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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Capetown Racing


Light-sport floatplane that's a joy to fly


On James Lawrence’s air-to-air photo mission, I went aloft with FPNA proprietor Shawn Okun in the target Capetown amphib. Shawn did the initial flying while each of the formation pilots eased into his role. After the flock found the groove, I had a chance to take the controls.

Water launches can be hard on airplanes. That’s why you see extra bracing in GA planes modified for floats. The Capetown, however, starts flying at such a low speed (below 40 knots) that the abuse is much reduced—though the Capetown does sport a few added braces.

That slow-speed launch also speaks to the Capetown’s cooperative maneuverability at slow speeds aloft. It’s truly a joy at 45 knots where low-level flying is such a kick.

It managed 87 mph upwind and 118 mph downwind for an average groundspeed of 103 mph or 90 knots. Even when it had the amphib gear and floats, the Capetown could be seen climbing at a sustained 700 feet per minute.

The airplane’s full-span flaperons work well. In the wheel-equipped Valor, I timed a snappy two and a half seconds in a 45-to-45-degree roll-reversal exercise. The low-slung weight of Capetown’s amphib gear slows that a little, but it still qualifies as responsive. And, as a side benefit, the low-down weight helps Capetown feel even more stable in bumpy air.

Adverse yaw was almost nonexistent, giving only a slight hesitation before turning the direction as controlled. The Capetown or Valor will handle by control yoke only—that is, without rudder pedal input—readily, almost like a two-control design.

Power-off stall with the yoke full aft came at around 40 mph indicated, or barely 35 knots. In the stall, I experienced very little altitude loss and there was no tendency to break sharply toward the nose.

If you’re an open-cockpit enthusiast, you’ll love the A-22 because the Valor or Capetown can be flown with the doors completely removed. It might cost you 10 mph in cruise, but the feeling is one of air-in-your-hair freedom. Try that in your Bonanza! The doors quickly detach from hinges at the top of the door.

Setting You Back To Set You Up
If I’ve convinced you to give floatplanes a try, you’ll see the attraction. You can choose a new type-certified airplane on floats (if you’ve got bigger bucks), a used TC’d floatplane (still loads of cash) or a brand-new float-equipped LSA. FPNA quoted the Capetown at $99,500 in summer 2010. At that figure, this is a great value in a brand-new floatplane you could rent out or use for paid instruction.

Factoring in some gear you’ll probably want, I suggest an ELT ($375); a Mode C transponder ($2,575, not always needed for float flying); a Dynon D-180 EFIS with all engine monitors ($4,760); a Garmin SL30 radio ($4,375); and a Garmin GPSmap ($2,496 with panel-mount dock) for a grand sum of $114,480, plus plan on some shipping and registration costs. This represents good value for a brand-new amphibian, but if it still sounds beyond your budget, ask FPNA about their Experimental LSA kit; you do some work and save a few dollars.

With 10,000 airports and 50 times that many landable lakes, you’re bound to generate a smile of your own stretching as wide as the horizon.





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