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Constructor's Corner

Keith Manwaring's SkyRanger kitplane project

Rev. 4 — additional images added April 24, 2006

SkyRanger is a high wing ultralight with two seats abreast and dual controls. Construction is of aluminium tube, polyester sailcloth skins, fibreglass cowlings and polycarbonate doors, cabin roof and windscreen. Length is 5.7 m and wingspan 9.5 m. It comes only as a kit, was designed by Phillipe Prevot of France and was first produced in the mid 1990s. Over 800 are flying in Europe and America but only 3 in Australia. Overseas it is used for pilot training in flying schools. Piloted by Paul Dewhurst of England it has won the world ultralight championship four times in the last ten years.

My interest in building and flying a light aircraft developed after installing a flight simulator on my computer which continues as an absorbing hobby. Apart from tinkering with a car engine in the 1950s, outboard motors and lawnmowers I had no mechanical training or experience. When it came to metal fabrication I had to learn how to instal a rivet.

The kit came with a build manual of 167 pages for cowlings, cabin, fuselage and wings with many photographs sometimes difficult to ascertain from which direction they were taken. As there was no other model within NSW to inspect the then agent in Queensland devised a system to photograph and email me the particular section under query.

Tube components were mainly pre-drilled with bolts supplied. Cabin floor, windscreen, roof and doors had to be cut and fitted. Fitting the engine and ancillaries was a full-on learning experience and took as much time as the rest of the aircraft. Being retired [from a fairly demanding desk job] I was able to devote a lot of time to the project and so the SkyRanger took one year [556 hours] to build in a small single car garage, except for the wings and tail sections completed in a hangar. Most offers of help although well intentioned evaporated so apart from electrics, exhaust cutting and welding and fitting wing battens I completed the project alone. Templates for the firewall and dashboard were not available so I designed same from photographs. Some fabrication of small sections was also necessary.

Flight testing for 25 hours was done by Steve Cohen who builds the Skydart at Wedderburn and John Taru, instructor at The Oaks near Camden. No problems were found except for a tendency to bank left corrected by adjustment of the right flap and a serious fuel leak at the auxiliary pump subsequently replaced with one with longer connecting lugs. Some oil lines affected by heat were replaced and relocated.

... Keith Manwaring

Cabin frame

Cabin frame. Squareness in all planes was essential as any distortion would affect later fitting of cowlings, windscreen and cabin roof. Ordinary nuts were used until final tightening with nylocs, Loctite 243 and marking tightened nuts in red textra.

Rear fuselage frame

Rear fuselage frame. Suspending the longeron tubes in place was achieved by a series of nails and strings off the garage walls but not without quite a few bumps on the head. But working alone is sometimes an advantage as it enables full concentration.

Engine ready to mount

Mounting the engine. A scrap wood stand worked well allowing a number of test mounts with packing between stand and engine as required to align supports with engine.

Firewall and rudder pedals in place

Firewall. The firewall template was missing from the kit and was not available despite many requests. Necessitated own drafting onto cardboard from photographs in manual with test fitting inside fibreglass cowling [supplied] before final cutting from aluminium sheet.

Exhaust cut, welded and fitted

Exhaust. Had to be cut, welded and fitted from stainless steel tubes and “doughnuts” supplied. Well outside my expertise but luckily found a pilot friend who completed with great skill.

Oil and water radiators installed

Oil and water radiators. Support brackets were fabricated from aluminium bar – minimum clearance all around so surprised when they fitted at first attempt. The builder is required to acquire and fit oil and water hoses.

Windscreen, dashboard and instrument panel

Windscreen, dashboard and instrument panel. The one piece 1.5 mm thick windscreen and cabin roof was marked out and cut from a roll of GE Lexan in accordance with a diagram in the manual — which also indicated that three people were required to fit and rivet in place. I preferred to hold in place with alligator clips and secure the windscreen to the fibreglass cowling with small bolts instead of rivets avoiding the tendency to rush, which can happen when you have assistance — by the way Loctite and polycarbonate are not compatible. The remainder of the roll of Lexan supplied was used for the windows. Dashboard was cut and fitted from a fibreglass sheet supplied. Holes in panel for instruments were made with an adjustable hole cutter.

Fuel tank calibrated

Fuel tanks. Twin tanks only supplied. Builder to find and fit crossfeed, breathers, fuel lines with connections to tanks for feed and return, hose clips, stop cock, drain cock, line filter and backup pump. Tanks were calibrated by filling and marking with measured quantities of water.

Wiring instrument panel

Instrument panel rear. The builder is responsible for selecting and acquiring all necessary instruments. The wiring was installed by an expert friend.

Instruments installed

Instruments installed.


Cockpit. Joystick, hydraulic brake lever and cylinder [cord looped over grip used for “brakes on”], press-to-talk switch, left side dual throttle control, damped yacht compass [which works well] and other instruments.

Elevator trim wheel

Elevator trim wheel.Trim control on overhead starboard side tube, full length Lexan door latched up under wing.

Cockpit floor

Fittings between and under seats. Main axle, back-up fuel pump, fuel filter, flap lever with position spring, cable pulleys – set of three plus one single- two outside for rudder – two inside for elevator [note keepers installed by builder] – seats are tilted forward for picture.

Inside rear fuselagel

Inside rear fuselage. Showing the four longerons, the mid-way brace, control cables and rudder bungees.

Elevator trim tab

Elevator trim tab Spring activated trim tab on starboard elevator – also showing is the top half of the elevator horn.

Fuselage envelope

Fuselage envelope Nylon cord lacing fuselage fabric from below – note velcro strips used to close cover, blue canvas is part of the tie-down cover.

First run Rotax 100 ULS

Rotax 100 ULS. A powerful, reliable engine. The builder is responsible for acquiring and fitting Bowden cables for throttle and choke.

Garage to hangar

Enroute to hangar. The 70 km trip from garage to hangar was completed using a hired car carrier.

Test fit wing frame

Test fit wing frame.

Wing with cover and battens in place

Wing frames and covers. The supplied tube frames were bolted up then collapsed in a scissor action to permit the pre-sewn covers to be pulled on. Each frame was then restored and fabric stretched along leading edge and secured with a large rivet at the root end. Battens to create the wing profile were then installed in pre-sewn pockets in the wing fabric. The fabric was then tightened at the root end by threaded bolts pushing between a compression tube and cross tubes in the wing fabric.

Clear prop!

"Clear prop!"