Thorp T-211 Sport E From the world of general aviation aircraft comes an entry to the proposed Light-Sport Aircraft (LSA) category. Presently known as the Thorp T-211, the all-metal airplane will be called the Thorp T-211 Sport E when it makes its debut as a light-sport aircraft. Famed designer John Thorp is perhaps best known for his work leading to the Piper Cherokee series and the T-18 homebuilt. His work on a design that became the T-211 started back in the 1940s before general aviation planes had transportation as their primary goal. When the T-211 was first created – as the T-11 Skooter and later the T-111 – it was intended to become competition for the Cessna 150. The T-211 is a light plane, tipping the scales at hundreds of pounds less than Cessna’s smallest model and so it was expected to perform better. Under new management since 2003, Thorp’s design is ready to make the leap to the Sport E.
|Empty weight||775 pounds|
|Gross weight||1,270 pounds 1|
|Wing area||104.6 square feet|
|Wing loading||12.1 pounds/square foot|
|Cabin Interior||40 inches|
|Height||6 feet 1 inch|
|Fuel Capacity||21 gallons|
|Baggage area||hat rack, 40 pounds|
|Kit type||Fully assembled or kit 2|
|Build time||400-500 hours|
|Notes:||1As tested; with 120-hp Jabiru 3300, weight will meet proposed 1,232 pounds. If more weight allowed on rule passage, useful load increases at 1,270 pounds.|
2 Fully assembled as a certified aircraft or Special Light-Sport Aircraft (when approved) or as an Amateur-Built (51%) kit.
|Standard engine||Jabiru 3300, six cylinder 1|
|Power||120 hp (100 fior Continental)|
|Power loading||10.6 pounds/hp (12.7 Continental)|
|Max Speed||132 mph|
|Cruise speed||75-120 mph|
|Stall Speed||52 mph|
|Never exceed speed||156 mph|
|Rate of climb at gross||750 fpm|
|Service Ceiling||15,300 feet|
|Takeoff distance at gross||450 feet|
|Landing distance at gross||495 feet|
|Range (powered)||460 miles (4 hours)|
|Fuel Consumption||5.0 gph|
|Notes:||1 or Continental O-200. As tested; proposed Light-Sport Aircraft version will use 120-hp Jabiru 3300 engine and climb may be even stronger than listed.|
2In test flight, max climb 500 fpm on a warm, humid day.
|Standard Features||Continental O-200 engine producing 100 hp, electric starter, Sensenich metal prop, basic engine instrumentation, fully enclosed cabin with canopy that can be opened in flight, dual joysticks, two-position flaps, in-flight trim, panel-mounted choke, convenient fuel shut-off, oleo-strut gear, steerable and suspended nosewheel, single-lever mechanical brakes, ball-bearing control linkages, all-metal wings and tail, shoulder belt restraints.|
|Options||Jabiru 3300 engine (LSA or 51% model), additional flight and navigation instruments and radios, fully assembled option (under proposed Light-Sport Aircraft), and ballistic parachute in development.|
|Construction||All-metal aluminum airframe, special ribbed aluminum wing skins and horizontal tail. Made in India by American-owned company; distributed by U.S.-owned company.|
Cosmetic appearance, structural integrity, achievement of design goals, effectiveness of aerodynamics, ergonomics.
Pros - Proven design from a legendary designer (Thorp designed the Cherokee line). Appropriate for any new pilot and should please many veterans (at least with the larger engine option on LSA or 51% versions). Designed for ease of assembly, keeping prices lower. Unique ribbed wing distinguishes this little plane.
Cons - Payload is fairly slim if a full fuel load is taken aloft. Basic performer compared to many sport planes (though 120-hp Jabiru 3300 engine should change performance and useful load noticeably).
Subsystems available to pilot such as: Flaps; Fuel sources; Electric start; In-air restart; Brakes; Engine controls; Navigations; Radio; (items covered may be optional).
Pros - Given a general aviation heritage, systems on the T-211 are like most general aviation airplanes, though a bit simpler. Flaps, trim, electric starting are all standard. Flap lever position gives good leverage for ease of operation. Though a simple airplane, the T-211 is well appointed among sport aircraft. Excellent radio stack in test aircraft.
Cons - Engine access means removing cowling, much more time- consuming than on exposed engine ultralights. Flaps are not particularly effective surfaces. Single hand brake is uncommon in general aviation-type aircraft (though ultralight pilots will accept it readily). Trim is a by-feel control for right-side occupant.
Instrumentation; Ergonomics of controls; Creature comforts; (items covered may be optional).
Pros - Dual control sticks between occupants' legs, easy reach and comfortable. Large, easily reached trim wheel (left of center console). Fuel tank fills from the outside and no fumes were noted inside. Comfortable, leather upholstered seats with fully adjustable shoulder and lap belts.
Cons - Cozy interior only 1 inch wider than a Cessna 150 (which most regard as snug). Entry means stepping up on a wing and then lowering yourself into a small cockpit (though comfortable enough once inside). Seats don't adjust; neither do rudder pedals - especially big folks should try it on for size.
Taxi visibility; Steering; Turn radius; Shock absorption; Stance/Stability; Braking.
Pros - Huge visibility for preflight traffic checking. Very good ground maneuverability despite lack of directional control help from brakes. Hand brake lever is very accessible for both occupants; lever position affords good grip and pull range. Oleo struts on mains and nose.
Cons - Hand brakes mean no directional control from brake system (though the T-211 hardly seems to miss this). Brakes didn't seem overly strong (though this is not uncommon). No other negatives.
Qualities; Efficiency; Ease; Comparative values.
Pros - Very simple and straightforward landing; all three landings I made were good without special effort. Superb visibility on landing approach and before takeoff. Responsive controls make crosswind operations very straightforward. Slips were reasonably effective. Good ground clearance.
Cons - Assuming stall at 50 mph, landing approaches should be made at about 60 mph, a little fast for some ultralight airparks. Ground roll was longer and climbout rather sluggish in the O-200-powered T-211 (though the Jabiru 3300 should change this significantly). Flaps don't help landing approaches too much; I was advised not to bother with them.
Quality and quantity for: Coordination; Authority; Pressures; Response; and Coupling.
Pros - Well-harmonized controls adequate for use by less experienced pilots yet appreciated by experts. Handling is very predictable with precision turns to headings easy to do. Linkages are smooth, supported by ball bearing construction. Slow-speed handling is quite good.
Cons - Coordinated use of the controls is recommended (as on most aircraft). Roll rate is not brisk; 45°-to-45° turns were in the 4-second range. No other negatives.
Climb; Glide; Sink; Cruise/stall/max speeds; Endurance; Range; Maneuverability.
Pros - Slow-speed performance capabilities are quite good (though not as slow as some ultralight pilots may prefer). Cruise with Jabiru 3300 is expected to be 130 mph, near max as a LSA - this engine will make the Sport E much more ultralight-like performance- wise. Slow flight qualities were very predictable.
Cons - Climbout with the 0-200 won't inspire many ultralight pilots based on 300- to 500-fpm. Cruise speeds are modest for what looks like a general aviation airplane. Fuel burn is 5.5 to 6 gph with Continental engine (though this may improve with the Jabiru engine selection).
Stall recovery and characteristics; Dampening; Spiral stability; Adverse yaw qualities.
Pros - Longitudinal stability was what you'd expect for a Part 23-certified aircraft; disturbing the pitch resulted in level flight again in a short time. Stalls in all forms were very mild and showed no negative characteristics. Though it's not stability related, the T-211's excellent visibility is good for overall safety.
Cons - Stall speeds are higher than most ultralights (though a lighter LSA version may fare better in this area). Nosed over, the T-211 picks up speed quite rapidly. Flaps were not particularly effective in steepening landing descents.
Addresses the questions: "Will a buyer get what he/she expects to buy, and did the designer/builder achieve the chosen goal?"
Pros - Fully certified, just like a Piper Cherokee; should satisfy many general aviation pilots which could aid resale (and acceptance at airports). Can be flown with canopy open, a plus for ultralight enthusiasts. Should easily be approved for LSA based on higher-level Part 23 certification. Kit is said to be an easy build; manuals have been well regarded by builders.
Cons - The T-211's strength is also its weakness; it may be too general aviation-like for ultralight pilots (though a great choice for general aviation pilots). Though design has a long history, it has not mustered a large following. No local dealer support at this time. Prices are on the high end for ultralight enthusiasts.