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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS FeedMade in China, perfected in Oregon
Story and photo by Frederick A. Johnsen

Hal Morley’s much-modified Nanchang CJ-6 is a benchmark for the type.

Hal Morley began with a much-beloved utilitarian Chinese trainer and through design and diligence Americanized it into his dream cross-country machine: a one-of-a-kind Nanchang CJ-6, one of the smaller warbirds at AirVenture 2010.

The construction of CJ-6s has remained unchanged since the first one flew in 1958. Hal’s basis was a brand new airframe made of parts from several Chinese contractors; the fuselage was riveted in 2001, Hal says.

And then the fun began. The first things one notices about this diminutive Chinese trainer are the three nonstandard broad propeller blades. Looking more like the business end of a World War II Fw-190 fighter, this propeller produces a spirited 2,700 feet-per-minute climb rate and also enhances this CJ-6’s formation finesse, Morley says.

“It’s like having a big accelerator and a brake.” But it’s more of a climb prop than a cruise prop, he says.

This big propeller is made possible by the substitution of the original 285-hp engine with a Russian Vedeneyev M14P radial making 360 horses. Morley helped bring the engine and prop combo closer to economical cruise conditions by installing a nonstandard fuel-injection system that allows manual mixture control by the pilot, unlike the CJ-6’s original automatic mixture control.

On the way to AirVenture 2010 from Lake Oswego, Oregon, Morley logged 153 knots at 9,500 feet, with a fuel burn of 10.8 gallons per hour—better than some standard CJ-6s post.

Good economy also accrues from Morley’s airframe clean-ups.

Where standard CJ-6s have an engine cowling noticeably larger than the fuselage diameter—producing a saddleback look to the upper nosecontours—the M14 radial in Morley’s modified machine rides in a snug flush cowling neatly vented to provide proper cooling. Hidden behind the bullet prop spinner is a Sukhoi iris shutter that spreads like a classic camera iris to regulate the flow of air over the finned engine cylinders.

The CJ-6 has a wingspan a skosh over 33 feet; overall length measures 27 feet, 9 inches.

Hal lists the empty weight of his custom Nanchang as 2,450 pounds, topping out at 4,060 pounds.

The average American flier is larger in most directions than the Chinese aviator for whom the CJ-6 was intended. To make the cockpit more comfortable, Morley and some other U.S. CJ-6 owners have relocated the rudder pedals forward to provide more cross-country legroom.

Another touch is increased headroom provided by a bulging Malcolm hood sliding canopy over each cockpit. Reminiscent of Spitfire canopies, the extra volume in the bulging Plexiglas makes for more headroom.

Hal and fellow fliers in Oregon did not have access to a wind tunnel—but they did have the great outdoors…and a leaf blower.

They used both to perfect airflow under the cowling and over the wings. Flying the CJ-6 with a 7-foot yarn string on the wingtips revealed a large and disruptive vortex.

Working with airframe efficiency expert Gil Hutchinson of Aurora, Oregon, Hal and his crew chief Tom Elliott worked on shaping truncated winglets that effectively keep the vortex from developing on this CJ-6. This yields more efficient and less disruptive airflow back from the wingtips.

Morley is contemplating making this mod available to other CJ-6 owners.

On the cowling the airplane carries the Hawaiian saying, “Hana Hou!,” translating to “One more time!”

Morley laughs that the saying took on new meaning during the cut-and-try flight test modification program. And now that it’s finished, he plans to hang onto it.

Custom paint by John Stahr of Eugene, Oregon, includes bold eagles, heraldry, and shaded imaginary wing gun ports. It’s all meant to attract attention at air shows, Hal says. He likes to talk about the airplane and share its delights with newcomers.

Morley’s oxygen-equipped custom CJ-6 has an IFR glass cockpit array with Garmin and Advanced Flight Systems equipment including synthetic vision, moving map, approach charts, interface for coupled approaches, and more.

One can easily accommodate Hal Morley’s pride when he repeats what others have said about his airplane: “This is the best CJ in the world.”

FUTURE AIRVENTURE DATES: 2014: July 28-Aug. 3; 2015: July 20-26; 2016: July 25-31; 2017: July 24-30
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