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...a web log of developments in Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft
Sun Catches Lightning — Sun Flyer Rollout
By Dan Johnson, May 23, 2016

Recently, aviation titles chronicled the rollout of Sun Flyer's prototype electric powered airplane. To careful observers, the aircraft might appear somewhat familiar. Good eyes, folks. The prototype was built for Aero Electric Aircraft Corporation by Arion Aircraft. The beautiful sweeping lines of the Sun Flyer are nearly identical to the Lightning LS-1.

The one notable difference — and in fact this is the whole story — is the electric motor up front allowing Sun Flyer to look even a bit more streamlined than the dashing outline of Lightning. This is a first article aircraft as photos don't yet show any solar cells on the wings, as promised by Aero Electric.

Regardless of how AEAC develops Sun Flyer down the line, it was wonderful to see them linking up with Arion Aircraft whose LSA and kit models have been admired for their gracefully smooth shape for some years.

Arion Aircraft's Lightning LS-1, available as a Special Light-Sport Aircraft or a kit. The shape works for Aero Electric's Sun Flyer vision.
In its unveiling at AirVenture 2014, Aero Electric showed a single seater. This was actually the Elektra One, designed and created by Calin Gologan, who also predicts an all-electric four-seat GA airplane in the next ten years. That was 2010, so we have time for AEAC to get their two seater ready and move onward. (We'll see how that turns out.)

Paying tribute to Calin, George Bye of Aero Electric said, "[Our] two-seat solar-electric light sport aircraft project was created under license agreement from German technology partner, PC-Aero, which introduced the Elektra One single-seater."

Readers seeking a broader view are invited to read my survey of electric airplanes from a few years ago: electric airplane review. A year earlier, we had this earlier article about Elektra. Now, you have some of the history.

Most of the electric airplane projects currently capturing media attention are pure electric plays, although Aero 2016's e-flight-expo organized by German publisher Willi Tacke showed a hybrid (gas & electric) project. Other than some fascinating one-off projects, pure electric mostly means batteries to supply the current needed to spin the engine and prop.

AEAC's Sun Flyer is the first "commercial" project proposing to incorporate solar cells as a power-gathering apparatus. The company stated, "Solar energy collection from solar cells affixed to the composite wing skin, produces electric power that is combined with Lithium Ion batteries to run the electric propulsion system."

Flying the eSpyder a couple years ago showed it was both easy and different for the pilot. While operation was simple, I had unfamiliar information references I needed to track. They were not intuitive for someone used to fuel flow, magneto operation, tank capacity, and power settings. You can read my flight impressions aloft in eSpyder. Alternatively, watch this video with airframe developer, Tom Peghiny, after eSpyder became the first electric airplane to win German certification.

Speaking to the pilot operation of Sun Flyer, Aero Electric reported, "The electric motor's throttle is very intuitive with one control lever. [The pilot has] no need to adjust mixture richness and monitor cylinder head temperature as in aircraft with internal combustion engines; a throttle computer control unit is responsible for optimum motor operation, battery status and the entire power system."

Beyond its quiet, drip-free operation, "fuel burn" is another saving grace of electric. AEAC said, "Only about $1 of electricity is needed for each flying hour." We've heard this number from other producers and it seems to suggest this could be great for flight schools trying to operate efficiently. Even the fuel miserly Rotax 912 iS burns four gallons an hour and even at today's somewhat lower auto gas prices, that still translates to at least $10 per hour for fuel alone.

Swapping out battery sets (and fast charging) could keep an electric flight school plane flying almost continuously, augmented by Sun Flyer's solar cells, but of course, batteries are some of the most expensive components so to buy at least two sets per airplane on top of the cost of a new airplane may be a deal breaker for smaller flight schools. AEAC has hinted at a price of $180,000, a bit precious for many flight schools. A breakthrough in energy storage (i.e., better batteries) could dramatically alter the landscape but we're still waiting for long-lasting, fast-charging batteries that don't cost a fortune.

This artist's rendition shows Sun Flyer with wings equipped with solar cells to aid battery recharging.
Regardless, the appeal of quiet, trouble-free electric propulsion generates significant interest from many both in the pilot community and from neighbors, community leaders, and various interest groups. The move to electric seems inexorable driven even faster by the arrival of names like Airbus and its Voltair subsidiary (for more, read this and this) or giant Siemens. AEAC and its Sun Flyer may be coming in to view at just the right time. We'll keep watching them.

In this ANN video, company boss George Bye gives his vision for the future of Sun Flyer and electric propulsion.

Invasion of the Titan; More LSA Go Big Power
By Dan Johnson, May 18, 2016

Kitfox Aircraft has installed the Titan X-340 and is currently testing the engine.
In my many years in aviation, I've learned this about light aviation pilots: If 80-horsepower is good, then 100-horsepower is better, and even more is best of all. It explains why interest was so high when Rotax announced their new 915iS that will provide 135 horsepower. It also illustrates why the 180 horses of the Titan X-340 is succeeding in the Light-Sport Industry.

Interest from LSA producers started with CubCrafters adopting the engine several years ago. When that company's boss, Jim Richmond, held a press conference at Sun 'n Fun, the reception was somewhat cool. Of ten persons in the audience, only four of us were journalists. The other six (yes, 6!) people were from FAA. No wonder, perhaps, as ASTM standards at the time brought questions to mind regarding the use of such a powerful engine. Those standards have since been modified somewhat.

Indeed, the western producer instructed users that the engine could only be used at full power for takeoff or climbing, but otherwise had to be set to lower power. Of course, you would not run many engines at full power for all phases of flight but my guess is many users put the noise lever where they wish and don't worry too much about what standards or regulations state.

Flash forward to 2016 and interest in the Titan engine is clearly revved up all the way. Let's see... this list may not be complete as new brands seem to be regularly considering bolting on the powerhouse engine -- CubCrafters Carbon Cub, American Legend Super Legend, Zlin Outback (Shock Cub in Europe), Just Aircraft SuperSTOL, Kitfox STi, Rans Raven, Vickers Wave LSA seaplane.

Why do these leading companies use a more costly engine? What pilots doesn't love plenty of power for performance, climbing strongly without straining the engine. With an excess of power, pilots can thrill to short takeoff rolls, exhilarating climbs north of 2,000 fpm on some models, and somewhat higher cruise speeds, though the latter depends much more on airframe and wing shape than horsepower. It may also provide a safety factor in some situations.

Continental Motors said, "The Titan 340 is unlike any other engine we offer. This little stroked 320 can put out over 180 horsepower and is 20 pounds less than a stock 360. ASTM certification has proven this engine to be reliable and a great performer." Titan Engines remains based where ECi was founded in San Antonio, Texas.

Zlin's Shock Cub uses the Titan. Attendees can examine the model at AirVetnrue Oshkosh 2016 under the Outback name at SportairUSA's booth.
The company reported, "Titan's 340CC engine has been tested and is manufactured in accordance with ASTM F2339-06." This is the standard for the design and manufacture of reciprocating spark ignition engines for LSA. The 340CC engine is a four cylinder, direct-drive, horizontally-opposed, and air-cooled engine, differentiating it significantly from the gear-box-equipped, liquid-cooled Rotax 9-series. To help reduce weight, heads are made of aluminum alloy castings. "The cylinder barrels are made of thru-hardened steel that have a Nickel+Carbide coating for additional corrosion and wear prevention." Pistons are machined from aluminum alloy. The engine is "designed to be cooled via air pressure forced from the top of the engine to the bottom of the engine during flight. Air is directed over the cylinder heads via baffles." Titan's carburetor is a single barrel float-type equipped with a mixture control and an idle cut-off.

Operationally, Titan is somewhat different from the ubiquitous Rotax that asks pilots to assure a certain temperature before takeoff. Continental said, "The engine should be warm enough for taxi as soon as it takes throttle with no hesitation." Pre-takeoff runup is similar to most American made engines where you spin the engine to 1,700 rpm and check left and right mags plus exercise the carburetor heat control. Although you can use the full 2,700 rpm for launch, Titan advises reducing engine revs to 2,500 when an acceptable climb is established. LSA manufacturers may add further instructions.

Descent for landing calls for slightly decreasing power and letting the airplane decelerate. "Chopping the power should be avoided unless there is an emergency," said Titan. Abrupt power reduction can cause the cylinder barrel walls to receive cold air cooling while the piston is still hot and this can cause problems. Final engine shut down is done by pulling the mixture control, not be switching off as on a Rotax.

Regarding fuels, Titan advised, "All 340CC engine series are designed to use 100/100LL aviation grade fuel. In the event of an emergency, automotive premium grade fuel may be used." If you operate from airports, 100LL is easily obtained across the U.S. For those preferring auto gas, another engine may be preferable.

An old line in car racing used to go: "Speed costs money. How fast do you want to go?" You can buy a Rotax or a Jabiru for less investment and engines like UL Power or Viking for homebuilders can be even better deals. The potent Titan X-340 is a shade under $26,000 at present. One advantage over most others is that it is Made in the USA and you deal with a U.S.-based company. Power on!

Following are a few specifications for the Titan X-340 powerplant:

  • Maximum Continuous Horsepower — 166 / 180
  • Maximum RPM at Full Power — 2,700
  • Recommended Time Before Overhaul (TBO) in hours — 2000 / 2,400 (ASTM)
  • Number of Cylinders — 4
  • Displacement — 340 cubic inches
  • Compression Ratio — 8.0 / 9.0
  • Fuel Delivery — Carb / injection
  • Fuel Grade, Aviation, Octane (recommended) — 93 / 100 / 100LL
  • Dimensions in inches — 20.63-23 height X 32.27 wide X 29.07 long
  • Estimated Dy Weight — 260 pounds
  • Available with — a wide range of colors

Remos is Back and Scores at Aero 2016
By Dan Johnson, May 11, 2016

Think back far enough in the still-fairly-new LSA sector and you should recall a time when one brand made some major impact on all of personal aviation. The company was Remos and their U.S. team amped up promotional activity to the level of full page ads in most of the biggest aviation magazines in aviation. By my casual estimate, Remos was spending north of $35,000 per month on splashy advertisements.

Remos also did an airplane giveaway with AOPA; the company was a seemingly unstoppable juggernaut. Prudent or not, you had to admire that the company pulled out the stops in an effort to become the main LSA brand. Such a no-holds-barred approach has worked for products in other industries. However...

Then the door of opportunity slammed shut. It was not that the advertising didn't work. Certainly it did make the brand well recognized. However, by 2009 the global economy was in a tailspin. When the initial pent-up demand for LSA was significantly satisfied sales began to contract, a victim of these two influences. Remos' aggressive marketing push began to look risky.

Indeed, within months, the German company got in too deep. Bleeding red ink, Remos was forced by German laws to enter a condition that might called bankruptcy in the USA. Yet as Americans know very well, companies can and do emerge from bankruptcy. By working hard to correct earlier mistakes and by finding fresh investment, these enterprises can be stronger and better after such an ordeal.

That seems to be the case with Remos. They recovered from their brush with disaster and have been clawing their way back up the LSA ladder. At Aero 2016, the company's display — while modest compared with their elaborate (and costly) exhibit from years back — looked proper and professional.

Team members held a press conference and announced their new GXiS model that is powered by Rotax's fuel injected 912 iS model. As it has for years the airplane looked good inside and out. Plus Team Remos did their work to install the 912 iS in a customer-pleasing manner.

Remos reported on their GXiS implementation, "It's the first Remos aircraft powered the Rotax 912 iS Sport with electronic fuel injection. Among other things the prototype shown in Friedrichshafen had a state-of-the-art avionics suite, a redesigned cowling and a new system called Remos SMARTStart. "Starting-up the engine has never been so easy," said Remos. After logging more than 150 hours in two LSA using the 912 iS, I can say that the Remos method of controlling this engine looked excellent.

"With this new version, [we are aiming at] the European LSA market with EASA certification." While similar to achieving FAA acceptance of a Special LSA, gaining a Restricted Type Certificate in Europe involves a few more steps and it would signify a worthwhile achievement.

"GXiS will also be available as an ultralight aircraft by the end of the year," stated the Pasewalk, Germany company. At Aero, they showcased their GXNXTClub model. "The avionics suite contains the new Dynon SkyView SE with 7-inch-screen, radio, and transponder. Customers who place an order before the end of June, will get their ultralight GXNXTClub starting at only 83.990 Euro plus tax. At present exchange rates that translates to a reasonable price tag of just over $95,000 (this "Club" aircraft is aimed at Europe; U.S. sales of this lower-priced model were not discussed).

Christian Majunke, Remos head of design (L) poses with new public relations & marketing man (previously a journalist for Aerokurier magazine), Patrick Holland-Moritz.
When Remos appeared to fold under the effects of overly ambitious marketing and a slumping world economy, I feared we might have seen the last of this brand.

My worry was exaggerated and I'm pleased to see the aircraft recover and return to the market. Presently, it appears this German producer is significantly concentrating on European sales and that started well at Aero 2016. On the strength of their showing the new GXiS, the company reported, "Six aircraft were sold [in] four days [of Aero]. Further contracts were prepared during the show." They explained that one customer is a flight school based in Bavaria in the south of Germany. "This school has been using Remos aircraft for training for a long time — now the fleet will be expanded by two new aircraft."

Fortunately for U.S.-based LSA enthusiasts, we reported earlier about their Missouri importer that has a ready supply of parts to serve the American fleet comprised of 118 Remos models (see 2015 market report).

Parachute Collides with Cessna Close to Ground
By Dan Johnson, May 7, 2016

Here's a fitting story for the weekend. I have more airplane news for next week, but this... well... what a time to be standing somewhere with your camera at the ready.

The story isn't new. The article with accompanying video was posted March 8, 2014, but the photos only recently came to my attention thanks to a family member who knows how I follow aviation and knows of my background at BRS parachutes. (Thanks, Earl!)

The story was broken by Fox 13 TV in Tampa Bay, Florida. The "witness" referred to in the Fox 13 video story was Tim Telford who captured the shots that I assembled into a short movie below. I certainly marveled at the images he captured. These 18 images represent only a brief moment in time.

The rest of the story that follows comes from the Fox 13 reporter, Aaron Mesmer. You can read it all and see their video here.

Mesmer reported, "Two men were hurt Saturday morning when a plane collided with the parachute of a skydiver in Mulberry."

The airport where the collision occurred is the South Lakeland airport situated very close to Sun 'n Fun. Many of us have flown from the old Circle X field for years. It is both an active airport and a base where sky diving is pursued, which may explain the potential for conflict, though I am not aware of any other incidents.

Mesmer continued, "The Polk County Sheriff's Office says the pilot, 87-year-old Sharon Trembley, a World War II veteran, was doing touch-and-goes in his private Cessna at the South Lakeland Airport."

"I have never seen anything like this and this is the last thing I thought I'd see today," said Tim Telford, who took pictures of the midair collision as it happened."

Mesmer continued, "The skydiver, 49-year-old John Frost of Gainesville, Florida was flung to the earth. The plane nose-dived into the ground.

"I thought they were both seriously hurt. We rushed over there," said Paul Fuller, one of Trembly's friends who was also watching from the ground. "He's a pretty good pilot. He's been flying all of his life, probably 60 some-odd years."

Mesmer reported that both men were taken to the hospital, however, neither was seriously injured. Frost was treated and released. Trembley was held for observation. He suffered some cuts and bruises but after landing directly nose first on the ground and being an elderly man, it is quite remarkable he was not more critically injured.

"Both these guys walked away [relatively] unscathed," Telford, the photographer said. "A scratch here, a bruise there and I think both are just happy to be here today."

In the Fox 13 video both men said they took some action to avoid more serious injury. Cessna pilot Trembley reported pulling up so as not to collide directly with the sky diver. Frost said he took evasive action, too.

You Wanna Be a Jet Pilot? Check out UL-39
By Dan Johnson, May 5, 2016

When they introduced Light-Sport Aircraft FAA prohibited use of a jet engine. Looking at the photos nearby you can see that this airplane cannot pass must as a LSA. Or, wait! That's no jet. It just pretended to be one at Aero Friedrichshafen 2016.

At my home airport (Spruce Creek Fly-in), I regularly see one or another full-size L-39 in various stages of being prepared for a new American owner. I was told that about 200 of these ex-Czech military jets are operating in the U.S. They are handsome, sleek, and fast-like-a-jet. Contrarily, the UL-39 is not as fast but neither should its cost of upkeep be anything close to a military jet.

We're getting a bit ahead of ourselves. The UL-39 on display was a wonderful proof-of-concept aircraft that managed to engage nearly a generation of students in aeronautical engineering disciplines at the Czech Technical University in Prague. Market plans remain a couple years away, though interest appeared strong for the many who examined it closely at the just-concluded German airshow.

in-flight photos of Albi UL-39 by Jan Fridrich
Albi UL-39 was reportedly 17 years in the making lead by Dr. Robert Theiner, whom I met alongside his creation. He and a team of students over these years created this unusual entry. While closely resembling an L-39, this edition is more affordable (projected around $225,000) — and operable — by recreational pilots when powered with a conventional gasoline reciprocating engine versus a turbine. Such engines alone can cost more than an entire Light-Sport Aircraft.

UL-39 uses a high-revving BMW SR1000RR motorcycle engine producing 193-horsepower to drive a 13-blade impeller nestled in the fuselage aft of the tandem-seated occupants. With Albi's retractable landing gear, the BMW powerplant can push the aircraft to speeds of 124 knots. Stall is a modest 35 knots. Top speed in level flight with maximum continuous power (Vh) is 140 knots. Therefore UL-39 is no slouch but neither is it an military-grade jet.

Thoroughly designed and tested Albi UL-39 could qualify as a Light-Sport Aircraft. Only minor adjustments would be needed. Fixing the gear in the down position — as required in the U.S. — would surely lower the current listed cruise of 124 knots. Weight can actually go up, perhaps allowing a more deluxe interior. Despite its larger look, UL-39 can make European Ultralight weight, said developers, meaning 472.5 kilograms (1,041.6 pound), which figure includes an airframe parachute that is mandatory in Germany). An LSA Albi UL-39 seems easily possible.

Created in a collaborative university setting with various partners involved, the bare fuselage and air inlet qualities of the design were tested in a wind tunnel (photo). As an engineering project, this was undoubtedly a fascinating project for groups of students and their faculty advisers.

The carbon-fiber composite construction was done by LA Composite. Assembly of the pieces was achieved by Skyleader, a producer of Light-Sport Aircraft such as the Skyleader 600 (video) among several other designs. This ambitious LSA company also has an versatile full-motion flight simulator that can be made to function with a wide variety of aircraft designs.

As our photos show, the aircraft has successfully flown in the Czech Republic. No problems were reported though engineers say more work is needed to achieve a finished aircraft. A video playing in the Skyleader space caught your attention partly by the high-pitched whine of its impeller spinning rapidly. It may not sound like a pure jet engine, but neither does it sound like a piston engine driving a conventional prop.

Albi UL-39 weighs only 772 pounds empty, holds 26 gallons of fuel that will give it a range of 300 miles (no doubt much further if they chose the coming Rotax 915). Skyleader, the marketing name for Jihlavan Airplanes, said that during construction, care was taken to assure compliance with CS-VLA, a certification system for Very Light Aircraft in the European Union that is recognized by FAA.

While UL-39 will not ready for market for a couple more years, one day those Walter Mitty jet jockey wannabes enthralled by the slippery lines of Albi. could have one of their own.

Join me at Aero 2016 for a live-during-the-show look at Albi UL-39...

The “Showcase” is On in DeLand this November
By Dan Johnson, April 27, 2016

What's in a name for an airshow? Quick, what's the official name of the big July show north of Chicago? "Oshkosh?" Yes, to most, but the association prefers EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. How about the one in Lakeland, Florida? "Oh, you mean Sun 'n Fun." The full name is Sun 'n Fun International Fly-In and Expo. Have you ever heard anyone say the whole thing? Another mouthful is Sebring U.S. Sport Aviation Expo, but it gets shortened various ways.

At Sun 'n Fun 2016 DeLand airport Manager John Eiff and recently hired Sport Aviation Administrator Jana Filip held a name-that-show contest. More than 30 entries were received. "Some were very clever and witty like DeLand, DePlanes, DeShow," said Jana. In the end, the winning word was "Showcase," offered by veteran Paradise City Commentator, Michael McClellan.

Jana Filip sits in the PIC seat of an AutoGyro gyroplane with Terry Rose. photo by Florida Aviation Network
Why Showcase? "Because that's what the event will be — a showcase for airplanes and aviation stuff," McClellan said. "In my conversations with Jana, it became clear the focus of the event will be to showcase what sport aviation has to offer... and what DeLand's Sport Aviation Village has to offer. So why not just use the word that best describes what they're going to do?" Michael will be DeLand's official commentator.

The first annual DeLand Sport Aviation Showcase will take place on November 3-5, 2016, following National Business Aircraft Association's NBAA 2016. That giant event with more exhibitors than even Oshkosh will take place just 30 miles down the road in Orlando, Florida. Filip said, "We hope that will make it easy for vendors, visitors, and the media to stop by to see what we have to offer in DeLand."

The corporate suits that populate elaborate booths at NBAA might like to have a day of fun in the sun. Or, maybe not; the busy people who can buy multimillion dollar aircraft have to run back to the corner office and review business plans. However, the folks who fly those bizjets, and fix them, and sell them might indeed taking an extra day to enjoy a walk (or demo flight) on the light side.

The big prize from following NBAA would be attracting some of the media throngs that attend the convention center show. That might help put the DeLand on the aviation map.

DeLand Airport seen from the air. Arrows identify (1) locations of U-Fly-It and Aero Adventure; (2) the SkyDive DeLand operation; and (3) the proposed site for the Sport Aviation Village, presently home to Renegade Aircraft.
"With this premier event, we'll be prepared to host 40 indoor and 40 outdoor exhibitors, as we get our infrastructure developed for a larger show in years to come," Jana said. "We're excited to build this show expressly to serve the sport aviation community. We'll make it easy for companies to offer demo rides and for customers to visit with exhibitors."

"People enjoy air shows (with aerobatic or military acts), Jana continued, "but when you're seriously shopping for an airplane, propeller, avionics, or whatever you need for your plane, you want as much face time with the companies as you can get. That's what we'll provide, along with a fun atmosphere for people to enjoy all that sport aviation offers."

Owned and operated by very supportive City of DeLand, DeLand Municipal Airport is open 24 hours a day. One reason the city likes the airport is that it carries its own weight, operating in the black and not consuming taxpayer dollars. It does this partly because some 35 businesses employ over 600 people in the parachute industry. It is also home to at least three airframe builders: U-Fly-It and the Aerolite 103, Aero Adventure, and Renegade Aircraft. It is the proposed home site for SPAR, the Sport Pylon Air Races.

The airport opened in the 1920s with the first asphalt runway built around 1936. The city donated the airport to the Navy in 1941 as part of the war effort. At the end of hostilities, in March of 1946, the Naval Station was returned to the City of DeLand.

The airport, officially named Sydney H. Taylor Field, sits on 1,600 acres in Volusia County, approximately 40 miles north of Orlando and just west of Interstate 4. Daytona Beach and the Atlantic Ocean is 16 miles to the east. Airport data for KDED is available from AirNav.

My 4 Favorite Aircraft Seen at Aero 2016
By Dan Johnson, April 23, 2016

I always love traveling to Aero Friedrichshafen because of the new aircraft I will see. We media types live for the new stuff (because it's what we believe our readers or video watchers want to consume). I made my last dash through the hall on Saturday — Aero ran from April 20-23, 2016 — and I am now in Zurich, Switzerland awaiting my flight back to the USA.

I saw many aircraft worthy of closer examination. I will prepare articles on those and more detail about the ones below, too. Later on, some of my Aero videos will hit YouTube after some editing. While the memories are fresh, though, I want to give an early peek at four aircraft that grabbed my attention ...and that of many others, judging from the challenge to get near them during opening hours. I present these in no particular order.

Zlin Savage Shock — Shock definitely created awe at Aero. On my final visit to their unique space with carpet that looked for all the world like grass (not that astroturf stuff that does a crude imitation), I saw visitors literally crawling under Shock, poring over its exterior details, and getting inside for a simulated experience. If you've seen Savage before — called Outback in America — you'll want to take a much closer look when it appears at Oshkosh this summer. This machine is a piece of work.

Importer Bill Canino of SportairUSA gave me a full tour. Actually, he had to do it twice as I experienced... um, technical difficulties with my new video camera's audio. Here are some highlights.

What's most obvious is the Just Aircraft SuperSTOL-like large shock absorbers and the big balloon tires. Shock also uses three sections of automatically-deploying leading edge slats (to SuperSTOL's two) per side. It has Fowler flaps with an integrated slat and vortex generators neatly tucked between the surfaces. The tail is larger to coordinate with a bigger wing (both deeper and of longer chord) and the tailwheel is, again like SuperSTOL, equipped with a shock absorber.

More changes inside include, most notably, a rearrangement of the welded steel cage to provide much more headroom so that pilots in the outback can comfortably wear a helmet. In all, this is a very thorough and detailed update. Add a 180 horsepower Titan engine and this baby is ready to scream.

UL-39 (at SkyLeader display) — I acted like everyone else when I first saw the UL-39. Although I'd already seen photos of it flying, thanks to my EuroColleague, Jan Fridrich, I still had to marvel. This pointy nosed, fighter-looking aircraft appears in most ways to be jet powered. It closely emulates the popular L-39 Czech military jet (200 of which are reportedly flying in America), so of course, it had to look jet-like.

UL-39 is presently powered by a BMW motorcycle engine driving a type of ducted fan though it uses impellers (13 of them!) with the engine running at a high revolution, more than 10,000 rpm at cruise, I was told. This aircraft uses retractable gear, naturally, as it tries to look like the fighter aircraft.

Yet UL-39 is in some ways more modern and I don't mean it has a glass cockpit. Indeed by the use of all carbon fiber (an L-39 is metal), this dashing aircraft can actually make Europe's ultralight class meaning gross weight is confined to 472.5 kilograms or a bit less than 1,042 pounds. Amazing ...and I clearly was not the only who thought so.

Led by professor Robert Theiner, UL-39 is a university project 17 years in the making. Composite parts were made by one of the partners with assembly of the pieces by LSA manufacturer, SkyLeader.

Bücker & Funk Clubman — He's done it again! A few years ago I got a big smile out of my longtime friend Peter Funk after seeing his latest Aero showplane ...a supersexy version of his FK-14 Polaris with a LeMans look to the cockpit. I called him the Steve Jobs of the light aviation world for his showmanship and superb craftsmanship. He rightfully beamed over the compliment but he comes back nearly every year with something equally attention getting.

This year it was a Clubman complete with a seven-cylinder radial engine that, like the airplane, looks old but is new. "Retro" was how Flight Design director Christian Wenger described it and he only referred to the aircraft. Not to leave it at that, Peter convinced all his exhibit space partners that a dress code was part of the environment he wanted to create. Indeed, the whole team was in dapper period costumes. Peter shared his space with BRS Parachute rep for Europe, Frank Miklis; he and daughter Stephie got into the game, too. The space had a vintage motorcycle, an old tabletop radio, and a collection of furniture built new to look old.

However, this was not simply a display. These aircraft Peter creates are built in small batches and sold to customers. Even this idea seems to work. By limiting the number available, they tend to sell out quickly. Marvelous. Well done, Steve' I mean Peter!

JH Aircraft Corsair — Conveying a look something like the UL-39, I almost passed this by before Bill Canino of SportairUSA told me this wonderful creation could qualify as a U.S. Part 103 (or the German 120-kilo Class) aircraft. "You have to be kidding me," I exclaimed to Bill! I was intrigued by its resemblance to the F4U Corsair military fighter with its inverted gull wing design but I thought this was some heavier kit-built airplane. Of course, that would have been interesting, too, but I don't cover the heavy segments of aviation.

Yet Jörg Hollmann's creation is indeed aimed at Germany's 120 Kilogram Class of airplanes that are remarkably close to America's Part 103 category. Part 103 has a maximum empty weigh of 254 pounds — a shade more than 115 kilograms. Alternatively 120 kilograms is 264.5 pounds but we're splitting hairs because Jörg is targeting 110-120 kilograms so he should easily be able to make Part 103.

I was still skeptical as all that large diameter welded steel structure surely weighed too much. Wrong. That isn't steel in the photo; it's all carbon fiber tubes, deftly cut and laminated together. To prove the light weight, Jörg got inside and picked up the whole bare airframe like it was nothing.

Jörg said his superlight Corsair will fly by Aero 2017 and be available for sale by Aero 2018. At a reasonably affordable $60,000, this might be the sexiest Part 103 aircraft ever.

I plan to come back with more on these aircraft and others seen at Aero Friedrichshafen 2016. I hope this appetizer whetted your appetite for more.

SLSA Market Shares Report & Commentary for 2015
By Dan Johnson, April 21, 2016

Updated 4/26/16 - This chart was updated to correct a formula error. The changed line refers to the "All other producers..." figure. It was 429 airplanes and 14.7% and that was incorrect.
My associate in Europe, Jan Fridrich of LAMA Europe, has been the source for a database search for many years as I seek to report market share statistics in the USA. He scours the FAA registration information and laboriously assembles the numbers. As he and I work to produce accurate info, Jan often makes contact with selected companies when questions arise, as they often do. I also reach out to producers in our effort to make the best possible use of the registration data to create our rankings.

Jan has been one of his country's representatives in the Czech Republic's official work with the Chinese to help that nation build its lighter aviation infrastructure. He's made many trips to China in the last two years. Along with frequent travel in his job for the Light Aircraft Association time is short for him to find the hours it takes to review FAA's data. For 2015 data, he completed the effort as I headed to Sun 'n Fun and then to Aero, so... finally, here is our report with hearty thanks to Jan for doing this tedious work.

The summary view is that American LSA registrations have remained very consistent over the last three years (2013, 2014, and 2105). Most industry players believe we should be seeing higher figures but the LSA results closely mirror trends reported by GAMA for type certified aircraft. Likely reasons for lower numbers may include pilots still uncertain what will happen with the medical and a large fleet of still airworthy though increasingly older used aircraft — the average age of which is around 38 years — that are available at lower cost than a new Light-Sport Aircraft. Since I am in Europe as this is written, I can pass along that several Europeans see a similar picture here, albeit without the medical issue.

SportCruiser by Czech Sport Aircraft, sold in the USA by U.S. Sport Aircraft, moved up again with a solid 2015.
As 2016 began, America had just shy of 3,000 LSA airplanes in the registry. As we've said for years, this figure does not include weight shift aircraft, powered parachutes, motorgliders, or gyroplanes, which, if they could be accurately counted, would conservatively add 20%. Also, the figure also does not count many ELSA and should not count Experimental Amateur Built even if those aircraft are nearly identical to Special LSA. See this 2014 article for an effort to give a more accurate total of the LSA, LSA-like aircraft, and Sport Pilot-eligible aircraft operating in the United States.

Our main fleet chart above reflects all SLSA airplanes ever sold in the USA, less any that have been removed from the registry, for example, if sold outside the USA or lost in an accident.

As you can see, CubCrafters continues their climb and is now hovering just below Flight Design. Czech Sport Aircraft, American Legend, and Tecnam continue their growth making up the top five names.

We leave Cessna on the chart for now but most readers know Skycatchers are no long being produced so they will climb no further. However, companies like Icon made their first tiny impact on the list with a single registration in 2015. I visited with Kirk Hawkins at Aero; he invited me to see their production facility in a month or so. When that California airframer begins serial production, their large number of orders should thrust them upward at an increasing pace (troublesome contract problems notwithstanding).

In recent years our main chart also attempts to at least mention ELSA ad EAB where we believe we can rely on the numbers we find.

Our more recent chart of single year performance is lead again by CubCrafters although even their pace slowed for 2015. The Western U.S. producer remains well ahead but others have done credibly well: Czech Sport Aircraft, Pipistrel, Progressive Aerodyne (Searey) and Van's. SportCruiser registrations were up from 2014 as were Pipistrel's while Van's, American Legend, Aerotrek, and Flight Design were down. Tecnam's numbers reflect only registrations of their LSA models but the company reports selling a similar number of type certified aircraft so their total American market presence is greater than our charts reflect.

One you haven't seen at airshows in the last couple years is the Phoenix Air motorglider, an elegant machine but one in too-short supply, said U.S. importer Jim Lee. He has not been attending shows and will drop his advertising as delivery delays have stretched out too far despite interest he has found from American soaring enthusiasts.

While repeating another respectable year of SLSA sales (in addition to their kit sales), Searey may have become the best-selling LSA in China.
As noted, Icon added only one SLSA registration in 2015, Cessna is gone, and Quicksilver experienced their own drop from 2014 as that company reorganized. However, honorable mentions are deserved for Super Petrel (4 added), Sling (3), Brazilian Paradise is returning to the market after an absence (2 in 2015) and Topaz continues to build modestly (2).

Another interesting development just announced includes the return of Zenair and their popular CH-750 STOL aircraft that will again be assembled as a ready-to-fly SLSA by M-Squared Aircraft in Alabama.

Those readers fascinated with these numbers may wish to compare 2014 and 2013 info, so click those links to read those earlier reports.

We dropped Allegro from the top-20 ranking even though their aircraft still has a good count as we've done with a few other brands over the years.

Finally, while our main chart focuses on the top brands, note that the largest single percentage are registrations from "All other producers." So-called boutique brands still have their place in the LSA spectrum.

As always, our disclaimer is that we only count FAA registrations and only those from the USA, which leaves out the rest of the world that accounts for most sales of LSA-type aircraft. Our statistics will not be identical to what companies reports as sales and do not include aircraft retired from service for any reason. Lastly, I repeat we cannot accurately count a share of new aircraft sales that might amount to 20-25% more if the data were reliable. These observations combine to make a more conservative report than may actually be factual but we prefer to err on the side of caution.

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




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

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

Many Light-Sport Aircraft & General Aviation models

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

The New J-230D

Vickers Aircraft has created one of the most distinctive new LSA seaplanes yet to emerge. Powered by the 180-horsepower
Titan IO-340CC by Continental Motors, their Wave model is like no other seaplane ever introduced with multiple features to set it apart from the crowd.

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!

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

Aeromarine-LSA represents economical aircraft like Merlin PSA, fully enclosed and all-metal for less than $35,000; or Part 103 ultralights like Zigolo, a dual-purpose ultralight and motorglider with prices starting at only $12,000.

Super Petrel LS, manufactured by Scoda Aeronautica in Brazil and built by Super Petrel USA, a branch of the Brazilian company in Ormond Beach, Florida, is a unique and highly effective LSA seaplane. This biplane flying boat is well established with more than 20 years of history.

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.

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.

Aerolite 103 is a remarkably well priced (way below $20,000), well-equipped, Part 103 ultralight that flies beautifully. Several hundred are airborne and production has never been more solid. Here is an airplane every pilot can love and afford.

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Updated: May 23, 2016

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