Why would pilots accustomed to flying heavier general aviation airplanes want to mess around with LSAs? Well, partly because they’re new — not the old beaters that have been baking in the sun for too many decades — and partly because many LSAs have drool-worthy, glass cockpits. But the main reason is because it’s less expensive to operate an LSA. With its quiet Rotax engine sipping less than 5 gallons per hour, it’s about the same cost as operating a motorcycle. All that adds up to more plane for the money when it comes to rentals, making LSAs a tempting source of flying fun for many pilots who are used to flying larger, heavier airplanes. Many flight schools have at least one LSA in their stable now.
But these featherweight aircraft will likely require more than the legal minimum, three-times-around-the-patch checkout to master, regardless of the weight of your logbook because they just don’t fly like what you are used to flying.
The first LSA I flew was a Remos, a modern German-made miniature, 152ish-looking airplane. The flight was shocking. The light wing loading let us feel every bump, eddy, ripple, and bubble in the otherwise calm-looking sky. As it happened, I was coming out of one of those lapses in flying that had lasted a couple of years and my main thought was: I don’t remember flying being this rough. I learned later that many LSA owners fly their light birds only in the morning hours.
In addition to riding the chaotic atmosphere in a kite-like manner, LSAs also takeoff and land differently than their heavier cousins. Some offer impressive climb rates, levitating off the runway and climbing like homesick angels. At the other end of the flight, in general, they tend to float more on landing. Oh, and because of their lighter carbon fiber feathers in the wind, crosswind landings can get … exciting. In fact, for pilots used to heavier birds, any landing in an LSA can get exciting until you learn their flight characteristics.
Flight Instructor Louis Mancuso spends a lot of time teaching in LSAs. In a safety piece he penned for Aviatiors Hotline, when it comes to landings he notes that, “the LSA lacks mass to maintain inertia. They quit flying quickly when there is a headwind and will not stop flying when there is no wind.”
This is not what we are used to.