...a web log of developments in Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft
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Considering the Emerging Aviation Market in China
By Dan Johnson, May 28, 2015

To say anticipation is high regarding the development of a China general aviation market might be the understatement of the century. Having earlier observed the auto market grow exponentially — Mercedes reportedly sells more of their luxury cars in China than America — pioneering aviation marketers are brimming with anticipation. Most readers are well aware of the investments made by wealthy Chinese in American aircraft companies.

The country has been on a three-decade-long infrastructure-building binge to exceed any such development in human history and at the Anyang GA Expo (my shortened name for it), we heard highly-placed government officials make speeches about new airport-building plans.

Like many aviators initially contemplating this country — I just completed my first visit — I can sense the boundless enthusiasm. A middle class that might afford light aircraft is said to be larger than the entire U.S. population. Securing even a small sliver of such an untapped potential could foster an entire industry.

That's the dream. What's the reality?

Sunward Aviation in China makes this handsome low wing called SA60L.
I was a guest of the city as part of a delegation assembled by the Aero Sports Association. Anyang is roughly 500 kilometers (about 300 miles) south of Beijing. The city is ancient with 3,300 years of history but a few years ago declared itself the "Airsports Capital," a good omen for the beginning of building a market for recreational aviation.

Director Qin Jianhua explained — reinforced by Mayor Ding Wei and Vice Mayor Zwang Manru along with other officials — that the city government was granted from the military a 4,420 square kilometer chunk of airspace up to 3,000 meters (about 10,000 feet) to use for flight training and recreational aviation ... the largest such in the country. That much area can allow an outbound cross country flight of perhaps 60 miles, although all landings must return to the city airport as no other airstrips yet exist in the airspace. While true cross country flights around China may still be years in the future, Anyang's volume is a good start to stimulate recreational flying.

Business travel to another city in a general aviation airplane is still very restricted but several Chinese enthusiasts to whom I spoke report being able to fly sport aircraft with greater freedom because their actions are consistent with the national government's gradual opening of airspace. In another example, we traveled an hour west of Anyang to a beautiful mountainous region where a paragliding championship was held. Communist Party member Zwang lead opening ceremonies, giving the event and activity official sanction.

Crowds were thick at the exhibits of the American delegation, featuring MVP.aero, M-Squared, Aeromarine LSA, Blackhawk Paramotor, and Lancair.
These observations lead me to speculate that it is sport aviation that may benefit first from national government approval. This is an exciting enticement for producers of Part 103 aircraft and LSA manufacturers to explore the opportunities.

That's what my new friend Shu Dong Li sees for his Aero Sports Association. Shu Dong is working to connect American aircraft manufacturers with Anyang to allow sales and use of their aircraft in the China city's large piece of airspace. Shu Dong is based in the San Francisco area and has deep connections with Anyang government leaders so he is providing a bridge for U.S. builders that otherwise would face a big struggle to penetrate the China market. He expects that once his business model shows success in Anyang, he can replicate this in other cities. To that end we met with government leaders from Wuhan, China who also spoke of ambitious plans to embrace aviation.

Although only a tiny aviation market presently operates, government goals may be highly stimulative. An earlier gold rush brought in hundreds of foreign aircraft companies, many of whom collapsed for various reasons, one of which was the government's halting pace in opening the airspace for non-airline, non-military use. The Chinese Air Force has been slow to give up their lock on the airspace but based on the official speeches, that appears to be changing.

American delegation leader and Aero Sports Association founder, Shu Dong Li (left) poses with the Anyang flight school director. ASFC is Air Sports Federation of China. The Caravan is used for sky diving.
Why should American manufacturers care about what is happening in the China aviation market? If you are a producer, I should think it is obvious: more customers, eventually anyway. Why should individual pilots and aviation consumers see this as valuable?

It may not seem relevant to U.S. aviation enthusiasts but I think you should care that the maker of your favorite airplane can find more customers to help them prosper. Success allows them to provide you with better service and allows development of new airplanes or to upgrade existing designs.

Taking a broader view, trading with neighbors around the world can reduce potential conflicts. I learned a lot about China that I didn't know and it will transform me. I will never look at newspaper articles about China the same way now that I have basic level of understanding.

I also clearly saw the interest from ordinary Chinese people about learning to fly and that interest charges me while also reminding me just how good I have it as an American. I can choose to take my airplane and fly thousands of miles without special permission. I imagine Chinese dreaming of such a thing, too, even if most flying is done closer to the home field. Aero Sports Association is working to make our world a little smaller and that seems a worthy goal to me.

Analyzing Statistics on Worldwide Aviation
By Dan Johnson, May 23, 2015

Thanks to a solid effort by GAMA, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, I have data that can be used to assess the numbers of recreational aircraft around the world. That organization is significantly focused on business aircraft but did include all levels of aircraft in their country-by-country review. Whatever the actual level of accuracy — GAMA is wholly dependent on the data the organization received from various CAAs in each country — GAMA's data is some very useful info and I am in their debt for the information discussed in this review.

In addition to GAMA having to use whatever each country reported, the methods of reporting were not consistent. For one noteworthy example, several countries listed as their smallest aircraft those weighing 5,700 kilograms (12,540 pounds), which represents far larger aircraft than your typical four-seat GA aircraft and certainly any recreational aircraft. Many European countries listed "microlights" or "ultralights," two common descriptions for aircraft that commonly look like Light-Sport Aircraft do in America. However, Germany, home to many microlights or ultralights, oddly did not report this category. The Czech Republic, home to many LSA producers, was also not reported. Therefore, it's probably wise to consider my following analysis with a degree of caution.

Regardless of its reliability, this is the best compendium I've seen so thanks again to our friends at GAMA.

To provide some perspective, let's look at certified GA aircraft first. From its peak in 1978, U.S.-manufactured GA deliveries have fallen dramatically, by 93% from 14,398 single engine piston aircraft in 1978 to 986 in 2014. Fortunately, since 2000 the continuing drop is less severe, for example in 2006, worldwide GAMA members reported delivering a new millennia peak of 2,513 aircraft; the decline to 986 is a drop of 61%. The '60s and '70s were clearly the "golden era" for GA piston airplane production. Accounting for this drop, beside pilot population decreases (see below) and airplanes lasting so long — the average age of four seater is 38.2 years old — most competition likely came from non-flying activities. Among aircraft choices, Experimentals in the last two decades have grown 143% to nearly 25,000 aircraft. LSA in fully built or kit form add to GA's competition although much less so partly as Experimentals have been around much longer.

Overall, the overall GA fleet has held reasonably steady despite the references above, declining from a peak of piston airplanes in FAA's registry of 197,442 in 1984 to 137,655 in 2013, a drop of about 30%. When you add kit-built aircraft and LSA, the total fleet numbers look relatively stable.

In geographic location of that U.S. aircraft fleet the conventional knowledge about the biggest three states still holds, with California having 26,141 aircraft registered, followed by Texas at 22,851, trailed by Florida at 18,162. The next closest state (Washington) has barely half the Florida count ... but see below for where pilots live.

Image of students in pilot training at Parkland College in Champaign, Illinois.
The number of airmen — pilots with certificates — explains some of the aircraft delivery decreases. From a peak in GAMA's numbers of 827,071 licensed pilots in 1980 to the current number of 593,499, I calculate a drop of 28% over 34 years. Keep in mind that nearly 47,000 of those airmen are not Americans but foreign nationals holding a U.S. certificate. Private Pilots have dropped by 51%, but many of those probably went on to higher ratings as ATPs grew by 120% in the same period to account for 26% of all certificate holders. No doubt related to that, CFIs grew by 67% to become 17% of all certificate holders and pilots with Instrument ratings also increased by 18%. Those holding a Spot Pilot certificate now totals 5,157, reported GAMA, while Recreational Pilot peaked at 343 in 1999 and has since shrunk to only 220 certificates. Neither of the last two amount to even 1% of all license holders though the other certificate categories have several decades of history the newer ones lack.

You might lament the Sport Pilot certificate numbers. Certainly, many in the GA world thought Sport Pilot was single-handedly going to grow the pilot population a lot more. While I do not believe that was ever a realistic expectation, here's some good news.

Most pilots I know think the pilot population is graying quickly and that we may be in danger of running out of pilots. GAMA's stats say otherwise. The biggest single category may be what you expect with those aged 50-64 counting 179,277 pilots but the surprising second largest segment is close behind. Those aged a young 20-35 years old number 173,396 pilots. The 35-50 cohort is much smaller, perhaps as they are busy raising families and paying for mortgages and college eductions for their kids.

In the top ten states for pilot populations, California still leads with 59,213 but Florida has climbed into the number #2 slot at 52,976 — and the state is number one in flight instructors with 9,592 — followed by Texas with 49,614 total pilots, Washington state (18,665), Georgia (18,131), Arizona (18,029), Illinois (16,307), New York (15,949), Pennsylvania (15,187), and Ohio (15,137).

Van's Aircraft RV-series (a RV-12 SLSA shown here) does well in both kit-built and Light-Sport categories.
Now let's look at LSA-type aircraft elsewhere in the world. I have reported that the rest of world accounts for large numbers of "sport" or "light" airplanes, much more than the USA. This is definitely not the case in the certified GA aircraft world where America dominates. As mentioned above, the method of counting is all over the place — and in saying that I mean no disrespect to GAMA's Herculean effort nor the stats provided by reporting national CAAs. Nonetheless the variable reporting methods makes it difficult to come up with exact numbers. I plodded through chart after chart and here's my analysis.

Where I could identify microlights, ultralights, or LSA types, I calculated 19,613 aircraft in what might be called "greater Europe" (mostly EU countries). Making an informed guess of at least 4,000 "microlight/ultralight" for Germany — which country, as noted above, did not supply a detailed value for this category — and adding non-European countries such as South Africa (6,072 including "Sport, Recreational, and Experimental"), Canada (7,125 "ultralights"), and Brazil plus Asian countries (small counts for several nations), I make a best estimate of about 40,000 LSA-type aircraft outside the USA. This figure includes estimates for Sweden and Switzerland that did not break out their reporting. Also included in the 40,000 count is England with strong numbers of 4,029 "microlights" and 3,269 "Fixed Wing Aeroplanes of less than 750 kilograms" (1,650 pounds).

SPECIAL NOTES: France is singular reporting 8,476 "ultralights" (counted in the 19,613 number), the most of any country, while Germany deserves separate mention for having 7,657 sailplanes plus 3,357 motorgliders — more than any other country in the world by far — though they are not LSA types.

In summation, my earlier reporting suggests that while certified aircraft and the pilot population are in a long-term decline (a fairly well-known assessment), sport and recreational aircraft, including kit-built, continue to expand. Given entry by emerging aviation countries like China and India with their immense populations, the expected increase of the light, sport sector looks to remain aviation's growth sector. Then, we have the developing LSA 4.0 group, but that's another story ...

MVP.aero’s "Omniplane" Tour
By Dan Johnson, May 20, 2015

You have to love the English language (or maybe hate it for the same reason): New words keep arriving in conversations. Team MVP used the term "triphibian" to mean a Light-Sport Aircraft seaplane entry that could land on runways, waterways, or snow. Of course, many amphibious seaplanes could make a similar claim so perhaps it took something even better. Enter "Omniplane." Is this the plane that can do it all?

In May of 2015, MVP.aero went on tour, hitting the west coast area known as Silicon Valley, then traveling over 2,000 miles to Daytona Beach, Florida ... as luck would have it, right to my home airport of Spruce Creek (technically in Port Orange, Florida). The airplane was trucked across the country as today it is only a well-traveled mockup while the company raises funds to complete engineering and enter production.

Silicon Valley and Spruce Creek are excellent places to seek investors that understand the magic.

MVP drew pilots and potential investors at the Palo Alto Airport in Silicon Valley.

On May 1st and 2nd, at Palo Alto Airport, an organization called Aero Sports Association organized and held a well-attended event to raise funds in the worldwide center of technology, Silicon Valley, California. Between aviation enthusiasts and potential investors, nearly 200 people brought a wide range of backgrounds and interests to participate in an event organized by ASA president, ShuDong Li who said, "ASA is focused on building a platform to promote and develop China and US aviation and business exchange."

Darrell Lynds, president of MVP, shared his excitement, "This event far exceeded our expectations. We met not only aviation investors and aviation industry leaders, but we were also pleased to see pilots and aviation fans from reputable companies such as Google, Facebook, and Apple. We had a good turn out and it was evident that a lot of people were interested in our MVP aircraft. We really appreciate ASA giving us this great opportunity to promote our aircraft in the Silicon Valley. We will also join the ASA team by participating in the 2015 China's Anyang Airshow, which will be coming up on May 25th."

MVP made a big slash (figuratively, not yet literally) at AirVenture 2014 when the Minnesota company give a major press conference and debuted their new amphibious LSA in a special celebration display mounted by EAA on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Sport Pilot / Light-Sport Aircraft rule being announced.

The company has already raised a substantial amount of money that has taken the design from concept to mockup into significant engineering and marketing efforts. Funds are now being raised in a very innovative method to carry the versatile design through FAA acceptance and manufacturing.

At Spruce Creek in Florida, Darrell Lynds addressed one of several groups of prospective investors.
In Florida, MVP was hosted by one of their two fabrication partners. In the western U.S., MVP will work with Glasair Aviation, maker of the Glastar and new LSA entry, Merlin (video). In the east, the Minnesota outfit will work with Fibercraft, based at the Spruce Creek airport.

Mike Lynds reported, "We found strong support for the MVP  in both California and Florida." (You can see more about the aircraft and its features in this video.

Following on many other projects that overpromised and underdelivered, MVP is being very careful how they proceed. They refer to projected milestone dates that strike listeners as realistic.

I recall all the excitement generated about Very Light Jets and Eclipse. While that company did hang on to produce actual flying machines, the development raised huge amounts of capital (north of $1 billion, according to reports) but was challenged to move smoothly from investment marketing to manufacturing. MVP.aero is keenly aware of this and other failed projects, which is surely guiding their cautious approach.

Caution or not, MVP (for Most Versatile Plane) generates remarkable enthusiasm from those who study it.

Chinese Pilot Seeks to Fly for Fun
By Dan Johnson, May 16, 2015

WEEKEND UPDATE — Next week I leave for my first visit to China, specifically to Anyang City, by train a couple hours south of Beijing where the seventh running of an annual airshow is planned. I have only a sketchy idea what to expect even though Shu Dong Li of the Aero Sport Association has briefed me as has my European counterpart (in our work for LAMA), Jan Fridrich. In the last year alone, Jan has made nine trips to China as the Czech government is assisting Chinese authorities in work to build personal aviation in that country.

At the invitation of Shu Dong and Anyang City officials I was asked to speak at the event and I will join several other Americans all invited for the occasion. I expect this will prove interesting. While no one expect China to suddenly explode with light aviation activity, various groups are vigorously pursuing the future of recreational flying and this country has accomplished a great deal in a short time. Nonetheless, today, others report that the large country has only 329 airports and just 1,320 GA aircraft.

In an interesting coincidence, I discovered a story about a Chinese fellow who built his own ultralight from available materials and took to the air in it. He's not alone in this, of course, but I found his work an intriguing example of ordinary Chinese citizens showing an interest in flying for fun.

An article in the Daily Mail amplified a story on ChinaNews.com about Mr. Shijun Yang, a 45-year-old China national. The article was accompanied with some decent photos, which I use here while giving full credit to the news organizations.

According to the article Yang spent about $16,000 and more than a year building the plane, from plans he may have obtained off the Internet (photo). An executive at a building company, Yang has crafted the aircraft in honor of his deceased father, who worked as a pilot for 29 years. He named the plane "Jinhai" in memory of his father.

The two news organizations reported that on a recent Sunday Yang successfully took off and landed 10 times in Jilin province, located in northeast China. According to writer Emily Chan he took the airplane up to 650 feet and has since logged 2.5 hours of flying time.

Builder and pilot Yang said that his aircraft, allegedly "made from scrap metal," can reach a top speed of 120 kilometers per hour (75 mph) and has a cruising speed of 80 km/hr or 50 mph. Yang's ultralight-like airplane has a wingspan of about 30 feet and weighs 242 pounds. Journalist Chan reported that he has test flown his creation on two other occasions, including a 54-minute flight on his late father's birthday last September.

As I looked at the photos for this airplane I knew it looked familiar, in particular a Flightstar, an ultralight in which I logged many hours in the mid-1980s.

all photos from Daily Mail and ChinaNews.com
As chance would have it, about the time I stumbled across this story, I was enjoying a visit from an old friend and fellow LSA businessman, Tom Peghiny, known widely as the president of Flight Design USA. In fact, Tom is celebrated in the June 2015 issue of Plane & Pilot magazine, where his leadership in the Light-Sport community is chronicled.

I showed the photos to Tom and with his intimate knowledge of Flightstar — after building nearly 1,000 of them before he become immersed with the Flight Design CT series of LSA — he swiftly confirmed my guess that this was indeed a Flightstar. Yang has modified the design in minor ways, for example, the forward support tube (aft and below the engine) is not exact to the U.S. version of Flightstar.

OK, so Yang built a Flightstar apparently from some detailed plans. It may not be ground-breaking design work, but I still have to admire anyone who will tackle such a project in a country where aviation — at least at the ultralight level of aircraft — is virtually unknown. I look forward to my upcoming visit where I can learn more about this country's push to join the world in enjoyment of recreational aircraft.

Wings from the North Lift Many Trikes
By Dan Johnson, May 14, 2015

Here's North Wing's Maverick 2 Legend with full fairings and folding main gear (see photo below). This can be a Part 103 trike and sells for $17,990.
I've been writing about very affordable aircraft, specifically about Part 103 ultralight vehicles. I know some readers prefer speedier or fully enclosed aircraft. Those people are fortunate as many choices are available and, of course, I will continue writing about them frequently. However, many pilots in the USA and around the world do not have a budget for a magnificent carbon fiber personal aircraft that costs $150,000. Even among those who can afford such aircraft, I'm amazed at the renewed interest in these simplest of aircraft.

In addition, aircraft as shown in the nearby photos have seen considerable development since the early days of weight shift trikes. In my view, America invented these aircraft back in the late 1970s but as three axis ultralights developed, interest from American pilots drew away from weight shift and the best new ideas seemed to come from Europe, Australia or other countries. However, I now see the freshest developments coming from U.S. producers such as North Wing, Evolution, or FlyHard.

In this article, we will look at products from North Wing, based in Chelan, Washington. Fortunately, despite a very long journey from the opposite corner of this big country, North Wing again brought their products to Sun 'n Fun for all to examine. Here's a link to all North Wing trikes and wings

Maverick now folds its main gear for a narrower stance to allow trailer transport or space-efficient hangar storage.
North Wing is what might be called a full-line trike maker. The company offers a SLSA version called Scout in two models, Apache and Navajo, powered by either the Rotax 582 or 912. The most deluxe of these is the Scout XC Apache 912 (video) and while it is nicely finished with most desirable features, Scout sells for a fairly modest $52,000. For those wishing to spend less, other models run as little as $36,500 and even kit versions are available.

In the range of ultralight trikes, North Wing offers three models: Maverick, Solairus, and ATF. The latter is essentially a powered hang glider with landing carriage and the lightest engine available (photo). Solairus is similar but features a sleek composite carriage in lieu of simpler tube-and-gusset construction. For more on Solairus, check out our configuration video or our mini pilot report video.

If you are soaring enthusiast like me, super lightweight trikes like ATF and Solairus may be of great interest. To many others, though, a more substantial rig is desired. That might suggest the two seat and powerful Scout series but North Wing has another in-between model called Maverick.

Maverick is also Part 103 eligible, though like all such aircraft it is possible to push them out of Part 103 by adding too many options. Fortunately, unlike fixed wing Part 103 vehicles, trikes have greater weight allowances available so a Part 103 trike can still be fairly deluxe. Maverick is such an example.

Somewhat like the Evolution Rev I recently wrote about, Maverick drew my attention when I approached it as it appeared, well, different. That's because North Wings' new Maverick had its main gear folded up into what might be called trailer transport mode. The main gear legs on Maverick swivel upward by removing one bolt on each side which exposes two small wheels that I hardly noticed. In such configuration, Maverick can still be pushed around in a hangar or into a trailer; folding the mains considerably narrows the gear stance so it can fit in more confined spaces. North Wing also had a form of two wheel truck (photo) that could be used to make the maneuvering easier.

Maverick 2 also has some other new qualities such a zippered storage area aft of its single seat and a nicely fabricated fairing with a well-designed parachute cover. Parachutes have a close relationship with Part 103 aircraft as they are the only FAA-acknowledged flying machines that give a weight credit for using the safety equipment. Adding a canister parachute like Maverick had installed adds about 18 pounds of weight but then qualifies for a 24-pound weight allowance so that the operator can be said to gain six pounds for other purposes without exceeding part 103's maximum empty weight (278 pounds with parachute versus 254 without).

Using engines commonly mounted on back-pack powered paragliders helps ATF stay super lightweight for soaring flight.
Maverick is base priced with the weight saving yet powerful Kawasaki 440 40-horsepower, two-stroke engine and in its simplest configuration sells ready to fly for only $17,900. Even with the 35-horsepower Verner JCV-360 four-stroke engine, Maverick is just a hair over $23,000. Get more Maverick info in this video.

At the very least costly end of North Wing's broad-shouldered line is the ATF mentioned above. About this diminutive rig, North Wing said it, "adds power to your hang glider so you can climb to the thermals and power-off for lightweight trike soaring!" This is music to the ears for some of us.

ATF is available with no less than four engine choices: Simonini Mini2; MZ 34; Vittorazi 185; or the four-stroke Bailey V5E engine. All are used by producers of powered paragliders and for the same reason: they are extremely lightweight. North Wing makes sure ATF has lots of choices and possibilities. Explore these at this link Here's the best news for those on a budget for aircraft: You can purchase an ATF with Simonini 26-horsepower engine and a new Solairus 17-meter wing for just $13,990. Fantastic!

A reminder to readers that at some time in the future, ByDanJohnson.com will start a transition to a new domain name: AffordableAviation.com because ... whatever the selling price of aircraft we cover, our focus remains on the affordable end of aviation.

Quicksilver’s 103 Sprint Offers Potent Powerplant
By Dan Johnson, May 9, 2015

You could say 15,000 aircraft buyers can't be wrong and you'd be right. Quicksilver, in several various corporate iterations, has indeed sold 15,000 aircraft kits for its whole line including what they call the MX series and the GT series. Going back to the early 1980s — or even earlier when the company was a hang glider producer under the namer Eipper Formance — the company has made so many models I could nearly fill a post with the names, so I won't try to list them all. Suffice it to say this is one of the most prolific airplane companies since the Wright brothers first flew.

Today, the line up includes the aircraft in the nearby photos called Sprint. It's a single seater, now positioned as the MX-103. As the company notes on their slickly upgraded website, "[We are] launching the MX 103 a legal ultralight with 50 horsepower engine for $18,900 fully assembled." They note that MX 103 is based on the MX Sprint that has a long track record of safety and ruggedness in an open air flying machine.

Cockpits don't get much simpler than this, but do you really need more to have fun aloft?
So, here's another Part 103 ultralight we saw at Sun 'n Fun 2015 that sells for less than $20,000. Maybe even the naysayers (those that claim aircraft can't really legally meet Part 103) will grudgingly admit you might make a proper weight shift trike or powered parachute that can stay in the parameters but, "You can't do it with a three-axis airplane or if you can it will have such a weak engine a buyer will want more power and that will push it out of Part 103 weight."

Man, if I had a dollar for every time I heard that ... I could probably buy an MX 103.

Sprint has long been able to meet the confining weight limit of Part 103 — 254 pounds empty or 278 pounds with a parachute plus another 50 pounds allowed for floats. This presumes the buyer didn't load the aircraft with options. Admittedly some of those Part 103-eligible vehicles did indeed have a less powerful engine and the doubters might be right that you'd want something that could give a more robust climb rate.

With the Hirth F23 powering the MX 103, I say that problem is solved, and how!

Hirth has long offered a line of engines that Part 103 producers have used. One of the most popular is the F33, a single cylinder engine that can be supplied with electric starting. It is so light, a Part 103 aircraft can still accommodate the battery and wiring to allow push-button starting. However, it only offers 28 horsepower and while that works, it isn't particularly energetic.

Hirth's 71-pound F23 delivers 50 horsepower making Sprint, or Max 103, a strong performer.
With Hirth's F23, all that changes. This twin cylinder two-stroke engine offers a far beefier 50 horsepower and on a lightweight single seater like Sprint, that yields literally awesome performance. Two cylinders also ensures greater smoothness, even though Hirth engines have a reputation for smooth operation. Especially on the lightest aircraft, lower vibration is exceedingly welcome.

Quicksilver Aeronautics the factory based in Temecula, California, worked with the F23 but couldn't get it where they wanted it. So, Heavenbound Aviation's Andy Humphrey jumped in and, working with longtime Hirth U.S. representative Matt Dandar, managed to solve the installation problems. What visitors to Sun 'n Fun saw at Air-Tech Inc., display was the aircraft in the photos that I'm told is working beautifully. Congratulations to Andy and Matt! I'll bet Quicksilver is thrilled.

Although Matt had worked with Quicksilver for some months, the challenges remained and new Quicksilver dealer Andy arranged to have the aircraft brought to his location in Ohio, conveniently closer to Matt's shop, and the two of them wrenched on the issues.

The Hirth F23 only weighs 71 pounds (77 pounds with electric starting), said Matt, helping to keep Sprint within parameters even without an emergency parachute. Using a 'chute should allow electric starting as the parachute systems generally weigh a few pounds less than the weight FAA calculates for it.

The installation was problematical as F23 has opposed cylinders and dual exhausts. On our new video, Matt explains gives more detail but basically they solved the problem by inverting the cylinders putting the carbs on top and exhausts on the bottom.

Andy was the brains behind the motor mount parts that allowed the engine to be mounted underneath the wing — making upper wing surface airflow that much cleaner. We saw this configuration last year but the engine was on top and that simply wasn't the best. Now it's working great, Andy and Matt agreed. How great?

I wondered how a lightweight Part 103 airplane performs with 50 horsepower? When I asked, Andy smiled broadly and said ground roll is 25-35 feet. Whoa! Talk about your short field take off airplane; only a helicopter can beat that. Andy added that stalls come at only 16 mph (a mere 14 knots). Given Quicksilver's long reputation for this model and its wonderful safety record, here's an airplane almost anyone can afford and everyone can enjoy.

Heavenbound will build Max 103 for you and Andy said you can buy an RTF machine for less than $20 Grand!

Andy reported that one pilot with experience in Quicksilver who flew this Max 103 was hesitant to even use full power. That's a major difference from most Part 103 three axis airplanes and this adds a reason why the 103 sector appears to be reenergized. Thanks to Andy and Matt for sleuthing the problems and making for a wonderful new Part 103 entry.

Is Rev for You? ...for Less Than $18,000?
By Dan Johnson, May 6, 2015

UPDATE 5/10/15 – Rev Videos — Shortly after the following article was written, we posted two videos about Evolution's new Rev. Part 1 shows you how fast the setup from trailer to flight goes and Part 2 gives more information, both featuring primary developer Larry Mednick. Enjoy! –DJ

Did this trike just crash and turn into a puzzle of tubes? NO! This is the ground maneuvering system, the start of details we'll review on this clever Part 103 trike. (See next photo, too.)
Earlier I've written that the Part 103 ultralight sector seemed more vibrant than ever at this year's Sun 'n Fun. I admit a bias. I love Part 103 ... the aircraft, the concept, I like flying single seat aircraft, and, hugely, I love that Part 103 deftly avoids most of the interference from government officials that tends to dominate so much of aviation worldwide. While certified aircraft have hundreds or thousands of pages of regulations they must follow, Part 103's entire ruleset can be printed on the front and back of a single piece of paper. That's fantastic!

Earlier a few folks reading my enthusiasm about Sun 'n Fun 2015 exhibits of Part 103 machines voiced doubt that these machines can actually qualify — meeting the challenging empty weight of 254 pounds (278 if a parachute is mounted; more if floats are added); the max speed of 55 knots or 63 mph; the stall of 24 knots or 28 mph; the five gallons of fuel, and, well ... that's nearly it.

Of course I couldn't weigh each machine out in the fields of Sun 'n Fun's Paradise City, but I did probe with each vendor interviewed, "Are you certain this meets Part 103's parameters faithfully?" Each answered, "Yes!" although they also noted that customers sometimes like to add options that can push the vehicle out of 103.

Engine choices are standard 40-hp Kawasaki 440 or 45-hp MZ-201.
One of the most fun was Evolution Trikes brand-new Rev, which is perhaps shortened from Revo, their super-deluxe two seat trike featuring every bell and whistle known to trike developers. However, although Rev is highly simplified compared to Revo, it has everything I'd want on a trike and has a very special arrangement to help you maneuver the machine when its is folded for transport or storage.

As you look at the lead photo, you have to wonder if this thing just crashed and jumbled its tubing into a mess. You can be excused for wondering. However, what you see above is Rev in compact — and wheeled — form so it can be moved around easily inside a hangar or onto a trailer. Because Part 103 trikes are limited to 60 mph, owners may trailer their rig; also, an enclosed trailer can make an inexpensive hangar.

Rev cleverly folds from its collapsed configuration to flight or the reverse in a mere six minutes and even those minutes won't strain your back, thanks to the ingenious thinking of lead developer Larry Mednick. He's proved his design prowess with the marvelous Revo and he's done it again with the far simpler Rev.

Note the lack of a forward support tube, common on nearly all trikes. This eases entry significantly and opens up visibility more than you might think. Rev uses a mostly single surface with with clever rib fittings to make for fast assembly.
Rev's wing is intended to stay attached, folding into flight position while mounted to the trike carriage. Then the carriage itself folds to allow movement on the ground with a second carriage (see second and fourth photos). Yet, as the late-night TV advertorials boast, "That's not all!"

Once the wings — of this simpler, single surface design with nifty wing ribs that insert easier than ever — are unfolded, the ground-movement carriage is detached, and the nosewheel assembly plugged in, the wing lifts quite easily into flying condition. Even the "haul-back" is easier (haul-back is an action to fully deploy and tension the wings to flying condition; it can be difficult on some large, tight wings).

One the wing is fully erected over its carriage, you attach the standard forward support strut ... except, nope, you don't! Like very few trikes on the market, Rev is design to support the wing from the rear, making forward visibility the best I've seen in recent memory. This has been done before, but it's rare and the earlier efforts were not this slick. For those nervous about the lack of a forward strut, Rev is designed to accommodate one if you wish (as an option).

[Top left, clockwise] ... Rev instrument panel. Note black part under front edge of seat; this is part of the front suspension Rev's ground maneuvering carriage Parachute (white canister) is nestled in front of engine and, again, note black part that provides main gear leg suspension parachute handle.
Similar to his superb Revo, Larry has left few details needing any further attention. As you look at the detail image collage, you see the whole creation is thoughtfully considered. An instrument panel is nestled behind the beefy front wheel; it can be configured in various ways (though you'll need to restrain your impulses if Rev is to remain in Part 103). It has comfortable foot rests and even the throttle hook up to the right pedal is neatly achieved.

Large main gear tires combine with a robust nosewheel to assure landing on rough fields won't provide a threat and all three wheels use a smart but simple and light form of suspension (see black insert in rear gear leg and under the seat of the front support arms). Even the nosewheel gusset has a fine touch with the product name machined into the plate. A parachute is fitted, allowing empty weight to rise in a way that "buys" a few extra pounds (the parachute weighs slightly less than FAA's AC 103-7 allows).

Of course, some buyers will simply have to add some options and Evolution has several. Adding too much will push Rev into Experimental Amateur Built where a pilot license, medical, and N-number will be needed but Evolution offers various ways to personalize your Rev. Looking like the one in the photos and fully optioned out, Rev will exceed $33,000. However, with its standard Kawasaki 440 (40 hp) engine and still a mighty nice machine, Rev lists for just $17,900. That's terrific. Go, Rev!

Is Diesel Power for LSA Superior? Yes!
By Dan Johnson, May 2, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Superior's Bullet Points on the new Gemini Diesel Engine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Radial Engine Specifications:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

all photos and video courtesy of Flight Design

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

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

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

Flight Design C4 First Flight Preliminary Data & Impressions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dynon’s “Pocket” EFIS Now Has a Lower Price
By Dan Johnson, April 11, 2015

If you love Light-Sport Aircraft or light kit aircraft, odds are you love Dynon Avionics. This company, almost single-handedly, changed the game of glass cockpits for airplanes that cost a a fraction of most new general aviation aircraft. The company has acted like a Silicon Valley tech company meaning that it moves at Internet speed. Other avionics companies have been challenged to keep up with the Dynon dynamo.

Based in Woodinville, Washington, Dynon Avionics began business in January of 2000 with the development of the D10 EFIS, which began shipping in March 2003 to a warm reception. One of the cool early installations of a D10 system was on the Space Ship One, the first private aircraft to reach outer space. The company was founded John Torode, a former tech executive and a pilot who keeps a couple seaplanes docked in front of his home on Lake Washington.

As so often happens in the field of electronics, Dynon's nifty little "pocket" EFIS, has taken a price tumble. Better stuff; lower price ... what's not to keep loving about Dynon?

Officially name D2 Pocket Panel Portable EFIS, the wee — one inch thick by three and a half inch — mini-glass panel comes with WiFi and a G-meter. List price drops to $1,095 from $1,495, a 27% discount that will allow more pilots to, as Dynon put it, "add a modern, affordable backup safety device to supplement their often unreliable legacy certified instrumentation."

"D2 is the only self-contained attitude indicator that is truly portable," said Michael Schofield, Dynon's marketing manager. D2 features the same AHRS (attitude heading reference system) system as their larger-screen Dynon SkyView EFIS used in so many LSA and kit aircraft. "An internal receiver provides GPS ground speed, altitude, vertical speed, and ground track," Mike said, and "a G-meter display page shows a graphical round dial with the current G-load factor indicated by a needle." D2 also records and displays the minimum and maximum Gs since being reset by the pilot.

Here's another interesting feature of this tiny gizmo: D2's WiFi delivers attitude, ground speed, altitude, Gs, and ground track to iPads and Android tablets, all in real time. Apps such as WingX Pro7, Seattle Avionics FlyQ, iHUD Remote, and Air Navigation Pro can show such info on compatible devices, according to Dynon.

Installing D2 demands no tools, important for operators of Type Certified GA aircraft that cannot bolt stuff on without FAA approval. Stick it to a window by suction cup or clamp it into a vacant panel hole formerly occupied by an analog dial. D2 has an internal, rechargeable lithium-ion battery lasting 4-8 hours in typical use, the company said.

For those with the glorious SkyView panel-mount glass in one of two sizes, Dynon said a SkyView 12.2 software update will release in late April. The upgraded software will include fresh code for SkyView's SV-XPNDR-261 transponder, adding support for the ADS-B+ data format required to use the Garmin GTN and GNS (WAAS versions) IFR navigators as a GPS position source for FAA 2020 ADS-B mandate compliance credit.

Spy Cam’ Catches Flight Design C4 in Taxi Test
By Dan Johnson, April 10, 2015

Flight Design's nearly-ready-for-flight four seat C4 seen in taxi testing.
We are heading into a weekend with a couple wonderful airshows immediately ahead. The dry spell since Sebring is over and Aero Friedrichshafen in Germany starts next week — preceded by meetings of the ASTM committee that writes the LSA standards. A couple days after Aero ends, Sun 'n Fun starts. Whew! This is a tight schedule but what could be more enjoyable than going to airshows and finding lots of new airplanes about which to write and shoot new videos. I hope you'll click back regularly to see the latest.

Meanwhile I have some fun bits of news to report here. Perhaps the best is that we obtained "spy photos" of Flight Design taxi testing their C4 in anticipating of their first flight (more below). Plus, Van's Aircraft, the world's largest producer of kit aircraft, set a new record. Let's get started.

Flight Design has been at work on their four seater C4 for several years and it is finally nearing conclusion. We expect to have news of the first flight very soon. The aircraft is a spacious four seater with three doors, the aft of which was planned to be a rear-hinging door. Sometimes called a "coach door" the configuration should make for much easier entry to the rear seat, however, for safety the aft door cannot be opened without opening the front door. Performance is expected to substantially exceed a Cessna 172 while using less fuel and selling for $150,000 less than a new Skyhawk. C4 is powered by Continental Motor's newly certified IO-360-AF, and alternative fuel engine.

AeroJones President Jones Chen (L) shown with Flight Design GmbH CEO, Matthias Betsch (C) and Flight Design USA President, Tom Peghiny (R).
Flight Design was recently in the news for their new factory in China that is currently preparing to build CTLS Light-Sport Aircraft. They are currently working with the CAAC (China's FAA) to obtain what is called Type Design Approval (TDA).

"Now that AeroJones has completed building four prototypes culminating in a fully conforming article, they can begin the effort for serial production," explained Christian Wenger, a director of Flight Design in Germany. He added, "AeroJones's manufacturing work builds on an organization foundation by Daniel Guenther and Andrey Yavniy of Flight Design. "Andrey was the man who doubled Ukraine production [of CT LSA] during 2005 to 2007 with more than 250 aircraft delivered in 2007."

"AeroJones parent company GSEO, based in Taiwan, has worked in China for 20 years building high-tech optical products," said Flight Design CEO Matthias Betsch. "GSEO customers are known as very demanding buyers who go to great lengths to assure vendors match design quality. GSEO President Jones Chen brought his experience and his passion for aviation into AeroJones."

"In cooperation with the province of Jiangsu, AeroJones is breaking ground on a 250,000 square foot, brand-new production facility based in Changzhou," added Betsch. AeroJones will produce airframes for the Light-Sport CTLS as well as Flight Design's four seat C4.

Now, for something completely different ... Just today Van's Aircraft reported a first-flight report from Mr. Thomas Damm, of Billund, Denmark. "Thomas' RV-8 became the 9,000th RV kit to be completed and flown by a customer," exclaimed Van's.

"Mr. Damm bought the barely-started kit from a close friend and completed it over a span of nine years." Thomas flies airlines for Scandinavian SAS and made his first flight on April 8, 2015. "On the first flight I saw 170 knots at 5,000 feet at [less than full power]. You guys produce great airplane kits," Tom wrote to Van's Aircraft.

The folks in Van's Aircraft's engineering department, obviously very pleased by reaching this benchmark, assembled a few of what they called "thought pictures." They noted that assuming an average wingspan of 27 feet with no gaps, 9,000 RV aircraft parked wingtip to wingtip would form a line of aircraft 46 miles long ... and, a rectangular grid of airplanes would be roughly 2,788 feet by 2,362 feet that, with a couple inches of space between wingtips, would cover about 151 acres ... and, assuming an average of 180 horsepower per RV, the total fleet of 9,000 aircraft would generate 1,620,000 horsepower.

That should power you through the weekend.

BREAKING NEWS! — On April 9th, Flight Design successfully flew their C4 in a 40-minute initial flight that reportedly went very well, with the C4 at reduced throttle outrunning a Cessna 172 chase plane at full throttle. I'll have more as soon as the company releases it. Congratulations to the whole Flight Design team!

Glasair’s Merlin LSA Takes First Flight
By Dan Johnson, April 9, 2015

What an amazing day! I heard of — count 'em — no less than three first flights. I don't ever recall getting that kind of news in such a batch, but hooray! More airplanes to report on and more for customers to consider for their flying enjoyment. First up is the Glasair Merlin. I looked at the mockup of this new design at AirVenture 2014 (see video) and now she's flying.

Glasair Aviation announced that their new Light-Sport Aircraft entry named Merlin "took its first flight through the skies above Arlington Municipal Airport Tuesday, April 7, 2015." After many months of development work, the company put the new two seater through a regimen of preflight validation testing that included engine run-up, high-speed taxi, and ground roll lift off. Having completed this important set of tasks the team at Glasair watched as Merlin departed the surface with test pilot Grant Smith at the controls. Merlin's first flight lasted 57 minutes. Grant put the plane through a full test flight profile covering engine reliability, flight control characteristic exploration and conducting standard flight maneuvers.

"While nothing can replace the sheer wonder of witnessing the birth of a child, the introduction and maiden flight of a new airplane design is a close second," said Glasair Development Manager Ted Setzer. Also observing Merlin's first flight was Glasair Aviation engineer, Chuck Hautamaki, and the Glasair Aviation team (photo). "Flight testing will continue throughout the coming weeks," the company said.

Merlin is a composite high-wing, tricycle gear aircraft designed to gain FAA acceptance based upon ASTM standards. Using a Rotax 912iS engine with Dynon's Skyview glass-panel avionics, Glasair designed Merlin to adapt an optional BRS parachute system. The SLSA will also be the company's first FAA-approved aircraft; it does not require kit assembly as do all other Glasair designs.

"Our goal was to design an LSA with exceptional flying characteristics, performance, great visibility, aesthetically pleasing lines with easy access," said Chuck Hautamaki. Merlin's cockpit is a 45 inches wide with side-by-side seating. As I saw in the mockup visibility forward and to the side is very good. "Merlin has one of the largest windshields in the entire LSA fleet," said Glasair.

Pictured L-R: Jarrett Speith, Coby Young, Ted Setzer, Chuck Hautamaki, and Harol Rosales. all photos courtesy Glasair Aviation
"Merlin LSA fits perfectly into our product line, rounding out a rich history of successful product launches that started in 1980 with the revolutionary Glasair," said Ted Setzer. More recently, Glasair has brought Sportsman and Sportsman Diesel to join the original Glasair speedster. The company was founded in 1979 as Stoddard-Hamilton Aircraft and has been a world leader in kit-plane manufacturing for 35 years. The company was acquired in 2012 by Hanxing Group based in Jilin City, Jilin Province, China.

Congratulations to Glasair's whole team for getting Merlin airborne in a few months of work since we saw her first debuted as a mockup at Oshkosh last year.

Readers will want to return soon as I report two more important first flights. I bet you can't guess what they are but you will know very soon.

eAirplanes at Aero 2015 Plus Major Motor News
By Dan Johnson, April 8, 2015

photos by Jan Fridrich, LAMA Europe
With Aero mere days away now, excitement is growing for the electric aircraft event-within-the-event. Visitors can tour around the entry foyer hall where the e-flight-expo will be located. This year offers a few highlights, provided to me from my publisher friend Willi Tacke in Germany.

One aircraft not many Europeans and even fewer Americans have seen is the Chinese RX1E made by the Liaoning Ruixiang General Aircraft Manufacturing Company. An electric motorglider, RX1E earned its CAAC Type Design Approval (TDA) earlier this year using ASTM standards (article). Willi reported, "The Chinese team lead by chief developer Professor Dr. Yang Fengtian is now seeking certification in other countries such as Germany or France.

Some companies will not be attending not because their projects have stopped but because they are at critical junctions. Among those missing will be the Volocopter from e-Volo nor any man-carrying aircraft display by Yuneec — which last year showed their eSpyder that had just won German approval. However, the company will be present with their drone/UAV models and their electric powered skateboards, the latter seen at AirVenture 2013.

Martin Stepanek from the Czech company Phoenix will show his electric powered Phoenix motorglider. This lovely aircraft has been sold successfully in the USA by Jim Lee but we have not seen the electric version on this side of the Atlantic. Fortunately, you can catch our video on it.

Willi wrote, "A newcomer at the e-flight-expo is Chip Erwin from Florida. His company Aeromarine-LSA has developed a new light electric drive with a new brushless motor. He uses this device to power the Italian tube and fabric ultralight, Zigolo." Chip told Willi that his new motor weigh 6 kilos (13 pounds) and has up to 30 kW (40 horsepower). That ought to make this super lightweight aircraft perform amazingly well.

"The global market leader of gyrocopters, AutoGyro, will show, like last year, its joint venture with Bosch General Aviation," reported Willi. "This project is supported by the EU and shall research if and how e-motorization will be possible for gyros with their higher need of power compared to fixed wing planes." Bosch is adapting components for aviation that were previously used in automobiles. See our AutoGyro Video Pilot Report here.

The biggest news in this category is the aviation market entry by a megacorporation, Siemens (2014 revenue: $98 billion). "Siemens is choosing a different way to enter, compared to Bosch," wrote Willi. "In 2011 Siemens started a program to become a supplier of motors, because the company is confident of a future market for hybrid electric motor devices for planes with two to 100 seats. A Siemens division based in Erlangen, Germany has been working with miscellaneous aviation manufacturers of general aviation aircraft and airliners, for example such companies as Pipistrel and Boeing."

At Aero, Siemens will show a much more powerful electric motor. The company has been testing a 261 kW or 255 continuous horsepower motor that weighs only 50 kilograms (110 pounds). "We will put this motor in the air this year," promised Frank Anton, who is head of aviation development at Siemens and is also responsible for other electric drive systems especially for railways. Siemens is focused not only on the motor but on the full propulsion system: motor, hybrid combustion motor, generator, batteries, and the controls.

Aero has become known to many of us who make the annual pilgrimage as a place where you can find interesting ideas that are not commonly seen at American airshows. The e-flight-expo will be a key element of this but I will attempt to keep readers aware of other interesting developments. Join me as I report from Aero 2015 next week.

Get Ready for 2010 ... the Plane (not the Year)
By Dan Johnson, April 7, 2015

Tecnam has become widely known for its extensive fleet of Light-Sport Aircraft designs (meeting ASTM standards) and for their popular twin-Rotax 912 Twin model (using traditional certification). At Sun 'n Fun 2015, visitors can expect to lay eyes on the P2010 or as Tecnam usually calls it, "P Twenty Ten."

I have told you that ByDanJohnson.com expects to cover Light GA Aircraft — or LSA 4.0, as my journalist pal Marino Boric christened them — in addition to our on-going coverage of Light-Sport Aircraft, light kit-built aircraft, and ultralights including microlights and electric-powered aircraft. You can hardly miss the theme: "light" aircraft but the coverage is meant to be of affordable aircraft brands this website often covers — and is supported by — including all American and international producers of LSA.

As you look at the photos in this article and compare them with the P2008 (bottom photo), you see the resemblance clearly. One evolved from the other. "P" refers to Pascale, specifically Professor Luigi Pascale, the 90-year-old designer of all Tecnam aircraft, a diminutive but impressive man who I am told still does the test flying of his latest and greatest. His output is marvelous.

all images courtesy of Tecnam
Today, Tecnam announced that the company will celebrate the first anniversary of its North American facility in Sebring, Florida with the "U.S. debut and special pricing for the P Twenty-Ten, Lycoming IO-360 powered, four-seat aircraft at Sun 'n Fun 2015."

A year ago, at Sun 'n Fun 2014, Tecnam announced establishing a center in a 21,000 square foot hangar and offices at the home airport to the Sebring Affordable Aircraft Expo, the new moniker for what most of us still call the Sebring LSA Expo. "Tecnam's facility serves as showroom, training center, maintenance center, spare parts warehouse and support for the North American sales and service centers," the company said.

At their space at Sun 'n Fun, expect to see P2010, the Twin, and several Tecnam LSA including the high wing P2008 (photo below) and low-wing Astore (video). Another Tecnam will be on display in the LSA Mall in Paradise City.

Tecnam's four seat P2010 looks surprisingly similar to the LSA P2008 model (video).
"P Twenty-Ten is an all-new IFR high wing aircraft that uses a carbon fiber fuselage with a metal wing," Tecnam said. Deliveries have already begun to customers in Europe under an EASA standard type certificate. "The combination of carbon fiber and metal allows for an expansive cabin with three large entry doors without sacrificing the flight qualities of a metal wing." Some ready customers can take advantage of a special offer to order the Garmin G1000-equipped aircraft at substantial savings. List price for the P2010 is $379,500, but the first 10 customers to place an order at Sun 'n Fun will be eligible for a special Sebring-facility anniversary price of $345,000.

Test pilot Peter Collins recently commented, "P Twenty-Ten was genuinely a real pleasure to fly and future owners will be inspired by the aircraft's combination of advanced avionics, very short field performance, exceptional useful load capability and excellent cross-country range."

Tecnam's team, lead by Shannon Yeager, Director of Sales for Tecnam US, can be located at main aircraft display space MD-27 in Lakeland, FL during April 21 to 26, 2015. If you can't wait or want to get your name in line for one of the specially-price P2010s contact Tecnam US at 863-655-2400 or email Tecnam.

Click here to see the next most recent 20 SPLOG posts.




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.

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

Tecnam is the world's leading manufacturer of Light-Sport aircraft offering more models and variations than any other producer. Besides the world's fastest-selling light twin and their new P2010 four seater, Tecnam offers these LSA: P-92 Eaglet, Astore, and P2008.
Many Light-Sport Aircraft & General Aviation models

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.

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.

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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!

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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