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Welcome to 2015 and a brand new season of recreational flying! Next up on the light aviation show calendar are twin April events: the 2015 editions of Aero in Germany (15-18) followed quickly by Sun 'n Fun (21-26).

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...a web log of developments in Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft
MVP Traveling to Europe and Touring USA
By Dan Johnson, March 29, 2015

Rendering of MVP in flight. See earlier article for additional details.
In the first decade of Light-Sport Aircraft we saw a new model emerge nearly every month; some months brought more than one model. SLSA approvals reached 136 aircraft, most of them land-based aircraft (our SLSA list describes each type).

To general aviation pilots used to a genuinely new aircraft model once a decade or so, this LSA development outpouring was phenomenal. Cirrus SR20 was certified 17 years ago in 1998; how many other all-new GA models can you name since?.

By 2015, the torrid pace has slowed for various reasons and now we see more incremental changes on Light-Sport Aircraft, by which I mean new engines, interior changes, new avionics or other features, and so forth. This is much like in the GA world and I see nothing wrong with that, but it is less inspiring than a constant flow of brand-new concepts.

Rushing into this all-new-design gap like a tsunami filling a Pacific atoll are LSA seaplanes. Most storied among them is the A5 but Icon Aircraft has competitors hot on their tail. One of the most versatile of these is MVP, in fact, "Versatile" is literally its middle name.

all images courtesy MVP.aero
Since seeing is believing, we have two solutions for you. One is that MVP is going on tour. The progressive company is going to Boeing Field in Seattle over April 24 and 25, 2015 and to the Palo Alto airport in Silicon Valley May 1 & 2. The company is also traveling across the Atlantic.

MVP.aero (yep, that's the company name) built a static mockup display that is a full size replica of the MVP Model 3 aircraft. "Many of the mockup hull parts and interior cockpit parts are made from the same molds as the upcoming flying prototype," said company officials. They say — and our video shows — the mockup gives you a very close feel as to the dimensions of the aircraft, its cockpit, and the seating. Even the side catwalks — which can be used to move from cockpit to engine or tail while powered down on the water — are functional.

"You are welcome to come and try on the MVP," said MVP.aero. European pilots traveling to Aero Friedrichshafen in Germany can look for MVP representatives in the exhibit building's Foyer East entry hall, space 03B over April 15-18, 2015.

MVP is a feature laden aircraft, yet many readers may wonder how that's possible given that Icon went to FAA seeking additional weight so they could deliver all the desirable qualities airshow visitors saw on their mockups. How does MVP.aero handle the same matter?

"Putting more features (and weight) on an already weight-restricted airplane literally required a paradigm shift from traditional thinking," said MVP.aero. "This different approach is the key to understanding how we are going to achieve the goals set for the MVP." As observed by company design engineer Mike Van Staagen — the same man who led the Cirrus Vision jet development for several years — "MVP is not an amphibious airplane that has a number of new features added to it. Instead, it is a highly integrated collection of features, pieces, and parts that [join] to become an airplane." Mike's work with the earlier Cirrus SR-series and later the single engine jet project gave him a strong background in doing things differently.

Van Staagen is backed by an impressive team that company founder Darrell Lynds carefully recruited over the recent years. This brain trust put much thought into their MVP.

With training in software and a background as an entrepreneur, MVP.aero president Darrell Lynds (R) also had years of experience with the Searey LSA amphibian. Son Mike Lynds is an A&P and accomplished builder handling digital marketing.
According to company reps, "MVP's most compelling feature is that it transforms into a versatile floating platform." The canopy hinges up and back freeing the nose of the MVP to resemble the front of a familiar bass fishing boat. The design is clever though; even with the canopy open MVP's engine can operate so as to continue to shore, dock, or the next fishing spot. In the canopy-retracted configuration a passenger can step up onto the forward deck to assist in docking or beaching.

MVP's Instrument panel also retracts to allow more maneuvering room and to protect avionics from water damage. Four folding panels that MVP.aero calls the "origami deck" can be deployed in two halves to fully cover the seats of the cockpit, enabling a completely flat floor from the bow to the back of the baggage compartment. "This amazingly big surface on a relatively little airplane is large enough for two people to stretch out and sleep," said Lynds. "Deploying a custom-fitted tent and inflating air mattresses makes spending the night a delight."

MVP's on-the-water manually folding wings are another interesting design creation. "Taxi up close to the marina, shut down the engine, fold the wings, and propel MVP towards a slip using an on-board trolling motor," suggests MVP.aero. "Integrated within the bilge is a useful bow thruster to help make docking a breeze."

Flanking both sides of the MVP are nose-to-tail catwalks that enable movement around the MVP. Done on the water to preflight the engine or inspect the tail and wing control surfaces, MVP.aero said the design is stable enough that both occupants can be on one side without upsetting the seaplane.

The airplane has such unusual features, I recommend this brand-new video to see more:


Exploring LSA 4.0 ... & Other Tecnam Developments
By Dan Johnson, March 27, 2015

Tecnam had a strong year last year with reasonable sales of Light-Sport Aircraft plus larger, certified airplanes into the U.S. market. Around the world, according to the report released by GAMA and confirmed personally by Managing Director Paolo Pascale, Tecnam shipped nearly 200 airplanes in 2014. While ByDanJohnson.com readers are focused on recreational aircraft primarily from LSA and light kit manufacturers, more of these companies are joining Tecnam by preparing to offer what my journalist friend Marino Boric has dubbed "LSA 4.0," meaning four seat LSA-type aircraft.

I am keenly aware that regulars to this website are focused on Light-Sport, light kit aircraft, ultralights — generally, aircraft flown primarily for fun. However, an entire new legacy is being written as producers of those aircraft types are charging ahead into LSA 4.0 aircraft. Since these new aircraft are from brand names well known to me, I intend to cover what I will call "Light GA" as well.

Tecnam is leading this charge with the 2006-era Tecnam Twin that uses two Rotax 912 engines, but they have since gained regulatory approval for their single engine four seater, P2010. (Tecnam models indicate the year the design was initiated.) The company is also going further upscale with a design seating eleven and they are joined by other LSA builders in this goal but we will delve into that story later.

Recently Tecnam reported, "P2006T Twin has successfully achieved certification to enable it to carry passengers for hire." Twin is a four seater, not the larger P2012 Traveler, but they know it is certainly capable of hauling paying passengers (photo). "[We] will promote P2006T Twin for charter and air-taxi usage."

The first Tecnam P2006T Certificate for Passenger Transportation is operated by Russia-based Chelavia. Established in 2003, ChelAvia currently operates nearly 100 Tecnam aircraft and is actively engaged in training commercial pilots for some Russian airlines.

The Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation authorized Chelavia to use its fleet of Tecnam P2006T Twins for commercial activities. This approval enabled Chelavia to add the P2006T to its Air Operator's Certificate to enable it to offer the aircraft for both passenger and airfreight operations.

Khalid Al Khater Thani (L), of Aviation Home with Sheik Thani Al-Thani are the proud owners of the first Middle East-based Tecnam P2010. photo courtesy of Tecnam
In single engine work, Tecnam has also gained approval for its four seat P2010 and recently delivered the first one to a customer. Registered as A7-TBA, the new P2010 joins a range of Tecnam aircraft already in service with Aviation Home, Tecnam's dealer for both the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Other Tecnam models operated by Aviation Home include Astore, P2006T Twin, plus a number of P2002JFs.

Tecnam refers to the four seater as "P Twenty Ten." The sleek aircraft which looks like a big brother to their very similar P2008 LSA model, joins a carbon fiber fuselage with metal wings, stabilator, and rudder (just like P2008). The new aircraft won certification under Europe's EASA CS-23 program that is recognized by FAA for reciprocal Part 23 approval. Tecnam USA said American pilots will be able to examine a P2010 at U.S. airshows in 2015.

However, working on their Twin and P2010 is apparently not enough to keep everyone busy at Tecnam, so they have another fascinating project, this one with NASA in America and involving — get this! — 18 motors! That gives new meaning to the multi-engine rating.

Tecnam's P2006 Twin airframe was selected by NASA for an 18-motor experimental project. Here is some of the out-of-the-box thinking that speculates that an aircraft fitted with a long string of small electric motors can theoretically perform well.

NASA loves its abbreviations and trick phrases so the program is called LEAPtech with LEAP standing for Leading Edge Asynchronous Technology. The aim is reported as being "developing safer, more energy efficient, lower operating cost and greener General Aviation aircraft."

NASA will fit an experimental 31-foot aircraft wing with 18 electric motors placed along the leading edge onto a Tecnam P2006T aircraft frame (photos). The electric motors are powered by lithium iron phosphate batteries. American companies ESAero and Joby Aviation will manufacture and integrate wing and motors on the P2006T airframe. Tecnam said, "Researchers hope to fly the modified Tecnam P2006T piloted X-plane within the next couple years."


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 



 

 
 


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



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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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

Arion Aircraft has designed and built one of the most beautiful low wing entries in the Special LSA and kit-built aircraft sector. The all-American designed and built aircraft is priced fairly and flies wonderfully ... need you search for more?

The Airplane Factory (TAF) produces the Sling series of world-circling aircraft (literally) and now this fine-flying, all-metal beauty is available in the United States as a Special Light-Sport Aircraft. Here is an LSA to follow.

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

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.

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!

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.

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.

Lockwood Aircraft is the builder of two of light aviation's best-recognized flying machines: AirCam and the Drifter line. Most sport aviators already know the Lockwood brand, a leader in Rotax maintenance and aircraft services.

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

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.

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Updated: March 29, 2015

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