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...a web log of developments in Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft
AirVenture Wrap-Up: Shiny Part 103, Icon Rising
By Dan Johnson, July 27, 2015

The big summer celebration of flight has ended. I have more info from AirVenture 2015 and next I plan a summary article. A preview includes the most positive prognosis from industry players I have seen in recent years; strong sales reported by several producers; several interesting developments or benchmarks; and a wonderful week of weather as icing on the cake. My video partner and I put in long days to secure perhaps 30 or more new videos including many on the freshest topics in light aviation. Stay tuned for more and go here to see the hundreds of videos we have posted from previous events.

The Shiniest Part 103 ... We shot a video interview on the line of Hummel Aviation light aircraft, including two Part 103 models and one Experimental Amateur Built version. Toward the end of the week, one that had been sheltered in a tent on one end of the sprawling AirVenture grounds was hand towed to the Ultralight Area — called the Fun Fly Zone — so people could see this mirror-finish (highly polished aluminum) UltraCruiser in the air.

The gleaming example in the nearby photos was built by Steve Cole from Indianapolis over a three year and eight month period, from plans. It meets all the Part 103 parameters — empty weight of 254 pounds; 5 gallons of fuel; 55-knot (63 mph) cruise; 24-knot stall — yet can climb enthusiastically at 1,000 fpm using its half-VW 45-horsepower engine from Scott Casler. The four stroke powerplant burns only 1.7 gallons an hour.

You cannot probably imagine the effort needed to make aluminum gleam like this effort by Steve Cole.
For those a bit less ambitious or skilled than Steve, kits are also available — see next — and all models boast truly affordable prices. You may not be able to make yours look like Scott's UltraCruiser, but certainly here is a line of airplanes for those on tighter budgets, and isn't she a pretty thing that still requires no pilot license, no medical, no N-numbers, and a very simple set of rules that fit on a single sheet of paper.

UltraCruiser is a Part 103 legal all-metal ultralight, although the company notes that the trigear version will be too heavy to qualify as a 103 as is a model with a full canopy.

"UltraCruiser is an easy to build and even easier to fly aircraft," stated Hummel Aviation. The design can be built straight from plans up to, and including a full kit. The kit includes predrilled laser cut components. All parts are formed or welded for you. Wheels, tires, brakes, harness, and even the seat cushion is included. The kit is very complete. Everything is included to complete the aircraft less the engine, prop, spinner, and instruments.

"The complete set of plans contains 26 large drawings with all bulkheads, wing ribs and skins [depicted in actual, full] size. A 30-page step by step manual is very complete. Only simple shop tools are required," said company owner Terry Hallett.

As AirVenture 2015 drew to a close, Friday was the day I got to fly the A5 from Icon Aircraft. Weather as the week started delayed Icon's two-airplane demo flying schedule. Oshkosh has so much going on that my schedule also got loaded yet after a couple false starts we found a workable time slot and I finally got my chance on the most discussed airplane in the Light-Sport space.

I will begin work on a more detailed A5 review in the days ahead. but following are a couple brief temptations of what to expect.

A few supposedly jaded aviation journalists flew A5 and the reviews I've heard have been quite favorable. No, that's not right. They seemed to love A5. As AVweb's Paul Bertorelli put it, "coverage the A5 has gotten so far has amounted to one long sloppy wet kiss from the aviation press." Former Cessna president and EAA Chairman Jack Pelton repeatedly used words like "incredible" and "remarkable." You know ... to a great extent their warm embrace of A5 is deserved.

Two of us flew A5 in 12 gusting 22 mph wind conditions and lake water with one to one and a half foot swells. As CEO Kirk Hawkins put it on my return, "not all light seaplanes could handle that." A5 did very well in those rowdier circumstances. I certainly did not fly the plane in smooth summer breezes and a gently rippled water surface.

On whole, I found A5 very docile to fly. We did the Icon spectacle of pitching into a stall, holding the stick full aft (literally pulled all the way rearward) and moving the stick briskly from left to right without any upset of the airplane. Even when power was moved to idle thrust and we repeated the maneuver with 30 degrees of flaps, A5 merely set up about a 900 fpm descent rate. Taking that to the water with zero corrective action would result in a very firm but survivable landing, I believe. Given all A5s sold in the USA will also have an airframe parachute, safety has been carefully approached.

Like most seaplanes, speed is not paramount in A5 with cruise from 85-95 knots (100-110 mph) according a top Icon test pilot. Banking sharply and gracefully is easy in A5. We did 60+ degree banks only a few hundred feet off the water in complete confidence. She feels very solid and Icon's intuitive Angle of Attack indicator — the best execution I've seen — is a good guide to the limits when executing such steep turns. We commonly cruised around at 70 knots with 4500 rpm from the Rotax 912 iS engine.

Water operations, even in fairly challenging conditions, were quite straightforward. As you sense in the air, Icon's large vertical tail surface brings good A5 flight behavior and makes maneuvering on the water authoritative. Even with the added complexities of water ops and retractable gear, piloting A5 is within reach of any well-trained newbie pilot. Icon is also gearing up an entire training program that I'll discuss more fully later.

I was pleased to get my experience on this long awaited Special LSA seaplane and I look forward to telling you more about it.

More Oshkosh light aircraft news will follow ...


Day Two: LAMA Award and New Rotax Engine
By Dan Johnson, July 22, 2015

Here is more news from AirVenture 2015, coming from Tuesday, Day Two.

The Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association gave a press conference to a full house. LAMA enjoyed a terrific opening day in its mission of advocacy for Light-Sport, light kit, and ultralight aircraft. Partnered with the U.S. Ultralight Association (USUA), LAMA participated in two very productive meetings, one with EAA's advocacy experts and another with several key FAA personnel. USUA's Roy Beisswenger and I hope for good things to follow but felt highly energized that we moved closer to some goals we believe can truly help the light aircraft industry and its pilots.

That was the "business" portion of LAMA's press conference, but we kept it brief as we had a more meaningful message to deliver.

LAMA has presented its President's Award for 24 years running to an outstanding individual whose work benefitted the light aircraft sector. Announcing this year's recipient was one of those bittersweet moments. LAMA Founder Larry Burke solicited votes from about 800 members of the LSA business community and the convincing winner was Jeremy Monnett, the young business leader who was managing the company his father built (Sonex) when he was tragically killed in an accident.

Jeremy's father and mother John and Betty supported Jeremy's wife Kate and one of their sons along with many of the Sonex team as the family received the award in a heartwarming, emotionally-charged presentation.

I was honored and moved to present this award and to deliver some remarks prepared by Larry Burke because last-minute changes prevented him from attending this year's AirVenture 2015 as originally planned. All of us in the aviation community offer our sincerest condolences to the Monnett family and Sonex team for the loss of this fine young aviator.

Yet, as Jeremy would have preferred, aviation must continue to advance and it did with a presentation from Rotax Aircraft Engines.

Lead by their capable Marc Becker Rotax BRP officials packed the press conference room to capacity for the rollout of their brand new Rotax 915 engine. This company is widely known for their 9-series engines that just got a bit bigger and a third more powerful.

Marc related many interesting facts, among them the 50 million hours logged on Rotax aviation powerplants, with that enormous dataset growing by five million more hours every year. Clearly one of the most successful companies in aviation, Rotax is going even further with their 135-horsepower (100 kW) Rotax 915.

The new 915 is a fuel injected engine also using a turbocharger so it can maintain power up to 15,000 feet, Marc announced. In a Q&A session where many quizzed the BRP team, Marc said the 915 has already logged 2,000 hours on the dyno tester. The engine will continue to go through Rotax's typically thorough testing and will reach the market in the last half of 2017.

In addition to their own testing, Rotax is careful to work with their large group of OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) to assure the mounting and general installation of their engine is as solid and finished as their engine design and manufacturing. In fact, it is this high standard of care that ensures customers have great experiences with Rotax engines.

In our LAMA meetings mentioned at the start of this article, we are working to ease the regulation logjam that prevents gyroplanes from being Special fully-manufactured LSA in the USA. In discussions, we often relate that Rotax reports selling more 912 engines to gyroplanes than any other aircraft segment because overseas, gyros are selling strongly, lead by the AutoGyro company. So perhaps it will surprise few that AutoGyro USA already had a 915-equipped model in their space at Oshkosh.

In the spirited Q&A session, Rotax officials were asked about the 915 on light helicopters, which often need more oomph. Plant manager Thomas Uhr confirmed such use and I can imagine LSA seaplanes like Icon and MVP may also move to the more potent engine as they also benefit from strength during the critical water launch phase.

The nearby chart shows more facts about Rotax's new 915 engine and you can investigate further at this link.

Stay tuned ... more Oshkosh light aircraft news to follow!


Opening Day Firsts: Icon, American Legend, Dynon
By Dan Johnson, July 21, 2015

I promised to tell you what was under the blue wrap disguising the powerplant on the unnamed taildragger in my earlier article. Here it comes with other opening day news from AirVenture 2015.

Icon Aircraft made their first delivery of an A5 after a tremendous media build-up, as this California company has clearly demonstrated it can do brilliantly. Not only was a huge crowd in attendance but a large flock of young people in matching tee-shirts accompanied the airplane as it was towed down the main drag — called Celebration Way — to Boeing Plaza and the runway.

The reason for the young folks was because airplane number one went to EAA's Young Eagles, but this is especially fitting as Icon has aimed their aircraft in a different direction than any other airplane maker with which I am familiar. One pilot who flew the A5 said, "It has an automotive-like interior. As a pilot I didn't understand right away" — he referenced a simpler altimeter lacking the usual three needles. Indeed, Icon has worked hard to make the aircraft more user friendly than the usual aircraft that presents an array of bewildering instruments that cause aviation newcomers to quickly assume they have a steep learning curve ahead of them.

Icon again moved smoothly taking EAA president Jack Pelton aloft over AirVenture. Pelton obviously enjoyed the experience, using the words "incredible" and "remarkable" multiple times in a short article appearing in AirVenture Today." His complimentary comments echoed those of others who've flown the aircraft. I am hoping for my turn later today.

Superior & Legend paired up for an announcement few expected. Superior Air Parts only announced their Gemini Diesel engine at Sun 'n Fun barely three months ago, but they teamed up with American Legend to show the new powerplant already bolted on a Legend Cub airframe.

The two Texas companies are located only 80 miles apart noted Darin Hart, principal at Legend, so the link-up is logical and convenient, an unbeatable combination. Yet having an engine on an popular Light-Sport Aircraft was also a coup for Superior to show the speed at which they are moving with this newest project. Superior's Scott Hays said they expect to run the engine by fall and to move forward briskly with ASTM approval.

Gemini has been originally developed in England so this is not a new CAD-designed powerplant; it has history. It extends the range of Superior into diesel, and that is surely more significant outside the U.S. As Darin observed, his company is having a strong year and fielding an increasing number of inquiries from other countries. In many places outside American, avgas is definitely expensive but often not available at any price. However, diesels are able to burn lesser-refined fuels that owners can find in more locations, giving American Legend an advantage for international sales.

Dynon is well known to Light-Sport Aircraft enthusiasts. Even going up against giant Garmin — which repeatedly proves to be a very able competitor — Dynon maintains a leadership market share in LSA around the globe. They took over Advanced Flight Systems in the past and now has an offer many homebuilders may find compelling.

Dynon suggested, "For those who would rather leave their whole panel to the experts, [our] Advanced Flight Systems division offers the Quick Panel System. Each Quick Panel is a fully-engineered and integrated panel of aviations that is professionally wired, configured, tested and ready to install." Advanced's Quick Panel includes all switches and harnesses, which all connect through the exclusive Advanced Control Module. More here.

Your favorite LSA or ultralight may not have a wide panel like the nearby photo. Dynon still has you covered with their nifty little D2 Pocket Panel Portable EFIS. Even better, D2 will be available at AirVenture 2015 at the lowest price ever. "With a list price of $1,095, pilots can expect even better pricing from dealers at the show," the company said.

Stay tuned ... more Oshkosh light aircraft news to follow!


South Africans Arrive Before AirVenture 2015 Opens
By Dan Johnson, July 19, 2015

It's almost time! — The tents are in place. Most of the displays are built. Airplanes are already parked by the thousands in EAA voluminous parking areas. The campground and every hotel room for miles is packed full. While the usual pandemonium reigns the night before opening, it is a familiar scene that somehow, almost magically resolves into a ready-to-go show on opening day only hours away, tomorrow, Monday July 20th, the earliest start to AirVenture Oshkosh in years.

Today, I got a text — thank some tech guru for inventing text, which always seems to get through quickly even when phone calls do not, with hundreds of thousands of attendees all using their smartphones at the same time.

The text from The Airplane Factory USA's Matt Liknaitzky read, "Mike [Blythe] and Patrick [Huang] are arriving in the Sling 912 iS ... if ya wanna see them." We did, so we dashed north to the North Aircraft Display Area space.

South African long-distance pilots Mike Blythe and Patrick Huang arrive to cheers and a warm welcome from dozens of their fellow countrymen. Cameras were clicking and videos were filming.

Mike and Patrick have been making their way to AirVenture, arriving precisely on time in perfect Wisconsin weather — 80s with fresh breezes blowing. Lots of airplanes are arriving, so what's the big deal about this one, you may ask? This intrepid pair of aviators arrived from South Africa, a long distance, most probably the longest flight of anyone arriving at Oshkosh and they did this in their Light-Sport Aircraft with its 100 horsepower Rotax 9-series engine. Woo-hoo!

The two pilots are taking a break working the show at Oshkosh because after it ends, they will densely repack their LSA and head off for an even longer ocean crossing, this time the Pacific, en route to Taiwan where Patrick runs The Airplane Factory Asia.

But, no, it doesn't end in Taiwan. After transacting some business, the bird will take off again for another long voyage all the way back to South Africa. Perhaps the most amazing fact: this is TAF's main man Mike Blyth's third 'round the world flight in about as many years. Think about that the next time you flight plan a long cross country across this great nation of ours!

A surprise awaits under wraps for a big announcement Monday morning as AirVenture Oshkosh 2015 opens.
On a completely different topic, I have a little surprise to offer you. Let's see how much detail the cleverest among you can discern from this image (nearby photo): a taildragger with its engine under wraps. The picture might tell you something if you study it carefully, but can you guess the entire message?

Several big announcements are expected during AirVenture 2015. One well publicized example is Icon's first delivery, reportedly to EAA for their Young Eagles program though we will have to wait until Monday morning to get confirmation of this rumor. Today I went out to fly the Icon A5 but rough weather yesterday disturbed the schedule and the company wants me to fly with the CEO, Kirk Hawkins. That is now rescheduled for Wednesday, weather and schedules permitting, though I feel sure it will happen this week and I look forward to reporting it. I spoke with Kirk and examined the twin Rotax 912 iS Sport-powered A5s that were busy flying a reported 173 owners in town to get their first exposure to this long-awaited airplane.

We are also expecting big news from Rotax, Beringer wheels and brakes, Dynon, Kolb, and others. Stay tuned for more.

Plus, I'll unveil what is under the blue wrap disguising the powerplant on the unnamed taildragger. Stay tuned!

See a video of fellow South Africans warmly greeting the long distance travelers:


AirVenture Previews Continue as Opening Day Nears
By Dan Johnson, July 18, 2015

We and many other journalists have arrived in EAAworld and are gearing up for another big event. Here are two aircraft announcements of interest and one avionics offering. More will follow.

Jabiru USA has news prices and new gear for their speedy line of kits and LSA. Jabiru USA Sport Aircraft is celebrating ten years in the Light-Sport Aircraft market by offering a new large-screen Garmin G3X Touch avionics package as standard equipment for its J230-D high-performance composite LSA while lowering the price of the fully-loaded aircraft to $119,900. The Australian-designed Jabiru J250/230 series has been flying in the U.S. since 2005 and is known for its speed, easy handling and large baggage capacity.

"By simplifying our overhead, we are now able to offer the new fully-equipped J230-D with the Garmin system for $119,900, a price cut of nearly $20,000," said Jabiru USA general manager Pete Krotje. The lower price of the aircraft reflects the original goals of both Jabiru and the creators of the Light Sport rule--to make aviation accessible to as many people as possible.

"The pricing of today's Light Sport aircraft is sort of getting out of control," noted Pete. "We wanted ... to create an airplane that makes flying accessible to people who thought that owning a safe, capable and comfortable new airplane was beyond their financial reach."

Garmin's G3X Touch offers unmatched situational awareness and an intuitive pilot interface. The system features a 10.6-inch touch screen primary flight display, two-axis autopilot with automatic stability control, a 2020-compliant ADS-B package with in-flight weather and traffic, as well as the capability to display a full complement of geo-referenced aeronautical charts.

Each of the six cylinders of the 120-horsepower Jabiru 3300 engine are monitored by the Garmin at all times, providing a complete picture of the performance of the engine to the pilot. Garmin's radio and transponder are remotely mounted giving a clean panel design. Both can easily controlled through the touch screen interface. The J230-D instrument panel is designed to easily accommodate a secondary portable device, such as a tablet (photo) or handheld GPS.

Other standard features of the J230-D include a full-size baggage door, LED exterior and interior lighting, leather seats, upholstered headliner and baggage area, ground-adjustable carbon fiber propeller, and 120-knot cruise speed at 5.5 gallons per hour.

Jabiru invites AirVenture attendees to come see a Garmin-equipped J230-D in Booth 313 located just north of the Theater in the Woods.

MGL Avionics, one of the very first producers to promote touch screen digital instruments in the LSA and light kit community, reported, "The long-awaited Explorer-Lite is now available and shipping!" MGL Avionics explained that their iEFIS Lite series "is revolutionizing the small airplane instrument panel. For single-screen EFIS installations in Experimentals and LSAs, iEFIS Lite offers everything needed."

The second release in their "Lite" series, Explorer-Lite 8.5 is a larger instrument that features a bright, non-reflective eight and a half-inch touchscreen of around 1000+ nits. Since you probably don't know what a "nit" is, TechTarget.com reported, "A typical active-matrix LCD panel has an output between 200 and 300 nit." By that reference, MGL's Explorer-Lite 8.5 should seem very bright even in a sunlight situation.

"Explorer-Lite 8.5 looks, feels and operates just like a full iEFIS, however it does not require the additional iBox since pitot/static, GPS receiver, and attitude sensor are all built into the back of the screen." So, unless you need to connect more than two RS-232 devices to your EFIS (such as radio, transponder, or ADS-B) or unless you need more than one screen or have other complex requirements, MGL's Explorer-Lite 8.5 appears to do it all. It has the same powerful G3 processor and runs the same firmware as a full iEFIS system and has all of the same software features losing only complexity during installation. Homebuilders would seem to love that prospect.

MGL said Explorer-Lite 8.5 starts at $2,850. A few options could raise the price but this is quite affordable.

Kitfox Aircraft is one of the most celebrated of all American sport aircraft with many thousands flying successfully, not only in the USA but all over the globe. In 2015, this western U.S. company steps up their game even further making their handsome airplane perform even better with some new choices.

The company has developed a new option for their proven S7 Super Sport design, one of the most polished models this company has ever offered. Completed recently and then flown to AirVenture Oshkosh, Kitfox is promoting their new STi (for STOL Inspired) retrofittable wing option. Proprietor John McBean said, "[The new STi wing] cuts takeoff and landing ground roll by more than 150 feet, and only reduces the cruise speed by less than 25 mph."

Any STOL design comes with a speed reduction as you can't have it both ways. "I think it is a fair price to pay for your STOL specific mission," expressed John.

All prior S7 Super Sport models had takeoff and landing ground rolls of only around 300 feet, which usually suffice for island beaches, river sand bars, or the mountain backcountry. However, Kitfox Aircraft continued to get requests for shorter takeoff and landing distances so owners can literally fly from their back yard or driveway. "The STi wing delivers," beamed John!

As president of Kitfox Aircraft, John invites you to visit their display in the North Aircraft display (booth 634 and 635) ... where all the kit builders tend to congregate. At their space you can take a look at what he flew 1,200 miles from the factory at Homedale, Idaho. He further entices you with this comment, "We have a few other surprises, too, like our Shock Monster 2.0 landing gear."

Stay tuned ... more Oshkosh light aircraft news to follow!


4 things to See at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015
By Dan Johnson, July 16, 2015

The "Big Show" is just days away, so of course, journalists and readers are asking what will be present? The question is worthwhile, but often the most interesting discoveries are not foretold either to maintain secrecy or due to the last minute scramble to make a new project showable. Here are four products attendees may want to investigate. Watch for more previews.

"What a journey so far, wrote Jordan Denitz, spokesman for The Airplane Factory USA! Globetrotters Mike Blyth with Patrick Huang of The Airplane Factory Asia have completed their first three legs on their way around the world in a Sling powered by the Rotax 912iS. Starting in Johannesburg, South Africa, they traveled to Namibia, Ghana, and Cape Verde.

On Monday they were taking a well deserved rest after 37 hours and more than 4,000 nautical miles logged so far. "They are gearing up for the biggest hop yet, crossing the Atlantic," added Jordan. This will be the third such round-the-world trips for the Sling LSA from The Airplane Factory. Directors Mike Blyth and James Pitman flew the Sling 2 prototype around the world in 2009. Mike did it again in a brand-new four seat Sling 4 in 2011 accompanied by Jean D'Assonville. Mike has previously accomplished numerous very long flights in trikes.

The adventurous pair plan to arrive at Oshkosh on Monday, July 20th. Their LSA will be on display at TAF's booth located in the EAA's North Aircraft Display/Homebuilt area where you can also see the four seat kit TAF-USA is selling to Americans. With any luck, I hope to get up in the Sling 4. Earlier, I reported Sling 2 had many wonderful qualities.

Chesapeake Sport Pilot flight school, based in Stevensville, Maryland, has earned the first Vans RV-12 dealership in the United States, reported CSP owner and Chief Flight Instructor, Helen Woods. "The RV-12 is the most popular aircraft we have ever put on the flight line at Chesapeake Sport Pilot," she explained. CSP can now offer RV-12 for sale or rental.

Van's Aircraft representative Kaitlyn Tepe said, "Partnering with Chesapeake Sport Pilot will give customers a better opportunity to be introduced to the RV-12 locally. CSP offers the whole range of services for the RV-12 from flight training and rentals to maintenance and flight reviews."

Chesapeake Sport Pilot was recognized by AOPA as one of the top flight schools in the country with the 2014 Outstanding Flight School award. The company described itself as "the nation's largest light sport flight school." CSP reported more than 20,000 hours of Light-Sport flight instruction over the past eight years.

In LSA Seaplanes Icon may get lots of press for the first delivery of their attention-generating A5, but another company offers a well-proven and evolved design that you can get much more quickly. You'll also save a bundle. While it doesn't offer electric folding wings, Progressive Aerodyne's Searey does offer manually folding wings. AirVenture Oshkosh visitors can see the arrangement in detail.

"One of the most frequently asked questions about the Searey LSA is, 'Can the wings fold?',"  reported company officials. Indeed, folding wings are an option on the factory-built Searey SLSA Sport and Elite. "This is a great option for those interested in trailering the aircraft or storing it in a narrow space," said Progressive Aerodyne. "We will be displaying one of the folding-wing- equipped Searey Elites at our main booth."

A few lucky souls — your faithful reporter hopefully among them — will get to take a flight in the A5. However, more importantly, YOU can take an evaluation flight in a Searey while you are visiting Oshkosh. Act soon! "To schedule a demo flight in the Searey Elite at Oshkosh send an email. They urge you to include "OSH DEMO REQUEST" in the subject line of your email. Then make your way to the seaplane base — EAA offers regular free bus transportation — and get ready to smile broadly.

Belite entrepreneur James Weibe sounds the like the tech seller he formerly was, "The most affordable, easy-to-build, legal ultralight you've ever seen ... is coming to AirVenture 2015." He calls his goal a "Part 103 air adventure" and said, "We think we've nailed it!"

A new strutless Belite design is the company's first low wing entry and quite a departure from the Kitfox Lite — since renamed and significantly evolved in various directions — that James started to offer. The new model-to-be uses trailing link suspension, free-castoring nosewheel, tricycle gear, and "nice coca-cola lines on the rear fuselage," said James. The new design will use carbon fiber fuselage/cabin construction over wood/foam core. It will have 28 feet of span, a broad 53-inch chord, and weigh 180 pounds without powerplant.

If you want to help bring the new bird to market, you can join the fun. "We'll be funding the development of this project through KickStarter." He promises big savings on the kit to those who participate, "plus other fun rewards."

Stay tuned ... more to come!


Sleeker Is Better In Electric-Propelled Aircraft
By Dan Johnson, July 15, 2015

If you've been following exciting developments like the Airbus/Pipistrel/Cri-Cri English Channel crossing, or for that matter any of the electric airplane developments, you should know that the ideal electric-powered aircraft today are the very lightest weight machines.

However, another quality is just as important while we wait for scientists to significantly amp up the energy density of batteries. That quality is sleekness and I've been watching a Norwegian project from Equator Aircraft. Airplanes don't get much sleeker than this.

If it needed to be even more intriguing, consider that this project comes from a team that has also been involved with seaplanes, so how about a two-seat electric seaplane? OK, it isn't ready yet but this is one I will continue to follow closely. Following is some detail on this fascinating entry that again suggests the tip of the spear in LSA design seems intently focused on seaplanes.

Equator' Aircraft P2 Excursion (abbreviated EQP2) is envisioned as a performance hybrid amphibian aircraft. The group refers to EQP2's shape as a "continuous droplet shape," and a glance at the nearby renderings and images conveys the concept clearly. Another beauty of electric is that motors are much lighter than combustion engines so they've located a powerful, 66-pound electric engine in the tail.

Developers refer to a "float wing system which removes the need for bulky sponsons and other supporting geometries."Retractable gear is essential for water operation, of course, but also helps with in-flight slipperiness. If you thought the current second or third generations of LSA seaplanes like Icon's A5, Vickers' Wave, and MVP.aero's versatility entry look smooth, it appears EQP2 goes a step beyond.

Equator projects, "With the flaps extended the aircraft should reach a stall speed of 45 knots. "The float wing and small electric engine will leave the aircraft with less drag than other amphibs," said principal, Tomas Brødreskift, "[that will] hopefully yield a realistic 120 knot cruise. As you know most amphibs lag far behind this due to extra drag in the various [components] needed to produce a good seacraft."

These attractive renderings are only artist conceptions. To see real progress, check these many photos from Equator Aircraft Norway.
P2 Excursion is a fully composite design. "Metals and other corrosive materials have been left out where possible," said Tomas. "Carbon Fiber reinforced epoxy is used extensively, with kevlar/carbon hybrid textiles used around the cabin area."

EQP2 was designed from the start to carry two people although they speak of a future option for four occupants and their history involves such larger seaplane concepts. The cabin appears to be particularly spacious with a 58-inch-wide cockpit that would make the industry's widest assuming the final machine sticks with current specifications.

"Much of the research done initially was focused on the situation when the aircraft is a boat with wings," reported Equator. Designers considered how occupants will get in and out without contortions, and how to maneuver the vehicle in the environments in which it can operate. "The result is an open cabin with waterproof surfaces. The pilot can exit and enter the plane over the nose, and over the railings."

Given a wide cabin area (see lower photos) the baggage area is also very large. "You´ll be able to store bulky luggage such as bikes, skis, etc," said Equator.

In at least one more way P2 Excursion is quite unique: it has no rudder pedals. "Yaw control is done through twisting the stick around the vertical axes, and is being developed as a FBW (Fly by Wire) feature on the plane." In my experience pilots often balk at non-conventional controls yet new ground sometimes needs to be plowed and Equator seems up to such a task.

To keep up with the team at Equator Aircraft as they progress toward a flying aircraft, follow them on their Facebook page or on Twitter.
A hybrid propulsion system being developed by Equator. They have named this "EHPS for Equator Hybrid Propulsion System" and it follows with much of the design that they are doing things differently than most other design organizations.

"EHPS is finally on final stages on a test bench in Germany," reported Tomas. The combustion engine will be from WankelSuperTec of Cottbus, Germany. EQP2's rotary engine can run on bio-diesel fuels and jet fuel "because our funding requires a bio-diesel sustainable option" clarified Tomas. The fuel tank holds 100 liters (26 gallons) that is projected to give a flying time of 5-6 hours.

The engine-specific project is being co-funded by Transnova, a public enterprise owned by the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy with another company, Engiro, doing motor development work. Power output to the propeller is 100 kW (approximately 130 horsepower) and the generator motor will produce 57-60 kW (80 horsepower) of power to charge the batteries.

Light-Sport Aircraft are arguably the most innovative flying machines that regular folks can afford and it is exciting to see examples such as the P2 Excursion.


David Versus Goliath ... ePlane Channel Crossing
By Dan Johnson, July 11, 2015

Airbus' E-Fan makes a crossing of the English Channel, a time-honored path to prove aeronautical feats. photo from The Verge
When discussing big versus small, you cannot go much further than comparing a Light-Sport Aircraft company to Airbus. This story speaks to LSA builder Pipistrel, the goal of their French dealer, and nearly identical plans of the giant corporation. In a fascinating development, it turns out that an even smaller entity, a single individual in a miniature flying machine, managed to best the jet airliner producer at its own game. Here's the story as I understand it although I readily admit I am relying solely on second-hand information.

Pipistrel makes the Alpha Electro (formerly known as WattsUp as our video at the end notes). They've already seen some success with this aircraft the factory model of which has been powered by a Siemens motor supplied by the huge Germany company.

As everyone who follows reporting of electric propulsion of either airplanes or electric cars surely knows, "range anxiety" is a consumer problem to be overcome and taking flights demanding courage is one way to assuage those concerns.

Pipistrel likes to market by introducing new products and attempting special flights. Recently, they were foiled in an effort to accomplish another noteworthy flight. That's where corporate intrigue enters the picture.

About this twisted tale, Pipistrel distributor Michael Coates wrote, "The seventh day of July 2015 could have been a very historic day for world aviation with Slovenian light aircraft manufacturer Pipistrel planning to be the first aircraft powered with an electric motor to cross the English Channel in both directions without recharging. This achievement would cement the very real practicality of electric aircraft flight. It pains me to write this but I am so disappointed by the bad sportsmanship displayed by Siemens and Airbus that I have no other alternative than to let you know what is happening behind the scenes to stop the Pipistrel's French dealer Finesse Max's historic attempt and aviation adventure."

Speaking to the safety of such an over water test, Michael added, "Our testing over land demonstrated that we can take off from France, land in England, return to France and still have a remaining 25% battery capacity." Airbus planned and executed a flight in only one direction.

"Airbus' E-Fan project does not use Siemens motors," Michael reported, adding, "[but] it does have Siemens stickers on the side of their aircraft." He believed Airbus wanted to be the first electric powered aircraft to cross the English Channel and receive the notoriety and recognition that comes from this achievement.

Michael's allegation of manipulation appears supported by the response from electric motor supplier, Siemens.

In a letter from Siemens signed by Dr. Frank Anton (Head e-Aircraft) and Tim Grage (Commercial Head e-Aircraft), the big German conglomerate stated, "With this letter we expressly declare ... that our Motor in its current version is neither designed nor tested nor approved by us for a flight above water — we explicitly prohibit you to use or let anyone else use our motor for any flight above water." Their explanation was that they cannot allow their reputation to be damaged.

Online journal AutoBlog.com seems to agree about questionable motives, "Now, we are neither electrical engineers nor aviation experts, but it strikes us as odd that an electric motor might function differently depending on the terrain beneath the craft it sits within."

To present both sides of the story, here you can read Airbus' report.

Hugues Duwal gives a thumbs-up after beating aerospace and airline giant Airbus to be the first electric-propulsion aircraft to cross the Channel. At its closest point, the crossing is better than 20 miles over water. photo from The Telegraph
So, while Pipistrel had to respect Siemens' wishes and cancel their flight, a private citizen made the trip in one of the world's smallest aircraft. Pipistrel wrote, "After reading the information that Pipistrel was blocked in flying across the English Channel, Hugues Duwal became the first electric aircraft to cross the English Channel in his Cri-Cri E-Cristaline electric aircraft."

Pipistrel continued, "As Duwal already had the permanent permit to fly his aircraft there was no need to ask for a permit to fly over the English Channel, but only to fill the flight plan. It was possible to keep the flight information secret up to the end. From the available information that we have, shortly after the flight announcement, an order was issued to stop him but he did not respect it and he successfully crossed the channel [on] July 9, 2015 [making] the first flight over the channel with electric powered aircraft in the history."

Corporate intrigue or not, we congratulate Hugues Duwal and Airbus on successful crossings of the English Channel in electric-propelled aircraft. Regardless of any maneuvering for marketing reasons, this is still a positive accomplishment for light aircraft.

We invite you to watch our video interview with James Lawrence in front of the Pipistrel Alpha Electro:

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

 



 

 
 

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

Hansen Air Group represents recognized brands in the LSA
space: FK Lightplanes and their distinctive biplane Comet, FK9, and FK51 plus the great-flying Magnaghi Sky Arrow. Based in Atlanta, Georgia Hansen Air Group is an experienced player in the LSA space.
Multiple LSA

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

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

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

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

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



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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.

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!


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.


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.

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.

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.

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!

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Updated: July 28, 2015

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