IAI Arava-Israeli light STOL utility transport aircraft

By Willie Bodenstein

The Israeli Aerospace Industries' (IAI) Arava with its distinctive egg shaped fuselage and twin tail booms looks like no other aircraft, but nevertheless has a beauty all of its own.

IAI, originally the Bedek Aviation Company, was founded in 1953 in order to maintain the assets of the Israeli Defence Forces. The company is wholly owned by the government of Israel and originally manufactured aircraft under licence. The Arava on which design work began in 1965 was the first major indigenous aircraft project to be manufactured by IAI.

The main objectives in the design brief were for a STOL (Short Take-Off and Landing) performance aircraft for both the civilian and military markets able to operate from rough airstrips. It was to carry bulky cargo or 24 fully equipped troops or 16 paratroopers in military configuration. In the civilian configuration the specifications called for 20 passengers in economy configuration or 16 in VIP configuration.

These requirements led to the Arava's relatively unusual configuration and barrel like fuselage. The rear of the fuselage was hinged to swing outwards for easy loading and for the rapid deployment of paratroopers. This requirement led to the twin high mounted tail booms that ran from the engine nacelles to the twin tails. The undercarriage was fixed to save weight.

The first prototype made its maiden flight on 27 November 1970. The second prototype was destroyed when a wing strut experienced flutter and failed during flight testing on19 November 1970. When the Yom Kippur War broke out in 1973, three prototypes were impressed into service by the Israeli Air Force (IAF). These were returned at the cessation of the conflict. It was to be another 12 years before the Arava was again to serve in the IAF when in 1983 nine aircraft were bought. These served until 2004 before being retired.

When production ended in 1988, 103 aircraft had been produced. Although the Arava was only built in relatively small numbers 70 of the 103 were purchased by the military forces and Aravas served in the air forces of 14 countries including Swaziland which possessed two aircraft.

General characteristics
Crew: 2
24 fully equipped troops or
16 paratroopers
Payload: 2,351 kg (5,184 lb)
Length: 12.69 m (41 ft 6 in)
Wingspan: 20.96 m (68 ft 9 in)
Height: 5.21 m (17 ft 1 in)
Wing area: 43.68 m≤ (470.2 ft2)
Empty weight: 3,999 kg (8,816 lb)
Maximum take-off weight: 6,804 kg (15,000 lb)
Powerplant: 2 ◊ Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-34 turboprops, 559 kW (750 shp) each

Maximum speed: 326 km/h (215 knots, 247 mph) at 3,050 m (10,000 ft)
Cruise speed: 319 km/h (176 knots, 203 mph) at 3,050 m (10,000 ft)
Stall speed: 115 km/h (62 knots, 71.5 mph)) flaps down
Range: 1,056 km (570 nmi, 656 mi) max fuel
Service ceiling: 7,620 m (25,000 ft)
Rate of climb: 6.6 m/s (1,290 ft/min)

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