Foxbat factory visit – flying day

Screen Shot 2014-09-06 at 11.11.30 pmSaturday 6 September was flying day at the Aeroprakt factory and club airfield.

Doug King and I were lucky enough to spend a fair bit of time flying in the Foxbat (both A22L2 and A22LS versions) as well as having a good look at other aircraft around the airfield and in the hangar.

The photo here has not been photo-shopped to look like this. It was taken with a a small Sony camera, similar to a GoPro, mounted on an extendable pole, held just outside the (removed) left hand door of a Foxbat. Apart from yours truly, the pilot is senior instructor Nadia from the Aeroprakt Club. Yuriy Yakovlyev was flying the other aircraft with Doug King.

The reflection of the wing and the aircraft are all exactly as per the original shot – sometimes you just get lucky. Talking of which, a young photographer at the airfield managed the shot of a lifetime – using a huge telephoto lens, he captured a silhouette of a Foxbat against the almost-full evening moon. I’m hoping to get a copy and  put it on here – it really is a shot of a lifetime.

There are some other photos of the flying day here on the Foxbat Pilot Flickr Album.

Tomorrow, sadly, I am leaving the Ukraine to begin my eventual way home to Melbourne. Thank you everyone at Aeroprakt for making Doug and my visit so enjoyable and memorable.

A22LS Foxbat – advanced short take-off

Short take offMike Rudd has made a new video showing how to take-off in your Foxbat in half the normal distance.

Click here for the full 2-minute story: Foxbat – advanced short take-off technique 

In summary:

– line up on the runway/take-off area
– do not apply flap, keep the elevator neutral
– apply the brakes and increase throttle to full power
– when full power is reached and stabilised, release the brakes
– be ready to correct the nose swing more than normal due to the full power
– as the airspeed goes through about 25 knots, smoothly pull on full flap and nudge the controls back a little to ‘unstick’ the aircraft
– fly level until the airspeed builds above 50 knots, then climb away as usual

This technique is useful on short strips or take-off areas which are soft.

CAUTION: be careful if the take-off area is covered with gravel or stones, as it is very likely the prop will be damaged if you apply full power when static on the ground. There is a slightly different technique for short field take-offs in these circumstances.

Here’s another link to a YouTube video of a Foxbat doing a short take-off using this technique.

Stop press – ABC1 Landline covers goat mustering

Goat MusteringFor Australian subscribers – today’s  ABC1 ‘Landline’ programme includes a section on commercial goat activity in Australia. Shots of a Foxbat in action are included!

The programme airs at 12.00 midday Sunday 22 June in the eastern states and repeats on Monday 23 June at 13.00.

And here’s a link to a BBC goat mustering video on the Foxbat Australia website – scroll down until you see it: Wild Goat Muster in Australia


World Cup celebration – Foxbat Brazilian style

Brazil A22LS Amphibian

Brazil A22LS Amphibian

To celebrate the start of the world cup in Brazil, I thought you’d like to see some examples of the A22 Foxbat, Brazilian style.

There are some very attractive and eye-catching paint jobs and some interesting instrument panels. And one photo I would definitely advise not trying at home…

Have a look in the photo gallery at the bottom right side of this blog for further pictures.

Many thanks to my colleague Wander Azevedo of FLY Ultraleves, Aeroprakt distributor for Brazil, based in Goiania, south west of Brasilia.

Here’s a link to his website, if you’re interested in a Foxbat in Brazil: Ultraleves Brazil

Foxbat Glider Tug

The Foxbat is used successfully in several countries as a glider tug and was recently tested in both Australia and New Zealand to find out just how capable the aircraft might be for this purpose.

Below is a synopsis of the New Zealand experience and a link to a video covering the Australian testing. The NZ Foxbat was a standard 100hp Rotax 912ULS powered A22LS fitted with a KievProp series 283 (71″ diameter) propeller and a Tost glider release hook. The Australian aircraft was identical, except that we used the 68″  WarpDrive propeller with tapered tips, which customers more commonly order for best cruise.

[As a short aside, after the respective towing experiences, we tested the two different propellers, to establish which would give the best static thrust for glider towing. In simple terms, at the same maximum throttle 5,700rpm engine speed, the WarpDrive tapered tips prop gave around 135kgs static thrust and the KievProp 283 series around 185kgs – close to 50% more static thrust. It is thus pretty conclusive which prop would give the best performance for glider towing, if not outright cruise speed.]

Foxbat glider towing at Benalla

Foxbat glider towing at Benalla

The tug pilot in New Zealand was Ian Williams, who has over 30 years’ experience of towing gliders. He says that depending on glider weight, the Foxbat was towing up to 2,000 feet at times between 6 and 9 minutes, from wheels off to wheels landing. This is just about the same total time as heavier GA tug aircraft, times which are also borne out by Australian tow times. What the Foxbat may lose in outright climb, it easily regains in descent, where the liquid cooled Rotax engine helps protect from shock-cooling.

With similar tow times to typical GA tugs, the Foxbat offers some useful additional advantages:
– it is much more economical on fuel and maintenance, burning well under half the fuel per tow
– it is much quieter, an important factor where residential housing is encroaching on airfields
– in an emergency, the Foxbat, being much lighter and more manoeuvrable than its GA counterparts, should be able to recover from unusual attitudes very quickly

Overall, in both New Zealand and Australia it was felt that the Foxbat could handle 75-80% of glider towing required by clubs, with only heavy, water-laden single seaters and some heavier two seat gliders outside the flight envelope. In Australia, it was noted that high-tow resulted in much better performance than the more common and preferred low-tow technique.

For Australian information, here’s a link to a short video of Foxbat glider towing at Benalla, with the Gliding Club of Victoria in Australia. Chief tug pilot Mark gives the commentary.

If you want to try out a Foxbat for glider towing at your club, please contact:
– in Australia, Peter Harlow at Foxbat Australia – +61 413 900 892
– in New Zealand, Doug King at LiteFlight Green – +64 210 285 6932

Bush flying

Backcountry PilotA good website for bush flying information is Back Country Pilot. They have just released an article and YouTube video about planning and executing safe short field take-offs in rough country. Although the two aircraft they focus on are the Carbon Cub and a heavily-modified Maule – both astonishing aircraft when it comes to short take-offs – nevertheless, the lessons for all bush fliers are relevant. The good thing about the Foxbat is that the tail is already in the air, so need to lift it before take-off like a tailwheel aircraft.

I’m working on some short field take-off and landing videos specifically covering the Foxbat and these should be available later in the year.

Natfly 2014

Doug Ross's very smart A22LSA with red highlights and leather seat cushions was one of 9 Foxbats attending the show.

Doug Ross’s very smart A22LSA with red highlights and leather seat cushions was one of 9 Foxbats attending the show.

It’s Sunday evening and I just returned from the annual Recreational Aviation Australia (RA-Aus) Easter jamboree ‘Natfly‘ at Temora Aerodrome in southern New South Wales, home of the Temora Aviation Museum.

Unfortunately, it would probably be better named ‘Notfly’ – only about 130 aircraft flew in (and out) over the three days (Thursday-Saturday) and that included all the exhibitors, who probably accounted for around 25-30% of the numbers – the Foxbat display alone had four aircraft. These figures are way down on the heyday a few years ago when upwards of 600 aircraft visited the fly-in/show.

It’s a pity really – if you didn’t attend, you missed some very slick aerobatic displays, including one by our own Red Bull ace, Matt Hall, as well as a pair of totally manic Pitts Specials led by Paul Bennet. Temora Aviation Museum also put their Spitfire into the air – the sound of that 12-cylinder Merlin engine always gives me goose bumps (and I’m not even old enough to have seen them in action!).

Lowe Flight Powered Parachute

Lowe Flight Powered Parachute

Although there were no truly new models of aircraft on display, most manufacturers had updates and revised models. A couple of powered parachutes caught my eye – in particular, one you can just pack up and hitch directly to your vehicle tow-hook and take it home, by LoweFlight.

If you were in the market, it was an opportunity to sit in your shortlisted aircraft and go for test flights back-to-back, which I think is the best way to help finalise a decision. It’s a chance too, to meet the distributors and assess them for yourself. And last but not least, there was an excellent coffee stall. The high quality of their brew was confirmed when they ran out of large size cups and lids on Sunday morning, in spite of the poor numbers turning out.

So, what’s the problem? Did you go – why/why not? Are the low numbers because it’s over Easter? – if so, why didn’t that stop people on previous Easters? Is it the Australian economy? Have people fallen out of love with small light aircraft? Is it the location? Is it something else? Any ideas anyone?

Unless RA-Aus fixes things – and only some of the possible reasons are down to RA-Aus – I think there will be even fewer people there next year and the event will probably die. It’s then a long road to get the sizzle & sparkle back again. What do you think?

10 things to know about Light Sport Aircraft (LSAs)

ASTM home-logo21. LSAs were originally devised in the early 2000’s in the USA where they were intended to bridge the gap between unlicensed ultralights and fully certified GA aircraft. The objective was to make non-ultralight flying less expensive, through cheaper aircraft and reduced pilot license requirements. Instead of FAA certifying aircraft, the responsibility was shifted to the the manufacturer to confirm their aircraft were compliant with a number of quite rigorous ASTM standards (formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials).  These standards cover everything from original design through to manufacture and flying characteristics. FAA continues to police the manufacturers through full-blown inspections of their factories and processes to ensure ASTM standards are being met.

2. As of 15 April 2014 there are 134 different approved LSA aircraft available in USA. The number approved in Australia is unknown as neither CASA nor RA-Aus publishes this information.

3. The very first officially approved LSA aircraft in both USA and Australia was the Evektor SportStar Plus. Thus with some pride, Evektor claims to be the ‘Number One LSA’ company. In USA sales terms, they rate at No. 5.

4. The ASTM LSA standards were over-ridden by CASA in Australia in a number of areas. The reasons for this are unclear but rumour has it that some local manufacturers felt some of the standards could not be easily met by their products at the time. The main differences are:
– the USA straight & level, full power, maximum speed limit is 120 knots. There is no maximum speed in Australia
– the USA stall speed at maximum take-off weight (MTOW) must be under 45 knots ‘clean’ – ie no flaps. In Australia it is 45 knots in landing configuration – ie with as much flap as you need.
– the USA allows both glider and banner towing by LSAs. Australia only allows glider towing.

5. LSAs may be factory manufactured – in which case they are known as ‘Special’ or S-LSAs – or built from approved kits – in which case they are known as ‘Experimental’ or E-LSAs. In Australia, E-LSA aircraft registration numbers on RA-Aus aircraft (but not CASA VH- aircraft) are preceded with the letter ‘E’ – for example: E24-8460. Under E-LSA regulations, there is no ‘51%’ rule, so an aircraft can be almost complete, with only a few items for the builder/owner to finish.

6. An LSA aircraft may only be modified from its delivered configuration with the manufacturer’s written approval. This includes adding to or changing instrument types on the panel (including changing the radio type), changing any of the installed equipment, even installing bigger (or smaller) tyres. Contrary to popular belief, a CASR Part 21 engineer (previously known as a CAR 35 engineer) cannot legally approve modifications to an LSA.

7. In Australia, LSAs can be either be VH-registered with CASA or 24-registered with RA-Aus – the aircraft are identical, only the paperwork and pilot license requirements are different.

8. CASA-registered LSAs (but not RA-Aus registered LSAs) can be flown in Night VFR conditions, provided they are fitted with the required Night VFR equipment and the pilot has a night rating or higher.

9. Retractable (‘re-positionable’) landing gear is only permitted for amphibious LSAs . Landplanes must have fixed landing gear.

10. The Aeroprakt A22LS Foxbat is an approved LSA aircraft both in USA and Australia. Customer aircraft are registered both with CASA and RA-Aus. Among them in Australia, there are both amphibious and Night VFR rated aircraft.

Auto fuel and Rotax engines

rotax2_1Just recently, I have heard stories of rough running Rotax engines. This has been traced on several occasions to problems with the carburettors. It appears that the plastic floats in the carburettors are slowly dissolving in the fuel, causing them to become porous and cease to float! Equally dangerous, small parts of the floats are breaking off and blocking the carburettor jets. I looked at a couple of these floats and sure enough, they were soft and spongy to the touch and there were tiny pieces of black material in the bottoms of the float bowls.

Rotax recommends the use of unleaded automotive fuel – ‘mogas’ – in their 912 series engines. The fuel must have a minimum 95 octane rating for use in the 100hp 912ULS and 912iS models,.

You can also use 100LL aviation fuel – ‘avgas’ – in your 912 if you have to, but you’ll need to change the oil more frequently to help mitigate the effects of lead build up on the valves and other parts of the engine.

All fuel companies use petroleum blends to increase the octane rating of their fuels. Originally the main octane raising additive was lead but this has been phased out for automotive applications, although lead remains in use for aviation fuel. Significant octane-increasing additives in unleaded fuels include ethanol and toluene, both of which work well but they do have their limitations in some applications.

BP UltimateGenerally, the more ethanol or toluene, the more the octane rating is increased. However, this is not a golden rule and some high octane ‘low aromatic’ fuels – like BP Ultimate 98 – do not contain ethanol and have a low levels of aromatics such as toluene.

Both ethanol and toluene can affect rubber and plastic components in the fuel system. Toluene also has a high carbon content that may lead to sooty spark plugs – so don’t assume that this indicates an overly-rich mixture.

So it seems some unleaded fuels which contain substantial ethanol and/or toluene levels may be having a negative impact on plastic and rubber components in your engine!

Rotax recommends fuel with no alcohol additive for their engines but has approved the use of up to 10% ethanol in fuel. They do not mention toluene anywhere in their technical information. Your airframe manufacturer may or may not have approved the use of ethanol in any proportion. This is important to note, as the fuel tanks, fuel lines and auxiliary pumps they install could be affected.

My feeling? Stick with fuel that has no alcohol and meets at least the minimum required 95 octane for the 912ULS and 912iS engine. The higher the octane, the more likely it is to include higher levels of additives. Certainly, steer clear of any premium unleaded quoted at 100 octane or at least check if it has ethanol in the product. And maybe it’s a good idea to stick with the well known big brand name fuel distributors rather than fuels from an unknown source, that is, until we get more of a handle on the exact nature of the problem. They may be a cent or two more expensive but in my opinion, that’s a small price to pay for some peace of mind!