Tuesday, April 6, 2010
X-Air LS: Pilot’s Best Friend
Super affordable, low maintenance, doesn’t bite: Give this doggie a bone!
Climbing into the efficient, neatly organized cockpit evokes bare-bones flying machines, but the nicely finished interior serves up everything needed for the recreational or student flyer. The seat comfortably fits your shape. Dual sticks and throttle support the training mission. Toe brakes (right side is an option) and rudder-pedal-to-nosewheel linkage make for easy ground handling.
The standard steam-gauge panel should bring right-at-home smiles to GA pilots. Stock instruments (analog airspeed, VSI, turn- and-bank and altimeter) are abetted by a Dynon EMS-D10 digital engine monitor, an Icom IC-A200 VHF, an ELT and a Sigtronics Sport 200 intercom. Options include three Garmin GPS models and a GTX 327 transponder.
X-Air has a roomy and airy feel, thanks to overhead “greenhouse” window panes. Outside visibility is excellent, especially out the top in a high-bank turn, which is helpful for spotting traffic and when working the pattern.
Operating the 85 hp, air-cooled, four-can/four-stroke (horizontally opposed) Jabiru 2200 is a snap. No mixture, just choke it if cold and turn the key.
Ground roll is short, well under 300 feet after notching in—with the overhead flap handle—a 10-degree takeoff setting. You need either slight nose-up trim or a little tug on the stick to lift the nosewheel and get moving skyward. Rotation comes in at around 45 mph (39 knots, but these folks use mph, so I will too).
Climbing out at bumpy Sebring proved no more challenging than in the other LSA I flew there. It handles like any three-axis airplane, with good response and solid feedback. And you don’t need to ride rudder hard on takeoff—a light right foot keeps it honest. Up we climbed, indicating around 650 fpm. Verdieck said the VSI was calibrated 100 fpm low, so initial climb with full fuel (15 gallons) and around 400 pounds of pilotage likely was more than 750 fpm (book is 825). What a frisky pup!
Corrections for turbulence were nominal, within the realm of S-LSA flight as I’ve experienced it—not a ping-pong ball ride at all. The X-Air isn’t a rudder airplane like a Cub, but it does like you to lead with your foot a bit into turns. Establish bank, center up—then it lopes around the circle steady as you please. Roll forces are firm but not stiff or “trucky.”
Flaps up and pitching for 60 mph gave a good rate of climb. Closer to 50 mph, especially in a strong wind, brings dramatic nose-up deck angles familiar to all ’80s ultralight pilots worth their bellbottoms and ponytails.
The best climb rate I saw was 750 to 800 fpm. And that, said Verdieck, was with a mis-pitched prop that left about 150 to 200 rpm on the table. A new prop is in the works.
Even though I didn’t climb at best-rate speed (59 mph), we reached 1,000 feet from takeoff in 90 seconds. That’s an average of nearly 700 fpm. I’ll take that any day.
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