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Skyranger - owners and builders impressions


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Guest mudjeep

Hi folks,

 

One thing about not having piles of cash lying around ready to be spent is that you have a lot of time to think about how best to spend it when you get it. On the issue of which aircraft I've considered plenty, and now that the chance to actually write a cheque is starting to materialise I have come full circle to a type that I considered a while back - the Skyranger.

 

My requirements are:

 

  • Good short field performance - my strip is likely to be about 400m with a 3 degree downslope
     
     
  • Ability to handle rough strips
     
     
  • Good cruise speed - 80kts or more
     
     
  • Good useful load - enough for two persons, full tanks and an overnight bag for two
     
     
  • Easy to build
     

 

Plenty of aircraft satisfy these requirements but I am attracted to the fast build nature of the Skyranger as compared to others. This would allow me to be flying fairly soon without having to consider buying something else first, then working on a long project.

 

So I am after the impressions of those who have bought/built/own/flown the Skyranger. Anything at all would be useful. I visited Tony in QLD late last year and saw an example but it was too windy to fly that day.

 

Thanks in advance,

 

Jason

 

 

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Hi Jason:)

 

I am very happy with my SkyRanger at 62 hours. I also fly off a small strip (340m) with a downslope of at least 3 degrees. I am a new pilot however, so can't offer you too much in the way of comparisons. Other planes I have flown include a Jabiru, Skyfox Gazelle and Bantam.

 

Personally, I really enjoyed the VSTOL performance of the Bantam and the angle coming into to land. The Skyranger can't land in as short a space as the bantam, but it' not too shabby considering it also cruises at 75-80 at 4500rpm with a Rotax 100hp - I have the long wing with dacron, but heard that the short wing with xlam is a fair bit quicker. The take offs are again, not as short as a bantam (which seems to be able to go up in about 40m), but I am off the ground and climbing quickly at 100-140m. I find the SkyRanger easy to fly as a new pilot, with my main difficulty getting used to the yaw if adding throttle when landing - but this is sorted pretty quickly and seems to be a result of the larger Rotax engine.

 

I bought my kit through Jean-Claude and he was excellent. I am also very impressed with Tony (who I've meet once), who helped me fix an aileron (hanger rash) in one day (travelled from Caloundra to Southport), by driving me to an aluminium machinist who did a good job at a reasonable job.

 

If you would like to ask any further questions, just send me a PM.

 

gav:)

 

PS: you can always join the SkyRanger forum at yahoo groups, where you will find a large number of members, who are willing to help. Both the US and UK distributors are also on the site and know exectly what they are talking about.

 

 

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David, Gav, other Skyranger owners/pilots,

 

As a new student pilot, I too am dreaming about how I'm going to justify spending the money on flying once/if I gain my licence. The lack of available aircraft in FNQ for hire seems to point towards buying or building. I'm currently learning in a Jabiru UL-D and really enjoying it, but I also like the look of the Skyranger. Any information or stories about your experiences would be a great help. Rather that posting privately, please put them on this forum so we all gain benefit from what you have done.

 

I'm particularly interested in the build time and ease of assembly. Also whether anyone has used the Jabiru 2200? Is cross country realistic or am I better sticking to a second-hand Jabiru? Typical journey might be from Innisfail or Mareeba, then around Cooktown and further north on the Cape. Once a year I would expect to travel to SEQLD or interstate.

 

Cheers,

 

Mathew

 

 

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OK

 

Mathew and Jason

 

here with something that I wrote 2 years ago concerning my selection of the Skyranger.

 

Since that time I have I have notched up over 200 hours and am absolutely thrilled with the aircraft.

 

Good things about the Skyranger

 

1..not too expensive a kit

 

2..very easy and quick to build, You will have something recognisably an aircraft after a week of work.

 

3..very easy to fly

 

4..great short field performance

 

5..OK on grass and rough fields

 

6..can be tail dragger

 

7..can have big wheels for rough fields.

 

8..excellent visibility

 

9..easiest aircraft with less than 10 seats to get in and out of

 

10..good payload

 

11..OK, if not fast cross country, mine has been South Port to Avalon and back and then Southport to Yarram.

 

Because it is very light it is a bit bouncy in turbulence, and as with all others of similar design is is rather draggy and hence not very fast.

 

An absolute delight to fly.

 

best wishes

 

David Hill.

 

Buying the right aircraft



 

 

 

 

 

a personal journey



 

 

 

 

When we retired, the Spouse Person and I decided that in our future there would be an aeroplane.

 

So I prepared the check list of features that this aircraft would need. Over time this became a very long list. A list that included Australian manufacture, metal skin to lessen need for hangarage, factory built so that potential as school aircraft would increase its resale value, economical enough for spur of the moment flits around the block, long enough legs for serious touring, easy access for older bones and not seen as too claustrophobic for the Spouse Person’s sensitivities.

 

Over a couple of years the check list grew and grew while the decision seemed further and further away. At fly-ins I was the guy with the limp acquired from a surfeit of tyre kicking. Early on I decided against GRP aircraft for no other reason than rebellion against the ‘everybody has one’ phenomenon. If forced to justify that restriction I’d say that all the ones that I’d seen within the ultralight class were too heavy to have a reasonable useful load. A criticism I suspect more justified of the regulation than of the aircraft. Although I did make one local manufacturer an offer that he couldn’t refuse. He promptly declined.

 

Then we found the Foxbat!. Ticked all our boxes did the Foxbat. Spouse Person loved the visibility and swallowed the demonstration pilot’s line that a slow flight ability equated to safety and utility, hook line and sinker. There was room for all the essentials (hair drier, presents for the grandchildren etc) although the drinks trolley would require a substantial re design. To her mind the very best flying thing that didn’t have 7*7 in its name.

 

So we ordered the Foxbat and celebrated when Peter Harlow wrote back with a delivery date and a build number. Then I took the numbers, the other numbers, to the accountant and explained to him my clever financing scheme. Ah the harsh implications of the various regulations governing taxation and superannuation. The verdict was yes my cunning funding scheme would work. Work that is until the auditors had a good look. Would still work after their assessment but in the process our super fund would lose its compliant status. Meaning that we would have our Foxbat alright but with a severely slashed retirement income stream within which to enjoy it.

 

I wrote the “Dear Peter†letter, and Peter with courtesy, sympathy and understanding allocated our order to some other lucky pilot.

 

Back to tyre kicking. At this point something strange happened:- I completely forgot about the check list and went about instead seeking something that looked like a Foxbat; a less expensive Foxbat.

 

In New Zealand I spied a Skyranger, went for a fly with owner Wayne and immediately fell in love with the aircraft. Back in Australia I contacted Jean-claude Smitka and negotiated to purchase sight unseen his demonstrator Skyranger VH ULS. By the time that friend Jim and I arrived in Yarram on our delivery flight from Southport I was 100% happy with the new purchase.

 

Now about that checklist:- the Skyranger is not Australian, not metal, nor factory built. But it is the aircraft that struck the emotional chords for me. First I fell in love with it; a process that completely over rode my carefully prepared check list. Then I retrospectively built up a whole new check list that recorded the long list of positive features of the chosen one. Much the same way that I chose the Spouse Person.

 

Fortunately for me in both cases the post-decision list of positive features is extensive and in hindsight should have comprised the first list.

 

Excellent visibility, predictable handling, great useful load, superbly matched engine and prop (same Kiev prop/912 combination as the Foxbat), very easy for stiff jointed folk to get in and out of , comfortable seats, practical 80kt tourer and cheerful/economical 60kt around-the-block sight seeing platform. Couple all that with very good short field performance and lowish purchase price and for what else would one ask?.

 

When I heard about Skyranger’s four gold medals in the World Microlight Championships and three major awards Sun ‘n Fun I was reassured that others with better adhered-to checklists than mine have arrived at similar conclusions.

 

I did not build mine. I know David Hill too well to be up there in the first aircraft that he ever built. The Skyranger however would be very hard to beat for ease, speed and economy of home construction. (They say that two people can have one flying in two weeks). All that with a price differential from the Foxbat that would allow me to pay cash for a dearer motor car than anything I have owned in the last 6 decades.

 

ULS is now 19-4397 and I hope cringes less now at my approach than during my first attempts, after a 15 year absence from 3 axis flying, to guide her through the air-ground interface .

 

 

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I do not know of any Jab motors in Australia there are several in the UK and USA check on the Yahoo Skyranger site. A very informative and helpful group.

 

As for the Rotax & Kiev prop combination my wife has never heard my fly over the house even when she knows that I am due.

 

I believe that the Rotax and Kieve are an excellent combination.

 

cheers

 

davidh

 

 

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Hi Mathew, Jason and Gavin.

 

I would have to agree with David on the flying qualities of the Skyranger.

 

I bought mine two years ago, the kit was delivered at the end of Jan 06 and the aircraft flew for the first time on May 16th 06. Tolal assembly time was about 350 hours. I was a first time builder and loved the build process.

 

My skyranger is the short wing variety (swift) it is a little faster than the long wing version and handles turbulence better. Lightly loaded I cruise at 92 kts at 5000rpm and burn 17 litres/hr. At mtow I flight plan for 85 kts and almost always exceed it.

 

It is a great cross country tourer with 270 kg useful load. Pilot, passenger a bit of baggage and 90 litres of fuel. My son and I flew from Latrobe valley to Birdsville return last September for the races and averaged 87 kts.

 

Any aircraft is a compromise, but the Skyranger does it better than most and has to be the best value for money around. Am I happy with my choice? You Bet!

 

Greg.

 

 

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Guest mudjeep

Thanks for your thoughts so far guys. I've been reading the builders manual and the POH from the UK and it looks like it's going to be great fun to build. It also looks like the poms get exceptional backup and support during the build process. What's it like here?

 

Greg, whats the takeoff and landing performance like on the Swift, compared to the standard wing?

 

 

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Hi Jason.

 

I doubt there is much difference between short and long wing in landing and take off performance. There is only about 1-2 knots difference in stall speed, but the long wing has quicker roll response. Take off is brisk, most of the short wing aircraft have 912 ULS engines (100 HP) and that more than compensates for the slight difference in lift. Climb out is 1200 fpm easy. The short wing (swift) is the way to go.

 

We are only a small family here in Australia and don't quite get the support they get in the UK, but we are all available to help out if you need it, only a phone call away.

 

 

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Jason did say>>>>

 

My requirements are:

 

  • Good short field performance - my strip is likely to be about 400m with a 3 degree downslope
     
     
  • Ability to handle rough strips
     
     
  • Good cruise speed - 80kts or more
     
     
  • Good useful load - enough for two persons, full tanks and an overnight bag for two
     
     
  • Easy to build
     
     
  • >>>>>>>>
     

 

400mtr is heaps for the SKR mine lived for a while on a 300Mtr (fence to harbour) strip that was very rough at each end with a good 100mtr of grass in the centre. Relatively easy to ensure all ops were on the centre good portion. Paul Dewhurst managed to clear a one mtr tape in 35mtrs from a standing start. But not many pilots are in his class.

 

Manages the rough grass no trouble, and I see little need to go for the optional large wheels or tail dragger configuration unless you want to operate out of river beds.

 

80kts is OK in the 80hp and long wing , faster with the short wing, bigger engine and the smoother fabric. At 60kts scenic pottering around your fuel burn is so low that you could get almost 6 hours out of the 60lt tanks.

 

I doubt there is a better payload ability that fits under the 544 MTOW and that delivers 80kts cruise at max weight.

 

Very easy to build, excellent manuals, heaps of assistance from an international news group, with over 1000 flying any problem that you will encounter will have been addressed by someone else. When the tubes come out of the box the bolts are already in the correct holes.

 

There must be a reason that 5 times world microlight champion Paul Dewhurst chose the Skyranger.

 

best of wishes

 

David Hill.

 

 

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  • 1 month later...

More tyre kicking questions on the Skyranger

 

1. The photos on the Skyranger website seem to suggest two 60 litre tanks. Are the increments shown for each tank (therefore 120l in total), or do they show total fuel? Greg has said he has 90 litres, is this a third tank, assuming the aboves indicated 2 x 30 litres.

 

2. Can someone provide an indication of cruise speed with the "Swift" wings, 912 ULS motor, and X-LAM fabric?

 

3. Is anyone flying/builder a skyranger close to the coast between Cairns and Brisbane. I am travelling in mid January and might be able to convince my family for a short detour for a worthy cause ;). I would appreciate the opportunity to kick some real tyres instead of just with my mouse.

 

Regards, Mathew

 

 

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Mathew,

 

The standard Skyranger has two 30 lit tanks connected to each other with a balance tube therefore when wings are level each tanks holds the same amount. ie a total of 60 lit when full.

 

Fuel is gaged is by looking back over your shoulder. Without great contortion either pilot can see only one tank hence both are calibrated to read 60 liters.

 

Larger tanks are available in the USA or by special fabrication, however the standard kit as delivered in Australia has two 30 litre tanks.

 

best of wishes

 

Davidh

 

 

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Hi Mathew.

 

David's information is correct. However I have fitted another aux fuel tank between the standard tanks. This gives me a total of 90 litres, about 88 usable. At 17 l/hour this gives me 4.5 hours with reserve.

 

I have X-lam covering and 912 ULS engine, one up I cruise at 92 knots, at MTOW a bit slower. Last year my son and I flew up to Birdsville return and averaged 85 kts.

 

I don't know who is building where at present but if you contact Tony Holtham (Australian Agent) he would be able to tell you.

 

Regards

 

Greg

 

 

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I have X-lam covering..

Out of curiosity, what is X-lam? is it shrunk like fabric, or not like dacron? Either way that looks like a very business-like aircraft....sweet.

 

 

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X-Lam is a trilaminate material. It has a middle layer of dacron scrim sandwiched between a plastic type material, very strong and is quoted as being much more UV durable. It is non-porous so just a wipe over and it's clean. It adds a few kilos to the weight of the aircraft and is a little more expensive but worth every cent.

 

Rgeards

 

Greg.

 

 

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Hi Matthew:)

 

No worries mate. I should be home in early Jan and am 1 hr South of Mackay (just passed Koumala) - 5 kms off the hwy. Drop by with your family and have a coffee, check out the plane and if the weather's suitable, we'll go for a fly. Just send me a pm and I'll give you the contact details.

 

gav :)

 

 

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  • 2 years later...

Hi Guys,

 

I am off a property in Central Queensland and was curious about the Skyranger's manouverability and slow speed handling. As well as cruising, a fair bit of flying would be done at 50-60 KIAS @ around 500' to 1000' AGL, checking cattle etc. I learnt in a Jab, would its handling characteristics be much different? Any help is much appreciated. Skyranger seems to be the best for the price. Cheers.

 

 

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Greetings Jimbo

 

I have 600 hours in my Skyranger much of that at 60kts and below, and many paddock landings

 

An excellent aircraft for that role and also a practical longer distance cruiser with heaps of room, fabulous visibility.

 

For property work you could consider building it as a tail dragger which would improve its already great paddock abilities.

 

PM me with any questions

 

cheers

 

Davidh

 

 

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Hi Jimbo.

 

The Jab has a reputation of being one of the more difficult aircraft to fly (deserved or not I make no judgement) the Skyranger is at the opposite end of the scale, very easy to fly with excelent slow speed handling and manouverability. I have 450 hours up on mine and whilst David does a lot of low and slow work I use mine more as a tourer, with trips as far as the Kimberley region and Birdsville. The Skyranger will perform either of these rolls with ease. The ease of maintenance would be a bonus in your application also. I could be accused of bais but the Skyranger would take a lot of beating as a light station aircraft.

 

Regards

 

Greg

 

 

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A couple of months ago I flew into Leadville Colorado in a Skyranger known to its builders as "Gizmo"

 

the aircraft performed falwlessly to 13,000 feet.

 

.

 

Leadville has the houour of being the highest registered airfield in the United States.

 

What follows is a tale of the first time that Gizmo went to LEadville.

 

This was written by a good friend of the owner/builders, Rod Raleigh, in march of 06. At this point David the owner was still a student pilot.

 

David says " Rod spent quite a bit of time testing and training Dad, myself and the plane, since his first flight of "Gizmo" in Nov. 05.

 

He posted this letter to the Skyranger group, a few days after. There pics on the group site, called "Gizmo" goes to Leadville."

 

A

 

 

I've been a silent observer on this list for about 8 months now - I figure it's time to weigh in with my story.

 

A little over 1 year ago, a dear friend of mine told me that he and his dad were going to build an airplane. Actually, it was his dad's idea; since he was approaching the octogenarian milestone of his life, Elton deemed it necessary to try something "out-of-the ordinary". Both men had some recent flight training, but neither had soloed, so they asked me if I would help them with the "pilot perspective" of the project. I readily agreed and thus began my introduction to the SkyRanger.

 

During my first visit to their workshop (April 2005), father and son proudly displayed what looked like 1000 pieces of assorted aluminum tubing and a pile of cloth that reminded me of my grandmother's sewing room. I found myself concerned that I was expected to eventually take this collection of parts aloft and return with a report on how it flew - perhaps I had been a bit too eager to volunteer as test pilot. My worries soon vanished when I realized that this pile of "airplane parts" would take years to assemble into any such craft that might take flight, and by then I would be "unavailable"; or so I thought.

 

Three weeks later, Dave called me and said, "Hey, why don't you come down to the 'hangar' and sit in the plane. We want to make sure the seat is set right and the control stick falls in a comfortable position for you." I was flattered by the concern, but I couldn't imagine why they would waste time to mock up a cockpit for control position. (Dave works a full time job and only builds airplanes during evenings and weekends.) I obliged and made a date to visit. At this visit, I saw a very complete fuselage & empennage sitting on its gear with seats, floorboard, pedals and control stick mounted. "Holy crap - these guys are AP's in disguise with a Boeing assembly line as backup! They might really pull this gig off - now what do I do?"

 

Over the next several months, I visited the "hangar" a few more times. Not so much as to help build the airplane, but to help build my confidence. I bounced in the seat, I twisted the framework, I thumped the fabric, I rocked the wings, I wiggled the ailerons, I ran the motor, I did what I could to find fault in this airplane, yet it escaped my search. Instead, I became more impressed with the SkyRanger's ruggedness and its airplane qualities - "Did you see the size of those flaps? I know some 'real' planes that would like to have a set of those!" I had grown fond of "Gizmo" and now found myself eager to fly the little bugger.

 

On November 7th, 2005, "Gizmo" took to the air. After a few adjustments to trim and rigging, I was flying hands off and enjoying the incredible view! In less than 8 months, a non-pilot, first-time-AC-builder, while-working-a-day-job, father-son team, built a SkyRanger. A rock solid aircraft that flew like any "real" airplane should fly.

 

Since November, we have been occupied with the usual (and not so usual) flight-testing and proverbial "tweaking". It was the events of the past few weeks that moved me to write these accolades of the SkyRanger. Please note: I did not pick this airplane, it picked me; I therefore have no actions to justify.

 

"Gizmo" is powered by a Rotax 912 (100hp) turning an IVO Medium 3 blade ground adjustable prop. It has a BRS emergency chute, the 20 gallon fuel tank, clear coat on all the fabric (top & bottom), full electrical with mode C transponder, ICOM panel mount transceiver, strobes, position and landing lights - it weighs in a tad heavy. I bring about 215 lbs to the equation - okay, I weigh in a tad heavy too. Our home field is 6,200 MSL.

 

March 17, 2006 - After doing a few maximum performance take offs, I decided to explore "Gizmo's" service ceiling. OAT was 50 degrees F on the surface. While climbing through 7,000 MSL, the airspeed indicated 65 mph and 800 ft/min on theVSI. At 11,000MSL the VSI was registering 500 ft/min. By 15,000 MSL the climb rate had dwindled to 200 ft/min. The VSI was still indicating a positive 100 ft/min when I had to turn around at 17,700 MSL; I was fast approaching the boundaries of heaven, and you need God's permission to enter in. I took pictures of the altimeter - I didn't think anyone would believe me; after all, I was solo. The climb to 15,000ft. (from 7,000ft) took me just under 18 minutes - that works out to an average of 450 ft/min. For all practical purposes, 15,000 ft MSL will clear most everything we have in Colorado with safe margin. (Side note: I've tried the same stunt in my 230 HP "Spam-can" - I got bored hanging on the prop at 16,500 MSL and never went higher.)

 

March 25, 2006 - Clear Colorado sky, wind calm, a great day for some dual cross-country. Elton and I load up the SkyRanger with 11 gallons of fuel, 445 lbs of organic material and head out! Pikes Peak is due west of our field, rising to 14,300 ft. We veer a few degrees north and level off at 10,500. Our destination, 83 miles distant, is Lake County Airport; just outside of Leadville Colorado. Immediately east of Leadville is a mountain ridge that reaches up to about 12,000 ft. Elton eases "Gizmo" up to 13,000ft. MSL to "avoid leaving tracks in the snow". We drop down into the valley and set up right traffic for RWY16. Lake County Airport holds the grand honor of being the highest airport in North America. At 9,927 ft.MSL, Lake County is not for the faint of heart. In the thin mountain air, the stick is full aft as the SkyRanger settles nicely onto the runway.

 

The ramp is vacant except for a covered 182 and a gleaming RV-4. We meet the pilot of the RV in the pilot lounge. "What is that you're fly'n? A Kit Fox? An Avid?..A what? It's made where?" "You know, gettin' in here is the easy part, it's the leavin' that bites ya. You might have trouble gettin' out in that little plane this afternoon."

 

(Does that smirk come with the RV kit or is it a special order item?)

 

If you ask, the nice folks at the FBO will present you with a "Certificate of Pilotage" just for visiting via an airborne vehicle. Elton handled his certificate at if it might break. He carefully stowed it away flat, so as not to mar it with a crease or wrinkle. The courtesy car was out of service so we headed back out to the ramp - tummies a grumbling.

 

Headwinds had hampered our westerly travel so we opted to add some 100LL before heading back. We back taxied on RWY16 to take advantage of its full length. If we couldn't fly out of ground effect, I wanted enough runway to land again and exercise plan "B". After run up, we deployed flaps and fire walled the throttle. Unbeknownst to us, a gallery of skeptics had gathered outside the FBO to watch our departure. No doubt they were eager to see us wallow down the runway, struggling for altitude. We waved as we passed the FBO - with 1/3 of the runway behind us, we were at 50ft AGL and climbing. ASOS announced density altitude at 10,900 yet we were climbing at 300 ft/min with 2 fat boys and ? fuel on board! By the end of the runway we were 200 ft AGL and still climbing. I had Elton lower the nose just so we could watch for traffic. I'm sure our grins were visible from the ground. For the rest of the trip home I sat in disbelief. I just couldn't believe how "Gizmo" launched off that high runway at near gross.

 

Those of you that are flying SkyRangers know the outstanding performance these aircraft offer - my story only confirms what you already knew. Those of you that are straddling the fence, I urge you to fly a SkyRanger. My first impression of the SkyRanger was that it was a mediocre ultra light made for the flat lands; it had no real business in the high country. After riding "Gizmo" through the gauntlet, I have the utmost confidence in the capabilities and performance of the SkyRanger. I'd take it anywhere. I'll race an RV to 300 ft AGL any day of the week!

 

There are new challenging fields on my wish list to visit - places that I never would have considered before I met "Gizmo".

 

If you happen to be in the Rocky Mountain region, give Dave & Elton a call (719-661-3615), they'll set you up with an incredible ride in a SkyRanger.

 

Rod Raleigh

 

SkyRanger convert

 

 

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