The expression “seeing stars” is a good thing, if it means flying a delightful aircraft on a lovely day. After sampling the Sportstar in ’02 (see “Sportstar Pilot’s Report”, December ’02 Ultralight Flying!), I looked forward to a flight in its predecessor, the EV-97 Eurostar. You could say I had stars in my eyes. A blue Florida sky was dappled with miniature cumulus clouds, winds were mild, and the fuel tanks were full in a pretty blue-and-white Eurostar. I was ready.
On a beautiful Saturday, April 17, I flew the Evektor Eurostar with Nick Motlagh (pronounced “MOTE log”) – a sharp young aviator about to embark on a career in the air. He has been accepted to compete for fighter jet training in the Air Force after graduating from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Motlagh had flown the Eurostar (N30167) over to South Lakeland Airpark to allow a flight review.
Four Hundred Flying
The Sportstar began life 8 years ago in Europe as the EV-97 Eurostar, and is aimed precisely at the new Light-Sport Aircraft (LSA) rule. The Sportstar is also based on the company’s EV-97 Harmony, which is certified under Europe’s VLA regulation (somewhat heavier than LSAs but closer than European ultralights). But with nearly 400 Eurostars flying in Europe and other countries, our test airplane this month is the aircraft that has really led to success for the Czech-based Evektor-Aerotechnik.
The Sportstar can have a wider cockpit, has 2 feet of additional span and beefed-up landing gear (especially at the nosewheel). The Eurostar is sold with a 450-kilogram (992-pound) gross weight limit – though that European rule now permits 472.5 kilograms (1,040 pounds) if the aircraft is
equipped with a ballistic parachute.
Like many such designs, the Eurostar was built for higher weight and merely limited to the 450-kg limit to meet existing regulations. That’s too bad for Euro zone buyers.
European ultralight weight limits of 992 pounds means the allowance for occupants and baggage, or payload, is squeezed. With empty weight listed by Evektor at 650 pounds, you subtract 108 pounds for 18 gallons of fuel to calculate payload limited to 234 pounds. That number barely covers one American of average size. Fortunately, the 450-kg limit doesn’t apply in the U.S., whether you build the Eurostar as a 51% kit or an Experimental Light-Sport Aircraft (ELSA) under the new regulations. Evektor sets the gross weight at 1,060 pounds so useful load jumps to 410 pounds and payload increases to 302 pounds. Both are substantially less than the Sportstar, which grosses at 1,213 pounds less 695-pound empty weight, leaving a useful load of 518 pounds and a payload of 410 pounds.
However, as I’ve long preached, lighter-weight light aircraft often display some performance and/or handling advantages. Since the Eurostar weighs 45 pounds less empty and 153 pounds at gross, you might expect ground roll to be shorter, climb to be faster, stalls to be slower, and handling to be a shade lighter. Using measurable values, this proved true, even though most American customers may gravitate toward the Sportstar.
Sport Aircraft International, the U.S. distributor for Evektor, doesn’t plan to sell the Eurostar, though they can order them as needed. Representatives of the Kerrville, Texas-based company believe the market is primarily for the Sportstar model.
Even though it is lighter and equipped in standard form with the 80-horse Rotax 912, our test Eurostar had the 100 horses of a Rotax 912S swinging a fixed-pitch prop with a wood blade.
Three other differences stand out for the Eurostar and the Sportstar. Two feet of additional wing was needed on the Sportstar to handle the extra weight yet keep the model within LSA definitions of stall speed. In my experience, they overachieved, with stalls several knots below the 45-knot clean stall in the new rule. The nose gear was also strengthened and a “Big Bubble” canopy gives the feeling of much more space in the Sportstar compared to the Eurostar.
On a general basis the Eurostar is built the same as the Sportstar, using conventional riveted-aluminum construction much like you’ll find in a wide number of metal structure aircraft. Use of epoxy bonding as well as rivets makes the Eurostar even stronger than riveted-only construction. Though this consumes more factory labor, it should ensure a long-lasting aircraft.
“The fuselage is of semi-monocoque structure,” says Evektor, describing the Eurostar. “The rectangular single-spar whole-metal wing is provided with split wing flaps, ailerons and fiberglass wing tips.” The tail is also of all-metal construction.
The Eurostar is truly a composite, thanks to cowlings made of Kevlar, carbon fiber, and fiberglass. Composite material (fiberglass) is also used in the landing gear, though the nosewheel has a steel fork and elastic cords for suspension.
The wings, designed with little dihedral, no taper, and no washout, help deliver the cooperative handling of the Eurostar and the Sportstar.
It may not be as easily accessed as many ultralights but the upper half of the engine cowl can be removed using nine Dzus fasteners. An inspection port allows access to the dipstick and oil fill point.
Standard equipment on the Eurostar includes flaps and trim. Trim is quite powerful and responds quickly to small input such that your first adjustments should be done conservatively. Flaps and trim levers are located between the seats. A long flap lever with detent button on the end is just forward of the trim knob. The two controls are close but each has a different tactile feel to tell them apart without looking. The flap handle is located at the forward edge of the seats almost a foot in front of the trim knob.
Engineers at Evektor picked split flaps for the Eurostar. These simple surfaces are good at producing drag but don’t add any lift. However, with the hinge hidden under the top surface airflow is smoother.
Most pilots will like the seats and ergonomics of the cockpit, though Americans will be common customers for a larger bubble canopy compared to the narrower one that comes on the Eurostar. The Sportstar will fit large Americans better. The “Big Bubble” canopy is actually wider than the fuselage and affords extra room at the shoulder.
Getting in and out of the Eurostar is straightforward thanks to the canopy’s front hinge. After climbing on the wing in a designated area, you enter from the rear by simply stepping down onto the seats or floor. While entering you can put weight anywhere factory representatives say. Dual gas pistons hold the canopy open and reduce the chance of damage from wind catching the large surface. The forward-hinging section mates to a fixed rear wraparound piece. The two-piece approach yields a spacious cockpit but keeps the canopy size more manageable.
The canopy latches to the rear where I noticed a modest air leak. Pilots of average height will find plenty of headroom; even tall pilots shouldn’t have to crouch inside. The Eurostar’s cockpit measures 41 inches laterally, though it seems slightly larger as you can rest part of your arm on the interior structure of the canopy. Evektor also offers an optional cabin width that pushes out to 46.5 inches.
Instrumentation and electrical switches are positioned so that either occupant can read and access them. Map pockets with elastic are provided on both sides and you have room for baggage aft of the seats, assuming weight and balance permit baggage.
Rudder pedals feel fairly stiff on the ground though they lightened somewhat in the air. Hydraulic toe brakes were installed on both positions of this Eurostar using a welded bar about 3 inches above the rudder pedal bar. Steering or brakes are separated well enough that their use caused no confusion or foot entanglement. Brakes were fitted to both sides; Motlagh said they were stronger on the left.
The high pedal pressure may relate to creating more movement per unit of push. The Eurostar is surprisingly agile on the ground; using full deflection manages a full circle turn in about a wingspan. Ground clearance was good with the Eurostar standing fairly tall on its gear. This can help in the event of off-field landings.
Taxiing in crosswinds, the Eurostar exhibited no tendency to weathercock. Though lighter than the Sportstar, the Eurostar is heavier than many ultralights, aiding its ground stability. Some experts feel low wings are less vulnerable in ground winds.
Before takeoff and once aloft, pilots will find the view massive. Of course, you have the usual downward obstruction of the wing once aloft, but checking for traffic before takeoff is a breeze.
Flaps and trim between the seats are readily accessible to either occupant.
Flaps offer four positions – 10°, 20°, 30°, and 40° down. A detent button clicks into each position with a positive feel. That’s good because you can’t visually check the split flaps’ position while seated in the Eurostar’s cockpit.
A large trim tab surface is mounted in the center of the elevator on either side of the vertical representing about half the elevator’s span, such a large surface area no doubt helping its effectiveness. Both right aileron and rudder use a fixed-position trim tab.
Star In the Sky
Where the Eurostar and the Sportstar make believers of experienced pilots is when maneuvering aloft. The design has admirable handling characteristics in a balance sure to please a large segment of the population. This pairs well with performance near the top of the new LSA range.
The Eurostar benefits from being 150 pounds lighter than the Sportstar. Based on my experience – flying at somewhat under gross weight – the Eurostar left the ground in 300 to 400 feet. The factory says the Eurostar should leave the ground in something over 300 feet where they say the heavier Sportstar needs 550 feet. My tape-recorded notes stated, “The Eurostar was a very lively performer on takeoff; she just jumped off the ground.” Motlagh indicates you can maximize short-field performance with brakes locked and two notches of flaps deployed. “Then she’ll really leave the ground in a hurry,” he adds.
Rotation in the Eurostar comes at 45 mph indicated, sooner than most general aviation planes and comparable to the performance of many lighter ultralights. I was able to climb comfortably at 55 to 60 mph that produced close to an indicated 1,000 fpm.
Split flaps are easily operated by a long lever arm with a detent button. The flap handle is angled downward to keep it out of your way, but I found no challenge to reach it. Four positions offer greater versatility to handle different fields into which you might fly. Maximum flaps-down speed is 80 mph.
A wide control range allows you to perform very efficient slips to a landing. Given the Eurostar’s good slips and deep flaps, it’s possible to approach at speeds in the high 40s and remain in good control (assuming you have experience and can operate in the right conditions). You can use one notch of flaps for takeoff, though it isn’t mandatory.
I tended to make approaches at 70 mph slowing to over the numbers at 60 mph. Given the Eurostar’s slow stall under 50 mph, I think approaches could be made at 60 with 55 over the numbers. At such speeds, landing roll will be quite short but you still have an acceptable speed margin.
Motlagh advised a touchdown technique employing 3,400 rpm and full flaps. He says touching down with power off and 2 notches of flaps reveals some pitch sensitivity. “You can get into some pitch oscillation with that setting,” Motlagh indicates. I didn’t find much challenge in no-flap landings – though of course ground roll was longer – but keeping some power on smoothed my arrivals. Low wings generally provide more cushion close to the surface and the Eurostar is no different.
Aloft and maneuvering, I experienced little difficulty keeping the ball centered. Control is easy and quickly learned. One reason why the ball holds steady without much effort is the low rudder input needed; the surface is quite effective and a smaller movement suffices.
I estimated roll rates at a bit over 3 seconds for the 45°-to-45° roll reversal test. This places the Eurostar in the middle-to-faster category but slower – and therefore more controllable – than some aircraft in its class.
Ailerons retained most of their authority down to stall. Pitch control is also stable and not overly sensitive. On the whole, the Eurostar stick forces are quite light though about middle of the road for this class of aircraft. Harmony between stick and rudder was very good, among the best experiences I’ve had in light aircraft.
I’ve spoken with several experienced pilots who have flown a variety of ultralights and light-sport aircraft candidates. Most agree the Sportstar and the Eurostar exhibit very enjoyable handling. In every case among these pilots, handling was the first thing they mentioned on exiting the aircraft.
Ready to Run
Fortunately, handling isn’t the Eurostar’s only strong suit. The all-metal design also does well in performance, nearly maxing out the LSA category (which can cruise as fast as 138 mph).
Maximum cruise in the Eurostar with the 100-hp Rotax 912S engine is about 125 mph at full power. The ASI’s green arc tops out at 120 mph. If you back off to the high 4,000-rpm range (4,600 to 4,800), cruise stays a good margin above 100 mph and I imagine fuel efficiency is quite good. Evektor claims “average consumption” – ostensibly through all phases of flight – is 2.9 gph. Fuel quantity is 65 liters, or approximately 18 gallons.
Another good performance measure was climb at about 1,200 fpm. Descent rate was about 700 to 800 fpm, however, one notch of flaps decreased the descent rate by about 100 fpm. These figures are higher than many ultralights but wing loading is the culprit. The Eurostar loads each square foot of wing with 10 pounds compared to many ultralights in the 4- to 7-pounds/per square foot range.
As I performed longitudinal stability checks, the Eurostar responded conventionally to power changes, lowering her nose on power reduction and raising it after increasing power.
In turns, the Eurostar proved to be dynamically neutral in roll tending to stay where you establish bank – which didn’t surprise me, as the design uses no dihedral or twist. This explains the Eurostar’s light handling but could cause some instability in high bank angles. Get experience with the machine before trying very steep turns and remember Evektor does not recommend aerobatics.
The Eurostar shows little adverse yaw tendency despite its responsive controls. And according to Evektor, the Eurostar has been thoroughly spin tested.
No-power stalls happened below 40 mph indicated. With power on, the stall dropped into the low 30s, though instrument error in this range is usually significant. The bottom of the green arc is marked at 48 mph while the bottom of the white arc is about 38 mph. Both marks proved accurate in my experience.
In flight and with a good view of the top of the wing, you can notice some flexing and hear a bit of “oil canning.” This comes from using thin aluminum skins needed to stay within Europe’s 992-pound limit. However, the overall construction is stout enough that Evektor can give the Eurostar +6/-3 G limits.
Seeing LSA Stars?
American importer Sport Aircraft International intends to sell the Sportstar over the Eurostar. Both are available as kits even though the Eurostar was designed as a kit.
Several European builders have commented that the kit was quite reasonable to assemble. Some say that a builder with previous experience might accomplish the job in 300 hours, but Evektor has a better idea for 2005.
A new Quick-Build kit can help you complete the airframe in only 200 hours. One advantage of the Light-Sport Aircraft rule is that an ELSA kit can have any percentage of factory-built components. Nonetheless representatives says the Eurostar can meet the U.S. 51% rule, even in quick-build form.
The kit builder’s share of tasks like pop riveting has been limited and all pilot holes are CNC drilled and deburred. Building manuals are purported to be “clear and well illustrated with more than 100 photos” (though some manuals for simpler aircraft have several hundred photos).
For the addition of a few pounds a folding wing mechanism is available. American buyers often favor this option even if many don’t use it. For those who only occasionally need a smaller package, it takes two people about an hour to remove the wings, say U.S. reps.
In 2003, the Sportstar was proposed to sell for “around $60,000” if Light-Sport Aircraft became an accepted rule. Today, the price is well over $85,000. What happened? Is Evektor making a bundle? Is the U.S. distributor earning a lot? The answer is that neither is helped by the higher cost; instead exchange rate alone is lifting the cost in dollars. Only 2 1¼2years ago, the euro was closer to parity with the dollar meaning one unit of each currency bought essentially the same thing. As if to prove the point Sport Aircraft International prices the Sportstar ready-to-fly for $64,950 with the 80-horse Rotax 912, or $66,950 with the 100-horsepower engine. That’s about the same number of euros required to buy a Sportstar in late 2002, so the price has hardly budged. Yet Americans must pay a $25,000 premium based solely on the dollar/euro exchange. Fortunately, this has been dropping some; in 2005 alone (as of late January), the U.S. price has actually dropped by nearly $3,000. Unfortunately, you can’t wait for the price to drop further (in dollars) as some experts say the euro will go higher still. All the facts in this paragraph apply equally to any aircraft priced in euros.
As is the case with many Eastern European light-sport airframes, an entire team of engineers participated in the design and testing of the Eurostar. Many were once employed by a large aircraft producer, Let Aircraft Company. After the Soviets withdrew more than a decade ago, Evektor put no less than a dozen engineers on the task of creating the Eurostar and their other sportplanes. (Evektor also has an active project to create a 4- to 5-place certified aircraft.)
The Eurostar tips the scales a bit less than the Sportstar, offers quick building as a kit and features low operational costs, a comfortable cabin, beautifully balanced and responsive controls, with generous performance near the top of the Light-Sport Aircraft category. The Sportstar shares most of these good characteristics with a bit more room and higher useful load. Are you seeing stars yet?
|Empty weight||650 pounds|
|Gross weight||1,060 pounds 1|
|Wingspan||26 feet 5 inches|
|Wing area||106 square feet|
|Wing loading||10.0 pounds / square foot|
|Length||19 feet 7 inches|
|Height||7 feet 8 inches|
|Kit type||Kit 2|
|Build time||300-400 hours|
|Notes:||1 Weight required meeting current European ultralight rules limited to 450 kg (992 pounds gross weight), however, design was created for the higher gross weight.
2 The Eurostar is designed to be a kit.
|Standard engine||Rotax 912S|
|Power loading||10.6 pounds/hp|
|Cruise speed||115 mph|
|Never exceed speed||168 mph|
|Rate of climb at gross||1,200 fpm|
|Takeoff distance at gross||325 feet|
|Landing distance at gross||290 feet|
|Standard Features||Rotax 912 (80 hp) with electric starter, ASI, altimeter, water temp, tachometer, fuel gauge, fully enclosed cabin with large bubble canopy, 4-point pilot restraints, in-flight trim, shock-cord nose gear suspension, steerable nosewheel, differential hydraulic brakes, all-metal wings and fuselage.|
|Options||Rotax 912S (100 hp) or 80-hp Jabiru 2200, additional instruments including nav and comm radios and attitude instruments, adjustable rudder pedals, quick-build option, fully-assembled option, ballistic parachute.|
|Construction||Aluminum airframe, fiberglass cowling, composite gear, steel firewall. Made in the Czech Republic; distributed by U.S.-owned company.|
Cosmetic appearance, structural integrity, achievement of design goals, effectiveness of aerodynamics, ergonomics.
Pros – With nearly 400 flying over 8 years the Eurostar is available in kit form as 51%, or, soon, as an ELSA. All-metal construction will draw general aviation pilots and anyone interested in longevity. Lighter and simpler than the Sportstar model. Czech producer Evektor has long history and experienced workers.
Cons – Even in kit form (more than 300-hour build time) the Eurostar is priced much higher than ultralights Americans have been buying. Full enclosure won’t appeal to all ultralight buyers. Not well known in USA yet (though design should do well based on early feedback). Not everyone wants a low wing design.
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 Eurostar was well equipped with flaps, trim, and electric start. Easily reached access for engine repairs (delayed slightly for cowl removal). Storage pockets for both seats. Digifly instrument display offered much information in compact form (optional item). Four-point pilot restraints are standard.
Cons – Systems and features add to the price; even as a kit, the Eurostar isn’t cheap. You have to pay for its features. More systems also mean longer build time for kits. Getting to engine for inspection/maintenance requires undoing nine Dzus clips. Trim is very responsive; move it slowly at first.
Instrumentation; Ergonomics of controls; Creature comforts; (items covered may be optional).
Pros – Bubble canopy makes for superb visibility. Single latch secures cockpit. Entry/exit are straightforward; you can place your weight anywhere when climbing in from the wing. Gas pistons restrain large canopy. Instruction use served by dual controls including toe brakes for both seats.
Cons – Convenient as the single closure is, some pilots might prefer more secure latching (though a forward-opening canopy will not open in flight). Standard width canopy is not particularly wide, though an optional-cost cabin width is available at ordering.
Taxi visibility; Steering; Turn radius; Shock absorption; Stance/Stability; Braking.
Pros – The Eurostar’s ground handling is excellent; the plane can make a circle within its own 25-foot wingspan. Large, full bubble canopy makes for excellent visibility. Hydraulic differential brakes installed for both seats of this Eurostar; slows airplane reasonably well on landings.
Cons – On a hot day in Florida, the Eurostar’s clear canopy was quite warm and a forward tilting canopy isn’t good for generating some airflow during taxi. Low-wing design can mean some taxi obstacles may be obscured from view. Right side brakes are optional.
Qualities; Efficiency; Ease; Comparative values.
Pros – The Eurostar accelerated quickly with 100 hp. Takeoff roll was very short; landing roll also short, so short-field operations are possible. Climb was strong at nearly 1,000 fpm even in warm conditions. Excellent aileron authority for crosswind conditions. Flaps quite effective.
Cons – Takeoff roll may seem long to many ultralight pilots (though general aviation pilots will find it short). Split flaps don’t add lift like Fowler flaps can. If you prefer high wings, the Eurostar’s smooth landings may seem more challenging. No other negatives.
Quality and quantity for: Coordination; Authority; Pressures; Response; and Coupling.
Pros – What’s not to like? Comfortable control positions. Handling qualities are very good; most pilots will like controls. Harmony also very good. Precision turns to headings were simple. Adverse yaw is low. Good roll-in/roll-out response. Pitch dampened for ease of operation on longer, cross-country flights.
Cons – Unlike many ultralights, you’ll need to use trim, and the lever is quite sensitive. Slow-speed handling softens notably near stall and this may feel different for pilots familiar with ultralights. On the whole, though, Eurostar handling is hard to fault.
Climb; Glide; Sink; Cruise/stall/max speeds; Endurance; Range; Maneuverability.
Pros – Climb is close to 1,000 fpm even on warm, humid days (though the lighter Eurostar benefits more than the Sportstar). The Eurostar cruises at 120 mph. Even with a Rotax 912S engine, endurance is over 4 hours. The Eurostar may often be used for longer flights, offers good comfort for two occupants.
Cons – Slow flight is not in the realm of genuine “ultralights” (though perfectly competitive with other LSA candidates). The Eurostar’s smaller wings (two feet less span) than the Sportstar may offer a better cross-country ride, though I only flew for a little over an hour.
Stall recovery and characteristics; Dampening; Spiral stability; Adverse yaw qualities.
Pros – All stalls went very well, with no surprises whether power-off, power-on, or accelerated; nose fell through but not sharply. Turning stalls tended to level wings, either direction. Longitudinal stability was excellent, returning to level flight quickly. Changing power brought expected response (i.e., nose up on power-up).
Cons – Hershey bar wing design without washout or taper combines with low dihedral to keep roll-in/roll-out light, but exhibits some overbanking tendency in very steep turns. Power-on stalls produce a very high deck angle. No parachute installed in test aircraft, though company has engineering to install one.
Addresses the questions: “Will a buyer get what he/she expects to buy, and did the designer/builder achieve the chosen goal?”
Pros – Test aircraft was well equipped with instruments. Conventional design shape will encourage conventional pilots. A number of pilots I know really loved this design, especially its handling.
Cons – Much equipment in the test Eurostar is optional and price is already toward the high end. Relatively thin leading edge metal could see hangar rash. Interior finish is basic. Little U.S. market presence at this time.
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