Since the devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti in January, general aviation pilots have been making an increasingly positive impact in the troubled country; in some regions, GA relief flights are the only way aid is getting through. Smaller airplanes can support remote areas that can’t be accessed by larger airplanes—particularly, the outlying areas of Port-au-Prince—and can transport supplies and doctors more easily over the rugged terrain. Several volunteer groups are organizing these GA sorties, and we’ve heard from many of you who have donated your time, flying skills and airplanes.
In this issue, reader Jack Faires shares his experience flying to Haiti with Bahamas Habitat, a nonprofit organization dedicated to disaster relief. So far, the group has accomplished more than 250 relief flights, with 400 volunteers transporting over 200,000 pounds of supplies. Faires flew in a Baron E55 loaded with food, water and medical supplies from the group’s relief headquarters in Nassau, Bahamas, to Pignon, Haiti. Landing at the small grass strip with food, water and medical supplies was, for him, an unforgettable flight with an exceptionally rewarding purpose.
Plane & Pilot also traveled to Haiti to see firsthand how the GA community is making a difference. We carried supplies in a Navajo and Baron to Jacmel and Les Cayes, both in the southern part of Haiti. Our excursion into town to visit the local hospital and tent city made clear that, although the earthquake may no longer be a top news story, the need for help is still very real. Look for our report in the next issue and see a sneak preview at www.planeandpilotmag.com/travel/haiti.html.
Also in this issue is a focus on the light-sport market. LSA Editor Jim Lawrence gives us a report from the Sebring U.S. Sport Aviation Expo, including a “who’s who” look at the industry and projections for the future. All eyes were on the new PiperSport, debuted by Piper Aircraft as a rebranding of the low-wing, Czech-built SportCruiser LSA. In this month’s cover story and pilot report, Jim writes about his flight with Piper Aircraft’s chief pilot, Bart Jones.
I recently flew the SportCruiser at Santa Monica Flyers, a new LSA training center run by 21-year-old Charlie Thomson at Santa Monica Airport in Southern California. The sleek LSA sports a large bubble canopy, leather seats and a 28-foot wingspan—it’s definitely an attention-getter on the ramp. “The only difference is the sticker on the back,” says Thomson, comparing his airplane to the new PiperSport. “Piper Aircraft’s entry into the market is great news and brings even more legitimacy to the world of light sport.”
We hopped off the ground effortlessly after a takeoff roll of no more than 400 feet, pulled back on the center stick at 50 knots and rotated at 60. Climb out at 65 knots resulted in a steep pitch angle and a brisk climb rate of 1,000 fpm. We flew steep turns and stalls over the Malibu shoreline and enjoyed the seemingly limitless view. The center stick really lets you feel the plane, although pitch is a bit sensitive, a characteristic that Piper intends to tweak. The 100 hp Rotax 912 burns just 3.4 gph, and the Dynon EFIS is straightforward and easy to use. Overall, the plane is just pure fun—how flying should be. Be sure to check Jim’s blog at www.planeandpilotmag.com for his interview with Thomson and regular updates on the dynamic LSA market.