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...a web log of developments in Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft
Light-Sport Aircraft … Going the Distance
By Dan Johnson, September 4, 2015

Among the critiques some old school pilots employ when trying to marginalize Light-Sport Aircraft is that these aircraft are not suited to flying long distances. I've reported several around the world flights (check this article and here's another) but that's hardly all the long flights.

Michael Smith and son pose with the Southern Sun Searey.
The invitation started out, "Join all of us at Progressive Aerodyne and the City of Tavares on Friday, September 11 for a presentation by Michael Smith about his epic Searey flight from Melbourne, Australia to Central Florida. Michael will give a presentation at the beautiful Tavares Pavilion on the Lake about his incredible journey." Unfortunately, I can't attend as I'll be working the Midwest LSA Expo in Mt. Vernon, Illinois that weekend. However, many readers probably cannot attend either so here's a bit of Michael's story.

In the not-too-distant past, documenting a trip like his probably meant appealing to a magazine or publishing a book. Either would be challenging and by the time it was printed and distributed, it would be dated. Thank goodness for the Internet and a website called TravelPod that allowed many to follow in near real time.

At the outset, Michael wrote, "The plan is to loosely follow the Qantas Empire Flying Boat route of 1938 from Sydney to London in the Searey amphibian aeroplane named 'Southern Sun.'" Of course, Quantas was a giant flying boat and the S.S. Searey is, um ... quite a bit smaller. Plus Michael would do this solo.

His blog continued, "The story of the grand flying boats on the pre-war era I found captivating. All of the research I was doing [for my flight] came together when [I visited] an excellent exhibition of the Flying Boat era in Sydney. I snapped up photos of displays, maps, itineraries and the like, and decided, one day, I would really like to do that."

Michael notes that his Searey has "a similar range to the flying boat airliners of 1938 ... just a little less amenity and comfort." He observed, "Those planes were conceived with [ocean-crossing] ship comfort in mind, with three levels of decks, lounge chairs, even mini golf." Then he added dryly, "I lack most of those facilities ..."

Unlike a record-setting dash, Michael chose to make his an enjoyable expedition, pausing in each city for a day or two "to seek out the old landing spots and hotels that were used" by the airline companies. For those of you who read his travel blog, you can find plenty of info with numerous photos chronicling his discoveries along the route.

While the first legs allowed more frequent stops, departing England got serious. Admitting that unlike the airlines, "I don't have the range to do Ireland to Canada direct," Michael shows his explorer side saying, "I've always been keen to see a few islands in the North Atlantic."

This comment sums up the North Atlantic crossing, "Deep down ... I was apprehensive about this flight. It was only a 575 mile leg, and while I had fueled the plane close to the gills to give me spare range, its a long passage over some very cold water."

You might think he would simply climb as high as possible, but that's incorrect as Michael has discovered. "Flying VFR over the Atlantic means staying out of controlled airspace, which starts at 6,000 feet, and as [I was] heading west that meant 4,500 feet." On the other hand, winds at various are quite important whereas height to extend a glide is less meaningful over the North Atlantic. Despite his apprehension, 9.2 hours later he landing in Iceland.

I recommend you read about Michael's long trip via his regular posts on TravelPod . He's quite an engaging writer and in this way you can follow his trip and experiences. I found it a fascinating travelog.

Is Michael done with these long distance flight? It certainly does not sound like it, and after a success flying half-way around the world, who knows? Here's how he ended his 53-part travel blog, "I'm flying home with Qantas on Monday. On the whole 'what's next question,' that needs some thinking, but I do note on today's track map there is an interesting island south of Florida that Americans can't currently visit ..." I'll be we see more from Michael.

Surely a very welcome sight for two aviators who need a stretch: Majuro (PKMJ) in the Marshall Islands
Another Very Long Flight Underway ... In a completely different attempt, we continue following the flight of a Sling LSA as it circles the globe. Flying even farther than Michael Smith and the SS Searey, these fellows have no boat hull under them as they cross two oceans. However, they have experience as TAF aircraft have now three times done a circumnavigation of the Earth. So much for LSA not flying long distances (though one of the TAF flights was their four seater, presently built as a Experimental).

The U.S. Sling company wrote, "The 2015 Sling Around the World Expedition is once again underway! After a month's rest in Los Angeles, Patrick Huang of the Airplane Factory Asia was joined by Jean d'Assonville of The Airplane Factory USA, a veteran Sling circumnavigator, and the two took off from Torrance, Califonia for Hawaii on Saturday, August 29th.

Yellow line is the route and red circle is where the Sling pilots were at the time. Yikes!
"Once situated in their trusty steed — the South African registered Sling ZU-TWN — the pair made a quick fuel stop in San Luis Obispo, CA (KSBP) and then began the non-stop flight to Hawaii. They originally planned for a stop in Maui, but after favorable tailwinds and a fuel burn of 4 GPH, they amended plans and flew even further to Honolulu, PHNL. Total flight time was around 21.5 hours and fuel used was 102 gallons.

"After a check of the weather they determined it would be best to make a quick turn around and were back in the air the very next day. They took off from Honolulu at 7:38 Pacific time on Monday, August 31st and began the long journey to Majuro (PKMJ) in the Marshall Islands. They were in constant communication with TAF's team in both the USA and South Africa, who navigated them around a few Pacific Ocean storms (image). Some favorable tailwinds were seen initially and after 19.5 hours and over 2,000 nautical miles, they landed on the beautiful coral atoll of Majuro."

The Sling trip is underway as this is written but, as with Michael Smith's voyage, you can follow the pair en route. This blog link describes the trip. Or go to TAF USA's Facebook page.


Gyroplanes and Autogyros … Same or Different?
By Dan Johnson, September 1, 2015

(Images updated 9/2/15)

Are you intrigued by airplanes that spin their wings? Helicopters are out of the budget for most pilots but have you ever sampled a gyroplane? Whatever your answer, you should know that Rotax Aircraft Engines reports selling more 912 powerplants to gyro producers than to any other airplane segment. Most of those are sold outside the USA.

Americans like and do fly gyroplanes, of course. Most associate the type with the Bensen Gyrocopter, but the history record reveals its overseas start. Again today, gyros are predominantly a non-U.S. phenomenon, a fact LAMA is trying to change through its advocacy efforts to press FAA to reconsider the fully built SLSA gyro as once envisioned under the SP/LSA rule.

While most pilots can identify a gyroplane, they mentally picture an aircraft with the engine in the rear. That isn't always the case, though.

The proof of concept aircraft flies; importer Cobus Burger said the "design has changed."
How about the "odd" looking gyroplane pictured with this article, with its tractor engine? This configuration is sometimes called an autogyro while Bensen-style designs used the term gyrocopter. Today most use FAA's preferred "gyroplane."

We've seen some other development of the front engine autogyro, for example the stylish and handsome (though non-Light-Sport Aircraft) Bulldog developed in Britain.

Nonetheless a clear majority of gyroplanes use a pusher configuration that some say is useful as it assures significant airflow over the tailplane. Experts say the use of vertical surfaces aft of the aircraft has significantly aided the stability of gyroplanes. While most gyroplanes we see in the USA are pushers, Phenix Aero based in Colorado is acting to balance the equation.

The U.S. importer portrays their product this way. "Invented by the Spanish engineer Juan de la Cierva to create an aircraft that could safely fly at slow speeds, the autogyro was first flown on 9 January 1923, at Cuatro Vientos Airfield in Madrid. De la Cierva's aircraft resembled the fixed-wing aircraft of the day, with a front-mounted engine and propeller in a tractor configuration to pull the aircraft through the air."

Note ballistic parachute inside the tail boom. all images courtesy Phenix Aero
After de la Cierva, a Spanish engineer, participated in a design competition in 1921 to develop a bomber for the Spanish military his three-engined aircraft stalled and crashed during an early test flight. Troubled by the stall phenomenon he vowed to develop an aircraft that could fly safely at low airspeeds. The result was the first successful rotorcraft, which he named Autogiro in 1923.

For more of the colorful history of the autogyro and gyroplane, check this detailed article with further credit back to Wikipedia.

All Phenix models share the same basic features of two side-by-side seats in a fully enclosed composite carbon fiber fuselage, much like the most recent European pusher configuration gyrocopters (see photos in this article).

The rotor blades are extruded solid aluminum. Digital EFIS instruments are provided by MGL Avionics. The cabin has a spacious and comfortable interior (photo) with good visibility and a cargo area behind bulkhead.

Thanks to Phenix using turbo charged, fuel injected engines from MW Fly, the company boasts "great performance and fuel economy." Powerplants range from 130 to 150 to 190 horsepower, although these engines have no U.S. certification and have not declared meeting ASTM standards. This does not presently matter since all gyroplanes in America receive airworthiness certificates under Experimental Amateur Built. Earlier models of the Phenix, first introduced in 2009, used the Rotax 914, offering a quick solution were FAA to finally allow SLSA gyroplanes.

One of the most interesting features is a ballistic recovery parachute mounted at the far aft end of the Phenix. As I used to work with BRS Parachutes, I picked up on this right away. BRS engineers often worked on emergency airframe parachutes for helicopters and gyroplanes but that spinning disk flies around right where the parachute wants to go after deployment. Supertough Kevlar connecting bridles that attach parachute to airframe can withstand the whack of a rotor but not the thinner nylon lines that support the parachute. In most deployment scenarios the conflict was sufficient to postpone parachutes for gyros, although a few interesting ideas were proposed by other developers (see last news item in this article). The rear location might remedy the problem.

Phenix Aero adds, "The tractor configuration of the engine, plus placing the thrust in line with the center-of-gravity, eliminates the tail-wagging, bunt-over and power-pushover tendencies some pusher engined gyroplanes have." Some who have flown the aircraft felt it had a rather long takeoff roll but landing roll is very short in videos available online.

Phenix is presently marketed in the USA by Cobus Burger of Phenix Aero International, LLC. Reach him at 303-903-2148 or via email.

Article updated 9/2/15 with newer aircraft images courtesy of Cobus Burger.


Van’s RV-12 Enter Rare Realm of Four Digits
By Dan Johnson, August 28, 2015

I've enjoyed a front row seat for all eleven years that Light-Sport Aircraft have been part of the aviation firmament. In those years of closely following this industry, I've only seen companies reach the four digit horizon three times.

What does that mean and why might you find it meaningful?

First came Cessna's Skycatcher. More recently it was (quite convincingly) Icon's A5. Now, welcome Van's Aircraft.

Cessna once claimed more than 1,000 orders for their now-discontinued Skycatcher LSA. The company delivered 271 of them (according to our review of FAA's N-number database) but we won't see any more. Icon reports more than 1,300 orders, making them Top Gun in the LSA roost, though they have delivered only one, to EAA's Young Eagles program. Then, we have Van's | the undisputed leader of kit aircraft deliveries. In fact, the latter is nearly ready to enter the aviation stratosphere of five digits.

"On August 27, 2015 the shipping department at Van's Aircraft Inc. had several orders to fill," started the story from the Oregon-based kit giant. "By the end of the day, they'd rolled the 937th RV-12 kit empennage package onto the shipping dock, where it was picked up by a customer from Washington State, Richard Bangsund (photo).

"What's the significance of '937'," asked Van's on your behalf? "Well, combined with the SLSA 'fly-away' RV-12s the company has constructed," the company answered, "the total number of RV-12 empennage kits produced and sold now totals ... one thousand." I'll do the math for you and show that means Van's & Synergy have manufactured 63 RV-12 SLSA.

Van's went on to observe that RV-12 is the sixth RV design to exceed 1,000 unit sales and they added that four of those designs have exceeded 1,000 completions. By any measure this is a very impressive performance. "The number of flying RVs listed on the company's website now totals 9,178," noted Van's. Four hundred and seven of those are RV-12s.

If you review our SLSA market share chart — a new one of which, for the first half of 2015, is in early draft form now — you may be confused. Van's is moving up but is clearly not at the top of the chart. Why? Because most completed and flying RV-12s were built as Experimental Amateur Built aircraft and our popular chart counts only factory built Special LSA. The RV-12s emerging from Van's building partner, Synergy Air, are currently ranked 13th place with 50 registered to the end of 2014.

Washington State customer Richard Bangsund picks up his new RV-12 empennage kit from Van's Aircraft. RV-12 photos courtesy of Van's Aircraft
"All of us at Van's have known that the RV-12 is an excellent little airplane," said company founder Dick (Van) VanGrunsven. It's nice to see the word spreading in the market place."

The word has certainly spread in his immediate family, said Van's Aircraft. Van and two of his brothers have built and fly RV-12s. So have a pair of company employees. Nothing shows belief in a product more than company personnel using it, I'd add.

"RV-12s have also been completed by several groups of young people participating in the Teenflight and Eagle's Nest programs," stated the company. They added that Special LSA RV-12s are now operated by several flight schools, who report that their students love the way it flies, and often request the RV-12 even when other airplanes are available.

"We're looking forward to the next thousand..." said boss Ken Scott.

Some dismiss the performance and say it doesn't count because "they're just ultralights," but Quicksilver reached the ultra-rare five digit space first, delivering more than 15,000 of their aircraft kits since the early 1980s, nearly every one of which also got airborne. That company, now named Quicksilver Aeronautics after the last ownership change, has also entered the fully built Special LSA space.


Transcontinental Gyroplane Record Underway Now
By Dan Johnson, August 25, 2015

As I write this, an intrepid gyro pilot is "out on the course" as we used to say when I flew in hang gliding competitions. By the time you read this, he may be all the way home. What a great effort! I hope Paul earns a world record but either way, I feel certain he enjoyed the experience.

A Magni M-22 Voyager in flight. photo courtesy of Greg Gremminger
"Paul Salmon is currently crossing the country in a record attempt in a Magni M22," said Greg Gremminger, importer for the Italian Magni Gyro line of aircraft. "He is trying to set the record for a gyroplane to cross the country in both directions."

Greg added that Paul is on pace to set the record time, back and forth, in just four days. "This attempt is in the 500 kilogram + (1,100 pound) gyroplane category," added Greg. "There are no records established for this category. The under 500 kilogram category gyro record is currently about 14 days. So, if Paul is successful, he will hold the record for gyroplanes overall, and gyroplanes under 500 kilogram."

"Paul named his gyro "Missing Link II," said Greg. "Johnny Miller set the initial gyroplane record in his "Missing Link" Autogyro in May of 1931." Eighty four years later, Paul left Torrance, California on Sunday morning, August 23rd at 6:00 AM as soon as the tower opened. He arrived in Jacksonville, Florida on Monday evening. He's already headed back west, and according to Greg, will probably stop for the night in El Paso, Texas. If all goes well, he should arrive back in California on Wednesday evening the 26th. Whew!

If you read this soon enough, you can follow the final stretch at this link.

Catch our video with Greg Gremminger to hear about two models from Magni Gyro (shot at the Midwest LSA Expo that is coming up on September 10-11-12).
On Friday the 21st Paul repositioned Missing Link II to Torrance California from his home base in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. He expected to set a new Eastbound Transcontinental Gyroplane record. "After arriving in Jacksonville I will be filing some paperwork, refueling the gyroplane and departing on the return flight back to Torrance, California," wrote Paul. The return trip will establish a new Westbound Transcontinental Gyroplane record, as well as a new Transcontinental "Round trip" Gyroplane record.

According to Paul, the first transcontinental gyroplane flight and record was set by Johnny Miller in May of 1931. Amelia Earhart attempted the flight but was unsuccessful. "Andy Keech is the current holder of the record," Paul added, "and I am attempting to improve on his record."

Arriving at Jacksonville at about 5:30 Florida time, Paul took two days to fly across the country, reported Greg. His first day of flying was about 16 hours and the second day about 14.5 hours. "The record is for the total time to cross the country and return. So, this will be about 4 days," wrote Greg, smashing the current record of 14 days.

As he made his mad dash east then west, Paul was carrying 100 small American flags. "These will be mounted in a display and sold for $100 each," wrote Paul. He indicated the proceeds will be sent to the ALS Association, in memory of Dr. Scott Gibbs, a former helicopter student of Paul's who recently perished from ALS. "He was a talented and caring physician and is missed by me and the community."

Record-seeking pilot Paul Salmon probably won't fuel up like this Magni pilot; he is carrying an addition 30 gallons in the aft seat.
Paul is carrying an extra 30-gallon fuel bladder in back seat as he makes his record-seeking flight. "After this attempt, he may add more fuel bladders and attempt to set the world endurance flight record in a gyro," wrote Greg, "as well as the longest, nonstop leg in a gyro." One wonders how such an active fellow has time for his day job.

Paul Salmon is an emergency room doctor who Greg says knows how to take power naps when necessary, a skill that may be useful between long flying legs. "He got his rotary wings in Magni gyros more ten years ago," Greg recalled. "His record-attempt aircraft is the fourth Magni gyro he has owned." Paul is also a helicopter instructor and has a Robinson dealership plus a certified repair facility in Missouri. "He may be the most active helo instructor in the state," added Greg!

Unfortunately, as the FAA never approved gyroplanes to be fully built Special LSA, Paul cannot provide compensated instruction in gyros, although various groups including LAMA are investigating how to change that restriction.


DemoVenture 2015 — Flying at Oshkosh
By Dan Johnson, August 20, 2015

Shows like Sebring and Midwest LSA Expo are known for being great places to demo fly a Light-Sport or light kit you may be considering to buy. They earned that reputation because it is typically much easier to fly at those lower-key, less crowded events than at giant shows like AirVenture. However, some companies make demo flying a mission at Oshkosh and this article covers three that delivered an exceptional number of demo flights.

Your author finally got a chance to fly the Icon A5 at AirVenture Oshkosh 2015. Watch for an upcoming Video Pilot Report on this warmly-received LSA seaplane.
Icon reported doing around 150 demonstration flights in the first public outing of the long-awaited LSA seaplane. Writers for aviation's largest magazines got their private crack at the new bird beforehand ... since returning from Oshkosh, I've seen A5 on the covers of Flying, AOPA Pilot, Sport Aviation, and Plane & Pilot. That's an enormous splash. I can't recall any single aircraft capturing all four titles in the same month, quite a credit to Team Icon for deftly executing such a major marketing push.

Once arriving in Wisconsin, Icon made sure many their owners-in-waiting got a chance to fly the bird they hope to own before long. Interspersed among them, more aviation journalists got their chance. I had to bide my time until near the end of the week due to an intense schedule and a couple days of less than ideal weather, but I finally got my shot at the much-talked-about LSA.

Icon staffers were very accommodating, even mounting four GoPro cameras on the A5 in which I flew with ex-military jock and now Icon's vice president of sales and marketing, Craig Bowers. Look for our coming Video Pilot Report as soon as the video editing can be completed. Icon did their demo flying off-site where they could better control the experience. A group of perhaps 15 personnel moved people in and up in a pair of A5s with some staffers first briefing each pilot while others took care of fueling, taking photos, assisting the water docking and more in the expert fashion we've come to expect from the California company.

M-Squared's Breese 2 powered by a Rotax 912 flew many demo flights and drew the vice mayor from the Chinese city of Anyang who visited AirVenture with a delegation.
Next we move to a man I anointed as the "Demo King" of AirVenture in previous years thanks to his amazing performance at getting people aloft from the Ultralight Area runway at Oshkosh.

Compared to Paul Mather of M-Squared Aircraft, Icon is a Johnny-come-lately to this activity. Beyond making SLSA and kit versions of his Breese line, Paul is also a DAR (Designated Airworthiness Representative) who assists others with getting approval for their Light-Sport Aircraft. He is very knowledgeable and very experienced.

Paul reported, "We flew 98 fights, about ten of which were to area volunteers; through these flights, we put 9.8 hours on our 912-powered aircraft." Paul has always been gracious about getting hard-working volunteers a chance to see their area as a form of reward for their hours of unpaid work. He added, "We also did two photo shoots for EAA." He explained that the photography missions were done with an automatic camera that captured more than 3,000 pictures, at least one of which EAA used in giant size in the main area of the event. "The automatic camera was operated by a subcontractor from National Geographic magazine." He was a very large fellow further proving the strength of Paul's open cockpit airplane. "His fisheye lens took in almost the entire field at Oshkosh," Paul added.

Paul was member of our travel delegation to China, where he found sales for his M-Squared models. Of our group, he was one who had earlier experience in this part of the world. His flying machines may fit an emerging aviation market due to very reasonable prices (less than $40,000 for a ready-to-fly SLSA) and being simple to fly. As seen in the inset photo, Anyang vice mayor Zhang Manru visited Paul's display along with other associates from China.

The ultra-deluxe Revo trike flew an impressive number of demo missions. The Chinese group see interest in weight shift aircraft in their country and paid a visit to Evolution Trikes' display. See plenty of activity on a fun video found on Evolution's Facebook page (August 17, 2015 post).
Evolution Trikes made another airshow splash. Although they set a blazing pace for demo flying — more on that below — what may distinguish the company the most was their trek from central Florida in four Revo weight shift aircraft, a 17-hour journey. Anyone who says trikes can't fly long distances evidently never examined one from Evolution.

Evolution's Larry Mednick reported that AirVenture 2015 was "one of the busiest shows I can remember. The flight pattern in the 'Fun Fly Zone' was so full it was difficult to get a chance to land at times." He added, "The flight line was packed with smiling faces watching the takeoffs and landings that were happening every few seconds." He observed that more people than ever evidently wanted to experience the fun instead of just sitting on the side lines."

"We flew two Revo aircraft almost every minute we were allowed to fly and we had a line of folks holding onto yellow waivers waiting for their opportunity to go up next." The Revo demo pilots kept very active — a fact many in the Ultralight Area noticed. Larry reported more than 120 demo flights given.

"One of my fondest memories is of a young boy who was next in line to fly when the field shut down operations," recalled Larry, who promised the lad he could fly the next day. "Sure enough the youngster walked up to our booth with his yellow waiver in his right hand while waving with his left. His time was limited as his dad and grandfather wanted to depart soon. Concerned he might miss his chance, he trudged away with his head a bit down. Ten minutes later he came running back with the biggest smile on his face. He'd convinced Dad to wait a bit longer later so we strapped him in and off we went. He took the controls and flew better than most of the adults that had their hand at piloting a Revo earlier that week."

So, three Light-Sport companies flew more than 360 demos with five aircraft. I have no way to know, but my bet is that is more than nearly all the other companies all over the sprawling grounds of Oshkosh ... combined. Bravo!


Virtual Fly-In and Three Fall Shows to Enjoy
By Dan Johnson, August 16, 2015
Update 8/17/15 AM — Even with almost two months to go, WUFI is growing. Look at the updated map at the bottom; it appears many ultralighters are ready to join the fun on October 10.

"One Day. One Sky. Be a part of it." That's the exclamation and invitation from the Dayton Ultralights World Ultralight Fly-In.

What is a virtual fly-in and why is the Dayton group organizing it? "Because the limitations of these aircraft mean it is unlikely all of us around the world will ever get to fly together, but we can all fly the same sky, on the same day everywhere on the planet, making this the first Virtual Worldwide Fly-in!

Why not? People get excited about "flash mobs" and this seems like lots more fun for people who fly. While thousands attend big events like AirVenture and Sun 'n Fun ultralight enthusiasts only rarely fly from, say, California, to Oshkosh, Wisconsin at 50 mph. It can be done, of course, but it's more probable airshow ultralights are hauled by ground.

The Dayton group has made an official application for a Guinness World Record, so join the fun and see if you can enter the record book.

How do you participate? The World Ultralight Fly-In (WUFI) starts at daybreak on October 10, 2015. Ultralight enthusiasts anywhere on the planet are invited, including any aircraft considered an "ultralight" — aircraft such as fixed wing ultralights, powered parachutes, weight shift trikes, powered paragliders, hang gliders, or, "any imaginative, magnificent flying machine."

To join the fun go to the official WUFI Map and enter your name. Then, "Get your aircraft ready anytime before daybreak on October 10th, fly, and photograph or video your flight. To help with the Guinness record attempt, you need a photo with visible proof of October 10 showing on the screen while you and your flying machine are airborne." Afterwards, they suggest, "Post your picture to the WUFI Facebook site with your name, type of aircraft, and model, and a short description of where on the Earth you flew!"

Call 937-470-6168 or, see their Facebook page.

Coming before the virtual fly-in and the other two fall shows is one of my favorites, the Midwest LSA Expo (MWLSA) in Mt. Vernon, Illinois over September 10-11-12. This is a smaller event than spectaculars like AirVenture or Sun 'n Fun. However, size isn't everything.

The event about one hour west of St. Louis is big in other ways. You'll typically see about 50 aircraft on display and you can get right to the folks that bring them, without a dozen other people crowding your time. You can ask the in-depth questions that often are not possible at big shows. MWLSA is also big for demo flying the airplanes of your choice; it's easier and faster than at any other show I attend. Mt. Vernon is literally a spacious airport with big runways, open taxiways, and lots of flying-friendly space around it.

My favorite videographer and I will again be present — we've never missed a MWLSA event. This is a place where we can accumulate footage for our popular VPRs or Video Pilot Reports, longer shows where we mount our collection of seven Garmin VIRB cameras. With so many viewpoints, Dave gets lots of footage to use when he performs his editing magic to make the videos many of you love.

Mt. Vernon and MWLSA is perfect for us and for you to get in the air plus the town welcomes the pilots and airport manager Chris Collins always earns the strongest praise for making sure everyone gets what they need, including free rides to the town's restaurants and hotels.

After MWLSA and after WUFI come two events in western states. Videoman Dave and I plan to take the long haul westbound to the Flying Aviation Expo occurring October 15-16-17, followed by Copperstate on October 22-23-24.

Many in aviation are puzzled by a fact that the biggest aviation events happen well east of the Mississippi River. More pilots and airplanes are based in California than any other state yet the major events are hundreds of miles away.

That's changing with the new Flying (magazine) Aviation Expo in beautiful Palm Springs, California, just a few hours east of Los Angeles. This second annual event expects more than 300 exhibitors, plenty of forums and talks, plus a broad group of aircraft parked immediately outside the exhibit hall. Get a good view from the video interview with Flying magazine editor Robert Goyer below.

Here's a bonus: Register soon and get a free exhibit hall pass.

trike photo by Rudy Morris 2014
Then comes Copperstate. Starting 42 years ago in 1973 Copperstate has been a stalwart of western shows supporting a large pilot population in Arizona and surrounding states.

Copperstate Fly-In is a volunteer run, non-profit organization "dedicated to promoting recreational and general aviation through events, scholarships, and public education." Not unlike other big shows including Sun 'n Fun, "proceeds from the Copperstate Fly-In help support scholarship programs for youth seeking careers in the aerospace industry."

Pilot will enjoy attending along with about 5,000 other folks to view aircraft you might not see at eastern USA shows, simply because bringing them all the way across the country may not be in the cards for some of their owners. Late October in Arizona is a beautiful time of year with abundant sunshine but lacking the scorching heat of summer.

We plan to shoot more videos at Copperstate so those of you "back east" can still attend via your computer screen or mobile device and the good folks at YouTube. However, if you live "out west," come join us here, too.

Updated World Ultralight Fly-In map ...


The World of LSA and American Opportunities
By Dan Johnson, August 13, 2015

Updated 8/21/15 — This article has been updated with a reader comment seen at the bottom.

When the SP/LSA regulation was announced 11 years ago nearly all registered Light-Sport Aircraft originated in Europe. Indeed, the first two accepted as SLSA were the Evektor SportStar and Flight Design's CT series. For several early years, Europe accounted for more than two-thirds of all LSA brands in the USA.

However, in a decade, a lot has changed.

Now, American companies have had time to shift from kit making (a very different business model) or have developed brand-new aircraft or offer a revised version of an existing model to meet the ASTM standards so they could gain FAA acceptance.

American companies are also starting to make inroads into other countries that accept ASTM standards.

Some countries simply copy FAA regs while others accept the ASTM standards set and then layer on some of their own regulations. It varies country-by-country though a few appear to largely accept U.S. approval as sufficient for operation in their country. I'll cover China in more detail below.

Blue shows countries that have confirmed that they have adopted regulations, used ASTM LSA standards by reference in their airworthiness code, or accepted LSA on the same basis of airworthiness as in the USA; Red shows countries that indicated they are considering adopting the LSA category; Green identifies the European Union that has created CS-LSA (Certification Specifications for LSA) but have not yet fully implemented all rules. image initially prepared by SkyRunner, then modified for the EU
Our friends over at SkyRunner compiled a list of countries they found to support Light-Sport Aircraft and ASTM standards. We started with their work and added further information in an attempt to show the full potential of ASTM and LSA, what SkyRunner folks called a "|category [that] is quickly becoming harmonized worldwide."

Based on the concept initially introduced to Americans in 2004, ASTM-compliant LSA have subsequently been adopted in a number of countries (see map). SkyRunner elaborated, "Information obtained from FAA indicates that [CAAs] in the following countries have confirmed that they have adopted regulations, used ASTM LSA standards by reference in their airworthiness code, or accepted LSA on the same basis of airworthiness as in the USA: Australia, China, Brazil, Colombia, Canada, Israel, Chile, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, and South Africa." We might quibble a bit with some of this information, for example, Canada still uses their Advanced Ultralight regulation, but sources do confirm movement in the right direction.

Further expansion is expected, indicated the SkyRunner team. Their research shows CAAs in the following countries have indicated that they are considering adopting the LSA category: Argentina, Guatemala, Venezuela, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Russia, and Thailand.

Please note that while we believe this to be accurate information, understanding another country's regulations is not always straightforward and even when fully understood, these things are subject to change.

Some countries appear to be moving faster than others. One that has shown significant effort is China. I recently reported that Searey gained CAAC approval for both their design and the manufacturing process. More on that below.

Meanwhile, a Facebook friend, Jane Zhang of Silk Wings Aviation, reported that additional LSA-types have obtained similar levels of approval in China. She noted, "First one was Flight Design CT back in 2009/2010, then [Cessna's Skycatcher]162, two German Autogyro, [Germany's] C42, [Evektor's] EV97 ... that's six. Jabiru's J230-D is #7 and Searey is #8." I asked Jane if all had both TDA (Type Design Approval) and Production Certificates (PC), the latter being a much more involved process.

Jane continued to aid my understanding, "I know for sure CT, 162, Autogyro (two models approved) and C42 have gained PC ... awarded to [a producer's] home manufacturing location. A LSA company has to have both TDA and PC granted by CAAC to officially and legally sell in China."

When I inquired further about how many LSA type aircraft may be operating in China, Jane replied, "CT has an Asia/China dealer. Autogyro and C42 have one common dealer and he is selling well. EV97 ... I am not sure. A Chinese designed LSA — by Sunward called Aurora SA60L (photo) — is selling relatively well." She said she'd have to check for exact numbers but, "I guess around 50-70 'legal' ones in total. At least 10-20 LSA in China do not have CAAC approval (yet).

For those curious about China and the requirements, I followed up with Searey CEO, Adam Yang. First, he noted Progressive Aerodyne had some audit findings, but they were not major points. We are basically in good shape but need to write a report to show compliance." He said another two months are needed to get the final Production Certificate, however, his company is allowed to register the eleven Searey LSA already sold.

In an interesting twist not unlike how Europe handles certain aircraft, Adam noted "CAAC is not administrating powered parachutes, trikes, powered paragliders, and such aircraft types. "Instead China's sports administration is handling this," Adam added.

All this shows the challenges of answering the seemingly simple question, "Where are LSA accepted around the world." The answer is as complicated as the various government agencies choose to make it and every country handles approval somewhat differently.

Nonetheless, American LSA producers wishing to sell outside the USA have it vastly easier than manufacturers of Type Certificated (Part 23) aircraft. Hence, we see a global LSA market that is far easier for smaller companies to tackle ... and that seems a great thing.

Update — Reader Torkell Sætervadet wrote, "Norway is a part of the EASA area (on your map it is white, it should be green), and it is not correct that CS-LSA is not fully implemented in the EU. It is — but it requires an expensive type certificate based on the ASTM specifications (with some modifications). The cost of the type certificate is why EU/EASA only has a selection of three LSA models as of today. The rule may be changed in the future, but don't hold your breath."


What’s with FAA’s Worry Over Electric Airplanes?
By Dan Johnson, August 9, 2015

I'm always impressed with good turns of phrase and cleverly-worded presentations. Given that I am a writer, I suppose that doesn't surprise you. However, I am even more impressed when someone can present a concept in such clear language that everyone gets it right away. Following is such a story.

Yuneec's eSpyder powered with an electric motor.
My longtime friend and fellow board member, Tom Peghiny, participated in our annual Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association board of directors meeting at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, where EAA kindly provides a quiet, air-conditioned space for our group to meet.

LAMA has four initiatives that the association is pursuing*. One of them is trying to break the logjam of electric propulsion

In an FAA-organized gathering on this and other subjects at AirVenture 2014, industry experts observed that FAA never intended to block electric power. Agency rulewriters were intent on preventing use of turbine engines on LSA so the regulation specifies reciprocating engines only, effectively blocking electric power even if doing so was never the goal. While only a couple sentences in the preamble to the rule prevent electric — along with an important definition — FAA personnel replied that it is now a major challenge to change their rule, even though most appeared to agree it was never their intention to prevent electric power.

Cartoon art by Robert Ariail
Since the SP/LSA rule was released in 2004, lithium batteries have grabbed the attention of FAA officials in a very powerful way. The fires onboard Boeing's 787 Dreamliner made news all around the world after FAA had given their approval to the new design.

Today, any talk of advancing electric propulsion on the lightest-of-all aircraft where the technology is currently quite viable brings an immediate response about lithium battery fires. The danger of an onboard fire is so scary that some authorities seem unable to see a solution beyond the hazard.

As board members discussed how to move the needle on LAMA's electric propulsion initiative, board member Tom proposed a scenario that soon had everyone in the board meeting either laughing out loud or smiling broadly. He supposed ... "Imagine if all airplanes were currently powered by electric motors and someone came along with a great new idea to power airplanes with gasoline."

Perhaps it would be best if I present Tom's hilarious lines using an imaginary dialogue between an inventor and FAA officials.

FAA tests show that lithium batteries can explode and burn even more violently than previously thought, raising questions about their use and shipment on passenger flights. image from eetimes.com

INVENTOR: "FAA, I have an idea. I think we might be able to power airplanes with a fluid. It might prove to be very efficient."

FAA: "Oh, what's that? We have to be very careful with new ideas, you know."

INVENTOR: "We'll it's an explosive liquid ... really packs a punch. It could keep aircraft aloft for hours at a time."

FAA: "Explosive! Oh, we don't like the sound of that very much."

INVENTOR: "No, really. This stuff, called gasoline, has a very high energy density, is compact, can be easily loaded onto the aircraft, doesn't cost too much for the energy it delivers ..."

FAA: "Don't try to snow us with all that technobabble. You said 'explosive,' didn't you? We're still trying to wrap our minds around that."

INVENTOR: "Oh, it can be done without much danger. We'll put the fuel in the wings. We'll put a firewall between the engine and the occupants. Fuel lines will be carefully routed around the cockpit."

FAA: "You mean you want to pump an explosive liquid near the occupants, put it into an engine compartment forward of the cockpit, make a spark many times per second, and explode this stuff in cylinders!?"

Cartoon art by Glenn Foden
INVENTOR: "Yeah, I think it can work really well. This gasoline stuff ... sure it's highly flammable, but we can handle it safely."

FAA: "Flammable! Explosive! Sparks to ignite it! All with the occupants downwind of this stuff!?"

INVENTOR: "Yeah, FAA. This gasoline thing is gonna be big. We might even use it automobiles, in lawn mowers, and in children's toys."

FAA: "Hold on, wait a minute, stop right now. I can't see us approving such an energy source for perhaps years. This sounds crazy. Who would possibly think carrying around hundreds of pounds of explosive liquid in a three dimensional environment could be safe. We're going to have to examine this very carefully. It could take decades."

INVENTOR: "Oh, man. I don't think I can stay in business that long.

FAA: "Yeah, well, we have reliable electric-powered airplanes today. We honestly don't know what you are thinking with this half-baked idea to carry gasoline in airplanes. Plus, we're obliged to alert the automobile, lawn mower, and children's toy regulators since you mentioned those products as well.

FAA: (walking away muttering under their breath...) "What on earth will these crackpots come up with next. Really, gasoline on airplanes. That's just nuts. We better form a new department to confront this possibility. What if Mr. Inventor is right and this gasoline-on-airplanes idea should take off. Crazy ..."

INVENTOR: (sighing deeply...) "Dang it! I thought this was such a great idea, but man, convincing these government folks is going to be tough. Whew! Better join LAMA and see if they can help."

OK, that last sentence is tongue-in-cheek, but that's the story. Hope you liked it. I'm still smiling from Tom's sharp-as-a-pin humor. Thanks, Tom!

LAMA's four initiatives are: (1) aerial work for LSA; (2) fully-built, SLSA gyroplanes; (3) electric propulsion; and, (4) simplifying the LODA process for training in sub-87 knot airplanes.

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

 



 

 
 

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.



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

X-Air brings a return to reasonably priced Light-Sport Aircraft, with a ready-to-fly flying machine you can purchase for a genuinely low price. No new arrival, X-Air has a rich history in light aviation.

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

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

Many Light-Sport Aircraft & General Aviation models

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.

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

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.

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


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.


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

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.

U.S. Sport Aircraft Importing represents the popular SportCruiser, one of the best selling Special Light-Sport Aircraft among 130 models on the market. The Texas-headquartered importer has long represented this familiar model.

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

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.

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.

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?

Quicksilver Aeronautics is the world's largest producer of ultralight aircraft, selling some 15,000 aircraft. The company's designs are thoroughly tested, superbly supported, and have an excellent safety record.

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

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

BushCat is the distinctive Light-Sport Aircraft within reach of almost any budget. With a solid heritage BushCat by SkyReach is fun, capable, and available as a kit, fully-built SLSA or ELSA.

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.

Aeromarine-LSA represents an economical Part 103 ultralight that is within reach of almost any budget. For local fun flying, or for those who enjoy soaring flight Zigolo is light enough to be lifted by even the most gentle thermals.

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. Here’s one to examine much more closely!


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.

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.

Phoenix Air USA imports the beautiful Phoenix Special Light-Sport Aircraft, a performance motorglider that can cruise swiftly and serve both functions with excellent creature comfort. Given its clever wing extension design, you get two aircraft in one!

Progressive Aerodyne designed and supplies the SeaRey series, arguably the most celebrated of all light seaplanes in America. A close community of hundreds of owners offers camaraderie few other brands can match.

Jabiru USA builds the spacious and speedy J-250 and more recently J-230 plus the training-optimized J-170, each certified as Special LSA. The Tennessee-based company also imports and services the popular Jabiru engine line.

BRM Aero manufacturers the handsome Bristell all-metal SLSA. This highly evolved, next-generation Light-Sport was carefully engineered for luxury, comfort, excellent stability, and safety while being fun, fast, and easy to fly.

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Updated: September 4, 2015

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