“OK, just walk along the wing root until you get to the back seat.”
I wasn’t about to ignore the pilot’s instructions. I edged up the wing to the cockpits and carefully grabbed the roll bar that sat above the aft instrument panel. After swinging one leg at a time into the narrow cockpit, I eased myself down into the co-pilot’s seat of this compact but menacing looking aircraft. My pilot for this fall 2019 flight, Jeff Frank, co-founder of Flying Legend USA, helped me secure the four-point military style safety harness around my waist and shoulders before sliding down into the front seat and preparing to show me what this Flying Legend Tucano—a kit-built ¾-scale replica of an Embraer Tucano military trainer—could do.
For the uninitiated, the Tucano 312 and 314 are Brazilian-built, turboprop-powered, two-place military trainer aircraft used by many of the world’s air forces to teach basic air combat skills to their aspiring fighter pilots. Once retired from military service, some older Tucanos have begun to find their way into the hands of well-heeled civilians. Their raw power, aggressive handling, ability to execute high-G maneuvers, and relatively affordable prices have made them sought-after toys for warbird aficionados wishing to scratch their Walter Mitty-esque itches. In this case, “affordable” is a relative term: older, well-maintained planes retired from military duty can be bought for as “little” as $ 750,000, with operating costs (fuel and routine maintenance) typically running $ 400-$ 600/hour.