“Wow! What….is…that?” That was the most common reaction when people first set eyes on the SAM LS at AirVenture 2013. The round-cowl Light-Sport Aircraft made its American debut at the annual event.
The combination of a round cowl, tear-drop shaped wheel-pants and a side-hinged folding canopy give the airplane a decidedly classic look.
To many people, the SAM LS looked like a World War II training aircraft, making many people wonder if perhaps the polished silver airplane should have been parked on the other side of the taxiway in the warbird area.
Comments like this make Thierry Zibi, president and founder of SAM Aircraft Co. smile, because the vintage look was precisely what he was aiming for when the SAM LS was under development.
“I wanted to design an aircraft that harkened back to the golden days of aviation, yet benefits from modern technology,” he explained. “I had the idea to make an aircraft that looked like a miniature World War II trainer, like a miniature de Havilland Chipmunk or North American Harvard or T-6, but at the same time make it modern.”
Zibi hails from France, but was educated in North America. He was bitten by the aviation bug at the tender age of 19. He learned to fly and developed a hobby of designing and building aircraft. He earned his living in the world of finance, and it was the combination of those financial skills and a passion for aviation that led to the formation of SAM Aircraft Co. in 2009.
“The company is named for my son, Samuel, who was 2 years old at the time,” said Zibi.
The LSA is a low-wing design with tandem seating and a folding canopy. The canopy is designed for quick removal so if the pilot wants to have the open cockpit experience, it is easy to do by the removal of three pins. This sets it apart from the other low-wing LSAs on the market, many of which have side-by-side seating and a permanently attached bubble canopy.
The airplane is made of metal with a 4130 metal steel protection cage from the firewall up to the rear seat, according to Zibi.
“For protection the 4130 cage is surrounded by aluminum,” he said. “We have tested the wings up to 7.9 Gs at a gross weight of 1,320 pounds. The airplane is really strong, yet aesthetically pleasing.”
Originally, Zibi envisioned a tailwheel design, but market research indicated a nosewheel-equipped airplane would be more popular. That doesn’t mean the tailwheel was taken completely off the board, he noted.
“Since there is more of a market for nosewheel equipped aircraft, that is what we built for the prototype,” he said. “We reinforced the rear of the tail-cone with double skin and additional bulkheads to put a tailwheel on the design in the near future.”
The airplane is powered by a 100-hp Rotax 912 ULS.
The cockpit has a decidedly modern feel to it with a Dynon Avionics suite that conforms to the ASTM standard for LSA and Advanced Ultra Lights in Canada.
“The airplane also has electric trim, electric flaps and starter,” Zibi said.”The seats are adjustable. The passenger sits in the rear. We worked hard to have the pilot seat in front for better visibility.”
The airplane holds 22 gallons of fuel and burns less than five gallons per hour at 120 mph in cruise flight, he added. The airplane stalls at 49 mph clean and 42 with flaps.”
The SAM LS is certified as both an experimental and ready to fly design in Canada. As this issue was going to press, it was in the LSA certification process in the United States.
For the pilot who opts to have the building experience, the kit is designed to go together in approximately 900 hours. The kit comes with CNC, pre-drilled and pre-bent parts, and matched holes for easy assembly, Zibi noted. The quick-build kit, designed to reduce build time to as little as 500 hours, includes three wings, which are 75% completed. Fuel tanks are completed and installed. The fuselage and tail-cone are 75% completed and assembled. All skins and bulkheads are installed except the top forward skin. All welds are done at the factory.
The SAM LS prototype has a polished metal finish, but paint is also an option. Owners also have the option to include a BRS parachute, an autopilot, tinted canopy, and a rear baggage compartment.
The SAM LS is slated to be at SUN ’n FUN in April and AirVenture in July.
As the hours on the prototype grow, so does the aircraft’s popularity, said Zibi.
“There are several kits out in Canada and a handful in the United States,” he said.
Launch price for a ready to fly model is $131,000.
SAM Aircraft performance numbers
- Maxium speed at sea level 125 mph
- Never-exceed speed 150 mph
- Cruise speed, 5,200 RPM at 7,500 feet 115 mph
- Range at 7,500 feet (45% power with 30 minute fuel reserve) 419 nm
- Rate of climb (sea level) 900 fpm
- Service ceiling 13,000 feet
- Standard empty weight 830 lbs.
- Useful load 490 lbs.
- Fuel capacity 22 US gallons
- Oil capacity 3.17 quarts
- Engine: Rotax 912 ULS
- Ground roll 350 feet
- Take off performance
- Ground roll 350 feet
- Total distance over a 50 foot obstacle 600 feet
- Landing performance
- Ground roll 200 feet
- Total distance to clear a 50 foot obstacle 580 feet