Volmer VJ-22 Sportsman

The current family flying machines are Volmer VJ-22 C-GHTY and Piper PA-22-108/135 Colt C-FPHX. In prior years, we owned Piper PA-28 Cherokee C-GQEU (which we took to Europe) and Piper PA-22 TriPacer CF-HTB.

[Volmer C-GHTY on take-off]

The first Volmer VJ-22 Sportsman was built by Volmer Jensen in 1958. Originally named 'Chubasco', the design used a scaled-down Savoia-Marchetti hull for good hydrodynamic qualities. This hull/fuselage was built of a fir keel, spruce longerons and formers, birch plywood sides and bottom. The wings are stock Aeronca Champ units, giving a 34-foot wing span. The engine in the original was an 85HP Continental pusher, although this was later replaced by a 100HP Continental O-200.

Our Volmer, which we keep at Courtenay Airpark (identifier AH3), is registered C-GHTY, construction number DJA-1, and was powered by a Lycoming O-235C-1 engine mounted in a "tractor" configuration (ie., pulling, not pushing) when we acquired it. This engine is rated at 108 HP at 2600 RPM, but produced closer to 115 HP in this installation due to a fine pitch wooden propeller, which lets the engine turn at 2800 RPM. Climb performance was excellent, even with two people aboard, but the high drag of the aircraft's configuration and fine-pitch propeller limited the cruising speed to approximately 80 MPH; retraction of the undercarriage made little difference to the speed. This particular aircraft is limited to 120 MPH, but this contains an adequate safety margin.

The engine was getting tired by early 2004, so we took the opportunity to install a Lycoming O-290 driving a Sensenich metal propeller. Performance is greatly enhanced but wait for the new figures! However, it does appear that cruising speed at 75% power is now about 98mph. Now for some history.

C-GHTY was built in 1976 by Dave Andrews, in Nelson, B.C. Following his death in a microlight aircraft, the machine passed to his brother, Brian Andrews, in Nanaimo and then subsequently to Robert Pyra, who based the aircraft at Pitt Meadows. He traded the aircraft for a Luscombe in 1997 and we acquired it shortly after that. We called the machine "The Clockwork Orange" and it had a rather interestng antique-style paint job, as illustrated.

[Volmer C-GHTY in old scheme]

The aircraft has no fixed electronic equipment, although a hand-held Icom VHF radio and a Lowrance GPS are usually carried. The instrument panel had only basic flight instruments, but has now been upgraded with an artificial horizon and a 'needle' that now works in the 'turn & bank' indicator; the aircraft is equipped for Visual Flight Rules operation only, but now meets the requirements to fly at night and 'thousand over the top'. Empty weight was 975 pounds when built, with a maximum allowable gross weight of 1800 pounds. The empty weight has grown a bit over the years and is now 1127 lbs. With a full 22 gallons of fuel and two people, there is still plenty of weight available for baggage. Controls are conventional, with a 'stick' and rudder pedals incorporating toe brakes; engine controls are on a quadrant. The right seat has a control column and rudder pedals, but lacks brakes. Undercarriage retraction is strictly 'armstrong' , with a large lever which swings up to lock on the wing spar to pull up the main wheels. The tailwheel is spring-loaded to the up position and a separate lever is used to pull it into the extended position. The tailwheel is activated separately from the main gear as it is also used as a water rudder.

The Volmer is a fun aeroplane and is great for Vancouver Island, where we live. For cross-country work, it is a little slow - but it's still faster than a car! However, that is why we now have the Colt as well.

UPDATE: The aircraft underwent a "mid-life refit" over two years (!). The wings and control surfaces have all been recovered with Dacron and the fuselage has had repairs and modifications made to the rudder post and the belly. The fuselage has been repainted in a new, more modern scheme. A new instrument panel has been fabricated and new seats installed. The aircraft has been rewired and the fuel system redesigned. The 'first' test flight was carried out 4 May, 2003. The wing wash-out was increased to two degrees (from zero!) and the stall is now quite gentle, whereas it was quite exciting previously. A shot of my first take-off in the 'new' Volmer is at the head of the page and my first landing at the bottom, courtesy of Ken Wiberg. Ken also took the 'fly-by' photo after the Full Lotus tip floats were installed. Water damage while we were away in Europe occurred and the aircraft was dismantled and stored until time and effort could be expended to get it airworthy again. The aircraft has been on the ground for this work (all too long!) but should be flying again this summer (2013) with even more improvements.

Related Links:
Canadian Owners and Pilots Association

Volmer Club of America

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