Remos GX

Premium features and a premium price tag for a sleek and sophisticated LSA.

Remos GX

Remos GX

Remos GXRobert Goyer

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.

Walk-Around

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.

With the GX the big Fowler-style flaps are also new. They help bring the stall speed down well below even LSA's slow limitations. And as elsewhere, the high-quality German manufacturing is evident in the milled aluminum flap tracks and hinges.

While the airplane looks small and is, the interior is remarkably roomy. At around 5 feet 9 inches I'm no giant, but Chris is around 6 foot 3 inches, and there was plenty of room for him… and for our shoulders, which is a big improvement over the long-ago discontinued but still popular Cessna two-seat trainers.

Seat adjustment is a bit unusual. Instead of moving the seats to and fro on tracks to adjust them, you actually remove them entirely and put them back in a more comfortable place. In addition to the beefed-up gear previously mentioned, the latest update to the Remos GX, which is due out any time now, features interior upgrades, including a choice of fabrics (including leather), a smart upgrade for what is a premium LSA.

Folding Wings: Convenient and Odd

On one of the days that we were shut out of flying in Austin because of the weather (not a common occurrence, by the way), Chris and I had the luxury of taking a leisurely tour of the GX in one of Atlantic Aviation's big hangars. One of the first things he asked was if I wanted to try folding the wings. You betcha.

I was a little worried, as most pilots new to folding wings are, that, number one, I'd get it wrong and forget to attach a pin or something and the wings would fold up in flight (not a good way to spend a Wednesday). My other worry was simply that I'd manage to somehow break the airplane in the process of reconfiguring it.

I really needn't have worried, though. I won't say that folding the wings is a no-brainer; you do need some experience and you've got to be gentle, and it would be possible to damage the wing if you got careless with the process. But once I got the hang of it -- it takes two people and it is a bit like a dance -- it was pretty easy. And it is around as fast as advertised. We had both wings folded in less than 10 minutes, and that was with me having no previous experience doing it.

And folding the wings makes a lot of sense for a lot of people. Instead of renting a hangar, you could simply buy a toy hauler, stick the airplane in there, and take it to the airport when you want to fly it. In theory, the trailer would pay for itself before too long. And if you're keeping it at the airport, with the wings folded, you can share a very small slice of a very large hangar. If I were the FBO manager, I'd sure cut a deal for storing an airplane that took up about a quarter of the floor space of a Skyhawk.

The small size has other advantages. For instance, when I was taking the ground shots of the airplane at San Marcos (Texas) Airport and I needed the airplane in a different spot, I just had to ask Chris. One person can easily move the airplane, even up an incline. I tried that with my old Cherokee Six once, just once. The Remos, in contrast, is as close as you can get to a portable airplane.

Bumps and Grinds: Flying the GX

By definition, an LSA is going to offer a different kind of experience flying than a high-performance single or even most conventional fixed-gear singles. By regulation LSAs are small (two seats or one), light (sub 1,320 pounds), slow (120 knots max straight and level speed), and even slower (45 knots max stall speed). So what you get are airplanes that are small, in order to be light enough, while having fairly large wings, in order to keep them flying fairly slowly at the low end of the envelope. The usual effect is an airplane that feels a lot like the Piper Cubs and Aeronca Champs of the '30s and '40s, light on the controls and a bit kitey, as they say in ultralight circles.

Useful load is also an issue, and here the Remos GX, unlike a number of other LSAs, is up to the challenge. With an empty weight of just 670 pounds and a max weight of 1,320 pounds, the Remos GX has a useful load of 650 pounds. Top off the tank with 21 gallons of 100LL and you still have 524 pounds of payload. That's two big guys and some other stuff to throw in back. For a small airplane, that's mighty impressive.

One of my least favorite things about a lot of light airplanes is the split finger brakes they employ. For a lot of reasons, such as weight, design simplicity and ease of use, differential finger braking makes sense, but on the GX Remos has come up with a better idea. It does use finger brakes, or, I should say, a finger brake, but it adds nosewheel steering to the mix to make a supremely easy to operate and maneuverable little LSA.

Takeoff in the Remos is very different from that of most conventional light singles. Like a couple of other LSAs I've flown, it doesn't rotate as much as it levitates. Because of construction on the normally 9,000-foot-long 17L at KAUS, we had only 5,000 feet available for takeoff. That is many times the length needed by the Remos. With the two of us aboard and with full fuel, we were off in no time -- I watched the 1,000-foot aiming point sail by below us on takeoff. This is an airplane that doesn't so much need a runway as a small clear patch of land. Impressive.

We headed out from Austin and leveled off at 2,500 feet VFR below a ragged overcast. It was gusty and bumpy, and I got a workout hand-flying the GX. Not that it's a difficult airplane to fly. Far from it. It was just a rugged flying day. And I did realize early on that this was an airplane you need to use your feet to fly, something the Cirrus I normally fly gives me very little practice at. The yaw stability in the GX is not strong, though the new model does have additional side surface, with a slightly larger ventral fin and tail surface.

As I noted, the airplane is very roomy inside for the two occupants, but there's precious little baggage space. My modestly sized camera bag was a tight fit, and while Remos is thinking of adding an external baggage door for more storage, it hasn't done it yet.

Inflight visibility, especially downward, is very good. The windows, as you can see, are quite large. One thing I don't like is the view out the side. You sit very high in the seats, so your head is actually above the top of the side windows, forcing you to bend downward to scan for traffic out the side.

Because of the weather, we never got higher than a couple thousand of feet over the terrain, and it was choppy, but even so, the cruise speeds were within shouting distance of the maximum the LSA regs allow. And with an adjustable pitch prop, you can always opt to get better cruise performance (with the 120-knot limitation) at the expense of some takeoff and climb capability, where the Remos has plenty of performance in reserve.

For the most part, the panel is very nicely done, with a pair of Dynon LCD displays, a PFD with built-in AHRS and air data and an MFD with engine monitoring. Because none of this equipment is certified -- the Garmin transponder, audio panel and SL30 navcoms are the exceptions -- they can be configured by the pilot in a number of different ways. Whether this is good or not is debatable. With LSAs being essentially self-certified by the manufacturer, the whole thing is outside the box. For instance, the GPS running the whole show, including driving the autopilot and sending position data to the displays, is a handheld, a Garmin GPSMap 496 with XM Weather. It does a great job, but at least by Part 23 standards, it's all very odd. That said, the layout of the GX panel is exceptionally clean and well thought out and very capable for such a light airplane.

I was, however, very disappointed in the performance of the autopilot, a noncertified TruTrak unit, though it's likely that the problem was with the setup and not the autopilot itself. I've flown with TruTrak in a couple of Experimental airplanes in the past and have been impressed by its performance. In this case, the autopilot was unable to hold altitude in the bumpy air and actually put us into a pronounced nose-down attitude, forcing me to manually disconnect it. And unlike certified autopilots, you couldn't shut it off instantly. Instead you had to disconnect it by depressing a button on the autopilot itself for a few seconds. I'd sure want an autopilot disconnect button on the stick.

As far as flying manners are concerned, the GX is well harmonized, with pleasant overall handling qualities, if a bit on the light side -- though what do you expect with a 670-pound airplane? My overall impression was very positive, and I'm sure I'd quickly get better at working those rudder pedals.

Because of the gusty conditions, my few landings in the GX were probably not representative of the airplane's manners. Down at San Marcos, where we went to shoot some touch and goes, we were looking at a 45-degree crosswind gusting up into the 20s, so it was challenging for a newbie in the airplane.

On approach it took a bit of doing to get it slowed down to flap speed while still losing altitude, and once I did get it into the low, low flap range, it had a tendency to sink, which is a bit surprising in an airplane this light. And on short final I found it a bit hard to get the proper perspective on the centerline, so I wound up being a little cockeyed on my first few touchdowns. Once I got the idea, thanks to a few helpful hints from Chris, I was able to get things straightened pretty consistently.

That all said, the airplane was remarkably responsive and would have done anything I asked it to do. It would just take a little practice to get to that point. And my "bad" landings early on resulted in 300- to 500-foot ground rolls once I got it planted.

Going Forward

The LSA market hasn't really panned out as many had anticipated. The lure of $50,000 two-seaters has proven illusory, as what we've been saying for years becomes clear to everyone: It's simply not possible to make money on any kind of substantial airplane at that price. And even though the market is down for LSA makers, as it is everywhere, and there's sure to be some shakeout in the market, Remos looks like a good bet. It's well financed, it has a solid product, and it doesn't need to sell a hundred airplanes a year to make money.

And for those pilots starting out who are looking for a little sport airplane with big ramp appeal, or for the seasoned veteran looking to transition down into the LSA world, the Remos GX has a lot of flying fun to offer. And those are two of the major markets the LSA category was aiming for from the start.