12/6/06 - 1035 hours
With spacers and axle sleeve it cost $95 plus $10 shipping to the door.
Installation: The only tricky part is it uses a 1/2" axle instead of the 3/8" axle use with the Van's wheel. I did not want to drill out the fork to 1/2" for two reasons. 1) In case the Matco wheel did not work out, 2) So the towbar would still fit over the bolt end and nut.
To solve this problem, some 3/8 ID - 1/2" OD bushing material was purchased from Aircraft Spruce (P/N 03-16900). A bit of work is required on the bushing to get the axle through it and to get it to fit in the sleeve supplied by Matco. Also, some AN960-8 regular and light washers were needed to get the width to match the fork because the spacers provided were not quite wide enough.
The Van's wheel has a diameter of about 5-5/8" while the Matco wheel is 6". The Matco tire BARELY fits in the fork. But is does fit. I have done five landings with no rubbing so far.......
* Looks Cooler
* About One pound Lighter
* Has high quality sealed bearings
* Tire and tube can be replaced for $16 + shipping
Update 5/4/07 - 1087 hours
The new tailwheel is working out well. It rides and handles better that the Vans unit.
I suspect, however, the tire life will not be nearly as good as the solid Vans tailwheel. If this one last more than 250 hours it will be a shock. The Vans tire lasted over 1000!
The new wheel does seem a bit light duty for the task, especially when the plane is heavily loaded. Matco publishes a spec. of 660lbs static load and a 1980lb load limit. Hope not to pinch the tube and have a flat somewhere out in the sticks......
In the tailwheel there is a little pin that comes out to keep the tailwheel engaged with the rudder. It seems to have worn out allowing the tailwheel to caster during landing and takeoff. This can make for some exciting ground handling characteristics! This was discovered at the rather windy and gusty Lee Vining California (O24). As a temporary field fix, the pin was flipped inverted until a new one arrives. New pins can be had from Vans for $6.51. Part number WD-102C.
Update 4/27/08 - 1223 hours
My suspicions about the durability of the little tire came to fruition. After a landing in Yearington Nevada (the middle of nowhere) enroute to a vacation in Steamboat Colorado, I discovered a flat tailwheel. The tube had been pinched. I chocked this up carrying a heavy load and perhaps to a slightly under inflated tire. It was Friday morning, what to do.....
I decided to fly with the flat. It would require two landings until we could repair the tube. As fortune would have it, Matco is located in Salt Lake City, Utah so we could stop by on the way home and buy (and install) a new tube. They were very helpful and accommodating and even gave us the factory tour. The tire was destroyed by the two landings but the wheel was fine. All fixed up with an extra tube in had, all was well again, for now....
Fast forward to our trip to Baja. We were returning and encountered a VERY strong crosswind at San Felipe, a required stop to depart Mexico. The landing and departure went ok, but on arrival at Calexico to clear US customs, there it was again, a flat tailwheel tire. That sealed the deal, back to the industrial caster supplied with the kit. It's too bad because the little tire handled much better than the solid tire and looked great too. Further research revealed the tire is only rated to 250lbs. No wonder!
Typical Baja View