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Aero-TV: Kolb Aircraft to Resume Production of Select Models

New Owners Look to Revitalize Popular Ultralight Marque

Kolb Aircraft Company is a Kentucky-based manufacturer of kit-built ultralight aircraft. Founded in 1980 by Homer Kolb—who flew his initial design, the Kolb Flyer, in 1970—the company has marketed a dozen models of ultralight and experimental flying-machines, selling and delivering over 3,500 specimens in the last 43-years.

In 1999, the company was sold to a group of investors; moved to London, Kentucky; and renamed The New Kolb Aircraft Company. Re-mastered, relocated, and rebranded, the New Kolb concern introduced several fresh models to the legacy Kolb lineup, to include the Pelican and the Super Sport.

In March 2012, the company was again sold, this time to Bryan Melborn, who renamed the enterprise Kolb Aircraft Company LLC. Hard times ensued, however, and Mr. Melborn—saddled with debt and hampered by supply-chain issues—sold the company to its current owners, Messrs. Tom Cooper and Charles May, who got immediately and urgently about the business of revitalizing the popular aircraft marque.

Straight-away, Cooper and May restarted production of Kolb’s Firefly and Firestar models.

The Kolb Firefly is an open-cockpit, single-seat, high-wing, ultralight aircraft intended for amateur construction. The machine is powered by an aft-facing, forty-horsepower, Rotax 447, twin-cylinder, two-stroke engine turning a pusher propeller. An evolution of Kolb’s Firestar model, the Firefly was designed in 1995 to comply with the FAA’s Part 103 ultralight regulations.

The Kolb Firefly’s forward fuselage is fashioned from welded 4130 steel tubing mated to an aluminum tail-boom terminating in a conventional empennage comprising fixed horizontal and vertical stabilizers fitted with trailing-edge elevator and rudder assemblies.  The Firefly’s wings and empennage are built of riveted aluminum tubing clad in doped fabric. To better facilitate ground transport and storage, the aircraft’s wings are quick-folding.

Options available to Firefly kit-buyers include a completely enclosed cockpit, wheel-brakes, a Ballistic Parachute Recovery System (BPRS), and steel-tube powder-coating.

The Firefly’s performance figures, though less than Earth-shattering, are excellent for an aircraft of its design. Bounded top-and-bottom by a 61-knot Vne and a glacial, 23-knot Vso stall-speed, the Firefly’s flight envelope predicates stability over outright speed.

A small aircraft, the Firefly’s five-hundred-pound maximum gross weight comprises a 253-pound empty-weight and a five-gallon (thirty-pound) fuel capacity.

The Kolb Firestar—formerly offered in iterations such as the Firestar I, II, II SS, and Tandem—occasions a close, if not less powerful, approximation of its Firefly progeny. The two aircraft sport many of the same architectural features, to include their fuselage, tail-boom, empennage, and undercarriage designs.

The Firestar, however, is powered by a comparatively modest, 28-horsepower, single-cylinder, Rotax 503 two-stroke engine which manages to motivate the machine to a Vne of 55-knots and a cruise speed of 46-knots.

Notwithstanding equal (five-gallon) fuel capacities and an inconsequential one-pound difference in the Firefly’s and Firestar’s empty weights (253-pounds and 254-pounds respectively), the Firestar’s maximum gross weight exceeds that of the firefly by fifty-pounds—implying a slightly increased useful load.

In addition to the Firefly and Firestar models, Kolb Aircraft’s new owners are contemplating renewed production of the firm’s STOL-optimized Twinstar Mk. III aircraft. Though not currently in production, the larger (one-thousand-pound maximum gross weight), more powerful (one-hundred-horsepower Rotax 912S or Jabiru 2200 engine) Twinstar Mk. III—if produced—promises to disrupt the Experimental STOL aircraft market.

Parties interested in learning more about Kolb Aircraft and its products are invited to visit the company’s website via the FMI link below.

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