Updated: Dec 28, 2021
First Impressions: Crikey! This Australian-built plane is very well engineered, efficient, safe and, like an Aussie marsupial, has plenty of cargo room!
Design Features: This airplane is a breath of fresh air; it rethinks small general aviation aircraft. From a distance it looks similar to contemporary light sport aircraft but a closer examination makes it obvious the designers thought outside the box. This composite two seat, three door experimental aircraft has many design features unique to Jabirus. Some distinctive features include the cable-actuated flap position indicator on the right window frame, upturned winglets and extra large cargo area with its own large door. The ailerons are differential design, meaning that they travel up at twice the rate that they travel down. The Jabiru has 35.6 gallons usable with a 5 Liter header tank attached to the back of the passenger seat. There are individual on/off fuel valves located on the left and right upper bulkheads with heavy duty flexible fuel lines that lead to the header tank.
Powerplant: Jabiru 3300 four stroke six cylinder (120hp at 3300 rpm).
Unique Factoids: Jabiru is an aircraft company located in Bundaberg, Australia. The J230 is a two-seat export version of the J430 which is the four-seat version of the EXACT same aircraft minus the back two seats. The J230 was designed to operate under the FAA’s light sport category which restricts aircraft to only two seats and 1,320 lbs max gross weight. The J230D that I flew was certified in the U.S. as Experimental, allowing it to operate up to the J430’s max gross weight of 1,540 lbs. The cargo bay had previously been modified to carry a FLIR pod and it was used for a short time as an ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) aircraft. In true Australian form, the Loss Of Flight Controls emergency procedure lists step 5 as follows; BRUTE FORCE........APPLY. I seriously doubt there is another POH out there that actually calls for brute force.
Layout/ Ergonomics: Getting in and out is no issue with the generous carstyle doors that are uninhibited by the wing struts. The seats are molded composite with relatively thin cushioning so I recommend bringing some lumbar support for long flights. The leg room and head room can easily accommodate taller people. There is a single control stick between the pilot and passenger which makes it interesting for flight instructors who like to ride along on the controls for student landings. The panel is low, the side windows are large, and the wing strut is behind the door giving fantastic visibility
Taxi/takeoff: This plane has direct-linkage nosewheel steering and a lever style handbrake, located immediately in front of the control stick. Plan those turns in advance because, like all planes with handbrakes, this plane does not make super tight turns. Because of the direct-linkage nosewheel steering, a 2 soft field-esque takeoff and landing is recommended to keep the nose gear off the deck at higher speeds to avoid overcontrol.
Flying qualities: This aircraft is extremely stable and straightforward. Perhaps most impressive is the stall characteristics, or lack thereof. There is a stall warning horn that changes in pitch as the AO increases. During a power-off stall test, with full flaps, this aircraft simply refused to stall. Indicating 29-30 knots with the stick full back the wings kept flying, resulting in no wing drop-off and no stall “break”. The differential ailerons help reduce adverse yaw which reduces the required rudder input in turns. From my perspective this plane is simple to operate and very safe. Cruise performance is both impressive and economical. At 3,000 feet MSL, the Jabiru was cruising at 110 KIAS at 2700 rpm while burning only 4.5 gph.
Landing: 65 knots is the magic number for landing, climbout and best glide for emergencies. At 65 knots and established on glideslope the stick is very far back, almost uncomfortably so. With such a large cargo area it can be tempting to overload the J230, so be sure to run proper weight and balance so you don’t have your CG out of the aft limits and run out of elevator authority.
Wrap-up: This airplane is very impressive and I’m mystified why there are not more Jabiru aircraft around. I’ve flown Jabiru 3300 and 2200 engines and am impressed, thus far, at their simplicity and reliability. I understand why their engines are so popular amongst kit plane builders. I’d recommend this plane for anyone, regardless of experience level, looking for a safe, reliable, economical and easy-to-fly VFR plane. If you ever get a chance to enjoy this “fair dinkum” plane from down under, take it!