Here is an early, quick look at Skytrek SLSA
by Triton... China's first FAA approval.
Video sponsored by Continental Motors,
maker of the Powerful Titan X-340 Engine
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...a web log of developments in Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft
Most recent 20 postings.


Tecnam Upgrades Popular Sierra, Now Called Mark 2
By Dan Johnson, December 2, 2016

Fourteen years ago, light aviation leader Tecnam brought their only low wing, the Sierra, to market. It went on to become one of their most popular airplanes ...and that's truly saying something since the Italian company has a broad line of beautiful airplanes.

On the 65th anniversary of this company founded in 1948, Tecnam brought their sparkling new Astore to the market (so named in honor of the very first aircraft the company offered). At its debut most thought Sierra had been replaced by Astore, perhaps never to be seen again. Happily, that is not the case.

An old line is: Nothing succeeds like success. Therefore, given the impressive run of Sierra the First, and even with the Astore, Sierra Mark 2 may be utterly logical. "The market is always demanding greater comfort and more features," says Tecnam Managing Director, Paolo Pascale, "so improving and updating our product is a must."

The Capua, Italy-based company announced, "Tecnam has introduced a substantially updated and improved Mark 2 version of the company's popular P2002 Sierra." The model name P2002 indicates the original design was created that year.

Tecnam observed, "P2002 Sierra MkII retains all the features and flying qualities which have established the aircraft's position in the marketplace. However, the Mk2 model offers an improved cabin for greater comfort, top level avionics, new paint colors and interior options and a redesigned cowling for the 100-horsepower Rotax engine."

Sierra Mk2's cabin has been enlarged. A glance at the instrument panel or its snazzy sports car-quality seats displays the premium new interior design.

Led by their patriarchal and celebrated designer Luigi Pascale — this year's winner of the LAMA Outstanding Individual Award — Tecnam engineers redesigned the canopy to provide more headroom. With the new canopy, a positive-locking mechanism assures reduced noise level.

Seats are not only handsome but now offer additional fore and aft adjustment to better accommodate folks of different sizes and shapes.

Beside a sleeker engine cowling Sierra Mk2 has several distinctive options for paint colors and interior fabrics. The new creations definitely upgrade the older design and will impress anyone you take aloft with you.

A few facts and specs are in order. Sierra offers a 600 nautical mile range thanks to 29 gallons, thanks to the good fuel economy of its Rotax 912 engine, burning 4.5 gallons per hour, noted Tecnam. Sierra Mk2 weighs 809 pounds empty, has a 514 pound useful load with 44 pounds of baggage. It can cruise at 120 knots, Tecnam advises while stalling at just 38 knots. It climbs at 800 fpm.

Professor Luigi like to use tapered laminar airfoils with slotted flaps and Sierra also has these advanced features. As with all Tecnams, the main airframe is metal, familiar to any repair shop anywhere in the world... a useful factor for a company that sells all over the globe.

To my eyes — and many others agree — one of the best aspects of the Sierra is its sliding canopy. You can slide this aft, at least partially, in flight and those of us who enjoy an open cockpit love this sensation in an otherwise very civilized environment. About this all-clear canopy Tecnam noted it offers, "full rollover protection, tested via inverted drop tests.

A glance at the panel shows the great advancements in instrumentation since Sierra was first offered, long before digital glass screens and devices like iPad (which, by the way, Astore neatly incorportated into its panel). You can choose from either Dynon SkyView or Garmin G3X, either of which is superb.

Finally, handling has always been a very strong area for the Tecnams I've flown (which has been all their LSA models). The company stated, "The horizontal stabilator tail design provides remarkable longitudinal hands-off stability along with minimum drag and weight penalty. This provides balanced two-finger flight control."

The first model will be delivered to Tecnam U.S. in time for the 2017 Sebring Expo. The show runs January 25th-28th. Even if you can't make that 13th annual event, I'll be all over Sierra Mk 2.


Shark Flies in American Skies
By Dan Johnson, November 29, 2016

Retractable Shark airborne in European skies. photo by André Garcez
When you look at the photos of this new-to-Americans aircraft, you might have a vague recollection of one or more aircraft that looked something like Shark. Are you fuzzy about that recollection? That's understandable. It's been a decade since FlyItalia's MD3 Rider (photo below) had U.S. representation. MD3 did earn Special LSA approval, taking its place on our SLSA List at number 15. While Spaceport Aviation still reports operating a Rider for students, the model has mostly disappeared from American skies.

Another once-popular light aircraft sold in the USA — Skyboy, mentioned in this article and another — also sport the distinctive shark fin tail. These designs are substantially different, expressions of a creative designer, but all share this common appearance.

Now Jonathan Baron — operator of Virginia-based PB Aero — reported that the aircraft designer's most recent project, called Shark, has taken its first flight in the USA. Shark appears to be very different from MD3 Rider or Skyboy... low wing versus high wing; tandem versus side-by-side seating; retractable versus fixed gear; basic versus full featured. However, sharp readers may have already noted the vertical stabilizer and ventral fin look almost identical.

Jonathan Baron's Shark prepared to take its first flight in the USA.
If you noticed that, give yourself a pat on the back. That is indeed a similarity and it is why the name of the new plane was chosen. Doesn't it look like the tail of a shark? That design feature relates to principal creator, Jaroslav Dostál. He likes the look and finds it efficient to use the configuration. Continuing the theme, Jaro added shark-like cooling fins (gills?) in the aft portion of the engine compartment.

I first met Jaro many years ago at the Aero Friedrichshafen show in the south of Germany. Jaro is a talented engineer and is smart enough to know that producing the aircraft is a job for persons with those skills. He is a longtime expert in using composite and his design prowess is well regarded. Extensive use of carbon fiber helped keep the weight down for Europe's ultralight weight limit of just 472.5 kilos (1,040 pounds, around 80% of the weight of LSA) when a parachute is mounted; one is available for Shark.

Created as a high-performance, all-composite European ultralight, Jaro sought a fast-flying cross country aircraft. Tandem seating and the related slim shape are essential to the goal. A flight exceeding 300 kilometers per hour (188 mph) proved Shark can zoom along quickly on its Rotax 912 engine. The popular engine and sleek aircraft also allowed Jonathan to take a friend and enjoy a $20 hamburger (I'll call it), with only $9 of that expended on an hour long flight to and from an airport restaurant.

Jaro Dostal's earlier MD3 Rider. photo from Airplane-Pictures.net
The zippy speed, however, pushes Shark into the Experimental Amateur Built category as the speed is too fast for Light-Sport Aircraft in the USA and retractable gear is not what FAA had in mind when they created the category more than a dozen years ago.

If you are up for the building effort and if you have the budget for this speedster, you could enjoy exceptional visibility with the long, uninterrupted canopy. Tandem seating also helps both occupants get essentially the same view. In a slick design aspect, the aft seat enjoys its own instrumentation smoothly integrated into a cabin cross brace at the rear of the front seat.

Earlier, Jaro spoke of a LSA-compliant model with fixed gear and other changes to keep it within the parameters of FAA's regulation, however, with the market mainly overseas where greater speed is permitted, movement toward that version appears to have been postponed. If PB Aero finds a following for the retract Shark, the stiff-legged model might follow. Contact Jonathan Baron to find at more at this email. Keep up with the enterprise at their Facebook page.


Airplanes in the Creek; Beringerís Calendar
By Dan Johnson, November 28, 2016

For those trying to keep their flying on a budget, here's an excellent choice, the X-Air LS.
This last week, I trekked to FAA headquarters in Washington DC, an action that consumed three days of my time. This was a third visit in six months to meet with top ranked FAA officials, as two organizations combine forces to attempt bringing useful change to light aviation. I won't long dwell on the effort yet I admit it feels good to advance the ball down the field.

The U.S. Ultralight Association (USUA) represents pilots of light aircraft. The Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association (LAMA) represents the light aircraft producer and business community. USUA, headed by Roy Beisswenger, and LAMA, chaired by your faithful reporter have made a dynamic duo since early 2014 when we embarked on a mission of advocacy.

EAA and AOPA plus GAMA do some similar work and they do it well. However, they have a focus other than for recreational sport pilots and the not-certified light aircraft they fly. While LAMA and USUA gladly work with the other organizations whenever possible, it was obvious that those fine groups could not represent light aviation in the same dedicated way. USUA and LAMA are laser focused on the task.

Here's a resident with the multiple cool toys to get around: Christen Eagle (now from Aviat), an original Mini, and golf cart.
Following advice from experts, our long list of initiatives was reduced to four: Electric Propulsion (first for ultralights and later for LSA); Special LSA status for ready-to-fly gyroplanes (selling briskly around the world but restricted in the USA); FAA approval to allow training in former ultralight trainers and other aircraft (a longer story for another time); and finally, Aerial Work, an important push to allow LSA to function as work aircraft beyond current roles of flight instruction, glider towing, and rentals.

LAMA and USUA believe positive steps will make the industry more secure and stable, will give pilots more chances to make a living in light aircraft, and will more generally keep affordable aviation healthy and able to continue providing interesting aircraft that can be bought by regular folks. We think the effort is worthwhile and hope pilots and manufacturers will continue to lend support. This is a labor of love, I must add; no salaries are earned for this work.

On a more fun note... around these words you see a series of images that have almost nothing to do with FAA (except all of them have to be registered, etc., ad naseum). These airplane photos are from my home base of Spruce Creek Fly In, otherwise known as Florida airport 7FL6. I live in this community comprised of 1,600 homes, more than 600 of which have attached hangars. To get from the runway to your home means a tour by taxiway.

These two beauties aren't in my price range, but they're fun to watch. On top is the L-39 Czech military jet in modern paint; on bottom is a North American T28 Trojan in warbird paint.
Indeed, "the Creek" as many residents abbreviate it — nearby townsfolks always seem to use "the Fly In" — is blessed with taxiways and roads totaling some 33 miles, so I've been told. My wife, Randee, and I enjoy riding our bicycles all around the community. With that many miles and considering residents are respectful and careful, bike riding the Creek is a joy.

This is doubly so considering I regularly get close-up looks at airplanes like the ones sprinkled here but with many, many more types not pictured. The number changes as pilots buy and sell, but I'd guess we have nearly 700 airplanes based at this one airport. I've also been told 7FL6 is the world's largest private airport.

Naturally, Randee and I ride Rans bikes. The only airplane and bicycle producer, Randy Schlitter, sold his bicycle manufacturing company a couple years ago, but before he left the business to focus on aircraft, we acquired two of his bikes and we love them. My is a recumbent; Randee's is what's known as a crank-forward design. Both are so easy to ride, Randee has questioned how much exercise she gets riding for an hour.

In this post Black Friday weekend post and what with Christmas rushing at us like a fighter jet on afterburner, I want to draw your attention to the new 2017 Beringer Aero calendar. The preeminent wheel and brake company offers a collection of gorgeous photos that can make your office, home, or hangar that much better decorated.

Sure, I know we all have our iPhones, Androids, and tablets, but nothing really beats a large-format, high quality printed calendar. Get yours while they last and in time for the holidays. You pilots can share this post with your spouse and make a not-so-subtle hint that this would make a fine gift for their favorite aviator.

Beringer's calendar features airplanes equipped with the company's distinctive orange-ish wheels, brakes and landing gear. In glorious color, each page measures about 12 x 17 inches and a spiral spine allows the calendar to hang flat. The French company's calendar is available for $25 (including any applicable tax; plus shipping) from this email address.

In the video below you can learn more about the newest products from Beringer and hear a few words about their entire product line. You'll enjoy hearing Claire Beringer give you a tour.


Guardian Makes iPad in the Cockpit User-Friendly
By Dan Johnson, November 16, 2016

Guardian's system allows a smoothly mounted iPad (any model) that fits exactly flush with the instrument panel face.
Since 2000 Guardian Avionics has built a respected name for reliable and accurate carbon monoxide detectors for certified aircraft, LSA, or homebuilt airplanes. Maybe you knew that if you've been concerned about the deadly, odorless gas seeping into your cockput.

What you may not know is that the Tucson, Arizona-based company also offers a slick iPad panel mount with the ability to connect to and communicate with other avionics products from leaders like Garmin, MGL, and other avionics providers. Recently the company announced, "We have expanded our product line to include the new iFDR series of connected cockpit solutions, including the iFDR Panel Mount docks for iPad and iPhone and USB power supplies and panel ports.

"The iPad has become one of the most important tools for both professional and private pilots," said Ash Vij, President of Guardian Avionics. "Pilots need to keep that tool in their frame of reference in flight; that's why we felt it important to develop the iFDR Panel Mount series."

Guardian power supply, cords, and mount.
"But, other companies offer panel mounts or docks," you observe. Yes, that's true but no others of which I'm aware have taken it as far as does Guardian.

The mounts themselves are very cool, literally, as they have been custom designed by Guardian to allow airflow to keep a constantly-running iPad or iPhone from overheating. Power cords are firmly attached so when you mount the iPad or iPhone, it begins drawing from ship's power to keep the battery charged and the screen functioning. An audio cable is also available to bring device sounds directly to your headset.

The mount itself, a seemingly mundane piece of hardware, is also well considered. You angle the Apple device into the mount, pivot to flat and slide toward the power receptacle end. When mounted, the iPad or iPhone is completely flush with the rest of the panel, looking as though it were factory installed. It's beautiful. Getting the iPad out at the end of the flight is equally simple. Slide the device away from its power cord coupling, press the end opposite the home button, and the device will angle out where you can grip and remove it. [Note: This description was changed from an earlier version.]

Guardian goes to many of the shows, including ones like Sebring (coming up January 25-28, 2017) and has supported LSA functions like the LAMA Dinner at that show. Since they are also keeping down the price of their equipment, LSA owners, light kit builders, and ultralight pilots should check out their offerings.

Hear Guardian boss Ash Vij explain his line of iPad and iPhone mounts and more on this video.
Guardian is more than happy to serve the LSA and light kit aircraft community but they've also achieved FAA support to help out general aviaiton pilots that canot easily add an iPad to their cockpit, that is, mounted in their panel. That's now changed and good for Guardian!

Guardian Avionics recently received the first-ever FAA approval under a program called by the inevitable abbreviation: NORSEE. This translates to Non-Required Safety Enhancing Equipment and allows installation of not-certified compoents into certified aircraft.

Guardian was approved to mount all models of the Guardian Avionics iFDR panel mount line for the iPad and iPhone. They also got approval for their iFDR Power 150 and 250 USB power supplies to be added to Part 23 certified GA aircraft and Part 27 and 29 normal and transport category rotorcraft. Under the FAA authorization, the iFDR panel mounts and USB power supplies can also be installed as a minor alteration.

By eliminating cumbersome and clunky iPad and iPhone yoke mounts, along with the mess of power cables, certified aircraft owners can now experience cleaner and safer mounting and power options for their cockpits. Welcome GA airplane owners to the wonderfully digitized world of LSA.


GA Deliveries Decline Yet Tecnam Performs Well
By Dan Johnson, November 11, 2016

The world best seller is Cirrus SR22, especially the 22T for turbo.
Every quarter, like clockwork, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), issues its delivery report. I've used their data in the past (see HERE) and I appreciate the work they do for the GA producer community. For the past few years, these reports have not exactly been a bright spot, with fairly small numbers of aircraft reported delivered and trends sloping downward.

Thanks to my LAMA associate in Europe, Jan Fridrich, ByDanJohnson.com also reports airplane activity, although Jan and I use FAA registration data modified only by our intimate knowledge of the light aircraft industry. Both GAMA and LAMA must interpret some info as these data sources are more slippery than you might think. For each organization the best info is that which you can distill over years of reporting. If the detail may have potential errors (usually small) the long term trends are more reliable.

I want to give you a small glimpse at GAMA's numbers for the first nine months of 2016. I am well aware such info is not why you come to this website. However, as GAMA has coaxed a few of the larger LSA producers into its membership, I found some facts of interest.

Tecnam's lovely Astore resembles the Cirrus but costs a fraction as much.
The best news was Tecnam's numbers. This Italian company has been a major force in light aircraft production for years. That isn't changing; in fact, it appears certain to accelerate.

From GAMA's numbers I ignore all the business jet, turbine, helicopter, and ag-plane data. That stuff interests me and most readers only peripherally. So, I look solely at their Single Engine Piston (SEP) data as the closest comparison to LSA and light kit aircraft. GAMA reported 601 SEPs for the first nine months, or 800 annualized.

Of that, Tecnam logged 122 units for better than 20% of all GAMA SEPs. This does count all their aircraft with one engine including their Type Certified P2010 four seater as well as their LSA models, the latter accounting for 53 units or 71 annualized. GAMA decided from info supplied by Tecnam which ones were LSA, referring to their ASTM standards compliance. The GA organization leaves LSA out of their summary tables but includes those stats in their detail info.

To compare, Cessna reported 127 units in the same nine-month period. So, short by only a hair, Tecnam produced as many SEPs as did giant Cessna. Both significantly trailed Cirrus, which logged 226 units delivered (38% of all SEPs), by far the best in the list. Other GA producers, in order, were Diamond (46) and Piper (41), trailed distantly by Bonanza (16), Champion (15), Mooney (5), and Maule (3).

Tecnam's P2008 is a handsome and popular Light-Sport entry. Tecnam photos courtesy the company
The only other LSA producers included on GAMA's review were Flight Design (19) and CubCrafters (27... of which 22 were LSA). Flight Design is going through reorganization and how GAMA will handle that change remains to be seen. CubCrafters, with 22 LSA (all Carbon Cubs, zero Sport Cubs) annualizes to 29 LSA and that is far off their hot pace the last few years. In 2015, the West coast Cub-like builder slipped from their one-a-week rate in the preceding few years and 2016's info appears to slow further. Could the number of potential buyers of $200,000 Cubs be dropping or is this just a temporary slowdown? CubCrafters has competition from American Legend and various European suppliers of very similar aircraft (SportairUSA's Shock), American variations (Just Aircraft) that perform even better, and still others with more affordable prices (Rans).

All that said, Tecnam clearly looks like the strong company in light aviation with numbers way ahead of whomever comes second. The company has a wide line of several LSA (P92, P2008, Astore, etc.) plus the dual-Rotax Twin, the newer P2010 GA model and an 11-seater in progress. Good for Tecnam!


DeLand Showcase 2016 a Success in Inaugural Event
By Dan Johnson, November 8, 2016

The first-ever DeLand Sport Aviation Showcase finished on a high note with a sold-out flock of vendors giving kudos to event director Jana Filip and her team. I spoke to most exhibitors and heard zero complaints. By itself that's rather unusual. Perhaps they were cutting the new show some slack but more likely their enthusiasm was because the show had indeed been well executed.

At every airshow I've attended vendors seem hard to satisfy about foot traffic. By afternoon each of the three days, visitors seemed to thin, nonetheless most airplane vendors reported good qualified visitors. Several companies reported "solid leads" developed at the event and apparently a few sales occurred

Attendees also seemed to enjoy themselves in the abundant sunshine and 80-degree temperatures of early November. The event ran 3-4-5 this year and has already set dates for next year with an expectation of similar weather. One thing many attendees liked was the easy access to go take a demo flight in an aircraft they might be considering to buy.

Smaller events like DeLand offer a compelling case for visitors for precisely this reason. Among such focused shows, DeLand joins a group including Sebring (coming up January 25-28, 2017), Midwest LSA Expo, and Copperstate with another in planning.

Nando Groppo Trail fitted with cameras for an upcoming VPR, Video Pilot Report.
I judge DeLand 2016 a solid success that clearly benefitted from long experience and hard work by director Jana Filip, her husband Gary Filip, and airport manager John Eiff. Aided by a small army of volunteers the first-ever event functioned very smoothly. Most expect traffic to grow for subsequent events given how well everything worked over three straight days of pleasant weather. DeLand is near Daytona Beach and Orlando, Florida in an easily-accessed location. The airport and the new event is strongly supported by the City of DeLand with the mayor and other officials attending. DeLand is also a particularly active sky diving airport yet even with many disparate users, things ran safely and efficiently.

One smart decision was to pick dates near the gigantic National Business Aircraft Association (NBAA) show that occurred November 1-2-3 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. The two events could hardly be more different, but NBAA attracts all the main aviation publications. DeLand hoped to draw some of these journalists since they were in the area anyway. With visits from AOPA Pilot, General Aviation News, AVweb, Aero-News Net, Plane & Pilot, Flying magazine plus a number of free lance writers and photographers, I'd say this date decision was a resounding, over-the-top success. Look for the work of those journalists as uploaded or printed.

Even though it was a tail-end-of-the-season show, DeLand attracted some products Americans had not seen before this year. These include JMB Aircraft's VL3 and Russia's SP30 STOL that first debuted in the U.S. at Oshkosh 2016 plus the Sky Tractor and a novel new avionics device called WingBug.

In addition, we saw the first installation anywhere of Dynon's new HDX. Installed in the panel of a new CTLS now produced by AeroJones Aviation, we shot a video with Kirk Kleinholz, airshow tech guru for the west coast supplier of the most popular glass screens in Light-Sport Aircraft. The new unit builds on the wonderful success of SkyView with more easily operated physical controls plus a slicker-than-ever touchscreen operation. Watch for the new video.

The speedy sibling of the former Gobosh 800XP (see video) is this retractable JMB Aircraft VL3 capable of 145 knots.
JMB Aircraft attracted attention with their retractable LSA-like aircraft. I've seen this company in Europe at the Aero Friedrichshafen show. They are impressive marketers and they wish to use those skills to promote their faster model that smokes along at 145 knots propelled by the 100 horsepower Rotax 912 engine.

If the VL3 looks vaguely familiar to you, congratulations on your sharp eye. JMB Aircraft is the new production company of the VL3, a plane designed by Vanessa Air and produced in the past by Aveko. Truly keen readers will recognize Aveko was the builder behind the Gobosh 800XP of the earliest years of Light-Sport Aircraft. The 31.5-foot-span Aveko/Gobosh version is a fixed gear LSA model where the 27.7-foot-span retractable VL3 is allowed to perform better when registered as an Experimental Amateur Built or other experimental category. The LSA model maxes at 119 knots in max cruise where the high cruise of VL3 is 145 knots.

Russia-built SP30 STOL is clearly based on Zenith's 701/750 series although closer examination reveals a number of changes and such attributes as fully-bucked or solid rivets. A very sturdy looking machine, the example at DeLand had fat tires with chubby wheelpants that looked like they could handle fairly rough terrain yet still look at home on an airport ramp. This is a simply equipped airplane but it had a very modest price point for an all-metal aircraft.

Get more specs and descriptions on their English language page on the website of Canada-based Sky Tex Alliance.

Top left, clockwise: Just Aircraft SuperSTOL, Evolution Revo, Green Eagle Sky Tractor, and Progressive Aerodyne Searey, represented by FlyTheBeach.com.
Sky Tractor by Green Eagle was tucked in a corner of the indoor exhibit tent; I almost missed it. This single place Part 103-capable powered parachute entry boasts a 36-horsepower four stroke Kohler engine. It looks lighter than most powered parachute because it's closer to a four-wheeled powered paraglider. Cleverly designed to allow reasonably easy fitting of a jump seat, Sky Tractor would then have to be approved as an Experimental Amateur Built aircraft. Sy Tractor is very modestly price barely north of $10,000 depending on options chosen.

Last but by no means least was an pre-release appearance by WingBug as this new device prepares for market in 2017. Because the product is undergoing final configuration changes leading to a design freeze, I don't want to be premature. I will have more information to follow in an article as the new season arrives and Wing Bug is ready to hit the market.

WingBug is being developed by Alex Rolinski, known to light aircraft enthusiasts for his role in a different company, Aero Adventures, maker of the reasonable priced Aventura seaplane kit.

Wing Bug is a stand-alone device that can clamp securely to any Go-Pro mount. You'll probably stick it out on a wing, away from influence by prop blast. It wirelessly (not via BlueTooth) sends air data, attitude, and heading info (ADAHRS) to the WingBug app on an iPhone or iPad. This is not simply a GPS gizmo or flight navigation app. For example, to provide airspeed, WingBug has its own pitot tube. It looks slick, can be used on certified aircraft, and may prove to be game changer. I'll have more early next year.

The video below takes you on a quick tour of most of the outdoor displays at the DeLand Showcase 2016. The first year event earned rave reviews from vendors and plenty were on hand as all 100 or so spaces were sold out. Based on this first year, the DeLand Showcase seems likely to enjoy ongoing success. Dates for the 2017 event are set: November 2-3-4. (Regrets to any company not shown; this is not a complete vendor review.)


AeroJones Shows CTLS at New DeLand Showcase Event
By Dan Johnson, November 4, 2016

One company making a splash at the brand-new DeLand Sport Aviation Showcase event that opened today was AeroJones, occupying the first two spaces inside the entrance. I've written about this company before but since spring a striking change has occurred.

Flight Design — originator of the market-leading CT-series of LSA — has completed a court-appointed reorganization. Many of the former company team members will take certain assets and move forward. I will have more on that in a future article.

After the transaction is fully completed AeroJones Aviation will own the CT line including the current CTLS and CTLSi. They will also pursue completion of Flight Design's four seater, C4, that flew in 2015.

Introducing the new owner of America's popular CTLS...

AeroJones Aviation is headquartered in Taichung, Taiwan, often referred to as the "Silicon Valley of Taiwan." After first acquiring a license to build Flight Design aircraft more than two years ago, the company went through a thorough training and evaluation from Flight Design officials.

Aircraft production began for the Taiwanese company after they installed new production tooling and equipment including a five-axis CNC machine, water and Laser cutters, TIG welding, composite layup and post-cure ovens, plus a modern paint booth. Flight Design provided production worker training and quality management training. AeroJones finished their first airplanes in 2014 and has since been refining the production and quality systems. Proving their skills to government officials, AeroJones' production facility passed numerous audits and earned a Production Certificate from China's CAAC at the end of 2015.

Backing AeroJones is a parent company called GSEO (Genius Electro Optical), a manufacturer and supplier for industrial LED products and laminated lenses for many popular smartphones. GSEO has roughly 20,000 employees. Brand new production facilities were secured on mainland China, across the Taiwan Strait.

Initial CTLS and CTLSi supplied by AeroJones to American distributors and dealers won good marks. "The quality was very good," said Tom Gutmann, the country's largest Flight Design distributor, having delivered more than 100 aircraft. "AeroJones personnel spent several days with us and in great detail documented every minor issue we found in the first aircraft. We were impressed how carefully they listened."

AeroJones Aviation Executive VP, Hsieh Chi-Tai (L) with Senior VP of IAOPA Martin Robinson and Zhang Feng, Chairman AOPA China.
At DeLand Showcase 2016, AeroJones Americas held a press conference where they announced their new U.S. operation.

"AeroJones Aviation will be established in Florida as a centralized assembly and distribution facility for the AeroJones Aviation-produced CT series aircraft" said Chris Benaiges, CEO of AeroJones Americas. Chris has been associated with Flight Design and their CT series for several years; he and partners stepped in to restore the distribution of these aircraft after the court reorganization.

"AeroJones Aviation is pleased to bring renewed life to the very popular CTLS in America," said Hsieh Chi-Tai, Executive Vice President at AeroJones. "We are pleased to work with our U.S. representatives at AeroJones Americas as we resume shipments of CTLS to America."

Headquartered in Central Taiwan Science Park, AeroJones Aviation will ship mostly completed aircraft from mainland China. AeroJones Americas will receive the aircraft, assemble them from shipping containers, and will deliver to American customers. Over time they expect to add a growing number of American-sourced components at the U.S. operation. Many high-value items on a CTLS are already sourced elsewhere (Rotax engine, BRS parachute, Dynon or Garmin avionics and more).

"AeroJones Americas will have the resources to bring safety, quality control, and the end user experience to a new level for the CT series," stated AeroJones Americas COO John Hurst.

AeroJones will focus initially on CTLS and CTLSi. Further information on C4 will be available in the months ahead.


Remos Announces New Dealer as Network Builds
By Dan Johnson, November 2, 2016

The first-ever inaugural event of the DeLand starts tomorrow, November 3rd and runs through the 4th and 5th (THursday, Friday, Saturday).I hope you are planning to attend. The exhibitor spaces are full sold and several aircraft were in place by Wednesday afternoon before the show. C'mon down and check out the newest event in light recreational aviation.

After a major setback in 2014, Remos found and secured solid financial support for their light aircraft manufacturing enterprise. See the earlier story here but the great news is that Remos AG is now back and better than ever. This year at AirVenture 2016, I flew with marketing guru Patrick Holland-Moritz in the new Remos GXiS. As you can read here, I found the new model a joy to fly with the best implementation yet doe Rotax's fuel injected and upgraded 912 iS Sport powerplant. Patrick coined the term "smartification" to describe their approach and I love his new word.

As the German producer continues to reinvigorate their business, they are also securing new dealers to represent them both in the USA and overseas. Remos was founded in the mid-1990s. Today, Remos produces the Remos GX alongside the top-of-the-line GXiS. More than 100 Remos LSA are flying in the U.S., with some 450 operating worldwide. About 50 people work for Remos today.

Remos recently announced a new dealer in the United States. SimplyFly is supporting the German manufacturer with an innovative approach of how to bring people into aviation. The company is based at Aurora airport, just a 40-minutes car ride from downtown Chicago, Illinois.

When David Spano and Tony Sabos established SimplyFly six years ago in 2010, their goal was to provide flight training under the banner of Power Sports. They wanted to focus on growing sport aviation by targeting the general public. What is their approach?

"Around 15 percent of those who take the Discovery Flight go on to become Sport Pilots or Private Pilots," said Remos on behalf of SimplyFly. That is an impressive conversion rate after a single introductory flight. "All of the training is done in Remos aircraft," said Patrick. SimplyFly has four Remos models for this purpose and of course, the Illinois company — with an densely populated major metropolitan market a short drive away — is also a dealer able to sell new aircraft like GXiS.

At their fair, mall, and festival displays, "SimplyFly works to correct false perceptions and present flying as an attainable sport. They don't sell aviation as a mode of transportation, they sell fun," exclaimed Patrick!

Based at Aurora Municipal Airport (KARR) west of Chicago SimplyFly offers a Sport Pilot certificate for $6,400 and the Private Pilot for $9,600. This is no bare-bones training. The dealership and flight school includes 40 hours of flying for Sport Pilot training — 20 is the bare minimum according to FAA regs — or 60 hours for the Private. Both courses include ground school.

"Almost all our students pass their check ride in less than the allotted time," said David. "Once they start on a certificate, we encourage them to fly at least twice a week. We credit some of this success to the forgiving flight characteristics of the Remos GXiS." They report students become comfortable very quickly.

Flight training in Remos aircraft has worked out so well the partners moved up to become dealers so they can offer sales and service.

The second Remos dealer in North America after the German company's reorganization, SimplyFly is part of the Remos expansion as the European manufacturer rebuilds a global presence for their Light-Sport Aircraft. SimplyFly has plans of its own to expand to other major metropolitan areas.


Big Airplane Companies and Autonomous Air Taxi
By Dan Johnson, October 26, 2016

Are you interested in light aircraft? "Check." Interested in cool looking flying machines? "Check." Enjoy following the latest trends in flying? "Check." Interested in autonomous (pilotless) flying? "Umm... Not sure?" Interested in an Autonomous Airbus Air Taxi? "Hmm... no, not really?" Interesting in getting your Eight-Engine Rating? "Ah, No!" However you answered and whatever you think, the world of aviation appears to be changing.

When a company like airliner giant Airbus goes after media coverage with its E-Fan and ups the ante with Vahana, some may begin to feel the ground move under their feet like a California earthquake. Imagine a fleet of pilotless vehicles ready to swoop in to pick up passengers and deliver them to doctor appointments or a visit to grandma's house. Aviation appears to be headed in some very new directions.

On ByDanJohnson.com, I have followed other flying car or drone developments. See this article or here's another for a couple examples.

Recently, Airbus quietly removed the shroud of secrecy on an ambitious project called Vahana. From a division based in Silicon Valley, Vahana is the work of A3 ("A-cubed"), an Airbus entity for advanced projects.

A pilotless passenger aircraft, Vahana is intended to take off and land vertically from helicopter skids instead of wheels incorporating two sets of tilting wings, each with four electric motors. Vahana holds a single passenger under an aft-swinging canopy.

The business case for Vahana includes worthy points: Battery safety and energy density is advancing; low-cost, reliable avionics are available, borrowing from decades of work done for unmanned aerial vehicles; obstacle detection and avoidance algorithms are increasingly sophisticated; Airbus suggests automated composite manufacturing and assembly show that small, lightweight vehicles can be produced at high volumes and significantly lower costs than traditional aerospace methods have previously allowed.

Rodin Lyasoff, CEO of A-cubed wrote, "Our aircraft will follow predetermined flight paths, with only minor deviations if obstacle avoidance is needed. We believe this mode of operation will be compatible with future airspace management systems and will allow more aircraft to share the sky. Full automation also enables us to make our aircraft as small and light as possible, and will significantly reduce manufacturing costs."

Lyasoff said A-cubed has assembled experts in aircraft design and manufacturing, electric propulsion, vehicle autonomy, and aircraft certification. He reported significant progress and expects a full-size prototype to fly by the end of 2017. A3 has completed vehicle design and developed and acquired several critical subsystems. They will outsource to external partners construction of the first airframe.

While smaller, nimble groups are also pursuing the air taxi and autonomous flying ideas, Airbus can deploy one huge advantage that most (but not all) other aircraft developers lack: access to funds. Airbus reportedly invested an initial $150 million to future projects including Vahana.

Despite being part of a giant and very competitive company, A-cubed appears unusually generous about their effort. Lyasoff wrote, "We will also release many of our internal tools and flight code under an open source license. We believe that this degree of openness will push the industry as a whole forward, and we hope that others will follow our example."

Flying taxis without pilots will face public acceptance challenges. A-cubed refers to "sense and avoid" technology to prevent midair collisions and redundant motors so the loss of one is not catastrophic. In a worst case scenario, a ballistic parachute would deploy.

If A3 flies a full-size prototype by the end of 2017 Lyasoff believes the Airbus entity can come to market by 2020. Given Airbus's worldwide brand, Vahana must be taken seriously.

Get ready for a brave new airborne future unfolding at light speed!


Avionics (Instruments) for Big and Little Guys
By Dan Johnson, October 25, 2016

I guess I'm still old fashioned. I still call those things in front of the pilot "instruments," although the preferred term for a panelful of them shifted to "avionics." At least most people and I have stopped using "gauges." Choose the term that works for you, but mail order giant Aircraft Spruce just sent offerings to builders, whether at home or in a factory. "Spruce," as many abbreviate the Southern California-based company, serves a broad range of aircraft markets.

For big or small aircraft, people seem to like Belite Electronics (sibling to Belite Aircraft most recently of Skydock fame). A former tech entrepreneur, James Wiebe designs airplanes certainly appears at home with electronics. He's developed a wide range of very light, very low energy use, very accurate instruments.

"Come to Aircraft Spruce for your favorite Belite products," said Aircraft Spruce reps. Visit the company's web page for Belite Radiant instruments. The new instruments combine many functions into simple and small, lightweight units. "Belite has created these new units with one specific feature in mind: persistence," noted Spruce.

Radiant Instrument will graphically display the last 30 minutes of fuel level information along with current fuel level, providing pilots with the ability to look at information on displays screens, to ensure a safer flight. Belite's Radiant Instruments are designed for a standard 2.25-inch cutout, using up to 100 milliamps of power from a supply of 8 to 14 volts. All instruments are dimmable, Spruce clarified.

Belite's instruments will be of interest to kit builders, ultralight fans, and to manufacturers of Light-Sport Aircraft. Those from Sandia Aerospace are better suited to LSA and larger aircraft. This Albuquerque, New Mexico company earned attention when they offered their drop-in EFIS at AirVenture by giving away a free aerobatic flight with purchase of the new digital instrument. It can fill a space in a panel as a back-up instrument.

A range of Sandia products are available from Aircraft Spruce. Sandia Aerospace produces high quality transponders, altitude encoders, airdata computers, avionics cooling fans, and Marc 70 interface modules. "We offer wire harnessing and custom coaxial assemblies to make shopping for a Sandia Aerospace transponder all one convenient shopping experience for your aircraft needs, said Aircraft Spruce.

For more information on Belite or Sandia avionics offerings, please contact Aircraft Spruce at 877-477-7823 or 951-372-9555.

Aircraft Spruce's complete product line is available online at www.aircraftspruce.com.  Request a free copy of the company's mammoth 1,100-page catalog. The catalog is available in print, on a CD, or in PDF format.

If wiring up the panel in your light kit aircraft or ultralight, Aircraft Spruce is again at the ready to assist you. In fact, they'll do all the hard work, which can hasten you to flight. Check out this video with Ryan Deck.


Sightseeing by Ultralight... in North Korea
By Dan Johnson, October 18, 2016

China's A2C ultralight seen at a 2015 airshow in Anyang. This one is fitted with agricultural crop micro-spray equipment. At least the powerplant is familiar, a Rotax.
The stories we hear about North Korea are usually bad. OK, I've rarely heard anything good so I guess the news is just about all bad. However, we hear about North Korea from mainstream media and government officials, neither of whom seem interested in good news about this reclusive Communist state. On whole, it seems probable things are pretty lousy in such a closed and controlled nation but now and again, something trickles out to show less evil.

This story was featured in Toronto, Canada's TheStar.com and was written by Eric Talmadge of the Associated Press. At the end of his article Eric wrote, "Officials say the ultralight aircraft used for the flights were made in North Korea." If so, I'd say they are a knock-off of a Chinese aircraft that I have examined.

A China airplane looking very similar has been seen at AirVenture 2015 though I'm guessing few visitors paid it much attention as it was far from the sleek, beautiful light aircraft commonly seen at the big show. However, China's A2C-L aircraft, developed by the AVIC Special Vehicle Research Institute, was this year the first ultralight aircraft to obtain a certificate of model design approval and a production permit issued by Civil Aviation Administration of China, according to China Aviation News. Nearly 100 A2C planes have been sold, that publication reported.

A tourist flight is photographed over Pyongyang, the capital city of North Korea.
The lead photo is mine from a China airshow in May 2015 and it looks very similar to the ones appearing with the rest of this article. Ironic, you might find it, that a China airplane could be knocked off by another country. Many American think China is taking products from other nations and making their own copies. Perhaps this shows how far China has advanced?

Mr. Talmadge reported in The Star, "Until a few months ago, if you wanted a bird's-eye view of North Korea's capital, you basically had only one option: a 492-foot-tall tower across the river from Kim Il Sung Square.

Now, if you have the cash, you can climb into the back seat of an ultralight aircraft." He explained that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has vowed to give North Koreans more modern and "cultured" ways to spend their leisure time, and with foreign tourism companies looking to entice visitors with unique things to do besides visit war museums and political monuments, a Pyongyang flying club has started offering short flights over some of the capital's major sights. Maybe it's working as Talmadge reported, "Officials say more than 4,000 North Koreans have gone up in the ultralight fleet since, along with 'hundreds of foreigners' from 12 countries."

His report continued, "The tours, which began in late July, are operated by the Mirim flying club out of a fancy new facility on an old airfield." Flights go directly over some of Pyongyang's most iconic spots, including the gargantuan May Day stadium, the torch-tipped Juche Tower and Kim Il Sung Square area, and the Munsu Water Park (center photo), another of Kim's leisure spot "gifts" to the city. After each flight, the tightly controlled society requires club officials to inspect photographs taken from the air.

The country's Mirim flying club provides tourist flights for $150, although reportedly less for North Korean citizens.
The Star reported that seeing the city from a height of 6,000 feet while moving through the skies at ultralight speeds offers a different perspective from anything tourists, and even most Pyongyang residents, had ever been able to get before.

Flights aren't cheap. A 25-minute mission from the airstrip on the outskirts of the city to Kim Il Sung Square and the Juche Tower, which had previously been the best place to get an urban panorama, sells for about $150 (2-3 month's wages for an average Korean factory worker). Shorter flights are offered at lower prices, starting from about $65, but those only fly around the immediate vicinity of the flight club, which is fairly rural. Prices for North Koreans are much cheaper, though club officials reportedly would not say exactly how much.

Officials say the ultralight aircraft used for the flights were made in North Korea. Perhaps, but if so, they must have used the A2C-L as their template. North Korea does trade with China, one of its few export/import partners.

I can only marvel at what North Koreans or tourists would think if they saw one of our modern Light-Sport Aircraft or a well-made American ultralight-like aircraft. China has other models North Korea might access but maybe the A2C-L was chosen for specific reasons. I'm guessing those few thousand folks that have taken a flight find it a special experience... one any American can take virtually for granted.


An Excellent Bargain in a Composite LSA
By Dan Johnson, October 16, 2016

The lines are separating a bit. Once we had a flock of LSA priced closer to one another than today. While some are put off by splashy marketing from companies offering LSA priced north of $200,000, your choices do include fixed wing aircraft for $50-80,000 and alternative (weight shift, gyro, and powered parachutes) LSA for even less.

However, if you want an all-composite design with a digital panel, your choices of lower-cost models is, admittedly, more restricted. It costs money to make things with more exotic materials and with fancier equipment. The great news in late 2016 is customers are getting more choices in "reasonably" priced airplanes (shown in quotes as reasonable is a term that varies from person to person).

The new model in this article will be at the DeLand Sport Aviation Showcase coming up in just over two weeks. I hope you're planning to attend. I'll be present and the first-ever show is already enticing visitors with more exhibitors than most were expecting. Obviously, it pays to hire an experienced leader — Jana Filip — and have a highly supportive airport manager in John Eiff along with town leaders that are all-in for sport aviation at their municipal airport.

Jabiru North America boss Pete Krotje announced, "The FAA was here recently and issued a fresh SLSA airworthiness certificate for our new J170-D aircraft." The new addition logs in as SLSA #142 on our SLSA List.

Pete explained, "Our J170-D is the latest iteration of Jabiru's popular two-place aircraft that is widely used as a trainer in Australia and other places around the world." He added, "It is even used in South Africa as a rhino spotter and for rhino poacher patrol (photo).

No stripped-down flight school model, a standard J170-D in the USA comes equipped with the deluxe Garmin G3X Touch EFIS, a Garmin communications radio, Garmin Mode S transponder, 2020 compliant ADS-B in and out including a certified WAAS GPS, night lighting, and leather seats. All this may be fairly common for higher end LSA, but not at this price: $99,900.

You might wonder why FAA had to make a visit for an airplane we've seen in the USA before. "What changed," I wondered?

"J170-D has some major changes in the airframe from the [earlier] J170-SP," Pete clarified. "The SP was a bit prone to aft CG issues if too much baggage was stowed behind the seats and a bit less stable than the larger J230-SP. Jabiru in Australia set about to remedy those problems in 2012 and the result was a longer engine mount to put the engine four inches farther out front and the new swept, airfoil shaped vertical tail." A version of the new tail shape made the J230-D highly stable but was actually first developed on the J170. See Jabiru history for the full story but Pete confirmed the result is a much more stable J170 needing much less rudder input than previously.

"We had to go treat it as a new make and model since Jabiru Aircraft Pty, Ltd., is the manufacturer instead of Jabiru USA or Jabiru North America," Pete said. "Similar to the J230-D, we could no longer manufacturer the aircraft in the USA after an FAA rule change in 2012." Pete refers to internal FAA guidance that attempted to tighten the controls over what companies could declare themselves a manufacturer.

This photo of the panel in Jabiru's demonstrator shows an optional second G3X Touch screen but is otherwise the standard issue, said Pete Krotje.
"Mr. Gib Shelpman from the Atlanta MIDO (Manufacturing Inspection District Office) did the inspection since it was a first article make and model." When I inquired about any need for a formal FAA factory audit as part of the first article inspection, Pete responded, "The audit was done by CASA in Australia for ASTM compliance." On the Airworthiness Certificate FAA issued, Jabiru Aircraft Pty is listed as manufacturer and the aircraft is built by the Australian company in their South African facility. "In the USA we only install the Garmin panel and assemble the airplane out of the shipping container," Pete explained.

Canadian readers will be interested to hear J170-D can also be configured as a Canadian advanced ultralight. In that vein, I should note that DeLand, Florida can be a nice change in early November perhaps encouraging our neighbors to the north to come for a warm-up visit. If they do, they can see J170-D along with all other DeLand attendees.

"We will be at the Deland Sport Aviation Showcase in booth #82, right inside the entry gate," noted Pete. He also assured, "Demo flights will be available." J170-D will be arrive at DeLand Friday, October 28th a few days before the show. I hope to get a flight in the updated model and will look to report on that in November. C'mon down and see us in Florida. Hurricane Matthew did not bring major damage and the show will go on as planned.


Matthew Mayhem ... First All-Mexican Light-Sport
By Dan Johnson, October 10, 2016

A few miles south of my home one finds Kennedy Space Center, where this fascinating photo was taken. photo courtesy of Wall Street Journal
First a personal tale and then something completely different...

In the last week, I encountered something brand new to me, although old as the ocean. I refer to Hurricane Matthew, which swept through my home area of Daytona Beach late last week. You haven't seen anything new on this website for a few days because, well... I was a little busy. Along with everyone else in this area, we spent days preparing for a Category 4 storm (identified as packing wind speeds of 135-156 miles an hour, enough to tear buildings apart). Everything outside was brought indoors. Sandbags were loaded and positioned because a 15 foot storm surge was predicted along with torrential rains. Because my dwelling — at the Spruce Creek Fly-in, an airport community (7FL6) — sits only 22 feet above sea level, such a storm surge took on epic damage possibilities.

Fortunately, the winds capped at 91 mph at the nearby Daytona Beach airport (KDAB). The storm surge was much less than forecast and the rain was not as heavy as anticipated. We probably owe this to a "wobble" the storm path took that kept it further out at sea. Thank goodness, the eye of the storm did not wander toward land. I don't want to think about that.

To return everything to its normal place and to clean up the mess of branches and debris the storm scattered around took more time, so nearly a week was lost to Matthew. Nonetheless, the overall damage was less than anticipated so I am thankful while remaining concerned for losses sustained by others.

Besides the Rotax engine, I can also see what appear to be deluxe Beringer wheels.
Now for "something completely different" (as the old Monty Python troupe used to call a new skit topic).

After translating some Mexican websites, I was able to glean a few facts about a new aircraft, a Light-Sport Aircraft according to developers, that is reportedly the first airplane in 50 years to be made completely in Mexico. I found it interesting that this new LSA-like aircraft arrives from a furniture company. Perhaps that's less unusual when you know that the airplane is made of wood, "extracted from fir and birch planted exclusively for aeronautical use and certified by the FAA," said the companies.

After three years of work the timber airplane, designed by Giovanni Angelucci and built in Mexico, is approaching being market ready. The somewhat spartan news was released without naming a functional website where interested persons could find more details. Even determining what the new aircraft is called was not clear but since this is a launch project, it's probably too soon for any enterprising business person to rush into representing the airplane.

Although the news released referred to the new aircraft as a Light-Sport Aircraft, the speeds they announced are well outside the U.S. category, hence my use of the term "LSA-like."

A side by side two-seater aircraft, this proposed LSA is a low wing design with fixed gear. Its takeoff weight of 600 kilograms (1,320 pounds) exactly matches the LSA standard but cruise speed was listed at 260 kilometers per hour or 140 knots, a bit speedier than allowed though that might change with a different prop and other minor modifications. Maximum speed was shown as 300 kilometers per hour or 163 knots.

The new Mexican airplane is power by a very familiar engine, the 100 horsepower Rotax 912, which places it more securely in the LSA sector. Endurance was listed as six hours yielding a range of better than 800 nautical miles, suggesting a fuel supply of about 30 gallons. Empty weight was shown at 330 kilograms or about 725 pounds, again roughly typical for the LSA category. Ceiling was shown as 15,000 feet.

The developers noted, "[The airplane is an] artisanal manufacture by cabinet makers." Such advanced wood-working skills were "applied to the design to ensure the efficiency and durability of the aircraft over time. Its use is sporting, recreational flying and can be used by flight schools and such work as territorial surveillance." The new plane comes from an alliance of Horizontec and Pirwi.

The companies added, "[This] will be the first airplane manufactured in Mexico since last century... and will contribute to the reactivation of the Mexican airline industry, which since the '50s did not produce full, but only aircraft parts."

"The design was confirmed by the Aviation Cluster of Queretaro and the Aeronautical University in Querétaro (UNAQ), which for three years has harbored the project." The new aircraft is priced at $180,000 and will be [built] on request in order to customize to the taste and needs of each client.

You can't see the Mexican entry at the DeLand Showcase coming up in just three weeks (November 3-4-5), but you can see the Jabiru J-230-D and many more Light-Sport, light kit, and ultralight aircraft. More details at DeLand's website.


A Lightning Bolt You Can Catch: LS1
By Dan Johnson, October 4, 2016

Over and over I've heard about the cost of Light-Sport Aircraft. Indeed, some are approaching $200,000 and at least four have smashed through that barrier (CubCrafters, Icon, Terra Fugia, and Lisa). Now, I'll grant you $200K+ for a two seater is fairly breathtaking. But...

In each case above and for those many others in the $125-175,000 range, we're talking about real money. Balancing that, all LSA in the $125K and up price range are impressive aircraft with more bells and whistles than most GA airplanes (and even some airliners!). They are hand-built works of art using carbon fiber; digital cockpits; wide, luxurious cockpits with amazing visibility; and emergency airframe parachutes. They are marvels with autopilot, synthetic vision, gas-sipping (and very modern) engines, and so much more.

Virtually every LSA — no matter how impressively equipped — still remains at half to one third or even less of the cost of even the most affordable Part 23 general aviation airplanes. Good heavens; even a Cessna 172 Skyhawk now costs more than $400,000!

Nonetheless, as fantastic and as decent a value as I believe our top-tier Special LSA represent, $150K to $250K is a big chunk of change for many recreational pilots who merely want to get some airtime.

This article presents another solution: Arion Aircraft's SLSA Lightning LS1. If you don't know this airplane, you haven't really been shopping hard enough in my humble opinion. For years, Arion has been making kits, SLSA, ELSA, and Experimental Amateur Built aircraft that exceed the parameters of Light-Sport Aircraft. For the SLSA model, the company has been through an intensive FAA audit and emerged with a worthy product.

You may also choose some very nice flying aircraft at much more affordable prices running from well under $100,000 down into the $30-40,000 range. (That's not an exaggeration and I can prove it.) Now, you might not care for such aircraft with fabric coverings and simpler panels and, in some cases, different controls. However, if observing your locale from above is your main goal, these inexpensive aircraft can do the job efficiently, and economically. Ain't nothing wrong with that... even if these airplanes may not be your choice.

Arion offers you quite an amazing deal, I believe. I'll get into some specifics below but just look at the airborne images of this plane. The lines of LS1 lines are sexy and shapely, its speed is top-of-the-category, its appointments are comfortable, its interior spacious, its engine powerful, and to top it off, this is a Made-in-America Light-Sport. When you call, you talk to Americans in the heartland and its components are made by American workers.

I imagine you agree Lightning LS1 is a handsome design, whether it is a kit, and ELSA or a fully-built Special LSA. Now, thanks to a change in their composite manufacturing — an outsourced set of key components, moved from their former supplier to one closer to Arion's facility in Shelbyville, Tennessee — Arion is able to make the purchase more affordable. In concert with the supplier change, Arion boss and principal designer, Nick Otterback, said, "A more streamlined in-house assembly and finish process helps us to further lower the cost."

Nick added, "A base-price Lightning will be EFIS equipped with 8.5-inch GRT sport system, Garmin's GTR200 com radio and GTX327 transponder, a PM1000 intercom, plus back up airspeed indicator. Standard base equipment still included from pervious years includes dual hydraulic toe brakes, AeroLEDs Pulsar XP wing tip navigation lights and strobes, faux-leather interior, electric flaps and pitch trim, adjustable rudder pedals, and 40-gallon fuel capacity." Available options are Dynon's SkyView system, Garmin's G3X, autopilot, and ADS-B.

Lightning looks good, comes well equipped ...but what is that price?

How about this for an even number you can remember: $100,000 for a 2017 ready-to-fly Lightning LS1?

A $10,000 deposit provides you with a production slot. You pay installments during the build process at major events, such as when the structure is complete, when the paint is done, and when your LS1 is ready for delivery. Nick said current delivery times are 120 to 150 days after your deposit is received.

A two-tone grey or tan interior is custom made to suit your chosen paint scheme. Arion advised, "You can pick your paint scheme and colors; we work to design a scheme for you." Nearby photos present the interior look.

The $100K model is sufficiently well equipped to allow full enjoyment for local flying or cross country travel. You can spend more if you want the options. Since Lightning is good for longer distance flying, ADS-B will be of interest if you play to enter controlled airspace. However, even with an option or two, LS1 can still be quite an excellent value.

I applaud Arion for refining their supply chain and processes to lower the SLSA Lightning to a affordable level. If you are in the market for a beautiful American-made Light-Sport, here's one worth a much closer look.


Ultralights Darken the Sky! ...and More
By Dan Johnson, September 30, 2016

WUFI '16 — It's tomorrow in New Zealand. Weird as it seems to write that, the down-under nation is 17 hours ahead of those of us on America's east coast. So, pilots in that nation will lead the parade as ultralights and other open-cockpit aircraft kick off the World Ultralight Fly-In on October 1st, a global day in the sky. If you have one of these aircraft, I hope you log on to their map and add your pin and info to the group.

As of September 30th, the day before WUFI Day, more than 800 pilots had already shown their support for the "movement" to have some joy in the air aboard your light flying machine. Organizer Dayton Ultralights and Facebook regular Paul Lindamood were looking for 1,000 pilots to join the party. Given normal human propensity to wait to act, it might happen. I'll be interested to hear the final report but you should get your bird ready now and check the news later.

Interestingly, a look at their map reveals two nations that jump out for their lack of participation (or at least showing so on the map). Russia and Brazil both have active aviation communities and I'm surprised to see those areas with no pins. Perhaps they're among those waiting until the last minute. Follow the development on Dayton Ultralight's Facebook page. More info right here and here.

DeLand Showcase — We're now about one month away from the first-ever DeLand Showcase at the ...you guessed it, DeLand Airport (KDED). Based on my years in close-by Daytona Beach, weather over November 3rd, 4th. and 5th should be good, no longer broiling in tropical heat but neither wintery. Get more info: DeLand Showcase 2016

TAF Sling KitMike Blyth and the gang from The Airplane Factory has done it again. No, not fly around the world... again. They've done that so often it's almost not news. What they repeated was fully building of one of their kits, and flying it, at an airshow. Certainly this shows a regular homebuilder that Sling kits can be completed in a reasonable amount of time.

The Airplane Factory USA Team announced, "A Sling 4 [seater] has been built and flown in record time at the Sywell Aerodrome, United Kingdom, during the 70th Anniversary LAA Rally." The UK's Light Aircraft Association puts on the event.

A complete Sling 4 aircraft kit was packed in South Africa and then delivered to Sywell on August 26th. "Over a seven-day period, a 10-person build team, consisting of five TAF employees and five LAA volunteers, fully assembled the kit, ground ran the engine and test flew the completed aircraft at the show," reported TAF USA. The build team worked 12 hours a day in the company's airshow display.

This the second Sling 4 build of its kind. About a year ago in September 2015, the TAF South Africa team built a Sling 4 in only 4 days, with 40 workers (here's our article on the earlier speed-build). Sling 4-4-40 was delivered to TAF USA as their Sling 4 demonstrator and has since accumulated more than 650 hours of flight time. I've gotten to fly Sling 4. I loved it; read more here.

Skydock Tested — Single seaters don't get enough love, it sometimes seems. The truth be known, though, Part 103 ultralights appear to be doing fine. Perhaps the number of producers now properly matches the number of customers; whatever the explanation, companies pursuing 103 appear to be staying active. One such is Belite Aircraft.

Owner James Wiebe has been focused on his low wing cantilever Skydock and it is drawing interest. Skydock can be a Part 103 aircraft with minimal paint and an airframe parachute. Or, it can be a Experimental Amateur Built in the USA or a Single Seat DeRegulated aircraft in the United Kingdom. When James recently tested Skydock's wing, he did so assuming the higher gross weight of a EAB or SSDR.

"We ran our negative G load test yesterday on our SkyDock prototype," said James. Belite tested to negative 3.8 G at a gross weight of 660 pounds, 10% beyond the higher MTOW of Skydock. James consider it "an ultimate load test."

Skydock is a single seat design with what Belite said is "an exceptionally roomy interior [that] fits long legs, broad shoulders, a large frame." The fuselage and wing D-cells are carbon fiber; wings have integrated ailerons and flaps. A complete kit with skins is priced at $20,625.


LSA News: DeLand, Icon Deliveries, Dynon Deal
By Dan Johnson, September 27, 2016

DeLand Showcase — The eighth annual Midwest LSA Expo occurred in early September in Mt. Vernon, Illinois at the municipal airport. While lacking the immense crowds of the major airshows, it regularly draws a good number of exhibitors as those representatives report they sell airplanes at these more intimate events. Smaller gatherings allow more face time between prospective buyers and those offering airplanes and other products.

Next up is a brand new trade show, the first one, an inaugural event. I hope those in Florida and other southeastern states will consider traveling to DeLand, Florida for the first-ever DeLand Showcase. Led by Jana Filip who gained experience running the Sebring LSA Expo and solidly backed by airport manager John Eiff and the city of DeLand, the event is approaching a full sell-out for exhibitor space so visitors should have plenty to see.

See this earlier article for more about the DeLand Showcase and stay tuned here for updates as the date grows closer. DeLand 2016 is scheduled for November 3rd through 5th.

Icon Aircraft — The A5 developer is finally making deliveries... albeit with a difference. The California developer of a now-well-known LSA seaplane stated that it will build approximately 20 aircraft for delivery in 2016. "Those aircraft ... are being placed at Icon Flight Centers around the United States so that customers and the public can experience them firsthand," said Icon in their fall newsletter. Customers have reportedly agreed to lease aircraft back to Icon for this purpose in exchange for the manufacturer maintaining, storing, and insuring it. That might turn out to be a dandy idea for owners that live near an Icon Flight Center.

Julian Gates is one such customer that officially owns A5 serial number 008. Icon said Gates is the president of a semiconductor company and an avid water sports enthusiast and pilot. They reported that he has taken his aircraft out several times since buying it this summer, including a weekend trip to Lake Tahoe over the 4th of July weekend (nearby photo). "I have been flying for 20 years, owned several aircraft, and checked out/flown 20+ different planes including acrobatic aircraft," said Gates, as relayed by Icon Aircraft. "Flying the A5 was the most fun I have ever had in a plane. I was blown away. I came back after each flight with a huge grin on my face."

Icon also continued to trumpet their new Tijuana, Mexico composite facility as reported at the end of this earlier article.

Dynon Avionics — The game-changing maker of digital cockpit instruments asked, "Do you have a D10/D100 series-equipped-aircraft that you've been thinking about upgrading to a SkyView? Perhaps you are thinking about your 2020 ADS-B Out compliance plan..." If you can answer affirmatively to either or both those questions, Dynon has a nifty deal for you.

"We're thanking our D10/D100 series customers with a limited time offer," noted the company in a eNewsletter just sent out. "Upgrade to a new SkyView or AFS system with 2020-compliant ADS-B Out between Sept 26, 2016 and November 30, 2016, and Dynon will rebate 75% of the price of eligible D10/D100 series instruments you already own when they are traded-in. An exact rebate schedule is shown at the link below.

Like others, I am ever-attentive to offers like this. I've enjoyed flying with both D10 and D100 instruments but they are starting to look like that laptop computer you bought ten years ago. Sure it still works and does everything it did when you first got it, but it no longer does the amazing tricks the newer devices can do.

Sweet offers often have some restrictions. Dynon stated, "This offer is limited to the first 50 customers" so you should act soon to take advantage. As with most such offerings a few other rules are attached, Check the entire program at their dedicated rebate page.


World Ultralight Fly-In 2016; Hundreds Will Fly
By Dan Johnson, September 20, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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Remos AG is the manufacturer of the next generation GXiS. This beautiful composite design built by German craftsmen offers excellent performance, light responsive handling, and a deluxe cockpit finish to please any aviator.


Tecnam is the world's leading manufacturer of Light-Sport aircraft offering more models and variations than any other producer.

Besides the world's fastest-selling light twin and their new P2010 four seater, Tecnam offers these LSA: P-92 Eaglet, Astore, and P2008.

Many Light-Sport Aircraft & General Aviation models

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


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

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.

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

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

J230-D & J170-D

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

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

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.


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?

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

Sonex Aircraft is one of aviation's best-known brands offering exciting performance, easy building, prices to match the budgets of most pilots, and you will do business with some fine people. Taking years of success to new heights, Sonex debuted the "B" models with numerous upgrades.

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

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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


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


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

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

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.

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