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SW Aviator Feb/Mar 2001
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The New Wilga
Aerial SUV

Story by Kevin McKown
Photos by Don Mickey

Wow, what an exciting airplane to fly! Through the years, I have acquired over 500 hours in tail wheel aircraft, including the Super Cub, Cessna 185, Maule, and Husky. However, I’ve never had as much fun as I have flying the new PZL Wilga 2000. I seriously believe the Wilga would follow my old Super Cub down a rabbit hole and back out again, if you know what I mean.

On the morning I test flew the Wilga, my adrenaline was up. As we pulled onto runway 21 at the Albuquerque International Sunport, I remembered the advice I’d received on mastering the takeoff, “As you bring in the power, keep the tail down. Don’t finesse this airplane into the air.” The reason for this is the Wilga’s massive independent trailing link main gear, which is extremely forgiving (to the point you can easily walk this aircraft over a sidewalk curb), but makes wheel takeoffs and landings a bit tricky without some hours of familiarization.

The conditions at Albuquerque for this test flight were typical of the kind of flying one might encounter in the Southwest: 70 degrees, calm winds, and a field elevation of 5,360 feet. There were three of us on board, all definitely over 180 pounds, and there were 50 gallons of fuel in the 106 gal capacity tanks.

I twisted in the power a bit slowly at first, so as not to startle the 300 horses beneath the cowl. Even with power full in, the cabin noise was remarkably low. This was where things got interesting. Our ground roll was just under 400 feet before the aircraft was airborne. Wow! Very impressive. On climbout, our rate of climb was between 1400 fpm to 1700 fpm. This airplane likes to go up.

Once at altitude, I put the Wilga through a series of turns, lazy 8s, slow flight, and stalls. I’d heard the old Wilga flew like a truck. Not this new Wilga 2000. In my opinion, the controls were amazingly fluid. The controls have been reworked by the factory, along with many other creature comfort, power plant, and airframe improvements. Stalls were interesting. The Wilga never really broke and stalled. Each time I pulled the stick back to the point of stall, she just screamed stall horn and mushed earthward at about 400 fpm. In a power-on stall, the P-factor would roll the plane a bit, but some light aileron in the opposite direction would stop the roll and the plane would again mush earthward at about 400 fpm. With this kind of slow-flight capability, it’s not surprising that American law enforcement has been taking a close look at the new Wilga.

The Wilga I was flying had previously been flying a demo circuit for several law enforcement agencies, and was still outfitted with a FLIR package. The package consists of a large panel-mounted FLIR screen, and an unusual exhaust system snaking around the belly-mounted FLIR camera. This camera is capable of reading a license plate at 2 miles using only starlight on a very dark night. Cool!

The Wilga is a really versatile workhorse. It can be outfitted with floats or snow skis. The large, mostly Plexiglas doors can be opened or closed in flight, or simply be left at home in the garage. Since there are no wing struts on the high wings, photographers and pipeline or power line inspectors have an unobstructed view. The powerful, roomy Wilga is also an ideal parachute platform.

On approach to landing I followed the advice I’d received on making a good Wilga landing. I first brought the power back to establish a 500 ft/min decent and slowed to deploy full flaps. I crossed the numbers at around 50 knots indicated, trimming all the while to keep the stick light to the touch. Once I felt the tail wheel rolling, I anticipated the slight drop to the mains signifying our arrival. The landing was easy, though my slight drop to the mains was a bit more than slight. However, even with my rusty skills, the landing was more forgiving than I anticipated. I am told that with the large trailing link gear even the roughest of landings are easily absorbed.

I haven’t flown anything this fun for a long time. With a rugged suspension, cavernous cargo capacity, and go-anywhere takeoff and landing performance, the FAA certified Wilga could be likened to a Hummer or Range Rover. This is the ultimate aviator’s SUV.

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The material in this publication is for advisory information only and should not be relied upon for navigation, maintenance or flight techniques. SW Regional Publications and the staff neither assume any responsibility for the accuracy of this publication's content nor any liability arising fom it
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©2001 Southwest Regional Publishing, Inc.