As the world appears to shift into overdrive about electric cars, planes, and drones, what is happening in this dynamic, unfolding sector in aviation? Recent news from Pipistrel spoke to their continued development of their Alpha Electro. This Slovenian company has long pursued this and may be leading in commercialization but — as with electric autos — this remains a minuscule part of total sales. However, it attracts outsized attention from mainstream media, regulators, and others. Recently, my friend and LAMA Europe associate, Jan Friedrich, alerted me to a new success story. The Skyleader company is somewhat known in the USA although perhaps by their earlier name Kappa. The more correct name was and is Jihlavan Airplanes but Skyleader is a better marketing name. Americans have seen examples of the company’s top-of-the-line Skyleader 600 — here’s our video review of the model — but sales have not taken off in this country.
Phone: 559-289-5519Madera, CA 93636 - USA
|Seating||2 side-by-side, staggered|
|Empty weight||695 pounds|
|Gross weight||1,278 pounds|
|Wing area||128 square feet|
|Wing loading||10 pounds/square foot|
|Useful Load||583 pounds|
|Payload (with full fuel)||481 pounds (standard tanks) 1|
|Cabin Interior||47 inches|
|Fuel Capacity||17 Gallons )1|
|Baggage area||66 pounds including optional hat rack|
|Notes:||1 Optional fuel tanks add 8 gallons, making payload 433 pounds.|
|Standard engine||Rotax 912S|
|Power loading||12.8 pounds/hp|
|Cruise speed||101 kts/116 mph (75% power)|
|Stall Speed||38 mph (see article)|
|Never exceed speed||141 kts/162 mph|
|Rate of climb at gross||1,100 fpm|
|Takeoff distance at gross||300 feet|
|Landing distance at gross||450 feet|
|Range (powered)||4 hours, 450 miles 1 (no reserve)|
|Fuel Consumption||about 4 gph|
|Notes:||1 Range with optional fuel tanks, 650 miles.|
|Standard Features||Rotax 912 with electric starting, VFR panel instruments, engine instruments, Garmin SL 40 radio and transponder, fuel boost pump and quantity gauges, fuel selector, 3- blade prop, sliding canopy (cannot be opened in flight), hydraulic brakes, electric flaps and pitch trim, dual controls, 4-point pilot restraints, entry doors on both sides, staggered seating.|
|Options||Additional instrumentation including glass displays, radio choices, lighting package, long-range fuel tanks, Garmin GPS mount, custom paint, BRS ballistic parachute, leather interior, covers.|
|Construction||Aluminum semimonocoque airframe, all-aluminum wing and surfaces, steel cockpit reinforcements. Made in Czech Republic; distributed by U.S.-based importer (Pennsylvania).|
Cosmetic appearance, structural integrity, achievement of design goals, effectiveness of aerodynamics, ergonomics.Pros - Sleek, low-wing entry redone in '06 to better suit the model to Americans. Further upgraded in early '08. Wider, roomier, better equipped, and needed electric flaps. The Skyleader 500 is one of the top LSA contenders by design sophistication and meeting design goals in ways unlike other LSA. Cons - To reach such a capable design, Jihlavan developers didn't follow standard methods; minor controls can be counterintuitive. Production volumes are not high for the Skyleader 500 (though rising, says Skyleader); only a couple dozen on U.S. registry. Some repairs will require long travel due to low (though growing) number of representatives in a big country.
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 - Electric trim and flaps are standard and work well. Electric trim was especially effective and Fowler flaps are a joy. Hydraulic brakes, usually ordered with hand lever, were effective; toe brakes optional at either seat. Dual wing tanks; can be increased for good range. Cons - Control buttons on the joystick were not fully intuitive; same for starter button on throttle. Thank goodness for electric flaps; former mechanical lever were difficult. Engine access involved cowl removal (though new hinged doors make this easier). Control reach from further-aft right seat presents some drawback (though new seating should improve this).
Instrumentation; Ergonomics of controls; Creature comforts; (items covered may be optional).Pros - Wing-based entry eased, as you can stand upright on the floor. Four-point pilot restraints. Bigger occupants may truly appreciate the roominess afforded by staggered seating (though now being changed). Seating allows an unobstructed view out each side for each occupant. Heating and cooling vents provided standard. Seats adjust in flight. Cons - Staggered seats are less optimal considering control reach for the right seat occupant (though side-by-side now standard). Panel readability also suffers somewhat. Lower-hanging rudder pedals may not work for everyone. Entry on the wing is problematical for less limber pilots.
Taxi visibility; Steering; Turn radius; Shock absorption; Stance/Stability; Braking.Pros - Visibility is very good over the sloped Skyleader 500 nose; true on the ground or in flight. Staggered seating provides lateral visibility for both occupants. Trailing link suspension absorbs loads well. Hydraulic braking was effective (toe brakes optional; tested with hand lever). Good clearance for turf fields. Cons - Hand brakes don't please everyone (toe brakes are available for those pilots). The Skyleader 500 turns well, but not so sharply as a freely castoring nose- or tailwheel. Nondifferential braking lessens taxi maneuverability (toe brakes fix this at optional cost).
Qualities; Efficiency; Ease; Comparative values.Pros - Ground roll on takeoff was short (300 feet, per factory). Takeoff and landing visibility are excellent over sloped nose. Approach speeds can be held low, 40 mph with practice, thanks to Fowler flaps which enlarge wing area. Excellent trailing link suspension system absorbs hard landings with ease. Cons - You can raise the nose so high allowing flow separation and hard touchdowns (though experience will cure this quickly). Slips were modestly effective. Long glide (14:1) makes for longer touchdowns than takeoffs and encouraged too-high nose landings.
Quality and quantity for: Coordination; Authority; Pressures; Response; and Coupling.Pros - One of the Skyleader 500's outstanding features is handling - precision, ease, lightness but not too light or squirrelly; few will find any fault in this category. Coordination was excellent. Precision turns to headings were accurate from the start and the Skyleader 500 holds a steep bank turn easily with a bit of power. Cons - The sloped nose that improves visibility requires some familiarization to hold level attitude. Climbing turns result from inattention to this characteristic. No other negatives.
Climb; Glide; Sink; Cruise/stall/max speeds; Endurance; Range; Maneuverability.Pros - While not the top-speed performer among LSA, the Skyleader 500 offers a well-rounded package. Flies brilliantly at low power settings even without Fowler flaps and more so with full deployment. Sink rate was good at about 500 fpm. Long glide capability (14:1, says factory) aiding any low-approach situations. Cons - Those flying long cross-country flights may yearn for a few more miles an hour (though even the 138-mph max speed isn't high for extended flights). Landing distance (450 feet), a result of the long glide, is not optimal for the shortest strips (though a slow approach will work at most fields).
Stall recovery and characteristics; Dampening; Spiral stability; Adverse yaw qualities.Pros - Power-off stalls broke clearly but modestly at very low speeds. Accelerated stalls rolled to level from both directions. Longitudinal stability tests were good with quick recovery to level flight. Power stability checks showed proper responses. The Skyleader 500 could work for less experienced pilots. Cons - Tendency noted in two KP-5 aircraft (wide body and earlier) to fall to the right more abruptly than considered optimal (though recovery was never in doubt). Adverse yaw was about as expected. No parachute installed on test airplane, though Kappa does offer the equipment.
Addresses the questions: "Will a buyer get what he/she expects to buy, and did the designer/builder achieve the chosen goal?"Pros - Upper-range LSA choice that flies and performs excellently. Good flight school or recreational use aircraft. Handles well at slow speeds. Sturdy construction made more robust in '06. Base-price model well equipped. Importer has close connection to Czech factory and has an established U.S. presence. Cons - an established U.S. presence. CONS - Premium price may limit resale market. Holds a smaller market share, which may give some buyers pause, potentially affecting resale. Fewer dealer outlets than larger selling brands. More expensive than several other LSA designs.
Sky Leading KP-5 First, Americans became aware of Kappa. This corporate identity was more easily pronounced than the next company name, Jihlavan (roughly, “YEE-lah-von”) Airplanes. Now, after new investment and with new global ambitions, the company will be known as “Skyleader Aircraft.” American tongues can relax with this easy reference. Unchanged are a common owner and the same skilled Jihlavan Airplanes technicians building the elegant KP-5/Skyleader 500 from the Czech Republic. It may not be the biggest seller among light sport aircraft (LSA), but I find it to be one of the finest flying machines in the fleet. Skyleader plans to standardize the brand around the world and will rename the KP-5 the Skyleader 500. I’ve felt before and confirmed again that KP-5 (now Skyleader 500) is one of the sweetest handling Special Light-Sport Aircraft in the fleet. Skyleader 500 is a handsomely styled, all-metal LSA with a high visibility cockpit, a high-performance wing with well-regarded Fowler flaps, tough trailing link landing gear and the 100-hp Rotax 912S powerplant.