Plane & Pilot
Monday, August 1, 2005

Tonry’s Tiger

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!

tonry's tigerEvery 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.
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Tonry acknowledges that its stall speed is the highest in the class, but feels that the airplane’s easily predictable break and short-field numbers speak for themselves. “I can use the same approach speeds that most of the other airplanes use, 65 to 70 knots,” Tonry points out, “and enjoy the same or shorter runway numbers. No one has ever suggested a Tiger is a bush plane, but it does an excellent job of getting in and out of abbreviated airports.”

Flaps are short-chord and minimum span, and accordingly, they’re fairly ineffective at increasing the airplane’s descent rate. Even deflected to the full 45-degree down position, they reduce stall by only three knots. Full-flap slips don’t risk blanking the tail, and the spoilers do offer the slight advantage of improving over-the-nose visibility during the approach, but other than that, there’s little operational benefit.

Aircraft Bluebook Price Digest (ABPD), the standard pricing guide for the industry, suggests that there were 1,323 of the original Grumman-American Tigers built between 1975 and 1979, plus another 150 produced by American General between 1990 and 1993. A few years ago, a Taiwanese investment consortium acquired the Tiger type certificate, established production facilities in Martinsburg, W.Va., and is currently building the airplane again at 1.5 units per month.

In the meantime, there’s a brisk business in used Tigers. Check any given 10-day cycle of Trade-A-Plane, and you’re liable to find a dozen or more Tigers for sale. Tonry’s totally tricked-out example is a 1978 model, and the ABPD suggests that it’s worth about $55,000 base, average-equipped and in standard condition. Fly his airplane, and you begin to understand why he wouldn’t take twice that.

“I think everyone who owns these little airplanes agrees that they’re a definite cut above the average late-1970s general aviation single and even the modern generation of fixed-gear, 180 hp singles,” explains Tonry. “What endears most pilots to the Tiger is a combination of excellent handling, superior performance and just plain fun. It’s hard to put a price on that.”

1978 Grumman-American Tiger AA5B

Labels: Piston Singles


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