Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, April 6, 2010

X-Air LS: Pilot’s Best Friend

Super affordable, low maintenance, doesn’t bite: Give this doggie a bone!

The X-Air LS has a 43-inch- wide cockpit equipped with standard steam-gauge instruments as well as Dynon’s EMS-D10, Icom’s AC-200 VHF and Sigtronics’ Sport 200.
The wing has slight dihedral for roll stability. There’s also wing twist, which gives the tips a lower angle of attack. The idea is to keep the tips flying after the wing root has begun to stall (stalls typically progress outward from the root). That minimizes falling off on a wing if you get a stall break—an excellent personality trait for a training airplane.

Pitch is reasonably sensitive but not twitchy. I toured the South Florida landscape, dodging cloud shadows, with a thumb and one or two fingers on the stick. At modest cruise settings, around 2,800 rpm, I saw 90 mph, but Verdieck expects higher numbers with the right prop.

Standing on a wing while orbiting around an orange grove was a pinwheel experience. I easily could hold a ground point right below the tip—or above, by looking through the overhead windows. Comfortable, sufficiently nimble, with plenty of force feedback: everything you want in a trainer or fun-flying pup.

Rudder input initially is light, but once you roll into a turn, the pedal stiffens up a bit, matching speed and stick forces nicely. Roll rates are reasonable, if not breathtaking. I did reversals left to right and back, then a few Dutch rolls, and though I lacked precision, I could sense it wouldn’t take long to master the air work. The X-Air LS is solid, predictable and fun to fly.

Approach and departure stalls share one characteristic: They’re uneventful. You have to work to get the wing to break. As with most LSA, simply relax the stick, and it happily recovers. My arm got tired holding the stick all the way aft, trying to get a departure-stall break. It hung on the prop at a nose-high angle; I kept wings level with a little rudder dancing, and the airplane gave plenty of warning buffet. It did tend to wander around a bit in yaw at the stall...but I consider that just another warning indicator. Indeed, you’d have to be truly panicked to hard-stall this doggie.

Landings are a cinch, but remember that (like all LSA) the X-Air is lightweight. Since it’s a slower cruiser, don’t put in flaps early in GA airport environments, or you’ll have Wichita tin running up your backside.

After turning base, I notched in 10 degrees of flaps at around 65 mph, then went to full idle, put in 20 degrees of flaps and pitched back to 55 mph. With the strong crosswind and very short LSA strip (X-Air’s landing roll is only 230 feet), we crossed the threshold at 50 mph and a few feet up. I pulled back a might too firmly on flare, and it quit flying all at once, dropping less smoothly onto the mains than I had expected.

“Heavier airplane pilots,” said Verdieck afterward, “are used to more inertia to work with during flare. It’s light, so it runs out of energy pretty quickly.”

As Avemco Insurance and LSA manufacturers have counseled, proper transition time is prudent. The majority of LSA incidents involve older pilots with little time in light aircraft.

Adding Up The Bennies
The X-Air LS is an honest and well-built little fellow with docile handling and excellent short-field potential (takeoff roll is 265 feet). It also is an airplane that teaches good rudder habits. Earn your license in one for around $3,500; rent it for $65 wet and play around at 2,500 rpm all day at 2.5 gph. You’ll be hard-pressed to beat its economy and friendly-puppy personality.

Labels: LSAs

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