Friday, December 18, 2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Phoenix Flight Report

Josef Bostik and Jim Lee flew the big metal tube over to the Czech Republic to flight test the new Phoenix motorglider. We had visited the new factory in Usti nad Orlici earlier in the year to see the first prototype under construction, so we had already taken a close look at the construction of the aircraft. The prototype is mostly fiberglass construction for cost effectiveness. The production aircraft are carbon/aramid, with carbon being the predominant material, and aramid added to the cockpit area for crash protection. Here are Jim’s impressions:
Compared to the Lambada when viewed from the outside, four things are readily apparent. The fuselage is very streamlined, the canopy hinges at the front, the wings have a new shape, they are mounted low on the fuselage and there are full span flaperons. The low wing means that you step up onto the wing from the rear and then have an easy step down into the cockpit. The cockpit tapers back on the aft fuselage much further, so there isn’t the long skinny tailboom like on the Lambada. Also, the Phoenix uses two levers for the spoilers and flaps so that they can be used independently. The wing extensions are twice as long as the Lambada’s, hence the no wingtip span is around 36 feet.
Josef won the coin toss, and got to fly first. I got to take pictures as Josef and Martin taxied through the tall grass. This is one beautiful aircraft!

After they took off, and departed the area I looked at all of the unusual (to me) Czech and Russian built aircraft at the field. Amphibs, biplanes, gliders, motorgliders, towplanes and experimentals were all over the place. There were plenty of Sambas and Lambadas around too, including a tricycle Lambada. Every instrument panel on the field was rather spartan, without a single glass panel in any of them. (Am I a spoiled pilot or what?).
I headed for the end of the runway when I saw the Phoenix returning. There was a Lambda landing just ahead of the Phoenix, and I noticed a huge difference in wind noise between the two aircraft. The Phoenix has a light whistle to it much like a pure glider. It was a lot of fun watching the various angles of the Phoenix in the pattern, and I kept thinking, this is an awesome looking plane! After watching some boring landings it was my turn to hop in.
The first things you notice inside are the plush, black leather appointments, much like a luxury automobile. There are map pockets on the sides, and a large glove box on the panel. A stretched cockpit provides more leg and headroom than in the Lambada. For me, at six-one, it was nice to have a little more legroom. The center console which houses the flap, airbrake, and trim levers is very ergonomic, allowing easy access to these controls from both seats, and will allow an instructor to correct airbrake settings on final approach without excessive arm motions. These controls are far enough forward that the arm and elbow area is padded and comfortable. Just forward of the console on the floor is the tow release lever. The throttle, choke, and switches are positioned normally on the panel.
Starting the 100hp Rotax is straightforward. Throttle at idle, half choke if the engine is cold, no choke if the engine is warm. The Rotax cranks up immediately, as usual. With the forward hinged canopy, there are no worries about starting and taxiing with it open.
After securing the canopy, we advanced the throttle to full, and executed a no flap takeoff on the beautiful grass runway. We were off the ground in about 500 feet, even though the runway needed to be mowed, and climbed at 110kph, achieving 5m/s with two of us and half fuel. We climbed about 1000 meters, and then leveled off for cruise flight. 4700rpm resulted in a speed of 185kph. Slowing to 100kph, a few dutch rolls confirmed a roll authority slightly better than the aileron only Lambada. We shut down the engine and feathered the prop and using 0 degrees of flap we climbed at 2m/s. During the climb we intentionally slowed to the stall buffet (which is a little more pronounced than in the Lambada), and still had good aileron authority.
We headed for the next cloud about 4 miles away. Cruising at 95kph, the sink rate on the vario showed around 1m/s. When we hit the thermal, we again did not use the flaps initially, since I wanted to compare the flight characteristics with the Lambada. About the only change is the view out of the cockpit, with the low wing, and the out-of-sight cowling. Dropping the flaps 1 notch allowed us to slow the plane about 3-5kph with the same bank angle. The climb rate increased as is to be expected, and the roll authority remained good. There are two positive flap positions on the prototype, but this will be changed as explained later.
With the engine running again, we performed a full stall series with flaps up and down, and spoilers up and down, wings level and during turns, which all resulted in stable mushing stalls with no tendancies to spin, just like the Lambada.
Back into the pattern with a bunch of other aircraft, including a tow plane busy hauling gliders aloft, we entered downwind, and flew the approach without flaps. The spoilers rise higher out of the wing than the Lambada, and are more effective. Except for the different sight picture out of the cockpit, the landing went as expected. Full spoilers just before ground effect, and then just keep the plane flying until it touches down on three wheels. Full power, and we were off again in short order. The second landing was with full flaps (position 2 – about 20 degrees). The approach angle was a little steeper, but not much. But the flare angle of attack had a lower nose angle, meaning the mains touched first, then the tailwheel and I bounced it. Adding power, (I could almost hear Josef laughing), we went around for another go with flaps. Same result. OK, forget the flaps, in we came, and another nice 3 point landing. Conclusion; the Phoenix lands just like the Lambada without flaps, you could even call it autoland. Just pull back in the flare, and it lands three point. No special timing is required. But with flaps, the flare angle of attack is not a three point position, so it takes some special timing to pull it off. The second flap position isn’t really good for anything. A full spoiler approach with a slip is going to result in a higher sink rate than the flaps would produce. But one notch of flap is good for thermalling, and negative flap increases glide speed, so the final flap configuration will have this arrangement.
It was a warm day, and the canopy did not have opening side windows, so it got too hot in the cockpit. The vents will be reworked, and the canopy will have sliding windows as well, so that should help.
Much attention has been devoted to drag reduction. The cowling transitions into the canopy without an angle change. The lower bib cowling is also clean around the engine. The gear legs are flush with the bottom of the fuselage, and the legs themselves are cleaner, and stronger than the Lambada’s.
The wheelpants look extremely well designed, and since you don’t stand on the gear leg to get in, the pants should stay unblemished too. As mentioned, the aft cockpit area fairs back into the fuselage with a nice long recovery area, further reducing drag.

There were a lot of things to like about this new aircraft, and the only things we didn’t like (flap angle and air vents) will be changed for the production aircraft. The first production Phoenix is out of the molds, and when a composite junky like me sees all of that beautiful black carbon cloth everywhere, it makes my head swim (no it wasn’t the debrief Pilsners). The second production plane is being laminated in the molds, so epoxy is flying in the Phoenix shop.

The Lambada has always made a big impression among the crowds at airshows amidst the look-alike LSA’s (except for the Evektor SportStar, of course). But wait till the gang sees the new Phoenix; it is guaranteed to blow their minds! I know, it did that to me.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Reno Back to Florida in a Lambada

Bob and I shared some airtime as he grew familiar with the Samba. There was generally a lot of wind, but the last day dawned clear and calm, perfect for polishing landings at Minden.

During the windy days, lenticulars were evident everyday. John Dunham and I have taken a Lambada from 9000msl to 15000msl in the Tahoe Wave (engine off, of course).

This is Steve Lance's primo hangar, my home away from home while in Carson City. The apartment is in the loft above his beautiful Tahoe Special.

Many of the hangars in Carson are stuffed with toys!

Then it was time to fly home to Florida in Lambada N109UA. Bob flew with me as I departed, and we had a little photo session.

After Bob bid me farewell, he wanged it back to Carson, leaving me to negotiate the desert, mountains, and fantastic terrain of Nevada.

Looking past Pilot Peak towards Boundary Peak, the northern mountain of the Owens Valley.

Passing Durango Colorado, this marvelous sight greeted me.

Another shining Lambada wing against the clouds photo.

I landed in Jonesboro, LA to stretch my legs, and revisit my home airport where I soloed in a Cessna 150 40 years ago.
Then it was on to Panama City Florida to spend the night with my parents, before making the final 3 hour leg to Melbourne.
Another fantastic distance flight in the Lambada. Now for some soaring!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Samba flight to Reno

OK, you are probably wondering about a post of an airplane on a motorglider blogsite. (Actually some folks call the Samba a motorglider). And how about that Phoenix flight report? There are connections here. We are delivering the new Samba to Carson City, just south of Reno, and then picking up a Lambada to bring "home to the nest" in Melbourne, Florida. You can see Bob Johnson above, standing next to his new plane after the ferry flight across the country.

Urban Air Samba XXL and Lambada share the sky over Florida.

Approaching Moab, Utah for a stop at the Canyonlands airport for fuel. Last stop was Liberal, Kansas.

The Samba performed flawlessly across the country. Typical economy cruise settings yielded 110kts. The Samba is as fast as the LSA regs allow!
After some flying with Bob in the Carson/Minden area, it was time to head back to Florida in the Lambada.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Phoenix Motorglider Photos

This side profile shows the outstanding fuselage aerodynamics. Click on any photo to enlarge. View from seated position only as ensuing encreased pulse rate may cause light-headedness!

Josef Bostik holds the wing extension. Note that it is twice the length of the Lambada extension. The Phoenix will fit easily into any hangar without the extensions in place.

It takes about 30 seconds to secure the wingtip in place.

Forward view of cockpit and panel.

Rear view of cockpit. Note the plush interior, and the center controls. There are individual levers for flaps, spoilers, and trim.
Our next posting will feature a flight report- stay tuned!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Check out the new Phoenix Motorglider!
The Phoenix is an all new plane manufactured by a new Czech company. You could call it a "souped up Lambada". It is a two seat, 15 meter span aircraft which will be certified as an S-LSA.
The Phoenix has a very aerodynamic fuselage which results in a 35/1 glide ratio.

The cockpit features more legroom and more headroom than the Lambada.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Steve Silverman picks up his new plane.

Steve's company makes the Sky Tracker which Jim flew with across the Gulf of Mexico. Steve is an accomplished glider pilot, and also owns a TBM.

Steve prepares to leave Melbourne for his quick flight home to Baltimore.

Leaving just after dawn.

Happy soaring Steve!

Valkaria, FL Airshow, Feb 21

Rachel talks about the Lambada to a rapt audience.

Our Lambada and Evektor SportStar parked in the grass.

Barry (on the far side of the plane) talks to customers.

Airshow performer over the Lambada. After the show Rachel and Jim headed to Sebastian Airport for some landings. Rachel did another unassisted landing! She has about 12 hours logged.

Lambada delivery to New Jersey on Feb 6

Leaving Melbourne behind soon after sunrise.

St. Augustine

The Lambada cruises right along!

Crossing the Delaware. Not a big deal after the Gulf crossing, but still a lot of water down there!

Sky Manor airport, new home for a new Lambada. Have fun Peter!