The King and Kolbra The New Kolb Aircraft Company didn’t make a new model. They made two. But don’t judge by the photos accompanying this sidebar. The red Kolbra was built by Lite Speed Aviation, a group based only an hour away from The New Kolb Aircraft Company. The distinctive orange-and-blue Kolbra is the factory creation. Finished off as professionally, I found some irony in that the newest model was not the factory one. The Lite Speed model is the ultralight trainer version, and that’s precisely how Lite Speed plans to use it. New Kolb’s factory edition is an example of the King Kolbra, which will require FAA registration and an FAA pilot’s certificate. In truth, besides the beefy Australian 80-hp Jabiru engine (versus the Austrian Rotax), the main differences between the two examples relate to the nose jobs. From the front seat aft (ignoring the engine), the two planes are all but identical except for paint and upholstery.
Kolb Aircraft Kolbra
Phone: 606-862-9692London, KY 40744 - USA
|156 square feet
|6.4 pounds per square foot
|24 feet (same with folded wings)
|400 hours (est.)
|1Quick-build and fully assembled options are available through the company or third parties.
|66 hp at 6,500 rpm
|15.2 pounds per hp
|(75% power) 75 mph
|Never exceed speed
|Rate of climb at gross
|Takeoff distance at gross
|Landing distance at gross
|Tandem 2-seater, 66-hp Rotax 582 with B gearbox and 2-blade prop, fully enclosed cabin (rear windows open), folding wings, fiberglass nose fairing, broad Lexan windows and skylight, streamlined struts, full dual controls, two 5-gallon fuel tanks.
|Hydraulic brakes, engines up to 80-hp Jabiru (King Kolbra model), electric starter, 3-blade prop, instruments and EIS engine system, quick build and assembly options, ballistic parachute, upholstery package.
|Aluminum wings and tail boom, welded steel fuselage and tail structure, fiberglass fairing, Stits dope-and-fabric wing coverings, Lexan windows.
Cosmetic appearance, structural integrity, achievement of design goals, effectiveness of aerodynamics, ergonomics.
Pros - As with their 2-seat Xtra, Kolbra is a new design for The New Kolb Aircraft Company. Offered to training market; can pass Part 103 exemption weight rule with careful building. New owners are doing well with an old name, developing 2-seaters with outside expertise and maintaining the popular single-seaters. Tandem Kolbra has large interior and better rear-seat visibility than many tandem ultralights.
Cons - Some prefer tandem, it's true, but many instructors prefer side-by-side (fortunately they can choose the company's also-new Xtra). As taildraggers go this one is easy enough but many buyers simply don't feel comfortable with them, preferring tri-gear. Build time is higher than many ultralight designs; quick-build option is available but naturally raises the price.
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 - Simplified Kolbra made for ultralight training use has no flaps yet (flaperons are planned), no trim (also coming), and full dual controls. King Kolbra model can have more systems if FAA-registered. Builder Lite Speed found a couple agreeable spaces for radio and GPS. Easily accessed choke. Electric starting always spoils pilots in a way they like. Easy engine access for maintenance.
Cons - Gone are the barn-door-sized flaps of the Xtra and earlier Mark IIIs. Trim is needed in training environments; New Kolb has the option but it was left off to save weight. With some twisting, the instructor may be able to see fuel quantity. No explanatory labels yet added, for example, showing choke positions.
Instrumentation; Ergonomics of controls; Creature comforts; (items covered may be optional).
Pros - Wonderful new job on the Kolbra's nose (as with the Xtra); gives more foot room, a modern look, and much easier gauge reading and switch access (thanks to instrument pod mount). For tandem lovers, this is a job well done. Both display Kolbras were beautifully finished inside and out. Four-point seat belts at both seats will be widely appreciated. Full enclosure will delight northern pilots. Less noisy than Mark III. Floorboard can take weight well.
Cons - No brakes were installed in the rear, where the instructor will often sit. Entry process, especially to rear, will rule out some less flexible pilots (front seat is much easier). No cargo area and little room for stash containers. No simple seat or pedal adjustment for different size occupants. Not all buyers desire full enclosure.
Taxi visibility; Steering; Turn radius; Shock absorption; Stance/Stability; Braking.
Pros - Visibility, always good in Kolbs, is broad even in the rear seat (unusual among many tandem ultralights). Test Kolbra (built by Lite Speed) has shiny hydraulic brakes that appeared to be reasonably lightweight. Tailwheel steering is quite good; swivels fully for easy hand maneuvering. Generous ground clearance.
Cons - With stall at 40 mph, approaches must be done at 50 mph or more (some ultralight trainers are slower). Suspension is limited to air in the tires and gear leg flex. Tailwheel maneuvering isn't as natural to pilots trained in tri-gear ultralights. Brakes were a bit weak but factory attributes this to newness and says they improve with use.
Qualities; Efficiency; Ease; Comparative values.
Pros - Standard 66-hp Rotax 582 accelerates strongly. Potent climb ability listed at 750 fpm at full gross; 1,000 if flown solo. Visibility during takeoff or landing operations is huge; even the rear tandem seat is acceptable (many are quite limited). Crosswind capability is very good thanks to crisp, fluid controls. Landing energy retention is better than older Mark III.
Cons - Used 60 mph rotation and approach speed in gusty conditions; extends landing distance and could limit short-field operations (remember, no flaps and the brakes were weak). Compared to slower flying New Kolb single-place models, Kolbra will require somewhat more experience for good takeoffs and landings.
Quality and quantity for: Coordination; Authority; Pressures; Response; and Coupling.
Pros - Control range in new cockpit has no space limitations. Classic Kolb-brand handling; light and responsive without being overly sensitive. Adverse yaw is much better than the more highly loaded SlingShot; half-span ailerons appeared well harmonized. Ailerons massed balanced at tip to reduce flutter likelihood. Crosswind capability limited only by pilot skill as controls have good authority at all speeds.
Cons - It's hard to fault Kolb handling and the same is true on this Kolbra. About the only negative I can offer is that the handling may be too responsive for some less experienced pilots.
Climb; Glide; Sink; Cruise/stall/max speeds; Endurance; Range; Maneuverability.
Pros - Climb plus cruise (at 75 mph) are both improved on the Kolbra 66-hp 582 over the older Mark III version. With 80-hp Jabiru engine, the King Kolbra (N-numbers required) is faster at 85-mph cruise. Sink rate performance was quite good perhaps showing the value of lower-drag tandem seating configuration. Slow flight qualities in the 50s are quite good.
Cons - Despite speed increases, Kolbs remain an average- to slower-flying ultralight (though, personally, I think this is a good thing). Cruise is listed at 68% of Vne, less for example, than on the Thunder Gull line at better than 80%. King Kolbra performance costs more ($20,000 or more for kit and engine package, a $4,000+ premium over regular Kolbra).
Stall recovery and characteristics; Dampening; Spiral stability; Adverse yaw qualities.
Pros - Stalls have always been and remain mild affairs on Kolb wings, which work hard. Power-on stalls basically never happen though nose angle becomes very high. Controls remain effective to very low speeds. Uses same basic wing construction as on Mark III, a very well proven and stout wing, which provides a solid feel in the air. Tail surfaces were reportedly enlarged to gain enhanced control at lower speeds.
Cons - Stall listed at 40 mph (45 on King Kolbra) and I did not see numbers this low though installed ASI error might be the culprit. High thrust line pushes nose over slightly on power-up. Lack of trim on test plane made some longitudinal stability verifications impossible.
Addresses the questions: "Will a buyer get what he/she expects to buy, and did the designer/builder achieve the chosen goal?"
Pros - The New Kolb Aircraft Company is alive with work and developments - the Kolbra is the latest example of these improvements. New CEO, Norm Labhart, is a capable man and genuine flying enthusiast. The old company's in good hands and this should make potential buyers feel good. Brute wing main spar and tail boom. Popular folding wings remain. Kolb designs have been flying successfully for many years.
Cons - Unless you choose the quick-build option or a fully built exemption trainer, build times are among the longest in ultralight aviation (contact New Kolb for options on building). At $16,000+ Kolbra isn't the low cost kit its predecessors were; King Kolbra goes over $20,000. No tri-gear choices in entire company line. Some instructors will prefer side-by-side (though they can always choose the New Kolb Mark III Xtra).
For ultralight enthusiasts, the focus of this pilot report is on the Kolbra model that I flew in late summer 2000, fitted with the 66-hp Rotax 582. A King Kolbra version is also available, but because it is equipped with the 80-hp 4-stroke, 4-cylinder Jabiru engine, it cannot make FAR Part 103 trainer exemption weight limits. The two new Kolbra offerings give The New Kolb Aircraft Company a better footing in the 2-seat market. Until now, of the five models New Kolb offered for sale, the Mark III was their only 2-seater. Another 2-seater, the low-wing Laser, never made it to market and the outlook appears uncertain for any introduction of that model. The New Kolb Aircraft Company is clearly focused on 2-seaters. The company released a new version of their popular Mark III, named the Mark III Xtra, in the spring of 2000 and now the Kolbras. Their single-seaters – the FireFly, FireStar, FireStar II (with optional jump seat but no dual controls), and SlingShot – remain unchanged… and that’s a very good thing in my opinion.