Cessna LSA Flies

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Cessna's proof-of-concept entry into the light sport aircraft category flew for the first time last Friday (the 13th). The 33-minute flight originated at McConnell Air Force Base and ended at Mid-Continent Airport in Wichita. The plane was put through various flight maneuvers and got up to a speed of more than 110 knots, according to a company news release. The aircraft, which is mostly aluminum, was unveiled at EAA AirVenture last July. It was announced in January. And, although comparisons to the discontinued 152 are inevitable, Cessna appears to be making an effort to draw distinctions. Perhaps the greatest departure from standard Cessna design is the incorporation of dual control sticks, rather than yokes. The LSA also sports a Rotax 912 engine, which is about 150 pounds lighter than the closest comparable mill from Cessna's sister company, Lycoming. The LSA also has a free-castering nosewheel and, although it's about 200 pounds lighter than a 152, its cockpit is about six inches wider. Cessna CEO Jack Pelton says the LSA market is the fastest-growing sector in aviation and could be a crucial factor in reigniting interest in personal aviation. "An important part of our thought process in looking at LSA is the value in terms of new pilot starts," Pelton said in the release. The company's thought is that today's LSA pilot will be tomorrow's Skyhawk -- or Citation -- owner.