Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Gipps Airvan: Don’t Call It A Caravan


This innovative Australian single emphasizes the principle that less really can be more



The cockpit features an Aspen Avionics PFD and Garmin GTN 650/750 avionics.
As mentioned above, cruise isn't the Airvan's strongest suit, but that's not relevant to its mission. At a typical 75% setting with a full load, you can plan on about 130-135 knots. If there's a need to fly an out-and-back trip with no fuel available at the destination, you can reduce power to 45% and plan on a no-wind, one-way leg of 350 nm.

Inflight handling is more reminiscent to that of a Skyhawk than a 4,200-pound flying truck. Roll and pitch response is appropriate to the weight, but it's well short of oppressive. The airplane maneuvers easily as long as you keep the big, elevator-trim wheel moving.

The GA8 approaches the stall with no evil intent, and low-speed maneuvering isn't any special challenge. Approaches can be as you like them. Full-flap stall is 56 knots, so you can fly a standard approach at about 70 knots, and short-field efforts work well at 65 knots. On one approach, I was a little high on final, and Morgan suggested I simply maintain the top of the white arc with full flaps and power at idle. This introduces a significant amount of drag that allows you to fly a steeper profile toward the runway. It also prolongs the flare, but drag is so high that the total landing distance isn't that much greater.

The landing is anticlimactic. The Airvan does perch lower than you might expect on its tricycle gear, and if you're nervous about the weight and approach too fast, it will float. Fortunately, it's easy to predict when the wing will pay off and lower the wheels to the runway.

The Airvan isn't a true STOL airplane in the strictest sense, but it will do very well on most sea-level runways of 1,000 feet or more. Landing distance to a smooth, dry, sea-level runway is listed at 483 feet, but takeoffs require more like 800 feet, so as with most other aircraft, you may be able to sneak into places you can't leap back out of.


Agua Dulce Airport (L70) offers a surprisingly tranquil setting for the outskirts of the greater Los Angeles area. A monthly barbecue fly-in is held on the last Sunday of each month. Visit www.l70airport.com for more information.
Morgan's Airvan is predictably adaptable to a wide variety of jobs. It can be mounted on wheels and skis to fly missions ranging from skydiving, game spotting, pipeline patrol and law enforcement, to search and rescue, air ambulance, sightseeing and freight hauling. Approval on Wipaire floats is pending. There's even an openable window on the sliding aft cargo door that allows for direct air-to-air/air-to-ground photography so the photographer doesn't have to shoot with a $2,000 camera through a $10 piece of Plexiglas. Morgan commented that they hear of new applications for the Airvan all the time, and they're often surprised at the innovative variety of jobs the airplane can fly.

GippsAero is also well into development on a stretched Airvan, the GA10. This will be turbine-powered (probably a Rolls-Royce 250) and approved for a 4,500-pound gross weight. Gipps also hopes to revive and improve upon the Australia Nomad turboprop commuter airliner, the GA18.

Inevitably, someone's bound to ask what all this utility talent costs. The answer is $699,000 for the basic GA8 with the normally aspirated engine. Add turbocharging, and base price increases to $729,000. The Garmin IFR package we flew with adds another $18,000 for a total of $747,000 on the test airplane. Two other popular options are air conditioning ($37,500) and the cargo pod ($12,750), and as usual, you can keep adding options to the limit of your credit line.

Utility airplanes aren't built for the pilot public, though it's easy to imagine a family with a large clutch of kids finding happiness with one. The GA8 Airvan is more of a dedicated utility airplane, something like a four-wheel-drive, crew cab pickup, designed specifically for a down-and-dirty, off airport mission, willing to work hard and generate a profit for the pilot with a need for its considerable talents.

Visit www.gippsaero.com for more information about the Airvan.




Labels: Piston Singles

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