On a cold Highveld morning I had the honour of being invited along to Kroon airfield just North of Pretoria to experience what I believe to be close to the best value for money light sport aircraft if not the best available in South Africa today. Six very enthusiastic Savannah pilots invited me along to do a photo shoot on their stunning aircraft.
The ICP Savannah is a high wing, single engine, ultralight with side-by-side seating for two originally produced in Italy by ICP srl. It has sold in large numbers, particularly in Europe. The Savannah is in production, sold in both ready to fly form for the more adventurous in kit form.
Having an aircraft that can really get you around quickly and reliably and land where many other aircraft cannot is what you need to appreciate this beautiful landscape we are blessed to have in South Africa.
The Savannah light sport aircraft stand out as reliable short field performance light sport aircraft that are robust and extremely safe. It has a high wing, tricycle landing gear and full metal construction.
The very short take-off and landing capabilities make the Savannah particularly suitable for “bush” flying and its comfort and stability are great for long cross country flights. It makes a superb photography, game counting, surveillance or training aircraft. Some have been adapted with snow skids, water floats and others with crop spraying equipment proving the versatility on this slow, stable and quiet Light Sport Aircraft.
The Savannah is available in five variants ,The Savannah MPX740, The VG, VG XL, Savannah S and S Taildragger
The Original “Classic” Savannah with Leading edge slats, was an improved derivative of the Zenair CH701: Cruise (75%) 88 mph, Stall 28 mph, Climb 900 fpm, Glide 8:1, Immensely stable in the stall. It will tolerate crossed controls and extreme aileron input, but can dump you on the deck with a high flare on landing. The STOL capabilities of this remarkable aircraft are becoming legendary.
The Savannah VG was developed when the ICP design team discovered that the Savannah flew better without its slats than with them. The wing still stalled at the same airspeed. ICP then modified the original wing forward of the spar to an NACA 61058 profile and installed to improve the stall characteristics.
Why the slats in the first place? The slatted wing is unbeatable for low speed stability but does come at a price: Increased drag and fuel consumption, lower cruise speed and glide ratio. The aircraft with slats can be controlled in the lateral axis entirely with the flapperons when stalled. This makes the slatted wing version particularly safe on approach and when flying low and slow. None of the Savannah variants will spin in the stalled attitude but the VG wing variants do require small rudder input in an asymmetric stall in order to keep wings level. It remains a very safe aircraft in all flight configurations.
The advantages of the VG wing are significant. The aircraft will cruise 8 mph faster at the same rpm setting, climbs at 100 fpm quicker, has a significantly improved glide ratio and a more gentle let down when flaring for the landing. Fuel consumption at the same cruise speed as the slatted wing version is 20% improved. The Savannah VG has retained all the STOL characteristics of the slatted variant and has given the aircraft more efficient aerodynamics and consequently a better range making it an extremely versatile aircraft. With a stall speed ± 25% of cruise and consider that it can also lift its own empty mass and you will battle to find a rival anywhere.
Savannah VG XL
The Savannah VG XL is virtually the same aircraft as the Savannah VG, but modified to accommodate bigger people. South Africans are generally bigger than most and often need a little more shoulder and leg room. The cabin is 10 cm wider than the standard VG, making it a full 1.09 meters and also 15cm longer with adjustable rudder pedal positions. A lower leg position has allowed the panel to be deepened and instruments are now not quite so crowded.
The XL cowls have been completely redesigned making the front end of the aircraft far more streamlined with the now standard big spinner integrated into the sleeker lines of the aircraft. The end result; bigger cabin, 3 kg increased weight, 4 mph increased cruise speed. Visibility is also improved with increased door window size and the option of a clear or tinted lexan cabin roof.
The Savannah S
Sleek and Sexy is the ICP flagship. The same basic aircraft as the Savannah VG XL but with a sleeker more rounded fuselage. Now she does not only fly good but also looks good. “The Savannah has finally been taken out of the box” as one owner put it. The Savannah S retains all the stable flight characteristics of the former variants and the spaciousness of the XL. The cabin is a full 1.09 meters and also 15cm longer than the VG with forward and aft rudder pedal position options “vir die lang kêrels”. If you are taller than 185 cm or heavier than 100 kg you would definitely be more comfortable in the S or XL.
Savannah S (Taildragger)
The Savannah S (Taildragger) has the same flight characteristics as the tricycle version except of course the landing and take-off technique must be adjusted for the tail wheel. If you have a need to look the part then this is your aircraft.
The Savannah and Oribi has Type acceptance in South Africa and in many first world countries around the world and has passed the stringent UK BCARS regulations.
The Savannah is very easy to fly requiring very little rudder to co-ordinate turns. No rudder input during straight & level flight. It handles rough conditions better than many GA planes. The very short take-off and landing capabilities make the Savannah particularly suitable for “bush” flying and its comfort and stability are great for long cross country flights.
A very special Thank you to Rugene, Dawie, Deon, Danie , Jodie, Theo for the use of their aircraft. Derek, Kruger and Greg for taking the role of safety pilots last but not least Gustav thanks for the use of your Pegasus for a photoship.