Preparing for Flight: Pushing Back an Airplane
Aircraft · 7 min read
While pushing back airplane sounds quite straightforward, there are a number of steps involved in the procedure.
With a well-balanced combination of speed, good handling, and range, the Tiger aircraft is unique and unmatchable within the light aircraft division and attracts very loyal aircraft owners. Despite many ups and downs, good design and unique market attributes have contributed significantly to Tigers impressive persistence.
With a colorful manufacturing history, the initial emphasis of the series was on speed and economy. American Aviation had successfully produced its two-seat light aircraft in 1969 called the AA-1 Yankee Clipper, which belonged to the Grumman American AA-1 series. Jim Bede designed this aircraft, which was quite popular in the US flight schools, with active competitors including Pipers and Cessnas. Its new and unique features, such as its sleekness, stubby wings, and canopy, remained unmatched.
However, student pilots and low-time pilots had trouble with handling it in flight due to its tendency to get behind the power curve and stall with an abrupt break and wing drop if not flown on speed. Even with this, the company saw their potential for success by the favorable response to the AA-1.
Following the success, American Aviation decided to produce a four-seat aircraft. They designed the American Aviation AA-2 Patriot, a four-seat, all-metal aircraft in 1970-71. However, the design did not meet its performance goals during test-flying and, as a result, did not progress beyond the prototype stage.
The company was still in need of a four-seat aircraft to fill its product line. They then decided to simply enlarge the external and cabin dimensions of the already successful AA-1 Yankee aircraft to create the four-seater they were looking for. Doing this not only capitalized on the marketplace identification of the Yankee and its derivative, the AA-1A Trainer aircraft, but it also resulted in 2/3 parts commonality between the designs, saving development time and production costs.
In 1972, this modification resulted in the 150-HP, four-place version of the AA-1 known as the American Aviation AA-5 Traveler. Although the AA-5 Traveler shared the family genes of the AA-1, it was in itself an all-new aircraft that was larger, faster, and equipped with new systems. Certified under US FAR Part 23, it was powered by a Lycoming O-320-E2G engine of 150 hp (110 kW) and had a cruise speed of 121 knots.
With a dorsal and ventral fin and a larger elevator as compared to the Yankee, the AA-5 had tubular wing spars, aluminum-honeycomb fuselage panels, and bonded wing skins, making it a simple airplane. But a few years after it arrived, the company American Aviation was sold to Grumman and was then known as Grumman American division. Grumman continued production, and a total of 834 Travelers had been produced when production of this model ceased in 1975.
Followed by a 1975 redesign, the Traveler was finally succeeded by the new refined model that the Grumman American aircraft built. It was known as the AA-5A Cheetah, which had more speed potential than both the original Traveler its 1975 improvements. Introduced as a 1976 model, Grumman engineers embarked on an aerodynamic cleanup and redesign as they made significant changes. This included a redesigned engine cowling to reduce cooling drag, improvements in main landing gear fairings, with an enlarged horizontal tail to allow a larger center of gravity range. Additionally, fuel capacity was also increased from 37 US gallons in the Traveler to 52 gallons, thus increasing its range.
With the same 150 hp (110 kW) Lycoming O-320-E2G powerplant, AA-5A Cheetah was approximately six knots faster than the Traveler. Since the AA5A Cheetah was externally similar to the Traveler, Grumman’s marketing department created a “leaping cheetah” emblem for it in order to differentiate it from the earlier AA-5. Later in 1978, Grumman American sold its light aircraft division to Gulfstream Aerospace, which was renamed Gulfstream American. Gulfstream continued production of the AA-5A until 1979, producing a total of 900 AA 5A Cheetah aircraft.
Topping the family is the final variant of the AA-5 line, the AA 5B Tiger, which was designed by Grumman engineers and was first produced in late 1974 as the 1975 model and was originally little more than the same aircraft with a more powerful engine. The outcome of the same redesign work on the AA-5 Traveler resulted in the 150 hp Cheetah. The Tiger aircraft differed from the Cheetah primarily by being equipped with the more powerful 180 hp (130 KW) Lycoming O-360-A4K engine. This resulted in a 139-knot cruise speed and an increased takeoff weight. The gross weight also increased to 2,400 lb (1,100 kg) on the Tiger as compared to 2,200 lb (1,000 kg) on the previous aircrafts AA-5/AA-5A.
Due to the similar external look of the AA 5B like the AA-5 Traveler and AA-5A Cheetah, Grumman’s marketing department once again came up with a distinctive decal package to differentiate the design from the other models by using a “galloping tiger” for the AA 5B Tiger. Even though the earlier AA-1s and AA-5s did not undergo many changes from time to time, this was not the case with the AA 5B that went through almost continual improvement. Like the AA-5A, the AA 5B was also produced by the Gulfstream when they purchased Grumman’s American division.
However, in 1979, Gulfstream ceased production of piston-engined aircraft, and therefore the highly successful Tiger design went out of production.
After a long gap of eleven years, a new company called the American General Aviation Corporation was formed to continue the production of Tiger aircraft. They included further design improvements, such as adding a new split nose cowling (engine cover), which could be removed without having to remove the propeller. Other features included the addition of a new instrument panel, improved exterior lighting, and a new fuel quantity indication system. The heat and ventilation systems were also improved, and the older 14-volt electrical system was replaced with a new 28-volt system.
As a result, these aerodynamic improvements raised the optimal altitude cruise speed, which increased from 139 knots true airspeed to 143 knots TAS. The new AG 5B Tiger’s redesigned aircraft was put into production under an amended type certificate as the American General AG-5B Tiger. The new company had plans to produce even the AA-1s and AA-5A Cheetahs, but unfortunately, in 1993, the company was closed. American General produced Tigers between 1990 and 1993 and delivered 181 aircraft in that time.
Due to its strong following and popularity, a new company decided to bring the Tiger back into production in 1999. This was the Tiger Aircraft, an American aircraft manufacturer based in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Although the company owned the type certificates for the complete line of aircraft, they did not produce any other AA-1 or AA-5 family models, and their focus was solely on the AG-5Bs. As a result, they made 51 AG-5Bs. Due to financial problems faced by the company in 2006, aircraft production was halted, and production workers were laid off. Consequently, in 2007 Tiger Aircraft filed for bankruptcy.
The Federal Bankruptcy Court approved the sale of Tiger Aircraft assets to another company known as True Flight Holdings LLC. This company had intended to produce aircraft parts and also return the AG-5B Tiger back to production. However, until 2021, they had not produced any complete aircraft.
The primary drivers behind the high price ranges of the AA 5 are the more powerful, lower-time engines and modernized avionics, and this leads to the prices varying widely. The majority fall of AA5 aircraft falls in the $30,000 to $60,000 range. For the mid-70s Tigers, prices can range from $60,000 for a VFR-equipped aircraft with an engine nearing TBO to about $100,000 for a better-equipped model. Similarly, the later versions of the 1990s and 2000s have slightly higher costs.
Between 1971 and 2005, the five manufacturers produced around 3,289 AA-5s and AG-5s together. A total of 834 AA-5 Travelers were produced and 900 AA-5A Cheetas. The original production for the AA-5B Tiger was 1323 units.
AA 5B Tiger has a total fuel capacity of 52.6 Gallons consisting of two tanks, of which 51 gallons are usable.
With one pilot capacity and three passengers, the length of the AA 5B Tiger is 22 feet, along with its height of 8 feet and a wingspan of 31 feet 5 inches. All the four occupants enter from the wing root over the canopy sill. The Lycoming O-360-A4K air-cooled, 4-cylinder, horizontally-opposed piston-engined aircraft has a TBO (Time Between Overhauls) of 2,000 hours.
Renowned for its decent speed on little horsepower, 5b tiger boasts a cruise speed of 139 knots with 75% power and a maximum performance speed of 148 knots. It has a Rate of climb of 850 ft/min, and the stall speed is 53 knots. Lack of rivets and corrugated aluminum makes for a slippery and efficient airframe, which is the secret behind its speed.
Like any aerodynamically efficient airframe, proper speed management is vital on approach and landing. It has a Takeoff Ground Roll of 865 ft, and the Landing Ground Roll is 410 ft.
It has a gross weight (max takeoff weight) of 2400 lbs and an empty weight of 1,398 lbs. Along with the typical IFR equipment, the 5B Tiger weighs in at about 1450 to 1500 pounds, leaving a valuable load of 900 pounds. That makes it enough for full fuel (51 gallons), three adult passengers, and some baggage.
AA 5B has a range of 554 nautical miles and a service ceiling of 13,800 ft. It has an oil capacity of 8 Quarts and a fixed propeller of 75 inches in diameter with a fixed gear. The electrical system uses a 24-volt, 70-amp alternator and a battery.
The AA 5B is not only equipped with wraparound windows and a low instrument panel which helps to provide a panoramic view, but it can also be flown with a partially open canopy, improving the experience even further. Additionally, another unique feature of the aircraft is the rear seats which fold down to provide a six-foot-long cargo compartment.
It has an electric flap system that consists of a console-mounted switch and requires a head-down look to set the flaps. If the switch to extend flaps is held and then allowed to let go, it tends to flip back and retracts the flaps again. Grumman pilots merely count to five for half flaps.
Despite the emergence of new sport planes and competitive aircraft, Tiger remains the only model with a fighter-like sliding canopy that can be opened in flight for ventilation. It also stands out due to its pleasant handling characteristics as well as its high cruising speed for the installed power. The main landing gear is fiberglass with a spring-steel nose gear tube, and steering is by primary wheel differential braking.
From a maintenance point of view, it is relatively easy to manage and maintain aircraft as there is not a constant speed prop or retractable gear or the associated problems. Fuel, wiring, brakes, and other systems are simple to handle and manage.
Although the AA 5B Tiger went through almost continual improvement with time, a few problem areas were reported. These include cracking prop spinners which were possibly the result of propeller vibration. Although all Tigers have been retrofitted with improved spinners, one experienced Grumman mechanic reported problems even with the new ones. Leaky fuel tanks were also reported, and the most recent Airworthiness Directives on the AA-5 addresses the fuel tank sealant. Several owners reported repeated breaking of the rudder springs, which must be replaced every 1000 hours.
Fletchair and Air Mods NW are two good sources of parts and services for the Tiger aircraft. They also provide an alternate propeller in place of the McCauley, which has an RPM restriction in descending flight due to vibration problems. It straddles the usual ILS approach speed. In addition to that, Fletchair has a split nose cowl STC, which eliminates the need to remove the spinner and prop to get at the starter, alternator, and front engine baffles.
The American Yankee association is one of the most valuable resources available to the Grumman owners and is the owners’ group for the Grumman American aircraft. It holds regular events, publishes one of the best owner group magazines, and provides insurance plans. Additional resources include The Grumman Pilot’s Association and the Grumman Gang, along with enthusiastic support in the form of online forums and video tutorials.
Grumman American is a big deal, even if it is just a 180- hp Traveler and nothing quite matches it. With relatively few problem areas concerning flying characteristics, the AA-5 family checks many of the boxes required to earn its place as an approachable aircraft and is one of the most successful single-engine airplanes.
Mark Bright, your wish has come true. I’m the owner of your previously owned 1978 Grumman Tiger N28712. I bought the plane late last summer 2022. It is hangared at W05 Gettysburg,PA along with my 1976 AA1-B 160hp. I purchased the airplane from a couple that had owned it for around 25 yrs. It still wears the original paint and looks good for the age.
You did not mention the delimitation issues.
Former Grumman AA1B owner.
thank you for your observation, we have adjusted our cover image to reflect our content correctly.
I find it very disturbing that the “cover” photo of an article on the AA-5B shows some other (twin engine) airplane. Hard to take much of your reporting seriously if you can’t get that right.
(Former 1979 Tiger owner).
I have owned a Grumman since 1980. I bought an AA1B in 1980 and traded it for a 1979 Cheetah in 1983. I flew the AA1 for about 300 hours and have flown the AA5A about 2700 hours. I’ve flown it through the Bahamas, and all over the southeast. I’ve flown it to camp at LAL for years. The Cheetah is a great plane to own, easy and fun to fly, with few ADs, and very affordable.
The American Yankee Association (AYA) is now known as the Grumman Owners and Pilots Association (GOPA) and is a fantastic source for information regarding these fine aircraft.
I owned a 1978 Grumman Tiger with my brothers and flew it around 300-400hrs until Sept. 8, 1989 and loved it… N28712 and I believe its still being flown today as my older brother sold after our business split. I have always wanted to talk to the current owner to see the condition of the plane now in 2022.