Challenger Options – Archive

Superflite or Sailcloth wings:

Sailcloth is much quicker to build, and can be up to 20 lbs lighter than Superflite. However, sailcloth has a service life if kept out of sunlight, of 8-10 years. Sailcloth can not be left outside. Sunlight can ruin sailcloth in one summer if it is left outside. It is not cheap to replace, generally around $1500. Conventional aircraft fabric will last many years. Some aircraft have had this type of covering for over 30 years and still pass annuals. It is much more durable than sailcloth. It has a  uv protectant under the paint, and can be tied outside, but is much better kept inside. It can be painted to a show winning finish if you like. It is easy to clean and care for, patches easily and can be repainted. The cost is the same. Both have pro’s and con’s. If you are wanting to meet part 103, you will need to opt for sailcloth. Conventional fabric will push you over weight.  Clipped wing models come standard with conventional fabric, and cannot use sailcloth.  In either case, the fuselage will still require a conventional aircraft fabric process.  There are several different process that you can choose from, including Poly-Fiber, Stewarts, and even latex house paint.  Our preferred system is Stewarts.  It gives a high quality finish, and is priced reasonably.  But the main reason we use it is that it is water borne.  That means that it is nearly odorless, and has much less damaging health effects than the others.  Poly-Fiber for example uses an MEK base.  While it is a high quality finish and easy to work with, prolonged use of MEK is very harmful to your health.  If you use Poly Fiber, you should really consider investing in a positive pressure respirator system.

10 Gallon Fuel Tank:

Expect your Challenger to burn between 3 and 5 gallons per hour. If you opt for the 503, it will burn 4-5 gph depending on your gross weight and how fast you want to go. The 582 will burn up to 6 gph. I highly recommend the larger tank. More fuel is safer. To many aircraft have gone down because they sucked the tank dry, including an Air Canada 767 in 1983 which landed safely dead stick from 41,000 feet! It can happen for a variety of reasons, but having extra fuel will stack the odds in your favor. I have a 10 gallon tank in my two seat CWS. I was flying a 90 mile leg departing with a full tank, and a 6 gallon can in the back seat. I got into a 25 mph head wind. I had to land about 15 miles short of my destination in a private strip and dump my can into the tank! Thank goodness for a GPS with aircraft data base and a “nearest” button! The only reason the 5 gallon tank exists is to meet part 103. The tank weighs almost nothing, just put in the fuel that you need if you don’t want to carry all 10 gallons. *Comes standard on Special models.

17 Gallon Fuel Tank:
17 gal tankThis is an all aluminum tank designed to fit in the same location as the 10 gallon tank.  If you plan to do any cross country flying, this is the way to go. You will probably see a fuel burn of 3-5 gallons per hour depending on which engine you use and how hard you run it, but it will drain a 10 gallon tank pretty quickly.   And if you have to buy AvGas while you are out, that could drain your wallet!  The 17 gallon tank weighs less than 2 lbs more than a 10 gallon tank.  It does add to the cost of your aircraft, but I do recommend going with this option if you can afford it.  It is much easier to install while building than to add it later, although it can be done.

Wing Tanks:

Wing tanks are available for the Challenger as well.  They are 10 gallons per wing for a total of 20 gallons.  Wing tanks are standard on XL models and can be installed in standard models as well.  I do not generally recommend wing tanks.  They add about 25 lbs to the empty weight of the aircraft.  With the XL models as you do have a higher gross weight limit, so that does help, but the weight will still reduce climb performance.  Not only that, but it can be a real hassle to fuel the aircraft if you are using gas cans.  17 gallons of fuel really is plenty, and the 17 gallon tank has almost no weight gain, cost less, and is far easier to install.  I think it is a better option in most cases.


Aluminum wheelsAluminum wheels: Nylon wheels are standard on a Challenger. I had a set of Nylon wheels on mine. I blew one apart with a student flying, 125 miles from home, in January! Aluminum is much stronger, and they look a lot nicer.

6” or 5” Wheels: If you fly from rough or soft grass fields, the 6” would be a better option, but they do add a bit of weight and drag. If you fly from pavement you probably don’t need the 6”. Also, remember if you get wheel pants, you need to match your wheel size.  If you order a hydraulic brake package either from the factory or a dealer supplied version,  it will come with aluminum wheels.

Fiberglass wheel pants: 

These do clean up the airflow around the wheels, but you probably will not notice a difference, especially in the long wing model. They do help the appearance significantly but add a little bit of weight. As they say, “ounces make pounds!”  *comes standard with Special models.  Actually, the reason I use wheel pants on my aircraft is to keep the wings clean!  Without them, on a muddy field you will get big brown stripes on the bottom of your wings and even on your fuselage and doors.  Wheel pants keep everything nice and clean.




Hydraulic brakesLanding gear:

While not actually a Challenger factory option, what I recommend on landing gear  (unless you are ordering an XL or XS model which come with Hegar brakes and spring aluminum gear) is to remove the landing gear from the kit, and order Mike Harrison gear from us.  The factory credit for removing the gear is $300.  The Mike Harrison package is $850 delivered. It includes fiberglass gear legs, cables, axle weldments, polished aluminum wheels, and very nice hydraulic brakes.  You end up spending about $100 more than you would if you kept the factory landing gear drum brakes, and 6″ aluminum wheels, but you upgrade to much better brakes, and fiberglass gear legs for rough landings and rough runways.  It really is the only way to go.


VT-Compress (tm) Xing Technology Corp.Fiberglass Wingtips:

The standard wing tip is a simple bow.  The fiberglass tips do make it look nicer.  Some say it increases performance, but it is probably insignificant.  However, I do highly recommend the boxed wing tips. They add rigidity to the wings and give it a better roll rate.   The boxed tips and fiberglass tips are generally installed together.


Boxed wing tips: 

The boxed wing tips are simply a sheet metal overlay around the outboard end of the wing, which increases the rigidity of the wing.  If the wing tip is not boxed, when the aileron is deflected it tends to cause the wing to flex in the opposite direction.  This counters the effect of the aileron and reduces the roll authority.  I would highly recommend this option.

XL Tail: 

New from the factory!  Now you have the option to use the new XL tail.  This will give your Challenger better yaw stability with the doors on, and also better rudder authority. It uses a larger vertical stabilizer that runs completely back over the rudder in addition to a larger rudder.  For $150 you can’t afford not to use this option.  Of course if you are building an XS or XL model, this not applicable as it will be included.


Differential Ailerons:

Also a feature introduced on the XL/XS models, the differential ailerons can be added to a standard model.  There is no weight penalty, and currently no charge!  Differential ailerons will also help reduce adverse yaw and in combination with the XL tail will make for a really nice handling airplane.  To accomplish the differential aileron function, the only thing that was changed is the angle of the control horn on the aileron bell crank.  Very simple.  I’m actually quite surprised that it took everyone nearly 30 years to come up with it!

Door Kit: 

This is one of the best things about a Challenger! I have flown mine at nearly -10 degrees Fahrenheit! With a heater installed, it was quite comfortable. If you live in a cooler climate as I do, you will definitely appreciate the doors. You can fly in relatively cool weather and be comfortable in the front seat without doors, but the increased wind in the rear seat can make the ride unpleasant.  I leave mine on most of the year, because when doing instruction I sit in the back and it is much more comfortable and quieter with doors on. The doors seem to make no noticeable difference in cruise speed, however they do make the airplane handle distinctly differently. You will notice a tendency for it to wander around in the yaw axis. I recommend that you get familiar flying without the doors before attempting to fly with them on, or even better, take some instruction with doors on. For more info on this see GA transition.   The handling characteristics with doors on are only applicable to standard two seat models.  If you have an XL or XS model, or a single seat model you probably will not even notice a difference with doors on.  *Door kit comes standard with Special models.

Wrap Around windshield:

The wrap around windshield is included with the door kit. The standard windshield is flat and does little to keep wind off of you.  If you do not order the door kit, I would get the wrap around windshield kit.  It makes it comfortable to fly in moderately cold temperatures as the wind stays almost entirely off of the pilot. The back seat however does not enjoy the same effect. Comes standard with Special models.




LSSinstrumentpanelInstrument Package:

Pictured here is the XL instrument package.  This is a simple but effective panel layout.  The instrument package on the regular models is a lot less complete.  If you buy an XL, this panel comes standard with it.  However it can be deducted and a custom panel created.  When it comes to instrument panels, the options and layouts are almost unlimited.  Some people opt for a very simple panel with steam gauges, while others will go full glass panel with radio, transponder, ADS-B, and even auto-pilot!  Our builders assistance service can help you design and build the instrument system that best suites your needs and budget.  One thing I highly recommend in any panel is an electronic engine monitor.  If you opt for a glass panel, it will be included in that.  If you are using primarily steam gauges your panel can be greatly simplified as well as being far more effective by using a simple electronic engine monitor such as the MGL E1.  MGL E1The E1 will monitor both Exhaust Gas Temperatures (EGT), both Cylinder Head Temperatures (CHT), fuel pressure, coolant temperature, system voltage, rpm, and engine hours.  It fits in one 3 1/8″ instrument hole.  At $350, it is most likely less expensive than analog gauges also.  The main reason that I recommend an electronic engine monitor is that it will alert you when there is a problem whereas an analog gauge only works if you are watching it.  It may be adequate to observe a trend, for instance, as the weather gets colder you notice the egt’s are getting hotter and a jet change may be necessary. But, if a sudden change occurs, such as a vacuum leak, or a broken fan belt, if you are not watching the gauge at that instant by the time you realize what happened it will be too late.  Unfortunately an analog gauge usually is only useful to tell you why the engine just quit, and does little to prevent it.   With an MGL engine monitor you can set your high and low temp limits for both cht’s and both egt’s.  If the engine ever gets outside of those parameters the alarm will activate and the particular parameter that is out of the safe range will be flashing on the screen.  You will be able to take action before it is too late.  Also the electronic engine monitor is far more accurate than a gauge.  You will have a digital readout that tells you exactly what the temperature is.

iEFIS_Explorer_625Another option when considering instruments is a glass panel.  I know right now you are thinking, “Right! That probably costs more than the airplane!” But actually it costs less than you might think.  For instance, the MGL iEFIS pictured here contains all your engine monitoring information, and all of your flight instrumentation, including Attitude Indicator, Airspeed, Altitude, Vertical Speed, etc. MGL iEFIS in Challenger panelAdditionaly, it incorportates integrated moving map GPS technology with full aviation and topography databases.  All this for $3000.  If you start adding all that up in individual instruments you will discover what a deal this is.  It also simplifies the wiring process a great deal.  It does however, require the pilot to learn how to effectively use it.

Another instrument you should strongly consider is a slip ball indicator. Some people use a a piece of yarn tied to the windshield. This will slide off to one side if the airflow is not straight on. This is a very effective slip indicator. The problem is that it reacts opposite of a slip ball indicator. If the yarn goes right, the ball will go left. The ball is a long standing standard in aviation. If you learn the yarn method, you will have to transition later if you decide to go farther in aviation. Question: Do you think your Sport Pilot Examiner will allow you to tape a piece of yarn to his windshield for the check ride? I teach all my students the ball method, but you will definitely need one or the other to fly a Challenger (at least until you get familiar with it), especially with doors on.



Shoulder Harness: 

This is a very important option.  It really should be standard equipment.  If you would happen to be in an accident in a Challenger, it would almost certainly involve a forward impact of some sort. If you sit in the seat, and lean forward you will see the spot where your head will impact without a shoulder harness. Upon close examination, you will see that in both seats, your head will be impacting either structural metal, or an instrument panel. If your head impacts structural member or the instrument panel it could do significant damage to them, so to avoid more repairs, get the shoulder harnesses.  Seriously, get them.


Electric Start:

It is expensive, and it does add a considerable amount of weight. With  a  lead acid battery it will add more than 20 lbs.  However it is very convenient, and if you plan to soar, it is essential. Also if you would happen to have an engine stop you may be able to restart if you have electric start.  With modern battery technology it is now possible even to make part 103 with electric start.  The use of LiFE batteries in our sport is increasing rapidly.  Now a battery that would have weighed 13-15lbs can weigh less than two pounds.  Also, Hirth engines have integrated electric start in a way that has very little weight penalty.  For most people now, electric start is standard equipment.

Stream Lined Struts:

This adds noticeably to the climb and cruise performance.  A streamlined tube has 1/8th of the drag of a round tube.  Your Challenger will have roughly 24′ of wing struts.  Those 24′ of struts without fairing is like having 192 feet of streamlined tubing hanging on your airplane.  The fairing weighs almost nothing. It is essential for soaring. I highly recommend it. *It comes standard in the Special models.


center sectionThree piece Center Section:

These are trim pieces that cover the gap between the wings, and gives a smooth transition in front of and behind the wings. This does reduce drag some, but in reality it is mostly a cosmetic upgrade. It is a little expensive, but it really does look sharp. If you are Stits covering, you will need to cover the center section with something, so you will save a lot of time and effort if you get this.



fitting a nose cone leviFiberglass nose cone: 

The vast majority of Challengers out there have this.  It makes a definite cosmetic improvement, as well as reducing drag.  It does it add a little weight, so if Part 103 is your goal, this won’t be a good idea.




The flaperons are very important on the two seat models.  They provide a very effective pitch trim.  They are also nice for slowing it down on landing, but it is not really necessary. It is a simple design and adds very little weight.  I would recommend them on all models unless it will put you over weight for part 103.  Pitch trim is less of an issue on a single seat if the same person is flying every time since the Center of Gravity (CG) will not change much.  It is still desirable however since any throttle adjustment will have a pitch effect, to trim it at different power settings some form of pitch trim will be required.  On a two seat model, changing the pilot or passenger weight will have a pronounced effect on pitch and trim would be VERY nice to have.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *