European ultralight aircraft manufacturer Pipistrel has taken note of the ever increasing prices being quoted for entry-level Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) and has done something about it. Enter the ALPHA Trainer. Its 34-foot 6-inch wingspan, reliable Rotax 4-cylinder, 4-stroke engine and rugged landing gear makes it suitable for flight training, and its 108 knot (200 km/h) cruising speed is right up there with most of the fast boys.

Back to the Future

LSA aircraft have taken the recreational flying industry by storm, having evolved from basic entry level aircraft to more sophisticated "fast glass" with electronic instrument panels, autopilot and GPS, even synthetic vision. Unfortunately this has driven prices skyward, hence this re-focus on the basics.

The ALPHA's instrumentation returns to traditional "steam gauge" analogues, but retains VHF radio, transponder and even a ballistic parachute - handy when all else fails. In a world where real men fly taildraggers, the ALPHA sensibly uses the tricycle-type undercarriage most suited to beginners.

The main legs are tough composite construction, and the front one is short to provide excellent forward vision when on the ground, yet has the ability to absorb punishment from those not-so-elegant landings.

Powerplant

The Rotax 80 hp engine is an ideal choice for the ALPHA's mission profile. Smooth and reliable, it is also very fuel efficient - around 12 liters per hour on regular unleaded fuel - and comes with a 2000 hour/15 year time before it requires overhaul.

Price

Providing added impetus, Pipistrel is releasing the ALPHA in 2012 at an intro price of EUR59,000 plus shipping and registration in the USA, which would bring the price up to around US$83,000 , substantially cheaper than top-of-the-line LSA's which can go for well over US$100,000.