Evektor, a long-established manufacturer of aircraft in the Czech Republic, has just delivered the first SportStars to its distributors. This aircraft, certified in accordance with EASA CS-LSA, enables pilot training without restrictions. Emmanuel Davidson, a huge fan of training aircraft, was the first to test the SportStar in flight.
A pilot report from the October issue of the Aviation at Pilot magazine in France
Author: Emmanuel Davidson, Photos: Jean-Michel Bossuet
Original aricle in Aviation at Pilot download here.
In France, the market of training aircraft has been a guarded territory of Pierre Robin aircraft for many years. These days, however, more and more aero clubs and flying schools are eager to have more modern aircraft with low operating costs.
Design plays an important role in the selection made by pilots and aeroclubs should always take this fact into consideration. Evektor, well comprehending this trend, played all the trumps by certifying its two-seat SportStar according to CS-LSA standards in order to offer a relatively cheap training aircraft with exceptionally good characteristics. The Czech manufacturer is well known in France for its ultralight EuroStar planes, but its complete range of aircraft is often overlooked. Particularly worth noting is the four-seat passenger airplane, the VUT100 Cobra and the two-engine turboprop for 9 passengers, the EV-55 Outback
We met with Fabrice Hoffmann, the founder of Aero4You and the new French importer of Evektor aircraft, who deals with the commercialization of the SportStar RTC for customers in France. Fabrice is fully aware of the difficulty in convincing clubs and pilot schools to have faith in the new aircraft importer.
Harnessing enthusiasm and expertise
The private pilot, who decided to combine enthusiasm and experience with the necessary facilities, surrounded himself with people capable of convincing potential customers of the excellent quality of the newly distributed aircraft. Patrick Wadsworth, the FI and FE with over 40 years´ flying experience and well-known in the Paris region, is one of such.
I explore the plane with Patrick. As he is both a flight instructor and test inspector, my request for a full ground briefing comes as no surprise. We pass an hour going through technical characteristics, flight parameters, etc. The flight manual gives a clear idea of the manufacturer´s position on the market and most importantly of the SportStar RTC characteristics. Some manuals respect the structure required by authorities, but turn out to be rather poorly written and user-hostile. Fortunately, the SportStar RTC manual is not one of such! Extremely comprehensive and detailed, the manual fully satisfies instructors who wish to use it as a basis for safe and efficient training. The content is so clear that nothing is left to ambiguous interpretation.
As soon as the various parameters and limits are covered, we begin to speak about the aircraft with regard to its use, pilot training and utilization at aeroclubs. The plane is designed for daily operation; its structure is metal and solid, which allows for easy maintenance.
Although the construction is riveted, adhesive bonding of metal parts is applied, as is in old Grumman aircraft. This known and well mastered technology enables reinforcement of the fuselage and wings without increasing weight by multiplying rivet lines. Special attention was paid to engine access in order to facilitate Rotax maintenance. Flight control is actuated by pullrods and tubes with the exception of direction control which uses cables. This minimizes adjustments of tension in cables and allows for the controls to remain homogeneous throughout the year. The glass canopy provides an all-round view and has a particularly elegant and practical locking system. A visual alarm on the instrument panel signals every partial closing. The presence of visual marking on its structure enables to verify that the wings and the fuselage aren´t misaligned after a hard landing, which can frequently occur during training.
The landing gear is composed of composite landing gear legs and nosewheel which absorbs shock thanks to rubber silent-blocks, just as in Mooney aircraft. Overall, the construction impresses with its robustness and simplicity. The aircraft is obviously designed to withstand rigorous training, as well as for use on rough runways.
The spacious instrument panel allows installation of advanced avionics. The handle of the parachute may be found below the throttle control.
The SportStar is elegant and well balanced, in spite of its small size. The vertical stabilizer is rather efficient, facilitating control of the aircraft in crosswinds. The interior is elegant and comfortable. Note a small folding armrest between the seats. The rudders are adjustable. Cabin access is easy and the antiskid measures are more efficient than they seem!
The pre-flight check was quick as dusk was approaching. Worth noting is the simplicity of oil level inspection, engine covers can be removed in under 3 minutes. The camlocks used are of sufficient quality to withstand the negative effects of time.
Amazing comfort for a light aircraft
One of the weaknesses of very light aircraft is often insufficient comfort on board. Although this isn´t really an issue for those spending no longer than 1 hour on board, the situation is different for instructors whose backs suffer from weight savings on cushions and seats. This, however, is certainly not the case of the SportStar! The seats are comfortable and the adjustment of rudders allows you to find the right position for pleasant piloting, which allows for long and repeated flights. What´s more, the interior is elegant and notable is the presence of a small folding armrest which you are sure to appreciate during long flights.
The controls are smartly arranged with the exception of the parking brake. Located under the pilot seat, it´s difficult to reach and requires some contortion from the pilot.
In spite of its small size, the two-seater impresses with its cockpit comfort. Once you´re in the aircraft, you may be surprised by how much larger it seems than from outside. The cabin width is 1.18 m, which is a record for aircraft in this category.
The instrument panel is large enough to allow for installation of basic instruments or a plate more completely equipped with standard instruments or the PDF and MFD screens. Further worth noting is that all switches and indicators are of aeronautical quality.
The bonus is a sun visor that can be raised to the top of the canopy and protect the crew against the sun.
It is always interesting to fly in new versions of airplanes. The SportStar RTC isn´t that much different from ULM or LSA versions. A few differences are, however, significantly noticeable. With a MTOW of 600 kg, you can finally have sheet metal, so you don´t have to worry about them bending at the slightest contact or boarding of two reasonably corpulent passengers. As a result, there is still payload remaining for fuel: what a difference! We found the following breakdown of load: 180 kg of crew, 362 kg of empty aircraft weight (parachute rescue system included) and 44 kg of fuel, which is about 60 liters or 3.5 hours of flight without reserve. That means we have 586 kg now and we could load another 14 kg of fuel or baggage.
Its comfort and reliability makes it the perfect airplane for use at flight schools. Moreover, this certified aircraft has a parachute rescue system, which explains the slightly higher empty weight. The airplane follows the route course more precisely, although I cannot confirm whether this is due to higher weight or a different front landing gear. After the engines are tested, the wing flaps are extended by a large handle and the aircraft puts on speed. The trajectory is easily stabilized and the necessary speed is reached in the twinkling of an eye. During the initial climb, the angle of inclination is significant whilst the plane remains stable. No worries about keeping the symmetry, a light touch by the foot is enough to keep the ball centered. Performance stated by the manual is promptly verified. The cruising speed is stated in all honesty. In any case, 95 KTAS at 5 000 RPM or 105 KTAS at 5 500 RPM, with consumption of about 17 liters per hour is a pretty good result.
The gas throttle is controlled via the Vernier throttle type, as is in Cessna or Mooney aircraft. It is easy to operate and above all it allows particularly precise settings. Two things in particular surprised me during flight. The first is that I can put my feet on the floor without any aircraft requirements. The stability during sharp turns is impressive. The second is that I can leave the controls without observing significant changes in altitude or banking: the neutrality is remarkable. The flight controls are pleasant, just heavy enough on the three axes so that you have the impression of piloting and light enough to enjoy piloting the SportStar accurately on its trajectory. The flight controls are also very precise which makes the flight easy and safe. The electric elevator trim is quite sensitive, but you quickly get used to it.
Once the photos have been taken, we take the liberty to maneuver in order to perform a series of stalls: in the landing configuration, with extended wing flaps, in a turn and at full power. In all configurations the stall occurred at the speed specified in the flight manual and without the tendency to occur in one wing or the other. It is sufficient to return the arm without interfering with the control of the aircraft to restore its neutral position. In short, all this is demonstrative enough for flight schools and friendly enough for greenhorn pilots not to fear solo flights.
Back on the runway, we carried out a series of landings and go-arounds. You can feel the engine effects without the necessity of making excessive effort, even in the case of “brutal” go-arounds. Takeoff and landing distances are very short and the landing gear flexes well, which is useful in case of a late touchdown.
Advanced yet low-cost
The SportStar RTC certainly took the needs of flight schools into full consideration. Evektor has delivered a product that is robust, homogenous and advanced. Its behaviour during flight is adapted to aeroclubs by a pilotage that leaves sufficient perception for the trainees to rapidly learn how to master all aspects of flying. It´s robustness by all means does not exclude careful design and astonishing comfort. You should bear in mind that this isn´t a plane intended for busy travelers but rather designed as an ideal aircraft for flight schools and aeroclubs looking for both a multipurpose and cheap solution, as it´s cheaper than other existing options. The result is excellent and the success of the SportStar RTC depends solely on the interest of flight instructors and their will to ignore deep-rooted customs in order to come and try out the aircraft for themselves.
The SportStar is based on a simple concept and maintenance is minimal thanks to the solid aircraft structure. This makes the SportStar simply the ideal choice for aeroclubs and flight schools.