Smoother and More Refined Sabre Aircraft’s Wildcat is an evolving story of ultralight aircraft development. It also speaks to the increasing maturity of the light aviation industry. For years, Sabre Aircraft’s sales of their various trike models may have been the largest of any U.S. manufacturer. As 2003 ended the company was reporting delivery of some 700 ultralights. The company has long offered a good flying, simple trike with a modest price tag. Proprietor and designer Richard Helm made steady improvements to his Sabre Elite and Sabre 340 designs. But he took no major strides forward. The vigorous pace of Sabre trike sales and the company’s need to stay on top of manufacturing issues can explain a drawn-out development period. Little time was left over for projects such as getting an entirely new trike ready for market. That didn’t stop Helm. He kept working on elements of what would eventually become the Wildcat.
Sabre’s New Wildcat
|Empty weight||330 pounds 1|
|Gross weight||885 pounds|
|Wing area||175 square feet|
|Wing loading||5.1 pound per square foot|
|Kit type||Fully assembled|
|Notes:||1 Wing weight, 95 pounds|
|Standard engine||Zanzottera MZ 202 1|
|Power||65 hp at 5,800 rpm|
|Power loading||13.6 pounds per hp|
|Cruise speed||30-50 mph|
|Never exceed speed||55 mph|
|Rate of climb at gross||800 fpm|
|Takeoff distance at gross||250 feet|
|Landing distance at gross||100 feet|
|Notes:||1 Engine with R&D pipe sold with electric start and reduction drive; engine now manufactured by Compact Radial Engines of Canada, according to Sabre Aircraft.|
|Standard Features||Zanzottera MZ 202 engine equipped with electric start and reduction drive with clutch plus R&D exhaust pipe, 2-year warranty on engine, Sabre 16ss single-surface wing, steerable nosewheel (push right, go left) with nosewheel drum brake and trailing link suspension, hand and foot throttles, engine gauges (dual EGT and tachometer) in pod with mount, heavy-duty fiberglass main gear legs, wheel pants, front fender, 10-gallon fuel tank, 3-blade composite IvoProp propeller, seat with cargo area and saddlebags, folding mast, choice of colors, safety cables inside trike frame.|
|Options||BRS ballistic parachute (soft pack), optional wing fabrics, additional instruments.|
|Construction||6061-T6 and 7075-T6 aluminum airframe, steel and aluminum fittings, AN hardware, fiberglass, Dacron sailcloth.|
Cosmetic appearance, structural integrity, achievement of design goals, effectiveness of aerodynamics, ergonomics.
Pros - Sabre may be America's most prolific trike builder (700 deliveries claimed). Pricing is lower than most imported models. Simple trike but with features developed over manufacturing of many units). Lowered chassis comes with several benefits. Zanzottera engine on test trike is a new choice.
Cons - Sabre has not lead development like several European brands (though that has changed somewhat with new Wildcat features). Design test programs don't match imported designs (though Sabre enjoys a good safety record over many years of sales). Company preparedness for proposed Light-Sport Aircraft is undetermined.
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 - Sabre's Wildcat continues to be a simpler design not employing many systems. Dual steering bar for aft seat ground taxiing. Foot and hand throttle with override feature. Front seat drum brake with spring suspension on nosewheel. Easy engine and fueling access. Electric starting is standard with Zanzottera engine.
Cons - Sabre's Wildcat continues to be a simpler design not employing many systems. Dual steering bar for aft seat ground taxiing. Foot and hand throttle with override feature. Front seat drum brake with spring suspension on nosewheel. Easy engine and fueling access. Electric starting is standard with Zanzottera engine.
Instrumentation; Ergonomics of controls; Creature comforts; (items covered may be optional).
Pros - Comfortable, well-padded seats. Entry/exit are even easier than typically straightforward trike method, thanks to lowered chassis. Reach to controls good with rear seat steering and throttle. Amply sized instrument panel on test Wildcat. Cargo area under rear seat plus side zippered bags.
Cons - No shoulder belts installed nor offered; you'll have to add them as extra-cost aftermarket items. Minimal foot support to keep your feet on pedals. No nose or windscreen installed for wind protection (though a slower flying wing will make this unnecessary).
Taxi visibility; Steering; Turn radius; Shock absorption; Stance/Stability; Braking.
Pros - Precise taxi steering. Good shock absorption with nosewheel suspension and brake. Brake was helpful for ground operations. Taxiing any trike on a crowded ramp is simpler, thanks to the tiltable wing. Generous ground clearance even though chassis has been lowered.
Cons - Push right, go left steering, although it has become standard on most trikes, is still unorthodox and throws some conventionally trained pilots. In stronger winds, steadying a trike wing may require significant muscular effort. Brake, though helpful for taxiing, was not particularly strong.
Qualities; Efficiency; Ease; Comparative values.
Pros - Sabre 16 wing approached quite slowly, allowing operations at many shorter fields. Slow approaches also aid in crosswind operations; the short ground roll allows cross-runway landings. Good glide performance made for gradual touchdowns and adds reach in the event of engine loss.
Cons - As with all trikes, crosswind operations demand different techniques than 3-axis pilots. Brakes will not help significantly in slowing the Wildcat on a short field (but slower approach speeds with the Sabre 16 wing make this largely unnecessary). Takeoff roll seemed a bit long.
Quality and quantity for: Coordination; Authority; Pressures; Response; and Coupling.
Pros - Single-surface Sabre 16ss wing offers light handling, better than most double-surface wings (though at some sacrifice in speed range). Pitch was quite responsive and gave some diving ability even under power. Precision turns to headings in single-surface quite good.
Cons - As with all trike wings, you have no cross-control capability for crosswind operations. Coordinating controls on a weight-shift trike demands a new technique; you must push out (stick equivalent: back pressure). Low thrust line, common to all trikes, means power can overcome pitch control.
Climb; Glide; Sink; Cruise/stall/max speeds; Endurance; Range; Maneuverability.
Pros - Glide was quite good for a single-surface wing. Climb with Zanzottera was strong (though no instruments to measure). Low-over-field flying was most pleasurable with this single-surface wing. Speed range adequate for all but higher wind conditions.
Cons - Sink rate not measured (no altimeter). Speed range of Sabre 16ss wing is limited compared to most double-surface designs. More powerful engine means higher fuel burn. Sabre Aircraft no longer represents Aeros wings; interested buyers should check with company for other options.
Stall recovery and characteristics; Dampening; Spiral stability; Adverse yaw qualities.
Pros - Very modest stall characteristics; even with control bar held all the way to the nose support tube (stick equivalent: full back), Sabre 16 wing was docile. No stall breaks unless dramatically exaggerated. No wing drop. Push/pull-and-release test went positively.
Cons - Trike takeoffs, in Sabre and all other brands, are quite different than fixed-wing aircraft and required some familiarization. Throttle pushes nose up, as with all trikes; you must back off power somewhat in order to dive authoritatively.
Addresses the questions: "Will a buyer get what he/she expects to buy, and did the designer/builder achieve the chosen goal?"
Pros - The Wildcat is the result of several years of thinking about ways to build a better trike; slow economy allowed time to introduce this new model. Nicely color-coordinated. Zanzottera engine offered plenty of power without liquid cooling complexity. With a reported 700 trikes flying, safety record is good.
Cons - No matter what, trikes aren't going to please all pilots and this may affect resale ability values. Zanzottera engine has uneven sales and distribution performance in the North American market; is not known well by Yankee pilots. Takedown requires removal of a seat frame member.