Arkansas Tango

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By Andy Gamache, EAA 688111; Clinton, Arkansas

More than 12 years have passed since the first flight of my cross-country speed machine. In 2003, I started looking at kits such as the Lancair, Express, Velocity, and many others. Then one day a friend showed me an article about the Tango and its build center. The Tango had pretty much everything I was looking for, as well as a place to build it. I was hooked.

I took some vacation late in September 2003 to start building my Tango at the build center in Williston, Florida. The Team Tango folks at the build center were ready and willing to help as much (or as little) as needed. They were a key factor in getting the project done quickly and efficiently.

My initial building session was 10 days. When I left that first session my Tango had the bottom wing skin attached, aft spar completed, and all the wing ribs installed. There was still a lot of work to do, but that wasn’t bad for just 10 days of work.

Over the next two years, I found myself with work gaps anywhere from one to three weeks at a time. That allowed me to pretty much live in Williston during my time off while I worked on my Tango. Finally, the long-awaited day came. The designated airworthiness representative had come and gone, giving his blessing on behalf of the FAA. A week’s worth of taxi tests had been done. Everything had been checked over and over. It was time for the first flight, but there was a puddle of fuel in the cockpit — I wasn’t going anywhere. The next day the fuel system was torn apart, and a minor flaw in the lines was discovered. A new section was manufactured and installed, and we put some pressure on the fuel system to leak check it, but decided to let it sit overnight to ensure no more fuel materialized in the cockpit.

On November 6, a little more than two years after starting work on my Tango, with absolutely no fanfare at all, I did one more final preflight inspection and climbed into my Tango for its maiden flight. The Tango powered its way down the runway and was quickly airborne. The flight lasted 15 minutes. It couldn’t have gone any smoother.

Eventually my Tango was painted white so I wouldn’t have to travel around with a primer gray airplane. The stripes and N-number were put on with vinyl. Both the paint and the vinyl are still holding up well.

My first cross-country had me flying from Williston to Scappoose, Oregon (KSPB), where I left my Tango for a couple months to allow Oregon Aero to put in a custom leather interior. It can carry more than 10 hours of fuel, so I wanted to be able to sit in it for 10 hours. Oregon Aero specializes in comfort so it was a no-brainer to select it.

The first flight after getting the interior was an eight-hour flight from Scappoose to Little Rock, Arkansas. I put 64 gallons of gas in to top it off after that leg, giving me right at 8 gph. I was flying at 15,500 feet enjoying the smooth and uncrowded air. And the comfort factor? I don’t think I squirmed once. Those seats were worth it.

Several years ago, I did some formal performance testing as part of the capstone program for my master’s degree. The numbers all pretty much agree with what Team Tango advertised. I can get an honest 180 knots true airspeed in cruise. Takeoff and landing can be done in less than 1,000 feet at sea level. Initial climb-out will easily see more than 1,000 fpm.

The Tango is extremely responsive to control inputs. At cruise speeds, control pressure, as opposed to control movement, should be used. Once trimmed, it will stay where you put it.

The Superior XP-360 engine with an AERO composites prop has been bulletproof. When I bought the engine, I had an Aerosance full authority digital engine control (FADEC) installed. For avionics, I have an Advanced EFIS 4500, which is fed from a Garmin GNS 430W. The EFIS in turn feeds a TruTrak autopilot.

Takeoff is normally done with a notch of flaps with liftoff recommended as you accelerate past 70 knots. It will climb sharply at 80-85 knots, but lowering the nose to about 100-110 knots will give better forward visibility and still have an impressive climb rate.

Landing is straightforward, but quick. The first notch of flaps should be deployed below 110 knots, but you’ll need to slow down from that 180 knots of cruise speed, or higher if you didn’t throttle back for the descent. Next notch will be at 100 knots on the base leg, with the final notch coming at about 90 knots before crossing the fence. Touchdown should be at about 70 knots.

In the 12 years since my first flight, I’ve done several trips up and down the East Coast. If I so desire, I can reach pretty much any place in the lower 48 states with one tank of gas. I’m looking forward to many more years of cross-country cruising with my Tango.

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