...a web log of developments in Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft
Most recent 20 postings.


Icon Reported Scheduling First 20 A5s for Delivery
By Dan Johnson, March 26, 2015

According to a report in the North Bay (San Francisco) Business Journal, Icon will build its first 20 A5 LSA seaplanes before the end of 2015. Certainly in the LSA space, this can best be described as "much-anticipated event."

At an annual meeting of the Solano Economic Development Corporation, the Business Journal reported, guest speaker Kirk Hawkins of Icon provided an update on the production of the A5. "The first Icon Aircraft production planes are currently undergoing flight verification testing, and 20 of our A5 aircraft are scheduled to roll off the Vacaville production floor in 2015," the Journal quoted. They added that Hawkins said production will follow the completion of construction at the facility in August, 2015.

Icon technicians are photographed building one of the A5 prototypes seen flying in the image above. This work has taken place at the company's Tehachapie facilities.
Earlier the California company reported taking more than 1,250 aircraft deposits, which they said represents nearly $300 million in backlog. "By comparison, Tesla Motors had approximately $100 million in order backlog just prior to its production start," Hawkins noted to the business development group.

More recently a man told me that he had placed an order and was given number 1526 though he could not confirm how the numbering started or advanced. Regardless of the actual order count, Icon has earned bragging rights as the LSA company taking the most orders of any company in the Light-Sport space. Even Cessna didn't quite hit 1,000 Skycatcher orders and that project fizzled before production reached 300 units. For another number comparison (as reported in our 2014 LSA market share report), GAMA has stated that total single engine production worldwide was 986 aircraft in 2014.

Icon's Vacaville, California factory is portrayed in this artist rendering.
"We want to scale our solution, not scale problems that may be found along the way," Hawkins said, as reported by the Business Journal. "That is why we're starting production with only 20 aircraft this year, rising to an estimated 400 deliveries in 2016 and eventually up to approximately 1,000 aircraft annually in the future, as we establish global awareness and a brand presence in the marketplace."

Hawkins told the business development meeting attendees that he sees a "deep and pervasive global interest. Some 30 percent of our customers today are outside the U.S., and there is an aviation gold rush in China equal to that in the States."

Hawkins told the group that Icon presently has 100 employees but that the company expects to ramp up to 500 within the next year and a half. In return for incentives offered by the community, job creation is an activity locals will follow very closely.

Several times I have visited Icon at their headquarters Los Angeles. In 2008 I toured their research and development and initial production facilities in Tehachapi, California. Now, the Journal reported, "In the third quarter of this year, all these functions will be consolidated in Vacaville when [plant] construction activities are completed."

Along with many others, I wish Icon well at starting deliveries of this highly anticipated aircraft. I'm sure we will be hearing more as AirVenture approaches. They company has made the Oshkosh event their primary contact point.


Just Aircraft SuperSTOL “Stretched”
By Dan Johnson, March 25, 2015

Just Aircraft's SuperSTOL Stretch XL blasts off the ground during test flying.
Boeing does it. Why not Just Aircraft? Of course, a stretched Boeing only transports more people somewhere. The experience is not more fun ... maybe less so. Flying in a Just airplane will put a huge grin on your face and now it is a lot more likely to do so. Having experienced SuperSTOL with 100 horsepower, I can't wait to get a shot at one with (trumpets blare here) 180 horsepower. Hoo-Rah!

"To accommodate larger engines," the company announced, "we introduce our new SuperSTOL Stretch XL." By adding an extra two feet to the aft section of the fuselage and six inches up front, the SuperSTOL Stretch XL can now accommodate the new UL Power 520 engine series or Lycoming's O-320 engine series that outputs 150-160 hp.

A plain old — but still exciting — SuperSTOL is powered by the 100 horsepower Rotax 912 which weighs approximately 165 pounds, with accessories, or the 115 hp Rotax 914, weighing 175 pounds. UL Power's six-cylinder 520 model weighs 255 pounds and the Lycoming O-320 is 315 pounds. Such a significant weight and power increase required Just Aircraft designers to lengthen SuperSTOL into the "Stretch" model. The new model allows installation of other engine types weighing up to 315 pounds the company said. "Appropriate engine mounts and redesigned cowlings will accompany the SuperSTOL Stretch XL kits."

When propelled by a UL Power 520 engine, SuperSTOL Stretch XL can climb 3,000 feet per minute!
After completing phase one flight testing Harrison Smith said, "This is one of the first aircraft in the world with a UL Power 520 engine, rated at 180 horsepower." He reported an increase in the rate of climb and cruise speeds.

The additional length in SuperSTOL Stretch XL provides handling similar to a high horsepower Super Cub, indicated Just Aircraft. "What's really nice is that the UL Power 520 can burn automobile gas with up to 15 percent ethanol," Harrison noted. He also observed that the UL Power engine has six cylinders that "virtually eliminates vibration." (See UL Power video.)

With an extra two and a half feet the SuperSTOL Stretch XL is now 21.5 feet long. Rate of climb with the UL 520 is an astounding 3,000 fpm. Just said the potent new model will cruise 109 mph (95 knots) at 2600 rpm and its landing speed is in the low 30s. Rollout with the UL 520 is 75 feet. If you are like me you will want to examine the SuperSTOL Stretch XL and you can do so at the Sun 'n Fun Fly-In where the company will publicly debut their newest creation. Sun 'n Fun runs April 20-26, 2015.

SuperSTOL has been impressing pilots since its debut. photo by Wayne Whitley; Stretch XL photos courtesy of Just Aircraft
Even with a major boost in power, SuperSTOL is not meant to be a speedster. You want fast? You are lucky; you have many other choices. Just's SuperSTOL delivers a particular kind of flying pleasure: fast takeoffs, thrilling climbs, and the shortest, softest landing you can imagine. You literally have to experience this aerial phenomenon to truly grasp its capabilities. Our video helps explain the configuration and convey the feeling.

Speed is not the only objective for pilots even while it may be a passion for many. A recent survey of AOPA members reported in the big association's eBrief news aggregator reported answers to the question, "How far do you fly on a typical flight?" The answers appear below and suggest most pilots (61%) could be mighty happy tooling around in Just Aircraft's SuperSTOL. (Sign up for eBrief.)

  • "[I commonly fly] 50 to 100 miles" — 36%
  • "Around the pattern or local area" — 25%
  • "101 to 250 miles" — 23%
  • "More than 250 miles" — 16%


LSA Market Shares — Fleet and Calendar 2014
By Dan Johnson, March 22, 2015

As spring approaches and with major airshows like Aero Friedrichshafen in Germany and Sun 'n Fun in Florida about to trigger a new season of recreational flying, it is time for an annual update of Light-Sport Aircraft market shares. Our well-known "fleet" chart appears nearby; this table refers to all Special LSA registered with FAA in the United States since the first aircraft was accepted by FAA almost ten years ago (on April 5, 2005).

We again post our Calendar 2014 tally that shows the success only in that year as a means of drawing attention to those brands and models performing the best in the last twelve months. We remind you that these charts use as their source the FAA registration (N-number) database, that is then carefully studied and corrected to make the most reliable report possible. However, two points: (1) this report will still have some errors as the database on which we rely has some faulty information ... though we believe this to be modest and, as noted, we correct it where we can; and, (2) aircraft registrations are not likely to be perfectly in sync with company records of sales for a variety of reasons. Other organizations ask companies to report deliveries and this, too, can have weaknesses, but we stand by our chart and the text report as the most factual details we can locate.

It is also worth noting that we only attempt to tally the Top-20 for ranking yet we draw your attention to the "All Other Producers" category that, by itself, represents the largest segment at 15.7% or about one in six aircraft. Further, we repeat the chart notes that these figures are only fixed-wing airplanes, which leaves out weight shift, powered parachutes, gliders, gyroplanes, and other worthy categories. We wish to include them but the information has proven too unreliable so in the interest of the most accuracy we can report, we regretfully omit these interesting aircraft.

As you can see from the nearby Calendar Year 2014 Report, CubCrafters again lead the field. They have done well for several years, however, the most notable movement of the year was from worldwide kit airplane manufacturer, Van's Aircraft who works with Synergy Air to build ready-to-fly RV-12s. Seemingly overnight, Van's appeared on our fleet chart and rocketed up to the #13 spot. Given the Van's RV-series popularity and the existence of a large number of RV-12 kits, it seems clear Van's will overtake several other producers in the years ahead and rise to near the top of the chart. More on that below.

Another up and comer, not even on last year's fleet chart, is Progressive Aerodyne's Seayrey amphibian SLSA. Over many years this company has delivered more than 600 kit versions of its amphib. They won FAA audit approval to make SLSA models in late 2013 and went right to work filling demand. They've also won Chinese TDA approval and may break into that market, which many expect to explode. Clearly, Searey is leading the charge on LSA seaplanes even while some other interesting designs go through design and production exercises.

Regular top players such as Flight Design, Tecnam, Aerotrek, American Legend, Czech Sport Aircraft, and Pipistrel — some of the top and best-established brands — also fared well in 2014. Yet another appearing for the first time is Quicksilver Aeronautics. They won FAA audit approval to sell SLSA versions of their immensely popular kit aircraft in late 2014 and notched up their first Special LSA sales. The company can boast more than 15,000 kit aircraft flying.

A couple other honorable mentions go to Bristell (BRM Aero), which though new, is seeing good interest; Sling, which is rising and has a four seater kit to offer as well; and deluxe motorglider Phoenix. Their numbers were not big but these companies are ones to watch, we believe. Others holding up their brands include Evektor with its sleeker Harmony, Aeroprakt, and Jabiru (the last went through a manufacturing evolution and can offer even better pricing).

As we show an image of the handsome Van's RV-12, we want to bring your attention to the small print alongside the Van's rank. This company, known for their kit-making prowess — with more than 9,000 delivered and flying — has registered 314 kit versions of RV-12 for a total impact of 364 aircraft. Were we to combine these, they would vault to second place, ready to challenge longtime leader Flight Design for the largest LSA fleet in the country.

You may also note that our chart this year, for the first time, incorporates a number for "identifiable" kits, either as Experimental LSA (ELSA) or Experimental Amateur Built (EAB) models. The figure we felt we could correctly identify amounted to 797 airplanes (again ... no weight shift, powered parachutes, or gyros), which represent an additional 29%. If we could gather reliable details on the WS, PPC, and gyro fleet, we might add another 25% or so. Based on the greater EAB community in the USA, kit LSA aircraft may begin to add significant numbers and if we can tally them accurately we will continue to reference them.

Image of Searey in flight by Searey Canada.
As we consider Searey's strong performance in 2014, we again note that this is a company that cut its teeth with kit production. Over 600 have been sold and more than 500 are reportedly flying. Searey kit owners make a very strong and closeknit group of seaplane pilots with one of the largest amphibious populations anywhere.

As most readers will know, we can expect several other interesting seaplanes in the years ahead, from companies like Icon, MVP, and Vickers plus others. We are also aware of several other landplane LSA designs in the works and then will come electric aircraft (assuming FAA can find a way to invite these aircraft into the LSA fleet, which unfortunately is far from certain at this time).

Yet all we present above is only the American market. The USA may be the largest single market but the rest of the world invites comparison to the famous 80/20 rule. The USA has roughly 20% of all recreational aircraft but other countries are excellent markets for lower-cost, fuel efficient, and modern airplanes. When we add them all, using powerplant production as a measuring stick, we believe the total market for light aircraft exceeded 3,000 airplanes in 2014. With GAMA reporting 986 single engine piston general aviation aircraft for the same year, it is clear the light aircraft segment is substantially larger and for these aircraft, we believe the global future is bright.


LSA at Embry Riddle Training Aircraft Symposium
By Dan Johnson, March 17, 2015

Meeting of the minds ... National Training Aircraft Symposium at Embry Riddle.
Yesterday, filling my role as President of the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association, I joined Tecnam and Van's Aircraft as a group of about 100 collegiate educators met in their annual NTAS or National Training Aircraft Symposium. This annual gathering assembled an impressive group of academics who manage flight training for their university students.

It was a day of presentations with a special focus on the ADS-B Out mandate from FAA. For university flight programs operating dozens to hundreds of airplanes each, equipping their certified airplanes represents a major cost. Additionally, maintenance shops qualified to handle this cannot handle a large number of installations if owners wait until the deadline is near. It is estimated that an average of 34 hours of labor is needed per airplane. AEA estimates 105-166,000 U.S. aircraft still need to be equipped in the next five years. It can be done, they said, but not if many owners wait to the last minute to start.

Besides the central ADS-B issue, main NTAS organizer Peter Morton had as one goal the task of opening the eyes and minds of flight program leaders to the idea of Light-Sport Aircraft. We of the LSA community are grateful for his focus. So, how did that go?

Tecnam presented their P2008 and Twin to university flight school administrators from around the USA.
At the end of the first day, following presentations from Cessna, Piper, Diamond, Cirrus, and Sporty's (which has a refurbished 172 project), Tecnam and Van's also got a chance to speak to their capabilities and offerings. During a free-exchange session at the end, it did not look promising for LSA use.

These big flight school operations have serious matters to consider before they try Light-Sport: cost and the investment cycles of larger organization (they don't simply buy new aircraft on a whim); fitting a new aircraft into a fleet usually composed of many of the same airplanes; simulator integration (important as about a third of training is now done using sims); plus the attitude of students' parents and what they think of Johnny or Susie learning to fly in a brand of airplane the parents don't know. These are real concerns, so how might LSA providers enter the club?

Interesting to me, the answer came when Morton pushed a bit harder. After frank and honest discussions, the result was that if LSA manufacturers could provide an airplane and assistance for a period of time, several flight schools attending NTAS would give them a try. I considered this a breakthrough that made the couple-day event worthwhile.

I recognize that such an undertaking is no small matter for a LSA builder. Having to supply an airplane, to move it around, and having a well-qualified person employed to present the airplane with that individual's travel expense can be a rather large investment. However, the payoff is that a successful effort could result in multiple orders and a new potentially long-lasting customer. Only a few of the larger LSA companies can tackle this but they and the university flight school operations could benefit.

Leading kit aircraft manufacturer and now SLSA producer, Van's Aircraft showed their RV-12 as a trainer schools can consider.
Main meeting organizer Peter Morton wrote before the event started, "...[hearing about LSA] may be a useful wake up call for the educators, some of whom may have a prejudice that the way they have done things before is the way of the future. However, what is different now from the past is the capability and experience of the LSAs [and] the fact that new rules require between 700 and 1,200 hours of 'practice flying' for the portion of flight students who are not able to get a job being paid for instructing or other flying. Therefore, the contribution to reduced student costs for the education from LSAs in the early part of the curriculum and the [expense of] 'practice flying' is much more significant than it was before the new rules."

The presentation I gave and those from Tecnam's Shannon Yeager and Van's Aircraft's Wally Anderson spoke pointedly to the lower acquisition and operation cost of LSA plus the ability of manufacturers to be more nimble in making changes to their airplanes to better suit the collegiate flight training environment. Only time will tell if the effort will have a payoff, but it was great of Morton, NTAS, and Embry Riddle to let the LSA companies have a shot at the business. I also wish to credit the incumbent GA suppliers for maintaining a professional attitude about new competitors. Overall, the experience was worthwhile and educational.

Piedmont Airlines has an attractive offer for employees who want airline flying jobs. Piedmont's parent is US Airways, which merged with American Airlines.
Thinking about students needing to build time to capture airline or other pro pilot jobs, Piedmont Airlines recently made an offer to employees that sounds inviting. The Salisbury, Maryland company will pay qualified employees to build pilot flight hours. Employees who are pilots can seek to build time for flight crew positions and Piedmont will reimburse accepted participants up to $130 per flight hour for up to 300 hours. That's a $39,000 commitment to each such Piedmont employee and shows the interest airlines have in developing the next batch of First Officers. For the offer, an employee would need to commit to fly as a Piedmont pilot one year for every 100 hours of reimbursed flight time.

Piedmont has a number of Embraer regional jets on order. The company partners with American Airlines and noted, "An employee who begins flight training at Piedmont today could be flying for American Airlines in five to seven years. There's no faster pathway." Reflecting on the NTAS group and the thousands of university students they train, the future seems bright for tomorrow's airline pilots.


To ADS-B Out or Not to -B — AoAs on LSA
By Dan Johnson, March 15, 2015

OK, it's the weekend so indulge my sense of playfulness with the somewhat inexplicable headline above. Even though I've written about ADS-B Out before (article) and have covered Angle of Attack indicators on LSA (article), FAA feels the issue needs more attention. Some of the motivation for extra effort is FAA's 2020 deadline for all aircraft operating in the airspace system — meaning under ATC supervision in segments of controlled airspace, though not necessarily in the vast chunks of uncontrolled airspace around the country.

It has been reported in various aviation media that all the maintenance shops in the country no longer have sufficient time remaining to install this equipment in every aircraft even if owners currently possess the hardware ... which they do not. I will not seek to verify that problem but in the LSA space, this is a relative non-event, in my humble opinion. Let me explain why.

Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast (ADS-B) is the FAA NextGen answer to current methods used by ATC (Air Traffic Control). The idea is progressive in that technology is now capable of performing certain functions that are presently done by an army of well-paid, well-pensioned, and well-benefitted FAA personnel; translation — those services cost a lot. Plus, technology might actually do a better job. I know when I fly behind my Dynon SkyView screen that reports traffic, I commonly see traffic first on screen and subsequently in the flesh, or the aluminum or composite.

My recent article in General Aviation News and their online outlet "The Pulse" brought a number of comments from folks, some of whom worried about drones (or RPAs, UAVs, UASs, or whatever you choose to call them) and the possibility of having one of them go splat on your windscreen or helmet faceplate. For better or ill, that's bound to happen sooner or later anyway, but technology — both on drones and on your manned aircraft — may help it to (hopefully!) be an extreme rarity. So, maybe FAA is right to beat the drum on ADS-B Out uptake in LSA and light kit aircraft.

FAA's man in the Small Aircraft Directorate, Terry Chasteen, wrote, "I am in the process of sending ... email and attachments to all active airplane and glider SLSA manufacturers." While the agency wants to "continuously improve light-sport aircraft (LSA) safety," they also note in their letter to manufacturers that, "SLSA have been operating in the United States' National Airspace System (NAS) for over ten years with an expected level of safety."

FAA continued saying that accident reviews, "... consistently indicate a leading occurrence category of SLSA fatal accidents to be loss of control (LOC) in flight" and they believe this can be improved by the addition of AoA systems. On a recent flight, my LSA copilot and I observed the AoA indicator that can be found on our Dynon SkyView instrument (photo below). I see how it can help but it's just one more tool in the arsenal that every pilot needs to fly safely. FAA is advising (not mandating) AoA indicators saying, "... installation of an angle of attack (AoA) system may also aid in preventing LOC accidents in SLSA."

The red arrow points to the Angle of Attack indicator on a Dynon SkyView screen. ••• This runway view is kind of fun. That's the look Shuttle astronauts might have seen. On the right days, NASA permits a low-elevation pass down the famed runway though without a touchdown. Not many pilots will ever see this view.
The agency is insistent about ADS-B, however. FAA reminded LSA manufacturers of their rule and wrote, "This means that each affected SLSA must have a path forward for the initial installation and airworthiness approvals of ADS-B "Out" equipment." While AoA may be easy and already prevalent in the better-equipped LSA, ADS-B will take some expenditure, but as noted in the earlier article, this need not be particularly burdensome nor costly.

The best news is that while certified aircraft owners may have to shell out much bigger bucks, LSA producers and their customers should spend as little as $1,000 to gain the benefits of both AoAs and ADS-B Out. That's yet another of the great things about LSA and light kits; a lower regulatory hurdle saves real dollars for pilots while gaining all the benefits such as free traffic and in-flight weather.

If any producers are still behind the times in adapting these technologies and want more input on FAA suggestions or requirements, they can contact Aircraft Program Manager, Terry Chasteen at 816-329-4147 or email him.

Please note the contact methods above are intended for manufacturer use. Customers or owners should go through their suppliers or Terry's phone line may become very congested. He's a pleasant and easy-going fellow; don't force him to spend the rest of his career on the phone or email.


Aero Adventure Update ... Continuing Upward
By Dan Johnson, March 11, 2015

An earlier Aventura model flies over the Rockledge, Florida airport.
Does the LSA and light kit aircraft world seem somewhat obsessed with seaplanes? Certainly, it appears where a good bit of the most innovative thinking is occurring. However, to observe that is to focus only on the newest designs, the most innovative of which have yet to hit the market and may be years away. For pilots who want to fly today, Aero Adventure is one of those companies you should keep in mind.

Besides the available-today quality, the DeLand, Florida-based company has a seaplane the rest of us can afford. Can you believe average kit prices in the mid-$50,000s and starting below $49,000?

Looking tempting to northern enthusiasts still shoveling snow, William Lacomba's Aventura II floats in the clear water near Puerto Rico.
Even if you have not sought out this company with a long history, the brand may seem familiar and that sense may bring a recent memory of another sort. Yes, it was an Aventura that probably stalled, claiming the lives of two Aero Adventure team members at Sebring 2015. Such a severe event deals a body blow to a small company. Yet owner Alex Rolinski reported that the team has reassessed and regrouped and are forging ahead ... certainly as their departed associates would have preferred.

"It made quite an impact on all of us," said Alex. "You can't plan for that sort of thing. You don't imagine, 'What could go wrong and cause such an accident?'" Following the tragedy, Alex R, his operations manager Alex Gutierrez, and their associates, rolled up their sleeves even higher and dove into their work. Work can be good therapy.

"Over the last year we completely redid the assembly manual," said Alex Rolinski. He reported that all drawings have made the transition to Solid Works, a high end computer-aided design program that provides engineers — builders also benefit — with scalable drawings that can be examined in fine detail to assure better fit and finish of completed kits.

"Our kit build process is better than it's ever been," Alex said, using construction of sub-assemblies that build upon one another. He noted that even though the Aventura and its preceding models — date back to the Buccaneer — kit instructions today are a major improvement from those from earlier producers of these designs. "We fixed many flaws in the early designs and their assembly instructions."

Alex also stated that all the redesign and Solid Works efforts were done in conformance with ASTM standards for Special Light-Sport Aircraft. "We may do a SLSA version one day," Alex said, and meeting ASTM standards now will prove very helpful to that goal. It can also assure buyers of the kit-built present-day versions.

Rich Jennings, from Fort Worth, Texas, is moving right along building on his Aventura kit. all photos courtesy of Aero Adventure
Aero Adventure promotes the Suzuki AM-1300 and the 117-horsepower AM-1500 engines from AeroMomentum (see more about this engine in our video with supplier Mark Kettering). Full kits with all airframe components, engine, and basic engine instruments provided through an EIS start at $48,700 in early 2015; please contact the company for exact figures when you may be interested. "Typical owner-customized models run $55-56,000," added Rolinski. The company is working on a configurator for their website to help prospective customers price exactly what they want.

Alex reported that 166 airplanes are flying under the Aventura model name. In 2014, the company delivered a dozen kits and said interest is growing. When I asked about all variations in the airplane, dating back to the earliest Buccaneers, Alex believes around 1,000 kits have been completed, although he observed prior company records were not as complete as he'd prefer.

An Aventura kit seaplane can do real duty. For example, Ms. Tanille DeLair has flown her Aventura — which she named "Juliette" — more than a thousand hours. A Florida resident, she has often flown her seaplane to and from New York and helped her boyfriend obtain his Sport Pilot certificate in her Aventura. They've made several flights over to the Bahamas. Her airplane uses the Rotax 912 and can achieve lift off from water in just six seconds. By any measure, that's a terrific performance.


Searey Announces Financing ... Riding the Wave
By Dan Johnson, March 5, 2015

While some beautiful looking LSA seaplanes have captured lots of attention — here I am thinking of Icon's vigorously promoted A5, the unusually capable MVP, the highly innovative Wave, and Finland's ATOL ... all of which have some fascinating features — all but one of these share one feature: you can't get one yet. ATOL is preparing to deliver but A5, MVP, and Wave are all still works in progress. It takes time to develop a new aircraft but today if you want a ready-to-fly seaplane in the USA, you have basically three choices: SeaMax, Super Petrel LS, and Searey. Of those, Super Petrel has airplanes in stock in the USA and ready for delivery.

Searey stands along in my view as an LSA seaplane you can buy today and receive in a reasonable timeframe. It is also the only American-made LSA seaplane you can get today. It is available as a kit (more than 600 sold and more than 500 flying) and that gives the company a strong, reliable track record for those considering purchase. It is also, along with Super Petrel, very reasonably priced. What's reasonable? Well, a new price in the mid-$150,000 range is considered a good value by many seaplane owners. If that sounds like a lot to some readers, you should check the cost of other fixed wing, three-axis seaplanes ... some are breathtakingly more expensive. Weight shift floatplane choices and some simpler float-equipped aircraft also have good price points.

However, if you are still thinking you'd prefer one of these boat-hulled flying machines that offer choices of land or water operation, $150,000 may seem an insurmountable barrier. Progressive Aerodyne has sought out a solution and recently secured a financing program for their Searey models.

"We are excited to announce the availability of financing for Searey Elite and Searey Searey Sport SLSA aircraft," announced Progressive Aerodyne. The central Florida manufacturer has partnered with NAFCO, an affiliate of Pilot Bank, to provide loans amounting to 85% of the value of a Searey for a period of up to 20 years for qualified applicants. Progressive Aerodyne reports that NAFCO has been approving and servicing general aviation loans for over 20 years. "We are excited about the partnership," said Progressive Aerodyne. "Make your dream of owning a Searey a reality today."

Progressive Aerodyne did not break out specific numbers of such a loan. That information could vary considerably depending on numerous factors. However, just for the sake of illustration, here's a back-of-the-napkin estimate: Assuming a price of $150,000 (contact the factory an exact quote), an 85% loan means borrowing $127,500. Let's also assume a full 20-year loan period and assume a 7% interest rate. That means a buyer would put down $22,500 at the start and have payments of $989 per month. As with buying a house, you'll pay a good deal in interest over the loan period but, due to inflation, the value of money will be less in 20 years. So the payments, in theory, should be easier to make toward the end of the loan.

A well-maintained Searey should easily last 20 years and for most owners, even the Rotax engine will likely still have time left before overhaul in such a loan period. However you feel about borrowing to own your airplane, Progressive Aerodyne and NAFCO are offering a way to have a brand-new ready to fly LSA seaplane in the near future for $22,500 and a thousand dollars a month. That certainly puts such an aircraft within reach of many more buyers.


World Aircraft Features Modest Prices
By Dan Johnson, February 28, 2015

This article was updated on March 24, 2015 after communication with the company.

Would you buy a used aircraft from this man? Well, you ought to at least read his article.
World Aircraft Company is an international collaboration between a former Canadian, Eric Giles and Colombia-based designer Max Tedesco. The two teamed up following Eric's successful run with Skykits. Eric relocated to impressive new facilities in Paris, Tennessee (complete with a mockup of the Eiffel Tower) where he began manufacturing aircraft created by Max. The result is a series of airplanes including Spirit, Vision (video), Surveyor, and Freedom (in development).

The airplanes have numerous design features that demonstrate Max's long experience at this sort of thing, for example, an easy-to-maintain panel. Most are fully enclosed but enthusiasts of open cockpit flying might enjoy Surveyor.

Spirit is one of four models offered by World Aircraft Company.
ByDanJohnson.com is a website significantly about aircraft you can afford — even our domain name will eventually become AffordableAircraft.com — so it stands to reason that we care about airplanes you can actually, well, you know ... afford. Consider this: World Aircraft Company sells a ready-to-fly Spirit for just $87,995. Of course, prices change over time; please check with WAC to see the current figure.

Now despite that very reasonable base price, you may prefer to bulk it up with some accessories or features you don't feel you can live without; that's your decision. Yet manufacturer Eric and designer Max can sell you a well-flying airplane built right here in the USA, powered by the reliable Rotax 912 for less than ninety grand. By my calculation that is a quite good bargain in 2015. You can go check all the details at WAC's page about pricing.


LSA Mall at Sun ‘n Fun 2015
By Dan Johnson, February 27, 2015

We are less than two months away from Sun 'n Fun 2015 where once again the LSA Mall will be a central part of the fascinating area called Paradise City. Here is where thousands of visitors to the large season-starting event can see a flock of Light-Sport Aircraft and light kit aircraft. Prospective customers for these airplanes can also take a demonstration flight, right on the show grounds of Sun 'n Fun. See any vendor to inquire about demo flight availability.

At this 41st running of the popular event in Lakeland, Florida, LAMA, the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association is pleased to again showcase the newest sector in aviation. Visitors can enjoy the third year of the completely redesigned Paradise City, formerly known to enthusiasts as the Ultralight or Lightplane Area. Transformed in 2013 with an entirely new layout that brings visitors closer than ever to a wide variety of aircraft, Paradise City is particularly popular as you can get intimately close to the runway where a wide variety of flying machines will take off and land almost all day long (except during certain parts of the main airshow in the mid-afternoon).

The LSA Mall is made available thanks to manufacturers and their willingness to reveal their aircraft in wingtip-to-wingtip convenience, to volunteers in the LAMA tent at the center of the LSA Mall and with very special thanks to support from Aviators Hot Line, publisher of the Light Aviation Edition and organizer of the Show Center display.

Also for the third year, Rotax Aircraft Engines has again confirmed their support for a special transportation system that can whisk demo flight customers and others from the main "core area" of Sun 'n Fun to Paradise City with a stop at the Rotax main display.

Come ride the Paradise City Xpress!

Rotax BRP sponsors these golf carts to make it easy for pilots wanting to access a demo flight in a Rotax-powered aircraft. Many of these airplane companies exhibit in the main traffic area of Sun 'n Fun. Most of these companies — as well as those whose displays are in Paradise City — conduct their demo flights off the newly improved Paradise City runway. Rotax wants to help pilots and visitors get to those airplanes easily and conveniently. When seats are available — often! — you can catch a ride on the Paradise City Xpress, too ... assuming you can afford the price. I'm just kidding. It's a free ride. Thanks, Rotax!

Paradise City visitors will be able to examine all manner of affordable airplanes ... Light-Sport Aircraft, light kit-built airplanes, rotary aircraft, electric aircraft, ultralights, powered parachutes, weight shift trikes, paragliders, and more. At LAMA's LSA Mall located outside the Show Center tent — think of an auto mall with many choices available — you can see some of the very best airplanes in the LSA fleet.

This photo of Dave Piper surrounded by some of his volunteer staff was taken by my video partner, publisher of the Light Sport and Ultralight Flyer YouTube channel. Please see this link to an article on Dave.
While news about the LSA Mall is exciting and I look forward to helping organize it for another year, I have some very sad news to pass on while writing about Paradise City. On February 26th, 26-year Paradise City Chairman Dave Piper passed away from heart failure. Laura Vaughn, Sun 'n Fun's Director of Convention Administration wrote, "Dave had been not been feeling well and was taken to the hospital to undergo some tests and receive treatment, he went down hill very quickly and passed away last night."

I spoke to Dave only a few days ago. He complained of nothing and only spoke to his excitement for another year of Sun 'n Fun and Paradise City. Dave walked in a giant's shoes; his leadership skills will be very hard to replace and no one can replace the man or his spirit. He will be terribly missed this year and in the years to come but I know he was very pleased and proud of what Paradise City has become recently. I am so privileged to have known and worked with him, a feeling I am certain was shared by his many friends and nearly 200 Paradise City volunteers.

You can catch our interview with Dave in this video ...


M-Squared Aircraft a First for Sun ‘n Fun
By Dan Johnson, February 24, 2015

Amphibious float-equipped airplanes are in the wheelhouse of M-Squared Aircraft. photo courtesy M-Squared Aircraft
Sun 'n Fun is coming in less than two months. Surprised? Yes, we are now less than 60 days before the start of this season-opening event. The folks in Lakeland offer so much to do at their April celebration that you can barely jam it all in to a six day visit. No doubt this is why many arrive a few days early ... well, that and Florida being the Sunshine State which will be warm and pleasant from April 21-26, 2015. C'mon down. Get away from that snowy winter up north.

One thing you may not have done is visit the Museum on the property. All those new airplanes and products plus a major airshow keep people outside, understandably so. However, for 2015 light aircraft enthusiasts have one more reason to plan some extra time to keep the sunburn to a minimum by spending a few hours inside.

Known officially as the Florida Air Museum, FAM has quite a collection of aircraft for your review ... and no, it isn't simply a smaller version of EAA's world-class museum at Oshkosh (also worth a few hours).

Ray Anderson's magnificent flying machine will soon be on display at the Florida Air Museum. See video for a full tour of this remarkable airplane.
FAM features "Aerospace Discovery," which offers a broad display of rare and fun examples of aircraft including several one-of-a-kind designs, vintage classics and antiques, plus warbirds. However, FAM has been a bit spare in the lightest end of aviation.

That will change by the time you arrive in Lakeland, Florida for Sun 'n Fun 2015. Thanks to a generous donation from Ray Anderson, a very special — indeed one-of-a-kind — "ultralight" will be added to FAM's display. Built from an original airframe from M-Squared Aircraft, here's an airplane you have to see to appreciate. Oh, heck, even then you probably won't absorb everything Ray and the M-Squared staff accomplished with help from a local university.

Outstanding among its many features is the HKS powerplant. This is a fairly rare animal with the turbo-HKS 700T that produces 80 horsepower. On this light single seater, Ray said that engine helps him leap off the ground in one and a half airplane lengths, or about a 30-foot ground roll. HKS is better known for its 60-horsepower 700E model.

Our video walks you around this airplane so you can get a fuller idea. It may look like a simple little single seater — and it is, in a way — but it seems Ray left out only the kitchen sink in his effort to make this gray Breese SS a very special aircraft.

I am a member of FAM and encourage you to consider this as well. Here's the rates and member benefits.

Now, I want to focus on the airframer behind Captain Ray's work (he's ex-military and looks the part). M-Squared Aircraft is one of the longest-running airplane producers in the LSA space. Like myself, proprietor Paul Mather far pre-dates Light-Sport Aircraft. We were both around years before this newest aviation segment even acquired the name.

Logically then, Paul's M-Squared Aircraft business was early in declaring it met ASTM standards for Special Light-Sport Aircraft. You need to contact him to know the latest prices, but at one time, the lowest cost Special LSA you could buy was from his company. If you are one of the many who lament the high cost of carbon fiber, glass-panel, LSA speedsters ... well, I understand, but you ought to have a look at Paul's fun flying airplanes. I got a crack at Ray's HKS-powered Breese (wow!) but I think I've flown all the models in M-Squared's line and every one of them is a well-proven joy in the air.

Father and daughter go aloft to capture photos of M-Squared Aircraft's several models.
Like many of the light aviation segment businesses, M-Squared Aircraft is a small enterprise, described by some as a "mom-and-pop shop." As with many such businesses, some deep expertise is available but with few employees, such operations rely on friends of the business. Paul appears to have no shortage of supporters to help him make it all work well.

As Paul decided to upgrade his website, he called in some of those volunteers, but got some of his best support from his daughter, >b>Summer Brown. Trained in graphics, she's good with a digital camera as the new website attests. Seen in the nearby photo, Summer went aloft with Dad in every airplane comprising the M-Squared Aircraft inventory. Check out the new website and stop by their display at Sun 'n Fun 2015.

You may or may not see Paul as he spends an amazing amount of his time aloft giving demo rides. Like any other aircraft vendor he's flying those interested in purchases, but "King Paul" is a mainstay at giving flights to those who volunteer to help airshow put on their events. For airshow visitors demo flights are modestly priced and Paul Mather is one of the most expert flyers to take you up. I encourage a visit but ask soon; this guy books up fast.


NavWorx Relieves ADS-B Out Demands for LSA
By Dan Johnson, February 20, 2015

Traffic on a screen aids the eye in finding aircraft in your vicinity. On left is a screen shot from WingX Pro. With this much traffic it's great to have electronic assistance.
Across aviation segments of all types, noise is becoming shrill over FAA's demand that you install Automatic Dependent Surveillance - Broadcast equipment which not only receives but sends information. The phrase is such a mouthful that everyone just says, "ADS-B Out" though that is still a mysterious abbreviation to anyone not deeply attuned to aviation instruments.

Most alphabet organizations and many aviation writers have been outspoken about the challenges faced by owners of Type Certified aircraft. A chorus of lament wails about the high equipment cost (several thousand dollars) and high installation cost coupled with what is often described as an impossible situation. According to many experts, the number of aircraft needing ADS-B Out equipment is so great that maintenance centers no longer have time to install the equipment before the deadline.

Well, that is a troubling TC-aircraft dilemma but LSA and light kit aircraft owners recently got relief from the onerous requirement. FAA indicated that EAB homebuilt aircraft and LSA do not need to use TSO (Technical Standard Order) gear. "Non-TSO" means a piece of equipment is not certified, however, one company sells devices that are nearly identical except that they do not not have the FAA TSO approval. Why is this good for you?

NavWorx saves LSA and light kit aircraft owners a bundle compared to Type Certified aircraft.
The TSO NavWorx box is already the most economical option for GA aircraft owners, with their ADS600-B unit priced at $2,399 before installation. Yet now LSA owners can meet FAA mandate for less than 30% of that price! Sometimes it is good to be an LSA or light EAB owner, right?

Yep, for only $699 you can install the same hardware components as Type Certified aircraft must install while saving $1,700 (or even more compared to equipment from other providers). This is a crystal-clear indication of the cost of certification. Take a component and add 2.4 times the hardware expense merely to have documents (and the testing they imply) that proves it will work reliably in your TC airplane. This example is repeated throughout the LSA world, where non-certified aircraft boast an "acceptable" safety record — using FAA's preferred term for LSA safety — while featuring far lower prices. Sure, some LSA are still rather expensive but even the priciest are a fraction of their equivalent from the certified world.

Most owners are still going to have to pay a qualified mechanic to install the ADS600-EXP and some knowledgeable persons suggest installation could cost as much as the $699 NavWorx box. You'll also need an antenna, which NavWorx sells for $90-500.

However, the Rowlett, Texas company has another great idea, with more letters you need to learn.

The latest from NavWorx will become available early in March 2015.
NavWorx also offer their PADS-B with the "P" standing for "Portable." PADS-B transmits full ADS-B Out, while receiving all traffic and weather around your aircraft. Owner Bill Moffitt said, "We took the design straight out of our TSO/STC certified ADS600-B product, miniaturized it, and created the PADS-B." As with the ADS600-EXP, PADS-B is not TSO'd.

ADS-B receiver-only devices do not show all the traffic near you, said Moffitt. "FAA only sends traffic to your aircraft if you have ADS-B OUT." Users of ADS-B In equipment get traffic but it must be relayed from ground equipment or other aircraft, which is not as dependable. Moffitt said you need not compromise your safety using a receiver-only device for traffic because you can buy NavWorx PADS-B and "rest assured that the FAA is sending you traffic."

Even better is that PADS-B comes with zero installation cost. "Plug it in, place it on the glare-shield, and start receiving traffic and weather instantly," said Moffitt. Additionally PADS-B will send the full dataset to your iPad or Android app. He noted, "PADS-B works with WingX, iFly, Naviator, eKneeboard, Avilution and others but it does not work with proprietary, closed applications like Garmin and ForeFlight." PADS-B is fully self-contained with no external antenna that needs to be mounted; GPS and Wifi antennae are built-in.

NavWorx PADS-B sells for $999 but other than shipping that is your total cost to meet FAA's mandate. PADS-B will be available starting March 7, 2015.


Love Them or Not, Drones Are Coming
By Dan Johnson, February 18, 2015

See our video on the DJI quadcopter at Sebring 2015.
The good news is that most pilots I've interviewed — with a few outspoken exceptions — think drones are fine. Some are openly enthusiastic. Indeed, major drone seller Atlanta Hobby said their most effective advertising ever was on Barnstormers, an online source frequented by pilots (the sort that fly from inside the aircraft). This article will try to cast additional light on the new drone rule, FAR Part 107, that was announced over last weekend and gained wide coverage.

I contacted a subject matter expert who happens to be a longtime friend. Cliff Whitney is the fellow that first talked me into starting ByDanJohnson.com way back in 1999. Much earlier we met through a mutual interest in hang gliding and have remained friends ever since. Today, Cliff runs a multimillion dollar enterprise that sells ... well, things that fly (but with the pilot not inside). He remains an active pilot that enjoys flying several airplane types so he gets it from a pilot's perspective. We spoke for an hour just a couple days after FAA hurriedly released their NPRM news about Part 107 for UAVs.

(upper right) DJI's latest X3, carrying a three-axis stabilized camera that shoots 4K at 30 FPS (translation: very high quality video). Landing gear retracts to provide 360-degree camera angles. Most photos used in this article are courtesy of Atlanta Hobby.
In an unusual Sunday morning press conference, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta released the details of the proposed rule. Along with these two big shots of the regulatory world, Cliff was on the conference line. As both a pilot and a UAV seller, he said, "I was shocked yet extremely pleased about the proposed rule ... FAA used common sense ... [Part 107} will encourage innovation while promoting adoption" of the regulation.

Some, like Amazon — a company with ambitions about using drones to deliver packages to your doorstep — were less enamored of the rule as it excludes flight that the big online outfit will need to offer its aerial delivery service (see some of the Part 107 points below). However, even Amazon had to agree with Cliff that, "107 allows the ability to go elsewhere."

"Recreational users are exempt [from 107] ... this is hard coded and cannot be changed," Cliff observed. "If hobbyists fly recklessly, they can be penalized but this is as it was before." The regulation only applies to what Cliff calls the "industrial side." That's the main aspect of his business, accounting for 70% of sales; 30% are recreational users. He added, "Part 107 will increase the industrial share because the new regulation is so accommodating."

Let's look at some impact from this new reg. I asked Cliff about the size of the market. To understand it better, we need to divide it. Recreational user drones run $600-$2,000. These are some very capable UAV compared to "toys" that you can buy for $50-500. True working systems with back-up aircraft — needed because a company hiring you won't want to hear about a broken part that will take a week to fix — will cost $5,000 to $10,000. However, the latter amount can buy an aircraft delivering butter-smooth motion picture-quality video with very high resolution that can broadcast to a computer on the ground.

In the recreational or higher sector Cliff believes the DJI company (top image) is the leader with an estimated 70% of the market. DJI did $130 million worth of business in 2013, $260M last year and projects $600M for 2015. Calculating from average wholesale selling prices, the overall drone industry could deliver as many as a million new UAVs this year alone. In contrast, GAMA said that 986 single engine piston aircraft were sold worldwide in 2014; LSA and LSA-types delivered approximately 3,000 units around the globe. UAVs clearly represent very big business.

SHOULD PILOTS BE WORRIED? As a pilot — especially of an open cockpit ultralight or a powered paraglider — should you be worried about all this new traffic in the sky? "Such worry shows a lack of understanding," said Cliff. He explained using a humorous tale about how RC hobbyists have events where they deliberately try to run into one another, all within a 200-foot-square space. "I've seen 50 RCs fly around at low altitudes for 20 minutes without running into each other, even in a confined space ... and that's when they're trying to hit one other." He makes a good point. In my flying, while I recognize we must be vigilant to see and avoid, the skies are spacious and I very rarely see any aircraft close except near the airport.

Man-carrying quadcopter? -- We've seen others but Cecil Boyd of Technical Design Force in Hawaii has an idea for a partly weight shift controlled very light (Part 103?) multirotor called Quadralight. Intrigued? Contact Cecil.
As with most FAA proposals, the agency is asking for comments and must consider every one. For example, FAA is asking if the regs should permit operations beyond line of sight, and if yes, what are appropriate limits? Amazon may be dissatisfied with the NPRM as their proposed package-delivery drones couldn't fly over populated areas. However, the regs can change to allow such use after initial experience is gained and, of course, giant companies like Amazon and Google have lobbyists that might try to influence rule writers. Balancing corporate power are powerful forces concerned with privacy.

For another viewpoint, Reason Magazine wrote that Adam Thierer of the Technology Liberation Front noted on his blog that, "You can't read through these 200 pages of [FAR Part 107] regulations without getting sense that the FAA still wishes that private drones would just go away." Government drones are exempt from these rules.

Right or wrong, it seems as certain as tomorrow's sunrise that drones or UAVs are going to proliferate.

  • DRONE NPRM SUMMARY
  • Drones must weigh less than 55 pounds
  • Commerical operators must remain within visual line of sight of the drone
  • They can only operate in the daylight with a least three statute miles visibility
  • Drones must stay below 500 feet AGL and outside of Class A airspace
  • May fly in Class B, C, and D airspace with prior permission from ATC
  • Drone must stay 500 feet below clouds and 2,000 feet horizontally
  • Drones cannot exceed 100 mph and must "see-and-avoid" other aircraft
  • Drones are not allowed over people, except those involved in the flight
  • Drone operators would have to pass an aeronautical exam and retake the test every two years
  • Background checks of some sort would be required for commercial drone operators
  • Aircraft markings (N-numbers) mandated for identification purposes

You can prepare for the exam via a study guide as offered by UAV Ground School

Produced before FAA's recent NPRM, this Reason.TV video gives the overall activity of flying UAVs a broader perspective. You also get a historical view of drones:


Rui Xiang RX1E ... Certified Electric Two-Seater
By Dan Johnson, February 12, 2015

All over the world, electric airplanes are getting remarkable amounts of attention, deservedly so as an exciting development to match work in cars and other vehicles. These days, while drones (also called UAVs, UASs, or RPVs) are made in various countries, a lot of the development comes from China ... so why be surprised to hear of a positive development in a Chinese human-occupied aircraft?

Is it the first "certified" electric? Well, "certified" is a term that can be challenging to define as the word means different things in different countries. For example, we've already produced a video covering the American-designed, Chinese-developed eSpyder from Yuneec. It won German approval in 2013. My flying experience on eSpyder is documented in this article. You can also read a more encompassing electric aircraft review article from 2011, though with the rapid pace of development such articles become dated rather quickly.

eSpyder developer Yuneec has also worked extensively on their e430, a two-seat, motorglider-like, pure-electric aircraft. Perhaps that was China's first electric two seater but now consider the Rui Xiang RX1E, a high-wing, side-by-side two-place aircraft. As does Yuneec's e430, RX1E uses high wing cantilever construction and long slender wings. According to Cafe Foundation — the group that closely monitors electric aircraft developments and hosts professional symposia — RX1E has been "designed by the Liaoning General Aviation Institute while Shenyang Aircraft Manufacturing [of Cessna Skycatcher fame] manufactures the aircraft under the Rui Xiang General name." Cafe Foundation gathered some of their facts from China News Service.

Cafe continued their report writing that RX1E is "...made of carbon fiber composite material, uses a 10 kilowatt-hour lithium battery [that is] enough for a 40-minute flight. Charging takes one-and-a-half hours and restores enough energy to make a 40-minute flight, all for about 5 yuan (80 cents).

Cafe credited Xinhua News Agency, which reported "a maximum cruising speed of up to 150 kilometers per hour (93 mph or 80 knots), and the ability to climb to 3,000 meters (10,800 feet) at a maximum takeoff weight of 480 kilograms (1,056 pounds)." RX1E is said to have a takeoff distance of 290 meters (930 feet), and a landing distance (probably over a barrier) of 560 meters (1,792 feet). Power is supplied by a 30 kW (40 hp) Sineton electric motor. Contrarily, Cafe notes, Yuneec employs a company-produced powerplant; they are famous for powerplant developments driven by their huge success in radio control models.

My source of the certification news offered to ask company officials for more details and when I have more I will update this article.

Last fall our good friend Mary Grady writing for AVweb reported that RX1E "production is expected to begin in the first half of 2015, according to China Daily. The plant will be capable of producing up to 100 airplanes per year." AVweb's report continued quoting Yang Fengtian of Shenyang Aerospace University, "The plant will be capable of manufacturing up to 100 airplanes per year within three years," said Yang. Drawing from other sources, the AVweb article stated, "The aircraft will fly about 90 minutes on a full charge," at a cost of about one dollar. "Cruising speed is about 86 knots. The price is expected to be about $163,000."


Rotax Awards Free 912 Engine to Flight School
By Dan Johnson, February 8, 2015

One year ago Rotax announced a contest to award a brand-new 912 engine to the flight school that achieved the first time between overhaul (TBO) of 2,000 hours on a Rotax 912 iS model that the engine builder had just released. Upon reaching the goal, the flight school had to prove the hours by sending a copy of the logbook to their local distributor and then return the used engine to Rotax BRP in Austria.

At the end of January 2015, Rotax announced they had donated a copy of their newest Rotax 912 iS Sport engine to Madiba Bay School of Flight located in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, South Africa. "Madiba Bay achieved the first time between overhauls (TBO) of 2,000 hours on their Sling 2 equipped with a Rotax 912 iS engine," said representatives of the big Austrian engine manufacturer.

Flight school owner Gerhard Van Eeden said, "We are pleased to be the winner of a brand-new Rotax 912 iS Sport engine. Our school flies a minimum of 400 hours monthly, a good reason why we decided to participate in this ROTAX contest as we were convinced we could win."

The contest started in February 2014. At the rate Madiba Bay racks up hours on their Sling aircraft, they were well positioned to win a powerplant that retails for well over $20,000. The school reported 400 hours per month using several airplanes and they managed to log 2,000 on at least one in less than a year. Not bad!

"It's impressive to see how obviously professional Madiba Bay School is in operating its flight school to accumulate 2,000 hours in such a short time," said Thomas Uhr, Vice President BRP-Powertrain and General Manager BRP-Powertrain GmbH & Co KG. "And, of course, it makes me proud our Rotax 912 iS Sport was a hassle-free partner for many new pilots and it will now provide valuable information to our continuous R&D efforts, delivering the best aircraft engine in its class."

The updated Rotax 912 iS Sport. photo courtesy Rotax BRP
Rotax believe that flight schools benefit using the Rotax 912 iS Sport thanks to "easier operation, longer flight range and lower operating costs. The new engine delivers 38% to 70% better fuel efficiency than comparable competitive engines," added Uhr. "For flight schools, the Rotax 912 iS Sport engine is economically extremely valuable considering that a cost-intensive part for flight schools is the vast quantity of fuel [they use]."

So, that's it. The contest is over, right? Nope! They are doing it again.

"Rotax BRP will continue last year's flight school contest and will donate a brand new Rotax 912 iS Sport to the flight school that achieves the first TBO of 2,000 hours on their Rotax 912 iS engine," the company stated in an early February news release.

The procedure is similar to the 2014 contest: Flight schools must register with an authorized Rotax distributor or with the person in charge of the point of sales in its area. The school must inform the distributor when 500, 1,000, 1,500 and 2,000 flight hour points are reached using the Rotax 912 iS engine. After reaching 2,000 hours, the school sends their logbook to their distributor, which is to inform Rotax BRP, afterwards shipping the engine to Rotax. BRP will then donate a new Rotax 912 iS Sport engine in return, and the school saves a bundle on either overhaul of their old engine or buying a new one. Madiba Bay is not allowed to participate in the contest again.

Madiba Bay School of Flight uses The Airplane Factory Sling models, which are nearly always equipped with MGL Avionics. Both have representation in the U.S.
"With more than 170,000 aircraft engines sold in almost 40 years, Rotax dominates the Light-Sport and microlight aircraft industry offering more than 200 points of sale," stated the company. "Rotax BRP supports customers worldwide and supplies Rotax aircraft engines to more than 80% of all aircraft manufacturers in its segment."

Madiba Bay School of Flight uses The Airplane Factory (TAF) Sling aircraft in their active flight school. So, besides Rotax enjoying strong support for their engines, TAF also earns credit for their aircraft holding up to duty that is often said to be one of the most demanding. Students don't learn without making mistakes so hard landings happen.

The traditional U.S. flight school community has been somewhat slow to embrace LSA because some allege that LSA are too lightly built. Indeed LSA weigh more than 300 pounds less than popular trainers like Cessna's long-discontinued 150 and 152 models. However, experiences such as Madiba Bay with their Sling fleet and many other Light-Sport models with thousands of training hours logged are proof that in the hands of quality flight school operators these fuel-efficient aircraft can be great instructional aircraft.

Video reports and articles like the following unveil the durability of LSA in flight training environments: Kitfox (video); Allegro; Europe-based Remos; and, this general article.


iPad Invades the Cockpit ... Again
By Dan Johnson, February 4, 2015

BD-17 and Levil photos by Joseph F. Marszal
If you are not an iPad user — like I am along with millions of others including a significant number of pilots — perhaps you just don't care about iPads in the cockpit. This isn't an Apple ad; they hardly need any more promotion. Yet iPads in the cockpit can do some great work for a much lower cost than anyone would have imagined less than five years ago (iPad was introduced in fall 2010).

Unless you have ignored the news since 2010, you are surely aware iPads can run slick apps like Garmin Pilot or Jeppesen's Mobile FliteDeck VFR, WingX Pro, Foreflight, FlyQ, and several others. Most of these are very useful products and even with data subscriptions they don't cost much. However, they all share one problem ... a rather big one.

Simply, cockpits weren't designed around the new technology.

You have to hold an iPad. Of course, several companies have made mounts of various types, some of which hang out from the instrument panel and swivel about like a wall-mounted TV so you can poke and prod them while flying. I've sampled a couple of these mounts and they are a bit, well ... flexible. When you touch them, especially in turbulent air, they can jiggle around and defy you to hit that tiny, little virtual button you want to select. While those mounts are superior to hand holding, they could be better. Fortunately, one already is better.

Consider FlyPad mounts. While this is currently more logical for homebuilders who design their own instrument panel layout as seen in the nearby BD-17 photo, a Special LSA manufacturer could easily incorporate the mount system. A short video at the end of this article makes the installation look straightforward.

After the panel install is complete, "...your device can be inserted and locked securely into place in seconds," said developer Crew Feighery, "and will look as if it were meant to be there from the time your aircraft left the factory floor (or your garage)."

Digital screens are widely available in many variations. Indeed, some great installations are made by Dynon, Garmin, and MGL, among others. Yet Crew makes an interesting observation. "Glass cockpits are missing the huge selection of apps available for the Apple products," he said. "With one screen you can choose between a moving map application, terrain avoidance, flight planning software, or even entertainment for your passenger."

FlyPad mounts can accommodate several Apple products with more to follow.
Crew goes on to note that you can, "...replicate all the typical functions of a expensive Primary Flight Display." Enthusiastically, he continues, "The perfect cockpit includes one full size iPad Air for your Primary Flight Display, a iPad Mini for navigation, a iPod Touch or iPhone for your backup artificial horizon, and an extra full size iPad Air to entertain your passenger while you navigate to your destination." OK, you may not want to add that many Apple devices but the installation in the BD-17 at Sebring showed how clean and tidy it can be. Plus, as the image shows and the video below highlights, popping the iPad in or out is super simple.

Apple iPad comes with a GPS receiver but for the fullest use of the panel-mounted tablet, you'll need a device like a Dual unit (160 SkyPro or XGPS 170) that works via Bluetooth or one of several Levil devices. The former are portable and small while the latter are a bit more techy and use a combination of cables and wireless to offer greater capabilities. Some Levil units can be paired with units like NavWorx's ADS-600B or Zaon's XRX to meet FAA's mandates for ADS-B Out. ADS-B Out compliance will add considerably to your cost.

Levil units power the iPad in the BD-17 to offer excellent capability.
When employing an appropriate Levil device roll, pitch, magnetic heading, rate of turn, inclination, and G-meter data are available on your iPad (or Android, though the latter tablets will not fit in the FlyPad mount). A Levil unit can deliver wirelessly to as many as 10 connected devices. Dual units also serve more than one device. Some Levil units integrate solar panels that can recharge the batteries over time or extend the eight-hour battery life to 12 hours on bright, sunny days.

Team BD neatly incorporated FlyPad and Levil in their Sebring 2015 display airplane and I heard from a few folks that this caught their attention. The FlyPad mounts run $179 to $229. One very clever and useful option is the Steam Gauge Cutout letting you install analog gauges mounted right in the panel under the iPad (photo above). Depending on mount chosen kit builders can mount 1-4 traditional gauges. Should your tablet go dark, Crew said, "...you can simply pop it out and reference the traditional gauges." Nice!

This one-minute video shows you how FlyPad mounts, demounts, and functions:


Boeing & Airbus Explore Light Aircraft
By Dan Johnson, January 28, 2015

Here are four journalists that contribute to this website. Dave Unwin and (far right) James Lawrence also write for print publications. photo by Randee Laskewitz
Recently I had a visit from my longtime friend and fellow aviation journalist, James Lawrence (photo). Among other mutual interests we share a passion for electric aircraft. We've each flown early examples and believe we see the future. From the headline above, you might interpret that to mean we anticipate electric airliners. We might ... yet we recognize such developments remain distant. Or, do they?

The electric power action today is in very light aircraft — and some are available for you to buy and fly immediately. One example is Zigolo and I've reported on eSpyder. The reason is that light aircraft rule is singular: batteries, which weigh too much to allow heavier aircraft any range. The ending video explains why.

Unless you've been off-planet for a while, you know the development of improved battery technology is drawing many billions of dollars of investment. Cars, laptops, drones and many more products or industries want better batteries. Many experts believe the green energy push cannot leap forward until better storage, i.e., batteries, is available. While aviation cannot match the massive investments by industry and government, light aviation in particular can benefit from the pursuit by those with deeper pockets.

The Airbus E-Fan 2.0 is preparing for production (details in article).
The deepest pockets in civilian aviation are Boeing and Airbus. Only two years ago, I would have scoffed at any mention that these companies would pursue truly small and light aircraft. Today, I have to shake my head in amazement as both companies put money into small aircraft projects.

Airbus E-Fan As reported earlier Airbus is already flying their E-Fan, an electric two seater that cleverly looks like a mini-bizjet with its twin ducted props. It has been suggested that the two place model could be market-ready by 2017 and a four seater is planned. This was not simply a concept airplane; they planned to produce some, though in Airbus' billion-dollar world, building a couple hundred airplanes could be little more than a fact-finding experiment.

Since our first report, Airbus said it signed a deal with Daher-Socata to become a major partner with Airbus Group's VoltAir subsidiary "for the design, development and certification of a new electric airplane ... called E-Fan 2.0." According to the airline company, "E-Fan 2.0 is intended to be a general aviation trainer," which they claimed will be the "first full-rate production electric aircraft in the world." Airbus added that one of their goals is to eventually learn more about future Airbus airliners.

Socata will be responsible for the E-Fan 2.0's entire development, including its electric engine and batteries, flight test and certification by EASA in Europe. The French company manufactures general aviation aircraft and has reportedly freed up its engineering team to focus on the new project. Airbus said E-Fan 2.0 will eventually be sold in the United States as well as international markets. Daher-Socata is well equipped for the work, having produced "more than 700 TBMs as well as thousands more piston GA airplanes under the Rallye and TB lines."

Randall Fishman (in cockpit) developed the lovely ULS reviewed in this video.
In their intense battle to sell 737s and 319s, the two giant companies always seem to go head-to-head ... so why would it be any different in one or two seat airplanes?

Boeing Hybrid Project Of course, the point of the exercise is technology development and these two companies with thousands of smart engineers on their payrolls undoubtedly realize it is light airplanes that presently offer a valid testbed for electric propulsion ideas. However, Boeing's approach is different. They teamed up with a group at Cambridge University in England led by Dr. Paul Robertson of the university's department of engineering. Robertson and a trio of students are working on a hybrid, a Toyota Prius of the air if you like.

The British team acquired a single place Song from Airsport s.r.o. This is the same basic airframe as previously used by Electric Aircraft Corporation's Randall Fishman. By my reckoning Randall is one of the pioneers of electric power, having already logged more than 130 hours on his ULS, which is a Song modified for pure electric power; photo. Song is also represented in Canada by Melody Aircraft with gasoline power only as originally designed.

The Cambridge/Boeing hybrid project is also based on the Song, as is ULS.
The Cambridge/Boeing aircraft uses a combination of a Honda four-stroke piston engine and an electric motor/generator, coupled through the same drive pulley to spin the propeller. During takeoff and climb, when maximum power is required, the engine and motor work together to power the plane. Once cruising altitude is reached, Robinson said, "The electric motor can be switched into generator mode to recharge the batteries or used in motor-assist mode to minimize fuel consumption. The same principle is at work in a hybrid car."

In addition to massive corporations like Boeing and Airbus, several other groups are also working on electric power. Even hybrid aircraft projects aren't new but some combination of these could change aviation, perhaps forever, if Jim Lawrence and I have any idea about it. This should get real interesting real soon and I'll try to keep you informed.

The following video explains the Cambridge/Boeing project quite succinctly:


Four Days of Sebring 2015
By Dan Johnson, January 21, 2015

SportairUSA's Outback wears its new name for the first time.
Sebring is history, which says the aviation year is now underway. On whole it was a good show and a solid start to 2015. Sebring's weather was overcast and cool to start though even that didn't seem to dampen buying enthusiasm. About a dozen airplanes were sold plus numerous vendors reported finding many good prospects. By Friday afternoon the skies went to deep blue and the Sunshine State earned its nickname.

"It was a great Saturday," wrote U.S. Sport Aviation Expo organizers. The 11th annual Expo nearly filled the auto parking lot and the transient aircraft parking area was hopping with activity, officials said.

While I write about the good news of Sebring, I want to pay respect to two fallen aviators. Dennis Day and Jason Spinks of the Aero Adventures company lost their lives in an unfortunate accident during the event. I offer my sincerest regret for this loss to their families and to the DeLand Airport business team.

AutoGyro USA's Calidus is backdropped with color. |||| most photos supplied by the Sebring U.S. Sport Aviation expo
As it has for several years, opening day of Expo wrapped up with the Light Aircraft Manufacturer's Association (LAMA) annual dinner in the big Aviators Hot Line Show Center tent. A full dinner was served to nearly 300 business people and LAMA members. All seemed to enjoy an evening among airshow buddies sponsored by electric car builder Tesla Motors, engine developer ULPower, and publisher Aviators Hot Line. LAMA kept secret the participation of Tesla Motors by referring to its "glass panel," "auto pilot," and electric propulsion but many folks seemed to enjoy examining the specialty auto. Music was provided by the Flying Musicians Association and one of several highlights was honoring the birthdays of Expo executive director Jana Filip and founding director Bob Wood. (Such exquisite timing makes one wonder if they deliberately scheduled their event so everyone could help them celebrate.)

RV-12 VIRBfest used eight of the company's new cameras.
Taildraggers seemed in especially plentiful supply including the surprise showing of Bristell's new TDO model. Just Aircraft's SuperSTOL, Legend's SuperCub, Bearhawk, Rans' S-20 Raven, and SportairUSA's renamed Outback (photo) provided those looking for unimproved airstrip capability with great taildragging choices.

Some of those taildraggers, including AirCam and SportCub, could be seen on four wheels as Mead Floats exhibited their 1430 and 2200 floats for light aircraft. Four wheels come from hydraulic amphibious operation. Mead joins Paradise of Brazil, Tecnam of Italy, and several all-American Lockwood enterprises as permanent residents of the Sebring airport, fulfilling the decade-long goal of leasing all available space to aviation businesses.

Among winners were those who helped name the aircraft formerly known as Cub-S and iCub. First prize went to Antonio Speed of Titusville, Florida. He took home an iPad Air with Foreflight Mobile app software. Second prize went to David Bardwell who got an iPad Mini and third prize went to Rafael Cortes of Puerto Rico.

Dynon's touch screen displays drew crowds as always.
My video partner and I scooped up another 25 or so videos to join more than 400 available on YouTube and this website.

One of the most anticipated videos of all we did was a VPR or Video Pilot Report on the Van's Aircraft RV-12 by Synergy equipped with a single large Garmin G3X Touch screen. We flew and tried to report on this popular airplane last year but the video and audio capture was not what we wanted so we arranged to try again this year.

Van's reports more than 800 RV-12 kits (of around 9,000 RV models delivered) have been sold with more than 300 flying. Fully built RV-12s assembled by Synergy now number around 50 aircraft. The king of kit aircraft is making great headway into the LSA space.

The RV-12 filming experience was a total VIRBfest with our use of no less than eight Garmin Virb cameras, seven owned by our production effort and one supplied by Van's pilot, Chris. According to Garmin, we are probably the largest user of Virb cameras and surely fitting eight of them must be some kind of record usage. The cockpit was actually a bit crowded with cameras but we think we got good material this time. Watch for the video after editing has been completed.

Tecnam's handsome Astore had a stunning interior treatment.
We also did a video first in our reporting of light aircraft. Watch for a video on a four-pound aircraft. OK, I'm teasing you. My Spruce Creek Fly-In airport neighbor and Legend Cub representative, Ron Bishop, is representing the DJI quadcopter fitted with an HD camera. At future airshows we may employ such an apparatus to capture aerial overviews of the event. As you can read in many places, these tiny drones have some impressive capability including being able to return to their takeoff spot autonomously should radio communication be lost. Even an RC novice like me can easily fly one of these gyro- and software-stabilized rigs. It was fun to experience; the video is in production.

With Sebring in the can for another year, our focus turns to Aero in Germany (April 15-18) followed only a couple days later by Sun 'n Fun (April 21-26). Stay tuned for much more flying fun!


7 Aircraft to Look for at Sebring 2015
By Dan Johnson, January 12, 2015

Shed the skiis and head south for the winter ... to Sebring, Florida where the orange groves go on forever and the skies are full of fun airplanes. photo from Lynn Reimer, of his Aerotrek A220
We're off to the races ... OK, the race track ... OK, we're off to Sebring, which happens to be alongside the Sebring International Raceway. Yep. It's January so it's again time for the Sebring Expo, this time number 11, the 2015 edition of the popular Florida show. I'll be onsite for the four days, which this year is one day sooner, running Wednesday through Saturday. The plan makes it easier for vendors to stay to the end on Saturday and still have time to get home on Sunday so they can be back in their businesses on Monday.

Every time I head to a show people contact me, including journalists from publications that don't follow Light-Sport, light kits, ultralights, or light GA as closely as we do). The question is always the same. What new aircraft or products will we see at the show? ...Uh, let me think.

Even I don't hear everything early, though perhaps my awareness is fuller than others. Developers are often busy trying to finish their new project in time. Perhaps they want to keep it secret until they unveil it. Either way, it takes time to inform journalists. Think how carefully Apple tries to keep people from knowing what new iGizmo they will introduce at their media extravanganzas. (It doesn't always work as a entire army of nosey people is constantly probing around to find out what they'll unveil.)

Zenith's Cruzer gives an aerial view of the Sebring grounds. The arrow points to the Show Center tent.
However, I know a few things, so I'll give you some ideas and present some photos with this article to help excite your interest in attending. I hope many will make it to this year's event. It is raining hard right now, but the weather prognosis looks good, if possibly a bit on the cool side.

Look for the Aerolite 103 with its new Briggs and Stratton four stroke engine. You can see my earlier article for details but I'm thrilled that someone is offering a four stroke, legal Part 103 three-axis ultralight. You have not seen this one and it deserves a look especially given its low-low price tag. How low? You'll have to swing by their space and ask but this company makes airplanes that sell for less than $16,000 fully-built and ready-to-fly. No wonder they are selling and building "to manufacturing capacity."

Bristell's handsome TDO ... stands for Tail Dragger Option. Imagine it with 26-inch tires.
Steve Minnich of Dreams Come True said, "We'll be showing something we've wanted for a long time at Sebring." He said it was not "Earth shattering" but it may be important to some buyers. "Evektor has previously stayed with the tried and true, low weight simple adjustment at the pedal, which also kept people from adjusting pedals in flight." However, he said, "Hearing public request and arriving at an engineering design they are satisfied with, they have released a new pedal adjustment system where the rudder pedals can be adjusted while seated."

SportairUSA boss Bill Canino has been running a contest to rename their airplanes formerly known by using the word "Cub." Another company owns that name (no, not Piper) and they're putting a stop to it. So, being a reasonable sort, Bill decided to let pilots help rename his birds. He'll announce who the winners of iPads and stuff are at Sebring, but the names are no longer a secret. He said, "The previous Titan 180-horsepower Cub S will be named Outback. A plane he made somewhat famous by using an iPad for the main instrument, appropriately called iCub, will be named Nomad." The latter uses a 100-horsepower Rotax 912. Come to Sebring and see who won the prizes.

You can some look for the new Paradise P1NG, as the Brazilian brand makes a reentry to the U.S. market after several years absence. In fact, they're making quite a splash with not only a new airplane but a factory-owned outlet housed at Sebring. Paradise joins Tecnam at selecting the Sebring airport for their new quarters, from which they'll supply the USA but also export to other countries. Read the earlier story for more details.

Bearhawk LSA can now be ordered as a Quick Build. See the first one so completed.
Another new model I'm excited to see fully finished and flying is the Bristell TDO, or Tail Dragger Option. I saw this at Aero 2014 but it was a plain fuselage with no paint or interior. Producer BRM Aero makes a truly handsome, well-flying LSA and, like many others, I think taildraggers look oh-so cool. New U.S. distributor Lou Mancuso said, "Bristell TDO gives owners the utility of a back country aircraft with greater speed and useful load than traditional back country LSA flyers, and optional 26-inch tundra tires allow the TDO to land on very rough surfaces."

A useful feature of the Bristell TDO is a "Sleeper Sleeve" option. Lou said, "Developed for the Australian market, where pitching a tent in the company of some of the world's most poisonous snakes and spiders isn't pleasant, Bristell's solution is elegantly simple: sleep in the aircraft cockpit." He explained that all the pilot need do is, "Lower the seats, cover the baggage area, and expose the rear fuselage. A completely flat area is available for sleep. At 51" wide, it's just two inches narrower than a normal full-size mattress." You'll want to see it at Sebring.

LSA taildraggers seem hotter than ever. Bearhawk Aircraft announced today its Bearhawk LSA will make a first-time visit to Sebring. It will be the first Bearhawk completed as a Quick Build kit by owner Mark Goldberg. He sums it up as a "rugged, sweet-handling airplane, designed for a gross weight of 1,500 pounds," giving it a good safety margin when flown at LSA gross weight of 1,320 pounds. It is also quite a performer. At AirVenture 2014, designer Bob Barrows competed in the Valdez STOL competition in his prototype LSA. He reported a takeoff distance of 96 feet with a landing distance of 130 feet, excellent numbers for a plane with a speedy 118-mph cruise, quick for the bushplane category.

Just Aircraft is offering a spoiler kit to make SuperSTOL even more appealing.
Speaking of STOL, the extreme example is Just Aircraft's breathtaking SuperSTOL. I reported from last year's Midwest LSA Expo that the South Carolina company had added spoilers to further extremify SuperSTOL and now the kit is available. "The addition of spoilers significantly enhances slow flight control, especially in undesirable wind conditions. They represent the latest step in advancing the short takeoff and landing capabilities of the SuperSTOL." Yeah, like it needed more ... whew! Yet if something is good, then more must be better. Surprisingly, SuperSTOL flies quite docilely.

Designer and flight tester Troy Woodland said, "Once a pilot discovers the advantage of spoilers in slow flight and turbulent air, he won't want to fly without them. They go a long way toward taking the rock and roll out of rough air on final, and they open up new areas for landings." The kits, which connect the spoilers to the ailerons, take about 40 hours to install. With all its wing features — high-lift airfoil, vortex generators, and fowler flaps — allow SuperSTOL to fly at very high angles of attack without stalling. "This allows a touchdown speed in the low 20s in calm conditions," said Just Aircraft. Come see it at Sebring.

I hear we might witness the Flying Platform in flight. Hmmm ...we'll see, but it's certain you have to attend Sebring to see the newest and coolest.

On the Sebring show grounds, the big Show Center tent gives you a place to eat, rest, meet and visit with friends, hear engaging speakers, find show staffers. This year you will also see something I think you'll find mighty interesting. Come see a glass panel like you've never seen. See a whole new implementation of autopilot. Look at electric propulsion done most impressively.

What is it? You'll have to come to the Show Center tent at Sebring to find out. See you in Sebring!


Evaluating the Worldwide Impact of Sport Aircraft
By Dan Johnson, January 11, 2015

As the new year dawned my good friends at General Aviation News published my article on the light aircraft industry using Rotax deliveries (and estimates of other engine brands) to estimate worldwide sales of recreational or sport aircraft. The article was presented online as 2015 began and has since appeared in a print edition. This article was updated 1/12/15 and 1/23/15.

On the "The Pulse of Aviation" (sign up here; it's free) you can read my article that generated a large number of reader comments, some of which were quite colorful. A technical glitch that took down the comments has been fixed and you can again peruse the many comments.

GA News is published 26 times a year (subscribe here) and the article was just released in the print version. Online, a few responders apparently didn't think much of LSA with some relying on outdated information. Several others were very supportive. That's the value of free speech and comment sections that permit such open exchanges in the Internet Age.

Here I present a somewhat different message. The first article was aimed at an audience including general aviation pilots, many of whom do not know the LSA or light kit community well. This one is aimed at those following light aviation more closely.

My sincere thanks to my longtime industry associate Jan Fridrich of LAMA Europe and Czech aircraft designer Jaro Dostal, creator of the Shark and other distinctive light aircraft. Charts shown with this article were prepared by these men.

As detailed in the GA News article, I reported a market for very light aircraft and Light-Sport-type aircraft that substantially exceeds 3,000 units per year worldwide. Many American pilots remain unaware that the rest of the world flies a large number of light aircraft in the recreational or sporting categories. Overseas, these are commonly referred to as Ultralights or Microlights, Very Light Aircraft, or Light-Sport Aircraft. As you probably know Euro Ultralights are quite different from the U.S. version.

Most pilots in the USA focus on what are sometimes called "traditional" general aviation aircraft for which GAMA has reported delivery numbers for many years. Regular tallies of FAA's N-number registration database show that in the USA the ratio is approximately 80/20, traditional GA airplanes to recreational aircraft. In Europe and most other countries that ratio is reversed with GA representing approximately 20% of all civilian aircraft with 80% recreational, according to people who try to assess such figures. This large percentage includes gliders (very big in Europe) but even omitting sailplanes the ratio is quite lopsided in favor of powered recreational aircraft. For most international pilots, GA aircraft are too expensive to buy and operate outside the USA.

"From 1989 through June 5th, 2014, we have sold 50,000 four-stroke engines of the 912 and 914 model designation," noted Christian Mundigler, Key Account Manager of Rotax Aircraft Engine Sales. "On the two-stroke engine side we sold all together more than 120,000 units up to now," he said.

These deliveries show Rotax is surely the most prolific producer of engines, but Continental, Jabiru, and Lycoming add powerplants used on recreational aircraft. Assuming their output is about 600 units per year — likely a conservative estimate and only considering production for the light aircraft sector — we calculate the UL/LSA/VLA sector probably reaches beyond 3,500 airframes per year.

In comparison, GAMA will likely report less than 1,100 piston-powered aircraft of all types and sizes from all association members around the globe for 2014 based on information released for the first nine months of the year.

Thus, when you include shipments to all countries, the light recreational aircraft market represents a large portion of all civilian, non-commercial airplanes being delivered.

With the American LSA and light kit market taking less than 1,000 of the Rotax's annual 3,000-plus aircraft engine production, where are all the others going?

"Averaging over a long term our main engine market, including two- and four-stroke powerplants, Europe has around half of the share," reported Mundigler. "The Americas, including North, Central, and South, has about a third of the total."

"Growing markets are Russia and China with double digit increase rates in recent years," said Mundigler.

Rotax engines run fine on auto gasoline or 100LL aviation fuel; operators can mix mogas and avgas in any proportion without concern. Jabiru also works fine with mogas and Continental has engine models that do as well. Around the world, aviation fuel is not widely available and, as American pilots know, avgas carries a substantial price premium though much less than the $10-12 per gallon in Europe.

From the figures used in this article, we can see the light, recreational aircraft industry is alive and well and makes up the largest unit volume share of all aircraft delivered each year.


Going Off to the Air Races, LSA-Style
By Dan Johnson, January 6, 2015

At first, it all seemed rather unlikely to me. I refer to the concept of racing LSA.

On the one hand you have a giant company with a global presence putting on the Red Bull Air Races. What a way to sell a caffeinated beverage. It works. It's very showy. It might even induce some race watchers to take up flying. When the aircraft are not touring the race circuit, they occupy luxurious space in the fanciest hangar on the planet, Red Bull's Hangar 7 at the Salzburg Airport in Mozart's former home town in Austria (photo).

On the other hand we have Light-Sport Aircraft, a fairly new sector in aviation, now with one decade of history. Being in the distinctly affordable end of aviation, money does not flow as it does from Red Bull. Yet that does not mean LSA will fail to join in the air race fun. Put a man like Doc' Bailey in charge and things happen despite the odds. Doc', a 15,000-hour military chopper pilot, runs Renegade Light Sport Aircraft. Relocating from Missouri, he went to Fort Pierce, Florida's municipal airport. That didn't turn out to be the right answer and he instead found a home — and a seat on the advisory board — at DeLand, Florida's airport, a place I recently visited.

Indeed, Doc' is a man who, some say, casts a big shadow in Light-Sport aviation. Bailey became known for working to install Lycoming engines on LSA like his Falcon. He's swimming upstream — but making progress — toward what he calls "SPAR," for the Sport Pylon Air Races. I admit when I first heard Doc' talk about this I thought he was spitting into to a light-aircraft-upsetting wind. However, he continues to take steps and now may have the right venue for such an event.

The DeLand Airport has welcomed Doc' and his airplane building operation. That's hardly a surprise as this is the home of a 35-year-old sky diving operation with dozens of businesses supporting or feeding off that activity plus numerous aircraft companies including U-Fly-It, Aero Adventures, and Aeroprakt America.

Recently I visited the Deland airport, to get a full tour by new airport manager (though longtime airport board member), John Eiff. More on Deland's ambitious plans in a minute. After hearing John's enthusiasm for Light-Sport Aircraft — which he sees as the growth area of aviation, an impression many others share — I can imagine the SPAR course being erected at Deland.

See the DeLand Airport Sport Aviation plan (note: this is a 9 MB download).
Deland's airport is a very short hop by plane from my home airport of Spruce Creek Fly-in, the world's large private airport and sprawling aviation community (see red dot on the nearby map image). By car, historic Deland is less than 25 minutes away. That's convenient for me but also puts the air race concept only a short drive from the world famous Daytona Raceway, an auto race enterprise that draws crowds enormous enough to dwarf even professional football (a reported 400,000 racing fans attend the Daytona 500 and the ever-expanding business hosts evens year 'round).

More than welcoming many sport aviation businesses, Deland has some grand plans for something called the Light-Sport Village — although they've since rebadged it as the Sport Aviation Village to make it better understood by the non-flying city officials who are not as well versed in aviation terms.

This might be viewed as a business incubator and light aviation companies contemplating a move may want to consider what they offer here in the Sunshine State. Those business owners can speak to John Eiff at the Renegade tent at Sebring next week (January 14-17th). I know I will be following this development and Doc's Sport Pilot Air Races. ...Gentlemen, start your engines.



Click here to see the next most recent 20 SPLOG posts.

 



 

 
 

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

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

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

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

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.


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

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.

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

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.


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.

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

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

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!

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.

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.

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.


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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

free counters
Search our site
 
Copyright © 2001- by Dan Johnson