As any Tiger owner or pilot will tell you, the best thing about the plane is the way it flies. Numbers don’t even begin to tell the full story, but the airplane jumps off in less than 1,000 feet of runway and starts uphill at an easy 800 fpm from sea level. That’s all the more impressive considering that the Tiger employs a fairly small wing in contrast to airplanes such as the Skyhawk S or Piper Archer. Visibility is excellent for a low wing, with a windshield that folds back practically to the pilot’s line of sight and side windows cut well up into the roof.
Level off at 8,500 feet less than 15 minutes after liftoff, and you’re liable to see cruise speeds on the order of 140 knots or more. That’s easily equivalent to a whole raft of 200 hp retractables from the ’70s and ’80s. Tiger Aircraft lists the AG-5B’s max cruise at 143 knots at midcruise weight and 8,500 feet. In other words, if you depart with a max gross weight of 2,400 pounds, you might reasonably expect to see speeds near 140 knots after two to three hours of cruising. Max fuel is 51 gallons, and at a burn of around 10.5 gph, you could plan for four hours plus reserve, worth more than 500 nm between fuel stops.
While that’s better than anything in its class (except perhaps the Cirrus SR-20), the Tiger’s greatest delight isn’t how fast or how far it travels but simply how it travels. Among normal category airplanes, it’s hard to imagine anything that’s as much fun to drive through the sky as a Tiger. Well, perhaps a Bellanca Viking if you could talk the folks in Minnesota into building you one. Roll rate is quicker than anything in the class, and pitch response is well harmonized. The airplane goes where you point it with a little rudder coordination, suggesting that adverse yaw is at a minimum. You can even do your tricks with the sliding canopy back a few inches if you can stand the noise.
If you wonder whether anyone ever considered certifying the airplane for limited acro, the answer is yes. The late Roy Lopresti was almost single-handedly responsible for the Tiger design, and Roy once told me that Grumman flew an aerobatic version but elected not to pursue the project when they decided to shut down the piston line in 1979 to concentrate on business jets.
Stalls aren’t totally benign in the Tiger, but there’s nothing nasty hidden in the closet. If the ball is anywhere near centered, the airplane will break straight ahead, and a slight release of back pressure will restore lift to the wing.
For that reason, landings are hardly a challenge with the flexible gear legs, provided you don’t touch down nosewheel first. Pilots new to the older Tigers sometimes land too flat, and that can start a porpoise that could eventually take out the nosewheel and prop. Full-flap slips are perfectly acceptable without risk of blanking the tail, though the small, electric flaps themselves aren’t that effective, reducing stall by only three knots.
The Garmin G1000 adds a new dimension to Tiger flying, though it costs an extra $35,000. The good news is that now, you can enjoy the best of both worlds—performance and handling that have always been better than anything else in the class, plus a level of avionics sophistication appropriate to the 21st century. SPECS: Tiger Aircraft AG-5B Tiger
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