Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, March 10, 2009

LSA Flight Report: Cruiser In School Clothing


Mix all-aluminum construction, deep aviation manufacturing background and the desire to build a robust training aircraft, and what have you got? Eaglet!


lsaThe truly wonderful thing about events like the recent Sebring U.S. Sport Aviation Expo is that you have the fun, and the scheduling challenges, of flying many different types of aircraft at one sitting. “Sitting” is a key word. I came to regard it as an aviation smorgasbord—for my tush. Of course, such an avian feast feeds other visceral, spiritual and intellectual appetites too, but sitting comfort in an airplane is also important, yes? You betcha.
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Electric trim controls are located on the padded center control sticks.
Likewise, climbing out at 80 knots, showing 800 fpm or so, the airplane felt both solid and responsive. Max climb performance by the way is impressive: I saw 1,200 fpm, and 1,000+ was routine at near-Vy speeds. That was with me, Michael and full fuel aboard, and neither of us are competing for NutriSystem Man of the Year honors.

When we did a stall series, I was gratified to see how the airplane retains considerable aileron control even near stall, without dropping off on a wing. Again, ideal for training as well as for text-messaging in slow flight. Just kidding about the texting.

As Michael puts it, “I can give students a lot more room to make mistakes, then get themselves out of trouble, without having to physically take control as soon. It’s a forgiving airplane that gives lots of notice when things aren’t right.”

Demonstrably so: In departure and approach stalls, Eaglet offered plenty of force feedback and subtle, progressive shuddering as we neared stall, just like that wonderful old Cessna 150 you may have spent some yoke time in.

Indeed, stall recovery is a real yawner. Whether or not you’ve fed in flaps with the electric toggle (max barn door setting is 38 degrees), you pretty much just relax the stick, ease in even a small amount of power and you’re either in stabilized descent or climbing out again, depending on throttle setting.

The Birminghams praise the bird’s superior crosswind-landing control, although conditions didn’t support a demonstration. “Early customers asked for more rudder effectiveness,” says Lynne, “which led to Tecnam using the larger tail from the P2004 Bravo. It brought balance to the overall control feel and more crosswind capability too.”

Michael demonstrated Eaglet’s rudder authority by flying a box pattern with just his feet. Cool!

Rolling in and out of turns takes a touch of rudder to keep things copacetic. Climb out likes right rudder as well. It felt like I needed proportionately less left foot for powered-down descents.

As happens way too often, enthusiasm overruns word space. We haven’t even talked about the Dept. of Justice using two Eaglets rigged with infrared sensors and other tech gear to patrol D.C.’s skies during the presidential inauguration. Or how Tecnam’s Italian-born and -bred pedigree of well-built airplanes numbers 2,500 LSA sold worldwide. Or how the Birmingham’s mission to place the Eaglet in flight schools across the country is helping to change the face of general aviation training.

But I will close with this: Eaglet is spin-certified in the United States in the flight-training environment. Its famed 80-something designer, Luigi Pascale, does loops and rolls in it—at 1,000 feet AGL yet! Heck, Luigi, you had me at 80-something.

In your search for whatever LSA ultimately fits you just right, I’d bet on this: You’ll end your flight in the Eaglet with a genuine smile of appreciation on your face. It’s one very comfortable airplane.



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