Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sirius TL-3000: High society—In blue jeans

Elegant, sexy, high-performing...and oh so friendly

It’s not every day you fly an airplane where sensuality in form joins a flying function so affable, you wonder if you’re flying the same airplane you climbed into. Case in point: the TL-3000 Sirius, from TL-Ultralight. The Czech company, which has delivered 650 light-sport-style aircraft worldwide, makes the excellent Sting S3 composite low-wing S-LSA (the all-time #10 U.S. seller).

Sirius is a carbon-fiber composite, a sleek, sculptured beauty that evokes, in profile and planform, the clean, flowing lines of a thoroughly modern airplane. TL’s engineers used CAD programs and extensive physical prototyping to minimize drag, from the engine-hugging, “conformed cowl” design, to the flap and aileron actuator housings on top of the wing. Yet Sirius’s sensuous lines belie a flight experience that’s anything but haughty. This airplane has the heart of a tomboy. To illustrate, let’s jump into the middle of my demo flight with SportairUSA’s chief cook and bottle washer, President Bill Canino.

Classy, Smooth And Friendly
We’ve just climbed up through a hole in the broken deck of clouds. Performing maneuvers, I’m handling the airplane, especially one as elegant as this, with decorum and kid-glove respectability. I would no more yank Sirius around the sky than I would jerk a date all over the dance floor.

Seeing my reticence to “man up” at our near-stall speeds, and no doubt stifling a yawn or two borne of his decades of flight experience, former Air Force pilot Bill says, “Here, hold my beer and let me show you what this airplane can do.” (Just kidding about the beer.)

He takes the leather-covered right yoke (Sirius also has dual, adjustable rudder pedals and hydraulic toe brakes—great for training) and sets up a simulated short final approach at 40 knots. “We do this low-speed maneuverability training a lot,” he says of his CFI training operation in Little Rock, Ark. “We have owners set up a 30-degree bank at 40 knots, where we’re just nibbling at the stall.”

“Okay,” I say, “you’re turning base, near the stall—whoa, there’s an airplane! Turn, turn, turn!”

To demonstrate, he rolls the yoke hard to the right a lot faster than I expect, the left wing shoots up, and we’re going the other way—all this at 40 knots. But the fun isn’t over. He gives the airplane back to me and barks, “Okay, there’s another airplane—quick, turn, turn!” and I roll the yoke fast, back to the left with some rudder, and by golly, down comes that left wing, quick as you please.

For half a minute, we super-Dutch-roll through the sky like a couple of kids who drank too much Kool-Aid, and the airplane—at 40 knots, remember—hangs right in there. “Wow!” I say, genuinely impressed. I’ve flown some LSA that don’t roll that fast at cruise speed—true story.

Labels: LSAs


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