Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Light-Sport Chronicles: Flight Of The Navigator


Small and feisty companies like 3Xtrim challenge conventional market wisdom


Cruise speed is in the low 100-knot regime, while 75% throttle brings in 90 knots. Stall is a floaty 39 knots, and standard range is 350 nm (18.2 gal) or 450 nm with the larger 22.8-gallon capacity.

The cockpit is plenty roomy at 47.2 inches. Although the seat padding on my flight felt a trifle thin, it was customized for a 6' 5" pilot. George assured me the normal cushion is more tush-worthy.

Most notably, the Navigator is tight, solid and really fun to fly. It handles super easy, is well balanced on the controls and has excellent visibility over its low-profile, longish "puppy dawg" nose. Ground handling with the steerable nosewheel is a breeze. Toe brakes left or both sides are available. Speaking of ground ops, the sturdy, springy, laminated composite landing gear, with 5x1.5-inch main gear legs, seems equal to the task.

The vernier throttle, a love-it/hate-it carryover from GA airplanes, is a smooth operator, whether you dial in small changes or need to push/pull faster power changes.

The ASTM-approved 600 (S-LSA #86) is a composite design. "All conventional fiberglass technologies are used: S-glass, E-glass, Kevlar, carbon fiber. We have a solid foam-core wing and the cockpit area is reinforced to act as a safety roll cage."

An optional BRS airframe parachute is available. The roomy baggage area behind the seats is rated for a maximum 40 pounds. With two occupants, there's no need to calculate weight and balance for a parachute.

Let's linger for a moment on that useful load of 600 pounds. Even with full fuel, the frisky Navigator carries nearly 500 pounds (25 pounds less with larger tanks). Contrast that with at least one sales-leading LSA's useful load that's 100 pounds less, restricting, for example, flight-training operations for a full-size instructor and student to as little as one hour's fuel capacity to stay LSA-legal. That makes the Navigator's useful load significant. Two 225-pound occupants, 50 pounds of gear and full fuel meets the needs of most missions, from training to hours-long cross-country flights.
The Navigator doesn't cut safety corners to achieve that handsome ballast. Its load-factor numbers are right there with GA airplanes (+3.8 G's to -1.5 G's).

I enjoyed flying the Navigator LS600 as much as the Remos GX (designed by the late Adam Kurbiel—who also created the early Navigator), PiperSport and the Tecnam Eaglet trainer. A divergence from the Remos GX is the lack of folding wings. "We're still thinking about that," Ezzo says. "I'm not a true believer: You have to beef up the structure and make it ground-handling goof-proof. That means more weight."

Looking ahead, 3Xtrim will offer night- and IFR-capable versions for appropriately rated pilots. Little details like an oil cooler option with cockpit-controlled shutters for cold climates, custom paint schemes and the lower-priced E-LSA kit version afford pilots looking for an all-composite, fun-flying, midrange cross-country airplane at a competitive price the justification to look closer.

We'll want to pay attention to how well smaller companies like 3Xtrim manifest their market in the ever-growing LSA experiment. There are so many attractive, worthy aircraft out there, it seems likely that success will come to those outfits that offer safe, fun-flying aircraft, at a decent price, with plenty of options...and that can also properly service and support them.

See the Specs here.



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