We live in an age of sophisticated two seaters, a large flock of wonderful aircraft of every description. Such two-place flying machines lead in sales and perhaps that’s to be expected. Around 80% of light aircraft buyers prefer three-axis fixed-wing aircraft. This is hardly surprising as that’s what nearly all pilots have used for primary training since the ’70s.
To select another aircraft type means going out on a tree limb. This is especially true with what I call “alternative aircraft” — weight shift trikes, powered parachutes, motorgliders, and gyroplanes. It would include lighter-than-air, too, if we had more than a single entry.
However, some three-axis fixed wingers also disregard Part 103-compliant aircraft. Some say, “Those things are flying lawn chairs,” by which they try to disparage the category hinting they’re too “flimsy.” Most who say this probably never sat in one let alone flew one.
One entry I’ve written about (see my earlier report) appears to have be viewed differently, perhaps as it has a full enclosure and is built of composite materials. Let’s look further at the Modern Wings Swan (link presents the German page via Google Translate. No U.S. representative has emerged).
What’s Available Now?
Today, interested parties must choose the single-seat Swan 120 — the number relates to the German Part-103-like program that allows an aircraft under 120 kilograms or 264 pounds to fly with reduced regulation.
That’s great. Swan 120 is reportedly a well-flying aircraft; I have not had the chance yet.
Yet lots of potential buyers may prefer a two seater and as the video below shows, I did see a finished version of such at Aero Friedrichshafen 2019 (like many others, the event was cancelled for 2020 but will return on April 14-17, 2021).
At this writing, however, Swan 240 is not offered for sale. “The Swan two-seater will take some time,” wrote Peter Hügel, head of Modern Wings in Germany. Peter works with manufacturer Radu Berceanu.
Radu owns a larger company, Avi, in Romania where he makes all sorts of industrial composite components for trains, aircraft, and backyard swimming pools. He’s an aeronautical engineer with 25 years experience in composite construction. As with similar companies, the airplane portion of the business is a smaller segment of the overall enterprise although Berceanu is very passionate about aviation.
Unlike Swan 120 that qualifies as a 120 Kilo Class aircraft under German rules, a two-seat Swan 240 at about twice the weight must earn approval in a higher class. Peter observed, “Swan 240 [cannot use rules for] Swan 120 Europe-wide.”
Instead, Swan 240 must qualify under EASA rules or those from the CAA of each European country. While rules in many countries are similar for light aircraft, they are not identical. “It is still not quite clear what max takeoff weight Swan 240 is allowed to have, 600 or 640 kilograms,” clarified Peter. “The rules are different, which is one of the reasons why we still wait a little bit.”
In the USA, Swan 240 would have to be a kit or go through the approval process for Light-Sport Aircraft (no small task).
Good To Go!
“Waiting a little bit” is a problem laid partly at the foot of the virus pandemic, Peter felt. “It’s not going the way we wanted. The airplane examiner, who comes from Germany, faces travel restrictions, so the approval project will take additional time.”
However for those interested in the single-seat Swan 120, Peter confirmed, “Yes, I am actively selling and representing Swan 120. When Swan 240 is ready, I will represent that model as well.”
Swan 120 Features
- Large, fully enclosed, ventilated, waterproof cabin.
- One door, left or right
- Heating option
- Fiberglass control panel equipped with airspeed indicator, altimeter, compass, and slip/skid ball.
- Base Engine — Polini Thor 200 EVO, air cooled, electric starter, 28 horsepower at 8000 rpm
- Upgrade Engine — Polini Thor 250 EVO, liquid cooled, electric starter, 36 horsepower at 7500 rpm
Transport & Storage
- When folded, the aircraft measures: 11 feet (length) x 5 feet (width) x 6 feet (height).
- Complete disassembly can be done in 10-15 minutes
- Wingspan — 25.6 feet
- Wing area — 111 square feet
- Length — 17.4 feet
- Height — 8.5 feet
- Wheel base — 5 feet
- Load factors — + 4G / -2G
- Empty weight, with emergency airframe parachute — 254 pounds with Polini 200 / 260 pounds with Polini 250
- Maximum takeoff weight — 550 pounds
- Stall speed — 38 miles per hour
- Stall speed with option flaps — 28 miles per hour
- Cruising speed — 56 mph Polini 200 / 66 mph with Polini 250
- Maximum speed — 62 mph with Polini 200 / 81 mph with Polini 250
- Rate of climb — 440 fpm with Polini 200 / 520 fpm with Polini 250
- Take-off Distance — 360 feet with Polini 200 / 295 feet with Polini 250
- Landing Distance — 260 feet
- Takeoff Distance Over 50-foot obstacle — 750 feet with Polini 200 / 625 feet with Polini 250
- Landing Distance Over 50-foot obstacle — 550 feet
- Range — 165 statute miles with Polini 200/ 200 statute miles with POLINI 250
Rob Martin says
What is the possible availability and pricing in the Land Down Under? Oz of course!
Am very interested.
Dan Johnson says
By all means, use the links in the article (or at the end) to contact AVI Aircraft directly.
Hi Rob: Nice aircraft. Did you receive any feedback on delivery and pricing for OZ?
Awesome aircraft. This is the first I’ve heard of the 120, let alone a 2-seat option.
It seems for the 120, a Polini Thor 250 puts it overweight for Part 103. This is a shame, as I am at higher altitude, and hot desert, 36 horsepower would be my minimum, I think.
And… have there been any sales of it at all in the USA? IMHO, to succeed, the price would need to come way down — $36,000 for a part 103 toy??? Sheesh. It’s an ultralight, not an LSA. I swear I read it was $18k in 2018, what is the deal? And a kit would be preferred over a fully built.
In any case, collapsing down in minutes into a trailer that is only a 6×12 enclosed (if I understood that right) would be a prime selling point here for all us hangarless folk. Kolb can’t even get that compact.
Dan Johnson says
So far as I know, no Swans are flying in the USA. While I hear you about needing more power in high elevations, Part 103 does not care …but, of course, they did not anticipate Swan when Part 103 was written in 1982. It simply might not fit that rule where you live, sadly. As to price, I am not sure of the $36,000 figure, as I said on Facebook. I merely heard someone in their display space say €32,000 but that is not a factory price quote. Please don’t assume that. Contrarily, $18,000 for a full-composite aircraft seems rather unlikely to me. Please understand, I realize $36,000, or whatever the price truly is, may not fit all budgets but at that figure it is not a bad deal. Finally, the trailer is probably not 6×12 feet as they measure everything in metric, but it is certainly far smaller than any other trailer-carried, fixed-wing aircraft I know thanks to that unique joint in the main boom tube. TEAM’s Mini-Max had something similar but it is not currently in production.
Hi price fob , flete envió Perú
Dan Johnson says
Hi Bornan: Please contact Modern Wings about pricing for Perú. ••• [traducción por computadora] Por favor, póngase en contacto con Modern Wings para conocer los precios de Perú
Love to see the price on this baby
Dan Johnson says
Hi Israel: Several people have asked and I lack a straightforward answer (with regrets). However, when visiting at Aero in 2019, someone in their display space mentioned a base price of €32,000 (about $36,000 today). I do not know if that was or remains accurate but if close, this is a good value.
Scott Cooper says
This is good info; you have been such a great help to us, I will happily subscribe to this valuable website (bydanjohnson).
To me, $36,000 is high. In your last video with him, he said it’s affordable and portable.
For an ultralight, $36,000 is a lot. If we can get a USA Dealer [to offer] a basic kit form and we can get price down to $20,000 to $24,000, I’m all ears. It looks like European engineering is light years ahead when it comes to ultralights. This is a good example of one. To me, the next closest is the Merlin Lite made in China, but …I’m still learning about that model as well.
Dan, please please recommend a Part 103 foldable ultralight, perhaps no tail dragger as well, but lower cost than this Swan (and besides the Kolb). How abut Zigolo? How about Aerolite 103? How about Badland’s Kitfox Lite clone? Or, what can you recommend?
Dan Johnson says
Hi Scott: Thanks for your kind words. You asked several questions. Let me try to answer them. • First, the price is not necessarily $36,000. That is a guess based on words I heard in their display space. That price may not be accurate. I have contacted the main main to ask and will report when I know more. Perhaps it is less. I regret not getting better info, but honestly, I did not anticipate this level of interest. • “Merlin Lite?” …I’m not sure which aircraft you mean. The Merlin PSA from Aeromarine LSA is not made in China, so I can’t address your reference. • I’m not sure why you eliminate Kolb’s TriFly as it seems to meet your other requests. Zigolo is less expensive but not foldable. I do not know about Badland’s F-series, but as it is not a Kitfox Lite clone — it is genuinely the Kitfox Lite, ownership of which went to Belite and then to Badland — it may indeed be foldable as Kitfox has long featured that capability. Aerolite definitely meets your price (is actually lower) but it is definitely not foldable. • I will close with this: I’ve spoken to quite a few owners who said they bought folding wing aircraft because they valued that feature but not a single one said they regularly fold their airplane.
Hi Dan, I will be purchasing a Northwing trike with a simple top surface wing mainly for the ability to quickly fold and cover the wing for transport. I think there is a huge market for people to haul an airplane around behind their RV or in a Toyhauler here in the Western U.S. with our open spaces.
I would have already bought a traditional three-axis airplane if there were something around $30-65k that seated two people and could be hauled at highway speeds with wings folded. I don’t mind weight-shift control but I would very much prefer stick and rudder. Here I am checking out Jim Britt’s new Apache at my favorite flying site. https://youtu.be/aokXnnk8hrs
Dan Johnson says
Hi Harry: At this time, Modern Wings has no U.S. representation, although several parties have expressed an interest. Only time will tell.
My understanding is that the Swan 120 is close, but not quite able, to fit into the definition of a legal Part 103.
I’ve see some people make “wink wink, nod nod” claims of Part 103 legality, but if you read articles about the Swan 120 across the Internet it clearly is both too heavy and too fast to qualify, which is a shame because it is indeed a nice “ultralight-like” machine.
There are several nice 120 kilogram aircraft in Europe that would be awesome ultralights here in the states (e.g., the Swan, the DAR Solo, the Ekolot Elf, the Eurofly Minifox), but all of those aircraft are in one form or another slightly above Part 103 limits.
Of course you can always buy and register as Experimental, but that sort of defeats the purpose of Part 103 flying. I suppose you could also just fly it like it’s a 103 anyway. Not that I would condone such activity. 😉
Dan Johnson says
Hi Steve (and Harry): In the video, Radu acknowledges that you may have to use a smaller engine (and a different prop, very likely) to stay within speeds for FAA’s Part 103. The two European lightweight standards — 120-Kilogram Class in Germany and Single Seat Deregulated (SSDR) in England — do not speed limit those designs, although the laws of physics apply even when the laws of bureaucrats may not. Therefore, Europeans may not take the correct steps to fit U.S. regulations. I suspect it is possible to keep Swan 120 within Part 103 but it may take extra effort.
Job Chithalan email@example.com says
Part 103 stall speed requirement of 24 knots is with or without flaps?
Dan Hall says
I agree with your comments about 103 requirements in the USA. The two seat thing is also what would not allow this aircraft to be 103 compliant.
Dane Ward says
A beautiful aircraft and excellent report! Thanks Dan.
Dan Johnson says
Hi Dane: It’s always wonderful to get a pat on the back! Glad you liked the article. ?