A decade after production of the Tiger and Cheetah lapsed, a new company, American General Aircraft Corporation, bought the rights to the Tiger, and the tooling for it, and reintroduced a modified version of it built to an amended type certificate. That airplane featured several noteworthy improvements over the previous models: a split nose bowl for easier access to the engine without removing the prop; better panel and exterior lighting; fuel transducers instead of fuel lines in the cockpit; a 28 volt electrical system; a big-airplane style throttle quadrant and better heat and ventilation to the rear seats. The result was an airplane with all of the good qualities of the original and far fewer of the issues. Unfortunately, ACAG was forced to close up shop in 1993 after producing just more than 100 airplanes.
This time it looks as though the Tiger really is back, though the early days of production can be the most challenging for a fledgling airplane maker. As I write, the company has produced seven of the airplanes and it should have, it says, production approval from the FAA by the time you read this. The production certificate will allow the company to ramp up production; it hopes to build nearly a hundred Tigers in calendar year 2003. The company, 70 percent of which is owned by Taiwanese investors, is using many of the same vendors that supplied parts for the airplane back in the 1990s. The "factory," now located in Martinsburg, West Virginia, is really more of an assembly facility, though all the major composite components, including wheel fairings, wingtip fairings and cowlings, are built there.
The price of the new Tiger is $219,500. That's an easy price to quote, as there aren't really any options available yet. Not many are needed. While the Tiger is being built to the same type certificate as the American General model, there are significant changes to the interior and panel that make the new model a decided step up from any Tiger before it.
The comfy seats are now covered in leather, which makes the usual Tiger entry pattern-lift the seat cushion, step on the seat frame, get both feet on the floor, lower the seat-more important to follow than ever before. Attractive carpeting, real leather headliner, an aluminum instrument panel and improved lighting complete the interior upgrade.
Also, the airframe of the Tiger is now extensively corrosion proofed, a process that is sure to extend the life of what has proven to be an extremely durable airplane to start with.
There are several things that remain unchanged about the Tiger, and the engine is the most noteworthy. The Lycoming O-360-A4K, which produces 180 horsepower at 2700 rpm, may be a reliable workhorse of a powerplant, but it lacks fuel injection, so attention to carb heat remains a must. (The company has hinted about the possibility of introducing a "Super Tiger" further down the road, that would make use of a more powerful and more advanced engine.) Also, the Tiger simply cries out for a constant-speed prop, which would allow it improved takeoff and cruise performance. One holdover from Tigers of old that's easier to swallow is steering by differential braking. While this method may take some getting used to for pilots unfamiliar with it, once you get the hang of it, you wonder why any light airplane maker would do it any differently.