Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Taildragger Reborn

All-metal airframe, side-by-side seating, 65-year-old GA company: classic!

The beautiful sunlight of Sebring in late afternoon wanes into long shadows and golden hues—a photographer's favorite time of day. Kneeling/squatting/tiptoeing as I shoot my way around the Tecnam P92-TD (for "TailDragger") S-LSA, I'm reminded, in every detail, what top-quality, beautifully crafted airplanes this company makes.

Trademark Tecnam features, such as lovely metal riveting work, quality paint, and the "looks right, feels right" placement of controls, knobs and levers inside the cockpit, are part of the winning equation. Hop in for a demo, and you have the added joys of comfortable, quality upholstered seats, superb in-flight handling and error-forgiving performance.

The S-LSA industry now boasts 131 distinct models. Most—amazingly, given the economy—remain in production. Tecnam, working hard to expand its recognition factor in the U.S. market, enjoyed a market uptick for 2012 with six U.S. registrations and 12 sales. That may not sound like fist-pumping time, but it conferred a ninth-place finish for the year, and that's in terms of FAA registrations only.

I often quote registrations as compiled by Jan Fridrich, in articles and my blog. It's a conservative approach, but at this point, it's the only indisputable whole-industry view available.

Here's CEO Phil Solomon's take on the question of surveying LSA market activity: "LSA registrations are highly misleading, but with the absence of any reporting from the companies themselves, it is all that Jan (Fridrich) has to go on. We (Tecnam North America) actually delivered 12 planes and took orders for another six but...those deliveries were from inventory."

The Italian company, founded in 1948, has five ASTM-certified S-LSA models (with variants that bring the total to 10). Tecnam commands a firm hold on sixth place in the overall U.S. horse race, with 146 total registrations since 2004.

My first Tecnam pilot report years ago was on the P92 Eaglet, a training-optimized offshoot of the original P92 Echo. I still love that airplane. As an in-training sport-pilot student, it was a delight to fly, easy to land and solidly built.

Labels: LSAsPiston Singles


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