First time exhibitors, Dark Aero is three brothers with an engineering bent and a promising kit plane in the works. Called Dark Aero 1, the all-new design is completely carbon fiber, designed around the UL Power 520iS 6-cylinder engine (the first North American airframe we can think of designed around a UL Power engine) and is set for first flight in July 2019.
The company is exhibiting at AirVenture this year simply to announce their heretofore under-cover presence. The prototype airframe has yet to be assembled, but the parts on display at AirVenture were built in production tooling according to Dark Aero.
Key features of the conventionally laid out design are very light weight and a zippy 275 mph cruising speed at 11 gph (255 mph at 8 gph). The 2-seat side-by-side, retractable, low-wing features a very spare 750 lb empty weight, along with a 750 lb useful load. Other juicy details are a 2500 fpm rate of climb, +6/-3 g-loading, 1700 statute mile range at 275 mph and a 20,000 ft. ceiling, all with the 200 hp UL Power engine.
President Ryley Karl says the performance comes from reduced weight thanks to the entirely carbon fiber construction. Dark Aero--headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin--is using CNC routed molds for the carbon fiber skin/aramid honeycomb parts along with their factory jigs for all critical assemblies in an effort to reduce the labor-intensive bodywork labor common to many composite kits. The one-piece wet wing will come completely closed and should need only bolting to the fuselage.
There's also an emphasis on extra-clean aerodynamics. The flaps are split--not Fowlers with their exposed rails--for example. All control actuators are completely inside the skin (no rudder horns or aileron controls out in the breeze) and the rudder is split to double as a speed brake, thus saving the wing penetration--and weight--of conventional speed brakes.
Karl says he's confident the $70,900 kit price is realistic while reminding it does not include the usual engine, avionics, propeller and paint.
Being built for speed--plus range and efficiency says Dark Aero--we're happy to see a 43-in. cabin width listed. We also inquired about the wing loading as a plane this light and fast could use a heavier ride, and were told to expect a suitably high 22.5 lb per square foot at max gross. Overall length is just 18 ft.
For more information see www.darkaero.com or (608) 616-9409.