Power-on stalls are nearly as tame, but you do need to use your feet a little to pick up a wing because the angle of attack and deck angle are much higher. Still, it is totally controllable without releasing back pressure. There is a little buffet, and then a break to identify the stall, but nothing is going to happen if a student reacts incorrectly. There is the "reed" type of stall warning horn that other light Cessnas use, but every pilot will want to explore beyond the audible warning.
Dale had to show me this one, but with power on, full aft stick and stalling, it was easy to fly straight and level with full aileron in either direction. I could also turn using the rudder with aileron opposite the turn. Cross-controlled stalls can lead to some very unusual attitudes in most airplanes, so I would not have tried it without his demonstration and coaching. But he's right. There is nothing to worry about.
Of course, an extremely important measure for any airplane is how easy it is to land, particularly for a basic trainer. The SkyCatcher passes that test with ease. My first touchdown was darn near perfect, and I give all credit to the airplane. The sight picture over the glareshield is natural, and it's easy to gauge your attitude as the runway comes up. On another approach, I purposely carried 25 knots of extra speed and then wracked the 162 into a fully cross-controlled slip on short final to lose the speed and altitude. Because the flaps are the simple hinged type, not the slotted style of other Cessnas, there is no possible interaction between the flaps and tail, so the slip is easily controllable. The flaps in the 162 are smaller and less effective than on other Cessnas but they do add a little drag. I tried a power-off approach from abeam the runway on downwind and pulled on full flaps on final, and then dumped them all, to make the spot. The flaps-up landing was probably my best of the day.
LSAs are "certified" under rules set by ASTM, an international standards authority. Instead of the FAA examining test documentation and flying the airplane as with a normal category airplane, the LSA manufacturer affirms that its testing has met the ASTM standard. But the ASTM standards are less detailed than for FAA Part 23 normal category airplanes, so Cessna went far and above some other LSA manufacturers by doing a full fatigue test regime on the airframe and complete low-speed and stall behavior tests when something less would have met the LSA rule. Certainly Cessna wants to make sure it is building the safest possible airplane, but it also knows that it takes extensive testing to determine how well an airplane will hold up in its primary training mission. Meeting a set of rules is one thing, but meeting the demands of the flight training market can be a very different issue, and it looks like the SkyCatcher will do both.
The airplane I flew is the third 162 built and is the one that conforms to production standards. The airplane is being built in China and will be disassembled and shipped to the United States, where it will be put back together and test-flown. Yingling Aviation in Wichita, Kansas, will be the first reassembly center and expects to have 162s arriving by the end of the year. Options, including wheel pants, second Garmin display, BRS whole-airplane parachute and basic autopilot, will be installed at Cessna dealers.
Cessna has more than 1,000 deposited orders in hand for the 162. The current base price is $111,500. That compares with the Skyhawk's base price of around $265,000 and fully equipped price of nearly $300,000. Of course, the Skyhawk is a more capable airplane, but you can see how the SkyCatcher can dramatically reduce the cost of flight training. There is the obvious savings in capital investment, insurance and maintenance. And the training fuel burn in the 162 is around six gallons per hour compared with 10 in the 172.
You can learn to fly in an old, fully depreciated airplane that may come close to the operating costs of a SkyCatcher, but that isn't the same as learning in a new airplane with a modern glass cockpit. And reduced cost is only one of the appealing features of the 162. I think it just plain looks good and sturdy but still modern. And the big cabin will be welcome by all. The SkyCatcher can't do it alone, but it has help from an integrated Cessna Pilot Center training program. And the airplane demonstrates beyond a doubt that Cessna is here to stay as a full-line airplane maker that taught the world to fly and then had a whole line of more capable airplanes to carry the new pilot wherever he wants to go. The SkyCatcher is the new starting line, and it's a good one.