|Pipistrel enters the LSA training market with its new
By Marino Boric, EAA European Correspondent
In keeping with the company's growing tradition for continued evolution and high-tech manufacturing, Pipistrel this week is showcasing a new aircraft, the Alpha Trainer.
The new offering's name describes the aircraft's purpose: It's designed for LSA flight training. A fully equipped light-sport aircraft aimed squarely at the commercial flight school/private owner market, the Alpha Trainer is aggressively priced at $83,880. After deciding it was time for a new sturdy and inexpensive aircraft for those markets, the Slovenian manufacturer based its design on the existing Virus SW model, with a number of enhancements for the flight-training world.
"Times have been changing; we have noticed over the last several years that customers have evolved from basic entry-level aircraft to more sophisticated 'glass everything' with autopilot and every other conceivable addition," reads the company's announcement. For LSA customers not willing to pay upward of $120,000 for a new airplane, Pipistrel said it decided to slash its price and developed the trainer with new requirements in mind. The resulting Alpha Trainer is designed for flight schools wanting to use LSA in markets and countries that have adopted the ASTM-based standards and have a 1,212-pound (550-kilogram) maximum takeoff weight.
To survive the daily training grind, Pipistrel reinforced the Alpha Trainer's main composite undercarriage and included heavy-duty main wheels and brakes. Recognizing that durability is important for the training market, the company also incorporated extra-heavy-duty seat fabrics and easily removable wheelpants. The company said all such features are designed to help keep the Pipistrel Alpha Trainer in the air rather than on the ground.
Other changes include a new nose gear leg 2 inches shorter than on the Virus SW, lowering the nose for better visibility on the ground. A smaller, 63-inch diameter wooden, fixed-pitch prop was designed in-house, is CNC-machined, and is protected by a composite covering, including its leading edges.
Flight instruments mounted are what Pipistrel calls "hybrid, analog-digital" units made specifically for the company by Slovenian LX Navigation. Instrumentation is a mix of traditional steam-gauge products and digital-era indicators. The airspeed indicator, for example, includes a traditional pointer and clearly labeled and colored speed arcs with easily readable digital indicators in the center.
Unlike in the Pipistrel Virus SW, the Alpha Trainer's fuel tank is located in the fuselage. The central-mounted 15-gallon (55-liter) tank features a large, single-point opening on the fuselage, so it can be filled directly from fast-flow avgas pumps found at the majority of airports. Fifteen gallons is not a lot, but in the Alpha Trainer that means a range of at least 400 miles, or five hours' endurance with reserve, at normal cruise.
Power comes from the Rotax 912 UL 80-hp engine, which, with the fixed-pitch prop, should equal a Cessna 172's cruise speed of 108 knots and a 1,000-fpm climb rate.
The new wing design is based on the existing Pipistrel Virus SW aircraft. With redesigned wings and flaperons-now including 25 degrees of flap travel-the aircraft does not require air brakes, thus simplifying flight controls for students.
The $83,885 price tag includes an airspeed indicator, altimeter, VSI, engine instruments, Garmin aera 500 GPS with AirGizmo panel mount, ICOM IC-A210 radio with two headsets, and a Garmin GTX 327 transponder.
For more information, visit Pipistrel in the Innovation Hangar South or Booth 292A in the Main Aircraft Display. Don't forget the company's website, www.Pipistrel-USA.com.