Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Piston Singles Buyer's Guide 2013

You want it, you got it: trainers, cross-country haulers, bush planes and more!

Adventure Aircraft

American Champion

The 2012-2013 7EC Champ is one of the few certified airplanes that also qualifies as an LSA. The new model is only esthetically similar to the original, however. Since 1990, American Champion has produced all models with all-aluminum wings rather than the Spruce wood structure used on the originals. Add modern avionics and a 100 hp, Continental O-200D engine and the Champ flies better and notably more enthusiastically than the original 65 hp model. Operated at its 1,320-pound gross, climb is just over 700 fpm and cruise is a leisurely 80 knots, but with a fun quotient as high as the Champs, why would you want to go much faster? Price $121,360.

The next step up the American Champion line is the Aurora, a 118 hp, metalized version of the basic Citabria. An energy management aerobat, the Aurora can be used for unusual attitude training or as a basic acro trainer, confined primarily to loops, rolls and hammerheads. It also makes a great Sunday-go-to-burger flyer, a tractable machine for those out-of-the-way airport restaurants. Useful load is typically 600 pounds, which works out to full fuel and 400 pounds of people and stuff, generous for a two seater. Price $131,720.

Adventure (Citabria)
A slightly more capable aerobatic airplane but still fitted with the standard Hershey-bar airfoil and fixed-pitch Sensenich prop, the Adventure raises the ante on power by installing a 160 hp Lycoming O-320. One immediate benefit is a 2,400-hour TBO. In addition, the Adventure offers better vertical penetration in acro mode, as well as better cross country speed, about 117 knots on nine gph. With 35 gallons aboard, the airplane has a three-hour endurance at max cruise for a range of 350 nm. Gross jumps to 1,750 pounds, and payload offers 340 pounds. Price: $140,900.

Explorer/High Country Explorer Denali
With the same engine as the Adventure, the basic Explorer enjoys a slightly larger wing and flaps for better short field performance. Specifically, takeoff and ground runs are reduced to 412 and 360 feet, respectively. The High Country Citabria Explorer improves those numbers even further by adding 20 hp for a total of 180, along with taller aluminum gear and standard 8.00x6 tires. The result is the High Country Explorer becomes a cross between the 7-series Citabria and the 8-series Scout. The taller stance provides better prop clearance for off-airport operation, while the larger tires improve ground handling on rough terrain. Price: $141,720.

Super Decathlon
The great joy of the Super Decathlon is that it's not a one-trick pony. It can fly and train limited aerobatic maneuvers, then transmogrify itself into a comfortable cross-country machine with plenty of room for baggage and reasonable range. With the benefit of a semi-symmetrical wing and a 180 hp, Lycoming, AEIO-360H Lycoming under the bonnet, properly flown Super Decathlons have won the Sportsman class in aerobatic competition, though the airplane's power loading is a little high. It's an ideal trainer for the standard loop/roll/hammerhead class of acro maneuvers, and it can do full vertical rolls, double snaps and other more exotic tricks with a trained hand on the stick. In traveling mode, Supers can maintain 115 knots over the ground after a strong 1,200 fpm climb, and they offer the unusual advantage of an occasional roll or loop enroute, just to keep things interesting. Price: $171,720.

The Scout is essentially a Super Decathlon for the backwoods. The Scout isn't rated for aerobatics, but it's hardened against the rigors of off-airport operations. The Scout features a basic design similar to that of the Adventure, but offers longer wings, flaps and taller gear, all in pursuit of short, rough field capability. Power is a standard, carbureted Lycoming O-360, delivering 180 hp to your choice of a constant speed or fixed-pitch prop. Like so many other airplanes in this class, the Scout is approved for operation on huge bush tires, skis and floats. With a stall of only 43 knots, landing numbers onto a hard surface can be as short as 300 feet, and the Scout can carry a reasonable load into places where other models would fear to roll a tread. Price: $172,015


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