There’s been a lot of debate in the aviation community over the value and challenges of LSA as flight trainers compared to old standards like Cessna 150s. I’d like to weigh in on some the questions being raised.
Are LSA harder to fly — specifically, are they harder to land? The best way to respond is to say that they are different. In fact, that’s what Cessna’s top demo pilot says about Skycatcher compared to Cessna 150s and 172s.
Here are some reasons why: LSAs are lighter, so they tend to be affected by wind eddies more than a heavier airplane; LSAs generally have more responsive handling and commonly use joysticks versus yokes which, due to increased leverage, means pilots can more easily overcontrol them. Many are lighter in pitch than a Cessna 150, which can cause pilot-induced oscillation (PIO).
Some say the lighter handling makes a better pilot and, if you learn in a LSA, you won’t notice any great challenge. LSAs perform better, especially in glide so they meet the runway at shallower angles, which demands somewhat more finesse. All this can mean some extra time is needed to convert from a Cessna 150 (or other GA airplane) to a LSA.
However, LSAs also offer several advantages. The newest Cessna 150s and 152s were manufactured in 1985 — 27 years ago — which means the average age of the trainer is well over 35 years old, often much older than the students who come to fly them. The oldest LSAs are seven years old and most folks agree that new is nice. Think about it: Would you want to rent a 35-year-old car from Hertz?
Cessna 150/152s almost never have modern avionics, where nearly all LSA sport glass screens and more. LSA are much quieter. C-150s use more fuel, certainly so compared to the new fuel-injected Rotax 912 iS and most cannot use auto fuel at one third less cost (although STCs are available so 150s can burn mogas). LSA are roomier, often having a lot more interior space. They have better visibility. Many come with airframe parachutes.
Another point is the durability of LSA in a flight school. Here the Cessna 150 is a tried and true workhorse. Many have well over 10,000 hours. Some feel LSA cannot match this. None have passed that number of airframe hours, but we have several examples with more than 3,500 hours on them and they seem to be holding up just fine.
The downside for LSA: They aren’t as well known, they cost a lot more (new always does), and the mechanics don’t know them as well.
For more information: ByDanJohnson.com
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