Back to the Future: InnovAviation’s FX-1

October 31, 2019

 

In the late 1990s, the Italian JetFox 97 flew as an evolved ultralight-style aircraft. The two-seat design resembled the American FlightStar, which sold around 1,000 units in all configurations.

 

Unlike Flightstar, JetFox 97 fully enclosed the engine and cabin, giving it a more finished look. Instead of the simple tail boom on Flightstar, the European microlight had an aft fuselage and other refinements.

 

However, as Light-Sport Aircraft erupted into the marketplace in 2005, JetFox appeared to quietly fade away. U.S. representation of the design moved on to other pursuits. Yet worthy ideas can be recycled and revived. Such appears to be the case for FX1.

 

In the late 1990s, the Italian JetFox 97 flew as an evolved ultralight-style aircraft. The two-seat design resembled the American FlightStar, which sold around 1,000 units in all configurations.

Unlike Flightstar, JetFox 97 fully enclosed the engine and cabin, giving it a more finished look. Instead of the simple tail boom on Flightstar, the European microlight had an aft fuselage and other refinements.

 

Years ago, back in the late 1990s, I flew JetFox 97. Like Flightstar, the creation was modeled on talented Swiss engineer Hans Gygax’s designs. His work is found on Germany’s C42, the country’s most popular microlight for two decades running.

 

The modern iteration of this venerable design is strikingly handsome, cloaked in a carbon fiber fuselage. Former Dacron-covered wings and tail — done to keep within Europe’s tight microlight weight limits of the day — have been replaced with all-aluminum wings and tail.

Welcome back to the future FX1 creator Alfredo Di Cesare.

 

 FX1 at Aero Friedrichshafen 2018

 

I had some correspondence with Alfredo, but we had not met until this year’s Aero Friedrichshafen show in the south of Germany. Working with my associate, Dave Loveman (developer of the popular YouTube video channel, Light Sport and Ultralight Flyer), we recorded a video interview with the designer and his chief engineer.

 

While FX1 clearly follows the Jetfox 97 — its overall size, shape, planform, and layout are very similar — the new model is very different in some ways not obvious in the accompanying photos.

 

Due to those weight constraints in Europe, the original microlight was challenging to enter. You had to contort yourself to a degree less than comfortable (or acceptable) to Americans. As Alfredo enjoys his pasta, it no longer fits him so well, either.

 

The modernized FX1 has huge, wide and ergonometric curved doors that allows more generously-sized pilots to enter and exit with ease.

 

The renewed aircraft is fitted with either dual side yokes and central throttle or a center joystick with dual throttles at the pleasure of the buyer. Analog instrumentation has given way to digital devices with some round gauge backup.

 

Today, as then, the main engine choice is the Rotax 912 ULS carbureted engine, but InnovAviation will soon begin offering the Rotax 912iS Sport, a fuel-injected, electronically-controlled powerplant offering impressive fuel economy and significantly reduced emissions.

 

With its Rotax engine positioned very close to the wing, the propeller generates high airflow over the wing, sometimes called “accelerated lift,” a characteristic often claimed for twin engine general aviation aircraft. Beside enhancing takeoff and climb performance, the phenomenon is also said to tame departure stall characteristics.

 

 

 

Cabin heat and ventilation, lighting, adjustable seats, and an in-flight accessible stowage compartments round out a well appointed, stylish cockpit comfortable to the occupants.

The cabin is strong and protective owing to a welded steel cage of aircraft chrome-moly steel tubing and a tough outer covering built from molded carbon graphite.

 

Flying FX1
 

American John Hunter has a lot of experience in light aircraft. Though no longer a seller of such aircraft, his knowledge is known and Di Cesare tapped him to give feedback about the refreshed aircraft.

 

Hunter wrote, “My first impression on flying the FX1 production prototype was that it has a remarkably solid feel, indicative of the rigidity of the airframe.

 

“The aircraft is stable, yet responsive. It does not display control sensitivity in any axis, yet control response is very positive. It can easily be flown with neutral trim throughout its speed range, including all three stages of flap deployment (15º, 30º, and 45º).

 

 

“In flight FX1 does not exhibit significant changes to pitch with the application or retraction of power, and controls do not become heavy from changes in configuration or speed. Stall behavior is predictable, exhibiting a mild break, shallow pitching, and a quick recovery.

 

“Seating is comfortable, and adjustable fore and aft. The side-yoke control system works well, and I found the aircraft easy to fly from either seat (left seat requires left-hand control, with right-hand for the right seat). A vernier throttle is installed at the center of the panel. Control for the hydraulic brakes is a manual lever mounted forward between the seats, and includes a parking brake valve. Turn radius is adequate for ramp maneuvers.

 

 

“The first flap position (15º) is recommended for takeoff. On turf, the nose gear can be rotated in five seconds, and liftoff occurs eight seconds from standstill, with winds calm and a takeoff weight of 950 pounds (solo flight with 50% fuel). Takeoff roll is approximately 320′. Standard day rate of climb at 80 mph is 1,050 feet per minute.

 

“On landing, the first flap position is recommended on downwind, second on crosswind (30º), and third on final (45º, full flaps). The fowler flaps are effective, and necessary for short field operations. The aircraft exhibits low drag, and speed control is imperative for short runways. The aircraft flares well, and is easy to land.”

 

John noted he used 75 mph on downwind, 60 on base leg, and 55 over the fence after full flaps (45º) were deployed.

 

“The cabin is comfortable, relatively quiet, and visibility is excellent. The FX1 has a high-quality feel, and is a pleasure to fly,” Hunter concluded.

 
 

Social media has been buzzing about the attractive FX1. Although lots of pilots love the look, several complained, “I never see a price.”

 

FX1 will make its first showing at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018 and even its designer, Alfredo, plans to attend.

 

The model is imported by Deon Lombard of AeroPilot USA, the same man who brings in the L600 — an 80% scale version of Cessna’s 182 — from the Czech Republic.

 

FX1 will make a nice complement to the L600. Deon expects to sell the sleek black aircraft for $135,000 and, based on what we’ve seen him provide for the L600, the newest aircraft in his hangar may be quite well equipped for that figure.

      

Look for Lombard, De Cesare, FX1, and L600 in the ultralight/light plane area of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh at the south end of the sprawling airshow grounds (you can take a free tram ride if the hike is too much for you).

 

 

 

 

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