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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
Analyzing Statistics on Worldwide Aviation
By Dan Johnson, May 23, 2015

Thanks to a solid effort by GAMA, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, I have data that can be used to assess the numbers of recreational aircraft around the world. That organization is significantly focused on business aircraft but did include all levels of aircraft in their country-by-country review. Whatever the actual level of accuracy — GAMA is wholly dependent on the data the organization received from various CAAs in each country — GAMA's data is some very useful info and I am in their debt for the information discussed in this review.

In addition to GAMA having to use whatever each country reported, the methods of reporting were not consistent. For one noteworthy example, several countries listed as their smallest aircraft those weighing 5,700 kilograms (12,540 pounds), which represents far larger aircraft than your typical four-seat GA aircraft and certainly any recreational aircraft. Many European countries listed "microlights" or "ultralights," two common descriptions for aircraft that commonly look like Light-Sport Aircraft do in America. However, Germany, home to many microlights or ultralights, oddly did not report this category. The Czech Republic, home to many LSA producers, was also not reported. Therefore, it's probably wise to consider my following analysis with a degree of caution.

Regardless of its reliability, this is the best compendium I've seen so thanks again to our friends at GAMA.

To provide some perspective, let's look at certified GA aircraft first. From its peak in 1978, U.S.-manufactured GA deliveries have fallen dramatically, by 93% from 14,398 single engine piston aircraft in 1978 to 986 in 2014. Fortunately, since 2000 the continuing drop is less severe, for example in 2006, worldwide GAMA members reported delivering a new millennia peak of 2,513 aircraft; the decline to 986 is a drop of 61%. The '60s and '70s were clearly the "golden era" for GA piston airplane production. Accounting for this drop, beside pilot population decreases (see below) and airplanes lasting so long — the average age of four seater is 38.2 years old — most competition likely came from non-flying activities. Among aircraft choices, Experimentals in the last two decades have grown 143% to nearly 25,000 aircraft. LSA in fully built or kit form add to GA's competition although much less so partly as Experimentals have been around much longer.

Overall, the overall GA fleet has held reasonably steady despite the references above, declining from a peak of piston airplanes in FAA's registry of 197,442 in 1984 to 137,655 in 2013, a drop of about 30%. When you add kit-built aircraft and LSA, the total fleet numbers look relatively stable.

In geographic location of that U.S. aircraft fleet the conventional knowledge about the biggest three states still holds, with California having 26,141 aircraft registered, followed by Texas at 22,851, trailed by Florida at 18,162. The next closest state (Washington) has barely half the Florida count ... but see below for where pilots live.

Image of students in pilot training at Parkland College in Champaign, Illinois.
The number of airmen — pilots with certificates — explains some of the aircraft delivery decreases. From a peak in GAMA's numbers of 827,071 licensed pilots in 1980 to the current number of 593,499, I calculate a drop of 28% over 34 years. Keep in mind that nearly 47,000 of those airmen are not Americans but foreign nationals holding a U.S. certificate. Private Pilots have dropped by 51%, but many of those probably went on to higher ratings as ATPs grew by 120% in the same period to account for 26% of all certificate holders. No doubt related to that, CFIs grew by 67% to become 17% of all certificate holders and pilots with Instrument ratings also increased by 18%. Those holding a Spot Pilot certificate now totals 5,157, reported GAMA, while Recreational Pilot peaked at 343 in 1999 and has since shrunk to only 220 certificates. Neither of the last two amount to even 1% of all license holders though the other certificate categories have several decades of history the newer ones lack.

You might lament the Sport Pilot certificate numbers. Certainly, many in the GA world thought Sport Pilot was single-handedly going to grow the pilot population a lot more. While I do not believe that was ever a realistic expectation, here's some good news.

Most pilots I know think the pilot population is graying quickly and that we may be in danger of running out of pilots. GAMA's stats say otherwise. The biggest single category may be what you expect with those aged 50-64 counting 179,277 pilots but the surprising second largest segment is close behind. Those aged a young 20-35 years old number 173,396 pilots. The 35-50 cohort is much smaller, perhaps as they are busy raising families and paying for mortgages and college eductions for their kids.

In the top ten states for pilot populations, California still leads with 59,213 but Florida has climbed into the number #2 slot at 52,976 — and the state is number one in flight instructors with 9,592 — followed by Texas with 49,614 total pilots, Washington state (18,665), Georgia (18,131), Arizona (18,029), Illinois (16,307), New York (15,949), Pennsylvania (15,187), and Ohio (15,137).

Van's Aircraft RV-series (a RV-12 SLSA shown here) does well in both kit-built and Light-Sport categories.
Now let's look at LSA-type aircraft elsewhere in the world. I have reported that the rest of world accounts for large numbers of "sport" or "light" airplanes, much more than the USA. This is definitely not the case in the certified GA aircraft world where America dominates. As mentioned above, the method of counting is all over the place — and in saying that I mean no disrespect to GAMA's Herculean effort nor the stats provided by reporting national CAAs. Nonetheless the variable reporting methods makes it difficult to come up with exact numbers. I plodded through chart after chart and here's my analysis.

Where I could identify microlights, ultralights, or LSA types, I calculated 19,613 aircraft in what might be called "greater Europe" (mostly EU countries). Making an informed guess of at least 4,000 "microlight/ultralight" for Germany — which country, as noted above, did not supply a detailed value for this category — and adding non-European countries such as South Africa (6,072 including "Sport, Recreational, and Experimental"), Canada (7,125 "ultralights"), and Brazil plus Asian countries (small counts for several nations), I make a best estimate of about 40,000 LSA-type aircraft outside the USA. This figure includes estimates for Sweden and Switzerland that did not break out their reporting. Also included in the 40,000 count is England with strong numbers of 4,029 "microlights" and 3,269 "Fixed Wing Aeroplanes of than 750 kilograms" (1,650 pounds).

SPECIAL NOTES: France is singular reporting 8,476 "ultralights" (counted in the 19,613 number), the largest of any country, while Germany deserves separate mention for having 7,657 sailplanes plus 3,357 motorgliders — by far the most of any country in the world — though they are not LSA types.

In summation, my earlier reporting suggests that while certified aircraft and the pilot population are in a long-term decline (a fairly well-known assessment), sport and recreational aircraft, including kit-built, continue to expand. Given entry by emerging aviation countries like China and India with their immense populations, the expected increase of the light, sport sector looks to remain aviation's growth sector. Then, we have the developing LSA 4.0 group, but that's another story ...


MVP.aero’s "Omniplane" Tour
By Dan Johnson, May 20, 2015

You have to love the English language (or maybe hate it for the same reason): New words keep arriving in conversations. Team MVP used the term "triphibian" to mean a Light-Sport Aircraft seaplane entry that could land on runways, waterways, or snow. Of course, many amphibious seaplanes could make a similar claim so perhaps it took something even better. Enter "Omniplane." Is this the plane that can do it all?

In May of 2015, MVP.aero went on tour, hitting the west coast area known as Silicon Valley, then traveling over 2,000 miles to Daytona Beach, Florida ... as luck would have it, right to my home airport of Spruce Creek (technically in Port Orange, Florida). The airplane was trucked across the country as today it is only a well-traveled mockup while the company raises funds to complete engineering and enter production.

Silicon Valley and Spruce Creek are excellent places to seek investors that understand the magic.

MVP drew pilots and potential investors at the Palo Alto Airport in Silicon Valley.

On May 1st and 2nd, at Palo Alto Airport, an organization called Aero Sports Association organized and held a well-attended event to raise funds in the worldwide center of technology, Silicon Valley, California. Between aviation enthusiasts and potential investors, nearly 200 people brought a wide range of backgrounds and interests to participate in an event organized by ASA president, ShuDong Li who said, "ASA is focused on building a platform to promote and develop China and US aviation and business exchange."

Darrell Lynds, president of MVP, shared his excitement, "This event far exceeded our expectations. We met not only aviation investors and aviation industry leaders, but we were also pleased to see pilots and aviation fans from reputable companies such as Google, Facebook, and Apple. We had a good turn out and it was evident that a lot of people were interested in our MVP aircraft. We really appreciate ASA giving us this great opportunity to promote our aircraft in the Silicon Valley. We will also join the ASA team by participating in the 2015 China's Anyang Airshow, which will be coming up on May 25th."

MVP made a big slash (figuratively, not yet literally) at AirVenture 2014 when the Minnesota company give a major press conference and debuted their new amphibious LSA in a special celebration display mounted by EAA on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Sport Pilot / Light-Sport Aircraft rule being announced.

The company has already raised a substantial amount of money that has taken the design from concept to mockup into significant engineering and marketing efforts. Funds are now being raised in a very innovative method to carry the versatile design through FAA acceptance and manufacturing.

At Spruce Creek in Florida, Darrell Lynds addressed one of several groups of prospective investors.
In Florida, MVP was hosted by one of their two fabrication partners. In the western U.S., MVP will work with Glasair Aviation, maker of the Glastar and new LSA entry, Merlin (video). In the east, the Minnesota outfit will work with Fibercraft, based at the Spruce Creek airport.

Mike Lynds reported, "We found strong support for the MVP  in both California and Florida." (You can see more about the aircraft and its features in this video.

Following on many other projects that overpromised and underdelivered, MVP is being very careful how they proceed. They refer to projected milestone dates that strike listeners as realistic.

I recall all the excitement generated about Very Light Jets and Eclipse. While that company did hang on to produce actual flying machines, the development raised huge amounts of capital (north of $1 billion, according to reports) but was challenged to move smoothly from investment marketing to manufacturing. MVP.aero is keenly aware of this and other failed projects, which is surely guiding their cautious approach.

Caution or not, MVP (for Most Versatile Plane) generates remarkable enthusiasm from those who study it.


Chinese Pilot Seeks to Fly for Fun
By Dan Johnson, May 16, 2015

WEEKEND UPDATE — Next week I leave for my first visit to China, specifically to Anyang City, by train a couple hours south of Beijing where the seventh running of an annual airshow is planned. I have only a sketchy idea what to expect even though Shu Dong Li of the Aero Sport Association has briefed me as has my European counterpart (in our work for LAMA), Jan Fridrich. In the last year alone, Jan has made nine trips to China as the Czech government is assisting Chinese authorities in work to build personal aviation in that country.

At the invitation of Shu Dong and Anyang City officials I was asked to speak at the event and I will join several other Americans all invited for the occasion. I expect this will prove interesting. While no one expect China to suddenly explode with light aviation activity, various groups are vigorously pursuing the future of recreational flying and this country has accomplished a great deal in a short time. Nonetheless, today, others report that the large country has only 329 airports and just 1,320 GA aircraft.

In an interesting coincidence, I discovered a story about a Chinese fellow who built his own ultralight from available materials and took to the air in it. He's not alone in this, of course, but I found his work an intriguing example of ordinary Chinese citizens showing an interest in flying for fun.

An article in the Daily Mail amplified a story on ChinaNews.com about Mr. Shijun Yang, a 45-year-old China national. The article was accompanied with some decent photos, which I use here while giving full credit to the news organizations.

According to the article Yang spent about $16,000 and more than a year building the plane, from plans he may have obtained off the Internet (photo). An executive at a building company, Yang has crafted the aircraft in honor of his deceased father, who worked as a pilot for 29 years. He named the plane "Jinhai" in memory of his father.

The two news organizations reported that on a recent Sunday Yang successfully took off and landed 10 times in Jilin province, located in northeast China. According to writer Emily Chan he took the airplane up to 650 feet and has since logged 2.5 hours of flying time.

Builder and pilot Yang said that his aircraft, allegedly "made from scrap metal," can reach a top speed of 120 kilometers per hour (75 mph) and has a cruising speed of 80 km/hr or 50 mph. Yang's ultralight-like airplane has a wingspan of about 30 feet and weighs 242 pounds. Journalist Chan reported that he has test flown his creation on two other occasions, including a 54-minute flight on his late father's birthday last September.

As I looked at the photos for this airplane I knew it looked familiar, in particular a Flightstar, an ultralight in which I logged many hours in the mid-1980s.

all photos from Daily Mail and ChinaNews.com
As chance would have it, about the time I stumbled across this story, I was enjoying a visit from an old friend and fellow LSA businessman, Tom Peghiny, known widely as the president of Flight Design USA. In fact, Tom is celebrated in the June 2015 issue of Plane & Pilot magazine, where his leadership in the Light-Sport community is chronicled.

I showed the photos to Tom and with his intimate knowledge of Flightstar — after building nearly 1,000 of them before he become immersed with the Flight Design CT series of LSA — he swiftly confirmed my guess that this was indeed a Flightstar. Yang has modified the design in minor ways, for example, the forward support tube (aft and below the engine) is not exact to the U.S. version of Flightstar.

OK, so Yang built a Flightstar apparently from some detailed plans. It may not be ground-breaking design work, but I still have to admire anyone who will tackle such a project in a country where aviation — at least at the ultralight level of aircraft — is virtually unknown. I look forward to my upcoming visit where I can learn more about this country's push to join the world in enjoyment of recreational aircraft.


Wings from the North Lift Many Trikes
By Dan Johnson, May 14, 2015

Here's North Wing's Maverick 2 Legend with full fairings and folding main gear (see photo below). This can be a Part 103 trike and sells for $17,990.
I've been writing about very affordable aircraft, specifically about Part 103 ultralight vehicles. I know some readers prefer speedier or fully enclosed aircraft. Those people are fortunate as many choices are available and, of course, I will continue writing about them frequently. However, many pilots in the USA and around the world do not have a budget for a magnificent carbon fiber personal aircraft that costs $150,000. Even among those who can afford such aircraft, I'm amazed at the renewed interest in these simplest of aircraft.

In addition, aircraft as shown in the nearby photos have seen considerable development since the early days of weight shift trikes. In my view, America invented these aircraft back in the late 1970s but as three axis ultralights developed, interest from American pilots drew away from weight shift and the best new ideas seemed to come from Europe, Australia or other countries. However, I now see the freshest developments coming from U.S. producers such as North Wing, Evolution, or FlyHard.

In this article, we will look at products from North Wing, based in Chelan, Washington. Fortunately, despite a very long journey from the opposite corner of this big country, North Wing again brought their products to Sun 'n Fun for all to examine. Here's a link to all North Wing trikes and wings

Maverick now folds its main gear for a narrower stance to allow trailer transport or space-efficient hangar storage.
North Wing is what might be called a full-line trike maker. The company offers a SLSA version called Scout in two models, Apache and Navajo, powered by either the Rotax 582 or 912. The most deluxe of these is the Scout XC Apache 912 (video) and while it is nicely finished with most desirable features, Scout sells for a fairly modest $52,000. For those wishing to spend less, other models run as little as $36,500 and even kit versions are available.

In the range of ultralight trikes, North Wing offers three models: Maverick, Solairus, and ATF. The latter is essentially a powered hang glider with landing carriage and the lightest engine available (photo). Solairus is similar but features a sleek composite carriage in lieu of simpler tube-and-gusset construction. For more on Solairus, check out our configuration video or our mini pilot report video.

If you are soaring enthusiast like me, super lightweight trikes like ATF and Solairus may be of great interest. To many others, though, a more substantial rig is desired. That might suggest the two seat and powerful Scout series but North Wing has another in-between model called Maverick.

Maverick is also Part 103 eligible, though like all such aircraft it is possible to push them out of Part 103 by adding too many options. Fortunately, unlike fixed wing Part 103 vehicles, trikes have greater weight allowances available so a Part 103 trike can still be fairly deluxe. Maverick is such an example.

Somewhat like the Evolution Rev I recently wrote about, Maverick drew my attention when I approached it as it appeared, well, different. That's because North Wings' new Maverick had its main gear folded up into what might be called trailer transport mode. The main gear legs on Maverick swivel upward by removing one bolt on each side which exposes two small wheels that I hardly noticed. In such configuration, Maverick can still be pushed around in a hangar or into a trailer; folding the mains considerably narrows the gear stance so it can fit in more confined spaces. North Wing also had a form of two wheel truck (photo) that could be used to make the maneuvering easier.

Maverick 2 also has some other new qualities such a zippered storage area aft of its single seat and a nicely fabricated fairing with a well-designed parachute cover. Parachutes have a close relationship with Part 103 aircraft as they are the only FAA-acknowledged flying machines that give a weight credit for using the safety equipment. Adding a canister parachute like Maverick had installed adds about 18 pounds of weight but then qualifies for a 24-pound weight allowance so that the operator can be said to gain six pounds for other purposes without exceeding part 103's maximum empty weight (278 pounds with parachute versus 254 without).

Using engines commonly mounted on back-pack powered paragliders helps ATF stay super lightweight for soaring flight.
Maverick is base priced with the weight saving yet powerful Kawasaki 440 40-horsepower, two-stroke engine and in its simplest configuration sells ready to fly for only $17,900. Even with the 35-horsepower Verner JCV-360 four-stroke engine, Maverick is just a hair over $23,000. Get more Maverick info in this video.

At the very least costly end of North Wing's broad-shouldered line is the ATF mentioned above. About this diminutive rig, North Wing said it, "adds power to your hang glider so you can climb to the thermals and power-off for lightweight trike soaring!" This is music to the ears for some of us.

ATF is available with no less than four engine choices: Simonini Mini2; MZ 34; Vittorazi 185; or the four-stroke Bailey V5E engine. All are used by producers of powered paragliders and for the same reason: they are extremely lightweight. North Wing makes sure ATF has lots of choices and possibilities. Explore these at this link Here's the best news for those on a budget for aircraft: You can purchase an ATF with Simonini 26-horsepower engine and a new Solairus 17-meter wing for just $13,990. Fantastic!

A reminder to readers that at some time in the future, ByDanJohnson.com will start a transition to a new domain name: AffordableAviation.com because ... whatever the selling price of aircraft we cover, our focus remains on the affordable end of aviation.


Quicksilver’s 103 Sprint Offers Potent Powerplant
By Dan Johnson, May 9, 2015

You could say 15,000 aircraft buyers can't be wrong and you'd be right. Quicksilver, in several various corporate iterations, has indeed sold 15,000 aircraft kits for its whole line including what they call the MX series and the GT series. Going back to the early 1980s — or even earlier when the company was a hang glider producer under the namer Eipper Formance — the company has made so many models I could nearly fill a post with the names, so I won't try to list them all. Suffice it to say this is one of the most prolific airplane companies since the Wright brothers first flew.

Today, the line up includes the aircraft in the nearby photos called Sprint. It's a single seater, now positioned as the MX-103. As the company notes on their slickly upgraded website, "[We are] launching the MX 103 a legal ultralight with 50 horsepower engine for $18,900 fully assembled." They note that MX 103 is based on the MX Sprint that has a long track record of safety and ruggedness in an open air flying machine.

Cockpits don't get much simpler than this, but do you really need more to have fun aloft?
So, here's another Part 103 ultralight we saw at Sun 'n Fun 2015 that sells for less than $20,000. Maybe even the naysayers (those that claim aircraft can't really legally meet Part 103) will grudgingly admit you might make a proper weight shift trike or powered parachute that can stay in the parameters but, "You can't do it with a three-axis airplane or if you can it will have such a weak engine a buyer will want more power and that will push it out of Part 103 weight."

Man, if I had a dollar for every time I heard that ... I could probably buy an MX 103.

Sprint has long been able to meet the confining weight limit of Part 103 — 254 pounds empty or 278 pounds with a parachute plus another 50 pounds allowed for floats. This presumes the buyer didn't load the aircraft with options. Admittedly some of those Part 103-eligible vehicles did indeed have a less powerful engine and the doubters might be right that you'd want something that could give a more robust climb rate.

With the Hirth F23 powering the MX 103, I say that problem is solved, and how!

Hirth has long offered a line of engines that Part 103 producers have used. One of the most popular is the F33, a single cylinder engine that can be supplied with electric starting. It is so light, a Part 103 aircraft can still accommodate the battery and wiring to allow push-button starting. However, it only offers 28 horsepower and while that works, it isn't particularly energetic.

Hirth's 71-pound F23 delivers 50 horsepower making Sprint, or Max 103, a strong performer.
With Hirth's F23, all that changes. This twin cylinder two-stroke engine offers a far beefier 50 horsepower and on a lightweight single seater like Sprint, that yields literally awesome performance. Two cylinders also ensures greater smoothness, even though Hirth engines have a reputation for smooth operation. Especially on the lightest aircraft, lower vibration is exceedingly welcome.

Quicksilver Aeronautics the factory based in Temecula, California, worked with the F23 but couldn't get it where they wanted it. So, Heavenbound Aviation's Andy Humphrey jumped in and, working with longtime Hirth U.S. representative Matt Dandar, managed to solve the installation problems. What visitors to Sun 'n Fun saw at Air-Tech Inc., display was the aircraft in the photos that I'm told is working beautifully. Congratulations to Andy and Matt! I'll bet Quicksilver is thrilled.

Although Matt had worked with Quicksilver for some months, the challenges remained and new Quicksilver dealer Andy arranged to have the aircraft brought to his location in Ohio, conveniently closer to Matt's shop, and the two of them wrenched on the issues.

The Hirth F23 only weighs 71 pounds (77 pounds with electric starting), said Matt, helping to keep Sprint within parameters even without an emergency parachute. Using a 'chute should allow electric starting as the parachute systems generally weigh a few pounds less than the weight FAA calculates for it.

The installation was problematical as F23 has opposed cylinders and dual exhausts. On our new video, Matt explains gives more detail but basically they solved the problem by inverting the cylinders putting the carbs on top and exhausts on the bottom.

Andy was the brains behind the motor mount parts that allowed the engine to be mounted underneath the wing — making upper wing surface airflow that much cleaner. We saw this configuration last year but the engine was on top and that simply wasn't the best. Now it's working great, Andy and Matt agreed. How great?

I wondered how a lightweight Part 103 airplane performs with 50 horsepower? When I asked, Andy smiled broadly and said ground roll is 25-35 feet. Whoa! Talk about your short field take off airplane; only a helicopter can beat that. Andy added that stalls come at only 16 mph (a mere 14 knots). Given Quicksilver's long reputation for this model and its wonderful safety record, here's an airplane almost anyone can afford and everyone can enjoy.

Heavenbound will build Max 103 for you and Andy said you can buy an RTF machine for less than $20 Grand!

Andy reported that one pilot with experience in Quicksilver who flew this Max 103 was hesitant to even use full power. That's a major difference from most Part 103 three axis airplanes and this adds a reason why the 103 sector appears to be reenergized. Thanks to Andy and Matt for sleuthing the problems and making for a wonderful new Part 103 entry.


Is Rev for You? ...for Less Than $18,000?
By Dan Johnson, May 6, 2015

UPDATE 5/10/15 – Rev Videos — Shortly after the following article was written, we posted two videos about Evolution's new Rev. Part 1 shows you how fast the setup from trailer to flight goes and Part 2 gives more information, both featuring primary developer Larry Mednick. Enjoy! –DJ

Did this trike just crash and turn into a puzzle of tubes? NO! This is the ground maneuvering system, the start of details we'll review on this clever Part 103 trike. (See next photo, too.)
Earlier I've written that the Part 103 ultralight sector seemed more vibrant than ever at this year's Sun 'n Fun. I admit a bias. I love Part 103 ... the aircraft, the concept, I like flying single seat aircraft, and, hugely, I love that Part 103 deftly avoids most of the interference from government officials that tends to dominate so much of aviation worldwide. While certified aircraft have hundreds or thousands of pages of regulations they must follow, Part 103's entire ruleset can be printed on the front and back of a single piece of paper. That's fantastic!

Earlier a few folks reading my enthusiasm about Sun 'n Fun 2015 exhibits of Part 103 machines voiced doubt that these machines can actually qualify — meeting the challenging empty weight of 254 pounds (278 if a parachute is mounted; more if floats are added); the max speed of 55 knots or 63 mph; the stall of 24 knots or 28 mph; the five gallons of fuel, and, well ... that's nearly it.

Of course I couldn't weigh each machine out in the fields of Sun 'n Fun's Paradise City, but I did probe with each vendor interviewed, "Are you certain this meets Part 103's parameters faithfully?" Each answered, "Yes!" although they also noted that customers sometimes like to add options that can push the vehicle out of 103.

Engine choices are standard 40-hp Kawasaki 440 or 45-hp MZ-201.
One of the most fun was Evolution Trikes brand-new Rev, which is perhaps shortened from Revo, their super-deluxe two seat trike featuring every bell and whistle known to trike developers. However, although Rev is highly simplified compared to Revo, it has everything I'd want on a trike and has a very special arrangement to help you maneuver the machine when its is folded for transport or storage.

As you look at the lead photo, you have to wonder if this thing just crashed and jumbled its tubing into a mess. You can be excused for wondering. However, what you see above is Rev in compact — and wheeled — form so it can be moved around easily inside a hangar or onto a trailer. Because Part 103 trikes are limited to 60 mph, owners may trailer their rig; also, an enclosed trailer can make an inexpensive hangar.

Rev cleverly folds from its collapsed configuration to flight or the reverse in a mere six minutes and even those minutes won't strain your back, thanks to the ingenious thinking of lead developer Larry Mednick. He's proved his design prowess with the marvelous Revo and he's done it again with the far simpler Rev.

Note the lack of a forward support tube, common on nearly all trikes. This eases entry significantly and opens up visibility more than you might think. Rev uses a mostly single surface with with clever rib fittings to make for fast assembly.
Rev's wing is intended to stay attached, folding into flight position while mounted to the trike carriage. Then the carriage itself folds to allow movement on the ground with a second carriage (see second and fourth photos). Yet, as the late-night TV advertorials boast, "That's not all!"

Once the wings — of this simpler, single surface design with nifty wing ribs that insert easier than ever — are unfolded, the ground-movement carriage is detached, and the nosewheel assembly plugged in, the wing lifts quite easily into flying condition. Even the "haul-back" is easier (haul-back is an action to fully deploy and tension the wings to flying condition; it can be difficult on some large, tight wings).

One the wing is fully erected over its carriage, you attach the standard forward support strut ... except, nope, you don't! Like very few trikes on the market, Rev is design to support the wing from the rear, making forward visibility the best I've seen in recent memory. This has been done before, but it's rare and the earlier efforts were not this slick. For those nervous about the lack of a forward strut, Rev is designed to accommodate one if you wish (as an option).

[Top left, clockwise] ... Rev instrument panel. Note black part under front edge of seat; this is part of the front suspension Rev's ground maneuvering carriage Parachute (white canister) is nestled in front of engine and, again, note black part that provides main gear leg suspension parachute handle.
Similar to his superb Revo, Larry has left few details needing any further attention. As you look at the detail image collage, you see the whole creation is thoughtfully considered. An instrument panel is nestled behind the beefy front wheel; it can be configured in various ways (though you'll need to restrain your impulses if Rev is to remain in Part 103). It has comfortable foot rests and even the throttle hook up to the right pedal is neatly achieved.

Large main gear tires combine with a robust nosewheel to assure landing on rough fields won't provide a threat and all three wheels use a smart but simple and light form of suspension (see black insert in rear gear leg and under the seat of the front support arms). Even the nosewheel gusset has a fine touch with the product name machined into the plate. A parachute is fitted, allowing empty weight to rise in a way that "buys" a few extra pounds (the parachute weighs slightly less than FAA's AC 103-7 allows).

Of course, some buyers will simply have to add some options and Evolution has several. Adding too much will push Rev into Experimental Amateur Built where a pilot license, medical, and N-number will be needed but Evolution offers various ways to personalize your Rev. Looking like the one in the photos and fully optioned out, Rev will exceed $33,000. However, with its standard Kawasaki 440 (40 hp) engine and still a mighty nice machine, Rev lists for just $17,900. That's terrific. Go, Rev!


Is Diesel Power for LSA Superior? Yes!
By Dan Johnson, May 2, 2015

"So, it looks like Rotax has finally got some worthy competition," was a comment I received as I walked into the Sun 'n Fun press headquarters work room. The observation came from a fellow journalist at one of the big aviation magazines. He is aware Rotax dominates the light aircraft market with an estimated 75-80% of all engine installations, even higher overseas. Who is going to give the big Austrian engine manufacturer some competition?

Superior Air Parts got started back in 1967 making components for certified engines such as Lycoming but long ago branched into their own engine line. Companies like Arion Aircraft is using an Experimental Superior XP powerplant for their new EAB speedster similar to but quite a bit faster than their LS-1 Light-Sport model. Like Arion, many already knew of the gasoline engines from this Texas company, but I knew something was up when I was approached at Sebring about a new project. To hear more, I had to promise secrecy but the veil came off at Sun 'n Fun and that's why the other media fellow made his comment.

Gemini Diesel employs two horizontally-opposed pistons in a single cylinder using outboard crankshafts driving a common center shaft through a system of front-mounted gears. Gemini appears roughly the same size as the Rotax 912 and, according to representatives, weighs about 200 pounds or 10 percent more than the Rotax. It also costs marginally more than a 912ULS at a projected retail price of $25,000.

Superior's Scott Hayes pointing out the intake ports on the Gemini Diesel's cylinder sleeve (exhaust ports are to the left as you view the part between Scott's index and middle fingers).
At Sebring and again at Sun 'n Fun, I spoke with (then interviewed for a video; see below) Scott Hayes, Superior's sales and marketing VP who provided details after the announcement by CEO Tim Archer. "[We] acquired the Gemini Diesel engine and have begun active development of the current engines, as well as planning the introduction of new models," stated Archer.

Archer added, "Because of its unique, Uniflow design featuring two-opposing-pistons-per-cylinder, the Gemini will be smaller than many current gasoline and diesel piston engines, giving it a significant power-to-weight ratio advantage and making it especially attractive to the experimental and LSA markets initially."

In late 2014 Superior acquired all rights to the liquid-cooled, two-stroke diesel design originally developed by Britain's Powerplant Developments. Over the last few months, Superior has been testing prototypes of the Gemini on the bench.

"There are basically two reasons why we chose to offer the Gemini Diesel to the experimental and LSA markets first," said Scott. "Number one was the fact that the 100-horsepower, Gemini 100 is much further along in its development cycle." Then he elaborated, "The second is that over the years many of the manufacturers of these kit and LSA aircraft have become dissatisfied with the current engine options and have asked us about developing a new-generation, alternatively-fueled engine that delivers the same innovation, quality, and value that is found in our experimental XP-Series and FAA-certificated Vantage Engines."

"We have already had preliminary discussions with manufacturers representing a variety of experimental and LSA aircraft," Archer said. "We are very excited to say that the Gemini 100 is currently running in the test cell. The engine is meeting all of our performance goals and right now we anticipate having preproduction engines within 90 days." That translates to about Oshkosh time, so it will be interesting to hear how LSA builders are embracing the idea.

I envision the strongest support may come from overseas suppliers who have active businesses delivering aircraft to countries where avgas is virtually unavailable and where auto gas may be questionable for use in an airplane. In addition many airports around the globe do not allow non-aviation fuels on their property so auto gas is not as widely available as in America.

Of course, the million-dollar question is how Rotax may address this development. The company always holds their new development close to the vest and no one I know will say a single word about what may be coming. Yet the Austrian powerhouse (Toronto stock exchange symbol DOO.TO) is not a giant to be casually poked. It may be very interesting to see what Superior's entry causes in response.

Other players in the LSA ASTM-standards-meeting engine space include Jabiru with 81- and 120-horsepower models and HKS and D-Motor with lower horsepower models. D-motor showed a six-cylinder engine at Aero and Sun 'n Fun and UL Power is reportedly working on meeting ASTM standards. Plus, the new engine from ICP in Italy is reportedly ready to enter production. However, while I have seen some interesting diesel engine prototypes, Superior has clearly jumped in the lead of proposing to have an engine perhaps in serial production and meeting ASTM standards perhaps in 2015.

Airframe developments in variety of configurations -- fixed wing, gyroplane, weight shift, powered parachute, and motorglider -- have proven a fascinating watch since the first one was FAA accepted just over ten years ago. Now the engine space looks to be of equal interest. We will work to keep you informed in the fast-changing sector.

Superior's Bullet Points on the new Gemini Diesel Engine

  • Jet A is a global fuel with better availability, quality, consistency and pricing
  • Operators can fly the same range as a standard engine on less fuel
  • High power-to-weight ratio; provides 100 horsepower
  • Highly efficient, two-stroke power
  • Higher engine torque at lower RPM
  • Projected to have up to 20% lower fuel burn than conventional engines
  • Mechanically simpler design, with fewer moving parts
  • Retrofittable with many current piston engine designs
  • Greener operations with much lower emissions
  • Uniflow design enables easier engine model expansion
  • Higher horsepower engine in planning

See more in our recently shot video interview with Superior's Scott Hayes


More Light Aircraft Videos and Video Pilot Reports
By Dan Johnson, April 28, 2015

Update 4/30/15 — On the unlikely chance that you don't get enough of watching me on YouTube, Florida Aviation Network uploaded an interview from Sun 'n Fun 2015. In this exchange I give some update on the industry over the last year and the state of LSA, as it were. See at the end of the article.

Interviewing Brian Boucher and his Edra Aeronautica Super Petrel LS Light-Sport amphibian.
Whew! It was another full-to-capacity tour of Sun 'n Fun where we scoured the grounds seeking interesting aircraft to report. I'm happy to tell you that we again spoke with dozens of designers about their creations and we think we do a thorough job in the light aircraft sector. In 2015, more than Light-Sport Aircraft, light kit aircraft, and ultralights, we are adding light general aviation airplanes or Light GA and drones (also known as UAVs, UASs, RPVs, RPAs ... they go by several names, so new is the category).

While realizing that videos are enormously popular content on ByDanJohnson.com and Google YouTube, I'd like for you to understand how it is they occur. I mention this as one company we proposed to cover asked somewhat defensively how much shooting the video was going to cost them. Commonly, video shooting and editing runs about $1,000 per minute and can go much higher from a professional video organization. We charge the aircraft company nothing, zero, nada. In fact, this is significantly a labor of love done without compensation in mind. We tease about how it is our "volunteer job" in aviation. Click to see hundreds of free videos including a Video Pilot Report or VPR of Van's Aircraft's RV-12 in two segments (Part 1 & Part 2).

We keep up with fascinating development projects by interviewing people like Darrell Lynds. photo by Steve Pugh of MVP.aero
The process begins with my videographer partner, Dave, in this effort making the rounds seeking airplanes and people whose stories might be of interest. He's become quite familiar to many in aviation who commonly see him approach on his "gimpster" as he likes to call it. He must use this as getting around is not easy with cameras, tripods, batteries, and all the accouterments of videography. Honestly, though it was not his choice to be dependent on his scooter, video man Dave soldiers on without complaining and has become highly effective at the process.

You don't simply go around and find shiny aircraft at which to point a video camera. It is also necessary to know if an aircraft has new or unique qualities and to consider how it fits in the light aircraft segment. A script plays out in his mind and only after these steps does the shooting begin.

After Dave's review — a multi-day process at big events like Sun 'n Fun — he makes a list of the aircraft, engines, other products, or interesting people and we discuss how to approach them in the goal of getting a story you viewers will enjoy. As the subjects are scattered all over the grounds, it takes planning to do several videos per day and more time to find the right individual to interview. Personnel availability is challenging at busy events so we often have to wait our turn; it's not diplomatic to interrupt a sales conversation to shoot a video.

Getting the latest update on Ekolot's handsome Topaz from Kris Siuba.
My part of the job is often to pull the right person to their aircraft, to brief them on how the video recording will go, tell them how to position themselves so we show them and their aircraft in good light. We will often discuss what I will ask them — usually the same questions you viewers would ask had you the opportunity. Finally, we launch into it, trying to make as few takes as possible to minimize the post-production effort. Usually we do quite well but people get nervous with a camera watching them causing them to stumble. Not unusually a military jet roars overhead and we have to interrupt the process.

At the conclusion of the video recording, we ask permission to use additional video footage the company may have shot, capture still images, verify contact info and name spellings, after which Dave finishes the scripting and sends it off to get produced and published on YouTube.

The exercise demands more effort than may appear and is greatly aided by two of us who know this industry very intimately allowing us to efficiently gather compelling footage. We do this without direct payment from any company so you can depend on our objectivity.

I am pleased to report that I heard from many viewers at Sun 'n Fun who said they watch lots of our videos and enjoy them. One man approached me and said, "I recognized you and wanted to meet you. I'm a boat captain working out of Dubai; I spend a lot of time watching you." That's satisfying to hear but without my great collaborator Dave, these videos would not be as good as they are. We are happy you enjoy them. We plan to keep making videos and we hope you'll keep watching.

A Note of Interest — During Sun 'n Fun 2015, YouTube turned 10 years old. In one decade Google's video service has grown so much that every minute of the day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week ... 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube.

Here is the Florida Aviation Network interview by FAN host Diego Alfonso with Dan Johnson:

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

 



 

 
 

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

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.

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

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.

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.


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

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.

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

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.


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.

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.


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

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

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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!


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.


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.

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Updated: May 23, 2015

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