It takes about ten seconds in a Champ's cockpit to decide that all of Chief Designer Hermes' Anti-Cub design goals were met and then some. Some argue the Champ cockpit is too modern. Too civilized. Those are usually Cub pilots speaking.
Once on board, the immediate impression will be of visibility and a cheerful airiness. The wing and skylight is so high and the pilot sits so far forward, there is none of the "Man trapped in an airplane" feeling of so many of the Champ's contemporaries. This is definitely the airplane for a big person.
One of the cockpit's niceties is that all of the major engine controls, i.e. carb heat, fuel on/off, mags are in a panel by the pilot's left hip. This makes them available from both seats, although the front seat pilot has to squirm around a bit to get a hand down there.
Incidentally, the later airplanes have most of the fuel in the wings and do away with the fuselage tank, while the original airplanes have a fuel gage peeking out of the top of the boot cowl for the fuselage tank.
If it's a 7AC, you'll be doing the "Brakes! Contact!" routine with an Armstrong starter. If a 7EC, there's a "T' handled on the right half of the instrument panel that eases the starting chores.
In most areas, there's a big handling difference between the A and E models because of the difference in weight. An original, lightly finished A model with its 65 hp Continental weights about 710-725 pounds or about the same as a Cub. The 90 hp E models sometimes weigh as much as 200 pounds more because of electrical, interior, tanks, etc.
There's some difference of opinion as to how to start a take-off in a Champ, stick forward or stick back. A lot of the flight schools that used later 7ECs with the No-Bounce gears routinely started the takeoff roll with the stick full forward. Presumably, this was done to get the tail up as soon as possible to keep the oleos from extending. If the pilot waits too long to pick the tail up, the weight will come off the oleos while in a three-point position allowing them to extend. When they're extended, they have little to no resistance so they'll compress easily. When one compresses, even though the airplane is headed straight, the illusion is that the airplane is turning and pilots often poke in rudder that's not needed causing a swerve where there was none. Bear in mind, however, that all of this is happening in slow motion as the airplane will fly-off somewhere in the neighborhood of 45 mph.
Theoretically, the bigger engine Champs will climb better than the lowly 7AC, but not by much. The books say an AC is supposed to give 500 rpm and the EC 800 rpm. In real life, the difference isn't that great. Because of its lighter weight, the 7AC floats off the ground compared to the 7EC which feels more like it's on rails. Only the very lightest 7AC, however, has the feather-like feeling of a Cub when it separates.
Most of the Cub's resemblance to a feather is probably because the Cub has just enough more wing area that its wing loading at gross is a little lower, 6.8 lb/sq. ft to 7.1 lb/sq. ft. The books say a 7EC weighs 890 pounds empty (1450 pounds gross, more than a C-140) compared to a 7AC at 710 pounds (1220 pounds gross, about the same as a Cub).
Note that the 7EC, despite its much bigger engine has about the same useful load as the 7AC.
Once up to cruising speed, the 7AC (65 hp) can generally be depended on to be 5-8 mph faster than the similarly powered Cub, or a good solid 85-90 mph. The 7ECs seem to run about 90-95 mph.
Ask any who fly a Champ and they'll all say its a "...rudder airplane...". That's because its adverse yaw is so pronounced, you either coordinate with rudder or slip and slide around on the seat. It's much more noticeable than in a Cub. This makes it a superb trainer.
When you start trying to compare things like roll rate and aileron pressures between airplanes like Cubs and Champs, you're dealing more with perceptions than actual differences. For one thing, the Cub control stick juts up higher, especially in the front seat, and has an innately "bigger" feel to it. The mechanical advantage means the stick moves further than a Champ's in the same situation, but the response is probably close to being the same. The pressures, also, are close, but it is very difficult to say. The perception is that Cub controls are heavier, when they really aren't.
There is, however, a difference to the overall "feel" of the controls. Somehow, a Cub feels a little more precise and a touch quicker. We're splitting some very slow-speed hairs at this point, but that seems to be the general opinion.
Compared to a C-152, the roll performance will seem leisurely at best. The pressures are slightly lighter than a Citabria and the roll rate about the same.
The Champ stalls normally, with just a tiny bit of edge to it. Release the stick and it's flying again. Kick a rudder hard and it rotates into a surprisingly comfortable spin that stops as soon as you release back pressure and punch a rudder. Just letting go will bring it out almost as quickly as doing something deliberate.
Depending on the model, a Champ is happy to approach at just about any speed, but keeping it under 60 cuts down the float. Three-point landings happen almost automatically once you get used to a nose that's not in the way. The sight picture isn't that much different than landing a C-152 on its mains and holding the nose off. Actually, you can probably see more out of the Champ.
In a no-wind situation, the airplane will track perfectly straight. Given a good cross wind, the pilot will have to work a little harder but the airplane will handle it as long as the pilot keeps the wing down and the nose straight.
Wheel landings are also automatic and probably easier than in any other type of taildragger. Just don't force it on. Let it find the ground, pin it in place and the landing is over.
The controversy between those who love the Cub and those who swear by the Champ will never be resolved. The important thing to remember is they are both terrific airplanes and the Champ wouldn't have survived as long as it has if it hadn't had the Cub as a role model.
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