Key Points for Transitioning to Light Sport Aircraft

Many LSA’s have airframe designs that are conducive to high drag which, when combined with their low mass, results in low inertia. When attempting a crosswind landing in a high drag LSA, a rapid reduction in airspeed prior to touchdown may result in a loss of rudder and/or aileron control, which may push the aircraft off of the runway heading. This is because as the air slows across the control surfaces, the LSA’s controls become ineffective. To avoid loss of control, maintain airspeed during the approach to keep the air moving over the control surfaces until the aircraft is on the ground. LSAs with an open cockpit, easy build characteristics, low cost, and simplicity of operation and maintenance tend to be less aerodynamic and, therefore, incur more drag. The powerplant in these aircraft usually provide excess power and exhibit desirable performance. However, when power is reduced, it may be necessary to lower the nose of the aircraft to a fairly low pitch attitude in order to maintain airspeed, especially during landings and engine failure.

If the pilot makes a power off approach to landing, the approach angle will be high and the landing flare will need to be close to the ground with minimum float. This is because the aircraft will lose airspeed quickly in the flare and will not float like a more efficiently designed aircraft. Too low of an airspeed during the landing flare may lead to insufficient energy to arrest the decent which may result in a hard landing. Maintaining power during the approach will result in a reduced angle of attack and will extend the landing flare allowing more time to make adjustments to the aircraft during the landing. Always remember that rapid power reductions require an equally rapid reduction in pitch attitude to maintain airspeed.

In the event of an engine failure in an LSA, quickly transition to the required nose-down flight attitude in order to maintain airspeed. For example, if the aircraft has a power-off glide angle of 30 degrees below the horizon, position the aircraft to a nose-down 30-degree attitude as quickly as possible. The higher the pitch attitude is when the engine failure occurs, the quicker the aircraft will lose airspeed and the more likely the aircraft is to stall. Should a stall occur, decrease the aircraft’s pitch attitude rapidly in order to increase airspeed to allow for a recovery. Stalls that occur at low altitudes are especially dangerous because the closer to the ground the stall occurs, the less time there is to recover. For this reason, when climbing at a low altitude, excessive pitch attitude is discouraged.