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The 2015 airshow season is over. We covered it all and you can expect to read more articles in the weeks ahead. We also created many great videos including Video Pilot Reports. They will begin appearing one-by-one as the big job of editing is completed. Next up on the airshow circuit is the Sebring LSA Expo. Come see us in central Florida over January 20-23, 2016.

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...a web log of developments in Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft
Lightweight Autopilot from TruTrak & Levil
By Dan Johnson, December 1, 2015

In 2004, when the SP/LSA regulation was announced, who would have forecast that on light aircraft, autopilots would be a common feature. Such gear seemed fanciful as autopilots were costly, rather heavy, a maintenance hassle ... and besides, weren't you supposed to "hand fly" a light aircraft so you could truly enjoy flight? Is punching a button to take over the flying chores what we wanted to do?

In nearly a dozen years since FAA's reg established aviation's newest and fastest-growing sector, autopilots have become common. Much as I love hand flying, winging about the sky, if I am traveling somewhere and especially if I really need to pay sharp attention to radio work and staying precisely on course — for example, to avoid hot MOAs or Class B airspace — an autopilot can be a mighty handy feature. What used to be way expensive and heavy has changed dramatically and one company had a lot to do with that change: TruTrak.

Founded in 1999 by Jim Younkin and Chuck Bilbe, the Arkansas company hired Andrew Barker as TruTrak's first employee in September 2000. Zap forward 15 years and today, Andrew is owner of the company, which has sold more than 10,000 autopilots. An innovator in the experimental and Light-Sport Aircraft autopilot market, TruTrak Flight Systems introduced the first digital autopilot (DigiFly). TruTrak autopilots are installed in a wide variety of experimental aircraft, for example, the autopilot in Virgin Atlantic's Global Flyer and this year's Solar Impulse. Catch up to this point with this video.

Eco is a fresh 2015 approach to two-axis autopilots (pitch and bank). Conventional systems involve heavier servos that need more care in installation and maintenance. Eco uses different method that cuts weight by 60%. Prices are also refreshing. For a short time, a special introductory price of $999 is available but the planned regular price is only $1,200. At either cost Eco is affordable on many aircraft in the Light-Sport and light kit aircraft space.

However, Andrew is a clever fellow and imagined something more after he struck up a conversation with Ruben Leon of Levil Aviation.

Eco now offers a new concept created by TruTrak and Levil. Rather than using a standard autopilot servo which connects to the primary aircraft controls, Eco attaches as a secondary servo tab on the control surface (much like a trim tab). Eco also uses very lightweight, high quality, high velocity, metal gear, waterproof, miniature servos. "Using commercially available servos, we can reduce the cost of an autopilot system significantly," said Andrew. "The tabs are also sized such that at maximum deflection, should a servo fail or 'runaway,' the forces can easily be over-ridden by the pilot." A nearby photo shows an example of a servo tab. The tab pictured is 10 inches long and four inches wide. Production servo tabs will weigh approximately three ounces.

Andrew hastened to add credit to his development associate Levil Aviation saying, "The all new Eco autopilot was created in cooperation with Levil Technologies." If TruTrak already had something of a corner on the light aircraft autopilot market, why was Levil valuable? Because Eco can do more than merely serve as an autopilot.

Beside being an affordable, simple, two-axis autopilot Eco has an added function called Automatic Envelope Protection (AEP). AEP allows the pilot to set a safe bank angle and pitch angle of his or her choosing. When armed, AEP will use the TruTrak autopilot to monitor the angles. "If any exceed the preset limits," Andrew said, "the autopilot will apply pressure to the controls and move the aircraft back inside the envelope."

Dynon users and other EFIS products, when combined with an autopilot, can offer a straight and level button and that's great. Angle of attack gauges can tell you when you move outside desirable ranges but they don't alter the controls. AEP does more and it does so using input from a Levil device providing AHRS (Attitude Heading Reference System) data.

"The things that we are able to do in the aircraft using such small and light-weight servo tabs are just amazing," said Andrew. "AEP is a wonderful safety feature and the way it works in this system is just incredible."

As Levil boss Ruben educated me, autopilots take two approaches. One is called a rate gyro (what TruTrak's DigiFly and most autopilots use) and the other is a position gyro. For Automatic Envelope Protection to work, it needs to know more. Through one of their boxes mounted remotely to Eco, Levil provides an attitude signal to a level of precision the rate gyro can't match. Both rate gyros (that will remain part of TruTrak's line) and position gyros depend on software algorithms but the Levil position method offer a higher level of precision needed in such parameters as bank angle and pitch attitude.

Sensors such as accelerometers, magnetometers, and pressure transducers make autopilots work. Levil AHRS software completes the picture allowing TruTrak's new AEP. "For us this was a joint partnership," Andrew said, confirmed by Ruben. Both companies are pleased about the collaboration and hinted more might come from their association.

In a future article, I will tell you more about Levil, which is located a modest drive from my home airport here in Florida.

If you'd like to hear directly from the experts on how Eco and AEP work, watch our new video — shot at AirVenture Oshkosh just after the new device was introduced.

FAA’s Billion-Dollar Problem (Hint: Drones)
By Dan Johnson, November 30, 2015

Amazon's newest drone is part quadcopter, part "conventional" airplane with this prop thrusting most of the flight to your back yard.
I realize that for some readers I may be swimming upstream when I write about drones (or UAVs or RPVs, or whatever). First, many of you simply don't care; your passion is for manned flight and I completely understand. Second, some of you see real danger to your manned flying due to a growing drone population. Those who guess the future think more than a million units will be sold this holiday season. Third, we have the matter of privacy. Probably like you, I don't like the idea of some government agency or even a snoopy neighbor being able to peer into my yard against my preference.

This article presents a somewhat different, somewhat nuanced view of drone development and the reasons are financial, which may not be how you've seen this issue. Consider that FAA is — compared to most aviation businesses — an absolutely enormous organization. It has an annual budget of more than $15 billion and around 50,000 employees. Very few private airplane makers are bigger. Boeing is, as is Airbus. After that, it drops fast. Cessna's parent Textron is smaller as is Gulfstream. The vast majority of airframe builders are much, much smaller companies.

The point is that compared to more than 95% of all aviation businesses, FAA is a massive behemoth funded by the American taxpayer. Of course, I know FAA accomplishes many worthy tasks but many feel the regulations they issue interfere as much as help. Many question if those thousands of pages of regulation truly advance safety, the agency's prime goal.

Loading the package (autonomously) at the fulfillment center ...
Into this picture now come some truly mammoth entities. These are private businesses that have many tens of billions in annual sales and the sheer heft to afford armies of lobbyists and lawyers to advance their corporate mission. I don't portray this as a good thing; in fact, it contributes to cronyism ... where government gets cozy with the largest businesses. Nonetheless, when organizations the size of Google or Amazon want to bend FAA their direction, they have the might to achieve far more than your favorite airplane manufacturer.

In the Washington Post today, a story appeared about Amazon's latest drone design. Part quadcopter and part airplane it has a range of 15 miles, the company claims. They also say it "part of a growing family of drones." Expect to see lots more about the company's plans to deliver packages to you via drone. This is not mere speculation or a means to get media attention (though it certainly does that, too).

As with Internet delivery, the so-called "last mile" is the costliest, referring to delivering services or products from a distribution center to your home. So for Amazon, it may truly make sense to bring products to you via drone. Their effort to develop the right flying machine is an ongoing juggernaut that is not likely to stop.

... flying en route via more conventional means (Amazon said this an actual in-flight image, not a simulated one) |
As you may have read, FAA has established a new office to guide drone regulation. I imagine that office will be on the regular beat of Amazon's lobbyist battalion. In that future, unlike with hundreds of tiny aviation enterprises, FAA will be greeted by people who have deep pockets that even FAA cannot match. Is this going to change the game of drones? You bet!

Their pressure will cause FAA to pay plenty of attention to Amazon and the giant online retailer may achieve many of their goals due to the amount of horsepower they can apply. Your average drone-operating entrepreneur may have to meet a growing list of regs and compliance demands. Those demands can easily be met by Amazon, which can staff a compliance department, but will pose a major impediment for very small businesses.

Online journalist Mary Grady at AVweb included a letter from Tony Dziepak who wrote, "I would register my drone prior to flying it above 200 feet AGL. [However,] I think it is clear from U.S. v. Causby (1946) that the FAA has no authority to regulate "the immediate reaches of the enveloping atmosphere" of my property, which in the Causby case is at least 83 feet AGL. Just as my driveway is not part of the federal highway system, the airspace above my property, at least to my treetops, is not part of the NAS." I think Tony makes a good point. Is the air above his yard his to control or FAA's?

... and dropping off your package in your backyard, apparently at a target you'd put out (see video).
My longtime friend and fellow publisher Ben Sclair weighed in the wisdom of drone registration. Being a witty guy he makes a lot of sense when he questions if mere registration can make drone operations safer. You can read his piece here. Alternatively, you can read a non-aviation viewpoint on FAA registration of drones from one of my favorite alternative sources, Reason Magazine here.

As Reason reported, when the Academy of Model Aeronautics (which is represented on the new drone registration task force) examined the FAA data in September 2015, it found that only 3.5% of the agency's 764 recorded incidents were genuine near misses between drones and manned aircraft. Most of the "incidents" were nothing more than sightings. In any event, AMA reported, "... the most serious incidents in the FAA data — including all actual  crashes — involved government military drones, not civilian ones."

I offer all the preceding as food for thought so you can come to your own opinions about drones. I plan to keep flying mine with the aim of providing you with better content but I'll be darned careful around any manned aircraft. For the record, here and here are my two earlier articles on drones.

It is not my mission to promote Amazon (though I admit being a regular customer). I merely wish to show their vision of a drone-drenched future. Here's their YouTube promo video ...

Flying Sling 4 ... Airman’s Medical Update
By Dan Johnson, November 26, 2015

As I've indicated many times in the last couple years, this website seeks to deliver news and video about Light-Sport Aircraft, light kit aircraft, ultralights, and light GA aircraft. The latter refers to four seat (and larger) aircraft created by the same companies that make LSA or kits. Specifically, I do not plan much on Cessna, Piper, Cirrus, Diamond, and other legacy brands as every magazine already examines these every month. Instead, I plan to cover emerging models from companies that established their brand in the LSA space: Tecnam, Flight Design, Pipistrel, Evektor, Van's and The Airplane Factory. These six manufacturers are presently in the four seat game either with ready-to-fly aircraft or four seat kits. More are expected to follow.

At Copperstate 2015, I finally got a chance to fly the Sling 4 from The Airplane Factory, which I had been anticipating since enjoying the Sling LSA. The South African company has a rich history in light aircraft, with principal Mike Blyth flying weight shift trikes all over the world, including several epic journeys. He certainly "gets" all manner of light aircraft and sought to make a four seater, which, of course, he also flew around the world. Such voyages a something of a habit for Mike.

Sling 4 uses Rotax power, in this case the turbo-charged 914 model. (I'll bet they start using the 135-horsepower 915 when it becomes available. I witnessed Mike paying close attention when the new powerplant was announced at Oshkosh 2015.) Like the two seat Sling LSA, Sling 4 is all-metal excepting some composite elements.

Except for the second row of seat (see last photo), Sling 4 looks much like the Sling LSA. I'd call that a very good thing as the LSA model is a comfortable machine. Different from Sling LSA that uses a sliding canopy, Sling 4 has a couple upward-hinging doors that allow easy enough entry though you must first climb up on the wing. I didn't get in the rear but TAFer Jordan Denitz made it look easy enough.

Naturally, as TAF-USA entrepreneur Matt Litnaitzky also represents the MGL Avionics line (also from South Africa), Sling 4 uses these fine instruments and radios. Sling 4 featured twin large EFIS screens.

Unlike Sling LSA, for which we did a full Video Pilot Report that you'll see before too long, I did not do a full review of Sling 4. However, my 20-minute experience with it suggested I could really come to like the airplane. It flew very nicely and offers the extra space some covet. Useful load is significant even with — and partly because of — the small-ish Rotax engine. Sling 4 felt a bit heavier, which of course it is, but it exhibited the same wonderful handling I'd enjoyed on Sling LSA.

Perhaps best of all for those trying to not break their budget, Sling 4 is quite modestly priced, barely into six figures. Naturally, you'll have to build this model but the TAF boys say it is a reasonable project.

Inside The Airplane Factory Sling 4 (L-R): Matt Litnaitzky, Jordan Denitz, and yours truly.
Since you need a medical to fly a four seater like Sling 4, you may want to know more about the effort to move beyond the Third Class Medical. EAA states, "Third-class medical reform is closer than ever before, but it's a complex issue ..."

"Almost anyone who has held a regular or special issuance third-class medical certificate within the 10 years preceding the date the legislation is enacted will never again need to visit an aviation medical examiner (AME). If you've never held a third-class medical certificate, you will need to get a medical certificate. If your regular or special issuance medical certificate lapsed more than 10 years before the legislation is enacted, you will need to get a medical certificate. And if you develop certain cardiac, neurological, or psychological conditions, you will need a one-time-only special issuance medical."

The legislation is by no means a done deal. "A number of lawmakers made it absolutely clear that they would not support legislation that completely eliminated the third-class medical," clarified EAA. "The compromises Sen. Inhofe arrived at represent the very best deal possible for pilots while winning sufficient support in Congress to keep the legislation alive." Even if it passes in the Senate and the House and gets the president's signature, FAA then enters into rule making and a minimum of a year will pass before you can use the proposed new privileges.

The initiative's cosponsor, AOPA, wrote, "Both chambers must pass the bill and reconcile any differences before it can go the president for his signature." The big member organization added, "The original language of the Pilot's Bill of Rights 2 did not have enough support in the Senate. It was not going to pass or move forward in its original form." Being completely honest, AOPA noted, "Even with all the progress, there's still work to do. Few things move forward quickly in Congress."

To get all the info EAA (and AOPA) offers, visit this FAQ link.

Aerolite 120 Launches in Britain and Ireland
By Dan Johnson, November 19, 2015

Aerolite 103 from U-Fly-It has been on a tear for the last couple years, producing at capacity and stretching to produce even more for 2016. Some of those very attractively priced aircraft — way under $20,000 ready-to-fly! ... take that, sluggish economy! — are headed off on the longest trip of their lives. The DeLand, Florida company has been shipping units to Europe where their German-based European distributor operates.

So much for too-costly airplanes. Aerolite 103 (and a few other well-priced examples from light aircraft producers) proves an airplane doesn't have to be costly to deliver a good time. The German Aerolite 120 is somewhat costlier to account for shipping, German certification expense, etc.

"British pilots have embraced Aerolite 120," said German distributor Vierwerk Aviation. "Aerolite's proper design, very good quality, and meticulous workmanship in every detail have been praised and recognized by everyone." Aerolite 120 is the European-approved version of America's Aerolite 103. The 120 designation refers to the German 120-kilogram (264-pound) class that is remarkably similar to FAA's Part 103.

Vierwerk and their United Kingom (including Ireland) distributor Kairos Aviation, said "Kiwi" (referring to its distinctive green color) was a real eye-catcher and was presented at the LAA Rally event called Sywell 2015.

Vierwerk Aviation is a family operation led by Wolfgang Labudde (far left) and wife Thilda (second from right) with help from their son and daughter.

Aerolite 120 was tested to assure compliance with the strict German LTF-L/UL regulations, and falls well within the criteria for the UK deregulated category called SSDR (Single Seat DeRegulated). The first example sold in the UK is G-OLAS (the British version of an "N-number" registration), which was exhibited by Kairos at the recent Light Aircraft Association (LAA) Rally 2015 at Sywell.

You can read a detailed report on the experience of first UK Aerolite 120 owner Stephen Oliver at this link (some browsers will open this in a new window; others may have to download and read with Adobe Reader). The article was published in the November 2015 issue of LAA's Light Aviation and relates the impressions of someone coming to the very light Aerolite from heavier aircraft and some readers may find this instructive. It is a very straightforward description with something of a surprise ending.

Some of Stephen's comments from the article are selected below.

"For a very light aircraft (only 120 kilograms (264 pounds) and a MTOW of 250 kilograms (550 pounds), the Aerolite 120 carries little momentum, so she responds rapidly to control inputs and airspeed bleeds off very quickly; consequently, you have to keep the power on to some extent right through to the flare." I don't find that to be the case, but I have plenty of light aircraft experience, unlike Stephen.

"[On takeoff] I applied full power from the Polini Thor 200 Evo air-cooled engine, which had easily started first time, every time, and I steadily climbed flapless out of the airfield, heading north over Pitsford. Best rate of climb is 41 knots (47 mph), which gives 1.6 meter per second (320 fpm) [of climb]; that's pretty much with full power at over 7200 rpm, [while] keeping a close eye on the temperatures.

"With so little weight, even with me on board, there's little momentum to slow its response to control inputs; it all makes for a lively experience. The stall is quite benign at 35 knots (39 mph) clean."

Much more detail appears in Stephen's full-length report found at the link above. Also, you can watch a video below for the first flight of Aerolite 120 in England.

Two LSA Manufacturers Score Overseas
By Dan Johnson, November 18, 2015

American readers of may be surprised to hear that more than a third of all visitors are from outside the United States. In a related fact, America has more pilots than any other country (very roughly half of the world aviator population) but more light aircraft are sold in other country by a ratio of around 10:1. These figures are fuzzy for a number of reasons but the point is that for LSA, the world is their market.

That statement is further proven by two recent successes.

Evektor reported it successfully passed the audit of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) for production at the company's Kunovice, Czech Republic plant. "CAAC's audit team inspected the production facilities of Evektor-Aerotechnik focused on quality assurance, engineering and manufacturing, and quality inspections of fixed wing light sport aircraft," said Evektor.

This Czech company — the first to obtain FAA acceptance back in 2005 — was able to prove compliance with CAAC requirements for Light-Sport Aircraft, meaning Evektor is fully authorized by the CAAC for deliveries of SportStar SL aircraft to the Chinese market. While not required by Evektor's U.S. representatives, it represents further bragging rights about the design and its manufacturing processes.

"The Quality Management System audited by the CAAC of China [in concert] with the FAA and the European EASA Part 21 Design & Production Organization Approvals represents the continuous compliance of Evektor's Quality Management System with the highest general aviation quality standards and is the basis for the high quality of Evektor's aircraft," stated Jaromír Matu|ka, Quality Manager of Evektor-Aerotechnik.

Slovenian LSA builder Pipistrel claimed to have signed the largest single-point contract for delivery of 194 of their Virus SW models to the Indian Armed Forces. The model will be called SW80 Garud for use by the Indian military. Garud is a bird from Hindu mythology.

Pipistrel reportedly beat ten other competitors for the contract. The Garuds will be used to train cadets of India's Air Force, Navy and National Cadet Corps spread across 100 locations in the country. Deliveries are to begin in eight months with the contract specifying that Pipistrel must deliver all 194 aircraft within 30 months of the first. Upon learning of their victory, Team Pipistrel must have celebrated enthusiastically but nearly 200 aircraft over two and a half years is a serious order, especially as the contract stipulates spare engines, ground support equipment and tools, 10 years of product support, plus training for aircrew, instructors, and technical staff.

Garud aircraft will be powered by the 80 horsepower version of the Rotax 912 engine, which Pipistrel claims will provide a cruise speed of 133 knots with fuel consumption of only 3.6 gallons per hour. To achieve such speed and fuel economy infers an in-flight adjustable pitch prop. Garud is to be built for operation from semi-prepared surfaces and will include a ballistic parachute rescue system, digital avionics, energy-absorbing seats and a Kevlar-reinforced cockpit.

After two years of intense negotiation, some experts see challenges. One wrote, "Doing business with the Indian government, with all their red tape, bureaucracy and corruption makes for tough duty." Penalties for non-compliance may be substantial and our expert noted, "The Indian government will find areas of non-compliance. Further, he supposed Pipistrel had to cut their margins to earn the contract. Finally, "A contract for six or seven aircraft per month may soak up their production for other markets."

Congratulations to Evektor and Pipistrel for these accomplishments!

DeLand Airport to Host Air Race March 12
By Dan Johnson, November 17, 2015

Our title was the headline for a news article in the my hometown Daytona Beach News-Journal newspaper recently. That's rather unusual. Anytime Light-Sport Aircraft make the local headlines — and not due to an accident, that has to be a good thing.

Let me set the stage ... Daytona Beach is a major race venue with the Daytona 500 commonly ranked as one of the top auto races in the world. It draws huge numbers of people. Estimates say 250,000 people attend the '500 inside the track with a vast number tailgating outside. For comparison, seating at even the biggest football games is less than half that count. Whatever the actual numbers, a great many people come to Daytona to enjoy auto racing.

An even larger event in Daytona is Bike Week. According to Wikipedia, "Approximately 500,000 people make their way to the rally area for the 10-day event." This number is almost equal to all the pilots in the USA.

SPAR organizer, Doc' Bailey
As reported by Daytona's News-Journal, "The inaugural Sport Pylon Air Races event is set for DeLand Municipal Airport on March 12, the final Saturday of the 75th annual Bike Week motorcycle rally that runs March 4-13, 2016."

The newspaper report continued ... "We hope to capitalize on all the people and national media already here," said Christopher 'Doc' Bailey, the air race's organizer. "Right now we are piggybacking on Bike Week for the first event, but we want to make this a winter series across the country that starts and ends in Volusia County."

Can SPAR attract some of that immense audience? Only time will tell but nearby air racing certainly has a chance. The idea has been some time in the making with an earlier report stating that entrepreneur Bailey hoped to launch SPAR in 2013. Doc' is persistent, though, and this air race for the light aircraft crowd may be nearing reality.

According to the News-Journal reporter the inaugural SPAR event runs from 10 AM to 5 PM and will feature timed heats of Light-Sport airplanes flying at 120 knots through a twisting and turning course of pylons — also referred to as "gates." More than a dozen pilots from throughout the country are expected to compete in the event which will feature races in different categories of LSA.

The newspaper reported FAA is allowing spectators at the air race event to sit about 500 feet from the course, which will be 70 feet above the airport's runways. "This makes our event much more fun and interactive than sitting a mile away with binoculars," Doc' said.

FAA officials are expected to visit DeLand in the next 60 days to inform airport officials what preparations and actions the federal agency will require for the event. The air races will not stop most other airport activities but will "inconvenience" some, said John Eiff, who manages DeLand Municipal Airport.

The inaugural SPAR will also feature food and drink vendors, aircraft displays, skydiving and short-takeoff-and-landing aircraft demonstrations, the newspaper article continued. Post-event activities are also being planned. Tickets will be $25 per person and $20 for a couple. Children age 12 and under, and military veterans with an identification card, will be admitted free, Bailey said.

"[SPAR] will also help highlight the Sport Aircraft Village [a LSA business area planned for] DeLand Municipal Airport and the city's outreach to attract the sport plane industry, as was done when making DeLand a leading skydiving and parachute industry center," said Nick Conte Jr., executive director of the DeLand Area Chamber of Commerce.

Rans’ S-6 Evolves; Remains a Great Bargain
By Dan Johnson, November 13, 2015

all photos courtesy Rans, Inc.
With my good friends over at General Aviation News, I recently published an article about Light-Sport Aircraft available for less than $96,000. While that is still a good chunk of change, it is far less than the top-tier LSA that can run $150,000 to more than $200,000. Yet brand-new, fully-built LSA don't have to be so costly. You can read the article at this link.

The four aircraft I picked for my article are not the only well-priced choices in the Special LSA world. They happened to be four airplanes I had flown recently but I did mention at the end that buyers have even more choices in SLSA that were good values, some down below $50,000 ... although those choices will not be carbon fiber speedsters with full glass panels and autopilots.

Keep this in mind: When the SP/LSA regulation first came out in 2004, plenty of potential buyers expected prices in the $50,000 to 60,000 range. Of course, those numbers never included dual screen digital instruments, autopilots, airframe parachutes, leather interiors, or state-of-the-art, fuel-injected engines. Even so, given the effects of inflation, $60,000 in 2004 is the same value as $76,000 in late 2015. Therefore, some of my choices in the article referenced above do indeed sell for the price once expected.

"I saw a great article by you about SLSA planes [available for] well under $100,000," wrote Rans CEO, Randy Schlitter. "I would like to let you know we now have a nice plane on the market for only $79,000. It is our venerable S-6ES [the kit version] called the S-6ELS [the fully built version]."

"If you check out our specifications and price list, you will find it comes with a very nice panel and the very reliable 80 horsepower Rotax," Randy added. "Many pilots are fans of the S-6 Coyote II and for this price in ready-to-fly form it rivals the amount of dollars kit builders are spending for parts in a box."

"S-6ELS also has one of the highest payloads LSA on the market," he added. Indeed, based on a full fuel load of 18 gallons, S-6ELS has a 537 pound allowance for people and luggage, enough for 30 pounds of gear and two 253 pound occupants. "We are currently building the 2016 version" Randy continued. "It now includes an updated interior, similar to the S-20LS, and we have dropped the sailcloth laced-up covering for conventional dope and fabric."

He also noted that S-6ELS is available in tricycle gear or as a tailwheel plane. Click this link to see a PDF page showing all specifications for the S-6.

How well equipped is a $79,000 S-6ELS? Rans says their base price is for a "deluxe analog day VFR" aircraft with radio, intercom, GPS, transponder, three-inch airspeed indicator, altimeter, vertical speed indicator, compass, ELT, and the 80 horsepower Rotax 912UL engine with two-blade Warp Drive prop. For many buyers that could be all you need and would allow you to fly cross country with ease.

However, many pilots like to personalize their airplane or want more goodies, so pick from the following:

  • Lighting Package — $2,500
  • ...includes nav, strobe, position, instrument and taxi/landing lights
  • Canopy Cover — $500
  • Tru-Trak auto pilot (only available with analog panel) — $5,000
  • ADS-B — $900
  • Passenger elevator trim — $500
  • Headrests — $200
  • Gear leg fairings — $800
  • Aft baggage (30-pound capacity) — $1,000
  • Taildragger, including gear leg fairings and 6X800 tires, with 8-inch tailwheel — $2,000
  • Canopy cover — $500
  • Rotax 912ULS (100 horsepower) with 3-blade Whirl Wind prop — $3,500

Those of you know or have talked to Randy at an airshow might imagine the friendly grin on his face when he added, "We are hoping to be a leader in value and are planning even more exciting combinations of price-busting planes for the LSA market from both existing and designs under development."

Years ago, Randy used to show up at every Sun 'n Fun event with a new model, earning him such fawning comments as "airplane-of-the-month-club designer." A prolific creator of more than 20 distinct aircraft — while simultaneously operating a bicycle manufacturing business (since sold) — Schlitter remains an essential person to watch.

With more than 4,000 aircraft in the Rans fleet in countries around the world, Rans is one of America's leading producers of both kit aircraft and ready-to-fly models.

While the GA News editor since corrected the article in its online form (sign up for free), I originally wrote the Aeroprakt A-22 sold for $88,500. That was information from a previous distributor and the new representative Dennis Long clarified that the current base price is $68,500, or about $80,000 with a good number of options.

Open Air Pilots of the World ... UNITE!
By Dan Johnson, November 12, 2015

Around the world, starting early for many like this Louisiana paraglider, pilots joined the virtual flying called World Ultralight Fly-In or WUFI. It went so well a 2016 event is planned.
After many years in aviation and being a regular on the (trade) airshow circuit, I know one thing: it is darn hard to start a new event. So when The World Ultralight Fly-In announced its ambitious run at a Guinness Book world record, I thought it was a very fun idea but probably quite hard to assemble.

That was before key promoter Paul Lindamood began putting out what seemed hourly updates to the group's Facebook page. The power of social media is unveiled for serious events such as Arab Spring or whimsical photo flash mobs. In our world of recreational aviation, WUFI '15 proves the new media is also very useful.

Good for Paul and the WUFI gang of open air pilots. My tongue-in-cheek title notwithstanding — I am definitely not a Marx enthusiast — WUFI surely qualifies as the project that put more open-air (and other) ultralights or ultralight-types in the air on one day, all around the world. To see where they all launched, see the map below.

"One Day. One Sky. Be a part of it." That was the slogan and invitation from the Dayton Ultralights WUFI. With the drumbeat of social media encouragement and with the second, ambitious goal of entering the Guinness Book of Records ... how did they do?

Pilot and WUFI participant Doug Smith showed the true colors of a fellow ultralight enthusiast.
According to main man Paul, "The final numbers to date (a few days into November 2015), 900 virtual pins were located on the map, with a pin being pilots who previewed their location on the world map showing their intent to fly, weather permitting." This significant population hailed from 46 countries.

"What a great way for pilots to come together all over the world to share their love of aviation," said Doug Smith (painted face photo). The organized effort has also done great things for membership in the group known as Magnificent Men and their Flying Machines (abbreviated as MagMen). As this article posted, main man Paul said the group had grown to nearly 2,000 members. Clearly the idea has been motivating.

Organizers say the first World Ultralight Fly-in was picked up by numerous TV news stations, publications, and online resources. Anecdotal stories include these: "We had guy from Mexico who wanted to fly WUFI so bad he flew to his wedding rather than miss it! Another guy flew four different categories of light aircraft (paramotor, tandem paramotor, skydive, and sailplane) during WUFI day on October 10." Tim Heylbut, an avid flyer from Australia said, "This has been (and is) the greatest action taken towards uniting ultralight pilots around the globe."

Participating aircraft owners got into the WUFI event in various ways; this gyro pilot put the logo and slogan on the underside of his flying machine.
But what about that record book attempt? "We are still counting actual certificated 2015 flyers for Guinness — it's over 532 and we're not done." They are presently verifying each one, as required. "We had an amazing start, but what we are finding is a real enthusiasm across the world for a sense of community among these pilots."

Paul explained that the idea was to have an event for the grassroots types of machines. Such machines can't as easily attend venues like Oshkosh due to speed, range, and weather limitations. "However, they can share the same sky on the same day," exclaimed Paul! "We're finding that language, location and political barriers all but disappear within the smiles of this unique brotherhood of flyers ... and the sisters as well.

"The Guinness response is still pending," Paul said. "It goes very slowly and we can't do much but wait. They say on their website they get 1,000 entries a week."

As they prepare for a second effort next year, Paul stated, "We are developing a world wide team of WUFI 'captains' — individuals who will recruit from their individual countries — plus WUFI experts in all primary segments of recreational, open air aircraft from powered parachutes to weight shift trikes to gyro, to airplanes and beyond." The group plans to execute an even more comprehensive WUFI 2016.

In this fetching image WUFI participant Dave Kukura flies his stealthy black Beaver in a low pass. All WUFI '15 pilots got a handsome certificate like the one shown for principal organizer Paul Lindamood.
For the successful 2015 event, Paul wrote, "Thanks to all the WUFI captains!" He listed Marc Carofano, USA east — Thomas Fleming, USA south — Rafael Cortés, Puerto Rico — Yf Yen, Malaysia — Michel Mahler, France — J'm Smith Lobo, China — John Bullpin, UK — Paul Escott, Australia — Adolfo Bikkesba, South America — Jacqueline Costa, Portugal — Tobie Lépine, Canada — plus representatives in Indonesia and Wales."

More "captains" will follow. Indeed, being a good promoter, Paul and his Ohio-based group are already soliciting for more leaders and participants for WUFI 2016.

Co-creators, Bill Esker and Paul Lindamood from the USA with Koen Van de Kerckhove from Belgium were extremely gratified by the exceptional turnout and enormous amount of support worldwide. The event spanned virtually every category of recreational aircraft imaginable, with pilots as varied as the countries they represented.

Kerckhove said, "The goal of the flying event was to show that grassroots, open air aviation is alive, attainable and affordable." He added, "It is also a love and a bond that bridges all geographical boundaries. We look forward to the 2016 event and expect a tremendous increase in the participants.

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




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
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.

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.

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.

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 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!

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.

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.

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.

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!

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?

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

Rans, Inc., is one of the most successful brands in light aviation having shipped more than 5,000 units. A longtime airplane kit supplier, Rans also offers three fully-built SLSA models with a range of prices, starting at only $79,000!

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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Updated: December 2, 2015

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