Newsletter- G-MFUX flight test
With a recent gap in the unflyable weather (and before the current Coronavirus lockdown), I finally managed to take our new Minifox demonstrator for its maiden flight!
G-MFUX is the first Minifox in the UK with the Evo Speed enclosed cabin option, so I was keen to see how this would transform the aircraft. The cabin is supplied as a single pre-formed composite structure that nestles snugly over the existing Minifox frame. A polycarbonate screen is sealed securely from inside and supported by twin gas struts during entry. The Evo Speed option also includes two detachable side panels that fair in the rear of the aircraft and provide smooth airflow to the propellor. A hatch in the starboard side allows access to the fuel tank and the new composite luggage shelf, which is ideal for storage of more bulky items such as camping gear. The entire package only adds around 20kg to the overall weight of the Minifox, and is retro-fittable to existing aircraft.
The cabin is completely sealed on all sides, with a new backplate behind the pilot and fabric covering underneath- no more worrying about dropping the map! The sealing is excellent, and much better than many microlights costing five times as much. No draughts were evident during the flight and I was comfortable with only a thin jumper in the middle of winter. I’ll most likely fit an air vent for summer flying.
Visibility is excellent, and at 5’10” I still had plenty of spare headroom above me. There is also generous elbow room on either side, giving a very spacious feel to the cockpit. I genuinely found it to be the roomiest enclosed cockpit of any single-seat, or shared two-seat, aircraft I have ever flown.
Starting the Cisco Bull Max engine is straightforward with the electric start positioned within easy reach on the carbon dashboard. Although there is some resonance felt through the cabin at lower rpm, overall the noise levels were much lower than being in the open air. The Evo Speed would undoubtedly be more comfortable for extended flights.
Take-off and climb performance is little affected by the extra weight of the cabin. In fact, the aircraft is noticeably more efficient, requiring a good 3-400rpm less in the cruise than the open-air version.
Hands-off trim speed was a little high at 75mph for this initial testflight. I will make some changes to slow it down for subsequent flights. In all other respects G-MFUX flew superbly straight from the production line; perfectly in balance and with no unpleasant side-effects from the enclosed cabin. In fact, having the Centre of Gravity slightly further forward made the stall characteristics even more benign than standard. Holding the stick fully back simply puts the aircraft into a mush state, with all controls fully functional. In this aspect G-MFUX flies much more like a sedate light aircraft such as a Piper Warrior, whilst keeping the Minifox light and agile handling through the rest of the flight envelope.
Currently priced at £3,500+vat, the Evo Speed option transforms the Minifox into a comfortable and spacious flying machine well suited to British winters. Of course, flying purists will miss the feel of the wind in their face, and those extra kilos might not suit heavier pilots, but it’s nice to have the choice. At under £23,300 (inc vat and delivery), a fully enclosed Minifox is still the most affordable fixed-wing on the UK market by quite some margin.