The Beaver and Chinook ultralight-like aircraft are arguably two of the bestknown lightweight designs coming from Canada. Aircraft Sales and Parts, more commonly known as ASAP, is the company that rescued and now manufactures and sells these designs, along with a powered parachute from its sister company, Summit Powered Parachutes. The tale of ASAP’s involvement with the Chinook and Beaver offers insight into ultralight progress – Canadian style. A History Lesson Perhaps the most famous ultralight to come out of Canada is the Beaver. With a reported 2,200 flying units since the early 1980s, it’s a successful design. However, due to corporate missteps by the companies that owned the brand, the Beaver series was nearly lost. Originally, the Beaver models were manufactured by Spectrum Aircraft Inc. Reorganization left the ultralight in the hands of a company called Beaver RX Enterprises. In 1993, that company closed its doors and stranded thousands of Beaver aircraft owners, along with all the dealerships that sold and serviced them.
Aircraft Sales And Parts Beaver RX-550 Plus
Phone: (250) 549-1102Vernon, BC V1T 6N2 - Canada
|Empty weight||430 pounds|
|Gross weight||1,050 pounds|
|Wing area||154.5 square feet|
|Wing loading||6.8 pounds per square foot|
|Build time||150-180 hours|
|Standard engine||Rotax 503 dual carb|
|Power||50 hp at 6,500 rpm|
|Power loading||21 pounds per horsepower|
|Cruise speed||(75% power) 65 mph|
|Never exceed speed||105 mph|
|Rate of climb at gross||800 fpm|
|Takeoff distance at gross||250 feet|
|Landing distance at gross||250 feet|
|Standard Features||Full dual controls, roomy tandem 2-seat ultralight (that can easily qualify as a Part 103 exemption trainer), instrument panel, dual fuel tanks (on struts), battery box, 4-point seat belt restraints, seat covers, engine mounts for several engines, bolt-together kit with all parts precut and predrilled, Ceconite® with fabric cut.|
|Options||66-hp, 2-cycle Rotax 582, 80-hp Rotax 912 (with factory accommodation to assure good weight and balance), Italian Zanzottera engine choices, 60-hp, 4-cycle HKS 700E engine, Hirth engines, standard or heavy-duty reduction drive, electric start, silence kit, brakes, floats, skis, instruments, 2- or 3-blade wood props, ballistic parachute, fully-assembled option.|
|Construction||Aluminum tubing, Ceconite® fabric covering. Made in Canada.|
Cosmetic appearance, structural integrity, achievement of design goals, effectiveness of aerodynamics, ergonomics.
Pros - The Beaver RX-550 Plus is a well-proven ultralight with a reported 2,200 units in the field. Roomy cockpit for larger pilots, especially those with bulky, winter clothing on. Taken over by ASAP, the new RX-550 Plus now has a dope-and-fabric wing. Main structure is familiar aluminum tubing. Sleek pod and nicely-finished wings add to a smooth appearance.
Cons - Beaver RX-550 is an older design; won't appeal to all pilots. Build time estimated at 150-180 hours; about a medium effort. No full enclosure currently offered to further protect pilots in cold climates (though factory said one is being designed). Engine is mounted inverted, which some pilots dislike.
Subsystems available to pilot such as: Flaps; Fuel sources; Electric start; In-air restart; Brakes; Engine controls; Navigations; Radio; (items covered may be optional).
Pros - Brake handle conveniently located just forward of the throttle in an intuitive position. Primer control is conveniently located on instrument panel flange. Repair access is excellent; engine is within easy reach. Refueling at strut-mounted tanks eliminates all fuel odors from entering cabin.
Cons - No flaps to aid approach path control. Strut-mounted fuel tanks, though perhaps safer, are seen as odd by some pilots. For electric starting, battery will have to be placed forward to preserve weight and balance. No in-flight trim is provided.
Instrumentation; Ergonomics of controls; Creature comforts; (items covered may be optional).
Pros - Seating in both positions is spacious. Easy entry to both front and rear seats; not common for rear seat of tandem design. Panel has adequate room for ultralight-style instrumentation. Throttle and joystick within a comfortable reach. Rudder pedals for rear seat occupants are surprisingly roomy. Nosewheel steering was quite responsive.
Cons - No overhead skylight is possible (as on the older RX-650). Rear seat occupant is located very close to engine noise. Panel space is limited for radios or GPS instruments. Building a full enclosure will be challenging. Kill switch on panel may be challenging to reach if belts are securely fastened. Aft seat occupant cannot see instrument panel.
Taxi visibility; Steering; Turn radius; Shock absorption; Stance/Stability; Braking.
Pros - Aluminum gear legs prove to be stronger than the steel gear on the older Beaver RX-650. From front seat, upward visibility is good, allowing careful traffic checks. Fairly tight turn radius is possible with nosewheel steering.
Cons - Brakes are nondifferential. No easy seat adjustment or rudder pedal placement adjustment. Light loading on nosewheel reduces steering effectiveness and some conditions. Suspension appears limited to air in the tires.
Qualities; Efficiency; Ease; Comparative values.
Pros - Despite the lack of side vertical area, the Beaver RX-550 Plus sideslips well. Excellent visibility from front seat, and acceptable visibility from rear seat. Good rudder response yields generally good control harmony. Broad flare window is tolerant of newer pilots and appreciated by old-timers who want to look good when landing.
Cons - Deep side slips can run out of control range; could pose a problem in stronger crosswind conditions. Approach speeds aren't as low as you might expect. Takeoff roll longer than expected for a high-lift airfoil. No flaps or flaperons available to help control approach path (though factory indicates they may work on this at a later time).
Quality and quantity for: Coordination; Authority; Pressures; Response; and Coupling.
Pros - Pushrod linkage on the Beaver RX-550 Plus is light and responsive. Dutch rolls went well to modest, angles showing good authority but not a fast roll rate. Adequate control authority for operation in most crosswind conditions. Pitch range in steep turns was adequate, even when no additional power was added. Despite smaller tail, control harmony was acceptable. Rudder remains effective to slow speeds.
Cons - Roll rate, at about four seconds 45°-45°, won't satisfy those looking for a snappy response. No flaps to help slow speed flight. Adverse yaw is fairly significant, common in a full-span aileron ultralight. Rudder power is lacking in deep slips or in the stiffest crosswinds. Pitch got heavier in steep turns. No trim offered.
Climb; Glide; Sink; Cruise/stall/max speeds; Endurance; Range; Maneuverability.
Pros - High-lift wing with frequent upper wing rib spacing delivers good slow speed performance. Descent rate measured at about 400 fpm, a good number for a 2-place ultralight. Several choices of engines allow differing performance parameters. Rate of climb even with 50-hp Rotax 503 is 900 fpm. Beaver can carry 1.5 times its own weight. Cruise speed with Rotax 503 is 50-75 mph.
Cons - Performance said to improve with 65-hp Rotax 582, though extra complexity comes with this choice. Required over 5,000 rpm to sustain altitude - a common ultralight number but some designs are measurably lower (reducing noise and vibration, and therefore, fatigue).
Stall recovery and characteristics; Dampening; Spiral stability; Adverse yaw qualities.
Pros - Stall speeds are down into high 30s. Stall characteristics are predictable; nose always fell straight in my experience. Four-point seatbelt restraint available for both occupants. Longitudinal stability proves adequate during pull- and push-and-release test. Lower thrust line than other designs in its class; improves pitch response. Despite its smaller size, the rudder was effective all the way down to stall.
Cons - Accelerated stalls tended to fall rather vigorously to the outside wing. Though engine is below top surface of wing at trailing edge point, still produces nose down on power-up. Tail surface area could be larger to yield better harmony. No trim to reduce pilot fatigue.
Addresses the questions: "Will a buyer get what he/she expects to buy, and did the designer/builder achieve the chosen goal?"
Pros - Able to qualify under training exemption to FAR Part 103. ASAP, a family-owned business, has been in existence since 1988. Very well-equipped shop with CNC machining hardware. ASAP made changes to the wings and tail of the older RX-550 Beaver. Company keeps a large number of replacement parts on hand at all times. Beaver has +4 -2 G design load rating; tested past 6 Gs without deformation. Overall, a very pleasant machine to fly.
Cons - Built in Canada, shipping to parts of U.S. may be costly. Less dealer support than some more established U.S. ultralight brands. Age of design will turn off some buyers. Interior of RX-550 Plus is not as polished as older RX-650. Wings detach but process is time-consuming; no folding wing option is available. Some buyers may prefer to wait for the new single-seater.
Perhaps the most famous ultralight to come out of Canada is the Beaver. With a reported 2,200 units flying since the early 1980s, this is one of the most successful light aircraft ever. However, due to missteps by companies that previously manufactured the brand, this popular ultralight was nearly lost from the ultralight aviation landscape. Were it not for the Aircraft Sales and Parts (ASAP) company and the Holomis family, you might not have this choice today. Originally the Beaver RX-550 came from a company called Spectrum Aircraft. A company reorganization left the ultralight in the hands of a company named Beaver RX Enterprises. Both these business names disappeared and today the ASAP brand carries the Beaver into the sky. In 1993, a couple years after our last report on the Beaver1, the old company closed its doors and effectively stranded thousands of Beaver ultralight owners and all the dealerships that sold them.
A decade ago, the popular Canadian ultralights the Beaver and Chinook appear to be in danger of disappearing. Fortunately that’s no longer the case thanks to the Holomis family and their purchase of these two classic Canadian designs. Even better, during the last 10 years the company has made improvements to the design while leaving alone their basic shape and appeal. A “Plus” added to the name is the simple indicator that means many small improvements. With a thriving family machine shop operation providing a foundation, the company makes good use of its engineering and fabrication capabilities to support the airplane business. This synergy is appreciated by anyone buying the aircraft in the last decade. It gives Aircraft Sales and Parts (ASAP) staying power that assures customes. While both the ultralights have a substantial following is (the Beaver has sold in the thousands by itself), the Chinook has become my favorite of the two thanks to its agile handling and spectacular visibility.