It wasn't much of an afternoon to go flying. The weather was less-than-great VFR, though any VFR at all was a good thing because the airplane we were flying, the Remos GX, is a light sport aircraft, or LSA. And LSAs, as you probably know, are by regulation and without exception VFR-only machines.
The Remos brand has been around for years now in the form of the G-3 model, an airplane I'd wanted to fly but had never gotten the chance to try. Chris Ferguson, Remos' director of sales, was kind enough to stop by in Austin in the new model, the Remos GX, on a customer delivery flight to Tucson from his home base in Arkansas.
The timing was terrible, though, and we were hit by much worse than forecast weather. By Wednesday we'd already wasted a couple of pretty solid IFR days waiting for the skies to clear some. What we got -- 2,500 overcast with winds gusting to 20 knots from the south -- wasn't pretty, but it was flyable. And who knows, maybe I'd learn something about this pretty little carbon-fiber airplane by winging around in it on a day that wasn't ideally suited to the kind of blue skies aviating that people think about when they think "LSA."
LSA Waiting to Happen
The first Remos came into being in Germany way back in the early '90s, and the latest model, the Remos GX, is still manufactured there. The company has since traded in its old farmhouse for a brand-new factory about an hour north of Berlin near the Baltic. The original Remos, the G-3 model, with carbon-fiber fuselage and a longer, more sailplane-like wing covered in Ceconite, was introduced in 1998 for the European ultralight and kit market. It has enjoyed steady if not spectacular sales since then, with 250 sold, many of those in the United States.
When LSA rules were finalized in 2004, the G-3, a light, two-place airplane that was just fast enough and not too fast, proved a natural, and the company quickly started selling airplanes in the States. Over the past couple of years they've delivered nearly a hundred G-3s.
The GX, launched at AirVenture last summer, features a number of much asked for improvements, including an all-new folding carbon-fiber wing with large slotted flaps for all-around good flying manners and performance. The new wing, paired with the existing (and upgraded) carbon-fiber fuselage, results in a very light and very stiff airframe that gives pilots a lot of performance and flexibility, about as much as one can expect in an airplane that meets the LSA restrictions.
Remos' hope is that the GX will fill a niche last occupied in significant numbers by the Cessna 150/152, a solid training airplane that also appealed to some pilots as a personal (very) short-haul transportation airplane.
While its price tag typically equipped with flat-panel avionics and an autopilot is around $150,000, there are more basic packages available that get the GX down to a more competitive price range of just over $120,000, nicely equipped with a flat-panel Dynon PFD.
Without knowing anything more about it, you might see the Remos GX just sitting on the ramp and assume it to be a thoroughly modern airplane. And you'd be right.
The pod-centric design isn't new -- such airplanes have been around for decades -- but the combination of materials and design and equipment puts the GX into cutting-edge design territory.
The vast majority of the material that makes up the airframe -- fuselage, wing and tail -- is carbon fiber. The airframe, as a result, is very stiff and very light, and the exterior surfaces are remarkably smooth.
The side area of the airplane, as is the case with pod-and-tail designs, is small, and two of the improvements on the Remos GX are a larger horizontal tail area and ventral fin, for improved lateral stability compared with the previous model.
Because Remos hopes to attract flight schools as customers, there will be a big upgrade to the gear to make the airplane more durable. The new gear, which wasn't on the airplane I flew, is a Wittman-style steel tubing gear setup with composite fairings on it. The new gear will accommodate removable wheel pants and larger tires. And the gear will be slightly taller, as well, to give greater prop clearance. There's also improved tail strike protection, for those overzealous student flares.
Up front is the Rotax 912 UL, a 100 hp engine, a development of an engine design that's been around now for long enough -- close to 20 years -- that it is silly to keep calling it new. But with its advanced hybrid cooling and electronic ignition, it still does a lot of things in ways that few other aircraft engines are doing them. Among those is the use of a prop reduction gearing unit that takes the engine's high revs (typically around 5500 rpm at cruise) and turns them into a more usable prop speed of around 2300 rpm. The music created by the 912 -- a higher pitched whirring sound than conventional direct drive aircraft engines -- takes some getting used to. The prop is also new, a very cool looking Sensenich ground-adjustable composite propeller that gets the GX going right up to the LSA category's 120-knot top speed. With its thin structure and two-blade prop, the airplane is noisy. Remos is planning to introduce a three-blade composite prop option that will, the company says, cut noise very substantially.