Plane & Pilot
Monday, September 8, 2008

Feel-Good Flyer

Ever met someone you instantly liked? The MD3 Rider is one friendly yet

Someone recently told me that all LSA are "fun" and pretty much fly the same. That notion challenges my beliefs. Everything in life is subjective, even scientific observation. And if you're the least bit sensitive to your environment, you'll probably agree that any vehicle, just like any person you meet, has a distinct feel and personality. Call it the Mazda Miata vs. VW Beetle syndrome: Every ride has its own ineffable feel.

My bias was reinforced when I made my first flight in the MD3 Rider. I didn't know exactly why initially, but I immediately felt at home in the friendly little airplane. The Rider comes from European sport aircraft maker Flyitalia (, based near Milan, Italy. Designed by celebrated Czech designer Jaroslav Dostàl, the S-LSA, which received ASTM approval in April, is conventionally built with an all-metal semi-monocoque airframe and aluminum skin. We'll get to the design and construction in due course.

Those who volunteer to fly for LightHawk indicate that a certain sense of adventure is an asset, as they never know what sort of flight they may be asked to make. From taking researchers over a river to locate a pollution source to spotting illegal incursions in a forest preserve to transporting a sick dolphin for medical care, if it involves conservation, and an airplane (or helicopter) is an appropriate tool, there's a good chance a LightHawk volunteer pilot will be asked to make the flight.

The Anatomy Of Feel
Each pilot's unique aviation background and experience dictates how an aircraft feels. I myself cut my teeth on sport aircraft back in the '70s with lightweight flivvers, ultralights, sailplanes and hang gliders, so I like comfortable, stable yet responsive aircraft with balanced controls and good power performance.

The MD3 Rider is imported by Space Coast Aviation Services (, an LSA start-up enterprise located at Space Coast Regional Airport in Titusville, Fla., just a stone-skipping throw west of NASA's Kennedy Space Center. Founding partners Ron Bearer Jr. and Brad Gutman hope to be major players in the U.S. LSA game, and they've made a good start with the Rider.

Later with all that: Let's go flyin'! With Brad Gutman in the right seat, we get clearance to runway 36, and the first thing I notice is how well the comfortable, semi-reclined seating fits my five-foot, 11-inch, 175-pound frame. The cushions are just right—neither soft nor stiff. Taxiing the Rider is easy thanks to the steerable nosewheel. Brakes are similar to those in many other LSA, actuated by an easily reached lever just aft of the throttle and choke quadrant. The disc braking is good without being touchy. "But it will lock up the wheels if you want it to," says Gutman.

Labels: LSAsSpecs


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