Ultralight Flying flight report on the FP 202 and FP 404 ultralight, ultralights, ultralight aircraft.
|Flight report on the Fisher Flying Products Koala and single place ultralight bi plane the FP 404.|
A Pair of Fisher Single-Seaters
With one of the broadest lines of ultralights and microlights in the business, the odds are strong that Fisher Flying Products has something you'd like to fly. In this month's flight review, we'll examine two of the line: the J-3 Cub lookalike FP-202 Koala; and the FP-404, a single-seat sibling of the tandem-seating, biplane Classic model.
The FP-202 I flew was especially interesting because of the owner's work on his engine. Eric Galka got his brand new Mosler engine and promptly began tearing it apart. [Editor's Note: Mosler Motors is now known as Total Engine Concepts, located in Riviera Beach, Florida.] Galka felt the basis of the engine was good, but as an experienced mechanic, he thought it could be much better. I don't profess to know much about engines but I have a lot of time flying with them. I was impressed with his work.
The FP-404 is an excellent perfect choice for those who like biplanes but who really have no need or desire for a second seat. Some benefits accrue when you stay with the single-seater. Though it shares certain similarities with Howland Aero Designs' single-seat biplane Honey Bee, it's genuinely quite a different ultralight.
We'll take a look at the FP202, first.
Fortunately I already thought well of the Fisher designs. I say this because I immediately found myself focusing on the FP-202's engine, not the plane. I was most intrigued with the powerplant Galka had devised. This is quite unusual as I view engines as merely a means to an end. I'm normally not into engines. For exactly this reason, many readers want to pay particular attention.
The turbocharged Mosler attracted me precisely because I don't care to mess with engines -- I like them to work and never cause me any aggravation. Fuel, oil, and spark plugs define the limit of interaction I prefer with my airplane's engine.
Lucky for pilots like me, the ultralight community is blessed with pilots like Eric Galka of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In an effort that blew me away, Eric says he got his Mosler and after examining it, decided to go forward with a plan to tear it down and fit it with a turbocharger. I'd never even dream of such a project. He installed the modified engine on his 202, and called the results the "Galka Special." And so it is.
This flight review took place in Galka's personal FP-202. Normally I shy away from flying privately-owned aircraft. Most times, an ultralight manufacturer is willing to gamble on a rare mishap to get editorial coverage. Joe Pilot is not ... and shouldn't gamble. Galka took care to assure I understood how to operate the turbo aspect of the engine.
Another reason I was interested in GaIka's turbocharged Mosler was that, like many pilots, I might prefer a fourstroke if it was powerful enough for its weight. Fourstrokes haven't excited me much in the past as they're too heavy (on ultralights) for the power they deliver. I hoped that the right turbo application could make Galka's Mosler come into its own. I had no idea how effectively this could be done.
One difference of controls on Galka's 202 from other ultralights I've flown was a fuel mixture. Of course, nearly every GA airplane uses a mixture control. Those levers are usually push/pull knobs on the control panel. The one Eric installed rotates to the outside for enrichening (a quarter to half turn is the typical maximum).
Another difference was a carb heat control. While it's more to manage (most ultralights don't use a carb heat control), I rather liked having some control over carburetor icing, which can happen even in sunny Florida.
The throttle on the Galka Special controls power settings, and it also is the boost control for the turbo. Engine revs will max out at 2,700 rpms, this being a four-stroke engine. Keeping that in mind and knowing a wide-open throttle could boost the engine past design limits, you must operate the throttle so boost goes no higher than 7, ideally hold it to 5. In cruising flight, it should show zero boost. Note the photo showing the boost gauge as well as carb-heat control.
Galka also advised looking to hold a max EGT of 1,200¡ which will hold down cylinder heat temperatures. As said earlier, I wanted to treat his personal plane with care, so I heeded his instructions.
In all other ways, this 202 is fairly conventional. A Part 103-sized five-gallon fuel supply has an indicator on the panel which shows fuel remaining. The fuel gauge is set up such that when it shows zero fuel remaining, you still have 30 minutes worth, a good reserve idea, and another nice touch by Galka.
This FP-202 has the special Galka starter...his hands. Crack the throttle, kill switch on, pull through, and here we go. Thanks, Eric!
Galka had done a passable job making the interior quite comfortable with adequate room for me. I sat low in the cockpit. My shoulders rubbed on the sides. Since I'm only of average build, big guys might have trouble getting in this ultralight. At my size, I wasn't at all cramped.
The acid test of the turbocharger was in the takeoff, rather than in my amazement at Galka's project or his workmanship. Indeed, when the throttle went home, would the four-stroke Mosler light up and go, or gently slide upwards like many GA planes?
Ultralights should behave like their breed and step out smartly on takeoff using a scant number of feet of roll. Subsequently, they should climb aggressively.
The turbocharged fourstroke met the test. I was pleasantly surprised at the "oomph" shown by the pressurized engine.
Then suddenly, a thought occurred. What if I'm overboosting the engine? I quickly looked at the gauge. Whew! I was within limits but just barely. Good thing my instinct is to pull back slightly from full power once a normal takeoff seems sure. Had I not, I may have exceeded Galka's directions on max boost. He didn't tell me what the consequences would be.
As predicted, the FP-202 ran leanly through the air. Approaches to landing were done slowly, but the plane wanted to float, landing with a correspondingly longer rollout. Galka had told me the bird "has a tendency to roll long, if necessary, cut the engine." (The 202 wasn't fitted with brakes.)
To compensate for the long float, I tried slips on the next approach. Slipping actions weren't too satisfying. The culprit appeared to be a rudder that had used up all of its range. The ailerons would easily overpower the rudder, causing a turn rather than a cocked, forward slipping aircraft.
Given some lack of control over approach angle -- except for good planning, of course - the 202's fifty airfoil worked against me as I tried to make improved approaches. Yet extra float is far better than plummeting out of the sky.
Builders could no doubt add rudder throw and solve the rudder range shortage, I'm confident, or perhaps it was just this particular FP-202. Recall the factory hadn't assembled this machine.
The rudder was more than adequate for all normal flight operations. The real delight was the responsive ailerons, often a shortcoming in ultralights.
Roll response was good, clearly above average in general feel and even better in response per unit of input. Ailerons were reasonably quick, though with a bit of heaviness and some tendency to cause a slight tightening of banks.
The 202 definitely exhibits a bit of overbanking. To cope, a beginner need only be aware of the characteristic. More experienced pilots usually like lighter handling aircraft which commonly exhibit overbanking tendencies.
Speaking of light, Galka's FP-202 had very light rudder pedal controls. One result of such low feedback was my modestly improper application of them at first. A large slip/skid indicator helped guide my rudder use. As with the ailerons, you quickly get spoiled by the lightness.
Comparing, the ailerons were not quite as light as the rudder pedals. The ailerons had more control resistance but reacted faster; the rudder was lighter but less authoritative. This is one valid example of a moderate lack of control harmony.
On the whole though, I found the ailerons quite effective and the handling very satisfying. In the bumpy conditions of the day, I found plenty of roll authority to bring up a dropped wing without using full stick range.
Performance isn't only max speed or climb. Human values can also be found. For example, Galka's 202's engine noise is low in both volume and intensity.
This comes with a small four-stroke using a turbocharger to up the power. Quickly I found it was easy to deal with the boost, however, I tended to fly more by watching the boost than the tachometer.
The system works. Climb rate proved to be adequately strong, but without the screaming two-stroke noise. In spite of the added muscle, I was told the burn rate was a low 1.5 gph, another impressive measure of performance in my book.
Galka indicated I should use 70 mph as a Vne speed. Good preparatory advice it was, as it felt like I could easily accelerate to a point that might threaten the structure. The FP-202 felt rather clean.
Though one was installed, I never used the mixture control. I didn't range in altitude much and I never saw any indication of the engine heating excessively.
Probably Eric had set it slightly on the rich side -- which will tend to cool it -- owing to his concern for my proper turbo operation of his personal plane.
Mixture adjustment is nonetheless a control I value. If Galka's 202 had been mine, I'd surely fiddle with mixture settings and might boost performance a little more with precise adjustments.
I was unable to check descent rate as the day was so lifty that it may have shown zero sink. On the downwind leg of one approach, I gained altitude with the power set at only 2,000 rpm.
I was impressed enough with Galka's 202's turbo Mosler that I can foresee more use of this system, at least to a limited degree. Admittedly, it takes more attention and not all sport pilots want that.
Even in the convective conditions of the warm Florida day, I found a commendable stability profile to the FP-202. My evaluation started with a series of stalls.
Power-off stalls got down so low in the 20s that I think the ASI became suspect, but the point is, stall was very slow. These power-off stalls were also easily managed with no tendency to drop a wing radically or stall break suddenly.
However, like many other aircraft, at the top of power-on and -off stalls, I found some roll instability. Typically this got disconcerting only when I aggravated the stall with brisk aft stick movement which put the nose much higher than pilots would in most circumstances.
Power-on stalls were typical of ultralights. A sluggish climb continued, although weakly, and the wings shook a bit as the burbling air roiled over the top in a vain attempt to hang on to the surface.
The 202 slowed down nicely to about 40 mph where it felt comfortable. This is as slow as the Quicksilver Sport which I often use as a benchmark for slow-speed ultralight flying. The 202 would not slow to the Sprint's creeping slowest speed, but was enjoyably slow. Slow flight is useful for far more than landings. I often cruise around in ultralights at extremely slow speeds just because I can. Try that in a Mooney.
Galka's 202 had no trim, which made it harder to check some things as it showed a nose heaviness. I constantly had to exert a little back stick. It wasn't fatiguing but meant I would not be able to check longitudinal stability (the push/pull and release tests).
I was very pleased to have a ballistic 'chute on board. Too often I am forced to fly planes not so equipped. However I have one complaint on Galka's installation. Two bridles that were routed over the top of the wing were completely unprotected from ultraviolet degradation. In a surprisingly short period of time, these will have to be replaced if their structural integrity is to be maintained. I wouldn't expect everyone to realize the error in parachute installations, but pilots should consult their manufacturer to assure they've achieved a good installation.
Here's a tip worth remembering: Galka has a clever idea to stow the ballistic 'chute safety pin over the choke handle so that you don't inadvertently pull the choke when you mean to access the carb heat. Even if your 202 or whatever doesn't have carb heat, the idea still works as pulling on the choke in flight would not be wise.
Want A Galka Special?
If you'd like the pizzazz of the turbocharged Mosler, you may have to do it yourself. So far as I know, no company will set you up with the right kit. That's too bad and maybe it will change, as it seemed worthwhile to me. However, I readily admit not being an engine person. Perhaps more knowledgeable persons can give better advice.
However, Fisher Flying Products will do a great job of supporting the rest of the ultralight, and it'll fly beautifully with several different small engines. Fisher literature shows the bird comes standard with the Rotax 277 which should deliver most of the fun flying I found.
The Fisher company is one of the largest producers of ultralights and microlights in the USA. Their staff is typically Midwestern in a downhome, easy-going style that surely accounts for much of their success. In my experience they'll deal with you fairly and honestly, two traits that may not be found everywhere.
Even better news is price-related. Fisher is also one of the lowest cost builders in the country. The FP-202 Koala sells for $4,675, without engine and finishing materials, at which it could be one of the better bargains in the country.
If you simply must have a 2-seat version, Fisher also builds the Super Koala, powered by the potent Rotax 582. While it looks much the same, the sideby-side 2-seater has more wing area in addition to the 36 extra horses.
Get a flight on a 202 Koala. You might find it to be "special" as did Eric.
Dan Johnson brings ouer 25 years and 4,000 hours of flying experience to UF! flight reports-- as a pilot of hang gliders, ultralights, and as an FAA-rated Commercial pilot and CFI. For nearly two decades Dan has been a columnist and feature writer in several magazines, publishing over 500 articles. He is an independent professional serving several aviation clients in the areas of marketing and promotion.
Some flying days are better than others. April 14th, 1994, was a good one. Fisher's staff at Sun 'n Fun had two of their ultralights ready for me to fly, one after the other. I've been told I have a dream job, flying airplanes for articles. Often it feels like work just like any other job, but on that day last spring, the dream description fit well.
After an enjoyable hour and a quarter in the FP-202 Koala, I taxied up and almost immediately jumped into the single-seat biplane FP-404. Excuse the big grin.
A short discussion with long-time Fisher dealer Mike Makepeace provided the tips I always seek to be sure I can fly a new ultralight competently. Fortunately, this was the second Fisher biplane I've flown in as many years. The first was the Classic.
Fisher's Classic -- which has no number designation as do most Fisher models -- is the 2-seat sibling of the single-seat FP-404, which has only a number designation. As you'd expect, it has similarities and differences.
The 404 has the typical bipe cockpit, a rounded hole in which you tend to sit rather low. Only the pilot's head and shoulders are visible from the side. It also has a cobweb of structure ahead of you. Wires and cabanes crisscross with wings and fuselage in a look some call cluttered but others revere as "nostalgic" or "authentic." Contrasting the obstructed forward view is a tremendously open aft view common to biplane construction.
As I sat in the cockpit, it seemed I could touch the wingtips with my outstretched arms. With a wingspan of only 18 feet -- times two wings of course -- the 404 actually has precisely the same wing area as the 202 monophne (120 sq. ft.). Of course the larger Classic has more wingspan and wing area, 22 feet and 154 squares, respectively. She also weighs more: 400 pounds versus 275 of empty weight for the 404.
When I signaled I was familiar with the surroundings and controls, Makepeace stepped up to the prop and spun the Rotax to life.
Even in taxi, I noted the throttle was a bit tight; this would make our in-air photo work harder as it's necessary to move the lever frequently to stay close to the camera. Conversely the small windscreen kept the runway's sandy undersurface out of my face as I rolled to the departure end of the runway.
Takeoff and the photo session with Ultralight Flying!'s Editor In Chief Scott Wilcox went without a hitch, so I departed to get more familiar with the 404.
Dutch rolls went very well. They often do in biplanes which excel in giving you a turn-on-a-dime sensation. I was initially awkward with the rudder, using more pressure than required. My clutch rolling improved when I gave only a touch of rudder. AII around, the crispness of the controls was very satisfying.
Interestingly, though the Classic uses four ailerons and the 404 only two, the 404 has clearly faster response. Roll was brisk. It made me want to turn constantly. Adverse yaw was extremely modest, almost nonexistent.
Also like most biplanes l've flown -- including Howland's Honey Bee and Murphy's Renegade -- the 404 took a higher power setting to maintain altitude. It appeared 5,600 rpm would do the job, but some experimentation showed the engine ran more smoothly at 5,700 rpm. At the higher setting, speed showed about 60 mph on the airspeed indicator.
Pushing the power to a maximum of 6,400 rpm in level flight, the ASI read 73-74 mph. Stall came higher than the FP-202, breaking at 34 mph. The range is clearly narrower than the 202 and considering the extra drag from two wings and their support structures, this is hardly surprising.
The 404 felt very solid in flight and throughout my maneuvering. Since this Fisher trimmed out better for me than Galka's 202, I did my series of longitudinal checks with good success. Oddly, however, the ultralight tended to raise her nose more than she dropped it. I usually find the opposite but couldn't question the positive recovery that resulted.
When I finally came around for landing, I recalled one of Makepeace's tips. He said, "Unlike most biplanes, the 404 will tend to float on landings." He turned out to be right. When all those wings get in ground effect, they show how well they can sustain lift at lower apeeds.
Before I got on the deck, however, the 404 seemed to drop out of the sky much faster than the single-wing 202. No one claims biplanes are the most efficient aircraft, that isn't their appeal.
Fisher will likely sell more two-hole Classics than single-place 404s, but for those pilots who like the vintage look of two wings and the splendid maneuverability, the FP-404 is an entry deserving a close look.
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