Bristol demo PIREP

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MackAttack
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Bristol demo PIREP

Postby MackAttack » Mon May 30, 2016 12:12 pm

As promised, here is my PIREP on the Bristell from several days ago. I had a meeting in NY on 5/20; originally I was going to go to PA on the 21st to demo the Bristell in Lancaster but the forecast was pretty soggy. So I re-jiggered my trip to fly to Philadelphia on the 19th, do the demo and then take the train to NY for my meeting on the 20th. Fortunately, John Rathmell at Liberty Sport Aviation was very flexible with me. Great guy - please read the $100 hamburger experience that we had during the demo in that section below ...

I was going to do a one-way car rental and drive to KLNS, but John offered to fly the Bristell to KPHL to pick me up, so I went over to Atlantic Aviation (they sent a car to pick me up at baggage claim) and waited for him. After a while (he had been heavily vectored on the VFR flight into the Bravo), he arrived and we headed back to KLNS. Bravo departure (my first!) was very interesting - surrounding by the big boys - but it went pretty smooth. Great airport and very pretty country around Lancaster - Amish country, actually ... covered bridges, buggies, the whole thing.

I flew both a ULS long-wing version and an iS short-wing version. I had a chance to look at (but not fly) the ULS tail dragger and spent more time looking at a turbo Bristell that they were disassembling for a shipment to a customer in California. The short wing promises a couple knots faster cruise, better crosswind performance, a higher wing loading and higher stall speed. Low wing is the opposite but has a better glide ratio and a very low dirty stall speed, something like 32 knots. Otherwise the versions are the same including fuel capacity. Most US customers opt for the short wing.

Ceilings at the beginning of the day were 5-6000 broken, clear later in the day. Things were pretty bumpy down low most of the day but smoothed out later.

In cruise, flight characteristics between the two aircraft were similar. Just under 120 knots at between 2500-3000. Flight controls had a light touch, almost sensitive, but not an issue in cruise mode. Bubble canopy makes for great visibility above and to the sides, and there is just a little shade provided by the hard cover in the middle of the canopy to shield the sun a little bit. Plane went through the bumps fine - some up and down but we were also flying over hilly terrain; my sense was that the Tecnams handled the bumps a little better but I can't swear to it because no two days/locations/conditions are the same ...

Landing phase, a few interesting things. First, on one final John demonstrated the flaps - we entered final on no flaps and went from 0 to full flaps (40 degrees), then back again - there was almost no discernible lift/slow down. Very smooth. I noticed that the aircraft really likes to be at 80+ knots in the pattern; when you slow it down to 55-65 for the final, the control sensitivities go up significantly, especially on the short wing version. A little too much so for my taste; not anything I couldn't get used to, but small movements made a big difference. Long wing a little less so.

Stall performance was good; you really had to pitch it up (alarmingly so!!) to stall the short wing clean; long wing really doesn't want to stall dirty - you get VERY slow and mushy in that one. Short wing will stall and pitch down for you, no noticeable wing drop, easy recovery.

One niggle - because the bubble tilts forward and sits up on gas struts, you taxi around that way. However, I couldn't see to taxi - literally! I was too short to see over the canopy frame and too tall to see under it (not that there was more than an inch or two under it). I had to either put the canopy back down (thats the hot option!) or sit on a big booster, which was a little annoying. Cabin width at 51 inches is nice - lots of room on the center console (which is where you notice the width, the seats are pretty snug against the sides of the aircraft. Seats are comfortable and extend almost to your knees. Even a slight recline - but you can't put any weight on them entering the aircraft or they fold up (by design). Handholds are on the panel top.

We also landed at a grass field (my home airport is a grass field) and the short/soft field performance seems fine as well. Poor mower guy was out doing his thing so he kept having to scoot on and off the grass runway!

The aircraft can lose a lot of altitude quickly if you are high and hot on final, which we were on one approach to KLNS. Again, lots of control sensitivities and I wasn't comfortable stabilizing that approach and let John handle it.

Fit and finish are excellent; there are an enormous number of paint, panel and upholstery choices available. Useful load is very high - about 90-100 pounds more than a Sport Cruiser or similar aircraft. I think that the finish options are the among best out there in the market. You pay for it though - with the optional iS or turbo engines and the fancy paint/interiors, you will be well north of 200k and into the 220k+ range pretty quickly. But this is the only low-wing that I know of where you can get a 914 engine, full glass panel avionics, premium paint/interiors and a chute and come in below (well below actually) 900 lbs empty. That's a big factor if you want a turbo with a chute. For me the chute is a "nice to have but not a must have," but useful load is a big selling point. They claim to accomplish this by using multiple thicknesses of aluminum matched to the stress load profiles and some other things. Hard for a non-engineer to assess this however.

Bristell is a low-volume, bespoke and custom aircraft manufacturer. They are not trying to build and sell dozens of airplanes; it's a family-owned business. I spoke to three Bristell customers who liked the ability to call Milan Bristela on his cell phone and talk to him during the build - you won't get that with most LSA manufacturers! Very accommodating in the order process. You want X avionics, Y color upholstery, this or that? ... no problem. Six month build/ship time. Very different experience from other manufacturers in my opinion and a plus.

The negatives are the six month wait, the inability to see on the taxi, small size of the company (both a plus and a minus) and most importantly, the control sensitivity. I was not 100% comfortable flying the aircraft - admittedly, I expect that would improve over time and with training. But I instantly felt like I could fly and land both the Tecnam Astore and 2008, and handle them comfortably in all flight phases. Something you will have to fly the airplane to find out for yourself.

John is a great guy, I spent time talking with his maintenance manager and other folks at the hangar and was very impressed. He showed me great hospitality in Lancaster which I greatly appreciated. If you are in the market for a low-wing LSA, you absolutely have to fly this airplane for yourself....

I expect to make up my mind this week between the Bristell and the Tecnam Astore and will post an update on the Board as well as what lead me in the final direction.

Any questions feel free to PM me.

Cheers!

PS - sorry for the length; made a few edits for nits and typos!

Cluemeister
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Re: Bristol demo PIREP

Postby Cluemeister » Mon May 30, 2016 1:40 pm

Excellent PIREP. I was asked back in January for one on the Briatell, but having zero time in an LSA at the time gave me no point of reference to be helpful to others.

MackAttack
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Re: Bristol demo PIREP

Postby MackAttack » Mon May 30, 2016 2:40 pm

I'm curious to know now (after more demos and time in the Skycatcher) whether you have similar or different views based on your memory of that demo.

I also acknowledge that I had been out of aviation for many years until just a few months ago, and that as a low time pilot generally, my comments about flight characteristics should be taken with a large grain of sodium chloride. Your mileage may (and likely will) vary.

Flocker
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Re: Bristol demo PIREP

Postby Flocker » Mon May 30, 2016 3:37 pm

MackAttack wrote:I expect to make up my mind this week between the Bristell and the Tecnam Astore and will post an update on the Board as well as what lead me in the final direction.


Great PIREP! Can't wait to see which one you land on. 8)

Wm.Ince
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Re: Bristol demo PIREP

Postby Wm.Ince » Mon May 30, 2016 4:08 pm

Thank you.
Bill Ince
CTSW
Retired Heavy Equipment Operator

Merlinspop
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Re: Bristol demo PIREP

Postby Merlinspop » Mon May 30, 2016 6:40 pm

Great PIREP. Have you flown a recent model SportCruiser? I'd be curious to see you comparison to the Bristol, since they're blood relatives.
- Bruce

MackAttack
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Re: Bristol demo PIREP

Postby MackAttack » Mon May 30, 2016 7:57 pm

I have not flown a SportCruiser - there is a dealer up in Dallas actually. My understanding is, however, that the design has not changed in several years - the avionics and interiors have changed, but the airframe has not (other than the iS engine). My thought process was "why get a Sport Cruiser when I can get the new and improved version - the Bristell." Of course, there are a fair number of SC's available used, but I was primarily interested in a new aircraft.

I expect the SC would fly similarly to the long wing Bristell all other things being equal but that's just my guess.

Merlinspop
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Re: Bristol demo PIREP

Postby Merlinspop » Mon May 30, 2016 8:44 pm

I've a few hours in the SC, but not the Bristel. Was just wondering.
- Bruce

MackAttack
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Re: Bristol demo PIREP

Postby MackAttack » Mon May 30, 2016 10:01 pm

And what was your impression of the SC if you don't mind me asking?

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designrs
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Re: Bristol demo PIREP

Postby designrs » Tue May 31, 2016 2:24 am

Merlinspop wrote:Great PIREP. Have you flown a recent model SportCruiser? I'd be curious to see you comparison to the Bristol, since they're blood relatives.


I flew the long wing Bristell after having many hours in the SportCruiser. They are very similar in flight characteristics and responses. The most noticeable differences when flying the Bristell are the more reclined seat position, more refined control characteristics, and design advances in the Bristell. Basically they fly like the cousins that they are!
- Richard

Merlinspop
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Re: Bristol demo PIREP

Postby Merlinspop » Tue May 31, 2016 7:39 am

MackAttack wrote:And what was your impression of the SC if you don't mind me asking?

The only other LSA I have any time in is the Carbon Cub, so there's no worthwhile comparison there. My other time is split between a few different models of 172s, PA-38s and PA28-140s.
Having said that, I found the SC to be a very comfortable airplane to fly. I didn't find it "twitchy" in pitch as others have. But I have always tended to do control inputs as a smoothly increasing pressure, rather than a distinct control movement (which is often too much that has to countered, hence twitchy). It's been a couple years now, but I don't recall any issues with visibility. I'm a bigger than average person (6'3", 225) and didn't feel that the CFI and I were encroaching on each other's personal space. T/O and landings were easy, uncomplicated affairs. Taxiing wasn't terrible (my first castering nosewheel experience). Bumps and jolts in the air were felt more than I was used to, but little waves rock a canoe more than a bigger powerboat...that's just physics, so I wasn't bothered too much by that.
All in all, it was a fun little airplane. Not thrilled by the repeated occurrence of nose gear failures and canopies opening in flight (some with very bad outcomes). But both of those can be mitigated and/or the designs improved to correct any faults (whether structural or procedural).
- Bruce

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MrMorden
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Re: Bristol demo PIREP

Postby MrMorden » Tue May 31, 2016 8:46 am

About the useful load...caution. A lot of times the advertised useful and the actual useful differ by quite a bit. The only way to know for sure would be to look at the W&B sheet for a particular built airplane and see what kind of numbers they actually get. If they can really keep the weight down that much, kudos!
Andy Walker
Athens, GA
Sport Pilot ASEL, LSRI
2007 Flight Design CTSW E-LSA

MackAttack
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Re: Bristol demo PIREP

Postby MackAttack » Tue May 31, 2016 9:05 am

I did like the Bristell - don't get me wrong - that's why it's down to the 50/50 proposition. It has a steerable nose wheel (the Tecnam is castering). However, I have no issues with either in terms of taxiing - don't mind using the toe brakes. As a result of the steerable nose gear, the Bristell does offer a hand brake option (it was on one of the planes I flew), but I am so used to toe brakes it was a little weird for me. Plus I like to step on a brake to turn the airplane, I'm not quite sure how that would work with a hand brake ... I am not surprised to hear that that folks feel the Bristell is a more refined version of the SC, as that was the intent.

The roll axis is particularly sensitive in the short wing version, I believe by design. But I think it would take some getting used to for me ... and I agree that the control sensitivity could easily be due to the way I use the stick as a low time pilot... but it was still a little unnerving.

As to the canopy and nose gear strength/design, Bristell spent a fair amount of time designing the canopy latch system so my guess is that the SC issues aren't present there. And the nose gear seems sturdy enough (although based on my inspection, the Tecnam nose gear looks even sturdier - it is a huge oleo strut that comes all the way up and is anchored on the firewall).

As far as the useful load, I agree such claims should be examined with caution - however, I did inquire about the empty weight of the turbo Bristell in the hangar (being prepared for customer delivery), with dual G3X, some IFR avionics as well, and the chute - and was informed the empty weight was 860. Did I see the POH? No, but I have no reason to think that wasn't a true statement about that aircraft.

Cheers

jetcat3
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Re: Bristol demo PIREP

Postby jetcat3 » Tue May 31, 2016 9:14 am

A fully tricked out Bristell is hitting around 860 pounds empty weight I believe. Very impressive. I'm in no way an adequate measure of aircraft performance and flying characteristics, but almost all of my 55 hours have been in SLSA's. Having flown two new Astore's and SportCruiser's, I can say there were some definite differences in flying characteristics. I noticed the SC was very sensitive in roll and the sensitive in pitch. Interestingly, I found the Astore to be less sensitive in roll and as sensitive as the SC in pitch. Those were were just my observations. I actually liked the very sensitive roll and pitch. Any LSA is going to be pretty sensitive though, but I did notice a difference between these low-wings and the P2008 and Skycatcher.

I know Czech Sport Aircraft has made subtle changes, one to address the sensitivity of the elevator and made that change in 2011 I believe. I hear that earlier versions are actually faster after they made the change to the elevator. I can't say exactly what they did either. Gurney flap like the Skycatcher? Hopefully some SC owners can chime in here? I live in Dallas and have many opportunities to visit US Aircraft in Addison, TX. GREAT group of guys for sure!

Great PIREP Joel! Thank you very much.


Drew

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zaitcev
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Re: Bristol demo PIREP

Postby zaitcev » Tue May 31, 2016 12:04 pm

MackAttack wrote:Plus I like to step on a brake to turn the airplane, I'm not quite sure how that would work with a hand brake .

I flew a few airplanes with hand brake. The most "traditional" of them was Piper Cherokee. The toe brakes were an option on PA28 for many years and you can still find stripper trainer Cherokees of 1968 vintage at flight lines of schools. Among common LSAs, Flight Design CTLS and Remos GX are configured that way, although annoyingly they do not agree. On CT you pull a lever (like on Piper), but on GX you push that lever to brake. On some airplanes you squeeze the hand brake like on a bicycle.


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