FLYING THE SOLARIS SIGMA 230 AIRCRAFT
As you approach the FAA Certified SOLARIS AVIATION “Sigma” aircraft, you can see that it projects authority. This is no kit airplane; this is a rugged, retractable-gear beauty with smooth laminar flowing lines. It looks strong and capable, and invites you to fly it. The sleek appearance of the Sigma 230 is created through an innovative design, utilizing the latest techniques in “composite” airframe construction. It looks far better than a conventional metal airplane, as there are no rivets or aluminum skin seams. The Sigma looks fast; it appears to be flying even when it is sitting on the ramp.

The Sigma aircraft is predominantly made of a proprietary glass-fiber (composite) material, with Rohacell foam cores. It also incorporates a long weight-saving stainless steel tube running through the overhead (from the upper firewall to the rear fuselage). This tube divides the windscreen; adds support for the doorframes; and provides rollover protection for the cabin. While there is carbon-fiber strengthening around the doorframes, a glass-fiber material is primarily used due to its increased lightening tolerance. Furthermore, all SOLARIS airframes incorporate static-electrical bonding to exceed stringent FAA requirements.

The airframe is constructed of a specifically formulated and FAA certified BASF vinyl-ester resin. This material is less toxic than other epoxies commonly used, less mixture-critical, less water-absorbent, and is more resistant to high temperatures. In order to verify its strength and durability, over 15,000 samples were made and tested during the development of the aircraft. The wing and fuselage have been subjected to 56,000 simulated-flight hours, allowing an extraordinarily long 18,000 hour certificated life. These components surpassed all strength tests, including those with intentional damage and deliberately degraded adhesive bonding.

Being a new design, the SOLARIS Sigma had no “grandfather rights” to use in easing through modern strength, fatigue and damage tolerance requirements. The Sigma, after being thoroughly tested, fully complies with FAR (JAR) 23 to amendment 34. The tests also incorporated the increased 1.75 safety factor required of composites (metal and wood airframes have a 1.5 margin). Although this might be expected to result in additional weight, Sigma ‘s airframe is actually lighter than the metal aircraft in its class, such as the Bonanza F 33, Commander 115 and the Mooney. The Sigma also has a longer operating life, with its extra strength margins, much higher safety levels and immunity to corrosion..

The exterior finish of the Sigma is as smooth as one would expect with a composite aircraft, however, the manufacturing tooling is obviously exceptional, with no sign of hollows or deformities in the skin surface. The high quality of Sigma is noteworthy compared to any other composite aircraft in the market. Illustrating the design achievement of low drag, Sigma’s door and control surfaces would fare very well in the Mercedes’ ball-bearing test! The tapering wings have a 6.97 aspect ratio, a modern rain-tolerant laminar-flow airfoil, leading-edge stall strips and fashionably up tilted wing tips for reduced drag and improved lateral stability. The small ailerons have slight differential action, with deflection limited by concealed mass-balances. Inboard are large, three-position, electric Fowler flaps with similarly shrouded hinges and mechanisms. This reduces drag by eliminating the need for unsightly, external hinges protruding below the wing, as found on most competitive models.

Fuel is carried in “wet wing” tanks holding 60 gallons of fuel, sufficient for more than eight hours of economy flight. Their filler-cap wells have flush-fitting tamper proof covers, which can only be unlatched from inside the cockpit. Both wells and latch-cable channels have under-wing drain holes.

The tail surfaces are specifically configured for excellent stall and spin-recovery characteristics. Since the structure is composite, the VOR antenna is concealed inside the structure. All controls are operated by duplicate push rods, and the elevators have a flap-position input to compensate for trim changes. The left elevator has a combined trim and anti-servo tab to increase stick force to appropriate levels.

In order to reduce engine sound levels for the European version, which has been dubbed the “Quite One”, the Sigma 230 utilizes the six cylinder Texton-Lycoming IO 540 engine to develop 230 hp at 2400 rpm. Usually, this engine develops 260 hp at 2575 rpm. This should also help to extend engine life beyond the normally stated 2,000 hour TBO. Thrust is generated by a reduced-diameter, four-blade composite Muhlbauer prop on a three-inch spacer. Combined with an efficient muffler, this carefully engineered installation surpasses the stringent German noise limitation requirement of 74.0 dB(A) for full power over-flight. The cowling is sleek and compact, with adjustable, belly-cowl flaps, and a small left side oil cap and fuel drain inspection plate.

Passengers approach the doors over non-slip strips along each wing. For convenient access there are low doorsills, which allow passengers to easily step into the cabin. When open, the distinctive gull-wing doors are well above the heads of those entering the cabin. Both doors can be opened simultaneously; their motion is controlled by spring struts, which enables them to close gently without slamming. To secure closure of the door, two horizontal locking pins extend into the door fame when the inner door handle is rotated 90 degrees. Also, the interior is finished to a very high standard: including arm rests, over-head hand holds, cup and headset holders, log book and chart storage areas, etc. The cabin has side-wall heater vents, supplemented by knee-side air louvers and four ball-vents beside the reading lights on the cabin overhead.

The pilots’ seats are lushly contoured, comfortably recline and have seat-back storage. These stylish leather seats are equipped with high quality seat belts and adjustable shoulder straps. This gives the occupants the feeling of riding in an elegant sports car. Also, the pilots’ seats rise when slid forward to comfortably adjust the distance to the fixed rudder pedals. The separate seats in the three foot nine inch wide aft cabin provide ample passenger space, and the leg room is very accommodating (even with the front seats moved fully aft). All seats have well padded, adjustable head rests, which bear the company logo.

Not only is there a convenient, small storage compartment between the rear seats, but a 28 cubic foot baggage area accepts up to 110 lbs. of baggage and is accessible to the rear seat passengers in flight. For initial loading, baggage is passed through a well-crafted door on the left side of the fuselage, just aft of the wing. This door fits smoothly into the side of the fuselage, locking snuggly to avoid any air leaks in flight. Like the doors over the fuel caps in the wings, it can only be unlatched from within the cabin, using a button beside the left cabin door. The cabin’s aft mirrored wall shows further evidence of innovative detailing with integrally-molded recesses for the first-aid kit, fuel drain tester, tow bar and tool kit.
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