Why the Foxbat is so good

Irish flyer 01Here’s a short 2 minute video from Irish Flyer on YouTube, demonstrating a landing on a challenging little grass strip among the trees. There’s an ‘interesting’ S-turn needed during final approach, which could get out of hand if not treated properly!

This looks like a real ‘one way in’ landing area, with very little room for error – speed control is vital to ensure you get it right.

As usual click on the photo to view the video or click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOvA_W6pLhM

Lockdown handover

23-1685 Front LHWay back in late January 2020, Simon and Jane, who live near Cairns in north Queensland, ordered a new red Foxbat. Remember those days? We were dealing with summer temperatures, bushfires and had no inkling of what was to come.

The Aeroprakt factory made and shipped the aircraft and it arrived more-or-less on schedule at Melbourne docks in early June. With many thanks to the factory for keeping to their deadlines and the shipping companies for (almost) meeting theirs.

Australia Map

Australia Map

In late June all was looking good…
At that time, virus-wise, things were looking OK for Simon and Jane to pick up their aircraft from Melbourne and fly it the 1300 nautical miles (about 2500 kilometres) back home. The ‘first wave’ of COVID-19 seemed to be well under control right across Australia and we were all looking forward to a loosening of lock-down  restrictions. We got on with re-assembling the aircraft at Moorabbin, south of Melbourne, getting it signed off and all the many admin things you need to do to get a new aircraft registered and test-flown.

Then fate took a heavy hand and, due to rising cases of ‘community transmission’ COVID-19 cases in Victoria (where Melbourne is located), Queensland and New South Wales (which lies between Victoria and Queensland) closed their borders in early July to stop people travelling from Victoria. It looked like Simon and Jane would have to wait at least 6 weeks before they could fly their nice new shiny red aeroplane. However, as they say, ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’.

Willing a way
After some research, Simon and I agreed it might be possible for me to apply for a New South Wales border permit, to allow me to fly their aircraft just across the border from Victoria to a place called Albury –  a thriving country New South Wales town, with a sizeable airport. Which crucially had scheduled airline flights available back to Melbourne. Simon and Jane would fly scheduled flights to Albury, via Sydney, to meet me and take over their aeroplane at Albury.

So I checked with Victorian authorities – OK to travel for work which could not be done at home…delivering an aeroplane is not a desk job! I do not live in or near a Victorian ‘virus hot spot’ and I applied online for the New South Wales border exemption permit, which was granted immediately. Availability of a return flight was checked and booked, as was a motel in Albury for an overnight stay, as Simon and Jane could not arrive until after dark, meaning an early morning handover the next day. Finally, I called Albury Airport management to check what, if anything, I needed to do after landing – with regard to the permit, health checks and so on. They were very helpful and advised me to call them after arrival and they would direct me accordingly. So we were all set to go.

IMG_8472Off I go
The day of the flight from Moorabbin to Albury dawned clear and sunny, with even a light southerly tail wind to guide me on my way! But, as usual with a southerly at this time of year, the Kilmore Gap through the hills to the north was clouded in and I had to delay departure by a few hours to wait for the cloud base to lift. So eventually I set off for Yarrawonga, a rest and refuel stop on the way to Albury, to pick up a Foxbat cabin cover from Diane at Punkinhead Airsports and a Mr Funnel filter from Peter McLean at P&M Aviation, both ordered by Simon.

I landed at Albury around 4.00pm in the afternoon. The airport manager took all my details over the phone and cleared me to exit the airport and go to my motel. So far so good!

IMG_8489

Lockdown handover
The next morning, I met Simon and Jane – who stayed at the same motel (I think we may have been the only guests) – and we went to the airport in their hire car. Out of respect for them, I wore a mask in the car and later in the plane with Simon, while we did circuits – I’m pretty sure I am not infected but the last thing I wanted to do was to start a new ‘cluster’! The Foxbat was duly inspected and all the items on the handover checklist ticked off and then Simon and I went for a few circuits so he could familiarise himself with his version of the Foxbat – he’s flown several others as part of his prep for the trip.

Finally it was time for me to wish them bon voyage back to Cairns – probably a leisurely 2-3 day trip – and I proceeded to the passenger terminal to check in for my flight back to Melbourne.

Pandemic shocks
Now here’s where the pandemic really started to come home to me. I suppose, living on Melbourne’s beautiful Bayside has, to some extent, insulated me from the economic and social pandemonium going on. I have been able to continue to shop for groceries and other essentials, ride my bike for exercise along the Beach Road, continue to receive and send spare parts to Foxbat & Vixxen owners, and visit my GP if needed.

IMG_8495My return flight was with Rex, fully known as ‘Regional Express‘ airline. First shock – the Albury passenger terminal was completely empty. I went to the Rex check-in desk really expecting to be told the flight was cancelled. Then, second shock – it was running OK and I was the only passenger on the SAAB twin turbo-prop aircraft. It was very strange when the pilot, announcing our descent into IMG_8506Melbourne, addressed me by name! A nice touch – now I know what it feels like (well, almost) to have your own private airliner!

Arriving in Melbourne Airport was eerie. The Rex turbo-prop parked way out on the apron and I disembarked and boarded – still alone – a shuttle bus back to the terminal, passing row upon row of mothballed JetStar Airbus airliners, engines cocooned and landing gear covered in plastic protection. Very weird.

IMG_8509My partner Louise met me in the car park and we started our journey home in the car. I was stunned as we exited the multi-storey park to see a vista of completely empty long-term car parks, as far as the eye could see. The mothballed aircraft were shocking enough but somehow the hectares and hectares of empty long-term car parks really hit home. And this is just Melbourne airport – this picture is repeated many times over around the world.

This pandemic is something completely outside our experience, knowledge and understanding. The economic cost is astonishing. And for those whose loved ones have died or suffered long-term consequences from the disease, we can hardly imagine their devastation. Let’s hope for an effective vaccine and/or treatment soon, so we can begin to recover our health and sanity.

New Aeroprakt factory website

Aeroprakt has launched its new, modern website incorporating many easy-to-navigate and visually stunning features. It’s a great development from their old website which seems to have been around a long time!

In addition to all the information on the A-32 and A-22 aircraft, and essentials like Service Bulletins, there are many new photos and videos to see. There’s also an interactive map to help you find the country dealer nearest to you.

Some pages – such as ‘History’ are yet to be completed but don’t let that stop you exploring this exciting new site!

You can click here to link directly to the new site in English (you also have Ukrainian and Russian language options): http://aeroprakt.kiev.ua/en/

Ido Segev

It is with a degree of sadness I cannot possibly describe, that I mourn the passing of Ido Segev in an aviation accident last Wednesday, 19th February. Ido worked with me at Foxbat Australia for over 3 years and, for the last 18 months or so, we were joint directors of AeroEdge Australia.

Ido had such an energy and enthusiasm for everything that flies – from drones, to RC aircraft, where he won numerous prizes, to full size aeroplanes. He seemed to have a natural flair for aircraft control, whatever the size of the aircraft. As one of his RC model friends said: ‘He had golden hands’.

One of his aviation passions was aerobatics. He had a part share ownership in a little Pitts – he was tall and barely seemed able to fold himself into the cockpit – but as his short videos show, he could really fly that thing. Forgive me, but going upside down in an aeroplane never was my thing… but Ido described it as ‘better than a psychologist!’

Ido’s passion for flying – and indeed life – was highly infectious. He brought new ideas and excitement to both Foxbat and AeroEdge. In all the time he worked with me I never heard anything but praise about his attitude, approach and attention to details. His sole aim was to make the whole buying and owning process memorable and enjoyable for customers.

He leaves behind a grieving family, both in Australia and in Israel; I wish them my deepest condolences. He also leaves behind his long term partner, Bree Sutcliffe; I cannot imagine what she is going through but I hope the knowledge that Ido was loved and respected by  all who met him gives her some support during this awful time.

He became almost a son to me and I’ll miss him very much.

Sherwood Scout

Sherwood Scout

A couple of years ago I visited the UK Light Aircraft Company (TLAC) factory in Norfolk to look at the single-seat tail-dragger Sherwood KUB aircraft. At the time I noted the high degree of engineering professionalism at the factory and very nearly decided to become the Australian dealer for the KUB. However, when we worked out prices, the A$ vs UK£ exchange rate put an end to my plans. I believed that the retail price for the KUB – great little aeroplane though it is – would not attract many buyers.

Sherwood KUB

While I was at the factory, I also looked at the Sherwood Scout, a 2-seat high wing Rotax 912ULS powered tail dragger. This aircraft, if you go back far enough, has its history in the Kitfox, although now seriously re-engineered to be stronger and fly (much) better than the older design. Apart from the excellent standard of engineering in the manufacture of this aircraft, it is almost unique both in being covered with UV-proof Oratex and having a (very) easy folding wing, allowing it to be stored in about 25% of the space needed for a fixed wing aircraft.

The aircraft is not the proverbial ‘tube & sailcloth’ aircraft but has a welded 4130 tube fuselage with aluminium spars and wooden ribs.  With the Rotax 912ULS/100hp engine, its performance figures are very attractive too. As well as the easy folding wing, add side-by-side seating, a good weight carrying capability, a genuine 95 knots TAS and you have the makings of an excellent bush plane – some might say it would eat Big Cats for breakfast! You can even swap between nose dragging and tail dragging in a better of minutes…

I am an avid subscriber to ByDanJohnson’s Blog – his is one of the top websites covering Light Sport and Recreational aircraft worldwide. And just the other day, one of his contributors, the well-known Dave Unwin,  published a flight review of the Scout. Once again, my interest was piqued…

Apart from commenting on the ‘very honest’ flying characteristics – ie very good! – the reviewer also reminded me of the easy folding wing option, making the aircraft much easier to store. Here’s his summary:

“I honestly feel that TLAC has got a winner here! Obviously care needs to be taken with the weight and balance of the lightest version, but with a typical useful load in excess of 517 pounds [235 kgs] the larger Scout [vs KUB] is a very practical machine, with good numbers for speed, range and endurance, and the ability to carry a good load into and out of rather short strips. The folding wings are a big plus, while the ability to reconfigure from a nosewheel to a tailwheel quickly and easily could also be very useful. I liked it, a lot.

You can read the full article here: Review of the Sherwood Scout

What do you think?

Incipient spin training

G-ASBU – the aircraft in which I learned about spinning

When I learned to fly – all those years ago – spin recovery training was a mandatory part of the PPL syllabus. Unless we could demonstrate fully developed spin recovery, left and right, with and without flap, we would not pass the PPL test – simple as that.

Our initial training was on Piper Colts, an aircraft that would just not spin – a spiral dive maybe, but not any kind of real spin. So to fulfil the syllabus, we were required to go spinning in an aeroplane called a Beagle Terrier – which,  like its doggy namesake, displayed an interesting mix of mongrel and pedigree behaviours. The Terrier is at heart an Auster and like many 1940’s and 1950’s British aircraft, would bite you like a rabid dog, if provoked.

Every weekend, an RAF Wing Commander used to bring his little Terrier to the airfield for us very green students to go spin training. The procedure was to climb to 6,500 feet, do a few straight stalls and then start the spins. So, after clearing turns and carb heat to hot, we powered back to idle and slowly pulled back on the controls as the aircraft slowed down. Then, just as the nose started to drop in the stall, it was a time for a big bootful of right or left rudder and over we went. Wait for the WingCo to give the word and then opposite rudder to stop the spin and gently pull out of the dive, carb heat to cold and begin to apply power. The minimum number of turns in the spin before recovery action was three. Sometimes the WingCo went for four or even five turns before issuing the ‘stop’ order – always with a great big grin.

Learning spin recovery techniques was a bit scary at first – on occasion, the Terrier would go right over on its back and seemed to rotate about a point somewhere above (below?) your head and outside the plane – but as we gained in experience, all the students came to realise that knowing what to do in these circumstances improved our flying hugely and gave us more confidence to know we could handle at least some of the unusual flying attitudes which can occur in an aircraft.

Somewhere along the line, somebody in officialdom decided that it was either too dangerous to continue spin training or that it just wasn’t necessary with ever evolving safety in aircraft design – after all, even the old Colt couldn’t be provoked into anything like a real spin. Or both. Anyway, the training was changed to recognising potential spinning events and avoiding them. Or ‘incipient’ spin training. Which was probably a bad decision.

Recently, there has been a great deal of discussion and concern following an unfortunate incident in a certified aircraft conducting incipient spin training, as currently required per the CASA Part 61 Syllabus.

With it, there seems to be a lot of misunderstanding about the definition of what actually is an incipient spin, and it seems that even the local regulators have some difficulty defining it. Nevertheless, many (wrongly) assume the term to mean a stall with wing drop.

However, the generally accepted definition of an incipient spin is the transition phase during which a stall is propagating towards a developed spin – which, in some aircraft, may take up to two revolutions.

Remember that if the angle of bank exceeds 60 degrees or pitch exceeds 45 degrees from the horizontal, you are already outside of the allowable flight envelope of all LSA aircraft and therefore considered to be conducting ‘aerobatics’ under CASA’s definition.

Here’s an extract from FAA AC 61-67 “Stall Spin Awareness Training”:

Normal category airplanes are not approved for the performance of aerobatic maneuvers, including spins, and are placarded against intentional spins. However, to provide a margin of safety when recovery from a stall is delayed, normal category airplanes are tested during certification and must be able to recover from a one turn spin or a 3-second spin, whichever takes longer, in not more than one additional turn with the controls used in the manner normally used for recovery, or [alternately] demonstrate the airplane’s resistance to spins.[ie you can’t spin it, whatever]

In addition, for airplanes demonstrating compliance with one turn or 3-second requirements, LSA requirements are:
– similar to the normal category but with less stringent requirements eg aggravated use of controls for FAR 23
– designed only for a margin of safety in delayed recovery from a stall. Therefore not intended for incipient spin training. [Remember, as above, an incipient spin is one which is recovered with the first 1-2 turns of the spin.]

While we are still awaiting a clearer definition from the regulator and would like to reiterate that no initial spinning is approved for the A22 or A32, the Aeroprakt factory does provide a declaration of conformity with the current Part 61 syllabus, with regard to incipient training, as follows:

“Both A22LS and A32 were tested for spins. A special feature of the A22/A32 wing is such that during a classic method of spin entry when the pitch and yaw controls are deflected fully, simultaneously, the aircraft would not spin more than 180 degrees. After which the aircraft recovers from a spin to a steep spiral dive with increasing speed and normal acceleration (G-factor) in spite of the [continuing] fully deflected pitch and yaw controls.

If the controls are still kept fully deflected, then by the end of the second turn of the spiral dive, the load factor will reach +4.0G’s and the speed will increase to Vne.
According to the ASTM (LSA) standard, an airplane may be used for spinning if the load factor and Vne are not reached by the end of the third spin turn.Taking into account the above mentioned, we cannot see any problem in permitting the use of our A22 and A32 aircraft for incipient spin recovery training as described in the CASA Part 61 syllabus, with the only limitation that not more than 1 spin turn may be done.” [11 June 2019]. 

In any case, at Foxbat Australia we recommend that any advance stalling and spin training should be conducted only in an aircraft certified for that purpose. There are many great flying schools around Australia which will allow you to receive proper spin instruction in a certified aircraft.

Whatever, if you like spinning, aerobatics, or neither(!) we highly recommended any pilot to learn more about them and experience them from the pilot seat.

 

STOP PRESS: CASA (Australian readers only) is seeking views on spin avoidance and recovery training. You can have your say by clicking the link below. NB> The survey closes on 27 January 2020.
https://consultation.casa.gov.au/regulatory-program/draft-ac-61-16-v1-0/

Buying a used Foxbat or Vixxen

For many pilots, owning their own aircraft is a dream – but to own a new one is often just plain beyond their financial reach. So they turn to the used market and start perusing the pages of the Australian Aviation Trader paper and other aeroplane sales websites. Buying a used aircraft – like any used vehicle – is potentially fraught with risk, so here are a few guidelines about buying a used Foxbat/Vixxen – or indeed any other used aircraft.

Overall, the first rule of buying a used aircraft is let the ‘Buyer Beware’. The purpose of these guidelines is not to stop you buying your dream (although there are a couple of red flags) but to ensure you go into the purchase with your eyes open and are fully aware of what you are taking on. You don’t want any nasty – expensive – surprises to ruin the joy of owning your first – or next – aeroplane!

Whatever else, get a completely independent, appropriately licensed engineer to inspect the aircraft and its documentation and give you both a verbal summary and a detailed written report. The engineer should not be associated in any way with the vendor or dealer selling the aircraft. Although a thorough inspection may cost you up to A$500, it could save you ‘000s.

Apart from all the usual things to look at on a used aircraft, be sure to ask the engineer to check for:
– complete service records and any accident damage history.
– all applicable airframe and Rotax engine (see below) service bulletins have been complied with.

In particular, for Foxbats & Vixxens:
– rudder cable bulletin (A22L & A22LS)
– nose leg hinge bracket bearing bulletin  (A22LS & A32)
– windscreen cracks  (A22LS & A32)
– flaperon cardan rings  (A22L & A22LS)
– seat belt correct installation (A22L & A22LS)
(all bulletins are on our website at https://www.foxbat.com.au/safety-bulletins.html)
– the flap lever detente plate (A22LS & A32), which holds the flaps at their chosen setting. This plate is a wear item replaced on condition and if too worn can allow the flaps to retract without warning.

Ask the vendor what the primary use of the aircraft has been – commercial flying training? Private and leisure? Farm work? Ask the vendor if there has been any incident/accident damage to the aircraft and if so, who carried out the repairs. Remember to write down responses, as the answers to all your questions will form part of your contract to buy, should you decide to go ahead. Be very wary of vendors who do not know answers to your questions or who try to give you vague non-specific answers with phrases like: ‘I think…’ or ‘I believe…’ or that catch-all ‘Come and have a look for yourself…’ If they don’t know an answer, OK – but they should offer to get back to you with a clear reply.

Here is something important to check for all used Light Sport Aircraft (LSA).
LSA regulations mandate that any change to the aircraft from its original delivered specification must be explicitly agreed by the aircraft manufacturer. Changes include virtually everything to do with the aircraft – for example: tyre sizes, propeller, instruments, avionics, damage repairs, type of coolant, GoPro and other camera mounts, lighting changes, addition or removal of a parachute, etc etc. Some manufacturers – including Aeroprakt – give blanket approvals for aircraft damage repairs ‘carried out by suitably licensed engineers’ but any other changes must have factory approval first. If not, the aircraft automatically reverts to ‘Experimental’ status until either approval is given or the modification is reversed. LOAs can only be issued by the manufacturer – there is no other authority approved to do this.
Therefore, get a written statement from the vendor either that the aircraft has not been modified after original new delivery or that if it has, specific Letter(s) of Approval (LOAs) have been issued – and are attached with the statement.
If they are not willing to do this – walk away! Any problems will become yours if you buy the aircraft.

For the Rotax engine check the following:
All applicable Rotax service bulletins have been completed. To check the bulletins, enter the engine number on the Rotax Owner website – https://www.rotax-owner.com/en/(click on ‘Does your engine comply with all required bulletins?’ in the page header), enter your engine type (all our aircraft use 912ULS engines), and then the engine serial number. The site will list the bulletins you need to check.

The total running time for the engine is recorded correctly. For example, the original engine may have been time-expired and changed for another engine – which was new? Or used? Get a confirmation that the time quoted is engine running time, not flight time as Rotax warranties and service requirements are all based on engine running time.

When the next 5-year rubber replacement is due. This costs in the region of A$2,500-A$3,000 to complete, with parts and labour, and covers all oil, fuel and coolant hoses, carburettor rubbers, fuel pump etc on the aircraft.

Has the engine been run primarily on Avgas or Mogas? If Avgas, there should be a clear record of oil and filter changes at least every 25 hours, as per Rotax maintenance recommendations. If not, there is no certainty the engine will reach its 2,000 hour expiry time.

When was the last time the gearbox slipper clutch tension was checked? Is there a clear maintenance record of this?

Has there ever been a prop strike? If so, the gearbox slipper clutch should have protected the engine. However a power-on prop strike has been known to twist the crankshaft. Any prop strike, however apparently minor, mandatorily requires the gearbox to be checked and overhauled by a qualified Rotax engineer.

Finally, here are a few general guidelines:
Has the aircraft been parked outside or kept in a hangar? Ultralight and Light Sport Aircraft are necessarily built more lightly to enable compliance with strict weight limits. They do not thus fare well when left outside in the elements, even when properly tied down and the controls correctly secured. Look for water damage inside the aircraft. Do the controls feel ‘sloppy’ because the wind has slowly but surely worn away at the control bearings? Think of the aircraft rocking in the wind for a couple of years…

Has the aircraft been used in a school or club? Remember, a school aircraft will have probably completed at least 5 times as many take-offs and landings for the same hours as a privately owned aircraft. Depending on the quality of the instructor(s) this might mean anything from not much at all, right through to dozens of (very) hard landings at the hands of poorly managed students.

Get a written statement from the vendor that the weight and balance information shown in the aircraft documentation – particularly the empty weight – is correct. If the vendor is not prepared to give this statement, walk away!
This is important for your load calculations and your insurance validity.

The asking price of the aircraft should reflect all the factors above. A single private-owner hangared aeroplane with no damage history, a few hundred hours on the clock and a complete maintenance record, with all the original manuals and documentation, will command a significantly higher price than an aircraft with all the opposite characteristics. Foxbats and Vixxens have an enviable reputation for holding their prices but do not let this general reputation sway your careful examination of the aircraft. Hour-for-hour, the difference in price between a good one and a bad one could be as much as 50%.

Don’t forget the saying: ‘buying cheap can be the most expensive thing you ever do’.