The little engine spins as high as 5,800 rpm, but a gear box reduces the rate at which the constant-speed MT propeller spins to nearly 2,400 rpm, which makes the engine more efficient and quieter.
The high rpm generates a lot of heat, but the engine is liquid-cooled. Solomon says the water-cooled heads eliminate potential shock-cooling issues and allow for much shorter fins to cool the cylinders so the barrels can be significantly smaller. This allows for a much smaller engine cowl, which produces less drag.
Solomon also says the small size has tighter tolerances, which reduce the wear on the engine and make it less expensive to overhaul. A typical overhaul on a certified Rotax runs about $15,000. One prior complaint on the Rotax was its low TBO, but with proven reliability, the TBO for the 912 series has been raised from 1,500 to 2,000 hours. More than 40,000 Rotax 912 and 914 engines have been produced to date.
One complaint in the United States has been the lack of Rotax service facilities. The issue is being addressed, and Mundigler says 1,000 independent Rotax maintenance technicians in North and South America were trained just in the past two years.
When it comes to avionics, the philosophy at Tecnam is flexibility. In a market where most manufacturers are focusing strictly on glass cockpits, Tecnam leaves the choice up to the customer. The airplane I flew was equipped with Garmin’s G950 — essentially an identical twin of the G1000, the only major differences being the certification (both are certified, but the G1000 is certified as part of the airplane while the G950 is not) and the fact that the integrated GFC 700 autopilot is not yet available for the G950. (It is, however, a work in progress.) In the meantime, the P2006T offers the S-TEC 55X autopilot. An extra benefit of adding the S-TEC 55X is that electric trim is included — an option that can be added without the autopilot. The manual trim control is a large wheel between the seats. Rudder trim is electric — located above and left of the control yoke.
The engine gauges are analog, and customers can choose to go the full analog route for the flight instruments as well. They can even add DME and ADF, if they so choose. “You can get anything you want, within reason,” Solomon says.
The high wing design helps keep the cabin cool, and the elevated engine mount position prevents prop strikes in case of a gear-up landing. However, with the Rotax engines, a propeller strike is not necessarily a costly event. Other than having to replace the propeller, the engine needs only a simple inspection of the gear box for a cost of about $300, Solomon says.
I jumped into the spacious P2006T cockpit, and after running through the pre-start checklist, it took no more than a fraction of a second to get the engines spooled up using the overhead ignition switches and starter buttons. The ease of start-up was both surprising and pleasing, as was the quietness of the cockpit. Lubore attributed the audible comfort to the twin’s insulation and the quiet engines.
The power quadrant contains three sets of controls — throttles, propellers and carburetor heat. Mixture is self-regulating.
With throttles and props forward, we climbed out at around 80 knots — blue line in the P2006T — and saw a nice established climb rate of 1,050 fpm. Lubore explained that there is no performance advantage above 10,000 feet and the airplane’s sweet spot for performance is between 6,000 and 8,000 feet msl, as it is for most normally aspirated airplanes. Once we leveled off, the throttles stayed full forward. With the Rotax, there is no reason to reduce the power during cruise as long as the tachometer reads below 2,265 rpm and the engine gauges stay within safe limits.