Part-Time 2-Seater Like the Kolb FireStar II, the Sky Raider II has a second seat for occasional use – but not for flight instruction. After flying with 165-pound Grant Rappe – a long-time Sky Raider pilot – as my volunteer rear seat passenger, I feel that two big fellows won’t fit. And even with small rear-seat occupants, you probably won’t want to fly for too long. Nonetheless, if you want a ride-along jump seat for occasional use, but you truly prefer single-seat handling and you don’t want to pay a bundle extra for the second seat and dual controls, the Sky Raider II might be for you. Admittedly you have other choices in this vein. French trike maker Air Création addressed it with their Buggy. Here’s a 2-seat aircraft, which the manufacturer says is mainly intended for single-place operation. The New Kolb Aircraft Company has two models that can do this (the FireStar II and Slingshot II) and of course, the very similar Rocky Mountain Wings Ridge Runner Model II also works much like a Sky Raider II.
|380 pounds 1
|107 square feet
|8.9 pounds per square foot
|1 414 pounds empty as tested.
|Rotax 503 DC
|50 hp at 6,500 rpm
|19.0 pounds per hp
|Never exceed speed
|Rate of climb at gross
|Takeoff distance at gross
|Landing distance at gross
|Two seats, enclosure with doors (removable), heel brakes, skylight, folding wings, slotted flaps and ailerons, steerable tailwheel, 5-gal fuel tank, fiberglass cowling and instrument panel, engine mount, fabric and glue, large tires, trim, bungee-suspended gear.
|Skis, floats, baggage area, embroidered seats, ballistic parachute, quick-build wings.
|Factory-welded steel fuselage, aluminum wing spars, fiberglass fairing, birch wood wing ribs, dope-and-fabric wing coverings. Made in the USA.
Cosmetic appearance, structural integrity, achievement of design goals, effectiveness of aerodynamics, ergonomics.
Pros - The Sky Raider II adds a second seat for passengers (requiring N-numbers). Very modest cost increase over the single-seat Sky Raider. Same proven package of construction, handling, and performance. Welded steel structure and Kitfox-style wings make for a predictable package.
Cons - Second seat has no controls, so all Sky Raider IIs must be N-numbered and pilot must have an FAA certificate; cannot qualify for Part 103 or Exemption to Part 103. Second seat is a part-time proposition that won't be optimal for traveling; I'd call this a single-seater with a jump seat.
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 - The test Sky Raider II was well-equipped, featuring electric trim, 4-position (including zero) button-detent flap handle, directional heel brakes, electric start, and convenient throttle placement. Trim had an indicator gauge for position. Panel-mounted primer. Plenty of panel room for radios or extra gauges.
Cons - Fuel in standard 5-gallon fuel tank won't last long if you fly dual often. Engine accessible only with cowl removal, making maintenance more time-consuming. Flap deployment required somewhat more muscle at speeds above 50 mph. Fueling is on top of the wing; you can stand on a wide tire but smaller pilots may need a ladder.
Instrumentation; Ergonomics of controls; Creature comforts; (items covered may be optional).
Pros - In the tradition started by Kolb's FireStar II, the Sky Raider adds a seat for occasional use (though it is mostly a single-seater). Rear seat has a very wide back and adequate legroom. Test aircraft was nicely finished in and out yet weighed only 414 pounds. Entry to front is easy; rear first, then swing in legs. Front-seat cushion extends well forward for better leg support.
Cons - etter leg support. CONS - Front seat is skinnier to allow for the legs of the rear occupant; means wide pilots may not prefer the narrower front seat. Rear seat has only a lap belt, which I consider too minimal. Rear seat is fairly challenging to enter even if you're young and flexible.
Taxi visibility; Steering; Turn radius; Shock absorption; Stance/Stability; Braking.
Pros - Tailwheel steering is quite responsive and is aided by directional heel brakes. Floor was finished with a "skid" material that allows your heels to slide for smoother brake application. Overhead visibility for traffic checks is quite good. Wide tires and bungee suspension make for good absorption of bumps.
Cons - Tailwheel response is fast enough to allow overcontrolling (which could lead to ground looping). Nonswiveling tailwheel made for wider turns despite directional brakes. Brake effectiveness was modest. Must either lean your body or swing back and forth in taxi to see over the nose.
Qualities; Efficiency; Ease; Comparative values.
Pros - Flown solo with the 50-hp Rotax 503, the Sky Raider II enthusiastically jumps off the ground in less than 100 feet. When flown dual (165 + 175 pound occupants), roll was still very short. Landing rollouts were also short, especially when using the flaps and slow approach speeds (45 mph worked well in mild winds). Strong aileron response helps in crosswinds. Good suspension helps in off-field landings.
Cons - If you're uncertain of your taildragger skills, the Sky Raider II may not be for you; it is more challenging than most trigears. Rudder response forces quick action at speed. Overall response is quick enough that new pilots will have to steady their motions.
Quality and quantity for: Coordination; Authority; Pressures; Response; and Coupling.
Pros - The Sky Raider II is a Kitfox derivative and therefore exhibits strong handling qualities: light, fast, authoritative. Lots of good things to say about handling - controls are light, balance between ailerons and rudder is good, ergonomics of controls are very convenient. Coordination exercises and precision turns went well from the start.
Cons - The good news is also the bad news: the Sky Raider II's quickness may be too fast for newer pilots (however, adjusting should come quickly enough). All Kitfox derivatives are somewhat challenging to maintain coordination (keeping the ball centered), and the Sky Raider II is no different.
Climb; Glide; Sink; Cruise/stall/max speeds; Endurance; Range; Maneuverability.
Pros - The Sky Raider II is fairly light (380 pounds empty basic; 414 as tested), bringing a strong level of performance to a 2-seater. Excellent payload (well over 400 pounds) even when loaded with equipment. As with other Kitfox-like aircraft, performance is very good, especially for such a small wing (107 square feet). Blazing climb when flown solo.
Cons - With the Rotax 503 engine and two aboard (and even moreso with floats), you'll need the optional larger fuel tank. Low-over-the-field flying isn't as good as slower, open ultralights (though a slow stall speed helps). Sink rate with no flaps deployed is higher than average. Fuel use is on the high side when flown dual.
Stall recovery and characteristics; Dampening; Spiral stability; Adverse yaw qualities.
Pros - Stall speeds were slow; while I always suspect installed ASIs, I believe factory's "under 30 mph" is close. Stalls broke cleanly and straightforward. Stick range and effectiveness were very good even near stall. Longitudinal power response was positive (though rather slow).
Cons - Front seat has shoulder belt only and rear seat has only a lap belt - definitely not enough in case of violent upset. Stall break may be sudden for pilots with less experience. Disturb the joystick at trim and the Sky Raider II did not return to level quickly (though it was positive). Adverse yaw was clearly noticeable but no worse than many ultralight designs.
Addresses the questions: "Will a buyer get what he/she expects to buy, and did the designer/builder achieve the chosen goal?"
Pros - Priced modestly over the single-seat version; those with an FAA ticket may find this a better buy than the Sky Raider I. With airframe and new engine and selection of gauges, you'll spend over $15,000. Many options can ease your building and personalize your Sky Raider II. Company appears to have survived a rough patch some years ago.
Cons - Fully equipped may hit $20,000 including a parachute and all the goodies. Painting and finishing is not included in company prices and can add significantly - especially if you want your ultralight to look like the test Sky Raider II.