Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Searching For The Ideal Airpark Airplane
The Tecnam P2008: an LSA delivered with a big envelope
The instrument panel is equipped with a Garmin G3X avionics suite and a GMA340 audio panel.
The wings remain all-aluminum. Tecnam reasons wings are the part of the aircraft most likely to incur hangar rash or other damage, and metal is easier to repair than composite. Besides, wings don't require complex curves. The P2008's elliptical wing, based on the NACA63A airfoil, provides excellent lift and benign slow flight and stall characteristics, and a fuel tank in each holds 14.5 gallons.
The P2008, like all current Tecnams, has a 100 hp Rotax 912 under the cowl, which can be fed avgas or auto fuel. Left and right access panels hinged at the cowl's centerline allow quick engine inspection and servicing. The four cylinders are air-cooled and the barrelheads are liquid-cooled (with an 80/20 glycol mixture), so checking fluid reservoir levels are an important part of a preflight. A 2.43:1 reduction gear brings the fast-revving Rotax rpm to a range suitable for spinning a prop. (At 5,500 rpm on the Rotax, the GT Tonini composite prop turns at 2,265 rpm.)
Before retiring to our guest quarters in the Welcome Center that night, we discussed the familiarization and flightseeing mission we planned for the next morning. "It's very important to demonstrate the operating parameters of the aircraft," said Lubore. "Slow flight, steep turns and stalls—so pilots don't walk away not knowing they can safely perform them." And who are the typical customers for the P2008? "They're all certified [pilots]," Lubore said. "A lot of these guys are downsizing because of medical issues, but they still want to fly a 'real' airplane."
Lubore makes an ideal salesman for such customers. A former Air National Guard F-4 fighter pilot and 20-year veteran of the airlines, he seems the embodiment of a pilot who has found happiness downsizing to an LSA.
The next morning, we waited for a few wisps of ground fog to dissipate before heading to the T-hangars a quarter mile down the road, coming across a family of deer along the way. BSFA offers home sites with taxiway access, but many of the first wave of buyers prefer to keep their planes in the T-hangars and their houses up on hillsides, tucked behind trees or with commanding views of the Cumberland Plateau.
After a thorough preflight inspection, with Lubore providing more details on aircraft systems and equipment, we were ready for boarding. The P2008's wide doors, combined with the position of the stick and size of the cabin, make entry and egress easy. Let's face it, many airpark residents are of an age where they don't want to contort themselves to get into an airplane. At 48 inches wide, there's more side room in the P2008 than in a C-172, and design elements like the recessed armrests in the doors enhance both comfort and a roomy feeling. The side-by-side seats fold forward to access the ample cargo area and hat rack behind them. One of the first impressions from inside the aircraft is the excellent visibility provided by the wraparound windshield.
The Rotax utilizes a choke valve to regulate the air/fuel mixture during cold engine starts. Where you'd simply engage the starter after priming a Continental or Lycoming, with the Rotax you operate the choke, smoothly pulling back and closing the choke as the engine fires up. Okay, it took a couple of tries, but on the third attempt, the Rotax came to life. With the prop turning, auxiliary generator, electronic flight information system (EFIS), avionics and strobe light switches are turned on, each rocker switch illuminated with a small green light to indicate when it's on, a big plus for night VFR operations.
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