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.

More bush flying – Zimbabwe

Foxbat owner Mike Kellow, based in South Africa and Zimbabwe, has sent me a couple of photos of his Foxbat up in the tea estates in the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe.

The dirt strip is a short 250 metres long, with hills – including an 8,500 foot mountain – at each end, so approaches have to be tight and take-offs quick!

Full size versions of the photos are in the Bush Flying album on Foxbat Pilot’s Flickr site (click here to take you there).

Aberfoyle Tea Estates

Aberfoyle Tea Estate strip crop

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!

Recreational Aviation Australia – Easter NATFLY

IMG_5362The annual Recreational Aviation jamboree is happening as usual over Easter 2014 at Temora Airfield, NSW. Dates for your diary: 18 & 19 April are the main visitor days. Thursday 17 April is arrival day, Sunday 20 April is departure day. So you don’t miss out – note that most aircraft and exhibitors depart on Sunday morning!

Foxbat Australia will be there – look for us on adjoining display spaces 11 & 13. We hope to have on show a Foxbat with controls adapted for disabled pilots, which has been in training use at Moruya Air for almost 3 years. I’m also expecting Sydney Recreational Flying to be there as usual, offering TIFs (Trial Instruction Flights) in one or both their club Foxbats.

And who knows? there may be a ‘Show Special’ or two around…..

Belite aircraft

James & BeliteJames Weibe is a busy man. His background, experience and creativity in electronics has enabled him to develop and market the most innovative and amazing range of incredibly light weight panel instruments for experimental and recreational aircraft. Here’s a link to those instruments: Belite Aviation Electronics

However, it’s the other side of his life that I’m more interested in – the development of a range of extremely light and strong single-seat ultralight aircraft. Starting a few short years ago, from the humble beginnings of the Kitfox Lite, James has re-designed and now builds ‘state-of’-the-art’ very light aircraft.

The regulations in USA around these types of aircraft appear at first sight to be very relaxed – no registration required, no pilot license needed to fly them – but in fact, the few rules there are can prove to be very difficult to match. In summary, these rules boil down to: an empty weight limit of no more than 254 pounds (that’s around 115 kilograms for us metric people), carry no more than 5 US gallons of fuel (that’s just 19 litres), have a flat-out maximum power, straight & level speed of 55 knots and a stall speed under 24 knots at maximum weight.

James manufactures these little wonders at his factory near Wichita in Kansas. One of the great things about James is that he always seems to be looking for ways to improve his product.

These small aircraft are perfect for the cash-strapped owner – you can buy ready finished or as a kit; the wings are a one-person fold, so you can store the aircraft in the corner of a shed or hangar; and best of all, they are very easy to fly. There’s a selection of engines, from 28 hp to 50 hp 2-strokes (not my personal favourites) to a 45 hp 4-stroke. I think James has some further exciting announcements coming up in the next few weeks, so link yourself to his website: Belite Aircraft or to his excellent blog: James Wiebe’s Blog, where he tells it all, warts & all. Happy reading!

STOP PRESS! Here’s a link to Belite’s latest aircraft first flight – the ProCub Lite  What a magic little aeroplane!

Who needs a taildragger?

ImageFor extreme bush flying – and by this I mean river bed landings, rocky hill tops and so-on – there’s no substitute for a tail dragger with huge main wheels and a smaller one at the back. And a pilot with considerable skill and experience.

But for most types of bush and farm flying, a suitable tricycle gear aircraft will do the job just as well – and in some conditions better than – a typical tail dragger.

Specifically, let me introduce you to the Aeroprakt A22 Foxbat – a tricycle gear aircraft with a tail wheel.

The Foxbat is a 2-seat light sport aircraft – an LSA – which will take you into many places you just cannot go in a conventional tri-gear plane. And it is an aircraft that enables reasonably competent, medium time pilots to handle cross winds like no tail dragger possibly can.

For a start, it’s rugged and strong. As well as full fuel it will carry around 200 kilos of people and baggage.

The CofG is close to the main wheels, so you can lift the nose off the ground at standstill or very slow speeds – this lets you run the plane down a rough paddock on its main wheels, with the nose wheel and prop well clear of trouble in the form of ruts, stones and even small shrubs.

The Foxbat lifts off in around 75 metres, even fully loaded, so there’s no long ground roll to punish the landing gear.

And getting back on the ground is just as quick and easy. You land at about 35 knots and you can hold the nose wheel clear of the rough stuff down to walking pace. Even better – unlike a typical tail dragger – you have nose wheel steering if and when you need it. The Foxbat nose wheel is steered directly through the rudder pedals, not relying on differential brakes. And there’s always the tailwheel to help you protect the rear of the aircraft in extreme cases!

There are farm based Foxbats operating out of rough strips and paddocks all over Australia. A couple have over 5000 hours on them in these conditions and many over 2000 hours. All of which attests to the longevity and toughness of the aircraft.

Who needs a tail dragger? Not me!