(Note: these aircraft are featured in the post-apocalyptic action adventure novel HIGH ARENA. To see more about this book, click HERE.)
The name was conceived to become a generic term for any "sky cycle"
and, to make an eyecatching logo for advertising, spelled so skycyks backwards
is skycyks. Only two models were manufactured, the Harlequin and the Pitbull,
both designed by combat pilot and author James Nathan Post during the brief
era of the ultralight airplane in the early 1980's. Though the innovative field was
expanding rapidly, and great advances in aviation technology were occurring,
the encroachment of government regulation in the name of protecting public
safety--and the rich potential for liability litigation of unlimited scale--completely
stifled the market. The cost to the manufacturer for product liability insurance
was the same for an ultralight as for an airliner--which exceeded the cost of the
ultralight by many times. Though the new generation of light aircraft could have
been built and sold for less than an economy car, the insurance premium charged
to manufacturers per unit aircraft went over six figures. This fact put even the
major manufacturers -- Cessna and Piper -- out of the light airplane market
Just before the turn of the century, the Tort Reformation Act brought about the
conditions which made it possible for this field of aviation to briefly flourish again.
As part of the now-infamous Americanist Conservative Revival, individual
responsibility for deliberate acceptance of risk was reaffirmed, and Americans
were permitted to take chances again. When entrepreneur Robert Castle
won the Publishers Clearout $100-Million Dollar Sweepstakes, he decided to
invest his winnings to manufacture Post's designs.
The skycyks were set apart from other aircraft by three significant characteristics.
One was performance envelope, that is, aerodynamic qualities. The second was
experiential, that is, what it felt like to fly one. The third was image--what kind of person
flies one? Until the skycyks, the class of people who had been buying airplanes
graduated to them from sports cars, and their airplanes were most like flying cars.
The manufacturers of small sport planes created sleek birds which had tiny
enclosed cockpits, were basically aerobatic, and operated from airports only.
Their money-trick characteristic was high top speed. The skycyks were aimed
at a market that loved motorcycles, and so were designed to feel and perform
like flying bikes. Castle started what certainly would have been another fortune
by manufacturing the skycyks in Mexico, and several hundred Harlequins were
made before the formation of SUCAR (the Socialist Union of Central American
Republics) drove him out of Central America.
The first of the skycyks, the Harlequin was evocative of the long-chopped
highway cruiser. Unlike with other aircraft of the time, the pilot sat astride, rather
than inside the machine. The experience was like riding a chopper, with feet
forward (best for taking high G-forces). The Harlie was basically a sailplane,
a canard with a wide wingspan. It had a "fat" wing, for very low takeoff speed,
so it could land and take off in a short distance from a rough field. With long
camber-tapered wings, it would soar well with the engine off. With the engine
at high cruise setting, it would cruise at 100 mph. Since its kevlar-composite
structure was strong, but its design "dirty"--that is, with high wind-resistance drag
from the exposed pilot and high-lift flying surfaces--it could be power-dived to
a top speed of about 140 mph, with full safety and control. That is, its top speed
was determined by its aerodynamic characteristics, and it had no "red line"
beyond which the pilot was risking structural failure. Though fully aerobatic, the
Harlequin's money-trick was range. By using power only to seek soaring
conditions, then landing in small fields and camping, a rider could travel cross-
country faster, cheaper, and with greater privacy on a Harlequin than on a
Harley-Davidson, or by any other means.
Design Parameters: HARLEQUIN
Min flying spd: 30 mph
Max dive spd: 130 mph
Power cruise: 90 mph
Econ cruise: 55 mph
G-loading: +6 / -4 G
Glide ratio: 16:1
Empty weight: 245 lb
Useful load: 400 lb
Csynes MkII 5-cyl. radial, 40hp (not shown)
5-Gal. gas, gasohol
At 90mph, 250 mi.
At 55 mph econ, 750 mi.
Single rider, straddle mounted.
Single engine. 2-blade pusher propellor, direct drive for cruise economy.
Single mid-mounted wing, canard stabilizer. (Span 26 feet.)
Flying drag brakes.
Pitch: elevators on canard stabilizer.
Roll: ailerons on wings.
Yaw: rudders on vertical stabilizers.
Pitch and roll controlled by a conventional "joystick" system, with a motorcycle-
chopper-style twin-grip top. (Not a yoke.) The entire unit moves fore-and-aft,
and side-to- side.
Yaw is controlled by independent pedal-operated rudders on the outer
surfaces of the vertical tailplanes. These may be activated together to provide
increased drag braking.
Power control is a motorcycle-style twist throttle in the right hand grip (or an
optional helicopter-style twist throttle in the left hand) using a squeeze-to-release
The flying drag brakes are mounted on the lower aft sides of the frame, and are
operated by a hand-lever on the left side of the frame. A squeeze-lever on the
drag brake handle operates the rear wheel brake.
Note: It is anticipated a parachute will be worn when riding in flight.
The Pitbull was the second of the skycyks, and the one which caused the
greatest impact on general aviation. Like the Harlequin, the Pitbull was a flying
motorcycle, but whereas the Harlie was a powered sailplane for cross-country
cruising, the Pitbull was designed for dogfighting --it was most like a big-lunged
badass dirt bike. Designed by James Nathan Post before the Tort Reformation
Act, it would have been completely illegal to use as intended. Though it is
undeniably true that dogfighting, especially at low altitudes, is inherently
dangerous, the Pitbull's reputation as a dangerous airplane was not deserved.
In fact, by virtue of the airplane's high performance specs, it was a very safe
machine if operated in a sane and informed manner. In many ways it was safer
than the mainstream general aviation machines of the 20th century--many of
which could not be safely inverted, spun, or powerdived without danger of
structural damage or loss of control. The Pitbull was unbreakable by
manouvering, being made with carbonfiber spars, open-bubble foam, and
Kevlar-skin composite structures. It would take many times more G than any
pilot would wish to impose on his body. With its fat-cambered high-lift wings,
it was extremely agile at low speeds, but the same airfoils created parasite
drag which greatly limited its top speed. As a result, it could be safely
powerdived without fear of a "red line" speed beyond which lay only the
hungry demon. The Pitbull (like the Harlequin) used flying drag brakes for
rapid decelleration. These were hand-operated by a lever on the left side
of the frame--they had no catch or lock, but were held on manually when used.
Known as "boards" by fighter jocks, such air brakes were panels which
extended out like another set of rudders from the inner vertical wing-dividers.
Though such brakes were standard on jet fighters, they were never put on general aviation machines--probably for the obvious reason that they were
easy to abuse, with disastrous results. Like motorcycles and sports cars,
these machines, though engineered for safety, were dangerous in the hands
of pilots not prepared for their performance capabilities.
The Pitbull was a canard-configuration box-wing biplane with a
double-wing span of 17 feet, giving it a very high rate of roll. The rider sat astride
the long narrow snout behind a small fairing, gripping the chopper-sytle
vertical twin-grips of the control joystick, with the throttle in his right hand,
and the control to his variable-pitch prop in the left. By his left side, a handle
to be pulled back operated the drag brakes, and the squeeze-lever in its
grip operated the wheel brakes.
One conspicuous difference between the Pitbull and the Harlequin
was its prop. The Harlie had a fixed-low-pitch 2-bladed prop directly driven by
its engine. This was inefficient at low speeds, but most efficient at cruise. The
Pitbull used a broad-bladed variable-pitch 5-bladed fan geared down from a
high-rpm engine. This produced very high torque at low speeds, giving the
airplane the slingshot acceleration rate which thrilled audiences and sent pilots
into an altered state of adrenaline ecstasy. It also used gasoline at a very
high rate. Like most showplanes, it carried only enough fuel for about thirty
minutes of high performance flying.
In addition to the requirements of the Pitbull's mission--airshow
dogfighting--another set of factors was considered in its design. It was
intended to attract a certain consumer group that Robert Castle thought
was being left out of the market. Robbie was always first to confess he
suffered from a certain weakness for macho romanticism, and always first
to admit the design of the skycyk was overtly phallic in its imagery. This
was further enhanced by the fact that the rider sat astride the machine, rather
than squeezed into a little cockpit or, worse, dangling beneath the wing.
astle, like Post from whom he obtained the designs, was a libertarian
maverick with low regard for restrictive laws imposed by the lawless
powerful for their own benefit. They both recognized that the Harley-Davidson
was set apart in image from all other motorcycles not so much by
engineering nor by appearance as by a reputation alleged to its riders.
In its most extreme and uncomplimentary form, this reputation produced
the outlaw biker; in the most affirmatively moderate form, it produced the
fiercely-independent, responsible, hard-working, hard-playing, one-notch-
tougher-than-life American with a 1770's attitude about freedom, loyalty,
and responsibility to family and one's own people. Castle's market as
he saw it would more likely be a Free Trader than a corporate apparatchik,
and more likely to fly a Harlie than a Cessna stationwagon or an ultralight kite.
Image was also a consideration in the engine and prop design.
When Castle approached Jake Csynes to build him a new generation of
engines, he pointed out that the flatulent buzzing whine of many small aircraft
and motorcycle engines sounded annoying and twerpy. He was no more
enthusiastic about the fact that those engines were effectively muffled to
keep the noise down in the sports-car-style airplanes. "He said he wanted
a big-lunged three-cylinder radial based on the Harley-Davidson V-twin,"
Csynes said in an interview just before the world media breakdown.
"He wanted it to produce a deep throbbing growl that would shout "Power"
and announce the arrival of a machine--and a rider--to be reckoned with."
The Csynes engines--especially the largest, the 105 HP Mark V used on
the last Pitbulls--were designed to be noisy, and one of the prop blades
on the Pitbull even had a special tab mounted on it which served only to
produce a particularly deep throbbing sound.
The number of Pitbulls built is unknown. Though its use in North
America was almost exclusively for show competition dogfighting and
private sport flying, the airplane's capacity for other uses was recognized
and exploited in many Third World countries. With few modifications, it
found use in close support of infantry in counter-insurgent operations as
a pin-point anti-personnel bomber. Many were used for border patrol,
substance control, and range monitoring. The most infamous use was
made by the Islamic Hadjj Republic, resulting in the sinking of the British
Royal Navy's newest aircraft carrier HMS Thatcher.
Design Parameters: PITBULL
Min flying spd: 55 mph
Max dive spd: 180 mph
Power cruise: 120 mph
Econ cruise: 85 mph
G-loading: +9 / -6 G
Glide ratio: 11:1
Empty weight: 315 lb
Useful load: 400 lb
Csynes MkV, 5-cyl. rad., 105hp (not shown)
3 Gal. gas, gasohol.
At 120 mph, 80 mi.
At 85 mph econ, 190 mi.
Single rider, straddle mounted.
Single engine. 5-blade pusher propellor, variable pitch.
Box-wing biplane, canard slab stabilator. (Span 17 feet.)
Flying drag brakes, mounted on inner vertical wing separators.
Pitch: canard stabilator.
Roll: ailerons on top wing.
Yaw: rudders on outer vertical box-wing separators.
Pitch and roll controlled by a conventional "joystick" system, with a
motorcycle-chopper-style twin-grip top. (Not a yoke.) The entire unit moves
fore-and-aft, and side-to- side.
Yaw is controlled by independent pedal-operated rudders on
the outer surfaces of the vertical box-wing separators. These may be activated
together to provide increased drag braking. The rudder pedals also operate
separate brakes on the rear wheels.
Power control is a motorcycle-style twist throttle in the right hand
grip, (or an optional helicopter-style twist throttle in the left hand grip), using
a squeeze-to-release setting lock.
Propellor pitch control is a twist-grip in the other hand, as the case may be.
The flying drag brakes are mounted on the lower aft sides of the
frame, and are operated by a hand-lever on the left side of the frame.
Note: It is anticipated a parachute will be worn when riding in flight.
Copyright © 2004 by Postscript Publishing Company, Albuquerque NM 87110.