Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Lovely And Lively

The G-700S is resurrected as the AT-4, but still friendly as ever

We warm up the 100 hp Rotax 912 ULS engine in that frigid air, but since there's an oil heater, reaching the customary 122 degrees takes surprisingly very little time. The engine vibes feel very smooth. Maybe the carbon/composite three-blade ELPROP has something to do with that.

I had remembered the 41-inch wide cabin to be a bit roomier, then Kuehlmuss tells me this particular version has a raised sidewall to accommodate Greg Trzaska's tall frame. Even so, we're dressed in bulky winter parkas and it's plenty comfortable.

The seats and rudder pedals aren't adjustable as on some LSA. Back and seat cushions are used to fit various-size pilots to the very comfy seats. Some nice features as we warm up: The dual throttle gives the PIC a left- or right-hand stick option. The console-mounted right throttle has an effective friction lock.

Keeping the Garmin G3X company are analog airspeed and altimeter, readout lights (fuel pump, canopy open, etc.), a compact Garmin SL40 radio and GTX 330 transponder, and PS Engineering PM 3000 intercom. There's an ELT on board, toggle switches, cabin heat and other knobs, all neatly organized. The center console sports an easy-reach handle for the split flaps and the pitch trim wheel falls nicely under your right hand.

Kuehlmuss lets me make the first takeoff. We surge down the asphalt strip. Rudder comes to life almost immediately and before I expect it, the AT-4 hops into the air. "More rudder," my host advises—this bird likes a lot of right foot on climbout.

The nosewheel shudders, although the airframe dies down quickly as we settle into a 60-knot best rate (Vx) climb. The G3X shows a respectable 750 fpm rate. Book for best rate is 856 fpm, which should be easily doable.

My first return-to-cockpit impression: "very comfortable, stable, well-balanced airplane." The rudder is firm but effective; turn forces are also a bit firmer than I had remembered, but the wing responds briskly to input. Roll rate is good; this is no truck. I crank a couple 45-degree bank reversals, then feel right at home with several Dutch rolls which aren't half bad.

First-impression verdict: The AT-4 has the same friendly chops as the G700S. Roll control forces, though a bit firmer than I remembered are equivalent to other top-line LSA, such as the CTLSi.

We shoot a couple of landings. In my customary fashion, I turn final too high because I'm afflicted with inherent glide ratio pessimism. Curse those hang glider landing memories! A strong slip with flaps easily takes care of the excess altitude. Over the fence in the low 50- knot regime, as Kuehlmuss instructs, feels just right, and before I know it, I'm easing back the stick to touch down.

The AT-4 floats nicely through rotation. Roll forces are lighter than at cruise as we bleed off airspeed into the 40s. The wing, flaps and winglets help hold on to the lift near the stall. The wheels find the runway without dropping out and we settle on, almost as if I knew what I was doing.

Labels: LSAs


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