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Sun, Jan 20, 2008

Sebring '08: Tecnam Introduces P92 Eaglet

Making The Echo Super Even "Super-er"

Italy's Tecnam was among the first manufacturers to take advantage of the light sport aircraft rules in the United States, offering a mix of high-and-low-wing aircraft to meet the needs of practically every pilot interested in LSA -- the P92 Echo Super, P2002 Sierra and P2004 Bravo.

You might call the new P92 Eaglet a second-generation evolution of Tecnam's initial offerings in the US. Sharing the same platform as the Echo Super, the Eaglet offers a number of advancements specifically designed to increase the plane's appeal to both novice pilots, and experienced fliers.

The most noticeable difference is seen on the outside, as the twin rear quarter windows on the Echo Super are replaced on the Eaglet with a large, single pane. The change increases the already-impressive visibility on the Echo Super, and compliments the truly expansive windscreen that wraps into the newly-tapered wing structure -- offering a much clearer side view than before. The rear cabin window is also notably larger.

It's when you step into the Eaglet, however, that the changes become more substantive. Dual bubbled-out doors sport larger side glass, and concave interior trim panels increase cabin width to a true 46 inches.

The pilot and co-pilot also face a new, modular-design IP, that offers room for either a classic six-pack of round gauges, or a single EFIS. Radio, transponder, and available GPS are housed in a center-stack, with engine instruments (or a second glass screen) and circuit breakers to the right. Anyone with time in a legacy GA plane should feel right at home inside an Eaglet; that may not have been said of Tecnam's earlier offerings, which revealed their European microlight roots most in their less-conventional panel layouts.

In a move likely to attract equal amounts of cheers and jeers, the Eaglet also sports toe-brakes, rather than the center-handbrakes on Tecnam's other offerings. Lynne Birmingham -- who along with her husband, Mike, are the US distributors for the Tecnam line -- counts herself among those who prefer handbrakes, though she concedes a majority of American buyers prefer toe braking.

New, in-flight adjustable seats improve cabin comfort, as do door-mounted fresh-air vents. Sturdy steel-spring main-gear and a trailing-link nosewheel should easily handle the occasional harder landing. Several of these features, new and old, are shared with the Echo Super... though the Eaglet's larger-span ailerons, which improve roll authority, are unique to the model.

Tecnam hopes a mix of student pilots, flight training operations, and higher-time pilots are attracted to the Eaglet's improvements, as well as its ramp presence... which brings to mind a 4/5-scale Cessna 172. Speaking of the Skyhawk, Birmingham notes performance numbers for the Eaglet compare favorably to a 172R... offering roughly the same cruising speed, while burning half the fuel.

The P92 Eaglet sports a base price of $114,900 to start, with options adding to that total.



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