Following up on my recent post on the Flight Design CT, we take a look at another light sport aircraft, the SportCruiser.
I ventured out to Mid Island Air at Brookhaven Airport (HWV) on Long Island, NY because it now offers the Sportcruiser. The Sportcruiser is one of several LSAs made in the Czech Republic, which is to LSAs like Milwaukee is to Beer. They make a lot of them. The SportCruiser is made by Czech Air Works. Below I provide a review of my short 20 minute flight.
First, let’s recap what an LSA is, by FAA definition:
LSAs must weight less than 1320 lbs (1430 for floatplanes), seat no more than 2 people, have a max cruise speed of 120kts, a stall speed of no more than 45kts, and have a fixed prop and fixed gear (except for floatplanes). If properly equipped, they can fly IFR and at night. And they can be used for primary flight training.
An LSA can be flown without a Medical, providing you have a driver’s license and you haven’t been denied on your most recent FAA medical application.
Don’t confuse the plane with the Sport Pilot license. A Sport Pilot can only fly day, VFR below 10,000 feet. However, a Sport Pilot can fly anywhere in the United States, including Class B airspace with the proper sign-off.
The Sportcruiser is a good-looking plane. It’s also roomy, providing cabin space of 46.5 inches and baggage space of 10.6 cubic feet. It claims to go the max 120kts and I’m told it does perform. It’s powered by a 100hp Rotax engine. The Rotax used to be known for making snow mobile engines. You'll often see the phrase "ultra reliable Rotax engine." I've always found that a bit strange. An engine in an airplane best be "ultra reliable" or I'm "Ultra-staying-on-the-ground."
The first thing you’ll notice about flying an LSA is that it’s, well, light. It’s like taking off on a carpet. It’s off the runway in less than a thousand feet and you will feel the wind on climb-out. It was a gusty day at HWV and the plane gently bounced through the air. I’m told it settles down when in cruise. With a solid 1,000 fpm climb, you can get above the choppy air pretty quickly. But for non-pilots, it can be disconcerting.
The Sportcruiser has outrageously good visibility. The cabin is entirely clear, providing solid 180 degree views. That’s good, because you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the terrain below as you crawl through the air.
The next thing you’ll notice is that’s it’s really slow in the traffic pattern. Downwind is at 60kts, so bring a book with you to pass the time.
I ended my flight wanting more and I look forward to flying a few more of these new-look planes.
At HWV, the pilots were the full range of those who might be interested in an LSA. One was a newly-minted, actual Sport Pilot. He was the first- or one of the first- on Long Island to earn an SP ticket. Another pilot was a commercial-rated pilot who feared recent medical problems would ground him. And another ran a flight club and thought an LSA might be good for flight training.
Czech Air Works
You probably want to buy a plane from a company that’ll be sticking around. And that is one of the challenges with this category. While Cirrus and Cessna are developing their own LSAs, those won’t be available until 2009. So you’re choices (if you want one now) is to buy from small companies that could go west at anytime. Of course, these days you can also buy a light jet from a company that may go under. So perform your due dilligence carefully.
These are real planes. And the FAA and the industry are putting a lot of chips on them, hoping they turn around the dwindling pilot numbers.