Plane & Pilot
Monday, September 8, 2008

Feel-Good Flyer

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

The semi-monocoque airframe and aluminum skin are enhanced by the aircraft's shark-fin tail (above). The semi-reclined seating (left) provides for a comfy ride.
A little forward relaxation on the stick, just a touch of power, and that's it—a no-drama queen if ever there was one. This is an LSA that flight students and veterans alike should feel right at home in. There's plenty of power-on performance and smooth and balanced control throughout the speed envelope (the elevator/stick linkage is by pushrods, positive and with no slop), yet it's extremely forgiving of even the most ham-handed pilotage.

Clean stalls are a similar nonevent. With no flaps and a little power, "you can fly at 40 knots all day long," says Gutman, and we verify those numbers. Cruise with the 100 horse Rotax at 5,500 rpm brings 105 knots, around 120 mph. The specs call for 113 knots, so we fell a bit short of that. (The 115 hp 914 UL reportedly powers the Rider to the sport pilot–legal max of 120 knots, although I didn't fly that version.) At 75% cruise and 4,800 rpm, the 100 hp mill delivers 90 to 100 knots (depending on payload weight) at a 4+ gph fuel burn, typical for the Rotax in the LSA class. The $20 hamburger is back.

The fully equipped MD3 Rider features steam gauges and Garmin electronics. The electric-flap lever (below) is easily reached and user-friendly.
Balancing Act
Overall, everything about the Rider feels in balance. Pitch, yaw and roll forces seem equivalent and harmonious. The rudder helps coordinate things, but it isn't a major factor in comfy flying. Overall, the airplane reminds me of a light touring motorcycle: comfortable on the long haul, but responsive enough to handle the mountain twisties.

Fuel management is a breeze—turn on one wing tank, turn off the other with the rotating toggle levers on the panel in front of you. Cabin visibility is expansive thanks to the wrap-over-top windscreen and low side rails on each door, which give you a steep down viewing angle. There's also plenty of shoulder room, with 46 inches from door to door—no claustrophobia from this flivver.

Landings are also a snap. Gliding down on short final at 50 knots, my host has me feed in a little power to flatten the glide when my descent rate gets a bit high. Plop, on she settles without histrionics—in the low 30s! After some short-field takeoffs (hold with brakes, flaps at 15 degrees, full power, release—and off we fly in a very short distance), we land on grass. The Rider handles all challenges with equanimity.

Looking back, what I remember most is the ease and pleasure of flying the MD3 Rider. Can't wait to hop it again, and what higher praise can you give an airplane than that?

Labels: LSAsSpecs


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