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Alpha Trainer

Pipistrel plans commercial flight training LSA

By Marino Boric, EAA # 1069644, for EAA.org

Alpha Trainer
Pipistrel’s Alpha Trainer is aimed squarely at the commercial flight school/private owner markets.

Alpha Trainer
First glance at the Alpha Trainer could come as early as April at AERO, but the company will display at AirVenture Oshkosh 2012.

Alpha Trainer
Interior rendering of the Alpha Trainer

November 23, 2011 –  In response to what it calls aircraft priced beyond the reach of the average person or flight school, Pipistrel unveiled plans last week for the Alpha Trainer, a new, fully equipped light-sport aircraft aimed squarely at the commercial flight school/private owner markets and aggressively priced at just under $80,000. The Slovenian manufacturer based the design on its established Virus SW with a number of enhancements for the flight training world. Pipistrel says it may be displayed as early as the April 18-21 AERO 2012 in Friedrichshafen, Germany, but the company is set on showing off the Alpha Trainer at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2012 next July.

“Times have been changing; 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,” reads the company’s announcement. “Great if you can afford it but with the economy the way it is most aircraft have been priced from the marketplace for the 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.”

For customers not willing to pay upward of $120,000 or more in an uncertain and difficult economy, Pipistrel decided to slash the price in developing its new training aircraft. The Alpha Trainer is designed for light-sport aircraft flight schools in markets and countries that have the FAA-LSA (or adaptation of ASTM rules) categories, with the ability of taking advantage of the 550-kilogram/1,210-pound MTOW.

To survive the daily training grind, Alpha Trainer’s main composite undercarriage is reinforced and fitted with heavy-duty training main wheels and brakes. The new nose leg is two inches shorter than the Virus SW, lowering the nose for better visibility on ground. A smaller 63-inch diameter wood fixed-pitch prop was designed in-house, is CNC-machined, and is protected by a composite covering, including leading edge protection.

Unlike the Virus fuel tanks located in the wings, the Alpha Trainer features a “centra” 15-gallon (55-liter) fuel tank located in the fuselage for easier refueling. With a large, single-point opening, the tank can be filled directly from fast-flow avgas pumps found at the majority of airports. Fifteen gallons means a range of at least 400 miles, or five hours endurance with reserve, at normal cruise.

Power comes from the Rotax 912 UL 80-hp engine, which, with the fixed-pitch prop, should equal a Cessna 172 cruise speed of 108 knots and a 1,000-fpm climb rate.

The new wing design is based on the existing Pipistrel Virus SW aircraft. With the redesigned wings and flaperons (now 25 degrees of flap travel) the aircraft does not require airbrakes, thus simplifying the flight controls for students.

The $80K price tag includes an airspeed indicator, altimeter, VSI, engine instruments, Garmin Aera 500 GPS + AirGizmo, ICOM IC A210 radio with two headsets, and a Garmin GTX 327 transponder.

According to the Pipistrel website, the Alpha Trainer features the following:

  • Strong and easy to fly for beginner students
  • Benign stall characteristics for the training market with no flying surprises
  • Affordable and easy to operate, maintain, and repair
  • Capable of doing circuits all day long in all conditions including excessive heat well above 100°F
  • Good ventilation and heating when required
  • Approved strobes and lighting
  • Quiet cockpit
  • Guaranteed access to reliable spare parts supply to keep the aircraft on the flightline
  • Reasonable range for cross-country flight training
  • Easy to service daily and refuel
  • Includes a ballistic parachute system
  • Has a durable finish for outdoor storage
  • Good brakes for the odd “urgent occasion”
  • Adjustable dual flight controls
  • An expected long operating life
  • Tricycle configuration with steerable nose wheel
  • Easy cockpit access even for elderly students
  • Affordable to operate

For more information, click here.

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