The performance and plane got so much attention that he flew it again in Sunday’s closing day airshow.
What many people don’t know is that Sunday’s performance was “25 years to the day” of his father, air show legend Jimmy Franklin, debuting the Kitfox Model 4 Speedster at Oshkosh.
“I was only 12 years old when my father flew it the first time,” he said. “But I remember him saying how fun that little airplane was and how impressed he was with the airplane — and that everybody really liked the way the airplane looked when it flew. I remember, even from back then, the high praise he gave that airplane.”
So when the new model was set to make its debut at this year’s AirVenture, Franklin was ready to see “what this thing will do.”“I also thought that it would be really cool to fly that airplane like my father did,” he said. “Plus, I knew this new model has got to be even better than what he flew, so I was really excited to fly the airplane. And it did not disappoint, that’s for sure.”
Franklin was not the only one impressed with the new Speedster at this year’s Oshkosh. Other airshow performers, including Patty Wagstaff and Bryan Regan of the Aeroshell Aerobatic Team, told Franklin “they were all very impressed with the airplane and what I was able to do with it.”
The plane also got a lot of attention from the crowds at Oshkosh, according to Kitfox President John McBean. Weeks after the show, the response is still “phenomenal,” he said.
The idea for updating the Speedster has been around for about five or six years, with the company getting serious about the project about two years ago, according to McBean.
“It was time for some variety,” he said.
When John and his wife took over Kitfox in 2006, they determined the Kitfox S7 Super Sport would be the company’s flagship airplane.
McBean refers to the Super Sport as the “ultimate all around $100 Hamburger Getter,” comparing it to an SUV.
Then a little more than two years ago, the company introduced the Series 7 STi (STol Inspired), “for those who want the STOL specific mission and still a cruise you can live with — or to put it another way, the pickup truck of the family.”
With the Speedster, they went in the other direction, introducing “a sports car,” he said.
“It has higher cruise and faster roll without much compromise in STOL operations,” he said.
The clipped wing taildragger is powered by a fuel-injected Rotax 912iS engine.
McBean notes the 2017 Kitfox Speedster is “significantly larger and faster than its earlier namesake, with a great useful load and excellent short field performance. With clipped wings and other refinements, the handling can only be described as ‘acro-like.’”
What’s even better is that many of the new modifications on the new Speedster are available for the Super Sport and STi, according to McBean, including 4130 streamline lift struts, composite leading edge, airfoil machined aluminum spring gear, different wheel pants for the smaller wheels and tires, and more.
“So now you can have a Kitfox that may fit your lifestyle or ‘flystyle’ today and can change with you in the future,” he said. “You can start with the Super Sport and change that later to an STi or a Speedster.”
The planes are available both as kits and factory built. Average build times vary, but typically take about 1,000 hours or about 18 months if building it part-time, McBean said.
Want the factory to build your Speedster? Lead times also vary depending on current orders, but McBean estimates it will take between one to three years to get yours in your hangar.
Price is $32,000 for the kit, with completion costs varying depending on personal panel choices and other options, he noted.
When Kyle Franklin first got the chance to fly the Speedster, he says he was “thoroughly impressed” with the airplane.
“It has the perfect amount of control pressure on it, it rolls fast, it’s light on the controls but not too light, and it was just an amazing flying airplane and I was really happy with it,” he said. “I knew it wasn’t going to take me long to figure out a routine in this thing. I flew it solid for a week and then pieced together a routine for Oshkosh.”
When he first started putting together his routine, he started off pretty high — about 3,000 feet — and started doing aerobatics.
“I figured out what it could do well and once I got that down, I then did the maneuvers kind of sloppy to see how it would recover and to figure out what the airplane does and does not like doing,” he explained. “From there, over the next couple of days, I just worked my way back down to the surface and flying low.”
“It was a smooth airplane to fly,” he reports, adding, “I can’t recall the last time I had that much fun flying an airplane.”
The only modification made to the Speedster Franklin flew at Oshkosh was the addition of a smoke system.
“Everything else in it is normal,” he said. “It’s got the tricked-out glass panel and the 912-iS engine. The fuel injection is really nice. It gives it a little bit more power and it’s just a little bit more efficient on running and running smooth.”
Franklin noted that the plane got a lot of attention at his airport. One reason may be the unusual green color, which was created just for the Speedster and is known as “Kitfox green.”
“Every time I would fly it, people were showing up at the airport wanting to look at it,” he said. “It’s a neat-looking little airplane and it had a lot of people very interested in it.”
Franklin remembers telling McBean that the plane would fly completely different at Oshkosh than at his field in Missouri, where the heat indexes were up to 105° and the humidity was off the charts.
“The airplane did very well even with the high temps and the high humidity,” he reported. “It was still very, very good. But it was a real hot-rod when I got up to Oshkosh and it’s 78° and low humidity. It was a lot of fun.”