I spent the latter part of last week and about half the weekend in Sebring, Florida at the Sebring Sport Aviation Expo 2010 … surrounded by single- and two-place airplanes that fly no more than 120 miles per hour with a maximum gross takeoff weight of not more than 1,320 pounds for land operations, or 1,430 pounds for amphibs or seaplanes. The aircraft meet their weight restrictions by using engines designed to be lightweight, as well as a lot of composite constructions techniques.
This is Piper’s entry into the LSA market. Piper has acquired the rights to the Czech-designed SportCruiser, made some modifications to the airplane, and re-branded it the PiperSport. I didn’t get a chance to fly this airplane, but it’s certainly a head-turner. While limited to 120 mph, it looks fast, and will likely attract a lot of pilots looking for a cross-country airplane. I’m hoping that at some point Ill be able to see how it flies. It certainly looks like a lot of fun.
Another new entry is the Flight Design MC, which I did get an opportunity to fly. In fact, this is a prototype model, and I was told I was one of the first U.S. pilots to received instruction in the airplane. Yes, I got to log .7 hours time as pilot in command of this LSA. We did some slow flight, a power on and a power off stall, and a 360 degree turn. The MC has a Dynon glass cockpit, but it’s an airplane designed to fly looking out the window. While not a flight test my any means, my impression of the airplane is that it will be popular in the flight instruction market, which is the primary target. It’s roomy … big enough for two full size adults to sit side-by-side without having to say “stop touching me”. It’s not the easiest airplane to get in and out of, with the seats pretty much on the deck and you have to swing your leg over the stick to get in and settled. But once you’re in, it’s comfortable. The stick was a bit of a change for me, but everything I’ve flown since getting back to this in May has had a stick, so I’m becoming more comfortable with that concept. Since I didn’t get the takeoff or landing, partly because I WAS working and taking video during parts of the flight, I can’t comment on those aspects of the plane. But with any luck, I’ll be back in the MC again.
If you’re looking for something very traditional, then here is the Carbon Cub. Much of the wood and steel used in the original cubs has been replaced by composite materials in this airplane to bring it in under weight. Again, not an airplane I had a chance to fly, but it is certainly a very recognizable airplane, and one that will appeal to traditionalists, as well as those who want to operate out of very short or unimproved runways. The takeoff roll for the Carbon Cub is about 150 feet if need be, and the big wing allows it to climb quickly to clear an obstacle. Jim Campbell flew the plane, and was very impressed.
These are airplanes I get. And it was particularly fun to sit in the left seat of the MC, my first time in the left seat since 1988. Ken, Flight Design’s chief pilot, took the video camera and shot some video of me flying the airplane, which I need to get my hands on and upload to You Tube. I rode home with Jim in the Cirrus, which is always a preferable way to get home than spending 5 hours in the car. We flew through a couple of spotty showers leaving Sebring, and had severe clear weather for most of the flight home. But St. Augustine was calling 400 and 2, so we had to get a special VFR clearance to land. While I did fly most of the way home, Jim took the airplane and got us down to in sight of the runway. Then “quick … do you want the landing?” “My airplane,” was my answer. And this time, I know it was me. I saw Jim’s hands in the air off the controls as we flared and touched down.
Rediscovering a love of flying has been a great joy. Flying an airplane is like nothing else you’ll do, and I’ve been privileged to be able to spend the time that I have doing this amazing thing called flying. I think, had the ancient Greeks been able to fly, they would have said (as they did of sailing) “Time spent above the ground is not deducted from mans allotted span.”
It sure feels that way when I’m there.