In the Waco, you can adjust your seat up or down, which is very unusual in open-cockpit biplanes but gives any pilot the optimum position to see over the nose and still be protected from the slipstream. The windshields, which have been redesigned from the original, are very effective, and there is no buffeting in the cockpit. And as you can imagine with a factory in Battle Creek, the Waco pilots have to fly in cold weather, which they find to be quite comfortable down to 30 degrees or so, thanks to the effective heaters and good wind protection.
The Waco is a taildragger — a tame one — but still demands proper footwork on the pedals so that the airplane is aligned with the runway centerline on touchdown. Tailwheel steering is effective on the ground, and visibility isn’t bad looking down the sides of the fuselage, but mild S-turning is required to see what lies directly ahead under the big round engine. Pilot training is included in the purchase of a Waco Classic.
The Waco has four ailerons, while many biplanes of the era had ailerons on only one of the wings. The four ailerons are effective and control forces are reasonable, but roll rates are more typical of a conventional airplane than one designed expressly for aerobatics, which the Waco is not. Pitch stability is extremely positive, and you will find yourself cranking in trim for every change in airspeed.
Waco airspeeds for takeoff, cruise and landing are not much different than they are in a Skyhawk. But there is a big difference in drag. Forcing air between two wings, and over exposed flying wires and struts, creates an enormous amount of drag, so the Waco simply will not accelerate much beyond normal cruise no matter how much power you use or how far you stuff the nose down.
Fuel is carried in two tanks in the center of the upper wing with 48 gallons as standard. Two more tanks can be added to increase capacity to 72 gallons, and most Waco owners opt for the long-range tanks. The Jacobs burns about 15 gallons an hour in normal operations, not really much different from a Continental or Lycoming of similar power.
Of course flying the Waco is wonderful, but the fun doesn’t end when you land because, wherever you go, you and your airplane will be the star. Waco owners quickly get used to the line crew waving them into the spot just outside the door, where everyone can get a good look, and believe me, they will look and want to chat. Waco owners will never be lonely on any ramp.