EV-97 Team Eurostar

EV-97 EuroStar, aka SportStar, has been manufactured for more than six years in the Czech Republic and has been used as a trainer in Europe without a single service bulletin or airworthiness directive issued, according to U.S. importer James Peeler of North Carolina.

In a form familiar to GA pilots, SportStar is built using conventional riveted-aluminium constructionů essentially a Cessna, Mooney, or Piper. Some compare the SportStar to the Cherokee series. But Evektor Aerotechnik, the Czech company behind the SportStar, has new ideas.

The wings have been designed with little dihedral, no taper, and no washout other than that which comes from the large upturned fibreglass wing tips. Construction is different by virtue of epoxy bonding in addition to riveting. While more time consuming, Evektor officials believe this method ensures a longer lasting aircraft.

SportStar's firewall is made of galvanized steel (as opposed to aluminium) that should provide greater safety and strength with a modest increase in weight. The fuselage is of semi-monocoque structure. Wings are metal, with fibreglass wing tips. The entire tail is also of all metal construction.

Most aircraft these days are composite even if their fuselages and wings use no fibreglass. SportStar is no different, with cowlings made of Kevlar, carbon fibre, and Fiberglas. Another place where composite is used is the landing gear. The main gear is said to have withstood "enormous deflection during (European certification) drop tests," according to Evektor officials.

The upper half of the engine cowl can be removed quickly using nine Dzus fasteners. Like most Cessnas and Pipers, an inspection port allows access to the dipstick and oil fill point.

SportStar comes with flaps and trim. I found the latter quite powerful, enough so that your first adjustments to it may have you over controlling. The trim lever is located between the seats.

The flap lever is just forward of the trim and this provides for some control conflict. However, each has a different tactile feel.

Evektor chose split flaps for SportStar. These older, less aerodynamic but simpler devices are usually good at producing drag but don't add any lift, even at lower settings. Conversely, they hide the hinge on the upper surface, which improves upper surface air flow.

ROOMY CABIN

Entry to and exit from SportStar is made easy by a forward-hinged bubble canopy. You enter from the rear of the wing as with most low-wing aircraft. Dual gas pistons should prevent blow-open damage and the canopy mates up to a rear section that makes for a spacious cockpit.

The canopy latches to the rear of the pilot's head and I noticed little air leaking around the seal. While I'm of average height, I had enough extra headroom to suggest tall pilots won't have to crouch inside.

The cockpit is noticeably wider than a familiar benchmark, the Cessna 150. It measures nearly 40 inches, but seems slightly larger as you can rest part of your arm on the interior structure of the canopy.

Instrumentation and electrical switches are positioned so that either occupant can read and access them. Map pockets with elastic are provided on both sides and you are allowed 33 pounds of baggage aft of the seats.

Rudder pedals feel firm on the ground, though they seem somewhat lighter in the air. Hydraulic toe brakes are available on the left side only but come standard with differential actuation. Their operation is typical with toe action working the brakes and pedal bases turning the nose wheel and rudder.

Surprisingly agile on the ground, SportStar can manage a full 360░ turn in 25 feet or less, less than its wingspan. The design also reveals a good deal of prop clearance and stands fairly tall on its landing gear, giving me the feeling that off-field landings shouldn't get too exciting.

Before takeoff and once aloft, most pilots will find the view massive. Of course, you have the usual downward obstruction of the wing, but checking for traffic before takeoff is a breeze and, in flight, you have an enormous field of view.

LAUNCH AND LAND

In crosswinds, SportStar does not exhibit a strong tendency to weathercock. I was fortunate and had favourable winds on the day I flew SportStar. Heat and humidity conspired to extend takeoff roll, nonetheless I believe the aircraft can depart the ground quite a bit faster than the 630 feet cited by the factory.

Rotation in the SportStar comes at 45 mph indicated, lower than most GA planes. I was able to climb comfortably at 55-60 mph, which produced just under an indicated 1,000 fpm.

Flaps are easily operated by a handbrake-type lever. You can set the surfaces to 15░, 30░, and 50░, which gives great versatility to handle different fields into which you might fly. "I have landed with a passenger on an 800-foot grass strip and had room to spare," Peeler says.

A wide control range allows you to perform very efficient slips to a landing. Given SportStar's good slips and deep flaps, you can approach at speeds barely above 40 mph and remain in good control. Unlike many of the speedy Light Sport Aircraft candidates I've flown, I experienced little difficulty keeping the ball centred. Though you get used to the slipperier models, any flying machine that makes control easy is one fast learned and long appreciated. One reason why the ball holds steady without much effort is the low rudder input needed.

I estimated roll rates at a bit more than three seconds for the 45░-to-45░ roll reversal test. This places SportStar in the middle-to-faster category. Ailerons retained most of their authority down to stall. Pitch control is also stable and not overly sensitive.

On the whole, SportStar stick forces are reasonably light, though about middle of the road for this class of aircraft. Though the rudders felt a bit stiff on the ground, this feeling seemed to disappear in the air. Harmony between stick and rudder was very good, among the best experiences I've had in light aircraft.

LIGHT SPORT AIRCRAFT SPEEDS

SportStar speeds are reasonably inside the limits allowed under FAA's proposed Light Sport Aircraft rule, currently a max of 115 knots or 132 mph.

"At gross, SportStar burned 4 gph flying to Oshkosh from North Carolina at 100 knots (115 mph) average speed," Peeler reports. Going north from his southern home base, he had 425 pounds of occupants on board, plus their baggage. Coming back he says he only burned 3.5 gph at the same 100-knot average, but with 100 pounds less payload.

In my evaluation flying, sink rate measured a little over 600 fpm, which should translate to a glide angle of close to 10:1. These numbers are comparable to many GA designs.

When performing longitudinal stability checks, I found SportStar responded conventionally to power changes, that is, she lowers the nose on power reduction and raises it on powering up.

In turns, SportStar will tend to stay where you establish bank with the joystick, that is, it is dynamically neutral in roll. This accounts for its light handling, but could cause some instability in high bank angles. Get experience with the machine before trying very steep turns and remember Evektor does not recommend aerobatics.

SportStar shows little adverse yaw tendency despite its responsive controls, a nice treat I didn't expect. This seems even more surprising as I could not tell any differential in the surface; usually, designers have ailerons go down further than they go up.

According to Evektor officials, the SportStar has been thoroughly spin tested. Stalls with no power came below 40 mph indicated, though instrument error was not determined. With power, the stall dropped into the low 30s and became rather indistinct.

READY FOR YOU?

According to some proponents, the SportStar is the Czech Republic's most successful and popular light aircraft. Nearly 200 examples have taken to the air since its introduction in 1997.

OK, let's say you're taken with the SportStar and its impressive package of performance, handling, capabilities, and $60,000 price tag. How do you know FAA will finally finish the Sport Pilot/Light Sport Aircraft rule? If it never happens will you be wasting your money?

While one of the major promises of Light Sport Aircraft is fully built flying machines, Evektor also offers SportStar as a kit. Nigel Beale, an old friend and the British importer of the design, says that someone with previous building experience might only require 500-600 hours to complete the SportStar.

Peeler reports SportStar is available as a kit for $25,000. That includes basic instruments, motor mount, differential brakes, finished interior, all parts and pieces pre-drilled and with nothing else needed but engine and engine accessories. A 51%-qualified fast-build kit with wings and tail section assembled sells for $30,000.

You have a choice of engines, including 912 Rotax, 912S Rotax, Jabiru 2200, and possibly a BMW engine currently being tested. Install a Rotax 912S and you'll spend about $37,000, plus your investment of 600 hours.

General aviation pilots should pay attention to the SportStar. It has been designed and built by a crew experienced in conventional design. As is the case with many eastern European light aircraft builders, an entire team of engineers participated in the design and testing of the SportStar. Once employed by a large aircraft producer, Let Aircraft Company, Evektor put no less than a dozen engineers on the task of creating SportStar.

Offering low operational costs, excellent cabin comfort, conventional and well balanced controls, with performance suited almost perfectly to the proposed Light Sport Aircraft category, some pilots may find true happiness with a SportStar.

specifications
 
powerplant
propeller
length
height
wing span
wing area
seats
empty weight
useful load
gross weight
fuel capacity
range
80 hp Rotax 912.
Vzlu 2300, two-bladed wooden, 65-inch diameter.
5.98 m
2.34 m
8.1 m
9.84 sq m
2
264 kg
186 kg
450 kg
x
400 nm

performance

takeoff distance, ground roll
rate of climb
max speed
cruise speed
landing distance, ground roll
service ceiling
145m
x
120 mph
105 mph
210m
16,000 ft

limiting and recommended speeds

design manoeuvring speed (Va)
never exceed speed (Vne)
stall, power off (Vsl)
landing approach speed
x
146 mph
40 mph
x

All specifications are based on manufacturer's calculations