Tabor Coates calls his business Blue Collar Aviation. Honestly, as someone who scours the globe for affordable aircraft, any business with this name was certain to grab my attention. This isn’t simply adroit marketing. Tabor’s Maynard, Massachusetts operation is deep into affordable aviation. How affordable? Tabor’s most-expensive offering is the SkyRanger Nynja (featured in this 2023 article and this flight report). With every item needed in the kit to include engine, instruments and coverings that need no paint, this tried-and-true light aircraft sells for $65,000 and that even includes freight from across the Atlantic.* How deep into affordable goes Tabor? He offers two versions of SkyRanger — Swift III and Nynja — with a complete kit for the former starting at $49,985. If that’s still high for your budget Tabor offers FlyLight’s line of superlight (nanolight?) weight-shift trikes. The simplest of these flying machines are ready-to-fly for around $15,000.
Fixed-Wing, Three-Axis Swift or NynjaJust since last summer, grocery prices are soaring. The price of everything seems up significantly, enough to rise to the top of national polls asking people's prime concern. The average price of a new car is approaching $50,000 and that's when manufacturing hundreds of thousands of units per year. No wonder aircraft have gotten so costly.
SkyRanger remains a great value.You can still buy a SkyRanger Swift III in complete kit form for $49,985. "It's a very complete kit," Tabor assured, "even brake fluid is included." You'll have to assemble it but this kit has been known for more than 30 years as one of the simplest-to-assemble of any aircraft — it was carefully designed expressly with that objective. The quoted price includes 100% of what you need other than your own labor. Your labor investment will be about 300 hours. Here's how Tabor Coates broke down my inquiry about build time: "We (he and partner, Chance Parker) logged 330 hours over nine months but we took our time assembling our demo aircraft. Plus, we had other projects at the time so we worked on it when we could." How long might it take you? "It could be done in six months still going at it part-time," Tabor continued. "However, we have some reports of an experienced builder getting it done in a single month; that's working full-time and bringing an aptitude for such work."
Nynja, Composite UpgradeWhile I know many readers search for affordability, I also know how tempting it is to "move up." With that in mind, Nynja is likely what many pilots will enjoy, with its composite exterior compared to Swift's fabric exterior. Ninja also includes composite wings tips with small winglets (an option on Swift). A storage bag aft of the seats for baggage is standard (an option on Swift). Nynja has "tremendous useful load" Tabor said. "At 1,320 pounds gross and realistic empty weight of 650-680 pounds, Nynja has 640-670 pounds of useful load. Even with full fuel, Nynja offers a payload of 481 pounds, enough for two 220-pound occupants plus 40 pounds of luggage. Nynja designers moved the fuel from behind the seat in Swift to two wings tanks holding 31.5 gallons of fuel along with a header tank behind the seats. This change "allowed more baggage aft of the seat, taking better advantage of Nynja's big useful load," noted Tabor. Nynja also cruises a bit faster than Swift. "We can easily cruise 100 miles per hour burning 4.1 gallons per hour," Tabor reported. "If we push up to 5300 rpm, we see 105." With 100 horsepower and Kanardia instruments a Nynja kit is $65,000 in the USA. That number includes freight from overseas; shipping in the USA by truck would be extra. FlyLight's production backlog is six months. In early 2024, that is fairly fast. When challenged, Tabor replied, "That's real! And yes, they are still built in Ukraine, as they have been for decades." Fully fabricated airframes are shipped to FlyLight Airsports in the UK where they finish each aircraft before packaging for shipment to Blue Collar in Massachusetts.
Shift to Weight-ShiftIf $50,000 to $65,000 has you reconsidering a 60-year old Cessna, those who prefer something new could consider Tabor's line of superlight trikes, sold under the business name, FlyLight Trikes US. Possible trike pilots divide into two groups: hang glider pilots who love the idea of a self-launch capability, or… fixed wing pilots open-minded enough to give one of these a try. Most won't take the opportunity but for someone who enjoys motorcycling or water thrill craft, trikes might work for you. Let me be direct: With the least-costly trike Tabor sells, you could be airborne for around $15,000 without any building (or FAA pilot license) required. You may want more but that's a price that can meet most budgets. In England very light-weight aircraft are called "Sub-70 (kilograms)" and "SSDR." I've often reported on aircraft in this category. Super portable and lightweight, these aircraft are straightforward to transport, setup, and fly. From car or truck to ready takes only a half hour. No hangar needed. Alongside Blue Collar's Nynja display at Sun 'n Fun 2024, FlyLight Trikes U.S. will debut a new model. "The 9 (Nine) is coming to Sun 'n Fun 2024," exclaimed Tabor, speaking about the newest trike from FlyLight (see below). If you are willing to look at weight shift but uncertain about training, read the sidebar at the bottom of this article. This is from text for an upcoming article Tabor authored for Aero Connections magazine.
Trike Line ReviewFlylight offers four trikes models with various wing/engine combinations. "Each is fine tuned to provide exceptional performance for a specific mission,"the UK company stated. Here's their review: "PeaBee 2 is the updated version of the very popular original PeaBee trike. Portable and affordable, this trike is designed to deliver fun …and one flight in a PeaBee you will certainly leave a smile on your face. "BivvyBee is a flying adventure machine, designed to carry all the necessary camping equipment and supplies for those weekend group fly-outs. "Adam is great for the engine off soaring purist or someone that wants a light, nimble-handling trike with an advanced double-surface wing. The Adam has top of the line looks and features. Flylight’s latest trike design, Nine, is a cross-country hot rod. After flying the Nine for the first time, you will only be able to say one word: WOW! Flylight and the Ukrainian company Aeros collaborated on the wing design, and what they came up with is the perfect high-speed wing for touring.
Check out SkyRanger Nynja and FlyLight 9 at Sun 'n Fun 2024.
- SkyRangerUS (fixed wing), importer's contact info and all content on this website (related to Blue Collar Aviation)
- Flylight Trikes, website for the weight-shift aircraft
- FlyLight, UK owner of the SkyRanger design plus all trikes referenced, contact info and content on this website
- FlyLight superlight trikes dedicated website
- Earlier article on the SkyRanger Nynja seen at Oshkosh 2023
- Dave Unwin's full-length pilot report on Nynja
- More reporting on other very light aircraft, on this website
* Overseas shipping is included in this price from January 2024. This price does not include shipping by truck within the USA. If you go to Massachusetts and pick up your SkyRanger Ninja, $65,000 is the present delivered price for the complete kit. Also… for those who truly like to pick nits, I altered the spelling of SkyRanger to use a second capital "R" as is common in the USA. To be "consistent," I also spelled FlyLight with a capital "L," though the British company uses neither of these double-capitals.