Most of what our media reports about Iran is bad: Islamic militants. Contested elections. Brutal suppression of dissent. Nuclear ambitions. What we don’t hear is about the country’s light aircraft producers. Then consider Malaysia. Do you think of that country relative to aircraft production? Do you think of it in any way? My guess is most Yankee aviators haven’t given either country much thought (except maybe in a negative context). Yet here is Free Bird.
An article appearing on Iran’s PressTV began, “Iranian aviation researchers have designed and built an all-composite ultralight aircraft to meet the country’s training, border control, surveillance and recreational needs.” The researchers are evidently employees of manufacturer H. F. Dorna Company, which “was established in Tehran in 1988 as a private company specializing in design and manufacture of light-sport aircraft.”
Managing director Yaghoub Entesari was reported as saying, “[Free Bird's] full composite structure conforms to ASTM technical standards and falls under the micro-light category under Iranian law.”
Free Bird (pictured above) is said to fly more than 500 miles with a maximum airspeed in level flight of more than 150 mph (which is beyond FAA’s LSA rules). Based on company literature, pricing appears competitive, but no mention is made for any glass cockpit options, unusual in today’s market unless such gear is not available or permitted in Iran.
Given U. S. government problems with Iran I don’t expect we’ll soon see any of these in America, but the company reports 19 have been sold.
Equally distant from American shores is Malaysia. Discovered via an article in The Star, local company Euroala Industries Sdn Bhd. acquired all the production rights, design and know-how of JetFox (pictured, left) [from previous owners, including Italy's EuroALA]. The Malaysian company stated, “Taking advantage of the lower cost of labor in Malaysia, the company has set up the production plant near Kuala Lumpur where it will continue the production of JetFox aircraft to supply to the traditional market in Europe and the USA while positioning itself to tap the newly emerging markets in the East.”
Euroala Industries found some support at high levels of government. According to the news report, “‘Light-sport aircraft have a tremendous future in the country and will be well accepted locally,’ Transport Minister Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha said. He said the sport, which had previously only been accessible to the rich, was now more affordable to all Malaysians.”
Euroala Industries recently announced it was ready to start producing the JetFox. A few years ago I flew the model and for its day, this was a handsome microlight-type airplane with some genuine Italian style. Its cockpit was perhaps a bit tight for Americans, especially during entry, but might well serve Asian pilots. The company reports 140 JetFox aircraft have been delivered worldwide (by the original Italian producer).
For more on Sport Pilot and LSA: ByDanJohnson.com