Visibility: CAVOC, more than 10k
Temperature: 16°C
Wind: 250°, 6 knots
QNH: 1021hPa
Location: EDAZ (Schönhagen)
Equipment: N9920U Grumman AA-5A “Cheetah”

I read several magazines about aviation on a more or less regular basis. But there is one that I never miss an issue of: “Pilot und Flugzeug“. The magazine itself is in a small format and does not look as glossy as some. But the content is the best I have seen. A lot of it is over my head but I am inspired by it every month.

The other great thing about “Pilot und Flugzeug” is the fact that they operate three aircraft. Two are single engine four seaters and one is a pressurized turbine twin. And all of them are available for readers to use!

Today I will be checked out on “Lisa Berlin”. She is a Grumman AA-5A “Cheetah”. LISA is a light four seater, not unlike the Cessna 172 I have been flying. But her low wing configuration gives her a sleek look compared to the trusted but bulky Cessna. I have read the flight manual, passed a small online check-out, mailed copies of my license and the rental agreement to the publisher and today I get to meet LISA in person.


LISA is stationed at Schönhagen. A busy and well organized airfield south of the big city. I am early and a friendly clerk hands me log book and the keys. I have time for a walk around on my own.

When the friendly instructor arrives, we start with some formalities and ground school. Then follows the briefing in the aircraft. LISA was born in the 70s but has been equipped with modern avionics, including a Bendix KFD 840 “Primary Flight Display”. This integrated flight instrument requires some training before it is mastered.

Off we go

I’m ready for some action and so is LISA. The steering on the ground is done by differential breaking which requires practice. We take off and fly out of the pattern to do air work. As a low wing aircraft, LISA has a higher roll rate than the high wing Cessna, the climb qualities are similar.

We do a few turns, stalls, slow flight with flaps and without, and a basic introduction to the auto pilot. I like the little cat right away. She feels lighter on the controls than the Cessna and is still more stable than the agile but nervous Light Sport class.

After about half an hour of air work, we turn back to the airport for some landings. On to the next challenge!

Ground effect

I have almost no experience with low wing aircraft. Close to the ground, the flow of air under the wings can build up so that the aircraft “floats” on this waive. This “ground effect” is a much bigger factor in low wing aircraft, as the wings are much closer to the ground.

The instructor has told me to not worry too much and just cut the power a bit earlyer that I usually would. So I bring the engine to idle, flare and grease her to the ground. The stall horn chimes (as it should) and LISA sits down in the middle of the touch down zone. Wow, that was easy!

Beginners luck – the next two approaches are a bit bumpier. But all in all LISA handles well on approach and lands easily.

After an hour the instructor has seen enough. He signs my log book and I am officially qualified to fly PIC in the Grumman AA-5A. EDAZ has a nice restaurant with a terrace overlooking the apron. This is where I conclude the flying day with a large beverage on the table in front of me. I can’t wait for the next time I see LISA!

To be continued…


(originally posted on May 8, 2013 by tilbo at

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