Our fleet normally comprises four or five Robin DR400 aircraft. The DR400 is an extremely popular training aircraft in Europe but less common in the UK where it is perceived more as a luxury private aircraft. Nevertheless it has precisely the right attributes for a trainer, with the added bonus of being much more enjoyable to fly than the more obvious Cessnas and Pipers. Comparisons have been made between BMWs and Ford Cortinas…
Particularly striking is the commanding view that the DR400 offers the pilot, greatly aiding situational awareness during training, facilitating navigation and enhancing the pleasure of its occupants at all times.
The principal difference between individual aircraft in our fleet is engine size and so performance and load-carrying capability, but they share the same airframe so there is excellent interchangeability between them in use. Logistically, this is also a huge benefit as most components are the same across the range. Combined with our massive spare parts holding and the quality of the aircraft, this has proved a significant contributor to our impressive reliability record.
G-OYIO Robin DR400/120 Dauphin 2+2
Imported from Belgium in 2007, IO has been a mainstay of our fleet for many years and remains one of our prime training aircraft, epitomising the superb flying qualities of the DR400. Offering a brisk 105kts on a frugal 24 litres per hour, IO is effectively a 3-seater, with the rear seat limited to 120kg.
IO also makes an excellent economical tourer and has travelled far and wide in our ownership – including a voyage to Africa and crossing the Alps (seen here at Innsbruck, en route to Venice in 2017)
G-CEKO Robin DR400/100 Cadet
KO has been with us for over ten years. Designed specifically for training, the Cadet is a two-seat version of the DR400. Apart from the absence of a rear seat and third row of windows, KO is virtually identical to IO (with the same engine, performance and handling) so we use the two aircraft interchangeably.
Though not as perfectly suited to long range touring as our other aircraft, KO has nevertheless flown as far afield as Morocco.
G-GORA Robin DR400/160 Major
With a larger 160hp engine, RA offers a greater carrying capacity than KO and IO plus higher performance, cruising comfortably at 115kts (over 130mph).
Despite the extra performance, RA retains the benign handling of our smaller-engined planes, remaining easy to fly and excellent for ab initio training.
Comprehensive radio navigation equipment makes RA ideal for instrument training.
With her extra performance and payload, RA also makes a splendid tourer with the added bonus of a range of over 600nm (Exeter to Marseille non-stop!)
G-CCZX Robin DR400/180 Regent
ZX is generally similar to RA but with a larger engine – 180hp. In theory, anything RA can do ZX can do better, but the larger engine with the same fuel capacity gives a slightly shorter range (still over 500nm).
Performance and handling are noticeably more sporty. Though still benign and easy to fly, ZX’s 125kt cruise speed means that things happen notably faster than in KO and IO, so ZX is not normally used for the early stages of training.
Unsurprisingly, ZX is a favourite for travelling far afield.
G-RONS Robin DR400/180 Regent
NS is virtually identical to ZX, with the added bonus of a more comprehensive radio navigation fit and autopilot.
She is probably the finest example anywhere of a Regent of this age, having had one careful elderly owner prior to us. Consequently, she is not normally used for solo flying, but only with an instructor or mentor aboard.
NS has proved ideal for instrument training.