Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Look-Homeward Angel

Twisting through the sky in the first SLSA two-seat aerobat!

Closing notes: The twin instrument panels are weighted, of course, for the rear cockpit. In front are just two steam gauges—altimeter and airspeed—and a turn/bank bubble indicator. The compact rear panel on the Rotax-powered bird also sported steam gauges: altimeter, airspeed and vertical speed, and a couple of small engine dials. At low center sits a UL-MIP flight log, a German-made electronic engine control instrument that incorporates engine control, temperature monitoring, fuel management, engine time, flight logging and more.

For pilots who want the best of three worlds—enclosed canopy, two-hole open cockpit with small windscreens or single race canopy at rear, with front hole covered—the Comet comes standard with all. Conversion is a quick five- to 10-minute process for two people.

Whether unbridled aerobatic fun in the sky is part of your dreamscape, or you simply love the look and snappy feel of a short-wing biplane, there's a Comet with your name on it.

The Great Biplane

Why two wings, when modern engineering has shown one wing is sufficient and offers less drag and better cruise/top speed/glide performance?

Choosing a biwingual airframe can be more than just a matter of aesthetic preference. Bipes can also be built incredibly strong at a light weight. How is this accomplished?

The legendary free thinker Buckminster Fuller, visionary exponent of triangulated design (geodesic and tensegrity structures et al), would have intuitively appreciated that the single bay created by joining the Comet's two wings with a vertical interplane strut, when braced by "X-ed" or diagonal wires, makes for a very efficient load-distributing, torsion-resistant structure.

The Wright brothers' Wright Flyer was a biplane due to the structural advantages at a light weight. The biggest drawback for a biplane design is the drag. With two wings, struts and wires, bipes offer more resistance to the relative wind.

As aerodynamic engineering advanced into the late 1930s and ever-faster speed was the common goal, biplanes faded into the twilight—except for aerobatic and sport configurations. Modern biplanes like the Pitts Special excelled in competition for a long time until the modern Extra, Edge 540 and other monoplane designs held sway, due largely to the bipe's short-coupled ability to wrap a tight radius in the sky and its short-winged capacity for downright heroic roll rates.

Labels: LSAsPilot Reports


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