PILOT RATING CONSIDERATIONS
The Phoenix is both a Light Sport Aircraft, and it is a glider. Consequently, it can be flown by a private airplane rated pilot, a sport pilot, or a glider pilot. How can that be? Well, a private rated airplane pilot can utilize his sport privileges to fly light sport aircraft. When this happens with a current medical certificate, the pilot has the same abilities as he always does in any GA aircraft. That is, he can fly in any airspace, he can fly at night, and he can fly above 10,000'msl. If he flies without a medical, then he is flying as a sport pilot, and must fly below 10,000' and only during the day. The same applies of course to the pilot with a sport rating. Nothing new so far, right?
Pilots can move between categories of aircraft (between airplanes and gliders for instance) in the LSA world without getting a new rating. What is required instead is a proficiency check. For an airplane rated pilot to fly an LSA glider, he must get a GL2 Proficiency Check. The training is done with one certified flight instructor, and is tested and signed off by another flight instructor. No Examiner is required, although an Examiner can give the flight test as well. The airplane pilot is now flying as a sport pilot, with the sport pilot limitations.
the Phoenix is certified as an LSA Glider, so it can be flown with a glider rating. A pilot with at least a student glider rating can fly the Phoenix. Since it has an engine, a self-launch logbook endorsement is required. And since glider pilots are not limited to 10,000', they can take the Phoenix to 18,000', the floor of the Class A, or even higher in a wave window or box. And the Phoenix can go that high!
Another interesting feature of the glider rating is that no medical, and no drivers license in the place of a medical is required. So the sport pilot rule about not flying if there has been a suspended or revoked medical certificate (in which case he would now be flying based on a drivers license) does not apply to glider pilots.
How about a tailwheel endorsement? Because the Phoenix is a glider the tailwheel endorsement is not applicable. Basically, almost all gliders have a tailwheel. And because the Phoenix tailwheel is fully steerable via metal rods direct to the rudder, the plane is stable in crosswinds and has no groundloop tendancies.
Ok, so that is the simplified version of the pilot ratings as they apply to the Phoenix. How about the difference between an LSA airplane and an LSA glider? The main differences are:
An LSA glider may not have a Vne higher than 120kts.
The LSA glider is not required to have an ELT.
The LSA glider is not required to have a transponder, and can go up to 18,000’ without one, and can also fly into Class D airspace or inside the Mode C veil without one. So far, every Phoenix owner has opted for a transponder
The LSA glider is not required to have strobe lights (but every Phoenix does have nav and strobe lights).
These first 3 points reference the fact that gliders typically do not carry enough battery power to run these things over a long soaring flight (engine off). But the Phoenix comes with an optional avionics battery to power instruments while soaring, so that the engine start battery is always ready to go.
In addition, an LSA glider can have a feathering prop (but not a variable pitch prop) to minimize drag in soaring flight.
What about the feathering prop? The Phoenix uses the Woodcomp Varia 1.6 propeller. It is a hollow carbon fiber prop which is operated by a two position lever which places the prop in the feathered or unfeathered position. The Varia prop pitch can be adjusted easily on the ground for best cruise or climb performance.