Escapade Kid



Escapade Kid
flight test
on tHe
David Bremner takes
the Kid Escapade for a spin
Microlight Flying
Anyone thinking of buying a sub-115kg ultralight has recently
been pretty much spoilt for choice. The fact that they don’t need
to demonstrate compliance with an airworthiness standard to
sceptical and litigation-shy authorities has encouraged many importers and manufacturers into the market. As yet, however, the
market has responded patchily, the runaway best seller to date
being the Flylight Dragonfly, the flexwing trike with retractable
wheels featured last issue.
But people are starting to put their hands in their pockets for
a fixed-wing model too. The Kid Escapade attracted a lot of interest on the Escapade Aircraft stand at the November SPLASH,
and continues to do so, so recently we went to the historic airfield at Old Sarum to see what all the fuss is about.
The aircraft, G-OKID, was the one successfully auctioned at
SPLASH and is now the property of successful bidder Vince Hallam. And although one might be tempted to criticise Escapade
proprietor Terry Francis for auctioning his Kid into slavery, the
youngster looked happy enough sat on the grass in the weak
February sun.
He (and it’s unquestionably a he) actually reminded me more
of a puppy, sitting up, tongue protruding from the cowl, cocky
tail feathers wagging as he strains at the leash and wants to be
up and away. He’s small and neat, and you just have to give the
cowl a pat as you go past.
But enough of fancy. You want hard facts from a steely-eyed
reporter, not romantic rubbish.
The Escapade’s family history can be traced back to pre-war
aircraft like the J3 Piper Cub, with its high wing, welded steel-
tube fuselage, light weight and low power. The first direct ancestor was the Avid, which introduced the wonderful simple folding
wing concept, to be followed by the Kitfox and thence the Sky
Raider via the Easy Raider and so to the two-seat Escapade. The
Kid is actually something of a throwback, being derived from
the single-seat variant of the Sky Raider which has been available in the US as a Part 103 machine for many years.
The wing has remained unaltered through Sky Raider, Easy
Raider and Escapade, and the same basic wing is used for the
single-seater, though the spars are of lighter gauge tube in order
to keep the weight within bounds. But the ply ribs and control
surfaces are common to the Kid and his elder brother.
The fuselage, undercarriage and tail feathers are welded steel
tube, though clearly reduced in scale, and the option to switch
from nosewheel to tailwheel isn’t possible within the weight
limit. There is a single hard point next to the spar attachment,
however. ‘What’s that for?’ I asked Terry. ‘Floats,’ came the answer. ‘In the US, there’s a weight allowance for floats on Part
103. Maybe we’ll get it here in time.’ Oh, yes please…
The design was loaned to Dr Guy Gratton and a team of his
undergraduates at Brunel University to analyse, and they confirmed that it met the structural requirements of BCAR Section
S. Load testing of the wing had already been done in the US and
analysis confirmed original findings.
With all sub-115kg machines, weight (or more strictly, lack
of it) is of the first importance, and in this case, the wing area
(10.5m²) reduced the maximum allowable empty weight to
April 2009
flight test
SmAll and NEat,
the kid is like a puppy, sitting up, tongue
protruding, tail wagging as he strains at
the leash. You just have to give the cowl
a pat as you walk past
Microlight Flying
Terry wasn’t convinced it could be done, so the build process
was fraught with uncertainty. Nevertheless, there were a couple
of kilos to spare on completion, thanks in part to the use of the
pre-impregnated Oratex fabric recently developed in Germany,
and also to the use of the Hirth F33AS single-cylinder two-stroke
with belt reduction drive, which offers 28hp from only 21kg installed weight.
Having achieved this major success, there are a number of
ways in which the build might be lightened, and the effective
lifting area increased, which will open up possibilities for other
engine fits.
Other points of note in the construction are the bungee suspension on the main undercarriage, similar to the Escapade. The
tailwheel is of the shopping-trolley variety, with spring connections to the rudder, which means it’s non-castoring. G-OKID is
fitted with optional brakes, individually operated via hand levers
on the stick. The windscreen extends over the roof to give maximum visibility. Another option is the front-hinged door(s) which
flop down conveniently when open, and the top-hinged windows.
These will, I suspect, be popular additions in the UK.
The seat is well-upholstered but non-adjustable, and the floormounted stick operates the ailerons via cables and the elevator
by pushrods. Floor-mounted rudder pedals operate the rudder
via cables.
One slight surprise is the flaps on the wings; necessary for the
Escapade, but surely not for the Kid?
‘No,’ says Terry. ‘They’re needed to allow the wings to overlap
when they fold, and it was easier to retain commonality with the
There’s a single 20 litre tank in the starboard wing; access
is much easier than most high-wing aircraft, and if you think it
sounds on the small side, bear in mind that’s probably enough for
about 4h based on predicted fuel consumption…
At the back of the cabin, there’s a sudden dip in the top of the
fuselage to accommodate the folded wings. The Escapade has a
removable turtle deck to fair in the gap, but because of the narrower fuselage width and the fact that the rear fuselage changes
to triangular cross-section, it’s too small to be worth bothering
with on the Kid.
The tail feathers are of flat section, made of fabric-covered steel
tube and cable-braced. They seemed admirably rigid.
The Oratex covering is brand new, and G-OKID is probably
the first aircraft in the UK to fly with it. Developed in Germany,
it is intended to replace conventional aircraft coverings, coming
pre-impregnated with all the sealant, UV protection and colour,
so you only have to attach it using the heat-sensitive glue, and
shrink it with an iron. Anyone who’s played with the various conventional covering systems will know that the skill required – and
the overpowering smell – tempt many people into getting it done
Oratex isn’t cheap, but Terry reckons it’s comparable to paying
to have the other systems applied – and it’s lighter. It comes in a
variety of colours, and you can paint it if you wish, though this
will add to the weight, of course.
The surface isn’t as shiny as with full two-pack paint, but it’s
claimed to be as durable. You would need to keep an eye out for
stains, though, and remove them using proprietary cleaners.
The fabric tension on this aircraft wasn’t as great as I would
have expected, but Terry said he’d not used full tension in deference to the light weight of the frame. Oratex has been approved
by the LAA for wing loadings up to 9 lb/ft² (such as the Sherwood
Ranger), so it can be used with some confidence on the Kid.
So much for the look round. It was time to see what it was
like inside. The wing is below my eye height, so you might have
expected entry to be a bit of a challenge. Not a bit of it. Sit on
the seat first, then swing your legs in. Couldn’t be much easier.
And, Tardis-like, there’s tons of room inside, even with the door
and window shut. I’m 6ft 3 in, and chose to wear a crash helmet,
together with multiple layers of clothing against the cold – and
there was plenty of room, both sideways and on top, and the
diagonal bracing, which I thought might get in the way, didn’t
seem to at all. There’s a minimal instrument panel, allowing loads
of knee room. The view out is excellent forwards and sideways.
Despite the upright engine configuration, the cowling doesn’t
impinge on your line of sight at all, and you can see the horizon
ahead even with the tailwheel down. The throttle and trim lever
fall conveniently to one’s left hand, and the instrument fit was
suitably minimal.
The four-point harness was easy to secure and adjust, though
there’s a booby prize for those who tighten the shoulder straps
before realizing how long a stretch it is to the starter handle!
To start the engine, flick the choke on (it’s got a convenient
over-centre catch so you don’t have to hold it on), close the throttle and wrap your fist round both brake levers on the stick while
you lean forward to the recoil starter handle on the floor. It went
second pull, and settled down to an easy chatter when the choke
was put in.
Tighten the shoulder straps, and start your preflight checklist. With the windows shut it isn’t possible to see behind you to
check the control movements, but opening the window would be
straightforward. Taxiing is very easy with the brakes, and in all
but the strongest winds pretty straightforward without. For operation off a grass strip, I suspect that they may not be necessary.
Into the playground
With power checks complete and the trim set somewhere in the
middle of its range, I lined up and opened the taps. Downsizing
from 80 to 28hp feels strange at first, but you don’t have time to
think about it before you’re off. Terry quotes 50m takeoff distance
and I achieved that on my first try with only 6mph headwind
– and I’m no featherweight. If you’re concerned about flying a
tailwheel, this is the beastie to give you confidence; simply hold
the stick in a neutral position, and you’ll be airborne before you’ve
thought about it.
The rate of climb was positive, and because of the slow speed,
the angle of climb was phenomenal. I’d reached circuit height before the end of the runway, and turned south to explore the Kid’s
capabilities. Some aircraft inspire an instant rapport; the Kid did
exactly that. Being familiar with his big brother may have been
one reason, but despite the fact that he only had 1h flying in his
logbook, I felt completely confident with the Kid.
I checked out the rate of climb, and came up with around
300ft/min – pretty much in line with what you’d expect. A rough
check of indicated airspeed against GPS indicated that it was
around 10mph optimistic, so the comfortable cruise speed of
60mph indicated, at 5500rpm, was more like 50mph true. The
maximum level speed was around 70mph indicated. But don’t
pay too much attention to these figures; the little F33 engine was
Terry’s choice in order to be sure he’d come within the weight
limit, and it was turning a two-blade Powerfin propeller. By the
following week, it was being tested with a three-blade Ecoprop
which was said to give improved performance.
Because it’s deregulated, you can fit what you like within the w
April 2009
flight test
Kid Escapade
Escapade Aircraft Ltd., Hangar 3, Old Sarum Airfield,
Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP4 6DZ
tel 01722 770039; [email protected]; Proprietor: Terry Francis.
w definition. How about the flat twin two-stroke Hirth F23, which
This page: (1) brakes are optional, but handy to have; (2) Hirth
F33AS engine belt and reduction drive; (3) view from the driving
seat; (4) sharp dip in the rear cabin profile accommodates folded
wings; (5) comfortable but non-adjustable seat; and (6) more
room in here than you might imagine
Facing page: Escapade owner Terry Francis with pride and joy
Microlight Flying
gets you 50hp? Or maybe the Solo four-stroke twin? The world’s
your lobster.
The stall was as benign as you’d expect with the very low wing
loading – generally a stable mush which could be encouraged into
a straight-through stall break with mild acceleration, much the
same as the Escapade.
And there was a family resemblance in turns too – both require the use of your feet to overcome the adverse yaw. The trim
is reasonably effective, though I don’t think the trim range had
been matched to the lightweight engine up front. Personally, I’m
not sure whether a trim is required at all – the forces are so light,
I’d be tempted to save the weight and fit a permanent trim for a
reasonable cruise condition. Similarly with the yaw stability; if
you put it into a sideslip and take your feet off the rudder pedals,
it only recovers slowly. But this is deregulated flying. If you want
to fit springs or a larger fin, you can do so. You’ll learn loads about
flying in the process, and at minimum risk.
One of the things I like about the Escapade is the excellent
view in turns and I was pleased to find the Kid was also pretty
good in this respect; despite the narrower roof, one could see
the horizon in a turn in a standard 30° bank. And the opening
windows made it into a really good camera platform too – easier if
you take them off beforehand, but still perfectly possible to open
in flight for optimum clarity.
I’d felt immediately at home with the Kid, and didn’t want
to return. I tooled around the sky as long as I reasonably could
before heading reluctantly back to the busy Old Sarum circuit to
land, and here, as with all other phases of flight, the Kid was a
joy. I set up a reasonably sensible speed on the approach, flared
as normal, and we settled gently back on the grass, with nary a
bounce, and well before the 50m marker came up.
I taxied back and let the engine settle at idle before shutting
down. The lack of a castoring tailwheel meant one couldn’t do
the fancy trick of spinning it on one wheel to park it, but the light
weight makes ground handling so very much simpler than with
a two-seater. Otherwise it wasn’t a problem, and Shadow Flight
Centre’s Ray Proost, who’s done the majority of the flying to date,
reckons he’s handled it satisfactorily in 15mph crosswinds, both
on the ground and in the air.
Putting it away, we got to demonstrate the Kid’s party trick:
the wing fold. Remove the two pins at the root of the leading
edges and the wings fold back neatly against the fin, ready to slip
into the smallest available space in the hangar, or – better still –
onto a trailer to go in your garage or back garden. It’s even faster
than the Escapade, since you don’t have a turtle deck to remove.
It takes less than a couple of minutes, and I can vouch for the
Escapade’s durability on an open trailer, having towed it many
hundreds of miles without a problem. The Kid would be as good,
with a suitable lightweight trailer.
Simpler times
If you haven’t tried this kind of low-energy flying before, may I
suggest you give it a whirl? A 450kg, 160mph microlight is all
about getting from A to B as fast as possible, and needs pretty
intense concentration at all phases of flight – and particularly if
it all goes quiet up front. Sure, 50mph and 105kg won’t get you
anywhere very fast, but is that really the point?
Private aviation can never really compare with ground transport for convenience, speed and cost, and with the Kid you can
sit back and enjoy the view from 1000ft, secure in the knowledge
that if there’s a problem up front you can put it down safely pretty
much anywhere. Most microlighters are tinkerers at heart, and
want to personalize their machine to a greater or lesser extent.
Here’s your opportunity. It’s a well tried and tested layout, which
should allow a modicum of tinkering without any significant
And because there’s no need to be an approved manufacturer,
Terry will supply you the materials in whatever state you fancy –
from bare metal airframe at £6000, to a completed airframe with
your choice of engine, propeller and airframe, which will cost
around £18,000, depending on which engine you choose.
And while the first few airframes are of American manufacture, Terry’s planning to make subsequent examples locally.
The Kid would be an ideal vehicle for the USSR rally, with
plenty of space in the back for a tent and some spare two-stroke
oil. The orders are starting to arrive on Terry’s desk, so you’d better get in touch quickly if you want yours to be ready by then!
Single-seat high wing monoplane with conventional
three-axis control. Wings have unswept leading edges,
unswept trailing edges and constant chord; conventional
tail. Pitch control by elevator on tail; yaw control by finmounted rudder; roll control by ailerons. Wing braced by
struts from below; wing profile N/A ; 100% double-surface.
Undercarriage has three wheels in taildragger formation;
bungee suspension, on mainwheels. Push-right go-right
tailwheel steering connected to aerodynamic controls.
Hydraulic disc brakes on mainwheels. Fabric-covered
welded steel-tube fuselage and tail surfaces; aluminiumtube wing spars with ply ribs, fabric-covered. Engine
mounted below wing, driving tractor propeller.
Length overall 4.92m. Height overall NA. Wing span 8.94m.
Constant chord 1.17m. Dihedral 1.0°. Sweepback 0°. Main
wing area 10.5m². Aileron area 1.02m² . Aspect ratio 7.64/1.
Fin area 0.31m². Rudder area 0.45m². Elevator area 0.63m².
Tailplane area 0.87 m². Wheel track 1.43m. Wheelbase
3.73m. Main wheels dia 34cm. Tailwheel dia 10cm.
Hirth F33AS engine, air-cooled. Max power 28hp at
6200rpm. Powerfin two-blade propeller, 1.32m dia,
ground-adjustable pitch. Belt-drive reduction, ratio 1.25/1.
Max static thrust N/A. Power per unit area 2.67hp/m². Fuel
capacity 20 litre.
Empty weight 102.5kg. Max take-off weight 235kg. Payload
133.5kg. Max wing loading 22.38kg/m². Max power loading
8.39kg/hp. Load factors +4, -2 recommended, +6, -3
Max level speed 60mph. Never exceed speed 101mph.
Economic cruising speed 50mph. Stall speed 25mph. Max
climb rate at sea level 300ft/min. Min sink rate 300ft/min at
35mph. Best glide ratio with power off N/A at 40mph. Takeoff distance to clear 15m obstacle 50m on grass. Landing
distance to clear 15m obstacle 50m on grass. Service
ceiling N/A. Range at average cruising speed N/A miles.
Noise level N/A dB(A) LEL.
* Under unspecified test conditions
£13,000 as tested (rapid-build kit with specification as
above), £18,000 ready to fly.
N/A = Not available
Figures above are manufacturer’s/importer’s data
Figures in text are tester’s experience
April 2009