When I saw it gliding quietly toward the runway, my first thought was “dragonfly.” The bulbous head, long thin tail, and gossamer wings, didn’t look like any plane I had seen before. And even though my bike had its mind set on Starbucks, this unusual and interesting craft deserved a detour.
I rode up to the chain-link fence, peeled off my helmet, nodded at the pilot, and said, “Nice plane. Mind if I take a look?” And like most hobbyists (myself included), the guy was happy that someone was taking an interest. He walked around the plane with me, and patiently answered all my questions.
How much does it weigh? 625 pounds. What’s its range? 475-500 miles. Airspeed? 75-85 mph. What’s the wing and fuselage covering? Dacron. And my questions went on and on. What a cool and amazing plane!
It’s classified as an “open cockpit, ultralight,” and the official name is “Airaile S-12.” It’s manufactured by Rans, Inc. (which strangely, also makes bicycles), and believe it or not, it’s a KIT plane. That’s kit as in you build it yourself! It must take a plane-load of confidence to build your own plane from a kit, but this guy did it.
As I looked at the large, bubble cockpit, I imagined how exciting it must be to fly, and how wonderful the views must be. And even though it looks small and lightweight, its rear-facing “push” engine can carry the pilot, plus one passenger, and 75 pounds of baggage. Not bad for an oversized dragonfly.
Most of the planes that land at the airport don’t draw much attention … well except for the occasional high-profile Gulfstream, and oddities like this.