Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Allegro LSA: Fly, She Said

All dressed up or ready to work, Allegro makes you honest

Max Performance, Mini Power
We pulled some stalls. A clear buffet warns you (if the rocket-ship-high deck angle hasn't already woken you up). Fairly sharp nose and wingtip drop is possible if you're not light and quick on the very effective rudder, but recovery is always nominal and needs little more than relaxing the stick and/or feeding in power.

By way of demonstrating his confidence in the Allegro (he's got 2,000 hours in type), Kennedy showed me a spin entry and recovery-training technique. Level at 3,500 feet, we cleared the area, then, "Next stop, 3,100 feet," he cried. He kicked rudder hard over at the stall, the nose and wing fell through the horizon, and I watched the ground whirl around beyond the windscreen. Yippee! Kennedy easily recovered after one turn, and I checked the altimeter: 3,100 feet. Mr. Kennedy is a man of his word!

Logging some numbers, I was surprised to hear our power came from the Rotax 912 80 hp engine. Doug Hempstead, Allegro's head honcho, told me later, "We get the same performance with 80 hp as other planes do with 100." Case in point: For my flight demo, our combined weight was about 400 pounds. Yet even with the full 17 gallons in the fuselage tank, and 55 pounds of cargo in the back, Kennedy could proudly crow, "We've still got about 140 pounds left!" Many, many S-LSA would love to own these generous weight values: 622 pounds empty, 692 pounds total payload.

I saw 1000+ fpm rates routinely...and even clocked over 900 fpm at 81 mph, well above the best climb speed of 70. We cruised around at 125 mph at just-below-max power settings. Top-level speed at continuous power (for the 100 hp Rotax) is 136 mph or 120 knots, the legal max for LSA.

Another bonus of such refined low-drag performance is, of course, fuel economy: With a full tank, Allegro can fly close to five hours with reserve. With 10 more gallons from (optional) wing tanks, that's beyond pit-stop time for most of us.

Affordable...And American Made
Hempstead, along with wife Betty, has endured an arduous process securing the ownership of the Allegro design from Czech Republic's Fantasy Air, which has more than 450 flying worldwide since 1994. Now, the airplane is entirely built in the U.S.

One of the very first LSA to earn ASTM approval, the Allegro has been somewhat dormant on the scene as Hempstead worked to bring its production to the States, in North Carolina. Even the all-Kevlar composite fuselage will be produced by the same company that subcontracts for other aircraft companies, including the popular SeaRey amphib.

Floats, both composite and inflatable (Full Lotus), are available. Enhancements, such as rudder gap seals and fuselage laminar-flow refinement, will be worked into the all-American production airplanes, set to roll off the line about the time you read this. An optional composite version of the efficient double-tapered wing (varies in planform and thickness) is in the offing, and will boost the already impressive 12:1 power-off glide to 14:1. Other tweaks include moving the throttle two inches closer (I found it a bit of a reach), and converting shoulder straps to an inertial reel setup.

Cheap Date
Before we finish up, let's consider a primary appeal of the Allegro LSA: its highly competitive price. Three S-LSA models are offered: Classic Trainer at $89,000 (also configurable as an IFR trainer); Voyager at $94,000 (adds things like an MGL Voyager EFIS, a Garmin radio, a transponder and vertical card compass); and Executive at $99,000 (adds two Dynon SkyView Synthetic Vision panels and a Garmin GPS 500). You'll be hard-pressed to find any leading S-LSA today, let alone one with Allegro's proven production, flight record and composite construction at that price point.

I quickly grew to like the Allegro. It doesn't hurt to fly with someone like Ross Kennedy: He showed all the dance steps, including an excellent simulated engine-out performance that came within 50 feet of touchdown on a dirt road. We had been in a strong slip. Even with full flaps (48 degrees, usually used for STOL ops), I found lively S-turns were still easy. Then, rounding out on short final, Kennedy ordered, "Let's do a go-around—but ‘forget' to retract the flaps." I gave it full power, pitched to 70 mph, and we were instantly climbing—with that barn door down, mind you—at an initial rate of 300 fpm. Within seconds, I saw 600, with flaps still down. Wow! I hit the electric flap toggle to retract. The airplane accelerated right through without that sinking feeling, and with very little pitch required to maintain climb speed. No wonder Kennedy loves teaching in this classroom.

By the end of my waltz with Allegro, I was ready for a second date—because this lady will make an honest person out of any pilot.


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