Approval to mount external cameras on A22 & A32

LOA Camera mountAeroprakt has issued a Letter of Approval (LOA) to mount GoPro, Garmin VIRB and other similar miniature cameras externally on A22LS Foxbat and A32 Vixxen aircraft.

The installations are subject to a number of conditions and details must be recorded in the aircraft maintenance logs.

Click the picture for a link to the foxbat.com.au website to download this LOA.

Update: The mount in the photo was supplied by Cloudbase Engineering in USA. Please email Marc Webster on cloudbaseengineering@gmail.com for more details.

A32 – Aeroprakt-ically magic!

[Please note – many subscribers have reported that the embedded videos in this post did not work correctly. I have replaced them with links to the YouTube versions, so they now work as usual. Please click the picture to go to the YouTube video – view in hi-res if possible]

I have now spent over 4 hours flying the new Aeroprakt A32, initially on my own and then with four different passengers/co-pilots. I can confirm the aircraft really does have a speed range from stall at 27 knots with flap (actually almost zero knots indicated) right up to flat-out straight and level at 120+ knots at 5,500 rpm.

Skeptical? Yes, at first I was too, even though these speeds were demonstrated to me when I flew in the prototype in Kiev late last year. There has clearly been a great deal of work done on the aerodynamics to achieve these real-world figures, while retaining the sweet slow-speed handling of other Aeroprakt aircraft like the A22 and, for that matter, the A20 before that.

Here is a video of the A32 stalling, with full flap, two people on board and about 70 litres of fuel – total weight around 560 kgs. The ASI is just about centre of the frame.

A32 Stalling

Although it is natural to think the A32 is just a revamped version of the A22LS Foxbat, an important point I must make quite clear is that the A32 is fundamentally a different aircraft. I realise comparisons between the A22 and A32 are inevitable, but the only common elements between them are the engine, propeller and the wing, and even this has received a few tweaks for the A32. From and including the propeller spinner, right back to the tail, the fuselage is all-new. There are no flat panels on it – no mean feat in an all-metal aircraft – which remove ‘oil-canning’ and reduce drag and wind noise. The engine installation is completely different from the A22, with air ducting to smooth airflow, reduce drag and improve cooling. The oil radiator is mounted behind the coolant radiator, so there’s no need for an oil thermostat to speed up the warm-up.

The control system is all cable (like the iconic Piper Cub) and the all-flying tailplane is powerful and well-geared – particularly useful during landing, where even at 30 knots indicated, you don’t run out of elevator. Trim changes between take-off, cruise and landing are much smaller than on the A22 and it is easier to adjust the manual trim lever quickly to the required setting.

The cabin is actually a bit narrower at the elbow than the A22  (although it takes a ruler to confirm it) but is taller and the panoramic view through the windshield gives an impression the cabin is actually wider than the A22. The windows behind the seats are well-positioned to give a great view out. And there are plenty of storage pockets around the cabin for all those odds and ends so necessary to us pilots.

A32 cruise around 4,800 rpm. Photo by GoPro

A32 cruise around 4,800 rpm. Click pic for full size

Here are a few more numbers: cruise speed at 4,800 rpm (Rotax’s recommended minimum continuous rpm) is around 107-109 knots true, burning about 16 litres an hour. To cruise at 100 knots, you’ll need to drop the rpm to around 4,200, for a fuel burn of about 14-15 litres an hour. Approach speed down finals with flap should be no faster than 50 knots, with a maximum – even two-up – of 45 knots indicated over the keys. Even then, there’s a little bit of float, so I’ll be gently pulling the speed down a bit further. After all, a reasonable rule of thumb for a very light aircraft is to approach at 1.5 times stall speed; so 1.5 x 27 gives 40.5 knots, well below the 45 kts I have been using. And that’s at maximum weight….

Here is another video, this one showing A32 cruise speeds. The SkyView screen shows, on the left side, top to bottom, indicated airspeed (IAS), true airspeed (TAS) and ground speed (GS) so you can see the differences. RPM is top centre. Sorry this one is a bit blurred and shaky, the winds aloft were quite strong and bumpy that day – close to 30-35 knots and occasionally more. Also, it turns out the Garmin VIRB camera I used is not as good at close focus as my trusty old GoPro, which was used a day later for the video showing stalls.

A32 Speed vid

Where the A22LS Foxbat is a great ab-initio trainer and go-anywhere farmer’s aircraft, the A32 feels like it is much more of a sport cross-country aircraft and intermediate trainer. Speed management is particularly important in this aircraft – if you’re used to floating a bit due to overspeed when landing the A22LS Foxbat, you’ll run out of runway before the A32 stops flying – you’d better believe it!

Experienced A22LS Foxbat pilots will quickly see and feel the differences in the A32 – it’s a great addition to the Aeroprakt range.

We’re working on some more videos to show the aircraft flying, both inside the cabin as well as external sequences. Meanwhile, at least a couple of Australian aviation magazines are doing full flight tests for publication later in the year – I’ll announce when and where as soon as I have confirmation.

Flying the Interstate Cadet at Tyabb

Interstate CircuitsOn Sunday 28 December I enjoyed a few circuits at Tyabb Airport and a local flight around the Mornington Peninsula in the Interstate S-1A Cadet. The weather was very good early on with quite smooth conditions and a light south east wind. There’s always a cross-wind on the north-south strip at Tyabb.

I made a short YouTube video of the take-offs & landings in the Interstate which you can see by clicking here or on the photo above. I suppose I must have completed 50-75 landings in this aircraft now, so things are feeling easier, although with a tail dragger you always need to keep on your toes – literally and metaphorically!

While I was circuit-bashing, my friends Stephen and Mike flew in Stephen’s newly acquired Bush Hawk down and around Wilson’s Promontory, the most southerly tip of mainland Australia. It’s about an hour and a half round trip from Tyabb in that aircraft. They reported good conditions, although there was a little lee-turbulence at lower levels around the ‘Prom’. I think Stephen gets nosebleeds if he flies higher than 500 feet… Up higher, there was quite a stiff northerly, which slowed them a bit on the return journey.

But back to the Interstate. I have now completed just over 30 hours flying in the aircraft since the first flight early in August 2014. As a result, it’s starting to feel more relaxed to take-off and land. Admittedly I haven’t thrashed it, but fuel consumption is working out at a very economical 20 litres (just over 5 US gallons) an hour and it hasn’t used any oil so far; although there’s always a drip or two on the hangar floor after each flight.

The camera I used was the Garmin VIRB, a competitor to the now almost inevitable GoPro. The Garmin is a completely different shape and can be controlled via an App installed on an iPhone, iPad or other smart device. Unlike the GoPro, the Garmin view finder is built-into the camera and is on the top (or bottom, if the camera’s mounted upside down) not on the back. The Garmin also comes with a very easy to install neutral density filter to help get rid of those peculiar ‘feather’ effects you often see on videos taken through a rotating propeller. It’s the first time I have used it – in the past, I have relied on my trusty old GoPro – so it’s interesting to compare. Maybe, if I can find the time, I’ll do a bit more of a comparison in a different blog post.

Hopefully, there will be more Interstate videos coming soon.

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.