If there was one owner whose plane got a lot of quizzical stares at the Northwest EAA Fly-In at Arlington, Wash., this year, it was Jerry T. Sater of Kettle Falls, Wash. Sater’s bright green Wilga was a rarity among the line of homebuilt and vintage machines.
Sater had barely landed before curious pilots surrounded him. Many had never seen a Wilga before.
Sater enjoys the attention. “I’ve had it about a year,” he said. “I like it because it is very different and not boring.”
The Wilga is a Polish built aircraft. Designed to be sort of a flying sport utility vehicle, you often see these airplanes in movies about post-apocalyptic worlds. During the Cold War they were often used to escape to the West because the landing gear is so durable the pilots could use just about anything for a runway. The aircraft also has pronounced STOL capabilities. This becomes apparent if you study the wings for any length of time.
The airplane is not designed for speed, according to Sater.
“It cruises at about 100 miles per hour and lands at 50,” he said. “You can see that the airframe creates a lot of drag.”
Landing and take off can be a challenge, he added, “because at slow speeds it wants to wallow.”
Some would say Wilgas are so ugly they are cute, kind of like a praying mantis, which is why Sater had that image painted on the cowling.
“Doesn’t it look like a praying mantis?” he asked. “It looks like that to me!”
Sater’s love for back country flying also influenced his choice of airplane.
“I love flying in the boondocks of Idaho,” he explained. “This is truly a back country airplane, because it is built really well and it is versatile from the day it rolls out of the factory. It’s already set up for floats if you want, or tundra tires. It can also accommodate a camera pod and it will pull three gliders at once. It really is a utility airplane.”
Sater calls the Wilga a flying camper, noting that the seats come out very easily to accommodate gear.
“More easily than, say, a Cessna 180 or 190 series,” he notes.
The Wilga is also designed for easy maintenance. The inspection panels on the underside of the wings, for example, open with a push of a button and there are several of them so it is easier for maintenance crews to look inside the wing.
This was Sater’s first visit to the Arlington show in the Wilga.