Don’t be fooled by the P2002 resemblances, Tecnam’s P-Mentor has numerous differences, which puts it in a class of its own
Words and photography: Jean-Marie Urlacher
11 November 2022
In the Tecnam catalogue, there is something for everyone: high-wing, low-wing, ultralight, aeroplane, twin-engine economy, twin-engine transport, two-seater, four-seater… Take your pick! The P-Mentor renews a segment of the Tecnam fleet that is between the ab initio flight school and IFR training, with lower operating costs than its four-seat P2010 and an avionics upgrade that the P2002, in which it’s based, could not achieve.
The name P-Mentor is a reference to Tecnam’s founder, Luigi Pascale (1923-2017), who was nicknamed the ‘Professor’, the wise and experienced advisor behind this successful entrepreneurial venture. Tecnam is still the largest manufacturer of light aircraft in Europe today.
The P-Mentor received the new CS-23 certification on 6 April this year, and is the first in its class to be IFR.
While its tricycle landing gear, low-wing, round canopy sliding backwards configuration is reminiscent of the P2002, the differences are numerous from a structural and cosmetic point of view.
The undercarriage track is wider at 1.84m, the wing profile is different with a carbon fibre leading edge, the fuel tanks are moved behind the spar, the wing and fuselage are made of riveted metal, the ailerons are smaller and the flaps are longer. The elevator remains one-piece. It is noticeable that there are no aerodynamic ‘add-ons’ to the wing – proof of a good design.
The P-Mentor is powered by a 100hp Rotax injection engine, and Tecnam has kept the two useful inspection hatches on the cowlings already found on the P2002, which help with a thorough pre-flight inspection.
The step for climbing onto the wing is still located in front of the trailing edge and has been moved forward slightly so that the pilot or passenger can see it when descending the wing. An electrical socket on the port side allows ground instruction on the electronic flight information system (EFIS) without depleting the battery, an excellent point.
The canopy slides easily aft, giving access to a superb, fully equipped Garmin cockpit, with a high quality interior finish. The rear luggage compartment is spacious and can hold up to 30kg of luggage. A ‘step here’ sign on the floor just in front of the seat, invites the pilot to put his feet just there and climb in. The seat is adjustable fore and aft, and the rudder pedals are fixed. The flying position is good, comfortable and the shoulder room is perfect for long hours of flying or instruction. Tecnam has clearly done a lot of work on ergonomics, and the ideas developed for the P2010 can be found in the perceived quality and layout of the instrument panel.
The instrument panel is divided into seven areas. An alarm panel under the coaming has the advantage of being easy to read even in bright light and has a visual stall indicator in addition to the traditional audible alarm. The Primary and Multi-Function Displays are Garmin G3X Touch, coupled with Garmin’s ‘round mini EFIS’ GI275, which serves as a backup horizon between the two main displays.
Under the windscreen, on the pilot’s side, is the start and engine control area, and also a landing gear lever to simulate an aircraft with retractable landing gear – an excellent idea to teach pilots good practice from the start. This system, called Simulated Retractable Gear Control (SRGC), is coupled with a ‘three green/three red’ light alert, and also with an audible alarm. This system can be deactivated if necessary.
The central area is dedicated to navigation/ communication/ autopilot, all Garmin. Opposite the co-pilot is the breaker section, electric flaps and management of the aircraft’s internal and external light systems.
Finally, the central console manages the right/ left/ off fuel selector, throttle and propeller pitch, as Tecnam has chosen to install a constant speed variable pitch, so the students learn good practice (once again). It is clear that the emphasis has been put on training and that the target market is clearly flying schools and flying clubs that want to train future professionals. One small flaw: the parking brake is located against the central bulkhead and not very visible. But the belts are retractable. Practical!
You put your head down to slide the canopy forward and close it with three points – at the top and on both sides. Starting is classic Rotax. Visibility is good when taxying. The pilot has to get used to the large canopy pillars on the left and right of the windscreen, but the eye bypasses these obstacles with a forward/reverse head movement.
The take-off briefing with flight school operator, Franck, includes setting one notch of flaps, rotation at 53kt and a climb to Vy with flaps down at 65kt. We are close to the P-Mentor’s maximum weight at 720kg. In the IFR version, RNAV is equipped with all options (except for the airframe parachute) and at an empty weight of 465kg, that is 150kg of load available if we had the 140 litres of full tanks. Of course, instructors will find a good compromise between range and available load.
The P-Mentor is easy to handle. You quickly get the feeling that you are flying an aeroplane and not a microlight. This is partly due to the smaller ailerons on the P-Mentor, which make the aircraft less fiery and provide a more stable platform for learning. The controls are pleasant on all axes.
On the performance side, the P-Mentor is modest: a 500ft/min climb at 65kt and 540ft/min at 70kt. On hot days on a grassy field and at altitude, one should be wary. Fortunately, the variable pitch optimises these flight phases.
You might dream of a 141hp Rotax 915 in this airframe. But for training purposes, you can’t have an economical aircraft without paying a small price for performance. Anyway, the aircraft fulfils its mission without any problem. In cruise, we note a True Air Speed (TAS) averaged over three legs at around 103kt. Sufficient for flight training but a bit slow for touring. Once again, a Rotax 915 would be a plus on this airframe.
Stall tests reveal a healthy and safe aircraft, but not very demonstrative when there are no flaps or first stage. It is necessary to extend the second notch of flap and wait for 45kt, to obtain a slightly more decisive behaviour. The P-Mentor is protective.
A few tests of the autopilot: a delight. Students who fly IFR will have, thanks to the Garmin suite and the placid behaviour of the P-Mentor, a good learning platform. As for fuel consumption, the Rotax engine, well known to flying clubs, can offer two modes: Eco and Sport. With 14 l/h in Eco mode or 20 l/h throttle forward, this machine gives low operating costs.
Returning to the airfield, we perform a go-around and a landing. At 65kt on final, the landing is normal, though it’s preferable to keep the nosewheel up a little after touching down on the main gear to avoid a small vibration phase on contact with the runway.
Polish flight school Bartolini Air, part of the Ryanair Mentored Pilot programme, is the launch customer for the new aircraft. List price of the P-Mentor places this aircraft at the high end of CS-23 aircraft.
The P-Mentor G3X Rotax iSC3 Sport CS-23 is priced at 285,600 euro including VAT, and the CS-23 RNAV (IFR) version at 304,800 euro including VAT.
Many options are offered notably in terms of the choice of autopilot, avionics and paintwork.
Do you know Bellegarde-Vouvray Airfield? Situated under the Geneva TMA, this small 670m hard runway, perched at 1,626ft, is the stronghold of Franck Luthi. This is where the importer of Tecnam France set up its hangars almost 25 years ago.
In front of the offices, the F-HPMR, with its blue and grey livery on a white background, does not hide its family resemblance with the P2002.
|Max speed (Vne)||135kt|
|Payload with full fuel||149kg|
|Fuel||140L (135 usable)|
|Engine||Rotax 912iSC 3 Sport|
|Propeller||MT-Propeller (1.80 m) variable pitch constant speed (MTV-21-A/180-51)|
|Avionics||Garmin G3X Touch, Garmin GI 275 backup instrument, GMA 345 R, GNC 255A Com/NAV, GTX 345 ADSB IN/OUT transponder|
|Tecnam Aircraft www.tecnam.com|
|Oriens Aviation www.oriensaviation.com/tecnam|
|CS-23 VFR / VFR night / IFR|
|From 285,600 euros including VAT|