Thirteen Great Aircraft, Backed By Thirteen Great Companies
Compiled and Edited by ANN CEO/Editor-In-Chief, Jim Campbell
Now that we've seen all that was new and novel at this year's 2013 US Sport Aviation Expo, in Sebring FL, it's time to get off the dime and fill you in on this year's list of what we consider to be the best "Flyer's Dozen" (thirteen, in all) Sport Aircraft available for an embattled flying community that needs value now more than ever before.
All this LSA and SportAv goodness represents what we feel to be the very best that the industry can field at the moment and is but a small part of the valued data, insight, and critiques we plan to render in the Third Edition of our upcoming SportPlane Resource Guide.
The list of 13 airplanes is heavily weighted toward the LSA segment but does contain a number of exceptional aircraft from the E-AB segment as well as E-LSA and S-LSA. And please note... these birds are, "the real deal... it was not good enough for an airplane to simply be very good to make the list... they have to encompass the whole package -- good companies, good customer service and GREAT airframes."
In alphabetical order, ANN is proud to present our picks for this year's "Flyer's Dozen" along with a little of the rationale behind our decisions...
BRM Aero Bristell
One of the more expensive LSAs on today's market, the Bristell turns out to be a very value-oriented machine. As a "top of the line" choice, we have been impressed with the aircraft's craftsmanship, the very knowledgeable management team behind the US operation and the honest way that this aircraft has been represented. We have a feeling we'll be seeing the Bristell in US skies for a long while.
The most pricey of the bunch, the CubCrafters Carbon Cub none-the-less represents an uncommon value. Exquisitely built and engineered, brilliantly supported and easily the best crafted machine we've seen in the LSA biz, the Carbon Cub is worth every penny and is one heck of a ride. If you're looking for one of the best LSAs we've ever flown, this is it.
FK-Lightplanes Comet FK12 Bipe
Simply beautiful... that's about the only way to describe the FK12 Comet biplane. Great ground handling, solid flying manners and a rich feature set make the Comet a solid value for someone looking for an LSA that can roll and loop as well as just plain burn holes in the sky. This is a lovely little bipe.
Flight Design CTLSi
One of the best known and most respected companies in the LSA market, Flight Design USA, has built a great rep for a reason. We have heard glowing reviews of the manner in which they support their customer base and are particularly impressed with their development programs... these airplanes are getting better every year and the most recent CTLSi looks to be as state of the art as they come. Doing business with this company is a no-brainer... we trust them implicitly.
Kitfox Light Sport
One of the most popular sport aircraft of all time is now in the hands of a true fan of the breed. John McBean's Kitfox operation is a solidly honest and progressive company that stands by an outstanding product and has done excellent work in making sure the bird keeps up with the times. Folding wings, multiple engine options, GREAT handling capabilities and really fun flying makes the Kitfox an uncommonly great LSA value.
Not an LSA, the Experimental-Amateur Built twin-engine AirCam has been a permanent entry on my personal list of all-time favorite aircraft for well over a decade. One of the best designed sport aircraft we've ever flown, we are blown away by the capabilities of this STOL heavy hauler and the incredibly great manners it possesses... and best of all, the bird is supported by Phil Lockwood... an honest man and a true patron of the sport flying arts.
Well under $100K, even when crammed with options, this is Pipistrel's answer to the dilemma faced by today's flight schools looking for solid and affordable aircraft -- and is a stunning entry in the market. Exquisite engineering, incredible economics and solid backing by a truly experienced sport aviation manufacturer (Michael Coates... one of our favorite guys in the biz) -- well, we dare you to find a better training value in today's LSA market.
Progressive Aerodyne SeaRey
Amphibians often come in one of two flavors... great little airplanes or poor ones beset by way too many engineering compromises. The Progressive Aerodyne SeaRey is one of the greats... in no uncertain terms. Great handling in the air, or on the water, and backed by one of the most experienced aero-families in sport aviation history, the SeaRey is a ball to fly and an incredibly capable sport aircraft. We love this thing.
Randy Schlitter can not design a bad airplane...and after decades of flying his handiwork, I've come to believe that this is a basic truth. The tandem seated S-7 series has incredible crosswind capabilities, solid taildragger manners and is a spritely little sport machine that has a great STOL heart. Upgrades to the overall platform over the last decade have improved an already accomplished aircraft, a bird that is well-supported by a great and experienced sport aviation manufacturer.
OK... here's a great way to have a great time in the air... and to do so while keeping most of your money in the bank. This folding-wing, single seater is sport aerobatic, rugged, has great manners and is backed by John Monnett... a guy who has forgotten more about what makes sport aviation work than most men will ever know.
It's a classic airframe configuration, but solid workmanship, rugged construction and a serious support organization have made Tecnam's recently updated P-2008 a serious consideration for the personal flyer or sport flying school. Recent addition of the Rotax 912 iS offer even more compelling evidence to see why Tecnam continues to be a force in the LSA biz.
OK... Dick Van Grunsven designed this baby... what the heck else do you need to know? Related to what is possibly the most well-known series of sport aviation airframes in the history of the biz, the Rotax powered RV-12 has retained the best of the RV heritage while also being backed by a company that has supported thousands of airframes over the years. Yes, this is another no-brainer.
I flew the first generation of Zenith CH600 series airplanes many years ago and have a had a lot of fun with its siblings ever since. A stylishly built side-by-sider, the upgraded CH650 is the direct descendant of a long line of great flyers and the beneficiary of being offered by another truly legendary sport aviation family operation. The CH650 has matured nicely and represents another very solid value...