Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Sleeper

Is this the low-cost, cheap-repair, rugged LSA trainer that everybody is overlooking?

A center control stick has hand brakes and serves for both the left and right seats.
Later in level cruise around 80 mph, Syvertson shows off the rudder muscle by pushing full-right pedal. The nose swings hard until it feels like we're flying sideways! I estimate the nose angle at 45 degrees to our direction of travel, Syverston thinks it's closer to 30, but hey, why quibble? It's a dramatic demonstration regardless, and you'd never worry about slip authority on short final, if needed. Even so, the broad slab-side fuselage profile and overall damped-down feel of the BushCat also means you're not likely to overcontrol in yaw.

An Overlooked Training Solution?
I make another no-brainer takeoff, and off we go for airwork. Roll pressures are firm but response is plenty sufficient. The tall center stick with handbrake serves for both left and right seat, with dual pedals and power controls to make training or sharing piloting possible.

Stalls as expected are nominal: BushCat simply mushes along at full aft stick, with a clear pre-stall warning burble. Its low stall speed of 40 mph (no flaps!) and 35 mph at the full-flap setting of 26 degrees makes you feel you're almost hovering. There's a slight nose-down break at stall, more pronounced with full flaps but still truly mild. Relax the stick or add a touch of power, and you're flying again.

In a nose-high mushing descent at full flaps and full aft stick, full throttle produces an immediate change to a 500 fpm climb, with no discernible change in pitch. That's a great characteristic for student training. I remember trying the same trick years ago in a Cessna 152 with different results. I had forgotten to suck up flaps and couldn't figure out why I was stuck ground effect on a go-around training flight. With BushCat, such brainfades are forgiven.

Let's cut to the chase here: I believe the BushCat is a woefully overlooked airplane, a natural for the flight training environment. We hear the constant din of complaint at how expensive LSA are, and it's true enough. Many flight schools are still reluctant to bite the bullet and buy new trainers, and why shouldn't they be? At $100,000 and more—often much more—per unit, the numbers just don't add up for reasonable return on investment.

Introducing The BushCat

After I flew the Cheetah, I received the following from Michael Gill of Rainbow Skyreach PTY LTD, based in Gauteng, South Africa. The Cheetah XLS will cease production and will be reintroduced to the U.S. at Oshkosh as the BushCat. The main changes:

New sprung-aluminum landing gear for enhanced "bush" capability, aesthetics and maintenance. Current version is aluminum tube.
New six-inch split wheel rims allow broader range of tire sizes and make hassle-free tire changes.
Hydraulic hand brake. The mechanical brake I flew was somewhat ineffective. Rainbow, testing at 5,500 feet MSL, has demonstrated stops in under 200 feet. Short-field takeoff performance should also improve dramatically.
Customer-requested optional belly pod will include 10 gallons more fuel capacity.
New hydraulic arm lifter is easier stay-open feature for clamshell door.
Several tire options (from 6.00x6to850x6) now offered.
Overall price may climb as much as 10%. Depends on currency exchange rates and shipping/freight costs to Midwest Sport Aviation.

World Wildlife Fund of South Africa has received one BushCat and may order several more for surveillance in the bush. South Africa has a serious elephant and rhino poaching problem. "An in-depth workshop was held by the WWF to decide on what aircraft suited their requirements best," Gill wrote. "The BushCat beat all competition due to its rugged bush capability and immaculate safety record amongst other reasons." Law enforcement organizations, also take heed.

Rainbow has secured financing options for qualified U.S. clients. "Purchasing the BushCat is as easy as buying a car," says Gill. The cool zebra color scheme you see in the BushCat photos is a one-off design...and way cool, right?

Labels: LSAsPilot Reports


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