Aeroprakt A22LS Pre-delivery flight check

A22LS Flight checkFollowing on from our recent A32 Vixxen flight check video, here’s another one – this time in a stick-controlled A22LS Foxbat.

As before, Mike Rudd accompanies me through a series of checks to ensure the aircraft performs as it should and is ready for its new owner.

Click the picture to view the video on YouTube. Watch at the highest resolution you can, to see the figures on the dials

Borodyanka Fly-in 2015

BorodyankaIt’s good to view some fly-in aerial activity from the other side of the world – in this case, near Borodyanka (sometimes spelled ‘Borodianka’) which is located to the north west of Kiev in the Ukraine. Here is a very nicely made little video which captures well the feeling of a local fly-in. [Click the picture to see the video]

Sitting where I am, wrapped up in my warm woolies and scarf in the middle of a Melbourne winter, the clear sunny summer skies look very inviting! There’s an interesting mix of aircraft at this fly-in, from an aerobatic Sukhoi through various Cessnas to some offerings (of course) from Aeroprakt. CEO Yuriy Yakovlyev arrives in his personal A36 and there are examples of the A22, A32 and the seaplane A24. There’s even a short display by Aeroprakt with smoke trails from the aircraft…I must ask them to send me a smoke kit for my demonstrator.

Roll on summer in Australia!

Overseas visitor to Foxbat Australia

Jörg & FatenToday I met Jörg (‘George’) Stobel and his partner Faten at Foxbat HQ in Tyabb Airport.

Jörg has been involved with Aeroprakt since the early days in the mid-1990’s.  Originally based in the UAE (where he still has a home) he is now taking on the role as Aeroprakt agent for Thailand. Jörg also has a home in Phuket (life’s tough isn’t it?) and his demonstrator A22 is kept an an airfield near Pattaya, just south east of Bangkok. I’ve seen pictures taken during his flights between the two locations and they are straight out of a travel brochure – deep blue-green sea, little islets with trees down to the water and tiny secluded beaches.

Anyway, I took each of them for a short trip in the skies over the Mornington Peninsula here in Victoria. It was a lovely day, if a bit hazy, but I guess the views can’t really compete with those between Phuket and Pattaya…although both remarked on how green the countryside looks at the moment.

Jörg and his partner – who works with Etihad Airlines – are in Australia for a few days to ‘relax, unwind and chill out’.

It was great to sit and chat with them over a coffee about the early days of Aeroprakt and hear about the times while they were working to get the business going. But that’s over 20 years ago now and Aeroprakt is close to manufacturing their 1,000th aircraft. I will be offering spares and other service back up & support to Jörg while he is building his business in Thailand, and wish him every success.

At the weekend, Jörg  and Faten are flying from Melbourne to Sydney to visit friends but we’re hoping to get a couple more flights in before then – maybe up around the top of Port Philip Bay to have a closer look at Melbourne and the bayside.

Top 20 sport planes in Australia

Yes, this is an ultralight! Photo by Michael Priesch

I was recently reading an article on (a big USA-dominated aviation website covering light sport and ultralight aircraft) about the best selling recreational and light sport aircraft in Germany, comparing them with what’s top of the pops in the States.

Dan’s article got me thinking about the Australian Recreational and Light Sport Aircraft (S-LSA) market. Are our tastes different from the USA, Germany and other countries? I did some basic research on registrations and it seems Australians, Americans and Germans all have their own – different – ideas about what they like…no surprise really!

A particularly stunning piece of information from Germany is that the MTO-Sport gyrocopter lists at #2, with almost 350 on their ultralight register. What do the Germans know that we don’t? I have never been a fan of gyrocopters, believing them to be inherently lethal – but things must have changed a lot for them to be #2 in the German top 10. Additionally, Rotax reports that gyrocopter manufacturers are currently the biggest buyers of 912 engines out of any aircraft sector in the world. However, gyrocopters in Australia are a bit of a ‘grey’ area, not registered either with RA-Aus or CASA. The current (unofficial) Australian gyrocopter register suggests there may be 250-260 of all types in Australia, although they clearly state that there may be others flying which are unregistered.

For information, the #1 ultralight in Germany is the Ikarus C42 with 582 flying; there are but three examples in Australia.

Slightly unexpectedly and in spite of quite tough USA insurance conditions, Americans really go for the traditional tail dragger – Cub-alikes account for a major slice of their LSA market – while here and in Germany modern taildraggers are nowhere near as popular. Too difficult for us to fly?

An examination of the Australian ultralight and LSA registers (RA-Aus and CASA/VH-) shows some interesting statistics. Out of around 5,300 current ultralight and LSA registrations:
– about 5,200 are on the RA-Aus register and 100 on the VH- register
– about 2,700 of these are factory-built, the remainder are amateur built
– there are about 450 factory-built powered weight-shift/trikes
– there are about 350 factory-built powered parachutes
– the remainder, about 1,900, are broadly speaking factory-built ‘3-axis’ aircraft

Making type comparisons with other countries outside Australia is quite difficult, as different registration regimes are used – so for example weight-shift trikes are classified differently in Germany. However, here in summary, with a few comments, are some broad brush Australian figures. Please note – the numbers exclude amateur-built aircraft

The top 10 factory-built aircraft:

1. Jabiru, all models – 556. Not surprising really, as they have been in business for 25+ years and are generally seen as the least expensive 3-axis home-market offering.
2. Airborne Windsports – 402. Weight-shift/trikes are a big chunk of the Australian RA-Aus register; Airborne, the Australian manufacturer, has easily the lion’s share.
3. Aerochute Industries335. Personally, I am surprised at the number of powered parachutes on the register; I hardly ever see them flying (maybe I don’t get up early enough!).
4. Tecnam, all models (except twin) – 174. Tecnam has a plethora of models, some of which have sold only a handful – it must make spare parts quite a headache for the factory. Interesting to see that Tecnam has sold fewer S-LSA aircraft in USA than in Australia.
5. Thruster173. This British built ‘microlight’ is still in production, although it appears that the most recent new registration in Australia goes back to the early 2000’s.
6. Austflight Drifter139. The Drifter is, alas, no longer available as a new aircraft but was at one time the mainstay of ultralight flying in Australia.
7. Aeroprakt A22 Foxbat, both versions – 128. Australia is currently the leading market for Aeroprakt A22 aircraft.
8. Australian Lightwing (ALW) – 109. I understand that although the original Lightwing is no longer made, ALW now offers a much changed LSA version, of which I could find only one registered.
9. Skyfox Gazelle71. Another mainstay of ultralight flying, no longer in production.
10. Evektor Aircraft, SportStars & Harmonys – 53. It is surprising that, despite all the hype, similar aircraft by the same designer: Sport Cruiser/Pipersport, Rokospol and Aero Bristell combined have nowhere near matched the success of the SportStar.

The next 10 factory-built aircraft:

11. Flight Design CT42. This is the most popular S-LSA sold in the States, although its lead is slowly but surely being whittled away by the Cub S-LSA replica made by Cubcrafters (276 in USA at December 2013).
12. Pipistrel, all models – 36. Made in Slovenia, this company has a reputation for innovation and fuel economy. Also have sold fewer in USA than Australia.
13. FlySynthesis, mainly Texans & Storches – 34.  Italian company, not yet accepted by FAA as S-LSA aircraft.
14. Eurofox, all models – 30. This is really an update of the old Gazelle. Currently the least expensive 3-axis factory-built S-LSA on the USA market.
15. TL Ultralight, mainly Sting & Sirius – 27. Czech company. Sting is a very pretty little plane.
16. Micro Aviation Bantam24. This New Zealand originated aircraft is still on the market but the most recent registration in Australia appears to have been over 6 years ago.
17. Savannah23. Savannah was more successful marketing kits for amateur building.
18. Alpi Pioneer19. Italian company, predominantly wood airframe. Pretty aeroplane, particularly the retractable.
19. FantasyAir Allegro18. Now made in USA.
20. Slepcev Storch18. Australian built, sadly no longer available.

Factory-built aircraft that didn’t quite make the top 20 include: Sport Cruiser/Pipersport (15), Brumby high & low-wing (15), Cessna 162 Sky Catcher (12), Zlin Savage Cub (12), Petrel (10), Sadler Vampire (9), Moyes Dragonfly (8), Kappa Sova (Sabre) (8), BRM Aero Bristell (8), FK-Lightplanes, all models (7) and Seamax (6). And there is a huge long tail of manufacturers who have registered 1-5 aircraft over the years.

A word of caution: the only two figures above, of which I am certain, are those for the Foxbat and the SportStar/Harmony, because I have the registration lists. There may be minor % errors in the other figures – but I have no reason to believe that the overall picture would change much, except maybe at the bottom end of the list. I am well prepared to eat humble pie if I have got any numbers significantly wrong. Firstly, the RA-Aus and CASA registers may not be up to date (heaven forbid!). Secondly, owners and manufacturers/importers unfortunately do not always use the same name terminology when registering aircraft, which makes tracking down every single one of a particular type quite difficult. For example, I checked ‘Foxbat’, ‘A22′, Aeroprakt’ and ‘Silverwing’ (a previous trading name of Foxbat Australia) and still the number of listed Foxbats did not match my own records of actual registrations. So it is quite likely this could be true of other makes too. I’m sure those involved will soon put me right – particularly if I quoted too low a number!

All comments welcome.

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.

Aeroprakt factory visit – 1

Aeroprakt Factory 01 copyAeroprakt Factory 02In spite of misinformed rumours to the contrary, I can confirm (again) that the Aeroprakt factory is operating as normal. Here are just a couple of pictures taken today. Currently there are around 5 A22L2 aircraft in production, and 4 A22LS, including a couple of A22LS orders I just placed for an owner in the Philippines.

Later today, Doug King (New Zealand Foxbat agent) and I are going to the Aeroprakt Club airfield to do some flying on this gloriously sunny day in Kiev. More news soon…

Visit to Europe

Hello everyone – I’m soon leaving for a short trip to Europe – including a visit to the Aeroprakt factory in Kiev.

As a result, blog posts may not be as frequent as usual for a while, although I’m aiming to continue as far as possible, including news and pictures direct from Kiev while I’m there.

Just before my visit to Aeroprakt, I’ll also be going to the e-Go Aeroplane factory near Cambridge in England – info and pictures ditto.

Hopefully, when I get back, spring will be well under way and – at least in Melbourne – flying weather will have improved a bit.

Meanwhile – happy flying!