When I first met Phil Lockwood, he was selling Drifters. That was more than 20 years ago. In that time the venerable Drifter ultralight went through several owners and many changes. A Drifter model even hailed from Australia for a time. But in a combined deal including the Air Cam — which Phil designed — all design rights, inventory, tooling, documentation returned home…to Lockwood enterprises (Read July 5, 2006 SPLOG). A 7,000 square-foot addition enlarges Lockwood’s facility to house the new activity. On a tour of this facility after the Sebring Expo I saw the stockpile of components that demanded a new building. Initially Phil expected only to supply Drifter parts to service about 1,000 aircraft flying around the globe. But early demand has staffers shipping a few kits even while they complete the factory. Lockwood also plans to deliver full Air Cam kits bringing this hugely delightful aircraft back to regular production.
Lockwood Aircraft Corp. Super Drifter 912 (1998)
Phone: (863) 655-4242-- - USA
|Empty weight||495 pounds|
|Gross weight||1,000 pounds|
|Wing area||160 square feet|
|Wing loading||6.3 pounds/sq ft|
|Build time||160 hours|
|Set-up time||30 minutes|
|Standard engine||Rotax 912 4-cycle|
|Power||81 hp at 5,500 rpm|
|Power loading||12.3 pounds/hp|
|Cruise speed||75 mph at 4,800 rpm|
|Never exceed speed||85 mph|
|Rate of climb at gross||1,000 fpm|
|Takeoff distance at gross||200 feet|
|Landing distance at gross||200 feet|
|Standard Features||Dual controls, steerable tailwheel, nondifferential brakes, open cockpit with pilot pod and windscreen, kingpost-and-cable-braced wings and tail, spring steel landing gear, padded bucket seats, 4-point safety harnesses, 10 gallon fuel capacity, 3-blade composite prop.|
|Options||Flap/aileron kit, 5-gallon seat tank, ballistic emergency parachute, amphibious floats.|
|Construction||Aluminum tubing, spring steel landing gear, presewn Dacron® polyester sailcloth.|
Cosmetic appearance, structural integrity, achievement of design goals, effectiveness of aerodynamics, ergonomics.
Pros - Classic design returns from the personnel who once staffed the original builder. This is not the heavier, wing-strutted Australian Drifter SB (see "Pilot's Report - Back Up From Down Under, the New Drifter SB," June '97 UF!); it retains the lightweight features that made the first Drifters popular. Very well-executed (even to the Rotax 912 installation). Placement of prop above the "pan" protects blades against water spray or other debris. More than 1,000 original Drifters are flying.
Cons - For pilots used to enclosures, the massive visibility and lack of structure surrounding the pilot may be disconcerting. The 912-powered aircraft in this report is not a Part 103 ultralight, and you can feel the weight. Noncommercial operators should probably stick with the 503 or 582. Older design may not appeal to some buyers.
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 original Drifters used full-span ailerons and no flaps. Now they're available with a flap lever on the pilot's left. Altimeter, ASI, tach, EGT and Hobbs are standard (plus water temp on the 582). You can have electric start (though not on the single-seat Part 103 version). An HKS model will be offered soon. Brakes are employed with a squeeze lever on the joystick. Very easy refueling access.
Cons - Rotax 912-equipped Drifter adds unnecessary complexity (not to mention weight and cost) for most ultralight enthusiasts. Brakes are unidirectional offering no taxi accommodation.
Instrumentation; Ergonomics of controls; Creature comforts; (items covered may be optional).
Pros - Ask for only one distinguishing quality of the Drifter cabin and familiar pilots should exclaim, "the view!" Four-point harness system is standard. Very good entry and exit for both seats. Good support from padded fiberglass seats. Tiny little windscreen blocks front seat from most windblast. All instruments easily readable.
Cons - Test aircraft had the rear seat rudder pedals rigged too close to the seat for full deflection (caused when the front seat was moved aft to accommodate floats and a large pilot; problem has been remedied). Rear seat can be pretty windy. Seats do not adjust easily. Aft seat cannot see front seat instruments easily.
Taxi visibility; Steering; Turn radius; Shock absorption; Stance/Stability; Braking.
Pros - Tailwheel steering brings responsive ground maneuvering. Visibility (from the front) doesn't get any better; you can see the world from here. Spring steel gear legs offer good absorption even for the big 912 engine installation. Drifter's gear has proven itself in some of the toughest duty situations imaginable. Clearance is good and the prop well-protected from debris strikes.
Cons - Lack of differential brakes offers no extra steering potential. As on most aircraft, the brakes aren't particularly strong and are somewhat limited by your hand size and the ability to squeeze the lever. Aircraft is rather long; limited tight turning ability. Taildragger only; not all pilots feel comfortable with this gear setup.
Qualities; Efficiency; Ease; Comparative values.
Pros - Visibility from the front is absolutely superb; no excuse to miss anything in your path. Very rapid liftoff thanks to the 912 (but it is still quick even with a 503). Climb is awesome (1,000+ fpm) with the 912 and an adequate 500 fpm with the 503 even when two are aboard. Excellent crosswind capability. Good ground clearance. Flaps help steepen your approach.
Cons - The lack of visual bank and pitch references up front may be upsetting to some pilots used to lots of structure around them. Slips work but less effectively than an aircraft with covered fuselage. No other negatives.
Quality and quantity for: Coordination; Authority; Pressures; Response; and Coupling.
Pros - Smooth, medium-light and powerful describes Drifter controls, yet it isn't too fast for novice pilots. Makes a good trainer. Linkages are tight with little looseness and little friction. Dutch rolls to medium bank angles went well on first effort. Steep turns are a joy with good turning stall characteristics. Precision turns to headings were child's play; any pilot should do well.
Cons - Due to the pilot's position forward of the wing, you must use other references to determine bank angles; some pilots will not care for this. Test plane rudder required slightly more effort than joystick, a slight disharmony (but one that is quickly learned) - see article references on this. With full-span ailerons (no flap option selected), adverse yaw is significant.
Climb; Glide; Sink; Cruise/stall/max speeds; Endurance; Range; Maneuverability.
Pros - Fuel economy is improved with the 912 (over the 582, though less so for the 503). Climb is strong with 81-hp 912 or 65-hp 582, adequate with the 50-hp 503 - HKS option may be the ideal compromise. Design does very well on floats and has seen many forms of work duty around the world. Good slow or low flying, especially if optional flaps are selected.
Cons - Speeds are modest; this isn't a long-range cross-country aircraft. Sink rate and glide are about average only (perhaps due to the lack of much enclosure). Rotax 582 model is quite a gas guzzler. While combination of performance is good, does not particularly shine in any one area.
Stall recovery and characteristics; Dampening; Spiral stability; Adverse yaw qualities.
Pros - Highly resistant to stall break; stays on heading and dips the nose only slightly whether power-on or -off. Pitch response to throttle movements is positive with little pitch change, perhaps as a big tail is close to the prop flow. Longitudinal stability is positive probably thanks to a longer wing to tail measurement.
Cons - Accelerated stalls at gross weight may fall toward a wing (though even this action is very mild). During power-on stalls, the nose gets very high with 912 engine. Nose-over on power increase is significant with 912; still exists with smaller powerplants.
Addresses the questions: "Will a buyer get what he/she expects to buy, and did the designer/builder achieve the chosen goal?"
Pros - Highly reliable pioneering design that still works very well in many applications. Use of presewn Dacron® wings greatly speeds construction and holds weight down (no weight-adding paint is needed). Cable-bracing remains one of the strongest ways to design an ultralight; it's light and low drag. Drifter has been certified in Japan, South Africa, Taiwan and Israel. Company reputation is among the very best.
Cons - Removable but not folding wings. Prices start at $12,985 for a single-seater and run to nearly $25,000 for the Super Drifter with Rotax 912 4-stroke engine. Older design may limit interested buyers at resale time. No enclosure offered or possible without major work; cold weather locations may have shorter flying season. Factory still spooling up production (though this won't take long).
The original Drifter was one of the ultralight industry’s flagship aircraft. Hatched by early entrepreneur Dennis Franklin, the Maxair Drifter enjoyed immense popularity. Several reasons exist for the Drifter’s popularity, and these were enough for Leza-Lockwood to offer a rebirth to the design. Déjà Vu All Over Again The Drifter is a tough design. The basic airframe consists of a lower boom tube that supports the pilot at the front and the large empennage at the rear with an engine midship. Because the separation is longer than some similar designs, the Drifter boasts a high level of stability that should please most pilots. Secured to the boom by a series of triangulated tubing structures, the wing is classic Klaus Hill. This prolific designer from the early ’80s died in an unfortunate accident many years ago, but not before putting his indelible mark all over ultralight aviation. Klaus is directly responsible for the wings of the Weedhopper, Hummer, Humbug and SuperFloater.