American Champion Decathlon

When Champion Aircraft Company at Osceola, Wis., entered the trainer marketplace with the Citabria (airbatic spelled backwards) I contemplated taking on a dealership. However, I did have some reservations about this new airplane. Its G tolerances and controllability around all three axes were my biggest concerns. To ease my mind on both issues, Bob Brown, Champion's president, invited me to visit the factory and fly the airplane.

A lengthy guided tour of the plant proved to me that the airplane was sturdy enough for basic aerobatics, although it was somewhat short on the negative G side for outside maneuvers. After the tour, I strapped into a Citabria and took it up for an evaluation. The performance was good. It got off after a short roll, had a good rate of climb, and up to about 60 degrees nose up, it rolled rather well. However, from there to inverted flight, and through a slow roll, it was very heavy on the controls. My written report was critical of the airplane's shortcomings, but it stated that I was pleased that Champion had made the bold step - certificating an airplane as aerobatic at a time when the industry definitely needed one.

When Champion certificated the Decathlon several years later, my Citabria report may have been of some help to the company. Most every suggestion I'd made was incorporated in the Decathlon. My second evaluation visit to Osceola was much the same as the first, but my appraisal of the Decathlon was a different story. After thoroughly checking it out, I stated that, in my opinion, it was the best basic aerobatic trainer ever built.

The Decathlon is the next step up from simple positive-G aerobatic airplanes like the Aerobat or the Citabria. It has what country and western stars call crossover, the ability to please more than one crowd at a time. It can be a trainer and Sunday fun airplane, or it can do serious airshow work. Patty Wagstaff is among the many pilots who have thrilled crowds using a Decathlon.

Now, after 19 years and somewhere around 10,000 hours, and though other excellent trainers have come on the market, I still prefer the Decathlon. As the years have passed, some weak points have shown up, as they have in any airplane ever built, but with Airworthiness Directives, and American Champion's modern improvements, the Decathlon will be around for a long time.

The Right Start: Attending the Birth
Duane Cole, April 1993
Avalanche! American Champion Super Decathlon
Alton K. Marsh, AOPA Pilot, October 2002

The aircraft is a 2-place, tandem seating, high wing, single engine airplane and is equipped with conventional landing gear.
This airplane is certificated in the normal and acrobatic categories. See the airplane’s P.O.H. for approved maneuvers in the acrobatic category. The airplane is approved for day and night VFR operations when equipped in accordance with F.A.R. 91 or F.A.R 135.

The airplane is powered by a horizontally opposed, four cylinder, direct drive, normally aspirated, air cooled, fuel injected engine. The engine is a Lycoming Model AEIO-320-E2B and is rated at 150 horsepower.

Welded aluminum fuel tanks are located in the inboard section of the wing. Two 20 gallon tanks are standard. Fuel quantity is read from mechanical float type gauges located in the fuel tanks. Fuel tank air spaces are interconnected and positive venting is provided through a tube which protrudes from the bottom of the left wing just outboard of the tank. A check valve is provided at the vent outlet of each tank to minimize inverted fuel loss. To proved limited fuel in the inverted position, a shrouded 1.5 gallon header tank is located in the forward cabin under the instrument panel.

The electrical system is powered by a 60 amp alternator and a lead-acid battery.
  1978 8KCAB
Decathlon
1978 8KCAB
Super Decathlon
2008 8KCAB
Super Decathlon
Engine:      
Model Lyc. AEIO-320-E2B Lyc. AEIO-360-H1A Lyc. AEIO-360-H1B
No. Cylinders 4 4 4
Displacement 320 cu. in. 361 cu. in. 361 cu. in.
HP 150 180 180
Carbureted Or Fuel Injected Fuel Injected Fuel Injected Fuel Injected
Fixed Pitch/ Constant Speed Propeller Fixed Pitch Constant Speed Constant Speed
       
Fuel:      
Fuel Capacity 40 gallons 40 gallons 40 gallons
Min. Octane Fuel 80 100  
Avg. Fuel Burn at 75% power in standard conditions per hour 8.8 gallons 9.7 gallons Unknown
       
Weights and Capacities:      
Takeoff/Landing Weight Normal Category 1,800 lbs. 1,800 lbs. 1,950 lbs.
Takeoff/Landing Weight Utility Category N/A N/A N/A
Standard Empty Weight 1,270 lbs. (estimate) Unknown 1,340 lbs.
Max. Useful Load Normal Category 530 lbs. Unknown 610 lbs.
Max. Useful Load Utility Category N/A N/A N/A
Baggage Capacity 100 lbs. 100 lbs. 100 lbs.
Oil Capacity 8 quarts 8 quarts 10 quarts
       
Performance      
Do Not Exceed Speed 157 Knots 174 Knots 174 Knots
Max. Structural Cruising Speed 139 Knots 139 Knots 139 Knots
Stall Speed Clean 46 Knots 46 Knots 46 Knots
Stall Speed Landing Configuration Unknown Unknown Unknown
Climb Best Rate 1000 FPM 1230 FPM 1280 FPM
Wing Loading Unknown Unknown 10.64 lbs./sq. ft.
Power Loading Unknown Unknown 10 lbs./hp
Service Ceiling Unknown Unknown 15,800 ft.