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...a web log of developments in Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft
Tomorrow (Starting Today) Is Huge for Ultralights
By Dan Johnson, October 9, 2015

It's already tomorrow (Saturday, October 10th) somewhere. Here in the USA, I write this on Friday the 9th, and tomorrow in America is going to be big, big day for small aircraft owners. As Facebook juggernaut, Paul Lindamood has promoted with multiple Facebook posts per day for weeks, it is nearly time for WUFI ... the World Ultralight Fly-in. Actually, that time is now! Whoo hoo!

Since most ultralights are relatively slow flying, sub-87 knot, airplanes (and that's a good or great thing say enthusiasts including yours truly), it isn't practical to gather perhaps thousands of ultralights at a single field to fly them all at once. Nor would trying be safe. Yet in the age of social media and Internet communication, it is possible to request that thousands of ultralight owners around the globe prepare their flying machines and get them into the air on the same day. Could it be a record-setting event? Maybe.

Tomorrow is already underway on the other side of the International Date Line, so as Hammed Malik of Kilcoy, Australia shows in the nearby photo, he's already aloft on October 10th. He may be one of the first but this is going to occur again and again over the next 36 hours or so as the planet spins around to face the sun at different times, thanks to the tireless effort of Paul and his social media flying compatriots.

As the sponsoring Dayton (Ohio) Ultralight group advised earlier, "Ultralight enthusiasts anywhere on the planet are invited, including any aircraft considered an 'ultralight' — aircraft such as fixed wing ultralights, powered parachutes, weight shift trikes, powered paragliders, hang gliders, or, "any imaginative, magnificent flying machine."

If you have an ultralight and want to get in on the action — and possibly help WUFI make it into the Guinness Book of Records — post your photo to the group's Facebook page.

Casey Moseley said his airplane is prepped and ready to join the fun on October 10th.
As you can see on the worldwide map below, a large number of pilots have indicated they will join the airborne party and hopefully even more will choose to act as the deadline draws near. The more the merrier ... and the more likely of earning a place in the record book.

Nonetheless, one important message came from Jim Konst, who wrote on the Facebook page, "Some of us have not flown recently, but now have a deadline. Some of us will have iffy weather, but will fly anyway. Keep in mind that your flight does not have to be an epic cross country. You have to leave the ground and take a picture. That is all. I imagine gusts and crosswinds will be our biggest challenge. We all know how to fly, we all know when to fly, and we all need to remember when to stand down. Be safe."

Having often flown "for the camera" myself, I add my memory of a few close encounters to Jim's advice to be careful. This idea here is to fly for fun and, Guinness record or not, make sure you only fly if the situation is safe and you and your magnificent flying machine are fully ready for the flight! Then ... go have a ball!

Continental's Titan Engine to Power Vickers Wave
By Dan Johnson, October 6, 2015

Big power is not just for LSA taildraggers anymore. A few years back, CubCrafters surprised the LSA world with its installation of the most powerful engine in the LSA space. The western U.S. company mounted a Titan engine from ECi making the modest Cub-like airframe perform far better than the old versions from the Piper company.

At the time, this potent powerplant raised eyebrows for two reasons.

First, it seemed an excess of power for the then-new lightweight class of airplanes FAA had just regulated into existence. Most had been using one of the 9-series engines from Rotax, which in some cases was itself a move up from a two-stroke Rotax 582 providing 65 horsepower. CubCrafters limited power after takeoff to maneuver within the regs, though, honestly, who would continue using so much power in cruise or while sight seeing?

Secondly, the Cub-style airframe is already near the upper LSA empty weight calculation so CubCrafters' engineers had to add many costly carbon fiber elements to keep the empty weight low enough to fit in the class. Compared to the Rotax 912, Titan beefy engine adds considerable weight so the airframe diet represented considerable work. All the handsome carbon fiber also boosted the price of the CarbonCub to breathtaking levels.

Nonetheless, the company made it work so well that they have set the pace for airplane deliveries in the LSA space for several years. Since they broke the mold, however, other companies such as American Legend and Zlin have installed the engine to offer essentially the same performance characteristics ... and they've been able to push the price down to levels readers are more likely to embrace.

However, one strongly emerging class of airplane is the LSA seaplane, and you might think that this higher-empty-group of designs could benefit from more power. Indeed, Rotax recently announced their new 915 model (video) offering 135 horsepower. Given the Austrian company's vast global network and overwhelming market acceptance, the 915 seems destined to be a success story.

However, 915 won't arrive on the market until 2017, the company detailed at their Oshkosh press conference. In the meantime, another LSA seaplane has seen an opportunity.

In May 2015, Continental Motors Group, a division of China aviation giant, AVIC, announced it purchased all the asset of Engine Components International, or ECi, maker of the Titan engine and other engine parts. Simply put, the Titan 300-series is now part of Continental Motors, giving the powerplant added funding and a massive international network. The acquisition gives Continental a strong foothold in the experimental market via ECi's Titan line of engines, which includes the X320, X340 and X370 models, which, interestingly, are all based on Lycoming type designs.

In our video below (or click here) ECi's Miguel Soto tells you more about the Titan engine used by Vickers.

Vickers is completing all component elements including the CNC bullet sump (top) and tooling for the fuselage.
I've followed and written about Vickers Aircraft's coming Wave here and here. Along with Icon and, Wave appears to be a third generation design in the 11-year-old LSA world. All three models have superb design ideas — each different in their own ways — and represent state-of-the-art creations among Light-Sport Aircraft.

With a new announcement, Wave is increasing the ante significantly.

On September 29th, 2015 Continental Motors announced that Vickers Aircraft has selected their Titan IO-340CC to power its Wave amphibian. "We are extremely proud to have been selected as the engine provider for Vickers' Wave. [They] needed a real aviation engine that offered more than the traditional four cylinder motors available on the market," said Johnny Doo, executive vice-president of marketing and sales for Continental.

"The Titan engine offers a unique combination of power, low weight, and modern technology accessories (fuel injection, ignition system, light weight starter and powerful alternator)," added Mr. Doo. "It is easily integrated with ... the Dynon Skyview [that] will display all engine parameters and allow pilots to manage their engine."

Wave designer Paul Vickers elaborated, "Titan is a modern engine ... and has a stellar track record regarding reliability. Now backed by Continental Motors, we benefit from the financial stability ... and from their powerplant expertise. We looked at all the solutions available and found that Titan was able to deliver on all the subjects that really matter to us.

"The weight characteristics of the Titan IO-340CC were another factor that drove our decision," continued Paul. "The weight savings are enough to allow us to comply with the LSA ASTM standards without compromising reliability or safety. The use of magnesium alloys in certain parts brings weight savings of 20% compared to the original configuration. In addition, the whole Continental Motors team sees the potential and shares the vision for our aircraft and is backing us 100%, and for this I am very appreciative," he added.

Going Aloft in Paradise Aircraft's New P1NG
By Dan Johnson, October 3, 2015

Yes, they call it "Ping" among themselves but it is actually P1 NG, as in Next Generation. "Ping" has a few American user-friendly changes from the earlier P1 brought about by comments from U.S. representatives of the Brazilian design.

I'll get into the aircraft changes in a moment but first let me remind you what Paradise Aircraft has done. The brand is well established in the southern hemisphere country where they manufacture a line of two and four seat aircraft. These designs have found favor with Brazilian farmers some of whom operate vast operations that are distant from the population areas so they use aircraft to manage their enterprises.

If you've followed the news, you may know the natural-resources-rich Brazil has experienced an economic decline as commodity prices have fallen, driven heavily by China's pullback on those purchases while its economy cools. The government of Brazil did not keep up with the changing times and current president Dilma Rousseff is suffering from very low approval ratings. I discuss this not to review geopolitics but to help explain why companies like Paradise chose to set up shop at the Sebring airport in Florida.

During 2014 Paradise investigated opportunities around central Florida, looking at facilities at the Sun 'n Fun airport in Lakeland and at the Sebring airport. Like Tecnam, they settled on the latter, joining longtime Sebring resident, Lockwood Aircraft Supply and their AirCam kit manufacturing operations.

After announcing this decision in January 2015 and moving some initial aircraft to Sebring, things went quiet. At a local EAA chapter meeting at my home airport of Spruce Creek (7FL6), I was asked by a couple about Paradise and why no more news was forthcoming. A call to main U.S. representative Bert Motoyama ended up producing a visit with a chance to fly the newest model, P1NG.

Bert and his associate Randy "RW" Burnley flew up and, over coffee, explained that they had to prove their operation to FAA before they could proceed which overall effort took more time than anticipated. The reason relates to the planned assembly of Brazilian fabricated aircraft. As Sebring will substantially participate in the manufacturing effort, FAA regarded the operation as a "remote manufacturer" resulting in a more detailed examination. Bert and RW prepared carefully and successfully passed the review.

Because of a punishing 35% export tax, Paradise will send airframes which the Sebring group will complete. They'll add many components including the engine as less value shipped from Brazil lowers their tax bill. This makes sense and it is also efficient to source many American parts in-country rather than ship them back and forth.

After the business discussion, RW invited me to go fly with him and I jumped at the chance. It's been a few years since I flew the earlier Paradise P1 and I anticipating renewing the experience. Our video below (or click here) discusses some of the changes.

Let's start with entry to P1NG, which is much easier. Why? Although not particularly visible, Paradise extensively redesigned P1. Noe and his engineers made the door four inches taller and six inches wider (front to rear). Though you still need to duck your head a bit on entry, just like most other high wing airplanes, the less flexible among us will find it much easier to get in P1NG.

The door windows are no longer shaped with a teardrop cut-out, but the overall window area is larger, aiding visibility. The plexiglass is also bowed or bubbled out to give more room inside.

Paradise has always had a quality interior finish, but P1NG is even more polished with an automobile-like interior. What dominates your view, though, is the dual yokes. While most LSA elect joysticks (that many of us admittedly like), yokes are the most common control in aviation, which may ease the transition of Cessna and Piper pilots to Light-Sport. Some argue you have more lateral control with a yoke than with a joystick that can bump into your legs on full deflection.

"RW" Burnley points to changes in the door window and showed how the larger door aids entry and exit.
The interior is roomy up front, but it's the aft cabin that sets P1NG apart from most other aircraft, somewhat resembling the volume of a Jabiru, and for the same reason: this airframe can be a four seater in its native country.

Paradise has long supported a model with hand controls and Bert said such a version of P1NG is on its way. The large aft area could carry a wheelchair with ease, after assuring proper anchoring and weight and balance loading.

P1NG flies as good or better than the original, which is to say very well. Refreshing my experience recalled the Paradise flies much like a Cessna 150 except with better performance. It felt very solid with responsive yet cooperative handling to which any Cessna pilot will adapt almost immediately. It takes off and lands predictably like the discontinued model from the Wichita giant.

Stalls occurred at almost ridiculously low speeds, in the high 30s power on or down into the 20s power off, at which speeds ASIs become notoriously suspect. When the airplane stalled, one wing dipped ever-so-slightly and recovery was almost immediate even without adding power.

You can see and hear more about P1NG in our video below but suffice it to say that Paradise has lost none of its original appeal and has gained in several worthy ways. With the U.S. operation getting up to speed, I predict we'll again start seeing more "Pings" in the air. I'll be keeping my eye on this company for you.

Video Pilot Report: Icon Aircraft A5 LSA Seaplane
By Dan Johnson, September 29, 2015

Icon has come a long way since it was first announced but the finished product is a roaring success at design, brilliantly aimed at its target market of new or returning pilots.
The Video Pilot Report below may be one of the most anticipated VPRs my video partner Dave and I have produced. I did the flying at AirVenture Oshkosh 2015 on Lake Winnebago in late July, but because Icon preferred to provide the video footage, it has taken some weeks to put it all together.

Production of one of these VPRs is a two-part effort. First, I invested some time to get to where Icon did their demo flying (away from all the other flying locations associated with Oshkosh). Weather and the company's desire to take aloft a reported 150 of their waiting owners forced a couple schedule changes. Since returning home, we worked with several helpful folks at Icon to assemble all the right video pieces. Finally, Dave invested many hours editing what you see below (or here).

Our video should show you most of what you want to see about this impressive LSA including water takeoffs and landings, in-flight maneuvering, stalls (such as they are), low flying over the water, and the interior of the airplane including Icon's highly emphasized Angle of Attack indicator. At times, the audio is a bit abrupt because the noise-canceling quality of the connection stopped when we were not talking yet I think you'll find lots to like in the 25-minute video.

Call it the Quintuple Crown of aviation marketing, capturing five magazine covers in the same month. Think about what that took to achieve.
Thanks to their very professional marketing and shrewd planning, Icon Aircraft grabbed the golden ring, capturing no less than five of aviation's top magazine covers in the same month. I've been in aviation longer than I care to admit and I don't believe I've ever seen that. It is the airplane equivalent of winning horse-racing's Triple Crown. Icon has since been flying a number of journalists from non-aviation publications.

If you read those pilot reports in print magazines, you observed that every author gave glowing reviews. Were those writers swayed by Icon's superb media handling or is A5 that good? It's a valid question. After I returned from my flight more than one person hearing my complimentary assessment said, "Aw, you just drank the Icon Kool-Aid."

You can believe I succumbed to the Icon "reality distortion field" (a phrase attributed to another great marketer, Steve Jobs) but I have overwhelmingly good things to say about A5. The LSA is artistically achieved, flies well, is comfortable, and oozes outdoor sports sex appeal. They nailed the stall characteristics that can confound new pilots, who have been the company's primary target since I first met CEO Kirk Hawkins while on the EAA Sport Pilot Tour back in 2005 ... a time when he remembers being "just one guy with a business card."

A5's interior looks like a luxury car, by very explicit design. Remember, they hope to appeal to non-pilots thus a more familiar (and handsome) interior was needed.
After my flight and before returning to Wittman Regional Airport, I sat for nearly an hour in TJ's restaurant where Icon did their demo flying so I could type notes on my iPad. What appears below are some of the balancing remarks.

I flew with Craig Bowers, an ex-military jet jock. His military training showed in various ways (as you might notice on the video below) but that background gave him a solid grounding in the use of an AoA indicator. The instrument is widely used on fighter aircraft. I have deep respect for AoAs, and Icon has done a lot to increase pilot awareness of it. However, most recreational or GA pilots are not used to flying with one and it takes some relearning. You'll hear Craig often refer to "on-angle white." This is AoA talk and perhaps the best thing I can recommend is for you to watch the AoA — the uppermost instrument in front of the pilot — as we maneuvered. While AoA use may not be automatic for pilots used to keeping a sharp eye on airspeed, most will quickly adapt to the Icon AoA presentation. I've often used the AoA indicator in Dynon's SkyView instrument — this can be added for very modest hardware cost — but I don't find their implementation as informative. Like others, they use a series of colored lines and chevrons where Icon's simple analog wing-airfoil needle is much clearer in my opinion.

A5 handling is very predictable and reassuring. I'd call it about as good as it gets for a student pilot, or for that matter, for most of us. Those of you who love aerobatics or seek feather-light handling with snappy response might be less satisfied. Icon has repeatedly said they seek those two million Americans who got their Student Pilot certificate and then abandoned the pursuit, perhaps as life got complicated for them. I sincerely hope Icon can sell every one of them an A5 and I wholeheartedly applaud the effort to go after that largely-ignored market. A5 handling should suit all returning students.

In addition to their engineering staff, Icon retained Adam Morrison of Streamline Design to consult on meeting ASTM standards, about which Morrison is an international expert. A tribute to their engineering staff and Streamline, Icon easily passed FAA audit in June 2015.
As you heard in the video, I'd prefer an altimeter better suited to seaplane flying, which is commonly done at low altitudes. The installed single pointer model moves only about one centimeter for 1,000 feet; we never went above that altitude in 25 minutes of flying. I'd also like a more tactile trim button. The installed one slid fore and aft and you had to check an indicator to know where it was set. Finally among my few gripes, a forward-opening canopy can be difficult to escape in an upset although open side windows would allow egress for determined occupants. Of course, such a problem is remedied by not forgetting to have the gear retracted on water landings. One downside of open windows — which I otherwise loved immensely — came in the rough water conditions of the day. I got doused good once when we caught a wave. Fortunately, the iPhone I had belt-clipped on the outside survived the soaking.

Some pilots yearn for the fastest airplane they can fly without a Medical and they benefit from numerous LSA choices that can hit the 120-knot (138 mph) speed limit. Icon's A5 is not one of them. A few speeds for you — cruise is 85-95 knots with what I'd call a relaxed cruise at 75-85; maximum speed (or Vh) is listed in the brochure at 95 knots or 109 mph; stall comes at 39 knots with full flaps and 45 clean. We cruised the shoreline at low altitude at 70 knots at 4500 rpm at which power setting the Rotax 912 iS burns around 3-3.5 gph. As you hear on the video, sink rate with the prop windmilling in a stalled configuration is about 900 fpm; although it would be a very firm touchdown, this is slower than the descent rate under parachute.

Come on along for our Video Pilot Report on A5, appearing just below. Before the engine even started I was already smiling. So might you.
Speaking of the latter, Icon's brochure states, "Due to Icon's exemption to the U.S. LSA weight limit ... the Icon Complete Airplane Parachute is mandatory for U.S.-registered A5 aircraft. Complete Airplane Parachute pricing is not included in the estimated price." The comment brings up the last gripe I'll offer. Any seaplane costs more than a comparable land plane. Modestly priced models like Searey or Super Petrel run $150,000 or so, already beyond many budgets. Icon with a parachute and popular options will run well over $200,000 in 2015 dollars.

Here's a few more stats — Icon said useful load is 430-550 pounds. With, say, 15 gallons of fuel, you'll have 340-460 pounds of payload. A5's baggage area can hold 60 pounds. Craig believed we flew at an empty weight of 1,075 pounds, which included four Go-Pro cameras and their mounts but an unstated amount of fuel.

In closing, I would give Icon an A-minus grade. A5 is imaginatively designed and should satisfy a large percentage of pilots or wannabes. No airplane ever designed is perfect for every buyer and neither is A5. Yet had I worked to create this flying machine I would, rightly so, be immensely proud of my achievement. I salute Team Icon's effort and wish them the best as they ramp up production to meet a record-setting order book of some 1,500 deposits.

Cleaning Your Flying Machine Without Damaging It
By Dan Johnson, September 27, 2015

Who doesn't want their favorite aircraft (or car or boat) to look all shiny and clean?
I know you like reading about aircraft. I like writing about them (and doing videos about them ... more on that soon with a very special one in final editing right now).

However, most pilots also like their airplanes to be all clean and shiny. Well, they don't get that way without effort and without the right products. The truth is, you can use the wrong cleaners on some aircraft components and it could cost you much more than you care to consider.

So, for your weekend reading, let me tell you about a couple cleaning product companies I'm glad are in the business. Welcome to Composiclean and iCloth Avionics.

Bucket Wash is one of Composiclean's primary products.
Composiclean's Ken Godin said, "[I saw] a lot of people doing damage to their airplanes using harsh products. I thought I should fix that." In the process, Ken realized he had the makings of a business that would cater to enthusiasts of any vehicle that involved composite materials.

Maria Devins is Composiclean's VP of Sales & Marketing. She noted, "The products work great on anything: planes, cars, motorcycles, and boats ... whatever you ride, drive or fly. [Our] repeat customers say it's the best stuff they've ever used."

Composiclean has been in business for almost ten years and recently scored a major success. "We have been working with strategically located dealers and our own company website ... but it's time for mass distribution," Maria said, "We are excited for the opportunity to work with a large and established distribution company as Wing Aero."

Wing Aero focuses significantly on training items but has branched out in some other directions, now including cleaning products. As a flight instructor many years back, I recall asking the occasional student to go clean up after a flight that cause the loss of lunch, making a mess of the cockpit. We didn't have the Right Cleaning Stuff in those early days but both myself and the humbled student probably wished we had.

Composiclean has some other worthy products, like the non-adhesive, stick-on solar screens you can attach anywhere or the squeegee that I see so many airshow vendors use on their showplanes; the squeegee expands to 22 inches of wipe, handy for removing morning dew.
Wing Aero national sales manager Jonathan Folds said, "We've been supplying FBOs and the general aviation industry for 29 years. We provide easy access to aviation training materials for both flight and maintenance programs, accessories, charts and now we've added Composiclean products." He added a company endorsement, "Composiclean products are wonderful. We use them ourselves."

Another product I have tried out myself is iCloth. (Yeah, big old Apple certainly has made "iThings" a part of the language, hasn't it?) Despite the me-too name, this product has much to recommend it.

According to GA flat screen provider Aspen Avionics, "Using any chemical or material other than isopropyl alcohol will void the product warranty." Whoa! That's a rather serious warning.

Avoid putting your costly touchscreen avionics at risk by cleaning them with harsh products.
Indeed, look at the nearby image. iCloth Avionics said "Someone hit this Garmin GNS430 with a harsh chemical. A factory bill will approach $1,000." On top of that, it doesn't even look clean. I'll bet that was a bummer, so take a word from the wiser. About their individually-wrapped, no-drip, no-mess wipes, iCloth said, "[Our product] does not contain damaging NPEs, ethyl alcohol, silicone or ammonia." They go on to report their mini wipes are used on aircraft built by Airbus, Boeing, Embraer, and Bombardier.

If it's good enough for airplanes costing many millions of dollars, I guess it follows that you should consider iCloth for your Dynon, Garmin, MGL, and other digital screens.

I've also found they work well on my new Honda Odyssey that has multiple touch screens, cleaning them beautifully with no damage. Plus I've tried them on my Apple iDevices (iPad, iPhone, Mac) without any mishaps.

Everyone likes a clean machine. Get the right (cleaning) stuff from Composiclean or iCloth and you'll be safer and all your flying buddies will be so impressed with your machine's shine.

American Legend Running On All (3?) Cylinders
By Dan Johnson, September 24, 2015

Under wraps at the start of AirVenture Oshkosh 2015, Superior and Legend surprised many with their rapid installation of the new offering.
We see and hear a continuing focus on electric airplanes including here at one of your (I hope) favorite websites. We'll continue to hear more about electric but the whirring motors are not the only innovation in powerplants. In true, another project with a completely different sound may be more meaningful in the short term and that statement is even more true outside the United States.

As our Sun 'n Fun 2015 video shows, we have been following Superior Air Parts new Gemini Diesel 100 engine. The latest news in this development is a launch installation on an American Legend Aircraft Company airframe shown at AirVenture Oshkosh 2015 just three months after its debut. The two companies, both from Texas, parlayed their close proximity to one another to get the install done in a short time.

Recently Legend announced they would start making the diesel available to customers. My expectations are that such an engine will especially help Legend's out-of-USA sales because in many part of the world avgas is hard to find at any price but diesels are good at burning many fuels, some of which will much more available. As Legend has ASTM approval, they can sell in a number of countries. Superior has announced they are pursuing ASTM approval for Gemini.

Darin Hart (L), of American Legend speaks with Scott Hays of Superior in our video interview.
The Sulphur Springs, Texas company announced, "We began offering a 100-horsepower Gemini Diesel engine as a factory option on the Legend Cub. The new Gemini Diesel 100 from Superior Air Parts is a high-torque, highly efficient powerplant. Mounted on the Legend Cub, the Gemini Diesel offers numerous benefits never before available to Cub operators."

American Legend observed that Gemini Diesel can run on a variety of available fuels including Jet A, diesel, and bio-diesel. "While many see diesel as the future of aviation," Legend said, "it is indeed a nearly universal and increasingly available fuel today. The Diesel-Cub combination bodes to be an extremely popular option for Legend Cub buyers and in a growing number of locations worldwide."

Superior Air Parts is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Superior Aviation Group, a leading manufacturer of FAA approved aftermarket replacement parts for Lycoming and Continental aircraft engines. The company sells a line of traditional engines often used on homebuilt aircraft. The diesel, derived from a British design, is a new foray for the experienced company.

Gemini Diesel was installed on an American Legend airframe barely three months after its debut.
Superior's Gemini 100 uniflow diesel is a distinctive design employing six pistons in a horizontally-opposed arrangement of three cylinders functioning with a two-stroke operation. "Compared to same-class avgas engines, the Gemini is lighter in weight, yet higher in torque at lower RPM," said Legend. They also believe maintenance and reliability are eased because Gemini 100 boasts fewer moving parts, like most diesels.

"At an installed weight of just under 200 pounds," Legend continued, "the Gemini Diesel is expected to deliver aircraft performance numbers comparable to the Continental O-200-powered Legend Cub." However, they note, "Gemini Diesel will produce greener operations with greater fuel efficiency." Reportedly, Gemini outputs much lower emissions, and delivers up to 20-percent lower fuel burn than avgas piston engines of comparable power."

The Sulphur Springs, Texas company has built an impressive line of Cub-like aircraft, available as Special LSA or kits.
The Gemini Diesel option on the Legend Cub will be particularly appealing to owners who operate in remote locations and in parts of the world where 100LL avgas is expensive or difficult to find. "The Gemini Diesel option will really expand the reach of Legend Cub pilots," stated Darin Hart, president of American Legend Aircraft Company.

In summary, the Gemini Diesel 100 engine advantages include:

  • High power-to-weight ratio
  • Higher engine torque at lower RPM
  • Highly efficient, two-stroke diesel power
  • Up to 20% lower fuel burn than conventional engines
  • Runs on Jet A, a global fuel solution with better availability, quality, consistency and pricing
  • Greener operations with lower emissions
  • Extended range on less fuel
  • Mechanically simpler design, with fewer moving parts
  • Available as a Legend Cub factory engine option

Hear an interview with American Legend boss Darin Hart and Superior Air Parts VP Scott Hays in one of our newest videos:

The Age of YouTube & Video Pilot Reports
By Dan Johnson, September 18, 2015

Videoman Dave almost literally bending over backwards as he checks the Garmin VIRB camera on the SkyReach BushCat.
When this website went live a few months before the Sport Pilot & Light-Sport Aircraft rule was announced at Oshkosh 2004, it began life as an archive of several hundred pilot reports I had written for a number of print magazines in aviation. That launch seems a long time ago ... it has been eleven and a half years. (Development started only a few years after the World Wide Web emerged and went live in April 2004.)

One year after going live, I began to add news via a blog, which I called "Splog," for Sport Pilot web log. Videos started in 2008 and by 2015, news and video have become the primary content items.

You might be surprised to hear predates YouTube, which began when three former PayPal employees created a video-sharing website. The Internet domain name was activated on February 14, 2005 and the website went public in November of that same year. Google subsequently bought it but even Google is only 17 years old; it went live on September 4th, 1998. New as it is in the world of aviation the SP/LSA rule is actually a couple months older than YouTube. I don't know about you but I find that rather amazing.

Ron Waechter poses beside his "Ferrari Red" Aerotrek as used for the VPR.
For about seven years, Videoman Dave and I have been making 5-10 minute videos about Light-Sport Aircraft, light kit aircraft, ultralights, and light GA aircraft. We have partnered on more than 400 of these and many more are coming. See most of them here, organized for easier location, or find all of Dave's 1,000+ videos on his YouTube channel. Some of these are approaching one million views and the group generates more than 1.5 million minutes of viewing every month.

Along the way we began to make what we now call Video Pilot Reports or VPRs. In the age of YouTube, this is the equivalent of detailed pilot reports or aircraft reviews I used to write for several aviation magazines. I find it exciting to return to the roots of this website albeit in the electronic form that dominates culture today. The videos are watched around the globe although I regret my Chinese readers cannot currently view these YouTube-hosted videos; perhaps things will change in that fast-evolving country.

Making VPRs is significantly more work than doing the interviews that make up the bulk of our video library. These are longer videos, up to 30 minutes or so, sometimes broken into two parts.

We look over the shoulder of SportairUSA's Bill Canino while flying the 180-horsepower Zlin Outback. Note the very light camping gear in the foreground; it all packs down small for bush duty.
As we work on these videos, we are attracted to locations like Mt. Vernon, home to the Mid-West LSA Expo. We like the airport run by the very capable and popular Chris Collins as it is far easier to achieve these video productions. The airplanes are readily available and — after we've found camera locations and mounted them — we can in literally five minutes or less climb on board and be in the air. No other event, with the possible exception of Sebring, offers such swift access to the runway. Also, the airport itself is large and wide open and the surrounding area is accessible for in-flight maneuvering without having to stray too far away. That is hugely valuable.

The work effort begins as we mount a number of cameras. We use up to seven Garmin VIRB cameras plus Dave uses his larger camera to shoot takeoffs and landings from the ground. To provide many views, VIRBs are mounted outside in multiple locations and we use three or more inside, two of which capture audio from our cockpit communications. The effort is broken into three segments.

Shot on the ground before entering the cockpit we cover ... How and where the airplane is built, its construction and materials, the powerplant, gear, canopy, and other major or distinctive features. We present a basic description and may compare the subject to other aircraft.

Onboard the "see-through" Aeroprakt A-22 with U.S importer, Dennis Long.
After entering the cockpit, we cover such "human factors" as entry, cockpit layout, visibility, seats and rudder pedal adjustment, ventilation, instrumentation, switches, and control systems along with any special characteristics of the subject aircraft.

Finally, we roll out to the runway and go aloft for a 30-60 minute flight exploring taxi, ground steering and braking, takeoff techniques and measurement, evaluate initial and en route climb. We will do a full regimen of stalls including power-off or landing approach stalls, power-on or departure stalls, and accelerated or stalls in turns. We will evaluate handling qualities in dutch roll coordination exercises, do steep turns, turns-over-a-road, aileron- or rudder-only turning, and high and slow speed handling. We will measure high and low speeds and finally return to the airport for some landings, attempting to investigate (if conditions permit) normal, short, and soft field techniques with flap use and slipping as recommended.

So, VPRs have become a valuable part of this website and the enterprise of Videoman Dave. I leave you with this thought: Every minute of the day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week ... 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube. We are pleased to be part of that tsunami of content and hope you continue to watch and enjoy. As the Frito Lay company used to advertise about their Dorito-brand snack chips ... Consume all you want. "We'll make more." Even better than Doritos, all our videos are free.

In October Dave and I are traveling to the Flying Aviation Expo in Palm Springs, California and immediately afterward to the Copperstate show south of Phoenix where we will add many more videos to the library.

We offer our videos for free but they are definitely not free to make. Your support of Dave's YouTube channel and this website are essential if we are to keep making more.

SLSA N-Number Registrations in First Half 2015
By Dan Johnson, September 9, 2015

The U.S. market for Special Light-Sport Aircraft continues to grow at steady pace, modestly better than the trend for single engine piston certified aircraft as reported by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association for the first half of 2015.

SLSA deliveries in the half-year period totaled 97 units, with 91 of those coming from 15 manufacturers, showing that the famous 80/20 rule still generally applies ... more than 80% of the market is supplied by less than 20% of the builders. It also implies the majority of those companies who previously earned FAA acceptance for their LSA models are either quite slow or inactive in the U.S. market.

We'd prefer to describe vigorous growth but the so-named Great Recession seems to be lingering on; at least it appears the much-talked-about recovery has left most of aviation still looking for improved business. Evidence of a still-troubled global economy is even clearer when you consider the wild stock market gyrations of recent weeks.

Even while some sectors and companies continue to struggle, some are more successful. In this first half 2015 LSA market share report, we'll hit some highlights and save a more detailed analysis for the full 2015 year report early next year.

One LSA businessman asked, "I know some companies out there may be claiming [many sales]." Yet other than Icon — and previously Cessna — I have never heard of any company that claimed to have sold large numbers of airplanes. Most of the more successful producers have moved steadily forward without any big leap in sales.

The laborious research done so faithfully by my friend and LAMA Europe business associate, Jan Fridrich, allows me to report first half 2015 numbers. Jan's study of FAA's N-Number registration database shows four companies with decent results. Of course, "decent" is a relative term. If you compare airplane sales — at any level from hang gliders to bizjets — to automobile sales or smartphone deliveries, the numbers look microscopic. Remember, the entire world has somewhere over one million pilots and only one in four of them might own an airplane bought any time in the last quarter to half century. Building airplanes is not a volume business and aircraft production is probably closer to that of exotic supercar manufacturers. One hundred sales in a year is a great performance and very, very few companies hit or exceed that.

Pipistrel's long-winged Sinus did quite well during the first half of 2015.
Special LSA registrations are running almost identical to 2014's figures. This can be viewed positively in the sense that it is better than GAMA's reported 12% decline for the first half of 2015. Regretfully, both sets of numbers show continued softness in aviation, whether general or sport/recreational.

Figures for the LSA industry appear to be about a quarter of GAMA's Single Engine Piston category that compares most accurately with SLSA registrations. However, as I've often observed, the U.S. market is by far the largest for general aviation airplanes where sport and recreational sell better outside the USA. When you consider the rest of the world, LSA or LSA-type aircraft may sell two to three times the number of certified aircraft sold in America. Unfortunately, widely differing national systems make it very difficult to count aircraft in other countries. We prefer to report solid information rather than guesstimates even if it makes the industry look smaller than it is. For a look at global figures see this article and this one, which was updated here.

Our numbers also reflect only fully manufactured LSA as those are the only aircraft we can reliably count when researching FAA's registration database, regretfully omitting weight shift, powered parachutes, motorgliders, and of course, gyroplanes. Nonetheless, we do have some valid information for ELSA (at least for the most recognizable companies, such as Van's Aircraft). Adding known ELSA and those Experimental Amateur Built models boosts the total.

Florida-based Progressive Aerodyne is surging in sales since winning SLSA acceptance. They have also cracked the Chinese market.
In the first half of 2015, CubCrafters remains the strongest seller logging 23 new registrations or about one a week. The western U.S. producer is steadily approaching Flight Design's once-unassailable #1 spot although Icon is a company that could dramatically alter the market share ranking if they are successful at serial production of their large order book.

Pipistrel registered 17 SLSA in the first half of 2015, which looks to be the second best performance after CubCrafters. The European company also sells a fair number of motorglider types registered differently from SLSA. Indeed 14 of the 17 were their long winged Sinus that offers interchangeable wing extensions (see video).

Progressive Aerodyne has also accelerated smartly since winning FAA acceptance of their SLSA version of their popular Searey that has been quite successful as a kit-built model. The Florida seaplane producer has also cracked the China market and may soon become the number one LSA seller in that country. They've already sold a dozen Seareys and have several more orders in the pipeline. If China grows as many anticipate, this American company could move forward quickly, especially in a region where airports remain in short supply.

Other companies that did reasonably well in the first half of 2015 include Jabiru (who also reported good sales at Oshkosh that should show up in our report covering the second half of 2105), Tecnam, SportCruiser, Flight Design, Aerotrek, American Legend (with their powerful Super Legend), Rans (S-7LS), and the lovely Phoenix LSA motorglider.

Postscript — I don't know how many of you saw AOPA writer Al Marsh's article, but the following appears to show a fairly rosy future for Light-Sport and Sport Pilot. Of course, as Al notes, FAA cannot see the future better than anyone else. Nonetheless, here's what he wrote:

"Where is general aviation headed? The truth is, nobody knows, but the FAA is paid to try to predict the future. Earlier this year the FAA released these numbers that are as good as any at predicting the future."

  • 593,499 Total number of pilots in 2014 — predicted to increase to 617,000 in 2035
  • 174,883 Number of private pilots in 2014 — predicted to drop to 163,600 in 2035
  • 120,546 Number of student pilots in 2014 — predicted to drop to 112,200 in 2035
  • 44.8 Average age of a U.S. pilot in 2014 (Note: LSA pilots tend to be markedly older)
  • 139,890 Number of aircraft in the piston-engine fleet in 2014 — predicted to drop to 125,935 in 2035
  • 198,860 GA fleet total in 2014 — predicted to increase to 214,260 in 2035
  • 2,200 Estimated Light-Sport Aircraft fleet in 2014 — predicted to increase to 5,360 in 2035
  • 5,157 Number of Sport Pilots in 2014 — predicted to grow to 14,950 by 2035

I do not know where FAA found this number since their own database shows more than 2,750 SLSA through December 2014 based on a study of the agency's registration data.

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




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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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!

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.

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?

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!

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.

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

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. 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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Super Petrel LS, manufactured by Scoda 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.

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.

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.

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.

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Updated: October 9, 2015

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