Starduster Too vs Skybolt: One Mans Observations

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Posted by Jim Rice ( on October 25, 2005 at 18:44:21:


With my Starduster Too in the shop getting the rib stitching redone thanks to some local mice, I've been flying a friends Skybolt somewhat regularly. I thought I'd post my observations in the event anyone was interested.

My Duster is equipped with IO-360 of 200hp with fixed pitch climb prop 76x56. The Skybolt has O-360 with pressure carb with fixed pitch cruise (not certain exact pitch). I've compared both solo with full fuel.

Disclaimer: This only my opinion based upon one of each plane. I am sure there are overall wide differences between each Skybolt and each Duster.

Take-off/climb: The duster significantly outperforms the Skybolt. I'd expect that given engine/prop combination.

Cruise. Skybolt is about 10mph faster. Again, given engine/prop, no surprise. Neither is really "clean" as at the momnet, neither has wheelpants installed and both have open cockpits with dual windshields. All windshields are tall bubble type. Skybolt has slightly lower windshields overall though. My duster also has Pitts/Piper type cowling which also likely a bit more drag inducing.

Roll rate: Skybolt beats the duster hands down in roll and stick forces. Skybolt is much lighter on controls and roll is much more crisp. Duster is much heavier and not nearly as crisp.

Pitch: About the same. I found the Skybolt a bit sensitive in pitch the first couple of flights, but now I am getting more used to it. Both responsive.

Slow Flight/Stall: The Skybolt has recently been rerigged and flies hands off now where MY duster has been right wing heavy (hopefully a new rig job will fix that). Both stall clean and straight ahead (assuming the ball is centered!). The Skybolt is stalling about 48mph indicated. My duster stalls about 63mph. This could all be in the ASI or rigging too. I need to fly with GPS to better determine/verify these numbers.

Ground handling: The Skybolt is much better tracking and controllable. The Duster is a bit more demanding. Not difficult, but you gotta be more on your toes. Both are very good rudder planes and don't require brakes unless something is allowed to develop too far or in a bad crosswind. Skybolt has Scott t/w. Duster has Maule (with which I've had ZERO problems with). Both running 6 inch t/w.

Cockpit: I think the Skybolt rear pit is a bit roomier overall, but front seat is a bit more to straddle. My duster has stock fiberglass cockpit cowling which is pretty narrow at the shoulders. Once down and in, it is okay but with full bubbles and tall cowling, it is a tight fit getting in and out.

Visibility: The Skybolt has a TALL tailwheel spring and attachment. This effects the over the nose visibility quite positively. Still nothing directly over the nose is really visible until the tail starts up. I find the Starduster cabane struts don't block visibility nearly as much as the Pitts style center cluster of the Skybolt.

Engine differences: The pressure carb is MUCH easier to start hot. Starting a hot injected engine can be a pain in the butt! It is usually about a 10-15 blade operation before it fires. There are some other difference, but I think they are primarily due to some poor adjustment or such with the pressure carb. It tends to run rich at idle and try to die. It doesn't take throttle quick throttle either.

As a side note not directly attributable to a Skybolt is 1) the trim on the throttle quadrant is hard to get a fine pitch adjustment. I LOVE the vernier on my duster. Trim is easy and exact. 2) THIS Skybolt's mixture is backwards. Needless to say, it is always a major pint of concern and something I check frequently and keep my hand clear. Fortunately, the throttle is pretty tall. Still, were it my plane, I'd change it. Right now, we are placing a small velcro strip on it to hold it back. A sharp push will still dislodge for an emergency, but keeps it from inadvertantly being moved.

All told, what is my preference? Well, the Starduster because it is mine. Ironcially, I started out looking for a Skybolt and ended up with a Duster. My friend was looking for a Starduster and ended up with a Skybolt. Both are very good planes and very evenly matched. I think with similiar props, they'd both be more closely matched in performance. I have an Aymar-Demuth wood prop I need to install which is a 76x57 which might make a bit of a difference too.

Again these are only my personal observations and opinions. I just thought they might be of interest to others wondering about the similarities/differences. Alot of these characteristics are due to how both are built and rigged. Your mileage my vary.

Jim Rice
Collierville, TN
N300S Starduster Too
N7155H Piper J-3

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