While Cessna recently announced a price hike to $149,000 for its Skycatcher LSA, Pipistrel says it plans to introduce a new LSA trainer early next year and sell it for about $83,000. The Alpha trainer aims to be “affordable to acquire [and] economical to maintain,” the company said. “We believe no other LSA training aircraft is as cheap to run.” The trainer will feature a beefed-up tricycle-gear undercarriage to handle student landings, 400 nm of range, cruise speed of 108 knots, and a fuel burn of 2.5 gallons per hour, Pipistrel said. The panel features conventional flight gauges supplemented by a Garmin GPS unit. The company plans to start U.S. deliveries as soon as April.
The trainer comes with an 80-hp Rotax 912 engine and a ballistic parachute as standard equipment. The company says it has incorporated a long list of features into the Alpha, including that “it must be strong and easy to fly for beginner students … it must have benign stall characteristics … it must be affordable and easy to operate, maintain, and repair.” Times are changing, the company said. “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. Great if you can afford it but with the economy the way it is most aircraft have been priced out of the market for an average person or flight school. That’s why we have developed an entirely new aircraft, a completely new approach to flight training and at a cost nearly half that of our competitors.”