When the Light Sport Aircraft category was created in 2004, it was touted as a category of aircraft designed for use by flight schools and student pilots as LSAs are usually more economical to operate than many of the four-place designs that make up the backbone of the training fleet. But now the economy of the LSA — and the fact you don’t need a medical certificate to fly them — is attracting a different kind of pilot to the LSA realm: The empty-nester.
The aviation empty-nester is the aircraft owner who used to own a larger aircraft, such as a Bonanza or Cessna 180, to accommodate the family. Now that the kids are grown, there’s no need for those extra seats, so these pilots are opting to downsize in favor of something more in line with their reduced space needs and, in some cases, a tighter budget.
The TL3000 Sirius, a ready-to-fly composite high-wing built by TL Ultralight of the Czech Republic, was designed for these pilots.
“It’s Sirius, as in the star system, not ‘Cirrus’ or ‘Serious’,” explained Matt Swanson, president of Swan Air based in the St. Louis Metro area, at this year’s U.S. Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Fla. Swanson has been flying the Sirius in the United States for about a year, and notes that it is one tough airplane from the wheels up.
Imported by SportAir USA, the LSA is designed for the pilot who is getting out of the Cessna 170 or 180 series but still wants an airplane with those flying characteristics, according to Swanson.
“It is designed for cruise flight,” he said, noting useful load is about 560 lbs. “With two people and 100 lbs. of gear in the back and half tanks you will be at gross weight, but you will get three hours out of it, and that’s usually about right for each leg for most people.”
At 75% power, it burns about six gallons an hour. Total fuel capacity is 34 gallons.”
The engine is a 100-hp Rotax 912 ULS matched with an option of a three-bladed ground adjustable Duc Swirl-propeller. “It is a composite with a metal leading edge for durability,” Swanson said.
“It is made of carbon fiber, which allows you to have bigger without more weight,” said Swanson.
The wingspan measures approximately 31 feet across. The long wing and large flaps make it very stable, he noted.
“I grew up flying Cessnas and it flies just like a Cessna 152,” he said. “It is very docile in slow flight. It is tough to stall even when you pull the yoke full aft. You get a bit of a shake but no break to the left or right. The airplane just sort of sinks.”
This stability makes it easy to land, he added, noting, “You have full authority all the way through the flare down to 45 knots. It’s not exactly a two-finger airplane, but you don’t feel like you are wrestling a gorilla either.”
The panel set-up is efficient — no space is wasted. There is a center column and a line of switches above the panel so that there is more space for avionics, both glass and analog, should the pilot chose to have both. The Sirius has options for Dynon or Garmin avionics, as well as a TruTrak autopilot.
The interior of the Sirius at seat level is 45 inches across, which makes it wider than a Cessna 172. The doors are also convex, giving the occupants a little more elbow room.
The ability to see other aircraft and be seen by them shouldn’t be a problem with the Sirius. Large LED position lights are standard and the aircraft has wrap-around plexiglas windows.
Swanson arrived a little late to the Sebring show because of weather. But that may have worked in his favor, because what made an impression on people was the amount of baggage in the airplane. The back of the Sirius was chock full of luggage and boxes. Watching Swanson unload was reminiscent of a circus act with dozens of clowns jammed into a miniature car.
The seats fold down for easy access to the area, which measures 43 inches in the front and tapers to 36 inches in the back. The height to ceiling in front is 32-1/4 inches and in back is 24 inches. A cargo net, standard equipment, helps keep everything in place. Bottom line: If packing light is not in your skill set, this may be the airplane for you.
In addition, the airplane comes with a ballistic recovery chute, which is always a bonus when you are trying to persuade your non-flying mate to accompany you on a trip.
Depending on the options you chose, the airplane will cost from $115,000 to $152,000.