I have an interest in single-seat ultralights – I think in many ways, today’s recreational and light sport aircraft have moved a long way from the origins of light, simple and (relatively) cheap aircraft. As a result, there is a vibrant and growing number of companies moving into this gap in the market, primarily in the USA and Europe. These countries (including the UK) either have already, or are planning to, ‘deregulate’ these types of aircraft – ie you don’t need to register them or have a pilot’s license to fly them. However, there are some restrictions, for example in the USA the maximum empty weight is 254 pounds – that’s 115 kgs. Maximum speed at full power straight & level is limited to 55 kts and maximum fuel is 5 US gallons or 19 litres. Rules in Europe are a little more liberal, with empty weights at around 120 kgs or maximum take off weights of 300 kgs. Using modern state-of-the-art materials, this enables designers to come up with some sturdy and capable single seat aircraft.
Sadly for Australian readers, the main problem in bringing these types of aircraft to Australia is that, as fly-away aircraft, they would currently be un-registerable because CASA/RA-Aus do not (yet) have the same liberal attitude to small single seat aircraft as the rest of the world. Maybe if you went the kit route…it might be possible. Personally I’d rather fly ’em than build ’em!
My reporter from Europe – actually Rob Hatswell, Foxbat sales contact for South Australia – has been wandering round the Friedrichshafen Aero Expo in Germany. This is certainly the biggest aircraft expo outside the USA and now runs annually every April; it used to be a bi-annual show, like our own Avalon airshow. Rob reports that on display among the exhibits are a good clutch of new, or relatively new, designs of single seat ultralights.
Rob sent me information on some of these types at Aero Expo. I’ll cover others in future posts but first up is the Dutch Sirocco NG made by the ACLA company. This is a tricycle gear composite and kevlar high-wing pusher with a maximum take-off weight of 250 kgs on an empty weight of 120 kgs, including a rescue parachute system. It’s powered by a 33 hp 4-stroke engine and has a maximum cruise of 65 kts. Take-off and landing rolls are in the 50-60 metre range. A full tank will run you for 4 hours. In standard form, there is just a small windshield to keep off the wind but there is an optional fully enclosed bubble canopy. European price works out around A$35,000 ready to fly.