In reality, the PiperSport
isn’t totally new; it’s an improved version of the Czech Aircraft
Works (CAW) SportCruiser, first introduced in 2006. About 100
SportCruisers were sold in the United States, placing it among the
best-selling LSA. Now with the Piper Aircraft imprimatur, it’s poised
to be even more successful.
President Kevin Gould said Piper Aircraft decided to get into the
LSA market to provide “an easy entry point for new pilots to get into
the industry.” He likened it to the 1940s when the Piper Cub was
“easy to learn on, fun to fly, and affordable.”
Many LSA were designed for European markets, but designers of
the SportCruiser waited until the LSA rules were finalized so they
could build the largest possible LSA for the U.S. market. Their main
objective was to accommodate a pair of 220-pound, 6-foot 6-inch
pilots plus baggage, which the PiperSport can if the tanks are half-
full. Inside cabin width at the shoulders is a roomy 46. 5 inches. I am
over 6 feet tall and test flew the PiperSport a few days after its
January announcement at the Sebring U.S. Sport Aviation Expo. I
found it easy to get in and out of the aircraft and had plenty of head
and shoulder room.
This may well be the year of the LSA. Piper will begin shipping
the PiperSport in April, and Cessna will begin volume deliveries of
its Skycatcher before the end of 2010.
I heard rumors of the PiperSport a few days before I arrived at
Sebring, and they were wrong in one aspect: Piper didn’t actually
buy CAW. Instead, it entered an exclusive, worldwide distribution
agreement to sell an improved version of the SportCruiser as the
PiperSport. Improvements include a reinforced nose gear, the addition of a heating and ventilation system, and an overhead sun
canopy. Piper also intends to reduce pitch sensitivity by increasing
the gap between the horizontal stabilizer and elevator and by changing the trim tab. A 40-pound BRS parachute will become standard in
all models, bringing the useful load to 560 pounds.
Piper will offer three PiperSport models, starting at $119,900.
The LT and LTD models add additional avionics. All models include
the Garmin GTX 328 mode-S transponder. But Piper says the
PiperSport won’t initially be configured to display mode-S traffic
data on its Garmin 495 or optional Garmin 695 GPS receivers.
Neither GPS model can display XM weather, which won’t be an
issue for most flight schools but could be of interest to some individual owners.
The PiperSport carries 30 gallons of either 100LL or premium
automotive gas and has a 600-nm range. Two wing lockers, each
with a footprint that looks big enough to carry one or two 24-can
cases of soda, can carry up to 44 pounds each. An additional 40
pounds can go into a large baggage area behind the seats and on top
of a turtledeck.
For links to PiperSport’s You Tube channel, Facebook page and Twitter feed, visit www.SportAviation.org.
Top: Piper’s updates to the former SportCruiser
include the addition of a sun screen on the canopy.
Bottom: Wing lockers in each wing will hold up to
44 pounds of baggage.