pack a punch even some 70 years after manufacture.
The 140 is robust and hardy, and runs on the smell of an oil rag.
Ideal for rough landing strips
On the grass and dirt is where she’s happiest. The spring-steel undercarriage cushions roughs strips well, and she particularly likes to land on grass. With the four flap settings that are unfortunately more for drag than lift, and the slow approach speed, the 140’s short-field landing performance is pretty good. It’s definitely better than the take-off performance.
Her stalling characteristics in the clean configuration with power off are very docile. You can hold the stick fully back once the stall has been reached and she’ll slowly drift down provided you keep your wings level with the use of rudder. When teaching stalling in the 140, I generally do so with full flap and a fair amount of power on to get a more dramatic effect. In the clean configuration, a student won’t get an accurate picture of how a stalled aircraft behaves.
Check out Barnstormers and look at the price of a Cessna 140. You’ll be pleasantly surprised as there are bicycles on the market that are more expensive. The 140 is robust and hardy, and runs on the smell of an oil rag. It takes you back in time, to grassroots where things were a little more challenging. You need to access your basic skills and work a little harder to fly this airplane.
A test of your navigation skills
Even navigation is more challenging. Basic map reading, heading and time are required to get you from A to B in a standard 140. That’s unless you’ve retro-fitted the latest and greatest in nav equipment, or own a handheld GPS. But rather embrace the old ways and use this aircraft to hone and preserve the skills of old. You’ll be surprised how satisfying this is.
The 140 is a great aircraft to spend your weekends tooling around in. Whether you want to pack a small bag and get away for a day or two or hop from grass strip to grass strip, you’re going to have a lot of fun flying it.