Light Sport Aircraft Flight Environment (Part Two)

Taxi

Like standard certificated airplanes, LSAs may have a full-castoring or steerable nosewheel or, if conventional gear, a tailwheel. In order to taxi a full-castoring nosewheel equipped airplane, the use of differential brakes is required. This type of nosewheel can require practice to develop the skill necessary to keep the airplane on the centerline while minimizing brake application or damage to the tires. The balance is just enough taxi speed so that only light taps of brake pressure in the desired direction of turn or correction is required to make a turn or correction without carrying excessive taxi speed. If the speed is too slow, application of a brake can cause the aircraft to pivot to a stop, rather than an adjustment in direction, resulting in excessive brake and tire wear. If the speed is too fast, excessive brake wear is likely.

An LSA with conventional gear (tailwheel) should be initially transitioned into during no-wind conditions. The airplane, due to its light weight, requires the development of the proper flight control responses prior to operations in any substantial wind.

 

Takeoff and Climb

Takeoff and climb performance of LSA can be spirited as it typically has a high horsepower to weight ratio and accelerates quickly. Due to design requirement for low stall speeds, LSAs typically have low rotation and climb speeds with impressive climb rates. Like other airplanes, the pilot should be flying the published speeds as given the airplane’s POH. Stick (yoke or stoke) forces tend to be light, which may lead a transitioning pilot to initially over-control as a result of flight control deflections being greater than required. The key is to relax, have reasonable patience, and input only appropriate flight control pressures needed to get the required response. If a transitioning pilot is inducing excessive control inputs, they should minimize flight control pressures, set attitudes based on outside references, and allow the airplane to settle.

During climbs, visibility over the nose may be difficult in some LSAs. As always, it is important to properly clear the airspace for traffic and other hazards. Occasionally lowering the airplane’s nose to get a good look out toward the horizon is important for managing flight safety. Shallow banked turns in both directions of 10° to 20° also allow for clearing. Trim should be used to relieve climb flight control pressures that are generally light. Because flight control pressures tend to be light, it is easy to get in the habit of flying with an LSA airplane out of trim. This is to be avoided. Trim off any flight control pressures. This allows the pilot to focus as much time as possible looking outside.

Cruise

After leveling off at cruise altitude, the airplane should be allowed to accelerate to cruise speed, reduce power to cruise rpm, adjust pitch, and then trim off any flight control pressures. [Figure 16-15] The first time a transitioning pilot sees cruise rpm setting of 4,800 rpm (or as recommended), they may have a sense that the engine is turning too fast; however, remember that the engine has gear-reduction drive and the propeller is turning much slower. If the LSA is equipped with a standard aircraft engine, rpms are in a range that the transitioning pilot is immediately comfortable. The pilot should refer to the Cruise Checklist to ensure that the airplane is properly configured.

Figure 16-15. EFIS indication of level cruise flight.

Figure 16-15. EFIS indication of level cruise flight.

In slower cruise flight, stick forces are likely to be light; therefore, correction to pitch and roll attitudes should be made with light pressures. Excessive pressures result in the pilot inducing excessive correction causing a chasing effect. Only enough pressure needed to correct a deviation is required. This is best accomplished with fingertip pressures only and not with a wrapped palm of the hand. Stick forces can change dramatically as airspeed changes; for example, what could be considered light control pressures at 80 knots may become quite stiff at 100 knots. A CFI-S or CFI-A experienced in the LSA airplane is able to demonstrate this effect. This effect is dependent on the specific model of LSA and any significance or relevance varies from manufacturer to manufacturer.

 

LSA maneuvers such as steep turns, slow flight, and stalls are typically conventional. These maneuvers should be practiced as part of a good transition training program. Steep turns in LSA airplanes tend to be quite easy to perform precisely. With light flight control pressures, stick mounted trim (if installed), and highly differential ailerons (if part of the airplane’s design), makes the performance of the maneuver simpler than heavier airplanes. Basic aerodynamics applies to any airplane and factors, such as over-banking tendency, are still prevalent and must be compensated.

Slow flight in LSAs is accomplished at slower airspeeds than standard airworthiness airplanes since stall speeds tend to be well below the 45-knot limit. The first time practicing slow flight demonstrates the unique capability of LSAs. Power off stalls are typically of no particular significance as simply unloading the wing and the application of power immediately puts the airplane back flying. However, a pilot should understand that control pressures tend to be light so an aggressive forward movement of the elevator is generally not required. In addition, proper application of rudder to compensate for propeller forces is required, and retraction of any flap should be completed prior to reaching VFE, which comes very quickly if full power and nose down pitch attitude are maintained. Power on stalls can result in a very high nose-up attitude unless the airplane is adequately slowed down prior to the maneuver. In addition, some manufacturers limit pitch attitudes to 30° during power on stalls. If aggressive pitch attitudes are coupled with uncoordinated rudder inputs, spin entry is likely to be quick and aggressive.

Depending on the LSA design, especially those airplanes which use control tubes rather than wires and pulleys, flight in turbulence may couple motion to the stick rather distinctively. If a transitioning pilot’s flight experience is only with airplanes that have control cables and pulleys, the first flight in turbulence may be disconcerting; however, once the pilot becomes familiar with the control sensations induced by the turbulence, it only becomes another sign for the pilot to feel the airplane.

Approach and Landing

Approach and landing in an LSA is routine and comfortable. Speeds in the pattern tend to be in the 60-knot range, which makes for reasonable airspeeds to assess landing conditions. Flap limit airspeeds tend to be lower in LSAs than standard airworthiness airplanes so managing airspeed is important. Light control forces require smooth application of control pressures without over-controlling. Pitch and power are the same in an LSA as in a standard airworthiness airplane.

Crosswinds and gusty conditions can represent hazards for all airplanes; however, the lighter weights of LSA airplanes should place an emphasis in this area. Control application does not change for crosswind technique in an LSA. Manufacturers’ place a maximum demonstrated crosswind speed in the POH and, until sufficient practice and experience is gained in the airplane, a transitioning pilot should have personal minimums that do not approach the manufacturer’s demonstrated crosswind speed. The LSA’s light weight, slow landing speeds, and light control forces can result in a pilot inducing rapid control deflections that exceed the requirements to compensate for the crosswind. However, prompt and positive control inputs are necessary in strong winds. In addition, strong gusty crosswind conditions may exceed the airplane’s control capability resulting in loss of control during the landing.

 

Emergencies

LSAs can be advanced airplanes in regard to its engines, airframes, and instrumentation. This environment requires that a transitioning pilot thoroughly understand and be able to effectively respond to emergency requirements. While LSA are designed to be simple, a strong respect for system knowledge is required.

The airplane’s POH describes the appropriate responses to the various emergency situations that may be encountered. [Figure 16-16] Consider a few examples; the EFIS is displaying a “red X” across the airspeed tape, electric trim runaway, or control system failure. The pilot must be able to respond to immediate actions items from memory and locate emergency procedures quickly. In the example of trim runaway, the pilot needs to quickly assess the trim runaway condition, locate and depress the trim disconnect (if installed), or pull the trim power circuit breaker. Then depending on control forces required to maintain pitch attitude, the pilot may need to make a no-flap landing due to the flap pitching moments. Another example is failure of the EFIS. If the EFIS “blanks” out and POH recovery procedures do not reset the EFIS, an LSA pilot may have to be prepared to land without airspeed, altitude, or vertical speed information. An effective training program covers emergencies procedures.

Figure 16-16. Example of a POH Emergency Procedures section.

Figure 16-16. Example of a POH Emergency Procedures section.

Post-Flight

After the airplane has been shut-down, tied-down, and secured, the pilot should conduct a complete post-flight inspection. Any squawks or discrepancies should be noted and reported to maintenance. Transitioning pilots should insist on a training debriefing where critique and planning for the next lesson takes place. Documentation of the pilot’s progress should be noted on the student’s records.