On September 1, 2004, when the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released the long-anticipated Sport Pilot and Light-Sport Aircraft regulations, a new aviation segment called light sport aircraft (LSA) was created. Some saw LSA as a bridge between ultralights and general aviation aircraft, but are LSA so different from ultralights? The answer is a mixed yes and no.
Yes, many aircraft look different in that the extra weight they may possess allows them to have full composite fuselages, a panel full of instruments even including fancy glass cockpit hardware, plus they can be delivered ready to fly even as 2-seaters. That’s different than our ultralight trainers or our amateur-built recreational aircraft that resemble those trainers. Prices for these light sport aircraft have pushed them beyond the budgets of many pilots.
On the other hand, these aircraft needn’t be all that different from ultralights. The new rule doesn’t require that they weigh the maximum 1,320 pounds. They don’t all have composite fuselages and wings. Some sport simpler panels with all you need but without autopilots and attitude instruments increasingly common in LSA. And some don’t even cost that much more than our beloved ultralights. Can that be accurate?
A Better Deal in LSA
At least one model, the Aeropro EuroFox, attempts to fight that price inflation. Even though the EuroFox is not new to Light Sport and Ultralight Flying readers, it bears another look.
When I wrote about LSA expected to enter the marketplace three or four years ago, the price situation was different. I evaluated the Flight Design CT and said it was priced at $55,000 to $60,000. That was then; this is now. Today the CT is $95,000. True, it comes with more standard equipment including – among a number of new additions – a BRS emergency parachute system worth more than $5,000 all by itself. Even so, with the euro soaring against the dollar, a lot of the price increase is due to exchange rate. The manufacturer, importer, or dealers don’t make more when the dollar falls compared to the euro. Some buyers just think they do.
All European aircraft have suffered this same fate. But not all Special Light-Sport Aircraft sell for nearly six figures.
Re-Introducing the EuroFox
Importer and long-time ultralight enthusiast and dealer Rob Rollison says, “The EuroFox carries a very reasonable price and is relatively low-cost compared to most SLSA.” This is partly because the EuroFox has efficiencies of design, manufacturing and distribution. But some of it is attributable to Rollison’s distribution system under company name, Rollison Light Sport Aircraft (RLSA).
Rollison’s Indiana-based company sells the EuroFox “distributor-direct” in the U.S. and Canada. “By cutting out the middleman, RLSA can deliver the EuroFox to customers with a savings of at least 10% to 15% compared to what the price would be if distributed through a dealer network,” says Rollison. This also means that all after-sales care is done direct between the customer and RLSA, so when any assistance, spare parts or advice is needed, a EuroFox owner contacts RLSA directly. “This ensures the customer only receives correct, reliable information straight from the people who know their EuroFox best,” boasts Rollison.
The EuroFox is a factory-built 2-seat aircraft that has been manufactured in Europe since 1990 with more than 215 aircraft produced.
Even though the EuroFox looks a little like a Kitfox, it isn’t. If anything, “It’s a descendent of the Avid Flyer, as is the Kitfox,” says Rollison. “I think Dean Wilson and his original Avid Flyer deserves the credit for any ‘great tradition’ that was started.”
Aeropro principals did indeed start with Avid Flyer plans bought from a Canadian company. Given years of background in aviation, Aeropro owners saw ways to enhance the Avid Flyer design. Today, the EuroFox shares only the basic shape and planform of the original.
Kitfox Aircraft, a new company picking up from the ruins of a Chapter 11-filing SkyStar Aircraft Corporation, has not announced they will fully build any model as a Special-LSA. You can build as a kit and many used ones are on the market. But why build (unless you love it), and why take your chances with some other amateur’s building?
Thanks to Czech Republic-based Aeropro CZ and Indiana-based RLSA you can now buy a ready-to-fly EuroFox SLSA. You may think it looks like a completed Kitfox kit but workers who repeat familiar tasks to perfection fully and meticulously finish the EuroFox.
One owner, Gary Orpe, posted these words about his EuroFox: “Some of the things I have found since purchase have amazed me. For instance, the fit of the windshield is perfect and the screws holding the sides in place are all turned and tightened with the outside slot facing the exact same way as the rest of them, on both sides. The doors are fitted so close to the front side that you can see the careful cuts follow the very outline of that plane at that spot. All over I continue to find incredible caring craftsmanship from all parts of the plane. The engine comes with heat from the stainless muffler and attention to detail in the engine compartment is incredible.”
He added this little flight report: “It cruises at 90 mph at 4,200 rpm and sips 3.5 gph fuel. I have had it in level flight at 115 mph with 4,800 rpm.” Gary also reported he is six feet tall and weighs 215 pounds and says, “I have plenty of room once inside and it is very comfortable.”
Such a positive view of the craftsmanship is all the more significant when a EuroFox is compared to virtually any composite LSA from Europe. The Aeropro model is a significant bargain, approaching half price!
Over the years Rollison has represented several brands, first American ones and more recently international ones. Investigation over several years resulted in RLSA taking the North American distribution for Aeropro. Rollison has handled a variety of machines from wood and fabric to trikes to composite LSA. Yet the one he chooses to represent looks very familiar to American pilots. This is no coincidence.
Ask the Importer
You look at the plane and see it from your perspective, based on your ownership experience and talking to fellow pilots. Rollison has done a closer evaluation than most owners can. He performs a thoughtful, detailed inspection of any aircraft he plans to represent and he offered a summary of his EuroFox findings.
“The EuroFox is a 2-seat, side-by-side, high-wing, tricycle-gear aircraft that features the same quick-folding wings familiar to Avid Flyer or Kitfox buyers. It takes one person only 10 minutes to complete the job,” indicates Rollison.
The EuroFox uses a welded 4130-chromoly steel tube fuselage mated to aluminum structure wings with fuselage and wings covered with PolyFiber fabric for long durability. “A heavy-duty 5-point firewall engine mount braces your choice of the standard 80-hp Rotax 912 or the 100-hp Rotax 912S coupled to a 3-blade composite prop with spinner,” says Rollison.
Ground handling in the EuroFox is familiar to ultralight pilots, thanks to a steerable nosewheel coupled with hydraulic disk toe brakes. Earlier toe brakes were eliminated as Aeropro designed a one-lever brake system that actually provides stronger braking and is more reliable and durable.
Ramp maneuverability remains quite good. Rollison adds, “A parking brake feature helps secure the EuroFox while stationary on a ramp.
“Inside the cabin, you’ll find comfortable seats with durable upholstery and 4-point pilot restraints plus a large luggage compartment,” Rollison continues. A standard cabin heater extends the sport-flying season while dual fresh-air vents cool you off in the summertime. Some operators in the Sun Belt prefer high wings to gain a bit of shade in the hotter months.
Clear polycarbonate gull-wing doors with gas pistons help with entering and exiting the aircraft, but you can also quickly remove the doors for those lovely warm flying days. Many ultralight pilots can enjoy this quality. I didn’t get a chance to fly the EuroFox with the doors off, but I sure welcome the opportunity. Aeropro completes the interior with large skylights, door locks, and a carpeted cockpit. For dusk operations, the company even includes dual landing lights. All this interior finish and equipment is standard.
“Pilots will enjoy a vernier throttle, elevator trim, flaps, and a large instrument panel with flight and engine instrumentation including: airspeed indicator, 0-20,000-foot precision altimeter, vertical speed indicator, compass, and slip indicator,” details Rollison. A EuroFox is delivered with Rotax’s FlyDat digital engine-monitoring system, which provides engine rpm, oil temperature, oil pressure, water temperature, four EGT readouts, plus an hourmeter.
Bigger Than You Think
I think most pilots will immediately like the EuroFox gull-wing doors with their gas pistons that prop the door for easier entry. The doors latch securely with a single easily accessible door handle and the doorframes bow out noticeably at the elbow, giving the feeling of more interior room.
Thanks to those bowed doors, the EuroFox’s cockpit measures a hair over 44 inches wide, which compares well with a Cessna 150’s 39-inch width. In flight with a large passenger, I found the cockpit reasonably quiet even without headsets. The EuroFox may not be as quiet as high-end LSA, but with its more modest price tag, you could afford the best headsets. Fortunately, a related Rollison business, AirplaneGear.com, also sells several choices in headsets, among other flying paraphernalia.
As we taxied for takeoff, I found the EuroFox has effective brakes with a simple control.As with many aspects of this design, the execution is simple but flawless. For maneuvering in taxi, the steering has a generous range of motion such that I barely used earlier differential braking, which reinforces the change Aeropro engineers elected.
With 100 horsepower delivered by the Rotax 912S, takeoff was rapid. Company literature lists 160 feet as the takeoff distance at gross weight and I can confirm it was a brief run into flight. Landing takes a bit more at 225 feet, but both are so short that short- and soft-field operations are more easily handled.
I first flew the EuroFox from the rather short ultralight strip at AirVenture ’06 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. On my first landing I didn’t slow enough to get the EuroFox down within the confines of the runway so I added full power and tried again with better results. The challenge came from the EuroFox’s very respectable 14:1 glide at 60 mph. As many pilots know, the northwest runway in the ultralight area requires that you must make a short angled turn to final. Since you also approach over rows of airplanes and a roadway, I’d stayed too high and flew too fast. My subsequent landings were quite good and I never had to use the adequately powerful brakes.
When you slow it down using flaps and a good approach speed, the EuroFox can deliver a remarkably short landing. It’ll take a few hours of practice to do as well as a factory expert, but the potential is present. I found the best touchdowns came from full-stall landings where the nose is rather high. I prefer such landing touchdowns so this came quickly to me. If you like to approach fast and do a wheel landing you may find yourself burning up more runway than needed. A tailskid protects the rudder from damage if you perform steep deck-angle landings.
Dean Wilson’s Avid Flyer design, which lead to the Kitfox and otherderivatives like the EuroFox, all exhibit very lively handling that some feel is “too light.” Keeping the ball centered perfectly requires time logged in a EuroFox, but the Slovak engineers have refined the design from earlier Kitfox and Avid Flyer models I’ve flown. Light handling is something to which most pilots will easily adapt, and it will train new pilots well, I believe. Some ultralight or general aviation pilots used to more docile controls could be initially surprised by EuroFox’s quick response and rapid roll rate.
Though the EuroFox will zip along at good speeds - a 110-mph cruise is easily achieved – aileron flutter won’t be a concern. Small weighted tubes at the outboard section of each aileron sport mass balances to keep ailerons in line. Like all component parts of a EuroFox they were simple but cleanly integrated. Rollison reports the factory has worked long and hard to place the full-flying ailerons in precisely the right location to make them as effective as possible while maintaining the light handling for which this design shape is known.
I found the EuroFox’s trim to be highly effective. While getting used to the design and changing trim to sense pressure changes, I noted that you could probably pitch the aircraft for an emergency landing by the use of trim only.
Delivered with a fuel capacity of 22.5 gallons, the EuroFox can demonstrate a range of more than 550 miles. The fuel load and miserly burn rate equate to nearly 6 hours endurance.
Many pilots prefer high-wing airplanes and this is even truer among pilots operating in intensely sunny locales. Yet high wings block visibility in turns. To offset the disadvantage, the EuroFox’s large skylight opens upward visibility and even somewhat to the aft. All turns made toward the opposite of the side on which you’re seated will produce an enlarged view of the turn ahead.
All the stalls I performed in the EuroFox were very mild in characteristics, a great situation when this aircraft is used for flight training. Except for the snappy handling that will take a few hours of acclimation, the EuroFox seems well suited to newer pilots. Through power-off and power-on stalls plus accelerated stalls, I noted no tendency to fall on a wing and nose fall-through was muted.
Like the original Avid Flyer and those similar designs that followed, a primary EuroFox sales feature is its easily folded wings. After loosening a few linkage pins, the wings swing back flat and easy just like the older designs. When properly stowed, the EuroFox measures slightly less than 8 feet wide, less than 6 feet tall, and 21.5 feet long. Rollison reports it takes “only one person, only 10 minutes!”
Because the EuroFox resembles the Kitfox and Avid Flyer kits, you could be excused for asking if a EuroFox kit is available. It is not. Rollison and the Aeropro owners discussed this and made a decision not to offer a kit. “The pricing isn’t that much better and most folks are interested in factory-built, ready-to-fly airplanes,” says Rollison. Nonetheless he said a small percentage of his inquiries asked about kits a few years ago. Now,”virtually all potential customers prefer airplanes they don’t have to build,” reports Rollison. In addition, I think it would be tough to do the job as well as Aeropro’s trained, supervised, and experienced workers.
So, holding down the price via a kit isn’t a choice. But let’s add up some numbers. A Kitfox kit is about $20,000 delivered. A Rotax 912S engine would add another $15,000 or so. Paint your kit, prepare an interior for it, add some instruments and lighting and that kit could add up to $45,000 or more.
The EuroFox sells for about $56,000 and can be used commercially for instruction, rental, or leaseback. Plus, you won’t spend two or three years building your kit.
At this time, RLSA lists the EuroFox at $55,950, which includes the 80-hp Rotax 912 engine and delivery to Indiana plus U.S. aircraft registration. You could love flying a EuroFox equipped with only standard equipment, but pilots love to personalize their flying machines.
For those with fatter wallets or bigger desires, you may want to upgrade to a 100-hp Rotax 912S engine ($2,650 more); XCOM radio with VOX-intercom system ($1,490); Becker transponder-encoder ($2,485); AmeriKing ELT ($305); Skybright “Nightlight” wing tip strobe and LED position lights ($719); a choice of two-color paint scheme ($985); ADI electronic attitude indicator with GPS feature ($1,340); BRS 1350-pound LSA-approved ballistic recovery system ($4,495).
For a EuroFox as well as any option installed overseas, you’ll have to check with Rollison Light Sport Aircraft, as the euro/dollar exchange rate remains volatile. A couple of years ago, RLSA and other companies tried to price aircraft in euros so at least the figure would stay put for a while. However, Americans don’t want to check the paper or the Internet to see the exchange rate difference. In early 2007, Rollison has set the price at $55,950; he’ll adjust as necessary.
RLSA’s sister business – AirplaneGear.com – offers other enticing goodies: headsets, GPS units, flight suits, strobe and position lights, radios, helmets (some with built-in headsets), avionics, and other items.
I know many readers did a lot of flying with ultralights that could be bought for less than $20,000. While I hope we have some ultralight LSA (if that phrase can be used) selling in the $30,000 or $40,000 range with 4-stroke engines, I expect we will continue to have 2-stroke-powered kit aircraft that can get you in the air for fairly small amounts of money. But when you compare kits comparably equipped to a EuroFox, you’ll see what a bargain it is.
In these days of modern LSA, a price of about $56,000 for a ready-to-fly light sport aircraft is a relative bargain. Some suppliers may announce slightly lower prices for Made-in-the-USA sport aircraft with simple equipment, but few companies can put together a more attractive package than Aeropro’s handsome EuroFox.
|Empty weight||877 pounds|
|Gross weight||1,232 pounds|
|Wingspan||30 feet, 2 inches|
|Wing area||123.8 square feet|
|Wing loading||10.0 pounds per square foot|
|Length||18 feet, 11 inches|
|Cabin Interior||44.1 inches|
|Height||5 feet, 10 inches|
|Kit type||Fully assembled|
|Set-up time||10 minutes wing fold time (1 person)|
|Standard engine||Rotax 912|
|Power loading||12.3 pounds per hp|
|Cruise speed||110 mph 1|
|Never exceed speed||143 mph|
|Rate of climb at gross||980 fpm 2|
|Takeoff distance at gross||160 feet 2|
|Landing distance at gross||225 feet|
|Notes:||1 With 80-hp Rotax 912 engine at 75% power or 100-hp Rotax 912S engine at 60% power
2 With 100-hp Rotax 912S engine
|Standard Features||Rotax 912, 3-blade Fiti-brand prop, vernier-control throttle, carburetor heat control, stainless steel exhaust, large instrument panel with large map pocket, airspeed indicator, precision altimeter, VSI, compass, slip indicator, FlyDat digital engine instrument providing display of tach, CHT, four EGTs, oil temperature, oil pressure, hourmeter, and Rotax fuel pressure gauge, steerable (not castoring) nosewheel, fully enclosed cabin, cabin heater and vents, clear doors with locks, carpeted floor, overhead skylight, quick-folding wing system, dope-and-fabric wings and tail, flaperons, wheel pants, hydraulic disk brakes with parking brake feature, 4-point seat belts, large baggage compartment, dual landing lights, one-color paint with various graphics choices.|
|Options||100-hp Rotax 912S, radios, transponder, ELT, additional avionics, wing strobes and position lights, two-color paint scheme, ADI attitude indicator, and BRS 1350 emergency parachute.|
|Construction||Chromoly welded steel fuselage, aluminum wing structure, fiberglass nose cowl and wing tips, dope-and-fabric wings and tail coverings. Major fabrication in the Slovak republic with final approval and export from the Czech Republic; distributed by U.S.-owned company.|
Cosmetic appearance, structural integrity, achievement of design goals, effectiveness of aerodynamics, ergonomics.
Pros – Now with Special Light-Sport Aircraft approval, a EuroFox can compete with much more expensive LSA. It may look like an Avid Flyer or a Kitfox but is a contemporary remake with European finesse. Clean execution at a relatively modest price. Familiar construction materials and proven design shape.
Cons – Some buyers, especially general aviation pilots, regard dope-and-fabric covering as less desirable (vs. metal), and this may affect resale price. For some American pilots, a distant import isn’t optimal (though Rollison Light Sport Aircraft has been in the business enough years to offset this negative).
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 EuroFox features flaperons, in-flight trim, hydraulic brakes with parking feature and nice features such as a vernier throttle for precise power adjustment. Flap and trim levers are located between the seats where either occupant can reach them.
Cons – Flaperon designs can restrict control deflections when flaps are fully deployed (though the EuroFox always exhibited enough control authority). Flaperon set position is more challenging to verify by eye. Differential braking is not available.
Instrumentation; Ergonomics of controls; Creature comforts; (items covered may be optional).
Pros – The EuroFox reveals a clean interior with comfortable seats equipped with 4-point pilot restraints. Even the baggage area is finished with carpet. Doors bulge outward to increase cabin width. Generous-sized skylight increases lateral visibility in turns. Reasonably quiet interior even with headsets removed.
Cons – Many LSA designs offer more lateral size; two large Americans may feel rather crowded. Some general aviation pilots won’t care for the clear doors, though ultralight pilots should have no heartache with them.
Taxi visibility; Steering; Turn radius; Shock absorption; Stance/Stability; Braking.
Pros – Broad forward visibility. All-clear door panels and overhead skylight also help ensure a good view of traffic. The EuroFox nosewheel steering is precise. Brakes quite effective. Large ground clearance in case of rough-field landing.
Cons – No differential braking available (though hardly needed due to responsive nosewheel steering). No other negatives.
Qualities; Efficiency; Ease; Comparative values.
Pros – With 100-hp Rotax 912S, takeoff is short, with roll well under 200 feet. A strong glide (14:1 says producer) helps reach fields during landing approaches. Excellent control authority for crosswind operations. Suspension provided at all gear helps on rough fields.
Cons – Flaperons aren’t quite as effective as discreet flaps; some limiting of aileron effectiveness when flaps are fully deployed (though good control authority offsets this loss). No other negatives.
Quality and quantity for: Coordination; Authority; Pressures; Response; and Coupling.
Pros – As with similar designs familiar to Americans, the EuroFox boasts fast, responsive handling. Dutch rolls and precise turns to headings were easily accomplished. Harmony and balance are quite good, at least once you’ve acclimated to the light handling.
Cons – Beginner pilots will need additional training as the rudder will seem light for novice skills and experience; keeping the ball centered takes time (though design is otherwise a good trainer candidate with stable pitch). Flaperons limit some control deflection range when flaps are fully deployed.
Climb; Glide; Sink; Cruise/stall/max speeds; Endurance; Range; Maneuverability.
Pros – Strong performance with 100-hp Rotax 912 though the 80-horse Rotax 912 model will be plenty for most operators. Climb is strong, too. Glide is reported at 14:1 and my experience during landings reinforced a flat glide angle. Cruise speeds place the EuroFox as a medium performer in the LSA segment. Good range (more than 500 miles).
Cons – Compared to some LSA icons, the EuroFox doesn’t seem as strong a performer (though only the fastest designs can do much better). Fuel at 22.5 gallons offers less range than some LSA. No other negatives.
Stall recovery and characteristics; Dampening; Spiral stability; Adverse yaw qualities.
Pros – In all stalls executed, response was mild with modest lowering of the nose, as with many designs. Stall speeds are low for the category at about 40 mph (flaps down). Safety items such as 4-point seat belts and ballistic parachutes are available. Good, normal response to power increase/decrease.
Cons – Light EuroFox handling will require additional training for new pilots. Stalls break noticeably (though recovery is easy and rapid). No parachute fitted in test aircraft. No other negatives.
Addresses the questions: “Will a buyer get what he/she expects to buy, and did the designer/builder achieve the chosen goal?”
Pros – Rollison Light Sport Aircraft is an experienced importer that earns good marks for customer service from current EuroFox buyers. Familiar materials and construction techniques will convince many American pilots. Welded steel tube structure and dope-and-fabric covering bring good longevity.
Cons – Despite the EuroFox’s relatively low price some American pilots may regard the Aeropro creation as an older design in a time of carbon fiber LSA and this may affect resale value. New brand name not known to many Americans though importer is well known to many reader).