Five LSAs Flying Under the Radar

There are some real surprises waiting in the light sport marketplace.

It is quite easy for most pilots to name the top brands in the light sport marketplace. Makers like Icon, Bristell, Pipistrel, Sling, and Flight Design are all “top of the mind” when it comes to thinking about the lighter side of recreational flying.

But if you dig a layer deeper than the obvious big names, there are some exceptional light sport airplanes available that are feature-rich and ready to deliver loads of fun flying. Let’s look at five of these that are probably flying under your radar.

Tomark Aero Viper SD4

Let’s start with the exciting Viper SD4 from Slovakian maker Tomark Aero. The company has chosen durable all-metal construction for this LSA, and while available as a light sport model, the platform serves many additional missions, including an “Air Force Trainer” version for the training of military pilots and their fully loaded “Attack” model, which adds speed and an impressive suite of safety features to the basic SD4 LSA platform.

There is a lot to love with the SD4. That lovefest starts with the impressive lines of the exterior, which look great from any angle. Even parked on the ramp, the Viper SD4 just looks fast, sitting on wide, capable landing gear. The company says their factory located in Prešov uses modern laser technologies and advanced manufacturing processes to craft a sturdy airframe coated with Duralumin that can handle the hard landings of novice pilots.

The interior of the SD4 is equally refined, with premium seats and a well-designed panel offered in analog gauges or optional glass avionics from Dynon or Garmin with an optional autopilot. As for power, the SD4 utilizes the efficient 100-hp Rotax 912 ULS, with additional options including a photo window. A BRS ballistic recovery system adds to the model’s safety features.

The Viper SD4 is currently being imported into the U.S. market by Eagle International Aircraft with a base price of “around $135,000.”

The Magnus Fusion 212 is the only light-sport airplane certified by FAA for aerobatics and intentional spins. [Photo: The Aviation Family]

Magnus Fusion 212 SLSA

The Fusion 212 S-LSA—manufactured by Magnus Aircraft, Inc. and distributed by The Aviator Family based in DeLand, Florida—could be the sexiest light sport airplane you’ve probably never heard about. The lines of this Hungarian-built S-LSA are as good as it gets in light sport styling, but underneath that sleek skin, a big surprise is waiting.

Because of its very strong airframe, the Fusion 212 became the first and only S-LSA to be certified by the FAA for upset recovery training, intentional spins, and basic aerobatics (+6/-3Gs) after successfully completing a comprehensive series of intentional spin and recovery tests. This adds a valuable layer of training functionality to this fuel-efficient S-LSA, making the 212 attractive to flight schools who choose to put Magnus Fusions on their flight line.

A standard Fusion 212 has a base price of $185,900 and comes with a BRS ballistic recovery system, dual-display Dynon SkyView HDX glass panel with autopilot, and a Rotax 912 ULS engine. Also available are optional Garmin avionics (including an IFR package), a Rotax 912iS or 915iS engine, or a 130 hp UL Power 350iSA, which was the 212’s engine that was certified by the FAA for aerobatics.

Built to handle the African bush, SkyReach’s BushCat is a tough and very affordable SLSA. [Photo: Rainbow SkyReach]

BushCat SLSA by SkyReach

The BushCat was designed to handle the rugged African bush country by South African company SkyReach, with a “modular design” making it easy to assemble and repair in the backcountry. With a wide side-by-side cabin, the BushCat serves larger pilots well for any mission, from flight training to wildlife work in Africa for anti-poaching or elephant-counting campaigns. It also comes in handy though when you just want to spend about $35 to chase that $100 hamburger or drop in next to a pristine stream in Idaho to catch your dinner.

For an attractive $87,500 base price, the ready-to-fly BushCat S-LSA in either nosewheel or taildragger configuration offers a lot of features not expected at this price point. Full dual throttle, rudder, and flight controls, a strong aluminum tubular frame, forgiving spring landing gear, 24-gallon “crack safe” fuel tank, and height-adjustable seats make the BushCat worth a look.

Power is supplied by either the Rotax 912 UL 80 hp or Rotax 912 ULS 100 hp engine, with a panel that offers a TRIG TY91 transceiver radio, Mode-S transponder with ADS-B Out, and basic analog instrument layout. Optional avionics from Kanardia, MGL, or Dynon are available.

The certified BushCat S-LSA or quick build E/AB kit (roughly 250 to 300 hours of build time) is available through AeroSport.

Arion Lightning LS-1

Arion Aircraft, located at Shelbyville Municipal Airport (KSYI) in Tennessee, spent three years making their Lightning kit aircraft as efficient and fast as possible, but when they wanted to produce a factory-built S-LSA version, it took “a complete reversal of thinking” to meet the current light sport performance numbers. By adding three feet of wingspan and changing the airfoil slightly, their LS-1 S-LSA stalls below 44 knots clean, and delivers 1,000 fpm of climb at 1,320 pounds maximum takeoff weight and 5.5 gph of cruise fuel burn behind a Gen 4 Jabiru 3300 engine.

The Lightning LS-1 has impressive lines and is constructed entirely of aircraft-grade components, including composite components that adhere to “internationally-accepted quality control programs.” The standard LS-1 has an attractive base price of $130,000, which gets you 40 gallons of fuel storage and amenities such as a Dynon 10” HDX EFIS system with synthetic vision and GPS, ADS-B in and out, a digital engine monitor, two-axis autopilot and stereo intercom. The sport wingtips, dual brakes, electric flaps and elevator trim, cabin heat, carpeted baggage area, and a wooden propeller from Sensenich make the standard LS-1 an exceptional value.

SeaRay’s popular Elite SLSA amphibian offers great fuel economy and performance. [Photo: SeaRay].

SeaRay Elite SLSA Amphibian

Ask anyone who has ever spent the afternoon out on the water in a boat and they’ll tell you it is a very pleasant way to relax. That quality time on the water gets multiplied many times when you fly into that waterway or lake in a SeaRay Elite S-LSA from Progressive Aerodyne. What could be better than combining the soothing feeling of soaking up the sun on the water with the exhilaration of flying in there in a very cool and capable certified light sport amphibian?

The SeaRay Elite S-LSA is a very mature design, well-developed to deliver admirable performance like a 350-foot water takeoff run and 1,100 ft/min rate of climb. The Elite S-LSA gets its power from the turbocharged 115 hp Rotax 914ULS, an engine perfectly suited for high altitude and hot day operations, and delivers 113 mph of maximum cruise speed and a 38 mph flaps down stall speed.

Standard features for the $199,000 base price include a Garmin G3X Touch panel with 10-inch and 7-inch EFIS options, ADS-B in and out, a lightweight carbon-fiber hull, and the ability to taxi on soft sand, small rocks, and up 15-degree sloped beaches. Folding wings and a bubble canopy are optional features. The company says there have been nearly 800 SeaReys manufactured and that they are present on every continent except Antarctica.

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