What would I Buy….Kolb

What would I buy….Kolb
This is the first installment in a new series of articles based on a hypothetical set of airplane ownership criteria. Note: This information is strictly the opinion of the author. Your mileage may vary.

The goal will be to spend less than $10,000 for a light sport eligible, single-seater, with cheap operating costs.

So if I was limited to the criteria above what would I buy?

The Kolb Firestar

 

This is an airplane that I have romanced about since the first time I laid eyes on it. It is poetically simple and has all the essential elements that make it an airplane.

Most Kolbs are too heavy to be an ultralight, but that was the genesis of the design. A departure from many ultralights is its conventional 3-axis controls. The Kolb enthusiasts claim great handling, which is huge for me. The Kolb is also an awesome STOL aircraft if you are so inclined, you could fly it off a farm strip. The low stall speed also makes it a docile taildragger.

The Kolb puts the pilot out front so the visual experience is unrivaled. Being a pusher your view is unfettered by that unsightly cowling and prop.

The Kolb is very minimal so you’re not going night IFR in the winter in this thing, but if you are looking for a pure, inexpensive way to fly, it’s tough to beat.

The Kolb has folding wings which eliminates the need for a hangar if you are really cost conscience.

Probably the only drawback is the 2 stroke power plant, which is cheap and easy to maintain, but needs more maintenance and can be less reliable if not properly tended to. There are 4 stroke replacements, but I’m not familiar with the complexities of a retrofit. Based on the stall speed and low mass an engine failure wouldn’t be a huge deal anyway in a Kolb.

Operating costs are dirt cheap. There’s just not much to maintain. Fabric every 20 years on the wing and tail – no biggie. It burns autofuel with a premix of oil. Fuel burns are around 4 gallons an hour. You need to top overhaul the engine every 250 hours, but again that is as low as $250. So you could reasonably fly this thing for $25/hour (insurance and hangar not incl.)

Specs

The design features a forward fuselage of welded 4130 steel tubing, mated to an aluminum tailboom. The horizontal stabilizer, tail fin and wings are also constructed of riveted aluminum tubing with all flying surfaces covered in doped aircraft fabric. The wings are quick-folding for storage and ground transport. The aircraft can be made ready to fly from trailering in eight minutes by one person, without the use of tools.

The landing gear is sprung tubing for the main gear, with a steerable sprung tailwheel.

Factory options originally included removable doors for cool weather flying.

The Firestar II was created using the same fuselage but adding a small jump seat in the baggage area. The seating is very restricted for the rear seat passenger and their legs are placed beside the front seat pilot. There are no dual controls. The wing used on the Firestar II is taken from the Kolb Twinstar  Mk III.

General characteristics

  • Crew: one
  • Length: 20 ft 3 in (6.17 m)
  • Wingspan: 27 ft 8 in (8.43 m)
  • Height: 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)
  • Wing area: 143 sq ft (13.3 m2)
  • Empty weight: 254 lb (115 kg)
  • Gross weight: 550 lb (249 kg)
  • Fuel capacity: 5 US gallons (19 litres)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Rotax 277 single cylinder, two-stroke aircraft engine, 28 hp (21 kW). Most are now equipped with the 503 thus taking them out of the ultralight category.

Performance

  • Maximum speed: 63 mph (101 km/h; 55 kn)
  • Cruise speed: 53 mph (46 kn; 85 km/h)
  • Stall speed: 27 mph (23 kn; 43 km/h)
  • Never exceed speed: 80 mph (70 kn; 129 km/h)
  • Range: 130 mi (113 nmi; 209 km)
  • G limits: +4/-2

I have a silly fantasy of buying a bunch of Kolb Firestars and Twinstars (the side-by-side 2 seat version) and giving out Sport Pilot licenses for pennies on the dollar. Then offer a flying club so you have access to the Kolb Air Force. Cheap, fun flying for all Americans! But I digress…

In 2012 dollars a good example can be had for under $10,000. Here’s an example from Barnstormers.com for $9000 and one for $10,500 and these are asking prices.

I have noticed that the number of Kolbs for sale fluctuates and this week I am seeing a lower number of ads – maybe people are catching on!

There are certainly other capable aircraft in this genre, like the Airbike, Cubby, VP-1 Volksplane, and MiniMax, to name a few. Any of these would be fun to fly on a nice sunny day!

I offer up some videos below that’ll get your juices flowing. Remember, just because you can’t afford a Cirrus doesn’t mean you shouldn’t fly.

Here are two great pictures added from a friend of the blog and Kolb-driver, Dennis. That’s he own private strip – lucky guy!

Too much fun!!

Dennis 001Saturday Pine Strip 049

 

We’d love to hear you comments!

-Brent


 

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