Winged and Wingless Wonders
LAST month we dived headfirst into the wonderful world of recreational aircraft, and introduced you to some of the best planes available for under $150,000. Well, it turns out there were way too many aircraft to fit in one feature, so here we are with another heaped helping of RA goodness.
And this time, not everything has wings. Sure, we’ve got plenty of planes to show you – and if that’s what you’re after, any of the ones featured over the next few pages will bring a smile to your face – but this month we’ve got some more unusual options that you might not have considered. Rides with rotary blades and parachute silk and stuff like that. We would’ve put a hot air balloon in here if we could’ve found one that was fast enough!
Small aircraft like the ones we’ve collected here are a good starting point for the aspiring pilot, but are also powerful and fun enough to please someone with more hours on the clock. That’s definitely the case with this lot, which are quirky and unusual enough to really leave a lasting impression.
There’s a machine to suit both your needs and your bank balance, so you won’t have to convince the missus to let you remortgage the house just to afford one – although you might have to explain why the lawn’s going unmown while you spend all your time zipping around in your new toy!
Of course, we’ve ensured that the aircraft featured are safe and reliable, so if you hunt down one of these babies, you’re certain to have years of trouble-free flying.
We’ve got enclosed aircraft and ones that are open to the elements; classic planes and unusual new additions; local products and exotic beasts from the furthest corners of the planet. So strap yourself in and look forward to discovering something special, as we present even more of the best recreational aircraft for under $150,000!
PIONEER 200 HAWK, 300 AND 300 KITE
The champions at Alpine Aircraft Sales have a wide range of affordable and reliable planes that are sure to scratch your flying itch. First cab off the rank is the Pioneer 200 Hawk, a much improved version of the already-brilliant standard 200.
The canopy is now made out of carbon fibre, with flush mounting of the screen and canopy area for greater strength. The wings are more robust due to being a single solid panel, and all wing and stabiliser tips are now fully integrated. How impressive is that!
The capacity of the fuel tank has also been improved, making it one of the best planes on the market, and for a very competitive price.
The Pioneer 300 comes in two flavours – standard Hawk and Kite. The standard is a fantastic aircraft that can max out at 283km/hour and climb at 460m/minute, while being kind enough on the fuel that your wallet won’t be crying out in agony. It comes with enough bells and whistles to make sure every flight is a smooth ride, and it handles like a dream. It’s also available as a kit, which is a good option, as long as you don’t have hands like feet. With retractable undercarriage, this goes like a bullet.
By stepping up to the Kite version, you get a few more dials, and a lighter aircraft for more speed and manoeuvrability. It’s a worthwhile improvement on an already fantastic rig, and worth checking out if you’ve got an extra few dollars floating around.
All three are Italian-designed and amazing, so check them out!
AIR CREATION MICROLIGHTS
If there’s one thing the French enjoy more than riding bicycles or sleeping in the middle of the day, it’s flying. So if you’re looking for a lighter option to get into the air, why would you look anywhere else?
Air Creation are the largest manufacturer of microlights in the world, and there’s a reason why their little flying machines are so popular – they’re fun, well made and on the cutting edge of technology.
THE a.r.v. Tanarg 912s is one of the safest trikes in the world, and also incredibly reliable, but don’t be mistaken – it’s also heaps of fun.
Like an Adam Sandler movie or a Greens Party candidate, much of its appeal is in its simplicity. Air Creation have streamlined this beauty to make it easy to fly, while reducing the amount of components to minimise wear and tear, while making it as strong as possible.
The Pixel iFun 250xc is zippy and fun, and is one of the best-value machines ever made. The water-cooled two-stroke Polini THOR 250 engine is brilliant, and throws the aircraft through the heavens at a rapid clip. The die cast light-alloy aluminium cylinder grants better thermal stability, improving the piston wear and resistance to abrasion.
With an empty weight of just 95kg and a range of 400km, it’s a versatile craft that is as good as you’ll find.
The hot rod Skypper LST is a sporty beast, and takes the best features of the other trikes and improves on them. It can carry over 250kg of payload and is compact, comfortable and very economical. It’s the perfect microlight for flying around Australia… or France, if you ever get the chance!
AIRBORNE M20 SERIES
And now for something completely different… some gyrocopters! If fixed wings just aren’t for you, or if you’re looking for a fun new experience, you can’t overlook a gyro. And the happy little Vegemites at Airborne have got a copter for you.
Microlights are certainly where entry level starts these days and two seater trikes with four stroke engines are very capable machines and much less expensive than their counterparts. Most of the round the world trips that have been completed by ultralight style aircraft have been done on trikes. Fuel economy and the ability to carry extra fuel is a big factor, not to mention the daring of the pilot’s.
Gyrocopters have been on the scene for as long as trikes but have really come into their own in the last 6-8 years. Quality built production Gyros have opened up the market massively and we reckon it’s the fastest growing area in light sport aviation. Of course, drones actually have the title of fastest area of growth in aviation full stop!
Pilots that like flying open cockpit love trike flying purely for that reason. A trike is without a doubt the closest you will get to a motorcycle in the sky. An open cockpit gyro is almost there, not quite as open as a trike and you don’t have a “handlebar” as does a trike to steer around the sky! Even so your options for flying are opened up in a gyro as gyrocopters will fly in much more varying conditions than most other light aircraft.
The Magni M24 Orion and the Autogiro Cavelon have changed the production built Gyro landscape a lot. These side by side fully enclosed cockpit gyrocopters offer the same advantages as flying any enclosed fixed wing aircraft and more. They are a work of art: full carbon fibre cockpits with leather interior as an option. They can be fitted with cabin heating, and have plenty of cockpit room . The pilot/passenger sit side by side. They offer excellent panoramic vision (not as good as a microlight) and so are an excellent platform for aerial surveillance, shark spotting etc. They are in fact comfortable enough to commute to work should you be lucky enough to have an airfield available.
The Magni M22 is large and comfortable, with a surprising amount of room for luggage and plenty of space for both pilot and passenger. Besides the usual altimeter, air-speed indicator, digital rotor rev counter and electrical fuel level gauge, it also features a unique digital instrument displaying nine engine parameters simultaneously, which is visible in any flight conditions. How good is that!
Thanks to an 80 litre fuel tank it can easily fly for four hours, with a cruising speed between of up to 150 km/h.
Also available is the Magni 24 Orion which, unlike the M22, is fully enclosed for a more sheltered experience. It has similar specs and is also a blast to fly, so it really comes down to whether you like to feel the wind in your toupe or not.
Rounding out Airborne’s range is the VIP version of the 24 Orion, which a velvet-feel interior finish, better seats, an impressive heating and ventilation system, and improved storage cases. If you go with this one, you’ll feel like a billionaire, because it’s true luxury in a compact package!
The main man for Fly Synthesis downunder is the inimitable Greg Doyle at Silent Wings. Previously a sub-distributor for WA, he went ahead and fell for the Italian company’s charms when he became the sole distributor of the full range of Fly Synthesis aircraft in March 2014, commencing operations from July 1st last year. Silent Wings currently support swell over 50 aircraft from the brand, so he certainly has his hands full! Here are a couple of their stunners.
This is one for the GA or Sports pilot needing exceptional speed, range, room and comfort with low running cost. With it’s 130Kn. cruise, and less than a 30 knot landing speed, this stunning beauty is not just skin deep. Its four profile blended wing airframe is full carbon fibre, providing the economy of Rotax power and LSA running cost. Proven in the real world by a recent 26,804 Km round the world flight, made single-handed and totally self-contained over 39 days in a standard production Syncro.
The Catalina is the low cost fun ship of the Fly Synthesis water borne range, its’ equally at home on the water or a sandy beach as it is on the land. This fully composite aircraft with inbuilt floatation, features saltwater proof amphibious landing gear and stainless steel fittings and fastenings. Powered by 2 stroke or 4 stroke engines it features a huge windscreen and the sheltered cockpit holds 2 side by side comfortably. Just hose it down and fold the wings after a day out and trailer it home.
JUST AIRCRAFT’S HIGHLANDER AND SUPERSTOL
American company Just Aircraft have an appropriate name. They only make one thing, and they make them well. They have two kit planes available in Australia, and they’re both bloody good.
The Highlander has nothing to do with the 1986 fantasy action film of the same name, which is probably a good thing, as Christopher Lambert’s acting was wooden at best, and some of the special effects really don’t hold up under scrutiny these days. Instead, it’s a versatile aircraft that performs well and has enough punch to make every flight a thrill ride.
If you live near water – or have a tendency to land in it – the Highlander can be fitted with floats, or you can even pop skis onto it for winter use.
The SuperSTOL is Just Aircraft’s newest product, and sports an all-metal wing that’s aerodynamically designed to enhance slow flight capabilities while also increasing cruise speed. That’s quite a mouthful, but trust us, it’s an amazing addition. The wing also incorporates self-deploying leading edge slats and long span fowler flaps to further improve the aircraft’s stall range.
The Highlander and SuperSTOL are perfect kit planes that are easy to put together and great to fly. They have a unique look and a robust set of features, so pick which one you want and go for it. After all, as Lambert said in Highlander, “There can be only one!
The brand-spankin’-new Topaz XLS has only been available in Australia for a few months, but it’s already making an impression for all the right reasons. This heavily-upgraded model features a more powerful Rotax 912ULS engine and an optional – and fancy – glass cockpit.
The Topaz is as handsome as a singer in a boy band and just as easy to get moving, thanks to an advanced set of instruments that truly pushes it to the top of its class.
The new EFIS and EMS instrument panel features a big, beautiful touch screen display that shows all of the important stuff in glorious colour, including a real-time GPS map. All the numbers are displayed in a large font, so you won’t have to squint while you’re flying.
The new Topaz performs exceptionally well, with speeds of up to 222km/h, great acceleration and stunning climb speeds. Everything about this little aircraft is well designed and expertly executed, and you’d struggle to find a single facet of it that you’re not completely happy with. It’s the sort of plane that just resonates with quality, so it’s no wonder that it’s quickly becoming one of the most popular aircraft in Australian skies. You can pick one up from Airsports Australia right now.
There’s no doubt about it – the Topaz is a real gem!
There are heaps of gyrocopters in Australia these days, so it might be time to consider getting one of your own. So why are they so good? Gyros have plenty of advantages over conventional aircraft – they don’t stall or tail spin, they can fly at very low speeds, are easy to transport and set up quickly, require minimal storage space, and suffer little or no effect from strong winds and turbulence, leaving the pilot comfortable and safe.
Have we sold you on one yet? Then you can’t beat the choppers offered by Autogyro Australia. They have three models – the MTO Sport, the Calidus and the Cavalon – so there’s something to meet your needs. Whether you want a fully-enclosed cabin or something more open, a relatively cheap beast to fang around in or something a bit more luxurious, it’s all there for you. Each model comes with bags of add-ons, too, so you can customise your gyro to fit your needs.
The Cavalon is the pick of the bunch, and boasts unsurpassed comfort and visibility, as well as a Rotax 914 turbo engine, capable of sending you through the sky at 180km/h.
And best of all, after landing your shiny new gyro in your mate’s backyard, you can use your best Arnold Schwarzenegger voice to tell him to “Get to the chopper!” It’s guaranteed to crack him up every time!
If you’ve always been interested in building your own plane, but think it sounds harder than learning the Cambodian alphabet, we’d like to introduce you to the Sling 2, available through Global Aviation Products.
The parts go together like a kiddies’ Meccano set, and the end result is a highly-responsive, powerful and sturdy bird that is as fun as it is practical.
The Sling can be flown either as a Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) or as a Very Light Aircraft (VLA), with the top-of-the-range Turbo option proving itself to be a particularly special creature. It can hit 250km/h thanks to its Rotax 914 UL engine, and its 150L fuel tank means you’ll be able to zip around all day without stopping. It’s simply wonderful, and provides a comfortable and secure flight without busting your bank balance in two.
And if, for some reason, you do run into an emergency, there’s a ballistic parachute for safety. How’s that for peace of mind!
Apart from paper planes, the Sling 2 is the easiest aircraft you’ll ever build, and the performance and statistics are also brilliant. So grab a spanner, clear some space in the corner of the living room, and get to work! Of course, if mechanics aren’t your thing, the Sling range can also be delivered ready to fly – all you then have to do is figure out where you want to place your stubby holder.
This Italian-designed beauty first rolled out of the factory back in 2000, and that was the best thing to happen in a very good year. Thorpey won a bunch of medals at the Olympics, the Sydney Roosters got smashed in the grand final, and Britney Spears released the classic Oops!… I Did It Again, but nothing came close to the birth of the Savannah.
It quickly earned a reputation for safety, and has since become a smash hit around the world, with more than 650 sold to date. Of course, the design has been fiddled with many times over the past 15 years, and the current version is modern, smart and reliable.
The XL version maxes out at 198km/h and cruises at 175, and holds enough fuel for a four hour flight. The controls are intuitive and simple to master, which is why it’s often used by flight schools, but the craft has enough grunt for more advanced flyers.
For what it’s worth, the Indian Air Force has a squadron of Savannahs fluttering around the sub-continent, which is certainly a feather in its cap. Or turban, perhaps.
This is a delightful plane that keeps surprising the flying world – so here’s to another 15 wonderful years!
THE X-AIR HANUMAN
Hanuman translates to ‘hawk’ in English (or so we’ve been told), and it’s a pretty appropriate name for this two-seat, fixed tricycle gear ultralight. The Hanuman glides through the air with ease, a true bird of prey that’s so great it will surely sink its claws into you and never let go!
The strong and rugged undercarriage will handle off-field operations with ease, meaning the Hanuman is ideal for cross country adventures. It was designed in India, and you can really see that it was made with a rugged country in mind. If you want to fly out into the desert, you can’t go wrong here.
With only a very short runway required for takeoff, decent top speeds and plenty of options (take the doors off if you want, or attach skis) it proves that a bird in the hand really is worth two in the bush.
None of these little legends would get too far if they didn’t have an engine strapped to them, so it’s worth having a look at some of the best (and most popular) donks used in RA.
The ubiquitous Rotax 912 is a versatile engine used in a wide variety of aircraft. It’s reliable and zippy, and if you end up with one of these, you’re in for more fun than a monkey with two tails.
Rotec also offers a range of engines that have a strong reputation for reliability, and are perfectly suited to light aircraft and homebuilds. They’re awesome and elegance personified.
A new player on the Aussie scene is Corvus Aero, distributors for MW Fly and UL Power aero engines.
The Fly is an extraordinary expression of Italian style and technology. The engines are impressive, not only for the high technology content but also for their sleek design and grunt.
The Italian-designed UL boasts FADEC (that stands for Full Authority Digital Engine Control – remember that, you’ll be tested on it later) with multi-point electronic fuel injection, and dual electronic ignition, excellent power-to-weight ratio, and high fuel efficiency in a conventional configuration. How impressive does that sound!
What it all means is that if you buy a decent recreational plane, you certainly won’t be splattering around with a lawn mower engine strapped to your rig.
There are so many brilliant RA aircraft out there that we couldn’t possibly do justice to them all, so we’ve cherry-picked some of our favourites to help you on your way. We hope we’ve given you something to think about when buying your next plane (or gyrocopter!).
And remember, it’s not the size of your plane, it’s what you do with it that matters – and every single aircraft we’ve featured here is sure to impress!