“Everything you need and not much else,” is the catchy tagline from aviation entrepreneur Chip Erwin.
With those words, he described the Italian Zigolo, which is based on a design by American Mike Sandlin. (In a sign of our global times, Erwin imports it to both USA and China.) One look at the aircraft and you can see what he is describing. Zigolo has everything you need to go aloft to have some aerial fun and, well … not much else.
A similarly simple but well packaged design is made here in the US of A but has recently made its way overseas to Germany and the European Union. Florida’s Aerolite 103 (Aerolite 120 in Europe to conform to its “120 Class”) also has all a pilot needs to see the countryside.
Both aircraft are single seaters and they share one characteristic that ought to intrigue for you two reasons. Their singular quality is their surprisingly low cost. You could own your aircraft for pennies on the usual aircraft-buying dollar. Newcomers to aviation may also enjoy this fact.
Every pilot to whom I’ve spoken in recent years wants more people to share our pleasure of flight. Aerolite and Zigolo can appeal to younger pilots on tighter budgets and each costs less than the average price of a new car.
Zigolo Is Made to Soar
General aviation pilots are apt to look at either airplane and think, “Why, these are just ultralights.” If you said that, you are right, but these ultralights aren’t like those from the early 1980s when the FAA created that category. In those formative days, ultralights were very basic aircraft with little history. They’ve come a long way since.
Zigolo is incredibly light, only 225 pounds empty even with its standard airframe parachute system. This means at least three things. It can easily make Part 103, which limits empty weight to 254 pounds. Zigolo has enough weight margin to allow ideas like electric power (more below).
For GA pilots, it means some familiarization to comprehend with the different response to the air that a lightplane exhibits compared to a heavier GA aircraft. A lighter airplane takes less material, a component of holding down the price.
Zigolo is powered by a 25-hp Vittorazi Moster 185 engine. The lightweight engine and airframe helps it take off in a mere 120 feet, climb 400 fpm (about like most Cessna 150s), and burn only 1.5 gallons an hour.
Beyond its gasoline engine, Erwin is flying Zigolo powered by an electric motor. That’s significant in a couple ways.
Readers are surely aware of the push by many visionaries to fly electric powered airplanes. Many experts fully expect this trend to gain increasing strength as time passes. Given intense development to raise battery technology, a great stride forward in energy density will come, most agree. It is presently impossible to pack the potency of gasoline into a battery.
When batteries offer more staying power, larger aircraft will explore electric power. Even today, Airbus is talking about an electric 90-seat airliner. Yet today, batteries are too heavy for larger airplanes to have a reasonable endurance. That’s why a super lightweight like Zigolo can comply with Part 103’s tough empty weight rule even while carrying batteries that allow 30 minutes of flight or more.
If 30 minutes doesn’t sound like much, consider that in 10 minutes or so, Zigolo can climb to 4,000 feet where you can shut down and work thermal or ridge lift. When you’re done soaring around, you still have 20 minutes of battery power to get you back to your home field. Zigolo’s light weight and 36 foot span will permit easy soaring on all but marginal days.
Beside good flight qualities, the best news about Zigolo is its remarkable price of $16,000 for what Erwin calls an “almost ready-to-fly aircraft.”
On balance, Zigolo is not a cross country machine, flying only 45 mph and, as mentioned, GA pilots used to heavier airplanes must acclimate, yet at $16,000, you can experience a lot of fun per dollar of investment.