The Aeropilot Legend 600 LSA turned a lot of heads at OzKosh 2016 with its remarkable resemblance to a general aviation classic. John Absolon couldn't resist the lure of this Czech-built beauty.
When I was invited to fly a new European designed entrant into the Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) category, I initially expected to see an aircraft similar to many other European designs that all looked like a derivative of the Bristell or Piper Sport: low wing, tricycle undercarriage with a bubble sliding canopy made from metal or composite materials.
To my surprise I found an aircraft that looked like a Cessna 182 right down to the curved fillet on the leading edge of the fin!
The AeroPilot Legend 600 is effectively an 80% version of the venerable Cessna 182, but built from modern carbon-fibre and Kevlar materials, and powered by a Rotax engine.
But don’t be fooled by the 80% figure, as in many aspects it's actually bigger.
Like many other LSA types, the Legend is powered by the ubiquitous 100-hp Rotax 912 ULS swinging a three-bladed Woodcomp ground adjustable composite propeller.
Many of the designers and builders of the Legend have extensive background in light aircraft design and construction with many having been involved in the metal glider the Blanik that was extensively used as a training glider back in the 70s and 80s.
Walking around the Legend, you become very aware of the similarity to the Cessna design except that the wing struts are mounted to the fuselage behind the door, giving excellent visibility from the cabin. The main undercarriage legs are made of carbon fibre, but look similar to the conventional steel assemblies on most full-sized GA aircraft.
With the wide opening doors hinged to almost 90o, the strut location doesn’t limit access to the cabin, but reduces the amount of structure required, which means weight saving. The struts mount into the fuselage using the same structural area as the main landing gear.
The wing has virtually the same plan form as the Cessna design, but incorporates a different aerofoil section that is more akin to that found on modern sailplanes, with a significant concave undersurface towards the trailing edge, giving high lift at slow speeds.
The trailing edge of the wing is equipped with electric large-span slotted flaps.
The three flap hinges hang down quite low under the wing and with less ground clearance than a full sized Cessna, they could pose a hazard when approaching the cabin door from behind. Fortunately, with the wing strut anchored behind the door, this problem is largely negated. Regardless, each hinge is fitted with protective covers on the bottom end.
Wide opening doors and low doorsill aids climbing into the well-upholstered seats, which are equipped with double shoulder harness straps. The seats are adjustable fore aft as the large rudder pedals are not.
Behind the front seats is located a 30-kg-capacity baggage shelf that is equipped with a securing net. At the aft end of this space, a Galaxy rocket-assisted ballistic parachute can be installed, which fires through the frangible rear window. This window has been designed to the ballistic device to penetrate it easily. This optional extra adds approximately 15 kg to the empty weight of the aircraft.
The main instrument panel is well equipped and can be extensively optioned by customers with multiple choices of instruments and electronic aids.
The aircraft under review here was equipped with some rather unique electronic analogue instruments made in Slovenia by Kanardia. Looking like conventional analogue instruments with a mechanical needle and a digital numeric display as well, they are in fact fully-digital internally.
This Legend 600 was also equipped, as part of the six pack instrument cluster, with a small 57 mm digital Kanadia Horis Attitude and Heading Reference System (AHRS) with side EFIS-style tapes and digital readouts of TAS, OAT and QNH across the bottom along with digital heading at the top.
At the lower left of the instrument cluster was a Kanardia combination digital/analogue engine RPM indicator, and a Dynon Skyview EFIS dominated the upper centre of the panel, displaying both a moving map and an AHRS.
The right hand side of the carbon-fibre-look panel contains the remaining six engine monitoring gauges, which are conventional analogue. There are the two fuel gauges for the wing mounted 65-litre tanks and the usual Rotax oil and temperature indications.
Also mounted in the the panel was the f.u.n.k.e. AVIONICS transponder and 760-channel VHF radio. Along with the transponder, these avionics were mounted in a 57mm diameter instrument cut-out.
Alongside to the right, are the controls for the Dynon autopilot, and at the base of the centre panel are the various electrical switches and their associated circuit protections. A small LED illuminates in the end of each switch when they are selected on.
Mounted on the panel in front of the right hand seat occupant, is the flap selection panel and controls and the elevator pitch trim indications.
The flap controls are rather intriguing. On this panel, there are four LED indicators for 0, 15, 30 and 40 flap positions. Alongside those, there is a switch to select HI or LO rate flap operation.
The pitch trim is all electric and activated through conventional rocker switches mounted on the top outer arm of both control yokes. A green LED indication shows where the trim is, but it didn’t have a neutral position marked.
Engine controls consist of a large T-shaped throttle mounted centrally between the pilots low in the centre console, with the fuel tank selector and remaining engine controls on the lower centre panel just forward of the throttle.
Mounted behind the throttle is the wheel brake handle. There are no toe brakes, but only a brake which operates equally on both main wheels. The handle is equipped with a locking mechanism so that it is also doubles as a parking brake.
Twin magneto switches are mounted on the left of the centre switch panel with covers to prevent accidentally switching one or the other off during flight.
The twin control yokes are ergonomically designed with trim rocker switches and push-to-talk. The left yoke also includes an autopilot disconnect switch, which doubles for a wing leveler when pressed for more than three seconds, after which it will then hold the current altitude and heading.
If you neglect the control of airspeed, the autopilot also incorporates a stick shaker for when you get close to the stall and it will even change pitch attitude if you neglect it further.
Boarding the Legend is very easy and after the seating position was adjusted forward, your hands can reach all controls without any effort. Even with my 188-cm frame, I had no trouble with the seats, and in fact had to slide my seat forward quite a bit after entering.
After closing the door, I found my left arm fell naturally onto the armrest recessed into the entry door. The door-locking handle is located quite low and forward below the armrest to avoid accidental operation.
The doors are quite thin with no excess lining and therefore enable the Legend to boast a wider cabin than the C182 that it is modeled on. In fact, figures of 20-40 mm wider have been quoted. The doors also incorporate a map pocket in the bottom of the door along with a handy water bottle stowage.
Adequate ventilation, even for a Perth day, was provided by the side window mounted sliding windows along with twin air outlets at the top of the windscreen similar to Cessna types. These are of the same style as those found on most gliders with a sliding panel that incorporates a flip-out "bumper" window that can direct air into the cabin.
Individual tinted sun visors that pivot down from the overhead paneling provide more sun and glare protection.
Starting the Rotax was straightforward, and on this day it didn’t require any choke operation; select the twin ignition switches ON and press the starter.
After the instruments had finished their boot-up routine and the engine pressures and temps approached the normal band, we were ready to taxy out to Serpentine’s runway 23.
Taxying the Legend is very straightforward the rudder pedals directly connected to the nose wheel. The nose strut is a spring-oleo design and affords smooth ground handling.
After the obligatory pre-take-off procedures, we rolled onto the runway in preparation for the take-off. I smoothly pushed the throttle forward to 5000 rpm and the Legend instantly accelerated, reaching the 45 knots to commence rotation very quickly; so quickly that with the trim having been set maybe a little too far back, the Legend wanted to go flying even at about 39 knots and I ended up getting airborne at a little lower speed than desired!
After easing it forward to accelerate and retract the flaps from our 15 take-off position, we climbed away quite comfortably at 65-70 knots and with a rate of climb of 600 feet per minute. Not bad for 100 hp on a 30o C Perth day!
My first impression was of an aircraft that is quite light to control and very responsive to inputs. Initially, I thought it was a little too sensitive in the slight thermal turbulence, but by the time we had climbed to 3-4000 feet I was no longer aware of any sensitivity, and became quite relaxed with the feel of the Legend in smoother air.
The slight sensitivity at lower levels is most likely as a result of the low wing-loading, so the aircraft moves around with slightest thermal turbulence. On approach, after I had been flying the aircraft for 40 minutes or so, it wasn’t a problem in the same thermal turbulence and I noticed no sensitivity.
After take-off, we climbed to 4000 feet to perform further handling comparisons. The visibility on the climb is excellent to the sides and rear, but the view over the nose cowling is virtually the same as any Cessna 172 or 182 with a reasonable blind spot. But, with the excellent maneuverability of the Legend, this isn't a problem with if you use small clearing turns to look for traffic.
After clearing the area with some turn reversals, 45o to 45o at a respectable 3-4 seconds with near full aileron, we steadied the heading and reduced the speed to perform a stall.
As the airspeed reduced, a slight buffet was noticeable approaching 47 knots. With increasing back-stick, no appreciable nose drop was apparent, but at approximately 39 knots the Legend just began a controlled mushing descent with full back-stick and virtually no tendency to pitch over. Full roll control was still available throughout.
After performing some general handling to get more of a feel for the aircraft, we decided to return to Serpentine for a circuit and landing.
In cruise at 4000 feet, the Legend will cruise comfortably at 5000 rpm delivering 88-90 knots and burning 12-15 litres per hour. At 5200 rpm, 100 knots IAS is not out of the ordinary with virtually the same fuel usage.
These cruise figures could obviously be adjusted with ground adjustment of the propeller pitch to satisfy the individual owners operating environment.
Hitting the deck
Approaching the circuit, we set up to join a left base for runway 23. Slowing the aircraft to 70 KIAS as I turned base, I pressed the down arrow button once on the flap control panel and the flaps slowly and smoothly extended to the 15 position indicated by the green LED illuminating.
A further single press on rolling out on finals gave me 30 and then the final press to obtain 40 as we stabilized at 50-55 KIAS on final.
Except for the numbers being slightly lower than the C182, the attitude out the front looked almost the same.
We crossing the fence and I closed the throttle as I approached the flare, achieving a relatively smooth landing with just a slight crosswind from the left.
Using the rudder pedals for steering in the crosswind and the centrally-mounted handbrake with my right hand, I was easily able to exit the runway onto the taxiway around mid-field after a short float on Serpentine’s 900-metre runway 23.
I was very impressed with the overall design and finish of the Legend 600 and the excellent handling of the aircraft when compared to some other LSA designs that I have tested and would make an excellent aircraft for training or touring with two people.
The aircraft delivers excellent cruise performance, as has been demonstrated when the guys at Silent Wings Aviation flew the Legend 600 across the Nullarbor to OzKosh at Narromine in 2016.
I’m told by Silent Wings’ Viv Harris that the base price for the Legend 600 starts around the $120,000 mark. Further information regarding options and details can be obtained from Silent Wings Aviation in WA and on the East Coast, or at www.light-sport.cz.
My thanks to Viv Harris of Silent Wings, Larry Turner for watching me as I flew the Legend and Larry Softly for helping me with the air to air images.