Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Grandpa’s Kitfox…Not!

A lively, refined STOL winner 26 years in the making

Takeoff roll on the 100 hp Kitfox is a mere 320 feet, and stall speed is a slow 37 knots.
Just a few minutes into my flight with Kitfox's head honcho John McBean, it's obvious the current Kitfox Super Sport (SS) resembles the original kit plane of the 1980s, mostly in name only.

Oh, it has that lovely Kitfox look with the P-51 Mustang tailfeathers, sits like a Kitfox when you look over the cowl in its traditional taildragging stance (tri-gear also available), and sounds like a Kitfox when you crank up the Rotax to spin its composite prop. And the wings fold back for towing, trailering and garage storage, just like the original. But this lovely STOL sport bush plane is to the Denney Aerocraft Model 1 I built in the mid-'80s as the Shelby GT500 is to the original '65 fastback Ford Mustang. Same genetics, vastly evolved bird.

Banking the light-handling Kitfox into tight 360s over the central Florida landscape is an excursion into handling confidence. Unlike the original rudder-hungry version I built, the SS acquits itself well rolling in and out of turns, with just a touch of rudder to keep things centered up.

Most compelling is how solid the airplane feels. If the original kit version's flight personality was somewhat ultralighty, the Super Sport is more responsive and substantial, more like a "real" airplane. The pushrod controls add such a nice "right now" response to the handling. And those trademark drooped, full-span flaperons add snap to the turns, without making it twitchy or easy to overcontrol.

At takeoff and landing speeds, though, the flaperons will still provide strong roll response, so new/student pilots should keep their input light on the stick, or risk overcontrolling. Those flaperons also serve up a cleaner, "fatter" lift envelope for landing. You can drop in at just 36 knots (around 42 knots clean), roll out in just over 300 feet, jump off in the same distance, climb out well over 1,100 fpm and do it all over again. Works for me.
The Super Sport is a fully mature, beautifully finished and refined airplane. It's solid in the air and on the tarmac, and it handles the grass and dirt with aplomb.
Climbing up, doing stalls, or rather attempting to (it likes to hang docile on the prop in power off/on modes), pulling on flaps or adjusting trim with the electric push toggle is all thoroughly modern S-LSA-worthy. By that I mean this is no rewarmed kitplane with rough finish and eccentric flying habits you need to master before you can fly it comfortably. No knock implied against homebuilts, but some designs can challenge low-timers and traditional spam-can drivers alike, early on.

No, the Super Sport is a fully mature, beautifully finished and refined airplane. It's solid in the air and on the tarmac, and with the big optional balloon tires, it handles the grass and dirt with aplomb. This S-LSA version is wonderfully responsive, comfortable on long trips, yet certainly sporty enough for backcountry operations.

Bottom line? It's fun to fly, well priced against most of the S-LSA market (the kit side of the business helped with that these last tough years), and an all-around example of what an LSA can be, given enough time and market support to evolve its full potential.

Labels: LSAs


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