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...a web log of developments in Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft
Sun-Delivered Electric Power on Sunseeker Duo
By Dan Johnson, April 22, 2014

The developer refers to this long sleek flying maching as, "the first solar powered airplane with a passenger seat." After his many years of development — longer than other projects that have captured more media attention — Eric Raymond's Sunseeker Duo may be the most advanced solar powered airplane in the world and ... he adds, "the first that might be suited to production." True, with its 71.5-foot span, this may not be your ideal cross country machine for a family of four. However, soaring enthusiasts should note the resemblance to the top-of-the-line Stemme S10 motorglider. Indeed Sunseeker can soar with the best of them. Electric powered aircraft fans may also want to look closer. For that I direct you to the developer's website. One more group might also be interested: green tech companies or component suppliers that would like to assist further development while getting themselves some fine publicity.

Read my earlier article on Sunseeker.
The project is run by husband and wife Eric and Irena Raymond. I've known Eric for decades as a champion hang glider pilot and more. After flying in contests when we were youthful, Eric turned his keen powers of concentration on more efficient, more sustainable flying. Today, he announced that his company, Solar Flight, has been extensively test flying their new solar powered Sunseeker Duo. A first flight, in Voghera, Italy, happened on December 17th last year, on the same day the Wright's took to the air 110 years earlier in a unimaginably less efficient Wright Flyer. You can readily see how smooth the fuselage is and observe it's long slender wings covered from tip to tip in solar cells. What you may not know is how challenging it is to make a solar-powered aircraft. Eric said, "The structure must be incredibly light and aerodynamically efficient to perform well with only the power from integrated solar arrays." He added that because of the difficulty, solar powered airplanes have primarily been built as engineering programs that seek to break records or win prizes. Eric's mission is to make a high performance, practical sport plane.

Solar Flight testing the main gear retract mechanism. See video below for the full sequence.
Eric explained the history of his family of Sunseeker airplanes, "Sunseeker I first flew in 1989 and during the summer of 1990 it became the first solar powered airplane to cross the United States. A long series of modifications resulted in a new airplane, Sunseeker II, which was completed in 2006. In 2009, Sunseeker II made a tour of the European continent that included the first solar powered crossing of the Alps. Eric said the original airplane has logged more time than the combination of all other solar powered airplanes. Sunseeker Duo is the most advanced airplane to date. It uses all of the lessons learned during 25 years with the original Sunseeker and implements new materials and new technologies." Modern lithium batteries have seven times the capacity of the nickel cadmium batteries Raymond used in Sunseeker I. Eric reported that back then he couldn't imagine solar cells with the efficiency of contemporary panels. In 1989, 5% efficiency was considered good for thin film technologies needed for application to airplane surfaces.

Watch our video on Sunseeker Duo from Aero 2013.
Sunseeker Duo has a wingspan of 22 meters (71.5 feet); an empty weight of 280 kilograms (616 pounds) and uses 1,510 solar cells that offer an impressive 23% efficiency. The motor has a maximum output of 25 kilowatts (33 horsepower). The airplane is able to cruise directly on solar power with two people on board and is capable of durations longer than 12 hours. Sunseeker Duo uses a battery pack located in the fuselage to store energy harvested from the solar cells which line its wings and tail surfaces. "Flying a solar powered airplane really can't be compared to anything else; it's totally unique. In sailplanes you are usually stuck under the clouds and in conventional airplanes you have terribly noisy cockpits. In both you have a sense of urgency about energy that detracts from the experience. In a solar powered airplane, you fly on top of the clouds. The horizon looks a little different when you're flying with an unlimited supply of free energy." stated Eric Lentz-Gauthier, one of the pilots of the original Sunseeker.

If interested to help Solar Flight bring their product to market, contact Eric Raymond. Meanwhile, enjoy this video of the Sunseeker Duo in flight.

Flying through the Great Halls of Aero 2014
By Dan Johnson, April 16, 2014

Aero 2014 is history now but sorting through all the discoveries and reviewing hundreds of photos I shot will consume more time. Just to give a flavor of the diversity in the halls, I present some images below with photo captions. As time allows I will provide several articles about aircraft and concepts contained in the great halls of Aero. One topic I will not cover is the large number of radio control or other model airplanes I saw. In some years, such can take an entire gymnasium-sized hall by themselves ... fascinating! Yet the image you see nearby is a shot taken by a small quad copter (photo inset) with its wide angle lens. Such tiny flying machines are surely part of our future and seeing things below is part of their mission (for better or worse). My LAMA Europe associate and friend, Jan Fridrich, asked a vendor to shoot the image you see, which would not have been possible by any means other than a hydraulic lift. Instead, this took a few seconds and cost virtually nothing, which tells you all you care to know about the coming age of aerial surveillance.

Flags of many nations fly over Comco's exhibit, representing the dozens of countries sending visitors to Aero 2014.
In the images below, I offer you a further glimpse to accompany my first impressions piece and a couple articles presented since. Following these I expect to prepare articles on a variety of engines I saw at Aero plus a wider review of the many handsome gyroplanes one found in exhibit after exhibit. I took a look at several four seaters other than those I've already written about from leading LSA vendors (watch out Cessna, Piper, Cirrus, & Diamond!). I'll write more about the wave of small, highly affordable aircraft being developed in response to lightened regulations ... yes, rule writers actually loosen their grip on occasion, and when they do, innovation can blossom. I will also touch on aircraft from countries you hardly know exist, yet companies and their engineers in those nations have created some eye-catching aircraft. The world of aviation is rich at Aero. In their wrap-up news release, show organizers made these statements: "In global aviation, Aero has a strong standing; pilots and aircraft experts from around the world come to Lake Constance [in the very south of Germany]." At the end of the event facility CEO Klaus Wellmann and Aero project manager Roland Bosch gave a positive assessment of how the exhibition went for all participants, "With 606 exhibitors from 35 countries ... a highly professional and international range of general aviation was present in Friedrichshafen [and an] audience from around the globe had the industry conference on its flight plan: 33,400 visitors came" representing a modest growth from last year.

Rotax BRP received the German aviation magazine Aerokurier's innovation award in the category "Powertrain of the Future" for the Rotax 912 iS aircraft engine. Pictured are Thomas Uhr, vice-president of BRP's Austrian manufacturing facility and Rotax engine sales manager Christian Mundigler (R). The company's newly introduced 912 iS Sport is getting positive reviews. For more info: Rotax Aircraft Engines and Rotax BRP
Diesel engines power most long-haul trucks, millions of automobiles in Europe and ... very few airplanes. Yet they are surely coming as they can burn fuel available in many countries. The four cylinder DieselJet engine from Italy produces 115 horsepower (85 kW) and weighs 187 pounds (85 kg) dry. For more info: DieselJet
Tecnam produces not only the largest line of aircraft in the LSA space but reports building more than one every working day, a most impressive pace. To assist pilots requiring hand controls, they showed this Sierra fitted for use by disabled pilots in the UK. The British group receiving the Sierra is pictured with their Aerobility airplane. For more info: Tecnam Costruzioni Aeronautiche
At Aero I have seen many very clever ideas for wing shape and air control over the wing. As elegant as any is the internally slotted wing seen here (pay particular note to the inset photo). However, the Ellipse Spirit wing shape is also beautiful with its gently curved leading and trailing edges, a technique also used on the horizontal tail (not seen). For more info: Ellipse Spirit
We've seen the Skyleader 600 at recent airshows in the USA. It's a handsome all-metal low wing airplane with a backward hinging canopy. Jacksonville, Florida-based importer, Randell Dutton, indicated he will next bring in this GP One, which offers lower cost and is aimed at flight school use. It uses a different construction technique than other Skyleaders models. For more info: Skyleader GP One and Skyleader USA.
A few Samba LSA came into the USA although the current importer for Distar CZ only appears to promote the company's Lambada motorglider. This airplane's jaunty winglet and compound leading edge caught my eye but I was even more impressed with the creative graphic treatment that runs nose to tail. Europeans show a flare for presentation we don't often see in the USA. For more info: Aeronautical & Industrial Resources USA
Spain is not a country from which Americans see many light aircraft but that could be changing as one importer I spoke to at Sun 'n Fun may import a gyro from ELA Aviacion. The company has several models but this 10-Eclipse, debuted at Aero 2014, drew my attention more than any other. Inside and out, this is clearly an advanced state of the gyro artform. For more info: ELA 10-Eclipse
On a few occasions, I have written about Atol Avion's Amphibian (earlier article). In their newest model shown nearly ready at Aero, I find a rare mostly-wood structure LSA candidate. Finland, way up near the article circle, is blessed with lots of high quality wood and lots of water. The airplane shows many clever design aspects, for example, staggered seating that explains two-position center control "yokes." I'll have more on it later. For more info, read: Atol's blog

Jeppesen’s VFR App Is Developing Rapidly
By Dan Johnson, April 13, 2014

For most of the years I have been flying, we (in the USA) had NOAA aviation charts and Jeppesen Sanderson charts. Other companies supplied maps and charts as well, but NOAA and Jepp dominated. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration aeronautical charts were published by NOAA's National Ocean Service until publication was taken over by FAA in October 2000, coincidentally the same year Jeppesen was acquired by Boeing. NOAA charts were cheaper but a large measure of pilots felt Jepp charts were superior. For many years Jeppesen has served four market segments: airlines, business aviation, general aviation, and the military. The Colorado-based enterprise is celebrating its 80th anniversary since Varney Airlines pilot Elrey Jeppesen made the first aeronautical charts to navigate in flight in 1934. For more on the company's long history, see Wikipedia's entry.

Jepp charts were king for decades until the digital revolution disrupted many things in life ... from cameras and taking photos to electronic communications to widespread GPS use to HD television, and much more. Among those disruptions was Jeppesen's paper chart business. At Aero 2014 I heard a flight instructor chastising Jepp staffers about the company's discontinuation of paper charts — he worries over instruments or devices going dark and the pilot having no backup (though I'll wager he no longer depends on candles). The truth is Jeppesen's chart business went into decline with the introduction of the iPad four years ago. It isn't coming back despite what the aforementioned flight instructor prefers. Jeppesen realized they needed to adapt and they did so with products for airline pilots and more under the heading of EFB, or electronic flight bags. All fine and good but the users of Jepp maps for VFR flying felt left behind. In 2013 that changed with the debut of Jeppesen's Mobile FliteDeck VFR, an app aimed squarely at the pilots who constitute the largest segment. Jeppesen was late to this party and numerous other products swept in to grab market share. Now the big company is back and their product is evolving rapidly as I heard at their press conference at Aero 2014, thanks to German Jeppesen rep' Tobias Baesch.

Weather depiction on Jeppesen's Mobile FliteDeck VFR app for iPad.
At Aero Tobias detailed version 1.4 improvements to FliteDeck VFR including expanded VFR enroute data for European countries (his focus is all non-Americas territory), graphical NOTAMs, and TFR updates. Jeppesen has been in Europe since 1957 but now the VFR app is rapidly adding countries. The entire U.S. is already covered. Mobile FliteDeck VFR data includes topographical information, terrain, obstacles, airspace, NAVAIDs, VFR waypoints, and primary airport data, including elevation, runway length, and frequencies. Weather info such as METARs, TAFs and NOTAMs are also included. To better manage the wealth of data available for download, pilots can choose to target only VFR coverage and topographical data that they want. Versons 2.0 and 3.0 are coming in spring and summer as the company adds features. Jeppesen Mobile FliteDeck VFR is available for a free download and trial phase through the App Store on iPad or on iTunes (Android tablets are not supported). A yearly subscription is modestly priced at $49. Jeppesen figures that if you fly only VFR you don't need to pay for IFR charts and approach plates.

Jeppesen supplied navigation data to many top instrument makers including leading suppliers to the LSA and light kit industry (arrows).
Simply making a paper chart digital ignores what more detailed data manipulation can do and Jeppesen exploits its long history in FliteDeck VFR's methods. Users can also easily access planned, actual, and past flights. I found it especially interesting to note a sign in their Aero display showing all the top instrument makers that depend on Jeppesen navigation data (photo). Jeppesen may be late to the iPad method of planning and guiding a flight but they're coming on strong. While noting Jeppesen is a company of 3,300 employees, Tobias Baesch said the VFR app development emerged from a "garage operation" (think Apple or Google to put this in context). The product is developing rapidly and Jeppesen will need to keep the gas pedal depressed as several other app makers will continue their fast-paced development, making this a great time for pilots to get involved with these great software developments.

Surprise Star of the Show at Aero?
By Dan Johnson, April 12, 2014

Crowds surrounded Aerolite 120 at Aero 2014. See our video on the Aerolite 103. A more recent update filmed at Sun 'n Fun 2014 will follow soon.
It depended on whom you asked. As in the United States some were skeptical at Aero. "Oh, this will go nowhere." "No one is interested" "We tried this and it didn't work." Maybe these naysayers are right, but the activity at one booth (or "stand" as they prefer in Europe) seemed to powerfully counteract that doubt. The stand was the Hirth exhibit which featured a variety of aircraft using the German powerplant. The one and only American aircraft example in the Hirth exhibit — indeed, perhaps the only light aircraft at Aero that was Made in the USA — was the Aerolite 103, or as it has been renamed here, Aerolite 120. Why the different name and why the strong interest? To clarify, by strong I mean an airplane sometimes so surrounded by attendees that you could not even get close. As further proof, Aerolite 120 was written up by several publications during the four days of Aero and also garnered television coverage. It took until the last day to photograph Aerolite 120 when I could see the airplane and not simply the backsides of those thronged around the light aircraft.

Younger pilots can actually think about owning an aircraft when it is priced as agreeably as Aerolite 103 or 120.
American know the Aerolite 103 for many years. As we found in a Sun 'n Fun 2014 video to be posted when editing is completed, somewhere around 400 Aerolite 103s have been sold. During periods of time after designer Terry Raber created this simple yet complete machine, the company was operated by persons other than Terry and record keeping was not the focus. Documented sales are around 200 but easily twice that many were delivered to customers, nearly every one of them fully built as such is allowed under U.S. FAR Part 103 rules — the entire language of which can be printed on the front and back of a single page of office paper ... itself a remarkable fact in a world of heavy regulation. Manufactured today by U-Fly-It based in Deland, Florida, proprietor Dennis Carley is fairly new as owner. He bought the company from Raber in late 2012 and brought all the inventory and tooling to Florida in January 2013. In that first year he reported 20 sales ... not a bad achievement for a re-startup. At Sun 'n Fun 2014 he said he already had eight sales in 2014 and he thought big things might be ahead as he had recently engaged a dealer in Europe. That was the Vierwerk company, the subject of this update.

You can read my pilot report on Aerolite 103. While written in 1997, most information remains valid though improvements have been made.
Vierwerk is a family affair, run by Wolfgang Labudde and wife Thilda along with their son and daughter (photo). Wolfgang put in four years with Remos back when and therefore comes to the table with experience and his eyes wide open. The aircraft will sell for around 25,000 euros (somewhat more than $30,000; more on that below). It is less costly in the USA but in Germany, the Labuddes have to spend considerable funds to gain approval. A new 120 (kilogram) Class was proposed by the German government more than a year ago and Wolfgang and team must make a few engineered changes and then seek approval, a process handled in the country by organizations DULV and DAEC, private aeroclub operations sanctioned by the authorities to regulate light aircaft. This arrangement benefits companies and their customers by greatly reducing the regulatory burden but you still have to prove the machine quite thoroughly. Already Wolfgang and his group have improved in the instrument panel (photo) and installed German Winter instruments. He also upgraded the fuel lines and improved electrics with more robust connections and switches located in places where they will not interfere with normal operations. Officials also require rudder limit stops that are not present on U.S. models. All these and more changes followed by testing — to include calculated wing loads and physical testing — explain the higher price in Europe. Let me repeat: €25,000 is the retail fly-away price including VAT (value added tax) that is much higher than U.S. sales tax. This very affordable cost — and the charm of this simple yet well equipped aircraft — explain the strong interest the Labudde family saw at Aero 2014.

The Lubudde family posed in front of the Aerolite 120, complete with color coordinated airshow garb ... even their shoes match the plane's brilliant color.
Team Aerolite 120 stated, "For the first time the Aerolite 120 is available to the European market as a deregulated Microlight Aircraft in the 120 kg category." The new category and its potential is what produced the comments at the start of this article. Yet it also represents real promise. If aviation is serious about engaging new pilots, aircraft that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars or euros is not how it will likely happen. In the USA, we have Part 103 since 1982, and that program has never been overloaded with additional regulation, partly as it has proven adequate. Safety of such light aircraft is good even though some will say that's because not many are flying. Perhaps, but they do exist and I point to the success of Aerolite 103 in the U.S. as evidence that this is not an invisible segment. So Europe is embracing their 120 Class (264 pounds empty) and England has its SSDR classification, with the letters standing for Single Seat De Regulated. I love the Aerolite 103. I've flown it on several occasions and find it a delightful flying machine that has no evil qualities and largely flies exactly as you'd expect. I wish Dennis Carley and the Labudde family great success but I think I'm late saying so. It appears success has already found them and that puts a smile on my face and those who contemplate finally being able to afford an aircraft to call their own.

First Impressions at the 2014 Aero Friedrichshafen
By Dan Johnson, April 10, 2014

From the outdoor event at Sun 'n Fun we jetted across the Atlantic to go indoors for Europe's amazing air "fair" (as they prefer in Europe versus "airshow"). Aero always manages to please and this year was no exception. My only objection was the very tight timing with Sun 'n Fun, which left us packing up furiously on Sunday, gathering new clothes on Monday, and racing to the airport for a flight to Munich, Germany followed by some hours of driving after a night with no sleep. My wife Randee and I arrived at Aero 2014 by noon on opening day. Whew!

Both shows are must-go events in my coverage of Light-Sport, light kits, and ultralights. Next year will be even harder with Aero immediately preceding Sun 'n Fun. Still, that's a year away and I am pleased to be in Friedrichshafen, Germany for this excellent event. I will have more detail on some specific aircraft later but shortly upon arriving at Aero attended a few press conferences. Today — after a decent night's sleep corrected the jet lag — we raced around the gymnasium-sized halls of Aero (11 of them! ... see at lower left of nearby photo) to see what caught our eye. In this effort I must give some credit to fellow journalist Dave Unwin who always seems to adroitly find the newest and coolest aircraft developments. Following we take an initial photo tour. Watch for more in the next couple days. Please remember that aircraft seen at Aero may not be available in the U.S.

Bristell's NG5 TDO taildragger is a follow-on design to the company's well received tricycle gear airplane seen at Sebring and other locations (see our video from Aero 2013). It looks like the SportCruiser and that's no surprise as it comes from designer Milan Bristela who was a key player in the creation of the airplane Piper once sold. However, numerous changes were incorporated in this essentially fifth generation design. He has also created a retractable model. While the company was unfortunately not represented at Sun 'n Fun, Milan said his Czech-based operation is busy. ••• For more info: Bristell NG5 TDO

We captured this attractive seaplane in a photo last year at Aero alongside its much larger six place GA seaplane sibling. This year the company, Avana Industries of Hungary, showed a nicely finished version of the Odonata designed by Zoltán Varga. Readers may find it hard to believe that one more LSA-type seaplane can find a share of this exploding market but this example certainly caught the eye. The company's web address as printed on their brochure failed to load but we'll trek back to their space to see if we can obtain better information. The handsome side-by-side pusher engine flying boat deserves a further look, especially given how full this sub-sector is looking. This appears to be strictly a European project at this time.

I mentioned Dave Unwin above and this most unusual airplane is the first one he mentioned. The airplane is in full-size concept stage at present and incorporates joined-wing technology and twin ducted fan propellers. Dave spoke to the creators and they said they ran out of time to get the ducting installed around the props. A single engine apparently drives the twin props that, without their ductwork, look impossibly small to provide enough push. Ducting can significantly enhance prop thrust but Dave and I both wondered if the concept aircraft was airworthy in its present configuration. Aero Friedrichshafen often has displays of aircraft that never reach the market and this may be another (or not) but novel ideas can sometimes find their way into other machines that do go live. We'll keep an eye for this one next year.

Wolfsburg Aircraft offered this Sparrow ML, a tandem aircraft said to fit Europe's 450 kilogram (990 pound) class though the cockpit seemed particularly spacious to truly fit in that limited weight, more than 300 pounds under Light-Sport Aircraft. With twin vertical tails something like America's Sadler Vampire, we can hope it survives better than the Yankee version that eventually faded away. The Czech company uses the much lighter, two stroke Rotax 582 that may be part of constraining its weight, listed at 595 to 622 pounds in two versions. They report obtaining a Czech LAA Type Certificate (not the same as an FAA TC) so I asked my friend Jan Fridrich his opinion of this machine and he confirmed it is approved. He added that authorities do not worry over gross weight but examine primarily empty weight. I loved the large door opening and lower deck that appeared to give easy access to either seat. ••• For more info: Wolfsberg Sparrow ML

This Sirocco caught my eye but also took me back in time to a much earlier Sirocco, that one from France. Originally produced by French builders, this orignal design reportedly traveled to Belgium and is today the Sirocco design is owned by Aero Consult Light Aircraft or ACLA in the Netherlands. ACLA relaunched the design as the Sirocco NG. ACLA said it bought the tooling from a Belgium company called Aeriane. A genuine ultralight aircraft that makes use of carbon fiber composite structures for its cockpit and tail boom, this creation has long had appeal for light aircraft enthusiasts. Sirocco can reportedly fit the European 120 kg (264 pound) class that is very similar to FAA's Part 103. Prices are very low, modestly over $30,000 for a ready-to-fly airplane; a kit is also available for under $20,000. ••• For more info: AC Light Aircraft Sirocco

I close today's glance at some visually appealing aircraft with this Niki Rotor Aviation gyro. Lightning has huge visibility with a sweeping forward canopy and large clear doors. The Bulgarian company uses a rotor blade from Sport Copter in the USA and the Belgium D-Motor. Another very distinguishing feature is the in-line prop. An earlier model called Kallithea has a more conventional tailplane arrangement and an Apis model offers side-by-side seating. However, Lightning appears to strike out on a new path and turned the heads of many Aero visitors. Even their brochure is unique, die cut to form a circle (like a spinning rotor blade, I imagine) which is then folded in half. I couldn't get their website to load, but have a look at their Facebook page. ••• For more info: Niki Rotor Aviation Lightning

Good Weather Smiles on Sun ‘n Fun ... Sales Logged
By Dan Johnson, April 8, 2014

Zenith Aircraft will power its EAA One Week Wonder project with a 912 iS supplied by Rotax; several other other companies also donated products.
The weather, big crowds, safe flying and airshow speed, action, and thunder combined to make Sun 'n Fun 2014 one to remember. As reported in AVweb, top man John "Lites" Leenhouts was quoted, "We're up 20 percent overall, as of Saturday night, over our average for the last 12 years." As proof of crowds that seemed to grow to a crescendo, multiple long lines of people buying entry passes on Saturday caused ticket sellers to run completely out of Saturday one-day arm bands. They had to start using Friday arm bands to get everyone in who wanted to enter. Acts like the Blue Angels, "Fat Albert" — the Blue Angels C-130 Hercules support aircraft that did its own high-banking act — and a F-22 Raptor captured attention. When we drove off the grounds Sunday evening as airshows are normally winding down, we witnessed literally hundreds of people clustered outside the gates to watch the airshow. Crowds inside were dense but even the gatekeepers can't account for total interest. The outside group were not simply drawn to the roar of jets; these folks planned their outing and came with chairs, coolers, and even tents. Honestly, I can't recall seeing so much interest at any airshow especially on the last day.

LAMA's LSA Mall was a busy place all week and steadily served customers seeking airplanes. photo by Randee Laskewitz
The best news for those of us who follow the Light-Sport and light kit aircraft market was a substantial amount of sales activity. While vendors can be expected to be happy making sales, the good news for customers is that choices are plentiful and stronger businesses can provide better service and can develop more features and products.* Volunteering to work for LAMA, which operates the LSA Mall and serves the industry, BRS parachute expert Gregg Ellsworth conducted a survey of vendors at the close of Sun 'n Fun 2014. He spoke to 19 manufacturers or importers** who reported solid sales — cash changing hands — with a tally beyond 30 aircraft. An old and fairly conservative rule of thumb has been that for every cash order logged at the show, another one will result in a couple months following. If so, Sun 'n Fun activity may generate 70 sales of LSA or light kits. By any recent measure, that's a great show resulting in many smiling customers. Disclaimer: Estimates are not inclusive of all sellers at the event and while we believe it is a reasonable count, sales don't always materialize and some orders are not fulfilled.

Excitement in the skies and a familiar, friendly feel made Paradise City a popular place. Pictured is Paradise City announcer Mike McClellan; a FAA and industry organization safety conference, and social gatherings that occurred spontaneously. photos by Gregg Ellsworth and Randee Laskewitz
Paradise City was again a major attraction ... a show-within-a-show that increased in area activities along with an increase in exhibiting vendors. LAMA's LSA Mall got off to a slow start in the middle of a tough winter but rallied an impressive line of 13 LSA representing many of the top-selling brands. Companies that lacked enough aircraft to participate this year expressed interest in joining the LSA Mall next year. Demo flying, though interrupted at times by military demonstrations and practice flying, was significant during the event, stimulating more than 500 movements a day. Plenty of pilots got a chance to try aircraft that interested them. More evening social events occurred in Paradise City than in previous years and the mood was upbeat among customers and aircraft and service providers. A Safety Conference co-hosted by the U.S. Ultralight Association (representing pilots) and LAMA (representing aircraft producers) drew a full room to discuss solutions as the sector reaches its tenth anniversary this summer. Having fun with airplanes in sunshine and comfortable temperatures is always good time and Sun 'n Fun 2014 provided plenty of it.

I leave tomorrow morning for Aero Friedrichshafen in the very south of Germany. Watch for more reporting from this always-interesting event.

* As an example, Rotax upped their game with the more powerful 912 iS Sport engine and the company is able to upgrade parts to previous 912 iS customers free of charge. Customers pay for labor but several hundred dollars worth of parts are provided for free thanks to profits that allow absorbing such an expense. Rotax BRP reported a good year and customers benefitted. The company completed its first year as a public firm; it is listed on the Toronto stock exchange (Symbol: DOO.TO — the "DOO" derives from popular products, Ski-Doo or Sea-Doo).
** Vendors surveyed by Gregg Ellsworth included BushCat, Just Aircraft, Quicksilver, Evektor, Flight Design, Tecnam, Revo, AirCam, Rans, Hansen Air, Kolb, Aerotrek, Sport Cruiser, Zenith, CubCrafters, Legend, Searey, Jabiru, and others.

Rotax Announced 912iS Sport & Headquarters Fly-In
By Dan Johnson, April 5, 2014

At Sun 'n Fun 2014, Rotax Aircraft Engine manager Christian Mundigler noted the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the four cylinder 9-series engine family including 80-horsepower 912 UL, 100-horsepower 912 ULS, 115-horsepower turbocharged 914, and fuel injected 912 iS. In further celebration he also announced the worldwide introduction of the new 912 iS Sport. "The new model delivers an improved takeoff performance that results in a better climb rate and shorter takeoff run even if the aircraft is equipped with a fixed pitch propeller," said Christian. He proudly stated the marketing line: "Stronger. Faster. Higher." Using a redesigned aluminum airbox atop the 912 iS unveiled two years ago, air intake is improved to boost engine torque. Visible differences are slight compared to last year's 912 iS but the new airbox stands 27 millimeters (1.06 inch) compared to the lower profile plastic airbox manufactured over the last two years. A larger airbox allows more air to mix with fuel delivering more torque. New software further supports the upgraded engine with longer engine intake runners and slightly repositioned ignition coils. The company has worked closely — and secretly — with major manufacturers to assure the slightly higher airbox will still fit within already-designed engine cowls.

What about those 100 or so 912 iS engines already in the USA before this change? Don't worry owners; Rotax has a solid offer. The Austrian company will make upgrade kits available as a retrofit for 912 iS owners. Rotax expects to achieve ASTM compliance and issue a service bulletin in May this year so it can proceed with the upgrade offer. As a demonstration of their readiness, Rotax arranged for a Kitfox with the new engine to be displayed in front of the Rotax exhibit at Sun 'n Fun. Kitfox Aircraft proprietor John McBean said he was very satisfied with the new powerplant after taking it on a 8-hour "lunch flight" to the Florida Keys following its installation at Lockwood Aircraft in Sebring. Christian said the company will offer the engine for the same price as the previous 912 iS through the end of October; details are available through distributors. For current owners of the 912 iS, Rotax will provide the airbox kit for free until the end of October, so owners need only pay labor costs. The job can be done in one day. After October 2014, the manufacturer suggested retail price for the airbox kit will be about $1,750.

Some engine experts observed that when the 912 iS engine was introduced, they were very happy with its lower fuel consumption and reduced pollution, yet some pilots could sense slightly lower performance compared to carbureted versions. The lower torque of the 912 iS engine — 119 newton meters at 5000 rpm versus 129 for the 912 ULS — affected heavier aircraft, seaplanes, or aircraft operated at higher density altitudes. Kitfox boss McBean, who operates in the higher elevation of Idaho, is pleased for the added torque at common operating revolutions. "We've always liked the 912 iS engine, and this new higher torque iS Sport will give us the extra boost we want," he stated. In addition to a new airbox and new controlling software, changes are made to the reduction drive to allow it to handle the increased output.

To properly celebrate the 25th anniversary of the 9-series engines plus production of 50,000 912/914 engines, Rotax BRP will host a fly-in on June 5 to 7, 2014 at the Weisse Moewe airfield in Wels, Austria (northeast of Salzburg and west of Munich, Germany). I am pleased to be headed to this second company fly-in where the engine manufacturer will offer flights with the latest Rotax aircraft engine models plus a chance to test ride in a Can-Am Spyder Roadster. Expected are more than 100 Rotax pilots enthusiasts from all over Europe and beyond plus dealers of the company's products. Those attending will have a chance to visit the Rotax factory to see where the engines are developed and produced. Several events are planned for attendees The modern factory employs more than 1,100 people.

Tecnam Announces Astore and Ups Its U.S. Game
By Dan Johnson, April 5, 2014

By their reported numbers Tecnam lays claim to be the largest producer of very light aircraft. I use that term versus Light-Sport Aircraft as the Italian manufacturer is not the leading LSA seller yet their sales figures support the company being the world's largest for LSA-type aircraft. For at least the last couple years, Tecnam has reported sales numbers in the 200 per year range. I have no way to independently verify that volume but it's clear they are a success story. Tecnam's website states, "With over 3,500 Tecnam airplanes operating around the world today, Tecnam customers and operators are supported by a global network of over 60 dealers and 100 Tecnam Service Centers." They boast a wide range models, including Eaglet, P2008, the aerobatic Snap, the newly introduced (to Americans) Astore, and their Twin. In addition to the Astore unveiling Tecnam announced a major news development and several noteworthy initiatives for the U.S. market. First, the airplane info ...

Astore was first seen at Germany's Aero show last April although the dramatically unveiled new model was not then flying. By the American debut on opening day Tuesday at Sun 'n Fun 2014, the airplane had taken to the air (in June 2013), production was started, and the first deliveries have begun. All Tecnam models other than Sierra are high wings but Astore updates the earlier Sierra with a sleek low wing design that shows the high state of the art from the Italian manufacturer. Check the company's website for many more details about the new model but Tecnam makes complete use of the Apple iPad Mini that comes as part of its American version. On the popular touchscreen device customers will receive a pre-installed, dedicated app that can compute the actual weight and balance plus provide checklists and includes all sections of the Pilot Operating Handbook. Tecnam plans to offer the also-newly-introduced Garmin G3X Touch.

In addition to revealing their new Astore, Tecnam made a major announcement that should provide their most significant move yet to support American customers. At a press briefing at their exhibit at Sun 'n Fun, they announced the establishment of Tecnam US Inc. with a 21,000 square foot hangar and office location at Sebring Airport, Florida where they will start offering customer service and support, spare parts, plus reassembly of LSA and Part 23 certified aircraft models shipped from Italy. Sebring will also become the base for North American sales and marketing led by Director of Sales, Shannon Yeager. Sebring Airport Director Mike Willingham said, "We are proud to be the home of the annual US Sport Aviation Expo [and are pleased about] Tecnam choosing Sebring as the showcase facility in North America." Tecnam expressed gratitude for the advice and support of Phil Solomon and Tommy Grimes of Heart of Virginia Aviation. As the former distributor, HOVA will continue representing Tecnam along with West Coast Sport Aircraft in California and the Midwest Company located in Minnesota. "All locations will have Tecnam aircraft demonstrators available for flight tests by prospective customers," said company officials. They will initially market three Light-Sport Aircraft: P2008 LSA, Astore LSA and P92 Eaglet LSA plus two Part 23 certified models, P Twenty-Ten and P2006T light twin. Other models such as the P2002 Sierra, P92 Echo Light and P92 Tail Dragger will be available on request.

Not content to rest on a new model and a new U.S. location, Tecnam also announced a new payment program that could alter how LSA are sold in America. "A new payment policy has been introduced that is simple and straightforward," said Tecnam. "A 10% deposit is payable at the time an order is placed, with the remaining 90% payment not due until the aircraft [has received its airworthiness certificate] and is ready to fly from either the Florida or California assembly facility." Potential customers can also experience a demo flight at the new Sebring facility, and Tecnam US Inc. will contribute up to 50% of related travel expenses up to a maximum of $1,000. Upon purchase of an aircraft the remaining 50% will be reimbursed with a provision for additional reimbursement for a spouse or partner. These methods should remove uncertainty from prospective customers who have previously been hesitant to send substantial sums overseas while waiting for delivery. Tecnam CEO Paolo Pascale added, "We are very grateful for the support of [Sebring airport manager] Mike Willingham and all his Sebring team. This first phase of our evolution and expansion within North America will be quite challenging, and is just the start of fulfilling our ambition to set up a dedicated production facility in the USA. We are totally focused on doing all possible to enhance our customer's experience of, and access to, all things Tecnam."

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




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.

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!

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

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.

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

World Aircraft Company is Columbian design expertise joined to Canadian entrepreneurship based in Paris, Tennessee USA. Welcome to World Aircraft and a brand-new short takeoff and landing (STOL) Light-Sport Aircraft, the all-metal Spirit.

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.

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.

Vickers Aircraft has created one of the most distinctive new LSA seaplanes yet to emerge.Powered by the 180-horsepower
Lycoming O-360, their Wave model is like no other seaplane ever introduced with multiple features to set it apart from the crowd.

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.

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.

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.

Zenith Aircraft is one of America's leading kit suppliers featuring well proven models from legendary designer, Chris Heintz. Centrally based in Mexico, Missouri, Zenith offers kit aircraft for several popular models.

Pipistrel has designed and manufactures a range of beautiful, sleek aircraft that have found markets around the world. Starting with gliders and motorgliders, Pipistrel now offers a line of powered aircraft using multiple power sources.

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.

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.

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.

SkyCraft Airplanes is America’s first Light-Sport Aircraft single seater. SD-1 Minisport is affordably priced, very well equipped, and was designed to exhibit docile handing qualities. It can be flown for less than $12 per hour.

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?

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.

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.

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

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!

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-eligible aircraft offering five models. The world's fastest-selling light twin, a four seat single engine model, and an 11-seat twin complete the range.

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

Aeromarine-LSA represents an economical Part 103 ultralight that is within reach of almost any budget. For local fun flying, or for those who enjoy soaring flight Zigolo is light enough to be lifted by even the most gentle thermals.

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.

CubCrafters is the best selling Light-Sport Aircraft in recent years. Their success formula: reinvent an iconic design using computer analysis and modern materials, give it more power, features and a finer finish, upgrade it steadily, and do it all in the USA.

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Updated: April 22, 2014

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