When I visited the Sling factory a couple of weeks ago, it was almost twelve months ago that we covered the launch of the much-anticipated high wing at AirVenture in Oshkosh, USA. During the launch they got their first order for the pretty, strutless design.
The plan then was to fly the highwing, as they have done with the Sling2, 4 and TSi, to the world's largest gathering of aircraft and aviators. However, little did we know that for the first time in its 50-year history, the Experimental Aircraft Association Convention was, like all other events, cancelled because of Covid 19, a microscopically small virus that closed borders, stopped international travel and forced workers to stay home while businesses stood idly or folded.
We, in sunny South Africa, were not spared and on the 17th of March the country went into an almost complete lock down. However, at the Sling factory in Tedderfield, work on the high wing continued. The cancellation of AirVenture might have offered them a respite, but it was then decided to get the first prototype, a taildragger, ready to be flown to Sun 'n Fun in Florida in the USA in April 2021 where it would remain. The second prototype, a tricycle, would then be flown to Oshkosh later in the year. Afterwards, as has now become part of the Sling's tradition, it will be flown around the world.
The only major development necessary for the high wing consisted almost solely on the center section as well as the cantilever wing.
Why a high wing one may ask? The answer is simple; because there still is a demand for high wings. High wing aircraft offers easier access than low wings, have better air to ground visibility and are more suited to back county rough airfields than low wings. The cantilever wing used on Sling's high wing has less drag than a strut supported wing and it frankly gives the aircraft a much cleaner and more professional serious aircraft look. Furthermore, the Sling 2 and 4 share the same wing, landing gear empennage and firewall forward structure. In all the current models, the only major difference is in the center section. Thus, based on the TSi, the only major development necessary for the high wing consisted almost solely on the center section as well as the cantilever wing.
The center section and cabin of the high wing is a one-piece segment constructed from carbon fibre.
The high wing will share the instrument panel of the TSi
As well as the Rotax 915 is.
The other major difference is a first for Sling. The center section and cabin of the high wing is a one-piece segment constructed from carbon fibre. Using carbon fibre has a number of advantages; it weighs less and is less bulky to ship than the metal center sections and being a premoulded complete section will result in a drastic decrease in built time for the home builder. Sling estimates that the high wing can be completed in the same time as a TSi quick build kit.
With the USA currently being the mainstay of the Sling's market and Americans being famous for being big people, it is no surprise that the cabin is spacious and can comfortably accommodate a pilot and crew of 6 foot 7 inches. Beside a standard ballistic chute, provision is made for luggage as well as an extension into the rear fuselage into which a set of golf clubs will fit.
Testing of all the major components is well advanced and during my visit, three cabin sections were completed, one having been mated to the rear fuselage with a complete empennage.
Sling Aircraft, then the Airplane Factory, was founded by Mike Blyth with two staff members in 2005. Today the company, South Africa's most successful aircraft manufacture ever, employs 210 people and have produced 500 aircraft about half which are kits and half ready to fly. The company has received 38 orders in the last four months, 75% of which are for the TSi.
Judging by the reception the high wing got during its launch last year, I have no doubt that Sling has another winner in its stable.
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