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Some Good News from Ukraine

We are awash in bad news from Ukraine. Amazingly, it’s not all bad. While heads of state send troops into harm’s way, most of a nation’s citizenry merely attempts to live a normal life amid the chaos of war. Doing business and living your life while bomb warning sirens shriek is something most Americans can’t grasp, thankfully.

Aeroprakt, builder of the very successful A-22 and A-32 series of special LSA, suffered when a missile hit their flying club building. Their main factory remains in the central city of Kyiv, where it has been for many years. I visited this location back in 2003, so they’ve been stable for more than 20 years.

Their stability and determination to continue building and shipping quality aircraft as the war drags on is admirable. After an Oshkosh 2023 visit with former importer Dennis Long and present importer Andy Humphrey, I have some Aeroprakt news to report. 

Aeroprakt of Ukraine in 2023

I had to ask, even though I was worried about the answer: “How is Aeroprakt doing while the war rages?” It is reasonable to think Aeroprakt must be struggling to stay aloft when so many citizens are focused on defending their homeland. The glare of the world’s spotlights during the turmoil is surely uncomfortable and unhelpful.

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Yet, “They are back to ten aircraft per month,” said Humphrey. “Their best-ever steady performance was 12 aircraft per month before COVID, and then Russia’s invasion. So, they are doing surprisingly well.”

I asked about supply line problems and while acknowledging many challenges, Humphrey indicated Aeroproakt is managing well enough. “They have to deal with power outages at times, shifting to generators to keep the machinery humming,” he stated.

He also noted Aeroprakt is shipping materials in and finished aircraft out of Poland, a country that has been very supportive of its Ukraine neighbor. Aeroprakt employs about 50 personnel and has remained steady throughout the last three years. Long added that Aeroprakt has now passed 1,500 airplanes manufactured. Many light aircraft builders would love to match that performance

After A-32’s introduction five years ago, Aeroprakt has continued to upgrade A-22 even after the original was greatly streamlined to arrive at A-32.

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One of A-22’s newer changes included a third door.

While we are anticipating MOSAIC LSA or mLSA to offer larger cabins in 2025 and beyond, today we have some spacious LSA-like A-22s and A-32s. The third door made using their larger cabin much easier.

After eight months of 2023, Humphrey’s Heavenbound Aviation said sales are running about 50-50 between A-22 and A-32. The former, which has sold more than 1,000 units, has become popular with flight schools. They don’t need the speed and sophistication of the A-32 and the prior model is attractively priced for flight schools or recreational pilots. “A-32 generates interest from its 115 knot cruise, 27-knot stall—great for shorter airfields—and its brisker climb,” said Humphrey. “On the other hand, A-22 is more forgiving on landing as its flatter fuselage allows better slips, and it doesn’t retain energy as efficiently as the slicker A-32.”

No matter which model may catch your interest, Heavenbound is prepared. “We have all spare parts to service Aeroprakt’s line in our Ohio facility,” reported Humphrey. He also said that his enterprise enjoys a good relationship with the local Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) which approves Aeroprakt models as they arrive in the U.S.

Heavenbound has long been an active flight training operation as well. “Today flight training is a busy activity for us. We have three CFIs offering flight instruction in two Aeroproakts and two Taylorcraft,” said Humphrey. Though the Lordstown, Ohio outfit has as many students as they can handle, they always make room for a new Aeroprakt buyer. When I inquired, Humphrey said that “more [buyers] than you think” take instruction with their aircraft purchase, as many as half of them in recent years.

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IFR Trainer

Heavenbound brought the first fully-IFR-equipped A-32 to Oshkosh and it sold before the week finished. Since Aeroprakt has modest prices compared to many other LSA—A-22 is the price leader but even A-32 isn’t bad—you may not be surprised to learn an IFR A-32 sells for $195,000.

An IFR-capable Aeroprakt A-32 fitted with Garmin G3X Touch, GTN 650, plus Garmin autopilot and all lighting. [Dan Johnson]

Before you gripe about that price, remember a basic A-22 costs far less. If you select the thoroughly-redesigned A-32 with an expensive Garmin IFR suite of digital instruments, the cost will be much higher. You may not need all that.

Surrounding the Garmin G3X Touch main screen, Heavenbound specified the GMA 24 audio panel, a GTN 650 for IFR operations offering GPS, nav/com, VOR, ILS, plus RNAV capabilities. Those who want some of this equipment but can operate more simply could save a bundle by choosing the Garmin 175 instead, Humphrey explained.

The fully-equipped A-32 is ready for cloud penetration, assuming the pilot has an IFR rating and is current. Naturally, it is not approved for flight into known icing.

As you can see in the Video Pilot Report below, A-32 can have a central Y-stick but dual yokes is how A-22 was originally fitted. Note a bottle holder on the side of the panel which is built to allow generous forward-side visibility. [Dan Johnson]

“A flight school or an individual can file IFR and do under-hood training operations,” in the Special LSA model, Humphrey explained. If a customer wants to fly into IMC (Instrument Meteorological Conditions… “in the soup” if you prefer), then that pilot will need to change to ELSA status where paid flight instruction is no longer permitted, though that may not matter to many pilots.

The IFR version is quite complete. “In addition to the panel instruments, our model comes with Garmin’s autopilot and all the lighting you’d expect,” finished Humphrey.

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It is wonderful to see Aeroprakt continuing to build their handsome, colorful aircraft even as their homeland is troubled. This demonstrates the will of pilots and builders to pursue their interest in flight, regardless of obstacles placed in their way.

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