Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Paths To The Sky

So what’s it really like to go for your sport pilot ticket?

Shana Gutovich, 21 years old, works at Santa Monica Flyers and is training in the company’s SportCruiser, which she likens to “a Jaguar or upscale Audi.”

Too Small To Fly? Bah!

Young Shana Gutovich, just 21, loves the idea of flight so much, she went to work for a fledgling LSA school in California...and soon became its VP! One big perk: Her boss, Charlie Thompson of Santa Monica Flyers, is teaching her to fly. She took an intro Cessna 172 flight as a teen, but was intimidated by the size of the venerable trainer.

The 5' 2" student pilot thought, “How can I work all these instruments? And it’s huge! I can’t see out the window or over the panel.”

Then she met the SportCruiser: Love at first flight! “Oh, so much more spacious. The panel seems simpler than an older Cessna. It’s a lot less intimidating, a lot easier to learn in.”

Though she needs a seat cushion, reaching the rudder pedals and seeing over the low-profile glare shield is no problem. Flying the airplane as a petite newbie is a breeze. “It’s so intuitive and ultraresponsive to control movements. I don’t have to fight it.” She likens the sleek, low-wing LSA to “a Jaguar or upscale Audi: Tap the gas and it flies; tap the brakes and it stops.”

Scheduling flight time is the challenge: The company is so busy with students, she has to book well in advance. Her biggest in-flight challenge so far? The infamous L.A. basin air traffic and noise-abatement requirements at SMO. “It’s...kind of crazy!”

Her advice to potential students: “LSA is a great thing to check out. It’s cheaper, takes less time...and it’s so much easier to see out the window.”

“Break A Leg!”

Not every student pilot gets to test the structural strength of a new LSA, but for Glenn Kidd of Atlanta, it was a revelatory experience. As sales manager for a major aerospace company, Kidd travels a lot, so training took eight months to complete. Even so, he passed the checkride with only 32 flight hours.

Training in the German-built Fk9 Mk IV composite high-wing was so enjoyable, he bought Fk’s latest model, the Sparrow. “I wondered how safe it would be, compared to a Cessna 172. The weight of the airplane isn’t much more than me and my instructor!”

His worries were quickly put to rest once in the air. “I also flew the Flight Design CT line. Both are great airplanes, and so easy to control.”

As is true of many students, landings were his biggest challenge. “I bet it took 50 tries to land by myself! Call it a glass ceiling or mental roadblock, but the sensitivity to hand movements compared to a 172 was a challenge. In ground effect, I would pull back too much and flare early. I did lots of go-arounds.”

Once his flight instructor realized the problem, they drilled for three straight days. “Getting comfortable slowing the aircraft down to a nice soft touchdown was the key.”

Early in his training, he inadvertently tested the Fk’s structural integrity. “I stalled it from 10 feet up. It dropped straight down and broke both mains! My instructor did everything perfectly: He hit the gas, we went around and, with the wheels dangling from shredded fiberglass legs, he landed it on grass, so slow I could have run beside the airplane.”

Hansen Air Group, the Fk dealer, came right out, jacked up the airplane, replaced the gear, and off they went.


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