Flying for a great many people is more about recreation than long-distance travel, so why shell out the money for a plane that’s more a flying minivan when what you really want is a motorcycle? That’s the mindset behind the X-Air Light-Sport Aircraft, a tube-and-fabric, high-wing ready-to-fly design made in Bend, Ore.
“This is not a new design,” noted Matt Verdieck, general manager of X-Air US. “The ultralight X-Air has been around for about 30 years. There are around 1,300 of them flying today around the world. It is designed to be a fun to fly, affordable, recreational machine.”
The X-Air is certified as a Special-LSA, which means that it can be used for flight training, said Verdieck, adding, “It’s one of the more economical S-LSAs on the market. It is all set to go for $59,995 nicely equipped with a Dynon VFR panel.”
The cabin is 43 inches wide, while the height from seat to ceiling is 37.5 inches. The cabin seems much larger when you are sitting in it because of the wrap-around windshield and large skylights. The tube struts and landing gear are set back from the door, which gives optimum downward visibility.
The cockpit is designed to be ergonomic. The contoured bucket seats conform with the spine, and the control stick is curved toward the panel, so there is no awkward “swing your leg over” moment to get into the cockpit. Entry can be made by grabbing the overhead tube, putting one foot in and sliding over. With the seat in the full aft position, there is 39 inches from the back of the seat to the rudder pedals.
The useful load of the X-Air is 575 pounds; with full fuel that drops to 485 pounds, but the fuel burn is an economical 3.4 to 4 gallons per hour with a typical cruise speed of 85 to 95 mph.
“That gives it a range of approximately 250 to 300 miles with full tanks,” said Verdieck. “There’s a zipper pouch behind the pilot’s seat that can hold approximately 10 to 25 pounds of whatever, so it’s a good place to store sectionals and the like.”
The X-Air is powered by a Jabiru 2200 85-horsepower engine connected to a DUC Swirl propeller.
Both the throttle and the flap lever of the X-Air are white rods with wooden handles. The flap lever is over the pilot’s head, the throttle on the floor, so it is unlikely that a pilot, especially a student pilot, will mistake one for the other.
According to Verdieck, the pilot needs to know how to use the rudders to get the most out of the X-Air.
“It is very much a stick and rudder airplane, which makes it a nice airplane for the training environment,” he said. “It reinforces the fact that you need the rudder if you want to get nice coordinated turns, but it has very gentle behavior in stalls.”
The panel is basic VFR analog gauges with Dynon engine monitoring equipment and an ICOM radio. There is also a gizmo dock should the buyer want to add GPS to the airplane.
The control surfaces are actuated with push pull rods and cables.
The airframe is made of aluminum tubing with fabric skin. When the light hits it just right, the wings look almost delicate but, according to Verdieck, they are tough, which makes them hard to tear. “The skin is sailcloth developed in Germany for the America’s Cup class racing sailboats. It has real good durability and UV properties,” he said, adding that in the highly unlikely event of damage to the cloth, repairs are relatively easy. “The various fuselage coverings are sewn on sleeves so that you can replace individual sections very easily. There is no shrinking or painting or doping or any of that. The factory also supplies parts for the airmen who hold LSA repairman certificates and want to do their own maintenance.”
Another selling point of the X-Air is that the wings can be folded back for ease of storage, so owners can further reduce the cost of ownership by sharing a hangar or even storing the LSA in a single-car garage.
A deposit of $5,000 holds the buyer’s position on the delivery schedule. The balance is due when the airplane is finished.
“Typically from order to delivery it’s about 30 to 45 days,” said Verdieck.
For more information: X-AirLSA.com
X-Air LSA Performance
- Max. Cruise speed: 113 mph
- Economical Cruise speed: 85 mph
- Stall speed: 39 mph
- Vy-best rate of climb: 59 mph/825 fpm
- Vx-best angle of climb: 56 mph/685 fpm
- Takeoff roll: 265 ft
- Takeoff over 50-ft obstacle: 620 ft
- Landing roll: 230 ft