Occupational Health & Safety

Novel German Acrobatic Aircraft Wins Approvals

Both the FAA and the European Aviation Safety Agency are issuing certifications for the Sbach 342, aka the XA42, which XtremeAir GmbH claims is the safest aerobatic aircraft ever.

U.S. and European authorities are approving a two-seat, entirely carbon fiber German airplane, the Sbach 342, for use in acrobatic flying. Manufacturer XtremeAir GmbH of Hecklingen, Germany, received the European Aviation Safety Agency's Type Certification for the aircraft on March 22, and the Federal Aviation Administration published final special conditions for it March 26. Both authorities call the aircraft the XA42.

This type of airplane is considered an "unlimited" acrobatic aircraft because it can perform at the highest levels of acrobatic competition and can perform any maneuver listed in the Aresti Catalog, according to FAA's special conditions notice. FAA will certify the XA42 only in the acrobatic category, although EASA certified it as a dual category (acrobatic/utility) airplane. "Unlimited" acrobatic planes have evolved into aircraft with "very low mass, exceptional roll rates and very high G capabilities, in addition to power to mass ratios that are unique to this type of airplane," and such planes cannot comply with the stability provisions of the 14 CFR part 23 regulations, so the agency specifies special conditions and limitations for flying them, FAA noted.

XtremeAir's online data indicate the Sbach 342 can climb at 3,200 feet per minute and has a wingspan of 24.6 feet and an overall length of 21.6 feet. FAA, recognizing that fuel exhaustion is one of the leading causes of accidents associated with this aircraft type, allowed Xtreme Air to seek certification of a limited acrobatic envelope at a higher weight (for fuel) that still meets minimum load requirements in the regulations. The plane also is approved for VFR operations in daylight only and prohibited from being flown in icing conditions. Its maximum takeoff weight in the acrobatic category is 1,874 pounds, and is maximum altitude is 15,000 feet.

Xtreme Air says the plane is the safest aerobatic aircraft ever. It is the first aerobatic aircraft to be made entirely of carbon fiber, the first subjected to full occupant crash testing, the first with the main fuel tank located in a separately vented compartment away from the cockpit, and the first with full airframe fatigue testing, it says. For more information, contact Philipp Steinbach at steinbach@xtremeair.de.

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