|MT-5 C/N 262 N216DM restoration to flying condition|
by James Goodwin
| Among other jobs, I was working for a small commuter
airline. Returning from a trip just before Christmas, Dispatch gave me a
message that a friend of mine had called for me.
"Hey, I sold your airplane, we need the logbooks."
"Great, how much did I get for it?" I replied.
"Don't worry about it, we'll talk about it later. It's just finishing a new paint job now, we need the logbooks and it leaves for California next week."
Well, it was mid-February before we got around to "that" talk. Since cash was short I was offered my choice of a group of Fouga Magister CM-170 aircraft. Without even looking at the airframes I chose serial number 262 based on what I perceived to be the best engine times between the installed engines. As I understood it, SN 262 was built in France in early 1960 and served as a member of the Belgian Red Devil aerobatic demonstration team. When it was retired, it and 5 other team aircraft were all sold to Israel. They had apparently intended to arm them and upgrade the 880 lb. Thrust Marbore IV engines with the larger 1050 lb. Marbore VI engines. These aircraft were parked in the Israeli desert for some eight years before being shipped unmodified to the United States. The six team aircraft and two others were a shipment of eight, each in its own 40 foot shipping container which arrived in Burlington, Vermont I believe sometime in 1989.
The fuselage was intact, we removed the wings from the container and bolted them on. Hooked up the connections, add the tip tanks and vee tail surfaces and it was essentially ready to go. Usually the engines were left installed when shipped. They had been very well preserved, sealed with tape and the canopies covered with a protective coating.
MT-5 before restoration
After sitting in the desert, the ships were understandably a little worse for wear and faded cosmetically. All of the Red Devil aircraft, we had six on site, had had all of the markings brush painted over with red paint. The yellow bands on the undersides had also been brush painted red. By the spring of 1990 three of them had been stripped bare, repainted in various schemes and sold. Mine was in the process of being stripped when I again got a message through Dispatch.
By simple luck, just enough stripper had been left on just the right time and when hosed off had revealed just a hint of the lion marking underneath the red paint. Sam knew of my desire to keep aircraft in their original state and had stopped to wait for me. I spent all of my spare time over the next month recovering the markings. I taped tracing paper to the fuselage to draw the markings. I would lift the paper and sand more of the red paint and then trace again. I would take photos as I went. When I couldn't recover a portion, I would go to one of the other two ships and repeat the process. I was able to recover the three markings but not the pilot's name under the left forward canopy. I had enough to restore the original paint. I wrote the Belgian embassy in Washington DC and they sent several photos that resulted in only one very minor change to my tracings. In late summer of 1990 I selected a shade of red using the unfaded paint around the wheel well and Sam painted the entire aircraft red in Burlington. In November I taped on black registration numbers and ferried the all red aircraft to my home airport some thirty miles south. When the temperatures rose in the spring of 1991 I painted on the yellow and black bands and the MT-5 numbers. In various photos I have seen the white stripes include or not the intake lips, but since I had the original aircraft to work from I painted the stripes as I saw them then. After considerable thought as to how to place the markings, I had the tracings transferred to adhesive decals. The first decals showed the white stripe through so I had some blank white ones made to add under the markings. I am very pleased with the result, I believe it to be a faithful restoration with the only exception of the small registration numbers I had to place under the tail and the lacking pilot's name. (Ms. Soetaert of a Belgian website about Fougas has provided me with a fine picture including this name and I am talking with an artist about getting this remedied.)
Tracing the markings
There are some 86 Fouga Magisters on the US registry. I am aware of only one other painted in the Red Devil scheme. It is a Finnish built Fouga I first saw advertised in its Finnish bare aluminum. Later I saw the same ship still advertised but with very authentic Red Devil paint. In fact, I recognized the photo as one the embassy had sent me. Whether the photo had been obtained independently from the embassy or lifted from the front cockpit of my ship while it was still in Burlington I do not know. Finally the advertisement changed again to show the actual aircraft in its new paint. But it shows the right side, and shows the lion marking instead of the "phoenix" it should. I have since noticed there are very few photos of the right side of these aircraft.
In the cockpit, I have also strived to keep it as original as possible. To get it certified as experimental to fly here I had to replace the altimeter with one adjustable in in.hg. In the interest of weight I removed the large military avionics from the tail and behind the rear cockpit. I kept as many of the control boxes in the cockpit as possible though I did remove two of the radio control boxes in the right console so as to install a civilian communications radio, radar transponder and intercom. Very low between my feet I installed a Loran navigation unit. I have since added a handheld GPS unit that mounts on the right fuselage/canopy frame.
Certification was pretty simple once I got the representatives to show up but that took a year and a half. I know of other regions that were doing it in a month!
Maintenance has been a dream compared with the WWII radial engine aircraft I learned on. There is a filter on each engine that is all but impossible to get at without removing the engine. But given enough time and my small hands it can be done. There have been some small issues but the big ones are tires, brakes and oil. We have found substitute tires and I was able to get a machinist to make a spare set of brake disks. I purchased a drum of Shell 9 engine oil but I have not discovered a substitute for when that is gone. Apparently there is no more to be had.
I have found the Fouga to be very easy to fly. Before I acquired mine I ferried several of the Finnish built ships back and forth across the continent. I would tell folks during fuel stops that if they had 300 hours in a Piper Cherokee they could fly the Fouga. It would take me ten minutes to teach them how to start it; unlike a piston engine, a turbine is very sensitive to a weak battery and a hot start will ruin it. Then it would take me three hours to hopefully teach them how not to run it out of fuel. This is not a ship for traveling great distances. It was designed as a trainer and is happiest close to home. For safety I flew cross-country at 16,500 or 17,500 feet above sea level. At these altitudes and a conservative 300 knots I could only safely flight plan for 300 nautical miles.
Unlike the Finnish built ships, my ship has hydraulically boosted ailerons. The difference is really quite minimal until the boost is either off or fails; then the stick forces are quite stiff and response quite sloppy. This is the first aircraft that I learned to fly inverted. If I fly it upside down long enough and throw in some inverted turns, sometimes the hydraulic system will lose its prime and thus my boost. It has always immediately returned after re-establishing 1-g flight.
Because of the vee tail arrangement, the book warns of a subtly different spin recovery technique. Simultaneous application of both opposite pedal and forward stick effective cancels out a portion of both. My first spin was started very high and I carefully waited for the rotation to stop before applying forward stick. It was all so straight forward that after trying one to the other side I tried one with immediate forward stick application. The spin rate tightens and increases incredibly! But then recovery is again very straightforward and honest.
I fly out a short field and do watch density altitude, runway slope and fuel weight. Takeoff has never been an issue though I wish I didn't have to use the brakes so much on landing. My aerobatics are solely for my own enjoyment. I am not particularly concerned with how they look from the outside so I run very easy power lever settings. With the exception of take-off, my ship runs mostly 19,000 to 19,500 rpm which gives me really cool tailpipe temperatures of around 450'C. Everyone agrees that with these high rpms and the long intakes that the ground noise is very objectionable but I am told that fly-over noise is gentle. Never-the-less, I still keep my flights away from people and vary the location regularly.
MT-5 in service with the Red Devils
Magister Aviation would like to thank Mr James Goodwin for writing this article and taking care of this airframe through the years. Mt-5 is a unique aircraft. It flew with the Devils it's first season as the solo and finished in their last season as the spare aircraft. It is a unique time capsule and the only one retaining it's original Red Devils "25 years" color scheme. In 2015 the aircraft returned to Belgium. It is currently airworthy with the Stame & Vertongen museum at Deurne (Antwerp International Airport).