Here is an early, quick look at Skytrek SLSA
by Triton... China's first FAA approval.
Video sponsored by Continental Motors,
maker of the Powerful Titan X-340 Engine
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Next up on the LSA and light kit airshow schedule is the first-ever, inaugural DeLand Showcase November 3-4-5, 2016, followed by Sebring 2017 in January.

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...a web log of developments in Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft
World Ultralight Fly-In 2016; Hundreds Will Fly
By Dan Johnson, September 20, 2016

"A Thousand Ultralight Pilots Sharing the Sky" ...is the tagline used by the Dayton Ultralights group again sponsoring the World Ultralight Fly-In. However, what it is NOT is a fly-IN. The truth is that "sub-87" aircraft, as the segment is often called, cannot span the immense distances of an entire globe to fly "in" to one location. So organizers got creative. Sub-87 refers to a LSA regulation reference to aircraft that fly less than 87 knots or 100 mph.

WUFI'16 is, however, the second annual event, an innovative way to get hundreds, perhaps even more than a thousand pilots to all go airborne on the same day and to log that effort on a map that shows the world where on Earth ultralights enjoy the skies. The organizers put only a few restrictions on what kind of aircraft can be used. The event is more one of virtual camaraderie than a physical gathering, a worthy endeavor that represents the spirit of light recreational flying

Look! If you have one of these lightweight flying machines, your time aloft is a thing of joy. You can fly with a flock of local fellow aviators or you can do a solo act. Even if the latter, you can know that on one day, all over the planet, many hundreds of your fellow ultralight pilots are sharing some air with with you. I think that's very cool and I applaud Dayton Ultralights for putting the event together.

  • WHEN — Starts at daybreak, October 1, 2016
  • WHERE — Anywhere on the planet Earth that people fly!
  • WHO & WHAT — Any pilot of an aircraft considered an "ultralight" and/or "open air" aircraft... ultralight, powered paraglider, powered parachute, weight shift trike, wheeled paramotor, hang glider, hot air balloon — basically any imaginative, magnificent flying machine.

Check out the always-updated version of the WUFI 2016 map By all means, if you can join the other participants, follow the instructions to put your pin on the map.

This is written on September 20th, so you have ten days to get your ultralight flight-worthy. Then go have a little fun flying with your virtual squadron mates from across the USA and around the world. Sounds like a good time to me!

Some folks think ultralights went away when the SP/LSA rule was introduced in the summer of 2004. Yes, by early 2010, all those two-place trainer ultralights were forced to transition to become ELSA or Experimental Light-Sport Aircraft. This ended up devastating the ranks of ultralight instructors who used such aircraft for compensated flight training. As an ELSA, paid flight instruction was no longer allowed and the sector never fully recovered from this blow, one said to have been in the interest of safety though safe operation of such aircraft had been improved steadily over the many years they existed.

Nonetheless, single place ultralights qualifying under Part 103 continued to operate and in recent years more increasing activity has been observed in the segment. As one example — by no means the only one — U-Fly-It, producer of Aerolite 103 is working at full capacity to turn out more than 40 new Aerolites a year. They are so busy that they've had to add kits to allow some folks to get in the air faster. Kits also allow these aircraft owners to add more powerful or four stroke engines plus other accessories without worrying about busting Part 103's 254-pound empty weight limit.

In most other countries, "ultralight" (sometimes "microlight") refers to an aircraft that is only a bit smaller and lighter than present-day Light-Sport Aircraft. European national CAAs — operating in parallel to the EU-wide EASA organization — continue to embrace this segment and several thousand are flying, still bringing great joy and broad smiles to their operators while also saving them tens of thousands of euros.

Check the Dayton Ultralights website or send email for more info. If you're already signed up or if you simply think what Dayton Ultralights is doing is cool, you can buy tee shirts and more with their distinctive WUFI logo and support their effort in this way.


Happy 12th Birthday, Light-Sport Aircraft!
By Dan Johnson, September 17, 2016

Earlier this month, Light-Sport Aircraft celebrated a birthday. The date was September 1st, when FAA made the then-new Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft rule "effective" (to employ FAA-speak). So... happy birthday, LSA.

In those dozen years — the newest aircraft segment is not even a teenager yet — quite a bit has changed. If you are a parent, you may not notice your child getting older as you see them daily. However, the distant uncle or grandparent who only gets to visit infrequently may be astounded how much the little guy or gal has grown. I suspect those close to LSA may have a similar perspective deficit, so let me make some contrasts.

The nearby images are from a talk I gave at the recently concluded Mid-West LSA Expo. I went into more detail than this article permits but I'll bet you get the points.

AIRFRAMES — Today, we accept that we have some marvelous, sleek, high-tech, well-equipped, well-performing models. Matter of fact, we have dozens of them, so many that you can find almost anything you want, whether fixed wing three-axis, weight shift, gyroplane, powered parachute, motorglider... just about eveything originally envisioned by rulemakers except lighter-than-air, which has yet to see a market entry.

Just looking at the fixed wing sector, you have so many choices, I often have people ask for help sorting through the many choices for an aircraft that will work for them. Because I cannot answer all the questions, I created PlaneFinder 2.0, which helps to narrow your choices thereby making a purchase decision a little easier. Try it; it's kind of fun.

What folks may not remember is the kind of aircraft we had at the outset. One case in point. I've often heard folks say (for example), "Why does the maker of the sleek Sting or Sirius airplanes call itself 'TL Ultralights'? Their airplanes don't look anything like most pilots' idea of an ultralight." That sounds correct and today, TL does make state-of-the-art airplanes but they once made something that would look familiar to anyone engaged in the ultralight sector in the 1990s.

As the field rapidly evolved and as companies saw their business coming from pilots selling Bonanzas and Cessnas, they began offering more sophisticated airplanes. Prices rose to cover the fancier equipment, but I hasten to add that we still have many affordable choices from manufacturers that use more traditional construction techniques.

ENGINES — Today and all around the world, one brand dominates: Rotax. While the Austrian company has some very worthy competitors, they were and remain the main brand for LSA or LSA-like aircraft, holding approximately 75% of the global market.

Rotax was also dominant in the 1990s, although in those days, their two-strokes (such as 447, 503, & 582) were the main powerplants on the ultralights of those days. Rotax debuted their 912, the start of what is now called the 9-series, in 1992 and some airframe builders adopted it quickly but most continued with the two-stroke engines as they cost less, had lighter weight, and were better matched to the aircraft of those years. Today, the 582 continues while the others have been discontinued, however, the 912s are everywhere.

Continental was on the scene quite earlier thanks to their ubiquitous O-200, later reconfigured and lightened specifically for LSA (O-200D). Lycoming followed later, following with their O-233. Yet it was the Titan series of very powerful engines that has begun to make impressive inroads. As of 2015, Continental owns the Titan line previously developed by ECi.

We also have solid entries from UL Power, Viking, AeroVee, D-Motor, and others although having to prove compliance to ASTM standards keeps these only in the homebuilt community. That may change as LSA continue to grow worldwide, as we'll see.

Surprise question: Do you recognize the engine in the upper left? If so, you're probably a veteran of the light aircraft industry before anyone used the phrase "Light-Sport Aircraft."

COCKPITS & PANELS -- I love the leftmost image (well, OK, not the hairy legs of the pilot). That "instrument panel" was genuinely quite state-of-the art back when. The device on the extreme left illustrates how early the light aircraft community embraced GPS. In fact, the very first aviators I knew to use GPS were hang glider pilots, who adapted units made for hikers.

Today, modern cockpits more likely resemble the image on the upper right; that's the interior of a Flight Design CT, an early adopter of units like those from Dynon that revolutionized light aviation and helped show GA pilots that LSA offered something truly fresh. To see how far we've come, you can look beyond the open cockpit ultralight as shown and simply look inside any GA airplane where you almost always see a panel full of round analog "steam gauges."

In the lower right image you see a version of Icon's A5 LSA seaplane interior, purposely designed to resemble what a new occupant would see in a modern automobile. The idea is to look less daunting than an immense panel of unfamiliar instruments and time will tell if they made a right decision. Most students I've trained were indeed flustered looking at a panel of round dials much as older pilots are when trying to quickly pick up info from a modern EFIS... hence, makers glass cockpit developers offered a "six-pack"panel of digitally-represented analog gauges.

LSA COMPARED TO GA — So how has all this progress benefitted the LSA world? Actually, quite well IF you consider the whole world. In the USA, the LSA sector remains only about 2% of the total single engine piston fleet. However, around the world LSA and LSA-like aircraft may comprise around one third of all single engine piston aircraft. Such measurements are devilishly hard to quantify accurately, but I believe my estimate is fairly dependable. Factoid: In 2014, all GA single engine piston deliveries totaled 969 (according to GAMA) where LSA-like deliveries were around 3,000 aircraft and that wide advantage is sure to continue.

In this earlier article, I delved into the worldwide fleet of LSA-like aircraft so I won't repeat it here. Yet I consider the count of more than 66,000 such aircraft to be on the conservative side. The article also referenced the count of U.S-based Type Certified single engine piston aircraft. For those seeking more detail, check this article and this one plus many more LSA market articles found here.

If you don't care to read the above links, I can summarize by stating that LSA has done very well in its dozen (or so) years. Here's my closing statement from the Midwest LSA Expo talk: "Light-Sport has already forever altered aviation, offering a vision for the future of flying ...and we're just getting started."


Newest SLSA Developed & Fabricated In China
By Dan Johnson, September 11, 2016

The newest owner of a SLSA Special Airworthiness certificate is Triton AeroMarine for their Skytrek. First seen at Oshkosh six weeks ago, boss Thomas Hsueh said he would have approval shortly and he was true to his word. The proof came at the just concluded Midwest LSA Expo 2016 in Mt. Vernon, Illinois where Thomas and his young team brought the first SLSA version of Skytrek

Yes, I know Skycatcher was the first designed-in-the-USA, made-in-China Special LSA. The two approaches differ in two ways, however, as Triton did their work and test flying in China where Cessna did all their development in Wichita, Kansas and merely sublet the production work to Shenyang (a large state-owned aircraft producer). Triton, a private non-state company, has a corporate base in Washington State. Its factory is in Zhuhai, China, home to a well establish airshow. The other difference is that Skytrek also has Type Design Approval in China so it has passed inspection by two sets of aviation authorities.

Thomas is a highly qualified and very experienced engineer with impressive credentials showing decades of work for some of American's top aerospace companies.

Triton America is the parent company of Triton Aerospace, Triton AeroMarine, Bayview Composites, and iflyairplanes.com (the website for Skytrek) with factories and offices in Mount Vernon, Bayview, and La Conner, Washington state; Mosier, Oregon; and Zhuhai, China. If that sounds like a larger organization than most LSA producers, you guessed correctly.

I'll get to the main attraction of the Skytrek LSA shortly but to better understand Triton, I needed to learn a little more and I want to share what I discovered.

Company owner Thomas is a man of varied talents and long history. Now in his 80s, Thomas brings more than 60 years of industrial experience to his new Skytrek design. He has worked for many aerospace companies whose brand names you know. In addition he has a background in boat hull design, which will help when he completes work on a LSA seaplane that is a successor to the Czech Aircraft Works' Mermaid (article & another) that Americans first saw about ten years ago.

In 2009, Triton America doing business as Triton Aerospace acquired all the design rights and hardware of Adam Aircraft, which had developed, built, and certified a twin engine, six-seat all-carbon FAR 23 aircraft. You may recall this design with its twin booms and Cessna Skymaster-like push-pull engines mounted fore and aft on the fuselage. Adam had also partially completed the certification for their twin jet powered eight-seat FAR 23 aircraft. Those aircraft are far out the types we cover here on ByDanJohnson.com but I reference them to show the depth of involvement Triton and Thomas bring to their LSA project.

At the Midwest LSA Expo — perhaps my favorite place to do Video Pilot Report flying — I got to fly Skytrek. We mounted several cameras as you see in the nearby photos and will offer the video review when editing can be completed. Until that work is ready, I present the company video below that shows several maneuvers by New Zealand test pilot (and my check-out pilot), Phil Hooker. You also get some views of the Zhuhai factory.

Skytrek is powered by the 100 horsepower, fuel injected Rotax 912iS swinging a DUC Hélices Flash three-blade prop. Here's some of the essential specifications: wingspan 28.9 feet; wing area 141.8 square feet; cockpit width 48 inches; empty weight 821 pounds; useful load 499 pounds; calculated payload with full fuel (30 gallons) 319 pounds; baggage allowed in rear compartment 40 pounds; baggage in each wing locker 22 pounds.

Performance data as given by Triton: maximum cruise at 3,000 feet with 75% power is 97 knots; maximum speed 121 knots; VNE 140 knots; stall speed 32 knots; climb rate 833 fpm; take-off run 558 feet; landing distance 480 feet

As I was waiting for my airline flight home from the Midwest LSA Expo, I crossed paths in St. Louis with Phil as be began a very long flight back home. He explained he got China CAAC recognition for his New Zealand flight credentials so he could do the test flying (some of which you see on the video). He is a former flight school owner and actively flies the airshow circuit down under.

I will provide more details about how Skytrek flew in our video pilot report to follow. Until then, here are a few more facts about Skytrek, now number 141 on our SLSA List.

A steerable nose wheel with auto disengage in-flight is one feature setting apart Skytrek from other designs that it resembles. Thomas reported he improved the aileron design for flight control harmony (meaning pitch and roll pressures are similar); full dual controls with individually in-flight adjustable rudder pedals; dual 15-gallon wing tanks; electric aileron trim and pitch trim on both sticks; electric flaps with LED position display; dual differential hydraulic toe brakes with parking brake feature; wheel pants; cabin heat; cabin entry step; dual instrument panel hand holds with seatback hand hold; headset storage hooks; three tie-down hooks; armrest; and two-tone paint with matching textile upholstery.

Skytrek is delivered with dual Dynon SkyView 10-inch screens including Synthetic Vision, GPS, and transponder. Pitch trim and aileron trim position is shown on SkyView; Dynon integrated radio with on-screen control and display; aircraft lighting; strob/nav light; landing light (for night operation in VMC); plus cabin instruments and panel lighting.

My experience flying with Phil was very satisfactory. Skytrek is a very sturdy airplane benefitting from the experience of earlier developers of this general design shape. I enjoyed my flight in it and invite readers shopping for a new airplane to consider Triton's new entry.


Aircraft Spruce, WideBody FK9, Icon in Tijuana
By Dan Johnson, September 5, 2016

Article Updated 9/7/15 — See new information at the bottom of this article.

Coming up TOMORROW! — September 8-9-10, 2016 — is the Midwest LSA Expo. I'm on-site for all three days in Mt. Vernon, Illinois. More info: Midwest LSA Expo.

Only six years after Steve Jobs proudly announced the first iPad, the tablet device seems to have fully conquered aviation. Airline captains routinely use iPads in lieu of bulky printed instrument charts. GA airplane owners with analog panels commonly use an iPad to join the digital revolution without needing to get FAA's permission. And, LSA developers often accommodate the iDevice; indeed, some Light-Sports make do solely with iPads, occasionally multiple devices. Despite his visionary prowess, I bet Steve Jobs never imagined such a result. Unfortunately, he didn't live long enough to see the cockpit transformation his gizmo caused.

However, if you've flown with an iPad, you know you need some way to hold it that allows access to its wealth of information without interfering with airplane operation. No problem.

Aircraft Spruce is now offering AirGizmos Airmounts with fixed, tilt, and suction capabilities for your iPad Mini or iPad Air. GA pilots (or anyone with a panel full of steam gauges) can use mount designed to fit standard 3.125-inch instrument holes. The AirGizmos Airmount can be placed on your panel and hold securely," said Aircraft Spruce reps. "With Tilt Mount, AirGizmo allows for a 16-degree tilt up or down for a convenient viewing while flying. For those looking for a mount for a rental aircraft, or a lack of space on their panel, try the suction mount. The AirGizmo with Suction Mount holds your iPad securely using a heavy duty suction cup to attach it to your windshield or any other smooth surface." As the nearby image shows, the mounts can also work for Android devices.

Aircraft Spruce's complete product line is available at the company website. Readers may request a complimentary copy of the company's free 1,000+ page catalog here (available in print, CD, or PDF formats).

One of the longest-selling, still-in-production light aircraft is the FK Lightplanes FK9. It was first debuted at the 1989 Aero show in Germany, giving this venerable model a 27-year history, a few months longer than another veteran, Tecnam's P92 Echo. Both have seen numerous variations on the theme and both have worn the passage of time like a comfortable coat. More than 500 FK9s are flying.

In the last year, FK Lightplanes — formerly a German company now based in Poland and run by a South African — addressed frequent comments from FK9 pilots seeking more space. "We launched a WideBody version of our FK9 MkV model," said company director Roland Hallam. The difference is 10 centimeters or about four inches, but that width change makes more difference than it sounds from the number alone. As some experts have noted, you cannot perceive the extra width from the outside of this handsome airplane but you will enjoy it once inside.

In addition, as you can see in the nearby photo, FK Lightplanes has also added amphibious floats to the FK9. "We had already installed straight floats to the FK9 MkV but — working with Czech developer Josef Fillinger — we installed amphibious floats on our WideBody, including four retractable gear." Roland added, "Unfortunately, the amphib float system alone weighs 264 pounds, so we can only sell this version into the 600-kg LSA countries, like you guys in the States."

The WideBody version also gained outside access to the luggage compartment that can hold up to 22 pounds. Find out more about FK Lightplanes in the USA by contacting Hansen Air Group.

According to an online news report from Tijuana, Mexico, "Icon Aircraft announced ... the establishment of a production plant in the city of Tijuana, Baja California, [to build] the entire structure for A5." Icon reportedly expects the plant to be completed in early 2017 after which the operation will be "delivering structures of carbon fiber fuselages to its facilities in [Vacaville], California for final assemble and flight testing."

The report continued, "Icon will begin its serialized production and has selected the city of Tijuana as the ideal location for the production of composite components because of Tijuana's established industrial infrastructure, skilled, labor, and proximity to the Vacaville, California factory."

"With an investment of more than $150 million and employment for over 1,000 people, this event marks the prelude to a significant project that will benefit both the city and the country," the report detailed. A presentation ceremony is planned for Thursday, September 8th at the Tijuana Cultural Center at which the report said Icon CEO Kirk Hawkins will be joined by Mexican government authorities and private sector representatives.

Plans back in 2012 called for Cirrus Design to make Icon A5 composite parts in one of its Minnesota facilities but this plan has not been mentioned in company announcements since. Perhaps now we know why.

Article Updated 9/7/15 — After I broke this story thanks to a tip from an alert regular reader, other aviation media jumped on the hot news and Icon followed with a formal news release.

On September 7, 2016 Icon announced "the construction of a new facility in Tijuana, Mexico as part of a revised production plan announced in May. The company decided to produce its own composite components, a manufacturing process that was previously outsourced to several suppliers."

The new facility, which Icon reports will start operations in November, 2016, covers approximately 300,000 square feet and will fabricate composite components for the A5. CEO and Founder Kirk Hawkins said, "By bringing composite fabrication in-house, we will be able to ensure that components meet Icon's strict quality and cost standards while also allowing us to more rapidly implement changes."

Thomas Wieners, Icon's VP of Manufacturing, led construction and operation of Bombardier Recreational Products' (BRP) facility in Querétaro, Mexico, where the company related to Rotax Aircraft Engines makes Sea-Doo watercraft and other products. He said TIjuana is "ideal" for Icon because of the Mexican city's "infrastructure and skilled labor force, including composites and aerospace expertise."


Excellent Bargain / Good Flyer—Aeroprakt A22
By Dan Johnson, August 31, 2016

Coming up NEXT WEEK! — September 8-9-10, 2016 — is the Midwest LSA Expo. I encourage you to make plans now to attend at least one of the days the event runs. Based on past years, a good number of aircraft will be available. Speaking to their representatives and taking a demo flight is as easy as it gets at any airshow. More info: Midwest LSA Expo.

A22 Importer Dennis Long said that people refer to his Aeroprakt side-by-side two seater as "the see-through airplane." Certainly, this Light-Sport Aircraft has more clear plastic in its cockpit covering than any other LSA. It's no surprise that this entry has some of the best visibility you can find in any aircraft. What you may not see while you're looking through it is the size. A22 has a cabin about 50 inches wide making it one of the roomiest models available.

Yet the one factor most folks discover is the attractive price, starting at $79,900 for a ready-to-fly Special LSA. So often I hear pilots lament that Light-Sport Aircraft were supposed to be less expensive, meaning affordable by a greater share of the population. At 80 Grand, this is still a fairly costly purchase for many potential buyers, at least when compared to an automobile: the average price of a new car is presently about $33,000 according to the Wall Street Journal. However, cars are made in production runs of literally hundreds of thousands where all the airplanes flying anywhere in the world don't add up to the number of Toyota Camry cars built in a single year. Proving the point, Toyota sold 429,185 in 2015 in the U.S. alone and this number refers solely to the "Made in America" vehicles.

My point is that no reasonable person should expect Aeroprakt — or any other aircraft producer, even the so-called big boys — to make airplanes as efficiently or as cheaply as car companies can. Airplanes are overwhelmingly hand-built machines.

Taking the expense issue a step further, people expected a LSA might cost $50-60,000 when the category was announced 2004. Given the steadily-weakening value of the dollar, that range today would be $65-78,000 after adjusting for inflation.

Therefore Dennis Long's Aeroprakt A22 at barely over $78,000 is right what the market anticipated as FAA prepared to announce their long-awaited rule. Note that these prices start out in euros so check with Dennis for the current price.

A C-note under $80,000 is the starting price. I believe many pilots could easily live with the base priced aircraft although nearly all buyers will elect some options that push it up a bit higher. What do you get for the money?

Here's a few specifications to put A22 in perspective — Cruise is 60-110 miles an hour or 52-96 knots; stall comes at 35 mph or 30 knots (slower than most LSA by a wide margin); never-exceed speed is 138 mph or 120 knots; span is 31 feet 4 inches; wing area is 136 square feet; empty weight is 700-720 pounds and with gross weight at the industry standard of 1,320 pounds, useful load is 600-620 pounds. When carrying a full load of fuel (23.8 gallons), A22 can still carry a payload of 457-477 pounds. That enough for two 200-pound occupants plus 57-77 pounds of luggage although the designated baggage area is limited to 44 pounds.

Aeroprakt uses the Rotax 912 engines to include either the 80 horsepower UL model, the 100 horsepower ULS carbureted model or the fuel injected 912 iS also producing 100 horsepower. Many potential buyers never even consider the 80 horsepower engine as it saves only a couple thousand, but this light airplane flies very well with that engine. The 912 UL can be fueled with 87 octane auto gas and though that doesn't save a great deal over premium fuel, pilots on a budget can find ways to hold down the cost with this choice.

My review of the Pilot Operating Handbook shows a conservative slant. I offer two examples. First, the takeoff run is listed at more than 300 feet with the 100 horsepower ULS engine and over 400 with the 80 horse Rotax. When I flew, we were off the surface in half that time although we did benefit from a modest headwind which clearly helps. Flying with Dennis — we're both of at least average weight — the takeoff roll was much shorter, more like 150 feet though headwind obviously affects it. The landing roll was spot on the money at about 350 feet compared to the 328 feet (100 meters) listed in the POH.

Secondly, climb rate is shown as 650 feet per minute (at best angle) or 690 feet per minute (best rate). I saw nearly 1,000 feet per minute after takeoff and we sustained a climb at around 800 feet per minute. Any pilot can appreciate a POH with numbers you can depend on more than a marketing document showing the best performance ever achieved.

Some readers will easily be able to afford the $80K a basic A22 costs but for those who prefer financing, Dennis reports he has availability based on good credit. He also reports each A22 is built to-order so you specify what you want at the time of order, though some options might be added later. Sometimes ordering afterward can add problems. For example, if you want an emergency airframe parachute it's best to order the aircraft with the support straps already built in to the airframe as adding them later is more challenging.

For those lucky enough to live in places where float flying is common, they are available; again, the factory knowing of your interest in advance — even if you don't order them with the aircraft — might make life easier later. If you live in snow country, skis are available. Order today, and Dennis might tell you delivery will follow in about four months.

You can glean a few more data point and information in the video below.


Torture Testing …Let Freedom Wing!
By Dan Johnson, August 25, 2016

The top photo of a Luscomb is a promotional photo but does show quite a load on the wing. The lower photo is a Searey undergoing load testing. The wing is inverted for positive load application.
Most pilots never probably have witnessed the testing a wing endures before designers and regulators will sign off on it, signaling that it has been adequately stressed so that pilots can depend on it. I've had the chance to see several such tests and will state that it is two things: demanding and, well ...boring (unless something breaks).

Of course, I don't mean to demean the hard work it takes. Look at the images in this article and you can see that just to set up a wing for testing can involve literally days if not weeks of work. A fixture, sometimes called a "strongbox," must be built or obtained. An actual wing must be affixed to the structure. Weights in some form — and a lot of them — must be secured to the wing to assure loads are applied in a real simulation; air loads are not uniform across the wing's span. Loading the wing is a precise task if engineers are to replicate the forces air loads will place on a wing in flight.

No one takes this casually. Lives can depend on it. A company's long-term survival may depend on doing the testing correctly and documenting the results thoroughly. The process is typically captured in photos and video and a detailed written technical report must be available to authorities or insurance companies that care deeply that the testing meets standards such as ASTM or FAA certification.

Images shows the Lockwood Aircraft Drifter in load testing. Note the tape measure used to position loads accurately. Wood is used to spread the load across the tubing structure after the Dacron covering has been removed.
No matter how seriously this effort is taken or how much is spent (in time and money) to achieve it, the testing of an aircraft wing is a largely static event.

Naturally, should a wing fails under heavy loads — just look at the immense amount of weight placed on the C4 wing — the test can become very exciting. Things can pop (loudly) and parts may go flying if the wing collapses. No one should stand nearby during an ultimate load test. However, if no failure is witnessed, the wing structure may groan and tremble but nothing much happens. As I said, the test is important, but visually dull.

Yet this is not the case with hang glider wing testing. The difference is captioned in the terms commonly used to describe the tests. An airplane wing is statically load tested where the flex wing hang glider is dynamically tested. The latter method is used because it is a proven real-environment way to simulate the loads on a flex wing.

The dynamic process was developed many years ago by HGMA, the Hang Gliding Manufacturers Association. Some very smart people worked out the techniques and equipment and, to their credit, hang glider wings can bear an immense load and not fail, even when upside down.

Flight Design's coming four seat model, called C4, is load tested with an immense amount of weight.
An airplane manufacturer — let's say of a 2,500-pound aircraft — cannot imitate the dynamic test used by a hang glider or trike wing manufacturer. Testing a metal or composite wing for a larger, faster airplane would take an extraordinarily powerful vehicle, and it would have to go very fast. However, the slower speed and lower mass of hang gliders makes dynamic testing achievable. To perform the required tests on its creations, North Wing has fitted a vehicle with a very sturdy steel structure. Cameras and recording gear are mounted.

It's worth noting that North Wing is not required to do this by FAA or other regulatory bodies in the USA. Part 103 vehicles do not have to meet government standards. These manufacturers spend the effort because other entities require it and because they want their products to find ready customers who will not buy a glider they doubt can withstand real use. Besides satisfying their customers, insurance companies, media reporters, trial lawyers and others may demand test documentation in case an accident occurs.

The hang glider community has long policed itself and done so in such a professional fashion that FAA almost ignores them. Indeed, when is the last time you heard about a hang glider or trike wing folding up in flight? It almost never happens anymore. Good for HGMA and the hang gliding and flex wing industry.

North Wing's dynamic load testing of an earlier cable-braced model. The right image is what's called the Negative 150 test, a difficult load for the wing to bear.

The test shows a positive load applied (wing in normal orientation) and the very demanding "negative 150" test. This simulates a wing that may be disturbed by violent air. The wing is mounted backwards at the appropriate angle and the heavy truck forces the wing through the air backwards in this tortuous test. As you can see, it bowed deeply but survived.

The video below shows dynamic testing North Wing did to prove their new carbon fiber structure Freedom X wing. This is North Wing's newest product. Besides hang gliders, North Wing makes a line of weight-shift trikes and is a leading supplier of wings to other trike carriage producers.

Freedom X 160 (the wing square footage) uses carbon fiber leading edges and struts and other design parameters to stretch the performance of their Freedom model series. Despite using exotic materials, Freedom X is an exposed-crossbar design, sought after because it has lighter, more responsive handling compared to full double-surface designs. "It's also quieter than the cable-braced version; you can actually hear it pass through air more smoothly," said designer and North Wing boss, Kamron Blevins. The structure also contributes to Freedom X's safety in unusual attitudes, as proven in this testing.

When a pilot takes off at the end of the clip, you almost breathe a sigh of relief at what is obviously far less load than North Wing subjected their newest creation to atop the big truck. Good job, Kamron and team!


Continental Motors Absorbs Titan X-340 Production
By Dan Johnson, August 22, 2016

Coming up in just over two weeks! — September 8-9-10, 2016 — is the Midwest LSA Expo. I hope your plans include going. Plenty of aircraft are available and taking a demo flight is no easier anywhere. I will look for you on site! More info: Midwest LSA Expo.


A Titan X-340 engine installed in American Legend's SuperCub.
Engines have changed a lot over the life of Light-Sport Aircraft. FAA's new regulation became effective in September 2004. A hard working industry has brought 140 Special LSA models to market ...in less than 12 years, one per month for every month (on average) since the rule emerged.

Engines have been similarly prolific.

In the beginning, Rotax's 65-horsepower two-stroke 582 was a often selected to power the lighter aircraft of the pre-LSA period. The 9-series engines had gained acceptance much earlier but as LSA got bigger and heavier, their success gave a tremendous push to the popular Austrian engine and it dominates to this day. The 100-horsepower 912 ULS and iS models are used on around 75% of all LSA-like aircraft worldwide. The larger 915 model to arrive in 2017 will surely continue the Austrian company's success story.

However, while Rotax is the biggest player, many others have found acceptance.

Titan will power the already-awesome Just Aircraft SuperSTOL.
I envision three categories of light aircraft engines: Alternative, Mainline, and Emerging. In the Alternative category, we have a variety of two-stroke engines and very small four-strokes. Early on, Rotax owned this category, too, with their 277, 377, 447, and 503 two-stroke engines, the latter of which was particularly well regarded. All have since been discontinued though many are available on the used market. Hirth remains active with a whole line of two-stroke engines.

If we include engines for powered paragliders and very light trikes, some wonderful small powerplant are available: Bailey — I came to enjoy this tiny, fuel-efficient, moderately-quiet four-stroke engine; see article — plus Simonini, Polini, Vittorazi, and others (article) lift the very lightest of powered aircraft.

Delving still deeper into alternative engines brings us to electric, solar electric, and hybrid electric. Then we have diesel. I have examined and reported on more than I care to mention here but the fact is, choices are ample.

Nonetheless the Mainline category has the most recognized brands: Rotax's 9-series is flanked by Jabiru's 2200 and 3300 models, Continental's popular O-200, the LSA-specific Lycoming O-233, plus others like UL Power and D-Motor are reportedly working on ASTM compliance but meanwhile are used to power homebuilt and other aircraft in growing numbers. For kit builders, auto conversions from companies like Viking and Aero Momentum among others can save money while offering impressive hardware built from recognized brands such as Honda and Suzuki.

Continental's factory floor in Mobile, Alabama is a vast facility, used to make engines since back to World War II.
Now coming to the Emerging category, we have models like the Titan with its whopping 180 horsepower. Photos with this article show several adaptations and I expect more. As well, Rotax's 135-horsepower will find a market for more power.

As reported earlier, Continental acquired ECi, originator of the X-340 Titan. For a time, they functioned as sibling but separate companies. Now, the Alabama powerhouse is consolidating.

On August 17, 2016 Continental Motors Group (CMG) announced that it "will consolidate all manufacturing operations into its advanced manufacturing centers located Alabama and Germany." This change is sweeping. "The manufacture of CMG's line of FAA approved parts for Lycoming engines, as well as the full line of Titan Experimental and Certified engines that are currently produced in CMG's San Antonio, Texas facility will be transferred as a result of this consolidation."

CMG said it has "invested significantly in advanced manufacturing equipment, processes and people while implementing manufacturing techniques and lean tools based on the Toyota Production System." Because CMG and ECi used similar processes to make similar parts and assemblies, relocating the products currently produced in San Antonio makes sense, the company explained.

Vickers Aircraft Wave, expected in 2017, will be the first LSA seaplane to employ the 180-horsepower Titan X-340 engine.
"Continental Motors has grown significantly in the past three years in both products and facilities as we strive to become the leader in propulsion for small aircraft," said CEO Rhett Ross. "However, as we have seen our business grow in the number of products, customers and operating sites, it has become apparent that changes are needed to make us more responsive to the needs of our customers.

CMG will coordinate with its Master Distributor, Aviall, to complete this move without interrupting the availability of the high quality, factory produced parts and engines within the Titan Product Family.

Continental wished to recognize the valuable contributions made by ECi employees in San Antonio. CMG promised to help those employees transition to new roles within the Continental family or to find new opportunities within the San Antonio business community. Customers or airframe manufacturers with questions may direct them to marketing boss Emmanuel Davidson.


Quicksilver... Going, Going, Gone. Or, Not?
By Dan Johnson, August 16, 2016

Coming up soon — September 8-9-10, 2016 — is the Midwest LSA Expo. Videoman Dave and I will be present to report on around 50 aircraft on display. I hope you can join us. Get more info: Midwest LSA Expo.

Many times I've written that Quicksilver is arguably THE most successful seller of kit aircraft in the world. Some aviators might retort, "No way! Van's Aircraft is the largest kit builder." In total kits, at least portions of kits, that's surely true. Van's reports more than 20,000 tail kit-type deliveries have been made. Even more impressively, their completions — aircraft fully built and registered with an N or other number — now exceed 9,460 and I would never take away from their success with multiple designs nor would I diminish their highly-regarded business integrity.

Two of Quicksilver's best-loved aircraft, the GT400 (flying) and the Quicksilver 2S. photo by James Lawrence
Nonetheless, with Quicksilver having delivered more than 15,000 full kits, the vast majority of which were built and flown, they may be the most successful deliverer of complete aircraft kits in history. Assembling a Quicksilver kit takes around 80 hours and some adept folks can do it in a week. Putting together a Van's RV-series aircraft takes a longer committment, sometimes years.

Van's continues to be a thriving force in aviation. Their contract company, Synergy Air, continues to build fully-built RV-12 LSA. Some 65 ready-to-fly aircraft were registered as of the end of 2015 and the Oregon company is moving up the charts

The Quicksilver story is not as satisfying, regretfully.

Recently I got a long "post mortem" letter from Will Escutia, the CEO of Quicksilver Aeronautics, the last company to own the iconic brand. The letter is too long to reprint here (nor did Will intend I do that), however, I can pull a few items that may be of interest.

The earliest Quicksilver was a hang glider, flown without an engine, wheels, or very much else. It inspired an incredible run of aircraft building.
"We launched an effort and obtained relatively quickly the 'compliant seal' of the FAA showing that all the kits met the 51% rule," said Will. "Dealers had complained that without it, the customer was not really certain that they could obtain the registration as Experimental Amateur Built once complete and therefore the dealers lost sales.

"We launched a worldwide campaign to increase the number of dealers ... generating interest in 20 countries. We were able to sign new dealers in California, New York, China, El Salvador, South Africa, and France. At that moment we had dealers on every continent."

He continued, "An 18-month effort that cost between $200,000 and $250,000 ended in the successful unveiling of the Sport 2SE. The aircraft was nicely equipped, strengthened, and new sharp looking wing designs were used for the first time. The ready-to-fly price was set at $40,000 although in practice we gave significant discounts." Unfortunately, sales were not as vigorous as a study had lead them to believe. I can imagine several reasons for that.

The man. The legend. It's "Bever" Borne and if you don't know him, you want to ...catch the video below and you will see why he's so likeable.
None of these and other efforts moved the needle enough. Will faults difficulty in buyers obtaining credit or insurance, regulations that are too burdensome, and the large number of used aircraft of all kinds on the market. At this point efforts are ongoing to find a manufacturer who could integrate Quicksilver SLSA production into their existing business. "We are trying to make it work," Will concluded.

However, the really great news for the legions of Quicksilver fans is that the most solid of all Quicksilver supporters is now the owner of all the essential hardware and replacement parts for this very successful set of designs. In addition, Gene "Bever" Borne has long and very successfully been a supplier of components of his own.

The video below will tell Bever's story and it should bring immense relief to all who love flying Quicksilver ...including your faithful author; I have flown every Quicksilver model except the Super and enjoyed every minute. If having a bit of fun in the air without spending a fortune is of interest to you, I encourage you to contact Air Tech and see what they can do for you. If nothing else, Bever or his son Ken will bring a smile to your face with their Louisiana-style sense of humor. I enjoy talking to these fellows and bet you will, too. The video below adds dimension.

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

 



 

 
 

American Legend has been in the LSA space since the beginning, offering their iconic yellow taildragger. The Texas company offers a full line of LSA and kit-built aircraft including the 180-horsepower Super Legend HP.

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.

Super Petrel LS, manufactured by Scoda Aeronautica in Brazil and built by Super Petrel USA, a branch of the Brazilian company in Ormond Beach, Florida, is a unique and highly effective LSA seaplane. This biplane flying boat is well established with more than 20 years of history.

MVP.aero turned many heads when introducing its one-of-a-kind entry to Light-Sport Aircraft seaplanes. MVP, for Most Versatile Plane, justifies that phrase by doing more than flying off water. Here’s one to examine much more closely!


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

Jabiru USA assembles the spacious and speedy J-230 with new, more attractive pricing making the model one of the best values in Light-Sport Aircraft.

The Shelbyville, Tennessee company also offers the Jabiru engine line with new 3310 and 2210 models in 2016.

The New J-230D

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.

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 their new P2010 four seater, Tecnam offers these LSA: P-92 Eaglet, Astore, and P2008.

Many Light-Sport Aircraft & General Aviation models

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

Vickers Aircraft has created one of the most distinctive new LSA seaplanes yet to emerge. Powered by the 180-horsepower
Titan IO-340CC by Continental Motors, their Wave model is like no other seaplane ever introduced with multiple features to set it apart from the crowd.
Wave


Evolution Trikes developed and continues to refine their Revo, an absolutely magnificent weight shift control aircraft (or trike). Rev is their new very affordable single place machine.

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.

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.

Aeromarine-LSA represents economical aircraft like Merlin PSA, fully enclosed and all-metal for less than $35,000; or Part 103 ultralights like Zigolo, a dual-purpose ultralight and motorglider with prices starting at only $12,000.

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.

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.

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.

Aerolite 103 is a remarkably well priced (way below $20,000), well-equipped, Part 103 ultralight that flies beautifully. Several hundred are airborne and production has never been more solid. Here is an airplane every pilot can love and afford.

Aero Adventure offers what is likely the lowest cost boat-hull seaplane in the light aircraft space with a kit that, complete with engine, sells for less than $50,000. Add a long history to its credit and Aventura is a seaplane worthy of a close look.


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.

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.

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.

SilverLight Aviation created the first all-American gyroplane with modern sophistication and equipment, built by a proven expert. Gyroplanes like AR1 fly much like fixed wings but with real advantages.

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.

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.

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?



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.

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.

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Updated: September 21, 2016

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