Motor Along Economically
Not all light sport aircraft (LSA) are made alike.
You probably knew that already, but consider
the Lambada. This sleek composite 2-seat
shoulder wing is part airplane, part glider and it has
the interchangeable wing tips to prove it.
For a soaring enthusiast like myself, flying the
Lambada gratified a desire I’ve had for years, since I
first saw the Urban Air design at a German airshow. On
January 9, 2008, I went aloft in a Lambada with Josef
Bostik – a former U.S. National Champion hang glider
pilot turned airline captain – at Wallaby Ranch, an
iconic hang glider park in Central Florida where hang
gliders are towed aloft behind specially built ultralights.
The particular Lambada I flew bore N-number
N109UA. Bostik indicated that 108 other Lambada
aircraft are flying around the world, though the
one I flew is the first ’08 model to pass ASTM standard
I stood at the wing tip and marveled at the complex
wing with its multiple dihedral angles and
compound dual taper. And all that is before you
change the wing tips to the two standard equipment
variations. The Lambada comes standard
with one extra set of wing tips: tip extensions to
increase soaring power, or standard tips that bump
cruise speed a few knots. You can order an optional
set of snazzy tips called “Shark” winglets, which
extend upward about a foot and a half. “They don’t
do much,” Bostik says, “but they look
During my evaluation, we went to a
sailplane airpark where one sailplane
pilot thought the gel coat finish of the
Lambada is more like other sailplanes
and much superior to work he’s seen on
composite power planes. Attention to
detail like gaps and general smoothness
is an obsession of sailplane pilots and
designers, so getting high points for finish
quality from one of these pilots is significant.
Removal of the wing extension involves
a small T-handle that screws into a small,
recessed stainless-bushed opening that
allows the handle to pull a small pin,
freeing the spar stub from its mate. With your
hand around the wing extension – chord is small
near the wingtip – you gently wiggle the stub out
of the female opening. Finally, you remount one of
two smaller wing tips. The shorter standard wing
will add about 5 knots (5.75 mph) to cruise, Bostik
The cockpit looks smaller than it feels when you
enter. A step built into the fuselage helps you up;
you then stand on the seat or floor before working
your legs forward. At close to 42 inches wide, the
Lambada isn’t as roomy as some LSA power
planes, but it’s still a couple of inches wider than a
Cessna 172. All but the biggest occupants will fit
The Lambada’s canopy must be closed securely
for flight; it cannot remain open because it swings
aft and acts like a large air scoop and too much air
blast could damage the hinges. Once closed, latches
on either side of the cockpit do their job. To
check security, you don’t push on the plastic. Push
on the canopy frame instead. A latch on each side
felt solid and was backed up with another at the
center rear that felt equally robust. Occupants will
enjoy canopy vents on either side that provide airflow
The cockpit layout is fairly conventional with
two notable exceptions. First, a lever that looks
like a flap handle is actually the air brake handle.
With such lift-killing devices and the ability to fly
slowly on approach, flaps aren’t needed. Secondly,
just forward of the air brake handle is a prop control,
which allows you to feather the prop (that is,
orient the blades for the least drag). A hand brake
on the left joystick is hydraulically powered.
Up to 120 pounds of luggage can be placed aft of
the seats and you can also specify a special tube to
accommodate snow skis or other long items that
can reach back into the tail fuselage within weight
and balance considerations, of course.
I found the seat belts a bit tricky to operate until
I learned little tricks with the buckles. This is common
in airplanes where seat belt design
I eventually needed to exit the
Lambada to stretch my legs. Inside, not
much room is available for such exercise.
For most pilots this probably
wouldn’t present a problem.
Trim is between the left-seat pilot’s
legs near the base of the joystick. Flying
from the right seat, I found no need to
use the trim. so it wasn’t a problem that
the trim wasn’t more accessible. (I often
fly in the right seat to make sure the
check-out pilot is entirely comfortable
and because I’m quite happy in the right
seat after thousands of hours of instruction
given from this position.)
The Lambada I flew was simply equipped with
steam gauge instruments. It didn’t have a variometer,
a common soaring instrument showing lift and
sink. Urban Air USA has sold other Lambada aircraft
equipped with Becker radios, Garmin 496
GPS, and a Grand Rapids Electronic Flight
Information System (EFIS). I’ll discuss prices and
more options at the end of the article.
Cleared for Launch
Another treat I enjoyed in the
Lambada was the vernier throttle.
I know these from general aviation
aircraft and they permit precise
manipulation of power. When
you launch, you merely push in
the big button on the handle and
advance the throttle as you wish.
For in-flight or climb adjustments,
turning the large knob allows an
exact setting of power.
As we taxied out, Bostik
observed the Lambada designers
put a lot of weight on the tailwheel.
The tailwheel feel is unmistakable
and it does not break loose
for added maneuverability. So
because of the Lambada’s broad
turning radius and the long
wingspan, you need to plan ahead
to allow enough room for a 180°
turn at the end of a runway.
However, even small airstrips will
suffice with a little foresight.
One Lambada pilot said, “You
don’t want to wait too long to start
the tailwheel input to get the
plane turning. As long as you lead
the turn sufficiently you’ll be fine.”
The Lambada’s 49 feet of span
that helps her soar so well also requires more
attention than short-span LSA.
Braking is accomplished by squeezing a single
hand lever on the front of the control stick. The
brake handle is similar to that of a bicycle hand
brake except the Lambada offers a hydraulic boost.
Like many LSA, engineers added a simple parking
brake function. Braking control using the lever is
smooth and quite effective. To help the Lambada
stay planted until ready for flight, taxiing is commonly
done with the spoilers in the full up position.
Let’s go Soaring!
Let me be clear. The Lambada is not a sailplane.
It is a motorglider. I have experience selling a similar
aircraft and I found that most buyers liked the
long gliding capability, but flew their motorgliders
around under power most of the time. That’s fine,
but when you’re ready to soar, the Lambada is very
willing and able.
First we operated under power so I could get
used to the airplane.
Best cruise at 4,800 rpm produced about 95 knots
(109 mph). At 5,200 rpm the Lambada managed
about 100 knots with the long wing tips. If the air
is smooth, you can squeak it up to 105 knots (120
mph) plus going to higher altitudes will bump your
At the 4,800 rpm cruise setting where power and
noise were significantly muted, the 80-hp Rotax
912 burned a mere 3.0 gph (see the sidebar, “Cross-
Country LSA” for more on cruise results over a long
Bostik is a world-class soaring pilot and with my
interest in thermalling, we both wanted to shut
down and find some lift.
The Lambada’s engine shut-down procedure calls
for moving the throttle to idle thrust, shutting off
all electrical switches, followed with the magnetos’
shut-off. When the engine comes to a stop, you can
pull the prop lever to put it in a full-feather, lowdrag
configuration. If the prop stops such that it
interferes with your field of view, you move the prop
lever back to normal position and hit the key start
switch briefly to move the blade a few degrees.
Without also setting the other switches, the engine
won’t start during this prop repositioning. Once
you move the blade where you want it, you can
refeather the prop. Alternatively, Urban Air sales
director Jim Lee reports, “I like to speed up to 65
knots (75 mph) with the prop unfeathered, and it
will slowly rotate to the desired position, and then
I feather it.”
Best glide is 60 knots (69 mph) indicated. That prop
feathered, assuming you’ve put on the extended
wing tips that come with each Lambada.
Bostik and I spent a most enjoyable 45 minutes
catching some lift and feeling how the Lambada
works to center in thermals. Once in a thermal, we
comfortably slowed the Lambada to 40-45 knots
(46-52 mph). Stall comes at 38 knots (44
mph), according to the factory and when
you’ve cored a column of lift, you want
to fly slowly, to linger in the lift.
Excellent and cooperative controls
made it easy to fly slowly, plus Bostik’s
superb ability to know where lift would
be found made this almost too easy.
After this quiet period with no need for
headsets and only the air moving
around the cockpit to add a bit of sound,
we prepared to restart the engine.
To restart, you reset the prop to cruise
pitch (just move the lever forward), turn
the magnetos on, and assuming you
have the altitude you need, you can
nose over to about 110 knots and use
the windmilling of the prop to start
without running the starter and drawing
on the battery.
It did so quickly and effortlessly, however
you need to prepare for this while
you still have altitude. The nose-over
doesn’t demand much height as the
machine quickly recovers to its good
gliding capability, but you would not
want to mess around with restart when
you should be planning a landing
approach. Also remember that Vne is
115 knots (132 mph), so you shouldn’t
get overzealous in your effort to create a
If you have drained your battery or if
the engine has cooled enough that electrical
restarting is not successful, it’s
great to be familiar with the option of restart via
windmilling. Though the nose seems pointed at the
ground during this process, the Lambada is a long
gliding airplane that will take you much farther
after you level out again.
Setting power to reach a highly economical
cruise speed of 85 knots (100 mph) results in fuel
consumption of less than 3 gph.
Using full throttle, the Lambada’s climb rate was
a strong 1,000 to 1,100 fpm on an 80° day.We were
more than 200 pounds under gross weight, which
improved climb. To save fuel and reduce engine
load, you can throttle back to 5,000 rpm and climb
at 70 knots (80.5 mph).
“I fly out of a high density altitude airport,” says
Ted Grussing of Sedona, Arizona. “I seldom have a
climb rate under 850 fpm with two persons on
board and density altitude in the 9,000-foot range.”
Even at a more relaxed pace, it took only a few
minutes to reached 3,000 feet msl where Bostik
thought we’d find enough lift to go soaring. He hasn’t
lost his soaring instinct.We found plenty of rising
air to soar around 45 minutes before voluntarily
going back for a couple of landings.
Git ‘er Down
After exploring powered and soaring flight, we
went into Seminole Glider Port to practice landings
in the Lambada. I was pleasantly surprised;
some long gliding airplanes can be challenging to
get down and settled on a runway. The Lambada
proved quite easy and straightforward. You have to
experience air brakes to comprehend the dramatic
effect on glide performance they can exert. They
also produce a clear sensation of deceleration.With
the spoilers out, Bostik indicates the Lambada is
slowed to about a 7:1 glide, a huge drop from max
L/D of 30.
As we positioned ourselves among unpowered
sailplanes approaching from different directions,
we flew 60 knots (69 mph) max glide speed and
worked our way around the pattern using the
spoilers at intervals to control our descent rate.
Each time we retracted the full-speed upper surface
Schemp-Hirth spoilers, the Lambada reacted
like someone had cut a tie-down line, shooting forward
with restored energy.
At idle thrust for several minutes while tracking
the other aircraft, the Lambada easily retained
enough energy to set up a normal glide path. Pilots
new to sailplanes or motorgliders are often
surprised to realize you virtually must use
spoilers to keep from landing long.
Despite the Lambada being a tailwheel airplane,
Urban Air USA recommends flaring as
you would in a conventional tricycle gear
plane. Holding the nose up slightly at about 3
feet above ground allows the Lambada to
land itself in a 3-point attitude. Experienced
taildragger pilots will find the Lambada very
polite. New taildragger pilots with basic techniques
have little to fear.
After rollout we went back to tailwheel
steering. Some feel it’s easy to overcontrol
due to the inertia produced by those long
wings.With practice, the problem disappears
completely. According to Lambada pilot and
former Air Force test pilot Steve Baerst,
“With an approach speed of 60 knots (69 mph)
and a landing speed of about 40 knots (46 mph), it shouldn’t take too long to decelerate
to taxi speed, so your vulnerability zone is
Yes, those long wings have inertia when
ground handling. You could expect much the
same while flying. Contrarily, I found the
Lambada pleasantly responsive in pitch and
quite maneuverable in the roll axis, especially
considering the 49-foot wingspan. One
sailplane technique requirement remains,
though; you must use the rudders to coordinate
the turns. Lack of coordinated turning
can produce a potent adverse yaw.
During my stall routine I found the
Lambada’s power-off stall to be very mild,
hardly discernible. Power-on stall had no
break. Accelerated right and left turns deepened
into a spiral, though this was not
threatening and was easily recovered with
conventional use of controls.
Before we discuss purchase considerations,
one popular capability relates to storage. The
Lambada’s wings and horizontal stabilizer
easily detach in minutes for storage and
transport, according to Urban Air. The quick
disassembly also features automatic control
system hookups. And the factory has a dolly
system that allows moving the dewinged aircraft
while fully supporting the long wings.
Cost of an LSA Motorglider
In the sailplane world, a motorglider is
often considered a rich man’s toy. A quarter
million dollar Stemme motorglider is a gorgeous piece of work, but the Lambada is far more
affordable for the rest of us.
Urban Air USA aims to sell about 25 Lambadas in
’08. “We could get 50 if we needed them,” says Bostik
referring to the recently enlarged Czech company. In
’09 the factory believes it can produce about 160 airplanes
for worldwide use; Urban Air expects the
USA to consume about half of these.
The basic Lambada aircraft lists for a bit more
than $104,000, but it has a long standard equipment
list, including an emergency airframe parachute (see
importer’s Website for the entire list). Add $5,000 for
shipping from Europe to Melbourne, Florida, plus a
$465 fee to gain the SLSA approval and register the
aircraft and the U.S. base price will go to $109,465.
Optional items may include the 100-hp Rotax
912ULS engine ($3,250); the dolly system to help
you maneuver the long-winged machine around a
hangar ($1,500), or a golf bag or snow ski baggage
Plenty of customers will want to investigate avionics
choices. One complete package sells for a shade
over $20,000 and includes a Becker 4201 radio;
Becker transponder plus altitude encoder; the
Grand Rapids S200 EFIS with moving map; GPS
and graphic engine monitor; UMA altimeter and airspeed;
and Garmin 496 GPS with Air Gizmo dock. If
you don’t want the whole glass panel package, you
can buy just the Becker radio ($3,660 installed)
and/or the Garmin 496 and Air Gizmo dock ($2,737).
Urban Air USA notes these prices are valid as of
February 17, 2008, and are subject to change at any
time. The importer says the price will become fixed
at the time of order confirmation. Since the euro continues
its inexorable rise against the dollar, prices
may have to be adjusted.
Behind Urban Air USA
Americans are right to have concerns about dealing
with overseas suppliers.
While it usually goes well, if problems arise, you
need a U.S.-based advocate to correct the situation.
For Urban Air USA, this is well solved. Behind the
importer is Bostik Industries, LLC, a Melbourne,
Florida, company formed and financed by Josef
Bostik Sr. and managed by his son, Josef J. Bostik.
I’ve known Joe Bostik for many years.We share a
love of hang gliding and soaring flight, but Bostik is
a far more accomplished pilot. He has earned multiple
U.S. National Hang Gliding Champion titles and
has recorded World Records. Today, he flies airliners,
switching back and forth from hang gliders — or the
Lambadas – with ease.
Before taking on the Urban Air importation,
Bostik became an explosives expert because he also
imports the Magnum airframe parachute systems
made by people he knows in the Czech Republic.
Competing with BRS parachutes, Bostik has done
credibly well, increasing sales more than three times
since he started importing the life-saving products.
Born in Eastern Europe, Bostik maintains strong
ties to the Czech Republic. Back in ’83 he successfully
escaped from then-communist Czechoslovakia.
Even in the post-Communist era, Americans recall daring escape stories and here’s one of
them in our own aviation segment.
Bostik has a civil engineering background,
a BS in Science and Technology
and a whole list of aviation credentials:
Certified Flight Instructor, CFII, MEI,
Glider, FE and LSA Repairman. He is an
Experimental RV6A aircraft builder. As
he speaks three languages fluently, he is a
worthy intermediary between Lambada
customers and the manufacturer in the
Current Lambada customers are full of
positive comments, as evidenced by the
following.You can read more on Urban Air
“The new distributor Josef Bostik is
absolutely terrific to work with,” says
Jonathan Braslow of Indio, California.
“Josef Bostik|provided me with
dependable service and follow-though. He
does what he promises, when he promises.
I am confident in dealing with him and
recommend him without hesitation,”
reports Barry Young of Phoenix, Arizona.
One enthusiast added a comment that
completes this review of the soaring-capable
Lambada. “There is no better way to
go from ‘roar to soar’ than in a Lambada,”
exclaims Randy Newberry of Bland,
To know if a Lambada is right for you,
the next step is easy. Call Jim Lee, the
easy-going, low-key sales director for
Urban Air USA. He’s another champion
soaring pilot whom I’ve known for many
years. You’ll like talking to him. He can
also demo the Lambada beautifully.
|Empty weight||685 pounds 2|
|Gross weight||1,320 pounds|
|Wingspan||42 feet 6 inches or 49 ft 1|
|Wing area||130.9 or 138.3 square ft 1|
|Wing loading||9.7 pounds per sq. foot|
|Useful Load||635 pounds|
|Length||21 feet 8 inches|
|Payload (with full fuel)||477 pounds|
|Cabin Interior||41.7 inches|
|Height||6 feet 5 inches|
|Fuel Capacity||26.4 gallons|
|Baggage area||120 pounds|
|Notes:||1 The Lambada comes with two wing tip finishes:
standard and extension or you could order optional
winglets; longer span and greater area result from
tip extension installation.
2 Empty weight includes a 35-pound emergency airframe
|Standard engine||Rotax 912|
|Power loading||16.5 lbs per hp|
|Cruise speed||105 kts/120 mph|
|Never exceed speed||115 kts/132 mph|
|Rate of climb at gross||1,000 fpm|
|Takeoff distance at gross||400 feet|
|Landing distance at gross||450 feet|
|Min Sink Rate||210 fpm|
|Range (powered)||approx. 7 hours, 800 nm|
|Fuel Consumption||about 3.5 gph|
|Standard Features||Rotax 912 with electric starting,
Magnum ballistic parachute, basic panel instruments,
tapered laminar wing, flaps, air brakes,
hinged canopy (cannot be opened in flight), hydraulic
brakes, adjustable seats, pitch trim, dual controls,
cabin heating, 4-point seat belts, ventilation, baggage
|Options||Numerous additional instrumentation
including glass displays, radio choices, navigation
avionics, a towing package, optional “Shark”
|Construction||Composite airframe (laminated carbon,
aramid and glass fibers) with limited steel components.
Made in Czech Republic; distributed to
American customers by U.S. company with East and
West Coast representation.
Cosmetic appearance, structural integrity, achievement of design goals, effectiveness of aerodynamics, ergonomics.
Pros – First motorglider in LSA segment.
Established Czech builder with U.S. importer to bridge
the divide. All-composite design. Exquisite wing shape
and interchangeable wing tips (standard) extend range
of design. Great payload. Of compelling interest to
soaring enthusiasts for ease of launch.
Cons – Some added complexity through wing tip
choices and prop controls. Motorgliders aren’t optimized
either as power planes or sailplanes (though
their versatility drives sales to appropriate buyers).
Brand not presently well known to Americans.
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 – Trim, electric start, air brakes, feathering
prop, glass panels…you have much to play with in a
Lambada. Twin wing fuel tanks, safer and plenty of
capacity. Dock-mounted GPS adds versatility.
Cons – Hand brake only available on one joystick.
Trim not convenient for right-seat pilot; it’s under the
left-seat occupant’s legs. Removal of cowl to work on
engine takes a few minutes.
Instrumentation; Ergonomics of controls; Creature comforts; (items covered may be optional).
Pros – Cabin 2 inches wider than a Cessna 172.
Seats are comfortable for medium flight lengths. Easy
reach to all controls and switches. Entry step on fuselage
side eases step up into cockpit. Large baggage
area aft of seat; can even accommodate skis or golf
Cons – Though adequate even for two larger occupants,
the Lambada’s cockpit is not nearly as spacious
as some powered LSA. Seats don’t have much padding
and lumbar support is inadequate (true on most aircraft).
Entry and exit can be a bit challenging.
Taxi visibility; Steering; Turn radius; Shock absorption; Stance/Stability; Braking.
Pros – Tailwheel has plenty of authority. Brakes
work well; able to hold the Lambada during engine
run-up. Gear absorbs firm landings with grace.
Excellent visibility for pretakeoff traffic checks and in
Cons – Long wings make Lambada maneuver with
less agility and can be ponderous while taxiing. Turn
radius is rather large; enough so that good planning is
needed. Differential braking not available. Canopy
must be closed when engine is running.
Qualities; Efficiency; Ease; Comparative values.
Pros – Good control authority for crosswind landings.
Very powerful air brake helps control approach.
Excellent visibility on approach to landing. Energy
retention is so extraordinary that you need to learn to
use air brakes effectively. Short ground roll, takeoff or
Cons – Long wings dictate you land carefully on
narrower strips. Approach speeds are higher than
some expect for a gliding aircraft. Air brakes knock
glide (from 30 to 7:1) and must be used judiciously. I
didn’t find slipping was particularly effective.
Quality and quantity for: Coordination; Authority; Pressures; Response; and Coupling.
Pros – Good control harmony. Stable yet easily
maneuvered through a broad speed range. Highly predictable
in all maneuvers evaluated. Handles well at
very slow thermal-soaring speeds.
Cons – Slower response in 45-to-45 reversals.
Significant adverse yaw in uncoordinated turns; you
must use all controls in a coordinated manner. I didn’t
find slipping effective (though air brakes make slips
Climb; Glide; Sink; Cruise/stall/max speeds; Endurance; Range; Maneuverability.
Pros – Works as well for powered touring as
engine-off soaring. Climb is very strong, beyond 1,000
fpm. Endurance is also excellent (see article). Speed
range is a broad 38 to 105 knots. Glide at 30:1 and
sink rate at 210 fpm are quite good for a soaring
Cons – Motorgliders aren’t as fast as some top-performing
LSA (though the Lambada’s slick aerodynamics
provide respectable cruise speed with less horsepower).
Neither are motorgliders as good at pure soaring
tasks (though for many the versatility far outweighs
Stall recovery and characteristics; Dampening; Spiral stability; Adverse yaw qualities.
Pros – Stalls were very mild. Stable response to
longitudinal investigations. Power change response
was also positive. Excellent slow-flying capabilities.
Parachute provided as standard equipment. Easy to
maintain bank and altitude in steep turns (good soaring
Cons – Accelerated stalls at fairly steep bank
angles tended to wrap up tighter (though not at a
threatening speed). Adverse yaw can be significant
when turns are not coordinated well.
Addresses the questions: “Will a buyer get what he/she expects to buy, and did the designer/builder achieve the chosen goal?”
Pros – New importer gaining good marks from
customers and others investigating the Lambada.
Importer has stock on hand (at press time). Base
prices at about $110,000 are low for a motorglider.
Overall, a joyous machine to fly, power on or power off.
Cons – New brand not well known to Americans
(yet). Motorgliders are a niche within the LSA niche.
Somewhat more complex aircraft than other LSA (e.g.,
feathering prop), and features like air brakes aren’t