Picking the right LSA for you

Are you in the market for a Light Sport Aircraft? With so many options in both the ready to fly and the build it yourself genres, there are lots to choose from.

One of the first questions you need to ask is whether you want a ready-to-fly model or a project? On the plus side, the build-it-yourself models tend to be less expensive than the ready-to-fly models. You also have the luxury of custom-building the aircraft to your desires in terms of avionics, engine and propeller configuration, paint and upholstery. On the down side, even with help from the factory through a builder assist center, so-called quick build kits can take a fair number of hours to complete.

If your desire is to get flying quickly, you may not want to go the build-it-yourself route. Several pilots in the market for LSAs noted they are waiting for the ready-to-fly models to be certified because they don’t have time to build their own.

POINTS TO PONDER

Some things to consider when buying a ready-to-fly model:

- Does it look like a “real” airplane? According to manufacturers and importers of aircraft that are certified or soon to be certified as LSAs, some potential buyers won’t even consider the purchase unless the machine looks like an airplane rather than a traditional ultralight. The reason? Their non-flying spouses refuse to fly in an ultralight or anything remotely resembling one.

- Do you fit in the airplane? By definition, the maximum gross weight of an LSA is 1,320 pounds for land aircraft, 1,430 for floatplanes. The weight of the aircraft, your size and intended payload (your spouse or fishing buddy, a few overnight bags, etc.) on an average mission should be considered.

- Can you easily get training in this aircraft? Does the company have a CFI who provides training for new owners or must you find someone on your own? Does the company have a training syllabus for new owners? Does your insurance carrier require additional training beyond the factory check-out program?

- Can you get insurance for this aircraft? As the LSA rule is still less than a year old, some insurance companies are taking a wait and see attitude toward insurance, especially in the case of flight schools. If the design has been flying for several years in another part of the world and has a track record, you may find it easier to get insurance.

- What about maintenance? One of the bonuses of LSA is that, with some training, you can act as your own mechanic. That being said, you need to figure out how easy it is to acquire parts, should you need them. If you don’t want to do your own maintenance, is there an appropriately qualified mechanic nearby?

What qualifies as a

Light Sport Aircraft?

- Maximum gross weight of 1,320 lbs. (1,430 lbs. for float planes);

- Two place;

- Non-turbine-powered;

- Maximum stall speed of 45 knots;

- Maximum airspeed of 120 knots;

- Fixed landing gear, fixed pitch propeller;

- Aircraft categories include airplanes land/sea, weight-shift-control aircraft land/sea, powered parachutes land/sea, gyroplanes, balloons and airships. Due to their complexity, helicopters and powered-lifts are not covered.

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