From microlights to gyrocopters, there are so many options out there for anyone buying their first plane, looking to upgrade, or simply looking to try something new and exciting.
We’re happy to say that we’ve saved the best for last, with a set of planes that will blow your socks off. Not literally, of course – they’re far too sophisticated to do anything like that!
The winged wonders we’ve collected here are the real deal – the absolute best recreational and light sports aircraft money can buy. They’re all available in Australia and they’re all better than a cold beer on a hot day.
We’ve handpicked the Sling 4, BMR Bristell and the ONE because they’re exciting, reliable, powerful and great to look at. They’ve all been designed and built with love and care, to ensure you have the best flying experience possible. Take to the skies in one of these babies and you’ll never want to touch the ground again.
Remember, these are recreational or light sports aircraft, which means they’re lighter and cheaper, but that doesn’t mean they sacrifice all the features of larger planes. You won’t feel like you’re missing out with these beauties, because they’ve got all the fun, in a smaller package – like a midget wearing a sombrero.
When scoping out a new aircraft, it’s important to find one that covers everything you’re after and, more importantly, just feels right. Like searching for the perfect Russian mail order bride, you want to make sure you have a real connection (and that she’s going to put in a good performance when it counts) before you lay down your hard-earned.
Some of these dream machines can be purchased as a kit, so you can have all the satisfaction of putting together your new best friend before going for a fly. Of course, if you want to pick her up and take to the skies right away, that option is here, too.
Speaking of options, once you get to this level of plane, it’s all about choices. You can mix and match pieces and parts to come up with exactly the plane – and flying experience – that you want. It’s sort of like putting together a very expensive Mr Potato Head, with the possibilities limited only by your imagination and budget.
These are such wonderful planes that we know you’ll love them just as much as we do. They’re the sorts of aircraft that deserve to have sonnets written for them, movies made about them, and entire cultures and religions devoted to them. Alright, maybe that’s going a bit far, but it really is difficult to overstate just how gorgeous they all are.
With the third part of our exhaustive look into the options available in recreational aviation, you’ll be armed with all the knowledge you need to make our next purchase, so get out there and pick yourself up something special. Go on, you deserve it!
There’s a reason the Sling 4 was chosen to grace the cover of this month’s issue of Aviator – because it’s one of the most fantastic planes to ever leave the tarmac, and comes highly recommended to all pilots, old and young.
Forget Charlize Theron and useful pool cleaning contraption the Kreepy Krauly, The Aircraft Factory Sling 4 is the best thing to come out of South Africa in years. It’s a sensational all-metal, low-wing, fixed tricycle gear aircraft that’s available ready-built or as a kit, and we couldn’t be happier to tell you all about it.
The original Sling 2 has long been one of our favourite planes, and the idea for the much-improved Sling 4 came shortly after shareholders Mike Blyth and James Pitman’s successfully circumnavigated the globe in the original aircraft. They realised that the 2 was easily powerful enough to accommodate more weight and extra passengers without sacrificing flyability, so they set to work making their dream a reality. And what a reality it is!
The main differences between the Sling 2 and the Sling 4 are the wing size, the engine and the centre fuselage arrangements. Where the standard Sling 2 uses a 100hp Rotax 912 ULS or iS engine, the Sling 4 is fitted with the fancier 115hp turbocharged Rotax 914 UL. Although a 15hp difference doesn’t sound massive, the turbocharged engine gives full power at up to 15,000 feet, at which altitude the 100hp would only be spitting out around 55hp. So on a hot day the swing in power between the 912 ULS and 914 UL engine is in the vicinity of 36%, which is simply astonishing.
“The Sling 4 was developed specifically for the pilot that wants the capability of taking four adults, but does not want the cost associated with a GA aircraft that is capable of doing this,” explains Aussie distributor Errol Van Rensburg. “To this end the Sling 4 was designed with a small, economical, but highly reliable powertrain, the Rotax 914 Turbo. Combine this with the Airmaster in-flight adjustable propellor, and you have a wonderful aircraft.
“So how does this aircraft actually perform with this kind of weight? It has surprised every potential client I’ve taken for a test flight. It’s very hard to get your head around a true four-seat aircraft, that has all the attributes, but uses only 115 hp as a powertrain. Also, it must be one of the best handling aircraft available – very well balanced controls, well behaved in the stall, easy to land, but still with almost fighter jet like controls.”
When you take control of this little beauty, you’ll soon realise that every feature of the Sling 4 is absolutely top class. The controls are perfectly co-ordinated and incredibly responsive, leading to a plane that truly feels like an extension of yourself, without ever seeming over-sensitive.
The frame is incredibly strong and can put up with some pretty rough treatment and keep coming back for more, but treat the little lady properly and she’ll outlive you. The aluminium construction promises an impressive lifespan, and delivers a package that looks and feels like it could make it through a nuclear war, without sacrificing manoeuvrability.
The cockpit is surprisingly roomy for such a small plane, with plenty of room for you and your passengers, with enough luggage space for a cheeky weekend away, or something longer. The design also means that visibility is high, substantially increasing your ability to enjoy your flight.
The instruments are of the highest quality, leading to an easy and spectacular flight that is like a dream come true. And, in the unlikely event that something does go wrong (don’t worry, you’ve got more chance of winning Lotto and then being asked out on a date by Jennifer Hawkins on the same afternoon), there’s also a ballistic parachute for extra safety.
With all those features, we’re surprised it doesn’t tuck you into bed and read you a story while you nod off to sleep!
As you can tell, we’re a bit in love with the Sling 4, and the blokes who created it adore the little champion so much they’ve been flying around the planet to prove how good it is. Back in 2013, Blyth and his son flew from Johannesburg to Wisconsin in the United States, just to prove how versatile and reliable the Sling 4 is. The epic journey included a monstrous 14-hour overwater leg that required the fellas to put all their faith in the plane’s impressive 20 hours’ worth of fuel endurance.
And they’re not the only ones putting their money where their mouths are, because Errol has been spending a good chunk of his time in the Sling 4, as well.
“My wife and I have recently completed a flight around Australia, in the company of eight other Sling aircraft, and we could really enjoy what the four-seat Sling can offer. Two people can really pack this aircraft with more things than you can fit in most small cars, and fly for hours on end without getting tired. In and out of rough strips, short strips and longer stretches proved to be no problem for the Sling, and when you get up high the Turbo just gets into its own.
“I used to own a Cessna 182, and loved it, but didn’t appreciate the cost of maintaining a GA plane. With the Sling 4 all of that is gone, with cheap running and very low maintenance costs, so it will definitely not break the bank. I’ll never go back to owning a GA plane.”
What more do you need to hear, readers? The Sling 4 is a smashing aircraft that’s been built to the highest standards and comes with everything you’ll need for a lifetime of happy flying. Remember – Slingers are grinners!
Flying in from the Czech Republic is the brilliant Bristell, a zippy little aircraft that comes in just under our $150,000 budget, and offers plenty of goodies to justify the price, including a direct steerable nose wheel, custom instrumentation, high-quality upholstery and a robust design that’s excellent for flight schools.
The good people at BRM have shown astonishing attention to detail, from construction to airframe paint and trim, instrumentation and cockpit furnishings. It’s a delightful aircraft to look at, and is incredibly comfortable and spacious inside the cockpit. This is no to-be-improved prototype, but a mature aircraft.
The quality of the Bristell becomes clear mere seconds from takeoff. It climbs into the sky at a very fast 900f/minute, and once you’re high above the ground it churns along at a crisp cruising speed of 208km/h. The controls are simple enough for a relaxed flight, but there’s enough to mess around with to make you feel like you’re always in complete control.
It’s a joy to fly, with all the bits and pieces located in the right spots, and working brilliantly. It feels more expensive than it is, and you’ll feel like Brad Pitt as you zoom around. Unfortunately, Angelina Jolie isn’t included, but with a plane this nice you won’t have any trouble attracting the ladies!
The Bristell can fly for more than seven hours non-stop, meaning it has all the range you need for an exciting get-away. It’s also suited to plenty of different circumstances and weather patterns, so your options are wide open.
The wing design is definitely worth mentioning, because it’s unique to the Bristell; the wingspan extends 45cm out from the fuselage, meaning the pilot doesn’t need to step on the wing itself to get in and out of the plane, thereby reducing risk of damaged wings. And you definitely don’t want damaged wings, because flying this thing is just so much fun!
There are a number of different versions of the Bristell, so you’ll be able to find something that offers everything you need. You can choose between fixed or tail dragger landing gear, as well as five different types of engine, from the 80hp Rotax 912 UL, to the 120hp Jabiru 3300cc, with the latter providing a truly awe-inspiring ride. Alternatively, you can step it up with the GA-only Bristell RG, which is an extraordinary aircraft for those who really know what they’re doing.
Not surprisingly, more and more Bristells are being seen in Australian skies, with the champions at Aussie-based Anderson Aviation shipping plenty of them to happy customers. The Bristell is as fun as a knees-up in a Czech pub and as reliable as the next day’s hangover, and we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it for a moment.
TECNAM P2008 JC
One of the latest additions to the Italian-based Tecnam line is the highly popular P2008 JC and it’s top of the pops in our books. This high-wing, two seat LSA oozes Mediterranean charm and grace and doesn’t hang about, zipping along powered by the nifty four piston Rotax 912s. Rather than throwing the baby out with the bath water, the Italians decided to use a combination of materials in this high end LSA’s construction: the P2008JC floats along with metal wings and a metal stabilator. The engineers decided to retain metal for its strength, reliability and its ability to flex in flight providing a more comfortable ride. However, to produce an increase in cabin width and greater aerodynamic efficiency, Tecnam then opted for carbon fibre and composite materials.
The aircraft is kitted out with a variety of clever design features. For instance, the fuel tanks are installed in the wing box, behind the main spar. This is to preserve their integrity in case of a crash landing and to minimize fire potential – not that that’s a likely event in an aircraft with such refined stability. She’s rock solid which, as well as a flash gad about town, means that the P2008 is a canny choice for flight schools. The plane’s flight characteristics are exceedingly forgiving, smoothing out the clumsiness of even the most cack-handed student.
What more could you want? Sleek and elegant lines, exceptional fuel efficiency and so quiet you might forget she’s there…sounds like the perfect partner!
Adding to the fleet at Aerosport Australia is the all new ONE LSA Aircraft. The ONE is a major step forward in the development of LSA/microlight aircraft, being of full composite construction and with a safety kevlar/carbon composite security roll cage. That means it’s as safe as a mother’s hug.
This luxurious aircraft has all the features, style, cabin room, luggage space and performance that’s normally reserved for GA aircraft such as the Cirrus SR22 and Cessna TTX. And now it can be yours.
The designers wanted this little beauty to be fitted with the best technology available, and because of this it’s one of the best-performing aircraft in its class. The Rotax 914 turbo engine enables take-off in less than 200 metres and climb rate of 1000 ft/min.
The ONE is not only fast, but also surprisingly economical. At the optimum flight speed, it uses only about 15 litres of fuel an hour. In the best conditions a full tank will keep you airborne for more than nine hours and take you an astonishing 2000 km. That’s long enough for your passenger to get a full night’s sleep and be up and ready to start buying you beers when you land!
The ONE has been designed with a passionate pilot in mind, and is perfect for anyone who wants to make the most of their time amongst the clouds. In order to achieve the best possible comfort for long-haul pilots, the aircraft is equipped with adjustable rudder pedals as well as adjustable seats. All this gives pilots the feeling of a home comfort, whether they play in the NBA or need to stand on a milk crate just to be allowed to ride the roller coaster.
The plane also offers a lot of room for the front fellow passenger. The back seat can be used as baggage space or you can chuck another mate in there. There’s also some more room behind the back seat, so you’ll never have to leave your collection of board games behind on a long trip.
The ONE is configured to be a safe, attractive and affordable small aircraft. A number of innovative design choices were made to emphasise safety, including high-end avionic equipment, excellent visibility and an optional ISOFIX connection for child seat. With so many precautions taken before you even strap yourself into the seat, you can relax and enjoy your journey. All you need to do is work out where you’re heading off to.
The ONE’s future is looking as bright as one of Dr Karl Kruszelnicki’s shirts, with a new hybrid version in the works. It’ll come with an additional electric engine between the Rotax engine flange and the propeller flange, adding an additional 25kW of power for take-off and the climb phase of the flight. The electric engine will also be used in the rare event of an engine failure emergency, for extra safety. Batteries are to be stored in the wing and under the seat, while the regulator will be located on the firewall. It’s an exciting development for an already exciting aircraft.
We’ve seen a lot of light sports aircraft over the years, and the ONE stands proudly alongside any plane on that list. It’s fun, fast, safe and powerful, with enough bells and whistles to impress even the fussiest pilot. Give it a shot, because it might be the ONE you’ve been looking for!