Sport aviation's annual spring fling, the US Experimental Aircraft Association's Sun 'n' Fun Fly-In, attracted more than half a million aficionados who witnessed, among other things, the relaunch of the Wing Derringer and unveiling of a "flying motor home", the Private Explorer. Rain and humidity did little to dampen the enthusiasm for new ideas of the Sun 'n' fun visitors.

Although lauded for its performance on a pair of 120kW (160hp) Textron Lycoming O-320 engines - the 200kt (370km/h) twin was dubbed by some "the Ferrari of the skies" - the Wing Derringer went out of production in the early 1980s after the production of only 12 aircraft.

Now Derringer Aircraft has began production of a revamped machine, a "two-plus-two", sporting twin IO-360s derated to 120kW. Marketing manager Roger Lewis says that these changes are designed to boost both the Derringer's performance and its market appeal.

"We see two distinct markets where the Derringer is an ideal choice," he says. "One is the executive owner, someone who enjoys the appeal of a personal performance aeroplane; the other is the flight school, where the Derringer's costs and capabilities will make it a more cost efficient multi-engine trainer."



With the IO-360-C1A engines, the Derringer's maximum cruise speed rises to 216kt at 6,000ft (1,830m), while fuel consumption remains in the 50litres/h range. The Derringer has a range of about 1,400km (750nm), with a 45min reserve. The larger powerplants raise the single-engine service ceiling to 8,000ft and allow the Derringer to carry an observer student in the back, a practice common at ab initio airline flight training schools.

The price is about $349,000 for the basic aircraft. Instrument-flight capability boosts the price to about $400,000. According to Lewis, the Derringer will also be available with an electronic flight instrument system at a later date.

Derringer Aircraft expects its revised type certificate later this year, with aircraft to emerge from its Mojave, California, assembly plant in June. The company is planning to produce one aircraft a week once the plant is at full rate.

The Private Explorer is a recreational vehicle. This 175kW single cruises at only about 100kt, but, at a gross weight nearing 1,900kg, the aircraft lifts nearly its empty weight in fuel, people and provisions.

There is considerable room inside - enough for a full-sized bed in the aft fuselage. From the forward edge of the bed to the instrument panel, the Explorer boasts stand-up walking room, with about half the fuselage open for storage. Up front are four seats, arranged two abreast on elevated platforms so that passengers can see out of the large fuselage windows.

The price starts at $90,000 for the kit - or about $110,000 finished like the prototype which was displayed at Sun 'n' Fun, with basic visual flight rules (VFR) instruments and avionics. The Explorer airframe kit arrives with the fuselage and other steel parts pre-welded and ready for assembly.

Another new airframe on the field came from SkyStar Aircraft: the Kitfox Lite, a 110kg microlight built exactly like the company's popular two-seat Kitfox kitplanes, with a welded steel frame, cloth covering and tailwheel gear. The 26kW 2SI two-stroke engine delivers enough power to cruise at 55kt.

The Lite features full-span flaperons, like the full-sized Kitfox, and all components are prewelded for fast assembly - about 250h, according to Skystar. The asking price of the aircraft is about $15,000.

At the opposite end of the kitplane scale is the Avia Bellanca SkyRocket II, first unveiled at last year's Oshkosh show. According to president John Clark, progress is continuing toward delivering the first kits in about 18-20 months, after building a beta version of the all-composite six-seater from the new tooling being made to produce the components.

The completed SkyRocket should cruise at about 280kt on its 325kW Teledyne Continental GTSIO-520F, and cover up to 3,700km, cruising at 26,000ft, thanks to a 665litre fuel capacity.

Kit prices quoted by the Reston, Virginia-based company range from as low as $85,000 to as high as $117,000, depending on whether the builder wants a quick build option and pressurised cabin.

Among the manufacturers of factory-produced aeroplanes at Sun 'n' Fun, Canada's Diamond Aircraft announced that it had won US certification for its Teledyne Continental-powered Katana DA20-C. The 95kW IO-240-B3B boosts the Katana's payload and cruise speeds by more than 15%. List prices for the Continental-powered Katana start at $114,260 with VFR avionics.



Also new was a Piper Malibu Mirage re-engined with a 560kW Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6-34 turboprop by JetPROP, a company which was founded by the Rocket Engineering head Darwin Conrad.

According to Conrad, president of the two Spokane, Washington-based companies, interest in the JetPROP DLX has increased since the launch of the PT6-powered Malibu Meridian last year by New Piper Aircraft. At the same time, Conrad concedes, Piper's decision to fit a turboprop to the Malibu airframe has increased competition for the JetPROP DLX.

"If Piper hadn't got into this, I could have had so much business that I'd never have been able to keep up," he says. "As it is, I think this will be harder on Piper than us, because of the existing competition in that segment from the [Pilatus] PC-12, the [Socata] TBM 700 and us."

JetPROP's DLX conversion costs $589,000 with a factory new engine and propeller, plus modifications that add capacity to the fuel system and redundancy and power to the aircraft's electrical system.

Fitted with the PT6, the DLX has a cruise speed of about 250kt burning about 125litres/h. With the fuel capacity increased to 615litres, the DLX can fly 2,400km. The conversion takes about three months. Supplemental type certification is expected within two months, according to Conrad.

Back at Rocket Engineering, which has long been known for its "hot-rod" conversions of Mooney aircraft, Conrad now has another project in the works: a 385kW turboprop conversion of the Mooney Bravo.

At the opposite end of the power spectrum, no fewer than nine manufacturers flew designs powered by the new 45kW HKS 700E engine from HP ower. The engine is offered as an option on several microlight aircraft.

President Tom Peghiny says that availability of the 700E has buoyed sales of the Flight Star II two-seater produced by his other company, Flight Star Aircraft.

First shown at last year's Oshkosh, the HKS 700E appears to be the first serious challenger in more than a decade to the dominance of the Bombardier Rotax in the 35-50kW arena. Key to the engine's quick acceptance, pilots say, is its four-stroke design and its high tolerance to rapid changes in power settings.



Source: Flight International