The Leading Trainer in French Flight Schools To many observers, the Sky Ranger looks like a RANS Coyote. Based on general appearances, it appears the French light plane borrowed heavily from the popular model sold by the Kansas light plane kit leader. But, Sky Ranger importer Richard Helm bristles a bit when he hears that statement and retorts, “People compare the Sky Ranger to the RANS Coyote. They say it’s a knockoff, but the French designer didn’t take anything from the Coyote. It’s built completely different,” although he admits, “It does look a lot like the Coyote.” Give a Yankee welcome to the Sky Ranger. The French-designed ultralight is typical of a trend I think we’ll be seeing with increasing frequency—imported light planes from Europe. Sky Ranger is built in the Ukraine by Aeros, Ltd. I visited this factory with Phil Lockwood of Lockwood Aviation in the spring of 2001. Once built by Synairgy in France, Sky Ranger production moved to this former eastern-block country in 1997.
|152 square feet
|6.2 pounds/square foot
|1See distributor and article for further details about the build effort.
|50 hp at 6,500 rpm
|19.1 pounds per hp
|Never exceed speed
|Rate of climb at gross
|Takeoff distance at gross
|Landing distance at gross
|2Test Sky Ranger was equipped with an in-flight adjustable prop (see story).
|Rotax 503, ASI, tach, hydraulic brakes, 3-position flaps, cabin with removable doors, remote choke, shock-absorbing gear, steerable nosewheel, choice of colors for slip-on Dacron covers with lash-up tightening (no painting required).
|Engines up to 100-hp Rotax 912S including Rotax 582, 618, and regular 912, also 60-hp HKS 700E, electric starter, 4-blade prop, additional instruments, assembly option, doors, and ballistic parachute.
|Aluminum airframe, fiberglass fairing, presewn Dacron wing, fuselage, and tail coverings. Designed in France. Made in the Ukraine (by Aeros); distributed by U.S.-owned company (Sabre Aircraft).
Cosmetic appearance, structural integrity, achievement of design goals, effectiveness of aerodynamics, ergonomics.
Pros - The Sky Ranger had specific design goals at outset: well-rounded performance, quick build, easy repair. Goals were reached. Very simple "ultralight like" construction: no welding, only straight main tubes, sewn Dacron covering. Aircraft well proven through years of use. More than 500 built.
Cons - Critics says it's just a RANS S-6 Coyote II knockoff (though it is really quite different). New brand not yet established in America despite a strong following in France. Simple design has a boxy appearance from some angles. Only modest performance and handling (though it's aimed at beginners).
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 - Test Sky Ranger was well-equipped, with flaps, in-flight trim, hydraulic brakes, electric starting, and in-flight adjustable prop. Easy access to fuel tanks behind tilt-forward seats. Convenient primer on instrument panel. Plenty of room for extra instrumentation, GPS units, or radios.
Cons - Flaps, trim, and brakes are standard; other items on test plane were optional at additional expense. Fueling without removing tanks risks smelly spills inside cockpit; no exterior refueling point. Pull starting in this cockpit may prove difficult. No indicator for in-flight adjustable prop and no limiters installed to help prevent incorrect operation.
Instrumentation; Ergonomics of controls; Creature comforts; (items covered may be optional).
Pros - Instructor and student share a joystick but have dual pedals and a throttle for each seat. Flaps and trim between seats also very accessible. Seats tilt forward to allow access to the twin fuel tanks. Removable doors. Four-point seat belts provided as standard. Optional cargo bag aft of seat is fairly roomy.
Cons - I didn't like the reach to the throttle and it has no hand rest to steady your movements (a Cessna-style push throttle is available). Support structure passing through panel disturbs visibility somewhat. No doors were available to examine for latch security and operation. Your legs must angle toward the pedals in a somewhat uncomfortable way.
Taxi visibility; Steering; Turn radius; Shock absorption; Stance/Stability; Braking.
Pros - Standard hydraulic brakes worked better than expected; fairly powerful slowing. Mounted on joystick, either seat has brake access. Entry is very good; no tubes block your movement in or out. Seats tilt forward to allow fuel tank and cargo bag access. Not windy to fly with door removed. Panel readability and distance are good.
Cons - Simple seats may not prove comfortable on long flights (my 1-hour flight showed no discomfort, however). Gear absorption limited to flex in large gear leg slab and air in the tires. No differential brakes to aid maneuvering. Taxi turn radius was not tight.
Qualities; Efficiency; Ease; Comparative values.
Pros - Tough main landing gear proved itself during an out-landing in a bumpy field (see story). Very good clearance assures rough-field landings won't affect main airframe members. Good forward and lateral visibility. Modest speeds for takeoff and approach to landing permit speeds slow enough that I hardly used the flaps.
Cons - Overhead skylight was less useful in turns as you sit well below it; must be highly banked for usefulness (though still good for overhead traffic). Factory ground roll distances listed in specifications seem much longer than my experience. Designer recommends limiting crosswind operations to 17 mph.
Quality and quantity for: Coordination; Authority; Pressures; Response; and Coupling.
Pros - Center joystick is convenient to use from left seat. Plenty of movement range inside cabin due to placement. Coordination exercises went well to shallow angles (where most students fly). Adverse yaw was average among ultralights. Precision turns to headings went very well; I see no problem in crosswind operations. Controls light enough that I rarely used trim (flying solo).
Cons - Rudders were a little stiff, making harmony less than optimal. Dutch rolls couldn't be done to steep angles successfully on first trials. No arm rest for stick or throttle; both could use one in my opinion. Test Sky Ranger had a little right turn that took constant correction (though I'm told the adjustment is an easy one).
Climb; Glide; Sink; Cruise/stall/max speeds; Endurance; Range; Maneuverability.
Pros - Light weight (especially 50-hp Rotax 503 model) helps overall performance. Three-blade prop (with four as an option) makes for smoother engine operation. Sky Ranger did very well on the 503, especially considering some have fit the 100-hp Rotax 912S. In-flight adjustable prop extended the range of operation.
Cons - Climb is somewhat uninspiring with the 503; unable to measure without an altimeter but designer lists 200 fpm (I found it much stronger even with 503 power though perhaps in-flight adjustable prop helped). Flies at ultralight trainer speeds; I liked it, but some will want more speed capability. Fuel use with 503 is reportedly higher than 912.
Stall recovery and characteristics; Dampening; Spiral stability; Adverse yaw qualities.
Pros - Very modest stall results; no breaking over and no drop on a wing. Work underway for parachute installation. Longitudinal stability appeared to be good, returning to level slowly but positively. Four-point seat belts add security. Stalls recovered quickly and without wing drop.
Cons - No doors and no side airframe members may give some concern. Steady right-hand turn made some stability observations difficult (though an adjustment sounds reasonably easy through opening in underside fabric, then sliding restraining bungee to appropriate side).
Addresses the questions: "Will a buyer get what he/she expects to buy, and did the designer/builder achieve the chosen goal?"
Pros - Very fast-build kit with substantial work done for you (flaps, ailerons, tail plane, rudder, elevators all built and covered; many bolts already in position). Representation by Sabre Aircraft is a plus; the trike-maker has been a success for many years. Modest overall prices (under $16,000 with Rotax 503).
Cons - Design has no track record or history in America and success in France is not known to American pilots. Uncertain resale values at this stage. Marketing information (option prices, more explanatory literature) still being created. Simplistic ultralight that may not appeal to sophisticated buyers.