New Zealand is a country of extreme variations in topography and weather. Not exactly friendly for light aircraft, so one can say that any flying machine developed, built and perfected for New Zealand conditions will be more than suitable for practically anywhere else on the planet. With its highly competitive price, handling and performance figures giving it a decided edge on the market and leading to sales of over 50 units since April 2003, the New Zealand-built Bantam B22J has become the top selling light aircraft for agricultural, conservation and private flying in South Africa.
It is a conventional 3-axis highwing monoplane with side-by-side seating, dual rudder pedals, dual throttle and central joystick. The open cockpit is partly enclosed by an aerodynamic fibreglass pod and a large wrap-around windshield that completely protects the pilot and passenger from wind. The tricycle undercarriage consists of a steerable nose wheel and 14-inch main wheels, all fitted with hydraulic disc brakes. The flap and aileron functions are combined in the flaperons, their extra large control surfaces giving the plane the ability to fly in wind that would ground many other aircraft.
It is powered by an Australian 2,2-litre aircooled four-stroke 80-horsepower Jabiru aircraft engine, running on AVGAS or the highest octane leaded mogas. The engine is situated in line with the wings, ahead of and above the windscreen. These are fully certified Aircraft Engines that comply with ASTM standard F2339-04.
Performance, especially the take-off and climb characteristics, is impressive. One-up, the Bantam literally leaps into the air in less than 20 m and will be 500 ft above the ground at the end of the average runway. At cruise it is docile and vice free, and can be flown hands-off. This makes it the most ideal training aircraft. Because of the short take off and landing ability, very silent operation and low-speed performance, the B22J has become invaluable to game and stock farmers, being used for checking livestock and game, radio-tracking, checking water holes and windmills, checking boundary fences and firebreaks, anti-poaching patrol, and game viewing and counting.
It is also used for patrol and whale watching on the South African coastline. The Limpopo National Park (1 000 000ha), a part of the Frontier National Park, have just taken delivery of the first of two Bantams ordered for anti-poaching and fence line patrols. Included as standard are dual magneto ignition, a battery and electric starter. Instrumentation includes an airspeed indicator, tachometer, slip indicator, altimeter, Hobbs hour meter, compass, cylinder head temperature gauge, engine oil pressure gauge, engine oil temperature gauge, factory installed radio antenna and co-ax cable to instrument panel.
A radio, intercom and headsets are optional extras. Although it will later also be available in kit form, the Bantam B22J is not a kit-built aircraft. It is delivered fully built and tested, enabling a new owner to be up and flying within weeks of ordering without the daunting and time-consuming tasks of building and painting, arranging and paying for official inspections, test-flying, registering and, most importantly, hoping that the components are as strong and as reliable as the manufacturer claims them to be. With an officially type-certified airframe, components and flight characteristics, a certified aircraft may also be used for flight training.
It may be hired out, may be flown into controlled airspace and over built-up areas, and has a higher resale value. A crop-spraying version has proved to be extremely effective, while even a special version with modified controls for paraplegic pilots is available. A paraplegic pilot, Mr Andre Goosen from Nelspruit, has logged over 200 hours in his Bantam to date. The price of R195 000 excludes VAT but includes freight and insurance from New Zealand to Nelspruit. The delivery time is 9 weeks. A choice of a wide range of colours is available, with 4 standard patterns offered.