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Monday, August 1, 2005

Light Sport Aircraft Are Here And Flying!

Now, there’s no argument whether or not LSA designs will become a reality

As some pilots may have heard, the FAA finally handed down its completed rulemaking regarding light sport aircraft (LSA) and sport pilots this past April 15 (perhaps, more than coincidentally, tax day) at the Sun ’n Fun Air Show in Lakeland, Fla. The LSA regulations were several years in the making, the consummation of extensive lobbying efforts by virtually all of aviation’s alphabet groups. In fact, the final rules reflect extensive input by the EAA and AOPA, an example of what can happen in that rare instance when the government actually listens to the people it represents. " />

I flew the first of the new Legends, serial number 001, off the company’s Sulphur Springs, Texas, production line. From the outset, it was obvious that there had been some changes made.

First, the Legend Cub’s fuselage is three inches wider. The airplane incorporates a 100 hp Continental in place of the original’s 65 hp mill and is fed by wing-mounted fuel tanks. Standard equipment includes an electric starter and a basic instrument package, and options will encompass such goodies as a BRS parachute, floats, Garmin avionics and even a flat-panel display.

No matter, the Legend Cub flies very much like its namesake, only better. Flying out of Plant City, Fla., at zero-dark-30 to avoid the nasty winds that plagued this year’s Sun ’n Fun show, I formed up on the Cessna Skylane photo ship and marveled, once again (for what seems like the thousandth time), at what a delight any Cub is to fly.

The Legend’s target weight will be under the 1,320-pound LSA limit, and there’s no question that you’re flying a light airplane, but the newest Cub manifests a pleasant control harmony and lightness of response that once again, reinforces why the airplane became such an icon of general aviation. Maneuverability is somewhere between glacial and evolutionary, but somehow, it seems appropriate to the airplane’s low and slow personality.

Climb is probably on the order of 700 fpm with half fuel and two big men aboard. There’s no risk of exceeding the LSA’s 120-knot cruise limit, but with the original fat, high-lift wing in place, and wheels and struts hanging out all over the place, you can plan on perhaps 85 to 90 knots of cruise. The price of admission for a bare-bones Legend Cub will be under $70,000.

If the new Cub is an improved traditional design steeped in the past, the Czech SportStar is a pure sportplane with both the look and the speed of a true, two-seat, low-wing hot rod. Built by Evektor-Aerotechnik of Kunovice, Czech Republic, the SportStar is a two-seater constructed primarily of aluminum with composite wingtips and cowling.


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