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Sat, Jul 28, 2007

The Slick-540: A Hot, New Aerobatic Ship

Don't Let Plain White Wrapper Deceive You

by ANN Correspondent Jeremy King

Maybe it's just the overall white finish with no real flashy trim, but this beast looks like an Extra and Nemesis may have been fooling around while nobody watched at one of last year's fly-ins. Its salesmen unabashedly say the airplane's lines come from the Extra 230 and the Laser.

The Slick 540 certainly fits the bill. Designed and built with input from South African champion aerobatic pilot Glen Dell, the prototype crossed an ocean to get here -- in a container. Once assembled, Jason Newburg winged his way to Oshkosh.

The Slick is an all-composite design and a true 10-G airplane... and while the airplane can take the stress, the pilot doesn't have to.

"In the Slick 540, the pilot is so close to the center of gravity, it cuts down on getting thrown around in high energy maneuvers, unlike the Extra or the Edge," Newburg said.

Some pilots familiar with the Slick-360 design asked whether the plane was simply a 360 with a big engine. No, it's a little more complex, Newburg replied as he gave a tour of the airplane. "The designers moved the firewall back as far as they could – even angling it around the Magnetos to get a few extra inches."

The powerplant is a modified Lycoming IO-540, pumping out 294 horsepower.

The result: A lean, mean flying machine. George would be proud. Slick advertises stress tolerances of +/- 10g and a flutter study showed the initial design was flutter-free to 500 knots, so designers reduced the amount of counterweight a bit and moved on. The design's redline is set at 260 MPH – and with such horsepower the airplane might give the leading Red Bull Air Race pilots a run for their money.

One huge advantage of the all-composite construction is the spacious cockpit, a rarity in the competitive aerobatic ships. With no steel bars intruding where a pilot should be, there's room for plus sized pilots.

"Right now, we've got the seat pan configured for a largest-case pilot," Newburg said. "Pilots are using cushions to move up in the cockpit where they should be."

And with their eyes up high in the cockpit, the visibility is excellent. "I can see over the nose," Newburg said.

That feature plays dividends for air show performers when they have to taxi near spectator areas -- because propellers and spectators don't mix.

This kind of performance comes with a price tag of $265,000 but the first four delivery positions will sell for $255,000.



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