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

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...a web log of developments in Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft
Is Diesel Power for LSA Superior? Yes!
By Dan Johnson, May 2, 2015

"So, it looks like Rotax has finally got some worthy competition," was a comment I received as I walked into the Sun 'n Fun press headquarters work room. The observation came from a fellow journalist at one of the big aviation magazines. He is aware Rotax dominates the light aircraft market with an estimated 75-80% of all engine installations, even higher overseas. Who is going to give the big Austrian engine manufacturer some competition?

Superior Air Parts got started back in 1967 making components for certified engines such as Lycoming but long ago branched into their own engine line. Companies like Arion Aircraft is using an Experimental Superior XP powerplant for their new EAB speedster similar to but quite a bit faster than their LS-1 Light-Sport model. Like Arion, many already knew of the gasoline engines from this Texas company, but I knew something was up when I was approached at Sebring about a new project. To hear more, I had to promise secrecy but the veil came off at Sun 'n Fun and that's why the other media fellow made his comment.

Gemini Diesel employs two horizontally-opposed pistons in a single cylinder using outboard crankshafts driving a common center shaft through a system of front-mounted gears. Gemini appears roughly the same size as the Rotax 912 and, according to representatives, weighs about 200 pounds or 10 percent more than the Rotax. It also costs marginally more than a 912ULS at a projected retail price of $25,000.

Superior's Scott Hayes pointing out the intake ports on the Gemini Diesel's cylinder sleeve (exhaust ports are to the left as you view the part between Scott's index and middle fingers).
At Sebring and again at Sun 'n Fun, I spoke with (then interviewed for a video; see below) Scott Hayes, Superior's sales and marketing VP who provided details after the announcement by CEO Tim Archer. "[We] acquired the Gemini Diesel engine and have begun active development of the current engines, as well as planning the introduction of new models," stated Archer.

Archer added, "Because of its unique, Uniflow design featuring two-opposing-pistons-per-cylinder, the Gemini will be smaller than many current gasoline and diesel piston engines, giving it a significant power-to-weight ratio advantage and making it especially attractive to the experimental and LSA markets initially."

In late 2014 Superior acquired all rights to the liquid-cooled, two-stroke diesel design originally developed by Britain's Powerplant Developments. Over the last few months, Superior has been testing prototypes of the Gemini on the bench.

"There are basically two reasons why we chose to offer the Gemini Diesel to the experimental and LSA markets first," said Scott. "Number one was the fact that the 100-horsepower, Gemini 100 is much further along in its development cycle." Then he elaborated, "The second is that over the years many of the manufacturers of these kit and LSA aircraft have become dissatisfied with the current engine options and have asked us about developing a new-generation, alternatively-fueled engine that delivers the same innovation, quality, and value that is found in our experimental XP-Series and FAA-certificated Vantage Engines."

"We have already had preliminary discussions with manufacturers representing a variety of experimental and LSA aircraft," Archer said. "We are very excited to say that the Gemini 100 is currently running in the test cell. The engine is meeting all of our performance goals and right now we anticipate having preproduction engines within 90 days." That translates to about Oshkosh time, so it will be interesting to hear how LSA builders are embracing the idea.

I envision the strongest support may come from overseas suppliers who have active businesses delivering aircraft to countries where avgas is virtually unavailable and where auto gas may be questionable for use in an airplane. In addition many airports around the globe do not allow non-aviation fuels on their property so auto gas is not as widely available as in America.

Of course, the million-dollar question is how Rotax may address this development. The company always holds their new development close to the vest and no one I know will say a single word about what may be coming. Yet the Austrian powerhouse (Toronto stock exchange symbol DOO.TO) is not a giant to be casually poked. It may be very interesting to see what Superior's entry causes in response.

Other players in the LSA ASTM-standards-meeting engine space include Jabiru with 81- and 120-horsepower models and HKS and D-Motor with lower horsepower models. D-motor showed a six-cylinder engine at Aero and Sun 'n Fun and UL Power is reportedly working on meeting ASTM standards. Plus, the new engine from ICP in Italy is reportedly ready to enter production. However, while I have seen some interesting diesel engine prototypes, Superior has clearly jumped in the lead of proposing to have an engine perhaps in serial production and meeting ASTM standards perhaps in 2015.

Airframe developments in variety of configurations -- fixed wing, gyroplane, weight shift, powered parachute, and motorglider -- have proven a fascinating watch since the first one was FAA accepted just over ten years ago. Now the engine space looks to be of equal interest. We will work to keep you informed in the fast-changing sector.

Superior's Bullet Points on the new Gemini Diesel Engine

  • Jet A is a global fuel with better availability, quality, consistency and pricing
  • Operators can fly the same range as a standard engine on less fuel
  • High power-to-weight ratio; provides 100 horsepower
  • Highly efficient, two-stroke power
  • Higher engine torque at lower RPM
  • Projected to have up to 20% lower fuel burn than conventional engines
  • Mechanically simpler design, with fewer moving parts
  • Retrofittable with many current piston engine designs
  • Greener operations with much lower emissions
  • Uniflow design enables easier engine model expansion
  • Higher horsepower engine in planning

See more in our recently shot video interview with Superior's Scott Hayes

More Light Aircraft Videos and Video Pilot Reports
By Dan Johnson, April 28, 2015

Update 4/30/15 — On the unlikely chance that you don't get enough of watching me on YouTube, Florida Aviation Network uploaded an interview from Sun 'n Fun 2015. In this exchange I give some update on the industry over the last year and the state of LSA, as it were. See at the end of the article.

Interviewing Brian Boucher and his Edra Aeronautica Super Petrel LS Light-Sport amphibian.
Whew! It was another full-to-capacity tour of Sun 'n Fun where we scoured the grounds seeking interesting aircraft to report. I'm happy to tell you that we again spoke with dozens of designers about their creations and we think we do a thorough job in the light aircraft sector. In 2015, more than Light-Sport Aircraft, light kit aircraft, and ultralights, we are adding light general aviation airplanes or Light GA and drones (also known as UAVs, UASs, RPVs, RPAs ... they go by several names, so new is the category).

While realizing that videos are enormously popular content on and Google YouTube, I'd like for you to understand how it is they occur. I mention this as one company we proposed to cover asked somewhat defensively how much shooting the video was going to cost them. Commonly, video shooting and editing runs about $1,000 per minute and can go much higher from a professional video organization. We charge the aircraft company nothing, zero, nada. In fact, this is significantly a labor of love done without compensation in mind. We tease about how it is our "volunteer job" in aviation. Click to see hundreds of free videos including a Video Pilot Report or VPR of Van's Aircraft's RV-12 in two segments (Part 1 & Part 2).

We keep up with fascinating development projects by interviewing people like Darrell Lynds. photo by Steve Pugh of
The process begins with my videographer partner, Dave, in this effort making the rounds seeking airplanes and people whose stories might be of interest. He's become quite familiar to many in aviation who commonly see him approach on his "gimpster" as he likes to call it. He must use this as getting around is not easy with cameras, tripods, batteries, and all the accouterments of videography. Honestly, though it was not his choice to be dependent on his scooter, video man Dave soldiers on without complaining and has become highly effective at the process.

You don't simply go around and find shiny aircraft at which to point a video camera. It is also necessary to know if an aircraft has new or unique qualities and to consider how it fits in the light aircraft segment. A script plays out in his mind and only after these steps does the shooting begin.

After Dave's review — a multi-day process at big events like Sun 'n Fun — he makes a list of the aircraft, engines, other products, or interesting people and we discuss how to approach them in the goal of getting a story you viewers will enjoy. As the subjects are scattered all over the grounds, it takes planning to do several videos per day and more time to find the right individual to interview. Personnel availability is challenging at busy events so we often have to wait our turn; it's not diplomatic to interrupt a sales conversation to shoot a video.

Getting the latest update on Ekolot's handsome Topaz from Kris Siuba.
My part of the job is often to pull the right person to their aircraft, to brief them on how the video recording will go, tell them how to position themselves so we show them and their aircraft in good light. We will often discuss what I will ask them — usually the same questions you viewers would ask had you the opportunity. Finally, we launch into it, trying to make as few takes as possible to minimize the post-production effort. Usually we do quite well but people get nervous with a camera watching them causing them to stumble. Not unusually a military jet roars overhead and we have to interrupt the process.

At the conclusion of the video recording, we ask permission to use additional video footage the company may have shot, capture still images, verify contact info and name spellings, after which Dave finishes the scripting and sends it off to get produced and published on YouTube.

The exercise demands more effort than may appear and is greatly aided by two of us who know this industry very intimately allowing us to efficiently gather compelling footage. We do this without direct payment from any company so you can depend on our objectivity.

I am pleased to report that I heard from many viewers at Sun 'n Fun who said they watch lots of our videos and enjoy them. One man approached me and said, "I recognized you and wanted to meet you. I'm a boat captain working out of Dubai; I spend a lot of time watching you." That's satisfying to hear but without my great collaborator Dave, these videos would not be as good as they are. We are happy you enjoy them. We plan to keep making videos and we hope you'll keep watching.

A Note of Interest — During Sun 'n Fun 2015, YouTube turned 10 years old. In one decade Google's video service has grown so much that every minute of the day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week ... 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube.

Here is the Florida Aviation Network interview by FAN host Diego Alfonso with Dan Johnson:

Sun 'n Fun 2015: Part 103 Ultralights Are Hot!
By Dan Johnson, April 27, 2015

M-Squared Breese owner, retired Captain Ray Anderson, donated to the Florida Air Museum his very special single seater that was highly modified in numerous ways; see our video on this amazing airplane.
Part 103 ultralight activity was not the news I expected to report from Sun 'n Fun 2015, certainly not as my first report. After an intense week shooting video interviews at Sun 'n Fun 2015, I am impressed to report that Part 103 is much more than alive and well. For those that may have missed this unique category, Part 103 ultralight vehicles (FAA's deliberate wording) are single seat flying machines of varying description that need no medical, not even a pilot license, no N-number registration, and can be sold ready-to-fly. The entire FAA regulation for them can be printed on the front and back of a single piece of paper.

Adding to the charm of rarely having to interact with a government agency in order to have some fun in your airplane are a couple similar efforts in Europe. Germany has its 120-kilogram class (264 pounds) and England has its SSDR category (Single Seat De Regulated). Between these two and the now-32-year-old Part 103, fixed wings, trikes, powered parachutes, and even helicopters that can keep their weight down to 254 pounds empty (278 with an airframe parachute; even more with floats) and can keep their max speeds to 55 knots max and 24 knots stall are given unusual flexibility in these times of government pushing to heavily regulate many activities. Celebrate 103!

Quicksilver's single seat Sprint uses the twin cylinder opposed Hirth F23 that provides 50 horsepower to achieve wonderful performance in a Part 103 ultralight.
So, with that in mind, we toured around the grounds of Sun 'n Fun making video interviews with designers and their aircraft. At vendor after vendor, we encountered something I did not expect. Several Part 103 producers were featuring new aircraft and every one I spoke to related good sales and phones ringing with interest. As longtime light aviation expert and Quicksilver specialist "Bever" Borne put it, "I'm selling airplanes to [some of the same] customers I had 30 years ago. Since then they went off and bought an Experimental, then a LSA, perhaps followed by a Cessna or Piper. Now, they're back. They tell me that after all that experience they realized the first ultralight they bought from me was still the most fun flying they had and now they want to return to their roots."

Bever is not alone in his perception. Aerolite 103 producer, Dennis Carley took over production of this charming aircraft in late 2012. For 2013 he sold 20 airplanes, not bad for a start-up year (adding to his other business of building aircraft for customers). In 2014, he sold 40 Aerolites. Now, flush with orders following airworthiness approval in Germany earned by his dealer in that country, Vierwerk, he is forecasting 60 Aerolites for 2015. "That is my current maximum capacity," Dennis related, and that's before he potentially starts offering a four-stroke-powered model. Another vendor, Chip Erwin of Aeromarine-LSA, is seeing more interest in his Zigolo (video) and he has an all-new electric propulsion unit to offer for it; I'll have more on that later. Plus, he plans to offer not one but two single place aircraft with a four-stroke engine that he says is singular.

Another fixed wing Part 103 ultralight I'll write when the project is complete is from Kolb, with their novel concept for removing the fear of taildragger flying in an upcoming new version of their Part 103 Firefly (video). Watch for more on that aircraft, too.

Evolution Trikes makes the super-deluxe Revo and now this new Rev, a Part 103 ultralight available starting at only $17,900.
Not left out of the mix, weight shift trike producers are showing better staying power than powered parachute producers that have become a bit thin ... Powrachute is still going strong but many others are curiously quiet. Powrachute, with the fanciest carriages in the business, has created a sideline of producing trike hardware for Evolution Trikes, and they all exhibit some of the finest metalwork in light aviation with numerous special features you rarely see on even the better fixed wing aircraft. Evolution showed their newest aircraft as promised at Sebring earlier this year.

Called Rev, I plan a full story on this trike as it is so unique that a paragraph cannot do it justice. When you read that story later this week, you'll see what we examined at Sun 'n Fun ... the strangest-looking contraption imaginable, until you realize its purpose. Rev — shortened from Revo, their super-deluxe trike that I consider the Cadillac or Mercedes of weight shift trikes — is a single place Part 103 machine that can go from flying to ready to roll into a trailer in six minutes, by a single person. We saw and videoed them doing precisely that. It's an amazing construction that, like their Revo, seems to leave no detail unconsidered.

I look forward to tell you more about Rev, a surprisingly complete machine with a modest and affordable starting price of only $17,900; in typical Evolution Trike style, they allow you plenty of options as you may wish.

Fly Hard's SkyCycle used a custom 15-layer-deep airbrush paint job to attempt winning its ninth-in-a-row award at Sun 'n Fun.
Thinking of highly detailed aircraft for modest prices, we also looked at and videoed the Fly Hard SkyCycle (earlier video) showing the most stunning paint job I saw any where on the grounds of Sun 'n Fun. Mike Theeke's SkyCycle on display was an out-and-out effort to win — get this! — his ninth award in as many years at the show. What do you do when you've already won eight awards in eight years? Well, you're seeing it in the nearby photo and this machine is also Part 103 and costs less than you might think ... although not with the 15-layer-deep airbrushed paint job. You see the nose cowl where the quality was easiest to photograph, but the same treatment was executed on the wheelpants, engine parts, and even the BRS parachute canister. Combined with metal-flake finish on the wingstruts, the appearance was nothing short of stunning.

On the opposite end of Part 103 in light aviation, here come the Light GA or LSA 4.0 airplanes, four seaters from LSA producers that are building like an ocean wave. In between, we see continued strength in Light-Sport Aircraft and you will read more about some of these in the days ahead and watch for new videos in the weeks ahead. Despite a still-recovering world economy, some years after the recession supposedly ended, global light aviation is doing remarkably well, in my opinion. I follow the light aircraft industry as closely as I can and I see it as healthy and vibrant though more sales and less interference would both be welcome.

A brief explanation ... Some readers sent email asking why — after we spoiled you with daily articles before and during Aero — our reporting seemed to stop. It's a reasonable question. The main culprit was the back-to-back scheduling of two major airshows, one in Germany and one in Florida. I simply ran out of time to collect and organize photos, then sit and write articles. I wish the two events would have cut us a bit more slack but so it goes. The second reason is our attention to video shooting at Sun 'n Fun plus several meetings with FAA. Videos now form one of our most important content types and we were in constant motion at Sun 'n Fun shooting 30 or more fresh videos that you'll be seeing shortly. Every remaining minute was full working on behalf of the light aircraft industry and at the end of 14-hour days, I had no energy to also write and post. The good news ... I'm back at my desk and will crank out articles as quickly as possible. THANKS for your loyal readership (and viewership)!

Bulldog Autogyro Revives a Rich, Stylish History
By Dan Johnson, April 17, 2015

Update 4/29/15 — See our just-posted video interview with Bulldog Autogyro developer Barry Jones for even more information about this airplane that has captured so much attention.

Developer Barry Jones poses alongside his distinctive Bulldog Autogyro.
In the eleven magical halls of Aero, airplanes are packed into every nook and cranny. Because of the focus of, most of my time was spent in the "B" halls where B-1 through B-4 are exclusively the realm of light aircraft ... a few kits but primarily ready-to-fly aircraft in a variety of descriptions. These include fixed wings and amphibians, gyrocopters, weight shift trikes, and even a few drones plus all manner of components like props, wheels, emergency parachutes, and more. About the only categories missing from the LSA segment of aviation are powered parachutes or airships.

A few light aircraft are located in the "A" halls, partly due to available space being taken in the "B" halls and possibly as those vendors prefer to be on the GA side of the event. Most of the avionics, headset, and traditional aircraft companies are in the "A" side and some light aircraft manufacturers may see those buyers as their primary market. This is especially true for more costly aircraft or those that exceed the U.S. LSA category by virtue of having retractable landing gear and in-flight adjustable props.

To cover everything in the light space I made my way around all the halls. Via numerous conversations I was encouraged to visit the exhibit of a radial-engined autogyro. I had my doubts because this seemed outside my usual focus and interest. However, once I came upon Bulldog Autogyro's distinctive and artful display, I realized this was an attraction that easily drew the eye. Perhaps you will find it as fascinating as did I.

Let's clarify. This is not Auto Gyro, the largest producer of modern gyroplanes. Neither is Bulldog a conventional gyroplane. It is an autogyro, meaning the classic taildragging, engine-in-front, more conventional airplane-looking, rotary-winged aircraft. One of the most well-known autogyros is the Pitcairn, a version that uses stubby conventional wings in addition to rotor blades. Bulldog further breaks the mold using no fixed wings.

Why pursue such a project in a age when we have many handsome gyroplanes? A proud Brit', developer and company leader Barry Jones (seen in top photo) expressed his original goal, "For those that wish to own an aircraft of magnificent beauty, our Bulldog Autogyro pays homage to decades of British aircraft design and the iconic elegance of yesteryear."

A very interesting and well-spoken fellow, Barry is a longtime military helicopter pilot who is well aware of modern gyroplanes but saw a niche and a way to show his pride in the rich tradition of British aviation. After leaving the military, he sought to pursue his dream and has done so with a panache and style not commonly seen in aviation. He chose a big round engine mounted in front of a sleek composite fuselage with a fashionable interior ending in an arcing rotor mast.

Why create such a graceful curved mast? Is it yet another feature to distinguish this unique aircraft. Yes and no. No, in that it is not just art, though it has that quality. Yes, in that it has real merit from a safety standpoint. Barry observed, "All helicopters and autogyros with tail sections to position a tail rotor or rudder to the rear of the aircraft can suffer from incidents when a rotor blade strikes the tail section. Through the Bulldog's design, we have been able to completely remove this threat to pilots."

Barry Jones' concept is a machine one flies for the sheer joy of it. Going fast is not the objective, a reason he selected wide chord rotor blades among other design decisions. His mission to preserve an period of aviation history in a modernized aircraft should attract discerning buyers. I overheard some fellow journalists saying this was an airplane for classic car enthusiast types and that may be a fair characterization. Barry isn't expecting to make thousands of these but he is expecting to make an impression on his buyers. He certainly made an impression on me and many others that often crowded around the airplane.

For a first build, Bulldog Autogyro as displayed at Aero 2015 looked terrific. Most prototypes are not so well finished. Barry has engaged several premium vendors such as a Formula I race car producer to help with the composite and a professional designer to create a fine vintage leather interior.

Barry expects to fly the Bulldog Autogyro in July 2015, just about as EAA AirVenture Oshkosh is beginning. I promised to keep watching and after he has some flying footage we may combine some of those scenes with the video interview I shot with him at Aero. Watch for it.

Radial Engine Specifications:

  • Engine Manufacturer — Rotec Radial Engines
  • Configuration — 9 Cylinder Four Stroke Radial Engine of 3600 cc displacement
  • Rated Power — 150 horsepower @ 3600 rpm
  • Recommended Fuel — 100LL Avgas or High Octane Mogas
  • Fuel Consumption — 27 liters per hour or 7.13 gallons per hour
  • Configuration — Air cooled (no radiator); Dual ignition with dual spark plugs

Exciting Development Projects at Aero 2015
By Dan Johnson, April 16, 2015

Aero is such an interesting event for many reasons. Among the most significant of these are the large number of aircraft introductions or the newest development projects one discovers in the vast gymnasium-sized halls ... eleven of them in total. It can be hard to cover all the square meters, which although not as enormous as giant outdoor American shows, are nonetheless so packed with aircraft that one gets sensory overload before you've seen them all.

The world premiere of BlackWing was such a project. Here is the first light aircraft I've seen from Sweden; others may exist but I'm not aware of them. This sleek speedster uses the ubiquitous Rotax 912 to achieve what they state as stunning speeds up to 400 kilometers per hour (250 mph or 217 knots) and this from only 100 horsepower! Of course, this won't work as a Light-Sport Aircraft but BlackWing is LSA in size and concept other than its blazing speed. She's lovely and steadily drew a crowd.

Across the way — the convention center housing Aero is two rows of giant halls, an "A" and "B" side — was the equally speedy Swiss airplane called Risen. Later we hope to put up a video interview I did with developer and company chief Alberto Porto. Risen is also aimed at the European microlight market that allows qualities not permitted on a U.S. Light-Sport. As Alberto explained, designers must achieve a maximum stall speed while keeping weight within the 472.5 kilogram limit (1,040 pounds), which number includes an airframe parachute that nearly all have because they are required in Germany.

Risen has the works all as standard equipment Alberto described: retractable gear, in-flight adjustable prop, power-opening canopy, a brilliant implementation of Fowler flaps that seem to extend forever, 48-inch-wide cockpit, three-screen Dynon SkyView, autopilot, all carbon fiber, emergency parachute, luxury interior, and I'm surely leaving something unsaid. Of course, you can expect to pay for all this, to the tune of about 200,000 euros. Yet if you want maxed out performance for the class, Risen maybe it.

Pipistrel made its usual splash showing their WattsUp electric powered trainer model, now renamed Alpha Electro conforming to the naming convention used on their previously electric Taurus Electro motorglider. Alpha was introduced as their low-priced entry as we saw in the USA a few years back. Now, they've installed an electric motor and easily-removed batteries in the compartment that otherwise holds the Rotax 912 they use on most other models and on gasoline-powered Alphas.

The Alpha Electro concept is that you fly basic flight training at or near the home field. It can make about an hour's flying on the batteries of today, but those cells can recharge in 45 minutes, plus a very wide prop aids regeneration of the batteries as you descend for landing with the now windmilling prop pushing charge back to the cells. Upon completing the training flight, a technician replaces one set of batteries with another and back up the airplane can go. Pricing is about 120,000 euros so flight schools may see merit to using electric power for instructional flights. On a video my journalist friend James Lawrence talks about his planned travel to check out this capability. Watch for it later.

Alpha Electro is here now, but I found another electric airplane project that I was tempted to pass by as merely a concept that might go nowhere. However, it was simply too impressive so I spent some time talking with principal developer and current airline pilot, David De Ridder. He and his team have formed Green Tech to develop Ypselon. My visual fascination with the project stopped me, but it was David's reasonable, honest-sounding approach that drew me in fully. He's not blowing smoke about when this can happen, giving dates of 2017 and 2019 for finalized development and reaching the market.

Like Alpha Electro, Ypselon is an electric pure play but unlike the Electro's training mission, Ypselon is aimed at the recreational user who wants a performer. Seating is tandem with even the aft seat occupant able to see down in front of the wing. Using electric power, a rear prop doesn't need a driveshaft as from a gas engine so the design can be incredibly clean. Though it will be some time before we see more, David says he has funding to proceed and as I've long maintained, the most exciting electric-powered aircraft are coming from the light end of aviation where they are possible today. I'll keep an eye on this one!

Going even further into the fuzzy future, I discovered another "wow" project from ScaleWings. If that name sounds vaguely familiar to you it may be because you remember the mind-boggling FK-51 project reported earlier (video) that makes a highly authentic P-51 lookalike that can fit both European microlight or U.S. LSA categories. Indeed, Hansen Air Group is awaiting their own FK-51; it won't be available by Sun 'n Fun, but look for it at Oshkosh and prepare to spend serious time looking over this amazing production.

Since that aircraft is coming to reality, the flying car project the ScaleWings designer showed at Aero caught my attention. One problem I have with most roadable aircraft is that they must leave their folded wings still exposed to road rash while in auto mode. That worries many folks so when I saw the ScaleWings SW91 Aeros project I got it. This surprising project employs six rotors four of which pivot back inside the car body for road use, thus no wings are exposed to that dump truck with its load of rocks. It seems pretty far out and may never get to market but the idea is certainly intriguing.

Beringer's final version Anti-Ground Loop Tail Wheel is available in two sizes.
Back down to Earth comes the final form of Beringer's Anti-Ground Loop tailwheel concept. I've written about this earlier and it is a superbly simple way for a pilot to avoid the dreaded situation of the tail wanting to get sideways during landing (if you do not keep the rudder moving to hold the taildragger straight enough). The idea was correct before but now the company — celebrating its 30th anniversary this year — displayed the final version in two sizes.

I shot a video with Beringer front person Claire Beringer at Aero and we'll hope to get that up in the future, but the final iteration is even more elegant than the original solution. They've now completed their typically gorgeous hardware to make the tailwheel a cantilevered construction (photo). This company has made inroads throughout the aviation spectrum from LSA to Cirrus and beyond. If you love the idea of taildragger flying but feared the ground looping potential, Beringer's AGL Tail Wheel can relieve your concern while yet preserving the ability to pivot around within a wingspan, through a cockpit control that unlocks the tailwheel for full swiveling but holding it to a small motion for takeoff and landing. Good job, Beringer!

First Flight of Flight Design's Four Seat C4
By Dan Johnson, April 15, 2015

Aero 2015 is open! The halls are full of shiny airplanes displayed with the usual European sense of style and panache. Visitors are backed up at the entry gates awaiting the official opening time. (We sneaky media journalists are allowed in earlier to get photos and begin interviews with vendors.) It is a great event, for Europe and for aviation.

I already have some airplanes in mind for reporting, both brand-new designs and the sort you never see in the USA. I will aim to prepare coverage of some of them and report as soon as time permits. Yet first, I want to talk about a project that is equally exciting.

I refer to the Flight Design project aimed at the general aviation world, that is, of airplanes with more seats than allowed in the LSA space ... in addition to more speed, more weight, and other capabilities. I have mentioned the C4 but in this article I have more for you. As noted in earlier articles, although C4 is not a Light-Sport or light kit, it is created by a company that earned built its brand in the LSA space so I consider it relevant for readers. It's also expected to be (relatively) affordable, so it fits that way as well.

On April 9th, Flight Design flew their C4 that has been in development since 2008. After a period of discussions, preliminary engineering studies, and the beginning of CAD work to create this new machine, C4 began to take shape in about 2011. While the company once thought it could fly in 2014, they got involved with a "safety box" project (basically, "crush zone" engineering for airplanes as we've seen in automobiles for years) and this worthy diversion swallowed some of the time intended to put C4 in the air. The company backed up and took another run, more recently promising to get airborne before the Aero 2015 show ... and they achieved their goal, with about four days to spare.

"C4 really performed as expected," reported Tom Peghiny, President of Flight Design USA, importer of the German company's products and test flight director for the C4 development. For the 55-minute flight, Peghiny flew alongside the C4 non-conforming prototype in a Cessna 172 chase plane. "It appeared and test pilot Damian Hischier confirmed that the C4 is stable about all axes."

Hischier also reported, "The spiral stability of C4 is good and its directional stability is good." While noting that engine operating temperatures were acceptable he acknowledged that further work may be necessary for operations in the hottest climates. "But don't change a thing aerodynamically," Hischier said supportively. Engine temperatures will be remedied primarily with cowl changes focused on cooling, yet Flight Design is pleased with the Continental IO-360-AF engine that performed very well.

all photos and video courtesy of Flight Design

"Flight Design engineers can work on reducing some friction in the controls," Hischier noted, "but leave the rest alone." Most prototype airplanes go through refinements after the initial flight verifications even while most of the group working to achieve the first flight were pleased that the new airplane performed so well.

"We observed the C4 accelerate away from the C-172 chase plane during simulated approaches to landing and in simulated go-arounds," commented Peghiny, observing from the Cessna. "I could also see that during the 30 degree bank turns the test pilot needed no control correction and he reported that pitch forces were light," added Peghiny. "The plane appeared to be on rails, it looked very stable. Damian said he was comfortable getting close to us for the photos and videos shot during the maiden flight." On board avionics are supplied by Garmin with the G3X Touch augmented with TSO analog instruments. Garmin has become a vital partner to Flight Design as C4 moves forward.

"Very few first flights proceed through the entire test card," explained flight director Peghiny. "Yet we completed all of the points permitted under the EASA-established Flight Conditions as specified in our initial Permit to Fly authorization."

Flight Design C4 First Flight Preliminary Data & Impressions:

  • Fight Configuration — Flaps set at 10 degrees for entire flight and speed limited to 105 knots
  • Maneuvers Performed — Max 30 degrees bank; approach to stalls, power off; approach to landing with go-arounds
  • Observed Flight Qualities, Stability — Good directional and spiral stability
  • Observed Flight Qualities, Handling — Good overall harmony and characteristics
  • Observed Flight Qualities, Other — Easy to takeoff and land; low noise; engine temps acceptable
  • General Performance — Very good compared to Cessna 172, even with 10 degrees flaps

In this short (80-second) video you can see a few scenes from C4's first flight, compliments of Flight Design and shot by Tom Peghiny:

First Glimpses of Aero’s Interesting Aircraft
By Dan Johnson, April 14, 2015

Though looking rather lonely in a nearly-empty immense hall — one of several at Aero — the Van's Aircraft display appears all ready, days before opening.
The great halls of Aero are beginning to be populated with aircraft, even as most of the gymnasium-sized spaces remain significantly empty. It was only Monday and the show does not open until Wednesday, so with common airshow nonchalance ... "Oh, plenty of time remains." After being an airshow regular for more years than I care to count — several decades' worth — the situation is par for the course. Even the night before a show opens, the exhibit area appears in a state of pandemonium. Year after year, I can see no way it could all come together in time for the first day when the entry gates are unlocked, yet when the sun rises on opening day, sure enough, nearly everything seems in place, people are streaming in, vendors are dressed in airshow logowear and are ready to talk airplanes or flying gear. It never ceases to amaze me.

So, with a whole two days yet remaining, Aero's nearly empty halls are not a major surprise. Airplanes will be trailered or hand towed into position, displays will be finished, literature will be set out for the taking (at least for those that haven't gone virtual with electronic-only "hand-outs," as is becoming increasingly common), the protected plastic sheeting will be removed from the carpets, and visitors will never know the chaos that reigned only hours before. The magic of airshows is about to begin again.

The following photos were taken of airplanes already in position. Their show mates will soon surround them but for a Monday, these images grabbed my attention either for their distinctive features or their eye-catching paint jobs. Enjoy!

One final component of the pre-airshow rush are those airplanes that are latter stages of development, some completed barely enough to be made ready for display to show futuristic concepts and others nearer to production as defined by their maiden voyage aloft.

One of the latter was the Flight Design four seat, to-be-certified C4 (see bottom photo) ... from the company that still leads the fleet with more LSA flying than any other producer (their CT series).

Posing proudly for my camera in their casual set-up garb, later to be replaced with business suits and such, the Flight Design team was carefully positioning their non-conforming prototype C4 that had just taken its first flight a few days before following years of planning, fabrication, assembly, and careful preflighting. This is no mockup; it is the real flying machine. I'll have more about this and other developments as the show blossoms into mature airshow stage with immense hall after hall full of airplanes and flight hardware and software of every description. Aero is one of Europe's largest aviation events and always finds a way to be interesting and relevant. I am sure 2015 will prove to be no different but the only way you will know is to attend or click back for more details day after day.

Atol LSA Seaplane Makes Maiden Flight
By Dan Johnson, April 13, 2015

First flight for the renewed and upgraded Atol LSA seaplane! all photos courtesy Atol Avion
"This was my best birthday present. All went well with no surprises," reported an excited Anssi Rekual, sales manager and front man for the Finland-based builder of the LSA seaplane called Atol. An airline pilot today, Anssi added, "I have only one year to go with Finnair and then I can focus fully on Atol."

The head of design and company CEO, Markku Koivurova flew for 26 minutes and reported that aircraft was easy and convenient to fly and everything worked normally. Approach to stall and slow flight characteristics were tested on Atol registered in Finland as OH-XNA followed by a perfect landing. Markku flew at Rovaniemi international airport (EFRO) at the Arctic Circle.

Speaking on behalf of the Atol team, Anssi was relating news that the reborn Atol took its maiden flight on Tuesday, April 9, 2015, just in time for the company to have significant bragging rights at the German Aero Friedrichshafen show set to open in two more days. I am already present at the convention hall attending ASTM meetings that occur before the show opens.

Congratulations to Anssi and his team from Atol Aviation, Ltd.!

Earlier Atol completed its water testing without taking flight.
I use the term "reborn" because Atol is not a new design, unlike several other exiting new LSA seaplanes in various stages of development. In 1984, designer Markku Koivurova started development of Atol, then a wood composite amphibious aircraft. The original model's first flight happened 27 years ago in August of 1988 in Rovaniemi, Finland. The first flight on water was achieved a few months later off nearby Lake Norvajärvi on October 20th.

Martekno Finland, Ltd., began production of the original model in 1990 and the first deliveries were made in 1991.

Leap forward twenty years to 2011, Atol AvionAtol Avion, Ltd., was established. Anssi explained, "I contacted Markku then and talked him into restarting the business. It took four years to complete the design changes, build a prototype and redo all drawings after completing fresh calculations needed for certificates." He explained that Atol Avion is a small group with modest funding. "We have on average three hired staff and mostly just our own savings to use."

The refreshed group began building a new prototype with a longer fuselage and numerous other changes. "The manufacturing technology of the structure and systems and the level of aircraft finish has been further improved," Anssi related. "Design of the engine cowling and fuselage extension has been refined. The nose, canopy and upper fuselage are redesigned for optimal aerodynamics and to reduce twirling in the tail." Admirably, and despite all the recent changes made to the refreshed design, Atol Avion promised to continue to support Atol aircraft manufactured by the first Martekno organization.

Preparing for flight at dawn near the Arctic Circle.
That pioneering Atol model was and is sold in Europe as a ultralight or microlight kit with a gross weight of 495 kilograms or 1,090 pounds. Now conforming to the ASTM standards using the 1,430 pound (650 kg) weight for seaplanes, Anssi said, "Our Atol 650 LSA is converted from Markku's original by extending the fuselage by a meter and redesigning cockpit area and engine installation. Basic material is still wood composite but fibers, including carbon fiber, has been used also and all details have been updated."

Find a full description and specifications for the revised and upgraded Atol here.

Atol Avion reports that they have also sold three planes and will deliver those to clients this summer. "We have also confirmed a financial program that enables us to now totally focus on assembly," Anssi wrote. Tapping into modern social media methods, he continued, "We are opening a crowdfunding process to finance our production, so all aviators and wannabes can buy a share or two of Atol Avion, Ltd." He said the company will add more about the fund raising effort on their homepage soon!

Just in time for popular European show, Anssi communicated, "We got our first Atol Mobile Hangar trailer and are packing the aircraft in it and will soon begin our trip to Friedrichafen!"

Packed in the Atol Mobile Hangar, the team begins the drive to the Aero show in southern Germany.
Ever the gentleman, Anssi asked to give credit where due. "Our technical office team is composed of two Bachelors of Science degree holders with majors in aeronautical engineering plus two students. They made huge progress with certifications and establishing connections with EASA, FAA and Trafi (Finnish aviation authorities). We have been lucky to also have a group of great aviators who have given their expertise and knowledge without compensation" He was quick to add, "Not to forget two great ladies, Sinikka Koivurova and Pia Rekula have backed us and allowed all late nights to be spent to finish Atol 650."

Atol 650 is presently en route to Friedrichafen, Germany in the far south border of the country where visitors can see the freshly flown aircraft.

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




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

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.

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.

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!

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.

Arion Aircraft has designed and built one of the most beautiful low wing entries in the Special LSA and kit-built aircraft sector. The all-American designed and built aircraft is priced fairly and flies wonderfully ... need you search for more?

Evektor is Number One and always will be. The Czech company's SportStar was the number one SLSA to win approval but engineers have steadily improved the model far beyond that 2005 version that started the race.

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.

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

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.

SportairUSA imports the dashing and superbly-equipped StingSport S4 that has won a loyal following from American pilots. More recently, they introduced their TL-3000 high-wing LSA. SportairUSA is a full-line operation with maintenance and training, too.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 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!

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.

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.

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!

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.

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Updated: May 2, 2015

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