Air Création is a serious company and a world-class trike builder with an impressive sales record. Their serious trikes sport beautiful hardware and numerous customized components. Right down to their trademark red color, Air Création is serious about building a remarkable trike, a series of them in fact. So when Air Création puts a float set on the market, you can count on the fact that it was well researched and exquisitely crafted. Now, let’s combine that with the XP-17 wing, the largest in the company’s XP series. Floats are mounted under and the wing atop a GTE trike carriage which has been in production for several years. Put this all on a lake in Florida and you have the makings of an interesting experience. Another 20-Year Veteran Gilles Bru and Jean Yves le Bihan founded the French company in 1982. Air Création’s dealer in Canada reports, “It has grown steadily ever since, building around 4,000 wings and 2,500 trike-units for sale in more than 50 countries.” Today Air Créationemploys 25 people, four of whom are in the technical department designing new products, and 14 work on the production of ultralight trikes and wings.With annual sales of about $2.5 million, Air Création exports 60% of its products.
Air Création’s High-Performance Floats
|Seating||2, tandem/raised aft seat|
|Empty weight||523 pounds|
|Gross weight||992 pounds|
|Wing area||186 square feet|
|Wing loading||5.3 pounds per square foot|
|Kit type||Fully Assembled|
|Set-up time||30 minutes (from trailer)|
|Standard engine||Rotax 582|
|Power||65 hp at 6,500 rpm|
|Power loading||15 pounds per hp|
|Cruise speed||50-80 mph|
|Never exceed speed||90 mph|
|Rate of climb at gross||600 fpm|
|Takeoff distance at gross||250 feet|
|Landing distance at gross||150 feet|
|Standard Features||Rotax 582, ASI, altimeter, water temp, tachometer, side pouches, padded and adjustable seats, ground-adjustable trim, combo foot/hand throttle, remote choke, shock-absorbing gear, steerable water rudders, prop spray guard, mechanical brakes (land versions), presewn Dacron sail wing, 10-gallon fuel tank.|
|Options||Engines up to 81-hp Rotax 912, prop selections, electric starter, noise reduction system, additional instruments, towing package with hollow prop shaft, recoil shoulder belts, dual control set for instructors, ballistic parachute with factory-supplied engine cut-off system.|
|Construction||Aluminum airframe, fiberglass fairing, Dacron and hybrid fabric wing. Made in France (company partly U.S.-owned); distributed by U.S.-owned company.|
Cosmetic appearance, structural integrity, achievement of design goals, effectiveness of aerodynamics, ergonomics.
Pros - One of the world's largest aircraft producers, Air Création trike ultralights are found all over the world. Beautifully executed with many customized features. The XP-17 wing is from a well-evolved design family (of four models); works well for lifting floats. Various European certifications earned.
Cons - Trike resale limited to those willing to learn weight-shift flying. Though Air Création has good American support, some buyers fear long wait for parts and services.
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 - Float system was carefully worked out over many years. Ground adjustable center of gravity and in-flight trim are options with some wings. Versatile throttle controls including rear foot throttle if desired (rarely seen). Kill switch well-protected against inadvertent shutdown. Check remaining fuel by leaning to the side.
Cons - No trikes have flaps (yet) so approaches require extra planning; glide path control is limited. No in-flight trim on evaluation aircraft (though pitch pressures are modest, even for a very large wing). New techniques are needed to manage float systems (but all can be done after water landing).
Instrumentation; Ergonomics of controls; Creature comforts; (items covered may be optional).
Pros - Easy entry and exit. Seats can be configured for backrest when flying solo. Well-padded seating with shoulder belts fitted to test ultralight. Excellent instrument panel; good space and readability. European silenced engines are amazingly quiet (though wind noise is of course significant). Side carry bags.
Cons - Tandem seating - used on virtually every trike - isn't always preferred for instruction. Floatplane version lacks the slick body fairing available on other Air Création brands. Nonadjustable seats. Seats place occupants in close proximity - some brands now use fiberglass shells that separate better.
Taxi visibility; Steering; Turn radius; Shock absorption; Stance/Stability; Braking.
Pros - Ground/water handling is excellent in crowded ramp or seaplane base situations. Water rudders were reasonably effective for slow-speed maneuvering. Floats appear to have exceptional capacity. Water spray guard protects expensive props during takeoff or landing operations.
Cons - Common push right/go left trike steering is still odd to many conventionally trained pilots. Floats on trikes introduce new challenges - they don't immediately swing into the wind like a weathervaning tailed aircraft (though going downwind may be easier than in 3-axis aircraft).
Qualities; Efficiency; Ease; Comparative values.
Pros - Ease of takeoff and landing is an endearing trike quality. Water landings, though requiring technique, are easy in large areas and onto a relatively smooth surface. You can easily bleed off speed on the water - pushing full-out helps slow you even faster (once appropriate).
Cons - No flaps and no ability to perform slips limit the trike's short-field ability (though hardly a problem in water landings). Crosswind landings in trikes require practice (no factor on open water).
Quality and quantity for: Coordination; Authority; Pressures; Response; and Coupling.
Pros - For a very large, very taut wing, the XP-17 handled agreeably with the weight of the float system so far below the wing. No adverse yaw. Trikes coordinate quite naturally (with a bit of push-out in turns). Pitch pressures are modest and reassuring once deflected beyond normal. Overall, highly predictable.
Cons - Roll was better than expected from a big, stiff wing though still more difficult than virtually any 3-axis; weight of floats adds to total muscular effort required. You'll need advice and time to practice crosswind controlling (though this may not be a factor on open water).
Climb; Glide; Sink; Cruise/stall/max speeds; Endurance; Range; Maneuverability.
Pros - Though water operations take extra learning, Air Création's float trike can cruise briskly, moreso than most float trike designs. Glide and sink are competitive, thanks partly to the large wing area of the XP-17. Excellent engine installation; low vibration and noise.
Cons - Fast trike speeds without much of a windscreen means lots of windblast. Endurance is less than other big-engined ultralights due to the large floats. Climb suffers a bit with the extra weight of the floats. Flying low over water is fun, but this machine is less optimal low over fields due to speeds and control response.
Stall recovery and characteristics; Dampening; Spiral stability; Adverse yaw qualities.
Pros - Stall response was excellent in all tests. Even when aggravated, the GTE/XP-17 was quick to recover virtually without input. Adverse yaw was nonexistent (as in many trikes). Very stable in turns; little push-out (stick back) needed. Throttle response was good, thanks to higher thrust line relative to mass.
Cons - The noseover longitudinal stability check showed rather sluggish return to level (though speed buildup was unthreatening). Like all trike wings, you can overbank and tighten turns steeply.
Addresses the questions: "Will a buyer get what he/she expects to buy, and did the designer/builder achieve the chosen goal?"
Pros - The GTE/XP-17/float combination makes a deluxe ultralight, enough to inspire real pride of ownership. Air Création passed several European certifications. Built ready-to-fly (though a kit is available). Two-seaters can fly under the Part 103 training exemption. Air Création designs their own wings and sell them to others.
Cons - You'll spend more on European-built aircraft in 2003 (due to exchange rates, which can significantly affect cost). Resale may be slower because you'll have to find buyers who accept weight-shift control. Foreign-made, though U.S. customer support is well proven via Air Création USA - which also owns a share of the French company.