Tuesday 28 February 2012

American Eaglets of New Zealand

Following from Blue Bus's excruciating Question Time 146 about Charlie Stanton's Sunbird motorglider ZK-JEA (which used parts from his American Eaglet ZK-GOE), I thought I would post about American Eaglets in New Zealand.

The American Eaglet is a self-launching ultralight sailplane that was designed for kit building, by Larry Haigh. The first flight of the prototype was on 19/11/75. It is truly ultralight with an empty weight of only 160 pounds (90 Kg) and it can carry a 200 pound payload. Its length is 16 feet (4.9 metres) and its wingspan is 36 feet (11.0 metres). It has an aspect ratio of 18:1 and a maximum glide ratio of 24:1.

It also features a McCulloch MC 101 go kart engine of 15 HP, with a folding propellor (but I do not know what engines were installed in New Zealand examples).

There have been 5 American Eaglets in New Zealand, as below. The photos are from the Keith Morris collection unless otherwise noted.

ZK-GOE (c/n AACA/641) was built by Charlie Stanton of Nelson and it was first registered on 10/6/86. It was cancelled on 15/2/92 and as noted above parts were used in Charlie's later Sunbird motorglider ZK-JEA. The photo was taken at the 1987 AACA flyin at Omaka where it was on static display without power.

ZK-GOH (c/n A591) was built by JL Williams on the North Shore of Auckland, and was first registered on 24/8/87. It was withdrawn for use and cancelled at Auckland in 8/95.

ZK-GOJ (c/n AACA/678) was built by D Visser of Auckland, and was first registered on 3/8/87. I think it and ZK-GOH may have been built together. I have seen a photo of both of them rigged together on the same North Shore lawn, but I do not have a photo of ZK-GOJ. Can anyone provide a photo? It was damaged at Hobsonville on 20/12/87 and was cancelled on 15/9/88.

ZK-GOK (c/n AACA/231) was built by NR Swan and G Jones of Auckland and was first registered on 18/5/84, making it our first Eaglet. It is photo'd here at Feilding in late 1985. It was sold to CG Donovan of Taihape on 22/1/86 and then to PR Ramsay of Dunedin on 5/12/02. It was withdrawn and cancelled on 6/10/03.

And finally we have ZK-GPF (c/n 365) which was started by Rex Handley of Blenhiem, and was completed by Andy Fairhall of Renwick. It also used parts from ZK-GOE. It was first registered on 23/11/94. As can be seen from the photo it featured a conventional rudder and tailplane, and from other photos it may not have been a motorglider. It was withdrawn and cancelled on 4/9/01. Thanks to Blue Bus for the photo, which was taken at Omaka on 21/5/95.


  1. These were interesting gliders. I test flew GOK at Hobsonville and also GOJ, although sadly during early test flying OJ went into a yaw-lock situation due to the slightly higher canopy profile changing the yaw stability of the glider. It was landed successfully but due to the extreme yaw angle on touchdown extensive damage was done to the undercarriage, canopy and wingtips and the owner lost confidence in the design, which probably rubbed off on OH's builder as well.
    Both of these gliders were fitted with McCullough 101 engines but these were never tested in flight and would not have had the power to launch off the grass airfield.
    The American Eaglet was a radical attempt to bring an affordable, microlight self-launching glider to the marketplace, and although it was beset with quirks and problems, I am sure these could have been solved, especially with the technology we have today.

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