From the Cockpit Part 11: Taylorcraft BC-12D
Editor’s Note: This is part eleven of an ongoing series documenting the flights of active-duty US Navy Pilot Ryan Rankin on his journey to fly 52 planes in 52 weeks through the year 2017.
Flying out of Lakeland Linder Regional Airport again with Travis Brown of Tailwheels Etc. (see: From The Cockpit Part 6), Rankin takes the wheel of a Taylorcraft BC-12D. Built in the 1930s and 40s, the BC-12D is a simple craft that gets the job done, says Rankin, moving the pilot, a passenger and a smattering of supplies from Point A to Point B. But while not designed for flash, the plane sports its own vintage charm. Or as Rankin puts it: “It’s always neat to get into an airplane older than your father.”
Evidence of the BC-12D’s age present themselves immediately, not only in the fuselage and wings, which are skinned with doped aircraft fabric as opposed to aluminum, but in the propeller itself, crafted from wood. For Rankin’s purposes, however, these will have little effect on the flight.
Very similar to the Piper J-3S Cub (see: From The Cockpit Part 7), the biggest differences come in cockpit design. For one, the BC-12D puts the pilot and the co-pilot of passenger side-by-side as opposed to tandem seating, making space just a little “tight,” Rankin says, though this likely came in handy when the plane’s intercom died and he and Brown resorted to shouting back and forth to be heard. The BC-12D also uses a yoke, like a wheel, instead of a stick. Everybody has a preference, says Rankin, and he leans towards the stick, which he feels requires less separation of movement to control the plane’s pitch, roll and yaw at the same time. For example, a single pull back and left on a stick versus pulling back on the yoke while simultaneously rotating the wheel for a turn. “I feel like I have more control,” he says.
Not an aerobatic plane, Rankin and Brown practiced tailwheel landings instead of flips. Flying out to a grassy field, Rankin was surprised to find the grass actually made the landing easier, providing some cushion. Though the fifth tailwheel plane in the series so far, Rankin waves off any notion of mastery, self-describing as an amateur. “It’s something that even experienced guys can get in trouble with,” he says. The danger is something called a “ground loop,” which can occur on takeoff or landing, when the pilot steers with the rudder pedals at their feet and a miscalculation can send the plane into a violent 180-degree spin, digging the wing into the ground. “But the more you fly, the better you get,” says Rankin. “I enjoy the challenge.”
For more about the flight in Rankin’s own words and a video of the flight, follow the link below.
Pictured: Ryan Rankin and the Taylorcraft BC-12D.