Potential LSA options? (Long post)

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JimP
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Potential LSA options? (Long post)

Postby JimP » Mon Jan 11, 2010 9:06 pm

Sorry for the long post, but I can't help but get excited about all this!

During a conversation last night, my wife casually mentioned that we needed to start planning to get me an airplane! And she was dead serious! Now you have to understand: I've been telling her for 30+ years at every birthday and every Christmas that what I really wanted was an airplane, and getting the "Yeah, right..." reaction from her every time. So to hear her actually come right out and say that (meaning maybe even this year!) was almost more than I could handle... I've been walking around with my head in the clouds and a smile on my face ever since. People at work keep asking me if I'm OK... I tell them I've got airplane fever...

Per Dave's and Jeb's advise (echoed my almost everyone on the forums), I've been considering what my airplane's primary mission would realistically be. I started flying in the mid-70s, did a few tours of duty as an Army helicoper pilot, but basically stopped flying when I left the service and went back to school full time, then the demands of life (job, family, finances) kept me out of flying for a while. I hold a Commercial certificate for both Helicopters and Aircraft Single-Engine Land, plus an Instrument rating in the Helicopter. But I haven't flown at all since I left the Army in the mid-80s! Never let my EAA membership lapse, though, and never stopped thinking "Someday..."

Champguy will be glad to hear that I've always thought a Champ would be a near perfect airplane for me. I love the look, and I like the idea of tandem seats (since most of my flying will be solo, anyway). The only issue is that the useful load would basically render it a 1-person airplane for me. I'm a bit heavier than the "FAA-standard" pilot (but working on it). Still, I'd like to bring my wife (and some fuel) along with me occasionally, so that probably rules out the Champ. Most of my flying will probably be fun-flights in the local area, with the occasional $100 hamburger flight. And most of my flights will be without the wife, who tolerates flying for my sake, but doesn't enjoy it at all, and would prefer NOT to be in the air. (But she's otherwise quite sane!)

The kids all live within 250 miles of us, so that would be an easy "out-and-back" day trip for us, even in a slower airplane. Our parents both live farther away (750 and 1100 miles), and that's probably too far for realistic VFR with a deadline to be back at work afterward, so that's out of the consideration (probably). I have at least one trip to Oshkosh in my own airplane on my "dream list" but I truly enjoy low-and-slow flying, and would be happy to make it truly an "AirVenture". Many of my favorite aviation memories are long cross-country trips (at 100-110 knots) in those Army helicopters. When I retire (another 5-10 years, depending on the economy), I will probably do a lot of low-and-slow cross-country flying just to see what's out there.

Finally, Army aviation exposed me to "bush flying" in the ultimate sense, and I developed a real love for that kind of flying. We flew in and out of confined areas with absolutely no runways or even level surfaces, and got to explore places by air that most people might never even see. I realize that helicopters do this far better than airplanes, but the idea of being able to fly into a grass strip near a lake or creek, grab a fishing pole from the back of the plane, and catching dinner is really appealing to me.

With all this in mind, and with the idea of "keeping it simple", I'm thinking that an LSA would meet my requirements pretty nicely. So, for some time now I've been looking at LSA-type aircraft that can carry the two of us (and some gas), and which has a cockpit wide enough that I can still move the controls with both of us in there (at least 44 inches). I was excited about the Cessna SkyCatcher for a while, but realized that its useful load is on par with the Champ (and I'd frankly rather have a Champ!), so it's just not going to be practical for me. Thus far, the aircraft on my "short list" include the Remos (either version), the Flight Design CT (again, any version), the CSAW SportCruiser, and the FPNA A-22 Valor. The first three are very nice "runway" airplanes, and the SportCruiser had the added appeal of being flat-out the best-looking (to me) small airplane on the planet. (Even prettier than "Debbie" - sorry Jeb!) But they are a also tad on the expensive side, and may be a bit "overkill" for my mission. The Valor seems to be pretty rugged (even with a nosewheel - check out some of the videos on youtube), and though it's a bit less "sexy" than the others, looks like a really interesting airplane to me.

Then I saw the most recent issue of Kitplanes, which has a really cool article about the Just Aircraft Highlander, which is an SLA bushplane with an incredible useful load (almost 700 lbs!), and STOL performance numbers. The factory claims around 300 ft takeoff and landing distances, and 800+ fpm climb rates (at max gross weight), but some of the videos online and owner comments in both the Kitplanes article and in their forums make those numbers sound a bit "conservative."

The "factory demonstrator" aircraft has the Rotax 914 (115 HP) installed (instead of the standard 912 with 100 HP), and they show it taking off in about 3-4 plane-lengths (using fairly interesting technique), and landing and turning off the runway in about 100 ft. Incredible! But also clearly requiring pilot skills WAY beyond mine... at least to operate that way. But one of the "regular guy" owners commented that he's building a landing strip at his place that will be only 350 feet long! Heck, I could probably create a 350-500 foot strip at my place by clearing some trees at one end!

I was wondering if any of you have had the opportunity to see one of these in person, or (better yet) fly in one, and could share your impressions with me. It looks like a complete plane could be built for around $45-50K (with the Jabiru 3300 - 120 HP), or $50-55K (Rotax 912 - 100 HP) and Dynon EFIS (strictly VFR, but that's where my interest lies). They also offer it as a factory-built LSA, for about $26K additional for the build labor.

Any thoughts, suggestions, encouragement (discouragement)? Are there other aircraft out there I should be considering? Remember, I'm looking for at least 600 lbs useful load, and 44+ inches cabin width.
Jim Parker
N5842N - 78 Commander 114 Hot Shot (Turbo Normalized)

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baswell
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Re: Potential LSA options? (Long post)

Postby baswell » Mon Jan 11, 2010 10:59 pm

One tip: don't just go on the quoted cabin width. Manufacturers lie and shape of the cabin matters. My Evektor SportStar is 46.5" and I am just comfortable in that so you'd think the 39.5" cabin of a C172 would be way too small. Wrong, it fits fine, even feels bigger due to the shape.

Moral of the story: don't go by numbers; actually try to fit into the aircraft!

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champguy
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Re: Potential LSA options? (Long post)

Postby champguy » Wed Jan 13, 2010 1:36 pm

JimP
Don't give up on the legacy champs completely. My 7CCM with the C-90 will carry me and full camping gear anywhere, and me and my wife with an overnight bag just fine. It can be maintained and repaired if necessary with stock materials and locally fabricated parts if necessary. Saves a bunch of change.
If I had the budget for a Highlander, I won't pretend wouldn't be tempted. I'm only a day's flying from a bunch of strips in the mountains in Idaho that would be fun with company and a little bit more horse power.
However, a simple 7AC with 65 hp will carry two large grown men to 4,000 feet and clear the Coast Range with a few feet to spare. Only took one circle for additional altitude over Roman Nose. Following the highway one can get through comfortably at 2500 feet.
For around 20 grand you can have a couple of years of simple flying with a 65 horse 7AC while building a Highlander then sell when you are ready to buy the engine. Spreads out the cost, keeps you involved at the airport, and gets the plane you really want when you are ready for it. It' a Win/Win. :D
Remember, not all who wander, are lost.
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Re: Potential LSA options? (Long post)

Postby jackhodgson » Mon Jan 25, 2010 11:51 am

JimP,

Thanks for sharing your thinking with us. Please keep us updated.

FWIW I'm gonna be flying the SoMeAv Valor pretty soon now. I'll report back.

And I also like the Highlander.

-- Jack

PS. Oh and BTW, there is now a line of guys from this forum preparing to woo your wife should you ever be so foolish as to let her get away.

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JimP
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Re: Potential LSA options? (Long post)

Postby JimP » Sun Feb 07, 2010 5:19 pm

Heh, heh. Not a chance of that! I wake up every morning thanking the good Lord that she is part of my life.

Back to the Highlander... There are some fantastic videos on YouTube (just search for "Highlander" and/or "Escapade"). Check out the "Sun-N-Fun" video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vV_HfdBZR2s) which shows the factory's black demonstrator (which has the "big" Rotax) taking off in about 50 feet, then climbing out at what looks like a 45 degree angle... Simply amazing. The landing is equally impressive. Then there's another guy who has all kinds of videos, including one titled "Mile High" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0lClG0aysbo) that will blow your mind... (No, Jeb and Dave... Not what you were thinking!)

Not sure I will ever be able to fly like that (nor sure that I really want to - remember that wonderful wife I talked about in paragraph one?), but it's good to know the airplane has that kind of capability.

One of the really interesting things about this airplane is that it can be converted between taildragger and nosewheel configurations fairly easily and quickly. Apparently they demonstrated this at last year's Sun-N-Fun, where they switched it from conventional to nosegear config in under an hour. Since I haven't flow in years, and have neither tailwheel nor "bush tire" experience in my past, and understand that cross-wind landings with that combo are definitely an "acquired skill", I'm not sure it makes sense to jump right in to that situation from the beginning... It would seem to make sense to start with their "regular" wheel/tire combo in the nosegear config. Then, after I get comfortable the the airplane, I could switch to the tailwheel config (with appropriate instruction, of course) and get used to the tailwheel configuration with the "regular" wheels/tires before converting to the bush wheels.

They also have a fairly active forum (linked from the http://www.justaircraft.com website) with lots of interesting discussion. The best part (from my perspective) is that -- like this forum -- the folks are uniformly respectful, polite, and extremely helpful. Seems like a great bunch of guys.
Jim Parker
N5842N - 78 Commander 114 Hot Shot (Turbo Normalized)

Dave Higdon
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Re: Potential LSA options? (Long post)

Postby Dave Higdon » Mon Feb 08, 2010 5:00 pm

Some five or six years ago at Sun 'n Fun one of my more-pleasurable tasks involved spending the better part of two days with Gary Schmidt and his gang at Just Aircraft, which involved shooting single- and dual-aircraft formation aerials with the Escapade and Highlander, and getting me time in both...the Highlander in particular seemed like a solid, serious-duty light plane -- good flying characteristics, side-by-side and better-than-usual luggage capacity work really well together...

FWIW...liked 'em both.

Dave

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champguy
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Re: Potential LSA options? (Long post)

Postby champguy » Mon Mar 08, 2010 10:35 pm

One thought, if you are going to build what you really want, the Highlander, you must have something to fly while building. Get a piece of a hanger and and a beater time builder that will be easy to sell when it is time to buy the engine for the Highlander. That way you get a place at the airport, some flying time, and build your investment in the plane you want over time. Crack the nut slowly, and get what you want. Win-Win.
Remember, not all who wander, are lost.
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Sven
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Re: Potential LSA options? (Long post)

Postby Sven » Mon Mar 08, 2010 11:31 pm

My wife told me a couple years ago it was time for us to get a really big HD TV. I almost passed out. I can't imagine how you survived?
Flying a Mooney M20D. One of only 3 fixed-gear Mooney aircraft still flying.


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