For many years, I’ve been critical of trike handling. While I try never to forecast the future, I’ve gone out on a limb and predicted that rigid-wings will eventually become commonplace on trikes (though I don’t also predict delta wings will disappear). Going Rigid? Rigid-wings look a lot like modern hang gliders and trike wings in many ways, but they have control surfaces. Because these surfaces are deployed via weight-shift movements they neatly combine the benefits of 3-axis ultralights – lower control forces and good control authority – with the elegant simplicity of weight-shift. Rigid-wings can carry good weight and are somewhat faster than delta wings (called “flex wings” by hang glider pilots), and they also handle more easily. I think this makes them a nearly inevitable development. While I still believe rigid-wings are coming to trikes, it may take longer than I thought because the trike industry may finally be rising to the challenge.
Air Creation Buggy/Kiss
|Empty weight||391 pounds|
|Gross weight||884 pounds|
|Wing area||148 square feet|
|Wing loading||6.0 pounds per square foot|
|Kit type||Fully Assembled|
|Set-up time||30 minutes, 1 person|
|Standard engine||Rotax 582|
|Power||66 hp at 6,500 rpm|
|Power loading||13.3 pounds per hp|
|Cruise speed||50 mph|
|Never exceed speed||87 mph|
|Rate of climb at gross||600 fpm|
|Takeoff distance at gross||185 feet|
|Landing distance at gross||215 feet|
|Standard Features||Based on the Twin trike chassis (in use for several years), Kiss 13 wing, weight-shift control, hand and foot throttles, nosewheel steering (push right, go left), nosewheel brake and fender, parking brake, lap seat belt, Buggy wheel pants, pneumatic suspension, instrument panel, water temperature gauge, C-gearbox, intake and exhaust silencers, full fairing with short windscreen, 10-gallon fuel tank, 3-blade composite prop, back seat storage.|
|Options||(larger) XP-15 wing, new Kiss 450 (15 square meters) wing also now available, 3-point shoulder belts, in-flight trim, ballistic parachute system, tachometer, hour meter, side bags, aerotowing system, kit option.|
|Construction||Aluminum airframe, fiberglass fairing, Dacron sailcloth wing covering. Made in France.|
Cosmetic appearance, structural integrity, achievement of design goals, effectiveness of aerodynamics, ergonomics.
Pros - New Kiss wing mates well to the Buggy chassis of 1999 to make a superior trike design, one of the best I've flown. Best flown solo, the Kiss Buggy will accommodate two. Wing is larger but handles dramatically better than 1999's XP-12 wing. Typical fabrication by Air Création; anyone who examines it carefully will admire it.
Cons - Optimized as a single-seater, design requires attention when more heavily loaded with two occupants. Ideally you fly this solo with occasional 2-place operation. Though this is common, some buyers will be turned off. Too bad this isn't offered with the far simpler and very popular 50-hp Rotax 503. You only save a few hundred dollars by assembling (a 50-hour +/- task).
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 - Excellent trim system; works well and is universally labeled for clear operation (rabbit is faster/turtle is slower). Nosewheel brake system is more powerful than expected, especially given the light loading of trike nosewheels. Hand and foot throttles for both seats is a good addition with low weight penalty. Rear seat steering bar helps if you're instructing.
Cons - No electric start makes it much lighter and that's good, but hand starting the Rotax 582 can be a workout. Reaching the pull starter from the front seat is a stretch. Trim system is great but it's a fairly costly option (about $400). Operating a Rotax 582 with liquid cooling requires more attention than an air-cooled Rotax 503.
Instrumentation; Ergonomics of controls; Creature comforts; (items covered may be optional).
Pros - Dual hand and foot throttles in the rear position are a good improvement if you instruct in the Kiss/Buggy. Supportive back seat system is appreciated when flying solo. Minor changes to the fairing make it even slicker, though that was not an easy task. Large, comfortable, and secure steering pedals are better than some trikes' simpler pedals. Excellent, secure placement of kill switch and magneto switches (under throttle).
Cons - Sewn-on control bar leg fairings are very light and better than nothing, but don't maintain the very high quality evident on the rest of the trike. Mast behind aft seat can be uncomfortable for that occupant (even though Air Création pads it). Lap belts are standard, shoulder belts a $250 option. No proper aircraft should have only lap belts in my opinion. I recommend a full-face helmet or one with a pull-down visor in the Kiss/Buggy.
Taxi visibility; Steering; Turn radius; Shock absorption; Stance/Stability; Braking.
Pros - All Air Création trikes are easy to taxi owing to nosewheel dampening that makes it smoother to operate; trailing link suspension also helps. Most trikes are easy to maneuver through obstacles that would stop a 3-axis ultralight. Front fender deflects debris from runway on takeoff. All gear is suspended on the Buggy chassis. Brake is quite effective.
Cons - For some 3-axis pilots the push-right/go-left steering of trikes is counterintuitive. Kiss wing is larger than previous XP-12, which makes it that much more of a handful in gusty winds; your arm muscles tire more quickly.
Qualities; Efficiency; Ease; Comparative values.
Pros - Air Création conservatively says climb is 600 fpm but it certainly feels like more; my checks on a convective day saw up to 900 fpm. Takeoff ground break felt faster than with the older, smaller XP-12 wing of 1999. Visibility on takeoff and landing is huge in most trikes. Strong chassis and good ground clearance for off-field landings. As with many trikes, normal landings are quite easy to learn (3-axis pilots can learn "reversed" controls quickly with instruction).
Cons - Good as the new Kiss wing is, it doesn't change the limited capability of trikes to deal with crosswinds (though you can learn other techniques easily); reasonably small wing area helps, though. Rotax 582 gives excellent takeoff performance but is more complex than a Rotax 503, requiring more awareness; for example, assure water temperature is up to a satisfactory range before committing to takeoff.
Quality and quantity for: Coordination; Authority; Pressures; Response; and Coupling.
Pros - Sharply improved handling is the main story with the Kiss/Buggy combo; it's so much better that even an old trike veteran like me was duly impressed. Even more significant was this achievement with more wing area (than 1999's XP-12 wing). Overall, I have to admit this is one of the three best trike wings I've flown on heavier trikes (others are AirBorne's Edge/Streak and North Wing's Apache/Contour).
Cons - Virtually all of the handling criticisms I've had for years about heavier trikes are sharply reduced with the Kiss wing, so negatives are few. However, precise answers about how Air Création achieved the handling improvements remain unannounced. Crosswind limitations still apply despite excellent Kiss wing handling. No other negatives.
Climb; Glide; Sink; Cruise/stall/max speeds; Endurance; Range; Maneuverability.
Pros - The Kiss wing performed excellently, offering a top cruise of around 85 mph in my experience. At that speed, the wing was very manageable to control (not so on all heavier trikes). Rotax 582 offers a reassuring excess of power; engine ran absolutely flawlessly and was very smooth, a credit to Air Création's motor mount and shock mount system. Use of silencers on intake and exhaust make for quiet, neighbor-friendly operation.
Cons - Still shouldn't load up the Kiss wing with two huge occupants unless you are well experienced; higher approach and touchdown speeds are certain. Fuel consumption remains higher with the 582, better than 3 gph in normal operations, more if doing touch and goes or lots of climbing. Larger winged, single-surface trikes land more slowly (and handle as well, but, of course, lack the higher cruise speeds). No larger fuel tanks could be fitted without disturbing the fairing's graceful lines.
Stall recovery and characteristics; Dampening; Spiral stability; Adverse yaw qualities.
Pros - Factory says you can't stall the Kiss wing anywhere you place the control bar within its confines (though aggressive-enough action may still produce a stall). Very stable characteristics overall. Turns coordinate well (as with most trikes). Longitudinal and throttle response checks were positive. Adverse yaw is hardly noticeable. Optional 3-point harness is secure. Wing loading is more modest than smaller XP-12 wing.
Cons - Lap belts are standard; I strongly recommend the shoulder belt option as lap belts aren't enough. Factory cautions in their manual against stalls at full power or aggressive action despite the craft's mild ways - perhaps a legal liability position? No other negatives discovered.
Addresses the questions: "Will a buyer get what he/she expects to buy, and did the designer/builder achieve the chosen goal?"
Pros - Air Création makes as nice a trike as any producer in the world; their consistently strong sales reflect this attention to detail (it also helps prevent competitors from copying them so easily, say designers). While not inexpensive at $18,500, this is a deluxe trike that seems priced right for Americans - Air Création has other, more modestly priced trikes. U.S. support is more certain than ever since John Kemmeries became a shareholder of the company.
Cons - Price is up about $1,000 from 1999, though this is only 5% over two years, about equal to inflation; Franc/dollar exchange rates are also a factor. The Buggy and Kiss wing combo is not appropriate for beginning trike pilots. The Rotax 582 makes for a more complicated installation and operations although Air Création executes the installation as well as any I've examined. Frankly, it's hard to fault this design if a trike appeals to you.