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World’s smallest twin, the Cri-Cri

Whenever this aircraft appears at airshows, it takes many people by surprise, and brings shouts of joy and delight to children, after all, this aircraft seems specially made for them. But the truth of the matter is the le Cri-Cri is one serious twin-engine aircraft.

Images: Adrian Pingstone, Guillaume Paumier, Bobby Gibbes, WA Aviation and Niklitov

This aircraft has been around for nearly fifty years and is still regarded as the smallest twin-engine manned aircraft in the world.

Designed in the early 1970s by French aeronautical engineer Michel Colomban, the first flight of the prototype was made on 19 July 1973.

Colomban designed the aircraft to be easy to build and fly and the closeness of the two engines to each other, near the centreline, meant that it could be flown legally by pilots only qualified to fly single-engine aircraft. Should an engine fail, even with your hands and feet off the controls, the only effect would be a slight gentle turn. Not a big issue for the Cri-Cri, as most other twins need a boot full of rudder into the good engine, and a bank to counter adverse yaw.

To direct effective airflow over the tail surfaces, the cockpit canopy was carefully designed for less drag and to act as a stabilising effect during an engine out condition. To enable easy transportation and storage, the Cri-Cri can be assembled or disassembled within five minutes and placed on a trailer.

The Cri-Cri is built as a cantilever low-wing aircraft. The single seat cockpit is enclosed under a bubble canopy with extremely good visibility all around. A fixed tricycle landing gear offers easy landings and the twin engines are mounted on pylons on the nose of the aircraft. Construction of the aircraft is a somewhat unique with aluminium skins glued to Klegecell foam. This makes the aircraft very light and strong, although time consuming during construction.

As with any homebuilt aircraft, the existing Cri-Cri planes have often been modified by their builders, resulting in varying performance. Most versions can climb with one engine inoperative.

In June 2010, EADS partnered with Aero Composites Saintonge and the Greencri-cri Association to present an electric-powered Cri-Cri at the Green Aviation Show in Le Bourget. This modified airframe with new composite components can fly for 30 minutes at 110 km/h, using four brushless electric motors with counter-rotating propellers, becoming the world’s smallest four-engine aircraft. Another record.

A world record speed of 262 km/h (162.33 mph) for a lithium polymer-powered aircraft was established on 5 September 2010. Electravia used a Cri-Cri with two electric motors, producing 25 hp each. The company claimed engine and cooling drag reductions of 46 percent versus the conventional combustion engine arrangement.

On 9 July 2015 the electric-powered Electravia flew across the English Channel only hours before the Airbus E-Fan, becoming the third electric aircraft to do so. Unfortunately it had to be pulled aloft by another aircraft, lacking insufficient power to do so.


Wing Span:         4.9 m (16.1 ft.)

Aerofoil:              Wortmann 21.7% mod aerofoil.

Aerobatics:         +10g and -5g.

Engines:               Two Rowena 6507J single cylinder two-stroke engines of 6.7 kW (9.0 hp) each.

Alternative:         Jet, Electric

The Cri-Cri is small enough that two people can pick it up and carry it. This is often done at air shows.

Another favourite at air shows is to take-off and then land off a car or a  trailer.

Apparently the name Cri-Cri comes from one of Colomban’s daughters, whose nickname of Christine was ‘Cri-Cri. Others say it is also the French term for the sound of a cricket or a cicada insect. Colomban never clarified this.




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