Monday, August 1, 2005
This snappy little four-seater was so far ahead of its time, it’s hard to beat the amount of fun you can have flying it!
|Every pilot loves the Tiger. It’s hard not to. The airplane is one of the ultimate concessions to fun flying, a sporty, eager, little single with just enough practical application to justify it in the minds of those who would never buy a pure fun machine.|
The upside of bonded structures is that they’re hellaciously strong and produce remarkably smooth, aerodynamic surfaces; the downside is that should you happen to break one, you can’t have it repaired at your local A&P shop. On top of that (or, actually, beneath it), the Tiger’s wing spar is a two-inch, steel pipe that interconnects through the center section from one wingtip to the other, so it’s a safe bet that the wing will take more stress than you will.
The Tiger’s ground handling is via a non-steerable, full-castering nosewheel. Directional control at low speeds is strictly dependent on asymmetric braking. This allows the airplane excellent maneuverability in tight spaces. Locked wheel turns are never a sharp idea for pilots who respect their tires, but if you had to, you could reverse direction in a Tiger in as little as 20 feet. A non-steerable nosewheel also means that good braking action is mandatory for ground handling until the rudder takes effect.
Perhaps the Tiger’s most recognizable feature is its signature sliding hatch. There are no doors. The entire cabin roof translates aft almost three feet to expose all four seats for entry and exit. If you’re riding left front, you merely step over the sidewall, tip up the seat’s bottom cushion with your toe and settle in. If you’re climbing aboard in rain or snow, you’ll need to be quick to avoid soaking the interior, but the sliding hatch makes it relatively easy to drop into any seat.
You can even fly convertible-style (sort of) with the hatch open a few inches for extra ventilation, provided you can stand the noise. The hatch can only come back about eight inches and then only at speeds up to 112 knots, a sensible limitation. Back in the 1970s, when I was shooting air-to-air photos for Plane & Pilot, Homebuilt Aircraft, Air Racing
and, later, Ultralight Aircraft Magazine
, a local Tiger dealer delighted in using one of his new demonstrators as a photo platform, and he flew it regularly with the hatch full aft at max cruise. I shot my pictures from the Tiger’s backseat, looking aft. The dealer assured me that there was no chance the hatch could come off and take out the tail. Fortunately, it never did, or I might not be here to revel in the wonderfulness of the Tiger. (No, don’t try that at home or anywhere else.)
The AA5B’s fuel system is simplicity itself. There are two wing tanks, and the selector points at the fuel gauge for the tank in use, so there’s no question which container is draining to the engine. Max usable fuel is 25.5 gallons per side, although if you need to carry more cabin pounds, you can fill to the tabs and know that you’re flying with only 19 gallons per tank. A typical max cruise fuel burn is 10.8 gph, so expect a top-off to last about 3.3 hours plus reserve at high cruise. Pulled back to 55%, you should endure for 4.5 hours.
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