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...a web log of developments in Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft
So Long, Dave Goulet — Challengers Fly On...
By Dan Johnson, November 19, 2014

Dave Goulet (L) presents an award to Gene Clark at the 25th Anniversary event honoring the Challenger aircraft line.
He had one of the longest runs as president of an airplane manufacturer and guided his company to produce an impressive 4,000 aircraft. Few other companies can boast such a record. I am writing about Dave Goulet, president of Quad City Aircraft. Dave passed away last week after a battle with cancer. He was 68 years old. The company he founded in 1983 has supplied low-cost, well-flying aircraft. Over the years I've had the pleasure to fly and report on most of Quad City's models and you can click Challenger to read more. In this 2011 video, Dave discusses his airplanes that can be bought for $25-40,000, numbers that include everything you need to fly and, as he reported on camera, build times can be as low as 150 hours thanks to all the work Quad City does at the factory. In celebration of the long run for the popular flying machine, a couple hundred people drove and 56 Challengers flew to Erie Airpark in Illinois on September 19-21, 2008 to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Challenger line of aircraft. Though often speaking in a soft voice, Dave was surely in his element among the large flock of Challenger pilots who have so enjoyed flying his creations.

A Challenger II flies in a paint design created by Dave Goulet.
"I started the company in 1983, and I still own it," said Dave a few years back. "In fact," he added in the earlier interview, "it's probably the oldest ultralight company still under the same management." After reviewing all the ultralight companies still operating, I agree with his assessment. Although he had associates Goulet was the main man behind the Challenger aircraft design and Quad City Aircraft company. Thinking of other long-term operations, Goulet mentioned Kolb Aircraft, Quicksilver and CGS Aviation run by another longtimer, Chuck Slusarczyk. However, the first two sold several times and even Chuck dabbled with outside ownership and management before finally selling the company. That left Goulet standing tall as the person holding the reins for the longest continuous operation of an ultralight aircraft company. Rans Aircraft boss Randy Schlitter has been at it a comparable amount of time and did once make ultralights. However, for the type of aircraft most people think of when they hear "ultralight," Quad City Challengers are a leading example. The Challenger design has been an unqualified success for more than three decades. According to representative Carol Oltman the company will continue to manufacture and sell Challengers. I'm sure Dave would be very pleased to hear that.


AOPA Regional Events Wind Down ... Successfully
By Dan Johnson, November 11, 2014

Overhead at the St. Simons AOPA Fly-in (arrow depicts the main hangar and center of activity).
It was interesting to visit Palm Springs for the Flying Aviation Expo's first-ever event at the location AOPA once said was their single best venue for the series of annual events known most recently as Summit. The Palm Springs show was larger when AOPA put it on but several reasons exist: • AOPA has 400,000 members to tap in encouraging attendance (though even at their strongest event, they drew somewhere under 20,000 visitors, I've been told) • the Flying Aviation Expo was a brand new event • ...and, promotion for it had only begun a few months back • Flying magazine signed on as the name sponsor for the Lift Management organizers only a few weeks back. Yet I'd like to put this in perspective. Setting aside the really big shows like AirVenture and Sun 'n Fun, aviation events appear to be doing reasonably well when they attract 5,000 people. That number was suggested for one or two of AOPA's new Regional Fly-ins (though only the member organization knows the exact figures and even they may not have an accurate count; for example, I flew in with two other men and we were not counted so far as I know). Copperstate draws 5-6,000. This year's Flying Aviation Expo reported "around 5,000." Update 11/17/14 The final edition of AOPA's national Summit event in Fort Worth, Texas last year counted 5,700 persons, it was recently reported.

So, thinking of how many attend aviation trade shows and fly-ins and what that means for the health of aviation and how good it is (or maybe isn't) for vendors at these events, here's some more on the AOPA events. According to our good friends at General Aviation News and their "The Pulse of Aviation" eNewsletter (sign up here; it's free), "AOPA President Mark Baker reported that the regional fly-ins were such a success that 45 airports are now bidding to host next year's fly-ins. AOPA officials estimate that between 16,000 and 17,000 pilots and aviation enthusiasts attended the regional fly-ins, which were held throughout the country." As noted above, earlier reports pointed to a turn-out of perhaps 5,000 visitors at the strongest 2014 events. Mark Baker's reference was for all the AOPA regional events.

BRM Aero's Bristell LSA on display at AOPA-KSSI. photo courtesy of General Aviation News
Do you see any commonality here? Five thousand seems to be a solid and workable number. I asked many vendors what they thought of the Flying Aviation Expo event and all but one said they would return in 2015. My information is not scientific nor are vendor speculations something organizers can take to the bank. I asked a smaller number of exhibitors at AOPA St. Simons (KSSI) fly-in and they also seemed to feel good about their participation (although at slower times the phrase "vendor bonding" enters the conversation). Naturally, these smaller shows carry lower space costs but their smaller size allows deeper conversations with visitors compared to the onslaught that can occur at the biggest events. At the smaller venues attendees seem more motivated and relatively few of those "general public" folks asking basic questions interrupt the more serious pilot/buyers at the focused shows.

Up next: Sebring 2015
One of the grand experiments in the smaller, focused venue shows is the Sebring U.S. Sport Aviation Expo, now entering its second decade. We often call it the Sebring LSA Expo to abbreviate a bit but that is not entirely accurate as kits and some larger airplanes are also present. Sebring reports drawing 15,000 or more though this count may be similar to Oshkosh where I'm told one person coming in the gate counts each day even if that individual repeats for several days. I don't believe it truly matters how you count so long as organizers are consistent. In the next few days I'll have more about Sebring. The central Florida show is repositioning itself as the "Affordable Aircraft Expo," featuring "Light-Sport, Homebuilt, Refurbished Production Aircraft, and Ultralights." We'll start covering details in the barely two months remaining before it kicks off a new season of flying on January 14th.


Aeromobil, Now at Version 3.0, Nears Production
By Dan Johnson, November 10, 2014

I have reported on Aeromobil before and we've tried to keep up with those MIT geniuses at Terrafugia and their Transition that basically reinvigorated the flying car or (as Terrafugia prefers) roadable airplane. However, saying Terrafugia reinvented the flying car is hardly fair to other producers, in this case Slovakia's Stefan Klein. At the Pioneers Festival — an entrepreneurship and future tech event held in Vienna, Austria at the end of October 2014 — Klein and his financial associate Juraj Vaculik unveiled their latest iteration of Aeromobil, specifically model 3.0. Beside a public showing, he demonstrated its flight capabilities to the public for the first time. Think what you will of Aeromobil or Transition, or for that matter, Maverick, but these ventures continue to attract attention and sufficient funding that it's likely we'll see some in the sky one day. How many you'll see is anyone's guess. Original Aerocar developer Molt Taylor once took the concept far enough to win CAA approval in 1956 yet the idea of combination airplane and car has yet to secure a market foothold.

Klein's Aeromobil had previously flown just a few feet off the ground. This is not a negative statement; most aviators know it makes sense for a new design to stay close to terra firma on initial flights. However, around the time of the Pioneers Festival the flying car went significantly aloft with a chase plane to record the flight. The video below shows the entire realm of flight.

Stefan Klein has devoted nearly a quarter century creating his flying car dream. He graduated from Slovak University of Technology in 1983, later studying at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design (AFAD) and the École des Beaux Arts et Design in Saint Étienne. Following his academic training, Klein became the head of the Department of Transport and Design at AFAD where he had responsibility for leading research projects for car companies including Audi, Volkswagen, and BMW. Klein reports logging 1,200 hours in powered aircraft, and like many Europeans, has even more time in gliders: 8,000 hours.

Even while he led developments for auto makers Klein tinkered with his flying car, starting with Aeromobil 1.0 in 1990. I earlier reported on Aeromobil 2.5, which was called "final prototype" before the 3.0 iteration that is aimed at production. Klein reported changes made from version 2.5 include the addition of avionics, an autopilot, and a parachute system as well as suspension upgrades designed to make take off and landing on rough terrain easier. The designer he has also "integrated some advanced technologies such as a variable angle of attack for the wings that significantly shortens takeoff requirements." However, Klein was reported saying further testing was required before final specifications are confirmed and Aeromobil can be put into production. As with Terrafugia's Transition, media reporters appear highly intrigued by a flying car concept that looks advanced and Aeromobil certainly does.

Note the dual steering wheel and control yoke set up. All images courtesy of Aeromobil
Aeromobil is powered by the same Rotax 912 aircraft engine that powers so many Light-Sport Aircraft. Besides the good reputation of Rotax, the engine also accommodates (even prefers) auto gasoline, which suits the driving function of a flying car. Like Transition, Aeromobil uses the engine to spin a rear-mounted propeller. As the photos show, one blade of the four-blade prop is perilously close to the ground where rocks and other FOD could cause damage though protecting it could be part of final design changes. In driving mode, a gearbox shifts power from the prop to the rear wheels, a necessary bit of engineering when the wings fold back along the tail boom. With wings swung back to drive mode, width is less than eight feet, which should fit into standard parking spaces. Additional (and still preliminary) specifications are shown below. The company did not speak to gross weight nor has the Slovak company announced any plans to sell its flying car in the USA, but if it can stay light enough the LSA category appears to be good fit.

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

  • Construction — Steel frame and carbon fuselage/body
  • Powerplant — Rotax 912 (flying and driving)
  • Length — 19.7 feet
  • Span — 27.3 feet (with "variable angle of attack to shorten take-off roll")
  • Width (wings folded) — 7.3 feet
  • Top Speed — 124 mph or 108 knots (flying) / 100 mph (driving)
  • Rotation Speed — 90 mph or 78 knots
  • Minimum Speed — 40 mph or 35 knots
  • Range — 430 miles or 374 nm (flying) / 540 miles (driving)
  • Fuel Consumption — 4 gph (flying) / 29.6 mph (driving)
  • Capacity — 2 seats
  • With four million views already, perhaps you have already have discovered this but as it is a slickly produced video that also shows Aeromobil doing a good bit of flying, I wanted to be sure you saw it.


    LSA Taildraggers Broaden the Sector’s Appeal
    By Dan Johnson, November 7, 2014

    Taildraggers may be among the least understood and most feared aircraft available in the LSA space ... or for that matter throughout general aviation. While we have many good choices that I'll list below, I have nonetheless heard from many readers or airshow visitors that they are uncertain about their operation of an aircraft that has no nosewheel. If you have no taildragger skills, you'll also find it a challenge to get proper flight instruction in a "standard" aircraft. For those seeking new skills in flying, however, taildraggers may provide high satisfaction. Most who have crossed the barrier to taildragging subsequently look very fondly at such aircraft, seeing a sleeker yet gutsier, more rugged appearance. Of course, nosewheels dominate general aviation as they can be easier to land, especially in crosswinds, but once you learn the lesson of "happy feet" — or keeping your feet active on the rudder pedals throughout approach and touchdown — you may always yearn for more taildragger time.

    The Airplane Factory pilot launches the new Sling Taildragger in South Africa.
    Photos accompanying this article illustrate two established nosewheel designs now offered in taildragger configuration. Both are new to the market but they join quite a flock. Consider these other taildragging Light-Sport Aircraft: Tecnam's Taildragger • the long popular Kitfox • Rans' S-6, S-7, and S-20 • Renegade's taildragging Falcon • Just Aircraft's SuperSTOL and Highlander • Aerotrek's A220 • FK Lightplanes' aerobatic Comet • Phoenix Air's motorglider • and Pipistrel's Sinus motorglider ... and these are just the landplanes. Plus, I've left out a few models that appear to have gone quiet in the marketplace. LSA seaplanes can also be taildraggers (as well as pusher designs). Icon's highly visible A5 is a nosedragger as are Super Petrel, SeaMax, Mermaid, and Freedom that feature retractable nosewheels, yet taildragger LSA seaplanes include Progressive Aerodyne's Searey and Lisa's Akoya. The splashy new MVP and Wave seaplanes still in development plan to offer what might be called "hybrid" landing gear configurations (more on them in the future). Of course, the Cubalikes are taildraggers in keeping with their vintage looks; likewise for the Savage series. Work aircraft like the Dragonfly hang glider towplane are also well served by being taildraggers.

    The Airplane Factory USA's always upbeat team led by Matt Liknaitzky reported, "After a wonderful trip to the Copperstate Fly-In [we] sold [our] first U.S. based Sling Taildragger or Sling TD. This tailwheel version of the Sling 2 is the latest model designed by Mike Blyth and The Airplane Factory team." Matt added that the South African factory has received the order and has already begun the production process. "This beauty should arrive in the U.S. in about 6 months and we can't wait to have her join the Sling family," said Matt. He also noted that beyond the inaugural taildragger, two ready-to-fly four seat Sling 4s will arrive in the U.S. by the start of 2015 and will be available to demo. Ready-to-fly Sling Light-Sport Aircraft will be arriving every two months, with a few orders already placed. Four kit builders have joined the Sling builders brigade. The Airplane Factory maintains a vigorous pace of development and manufacturing and enjoys good U.S. presence thanks to TAF USA's operation at the Torrence, California airport run by expat South African Matt Litnaitzky who has since gained permanent U.S. status.

    BRM Aero has reconfigured its shapely Bristell into a taildragger called TDO (for Taildragger Option).
    Last but by no means least is the BRM Aero TDO or Taildragger Option Bristell. This handsome airplane was much admired in trigear form after its arrival in the USA. Some see it as a new generation version of the SportCruiser, which is hardly a surprise as the company owner and chief designer is Milan Bristela who had a great involvement in the original development of the popular airplane sold today by U.S. Sport Aircraft back when it was manufactured by Czech Aircraft Works (renamed Czech Sport Aircraft following an ownership change). Milan has developed BRM Aero into something of a boutique aircraft manufacturer custom building airplanes for customers in a very intimate fashion. Like The Airplane Factory, Milan stays very busy with new ideas and the TDO is another handsome airplane being added to the LSA fleet.

    You may not think taildraggers are for you as they do require some additional training (for insurance if no other reason) but nearly everyone admits these are good looking aircraft that draw appreciative looks in the air or on the ramp. Welcome to both Sling Taildragger and BRM's Bristell TDO!

    Although not in a taildragger Sling, you might enjoy this short video of a couple aviatrixes flying the Pacific Ocean shoreline from Sling's base in Torrence to Camarillo, California.


    Western Shows: Copperstate & Flying Aviation Expo
    By Dan Johnson, October 31, 2014

    Two western U.S. shows are filling the aviation calendar at the end of October. They are the last two major events of 2014. Next up will be the Sebring Expo in January 2015. While I attend the Flying Aviation Expo in Palm Springs, California, I am once again amazed that the West has never truly generated any strong aviation events. The Copperstate event is one of the most long-lived at 42 years. More on that below. Yet with California alone having more pilots and aircraft than any other U.S. state — indeed, more by itself than many countries can boast — it has long puzzled me that the trend-setting state has never birthed a great aviation trade show or expo. The biggest events remain in the eastern part of the country led by AirVenture Oshkosh and Sun 'n Fun. Even in the LSA space the stronger events are in Sebring, Florida and Mt. Vernon Illinois.

    I should not leave out the 45-year-old Arlington show up in Washington state nor the Golden West event near Sacramento, California but for reasons that escape me neither has grown into the very large gatherings characterized by Oshkosh or Sun 'n Fun. Arlington inhabits a lovely location and is a fine event I've enjoyed several times. However, its timing only weeks before and geographically far from Oshkosh makes it tough to get into the schedule of many companies. Neither am I ignoring convention center extravaganzas like those produced by the National Business Aviation Association (with perhaps more exhibitors than any other aviation event) or Helicopter Aviation International but these are highly focused commercial aircraft events that have limited appeal to the general aviation enthusiast.

    The 2014 Copperstate Fly-In and Expo in Casa Grande, Arizona — located approximately halfway between Phoenix and Tucson — was the 42nd year for this southwestern show. It ran the weekend before the Palm Springs show on October 23-25 at Casa Grande Airport (KCGZ). Main organizer Steve Bass wrote, "We don't have any real numbers yet but I think we matched last year's [attendance] numbers." He observed that visitor traffic was down on Saturday because of the heat at 95 degrees but added, "although we did have a full ramp." As surprising to me as anything was the display of no less than 18 weight shift trikes. While these machines once were very strong at many aviation events, their numbers have been much lower in recent years. Copperstate bills itself as "the fourth largest Fly-In in the United States." Copperstate is a very recreational aviation-oriented show out west but this year it was too close to the Flying Expo and I was unable to attend both.

    So that brought me to beautiful Palm Springs, a resort town in the desert east of the Los Angeles basin. The former AOPA Summit many times came to this city first popularized by movie stars back in the day and plenty of people in and out of AOPA said this was their best location drawing the most visitors. The location a couple, three hours drive (or a one hour flight) from the massive L.A. metropolis assures organizers of plenty of nearby enthusiasts. It has also long featured a parade of planes from the main airport to the convention center. The beauty of this for attendees is that the aircraft are on streets right outside the hall and you need take no transportation to go have a look at them. Under direction of Lift Management, Flying magazine editor Robert Goyer noted in his opening keynote address and panel discussion (in which I was pleased to be a participant, waving the LSA flag) that this was the publication's first event in the 87 years that title has been publishing. I write this on opening day and the hall is filled with about 120 exhibitors. People are streaming in and I want to make the rounds and see what people think. It's already scheduled for 2015 as well. If you live in the Southwest, you should put this one on your schedule. It's time for me to get back to the show.


    Touring All-American Propeller Maker Sensenich
    By Dan Johnson, October 27, 2014

    In Light-Sport aviation, we have many international suppliers ... of aircraft, engines, instruments, and much more to include propellers. I embrace the worldwide suppliers and don't fret about America's position. The truth is, any international supplier has to have a U.S. representative so American jobs and profits are part of that global supply chain and most aircraft built overseas have a substantial percentage of U.S.-produced components. Still, as an American, it is great to see solid U.S. companies prospering. One of those is Sensenich Propellers and last week, I took a tour of this enterprise based in Plant City, Florida (near Lakeland, where Sun 'n Fun is headquartered).

    I was shown throughout the facility by President Don Rowell, a 37-year employee of Sensenich (pronounced SEN-sen-ick). He directly manages the Plant City operation since 1993, after relocating from the company's founding plant in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Both facilities continue to operate and are divided by prop material. Lancaster makes aluminum props. Plant City makes wood and composite props. Both Sensenich facilities make only fixed pitch or ground adjustable props. Don explained this means that their primary competition is not Hartzell, as one example, as that company makes in-flight adjustable props. Instead a USA major competitor is McCauley, a division of Cessna and part of Textron. McCauley also makes constant speed props.

    Similar to our recent article about Continental Motors, Sensenich has a long and rich history, starting with the prop-powered snow sled shown above. When the propeller on this early snow machine failed, the Sensenich brothers had little option but to create their own ... and a new company was eventually born. Formally established in 1932 to manufacture fixed pitch wood aircraft propellers, Sensenich added wood props for a growing fleet of airboats. Aluminum aircraft props were added in the 1950s. It wasn't until 1999 that the company added ground adjustable composite propellers for all the segments the company serves including airboat, aircraft, and UAVs.

    The wood prop process starts with lamination beginning with a large machine the workers affectionately refer to as Clamposaurus (photo above). Gluing edges first, then grouping those birch boards, layers are firmly fastened together with large assembly of C-clamps and resorcinol glue as prop technicians have used for decades. Throughout the process of examining fresh lumber stock and after laminating begins each propeller goes through a 56-point inspection, to assure using only the strongest portions of the laminated boards.

    Once the first steps are complete, the manufacturing procedure involves deeply experienced workers identifying the sections of boards that will work for a prop — portions with the grain patterns meeting specifications and being free of various blemishes. After marking off unacceptable areas, a worker uses plastic planform templates to outline where a prop can be milled to produce a wood prop. Once the glue is cured, it can be placed on the bed of a CNC milling machine. The finished prop on right shows a hand-formed brass leading edge that is cap screwed and riveted for erosion protection.


    In this short video and after a different tool prepares the hub, a CNC machine "roughs" a wood prop, which is then skillfully carved to exactly match a set of blade shape templates.

    As other photos show, the company also makes a whole line of composite props for airboats — a substantial part of the business started in 1949; being closer to where these craft are commonly used is a key reason the company opened the Plant City facility in 1994 — as well as wood and composite airplane props. Images here show the stores of finished prop blades for airboats (the wide ones), aircraft, and the aluminum prop hubs. Sensenich asked that I not shoot photos of the composite building process as they've learned some tricks and techniques that are proprietary.

    Here's a fact I found amazing about those wide chord airboat props: Don explained that using the same engine, the airboat props generate 250% of the thrust of airplane props. "It takes a great deal of energy to move an airboat sometimes across dry land," Rowell clarified.

    Although Sensenich employs modern engineering and contemporary CNC machinery, the process significantly depends on the experience and care of employees. Building a propeller remains very hands-on and something of an art. Yet new ways are also embraced. Like any company in an open market, Sensenich had to keep innovating to be competitive and to increase performance of their fixed pitch props. They also look for other ways to control quality and costs, such as this "candy bar machine" that is used to dispense supplies such as tape, brushes, and more. When an employee takes out more supplies the company is aware and supplier Fastenal automatically logs the use and eventually resupplies depleted items.

    Sensenich is an iconic brand of propeller and an American standard. Look around at your local airport. You'll probably see many propellers that come from the company in Plant City, Florida.


    Ownership Changes at Remos
    By Dan Johnson, October 25, 2014

    This is one of those bad news—good news stories. The bad news for Remos Aircraft is being forced to file for what Germany calls "creditor protection" and what Americans might regard as bankruptcy. Tough times for the onetime high flying company that ran full page ads in America's largest aviation magazines. The good news is that this is not the end of the story. A few weeks ago I heard through sources in Europe that Remos was filing documents to go out of business. In this case, the rumors turned out to be correct. However, shortly after the old company filed documents, a white knight stepped in to revive the company. This happened once before but this time the change of ownership has the experience of its predecessors. Remos AG is now emerging as the successor to Remos Aircraft GmbH Flugzeugbau. The company remains quartered in Pasewalk, located an hour's drive northeast of Berlin.

    According to the company, "Michael Bauer, CEO of Remos, was forced to file for creditor protection at the end of July 2014." Under the supervision of administrator Dr. Christoph Morgen of Brinkmann & Partner of Hamburg a search for new investors was initiated. "This investment process has now been successfully concluded," noted Remos. The business was taken over by a German investor named Andreas Heeschen. You probably don't know that name but the new owner is also majority shareholder at a brand you might know: Heckler & Koch, one of the world's leading manufacturers of pistols, machine pistols, assault rifles, precision rifles, and machine guns with more than $250 million in annual revenues and 700 employees. Remos AG is not part of Heckler & Koch, however, and will operate as a stand-alone enterprise. "The Remos team remains unchanged," the revived company indicated, "and will now focus on the key tasks of developing, engineering and manufacturing high class and superb [European] ultralight and LSA aircraft."

    Remos AG is assuming full support of the aircraft series including Remos G3 and GX. New aircraft are again available and spare parts will be shipped soon. Remos GX is manufactured in several versions including GXeLITE, GXnXES, GXULTIMATE and GXPERSONAL. For American customers, the appropriate LSA model is the GXnXES. Remos continues to manufacture composite parts for its aircraft and performs similar work for other customers. The company also reports doing service and repairs with modifications performed on other brands of customer aircraft at its northern Germany facilities. Those interested to learn more about Remos AG can visit their website or send email.

    My thanks to German BRS representative Frank Miklis for alerting me to this news.


    Touring Aviation Stalwart Continental Motors
    By Dan Johnson, October 21, 2014

    Continental Motors is known to generations of pilots and not just in the USA. However, I'll bet most readers do not know that the storied company once produced a radial engine. The company started business way back in 1905 as a builder of truck engines for the U.S. Army. They entered the aviation market in 1929 with the seven cylinder A-70 powerplant. A year later Continental introduced A40 that went to four horizontally opposed cylinders in what is sometimes called a boxer engine. "We were the first to introduce the horizontally opposed cylinder configuration to help increase aircraft speeds," observed the company. Rotax has generated well deserved publicity with their efficient fuel injected 912 iS but Continental noted that they were "the first to introduce both fuel injection and turbo-charging in general aviation aircraft (both in the 1960s)." They do not offer such configurations for Light-Sport Aircraft, at least not yet although in 2009 Continental threw support behind the new segment introducing the O-200 lighter weight engine that comes in at 199 pounds.

    Continental has been the power for many of aviation's iconic aircraft from the unpretentious Piper Cub to the Voyager aircraft that successfully circumnavigated the globe without refueling, to a fleet of other airplanes including high-end single engine pistons such as Bonanza and Cirrus. Along with Lycoming, Continental engines are the powerplants nearly every American pilot has grown up flying. In more recent years and reflecting the uncertain future for leaded aviation fuels, Continental launched their Turbo Diesel Series engine and entered into unleaded gasoline development. Indeed their alternative fuel IO-360-AF engine (lower photo) was chosen by Flight Design for its four seat C4 as the German company expects to sell this aircraft in many countries where 100LL is unavailable at any price. Contrarily, diesel is available almost everywhere and Continental's push into engines using this fuel was surely one reason the airframe builder chose the Alabama brand.

    Continental is dedicated to piston engines and manufactures all primary components themselves, including crankcase, crankshaft, cylinders, and connecting rods. Every engine is hand built. Our factory tour walked us step-by-step through the process ending up in a building holding several test cells. Here, every engine is run through a full cycle in bays that once heard the howl of Mustang Merlin engines.

    In the LSA space, Continental engines have been used on CubCrafters, American Legend, and Kitfox, plus Zenith and Fisher kits among other brands. They continue to be a significant supplier to the LSA and light kit industry including Van's Aircraft although that Oregon company chose the Rotax for their RV-12 Light-Sport. Along with other reasons to select the four cylinder, 100 horsepower O-200, mechanics around the world are familiar with the brand and have training and experience for it. Contrarily, Rotax has had to work hard to encourage American A&Ps to learn the differences of their powerplants.

    As we toured the facility, I was particularly impressed with one fact. As we heard about the numbering scheme that identifies various engine models, I became aware the company customizes many of their basic models to accommodate specific manufacturers. Some components are installed differently to fit in cowlings or to otherwise meet the design of airframe engineers. In my days at BRS parachutes, we had similar requests. Installing a parachute can be somewhat or significantly different for every aircraft and BRS struggled with the many aircraft variations, but Continental has made customization a common occurrence. They even advise, "We will come to you wherever you are in the lower 48 [U.S. states]. You will receive an engine quote and consultation at no cost to you." That's a great service.

    In 1966 Continental moved from their original base in Muskegon, Michigan to take over former military facilities in Mobile, Alabama. Today, the southern producer builds about ten engines a day, or an annual rate of about 2,500 engines. In the post-World War II era they once created more than 34,000 engines in a year (1946) and during the 1970s heyday for general aviation the company reported producing 70 engines a day or an annual rate of 17,500 units. In 2011, Continental was bought by Technify Motors (USA) Ltd, a subsidiary of China's AVIC International Holding Corporation.

    You may notice that in the photos with this article, no workers other than our tour guide are seen. The factory was functioning as we toured but the union requires that no employees are photographed while on the job. Of course, I complied with this request but it makes the facility appear unused and quiet. That's an incorrect impression, of course. To see workers at their jobs, Continental Motors has an informative Virtual Factory Tour on their website that you might enjoy. It has many images I was not able to capture.

    PHOTOS (top to bottom) — Starting the factory tour • the factory floor in the machining area • older machinery is maintained for certain jobs (top half) but modern CNC equipment has taken over most work (lower half) • an engine cart has all the components ready for hand assembly (engine block not shown) • the six cylinder 180-210 horsepower IO-360-AF alternate fuel engine

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

     



     

     
     

    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.

    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.


    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.

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

    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!

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


    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.

    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

    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

    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.

    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.

    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.

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

    BushCat is the distinctive Light-Sport Aircraft within reach of almost any budget. With a solid heritage BushCat by SkyReach is fun, capable, and available as a kit, fully-built SLSA or ELSA.

    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.


    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.

    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.

    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.

    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?

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

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    Updated: November 19, 2014

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