Enough Of The Excuses... Here Are Our Final Decisions On The
Best Birds Of The Year
Final Compilations by ANN Editor-In-Chief/Roving Aeronaut, Jim
Each year, we put our heads
together, look over reader input as well as our own reports and
other sources of info and try to recognize the VERY BEST aircraft
in a number of pivotal categories. This particular series will
cover the aircraft we consider to be the VERY BEST of the whole
The following award categories have been established:
- E-LSA Kit Category
- S-LSA RTF (Ready To Fly) Category
- Amateur-Built/Experimental Kit Category
- GA Piston-Single Engine Category
- GA Piston-Twin Engine Category
- GA Turbine-Single Engine (Turboprop)
- GA Turbine-Multi Engine (Turboprop)
- GA Turbine (Jet)
- Plane Of The Year (The Best Of Them All -- Regardless
Each year, the choices get tougher. Worse; we tend to also make
it more difficult by tightening the reins on the decision making
process so that it gets harder and harder to make the cut as the
best in any category, much less wind up at the top of the pack as
our Overall Plane Of The Year selection.
As this year came to a close, we
also made some additional decisions as to what constitutes a "Best
of Breed" and how wide we wanted to cast the net and wound up
adding some categories to recognize some birds that truly deserved
the nod. As noted in past years, it struck us that naming an
overall "best" aircraft across the entire spectrum of general (or
sport) aviation is probably no longer reasonable. Which isn't to
say that we won't make a selection... but that we reserve the right
not to do so if no specific aircraft steps to deserve the title.
There are simply too many aircraft that have distinguished
themselves in too many outstanding ways for one to readily be
called better than the other on an overall basis. One man's perfect
high-speed Hot-Rod, for instance, becomes the expensive "way too
hot to handle" mistake of another pilot whose mission requirements
may differ markedly. So... we're going to cop out -- just a bit,
mind you. From here on out, we will name the best aircraft in
individual categories, and reserve the right in the future to
whittle down those categories as necessary which means that MAYBE
we WON'T name an overall winner each year... and MAYBE we
will -- we're picky that way. The fact of the matter is that no one
airplane is all things to all pilots, and within the spectrum that
we have decided on, these are the aircraft selections that truly
impressed us in each of the chosen categories -- and that each
year, MAYBE there will be an overall winner... and MAYBE not.
Are we absolutely (crystal) clear on this now (grin)?
Let me also note that while aircraft that previously were named
Best Of Breed in any category, or overall, are eligible for
inclusion in this year's list, we have decided to make it more
difficult (in our judging protocols) for a previous winner to take
the top spot in our judging criteria, so that a repeat winner truly
earns the distinction (and frankly, that hasn't happened in a
while). And finally... we totally reserve the right to weasel out a
bit and name more than one winner in a category where the margin of
victory is simply too close (or subjective) to call.
That said, herewith our selections for ANN's 2009 Plane
of The Year: Amateur-Built/Experimental
(Tie Vote) -- Glasair Aviation Sportsman 2+2, Van's RV-10
Glasair Aviation Sportsman 2+2
You've seen this airplane on the list before and I dare say
that you'll see it again. This is not your Father's GlaStar -- it
never was... it's something even better, and the 2009 season has
been even better to this aircraft with the continuing successes of
a revolutionary factory build program that can get a builder set up
to taxi his or her bird in just a few weeks after opening the
Fly this with your eyes closed and you'll swear that you're
flying a GlaStar… which is a really good thing… but
open your eyes, and see all the extra room and payload, and you'll
know that the seemingly perfect little GlaStar SportPlane
has been topped… by it's own kin.
The Sportsman 2+2 gives its pilots reason to brag about 155-161
mph cruise speeds (180-200 hp), and a Vso of only 48 mph... making
the S2+2 an easy STOL performer needing as little as 375 feet for
takeoff and 260 feet for landing. Climb rates range from 1950 fpm
(solo) to 1000 fpm (gross). At 65% power and standard tanks, the
S2+2 will get you 886 sm down the road.
It has 1000 pounds of useful load, and a small bench seat behind
the two front seats (good for an adult or two small kinds... or an
amazing load of crap, uh, gear). Its up to you, because even if you
fill both seats and gas it all the way up, there's still 300 pounds
of useful load left.
The stretched and tweaked Sportsman 2+2 is every bit as good as
the GlaStar was (high-praise--it was on my Top Ten list for
years)... and maybe just a little bit nicer, in terms of
load-carrying, and overall stability and control (the very tight
static/dynamic pitch profile is even better defined... which we
weren't sure was possible til we flew it).
A solid company backs this bird and the value is exceptional...
especially when you add in the availability of their new builder's
program and financing packages. One final note... on a set of
amphibs, this thing is absolutely amazing. Highly recommended.
More than our own brief experiences with this airframe, we're
impressed with the reports we're getting from builders and owners
who lavish their praise on this rugged four seat speedster. Van's
first four place is gaining headway as a popular and rugged family
The new quick-build kits help to keep it that way and have
allowed dozens of people to make progress at a rate that is truly
impressive. Sometimes "high" performance simply means getting more
out of a bird than anyone else can... and Van's first and only
four-place design is proving to be a truly great flyer. Excellent
support, exceptional performance and "RV" style attributes make the
RV-10 one of the best bets in the kit-built market.
Back on May 29, 2003, Van's Aircraft of Aurora, Oregon,
announced the successful first flight of their new kit aircraft,
the RV-10. In August of the same year, they handed the first RV-10
order forms across the counter to customers lined up at the
AirVenture airshow in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. A little over six years
later, RV-10 kit number 1000 was shipped to a customer in Irving,
TX. Over 200 RV-10s are known to have flown, At one point achieving
an average of one new airplane in the air every eleven days since
it was introduced.
The RV-10 is a fast, roomy, fixed-gear four-place airplane with
performance comparable to many production airplanes with
retractable landing gear, bigger engines -- and far higher prices.
It is part of the well-known line of RVs, including the RV-4, RV-6,
RV-7, RV-8, RV-9 and RV-12. Altogether, 6591 RVs have flown in
thirty countries around the world.
Van's birds are well-known for exceptional handling qualities,
excellent low-speed manners and simple rugged construction... and
yes, Van's builder support (and the community of Van's builders
themselves) make this aircraft a nearly unbeatable value. Highly