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!
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
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!
This time, the famed A-40 with two people on board covered 887 kilometres – 479 nautical miles, 551 statute miles – on only 26 pounds/11.8 kilos/17 litres – of fuel. That’s just about 2 litres per 100 kilometres.
Non-stop flight time was 9.1 hours.
For reference, even a very small car will use 5-6 litres/100 kilometres.
For an aircraft, propelled by a standard Rotax 912 series petrol engine, these figures are truly amazing. Once again – congratulations to Yuriy Yakovlyev and his team at Aeroprakt on their wonderful achievement.
Yuriy Yakovlyev – CEO of Aeroprakt Limited – and his team have done it again! Not content to rest on their laurels after winning gold medals in two major light aircraft championships this year, they have now landed a world record.
Their A-40 competition aircraft – adapted from the well-known A20 tandem 2-seat taildragger in pusher prop configuration – has achieved a staggering and authenticated 229 kilometres on just 8.5 litres of fuel. In imperial measures, thats over 142 miles on 2.25 US gallons; over 63 miles per gallon, 3.7 litres per 100 kilometres!!
Whichever way you measure it, it’s an amazing feat for a 2-seat aircraft using a standard Rotax 912 series engine – no batteries or electric motors. Pilot and co-pilot for this extraordinary accomplishment were Yuriy’s son Timofey and engineer Taras Sotnicenko. Looks like Timofey has his father’s genes.
Very big congratulations from Foxbat Australia to all involved!
You can follow the maestro Yuriy on his FaceBook page by clicking here.
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!