Opinions on the JMB VL-3 915

Gordon Freeman

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I happened to have come across the VL-3 (experimental) made by JBM aircraft in Czech Republic. They’re now offering this aircraft with the Rotax 915.

https://www.jmbaircraft.com/

It’s a 2-seater, retractable (option), with a ballistic parachute, and can be ordered with WAAS-IFR and autopilot for an all-weather XC flyer.

The numbers speak for themselves: 2300fpm climb, 200+ ktas Max, 24,000’ ceiling.

I mean it’s a Cirrus SR-22 turbo for a quarter of the price (less two seats).

And unlike other experimentals like Van’s, the cockpit is finished in beautiful leather and carbon fiber trim.

I’m mostly attracted to it for its economy. 4.5gph economy cruise at 145ktas is something very few planes can match.

I spoke with their Ohio based importer/dealer at Sun N Fun yesterday but I am still somewhat uncertain how one goes about getting an IFR certified experimental. Would I need to wait to have it inspected and certified by FAA for IFR? Experimental class is something I’m still learning more and more about every day. I’m just seeing it as a more affordable alternative to banged-up 70s certified aircraft being offered for sale for roughly the same price.

I’d certainly welcome any and all opinions on the aircraft, experimental class, and IFR certification for this class.
Thanks gentlemen. This would be my first aircraft purchase (most likely with 1-2 partners). As for myself, I’m a 130hr PPL with my instrument checkride scheduled in about two weeks, so pretty fresh.
 
The short answer is that they can't sell very many aircraft as experimental. It might be R&D or exhibition, but for the average owner those really are not a viable solution.

Until it's certified, or home built (EAB) from a kit it's basically a non existent aircraft.

Factory built and experimental just don't go together, except for the unique ability to convert SLSA tk ELSA.
 
I have a similar ( albeit not Rotax 915, just 914 ULS , carbon fiber + BRS) plane from Czech Republic and it is a blast to fly but it is certainly not a Cirrus minus 2 seats ( even though it kind of looks like one )
You are talking here 1320 LBS gross ( which is a big part of how they can claim such perf numbers with a turbo 140 Hp engine ) which translates into rather rough ride in anything worse than just light turbulence.
I mean, it is a just about perfect and economical plane for flying around the patch ( which is what majority of GA activity is anyway ) but it won’t replace a Cirrus ...
 
I have a similar ( albeit not Rotax 915, just 914 ULS , carbon fiber + BRS) plane from Czech Republic and it is a blast to fly but it is certainly not a Cirrus minus 2 seats ( even though it kind of looks like one )
You are talking here 1320 LBS gross ( which is a big part of how they can claim such perf numbers with a turbo 140 Hp engine ) which translates into rather rough ride in anything worse than just light turbulence.
I mean, it is a just about perfect and economical plane for flying around the patch ( which is what majority of GA activity is anyway ) but it won’t replace a Cirrus ...
Check the wing loading because that is what gives you the ride. The VL3 has the same wing loading as a Cirrus at 1320 lbs, but the EAB version can be 1600 lbs which gives it wing loading higher than just about any certified plane. It is a winner - especially with the 916 now available. The Blackwing 635RG is also a great plane and will likely have an EAB option soon. Rotax is the way to go due to the technology and the ability to run on MOGAS. When Rotax builds a 200-300HP version they will crush Continental and Lycoming.
 
Is this a model that the canopy has to be lifted to enter/exit the cockpit.??
 
Worked for CubCrafters
The key difference is that when I posted that (almost 2 years ago) there were exactly zero EAB VL3s in the US. There's still 5 or less in the US that are EAB, but at least it means they are working on the builder assist program.

Plus Cubcrafters offers a true factory built (certified or SLSA) version, the VL3 is either EAB (rare, and do some work yourself) or exhibition
 
It can't be an LSA with that kind of power/speed so I don't really see the point of it being factory built.
 
The VL3 is one sexy airplane and I could see pursuing one down the road if MOSAIC passes. I hope to sit in one if I make it to Oshkosh this year. From videos on YouTube it appears pretty narrow as the pilot and passenger are pretty snug.
 
Awesome airplane. I think you can get it as LSA if they end up doing the build. I was looking at getting one a while back
 
Does anyone have any more current info or input on this plane? Looks as if the 916iS version is real, and they have figured out how to get them into the US as EAB until (if) MOSAIC goes into effect.

As noted above, with the 916iS it seems to perform close to SR22 for half the price, and at significantly lower operating costs. Hmmm....
 
Does anyone have any more current info or input on this plane? Looks as if the 916iS version is real, and they have figured out how to get them into the US as EAB until (if) MOSAIC goes into effect.

As noted above, with the 916iS it seems to perform close to SR22 for half the price, and at significantly lower operating costs. Hmmm....
Perform , perhaps but don not forget this plane is half the size and gross of a Cirrus so there will significant differences in terms of how it rides in anything else than smooth air, overall durability etc …
These two planes are just different - one is a cross country cruiser while the other is just a fun machine for recreational and sport flying …
 

These two planes are just different - one is a cross country cruiser while the other is just a fun machine for recreational and sport flying …
Have you flown both?

They are both composite planes, right? Why would you expect one to be more durable than the other? The 22T has a 12,000 hr life limit, per FAA, so is there a lower life limit on the VL3?

The VL3 916 gets into the flight levels, has factory oxygen and a solid XC range, so not sure what your reasoning is...?
 
Have you flown both?

They are both composite planes, right? Why would you expect one to be more durable than the other? The 22T has a 12,000 hr life limit, per FAA, so is there a lower life limit on the VL3?

The VL3 916 gets into the flight levels, has factory oxygen and a solid XC range, so not sure what your reasoning is...?
I own a similar carbon fiber light-sport and got 500 hours on it - it is incredibly fun to fly but it is no Cirrus and the main difference is to get it under 1320 lbs limit , the design is by necessity just not as robust and does not have as much error margin build in as you get with larger planes.
As I said, it may go as fast as a Cirrus but it wont be a suitable replacement because it was not designed to be one.

 
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Is your mission X Country?

Useable load with Fuel -
With full fuel tanks, you have 520-216=304 lbs of remaining load. Not enough for two people.
Even if you flew with only 20 gallons for a 3 hour + IFR reserve range, you'd have 400 lbs remaining. A wee bit tight on the usable load with fuel IMHO.

Turbulence -
A plane that size is going to get bounced around more than a Cirrus, wing loading or not. It just has less mass, less inertia, and is going to move more when it hits any type of turbulence.

Insurance, Maintenance -
Its a retract, so its going to cost more. Its and experimental retract, so I'm not sure what they would charge for that.

It could be a great plane for the $200 burger, local hops, etc. But then again it seems like with the retract they are focusing it on X country, which I don't think plays to this planes strengths.
 
Is your mission X Country?

Useable load with Fuel -
With full fuel tanks, you have 520-216=304 lbs of remaining load. Not enough for two people.
Even if you flew with only 20 gallons for a 3 hour + IFR reserve range, you'd have 400 lbs remaining. A wee bit tight on the usable load with fuel IMHO.

Turbulence -
A plane that size is going to get bounced around more than a Cirrus, wing loading or not. It just has less mass, less inertia, and is going to move more when it hits any type of turbulence.

Insurance, Maintenance -
Its a retract, so its going to cost more. Its and experimental retract, so I'm not sure what they would charge for that.

It could be a great plane for the $200 burger, local hops, etc. But then again it seems like with the retract they are focusing it on X country, which I don't think plays to this planes strengths.
Retracts seem to be more common in EU , most likely because they dont carry this sort of huge insurance penalty they do around here but I dont know for sure …
 
Is your mission X Country?
Yes.

With full fuel tanks, you have 520-216=304 lbs of remaining load. Not enough for two people.
The US version with the 916iS has a slightly higher usable load, getting to 314. It's tight, but my wife combined and I are under 300.

A plane that size is going to get bounced around more than a Cirrus, wing loading or not. It just has less mass, less inertia, and is going to move more when it hits any type of turbulence.
Understood. I'm going to see if I can get a ride in one to get a sense for this.

Insurance, Maintenance -
Its a retract, so its going to cost more.
Total cost, maybe not.

Compared to a used SR22 the maintenance is going to be a good bit less with a 2,000 TBO Rotax. Fuel is less in the VL3, too, particularly with the 916.
The SR22 is a high-performance, while the VL3 is a retract; the SR22/SR22T also has a higher replacement value, which I would expect would drive a higher insurance cost.

...it seems like with the retract they are focusing it on X country, which I don't think plays to this planes strengths.
Well, I think it's more about playing to the Euro light sport standards and trying to get higher speed. When you use retract to reduce drag, you get higher speed, lower fuel consumption and range comes along for the ride. That happens to fit the niche mission of solo XC.....

In any case, 200KTAS / 1,000nm range for less than $500K new is a screaming deal.
 
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I like the JMB, I think the Sparker is worth a look if you haven't already. This will be an exciting space to watch in the next 1-3 years, TL has already announced a gross weight increase for the Sparker that brings its useful load to 700+ lbs. They've said they will certify under mLSA rules as soon as they can (meaning: as soon as the legacies controlling GAMA stop slow-walking the inevitable).
 
I like the JMB, I think the Sparker is worth a look if you haven't already. This will be an exciting space to watch in the next 1-3 years, TL has already announced a gross weight increase for the Sparker that brings its useful load to 700+ lbs. They've said they will certify under mLSA rules as soon as they can (meaning: as soon as the legacies controlling GAMA stop slow-walking the inevitable).
Sparker is the next generation of their Sting line - my Sting S4 , which Sparker is replacing , was selling for about $140k back in the day and their new Sparker is something like $420k - I know inflation and everything but that’s over 3 times as much for what is basically , a retract + Rotax 916 …. I will skip.
 
I like the JMB, I think the Sparker is worth a look if you haven't already. This will be an exciting space to watch in the next 1-3 years, TL has already announced a gross weight increase for the Sparker that brings its useful load to 700+ lbs. They've said they will certify under mLSA rules as soon as they can (meaning: as soon as the legacies controlling GAMA stop slow-walking the inevitable).
I've looked. It seems to me from the specs that the VL3 916 is a better performer at similar pricing. They (JMB) are also bringing a higher MTOW to the US - 750 kg - which will put it close to 800 (not sure how much weight the IFR pkg adds). What are your thoughts?
 
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I'm not sure how the Sparker and VL3 will shake out with their various engine configs, my understanding of the 916is though is it's mainly about more power during takeoff. Agreed on the MTOW changes coming though, I think a lot of these manufacturers who already have higher GW ratings in Europe will get those applied here. Optimistically I hope it will be more straightforward than other aviation regulations to reclassify existing craft. Personally I'm interested in some of the high wing models and see them as modern, mini-182s which would be perfect for my needs.
 
I'm not sure how the Sparker and VL3 will shake out with their various engine configs, my understanding of the 916is though is it's mainly about more power during takeoff.
From my discussions with JMB, it seems more about climb rate and cruise efficiency. They are claiming about 1 gal/hr fuel savings with the 916 at the same speeds.
 
From my discussions with JMB, it seems more about climb rate and cruise efficiency. They are claiming about 1 gal/hr fuel savings with the 916 at the same speeds.
That is pretty impressive when fuel burn is so low already, I hadn’t realized it would make such an impact on cruise too.
 
In any case, 200KTAS / 1,000nm range for less than $500K new is a screaming deal.

Are you still talking about the VL3? It does not have a 1,000nm range at 200KTAS. The 200KTAS figure is top speed at FL180 at Max Continuous Power. Fuel burn at MCP is 11gph. It only holds 37 gallons of fuel. Normally, you'd cruise at Max ECO power, where you'd burn 8gph and cruise more like 170KTAS. If you leave yourself 7gal for reserve, you're looking more like just over a 600nm range. (And really less than that, when you consider that while you're climbing you're burning 11gph and going a lot slower than 170.)
 
Are you still talking about the VL3? It does not have a 1,000nm range at 200KTAS.
Of course not. No plane can hit both max numbers simultaneously.
The 200KTAS figure is top speed at FL180 at Max Continuous Power. Fuel burn at MCP is 11gph. It only holds 37 gallons of fuel. Normally, you'd cruise at Max ECO power, where you'd burn 8gph and cruise more like 170KTAS. If you leave yourself 7gal for reserve, you're looking more like just over a 600nm range.
The real-world numbers I have been told for the 916iS version are 185 ktas @ 6.5 gpm (assuming FL180). Climb rate observed at 2700 fpm, so less than 10m to get to cruise alt. That gives a lot more than 600nm range, even with a hour of reserve.

Assume 30 gallons usable (remainder is reserve). 20 minutes of taxi, takeoff and climb. That leaves 4 hours of cruise time, or 740 nm worst case; counting the climb-out, a bit shy of 800. No, it's not a full 1,000nm at 200 ktas, but those are very good numbers for less than $500K new. For my personal mission goals, favorable winds would get me there without stopping; calm or headwind would mean a fuel stop. That's something I could live with.

I'm going to see if I can swing a ride in one at EAA to see for myself.
 
Of course not. No plane can hit both max numbers simultaneously.

The real-world numbers I have been told for the 916iS version are 185 ktas @ 6.5 gpm (assuming FL180). Climb rate observed at 2700 fpm, so less than 10m to get to cruise alt. That gives a lot more than 600nm range, even with a hour of reserve.

Assume 30 gallons usable (remainder is reserve). 20 minutes of taxi, takeoff and climb. That leaves 4 hours of cruise time, or 740 nm worst case; counting the climb-out, a bit shy of 800. No, it's not a full 1,000nm at 200 ktas, but those are very good numbers for less than $500K new. For my personal mission goals, favorable winds would get me there without stopping; calm or headwind would mean a fuel stop. That's something I could live with.

I'm going to see if I can swing a ride in one at EAA to see for myself.

Good call of trying to see for yourself, because those numbers you've "been told" are not realistic. I have hundreds of hours behind Rotax 915-powered engines. A good friend has a 916. He says the Max ECO fuel burn is identical. This idea that the 916 will save 1gph over the 915 in cruise is fantasy. Also, the Rotax actually burns more than what its FADEC reports to the G3X. So, when it shows 7.5gph, it's really burning about 8gph. (Currently Garmin doesn't provide a method to calibrate the fuel flow with Rotax iS engines.) Also, the climb rate "observed" at 2700fpm is likely not at gross weight and is probably at takeoff power, which is limited to 5 minutes. Also, that's probably at Vy, not at a normal cruise climb. Also, you will not maintain the same climb rate from sea level all the way to FL180.
 
(Currently Garmin doesn't provide a method to calibrate the fuel flow with Rotax iS engines.)
This is the **** that drives me crazy about general aviation.

The industry: "You have to pay a premium for certified avionics bc of rigorous testing and safety standards."

The same industry: "Oh yeah btw this $10K+ certified avionics we installed for $6k can't accurately track fuel usage."
 
This is the **** that drives me crazy about general aviation.

The industry: "You have to pay a premium for certified avionics bc of rigorous testing and safety standards."

The same industry: "Oh yeah btw this $10K+ certified avionics we installed for $6k can't accurately track fuel usage."
"bUt It'S CeRtIfIeD!"
 
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