LOOKING for a new plane to is one of the most exciting things you can do without leaving the ground, and right now pilots are spoiled for choice when looking for a fresh set of wings. At the same time, a lot of potential pilots are put off by the price of buying their own plane, but the good news is that you don’t have to be Richard Branson to start zooming through the sky in your shiny new aircraft.
Ultralights provide all the fun and excitement of their bigger brothers, but are simpler and kinder on the wallet. You can pick up a killer set-up for under $150,000 – in some cases a lot less than that – and be in the air in no time.
That’s an absolute steal for a quality plane. If you’ve been flying microlights or other light aircraft, the winged wonders we’re featuring are the perfect step up, and if you’re new to flying they make for a great first plane. Really, you can’t go wrong with any of them.
Recreational aircraft are limited to two seats and weigh up to 600kg, which means they’re a joy to swing around, but are gutsy enough to zip along at over 120knots/hour. Make no mistake, these aren’t toys and they aren’t stuck together with hobby glue and sticky tape – they’re the real deal and sure to satisfy any flying urges you have.
There are heaps of options when it comes to lighter aircraft, and the good news is you don’t have to forgo all the comforts of larger planes if you decide to go down this route. There’s an aircraft for you, at a price you can probably afford.
Before deciding on a plane, you’ve got a few things to consider. Firstly, what’s your budget? At the top end of the $150,000 limit are aircraft that are close to pushing out of recreational aviation and into general aviation, such is their sophistication and power. If your money doesn’t stretch that far, don’t worry, because the less expensive planes featured here also provide a brilliant experience, are safe, and are completely reliable.
Secondly, are you looking for an all-enclosed dream machine, or something a bit more rugged and open to the elements? If you want a slightly more basic experience, there are heaps of choices that will provide the exciting experience you’re after.
Another important aspect to consider is whether you want to purchase a kit plane and save yourself a bit of money, or pay a bit more to have a ready-to-fly aircraft delivered. Both options are great, and if you know what you’re doing, there’s a real sense of achievement attached to flying off in a plane you’ve built yourself. For comparison’s sake, all aircraft here can be had for under $150,000 fly away.
We’ve rounded up good quality, reliable, durable planes that are also an absolute blast to fly. Go with one of these and you can be assured of years of joy and more than a few envious glances as you roll up the runway and climb gracefully into the blue.
So forget about robbing the local service station and cancel that trip to Thailand to sell your kidneys on the black market, because we’re going to take a look at the best recreational aircraft on the market that will come in within budget.
AUSTRALIAN LIGHTWING SP2000
The Lightwing is a great-looking, dependable and fun two-seater that will serve you well as you dart through the skies, heading from adventure to epic adventure. Made in (where else?) Australia, it sports a zippy Rotax 912s capable of flinging you around at 118 knots at 75 per cent power, with a solid rate of climb of 750ft per minute.
This sprightly tricycle-undercart aircraft is made from a combination of metal, Ceconite fabric and glass-reinforced plastic. Aluminium has been used for the wing structure and most of the skin, with fabric covering the outboard underside.
The Lightwing is available in any colour you can think of, so if you’ve always dreamed of sailing through the skies in a hot pink plane, you can finally make it a reality. If you’d rather go with royal blue or something normal like that, that’s fine, too.
If you’re the sort of pilot who likes to fly your mates on cross-country adventures, there are also kits for four and six-seater versions, so you won’t have to leave anyone at home when you take a run up the coast. Best of all, you can make them get the beers when you land!
ATEC 122 ZEPHYR
When Anthony Kiedis invited listeners to fly away on his zephyr in the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ 2002 hit The Zephyr Song, he sadly wasn’t referring to this wonderful little plane. If he had been, the lyrics surely would’ve mentioned the Zephyr’s manoeuvrability, rigid construction and economic fuel consumption, which make it a versatile aircraft that’s perfect for any new pilot.
The Czech-designed Zephyr’s legendary reputation precedes it – since the first one took to the skies back in 1996, it’s been the class leader, and with good reason. The three-wheel fixed landing gear is better than ever, having been improved time and again over the years. The weight of the frame has been reduced thanks to increased use of carbon, meaning the current beast is faster and kinder on the petrol.
But more than anything, the Zephyr is simply a joy to fly, and that’s all that really matters. It climbs into the sky at an astonishing 1500ft per minute, and is so easy to carve through the clouds that it’s a hit with flying schools. Now that’s worth singing about.
The Czech Republic has produced some of the most unique and thought-provoking ideas in the history of the world, (think Kafka and Mendel), but it has also been leading a renaissance in European aircraft manufacturing. Czech produced planes have been making significant inroads into the Australian aviation scene over the past few years, the charge initially being led by the perennially popular Evektor Sportstar which used to sit on top of the style pile. Now, Evektor have released their new gleaming LSA machine, the Harmony. As you’d expect, it’s brilliantly put together and incredibly reliable, kitted out with dazzling electrics, a modern design and sleek lines from prop to tale. As ever, Evektor has maintained its trademark ‘sporty’ and modern look but it’s not just for boy racers – low operating costs, a resistant metal airframe and excellent reliability make it a great choice for pilot training and flight schools. The economy is fantastic, meaning the Harmony is perfect for cross-country flying: the spacious cockpit is 118 cms across, comfortably accommodating the widest of shoulders and with plenty of leg room to boot. A range of 700 nm, the latest avionics including an optional autopilot and night equipment, all make the Harmony LSA the perfect aircraft for travel. Of course, it’s also fun enough to take out for a quick spin with three engine choices, including the incredibly zippy Rotax 912iS.
Comfortable seating with high backrests, adjustable pedals, a stylish ventilation control, upholstered arm rests, bottle holders and other cockpit options will keep you relaxed and make it a great option for those hot and sticky Aussie summers And she’s quick – coming in at a maximum level speed of 240 kms with a Rotax 914 under the hood. If you feel comfortable with this dream machine, it will serve you for years and help you grow as a pilot.
If you’re after something a bit lighter and a lot cheaper, the GT500 is a machine that will make your heart sing. It’s a beautiful bit of kit that doesn’t feel like a compromise, and sits proudly next to more expensive aircraft.
The 80-hp, four-cylinder, four-stroke Rotax 912 engine offers more grunt than you’ll ever need to power the lightweight frame, which features a zip-up cabin for those who enjoy the feel of an enclosed flying experience. It comes complete with tachometer, water temperature gauge, Hobbs hour meter, magnetic compass, altimeter, vertical speed indicator, front and rear airspeed indicators, as well as oil temperature and pressure gauges, meaning you’ll have a luxury flying experience for a bargain basement price.
The GT500 handles brilliantly, easily hitting 72 knots at 75%, and noise and vibration are kept to a minimum to maximise your enjoyment. The view from the cockpit is wide open in every direction, meaning you can truly enjoy the scenery. This plane offers so much bang for your buck that you’ll be laughing all the way to the clouds.
TECNAM P92 EAGLET
Flying in from Italy comes this beauty, which matches class-leading electrics with that famous European flair and style. Sitting inside the Eaglet is sumptuous, with plenty of head and leg room, enough width to stretch out in, and space for 20kgs of baggage behind the seats. This plane simply begs to be taken on longer flights, and comes with all the comforts required for such adventures.
Standard engine instruments included a CHT gauge, fuel flow indicator, flap position indicator, and circuit breakers, all of which are easily accessible. The Eaglet hits 116 knots at 75% and climbs at 1100 ft/minute, so you’ll never be left wanting in the performance stakes, and there’s an overwhelming feeling of quality to every inch of it. This plane comes with everything you could want for a dazzling flying experience, with its safety and reliability perfectly matched by a sense of joy that only the Italians seem able to capture. Have a big bowl of spaghetti marinara and then jump behind the controls, because it will be amore at first sight!
ROKOSPOL ROKO VIA
If you want to fly around in something truly unique, you can’t go past this Czech-designed delight. There are very few currently hitting Australian skies, but as its reputation grows, that’s sure to change. With an emphasis on safety and high travel speeds, the Roko Via is a dependable choice for new pilots, while its uniqueness mean that it’s also worth a look for those who have spent a bit more time in the air.
It comes with all the bells and whistles including hydraulic brakes, a stainless steel exhaust system, cabin heating and a full set of engine instruments, leading to a luxurious flight that is second to none. The Roko Via looks like something out of a dream and is available in five different models, so you can find one to suit your budget and needs.
The top model is truly tricked-out and special, making this just about the most glamorous plane in its category. If you go with something as individual as the Roko Via, you’re sure to be a topic of hot conversation amongst the flying community – well, that’s if you spend enough time on the ground for people to actually get a closer look at your plane!
FLY SYNTHESIS WALLABY
The Wallaby might look a little unusual, but you’d be hopping mad to dismiss it! With an open cockpit and a basic three-axis set-up, this little cracker is designed to be easier to fly than more traditional ultralight aircraft, and the results speak for themselves. It’s simple to get off the ground, with the design allowing for very short take-offs, maximising the places you can fly into and out of.
It’s put together with sturdy materials, including a fibreglass fuselage and a steel cockpit, as well as wings dressed in composite material for durability. It feels well made and expertly put together, which is further proven by the excellent reputation for safety and reliability that the Wallaby has earned over the years. You simply won’t have a problem with this machine.
While it’s lacking some of the accessories of more expensive craft, it does come with pressure altimeter, airspeed indicator, rate of climb indicator and a bunch of other dials, which should be all you need. It’s not incredibly fast, and it’s not the sexiest aircraft ever built, but the Wallaby will serve you well and provide plenty of memorable experiences.
The Fly Synthesis team used to be well represented in Australia a few years back but have been lacking a local distributor recently. Rumours are that the Italian company have been inking a few Downunder dealership deals over the past few months and will now be back with avengeance. Watch this space…
BRUMBY 600 AND 610
Aussie company Brumby are offering two remarkable planes that are sure to appeal to a wide range of pilots. The 600 is a low-wing aircraft that’s easy to fly and plenty of fun, with handling and stability capabilities equal to many bigger planes. It’s a sturdy beast that will feel comfortable for any pilots moving over from general aviation, but also simple enough to get to grips with that it makes an excellent first purchase. It can hit 110knots at 75%, so it also has the power and speed you yearn for.
Brumby also offer the 610, which was originally designed for training fleets, and so is remarkably easy to get to grips with. Everything was designed with the novice in mind, meaning it’s well-behaved and gentle from takeoff to touch down. This means it’s obviously a great choice for a beginner, but it also fantastic for the pilot who enjoys a more relaxed ride. Don’t worry, it’s still got all the grunt you need for a fun fly.
Whichever flavour you go for, Brumby aircraft are sure to provide you with years of trouble-free flying. So don’t worry, this one brumby that certainly won’t try to buck you off!
This little Aussie battler might not be as flashy or exotic as some of the other options, but it’s full of character and provides a wonderful experience that’s not to be missed. The Gazelle is light on systems and instruments, meaning it’s very easy to get acquainted with, and is something of a throwback to older, simpler days of flying.
It’s not particularly fast off the ground, it doesn’t climb as quickly as some of the others, and its top speed is a less-than-astonishing 75 knots, but it’s a joy to get around in. It’s so easy to fly that it makes for a perfect first plane, or a great ride for anyone not too concerned with having all the latest technology. Take-off and landing are as easy as a second grade maths exam, allowing you to truly concentrate on the wonder of flight.
Best of all, the Gazelle can be yours for around $30,000, a fraction of the price of some of the others we’ve looked at. One of Australia’s most popular planes is well within your grasp – and you’ll enjoy every magical second with it!
Silent Wings have a massive range of recreational aircraft, so no matter what you’re after, these guys have it. They’re the Aussie distributor for a wide selection of top European manufacturers, including Aeropilot, FK-Lightplanes and Bucker & Funk, meaning they have a plane that’s exactly what you’re looking for.
A highlight is the Aeropilot Legend 600, which boasts carbon fibre throughout and is beautifully fitted-out and finished. The legend moniker is truly earned, with this aircraft providing a performance equal to many larger and more expensive planes.
For war buffs, you can’t go past the FK-Lightplanes SW51 Mustang, a 70% replica of the P-51 Mustang fighter that was flown during the Second World War. It’s a glorious machine that is as fun to fly as it is to look at. Just don’t fly over Germany!
If you love the water just as much as you love the sky, Silent Wings also carry Colyaer’s range of amphibious aircraft, providing an exhilarating experience for pilots who don’t want to be restricted to the runway. Just think, you could head off for a flight, touch down, catch a fish or two, and head home!
To be honest, there’s not nearly enough space to cover all the aircraft offered by Silent Wings, so give them a call and find out what your next ride will look like. Just a warning, though – you’ll be spoiled for choice!
That’s all that space permits this time but scrolling through a towering pile of other inexpensive options, it looks as though we’ll be continuing this peek at low-priced planes next month. In the meantime, if we’ve missed out your favourite machine or you have any further suggestions, feel free to get in touch and we’ll be sure to consider them in November.