Zkwkf_cockpit "It is like climbing into a new car when you have been used to driving a car that is 25 years old." citied Roger (CFI) when I asked him about the new Alpha 160A (R2160) that the Waikato Aero Club has replaced the Cessna 152's with.

A week or so later he is proven correct when I go for my first type intro flight. The first thing I noticed when I clambered into ZK-WKF, doing my level best not to stand on the plush leather seats, was that everything looks new, there are actually some digital gauges and a GPS unit.

Marie kindly explains the various features and start-up procedure and before long we are off to the eastern training area for some stalls and a forced landing. Zkwkf_ext

I have now completed 3 type introduction lessons in the Alpha 160A and here are my brief observations (from a novice perspective)

  • The view and the sunburn! The view is stunning on a fine day. My first flight out I could see down to Mt Ruapehu. With that comes the glass house effect, sunburn and heat. An interesting trade off.
  • It has a control stick as opposed to a control wheel. Feels really natural straight away (must be the experience of computer joysticks from my younger days)
  • HEAPS more right rudder. The larger engine and huge tail rudder means it takes a lot of right rudder to keep the aircraft in balance. It requires it so much so that you would almost expect it to have a rudder trim. Alias trim isn't there so its off to the gym to work on my right leg muscles.
  • The STALL warning sounds way to early. You are flying a well configured aircraft on approach and suddenly the stall warning goes when you theoretically are 20 kts above stall speed. Scares the crap out of me.
  • It glides like a rock (or slightly better). At the recommended 80 IAS you are dropping 1000 fpm, which doesn't leave a lot of time for a Forced Landing from 2500 ft. The club is teaching Forced Landings at around 72-75 IAS, but then the stall warning kicks in every 10 – 20 secs.
  • Gone are the long flares on landing that I have been taught about in the C152. You basically point the Alpha at the ground and do a small flare just before touch down. If you were to flare at the same angle as the Cessna that rear of the plane scraps along the runner (no brownie points earned if you do that)
  • GRUNT. The 160 hp Alpha verses the 110 hp Cessna can mean some pretty quick trips in the downwind portion of the circuit.

All in all a great asset to the club and a fun plane to fly. I'm looking forward to my cross country flights in it!

[Hat Tips]
Photos – Chris Nielsen
Waikato Aero Club
Alpha Aviation