Upon seeing modern LSA, many aviators say, “Oh, these aren’t ‘those ultralights’ at all.” Truth be told, even those ultralights aren’t ultralights any more. Today, a certified but ultralight-like aircraft will be either Special or Experimental LSA. *** Witness what I’ll call the “return” of the X-Air. I’ve reported on this design as it has evolved (see photo legend). Astute visitors may recognize X-Air LS as an evolution of the pioneering Weedhopper, though little of the original design remains. The latest iteration of this venerable design is working to gain SLSA airworthiness. X-Air founder and designer, Joel Koechlin, has three decades of experience in light aircraft. His X-Air series has been a mainstay among European microlights for 15 years, selling more than 1,200 copies. *** The coming SLSA model employs the 85-hp Jabiru 2200 powerplant. Koechlin said, “This aircraft is exactly what the LSA category was meant for; it is light and easy to fly and simply fun!” U.S.
Raj Hamsa (Rand Kar) Xair H (LSA)
Email: email@example.comBangalore, -- - India
U.S. Distributor is X-Air LSA
Phone: (541) 388-5337Bend, OR 97701 - USA
|Empty weight||600 pounds|
|Gross weight||1,179 pounds 1|
|Wing area||147 square feet|
|Wing loading||8.0 pounds per square foot|
|Height||7 feet, 6 inches|
|Kit type||Assembly kit|
|Build time||80 hours|
|Notes:||1 Referred to as "maximum structural weight" though the airplane has been limited to 992 pounds gross weight under European "ultralight" rules.|
|Standard engine||Jabiru 2200 4-stroke|
|Power||80 hp @ 3,300 rpm|
|Power loading||14.7 pounds/hp|
|Cruise speed||93 mph (75% power)|
|Never exceed speed||122 mph|
|Rate of climb at gross||940 fpm|
|Takeoff distance at gross||260 feet|
|Landing distance at gross||225 feet|
|Standard Features||Tested with Jabiru 2200 air- and oil-cooled engine with electric starting, 20.8-gallon fuel tank, wheelpants, doors, drum brakes, in-flight trim, luggage compartment, streamlined struts and landing gear legs, dual controls including throttles, folding wings (standard at time of flight evaluation; check with company).|
|Options||Rotax 582 2-cycle engine and electric starter if desired (lower cost), or 81-hp Rotax 912 4-stroke (greater cost) engine, instruments, prop, floats (folding wings may be optional depending on time of order).|
|Construction||Aluminum tubing airframe, fiberglass fairing, sewn Dacron® polyester fabric wing coverings. Designed in France, fabricated in India; distributed by U.S.-owned Light Wing Aircraft.|
Cosmetic appearance, structural integrity, achievement of design goals, effectiveness of aerodynamics, ergonomics.
Pros - Fresh variation on onetime Weedhopper theme, via the standard Xair. New model has full enclosure for occupants and engine plus RANS Coyotelike tail structure. Supports larger 80-horse engines like Jabiru and Rotax. Aluminum tubing under sewn Dacron® polyester fabric structure is familiar to ultralight pilots. Folding wing option.
Cons - Empty weight seems high at 600 pounds for what appears to be a simple airplane (though it has a good equipment list). Some may view this as an "old" design even though it's new. Imports like the Xair H change value depending on foreign exchange rates. Dealer representation is sparse in USA.
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 - Four-position flaps, in-flight trim, electric starting, and toe brakes come standard on the Jabiru Xair H (for a fairly modest $27,000/100- to 120-hour kit). Fueling has its own zippered port. EIS system saved panel space, reduced complexity and serves nicely for both occupants while leaving plenty of room for additional gear.
Cons - All those systems add empty weight. Though fueling is done from the outside, the position might allow some spillage, which may cause odor in the cabin. Brakes were only installed on the left. Trim has no position indicator except your memory. Flaps were stiff to operate (see article).
Instrumentation; Ergonomics of controls; Creature comforts; (items covered may be optional).
Pros - Roomy cabin at 45 inches, with plans to widen through curved door panels (to 51 inches, says importer). Full enclosure keeps the elements out fairly well. Easier entry than the standard Xair series. Storage area behind the occupants is accessible in-flight (though the cloth "shelf" holds only lightweight objects).
Cons - Toe brakes were on the left side only, lessening value for training aircraft. Cabin might be a bit leaky for the coldest climates. Door latches worked well, but bungee cords aren't up to the modern standards for LSA hardware. Doors are very lightly built (not that I objected).
Taxi visibility; Steering; Turn radius; Shock absorption; Stance/Stability; Braking.
Pros - Gear seems very stoutly built and able to take considerable punishment without deformation; may be a good training aircraft for this reason. Bungee cord suspension is simple and well-proven. Differential braking aids ground maneuverability; turn radius could be quite tight.
Cons - No toe brakes on the right side may inhibit some training operations; steering maneuverability is much less without differential braking. Skylights are sufficiently obstructed by tubing and levers to restrict traffic visibility. Stiffer controls didn't help me sense ground-quartering winds.
Qualities; Efficiency; Ease; Comparative values.
Pros - Gear absorbs firm landings with ease and tended not to rebound significantly; the Xair H stays planted one you've touched down at slower speeds. Slips were acceptably effective though two notches of flaps were better, and easier. Good clearance for off-field landings.
Cons - My experience was that I lost energy and landed firmly two out of three tries (the good one proves my technique was at fault for the others); though glide is reported strong, energy bleed in ground effect seemed swift. Stick ran out of right-stick range for deep slip operations (operated from left seat - see article).
Quality and quantity for: Coordination; Authority; Pressures; Response; and Coupling.
Pros - Controls provided good authority for slower speed approaches in crossing winds. Precision turns to headings were very predictable. Though rudder (and all tail surfaces) seemed on the small side, the rudder was quite potent. Steep turns held bank angles easily.
Cons - All controls were on the tight side (but this was a new airplane which had barely flown off its 40-hour requirement). Dutch rolls went well but only to shallow angles, probably due to the tight control linkages. The rudder felt more powerful than the ailerons, indicating a small degree of disharmony.
Climb; Glide; Sink; Cruise/stall/max speeds; Endurance; Range; Maneuverability.
Pros - The Jabiru in test aircraft climbed very well (close to 1,000 fpm) and made for short takeoffs (about 250 feet). All gear legs and struts are faired for reduced drag. Cruise in the low 90s will be fast enough for many buyers. Fuel consumption with the Jabiru is stated as 2.5 to 2.75 gph, quite economical for 80 horsepower. Glide quoted at 10-to-1 at 56 mph.
Cons - Compared to the slicker - and much more expensive - composite aircraft from Eastern Europe, the Xair H lacks the cleanliness to offer greater speed range. The Jabiru 4-stroke is a heavier and more costly option than the 65-hp Rotax 582 2-cycle engine. The Xair H seemed to lose energy easily in ground effect (affected some landings).
Stall recovery and characteristics; Dampening; Spiral stability; Adverse yaw qualities.
Pros - All stalls ended modestly, without significant nose-over or altitude loss; easily controlled. Though rudder is small, its power seems abundant. Clean stalls are listed at 39 mph, with a similar or better number showing on the installed ASI. Full-flap stalls drop to 33 mph (claimed, not measured).
Cons - Stalls wandered directionally near stall (though nothing sudden happened as a result). Longitudinal stability is positive but was slow returning to level flight (perhaps as thrust line is near neutral). No parachute was installed so no unusual attitude work was done. Slips showed some stick-range issues.
Addresses the questions: "Will a buyer get what he/she expects to buy, and did the designer/builder achieve the chosen goal?"
Pros - To ultralighters, the Xair H offers a proven, familiar construction with common performance and handling that moves into the range of light-sport aircraft. Speed range will satisfy most sport pilots (39 to 100+ mph). Very reasonable pricing in an age of increasingly costly light-sport aircraft; $27,000 complete with Jabiru 4-stroke for a 100- to 120-hour kit.
Cons - Engine access is not particularly good; cowl must be removed. Handling felt too firm for my preference (though it may loosen as aircraft gets more time on it). No determination made of manufacturer's ability to meet LSA rules. Sparse dealer network to support aircraft.
UPDATE 2008: The following article preceded the arrival of the X-Air LS offered by X-Air LSA, certified in 2008 as a Special Light-Sport Aircraft under ASTM standards. The article below appears unchanged from the original, but the airframe is essentially identical. So, while panel changes were made along with a few minor updates, flying qualities reported in the following article should largely match that of the new LSA version. It was Tax Day, April 15, and I prepared to fly an Xair H (N#929XH) owned by importer Bill Magrini of Light Wing Aircraft. It seemed an appropriate day to forget about what I owed the Internal Revenue Service and to enjoy some ultralight flying. Fortunately, the Xair H didn’t disappoint. The Xair H isn’t the designer or fabricator’s name for the new plane. When I first saw the then-prototype design at a French airshow in ’02, the new model was named Hanuman, which means little to American pilots.