Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Searching For The Ideal Airpark Airplane

The Tecnam P2008: an LSA delivered with a big envelope

The T-hangars at Big South Fork Airpark (BSFA), an upscale 450-acre development adjacent to the spectacular Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area in northeastern Tennessee, house a fleet as varied and practical as the airpark's property owners. "We've got an F33 Bonanza, a King Air C90, a Liberty XL, Piper J-3 Cub, a Matrix, a Cessna 414, a Velocity, an RV8A," Bill "BA" Armstrong, one of the development's principals, told the P&P crew at the airpark's stately timber-and-stone Welcome Center.

BSFA in Oneida, Tenn., now in its first phase of development, enjoys through-the-fence (TTF) access to Scott County Municipal Airport's (KSCX) 5,502-foot runway, instrument approaches, Part 145 repair station and some of the cheapest avgas in the region. (In fact, the FAA visited Big South Fork Airpark when investigating whether to allow TTF agreements, and that inspection helped cement approval for such access.)

The variety of BSFA's fleet is understandable. Some aircraft are used for long-distance commuting and others for knocking around the local area, and some owners have extensive flight experience while a few are relatively newbie VFR-only pilots. With a Velocity and an RV8A in the mix, obviously experimental aircraft can qualify as residential airpark airplanes (RAAs), but what about a light-sport aircraft (LSA)? The low operating costs and the lack of required pilot medical certification are pluses, but does an LSA have the range and weather-handling capability that a well-rounded RAA requires? Tecnam's new P2008 is among the elite group of LSAs that could have what it takes.

The Tecnam P2008
We checked off the range question when N208TA arrived at KSCX in the late afternoon, nonstop from Tecnam USA's headquarters at Hanover County Municipal Airport (KOFP) in Richmond, Va., 353 nm east over the Appalachian Mountains. "This is a touring aircraft," said Dave Lubore, Tecnam's vice president of Flight Training Services, alighting from the P2008 after the three-hour flight. "On the weekends, you and your significant other can put in plenty of bags and go places. That's specifically what it's for."

Lubore pointed out some of the aircraft's design highlights. For Tecnam aficionados—and they're legion, as the Italian company is the world's largest manufacturer of LSAs with more than 3,000 sold—the P2008's composite fuselage is its most noteworthy feature, representing a major break from the company's all-metal past. To be sure, with its Italian flair for design, Tecnam's airframes were always nicely sculpted and sleek, but composite parts offer weight and shaping advantages the company couldn't ignore.

In 2008, Tecnam bought Spain's Composite Aeronautic Group (CAG), which manufactured the Toxo, a high-performance LSA, to acquire composite manufacturing capability. (The Mooney Airplane Co. briefly partnered with CAG in 2003 in a bid to assume production of the Toxo and become the first U.S. GA manufacturer to offer an LSA.) The P2008 is the first fruit of Tecnam's acquired composite construction skills, and designers have used that capacity to optimize the P2008's aerodynamic qualities and interior space.


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