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Editors take light-sport aircraft around the patchEditors take light-sport aircraft around the patch

Editors take light-sport aircraft around the patch

What's it like to fly some of the new light sport aircraft? You can get a taste of it - along with the reactions of some of your AOPA staff pilots - in this 3:30 video. (Windows Media 9 and broadband connection recommended.)

AOPA Pilot editors on Monday got a chance to evaluate the emerging crop of light-sport aircraft (LSA) during a visit to AOPA headquarters as part of a national tour. Company representatives reported strong demand for these aircraft, many of which have been flying in Europe and elsewhere in the world for years, but are now making debuts in America. What they share is low acquisition costs - starting at just less than $60,000 and heading upward to $95,000 - the ability to run on less expensive auto gas (in addition to avgas), and the most obvious quality: fun. While all the aircraft have unique characteristics and handling qualities, the editors did find that the LSAs are indeed real airplanes. Below is a thumbnail sketch of each model that we were able to fly.

StingSport

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The StingSport from TL Ultralight in the Czech Republic is well along in its sales goals with 21 orders. The $86,000 airplane is powered by a Rotax 912S and uses a 68-inch Woodcomp propeller featuring carbon fiber over wood. It comes with an emergency parachute system, a Galaxy Recovery Systems (GRS) from Europe, which promises to be a competitor to Ballistic Recovery Systems (BRS) in the United States. Word is that Galaxy is on the verge of a major marketing push in the United States with a now-secret launch customer. The model features superbly balanced controls and great visibility.


Base Price $86,000
Cruise Speed 115 kt
Stall Speed (clean) 42 kt
Rate of Climb 984 fpm
Takeoff Roll 346 ft
Landing Distance 368 ft
Maximum Range 400 nm
Useful Load 540 pounds
For more information, see the Web site.

Legend Cub

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American Legend Aircraft Company's Legend Cub is expected to be approved as a light-sport aircraft in early July and has a base price of $67,000 and uses a Continental O-200 engine. There are more than 20 orders, and most of them with options total $75,000. It will also be offered on floats. There are three differences between the Legend Cub and the original Cub: The Legend Cub is 3 inches wider, it has fuel in the wings so that you can fly it from the front, and it has doors on both sides (mainly for float flying to help the pilot dock the airplane). All of the parts were made at the plant in Sulphur Springs, Texas. There's no greater fun than flying in a Cub. The one built in Texas is true to the original in that respect, with a few improvements. The company worked quietly and recently burst on the scene, saying it wanted to have something to show before it drummed up public attention.

Base Price $67,000
Cruise Speed 83 kt
Stall Speed (clean) 30 kt
Rate of Climb 500 fpm
Takeoff Roll 350 ft
Landing Distance 350 ft
Maximum Range 274 nm
Useful Load NA
For more information, see the Web site.

Jabiru J250

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The Jabiru is used for about 80 percent of all flight training in Australia, Jabiru officials in the United States claim, and now it is coming to America. There are 220 J250s now flying in Australia, England, and South Africa. Jabiru also makes its own smooth-running six-cylinder 120-hp engines, which are used by the Jabiru aircraft and some of its LSA competitors. The aircraft - which uses a control stick in the center of the cockpit - is priced at $87,900 but generally goes out the factory door for $95,000. The LSA model is a derivative of the aircraft the company built as a floatplane. Company officials plan to make a few interior improvements for the American market. You get to where you are going on 5 gph. The 1,320-pound airplane has an empty weight of 750 pounds.

Base Price $87,900
Cruise Speed 120 kt
Stall Speed (clean) 45 kt
Rate of Climb 1,200 fpm
Takeoff Roll 600 ft
Landing Distance 600 ft
Maximum Range 840 nm
Useful Load 620 pounds
For more information, see the Web site.

P92 Echo Super

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The Italian firm of Tecnam, once known as Partenavia, got a lot of things right when they put together the 106-knot P92 Echo Super, as it is known. It is the first IFR light-sport airplane (as long as it is flown by at least a private pilot with an instrument rating) among all the models approved by the FAA so far and even has an autopilot. It made its debut at AOPA headquarters and sells for $116,000 for the full IFR package. One of the great things about this aircraft is the fabled Italian engineering that assures a beautiful form and fit. It also has well-balanced handling and plenty of visibility in a surprisingly roomy cockpit; it almost looks too big to qualify as an LSA. Prices start at $79,900 for the VFR model. There are 1,700 flying worldwide, and the company offers five models. While the Echo Super was the first of the company's models to be approved in the LSA category, it has four more waiting in the wings that will be on the market soon.

Base Price $79,900
Cruise Speed 113 kt
Stall Speed (clean) 43 kt
Rate of Climb 1,050 fpm
Takeoff Roll 459 ft
Landing Distance 328 ft
Maximum Range 400 nm
Useful Load 603 pounds (day VFR equipped)
590 pounds (IFR package)
For more information, see the Web site.

Thorpedo T211

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There is just something neat about roaring along on downwind and reporting "The Thorpedo is downwind." The name sounds like a Mach 2.0 airplane, and other pilots ask, "Is that a torpedo?" You can tell by the company's name, IndUS, that there's an India-United States connection. Ram Pattisapu, IndUS president, was born in India and moved to America more than three decades ago. He is a proud Texan and a prouder American. The Thorpedo was the first U.S.-built LSA category aircraft to receive an FAA special airworthiness certificate. Pattisapu's company has acquired the rights and tooling to build the type certified all-metal Thorp T-211, designed by the legendary John Thorp as a predecessor to the Piper Cherokee series. The company introduced the Thorpedo as an LSA derivative. This $85,000 airplane has a 120-hp Jabiru 3300 engine, made in Australia, and cruises in the area of 90 to 100 knots. A second version called the T11 Sky Skooter is next it in line for FAA approval as an LSA. It features a smaller Jabiru 2200 four-cylinder engine rated at 85 hp. The aircraft are built at Dallas Executive Airport in Texas.

Base Price $85,000
Cruise Speed (75-percent power) 100 kt
Stall Speed (clean) 45 kt
Rate of Climb 1,020 fpm
Takeoff Roll 350 ft
Landing Distance 400 ft
Maximum Range 375 miles (maximum)
Useful Load 605 pounds
For more information, see the Web site.

Allegro 2000

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It seems odd that a Czech Republic firm would have an American-sounding name, but that is the case with the Fantasy Air Allegro. In the United States, Fantasy Air will build the aircraft at Sportplane Works in Sanford, North Carolina. There are 450 of the aircraft flying in Europe. There are 17 in the United States, with orders for nine more. Pricing starts at $55,000 and goes up to $63,000 for the aircraft with a metal wing and composite fuselage. Sleek-looking, its ultralight heritage is clear when airborne with its kite-like qualities and requires pilots to know what the rudder is designed to do. You can look almost straight down through the clear plastic helicopter-like doors. It can be built from a kit or simply let the factory do the honors.

Base Price $54,500 (Rotax 912, Jabiru 2200)
$57,000 (Rotax 912 S)
Cruise Speed 104 kt
Stall Speed (clean) 35 kt
Rate of Climb 985 fpm
Takeoff Roll 490 feet
Landing Distance 340 feet
Range 350 miles
Useful Load 604 (Rotax 912 S)
For more information, see the Web site.

Kappa KP-5

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The Kappa KP-5 is a roomy low-wing manufactured by U.S. Jihlavan, an arm of Jihlavan, which is a joint stock company in the Czech Republic. The pilot and copilot seats are staggered, to allow more shoulder room in the cockpit. The glass canopy provides excellent in-flight visibility, although a small person had difficulty seeing over the nose of the aircraft during takeoff from the right seat. The aircraft has Fowler flaps and a trailing link landing gear. In addition to the basic aircraft instruments, the KP-5 at AOPA featured a moving-map display. Kappa Aircraft offers an 80- and 100-hp version of the all-metal-construction KP-5, with economy cruise speeds of 95 and 120 knots, respectively.

Base Price $85,000
Cruise Speed 95 kt (80 hp)
120 kt (100 hp)
Stall Speed (clean) 33 kt
Rate of Climb 825 fpm (80 hp)
1,100 fpm (100 hp)
Takeoff Roll 466 ft (80 hp)
452 ft (100 hp)
Landing Distance 495 ft
Range 374 nm w/no reserves (100 hp)
Useful Load 516 pounds (80 hp)
512 pounds (100 hp)
For more information, see the Web site.

Sport Star, Remos G-3 600

Because of insurance and registration issues, the editors did not fly Evektor-Aerotechnik's Sport Star or Remos Aircraft's G-3. Both aircraft, nonetheless, visited AOPA headquarters to show off their sleek lines.

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Sport Star
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Remos G-3 600

Updated: March 24, 2006, 2:15 p.m. EST

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