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...a web log of developments in Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft
Torture Testing …Let Freedom Wing!
By Dan Johnson, August 25, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Engines have been similarly prolific.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Quicksilver story is not as satisfying, regretfully.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Will Third Class Medical Reform Hurt LSA?”
By Dan Johnson, August 10, 2016

One of the most common questions I got at Oshkosh 2016 was the title of this article. I'm only one person with an opinion, but since I work with many airframe producers in the LSA space, I heard this question fairly often, several times from airplane sellers who were curious what other producers thought.

Just shy of five years ago, EAA and AOPA caught the LSA industry off guard by announcing plans to push FAA to drop the Third Class medical. Most LSA professionals likely agree with the basic idea that FAA ought to keep their noses out of the recreational end of aviation. Many feel that the medical requirement has prevented almost no accidents. Nonetheless, this new initiative took aim at the primary reason LSA builders were then selling airplanes like crazy. If you wanted to fly without a medical you had ultralights (Part 103... and still do), or sailplane motorgliders, or Light-Sport Aircraft. I don't believe for a minute that not needing a medical is the only reason to consider a new LSA but it was a biggie, no doubt.

So, what's the answer? Will this reform harm LSA or not? How is it affecting the industry? Worthy questions, all. To read more detail about the medical proposal, see this article.

Jabiru's J-230 is based on a four seater from Australia, explaining its cavernous aft cabin complete with a third entry door. photo from Eric Evans Aviation
My response to the "will it hurt" question is, simply, "No." When the alphabets announced their intention in the fall of 2011, it had an immediate effect. Vendors I asked said they quickly got cancellations. Buyers who were probably never very serious about a new LSA purchase said things like, "Now, I can instead hold off and buy a $50,000 (30-year-old) Cessna. I no longer have to buy a new LSA."

I compare the medical question to the way the stock markets work. At the first hint of bad news (a war, recession, terrorist attack, or the Fed raising interest rates), investors quickly price-in the results they expect. Stocks plummet overnight, even though the bad news has not yet occurred and may never come to pass. The situation with LSA was similar. As soon as those reluctant LSA buyers heard they had another choice — even one that might never come and certainly not soon — they took back their dollars and held onto them. This is human nature at work.

Therefore, at Oshkosh, news that the third class medical reform was coming didn't change things much. It had already been "priced-in" to pilots' purchase decisions.

However, those who want a new airplane with all the features they desire remain interested in Light-Sport Aircraft. Purchase prices range from below $50,000 to over $200,000 but that is still far less — one eighth to one half the cost — of almost any new Type Certified GA plane. (And, YES, you can buy a fun, well assembled, ready-to-fly LSA for $40-85,000!)

Icon was awarded a weight increase for their A5 seaplane; they will fly at 1,510 pounds. photo courtesy Icon Aircraft
Nonetheless, progressive light aircraft manufacturers — of kit-built or fully-built LSA or LSA-type airplanes — saw the trend coming and several offered new or revised designs.

In my previous article, I spoke about the new Murphy Radical. I also wrote about the Titan-powered Kitfox, and we have several other entries that are similar. These aircraft, like many LSA, have been designed to carry higher gross weights. They are limited to 1,320 pounds or 1,430 pounds (for seaplanes) because of FAA constraints. Some, for example, Jabiru J-230 — which started as a four seater in Australia — or Paradise P1NG from Brazil among several others, have been designed to significantly higher gross weights than FAA allows for LSA. These aircraft have always been able to lift more weight; they were placarded at 1,320 or 1,430 because of LSA rule limits.

At Oshkosh, Rans introduced their Outbound model with a gross weight listed at 1,800 pounds that calculates to a payload of 625 pounds... "the highest payload design ever offered by Rans," said the company. This model also offers a higher speed of 150 mph cruise (LSA are speed limited at 138 mph or 120 knots). In the world of a Private Pilot no longer needing an FAA Airman's Medical, such larger aircraft may have good appeal.

One More Thing — A familiar rumor began circulating at Oshkosh, encouraged by a member organization senior leader comment heard at AirVenture. A push is supposedly afloat to increase the weight limit of Light-Sport Aircraft. We've heard this before and it has been steadfastly denied by FAA but now that Icon and Terrafugia received weight increase exemptions, who knows? If I hear more, I'll keep you informed.

Latest and Greatest LSA from Oshkosh 2016
By Dan Johnson, August 7, 2016

Actor Harrison Ford poses with Rotax Aircraft Engine manager, Christian Mundigler at Oshkosh. photo courtesy Christian Mundigler
In a show as vast at EAA's AirVenture Oshkosh, it is presumptuous to attempt covering everything of interest. What follows are some new aircraft I found in the categories I cover on this website. Other projects were certainly worthy of special note but with the goal of a fast dash through the latest and greatest, I'm keeping this one fairly lean. I'll cover other developments in subsequent articles.

So, here's three aircraft you haven't seen before AirVenture 2016 plus a revised project involving an increasingly popular engine. I'll start off with a famous guy checking out a famous engine to propel one of my favorite airplanes. We begin our quick review with Lockwood Aircraft's AirCam.

Of course, you know his face. When I once heard Harrison Ford speak, he said modestly (paraphrased), "I earn a living making faces." I never thought of acting in such simple terms, but I accept such skills are part of the job. He's made faces successfully enough in many movies to be able to afford several fun airplanes and now he's getting into an AirCam. Developer/manufacturer Phil Lockwood said, "We were keeping a low profile to preserve [Harrison's] privacy but the cat is out of the bag now." As an AirCam fan myself, I predict Ford's facial repertoire will frequently include a broad smile.

The never-before-seen SkyCruiser offered by U.S. Sport Aircraft.
The newest and perhaps most unexpected aircraft at the show was SkyCruiser offered in the USA by U.S. Sport Aircraft based in Texas. This U.S importer has long represented Czech Sport Aircraft's SportCruiser, which has ranked up high on our market share report for years. Literature for the new model makes no mention of CSA, instead referring to Czech 4 Sky. Nevertheless, U.S. Sport Aircraft boss, Patrick Arnzen indicated he would bring in the new model from CSA.

In this article I am covering aircraft that seem to be pushing the envelope but a sign of maturity in the LSA segment shows developments in all directions. One of those is a return to simpler, easy-to-fly aircraft. Looking somewhat like another very successful design, Aerotrek's A220, SkyCruiser represents a model from about one decade back. When the LSA regulation first created aviation's newest segment the typical customer was often someone seeking a carbon fiber speedster with autopilot, a full glass panel, and all manner of bells and whistles. Many developers stepped up to fill that demand and simpler (less costly) designs were left behind. Now, they're back!

SkyCruiser, as seen on U.S. Sport Aircraft's Oshkosh space, is powered by a Rotax BRP 912 ULS, and tops out at 1,232 pound gross (88 pounds less than allowed as a SLSA). At a fairly modest 723 pounds empty, the taildragger still offers a 509 pound useful load or a payload of full fuel (17.6 gallons) and two 200-pound occupants with minimal baggage. Stall is listed at a slow 34 knots and maximum cruise is 86 knots. SkyCruiser appears to come well equipped with the latest from Dynon and more.

Kitfox's Titan engine installation was particular well achieved, like most Kitfox factory aircraft.
Perhaps it is because of the success of CubCrafters, but the rush remains on for companies developing vintage-style aircraft with big engines. While Rotax continues to power the majority of light aircraft around the world using their ubiquitous 9-series engines, some builders want more. For slower airframes Cubalikes — to use a phrase coined by Bill Canino of Sportair USA, which also offers a muscular model in this same space — adding a massively powerful engine delivers supershort takeoffs and thrilling climb rates.

One engine is clearly winning the high-power race. Originally developed by Lycoming part maker Engine Components International, or ECi, the Titan X-340 has become a powerplant of choice for those seeking 180-horsepower. Other companies like UL Power and Viking also have potent engine offerings but after Continental Motors bought ECi in 2015, the Mobile, Alabama company has parlayed their famous brand into several entries in the light kit and Light-Sport space. Now enter the Kitfox Titan

One very slick Titan installation appeared on a factory Kitfox brought to Oshkosh by owner John McBean. His team always does impressive detail and finish work and the Kitfox Titan seen nearby was a prime example. An airplane that works extremely well with Rotax (still offered, of course) should be nothing short of spectacular with the big Titan engine doing the pulling. I can't wait to fly this one!

The new Triton American SkyTrek made its debut at AirVenture 2016.
It may look familiar (indeed it has some common heritage) but Triton America's SkyTrek is a significantly different airplane than those it resembles. The airframe is smoother with more sweeping lines aft of the canopy. The structure is beefed up and able to handle a higher G loading. The nosewheel has been strengthened to last better in flight school use.

A main difference in this model from others with similar overall looks is that SkyTrek is fabricated in China. Its principle designer, Tom Hsueh, has long been established in the USA and has worked with some of the largest aviation companies. Although Tom says, "I have a Chinese face," he works from offices in Washington State. His may be a new name to most readers, but I have been talking with Tom for a couple years and believe he can become a player in the U.S. marketplace as well as in China. To Triton's and Tom's credit, he reported the Chinese CAAC has certified SkyTrek for sale in that country.

Not only a new manufacturer of Light-Sport Aircraft, Tom has bigger ambitions. In 2009, Triton America, which does business as Triton Aerospace, acquired all the design rights and hardware inventory for Adam Aircraft, a company that formerly built and certified a six-seat, twin engine, twin-boom, pressurized, all-carbon-composite FAR 23 aircraft."

Murphy Aircraft is back with their new Radical, complete with dual bicycle racks. Designer Darryl Murphy is a cycling enthusiast.
To wind up this brief look of new flying machines we come back to Murphy Aircraft Manufacturing, still run by founder Darryl Murphy and still based in Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada. It's been nearly a decade since we saw any new light planes from this once-prolific producer. Darryl said that when the Canadian dollar soared high compared to the U.S. dollar, it became impossible to sell to Americans, by far his company's largest market. So, he used his large facility and impressive forming machinery to make aviation and other parts for different manufacturers. He seemed pleased about the return to building kits; welcome back, Darryl!

While showing his new Radical, Darryl indicated he's been hearing from potential customers that they'd like a Special LSA Rebel and he reports work is proceeding on that in parallel. Meanwhile he introduced a new model that goes hand-in-glove with the new batch of higher powered, higher gross weight aircraft taking several companies beyond the Light-Sport space. This may be one artifact of the EAA/AOPA push to eliminate the third class medical. Darryl acknowledged Rebel is a good foundation for the Radical, however, the new model is essentially a brand new design. "With more payload, more wing area, and capable of using engines up to 220 horsepower, [Radical] will incorporate many of the best features of the Rebel, Elite, Maverick and Super Rebel," he said.

Looking around Oshkosh, I found ultralight, light kit aircraft, and Light-Sport Aircraft all looking healthier than many seem to think. In addition, the arrival of the 180-horsepower Titan and even larger engines combined with higher gross weight/high payload designs seem created to appeal to those who no longer need a medical. The new program won't be effective for a year and still has hoops through which a pilot must jump, but it does open the door to new designs. Light aircraft engineers and manufacturers seem up to the task and customers appeared intrigued by their new offerings.

I'll have more from Oshkosh after catching up with other work, but I found the light sector very alive and doing quite well, with or without a third class medical.

Succeeding the Old Fashioned Way: Getting It Right
By Dan Johnson, July 25, 2016

Aerotrek importer boss Rob Rollison stands in front of his EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2016 display.
Media people (like me) flock to airshows looking for the new stories, new airplanes, new avionics, new company developments... whatever is new. Journalists pursue what's new because they believe that's what their customers readers want to read (or perhaps because it interests them as a writer). Nevertheless, sometimes the story is what's not new. Aerotrek, importer of the A240 and A220 has not made major changes to the aircraft.

Why? Simple. The airplanes don't need to change.*

Aerotrek's planes are very well built, fly predictably and efficiently, handle nicely and perform near the top of the category at modest operation cost. They are simpler, not fancy carbon fiber, but rely on trusted construction methods using familiar materials. As important as any quality, Aerotreks are modestly priced, affordable to many budgets.

Not breaking new ground means getting familiar ways down pat, honing the building skills and techniques to a fine degree. Aeropro in Europe can execute the aircraft in a repeatably professional manner. All this may not be as sexy as a flashy new design but once aloft, being able to depend on your flying machine is worth a lot.

One more thing. Always updating a product can add to the cost of production which has to raise the selling price.

In this panorama shot, you see the entire Aerotrek display. To the left is a handsome trailer that can house an Aerotrek under which the owner drives his late-model Corvette. Nice!

Company owner Rob Rollison is a calm businessman who moves steadily toward his goals. Deep-voiced and intimately aware of his product Rob presents authoritatively with a broad smile. He has earned the trust of many airplane owners and has built a loyal following, people who have come to really like the Aerotrek aircraft and doing business with the importer.

A few of the Aerotrek owners assisting at Aerotrek's AirVentrure 2016 pose in front of a group of airplanes representing many of of the popular model variations offered.
Rob got into LSA early. He was the Flight Design CT dealer before the LSA rule was released. He has represented several brands and types over his years in business. These learning experiences brought him to Aeropro more than 13 years ago and he remains very happy with the supplier. Through the upheaval of the recession in 2008 and subsequent roller coaster ride, Aerotrek maintained a largely steady business while other company got in trouble.

At AirVenture Oshkosh 2016, Aerotrek exhibited nine airplanes on the field, challenging any other brand for most aircraft in their exhibit. You could see A220 taildraggers, A240 tricycle gear models in a number of bright colors and fitted with different landing gear from hard surface and wheel-panted tires to large tundra tires. As Aerotrek is distributor-direct-to-customer operation, the importer was aided in their Oshkosh display by owners of the aircraft available for visitors to review.

Aerotrek models come well equipped while offering a few options to allow you to personalize. All have folding wings, a task that can be done in 10 minutes ("easily") by a single person. A folded wing still supports itself through the clever design by Dean Wilson, the original creator of a good number of airplanes that look very similar. No wonder. Dean was a brilliant, efficient designer and this planform works very well. Why change what works?

* Aeropro has made numerous refinements over the years while sticking with a basic design that works well as is.

Remos GXiS — A Mercedes of LSA
By Dan Johnson, July 24, 2016

See the new Remos GXiS, a Mercedes of Light-Sport Aircraft at AirVenture 2016; spaces 331-332 near the Theater in the Woods.
Oshkosh is on! OK, not today. The big show starts tomorrow, but you wouldn't know it as airplanes are already arriving in droves and the grounds are rapidly filling. Time for EAA's summer celebration of flight to begin!

Although I'm a longtime regular, today I did something I've never done. I flew out of KOSH and then returned. If you've never flown into Oshkosh during AirVenture, you may not know what an experience such an arrival can be. This is the world's busiest airport for one week. Airplanes arrive every few minutes and all of them do so in a unique, follow-the-plane-in-front-of-you method where no pilot uses the radio. Departing was fairly simple. Arriving is always an eye-opening experience.

I did my departure and reentry with Remos PR & Marketing guy Patrick Holland-Moritz, a former German aviation magazine writer. We flew in the brand new Remos GXiS. Flying into Oshkosh was a repeat treat for me, but I think Patrick was blown away by the flowing river of airplanes of all types. This became even more interesting when the airport had to close one runway due to an incident. As on any freeway, this backed up and snarled traffic. Airplanes were circling back to get in line and our heads were swiveling on our shoulders trying to follow the traffic gaggle around us. Whew!

GXiS features the Rotax 912 iS fuel-injected engine in what may be the best-yet implementation of the fuel efficient powerplant.
Remos remains one of the major brands in the U.S. LSA fleet but the company endured a major setback in 2014 when it was declared insolvent, roughly the equivalent of U.S. bankruptcy. In the last couple years, the German company has found new investors, reorganized, and clawed its way back into the business. Spending by their American representatives in the heydays of LSA helped trigger the problem. The revitalized company has a far more realistic plan of recovery.

One thing that didn't change much was the basic Remos GX series. They have a new model now and perhaps the period they used to reorganize came with a benefit. Remos did not immediately embrace the new Rotax 912 iS fuel-injected 912. The earliest installations by other manufacturers had some challenges (as with any new product). Remos was able to design their new install after some of the earlier bumps has been smoothed. The GXiS result was good... no, make that excellent.

I have more than 120 hours experience flying with the 912 iS. It's great like all Rotax engines but it introduced complications and I experienced them. However, now that is well sorted and Remos had time to thoroughly engineer their solutions. The German engineering team said everything from the firewall forward is new, not only the cowling and spinner that you see. All electronics along with heating and cooling and other details are fresh.

In my evaluation as a pilot, this is best implementation of the 912 iS I have seen.

GXiS flies over the Pasewalk, Germany factory producing the highly upgraded Light-Sport Aircraft. all flight photos courtesy Remos
I'm going to write about the flying qualities but first I want to tell you about the relatively mundane matter of starting a 912 iS. Boring, huh? You might not think so after you first confront Lane A, Lane B lights and some of the other new features of the 912 iS. In their efforts to ease the transition to a computer controlled engine, Rotax made the starting and run-up process similar to what pilots are used with magneto and carb heat checks. The odd thing is that the computer is essentially already doing all this for you so the pilot's workload can be reduced. Remos engineers understood this and worked hard to make it easier.

When you rent a car anywhere in the world, you expect the car to operate simply and largely as you expect, right? Airplanes aren't so simple. While we pilots might like to show off our great knowledge, why jump through unneeded hoops?

In the Remos GXiS you turn the key switch to "Avionics" which lights up the panel but does not turn on all other electrical systems. When you switch to "Engine," all electrics are engaged and then you merely push the Engine Start button. As with many modern cars, that's it. The Rotax starts instantly as always and you can carry on with flight preparations. Remos calls the system "SMARTstart"...and it is.

While the Remos team and I discussed all these changes we understood "simplification" is too basic a term and not very sexy. True to his marketing role, Patrick created the term "smartification." Bravo! A new word is needed for this renewed LSA.

Instead of delving deeply into every change made to GXiS, let me hit some highlights. The throttle is now quadrant style instead of a knob on the panel. Throttle and brake use one lever: forward to go, aft to slow. Flaps are now preset. You move the flap-shaped lever to the position you want and go to your next task. Even cabin heating is new with a system that uses the engine's warm fluid rather than drawing from air surrounding the exhaust system. Changes go deeper so interested buyers will want to contact Remos for all the details.

Meet Team Remos from Germany at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2016: (L-R) Christian, Daniel, Patrick, Jürgen (kneeling), and Paul.
Finally, the flying part. Ah, this is the best (not to diminish the other excellent upgrades to the GX series).

Briefly, GXiS flies beautifully. It's been a while since I flew Remos and this is one deluxe flying machine. As my title indicates this is a Mercedes of Light-Sport Aircraft. Overall the machine is civilized and luxurious. Handling is superlative, light but not twitchy; responsive yet stable; very nice and a form of warm tribute to original designer, Lorenz Kreitmayr.

Despite approaching amid a large flock of airplanes all anxious to land after the delays on the all-in-a-line approach path, my effort with GXiS went well although I can't claim the smoothest touchdown I've ever made. Landing on one of five large dots on a runway with someone landing ahead of you and behind has a way of distracting one's concentration. Yet in control authority, I lacked for nothing and again, that smooth, easy handling pays a benefit.

Besides the SMARTstart controls everyone will love (I predict), Remos is laid out as comfortably as the interior treatment is deluxe and handsome. GXiS is not the widest cabin in the LSA fleet but was certainly comfortable. In-flight visibility is large especially while banked thanks to the large skylight.

To give some balance to my overwhelmingly positive reaction to GXiS, I note the seats adjust in three positions but only while on the ground. Baggage is accessed by removing the seats, though that's easy enough, and you have places for gear you need in flight.

The only remaining downside to the new Remos GXiS is a price tag close to $200,000. So, this won't be for everyone, but if you would consider a fine German automobile, you should by all means check out GXiS. This SLSA should satisfy even the most discerning buyers.

Flying America’s First Homegrown Modern Gyroplane
By Dan Johnson, July 22, 2016

Taxiing out for takeoff with instructor Greg Spicola at the Zephyr Hills, Florida airport. photo by Amy Saunders of Evolution Trikes
Once upon a time... gyrocopters were an American invention. Igor Benson was such an important pioneer that many fixed wing pilots refer to all such flying machines as "Bensen gyros." Starting in the 1950s, he hit on a good combination of ideas that made the new sector flourish... for a time.

Gyros are small rotary winged aircraft that resemble helicopters in some ways — all have a spinning wing above the occupants. However, gyros work by the air moving across the blades of the rotor disk; their rotors are not powered. Most readers likely don't need a technical discussion. Suffice it to say gyros and helos are far from the same animal no matter how much they might look like one another.

Yet in the last couple decades things began to change, dramatically. Perhaps to accentuate their differences, modern producers prefer "gyroplanes" while the older Bensen types are often referred to as "gyrocopters." The old and new are different in important ways.

What's not to enjoy? The view from a gyroplane like AR1 is enormous. photo by Amy Saunders of Evolution Trikes
Europeans began to modernize older gyrocopter designs. They added solidly mounted tailplanes with greater volume, which greatly stabilized these machines. Igor Bensen's early gyros had components in the right proportion and the weight in right enough places to make his aircraft work. However, later developers made changes that lacked adequate safety enhancements and the accident rate soared. This fact alone is why many, including some in FAA, think all gyros may be unsafe; that is simply not accurate.

The Euro-style gyroplanes employ tails with larger vertical and horizontal surface area firmly attached to the rest of the carriage. Other factors are also important but the tailplane alone is a major part of why these machines are much more predictable to fly.

The Europeans also continued the development far past adding some stabilizing features. Companies across the Atlantic first partially enclosed the cockpit with half fuselages. They added better seating, instrumentation, controls, and generally improved fit-and-finish. More recently, designers have made fully enclosed models with increasing sophistication in both tandem and side-by-side seating. These improvements uncovered a ripe market.

Rotax Aircraft Engines said that in recent years, they have sold more 912 and 914 engines to the gyroplane sector than any other sector, by far. Germany's AuroGyro alone has sold more than 2,000 aircraft. Italy's Magni adds another 900 units while Spain's ELA has sold 700 units. Other producers account for another 500 making more than 4,000 sales in roughly the same time Americans have bought 3,000 SLSA of all brands.

photo by Amy Saunders of Evolution Trikes
So what is like to fly a gyro? The simplest comment is that with only a couple exceptions, you fly a gyroplane like a fixed wing. You use the stick and rudders similarly (though not identically). In my third outing — first in a Magni gyro, then an AutoGyro, and now the AR1 — I came away thinking two things. First, my fixed wing skills are highly transferrable to gyroplanes, even better than in a weight shift trike (which I also enjoy). In pursuing a full gyroplane checkout, I would not have to learn many new tricks. Secondly, gyroplanes have some clear advantages.

Something almost everyone notices at airshows is that gyroplanes can fly in winds not advised for many other aircraft. The reason, according to Greg Spicola, my instructor, is that the blades are spinning through the air at something like 400 mph. Therefore, a 25-mph crosswind is relatively insignificant. Combined with a higher wing loading, these aircraft are simply not as vulnerable to winds as most fixed wing aircraft.

Abid Farooqui's SilverLight Aviation focuses these good qualities with its American Ranger 1 by using an expanded, more effective tail arranged closer to the center of gravity thrust line. Abid explained this provides flight dynamics that reduces coupling between power and yaw and power and pitching. These changes along with a "high inertia rotor system" and a faired fuselage allow AR1 to boast a better glide ratio and energy retention, making landings easier and forgiving even for beginner pilots.

The main cautions I've heard for gyroplanes is not jamming the stick full forward (this is ill advised in a fixed wing aircraft, too). Another concern is forgetting that even after you land rather slowly, the rotor may still have quite a bit of spin remaining. If so, it is still making lift and failing to consider that could cause an upset. Likewise, a taildragger landed in a stiff crosswind also demands you handle the controls correctly. Fortunately, control actions that work in an airplane will also work for the gyro. Once the rotor is well spun down, this problem disappears.

I like gyroplane flying and I find plenty of good things to say about them. However, one of the strongest arguments involves price. SilverLight's AR1 costs only $65,000 with the 100-horsepower Rotax 912 engine. This is a kit, yes, but the build effort is modest and for a modern, comfortable, well-flying aircraft, the price is within reach of most budgets.

Since FAA has never chosen to allow Special (fully built) LSA gyroplanes, kit building is your only option. Unlike several other countries, gyroplanes like AR1 can only be sold in America as an Experimental Amateur Built kit. SilverLight said, "We have decided to offer AR1 as a package where builder assistance is offered to include airworthiness inspection fees plus the first two to three hours of test flight and tuning." An AR1 buyer travels to Zephyr Hills airport (not far from Tampa, Florida) to SilverLight's builder assist center for a nominal amount of time. The company added, "Our kit is easy and fast to put together, generally only taking two weeks to be ready for ground testing." While you put bolt A in hole B, your family can take advantage of Florida's numerous tourist attractions; it's not a bad trade and the Z-Hills airport is a fascinating place with all manner of aircraft and a very active skydiving center. C'mon down to Florida and check out the AR1 gyroplane. The view is superlative!

    • Aircraft Configuration — Pusher engine, tricycle gear, tandem seating
    • Empty Weight — 628 pounds (912ULS), 650 pounds (914UL)
    • Gross Weight — 1,232 pounds
    • Minimum Speed (Vmin) — 20 mph
    • Maximum Cruise Speed — 105 mph
    • Maximum Straight & Level Speed (Vh) — with 914UL: 120 mph
    • General Cruise Speed — 55 to 100 mph
    • Never Exceed Speed (Vne) — 120 mph
    • Takeoff Roll (calm air, turf, pre-rotate to 250 RRPM) — 350 feet
    • Landing Roll — 0 to 30 feet with proper technique
    • Rate of Climb; sea level, standard conditions — 725 feet/min (912ULS)/850 feet/min (914UL)
    • Fuel Capacity — 17 U.S. gallons; welded aluminum
    • Rotor — Averso Stella, 27 feet 10 inches (larger rotor system available for high altitude flyers)

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




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

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!

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.

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.

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?

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

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

The New J-230D

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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.

Kitfox is one of the world's best selling light aircraft kits with more than 5,000 delivered. With unrivaled name recognition, Kitfox is admired for crisp handling, excellent performance, easily folded wings, and more. The design is flown around the world.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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Updated: August 25, 2016

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