“What took ’em so long,” is the usual comment when one sees the Sky Raider for the first time. Understandably, many viewers incorrectly think they see a single place Kitfox. In fact, the Schraeder brothers used their experience at working for both the Kitfox and Avid Flyer builders when they introduced their single place Sky Raider. The tiny little machine, from the same airfield as the two larger airplane companies, has made its mark successfully reaching 100 sales in a couple years. Sky Raider clearly answers the request of many who were enthusiastic about the Kitfox or Avid but who wanted a lightweight single seater. You need wait no longer. Even with a 447 Rotax to give it loads of power, you can build the Sky Raider into a 103-compliant ultralight assuming you consider the weight of components you want to add. Keep it simple and you’ll be delighted with a highly responsive lightweight performer.
Flying K Enterprises Sky Raider on floats
Phone: (208) 465-7116Nampa, ID 83651 - USA
|Empty weight||309 pounds (including floats)|
|Gross weight||550 pounds|
|Wing area||98 square feet 1|
|Wing loading||5.6 pounds per square foot|
|Kit type||Construction with quick-build options|
|Build time||250-350 hours|
|Notes:||1With wing tip, area increases to 107 square feet. Created to facilitate sale into Canada.|
|Standard engine||Rotax 447|
|Power||40 hp at 6,500 rpm|
|Power loading||13.8 pounds per hp|
|Cruise speed||(75% power) 65 mph|
|Never exceed speed||100 mph|
|Rate of climb at gross||1,000 feet per minute2|
|Takeoff distance at gross||200 feet 3|
|Landing distance at gross||50 feet 3|
|Notes:||2Performance without floats; not accurately measured with floats.|
3Estimated performance on water (no measurements taken); factory states land performance is 75 feet, takeoff or landing.
|Standard Features||Fully enclosed cockpit, folding wing setup, slotted flaps and ailerons, brakes, steerable tailwheel, fiberglass cowling, engine mount hardware, choice of tail shapes, all fabric and adhesives.|
|Options||Rotax 503 engines, electric trim, prop, bungie cord suspension, floats, skis, ballistic parachute, tundra tires, baggage holder, quick-build kit, and many more items.|
|Construction||Welded steel fuselage, wood and aluminum wings, fiberglass cowling, dope-and-fabric wing coverings. U.S.-owned company.|
Cosmetic appearance, structural integrity, achievement of design goals, effectiveness of aerodynamics, ergonomics.
Pros - Single-seat ultralight has proven very popular since first debuted 4 years ago. Though company has gone through some difficult times the design survives very well. Float-equipped Sky Raider can qualify as an ultralight under Part 103 if builder is careful (given the extra weight described in AC-103-7). Steel structure with wood-in-wing construction plus fast-build options make for a reasonable effort.
Cons - Though sales have been good, single-seater may attract fewer buyers on resale. Choice of Rotax 447 or Rotax 503 is better for float operations but will add to challenge of remaining within Part 103 definitions. If used continuously in water operations, wood used in wings may require closer inspections (than metal) as design ages.
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 - Flaps worked well and aided landing approach well; simple, easily-found control lever. Pull starter worked acceptably well from the cockpit. Floats were simple straight models with no gear retract weight or complexity. Like all simple planes, you have less to go wrong - a good fact for ultralight newcomers to remember.
Cons - No aerodynamic trim. Flaps resist deployment at higher speeds. Cowl must be removed to work on engine; inspection is more difficult. Pull starter handle hangs off firewall where it could prove to be a challenge to find during an in-flight emergency. Fueling on the water insists you put the correct wing over a dock.
Instrumentation; Ergonomics of controls; Creature comforts; (items covered may be optional).
Pros - Entry is simple, leading with your rear then swinging legs; most pilots will think it's easy. Panel large enough for all the instruments you want and still have room for a radio. Four-way seat belt system installed. Cargo container is optional if weight and balance will permit. Seat was well padded; good on longer flights.
Cons - Seat does not adjust for different sized pilots. Low seat back provides less support. Fuel routes through cabin from wing.
Taxi visibility; Steering; Turn radius; Shock absorption; Stance/Stability; Braking.
Pros - 0verhead skylight is excellent to observe conflicting incoming traffic; extremely useful in water ops where pilots can land anyplace. Authoritative ailerons allowed good control while taxiing up- and downwind. Floats drafted little and seemed positioned well (though they'll be moved aft a couple inches).
Cons - Water rudders were not yet fitted, making water taxiing much more uncertain (though it went fine with good technique); turn radius can be quite large. In-wing fuel source will mandate one wing is hanging over dock; otherwise you'll stand on a slippery float to accomplish this.
Qualities; Efficiency; Ease; Comparative values.
Pros - Sky Raider launches have the features any ultralight seaplane should: very short water run, powerful control, good initial climb. Landings also went well: good visibility, slow approaches - you can arrive below 40 mph even with float drag. Flaps are helpful to speed liftoff and to slow approach speeds.
Cons - Landings with no water rudders mean you should plan your approach better so as to allow adequate space for maneuvering. Slow water operations may prove challenging for newcomers until water rudders are added (they're coming, says factory). Floats offer little standing area for paddle operations. One notch flaps needed for best operations.
Quality and quantity for: Coordination; Authority; Pressures; Response; and Coupling.
Pros - Rapid roll control and response; I loved it though some new pilots may find roll rate too fast. Dutch rolls and precision turns were delightful. Controls were very light in touch and very predictable. Floats seemed not to affect control responsiveness. Flaps were quite useful on approaches and to help break water surface earlier.
Cons - Harmony isn't perfect; roll was faster-acting than the rudder. Responsiveness of controls will require a less experienced pilot to pay closer attention (though this is an easier adaptation than stiff controls). Flap handle proved to offer considerable resistance at speeds above 45-50 mph. Generally hard to fault this well-evolved control system.
Climb; Glide; Sink; Cruise/stall/max speeds; Endurance; Range; Maneuverability.
Pros - With 40-hp Rotax 447 or 50-hp Rotax 503, Sky Raider is an enthusiastic performer (503 can climb up to 1,600 fpm without floats). Left water quickly, which helps preserve a seaplane. Sink rate appeared quite low despite added weight from floats. Overall package makes single-place float flying simple, yet fun and energetic. If floats held back Sky Raider's speed, I couldn't tell it. Low-over-the-water flying is absolutely joyful.
Cons - Engine must work a little harder to carry the 28-pound floats (each). Land version fuel consumption is listed by factory at 2.5 gph but seemed to go faster in seaplane operations that included extra power for water maneuvering. Range on 5 gallons will be limited.
Stall recovery and characteristics; Dampening; Spiral stability; Adverse yaw qualities.
Pros - Nose broke in stalls but not steeply. Longitudinal stability seemed good with few oscillations before level recovery. Adverse yaw less than expected. Power response was correct, that is, nose up on power up. Good stick range throughout maneuvers even with extra float weight.
Cons - Stalls were a bit less modest than I recall on land version with 26-hp Rotax 277 engine, perhaps due to extra weight and possibly added drag below center of gravity. Speed builds up rather swiftly on sharp nose-over.
Addresses the questions: "Will a buyer get what he/she expects to buy, and did the designer/builder achieve the chosen goal?"
Pros - The Sky Raider has proven itself successful in the marketplace with agile handling, good performance, popular looks and low price ($8,500 for base kit; about $15,000 as tested with floats). With 40-hp 447 engine, you must build carefully to stay within Part 103 but you get robust performance. Comfortable cabin with full enclosure option. Vast list of options helps you make Sky Raider your very own.
Cons - Potent Rotax 503 engine, fancy paint, and many accessories will force you to N-number your aircraft; will also bid price up significantly. Floats don't have a lot of history to suggest how they'll last over time.
Since Flying K Enterprises’ Sky Raider arrived on the scene 4 years ago, the ultralight design has achieved excellent success in the market selling more than 140 kits (not including the 65 or so fuselages shipped to SkyStar Aircraft which they use for their Kitfox Lite). However, the company behind the Sky Raider design has suffered in nontechnical ways. Original Flying K principals brothers Ken and Stace Schraeder split up and started separate companies making ultralights. Then, only months after the split, Ken Schraeder was killed while flying a Sky Raider (see “Flightlines – Kenny Schraeder Killed in Crash,” April ’00 Ultralight Flying! magazine). Despite these setbacks, the Sky Raider flies onward. In fact, Flying K Enterprises seems to be healthy and energetic despite the twin losses. When the company shows their Sky Raider floatplane model and an example of their coming 2-seater, crowds often flock around the ultralights. I was full of anticipation to see how the floatplane would fly.