Monday, March 14, 2011

Skycatcher: Too Right, Mate!

Cessna marches on with its C-162 Skycatcher production.  Latest milestone: it’s first international delivery to an Australian customer.
graphic: © James Lawrence 2011
Aeromil Pacific of Queensland’s Sunshine Coast Airport took delivery and will use the bird for sales demos.  The FBO also plans to display it at Avalon 2011: the Australian International Airshow in early March.
In related news, Skycatcher’s design team won the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Piper General Aviation Award for 2010.  Congrats to those hardworking slide-rule pushers.
AIAA presents the award annually for outstanding contributions leading to the advancement of general aviation.
As I posted after Sebring, Cessna plans to deliver 150 Skycatchers this year.


Anonymous said...

I saw the Skycatcher at Sebring. From a prospective pilot's point of view, here are some reactions. I should say that, mostly for visibility reasons, I'm not a fan of high-wing LSAs. Partly because LSAs are small, a 5'10" pilot's eye level is generally above the bottom of the wing root, so that side visibility is virtually nil except almost straight down; and a thick door pillar typically obscures visibility ahead and to the left. Also, there's usually a lot of fuel running around the cabin: the fuel lines must run down the pillars and through the cabin to the firewall.
Turning to the Skycatcher, with apologies to Mr. Eastwood & Co., we have...
The good:
- I liked the new control system concept, which is intended to ease cabin entry/exit while retaining stick-type control motion.
- I liked the plain painted (speckled) metal interior, which may look a little spartan, but doesn't get as "trashed" as more luxurious interiors (or the old Cessna plastic trim)
- Impressively instrumented
- Lots of baggage room
- All metal (I'm still skeptical about the weather resistance of composites)
The bad:
- The control system involves many cables, which to my mind is just asking for trouble.
- Useful load is low - a downside, evidently, of the all-metal LSA. In practice, this airplane is too heavy to be equipped with a ballistic parachute. (FAA should really give a gross weight plus-up for ballistic chutes.)
- Pilot visibility (as distinct from sightseer visibility) is atrocious, in my opinion (in common with many of the high-wing LSAs).
- Although clever, the novel control system puts the stick grip too high up in the air. An option to flip it "down," perhaps?
The ugly:
- Entry and egress is really awkward - I'm pretty flexible, but I felt I was folding like a pretzel to get in or out of the airplane. Despite the high wing/doors setup, I question whether this airplane is viable for older pilots, just on this issue.
- In common with other high-wing designs, the amount of fuel in or around the cabin is a bit intimidating. The sight glass fuel gauges in the wing roots just remind you of that.


James Lawrence said...

Thanks for your thorough "vetting" of the Skycatcher Thomas, I'm sure that'll be valuable to other readers.
I'll comment on a couple of your points:
I'm 5'11" and I've flown several high wingers now where my eye level was well below the wing bottom. That's something I pay particular attention to.
I kind of like the "industrial/humvee" look to the interior too, it's different. Agree re the downside of flimsy plastic trim in airplanes.
Low useful load for the Skycatcher has gotten knocks from others too.
I agree that a ballistic weight allowance should be allowed by FAA. We saw this with ultralights, and they allow it for floats. Are they saying water operations are more important than saving lives after an unrecoverable in-air catastrophe such as a mid-air or pilot heart attack?
I've heard some complaints about the high stick position too. I still haven't gotten a flight in a Skycatcher, maybe at Sun 'n Fun.
Once we're all flying electric, we won't have to worry about close-proximity fuel, eh? ;-)
Thanks for your thoughtful post.

ザイツェヴ said...

James, do you have any comments on the door story and the pictures that accompany the sale ad for the accident aircraft? Apparently the expansion of rivets was insufficient and this may tell us something about the main structure, or it may not. I appreciate that the departed door did not hit the tail.

James Lawrence said...

ザイツェヴ (what does that say in English I wonder?), I don't know what you're referring to. More info please.

Pete Zaitcev said...

Sorry for the Google account. The name on it is my real name, but in Kana, for historic reasons.

Everyone seems to refer to the same report, which is not in NTSB database (not serious enough?)

Regis#: 5204R Make/Model: C162 Description: CESSNA 162 SKYCATCHER
Date: 02/18/2011 Time: 2136
FAA FSDO: SCOTTSDALE, AZ (WP07) Entry date: 02/22/2011

They clearly copy-paste it from the same electronic source, with which I am not familiar. Some kind of FAA electronic publication.

I heard of the story first at Sport Pilot Talk, link:

Here's a link to the ad at Controller:

James Lawrence said...

No problems with ザイツェヴ, was just curious what it meant...wasn't sure whether ザイ was a proper nickname. ;-)
Thanks for that report, it's the first I've heard of it.
I'll read it more closely tomorrow, but one thing I came across recently: unless there is "substantial damage" or a serious injury or fatality, pilots are not required to report an incident to NTSB or FAA.
But, I gotta say, losing a door in flight? Sounds pretty substantial to me!
More as I find out about it...I'll probably blog this once I can get someone involved on record.
Thanks again, ザイツェヴ (or Pete)