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The Birth and Development of Slick Aerobatic Aircraft

The Slick Aircraft Company was set-up in 2005 to promote and market the Slick 360 aircraft as well as to continue with research and development on the later released Slick 540.

Historically the Slick 360 evolved out of need for a highly competitive composite Advanced Aerobatic aircraft utilising a cost effective 4-cylinder Lycoming IO-360 engine. The initial driving force behind the project was the late Glen Dell, who for many years competed at the highest national and international levels and was crowned Advanced World Aerobatic Champion in 2004.

In 2003, the competition aircraft Glen owned was built from traditional aluminium and the plane was considered heavy when compared to the newer composite designs emerging from Europe and the USA. In view of upgrading to a competitive composite aircraft and after extensive research, Glen decided to explore the option of producing a locally designed and manufactured aerobatic aircraft. Glen approached a small and relatively unknown aviation company specialising in composite aircraft manufacturing, Aerocam. Based in Centurion, Pretoria, Aerocam had a good reputation within the aviation industry for innovative, high technological design and manufacturing capabilities. Aerocam's credentials include the design and development of composite aircraft components for various sectors within aviation. These include military RPV design and manufacture, commercial production of King Air 200 series cargo pods and chemical spray systems for specialised oil spill treatment aircraft. Civilian projects undertaken consist of assembly of various composite kit aircraft including Thunder Mustang and Sea Wind and the production of the Celstar GA-1 competition aerobatic glider in which won a gold and silver at the 1989 World Championships.

Celstar GA-1

Aerocam went about producing an aircraft that would be competitive at International level. In just one year the prototype aircraft took to the air and was branded the Slick 360. This craft was used to secure the 2004 National title for Glen.

Prototype Slick 360

In 2006 Global Composite Solutions took over Aerocam and the full composite production models from 002 to current have come from their manufacturing facility. An ongoing development programme has been in place to refine the already excellent handling characteristics of the Slick and to focus on reducing the planes mass and maximising the power to weight ratio.

The evolution of changes includes:

Fully streamlined composite fuselage, tail and stabiliser with no flying wires

Extensive aileron spade development to achieve crisp snap movement without "bobble". Horn balanced ailerons to reduce weight, Aerodynamic refinements such as undercarriage socks, profiled leg fairings, laminar flow spats and one piece profiled tail section

Lightweight parallel valve AEIO 360 Lycoming engine with Cold air induction sump to improve scavenging during aerobatic manoeuvres

Fully integrated glass cockpit avionics

The Slick 360 was envisaged as a newer version of the Extra 230, using the same basic concept and design, but with as many upgrades and improvements as possible. To this end, the size, basic wing shape and control system of the Extra 230 were used as the basis for the new aircraft, but the flick roll characteristics were designed to be closer to that of the Laser, from which the Extra 230 was originally derived.

Slick 360

The aircraft's wings were made from a carbon-fibre composite material, and designed by François Jordaan, an aeronautical and structural engineer who had previously designed the wings of the Celstar aerobatic glider and the Ravin 500. In addition to the improvements made to the wing itself, the latest aileron designs were fitted, giving the aircraft a roll rate of around 400 degrees per second.

Slick 360

The aircraft is fitted with a Lycoming AEIO-360-A1B6 engine from AeroSport Power of Canada, which is a fully aerobatic-qualified engine with only one restriction due to the oil system: The pilot is restricted to 10 seconds of vertical flight or steep dives; inverted flight, steep dive; zero "g" manoeuvres and wing-down or knife-edge flights.

Enter the Slick 540 an all-composite design and a true 10g airplane, in the Slick 540, the pilot is so close to the centre of gravity, it cuts down on getting thrown around in high energy manoeuvres, unlike the Extra or the Edge.

Slick 540

Some pilots familiar with the Slick-360 design asked whether the plane was simply a 360 with a bigger engine? The answer is a resounding NO, it's a way more complex than that. The designers moved the firewall back as far as they could, even angling it around the Magnetos to get a few extra centimetres.

Slick 540

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. The seating position is high offering excellent visibility even when taxing.

The Slick 540 is powered by a modified Lycoming IO-540, pumping out 294 horsepower. Slick advertises stress tolerances of +/- 10g and a flutter study showed the initial design was flutter-free to 500 knots with a VNE of 225 Knots flutter should never be a problem.

Neville Ferreira tested the Slick 540 against the toughest competition in the world at WAC 2017 and managed a very respectable twenty-sixth position, ahead of many pilots competing in the legendary Extra 330SC which have dominated world aerobatics for the last few years.

Neville Ferreira with his Slick 540

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