Plane & Pilot
Friday, July 1, 2005

Symphony 160

This new sport trainer gets even better the second time around

symphonyThe Symphony 160 was introduced five years ago by OMF Aircraft of Neubrandenburg, Germany, which established a Canadian manufacturing subsidiary, OMF Canada, in 2003, located in Three Rivers, Quebec. Through no fault of its Canadian subsidiary, the parent company declared bankruptcy and the Symphony design was left stranded in the murk of litigation. After negotiating an almost unimaginable morass of legalities, several of the original OMF Canada team has emerged with the rights to bring the high-tech two-seater back to market.
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Best of all, though, stall characteristics are extremely docile. The Symphony mounts a vortex generator atop each wing designed to direct airflow across the ailerons at slow speeds. This allows a modicum of roll control in the stall. Pitch the airplane to 30 degrees nose up with full power, and the break is hardly noticeable. Keep the rudder anywhere near centered, and the Symphony merely settles straight ahead with little tendency to fall off on a wing.

Accelerated stalls are similarly unchallenging. The airplane resists stall in any attitude, similar to one of Rutan’s canard designs. For that reason, students should find the Symphony easy to handle in slow-fly mode.

Quick cruise isn’t mandatory for trainers, but Symphony Industries also hopes to sell its share of airplanes to owner/operators who will use them as sport machines. The manufacturer’s spec is 128 knots at high cruise, and there’s little reason not to use max cruise all the time. The O-320 Lycoming enjoys an excellent specific fuel consumption, .43 pounds/hp/hr, and that translates to just under 8.5 gph. That allows 2.8 hours plus reserve for a range of just over 300 nm. Pulled back to 55%, fuel burn drops to a little over 6 gph, but speed also diminishes to 115 to 118 knots.

Throughout the cruise regime, the Symphony demonstrates low noise and vibration levels, and that provides a friendly cabin environment for a trainer. Instructors who may have to sit in the seat for six or more hours a day should love the airplane’s contoured bucket seats, generally spacious interior and easy access to all controls and switches. Students will be impressed by the control response, gentle flight characteristics and, perhaps most important of all, low rental rate.

During Cessna’s 10-year, piston hiatus, many flight schools were forced to train in older Skyhawks and transitioned to new 172s when the type was reintroduced essentially unchanged in 1996. Using a four-seater for a two-seat mission is virtually guaranteed to result in a higher rental rate. The Symphony’s modest acquisition cost leads directly to lower hourly rental rates than most other new trainers.


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