Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pipistrel Virus: Triple Your Pleasure

Soar, tour, train: With this baby, you do it all!

Rolling 45° to 45° several times with full deflection yields times just over two seconds. I try banks with no rudder, and marvel at the paucity of adverse yaw.

The sight picture out the window, with that down-sloping bullet nose, is expansive. Visibility is fine, especially for a high-wing airplane: My eye level is a good four inches below the door frame. Likewise, the wide rectangular overhead window is perfectly placed and sized to give you a useful view of what's ahead during turns, yet keeps out too much sunlight.

Dave talks me through slow flight, hanging on the prop at around 3,300 rpm. Since the Rotax is water and air cooled, we don't worry about no steenking shock cooling. Below 60 knots, I pull on full flaps.

My eyebrows go up along with the nose. Shortly I see 37 knots...still good rudder and flaperon response...then 33...32...then 30! "We're not done yet," says Dave. Once we've stabilized at 27 knots, I start to feel a burble. Still plenty of control, though there's a bit of yaw wobble, but nothing hard to handle...and remember, there's 41 feet of wing out there!

I pull back a touch to get a nominal break at 25 knots, barely nudge the nose forward and we're flying again. Nothing nasty, nothing scary.

Clean stall is equally impressive: The burble comes at 33 knots and again requires just a touch of down pitch to recover. Likewise, an accelerated stall attempt with -5 degree flaps and 35 degrees of bank, with the stick buried all the way aft, produces no more than a light burble and attempts to roll lazily back to level.

"This airplane just doesn't have bad habits," says my host. Amen, Mr. White.

For me, the sweetheart question in a soaring airplane is how well can it work minimal lift. On the way back to Brennand, though we've felt not a single thermal bump in more than 20 minutes, Dave shuts down the engine to demonstrate how easy it is: radio off, transponder off, mags off, switch off and the prop comes to a stop, auto-feathers, and that's it.

Then I feel a slight tug, and a corresponding beep-beep-beep from the vario. Dave encourages me to give it a go. I gingerly ease the Virus around, chasing that most elusive, near-sunset puff of gently rising air. And I swear by the Great Soaring Pilot in the Sky, we do get a bit of a climb out of it, if just a few seconds worth. Simply wow.

I'm blown away with the comfort and performance of this airplane as I find and feel my way higher in that wispy lift. I have full confidence that if we had any lift at all, I could stay up with ease. That's saying a lot for a motorglider you've just gotten to know.

After our nominal landing, I climb out into the gathering purple dusk, all smiles. Dave White nods and says, "You kept the only rule I have: You gotta climb out with the same big smile you climbed in with; it's all about having fun!"


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