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


Glasair Shows Merlin Mockup; Will Build MVP
By Dan Johnson, July 31, 2014

Although not previously known for any involvement in the Light-Sport space, longtime kit aircraft producer Glasair Aviation is jumping in assertively for 2014. At Sun 'n Fun, the Arlington, Washington company debuted their Merlin and to AirVenture 2014 they brought a full-size mockup. They also participated in the standing-room-only press briefing for the new MVP.aero seaplane. Why? Because Glasair will be one of two initial build locations, handling the Western states while Port Orange, Florida-based Fibercraft will produce for Eastern states. I'll offer more on the MVP arrangements in another report on that header-turner design unveiled at AirVenture. Yet this association means Glasair will go from no presence in LSA to taking a significant position in short order. MVP production won't start for more than a year, but Glasair's Merlin project is ambitiously aiming to hit the market in 2014, according president Nigel Moll. Glasair is famous for the their flagship Glasair II and III, speedsters of the sky in the Experimental Amateur Built category and for their well regarded Sportsmen two seater. Besides the Merlin, Glasair has other new projects such as offering the Centurion diesel engine in their Sportsman and all this flurry of activity is a benefit of their new Chinese owners, Jilin Hanxing Group.

The mockup at AirVenture 2014 didn't have any installed but Glasair is planning upward swinging gull-wing doors. It already sports a control stick that significantly resembles a similar system employed in Cessna's now retired SkyCatcher. This design choice keeps a stick from arising out of the floor, which makes entry easier for occupants and a 46.5-inch cabin nearly matches the widest cockpits among LSA. Merlin's panel setup was beautifully done as were its seats and general interior finish. The panel can hold dual Dynon 10-inch SKyView Touch screens (a single screen is standard) and is angled inward on facets on each side to make switches or instruments more accessible and readable to the pilot or passenger. Glasair will install the new Rotax 912 iS, said Moll. He stated that Merlin will sell for around $150,000 to include many items that are optional on many LSA. Indeed, Nigel said that the only options are a second SkyView Touch screen with an autopilot for an additional $10,000 and a parachute, which would also add approximately $10,000 to the purchase price. While other LSA are similarly equipped for about the same price, Glasair can benefit from its established position in the homebuilt community where it is well known. Merlin will be offered ready-to-fly, for the first time in its history broadening the company's product line beyond kit aircraft.

Leading specifications promoted by Glasair for the Merlin include stall speed 39 knots, cruise speed 105 knots, and useful load 530 pounds. The company forecasts a top speed of 120 knots, maximum takeoff weight of 1320 pounds, empty weight of 790 pounds, wing span of 31 feet 9 inches, wing area of 132 square feet, length 21 feet 8 inches, height 8 feet 8 inches, baggage capacity of 50 pounds, and fuel on board of 24 gallons. With the Rotax 912 iS, that much fuel could give endurance of six hours with no reserve or a range of close to 650 nautical miles. I think it may be somewhat challenging to get to market in 2014 since the model has not flown yet and still needs to go through the ASTM standards plus successfully complete an FAA audit likely required as Merlin is a new model yet Glasair has a lot of experience to bring to bear and has adequate funding thanks to its Chinese ownership. While it shares a familiar name, Glasair's Merlin does not resemble an earlier Merlin offered out of Canada. Nigel confirmed this Merlin has nothing to do with the long gone entry from our neighbors to the north. As Glasair continues their entry to the LSA space with Merlin first and MVP later, I'll keep a close eye on this western company. We shot a video with Nigel at AirVenture; watch for it in the next couple months as our video partner is able to complete the editing for this and dozens of new videos we are capturing at AirVenture 2014.


MVP.aero...Photos and Art of a Versatile New LSA
By Dan Johnson, July 27, 2014

A standing room only crowd just walked out of the pre-opening Sunday press conference held by the MVP.aero folks. This airplane has been in the works for many months but principals have done a masterful job of what might be called the "Apple approach." The giant iDevice maker jealously guards their press announcements and does well considering how many folks would love to blow their cover and tell the world what Apple plans before the company does. Kudos to MVP.aero (yes, that's the name of their company) ... it was founded by a father and son team of software experts and they clearly know how to play that game; they kept their secret very well. To bring you the fastest breaking news, what follows is a series of photos. I look forward to fleshing out the story as time moves forward, but for this post, the pictures are worth more than thousands of words. So look and enjoy; stay tuned for more as Oshkosh kicks off. Oh, one more thought about MVP.aero at AirVenture 2014. While waiting for the press briefing to start, I overheard some journalists talking. These were folks who report on the heavy iron, King Airs, Embraer bizjets, and such. Yet they agreed between themselves and declared, "That aircraft outside, that new LSA seaplane, is probably the hit of the show." They gave the emphasis and again, these were folks who don't usually cover light aircraft. Of course, their view is subjective, but I found it interesting, and well ... you judge for yourself and see if the Most Versatile Plane meets qualifies as a hit.

MVP.Aero's main men (before they had a chance to change into their press conference logowear): Mike Van Staaggen (L), Darrell Lynds, Mike Lynds, and Steve Pugh.


Final Newsbits Before AirVenture 2014 Starts
By Dan Johnson, July 26, 2014

Garmin's new 7-inch G3X Touch paired with their 10.6-inch display.
Garmin has a new smaller version of their very impressive G3X Touch. I examined this at Sun 'n Fun when it was debuted in the 10-inch screen and came away highly impressed after two reviews on videos. For a billion-dollar company Garmin remains passionately inventive and surprisingly nimble. They keep the heat on now introducing a 7-inch G3X Touch display, described as "a high-resolution infrared touchscreen display designed for experimental amateur-built and Light-Sport Aircraft to compliments their existing 10.6-inch G3X Touch system." Pilots and homebuilders concerned about instrument panel height and width constraints should be pleased to have the 7-inch option. All G3X Touch displays support Connext that allows wireless flight plan transfer between the company's Garmin Pilot app on an iOS or select Android mobile device. "A well-equipped 7-inch G3X Touch system, which includes SVX, video input, a built-in WAAS GPS receiver, ADAHRS, magnetometer, OAT probe, interactive mapping and more, starts at $4,599," said Garmin officials.

Wheel and brake developer Beringer introduced this 4-inch wheel for smaller aircraft along with other new products.
Beringer is another company that simply won't slow down. Or, is that right? Honestly, Beringer people go to work every day literally trying to slow down, specifically to slow down your aircraft. The French wheel and brake maker with operations in the USA keeps its engineers working hard and has several new products ready for AirVenture 2014. One that caught my eye as it could work so well for smaller, lighter aircraft is their new 4-inch wheel. These small wheels that ought to work well for ultralights or in light LSA weigh only 39 ounces. Beringer said these are "powerful brakes with a single-piston caliper with sintered metal pads and floating disc." They say maintenance is easier thanks to sealed ball bearing and no tire tube. The 4-inch wheel is appropriate for aircraft weighing 330 to 770 pounds. All Beringer products carry higher price tags to cover the advanced state of their technology and their finely finished hardware. The new wheels are $459 each for wheel, brake, and disc. The company also offers a new 6-inch wheel for STOL and Light-Sport Aircraft that use a robust 1.5-inch axle that supports tundra tires. Of course, this is the same company with the excellent anti-groundloop tailwheel as discussed here.

Van's Aircraft along with fully-built partner Synergy offers this new dual large screen Dynon panel.
Van's Aircraft, their SLSA-building partner Synergy Air, and Dynon Avionics announced availability for a dual screen SkyView Touch option for the factory-built RV-12, available starting September 1st this year. "An option for twin large screens of Dynon's touch-based system provides a larger view of mapping and the ability to share information across screens," said Van's Aircraft. "[This also offers] redundancy in the rare event that one of the screens fail." Van's added that the second large screen on the right side of the panel gives better access to flight information for passengers and copilots while improving the airplane as a platform for flight training. Van's advises the second large screen costs only $4,545. "The base price of an RV-12 S-LSA remains at $115,000 [and] the fully equipped model with all available options, including dual screens, is now $128,845. See more at one of the two RV-12 exhibits at Oshkosh. Van's and Synergy have aircraft at both the Van's booth and the 10th Year Anniversary LSA Exhibit at show center. For more, visit the official RV-12 SLSA website. Dynon also announced availability of their new SkyView 11 software with more than "60 new features and improvements." Video appearing on screen is one of these new upgrades.

Sam Aircraft is bringing this "X-ray view" Sam LS to AirVenture 2014 wherei it is sure to appear in many photos.
Sam Aircraft's Thierry Zibi seems to prepare well for airshows. He first used airshows to collect information from potential buyers so that he created an airplane with customer interest already developed. The result was a distinctive retro look that is unlike anything else in the LSA space, a sort of 1950s fighter appearance but with all the modern features. After getting Sam LS in the air this French Canadian entrepreneur made the rounds at all the top shows and succeeded at securing several good pilot reports including my article. To Oshkosh, he will bring a very distinctively decorated Sam LS that may remind alert observers of the similarly fetching exterior finish shown by the folks at Icon Aircraft at last year's AirVenture. Come see this unusual treatment at North Aircraft Display 626 where all the kit companies tend to cluster. Those not attending AirVenture (too bad, so sad) will surely see this airplane in many pictures taken by media people and passers by.

AirVenture 2014 is "Disneyland for Airplanes" and we can hardy wait for the event to start. Stay tuned for more ... !


First Searey Amphib Flight School & Design News
By Dan Johnson, July 24, 2014

It's summertime and the flying is easy ... especially when it's on the water. That's fine for everybody who is already qualified. What if you're new to seaplanes (or LSA in general)? How could you obtain instruction if you want to buy a new Searey? Training is optimal when done in a very similar airplane if not the same exact model you have in mind. Insurance companies may require aircraft-specific preparation. "With the addition of a [factory-built] Searey to its fleet, Chesapeake Sport Pilot flight school has become the first flight school in the world to offer flight training on the popular amphibious light sport seaplane," said spokesperson Helen Woods of the Stevensville, Maryland company. Chesapeake also teaches in other LSA models. Chief Flight Instructor Woods reports 300 Seareys flying in the U.S. and over 500 flying world wide. "Until now, it was often difficult to obtain quality training to fly a Searey," said Helen, "since a pilot had to own his own Searey before receiving training." Chesapeake supplies a Searey as part of their training course.

Chesapeake's Searey is well equipped for training: Rotax 912 engine; Advanced Flight Systems EFIS; Garmin GPS with XM weather and TFRs; and a carbon fiber hull. "It has all of the equipment we need plus a good useful load," explained Woods. Helen and fellow Chesapeake instructor Dan Wroe are both accredited as Searey flight instructors through the Searey Flight Instructors Association. This assures quality and standardization of training as well as offering better insurance rates from certain insurance companies for students who train under accredited Searey instructors. Chesapeake offers a variety of training options for Searey students including seaplane ratings, tailwheel endorsements, flight reviews, and insurance checkouts. Find out more at 410-604-1717, via email or Chesapeake's website.

Progressive Aerodyne, the Tavares, Florida-based designer and manufacturer of the Searey has been busy lately. While the marketing efforts have been establishing a base camp in China), engineers lead by founding designer, Kerry Richter have upgraded the well-established aircraft. The company announced a new Frise aileron design that can be fitted to all new factory-built and Searey kit airplanes. According to Progressive Aerodyne engineers, the freer airflow aileron "provides Searey airplanes with more balanced and responsive control, especially in severe conditions and wind gusts." The company reported that it conducted extensive static load and flight testing on the new aileron and the results exceeded design standards and expectations. Implementing such improvements is far less costly and time consuming for LSA under ASTM standards airplanes compared to Type Certified aircraft under FAR Part 23. Progressive Aerodyne said, "The new aileron can be retrofitted for experimental LSX and SLSA models and owners interested in retrofitting them may contact the manufacturer. Engineers also created a new sliding canopy design that can be open in any position during flight and now offers an additional three inches in height. The prototype canopy will make its debut at AirVenture 2015 where you can take a seat and see for yourself. Finally, Progressive Aerodyne will be previewing their 2015 look with a stylish new paint scheme. Seaplane and aviation enthusiasts are invited to space #12 at the Oshkosh Seaplane Base (free bus transportation is available from AirVenture). A Searey will also be on display at the EAA 10th Year Celebration of SP/LSA.


Zigolo Cracks the China Market as Part 103!
By Dan Johnson, July 23, 2014

Chip Erwin flies Zigolo at Sun 'n Fun 2014 using electric power. Read our pilot report article by British writer Dave Unwin.
I didn't see this one coming. Maybe you didn't either? In the new millennia gold rush represented by companies either being bought by Chinese businesses or gaining investment from wealthy Chinese business people or by setting up shop to sell in China (or even Cessna's ill-fated effort to have their Skycatcher manufactured in China), one element I've never heard of is Part 103 in China. This least-regulated-of-all aviation category is solely an American thing, isn't it? Well ... yes and no. Germany has opened the door to a Part 103-like development in that country under the 120-kilogram class (using a number that is 264 pounds or very similar to Part 103's 254-pound empty weight limit). England has their SSDR class (SSDR being the abbreviation for Single Seat De-Regulated). Despite following those developments, I've never heard a word about China and any less-regulated sector.

Zigolo on display at the Jingmen airshow in China.
"The first Zigolo in China was introduced to the public in that nation on July 17th at the Jingmen Airshow," reported representative Chip W. Erwin. The example was supplied in kit form by Aeromarine-LSA of Lakeland, Florida and Chip assembled it in just three weeks. Erwin, many will recall, was the main man behind the SportCruiser that ranks high in the U.S. market. After getting pushed out of the company he founded by an aggressive investor, he established a new enterprise in China. So, the following announcement might be expected, "Concurrently [to the aircraft's debut], a Zigolo assembly facility was established in the AVIC R&D center in Jingmen to supply the Chinese market with Ready-to-Fly (RTF) Zigolos." Now, here's the part of their announcement that caught me by surprise. "The Chinese CAAC recognizes the FAA Part 103 rule," Chip related, "which means that Chinese customers can actually fly legally and fly now in China, something that has not been so easy in LSA or other GA aircraft to date." No kidding! Virtually everyone agrees the China market for aircraft is potentially enormous, but the key word is "potentially." It is developing but seems in well in the future. Maybe not.

Here's the gasoline engine; the electric-powered version is shown at top.
If Chinese authorities permit Part 103 aircraft now, Zigolo could have a near-term impact on that market. Given its extremely low price, many Chinese flying enthusiasts could climb aboard. "The Chinese have been shipping thousands of RTF radio-controlled (RC) model aircraft to the USA," notes Erwin. "Now they will have the capability to build a man-carrying light aircraft for their own market. Chip noted that the technology and design gap between large RC aircraft and this ultralight motorglider is small; with the coming electric-powered version of the Zigolo, the gap narrows further. Want to know more? Zigolo is presently available to Americans in kit form with typical build time estimated at about 150 hours. Delivery positions are now available for the RTF version and first deliveries are planned for later in 2014. Come get a closer look at both electric- and gas-powered Zigolo ultralights at Airventure Oshkosh 2014. Watch how each flies in the ultralight area — now referred to as the "Fun Fly Zone" by area organizers. Oshkosh attendees can find Zigolo at booth 939. Aeromarine-LSA plans to offer an Oshkosh show special for new orders. I love the tagline Chip invented as it sums up the well-priced, simple aircraft — Zigolo: everything you need, and not much else.


Evektor with Dynon Earns EASA Type Certificate
By Dan Johnson, July 23, 2014

The very first aircraft ever to receive approval in the USA as a Light-Sport Aircraft is Evektor-Aerotechnik's SportStar. No challenger can ever take away that title yet the company has continually developed this pioneeering airplane and recently achieved a new level of approval ... one that alters the landscape in a way I predict we'll see more as FAA's Part 23 rewrite project progresses. "Following several months of certification process EASA has approved glass cockpit Dynon SkyView [as] SportStar RTC," Evektor announced. RTC stands for Restricted Type Certificate. It is not identical the U.S. Part 23 Type Certificate — representing a somewhat lower level of government oversight — but a company earning this has to jump through many regulatory hoops. "SportStar RTC has become the first EASA certified aircraft approved with the SkyView glass cockpit [by proving] compliance with certification requirements of the EASA CS-LSA regulations. Dynon's SkyView, recently upgraded to permit touch functionality, is widely known and used on Light-Sport Aircraft.

The first SportStar RTC with Dynon's SkyView will be delivered to France [and put into service by] Air Club Les Alcyons, one of the biggest clubs in the Paris area. Along with gear from Dynon and Garmin, Evektor said, "The aircraft will have also Apple's i-Pad Mini installed, bringing extended convenience and functionality in the cockpit." All these components from LSA stalwarts Dynon and Garmin are increasingly paired with Apple's ubiquitous tablet computer used in many industries and widely employed throughout all levels of aviation from airliners to ultralights. "With the advanced SkyView glass cockpit, ballistic recovery system, low operating costs and excellent training platform the SportStar RTC represents the most innovative solution for air clubs and pilot training organizations on the global market today," added Evektor. A top-ranked supplier to the U.S. market Evektor also does well overseas, reporting more than 1,300 aircraft have been delivered. Evektor has solid American representation through Dreams Come True and AB Flight.

This older SportStar (with Canadian registration) features LAMA founder Larry Burke in the Pilot-in-Command seat.
As everyone headed to Oshkosh for AirVenture 2014 finalizes their packing and preparations, one historically significant Light-Sport Aircraft is doing likewise and may, just possibly, appear at the space EAA has provided for the 10th Anniversary Celebration of SP/LSA. Evektor owner, E. W. Rogers wrote to offer this: "I am flying a SportStar to Oshkosh this year ... it is the first one sold in USA, and has about 800 maintenance-free hours on it." At the EAA space near the newly renamed Boeing Plaza, look for the special EAA space, which will have at least 17 aircraft on display, including most leading brands of Special LSA plus weight shift, powered parachute, gyroplanes, and some "vintage" aircraft that Sport Pilots may fly. ••• Those going to Oshkosh may also want to attend a forum about the decade-old sector on Tuesday July 29th from 1:00 to 2:15 PM in Honda Forum Pavilion 7. The presentation will feature EAA boss Jack Pelton; FAA honcho Earl Lawrence; original FAA rule writer Ron Wojnar; industry leader Tom Peghiny of Flight Design USA; Rotax engine expert Eric Tucker; FAA Sport Pilot specialist Mark Giron; and ... yours truly.


Airbus Goes Electric and Small (with Big Ideas)
By Dan Johnson, July 21, 2014

Airbus recently showed their all-electric E-Fan at the Farnborough airshow. photo from Inside EVs
As we all get packing for Oshkosh where we'll see all manner of aircraft, one of the biggest manufacturers revealed one of the smallest airplanes at another airshow: Farnborough in England, an event dominated by military and airline producers. More surprisingly, Airbus announced at Farnborough that it would put into production their all-electric-powered E-Fan. Big aircraft, the buses of the sky, are good at moving people to their destination. However, they are very noisy and consume oceans of fuel leading to more pollution. Can this situation improve? Is it even reasonable to consider an electric-powered airliners? Some experts scoff at the idea but Airbus' E-Fan made a powerful, if relatively quiet, statement.

Airbus' E-fan made its first flight at a French airport near Bordeaux on March 11th this year. The project reportedly evolved from work with the tiniest airplane most AirVenture visitors have seen. Airbus used an electric-powered Cri-Cri as a test bed to develop their battery and energy management technology. E-fan is presently a tandem two seater though Airbus said a production version will have side-by-side seats. The small plane is 22 feet long and has a wingspan of 31 feet and the prototype weighs 1,100 pounds; this sounds rather heavy for a two seater but remember it's carrying plenty of weight in batteries (Airbus did not specify how much). Two electric motors drive two ducted fans mated to variable-pitch propellers. With a 120-cell lithium polymer battery, E-Fan can fly for one hour with a 15-minute reserve. Powering the motors are a series of 250 volt lithium-ion polymer batteries made by the Korean company, Kokam. Batteries are mounted in the inboard section of the wings (see second video) and can be recharged in one hour, said Airbus. Engineers also installed a backup battery onboard for emergency landings if the main battery power has been consumed.

E-Fan uses tandem, retractable gear with outrigger wheels. photo by Franklin Polanco
As the photos show E-Fan has tandem, retractable undercarriage made up of a nosewheel and a larger main gear, something like the original Europa that used a massive single wheel. Airbus engineers designed E-Fan to taxi using electric power. The main wheel is driven via chain from a 6 kW (8 hp) electric motor. The big company said this results in more noise reduction and the powered drive wheel can silently accelerate the plane up to 37 mph. Doing so reduces power drain versus employing the propellers to move around on the ground. E-Fan's twin electric motors are enough to propel the small airplane to a top speed of 136 mph and a cruise speed, with two people aboard, of about 100 mph.

Airbus plans both two and four-seat versions of E-Fan, called 2.0 and 4.0, which could arrive by 2017. The company said it believes its E-Fan 2.0 can find a market in pilot training. Airbus reportedly plans to build 100 E-Fan test aircraft to gather data for the program. Going even further, Airbus believes electric aircraft will become important in coming years as a way to cut greenhouse-gas emissions from conventional aircraft exhaust and to offer quieter planes. Noise isn't just an issue for people living near airports; quieter planes could be flown at hours that would unacceptable for noisier conventional airlines so companies could schedule more flights, Airbus noted. They hinted at plans for an all-electric or hybrid 90-seat passenger plane. The European company also thinks it is possible to build an all-electric helicopter.

"Even electric commercial airliners are in the works. In Europe EADS, Airbus' parent company, has proposed the VoltAir ducted fan engine that would power commercial airliners," writes Low-Powerdesign.
E-Fan uses ducted fans, which places a fan-type propeller mounted inside a cylindrical shroud, or duct. The duct reduces losses in thrust from the tips of the props although to be effective close tolerances are necessary probably driving up costs. Ducted fans generally use an odd number of shorter blades than convention props allowing them to operate at higher speeds. Using an odd number of blades reduces resonance in the duct. Conventional props tips approach the sound barrier so they are turned at lower speeds which requires more diameter. A shrouded rotor can be as much as 94% efficient, experts say and ducted fans are quieter than conventional propellers because they shield the blade noise and reduce intensity of the tip vortices. Ducted fans can also offer enhanced safety on the ground by protecting people against spinning props. Learn more about ducted fans.

Catch some good closeups, flying footage, and onboard camera views in this YouTube video of the Airbus eFan single seater.

Here is the official Airbus video on the development of E-Fan. If you look very closely, you'll see some features, for example, a BRS parachute flag, and details about battery placement.


Versatile LSA Seaplane to Debut at AirVenture 2014
By Dan Johnson, July 14, 2014

MVP.aero wants to tempt you to come by EAA's 10th LSA Anniversary Celebration exhibit at AirVenture 2014.
An entirely new Light-Sport seaplane will make its "global debut" at EAA AirVenture 2014 and this is one you'll want to see up close and in detail. As with a number of other persons, I have been briefed on this new entry and, like the others, I signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement to keep the new project under wraps until company leaders were ready to reveal their new flying machine. At the coming summer celebration of flight in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, everyone will finally get to see what has excited many of those NDA signers. Airshow visitors will see a mockup, but if the full-size concept looks even remotely as good as it did in the computer presentation I was shown, be prepared to be blown away. This boat hull aircraft has features you've never even contemplated much less seen on any previous offering. You can guess some of what I'm writing about by their tagline for MVP, "The World's Most Versatile Plane." That's a big claim as we already have many good seaplane designs and more will be following. Yet after they get a chance to examine MVP, I think many may find the boast not out of line.

On the day before AirVenture opens this year, that is, on Sunday July 27th, MVP.aero officials will make a presentation to invited media. By opening day Monday, the full-size mockup will be available for review by everyone attending EAA's 10th Anniversary Celebration special exhibit near Boeing Plaza, right in the heart of the giant event. Come visit and see MVP along with a wide range of Light-Sport Aircraft or aircraft that Sport Pilots can fly.

I'm not the only one who has been impressed with an private preview of MVP. Cirrus Design cofounder Alan Klapmeier, now CEO of turbine aircraft developer Kestrel Aircraft Inc., said, "The MVP is a game changer." Another aviation big shot, Jim Irwin, owner of Aircraft Spruce and Specialty, commented, "In my 30 years in aviation, I have never seen aircraft features such as these."

I've known Mike VanStaagen since before Cirrus Design won FAA Type Certification for their SR20 back in 1998. More recently, he has acted as lead designer for the Cirrus single engine Vision Jet being created by the successful Duluth, Minnesota company. Mike has since moved over to MVP.aero to head design of the new LSA seaplane. "They asked me to design the aircraft of my dreams [and] this is it," he said.

If those comments and my enthusiasm for innovative LSA seaplane design has piqued your interest, go bookmark the MVP website. You won't presently see anything more than I've told you here, but after the company's media debut as AirVenture 2014 opens, the website will be populated with more detail. Based on the quality of the imagery I was shown, I imagine you'll want to spend some time looking at all they publish online. I plan to have more once the company goes public on the day before AirVenture 2014 starts. Summertime LSA seaplane flying is getting truly interesting. Stay tuned!


Searey Expands into China; Opens Sales Office
By Dan Johnson, July 12, 2014

The list of aviation companies involved in one way or another with China is getting so long I won't try to show them all here. Big companies like Cirrus Design or Continental are included. So are LSA manufacturers of various brands. Some business are setting up dealerships (Quicksilver, others). Others have arranged Chinese partners to build planes in-country (Flight Design, Zenith, others). Several companies have been fully acquired by or have received substantial funding from Chinese enterprises (Icon, others) and I'm aware of more that we will hear more about in the weeks and months to follow. The U.S. government and many other nations have borrowed from the Chinese government so a nearly unfathomable amount of dollars or other currencies are parked in China. However, most of the aviation financial arrangements are private, showing that, like their government, Chinese business people have plenty of funds to invest. The big question is, will a true personal aviation market develop? ... outside of business jets and airliners, that is. We'll have to wait to see but companies are certainly for big things. Not all China ventures worked out well, for example, Cessna's Skycatcher. Others are vigorously pursuing the Asian market ...

Searey China sales is located in this office tower in Shanghai.
With Progressive Aerodyne now owned by an American named Adam Yang, you might think it logical to expect this successful Florida kit builder turned LSA manufacturer to have an Asian presence. In addition, since Searey is already SLSA approved and can boast a long history of loyal builders, this brand and model has a leg up on companies that are still in development (Lisa Akoya, others). So, here's the official announcement: "Progressive Aerodyne is pleased to announce the opening of its newly established sales office in Shanghai, China, to support the sale of Searey Light Sport Amphibious Airplanes." The Searey was first presented to the China market at air shows in 2009, where interest in Searey airplanes was overwhelming. Since then, Progressive Aerodyne participated in subsequent air shows and invested in research and marketing in order to advance the Searey in China." The company reported that it is working with Chinese aviation authorities to gain approval for Searey sales in China and the Shanghai office* will work with government authorities in China while managing marketing and sales efforts. "We are excited about the expected growth potential of Searey light sport airplanes in China. Our new sales office will allow us to penetrate the China market more effectively and access a very large and entirely new group of future Searey enthusiasts," said Adam Yang, CEO of Progressive Aerodyne.

For more than 20 years, Searey LSA and kits have been produced in Tavares, Florida, about 45 minutes northwest of Orlando. Progressive Aerodyne's manufacturing facility is currently in full production of two certified models, Searey Light Sport and Searey Light Sport Elite. In addition, the company continues to manufacture Searey kits. You can find out much more and watch videos with company officials here.

* Progressive Aerodyne's Shanghai office is located at: Room 2809, Maxdo Centre, Building No.8, Xing-Yi Road, Chang-Ning District, Shanghai, 200336 China, Tel: 021-6236-2360.

SkyCraft Airplanes Finishes ASTM Compliance
By Dan Johnson, July 8, 2014

While so many continue to say you can't buy a Light-Sport Aircraft for less than — pick a number ... $100,000 ... $150,000 — the truth is something else. We already have modestly priced entries from Quicksilver, BushCat, X-Air, M-Squared, plus several weight shift or powered parachute entries. Another that burst on the scene a couple AirVentures back was SkyCraft. The Czech design that a group in Utah are Americanizing is a fully enclosed, well-equipped single seater. Not many singles have been offered (Tecnam's aerobatic Snap is one such) yet the fact remain that much flying is done solo anyway, so why not have a sharp airplane for your own aerial enjoyment. Plus, what if you can fly it away for less than $60,000? Not every pilot will find SkyCraft SD-1 Minisport sufficient and lucky for those aviators, plenty of choices are available if you have to have 1,000-mile range, autopilot, big dual glass instrument panels, and of course, two seats. However, I for one can't wait to fly SkyCraft and now it looks like the wait is getting shorter.

SkyCraft acquired a new facility and brought in the first couple airplanes.
In June 2014, SkyCraft Airplanes filed a declaration with FAA that their SD-1 Minsiport is fully compliant with all ASTM standards used to gain acceptance by the agency as a Special or fully-built LSA. This news comes only one year after SkyCraft announced at AirVenture that they would produce the airplane ready-to-fly. "We now await an FAA audit, after which we will be able to make our first aircraft deliveries to eager customers," stated SkyCraft Director of Marketing, Paul Glavin. The company reported that FAA has scheduled SkyCraft's audit for September 2014. As they prepare for production after FAA's audit and presumed acceptance, SkyCraft purchased a new factory and hangar (photo) at the Provo, Utah Municipal Airport (KPVU). "The new facility will triple the production space from the current factory, allowing enough room to build one hundred SD-1 Minisports a year," Glavin added. The space will also permit new development work.

Since announcing their manufacturing intentions in 2013, SkyCraft reported making several upgrades and refinements to the design for the SD-1 Minisport. "Most recently, the mechanical brakes on the SD-1 were replaced with a stronger, smoother, hydraulic brake system, which will shorten the landing distance of the aircraft and improve taxi operations," said Glavin. "Historically, many airplane manufacturers have struggled to keep their initial price point during these developmental stages of production, however, SkyCraft has been able to maintain its highly impressive $54,850 price tag for the SD-1 Minisport in spite of the many improvements that have been made." In a welcome summary, SkyCraft said it remains committed to the quality and affordability of its airplanes. A flying SD-1 Minisport will be shown publicly for the first time at EAA Airventure Oshkosh 2014.


SuperSTOL to Perform at Just Plane Fun Days
By Dan Johnson, July 5, 2014

A one point touchdown is a particularly neat trick SuperSTOL can achieve thanks to slow touchdown speed and a shock-absorbing tailwheel gear leg. photo by Wayne Whitley

Airplane-brand-specific fly-in events can be fun and informative. If the folks at Just Aircraft are involved and if they show off their amazing SuperSTOL, a company fly-in takes on a new level of excitement. Those of you who have stopped by their airshow display to speak to the people from Just Aircraft know the Walhalla, South Carolina manufacturer is composed of a bunch of individuals that seem so laid back, you could wonder how they get so much work done. They do, by the way, having produced and delivered more than 500 aircraft kits. Since 2012 — when they introduced their at-the-time-unnamed SuperSTOL to slacked-jawed response from crowds — Just Aircraft reported kit sales have more than doubled requiring the company to add a second shift to keep up with demand. How many other companies do you know with that need? All seriousness aside for a weekend, though, those Just Aircraft'ers know how to have a good time, too. You might want to mark your calendar.

All Just Aircraft designs as seen in this photo have good bush flying capability. larger photo by Wes Whitley
Yes, right now in the early days of July, aviation businesses and pilots from around the country are getting ready for that big summer celebration of flight called AirVenture. All eyes will be on Oshkosh, Wisconsin for the next few weeks — the show runs Monday July 28th to Sunday August 3rd. Following the event Just Aircraft will likely be counting fresh orders once they get back home to Walhalla, but they won't have much spare time on their hands. Not even one month after AirVenture ends, Just Aircraft will sponsor Just Plane Fun Days on August 29 through August 31 (Labor Day weekend) at Brass Town Airport near the town of the same name in North Carolina*. Just Plane Fun Days is open to anyone and is free of charge. The event appeals significantly to people who own one of the Just Aircraft models but anyone who is considering their designs can attend, have a good time, and find out lots more from pilots who have built and fly the airplane plus speak to company officials. Just Aircraft officials expect that Highlanders and new SuperSTOLs will dominate the event and certainly the attention of the public.

I cannot imagine any pilot turning away while a SuperSTOL performs either a take off or a landing. photo by Wayne Whitley
Billy Payne owns the Brass Town airport and is hosting the event. He said it will be, "a gathering of like-minded people who enjoy flying their aircraft. At any given daylight hour there will usually be a dozen aircraft in the air, giving rides or participating in one of the competitions." Those who attend can observe contests such as a short field take off, short field landing, spot landing, limbo (flying under a ribbon), balloon pop, coyote shoot (balloons) and bomb drop. These can be entertaining for any aircraft types, but when you see SuperSTOL attempt them, the game is different ... and fascinating. All attending Just Aircraft models will be judged in a variety of categories: Best of Show, Best Panel, Most Innovative, People's Choice, and Grand Champion. Saturday night will be the chance for a cookout at the airport and on Sunday morning pilots will take off for a tour of the local mountains. Last year organizers reported about 2,000 people visited, and even with bad weather 19 Just Aircraft flew in. This year, if blessed with good weather, Payne expects more than twice that number. Camping is available on the field and for those who prefer a motel, the group has a special rate at the local Hampton Inn. For more information phone Billy Payne at (828) 557-4833 or call Just Aircraft at (864) 718-0320.

* Brass Town hosts a festival that includes a contest with local men dressed as women to compete for the title "Miss Possum Queen." Surely this refutes anyone who thinks Brass Townians aren't out to have fun.


Quicksilver Ready to Build Special LSA
By Dan Johnson, July 1, 2014

FAA Aviation Safety Inspectors John Soltis (L) and Kym Robbins (R), present a pink airworthiness certificate to Quicksilver Aeronautics principals Will Escutia (white shirt) and Dan Perez at the French Valley Airport.

Plenty of longtime light aircraft enthusiasts have wondered when Quicksilver would enter the SLSA sweepstakes. "On June 26th we received the airworthiness certificate and the operations limitations document for our Sport 2SE Special LSA after a three-hour inspection from the FAA," said Quicksilver Aeronautics President and CEO, Will Escutia. Earlier the company reported successfully passing an intensive FAA audit, but a final aircraft inspection by FAA personnel was still needed. Aviation Safety Inspectors, John Soltis and Kym Robbins, provided the pink airworthiness card at the French Valley Airport (photo), approximately 10 miles from the company's factory. Soltis expressed his congratulations saying the airplane "looked very good." At near the industry's lowest cost — $39,999 for a fully built Sport 2SE — those Light-Sport fans who fret about the high cost of some (exceptionally well equipped) airplanes now have a very affordable choice. If $40 Grand is still too much you can buy a Quicksilver ELSA or Experimental Amateur Built for even less.

"We feel very satisfied that the last milestone to finish our SLSA project has been completed," Escutia noted. "Dan Perez did an outstanding job leading our company team to this achievement."
Quicksilver is doing something else that is entirely different in a first for the industry. They have established three manufacturing points in the USA: the Temecula, California factory serving the west; a facility in Reserve, Louisiana operated by the company's longest lasting and most successful dealer, Air-Tech, Inc., serving the south; and longtime company sales manager, Todd Ellefson, who will now run a manufacturing and dealership operation serving the north (email). ASTM standards and FAA rules address multiple manufacturing outlets when the manufacturer assures quality control and operation processes of their remote outlets. Quicksilver is pioneering the use of this arrangement and will also establish similar facilities in countries like China where they just signed a major order for 77 aircraft. In all, the wait by some enthusiasts for this brand to get in the LSA game is over and Quicksilver is ready to leap ahead with their plans.

Quicksilver reported the Sport 2SE will be shown and flown at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2014 at the end of July. photo by James Lawrence
In operation since the early 1970s (that's 40+ years, folks!), Quicksilver can lay claim to delivering more complete light aircraft kits than any manufacturer I know. They've delivered out more than 15,000 kits, a significant number of which are still flying in more than 100 countries. Now adding ready-to-fly models, Quicksilver is ready to move forward aggressively. (I must note that for many years the company has also made Part 103-eligible aircraft which could be delivered ready to fly by any dealer.) As Quicksilver ramps up production of the Sport S2SE, they are also at work on the SLSA version of the GT500 tandem two seater. This well-received aircraft was the very first Primary Aircraft category aircraft to win FAA approval - way back in 1993 - so that effort to gain SLSA acceptance from FAA should pose few challenges. New owners Will Escutia and Dan Perez took over in 2012 and in two short years have seriously increased the company's activity. Congratulations to the two new owners and their whole team. You can see this aircraft and nearly 20 more in EAA's 10th Anniversary Celebration space near the main plaza at AirVenture 2014.


Happy Birthday Sport Pilot / Light-Sport Aircraft!
By Dan Johnson, June 28, 2014

Some may find it hard to believe that ten years have passed since FAA made its grand announcement introducing the Sport Pilot / Light-Sport Aircraft regulation. Others may see it differently. Some thought the rule was a long while coming. A number of people gave of their time to an ARAC (Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee) that deliberated for more than ten years prior to the 2004 announcement. What started out as a means to expand ultralight aircraft and to "fix" certain problems that had arisen ended up doing something completely different ... although some in the agency maintain they did fix the "fat," or two seat "ultralight problem." Many insiders didn't feel the problem got solved so much as got buried under other initiatives, but that's a story for another article. What did emanate from the ARAC work and FAA's lengthy internal deliberations was a game-changing method of approving aircraft and I, for one, salute the agency for its brave achievement. That decision announced ten years ago this summer spurred the market entry of an astounding 136 new models in less than a decade. It is also spreading around the world (subject to modifications by countries accepting the ASTM standards).

To commemorate this achievement in rulemaking — which some might refer to as deregulation — EAA has arranged a superb location to host an exhibit many AirVenture 2014 attendees will want to visit. In a space known to many as AeroShell Square (photo) — recently announced as Boeing Plaza — EAA will host a collection of aircraft that aims to span a good portion of the LSA fleet. Of course, space is not available to show all 136 models approved and not all of them continued to be offered but the Wisconsin organization, with help from the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association, is arranging a broad display that should convey the possibilities from conventional-looking fixed wing, three axis airplanes to weight shift, to motorgliders, to powered parachutes to gyros. Whatever the final mix of flying machines available for viewing, plenty should be on display right at the heart of AirVenture. Most of the top brands have committed to participating. EAA is working on personnel to staff a tent on the exhibit space with the goal of assisting those interested in Sport Pilot or Light-Sport Aircraft to learn more.

How many people are attracted by Sport Pilot and the aircraft someone possessing that certificate can fly (or those using their current certificate to exercise the no-medical privileges of Sport Pilot)? That's a good question. To answer, I refer you to a recent survey conducted by AOPA through their Aviation eBrief electronic publication that provides news for and about the general aviation community. The organization asked: "Do you fly or could you see yourself flying under the sport pilot rule?" Their results are presented in the nearby chart. Excluding those who say they would not fly as a Sport Pilot, we see that nearly three quarters (73.6%) can see themselves using this pilot certification including more than one in eight AOPA respondees who presently use it. On the eve of the 10th anniversary celebration, this is encouraging for the Light-Sport Aircraft producer community and those flight schools that are training new pilots or helping already licensed pilots to transition to these airplanes. Note that in addition to fully built Special LSA, Sport Pilot certificate holders may fly standard category aircraft or homebuilt aircraft so long as those flying machines meet the parameters (1,320 pound gross weight; speed less than 120 knots, etc.). Thus, available aircraft include SLSA, ELSA, or what former EAA staffer, Ron Wagner, once clearly identified as Sport Pilot-eligible aircraft.


Electric Trike Soars (Literally) into Record Book
By Dan Johnson, June 27, 2014

Gary Davis, a partner in a Greenville investment management firm, launches from the Greenville, South Carolina Downtown Airport en route to a world record. photo by Gary Davis

On Saturday, June 21 with a good crowd watching, an electric-powered trike took off and climbed into the FAI record book, or will after the organization's normal process is followed. Let me state right up front that this story was recently released on AOPA's ePilot written by our journalist friend Jim Moore. Despite appearing in the big member organization's eNewsletter, the story was too cool for me to pass up for ByDanJohnson.com plus, as usual, I have an additional perspective to offer. The images are all courtesy of record-holder-to-be, Gary Davis. If you click the link above you can read Jim's whole article; I encourage you to do so.

Randall Fishman's original electric trike. See articles on 2007 electric airplanes and Fishman's state-of-the-art ULS.
As Jim wrote Gary flipped the switch and flew, "a custom combination of a North Wing Stratus trike wing matched to an electric-powered trike frame designed by Randall Fishman." We have a number of articles and videos about Randall's pioneering work. He is arguably THE originator of practical electric powered airplanes, meaning that you can today buy and start flying your own electric airplane. You do not have to wait years for this opportunity. You can do it now! That's cool. For those on a budget or for those of us who like weight shift, a trike similar to Gary Davis' is available for around $20,000 ready-to-fly and that includes the wheeled trike carriage, electric power system, wing, battery pack, and a customized battery charger. Because it's electric, the purchase price essentially represents several years of buying gasoline and oil making it an especially affordable expense. For those who want higher performance from a smooth, slick rig with three axis control you can choose Randall's beautiful ULS, featured in this video, which sells for around $60,000. You can get more details about the airplanes Randall sells at his Electric Aircraft Corporation website.

On his way to nearly 5,000 feet AGL, Gary Davis managed to set a record for electric aircraft. photo by Gary Davis
Gary Davis took his electric trike to nearly 4,700 feet, a number substantial enough to earn a record ... eventually. Jim wrote, "NAA staff said it will take roughly 60 days to verify the data captured by the sensitive barometric pressure recorder on board, and calibrate it with readings taken at ground level to confirm a maximum altitude of roughly 4,660 feet. Once the national record is established, it will be forwarded to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale for ratification as a world record, a process likely to require months more." Davis flew until he exhausted the batteries or about a half hour of high power output. Randall would say that the battery pack can provide more flying time if you weren't at full "throttle" all the time. I experienced something similar in the eSpyder. Congratulations to Gary! Like me, he's a hang glider pilot so while he surely enjoyed the whole exercise and the applause of those watching as he touched down, the flight down without power was likely also satisfying.

Let me end this happy little tale with another nod to Jim Moore. Filling his role as a journalist for the big AOPA member organization I find his writing creative and entertaining. He's shown a willingness to cover the light end of aviation for AOPA, which is appreciated. So, for this story and his positive attitude, I want to offer a large THANKS! to Jim.


AirCam Fly-in at Beautiful Heaven's Landing
By Dan Johnson, June 22, 2014

The landscape around Heaven's Landing is beautiful but rather forbidding to low-level single engine flying. AirCam can loiter easily and can slow into the 35-knot range to allow full scenic absorption. See full AirCam specs.

Company fly-ins are surprisingly rare despite offering a useful tool to propel new sales, to stimulate interest and camaraderie among existing owners, and to invigorate enjoyment of flying machines. This message became more obvious as a number of people joined a group of AirCam owners at Heaven's Landing, an airpark in northeast Georgia that is surrounded by hundreds of acres of densely forested nature managed by the U.S. Forest Service. Mountains rise to 3,000 feet above sea level and form an undulating landscape of tree-covered slopes. Such an area is perfect for an aircraft like AirCam that so excels in low-level flying. Indeed, I cannot think of another aircraft I would willingly fly over terrain where landing areas are so sparse. For those who do not know, AirCam is essentially a grown-up ultralight with twin pusher engines that can easily climb — even take off! — on only one of its two powerful engines. At 1,680 pounds and with two Rotax 912 engines producing 200 horsepower, AirCam is so potent that it can ascend at 2,000 feet per minute at full thrust and can still climb nearly 500 fpm with one engine idled. As one owner explained, AirCam operates at roughly the gross weight of a Piper Cub, which once flew with only 65 horsepower. In another comparison, AirCam is barely heavier than a Cessna 152, which has half the horsepower.

At one of the company-organized AirCam fly-ins, a collection of colorful and powerful twin engine aircraft gathered at Heaven's Landing, a beautiful airpark development in the Northeast Georgia mountains.
AirCam is produced by Lockwood Aircraft, one of several companies that share the last name of principal Phil Lockwood, a man known widely for his airshow seminars that demonstrate his encyclopedic knowledge of powerplants especially the Rotax line and particularly the 9-series. As he operates the largest service center for the Austrian engines, Phil has often been involved in the manufacturer's investigations of new engine models, lubrication products, service techniques, and more. His steady pursuit of knowledge for the 9-series engines has made him a leading global expert who is highly sought-after for his mastery of the subject. Of course, regular readers will recognize that with its twin engines and higher weight, AirCam is not a Light-Sport Aircraft. Indeed, it can only be bought as an Amateur-Built kit and you'll need at least a Private Pilot certificate with multiengine rating to fly one. Before FAA changed their mind (they reportedly will no longer grant an ME rating flying only in AirCam), I was able to earn my multiengine rating in an AirCam including taking the check ride. It must be one of the very easiest multiengine aircraft in all of aviation; the unlikely loss of an engine is so easily managed and the airplane performs so well on a single engine that winning the ME rating in one is almost cheating. However, this makes the flying machine highly enjoyable and inspires a great sense of safety.

Lockwood Aircraft has been working on a full enclosure canopy for AirCam; here you see the prototype. It can be removed in 30 minutes.
About a dozen AirCam owners flew in for the Heaven's Landing event include three from Florida, about a six-hour flight. As I assisted the company prepare for a new video, I interviewed owners and others who had just taken an AirCam flight. In my regular video taped conversations with pilots I often have to remind them to smile and show their enjoyment. While I understand many folks get nervous with a camera trained on them, the AirCam'ers appeared naturally motivated; everyone smiled often and especially when asked how they enjoyed the flight or their ownership. Their enthusiasm is infectious which probably explains one reason why Lockwood Aircraft can host a succession of AirCam fly-ins that are well attended. You can get some sense of their enjoyment by watching a company video. If you've not seen one of these productions I encourage you to check them out. AirCam videos are polished and professional efforts with flying scenes you won't see from other companies. Go to their website for a taste or find the company's exhibit at airshows where they regularly have a large screen looping a BluRay DVD.

Phil Lockwood (front) and Robert Meyer (not shown) gave many sales demonstration flights and offered area rides to others in one of the very few airplanes that will allow flying, safely, at low levels over densely tree covered terrain.
Company pilots Phil and sales director Robert Meyer flew prospective customers and others all day long for two days, logging enough such flights to wear out most pilots. It was worth it, though, as they gained a couple solid sales and stimulated interest from others that may decide later. The location of Heaven's Landing gave Phil and Robert an excellent venue to show AirCam as one of the very few airplanes that will allow flying, safely, at low levels over densely tree covered terrain. If you love sport flying and you've never considered an AirCam — which can be built for $130-150,000 — you might want to attend an AirCam fly-in and sample this special machine. AirCam is a kit that sells for more than $100,000 with engines (that are worth around half the total) but it is singular in its capabilities and the company is so respected for its quality and service that Robert reported selling 16 AirCam kits in the last nine weeks. Any company would love to match such a performance. More than 150 AirCams are flying and the demand is such that used, finished examples command near-retail prices that show how well they retain their value.

Take a run down the line of AirCam assembled at Heaven's Landing in this video.


Flying Serbia’s Light-Sport Aircraft Entry
By Dan Johnson, June 17, 2014

Quick! Do you think you can point to Serbia on a map? (Hint: It's south of Hungary and north of Greece. Don't feel bad if you didn't know; few that I've asked were sure. Along with countries like Bulgaria, Serbia simply isn't on the mind of many westerners, a throwback to the dark and mysterious days of the Soviet Iron Curtain. Most Yankees have little awareness of the light aircraft industry in such eastern European countries. This article may change that a bit. At the Rotax 25th Anniversary Fly-In earlier this month I had an opportunity to fly the Aero-East-Europe (brand) Sila 450 (model) with General Manager Matic Milorad. I didn't have to risk mispronouncing his name as he quickly said, "Just call me 'Mago'." My experience with Sila 450 was positive — more details below — and, as always, such new exposure brought a chance to learn. Through many nations around the globe that support recreational sport aviation communities and their manufacturers, the breadth of light aircraft is astoundingly varied.

To have a full look around Sila 450's interior, check out this 360-view.
Mago, a former construction company owner who once operated in Italy, had a smooth command of English and of his airplane, appearing completely at ease in his flying machine. Sila 450 is the model name deriving from SILA as Serbian Industry Light Aircraft with the 450 being the European weight limit in kilograms for an "ultralight" (different than U.S. Part 103 ultralights). We flew in an aircraft Mago was delivering to a German customer who preferred analog instruments. Mago assured me a Sila can be and typically is delivered with glass screens as we've become used to seeing in the USA. Mago's airplane enterprise is called Aero-East-Europe and is based in Kraljevo, Serbia on the Lyka airport, which aerodrome has an aviation history dating to 1926.

Sila 450 might be the airplane Cessna should have built when they offered their Skycatcher. By that I mean Sila is a conventional aircraft in many ways. It does not use the smooth lines of carbon fiber designs; Sila is all metal. It is not cantilevered, using dual struts. Sila's instrument panel, though faceted to better show instruments to its occupants, lacks the automobile-inspired undulations of Icon's A5. As expected since I flew the aircraft at the Rotax Fly-In, Aero-East-Europe uses the 912, an engine that Cessna initially considered. Our test Sila was equipped with an airframe parachute system (a fact I always appreciate after working in that industry for many years). Sila 450 is an aluminum structure around welded steel created with support from Serbian universities. The company has built more than 120 aircraft since 2006, a figure suggesting reasonable market acceptance, especially given the large number of competing aircraft made in the European community.

General Manager Matic "Mago" Milorad provided a flight demo in the Aero-East-Europe Sila 450.
Mago is an interesting combination of intense and laid back. He obviously loves flying and trusts his design. On our takeoff from Rotax's home field of Weisse Moewe, Sila seemed to leap off the ground and climb powerfully for several hundred feet. Ground roll is listed at 146 feet, which I'm inclined to believe after noting our fast launch. Climb is 1,000 fpm but it felt even stronger on initial climbout. As we ran through basic maneuvers, stall proved very slow at around 30 knots. Given a max speed of close to 110 knots, Sila nearly reaches the magical 4:1 ratio from slowest to fastest. Handling was very predictable. Stability was proven though joystick push- or pull-and-release checks plus Sila held attitude even in steep turns with modest control input. Overall, the airplane behaved with good manners. The interior was, like the exterior, conventional in its construction but with a decent finish. In other words, it doesn't qualify as fancy but is well appointed. Cabin width was a spacious 47.6 inches. So you get a lot but you don't pay much. That conventional construction plus eastern European costs allow Aero-East-Europe to sell Sila for €55,000 (about $76,000 at present exchange rates) before shipping or government expenses. At that, I see a fair bargain in a well-flying airplane. Mago (photo) is keen to investigate entering the American market. While we have a surplus of well regarded airplanes from more famous brands, some pilots express an interest in something different. Sila may fit that requirement. If you are impressed by Aero-East-Europe's Sila 450 and have an interest in representing this aircraft contact Mago.


HKS Four-Stroke Engine is Back on the Market
By Dan Johnson, June 11, 2014

HKS 700E powerplant - For more information about the HKS 700E engine, read this HKS arrival article from September, 2000.

A majority of pilots express a preference for four-stroke engines due to their lower noise signature, reduced fuel consumption, ease of fueling and other reasons. For larger aircraft, engines from Rotax, Continental, and Jabiru may be preferred choices but for lighter aircraft most of these engines are more than needed (though the 80-hp Rotax 912 UL and 81-hp Jabiru 2200 can work for some intermediate-sized light aircraft). All the preceding engines are more costly as well. One popular, economical choice was the HKS from Japan but that well-regarded engine appeared destined to disappear from the American market, a shame as it is one of only a few engines to have successfully complied with the ASTM standards needed for use on LSA. No such FAA acceptance is needed for Part 103 ultralight vehicles or Experimental Amateur-Built aircraft. Fortunately, to paraphrase Mark Twain, "Reports of [the HKS] death were greatly exaggerated."

Earlier in 2014, HKS discontinued production of HKS-700E and HKS-700T. The manufacturer also terminated the distribution agreement with, former distributor APSU, LLC. However, in early June three representatives of Japan's HKS Co. Ltd., met with U.S. businessmen at Green Sky Adventures' north Florida location. "This was a follow up to an initial meeting in April where a proposal presented to Green Sky Adventures, Earthstar Aircraft, and Quicksilver Aircraft Northeast was discussed," reported Green Sky president Jerry Olenik. He added. "HKS 700E will have another production run which remains on schedule to begin in August, with shipping to commence as early as late September. As described on our web site, parts supply is fairly well covered, and Tuesday's meeting left us with an understanding, that any shortage of replacement parts prior to shipment of new engines will be possible to correct." HKS 700E is a twin cylinder 60-horsepower powerplant. Regarding the turbocharged, 80-horsepower 700T, Jerry reported, "HKS representative told us flatly the 700T would not be put back in production." The stated reason: Garrett's reluctance to continue supply of turbochargers for this application. It is said HKS values a relationship with Garrett for other endeavors, so will honor their wishes.

HKS turbocharged 700T engine
However, technical requirements for the 700T are "definitely supported," Jerry noted. He indicated that an engineer with HKS Co., who has been out of the aviation division for several years is back with this portion of HKS. "I cannot express strongly enough how important that is" said Olenik. "There are roughly 40 700T in the field. Because of their newness and complexity, they consume a disproportionate amount of time for technical assistance. There has been a steep initial learning curve for all involved which is gradually tapering off." Jerry also said that the group of 700T owners have been "patiently quiet" in their worries of being orphaned after their decision to choose this power plant and "those worries should be significantly reduced." The 700T model was well regarded for its light weight, higher power, and fuel efficiency.

Watch our 2012 video with Jerry Olenik and his HKS-powered Micro Mong.
Green Sky Adventures, Earthstar Aircraft, and Quicksilver Aircraft Northeast, are three separate companies, each with a distinct business model and goals. "I believe I can say for myself," Jerry summarized, "and on behalf of Mark Beierle of Earthstar Aircraft, and Chris Hatin of Quicksilver Aircraft Northeast, we are honored that HKS Co., has selected our three companies as the marketing channel for their aviation product." At this time, the price of HKS-700e remains $9,370 for the basic engine, with 3.47 or 2.58 reduction ratio, electric start, regulator rectifier, dual CD ignition, carburetors, and air filters. Other required accessories include exhaust, oil tank, oil cooler, oil lines, oil fittings, prop, and instruments.


50,000 Engines and Counting in 25 Years
By Dan Johnson, June 6, 2014

Assembled in the main lobby of Rotax BRP, visitors and team members heard a short history of Rotax Aircraft Engines and saw both the original and 50,000th 912 engine.

I am writing from Europe, from two neighboring towns in what's called Upper Austria: Wels and Gunskirchen. The former is where the Rotax flying field is located and the latter is where the sprawling Rotax factory is headquartered. The occasion is the 25th anniversary celebration for the 912 engine series and, by good fortune or exquisite planning, the simultaneous occasion for production of the 50,000th engine in the 9-series.

If you fly an aircraft with a Rotax engine, these are the people who built your powerplant. Rotax honored them with special messages and a round of applause.
The large Austrian company that employs 1,100 people in a modern factory produces engines for a variety of applications in large volumes. Among these are engines for BMW motorcycles and others plus a range of engines used in their own products including snow mobiles, watercraft, and on- and off-road vehicles. They also make engines for unmanned air vehicles or drones and, as you are well aware, aircraft engines for Light-Sport, light kits, and ultralight aircraft. Of the latter, they've built more than 170,000 engines. The final assembly of the aircraft engines, composing some of the most desired job positions in the company, are done by a special aircraft engine team (photo, red shirts) in a separate facility from the giant manufacturing hall.

Any large team needs good management and Rotax BRP has a strong group of managers and staff to accomplish this. They posed by the first 912 engine (L) and number 50,000.

A carefully managed company that encourages and uses a large number of suggestions from their manufacturing personnel is impressive in its detailed approach to high quality products. Improvements small and large are encouraged from workers and successful ideas are celebrated and rewarded. Management and their staff (photo, white shirts) do an impressive job of oversight but are quick to note the value of their team members with wrenches in their hands. Computerized equipment is widely used from fully automated robots to methods of helping workers do top-notch work. An example: Hand-held screw machines not only help workers do their job but send information to computers to count the number of screws installed per engine and to record the torque level for each one. Many other such controls are in place resulting in engines that have very few faults. When a problem is discovered, both innovative and ordinary means are employed to quickly remedy the situation. Top managers meet every day with team leaders right on the factory floor in plain sight of workers. Every engine is test run; aircraft engines have a thorough test program.

Coming in for landing at the Weisse Moewe airfield in Wels, Austria. Insets show the original Falke aircraft into which the very first Rotax 912 was installed plus Tish and Phil Lockwood holding an anniversary cake with the Rotax BRP logo on it. The Lockwoods run America's largest service center for Rotax.
At the Rotax Fly-in groups from 20 countries gathered to help the company and its employees celebrate their 25 years in aircraft engine production that has resulted in 50,000 9-series engines. You can do the math in your head to see their output but keep in mind that figure does not include many two stroke engines nor any of the other engines produced in Gunskirchen. Airfield activities allowed everyone to take flights in 912 iS-powered aircraft or take a ride on the company's handsome three-wheel motorcycles. I did the latter plus took my first flight in Rotax's test-bed Tecnam P-92 now powered with the latest 912 iS Sport engine model. Austria is a beautiful country and it was great to gain an aerial perspective of the home airport and factory for this major contributor to the success of Light-Sport Aircraft. Rotax enjoys approximately an 80% market share among light aircraft engine producers and all who attended their event, took factory tours, and met the team members have a better idea why this company has such a convincing lead. Thanks, Rotax, for all your hard work and for a great party to celebrate 25 years of doing it well.

With Francois Tremblay leading the announcements, the following short video provides some feel for the excitement generated by production of 50,000 912 engines over 25 years.


Renegade Moves Closer to an “American Falcon”
By Dan Johnson, June 3, 2014

For 18 months, we haven't seen much of a sleek low-wing airplane called the Falcon LS. Even its name was challenged by French bizjet maker, Dassault Falcon, because ... well, you know, someone might be confused. However, Renegade Light Sport Aircraft operator Doc' Bailey is not an idle man waiting for the weeds to grow between his toes. He's been busy creating his SPAR race circuit and — even though he had to relocate again after moving from Missouri to Florida (he's now happily quartered at the sport aviation-friendly Deland airport) — Doc' has been quietly plugging away on his Falcon line. He's also kept his spare time to a minimum representing the D-motor video and the B.O.T. Super Cruiser, while simultaneously creating his Lil' Rascal version of the Pitts S1 biplane. OK, so he's busy but what about Falcon?

Falcon, which uses Lycoming's LSA powerplant entry, was shown in front of the engine manufacturer's tent at AirVenture Oshkosh.
VX Aerospace is an advanced composites company near the Appalachian Mountains in Morganton, North Carolina. "VX Aero designs and manufactures a wide range of tooling and parts for automotive and heavy-truck applications, and even carbon fiber-reinforced composite ceiling fan blades, aerospace structures are its core competency, wrote editors of Composites World online. VX's top engineer and founder is Bob Skillen — a degreed aerospace engineer and ex-U.S. Navy F-14 aviator with more than 25 years of experience — who has taken on the project of fabricating all carbon components of the Renegade's Falcon. On May 1, 2014, Composites World wrote, "Currently, two composite aircraft projects occupy the company's 17,000 square foot production space. The first is the Falcon, a sleek, low-wing, high-performance sport aircraft esteemed by some as "the Ferrari of light aircraft." Originally built in Hungary, a handful of the planes made it to the U.S. before the manufacturer, Corvus, went bankrupt. A groundswell of demand spurred an effort to put the plane into production in the USA. Via a memorandum of understanding with Renegade Light Sport Aircraft (Deland, Florida), VX has assumed responsibility for design, engineering, tooling and manufacture of the Falcon airframe, while Renegade controls sales, marketing and FAA certification." In a telephone interview, Doc' was effusive about the capabilities of VX Aerospace and he anticipates the arrival of all CAD-redesigned parts in Deland where his team will begin producing Falcons. He did not expect the first airplane by AirVenture 2014 but hopes the model will fly shortly afterward.

photo by James Lawrence (website)

The majority of LSA are powered by Rotax and a good number are propelled by Continental, while few use the Lycoming. However, this powerplant is a favorite of many American aviators and Renegade is leading the charge to use them. Doc' has installed the newest LSA-version of the Lycoming IO-233 on his Falcon LS. "The IO-233-LSA is a sister of the ubiquitous O-235 (powering the majority of Cessna 150/152′s flying today) sharing most major components," reported Doc'. Lycoming's IO-233-LSA accepts both no-ethanol mogas and avgas and offered fuel injection even before Rotax introduced their 912 iS in 2012. "Lycoming also includes a triple-redundant, dual-electronic ignition system for increased simplicity and decreased weight," added Bailey. The Falcon LS was reportedly the first airframe to fly the new IO-233 on October 6, 2010.


Full Lotus Offers Amphibious Floats for LSA
By Dan Johnson, June 1, 2014

AFM debuted their new amphibious Full Lotus floats at Sun 'n Fun 2014.
They may not be as sleek and speedy looking as fiberglass floats and lack the familiarity of metal versions but Full Lotus floats have long been revered for their super tough exterior finish and their high functionality. As they were primarily a straight float system and prior to Lotus Floats being acquired by AFM, adapting the floats to amphibious operation took ingenuity from the owner or builder. As Aircraft Float Manufacturing puts it, "Full-Lotus's already versatile aircraft floats for water, snow and ice just jumped to the next level. The newest models are now also equipped for paved runways, gravel, dirt and grass." Zenair Floats / AFM said the new Lotus Amphib design is aimed at pilots who want it all. The company adds, "This new all-season multi-surface amphibious system easily installs to most light aircraft up to 1,450 pounds."

Main wheels retract up inside the floats.
Debuted at Sun 'n Fun in April AFM's news floats were introduced for LSA-type aircraft. "The tough plastic shells resist rocks and other hazards better than any other aircraft float system available," said the company. Full Lotus' flat bottom design allows operations in just a few inches of water and AFM said the large wheels easily handle soft fields. Inside the floats — whose construction is well characterized by comparing them to inflatable boats from Zodiac and other brands — are multiple inflated cells, each independent of the others. "The pressurized air of the multiple 'bladders' (air-bags) offers unparalleled shock-absorbing capabilities," said AFM. Over the years these floats have commonly been used by ultralight aircraft and have long proven their toughness. The original developing company earned its stripes by making bladders for installation in fire bombers.

"We have optimized this new design with a unique main wheel system that retracts within the body of the inflated float," stated says Nick Heintz, speaking for the manufacturer. "This better protects the wheels, keeps landing loads centralized and greatly reduces drag while flying. It also maintains the sleek good looks of the well-known Full-Lotus floats." Sleek or not, depending on how you perceive them, the floats have seen extensive field use where floatplanes can strike submerged debris including branches and other detritus that could inflict damage to fiberglass or metal floats. AFM said the new float system is in production now and one of the first aircraft types to be equipped with it is the popular kit-built Kitfox. That Western U.S. company knows their airplanes are used in bush flying and Full Lotus floats make for a reliable companion when flying in remote, unfamiliar areas. To determine if Full Lotus can work for you (including dimensions, weights, and prices), visit AFM online.



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

 



 

 
 

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

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

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.


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.

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.

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

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.


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

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.

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

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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!

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.

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.


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.

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