Tuesday, August 11, 2009
First-Class Glass: Sting S3
Amazing cockpit visibility, tough, nimble, fast: What’s not to like?
The prime factor in the S3’s visceral in-flight magic is the big, clear bubble canopy: Its horizontal and overhead view is spectacular. The one-piece canopy is like a big goldfish bowl over your head. The “rails” of the bubble are almost below your elbows. The clear top runs all the way behind your head, so you can look straight up or crane your neck left and right and see what’s above and behind. There’s also a generous rear window. In fact, but for the single painted stripe where the roll cage spans the canopy, you’d swear you’re looking through a jet-fighter canopy—and a roomy canopy (44 inches) at that.
And in front, the low panel top and slope-down cowl that wraps the Rotax 912 ULS engine gives you a forward view at cruise that enhances the sense of sitting almost on top of the airplane, a bit like a seat in the opera house balcony.
So here we are, Bill Canino, president of SportairUSA, and me, just before sunset over an expansive Florida landscape of dark green foliage, jewel-like lakes reflecting burnt orange, and the towns and cities waking up for the night, spread before us like Christmas ornaments on a vast carpet.
Canino demonstrates the inherent stability of the S3 by accelerating in a dive, then pulling us up and over, strong and sharp, into a gentle wingover to the right, then taking his hands off the controls as it slows, hangs, then slips...smoothly, exhilaratingly...down into a dive.
The Sting S3’s 100 hp Rotax 912 ULS can be monitored via the optional GreenLine engine monitoring system.
“These falling-leaf turns demonstrate the inherent stability and aerodynamic qualities of the airplane,” Canino says. “Watch now, I’ll keep hands off.” As the bird slips down and rolls out into a dive and the ASI shows 100 knots, he gently pulls out, and we round out the bottom. He pulls back on the stick, rolling smoothly in the opposite direction, and back up the hill we go.
We recover and he turns the airplane over to me. Already completely comfy in the airplane a couple minutes after takeoff, impressed by how nominal takeoff and cruise were, I find the S3 solid and tight, like a new car fresh off the showroom. Control pressures are light and responsive. Feedback is constant and true: You always know where you are with the bird. Smooth or snappy turns are effortless without requiring muscular input.
Likewise, pitch is quick but not twitchy. Rudder is effective, but you don’t need much; the net effect is familiarity. It’s a friendly, responsive airplane that’s immediately enjoyable to fly.
Now it’s my turn to do falling leaves. Up and up into the deepening oranges, golds and slate-gray blues of the cloud-filtered sunset, rotating like a big, glorious ball around the unobstructed canopy. Fabulous! The S3 is velvety—precise when you need it to be, forgiving when you’re lazy or a mite clumsy.
Okay, enough blue-sky flying, let’s look closer at this latest evolution of successful light-sport aircraft.
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