SPLOG
 

...a web log of developments in Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft
Most recent 20 postings.


Gyroplanes and Autogyros … Same or Different?
By Dan Johnson, September 1, 2015

(Images updated 9/2/15)

Are you intrigued by airplanes that spin their wings? Helicopters are out of the budget for most pilots but have you ever sampled a gyroplane? Whatever your answer, you should know that Rotax Aircraft Engines reports selling more 912 powerplants to gyro producers than to any other airplane segment. Most of those are sold outside the USA.

Americans like and do fly gyroplanes, of course. Most associate the type with the Bensen Gyrocopter, but the history record reveals its overseas start. Again today, gyros are predominantly a non-U.S. phenomenon, a fact LAMA is trying to change through its advocacy efforts to press FAA to reconsider the fully built SLSA gyro as once envisioned under the SP/LSA rule.

While most pilots can identify a gyroplane, they mentally picture an aircraft with the engine in the rear. That isn't always the case, though.

The proof of concept aircraft flies; importer Cobus Burger said the "design has changed."
How about the "odd" looking gyroplane pictured with this article, with its tractor engine? This configuration is sometimes called an autogyro while Bensen-style designs used the term gyrocopter. Today most use FAA's preferred "gyroplane."

We've seen some other development of the front engine autogyro, for example the stylish and handsome (though non-Light-Sport Aircraft) Bulldog developed in Britain.

Nonetheless a clear majority of gyroplanes use a pusher configuration that some say is useful as it assures significant airflow over the tailplane. Experts say the use of vertical surfaces aft of the aircraft has significantly aided the stability of gyroplanes. While most gyroplanes we see in the USA are pushers, Phenix Aero based in Colorado is acting to balance the equation.

The U.S. importer portrays their product this way. "Invented by the Spanish engineer Juan de la Cierva to create an aircraft that could safely fly at slow speeds, the autogyro was first flown on 9 January 1923, at Cuatro Vientos Airfield in Madrid. De la Cierva's aircraft resembled the fixed-wing aircraft of the day, with a front-mounted engine and propeller in a tractor configuration to pull the aircraft through the air."

Note ballistic parachute inside the tail boom. all images courtesy Phenix Aviation
After de la Cierva, a Spanish engineer, participated in a design competition in 1921 to develop a bomber for the Spanish military his three-engined aircraft stalled and crashed during an early test flight. Troubled by the stall phenomenon he vowed to develop an aircraft that could fly safely at low airspeeds. The result was the first successful rotorcraft, which he named Autogiro in 1923.

For more of the colorful history of the autogyro and gyroplane, check this detailed article with further credit back to Wikipedia.

All Phenix models share the same basic features of two side-by-side seats in a fully enclosed composite carbon fiber fuselage, much like the most recent European pusher configuration gyrocopters (see photos in this article).

The rotor blades are extruded solid aluminum. Digital EFIS instruments are provided by MGL Avionics. The cabin has a spacious and comfortable interior (photo) with good visibility and a cargo area behind bulkhead.

Thanks to Phenix using turbo charged, fuel injected engines from MW Fly, the company boasts "great performance and fuel economy." Powerplants range from 130 to 150 to 190 horsepower, although these engines have no U.S. certification and have not declared meeting ASTM standards. This does not presently matter since all gyroplanes in America receive airworthiness certificates under Experimental Amateur Built. Earlier models of the Phenix, first introduced in 2009, used the Rotax 914, offering a quick solution were FAA to finally allow SLSA gyroplanes.

One of the most interesting features is a ballistic recovery parachute mounted at the far aft end of the Phenix. As I used to work with BRS Parachutes, I picked up on this right away. BRS engineers often worked on emergency airframe parachutes for helicopters and gyroplanes but that spinning disk flies around right where the parachute wants to go after deployment. Supertough Kevlar connecting bridles that attach parachute to airframe can withstand the whack of a rotor but not the thinner nylon lines that support the parachute. In most deployment scenarios the conflict was sufficient to postpone parachutes for gyros, although a few interesting ideas were proposed by other developers (see last news item in this article). The rear location might remedy the problem.

Phenix Aviation adds, "The tractor configuration of the engine, plus placing the thrust in line with the center-of-gravity, eliminates the tail-wagging, bunt-over and power-pushover tendencies some pusher engined gyroplanes have." Some who have flown the aircraft felt it had a rather long takeoff roll but landing roll is very short in videos available online.

Phenix is presently marketed in the USA by Cobus Burger of Phenix Aero International, LLC. Reach him at 303-903-2148 or via email.

Article updated 9/2/15 with newer aircraft images courtesy of Cobus Burger.


Van’s RV-12 Enter Rare Realm of Four Digits
By Dan Johnson, August 28, 2015

I've enjoyed a front row seat for all eleven years that Light-Sport Aircraft have been part of the aviation firmament. In those years of closely following this industry, I've only seen companies reach the four digit horizon three times.

What does that mean and why might you find it meaningful?

First came Cessna's Skycatcher. More recently it was (quite convincingly) Icon's A5. Now, welcome Van's Aircraft.

Cessna once claimed more than 1,000 orders for their now-discontinued Skycatcher LSA. The company delivered 271 of them (according to our review of FAA's N-number database) but we won't see any more. Icon reports more than 1,300 orders, making them Top Gun in the LSA roost, though they have delivered only one, to EAA's Young Eagles program. Then, we have Van's | the undisputed leader of kit aircraft deliveries. In fact, the latter is nearly ready to enter the aviation stratosphere of five digits.

"On August 27, 2015 the shipping department at Van's Aircraft Inc. had several orders to fill," started the story from the Oregon-based kit giant. "By the end of the day, they'd rolled the 937th RV-12 kit empennage package onto the shipping dock, where it was picked up by a customer from Washington State, Richard Bangsund (photo).

"What's the significance of '937'," asked Van's on your behalf? "Well, combined with the SLSA 'fly-away' RV-12s the company has constructed," the company answered, "the total number of RV-12 empennage kits produced and sold now totals ... one thousand." I'll do the math for you and show that means Van's & Synergy have manufactured 63 RV-12 SLSA.

Van's went on to observe that RV-12 is the sixth RV design to exceed 1,000 unit sales and they added that four of those designs have exceeded 1,000 completions. By any measure this is a very impressive performance. "The number of flying RVs listed on the company's website now totals 9,178," noted Van's. Four hundred and seven of those are RV-12s.

If you review our SLSA market share chart — a new one of which, for the first half of 2015, is in early draft form now — you may be confused. Van's is moving up but is clearly not at the top of the chart. Why? Because most completed and flying RV-12s were built as Experimental Amateur Built aircraft and our popular chart counts only factory built Special LSA. The RV-12s emerging from Van's building partner, Synergy Air, are currently ranked 13th place with 50 registered to the end of 2014.

Washington State customer Richard Bangsund picks up his new RV-12 empennage kit from Van's Aircraft. RV-12 photos courtesy of Van's Aircraft
"All of us at Van's have known that the RV-12 is an excellent little airplane," said company founder Dick (Van) VanGrunsven. It's nice to see the word spreading in the market place."

The word has certainly spread in his immediate family, said Van's Aircraft. Van and two of his brothers have built and fly RV-12s. So have a pair of company employees. Nothing shows belief in a product more than company personnel using it, I'd add.

"RV-12s have also been completed by several groups of young people participating in the Teenflight and Eagle's Nest programs," stated the company. They added that Special LSA RV-12s are now operated by several flight schools, who report that their students love the way it flies, and often request the RV-12 even when other airplanes are available.

"We're looking forward to the next thousand..." said boss Ken Scott.

Some dismiss the performance and say it doesn't count because "they're just ultralights," but Quicksilver reached the ultra-rare five digit space first, delivering more than 15,000 of their aircraft kits since the early 1980s, nearly every one of which also got airborne. That company, now named Quicksilver Aeronautics after the last ownership change, has also entered the fully built Special LSA space.


Transcontinental Gyroplane Record Underway Now
By Dan Johnson, August 25, 2015

As I write this, an intrepid gyro pilot is "out on the course" as we used to say when I flew in hang gliding competitions. By the time you read this, he may be all the way home. What a great effort! I hope Paul earns a world record but either way, I feel certain he enjoyed the experience.

A Magni M-22 Voyager in flight. photo courtesy of Greg Gremminger
"Paul Salmon is currently crossing the country in a record attempt in a Magni M22," said Greg Gremminger, importer for the Italian Magni Gyro line of aircraft. "He is trying to set the record for a gyroplane to cross the country in both directions."

Greg added that Paul is on pace to set the record time, back and forth, in just four days. "This attempt is in the 500 kilogram + (1,100 pound) gyroplane category," added Greg. "There are no records established for this category. The under 500 kilogram category gyro record is currently about 14 days. So, if Paul is successful, he will hold the record for gyroplanes overall, and gyroplanes under 500 kilogram."

"Paul named his gyro "Missing Link II," said Greg. "Johnny Miller set the initial gyroplane record in his "Missing Link" Autogyro in May of 1931." Eighty four years later, Paul left Torrance, California on Sunday morning, August 23rd at 6:00 AM as soon as the tower opened. He arrived in Jacksonville, Florida on Monday evening. He's already headed back west, and according to Greg, will probably stop for the night in El Paso, Texas. If all goes well, he should arrive back in California on Wednesday evening the 26th. Whew!

If you read this soon enough, you can follow the final stretch at this link.

Catch our video with Greg Gremminger to hear about two models from Magni Gyro (shot at the Midwest LSA Expo that is coming up on September 10-11-12).
On Friday the 21st Paul repositioned Missing Link II to Torrance California from his home base in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. He expected to set a new Eastbound Transcontinental Gyroplane record. "After arriving in Jacksonville I will be filing some paperwork, refueling the gyroplane and departing on the return flight back to Torrance, California," wrote Paul. The return trip will establish a new Westbound Transcontinental Gyroplane record, as well as a new Transcontinental "Round trip" Gyroplane record.

According to Paul, the first transcontinental gyroplane flight and record was set by Johnny Miller in May of 1931. Amelia Earhart attempted the flight but was unsuccessful. "Andy Keech is the current holder of the record," Paul added, "and I am attempting to improve on his record."

Arriving at Jacksonville at about 5:30 Florida time, Paul took two days to fly across the country, reported Greg. His first day of flying was about 16 hours and the second day about 14.5 hours. "The record is for the total time to cross the country and return. So, this will be about 4 days," wrote Greg, smashing the current record of 14 days.

As he made his mad dash east then west, Paul was carrying 100 small American flags. "These will be mounted in a display and sold for $100 each," wrote Paul. He indicated the proceeds will be sent to the ALS Association, in memory of Dr. Scott Gibbs, a former helicopter student of Paul's who recently perished from ALS. "He was a talented and caring physician and is missed by me and the community."

Record-seeking pilot Paul Salmon probably won't fuel up like this Magni pilot; he is carrying an addition 30 gallons in the aft seat.
Paul is carrying an extra 30-gallon fuel bladder in back seat as he makes his record-seeking flight. "After this attempt, he may add more fuel bladders and attempt to set the world endurance flight record in a gyro," wrote Greg, "as well as the longest, nonstop leg in a gyro." One wonders how such an active fellow has time for his day job.

Paul Salmon is an emergency room doctor who Greg says knows how to take power naps when necessary, a skill that may be useful between long flying legs. "He got his rotary wings in Magni gyros more ten years ago," Greg recalled. "His record-attempt aircraft is the fourth Magni gyro he has owned." Paul is also a helicopter instructor and has a Robinson dealership plus a certified repair facility in Missouri. "He may be the most active helo instructor in the state," added Greg!

Unfortunately, as the FAA never approved gyroplanes to be fully built Special LSA, Paul cannot provide compensated instruction in gyros, although various groups including LAMA are investigating how to change that restriction.


DemoVenture 2015 — Flying at Oshkosh
By Dan Johnson, August 20, 2015

Shows like Sebring and Midwest LSA Expo are known for being great places to demo fly a Light-Sport or light kit you may be considering to buy. They earned that reputation because it is typically much easier to fly at those lower-key, less crowded events than at giant shows like AirVenture. However, some companies make demo flying a mission at Oshkosh and this article covers three that delivered an exceptional number of demo flights.

Your author finally got a chance to fly the Icon A5 at AirVenture Oshkosh 2015. Watch for an upcoming Video Pilot Report on this warmly-received LSA seaplane.
Icon reported doing around 150 demonstration flights in the first public outing of the long-awaited LSA seaplane. Writers for aviation's largest magazines got their private crack at the new bird beforehand ... since returning from Oshkosh, I've seen A5 on the covers of Flying, AOPA Pilot, Sport Aviation, and Plane & Pilot. That's an enormous splash. I can't recall any single aircraft capturing all four titles in the same month, quite a credit to Team Icon for deftly executing such a major marketing push.

Once arriving in Wisconsin, Icon made sure many their owners-in-waiting got a chance to fly the bird they hope to own before long. Interspersed among them, more aviation journalists got their chance. I had to bide my time until near the end of the week due to an intense schedule and a couple days of less than ideal weather, but I finally got my shot at the much-talked-about LSA.

Icon staffers were very accommodating, even mounting four GoPro cameras on the A5 in which I flew with ex-military jock and now Icon's vice president of sales and marketing, Craig Bowers. Look for our coming Video Pilot Report as soon as the video editing can be completed. Icon did their demo flying off-site where they could better control the experience. A group of perhaps 15 personnel moved people in and up in a pair of A5s with some staffers first briefing each pilot while others took care of fueling, taking photos, assisting the water docking and more in the expert fashion we've come to expect from the California company.

M-Squared's Breese 2 powered by a Rotax 912 flew many demo flights and drew the vice mayor from the Chinese city of Anyang who visited AirVenture with a delegation.
Next we move to a man I anointed as the "Demo King" of AirVenture in previous years thanks to his amazing performance at getting people aloft from the Ultralight Area runway at Oshkosh.

Compared to Paul Mather of M-Squared Aircraft, Icon is a Johnny-come-lately to this activity. Beyond making SLSA and kit versions of his Breese line, Paul is also a DAR (Designated Airworthiness Representative) who assists others with getting approval for their Light-Sport Aircraft. He is very knowledgeable and very experienced.

Paul reported, "We flew 98 fights, about ten of which were to area volunteers; through these flights, we put 9.8 hours on our 912-powered aircraft." Paul has always been gracious about getting hard-working volunteers a chance to see their area as a form of reward for their hours of unpaid work. He added, "We also did two photo shoots for EAA." He explained that the photography missions were done with an automatic camera that captured more than 3,000 pictures, at least one of which EAA used in giant size in the main area of the event. "The automatic camera was operated by a subcontractor from National Geographic magazine." He was a very large fellow further proving the strength of Paul's open cockpit airplane. "His fisheye lens took in almost the entire field at Oshkosh," Paul added.

Paul was member of our travel delegation to China, where he found sales for his M-Squared models. Of our group, he was one who had earlier experience in this part of the world. His flying machines may fit an emerging aviation market due to very reasonable prices (less than $40,000 for a ready-to-fly SLSA) and being simple to fly. As seen in the inset photo, Anyang vice mayor Zhang Manru visited Paul's display along with other associates from China.

The ultra-deluxe Revo trike flew an impressive number of demo missions. The Chinese group see interest in weight shift aircraft in their country and paid a visit to Evolution Trikes' display. See plenty of activity on a fun video found on Evolution's Facebook page (August 17, 2015 post).
Evolution Trikes made another airshow splash. Although they set a blazing pace for demo flying — more on that below — what may distinguish the company the most was their trek from central Florida in four Revo weight shift aircraft, a 17-hour journey. Anyone who says trikes can't fly long distances evidently never examined one from Evolution.

Evolution's Larry Mednick reported that AirVenture 2015 was "one of the busiest shows I can remember. The flight pattern in the 'Fun Fly Zone' was so full it was difficult to get a chance to land at times." He added, "The flight line was packed with smiling faces watching the takeoffs and landings that were happening every few seconds." He observed that more people than ever evidently wanted to experience the fun instead of just sitting on the side lines."

"We flew two Revo aircraft almost every minute we were allowed to fly and we had a line of folks holding onto yellow waivers waiting for their opportunity to go up next." The Revo demo pilots kept very active — a fact many in the Ultralight Area noticed. Larry reported more than 120 demo flights given.

"One of my fondest memories is of a young boy who was next in line to fly when the field shut down operations," recalled Larry, who promised the lad he could fly the next day. "Sure enough the youngster walked up to our booth with his yellow waiver in his right hand while waving with his left. His time was limited as his dad and grandfather wanted to depart soon. Concerned he might miss his chance, he trudged away with his head a bit down. Ten minutes later he came running back with the biggest smile on his face. He'd convinced Dad to wait a bit longer later so we strapped him in and off we went. He took the controls and flew better than most of the adults that had their hand at piloting a Revo earlier that week."

So, three Light-Sport companies flew more than 360 demos with five aircraft. I have no way to know, but my bet is that is more than nearly all the other companies all over the sprawling grounds of Oshkosh ... combined. Bravo!


Virtual Fly-In and Three Fall Shows to Enjoy
By Dan Johnson, August 16, 2015
Update 8/17/15 AM — Even with almost two months to go, WUFI is growing. Look at the updated map at the bottom; it appears many ultralighters are ready to join the fun on October 10.

"One Day. One Sky. Be a part of it." That's the exclamation and invitation from the Dayton Ultralights World Ultralight Fly-In.

What is a virtual fly-in and why is the Dayton group organizing it? "Because the limitations of these aircraft mean it is unlikely all of us around the world will ever get to fly together, but we can all fly the same sky, on the same day everywhere on the planet, making this the first Virtual Worldwide Fly-in!

Why not? People get excited about "flash mobs" and this seems like lots more fun for people who fly. While thousands attend big events like AirVenture and Sun 'n Fun ultralight enthusiasts only rarely fly from, say, California, to Oshkosh, Wisconsin at 50 mph. It can be done, of course, but it's more probable airshow ultralights are hauled by ground.

The Dayton group has made an official application for a Guinness World Record, so join the fun and see if you can enter the record book.

How do you participate? The World Ultralight Fly-In (WUFI) starts at daybreak on October 10, 2015. Ultralight enthusiasts anywhere on the planet are invited, including any aircraft considered an "ultralight" — aircraft such as fixed wing ultralights, powered parachutes, weight shift trikes, powered paragliders, hang gliders, or, "any imaginative, magnificent flying machine."

To join the fun go to the official WUFI Map and enter your name. Then, "Get your aircraft ready anytime before daybreak on October 10th, fly, and photograph or video your flight. To help with the Guinness record attempt, you need a photo with visible proof of October 10 showing on the screen while you and your flying machine are airborne." Afterwards, they suggest, "Post your picture to the WUFI Facebook site with your name, type of aircraft, and model, and a short description of where on the Earth you flew!"

Call 937-470-6168 or, see their Facebook page.

Coming before the virtual fly-in and the other two fall shows is one of my favorites, the Midwest LSA Expo (MWLSA) in Mt. Vernon, Illinois over September 10-11-12. This is a smaller event than spectaculars like AirVenture or Sun 'n Fun. However, size isn't everything.

The event about one hour west of St. Louis is big in other ways. You'll typically see about 50 aircraft on display and you can get right to the folks that bring them, without a dozen other people crowding your time. You can ask the in-depth questions that often are not possible at big shows. MWLSA is also big for demo flying the airplanes of your choice; it's easier and faster than at any other show I attend. Mt. Vernon is literally a spacious airport with big runways, open taxiways, and lots of flying-friendly space around it.

My favorite videographer and I will again be present — we've never missed a MWLSA event. This is a place where we can accumulate footage for our popular VPRs or Video Pilot Reports, longer shows where we mount our collection of seven Garmin VIRB cameras. With so many viewpoints, Dave gets lots of footage to use when he performs his editing magic to make the videos many of you love.

Mt. Vernon and MWLSA is perfect for us and for you to get in the air plus the town welcomes the pilots and airport manager Chris Collins always earns the strongest praise for making sure everyone gets what they need, including free rides to the town's restaurants and hotels.

After MWLSA and after WUFI come two events in western states. Videoman Dave and I plan to take the long haul westbound to the Flying Aviation Expo occurring October 15-16-17, followed by Copperstate on October 22-23-24.

Many in aviation are puzzled by a fact that the biggest aviation events happen well east of the Mississippi River. More pilots and airplanes are based in California than any other state yet the major events are hundreds of miles away.

That's changing with the new Flying (magazine) Aviation Expo in beautiful Palm Springs, California, just a few hours east of Los Angeles. This second annual event expects more than 300 exhibitors, plenty of forums and talks, plus a broad group of aircraft parked immediately outside the exhibit hall. Get a good view from the video interview with Flying magazine editor Robert Goyer below.

Here's a bonus: Register soon and get a free exhibit hall pass.

trike photo by Rudy Morris 2014
Then comes Copperstate. Starting 42 years ago in 1973 Copperstate has been a stalwart of western shows supporting a large pilot population in Arizona and surrounding states.

Copperstate Fly-In is a volunteer run, non-profit organization "dedicated to promoting recreational and general aviation through events, scholarships, and public education." Not unlike other big shows including Sun 'n Fun, "proceeds from the Copperstate Fly-In help support scholarship programs for youth seeking careers in the aerospace industry."

Pilot will enjoy attending along with about 5,000 other folks to view aircraft you might not see at eastern USA shows, simply because bringing them all the way across the country may not be in the cards for some of their owners. Late October in Arizona is a beautiful time of year with abundant sunshine but lacking the scorching heat of summer.

We plan to shoot more videos at Copperstate so those of you "back east" can still attend via your computer screen or mobile device and the good folks at YouTube. However, if you live "out west," come join us here, too.

Updated World Ultralight Fly-In map ...


The World of LSA and American Opportunities
By Dan Johnson, August 13, 2015

Updated 8/21/15 — This article has been updated with a reader comment seen at the bottom.

When the SP/LSA regulation was announced 11 years ago nearly all registered Light-Sport Aircraft originated in Europe. Indeed, the first two accepted as SLSA were the Evektor SportStar and Flight Design's CT series. For several early years, Europe accounted for more than two-thirds of all LSA brands in the USA.

However, in a decade, a lot has changed.

Now, American companies have had time to shift from kit making (a very different business model) or have developed brand-new aircraft or offer a revised version of an existing model to meet the ASTM standards so they could gain FAA acceptance.

American companies are also starting to make inroads into other countries that accept ASTM standards.

Some countries simply copy FAA regs while others accept the ASTM standards set and then layer on some of their own regulations. It varies country-by-country though a few appear to largely accept U.S. approval as sufficient for operation in their country. I'll cover China in more detail below.

Blue shows countries that have confirmed that they have adopted regulations, used ASTM LSA standards by reference in their airworthiness code, or accepted LSA on the same basis of airworthiness as in the USA; Red shows countries that indicated they are considering adopting the LSA category; Green identifies the European Union that has created CS-LSA (Certification Specifications for LSA) but have not yet fully implemented all rules. image initially prepared by SkyRunner, then modified for the EU
Our friends over at SkyRunner compiled a list of countries they found to support Light-Sport Aircraft and ASTM standards. We started with their work and added further information in an attempt to show the full potential of ASTM and LSA, what SkyRunner folks called a "|category [that] is quickly becoming harmonized worldwide."

Based on the concept initially introduced to Americans in 2004, ASTM-compliant LSA have subsequently been adopted in a number of countries (see map). SkyRunner elaborated, "Information obtained from FAA indicates that [CAAs] in the following countries have confirmed that they have adopted regulations, used ASTM LSA standards by reference in their airworthiness code, or accepted LSA on the same basis of airworthiness as in the USA: Australia, China, Brazil, Colombia, Canada, Israel, Chile, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, and South Africa." We might quibble a bit with some of this information, for example, Canada still uses their Advanced Ultralight regulation, but sources do confirm movement in the right direction.

Further expansion is expected, indicated the SkyRunner team. Their research shows CAAs in the following countries have indicated that they are considering adopting the LSA category: Argentina, Guatemala, Venezuela, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Russia, and Thailand.

Please note that while we believe this to be accurate information, understanding another country's regulations is not always straightforward and even when fully understood, these things are subject to change.

Some countries appear to be moving faster than others. One that has shown significant effort is China. I recently reported that Searey gained CAAC approval for both their design and the manufacturing process. More on that below.

Meanwhile, a Facebook friend, Jane Zhang of Silk Wings Aviation, reported that additional LSA-types have obtained similar levels of approval in China. She noted, "First one was Flight Design CT back in 2009/2010, then [Cessna's Skycatcher]162, two German Autogyro, [Germany's] C42, [Evektor's] EV97 ... that's six. Jabiru's J230-D is #7 and Searey is #8." I asked Jane if all had both TDA (Type Design Approval) and Production Certificates (PC), the latter being a much more involved process.

Jane continued to aid my understanding, "I know for sure CT, 162, Autogyro (two models approved) and C42 have gained PC ... awarded to [a producer's] home manufacturing location. A LSA company has to have both TDA and PC granted by CAAC to officially and legally sell in China."

When I inquired further about how many LSA type aircraft may be operating in China, Jane replied, "CT has an Asia/China dealer. Autogyro and C42 have one common dealer and he is selling well. EV97 ... I am not sure. A Chinese designed LSA — by Sunward called Aurora SA60L (photo) — is selling relatively well." She said she'd have to check for exact numbers but, "I guess around 50-70 'legal' ones in total. At least 10-20 LSA in China do not have CAAC approval (yet).

For those curious about China and the requirements, I followed up with Searey CEO, Adam Yang. First, he noted Progressive Aerodyne had some audit findings, but they were not major points. We are basically in good shape but need to write a report to show compliance." He said another two months are needed to get the final Production Certificate, however, his company is allowed to register the eleven Searey LSA already sold.

In an interesting twist not unlike how Europe handles certain aircraft, Adam noted "CAAC is not administrating powered parachutes, trikes, powered paragliders, and such aircraft types. "Instead China's sports administration is handling this," Adam added.

All this shows the challenges of answering the seemingly simple question, "Where are LSA accepted around the world." The answer is as complicated as the various government agencies choose to make it and every country handles approval somewhat differently.

Nonetheless, American LSA producers wishing to sell outside the USA have it vastly easier than manufacturers of Type Certificated (Part 23) aircraft. Hence, we see a global LSA market that is far easier for smaller companies to tackle ... and that seems a great thing.

Update — Reader Torkell Sætervadet wrote, "Norway is a part of the EASA area (on your map it is white, it should be green), and it is not correct that CS-LSA is not fully implemented in the EU. It is — but it requires an expensive type certificate based on the ASTM specifications (with some modifications). The cost of the type certificate is why EU/EASA only has a selection of three LSA models as of today. The rule may be changed in the future, but don't hold your breath."


What’s with FAA’s Worry Over Electric Airplanes?
By Dan Johnson, August 9, 2015

I'm always impressed with good turns of phrase and cleverly-worded presentations. Given that I am a writer, I suppose that doesn't surprise you. However, I am even more impressed when someone can present a concept in such clear language that everyone gets it right away. Following is such a story.

Yuneec's eSpyder powered with an electric motor.
My longtime friend and fellow board member, Tom Peghiny, participated in our annual Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association board of directors meeting at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, where EAA kindly provides a quiet, air-conditioned space for our group to meet.

LAMA has four initiatives that the association is pursuing*. One of them is trying to break the logjam of electric propulsion

In an FAA-organized gathering on this and other subjects at AirVenture 2014, industry experts observed that FAA never intended to block electric power. Agency rulewriters were intent on preventing use of turbine engines on LSA so the regulation specifies reciprocating engines only, effectively blocking electric power even if doing so was never the goal. While only a couple sentences in the preamble to the rule prevent electric — along with an important definition — FAA personnel replied that it is now a major challenge to change their rule, even though most appeared to agree it was never their intention to prevent electric power.

Cartoon art by Robert Ariail
Since the SP/LSA rule was released in 2004, lithium batteries have grabbed the attention of FAA officials in a very powerful way. The fires onboard Boeing's 787 Dreamliner made news all around the world after FAA had given their approval to the new design.

Today, any talk of advancing electric propulsion on the lightest-of-all aircraft where the technology is currently quite viable brings an immediate response about lithium battery fires. The danger of an onboard fire is so scary that some authorities seem unable to see a solution beyond the hazard.

As board members discussed how to move the needle on LAMA's electric propulsion initiative, board member Tom proposed a scenario that soon had everyone in the board meeting either laughing out loud or smiling broadly. He supposed ... "Imagine if all airplanes were currently powered by electric motors and someone came along with a great new idea to power airplanes with gasoline."

Perhaps it would be best if I present Tom's hilarious lines using an imaginary dialogue between an inventor and FAA officials.

FAA tests show that lithium batteries can explode and burn even more violently than previously thought, raising questions about their use and shipment on passenger flights. image from eetimes.com

INVENTOR: "FAA, I have an idea. I think we might be able to power airplanes with a fluid. It might prove to be very efficient."

FAA: "Oh, what's that? We have to be very careful with new ideas, you know."

INVENTOR: "We'll it's an explosive liquid ... really packs a punch. It could keep aircraft aloft for hours at a time."

FAA: "Explosive! Oh, we don't like the sound of that very much."

INVENTOR: "No, really. This stuff, called gasoline, has a very high energy density, is compact, can be easily loaded onto the aircraft, doesn't cost too much for the energy it delivers ..."

FAA: "Don't try to snow us with all that technobabble. You said 'explosive,' didn't you? We're still trying to wrap our minds around that."

INVENTOR: "Oh, it can be done without much danger. We'll put the fuel in the wings. We'll put a firewall between the engine and the occupants. Fuel lines will be carefully routed around the cockpit."

FAA: "You mean you want to pump an explosive liquid near the occupants, put it into an engine compartment forward of the cockpit, make a spark many times per second, and explode this stuff in cylinders!?"

Cartoon art by Glenn Foden
INVENTOR: "Yeah, I think it can work really well. This gasoline stuff ... sure it's highly flammable, but we can handle it safely."

FAA: "Flammable! Explosive! Sparks to ignite it! All with the occupants downwind of this stuff!?"

INVENTOR: "Yeah, FAA. This gasoline thing is gonna be big. We might even use it automobiles, in lawn mowers, and in children's toys."

FAA: "Hold on, wait a minute, stop right now. I can't see us approving such an energy source for perhaps years. This sounds crazy. Who would possibly think carrying around hundreds of pounds of explosive liquid in a three dimensional environment could be safe. We're going to have to examine this very carefully. It could take decades."

INVENTOR: "Oh, man. I don't think I can stay in business that long.

FAA: "Yeah, well, we have reliable electric-powered airplanes today. We honestly don't know what you are thinking with this half-baked idea to carry gasoline in airplanes. Plus, we're obliged to alert the automobile, lawn mower, and children's toy regulators since you mentioned those products as well.

FAA: (walking away muttering under their breath...) "What on earth will these crackpots come up with next. Really, gasoline on airplanes. That's just nuts. We better form a new department to confront this possibility. What if Mr. Inventor is right and this gasoline-on-airplanes idea should take off. Crazy ..."

INVENTOR: (sighing deeply...) "Dang it! I thought this was such a great idea, but man, convincing these government folks is going to be tough. Whew! Better join LAMA and see if they can help."

OK, that last sentence is tongue-in-cheek, but that's the story. Hope you liked it. I'm still smiling from Tom's sharp-as-a-pin humor. Thanks, Tom!

LAMA's four initiatives are: (1) aerial work for LSA; (2) fully-built, SLSA gyroplanes; (3) electric propulsion; and, (4) simplifying the LODA process for training in sub-87 knot airplanes.


Searey Now Completely Ready to Enter China
By Dan Johnson, August 5, 2015

Icon recently won FAA acceptance as the California company demonstrated meeting ASTM standards for their A5 seaplane and made a big show out of delivering the first airplane to EAA Young Eagles ... the same move, by the way, as Cessna did with their Skycatcher. We expect Icon's future to work out better as they begin to fulfill more than 1,300 orders.

However, another LSA seaplane is demonstrably ahead in the government approval race.

"Led by consultants from SilverLight Aviation, Progressive Aerodyne of Tavares, Florida recently received Production Certificate approval from China's CAAC." According to SilverLight spokesman Abid Farooqui, "This makes Searey the first U.S.-made LSA to achieve this distinction and have both Type Design Approval as well as a Production Certificate for its Searey LSA airplane." Searey's earlier Type Design approval and recent Production Certificate were gained under the supervision and guidance of SilverLight, which is based in Zephyrhills. Florida. In addition to doing consulting work, Abid's Z-hills company represents a fixed wing LSA, a trike, and a gyro.

Gaining a foreign country's approval for a production certificate is no small accomplishment and hearty congratulations are in order. "Type Design Approval [from Chinese CAAC authorities] was much more thorough than FAA," said Abid. He refers to FAA when the agency examined Progressive Aerodyne's compliance with ASTM standards and FAA best practices in an unusually clean and swift acceptance.

Certification team, from left (U.S. team in bold): Abid Farooqui; Bill Roche; Guo Yonggang; Shi Yi Fang; Adam Yang; Wang Xuemin; Sun Yanling; Dan Saunders; and Apollo (of Searey China). Not-shown members of CAAC's certification team: Li Honglin; Zhou Zhimin; Ding Xiaoyu.
"It took one year and multiple meetings to earn the Production Certificate," noted Abid. He said that this effort involved "two one-week-long, grilling technical meetings conducted in China and another visit from CAAC's team to the Florida factory where they had us perform selected structural tests and in-flight spin tests, while they observed."

The Production Certificate was earned partially by submission of documents and their approval followed by a one week visit of four inspectors. "It was similar to FAA's audit," said Abid. "They selected processes and spot checked their implementation and general safety conditions in the factory."

Why go to all this effort for a market that is just emerging, insofar as civilian or recreation flying goes?

Progressive Aerodyne has been at work on this market penetration for many months. As reported earlier, the company opened an office in the country and hired a sales representative.

"Searey already has 12 orders from China and 28 more in pipeline," reported Abid on behalf of Progressive Aerodyne. All of them will be factory assembled here in Florida, flight tested, and then shipped. In China, after some reassembly, they will conduct a final test flight before it is legal to sell to an end user.

However, Abid stated, "Searey will now definitely be a legal aircraft to fly in China." To my knowledge, this is the first American company to go through the entire process to allow sales in China.

Consultants from SilverLight Aviation completely led and worked on and defended the Type Design Approval process and guided the Production Certificate process which was originally set up under contract by SilverLight.

Pictured are the team from Anyang City in central China, lead by Shu Dong Li of Aero Sport Association (3rd from left). Next to him in the green shirt is Anyang's Vice-Mayor, Zhang Manru.
As I wrote a couple months ago following my first-ever visit to China, this country has some distance to go before an aviation culture will develop. However, the nation has moved swiftly to modernize, achieving in the last three decades such stunning progress that human history has no parallel. On my visit I heard of plans and a deep determination to take earlier successes with automobile factories and tech-product plants and repeat this fast pace with airports.

They will need to as the area I visited had only a single airport ... today. I would expect fast progress toward airport building and a continued opening of airspace to civilian use and when that begins to happen, airframe producers may enjoy surprising growth. As such, Progressive Aerodyne appears especially well positioned to profit from this newest focus of Chinese authorities.

As further proof of their attention to airport infrastructure building, a team from Anyang City where I visited attended AirVenture 2015. With cities leading the charge in much of such development, it was great to again greet these Chinese contacts in Wisconsin (photo), lead by Shu Dong Li of the Aero Sports Association. I will continue following progress in China.


Gutsy-Looking SkyRunner Turned Heads at AirVenture
By Dan Johnson, August 2, 2015

To many eyes, Icon stole the show at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015. Many other newsworthy announcements were made — several of which I reported on this website — yet Icon's splashy marketing probably drew the most eyes, just as it does on Facebook. However, thanks to fellow journalist Roy Beisswenger, I was introduced to the high-energy gang at SkyRunner.

I don't know if "radical" fits the marketing designs of SkyRunner LLC, but their take on the flying ATV or dune buggy takes the genre to a whole new realm. I find myself searching for the right words to describe SkyRunner. Imagine I-Tec's Maverick but with an attitude. Then wrap your mind around two powerful engines to make this baby go. Maverick looked vaguely like a mild-mannered road car where SkyRunner abandons that image for a Ninja motorcycle look crossed with the baddest four-wheeler ATV you ever saw.

The company stated it succinctly, "SkyRunner is the ultimate recreational vehicle combining off-road adventure with one of the safest forms of aviation." Is it any wonder the military has reportedly expressed interest in SkyRunner along with more than 100 other buyers? Engineers deliberately made it sexy and wild enough to pique a soldier's mind yet based on the millions of sales of off-road recreational vehicles sales, Team SkyRunner may be tapping into a rich vein of motorsports interest ... perhaps even moreso than Icon.

When SkyRunner first came on the market, they approached more stealthily than the A5 LSA seaplane designer. Icon has to appeal to aviators or wannabes ... it is an airplane. SkyRunner doesn't have that constraint. Anybody could enjoy the potent dune buggy ATV concept and the fact that it can also go aloft is like a meter-thick icing on the cake. Sweet!

When I visited with Stewart Hamel and his team of designers, instructors, and marketers in their display in EAA's Innovations tent, I found a group of fun-loving yet highly motivated people with a sincere interest in flying but more than that.

As you can see in the artist study of the concept, the early focus was on the carriage, not the wing. That's hardly surprising as the wing is a component they'll buy from somebody else, much like every other powered parachute manufacturer in the world. Yet in a single glance at SkyRunner, you may not see a powered parachute; instead, you see a ground vehicle that can strap on some wings. Nonetheless, the proof of SkyRunner as aircraft shows in the effort to meet ASTM standards for powered parachutes (as has done Maverick). Work is underway, said Stewart.

Powered Sport Flying editor and powered parachute instructor, Roy Beisswenger (aft) joins me in SkyRunner, looking all Darth Vader in this gnarly rig ... well, sorta.
Terrafugia earned an exemption for their Transition roadable airplane — a grant stemming from the onerous requirements to put a vehicle on the U.S. highway system. SkyRunner is also anticipating qualifying for the privilege as they state gross weight of the rig at 1,320 pounds (or 1,430 with the exemption). Dry weight is stated as 1,050 pounds giving a useful load of 380 pounds. That includes no fuel; it carries 16 gallons. However, in casual discussion, Team SkyRunner envisions trimming a few pounds. The carriage is mostly welded steel and other materials might convert quite a few pounds to useful load or payload.

One reason for the higher empty weight comes from dual engines. SkyRunner's ground engine is a ProStar 1000 cubic centimeter four-stroke two cylinder powerplant coupled to a an automatic transmission and yielding 89 horsepower. For flight a 100-horsepower Rotax 912 ULS is used paired with a Duc or Powerfin prop. The two engines are not interlinked. They plan a Performance Design Sunriser 550 wing that should carry the weight reliably.

You might wonder what is the market for SkyRunner ... assuming you are thinking as a pilot as are most ByDanJohnson.com readers. That may be too narrow a view. Every year, better than half a million ATVs are sold in the USA (according to a report from the U.S. Forest Service), a yearly market double the number of all airplanes registered by FAA. Producers include household names such as Polaris, Bombardier, Honda, John Deere, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha.

As an outsider in the powersports industry my guess is that SkyRunner might find a solid market for a few hundred units per year, even at their $119,000 price tag. A quad from one of those familiar corporate names might be more affordable but they can't get off the ground for more than a few seconds. Plus, like Icon's A5 LSA seaplane, the cool factor of a flying ATV can be marketed broadly. I got excited enough to promise a visit to the Shreveport factory one day where they offered to take me out on their 60 acre spread and show me a good time. That figures to be a hoot, I'm sure.

Here's a 360-degree video to view the SkyRunner design:


AirVenture Wrap-Up: Shiny Part 103, Icon Rising
By Dan Johnson, July 27, 2015

The big summer celebration of flight has ended. I have more info from AirVenture 2015 and next I plan a summary article. A preview includes the most positive prognosis from industry players I have seen in recent years; strong sales reported by several producers; several interesting developments or benchmarks; and a wonderful week of weather as icing on the cake. My video partner and I put in long days to secure perhaps 30 or more new videos including many on the freshest topics in light aviation. Stay tuned for more and go here to see the hundreds of videos we have posted from previous events.

The Shiniest Part 103 ... We shot a video interview on the line of Hummel Aviation light aircraft, including two Part 103 models and one Experimental Amateur Built version. Toward the end of the week, one that had been sheltered in a tent on one end of the sprawling AirVenture grounds was hand towed to the Ultralight Area — called the Fun Fly Zone — so people could see this mirror-finish (highly polished aluminum) UltraCruiser in the air.

The gleaming example in the nearby photos was built by Steve Cole from Indianapolis over a three year and eight month period, from plans. It meets all the Part 103 parameters — empty weight of 254 pounds; 5 gallons of fuel; 55-knot (63 mph) cruise; 24-knot stall — yet can climb enthusiastically at 1,000 fpm using its half-VW 45-horsepower engine from Scott Casler. The four stroke powerplant burns only 1.7 gallons an hour.

You cannot probably imagine the effort needed to make aluminum gleam like this effort by Steve Cole.
For those a bit less ambitious or skilled than Steve, kits are also available — see next — and all models boast truly affordable prices. You may not be able to make yours look like Scott's UltraCruiser, but certainly here is a line of airplanes for those on tighter budgets, and isn't she a pretty thing that still requires no pilot license, no medical, no N-numbers, and a very simple set of rules that fit on a single sheet of paper.

UltraCruiser is a Part 103 legal all-metal ultralight, although the company notes that the trigear version will be too heavy to qualify as a 103 as is a model with a full canopy.

"UltraCruiser is an easy to build and even easier to fly aircraft," stated Hummel Aviation. The design can be built straight from plans up to, and including a full kit. The kit includes predrilled laser cut components. All parts are formed or welded for you. Wheels, tires, brakes, harness, and even the seat cushion is included. The kit is very complete. Everything is included to complete the aircraft less the engine, prop, spinner, and instruments.

"The complete set of plans contains 26 large drawings with all bulkheads, wing ribs and skins [depicted in actual, full] size. A 30-page step by step manual is very complete. Only simple shop tools are required," said company owner Terry Hallett.

As AirVenture 2015 drew to a close, Friday was the day I got to fly the A5 from Icon Aircraft. Weather as the week started delayed Icon's two-airplane demo flying schedule. Oshkosh has so much going on that my schedule also got loaded yet after a couple false starts we found a workable time slot and I finally got my chance on the most discussed airplane in the Light-Sport space.

I will begin work on a more detailed A5 review in the days ahead. but following are a couple brief temptations of what to expect.

A few supposedly jaded aviation journalists flew A5 and the reviews I've heard have been quite favorable. No, that's not right. They seemed to love A5. As AVweb's Paul Bertorelli put it, "coverage the A5 has gotten so far has amounted to one long sloppy wet kiss from the aviation press." Former Cessna president and EAA Chairman Jack Pelton repeatedly used words like "incredible" and "remarkable." You know ... to a great extent their warm embrace of A5 is deserved.

Two of us flew A5 in 12 gusting 22 mph wind conditions and lake water with one to one and a half foot swells. As CEO Kirk Hawkins put it on my return, "not all light seaplanes could handle that." A5 did very well in those rowdier circumstances. I certainly did not fly the plane in smooth summer breezes and a gently rippled water surface.

On whole, I found A5 very docile to fly. We did the Icon spectacle of pitching into a stall, holding the stick full aft (literally pulled all the way rearward) and moving the stick briskly from left to right without any upset of the airplane. Even when power was moved to idle thrust and we repeated the maneuver with 30 degrees of flaps, A5 merely set up about a 900 fpm descent rate. Taking that to the water with zero corrective action would result in a very firm but survivable landing, I believe. Given all A5s sold in the USA will also have an airframe parachute, safety has been carefully approached.

Like most seaplanes, speed is not paramount in A5 with cruise from 85-95 knots (100-110 mph) according a top Icon test pilot. Banking sharply and gracefully is easy in A5. We did 60+ degree banks only a few hundred feet off the water in complete confidence. She feels very solid and Icon's intuitive Angle of Attack indicator — the best execution I've seen — is a good guide to the limits when executing such steep turns. We commonly cruised around at 70 knots with 4500 rpm from the Rotax 912 iS engine.

Water operations, even in fairly challenging conditions, were quite straightforward. As you sense in the air, Icon's large vertical tail surface brings good A5 flight behavior and makes maneuvering on the water authoritative. Even with the added complexities of water ops and retractable gear, piloting A5 is within reach of any well-trained newbie pilot. Icon is also gearing up an entire training program that I'll discuss more fully later.

I was pleased to get my experience on this long awaited Special LSA seaplane and I look forward to telling you more about it.

More Oshkosh light aircraft news will follow ...


Day Two: LAMA Award and New Rotax Engine
By Dan Johnson, July 22, 2015

Here is more news from AirVenture 2015, coming from Tuesday, Day Two.

The Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association gave a press conference to a full house. LAMA enjoyed a terrific opening day in its mission of advocacy for Light-Sport, light kit, and ultralight aircraft. Partnered with the U.S. Ultralight Association (USUA), LAMA participated in two very productive meetings, one with EAA's advocacy experts and another with several key FAA personnel. USUA's Roy Beisswenger and I hope for good things to follow but felt highly energized that we moved closer to some goals we believe can truly help the light aircraft industry and its pilots.

That was the "business" portion of LAMA's press conference, but we kept it brief as we had a more meaningful message to deliver.

LAMA has presented its President's Award for 24 years running to an outstanding individual whose work benefitted the light aircraft sector. Announcing this year's recipient was one of those bittersweet moments. LAMA Founder Larry Burke solicited votes from about 800 members of the LSA business community and the convincing winner was Jeremy Monnett, the young business leader who was managing the company his father built (Sonex) when he was tragically killed in an accident.

Jeremy's father and mother John and Betty supported Jeremy's wife Kate and one of their sons along with many of the Sonex team as the family received the award in a heartwarming, emotionally-charged presentation.

I was honored and moved to present this award and to deliver some remarks prepared by Larry Burke because last-minute changes prevented him from attending this year's AirVenture 2015 as originally planned. All of us in the aviation community offer our sincerest condolences to the Monnett family and Sonex team for the loss of this fine young aviator.

Yet, as Jeremy would have preferred, aviation must continue to advance and it did with a presentation from Rotax Aircraft Engines.

Lead by their capable Marc Becker Rotax BRP officials packed the press conference room to capacity for the rollout of their brand new Rotax 915 engine. This company is widely known for their 9-series engines that just got a bit bigger and a third more powerful.

Marc related many interesting facts, among them the 50 million hours logged on Rotax aviation powerplants, with that enormous dataset growing by five million more hours every year. Clearly one of the most successful companies in aviation, Rotax is going even further with their 135-horsepower (100 kW) Rotax 915.

The new 915 is a fuel injected engine also using a turbocharger so it can maintain power up to 15,000 feet, Marc announced. In a Q&A session where many quizzed the BRP team, Marc said the 915 has already logged 2,000 hours on the dyno tester. The engine will continue to go through Rotax's typically thorough testing and will reach the market in the last half of 2017.

In addition to their own testing, Rotax is careful to work with their large group of OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) to assure the mounting and general installation of their engine is as solid and finished as their engine design and manufacturing. In fact, it is this high standard of care that ensures customers have great experiences with Rotax engines.

In our LAMA meetings mentioned at the start of this article, we are working to ease the regulation logjam that prevents gyroplanes from being Special fully-manufactured LSA in the USA. In discussions, we often relate that Rotax reports selling more 912 engines to gyroplanes than any other aircraft segment because overseas, gyros are selling strongly, lead by the AutoGyro company. So perhaps it will surprise few that AutoGyro USA already had a 915-equipped model in their space at Oshkosh.

In the spirited Q&A session, Rotax officials were asked about the 915 on light helicopters, which often need more oomph. Plant manager Thomas Uhr confirmed such use and I can imagine LSA seaplanes like Icon and MVP may also move to the more potent engine as they also benefit from strength during the critical water launch phase.

The nearby chart shows more facts about Rotax's new 915 engine and you can investigate further at this link.

Stay tuned ... more Oshkosh light aircraft news to follow!


Opening Day Firsts: Icon, American Legend, Dynon
By Dan Johnson, July 21, 2015

I promised to tell you what was under the blue wrap disguising the powerplant on the unnamed taildragger in my earlier article. Here it comes with other opening day news from AirVenture 2015.

Icon Aircraft made their first delivery of an A5 after a tremendous media build-up, as this California company has clearly demonstrated it can do brilliantly. Not only was a huge crowd in attendance but a large flock of young people in matching tee-shirts accompanied the airplane as it was towed down the main drag — called Celebration Way — to Boeing Plaza and the runway.

The reason for the young folks was because airplane number one went to EAA's Young Eagles, but this is especially fitting as Icon has aimed their aircraft in a different direction than any other airplane maker with which I am familiar. One pilot who flew the A5 said, "It has an automotive-like interior. As a pilot I didn't understand right away" — he referenced a simpler altimeter lacking the usual three needles. Indeed, Icon has worked hard to make the aircraft more user friendly than the usual aircraft that presents an array of bewildering instruments that cause aviation newcomers to quickly assume they have a steep learning curve ahead of them.

Icon again moved smoothly taking EAA president Jack Pelton aloft over AirVenture. Pelton obviously enjoyed the experience, using the words "incredible" and "remarkable" multiple times in a short article appearing in AirVenture Today." His complimentary comments echoed those of others who've flown the aircraft. I am hoping for my turn later today.

Superior & Legend paired up for an announcement few expected. Superior Air Parts only announced their Gemini Diesel engine at Sun 'n Fun barely three months ago, but they teamed up with American Legend to show the new powerplant already bolted on a Legend Cub airframe.

The two Texas companies are located only 80 miles apart noted Darin Hart, principal at Legend, so the link-up is logical and convenient, an unbeatable combination. Yet having an engine on an popular Light-Sport Aircraft was also a coup for Superior to show the speed at which they are moving with this newest project. Superior's Scott Hays said they expect to run the engine by fall and to move forward briskly with ASTM approval.

Gemini has been originally developed in England so this is not a new CAD-designed powerplant; it has history. It extends the range of Superior into diesel, and that is surely more significant outside the U.S. As Darin observed, his company is having a strong year and fielding an increasing number of inquiries from other countries. In many places outside American, avgas is definitely expensive but often not available at any price. However, diesels are able to burn lesser-refined fuels that owners can find in more locations, giving American Legend an advantage for international sales.

Dynon is well known to Light-Sport Aircraft enthusiasts. Even going up against giant Garmin — which repeatedly proves to be a very able competitor — Dynon maintains a leadership market share in LSA around the globe. They took over Advanced Flight Systems in the past and now has an offer many homebuilders may find compelling.

Dynon suggested, "For those who would rather leave their whole panel to the experts, [our] Advanced Flight Systems division offers the Quick Panel System. Each Quick Panel is a fully-engineered and integrated panel of aviations that is professionally wired, configured, tested and ready to install." Advanced's Quick Panel includes all switches and harnesses, which all connect through the exclusive Advanced Control Module. More here.

Your favorite LSA or ultralight may not have a wide panel like the nearby photo. Dynon still has you covered with their nifty little D2 Pocket Panel Portable EFIS. Even better, D2 will be available at AirVenture 2015 at the lowest price ever. "With a list price of $1,095, pilots can expect even better pricing from dealers at the show," the company said.

Stay tuned ... more Oshkosh light aircraft news to follow!


South Africans Arrive Before AirVenture 2015 Opens
By Dan Johnson, July 19, 2015

It's almost time! — The tents are in place. Most of the displays are built. Airplanes are already parked by the thousands in EAA voluminous parking areas. The campground and every hotel room for miles is packed full. While the usual pandemonium reigns the night before opening, it is a familiar scene that somehow, almost magically resolves into a ready-to-go show on opening day only hours away, tomorrow, Monday July 20th, the earliest start to AirVenture Oshkosh in years.

Today, I got a text — thank some tech guru for inventing text, which always seems to get through quickly even when phone calls do not, with hundreds of thousands of attendees all using their smartphones at the same time.

The text from The Airplane Factory USA's Matt Liknaitzky read, "Mike [Blythe] and Patrick [Huang] are arriving in the Sling 912 iS ... if ya wanna see them." We did, so we dashed north to the North Aircraft Display Area space.

South African long-distance pilots Mike Blythe and Patrick Huang arrive to cheers and a warm welcome from dozens of their fellow countrymen. Cameras were clicking and videos were filming.

Mike and Patrick have been making their way to AirVenture, arriving precisely on time in perfect Wisconsin weather — 80s with fresh breezes blowing. Lots of airplanes are arriving, so what's the big deal about this one, you may ask? This intrepid pair of aviators arrived from South Africa, a long distance, most probably the longest flight of anyone arriving at Oshkosh and they did this in their Light-Sport Aircraft with its 100 horsepower Rotax 9-series engine. Woo-hoo!

The two pilots are taking a break working the show at Oshkosh because after it ends, they will densely repack their LSA and head off for an even longer ocean crossing, this time the Pacific, en route to Taiwan where Patrick runs The Airplane Factory Asia.

But, no, it doesn't end in Taiwan. After transacting some business, the bird will take off again for another long voyage all the way back to South Africa. Perhaps the most amazing fact: this is TAF's main man Mike Blyth's third 'round the world flight in about as many years. Think about that the next time you flight plan a long cross country across this great nation of ours!

A surprise awaits under wraps for a big announcement Monday morning as AirVenture Oshkosh 2015 opens.
On a completely different topic, I have a little surprise to offer you. Let's see how much detail the cleverest among you can discern from this image (nearby photo): a taildragger with its engine under wraps. The picture might tell you something if you study it carefully, but can you guess the entire message?

Several big announcements are expected during AirVenture 2015. One well publicized example is Icon's first delivery, reportedly to EAA for their Young Eagles program though we will have to wait until Monday morning to get confirmation of this rumor. Today I went out to fly the Icon A5 but rough weather yesterday disturbed the schedule and the company wants me to fly with the CEO, Kirk Hawkins. That is now rescheduled for Wednesday, weather and schedules permitting, though I feel sure it will happen this week and I look forward to reporting it. I spoke with Kirk and examined the twin Rotax 912 iS Sport-powered A5s that were busy flying a reported 173 owners in town to get their first exposure to this long-awaited airplane.

We are also expecting big news from Rotax, Beringer wheels and brakes, Dynon, Kolb, and others. Stay tuned for more.

Plus, I'll unveil what is under the blue wrap disguising the powerplant on the unnamed taildragger. Stay tuned!

See a video of fellow South Africans warmly greeting the long distance travelers:


AirVenture Previews Continue as Opening Day Nears
By Dan Johnson, July 18, 2015

We and many other journalists have arrived in EAAworld and are gearing up for another big event. Here are two aircraft announcements of interest and one avionics offering. More will follow.

Jabiru USA has news prices and new gear for their speedy line of kits and LSA. Jabiru USA Sport Aircraft is celebrating ten years in the Light-Sport Aircraft market by offering a new large-screen Garmin G3X Touch avionics package as standard equipment for its J230-D high-performance composite LSA while lowering the price of the fully-loaded aircraft to $119,900. The Australian-designed Jabiru J250/230 series has been flying in the U.S. since 2005 and is known for its speed, easy handling and large baggage capacity.

"By simplifying our overhead, we are now able to offer the new fully-equipped J230-D with the Garmin system for $119,900, a price cut of nearly $20,000," said Jabiru USA general manager Pete Krotje. The lower price of the aircraft reflects the original goals of both Jabiru and the creators of the Light Sport rule--to make aviation accessible to as many people as possible.

"The pricing of today's Light Sport aircraft is sort of getting out of control," noted Pete. "We wanted ... to create an airplane that makes flying accessible to people who thought that owning a safe, capable and comfortable new airplane was beyond their financial reach."

Garmin's G3X Touch offers unmatched situational awareness and an intuitive pilot interface. The system features a 10.6-inch touch screen primary flight display, two-axis autopilot with automatic stability control, a 2020-compliant ADS-B package with in-flight weather and traffic, as well as the capability to display a full complement of geo-referenced aeronautical charts.

Each of the six cylinders of the 120-horsepower Jabiru 3300 engine are monitored by the Garmin at all times, providing a complete picture of the performance of the engine to the pilot. Garmin's radio and transponder are remotely mounted giving a clean panel design. Both can easily controlled through the touch screen interface. The J230-D instrument panel is designed to easily accommodate a secondary portable device, such as a tablet (photo) or handheld GPS.

Other standard features of the J230-D include a full-size baggage door, LED exterior and interior lighting, leather seats, upholstered headliner and baggage area, ground-adjustable carbon fiber propeller, and 120-knot cruise speed at 5.5 gallons per hour.

Jabiru invites AirVenture attendees to come see a Garmin-equipped J230-D in Booth 313 located just north of the Theater in the Woods.

MGL Avionics, one of the very first producers to promote touch screen digital instruments in the LSA and light kit community, reported, "The long-awaited Explorer-Lite is now available and shipping!" MGL Avionics explained that their iEFIS Lite series "is revolutionizing the small airplane instrument panel. For single-screen EFIS installations in Experimentals and LSAs, iEFIS Lite offers everything needed."

The second release in their "Lite" series, Explorer-Lite 8.5 is a larger instrument that features a bright, non-reflective eight and a half-inch touchscreen of around 1000+ nits. Since you probably don't know what a "nit" is, TechTarget.com reported, "A typical active-matrix LCD panel has an output between 200 and 300 nit." By that reference, MGL's Explorer-Lite 8.5 should seem very bright even in a sunlight situation.

"Explorer-Lite 8.5 looks, feels and operates just like a full iEFIS, however it does not require the additional iBox since pitot/static, GPS receiver, and attitude sensor are all built into the back of the screen." So, unless you need to connect more than two RS-232 devices to your EFIS (such as radio, transponder, or ADS-B) or unless you need more than one screen or have other complex requirements, MGL's Explorer-Lite 8.5 appears to do it all. It has the same powerful G3 processor and runs the same firmware as a full iEFIS system and has all of the same software features losing only complexity during installation. Homebuilders would seem to love that prospect.

MGL said Explorer-Lite 8.5 starts at $2,850. A few options could raise the price but this is quite affordable.

Kitfox Aircraft is one of the most celebrated of all American sport aircraft with many thousands flying successfully, not only in the USA but all over the globe. In 2015, this western U.S. company steps up their game even further making their handsome airplane perform even better with some new choices.

The company has developed a new option for their proven S7 Super Sport design, one of the most polished models this company has ever offered. Completed recently and then flown to AirVenture Oshkosh, Kitfox is promoting their new STi (for STOL Inspired) retrofittable wing option. Proprietor John McBean said, "[The new STi wing] cuts takeoff and landing ground roll by more than 150 feet, and only reduces the cruise speed by less than 25 mph."

Any STOL design comes with a speed reduction as you can't have it both ways. "I think it is a fair price to pay for your STOL specific mission," expressed John.

All prior S7 Super Sport models had takeoff and landing ground rolls of only around 300 feet, which usually suffice for island beaches, river sand bars, or the mountain backcountry. However, Kitfox Aircraft continued to get requests for shorter takeoff and landing distances so owners can literally fly from their back yard or driveway. "The STi wing delivers," beamed John!

As president of Kitfox Aircraft, John invites you to visit their display in the North Aircraft display (booth 634 and 635) ... where all the kit builders tend to congregate. At their space you can take a look at what he flew 1,200 miles from the factory at Homedale, Idaho. He further entices you with this comment, "We have a few other surprises, too, like our Shock Monster 2.0 landing gear."

Stay tuned ... more Oshkosh light aircraft news to follow!


4 things to See at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015
By Dan Johnson, July 16, 2015

The "Big Show" is just days away, so of course, journalists and readers are asking what will be present? The question is worthwhile, but often the most interesting discoveries are not foretold either to maintain secrecy or due to the last minute scramble to make a new project showable. Here are four products attendees may want to investigate. Watch for more previews.

"What a journey so far, wrote Jordan Denitz, spokesman for The Airplane Factory USA! Globetrotters Mike Blyth with Patrick Huang of The Airplane Factory Asia have completed their first three legs on their way around the world in a Sling powered by the Rotax 912iS. Starting in Johannesburg, South Africa, they traveled to Namibia, Ghana, and Cape Verde.

On Monday they were taking a well deserved rest after 37 hours and more than 4,000 nautical miles logged so far. "They are gearing up for the biggest hop yet, crossing the Atlantic," added Jordan. This will be the third such round-the-world trips for the Sling LSA from The Airplane Factory. Directors Mike Blyth and James Pitman flew the Sling 2 prototype around the world in 2009. Mike did it again in a brand-new four seat Sling 4 in 2011 accompanied by Jean D'Assonville. Mike has previously accomplished numerous very long flights in trikes.

The adventurous pair plan to arrive at Oshkosh on Monday, July 20th. Their LSA will be on display at TAF's booth located in the EAA's North Aircraft Display/Homebuilt area where you can also see the four seat kit TAF-USA is selling to Americans. With any luck, I hope to get up in the Sling 4. Earlier, I reported Sling 2 had many wonderful qualities.

Chesapeake Sport Pilot flight school, based in Stevensville, Maryland, has earned the first Vans RV-12 dealership in the United States, reported CSP owner and Chief Flight Instructor, Helen Woods. "The RV-12 is the most popular aircraft we have ever put on the flight line at Chesapeake Sport Pilot," she explained. CSP can now offer RV-12 for sale or rental.

Van's Aircraft representative Kaitlyn Tepe said, "Partnering with Chesapeake Sport Pilot will give customers a better opportunity to be introduced to the RV-12 locally. CSP offers the whole range of services for the RV-12 from flight training and rentals to maintenance and flight reviews."

Chesapeake Sport Pilot was recognized by AOPA as one of the top flight schools in the country with the 2014 Outstanding Flight School award. The company described itself as "the nation's largest light sport flight school." CSP reported more than 20,000 hours of Light-Sport flight instruction over the past eight years.

In LSA Seaplanes Icon may get lots of press for the first delivery of their attention-generating A5, but another company offers a well-proven and evolved design that you can get much more quickly. You'll also save a bundle. While it doesn't offer electric folding wings, Progressive Aerodyne's Searey does offer manually folding wings. AirVenture Oshkosh visitors can see the arrangement in detail.

"One of the most frequently asked questions about the Searey LSA is, 'Can the wings fold?',"  reported company officials. Indeed, folding wings are an option on the factory-built Searey SLSA Sport and Elite. "This is a great option for those interested in trailering the aircraft or storing it in a narrow space," said Progressive Aerodyne. "We will be displaying one of the folding-wing- equipped Searey Elites at our main booth."

A few lucky souls — your faithful reporter hopefully among them — will get to take a flight in the A5. However, more importantly, YOU can take an evaluation flight in a Searey while you are visiting Oshkosh. Act soon! "To schedule a demo flight in the Searey Elite at Oshkosh send an email. They urge you to include "OSH DEMO REQUEST" in the subject line of your email. Then make your way to the seaplane base — EAA offers regular free bus transportation — and get ready to smile broadly.

Belite entrepreneur James Weibe sounds the like the tech seller he formerly was, "The most affordable, easy-to-build, legal ultralight you've ever seen ... is coming to AirVenture 2015." He calls his goal a "Part 103 air adventure" and said, "We think we've nailed it!"

A new strutless Belite design is the company's first low wing entry and quite a departure from the Kitfox Lite — since renamed and significantly evolved in various directions — that James started to offer. The new model-to-be uses trailing link suspension, free-castoring nosewheel, tricycle gear, and "nice coca-cola lines on the rear fuselage," said James. The new design will use carbon fiber fuselage/cabin construction over wood/foam core. It will have 28 feet of span, a broad 53-inch chord, and weigh 180 pounds without powerplant.

If you want to help bring the new bird to market, you can join the fun. "We'll be funding the development of this project through KickStarter." He promises big savings on the kit to those who participate, "plus other fun rewards."

Stay tuned ... more to come!


Sleeker Is Better In Electric-Propelled Aircraft
By Dan Johnson, July 15, 2015

If you've been following exciting developments like the Airbus/Pipistrel/Cri-Cri English Channel crossing, or for that matter any of the electric airplane developments, you should know that the ideal electric-powered aircraft today are the very lightest weight machines.

However, another quality is just as important while we wait for scientists to significantly amp up the energy density of batteries. That quality is sleekness and I've been watching a Norwegian project from Equator Aircraft. Airplanes don't get much sleeker than this.

If it needed to be even more intriguing, consider that this project comes from a team that has also been involved with seaplanes, so how about a two-seat electric seaplane? OK, it isn't ready yet but this is one I will continue to follow closely. Following is some detail on this fascinating entry that again suggests the tip of the spear in LSA design seems intently focused on seaplanes.

Equator' Aircraft P2 Excursion (abbreviated EQP2) is envisioned as a performance hybrid amphibian aircraft. The group refers to EQP2's shape as a "continuous droplet shape," and a glance at the nearby renderings and images conveys the concept clearly. Another beauty of electric is that motors are much lighter than combustion engines so they've located a powerful, 66-pound electric engine in the tail.

Developers refer to a "float wing system which removes the need for bulky sponsons and other supporting geometries."Retractable gear is essential for water operation, of course, but also helps with in-flight slipperiness. If you thought the current second or third generations of LSA seaplanes like Icon's A5, Vickers' Wave, and MVP.aero's versatility entry look smooth, it appears EQP2 goes a step beyond.

Equator projects, "With the flaps extended the aircraft should reach a stall speed of 45 knots. "The float wing and small electric engine will leave the aircraft with less drag than other amphibs," said principal, Tomas Brødreskift, "[that will] hopefully yield a realistic 120 knot cruise. As you know most amphibs lag far behind this due to extra drag in the various [components] needed to produce a good seacraft."

These attractive renderings are only artist conceptions. To see real progress, check these many photos from Equator Aircraft Norway.
P2 Excursion is a fully composite design. "Metals and other corrosive materials have been left out where possible," said Tomas. "Carbon Fiber reinforced epoxy is used extensively, with kevlar/carbon hybrid textiles used around the cabin area."

EQP2 was designed from the start to carry two people although they speak of a future option for four occupants and their history involves such larger seaplane concepts. The cabin appears to be particularly spacious with a 58-inch-wide cockpit that would make the industry's widest assuming the final machine sticks with current specifications.

"Much of the research done initially was focused on the situation when the aircraft is a boat with wings," reported Equator. Designers considered how occupants will get in and out without contortions, and how to maneuver the vehicle in the environments in which it can operate. "The result is an open cabin with waterproof surfaces. The pilot can exit and enter the plane over the nose, and over the railings."

Given a wide cabin area (see lower photos) the baggage area is also very large. "You´ll be able to store bulky luggage such as bikes, skis, etc," said Equator.

In at least one more way P2 Excursion is quite unique: it has no rudder pedals. "Yaw control is done through twisting the stick around the vertical axes, and is being developed as a FBW (Fly by Wire) feature on the plane." In my experience pilots often balk at non-conventional controls yet new ground sometimes needs to be plowed and Equator seems up to such a task.

To keep up with the team at Equator Aircraft as they progress toward a flying aircraft, follow them on their Facebook page or on Twitter.
A hybrid propulsion system being developed by Equator. They have named this "EHPS for Equator Hybrid Propulsion System" and it follows with much of the design that they are doing things differently than most other design organizations.

"EHPS is finally on final stages on a test bench in Germany," reported Tomas. The combustion engine will be from WankelSuperTec of Cottbus, Germany. EQP2's rotary engine can run on bio-diesel fuels and jet fuel "because our funding requires a bio-diesel sustainable option" clarified Tomas. The fuel tank holds 100 liters (26 gallons) that is projected to give a flying time of 5-6 hours.

The engine-specific project is being co-funded by Transnova, a public enterprise owned by the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy with another company, Engiro, doing motor development work. Power output to the propeller is 100 kW (approximately 130 horsepower) and the generator motor will produce 57-60 kW (80 horsepower) of power to charge the batteries.

Light-Sport Aircraft are arguably the most innovative flying machines that regular folks can afford and it is exciting to see examples such as the P2 Excursion.


David Versus Goliath ... ePlane Channel Crossing
By Dan Johnson, July 11, 2015

Airbus' E-Fan makes a crossing of the English Channel, a time-honored path to prove aeronautical feats. photo from The Verge
When discussing big versus small, you cannot go much further than comparing a Light-Sport Aircraft company to Airbus. This story speaks to LSA builder Pipistrel, the goal of their French dealer, and nearly identical plans of the giant corporation. In a fascinating development, it turns out that an even smaller entity, a single individual in a miniature flying machine, managed to best the jet airliner producer at its own game. Here's the story as I understand it although I readily admit I am relying solely on second-hand information.

Pipistrel makes the Alpha Electro (formerly known as WattsUp as our video at the end notes). They've already seen some success with this aircraft the factory model of which has been powered by a Siemens motor supplied by the huge Germany company.

As everyone who follows reporting of electric propulsion of either airplanes or electric cars surely knows, "range anxiety" is a consumer problem to be overcome and taking flights demanding courage is one way to assuage those concerns.

Pipistrel likes to market by introducing new products and attempting special flights. Recently, they were foiled in an effort to accomplish another noteworthy flight. That's where corporate intrigue enters the picture.

About this twisted tale, Pipistrel distributor Michael Coates wrote, "The seventh day of July 2015 could have been a very historic day for world aviation with Slovenian light aircraft manufacturer Pipistrel planning to be the first aircraft powered with an electric motor to cross the English Channel in both directions without recharging. This achievement would cement the very real practicality of electric aircraft flight. It pains me to write this but I am so disappointed by the bad sportsmanship displayed by Siemens and Airbus that I have no other alternative than to let you know what is happening behind the scenes to stop the Pipistrel's French dealer Finesse Max's historic attempt and aviation adventure."

Speaking to the safety of such an over water test, Michael added, "Our testing over land demonstrated that we can take off from France, land in England, return to France and still have a remaining 25% battery capacity." Airbus planned and executed a flight in only one direction.

"Airbus' E-Fan project does not use Siemens motors," Michael reported, adding, "[but] it does have Siemens stickers on the side of their aircraft." He believed Airbus wanted to be the first electric powered aircraft to cross the English Channel and receive the notoriety and recognition that comes from this achievement.

Michael's allegation of manipulation appears supported by the response from electric motor supplier, Siemens.

In a letter from Siemens signed by Dr. Frank Anton (Head e-Aircraft) and Tim Grage (Commercial Head e-Aircraft), the big German conglomerate stated, "With this letter we expressly declare ... that our Motor in its current version is neither designed nor tested nor approved by us for a flight above water — we explicitly prohibit you to use or let anyone else use our motor for any flight above water." Their explanation was that they cannot allow their reputation to be damaged.

Online journal AutoBlog.com seems to agree about questionable motives, "Now, we are neither electrical engineers nor aviation experts, but it strikes us as odd that an electric motor might function differently depending on the terrain beneath the craft it sits within."

To present both sides of the story, here you can read Airbus' report.

Hugues Duwal gives a thumbs-up after beating aerospace and airline giant Airbus to be the first electric-propulsion aircraft to cross the Channel. At its closest point, the crossing is better than 20 miles over water. photo from The Telegraph
So, while Pipistrel had to respect Siemens' wishes and cancel their flight, a private citizen made the trip in one of the world's smallest aircraft. Pipistrel wrote, "After reading the information that Pipistrel was blocked in flying across the English Channel, Hugues Duwal became the first electric aircraft to cross the English Channel in his Cri-Cri E-Cristaline electric aircraft."

Pipistrel continued, "As Duwal already had the permanent permit to fly his aircraft there was no need to ask for a permit to fly over the English Channel, but only to fill the flight plan. It was possible to keep the flight information secret up to the end. From the available information that we have, shortly after the flight announcement, an order was issued to stop him but he did not respect it and he successfully crossed the channel [on] July 9, 2015 [making] the first flight over the channel with electric powered aircraft in the history."

Corporate intrigue or not, we congratulate Hugues Duwal and Airbus on successful crossings of the English Channel in electric-propelled aircraft. Regardless of any maneuvering for marketing reasons, this is still a positive accomplishment for light aircraft.

We invite you to watch our video interview with James Lawrence in front of the Pipistrel Alpha Electro:


Forty Years of Rotax Aircraft Engines
By Dan Johnson, July 8, 2015

The Rotax 642 (upper right) was certified in 1975 and provided the basis for the successful story of Rotax aircraft engines. Rotax's 642 was a two-cylinder, air-cooled engine with electric start and TBO of 300 hours. The very popular 503 (upper left) is a two-cylinder, two-stroke fan-cooled engine with 50 horsepower. More than 33,000 503s were sold.
Aircraft engine giant, Rotax BRP has reached an anniversary: forty years of making powerplants used around the world by airframe makers of ultralights to Very Light Aircraft. Thus, it was hardly a surprise when Light-Sport Aircraft came along eleven years ago that the Austrian company immediately became the largest supplier of engines ... capturing an estimated 80% of the market, even while other ASTM-approved engines are in use from Continental, Jabiru, Lycoming, and HKS. New candidates include Superior's Gemini Diesel and, of course, the ECi Titan 180-horsepower engine has seen good acceptance. Then we have another batch of engines for kit-built aircraft including Viking (based on Honda), UL-Power, AeroVee (VW), AeroMomentum (Subaru), Corvair, and more.

Despite the many other choices, Rotax has retained a dominant position. I've long felt that while it can be challenging to bring a new airframe to market and win some customers, it is even harder to introduce a new engine. Rotax got in the light aircraft segment early and runs a very tight ship, carefully managing quality and production eficiency. This has surely had much to do with their leading share even while prices of the kit engines are often less.

After 40 years of solid history, some background would be useful.

The first-ever Rotax 912 was installed in this motorglider seen at the airfield Rotax uses for testing and events.

The company wrote, "In the early 1970s, a number of passionate aviation enthusiasts, all members of the local flying club and working at Bombardier-Rotax (BRP-Rotax today), wanted to develop aircraft engines. At the same time, there was a noticeable sales increase of Rotax spare snowmobile engines in North America. BRP-Rotax learned that a number of these engines were sold to the aviation market where snowmobile engines were adapted for aircraft applications."

They continued, "Engines for recreational aircraft were usually spinoffs of automotive and industrial engines, which were extremely heavy. Rotax engineers noticed that the compact and lightweight design of Rotax engines perfectly fit the needs of the aviation market. The outcome was a decision to enter the aircraft engine market."

In the early '80s, the peak of the ultralight flying era, some well-known Rotax two-stroke ultralight aircraft engines were launched. The most popular was the Rotax 503 UL engine, a two-cylinder, two-stroke fan-cooled engine with 50 horsepower. More than 33,000 engines of this model were sold.

The popular single cylinder, 28-horsepower engine called Rotax 277 UL was mainly sold to North America in the first few years of production. This success followed the arrival of FAA's Part 103 ultralight vehicle category that needed a smaller but adequately powerful engine that the R-277 served. Later developments for that market were the 377 UL and the 447 UL engine, both two-cylinder, air-cooled engines, offering 36 to 46 horsepower.

In 1989, production began of the Rotax 582 UL, a liquid-cooled engine based on the Rotax 532 aircraft engine. "With better performance than the previous model," Rotax said, "the 582 engine became one of the biggest selling aircraft engine models of the aircraft engine product line and is still in production today."

"We will always remember that the Rotax two-stroke customers were the basis for our success. Without that market, Rotax never would have entered the aviation business," observed Thomas Uhr, Vice President of BRP-Powertrain and General Manager BRP-Powertrain GmbH & Co KG.

Aviation engines are only part of the Rotax product line. Here AVweb's Paul Bertorelli, a motorcycle enthusiast, samples the Can-Am Spyder as did many of us attending the Rotax Fly-in in 2014.
In 1985, Rotax began developing the Rotax 912, a project dedicated to the aircraft market. "For the very first time, all conditions needed for an aircraft engine were considered, like high security, high-quality standards for airplanes, etc.," said Rotax. For experimental airplanes and gliders, power-to-weight ratio was one of the main targets.

A major advantage in the development of the Rotax 912 engine was the opportunity to influence the whole engineering design. The R & D effort was impressive but the company said the big advantage was the ability to supervise the project from concept to production. "With the development of a flat four-cylinder engine, we wanted to reach the next level — the 80-horsepower engine category. The engineers of the 912 engine concept were pilots. They fully understood the market requirements. To put it in a nutshell, the engine was developed by pilots for pilots," said Uhr. In 1989, Rotax 912 UL engine serial production began. A 100-horsepower model followed and has become the biggest selling in LSA.

In 1993, the Rotax 912 engine was modified and equipped with a turbocharger for an altitude flight test. Using the new powerplant an HK36 Super Dimona reached an altitude of 33,000 feet, proving the concept. The company started the development of the turbocharged Rotax 914 engine with 115 horsepower, and serial production began in 1996.

More than 50,000 engines of the Rotax 912 / 914 series have been sold since 1989, resulting in more than 45 million flight hours of the fleet, reported Rotax. With more than 175,000 engines sold in 40 years, Rotax aircraft engines dominate the Light-Sport and ultralight aircraft industry. "With 19 authorized distributors and a network of more than 220 points of sale," Rotax noted, "BRP supports customers worldwide and supplies Rotax aircraft engines to more than 80% of all aircraft manufacturers in its segment."

Happy 40th anniversary to Rotax Aircraft Engines!

In the following video, hear two Rotax leaders describe an award they received and talk about the Rotax 912 iS Sport engine (or you can watch the video right here on ByDanJohnson.com where you never have to sit through YouTube's opening video ad)


Independence Day Fun in a Light-Sport Aircraft
By Dan Johnson, July 5, 2015

I hope you enjoyed a great July 4th holiday weekend. It was a beautiful time for flying in Florida and I had a special treat I'd like to share with you.

Thanks to EAA's spectacularly successful AirVenture Oshkosh 2015 program, nearly two million young Americans have had the chance to go aloft with a capable pilot and experience the magic so many aviators enjoy. Taking a young person up in a light aircraft gives them an intimate view of the planet few humans know and may encourage them to take up flying at some point in their life. The program has not stimulated a great rise in the number of certificated pilots, however, it can help educate young minds to the benefits of flying and give those youth a touchpoint with a pilot, his or her airplane, and an airport. I believe those are extremely worthy qualities.

Yet it isn't only young people that can love flying ...

Over the July 4th holiday weekend that celebrated American independence 239 years ago, I gave a few "Eagle" flights in a Light-Sport Aircraft, specifically a brand-new CTLSi owned by local dealer Brian Boucher and his Florida Light Sport Aviation. Brian also represents the Super Petrel LS and ... full disclosure, I am a minor partner in the CTLSi though I have no business affiliation with the dealership.

I took a few folks up but the two that were most satisfying were the opposite of a Young Eagle, indeed both members of "Greatest Generation." Jim is 93 years old (photo) though he not got in and out of the CTLSi like a much younger person. He seemed to enjoy taking the stick aloft and did a credible job of flying the LSA. He said, "I'll remember this flight for the rest of my life."

Mary is the mother of very close friends (photo) and this was our second flight together. At 90 years old, she had told me on an earlier flight that she wanted to stay up longer next time, so we took a pleasant jaunt down Daytona Beach to the Canaveral National Seashore, operated by the National Park Service on the north end of NASA space launch facility.

As with Young Eagles, giving someone a flight when it is truly enjoyed is extremely gratifying and can only help more people understand why it is we love to fly. If you have the chance to fly someone in your airplane I encourage it for your well being, your passenger's delight, and to help burnish the image of personal aviation.


Preparing to Test Fly Icon's A5 ... at Last!
By Dan Johnson, July 2, 2015

The big dogs have been fed. It will soon be time for we smaller critters to get our chance. Icon Aircraft reported that in late June, they hosted reporters from Flying Magazine, Plane & Pilot, AOPA Pilot, EAA Sport Aviation, and the Seaplane Pilots Association's Water Flying magazine. Those writers got pretty excited by their long-awaited experience in the A5 and I must admit, it has psyched me up as well. Over many years in this trade, I've had the pleasure to fly nearly 400 different aircraft, virtually all of them in the same space occupied by A5 yet, even with all that, I'm very much looking forward to my own A5 flight experience coming up just before AirVenture Oshkosh 2015.

image courtesy of Icon Aircraft

You can read about my flight experience on this website and you can presently find plenty of content (articles and video) about A5. No waiting required! The photo above shows three A5s in the air, an image I've never seen before. Is it real or is it Photoshop? I dunno. Icon has some real talent working for them, so maybe it's a Hollywood fiction. Yet based on the appearance of the six occupants or the sun's slightly different glint on the three spinning props, it looks real. Of course, so did the giant round boulder chasing Indiana Jones. So, tune in only a couple weeks from now and see how real I think A5 truly is.



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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


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.

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


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.

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.

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

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

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.

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.


MVP.aero 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!


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.

Progressive Aerodyne designed and supplies the SeaRey series, arguably the most celebrated of all light seaplanes in America. A close community of hundreds of owners offers camaraderie few other brands can match.

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

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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

X-Air brings a return to reasonably priced Light-Sport Aircraft, with a ready-to-fly flying machine you can purchase for a genuinely low price. No new arrival, X-Air has a rich history in light aviation.

Aerotrek Aircraft imports the A240 and A220 tricycle gear or taildragger Special Light-Sport Aircraft. A finely finished aircraft at an excellent price, Aerotrek has wide, affordable appeal.

Super Petrel LS, manufactured by Scoda 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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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