Tuesday, February 11, 2014
A Retro Comeback LSA
Thierry Zibi’s new S-LSA embraces pseudo-military design
When I arrived over Parker, Texas, the wind was whipping from the south, pretty much right down the runway, so I lined up for a left downwind with no idea what the glide characteristics might be. I slowed the airplane to 60 knots for the approach and quickly discovered I was too high. Zibi commented from the backseat that full flap slips weren't off-limits, so I eased the airplane into a slip with full right rudder and hard-left aileron.
That took care of the extra altitude, and the SAM slid down final almost as if I knew what I was doing, an erroneous assumption. The SAM nevertheless snuggled onto the runway with a semblance of aplomb, proving if nothing else that you don't need to be an expert to land this airplane.
Safely grounded with nothing seriously broken, I elected for a touch-and- go, pushed the throttle full forward, and the little Rotax 912 ULS gave me its all and lifted us back into the sky. The next two landings were pretty much carbon copies of the first one.
The fourth was noticeably different. I had been using full flaps on each approach, and on the final landing at Parker, I elected to fly the airplane to the ground with a clean wing. Not the best idea. The airplane needs flaps to bring the nose down and allow a semblance of straight-ahead visibility. No-flap landings leave the nose in your face and tend to obscure the runway.
I'd be willing to bet takeoffs would also benefit from 10 to 15 degrees of flaps to both shorten the takeoff roll and improve forward visibility in the climb. Flaps are electric, and they come down fast, so you can fly most of the pattern with them full up and extend them at the last minute, if that's your preference.
If you wish to build a simple, safe LSA in a tandem configuration and are willing to do it all yourself, the total cost for the SAM kit will be $23,000. That will buy you the basic aircraft kit (less engine, prop and avionics) and you'll need about 900 hours of construction time to complete the airframe. A completed aircraft on the ramp at Lachute, Quebec, Canada will cost $131,000 plus your choice of radios and any of the other options many pilots choose. The base tab includes the Dynon SkyView system and the Rotax 912 ULS engine. Zibi had equipped the demonstrator with one of the new generation Garmin navcoms, designed specifically for the LSA market. Visit www.samaircraft.com for more information.
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