Monday, July 13, 2009

Zlin Savage Classic - First Impressions

I flew the Classic a week or two ago - it's a copy of the old Piper Cub.

The one pictured was a photo I took in Italy, the one I flew was in Australia. They were initially designed in Italy I believe and are now manufactured by Zlin in the Czech Republic. In Australia this has been called the Savage Cub but it is officially the Savage Classic.

They are sold as a Light Sport Aircraft in Australia. MTOW in LSA config is 560kg which gave about 263kg of useful load.

The aircraft is powered by the Rotax 912ULS and has a Woodcomp wood grain style prop.

The first impression is of a very, very well constructed and finished aircraft that's great fun to fly. It's very simple - a small, well laid out panel, with an XCom radio slung under the edge of the panel.

Stick is central, throttle is to the left, just where your arm/hand fall. Below that towards floor level is the flap lever it's the old "handbrake" style. It requires a little effort to pull flaps on, but the biggest issue for me was being able to reach it. To quote the man at the clothes shop (Henry Bucks for the Melbournians) I have "a long back, short arms and a fat neck". So I found that when the seat was all the way back - which I needed - I had to loosen my left shoulder strap in order to be able to (just) reach the flap lever.

At middle height on the left and back beside the seat is the trim - a toothed quadrant with a lever on it. Pull the lever towards you, pull or push to set and then let it go and it engages with the teeth and stays where you put it. Trim was quite aggressive - one notch at normal cruise made a big difference.

I'm a novice tail wheel pilot so ground handling was an initial challenge. However visibility is very good and after a while it all began to fall into place. The toe brakes are very effective.

Once at the end of the runway it was simply a case of feeding in power, gently picking up the tail and we were flying. I have no idea at what speed - my eyes were fixed on the end of the runway - but I would guess at something between thirty and forty knots. Acceleration was very quick at close to MTOW. First stage flaps were used for take off and Vfe is 60 knots for first stage and 50 knots for full flaps.

Climb after flap retraction was 60 knots and about 850fpm. The nose was sitting just below the horizon and the fun was really starting. This aircraft translates every action to the seat of your pants. Great fun to fly.

Levelling off the first thing that takes some getting used to is the very low nose attitude for S&L. The horizon is well up the screen by the time you are settled into your 85 knot cruise at 4900rpm or so.

Slow flight simply required increasing back pressure until finally the Classic stopped flying with the needle hovering somewhere between 20 and 25 knots. This aircraft was equipped with VGs and they are tremendously effective. I think that the speed was pretty accurate and not the result of positional error at the high AOA.

Wing drop was virtually non-existent and buffet was similarly all but absent. The aircraft is very well behaved at the stall but not telling you too much either.

Turns require a little rudder and very little back pressure for even moderately steep turns. Again the tendency is to climb until you get used to the low nose attitude. Visibility is great with the centre section of the wing having a perspex panel.

Returning to the field the aircraft was remarkably loathe to lose height and we used a couple of moderate descending turns to soak up some height. The Cub showed no sign of wanting to drop its nose or tighten the turn - all very placid.

It was in the circuit that the aircraft showed its true colours. It is docile, highly predictable and well behaved. Approaching base turn we cut the throttle and as the needle dropped past 60 knots we put out first stage flaps. Trim fairly far back - and now the trim is much less sensitive - and the aircraft sat solid as a rock at 60 knots. Easy to manage and not at all busy.

Indeed the one thing that I found unusual was that there was no sense that this was a draggy aircraft - this despite the various struts and bracing wires. It didn't require heaps of height or power to keep it flying.

Turning final we slowed to 50 knots and got full flaps out. Trim almost right back and again the aircraft is highly stable. However there was no sense of high sink rate - unlike a Tecnam in this configuration.

Over the threshold round out, throttle closed and just keep coming back on the stick. My first landing - with some encouragement from the back seat - was an absolute greaser of a three pointer. And that's the only landing I'm telling about!!

Again I have no idea about the speed I landed but the aircraft was easily managed on roll out with little dabs of rudder to keep it tracking. The one thing that got me on a couple of my landings was the fact that you are actually sitting quite high up. I kept thinking the ground was further away than it actually was.

I had the very strong impression that this is an aircraft that would really respond when you wanted to squeeze it into a little, rough strip somewhere. Even on a first flight I felt like I was really communicating with and being communicated to by the aircraft. Just the kind of thing that would inspire confidence if you are near the limits.

Overall first flight impressions: A simple aircraft that's really nicely built and finished. You could have a very great deal of fun in this aircraft. It reminded me so much of the very simple aircraft of the past. No fancy instrument panels, everything simple and manual. An absolute joy to fly.

I'll have one to sit in the hangar alongside the long distance cruiser that flies 40 knots faster. That really is the only downside - unless you count not being able to see your significant other whilst you are flying along.

This is the manufacturer's site: Zlin Savage Classic


  1. I have admired the profile of Cub since I begun to breathe. Its proportion and that snout which ostinatly watches up make a wonderful feeling to myself, embraced by the belts of my yellow Savage Classic, while the four pistons begin to move dragging with them the big wood propeller. Flying a Cub let me know the best of myself, to approach my deeper thoughts a little bit more.
    The time has been generous with me.
    Beppe Baschieri (Italy)

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