The Eaglet has Landed
The Italians have been a longtime contender in the aviation market and aircraft manufacturers Tecnam, with their factory based in Naples, have admirably seized the opportunity and taken advantage of the light sport aircraft (LSA) rules. They have designed a series of high and low-winged aircraft to suit the needs of many pilots, the newest being the P92 Eaglet.
Tecnam is currently the fourth most successful manufacturer of light sport aircraft, holding 6% of the US market. Models such as the P92 Echo Super, P2002 Sierra and P2004 Bravo are just a few of their designs. Tecnam have been around since 1948 and produce smaller components for Lear Jet, Boeing, Dornier 328, Falcon 200, C27J and P68. In fact, you are all probably aware of the Partenavia P68 which they are renowned for constructing.
The company decided to design the P92 Eaglet after re-examining the LSA market and realising that there was a need for a robust trainer for all types of flight from sport to commercial.
I had the opportunity to test fly this wonderful aircraft with the Western Australian distributor for Tecnam, Geoffrey McDougall. At first glance I thought the Eaglet had a ramp presence similar to that of a 4/5 scale Cessna 172. From the outside the Eaglet has smooth aerodynamic lines supported by a steel roll cage and all aluminum construction and the newly tapered high-wing structure merges beautifully with the fuselage.
The P92 Eaglet combines the best of features from Tecnam’s existing high wing aircraft, including increased side visibility, a large rear window, and a wide wrap- around windscreen. The one feature that was particularly great to see was the door entry. Once opened, the door swings fully back by 180 degrees which allows for easy entry to the cockpit especially for long legged pilots like me. Settling down inside, I found there was ample headroom and leg room. The leatherette seats are flight adjustable in the horizontal plane and the further you move the seat forward, the more it raises itself to accommodate the ‘height impaired’ pilots. When you look inside, the changes are very noticeable. Concave interior trim panels with a modular design give a spacious feel to the inside. This roomy cabin actually has 45 inches of cabin width and is very comfortable. There is a large space for up to 20 kgs of baggage behind the seats, as well as map and storage pockets for the bits and pieces.
Other comfort standards are cabin heat with windshield defrost and door mounted air vents. When I applied the cabin heat in the cruise, the cockpit heated up very quickly. The cabin also has acoustic sound-proofing to keep noise levels to a minimum.
Basic instrumentation can include the standard six analogue dials. Our aircraft however, had been fitted with a DYNON Avionics D100 EFIS in front with back up airspeed indicator, VSI and altimeter. The AVMAP moving map display was housed in a centre stack along with an ICOM IC A210 coms and GARMIN GTX 327 transponder. Standard engine instruments included a CHT gauge, fuel flow indicator, flap position indicator, and circuit breakers, all of which were located to the right side of the panel. This is a huge improvement to previous models which were less than conventional in layout.
An LED trim indicator was located in the top left hand side of the panel. This can be switched to the left or right pilot control stick. The electric trim buttons were located on the top of the control sticks which allowed easy trim selection. A two axis autopilot system was also fitted but is optional.
After settling in to the cockpit and becoming familiar with the layout, Geoff went through the pre-start checklist and we brought to life the ROTAX 912 four cylinder, four stroke, 100 horsepower engine. The ROTAX engine company is owned by Bombardier and the 912 has a dual ignition and auto mixture control provided by the BING altitude compensating carburetor. Carby heat is optional and was not fitted to our test aircraft. It also had an electric fuel pump which is used for start, take off and landing. The engine itself is air and liquid cooled with an integrated 1:2.4286 reduction gear with a dry sump oil system. There are currently tests being done to fit a Gemini100hp diesel engine at a later date. The great point about the engine is the running costs. Not only is it fuel efficient and powerful, but it only costs $4 to replace a spark plug, as the plugs are from REPCO and are the same type made for motor cycles. The oil levels are only three litres for normal use so your maintenance costs are greatly reduced.
The ROTAX 912 engine has very high rev ranges, which took me by surprise but it was easy after a few minutes to compensate for the differences. The noise levels are at 45db in the cabin during the cruise, which was very comfortable.
Ground handling during the taxi was easy. Nose wheel steering, via a trailing link nose wheel, is fitted with rubber suspension bushes similar to that of the Mooney and this made the taxi simple and comfortable. A sturdy steel spring main-gear, coupled with the steerable trailing-link nose wheel, gives the robustness to handle hard landings on any gravel strip in Oz. The braking system has hydraulic disk brakes with a park brake.
Toe brakes are optional but available, unlike previous models which had a centre hand brake. Our aircraft did not have the toe brake system fitted so we had to use the centre lever braking system. This was easy to adjust to and the park brake was very secure in the run up bay.
Having received our take off clearance, we applied full power and launched into the air in a very short distance. The coarse fixed-pitch prop and STOL wing design got us airborne in 140 m without flap. This aircraft wants to fly and quickly accelerated to 80kts climb speed with an 800fpm rate of climb. Raising the nose to achieve 75 kts will get a whopping 1000 fpm climb rate at max gross weight (600 kgs).
After levelling off and setting a cruise rpm of 5100, we achieved a TAS of 110kts with a fuel flow of 20 lph. The quoted maximum level airspeed with full power is 120 kts. The sloping cowl gives a nose down feel in straight and level attitudes which gives fantastic forward visibility. Various power settings will change fuel flow ranges between 17 and 21 lph which is remarkable for this class of aircraft. Integral fuel tanks, each with a total capacity of 23.8 USG (90.4L), feed the quiet ROTAX engine in the cruise. The fuel system is gravity fed from two fuel tanks and tank selection is provided for inside the cockpit.
The Eaglet has matching cruise speeds to that of a Cessna 172 and half the fuel burn rate, which is a relief to the pocket with current rising AVGAS prices. These fuel burn rates give you an endurance of approximately 4+ hours including reserves. Further fuel savings are possible by using Premium Unleaded car fuel.
After climbing to a safe height, we put the Eaglet through its paces and attempted a normal stall. Controls were very effective in the stall (stall speed range 37- 45 kts) with only minimal buffet and recovery was easy with minimal height loss. The Eaglet has larger-span ailerons, which improve roll and are unique to the model. Coupled with electric flaps with infinite position adjustment and electric trim on pilot and co-pilot side, flying the Eaglet is uncompromised and unparalleled in feel and response. With these design features, steep turns were a dream with hardly any back pressure or power changes to hold attitude. The Eaglet has a nimble but responsive feel about it which makes the handling superb. I also conducted a power off glide at 65kts and the Eaglet slowly lost altitude. Geoff said that the Eaglet has a glide ratio of only 12:1 but it easily exceeds any glide distance of most training aircraft. The Eaglet has been approved for chandelles and lazy eights but is not approved for intentional spins or aerobatic flight.
The Eaglet is an affordable aircraft to own and maintain and its commonality of parts with other models from the Tecnam fleet makes maintenance simple. It is very easy to fly and, as a flying instructor, I would recommend it as an excellent trainer for flight schools.
If you are in the market for this affordable aircraft visit www.tecnam.com.au to find the authorized Tecnam dealer in your state.
Performance: engine: 100hp 912 Rotax
Never Exceed Vne 154 kts
Max Speed Vh (level full power) 120kts
Cruise Speed 75% power 116 kts
Stall Speed no flaps 39 kts
Stall Speed with flaps 34 kts
Take-off run 140m
Landing Roll 100m
Rate of Climb 1200 ft/min
Demonstrated Crosswind 17 kts
Max Take-Off weight 600 kg (LSA reg)
Basic Empty Weight 325kg
Useful Load 275 kg
Design Load Limit +4 -2g
Ultimate Load Limit +6 -3g
Wingspan 29.5 ft
Length 21.3 ft
Height 8.2 ft
Cabin Width 45″
Wing Area 133.5 sq ft
Baggage 44 lbs (20 kgs)