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Welcome to 2015 and a brand new season of recreational flying! Next up on the light aviation show calendar are twin April events: the 2015 editions of Aero in Germany (15-18) followed quickly by Sun 'n Fun (21-26).

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...a web log of developments in Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft
Four Days of Sebring 2015
By Dan Johnson, January 21, 2015

SportairUSA's Outback wears its new name for the first time.
Sebring is history, which says the aviation year is now underway. On whole it was a good show and a solid start to 2015. Sebring's weather was overcast and cool to start though even that didn't seem to dampen buying enthusiasm. About a dozen airplanes were sold plus numerous vendors reported finding many good prospects. By Friday afternoon the skies went to deep blue and the Sunshine State earned its nickname.

"It was a great Saturday," wrote U.S. Sport Aviation Expo organizers. The 11th annual Expo nearly filled the auto parking lot and the transient aircraft parking area was hopping with activity, officials said.

While I write about the good news of Sebring, I want to pay respect to two fallen aviators. Dennis Day and Jason Spinks of the Aero Adventures company lost their lives in an unfortunate accident during the event. I offer my sincerest regret for this loss to their families and to the DeLand Airport business team.

AutoGyro USA's Calidus is backdropped with color. |||| most photos supplied by the Sebring U.S. Sport Aviation expo
As it has for several years, opening day of Expo wrapped up with the Light Aircraft Manufacturer's Association (LAMA) annual dinner in the big Aviators Hot Line Show Center tent. A full dinner was served to nearly 300 business people and LAMA members. All seemed to enjoy an evening among airshow buddies sponsored by electric car builder Tesla Motors, engine developer ULPower, and publisher Aviators Hot Line. LAMA kept secret the participation of Tesla Motors by referring to its "glass panel," "auto pilot," and electric propulsion but many folks seemed to enjoy examining the specialty auto. Music was provided by the Flying Musicians Association and one of several highlights was honoring the birthdays of Expo executive director Jana Filip and founding director Bob Wood. (Such exquisite timing makes one wonder if they deliberately scheduled their event so everyone could help them celebrate.)

RV-12 VIRBfest used eight of the company's new cameras.
Taildraggers seemed in especially plentiful supply including the surprise showing of Bristell's new TDO model. Just Aircraft's SuperSTOL, Legend's SuperCub, Bearhawk, Rans' S-20 Raven, and SportairUSA's renamed Outback (photo) provided those looking for unimproved airstrip capability with great taildragging choices.

Some of those taildraggers, including AirCam and SportCub, could be seen on four wheels as Mead Floats exhibited their 1430 and 2200 floats for light aircraft. Four wheels come from hydraulic amphibious operation. Mead joins Paradise of Brazil, Tecnam of Italy, and several all-American Lockwood enterprises as permanent residents of the Sebring airport, fulfilling the decade-long goal of leasing all available space to aviation businesses.

Among winners were those who helped name the aircraft formerly known as Cub-S and iCub. First prize went to Antonio Speed of Titusville, Florida. He took home an iPad Air with Foreflight Mobile app software. Second prize went to David Bardwell who got an iPad Mini and third prize went to Rafael Cortes of Puerto Rico.

Dynon's touch screen displays drew crowds as always.
My video partner and I scooped up another 25 or so videos to join more than 400 available on YouTube and this website.

One of the most anticipated videos of all we did was a VPR or Video Pilot Report on the Van's Aircraft RV-12 by Synergy equipped with a single large Garmin G3X Touch screen. We flew and tried to report on this popular airplane last year but the video and audio capture was not what we wanted so we arranged to try again this year.

Van's reports more than 800 RV-12 kits (of around 9,000 RV models delivered) have been sold with more than 300 flying. Fully built RV-12s assembled by Synergy now number around 50 aircraft. The king of kit aircraft is making great headway into the LSA space.

The RV-12 filming experience was a total VIRBfest with our use of no less than eight Garmin Virb cameras, seven owned by our production effort and one supplied by Van's pilot, Chris. According to Garmin, we are probably the largest user of Virb cameras and surely fitting eight of them must be some kind of record usage. The cockpit was actually a bit crowded with cameras but we think we got good material this time. Watch for the video after editing has been completed.

Tecnam's handsome Astore had a stunning interior treatment.
We also did a video first in our reporting of light aircraft. Watch for a video on a four-pound aircraft. OK, I'm teasing you. My Spruce Creek Fly-In airport neighbor and Legend Cub representative, Ron Bishop, is representing the DJI quadcopter fitted with an HD camera. At future airshows we may employ such an apparatus to capture aerial overviews of the event. As you can read in many places, these tiny drones have some impressive capability including being able to return to their takeoff spot autonomously should radio communication be lost. Even an RC novice like me can easily fly one of these gyro- and software-stabilized rigs. It was fun to experience; the video is in production.

With Sebring in the can for another year, our focus turns to Aero in Germany (April 15-18) followed only a couple days later by Sun 'n Fun (April 21-26). Stay tuned for much more flying fun!


7 Aircraft to Look for at Sebring 2015
By Dan Johnson, January 12, 2015

Shed the skiis and head south for the winter ... to Sebring, Florida where the orange groves go on forever and the skies are full of fun airplanes. photo from Lynn Reimer, of his Aerotrek A220
We're off to the races ... OK, the race track ... OK, we're off to Sebring, which happens to be alongside the Sebring International Raceway. Yep. It's January so it's again time for the Sebring Expo, this time number 11, the 2015 edition of the popular Florida show. I'll be onsite for the four days, which this year is one day sooner, running Wednesday through Saturday. The plan makes it easier for vendors to stay to the end on Saturday and still have time to get home on Sunday so they can be back in their businesses on Monday.

Every time I head to a show people contact me, including journalists from publications that don't follow Light-Sport, light kits, ultralights, or light GA as closely as we do). The question is always the same. What new aircraft or products will we see at the show? ...Uh, let me think.

Even I don't hear everything early, though perhaps my awareness is fuller than others. Developers are often busy trying to finish their new project in time. Perhaps they want to keep it secret until they unveil it. Either way, it takes time to inform journalists. Think how carefully Apple tries to keep people from knowing what new iGizmo they will introduce at their media extravanganzas. (It doesn't always work as a entire army of nosey people is constantly probing around to find out what they'll unveil.)

Zenith's Cruzer gives an aerial view of the Sebring grounds. The arrow points to the Show Center tent.
However, I know a few things, so I'll give you some ideas and present some photos with this article to help excite your interest in attending. I hope many will make it to this year's event. It is raining hard right now, but the weather prognosis looks good, if possibly a bit on the cool side.

Look for the Aerolite 103 with its new Briggs and Stratton four stroke engine. You can see my earlier article for details but I'm thrilled that someone is offering a four stroke, legal Part 103 three-axis ultralight. You have not seen this one and it deserves a look especially given its low-low price tag. How low? You'll have to swing by their space and ask but this company makes airplanes that sell for less than $16,000 fully-built and ready-to-fly. No wonder they are selling and building "to manufacturing capacity."

Bristell's handsome TDO ... stands for Tail Dragger Option. Imagine it with 26-inch tires.
Steve Minnich of Dreams Come True said, "We'll be showing something we've wanted for a long time at Sebring." He said it was not "Earth shattering" but it may be important to some buyers. "Evektor has previously stayed with the tried and true, low weight simple adjustment at the pedal, which also kept people from adjusting pedals in flight." However, he said, "Hearing public request and arriving at an engineering design they are satisfied with, they have released a new pedal adjustment system where the rudder pedals can be adjusted while seated."

SportairUSA boss Bill Canino has been running a contest to rename their airplanes formerly known by using the word "Cub." Another company owns that name (no, not Piper) and they're putting a stop to it. So, being a reasonable sort, Bill decided to let pilots help rename his birds. He'll announce who the winners of iPads and stuff are at Sebring, but the names are no longer a secret. He said, "The previous Titan 180-horsepower Cub S will be named Outback. A plane he made somewhat famous by using an iPad for the main instrument, appropriately called iCub, will be named Nomad." The latter uses a 100-horsepower Rotax 912. Come to Sebring and see who won the prizes.

You can some look for the new Paradise P1NG, as the Brazilian brand makes a reentry to the U.S. market after several years absence. In fact, they're making quite a splash with not only a new airplane but a factory-owned outlet housed at Sebring. Paradise joins Tecnam at selecting the Sebring airport for their new quarters, from which they'll supply the USA but also export to other countries. Read the earlier story for more details.

Bearhawk LSA can now be ordered as a Quick Build. See the first one so completed.
Another new model I'm excited to see fully finished and flying is the Bristell TDO, or Tail Dragger Option. I saw this at Aero 2014 but it was a plain fuselage with no paint or interior. Producer BRM Aero makes a truly handsome, well-flying LSA and, like many others, I think taildraggers look oh-so cool. New U.S. distributor Lou Mancuso said, "Bristell TDO gives owners the utility of a back country aircraft with greater speed and useful load than traditional back country LSA flyers, and optional 26-inch tundra tires allow the TDO to land on very rough surfaces."

A useful feature of the Bristell TDO is a "Sleeper Sleeve" option. Lou said, "Developed for the Australian market, where pitching a tent in the company of some of the world's most poisonous snakes and spiders isn't pleasant, Bristell's solution is elegantly simple: sleep in the aircraft cockpit." He explained that all the pilot need do is, "Lower the seats, cover the baggage area, and expose the rear fuselage. A completely flat area is available for sleep. At 51" wide, it's just two inches narrower than a normal full-size mattress." You'll want to see it at Sebring.

LSA taildraggers seem hotter than ever. Bearhawk Aircraft announced today its Bearhawk LSA will make a first-time visit to Sebring. It will be the first Bearhawk completed as a Quick Build kit by owner Mark Goldberg. He sums it up as a "rugged, sweet-handling airplane, designed for a gross weight of 1,500 pounds," giving it a good safety margin when flown at LSA gross weight of 1,320 pounds. It is also quite a performer. At AirVenture 2014, designer Bob Barrows competed in the Valdez STOL competition in his prototype LSA. He reported a takeoff distance of 96 feet with a landing distance of 130 feet, excellent numbers for a plane with a speedy 118-mph cruise, quick for the bushplane category.

Just Aircraft is offering a spoiler kit to make SuperSTOL even more appealing.
Speaking of STOL, the extreme example is Just Aircraft's breathtaking SuperSTOL. I reported from last year's Midwest LSA Expo that the South Carolina company had added spoilers to further extremify SuperSTOL and now the kit is available. "The addition of spoilers significantly enhances slow flight control, especially in undesirable wind conditions. They represent the latest step in advancing the short takeoff and landing capabilities of the SuperSTOL." Yeah, like it needed more ... whew! Yet if something is good, then more must be better. Surprisingly, SuperSTOL flies quite docilely.

Designer and flight tester Troy Woodland said, "Once a pilot discovers the advantage of spoilers in slow flight and turbulent air, he won't want to fly without them. They go a long way toward taking the rock and roll out of rough air on final, and they open up new areas for landings." The kits, which connect the spoilers to the ailerons, take about 40 hours to install. With all its wing features — high-lift airfoil, vortex generators, and fowler flaps — allow SuperSTOL to fly at very high angles of attack without stalling. "This allows a touchdown speed in the low 20s in calm conditions," said Just Aircraft. Come see it at Sebring.

I hear we might witness the Flying Platform in flight. Hmmm ...we'll see, but it's certain you have to attend Sebring to see the newest and coolest.

On the Sebring show grounds, the big Show Center tent gives you a place to eat, rest, meet and visit with friends, hear engaging speakers, find show staffers. This year you will also see something I think you'll find mighty interesting. Come see a glass panel like you've never seen. See a whole new implementation of autopilot. Look at electric propulsion done most impressively.

What is it? You'll have to come to the Show Center tent at Sebring to find out. See you in Sebring!


Evaluating the Worldwide Impact of Sport Aircraft
By Dan Johnson, January 11, 2015

As the new year dawned my good friends at General Aviation News published my article on the light aircraft industry using Rotax deliveries (and estimates of other engine brands) to estimate worldwide sales of recreational or sport aircraft. The article was presented online as 2015 began and has since appeared in a print edition. This article was updated 1/12/15 and 1/23/15.

On the "The Pulse of Aviation" (sign up here; it's free) you can read my article that generated a large number of reader comments, some of which were quite colorful. A technical glitch that took down the comments has been fixed and you can again peruse the many comments.

GA News is published 26 times a year (subscribe here) and the article was just released in the print version. Online, a few responders apparently didn't think much of LSA with some relying on outdated information. Several others were very supportive. That's the value of free speech and comment sections that permit such open exchanges in the Internet Age.

Here I present a somewhat different message. The first article was aimed at an audience including general aviation pilots, many of whom do not know the LSA or light kit community well. This one is aimed at those following light aviation more closely.

My sincere thanks to my longtime industry associate Jan Fridrich of LAMA Europe and Czech aircraft designer Jaro Dostal, creator of the Shark and other distinctive light aircraft. Charts shown with this article were prepared by these men.

As detailed in the GA News article, I reported a market for very light aircraft and Light-Sport-type aircraft that substantially exceeds 3,000 units per year worldwide. Many American pilots remain unaware that the rest of the world flies a large number of light aircraft in the recreational or sporting categories. Overseas, these are commonly referred to as Ultralights or Microlights, Very Light Aircraft, or Light-Sport Aircraft. As you probably know Euro Ultralights are quite different from the U.S. version.

Most pilots in the USA focus on what are sometimes called "traditional" general aviation aircraft for which GAMA has reported delivery numbers for many years. Regular tallies of FAA's N-number registration database show that in the USA the ratio is approximately 80/20, traditional GA airplanes to recreational aircraft. In Europe and most other countries that ratio is reversed with GA representing approximately 20% of all civilian aircraft with 80% recreational, according to people who try to assess such figures. This large percentage includes gliders (very big in Europe) but even omitting sailplanes the ratio is quite lopsided in favor of powered recreational aircraft. For most international pilots, GA aircraft are too expensive to buy and operate outside the USA.

"From 1989 through June 5th, 2014, we have sold 50,000 four-stroke engines of the 912 and 914 model designation," noted Christian Mundigler, Key Account Manager of Rotax Aircraft Engine Sales. "On the two-stroke engine side we sold all together more than 120,000 units up to now," he said.

These deliveries show Rotax is surely the most prolific producer of engines, but Continental, Jabiru, and Lycoming add powerplants used on recreational aircraft. Assuming their output is about 600 units per year — likely a conservative estimate and only considering production for the light aircraft sector — we calculate the UL/LSA/VLA sector probably reaches beyond 3,500 airframes per year.

In comparison, GAMA will likely report less than 1,100 piston-powered aircraft of all types and sizes from all association members around the globe for 2014 based on information released for the first nine months of the year.

Thus, when you include shipments to all countries, the light recreational aircraft market represents a large portion of all civilian, non-commercial airplanes being delivered.

With the American LSA and light kit market taking less than 1,000 of the Rotax's annual 3,000-plus aircraft engine production, where are all the others going?

"Averaging over a long term our main engine market, including two- and four-stroke powerplants, Europe has around half of the share," reported Mundigler. "The Americas, including North, Central, and South, has about a third of the total."

"Growing markets are Russia and China with double digit increase rates in recent years," said Mundigler.

Rotax engines run fine on auto gasoline or 100LL aviation fuel; operators can mix mogas and avgas in any proportion without concern. Jabiru also works fine with mogas and Continental has engine models that do as well. Around the world, aviation fuel is not widely available and, as American pilots know, avgas carries a substantial price premium though much less than the $10-12 per gallon in Europe.

From the figures used in this article, we can see the light, recreational aircraft industry is alive and well and makes up the largest unit volume share of all aircraft delivered each year.


Going Off to the Air Races, LSA-Style
By Dan Johnson, January 6, 2015

At first, it all seemed rather unlikely to me. I refer to the concept of racing LSA.

On the one hand you have a giant company with a global presence putting on the Red Bull Air Races. What a way to sell a caffeinated beverage. It works. It's very showy. It might even induce some race watchers to take up flying. When the aircraft are not touring the race circuit, they occupy luxurious space in the fanciest hangar on the planet, Red Bull's Hangar 7 at the Salzburg Airport in Mozart's former home town in Austria (photo).

On the other hand we have Light-Sport Aircraft, a fairly new sector in aviation, now with one decade of history. Being in the distinctly affordable end of aviation, money does not flow as it does from Red Bull. Yet that does not mean LSA will fail to join in the air race fun. Put a man like Doc' Bailey in charge and things happen despite the odds. Doc', a 15,000-hour military chopper pilot, runs Renegade Light Sport Aircraft. Relocating from Missouri, he went to Fort Pierce, Florida's municipal airport. That didn't turn out to be the right answer and he instead found a home — and a seat on the advisory board — at DeLand, Florida's airport, a place I recently visited.

Indeed, Doc' is a man who, some say, casts a big shadow in Light-Sport aviation. Bailey became known for working to install Lycoming engines on LSA like his Falcon. He's swimming upstream — but making progress — toward what he calls "SPAR," for the Sport Pylon Air Races. I admit when I first heard Doc' talk about this I thought he was spitting into to a light-aircraft-upsetting wind. However, he continues to take steps and now may have the right venue for such an event.

The DeLand Airport has welcomed Doc' and his airplane building operation. That's hardly a surprise as this is the home of a 35-year-old sky diving operation with dozens of businesses supporting or feeding off that activity plus numerous aircraft companies including U-Fly-It, Aero Adventures, and Aeroprakt America.

Recently I visited the Deland airport, to get a full tour by new airport manager (though longtime airport board member), John Eiff. More on Deland's ambitious plans in a minute. After hearing John's enthusiasm for Light-Sport Aircraft — which he sees as the growth area of aviation, an impression many others share — I can imagine the SPAR course being erected at Deland.

See the DeLand Airport Sport Aviation plan (note: this is a 9 MB download).
Deland's airport is a very short hop by plane from my home airport of Spruce Creek Fly-in, the world's large private airport and sprawling aviation community (see red dot on the nearby map image). By car, historic Deland is less than 25 minutes away. That's convenient for me but also puts the air race concept only a short drive from the world famous Daytona Raceway, an auto race enterprise that draws crowds enormous enough to dwarf even professional football (a reported 400,000 racing fans attend the Daytona 500 and the ever-expanding business hosts evens year 'round).

More than welcoming many sport aviation businesses, Deland has some grand plans for something called the Light-Sport Village — although they've since rebadged it as the Sport Aviation Village to make it better understood by the non-flying city officials who are not as well versed in aviation terms.

This might be viewed as a business incubator and light aviation companies contemplating a move may want to consider what they offer here in the Sunshine State. Those business owners can speak to John Eiff at the Renegade tent at Sebring next week (January 14-17th). I know I will be following this development and Doc's Sport Pilot Air Races. ...Gentlemen, start your engines.


Is a Four Stroke Part 103 Airplane Possible?
By Dan Johnson, December 31, 2014

Some people have long believed that Part 103-legal weight shift trikes or single place powered parachutes may be possible but I've often heard the pronouncement, "You cannot make a legal three axis Part 103 airplane." I wonder if those folks are ready to admit their error? Those attending the 2015 Sebring Expo will want to examine the new Aerolite 103 with a Briggs and Stratton four stoke, all freshly mounted and looking better than ever. That you can fly such an airplane without a pilot's license or medical, without N-number registrations, and buy one ready-to-fly for an affordable price amazes more than a few pilots. However, mostly those machines — a few have been available for some time — use two stroke engines in order to stay within the very confining 254 pounds of empty weight. If you don't care for two stroke power ... Wait no more!

You might remember seeing such a machine at Sun 'n Fun 2014. Developer/manufacturer U-Fly-It was indeed displaying such a model but proprietor Dennis Carley didn't feel it was ready for sale at the time. His appropriate caution caused some to again conclude that it simply wasn't possible. In version 2.0 (photos) Dennis indicated he has now gotten the machine flying much better.

Most obvious is the great clean up that occurred by moving the engine from on top of the wing (see bottom photo) to below the wing's upper surface. The four stroke engine is still mounted upright. Less obvious is that Aerolite 103 with a four stroke engine can still make the low empty weight of Part 103 to enjoy the benefits of less federal interference in your flying fun.

At only 22 pounds more than the Hirth F33 he often supplies but in the new lower drag position, Dennis reports a very acceptable climb rate of 600 fpm from the 22 horsepower the B&S engine. Speeds will be 50-60 mph, Dennis said, making an easy and economical cruise in the four stroke Aerolite. In addition, he said that even with straight pipes the exhaust noise is modest but he plans to add some silencing.

One big question: Can a four stroke Aerolite still make Part 103? "Yes," said Dennis, although he noted that you cannot have the strut fairings or gear leg fairings seen in the nearby photos. A parachute will also be required.

In case you're wondering if a so-called "lawn mower" engine can do the job of powering an aircraft, Dennis replied, "Well, when is the last time your lawn mower conked out or you had trouble starting it?" Indeed, much as Rotax has taken heat for being a "snow mobile engine," many don't see the problem? The reliability of the B&S engine is not the problem some may envision and you get a much lower noise signature. I look forward to trying this combination, having already become a fan of the Aerolite 103's flight qualities.

Prices have not yet been established for the Briggs & Stratton. Certainly some costs have increased but since ready-to-fly Aerolites with a Kawasaki 340 start at $15,900, it seems likely you might be able to buy a fully-built aircraft for somewhere around $20,000 and I think that is a very notable fact. Those who say new aircraft are too expensive must consider Aerolite.

Others have been signing on fast. U-Fly-It just took an eight-unit order from their German dealer Vierwerk, sold three more to Russia and processed a few fresh orders from American customers as December 2014 drew to a close. The just concluded year was an excellent one for U-Fly-It with some 40 sales logged. Dennis forecasts 2015 may record 60 sales. So, who says modestly priced, single place aircraft don't sell? If you've been one of the naysayers, I recommend you adjust your thinking.

Given the success of Aerolite in the USA and increasingly abroad, I predict the four stroke Briggs and Stratton Aerolite 103 will become a best seller for U-Fly-It. You better come to Sebring and check it out for yourself!

HAPPY NEW YEAR to you and yours!

In various articles, I've often reported three axis Part 103 airplanes. Aerolite is one of the most developed and a fairly rare one with a four stroke engine, but it is not alone in make Part 103 parameters or in having a four stroke engine. Here's another four stroke Part 103 airplane reported more than seven years ago and here's a video of another.


It's Winter, So Seaplanes Are Flying ... Uh, What?
By Dan Johnson, December 24, 2014

On this website, we zoom around the world following Light-Sport Aircraft, from near the Arctic Circle — you know, where Santa and the wee elves are pulling some heavy overtime about now — to the warm balminess of Southern California. I know of what I write, having once lived in the snow belt and now hanging with the family in Palm Springs, California for Christmas. It seems everywhere I look I see LSA seaplanes in sea trials and this is happening in the dead of winter.

Why be surprised? Perhaps you've noticed boat shows happen in the winter months. When living in Minnesota, I was always amazed that boat shows were held in January and February, a time of year when it would be months before the ice melted from the state's 10,000 lakes to allow use of those boats. Yet this is when people were shopping, I suppose anticipating an upcoming season of boating fun. So, why not seaplanes in winter?

all photos courtesy Icon Aircraft
As I recently wrote about the Atol Avion undergoing first water trials in the freezing cold waters of Finland, it seemed appropriate to update readers on continued development for one of the most watched Light-Sport Aircraft ever, Icon's A5. The company's extensive use of social marketing has netted them a million Facebook likes and they've logged a reported 1,200 orders. Just before Christmas they issued a report which I'll summarize here.

Since its completion, engineering A5 serial number one (ESN-1) has been undergoing extensive flight testing and systems performance verification, the company said. "The objective of this process is to confirm that the production version of the A5 meets or exceeds the performance of the proof of concept (PoC) aircraft, which underwent more than 700 test flights for aerodynamic, hydrodynamic, and systems development." Icon added, "The ultimate goal is to prepare the production A5 for ASTM compliance and delivery to the first customer next spring [2015]."

This full-aft-stick water landing was performed intentionally to test the A5's performance and confirm that the aircraft does not porpoise in this situation.
In these preproduction preparations, Icon's team performed several days of water testing on Lake Isabella, California. "Icon Aircraft's engineering team pushed ESN-1's design to further improve water-handling characteristics." They report that the new hull design's performance exceeds the POC's in several ways: The preproduction prototype "can land easily at a range of airspeeds and deck angles (attitude) without porpoising (a pitch oscillation exhibited by most seaplanes);" aggressive step-turns on the water can be accomplished, similar to the performance of personal watercraft; the newest A5 demonstrated that static and dynamic lateral-stability requirements have been met throughout the design envelope in a range of water conditions, gross weights, and center-of-gravity (CG) locations; water handling has been verified in rougher water and larger waves; and, "ESN-1 can cope with high-wind situations, especially maintaining water-rudder effectiveness when turning to downwind."

ESN-1 was subjected to the full range of weight loadings and CG positions including performing a full-aft-stick water landing at minimum speed. "The purpose of this exercise is to intentionally land the aircraft tail-first to determine if it will porpoise, a task that involves a highly unusual landing attitude that appears visually unsettling," observed Icon.

While testing A5, a Grumman HU-16B Albatross, dropped in for some practice landings. Albatross was produced from 1949 to 1961 and saw service in a number of military and Coast Guard roles.
The fuselage of engineering serial number two (ESN-2) has been fully instrumented with strain gauges and will undergo testing to ensure it complies with ASTM strength requirements. Icon engineers and technicians are simultaneously assembling the third production A5, called aircraft serial number one. "ASN-1 is the final aircraft which will undergo FAA inspection to ensure the A5 complies with ASTM standards." Icon's manufacturing facility, documentation, and quality systems will also be reviewed before serial production begins.

ASN-1 also marks a significant milestone as it is the first aircraft that will be delivered to a customer next spring, culminating nearly a decade of research and development leading to serial production, the company concluded in its winter 2014 report. As we admire the thoroughness Icon is demonstrating, we wish them the best in getting A5 into production.

As they gear up for production next year, Icon said it is hiring. "We are looking for talented individuals to fill key roles in Design, Engineering, Finance, Operations, and Production," said the company. Interested persons can see their Careers page on their website.


Fun, Powerful, Gnarly ... thatís AirCam
By Dan Johnson, December 20, 2014

This attention-getting "dragon" Air Cam is not Ron Owens' but it might qualify as "gnarly." As the next photo shows, this was a total treatment.
What would you like for a Christmas present, perhaps if you won big in a lottery? Well, you're a pilot so I might guess that some airplane has caught your fancy. Me, too. Like most pilots a number of desirable airplanes catch my eye but also like most pilots, I cannot afford to have one of each that appeals to me. High on my list of wished-for airplanes is Lockwood Aircraft's Air Cam. I have quite a few hours flying one example or another. I even earned my multiengine rating in one, as part of an article I wrote years ago.

As part of the required hours of training to take the flight check — no written test is involved for a multiengine rating — I engaged an old friend and multiengine instructor, Richard Johnson. An Air Cam owner, Sebring dentist Ron Owen, graciously supplied his Air Cam. Richard and I flew all over central Florida in Ron's plane as I accumulated hours and experience.

Richard and I crisscrossed the state at about 50 feet above ground level, often even lower. We flew over long stretches of orange groves barely 10 feet above the tree tops. Being a safety conscious pilot I cannot imagine doing that in, well ... any other airplane I've flown, Light-Sport, ultralight, or general aviation. When Richard and I approached an airport to do some multiengine preparation — to simulate an engine out on takeoff, for example — we had to climb. Yes, climb! After flying around at 50 feet AGL or less, you have to climb to enter the traffic pattern so you can land. Richard joked that we had to ascend to "nose bleed altitude."

The online Urban Dictionary offers these synonyms for gnarly: awesome, cool, sweet, rad' (among others). I think these words express my sentiment. Oh, sure, Air Cam is no LSA (too many engines). It's no ultralight (too many seats, too heavy). It's not certified, being a 700 to 1,500-hour kit-built aircraft. Most who look lovingly at Air Cam see it as somewhat costly (though even with two expensive engines it's priced less than many high-end LSA). Regardless, I love Air Cam as one of the most thrilling airplanes I've ever flown. If you haven't sampled it, you have a great experience ahead of you.

Of course, you should never do reckless or unsafe operations in any airplane but Air Cam behaves differently than nearly any other aircraft. I have executed a single engine take-off in the machine, just to prove it could be done. I was careful to have plenty of runway and no traffic but most twin aircraft wouldn't — indeed, cannot — even attempt such a feat. When losing an engine in Air Cam, the event is almost hard to notice ... unbelievable, perhaps, but factual. Air Cam can climb 300 feet per minute on one engine. These capabilities make flying low over orange groves an acceptable flight.

This Air Cam may have demanding duties in remote areas, but that doesn't mean the paint job has to be dull.
People who own an Air Cam are as diverse as folks who buy any other airplane. However, I've never talked to a single one who didn't report having "fun," even those who use one for some serious purpose such as aerial photography. Air Cam opens the door to flying you might never try in another aircraft and with foresightful planning, good maintenance, and accommodating weather, you can enjoy an Air Cam in ways that are simply unrivaled.

After the National Geographic Society commissioned designer Phil Lockwood in 1994 to create an aircraft to allow photographer Nick Nichols to fly over the Ndoki rain forest in Namibia, Africa, the design has been widely marketed. Nearly 200 are flying around the USA and other countries. Selling points besides twin-engine safety are its slow stall (39 mph), low fuel burn (3.5 gph at 50 mph ... for both engines), and cruise from 50-100 mph. A kit with two Rotax 912 ULS engines will set you back over $100,000 but the smile it can create is nearly priceless. Two hundred horsepower produces stunning flight qualities even those 180-hp Cubalikes can't match.

I took a wonderful trip to the Florida Keys in an experience documented in this article. We flew a single engine LSA and it was great fun but we couldn't enjoy the island chain the way you can in an Air Cam, especially one on floats (photo). Recently the company, which often hosts fly-outs for its owners, visited Marathon Key not far from Key West. With those twin engines, and even better with floats, I'm guessing those pilots and passengers saw the islands in ways nearly no one else on the planet has ever experienced. That would make a wonderful Christmas present.


Finlandís Atol Amphib Begins Water Tests
By Dan Johnson, December 15, 2014

Ah, the Christmas season is soon upon us (or already is judging by familiar music playing on every speaker you hear). It sounds like a great time to go put your new seaplane in the water ... especially if you live up by the Santa Claus toy workshop. Wait a minute! Can that be right? Yup! Atol Avion Ltd., recently notified us, "We have finally performed first water taxi tests of our production prototype on December 14th, 2014 at Rovaniemi, Finland. After thorough systems tests, water taxi tests were performed on Kemijoki River near the Arctic Circle ... just a few miles from Santa's home. Our plane worked as planned and proved to be even better than expected."

As a Florida resident, I have plenty of local acquaintances that think such an exercise sounds crazy, to be out water testing an amphibious airplane in winter. They mean here in Florida where it's on the cool side ... you know, 50s and 60s. Yet look at the photos and realize we are not showing several images that reveal the Atol airplane with ice droplets formed over its tailplane parts from cruising around in water cold enough to have mini icebergs floating.

I ran into the Atol Avion crew at last year's Aero Friedrichshafen event (another is coming over April 15-18, 2015). The group at the show was composed of a number of airline pilots and among them Anssi Rekula, whom I first met at AirVenture Oshkosh a few years ago. Anssi is a cofounder of Atol Avion. He worked as a licensed maintenance and flight engineer at the Finnish Coast Guard keeping Search-and-Rescue helicopters flying before starting a career flying airliners for Finnair.

Fresh as the photos look, the Atol airplane has been around since 1984, albeit looking quite different from the example in the nearby photos. In an age where we have amazingly sophisticated designs made of modern materials — think Icon's A5 and MVP.aero's namesake MVP as but two gleaming examples — Atol has a core made from wood. Why would they stick with such an "outdated" material?

Inset shows the wheel fairing that will come on a completed aircraft.
According to Atol Avion, "Development of wooden aircraft structures was discontinued when reinforced plastic aircraft became more popular in the 1970s." They note, however, that empty weights of gliders and motor gliders increased by 20 to 30% when they began making extensive use of the slippery new exterior finish. "When the development of Atol was started 30 years ago," the company continued, "wooden structure was selected for this very reason. Reinforced plastic displaced the wooden structure for manufacturing reasons, and its increasing popularity stopped the development of the wooden structure. We chose to continue development of wooden structure manufacturing methods and, as a result of this work, we prefer to talk of a wood composite structure."

Wood composite structure is one of Atol's strengths, Anssi told me. "The strength-to-weight ratio of wood is superior to the majority of building materials. Only plastic structures reinforced with carbon and aramid fiber exceed the qualities of wood, but at a much higher price." Also, carbon fiber structure is so strong, Atol expressed, that structures need to be over-dimensioned in lighter aircraft in order to attach them to the other structure. As a result, competitors' aircraft built of carbon fiber are much heavier than Atol. As an example, partly due to building materials and partly to offer features they believe customers want, Icon had to go obtain a weight exemption from FAA.

Speaking with authority up in the Arctic Circle, Atol stated, "Contrary to what some believe, the wooden structure posses excellent weather resistance. If the structure has been designed and built correctly, and it is stored and maintained properly, it can be used for decades." In our climate-obsessed world, a strong feature of wood structure is a smaller carbon footprint compared to other material. Also, Atol notes, "Wood binds carbon, whereas the manufacture of aluminum and reinforced plastic materials release it."

Click this link to get a good overall look at the airplane, which you can spin around with your mouse or pointing device.
Anssi was very proud of the recent water taxi testing in the icy waters of northern Finalnd. "We have been waiting for this day for a long time and surely our clients will appreciate the product they'll get." The company already has orders on the books but now offers two remaining slots for customers in the 2015 production schedule before the price of the basic plane will be raised from €125,000 (about $155,000 at today's exchange rate) to €139,000 ($172,000) for orders received after May 1st, 2015. My close examination of Atol at Aero last year revealed many clever engineering qualities. Combined with a well-established airplane that has good flight qualities, Atol deserves consideration.

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

 



 

 
 

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.

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.

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

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 a new four seater, Tecnam offers these LSA: Echo Classic, Eaglet, Bravo, Astore, and P2008.
Many LSA
& GA models

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.

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.


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

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.

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?


Flight Design USA imports CT, the top selling Light-Sport Aircraft. CT is a 98% carbon fiber design
with superb performance, roomy cockpit, great useful load, and a parachute as standard equipment ... the market leader for 10 years!
CTLSi

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Kitfox is one of the world's best selling light aircraft kits with more than 5,000 delivered. With unrivaled name recognition, Kitfox is admired for crisp handling, excellent performance, easily folded wings, and more. The design is flown around the world.


Quicksilver Aeronautics is the world's largest producer of ultralight aircraft, selling some 15,000 aircraft. The company's designs are thoroughly tested, superbly supported, and have an excellent safety record.

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.

North Wing is America's leading manufacturer of weight shift LSA and Part 103 ultralight trikes. The company's wing designs are so good that most other trike manufacturers use them. Aircraft prices are highly affordable by all.

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

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

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 Lycomingís IO-233 engine.

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.

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

Phoenix Air USA imports the beautiful Phoenix Special Light-Sport Aircraft, a performance motorglider that can cruise swiftly and serve both functions with excellent creature comfort. Given its clever wing extension design, you get two aircraft in one!

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.

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.

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Updated: January 23, 2015

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