Challenger Evolution
Kitplanes Magazine - May 2009
by Bryan Quickmire

Our Canadian readers should note that this article refers to US regs for aircraft and pilots.
In Canada the Challenger Light Sport can be registered Advanced Ultralight or Amateur-Built.
The Challenger 103 is a single-seater and in the US no licence or registration is required.
Canada does not have an equivalent category so the Challenger 103 will not be imported here.

The Challenger Evolution Continues

The first single seat Challenger ultralight greeted the world a quarter century ago in 1983. The two seat Challenger ultralight trainer was introduced in 1984. Compared to the powered hang gliders and flying lawn chairs of the era those Challengers were sleek and sexy! They were among the first ultralights to actually look and handle like real airplanes!

A surprising number of those elderly Challengers are still flying today however time and tastes march on so now they appear rather dated! Over the years there have been countless improvements in durability, performance, comfort and appearance. The huge increase in capabilities means now the vast majority of Challengers carry N numbers instead of being operated under Part 103. Today it's the new generation of Challengers that carry the mantle of sleek and sexy.

The two newest Challenger models, both now shipping, expand the line of Quad City aircraft in two directions. The Challenger 103 heads back to the basics of grass roots flying and the Challenger Light Sport positions itself beside the S-LSA's and E-LSA's of the new Light Sport Aircraft category.

Most of the new LSA's follow the Cessna tradition of hermetically sealing the occupants away from the flying experience. Challengers emphasize the fun of building and flying your own airplane. Challengers also emphasize the philosophy that your own aircraft should be affordable to acquire and affordable to operate and maintain. The $100,000 price tags of the latest S-LSA's are simply not affordable for most recreational aviators!

LSA - The New Challenger II Light Sport Special

The new two seat Challenger II Light Sport Special, or Challenger Light Sport for short, is the most dramatic step forward ever taken by Quad City. The new model incorporates numerous design enhancements, many driven by customer inputs. The goals were to make the plane easier to fly, faster in cruise, more rugged, more ergonomic and easier to build - all while keeping the price around $25,000.

The handling characteristics of the new Challenger are light and responsive. This is a feet on the floor airplane whereas classic Challengers require attention to the rudder pedals. With full aileron deflection you can roll from a 45 degree left bank to a 45 degree right bank and back again without using the rudder pedals! This is a direct benefit of the much larger vertical stabilizer and rudder as well as the implementation of new ailerons with differential bellcranks. The larger vertical tail is readily obvious from 50 paces, actually 50 miles, much like that of the C-130 Hercules!

Cruise speed has increased to 95 mph and maximum level speed to 105 mph. The new wing design reduces drag while providing increased lift and stability. It is readily identified by its smooth leading edge and bottom ribs plus flush gussets attaching the ribs to the leading and trailing edge spars. Further drag reductions were effected by adding streamline fairings to the jury struts and stab struts.

The new aluminum spring main landing gear also reduces drag by enabling use of improved gear leg fairings and eliminating all external cables. The internal carry through structures in the fuselage have been beefed up substantially. This new landing gear readily absorbs the bumps of rough farm fields and less elegant landings. The new hydraulic disc brakes make for very short stops. Pilot entry and exit is made easier by the redesigned cockpit side rails, doors and windscreen. The new instrument panel allows for more instrumentation while still providing good leg clearance for taller pilots. The new Quad City designed electric start system operates through the PTO end of the engine allowing a backup Rotax recoil starter to be simultaneously installed at the MAG end.

The new Challenger Light Sport quick-build kit is even easier and more fun to assemble with realistic build times in the neighborhood of 300 hours. No special tools or skills are required. As with all Challengers the kit includes factory built tail, wings and fuselage with controls installed. New for the Challenger Light Sport are a precut panel and prefab door kit with windshield as well as wiring harnesses for panel and engine. A vastly better new manual has clear drawings, color pictures and punchy text. Builder support is readily available by phone, email, web site, online forums and of course face to face via the extensive dealer network.

The Challenger Light Sport is intended to be registered under the 51% rule as Experimental Amateur-Built. It has a number of new features to facilitate this, for example control stops and pilot accessible fuel shutoff system. In addition to the satisfaction of assembling your own airplane and knowing it inside and out a big advantage to registering as an E-AB is that you get a Repairman's Certificate. This allows you to do any and all maintenance and inspections yourself or with the assistance of whomever you choose.

The Challenger Light Sport qualifies as a Light Sport Aircraft so it may be flown with the new simpler Sport Pilot Permit with just a driver's license medical. Of course it can also be flown with a traditional pilot certificate such as a Private or Recreational.

The Challenger Light Sport is around $25,000 for a quick-build kit including engine and instruments. To spread out cash flow the package may be split into airframe and powerplant sections or into tail, wings, fuselage and engine sub-kits.

In today's economy the economics of aircraft ownership are more critical than ever before. The Challenger Light Sport is less than a quarter of the cost of typical S-LSA aircraft. The low acquisition cost and very low operating and maintenance costs mean owners can afford to go flying as often as they wish.

The new Challenger Light Sport delivers wide ranging major improvements while retaining the docile nature of classic Challengers including low stall speeds with no wing drops. Also retained are the outstanding STOL operations with takeoff and landing rolls in the 200-400 ft range as well as impressive crosswind capabilities. Payload is a very useful 500 lbs.

The versatility to go fast or to go low and slow, the capability to operate from short unimproved strips, the ability to fly with the doors off like a roadster with the top down and the unmatched visibility from both seats all combine to put the fun back into flying. Fifty Challenger Light Sports have already been sold and the expectation is for many more.

Back To Roots - The New Part 103 Challenger

The newest single seat Challenger, now shipping, was designed to meet both the spirit and the letter of FAR Part 103 for true ultralights. The new Challenger 103 comes in under the strict 254 pound weight limit, even with its oversize main wheels and powerful brakes for operation off short grass strips. Maximum pilot weight with two hours of fuel onboard is a hefty 250 pounds.

The Challenger 103 is powered by the Hirth F 33 dual ignition engine. Standard equipment includes pre-sewn sailcloth wings as well as basic instruments plus flaperons with adjustable pitch trim.

The quick-build kit can be assembled in under 100 hours by a first-timer. It is available as a complete package including engine or split into airframe and powerplant sections. The Challenger 103 can also be acquired as four sub-kits - tail, wings, fuselage and engine.

The appeal of Part 103 operations is that no registration is required for the aircraft and neither license nor medical is required for the pilot. Flying under Part 103 is one of the few motorized activities you can enjoy in modern life that involves zero paperwork! .

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