Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Searching For The Ideal Airpark Airplane
The Tecnam P2008: an LSA delivered with a big envelope
Although aimed at certified pilots, Tecnam also has its eye on the primary trainer market—one reason the P2008 has a free-castering nosewheel, which requires little maintenance. (A steerable nose gear is available as an option, while an optional angle-of-attack indicator is another bow to the training market.) For example, to taxi, using a little forward motion and tapping on the breaks gets the P2008 pointed in the desired direction. We motored up the inclined taxiway, clicked the frequency code set in the radio, and the gate to KSCX opened.
We throttled up to 1,650 rpm for the run-up. Engine gauges, in a cluster on the copilot's side of the panel, are easily visible from the left seat. After completing the rest of a standard pre-takeoff checklist, we took runway 23. Lubore advises a smooth throttle advance from idle to full open in about three seconds. We didn't rocket down the runway, but we didn't have to: The P2008 gets airborne at 48 knots, Vx is 60 knots and Vy is 68 knots. We climbed at about 750 fpm and leveled at 3,500 feet, pulling back power to 2,200 rpm as the airspeed quickly reached 108 knots indicated as we surveyed an endless sea of forest crisscrossed by deep gorges.
Tecnams have a reputation for excellent handling and flying characteristics, and the P2008 lives up to the family tradition. Although lighter than a standard certified GA aircraft, the controls are well-balanced with excellent harmony. Control surfaces are actuated by solid control rods rather than cables, adding to the aircraft's firm response feel. With a wing loading similar to a C-172, it's also a stable ride, even in stormy weather, "They get some bad turbulence on these airplanes moving them around the country," Lubore noted. "You'll find it rides in turbulence very much to what you're used to; no surprises there."
Happily, on this morning, we had clear skies and smooth air, and the sights below invited the aerial equivalent of stopping to smell the roses—while exploring the P2008's slow flight characteristics.
The Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area is the airpark's backyard, and residents can hike, fish, four-wheel and horseback ride throughout its 125,000 acres. The park also boasts numerous landmarks and points of interest, and BSFA has created aerial tour routes for those eager to take in the sights, like Cumberland Falls, said to be the site of the Western Hemisphere's only "moonbow," visible on some moonlit nights, and the New River Railroad Bridge, the highest rail span east of the Rockies. And everywhere are dramatic escarpments and rock faces.
Powering back to 1,500 rpm, we deployed the first notch of flaps at 80 knots, dumping the rest at 68 knots and trimming the pressure off the stick. At 48 knots, well below typical slow flight speeds, we still had aileron control and rudder authority, with the buffet and bleat of the stall horn coming at about 40 knots. The break was gentle, and just a hint of forward stick with only rudders for directional control, immediately got the wing flying again. Remarkably, after several stalls in this configuration, we were still at 3,500 feet.
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