Behind the Scenes: Fly Synthesis
The most beautiful, agile and reliable ultralights fly out of the factories of Italian manufacturer Fly Synthesis. Over the past three decades they’ve forged a reputation for excellence in aviation. This is the story of Fly Synthesis.
In common with other pioneering European suppliers, Fly Synthesis’ roots lie in the early ‘rag and tube’ ultralight field of aviation, but it’s true to say Fly Synthesis set the direction for future ultralight and LSA aircrafts with the release of the outstanding Storch composite aircraft in the 1990s. The Storch is still evolving, lately adding a new engine and wing design for higher cruise speed. Rotax power is available throughout the models with the ever-reliable 912UL being the most common fitment.
Interestingly, every plane in the Fly Synthesis range is available as either a kit, or as a factory-built aircraft.
Locally, the lads at Silent Wings Aviation in NSW and WA have long been associated with Fly Synthesis, initially as a sub-agent in early 2000 and now as the national distributor for Fly Synthesis. They support around 50 Fly Synthesis aircraft in the field in Australia, operate Fly Synthesis aircraft in their two training facilities, and maintain the latest models in their demo fleet.
Visitors to Fly Synthesis’ well-established and modern facility in Mortegaliano, Italy, can’t help but be impressed by the leading-edge carbon fibre composite fabrication facilities and the quality ethic of the company today. But that culture does not just happen by chance. A major re-organisation in early 2000, with a major fund injection and a new management team, won Fly Synthesis the Italian award for Work and Economic progress in 2005 – and more than a few admirers.
With sales growing enormously with continuous innovation in the Storch line, and the birth of the first of the new low wing ultralight Texans, a new purpose-built building alongside a large military runway became the new Fly Synthesis home in 2006.
The new production plant covers a surface area of 4,000m2 over two levels, incorporating all of the in-house manufacturing capability of Fly Synthesis, divided logically between the impressive composite department – a very large assembly floor – with engineering, prototyping and sales administration on the higher floor. A former military airstrip is directly connected to the factory floor, providing an excellent environment for safe aircraft final testing and new model development.
Almost since its birth in the 1980s, the original company started to direct resources to implementing composite facilities to produce the first of the composite fuselages, initially a single seat Kangaroo Ultralight and then the 2 seat Wallaby Ultralight, but still some of the old ‘rag and tube’ technology was needed to complete these airframes.
It’s All About the People
Many of the Fly Synthesis staff have been with the organisation since the beginning, and they still burn with passion for their craft. This dedication goes a long way to explaining why Fly Synthesis was able to continue while their competitors were falling by the wayside during the recent financial crisis.
Besides the well-known Italian flair and passion, the unique research and development team has an enviable record of innovation. The new EVO program was able to be delivered in just nine months from original discussions, and is a great example of the hard-working ethos of the team. Their success is not the result of having one or two outstanding designers, but by having a compact and multi-disciplined team that’s encouraged and motivated to lead the company into the future.
Of course the company’s test pilot is a vital member of the team, testing new models and changes with a liberal dose of verve! This is the team, working with management that have made Fly Synthesis a byword for delivering advanced composite aircraft products.
We’ll give the final word on this very special group of people to the person who knows them better than anyone else – the company’s Chairman, Sonia Felice Accaino. Take it away, Sonia!
“When I think of Fly Synthesis, what it is now and how it has changed, I come to realise that our roots are embedded in the very history of ultralight flying, driven by the passions of those who have made flying the main interest in their lives. Importantly, on the journey from those early times, our company withstood thousands of challenges and difficulties, without losing the passion that nourished its beginning. It is expressed today in the spirit of how we work together to design and build our advanced carbon fibre aircraft, delivering them to world markets.
“Fly Synthesis and its people respect the basic values of organisation, technology, environment, communication and optimism. Because of the passion and respect for these basic values, we have all been rewarded with our success. Today Fly Synthesis is a flexible and modern company and the quality and performance of its products are recognised around the world.”
The Storch is the best-known of the Fly Synthesis bunch, and for very good reason. It’s been around a long time, and has forged a powerful reputation within the aviation industry. It’s also proven to be one of the most influential small planes of all time.
The Storch revolution started in 1990, and small planes have never been the same. Initially the Storch mirrored the configuration and power of the old-school rag and tube types, a basic aircraft with a few tweaks to the controls and breaking. Gradually any active metal airframe components were phased out as the company’s experience in the application of composite technology advanced.
Only the unique steel safety cage around the cockpit remained, due to its proven safety record. Soon, a full airframe ballistic recovery chute was added to the option list for the Storch, leading to widespread adoption of the ballistic chute in all Fly Synthesis models. These chutes fire through a prepared and repairable exit point in the fuselage, and their straps are attached to the Storch steel safety cage, so on actuation the passengers and the aircraft descend safely and typically the rugged Storch airframe is repairable.
On the engine front, the new, slick, low-drag airframe was powered initially by the basic Rotax 447-40hp, and later the 503-50hp. The smooth composite skin and advanced airframe design provided a large performance leap compared to similarly-powered draggy ‘rag and tube’ designs, with a very impressive STOL capability. When these basic engines were discontinued, the Rotax 582/electric start with 65 Hp took their place, with the 4 stroke 912UL motor also being available from the mid 1990s. The Storch was really growing up and fast!
Today the latest Storch short wing ‘S’ model from 2015 onwards, sporting conventional flaps, has embraced not only the proven 80hp and 100 hp Rotax 4-stroke motors, but also the latest direct drive D-Motor with its beefy 95hp. With its roomy, fully-enclosed high visibility cockpit, its high cruise speed and nimble performance, the Storch line was a game changer.
The Catalina Seaplane
If you’re the sort of pilot who likes to explore Australia’s beautiful beaches, lakes and rivers, the Catalina is the perfect option for you. Some of the design ideas and construction principles of the latest Storch are evident in recently released Fly Synthesis aircraft like the new Catalina LSA seaplane, released in 2015. Both boast full composite airframes, and all fittings and fastenings are marine grade alloy or stainless steel, so a simple hose down at the end of the day is all it needs in extra maintenance. The Catalina is the ‘fun ship’ of the Fly Synthesis fleet, complementing the Storch CL floatplane, now deliverable with new lightweights amphibious floats.
Today the Catalina is far and away the most economical seaplane available worldwide at less than A$90,000 delivered and is a great way to enjoy Australia’s sparkling coastal waters. Of course the amphibious Catalina inherits the Storch STOL characteristics, so also lands on short lengths of tarmac and grass for the best of both worlds and has folding wings, so maybe that home airfield is not a dream?
If you’ve never flown a seaplane before, relax! The very active Seaplane Pilots Association and Recreational Aviation Australia are there to support and encourage future pilots to the unique water flying experience. A new Catalina NG is part of Silent Wings east coast demo fleet. Check it out, you are bound to be amazed with seaplane water operations, it is addictive!
The Catalina really demonstrates the versatility of Fly Synthesis aircraft – the can go wherever your imagination takes you, and do it with style and flair!
Bounding along next is the wonderfully-named Wallaby, which is every bit as handsome and fearless as the marsupial it’s named after. Fans of the tri-gear version of the Catalina, the Wallaby, haven’t been forgotten in the model upgrades. In the last 12 months the two-seat Wallaby has matured into a full Series 2 version of the early 2000’s design, as a competent 545Kg LSA.
Power is a major selling point for the Wallaby. The oil-injected (no pre-mixing) 2-stroke Rotax 582 with gearbox is one option, and the new 95 hp 4 stroke direct drive D-Motor is also available. These make the Wallaby simple to maintain and cheap to fly at less than $50,000 including delivery.
The Wallaby boasts helicopter views with a sheltered cockpit and room for two, with excellent handling and STOL performance. And when you get home, the folding wings option allows you to store the aircraft very compactly.
The Wallaby has always been known for being geared towards getting better performances than its competitors without the need for more complex technology or a higher price, and Fly Synthesis have achieved exactly like that. It really is a wonderful aircraft that’s easy and fun to fly, while also providing all the power and agility you could ever ask for.
The Wallaby has come through quite a revolution, and today proves time and time again to be at the absolute top of its class. If you’re thinking about getting one, better hop to it!
One trend in current markets is the increasing pilot’s interest in having a very personal and unique aircraft, something fitting their desires, affecting both details of the style, finish, installed equipment and its configuration. Fly Synthesis have responded very positively to that need since 2015, with the delightful all new Syncro LSA, which is sure to stand out in any crowd!
Technically, the Syncro is at the leading edge of current aircraft design, and is an advanced and very roomy LSA for all markets. Its high efficiency, smoothly finished ‘blended profile’ carbon fibre wings incorporate four individual profiles, with drag-reducing upturned wing tips. The strong, strut-less wing with its 10.4 m span and 10.54 m2 surface area is combined with a fluid-shaped fuselage and empennage. The very low airframe drag resulting from the low frontal area fuselage and the strut-less wing enables a true 20:1 glide ratio for ‘engine out’ safety and fun, with significantly improved cruise fuel economy. While maintaining a low stall speed, the design allows a high cruise speed.
The new Syncro maintains the well-known Fly Synthesis ‘sports’ flying characteristics, with state-of-the-art 100% carbon fibre construction for lightness and airframe strength with great interior room, even for larger pilots. Additionally, the design features in-flight adjustable individual pedal sets as a final touch and on the pedals, toe brakes can be fitted. The Syncro can be ordered as nose-wheel steered as preferred in Australia, or with a castoring nose-wheel, fitted and finished to the customer’s style and taste.
Range is outstanding due to the 134L fuel capacity and ground-breaking penetration due to the low airframe drag. The Syncro really has set the bar for quality LSA personal aircraft
The New Texans
They say that everything’s bigger in Texas, but that’s not quite true – in this case, everything’s better in a Texas. Fly Synthesis have spent the last 18 months preparing for the production of the new range of Texan aircraft; the CLUB, Top Class and the very exciting EVO retractable. They’ve been making changes to each individual model’s design to make the tooling better and the flying experience even better. The new models will, in fact, share much of their tooling.
The earlier versions were developed over a number of years and did not have this commonality. It’s a way of streamlining the process that will ultimately lead to better aircraft. One also needs to remember the extra complexity added by the same models as ultralight types for Europe. These were also developed in parallel with export types, obviously watching their critical empty weight.
Importantly for the new series, the new Rotax 915iS for 2017 and D-Motor options are included in the Texan Series 2 design, as these are now imminent – and very much anticipated. Lower cost constant speed or in flight adjustable props have also emerged to match the motor configuration, potentially reducing fuel consumption with higher performance for the same horsepower.
The fruits of Fly Synthesis’ efforts are now visible as the first of the advanced new Texan Series 2 design aircraft has already been tested and delivered this year. The conclusion by pilots after the testing period was unanimous – it’s incredible! Initially the most complex of the type, the retractable EVO is first to appear, and a batch of five EVO retractable Texans will be delivered this year as 600Kg LSAs.
The new Texan EVO has retractable gear, which gives us a clear picture of the new design directions for all models. Most Texans will largely be variations on the basic production types but, as for the Syncro, the EVO will allow a pilot’s personal taste and desires to be fulfilled through custom building, completed with typical Italian design flair and in the finest materials. The scent of quality leather is an additional plus!
The EVO shows the many airframe changes made for the range; major cockpit structure changes were made to significantly improve service access for routine maintenance, and internal fittings have been improved for function and durability. Component mounting and positional changes have been made to further improve balance, including repositioning the chute to ahead of the windscreen port side. Gear mounting and fitting locations for hydraulic components and their access has been improved over the earlier Texan RG model. Not to mention the gear itself is totally new and of a very high strength and finish standard. It sounds incredible, but it’s true!
Under the hood, attention has been given to improving cowling, internal cooling airflow and airflow exit, as well reducing drag at every structural airframe joint. This work carried on from earlier development on the current series in 2015, and for the Series 2 has resulted in significant speed improvements to all Texan models, including the typically lower powered CLUB, increasing the original cruise speed more than 10kn. The Texan wing is already a modern profile, so the structure of the EVO wing has only changed with inspection openings and minor equipment revisions like LED lights and metal fuel caps, which also flow to the other Series 2 models.
A totally new shaped panel design, with its delightful finish and colour scheme was produced for the top range models. The new cockpit’s style and colours are matched by the seating and other interior trim in soft Italian leather, stitched and trimmed to the owner’s taste. The ‘plug in’ emergency gear extended handle is clearly visible and within easy reach.
The commitment to advanced instrumentation has deepened with the new multi-function Garmin 3X dual touch screen system, which comes with either integrated comms and video screen or the Kanardia versions of analogue and glass instruments. Both systems use the C-Bus technology for simplified installation and service, and work perfectly with the latest injection engines and new ones planned. These glass panel types will be standard for the Australian market and in the Kanardia case, are supported locally by Silent Wings Aviation as the local distributor and service agent.
A number of new safety innovations were introduced with the EVO. The status, interlocks, audio and video options introduced are outstanding and are sure to be widely used in future advanced LSAs. These include a factory-fitted integrated camera displaying the airframe underside for gear security on the glass panel, an emergency mechanical gear extend, audible and visual alarms that are raised if the gear positions don’t match approach speed/flap setting, gear mimics that display the gear state on the three legs, and flaps that are protected from higher than safe extended speeds. That’s quite a list!
The Texan Top Class in the Series 2 version will share all the new EVO airframe, cockpit and engine advances but will boast a normal tri-gear configuration rather than retractable gear and will always have 600 Kg MTOW. The final price lists will be released in the new year, but it is expected both the Top Class and the CLUB will have similar options and prices to the currently delivered models in 2016, which is fantastic value. The Top Class Series 2 model for export LSA markets will be available with castoring nose-wheel and toe brakes, but like the previous model, the steerable nose gear is likely to the most popular type in Australian markets. The 550 Kg version of the earlier Texan is no longer needed in the range as all versions are 600 Kg. MTOW for export markets.
The Texan CLUB will offer even more outstanding value as a trainer or for club use, and with the major fuselage modifications and design tweaks common to the other two models, will offer the same performance when identically equipped motor and prop wise – 80hp and 100 Hp are available. For cost reasons, while it shares the other improvements, the CLUB will continue to use the current Texan panel and the existing durable trim, suiting is application and price positioning.
Flying Into the Future
Years of innovation mean that Fly Synthesis is a market leader in light aviation, with a range of aircraft that can stand proudly against any in the world. One thing’s for sure – the Fly Synthesis range just keeps getting better!