Update 9/24/14 — Added to the models below, South Africa’s The Airplane Factory is also offering their four seat Sling 4. This model is flying but a decision about certifying it has not been made at this time. It is presently available as a kit-built airplane.
Some of the more successful Light-Sport Aircraft producers have their eye on the market for larger aircraft, those able to seat four… or more. While continuing to manufacture their LSA models, three companies showed bigger aircraft or mockups at Aero 2011 and one other company has already done extensive test flying. Look out Cessna, Piper, Diamond, and Cirrus! Those familiar GA brands are about to get new competition. *** The first of this emerging segment was the Evektor Cobra, dating back more than four years. Previously marketed at shows like Oshkosh, Cobra was promoted with alternate powerplants of 200 and 315 horsepower. Joining Cobra in the roughly 2,500-pound gross weight category (approximately the weight of a Cessna 172) are three newcomers: Tecnam’s P2010, Flight Design’s C4, and Pipistrel’s Panthera (photos). *** Evektor has been flying Cobra for some years. Tecnam showed a mockup at Aero 2010 but this year’s version appears ready for flight testing. Flight Design displayed a full-size mockup of their C4. Pipistrel had a model, daily presentations, and a slick brochure. *** Some at Aero 2011 questioned if these designs will truly start manufacturing but after speaking to directors at all three Aero 2011 entries, it’s clear each is determined to get in this business and fairly soon. All positively stated plans to offer four seat aircraft in the next couple years. Since the P2010, C4, and Panthera must meet government standards (as opposed to ASTM standards) development times are longer and costlier than in the LSA world. *** Tecnam presented their P2010 in an advanced prototype stage. The Italian company’s entry is an all carbon fiber fuselage with a metal wing and stabilator (just like the Light-Sport P2008 model). Using the 180-hp Lycoming IO-360-M1a P2010 is projected to have a 133 knot cruise speed at 75% power with minimum stall projected at 48 knots. An elongated fuselage to allow the rear seats presently boasts a 715 pound payload even with 55 gallon fuel tanks. *** Flight Design plans to certify their C4 model with two distinct engines; the company is presently surveying the market to finalize design details. A 180-horsepower Lycoming IO-360, possibly able to use mogas, will power one version while another will be powered by a turbocharged two-liter Centurion (Thielert) powerplant capable of 155 hp burning diesel/Jet-A fuel. Preliminary specs call for a 160 knot cruise and 70 gallon tanks yielding a 1,200 nm range, at 65% power with the Lycoming. *** Pipistrel may be further back in the four seater race but their supremely confident designers of highly efficient aircraft believe they can zoom past the other entries with a 200-knot cruiser burning only 10 gph using the 210-hp Lycoming IO-390. *** Are even bigger models ahead? Yes! Tecnam showed a full-size cabin mockup of their twin Lycoming IO-540 11-seat P2012 Traveler. Evektor has created a 9-14 seat turbine-powered EV-55. Evektor’s regional transport aircraft is furthest along but Tecnam is a proven producer with a worldwide network.