I had a very uneventful trip to San Jose using the Phoenix like the Jab. That is a climb to 13,000 feet over the Sierras and than a tightly controlled steady descent to pattern height at Reid Hillview Airport at 1,000 feet. The auto pilot worked fine and I used it almost exclusively for most of the long descent in the single axis mode since I never stayed for any time at a fixed altitude. I set the descent speed at 80 knots indicated air speed (TAS slightly above 100 knots) on my over an hour descent with engine rpm just over 4,000 rpm.
I find the maximum rpm with the prop set in cruise pitch is just over 5,000 rpm. I really like the prop setting. It suits my style of flying, has adequate power and great economy.
My take off and landing was excellent. I am getting dialed in.
So no complaints, gripes or negatives. I enjoyed the flight and am very positive on the Phoenix. So now for the big wing version we do need a total energy probe for easy soaring. This I think will be mandatory for most glider pilots who might choose the Phoenix. And then I think you can sit back and just let the Phoenix sell itself as indeed it will.
I flew yesterday my Phoenix back to Minden from San Jose in the short wing configuration. My typical IAS was just over 80 knots (4200rpm at 12,000 msl) while TAS was 100 knots and GPS speed over the ground 112 knots. Over the crest of the Sierras I switched off the motor and glided the last 20 miles landing as a glider. Comparing the Phoenix with the Jabiru J250 which I used to own the Phoenix has several advantages. Its climb rate is superior, its fuel economy is better than the Jabiru and its short wing glide is much superior (22 compared to 12) due to a more efficient wing design, better aerodynamics overall and of course the feathering prop. The short wing Phoenix wins over the Jabiru for my commuting needs. When we get a total energy probe I will evaluate the Phoenix in the big wing configuration as a glider. My feeling is that it will mostly replace the SparrowHawk and the Stemme S10-VT except for the near 50/1 glide of the Stemme. So my reason for purchasing a Phoenix to replace 3 flying machines still seems to be on track.
PS My ground adjustable prop has 2 washers added that make its pitch more coarse. This improves cruise performance but reduces maximum power at takeoff. For me this is an ideal compromise since it still gives the Phoenix a better climb performance than the Jabiru J250.
"I recently had the opportunity to fly from MLB Fl to Minden Nv in the new Phoenix. I took the controls in normal flying and thermaling except I was not permitted to land or take off because it belonged to a new customer. I found the controls to be very responsive and the planes performance speedy including that it was easy to max out the air speed to 120 knots without exceeding 5000 rpm on the 100 hp Rotax. All about the plane was modern, convenient, comfortable and geared toward touring cross country flying. Cockpit entry, comfort, view and exit was all that one could ask for in a tail wheel airplane. I look forward to getting some takeoff and landing experience in the Phoenix, currently the best production LSA motorglider."
Phoenix is reviewed in the June, 2011 Plane and Pilot magazine by James Lawrence:
Phoenix Air USA Pilot Report
Phoenix Air USA Pilot Report
Viewed on the ramp, you see a beautiful, streamlined fuselage. Long slender 15 meter wings have full span flaperons and are mounted low on the fuselage. The wingtips end in nice looking vertical winglets. The wing extensions are long, and provide for a hangar span of 34 feet when removed. Every part of the Phoenix motorglider shows attention to detail and streamlining. The front cowling transitions into the canopy without an angle change. The cockpit area slowly tapers into the aft fuselage, providing a nice long airflow recovery section. Much attention has been devoted to drag reduction. The lower bib cowling is clean around the engine, with the exception of the required engine cooling port. The gear legs are flush with the bottom of the fuselage, and the legs themselves are clean and strong. The wheel fairings look extremely well designed, and since you don’t stand on the gear leg to get in, the pants should stay unblemished too.
The low wing means that you step up onto the wing from the rear and then have an easy step down into the cockpit. The first thing you notice inside are the plush, black leather appointments, much like a luxury automobile. There are 2 map pockets on each side, and a large glove box on the panel. A stretched cockpit provides ample leg and headroom for a 6’2” pilot. The center console which houses the flap, airbrake, and trim levers is very ergonomic, allowing easy access to these controls from both seats, and will allow an instructor to correct airbrake settings on final approach without excessive arm motions. These controls are far enough forward that the arm and elbow area is padded and comfortable. There are separate levers for the spoilers and flaps so that they can be used independently. Just forward of the console on the floor is the tow release lever. The throttle, choke, and switches are positioned normally on the panel. Rear windows provide a good view to the tail, and will help the Phoenix tow pilot when giving tows to his friends.
Starting the 100hp Rotax is straightforward. Throttle at idle, half choke if the engine is cold, no choke if the engine is warm. The Rotax cranks up immediately, as usual. With the forward hinged canopy, there are no worries about starting and taxiing with it open.
After securing the canopy, we advanced the throttle to full, and executed a no flap takeoff on the beautiful grass runway. We were off the ground in about 400 feet, even though the runway needed to be mowed, and climbed at 60kts, achieving 1200fpm with two of us and half fuel. We climbed about 3000 feet, and then leveled off for cruise flight. 5000rpm resulted in a speed of 105kts. Slowing to 60kts, a few dutch rolls confirmed a very nice roll rate. We shut down the engine and feathered the prop and using 0 degrees of flap we climbed at 400fpm. During the climb we intentionally slowed to the stall buffet and still had good aileron authority.
We headed for the next cloud about 4 miles away. Cruising at 60kts, the sink rate on the vario showed around 200fpm. When we hit the thermal, we again did not use the flaps initially. The climb rate was good, but when we dropped the flaps to 10 degrees the plane could be slowed down about 4kts with the same bank angle. The climb rate increased as expected, and the roll authority remained good. The two positive flap settings, 5 and 10 degrees, create more lift than drag, and are for improving soaring performance, not landing drag. However, with a lower stall speed with flaps, the touchdown speed is less, which would be useful during rough field landings.
With the engine running again, we performed a full stall series with flaps up and down, and spoilers up and down, wings level and during turns, which all resulted in stable mushing stalls with no tendencies to spin.
Back into the pattern with a bunch of other aircraft, including a tow plane busy hauling gliders aloft, we entered downwind, and flew the approach without flaps. Full spoilers were applied just before ground effect, and then we kept the plane flying until it touched down on three wheels. Full power, and we were off again in short order. The second landing was with full flaps (10 degrees). The approach angle was a little steeper, but not much. The Phoenix lands very nice without flaps, you could even call it autoland. Just pull back in the flare, and it lands three point. No special timing is required. But with flaps, the flare angle of attack is not a three point position, so it takes some special timing to pull it off. A full spoiler approach with a slip is going to result in a higher sink rate than the flaps would produce anyway. Once the wheels are on the ground, the steerable tailwheel prevents the wind from messing with you. There is about 40 pounds of downforce on the tailwheel, so there won’t be any crosswind issues in any kind of wind anyone would want to be flying in.
To change wingtips, a door is opened on the underside of the wing, exposing the wingtip spar pin. The pin handle nestles in a cage which requires the correct placement of the pin, or the door will not close. You simply rotate the handle down and pull it out. The extended wingtip slides straight out of the wing, and the short wingtip is inserted and the pin replaced. It takes about a minute to remove both wingtips, and another minute to install the short tips.
It is striking how much the appearance of the Phoenix transforms with the change of the tips. It is like looking at two different aircraft! Nothing changes in the way the Phoenix is flown with the short tips. All of the controls operate in exactly the same way. But the 35' span Phoenix flies like an aerobatic pylon racer!
There are a lot of things to like about this new aircraft. It looks awesome just sitting on the ground. The climb performance in thermals is wonderful, and the glide is sufficient to provide for some long cross country flights (and you will always get back home). It is comfortable and strong, and the ballistic parachute system provides great peace of mind, especially for passengers. With the aerodynamics of the Phoenix motorglider, the cruise performance is better than any of the LSA airplanes on the market. The long wings make it jump off the runway in less than 300 feet. The service ceiling is yet to be determined, but it is definitely over 20,000’. This plane is capable of not only crossing mountain ranges, but continents and oceans too!