Videoman Dave and I never left Paradise City’s exhibits in our first day of video interviews. Yet we found several airplanes worth reviewing that fit comfortably into the affordable aviation space this website reports. Hawk Ultra — Despite some speculative rumors, all is well with the dual CGS Hawk project involving two-seat Hawk specialist and primary components fabricator Terry Short paired with the father and son team of Bob and LB Santom handling the single place Hawk 103, Hawk Ultra and Hawk Plus. Hawks developed a strong following in the U.S. and several countries with more than 2,000 flying. As the design emerged in 1983, it was only single place. Once Part 103 aircraft were growing and need for a two-seat trainer became apparent, the Hawk Arrow series debuted in several variations. With one or two seats, Hawks won a place in the hearts of many aviators and that continues unabated to this day.
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Kolb Aircraft Firefly on FloatsIn the nearby images you see a customer's Kolb Aircraft Firefly on Puddle Jumper floats. It could cost as little as $25,000 on straight or non-ampibious floats. Land and water options plus added equipment will increase that number but compared to any new seaplane anywhere, Firefly on floats represents a spectacular bargain. For a well performing fixed wing with a wonderful brand name, FireFly on Puddle Jumper floats makes a great choice. (Add too many options and not only your price goes up but your aircraft may no longer fit in Part 1o3, should the freedom of FAA's simplest regulation be important to you.) If you must have two seats, FireFly loses out, being designed expressly to be a single seater. Nonetheless, if budget is a primary driver for your airplane purchase, as it is for most people, the FireFly on floats looks to be a highly attractive option. Kolb's Firefly (video) flies wonderfully well. It fulfills the Kolb brand — begun by an industry pioneer named Homer Kolb, since deceased — by offering superb handling and great performance in one of the easiest-to-fly taildraggers offered to pilots. If you think I'm being too kind to Kolb, you probably haven't flown one. Homer's achievement is like that of Dick van Grunsven, creator of the RV series of Kitplanes, the world's most popular kit-built airplane series of of all time. Van's has sold more but Kolb has a record of which it can be very proud. At an affordable price for a great flying aircraft with a wonderful history, you can hardly get more enjoyment per dollar invested than Kolb Firefly on floats. If you wish to read the full, unedited text of FAA's guidance to field offices regarding Part 103, click this link for a PDF version of FAA's official word on float weight (and parachute weight, and more). Click this link for Kolb's factory information about FireFly. Watch for our video interview with Kolb boss Brian Melbourne as soon as editing can be completed. (Please be patient: we're still at Oshkosh and the editing effort runs two days to a week per video; we will likely record well over 30 new videos in the week of AirVenture 2018.)
Maybe you never flew a floatplane or seaplane (the latter implying a hull). If that’s true you are missing one of the singular pleasures of flying. Landing on water is almost unreal. It seems unlikely but when you find yourself about to touchdown on a lake, you know you have arrived in a way few people in history have ever considered much less achieved. Alas, the cost of having that dream become reality is substantial. A general aviation floatplane easily runs half a million dollars new, probably much more. Even used, a floatplane is a very costly purchase. Because of their scarcity, a seaplane (with a hull) will cost you even more. Even the most modestly-priced LSA on floats can be a rather expensive proposition. Along comes Part 103 to save the day. While Light-Sport are affordable compared to, say, a new Cessna 172 on amphibious floats, nothing can compare with Part 103 ultralight vehicles on wheels or floats.
Thanks for Our Best Day EverShowing a high level of enthusiasm from readers of this website who could not attend Sun ‘n Fun, we set an all-time record* for website views Sunday, even as things wound down. With more days like today, this website can better reach aviation aviation enthusiasts with the message of Light-Sport Aircraft, light kit-built aircraft, and ultralight aircraft. I attribute this intensity to daily reporting of interesting aircraft. I will try to continue the pace next week at Aero Friedrichshafen. In addition, you will soon begin to enjoy numerous videos as Videoman Dave can edit them (a large task; please be patient). We have one day at home to wash clothes, repack, and leave the following day for a flight to Germany yet I would not trade this kind of work for anything. I look forward to seeing many friends and fans in Europe as well as reporting to Americans back home plus many readers all over the planet. It is amazing to use the technologies of just this last decade or so to provide such coverage. I’m honored to have this opportunity and I so appreciate your loyal readership. Thank you!
* Based on reader views from April 15, 2018, if this rate was sustained, ByDanJohnson.com would generate substantially more than a million views per year. While AOPA’s leading magazine, Pilot, may generate this many views in only a month or two, ByDanJohnson.com enjoys the attention of readers singularly interested in the aircraft we cover. No one is looking for warbirds or spam cans here.
Sun ‘n Fun 2018 is done. The show actually closed early at about 1 PM due to forecasts of severe weather. Within hours, a bustling event began to look like a ghost town. Despite the rushed finish, the event appeared to be a huge success. Reports were that it was a all-time record result for Sun ‘n Fun; we’ll wait to see the numbers to know more detail. My conversations with several vendors indicated strong sales interest and orders were taken, so customers and vendors both appear to be satisfied. I spoke to many fans at the show and our conversations demonstrate to me that light aviation is very alive and well. In fact, I see this as one of the most invigorated periods in recent years. The interest is broad based and includes Part 103 ultralight vehicles, gyroplanes, modestly priced Special LSA, and top-line LSA models. On the kit side, interest also appears strong enough that backlogs are growing.
Kolb's TriGear FireStar to the RescueOffered after years of a tandem setup, Kolb's FireStar II SS is a side-by-side version of the FireStar II. More recently, the company offered a tricycle gear version …one that retains the tailwheel even if you don't use it. This gives a landing gear versatility almost unmatched in aviation. You can land on three front wheels or use the tailwheel if you wish to explore this difference. FireStar II delivers "great climb performance with the Hirth 3202 engine but can be fitted with the Rotax 582 engine," said Kolb's Bryan Melborn. Hirth is the standard engine for the FireStar II SS mated to a 2.58:1 gear reduction drive swinging a 66-inch diameter fixed pitch propeller. This combination gives outrageous climb performance (as our video below demonstrates) with a top speed of 80 mph. "It takes very little power to maintain minimum flying speed in a FireStar II SS," Bryan added, "and such slower flying is more enjoyable because of engine noise and fuel consumption are at a minimum." Handling Kolb aircraft is a wonderful experience. Like all Kolb models, FireStar II SS uses traditional cable and push-pull tube controls which yield a solid feel. Half-span ailerons offer good roll authority at higher speeds while still being powerful enough at lower speeds to retain roll control even through a stall. "Optional hydraulic brakes provide for sure stops so the FireStar II SS can be landed and stopped in very tight areas," noted Bryan. Differential braking using heel pedals allows for a tighter turning radius which further improves excellent ground handling. Previous customers who built the older tandem configuration are not left out. Bryan said, "We use stock FireStar wings and tail feathers, so if you own a FireStar II tandem seat, you can purchase a new cage and a boom tube from Kolb Aircraft and fit your wings, tail feathers, engine, and instruments to it and convert to side by side. Call the factory for details or send an email. Like all Kolb aircraft, the FireStar has folding wings and tail which allow for easy storage or trailering. "The tail folds up and the wings fold back along the fuselage in about 15 minutes by one person," Kolb advises. "Everything stores right on the airframe." With gross weight of 850 pounds and slow stall speed, a two-place FireStar II is sold as an Experimental Amateur Built aircraft. It qualifies to be flown using a Sport Pilot certificate or your higher certificate exercising the privileges of Sport Pilot.
Broadening the Tri-Gear LineupAt Sun 'n Fun 'n Fun, we did a video interview with Bryan to announce that Kolb now offers the Part 103-legal Firefly model with the tri-gear setup. Hear and see more below… https://youtu.be/PUupn9BdAIA
In the world of kit aircraft a few companies stand out for having delivered many kits that have launched into the air. Leading the success stories is Van’s Aircraft at nearly 10,000 flying — with around double that number of kits shipped. Van’s is trailed by Rans Aircraft, Kitfox Aircraft, and Kolb Aircraft. Kolb estimates about 8,000 of their various models are flying today, a strong enough figure to make the Tennessee company one of the shining lights in the field of light kit aircraft. However, Kolb has always had a problem. They build taildraggers. After generations of pilots were trained in tricycle gear airplanes, many pilots aren’t sure about their ability to handle a taildragger. When landed other than straight and true, a tricycle gear airplane auto-corrects, swinging toward the nosewheel. A taildragger can, if handled poorly, result in the dreaded ground loop, meaning that the tail can swing to the side, potentially causing a wingtip to touch the ground.
When you want the final word, it's often best to go right to the top, to the boss. That we did with Kolb Aircraft boss Brian Melborn. In this video shot at the new and improved Paradise City at Sun 'n Fun 2013, we heard about the Kolb Firefly as a Part 103 ultralight vehicle ... but the best news is a factory available ready-to-fly model, and it won't cost you an arm and a leg. Brian also tells about a few changes to the great flying light aircraft.
When you want the final word, it’s often best to go right to the top, to the boss. That we did with Kolb Aircraft boss Brian Melborn. In this video shot at the new and improved Paradise City at Sun ‘n Fun 2013, we heard about the Kolb Firefly as a Part 103 ultralight vehicle … but the best news is a factory available ready-to-fly model, and it won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Brian also tells about a few changes to the great flying light aircraft.
MIDWEST LSA EXPO 2012 -- One of our series of many short videos from the fall show, this one on the Kolb Firefly. In the very same month that FAA's Part 103 turned 30 years old, we look at a legitimte Part 103 fixed wing design. The Firefly is mated to a stable of other popular Kolb airplanes that you build as a kit (though Firefly can legally be factory assembled or built for you by anyone).
MIDWEST LSA EXPO 2012 — One of our series of many short videos from the fall show, this one on the Kolb Firefly. In the very same month that FAA’s Part 103 turned 30 years old, we look at a legitimte Part 103 fixed wing design. The Firefly is mated to a stable of other popular Kolb airplanes that you build as a kit (though Firefly can legally be factory assembled or built for you by anyone).
Kolb's Firefly, developed several years ago, is a true-blue entry to the Part 103 ultralight rule. It was purpose-designed to accommodate a more powerful engine to meet customer interest, but to do so while staying within Part 103 254-pound empty weight mandate. It does! And with the legendary good Kolb handling paired with a more potent powerplant, here's a low-cost option to keep you smiling after a day's flying.
Kolb’s Firefly, developed several years ago, is a true-blue entry to the Part 103 ultralight rule. It was purpose-designed to accommodate a more powerful engine to meet customer interest, but to do so while staying within Part 103 254-pound empty weight mandate. It does! And with the legendary good Kolb handling paired with a more potent powerplant, here’s a low-cost option to keep you smiling after a day’s flying.
Kolb Aircraft is one of the most successful of light aircraft or ultralights among all companies. Now under stable new ownership and management, the much-loved brand is ready for a revival following the economic downturn of the mid-2000s. To hear the latest, we spoke with Brian Milborn at Sun 'n Fun 2011 at the company's display in Paradise City.
Kolb Aircraft is one of the most successful of light aircraft or ultralights among all companies. Now under stable new ownership and management, the much-loved brand is ready for a revival following the economic downturn of the mid-2000s. To hear the latest, we spoke with Brian Milborn at Sun ‘n Fun 2011 at the company’s display in Paradise City.
Kolb is one of the most familiar brands to anyone involved with ultralight or light kit aircraft. Every model they created was a taildragger. They were easy to learn but some folks simply prefer tricycle gear. So, Kolb added a nose wheel, but they left the tailwheel. Welcome to the aircraft that goes both ways... a little differently.
Kolb is one of the most familiar brands to anyone involved with ultralight or light kit aircraft. Every model they created was a taildragger. They were easy to learn but some folks simply prefer tricycle gear. So, Kolb added a nose wheel, but they left the tailwheel. Welcome to the aircraft that goes both ways… a little differently.