American Champion 8KCAB “Super Decathlon”
Sports Plane and Aerobatic Trainer

Archive Photos ¹

[American Champion 8KCAB “Super Decathlon” (N35BY, s/n 998-2005, 2005) on display 8/27/2005 at the 2005 Camarillo Air Show, Camarillo, CA (John Shupek photos copyright © 2005 Skytamer Images)]

[American Champion 8KCAB “Super Decathlon” (N335DS, s/n 1070-2008, 2008) on display 8/17/2008 at the 2008 Camarillo Air Show, Camarillo, CA (John Shupek photo copyright © 2008 Skytamer Images)]

[American Champion 8KCAB “Super Decathlon” (N81SD, s/n 922-2003, 2003) on display 9/1/2009 at the 2009 Cable Air Show, Upland, CA (John Shupek photos copyright © 2009 Skytamer Images)]

History ²

  • Role: Sports plane and aerobatic trainer
  • Manufacturer: American Champion Aircraft
  • Designed by: Champion Aircraft Corporation
  • Introduced: 1970
  • Number built: Over 9,000

The 8KCAB Decathlon and Super Decathlon are two-seat fixed conventional gear light airplanes designed for flight training and personal use and capable of sustaining aerobatic stresses (+6/-5g). The Decathlon entered production in the United States in 1970 as a more powerful and stronger complement to the Citabria line of aircraft.

The Decathlon was designed by the Champion Aircraft Corporation, and is a derivative of the 7-series Citabrias. While the Citabria designs were and remain successful, and the introduction of the 7KCAB variant of the Citabria had added limited inverted flight capability, the Citabrias are not capable of “outside” maneuvers, those requiring significant negative -“g” loads. Pilots wanted an aircraft capable of more maneuvers, and Champion introduced the 8KCAB Decathlon in response to this demand.

Production History ²

The Decathlon entered production at Champion in 1972, immediately before the company was acquired by Bellanca Aircraft Corporation, so only a handful were produced by Champion. Bellanca continued production of the Decathlon throughout the 1970s, moving to the Super Decathlon variant during 1976. Bellanca built over 600 of the 8KCAB design before production of the aircraft was interrupted when the company's assets were liquidated in 1981.

The Decathlon design passed through the hands of a number of companies through the 1980s, including a Champion Aircraft Company which was no relation to the Champion Aircraft of the 1960s, but no Decathlons were built in that period. American Champion Aircraft Corporation acquired the Decathlon design, along with the 8GCBC Scout and the group of Citabria and Champ variants, in 1990, bringing the Super Decathlon version back into production that same year. It is still being produced.

Design ²

The Decathlon traces its lineage back to the Aeronca Champ, by way of the Citabria. Like the Citabria, the Decathlon features tandem seating and joystick controls. The fuselage and tail surfaces are constructed of welded metal tubing. The outer shape of the fuselage is created by a combination of wooden formers and longerons, covered with fabric. The cross-section of the metal fuselage truss is triangular, a design feature which can be traced all the way back to the earliest Aeronca C-2 design of the late 1920s.

The strut-braced wings of the Decathlon are, like the fuselage and tail surfaces, fabric covered, utilizing aluminum ribs. The wings of Champion and Bellanca Decathlons were built with wooden spars. American Champion has been using aluminum spars in the aircraft it has produced and has, as well, made the aluminum-spar wings available for retrofit installation on older aircraft. Compared to the Citabria's wingspan of 33.5 ft (10.2 m), the Decathlon's wingspan is shorter, at 32 ft (9.8 m). One of the major developments of the 8KCAB Decathlon over the 7KCAB Citabria is the Decathlon's wing, which employs a semi-symmetric airfoil, as opposed to the Citabria's flat-bottomed airfoil. This change gives the Decathlon better inverted flight and negative -“g” maneuver capabilities.

The landing gear of the Decathlon is in a conventional arrangement. The main gear legs of most Decathlons are made of spring steel, though American Champion began to use aluminum gear legs in 2004.

Like the 7KCAB, the engine of the 8KCAB has a fuel injection system, as opposed to a carburetor. Along with this, to facilitate negative -“g” flight, the fuel system incorporates a 1.5 gallon header tank beneath the instrument panel, and the engine is fitted with a Christen Industries inverted oil system. Champion and Bellanca built the Decathlon with several Lycoming IO-320 engine variants, all of 150 horsepower (110 kW), and with the choice of a fixed-pitch or constant speed propeller. The major improvement in Bellanca's introduction of the Super Decathlon was the change of engine to the Lycoming AEIO-360-H1A or AEIO-360-H1B, both of 180 horsepower (130 kW), which was accompanied by a selection of constant speed propellers. The American Champion Super Decathlon utilizes the AEIO-360-H1B, along with a constant speed propeller.

Operational History ²

Though the Decathlon went out of production within a decade of its introduction, this was not due to any fault in the design but rather to the slump in general aviation in the United States at the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s. Since its reintroduction, the Super Decathlon has sold steadily. Decathlons and Super Decathlons remain popular as aerobatic trainers, as beginning and intermediate aerobatic aircraft, and as personal aircraft.

Specifications and Performance Data (8KCAB Super Decathlon) ³


  • Two-seat tourer and aerobatic competition aircraft.


  • Original Decathlon was powered by 112 kW (150-hp) Lycoming AEIO-320-E2B.
  • “Super” introduced by American Champion.
  • First flight (N38AC) July 1990.
  • Though Fixed Pitch Decathlon (Sensenich propeller) is no longer marketed.


  • Total of 204 Build 1990 to September 1999 (847 overall), Including 19 in 1997 and 24 in 1998.


  • Standard price US$103,900 (2000).

Design Features:

  • High-wing cabin monoplane.
  • Wings braced by de-struts and two secondary struts each side.
  • Wire-braced thin and tailplane.
  • Constant-chord wings
  • Dihedral 1°
  • Cleared for a limited inverted flight
  • Constant-speed propeller
  • Wing section NACA 1412 (modified)
  • Dihedral 1°
  • Incident 1° 30'

Flying Controls:

  • Conventional and manual.
  • Horn-balanced elevators and rudder.
  • Flight-adjustable trim tab in port elevator.
  • No flaps.


  • Stainless steel exhaust system.
  • Fuselage and empennage are welded chrome alloy steel tube with Dacron covering.
  • Two-spar wing has aluminum spars and ribs, Dacron covering, GFRP tips and steel tube V-struts.

Landing Gear:

  • Tailwheel type.
  • Cantilever spring steel main legs.
  • Mainwheel tires size 17 &ttimes; 6-6, pressure 1.66 bars (24 psi)
  • Steerable tailwheel.
  • Tire size 8.30 × 2.50-2.80, pressure 2.07 bars (30 psi).
  • Cleveland disc brakes.
  • Optional wheel fairings.

Power Plant:

  • One 134 kW (180-hp) Textron Lycoming AEIO-360-H1B flat-four engine, driving a Hartzell HC-C2YR-4CF/FC7666A-2 constant-speed propeller.
  • Fuel capacity of 151 L (40 US gallons; 33.3 Imperial gallons), of which 148 L (39 US gallons; 32.5 Imperial gallons) are usable.
  • Oil capacity 7.5 L (two US gallons; 1.7 Imperial gallons).


  • Pilot and passenger in tandem.
  • Door on starboard side.
  • Pilot's port window opens.
  • Space for baggage behind seats.
  • Dual controls.
  • Options include split door for photographic work.


  • Electric starter.
  • 60A alternator.
  • 12V gel-cell battery.
  • Voltage regulator with protector.
  • Optional lighting system.
  • Electric fuel pump boost.

Dimensions (external):

  • Wing span: 9.75 m (32 ft 0 in)
  • Wing chord, constant: 1.63 m (5 ft 4 in)
  • Wing aspect ratio: 6.1
  • Length overall: 6.98 m (22 ft 10.75 in)
  • Height overall: 2.36 m (7 ft 9 in)
  • Tailplane span: 3.10 m (10 ft 2.25 in)
  • Propeller diameter: 1.88 m (6 ft 2 in)

Dimensions (internal):

  • Length: 2.69 m (8 ft 10 in)
  • Maximum width: 0.76 m (2 ft 6 in)
  • Maximum height: 1.19 m (3 ft 11 in)


  • Wings, gross: 15.71 m² (169.1 ft²)

Weights and Loadings:

  • Weight empty: 608 kg (1,340 lb)
  • Baggage capacity: 45 kg (100 lb)
  • Maximum T-O weight: 816 kg (1,800 lb)
  • Maximum wing loading: 52.0 kg/m² (10.64 lbs/ft²)
  • Maximum power loading: 6.09 kg/kW (10.00 lbs/hp)


  • Never-exceed speed: 173 kt (321 km/h; 200 mph)
  • Maximum level speed at 2,135 m (7,000 feet): 135 kt (249 km/h; 155 mph)
  • Cruising speed at 75% power: 128 kt (237 km/h; 147 mph)
  • Cruising speed at 55% power: 111 kt (206 km/h; 128 mph)
  • Stalling speed: 46 kt (86 km/h; 53 mph)
  • Maximum rate of climb at sea level: 300 m/min (1,280 ft/min)
  • Service ceiling: 4,815 m (15,800 ft)
  • T-O run: 151 m (495 ft)
  • T-O to 15 m (50 feet): 276 m (904 ft)
  • Landing from 15 m (50 feet:) 321 m (1,051 ft)
  • Landing run: 130 m (425 ft)
  • Range, no reserves, at 75% power: 509 nm (944 km; 587 miles)
  • Range, no reserves, at 55% power: 542 nm (1,006 km; 625 miles)
  • “g” limits: +6/-5


  1. Shupek, John. “American Champion 8KCAB Super Decathlon,” The Skytamer Archive, Copyright © 2005, 2008, 2009 Skytamer Images. All Rights Reserved
  2. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. American Champion Decathlon
  3. Jackson, Paul (ed.). Jane's All The World's Aircraft 2000-2001. London, Jane's Information Group Limited, 2000, ISBN 0 7106 2011, pp 568-570.

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