The hierarchy of personal general aviation aircraft types has, over the years, come to be defined by certain mainstays. The Cessna 150- 152 and light taildraggers have been the stalwarts of basic, entry-level aviation. The Skyhawk and Cherokee families have long served as the go-to solution for economical four-place aircraft—and more-powerful, complex machines like those from Mooney and Beechcraft have defined the top of the single-engine-piston market.
But, hiding in the gaps between those segments, there are some less common types that offer an intriguing blend of qualities. The four-place Grumman AA-5 family might be one of the better-kept secrets, offering the simplicity of a Cessna 172 while approaching the cruise speed of a similarly powered Mooney. This appealing blend can be found elsewhere, but few options supplement it with the robust network of parts, service and support enjoyed by Grumman owners.
With relatively few problem areas, ADs or areas of concern with regard to flying characteristics, the AA-5 family checks many of the boxes required to earn its place as an approachable aircraft.
The manufacturing history of the AA-5 series is a colorful one. The lineage began with Jim Bede’s homebuilt BD-1, which first flew in 1963. Bede designed the two-place BD-1 with an emphasis on speed and economy, and when it was purchased by American Aviation and developed into the AA-1 series, these qualities were carried over.
In 1971, when American Aviation became Grumman American, the company identified a need for a four-seat aircraft. It introduced an enlarged version of the AA-1, equipped it with a 150 hp Lycoming O-320 and called it the AA-5 Traveler. The airplane received minor aerodynamic improvements for the 1975 model year, which was its last year of production.
In 1976, the AA-5 Traveler was replaced with the AA-5A Cheetah. With the assistance of aircraft designer Roy LoPresti, the airframe was cleaned up to reduce drag, the horizontal stabilizer was enlarged to increase elevator authority and expand the CG range, and fuel capacity went from 37 to 52 gallons.
Topping the range is the AA-5B Tiger, which entered production as a 1975 model and differed from the Cheetah primarily by being equipped with the more powerful 180 hp Lycoming O-360. A number of these became known as Gulfstream Americans when Gulfstream bought the Grumman line and sold them through 1979.
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