Foxbat 2020 updates for Australia

For 2020 we are introducing some updates to the A22LS Foxbat/Kelpie and A32 Vixxen aircraft available in Australia while keeping prices at the same levels as for 2019.

First among these is a new windscreen design, using moulded 3mm acrylic instead of the flex-to-shape 2mm flat polycarbonate sheet. The acrylic windscreen is more rigid than the original design, which has served us well for over 20 years. The main benefit is noise reduction in the cabin, particularly noticeable in the A32 Vixxen, which is already a relatively quiet aircraft. There are a couple of minor downsides – the acrylic screen needs special jigs both for original installation and when a replacement screen is fitted; it’s also more expensive than the original, flat sheet design. All new A22LS Foxbats/Kelpies and A32 Vixxens built for Australia after 01 January 2020 will be fitted as standard with the new type of screen.

Although replacement polycarbonate screens will continue to be available, a retro-fit acrylic screen kit will also be available for owners wishing (optionally) to replace their existing polycarbonate screen, should it become damaged. For a returnable deposit, Foxbat Australia will be able to loan your qualified engineer a set of jigs to enable the replacement. We are also making a short video to cover installation of the new screen.

Next, the A22LS Foxbat will now have as standard the so-called ‘Kelpie’ metal luggage bay with side door. We have sold 20 of the Kelpie variant since we introduced it around 2 years ago and in addition, most Foxbat buyers have opted for the Kelpie bay over the previously ‘standard’ canvas luggage container. The main reason for this is probably that the metal luggage bay is rated at 30 kgs maximum as opposed to the canvas container at 20 kgs. The contents of the container remain accessible in flight and a hard cover is included if in-flight access is not required. There is a small basic weight penalty but as the A22LS is already one of the lightest (and strongest) LSAs on the Australian market, you will still be able to carry over 200 kgs of people and bags, even after filling full with fuel.

We have offered a variety of VHF radios over the years, including the popular German Filser/Funkwerk OLED radio. However, after extensive experience with TRIG – a UK (well, Scotland actually) manufacturer – we have decided to include the TRIG TY91 VHF radio as standard on all A22LS and A32 aircraft in Australia. Where optionally requested, the TRIG TT21 mode S transponder will visually match the TY91 radio. Dynon SkyView equipped aircraft will continue with the Dynon VHF radio.

For 2020, all A22LS Foxbats with the Y-stick control configuration will now standardise on the ‘long leg’ raised instrument panel. This panel has curved cut-outs along the bottom edges on pilot and co-pilot side, facilitating comfort for those owners with longer than average legs.

The ‘long-leg’ option isn’t available with twin-yoke configuration controls as the yokes support structure occupies some of the space taken by the cut-outs in the panel bottom. Also, for the A22LS Kelpie, the UHF radio is normally fitted under the panel on the co-pilot side. If you require the long-leg cut out on a Kelpie, there will be a small additional charge to cover installation of a remote head for the UHF radio. The A32 already has legroom equivalent to the A22LS ‘long-leg’ panel.

We are working with the factory to offer a number of additional options on A22LS and A32 aircraft. Among these are a visor-style tinted sun screen in the top of the windscreen, larger capacity fuel tanks for the A32 and a glider tow-hook for the A32. We are also hoping for a supplement to allow doors off flying in the A32 to match that of the A22LS.

As an aside, although we are sometimes asked by customers if they can fit bigger tyres to the A32, it is unlikely these will be formally approved by the factory any time soon. From experience with flying school owners who have removed the wheel spats and leg fairings, we are aware that this can reduce the cruise speed by as much as 9-10 knots, effectively pulling the straight and level cruise of the A32 down towards to that of the A22LS. The A32 is fitted standard with aviation grade AirTrac 15×6.00×6 tyres and landowner experience has shown that these are more than sufficient for use on paddock and gravel strips with the spats remaining in place.

SPECIAL OFFER – for a limited number of aircraft we will include a Garmin Aera 660 GPS with a panel mount of your choice at no extra cost. First come, first served!

For more information on any of these items, please see our website at www.foxbat.com.au  or call Ido Segev on 0431 454 676 or Peter Harlow on 0413 900 892.

Low flying

Just recently, there seems to have been a spate of low flying accidents in LSAs and ultralights, some of which have involved even experienced low level pilots. And a couple of incidents where the pilot had no low level approval or endorsement. And I’m not talking about landing or take-off accidents.

A lot of LSAs and ultralights – including Foxbats and Vixxens – are bought by landowners for use on their properties – which sometimes includes low flying. By which I mean at heights often well below the 500 foot (normally) legal minimum height. Landowners can fly at any height over their own land.

However, there is a safety reason for the 500 foot height limit – even a small error made at heights under 500 feet can rapidly develop into a major disaster unless you have the right training to avoid and/or quickly correct. The risks rise exponentially if you’re flying at heights as low as 100 or 200 feet, and losing concentration even for a second or two can be catastrophic. Add in slow flight, obstacles, wires and wind and you really need to know what you are doing at low level.

So, first off – if you’re going to do low flying at all, GET A LOW FLYING ENDORSEMENT! There’s a lot more to flying close to the ground than at first you may think. See CASR 1998, Subpart 61.Q – Low‑level ratings, for the main requirements.

Both CASA and RA Australia have published clear requirements for low level flying endorsements both of which have minimum flying hours on type and passing a flight test – normally after a minimum of 5 hours’ instruction at low level on type. To stay legal, there are also currency requirements – eg completion of at least 2 hours of low level flight during the previous 6 months – and flight review requirements, eg CASA requires an instructor flight review for the low level endorsement every 12 months to ensure you retain the skills needed. RA Australia also requires the pilot to give good reason why they should have a low-level endorsement in the first place.

Second, if you have a low level endorsement and you plan to fly low on a regular basis, it is highly recommended that you WEAR A HELMET! In another life, I used to ride a motorcycle for a couple of hours every day. We had a saying then – ‘if you’ve got a $10 head, put it in a $10 helmet…or even better, save your money!’ Now I don’t know about you but I reckon my head is worth a lot more than $10 (some might argue otherwise), so make sure it’s a good quality helmet with a good quality headset.

Unlike motor vehicles, most aircraft – certainly LSAs and ultralights – are not fitted with airbags. However well designed to absorb impact, an airframe can only do so much to protect you. As your head can so easily be injured, protect it with a helmet!

Third, MAKE SURE YOUR PLANE IS IN TOP CONDITION! The last thing you want when you are flying close to the ground is an engine failure or some part of the airframe or control system to malfunction. It is highly likely that there will just not be enough time to recover before the ground rises up and hits you. Regular maintenance – even more frequently than required – and a sharp eye for any abnormalities in the aircraft are one of the keys to keeping yourself safe.

Finally, MAKE SURE YOU ARE IN TOP CONDITION yourself. We have all heard about ‘Human Factors’, we even had to pass an exam on them to get our license. So, to remind you, if you’ve been on the booze the night before, you’re taking medication that could affect your concentration or you’re feeling unwell in any way at all – don’t fly! Something else to remember – when you are low flying, you need a lot more concentration than plain ordinary flying. You’ll need to take regular and frequent rest breaks.

When you are a pilot, low flying can be very exhilarating. But it’s also very dangerous. However easy it looks, make sure you have the right training, your aeroplane is in perfect flying condition and you are 100% fit and ready. And, for what it’s worth – wear a helmet!

Happy (low) flying!

Foxbat Alto photoshoot

Monday 16 December 2019 dawned clear and cool – with a forecast of a hot and sunny, 35+ degrees celsius (that’s 95+ degrees Fahrenheit in old money), later in the day. Just after 07.00, my colleague Ido Segev and I collected two Ferrari-red Alto aircraft from Moorabbin Airport and flew them to our home base at Tyabb Airport (home of the Peninsula Aero Club), about 15-20 minutes flying time to the south. The air was ‘smooth as’ as they say and the brand new Alto I was flying purred along at an indicated 110 knots. Just behind me in our Alto demonstrator, Ido was enjoying the silky smooth air too.

At Tyabb, we met up with Matt McPhee, who would pilot one of the Altos in formation with Ido, and Mike Rudd, our videographer/photographer extraordinaire, who would be flying with me in our company Foxbat.

After about 45 minutes of planning, Mike and I took off, followed by Matt and Ido – Matt would be ‘number one’ closest to the camera and Ido ‘number two’, further out. Above about 1,000 feet, the air was still smooth so we climbed to about 1,500 feet for the shoot to begin.

We started off flying big circles, with maximum bank of about 15 degrees, to capture the sun and shadows from all angles. First, a right turn with Devilbend Reservoir and the ground as background and then left with the sky as background. Finally, we ran south along the beach area near Mornington, on the peninsula. There were a few bumps developing on the south lee side of the hill at Mount Martha, so we climbed to 2,000 feet, tracked in a big loop back to the north and tried the beach again. We also got some good pictures over Martha Cove Marina.

All too soon – although it was in fact well over an hour – we were done and the two Altos broke away to have some fun on their own while Mike and I returned to base at Tyabb.

As if I needed it, this flight reminded me yet again of the superb platform the Foxbat makes for photography, particularly air-to-air photography of LSA and ultralight type aircraft. The huge glazed doors allow such good visibility and the strut is far enough forward that positioning the target aircraft is very easy. Although the Foxbat is approved for doors off flying, on this occasion we opted to leave the doors on, to minimise wind buffeting. Unfortunately, our company Foxbat does not have the optional photo doors.

Nevertheless, the results are amazingly good. The lexan doors are relatively distortion free and both the video and photos are as clear as you could possibly need – Mike was shooting on 4k for the video and equivalent resolution for the stills.

You can see a short 3-minute video of the mission by clicking here: Alto Formation Shoot

There is a selection of Alto photos, including the formation, here: Alto Gallery

Aviation accident reporting

I’ve just experienced at first hand appallingly wrong media reports of an aeroplane accident at our local airport in Moorabbin, near Melbourne. If the media can get so wrong a basic report like this, how can they ever be believed when it comes to more complex issues?

However, irrespective of the wrong reporting, our thoughts are with the pilot, who was taken to hospital with serious injuries.

The story goes like this: accompanied by stills and video of the accident site, reports – so similar they must have just been blindly copied from one source – said a light aircraft had ‘come down’ at Moorabbin Airport. Two people were on board and the aircraft was a ‘high wing A22 Foxbat, made in Ukraine’ owned by a local flying school. 24 emergency personnel were on site, currently working to free the pilot, who remained in the aircraft.

Even a cursory glance at the picture of the inverted aeroplane (see above) shows it to be a low wing, not a high wing. It also turns out that there was only one person – the pilot – on board and the accident almost certainly resulted from a runway departure, either on take-off or landing. Quite an exaggeration to say the aircraft had ‘come down’.

I tried to find phone numbers for the various news media which published the report – ABC, Channel 9 News, 3AW, Herald Sun and The Age newspaper – to advise them of the errors. Have you ever tried to find a phone number for these people to correct their mistakes? Forget it, they just don’t publish such numbers. Presumably, the last thing they want is people calling to point out errors in their stories, as their lines would be permanently clogged!

In the end, I sent ‘urgent’ emails to the various newsrooms to say the aircraft was not a Foxbat. Only The Age newspaper responded with an apology by email and immediate correction on their online news page. Without any kind of acknowledgement, over the next half an hour most of the others removed the reference to the Foxbat, substituting with words like ‘a small 2-seat light aircraft’. I still don’t know if the Herald Sun changed their feed as they insist you pay a subscription to see their news!

This kind of erroneous reporting brings to mind another event at Moorabbin, where one of our Vixxens made a heavy bounced landing in very windy conditions and bent the nose landing gear. Right or wrong, the pilot elected to go round after the impact, only to be warned by the tower of the bent gear. At that time, almost all the media reported that the aircraft was ‘circling while the pilot attempted to fix the landing gear’ – a clearly ridiculous statement if you thought about it for only half a second! In fact, following emergency personnel advice, he was waiting for a foam blanket to be laid on the runway before making a successful landing, during which the nose leg fully collapsed and the aircraft remained upright. Both pilot and passenger walked away without a scratch.

In my personal experience, I have learned these lessons about news stories:
1. They have almost certainly not been given even a basic facts check.
2. The media makes it as difficult as possible for you to correct their mistakes.
3. If they get even simple, easy to check, stories wrong, how on earth can their reporting on more complex issues be believed?
4. It is very easy for people to state complete lies and the news media will publish it.

You have been warned!

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!

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.