Owned by Cottonwoodbased Kestrel Aviation, the Wild Sky Aircraft’s Goat is a combination of hang glider, fan-powered go-kart and all-terrain vehicle.
The 80-horse-power engine and fabric-and-strut wings lift the 575-pound aircraft into the air at 45 miles per hour, after a 200-foot runway takeoff. Once in the air, the Goat cruises at about 55 mph and tops out at just under 70 mph. Landing at 35 mph requires about 400 feet of open space.
Thanks to over-large tundra tires and sport-tuned suspension, the Goat can land on a variety of terrain, including desert meadows, fields, beaches and gravel bars. It can also be outfitted, Kestrel Aviation CEO Sid Lloyd said, with pontoons for water access or skis for snow allowing its two passengers access to many backwoods locations typically inaccessible to aircraft.
The Goat features a 16-gallon tank and runs on regular gasoline, averaging about three gallons per hour. Perhaps the most interesting part of the aircraft is the way it’s steered: Unlike traditional planes, it is a weight-shifted craft.
The pilot grips a handlebar that shifts the angle of the wing. For experienced pilots, it takes a couple hours to acclimate, as all of the controls are backward in comparison to traditional aircraft.
Lloyd, who opened up shop at Cottonwood Municipal Airport on Saturday, May 20, said that he founded Kestrel Aviation specifically to appeal to pilots, formerly licensed pilots and would-be pilots who want to apply for the recently designated Light Sport Aircraft license and potentially purchase and license their own aircraft.
Light Sport Aircraft have been defined by the Federal Aviation Administration as two-passenger aircraft that weigh less than 1,320 pounds and reach a top speed of 120 mph. Concurrent with the development of the Light Sport Aircraft license, the establishment of the Sport Pilot license by the FAA allows pilots to “purchase a brand new aircraft and obtain training .... for less than half of what traditional aviation costs,” according to Lloyd.
In addition to the ease of getting both licenses — the Sport Pilot license requires 20 hours of instruction, and the Light Sport Aircraft license allows owners of their aircraft a greater degree of freedom with yearly maintenance requirements — Lloyd said that, due to their low speed and ease of piloting, Light Sport Aircraft is “the safest segment of aviation.”
According to Lloyd, a resident of the Verde Valley for 10 years, Kestrel Aviation is a “one-stop shop” for this new segment of adventurous pilots. The small hangar feature a full FAA-certified Light Sport Aircraft flight center, offering maintenance and condition inspections of 3-axis and weightshift Light Sport Aircraft. Lloyd plans to partner with other Light Sport Aircraft businesses to provide a full range of services.
As to an existing market for adventure trike enthusiasts in the Verde Valley — Lloyd admitted there isn’t one.
“I want to build a market,” Lloyd said, peering around the runway beyond his hangar and speculating about what the airport could be if it were marketed to businesses and pilots more actively. “You guys are sitting on a goldmine here.”
Kestrel Aviation is located at 668 S. Airpark Road, Hangar No. 3 at the Cottonwood Municipal Airport. For more information contact Lloyd at (928) 239-4101 or visit kestrelaviationservices.com.