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Sonaca 200

Does anyone know anything about this new Belgian aircraft, or have any experience with it? They are coming to our club next weekend, I assume they are on a sales/marketing campaign in Norway.

I have never even heard about it before this morning. The plane looks interesting (for basic PPL training I guess). It’s a CS-VLA. All aluminium design. Looking at the pictures it is pop riveted 6061-T6 (same as my Onex), will last forever, no problems with corrosion there. It also looks very well engineered (by the looks of it, from the pictures). The specs are:

Power plant
Engine BRP Rotax 914 F Turbo – 115 Cv

Propeller
Fixed pitch MT Propeller

Fuel Grades Avgas 100LL, Mogas, Super EN 228

Mass / Loading / Dimension
MTOW 750 kg
Empty weight 430 kg
Useful payload 320 kg
Full Fuel Payload 210 kg
Number of seats 2
Wing Span 9,15m
Length 7,0m
Fuel Capacity 140 liters

Performances
Stall speed (Flaps extended) 45 kias
Cruise speed – 75% Power 115 ktas
Rate of climb @ sea level 750 fpm
Range at 75% – 45 min Reserve 750 Nm
Take-off distance over 15 m obstacle [grass] 350 m
Landing distance over 15 m obstacle [grass] 300 m
Certification category CS-VLA (ELA 1) – NVFR
Load Factor +4,4g/-1.76g

Other Specifications
Full aluminum structure
Robust landing gear
Toe brakes
Steerable nose wheel
Standard analogue instrumentation

ENVA ENOP ENMO, Norway

Agree, a good looking design, more robust than your current new generation trainers.

Oxford (EGTK)

I’m always very skeptical. Every VLA I’ve looked at so far is simply not upto the job. I’m not sure I like the look of a 914 in a basic training aircraft either – too high fuel burn.

A Piper tomahawk with a 912is would be my dream trainer.

Every VLA I’ve looked at so far is simply not upto the job

Obviously I have never run a school (I was merely a customer of a number of them) but has anyone actually operated these and smashed them up?

The Tomahawks I trained in, courtesy of a now-defunct UK CAA charter AOC holder FTO, were in an absolutely appalling and disgusting condition, with a smell close to the old public telephone boxes which were places of choice for use as urinals, especially as public toilets gradually got shut down to keep a lid on “certain activities” Aged close to 20 years then (40 today) and with the absolute minimum maintenance done (the standard business model in the places I trained in the UK) one would not expect much better perhaps but were they really exceptionally robust? There are stories of the tail flexing madly when the rudder was used, though obviously this would be visible only from another plane flying in formation.

What specifically breaks when any of the new Rotax planes are used for ab initio PPL training?

I wonder if the bigger issue is really the capital cost of buying the plane, which for the old ones is very low; of the order of 5k-10k for a shagged PA38 and 10-20k for a C152 in the best possible condition. You won’t get a Rotax one for less than 10x these numbers; the engine alone is in the region of 25k and that is for a homebuilt like a Eurofox, not a certified version.

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

The 914 burns considerably less than a C-172, and the turbo do make it a nice travelling machine. I agree for basic training, the turbo seem a bit unnecessary, it is a very expensive engine.

Another point. If you have trained on a Rotax, would you even consider flying with a Lycosaur with manual carb heat and mixture later on?

ENVA ENOP ENMO, Norway

Peter wrote:

I wonder if the bigger issue is really the capital cost of buying the plane, which for the old ones is very low; of the order of 5k-10k for a shagged PA38 and 10-20k for a C152 in the best possible condition.

I don’t think you’ll find a C152 for less than about 18k, and even that will be either unairworthy, or only good enough for a ferry flight. A good one with all ADs implemented, all instruments working and a recently overhauled engine will cost over 40k.
C150 and PA38 are noticeably cheaper, but it’s only because they give you noticeably less value for the money in a high-utilisation environment (life-limited spar in PA38; 1800 hours engine TBO instead of 2400 in a C150).
According to several engineers and operators I spoke to, if you factor in all the costs, O-235 or even O-320 may be somewhat cheaper to operate than Rotax if the utilisation is high and you buy avgas excise- and VAT-free.

Last Edited by Ultranomad at 30 Apr 13:03
LKBU (near Prague), Czech Republic

I learn flying on a comparable VLA, the Aquila A211. The Sonata 200 has 80 kg less empty weight for the same MTOW, 40 liters of additional fuel capacity but the same range and is only marginally faster despite its more powerful engine. Take off distance is comparable. This ought to be a nice trainer or single-person tourer.

Last Edited by MedEwok at 30 Apr 15:30
Novice pilot
EDVM Hildesheim, Germany

Ultranomad wrote:

C150 and PA38 are noticeably cheaper, but it’s only because they give you noticeably less value for the money in a high-utilisation environment (life-limited spar in PA38; 1800 hours engine TBO instead of 2400 in a C150)

Few in the US would buy a PA38 for themselves because they are built like a 1970s economy car. However the C150 is the best bargain in aviation, you can buy a decent one for under $20K, a lot of them have mid-time airframes and they don’t depreciate. Much to the chagrin of vintage light tailwheel people who paid more for their planes, the C150 also has reasonable performance if your expectations are not too high. The 1800 TBO is unlikely to be important if you buy one with 1000 hrs since overhaul and fly it 50 or 75 hrs a year, at least not soon.

The Sonaca looks great and probably is great, but the market is schools and clubs. I bought both my (used, old, nice) planes for under $60K combined including one that performs better.

Last Edited by Silvaire at 30 Apr 16:08

Silvaire wrote:

However is C150 the best bargain in aviation, you can buy a decent one for under $20K, a lot of them have mid-time airframes and they don’t depreciate, Much to the chagrin of vintage light tailwheel people, the C150 also has reasonable performance if your expectations are not too high. The 1800 TBO is unlikely to be important if you buy one with 1000 hrs since overhaul and fly it 50 or 75 hrs a year, at least not soon.

Yes, for personal use engine TBO makes much less difference indeed. As to C150 being the best bargain, it’s probably more true in America – here in Europe, Socata Rallye seems to be quite a bit cheaper and probably more fun to fly, too.

LKBU (near Prague), Czech Republic

Rallyes are a good deal in the US too, about the same price as a C150 (or maybe slightly higher) but they aren’t that widespread and both parts and resale are issues. A guy I know has one with an O-320 engine and enjoys it. A few Kolibers (Polish Rallyes) were also imported to the US in the 90s and are now available for maybe $35-40K which also isn’t bad for a new-ish airframe.

Last Edited by Silvaire at 30 Apr 18:00
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