A while ago myself and some friends decided to buy a GA aircraft, the criteria we set was a low wing, affordable (subjective, I know), Rotax powered aircraft. This effectively inferred a 2 seater, kit build, LAA registered aircraft. After we looked through the normal sites afors.co.uk, PlaneCheck.com, etc we concluded that a Europa fitted our requirement and we focused on trying to find an affordable Europa, it helps that the Europa Aircraft company is also only a short drive from where we live.
As luck would have it a hangar became available central to where we all live so we put our names down for the hangar and started the search for a Europa. This was somewhat frustrating as we had seen a few for sale before actively looking, but not many since. There was a Europa that had been listed for a while, but had not sold, so two of us made the 4 hour drive to view it. We quickly realised why she was still for sale as we looked around her. The current owner had made several modifications and not had them signed off, and although he seemed a nice guy, he was less than sold on the need to do so. The aircraft was on its third different engine type and bore the scars of the frequent changes in the form of holes in the bulkhead; fibreglass had been mounded high in placed to “add strength” the owner told us, It was a clear no from both of us.
I was sat at home the following evening feeling dejected at not being the proud owner of a Europa tri gear (we had ruled out the monowheel nicked named “the widow maker” even though to my knowledge it never has made anyone a widow, but it can be difficult to handle on the ground!), when I decided to try and locate a Europa XS tri gear near us so we could go and look at one, talk to the owner and maybe, just maybe, cadge a flight in it! The only source of such information is Ginfo, I manage to identify 2 in the first page or so of results and then on the next page was one that caught my eye, it was listed as owned by Mr xxxxx for the estate of zzzzz. This sounded like and aircraft in probate! I Googled the owner, he was indeed dead, I Googled the other name and he was a solicitor, was this a tri gear? it was a tri gear, it was an XS and it had the wide and high mods too. First thing in the morning I call the solicitor, who was on holiday and referred me to another member of his practice. I called her and arranged to view the aircraft which at the time was at Popham airfield, within 2 days three of the group were on site looking at the Europa.
First impressions of the Europa XS
We arrived at Popham airfield and waited in the clubhouse for the airfield manage to show us the aircraft. As he walked us over we were given a brief history. There looking somewhat sad in the corner of a field was the Europa XS that we had come to view. No keys were available, but the cockpit was unlocked on one side, so we climbed in and had a good look, one of the first things that struck us was how much more room there was compared to the Europa Classic we had viewed. The aircraft has not been flown or started in around 18 months, there was some mould on the stick gator, the rudder had been damaged assumably from a gust of wind causing it to hit the elevator, one elevator had delaminated on its trailing edge due to having been hit down on to a pole and both elevators had a mound of fibreglass near the release pins. overall she looked like a nice aircraft, the paintwork was bright, where there was no mould the interior was watertight and clean, still it would be a big gamble as we could not start the engine! We took the cowling off and burped the engine successfully the oil looked clean and free from water. On the drive home, there was much debate about the risk of buying an out of permit aircraft, especially one that had not even been started in 18 months, but we decided we would put an offer in that reflected this. We waited to see if we were successful or not, as we knew there were at least 2 other bids! After around a week we heard from the solicitor that our bid had been successful.
We pick the first day that snowed in 2020 to go and bring her home, just our luck. Two set off for Popham and two set off to pick up the trailer. Simon and I arrived at Popham and started to remove the wings and the elevators ready for transportation. The guys with the trailed turned up, after taking a slight detour en route, and we loaded the Europa up and then started the long journey home. Our new home airfield was closed by the time we arrived, I think its fair to say we got some odd looks from the drives of the few cars that came around the corner to find a man waving a red flashing light and an aeroplane parked in the middle of the road! We finally got the gates opened and pulled in and unloaded our Europa, she was safely stored out of the wind at the back in a dry hanger behind a Cessna 172 and a Piper Super Cub.
A few days later our faith in our purchases was validated by the engine starting first time after being stood for so long, the avionics sprung to life too, we had not wasted our money, a great feeling of relief was felt as she sprung into life!
Currently, we are all in lockdown and this has delayed the repairs to the rudder and elevators which sit in an empty Europa factory awaiting repair and the wings sadly remain detached too.