Just Aircraft’s Excapade … certificated in England and ready for sport pilots! Southwestern Idaho has long been a hub of aircraft activity. With ranches and towns settled in great distances, it’s not surprising that aviation, once an established mode of transportation, quickly became popular in that part of the west. It’s also not surprising, then, that the area has been a hub of aircraft building activity. Here’s the story of one aircraft that’s evolved from that heritage. In 1983, a two-seat, steel tube and fabric aircraft called the Avid Flyer made its first appearance at EAA’s annual convention. Describing the new design in the October 1983 issue of EAA Sport Aviation, then editor Jack Cox wrote, “Dan Denney of Boise, Idaho, was the person with the idea from which sprang the Avid Flyer. He wanted ‘something between ultralights and homebuilts’|(and) Dan had a friend uniquely qualified to transform that (idea) into|an airplane, Dean Wilson.” What Denney and Wilson demonstrated to the fly-in crowd that year might be called the forerunner of the pending light-sport aircraft category|even at a time when ultralights were still gaining their foothold.
|Empty weight||530 pounds|
|Gross weight||1,232 pounds 1|
|Wingspan||28 feet 6 inches|
|Wing area||108 square feet|
|Wing loading||11.4 pounds per square foot|
|Length||19 feet (wings folded)|
|Width||8 feet (wings folded)|
|Cabin Interior||42 inches|
|Height||7 feet 2 inches|
|Fuel Capacity||19 gallons|
|Kit type||Construction kit with Quick-Build options|
|Build time||300-450 hours|
|Notes:||1 Weight listed in anticipation of light-sport aircraft.|
|Standard engine||Rotax 912 (81 hp)|
|Power loading||15.4 pounds per hp|
|Cruise speed||75-95 mph|
|Never exceed speed||130 mph|
|Rate of climb at gross||900 fpm|
|Takeoff distance at gross||300 feet|
|Landing distance at gross||300 feet|
|Range (powered)||400 miles (4.5 hours)|
|Fuel Consumption||4.0 gph|
|Standard Features||Two side-by-side seats, full enclosure with doors and windows that open separately, skylight, folding wings, push-button flaps, steerable tailwheel, 19-gallon fuel tank, fiberglass used on cowling, instrument panel, wing tips and on leading edges of flaps and ailerons, folding wings, seat harnesses, fabric and glue, large tires, trim, bungee-suspended gear.|
|Options||Powder-coated fuselage weldment, quick-build wings, flaps and ailerons, hydraulic toe brakes, electric trim, tinted Lexan for windows and skylight, lighting kit, interior finish kits, spinner, extra-large tires and wheels, skis, nosewheel conversion kit.|
|Construction||Factory-welded steel fuselage, wood wing ribs, fiberglass fairing, dope-and-fabric wing coverings. Made in the USA.|
Cosmetic appearance, structural integrity, achievement of design goals, effectiveness of aerodynamics, ergonomics.
Pros - Side-by-side Escapade useful for training or, if N-numbered, passengers. Laden with features many buyers want. Proven configuration and construction with good handling and performance. Welded steel structure and folding wings.
Cons - Too heavy, as tested, to qualify for Part 103 training exemption. New competitor in a field of several that look similar (though the Escapade isn't identical to others). With fiberglass airplanes coming from Europe, some may feel the design looks dated.
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 - The Escapade as tested was well-equipped, featuring electric starting, 3-notch button-detent flap handle, directional toe brakes, and dual center sticks. Trim knob located between seats at base of flap handle. Panel-mounted primer. Plenty of panel room for radios or extra gauges.
Cons - Big 19-gallon fuel capacity not permitted for Part 103 trainers. Four-stroke engine may produce higher maintenance bills (though less frequently). Fueling is on top of wing; get a ladder. No other negatives.
Instrumentation; Ergonomics of controls; Creature comforts; (items covered may be optional).
Pros - Earlier Summit model was a tight tandem fit; the Escapade is a roomy side-by-side with outward curved windows. Seats adjust fore and aft even while occupied (if kept lubricated). Entry to either seat is simple; much better than earlier tandem model. Nicely finished interior; good cargo area. Doors-open flight works well; windows float upward and stay put.
Cons - Clear doors and windows may not reassure those who like structure surrounding them. Throttle offers no arm/wrist rest. A couple of wide or big fellows may feel cramped in the Escapade. Prototype's door/window latches need improvement to allow access (work is already planned).
Taxi visibility; Steering; Turn radius; Shock absorption; Stance/Stability; Braking.
Pros - Nosewheel steering is responsive through use of directional toe brakes. Brakes worked quite effectively and are mounted to both sets of rudder pedals. Secure footing with wide stance and good shock absorption with bungee suspension. Generous ground clearance.
Cons - Steering less responsive than full-swiveling tailwheels (though directional brakes and castoring nosewheel help). Visibility over the nose was not as clean as expected for a nosedragger.
Qualities; Efficiency; Ease; Comparative values.
Pros - Climb is most enthusiastic with 81-hp Rotax 912 engine; solo ground roll was less than 200 feet. Excellent visibility around you at all times and to front during landings. Flaps were quite effective at controlling approach path steepness. Strong aileron response helps in crosswinds.
Cons - Shorter wingspan than earlier Summit tandem model, so ground roll is longer and speeds somewhat higher. Higher weight with larger engine choices. Rotax 912S or Jabiru 4- or 6-cylinder engines mean faster speeds during takeoff and landing (though some may welcome this compromise).
Quality and quantity for: Coordination; Authority; Pressures; Response; and Coupling.
Pros - Noticeably improved handling qualities over others in this design configuration. Light, reasonably fast, authoritative. Controls system displays a good balance between ailerons and rudder. Coordination exercises and precision turns went well from the start.
Cons - What's good for some pilots may not be for others; the Escapade's quicker handling may be too fast for some newer pilots. Heavier engine up front (like Rotax 912 or Jabiru 2200/3300) may demand greater use of trim system.
Climb; Glide; Sink; Cruise/stall/max speeds; Endurance; Range; Maneuverability.
Pros - Fuel consumption plus noise and vibration are good with the Rotax 912 4-stroke engine. As with similar designs, performance is very good for such a small wing (108 square feet). Very strong climb with Rotax 912. Cruise is nearly 100 mph without straining engine.
Cons - Side-by-side suffers extra frontal drag compared to earlier tandem model, the Summit. Sink rate without flaps didn't impress me (understandable with higher-loaded small wing). Engine tended to run rather hot, requiring management; factory plans changes in the cowling to remedy this.
Stall recovery and characteristics; Dampening; Spiral stability; Adverse yaw qualities.
Pros - Lower adverse yaw than experienced on other similar designs. Stall speeds were admirably slow for small-area wing; down close to 30 mph when solo. Stalls broke cleanly. Longitudinal power response was positive (though a bit slow). Four-point belts for both seats.
Cons - Stall break may be sudden for pilots with less experience. Disturb the joystick at trim and the Escapade returns to level somewhat slowly. Stick range seemed less generous than some prefer, noticed most in steep turn maneuvers with only cruise power.
Addresses the questions: "Will a buyer get what he/she expects to buy, and did the designer/builder achieve the chosen goal?"
Pros - The Escapade is what a lot of pilots are seeking; Kitfox-like looks, performance, and handling without a higher price and complexity. Options can quicken your building and personalize your Escapade. Folding wings do not require control disconnect (possibly saving improper reassembly).
Cons - Base price of $14,500 (after intro $12,500 offer) is higher than some alternatives; costly 4-stroke engine not included. Painting and finishing can add significantly to price - especially if you want your plane to look like the factory Escapade.