Taylor Coot vs. Volmer Sportsman (by Mike Walker)
Editor's Preamble: Unfortunately, due to issues pertaining to evolving economics and priorities, Mike had to sell N107JH, a beautiful Coot built by Jay Hvistendahl . Mike recently made a DVD of it landing and taking off Okauchee Lake behind his home, and it's now in my lending library of Coot DVDs. In addition, since Mike has experience flying a Volmer Sportsman that he owned from 1994 to 2000, he kindly wrote up the following story in which he compares these two venerable homebuilt amphibians:
Shortly after moving into our Okauchee Lake home in the early summer of 1994, I began shopping for an experimental amphibian aircraft to enhance the "lake living" experience. Many designs were intriguing, and most were quickly eliminated for what I considered to be fatal design flaws or a less than stellar report card from one or more of my opinionated friends. My choices gradually condensed down to the Taylor Coot or Volmer Sportsman, either of which would ostensibly serve my needs. Neither of these models appeared often on the used market, and those that did were quickly snapped up. I inquired about two or three Coots, all of which had been sold, and looked at a Volmer in Michigan. It was very heavy, had a scruffy-looking hull repair and was, in short, not ready for prime time.
As a last resort I rounded up my old Trade-a-Plane issues and scoured them for amphibians of interest. Somehow I previously overlooked a Volmer, which had been for sale some months earlier in Columbia, Georgia. This airplane became mine within a couple of weeks and I owned it for six years - a record for me!
With its Aeronca Champ wing and tail feathers, the Volmer was a very tame and predictable aircraft to fly. My airplane had fins attached to the outer horizontal stabilizers, which made directional stability a non-issue. The aircraft was exquisitely built and handled well on land and sea, provided one had tail wheel experience. As a result of the engine mounting design, the Volmer had minimal pitch excursions with power change and was generally a joy to fly. The Continental O-200 engine was less than breathtaking in its propulsive capability, but it was adequate, predictable and inexpensive to operate. I installed a Warp Drive three-bladed propeller and that helped with the thrust part of the flight experience. When heavily loaded, water takeoffs could be lengthy and tended to heat up the engine, but I was always able to finesse it into the air! For reasons I can't recall I sold it to a dentist in Shreveport, Louisiana and within six months it was on its back in the lake from a water-landing with the gear down. It is still being repaired.
Some years later I got the seaplane bug again and decided on a Coot this time around. At first, it seemed sensible to rebuild a project aircraft, and I separately purchased two repairable Coots within a couple of years before becoming aware that self-diagnosed adult-onset ADHD was a serious obstacle to realizing this goal!
Eventually I acquired a beautiful Coot built by the Hvistendahl family in southern Minnesota. Although completed, it had issues that kept me busy for several months before taking it to the air. I had a hard landing on my first flight (Duh!), and the nose wheel collapsed. In retrospect, I discovered that the nose gear strut hadn't been properly heat treated from taxi damage that occurred prior to my ownership. This gear was repaired with the gracious, capable help of Bill Schmidt and friends in Coon Rapids, MN.
Eventually it was airworthy again, and I started getting some experience with it. This airplane has the Franklin 180 engine with a Hartzell 3-blade constant-speed prop. Franklins can be oil-leakers, and this one is no exception, but it was powerful and smooth. Once airborne, I observed the ailerons to be of limited effectiveness. The wing has enough dihedral to easily overcome this tendency, and I found myself using the rudder to augment banking. Manners on the water were very good. The water rudder was effective and made handling predictable and fun. Water takeoffs were also easily manageable thanks to the powerful engine/prop installation. Overall, the aircraft seems heavier and more ponderous to fly than is my preference. The majority of this impression is likely due to the limited aileron control I referred to earlier. My conversations with experienced Coot flyers support the notion of this tendency being fairly common among the breed.
Comparatively speaking, the Volmer is lighter and more responsive on the controls and is generally easier to operate. A simple pivoting gear and fixed pitch propeller allow for trouble-free operation. My six years of ownership were relatively effortless with regard to maintenance. The Coot has an edge up on water handling and power, but seems sluggish in roll response. In fairness, I never attempted to re-rig the ailerons. Perhaps this could have improved roll performance.
Meanwhile, I'm into soaring in sailplanes