As you can see from the accompanying pictures this aircraft has bolted aluminium frame  (6082 aluminium) throughout, covered with 170 gram Dacron cloth. Powerplant is ROTAX, with the now seemingly-standard choice of three models - the 65hp 582, 80hp 912 (4-stroke), or 100hp 912S. Standard fit is a wooden two-bladed Peter de Necker prop, although the pre-production model I flew had the optional three-blade composite, in front of a ROTAX 582. (Our test machine also had optional wheel-spats and doors). The machine is a conventional three-axis affair, with standard flaps, ailerons, and empennage. With its fully enclosed cabin and high wing the plane is, to my mind, very reminiscent of early Piper Colts (although ones that have shrunk in the wash!) "CMT" has a flat-white finish - I must say that this plain paint job doesn't do justice to the nice lines of the machine; I'm sure production finishes will be a lot more pleasing to the eye.
   Having completed a standard preflight I climbed aboard with Vladimir. The Cheetah sits quite high on her well-sprung undercarriage so "bum-on-seat & swing legs in" seems to be the easier way to mount up. Once settled into the (comfortable) seat two things struck me immediately - this aircraft has great visibility all round, and, although a three-axis machine, the controls are not all where you might expect them to be!
   Although the flap lever is between the seats, and rudder pedals are under your feet, the rest of the flight controls are not in the usual spots. There is a centrally-mounted stick, (with hand-operated brake) - but I bet you can't find the throttles?! These are mounted inside the fold-down armrests (on the left for P1, right for P2), and slide in and out in from back to front in a horizontal plane - sounds bizarre, but I found it worked very well. The whole set up may sound strange, but in the left-hand seat it all felt very natural. I must say though that I was quite a lot less comfortable in the right-hand seat with the stick in my left hand. I would think that whoever instructs in this machine, and therefore will be right-seated, needs plenty of time on type in that position.
  Close by the right hand of the p.i.c. is the red activation handle for the (optional) BRS900 ballistic parachute. The 'chute launcher sits behind the centre of the two seats, can be deployed at speeds up to 200kph and will support a fully-loaded aircraft and its occupants. I must say it is quite a nice feeling to have such a last-ditch back-up to hand.
   The luggage storage area is behind the two seats. The backrests swing forward giving access of 25L capacity each and can take a total of 40kg.
   After the usual pre-start panel check & "clear prop" the 582 fired first turn of the key - Vladimir had already been up so the engine was already warmed up to 50 (normal operating range is 60 - 80). Ground idle is around 2200rpm, and a quick blip of the throttle up to 3000 was all that was needed to get us rolling on the grass taxy-way out to Runway 07. Pre-take off checks completed, including a mag-cut check on the twin mags, and one notch of the two stage flaps, we pulled on max power (6500rpm) for a take-off roll of under 120m, airborne at 70kph. Climb out is at 90kph and about 600fpm. Heading out of the circuit we came back to cruise power of 5500rpm giving 115kph IAS, and a range of 675km. As expected visibility was great, even overhead, thanks to the full-width clear Lexan panel that forms the cabin roof. Noise levels were acceptable with standard headsets.

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Centrally mounted Stick



Comfortable Seats

Front Instrument console

   Flight controls are well harmonized, but, as with all closed-coupled machines, this is not and aircraft where one can have lazy feet; rudder inputs are very necessary, and you have to keep ahead of the ball. Having said that, she doesn't bite, although a stall while out of balance would grab your attention. She stalls clean at 70kph, with a gentle nose-down nod and immediate recovery; with two-notches of flap (landing configuration) stall speed comes down to 62kph, and is again very benign.
   The aircraft is stable in pitch and roll, and just a little sensitive in the yaw (that short fuselage again). Aileron response is good, roll rate is crisp, but not snappy. In a 60 bank she can turn circles on a wing-tip, and tracks cleanly in nice, polite 15 standard rate turns - just don't forget the rudder!
   As I've said in other flight-test these flight characteristics are not bad in any way, just different to what spam-can drivers are used to. Our dear friend the late Victor Smith would recognize the stick and rudder discipline as being the same needed in his beloved Gypsy Moths and Comper Swifts.
   Back in the circuit we set up our approach at 90kph with two notches of flap and power on the glide slope at about 3800rpm. Over the threshold, power back to idle, a gentle flair, and touch down on mains at about 65kph - on the roughish strip at Klipriver we held the nose-wheel off until speed was down to about 40. Landing roll was minimal, certainly under 50m.
   So, is the Cheetah the "millennium Cub"?
   Not quite. She is a great little aeroplane, offers good value for money, and is fun to fly. I have no doubt she will be a success, and she is well worth a look if you are in the market for a fun flying machine. For me though, and this is purely personal observation, she didn't quite have that indefinable "something" that makes a classic; she was missing that little touch of magic in the sweep of a strut, or curve of a wind surface. May be it was just the paint job that dulled her for me, but she seemed more of a tool for getting aloft than a kind of plane you would pull out of the hangar just to look at.
   For all that, and whether or not she makes you fall in love with her, she certainly does her job well, and I suspect for most potential buyer that is all that matters - I'm just getting soulful in old age!
   (To be fair the first production model will have a number of improvements over this prototype, such as formed doors with proper latches (doors are an option), sexily formed composite centre console (standard), faired rear shocks (option), composite formed wing tips with built-in lights (option), shaped transparent panels on the fuselage sides just behind the P1 and P2 heads for better rearwards visibility, two colour paint job and Dacron parts (standard) with an additional stripe and stickers as an option. Another change will be the tank position - now there are 2 x 41L tanks in the wings - the production model will have a single 80L rotor moulded tank behind the seats (the luggage areas will move slightly). The tank position change will improve the C of G slightly - particularly when the heavier 912 and 912S engines are fitted).
   This is the second locally designed and built aircraft I have test flown and was again mightily impressed by a world class product quietly, competently, and affordably manufactured in the RSA.

                                            by Keith Oram.
                            Aero Africa November 2001


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