With the introduction of the first CS-LSA-registered Evektor SportStar RTCs, Holland finally has availability of affordable training aircraft. The Czech low-wing aircraft stands out with relatively low operating costs and excellent flight characteristics, making it ideal for pilots training for Private Pilot Licenses (PPL).
Pilot report from February 2013 issue of Piloot & Vliegutig in Dutch original download here.
Evektor-Aerotechnik is one of the biggest manufacturers of light single engine aircraft. In the last 40 years, the Czech manufacturer has sold more than 1.000 two-seaters in over 40 countries. Nowadays, apart from the production of lightweight two-seaters, Evektor is also involved in the development of four-seaters like the VUT 100 (Super) Cobra and multi-engine turboprops like the EV-55 Outback.
Evektor saw an opportunity early on provided by the US Special Light Sport Aircraft (S-LSA) category- and with success: within a relatively short time-span, about 100 SportStar MAX aircraft were entered in the US-registry. A great number of such were put to use in the aviation training industry. If the manufacturer has its way, the SportStar RTC will perform equally well within Europe. Make no mistake, the RTC is not derived from the SportStar MAX, but rather from the Harmony, for which the EASA JAR-VLA certificate was issued as early as in 2005. By applying relatively small modifications, the RTC was able to comply fairly quickly with EASA requirements for Very Light Aircraft (VLA) with a max take-off weight of 600 kg. During mid 2012, the European CS-LSA Restricted Type Certificate (RTC) was issued, meaning the European aviation training community could finally meet with the aircraft.
During preflight inspection it hits you how compact the RTC really is. All drag inducing riveting has been tidily covered by the immaculate paintjob. Remarkable is the positioning of the horizontal trimtab, which has not been incorporated in the elevator but installed aft of it. The low position of the wings and the forward hinging canopy makes entering the airplane easy. Once on board, the cockpit surprises. The cabin-width of 1.18 m at shoulder-height in combination with the bubble canopy doesn’t only provide plenty of space but also allows for a clear outside view. Another advantage is that thanks to the comfortable seats and the spacious head-room, (student-) pilots of more than 1.90 m fit the aircraft without a problem.
The occupants strap in four point seat belts. The baggage compartment accommodates 285 litres of space with a max weight of 25 kg. The panel looks familiar and classic with its “basic six” right in front of the pilot. The middle console is occupied by a Garmin Area 500 GPS, a Garmin SL40 Comm, a PM3000 intercom and a GTX328 (mode S) transponder. To the right the engine instruments are situated along with fuel, OAT and other gauges, all of which are perfectly readable. However the view of the RPM indicator is somewhat obscured by the GPS.
Taxying the aircraft feels familiar right away, thanks to the fully steerable nosewheel assembly. It is good practice to relieve the weight on the nosewheel early on. The differential brakes are easy to operate and live up to their requirements: turning the aircraft on a dime and strong braking action. Power can be applied in 2 ways: via the ponte power lever or via the small wheel, which makes fine-tuning the engine RPM very easy. The runup is a textbook one, with no unpleasant surprises for the user regarding the Rotax 912 S. However it takes some time getting used to the engine RPM of around 4.000 for Lycoming users.
The aircraft is equipped with split flaps, which are mechanically operated and have three settings. With two average sized pilots and 10 degrees of flaps and a short take-off roll the aircraft unsticks at 55 kts, only to rapidly accelerate to its Vy of 65 kts. At this airspeed the aircraft’s average rate of climb is around 1.000 fmp, which is not only a pleasant circumstance for the vicinity of the airport in terms of the burden on the population, resulting in a significantly reduced number of complaints. Also, the interior noise level is so low that the headset is no longer a necessity. What was noticeable during the climb once more became clear during level flight: an absolute absence of vibrations. The RTC turns out to be a gentle machine that feels like a fish in the water in its normal operating range of 85 – 115 kts, with a brisk response to control inputs. The electrical trim however lags a bit to input.
The landing is no different from the take-off: it is predictable without workload increasing factors. Between the moment of full flap selection and the full stop you experience a smooth flight phase transition. The aircraft is somewhat sensitive to crosswind, but that condition can be excellently corrected.
The aircraft has been utilized at Cycloon Holland for a few months now and has fully lived up to their expectations for PPL and future LAPL courses. In 2 months the RTC has flown 150 hours. This is proof of the fact that it´s possible to continue with flight training even during autumn and winter. Combine this with the gentle and predictable flight characteristics and the advantages become instantly clear: student pilots are not only quick to master the aircraft, they also have a huge price advantage over their GA counterparts.
Compared to the SportStar RTC the average training Cessna uses around 30 liters of Avgas per hour in current pricing conditions of around 100 Euro. Multiply this amount with the number of training hours needed to obtain your licence and you will get a general indication of these costs. Do the same math with the SportStar RTC with its Rotax engine, consuming around 15 litres per hour for roughly 2 euro per litre. Maintenance also generates lower costs. The needed reservation for maintenance and replacement of a Lycoming O-320 is exponential compared to the Rotax. Both engines have a TBO of 2.000 hours. For a O-320 you will have to count on an approximately 25.000 dollar replacement engine, the Rotax weighs in at around 16.000 dollars. This difference also weighs on the significantly lower training expenses.
Should the whole of Holland covert to Rotax driven units? According to Evektor they should. And they are right about it!