reprinted courtesy of EAA EXPERIMENTER, August, 2000
Saved from Extinction!
ASAP's Chinook Plus 2 is a winner.
by Dan Johnson (website -
The term white knight usually refers to someone who rides in to save the day. In the world
of finance, this may be a venture capitalist who offers money to a struggling company. In
the world of light aviation, it's a company who rescues a popular design and keeps it
alive and well. In the case of Canada's Chinook ultralight/light plane, the white knight
was Brent Holomis and his company, ASAP, shorthand for Aircraft Sales And Parts. The
Vernon, British Columbia, company is today a full-fledged manufacturer, building two of
our northern neighbor's best-selling ultralight aircraft.
Some years ago, you may have known this bunch of aviation enthusiasts as Canadian
Ultralight Manufacturing. Over the years, ASAP's business has expanded, and the western
Canada company now sells the Chinook Plus 2 as well as the Beaver RX550. The family
business has a machining function and supports CNC (computer numerically controlled)
mills, a nearly perfect fit
with their growing aircraft-building business.
Before being rescued by ASAP, the Chinook had been designed and built by Birdman
Enterprises, who did a great job of originating this machine. With some 700 Chinooks
flying, Canadians in particular and microlight enthusiasts
all over the world are celebrating ASAP's support of this unique light aircraft. ASAP has
now logged better than ten years as its producer.
Checking out the view
from the front seat shows the great forward visibility available in the Chinook Plus 2.
While the aircraft Dan Johnson flew was equipped with a MaxPak instrument panel (inset),
final instrument choice is the owner's discretion.
Instrumentation for the rear-seat passenger/pilot is basic, but enough for
Engine options include the two-stroke, dual carb
Rotax 503 (far left) or the four-stroke HKs 700E engine. The subject aircraft for this
flight test article was equipped with the HKS engine.
|One of the trademarks of Chinook
aircraft is its football-shaped, molded fuel tanks hanging outboard on the wings of the
Dual control sticks in the tandem aircraft include a brake
handle and easy-to-access push-to-talk button.
What Makes It Singular?
Though the Chinook's wide cockpit gives it a pudgy appearance from some vantage points,
the design slips through the air quite well. I found a remarkably low sink rate in slow
idle descents. The Chinook also has light and powerful ailerons, which makes it easy to
guide through the air. In general, the plane's handling is quite pleasant despite, or
perhaps because of, its unorthodox shape. The Chinook was not always fully enclosed,
but the one I flew had full doors and an enclosed cabin supporting and protecting two
occupants in tandem seating. Entering a Chinook means lifting yourself over about 6 inches
of cockpit to the side of the seat. This could prove a bit challenging for less flexible
aviators, but once you swing into position, you'll love the roominess. Even with a
rear-seat passenger's feet on rudder pedals right alongside your seat bottom, space is
plentiful. If you have some extra girth yourself, the Chinook might accommodate you more
comfortably than some other designs.
In the cockpit you'll finds common controls such as a center-mounted joystick with
brake lever on the front side. No complaints there, but the throttle for the front-seat
pilot is located to the left and behind the front-seat position. It is a single throttle
quadrant with two handles, one extended forward and one aft. The idea is a single throttle
control that both occupants can reach. Dual throttle positions wouldn't add much weight,
but they would be more convenient to reach and make such an important control more
accessible. As I flew from the front seat, I had to pat around - like reaching for your
wallet in the dark - to find the throttle. From the rear, it's a good reach forward. Given
the location, no hand rest is available to steady your hand motion during fine power
adjustments. In a more user-friendly placement, the Chinook's right-hand side
features a control panel holding ignition switches, a master switch, a starter, a primer,
and a prop control lever (optional). This panel is only provided
for the front-seat operator, however.
ASAP has installed the MaxPak instrument panel with its full range of instrumentation. The
electronic panel switches from cylinder to cylinder (to obtain CHT or EGT) and offers
other controls by switch. It was the easiest instrument deck to read that I've ever used.
Below the MaxPak, ASAP has installed a few more temperature and pressure gauges to monitor
the four-stroke HKS engine. Getting ready for takeoff, as you turn to secure the
door with ASAP's little bungee cord fastener, you can't help but notice the massive amount
of clear area surrounding you. The fastener is rather basic to hold the large door
securely closed, but fortunately air pressure does most of the job.
The Chinook's electric-start HKS fired exactly as you'd expect a four-stroke to. It caught
quickly and settled into a humming preparation for taxi, its distinctive sound adding to
the Chinook's one-of-a-kind image. The twin cylinder Japanese aircraft engine certainly
has its own sound. I'd been told (in all early HKS installations) to watch for oil
temperatures higher than 200 degrees and for adequate oil pressure. ASAP's installation
typically ran under 180 degrees, showing they had it figured well. The HKS seemed hardly
to be working to fly me and the Chinook around. I imagine that it would do nearly as well
even loaded with two large pilots. This impression has been confirmed flying other
HKS-powered ultralights with two on board.
Holomis and crew nestled the two-cylinder HKS behind the rear cabin bulkhead. Lowering the
engine below the upper wing trailing edge helps the upper surface remain uncluttered and
efficient. It also gives the Chinook smooth lines visually. Holomis expresses a lot of
satisfaction with the engine distributed by HPower Ltd. and sees a market for the
60-horse, HKS-powered Chinooks among pilots who prefer the reliability and long life of
four-stroke engines. They'll also like the smooth torque power through a wide operating
range and the very low fuel usage. Many HKS users report a fuel burn as low as 2.0 gallons
an hour, less than a 503 doing the same work and under half that of a Rotax 582.
On a breezy day, I appreciated the low and wide stance of the Chinook while
taxiing. You hardly feel like you're operating a taildragger because the deck angle is
nearly flat. Even pilots without taildragger experience could consider flying this
ultralight as you can handle the Chinook almost as though it were a tri-gear design.
Launching and landing the Chinook is extraordinarily easy. Every variation of speed,
approach angle, or descent technique I attempted seemed to work. The all-around visibility
from the front seat also contributed to good launches and landings in the Chinook.
Yet another reason for the easy landings is the good roll control the aircraft possesses.
And it doesn't hurt that the large enclosure provides excellent slip potential. For this
reason, flaps would add little to that performance and, indeed, the aircraft has none.
Climb was strong thanks to the high-torque HKS. It isn't so much the rate of climb with
the four-stroke engine as it is the way the 700E bears the load of a highly pitched prop.
Most two-stroke engines express a sound of laboring when you nose up steeply and climb for
a sustained time. The HKS kept pushing me aloft without the slightest protest.
Fuel at a Glance
You are always sure about the fuel quantity in the Chinook as a glance out either side
quickly shows the remaining fuel in the football-shaped translucent gas tanks. A few
detractors believe airplanes shouldn't carry their fuel dangling from a wing strut, but
the Chinook's cockpit has little room for tanks. The only downside is the fuel lines must
be routed a good distance, and they run through the cabin to provide an easily accessed
fuel control valve. Despite the naysayers, Chinooks have been operating with this
unorthodox fuel setup for years without any problems to my knowledge. And with the
majority of the Chinook's fuel kept well away from the pilot, any incident presents less
of a fire hazard thanks to this design.
I liked flying the Chinook from the front, and the rear seat looks less interesting,
though I've never sampled it. The rear occupant's head is mere inches away from the
engine. While I know of no problems related to this closeness, noise and vibration are
surely worse, and entry requires twisting around the strut placement.
Great Useful Load
A 380-pound Chinook (empty) can carry a maximum of 950 pounds,
leaving 570 pounds of useful load. Subtract 60 pounds for fuel (10 gallons), and you are
left with 510 pounds of payload, or two 255-pound occupants. That's a lot of beef. Flown
solo, your rear seat "cargo" could be quite significant. Flying it solo, I saw
the Chinook reach 90 mph with the HKS engine. High cruise appeared to be in the range of
75 to 80 mph, and an economical cruise brought it down to about 60 to 65 mph. At the
latter power setting the HKS may burn only a couple of gallons an hour, yielding an
endurance of close to five hours with standard tanks. During power-off stalls the ASI (air
speed indicator) read 35 to 40 mph in several trials, most often hovering toward the lower
end of that range. In all cases stalls were mild and uneventful. With full power, the
Chinook simply keeps climbing even with the stick in the full back position. The nose
wanders a bit, but not frighteningly so. Power-off stalls were very
mild as well, breaking but only subtly. I can guess that stalls at gross might climb close
to 40 mph, but the stall characteristics probably stay similar.
One surprising performance characteristic of the Chinook is its low sink rate. This wing
design has impressed me before, and its descent rate near 350 fpm beats virtually every
other ultralight two seater I've flown. Glide didn't seem quite as strong even though
these two values are linked. My two complaints in the safety arena are that the
Chinook Plus 2 has no shoulder harnesses and does not advertise an option for them and
that it has no parachute. Now that ASAP is also in the parachute business, that may change
on their show planes. I hope the lack of proper shoulder restraints will also be upgraded.
Parting With Your Cash
The Holomis family has an easy-going manner. They've shown determination by remaining in
the ultralight business for a decade, so there's little risk associated with sending off a
major deposit to buy your own Chinook. Though either of ASAP's airplanes, the Chinook Plus
2 or the Beaver, will provide enjoyable flying, those with a taste for more refined
handling will prefer the Chinook. Its super wide, fully enclosed cabin will keep you
comfortable in cooler weather- even with bulky clothes on- and on longer flights. Add the
HKS engine to the basic Chinook airframe ($8,450), and you can have an impressive
ultralight kit for a bit over $15,000. Shipping, options, and finishing will add to this
figure, but for a four-stroke reputation this represents a fair value. Of course, since
the plane is Canadian, you must further consider things like currency fluctuations.
However, the Holomis
family is used to dealing with Yankees, so give them a call to find out the latest pricing
for yourself. The company also offers a wide range of optional accessories that you might
Chinook offers good performance and handling at a reasonable price. If you need some extra
space and if you love wide open visibility, this efficient-flying aircraft may be what you
need to enjoy year-round flying.
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