While the rest of the world was fixated on the Paris Air Show, I was schmoozing with the folks at the Cessna Aircraft Factory in Wichita Kansas. I met up with Cessna’s piston-engine chief pilot, Kirby Ortega, for a flight in Cessna’s LSA: the Skycatcher.
Read my review of the Cessna 162.
The Cessna 162 Skycatcher is a fun plane to fly. It’s easy on the controls, exudes stability and is very docile. Think of it as a snappier and faster version of the 152 fitted with a fancy glass cockpit by Garmin.
In cruise, the Skycatcher handles just like you would expect any high-wing Cessna to fly: predictable and stable. But be warned, the elevator is particularly sensitive at low speed. This is actually pretty common with LSA’s due to their lightweight control surfaces and Cessna came up with a pretty clever fix.
They installed a gurney strip – a small drag-inducing fence on the elevator to increase pilot control forces. It gets the job done, but I can’t help but wonder whether some sort of spring or bungee system might have felt better.
I flew the Skycatcher through a series of manuevers and the airplane performed well. Steep turns were a breeze and slow flight was very forgiving. I get the impression that the 162 doesn’t want to stall. The airplane insists on dipping the nose and recovering itself from power-off stalls.
Power-on stalls on are a blast! The airplane wants to power out of the stall and it becomes a bit of a wrestling match to keep the angle of attack in the critical range. But mind those rudders! My sloppy footwork snapped the airplane into a quarter-turn incipient spin in no time. The good news is that the airplane recovered itself as the rudder traveled through neutral with the power back to idle. Easy.
Skycatcher’s new stick deserves a mention. If you’re not familiar with it, Cessna came up with an outside-the-box stick concept. It looks a bit like what would happen if a flight stick and control yoke had a baby. The 162’s stick pushes in and out for elevator control, which seem pretty natural.
But the stick’s aileron control is where it gets inventive. The stick moves left to right with a slight twist which felt really awkward during the flight control check on the ground. But the stick feels quite natural in the air as it simulates the motions of a normal floor-mounted stick without taking up the pilot’s leg room.
Speaking of leg room, the Cessna Skycatcher is remarkably spacious for an LSA. The seats are spaced apart a little wider than they were in the 152 and the adjustable rudder pedals and floor-level seats provide a sports car-like feel.
Don’t let that last sentence trick you. The Cessna Skycatcher is no hot-rod, nor does it claim to be. Stable and predictable, this airplane is a basic trainer through and through. As more flight schools look to capitalize on the growing sport pilot trend, Skycatcher just might be the perfect replacement to the beloved C-150.
You can find out more about the Cessna Skycatcher by visiting Cessna’s product site.