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...a web log of developments in Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft
Icon Updates Their Order Book; Forecasts Delivery
By Dan Johnson, September 30, 2014

One of the most-watched Light-Sport Aircraft is Icon's A5 seaplane. Through savvy marketing and a splashy display and events at AirVenture (the only show where Icon Aircraft regularly exhibits), the company has clearly wowed potential buyers, the general aviation public, plus media journalists and photographers. has followed Icon since the beginning, actually even before the beginning, so we are pleased to continue our updates on their progress. Most observers see that it has been a long road. I first met CEO Kirk Hawkins back on the EAA Sport Pilot Tour in 2005 when he was — as he put it himself — "one guy with a business card." Whatever you may think about the road long traveled, Kirk has taken his company from nowhere to one of the most closely tracked enterprises in the entire LSA space worldwide. His training for this lengthy exercise began at California's respected Stanford University Graduate School of Business where he learned the Silicon Valley way to make a big impact ... what the tech industry likes to call "creative destruction," leaving behind the old ways of methodically introducing products and embracing the Internet style of taking bold leaps forward.

Icon and its A5 are certainly not your father's LSA (for those mature enough to remember my adaptation of former car company Oldsmobile's line to herald their newest model). Hawkins and his team of ex-Scaled Composites engineers went off in several new directions, perhaps culminating in their Spin Resistant Airframe proof to FAA that gained them an exemption to the LSA weight limit. Read our earlier article or see our video with Kirk on this for a fuller explanation. The company used automobile designers to create their distinctive interior (photo) and did things like ditch the awkward outboard sponson floats for their "sea wing" interior floatation that also serves as the retractable landing gear cavities. Their powered folding wing mechanism has impressed crowds for years, even if it may have been one of those features that pushed the company to seek the weight exemption. Icon said they are targeting 1,510 pounds gross, which is only 80 pounds more than normally permitted for LSA seaplanes (1,430 pounds). They were exempted up to 1,680 pounds but apparently won't employ all that extra weight.

Icon has always made the most of their dramatic Oshkosh exhibit and it worked again in 2014. The company reported that AirVenture "proved to be [a] great success, with thousands of visitors stopping by the Icon booth. Demand for the A5 remained strong with nearly 200 orders placed [during the] week, an all-time record for the company, bringing [the delivery] position list to just over 1,500." At that level, Icon eclipses even Cessna's once-impressive order list of just under 1,000. Companies like Flight Design have delivered many airplanes but never racked up such a large order book, though naysayers will surely retort that Icon would never have reached such a number if they'd been delivering all along. My take is that a book of business filled with 1,500 deposits is a very powerful statement about the viability of the Light-Sport Aircraft market and I personally wish them all the best. "Before Icon can begin customer deliveries, the FAA will conduct an audit in which they inspect the manufacturing facility, verify the aircraft's compliance with ASTM standards, and confirm that the documentation and quality systems are in place," reported the company. "The first customer delivery is scheduled for May of 2015."

"The interior of the A5 has been significantly refined (nearby photo), and even completely re-imagined in some places, during the journey from concept to production," said Icon. Their team conducted user studies on numerous design parameters including the graphics and colors of key cockpit controls, calibration of stick and pedal travel to accommodate pilots of all sizes, and upholstery that optimizes breathability and drying time. Such consideration reflects the nature of a seaplane that can and will get wet. Readers who enjoy Facebook may wish to click over to Icon's page, which has attracted more than 850,000 likes. At this location you can find many photos and follow the company's development. As reported here earlier, Icon will be relocating to Vacaville, California, northeast of San Francisco, in 2015. Production of the A5s will start at this new center.

Located near Hollywood (for now), Icon Aircraft logically produces some great video. Check this short clip:

Viking Engine Wins STOL Competition & Customers
By Dan Johnson, September 29, 2014

Engine suppliers must love Zenith Aircraft, perhaps as much as their many airframe owners. For 23 years, the kit company based in Mexico, Missouri has supplied about 200 kits per year to buyers all over the country and around the world. That is a selling performance any light airplane company would like to boast. One reason for their success is their support of a variety of engines, no small feat considering each engines has special qualities to be considered when installing and using them. Good for Zenith for going the extra mile. One of the many engines they support is the Viking Aircraft Engine from Edgewater, Florida on the Atlantic side of the Sunshine State. Zenith also supports engines from Rotax, Jabiru, UL Power, and Continental. See the video below covering the short field takeoff and landing competition on a pretty, sunny day at the Mexico airport.

all photos courtesy of Viking Aircraft Engines
Zenith reported, "Winning performance by Jan Eggenfellner flying a Zenith STOL CH 750 powered by a Viking 110 engine." To win the competition you had to do well at both takeoff and landing, an appropriate way to show off the potential for Zenith's high-lift CH 750 STOL. Jan won the contest with a very impressive 219 feet, comprised of a takeoff at 110 feet and landing in just 109 feet. Of course, as an engine producer this was very satisfying as he flew a handsome burgundy CH-750 powered by one of his Viking engines producing 110 horsepower. As do other powerplant providers, Viking works to assist buyers with is often called a firewall forward package, sometimes containing a nose cowl that encloses the engine that can help performance. Despite some challenges beginning this company (see last paragraph), Viking has successfully installed engines on several aircraft types (nearby photo). At the Missouri Open Hangar Day event, four Viking-powered Zenith models attended including three that made the lengthy trip from Florida plus another from Ohio. Three CH 750s were joined by a low wing CH 650.

Clockwise from top left: factory fixed wing (Cessna 150); kit-built Sonex; powered parachute; and an award-winning gyroplane.
Viking offers a bit more power than the Continental or Rotax engines that lift so many Light-Sport Aircraft in the USA and around the world. UL Power can provide several engines with even more power but Viking prides itself on the performance achieved by their attractive powerplants. The Florida company reported that a Cessna 150 using a Viking engine with a custom cowling can cruise at 135 mph even without wheelpants. That's impressive. I once owned a Cessna 150 with a 150-horsepower Lycoming engine that didn't cruise that fast (though it did empty the standard fuel tanks in a couple hours). One builder of a Van's RV-12 sent airspeed indicator photo proof of cruising 145 miles an hour with the Viking, though we didn't hear the atmospheric conditions at the time. A Sonex reportedly can achieve 170 mph in the speedy, low-cost design from Oshkosh Wisconsin and a Just Aircraft model likewise sent a photo of his ASI showing 115 mph. On the other end of the spectrum, at least one powered parachute operator fitted the Viking ... but speed isn't a factor. Powered parachute speeds are dictated by the canopy wing, not engine power. The Florida engine maker reports fitting 32 air frames in their five years of existence. See our video for more details about Viking.

Jan Eggenfellner (photo) is the designer of  the Viking Aircraft Engine. For 15 years, from 1994 to 2009, he built and sold aircraft powerplants based on Subaru engines. His goal was to hold down the cost of engines, which as any homebuilder knows, can be a significant investment. By his own telling, a low profit margin and a worsening national economy drove him to bankruptcy in 2009. He wrote, "Some customers lost money. I personally lost everything, providing refunds until no money was left." In 2010, he restarted his engine business based on a Honda block and remaining Subaru parts. "Some interest was gained by showing the engine at a local airshow for Light-Sport Aircraft," he wrote. "An initial cost of $9,900 brought enough customers onboard to form a new company." The Viking engine project was started and financing secured. Today, Jan reported, "Viking Aircraft Engines, LLC is a sound company with 11 people actively working to produce engines in Florida." Reflecting on the earlier enterprise, he admits, "I am sorry that my previous company was unable to survive. I have some critics." He requests that potential customers "ask any Viking Aircraft Engine owner" and to that end, he provides comments from buyers on his website.

Catch the STOL competition fun in this video from Zenith Aircraft.

Germany’s Top 10 Ultralights by Aerokurier
By Dan Johnson, September 26, 2014

Much of what we hear and know about airplane populations is centered on America. Yet in the world of sport and recreational aviation, the rest of the world equates to at least a 1:1 relationship, that is, for every American aircraft flying, many experts agree another flies internationally. It may be more significant than that ... consider Germany.

In mid-August, our friends at Aerokurier, Germany's leading aviation magazine, assembled an article about the top 10 ultralights in that country. A European ultralight, as you may know, is not the same as an American ultralight that is today limited to a single seat and no more than 254 pounds of empty weight. In Germany and elsewhere around the European Union, "ultralight" refers to an airplane much like a U.S. Light-Sport but limited in weight to 472.5 kilograms or 1,041 pounds. Originally the weight limit had been 450 kilograms or 992 pounds but because emergency airframe parachutes are mandatory in Germany the weight was increased a few years ago to cover this component. In the following article, we present Aerokurier's article translated by computer and edited for English readers. Any errors from the original are ours. Following Aerokurier's description is our added commentary. We hope you enjoy this glance at the very active sport flying community in Germany. We'll do this in style of TV host David Letterman's Top-10, starting with #10 and working up to #1.

According to sanctioned organizations (DaEC & DULV) tasked with administrating and registering ultralights in Germany, 2,257 airplanes comprise the country's Top-10. This number is equivalent to our market share charts that show entire fleet size over the life of the category. The numbers below do not describe annual sales.

Evektor Eurostar photo by Patrick Holland-Moritz
#10 — Evektor Eurostar (94 flying) — Built by Evektor in Kunovice, Czech Republic, Eurostar is a versatile all-metal low-wing aircraft recommended for travel, training, and towing. Regular model updates ensure that the Eurostar does not look old today. Under the model name Sportstar RTC, the aircraft is also available as EASA-certified LSA [under EU rules called CS-LSA]. |||| Americans know Sportstar and now Harmony as a leading LSA company ranked at #9. Sportstar was the very first LSA to win FAA acceptance back in 2005. This highly refined aircraft has worked well as a trainer and a cross country traveler.

AeroSpook Dynamic photo by Frank Herzog
#9 — AeroSpool Dynamic (97 flying) — It's fast and belongs to the ultralight beauties at the sky. Built in Slovakia WT9 Dynamic is the epitome of a sporty composite low-wing monoplane. Capable of more than 200 km/h (125 mph) it excels at cross country flying, is comfortable, and can even tow gliders. Dynamic's flight characteristics are exemplary processing. |||| Dynamic in fixed gear form has some U.S. models flying but after Sport Aircraft Works left the business sales slowed to a stop and it never entered the Top-20 of the American LSA market.

Tecnam P92 photo by Patrick Holland-Moritz
#8 — P92 (147 flying) — Tecnam supplies the P92, a real bestseller. The all-metal high wing is offered in several variants [including floatplane and taildragger]. These products range from the spartan-equipped light version for schools and clubs through to one fitted for luxurious airplane travel. One thing they all have in common: their flight characteristics are perfectly smooth and its structure is considered indestructible. |||| Italian giant Tecnam has sold P92 for 25 years and has examples all over the world. The company, with multiple LSA accepted by FAA, is ranked #6 in the American LSA market though that does not include their certified Twin that uses a pair of Rotax 912s. In early 2014, Tecnam opened a facility in Sebring, Florida along with an customer-friendly deposit program (only 10% due until delivery is ready) that seems sure to increase their market position.

Platzer Kiebitz photo by Birk Möbius
#7 — Kiebitz (151 flying) — The biplane from designer Michael Platzer has a huge following in Germany. Hardly any other ultralight gives so much fun flying in an open cockpit. To win this jewel, owners must either build it or seek one from the used market. Only plans and individual parts are offered, however, for many the effort is worthwhile. |||| Kiebitz has no U.S. market presence yet given the interest in vintage designs like the many Cubalikes, perhaps some interest can develop. On the other hand, Americans already have many choices in the world of homebuilt vintage aircraft so we may never see a Kiebitz in the USA.

Remox GX photo courtesy Remos
#6 — Remos GX (166 flying) — Remos Aircraft started in the mid-1990s with the introduction of its composite high wing G-3 that became popular with many ultralight pilots. Professionally produced and easy to fly this ultralight earned an excellent reputation in the industry. Several years ago, the company offered an updated GX version, which was proceeding toward European LSA approval [a more complicated and costly process than in the USA]. After a difficult time in recent years, production restarted in 2013. |||| Even after stalling badly following a tremendous promotional push, Remos still owns the #7 spot in the American LSA ranking, although reports of added financial challenge continue to dog the company. The airplane was marketed more heavily than any other LSA brand and won many happy customers.

FL-Lightplane FK 9 photo by Patrick Holland-Moritz
#5 — FK 9 (202 flying) — With the FK 9 Peter and his father Otto Funk [who died in 2014] presented their first FK 9 at Aero 1989 as one of the first "cabin class" ultralights replacing earlier aircraft that were far more basic. Today, the high wing is a model of success that is enjoys great popularity with many clubs and flight schools in Germany. New model innovations ensure continued success in the market. Older models are on the second hand market remain extremely popular. Today, the aircraft is built by FK-Lightplanes in Poland. |||| FK 9 enjoys market presence and current representation by Hansen Air Group in the USA. Another popular model from this company is the folding-biwing aerobat, FK 12 Comet, and coming from FK Lightplanes and Hansen will be a rather fantastic 70% replica of the P-51 Mustang (video) that you have to see to believe; the detail work is simply amazing.

Comco Ikarus C22 photo by Jens Wiemann
#4 — C22 (229 flying) — Germany's ultralight classic C22 has a loyal following to this day. Since the 1980s the model has stayed on the market and many still authorized aircraft remain active. From today's perspective, flight characteristics and comfort may seem rather spartan, but real ultralight fans love the original flying with the proven tube & Dacron construction from Comco Ikarus based in the south of Germany. [Note that Comco Ikarus also owns the #1 position in the market making this company Germany's clear leader after many years.] |||| No C22s are flying in the USA, nor has the German market leading C42 found many customers. The C22 is very similar to the Flightstar line popular for years in the USA and this entry in Germany's Top-10 listing is the only one faintly resembling what Yankees think of as an American ultralight. No attempt has been made to enter the U.S. with C22 and it probably would not succeed as we have a number of roughly comparable models.

Flight Design CTLS photo by Patrick Holland-Moritz
#3 — CTLS (243 flying) — From generation to generation the CT series from Flight Design has become better. This cantilevered high wing, all-composite monoplane has established itself as a mature aircraft for travel, training, and glider towing. Thanks to the extra wide cabin and large fuel tanks, lengthy cross country flights are a pleasure. In both USA and in Europe as an EASA-certified holder of a Restricted Type Certificate (RTC), CT is a successful LSA with 600 kg (1,320 pound) maximum gross weight. |||| You know this one in the USA as the longtime and always market leader. Since the beginning of LSA in 2004, Flight Design's CT2K, CTSW, CTLS, and CTLSi have held the largest single market share, currently ranked #1 with 359 in our most recent market share report. At #3 in Germany and #1 in the USA plus a growing presence in China, the company enjoys a strong position.

AutoGyro MTO Sport photo by Patrick Holland-Moritz
#2 — MTO Sport (346 flying) — This gyroplane is a case of the right product at the right time. In 2004, when the first MT-03 was first built, CEO Otmar Birkner had no idea he would trigger a surprising boom with gyroplanes. Many pilots love to be in the open cockpit feel the wind in your hair and to experience the flying dynamics of an autogyro. Today AutoGyro from the north of Germany is the world's leader in the gyro business. The MT-03 and its successor MTO Sport end up together in second place in Germany's registration statistics. |||| AutoGyro and other gyro providers operate in America but as FAA cannot seem to overcome their own rules, these popular planes must be built as Experimental Amateur Built (the 51% rule). If FAA ever catches up with the trend, look for more gyros to be flying as Americans seems to like the fully enclosed two seaters in tandem and side by side form. Rotax reports that gyroplanes are the #1 buyers of Rotax 912 of any aircraft type in the world.

Comco Ikarus C42 photo courtesy Comco Ikarus
#1 — C42 (582 flying) — Germany's most popular ultralight comes from the south of Germany. C42 by Comco Ikarus secures first place with 582 licensed copies of this tube & Dacron, high wing monoplane. It has been refined repeatedly over the years and currently the manufacturer produces three versions: C42A, C42B and C42C. The aircraft is very easy to use and is widely used by flying clubs and their flight schools. |||| The clear king of ultralights in Germany has 70% more aircraft registered than the number two producer and represents more than 25% of Germany's Top-10, a stronger position than even the top two U.S. LSA producers put together. While Comco Ikarus has attempted to gain an American foothold, exhibiting at big events such as AirVenture in past years, the company has never found either the right representation nor market reception, though admittedly the U.S. market is crowded with great competition for customer attention.

As you can see, the Germany and American markets have their differences but also enjoy great similarity. Germany is one of the very strongest light aircraft markets outside the U.S., trailed in approximate order by the Czech Republic, France, Britain, Spain, Italy and others. The American market remains the world's largest for light aircraft of all types, but in the world of sport and recreation is closely trailed by other countries.

Sling 4-4-40 Flies After Four-Day Build
By Dan Johnson, September 24, 2014

James Pitman (L) and Mike Blyth hand tow the Sling 4 for its maiden voyage. all photos courtesy The Airplane Factory
A couple days ago I wrote about the Sling 4-4-40 Challenge. I believe this to be of interest for a couple reasons. One is the fast build at an airshow ... much like the intense interest surrounding EAA's One Week Wonder (video) building of a CH-750 at Oshkosh. The other is my promise to offer coverage of the "New GA" or "LSA 4" planes — which are four seaters built by LSA companies using the technologies and techniques those companies know so well. South Africa's Airplane Factory (TAF) Sling 4-4-40 challenge — in which a Sling 4 was built in 4 days by 40 workers — marked yet another milestone for the Sling manufacturer. What normally takes a kit builder 1,000 hours to complete, took place at the 2014 Africa Aerospace event in just four days. Build team leader and company boss Mike Blyth reported it took their team 854 hours from bare kit to flight, although painting and perhaps some interior finish will take a bit more time, a situation similar to the One Week Wonder project.

"It started instantly, like all Rotax engines," exclaimed Mike!
The team consisted of highly skilled workers, and even some marketing, admin and catering staff. (Good heavens! They let the marketing guys work on this ... that's brave of them!) TAF reported their team worked around the clock, with the day and night being split into 10 and 14 hour shifts, respectively. On Day 1, the center and rear fuselage were constructed and joined, the gear and undercarriage were assembled, and the engine was wired and made ready for installation. The handover to the night shift went seamlessly, TAF said, with a half hour handover period that saw 32 people working on the plane at once. The night crew then worked to get the fuselage on its wheels, engine and propeller mounted, and wings three quarters of the way complete. On Day 2, team members wired the engine and panel, the ballistic recovery parachute was installed, and the wings and empennage were nearly completed.

The "4-4-40 Challenge" Sling 4 flies (foreground) with the Sling taildragger in formation.
With 45 minutes to go on Day 3, Sling 4-4-40 was rolled out of its build area, both wings were attached, landing and strobe lights were connected and working, and the avionics were fired up. As the plane was wheeled out for a celebratory team photo (nearby), company co-founder James Pitman pointed out that it took him and Mike four years to build the first Sling. Day 4 involved a dual inspection and final paperwork. "Support from the crowds was fantastic and [all day] hordes of people crowded around the plane." Mike Blyth turned the key and the Rotax 914UL powering Sling 4 "burst to life" amid cheers and applause from the crowds. "A Sling 4 was born in 4 days," Mike declared!

On completion, the build team celebrates.
The following day Sling 4 took center stage at the Africa Aerospace show. South Africa tail number ZU-TES was assigned to and affixed to the plane and it took to the skies. The plane performed flawlessly and put on a great show for all in attendance. The Sling was then flown back to The Airplane Factory's home base and was received with warm cheers from the entire staff (video below). TAF observed the 4-4-40 Challenge was one of many accomplishments already achieved by company. Mike and James flew the Sling 2 prototype around the world in 2009 and the Sling 4 in 2011. Also in 2011, the Sling 5577 Challenge took place, in which 5 men from the factory and 5 women who never had touched a rivet gun built a Sling 2 in 7 days. The Airplane Factory USA, located in Torrance, California (KTOA), will have a Sling 4 available for demo flights starting early 2015.

Open Houses, Airshow-Built Planes, and a Birthday
By Dan Johnson, September 22, 2014

Last weekend Zenith Aircraft held another of their open house events. At the Midwest LSA Expo a few weeks beforehand I asked factory pilot guru, Roger Dubbert how many people the company expected. His answer: a rather amazing "700." According to Zenith president Sebastien Heintz it was indeed another strong event, one they've repeated every year since setting up shop in Mexico, Missouri. "By all accounts and measurements, the 23rd annual Hangar Day was an incredible winner," summarized Sebastien. Among the highlights of the two-day festivities was the arrival of EAA's two Zenith aircraft. One was an EAA staff-built version of the CH 750 Cruzer (watch for our video pilot report to be posted soon) and the second was the One Week Wonder CH 750 that was completed during AirVenture with participation from over 2,500 people.

As Arion Aircraft's Nick Otterback put it, "Since this month seems to offer many open houses I wanted to share ours. We are hosting our Seventh Annual Fly In Open House; we have held it the first weekend in October since we started Arion." As reported earlier Jabiru USA is celebrating 15 years and coordinated with Arion to hold their open houses on the same weekend. "We thought that was a great idea since most Lightning owners fly behind Jabiru power," added Nick. The company holds a cross country air race for bragging rights every year. "We have a Light-Sport Class, an Experimental Class, and an Unlimited Class, the latter for all of our fast kit friends and Arion's new XS. It has been a lot of fun over the years and made for some good ribbing among owners over the years." In the one-more-thing department, Nick noted, "If you want to see possibly the worlds largest Jenga game we've got it!" For more details, check with Nick via email or phone: 931-680-1781.

Are you wondering what on Earth is a "4-4-40 Challenge?" It got my attention, too. Following on the huge success of EAA's One Week Wonder building a Zenith Aircraft CH-750 during AirVenture 2014, The Airplane Factory is repeating an earlier challenge of their own. This time a team of 40 workers from Sling designer and manufacturer will attempt to build and fly a four seat kit called Sling 4 in only four days! The build is taking place as this is written at the 2014 Africa Aerospace and Defense Expo at the Waterkloof Air Force Base in South Africa. The team is working around the clock, with the day and night being split into 10 and 14 hour shifts, respectively. "This is not the first time that The Airplane Factory (TAF) has undertaken such an exciting project," reported company officials. Back in 2011, the Sling 5577 Challenge combined efforts of five men from the factory and five women who never had touched a rivet gun; they built a two seat Sling in seven days. This year on only the second day, TAF said, "A Sling 4 has been born ... well, just about! The team has made great progress on Day 2, so much that Mike Blyth, team leader of the build, declared that they are ahead of schedule." I'm no longer surprised by TAF projects. This company has not only built many airplanes for customers but has flown both their two seat LSA Sling and the four seat Sling 4 around the world, both shortly after the designs were completed. They should wrap up the speedy build in just four days.

Wrapping up this piece, I wish to extend a "Happy Birthday" to an old friend of mine but also a man who was instrumental in the forming of the light aircraft space as we know it today ... such space now including Light-Sport Aircraft, light kit aircraft that Sport Pilot can fly, ultralights, and even Light GA airplanes referred to as LSA 4.0 that are getting ready to invade the factory certified aircraft sector. The man and my friend is Larry Burke who just celebrated his 80th birthday though you'd never guess he's accumulated that much wisdom. Larry can't get away to all the shows as he once did but he graced Sun 'n Fun 2014 with his smiling face and he consented to a video interview that appears below. Larry Burke founded the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association back in the early 1980s and it still flourishes today thanks the solid guidance he offered back in the "wild west" days of the first ultralight aircraft. Whether you know it or not, you owe a debt of gratitude to Larry for his work over decades. In my role as president of LAMA I still often ask his counsel and he is always quick to offer his perspective as an engineer, entrepreneur, designer and builder of aircraft, and great enthusiast of light aircraft. Thanks, Larry!

Catch a number of scenes of early light aircraft assembled by in this video interview with Larry Burke.

Fifteen Years for Jabiru USA; Celebrate and Save
By Dan Johnson, September 18, 2014

This composite image shows the J230 and J170 Jabiru LSA in flight.
In the Light-Sport Aircraft industry, many companies are celebrating fairly young birthdays, at least compared to 80-year-old legacy companies in the GA space. One of those is Number 8 ranked Jabiru, with more than 100 airplanes delivered in the USA. That is whole aircraft with that name, but remember, this is one only a very few companies that produces both airframes and engines under their brand. The U.S. outlet for the Australian brand (more on this below) announced, "Jabiru USA Sport Aircraft, LLC will celebrate its 15th anniversary the weekend of October 3rd through the 5th, 2014." They sent out an invitation for all Jabiru owners, both aircraft and engine, as well as anyone interested in the lighter end of aviation to join them for a celebration. The company said it "will feature a Friday evening cookout with some fun & games, a Saturday breakfast fly-out to Winchester, TN, engine maintenance sessions Saturday morning and Saturday afternoon, a presentation on avionics updates including ADS-B, and a separate session on available engine updates.

Jabiru's six cylinder 120-horsepower 3300 engine.
Some history is in order for this Shelbyville, Tennessee light aircraft producer. Jabiru USA began in Neenah, Wisconsin, just north of Oshkosh. Back in September 1999 Pete Krotje was appointed a Jabiru dealer and service center for the upper midwest area. He had been flying a Jabiru 2200 on his Titan Tornado and accepted Jabiru's offer of a dealership. Later, Jabiru Australia reorganized its marketing network for the USA and Pete became a full time Jabiru enterprise in 2001. From then through 2004 the business concentrated on sales and support of the Jabiru 2200 and 3300 engines and quickly became the world's largest Jabiru engine dealer. During that time period Pete and son Ben — who worked in the family business for many years — developed the first of many firewall forward installation kits, facilitating easier installation of the Jabiru engines into different homebuilt aircraft. For example, Zenith Aircraft has been a significant user of the Aussie powerplants.

For their 15th anniversary celebration, Jabiru is inviting all owners and anyone interested in light aviation to their Shelbyville, Tennessee headquarters.
After years in Wisconsin — and coping with the difficult winters in that state — Pete moved the business into a larger facility in Shelbyville, Tennessee (south of Nashville) in December 2004. His aim was to begin fully manufacturing Jabiru aircraft for the new Light-Sport Aircraft market that had just been announced that summer. That goal was achieved with Jabiru USA producing 120 LSA-eligible aircraft through the end of 2013. However, the period from 2008 until 2011 and beyond has been a challenging period for any company and likewise for LSA companies. The so-called Great Recession pounded many small business and the more progressive ones looked hard for ways they could improve their business model. Pete did similarly and in 2014 executed on a major change in the way he'll do business.

South Africa receives a kit and assembles it, then shipping to the USA, where Jabiru USA completes the airplane.
Pete reported, "Since early 2014, with the change in FAA approach to manufacturers, Jabiru USA now imports the Jabiru Aircraft line while still developing new firewall forward kits for new aircraft coming onto the market. Service has become a much larger part of the business as the USA Jabiru fleet of engines and airframes mature. Jabiru USA's A&P mechanics and senior mechanics with Inspection Authorization service or rebuild an engine every week at the Shelbyville location. Jabiru USA's service department repairs damaged aircraft and performs all sorts of service and inspections for many LSA and experimental amateur built aircraft. Meanwhile, Jabiru airplanes like the popular J230 will now be available for a sharply reduced price ... a savings of $25,000! Catch this video to hear more about Jabiru's new pricing. Those folks who think LSA are getting too costly ought to consider what Pete Krotje and his team have accomplished.

You can also watch this interview to hear about new improvements in the Jabiru 3300 120-horsepower engine:

Light Is Right In the Eyes of FAA and World CAAs
By Dan Johnson, September 15, 2014

Evidently, a magic number exists to authorities in various civil aviation agencies around the developed world. That magic number — more correctly a range — is 115 to 120 kilograms, or 253 to 264 pounds. FAA led this charge way back in 1982 with the introduction of FAR Part 103 codifying that an airplane, 'er ... "ultralight vehicle" with an empty weight of 254 pounds — subject to certain exceptions for emergency airframe parachutes or float equipment — could be flown without three requirements common to all other aircraft. Part 103 vehicles do not require registration (N-numbers); the pilots of these ultralights need no pilot certificate of any kind; nor do they need a medical. Such aircraft can be sold fully built, ready to fly. The entire regulation governing their use can be printed on the front and back of a single page of paper. This simply must be one of the most remarkable deregulatory efforts in all of aviation. Thanks to Mike Sacrey and his team for surmounting that Mt. Everest of obstacles to push through this remarkably brief rule. EAA even inducted Mike into the Ultralight Hall of Fame and he noted in his acceptance speech that it was probably the only time an FAA rule writer had been so honored.

Vierwerk test pilot Tim reviews the Aerolite 120 before going aloft.
While the numbers are the same or similar, the names are different. In America FAA says FAR Part 103, Germans refer to their 120 kilogram Class or "120 Class," and in England a 115 kilogram class is known as SSDR for Single Seat De Regulated. All these classifications share similar — but not identical — freedom from the burden and expense of more traditional certification methods. In the USA, an aircraft called the Aerolite 103 has been selling well and flying successfully for many years. Now hear this: even in 2014 you can buy a 32-horsepower Kawasaki 340-powered Aerolite 103 for only $15,900. This is completely assembled and ready to fly. The Kawasaki is manually started or for $590 more you can have electric starting. A 28-horsepower Hirth F-33-powered Aerolite 103 is just $16,790, again fully built and includes electric starting powered by a lightweight Lithium battery. Both models come with choice of colors, two-blade Tennessee Prop, windscreen and nose fairing, basic flight and engine instruments (airspeed, altimeter, slip indicator, tachometer, EGT, CHT), electric flaps, steerable nose wheel with suspension, four-point seat belts, a five gallon aluminum gas tank, Dacron wing and tail covering needing no paint, Azusa brakes, and a anodized aluminum airframe.

Aerolite excels at low and slow flying (even if that isn't as common in Germany).
In Germany, the costs will be somewhat higher as the German 120-Class still demands some levels of approval that are not needed in the USA, plus freight from America to Europe adds expense. The German representatives (see article from Aero last April), Vierwerk Aviation, plans to sell the Aerolite 120 for €25,000 (or about $32,000) but this includes 19% German VAT tax. Strip away the tax and the overseas shipping cost and the German Aerolite is only modestly more than we see in the USA and that extra will help pay for the cost of gaining approval. A few days ago, Vierwerk advised, "The extensive flight test program has been carried out successfully. We are very happy about the positive feed back of the test pilots." Test pilots related such comments as, "the pilot gets the feeling of a very well controllable aircraft," and "the pilot gets used to the aircraft quite quickly." Another test pilot who runs a flight school said, "I flew several flight maneuvers to simulate an inexperienced student-pilot to figure out the best methods for recovery. The amazing part was, the [Aerolite 120] always reacted ... with a good self-recovering tendency at all flight envelops with or without flaps." The latter pilot, Ronny Schäfer, added, "All documents, flight test protocols, load test protocols, videos and photos will be sent to the French Aviation Authorities by the end of this week." After their successful test program, Vierwerk announced, "We are certain to receive the EU certification [as] we have accomplished and proven all safety and quality related figures and tests according to the strict German LTF-L." They expect approval in 4-6 weeks.

Evaluating the Aerolite 103 in America; it's all good.
Too many people gripe about the cost of Light-Sport Airplanes even though they are far less costly than most new general aviation aircraft. In truth, they're lower cost brand new than many 10 or 20 year-old GA aircraft. The problem remains that a large number of interested pilots cannot afford $150,000. Hint: consider a partnership; this is an excellent way for some to have ownership. Nonetheless for many, six figures is simply more than they can stomach. Maybe it's time to think about a Part 103 or a 120-Class airplane ... perhaps the Aerolite — Aerolite 103 in America or Aerolite 120 in Germany. Let's review again: a nice, ready-to-fly airplane with most of the features you need to enjoy flying the friendly skies for less than $20,000. You may prefer a two seater or desire fancy equipment; if so, you have many great choices. Yet if you want to get airborne in a sweet-flying little airplane, Aerolite will bring a smile without emptying your retirement account.

"Ultralight vehicle" was chosen to avoid running afoul of FAA definitions, which are quite specific. By steering clear of "airplane" or "aircraft," Sacrey's FAA team was able to put into place the remarkable Part 103 rule that removes so much of the burdensome regulation that confounds traditional American and international airplane development and raises the cost of aircraft. Of course Aerolite and other "vehicles" are actually genuine aircraft and so dealt with by FAA but such a description was apparently needed to get Part 103 through the system. Present-day FAA people suggest such a regulation would never succeed now ... so enjoy the magic of Part 103.

Helping One Another: Two Aircraft ... One ‘Chute
By Dan Johnson, September 11, 2014

It wasn't supposed to work out this way, but three people in two aircraft were saved when a European ultralight used an airframe parachute to save everyone. On Sunday, September 7, 2014 — commonly, these things happen over the weekend when recreational aviation is often pursued — at the German airport Koblenz-Winningen a Zenair CH-601 and K-18 glider collided in midair. During the collision, the planes became hopelessly entangled. The pilot of the CH-601 activated his Magnum Rescue System manufactured by the Czech Stratos07 company and the aircraft descended as one safely to the ground. Two occupants aboard the CH-601 plus a 17-year-old pilot of the glider were able to walk away from the aircraft with what was reported as "slight injuries." One aircraft apparently struck the other almost perpendicularly in a classic "t-bone" mishap. Such accidents are bad enough between two cars, but when airborne such an incident can often be fatal to all aboard both aircraft. The parachute's performance was likely aided by the substantial drag afforded by two aircraft, slowing the descent speed somewhat.

The Czech-designed, German-distributed Magnum Rescue System is only designed to handle an ultralight aircraft with maximum permitted gross weight of 472.5 kilograms or 1,042 pounds (including the weight of the parachute system, about 35 pounds). Fortunately these systems are designed with safety margins and the Stratos07 canopy proved to have an ample reserve making a most unfortunate event end without loss of life. Midair collision is one of the most threatening situations referenced by sellers of airframe parachutes. No matter the faults, after such a dramatic collision (photos) these pilots had zero chance to guide their aircraft safely to an emergency landing. Other possible deployment scenarios include: engine out over unlandable terrain such as trees or water; significant loss of control such as a damaged aircraft elevator or other component; serious medical trauma for the pilot with a non-pilot passenger; or loss of engine power at night with little or no visibility. In these situations the pilot or person electing to pull the parachute handle has a tough decision that must be made swiftly under great duress: try to fly the airplane to an emergency landing with the hazard that below a minimum of about 300 feet AGL, the parachute will no longer help, or deploy and become a passenger of an unguided aircraft.

Thanks to Mary Grady of AVweb for bringing this to our attention. Find her story here. Mary requested and I passed along some names to contact but those persons were not able to help so Mary used the broad reach of the Internet to find details. In her article using information found on a German website she quoted a police spokesperson, "The 17-year-old pilot of the glider was lucky. Without the parachute [of the] ultralight ... he [would have] crashed into the ground," the police representative said. Mary reported that two people were on board the ultralight aircraft, a man and a woman, ages 29 and 32. Parachute touchdown speeds are higher than you may think. Engineers create a survivable landing at a higher rate of descent over a softer touchdown that brings with it higher cost, higher system weight, and greater bulk, all of which may be seen as negatives that can cause aircraft owners not to choose a parachute. The parachute business (in which I worked for 18 years) has a tongue-in-cheek line: "If you ever need a parachute and you don't have one, you'll never need one again." It's a bit sardonic but I know I prefer flying with a parachute whenever possible as they offer a superb final option. I'm sure all three Europeans involved are feeling mighty good about airframe parachute systems today.

Thanks also to my friend and colleague, Jan Fridrich of Czech LAA and LAMA Europe, for providing information on this scary incident.

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




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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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

Super Petrel LS, manufactured by 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.

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!

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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!

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

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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Updated: October 1, 2014

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