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!

Windshear in an ultralight

WindshearThis one’s got it all – a scenically beautiful evening with little or no wind on the ground and severe turbulence, windshear (referred to by the pilot as a ‘microburst‘ in this clip), rain and an engine failure in the air. All in the space of a couple of minutes. It’s a good example of how superficially benign conditions – but note the storm clouds and rainbow – can lead very quickly into a potential disaster in any aircraft but particularly in a very light rag-and-tube ultralight. Ignore the weather at your peril!

Click on the photo to view the video – you can safely skip the first 2 minutes 30 seconds, it’s just the pilot pull-starting the engine and climbing aboard.

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

Single seat ultralights – Aerolite 120 launches in UK

Aerolite 120 Kiwi GreenAs regular readers will know, I believe there is a yawning gap at the less expensive end of the new light aircraft market, which other countries (USA, UK, Germany and France to name a few) have already moved to fill. Their aviation authorities have done this by either ‘de-regulating’ (UK) or reducing compliance requirements (USA, Germany, France) for single-seat factory-built aircraft.

Unfortunately, Australia has been very slow (in fact has not moved at all) in adopting similar arrangements. I firmly believe that a sub A$30,000 single seat aircraft would sell well in Australia, if only the authorities here (where are you Recreational Aviation Australia??) would move to allow these aircraft to be factory built, rather than insisting they be amateur built. There are at least 5 or 6 aircraft types on the market overseas which would suit us very nicely.

One of my favourites is the Aerolite 120 (European) or Aerolite 103 (USA) which I have covered before. Basically, the aircraft are almost identical, with minor changes to suit the requirements in each country. The Aerolite 120 is factory-manufactured by Vierwerk GmbH in Germany to stringent standards and as a result has now been approved by the authorities in the UK, alongside a bevy of other single seat aircraft including the Belite.

First UK owner is Stephen Oliver, who writes in the UK’s Light Aviation Magazine of an entertaining first circuit and subsequent cross-country flight home in his new Aerolite 120. There’s also a short video of Stephen’s first take off and landing – in a 10 knot crosswind – released by Kairos Aviation the UK distributor for the Aerolite 120.

There’s an interesting and candid conclusion to the article, which is a reminder to all of us that getting out of a relatively high-powered Rotax 100hp engine LSA and into a 28hp very low inertia ultralight certainly requires care. In the old days, I think it used to be called ‘difference training’ – maybe still is. Aircraft are not all the same and speed management in high-drag, low-inertia aircraft is a skill to be ignored at your peril.

Nevertheless, I think the Aerolite would make a great weekend (or summer evenings/mornings) aircraft. For someone on a limited budget (aren’t we all?) or who wants to feel the thrill of open cockpit flying (which is very addictive), the ability to take off and land on unmade strips and even to thermal a little is an attractive proposition.

Go Flying Australia Podcast on Aeroprakt aircraft

GoFlying A32 PodcastGo Flying Australia Blog is a great collection of information for GA and Light Sport/Recreational pilots/owners with, as its name suggests, a focus on Australian aircraft and flying.

I was really chuffed (there’s an old pommie expression for you) to be called by Adam Knight, host of the blog, and asked if I’d be willing to do an audio podcast interview with him about the A22 Foxbat and A32 Vixxen. Do bears seek comfort and relief in the woods?? Previous podcasts he’s released have included interviews with Matt Hall, Australian Red Bull air ace and aerobatic champ and Joel Haski, owner of Red Baron (Aerobatics) Flight Training, so I’m privileged to be in some lofty company. As well as these podcasts, there are many others covering a wide range of topics, from learning to fly, to warbirds, to airline flying and all points around and in between.

To listen to my attempt – Adam is very helpful and easy to talk with – either click the picture above or here: Podcast 024 – New VSTOL A32 Vixxen LSA from Aeroprakt

Vive La France (3)


Click picture to view video

Continuing with my French theme, in case you missed it, here’s a video about a red A22 Foxbat, a banner-towing pilot, Claude Canteau, and a bubbly lady presenter, Alix Lanos.

Although all my children speak fluent French and have French partners, my own French is very basic. However, even though I’m only picking up a small part of the spoken words, I could watch this video over and again as it’s filmed (video’d?) and presented very nicely in that inimitable French style. Apart from the banner towing (not legal for ultralights or light sport aircraft in Australia), Claude executes a great engine-off landing (without the banner!), also something we are not allowed to do in Australia.

Bon chance Claude! and continue to enjoy your flying.

Thanks to Ferdinand Colonna-Cesari for the link.

Bat out of heaven

G-YOLO owner John Mann (L) with UK Aeroprakt agent Ray Everett (R) - click picture for article

G-YOLO owner John Mann (L) with UK Aeroprakt agent Ray Everett (R) – click picture for article

Microlight Flying – the British Microlight Aircraft Association (BMAA) magazine – has recently published a flight test of what in the UK is called the ‘Foxbat A22 Super Sport’. This aircraft is the kit version of the current A22L2 model, with a 450 kilo gross weight on an empty weight of about 264 kilos.

I like the call sign of the test aircraft – G-YOLO – which owner John Mann says stands for ‘You Only Live Once’. The aircraft is painted in ‘mid-life crisis red’ he says. A man after my own heart!

It’s good to see UK Aeroprakt distributor Ray Everitt of Dragon Aviation appearing on camera – he played a large part in building my first A22 Foxbat all those years ago. That first (kit) Foxbat was originally registered G-XBAT and I brought it to Australia in early 2002. It subsequently became VH-VPH and then, when sold, 28-4163. As far as I know, it is still flying, somewhere in New South Wales and is the only original design, ‘long-wing’ A22 in Australia.

Imported Australian Foxbats after G-XBAT (which, by the way, was the first aircraft I ever owned) were initially the A22L model, which had a slightly shorter wing, slightly higher stall, and better cruise speed. (For reference, the stall on that first ‘long-wing’ A22 was just under 25 knots!) The 450 kilos gross A22L was effectively superseded in Australia by the very popular 600 kilo gross weight A22LS.

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.

Choosing a Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) – 1 – what about weight?

Baggage 2Want to buy an LSA (Light Sport Aircraft)? Well, here are a few ‘buyer bewares’ compiled from stories and experiences of other buyers – the first is weight, probably the single most abused factor when flying light sport (and ultralight) aircraft.

Flying over ‘gross weight’ (ie over the maximum 600 kilos on a landplane LSA) is potentially dangerous and certainly illegal – as you’ll find out if you are ramp-checked. As a result of flying illegally, your insurance will probably be invalid too. It’s no good claiming the seller of the aircraft says it is strong enough to handle higher weights – if you’re over the limit you’re setting yourself up for trouble.

Weight limits on aircraft are a fine balance between strength (stronger usually=heavier) and usable load. Manufacturers set weight limits for a reason – yes, maybe the plane will fly OK over-weight but repeat over-weight flying will weaken the structure much more rapidly. Heavy and/or crooked landings in particular can wreak havoc on the landing gear if the aircraft is over its landing weight limit. Flying too fast into unexpected turbulence can also weaken the wing structure over a period of time.

So, what will your preferred aircraft actually carry? As an example, the A22LS Foxbat factory-quoted empty weight is 295 kilos. That’s a standard spec aircraft with oil and coolant in the engine and the starter battery in place. Plus all the essential instruments for safe flight. In reality, the A22LS Foxbat typical empty weight is around 305-310 kilos or even as much as 325 kilos for one fitted with a ballistic parachute. This is because a whole variety of ‘essential’ extras and options are added by owners: different control systems, VHF radio, UHF radio, extra instruments, transponder, autopilot, fuel injection engine, heavier propeller, wing strut fairings, landing light, strobes, big wheels, wheel spats, cabin heater etc etc.

Deduct the actual empty weight of the aircraft from the maximum gross and you get the usable load. This is the bottom line weight you have available for people, baggage and fuel.

Here are a few things to check before committing your hard-earned dollars:
– what is the real empty weight of the aircraft with all the extra bits and pieces you want added?
– does the original quoted empty weight (before extras) include oil, coolant, battery and all essential instruments? Get a signed statement from the seller to confirm.
– how much does that leave you for:
– people, bags and fuel?
– headsets?
– tie-down kit?
– maps/ERSA/iPad/GPS?
– water to drink & food to eat?
– aircraft weather cover?
– a litre of fuel weighs around 0.72 kilos. After deducting the weight for yourself and a passenger, what weight is left for fuel?
– how many litres is that and how long/far could you fly on that amount?
– or, after filling full of fuel, what’s left for people, bags and all those bits and pieces?

As an example – full fuel (long range tanks) in the Foxbat weighs just on 80 kilos, so a starting rule of thumb for the A22LS model is that it will carry around 200 kilos of people and bags after filling with maximum fuel. Every litre less fuel gives you about 0.72 kilos more for people and bags – eg: 20 litres = about 14.5 kilos.

So in summary – flying over gross weight can cost you, in order: your life, your health, your license, your money. Not to mention grief for your loved ones when something breaks and you are injured or worse. In the eyes of the law, ignorance is no defence.

For those who want to learn more, here’s a link to an excellent article on PilotFriend website which gives a lot more information about the risks of flying overweight: Aircraft weight and balance

Check out your true empty weight, your load, and fly safe!