Putting the Sport in Light Sport Aircraft – A Review of the Arion Lightning LS-1

Arion Lightning LS-1 Review

This airplane is a joy to fly and looks sharp on the rampThe light sport aircraft certificate was never meant to produce sturdy utility airplanes or all-purpose trainers. It was meant to make airplanes affordable and fun, and the Arion Lightning LS-1 embodies that spirit. This airplane is a joy to fly and looks sharp on the ramp.

Landing the Arion Lightning

Crossing the threshold in the Arion Lightning LS-1

While not exactly spacious, the Lightning’s cockpit does offer plenty of room for two. Seats are fixed to the floor with a traditional stick protruding from the floor which feels quite natural and comfortable. A huge bubble canopy provides amazing visibility, and Arion offers a great sun shade option to prevent that bug-in-a-magnifying-glass effect on hot summer days.

Arion’s lightning has excellent flying qualities and reminds me of a lighter, snappier Diamond DA20. The controls are very sensitive, but not at all twitchy. It is easy to over-control the airplane, but things smooth out if you fly with wrist motions instead of leveraging your whole arm. It has the feel of an aerobatic trainer and is somewhat reminiscent of a Van’s RV-6A.

The Arion Lightning's Tail

With hangar doors open, the Lightning LS-1 is ready for flight

I get the impression that this airplane wants to be aerobatic even though it’s not certified for such topsy-turvy flying. Sporting large ailerons, this airplane can roll at 100º/second. Built from a sturdy fiberglass mold, the fuselage and wings are solid. As an LSA, the Lightning is certified to +4 G/-2 G but has been tested to a whopping +9 G!

This airplane’s Achilles Heel is the fact that it is an LSA, which limits its versatility. If you’re looking to have a blast in an LSA, the Lightning LS-1 is a big win. But if you are open to all categories, a used Pitts or RV might be worth a look, just because they are certified to do more.

Like most LSA’s, the Lightning has a useful load of about 500 lbs, depending on options. There isn’t a whole lot of room in the back for cargo, so this shouldn’t factor too heavily into your weight and balance calculations.

Arion chose the six cylinder Jabiru 3300 engine for the Lightning LS-1. The official fuel burn is only 5.5 gallons per hour and the engine is capable of accepting Mogas as well as Avgas. Engine vibration is very low and the ride is smooth.

If you’re looking for a primary trainer, this airplane is probably not for you. It flies well, but the controls are just too sensitive for the first-solo student. Pilot-induced oscillation is a real possibility and it would be very easy for a beginner to get into trouble – particularly when landing.

Arion Lightning LS-1 on the Ramp

Clean lines and mini-winglets distinguish the Lightning LS-1

The Lightning LS-1 embraces the sport concept in light sport aircraft. Its sensitive controls could catch a few pilots off guard, but that’s what gives the airplane its fun and dynamic characteristics. A maneuverable little plane, the Lightning is a welcome addition to the light sport category and might be the perfect hot rod for those who have lost their medical certificate.

Find out more about the Arion Lightning LS-1 at FlyLightning.net.

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About the author
Pat Flannigan is a professional pilot and aviation blogger. He has been flying for fifteen years and is currently working as an airline pilot in the United States.

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