Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cessna 162 Skycatcher: It’s Here!

Cessna's successor to the 152, the Skycatcher, is poised to shine in the trainer market

The Skycatcher’s panel is built around the G300, a scaled-down version of the G1000.
The space behind the seats is large, perhaps a little too large, as you may wind up with more cubes than pounds. Technically, the aft weight limit is 50 pounds. In keeping with the definition of LSA, Cessna won’t offer an aft child’s seat as an option since the airplane is only approved for two folks.

Back at the tail, there’ve been more changes as a result of the spin tests. The vertical stabilizer was reconfigured and enlarged slightly, and a ventral fin was added beneath the tail. The trim tab on the right elevator also received a gurney device: a small, wedge-shaped, metal tab attached to the trailing edge.

It’s inevitable that the 162 will be compared to the old 150, and the new airplane comes off predictably better in practically all categories. With the same 100 hp engine, and 280 pounds less weight to lift, the new airplane shines in every performance parameter. Climb is an easy 200 fpm quicker at gross, and cruise is at least 10 knots faster than the 150’s. Even payload is superior.

Roll response is faster than you might imagine. I tried a max stick deflection exercise from 60 degrees left to 60 degrees right, and the airplane responded far more quickly than a Skyhawk or Skylane. Pitch rate also is more sensitive than either of the next airplanes in Cessna’s model line.

Dirty stall speed is about the same, but characteristics are more benign, if that’s possible. I tried a variety of stalls, including a full-power departure stall with 50 degrees of bank, and the airplane did little more than bob its nose and roll back toward level.

Landings are similarly simple—flown as slowly as 50 knots with full flaps. The 162 retains reasonable flare with no tendency to drop out from under you, and landing roll can be as short as 650 feet.

One characteristic that takes a little adjustment is power-off descent. Cessna lists the 162’s glide ratio as 10.1:1, considerably better than the 152’s 7.4:1 lift/drag or the 9:1 recorded by most other piston singles. I had to use full-flap slips several times to get the aircraft down near the beginning of the runway.

As everyone must know by now, the 162 is being built, test-flown and certified in Shenyang, China, then disassembled, containerized and shipped to the United States for reassembly and sale. When I flew the Skycatcher in Florida, Cessna’s order book stood at just above 1,000 airplanes, and first delivery was scheduled for early December.

Overall, the Skycatcher is an attractive package that’s bound to give other LSA manufacturers more competition. At about $130,000 reasonably equipped, it should attract significant investment from flight schools. A comparable Flight Design CTLS, the most popular LSA, sells for about $9,000 more than the Skycatcher; Tecnam’s Eaglet, the third most popular, is almost $13,000 more, with the same features; and the Remos GX, fourth best-selling, costs about $16,000 more. Pilots will be pleased with the new Skycatcher, and will be hard-pressed to find anything to dislike about it.


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