When Light-Sport Aircraft arrived on the scene almost 20 years ago, one early model that caught my attention was Kappa KP-5. This was one of the first of several brands unknown to Americans then. Others went on to become fixtures in the LSA space: Flight Design, Tecnam, Evektor, and Aeroprakt, among others.
Over some years, light aircraft models that arrived under the name Kappa were rebadged as Jihlavan and then Skyleader. In truth, it’s been Jihlavan all along but Americans have an easier time saying Skyleader. The company has been a busy development engine lead by engineer Antonín Píštěk while the enterprise is lead by CEO Radek Filip, also an engineer.
In the center of the model lineup, Skyleader 200 to Skyleader 600 are descendants of that first Kappa KP5. Contrarily, GP One and UL-39 Albi (article) are distinct designs that do not derive from the 200-400-500-600 series.
In North America, Skyleader is represented by Michael Tomazin using the web domain FlySkyleader.com. See a video below interviewing him about Skyleader 600. This article came from a flight at Midwest LSA Expo 2022.
Affordable is one of those words that means something different to every individual and may mean something different for that person next month. Despite the slipperiness of “affordable,” I’m inclined to use that term for the entire line — Skyleader 400 starts at $116,000 and the bigger, more deluxe Skyleader 600 starts at about $120,000. Meanwhile, the composite GP-One starts below $87,000 making it one of the bargains in the space. GP-One has not yet declared that it meets ASTM standards for LSA but Michael observed the company has earned German approval so they have all the documents needed to gain FAA acceptance.
Flying Skyleader 400
One of the things I liked about the original Kappa KP5 was its staggered seating that permitted a narrower, leaner fuselage. The right seat was installed several inches aft of the left pilot-in-command seat (nearby image). The result was that occupants didn’t rub shoulders, and, interestingly, you also got a view out both sides, better than when you are directly adjacent to your cabin mate.
“Skyleader 400 is designed for recreational flying and pilot training. It is distinguished by its … sports car-inspired looks and unique gull-wing-doors canopy,” said the U.S. representative. “It features a spacious interior with plenty of space for pilots and baggage (aft of the seats), and a 21-gallon fuel tank that gives the 400 a range of around 500 miles depending on engine selections and options.” Larger fuel options are available.
“Skyleader 400 is manufactured in three base configurations: Basic, Training, and Club, each with the option for further customization to suit a buyer’s needs, desires, and budget,” said Skyleader USA. “From engine and avionics upgrades, to genuine leather upholstery and custom paint, you can make the Skyleader uniquely yours.”
Compared to Skyleader 600, which was expanded from the 500 a decade back, Skyleader 400 behaves closer to a sports car than a luxury sedan. Skyleader 400 is lighter by about 70 pounds (empty) but a 600 cruises a few knots faster.
If Skyleader 600 is a Cadillac or Mercedes, Skyleader 400 is a sportier Mustang or Porsche. It handles more briskly, feeling lighter to the touch, yet it lacks some of the polish of the more advanced Skyleader 600. Skyleader 400 is snappier in roll and climbs faster, said Michael.
“Flight schools love the Skyleader 400,” said Michael. “It can be a TAA (Technically Advanced Aircraft, as required for a Commercial certificate).” Originally built for flight schools, Skyleader 400 has sturdy gear. One example Michael recently examined at the factory had 7,000 hours and 20,000 “cycles” (or takeoff and landings). It returned to the factory only after a student pilot taxied into a ditch, damaging the front wheel.
Skyleader 400 follows the entire Skyleader line using Fowler-style flaps that work exceptionally hard when deployed and hide almost completely when retracted. It’s an elegant system, especially so on aircraft in the lighter range, and this yields stalls that happen well below what the LSA regulations require.
Like the surprisingly affordable GP-One, Skyleader 400 can effectively use the nearly bullet-proof 80-horsepower Rotax 912 that will run nearly forever and use lower octane regular auto fuel, making it exceptionally low-cost to operate. However, as the 100-horsepower engine costs only a couple thousand more, non-flight school customers usually opt for it. Student or private owner, Skyleader 400 offers plenty of room in the cockpit, good even for a 6-foot, 3-inch tall pilot, said Michael.
In early 2023, Tomazin reported he has six ready-to-fly airplanes on order, plus two kits — the latter offering is new since Covid. “I just ordered the first two kits in late fall 2022.” One of the kits is a Skyleader 400 equipped with the fuel-miserly Rotax 912iS.
Skyleader / Jihlavan,
The Czech company is healthy,” Michael stated, “and has a solid order book. Our back-up is about 8 months (in early 2023). Electronics remain a problem as they do for manufacturers of many products.” Shipping costs also remain stubbornly high, up from $7,000 per container in 2019 to $19,000 today.
Worldwide, the company fleet is estimated at about 350 Skyleader 600s, Michael indicated. Counting all models, close to 600 of the company’s airplanes are flying. “This is their 23rd year,” Michael said. “They laid off nobody during Covid and they presently have many orders,” he added. “If we could get all the avionics we needed, we could deliver faster.”
When Skyleader / Jihlavan introduced the Skyleader 400 they called it their “mid-line model,” known internally as JA-400, distinctive because of its gullwing-doors canopy construction.” Skyleader 600 features an aft-sliding canopy.
“Skyleader offers the 400 in three base configurations: Basic, Training, and Club, each with the option for further customization to suit your needs, desires, and budget,” explained Skyleader in Czech. “From engine and avionics upgrades, to genuine leather upholstery and custom paint, you can make the Skyleader uniquely yours.”
The Czech producer said, “Kappa 77 (now Zall Jihlavan Airplanes; Skyleader) was established in 1996. It started with the production of the KP-2U aircraft called “Owl.” In 1999, the aircraft received German certification, later following with permissions in Italy, France, Poland, and the Netherlands.
Designer Antonín Píštěk also worked with Evektor — based in the same area as Jihlavan — on the five-seat VUT 100 Cobra aircraft designed for approval under conventional certification.
“The Zall Jihlavan Airplanes factory is heavily involved in aeronautical research, design and commercial manufacture,” clarified the builder. “The company [built] doors for the Airbus A320 airliner and [does] other certified aviation sub-contracting.”
With a solid company, interested buyers, and orders bound for the U.S., I expect aviators will see more Skyleaders at airports near them.
all data supplied by the factory
- Wing Span — 30 feet
- Overall Length — 21 feet
- Overall Height — 7.75 feet
- Wing Area — 123 square feet
- Cabin Width — 50 inches
- Maximum Takeoff Weight — up to 1,320 pounds
- Basic Empty Weight — 705 pounds
- Fuel Capacity — 21-32 gallons / 126-197 pounds
- Powerplants — Rotax 912 or Continental O-200D
- Maximum Power — 80-100 horsepower
- Never-Exceed Speed (Vne) — 140 knots / 162 miles per hour
- Cruise Speed at 75% power (Vc) — 94 knots / 109 miles per hour
- Maneuvering speed (VA) — 77 knots / 88 miles per hour
- Minimum Speed, no flaps (Vs1) — 32 knots / 37 miles per hour
- Minimum Speed, best flaps (Vs0) — 28 knots / 33 miles per hour
- TakeOff Roll — 660 feet
- Landing Roll — 660 feet
- Endurance — 4.5 to 7 hours + 30-minute reserve
- Range — 460-675 nautical miles
- Skyleader, contact information and all content on this brand on this website
- Fly Skyleader, North American distributor website
- Skyleader, the Czech manufacturer website
Here is my video interview with Michael Tomazin on Skyleader 600, recorded at Sun ‘n Fun 2021 — you can also read my written review: