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RF-6B / RFB 180 Sportsman

Fournier aircraft history, performance and specifications

Since the early 1960's, Fournier aircraft have been known under the RF logo, throughout all countries where light and sports aviation is in practice. Their flying characteristics, their low operating maintenance cost and their long life cycle are universally recognized and are the basis for a well deserved reputation confirmed by very high resale prices on the second hand market.

In all, René Fournier has designed and built 12 prototypes which are described in the list below :

  • RF-01 : This aircraft is the first prototype designed by René Fournier as early as 1947 but built in 1960. This aircraft won a French Government award for its flying characteristics.

  • RF-2 : Improved version of the RF-01 designed in 1962. One aircraft of this type is now part of the Air Museum's collection in Paris.

  • RF-3 : Designed in 1963, this one seater aircraft was manufactured in series in France by Alpavia, a company owned by René Fournier and his Belgian partner Antoine d'Assche. Between 1963 and 1966 this company manufactured and sold about 100 aircraft of this type.

  • RF-4 : Aerobatic version of the RF-3, designed in 1966. In all, 173 aircraft of this type were manufactured under licence by Sportavia, a company created by Alfons Putzer in Dahlem (West Germany) and which became part of the VFW-Fokker Group.

  • RF-5 : Tandem two-seater aircraft designed in 1968 and manufactured under licence by Sportavia. About 200 aircraft of this type were produced until 1975.

  • RF-6 : Three seater designed for Sportavia in 1970.

  • RF-6B : Two seater, side-by-side, aerobatic and training aircraft designed in 1973. At all 45 aircraft of this type were manufactured under licence in France by Avions Fournier. The Slingsby T-67M 'Firefly' is a development in composite of the RF-6B, which has been used as a basic trainer by different Air Forces, including the US Air Force.

  • RF-7 : Experimental aerobatic one-seater designed in 1970.

  • RF-8 : Experimental metallic tandem two-seater, designed in 1973 for the military market.

  • RF-9 : Motorglider two seater side by side developed in 1976-1977 and manufactured under licence in France by Fournier Aviation.

  • RF-10 : Plastic and carbon fibre extrapolation of the RF-9. Designed and developed in 1985, it is currently manufactured under licence by Aeromot in Brazil and called : Ximango

  • RF-47 : Two seater side-by-side aircraft as a low cost trainer. This aircraft was certified to standard JAR VLA in October 1995 and will be put into production one day.

The first Fournier aircraft were characterized by their long wing aspect ratio and a single wheel undercarriage used for gliders. Hence, the name of 'avions-planeurs' given by their designer. Since its creation in 1960, this new formula has been largely exploited by the competition under the name of 'motorglider'. The Volkswagen engine used by most of these motorgliders and was first certified for aircraft after a demonstration by René Fournier of its high reliability on his aircraft.

It is as from this moment, when the whole motorglider movement would develop worldwide.

But the Fournier aircraft are not only 'avions-planeurs'. During the past 30 years, René Fournier has also designed more classical aircraft for training, such as the RF-7, the RF-8 and the RF-6B which is now manufactured in composite under the name of Slingsby T-67M. The latest Fournier aircraft, the RF-47 is designed as well for basic low cost training by flying clubs or private schools.

In all, about 800 Fournier aircraft were manufactured and sold in 35 countries around the world.

It should be also noted that the Fournier aircraft are amongst the most silent and economical in the world. Hence, these were purchased by many private pilots for leisure purposes due to their low cost. The Fournier aircraft can also be used in a large number of sectors such as :

  • Basic training and improvement for private, commercial and military pilots.

  • Surveillance for civil purposes (eg. watching of animal reservations, fire forests detection, etc…) or military missions, as their wood and fabric structure makes them hardly detectable by radar.

Several challenges or world records were taken on a Fournier aircraft.

Wave flight altitude record (11.200 meters) on a RF-3 in 1965.

  • Crossing over the North Atlantic from West Germany to California on a RF-4 in 1968 and return flight in 1969 by Mira Slovak. This RF-4, mounted with a 39 hp Volkswagen engine, is still now the smallest aircraft which was ever flown across the North Atlantic. It is now part of the Museum of Flight's collection in Seattle (USA).

  • Crossing of the Americas in 1971 on a RF-5, from California to Cape Horn and back.

  • Crossing the North Atlantic from Hamburg to Oshkosh (USA) on a RF-5 in 1980.

  • 17.000 km trip from Porto Alegre (Brazil) to Oshkosh (USA) and back in 1990 on a RF-10.

  • 2001. World tour by Gérard Moss of Swiss origin, living in Brazil. The first to fly alone in a motor glider around our planet with the RF-10, n° 11, built in France in 1986.The wings had been reinforced to support the plane's increased load (video/tv equipment and 290 litres of petrol). A 55000 km circle over 40 countries: was a real achievement the pilot and his aircraft.

René Fournier is the only French aircraft designer who can sign his aircraft with his own name and is held in high regard by the aviation world. In close cooperation with his engineers, he remains highly involved in aircraft engineering and continues to design and study aircraft.

His latest model, the RF-47, was considered by the French Fédération Nationale Aéronautique as the best training aircraft to be used by flying clubs.

Fournier aircraft manufactured

RF1: Only one made, owned by Rene and crashed at Dijon in 1961

RF2: 2 built.
no.1 believed to be airworthy in France.
no.2 on display in Musee de L’air, Paris.

RF3: 89 built.

RF4: 1 prototype & 2 others built in France.

RF4D: 156 built in Germany. (Hence the D suffix.)

RF5: 127 built.

RF5b ‘Sperber’: 99 built.

RF6: Only prototype made.

RF6b: 44 built.

Production taken over by Slingsby Aviation in Yorkshire, UK and construction changed from wood & fabric to composite as the ‘Firefly’, engine size increased from 100 hp through variants, to a maximum of 260 with constant speed prop.

RF6c (RS180 Sportsman): No. built unknown.

RF7: 2 built. (The prototype and a homebuilt.)

RF8: Only prototype made.

RF9: 14 built.

RF10: 14 built.

Ximango / Super Ximango: No. built unknown.