Airplane Reviews

May 1, 2005

Adam Jet Flight Trial

Think of it as a typical piston twin but with a heckuva lot more power. Still, owner-pilots will require serious training to fly it safely.

September 30, 2011

AeroTrek: 220/240: Bargain LSA

At AirVenture last July, a poster in the Aerotrek booth caught our eye: $69,850 base price. Huh? That can’t really be right, can it? What’s the gimmick? None, really. Although most of Aerotrek’s airplanes sell for about eight grand more than that, they’re still on the low end of the price spectrum. By our lights, a $70,000 airplane is by no means cheap, but if it costs barely half of its highest price competition, could there be some exceptional value there? We aimed to find out with a trial flight and a look at the company. Peeking ahead to our conclusion, we think these LSAs represent exceptional value, even if we wouldn’t necessarily call them plush.

November 1, 2004

Airvan Revisited

Gippsland Aero has big plans for the GA8 Airvan. Here’s how it’s holding up after two years in the field.

September 17, 2013

Akro for Under $100K: Wide Variety; Use Caution

There has long been a subset of pilots with a certain sense of adventure and the burning desire to own an aerobatic airplane. While most lust after an aerial hotrod such as one of the Extra 300 series or a Sukhoi Su-29, economic reality means putting something a little less impressive into the hangar.

December 1, 2004

Alarus Trainer

A re-do of the CH2000, this trainer is aimed at the IFR training market. It delivers on its design goal of being simple, cheap and easy to fly.

February 14, 2013

Arion Lightning LS-1: Not for the Masses

How about this for a challenging design concept? Start with a two-seat speedster with fighter-like handling, slow it down to meet the LSA 120-knot speed limit without excising any of the structure necessary for the stresses of the higher speed, then jump through the ASTM hoops to turn it into a production machine. That is exactly what Arion Aircraft did with its Lightning LS-1, an LSA that is finger-on-the trigger responsive in flight and among the fastest LSAs out there. The Lightning is one of the few LSAs that is not intended to be used as a primary trainer. “Although a very few buyers have learned to fly in their Lightnings, we did not design it for flight training,” explained Arion’s Nick Otterbach, one of the lead designers of the airplane.

August 22, 2012

As Cheap as it Gets: Legacy LSA ÷ 4

Even though I parked the Cubbie on a grass field for the beauty shot above, I’m really not much about the romance of flight. While I savor the fragrance of wet turf mixed with avgas exhaust as much as anyone, the thought of a $5500 annual—and I’ve paid them—tends to turn the rose-colored glasses into a darker shade of cynical. Not that I expect to ever pay a $5500 annual for the Cub, which is exactly the best reason for owning a legacy LSA—not the magic of slipping the surly bonds on rag wings, but the smug satisfaction of doing it for the price of a cheap date at Bob’s Big Boy. How to do that? Split the cost of an already cheap airplane two ways, three ways or four ways. If owning your own airplane increasingly sounds unaffordable, it’s much less so in a partnership to the point that the monthly cost can be well under even a modest car payment. There’s no pretending the capabilities are remotely similar, but if you want to fly or even own, there’s an affordable way to get there.

January 1, 2007

Atlantic Aero’s IO-550: Smooth, Fast, Expensive

Bonanza owners like to go fast. But, then doesn’t everyone? For years, Beechcraft’s venerable singles were the thoroughbreds of the single-engine non-turbo herd, cruising past 210s, Mooneys and everything in the Piper fleet short of a Malibu. The age of white plastic airplanes Cirrus and Columbia ended that, leaving Beech owners in their propwash with 180-knot cruise speeds.

July 1, 2010

Used Aircraft Guide: Aeronca Champ

Flying low and slow with the occasional whiff of honeysuckle through the open cabin window is what flying an Aeronca Champ is all about. There’s a certain romance tagging along with a rag-and-tube two-seater that’s left over from the post-World War II heyday. Moreover, the Aeronca Champ is perhaps one of the few remaining inexpensive-to-buy, inexpensive-to-own, tandem-seaters on the market. You can even buy a new one—more on that later. It’s also an LSA so sport pilots can fly it.

May 2, 2011

Used Aircraft Guide: Aerostar

When you tell a fellow pilot what kind of airplane you fly, the list of responses that will elicit more than casual, feigned interest is short. But the Aerostar is on it. It has a deserved rep for being blazingly fast with good range. And unlike most piston twins, it has enough power to actually climb on a single engine. But bring a VISA with high limits. The airplane’s Lycomings are somewhat thirsty and although it’s hardly a maintenance hog, the Aerostar fleet is aging and getting expensive to maintain. But for owners who can afford it, the model is hard to beat for getting from A to B faster than anything that doesn’t burn Jet A. The Aerostar is the product of famed aircraft designer Ted Smith, whose name is attached to such classics as the A-20 twin-engine bomber and the Twin and Jet Commander lines.

October 20, 2009

Used Aircraft Guide: Aviat Husky

Utility airplanes occupy an interesting market niche. Like any other airplane, they take off and land, cruise at altitude, carry a payload and offer some creature comforts. Naturally, just about any spam-can does that and probably can do it faster, more economically and with more pampering of the pilot and passengers. But unlike most other airplanes, utility airplanes are optimized to use short, unimproved fields without drama or damage, carry lots, require little maintenance and be field-repairable, just a few of the features with which the typical tricycle-gear, all-metal single has trouble. Over the years, types like Piper’s Super Cub, the Maule series and the American Champion Scout have come to exemplify a utility airplane. All three were originally designed decades ago and have changed little since, fully depreciating their design and engineering costs. Too, there’s little "wrong" with these models: They ain’t broke, so they don’t need fixin’. Put another way, the basic piston-powered utility airplane is mature technology. Into this niche came the Aviat (formerly Christen) Husky, unapologetically designed with the Super Cub firmly in mind. The result is a Part 23-certificated, well-built and good-performing airplane successfully competing against its forebears. In fact, its success is all the more remarkable since it was designed and certificated in the 1980s, something of a dark age for new general aviation designs. Utility airplanes, of course, are put to many different uses, including romantic bush flying, plus more mundane pursuits like pipeline patrol, ranching and even training. By all accounts, the Aviat Husky tackles all these challenges with equal aplomb, making it worth consideration by anyone looking into buying a utility airplane.