Flying the Questair Venture
©Ed Wischmeyer, 1992, all rights reserved
Published in Inflight Magazine, Woodside, CA
The Questair Venture has always looked ugly to me, but I
had never met one face to face. Today, I met two, that is, both,
all of the flying Ventures, as ugly in the flesh as in the photographs.
But, having flown them, I'm reminded of a college roommate whom we teased
mercilessly and groundlessly about being ugly, but who was capable enough
to wind up with both an MBA and a PhD. The Venture is comparably
capable, and it flies extremely well, too.
And as far as performance goes, only a Top 40s disk jockey
could come up with the words. From the San Francisco Bay area, all
of the West Coast, and inland past all of Idaho, Utah, and Arizona is within
an easy three-hour flight. Beat the airlines to the midwest if they
make you change planes. Oshkosh in one stop. Mercy. Climb
better than 150 KIAS and 2000'/min at max gross weight. Mercy.
Greensboro, North Carolina to Austin, Texas in just over four hours.
I caught up with the Venture team in Northern Michigan as
they were on their way to Oshkosh. As it turned out, I got to fly
N62V, the prototype, and N27V, the kit prototype, the first from the left
seat and the second from the right. N62V has pretty much kept up
with the changes that went into the kit. The remaining differences
include smaller engine cowl air intakes on the kit prototype and some minor
but noticeable changes to the gearing and linkages of the ailerons and
As time was short, the plan was to fly to an airport with
fuel, about 30 miles away. I would fly down in the prototype, and
fly back in the kit prototype. This would give me an opportunity
to compare the slightly different handling characteristics of the two planes.
During a brief examination on the ramp, several characteristics of the
Venture were obvious. One was that the Venture has tiny little wheels
at the end of its landing gear. The other is that the propeller has
enormously fat, short blades, looking like something off of a P-3 or a
Cessna Caravan. However, there is precious little ground clearance,
less than a foot, although enough to meet the FARs for factory built airplanes,
and to allow some clearance with a flat strut and flat nosewheel.
Venture pilots, like all pilots, would be well advised to choose
their runways, taxi routes, and runup sites very carefully.
The Venture wing uses some very recent NASA technology.
From 60% semispan to the tip on each side, there is a leading edge cuff,
adding some droop to the wing leading edge. At the inboard end of
the cuff, and again at about 40% semispan, there are vertical slots in
the leading edge, each looking like somebody had taxied the Venture into
an a bandsaw. These slots generate vortices at higher angles of attack
to retard the spreading of stalled airflow from root to tip. The
airfoil is the old tried and true NACA 23000 series, tapered from 17% thick
at the root to 10% at the tip, with 3° of twist. The ailerons
droop as the gear extends, but there are no flaps. The horizontal
tail is conventional with a stabilizer and elevator, but is tapered and
has a fairly high aspect ratio.
The landing gear is extended electrically, and there are
actually two independent systems: one for the nose wheel, and one for everything
else. If you pull the correct circuit breaker, you can extend just
the nosewheel for use as a speedbrake, but this seems to me like a dandy
way to land with the mains retracted. Better to use the all of the
landing gear as a speedbrake, and the 170KIAS gear extension speed is high
enough to really be useful.
Clambering aboard 62V started off with a high step onto the
narrow chord wing, and then a perplexed moment of planning, which didn't
help, followed by a clumsy session of stepping in and on various parts
of the airframe, just like I did in the RV-4 before I got it figured out.
Once I was seated, it was obvious that somebody really had designed the
airframe around the pilots, just like they said. There was plenty
of room, the view out front was quite good, and the whole instrument panel
was readable-- none of this nonsense you see on some of the factory built
airplanes, such as glare shields that chop off the top of the artificial
horizon or instruments mounted so low in front of the pilot that you have
The day was mostly clear, a little hazy, about 80°, with
humidity that only a Westerner would notice. Taxiing out, I was looking
for the greenhouse effect of the large canopy, and it is definitely there.
With the canopy hinged at the front and open five or so inches at the back,
however, there was adequate ventilation. After a brief runup, it
was time to batten down the latches (seven of 'em) and launch. If
there had been a little more time, we would and should have adjusted the
seat for headroom before launching. I'm 5'10 standing, but 6'4 or
so when seated, and I ran out of headroom. The easiest fix was to
fly with my head holding a 10° list to starboard, and that's what I
did. (Flying in the other Venture, with a lower seat, there was no
Questair test pilot Rich Gritter fed in the power slowly,
and we started down the runway with obvious but not overly impressive acceleration,
due to the small propeller disk. Liftoff was at 68 KIAS, and the
gear came up shortly thereafter. The climbout was initially unimpressive
in both speed and rate of climb, and it took a short while to see 1000'/min,
and after another short while, 120 KIAS and "only" 2000'/min. With
full power left in, though, the Venture continued to accelerate, and soon
we were at 130 KIAS and an impressive 2500'/min, and then a very impressive
2800'/min. The Venture had just flown in from North Carolina in a
bit under 3 hours, so we were a bit light on gas. Aside from that,
we had two guys aboard of just a bit above average size, plus baggage.
Leveling off at 4500', with high power setting of 26"x2500
RPM, we indicated 220 knots. Using the 2% per thousand rule of thumb,
our true airspeed was right around 240 knots. Looking over my left
shoulder, I could see the other Venture in a nice tight formation.
Visibility in flight was quite good over the nose, and over the shoulder
on your own side. Visibility out the far side of the cockpit was
pretty much limited to straight abeam, although you could lean forward
a bit to improve the view. Flying hands off, Rich casually adjusted
the three trim switches, the three power knobs, and the cockpit fresh air
The other Venture broke off formation to make room for me
to do some airwork. As it left formation, I briefly saw it from exactly
abeam. The Venture profile is of course unmistakable, but I was not
prepared for how very thick the propeller disk appeared. At 200+
knots, the propeller is in high pitch, and from the side, the very fat,
short propeller blades look like a doughnut towing a pear.
The Venture has its own version of side stick controllers,
with the interesting characteristic that the sticklets (my term) slide
in and out of the panel for pitch control, rather than pivoting at the
base of the stick. Flying the prototype Venture reminded me a lot
of flying a Cessna 210, with firm pressures required, but rewarded with
smooth response. Characteristic of sidesticks, control pressure,
not displacement, was required. Rolling briskly from a 45° bank
in one direction to a 45° bank in the other required a fair amount
of wrist action, and I wished for a bit more forearm strength to do the
maneuver easily. At well over 200 knots, any amount of pitch error
quickly translates into significant altitude error, and I was embarrassingly
off altitude doing a 45° banked left 360 followed by a right 360.
The lack of a horizon didn't help any as I smoothly and gracefully meandered
all over the sky. Pitch pressures were compatible with the roll forces,
maybe a bit more firm, but the Venture seemed to me to be much more of
a Grand Touring machine than a sports machine. My RV-4 seems happiest
at high roll rates, but the Venture seems happiest rewarding an IFR touch
on the sticklet, not an aerobatic touch. Besides, you can't use two
hands on the sticklet to help the roll rate.
Extending the gear resulted in some pitch excursions, requiring
a moderate amount of stick force and some retrimming. The Venture
has a two speed trim for the elevator, and a one speed trim for rudder
and aileron. The kits will have elevator and aileron trim on the
sticklet, there to be used. And they will be used a lot. I
had no real problems with the trim systems, but this need for retrimming
is a minor quirk that would become second nature fairly quickly.
I noticed later on in the flight that Rich knew, seemingly from habit,
how long to hold the trim buttons on the ground to retrim from landing
to takeoff settings. The Venture protoype has a bit more than 1200
hours on it, so Rich certainly has had practice.
Stalls were next on the agenda. Dirty, with no power,
the Venture finally stalled at 58 KIAS, preceded by a buffet which felt
like it must feel driving down railroad tracks. Rich let me try,
and I got the same result. Recovery consisted of little more than
easing off some of the back pressure, sort of an "Oh, my!" action, and
the Venture was flying again. Trying to abuse the airplane, I did
the next stall with a half ball width of skid. It took considerable
rudder pressure to get that half ball width of skid, and, sure enough,
a wing dropped when the stall finally broke. Although the break was
distinct, it was not quick, and the Venture dropped off on one wing in
a slow and deliberate fashion. Certainly nobody who can stall a Cessna
152 will be excited about stalls in the Venture.
Although the rudders are not needed clean, the airplane will
wallow a bit with the gear and flaps down if the rudders are not used to
coordinate the turns. This coordination is fairly easy to do, however.
Some slow Dutch rolls, done clean at 130 KIAS, level, with
about 11" of manifold pressure, were unexciting. My first two or
three attempts were acceptable, but the Venture, like many airplanes, would
take a little bit of getting used to to really nail the maneuvers.
The rudder pedals are hinged about a vertical post between the pedals,
rather than conventionally hinged about a horizontal axis. It felt
funny, but probably would not even be noticed after a very few hours.
I tried some high roll rate Dutch rolls, and they went a bit better.
Next, it was time for some crash and go's. Rich demonstrated
the first one, and his instructions for my landings were to shoot for 85
KIAS on final. Less than 80 is no good, and 90 or more will result
in a bit of skipping on the landing. Power for landing is about 10
to 10.5", which tracked the VASI nicely, but this little bit of power is
definitely required. Rich's landing was spoiled by a bit of thermal
lift off the runway, and we floated a bit, and touched down smoothly
enough to make a private pilot proud, but distinctly enough to embarass
a demo pilot. Forward visibility remained adequate during the less
than full flare, and the nose wheel touched fairly immediately after the
mains. Rich added power for the touch and go. We broke ground
on the go around with the manifold pressure gauge passing through 19" (!),
and we eventually used all of 23" on the climb after the gear was up.
Mindful of the moderate but unceasing acceleration we saw on the first
takeoff, I was watching the power carefully to see how Rich handled it.
My turn came next for a touch and go, and I put the gear
down at 130 KIAS, about even with the numbers. In honor of our higher
speed, I was a bit wide on downwind, far enough to be outside the traffic
pattern at almost any airport except Palo Alto. Power was pulled
back to 10", and the Venture slowly decelerated and started down as we
turned base and final. Just a touch low on final, I added an extra
half inch, up to 11", correcting the glide path nicely. My speed
was 91 KIAS, a touch fast, but things felt okay, and I didn't yet have
a good feel for the electric trim, so I left things alone. There
was a little bit of a crosswind, and my Dutch roll practice clean
somehow didn't translate all that well to landing in the 5 mph crosswind.
I wound up wobbling a bit, but after pulling power to idle over the threshold,
I did touch down on centerline, but a bit down the runway. The narrow gear
and the full span flaperons let you lower a wing for crosswind correction
well below landing speed, perhaps contributing to a funny feel on the ground.
The quaint steering doesn't help the uninitiated, either.
The Venture rudder/brake/nosewheel steering system is unique
in more than just the vertical pivot axis. Above the rudder pedals
are the hydraulic pedals, which actuate both the nosewheel steering and
the corresponding main wheel brake. This means that a single hydraulic
problem can deprive you of both steering and braking to one side, and should
mean more brake wear than a plane with conventional nosewheel steering.
It also means that when you need steering on the ground, you get it from
the hydraulic pedals, not from the rudder pedals. Even though I knew
what to expect, and have many happy hours in nose draggers with free castering
nosewheels, I wound up a bit on the downwind side of the wide enough runway.
Adding power for a touch and go resulted in the same sort of controlled
pattern, using much less than full power, and I don't think we exceeded
130 KIAS downwind before extending the gear again. The abolition
of the 156 KIAS speed limit in ATAs will come just in time for Venture
The second landing was much like the first, with a decent
touchdown, followed fairly quickly but not abruptly by the nosewheel touching
down. Rich told me to get on the brakes to control the rollout, but
I was a bit cautious and slow, and he took over and hauled the speed down
in no time. Taxiing back in, the Venture seemed quite reasonable
to taxi on the ground. With practice, a Venture pilot could repeatedly
and easily use 2500' runways, but that 85 KIAS approach speed, the same
as a Cessna 310's, commands some respect.
Rich says that the Venture has been landed in a 25 knot direct
crosswind, and there is no doubt that the aircraft can be flown better
than I did in my two landings. Power to fly level in the pattern
with the gear down is 16", quite high compared to the other power settings.
While Rich fueled up 62V, I hopped into 27V for the 30-mile
flight back. With a lower seat, there was more of a feeling of sitting
deep inside the airplane. Visibility out was still good enough, and
it was a lot more pleasant (and easier) to fly with my head vertical.
On takeoff, there was again this moderate but interminable acceleration:
120 KIAS, 1000'/min; 140 KIAS, 1400'/min; 150 KIAS, 1400'/min; and
finally 155 KIAS, 2000'/min. The performance was a bit less than
the other plane because we had a full load of fuel.
The kit prototype had a slightly different control setup
and was even nicer to fly than the prototype. The roll forces are
enough lighter to make a noticable difference in high-roll-rate maneuvers,
and the pitch forces are just a bit nicer too. While 62V reminded
me of a Cessna 210, 27V reminded me of how I would like a 210 to fly.
27V also had the Vision Microsystem digital engine gauges,
and pilot Don Godwin told me that they were set up for the Lycoming IO-540,
rather than the 280 HP Continental IO-550-G of the Venture. Don says
that some people like the gauges, and some don't. I'm in the latter
category, preferring a nice manifold pressure needle with immediate response
to a much lower resolution, hard to read digital semi-needle with a digital
display updated about once a second. I'd love to have the digital
readout in addition to a plain old needle, but I miss the analog needle
a lot more than I appreciate the digitality.
After we landed, the rest of the factory contingent reloaded,
and I stood on the ramp and watched them depart. The Venture gear
retraction is quite interesting, as the main gear extends still further
down until the landing gear legs seem to touch, and then the whole assembly
folds aft. It will surely be envied by pilots of older Cessna 210s.
After the Gang of Four headed across Lake Michigan toward
Oshkosh in the pair of Ventures, I had a moment to reflect on the aircraft,
the tradeoffs that were made in the aircraft design, and the results.
Perhaps the most obvious questions have to do with pilot
skills required. The Venture responds very well to deliberate, smooth
control inputs, but its 85 KIAS approach speed is 11 knots more than I
used to fly full flap approaches in the Cessna 210. I think that
anybody capable of flying a Cessna 210 well could fly a Venture well.
As far as checking out in the plane goes, I flew my RV-4 with a total checkout
of about 10 minutes from the back seat, with no rudder pedals or engine
controls, and was comfortable on the first flight. I would not want
to do that with the Venture because of the tremendous potential for overcontrolling
the power and getting too much speed (which I certainly would have done
without the demo flight), and because of the slightly unusual ground handling
characteristics. Count on learning to fly the Venture as being comparable
to checking out in a Cessna 210, maybe a bit easier, in terms of time required
and traits to be learned.
The plane is obviously very fast, and handles well for IFR.
At its high cruising speed, it is easy to get a lot of altitude excursion
very quickly. This will require more attention to hand flying, which
is made possible by superior cockpit management. With your left hand
on the sticklet, an instrument panel fully in view, and a wide console
down the middle, the Venture will surely be a pleasant place for IFR.
The ride in some light turbulence was very good, with no yawing at all.
Based upon that very limited exposure, I judged it superior to the Malibu,
the plane that much of the Venture team helped develop.
One limitation on the plane may be icing conditions: certainly
nobody would fly one into known icing conditions, but we all know that
IFR planes get a touch of ice every now and again. I'm told that
the prototype picked up about 1/4" with no ill effects, but I would hope
that an icing program of some sort would be accomplished. I'm also
told that sharper-nosed, thinner airfoils (measured in inches, not in per
cent) accumulate ice faster and are more susceptible to that accumulated
ice. The Venture's wings are thin, and the tail surfaces are extremely
thin. Worse, it seems that the leading edge slots would ice over,
degrading the excellent stall characteristics during the landing flare
or during a turn to final.
The Venture has not yet been spun, and this probably should
be done for completeness, but I'm fairly confident of the plane without
a spin program. My stall with a lot of rudder force was very benign,
and no pilot of Venture skills should ever come near that corner of the
Just like the canopy on the RV-4, the Venture canopy is a
massive solar collector and I would paint a roof on it. The nominal
tinting on the canopy is not up to the job when faced with determined sunshine
and warm temperatures, but cooler temperatures at altitude are quickly
Considering the Venture's heavy reliance on electric trim,
I would put some redundancy into the trim system, including at least a
set of backup trim switches.
The baggage area has a reasonable volume behind the seats,
but not extravagant. The space is about two feet deep (fore and aft)
and comes from the top of the fuselage down to a shelf about even with
the pilots' shoulder blades. You should be able to carry a reasonable
volume of soft luggage, but you won't carry racing bicycles, for example.
The landing gear occupies the space under the baggage area, limiting room
for expansion. CG range limits you to 90 pounds of baggage with 400
pounds of people, or 120 pounds with 340 pound of people.
Fuel capacity is 56 gallons, standard, with only a half gallon
unusable. This is good for something over four hours at altitude.
You can build the plane with a capacity of up to 85 gallons of fuel, if
you are willing to accept the higher stalling speed and lower G loads of
a higher gross weight. Some sample loadings on the spreadsheet indicate
that it would be quite hard to get out of the CG envelope, even at higher
weights. If you want to take advantage of the excellent performance
at altitude, you would probably want oxygen, especially at night, and should
figure this in to the weight and balance.
I'm told that the Venture can be rolled, but I'm not sure
why anybody would want to. The ailerons are really nice for IFR,
but by acro standards are a bit heavy, and the roll rate is otherwise good
but only so-so for acro ships. Some of the Venture's competitors
are more acro-capable, but their handling is much less desirable for normal
operations, let alone for IFR.
The Venture is pretty much as advertised, a very, very fast,
comfortable cross-country machine which is suitable for IFR. I would
be delighted to trade my flying RV-4 for a Venture kit, even though many
people would say that the Venture is, well, ugly. But as the Rumpled
Horse said to the Velveteen Rabbit, "You canít be ugly, except to
people who don't understand."