AirBorne Windsports is no johnny-come-lately to the ultralight flying scene. The Australian company has been making hang gliders for the international market for years. AirBorne’s owners – Russ and Rick Duncan – once flew for Moyes Delta Pty., another Australian hang glider company (now known for its Moyes-Bailey Dragonfly aerotug), but later branched out on their own. While both men are thirty-somethings today, they have long experience, starting with competition in hang gliders back when folks still called them “the little Duncan brothers.” They were hot pilots at a young age. Later on, they proved to be solid competitors to the Moyes juggernaut. Then Came Trikes A divergence occurred. After linking up with Florida designer Bobby Bailey to produce the 3-axis Dragonfly aerotug, Moyes’s interest in trikes fell by the wayside. They focused on the already popular Dragonfly for their towing promotion. Meanwhile, the Duncans – now on their own, producing hang gliders – engaged in building trikes.
|Empty weight||408 pounds|
|Gross weight||884 pounds|
|Wingspan||33 feet 4 inches|
|Load Limit||+6 Gs|
|Fuel Capacity||12.7 gallons|
|Set-up time||25 minutes|
|Standard engine||Rotax 582 LC|
|Power loading||13.4 pounds/horsepower|
|Max Speed||82 mph|
|Cruise speed||63 mph|
|Stall Speed||34.5 mph|
|Rate of climb at gross||770 feet/minute|
Cosmetic appearance, structural integrity, achievement of design goals, effectiveness of aerodynamics, ergonomics.
Pros - Fully certified in Australia, a rigorous program. Built and stressed to +6 Gs. Nicely achieved ultralight that looks professional and inspires confidence. Follows well-proven European trike lead in most ways, but shows its own unique qualities. Can carry a large load for its empty weight. Strong and stable flying platform (in spite of what some pilots think). Comes as a fully-built ultralight. Seats two occupants very efficiently. The Edge is built with a distinctive "Aussie touch."
Cons - Trikes have yet to prove significant market acceptance in the U.S., though this could be changing. Were it not for the acceptance issue, trikes like the Edge could find a strong U.S. market. Close tandem seating won't appeal to everyone. Aspects of design are not in 3-axis pilot's "comfort zone," that is: tailless, weight-shift, flexible-wing design.
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 - Among trikes, only a few are more deluxe. First trike I've flown with adjustable trim. Good tactile response from trim wheel, which adjusts by increasing or relaxing trailing edge reflex. Beautiful compass installation; best yet? Fitted with electric start and silencers; quite quiet. Brake on nosewheel is above-average effective. Dual throttles work well; friction hand lever overrides spring-loaded foot lever. Excellent repair access of upright engine. Smoothly integrated fuel tank with quantity indicator.
Cons - Nosewheel-only braking might affect steering under some conditions. No other negatives.
Instrumentation; Ergonomics of controls; Creature comforts; (items covered may be optional).
Pros - Fiberglass nose cone blends to fabric enclosure with pockets and padding. Seats more comfortable than many trikes; solid front seat backrest is unique and appreciated. Entry is quite unobstructed to both seats. Rear seat control arms make the reach much better than most trikes. Panel easily read (front seat only). Moderate speeds of Edge made cockpit more comfortable than faster trikes. Tying one side of the wing down into a wind works very well to secure whole craft.
Cons - No shoulder belt for forward pilot (though rear belt okay). "Windscreen" only for looks and perhaps a bit of shading for instruments. Raked instrument panel hurts rear-seat readability. No fore/aft seat/pedal adjustment. On the ground, rear-seat occupant's helmet may touch vibrating mast; not a problem in air. Very limited baggage area if both seats occupied.
Taxi visibility; Steering; Turn radius; Shock absorption; Stance/Stability; Braking.
Pros - Wide tires all around give a well-supported feel and offer extra suspension. Bungie suspended main gear softens bumps. Each seat has full nosewheel steerability. Excellent visibility, even without moving a wing out of your way. Tight turning radius possible. Taxiing shows trike flexibility via wing movement. Though I don't care for wrong-way steering, the Edge nosewheel wasn't skittish like some lightweight trikes.
Cons - Wrong-way steering is | well, a trip! It's not quite as weird as it seems, but it's close. It may be all that's wrong with trike ground handling, though not needed much on takeoff. If taxiing in strong crosswind, muscular strength required to hold wing steady.
Qualities; Efficiency; Ease; Comparative values.
Pros - Trike takeoffs look weird, but aren't at all. You have to experience it to believe it. Touchdown is very controllable, thanks to responsive pitch control (without being touchy). Visibility is huge on landing. Bungie suspension and beefy tires offer a uniformly smoother touchdown. Energy retention in ground effect is quite strong.
Cons - Takeoff visibility lacks a bit directly in front of you (due to pod and high carriage angle). Fast touchdowns demand steadiness of nosewheel movements. Crosswind capability is weak if you can't land on a runway angle. No ability to slip. Takeoff roll on heavier Edge longer than expected.
Quality and quantity for: Coordination; Authority; Pressures; Response; and Coupling.
Pros - Don't let that "reversed control" thing bother you; it's easily learned and more intuitive than you think. No adverse yaw (no ailerons to induce it). Harmony comes rather naturally to trike controlling; you move yourself back in a turn and turn coordinates. Using this control, steep turns are beautiful. Roll rate is adequately brisk.
Cons - In spite of the easy-to-learn control bar movement, the "reversed control" prevents some pilots from accepting trikes. Precision turns to headings better than some trikes, but still less precise than 3-axis aircraft. Crosswind capability is lacking. Roll control pressures are on the high side.
Climb; Glide; Sink; Cruise/stall/max speeds; Endurance; Range; Maneuverability.
Pros - Good performance in several parameters: climb is strong, glide is stronger than average ultralights (11-to-1 factory says), low-rpm efficiency is quite good. Flight at reduced power is surprisingly quiet. Slow flight is an easy regime in which to operate the Edge, which makes it enjoyable in close-to-the-ground flight.
Cons - The Edge isn't as fast as some trike designs (which didn't bother me, but which may be a negative for others). Takeoff roll is on the long side.
Stall recovery and characteristics; Dampening; Spiral stability; Adverse yaw qualities.
Pros - Stability - where some think trikes look deficient - is actually a strong suit. Australian certification assures you the Edge has met tough standards. Pitch and roll stability are excellent. Throttle response produces the desired effect, as does the pull/push-and-release exercise. Stalls were nonevents. Power-off stalls broke, but very mildly; power-on stalls didn't. No adverse yaw present.
Cons - No 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 - AirBorne's Edge is an excellent example of the state-of-the-art in trikes. Possessing Australian certification will reassure many buyers. Nicely achieved construction; quality hardware throughout. The trim device works and is appreciated. The rule with trikes is you must fly one to understand their ease of operation. If you take a couple hours flight instruction, you'll quickly learn to master the machine. Stable flying platform offering excellent visibility. Easy to ground handle and park.
Cons - rikes still haven't won a large American following; this may only affect you if you want to sell one. Controls are unorthodox to 3-axis pilots, and they require more muscle than most pilots expect. Prices seem steep (unless you recall they're fully-built and have certification).