Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, February 23, 2010

PiperSport: Piper’s Big Play

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The Airplane
My desire to fly a SportCruiser had long focused on one question: Would it be as enjoyable to fly as it looked? Early in January, I satisfied that question with a five-hour rental checkout in a local SportCruiser. After one hour, the verdict was clear: very comfortable, forgiving and stable, with no nasty tendencies.

When the PiperSport was rumored, I had a new question: How would it compare to the SportCruiser? Thanks to Bart Jones, Piper’s affable chief pilot, I got my answer in short order: There’s virtually no difference between the two. Piper is smart enough not to mess with a winner. Roomy, stylish and comfortable with its reclining leather seats, the PiperSport flies as beautifully as it looks.

Ground handling is a breeze. The big Piper rudder pedals, easily adjustable by lever from the seat, integrate toe brakes to make taxiing with the castering nosewheel effortless. They fit well to shoe, so to speak, and are angled properly so you don’t accidentally brake. You can turn on a dime on the ramp, too—that’s handy.

Rolling out to share some air, Jones counseled me more than once to hold a bit of right brake on rollout and then transition to rudder once we had aerodynamic control, which comes in around 10 knots. “Ease back and let it fly off at 45 knots or so,” he instructed, “and climb for best rate at 65.”

We rose from the tarmac in just a few seconds. A week before, I had almost beaked the SportCruiser nosewheel by overpitching on my first takeoff. The surprise taught me well. With Jones, I pitched the airplane with a dainty left thumb and forefinger.

That coltish sensitivity in pitch is the one rap you might make on the PiperSport. Roll forces are nominal, truly “airplane-like” and in the realm of the Evektor SportStar and Breezer II. But the pitch situation definitely is on Piper’s short list of modifications.

“We’d like to get less stick force per G in pitch,” said Jones, “to fit the PiperSport’s training role. Although I have to say, once you get a few hours in it, you don’t notice it at all. Humans are so adaptable—it just feels normal.”

Labels: LSAs


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