Minnesota Flyer - Serving Midwest Aviation Since 1960

Experiencing the Pipistrel motor glider

This is the second installment of feature writer Jim Hanson's article on aircraft #230 in his repertoire of flight experiences. See the intro to this series in the June issue of the Minnesota Flyer.

 

Jim Hanson

Park a Pipistrel motor glider on the ramp, and you are sure to draw onlookers!

When flying any new aircraft, I like to study it first. I look it over carefully. In this case, I noted the long wings, the glider-like T-tail, the wide and roomy cockpit.

Paul and I conducted a pre-flight, with Paul explaining what we were looking at.

The aircraft is powered by an 80 hp Rotax 912 4-stroke water-cooled engine, the most common engine for LSA aircraft.

Rotax makes a 100 horsepower version, and I asked Paul why it wasn't installed.

"Reason number one is, you don't need it" he explained.

"The aircraft has a 600 pound useful load, even with the whole-airframe parachute system installed.

"Reason number two is for economy. This engine burns less than four gallons per hour.

"I've flown it non-stop from Wisconsin to Denver (7 hours and 14 minutes) and back (5:12). That's pretty good on 26 gallon tanks!"

We continued the preflight. Paul pointed out the 2-position carbon-fibre prop.

"Even though a variable-pitch prop is available," he said, "this is a two position prop, operational and feathered positions. As a motor glider, we are not bound by LSA constraints."

Nuts and bolts comparison

This served as a point of departure for listing the differences between motor gliders and LSAs.

"We can have a variable-pitch prop," he continued. "We're not bound by the 1320 pound weight limit.

"We can fly into Class B airspace if properly equipped. We can fly it internationally. We can fly faster than 120 knots, and above 10,000 feet.

"Motor gliders can fly at night, and IFR if required equipment listed in their Operational Specifications is on board.

"And of course, you don't need a medical. You can fly a motor glider even if you have been denied a medical in the past."

Those are very important differences! Paul demonstrated the manually deployed flaps.

In addition to normal flap deployment, this motor glider has reflex (negative) flap settings to increase cruise speed, just like any high-performance glider.

He also pointed out the spoilers. Any aircraft with this much wing needs help getting down.

Since Pipistrel advertises the ability to remove or reinstall wings in only 15 minutes, I wondered about connecting all of this monkey-motion, ailerons, flaps, and spoilers, when assembling.

"Like most high performance gliders, the aircraft has full auto-connect controls," he mentioned. "Control authority is automatic, though we still check their proper function, just like any other aircraft."

It's finally fly time

Enough talking about flying! Let's do some flying! We boarded the aircraft.

I flew from the right seat. Paul showed me how to adjust the rudder pedals. I'm six feet four inches tall, (and 255 pounds of rippling muscle) and I had plenty of room.

We practiced operating the overhead controls for flaps and spoilers. Paul pulled the safety pin on the ballistic parachute. The Rotax started right up. I was surprised by the ease of taxiing the aircraft. Even a Cessna 150 seemed more affected by wind than the Pipistrel.

Paul explained the first-generation Bräuniger glass cockpit display. Newer models have the more current displays. I found it easy to use.

Another advantage of this display over the newer displays is, it will allow you to soar for hours without running the battery down. The newer units require an auxiliary battery.

I'm used to the handling of LSAs (I own a Kitfox and a Kolb), so Paul allowed me to make the takeoff. With his coaching, we were off the ground at about 45 mph after an estimated ground roll of less than 500 feet.

Climbing out, we were climbing at 900 feet per minute at gross weight! Paul was right, this aircraft doesn't need more power than 80 horsepower!

I did some turns to climb to 3500 feet, then let the aircraft accelerate to max cruise speed. It was right on the book, at 120 knots. I slowed to normal cruise speed and did some steep turns.

The aircraft displayed its glider heritage by making them look easy. After all, gliders are made to bank steeply in thermals.

Paul offered to demonstrate the Tru-Trak autopilot but I was having none of that. This airplane (OK, Glider) is fun!

See the next installment of the Pipistrel article in the July issue of the Minnesota Flyer.

Another advantage of this display over the newer displays is, it will allow you to soar for hours without running the battery down. The newer units require an auxiliary battery.

I'm used to the handling of LSAs (I own a Kitfox and a Kolb), so Paul allowed me to make the takeoff. With his coaching, we were off the ground at about 45 mph after an estimated ground roll of less than 500 feet.

Climbing out, we were climbing at 900 feet per minute at gross weight! Paul was right, this aircraft doesn't need more power than 80 horsepower!

I did some turns to climb to 3500 feet, then let the aircraft accelerate to max cruise speed. It was right on the book, at 120 knots. I slowed to normal cruise speed and did some steep turns.

The aircraft displayed its glider heritage by making them look easy. After all, gliders are made to bank steeply in thermals.

Paul offered to demonstrate the Tru-Trak autopilot but I was having none of that. This airplane (OK, Glider) is fun!

See the next installment of the Pipistrel article in the July issue of the Minnesota Flyer.Another advantage of this display over the newer displays is, it will allow you to soar for hours without running the battery down. The newer units require an auxiliary battery.

I'm used to the handling of LSAs (I own a Kitfox and a Kolb), so Paul allowed me to make the takeoff. With his coaching, we were off the ground at about 45 mph after an estimated ground roll of less than 500 feet.

Climbing out, we were climbing at 900 feet per minute at gross weight! Paul was right, this aircraft doesn't need more power than 80 horsepower!

I did some turns to climb to 3500 feet, then let the aircraft accelerate to max cruise speed. It was right on the book, at 120 knots. I slowed to normal cruise speed and did some steep turns.

The aircraft displayed its glider heritage by making them look easy. After all, gliders are made to bank steeply in thermals.

Paul offered to demonstrate the Tru-Trak autopilot but I was having none of that. This airplane (OK, Glider) is fun!

See the next installment of the Pipistrel article in the August issue of the Minnesota Flyer.

 

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