Foxbat Australia – new website coming!

After almost 5 years with our current website at www.foxbat.com.au we have developed a new, much more modern site design for Foxbat Australia which will be going live in the next week or so.

Although the old website has been widely used and favourably commented on, apart from making it more visually attractive, we have aimed to make navigation simpler – particularly for the many visitors seeking technical specifications and maintenance information.

All the details from the old site have been retained and updated, including the ever-popular ‘Used Aircraft‘ page, which is statistically the most visited single page on the site! In addition, if you want to find a school or club in Australia using Aeroprakt aircraft, we have introduced a clickable map to help you find one near to you.

There are also additions of an in-site photo and video gallery, so you don’t have to navigate away from the site to see visuals. However, our linked Foxbat YouTube channel and Foxbat Facebook Page will remain in operation – have a look, we post new items regularly on Facebook and are planning more YouTube videos over the coming months.

Once the new site is up and running, feel free to send me your comments!

Blue Angels and Willie Nelson

Blue Angels – this picture is not photoshopped!

The Blue Angels are the US Navy’s precision formation aerobatics team. Originally formed in 1946 using Hellcat and Bearcat aircraft, the Blue Angels are famed for their amazingly tight formation flying. Currently using F18 Hornet jets – which have a very short wingspan – they often seem to be flying so close their wingtips are overlapping. One of their signature formations includes mixed inverted and upright aircraft, which often look quite weird.

Two for the price of one – not photoshopped

One of my favourite vocalists/guitarists is Willie Nelson, now in his late 80’s, a country singer of global stature. I first heard him too many years ago on a track called ‘Me and Bobby McGee’, a song written by Kris Kristofferson which is probably way more famous for Janis Joplin‘s recording, although I personally find her tempo a bit too fast. Over the years, I collected a variety of Willie Nelson albums – sadly mostly on vinyl, now long gone. In an unlikely combination, Willie Nelson pays tribute to the men and women of the Blue Angels in a short YouTube video, singing another of my favourites: ‘Still is still moving to me’.

Click the picture below to see the video – sorry the resolution is a bit low; there are better videos of the Blue Angels in action, and of Willie Nelson singing, but none of the two together.

DirectFly Alto LSA

Short video of trip to Parkes, September 2019

Over the last 6 months or so, I have been flying a new-to-Australia low wing all metal Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) built in the Czech Republic, called the DirectFly ALTO. In particular, as mentioned in my previous post, I flew the Alto from our Tyabb Airport base to the recent Australian AirVenture 2019 airshow at Parkes in New South Wales and back again with my friend Mike Rudd.

The return trip totalled 9.6 hours of flying – mostly into moderate to strong headwinds – burning an average of 17.2 litres an hour. We were only around 5 kgs (about 11-12 pounds in the old fashioned measure) under the maximum gross weight of 600 kgs (1,320 pounds). Nevertheless, the Alto still had plenty of get-up-and-go and we cruised along happily – if a little bumpily at times – at around 105-115 knots True Air Speed.

The horrendous dust storms in Parkes, followed by rain, reminded me how easy it is to clean a low wing aircraft; I think we washed and leathered it off at least 4 times over the two main days of the show. I suppose the drawback is that you can’t shelter from the rain by standing under the wing!

My friend Mike, whose backside can be very critical of aeroplane seats, commented that (a) it was one of the most comfortable planes to sit in for several hours’ flying, and (b) that it handled the sometimes moderate turbulence very well. The Alto adopts a sort of ‘fishtail’ waggle through the worst turbulence – if you leave it to find its own way rather than fighting it, the ride is not bad at all.

Although I’m a definite high-wing pilot, I must say that the view out of the Alto is superb – most of the time it feels like you’re flying on a magic carpet, with an almost unobstructed view forward through about 270 degrees. With a high wing, I guess you tend to look more at the ground when flying; with a low wing, you see much more of the sky and the eve changing cloudscapes around you.

The tinted canopy and 4 powerful air vents kept us cool and un-burnt. And the forward-sliding design of the canopy presented no worries about it popping open in flight or blowing over if left open on the ground.

All-in-all a very nice low wing all metal alternative to a Foxbat or Vixxen – and the pricing is good too! PS> This demonstrator aircraft is now for sale – please contact Ido Segev 0431 454 676 for information and pricing.

Click here for more information on the ALTO.
Click here or on the photo above to take you to the YouTube video Mike made of our flight.

AirVenture 2019 – a bit of a disaster

My friend Mike and I flew from Tyabb to Parkes on Thursday 19 September, full of anticipation for the upcoming AirVenture 2019 show. A couple of owners/friends were bringing an A22LS Foxbat and an A32 Vixxen to complete our static display along with the DirectFly Alto we were flying.

We set out nice and early (well, it was for us!) leaving the ground at about 07:45. Tracking north for Wangaratta, we immediately hit some strong headwinds coming over the ranges. And so this was the story pretty well all the way to Parkes, where we arrived at about 15:00 after stopping at Wangaratta and Temora – where, by the way, we briefly ran into Ian McDonell, A32 Vixxen syndicate manager, flying down from Caboolture to Tocumwal in the opposite direction.

At that stage, the weather forecast for Parkes didn’t look too bad; breezy but clear on Friday, with strengthening winds and a late possibly showery change on Saturday, and light (head!) winds on Sunday and Monday for our trip home.

In the event, the ‘strengthening winds’ on Saturday turned out to be 30+ knot northerlies gusting 45-50 knots (YES!) raising an almost impenetrable cloud of dust in the air. The seminar and main indoor exhibitor tents were rated to about 75 km/h (that’s about 40 knots) so the whole site was evacuated at about 10:30 and did not re-open until 15:00 that afternoon. Even after that, there were intermittent and heavy rain showers, so the day was pretty well a wipe-out. However, thanks to Bob (you know who you are!) for braving the weather to come and order a new Foxbat on Saturday afternoon!

Our three planes were all pointed into wind and well tied down so we suffered no damage. They were all covered with a thick layer of dust – made to look much worse by the developing rain showers – although the insides remained mercifully clean.

As forecast, Sunday dawned beautifully clear with almost no wind…it was almost as if the previous day had just been a very bad dream.

We flew home in the Alto on Monday 23 September, again with headwinds most of the way and a dessert helping of showers as we approached the Kilmore Gap through the ranges, plus one final, very big shower overhead Tyabb – we circled out to the west for about 30 minutes, waiting for it to pass through.

The Alto performed faultlessly. Mike even commented that it was probably the most comfortable Light Sport Aircraft he’d flown in – which is high praise indeed, considering his rear end is noted for its predisposition to numbness in less accommodating aircraft! Overall, the return trip was 9.6 hours’ flying, using a whisker under 165 litres of fuel. True airspeed lingered between 105 and 115 knots but average ground speed on the two trips was just under 75 knots – which included take-offs and landings.

It was a shame that the main exhibition day was such a disaster. I hope the organisers had insurance cover (if such a thing is available) because total visitor entries must have been a fraction of what they were hoping. One of our competitors commented that there were ‘more exhibitors than visitors’, even on Sunday, when the weather couldn’t have been more perfect.

I hope the organisers survive to fight another day and run the show again next year.

AirVenture 2019

This year’s AirVenture fly-in and airshow seems to have come round all very quickly! Last year the show visited Cessnock, near Newcastle in New South Wales.

This year we are at Parkes in central west New South Wales – famous for the nearby ‘Dish’ radio telescope which was involved in communications for the first human landing on the moon.

The show runs from Friday 20 September to Sunday 22 September inclusive, with an airshow planned for Sunday, 10.00-14.00. We’re told there will be hundreds of fly-in and drive-in visitors this year – so why not join them and come and see all manner of light and very light aircraft, warbirds and aerobatic displays. Plus a huge range of aviation related merchandise ranging from nice little toys, all the way up through avionics and beyond.

As usual, Foxbat Australia and our sister company, AeroEdge, will have Foxbat, Vixxen and Alto aircraft on static display. A couple of schools/clubs using Foxbats for training will also be giving ‘TIFs’ – trial instruction flights – so you can find out just how much fun it is to fly a Foxbat.

Come and say hello! We’d love to see you there!

Foxbat & Vixxen nose leg maintenance

Due to a recent failure of a nose landing gear leg lower support bracket, we would like to remind all owners of A22LS Foxbat, Kelpie and A32 Vixxen to make sure all regular maintenance is complied with in full and in accordance with their specific aircraft maintenance manual requirements. The landing gear system can be easily forgotten or overlooked during maintenance and during the daily pre-flight inspection, however, it is important to closely inspect all of its components.

How does this affect me?
The A22LS Foxbat and A32 Vixxen Aircraft Maintenance Manual (AMM) requires 100 hourly checks of the landing gear system, with a specific requirement for inspection and greasing of the lower fork attachment bracket and bellcrank due to its trailing-link operation. While the failure record on flight school/club aircraft averages over 7,000 landings, this inspection and maintenance action should be carried out by all owners and operators on a regular basis.

Aeroprakt will shortly issue an official service bulletin with a recommendation for inspection of the lower attachment bracket, however, in the meantime please find here a short guide which is intended to provide additional information to ensure the correct method is used. Failure to comply with the AMM inspection may result in the pivot bolt seizing and a failure of the lower attachment bracket.

Please note: It is not sufficient to lubricate this bolt/bracket with silicone or lithium spray. Please use the correct heavy duty anti-corrosion grease as instructed!

The guide can also be found on our website under Maintenance & Technical > Aircraft Maintenance Information.

If you don’t already receive our regular newsletter and information emails, please make sure you are on our mailing list – to subscribe simply email us at info@foxbat.com.au so we can add you

The elephant in the aeroplane

In Light Sport Aircraft (LSAs) and Recreational Aviation (RA) – indeed in all flying machines – weight is a key factor. In fact it could be said that weight is THE factor when it comes to light aircraft design – strong (meaning heavy) enough to do the job, yet light enough to carry a reasonable load within the legal regulations of its category. Of all categories, LSAs and RAs have probably the most stringent weight limits applied to them.

Yet in almost all LSA/RA flight reviews I read, there is little or no mention of usable load, empty weights or maximum gross weights. How come nobody discusses this key topic – the elephant in the room? The aircraft may look and fly great but if the usable load is so limited that carrying a couple of typically sized people and a reasonable amount of fuel will take you outside the legal limit for the aircraft – what use is it?

At the recent Avalon Airshow, I wandered around looking at a wide selection of LSA and RA offerings. Many of them were kind enough to display data including empty and maximum weights alongside the aircraft.

All the aircraft I looked at posted a maximum gross weight of 600 kgs or, in a couple of cases, 550kgs and 544kgs. There was a seaplane with a maximum of 650kgs.

The declared empty weights varied between 312kgs and 530kgs although one of them went to the trouble of blanking out the empty weight for some reason. Excluding the anonymous empty weight and the 530kgs machine, the average empty weight of all the LSA/RA aircraft I photographed worked out at a whisker over 360kgs.

One well-known LSA showed – for what appeared to be identical models – empty weights of 360kgs and 390kgs. What, I wondered, could make such a large difference? there appeared to be no parachute rescue system in either, so I (at least) was puzzled.

So let’s have a look at usable loads. Taking a maximum gross of 600kgs, minus the average 360kgs empty weight, leaves you with 240 kgs for fuel, people and baggage. Typical pilots these days tend to weigh in at around 95+ kgs, passengers anything from 60 -100kgs+ – a total for people from around 165-195kgs. Some would say I’m being optimistic! I have certainly seen two big 100kgs+ people get out of an LSA on many occasions. But let’s stick to an average of 180kgs total for people. That legally leaves about 60kgs for fuel and bags. Fuel weighs around 0.72kgs per litre, so without bags you have about 80 litres of fuel. As an absolute minimum, you probably need to allow at least 5kgs for ‘bags’ – remember, tie-down kit, maps, aircraft cover, removable navigation/GPS equipment, headsets, cameras, clothing etc all count as ‘bags’.

Worst case scenario: your aircraft empty weighs 390kgs – see above. You weigh around 100kgs with your boots, headset and clothes on, your passenger the same. You’ve got a 2kgs tie-down kit in the back and your trusty portable GPS on board, plus your passenger’s camera kit. It all adds up to well over 590kgs – leaving less than 10 kgs for fuel, or around 13-14 litres….any more and you’re flying illegally in a 600kgs maximum gross aircraft.

So, what can you do with the elephant? Setting aside the regulations for the class, which lay down maximum empty weight limits based on engine power and number of seats, what implications does this have for buyers and, in particular, flying schools, who want to stay within legal load limits?

First, make sure, before you buy, what is the actual empty weight and thus the usable load. Beware of statements like ‘from 295kgs’ as this weight is often an absolute factory minimum, with no oil, or battery, or bigger ‘standard’ wheels/tyres, wheel spats, radio, antenna, even (in one case I know of) seat cushions and flight instruments. Don’t accept assurances that the factory already weighed your aircraft so you don’t need to – I know of a number of occasions where a repaired aircraft had to be re-weighed and came in much heavier than before repair – in one case somehow gaining over 40kgs (yes, really!) compared with the original factory weight sheet.

Get a written guarantee of the empty weight of the aircraft you’re buying or ask for the aircraft to be weighed just before you take delivery, it’s worth the money – and remember, the manufacturer wants to sell you an aircraft and won’t be the one copping it when you get ramp-checked, or the insurance company refuses to pay out because the plane was flying over the legal weight limit. Or your flying school is audited with a random weight check.

Next, work out your true weight and that of your passenger/co-pilot – including boots/shoes and clothing. Add that to the real aircraft empty weight to work out how much fuel and baggage you can carry. Can you still carry full fuel as well as people and bags? If not how much are you prepared to compromise? Personally, I have a 2-3 hour bladder, so I don’t often need full (fuel) tanks. But what about that 2-hour flight to a place with no fuel, plus the journey home?

Even if you and your passenger are quite light, remember that when you come to sell the aeroplane, the customer might be a flying school, or a lot heavier than you, potentially limiting your sales options.

There’s another one I hear a lot: ‘the plane’s safe to 750kgs gross, so you don’t need to worry’. But you DO. Safe it may be, legal it’s not…remember ramp checks and insurance companies?

Last but not least is the issue of centre of gravity (CofG). The CofG limits are calculated to fit in with the maximum gross weight of the aircraft – how many owners/pilots of LSA/RA aeroplanes actually calculate the CofG before taking their (maybe slightly heavier) friend for a quick morning flight? Tanks full? Feels a bit slow to lift off? Or maybe too quick, with a rearward CofG? No problem, the plane will fly OK…until it doesn’t. Read some accident reports about exceeding CofG limits.

Some people might feel I’m being a bit picky – after all, how often do you get ramp checked? Or insurance companies weigh the aircraft before paying out? Actually, surprisingly often. But the laws of physics can’t be denied; if you frequently fly at or over the aircraft weight limit, it will wear out much quicker. Safety margins are compromised and the flying characteristics will become more and more like a heavier GA-type aircraft. The cruise will be slower, the stall will be higher and you stand much more chance of bending the landing gear if you come down a bit heavy.

Ignorance of the true empty weight of your aeroplane is no defence. Don’t ignore the elephant! You have been warned!