Archive for December, 2009

Levitating LSA

Monday, December 28th, 2009

Today’s entry is from guest blogger Alyssa J. Miller, an instrument-rated private pilot currently working on the commercial rating. Alyssa is an editor for AOPA’s electronic publications.–Jill Tallman

Any aircraft with a max gross weight of 1,320 pounds and a 100-horsepower engine is going to jump off the ground, but the handling characteristics of and sight picture from the Remos make you feel almost as if you are levitating on takeoff.

Imagine riding upward on a Ferris wheel (sans the carnival music) or lifting off in a helicopter. Now, combine the two for a sense of takeoff in a Remos.

I recently had the opportunity to fly AOPA’s 2010 Sweepstakes Fun to Fly Remos with AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton Marsh and go through a standard checkout—takeoff, slow flight, stalls, steep turns, no-flap landing, and full-flap landing.

The aircraft’s smaller cowling and large windows in the door provide excellent forward and downward visibility, allowing the pilot to see much more runway on takeoff than in a Cessna 172. And with a rotation speed of just 30 to 40 mph (yes, mph, not knots) and a climb rate of 1,000 fpm, it seems as if it’s just floating off the ground.

Slow flight, stalls, and steep turns are seemingly effortless in the aircraft—you really don’t need to use trim at all (this from a weakling who uses trim a lot). The Remos is much more sensitive to control inputs than a Cessna 172, requiring a light grip on the control stick and small, gentle inputs.

The Remos is equipped with 40 degrees of flaps, so its final approach path is steep with full flaps. It’s not much different than the approach angle for a Cessna 170 or 172 with 40 degrees of flaps, but, again, the smaller cowling lets you see a lot more ground than you would in a larger aircraft.

Touchdown. Well, it’s not like the conclusion of a Ferris wheel ride or landing in a helicopter. It’s smoother. The aircraft is light, and it wants to fly, so touchdown is very graceful—even when you bounce. The wind, although blowing straight down the runway, had started to pick up by the end of my flight. On the last landing, I bounced a little. But, it felt as if I had touched down just enough for the wheels to kiss the runway, then briefly lift off again before returning to the ground. An onlooker later told me that the bounce looked very benign (I wasn’t too pleased with the landing). I’ve had my share of bounced landings in plenty of aircraft, and none of them felt as smooth as this one. So, in this case, I’d chalk the gracefulness up to the airplane, not the pilot.

After logging 1.4 hours in the aircraft, I must say that I agree wholeheartedly with AOPA Pilot Associate Editor Jill Tallman, this year’s sweepstakes manager—this Remos certainly lives up to its “Fun to Fly” theme.

Baby, it’s cold up there

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

I’m not cool, but my colleagues sure are. On Wednesday, Senior Editor Dave Hirschman and Photographer Chris Rose took their coolness factor to a whole new level, and they had the numb hands and feet to prove it.

Senior Editor Alton Marsh and I flew a photo mission in the 2010 Fun To Fly Remos, and Hirschman and Rose were in the platform airplane–a Decathlon. The doors were removed to give Rose an unobstructed view for stills and video. He and Hirschman dressed for the mission in ski suits and thermal long johns. On further reflection, they might have needed a couple more layers. Marsh and I were snug and warm inside the Remos, whose cabin heater was working perfectly.

We circled a ski resort (where snow machines were busily chugging away) and a nearby reservoir so that Rose could get the perfect shots. By the time we headed for home base, he and Hirschman were more than ready to shake hands with a cup of hot cocoa. You’ll see the photos and video footage when the February issue of AOPA Pilot arrives in your mailbox.

The SkyCatcher lands on Pilot’s cover

Monday, December 14th, 2009

We weren’t the first to bring you a Cessna 162 SkyCatcher pilot report, but AOPA Pilot’s January issue shows and tells about the newest LSA as only we can. The bird is highlighted against spun-candy-pink clouds, owing to the sun setting over the California landscape when staff photographer Mike Fizer took the shots.

My colleague Alton Marsh got the coveted slot to fly Cessna’s new LSA back in October. Marsh has flown several LSAs; he was the first of our staff to fly a Remos (a G-3 600) when he wrote about the Candy Bomber in June 2008. What did he think of the SkyCatcher? You’ll have to read his report, but I will tell you that he was impressed with the 162′s performance; it had no problems keeping up with the photo platform, which was a Cherokee Six.

I’m excited to see 162s enter the flight school flight lines–or I will be, when that happens. At this writing, the first one was set for delivery at the end of 2009. I hope Cessna can sustain the excitement, anticipation, and sheer buzziness it has created. What do you think?

Checkout done!

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

Winter in the mid-Atlantic doesn’t usually set in until January. Case in point: Friday’s 1.4 in the Remos was conducted in 50-degree temperatures under 5,000-foot ceilings that looked like they might have snow in them, and at the time I thought it wouldn’t amount to much.*

The POH recommends using carb heat on approach. Having spent most of my time behind Lycoming engines, I find myself having to check and double check that I’ve completed that step. Perhaps it’s time to implement a GUMPS+checklist strategy.

*Oh yes…we did get snow on Saturday, and a little more on Tuesday night. Which just goes to show you, some of us should leave the weather prognoticating to the experts, like my colleague Tom Horne.