Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Prius With Wings

Two-fisted thermal grabber, fuel-sipping cruiser and trainer—in one airplane!

Rand Vollmer flies the Pipistrel Sinus LSA, a motorglider that has a 30:1 glide ratio and 202 fpm sink rate. On a long cross-country trip to Oshkosh last year, Vollmer averaged a fuel burn of under three gallons per hour.
We cruise along in the sleek, comfy Pipistrel Sinus motorglider on a northwest heading, plying the butter-smooth air at 8,500 feet and 105 knots. The iPad GPS app says groundspeed is 122 knots. Good; a bit of tailwind will help us across the 20-plus-mile stretch of Gulf of Mexico ocean.

Flaps are set in the negative position to increase cruise efficiency. And I'm enjoying the kind of pilot-report flying I rarely experience: getting several flights and multiple hours in a single LSA.

My host is Rand Vollmer, whose SALSA Aviation anchors at Zephyrhills Airport near Tampa, with a companion dealer in San Antonio, Texas. Vollmer has worked hard to make Pipistrel a prominent feature on the S-LSA map.

He has also been working on his glider commercial and CFI ratings, and invited me down from the frozen north to serve as a (very willing!) guinea pig. The last few days, I've met the Sinus and tried my hand at soaring above the green Florida countryside. But right now, we're kicking back, enjoying the wonderful economy, handling and speed of the Sinus on a long flight.

Long Wings, Long Range...And Speed
The Sinus in profile looks just like the company's Virus, Virus SW and Alpha Trainer models. They share the same all-composite bullet-shaped nose, high wing and tapering boom that ends in a lofting T-tail.

View the Sinus from the top, though, and you quickly divine what sets it apart from its siblings: While Alpha, Virus SW and Virus have 34.5, 35.1 and 40.8 feet wingspans, respectively, you don't need to be Burt Rutan to figure out that the Sinus, with 49.1 feet of wing, is meant for soaring.

Labels: LSAsPiston Singles


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