Flying the Kitfox LSA

One of the benefits of the Light Sport Aircraft movement is that it has paved the way for manufacturers of kit aircraft to enter the world of ready-to-fly designs. One of the more recent entries into the fly-away models is the Kitfox S-LSA from Kitfox Aircraft LCC of Homedale, Idaho. It’s designed to appeal to pilots who want something in a sporty high wing, as well as the training market.

The Kitfox S-LSA traces its lineage back more than 25 years to the experimental Kitfoxes. The family resemblance is undeniable, but like most aircraft, the engineering has been refined and improved upon with every incarnation. The company also changed ownership over the years. Today it is owned by John and Debra McBean, who are more than happy to tell you anything you want to know about the LSA or the factory at Homedale Municipal Airport (S66).

The Kitfox LSA looks like…a Kitfox. It has the familiar foldable high wings, gull-wing doors and tricycle gear. Under the cowl is a Rotax 912S, which is pretty much the industry standard when it comes to LSAs.

The Kitfox LSA measures just under 31 feet wingtip to wingtip, which means that it should slide right into parking spots used by other light trainers.

The gross weight of the Kitfox is 1,320 pounds. Useful load is 552 pounds, which is more than most Cessna 150 series airplanes. The cockpit is also considerably wider than a Cessna 150 series airplane.

“Two normal-sized adults can fit in the Kitfox LSA,” said John McBean who, as a CFI, has done the “sit sideways so we both fit in the Cessna” trick. “Compared to the Cessna, the Kitfox has a bigger cockpit and payload and a more spunky personality,” he said with a grin, adding, “We only hope it to be as popular as the Cessna 152.”

The Kitfox has adjustable rudder pedals, which get a big thumbs up from me, but I think I could have used a small back pad for more comfortable full rudder authority during my flight. McBean noted that the company has pads made specifically for the Kitfox should you desire one.

There is no need to over-stretch to reach anything. Stick forces are light. The Kitfox LSA, like the designs that have come before it, is designed for finger-tip flying. There isn’t a lot of baggage space in the Kitfox LSA, but it is not designed to be a fly-all-the-way-across-the-country-with-two-weeks-worth-of-clothes-airplane. It’s designed to be an effective trainer, as well as a “go out and have a good time” airplane.

The Kitfox factory demo LSA has an Advanced Flight Systems (AFS) 3500 glass panel. Although buyers can pretty much do whatever they want in the way of a panel, glass seems to be gaining more popularity in the LSA world. This LSA also has angle of attack indicator. Basically, the aircraft speaks to you to warn of an oncoming stall and gives instructions on how to avoid it. I have some experience with Kitfox aircraft and found their stall characteristics to be rather benign, so I was surprised by this.

“We thought it was important to add because the most common accidents are stall/spin accidents,” said McBean. “It is set to a really conservative level. It is activated by pressure ports on the top and bottom of the wing. We calibrated it so as you get close to the stall, you will hear an audible alert and a female voice will tell you ‘angle, angle, push, push,’ and what it is telling you is to push the stick forward.”

The AOA is also color-coded. Red is BAD. Yellow is caution. Green is normal. So if you did not hear the warnings, feel the vibration, notice the sound of the engine has changed, feel the buffet, or see that you have a windshield filled with sky, a look at the AOA and the color coding should clue you in that a stall is in your near future.

TAKEOFF

McBean demonstrated a short field takeoff, getting us off the ground within a few hundred feet. The climb rate was good with optimal visibility. We flew west and climbed to get some altitude for air work. The 912S provided plenty of power for chandelles that got us up to altitude.

Dutch rolls were first. You don’t as much fly this airplane as you waltz around the sky with it. Adverse yaw, even when you intentionally get sloppy in a turn, is at a minimum. Steep turns were next. We did them at 45° and 50° of bank. The visibility in the Kitfox, even when you have it basically pirouetting on one wing, is excellent because of the turtle deck and the wide plexiglas doors.

Stalls were next. I had to see (and hear) the Angle of Attack indicator. As the nose was brought up a female voice chimed in: “Angle…angle…push…push!”  There was a buffet and a break and we were flying with minimal altitude loss. Slips were next. I did a forward slip, then McBean took the controls and did a sideslip that would probably make most airplanes lose parts. The Kitfox handled it like a champ.

We did the flight during a fly-in, which requires you to be flexible when it comes to landing. The Kitfox proved it was when we were told to do a short approach and land on the grass. Another slip and a soft-field landing and we were down in a minimal amount of real estate.

Because of its relatively low fuel consumption (another benefit of the Rotax engine), the operational costs of the Kitfox LSA are designed to be lower than that of many other training aircraft. At 75% power the Kitfox will consume 4.8 gallons per hour, or roughly a third less than many other non-LSA trainers on the market. Endurance in the Kitfox is about five hours at that power setting.

The only downside I could see is that some FBOs and schools are still reluctant to embrace the 912S engine, waiting instead for Lycoming or Continental to produce something that will work for LSAs.

Base price is $83,495. Nicely equipped with glass, under $100,000.

For more information: KitFoxAircraft.com.

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