I had the opportunity to ride along with Tecnam demo pilot Andrew Jones in the P92 Eaglet out of Winter Haven (KGIF), where it was based, during one of the company’s Showcase Fly-Bys at Sun ‘n Fun last week. If the term Showcase Fly-By is unfamiliar, I’m certain that if you’ve ever been at the flight line of a fly-in, you’ve witnessed at least one of these displays. At Sun ‘n Fun, they are featured daily from noon until 1:30 p.m. and give manufacturers and individuals an opportunity to display their aircraft by performing a fly-by pattern over show center. During the fly-by, an announcer describes the aircraft over the PA system. Tecnam procured slots on multiple days to showcase its all-aluminum constructed Eaglet LSA and new P2006T twin. The day I went along, the Eaglet flew formation with Tecnam P2006T twin, piloted by Dave Lubore, Tecnam’s vp of flight training.
Lubore says Tecnam is targeting the trainer market with its LSAs (Echo Classic, Eaglet, Bravo, Sierra and P2008 models), what he feels are the answer to flight schools’ cost savings demands and at the same time giving their students a platform that will meet all their training needs. And interestingly, he says that the company is looking into possible FAA certification of one its LSAs, a complicated affair at best.
Before launching, however, Dave announced that the info from the earlier flight briefing had to be updated. Thanks to winds shifting and picking up, we were to now fly an opposite pattern than what was planned during the Showcase Briefing. Dave and Andrew went over the changes and confirmed the holding pattern locale and radio frequencies.
We were good to go. As I climbed into the right seat of the Eaglet, I was struck at how much the airplane felt like a bigger airplane with its roomy, 46-inch-wide cabin. And it seemed luxurious. My LSA experience to that day had been only in a Remos, which I trained for my Sport Pilot in, and one flight in a PiperSport. These are capable trainers but somehow feel “lighter” even though they all share the same Rotax 912ULS 100 hp engine and max weight.
And it wasn’t just the cabin that made the Eaglet seem “bigger”. Flying it did too. When we arrived at the predetermined holding pattern, a medium sized lake, we circled until the radio call came in telling us to proceed into the pattern for the Showcase. While we waited, Andrew kept us banked in 30- to 45-degree left-hand turn with two-finger control for nearly 15 minutes and the airplane remained stable and at altitude despite windy conditions. When finally cleared for the Fly-By, we entered the pattern first, with the P2006T powered back, following to our rear starboard side. Andrew crabbed a direct crosswind from the south (and the sock was straight out) along the side of Runway 27 with ease and not too much bumping around. We did this five times before heading back to KGIF and I didn’t need a Coke afterward!
As we left the pattern, Andrew offered me the controls. This particular airplane had a mechanical-gauge panel (glass is an option), and a GPS. I’ve become used to flying glass in the Remos, so I was surprised that it took me a couple of minutes to get acclimated, though the GPS was familiar. The airplane was surprisingly easy to keep at a steady altitude during the turbulent windy conditions. KGIF’s ATIS reported an 18-knot crosswind from the south (the Eaglet’s demonstrated crosswind is 20 knots). We picked Runway 23. The approach speed of around 70 knots was easy to keep too and as we came in a gust caught us right after flare but it was manageable.
Admittedly, my time in the Eaglet was very limited, but the “showcase” was a great environment to discover a new (for me) LSA.