Alan White started
his Dyke Delta project in 1971 and flew it for the first time
this past June.
When Alan White started his Dyke Delta
project in 1971 his two children were still small enough to bounce on
his knee. They grew up watching Dad work on his project – as did their
“Now I can’t even lift my
grandchildren,” he said, standing by the now-flying craft parked in
front of Homebuilders Headquarters.
White started on the project 39 years and
a couple of months ago and first flew it this past June. He chose the
delta-winged design for its ability to carry his family at the time, but
added, “I also wanted something speedy, and a little different.”
Trips to AirVenture provided the
motivation necessary to keep the project going, but upon seeing a
particularly appealing composite constant-speed propeller in 2009, White
made a commitment to finish the bird and fly it to AirVenture this year.
“Unfortunately they wouldn’t let me
put [the propeller] on the engine I had,” White said. “It required a
dynamically balanced crankshaft so I decided I was going to bite the
bullet and I bought another engine.”
The new power plant required a complete
reconstruction of the mounting structure, but through diligent effort,
airframe and engine were mated in October 2009.
Unusually good springtime weather at
White’s northern Wisconsin home allowed him to paint the plane and
finish the final preparations for the first flight.
A number of things changed on the plane
over the course of the project. One was the fiberglass fuel tank White
originally constructed. Concern for what the future of aviation fuel
might—or might not—hold caused him to replace it with a hammered out
Another modification is an additional
horizontal trim surface mounted to the vertical stabilizer in a
“Most of the builders that put on a
constant speed prop either have the extra surface, or wish they did,”
His decision to go with the prop occurred
about 25 years into the project. It turns out that the exceptionally
light Whirlwind three-bladed propeller installation probably would allow
the surface to be removed—but White is happy with the flight
characteristics as is.
White was not enamored with a typical
Dyke canopy installation so he designed a unique mechanism that allows
the canopy to pop up and slide forward. A series of pins make for a very
tight seal, alleviating a problem other builders encounter when hinging
the canopy on the right side.
According to White, performance behind
the 180-hp Lycoming O-360 is quite good. Initial climb after a
1,000-foot takeoff run is 1,800 fpm. At altitude he is seeing cruise
speeds of 145 to 150 knots pulling 65 percent power and 167 knots at 75
Some changes are still planned even
though the plane is flying. He purchased the current cowl from another
builder but believes that his final engine installation will support the
reduction in cooling drag that a newly made cowl could bring.
Another change will be the wheels. White
is looking for a set of Clevelands to replace his current Goodyear
Goodyear wheels were very much in vogue
39 years ago, but the cost of the parts alone for repairing a brake
would now almost equal that of replacing the entire wheel.
The final push was a healthy effort as
well. White credits a personal 27-pound weight loss to his efforts this
past year where, beyond his normal workday, he estimates that he spent
another eight hours working on the Dyke. “I guess I skipped enough
snacks during late night television,” he quipped.