Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, June 8, 2010

High-Class Cruiser

Metal/composite construction, gorgeous lines, top-o’-the-line luxury—splendid!

The P2008 avionics panel can be customized to include two glass displays, autopilot, XM weather and backup GPS. The 46.8-inch-wide cabin comfortably seats two and features leather seats, front-hinged doors and large elliptical windows.
I cross over Lockwood Aviation’s hangar, then angle out between the east-west runway and Sebring’s Grand Prix race track. The maneuvering is required for the mix of GA and LSA traffic and to avoid the air show folks below.

“What are we looking for in climb speed?” I ask.

“About 80, I like to keep the nose down with all this traffic.”

Eighty it is as my host retracts takeoff flaps.

“Notice how it doesn’t drop nose much pulling flaps?” Tommy asks.

Indeed, if I had even made a pitch correction, it hadn’t registered consciously.

“Yeah! Really smooth. Very nice.”

“Well, we think of it as a Mercedes.”

“Oh, the caviar in the map box?”

Jaw Drop #2

Climbing to altitude, that initial few seconds of solid/smooth/comfortable sensation grows quickly into another jaw-drop moment: Was I drugged and switched to a Cessna? Flying this airplane is so effortless, so...creamy.

We cruise out over the lake. The sky is murky; rain later? Tommy calls my attention to the windy conditions. I hadn’t even noticed—nice. That’s the metal wings and stabilator absorbing the bumps.

Early on, I notice a hands-off tendency to creep into a right bank. “Yeah, we had no time to rig it properly,” Tommy explains. “It came in the box last week; I flew it first time a few days ago! Flew just like a Tecnam, but a little heavier—a real ‘cruiser.’ Then I flew it six hours down here, and didn’t feel beat up when I arrived. Just locked the stick in my knees and enjoyed the view. It’s very quiet, with little vibration, like a larger airplane.”

I like the panel: no body contorting needed to reach things (fuel selector, electrical flap switch, light switches, throttle, choke). Placement is logical and, therefore, uncomplicated. The row of big rocker switches (fuel pump, avionic master, panel lights) anchoring the handsome panel is tasty, too. “The metal panel makes it easy,” Tommy explains, “to load up anything the customer wants. We can just cut the holes and pop things in.” Onboard are a Garmin G3X (GDU375 with XM weather) and a Garmin 430 to lead the way, as well as backup steam gauges. A Garmin SL40 is used as a second radio, and a Garmin 240 for the audio panel. Autopilot is a Trio Pro-pilot.

Time for airwork.
Turns left and right require little rudder, but the rudder is sensitive and I’m tending to over-yaw a bit. “You don’t have to push the pedals,” Tommy suggests, “just touch ‘em.”

Pitch is fairly light, too, but not of the “whoopsie!” potential as with, say, the SportCruiser. I snap the stick back, then take my hand off to investigate dynamic stability. The P2008 climbs, then slows; the nose descends, speed increases; nose comes up, airspeed drops again; the nose settles back into trim attitude: classic phugoid.

“Very stable airplane,” I say. Tommy just smiles and nods. With 8,000 GA hours under his belt, this is home turf for him.

I like the spongy stick. I like flying it with thumb and one or two fingers. Departure stalls under power? Nominal is the word: With the slight burble near the break, relaxing the stick brings it back to flying speed. I set up an approach stall in descent, with throttle at idle.

“Okay, easing back on the stick; there’s 40 knots, 39, bit of rudder to center up, and there’s the burble and slight forward stick and, bingo, we’re flying again.”

The P2008, with its near-120-knot cruise, is a traveling airplane with gentlemanly manners. “There’s no reason this can’t be an IFR airplane, too,” adds Tommy.

Empty weight is 780 pounds and useful load is 540 pounds.

Time for landing. We slide into the pattern over the raceway.

“Okay, turning base for one four, there’s 70 knots...” I say.

“Putting in some flaps,” Tommy says. The nose barely rises.

“Thanks...the throttle knob is comfortable, I like it...still hot into final at 70...little high too...”

“More flaps.”

“Rounds out nice and smooth...65 now...there goes a turkey vulture...looking good...over the fence, throttle at idle...63, still a bit high...”

Labels: Piston SinglesSpecs


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