Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Finding A Czech Mate For Flying Adventures

The European SportCruiser LSA comes into its own

It was a Cinderella story gone bad in 2011 when Piper Aircraft, just one year after plucking the sleek Czech-built CSA SportCruiser from obscurity and rechristening it the PiperSport, unceremoniously dumped the aircraft that the famed OEM had licensed as its LSA offering. But, anyone who thought the stylish, well-built SportCruiser had used up its 15 minutes and would disappear back into the European light-sport pack most likely never flew the aircraft or considered that the pilots from Piper were smitten for a reason—regardless of what went on behind closed doors that led to the split.

Onward And Upward
Today, the Czech SportCruiser and its manufacturer, Czech Sport Aircraft of Kunovice, in the Czech Republic's "Aviation Valley," are doing just fine, thank you. At last year's Sebring U.S. Sport Aviation Expo in January, the company introduced its top-of-the-line SportCruiser SVAP+, featuring Dynon's SkyView integrated avionics suite with dual Dynon 10-inch displays, and sold a healthy 27 aircraft by year's end. With the 2014 Expo marking the 10th anniversary of the LSA category, revisiting the SportCruiser offered a fitting way to honor the milestone.

"I don't think the original idea for the LSA was what we're doing in the SportCruiser," Patrick Arnzen, president of US Sport Aircraft, American distributor for the Czech OEM, said at the company's display area at Expo. "Everyone thought we'd have a $50,000 LSA, but people want more airplane. This," he said of the SVAP+ on display, "has more advanced technology than most corporate aircraft."

The SportCruiser is one of the more aptly named aircraft on a flight line. It's sporty in both looks and performance—highly maneuverable and very responsive—yet its wide cabin, ample luggage capacity and speed make it as much a cross-country cruising machine as many four-place Part 23 aircraft. Given these attributes, it's noteworthy that the SportCruiser has also been embraced by flight schools as a trainer, where a low-cost aircraft that can teach basic flying skills is more important than slick handling or high cruise speed. The OEM's data shows that 30% of SportCruisers are absorbed into the training market. Yet, "at least 80%" of the training done in the SportCruiser is for "other than sport-pilot" instruction, Arnzen said. That could include a private pilot getting a checkout so he or she can use the SportCruiser for missions such as night flights, which are legal in the aircraft but prohibited for sport-pilot operations.

US Sport Aircraft typically has 20 to 25 SportCruisers on its flight line at its facility in Addison, Texas, for training, rental and purchase, and the training activity helps drive sales. "You buy what you learn to fly on," Arnzen said. "People are buying these airplanes because they're superb aircraft that happen to fit into the LSA category. It does everything a Cessna 172 will do cheaper and better, and it's a lot more fun."

Labels: Piston Singles


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