Tuesday, August 11, 2009
First-Class Glass: Sting S3
Amazing cockpit visibility, tough, nimble, fast: What’s not to like?
The low-wing Sting S3 offers unrestricted panoramic views through its bubble canopy. Among other features, the LSA comes standard with Galaxy’s whole-plane ballistic recovery system and Garmin’s NAV/COM stack.
The Sting S3 is a carbon-composite, low-wing, tricycle-gear “fun ship” descended from a successful line of light-sport aircraft, including more than 500 production models of the StingSport, Sting Carbon and Star. The StingSport was the fifth LSA to receive ASTM certification in the United States and has consistently been in the top 10 in U.S. sales.
Maximizing the speed envelope of the light-sport category was a goal of designer/producers Miroslav and Petr Kábrt of the Czech Republic. Split flaps, structural stiffness and effective control surfaces deliver excellent slow flight and the light and effective control feel I mentioned.
Creature comforts include effective air vents to keep things cool and a surprisingly quiet noise level in flight. Toe brakes and steerable nosewheel afford excellent ground handling.
A typical S3 instrument configuration uses the Leading Edge Six Pack, a tasty setup that includes a TruTrak attitude direction indicator (ADI). The ADI has several functions: artificial horizon, roll/pitch/yaw and direction indicators, GPS direction, low-airspeed alert and extreme bank-angle alert—all in one round display. Cool!
TruTrak EFIS/Flight Director and other glass cockpit setups are also available as options. The version I flew was decked out nicely with a TruTrak EFIS, Garmin GPSMAP 496 and GreenLine engine monitoring system.
A Deluxe Standard
Two distinguishing safety-centric (and standard) features of the S3 are the Straight/Level safety system button and the Galaxy ballistic recovery system. In a crisis, a pilot or passenger can push the big blue S/L button mounted on the panel, and the airplane goes to straight-and-level flight automatically. The Galaxy system is a whole-plane ballistic parachute system with some impressive features, including a sleeved deployment system and a long-burning solid-fuel rocket that draws the canopy 60 feet away from the aircraft before it deploys, reducing the chance of fouling on the airplane. The parachute company claims the system can be successfully deployed from as low as 100 to 500 feet above the ground, depending on position, speed and trajectory.
Soapbox moment: The airplane parachute is a life-saving concept that was, historically, suppressed for marketing reasons in the early evolution of general aviation. SportairUSA is to be commended for making it standard on the Sting S3. A paradigm shift toward ’chute use on all aircraft could play a significant role in growing pilot numbers and recreational aviation acceptance in the future.
The low-wing Sting S3 has no gel-coat finish, saving 50 pounds of nonstructural weight, and is propelled by a wood-cored, carbon-fiber-composite Woodcomp propeller.
As noted on the company’s website (www.sting.aero), there’s no gel-coat finish on the Sting. That saves about 50 pounds of nonstructural weight, which contributes to a decent 540 pounds of useful load.
My overall impression was of a nicely finished, quality airplane, representative of a maturing industry that now takes fit and finish as seriously as performance specs.
To whit, the company claims the S3 is the most complete, best-equipped S-LSA on the market. Backing up that claim are the rest of a splendid list of standard features:
• Full-time carb body heat
• Garmin NAV/COM stack
• Moving-map GPS with TAWS and XM satellite weather capability
• Zaon MRX PCAS air-to-air collision-avoidance system
• Four-point inertia-reel safety harnesses
• Removable copilot stick
• Full carpeting and upholstery
• Strobes and position lights
• Adjustable rudder pedals
• Toe brakes
• Nosewheel steering
• VHF radio and Mode C transponder
• 406 MHz ELT
Not too shabby. That list of goodies gives you some idea of how serious this company is about attracting, and supporting, buyers.
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