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Sightseeing by Ultralight... in North Korea
By Dan Johnson, October 18, 2016

China's A2C ultralight seen at a 2015 airshow in Anyang. This one is fitted with agricultural crop micro-spray equipment. At least the powerplant is familiar, a Rotax.
The stories we hear about North Korea are usually bad. OK, I've rarely heard anything good so I guess the news is just about all bad. However, we hear about North Korea from mainstream media and government officials, neither of whom seem interested in good news about this reclusive Communist state. On whole, it seems probable things are pretty lousy in such a closed and controlled nation but now and again, something trickles out to show less evil.

This story was featured in Toronto, Canada's and was written by Eric Talmadge of the Associated Press. At the end of his article Eric wrote, "Officials say the ultralight aircraft used for the flights were made in North Korea." If so, I'd say they are a knock-off of a Chinese aircraft that I have examined.

A China airplane looking very similar has been seen at AirVenture 2015 though I'm guessing few visitors paid it much attention as it was far from the sleek, beautiful light aircraft commonly seen at the big show. However, China's A2C-L aircraft, developed by the AVIC Special Vehicle Research Institute, was this year the first ultralight aircraft to obtain a certificate of model design approval and a production permit issued by Civil Aviation Administration of China, according to China Aviation News. Nearly 100 A2C planes have been sold, that publication reported.

A tourist flight is photographed over Pyongyang, the capital city of North Korea.
The lead photo is mine from a China airshow in May 2015 and it looks very similar to the ones appearing with the rest of this article. Ironic, you might find it, that a China airplane could be knocked off by another country. Many American think China is taking products from other nations and making their own copies. Perhaps this shows how far China has advanced?

Mr. Talmadge reported in The Star, "Until a few months ago, if you wanted a bird's-eye view of North Korea's capital, you basically had only one option: a 492-foot-tall tower across the river from Kim Il Sung Square.

Now, if you have the cash, you can climb into the back seat of an ultralight aircraft." He explained that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has vowed to give North Koreans more modern and "cultured" ways to spend their leisure time, and with foreign tourism companies looking to entice visitors with unique things to do besides visit war museums and political monuments, a Pyongyang flying club has started offering short flights over some of the capital's major sights. Maybe it's working as Talmadge reported, "Officials say more than 4,000 North Koreans have gone up in the ultralight fleet since, along with 'hundreds of foreigners' from 12 countries."

His report continued, "The tours, which began in late July, are operated by the Mirim flying club out of a fancy new facility on an old airfield." Flights go directly over some of Pyongyang's most iconic spots, including the gargantuan May Day stadium, the torch-tipped Juche Tower and Kim Il Sung Square area, and the Munsu Water Park (center photo), another of Kim's leisure spot "gifts" to the city. After each flight, the tightly controlled society requires club officials to inspect photographs taken from the air.

The country's Mirim flying club provides tourist flights for $150, although reportedly less for North Korean citizens.
The Star reported that seeing the city from a height of 6,000 feet while moving through the skies at ultralight speeds offers a different perspective from anything tourists, and even most Pyongyang residents, had ever been able to get before.

Flights aren't cheap. A 25-minute mission from the airstrip on the outskirts of the city to Kim Il Sung Square and the Juche Tower, which had previously been the best place to get an urban panorama, sells for about $150 (2-3 month's wages for an average Korean factory worker). Shorter flights are offered at lower prices, starting from about $65, but those only fly around the immediate vicinity of the flight club, which is fairly rural. Prices for North Koreans are much cheaper, though club officials reportedly would not say exactly how much.

Officials say the ultralight aircraft used for the flights were made in North Korea. Perhaps, but if so, they must have used the A2C-L as their template. North Korea does trade with China, one of its few export/import partners.

I can only marvel at what North Koreans or tourists would think if they saw one of our modern Light-Sport Aircraft or a well-made American ultralight-like aircraft. China has other models North Korea might access but maybe the A2C-L was chosen for specific reasons. I'm guessing those few thousand folks that have taken a flight find it a special experience... one any American can take virtually for granted.

An Excellent Bargain in a Composite LSA
By Dan Johnson, October 16, 2016

The lines are separating a bit. Once we had a flock of LSA priced closer to one another than today. While some are put off by splashy marketing from companies offering LSA priced north of $200,000, your choices do include fixed wing aircraft for $50-80,000 and alternative (weight shift, gyro, and powered parachutes) LSA for even less.

However, if you want an all-composite design with a digital panel, your choices of lower-cost models is, admittedly, more restricted. It costs money to make things with more exotic materials and with fancier equipment. The great news in late 2016 is customers are getting more choices in "reasonably" priced airplanes (shown in quotes as reasonable is a term that varies from person to person).

The new model in this article will be at the DeLand Sport Aviation Showcase coming up in just over two weeks. I hope you're planning to attend. I'll be present and the first-ever show is already enticing visitors with more exhibitors than most were expecting. Obviously, it pays to hire an experienced leader — Jana Filip — and have a highly supportive airport manager in John Eiff along with town leaders that are all-in for sport aviation at their municipal airport.

Jabiru North America boss Pete Krotje announced, "The FAA was here recently and issued a fresh SLSA airworthiness certificate for our new J170-D aircraft." The new addition logs in as SLSA #142 on our SLSA List.

Pete explained, "Our J170-D is the latest iteration of Jabiru's popular two-place aircraft that is widely used as a trainer in Australia and other places around the world." He added, "It is even used in South Africa as a rhino spotter and for rhino poacher patrol (photo).

No stripped-down flight school model, a standard J170-D in the USA comes equipped with the deluxe Garmin G3X Touch EFIS, a Garmin communications radio, Garmin Mode S transponder, 2020 compliant ADS-B in and out including a certified WAAS GPS, night lighting, and leather seats. All this may be fairly common for higher end LSA, but not at this price: $99,900.

You might wonder why FAA had to make a visit for an airplane we've seen in the USA before. "What changed," I wondered?

"J170-D has some major changes in the airframe from the [earlier] J170-SP," Pete clarified. "The SP was a bit prone to aft CG issues if too much baggage was stowed behind the seats and a bit less stable than the larger J230-SP. Jabiru in Australia set about to remedy those problems in 2012 and the result was a longer engine mount to put the engine four inches farther out front and the new swept, airfoil shaped vertical tail." A version of the new tail shape made the J230-D highly stable but was actually first developed on the J170. See Jabiru history for the full story but Pete confirmed the result is a much more stable J170 needing much less rudder input than previously.

"We had to go treat it as a new make and model since Jabiru Aircraft Pty, Ltd., is the manufacturer instead of Jabiru USA or Jabiru North America," Pete said. "Similar to the J230-D, we could no longer manufacturer the aircraft in the USA after an FAA rule change in 2012." Pete refers to internal FAA guidance that attempted to tighten the controls over what companies could declare themselves a manufacturer.

This photo of the panel in Jabiru's demonstrator shows an optional second G3X Touch screen but is otherwise the standard issue, said Pete Krotje.
"Mr. Gib Shelpman from the Atlanta MIDO (Manufacturing Inspection District Office) did the inspection since it was a first article make and model." When I inquired about any need for a formal FAA factory audit as part of the first article inspection, Pete responded, "The audit was done by CASA in Australia for ASTM compliance." On the Airworthiness Certificate FAA issued, Jabiru Aircraft Pty is listed as manufacturer and the aircraft is built by the Australian company in their South African facility. "In the USA we only install the Garmin panel and assemble the airplane out of the shipping container," Pete explained.

Canadian readers will be interested to hear J170-D can also be configured as a Canadian advanced ultralight. In that vein, I should note that DeLand, Florida can be a nice change in early November perhaps encouraging our neighbors to the north to come for a warm-up visit. If they do, they can see J170-D along with all other DeLand attendees.

"We will be at the Deland Sport Aviation Showcase in booth #82, right inside the entry gate," noted Pete. He also assured, "Demo flights will be available." J170-D will be arrive at DeLand Friday, October 28th a few days before the show. I hope to get a flight in the updated model and will look to report on that in November. C'mon down and see us in Florida. Hurricane Matthew did not bring major damage and the show will go on as planned.

Matthew Mayhem ... First All-Mexican Light-Sport
By Dan Johnson, October 10, 2016

A few miles south of my home one finds Kennedy Space Center, where this fascinating photo was taken. photo courtesy of Wall Street Journal
First a personal tale and then something completely different...

In the last week, I encountered something brand new to me, although old as the ocean. I refer to Hurricane Matthew, which swept through my home area of Daytona Beach late last week. You haven't seen anything new on this website for a few days because, well... I was a little busy. Along with everyone else in this area, we spent days preparing for a Category 4 storm (identified as packing wind speeds of 135-156 miles an hour, enough to tear buildings apart). Everything outside was brought indoors. Sandbags were loaded and positioned because a 15 foot storm surge was predicted along with torrential rains. Because my dwelling — at the Spruce Creek Fly-in, an airport community (7FL6) — sits only 22 feet above sea level, such a storm surge took on epic damage possibilities.

Fortunately, the winds capped at 91 mph at the nearby Daytona Beach airport (KDAB). The storm surge was much less than forecast and the rain was not as heavy as anticipated. We probably owe this to a "wobble" the storm path took that kept it further out at sea. Thank goodness, the eye of the storm did not wander toward land. I don't want to think about that.

To return everything to its normal place and to clean up the mess of branches and debris the storm scattered around took more time, so nearly a week was lost to Matthew. Nonetheless, the overall damage was less than anticipated so I am thankful while remaining concerned for losses sustained by others.

Besides the Rotax engine, I can also see what appear to be deluxe Beringer wheels.
Now for "something completely different" (as the old Monty Python troupe used to call a new skit topic).

After translating some Mexican websites, I was able to glean a few facts about a new aircraft, a Light-Sport Aircraft according to developers, that is reportedly the first airplane in 50 years to be made completely in Mexico. I found it interesting that this new LSA-like aircraft arrives from a furniture company. Perhaps that's less unusual when you know that the airplane is made of wood, "extracted from fir and birch planted exclusively for aeronautical use and certified by the FAA," said the companies.

After three years of work the timber airplane, designed by Giovanni Angelucci and built in Mexico, is approaching being market ready. The somewhat spartan news was released without naming a functional website where interested persons could find more details. Even determining what the new aircraft is called was not clear but since this is a launch project, it's probably too soon for any enterprising business person to rush into representing the airplane.

Although the news released referred to the new aircraft as a Light-Sport Aircraft, the speeds they announced are well outside the U.S. category, hence my use of the term "LSA-like."

A side by side two-seater aircraft, this proposed LSA is a low wing design with fixed gear. Its takeoff weight of 600 kilograms (1,320 pounds) exactly matches the LSA standard but cruise speed was listed at 260 kilometers per hour or 140 knots, a bit speedier than allowed though that might change with a different prop and other minor modifications. Maximum speed was shown as 300 kilometers per hour or 163 knots.

The new Mexican airplane is power by a very familiar engine, the 100 horsepower Rotax 912, which places it more securely in the LSA sector. Endurance was listed as six hours yielding a range of better than 800 nautical miles, suggesting a fuel supply of about 30 gallons. Empty weight was shown at 330 kilograms or about 725 pounds, again roughly typical for the LSA category. Ceiling was shown as 15,000 feet.

The developers noted, "[The airplane is an] artisanal manufacture by cabinet makers." Such advanced wood-working skills were "applied to the design to ensure the efficiency and durability of the aircraft over time. Its use is sporting, recreational flying and can be used by flight schools and such work as territorial surveillance." The new plane comes from an alliance of Horizontec and Pirwi.

The companies added, "[This] will be the first airplane manufactured in Mexico since last century... and will contribute to the reactivation of the Mexican airline industry, which since the '50s did not produce full, but only aircraft parts."

"The design was confirmed by the Aviation Cluster of Queretaro and the Aeronautical University in Querétaro (UNAQ), which for three years has harbored the project." The new aircraft is priced at $180,000 and will be [built] on request in order to customize to the taste and needs of each client.

You can't see the Mexican entry at the DeLand Showcase coming up in just three weeks (November 3-4-5), but you can see the Jabiru J-230-D and many more Light-Sport, light kit, and ultralight aircraft. More details at DeLand's website.

A Lightning Bolt You Can Catch: LS1
By Dan Johnson, October 4, 2016

Over and over I've heard about the cost of Light-Sport Aircraft. Indeed, some are approaching $200,000 and at least four have smashed through that barrier (CubCrafters, Icon, Terra Fugia, and Lisa). Now, I'll grant you $200K+ for a two seater is fairly breathtaking. But...

In each case above and for those many others in the $125-175,000 range, we're talking about real money. Balancing that, all LSA in the $125K and up price range are impressive aircraft with more bells and whistles than most GA airplanes (and even some airliners!). They are hand-built works of art using carbon fiber; digital cockpits; wide, luxurious cockpits with amazing visibility; and emergency airframe parachutes. They are marvels with autopilot, synthetic vision, gas-sipping (and very modern) engines, and so much more.

Virtually every LSA — no matter how impressively equipped — still remains at half to one third or even less of the cost of even the most affordable Part 23 general aviation airplanes. Good heavens; even a Cessna 172 Skyhawk now costs more than $400,000!

Nonetheless, as fantastic and as decent a value as I believe our top-tier Special LSA represent, $150K to $250K is a big chunk of change for many recreational pilots who merely want to get some airtime.

This article presents another solution: Arion Aircraft's SLSA Lightning LS1. If you don't know this airplane, you haven't really been shopping hard enough in my humble opinion. For years, Arion has been making kits, SLSA, ELSA, and Experimental Amateur Built aircraft that exceed the parameters of Light-Sport Aircraft. For the SLSA model, the company has been through an intensive FAA audit and emerged with a worthy product.

You may also choose some very nice flying aircraft at much more affordable prices running from well under $100,000 down into the $30-40,000 range. (That's not an exaggeration and I can prove it.) Now, you might not care for such aircraft with fabric coverings and simpler panels and, in some cases, different controls. However, if observing your locale from above is your main goal, these inexpensive aircraft can do the job efficiently, and economically. Ain't nothing wrong with that... even if these airplanes may not be your choice.

Arion offers you quite an amazing deal, I believe. I'll get into some specifics below but just look at the airborne images of this plane. The lines of LS1 lines are sexy and shapely, its speed is top-of-the-category, its appointments are comfortable, its interior spacious, its engine powerful, and to top it off, this is a Made-in-America Light-Sport. When you call, you talk to Americans in the heartland and its components are made by American workers.

I imagine you agree Lightning LS1 is a handsome design, whether it is a kit, and ELSA or a fully-built Special LSA. Now, thanks to a change in their composite manufacturing — an outsourced set of key components, moved from their former supplier to one closer to Arion's facility in Shelbyville, Tennessee — Arion is able to make the purchase more affordable. In concert with the supplier change, Arion boss and principal designer, Nick Otterback, said, "A more streamlined in-house assembly and finish process helps us to further lower the cost."

Nick added, "A base-price Lightning will be EFIS equipped with 8.5-inch GRT sport system, Garmin's GTR200 com radio and GTX327 transponder, a PM1000 intercom, plus back up airspeed indicator. Standard base equipment still included from pervious years includes dual hydraulic toe brakes, AeroLEDs Pulsar XP wing tip navigation lights and strobes, faux-leather interior, electric flaps and pitch trim, adjustable rudder pedals, and 40-gallon fuel capacity." Available options are Dynon's SkyView system, Garmin's G3X, autopilot, and ADS-B.

Lightning looks good, comes well equipped ...but what is that price?

How about this for an even number you can remember: $100,000 for a 2017 ready-to-fly Lightning LS1?

A $10,000 deposit provides you with a production slot. You pay installments during the build process at major events, such as when the structure is complete, when the paint is done, and when your LS1 is ready for delivery. Nick said current delivery times are 120 to 150 days after your deposit is received.

A two-tone grey or tan interior is custom made to suit your chosen paint scheme. Arion advised, "You can pick your paint scheme and colors; we work to design a scheme for you." Nearby photos present the interior look.

The $100K model is sufficiently well equipped to allow full enjoyment for local flying or cross country travel. You can spend more if you want the options. Since Lightning is good for longer distance flying, ADS-B will be of interest if you play to enter controlled airspace. However, even with an option or two, LS1 can still be quite an excellent value.

I applaud Arion for refining their supply chain and processes to lower the SLSA Lightning to a affordable level. If you are in the market for a beautiful American-made Light-Sport, here's one worth a much closer look.

Ultralights Darken the Sky! ...and More
By Dan Johnson, September 30, 2016

WUFI '16 — It's tomorrow in New Zealand. Weird as it seems to write that, the down-under nation is 17 hours ahead of those of us on America's east coast. So, pilots in that nation will lead the parade as ultralights and other open-cockpit aircraft kick off the World Ultralight Fly-In on October 1st, a global day in the sky. If you have one of these aircraft, I hope you log on to their map and add your pin and info to the group.

As of September 30th, the day before WUFI Day, more than 800 pilots had already shown their support for the "movement" to have some joy in the air aboard your light flying machine. Organizer Dayton Ultralights and Facebook regular Paul Lindamood were looking for 1,000 pilots to join the party. Given normal human propensity to wait to act, it might happen. I'll be interested to hear the final report but you should get your bird ready now and check the news later.

Interestingly, a look at their map reveals two nations that jump out for their lack of participation (or at least showing so on the map). Russia and Brazil both have active aviation communities and I'm surprised to see those areas with no pins. Perhaps they're among those waiting until the last minute. Follow the development on Dayton Ultralight's Facebook page. More info right here and here.

DeLand Showcase — We're now about one month away from the first-ever DeLand Showcase at the guessed it, DeLand Airport (KDED). Based on my years in close-by Daytona Beach, weather over November 3rd, 4th. and 5th should be good, no longer broiling in tropical heat but neither wintery. Get more info: DeLand Showcase 2016

TAF Sling KitMike Blyth and the gang from The Airplane Factory has done it again. No, not fly around the world... again. They've done that so often it's almost not news. What they repeated was fully building of one of their kits, and flying it, at an airshow. Certainly this shows a regular homebuilder that Sling kits can be completed in a reasonable amount of time.

The Airplane Factory USA Team announced, "A Sling 4 [seater] has been built and flown in record time at the Sywell Aerodrome, United Kingdom, during the 70th Anniversary LAA Rally." The UK's Light Aircraft Association puts on the event.

A complete Sling 4 aircraft kit was packed in South Africa and then delivered to Sywell on August 26th. "Over a seven-day period, a 10-person build team, consisting of five TAF employees and five LAA volunteers, fully assembled the kit, ground ran the engine and test flew the completed aircraft at the show," reported TAF USA. The build team worked 12 hours a day in the company's airshow display.

This the second Sling 4 build of its kind. About a year ago in September 2015, the TAF South Africa team built a Sling 4 in only 4 days, with 40 workers (here's our article on the earlier speed-build). Sling 4-4-40 was delivered to TAF USA as their Sling 4 demonstrator and has since accumulated more than 650 hours of flight time. I've gotten to fly Sling 4. I loved it; read more here.

Skydock Tested — Single seaters don't get enough love, it sometimes seems. The truth be known, though, Part 103 ultralights appear to be doing fine. Perhaps the number of producers now properly matches the number of customers; whatever the explanation, companies pursuing 103 appear to be staying active. One such is Belite Aircraft.

Owner James Wiebe has been focused on his low wing cantilever Skydock and it is drawing interest. Skydock can be a Part 103 aircraft with minimal paint and an airframe parachute. Or, it can be a Experimental Amateur Built in the USA or a Single Seat DeRegulated aircraft in the United Kingdom. When James recently tested Skydock's wing, he did so assuming the higher gross weight of a EAB or SSDR.

"We ran our negative G load test yesterday on our SkyDock prototype," said James. Belite tested to negative 3.8 G at a gross weight of 660 pounds, 10% beyond the higher MTOW of Skydock. James consider it "an ultimate load test."

Skydock is a single seat design with what Belite said is "an exceptionally roomy interior [that] fits long legs, broad shoulders, a large frame." The fuselage and wing D-cells are carbon fiber; wings have integrated ailerons and flaps. A complete kit with skins is priced at $20,625.

LSA News: DeLand, Icon Deliveries, Dynon Deal
By Dan Johnson, September 27, 2016

DeLand Showcase — The eighth annual Midwest LSA Expo occurred in early September in Mt. Vernon, Illinois at the municipal airport. While lacking the immense crowds of the major airshows, it regularly draws a good number of exhibitors as those representatives report they sell airplanes at these more intimate events. Smaller gatherings allow more face time between prospective buyers and those offering airplanes and other products.

Next up is a brand new trade show, the first one, an inaugural event. I hope those in Florida and other southeastern states will consider traveling to DeLand, Florida for the first-ever DeLand Showcase. Led by Jana Filip who gained experience running the Sebring LSA Expo and solidly backed by airport manager John Eiff and the city of DeLand, the event is approaching a full sell-out for exhibitor space so visitors should have plenty to see.

See this earlier article for more about the DeLand Showcase and stay tuned here for updates as the date grows closer. DeLand 2016 is scheduled for November 3rd through 5th.

Icon Aircraft — The A5 developer is finally making deliveries... albeit with a difference. The California developer of a now-well-known LSA seaplane stated that it will build approximately 20 aircraft for delivery in 2016. "Those aircraft ... are being placed at Icon Flight Centers around the United States so that customers and the public can experience them firsthand," said Icon in their fall newsletter. Customers have reportedly agreed to lease aircraft back to Icon for this purpose in exchange for the manufacturer maintaining, storing, and insuring it. That might turn out to be a dandy idea for owners that live near an Icon Flight Center.

Julian Gates is one such customer that officially owns A5 serial number 008. Icon said Gates is the president of a semiconductor company and an avid water sports enthusiast and pilot. They reported that he has taken his aircraft out several times since buying it this summer, including a weekend trip to Lake Tahoe over the 4th of July weekend (nearby photo). "I have been flying for 20 years, owned several aircraft, and checked out/flown 20+ different planes including acrobatic aircraft," said Gates, as relayed by Icon Aircraft. "Flying the A5 was the most fun I have ever had in a plane. I was blown away. I came back after each flight with a huge grin on my face."

Icon also continued to trumpet their new Tijuana, Mexico composite facility as reported at the end of this earlier article.

Dynon Avionics — The game-changing maker of digital cockpit instruments asked, "Do you have a D10/D100 series-equipped-aircraft that you've been thinking about upgrading to a SkyView? Perhaps you are thinking about your 2020 ADS-B Out compliance plan..." If you can answer affirmatively to either or both those questions, Dynon has a nifty deal for you.

"We're thanking our D10/D100 series customers with a limited time offer," noted the company in a eNewsletter just sent out. "Upgrade to a new SkyView or AFS system with 2020-compliant ADS-B Out between Sept 26, 2016 and November 30, 2016, and Dynon will rebate 75% of the price of eligible D10/D100 series instruments you already own when they are traded-in. An exact rebate schedule is shown at the link below.

Like others, I am ever-attentive to offers like this. I've enjoyed flying with both D10 and D100 instruments but they are starting to look like that laptop computer you bought ten years ago. Sure it still works and does everything it did when you first got it, but it no longer does the amazing tricks the newer devices can do.

Sweet offers often have some restrictions. Dynon stated, "This offer is limited to the first 50 customers" so you should act soon to take advantage. As with most such offerings a few other rules are attached, Check the entire program at their dedicated rebate page.

World Ultralight Fly-In 2016; Hundreds Will Fly
By Dan Johnson, September 20, 2016

"A Thousand Ultralight Pilots Sharing the Sky" the tagline used by the Dayton Ultralights group again sponsoring the World Ultralight Fly-In. However, what it is NOT is a fly-IN. The truth is that "sub-87" aircraft, as the segment is often called, cannot span the immense distances of an entire globe to fly "in" to one location. So organizers got creative. Sub-87 refers to a LSA regulation reference to aircraft that fly less than 87 knots or 100 mph.

WUFI'16 is, however, the second annual event, an innovative way to get hundreds, perhaps even more than a thousand pilots to all go airborne on the same day and to log that effort on a map that shows the world where on Earth ultralights enjoy the skies. The organizers put only a few restrictions on what kind of aircraft can be used. The event is more one of virtual camaraderie than a physical gathering, a worthy endeavor that represents the spirit of light recreational flying

Look! If you have one of these lightweight flying machines, your time aloft is a thing of joy. You can fly with a flock of local fellow aviators or you can do a solo act. Even if the latter, you can know that on one day, all over the planet, many hundreds of your fellow ultralight pilots are sharing some air with with you. I think that's very cool and I applaud Dayton Ultralights for putting the event together.

  • WHEN — Starts at daybreak, October 1, 2016
  • WHERE — Anywhere on the planet Earth that people fly!
  • WHO & WHAT — Any pilot of an aircraft considered an "ultralight" and/or "open air" aircraft... ultralight, powered paraglider, powered parachute, weight shift trike, wheeled paramotor, hang glider, hot air balloon — basically any imaginative, magnificent flying machine.

Check out the always-updated version of the WUFI 2016 map By all means, if you can join the other participants, follow the instructions to put your pin on the map.

This is written on September 20th, so you have ten days to get your ultralight flight-worthy. Then go have a little fun flying with your virtual squadron mates from across the USA and around the world. Sounds like a good time to me!

Some folks think ultralights went away when the SP/LSA rule was introduced in the summer of 2004. Yes, by early 2010, all those two-place trainer ultralights were forced to transition to become ELSA or Experimental Light-Sport Aircraft. This ended up devastating the ranks of ultralight instructors who used such aircraft for compensated flight training. As an ELSA, paid flight instruction was no longer allowed and the sector never fully recovered from this blow, one said to have been in the interest of safety though safe operation of such aircraft had been improved steadily over the many years they existed.

Nonetheless, single place ultralights qualifying under Part 103 continued to operate and in recent years more increasing activity has been observed in the segment. As one example — by no means the only one — U-Fly-It, producer of Aerolite 103 is working at full capacity to turn out more than 40 new Aerolites a year. They are so busy that they've had to add kits to allow some folks to get in the air faster. Kits also allow these aircraft owners to add more powerful or four stroke engines plus other accessories without worrying about busting Part 103's 254-pound empty weight limit.

In most other countries, "ultralight" (sometimes "microlight") refers to an aircraft that is only a bit smaller and lighter than present-day Light-Sport Aircraft. European national CAAs — operating in parallel to the EU-wide EASA organization — continue to embrace this segment and several thousand are flying, still bringing great joy and broad smiles to their operators while also saving them tens of thousands of euros.

Check the Dayton Ultralights website or send email for more info. If you're already signed up or if you simply think what Dayton Ultralights is doing is cool, you can buy tee shirts and more with their distinctive WUFI logo and support their effort in this way.

Happy 12th Birthday, Light-Sport Aircraft!
By Dan Johnson, September 17, 2016

Earlier this month, Light-Sport Aircraft celebrated a birthday. The date was September 1st, when FAA made the then-new Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft rule "effective" (to employ FAA-speak). So... happy birthday, LSA.

In those dozen years — the newest aircraft segment is not even a teenager yet — quite a bit has changed. If you are a parent, you may not notice your child getting older as you see them daily. However, the distant uncle or grandparent who only gets to visit infrequently may be astounded how much the little guy or gal has grown. I suspect those close to LSA may have a similar perspective deficit, so let me make some contrasts.

The nearby images are from a talk I gave at the recently concluded Mid-West LSA Expo. I went into more detail than this article permits but I'll bet you get the points.

AIRFRAMES — Today, we accept that we have some marvelous, sleek, high-tech, well-equipped, well-performing models. Matter of fact, we have dozens of them, so many that you can find almost anything you want, whether fixed wing three-axis, weight shift, gyroplane, powered parachute, motorglider... just about eveything originally envisioned by rulemakers except lighter-than-air, which has yet to see a market entry.

Just looking at the fixed wing sector, you have so many choices, I often have people ask for help sorting through the many choices for an aircraft that will work for them. Because I cannot answer all the questions, I created PlaneFinder 2.0, which helps to narrow your choices thereby making a purchase decision a little easier. Try it; it's kind of fun.

What folks may not remember is the kind of aircraft we had at the outset. One case in point. I've often heard folks say (for example), "Why does the maker of the sleek Sting or Sirius airplanes call itself 'TL Ultralights'? Their airplanes don't look anything like most pilots' idea of an ultralight." That sounds correct and today, TL does make state-of-the-art airplanes but they once made something that would look familiar to anyone engaged in the ultralight sector in the 1990s.

As the field rapidly evolved and as companies saw their business coming from pilots selling Bonanzas and Cessnas, they began offering more sophisticated airplanes. Prices rose to cover the fancier equipment, but I hasten to add that we still have many affordable choices from manufacturers that use more traditional construction techniques.

ENGINES — Today and all around the world, one brand dominates: Rotax. While the Austrian company has some very worthy competitors, they were and remain the main brand for LSA or LSA-like aircraft, holding approximately 75% of the global market.

Rotax was also dominant in the 1990s, although in those days, their two-strokes (such as 447, 503, & 582) were the main powerplants on the ultralights of those days. Rotax debuted their 912, the start of what is now called the 9-series, in 1992 and some airframe builders adopted it quickly but most continued with the two-stroke engines as they cost less, had lighter weight, and were better matched to the aircraft of those years. Today, the 582 continues while the others have been discontinued, however, the 912s are everywhere.

Continental was on the scene quite earlier thanks to their ubiquitous O-200, later reconfigured and lightened specifically for LSA (O-200D). Lycoming followed later, following with their O-233. Yet it was the Titan series of very powerful engines that has begun to make impressive inroads. As of 2015, Continental owns the Titan line previously developed by ECi.

We also have solid entries from UL Power, Viking, AeroVee, D-Motor, and others although having to prove compliance to ASTM standards keeps these only in the homebuilt community. That may change as LSA continue to grow worldwide, as we'll see.

Surprise question: Do you recognize the engine in the upper left? If so, you're probably a veteran of the light aircraft industry before anyone used the phrase "Light-Sport Aircraft."

COCKPITS & PANELS -- I love the leftmost image (well, OK, not the hairy legs of the pilot). That "instrument panel" was genuinely quite state-of-the art back when. The device on the extreme left illustrates how early the light aircraft community embraced GPS. In fact, the very first aviators I knew to use GPS were hang glider pilots, who adapted units made for hikers.

Today, modern cockpits more likely resemble the image on the upper right; that's the interior of a Flight Design CT, an early adopter of units like those from Dynon that revolutionized light aviation and helped show GA pilots that LSA offered something truly fresh. To see how far we've come, you can look beyond the open cockpit ultralight as shown and simply look inside any GA airplane where you almost always see a panel full of round analog "steam gauges."

In the lower right image you see a version of Icon's A5 LSA seaplane interior, purposely designed to resemble what a new occupant would see in a modern automobile. The idea is to look less daunting than an immense panel of unfamiliar instruments and time will tell if they made a right decision. Most students I've trained were indeed flustered looking at a panel of round dials much as older pilots are when trying to quickly pick up info from a modern EFIS... hence, makers glass cockpit developers offered a "six-pack"panel of digitally-represented analog gauges.

LSA COMPARED TO GA — So how has all this progress benefitted the LSA world? Actually, quite well IF you consider the whole world. In the USA, the LSA sector remains only about 2% of the total single engine piston fleet. However, around the world LSA and LSA-like aircraft may comprise around one third of all single engine piston aircraft. Such measurements are devilishly hard to quantify accurately, but I believe my estimate is fairly dependable. Factoid: In 2014, all GA single engine piston deliveries totaled 969 (according to GAMA) where LSA-like deliveries were around 3,000 aircraft and that wide advantage is sure to continue.

In this earlier article, I delved into the worldwide fleet of LSA-like aircraft so I won't repeat it here. Yet I consider the count of more than 66,000 such aircraft to be on the conservative side. The article also referenced the count of U.S-based Type Certified single engine piston aircraft. For those seeking more detail, check this article and this one plus many more LSA market articles found here.

If you don't care to read the above links, I can summarize by stating that LSA has done very well in its dozen (or so) years. Here's my closing statement from the Midwest LSA Expo talk: "Light-Sport has already forever altered aviation, offering a vision for the future of flying ...and we're just getting started."

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




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

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

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

SilverLight Aviation created the first all-American gyroplane with modern sophistication and equipment, built by a proven expert. Gyroplanes like AR1 fly much like fixed wings but with real advantages.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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

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

Many Light-Sport Aircraft & General Aviation models

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

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

J230-D & J170-D

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.

Aero Adventure offers what is likely the lowest cost boat-hull seaplane in the light aircraft space with a kit that, complete with engine, sells for less than $50,000. Add a long history to its credit and Aventura is a seaplane worthy of a close look.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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?

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.

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.

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. turned many heads when introducing its one-of-a-kind entry to Light-Sport Aircraft seaplanes. MVP, for Most Versatile Plane, justifies that phrase by doing more than flying off water. Here’s one to examine much more closely!

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.

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

Remos Aircraft is the manufacturer of the next generation GXiS. This beautiful composite design built by German craftsmen offers excellent performance, light responsive handling, and a deluxe cockpit finish to please any aviators.

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Updated: October 18, 2016

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