Light-sport, more than any other category, is defined by a set of FAA-imposed performance and configuration limitations. And because 95% of all sport aircraft use the Rotax 912 powerplant, many aircraft have somewhat comparable performance features. That doesn’t mean, however, that they perform the same. Since many LSAs are variants of their European VLA cousins, the wings on U.S. models have been modified to both meet the 45-knot minimum stall speed and, in many cases, to help limit the aircraft to 120 knots. Still the aerodynamics and efficiency of the airfoil impacts how well an aircraft performs—particularly at higher-density altitudes. There may actually be some days when certain LSAs are grounded, while others are free to slip the surly bond.
Also, since sport aircraft generally don’t have a large fuel capacity, take a look at full fuel payload. You’ll want to be certain you can fill the tanks and the seats at the same time, so you maximize your aircraft’s utility. One word of caution here: Some LSA manufacturers or importers quote their useful load and or payload numbers without fluids. Unless you plan to actually fly your aircraft without oil in the engine, or fuel in the lines, you’ll need to carefully look at the performance tables and add in the weight of engine oil and unusable fuel.7 Design Lineage
Many of the current flock of LSAs can trace their heritage to models that have been in production at home and abroad for many years. Others are clean-sheet designs. Since these aircraft aren’t certified through the same rigorous FAA Part 23 process, you may feel compelled to check the pedigree of the exotic bird you want to purchase. Don’t be shy about finding out how many copies have been stamped out and are logging worry-free hours of airborne bliss. Contact current owners and find out what they like or don’t like. Do your research in advance; you’ll be glad you did.8 Ramp Appeal
Ahhh, ramp appeal. This is the emotional side of the purchase, the “I want it cuz it looks cool” factor. Granted, no one really wants to own any vehicle that they’re too embarrassed to walk out to during daylight hours (although I understand quite a few people did actually purchase the AMC Pacer). Nonetheless, some LSAs look speedy just sitting on the ramp, while others look a bit like a caricature. Because beauty is in the eye of the beholder, we won’t out the “Ugly Betties,” I mean, the more eclectic designs. Just make certain the beauty that turns your head and captures your heart also meets the common-sense requirements suggested.
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