American Champion (Citabria & Super Decathlon)

Discussion in '' started by rob lay, Oct 31, 2007.

  1. rob lay

    rob lay Administrator
    Staff Member Admin Social Subscribed Miami 2018 Owner

    Dec 1, 2000
    Southlake, TX
    Full Name:
    Rob Lay

    So I have the tailwheel bug a wee bit right now. My first 7 tailwheel lessons were in a Citabria Explorer and my remaining lessons will be in the Super Decathlon. I did fly the Super Decathlon once before for my spin endorsement.

    Why would I even be interested in a tailwheel? I can't haul more than one adult and sometimes not even that or just on limited fuel. They aren't a long XC mission plane. They don't cruise all that fast. They aren't really any more of a STOL aircraft than a Skyhawk. A new one still costs in the $115-160k range.

    Well, the answer is they are fun as heck! I have really enjoyed flying the "stick" around local more than the Skyhawk. They are simple, they handle like a sports car, they are more a flying enthusiasts airplane.

    So I'm analyzing here…

    - fun as heck for local 2 person flights (hamburger & fly-ins)
    - not all that expensive to own and operate
    - "capable" of limited XC missions
    - limited to full aerobatics depending on model
    - perfect trainer for possible T-6 flying

    - only carry 2 people
    - not great XC mission plane
    - not as friendly for 1st time passengers
    - can rent Citabria for $115 wet and Super Decathlon for $145 wet already

    So 1st tell me about your experience with the American Champion (Bellanca) aircraft. I then need to rationalize why owning one is better than renting at the above rates. I can rent solo until 150 hours, but I should be there in 6 short months after working on my instrument. If I get on the Midwest Texan's waiting list it will be 2011 or so before I get delivery. If I bought an American Champion plane, I would only keep it until the Texan came. So if I wasn't thinking about a Texan I definitely wouldn't buy a tailwheel now because I can rent them. However, if I'm going to own a Texan, then it might be smart to own another tailwheel in the meantime to learn more than just the flying part. I will also be more likely to build hours in the tailwheel and fly it if owning.

    No way I will own two planes at this point, so I need to consider all my mission types and which plane to own if any and which to rent. Lucky I have access to such a good rental place with a selection of Citabria, Super Decathlon, Skyhawks, and Skylanes. So all my missions are covered by them. I think my long XC's will be limited to once every two months so renting a Skylane for my XC missions make sense. Yes, a pain to pay for destination days you aren't flying, but they are lax on the Skylanes for that. Now the Skyhawks are 4 hours minimum a day because those planes are always flying for the school.

    I really think 80% of my flying will be local, hamburger runs, and fly-ins.

    The final question is which plane? Before looking at the stats I really expected to be attracted to the Super Decathlon, but it really seems like an aerobatics mission aircraft only. The Citabria only cruises 20 mph less, has flaps, higher capacity, and still does some aerobatics. Really don't think I want an aerobatics plane, the easy aileron roles are fun, but the G's aren't that fun to me now and I even have border line blood pressure!

    Citabria Explorer: Payload with Full Fuel 340 lbs. Takeoff Distance 412 ft. 75% Cruise 128 mph Landing 360 ft. Landing Distance over 50-ft. Obstacle 740 ft.

    Super Decathlon: Payload with Full Fuel 226 lbs. Takeoff Distance 495 ft. 75% Cruise 147 mph Landing Distance 425 ft. Landing Distance over 50-ft. Obstacle 1051 ft.

    Also, any other tailwheels I should consider?

    Sorry so long, as you can tell I'm not very far along in my thought process.

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  3. LightGuy

    LightGuy Three Time F1 World Champ
    Silver Subscribed

    Oct 4, 2004
    Full Name:
    One of my customers who flew for the FINA aerobatics team is looking into getting back into the saddle again. (Experienced in Pitts and Extras)
    His choice is the Super Decathlon as an all-arounder.

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