Although using feminine pronouns to talk about objects has been politically incorrect for decades, the Allegro LSA can, and will, act every bit the classic scorned woman if you don't treat her—I mean it—right. Act the ham-handed, cement-footed doofus at the controls, and you're sleeping on the couch tonight, brother!
That singular personality, posits my 11,000-hour Allegro CFI Ross Kennedy, makes the Allegro an ideal trainer. "I teach students to treat this airplane like a lady," he says. "If you argue with her, she'll argue back. Pilots should treat her nice and gentle." So, if I acted a bit of the Blind Date From Hell during my initial turn at the Allegro's controls, I can be forgiven: The airplane, though wonderfully light, balanced and responsive, readily exhibits what Kennedy describes as "textbook adverse yaw."
That yaw was clearly evident when I racked the left wing down with my dancing feet firmly planted on the floor. The nose swung sharply right a good 15 degrees before yawing back into alignment with the turn. This "adversity" seemed even stronger than in the J3 Cub I fly. Welcome back to Studentville.
The lesson: We're always beginners in a new airplane. Each new model deserves our heightened attention and respect. Insurance stats suggest that high-time pilots who boorishly assume they can whirl a new LSA around the skies without transition time sometimes get their faces slapped—hard.
The Voyager model of the Allegro comes equipped with an MGL Voyager EFIS, Garmin radio and transponder; the Executive model features two Dynon SkyView synthetic vision panels plus a Garmin G500.
"This is a rudder-dominant airplane," said Kennedy. "It has a light feel to it, though. You just think the direction you want to go." Indeed, once I lightened up on the controls to treat the lady properly, I could only nod in agreement: Allegro smiled as we waltzed smoothly through clear Florida skies.
The aircraft has a comfortable cockpit, too: The seat supports well under one's thigh for a slightly reclined attitude. Visibility is excellent: Eye level rests three to four inches under the wing bottom for my 5'11" height. The side windows belly out a bit for a good downward-viewing angle. And the tinted windscreen rises back for a straight-up/high-bank angle view through the top. Cool.
But comfortable as it may be, don't yank this dancer around. After a few mild Dutch rolls, I hurried into another bank, and Kennedy instructed me to feed in more rudder. "Just relax...relax...let the Force flow through you," he joked. "You've just discovered my teaching technique. Gentle handling does it. I fly it a lot with my pinky finger." Because Allegro demands good rudder technique, Ross finds his students jump into other birds and fly them well, though they don't take longer to complete the sport pilot course.
Max Performance, Mini Power
We pulled some stalls. A clear buffet warns you (if the rocket-ship-high deck angle hasn't already woken you up). Fairly sharp nose and wingtip drop is possible if you're not light and quick on the very effective rudder, but recovery is always nominal and needs little more than relaxing the stick and/or feeding in power.
By way of demonstrating his confidence in the Allegro (he's got 2,000 hours in type), Kennedy showed me a spin entry and recovery-training technique. Level at 3,500 feet, we cleared the area, then, "Next stop, 3,100 feet," he cried. He kicked rudder hard over at the stall, the nose and wing fell through the horizon, and I watched the ground whirl around beyond the windscreen. Yippee! Kennedy easily recovered after one turn, and I checked the altimeter: 3,100 feet. Mr. Kennedy is a man of his word!
Logging some numbers, I was surprised to hear our power came from the Rotax 912 80 hp engine. Doug Hempstead, Allegro's head honcho, told me later, "We get the same performance with 80 hp as other planes do with 100." Case in point: For my flight demo, our combined weight was about 400 pounds. Yet even with the full 17 gallons in the fuselage tank, and 55 pounds of cargo in the back, Kennedy could proudly crow, "We've still got about 140 pounds left!" Many, many S-LSA would love to own these generous weight values: 622 pounds empty, 692 pounds total payload.
I saw 1000+ fpm rates routinely...and even clocked over 900 fpm at 81 mph, well above the best climb speed of 70. We cruised around at 125 mph at just-below-max power settings. Top-level speed at continuous power (for the 100 hp Rotax) is 136 mph or 120 knots, the legal max for LSA.
Another bonus of such refined low-drag performance is, of course, fuel economy: With a full tank, Allegro can fly close to five hours with reserve. With 10 more gallons from (optional) wing tanks, that's beyond pit-stop time for most of us.
Affordable...And American Made
Hempstead, along with wife Betty, has endured an arduous process securing the ownership of the Allegro design from Czech Republic's Fantasy Air, which has more than 450 flying worldwide since 1994. Now, the airplane is entirely built in the U.S.
One of the very first LSA to earn ASTM approval, the Allegro has been somewhat dormant on the scene as Hempstead worked to bring its production to the States, in North Carolina. Even the all-Kevlar composite fuselage will be produced by the same company that subcontracts for other aircraft companies, including the popular SeaRey amphib.
Floats, both composite and inflatable (Full Lotus), are available. Enhancements, such as rudder gap seals and fuselage laminar-flow refinement, will be worked into the all-American production airplanes, set to roll off the line about the time you read this. An optional composite version of the efficient double-tapered wing (varies in planform and thickness) is in the offing, and will boost the already impressive 12:1 power-off glide to 14:1. Other tweaks include moving the throttle two inches closer (I found it a bit of a reach), and converting shoulder straps to an inertial reel setup.
Before we finish up, let's consider a primary appeal of the Allegro LSA: its highly competitive price. Three S-LSA models are offered: Classic Trainer at $89,000 (also configurable as an IFR trainer); Voyager at $94,000 (adds things like an MGL Voyager EFIS, a Garmin radio, a transponder and vertical card compass); and Executive at $99,000 (adds two Dynon SkyView Synthetic Vision panels and a Garmin GPS 500). You'll be hard-pressed to find any leading S-LSA today, let alone one with Allegro's proven production, flight record and composite construction at that price point.
I quickly grew to like the Allegro. It doesn't hurt to fly with someone like Ross Kennedy: He showed all the dance steps, including an excellent simulated engine-out performance that came within 50 feet of touchdown on a dirt road. We had been in a strong slip. Even with full flaps (48 degrees, usually used for STOL ops), I found lively S-turns were still easy. Then, rounding out on short final, Kennedy ordered, "Let's do a go-around—but ‘forget' to retract the flaps." I gave it full power, pitched to 70 mph, and we were instantly climbing—with that barn door down, mind you—at an initial rate of 300 fpm. Within seconds, I saw 600, with flaps still down. Wow! I hit the electric flap toggle to retract. The airplane accelerated right through without that sinking feeling, and with very little pitch required to maintain climb speed. No wonder Kennedy loves teaching in this classroom.
By the end of my waltz with Allegro, I was ready for a second date—because this lady will make an honest person out of any pilot.
|Top LSA show how well composite technology can be brought into play
Composite technology has revolutionized aircraft design. Just take a look at the top 10 best-selling LSA in America: Eight are significantly or completely built with some form of fiberglass/foam sandwich construction. Cutting-edge aircraft designs use the method to bring multiple benefits over traditional sheet aluminum or frame/fabric construction methods: lighter weight; greater strength; simpler, more cost-effective prototype building; lower labor costs and the ability to make aerodynamically fluid and aesthetically graceful configurations. More recently, exotic Kevlar and carbon-fiber materials have dramatically added even more strength and reduced weight.
Composites are made in a variety of ways. One traditional approach is to “lay up” fiberglass cloth in a rigid mold, such as in the shape of one-half of a fuselage. The cloth is “wetted” with epoxy resin, shaped foam is put in place, then more cloth and resin are applied. The entire composite part is vacuum molded to squeeze out excess resin—and weight—then cured in a low-temperature oven. The end result is a glass-smooth, shapely, super-strong part that brings strength to the airframe at lower weight and with often stunning design and performance possibilities.
Flight Design CTLS: Flight Design’s CT line is the top-selling design in America. Their CTLS flagship makes use of carbon fiber and aramid in more than 90% of its construction, allowing significant weight gains without sacrificing strength and safety. Flight Design recently added all-composite amphibious (retractable-wheeled) floats to its list of CTLS options. The Clamar-designed construction not only brings much-desired water utility, but also provides a strong foundation for land-based operations.
Tecnam P2008: The luxurious Tecnam P2008 demonstrates how composites greatly enhance aesthetic beauty. The flowing lines of the fuselage derive a great deal of aesthetic perfection from the method, while the wing is traditionally built with aluminum, affording easier, cheaper repairs.
TL-2000 Sting S4: TL-2000 Sting S4 is the latest version of an all-composite design numbering more than 650 flying since 2000. The roomy bubble-canopied sportster makes excellent use of carbon fiber/foam/fiberglass construction to create a monocoque-style, ergonomically advanced, comfortable airplane.
SeaRey: Composites figure prominently in float and amphibious hull design as well. SeaRey’s lower fuselage hull, foredeck, turtledeck, wingtips and fin fairing are of foam/fiberglass construction, while traditional fabric-covered framework and sheet metal also are employed elsewhere, optimizing the advantages of each.