Taking a light sport aircraft (LSA) up for a spin

So-called light sport aircraft (LSAs) are gaining in popularity and while much of this increase could be attributed to the current state of the economy and the costs associated with learning how to fly and maintain an aircraft, LSA have always had their admirers – even among non-LSA pilots.

These non-LSA pilots include Steve Tupper who, along with a group of his friends, had the opportunity to test-fly the Remos GX light sport aircraft at Oshkosh and he has written about his experience in entries on both the Let’s Go Flying! and the Airspeed blogs. This was actually his first time to fly a LSA and he sums up his experience by saying:

I enjoyed flying the airplane.  It was responsive, it met all of the book numbers, and struck me as meeting all of the promise of the LSA category.  I need to fly a couple of other LSAs in order to have a real feel for how the Remos GX stacks up, but I’m a confirmed fan of LSAs if the GX is at all indicative.

However and I have to admit (and let me also admit that I have no experience around LSAs) that when I first saw the picture of Steve standing in front of the aircraft (and perhaps this is also due to the camera lenses and the angle of the shot), I wondered how he could comfortably fit into such an aircraft and let alone get off the ground in one! Not that Steve looks to be a particularly large guy but that appears to be one SMALL aircraft – smaller than a Volkswagen bug (Let me also note that I’m 6’4” and I have trouble fitting comfortably into really small cars!). Nevertheless, looks can always be deceiving – especially when performance is considered…

Hence, I would like to ask all other non-LSA pilots out there whether or not you have flown a LSA before and if so, what do you think of their overall performance and how they compare to other aircraft? Would you fly one again and on a more regular basis? And finally, would you recommend learning how to fly a LSA to non-pilots thinking of learning how to fly?


5 Responses to Taking a light sport aircraft (LSA) up for a spin

  1. Sylvia September 25, 2009 at 18:33 #

    It does look like it could be a tight fit. On the other hand, I'm pretty small (although a bit broader than I'd like) so it's not really a downside for me.

    I wonder if the wing dips when you lean over to pick your pen up off the floor…

  2. Justin Shelley September 26, 2009 at 02:42 #

    The Remos has one of the highest useful loads of any LSA, and even most 2-seat "non-LSA" aircraft. It also has a cabin width of 47" and I have seen guys get into that plane that weigh 300+ pounds and reach an altitude of around 6' 6".

    Performance compared to other aircraft? Depends on what you're comparing to. The Remos will outrun a Cessna 152, and most C172s. It will climb at 1,000 ft/min fully loaded. The other day it was just me and a bag of gas and I sustained 1,300 ft/min. In a flight training environment we average 2.5 gal/hr fuel consumption. On a cross country, firewalled, I get around 6 g/hr and easily hit 115 knots.

    Would I fly one again? Yup. To be honest, my favorite aircraft to fly are the kind with two engines. Some sort of power trip, I guess. And I love to go fast, so I dream of a Mooney Acclaim (a little out of my budget at the moment). But so far I haven't found much that is as fun and simple to fly as a good-quality LSA like the Remos or the Tecnam.

    Do I recommend learning to fly in one? Well, let's be fair. I run an LSA training program. One of the largest in the nation, in fact. So sure, I'm biased. But there is no down-side to getting started this way. Half the cost, half the time. The restrictions: no night flying, don't go higher than 10,000 MSL. Not many private pilots do that anyway! If you decide it's not enough, simply transition to Private later. One word of caution: make sure you do your Sport training with a full CFI (not a Sport CFI) if you have any plans of moving on to Private.

    One story to conclude. Yesterday I had to take a Remos to an airport, leave it there, pick up a C152 and fly it back to home base. It was me and another good-sized guy (I'm pretty small). We left home in the Remos with a full tank of gas, climbed out at 1,000 ft/min, 4 inches of air between my shoulder and his, and moved at 115 knots. On the way home, we had to carefully measure the fuel to keep us right at max gross, we climbed out at 200 – 300 ft/min after a very lengthy take-off roll, and our shoulders were smashed tightly together in a very awkward, uncomfortable, and far too personal configuration. The LSA wins hands-down.

    So write this all off as biased if you must, but keep in mind that I left a good job flying bigger, more powerful, multi-engine planes and entered the world of LSA because one day on a whim I took a joy ride in a Tecnam Sierra and forever fell in love with the Sport Planes.

  3. Critical Alpha October 11, 2009 at 00:44 #

    The bottom line is that many CPL/ATPL and even PPL pilots love LSAs. If you are very tall it can be a squeeze but some LSAs cope really well. The Storm Century 5XL for instance can happily cope with a 6'5" pilot and more.

    The reason that pilots love these aircraft, I think, is that they are simple yet have bags of performance at a great price. Where else would you get at reliable 120 knots IAS – truing higher – on 20 lph burn and climb rates around 100fpm?

    They are great fun to fly and very, very responsive.


  4. Jim Lawrence March 18, 2010 at 17:23 #

    Hi, good question and terrific blog.

    I fly, photograph and write about LSA regularly (20+ models so far) in my freelance gig as LSA editor for Plane & Pilot magazine here in the states. I'm 5'11" so not challenged vertically in cockpits like you are but many LSAs are not only wide enough for people of considerable girth (the new Flight Design MC for instance is almost 52" wide!) but have plenty of head room.

    The posters above hit a lot of the high marks for LSA so I won't be redundant…but I'm high on LSA for a number of reasons to do with comfort, performance, beauty and efficiency.

    It's a great way to get in the air and, with shared ownership or through a club, to keep flying without busting the bank.

    Thanks for your thoughtful and thorough blog.

    high flights

    .-= Jim Lawrence

  5. Rich Scholz May 9, 2010 at 19:41 #

    I took a dicovery flight in a 152 some years ago and it was so uncomptable that I never followed up with lessons. When the Light Sport rule came to be a couple years ago I said let me give it a shot. I went up at a local LSA school and now I am on my way to getting my certificate. I was really inpressed with the room, the performance and all the new glass panels no to mention the safety of having a full plane chute. The economics work for me on my budget and wouldn't be flying if it weren't for LSA.

    P.S. I am already planning on buying my own LSA in the near future.

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