There just aren’t that many four-seat kit aircraft. The Sling High Wing might be building a great reputation, but is it as good as the venerable (and certified) Cessna 182?
Words: Ian Seager | Photography: Ed Hicks & Sling Aircraft
17 October 2022
You don’t have to do a great deal of digging before you find someone online who’ll tell you that the Sling HW is set to be a modern day C182. Serendipitously, our carriage of choice for the journey from Wiltshire to Top Farm to fly the Sling was a 1977 C182Q. With a couple of thousand hours on what many call Cessna’s best single, I was very much looking forward to flying not only the Sling, but better still, the very aeroplane that I saw at Oshkosh after it was flown from the factory in South Africa to Oshkosh, after which it headed to Top Farm in Cambridgeshire, via Italy and Greece. Not your average set of cross-country flights!
My conclusion, if you can’t wait, is that the Sling HW is no C182, but it does have the makings of a damn fine aeroplane…
The Sling HW is the latest aeroplane to come out of the company behind the two-seat Sling 2 and the four-seat Sling TSi, both already approved in the UK by the LAA. The HW has a cantilever high-wing made from aluminium (pretty much the same wing as the Sling TSi), and a composite fuselage mated to an aluminium empennage. It’s powered by the turbocharged Rotax 915iS driving a three-blade electrically controlled constant speed propeller. There’s a spacious four-seat cabin, a large baggage area and, depending on your choice of avionics and extras, something like 450kg of useful load. The standard leading edge fuel tanks carry 99 litres per side with a couple in each tank being unusable. That means you can fill the tanks, have enough fuel for a good six hours, and still have a little north of 300kg left for people and baggage. Not too shabby at all.
Although this is not a feature pitching the Sling against the Cessna, some comparisons are begging to be made. The Sling has less wing than the Cessna, a large (but plain) flap, a lower max all up weight and that impressive useful load. It’s a bit smaller inside than the C182 (but still plenty big enough), and with its fold flat seats there’s an argument that the HW’s space is even more flexible, or at least configurable in a hurry. You could make yourself a flat bed in a C182, but it would involve swearing and spanners.
We also need to talk about engines. The Sling is hauled into the sky by a Rotax 915iS. It’s a brilliant modern engine that delivers 141hp for five minutes, with a max continuous of 135hp. The C182 may have a lumbering heavy lump of a not very sophisticated Continental or Lycoming up front, but for all its dinosaur DNA, that lump delivers a very useful 230hp – 63% more than the Rotax in an aeroplane that has a MAUW that’s just 28% heavier than the Sling.
Enough pontificating, let’s get airborne. I’m flying with Tim Hardy, previous LAA chairman and UK Sling distributor. As ever with a new type there’s potential for huge embarrassment when you try to get in (tripled when video cameras are involved). Thanks to the lack of struts and two decent sized doors, cockpit access is easy. Well, apart from the stick that is. I know that a stick is superior to a yoke every day of the week, but if you have to get your leg over to get in, that’s not always easy as we get older. Apparently.
The seats are every bit as comfortable as they look, but my first surprise came when I put my feet on the pedals. These pivot like they are equipped with toe brakes, but as both mains are braked through a single hand-operated central lever the impression is the brakes have failed. I guess you’d get used to the brake configuration, but individual toe brakes are best. If I ruled the Sling world I’d make them standard – they are available as an option, and obviously needed if you choose tailwheel configuration.
As a company Sling is a big fan of Garmin avionics and the panel is dominated by a big G3X, and a GTN750. There’s a standby G5 and the trusty GFC500 autopilot (or wherever it is called in the homebuilt world), and the controller for the electrically controlled prop.
Engine started, we taxi for the hold. I usually prefer fully castering nosewheels and steering with differential braking, but I have to say the nosewheel steering on the Sling worked well. After engine checks (a bit different thanks to the twin ECUs and electrical prop control), Tim briefed that the speed should be allowed to build to 55kt before lifting the nosewheel. Doing so prematurely would increase drag and prolong the take-off.
Two up, and with just over ¾ tanks, the performance was OK. The POH gives a take-off run of 250 metres at MAUW on tarmac. We were using grass, and we weren’t at MAUW, but it was my first take-off on type, so probably less than optimal technique. I’d estimate we were off the ground and climbing away after a roll of about 350m.
We averaged about 700 feet per minute rate of climb, I’m sure that more is possible (the book quotes 900fpm), but that was enough for me, giving me a chance to get used to the handling, while keeping a decent view ahead.
Once at a couple of thousand feet I turned on the autopilot to get a look at some cruise numbers without hand flying getting in the way. The bottom line is that for the typical local flight at typical GA altitudes you’re going to see somewhere around 120kt for a fuel burn of around 30 litres per hour, so similar fuel burn to a C172 with a little bit more speed. However, the Rotax 915iS is turbocharged, and that means altitude is your very good friend. Climb to say 12,000ft for a nice flight down to Cannes and for a fuel burn of just 28 lph you’ll see just over 140kt TAS. That’s impressive.
Autopilot off and time for a bit of general handling where the Sling excels. It’s one of those aeroplanes that manages to combine stability with responsiveness with good control harmony and a nice control feel. The stall is super benign and with the stick all the way back it settles into a high rate of descent accompanied by a blaring stall warner.
Coming back into the circuit needs a little bit of thought given the cruise speed is around 120kt and you can’t drop the first stage of flap until you are below 85kt. The Rotax is liquid cooled, so you could, I guess, go from full power to idle without undue worry, but that feels wrong…
Tim had briefed the approach speed as 70kt which felt pretty fast. The Pilot’s Operating Handbook suggests that at max weight, you should fly at 75kt down to 50ft, then reduce the speed. I would normally be flying at about 60kt in the C182 (which has vortex generators fitted to improve the STOL performance), so 70kt felt a bit fast. Landing isn’t difficult and even the centre mounted single lever brake wasn’t too much of a distraction. The POH gives a landing roll of 225m at 6,000ft density altitude (Sling’s home base in South Africa is at Tedderfield Airpark which sits at 5,197ft). I imagine that result was achieved with some significant braking!
After lunch, we flew a second time with Ed Hicks in the back. We may have burnt off some fuel, and Ed’s one of life’s very thin people (despite copious chocolate consumption!), but we were definitely heavier, and that was observable in the time it took to get to rotation speed, and the time it took to stop with gentle braking. In flight there was no great change to the handling. It certainly never felt like it was wallowing along.
The Sling offers a great combination of space, performance and economy, but it is an exaggeration to call it a modern day C182. It just doesn’t have the power and / or wing area. I imagine it could be a bit scary when operating out of shorter softer strips when loaded with people, fuel or both, and that nosewheel is dragging its way along a sticky runway. If that’s going to be your thing, then you should definitely order the taildragger version, or better still, the taildragger version along with any bigger engine options that might become available in the future (a new bigger, more powerful engine is expected from Rotax).
If you have the luxury of a longer runway or hard runway, then the Sling HW will give you the combination of easy cockpit access, unobstructed flightseeing views, thanks to the lack of struts, and an efficient higher speed cruise when you get above about 5,000ft. You might want to try to persuade the factory to make either a rudder trim or yaw damper available. It’s no big deal keeping a bit of rudder pressure on and the ball nicely in the middle, but it’s a pain to have to do that for hours on end.
The aircraft is just starting to go through the LAA approval process. Although it comes from a known manufacturer, Sling, and appears to have no big surprises, it is a composite aluminium aircraft. Composites bring their own approval challenges, and I doubt that reduces when it’s an aeroplane with an aluminium empennage and wing too.
Tim Hardy estimates the total cost of everything you need to complete the Sling minus paint will be in the region of £190,000. That’s a lot of cash, but unlike many headline figures it does include the engine, avionics and even VAT. This is not a low cost aircraft in anyone’s book, but the end result would be a new, modern four-seater that’s well designed, flexible and that will have significantly lower running and maintenance costs than its certified cousins.
It’s always a tough design challenge, fitting another row of seats in the back of an aeroplane. Roof lines are lower as the fuselage tapers towards the tail feathers, and Centre of Gravity thoughts will be on a designer’s mind, so there’s plenty to consider when adding space for seats three and four.
Thanks to the Sling’s big doors, it’s pretty easy to climb into the back, and once you’re there, the seats, which are fixed in position, are comfortable. I’m 188cm (6ft 2in) tall and slightly more leg than torso, and while it was a bit of a squeeze while the front seats were slid back for Tim and Ian to climb aboard, once they had slid forwards to their in-flight position, there was plenty of space for my legs. The top of my headset was touching the cabin top though, so you wouldn’t want to be any taller. Two small adults would be fine back there, but you’d probably be bumping shoulders.
As the seats sit pretty low to the floor (maximising the headroom), I did find that my thighs could not rest on the seat base cushion, so that might become uncomfortable on longer trips.
Overall though, with a decent view of the world thanks to the well-placed aft windows, and good ventilation controls, the rear seats of the Sling HW will be a fine place to spend some time, especially if you’re of more average size. Ed Hicks
|Max speed (Vne)||155 KIAS|
|Cruise speed (@ 9,500ft)||142 KTAS|
|Stall speed||51 KIAS|
|Rate of climb||900fpm|
|Range||830nm @ 75% power setting|
|Length||23.6 ft (7.193 m)|
|Wingspan||31.3 ft (9.54 m)|
|Height||8.6 ft (2.62 m)|
|Cabin width||46 in (1.17 m)|
|Airframe||Composite and aluminium|
|Propeller||Three blade electrically controlled and constant speed|
|Around £190,000 inc VAT for the whole kit including engine, avionics and upholstery|