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Size XL

Just Aircraft’s enlarged SuperSTOL still super-STOL

By Dave Higdon

July 20, 2015 - Harriers hover; likewise helicopters, hummingbirds, and some kites.

Fixed-wing single-engine aircraft, not so much. Attempt to hover in most and aerodynamics and gravity make the bottom fall out from beneath the aircraft.

In Just Aircraft’s recently super-sized SuperSTOL XL, though, the world slows so much it feels like a hover. Add a few knots of headwind and the world slows beneath the aircraft until it feels like it’s descending down a 70-degree glide slope.

The experience feels—and almost looks—like a hover.

With super-short takeoff rolls, with touchdowns and rollouts decidedly short, the SuperSTOL XL befits its name.

From large to XL: A decidedly larger SuperSTOL

Tall and beefy like a heavyweight boxer, the XL feels light on its feet, maneuverable, and under control at all airspeeds.

The XL inherited its short-field manners from its predecessor, the original SuperSTOL.

Compared to the original, the XL carries an added 2 feet of fuselage aft of the cockpit, and a whopping 32 cubic feet for luggage; ahead of the cockpit Just Aircraft added 18 inches.

With UL Power’s 520i up front, according to the company the aircraft brings the same CG range as the original SuperSTOL.

The original SuperSTOL employed the familiar Rotax 912 making 100 hp. While the 912 is still an option, this particular XL boasts six cylinders for 520 cubic inches at a relaxed output of 180 horses.

As an experimental amateur-built (E-AB) kit, the builder enjoys the option of completing the aircraft to LSA standards, with a 1,320-pound gross weight, or to go beyond LSA with a gross weight of 1,550 pounds—a 230-pound jump.

At a typical empty weight of 870 pounds, the aircraft has a useful load of 680 pounds; stick to LSA limits and useful load still comes in at a respectable 449 pounds. Full-fuel payload hits 518 pounds at the higher gross weight, or 287 at the LSA maximum.

Regardless, no builder need fear breaking any speed limitations. The XL tops out at about 90 to 95 knots with the huge 29-inch Alaska Bushwheels rolling on the big red XL flown for this article.

With 27 gallons, a nominal cruise burn of 6.2 gallons per hour, the XL can fly three hours before dipping into reserves.

And two passengers won’t feel crowded in the 44-inch-wide cabin.

As for runway performance…here’s a short take.

There’s short-field and XL short-field…

Under the coaching of Just Aircraft’s pilot Harrison Smith AirVenture Today enjoyed some quality time sampling the XL’s flying qualities Sunday evening.

The fun starts when the throttle hits the stop.

Harrison demonstrated his favored technique: Ease the power to full, release the brakes, stick forward, tail up, flaps down, and stick back. You see nothing but sky in the windshield.

We rolled maybe 100, 120 feet.

The photo illustrates the result far better than any words.

And it all happened before the airspeed hit 40 knots; climb rate can hit 2,000 feet per minute.

My turn at the stick reminded me of other similar designs. Turns work out best by leading with the rudder before using the huge ailerons. Just Aircraft now offers an option that adds roll spoilers interconnected with the ailerons for even more roll response.

Cruising southwest of Wittman Regional Airport let me sample the XL’s solid control feel; stalls were straight-forward after reducing power, easing back the stick until the leading-edge cuffs pop out before adding flaps. Somewhere down in the low 30s indicated, a slight buffet signaled the onset of stall—but the “break” was more mush than anything.

Roll control remained solid throughout, and the rudder made light work of keeping the slip/skid ball centered.

Easy up, easy down

To get back to Earth, reverse the takeoff process: Slow until the leading-edge cuffs pop out, add flaps, nose up, and the plane settles at a near ideal three-point attitude. Botch it, though, and the landing gear’s 22-inch stroke helps avoid any embarrassment.

A sturdy, roomy flier and a whole world of runway potential. Just Aircraft’s Super STOL XL is XL fun.

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