A whole lot of
nothing, might say you upon first look at an Air-Bike... but
this is one case where beauty being skin-deep really doesn't
apply, especially since there isn't a whole lot of skin
involved. This is one great little airplane.
Aircraft Air-Bike Specifications
117 sq. ft.
may be one of the most ultralight legal birds out there. The
220-lb bird is a conventional-geared honey with conventional
controls and strut-braced wooden wings. The welded tube
fuselage comes completely fabricated from the factory and
requires little preparation from the builder. The wings are
all wood and the building chores similar to those found in
the model airplanes we built as kids. A single center
control stick, left side-mounted throttle, and conventional
rudder pedals were quite comfy and conformed well to my
dimensions. No brakes were installed (or necessary for that
matter) so some light, but careful, foot dragging can be
used to hold position.
handling is docile but with a pretty good turn radius.
Rudder pedals require moderate pressure and are positioned
very well considering the lack of structure around them.
Firewall the baby and you'll go... sort of. The little
Zenoah takes its time to accelerate you, but it doesn't take
much lift to get this mass airborne. Initial control
pressures vary from light to moderate and are accompanied by
light to moderately defined static stability profiles in
pitch and roll, with a surprisingly positive input from yaw.
Dynamic tendencies are slow, but no less positive. Control
response is agile but not twitchy and the overall behavior
is fairly linear.
lightest, lowest powered version (using the single-cylinder
Zenoah G25, producing 22 ponies), has more pizzazz than you
might expect. In 15- to 20-mph winds (almost all direct
crosswinds), the little Air-Bike levitates off the deck
despite the less-than-startling power of the Zenoah. We flew
the final version, with the new inverted engine mount, and
got off the deck in well under 200'... probably close to
100'. The initial rate of climb wasn't astonishing (about
400 fpm) but I was battling a lot of heavy sink and rotors
from the heavily forested mountains surrounding the airport.
is no F-16; as a matter of fact, I think the F-16 probably
taxis faster than this critter cruises. However, about 45
mph feels great for cruise; the little windscreen keeps the
June bugs out of your dentures; and the view is incredible.
The bird stalls at about 22 to 24 mph, according to the Hall
Wind-meter I was using for ASI, and the behavior is so
docile as to be boring. There is no perceptible break unless
you horse into a steep angle prior to the actual stall and
recovery is simply a matter of lessened angle of attack and
pitch input. There is little dissymmetry despite the seeming
lack of vertical fin and side area, and moderate rudder
corrects all ills. The bird falls off into the start of an
autorotation, but leave it alone and the machine recovers
well, and enters a slowly correcting spiral all on its own.
unencumbered seating is a real thrill and does not feel as
naked as one might first think, since there is a lot of
adjacent structure to lend moral support. I was surprised at
the overall handling; this is not a "me-too" boring little
aircraft?it responds quite nicely but has not a hint of
surprise or twitchiness in its soul. It does have a pretty
good roll rate as long as you properly coordinate it with
rudder (the rudder on this thing is the key to good rolling
slips admirably considering there is not much of a fuselage
to slip against... and the resultant descent rate is
considerable. Landing is child's play and one has only to
look to one's feet to see how far off the ground to start
the landing flare. I settled in across the fence at 35 to 40
mph (below 40, the drag profile increases a fair amount and
the resulting sink rate increases a lot), used a light
flare, and settled in three-point with a solid 12 knots of
estimated crosswind... and stayed pretty close to the
centerline throughout. Yes, this is one "cheapskate flyer"
but only in terms of price. In terms of performance, it has
nothing to be ashamed of... a thoroughly outstanding little
REPORT: The Mostest for the
Leastest! No one gives you more bang for your ultralight
flying dollar than the TEAM Air-Bike. I expected a boring,
ho-hum flyer and was instead rewarded with a playful (but
still docile), obedient little bird that handled 15-to
20-knot winds with aplomb. I am very impressed with the
Air-Bike and predict it could be one of the most popular new
aircraft to hit the market in years. It's a sweetie!
Aircraft Ratings: TEAM Air-Bike
Handling: B+. No surprises.
Profile: A-. These people really give a damn.
the Buck: A+. I dare you to find more plane for less $$.
Factor: 1. Outstanding reputation.
Grade: A. OUTSTANDING! Voted Best New U/L Aircraft for
1995 by USA.