It seems the Czech Republic is one of the world’s centers for LSA manufacturing these days. A multitude of light-sport aircraft are being built in the former Czechoslovakia and sold all over the world.
In fact, the United States came late to the party, specifically 2005. LSAs and ultralights have been all the rage in Europe for some time. The cost of flying has only recently increased dramatically here in the States, but fuel, airways and communication charges, landing fees and a multitude of other taxes have been a way of life in Europe for decades.
The TL-Ultralight Company of Hradec Králové, near Prague, has been producing a variety of gliders and light aircraft since 1990. TL began its product line selling the popular, high-wing Typhoon and Condor. The current stable at TL includes those airplanes plus the Star and the Sting, powered by various versions of the popular Rotax engine.
The Sting Sport is the most upscale model in TL’s lineup. It may be fitted with Rotax engines ranging from 80 to 115 hp, and in Australia, it has even been mounted on retractable gear and flown behind a constant-speed prop. (By FAA mandate, neither of these options is available in American LSAs.)
By now, most pilots are aware that a well-executed LSA can be a full-fledged airplane, even if it’s limited in gross weight, performance and configuration. In case you had any doubts, the Sting Sport is exactly that: a “real” airplane that’s easily competitive with many early, normal-category, two-seat machines from the ’40s and ’50s. LSAs are limited to 120 knots and 1,320 pounds gross, plus they can be operated only with fixed-pitch props (in flight) and fixed gear.
LSAs come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and the Sting Sport may be one of the more interesting of the bunch. It’s essentially an all-carbon-fiber design, intended to keep empty weight to a minimum. That’s especially important on an airplane limited to a max gross of 1,320 pounds.
TL-Ultralight has set the max takeoff weight on the Sting at the 1,320-pound limit, and the company suggests that a typically equipped empty weight is about 780 pounds, so max useful load works out to 540 pounds. Subtract 108 pounds of fuel, and you’re left with a cabin allowance still in excess of 400 pounds. With only two seats in place, that means you can carry two full-sized folks plus minimal baggage. Long-range fuel is 32 gallons, a popular option, and remaining payload with the long-range tanks is still 360 pounds.
The Sting Sport’s 121-square-foot wing is slightly forward-swept and features split flaps, and the empennage mounts a conventional horizontal stabilizer rather than an all-flying stabilator like that of the Star.
The cabin is 44 inches wide, the same dimension as a Cessna 210. Entry is by way of a fold-up canopy, hinged at the front, that allows easy access to either seat. Toe brakes are standard, and the nosewheel is steerable rather than full-castering. Rudder pedals are adjustable to accommodate pilots as tall as six feet, three inches. The Sting Sport utilizes a stick for roll and pitch control.
Standard engine on the Sting Sport is the 100 hp Rotax 912. Many pilots and schools appreciate the 100 hp Rotax for the improved climb. Engine TBO on either mill is a reasonable 1,500 hours. Flight schools that log 10 to 15 hours a week in training mode will have two to three years before having to worry about an engine overhaul. The prop is a composite, three-blade Woodcomp that’s ground adjustable for climb or cruise.
The Sting Sport’s numbers are fairly impressive for an airplane in this class. You rotate at about 40 knots and climb out at 75 knots. Expect between 700 and 800 fpm from sea level. Optimum cruise height is around 8,000 feet, but the very nature of an LSA is that it’s a comfortable airplane to fly at low level where you can smell the roses—and the cows.
Max cruise speed is listed as 115 knots (132 mph), well under the 120-knot limit, at least on paper. If you blocked the airplane at 110 knots, you could plan on five-hour cross-country flights with plenty of reserve. That’s 550 miles between pit stops, Albuquerque to Los Angeles or Chicago to Atlanta.
In-flight visibility is excellent with the semi-bubble canopy offering a nearly 360-degree horizontal view. The Rotax is reasonably quiet at takeoff or cruise, which is probably academic considering that most pilots wear noise-attenuating headsets anyway.
Flaps are manual via Johnson bar between the seats with three positions. The full 35-degree setting reduces stall speed to 39 knots. TL-Ultralight recommends approaches at 66 knots, about the same as best climb speed, but we’d bet that a short-field effort would work just fine at 50 knots. That’s still about 1.3 Vso. The coil-spring nosegear helps guard against planting the airplane on its front wheel. Such low stall and approach speeds mean the airplane can use abbreviated runways, as short as 1,000 feet with unobstructed approaches.
The Sting Sport also offers the option of keeping the airplane at home if it’s too expensive or inconvenient to rent a hangar or tiedown at the local airport. Two people can remove the wings in about 15 minutes, so the airplane can be trailered to your garage or backyard.
Base price is $99,350, which includes a BRS parachute. You can opt for a variety of avionics. One of the most popular is a Garmin 496 GPS installed with an AirGizmos mount. Combine that with a 330 transponder, and you have the potential for traffic (TIS), TAWS, XM Weather, battery backup and automatic frequency transfer to a Garmin SL-30 navcom. Another popular option is airbags on the seat belts.
At last count, there were something like 57 models certified as LSAs under U.S. regulations. New ones are being added so fast, that figure may be outdated by the time you read this. The good news is that the Czech Sting Sport may be in the top tier.
SPECS: Sting Sport TL-2000