Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sling 2: The Soul Of A Fighter

The new Sling LSA from South Africa has the world on a string

A sliding bubble canopy on the Sling LSA offers excellent visibility when airborne. The cockpit features center control sticks and an MGL avionics system with two EFIS displays.
The real magic of the Sling comes from flying it. Easily, the Sling's most impressive quality is its maneuverability and handling. The controls are an extension of your mind, with only the slightest finger pressure necessary to execute the maneuver in your head. But it's not twitchy or too light—an ailment some highly maneuverable aircraft and LSA suffer from. The Sling is a superbly balanced aircraft, and would be considered a "pilot's airplane" if that term hadn't been worn to dust by marketing people for airplanes that don't come close. The Sling inspires you to fly it.

To that end, Liknaitzky tells me that Blyth and his engineers spent an extra year perfecting the handling qualities of the airplane. These guys are either airplane geeks or true geniuses to spend that kind of sweat and money getting the feel just right, but they've succeeded masterfully. The direct-linkage ailerons contribute to the positive feel of the controls, while small winglets provide longitudinal stability and better control in turbulence.

There, above the sparkling-blue Pacific Ocean, the second of the Sling's ample charms became evident: its visibility. First, the "cool factor" of a sliding bubble canopy just can't be beat. It's what we all imagined as kids when we played "airplane," and no door, hatch or window will ever come close to the cachet of a sliding canopy. The Sling's canopy brings to mind the Grumman Tiger of old, albeit with modern design and performance. The view from under the clear bubble is breathtaking, though it gets hot quickly under a direct sun, which California is famous for. Liknaitzky said a type of curtain was being considered for production aircraft. It definitely needs it.

The Sling 2 is powered by the Rotax 912 ULS engine—a high-revving sewing machine of a motor with a smooth power curve, rated just under 100 hp. The Rotax is certified for 5800 rpm for a maximum of five minutes, after which cruise power can be set anywhere between 4,800 and 5,500 rpm, yielding a respectable 110 knots. The Warp Drive three-bladed composite prop gave us about 800 fpm climb on a warm SoCal day. The Sling's landing gear is made of composites, and she comes with the option of an airframe parachute system—a nice touch for an LSA.

Another of the Sling's big draws is its lack of thirst. At cruise, the Sling sips fuel at 4.5 gph, so with 38.6 usable gallons of fuel on board, seven hours' flying time and 800 nm is realistic, if your bladder can hold out that long. Its useful load of 524 pounds means you can carry 293 pounds of people and baggage on a full fuel load or play with different configurations of fuel and payload to meet your mission.

Adventurers at heart, Sling company founders Blyth and Pitman wanted to prove to the world that their design wasn't only fun to fly and useful, but that it was a robust cross-country machine worthy of comparison with any standard category GA airplane. In July of 2009, the two intrepid pilots set out to fly the first prototype Sling 2 around the globe. They did just that, flying for 40 days and 40 nights, and passing through Oshkosh as if to rub in the fact that this airplane is something to contend with. The Sling performed flawlessly, with the only modification being four plastic fuel cans they propped up in the baggage area with some plastic tubing and a pump to feed the standard tanks as they emptied. The airplane had two additional wing tanks, with 50 gallons per side. Blyth and Pitman flew 2,000-nm legs over the world's oceans, deserts and mountains, circumnavigating the globe in the Sling.

In April of last year, the Sling team presented their "5577" project. The brilliant scheme had a team of five men and five women build a Sling from a kit in seven days, then fly it to Poland from South Africa in seven days to deliver it to its new owner. The idea was to prove to the world that relatively inexperienced people could put this aircraft together in an unheard-of short time. The project was a huge success, drawing fans to the Aircraft Factory website to watch the build progress and subsequent odyssey to Poland.

Labels: LSAs

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