Editor’s note: This article first appeared on ByDanJohnson.com.
I write about affordable aviation whenever interesting material is available. This website will eventually (probably by August or September) move to the AffordableAviation.com domain that I purchased many years ago. It’s important to me that pilots can actually afford to own and fly their own aircraft because I am one of you.
I maintain you’ve always been able to find affordable new airplanes but you had to accept something other than a 150 knot four seater.
Part 103 has always been a choice—no medical, N-numbers, or pilot certificate needed—yet not everybody wants that. A great many pilots desire a two seater, even if they nearly always fly it solo. You usually pay more for a two seater, making it less likely to be affordable.
One modestly-priced two seater is available, fortunately.*
A Genuine Bargain?
One flying machine made flying affordable some years ago but it rather quietly slipped from the American market. Therefore, I was pleased to see the return of Sky Ranger for $49,985, complete.
Does “complete” mean a full parts kit? Yes, including wing coverings but everything else you need as well: 80-horsepower Rotax 912 (more than enough; I thought one flew well even with a 582), Kiev 3-blade prop, custom exhaust system, carb heat, Kanardia instruments, and engine instruments.
You won’t have to paint this one as it uses a sewn Dacron laminate fabric that is tough, light, and needs no paint, saving a bundle plus hours of work.
Build time is estimated at 300 hours and it looks to be quite a straightforward job of assembly. No fabrication is needed and only simple hand tools are used.
If you prefer a smoother fuselage, the Nynja model is available for $10,000 more ($59,985, still quite a value in 2023). The extra funds buy a composite fuselage exterior plus a 100-horse 912.
If you agree this is a bargain at a time when the price of eve
rything you buy has gone up 50 to 100 percent or more in the last three years, then you might wonder, “OK, but is this thing any good?”
Here’s two comments that put that inquiry in perspective: SkyRanger is reportedly Britain’s best-selling fixed-wing microlight and is a five-time FAI World Champion. Designed by Frenchman Phillippe Prevot under the brand BestOff, SkyRanger emerged in 1991, so it’s got a track record, too, proven further still by 1,600 flying examples.
How Do They Fly?
Back in 2007 I flew and reported on SkyRanger (read the full pilot report) and here is British aerojournalist Dave Unwin‘s more recent report on Nynja in 2021. I urge you to read both—remembering that my report is from an earlier model version—and then judge if one of these aircraft might work for you. Certainly your savings account, and maybe your significant other, may believe it’s a good choice.
Construction features include: Pin-jointed tubular construction; no welded structure; only straight tubes are used (except wing ribs), which aids assembly; airframe uses aircraft grade 2024 aluminum tubing. Other parts are made from steel and stainless steel.
“The undercarriage is particularly strong,” reported FlyLight. “SkyRanger [was expressly] designed for ‘off the beaten path’ operation.”
Since 2017, Britain’s Flylight Airsports Ltd., has owned the sole design rights and is now rightly considered the manufacturer. Much finalizing work is now in England but primary fabrication is handled by their subcontractor, Aeros, based in Kiev, Ukraine.
Yes, Ukraine! Amazingly, despite the debilitating hardships of war in their homeland, Aeros has soldiered on, as has Aeroprakt, also based in Kiev, or Kyiv if you prefer.
As FlyLight developed this product and worked with Aeros for its manufacture, the design expectedly saw changes and improvements. Modifying the original, FlyLight created the Swift model with shortened wings and the possibility of additional power (the 100 horse Rotax 912). Interior and other alternations were made, later resulting in Swift 2 and now SkyRanger U.S. is promoting Swift 3. I think this is well-suited for the American market that values higher speeds to cross this large country.
Even with the shorter Swift wing, takeoff performance “is still in the STOL category,” said FlyLight,. “With the 100 horsepower 912ULS, maximum weight takeoff roll on grass is just over 200 feet. A spirited 1,200 feet per minute climb rises to more than 1,500 feet per minute solo.”
Nonetheless, stall speed remains a “comfortably low, meaning short field landings are a breeze.” Authoritative control response down to stall speed makes for fuller control with good crosswind capability.
For those that want ultimate STOL, the original long wing is also available on request.
“Swift 3 also has available an LS version which has a 600 kilogram (1,320 pound) maximum takeoff weight. With empty weight under 270 kilograms (595 pounds), the LS version has an astonishing payload of 330 kilograms (725 pounds)… 1.2 X its empty weight!”
After almost 20 years of LSA development adding features that pilots have requested, and after absorbing the mass from these options, empty weight for most LSA has crept up steadily, making SkyRanger’s useful load unusually large.
SkyRanger has been my focus here because it offers a lower price point. However, Nynja is worth your interest if the extra 10 grand is not too much for your budget. It has a composite exterior and the shortened wing of the earlier Swift model so it has a higher cruise (and a somewhat higher stall, of course).
For $50K plus 300 hours of your labor you could have a world champion that has proven itself since before we had Light-Sport Aircraft. Learn more at SkyRanger USA.
SkyRanger Points of Interest
(information provided by FlyLight)
- Simple Tough Structure
- Fast Build (~300 hours)
- Cruise at 100+ MPH
- Stalls at 37 MPH
- Climb at 1,200 FPM
- Over 1,600 Aircraft Flying
- Unbeatable Value
- See SkyRanger, Nynja and other aircraft, on the factory website
- Contact the U.S. representative, SkyRanger USA, also operating as Blue Collar Aviation
* SkyRanger is not the only modestly-priced aircraft fitting this general description. BushCat from SkyReach is another. It is sold in the USA by AeroSport and it is also available in kit form but BushCat is approved as a Special LSA so you can buy it fully built.