much-modified Nanchang CJ-6 is a benchmark for the type.
Hal Morley began with a much-beloved
utilitarian Chinese trainer and through design and diligence
Americanized it into his dream cross-country machine: a one-of-a-kind
Nanchang CJ-6, one of the smaller warbirds at AirVenture 2010.
The construction of CJ-6s has remained
unchanged since the first one flew in 1958. Hal’s basis was a brand
new airframe made of parts from several Chinese contractors; the
fuselage was riveted in 2001, Hal says.
And then the fun began. The first things
one notices about this diminutive Chinese trainer are the three
nonstandard broad propeller blades. Looking more like the business end
of a World War II Fw-190 fighter, this propeller produces a spirited
2,700 feet-per-minute climb rate and also enhances this CJ-6’s
formation finesse, Morley says.
“It’s like having a big accelerator
and a brake.” But it’s more of a climb prop than a cruise prop, he
This big propeller is made possible by
the substitution of the original 285-hp engine with a Russian Vedeneyev
M14P radial making 360 horses. Morley helped bring the engine and prop
combo closer to economical cruise conditions by installing a nonstandard
fuel-injection system that allows manual mixture control by the pilot,
unlike the CJ-6’s original automatic mixture control.
On the way to AirVenture 2010 from Lake
Oswego, Oregon, Morley logged 153 knots at 9,500 feet, with a fuel burn
of 10.8 gallons per hour—better than some standard CJ-6s post.
Good economy also accrues from Morley’s
Where standard CJ-6s have an engine
cowling noticeably larger than the fuselage diameter—producing a
saddleback look to the upper nosecontours—the M14 radial in Morley’s
modified machine rides in a snug flush cowling neatly vented to provide
proper cooling. Hidden behind the bullet prop spinner is a Sukhoi iris
shutter that spreads like a classic camera iris to regulate the flow of
air over the finned engine cylinders.
The CJ-6 has a wingspan a skosh over 33
feet; overall length measures 27 feet, 9 inches.
Hal lists the empty weight of his custom
Nanchang as 2,450 pounds, topping out at 4,060 pounds.
The average American flier is larger in
most directions than the Chinese aviator for whom the CJ-6 was intended.
To make the cockpit more comfortable, Morley and some other U.S. CJ-6
owners have relocated the rudder pedals forward to provide more
Another touch is increased headroom
provided by a bulging Malcolm hood sliding canopy over each cockpit.
Reminiscent of Spitfire canopies, the extra volume in the bulging
Plexiglas makes for more headroom.
Hal and fellow fliers in Oregon did not
have access to a wind tunnel—but they did have the great outdoors…and
a leaf blower.
They used both to perfect airflow under
the cowling and over the wings. Flying the CJ-6 with a 7-foot yarn
string on the wingtips revealed a large and disruptive vortex.
Working with airframe efficiency expert
Gil Hutchinson of Aurora, Oregon, Hal and his crew chief Tom Elliott
worked on shaping truncated winglets that effectively keep the vortex
from developing on this CJ-6. This yields more efficient and less
disruptive airflow back from the wingtips.
Morley is contemplating making this mod
available to other CJ-6 owners.
On the cowling the airplane carries the
Hawaiian saying, “Hana Hou!,” translating to “One more time!”
Morley laughs that the saying took on new
meaning during the cut-and-try flight test modification program. And now
that it’s finished, he plans to hang onto it.
Custom paint by John Stahr of Eugene,
Oregon, includes bold eagles, heraldry, and shaded imaginary wing gun
ports. It’s all meant to attract attention at air shows, Hal says. He
likes to talk about the airplane and share its delights with newcomers.
Morley’s oxygen-equipped custom CJ-6
has an IFR glass cockpit array with Garmin and Advanced Flight Systems
equipment including synthetic vision, moving map, approach charts,
interface for coupled approaches, and more.
One can easily accommodate Hal Morley’s
pride when he repeats what others have said about his airplane: “This
is the best CJ in the world.”