AirVenture in the one place on planet earth where more aviation innovation is exposed to humanity in a single week than any other time or place. Entrepreneurs, major corporations and backyard tinkerers all use AirVenture to wow the world with the latest and greatest airplanes, components or ideas designed to be game changers in aviation. Contending for one of those slots is the striking SF-1 Archon, parked near the entrance of Exhibit Building A at AirVenture. The SF stands for Sport Fighter, and it does its best to replicate the form of a next generation fighter aircraft. If you hold your head just right, you can see an American F-35 or a Russian T-50. In reality, it is an engineering prototype of an all-aluminum amateur-built aircraft that operates in the light sport/ultralight realm.
Dave Hertner, who owns and runs Fisher Flying Products, discovered the SF-1 Archon in Greece (yes, the one in Europe). Designed by aviation enthusiast and entrepreneur Giorgios Iliapoulos, two SF-1 prototypes have been flying for several years and have reportedly accumulated over 400 hours of flight time. Hertner, who has not flown the AirVenture displayed prototype, states that flight tests have been conducted in Greece by Greek military pilots.
The original prototypes have been powered by a two-cylinder two-stroke engine, producing 40 horsepower. The airplane displayed at AirVenture has been transplanted with a 4-cylinder Rotax water-cooled engine, weighing more than twice as much and putting out 100 horsepower. The displayed prototype has .016 aluminum skins, which designer Iiiapoulous utilized in an effort to get the ship down to European ultralight weight. Hertner anticipates utilizing .020 skins for the U.S. model. The current empty weight is 422 pounds (201.1 kg), but that weight is expected to increase significantly with the thicker skins and engine accessories.
The engineering prototype has fully retractable landing gear and pushrod-controlled split elevators. The fit and finish of the prototype is crude, but the fighter-like form and lines of the craft are what has stopped attendees in their tracks. Several pilots have been skeptical that this display can actually fly, but Hertner points to several YouTube videos showing the prototype doing just that in Greece. Hertner reports that the prototype (with its original 40-hp engine) would cruise at 110 mph and stall at 40 mph. The VNE for the airframe has been set at 155 mph.
Don’t expect kit shipments soon. Hertner offers that he shipped this prototype from Greece to display it at AirVenture so that he could gauge interest. If enough people are interested, he anticipates further development and possibly future marketing of the SF-1 Archon to the flying public.