Yesterday we brought you part 1 of Meg Godlewski’s story about an emerging market for Light Sport Aircraft: Empty nesters. In this installment, she notes that another LSA that is appealing to empty-nesters is the ready-to-fly Jabiru 230 built by Jabiru USA Sport Aircraft of Shelbyville, Tenn.
The Jabiru is a high-wing composite aircraft that made many a visitor to the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Fla., question if it truly was a light sport design because it looked so big and roomy. That makes it attractive to pilots who want an LSA, but don’t want to be cramped, said Katie Bossman, a Jabiru demonstration pilot. “Our customers are very often the people who are transitioning out of a larger airplane,” she said. “The airplane has quite similar flying characteristics to a Skyhawk. We have had numerous customers who have transitioned from a Cessna 180, 182 and Cardinal. It will out-cruise and out-climb a Skyhawk and obviously it will out-climb a 150 and 152.”
Part of Bossman’s job is providing transition training for pilots. There is a learning curve to the airplane, she said.
“The main challenge for pilots is that they have to use their opposite hands to fly,” she explained, pointing to the V-shaped stick in the center of the cockpit. “The throttle is on the far left side of the panel and on the far right side. It can be a challenge for the guys who have been flying Cessnas forever, because if you tell them to do a go-around, sometimes the first reaction is to push the stick forward and pull back on the throttle knob because they are used to using their left hand to pull back on the yoke and their right hand to push the throttle in, which is the go-around procedure in a Cessna. That’s the hardest habit for them to break.”
Pilots who have a lot of taildragger time will likely have an easier transition because, as Bossman puts it, “This is one rudder-happy airplane. Normal takeoff is set the trim neutral and put the nose on the horizon. It is very effective at low speed lift off, and will climb 70 to 75 knots with takeoff trim. I can almost take my hands off the stick.”
When she is demonstrating the airplane to someone, one of the first maneuvers she demonstrates is a hands-off turn.
“I do this with my hands in my lap because if I just hand the airplane to the pilot, they will grab the stick to do the turn,” she said. “If you do a turn with just the stick and not the rudder it feels really heavy on the ailerons because it has lots of adverse yaw because of long wing and ailerons attached with plain hinge.”
Bossman compares the feel of the airplane to that of an older Piper Cub or a Taylorcraft.
“Slow flight is easy and you will have full control authority all the way down into the landing flair,” she said. “Even in a stall the ailerons are still effective. In a crosswind situation you still have full control all the way to the ground.”
The J230 has good visibility, said Bossman, in part because the strut is located behind the door.
“It’s far enough back from the leading edge that you can look out and still see up,” she said. “It is not like a Cessna where you feel like you are boxed in.”
The cabin measures 44 inches and can accommodate pilots up to 6 feet, 4 inches. Adjustable rudder pedals are available as an option, as well as interchangeable cushions to give a pilot a few extra inches up and forward.
The J230 has handbrakes, activated by a red lever, which can take some getting used to.
Getting accustomed to the full glass panel also takes time.
“We spend at least on hour on the ground with the airplane plugged into a power cart and the panel lit up so we can go over how to program the EFIS,” she said. “They need to know where to look for the flight instruments, such as attitude and airspeed.”
One thing that may draw pilots to the Jabiru is that the company has been around since the early 1990s, starting as an ultralight in Australia.
“Pilots want an airplane from a company that they know will be around,” said Pete Krotje, chief manager and majority owner of Jabiru USA. “The first Jabirus Americans got their hands on were kits, so the design is familiar to most pilots.”
The demands of the U.S. market for a kit with more than a 60-hp engine led the manufacturer to develop its own engine. Today the Jabiru 230 has several engine options, including Rotax, which gives the airplane a cruise speed of 120 knots.
“Size-wise, it is one of the bigger LSAs, but weight wise we are in there with most of the others,” said Krotje. “It’s just that Jabiru has been able to create Fiberglas structure. There is no carbon fiber in there, nothing exotic. It is light enough and strong enough. This airplane was designed as a four-place airplane at 1,600 lbs. gross weight. For the LSA we don’t put those back seats in and there is no change in the structure, but the gross weight is reduced to 1,320.”
The weight reduction does not change the aerodynamics, added Krotje.
The price of the ready-to-fly Jabiru 230 ranges from about $125,000 up to $151,000.
For more information: USJabiru.com