With a total production of roughly 1200 aircraft kits delivered, the Lazair series is the most heavily produced Canadian-designed aircraft ever. Given the fact that the production run was a short 5 years, it’s quite a marvel that so many kits were made. Yet it’s also unfortunate that production was halted. The company cited liability concerns and the inability to get proper insurance at that time in the early 80’s. Another company attempted production of a new Lazair series IV design in the 90’s, but it never made it past a prototype. There is yet another attempt going on right now, but to date nothing is out on the market.
For the EXTREMELY lucky few who purchase a used version, and now are ready to fly it, I recommend reading this comprehensive, detailed, yet simple 32 page manual that gives you all the info you need to do it right. Disclaimer: It’s highly advisable that you get flight instruction FIRST then use the manual to transition.
The designer of the Lazair, Dale Kramer, was an aeronautical engineering student at the University of Toronto when he attended the Oshkosh EAA convention in 1977. He was very impressed with the potential of the ultralight aircraft designs that he saw there and returned with a Superfloater glider kit. Convinced that improvements to the design were possible, Kramer started with a blank sheet of paper and designed a completely new aircraft, even going so far as to design a custom airfoil for it.
The design features a constant taper wing with a progressive and constant washout from root to tip. Combined with an airfoil that is cambered with concave portions on both the top and bottom surfaces, this produced an aircraft with optimized low-speed handling and very gentle stall characteristics. The wing is constructed from an aluminum “D” cell leading edge, foam ribs and an aluminum tubular trailing edge. The aircraft also featured some of the first winglets used on light aircraft.
The very long wing made the Lazair a good glider giving it a 12:1 or sometimes 13:1 glide ratio. Because it is so light it could be soared in even light thermal conditions. At 25 mph with the engines off the plane descends at a very gentle 170 fpm if there is no thermal lift.
Kramer named the aircraft Lazair as a contraction of Lazy-Air, a comment on the slow cruise speed of the aircraft, which was about 40 mph.
The first Lazair prototype first flew in 1978.
Kramer formed Ultraflight Aircraft to produce the design in his home town of Port Colborne, Ontario. Sales commenced in 1979 through the subsidiary “Ultraflight Aircraft Sales”.
Initially Mylar was used as a covering on the wings and tail, attached to the airframe with two sided tape. After the Mylar proved to have a short service life due to UV damage, it was replaced by a more durable product, Tedlar.
Initially, on the Series 1 and Series II Lazairs, the control stick pivot point was located above the pilot with the stick hanging downwards. On the first few Series 1 aircraft, the ailerons and ruddervators on the inverted V-tail were interconnected so that turns were made with connected rudder and aileron by moving the stick to the side. Pitch control was via conventional fore-and-aft stick movement moving the ruddervators together as elevators. Later upgrade kits were provided for the Series 1 aircraft to have rudder pedals installed which controlled the ruddervators individually, rather than coupled together with the ailerons. On the Series II aircraft, this was standard with a “mixer” switch in front of the pilot where they could choose between coupled, or un-coupled flight. On the Series III designs, the stick was moved to the bottom, in between your legs, with no mixer.
Because Kramer could not find a suitable engine for the design that provided the needed power with reliability, he opted for two engines instead, placed as close together as possible to reduce yaw when one failed. Infact, with the failure of one engine many pilots report a sink rate of only 30 fpm. A few very light pilots (under 140 lbs) have reported that the airplane will maintain altitude with full power from remaining engine (when a Rotax 185 was used). The entire concept was to produce an aircraft that would fly with minimum power and so the prototype had two chainsaw engines that produced a total of 11 hp (8.2 kW).
- Lazair Series I – equipped with 5.5hp Pioneer chainsaw engines. Interconnected controls with no rudder pedals.
- Lazair Series II – equipped with 9.5hp Rotax 185 engines. Standard 3-axis controls. Beefed up D-Cells.
- Lazair Series III – equipped with either Rotax 185’s or larger. Wider landing gear. Stick moved to lower position. Jury struts added.
- Lazair Elite & SS Models – enclosed cabin and various aerodynamic improvements for speed and efficiency.
- Lazair II (two seat model) – only 100 produced. Meant as a trainer or demonstrator.
- Lazair Mark IV – modified Lazair still under development by new owner Gene. Prototype not complete.
- Electric Lazair – prototype only – designed and flown by Dale Kramer post 2010.
In Canada all Lazairs are classified as Basic Ultra-lights. A multi-engine rating is not required to fly the Lazair in Canada as there is no multi-engine rating for ultra-light aeroplanes.
In the USA the single seat models are flown as ultralights under FAR 103 and require no pilots license of any type. However, the Lazair II two seat models are usually registered as experimental amateur builts, and must be flown by Private Pilot. Since they would be registered experimental amateur built you would not be required to have a multi-engine rating, just a simple Private Pilot certificate. Only three experimental aircraft fall into this loophole: the Lazair II, the French Cri-Cri, and the Aircam. Unfortunately, the two seat models cannot be flown under the new LSA (light sport aircraft) provisions by a Sport Pilot as having two engines precludes it from this category.
In the 21st century many Lazairs are still in use by private owners. As when first introduced, they remain prized for their handling qualities, if not their cruising speed.
In November 2007 the Canadian register still carried a total of 460 Lazairs of all models. In the USA where the majority of Lazairs are flown as unregistered FAR Part 103 ultralights there were also ten registered as amateur-builts in November 2007.
General Specifications (Lazair Series II)
- Crew: one pilot
- Length: 13 ft
- Wingspan: 36 ft 4 in
- 6 degrees of wing washout
- Height: 6.3 ft
- Wing area: 143 sq ft
- Airfoil: Custom Lazair airfoil, reflexed top and bottom (said to be eyeballed by Dale Kramer)
- Empty weight: 210 lb
- Useful load: 240 lb
- Max takeoff weight: 450 lb
- Powerplant: 2 engines – Rotax 185, 9.5 hp each
- Never exceed speed (VNE): 60 mph (97 km/h)
- Maximum speed: 55 mph (89 km/h)
- High Cruise speed: 45 mph (72 km/h)
- Regular Cruise: 38 – 40 mph
- Stall speed: 17 mph (28 km/h) (That’s accurate!)
- Range: 135 mi (217 km 117 nmi)
- Rate of climb: 400 ft/min (+/- depending on prop combination and pilot weight)
- Wing loading: 3.14 lbs/sq ft (15.4 kg/sq m)
- Power/mass: 23.7 lb/hp (0.069 Kw/kg)