|National origin||Great Britain|
|First flight||11 March 1985|
|Number built||about 35|
The ARV Super2 is a British two-seat, strut-braced, shoulder wing, tricycle landing gear light aircraft, that was designed by Bruce Giddings. It was intended to be both a cost-effective trainer and an affordable aircraft attractive to private owners. Later called the "Opus", it gained US Federal Aviation Administration Light-sport aircraft approval in February 2008.
An 1994 review described the ARV Super2 favourably as an aircraft with excellent visibility that is both responsive and pleasant to fly.
Around 35 aircraft were produced in the 1980s before the Isle of Wight-based company went into liquidation. Subsequently there have been a number of attempts to restart production, mostly unsuccessful. As of October 2013, all the assets and production rights are for sale.
Design and development
After breaking the world land speed record in 1983, the UK entrepreneur Richard Noble, spotted a gap in the market for a low-cost light two-seat trainer, after expensive product-liability lawsuits in the United States had temporarily driven the major American general aviation manufacturers to abandon production of such aircraft. Noble set up a factory at Sandown on the Isle of Wight to build the aircraft, named the ARV Super2, the first prototype flying on 11 March 1985. The factory used some novel manufacturing techniques, including British ALCAN's "Supral" (a superplastic aluminium alloy), adhesives (to reduce rivet count and save weight), and a bespoke new British engine, the Hewland AE75. These innovations gave the ARV an empty weight 40% lower than the Cessna 152, making the Super2 cheap to buy and economical to operate. The manufacturer claimed it would reduce pilot training costs by 25%
The ARV Super2 is a side-by-side configuration two-seater with a shoulder wing for good visibility. The wing is swept forward 5° to maintain correct center of gravity balance. The wing area is a small 92 sq ft (8.5 m2), giving a wing loading of 11.9 lb/ft² (58.1 kg/m²). The ARV is constructed of mainly aluminium alloy, with fibreglass wingtips and cowlings. The cockpit is a stiff monocoque of "Supral" alloy for lightness and improved crash protection. Aft of the cockpit bulkhead, the ARV is conventionally built, with frames, longerons and stressed skin. Skin sections are both glued and riveted. The aircraft has twin control sticks, and all controls are pushrod, except the rudder, which is cable-linked. Both flaps and trim are mechanically operated. The rudder pedals control a steerable nosewheel, but the hand-operated disc brakes are not differential and do not contribute to steering.
The AE75 engine, a 49 kg (108 lb)75 hp (56 kW) inverted three-cylinder water-cooled two-stroke unit with dual ignition and a 2.7:1 reduction gearbox, was specially developed for the ARV by Hewland from their existing two-cylinder microlight engine. Many ARVs have had their AE75s replaced with engines such as the Rotax 912, 914, or the fuel-injected MidWest twin-rotor wankel engine.
Opus Aircraft has upgraded some specifications for the aircraft, increasing the Vne to 134 kn (248 km/h) and increasing the gross weight to 1,168 lb (530 kg). The company intended to equip the aircraft with the Rotax 912UL or 912A of 80 hp (60 kW).
The Super2 gained airworthiness certification in July 1986, and entered full production. In November 1985, Noble had reached an agreement to supply ARV parts to Canada's Instar Aviation, where the aircraft would be assembled for the North American market. Transport Canada had agreed to certify the aircraft based on it "meeting UK criteria", but in the end these Canadian production plans came to nothing. Originally, ARVs were available either as kit-built aircraft (subject to PFA Permit), or factory built (and subject to the CAA Certificate of Airworthiness). In 2004, the CAA reclassified all ARVs as PFA (now LAA) Permit aircraft. The ARV Super2 was originally intended to be aerobatic, but the Isle of Wight factory closed before CAA clearance was obtained, so aerobatics remain prohibited. Also, the factory had planned to develop a four-seater version, wing-tip tanks and floats.
Super2s have very limited luggage space, with just a small locker behind the headrests, that is inaccessible during flight, plus a pair of elasticated map pockets in the cockpit sides. The second prototype, G-STWO, has an extra luggage locker in the starboard fuselage, just behind the fuel tank, but to date no other ARVs have this feature. The LAA have approved a modification for a removable auxiliary fuel tank (AFT), which adds a further 13 litres (2.9 imp gal; 3.4 US gal) capacity to the main tank's 50 litres (11 imp gal; 13 US gal). Like the main fuel tank, the AFT is sited close to the centre of gravity, so weight-and-balance is barely affected; but a disadvantage is that the AFT occupies the bulk of the space of the locker behind the headrests.
The ARV Super2 has had an unfortunate production history. Shortly after aircraft deliveries began, there were a number of forced landings due to gearbox failures induced by propeller vibration; and in November 1987 the CAA grounded the aircraft. Although these problems were quickly resolved, the damage was done. Buyers and investors lost confidence, and this led to the closure of the Isle of Wight factory. The company was forced into administration, but it seemed to be rescued after a management buyout, and being renamed Island Aircraft. Between 30 and 35 aircraft were completed by ARV and Island aircraft at Sandown, with production first being transferred to Scotland and then to Sweden, where it was renamed the "Opus 280", before the Swedish producers themselves went bankrupt in 1995. After yet another unsuccessful attempt to restart production in Ohio, a new consortium, Opus Aircraft, acquired the rights, establishing a factory in North Carolina, although production was never started. In February 2008, the "Opus Super 2" was granted FAA Light Sport Aircraft approval.
Opus Aircraft of Rockingham, near Stoneville, North Carolina, United States acquired manufacturing rights, plus a selection of aircraft parts. The factory produced an "Opus Super 2" prototype, but their proposed resumption of production never occurred. The company, valued at US$8M, was offered for sale for US$2.9M in 2013, but there were no bidders. In October 2013 the company was being offered at auction with a reserve bid of US$199,000.
The ARV Super2 has received favourable reviews which describe it as an aircraft with excellent visibility that is pleasant to fly. The small wing area and the fairly high wing loading, coupled with pushrod-operated flying controls, creates an aircraft that is very responsive without being "twitchy".
This 30-year-old design's cabin is rather snug for modern pilots, who may be bulkier than in the 1980s. The Hewland engines are required to be overhauled at 800 hours and replacement engines have all been heavier than than the 49 kg (108 lb) original, needing a lead counterweight in the tail to maintain balance. The empenage is short-coupled and its area is a little marginal for the landing flare, so flaring with a stopped engine might prove difficult.
Specifications (ARV Super 2)
Data from Jane's All the World's Aircraft 1988-89 
- Crew: Two
- Length: 5.49 m (18 ft 0 in)
- Wingspan: 8.69 m (28 ft 6 in)
- Height: 2.31 m (7 ft 7 in)
- Wing area: 8.59 m² (92.5 ft²)
- Airfoil: NACA 2415 (modified)
- Empty weight: 306 kg (675 lb)
- Max. takeoff weight: 499 kg (1,100 lb)
- Powerplant: 1 × Hewland AE75 3-cylinder liquid cooled inline engine, 57 kW (77 hp)
- Never exceed speed: 232 km/h (126 knots, 149 mph)
- Maximum speed: 190 km/h (103 knots, 118 mph) at 610 m (2,000 ft)
- Cruise speed: 153 km/h (83 knots, 95 mph) (econ cruise)
- Stall speed: 88 km/h (48 knots, 55 mph)
- Range: 500 km (270 NM, 311 mi)
- Service ceiling: m (ft)
- Rate of climb: 3.2 m/s (620 ft/min)
- Wing loading: 58.1 kg/m² (11.9 lb/ft²)
- Power/mass: 0.11 kW/kg (0.07 hp/lb)
- "Pilot" magazine, June 1985 page 6
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- Light Aircraft Association (4 December 2011), LAA/MOD 3 MODIFICATION APPLICATION retrieved 6 October 2012
- Reference: ARV/2011/AFT/TR/05 (LAA mod # 13212)
- Flight International, 14 November 1987, p.16
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- "A little sweetheart" in "Flyer" magazine February 1994 page 13
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- Blech, Robin. "Super 2 Comes of Age". Flight International, 13 September 1985. pp. 48–52.
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- Green, William: Observers Aircraft. Frederick Warne Publishing, 1987. ISBN 0-7232-3458-2.
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- Taylor, John W.R., ed. Jane's All the World's Aircraft 1988-89. Coulsden, Surrey, UK: Jane's Information Group, 1988. ISBN 0-7106-0867-5.