Foxbat Australia – new website coming!

After almost 5 years with our current website at 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!

Tyabb Airshow 2016

Sopwith PupWell, Tyabb Airshow has come and gone for another 2 years – and what a great show it was!

The day started out a bit grey and gloomy, at least it was when I arrived at 0700 to open up our hangar and organise our planes. By that time, the airfield was already buzzing with people setting up and preparing for the day. Next to our hangar were Avia Aviation, Cirrus agents for Australia, and main sponsors East Link (motorway) as well as a welcome coffee van.

Next door to us in hangar 10, a P51 Mustang is being restored and although the engine has yet to return from the States after re-building, the Mustang had its cowlings on and really looked the part. To add to the fun, the Mustang Car Club rounded up about a dozen varieties of convertible and coupé Mustang cars to surround the aircraft. They also had a 12-cylinder Rolls-Royce Merlin engine on display – an engine used in the Spitfire and Hurricane WWII fighters, as well as in the P51. Next to it was a Mustang car V8 engine which did look rather small next to its aero-engine companion!

The cloud base was high enough for the flying display to start on time at around 1230 and we were treated to an almost unending procession of wonderful old warbirds, from Sopwith Pup and Snipe, right through to the huge C-17 Globemaster transport, which did a few low-level fly-pasts along the strip. It was quite something to see such a large aircraft over our little airfield.

The finale seemed to have just about every display aircraft in the air at the same time, with lots of aerial explosions and a ‘wall of fire’ to end the show.

There will soon be an official DVD of the show available, so I can’t show off too many photos of the action, but here’s a small selection – click here to go to the gallery. All photos courtesy of Mike Rudd.

Tyabb Airshow 2016

Tyabb Airshow 2016The bi-annual airshow at Tyabb is coming up on Sunday 13th March – not long now! This year’s theme is ‘Winged Warriors’ from past and present.

As in previous years, a wonderful array of old and new aeroplanes will be on display in the air and on the ground, as well as a collection of beautiful vintage cars. There will be a wide range of food and drink stands and many of the private hangars on the airfield will be open and their aircraft on show. Truly a great family day out.

The Foxbat Australia hangar will be open and we’ll have the Vixxen and Foxbat there to see. I share the hangar with Cubcrafters Australia and there will be a nice yellow Carbon Cub on view, as well as the mighty Bush Hawk.

Doors open at 08.30 on Sunday morning – come early and grab a good place to view the flying display.

Click here for more details of the Airshow: Tyabb Airshow 2016

And here for a short promo video: Tyabb Airshow 2016 video

Seabird Seeker – a blast from my past

Seeker French Island 01A few years ago I bought a used Seabird Seeker aircraft. I’d always loved the look of the aircraft – pusher prop, high wing, bubble cabin – but a new one was completely out of my budget. To cut a long story short, I bought this one at a very reasonable price and the previous owner agreed to have it ferried for me from Jandakot Airport near Perth in Western Australia to Tyabb Airport, near Melbourne.

My Seeker aircraft was serial number 011, which had been used on many factory publicity photos, brochures and videos. It had accumulated about 500 hours, both as a demonstrator as well as working in Queensland as an observation plane before the then owners went into liquidation. The previous owner to me had bought it at the liquidation sale and taken it to WA.

For the uninitiated, Seabird Aviation is an Australian company, based in Bundaberg, Queensland, owned and managed by the Adams family, who designed, tested and eventually gained GA certification for the aircraft type. The Seeker is designed primarily as a platform for observation equipment – cameras, videos and other stuff too secret to name. As such, it is a perfect aircraft for the job – extremely stable in all flight regimes, and a fraction the cost of a helicopter to buy and operate. Unfortunately for me – and in spite of my blind expectation – this inherent stability makes the aircraft far from a responsive ‘pilot’s plane’ to fly. And although it cruises around 100 knots, it is definitely not a short-field aircraft, particularly when loaded.

So, after about 18 months and 60-70 hours of trouble-free flying, I reluctantly decided to sell it. After a few weeks, there was absolutely no interest from Australia, so I placed it on the front page of the ‘Barnstormers‘ aviation sales website in the USA. The email and phone ran hot and I sold it within a week to a buyer in the southern part of the USA. I could probably have sold it several times, even with the Australian dollar close to parity with the US dollar. That was nearly 3 years ago.

Fast forward to now. I subscribe to a number of aviation news feeds and blogs; today I received a release saying that a Florida company – Propel Aviation – had been appointed new USA dealers for the Seeker. Curious, I had a look at the Seeker USA website and there, to my delight, was a recent short video of Seeker serial number 011, still resplendent in its white and orange paintwork but now sprouting an array of surveillance cameras, cabin screens and special equipment controls.

Good luck my Seeker – I hope you find success in your new life!

Great Eastern Fly-In

Great Eastern 2016 blogThe annual Great Eastern Fly-In is taking place over the weekend of 9-10 January. The fly-in, as always, is at Evans Head Aerodrome on the coast of northern New South Wales – an old military airfield once under threat of closure, so whether by air or land, please go along if you can.

Flying displays are planned for both days, including most things that fly – from radio controlled models up to massive warbirds like the P51 Mustang and T28 Trojan.

It’s many a year since I was able to attend the fly-in from my club base at Jacobs Well in south East Queensland. Now, alas, I’m based far away in Melbourne and family and business commitments (including the eagerly anticipated arrival of the first two customer A32 Vixxens) preclude my attendance this year.

However, this promises to be a great family event. Apart from all the aeroplanes – up close and personal – attractions include on-site catering, local food markets and easy access via a regular shuttle bus service to local cafes and restaurants. There’s a family movie night on Saturday, joy flights throughout the weekend, lots of stalls selling local produce and a great selection of vintage and veteran classic cars and military vehicles of all sorts.

Overall, the Great Eastern Fly-In is a wonderful community event for all aviators and the general public, with plenty of opportunites to view aircraft and talk to pilots.

If you go – have a great (eastern!) time and send us your pictures and comments!

RA-Aus ‘amnesty’

RAAus letterIt may seem at first that flying without a current RA-Aus membership or a current bi-annual flight review (BFR), or without the correct endorsements or in an unregistered aircraft, are not serious safety issues. However, research into accidents with RA-Aus registered aircraft has shown that non-compliance in one or more of these key areas is a significant causal factor in many serious and fatal accidents.

It is thought that fear of reprisal may be one factor in stopping lapsed RA-Aus pilots/members/aircraft owners from rejoining the organisation. To help overcome this, RA-Aus, supported by CASA and other aviation bodies, has agreed an ‘amnesty’ period for ‘non-compliant’ pilots/members/aircraft owners to rejoin RA-Aus without punitive action being taken. Part of this process will include completion of any missing compliance items like BFRs and aircraft registration.

The amnesty will run for a 3-month period, from 01 December 2015 to 29 February 2016. This is a one-off opportunity for anyone affected to get back onside and at the same improve not only their own safety but everyone else’s too.

You may not be personally affected but I really urge you to talk with anyone you feel who may be and ask them to re-join the organisation.

To help in this, here’s a link to a letter from RA-Aus which gives more information for lapsed members: Dear Lapsed Member Letter

And here is a link to the RA-Aus website member application page, which can be completed and submitted online: Membership Reactivation Application

A brief visit to Van Nuys Airport

Van Nuys One Six Right 01Many years ago, I saw a wonderful video called One Six Right, which was all about Van Nuys Airport, located in the San Fernando Valley, to the north of Los Angeles. In reality it was a fantastic promo documentary video about Van Nuys, to convince people that it was more than worth keeping, as it made such commercial as well as sentimental sense. One Six Right is the main runway, which favours the prevailing winds, so most aircraft land and take off from it. One Six Left and its reciprocal is used primarily for training flights as it is ‘only’ 4,000 feet (1,220 metres) and therefore half as long as its parallel companion.

The video was a no-expense spared affair, with some of the most creative and beautifully shot sequences of warbirds, aerobatic stunt flying, a low and slow J3 Cub, following a DC3 in to land (almost sitting, it seemed, on the tail fin) as well as a variety of other aircraft – some very common, some far from so.

And there were plenty of interviews with current and past pilots, men and women, based at Van Nuys. I was truly transfixed the first time I saw the video as, at the time, there was no aviation film with such hi-definition images, so beautifully edited into a series of sections featuring different flight regimes – with titles like ‘The Joyride‘, ‘Look Ma – No Hands!’ and of course, that old favourite of all pilots: ‘Dreams of Flying‘.

Van Nuys SignSo when I had a very brief opportunity to go and see Van Nuys Airport in the flesh, of course I jumped at it. The day was very hot – in the mid-30s celsius (mid-90s fahrenheit) – so I didn’t spend a lot of time there – just enough to see a few biz jets arrive and depart, a few learner pilots doing their touch-and-goes, and take a few photos from the public viewing area, which unfortunately is surrounded by a 3-metre high chain link fence (a sign of our terrorised times I suppose).

But just to be there was great; the sight of the control tower – which features strongly in the video – and the hills surrounding the valley was enough to bring back some of those flying sequences in the video.

Van Nuys is one of the busiest GA airfields in the world with almost 300,000 aircraft movements annually (that figure’s not a mistake!). Eat your heart out Tyabb….

If you want to buy a copy of One Six Right, you can get it from most good pilot supplies shops or from the official website by clicking here: One Six Right

Or you can rent a (low resolution) viewing on YouTube by clicking here: One Six Right

Don’t forget Ausfly!

Ausfly reminderA last minute reminder that the 2015 ‘Ausfly’ show at Narromine, NSW, is scheduled for Friday 4 and Saturday 5 September – only a week away!

Foxbat Australia will have on show at least one current A22LS Foxbat as well as the new A32 Vixxen – its first formal public outing since its first flight in Australia only a few weeks ago. We are also hoping to show the latest A22LS Foxbat from Moruyair, with controls modified so that disabled pilots can learn to fly it.

The show is jointly sponsored by the Sport Aircraft Association of Australia (SAAA), AOPA Australia, Australian Warbirds and last but not least, Recreational Aviation Australia (RA-Aus). As a result, there should be a wonderful gathering of all types of aircraft, from ultralights to heavy metal and all points in between.

There are air displays planned for both Friday and Saturday, with warbirds, solo aerobatics and the RAAF Roulettes strutting (or should that be winging?) their stuff.

The weather is looking hopeful at this stage – certainly for the Narromine area – but it’s still a long way off in weather forecaster’s terms, so my fingers are firmly crossed that the cloud will be high over the ranges.

If you manage to get to the show, come and say hello and have a look at the A32 Vixxen for yourself. The show site layout is still a bit flexible but Foxbat Australia will likely be on the apron between the indoor exhibits area (hangar 10) and hangar 17 – look for our black teardrop flags with the red & white Fox head logo.

So you think light sport & recreational aircraft are expensive to maintain??

SIDS picThose of you bemoaning the ever-escalating costs of keeping your light sport and recreational aircraft in tip-top airworthy condition should spare a thought for Cessna owners.

AOPA Australia has published some information about compliance with the Cessna SIDs (Supplemental Inspection Documents) process, which has been devised to help ensure older aircraft remain airworthy. Unless you have at least a 7-figure credit bank balance, it makes for pretty bleak reading. And, after all, most older planes are owned by people who can’t afford to buy new ones, so the compliance cost is particularly burdensome.

Here’s a few examples relating to the venerable Cessna ‘100 series’ aircraft, ie 150, 152, 170, 172 etc. These requirements have a deadlines looming ever closer – the end of 2015 for commercially used aircraft and end of June 2016 for private aircraft. Cost figures are ex-GST and are only intended to be broad estimates.

SIDs 2CASA AWB 02-048 issue #2 requires that all mandatory and advisory service bulletins concerning the Principal Structural Elements (PSEs) of the aircraft are inspected and complied with. This includes not only obvious and expected items like wing spars and landing gear but also things like door frames and, for example, any areas of the aircraft skin under ‘fore & aft’ and/or ‘circumferential loads’ – ie most of the aircraft. Projected costs for this inspection and typical remedial work are in the A$10k-A$50k range.

In addition, NDBs and VORs have to be decommissioned and VHF radios and nav equipment updated. You’re looking at A$35k-A$55k for new TSO’d equipment. Makes the Dynon SkyView look like very good value…

In addition, AD/GEN/87 Primary Flight Control Cable Retirement (scroll down that page to see AD 87) requires all flight control cables to be replaced every 15 years. Cost estimate A$8k every 15 years. Many aircraft are still operating with the original manufacturer’s cables, even after 30-40 years.

In addition, there is a proposed airworthiness directive (AD/PROP/1A3) which will require regular mandatory strip downs on all constant speed props – cost every 6 years is around A$2k. It is estimated that as many as 50% of these propellers will be deemed unserviceable and have to be replaced, at a typical cost of A$14k.

Finally, after the initial SIDs inspection & remedial work, there’s an ongoing SIDs ‘top-up’ cost of around A$3k a year to keep it all current. On top of any other required maintenance.

If you own a Cessna single engine retractable or, even worse, a twin, you’d better start looking round for a second mortgage on your home – assuming it’s worth enough – because SIDs related costs could be 3-4 times as much as for a ‘simple’ single.

Against these figures, an annual cost of under A$1,000 for a LAME or L2 to issue your LSA maintenance release doesn’t look so bad. And if you get your L1 ticket, you can maintain your RA-Australia registered aircraft yourself. Personally, although I’m doing the L1 with RA Australia online, I want a fully qualified engineer to check out my aircraft at least once a year…

My top 10 aeroplanes – part 1

I’m sometimes asked: ‘If money was no object, what aeroplane would you buy?’ Realistically and unfortunately, money is an obstacle to both buying and running an aeroplane, so I’d have to rule out things like the impressive 4-seat Cirrus and lovely old warbirds like P51 Mustangs and Harvards. And anyway, even if I could afford them, I likely wouldn’t be buying one because there are plenty of other aeroplanes which tick my boxes, get my blood flowing and cost considerably less. Mostly.

The following list (part 1) is in no particular preference order and if you asked me a year ago or in a year’s time, I’d probably give a different answer.

Vans RV-7

Vans RV-7

Two-seater with a high cruise speed – Vans RV-7
The Vans range of kit aircraft is now almost legendary – not only for its sheer production numbers but also for the delightful handling characteristics of every single aircraft in the range. For me, the RV-7 is the pick of the bunch, with two comfortable, side-by-side seats and a true cruise speed in the 160-180 knots range. In standard configuration, it will carry a reasonable amount of fuel and, if fitted with an auto-pilot and auxiliary fuel tanks, it really is possible to cross Australia in a day. The only drawback is that you either have to build it yourself or wait for someone to sell you a ready-built one. If you’re buying ready-built, look out for shonky metal work, which may be evidence of haste and cost-cutting in areas hidden from view.


Aerolite 103

Aerolite 103

Open air single seater – Aerolite 103
Right at the other end of the scale is this nice little single seat ultralight/Part 103 aircraft from Aerolite – now also available in Europe as the Aerolite 120 (a reference to the kilos empty weight limit of the aircraft). I have always been a fan of open air ultralights, in spite of an early nasty experience with an infamous UK-built aircraft called the Southern Aero Sports Scorpion, which gained the dubious honour of becoming the first ever ultralight to be grounded by the UK CAA due to a series of unexplained in-flight structural failures. In complete contrast, the Aerolite design is tried and trusted and many of them have been sold world-wide. Unfortunately these factory built aircraft cannot legally be registered in Australia or I would probably get one. They are inexpensive, great fun (on a calm day) and can be folded to fit in your garage or hangar.


J-3 Cub

J-3 Cub

Antique – Piper J3 Cub
This is a perennial favourite, with many thousands built in the 1940’s, 1950’s and 1960’s. Although flown from the back seat, the J3 set the standard for easy-to-fly taildraggers and many a (bush) pilot learned to fly in one. A nicely restored version can fetch several tens of thousands of dollars but a good honest aircraft with plenty of engine time remaining can be found for under $30,000. One of my favourite videos is Lainey’s First Flight of a youngster of about the same age as my grandchildren enjoying a flight with her Dad in a J3. Click here for the excellent Wikipedia entry for the Cub.


Cessna 180

Cessna 180

Load carrier – Cessna 180/185
The Cessna 180/185 truly has become a legend in its own time. Legendary for its ability to lift heavy loads out of short airstrips and cruise at a reasonable speed. Although still subject to all the potentially expensive SIDS requirements, the 180/185 series are amazingly rugged aircraft and have accumulated a vast range of TSO’d options and modifications from STOL wing kits (which change the wing aero profile and add ‘fences’) to strengthened landing gear and brakes. Recently a customer arrived at Tyabb in his 185 to collect some parts to repair a Foxbat – click here to see a photo of what he fitted inside the aircraft.


Boeing Stearman

Boeing Stearman

Biplane – Boeing Stearman
A few years ago, my father-in-law gave me a book called ‘The Cannibal Queen’. This is a non-fictional story, by thriller writer Stephen Coonts, recounting his 1991 exploits in the yellow Boeing Stearman of the title. He set off to land the aircraft at least once in every one of the 48 mainland states of America. He tells of FBOs (Fixed Base Operators) in the middle of nowhere providing him with a pick-up truck to get into town, in exchange for buying a tank full of fuel. He describes each and every one of his landings, some of which were ‘not so good’ and some of which were ‘terrible’. He says the Stearman always had control and it was down to a whim whether she (the Cannibal Queen) was in a good mood and would let him down gently. I love the look of the Stearman – when you get up to it, it is a big aircraft. In lower horse-power models, it was used as a primary trainer for the military. The higher power versions – 450 hp and up – make excellent aerobatic aircraft, although they are somewhat more difficult to fly. Some people (I think wrongly) compare the Stearman much more favourably with the UK Tiger Moth which, they allege, was not a good trainer. Whatever, I love the sound of those big lazy radial engines, even if they do gulp the fuel.

More favourites in Part 2