Glider towing with the A22LS Foxbat

Sunday 17 March 2017 dawned clear and a relatively cool 20 celsius at Tyabb Airport. My friend Mike Rudd and I were flying that morning up to Benalla, north of Melbourne, to submit our A22LS Foxbat demonstrator to the Gliding Club of Victoria to test-tow a couple of gliders.

The flight from Tyabb to Benalla was uneventful except for a thick smoke haze up to about 6000 feet due to the smouldering remains of some large bushfires in the area and an almost total lack of wind. About an hour and 20 minutes after take-off, were touching down at Benalla. Gliders were already in the air, albeit in much smaller numbers than the last time we visited, just over 3 years ago.

I flew a short acclimatisation flight with Rob Pugh, the tow pilot for the day (I am not licensed to tow); he made one of the smoothest landings I have experienced in someone who had never flown the type before. Very reassuring for the remainder of the morning! Rob then did a couple of circuits on his own to check out the Foxbat handling without my 85 kilos of ballast in the passenger seat – anyway, towing is only permitted with one person on board.

The first glider – a single seat SZD51 Junior with gliding instructor Steve Hobby on board – was hooked up and, with GoPros activated on the Foxbat, Rob applied full power and took off. Temperature on the ground was about 30 Celsius (about 85-86 Fahrenheit), giving a density altitude at ground level of well over 2500 feet. There was almost no wind at all. Tow time to 2000 feet AGL (2500 feet on the QNH, about 5750 density altitude) was almost exactly 6 minutes and Rob was back on the ground just over 3 minutes later.

Next up was a 2-seat Twin Astir glider with just one person on board. This glider is affectionately known as the ‘concrete swan’ – the heaviest 2-seater in the club, so it would be interesting to see how long it took for the trip. In the event, tow time to the same altitude took only 30 seconds longer and Rob was back on the ground again, around 3 minutes after release.

We are making a short video of the test-towing which will be uploaded to our YouTube channel shortly. Meanwhile, Rob had a few candid comments about Foxbat towing. “Of course”, he told us, “with only 100hp available, the Foxbat won’t be competing with our Pawnees [my note: one of which has a liquid cooled Chevrolet V8 engine!]. But the Foxbat performed very well, considering the lack of wind and the high density altitude. The total take-off to landing times of just over 9 minutes worked out much better than the 13-14 minutes we were expecting. I think the high lift wing really helps it outperform many other Rotax engined types when towing”.

Successful glider towing is a complex equation – it’s not just how long it takes to reach altitude, it’s also the total air time on the tug (based on which, the glider pilot/customer pays), fuel costs, maintenance costs and any depreciation costs on the aircraft tug – many club towing aircraft have been written down to zero in value over the years.

However, the overall exercise was to determine how well the A22LS Foxbat performed – and the answer seems to be ‘much better than expected for such a small aircraft’. This feedback, together with excellent reports from other countries using the A22 for glider towing, confirms our belief that the aircraft will handle 75-80% of  typical towing tasks at around a third of the costs.

 

Flying with my grandchildren

On New Year’s Eve I spent the most wonderful day flying in a Foxbat with my grandchildren and their mother (my eldest daughter) and her partner. All the grandchildren wanted a second flight, so I must have been doing something right. But then again, it’s quite difficult to do something wrong in a Foxbat! What a magical day….

Click on the picture to view; enable HD and expand to full screen to enjoy to the max!

 

 

New Foxbat demonstrator flies over 13th beach

Here are a few short seconds of our new A22LS Foxbat demonstrator in flight. After less than a month in the air, it’s already completed 25 hours’ flying and is currently having its first maintenance check.

This is the first Foxbat demonstrator we’ve had which is fitted with an AirMaster in-flight electrically adjustable propeller – this one with Whirlwind blades. We are evaluating the propeller before formally offering it as an option – our first impressions are that take-off distance is shorter, and climb is significantly better than with the standard KievProp; economy is slightly better. We will also evaluate this propeller on the A32 Vixxen in due course, where in addition to take-off and climb performance, we are predicting an improvement in cruise speed.

The demo Foxbat aircraft is also fitted with a glider tow hook and we will be undertaking towing trials in the near future in Victoria, Australia. This aircraft has oversize wheels, a 30kgs ‘Kelpie’ metal luggage compartment with a side door and a ballistic rescue system. The icing on this demonstrator cake is a 2-axis Dynon autopilot which will be connected with a GPS as soon as we can keep the aircraft on the ground long enough to fit one!

Come and see this aircraft along with the A32 Vixxen at the Australian International Airshow, at Melbourne’s Avalon Airport from 26 February to 03 March this year.

As usual, either click on the image above or here to view the video: Foxbat over 13th beach

A22LS Foxbat Rudder Cables

Back in April 2018 I published an item covering the issue of an Aeroprakt Safety Alert concerning inspections and possible replacement of the rudder cables on A22LS aircraft. You can read the article by clicking here: Rudder Cable Safety Alert or the Bulletin itself here: Aeroprakt SB A22LS-17

Following the issue of the Alert, we submitted a pair of the broken cables and a length of new cable to the ATSB for testing and examination. You can view a copy of their report by clicking here: ATSB Report Rudder Cable Analysis Results

The ATSB Report reaches the following conclusions:

  • The primary cause of the RH cable fracture was fatigue, resulting in overstress of the remaining wires.
  • The LH cable was unserviceable (based on manufacturer requirements) due to deformation and wire fractures that were already apparent.
  • The cables and pulleys provided to the ATSB were compliant with the manufacturer’s specifications (pending chemical analysis results).
  • Most of the fatigue would have occurred prior to the accident flight, and it is likely that some would have been present at the last 200-hourly cable inspection (1600 hours).
  • Fatigue in both cables may have been accelerated by the cable running around a smaller diameter pulley than is recommended.

In Summary – please ensure your rudder cables are correctly inspected every 200 hours per the Safety Alert and Maintenance Manual. This does NOT mean a quick glance and a ‘twang’ of the cables behind the seats! At any sign of wear or broken cable strands,  both rudder cables must be replaced.

Finally, please note that the incident aircraft was registered 24-7930 – not, as erroneously stated in the report, 24-7390.

A22L Foxbat gross weight increase

I have good news for all Australian owners of A22L (450 kilo MTOW limit) Foxbats!

With the new RAAus MARAP system (Modification and Repair Approval Process), a review to increase the gross weight limit (sometimes called the maximum take-off weight (MTOW)) of RAAUS  registered Aeroprakt A22L Foxbat aircraft from 450 kilograms (472.5 kilograms if a ballistic rescue system is fitted) to 525 kilograms has been conducted and now approved.

During the review of the A22L for an increase up to the 525 kilograms  MTOW there is a small ‘G’ limit penalty: the maximum limits are reduced from +4G and -2G to +3.6G and -1.8G respectively. In effect, this means you need to observe manoeuvring and rough air limits closely to ensure you do not exceed these lower limits.

No structural or other changes are required to the aircraft.

To obtain the increased weight limit on your A22L aircraft, please contact the technical team at RAAus – phone number 02 6280 4700 or email to tech@raa.asn.au – and request the necessary documentation. This includes a supplementary page for your pilot manual and an entry to the manual revisions page.

RAAus will make a charge for this service but I’m sure you’ll find the extra – legal – 75 kilograms well worth it!

Please note, this increase is not relevant to the Aeroprakt A22LS Foxbat, which already has a gross weight limit of 600 kilos and ‘G’ limits of +4 -2

Video introduction the A22LS ‘Kelpie’

kelpie-in-flightI recently mentioned the introduction of the new Aeroprakt A22LS ‘Kelpie’ from Foxbat Australia – here’s a short video with more information about the aircraft.

The video focuses on the differences between the Kelpie and the popular A22LS Foxbat on which it’s based. The Kelpie is aimed more at farmers and landowners but even if you aren’t one of them, and still want a Kelpie – don’t feel you’re ‘barking’ mad! The Kelpie retains all the great characteristics of the Foxbat – fantastic short field performance, almost helicopter-like view out, massive light & airy cabin, great load carrying capability and sweet slow speed handling.

Add to that the fat tyres, rubber mud flaps, sturdy metal luggage bay (placarded at 30 kgs), climb prop, Australian Warning Systems siren and UHF radio through the headsets and you’re close to an unbeatable utility aircraft. Almost 200 Australian Aeroprakt owners can’t be wrong!

The Foxbat and Kelpie are factory-built and supported aircraft.

PS – To my UK friends, the Australian Kelpie is a famous working farm dog, not a type of mythical water-horse!

[To see the video, click on the link above or on the photo]