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...a web log of developments in Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft
Touring Aviation Stalwart Continental Motors
By Dan Johnson, October 21, 2014

Continental Motors is known to generations of pilots and not just in the USA. However, I'll bet most readers do not know that the storied company once produced a radial engine. The company started business way back in 1905 as a builder of truck engines for the U.S. Army. They entered the aviation market in 1929 with the seven cylinder A-70 powerplant. A year later Continental introduced A40 that went to four horizontally opposed cylinders in what is sometimes called a boxer engine. "We were the first to introduce the horizontally opposed cylinder configuration to help increase aircraft speeds," observed the company. Rotax has generated well deserved publicity with their efficient fuel injected 912 iS but Continental noted that they were "the first to introduce both fuel injection and turbo-charging in general aviation aircraft (both in the 1960s)." They do not offer such configurations for Light-Sport Aircraft, at least not yet although in 2009 Continental threw support behind the new segment introducing the O-200 lighter weight engine that comes in at 199 pounds.

Continental has been the power for many of aviation's iconic aircraft from the unpretentious Piper Cub to the Voyager aircraft that successfully circumnavigated the globe without refueling, to a fleet of other airplanes including high-end single engine pistons such as Bonanza and Cirrus. Along with Lycoming, Continental engines are the powerplants nearly every American pilot has grown up flying. In more recent years and reflecting the uncertain future for leaded aviation fuels, Continental launched their Turbo Diesel Series engine and entered into unleaded gasoline development. Indeed their alternative fuel IO-360-AF engine (lower photo) was chosen by Flight Design for its four seat C4 as the German company expects to sell this aircraft in many countries where 100LL is unavailable at any price. Contrarily, diesel is available almost everywhere and Continental's push into engines using this fuel was surely one reason the airframe builder chose the Alabama brand.

Continental is dedicated to piston engines and manufactures all primary components themselves, including crankcase, crankshaft, cylinders, and connecting rods. Every engine is hand built. Our factory tour walked us step-by-step through the process ending up in a building holding several test cells. Here, every engine is run through a full cycle in bays that once heard the howl of Mustang Merlin engines.

In the LSA space, Continental engines have been used on CubCrafters, American Legend, and Kitfox, plus Zenith and Fisher kits among other brands. They continue to be a significant supplier to the LSA and light kit industry including Van's Aircraft although that Oregon company chose the Rotax for their RV-12 Light-Sport. Along with other reasons to select the four cylinder, 100 horsepower O-200, mechanics around the world are familiar with the brand and have training and experience for it. Contrarily, Rotax has had to work hard to encourage American A&Ps to learn the differences of their powerplants.

As we toured the facility, I was particularly impressed with one fact. As we heard about the numbering scheme that identifies various engine models, I became aware the company customizes many of their basic models to accommodate specific manufacturers. Some components are installed differently to fit in cowlings or to otherwise meet the design of airframe engineers. In my days at BRS parachutes, we had similar requests. Installing a parachute can be somewhat or significantly different for every aircraft and BRS struggled with the many aircraft variations, but Continental has made customization a common occurrence. They even advise, "We will come to you wherever you are in the lower 48 [U.S. states]. You will receive an engine quote and consultation at no cost to you." That's a great service.

In 1966 Continental moved from their original base in Muskegon, Michigan to take over former military facilities in Mobile, Alabama. Today, the southern producer builds about ten engines a day, or an annual rate of about 2,500 engines. In the post-World War II era they once created more than 34,000 engines in a year (1946) and during the 1970s heyday for general aviation the company reported producing 70 engines a day or an annual rate of 17,500 units. In 2011, Continental was bought by Technify Motors (USA) Ltd, a subsidiary of China's AVIC International Holding Corporation.

You may notice that in the photos with this article, no workers other than our tour guide are seen. The factory was functioning as we toured but the union requires that no employees are photographed while on the job. Of course, I complied with this request but it makes the facility appear unused and quiet. That's an incorrect impression, of course. To see workers at their jobs, Continental Motors has an informative Virtual Factory Tour on their website that you might enjoy. It has many images I was not able to capture.

PHOTOS (top to bottom) — Starting the factory tour • the factory floor in the machining area • older machinery is maintained for certain jobs (top half) but modern CNC equipment has taken over most work (lower half) • an engine cart has all the components ready for hand assembly (engine block not shown) • the six cylinder 180-210 horsepower IO-360-AF alternate fuel engine


AirCam Owners Know How to Have Fun
By Dan Johnson, October 19, 2014

I've been on a couple AirCam outings and I have two points about them: (1) Owners of this unusual airplane are often fairly well-off people and see a golden opportunity when invited by the good planners at Lockwood Aircraft; and, (2) These pilots know how to have fun with their airplanes, flying to some delicious locations. Previous fly-outs included Jekyll Island, Heaven's Landing, Cedar Key off Florida's west coast, and the Bahamas. If you don't know AirCam here's a video that gives a bit of the flavor of this amazing aircraft. (I readily admit to a positive bias for the machine as I have had the chance to fly a good number of hours in it and earned my multi-engine rating in one ... but that's another story.)

On the two occasions when I've joined the AirCam'ers on their fly-outs (or is that "fly-ins?"), I've discovered that these folks have uncovered some wonderful places. The Lockwood Aircraft folks, led by namesake designer Phil Lockwood, don't just hang out at the airport all day. They aerial tour the location and then visit local restaurants and homes of AirCam friends. Everyone seems to enjoy themselves immensely and the people that buy, build, and fly AirCams tend to be some very interesting folks, in my opinion. With its two Rotax engines of one model or another, these airplanes are not the cheapest kits you can build, however, twin-engine flexibility and security offer enormous appeal. Owning one isn't in my budget nor possibly yours but a partnership could be a swell way to own one if you could make it work. No question, though, AirCam allows flying as you'll probably not do in any other aircraft I can envision. If you have any chance to fly in one, by all means, take it. I predict a long-lived smile following the experience.

Next up for Team AirCam's fly-out itinerary is Marathon in the Florida Keys from Thursday to Sunday November 13-16, 2014. If you're an AirCam owner or are considering purchase of one, or just want to go hang out in a great, warm, beachside locale, contact the company and inquire (info at bottom). Demo flights are possible but limited. Those wishing to fly as a group can follow the company team as they leave Lockwood's base at Sebring airport and fly over Everglades National Park shoreline with ocean crossing at Point Sable. If you do this in most aircraft you'll want altitude for safety; the AirCam'ers will see it much better down low. Once at Marathon, the resort atmosphere offers plenty of fun activities. You can also fly from Marathon around Key West as I did on a Fly/Drive vacation with some friends. You don't have to go by AirCam; other airplanes are invited but contact Lockwood Aircraft. Or you can drive, which I'm told is also a good experience. If my history of joining the AirCam'ers is any indication, the hotel and restaurants they choose will be excellent.

While we focus most coverage on Light-Sport Aircraft, light kits, and ultralights, we also have begun to expand our envelope by keeping up with LSA-like aircraft including four seaters from LSA providers. In this spirit, the twin engine AirCam is another good candidate. I have described the flying machine as "ultralight on steroids" because it has clear roots in ultralights such as the Drifter that Lockwood also produces even while it has become very sophisticated and very capable. The latter explains its existence. AirCam was originally commissioned for some very challenging flying in a National Geographic story about Africa where few good runways exist and near-endless jungle seems to reach out to snag an airplane in trouble. After the NatGeo effort, interest developed and has never stopped. Today, close to 200 AirCam kits have been delivered and Lockwood reports a thriving business. Following are AirCam Specifications:

  • Gross Weight — 1,680 pounds (roughly that of a Cessna 150)
  • Wing Span — 36 feet
  • Overall Length — 27 feet
  • Empty Weight — 1,040 pounds
  • Stall Speed — 39 mph (it only looks too big for such a slow speed)
  • Top Speed (Vne) — 110 mph
  • Normal Cruise Speed Range — 50-100 mph
  • Rate of Climb — 1,500 fpm (solo can see beyond 2,000 fpm)
  • Single Engine Climb — 300 fpm (many twins cannot climb on one engine)
  • Fuel & Range — 28 gallons and 340 miles at 70 mph
  • Takeoff Roll — less than 200 feet
  • Landing Roll — 300 feet
  • Exhilaration Factor — off the charts

AirCam demo flight reservations must be made with Robert Meyer by November 6th. He advised, "These will be on a strict schedule and limited to those willing to sign a contract and give a deposit afterwards." If interested, email Robert or call 863-655-4242.


P1NG ... Fully Refreshed from Brazil
By Dan Johnson, October 13, 2014

Paradise P1, with 14 registered Light-Sport Aircraft models flying in the USA.

P1NG is not a sound nor golf equipment. The clever name (that's a "1" not an "i") is similar to a plane you know as the Paradise P1. Now get ready for the "Next Generation" P1, or simply, P1NG. The P1 you may have already seen was designed around a four-seat model with the aft cabin simplified to a luggage space. More on the entire family of Paradise airplanes below. P1 and P1NG offer more cubic area than most cockpits in light aviation. Besides a spacious cabin the front seats remove in a few seconds allowing an occupant to stretch out fully in its length. Alternatively, P1NG could easily carry golf clubs (you probably ought to load the American Ping brand), a family pet, camping gear, or anything else that fits within the weight & balance envelope. Though absent from the U.S. market for several years, Paradise reports good business in their native Brazil, a large and aviation-active country. Company officials say several hundred are flying in South America and other countries. Beside the new door, P1NG is wider, has a different wing section, and boasts other upgrades to keep the design current.

Designed by Noe (NO-eh) de Oliveira, P1NG is one of a family of aircraft including P1 — the Light-Sport Aircraft of which 14 are registered in the USA — a two-seat P2S, the four-seat P4, a low wing called Eagle that closely resembles the SportCruiser, and P1NG. Both P1 derivatives and the Eagle are powered by Rotax's 912 or 914 turbo engines while P2S and P4 use a 180-215 horsepower Lycoming. Noe's new P1NG offers the LSA industry's second three-door cabin — the first being the Jabiru J230-SP. Both are based on four seaters explaining the large volume aft cabin and illustrating why a third door is handy. Of course, an LSA can only have two seats but loading the spacious aft cabin of P1NG will be far easier thanks to the pilot side aft door (photos). Based on my earlier flight experience in P1, general aviation pilots used to those popular high wing planes built in Wichita will find much to like including dual control yokes, a central power quadrant, and wide visibility. I found P1 solid and forgiving with predictable flight qualities. Its long-legged 12.5:1 gliding capability offers a margin of safety. Given a few more years of development since the original importer left the business, it is reasonable to expect even better characteristics of P1NG.

Paradise of Brazil parted ways with its first U.S. importer, Paradise USA based at Sebring, about as the economy was entering the 2009 recession. Yet interest in the Cessna-like LSA did not disappear; indeed I take a call every couple months from some potentially interested pilots even though no one has promoted the design in recent years. While other parties suggested a resumption of import, agreements were apparently never settled and Paradise of Brazil provided legal documents attesting to their efforts to sever prior relationships. Meanwhile Paradise remains absent from the American marketplace, however, that will not last. Arrangements are still being finalized but the South American enterprise plans to establish a Florida presence later this year or early next. U.S. representation will be handled by Bert Motoyama, whom interested parties can reach via email or by phone: 850-758-2967.

Paradise of Brazil hails from a country with a rich aviation design heritage, featuring pioneering names like Alberto Santos Dumont. Today most Americans recognize regional airline and business jet producer Embraer and, interestingly, that major company has recently set up shop in Melbourne, Florida. As I am aware of discussions for another Brazilian company to establish manufacturing in Florida, Paradise may be engaging in a popular trend. As the U.S. plans become firm, I will plan to keep you updated but certainly by Sun 'n Fun, I expect to see Paradise back in the American marketplace.

(Nearby photo) Paradise's new P1NG has appeal to those used to popular high wing aircraft built in Wichita, complete with dual control yokes, center power quadrant, a baggage door, and plenty of room in the cabin. all images courtesy Paradise Aviation


Corvair Power at Zenith’s Open Hangar Day
By Dan Johnson, October 9, 2014

Pat and Mary Hoyt's 601XL (with 650 canopy) and a 2700-cc Corvair at Brodhead Wisconsin in 2013. They also flew to Oshkosh and the Zenith open house in Mexico, Missouri this year.
Zenith Aircraft has shipped thousands of airplane kits and have examples of Chris Heintz designs flying all over the country and around the world. The kit company run by Chris' son Sebastien has been at it nearly a quarter century in Mexico Missouri and in my humble opinion deserves the success they've achieved by operating the business professionally and by serving their customers well. Two of the many ways this happens is through their Open Hangar Day event — which they've hosted since moving to Mexico — and by supporting just about every powerplant aimed at the light recreational aircraft market. Recently I wrote about Viking engines and I've often written about Rotax, Jabiru, Continental, and UL Power. One that I've left out of the review has been William Wynne's Corvair-based powerplant and I am pleased to correct that oversight.

Five Corvair-powered Zenith kit-built aircraft flew into the 2014 Open Hangar Day event and parked together for this photo in front of the airport terminal building.

Wynne reports that he has been continuously building, testing and flying Corvair engines for 25 years, since 1989 (by the way, longer than Zenith has been located in Mexico). At last count his company reports that their engines power about 500 aircraft. William earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Professional Aeronautics and is the holder of an Airframe & Powerplant certificate from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Of his Corvair engine conversion, he wrote, "My extensive testing over the years indicates [this engine can provide] 100-120 horsepower with the degree of reliability necessary for flight engines." This power range suits it perfectly for light kit aircraft in the age of Light-Sport. You might wonder why he chose to use the Corvair engine and the answer might surprise you.

all photos courtesy of FlyCorvair.
Chevrolet's Corvair engine is a six cylinder, horizontally-opposed piston engine used in the 1960s-era Corvair automobile. Wikipedia reported, "It was a highly unusual engine for General Motors [in that] it was air-cooled and used a flat design with aluminum heads and crankcase." My video partner added this, "Few people know it, but the General Motors Corvair engine was developed for GM by a company called Eastern Aviation. GM was after a light helicopter contract from the government, and had Eastern Aviation develop this engine as a powerplant." He continued, "GM never got that contract and in an attempt to compete with the European sport/touring car manufacturers, General Motors decided to use the engine and launched a small sports car to be powered by an air-cooled engine similar to the VW Beetle. Between 1960 and 1969 GM manufactured and sold 1,700,000 of the rear-engine, compact cars. Approximately two million engines were built." Read much more detail about the Corvair engine at Light Sport Aircraft Pilot.

Before Zenith's event this year, William Wynne held another of his four-day Corvair College seminars. "We had 74 people attend and 11 of them fully assembled and test ran their engine," reported Wynne, adding that "about 25 more made good progress." He indicated that this was the second Corvair College he and Zenith Aircraft's Sebastien Heintz have collaborated on before the airplane company's open house. Working seminars of this sort are meant to assist builders but also serve education and marketing purposes. A few caveats: Most aviators and builders realize that General Motors and Chevrolet do not authorize the use of Corvair engines for use in aircraft. Wynne's FlyCorvair enterprise is not affiliated with the car company. Corvair conversions are not type certificated and have not attempted to meet ASTM standards for Light-Sport Aircraft.

In addition to putting on Corvair College, William visits his builders. "I have made hundreds of house calls," he reported. As an example, the nearby photo shows Wynne (on left) making a house call to customer Larry Winger in California. "His engine ran at Corvair College #18," said William. "Larry's aircraft is a magnificent Zenith CH-650, built from plans, not a kit. The aircraft has since been completed and has been moved to the Chino airport. Larry exemplifies many of the finest qualities in homebuilding. When he started the project, he had never built an engine, a plane and was not yet a pilot. He has since accomplished all three." According to many Corvair engine installers, Wynne often inspires his builders. You can read much more about this on the company website.


FK Lightplanes/ScaleWings SW51 Makes Maiden Flight
By Dan Johnson, October 7, 2014

At Aero 2013, I covered one of the most interesting replica airplanes I have ever seen in many years of scouring airshows for light aircraft of interest. My videographer and I did a video story about this exciting project. The airplane was again displayed at Aero 2014 though not in such a high traffic location but that hardly dampened enthusiasm. No question ... FK Lightplanes continued their approach of great showmanship in displaying the most authentically realistic reproduction of a 70% scale P-51 Mustang you can imagine. Most replicas have to approximate some qualities but FK Lightplanes and their design partner, Austria-based ScaleWings AeroTec, made what they are now calling SW51 into something different. It has detail beyond what you can envision without seeing the construction in person.

First named FK51, SW51 reproduces the 100,000 or so rivets and screws that put together an original World War II vintage P-51 Mustang. The work is all done in composite so those are not real screws or rivets but you'd have to be a P-51 mechanic to tell the difference, even when you put your hand on the skin to be sure your eyes are not deceiving you. SW51 is magnificent! "Every rivet row, every screw and every maintenance door matches the original plane," said creator ScaleWings. A reported 40,000 man hours have been invested.

Today, Jon Hansen of Hansen Air Group called to say that SW 51 flew in October 2014 and the initial flight went very well. "It looks to exceed our flight expectations for it," exclaimed Jon. Because demand is already spiking, FK Lightplanes' Poland factory will be working to build about one SW51 per week. The design has been optimized not only for a very high degree of authenticity but for swifter production. Jon explained that using modern CAD manufacturing, the assembly of the components can happen fairly fast. "When the fuselage halves go together, much of the wiring and other details will already be in place," Jon explained. A European-style ultralight version will have retractable gear and in-flight adjustable prop because such is allowed under rule in the EU. "For the USA, we will be offering a Light-Sport version with fixed gear and propped to stay within the 120 knot limit of LSA," clarified Jon. Weight, all parties have said all along, will not be a problem because the design is created for sale in Europe as well where the limits are 472.5 kilograms (1,041 pounds) to include the German required airframe parachute. SW51 is also designed to accommodate aerobatic flying.

Developer ScaleWings said, [Our] Mustang is an absolute true to original ... replica of the legendary P-51 Mustang." What was formerly called FK51 "will be produced in a complex but extremely strong carbon-honeycomb construction ... a guarantee for an extremely lightweight construction with maximum strength. [SW51] Mustang will look deceptively similar to the original Mustang in all surface details." To be sure structures and aerodynamics were professionally engineered, ScaleWings worked closely with the founder of FK Lightplanes, Peter Funk. Using his years of experience, Peter is responsible for the aerodynamic and static design, structure layout, dimensioning, load tests, flight tests and the certification of the SW-51 Mustang, said ScaleWings. This was a smart decision as today Peter focuses on engineering and new development after turning over manufacturing over to Rolland Hallam in Poland.

We see that yellow taildragger Cubalikes sell briskly in the USA where many aviators have a sweet spot for vintage aircraft. Yet none that I recall inspire as much interest as the P-51 Mustang, easily one of the most highly regarded aircraft of all time. The problem is that only a very few people can afford an original and probably even less are qualified to fly them today. This gives an opening to creations like the 1990s Loehle all-wood 5151 Mustang, the Titan T-51 Mustang (video) and heavier versions such as the Stewart S-51. The latter, driven by a 450-hp Chevy Corvette engine was also quite costly and the Loehle was more ultralight than most folks want. Titan is successfully selling T-51 models as a 51% kit but for pure accuracy in recreating the original and in fully-built form, SW51 from FK Lightplanes and ScaleWings looks hard to beat. If this moves you as it does many, you might want to contact Hansen Air Group sooner than later. Jon Hansen told me today that he and the Poland factory expect most SW51 to sell in the USA and Jon believes they'll sell out their entire 2015 allotment in a short time. The first example in America is unlikely by Sebring but will certainly show at Sun 'n Fun.

Watch SW51 take its first crow-hop flight in this video. (Note: turn sound up for interview with FK Lightplanes director Rolland Hallam.)


Giant Companies Enter Aviation; Should You Worry?
By Dan Johnson, October 4, 2014

What do Airbus, Google, Facebook, Amazon, DHL Logistics, and Domino's Pizza have in common and why should you care? All are very big companies, considerably bigger than most aircraft builders. Here's what else they all have in common: all of them report developing aircraft and will be seeking their chunk of airspace, those same friendly skies that you and I enjoy using for our sightseeing or other airborne fun. They also have highly paid lobbyists to convince government to let them do what they want. Little airplane companies cannot afford a lobbyist. |||| On the opposite end of the spectrum are hobbyists. Amazon will sell you a drone with a camera for as little as $50 and ones for around $1,000 can easily occupy the same airspace you want to use this weekend. I don't know about you but while I like all things that fly, the prospect of drones buzzing about willy nilly gives me a case of the creeps. What with the big guys potentially spying on us — or superbly serving their customers; it all depends on your perspective — and your neighbor cavorting around to take aerial pictures of the family picnic, our skies may be getting less friendly.

Airbus calls its solar-powered Zephyr (top photo) an "Internet broadcast plane." As Airbus enters this arena, they confront competitors from widely different fields. Who would've guessed Google, Facebook, and Amazon would start developing flying machines? Airbus' Zephyr is an ultra-light aircraft weighing just 110 pounds albeit with a wingspan of 75 feet designed to fly at 65,000 feet and remain on station almost indefinitely. Zephyr's solar arrays on its wings power the vehicle's motors and two propellers, driving it along at 30 knots at altitude using about three times the electrical energy as a light bulb while also charging its lithium-sulphur batteries.

Yael Maguire, engineering director at Facebook Connectivity Lab, doesn't like to use the word "drones" when it comes to "beaming" Internet to the developing world. He prefers "planes." Whatever they're called, Facebook is looking to the skies "in order to get the last 15% of the world's population who aren't connected." These flying machines aim to fly high, above any airspace recreational pilots use but those flying machines have to get up to altitude and what happens when they fail? According to Maguire, "The size of the planes will be roughly the size of a commercial aircraft, like a 747 though much lighter, about the weight of four of the tires of a Prius." Facebook's aerial dreams are focused on low-Internet-use countries such as India, Latin America, Africa and Asia.

How will Facebook's aircraft be operated? "Right now, there's a 'one pilot per plane' rule," said Maguire while adding that their team is open to one pilot managing up to 100 of these solar-powered planes." He added the team hopes to get one of these planes in the air in 2015, with plans to test it in a to-be-determined U.S. location, which may or may not ever be revealed to the public.

Despite concerns, good news for aviators could also follow. "We have to push the edge of battery technology, of solar technology, of composite technology," explained Maguire. "There are a whole bunch of challenges that our team is super excited to work on." Their solutions, funded by a billion-dollar cash hoard, could potentially speed development of electric-powered human-flown aircraft.

Google wants to deliver via drone. This video provides an example:

Shortly after Facebook acquired Ascenta for $20 million, Google bought New Mexico-based Titan Aerospace, which is also in the solar drone business. However, the flight hazards are not all from drones. The web search giant has already started work on Project Loon, a network of balloons on the edge of space that are designed to provide internet connections in rural areas.

Today, FAA appears to be in crouch mode, trying to assess how they will regulate all the new machines aiming for the heavens. As the skies eventually fill up with camera-toting drones, solar-powered Internet broadcasters and who-knows-what-else, the million or so of us who enjoy flying ourselves around in our old-fashioned human-pilot aircraft better be looking out the window or monitoring our ADS-B gizmos.


Icon Updates Their Order Book; Forecasts Delivery
By Dan Johnson, September 30, 2014

One of the most-watched Light-Sport Aircraft is Icon's A5 seaplane. Through savvy marketing and a splashy display and events at AirVenture (the only show where Icon Aircraft regularly exhibits), the company has clearly wowed potential buyers, the general aviation public, plus media journalists and photographers. ByDanJohnson.com has followed Icon since the beginning, actually even before the beginning, so we are pleased to continue our updates on their progress. Most observers see that it has been a long road. I first met CEO Kirk Hawkins back on the EAA Sport Pilot Tour in 2005 when he was — as he put it himself — "one guy with a business card." Whatever you may think about the road long traveled, Kirk has taken his company from nowhere to one of the most closely tracked enterprises in the entire LSA space worldwide. His training for this lengthy exercise began at California's respected Stanford University Graduate School of Business where he learned the Silicon Valley way to make a big impact ... what the tech industry likes to call "creative destruction," leaving behind the old ways of methodically introducing products and embracing the Internet style of taking bold leaps forward.

Icon and its A5 are certainly not your father's LSA (for those mature enough to remember my adaptation of former car company Oldsmobile's line to herald their newest model). Hawkins and his team of ex-Scaled Composites engineers went off in several new directions, perhaps culminating in their Spin Resistant Airframe proof to FAA that gained them an exemption to the LSA weight limit. Read our earlier article or see our video with Kirk on this for a fuller explanation. The company used automobile designers to create their distinctive interior (photo) and did things like ditch the awkward outboard sponson floats for their "sea wing" interior floatation that also serves as the retractable landing gear cavities. Their powered folding wing mechanism has impressed crowds for years, even if it may have been one of those features that pushed the company to seek the weight exemption. Icon said they are targeting 1,510 pounds gross, which is only 80 pounds more than normally permitted for LSA seaplanes (1,430 pounds). They were exempted up to 1,680 pounds but apparently won't employ all that extra weight.

Icon has always made the most of their dramatic Oshkosh exhibit and it worked again in 2014. The company reported that AirVenture "proved to be [a] great success, with thousands of visitors stopping by the Icon booth. Demand for the A5 remained strong with nearly 200 orders placed [during the] week, an all-time record for the company, bringing [the delivery] position list to just over 1,500." At that level, Icon eclipses even Cessna's once-impressive order list of just under 1,000. Companies like Flight Design have delivered many airplanes but never racked up such a large order book, though naysayers will surely retort that Icon would never have reached such a number if they'd been delivering all along. My take is that a book of business filled with 1,500 deposits is a very powerful statement about the viability of the Light-Sport Aircraft market and I personally wish them all the best. "Before Icon can begin customer deliveries, the FAA will conduct an audit in which they inspect the manufacturing facility, verify the aircraft's compliance with ASTM standards, and confirm that the documentation and quality systems are in place," reported the company. "The first customer delivery is scheduled for May of 2015."

"The interior of the A5 has been significantly refined (nearby photo), and even completely re-imagined in some places, during the journey from concept to production," said Icon. Their team conducted user studies on numerous design parameters including the graphics and colors of key cockpit controls, calibration of stick and pedal travel to accommodate pilots of all sizes, and upholstery that optimizes breathability and drying time. Such consideration reflects the nature of a seaplane that can and will get wet. Readers who enjoy Facebook may wish to click over to Icon's page, which has attracted more than 850,000 likes. At this location you can find many photos and follow the company's development. As reported here earlier, Icon will be relocating to Vacaville, California, northeast of San Francisco, in 2015. Production of the A5s will start at this new center.

Located near Hollywood (for now), Icon Aircraft logically produces some great video. Check this short clip:


Viking Engine Wins STOL Competition & Customers
By Dan Johnson, September 29, 2014

Engine suppliers must love Zenith Aircraft, perhaps as much as their many airframe owners. For 23 years, the kit company based in Mexico, Missouri has supplied about 200 kits per year to buyers all over the country and around the world. That is a selling performance any light airplane company would like to boast. One reason for their success is their support of a variety of engines, no small feat considering each engines has special qualities to be considered when installing and using them. Good for Zenith for going the extra mile. One of the many engines they support is the Viking Aircraft Engine from Edgewater, Florida on the Atlantic side of the Sunshine State. Zenith also supports engines from Rotax, Jabiru, UL Power, and Continental. See the video below covering the short field takeoff and landing competition on a pretty, sunny day at the Mexico airport.

all photos courtesy of Viking Aircraft Engines
Zenith reported, "Winning performance by Jan Eggenfellner flying a Zenith STOL CH 750 powered by a Viking 110 engine." To win the competition you had to do well at both takeoff and landing, an appropriate way to show off the potential for Zenith's high-lift CH 750 STOL. Jan won the contest with a very impressive 219 feet, comprised of a takeoff at 110 feet and landing in just 109 feet. Of course, as an engine producer this was very satisfying as he flew a handsome burgundy CH-750 powered by one of his Viking engines producing 110 horsepower. As do other powerplant providers, Viking works to assist buyers with is often called a firewall forward package, sometimes containing a nose cowl that encloses the engine that can help performance. Despite some challenges beginning this company (see last paragraph), Viking has successfully installed engines on several aircraft types (nearby photo). At the Missouri Open Hangar Day event, four Viking-powered Zenith models attended including three that made the lengthy trip from Florida plus another from Ohio. Three CH 750s were joined by a low wing CH 650.

Clockwise from top left: factory fixed wing (Cessna 150); kit-built Sonex; powered parachute; and an award-winning gyroplane.
Viking offers a bit more power than the Continental or Rotax engines that lift so many Light-Sport Aircraft in the USA and around the world. UL Power can provide several engines with even more power but Viking prides itself on the performance achieved by their attractive powerplants. The Florida company reported that a Cessna 150 using a Viking engine with a custom cowling can cruise at 135 mph even without wheelpants. That's impressive. I once owned a Cessna 150 with a 150-horsepower Lycoming engine that didn't cruise that fast (though it did empty the standard fuel tanks in a couple hours). One builder of a Van's RV-12 sent airspeed indicator photo proof of cruising 145 miles an hour with the Viking, though we didn't hear the atmospheric conditions at the time. A Sonex reportedly can achieve 170 mph in the speedy, low-cost design from Oshkosh Wisconsin and a Just Aircraft model likewise sent a photo of his ASI showing 115 mph. On the other end of the spectrum, at least one powered parachute operator fitted the Viking ... but speed isn't a factor. Powered parachute speeds are dictated by the canopy wing, not engine power. The Florida engine maker reports fitting 32 air frames in their five years of existence. See our video for more details about Viking.

Jan Eggenfellner (photo) is the designer of  the Viking Aircraft Engine. For 15 years, from 1994 to 2009, he built and sold aircraft powerplants based on Subaru engines. His goal was to hold down the cost of engines, which as any homebuilder knows, can be a significant investment. By his own telling, a low profit margin and a worsening national economy drove him to bankruptcy in 2009. He wrote, "Some customers lost money. I personally lost everything, providing refunds until no money was left." In 2010, he restarted his engine business based on a Honda block and remaining Subaru parts. "Some interest was gained by showing the engine at a local airshow for Light-Sport Aircraft," he wrote. "An initial cost of $9,900 brought enough customers onboard to form a new company." The Viking engine project was started and financing secured. Today, Jan reported, "Viking Aircraft Engines, LLC is a sound company with 11 people actively working to produce engines in Florida." Reflecting on the earlier enterprise, he admits, "I am sorry that my previous company was unable to survive. I have some critics." He requests that potential customers "ask any Viking Aircraft Engine owner" and to that end, he provides comments from buyers on his website.

Catch the STOL competition fun in this video from Zenith Aircraft.

To read SPLOG postings going back to 2005 -- all organized in chronological order -- click SPLOG.

 



 

 
 

Super Petrel LS, manufactured by Edra Aeronautica in Brazil and represented by Florida Light Sport Aviation, is a unique and highly effective LSA seaplane. A biplane design, this is well established flying boat with more than 20 years of history.

Tecnam is the world's leading manufacturer of Light-Sport aircraft offering more models and variations than any other producer.
Besides the world's fastest-selling light twin and a new four seater, Tecnam offers these LSA: Echo Classic, Eaglet, Bravo, Astore, and P2008.
Many LSA
& GA models

Hansen Air Group represents recognized brands in the LSA
space: FK Lightplanes and their distinctive biplane Comet, FK9, and FK51 plus the great-flying Magnaghi Sky Arrow. Based in Atlanta, Georgia Hansen Air Group is an experienced player in the LSA space.
Multiple LSA

BRM Aero manufacturers the handsome Bristell all-metal SLSA. This highly evolved, next-generation Light-Sport was carefully engineered for luxury, comfort, excellent stability, and safety while being fun, fast, and easy to fly.

Renegade Light Sport produces the sexy low wing, all composite Falcon in America. The Florida company has also established itself as the premiere installer of Lycoming’s IO-233 engine.

SportairUSA imports the dashing and superbly-equipped StingSport S4 that has won a loyal following from American pilots. More recently, they introduced their TL-3000 high-wing LSA. SportairUSA is a full-line operation with maintenance and training, too.

Vickers Aircraft has created one of the most distinctive new LSA seaplanes yet to emerge.Powered by the 180-horsepower
Lycoming O-360, their Wave model is like no other seaplane ever introduced with multiple features to set it apart from the crowd.
Wave

Flight Design USA imports CT, the top selling Light-Sport Aircraft. CT is a 98% carbon fiber design
with superb performance, roomy cockpit, great useful load, and a parachute as standard equipment ... the market leader for 10 years!
CTLSi

X-Air brings a return to reasonably priced Light-Sport Aircraft, with a ready-to-fly flying machine you can purchase for a genuinely low price. No new arrival, X-Air has a rich history in light aviation.


Aeromarine-LSA represents an economical Part 103 ultralight that is within reach of almost any budget. For local fun flying, or for those who enjoy soaring flight Zigolo is light enough to be lifted by even the most gentle thermals.

Kitfox is one of the world's best selling light aircraft kits with more than 5,000 delivered. With unrivaled name recognition, Kitfox is admired for crisp handling, excellent performance, easily folded wings, and more. The design is flown around the world.

Zenith Aircraft is one of America's leading kit suppliers featuring well proven models from legendary designer, Chris Heintz. Centrally based in Mexico, Missouri, Zenith offers kit aircraft for several popular models.

North Wing is America's leading manufacturer of weight shift LSA and Part 103 ultralight trikes. The company's wing designs are so good that most other trike manufacturers use them. Aircraft prices are highly affordable by all.

Aerotrek Aircraft imports the A240 and A220 tricycle gear or taildragger Special Light-Sport Aircraft. A finely finished aircraft at an excellent price, Aerotrek has wide, affordable appeal.

Pipistrel has designed and manufactures a range of beautiful, sleek aircraft that have found markets around the world. Starting with gliders and motorgliders, Pipistrel now offers a line of powered aircraft using multiple power sources.

Phoenix Air USA imports the beautiful Phoenix Special Light-Sport Aircraft, a performance motorglider that can cruise swiftly and serve both functions with excellent creature comfort. Given its clever wing extension design, you get two aircraft in one!

Just Aircraft has delivered more than 300 kit aircraft since 2002, but in 2012 they electrified pilots with the awesome performance of their all-new SuperSTOL. It may look extreme and performs extremely well, but it is truly docile and forgiving to fly.

Corbi Air represents the Made-for-Americans Direct Fly Alto 100. Created in the Czech Republic, Alto 100 was upgraded for USA sales and the result is a comfortable, handsome low wing, all-metal LSA with features you want.

World Aircraft Company is Columbian design expertise joined to Canadian entrepreneurship based in Paris, Tennessee USA. Welcome to World Aircraft and a brand-new short takeoff and landing (STOL) Light-Sport Aircraft, the all-metal Spirit.

Evektor is Number One and always will be. The Czech company's SportStar was the number one SLSA to win approval but engineers have steadily improved the model far beyond that 2005 version that started the race.

Lockwood Aircraft is the builder of two of light aviation's best-recognized flying machines: AirCam and the Drifter line. Most sport aviators already know the Lockwood brand, a leader in Rotax maintenance and aircraft services.

The Airplane Factory (TAF) produces the Sling series of world-circling aircraft (literally) and now this fine-flying, all-metal beauty is available in the United States as a Special Light-Sport Aircraft. Here is an LSA to follow.

Progressive Aerodyne designed and supplies the SeaRey series, arguably the most celebrated of all light seaplanes in America. A close community of hundreds of owners offers camaraderie few other brands can match.

U.S. Sport Aircraft Importing represents the popular SportCruiser, one of the best selling Special Light-Sport Aircraft among 130 models on the market. The Texas-headquartered importer has long represented this familiar model.


BushCat is the distinctive Light-Sport Aircraft within reach of almost any budget. With a solid heritage BushCat by SkyReach is fun, capable, and available as a kit, fully-built SLSA or ELSA.


SkyCraft Airplanes is America’s first Light-Sport Aircraft single seater. SD-1 Minisport is affordably priced, very well equipped, and was designed to exhibit docile handing qualities. It can be flown for less than $12 per hour.

Arion Aircraft has designed and built one of the most beautiful low wing entries in the Special LSA and kit-built aircraft sector. The all-American designed and built aircraft is priced fairly and flies wonderfully ... need you search for more?

Jabiru USA builds the spacious and speedy J-250 and more recently J-230 plus the training-optimized J-170, each certified as Special LSA. The Tennessee-based company also imports and services the popular Jabiru engine line.

Quicksilver Aeronautics is the world's largest producer of ultralight aircraft, selling some 15,000 aircraft. The company's designs are thoroughly tested, superbly supported, and have an excellent safety record.

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Updated: October 21, 2014

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