|CZAW SPORTCRUISER. Choosing between this snazzy LSA and one of the other 86 currently ASTM-approved models is a daunting challenge...or is it?|
In keeping with the buyer’s guide theme, I got to thinking about the epidemic of choices modern consumers face every day. There was a time when you’d walk into a fast-food place and order a burger, fries and Coke, and if you really felt like living large, you’d get a chocolate, strawberry or vanilla milkshake.
Then some marketing genius with a shiny new MBA decided that the little burger stand was doing so well, it should offer more choices. Voilà: scalding-hot, deep-fried apple pies that led to lawsuits by people who are, apparently, unable to detect heat signals from their fingertips. When onion rings, crinkle-cut potatoes and wilted salads found their way onto the lighted overhead menu board, we found ourselves sliding down the slippery slope to Decision Shock Syndrome (DSS).
Before long, frightening choices such as Quadruple-Berry Schmoozie-Fritz Whipper Delight (with your choice of 127 different toppings) confirmed our deliverance to the ultimate consumer nightmare: We could have everything—but we had to decide. Arrgghhh!
I now avoid fast-food emporiums like the plague. For nutrition reasons? Au contraire, mon frère: It’s the stress of choosing. I can no longer stand before an impatient, uniformed fast-foodie and (hurry, hurry!) choose between 374 menu items and 43 drinks. Call it my aversion to panic attack.
Each of us has our own decision-making process. It’s amazing how much time you can spend buying a 96-pack of Schick Xtreme3 razor blades, isn’t it? But think of that $1.39 savings. Wa-how!
Alas, even the squeaky-clean, bright and new world of light-sport aviation has fallen prey to DSS. No fewer than 87 LSA models—ranging from ultralight trikes to motorgliders to composite cruisers to retooled classics—are ASTM-approved and ready to, gulp, choose from.
But hold on there, consumer-pardner: Even after you’ve set your sights on the filly of your dreams, there are more choices. Should you spring for an EFIS glass panel or steam gauges? How about an autopilot? GPS? XM Satellite Weather and Radio? Leather or vinyl interior? And which of 41 paint schemes is right?
Yikes! Is there no relief in sight? Are we doomed to rapidly tread water in a sea of ever-expanding choices, only to drown six months later in Upgrade Bay?
After cogitating mightily on this profound topic, and utterly unable to decide (of course) on a conclusion, I took the question to the experts—pilot-owners who have confronted the many-headed Hydra of LSA selection—and lived to tell the tale.
In the end, Franklin D. Roosevelt was right yet again: The only thing to fear...was fear itself.
Harvey Hood has been flying since 1971. Like so many other sport pilots, he faced the specter of losing his medical and quickly concluded a sport license would let him keep flying. But then...(drum roll)...he had to choose which LSA to buy. Oh, the humanity!
Now, Harvey had flown Cessna aircraft most of his life. “But,” he says, “I didn’t want some 40-year-old airplane. I looked at several LSA, but nothing really interested me. My brother had built a Rans RV-7 kitplane. I’d logged 30 hours in that and really liked its looks and handling. But I didn’t want to spend five years on a project at my age; I was 68. Then I saw the CZAW SportCruiser. For me, it was a case of apples to oranges: the head and shoulder room, styling and workmanship were just what I wanted.”
He took a demo flight: “That was it. I told the dealer, ‘Order me one!’”
“I’ve since logged 300 hours in under two years. I’m tickled to death with it.”
So tickled, he took a comely lass he’d just met up for a flight on their first date. “She loved it too,” he reports. They’ve since tied the knot. Could this be the first LSA love match?
“Nope. She says she’d have married me even without the SportCruiser.” Hmmm. No DSS there. Let’s try another owner.
Retired airline captain Dick Parsons has logged around 36,000 hours. His decision process was guided by two major considerations: a recent operation and his love of the Piper Cub, the first airplane he’d ever owned.
“I didn’t want to go through the medical recertification process,” he says. “And I wanted a Cub-like airplane. It was an easy choice.”
Dang, so much for my theory. And talk about a chooser’s cakewalk: There were just two LSA Cub types he considered buying. “In my estimation, the Legend Cub was more like a real Super Cub. I felt it was the most authentic to the original.”
Dick wasn’t interested in a composite LSA. “I’m not a Clorox bottle fan,” he jokes. “I had been a Super Cub owner and knew what I wanted. Legend Aircraft had just improved on it.”
He describes the “real aircraft engine” factor as important too: “I’m a traditionalist, let’s put it that way. I like a proven aircraft engine. I also like having doors on both sides, a wider cabin and the fact that the company researched and incorporated most of the ‘Alaska’ mods. Nobody can find all the weaknesses of an airplane better than an Alaska bush pilot.”
“What about the sport pilot license restrictions?” I asked.
“I probably wouldn’t fly at night anyway. I just enjoy flying. My airplane turned two years old in June 2008. I’ve put 525 hours on it. And I haven’t found one reason to trade it in for anything else.”
Still hoping to confirm rampant DSS, I talked with Fred Runde about his choice of a Flight Design CTLS.
“Our business owns four salvage yards and a Columbia 350,” says Fred. “The 350 is great for visiting one of the yards, which has a nice paved runway nearby. But the others, each with a local grass strip, are only half an hour away. It wasn’t worth dragging the Columbia out and firing it up for such a short trip.”
Grass strip? Half an hour away? This sounds like a job for an LSA.
“I started looking for a high wing, for the downward visibility. I’m always flying below 3,000 feet, scouting the ground for possible scrap contracts.”
“And what,” I asked, eyebrows twitching with anticipation, “about the dreaded task of choosing from all those high-wing LSA? Huh?”
“Well, I am kind of a compulsive guy. I checked everything out, and settled on the quality of the Flight Design CT. I felt it was just superior to everything else I saw.”
During a visit to Oshkosh 2007, he made several demo flights in a CTSW.
“I wanted that very plane, it was available, so I bought it,” he says. “When I sold it four months later, I’d put 175 hours on it! I flew it everywhere, I just fell in love with the airplane.”
The reason for the sale: to take delivery on a new CTLS, Flight Design’s major upgrade to the SW model.
“It’s got 182 hours on it in under six months. I use it like a car. Besides, when I try to drive, I get speeding tickets.”
Fred flies the CTLS “at least three times a week, and every weekend, just for fun.”
And though he checked out everything at Oshkosh 2008, “I still feel this is the best airplane for my needs. Give me a 2,500-foot ceiling and I’m good. I’ve even landed in 26 mph winds, gusting to 32, at about a 30-degree crosswind. The CTLS handled it just fine.”
Well, so much for my freak-out on the selection process.
Perhaps the lesson here is disarmingly simple: Focus on the kind of flying you want to do, then find the plane to fit it. Who knew?