The first cross-country

It was with great anticipation that I fired up N75YR this morning. The mission: Fly the airplane to the Sun N’ Fun Fly-In, where it is now on display at the AOPA booth. But first things first. I desperately wanted to know how the Debonair would perform on its first cross-country flight. Today would be the first real-world flight for the overhauled/converted IO-470-N.

Let me end the suspense right now by saying that there were no disappointments! Engine start for the 37-degree, 7:30 a.m. departure was uneventful, and the start procedure was identical to the one I’d learned worked best on the predecessor engine. The trick is to use less throttle during the priming for a cold start. So the best drill here is to go mixture full rich, then use slightly less than half-throttle while you hit the auxiliary boost pump (it only has a “high” pump speed switch position) for maybe four seconds. Then pull back the throttle so that it’s in the barely-cracked position. Now move the magneto switch to Start and the engine will respond every time. That’s the cold start drill.

Those of you with time in big-bore Continentals like the 285-hp IO-520, or the 300-hp IO-550 can get into trouble starting the Debonair if you prime like mad using full throttle. The Deb will flood if you do that. Trust me, I know.

Preflight checks done, I line up on home-base Frederick, Maryland’s (KFDK) runway 30 for the takeoff, then firewall it. I’m right at gross, with all tanks full for the 728-nm trip to Sun N’ Fun’s Lakeland Airport (KLAL). The airplane lifted off into a slight crosswind, and soon I was climbing out at 100 KIAS and 900 fpm. Not bad at all.

Turbulence was forecast, and the forecast was correct. The climb to 6,500 feet was bumpy, and any rolling motions were exaggerated by all that fuel out there on the wingtips–20 gallons, or 120 pounds, per side.

John Clegg, director of operations at Genesis Engines by D’Shannon told me to “run it like I stole it,” meaning run it at high power, to help seat the ECi cylinders’ rings properly. So I did. Level at 6,500 in severe-clear conditions, I firewalled the throttle, set the propeller for 2,580 rpm, and used the Electronics International MVP-50P engine/systems analyzer to lean 50 degrees rich of peak EGT.

When things settled down, the Aspen PFD told the tale. At 76 percent power I was doing 170 KTAS while burning 17.3 gph. That’s a Bonanza-style cruise speed, friends. But the Bonanza would get that speed using a 300-hp engine. This Deb does it on 260-hp.

Airspeed fluctuated in wave activity as the S-TEC System Fifty autopilot worked to keep the altitude steady. Pitch angles varied as the nose rose and fell trying to compensate for the up- and downdrafts.

As the airplane burned fuel, its weight went down and by the second hour of flight I was looking at 178 KTAS, but burning 18.5 gph to get 78-percent power, in keeping with the “stolen airplane” performance profile. Nice.

And did I mention that I had a tailwind? Oh, yes, 35, and sometimes 50 knots’ worth. My groundspeed hit a high of 215 knots at times, then settled down to a more modest 183 knots by the time I reached Florida.

Oh, and did I mention that my flight path was straight as an arrow?

Bottom line: four hours, 12 minutes after takeoff, I landed at Lakeland. Non-stop, of course.

A great flying day in a great airplane, I’d say!

Stand by for more Debonair news during the show. It will be interesting to see how visitors to the tent react to the engine upgrade. Maybe you’ll stop by? Hope so.

  • Barry A Blake

    I’ll get down there to take a look ASAP. I can’t wait to start working on my instrument rating in my new Debonair!

  • t hunt

    My plane performed like I planned. NOW my turn to fly it to my home

  • tony h

    my plane.

  • t h

    Please post additional pictures of the flight

  • Don

    LOPWOTSOP in my new machine please.

  • Stan Stewart

    100 Knots is too slow for a normal climb in a Debonair without cowl flaps. The original “Owners Manual” for my 1961 Debonair states the normal climb speed is 130 MPH (about 115 knots). You need to climb at a higher airspeed so as to provide adequate cooling air for the engine unless the Debonair has been modified with the addition of cowl flaps. The Debonair, even with the original 225 horsepower engine, will climb well at 115 knots. Stan, have owned my Debonair for 34 years now and converted to the 260 horsepower engine nine years ago. Great airplane!

  • Ron

    So with full fuel you are at gross with one aboard, assuming you pack heavy for Sun ‘n Fun?

  • Michael Kobb

    I can’t help being a little bit depressed at the amount of verbiage devoted to the arcane startup procedure. It’s 2014, but we are still using 1930’s technology in our aircraft engines. Is this really the best we can do? (Answer: clearly it isn’t. FADEC exists, and it’s a shame that it has not made greater inroads.)

    • Stan Stewart

      Oh come on now, it it 1950s technology! :) And the engine is easier to start than reported. Two small twists of the vernier throttle from idle for about 1,000 RPM after the start, run the electric pump about 6-8 seconds (which pumps fuel through the fuel injection system and primes the cylinders), turn off the electric pump and start it up. Very simple and easy. Hot starts after the engine has been shut down and the fuel in the fuel injection system has vaporized from the heat inside the cowl, require more steps and there are different techniques which will work consistently well to start a hot mechanically injected engine as these are.

  • Robert Henley


    I suspect you were @ 75 percent power or greater. If so, George Braly would “spank your hand” because you were running right in the middle of the “red zone”. You should be at least 150 degrees rich of peak in the red zone.


  • Neil Lynch

    So, how much longer will you continue to “fly like you stole it?” Those cruise speeds become a “new normal” pretty quick.

    When you pull back to 12 – 12.5 GPH and are still seeing 155-163 kts TAS, the cabin becomes comfortably quiet and you can afford to cover ground. The IO-470-N is a sweetheart. Someone will really like that airplane when the time comes.


  • Stan Stewart

    By the way, a Debonair with the 260 horsepower TCM IO-470-N engine upgrade will cruise 158 knots at 12 gallons per hour lean of peak with General Aviation Modifications Inc. (GAMI) fuel injectors installed. Mine does, and it is similar to the Sweepstakes airplane with the 20 gallon D’Shannon tip tanks installed.

  • Rick

    Any of you interested in a ’63 Deb with a D’Shannon Conversion IO-550. 495 hrs on the engine and Scimitar Prop. No question, the Debonaire is a class act and great x-c machine.

  • Scott

    Put 2 pilots in a room and you’ll get 3 different opinions without asking for them. One engine doesn’t always start like the same engine in a different airplane (fact). Keep smiling and ignore the Kill-joy commentators.

  • David

    I was fortunate to have flown a 63 Deb and a T34 in the late 60’s. Both were a pleasure to fly. I am sure the extra horse power makes it even sweeter. Beech did it right.

  • Gary Zoldowski

    I am planning the short trip from Ocala as soon as I am notified.

  • Peter Creary

    Climbing at 100 knots on a 37 degree morning with all the instrumentation on board, I sure cylinder temps never got above 380 degrees. In the summer airspeed may have to be increased some. I live and have flown Debs and Bonanzas out of Las Vegas.

  • http://mail Dani

    My little plane!