One of the very first LSA I flew was the Evektor SportStar, an all-metal, low-wing monoplane with a cute bubbly profile and a stable, confidence-inspiring, long-distance-comfortable, easy-to-fly flight personality.
In the years since, I've had the pleasure to fly another 30 or so LSA, so my perspective is broadening. Even so, it was as clear back then as it is now what well-constructed, solid-flying airplanes Evektor, the 40-year Czech aviation company, produces.
Harmony, the latest model in the company's ASTM-approved S-LSA flagships, is the next evolution of its SportStar forebears. As such, it represents—from the company that, lest we forget, was the first to ASTM-certify an S-LSA in America—another step forward in top-line, rugged, stable flyers.
A Matter Of Pedigree
Evektor's designers and engineers refuse to rest on their feathery laurels. By laurels, I mean the more than 1,000 light aircraft they've delivered to 40 countries.
Evektor encourages customer and dealer feedback, and puts it to good use. The result in Harmony is better all-around performance and handling, more rugged gear and more cockpit room, and lots of other tweaks to the overall quality the line has enjoyed since inception.
The all-metal construction incorporates bonded as well as traditionally riveted parts. Nonstructural composite parts add to the sensuous, playful lines—and bring weight savings, too.
Art Tarola, owner and operator of Evektor dealer AB Flight, loves the training chops of the Harmony, as well. He ought to know: He has given more than 2,500 hours of flight instruction in SportStar variations alone, and has seen firsthand how well the aircraft endures the slings and arrows student airplanes are heir to.
After our lovely demo, motoring around through balmy morning air above the lush prefall greenery near Hudson, N.Y., we talked about the new stuff.
"In the Harmony's cockpit, taller pilots have more leg room," said Tarola. "The fuselage is four inches longer now, which moved the firewall and panel forward. There's more room under the redesigned panel, too." The panel has gotten a cosmetic makeover, as well.
I've also always liked how the bellied-out side canopy adds to the roomy feeling and enhances side visibility. And though I'm 5'11", there's still a good four to five inches overhead, with an extra Oregon Aero cushion underneath. The canopy has a double latch now, for added security and cabin airflow on the ground.
"The steering system and nosewheel," Tarola continued, "are completely redesigned. It's less 'nervous.'" Yet even though steering is less touchy, the turning radius is smaller than more recent SportStar editions. Sensitivity also is ground adjustable. I particularly liked the new rudder/toe brake-pedal assembly. The toe plates are GA-familiar, and bring immediate confidence during taxiing and braking: It's as pleasurable and effective as any tricycle LSA I've driven around.
Pedals adjust to three positions, but can also be hard mounted in one of three locations for quite a range of fit. The pilot and copilot pedals also have more room between.
Where It All Comes Together
In music, harmony is most fully appreciated in full-audio fidelity. Likewise, the Harmony aircraft is best enjoyed in its home environment, the sky, so let's go!
Taxiing is a breeze. Takeoff tracking down the runway and liftoff are effortless. Handling of the airplane in flight is smooth and response immediate, thanks to pushrod controls for pitch and roll. And the redesigned, tapered wing (wider span, same wing area) and increased aileron length contribute to a noticeably faster turn rate. In less than three seconds, we saw 45 degrees to 45 degrees.
I found roll pressures somewhat firmer than, say, a Remos GX, but hardly objectionable—Cessna and Piper pilots will feel right at home. Control feel is solid and proportional, and the airplane carves turns with little rudder required. Pitch forces balance nicely with roll feel, which makes cruising around the sky very...harmonious!
The elevator and rudder also are upsized, extending better control authority into the stall regime. "That also increases crosswind capability," said Tarola. "I've landed in well over 20 knots direct crosswind with no trouble." For any LSA, that's no mean feat.
My host talked me through slow-flight and stall demonstrations. Right at stall, we essentially hung the plane on its prop, and could still drive around with plenty of control authority. The Harmony earns its name, never dropping a wing or giving nasty surprises. Both departure (power on) and approach (power off) stalls were truly nominal.
The Evektor Harmony is powered by a 100 hp Rotax 912 ULS engine and reaches a max cruise of 120 knots. Its all-metal fuselage features a bubble canopy that's bellied out on the sides for extra visibility.
Stall is simply a nonevent: Ease the stick forward and/or add a touch of power, and you're flying again. It's such a forgiving, stable, comfortable airplane to fly.
Leveling off, we cruised up to about 115 knots at 5,300 rpm. "In my flight school, we average 2.7 gph fuel burn. For cross-country flights, it's about 5 gph." With 31 gallons in the wing tanks, that gives a nice range of six hours and around 700 miles.
The seats are very comfortable and conform to the body better than the majority of LSA I've flown. There's no squirming or fidgeting even after an hour or two. A major component of that comfort has to be the perfect (for-me) recline angle of the seat back.
Another factor is how quiet the airplane is in flight. That's no doubt due, in part, to the tight construction and mastic-sealed riveting of structural components, as well as liberal applications of attractive fabric to the interior, behind-seat storage compartment and aft deck.
Landing as you might expect is also nominal. After our thunderstorm-dodging, 11-hour Oshkosh-to-Pennsylvania flight, in which we diverted to two different airports waiting for weather ahead to improve, we arrived over Allentown, Pa., in the black of night. Tarola donned his CFI cap (it's never off for long) to talk me through the landing, which was surprisingly nominal, given we were both worn out from the challenging trip.
Speaking of landings, visibility with the low wing is super while turning pattern legs. The push-button vernier throttle makes precise power control a snap, ably abetted by the robust, three-position flap handle (15 degrees, 30 degrees and 50 degrees) just under an adjustable armrest at center station.
Visibility remained excellent throughout rotation, landing flare was easy to feel, and control in all three axes was positive right down to wheel touch.
|Ballistic Parachute Systems|
Thirty-one years ago, an enterprising hang-glider pilot named Boris Popov created Ballistic Recovery Systems (BRS) based on a simple concept: a parachute system that explosively deploys and safely lowers to the ground, at very low altitudes, not only the pilot, but the entire aircraft and all its occupants!
Initially, BRS 'chutes were used with hang gliders and ultralights. I installed one on my Kitfox in 1987 and was glad to have it. To date, Cirrus (as standard equipment!) and three Cessna aircraft have installed them (C-172, C-182 and Skycatcher S-LSA).
Competitors such as Second Chantz, Galaxy Rescue Systems and Stratos 07 popped up in the interim. Deployment methods evolved to include rockets. Second Chantz's rocket is powered by highly compressed nitrogen gas, eliminating the hazard of an explosive charge.
Since those early days, BRS and others evolved technologies that almost instantaneously pull the parachute out of its canister, extending the still-shrouded 'chute to the limit of its heavy-duty bridle line(s), then the chute opens in timed stages, slowly enough (still in fractions of a second) to prevent blowing out the 'chute from the sudden shock of taking on the full load of a moving airplane in a split second.
Art Tarola's Evektor Harmony uses a Stratos 07 model 601 unit, one of several models Stratos makes. It uses a 600 Magnum rocket, weighs 28.7 lbs., has a canopy of 1,387 square feet, which opens within three seconds, delivers a descent rate of 23 feet per second and requires repacking every six years.
Earlier this year, an Evektor SportStar RTC deployed under a Stratos 'chute during spin testing. The pilot swam away unhurt after a lake landing. It's unlikely he would have survived without the system.
BRS and other airframe parachutes have saved hundreds of lives. Several LSA models offer them as standard equipment or as an option.
Keeping A Tight Ship
There's so much more to praise, but alas my page space runneth over. Some personal faves: Interior fit and finish is first class. Roomy seat-back pockets, a tray/cupholder in easy reach in front of each seat and side pockets on the doors are thoughtful and handy accessories. A cigarette-lighter-style DC soc-ket powers portable gear, and cabin air cooling is augmented with eyeball vents right where you want them at the lower corners of the windscreen.
The GA-style popout circuit breaker panels are right where you like them, too: directly in front of the pilot. The entire panel layout is thoughtful, tidy and well engineered. Everything is reachable and mounted logically.
Harmony, like the Max, is available fully IFR equipped, with optional FAA certified instruments in place of the TL elektronic Integra EFIS and EMS paneled version I flew.
Evektor manifests a, "Have it your way," instrumentation philosophy. Art Tarola says every Harmony panel can be completely configured to customer specifications, whether with Dynon, TruTrak, TL elektronic, Garmin, Bendix King, etc.
My appreciation for Evektor grows with every new release of its established SportStar line. Solid aerodynamics, construction and factory commitment ensure its ongoing reputation as one of the premium S-LSA offerings in its class. With more than 100 U.S. sales to date, the company continues its commitment to producing top-notch, elegant, stable touring/training airplanes.
|ZAON PCAS system | www.zaon.aero|
Ever had a near-miss in the air? It's scary...and can happen so easily, even when you've got your eyeballs outside the cage. Zaon Flight Systems makes two models that employ its trademarked, fourth-generation technology to give those eyes in the back of your head even more acuity than your regular ones. PCAS stands for Portable Collision Avoidance System, and it works just like more expensive, panel-dedicated TCAS systems common in GA aircraft: It monitors the airspace and alerts you when other aircraft are in your vicinity.
The two models, XRX ($1,495) and MRX ($549) are both portable and differ principally in how precisely they report location information. The XRX displays distance, altitude and position relative to you. The MRX gives distance and altitude only.
Here's a brief synopsis of how traffic-detection technology works: Transponder-equipped aircraft are detected and ranged, and the altitude is decoded and displayed relative to your position. That's it. Any aircraft within the maximum detection window of six miles will signal an alert—even military aircraft. The XRX uses patent-pending SmartLogic algorithms to tell you which of two or more targets is the greatest threat at any given time.