Patrick Holland-Moritz

We Fly: Remos GXiS

A fun-to-fly airplane for any pilot, which just might jump-start the flight-training industry.

The dwindling remnants of a glorious afternoon sun were disappearing beneath the horizon as I turned the Remos GXiS off the tiny runway at Flugplatz Pasewalk in far northeast Germany.

With two hours of fuel remaining in the 22-gallon tank, my first inclination was to simply turn around and blow another hour or so in the pattern perfecting my landings with this perky little airplane. The Remos, along with my instructor, demo pilot Patrick Holland-Moritz, were both willing, but Pasewalk sits about 45 miles south of the Baltic Sea, and the rules for VFR at night differ considerably from those in the United States. Night flying in Germany is only possible from certain airports, and Pasewalk, a small flying-club field with a single 3,000-foot runway, isn’t one of them. Here ­pilots must possess a night approval on their pilot certificate and file a flight plan to be legal. I was merely a guest of the folks at the Remos factory, so a full stop was the best option, even if it wasn’t the most satisfying.

Holland-Moritz and I managed another hour and a half of fun flying with the GXiS, the company’s new fuel-injected special light-sport airplane (SLSA), the next morning and afternoon with the mercury hovering around freezing. Just these few flights were enough to make me want to take a GXiS back to the States; the airplane is that much fun to fly. The time I spent with the Remos crew and their new airplane made me realize that flying just for fun is highly ­underrated on our side of the Atlantic.

These days, we Americans have come to think of general aviation airplanes mostly as business tools. But if you’ve ever found yourself sitting in the backyard watching airplanes pass by overhead, remembering when you learned to fly and realizing you’ve forgotten long ago exactly what drew you to aviation, an airplane like the Remos might just be for you.

The GXiS is perfect for people who don’t need to carry three or four passengers 500 miles or more for business. This is an airplane for pilots happy to cruise along at 100 knots a few thousand feet above the ground, burning just 5 gallons of gas an hour in the process. When did you last fly low and slow in an airplane with the doors off and wave to people on the ground as they looked up? You could do that with the Remos. How good are your accuracy landings these days when you never practice them any longer? Couldn’t your cross-country skills use a little work heading out to that little restaurant 80 miles down the road, the one you used to frequent when you first earned your pilot certificate? Or maybe you want to learn to fly and have been frustrated by looking at the bevy of old airplanes at the local flight school. If any of these notions ring a bell, stay tuned for a little adventure.

Remos GXiS cockpit
A few hours in a Remos GXiS will remind some pilots of why they learned to fly — for fun.Patrick Holland-Moritz

Brand Awareness

Don’t feel bad if the Remos name doesn’t quickly conjure a picture of the company’s products in your mind. That lack of recognition was partially what led to an earlier, short insolvency for the company. But a re-energized and refinanced Remos is planning a big push in the next few years to acquaint, or reacquaint, pilots with the airplanes and its own brand of sophisticated German engineering.

To get your head around the size of the GXiS, you might compare it with a Cessna 150, even though the Cessna is a 50-year-old design. The Remos GXiS’ wingspan and ­fuselage are each about 3 feet shorter, while the vertical stabilizer is about a foot shorter than the Cessna’s. The SLSA Remos created is made from lightweight composite and tips the scales at 1,320 pounds, while the all-aluminum Cessna weighs nearly 300 pounds more. Each aircraft is powered by a 100 hp engine, but the Remos uses a fuel-injected, 2,000-hour TBO liquid-cooled Rotax 912S Sport. The Cessna uses a two-blade metal propeller to the Remos’ three-blade, 11-pound composite prop. Each airplane holds about 22 to 24 gallons of fuel, but the Remos stores its fuel in a single fuselage tank.

I expected the smaller Remos to be much less comfortable than the 150 that I’ve spent many hours flying from the right seat as an instructor. But it surprised me with unexpected comfort, possibly because the small control stick that replaces the clumsy dual control wheels of most aircraft protrudes up from the floor between the pilot’s thighs, opening up extra cockpit real estate. The ­Remos’ bright, well-equipped cockpit makes it engaging from the first flight.

After a few hours of flying the GXiS, I began to wonder if this airplane was what a Cessna 150 might have become had the folks in Wichita, Kansas, gone back to the drawing board a few decades after production began in 1958 to design a more modern version. Imagine if they’d used new composite materials to clean up those drag-inducing airframe and airfoil bulges. Or if they’d added better seats and more capable avionics. Had they put their minds to it, Cessna might have created something other than the Cessna 162, the LSA-category aluminum airplane that Textron Aviation chief Scott Ernst realized a few years ago “had no future.” Cessna never did build that new-generation airplane, but I think Remos just may have.

I traveled to Germany specifically to evaluate the Remos GXiS, tour the manufacturing facilities and meet some of the people who created the SLSA line of aircraft. The tiny Pasewalk airfield, home to the Remos factory, sits alongside a quiet country road. Without airplanes buzzing ­overhead, I would never have thought they were being created inside the one modern building I saw. But Holland-Moritz shook his head with a smile and mentioned that practically ­everyone in town knew about the Remos airplane ­factory and strongly supported the company, despite its earlier ­economic hiccups. Today, the company employs about 45 people between the office and engineering department.

Walk in the front door at Remos and you quickly find yourself face to face with the entire engineering department — all three people. Remos’ engineering boss is its chief technical officer, Christian Majunke, supported by ­Daniel Browne, senior vice president of certification, and Paul Foltz, an engineering and certification specialist. These are the men who translate the German engineering concept into the smooth lines and curves that make the GXiS an eye-catcher just sitting on the ramp. Inside the GXiS, that same engineering expertise was put to good use solving problems other builders might have skipped over.

Take the brakes. Earlier Remos models used a ­T-handle between the seats as the hand brake. Handle or not, ­Majunke said pilots always managed to drag the brakes while taxiing. The engineering team looked for a better way and found it in an unlikely spot — on the throttle. Browne and Foltz said they’d thought for a while about replacing the ­Remos’ traditional push/pull throttle knob with the T-handle-type control you might see on a Cirrus or a Piper. And one of them — neither would accept the overall credit — realized he could make the new throttle manage more than one chore: push it forward for engine power, or pull it all the way back to add brake pressure and halt the airplane.

The next issue was replacing the manual alternate air control with a tiny plastic part that automatically senses the loss of normal intake pressure and opens the alternate air source. Remos engineers designed the part and even fabricated it on a 3-D printer at a fraction of the cost of what a big company would charge internally for a similar design.

Time to Fly

Seating yourself in the Remos cockpit — your butt goes in first while lifting your leg over the stick — seems a tad awkward until you get used to it, but you quickly realize the seats are comfy and the panel is clean and uncluttered. There’s not much to firing up the Rotax, but it wasn’t always that way. The engine manufacturer’s procedure called for 14 individual steps, a number that drove the Remos engineers crazy. Majunke said they all knew there had to be an easier way, and the result was the Remos engine start button just above the ignition key. Starting now takes just three steps before pressing the button. The Remos computers quickly check an assortment of parameters that need looking after and, assuming everything checks out OK, the propeller spins to life.

While waiting for the oil temperature to come up, I had time for a closer look at the GXiS panel, something nonpilots who drive a BMW, Mercedes or Porsche will find ­especially impressive. It has a clean look with large Dynon displays that deliver as much flight information to pilots — including an angle of attack indicator — as they’ll find in more expensive aircraft. Nestled in between the left and right Dynon screens, the pilot might see a Garmin 696 to handle the communications and navigation work. The panel hardware includes brushed aluminum knobs and a backup airspeed and altimeter sitting snugly beneath the radio. Buyers can also add an autopilot with a wing leveler and a “180 button” that will turn the airplane about smartly should a VFR pilot inadvertently encounter IFR conditions.

A three-position switch selects the slotted flaps labeled as up, position one (15 degrees) or position two (40 degrees). While the GXiS can be flown with the doors off in warmer temperatures for fun, there’s also a door quick release in case the pilot needs to make a fast exit for some reason. Because hangar space in Germany is tough to come by, the GXiS’ wings fold away for easy transport and storage. Since some owners tow gliders, the airplane’s standard rear-view mirror comes in handy. And finally, the GXiS is delivered with a BRS parachute recovery system as standard.

I learned to fly an airplane using a control stick rather than a control wheel, so not surprisingly I found immediate comfort when I saw the one inside the Remos, especially when it was adorned with an electric trim, microphone button and autopilot disconnect. Resting my right arm on my right thigh gave me just the leverage I needed to easily manipulate the stick. I’d soon learn that the controls were crisp and demanded little hand pressure anyway. The GXiS nosewheel steering was very positive during taxi, despite 15-knot winds blowing around at Pasewalk before my first flight. Brake control through the throttle was impressive and firm when needed, a bit like pulling a turboprop’s propellers into Beta during taxi.

One element of the Remos design philosophy is that less time combing through long checklists translates into more flying hours and more fun. Once the oil temperature had reached 60 degrees C, I ran the Rotax to 3,000 rpm for the pretakeoff check. There are no magnetos, of course, because the Rotax runs through a dual electronic ignition system. At high rpm, the pilot needs only to check the “lanes” lights just above the engine start button. The appropriate red winks verify the dual fuel pumps and dual ignitions are both supplying the engine prior to takeoff. Performance calculation on a GXiS is a no-brainer, since under most conditions, such as zero headwind, full fuel and two people within the CG, the airplane is going to leave the ground in less than 500 feet.

Lining up on the runway, I gave the controls a final ­wigwag to check freedom of movement and added full throttle. I’d planned on gauging the takeoff distance, but there wasn’t enough time. With one notch of flaps, we rotated at 40 knots and were airborne in under 15 seconds, climbing smoothly away from Pasewalk. Holland-Moritz told me that 60 is the magic number — climb at 60, descend at 60 and glide at 60. But personally, I had to let the GXiS accelerate to about 75 during the climb so I could see over the nose. With those near-zero C temperatures from sea level at Pasewalk, the GXiS’ climb performance was breathtaking. Even through 4,000 feet, we were still indicating 1,000 fpm with spectacular visibility out the front and through the big glass-paneled doors.

Remos GXiS exterior
Like nearly everything else on the Remos GXiS, the folding wing idea evolved from a lack of hangar space in Germany. While the wings can be stowed by a single person, having an extra pair of hands to help out isn’t a bad idea to prevent scratching the paint.Patrick Holland-Moritz

My definition of controllability in any airplane begins with slightly modified Dutch rolls, which are pretty easy in the GXiS thanks to its high wing loading. Even climbing at 70, I continually wrapped it around into 45-degree banks with the airplane responding nicely, especially after a little practice with the rudders.

Easing the nose over to cruise, I watched the airspeed settle down at about 100 knots. The Rotax is more forgiving than most air-cooled power plants and is happy to run all day long at 5,200 rpm, which takes a bit of getting used to for pilots raised with tachometer redlines starting around 2,750 rpm. Yank the power to idle in this airplane, even in cold air, and shove the nose over — the Rotax doesn’t care. In return, it sucks only about 5 gph of Mogas, if you can find it.

It was time for some true slow flight, and after I powered to idle, held the nose up, slowing to 60, and dropped one notch of flap, I found that flying around, even in fairly steep turns, will quickly tell the pilot that the airplane’s not going to try anything scary. With full flaps and power, I comfortably flew it around at 45 knots. Rolling the wings level, I idled the Rotax and tried to hold the aircraft’s nose in the same place on the horizon as the little stall beeper began yelling. The frequency of the chirp, chirp, chirp increases as the wing senses the decreasing lift of an imminent stall. Entering the maneuver slowly, the airplane never did break, but just mushed along losing altitude. On the next one, I was a bit more abrupt with my back pressure. This time I could clearly feel when the wing stopped flying, something the angle of attack indicator confirmed.

I tried a number of landings with flaps at one and two notches. If the pilot holds 60 knots around the traffic pattern and begins slowing to 50 over the threshold, the GXiS displays very little float. With zero flaps, the arrivals require a bit more planning, but of course that’s true in any airplane.

Holland-Moritz and I chatted on the taxi back to the ­Remos ramp. The GXiS is an easy airplane to feel through the controls — something primary instructors and new ­pilots will appreciate. But most of all, the Remos is a fun airplane to fly. There was just one other drawback to flying in Germany as I watched Holland-Moritz tick off the number of landings we’d shot. In Germany, the operator pays a navigation fee for every single one, even at an off-the-grid airport like Pasewalk.

A lightly equipped GXiS runs $153,495, while a fully loaded one comes to $185,397. An airplane order demands 30 percent of the purchase price upon signing the contract, 40 percent more upon engine installation and the final 30 percent on delivery. Building an airplane in ­Germany requires about three to four months and four to six weeks after that to ship it to the United States.

Remos is building about one airplane per month at present, but it plans to ramp up that number this year. The company is also on the lookout for new dealers around the United States. It expects the GXiS’ required SLSA self-certification to be completed by Sun ’n Fun in April.