Cessna’s Light Sport Aircraft
Oct 30 2006
Aviation Week & Space Technology
© 2006 McGraw-Hill, Inc.
Cessna’s Light Sport Aircraft, with company test pilot Dale Bleakney at the controls, flew for the first time Oct. 13 from McConnell AFB, Wichita, Kan., and landed 30 min. later at the city’s Mid-Continent Airport. Intended as a proof-of-concept vehicle, the airplane is powered by a Rotax 912 engine rated at 100 hp., turning a ground-adjustable propeller. LSA project engineer Neal Willford says the airplane serves as a “flying wind tunnel model” to help engineers develop an airplane that meets generic LSA standards and market demands. These include a maximum speed of 120 kt., two seats and a maximum gross weight of 1,320 lb.
During the initial flight, the Cessna LSA attained a maximum speed of more than 110 kt. and flew a series of basic maneuvers to explore handling characteristics. The aircraft has a wingspan of 30 ft., seating for two people and features conventional, floor-mounted control sticks, a castoring nose wheel and toe brakes. A majority of the airframe is aluminum alloy, with only limited use of composites for the engine cowling and various fairings.
The cabin width is 48 in.–6 in. more than the Model 152–and features doors that swing open and upward. Willford says the company is “evaluating” installation of a glass cockpit as well as analog instrumentation.
He says Cessna plans to decide in the first quarter of next year whether to enter the LSA market. If approved, Cessna officials anticipate delivering the first customer LSA 16 months later. The airplane was introduced to the public last summer at the Experimental Aircraft Assn.'s AirVenture 2006 show (AW&ST July 31, p. 45).
The company is aiming the LSA concept at private pilots and flight schools. “An important part of our thought process in looking at the Light Sport Aircraft [segment] is the value in terms of new pilot starts . . . and we believe this new category of aircraft could provide a conduit for new pilots to grow through the Cessna product line,” says Chairman/President/CEO Jack Pelton.
Willford says if production is approved, the LSA may be equipped with a ballistic recovery parachute system–similar to that installed in the Cirrus Design SR-20 and SR-22–that would allow the airplane to descend to the ground if the pilot deploys the parachute.