The first of the fall Light-Sport Aircraft series of shows was the Midwest LSA Expo in Mt. Vernon, Illinois, held Sept. 6-8, 2018. That event offered Americans and your faithful reporter a first look at the new A32 Vixxen from Aeroprakt.
To give some perspective, the Ukraine-based Aeroprakt factory manufacturing the new model has been building the A22LS model — sometimes called Valor — for many years. More than 1,000 are flying in a variety of countries.
Indeed, U.S. importer Dennis Long has logged a good run of sales since he took over about three years ago. A22 has an agreeable starting price of about $85,000. Given that the average price of a new vehicle in America is now $36,000 — for machines made by the hundreds of thousands each year — that cost for a well-made Light-Sport Aircraft is quite affordable.
Smoother and Better
A32 Vixxen has already made appearances in some European countries and in Australia, thanks to an active dealer in that down-under nation. The Midwest LSA Expo was the debut for the new Aeroprakt model in America.
Many pilots expect to see the first appearance of a new model at the biggest airshows. That’s not an unreasonable expectation as those huge venues offer lots of journalists snooping for a story, plus lots of foot traffic.
Nonetheless, the small shows are superior for demo flying and sales, so when Dennis got his first A32, he didn’t hesitate to bring it to Midwest LSA Expo to let people see it.
One of those people was your reporter and I got to fly the new machine.
Many acknowledge success in life is a matter of timing and here’s one of those situations when a sector-specific show wins. The new Aeroprakt A32 just won its SLSA approval (#147 on the SLSA List). The Midwest LSA Expo was the first show after A32 got its airworthiness documents, so the new model was present in a bright orange paint job. You could not miss it on the terminal apron at Mt. Vernon Outland Airport (KMVN).
Immediately on arriving, my video partner Dave Loveman and I spent a morning working on a Video Pilot Report about A32 Vixxen. We captured video from the ground, spent an hour flying with multiple cameras mounted, and after landing recorded what we call the “stand up.” This segment comes after the flight when I — can you guess? — stand by the the airplane and review what I learned.
We loaded A32 Vixxen with six of our Garmin Virb cameras plus Dave’s new Garmin 360 camera. We like to use all the same cameras as they do the job very well and because then we don’t have to figure out how to use different systems (…something about old dogs and new tricks).
Look and Feel of the A32 Vixxen
First blush: This is a great flying airplane, reflecting Aeroprakt’s experience producing and refining so many hundreds of the predecessor A22LS. In the A32, engineers have incorporated many upgrades. The general appearance is similar, but the changes are many.
One measure of success is a significant widening of the flight envelope. Top speed increased to 130 mph, as we witnessed in low-altitude upwind and downwind runs with the carbureted Rotax 912 ULS at 5,500 rpm.
A22 would max out at about 105 mph, so this was a pretty solid 20% bump in speed. Yet A32 retains the earlier design’s low speed capabilities.
We saw stall in the low 40 mph (35 knots) bracket and witnessed airspeed into the high 30s without loss of control.
Of course, these exercises were preparing for stall evaluations, which proved to be some of the most benign I’ve experienced in a Light-Sport Aircraft. Stall break was extremely mild with little fall-through and while a wing dipped modestly, it recovered itself. I never added power for recovery to normal flight and altitude loss was minimal. Excellent!
When deploying or retracting flaps, pitch change is very minor. True, two notches is only 20° of flaps, but deploying them made quite an aerodynamic change, just not a pitch change. On one landing I made with no flaps, I had to raise the nose significantly high to put A32 on the ground.
A32 uses a full flying stabilator, a change from A22, and it was more responsive than the former. It will take a bit longer to get used to, but it is a powerful surface.
On takeoff, importer Dennis Long demonstrated how immediately the stabilator will lift the nose off the ground. In fact, that’s his preferred takeoff technique: Power to full, almost immediately pull aft on the Y-shaped joystick, control the nose so it sits a few inches off the runway, and let A32 then fly herself into the air. I followed his method and it worked wonderfully well.
A32 uses the identical wing from A22 from the fuselage root out. However, the numerous clean-ups of the fuselage — and they are many indeed — make the new model more efficient.
A pilot literally has to work at getting it back on the ground — and that’s a very good thing.
I reduced power to 3,000 rpm, almost idle thrust, abeam my touchdown target and then began to retard speed, lowering one notch of flaps after we got in flap speed range (below 93 mph). On base leg I had both notches in and was monitoring my speed carefully as one nearly always must in long-floating Light-Sport Aircraft. Using 60-65 mph was fine on base turning final, but I moved it to 55 to 60 on short final and was ideally at 50-55 mph over the numbers.
With two notches of flaps and with a modest headwind, A32 landed very short, probably less than 300-400′, although I did not measure.
You enjoy excellent visibility on landing as you do in flight in the A32 Vixxen. It lacks a skylight but otherwise offers a very wide view all around. I could even watch as the main gear touched down (when Dennis was controlling the aircraft, that is).
Takeoff and landing has been quoted at “under 100 meters” (300′) and I believe it. No question it was short, assuming, of course, decent technique.
Aloft or for takeoff and landing, A32 Vixxen was easy to fly with a joystick that provided enough feedback, yet offered crisp response. In flight, I found the aircraft very well behaved and suitable for less experienced flyers, naturally assuming proper instruction and transition training.
Overall, I think Aeroprakt has a winner in A32 Vixxen.
Dennis Long equipped this particular example with most available options, including the Magnum airframe parachute system and Dynon’s HDX digital instrument plus autopilot. If you need want one equipped with such higher end equipment, A32 Vixxen remains reasonably priced, all things considered, at $135,000.
While any price quoted will be too high for some budgets, these numbers qualify as reasonably affordable. If not, the supply of good, used Light-Sport Aircraft grows daily.
A32 Vixxen is a fine example of the light airplane builder’s art and most pilots who take a demo flight should be as impressed as I was.
Well done, Aeroprakt, and thanks to Dennis for allowing us to scurry all over his new bird for an entire morning.
Aeroprakt A32 Vixxen Specifications
Weight & Dimensions
- Seating: 2, side-by-side
- Cabin width (at elbows): 50.75″
- Wingspan: 31′
- Length: 20.5′
- Height: 7.25′
- Max takeoff weight: 1,320 pounds
- Empty weight (no fuel): 695 pounds
- Useful load: 625 pounds
- Payload (at full fuel): 475 pounds
- Fuel capacity (standard): 25 gallons
- Powerplant: Rotax 912 ULS, 100 horsepower
- Max. continuous speed (VH): 136 mph/120 knots
- Cruise speed (75% power): 113 knots
- Stall speed (flaps down): 27 knots
- Never exceed speed: 125 knots
- Takeoff Roll: 300′
- Landing Roll: 300′
- Range (with reserve): 650 statute miles
- Endurance: 4.5 hours
- Best Climb Rate Speed: 65 knots
- Best Glide Speed (no flaps): 59 knots
- Best Approach Speed (full flaps): 49 knots
- Max Flap Extension Speed: 81 knots
All specifications supplied by manufacturer’s representative