Tuesday, June 5, 2012
The Look-Homeward Angel
Twisting through the sky in the first SLSA two-seat aerobat!
The Comet is the first fully aerobatic two-seat SLSA and the first biplane SLSA.
Jim DeHart of Atlanta Light Sport Aviation helps me climb into the open front hole of the FK 12 Comet's "tuholer" tandem cockpit. And this is a "real" cockpit I sink down into—the term was born in 1914, when single-seat biplane scout ships, soon to be converted to fighters, overflew the horrible trenches. Easing into the comfortable seat, the fuselage side rails reach the tops of my shoulders, evoking cherished memories: my USAFA cadet orientation flight in a T-33 jet; that supersonic ride to 55,000 feet in an F-101 Voodoo; turning 10 consecutive spins in a Pitts Special with Bill Finagin, the famed aerobatics instructor from Annapolis, Md. There's something about nestling deep in the body of an airplane that makes you feel fused to all its life and vitality.
The Comet carries the DNA of all those ships, yet the biplane sportster/aerobat represents a breakthrough of sorts as the first fully aerobatic two-seat SLSA and the first biplane. The only other LSA aerobat is the Snap!, a single-seat monoplane.
Like the Pitts line, the FK12 has a single fuselage-to-strut bay and swept, equal-span wings. Main spars and leading edges are built of super-strong, lightweight carbon-fiber composites; secondary spars are aluminum. The wings fold for trailering. Empty weight in the base configuration is 584 pounds. And though the Comet has a less-than-LSA-maximum top weight of 1,190 pounds, the stylish bipe retains a useful load of 606 pounds.
Officially named the B&F FK12 Comet, this German-designed (by the brilliantly creative Peter Funk) loop monkey—or sporty cruiser, depending on which engine it carries—has been in development since 1994. First flight took place in 1997. More than 100 are flying, mostly in Europe. That will change soon for the ASTM-approved (#123) SLSA stunter.
My host fires up the Rotax, we taxi to the active, make the call, and punch off. First clue that this won't be a normal demo: DeHart keeps the airplane 10 feet off the deck, accelerating all the way down the runway. "Self," I think, snugging down my straps, "prepare for pitch-up." Sure enough, at the far end, adjacent the exhibitors breaking down displays on this final day of the show, he pulls smartly back on the stick, and my stomach attempts to stay behind as we rocket skyward at a Patty Wagstaff-worthy deck angle.
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