Obviously the answer will be different for everyone (with a likely preference to their current aircraft) , but my question is really related to the ‘sensation’ of the flight.
Personally, I really enjoy low powered lightweight aircraft with a stick. There is nothing quite like the sensation of an 85 hp champ ‘floating’ off the runway during take off, or the feel of getting tailwheel landings just right. Also, it really seems like you are ‘flying’ as you battle the forces of nature (physics) with a delicate touch, i.e. it takes forever to get off the ground if you are heavy, a gust of wind will blow you around. Float flying is very good in this regard. More power often gives more performance, but the resultant heavier aircraft don’t always feel so nimble…
I haven’t experienced too many aerobatic types, but assume there must be quite a few which handle very nicely. For example, I am aware that people are fond of Chipmunks, and most RVs seem to get good reviews.
Are there any aircraft that I should make an effort to try and fly, so that I can have a sublime ‘experience’?
While I have flown a few types, including aerobatic types, am agreeing with Canuck, and my favorite types are the vintage tailwheel, ideally with just the right amount of HP.
My first tailwheel endorsement was on a Fleet Canuck, but have also flown Cessna 140, Citabria Decathlon, Luscombe, Taylorcraft and the Super Cub in both 90HP and 150HP variant.
Handling is not that crisp, although the Luscombe has a nice roll rate, with a heavy dosage of adverse yaw, but if you work at it they are enjoyable aircraft to fly, for flying’s sake.
When I think of other types I would like to add to the log book, they include the Boeing Stearman and the Stinson 108-1.
If I could only fly one type, am lucky in that would be the 90HP Super Cub, which is what I currently fly.
My favorite is, as Canuck rightly assumes, the one I mostly fly now – C182RG. Certainly not for any fancy aeros or ‘floating along’ but the perfect go-places machine that will get you into and out of pretty much any strip.
The larger the plane the less ‘feel’ you get. So if you want true stick and rudder and plenty of time to make decisions go for an LSA or microlight or STOL. If you want a lumbering type plane with less feel and time to make decisions, go for a 172 or 182 Cessna or Piper. If you want to have to make quicker decisions go for a speedier large plane like a Cirrus SR22T, Cessna TTX or TBM.
Handling quality, as the thread title mentions, rules out some aeroplanes which are very enjoyable to fly due to the overall experience, in some cases despite the handling. In that category the good old Tiger Moth brings a smile to my face, and I have always loved the Super Cub
For more traditional “good” handling the Chipmunk is great although I haven’t flown one for a while, and one of my current steeds the Slingsby T67 just asks to be manoevered.
In my minimal experience of bigger/faster stuff the CJ2+ with no passengers and about 1500lbs of fuel gives me a real thrill.
The problem with most ‘best handling’ discussions is that it depends on what you’re doing with the plane. So I think it’s helpful that the question was posed as being simply about the enjoyable sensation of flight, not stability on an ILS or other stuff like that.
For me the best I’ve tried in this regard is the Pitts S2. The Chipmunk control feel is clearly wonderful but the plane lacks climb rate so it feels hamstrung, I’d love to fly one with 250 HP.
Luscombes are the most inspiring aircraft you can fly that has totally mismatched control weighting. But they are dainty and honest. Like a small pretty woman with a sharp temper when pushed.
I really enjoyed flying a Tecnam P2002, it’s a modest performance aircraft but its controls work very nicely.
The Bölkow Monsun is quite pleasant in most ways but the rudder is too heavy.
RVs feel fine but the stick feels a bit overgeared to me, and there’s snatch with large aileron deflections.
Modern full spec aerobatic planes (e.g. Extra 300 etc) aren’t in my limited experience all that pleasant to fly. The need for instantaneous response and neutral stability isn’t consistent with nice feedback and feel.
I’d like to try more types… The Bucker Jungmann is highest on my list to try, I’ve heard they are just great.
I must say the Piper Pawnee. Very maneuverable, yet steady and lots of power. I remember the first time I flew it, had to go solo because it’s a single seater. It was rather exciting pushing the throttle of the O540 for the first time. The second I got into the air, I felt straight at home. I have never felt that in any other aircraft. It’s sort of Cub like when flying, but bigger and low wing, more HP and more maneuverable.
I know it’s a cliche but my limited and very expensive time in the Boultby Academy Spitfire leaves me in no doubt that the Spitfire is the most perfectly handling aeroplane imagine able. The Falco runs a VERY close second though. If you take practicalities into account then the Falco becomes the obvious winner.
Aerostar handles the best of any aircraft I’ve flown. Pushrod controls makes for a firm and very direct feel, like I imagine a fighter jet would feel.
Adam, I know you skipped, for the time being, the Shrike in your Twin Commander fleet, but despite this I wonder whether Mr R Hoover would agree with you on the Aerostar, and not vote for the Twin Commander instead.