Meg Godlewski has written a very lengthy article for General Aviation News about the Cessna Skycatcher from the perspective of a CFI. In fact, the Skycatcher was designed as a light sport aircraft (LSA) as well as an inexpensive training platform and Meg noted that at the flying club where she evaluated the aircraft, it has proven to be popular with both the club’s student pilots and with its fully licensed members.
However, Meg also wrote that despite having a familial resemblance to a Cessna 150, comparing the Skycatcher to one is like comparing a 1966 Ford Mustang with a 2011 model. Hence, here are just a few of the differences as well as characteristics that Meg noted about the Skycatcher:
On the Ramp. Meg wrote that the wing-strut on the Skycatcher is anchored behind the door rather than in front of it as the door is a gull-wing type that opens upward – something that other Cessna pilots would not be accustomed to. Moreover, the door is extremely light as it does not contain any insulation. This also means that you do not need to slam it shut but you will also need to ensure that it is securely latched before taking off as it could open upward during a flight and cause damage to the aircraft.
Pre-Flight. Meg pointed out that the Skycatcher does not have electronically actuated fuel gauges but rather there are well-marked tubes at wing level inside the cockpit – just like what you would find in a Piper Cub. Since there is no way to switch tanks, there is a warning placard to remind the pilot that takeoffs are not allowed with less than one quarter tanks.
However, Meg expressed some concern that having the Garmin 300 calculate weight and balance could mean pilots will, at some point, no longer be able to read tables and graphs or do the calculations longhand. On the other hand, the representative of the flying club who owns the aircraft she was testing commented that many pilots don’t even bother to do weigh and balance calculations before taking off as they (mistakenly) believe what fits inside an aircraft must be safe.
Take-Off. Meg wrote that the Skycatcher is intended to be a day-time and VFR flight only aircraft. Hence, a pilot will probably not need any back-up instruments and navigation for safe flying.
Otherwise, meg pointed out that the Skycatcher has toe brakes, making it easier for student pilots to transition to other Cessna aircraft, but the angle at which one’s heel will rest on the floor in relation to the pedals also makes it challenging not to “ride the brakes during ground operations” while the aircraft’s castering nosewheel meant her first attempts to keep the nose on the yellow taxi line had “all the grace of a drunken rhinoceros.” Moreover and due to the lack of sound proofing, the Skycatcher is louder than other Cessna aircraft while landings will take some practice as the aircraft “doesn’t want to stop flying.”
Meg’s entire and very detailed review of Cessna Skycatcher is well worth reading by both would-be pilots who may receive their training in one as well as by experienced pilots who may find themselves either flying or owning one.
The changes to the door and wing strut are a welcome and much needed modification for the Cessna, very happy to see this.