Most of us who came to LSAs from the fully certified Part 23 side of the industry were initially a little skeptical as to whether the new class of aircraft was “real.” Would LSAs be as flimsy and primitive as some of the early ultralights?
Fortunately, that hasn’t turned out to be the case. Though LSAs must live with a number of limitations on configuration, weight and performance, they’ve turned out to be anything but Mickey Mouse. They are, in fact, very real, capable of matching or exceeding the comfort and performance of many early two- seat, certified, Part 23 aircraft.
Of course, one of the primary targets for LSAs of all descriptions is flight training. Since the demise of the 152, the trainer market has been constrained. Diamond offered the Katana and, later, the DA20, but other than that, there were essentially no inexpensive airplanes available. The Piper Warrior and Cessna Skyhawk, with four seats and at least 160 hp, were often too much airplane for the job.
Enter the LSAs. The Kappa KP-5, an all-metal airplane constructed by Jihlavan Airplanes of the Czech Republic, is distributed in the States by Kappa Aircraft of Pocono Pines, Pa. Technically, the current KP-5 is an improved model from the original, featuring thicker wing skins, a widened fuselage and a narrower center console, for improved leg room.
Like so many other aircraft in the LSA class, the KP-5 uses the economical Rotax 912ULS engine, a powerplant almost ideally suited for use in homebuilt and other lightweight aircraft. In addition to delivering 100 hp for five minutes, then 95 hp continuously, the popular Rotax sports a 1,500-hour TBO. Better still, the 912ULS weighs only 141 pounds, an especially important consideration when installed in an airplane that can’t legally weigh more than 1,320 pounds.
The Rotax translates power to thrust via a fixed-pitch, 68-inch, Woodcomp, three-blade prop, not surprisingly, a combination wood/composite design. A spinner is standard on the Kappa.
The KP-5 is fairly conventional in design and is all-aluminum in construction. It incorporates a GA(W)-1 airfoil at the roots, tapering to a -2 at the tips. The wing incorporates small winglets at the tips to help control stalls and also features electric Fowler flaps to reduce stall speed. Apparently, the combination works fairly well, as the KP-5 stops flying at an insignificant 33 knots.
Landing gear is tricycle-style with a steerable nosegear and trailing link dampening to smooth the landings. Standard fuel load is 17 gallons, located in 8.5-gallon leading-edge tanks in each wing. Gross weight is 1,278 pounds, and if you need to maximize payload, you’ll probably live with the standard tanks.
Many pilots opt for the eight-gallon aux tanks to boost total capacity to 25 gallons. At a burn rate of 5.3 gph, the big tanks provide an endurance of about 3.5 hours plus reserve at max cruise. Pulled back to 55%, you can add an hour to that time, but neither of those time spans is a limitation in training mode.
The canopy hinges at the front, revealing a nicely furnished cabin by AirTex, a Pennsylvania company. The cockpit is generous in dimension, a full 47.2 inches across, and that qualifies it as a true general aviation wide body, not all that common in an LSA. Kappa employs a clever trick that’s been used before to provide more cross-sectional room. The two pilot seats are staggered, with the right bucket mounted six inches aft of the left, just enough to displace the pilot and copilot’s elbows and shoulders. Stick and rudder pedals on the right side are displaced appropriately.
Engine start and taxi are conventional for an LSA, but proper stick position is important to keep the airplane stable in any significant crosswind. The good news about nosewheels is that they’re far easier to manage on the ground than tailwheels. Taxiing the Kappa is relatively easy with the nosegear providing 15 degrees of deflection to each side. Braking is via a centrally mounted handbrake. The airplane’s light weight is apparent during ground operations, an advantage in this case.
Unleash the Rotax, and the KP-5 accelerates better than you might expect. It leaps off in less than 500 feet with little effort and outclimbs your expectations. With two aboard and full fuel, expect better than 1,000 fpm. The Rotax is rated for 100 hp (5,800 engine rpm) for the first five minutes, then must be reduced to 95 hp (5,500 rpm) for max continuous climb.
On the way uphill, you can’t help but notice the excellent visibility through the semi-bubble canopy. The view to the rear is slightly blocked by the aft turtledeck, so you may not spot the airplane that’s about to eat you, but at least you can take consolation that’s it’s probably not another LSA.
That’s because the KP-5 is modestly quick, near the upper speed limit set by the FAA. Establish power at 5,000 rpm (75% power) under optimum conditions, and you’ll see roughly 115 knots. Speed isn’t necessarily the only reason you’d buy an LSA, but the Kappa offers more than enough for less than too much.
If you use max cruise power, you can expect to range out just under 400 nm before you’ll need a refueling stop. For those strange people who like to fly slow, range may be extended by as much as 100 nm.
You could probably even plant a Kappa off airport if necessary. Those big Fowler flaps droop to 35 degrees and cover almost a third of the inboard trailing edge. The result is approaches at 45 knots (still 1.35 Vso) without that verge-of-destruction feeling. The gear absorbs impacts well, and even a student should be able to stop the KP-5 in well under 600 feet, if necessary.
The airplane is ideally suited as a relatively inexpensive trainer or as a cross-country cruiser, and that’s likely how many of the type will be used. The stall is benign, control response won’t get ahead of a typical student and operating costs are about as minimal as they get.
Base price for a bare-bones KP-5 is $105,000. Add a basic day/VFR package (Garmin SL-40 com, panel-mounted 396 GPS and a 320 transponder), and you’re up to $115,000. The top option includes an autopilot and a full glass panel with EFIS and EMS (the Cross-Country Edition) for $137,000.
Somehow, I can’t help thinking most of these LSAs will be sold in basic airplane configuration or day/VFR at most, no ups, no extras. The training mission doesn’t demand all the extras, and students will probably enjoy the Kappa KP-5 most when its equipped least.
SPECS: Kappa KP-5