REAL-WORLD LSA. James Lawrence samples pilots around the country who are regularly flying and loving their light-sport aircraft, such as this Legend Cub.
To help with my recent write-up on what's great about owning and flying LSA, I had the pleasure to jaw with several owners, from teachers to pleasure flyers. As always, my page tank ran out long before my enthusiasm to share their stories. Consider this, then, a "gag reel," similar to the end credits of movies, where outtakes of actor's screwups pop up as the credits scroll down.
Shirley Wozniak is a veteran pilot who does her LSA flying in a Remos GX out of Stewart, Fla. She has taught in Tecnam aircraft, including the Eaglet, and has flown the Gobosh, Zodiac, PiperSport and other models, and has a better feel than most for the category.
"I've put around 250 hours on my GX, and I can't find a flaw: There's not a dimple in the skin, not a run in the paint. The aerodynamics are unbelievable. I teach in it, crosswinds are no problem, and it's so stable. There's no wing flapping, no noise, and I take it everywhere on my own trips, too."
Wozniak has the full-boat, avionics-loaded Aviator II model, and uses it for instrument training. "I don't actually fly IFR myself, just teach it. This airplane's got it all. It's so much cheaper to learn IFR in for the Private Pilot, and much less expensive to operate, too."
She owned a Remos G3 previously, but, she says, "I didn't like it as much. The GX reminds me of a mini Cirrus SR22; the way it looks and flies, I just love it."
Wozniak didn't teach professionally until age 58. "I learned to fly in a J3 Cub at 15, then a Cessna 172, a Bonanza, then got my CFII. I also fly Robertson R22 and R44 helicopters. The GX is so easy to fly; I have a primary student in his 60s, and a commercial pilot who took very little time to transition...and he's 86! LSA are opening up lots of adventure to older pilots who haven't flown in 10 years."
Lou Mancuso carries on the aviation tradition begun by his father in the mid-1940s with Mid Island Air Service of Long Island, N.Y. His son Mike is a celebrated air-show pilot. Mancuso is a 7,000-hour CFI who really groks the whole LSA thing.
His school uses LSA and GA aircraft. He has a SportCruiser, Remos GX and Cessna Skycatcher in his fleet, and several Cessna and Piper aircraft, so he gets day-to-day "schoolin'" in their relative merits.
A big boost to training is the Gleim Simulator, a three-screen, personal computer-based flight sim with LSA-specific modules that allows students to go through most lessons without a CFI needing to be present—a real cost cutter because CFI ground time costs money, too.
"The Gleim hasn't really caught on yet. Once people see what it can do, it will help revitalize aviation, too," Mancuso says. "It costs only $5,000; that's a pretty minimal acquisition cost compared to other simulators that start at $80,000, and also require a $10,000 service contract! And it's magnificent. I use it for shooting instrument approaches, too."
Mancuso's students range from "very young to very old," and he aims all his first-timers toward the sport-pilot license. "We have a lot less dropouts that way."
He's also developed a landing technique that works really well with his light, responsive, fast-climbing LSA. "I have students fly low, just above the ground, halfway down the runway to get comfortable," Mancuso says. "One student with 80 hours and still no checkride couldn't get his landings right, and was very frustrated. He was mushing, very slow, at 15 feet. He was trying to parachute the plane down like a feather.
"I had him fly the runway in landing configuration, full flaps, just three feet up," Mancuso explains. He learned how to use the rudder and power to keep us there and not let the nose get so high. In an hour and a half, he was beaming and happy. It was like a light went off in his head!
"That kind of teaching is great in a light-sport, but not so much in a GA plane," Mancuso continues. "You can't go nearly as far down the runway before the go-around, because climb performance is weaker. With an LSA, you often have 1,000 fpm, so you can fly 2,000 feet down a 4,000-feet runway, and still have plenty of room for a safe go-around."
I got a taste of this technique a couple years back when Randy Schlitter had me take off and land four times in one pass in his new, all-metal S-19 low winger. It was a real eye-opener for me: so easy, felt safe and lots of fun, too. LSA may give some things away in strong turbulence and windy conditions, but for near-ultralight, low/slow fun flying, they're hard to beat.
Charlie Davis of Virginia flies a Legend Cub and loves it. How much? He painted a Cub lightning strip on the sides of his yellow Ford Focus! "It's a lot of fun to fly. That's the biggest point for me, especially in warm weather. I can open the doors and windows on both sides. It's well constructed, I've put 365 hours on it in five years for mostly local flying," Davis says.
"I have an A&P license and do all my own work, and can sign off my annual, too," Davis added. Any LSA owner can take a certification course to do the same. "I like LSA, I think it's a great idea. I'm 73 now. I've never failed the FAA medical, but I use my sport-pilot driver's license."
Scott Trumbull of Suburban Aviation in Toledo, Ohio, teaches on a Cessna 206, C-172, and C-162 Skycatcher LSA. His students are either recent high-school or college grads or "wealthy older people."
He recently took the Skycatcher on a demo tour of Michigan. "Lots of people walked up and said, 'What's that? That's cute!' They had a preplanted idea of what an LSA would be like, and it was nothing too positive," Trumbull recalls. Once they jumped in the plane, they had big smiles from ear to ear. I think it's the name 'light-sport' that brings skepticism. Once they fly one, they fall in love with it."
You can check out Trumbull's website of testimonials here: www.iflewtheskycatcher.com
Light-sport flying is winning people over, one flight at a time. Fly safe!