Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Light-Sport Chronicles: Your First LSA
Among 110 models, what led these pilots to buy these birds?
Florida’s many destinations call Charles and his wife to make frequent flights to B&Bs and little hotels. They make breakfast and lunch hops and enjoy the scenery. He also has made a 26-hour round-tripper to Oshkosh. “My partner and I each pay $750 per month, about the same as leasing a BMW 7 series, and certainly more fun. Using auto gas exclusively, we get 15 to 18 miles per gallon at 110 knots.”
When the woman you’re about to marry orders a blown-glass replica of your LSA as a wedding cake topper, you could say you’re hooked: on the woman and on the airplane. In Tony Mansfield’s case, buying the very first X-Air LS was a natural progression after two years of flying Quicksilvers and other ultralights. The 56-year-old began his training and went LSA shopping right away.
“The low cost ($59,995) was a big factor. Another was reliability; I knew the X-Air had a long, successful history as a kit.” The high wing also was important. “The cockpit has excellent visibility. I really like how the windscreen wraps around the panel so I can look down at the runway on approach.” He so liked the X-Air, he bought it while still training at French Valley Airport in Southern California.
The verdict? “I’m thrilled with the plane; so is the lady I’m marrying. We’ll fly 30 miles for breakfast—fun trips like that.” Tony has taken longer flights, too, cruising at 6,000 feet or higher above the SoCal landscape. “It’s good down low, too, weaving through valleys. I’m working on my light-sport instructor ticket. I plan to teach in the X-Air: It’s an excellent trainer.”
He wanted to fly since he was a kid. When his eyesight ruled out the military, Mark Parsons hooked rides with stunt pilots. Funny thing was, he was shy about handling the controls himself...until his 91-year-old father, a World War II C-47 navigator, took him to Oshkosh AirVenture three years ago. “I saw all the planes and decided,” says Mark, 46, “that I was ready for my midlife crisis!”
His path to ownership was decidedly unconventional. “I thought, ‘Will anyone insure an untrained pilot in a new LSA that’s also a taildragger?’ But when Falcon Insurance came through, I said, ‘Great!’ and bought a Legend Cub. My instructor flew me to the factory, and that’s what I learned to fly in.”
Why the Cub? “I wanted a classic taildragger—a sports car, not a Chevy! The Legend is the perfect aircraft for somebody who wants to enjoy flying. I like to open the windows on both sides and fly 500 feet off the ground.” And here’s something you don’t hear every day: “I love crosswinds. On windy days, I’ll shoot 10 or 15 landings for practice. Tailwheels are easy to land in wind. Once you’re on the ground—that’s when the fun begins!”
Patent attorney and private pilot Mike Wise, 43, flew rental Cessna 172s for years, then dropped flying for 12 years. “I ended my hiatus with some lessons, then went for an airplane. I wanted a new two seater, and LSA fit the bill.” He liked the SportCruiser, but legal and financial problems with the Czech company (before Piper took over) turned him off. “Then I saw the Sting S3. The fit and finish were particularly good. The cockpit is the best-looking I’ve seen. I liked the parachute and composite construction—no rivets— and lighter weight for a little more speed.”
Half his Sting hours have been with his wife. “She really enjoys it. I take her to her work in Long Island once in a while. It’s a great savings: a 35-minute flight versus two-plus hours of a grueling drive. So I’m really using the airplane to do something, too.”
Mike also raves about the support from SportairUSA’s Little Rock, Ark., headquarters. “And I love the airplane. I would buy it again with absolutely no hesitation. More people should know what a great airplane the S3 is.” Considering his first flight was an 8.5-hour leg, that’s high praise indeed.
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