By James Wynbrandt
American Champion Aircraft (ACA) unveiled the Xtreme Decathlon yesterday at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2012, ushering in a new iteration of its stalwart Decathlon aerobatic airplane. Powered by a 210-hp Lycoming AEIO-390-A1B6 engine mated to an MT 76-inch composite propeller, the Xtreme Decathlon offers a 30-hp increase over its predecessor Super Decathlon.
Combined with a 62-pound weight reduction and control surface modifications, the Xtreme Decathlon provides "a new level of aerobatic performance," according to the Rochester, Wisconsin, based company. The ACA has the flight-test prototype on display at its booth (223-226, Main Aircraft Display) and expects to receive certification for the new model by this October.
ACA Vice President of Engineering Jerry Mehlhaff Jr. said aerodynamic refinements include boosted ailerons, clipped wingtips, and an airfoil tail. Early flight tests show the ailerons and clipped tips contribute to a 33-percent increase in roll rate, while an increase in stabilizer area yields improved longitudinal control and a reduction in needed stick force. The net result is "better aerobatic performance," said Mehlhaff.
The engine installation also incorporates several new features, including heavy-duty dynafocal mounts, a tuned 4-into-1 stainless steel exhaust, and dual oil coolers. The cowl features large left and right access doors and a composite fiberglass nose bowl.
Gross weight of the prototype Xtreme Decathlon is 1,950 pounds, aerobatic weight is 1,800 pounds, and empty weight is 1,340 pounds. Preliminary flight tests indicate rate of climb is 1,660 fpm, maximum level speed is 165 mph, and stall speed 54 mph. Company test pilot and engineer Jody Bradt said these figures may understate the actual performance of the certificated aircraft. Base price is $204,900. A fully tricked-out copy with all options, including a glass panel, would take about another $70,000 out of your bank account. The ACA said it will continue making the 180-hp Super Decathlon.
Some 1,000 Decathlons are currently in service, and ACA dealer Jeff Welch of Freedom Transport in Alpena, Michigan, anticipates positive market response to the new aircraft.
"I expect we'll see a fairly quick turnover in about 10 percent of the fleet," he said. "In the next 12 months, we think we'll hear from 100 owners, in addition to new customers" interested in purchasing the enhanced Decathlon.
Said company president and co-owner Jerry Mehlhaff Sr., "Things are finally starting to rebound."
ACA's line of fabric-covered two-place tandem aerobatic and utility aircraft feature metal spar wings and include the Champ; the Citabria Aurora, Adventure, and Explorer; and the Scout.