With Sun 'n Fun starting up next week, it was time to head to Florida a little early to do some flying for upcoming Kitplanes flight reviews. I'm currently in Fort Pierce, visiting with BedeCorp, the makers of the BD-4 and BD-17L kits. This morning, we tried on the single-seat, LSA-qualifying BD-17L for size and took it for a spin. With the mighty 60 HP HKS engine coupled to a cruise prop, we were seeing a pleasant 120 - 125 mph in level flight at 1,000' MSL. Propped for speed, the initial climb out of the Fort Pierce airport was about 600 fpm in the cooler temperatures of the morning air just at sunrise.
For an old "Yankee driver" like myself, there was a familiar feeling to this airplane from the same designer, the late Jim Bede. BedeCorp is now run by his sun, Jim Bede (Jr) from their multi-hangar facility on the east coast for Florida. The BD-17L is a longer-winged version of the original BD-17, the additional wing making it LSA legal by lowering the stall speed to meet the FAA requirements. The airplane has a surprisingly roomy cockpit for a single seater, and the mostly upright seating creates good visibility.
The tricycle-gear airplane is taxied using differential breaking, just like the original BD-1 (which eventually became the production Yankee), and with rudder once you get about 15 knots of wind over the large tail. The sidestick control will take some getting used to by pilots familiar with traditional large center sticks or yokes, but the BedeCorp training plan allows a build up of confidence before turning a new pilot loose to fly. We found the pitch to be quite sensitive (without being unstable), and the roll channel a little less so, but taking these qualities into account, the airplane didn't exhibit any bad habits.
Look for a complete pilot report on the airplane, the kit, and the company in a future issue of Kitplanes!