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Europe's Biggest Light Aircraft Show

By Dan Johnson, Experimenter Magazine, September, 2003
Though some say it resembles the RV series, Germany's Impulse is fully carbon fiber to yield sleek compound curves difficult to achieve with aluminum. Gorgeously painted, Impulse is also a speedster with aerobatic capabilities|no wonder the RV comparison. Contact: or
Light-sport aircraft are a major part of Aero 2003

My first visit to the Aero show was in 2001. For years earlier, I'd been aware of this event in the far south of Germany, in the resort town of Friedrichshafen. After attending the show two years ago, I became aware of how important it would be to light-sport aircraft.

Because Aero runs on alternate years, like many air shows in Europe, I determined I was going again in 2003, no matter what. Once again it was a worthwhile trip.

Friedrichshafen sits on the northern shore of a giant lake called Bodensee or Lake Constance. Across the body of water to the south lies Switzerland. Bodensee's eastern edge borders Austria. The tourist attractions generated by the big lake come with picturesque scenes in many directions.

Friedrichshafen is also home to the Zeppelin airship company. Famous for its creation of the Hindenburg, Zeppelin is the oldest continuously operating airship builder. In the Bavarian town Zeppelin calls home are two museums of the company's work. Logically, then, having a major air show in Friedrichshafen makes sense. That it is central to the rest of Europe helps draw aircraft makers and suppliers plus pilots and visitors from across the European community.

For someone in my line of work- evaluating light aircraft-this show has become a must-go international event. The reason is simple: manufacturers of such aircraft feel like I do|they simply have to attend. Virtually every company serious about making light aircraft has a display at Aero. In one trip, I can see what all the manufacturers in Europe are developing.

This article, then, will highlight many of the beautiful flying machines I found on the show floor. In some cases the aircraft are elaborate, even fanciful creations with modest growth potential. Others are mainstream products seemingly destined for American shores. Aero sees a generous share of new ideas, so some exhibitors are new commercial entities that hope to gain entry to the competitive recreational aircraft market.

Throughout this article, I refer to most of these planes as "ultralights," "microlights," "VLA," or "light-sport aircraft (LSA)." Please understand that these terms are not used to define. Ultralight in Europe generally means an aircraft limited to 450 kilograms of gross weight (or, now, 472.5 kg if a ballistic parachute is installed). Microlight is a general term meaning any ultralight-like aircraft, while VLA (very light aircraft) means an aircraft that has European certification and is generally heavier than allowed under European ultralight definitions. LSA means an aircraft that could fit the proposed new FAA light-sport aircraft rule, in my opinion. Because that rule is not yet released and I cannot predict the actions of manufacturers, I ask readers to consider these terms as casual references only, please.

Concentrated Light-Sport Aircraft

As with major American air shows, Aero is a highly efficient way to bring together all the brands and models in one location. All of Europe may be half the size of the United States, but it's still large enough that traveling around to visit airframe makers takes lots of time and money. Going to Aero makes the job easier and in many ways more pleasant (though, of course, you cannot see the manufacturing plant where the airplanes are made).

All new for Aero 2003 were freshly completed exhibition facilities. The old location, slightly closer to the center of town, was a scattered collection of large halls obviously added as necessity demanded. The new Friedrichshafen Convention Center is located right on the airport, across the main runway from the small terminal serving the town. The halls are now coordinated and more logically arranged. A large courtyard served food and housed a few military displays.

Inside the seven great halls of Aero 2003 were aircraft from all over Europe. Eastern Europe was especially well represented among the ultralight and VLA set. Judging from the packed exhibit halls, the recreational segment of Euroland appears to be quite healthy, despite sluggish national economies and surprisingly high unemployment.

Some corporate hardware was parked outside, but Aero remains a venue for fun flying. In 2001, the largest airplane on display was a Cessna 206. For 2003, now that the show is based at the airport, organizers started to cultivate the business crowd, too. On the whole, though, and to my personal satisfaction, Aero remains dominated by sport aircraft-overwhelmingly oneand two-seat machines that roughly fit various European definitions.

With avgas running $8 to $10 per gallon and with autogas half that price in Europe, fuel efficiency is more than a buzzword. High taxes drive the price to three or four times what Americans pay. Flying Cessnas and heavier aircraft is largely only an option for a few well-heeled owners or corporations. Even suppliers like Diamond Aircraft offer diesel engines to battle the high cost of petrol. (Diesel fuel enjoys a financial advantage to accommodate European agriculture politics.)

With their ubiquitous Rotax 912s-and even some diesel entries- the ultralight/microlight suppliers offer even better efficiency, and this draws interest heavily from the ranks of well-paid European workers, professionals, and aviation enthusiasts

Take My Photo Tour

The aircraft pictured on these pages do not represent all those present. Several brands well known to Americans, such as Skyboy, Sky Ranger, CT, and Zenair, had large exhibits and attracted plenty of interest, but they don't require further coverage right now. Some others simply seemed out-of-date or so niche oriented that I skipped them. Instead my search focused on aircraft Americans have not yet seen, new models being introduced or not available in the United States, and new technology, including some experimental designs that may never arrive on the market.

My goal here is not to promote the photographed airplanes as models you will buy in the near future. You may, but that wasn't how I chose these machines. In my regular combing of light aircraft of all description, I look for those likely to become commercial successes or those with ideas and shapes that are sure to be coopted by other builders.

Neither do I make any attempt to cover the corporate side of Aero, though many companies were present peddling their wares and services. More than 500 exhibitors filled the halls. I've only reported on 20-plus airplanes, so lots went unmentioned.

To see all Aero offers, you'll simply have to go yourself. Aero 2005 is scheduled for April 21-24, if you're serious. Otherwise, I'll be going again; so perhaps in about 24 months you can take my new tour by camera.

For now, enjoy Aero 2003. Perhaps one of these light aircraft will tickle your particular fantasy of flight. The contact information (at the end of most captions) lists a verified, Englishlanguage Internet address plus email, if available. If English is not available on the website, you can translate the site to English by using this website, http://babelfish.altavista. com/babelfish/tr, or by using Google's search engine and clicking its "Translate This Page" feature.

Like most United States air shows, Aero 2003 had a wide range of sport aircraft. In this intriguing composition, a sailplane takes the foreground to the EM-10 jet in the rear. Nearly all aircraft are displayed in several large indoor halls.
One of the few American designs on display at Aero, Flightstar has an active dealer who showed a couple Flightstar two-place machines and one single-seat Spyder. Contact: or
like these for advertising, and they do so in a dizzying array of sizes. Smaller ones flew regularly around the several great halls of Aero 2003. While most are radio controlled, one model can actually qualify for FAR Part 103, weighing only 154 pounds empty and using a powered paraglider seat and engine for its "gondola." Contact: or
With its striking compound-angle leading edge, the Lambada shows off its motorglider abilities. Czech builder Urban Air has a gliderbuilding heritage but also offers the non-motorglider Samba and Samba XXL microlights. Contact: or
It may look like a larger plane, but the Pioneer 300 is sold in Germany under that country's 472.5-kilogram limit (1,040 pounds). The 300 in the name comes from a retractable version that can allegedly hit 300 km/h or about 185 mph. Contact: or (use translator)
We haven't seen BMW engines on light aircraft in this country, though a German and a French company offer them on their trike ultralights. With the brand name's lofty reputation, perhaps the four-valve engine will eventually come to the United States. Contact: German Takeoff Trikes- e-mail:, French Chapelet Trikes-e-mail:
The United States now has its own entry in the fully faired trike sweepstakes (look for the Seagull Aerosports' Escape Pod shown at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2003 in next month's EAA AirVenture coverage), but the Silent Racer from Germany already has lots of field experience. Note the folding and faired main gear plus the folding prop. Contact: or
Rare as a jet-powered biplane, Solid Air presented this side-by-side trike carriage. With its smoothly faired body, the Diamant didn't seem overly wide (large Americans might feel squeezed). As English was not spoken, I couldn't determine the significance of the underside pipe and mirror. Contact: or
Once of the most streamlined and highly refined designs is Aceair's Aeriks 200 from Switzerland. (It underwent test flying early this year.) Visitors to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh have seen it, but it otherwise remains an apparition to Americans. The Aceair is a high-tech, mid-engine, rear prop, retractable nosewheel work of art. Contact: or
We've seen it in this country with retractable gear, but the Slovak Republic's WT-9 Dynamic is built in a fixed-gear version as well. This speedy aircraft may fit LSA with the right engine and prop. Dynamic has a U.S. distributor, and prices start at $54,000. Contact: or (use plural for web address, though business name is singular)
You'll probably never see it looking this way, because if you buy the Dynamic from Skyshop, the U.S.-based company will help you with assembly through its builderassistance program.
An American marketer would argue against the whale-sized name "Orka," but you can't fault the streamlined fuselage on this rare twin-engine entry from Poland's Zaklady Lotnicze. It's Eastern Europe's fiberglass answer to the Air Cam with twin Rotax 912s. Contact: e.marganski@ or
Though sleek, this Zephyr from Czech Republic's ATEC easily stays within LSA's 115 knot speed limit. The wings are fabric-covered plywood with composite leading edges. The body is all fiberglass. Contact: sales@atecvos or
Aimed deliberately at America's light-sport aircraft rule is Light Wing's Ecolight. Expected to fit U.S. LSA definitions, Ecolight is spacious with room for two big people, or one pilot can carry a stretcher. Ecolight can even be used for sailplane towing. Contact: or
Americans may not realize it (yet), but they know the work of designer Hans Gygax, creator of the ultralight that later became the Flightstar. He is also the brains behind the Comco C-42, one of the most popular ultralights in Germany and widely used in flight schools.
One of the most interesting designs I saw at Aero 2003 was this Isatis prototype. If you think the engine area up front looks too small, you're right. The engine is in the rear with a drive shaft running under the console between the seats. Contact: or
From the pilot's point of view Isatis 01 makes lots of sense. It's roomy with great visibility, and the engine is mounted closer to the center of gravity.
The all-metal Kappa KP-2U Sova is an airplane known to a few Americans. It features retractable gear, though company officials told me a fixed-gear version of the 80-hp Rotax 912-powered aircraft could make LSA definitions. Contact: or
Besides the Swiss Aceair, only one other machine looks as dreamily smooth and speedy even while on the air show floor. The company had reportedly shown a light jet at earlier shows, perhaps explaining the design background for such a high-technology aircraft. All wheels retract, and the prop is placed at the rear. Contact:
An American name for a highly developed Italian aircraft available in fixed or retractable gear (as shown). Texan RG's cockpit is spacious, and the airplane is reported to have "remarkable flight qualities." The company also makes the more affordable Storch and Wallaby models. Contact: or
Except for its engine, this fiberglass trike is neatly faired to yield a speedy appearance. Note the electronic scales under all three wheels. At Aero 2003, such scales were commonplace because producers of genuine ultralights (by European standards) wanted to prove their legal weight.
Though America dominates aviation fleet sizes in most aviation categories, Europe is far ahead with sailplanes. In fact, gliders are the most common way Europeans learn to fly. So the German Aero Club's display was on target having a half-dozen of these sailplane simulators. An expert is alongside to help, but the computer screen provides a fairly realistic sensation of actual flying.
France's Dyn'Aero has worked hard to keep its airplanes light using carbon fiber and clever design. With many aircraft in the German community bulging past weight limitations, the company wanted to boldly demonstrate its achievement. This sign says empty weight is 535 pounds, significantly less than other fast twoseaters. Contact: or
European builder Aeropro created this Kitfox look-alike aircraft, and it's now represented in the United States by Rollison Light Sport Aircraft. Owner Rob Rollison, who attended Aero 2003, told me it is actually derived from Avid Flyer plans once sold in Canada. Contact: or
Europeans are much more space restricted than Americans, who are accustomed to wide open stretches of land. Because Europe also has the world's largest concentration of sailplanes, this glider-like trailer for your ultralight is probably logical. The low-profile trailer is shown holding a Remos G-3 Mirage ultralight.
The most beautiful wings at the show, in my opinion, were on this Leonardo from Dewald. The continuously curved wings surround an also-wood tandem cockpit. The motorglider is projected to produce a 24-to-1 glide, but its looks will turn heads everywhere. Contact: dewaldleichtflugzeugbau@ or



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