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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. " />

The SportStar features a large bubble canopy that provides good visibility in every direction except straight down. You can even twist around in the seat and look straight back if need be to check your six. The cabin is a comfortable 46 inches across, easily adequate to accommodate even two beefy pilots.

Controls are light and relatively quick, and a 100 hp Rotax 912ULS engine provides encouragement for the ground-adjustable, three-blade, MT, composite propeller. TBO is listed at 1,500 hours.

The SportStar has been certified at 550 kilograms (1,210 pounds) and falls well within the LSA class. Climb is listed at 1,200 fpm, but even if that’s more than a little optimistic, 1,000 fpm should be realistic. Speed can be pretty much as you like it (depending upon the pitch of the MT prop), but for LSA applications, it will be confined to a maximum of 120 knots.

Expect to pay about $117,000 base for a basic SportStar, $130,000 for a reasonably well-equipped model. Perhaps surprisingly, floats are available (for about $17,000).

Another entry into the LSA class is Zenith Aircraft’s Zodiac CH 601. Zenith Aircraft of Mexico, Mo., has been offering the CH 601 and other Chris Heintz designs for 20 years, and now, the CH 601 has backed into its status as an LSA under the experimental category, the E-LSA. The current CH 601 HD features a wider cabin (44 inches), an enlarged baggage compartment and other goodies.

Like the later SportStar, the CH 601 features a bubble canopy, a Rotax 912 engine and a composite, three-blade prop. Gross weight is 1,050 pounds, and maximum climb pushes an honest 1,000 fpm. Cruise speed is right up against the LSA’s 120-knot limit, and stall is below 40 knots. One result is excellent short-field performance, takeoff and landing distances under 500 feet. With 30 gallons of fuel aboard, the CH 601 HD offers up to 600 nm of range plus reserve. Prices hadn’t been announced at press time.


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