The last airshow of 2021 is over. The Christmas holidays are beginning to dominate everyone’s calendar. Yet recreational pilots — being enthusiastic aviators — are thinking about flying in 2022. The Covid pandemic of 2020/2021 appears not to have slowed enjoyment of flying for fun… for most of us anyway. I sincerely regret anyone who suffered during this period but sport aviation has held up surprisingly well. In this article, I will tackle a couple reader questions, the sort I hear all the time. To answer several people with one response, I asked reader John Joyce if I could use his question and name. He consented, so here we go… Buyers Without Remorse John started, “Skyleader 600 looks like a great aircraft. I had actually just noticed this model a couple days ago because there is a used one listed for sale on the Web. As a potential first time buyer, I would be interested to have you address the question of service for these smaller manufacturers.
Phone: 559-289-5519Madera, CA 93636 - USA
Flight Report Excerpts (from an earlier evaluation)Skyleader 500 (now 600, with further refinements) is a handsomely-styled, all-metal LSA with a high-visibility cockpit, a high-performance wing with well-regarded Fowler flaps, tough trailing link landing gear, and a 100-horsepower Rotax 912 engine. Several years ago, company engineers altered the design for American consumption, widening the cockpit to 47.2 inches, 8 inches wider than a Cessna 172 Skyhawk. Harmony in the controls is quite good. Pressures are light and response is crisp without being sudden. I figured rolls from 45° to 45° took about 3 seconds. The Wide Body Skyleader offers very responsive handling with modestly light control forces. Although the [aircraft of that day] slows down well as proved by my experience with stalls, controls remain very responsive right down to minimum flying speeds. With those Fowler flaps extended well aft, the airplane seems content flying at 45 miles per hour (39 knots). With fixed gear and prop, glide remains a very respectable 14:1 (for comparison, a Cessna 150 has a published glide of 9.5:1). I could feel our test plane stretch a glide and sink slowly. Main gear is very forgiving and feels very sturdy. I had three landings [where the representative] said I tended to raise the nose unnecessarily high, which caused me to plop in on the gear. However, this showed how wonderfully well the gear cushioned my touchdowns. I performed approach and departure stalls plus accelerated stalls. Most fell to the right a little faster than I’d consider optimal [please remember this was an airplane from 13 years ago], but recovery was always easy. In no case was power required to recover from stall with minimal altitude loss. After noting the right-hand break, I paid extra attention when I did accelerated stalls to the right. But even with the wing bank at about 45°, the [earlier model] rolled out level, confirming the reasonable stall characteristics of this airplane. In accelerated stalls, a pronounced burbling identified incipient stall. This was less evident in straight-ahead stalls, but when the nose fell through it proved quite a benign action. All stalls came at very low speeds. Checking longitudinal stability and disturbing the joystick significantly forward produced a dive speed of about 120 mph (per the Dynon set in mph). In just two oscillations, the [earlier model] had returned to essentially level flight. Power stability showed that when power was reduced swiftly from level trimmed flight, the [earlier model] dove to 118 Dynon miles an hour… and then quickly leveled out. You can read the entire report for lots more information if you wish, but here's the way I started the earlier report, "I’ve felt before and confirmed again that KP-5 (now Skyleader 500) is one of the sweetest handling Special Light-Sport Aircraft in the fleet." Skyleader 600 is a leading entry in the LSA space but Skyleader North America's website lists a starting price of $119,595 (in late 2021), making it quite a good value for a high-end entry. The U.S. importer also sells other Skyleader models such as Skyleader 400 starting at $94,595 or the high-wing GP One model starting at $86,899. You will likely want to add options that raise your investment, but at the end of 2021, these are very agreeable — dare I say "affordable?" — prices. Breaking News — Following up as this article was posted, Michael announced a 400-hour fast-build kit is offered with every component included. Engine, avionics, and wiring harnesses are additional as usual on a kit. A delivered in the USA price of $75,000 will get you well down the road. With avionics (about $14,000 for single screen Dynon, autopilot, ADS-B, transponder, and comm radio) plus engine may list complete for $110,000. All components are fabricagted using CNC machinery so fitting of parts is straightforward and error-free.
TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS Skyleader 600 all data supplied by the manufacturer
- Gross Weight — 1320 pounds / 600 kilograms
- Empty Weight (base equipped) — 705 pounds / 320 kilograms
- Powerplant — Rotax 912 (carbureted); 912iS (fuel injection); 914 (turbocharged)
- Fuel Capacity — 31.8 gallons (198 pounds / 90 kilograms
- Never Exceed Speed (VNE) — 143 knots / 165 miles per hour
- Cruise Speed at 75% power (VC) — 122 knots / 137 miles per hour
- Maneuvering Speed (VA) — 78 knots / 90 miles per hour
- Stall Speed, clean (VS1) ∏— 39 knots / 44 miles per hour
- Stall speed, best flaps (VS0) — 33 knots / 37 miles per hour
- Endurance — 8.5 hours with 30-minute reserve
- Max Range — 860 nautical miles / 1,000 statute mile
- Takeoff Distance — 820 feet
- Takeoff Roll — 330 feet
- Landing Area — 127.5 square feet
- Cabin Width — 4 feet 2 inches For metric measurements and other information, go to this link
You’ve seen this airplane before but recreational flying enthusiasts with a good memory may ask, “Hmm, that looks a lot like an older LSA …what is it?” Those LSA veterans may be recalling Kappa KP5, one of the earliest entries on our SLSA List (#9). It was originally sold under the European brand name Jihlavan and that challenging name for Americans may be a good reason the Czech producer changed to the better marketing name, Skyleader. For the last few years, Skyleader has been represented by Michael Tomazin doing business as Skyleader North America. I caught up with Michael at Sun ‘n Fun 2021. He had flown the aircraft clear across the U.S. as he is based on the west coast, in Madera, California. You can hear his description of that jaunt in the video below. In the interview, Michael also provides other desirable features of the Skyleader 600.
3 Distinctive Aircraft from Sun 'n Fun 2021Now let's continue our look at airplanes of interest to those seeking light recreational, affordable aircraft. I highlight three aircraft, each quite different in its own way. —Luscombe is an all-American original. The company now based in Jamestown, New York made an appearance at Sun 'n Fun 2021. I finally found it in vintage parking. It was well located; this was a genuine vintage example, nicely polished and prepared for the faithful to admire. Meanwhile, the company is taking a measured approach to re-entering the Light-Sport Aircraft market. Steve Testrake, whom I met in Lakeland, has explained that the newly-reorganized company (see link above) will begin by supplying much-needed replacement parts to the existing Luscombe fleet. As the renewed factory sets up, they will add to the list of components. This effort will be treasured by many Luscombe owners. They love their aircraft like few other models I have ever investigated, making a maintenance-grounded Luscombe agonizing for those enthusiasts. Steve and his team aim to resolve that. Bravo! Then, he described a plan to go slowly at a return to manufacturing the vintage aircraft as a Special, fully-built LSA. Another bravo, including for taking the time to get it right. Readers should understand getting semi-tractor trailer loads of inventory, tooling, jigs and more will take some time to get set up properly. It was 14 years ago on the EAA Sport Pilot Tour, not long after the first emergence of Light-Sport Aircraft, when Luscombe won acceptance as a SLSA. That's when I had my first crack at this much-beloved aircraft. Here's what I had to say about this storied model from America's past. This one stands the test of time well flying as wonderfully as I'd always heard. That's worth another Bravo!
For More Info: Visit Luscombe Aircraft
• • • • • • •—Skyleader 600 looks familiar to some viewers. It should, though a lack of immediate recognition is understandable. Early LSA enthusiasts knew this aircraft as the Jhilivan (or Kappa) KP-5. It was one of the first Special LSA to win FAA acceptance; here's my review of it back in 2006. Then the design went away… for years. It came back once as the refashioned Skyleader, faltered again in America, and is now back with stronger representation. I recorded a new interview with importer Michael Tomazin and that will follow after editing. Meanwhile, here's a video review of Skyleader 600 with the former importer. Michael's enthusiasm for the aircraft is evident as he talks about the model. Several features are worth observing. First, entry is over the wing as with all low-wing models but the canopy arrangements is great at least two ways: it slides aft on a carbon fiber-reinforced rail that makes moving the large covering easy. While not intended as a roll bar, the carbon bar does aid entry. A canopy articulated in this fashion is also likely to be more secure in gusty winds. Once up on the wing, you can simply stand on the floor in front of the seat and sit down. Unlike its predecessor from Kappa, Skyleader 600 has both seats side-by-side; KP-5 had a slimmer cockpit width and staggered the right seat aft a few inches to give more room and a wider view. While the current configuration is more commonplace and will probably please more buyers, I rather liked the staggered seating; it gave the pilot in command great visibility out both sides. Another nice bit of engineering is the far-extending Fowler-style flaps (nearby photo). This flap construction is more complicated than simple hinged flaps but the Fowler design allows lots more airflow making the surface much more effective. When the flaps extend, the elevator trim automatically adjusts to reduce pitch changes when deploying the large flaps. Of course, this level of sophistication is more costly than simpler constructions.
For More Info: Visit Skyleader North America
• • • • • • •—Rev XS from Evolution Aircraft, America's premium trike developer, extends an amazing run starting with the letters "R-E-V." First, Revo. Then, Rev. Then, Rev X. Then, RevoLT. And now, Rev XS. I don't recall for sure, but it may be that each of these won an award; they're that well done. So, no surprise that Rev XS won an award at Sun 'n Fun 2021, except this time with an attractive difference. This winner was built by Amy Mednick. Until a few years ago when Larry and Amy Mednick got married — at Sun 'n Fun, of course 😎 — you knew her as Amy Saunders. She's been in this game a while. Only a couple weeks before Sun 'n Fun, I heard from her. "I thought you would to know, since I have talked about it for years," she texted. "I am officially a Weight Shift Control (WSC) Certified Flight Instructor with Private privileges!! …as of this morning," she added enthusiastically! Then at the airshow she won the "Outstanding LSA — Trike" award. Indeed, it's been quite a year for Amy. I'm not sure I recall ever seeing Amy when she wasn't smiling but this one-two set of accomplishments really had her beaming. Right behind her was very capable designer and husband, Larry Mednick. His smile was nearly as broad, understandably. Evolution Aircraft enjoyed a banner year in 2020, despite all the covid anxiety. It turns out that open-cockpit trike flying was embraced by many last year and Larry noted that the enthusiasm is continuing into 2021. This husband-and-wife team appears set to have another good year in 2021. Contratulations to Amy in particular and Evolution more broadly.
For More Info: Visit Evolution Aircraft
This video reviews the entire Evolution line from last year's lone airshow, the Midwest LSA Expo: https://youtu.be/v5XxJaVC4J8
Continuing news from Sun ‘n Fun 2021 is rolling in from across the country. Even while most international enthusiasts were unable to attend because of covid-induced travel restrictions, Americans turned out in strong numbers — and had a great time. FAA personnel casually (not officially) reported some 70,000 tickets bought on Saturday alone. I have no idea about such numbers historically, but by any measure, that’s a darn fine performance, the equivalent of a major football stadium stuffed full of fans. I am so relieved for Sun ‘n Fun. Inc., and I’m sure my relief is but a drop in the bucket compared to that felt by Team Sun ‘n Fun. If Oshkosh goes similarly, then I think it will be fair to say recreational aviation is nearly back to normal. Fortunately, in the Year of Fear that may be ending, tons of builders worked on kit airplanes, loads of LSA owners got out and flew their birds, and Part 103 ultralights probably set a record for shipments and kept sport pilots up in the air.
As the world appears to shift into overdrive about electric cars, planes, and drones, what is happening in this dynamic, unfolding sector in aviation? Recent news from Pipistrel spoke to their continued development of their Alpha Electro. This Slovenian company has long pursued this and may be leading in commercialization but — as with electric autos — this remains a minuscule part of total sales. However, it attracts outsized attention from mainstream media, regulators, and others. Recently, my friend and LAMA Europe associate, Jan Friedrich, alerted me to a new success story. The Skyleader company is somewhat known in the USA although perhaps by their earlier name Kappa. The more correct name was and is Jihlavan Airplanes but Skyleader is a better marketing name. Americans have seen examples of the company’s top-of-the-line Skyleader 600 — here’s our video review of the model — but sales have not taken off in this country.
When they introduced Light-Sport Aircraft FAA prohibited use of a jet engine. Looking at the photos nearby you can see that this airplane cannot pass must as a LSA. Or, wait! That’s no jet. It just pretended to be one at Aero Friedrichshafen 2016. At my home airport (Spruce Creek Fly-in), I regularly see one or another full-size L-39 in various stages of being prepared for a new American owner. I was told that about 200 of these ex-Czech military jets are operating in the U.S. They are handsome, sleek, and fast-like-a-jet. Contrarily, the UL-39 is not as fast but neither should its cost of upkeep be anything close to a military jet. We’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves. The UL-39 on display was a wonderful proof-of-concept aircraft that managed to engage nearly a generation of students in aeronautical engineering disciplines at the Czech Technical University in Prague.
Sky Leading KP-5First, Americans became aware of Kappa. This corporate identity was more easily pronounced than the next company name, Jihlavan (roughly, "YEE-lah-von") Airplanes. Now, after new investment and with new global ambitions, the company will be known a "Skyleader Aircraft." American tongues can relax with this easy reference. Unchanged are a common owner and the same skilled Jihlavan Airplanes technicians building the elegant KP-5/Skyleader 500 from the Czech Republic. It may not be the biggest seller among light sport aircraft (LSA), but I find it to be one of the finest flying machines in the fleet. Skyleader plans to standardize the brand around the world and will rename the KP-5 the Skyleader 500. I've felt before and confirmed again that KP-5 (now Skyleader 500) is one of the sweetest handling Special Light-Sport Aircraft in the fleet. Skyleader 500 is a handsomely styled, all-metal LSA with a high visibility cockpit, a high-performance wing with well-regarded Fowler flaps, tough trailing link landing gear and the 100-hp Rotax 912S powerplant. In '06, the company altered the design for American consumption, widening the cockpit to 47.2 inches, 8 inches wider than a Cessna 172 Skyhawk. U.S.-based Kappa Aircraft is run by Edwin "Win" Miller, who comes from an aviation-minded family that lived for a time in the Czech Republic. The latter experience gives Win the ability to communicate with his Czechspeaking supplier and to bridge the gap between Jihlavan/Skyleader and American KP-5 enthusiasts.
Wide Body LSAAntonin Pistek was the chief designer behind the original KP-2U Sova, an airplane much like the KP- 5 Americans have seen but with retractable gear. Presently a professor at the Czech Brno University of Technology and head of the Department of Aerospace Engineering, Pistek has a long background in airplane development. In an interesting twist, Pistek also led the design of Evektor's 5-seat general aviation design called the Cobra. In early '06, Kappa 77 (the first company name) was taken over by Jihlavan Airplanes. In fact, this was a fairly minor change as Jihlavan had always provided the facility and workers. Such cooperative arrangements have long been common in Eastern European countries. Win elaborates, "All the same employees are making the Skyleader 500 as before, providing continuity of the technical knowledge." This same statement applies now that Skyleader has become the new corporate marketing identity. Kappa 77 had been collaborating with Jihlavan since '96 so that by late '04, when Kappa 77 found itself in financial trouble, the larger company was encouraged to purchase all design rights and continue with production.Win says experienced employees are involved in the Jihlavan Airplanes division. The larger Jihlavan enterprise is a 250-employee component manufacturer specializing in aeronautical hydraulics and actuators selling to Boeing, GE, and SAAB. Since organizing in '52, Jihlavan has built parts for MiGs and L-39s plus many others. Jihlavan and Kappa 77 worked together to produce the KP-5 model that Pennsylvania-based Kappa Aircraft distributes to American buyers as a Special-Light Sport Aircraft (SLSA). Fowler Flaps As Americans have looked over the Kappa at several airshows where the low-wing model has been exhibited, one design feature everyone seems to notice is the superb Fowler flap execution. As is common with this flap design, Pistek and his engineering staff extended Skyleader 500's Fowler flaps well beyond the wing trailing edge. Not only does this put them in cleaner air, it adds considerable square area to the wing, which helps the design fly well at slow speeds. The flaps also arc downward with a wide gap to supply optimal airflow over the surfaces. The Skyleader 500's flap linkage is highly effective with 10° and 35° of deployment guided by a track arrangement. In flight you can see and feel the effect of lowering and moving aft the flaps to the first position, and you then sense a separate action when those flaps descend noticeably to the second position. In my first flight experience in the original KP-5, flaps were mechanically deployed using a button-detent Johnson Bar. I found it took a significant physical effort to get the second notch deployed. My in-flight recorded notes reflect that I had to yank hard on the lever to engage maximum flaps. Factory pilots used to advise engaging the flaps at slower speeds. Engineers even defended the effort, saying the use of mechanical actuation kept pilots from lowering the flaps above recommended speed. Despite the engineering argument, market forces prevailed and today's wide-body Skyleader 500 has electric flaps among several other changes. As Skyleader has taken the reins, a new, easier-to-use flap lever and position indicator are within easy reach on the T-panel. One of the most notable features of the KP-5 was its staggered seat design that positions the left seat 6 inches in front of the right seat. Not everyone liked this arrangement though I found it desirable for two reasons: one, it afforded more elbowroom to each occupant and two, it allowed either seat to have a relatively unobstructed view out both sides. The ultralight Earthstar Odyssey also successfully employed this seating arrangement. Skyleader advises that the staggered seat will remain as an optional choice into the future. Just Introduced However, as the '08 U.S. Sport Aviation Expo concluded in January, Kappa's weather-delayed 2008 model revealed the newest wide body variation. The company showed side-byside seating without the stagger and they renamed the plane Skyleader 500 LSA. After the company widened the cockpit to one of the broadest in light aviation, people increasingly inquired about the value of the staggered seats.Win and the Czech engineers heard the market speaking. So, one of Skyleader's first moves was switching to conventional side-by-side seating. The wide-body version of Skyleader 500 pushed the cabin beyond 47 inches, significantly broader than Cessna's benchmark 172 Skyhawk 4-seater. The Skyleader 500 LSA that finally made it to Sebring, Florida, also showed a new step to aid entry. Steps on each side hinge and can streamline in flight. The revised model also showed a new interior finish, a new flush-mounted leading edge landing light employing LED lights ("very bright," says Win), and other refinements such as cleaner looking engine cowl fasteners and a more intuitive flap switch. "Flight schools like the Wide Body's extra width so they can handle bigger students," reports Win. But all occupants will enjoy the extra space. In keeping with the thoughtful design of Skyleader 500, the enlargement is well done without an obvious bulge to identify how they created the extra space. Inside, the center console was made narrower in the '06 upgrade yielding more foot room. In all, Americans of any size should sense a comfortable cockpit. The wide-body Skyleader 500 also has thicker wing skins (now .027 aluminum and easily meeting ASTM standards) fastened with filled pop rivets. While such a change seems aimed at structural upgrading, the plane seems to have a more solid feel with no "oil-can" sounds audible to the occupants. A button on the side of the hand brake helps set the parking brake. Similarly, a starter button is mounted on the left side of the throttle, though it is now indented so it can't be inadvertently bumped. "The final location may change in the future," indicates Win. While this is an unusual location, the starter is certainly easy to reach while maintaining full control of the throttle. Other minor features are also done differently, for example, the friction lock is unique in my experience. But overall, the Skyleader 500 exhibits professionally achieved hardware. Electric in-flight trim is optionally operated by either left or right joystick switches, but not both, so that both pilots cannot simultaneously move that control. As is often the case when installed in this location, the switch creates fairly fast response so the better technique is to hit the button a series of times and rarely hold it down. A small indicator mounted to the left of the airspeed indicator on the far left side of the panel provides a good visual display of which way you're moving the trim. Fortunately I was able to feel the effects of trim quickly as the indicator was not a ready glance for a pilot seated on the right. Since my flight, the trim indicator has been moved to the center of the panel for improved visibility by both pilot and co-pilot, reports Kappa Aircraft. Seats adjust via a lever under the seat, like car seats. You can easily shift fore and aft while seated. The seat cushion may feel short while you are adjusting the seat, but since the cushion extends on either side of the joystick it proved comfortable once belted in position. The Skyleader 500 rudder pedals are interesting in that they hang low, contacting your foot about the middle and affording a good control feel. As with many things about the 500, this is a bit different but a good difference. The Skyleader factory is now offering higher quality interiors including leather; interiors are similar to Airtex brand in the U.S., says Win. The bright orange example in the photos shows the new leather seats with racing-seat-like bolsters. Each joystick also has a push-to-talk switch allowing you to keep your hand where it belongs during takeoffs and landings. Across the panel all-electric switches are hooded or guarded to prevent their inadvertent movement. Unusual in a light sport plane, the Skyleader 500's twin fuel tanks are switchable. You can burn one side more than the other to aid lateral balance. Wide-Body Visibility KP-5 pilots have very good visibility over the nose even from the more-aft right seat. Naturally it's optimal from the left seat. Staggering the seating allows each pilot to see laterally, but also works well for an instructor to let a left-seat student feel like he or she is pilot-in-command. And it let Jihlavan Airplanes' engineers keep the cabin width narrower to improve performance and fuel usage. Seats in the new model are the same size, but elbowroom is reduced from the staggered version. The canopy latch was redesigned and remounted from the side to the overhead support with pins that secure the sides of the canopy. It all happens with one motion that either occupant can make. Jihlavan provides a baggage area large enough to hold 66 pounds, says the company. Baggage goes aft of the seats and the adjustable-position seats lean forward for access to the cargo area. Using a technique like removing a drawer from a desk, you can readily remove the seats to fill the cargo area to its maximum allowed capacity. You can also put some items in the standard hat rack compartment, although Win noted that if an emergency airframe parachute is chosen, the hat rack is not available. Toe brakes were installed only on the left seat though Skyleader is working to offer toe brakes on both sides as an option in the future. So far, most American customers have ordered a hand brake mounted to one or both joysticks. The hand brake is also hydraulic. If customers choose this option, the rudder pedals can then be adjusted for greater seating versatility. Flight Qualities When Win and I flew around central Florida, I wrote, "The KP-5 is one of the best handling aircraft I've had the pleasure to fly." When I updated my flight experience in the Wide Body KP-5 with Frank Cuba, I was pleased to discover the earlier flight qualities had not degraded when the fuselage was widened. Among other low-wing LSA I've flown, the KP-5/ Skyleader 500 remains one of my favorites. Harmony in the controls is quite good. Pressures are light and response is crisp without being sudden. The Skyleader 500 can also make a good trainer - its sturdy gear also serves this purpose - yet experienced pilots will also appreciate its fine combination of control ease and authority. I figured rolls from 45° to 45° took about 3 seconds, an estimate with which Cuba agreed. The Wide Body Skyleader 500 offers very responsive handling with modestly light control forces. Yet if you bump the 500's joystick during a cross-country flight - as you might while checking a map or making a GPS adjustment, you won't upset the flight. Steep turns went well in the Wide Body model. I added a touch of power but then I ended up climbing slightly in both left and right turns. The controls weren't at fault; I tended to raise the nose too much and we ended up climbing gently when I didn't mind the altimeter. When the nose is in the proper attitude it appears you are beginning a shallow dive. The good visibility over the nose creates a favorable impression once you adapt. Cuba also flies an RV-8 but claims to prefer the KP-5 to the popular Van's model. For cutting through turbulence, the Kappa is strongly his preference. He attributes this capability to what he calls a "complex wing." He explains that as you examine the wing, you see that at each bay the line of rivets changes illustrating the wing's sweep and taper. Although the KP-5 slows down well as proved by my experience with stalls, controls remain very responsive right down to minimum flying speeds. With those Fowler flaps extended well aft, the airplane seems content flying at 45 mph. The 100-hp Rotax 912S engine provides excellent performance on this 1,278-pound gross weight airplane. Climb rate was 800 to 900 fpm at 2,000 feet msl on an 80°, moderately humid day in central Florida. At a slightly modest 4,900-rpm power setting and at a low altitude, we were indicating 115 to 120 mph. In a timed 1-minute descent rate check with power to idle thrust and best glide speed of 70 Dynon mph, the KP-5 descended 550 feet. Jihlavan developers claimed that with retractable gear and an adjustable prop, the KP-5's glide could be 18:1. With fixed gear and prop they feel glide remains a very respectable 14:1. Whatever the numbers, I could feel our test plane stretch a glide and sink slowly. Fuel sources are 8.5 gallons per wing tank filled with your choice of low-lead avgas or high-test auto gas. You can elect two more 4-gallon tanks for a total of 25 gallons, which would equate to more than 5 hours of range that could take you as far as 650 miles. The KP-5 gear is very forgiving and feels very sturdy. I had three landings and Cuba said I tended to raise the nose unnecessarily high, which caused me to plop in on the gear. However, this showed how wonderfully well the gear cushioned my touchdowns. Cuba appeared not to have the slightest concern as I made these highly scientific evaluations. Given the combination of low sink rate with effective flaps and good low-speed handling, the KP-5 accommodates takeoffs and landings with ease. You may deploy those excellent flaps at 68 mph. Comfortably Stable I performed approach and departure stalls plus accelerated stalls. Most fell to the right a little faster than I'd consider optimal, but recovery was always easy. In no case was power required to recover from stall with minimal altitude loss. After noting the right-hand break, I paid extra attention when I did accelerated stalls to the right. But even with the wing bank at about 45°, the Kappa KP-5 rolled out level, confirming the reasonable stall characteristics of this airplane. My speculation is that this good quality may result from slipstream effect on the tail. In accelerated stalls, a pronounced burbling identified incipient stall. This was less evident in straight-ahead stalls, but when the nose fell through it proved quite a benign action. All stalls came at very low speeds. Given instrument error at the bottom of the range, I don't know if I can believe the 38-mph indication for stall. This represents only 38 mph, making it 13.8 mph slower than the maximum for light sport aircraft. Regardless of actual numbers, it's clear the KP-5 stalls very slowly, a great quality for instructional use. And, in case you were wondering, all stalls were done without using the superb Fowler flap system. Checking longitudinal stability and disturbing the joystick significantly forward produced a dive speed of about 120 mph (per the Dynon set in mph). In just two oscillations, the KP-5 had returned to essentially level flight. Disturbing the stick aft and releasing required three oscillations, but both showed excellent stability with adverse pilot input. Power stability showed that when power was reduced swiftly from level trimmed flight, the KP-5 dove to 118 Dynon miles an hour. When applying full power from level trimmed flight, the KP-5 quickly leveled out. Premium-Priced Kappa, er Skyleader As '08 began, the base price of the Skyleader 500 Wide Body remains $113,000, as it was in '07 and despite a significant climb in the euro/dollar exchange rate. Thoroughly equipped with dual Dynon displays, a Garmin 496 plus radios, autopilot, and most other desirable equipment the Skyleader has to offer, the KP-5/Skyleader 500 as tested was priced at $138,000, making it an upper range SLSA. Even at the base price you get quite a bit of value: 2 hours of orientation flying, Garmin SL 40 radio and transponder, VFR flight instruments and basic engine instruments, ELT (required on an LSA but not always included in the base price), hydraulic brakes, dual controls, cockpit lock, electric trim, two (tail and belly) anti-collision lights, fuel gauges, fuel pressure gauge, oil temp, tachometer, oil pressure, CHT, battery recharging indicator, 12-volt socket, engine hourmeter, VSI, altimeter, ASI, compass, and bank indicator. Pilots considering a new LSA have many interesting choices and price plays a major role or we wouldn't have some models available in the $60,000 range (and yes, some are genuinely available at that cost, fully built, ASTM-certified, and ready to fly home). Keeping it all in perspective, most kit-built airplanes are hard to get in the air with engine and basic avionics for less than $40,000 (though some ultralight kits remain aviation's greatest bargains). The Skyleader 500 may appear premium priced and equipped; yet after you've made payments for a few years, the total you paid may no longer be as critical as it seems when you first contemplate financing a $115,000 to $130,000 airplane. With AirFleet financing, you could put down $26,000 (the price of some ultralight kits with engine), and make $877 monthly payments. Does that make the purchase tolerable? If not, a growing number of partner plans can help you and a few friends jointly own a KP-5. Or you could talk your local flying club into acquiring a Skyleader 500. Unless I miss my guess, any airplane that flies as sweetly as a 500 would find a substantial following in the USA. Go take a demo and see if you don't agree.
|Seating||2 side-by-side, staggered|
|Empty weight||695 pounds|
|Gross weight||1,278 pounds|
|Wing area||128 square feet|
|Wing loading||10 pounds/square foot|
|Useful Load||583 pounds|
|Payload (with full fuel)||481 pounds (standard tanks) 1|
|Cabin Interior||47 inches|
|Fuel Capacity||17 Gallons )1|
|Baggage area||66 pounds including optional hat rack|
|Notes:||1 Optional fuel tanks add 8 gallons, making payload 433 pounds.|
|Standard engine||Rotax 912S|
|Power loading||12.8 pounds/hp|
|Cruise speed||101 kts/116 mph (75% power)|
|Stall Speed||38 mph (see article)|
|Never exceed speed||141 kts/162 mph|
|Rate of climb at gross||1,100 fpm|
|Takeoff distance at gross||300 feet|
|Landing distance at gross||450 feet|
|Range (powered)||4 hours, 450 miles 1 (no reserve)|
|Fuel Consumption||about 4 gph|
|Notes:||1 Range with optional fuel tanks, 650 miles.|
|Standard Features||Rotax 912 with electric starting, VFR panel instruments, engine instruments, Garmin SL 40 radio and transponder, fuel boost pump and quantity gauges, fuel selector, 3- blade prop, sliding canopy (cannot be opened in flight), hydraulic brakes, electric flaps and pitch trim, dual controls, 4-point pilot restraints, entry doors on both sides, staggered seating.|
|Options||Additional instrumentation including glass displays, radio choices, lighting package, long-range fuel tanks, Garmin GPS mount, custom paint, BRS ballistic parachute, leather interior, covers.|
|Construction||Aluminum semimonocoque airframe, all-aluminum wing and surfaces, steel cockpit reinforcements. Made in Czech Republic; distributed by U.S.-based importer (Pennsylvania).|
Cosmetic appearance, structural integrity, achievement of design goals, effectiveness of aerodynamics, ergonomics.Pros - Sleek, low-wing entry redone in '06 to better suit the model to Americans. Further upgraded in early '08. Wider, roomier, better equipped, and needed electric flaps. The Skyleader 500 is one of the top LSA contenders by design sophistication and meeting design goals in ways unlike other LSA. Cons - To reach such a capable design, Jihlavan developers didn't follow standard methods; minor controls can be counterintuitive. Production volumes are not high for the Skyleader 500 (though rising, says Skyleader); only a couple dozen on U.S. registry. Some repairs will require long travel due to low (though growing) number of representatives in a big country.
Subsystems available to pilot such as: Flaps; Fuel sources; Electric start; In-air restart; Brakes; Engine controls; Navigations; Radio; (items covered may be optional).Pros - Electric trim and flaps are standard and work well. Electric trim was especially effective and Fowler flaps are a joy. Hydraulic brakes, usually ordered with hand lever, were effective; toe brakes optional at either seat. Dual wing tanks; can be increased for good range. Cons - Control buttons on the joystick were not fully intuitive; same for starter button on throttle. Thank goodness for electric flaps; former mechanical lever were difficult. Engine access involved cowl removal (though new hinged doors make this easier). Control reach from further-aft right seat presents some drawback (though new seating should improve this).
Instrumentation; Ergonomics of controls; Creature comforts; (items covered may be optional).Pros - Wing-based entry eased, as you can stand upright on the floor. Four-point pilot restraints. Bigger occupants may truly appreciate the roominess afforded by staggered seating (though now being changed). Seating allows an unobstructed view out each side for each occupant. Heating and cooling vents provided standard. Seats adjust in flight. Cons - Staggered seats are less optimal considering control reach for the right seat occupant (though side-by-side now standard). Panel readability also suffers somewhat. Lower-hanging rudder pedals may not work for everyone. Entry on the wing is problematical for less limber pilots.
Taxi visibility; Steering; Turn radius; Shock absorption; Stance/Stability; Braking.Pros - Visibility is very good over the sloped Skyleader 500 nose; true on the ground or in flight. Staggered seating provides lateral visibility for both occupants. Trailing link suspension absorbs loads well. Hydraulic braking was effective (toe brakes optional; tested with hand lever). Good clearance for turf fields. Cons - Hand brakes don't please everyone (toe brakes are available for those pilots). The Skyleader 500 turns well, but not so sharply as a freely castoring nose- or tailwheel. Nondifferential braking lessens taxi maneuverability (toe brakes fix this at optional cost).
Qualities; Efficiency; Ease; Comparative values.Pros - Ground roll on takeoff was short (300 feet, per factory). Takeoff and landing visibility are excellent over sloped nose. Approach speeds can be held low, 40 mph with practice, thanks to Fowler flaps which enlarge wing area. Excellent trailing link suspension system absorbs hard landings with ease. Cons - You can raise the nose so high allowing flow separation and hard touchdowns (though experience will cure this quickly). Slips were modestly effective. Long glide (14:1) makes for longer touchdowns than takeoffs and encouraged too-high nose landings.
Quality and quantity for: Coordination; Authority; Pressures; Response; and Coupling.Pros - One of the Skyleader 500's outstanding features is handling - precision, ease, lightness but not too light or squirrelly; few will find any fault in this category. Coordination was excellent. Precision turns to headings were accurate from the start and the Skyleader 500 holds a steep bank turn easily with a bit of power. Cons - The sloped nose that improves visibility requires some familiarization to hold level attitude. Climbing turns result from inattention to this characteristic. No other negatives.
Climb; Glide; Sink; Cruise/stall/max speeds; Endurance; Range; Maneuverability.Pros - While not the top-speed performer among LSA, the Skyleader 500 offers a well-rounded package. Flies brilliantly at low power settings even without Fowler flaps and more so with full deployment. Sink rate was good at about 500 fpm. Long glide capability (14:1, says factory) aiding any low-approach situations. Cons - Those flying long cross-country flights may yearn for a few more miles an hour (though even the 138-mph max speed isn't high for extended flights). Landing distance (450 feet), a result of the long glide, is not optimal for the shortest strips (though a slow approach will work at most fields).
Stall recovery and characteristics; Dampening; Spiral stability; Adverse yaw qualities.Pros - Power-off stalls broke clearly but modestly at very low speeds. Accelerated stalls rolled to level from both directions. Longitudinal stability tests were good with quick recovery to level flight. Power stability checks showed proper responses. The Skyleader 500 could work for less experienced pilots. Cons - Tendency noted in two KP-5 aircraft (wide body and earlier) to fall to the right more abruptly than considered optimal (though recovery was never in doubt). Adverse yaw was about as expected. No parachute installed on test airplane, though Kappa does offer the equipment.
Addresses the questions: "Will a buyer get what he/she expects to buy, and did the designer/builder achieve the chosen goal?"Pros - Upper-range LSA choice that flies and performs excellently. Good flight school or recreational use aircraft. Handles well at slow speeds. Sturdy construction made more robust in '06. Base-price model well equipped. Importer has close connection to Czech factory and has an established U.S. presence. Cons - an established U.S. presence. CONS - Premium price may limit resale market. Holds a smaller market share, which may give some buyers pause, potentially affecting resale. Fewer dealer outlets than larger selling brands. More expensive than several other LSA designs.
Update Note (2021) — This article published in 2008. The aircraft was then referred to as Skyleader 500. Later this was further upgraded and became the Skyleader 600. Obviously, some information presented below will be dated but much of the flight qualities reporting is still useful. —DJ Sky Leading KP-5 First, Americans became aware of Kappa. This corporate identity was more easily pronounced than the next company name, Jihlavan (roughly, “YEE-lah-von”) Airplanes. Now, after new investment and with new global ambitions, the company will be known a “Skyleader Aircraft.” American tongues can relax with this easy reference. Unchanged are a common owner and the same skilled Jihlavan Airplanes technicians building the elegant KP-5/Skyleader 500 from the Czech Republic. It may not be the biggest seller among light sport aircraft (LSA), but I find it to be one of the finest flying machines in the fleet. Skyleader plans to standardize the brand around the world and will rename the KP-5 the Skyleader 500.