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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

LSA Buyer's Guide

Time for young (and old) pilots’ fancies to turn skyward with 30+ sport planes

Birds To Watch
With 80-odd S-LSA models still on the list, we can’t do justice to them all. Still, the following deserve attention for a variety of reasons: expected production debuts, recent surge in sales, compelling features, affordability and more.
Excluding airplanes dedicated primarily to fun flying in one form or another and those directed at utility operation, there are only two, two-seat models devoted to flight training. Pilots do buy these efficient models for personal transport, but the airplanes’ main function is most often pilot education.
One If By Land...
Look this year or to early 2012 for two significant deliveries: the much-ballyhooed Terrafugia Transition Roadable LSA and the Icon A5 amphib. The production version of the Transition is now a legal 1,430 pounds gross weight. Road trials and production tooling are in progress. Projected Price: $200-$250K. www.terrafugia.com

The amphibious Icon A5 is also wrapping its test program and tooling up for production. It first flew in July 2008. Futuristic design and luxury auto-like interior make this one to watch, with several hundred presales already. Estimated Price: $139,000. www.iconaircraft.com

Meanwhile, the upstart Maverick flying dune buggy, using a huge paraglider wing, was developed for missionary work in countries with remote areas and bad roads. It has already won ASTM certification, costs a third of what the Transition will and should ship this year. Projected Price: $84,000. www.mavericklsa.com

The lovely SeaMax, made in Brazil with composite construction, sports a spacious 47-inch cabin and 25 gallons fuel for extended range. Price: $145,000. www.seamaxusa.com

Classy Contenders
Four head-turners to watch: Arion Lightning, Renegade Falcon 2.0 and the Fk-Lightplanes models Fk9 Mk V (known as the ELA in Europe) and the Fk12 Comet biplane aerobat.

The composite-built Lightning racked up a flurry of sales in 2010, thanks to sleek, gorgeous styling and impressive avionics packages. Base Price: $98,900. www.flylightning.net

Renegade’s anticipated revitalizing of the dormant Falcon LS revolves around the new Lycoming IO-233 LSA engine and sensuous curves to make a belly dancer envious, not to mention a competitive price point. Projected price: $125,000. www.renegadelightsport.com

Another major sleeper is the German-made Fk-series. The Mk V (and Comet aerobatic biplane) deserves more attention than it has received so far. Anticipated Base Price: $102,000 (Fk9 Mk V); $107,000 (Fk12 Comet). www.hansenairgroup.com

Budget Birds
For those on a microbrewery budget, and these days that’s a lot of us, don’t overlook the X-Air LS and Rainbow Cheetah XLS, two ultralight-style tube-and-fabric “flyabouts” with fun flying pedigree, worthy features and notably low prices. Prices: $59,995 (X-Air LS); $53,000 (Cheetah XLS). www.x-airlsa.com

A real low-price leader is the venerable CGS Hawk Arrow II, a pioneering three-axis ultralight in the 1980s, and now a lightweight S-LSA as well as a kitplane. Price: $44,995. www.cgsaviation.com

Cloud Ship Dreamer
Last but miles above least is the newly certified Phoenix, an incredibly attractive, side-by-side S-LSA motorglider. Superclean, super-performing with a 32:1 glide angle, 1,200 fpm climb, 115-knot cruise and 612-pound useful load...oh boy, oh boy! Price: Yet to be determined. www.phoenixairusa.com


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