Thorp Air Command - T18.net

Supporting Owners, Builders and Pilots of the Thorp T-18 and its variants.
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DrDrift
 Post subject: Thorp Community
PostPosted: Thu Aug 02, 2018 10:21 am 
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Joined: Sun Mar 18, 2018 9:36 pm
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I have owned my Thorp for a few months now and have a few thoughts about the aircraft and the community. Having just returned from Oshkosh, I was parked in a sea of RV's - and it took some concerted effort to find a similar-type aircraft parked among the hundreds of non-Thorps. There's no doubt I'm a member of a design minority, but the immense helpfulness of the Thorp community contribute to the practicality and enjoyability of owning one of these aircraft.

My original goal was to buy an RV-3 - which would have perfectly fit my mission of transporting myself quickly and entertainingly. I amassed data on about 10% of the RV-3 market and was still looking for the right one for me - then a friend pointed me to a Thorp on Barnstormers that seemed like a much better choice. Relative to the RV-3, the Thorp added a seat, included a landing light and an IFR panel, and otherwise had very similar performance specs. Even if I only needed one seat, why wouldn't I opt for a two-seater for the same price?

I'm a touch embarrassed to admit that, prior to my active searching, I did not even know that Thorp's existed. I started researching all that I could about Thorps - on Google, YouTube, and among friends. I finally got to a page titled "Thorp Ambassadors", and saw a long list of people who were willing to help align potential Thorp owners with advice and suggestions. Desperate for information and guidance, I started calling...

The first ambassador I got on the phone was Graham Kerr. With regards to his Thorp, his only regret was when he put it up for sale. The potential owner ended up wrecking the airplane on a test flight - then leaving Graham with a pile of aluminum and an insurance claim. Even though he had lost his Thorp, Graham remains on the ambassadors list and spent several hours with me discussing the value of the Thorp relative to other aircraft and describing how to transition into safely flying and landing it.

It turns out Graham owned an RV-3, and I briefly discussed buying it, but eventually we went back to searching for a good Thorp for me. On the phone, Graham was insightful, funny, and had a good perspective for what is and what is not important in airplane shopping.

Next, I got a hold of Lee Walton. I'm very happy to have met Lee recently at Oshkosh, but prior to that, I took up way too much of his time on the phone discussing with him Thorp options listed on Barnstormers. I appreciated that Lee knew some of the airplanes personally, and had some very direct and frank opinions about some. As an ambitious and excitable airplane shopper, I was not looking for encouragement, instead, I needed someone like Lee to give expert opinion on the things that are currently wrong and things that soon might develop into problems with the aircraft.

Lee wasn't very encouraging about the airplanes that were listed at the time, and offered to help me look for a better choice in my price range. It was he who first sent me a link to N41BS, a 2002 Thorp S-18 that had just popped up for sale. I owe a lot to Lee for promoting some discipline in the search process. Waiting for something better turned out to be an excellent idea.

Lee suggested I call Bob Highley - so I did. Bob had a beautiful perspective on valuing aircraft, breaking it down into individual components that, when added, determine a fair price. My struggle at the time was trying to determine "Is this particular airplane worth it?". That's a hard question to answer, but Bob had a good approach that considered both the aircraft condition/equipment and the intended use. He helped me rephrase the question into "What is this particular airplane worth to me?". With some insight into replacement value for certain components, it became clear that some of the airplanes I was considering definitely weren't right for me.

The last piece of advice from Bob was the most important of all. He told me to make sure that I had someone on my side when I got to the point of a pre-purchase inspection.


And then there's Cubes.

Enough can't be said about him and his commitment to the Thorp community. It is almost illegal how much work I caused for him, and definitely criminal how helpful he was despite the snowballing issues during my purchase.

I called Jim over a period of several weeks (months?), asking him about different aircraft options. When I finally settled on N41BS, it turned out to be based near Las Vegas, so Cubes offered to do the pre-buy for me. This offer could not have fulfilled Bob's recommendation any better. I was an outsider to the community, yet the way Cubes handled the pre-buy and subsequent effort left no doubt that he was "on my side". My purchase would have been so much more expensive and burdensome if it were not for his involvement.

Among the many mistakes that I made in the purchase of my airplane was thinking that a condition inspection should count as a pre-buy. I only know realize the relative subjectivity of condition inspections. An aircraft with a fresh annual from one A&P may fail under the scrutiny of another. This is not to imply malice or incompetence, just to remark on how complicated aircraft can be - both in the structural and regulatory senses.

N41BS went through scrutiny from Cubes and Ace, and they pointed out that some of the wear items could use a replacement, but that nothing was fundamentally wrong with the aircraft. I had ambitious plans of flying into Las Vegas, finishing the pre-buy, getting my transition training, then flying it back across the country to Florida the next day. Not surprisingly, this plan didn't work out, so I left the airplane in Cube's care to resolve some of the maintenance issues and intended on coming back a few weeks later.

This is where the drama started.

It's amazing how a perfectly good airplane can be deemed non-airworthy by the FAA over some paperwork issues. What should have been a minor issue with the certificate ended up taking tens of phone calls to FSDOs all over the US to try and resolve. As the FAA asked more questions, we found more things that needed to be resolved with the aircraft. In the end, Cube resolved issues with the tires, brakes, mags, cylinders, aileron weights, "experimental markings", airworthiness certificate, ELT, and, transponder. At one point, he was putting letter-by-letter markings from Lowes stickers on my airplane so it would pass FAA inspection!

My airplane buying process was far more dramatic than it needed to be, and because I was remote, it was Cubes who resolved virtually all of the drama. I would have been in terrible shape without him, and yet he provides his services with outrageous reasonableness.


There's a lot more to say about my first few months of owning a Thorp - but I wanted to express my sincere appreciation for Graham, Lee, Bob, and Jim for helping me join the Thorp community.

Of course, I would be remiss to end this thread without also thanking Hal Underwood for building the airplane (then N631HU) and Buck Steele for making a ridiculous number of improvements to what became N41BS. I haven't talked to Hal, but Buck remains a continuing source of great insights and advice on how to care for and maintain his former beloved Thorp.

Thanks!


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James Grahn
 Post subject: Re: Thorp Community
PostPosted: Thu Aug 02, 2018 11:18 am 
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Joined: Sat Oct 24, 2009 7:16 pm
Posts: 1013
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Location: USA
Kind words. Thank you.
When my wife asked my goals for purchasing the assets of Classic Sport Aircraft, she asked, "is it to make money?" I replied that it is not.
I love this plane. It is a great design. Not well known outside of our community. But that's ok. My goals were simply to make as many happy Thorp owners as possible. I think we are successful in that regard.
Thanks again
Cubes


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Unclerap
 Post subject: Re: Thorp Community
PostPosted: Thu Aug 02, 2018 5:05 pm 
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Joined: Mon Mar 19, 2018 4:23 pm
Posts: 32
I'll add my 2 cents to this thread. I bought N8786 a few months ago. I got it home, the easy part was the flight. I've been a T18 fan for decades, and the price, timing, etc combo vs an RV....well the planets lined up and I bought it. My next door hangar neighbor is a multi time RV builder and his comment convinced me to pull the trigger: "If there were no RVs, the Thorp would rule the experimental world." At about 1/4 the entry fee, this tightwad bought in.

The website/forum is not as active as I am used to, I'm a member, past president, and tech resource for the Beech Aero Club. That's the musketeer world. 2000 airframes still registered, 650 members, very active. But once I got approved for T18.net postings y'all have been great.

Clearly it's a small world. I'm working on some improvements to the panel, engine, wrong prop, and trim system. But looking forward to some zippy travel to NOLA weekends with Charlotte.

Rap McBurney
A&P/IA
N8786
N82809


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oldarmy
 Post subject: Re: Thorp Community
PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2018 1:28 pm 
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Joined: Sun Jul 08, 2018 8:15 pm
Posts: 1
This is all very interesting to me. I currently own two airplanes .. a J-3 Cub and a Great Lakes biplane. I had intended to sell the Cub when I got the biplane 10 years ago and just haven't got around to it. Neither is what you'd call a travelling airplane (I owned an A36 before ... but the cost of operation made me feel guilty about just going out to bore holes in the sky.)

So what is reasonably fast, has decent range and is cheap(ish) to operate. Mebbe a Mooney 201? What else? Experimental? Long EZ, Thorp T18, Wittman Tailwind, RV4 ...

To my eyes the Tailwind is just ... ugly. I'm a form follows function guy .. but that airplane is ugly. The Long EZ is .. different .. not ugly different .. just different. The RV4 is the prettiest .. to my eye. But after looking at what is available the Thorp seems to represent the best value.

In the manufactured aircraft world .. what seems to make the big difference is what happens after the airplane is finished. But in experimentals ... all T18s are not equal (or Long EZs or RV4s). I've been reading (lurking) here and other places and while there are plenty of great airplanes .. there are some nightmares too. One well built T18 is like a fine jewel .. another less well built is .. something else. I look at Barnstormers and TAP and wonder .. "It looks good .. but how is it really..." And it is this that makes me think 'Just get a Cherokee 180' ... (or Beech Musketeer .. )


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Unclerap
 Post subject: Re: Thorp Community
PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2018 4:45 pm 
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Joined: Mon Mar 19, 2018 4:23 pm
Posts: 32
If you lean towards the Musketeer (Mouse to the insiders) PM me and I'll load you up with info. Great airplane if you are too big for a Thorp and are not in a hurry to get there. Probably the best deal in aviation to the well informed. Best deal = you lose less money.

Once the rehab project is complete, I'll have a 150kt cruiser, AP, IFR, etc, for under $25k discounting my labor to zero.

Rap


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1albee
 Post subject: Re: Thorp Community
PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2018 7:56 pm 
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Joined: Sat Oct 31, 2015 6:58 pm
Posts: 164
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I have a Twin Comanche and a Thorp with a big engine and C/S. The Twin is great for taking the family somewhere, but the Thorp is faster and burns a LOT less fuel. If you are looking for a good Thorp, talk to Cubes or RB both are very knowledgeable and won't steer you wrong.

Phil
118BC


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DrDrift
 Post subject: Re: Thorp Community
PostPosted: Sun Aug 05, 2018 12:04 am 
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Joined: Sun Mar 18, 2018 9:36 pm
Posts: 5
oldarmy,

You bring up an excellent point. It is harder to find a better value in aviation than a Thorp.

I bought my Thorp with a very well defined mission / use case. I commute several times per week on a 2+ hour drive, and since I live and work close to an airport, I could change some of those commute drives to commute flights. The flight is just over 100 nm, which really isn't very far. The flight time enroute varies from 1 hour for a slow 100 kt aircraft to 30 minutes to a blazing-fast 200 kt airplane. Just to be perfectly frank, there really isn't a huge difference between aircraft for this type of range. Even so, if everything in pre-flight and post-flight goes smoothly, there's a chance that I could save 20-30 minutes each way commuting. More importantly, it's so much more enjoyable to go by air even if I don't save any time at all.

With regards to the requirements, here's what I wanted:

Speed: 150kts+
Seats: 1+
Fuel Economy: Less than 10 gallons per hour
Purchase Price: Less than $35k

Those were really the core requirements - and there are *very* few airplanes that are so fast (and economical to operate) for so cheap. An RV-6 with the same performance, engine, and instrumentation is easily twice as expensive.

An RV-3 fits my requirements, but many single-seat aircraft are seemingly built for pure flying enjoyment. The ones that are well equipped for travel are much more expensive than $35k. Yet Thorps sell for ~$35k with full lighting and IFR panels.

Because I like optimization, I made a few plots to compare the value of several different types of airplanes, including:

- Cessna 172
- Piper Warrior
- RV-3
- RV-4
- RV 6/7
- Thorp
- Lancair

The plot was a 3D plot that showed purchase price vs fuel economy vs cruise speed. On the plot (which I'll find and upload later), the Thorp is well separated from most of the other aircraft. If you exclude single-seat RV-3s, then the Thorp is entirely alone. Obviously there are some other aircraft like the Mustang II which could compete, but practically, the Thorp seems to be the fastest and cheapest aircraft for which parts are readily available.

The 'cheapest' aspect is a sore-spot in the community, considering the number of threads devoted to the question "Why isn't my Thorp worth as much as an RV-6?". I don't know how to answer that question, but I do know that the value of the Thorp was a huge factor in my decision to buy in to the community.

Apart from all the pragmatic features, what I love most about my Thorp is that it is tailwheel (awesome), aerobatic (awesome), has a control stick (awesome), and has a slide canopy (awesome). Sure I could get an old Mooney to fly nearly as fast, but the Thorp is genuinely an amazing experience to fly. I admit that I'll never compete in an IAC competition with it, but I can commute to work doing rolls the entire way.

Earlier today, I was comparing Oshkosh notes with a friend who had flown from Florida to Oshkosh in a 172. He plodded along for 10 hours while I did it in 6 - much of that upside down. As a used airplane value, I have a hard time finding anything that beats it. That's not to say that there's going to be a huge rush to build more Thorps from scratch, but I have to think that there will always be demand for existing airframes.


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Binder
 Post subject: Re: Thorp Community
PostPosted: Sun Aug 05, 2018 9:53 am 
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Joined: Thu Sep 01, 2016 10:50 pm
Posts: 245
To add to the praise of this community. I live in Terre Haute, Indiana (western). There is a good little network of us here between east illinois over to st louis. I think total in a 1 hour radius we have about 7 of us.

David Read of olney helped me with questions and took me for a ride in his when I was thinking of purchasing. He has been amazing and helpful for everything I had trouble with. He flew with me after a top rebuild in the nasty 95* heat because I was too nervous to fly again after 8 months of no tail wheel. He even let me attempt to fly his beautiful airplane to increase my skills (and didn't beat me up when I had some really nasty attempted landings). He is a huge asset to the thorp community and goes out of his way to help others despite having his own thriving business and currently 2 more airplane projects.

Derek Fritschle is another olney pilot that is great to be around and very helpful. He is quite skilled at anything thorp and once he has some free time in the next month will be helping (more like me assisting him) install my autopilot servos. Without question he let me borrow his old prop to test.

Tim mason, roy, art, scott stine all hang out and have so much fun flying formation. They took me under their wing and are teaching me proper formation flying. My o290 struggles to keep up with their fast 320's but they bare with me and accommodate my flying speed. I have also met the famous Lee Walton and enjoyed a meal and some formation flight with him. Lee helps me with tons of questions through email and even supplied me with a fuel cap when mine was having issues. He's from my second favorite state: texas, so of course I don't get to hang out with him as much as I would like. He knows just about anything there is to know on airplanes and definitely EVERYTHING there is to know on thorps. He can build a super beautiful airplane as well. Doesn't hurt that one of his thorps are all over the brochures I get from my insurance company (avemco).

All the guys on the forms, Bruce, cubes etc have helped me with email questions with no hesitation. I love my thorp despite it being an ugly duckling and constant fixes from the previous neglect but one of the main reasons I can't even think about getting rid of it is the community. I really love bush planes and planned on using my thorp as a cheap tail wheel trainer before I saved up to get myself a low and slow to use on my family farm but now being in a position to get a new plane I just can't let go of this airplane!

Oh ya, I almost forgot Keith welsch of EAA 83 with me just purchased a thorp last summer so we have yet another one to the mix locally. I guess wabash valley is the midwest thorp central!


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KWK
 Post subject: Re: Thorp Community
PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2018 10:05 pm 
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Joined: Sat Aug 01, 2015 1:42 pm
Posts: 73
Location: Illinois
oldarmy wrote:
To my eyes the Tailwind is just ... ugly.

I used to think that, even at the time I purchased my plans set from Steve Wittman, many years ago. As time goes on, the functional aspect has won out. Now I find the W-10 rather racy looking, actually. I noticed at OSH this year the Tailwinds near the Homebuilt Cafe had many people inspecting them closely and talking with the pilots. Sorry to say, no one was looking at the T-18s the times I walked past--other than me, who always takes a look over at David Read's airplane, and the other Thorps there. Of course, the W-10s were right along the main pedestrian path, but still, there's no denying they had lookers. Futher, the simplified Tailwind, the Cougar, with it's small, rectangular wings I've always thought very attractive (Wittman's tapered tips never look right to my eye). The one which shows up at OSH now and then over the past 25 years got new, longer mains two years ago, which gives it a rakish stance on the ground--what a leggy babe!

That said, I've always thought the T-18 the best looking of the aluminum homebuilts, even if it does look as if it could use a few more square feet of wing.

Karl


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Unclerap
 Post subject: Re: Thorp Community
PostPosted: Wed Aug 08, 2018 5:07 pm 
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Joined: Mon Mar 19, 2018 4:23 pm
Posts: 32
If you want a Tailwind knock off, the Nesmith Cougar, I think I can put you onto the owner. Not an easy purchase, but probably can be had reasonable. PM me with a direct email and I'll tell you the story.

Rap


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KWK
 Post subject: Re: Thorp Community
PostPosted: Wed Aug 08, 2018 10:24 pm 
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Joined: Sat Aug 01, 2015 1:42 pm
Posts: 73
Location: Illinois
I'm too tall for a stock Cougar or Tailwind, but thanks.

My son and I are currently building a RANS kit, which will become his. After that I'll dust off either the Tailwind or the T-18 plans I have.


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