Here is an early, quick look at Skytrek SLSA
by Triton... China's first FAA approval.
Video sponsored by Continental Motors,
maker of the Powerful Titan X-340 Engine
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Sightseeing by Ultralight... in North Korea
By Dan Johnson, October 18, 2016

China's A2C ultralight seen at a 2015 airshow in Anyang. This one is fitted with agricultural crop micro-spray equipment. At least the powerplant is familiar, a Rotax.
The stories we hear about North Korea are usually bad. OK, I've rarely heard anything good so I guess the news is just about all bad. However, we hear about North Korea from mainstream media and government officials, neither of whom seem interested in good news about this reclusive Communist state. On whole, it seems probable things are pretty lousy in such a closed and controlled nation but now and again, something trickles out to show less evil.

This story was featured in Toronto, Canada's and was written by Eric Talmadge of the Associated Press. At the end of his article Eric wrote, "Officials say the ultralight aircraft used for the flights were made in North Korea." If so, I'd say they are a knock-off of a Chinese aircraft that I have examined.

A China airplane looking very similar has been seen at AirVenture 2015 though I'm guessing few visitors paid it much attention as it was far from the sleek, beautiful light aircraft commonly seen at the big show. However, China's A2C-L aircraft, developed by the AVIC Special Vehicle Research Institute, was this year the first ultralight aircraft to obtain a certificate of model design approval and a production permit issued by Civil Aviation Administration of China, according to China Aviation News. Nearly 100 A2C planes have been sold, that publication reported.

A tourist flight is photographed over Pyongyang, the capital city of North Korea.
The lead photo is mine from a China airshow in May 2015 and it looks very similar to the ones appearing with the rest of this article. Ironic, you might find it, that a China airplane could be knocked off by another country. Many American think China is taking products from other nations and making their own copies. Perhaps this shows how far China has advanced?

Mr. Talmadge reported in The Star, "Until a few months ago, if you wanted a bird's-eye view of North Korea's capital, you basically had only one option: a 492-foot-tall tower across the river from Kim Il Sung Square.

Now, if you have the cash, you can climb into the back seat of an ultralight aircraft." He explained that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has vowed to give North Koreans more modern and "cultured" ways to spend their leisure time, and with foreign tourism companies looking to entice visitors with unique things to do besides visit war museums and political monuments, a Pyongyang flying club has started offering short flights over some of the capital's major sights. Maybe it's working as Talmadge reported, "Officials say more than 4,000 North Koreans have gone up in the ultralight fleet since, along with 'hundreds of foreigners' from 12 countries."

His report continued, "The tours, which began in late July, are operated by the Mirim flying club out of a fancy new facility on an old airfield." Flights go directly over some of Pyongyang's most iconic spots, including the gargantuan May Day stadium, the torch-tipped Juche Tower and Kim Il Sung Square area, and the Munsu Water Park (center photo), another of Kim's leisure spot "gifts" to the city. After each flight, the tightly controlled society requires club officials to inspect photographs taken from the air.

The country's Mirim flying club provides tourist flights for $150, although reportedly less for North Korean citizens.
The Star reported that seeing the city from a height of 6,000 feet while moving through the skies at ultralight speeds offers a different perspective from anything tourists, and even most Pyongyang residents, had ever been able to get before.

Flights aren't cheap. A 25-minute mission from the airstrip on the outskirts of the city to Kim Il Sung Square and the Juche Tower, which had previously been the best place to get an urban panorama, sells for about $150 (2-3 month's wages for an average Korean factory worker). Shorter flights are offered at lower prices, starting from about $65, but those only fly around the immediate vicinity of the flight club, which is fairly rural. Prices for North Koreans are much cheaper, though club officials reportedly would not say exactly how much.

Officials say the ultralight aircraft used for the flights were made in North Korea. Perhaps, but if so, they must have used the A2C-L as their template. North Korea does trade with China, one of its few export/import partners.

I can only marvel at what North Koreans or tourists would think if they saw one of our modern Light-Sport Aircraft or a well-made American ultralight-like aircraft. China has other models North Korea might access but maybe the A2C-L was chosen for specific reasons. I'm guessing those few thousand folks that have taken a flight find it a special experience... one any American can take virtually for granted.

An Excellent Bargain in a Composite LSA
By Dan Johnson, October 16, 2016

The lines are separating a bit. Once we had a flock of LSA priced closer to one another than today. While some are put off by splashy marketing from companies offering LSA priced north of $200,000, your choices do include fixed wing aircraft for $50-80,000 and alternative (weight shift, gyro, and powered parachutes) LSA for even less.

However, if you want an all-composite design with a digital panel, your choices of lower-cost models is, admittedly, more restricted. It costs money to make things with more exotic materials and with fancier equipment. The great news in late 2016 is customers are getting more choices in "reasonably" priced airplanes (shown in quotes as reasonable is a term that varies from person to person).

The new model in this article will be at the DeLand Sport Aviation Showcase coming up in just over two weeks. I hope you're planning to attend. I'll be present and the first-ever show is already enticing visitors with more exhibitors than most were expecting. Obviously, it pays to hire an experienced leader — Jana Filip — and have a highly supportive airport manager in John Eiff along with town leaders that are all-in for sport aviation at their municipal airport.

Jabiru North America boss Pete Krotje announced, "The FAA was here recently and issued a fresh SLSA airworthiness certificate for our new J170-D aircraft." The new addition logs in as SLSA #142 on our SLSA List.

Pete explained, "Our J170-D is the latest iteration of Jabiru's popular two-place aircraft that is widely used as a trainer in Australia and other places around the world." He added, "It is even used in South Africa as a rhino spotter and for rhino poacher patrol (photo).

No stripped-down flight school model, a standard J170-D in the USA comes equipped with the deluxe Garmin G3X Touch EFIS, a Garmin communications radio, Garmin Mode S transponder, 2020 compliant ADS-B in and out including a certified WAAS GPS, night lighting, and leather seats. All this may be fairly common for higher end LSA, but not at this price: $99,900.

You might wonder why FAA had to make a visit for an airplane we've seen in the USA before. "What changed," I wondered?

"J170-D has some major changes in the airframe from the [earlier] J170-SP," Pete clarified. "The SP was a bit prone to aft CG issues if too much baggage was stowed behind the seats and a bit less stable than the larger J230-SP. Jabiru in Australia set about to remedy those problems in 2012 and the result was a longer engine mount to put the engine four inches farther out front and the new swept, airfoil shaped vertical tail." A version of the new tail shape made the J230-D highly stable but was actually first developed on the J170. See Jabiru history for the full story but Pete confirmed the result is a much more stable J170 needing much less rudder input than previously.

"We had to go treat it as a new make and model since Jabiru Aircraft Pty, Ltd., is the manufacturer instead of Jabiru USA or Jabiru North America," Pete said. "Similar to the J230-D, we could no longer manufacturer the aircraft in the USA after an FAA rule change in 2012." Pete refers to internal FAA guidance that attempted to tighten the controls over what companies could declare themselves a manufacturer.

This photo of the panel in Jabiru's demonstrator shows an optional second G3X Touch screen but is otherwise the standard issue, said Pete Krotje.
"Mr. Gib Shelpman from the Atlanta MIDO (Manufacturing Inspection District Office) did the inspection since it was a first article make and model." When I inquired about any need for a formal FAA factory audit as part of the first article inspection, Pete responded, "The audit was done by CASA in Australia for ASTM compliance." On the Airworthiness Certificate FAA issued, Jabiru Aircraft Pty is listed as manufacturer and the aircraft is built by the Australian company in their South African facility. "In the USA we only install the Garmin panel and assemble the airplane out of the shipping container," Pete explained.

Canadian readers will be interested to hear J170-D can also be configured as a Canadian advanced ultralight. In that vein, I should note that DeLand, Florida can be a nice change in early November perhaps encouraging our neighbors to the north to come for a warm-up visit. If they do, they can see J170-D along with all other DeLand attendees.

"We will be at the Deland Sport Aviation Showcase in booth #82, right inside the entry gate," noted Pete. He also assured, "Demo flights will be available." J170-D will be arrive at DeLand Friday, October 28th a few days before the show. I hope to get a flight in the updated model and will look to report on that in November. C'mon down and see us in Florida. Hurricane Matthew did not bring major damage and the show will go on as planned.

Matthew Mayhem ... First All-Mexican Light-Sport
By Dan Johnson, October 10, 2016

A few miles south of my home one finds Kennedy Space Center, where this fascinating photo was taken. photo courtesy of Wall Street Journal
First a personal tale and then something completely different...

In the last week, I encountered something brand new to me, although old as the ocean. I refer to Hurricane Matthew, which swept through my home area of Daytona Beach late last week. You haven't seen anything new on this website for a few days because, well... I was a little busy. Along with everyone else in this area, we spent days preparing for a Category 4 storm (identified as packing wind speeds of 135-156 miles an hour, enough to tear buildings apart). Everything outside was brought indoors. Sandbags were loaded and positioned because a 15 foot storm surge was predicted along with torrential rains. Because my dwelling — at the Spruce Creek Fly-in, an airport community (7FL6) — sits only 22 feet above sea level, such a storm surge took on epic damage possibilities.

Fortunately, the winds capped at 91 mph at the nearby Daytona Beach airport (KDAB). The storm surge was much less than forecast and the rain was not as heavy as anticipated. We probably owe this to a "wobble" the storm path took that kept it further out at sea. Thank goodness, the eye of the storm did not wander toward land. I don't want to think about that.

To return everything to its normal place and to clean up the mess of branches and debris the storm scattered around took more time, so nearly a week was lost to Matthew. Nonetheless, the overall damage was less than anticipated so I am thankful while remaining concerned for losses sustained by others.

Besides the Rotax engine, I can also see what appear to be deluxe Beringer wheels.
Now for "something completely different" (as the old Monty Python troupe used to call a new skit topic).

After translating some Mexican websites, I was able to glean a few facts about a new aircraft, a Light-Sport Aircraft according to developers, that is reportedly the first airplane in 50 years to be made completely in Mexico. I found it interesting that this new LSA-like aircraft arrives from a furniture company. Perhaps that's less unusual when you know that the airplane is made of wood, "extracted from fir and birch planted exclusively for aeronautical use and certified by the FAA," said the companies.

After three years of work the timber airplane, designed by Giovanni Angelucci and built in Mexico, is approaching being market ready. The somewhat spartan news was released without naming a functional website where interested persons could find more details. Even determining what the new aircraft is called was not clear but since this is a launch project, it's probably too soon for any enterprising business person to rush into representing the airplane.

Although the news released referred to the new aircraft as a Light-Sport Aircraft, the speeds they announced are well outside the U.S. category, hence my use of the term "LSA-like."

A side by side two-seater aircraft, this proposed LSA is a low wing design with fixed gear. Its takeoff weight of 600 kilograms (1,320 pounds) exactly matches the LSA standard but cruise speed was listed at 260 kilometers per hour or 140 knots, a bit speedier than allowed though that might change with a different prop and other minor modifications. Maximum speed was shown as 300 kilometers per hour or 163 knots.

The new Mexican airplane is power by a very familiar engine, the 100 horsepower Rotax 912, which places it more securely in the LSA sector. Endurance was listed as six hours yielding a range of better than 800 nautical miles, suggesting a fuel supply of about 30 gallons. Empty weight was shown at 330 kilograms or about 725 pounds, again roughly typical for the LSA category. Ceiling was shown as 15,000 feet.

The developers noted, "[The airplane is an] artisanal manufacture by cabinet makers." Such advanced wood-working skills were "applied to the design to ensure the efficiency and durability of the aircraft over time. Its use is sporting, recreational flying and can be used by flight schools and such work as territorial surveillance." The new plane comes from an alliance of Horizontec and Pirwi.

The companies added, "[This] will be the first airplane manufactured in Mexico since last century... and will contribute to the reactivation of the Mexican airline industry, which since the '50s did not produce full, but only aircraft parts."

"The design was confirmed by the Aviation Cluster of Queretaro and the Aeronautical University in Querétaro (UNAQ), which for three years has harbored the project." The new aircraft is priced at $180,000 and will be [built] on request in order to customize to the taste and needs of each client.

You can't see the Mexican entry at the DeLand Showcase coming up in just three weeks (November 3-4-5), but you can see the Jabiru J-230-D and many more Light-Sport, light kit, and ultralight aircraft. More details at DeLand's website.

A Lightning Bolt You Can Catch: LS1
By Dan Johnson, October 4, 2016

Over and over I've heard about the cost of Light-Sport Aircraft. Indeed, some are approaching $200,000 and at least four have smashed through that barrier (CubCrafters, Icon, Terra Fugia, and Lisa). Now, I'll grant you $200K+ for a two seater is fairly breathtaking. But...

In each case above and for those many others in the $125-175,000 range, we're talking about real money. Balancing that, all LSA in the $125K and up price range are impressive aircraft with more bells and whistles than most GA airplanes (and even some airliners!). They are hand-built works of art using carbon fiber; digital cockpits; wide, luxurious cockpits with amazing visibility; and emergency airframe parachutes. They are marvels with autopilot, synthetic vision, gas-sipping (and very modern) engines, and so much more.

Virtually every LSA — no matter how impressively equipped — still remains at half to one third or even less of the cost of even the most affordable Part 23 general aviation airplanes. Good heavens; even a Cessna 172 Skyhawk now costs more than $400,000!

Nonetheless, as fantastic and as decent a value as I believe our top-tier Special LSA represent, $150K to $250K is a big chunk of change for many recreational pilots who merely want to get some airtime.

This article presents another solution: Arion Aircraft's SLSA Lightning LS1. If you don't know this airplane, you haven't really been shopping hard enough in my humble opinion. For years, Arion has been making kits, SLSA, ELSA, and Experimental Amateur Built aircraft that exceed the parameters of Light-Sport Aircraft. For the SLSA model, the company has been through an intensive FAA audit and emerged with a worthy product.

You may also choose some very nice flying aircraft at much more affordable prices running from well under $100,000 down into the $30-40,000 range. (That's not an exaggeration and I can prove it.) Now, you might not care for such aircraft with fabric coverings and simpler panels and, in some cases, different controls. However, if observing your locale from above is your main goal, these inexpensive aircraft can do the job efficiently, and economically. Ain't nothing wrong with that... even if these airplanes may not be your choice.

Arion offers you quite an amazing deal, I believe. I'll get into some specifics below but just look at the airborne images of this plane. The lines of LS1 lines are sexy and shapely, its speed is top-of-the-category, its appointments are comfortable, its interior spacious, its engine powerful, and to top it off, this is a Made-in-America Light-Sport. When you call, you talk to Americans in the heartland and its components are made by American workers.

I imagine you agree Lightning LS1 is a handsome design, whether it is a kit, and ELSA or a fully-built Special LSA. Now, thanks to a change in their composite manufacturing — an outsourced set of key components, moved from their former supplier to one closer to Arion's facility in Shelbyville, Tennessee — Arion is able to make the purchase more affordable. In concert with the supplier change, Arion boss and principal designer, Nick Otterback, said, "A more streamlined in-house assembly and finish process helps us to further lower the cost."

Nick added, "A base-price Lightning will be EFIS equipped with 8.5-inch GRT sport system, Garmin's GTR200 com radio and GTX327 transponder, a PM1000 intercom, plus back up airspeed indicator. Standard base equipment still included from pervious years includes dual hydraulic toe brakes, AeroLEDs Pulsar XP wing tip navigation lights and strobes, faux-leather interior, electric flaps and pitch trim, adjustable rudder pedals, and 40-gallon fuel capacity." Available options are Dynon's SkyView system, Garmin's G3X, autopilot, and ADS-B.

Lightning looks good, comes well equipped ...but what is that price?

How about this for an even number you can remember: $100,000 for a 2017 ready-to-fly Lightning LS1?

A $10,000 deposit provides you with a production slot. You pay installments during the build process at major events, such as when the structure is complete, when the paint is done, and when your LS1 is ready for delivery. Nick said current delivery times are 120 to 150 days after your deposit is received.

A two-tone grey or tan interior is custom made to suit your chosen paint scheme. Arion advised, "You can pick your paint scheme and colors; we work to design a scheme for you." Nearby photos present the interior look.

The $100K model is sufficiently well equipped to allow full enjoyment for local flying or cross country travel. You can spend more if you want the options. Since Lightning is good for longer distance flying, ADS-B will be of interest if you play to enter controlled airspace. However, even with an option or two, LS1 can still be quite an excellent value.

I applaud Arion for refining their supply chain and processes to lower the SLSA Lightning to a affordable level. If you are in the market for a beautiful American-made Light-Sport, here's one worth a much closer look.

Ultralights Darken the Sky! ...and More
By Dan Johnson, September 30, 2016

WUFI '16 — It's tomorrow in New Zealand. Weird as it seems to write that, the down-under nation is 17 hours ahead of those of us on America's east coast. So, pilots in that nation will lead the parade as ultralights and other open-cockpit aircraft kick off the World Ultralight Fly-In on October 1st, a global day in the sky. If you have one of these aircraft, I hope you log on to their map and add your pin and info to the group.

As of September 30th, the day before WUFI Day, more than 800 pilots had already shown their support for the "movement" to have some joy in the air aboard your light flying machine. Organizer Dayton Ultralights and Facebook regular Paul Lindamood were looking for 1,000 pilots to join the party. Given normal human propensity to wait to act, it might happen. I'll be interested to hear the final report but you should get your bird ready now and check the news later.

Interestingly, a look at their map reveals two nations that jump out for their lack of participation (or at least showing so on the map). Russia and Brazil both have active aviation communities and I'm surprised to see those areas with no pins. Perhaps they're among those waiting until the last minute. Follow the development on Dayton Ultralight's Facebook page. More info right here and here.

DeLand Showcase — We're now about one month away from the first-ever DeLand Showcase at the guessed it, DeLand Airport (KDED). Based on my years in close-by Daytona Beach, weather over November 3rd, 4th. and 5th should be good, no longer broiling in tropical heat but neither wintery. Get more info: DeLand Showcase 2016

TAF Sling KitMike Blyth and the gang from The Airplane Factory has done it again. No, not fly around the world... again. They've done that so often it's almost not news. What they repeated was fully building of one of their kits, and flying it, at an airshow. Certainly this shows a regular homebuilder that Sling kits can be completed in a reasonable amount of time.

The Airplane Factory USA Team announced, "A Sling 4 [seater] has been built and flown in record time at the Sywell Aerodrome, United Kingdom, during the 70th Anniversary LAA Rally." The UK's Light Aircraft Association puts on the event.

A complete Sling 4 aircraft kit was packed in South Africa and then delivered to Sywell on August 26th. "Over a seven-day period, a 10-person build team, consisting of five TAF employees and five LAA volunteers, fully assembled the kit, ground ran the engine and test flew the completed aircraft at the show," reported TAF USA. The build team worked 12 hours a day in the company's airshow display.

This the second Sling 4 build of its kind. About a year ago in September 2015, the TAF South Africa team built a Sling 4 in only 4 days, with 40 workers (here's our article on the earlier speed-build). Sling 4-4-40 was delivered to TAF USA as their Sling 4 demonstrator and has since accumulated more than 650 hours of flight time. I've gotten to fly Sling 4. I loved it; read more here.

Skydock Tested — Single seaters don't get enough love, it sometimes seems. The truth be known, though, Part 103 ultralights appear to be doing fine. Perhaps the number of producers now properly matches the number of customers; whatever the explanation, companies pursuing 103 appear to be staying active. One such is Belite Aircraft.

Owner James Wiebe has been focused on his low wing cantilever Skydock and it is drawing interest. Skydock can be a Part 103 aircraft with minimal paint and an airframe parachute. Or, it can be a Experimental Amateur Built in the USA or a Single Seat DeRegulated aircraft in the United Kingdom. When James recently tested Skydock's wing, he did so assuming the higher gross weight of a EAB or SSDR.

"We ran our negative G load test yesterday on our SkyDock prototype," said James. Belite tested to negative 3.8 G at a gross weight of 660 pounds, 10% beyond the higher MTOW of Skydock. James consider it "an ultimate load test."

Skydock is a single seat design with what Belite said is "an exceptionally roomy interior [that] fits long legs, broad shoulders, a large frame." The fuselage and wing D-cells are carbon fiber; wings have integrated ailerons and flaps. A complete kit with skins is priced at $20,625.

LSA News: DeLand, Icon Deliveries, Dynon Deal
By Dan Johnson, September 27, 2016

DeLand Showcase — The eighth annual Midwest LSA Expo occurred in early September in Mt. Vernon, Illinois at the municipal airport. While lacking the immense crowds of the major airshows, it regularly draws a good number of exhibitors as those representatives report they sell airplanes at these more intimate events. Smaller gatherings allow more face time between prospective buyers and those offering airplanes and other products.

Next up is a brand new trade show, the first one, an inaugural event. I hope those in Florida and other southeastern states will consider traveling to DeLand, Florida for the first-ever DeLand Showcase. Led by Jana Filip who gained experience running the Sebring LSA Expo and solidly backed by airport manager John Eiff and the city of DeLand, the event is approaching a full sell-out for exhibitor space so visitors should have plenty to see.

See this earlier article for more about the DeLand Showcase and stay tuned here for updates as the date grows closer. DeLand 2016 is scheduled for November 3rd through 5th.

Icon Aircraft — The A5 developer is finally making deliveries... albeit with a difference. The California developer of a now-well-known LSA seaplane stated that it will build approximately 20 aircraft for delivery in 2016. "Those aircraft ... are being placed at Icon Flight Centers around the United States so that customers and the public can experience them firsthand," said Icon in their fall newsletter. Customers have reportedly agreed to lease aircraft back to Icon for this purpose in exchange for the manufacturer maintaining, storing, and insuring it. That might turn out to be a dandy idea for owners that live near an Icon Flight Center.

Julian Gates is one such customer that officially owns A5 serial number 008. Icon said Gates is the president of a semiconductor company and an avid water sports enthusiast and pilot. They reported that he has taken his aircraft out several times since buying it this summer, including a weekend trip to Lake Tahoe over the 4th of July weekend (nearby photo). "I have been flying for 20 years, owned several aircraft, and checked out/flown 20+ different planes including acrobatic aircraft," said Gates, as relayed by Icon Aircraft. "Flying the A5 was the most fun I have ever had in a plane. I was blown away. I came back after each flight with a huge grin on my face."

Icon also continued to trumpet their new Tijuana, Mexico composite facility as reported at the end of this earlier article.

Dynon Avionics — The game-changing maker of digital cockpit instruments asked, "Do you have a D10/D100 series-equipped-aircraft that you've been thinking about upgrading to a SkyView? Perhaps you are thinking about your 2020 ADS-B Out compliance plan..." If you can answer affirmatively to either or both those questions, Dynon has a nifty deal for you.

"We're thanking our D10/D100 series customers with a limited time offer," noted the company in a eNewsletter just sent out. "Upgrade to a new SkyView or AFS system with 2020-compliant ADS-B Out between Sept 26, 2016 and November 30, 2016, and Dynon will rebate 75% of the price of eligible D10/D100 series instruments you already own when they are traded-in. An exact rebate schedule is shown at the link below.

Like others, I am ever-attentive to offers like this. I've enjoyed flying with both D10 and D100 instruments but they are starting to look like that laptop computer you bought ten years ago. Sure it still works and does everything it did when you first got it, but it no longer does the amazing tricks the newer devices can do.

Sweet offers often have some restrictions. Dynon stated, "This offer is limited to the first 50 customers" so you should act soon to take advantage. As with most such offerings a few other rules are attached, Check the entire program at their dedicated rebate page.

World Ultralight Fly-In 2016; Hundreds Will Fly
By Dan Johnson, September 20, 2016

"A Thousand Ultralight Pilots Sharing the Sky" the tagline used by the Dayton Ultralights group again sponsoring the World Ultralight Fly-In. However, what it is NOT is a fly-IN. The truth is that "sub-87" aircraft, as the segment is often called, cannot span the immense distances of an entire globe to fly "in" to one location. So organizers got creative. Sub-87 refers to a LSA regulation reference to aircraft that fly less than 87 knots or 100 mph.

WUFI'16 is, however, the second annual event, an innovative way to get hundreds, perhaps even more than a thousand pilots to all go airborne on the same day and to log that effort on a map that shows the world where on Earth ultralights enjoy the skies. The organizers put only a few restrictions on what kind of aircraft can be used. The event is more one of virtual camaraderie than a physical gathering, a worthy endeavor that represents the spirit of light recreational flying

Look! If you have one of these lightweight flying machines, your time aloft is a thing of joy. You can fly with a flock of local fellow aviators or you can do a solo act. Even if the latter, you can know that on one day, all over the planet, many hundreds of your fellow ultralight pilots are sharing some air with with you. I think that's very cool and I applaud Dayton Ultralights for putting the event together.

  • WHEN — Starts at daybreak, October 1, 2016
  • WHERE — Anywhere on the planet Earth that people fly!
  • WHO & WHAT — Any pilot of an aircraft considered an "ultralight" and/or "open air" aircraft... ultralight, powered paraglider, powered parachute, weight shift trike, wheeled paramotor, hang glider, hot air balloon — basically any imaginative, magnificent flying machine.

Check out the always-updated version of the WUFI 2016 map By all means, if you can join the other participants, follow the instructions to put your pin on the map.

This is written on September 20th, so you have ten days to get your ultralight flight-worthy. Then go have a little fun flying with your virtual squadron mates from across the USA and around the world. Sounds like a good time to me!

Some folks think ultralights went away when the SP/LSA rule was introduced in the summer of 2004. Yes, by early 2010, all those two-place trainer ultralights were forced to transition to become ELSA or Experimental Light-Sport Aircraft. This ended up devastating the ranks of ultralight instructors who used such aircraft for compensated flight training. As an ELSA, paid flight instruction was no longer allowed and the sector never fully recovered from this blow, one said to have been in the interest of safety though safe operation of such aircraft had been improved steadily over the many years they existed.

Nonetheless, single place ultralights qualifying under Part 103 continued to operate and in recent years more increasing activity has been observed in the segment. As one example — by no means the only one — U-Fly-It, producer of Aerolite 103 is working at full capacity to turn out more than 40 new Aerolites a year. They are so busy that they've had to add kits to allow some folks to get in the air faster. Kits also allow these aircraft owners to add more powerful or four stroke engines plus other accessories without worrying about busting Part 103's 254-pound empty weight limit.

In most other countries, "ultralight" (sometimes "microlight") refers to an aircraft that is only a bit smaller and lighter than present-day Light-Sport Aircraft. European national CAAs — operating in parallel to the EU-wide EASA organization — continue to embrace this segment and several thousand are flying, still bringing great joy and broad smiles to their operators while also saving them tens of thousands of euros.

Check the Dayton Ultralights website or send email for more info. If you're already signed up or if you simply think what Dayton Ultralights is doing is cool, you can buy tee shirts and more with their distinctive WUFI logo and support their effort in this way.

Happy 12th Birthday, Light-Sport Aircraft!
By Dan Johnson, September 17, 2016

Earlier this month, Light-Sport Aircraft celebrated a birthday. The date was September 1st, when FAA made the then-new Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft rule "effective" (to employ FAA-speak). So... happy birthday, LSA.

In those dozen years — the newest aircraft segment is not even a teenager yet — quite a bit has changed. If you are a parent, you may not notice your child getting older as you see them daily. However, the distant uncle or grandparent who only gets to visit infrequently may be astounded how much the little guy or gal has grown. I suspect those close to LSA may have a similar perspective deficit, so let me make some contrasts.

The nearby images are from a talk I gave at the recently concluded Mid-West LSA Expo. I went into more detail than this article permits but I'll bet you get the points.

AIRFRAMES — Today, we accept that we have some marvelous, sleek, high-tech, well-equipped, well-performing models. Matter of fact, we have dozens of them, so many that you can find almost anything you want, whether fixed wing three-axis, weight shift, gyroplane, powered parachute, motorglider... just about eveything originally envisioned by rulemakers except lighter-than-air, which has yet to see a market entry.

Just looking at the fixed wing sector, you have so many choices, I often have people ask for help sorting through the many choices for an aircraft that will work for them. Because I cannot answer all the questions, I created PlaneFinder 2.0, which helps to narrow your choices thereby making a purchase decision a little easier. Try it; it's kind of fun.

What folks may not remember is the kind of aircraft we had at the outset. One case in point. I've often heard folks say (for example), "Why does the maker of the sleek Sting or Sirius airplanes call itself 'TL Ultralights'? Their airplanes don't look anything like most pilots' idea of an ultralight." That sounds correct and today, TL does make state-of-the-art airplanes but they once made something that would look familiar to anyone engaged in the ultralight sector in the 1990s.

As the field rapidly evolved and as companies saw their business coming from pilots selling Bonanzas and Cessnas, they began offering more sophisticated airplanes. Prices rose to cover the fancier equipment, but I hasten to add that we still have many affordable choices from manufacturers that use more traditional construction techniques.

ENGINES — Today and all around the world, one brand dominates: Rotax. While the Austrian company has some very worthy competitors, they were and remain the main brand for LSA or LSA-like aircraft, holding approximately 75% of the global market.

Rotax was also dominant in the 1990s, although in those days, their two-strokes (such as 447, 503, & 582) were the main powerplants on the ultralights of those days. Rotax debuted their 912, the start of what is now called the 9-series, in 1992 and some airframe builders adopted it quickly but most continued with the two-stroke engines as they cost less, had lighter weight, and were better matched to the aircraft of those years. Today, the 582 continues while the others have been discontinued, however, the 912s are everywhere.

Continental was on the scene quite earlier thanks to their ubiquitous O-200, later reconfigured and lightened specifically for LSA (O-200D). Lycoming followed later, following with their O-233. Yet it was the Titan series of very powerful engines that has begun to make impressive inroads. As of 2015, Continental owns the Titan line previously developed by ECi.

We also have solid entries from UL Power, Viking, AeroVee, D-Motor, and others although having to prove compliance to ASTM standards keeps these only in the homebuilt community. That may change as LSA continue to grow worldwide, as we'll see.

Surprise question: Do you recognize the engine in the upper left? If so, you're probably a veteran of the light aircraft industry before anyone used the phrase "Light-Sport Aircraft."

COCKPITS & PANELS -- I love the leftmost image (well, OK, not the hairy legs of the pilot). That "instrument panel" was genuinely quite state-of-the art back when. The device on the extreme left illustrates how early the light aircraft community embraced GPS. In fact, the very first aviators I knew to use GPS were hang glider pilots, who adapted units made for hikers.

Today, modern cockpits more likely resemble the image on the upper right; that's the interior of a Flight Design CT, an early adopter of units like those from Dynon that revolutionized light aviation and helped show GA pilots that LSA offered something truly fresh. To see how far we've come, you can look beyond the open cockpit ultralight as shown and simply look inside any GA airplane where you almost always see a panel full of round analog "steam gauges."

In the lower right image you see a version of Icon's A5 LSA seaplane interior, purposely designed to resemble what a new occupant would see in a modern automobile. The idea is to look less daunting than an immense panel of unfamiliar instruments and time will tell if they made a right decision. Most students I've trained were indeed flustered looking at a panel of round dials much as older pilots are when trying to quickly pick up info from a modern EFIS... hence, makers glass cockpit developers offered a "six-pack"panel of digitally-represented analog gauges.

LSA COMPARED TO GA — So how has all this progress benefitted the LSA world? Actually, quite well IF you consider the whole world. In the USA, the LSA sector remains only about 2% of the total single engine piston fleet. However, around the world LSA and LSA-like aircraft may comprise around one third of all single engine piston aircraft. Such measurements are devilishly hard to quantify accurately, but I believe my estimate is fairly dependable. Factoid: In 2014, all GA single engine piston deliveries totaled 969 (according to GAMA) where LSA-like deliveries were around 3,000 aircraft and that wide advantage is sure to continue.

In this earlier article, I delved into the worldwide fleet of LSA-like aircraft so I won't repeat it here. Yet I consider the count of more than 66,000 such aircraft to be on the conservative side. The article also referenced the count of U.S-based Type Certified single engine piston aircraft. For those seeking more detail, check this article and this one plus many more LSA market articles found here.

If you don't care to read the above links, I can summarize by stating that LSA has done very well in its dozen (or so) years. Here's my closing statement from the Midwest LSA Expo talk: "Light-Sport has already forever altered aviation, offering a vision for the future of flying ...and we're just getting started."

Newest SLSA Developed & Fabricated In China
By Dan Johnson, September 11, 2016

The newest owner of a SLSA Special Airworthiness certificate is Triton AeroMarine for their Skytrek. First seen at Oshkosh six weeks ago, boss Thomas Hsueh said he would have approval shortly and he was true to his word. The proof came at the just concluded Midwest LSA Expo 2016 in Mt. Vernon, Illinois where Thomas and his young team brought the first SLSA version of Skytrek

Yes, I know Skycatcher was the first designed-in-the-USA, made-in-China Special LSA. The two approaches differ in two ways, however, as Triton did their work and test flying in China where Cessna did all their development in Wichita, Kansas and merely sublet the production work to Shenyang (a large state-owned aircraft producer). Triton, a private non-state company, has a corporate base in Washington State. Its factory is in Zhuhai, China, home to a well establish airshow. The other difference is that Skytrek also has Type Design Approval in China so it has passed inspection by two sets of aviation authorities.

Thomas is a highly qualified and very experienced engineer with impressive credentials showing decades of work for some of American's top aerospace companies.

Triton America is the parent company of Triton Aerospace, Triton AeroMarine, Bayview Composites, and (the website for Skytrek) with factories and offices in Mount Vernon, Bayview, and La Conner, Washington state; Mosier, Oregon; and Zhuhai, China. If that sounds like a larger organization than most LSA producers, you guessed correctly.

I'll get to the main attraction of the Skytrek LSA shortly but to better understand Triton, I needed to learn a little more and I want to share what I discovered.

Company owner Thomas is a man of varied talents and long history. Now in his 80s, Thomas brings more than 60 years of industrial experience to his new Skytrek design. He has worked for many aerospace companies whose brand names you know. In addition he has a background in boat hull design, which will help when he completes work on a LSA seaplane that is a successor to the Czech Aircraft Works' Mermaid (article & another) that Americans first saw about ten years ago.

In 2009, Triton America doing business as Triton Aerospace acquired all the design rights and hardware of Adam Aircraft, which had developed, built, and certified a twin engine, six-seat all-carbon FAR 23 aircraft. You may recall this design with its twin booms and Cessna Skymaster-like push-pull engines mounted fore and aft on the fuselage. Adam had also partially completed the certification for their twin jet powered eight-seat FAR 23 aircraft. Those aircraft are far out the types we cover here on but I reference them to show the depth of involvement Triton and Thomas bring to their LSA project.

At the Midwest LSA Expo — perhaps my favorite place to do Video Pilot Report flying — I got to fly Skytrek. We mounted several cameras as you see in the nearby photos and will offer the video review when editing can be completed. Until that work is ready, I present the company video below that shows several maneuvers by New Zealand test pilot (and my check-out pilot), Phil Hooker. You also get some views of the Zhuhai factory.

Skytrek is powered by the 100 horsepower, fuel injected Rotax 912iS swinging a DUC Hélices Flash three-blade prop. Here's some of the essential specifications: wingspan 28.9 feet; wing area 141.8 square feet; cockpit width 48 inches; empty weight 821 pounds; useful load 499 pounds; calculated payload with full fuel (30 gallons) 319 pounds; baggage allowed in rear compartment 40 pounds; baggage in each wing locker 22 pounds.

Performance data as given by Triton: maximum cruise at 3,000 feet with 75% power is 97 knots; maximum speed 121 knots; VNE 140 knots; stall speed 32 knots; climb rate 833 fpm; take-off run 558 feet; landing distance 480 feet

As I was waiting for my airline flight home from the Midwest LSA Expo, I crossed paths in St. Louis with Phil as be began a very long flight back home. He explained he got China CAAC recognition for his New Zealand flight credentials so he could do the test flying (some of which you see on the video). He is a former flight school owner and actively flies the airshow circuit down under.

I will provide more details about how Skytrek flew in our video pilot report to follow. Until then, here are a few more facts about Skytrek, now number 141 on our SLSA List.

A steerable nose wheel with auto disengage in-flight is one feature setting apart Skytrek from other designs that it resembles. Thomas reported he improved the aileron design for flight control harmony (meaning pitch and roll pressures are similar); full dual controls with individually in-flight adjustable rudder pedals; dual 15-gallon wing tanks; electric aileron trim and pitch trim on both sticks; electric flaps with LED position display; dual differential hydraulic toe brakes with parking brake feature; wheel pants; cabin heat; cabin entry step; dual instrument panel hand holds with seatback hand hold; headset storage hooks; three tie-down hooks; armrest; and two-tone paint with matching textile upholstery.

Skytrek is delivered with dual Dynon SkyView 10-inch screens including Synthetic Vision, GPS, and transponder. Pitch trim and aileron trim position is shown on SkyView; Dynon integrated radio with on-screen control and display; aircraft lighting; strob/nav light; landing light (for night operation in VMC); plus cabin instruments and panel lighting.

My experience flying with Phil was very satisfactory. Skytrek is a very sturdy airplane benefitting from the experience of earlier developers of this general design shape. I enjoyed my flight in it and invite readers shopping for a new airplane to consider Triton's new entry.

Aircraft Spruce, WideBody FK9, Icon in Tijuana
By Dan Johnson, September 5, 2016

Article Updated 9/7/15 — See new information at the bottom of this article.

Coming up TOMORROW! — September 8-9-10, 2016 — is the Midwest LSA Expo. I'm on-site for all three days in Mt. Vernon, Illinois. More info: Midwest LSA Expo.

Only six years after Steve Jobs proudly announced the first iPad, the tablet device seems to have fully conquered aviation. Airline captains routinely use iPads in lieu of bulky printed instrument charts. GA airplane owners with analog panels commonly use an iPad to join the digital revolution without needing to get FAA's permission. And, LSA developers often accommodate the iDevice; indeed, some Light-Sports make do solely with iPads, occasionally multiple devices. Despite his visionary prowess, I bet Steve Jobs never imagined such a result. Unfortunately, he didn't live long enough to see the cockpit transformation his gizmo caused.

However, if you've flown with an iPad, you know you need some way to hold it that allows access to its wealth of information without interfering with airplane operation. No problem.

Aircraft Spruce is now offering AirGizmos Airmounts with fixed, tilt, and suction capabilities for your iPad Mini or iPad Air. GA pilots (or anyone with a panel full of steam gauges) can use mount designed to fit standard 3.125-inch instrument holes. The AirGizmos Airmount can be placed on your panel and hold securely," said Aircraft Spruce reps. "With Tilt Mount, AirGizmo allows for a 16-degree tilt up or down for a convenient viewing while flying. For those looking for a mount for a rental aircraft, or a lack of space on their panel, try the suction mount. The AirGizmo with Suction Mount holds your iPad securely using a heavy duty suction cup to attach it to your windshield or any other smooth surface." As the nearby image shows, the mounts can also work for Android devices.

Aircraft Spruce's complete product line is available at the company website. Readers may request a complimentary copy of the company's free 1,000+ page catalog here (available in print, CD, or PDF formats).

One of the longest-selling, still-in-production light aircraft is the FK Lightplanes FK9. It was first debuted at the 1989 Aero show in Germany, giving this venerable model a 27-year history, a few months longer than another veteran, Tecnam's P92 Echo. Both have seen numerous variations on the theme and both have worn the passage of time like a comfortable coat. More than 500 FK9s are flying.

In the last year, FK Lightplanes — formerly a German company now based in Poland and run by a South African — addressed frequent comments from FK9 pilots seeking more space. "We launched a WideBody version of our FK9 MkV model," said company director Roland Hallam. The difference is 10 centimeters or about four inches, but that width change makes more difference than it sounds from the number alone. As some experts have noted, you cannot perceive the extra width from the outside of this handsome airplane but you will enjoy it once inside.

In addition, as you can see in the nearby photo, FK Lightplanes has also added amphibious floats to the FK9. "We had already installed straight floats to the FK9 MkV but — working with Czech developer Josef Fillinger — we installed amphibious floats on our WideBody, including four retractable gear." Roland added, "Unfortunately, the amphib float system alone weighs 264 pounds, so we can only sell this version into the 600-kg LSA countries, like you guys in the States."

The WideBody version also gained outside access to the luggage compartment that can hold up to 22 pounds. Find out more about FK Lightplanes in the USA by contacting Hansen Air Group.

According to an online news report from Tijuana, Mexico, "Icon Aircraft announced ... the establishment of a production plant in the city of Tijuana, Baja California, [to build] the entire structure for A5." Icon reportedly expects the plant to be completed in early 2017 after which the operation will be "delivering structures of carbon fiber fuselages to its facilities in [Vacaville], California for final assemble and flight testing."

The report continued, "Icon will begin its serialized production and has selected the city of Tijuana as the ideal location for the production of composite components because of Tijuana's established industrial infrastructure, skilled, labor, and proximity to the Vacaville, California factory."

"With an investment of more than $150 million and employment for over 1,000 people, this event marks the prelude to a significant project that will benefit both the city and the country," the report detailed. A presentation ceremony is planned for Thursday, September 8th at the Tijuana Cultural Center at which the report said Icon CEO Kirk Hawkins will be joined by Mexican government authorities and private sector representatives.

Plans back in 2012 called for Cirrus Design to make Icon A5 composite parts in one of its Minnesota facilities but this plan has not been mentioned in company announcements since. Perhaps now we know why.

Article Updated 9/7/15 — After I broke this story thanks to a tip from an alert regular reader, other aviation media jumped on the hot news and Icon followed with a formal news release.

On September 7, 2016 Icon announced "the construction of a new facility in Tijuana, Mexico as part of a revised production plan announced in May. The company decided to produce its own composite components, a manufacturing process that was previously outsourced to several suppliers."

The new facility, which Icon reports will start operations in November, 2016, covers approximately 300,000 square feet and will fabricate composite components for the A5. CEO and Founder Kirk Hawkins said, "By bringing composite fabrication in-house, we will be able to ensure that components meet Icon's strict quality and cost standards while also allowing us to more rapidly implement changes."

Thomas Wieners, Icon's VP of Manufacturing, led construction and operation of Bombardier Recreational Products' (BRP) facility in Querétaro, Mexico, where the company related to Rotax Aircraft Engines makes Sea-Doo watercraft and other products. He said TIjuana is "ideal" for Icon because of the Mexican city's "infrastructure and skilled labor force, including composites and aerospace expertise."

Excellent Bargain / Good Flyer—Aeroprakt A22
By Dan Johnson, August 31, 2016

Coming up NEXT WEEK! — September 8-9-10, 2016 — is the Midwest LSA Expo. I encourage you to make plans now to attend at least one of the days the event runs. Based on past years, a good number of aircraft will be available. Speaking to their representatives and taking a demo flight is as easy as it gets at any airshow. More info: Midwest LSA Expo.

A22 Importer Dennis Long said that people refer to his Aeroprakt side-by-side two seater as "the see-through airplane." Certainly, this Light-Sport Aircraft has more clear plastic in its cockpit covering than any other LSA. It's no surprise that this entry has some of the best visibility you can find in any aircraft. What you may not see while you're looking through it is the size. A22 has a cabin about 50 inches wide making it one of the roomiest models available.

Yet the one factor most folks discover is the attractive price, starting at $79,900 for a ready-to-fly Special LSA. So often I hear pilots lament that Light-Sport Aircraft were supposed to be less expensive, meaning affordable by a greater share of the population. At 80 Grand, this is still a fairly costly purchase for many potential buyers, at least when compared to an automobile: the average price of a new car is presently about $33,000 according to the Wall Street Journal. However, cars are made in production runs of literally hundreds of thousands where all the airplanes flying anywhere in the world don't add up to the number of Toyota Camry cars built in a single year. Proving the point, Toyota sold 429,185 in 2015 in the U.S. alone and this number refers solely to the "Made in America" vehicles.

My point is that no reasonable person should expect Aeroprakt — or any other aircraft producer, even the so-called big boys — to make airplanes as efficiently or as cheaply as car companies can. Airplanes are overwhelmingly hand-built machines.

Taking the expense issue a step further, people expected a LSA might cost $50-60,000 when the category was announced 2004. Given the steadily-weakening value of the dollar, that range today would be $65-78,000 after adjusting for inflation.

Therefore Dennis Long's Aeroprakt A22 at barely over $78,000 is right what the market anticipated as FAA prepared to announce their long-awaited rule. Note that these prices start out in euros so check with Dennis for the current price.

A C-note under $80,000 is the starting price. I believe many pilots could easily live with the base priced aircraft although nearly all buyers will elect some options that push it up a bit higher. What do you get for the money?

Here's a few specifications to put A22 in perspective — Cruise is 60-110 miles an hour or 52-96 knots; stall comes at 35 mph or 30 knots (slower than most LSA by a wide margin); never-exceed speed is 138 mph or 120 knots; span is 31 feet 4 inches; wing area is 136 square feet; empty weight is 700-720 pounds and with gross weight at the industry standard of 1,320 pounds, useful load is 600-620 pounds. When carrying a full load of fuel (23.8 gallons), A22 can still carry a payload of 457-477 pounds. That enough for two 200-pound occupants plus 57-77 pounds of luggage although the designated baggage area is limited to 44 pounds.

Aeroprakt uses the Rotax 912 engines to include either the 80 horsepower UL model, the 100 horsepower ULS carbureted model or the fuel injected 912 iS also producing 100 horsepower. Many potential buyers never even consider the 80 horsepower engine as it saves only a couple thousand, but this light airplane flies very well with that engine. The 912 UL can be fueled with 87 octane auto gas and though that doesn't save a great deal over premium fuel, pilots on a budget can find ways to hold down the cost with this choice.

My review of the Pilot Operating Handbook shows a conservative slant. I offer two examples. First, the takeoff run is listed at more than 300 feet with the 100 horsepower ULS engine and over 400 with the 80 horse Rotax. When I flew, we were off the surface in half that time although we did benefit from a modest headwind which clearly helps. Flying with Dennis — we're both of at least average weight — the takeoff roll was much shorter, more like 150 feet though headwind obviously affects it. The landing roll was spot on the money at about 350 feet compared to the 328 feet (100 meters) listed in the POH.

Secondly, climb rate is shown as 650 feet per minute (at best angle) or 690 feet per minute (best rate). I saw nearly 1,000 feet per minute after takeoff and we sustained a climb at around 800 feet per minute. Any pilot can appreciate a POH with numbers you can depend on more than a marketing document showing the best performance ever achieved.

Some readers will easily be able to afford the $80K a basic A22 costs but for those who prefer financing, Dennis reports he has availability based on good credit. He also reports each A22 is built to-order so you specify what you want at the time of order, though some options might be added later. Sometimes ordering afterward can add problems. For example, if you want an emergency airframe parachute it's best to order the aircraft with the support straps already built in to the airframe as adding them later is more challenging.

For those lucky enough to live in places where float flying is common, they are available; again, the factory knowing of your interest in advance — even if you don't order them with the aircraft — might make life easier later. If you live in snow country, skis are available. Order today, and Dennis might tell you delivery will follow in about four months.

You can glean a few more data point and information in the video below.

Torture Testing …Let Freedom Wing!
By Dan Johnson, August 25, 2016

The top photo of a Luscomb is a promotional photo but does show quite a load on the wing. The lower photo is a Searey undergoing load testing. The wing is inverted for positive load application.
Most pilots never probably have witnessed the testing a wing endures before designers and regulators will sign off on it, signaling that it has been adequately stressed so that pilots can depend on it. I've had the chance to see several such tests and will state that it is two things: demanding and, well ...boring (unless something breaks).

Of course, I don't mean to demean the hard work it takes. Look at the images in this article and you can see that just to set up a wing for testing can involve literally days if not weeks of work. A fixture, sometimes called a "strongbox," must be built or obtained. An actual wing must be affixed to the structure. Weights in some form — and a lot of them — must be secured to the wing to assure loads are applied in a real simulation; air loads are not uniform across the wing's span. Loading the wing is a precise task if engineers are to replicate the forces air loads will place on a wing in flight.

No one takes this casually. Lives can depend on it. A company's long-term survival may depend on doing the testing correctly and documenting the results thoroughly. The process is typically captured in photos and video and a detailed written technical report must be available to authorities or insurance companies that care deeply that the testing meets standards such as ASTM or FAA certification.

Images shows the Lockwood Aircraft Drifter in load testing. Note the tape measure used to position loads accurately. Wood is used to spread the load across the tubing structure after the Dacron covering has been removed.
No matter how seriously this effort is taken or how much is spent (in time and money) to achieve it, the testing of an aircraft wing is a largely static event.

Naturally, should a wing fails under heavy loads — just look at the immense amount of weight placed on the C4 wing — the test can become very exciting. Things can pop (loudly) and parts may go flying if the wing collapses. No one should stand nearby during an ultimate load test. However, if no failure is witnessed, the wing structure may groan and tremble but nothing much happens. As I said, the test is important, but visually dull.

Yet this is not the case with hang glider wing testing. The difference is captioned in the terms commonly used to describe the tests. An airplane wing is statically load tested where the flex wing hang glider is dynamically tested. The latter method is used because it is a proven real-environment way to simulate the loads on a flex wing.

The dynamic process was developed many years ago by HGMA, the Hang Gliding Manufacturers Association. Some very smart people worked out the techniques and equipment and, to their credit, hang glider wings can bear an immense load and not fail, even when upside down.

Flight Design's coming four seat model, called C4, is load tested with an immense amount of weight.
An airplane manufacturer — let's say of a 2,500-pound aircraft — cannot imitate the dynamic test used by a hang glider or trike wing manufacturer. Testing a metal or composite wing for a larger, faster airplane would take an extraordinarily powerful vehicle, and it would have to go very fast. However, the slower speed and lower mass of hang gliders makes dynamic testing achievable. To perform the required tests on its creations, North Wing has fitted a vehicle with a very sturdy steel structure. Cameras and recording gear are mounted.

It's worth noting that North Wing is not required to do this by FAA or other regulatory bodies in the USA. Part 103 vehicles do not have to meet government standards. These manufacturers spend the effort because other entities require it and because they want their products to find ready customers who will not buy a glider they doubt can withstand real use. Besides satisfying their customers, insurance companies, media reporters, trial lawyers and others may demand test documentation in case an accident occurs.

The hang glider community has long policed itself and done so in such a professional fashion that FAA almost ignores them. Indeed, when is the last time you heard about a hang glider or trike wing folding up in flight? It almost never happens anymore. Good for HGMA and the hang gliding and flex wing industry.

North Wing's dynamic load testing of an earlier cable-braced model. The right image is what's called the Negative 150 test, a difficult load for the wing to bear.

The test shows a positive load applied (wing in normal orientation) and the very demanding "negative 150" test. This simulates a wing that may be disturbed by violent air. The wing is mounted backwards at the appropriate angle and the heavy truck forces the wing through the air backwards in this tortuous test. As you can see, it bowed deeply but survived.

The video below shows dynamic testing North Wing did to prove their new carbon fiber structure Freedom X wing. This is North Wing's newest product. Besides hang gliders, North Wing makes a line of weight-shift trikes and is a leading supplier of wings to other trike carriage producers.

Freedom X 160 (the wing square footage) uses carbon fiber leading edges and struts and other design parameters to stretch the performance of their Freedom model series. Despite using exotic materials, Freedom X is an exposed-crossbar design, sought after because it has lighter, more responsive handling compared to full double-surface designs. "It's also quieter than the cable-braced version; you can actually hear it pass through air more smoothly," said designer and North Wing boss, Kamron Blevins. The structure also contributes to Freedom X's safety in unusual attitudes, as proven in this testing.

When a pilot takes off at the end of the clip, you almost breathe a sigh of relief at what is obviously far less load than North Wing subjected their newest creation to atop the big truck. Good job, Kamron and team!

Continental Motors Absorbs Titan X-340 Production
By Dan Johnson, August 22, 2016

Coming up in just over two weeks! — September 8-9-10, 2016 — is the Midwest LSA Expo. I hope your plans include going. Plenty of aircraft are available and taking a demo flight is no easier anywhere. I will look for you on site! More info: Midwest LSA Expo.

A Titan X-340 engine installed in American Legend's SuperCub.
Engines have changed a lot over the life of Light-Sport Aircraft. FAA's new regulation became effective in September 2004. A hard working industry has brought 140 Special LSA models to market less than 12 years, one per month for every month (on average) since the rule emerged.

Engines have been similarly prolific.

In the beginning, Rotax's 65-horsepower two-stroke 582 was a often selected to power the lighter aircraft of the pre-LSA period. The 9-series engines had gained acceptance much earlier but as LSA got bigger and heavier, their success gave a tremendous push to the popular Austrian engine and it dominates to this day. The 100-horsepower 912 ULS and iS models are used on around 75% of all LSA-like aircraft worldwide. The larger 915 model to arrive in 2017 will surely continue the Austrian company's success story.

However, while Rotax is the biggest player, many others have found acceptance.

Titan will power the already-awesome Just Aircraft SuperSTOL.
I envision three categories of light aircraft engines: Alternative, Mainline, and Emerging. In the Alternative category, we have a variety of two-stroke engines and very small four-strokes. Early on, Rotax owned this category, too, with their 277, 377, 447, and 503 two-stroke engines, the latter of which was particularly well regarded. All have since been discontinued though many are available on the used market. Hirth remains active with a whole line of two-stroke engines.

If we include engines for powered paragliders and very light trikes, some wonderful small powerplant are available: Bailey — I came to enjoy this tiny, fuel-efficient, moderately-quiet four-stroke engine; see article — plus Simonini, Polini, Vittorazi, and others (article) lift the very lightest of powered aircraft.

Delving still deeper into alternative engines brings us to electric, solar electric, and hybrid electric. Then we have diesel. I have examined and reported on more than I care to mention here but the fact is, choices are ample.

Nonetheless the Mainline category has the most recognized brands: Rotax's 9-series is flanked by Jabiru's 2200 and 3300 models, Continental's popular O-200, the LSA-specific Lycoming O-233, plus others like UL Power and D-Motor are reportedly working on ASTM compliance but meanwhile are used to power homebuilt and other aircraft in growing numbers. For kit builders, auto conversions from companies like Viking and Aero Momentum among others can save money while offering impressive hardware built from recognized brands such as Honda and Suzuki.

Continental's factory floor in Mobile, Alabama is a vast facility, used to make engines since back to World War II.
Now coming to the Emerging category, we have models like the Titan with its whopping 180 horsepower. Photos with this article show several adaptations and I expect more. As well, Rotax's 135-horsepower will find a market for more power.

As reported earlier, Continental acquired ECi, originator of the X-340 Titan. For a time, they functioned as sibling but separate companies. Now, the Alabama powerhouse is consolidating.

On August 17, 2016 Continental Motors Group (CMG) announced that it "will consolidate all manufacturing operations into its advanced manufacturing centers located Alabama and Germany." This change is sweeping. "The manufacture of CMG's line of FAA approved parts for Lycoming engines, as well as the full line of Titan Experimental and Certified engines that are currently produced in CMG's San Antonio, Texas facility will be transferred as a result of this consolidation."

CMG said it has "invested significantly in advanced manufacturing equipment, processes and people while implementing manufacturing techniques and lean tools based on the Toyota Production System." Because CMG and ECi used similar processes to make similar parts and assemblies, relocating the products currently produced in San Antonio makes sense, the company explained.

Vickers Aircraft Wave, expected in 2017, will be the first LSA seaplane to employ the 180-horsepower Titan X-340 engine.
"Continental Motors has grown significantly in the past three years in both products and facilities as we strive to become the leader in propulsion for small aircraft," said CEO Rhett Ross. "However, as we have seen our business grow in the number of products, customers and operating sites, it has become apparent that changes are needed to make us more responsive to the needs of our customers.

CMG will coordinate with its Master Distributor, Aviall, to complete this move without interrupting the availability of the high quality, factory produced parts and engines within the Titan Product Family.

Continental wished to recognize the valuable contributions made by ECi employees in San Antonio. CMG promised to help those employees transition to new roles within the Continental family or to find new opportunities within the San Antonio business community. Customers or airframe manufacturers with questions may direct them to marketing boss Emmanuel Davidson.

Quicksilver... Going, Going, Gone. Or, Not?
By Dan Johnson, August 16, 2016

Coming up soon — September 8-9-10, 2016 — is the Midwest LSA Expo. Videoman Dave and I will be present to report on around 50 aircraft on display. I hope you can join us. Get more info: Midwest LSA Expo.

Many times I've written that Quicksilver is arguably THE most successful seller of kit aircraft in the world. Some aviators might retort, "No way! Van's Aircraft is the largest kit builder." In total kits, at least portions of kits, that's surely true. Van's reports more than 20,000 tail kit-type deliveries have been made. Even more impressively, their completions — aircraft fully built and registered with an N or other number — now exceed 9,460 and I would never take away from their success with multiple designs nor would I diminish their highly-regarded business integrity.

Two of Quicksilver's best-loved aircraft, the GT400 (flying) and the Quicksilver 2S. photo by James Lawrence
Nonetheless, with Quicksilver having delivered more than 15,000 full kits, the vast majority of which were built and flown, they may be the most successful deliverer of complete aircraft kits in history. Assembling a Quicksilver kit takes around 80 hours and some adept folks can do it in a week. Putting together a Van's RV-series aircraft takes a longer committment, sometimes years.

Van's continues to be a thriving force in aviation. Their contract company, Synergy Air, continues to build fully-built RV-12 LSA. Some 65 ready-to-fly aircraft were registered as of the end of 2015 and the Oregon company is moving up the charts

The Quicksilver story is not as satisfying, regretfully.

Recently I got a long "post mortem" letter from Will Escutia, the CEO of Quicksilver Aeronautics, the last company to own the iconic brand. The letter is too long to reprint here (nor did Will intend I do that), however, I can pull a few items that may be of interest.

The earliest Quicksilver was a hang glider, flown without an engine, wheels, or very much else. It inspired an incredible run of aircraft building.
"We launched an effort and obtained relatively quickly the 'compliant seal' of the FAA showing that all the kits met the 51% rule," said Will. "Dealers had complained that without it, the customer was not really certain that they could obtain the registration as Experimental Amateur Built once complete and therefore the dealers lost sales.

"We launched a worldwide campaign to increase the number of dealers ... generating interest in 20 countries. We were able to sign new dealers in California, New York, China, El Salvador, South Africa, and France. At that moment we had dealers on every continent."

He continued, "An 18-month effort that cost between $200,000 and $250,000 ended in the successful unveiling of the Sport 2SE. The aircraft was nicely equipped, strengthened, and new sharp looking wing designs were used for the first time. The ready-to-fly price was set at $40,000 although in practice we gave significant discounts." Unfortunately, sales were not as vigorous as a study had lead them to believe. I can imagine several reasons for that.

The man. The legend. It's "Bever" Borne and if you don't know him, you want to ...catch the video below and you will see why he's so likeable.
None of these and other efforts moved the needle enough. Will faults difficulty in buyers obtaining credit or insurance, regulations that are too burdensome, and the large number of used aircraft of all kinds on the market. At this point efforts are ongoing to find a manufacturer who could integrate Quicksilver SLSA production into their existing business. "We are trying to make it work," Will concluded.

However, the really great news for the legions of Quicksilver fans is that the most solid of all Quicksilver supporters is now the owner of all the essential hardware and replacement parts for this very successful set of designs. In addition, Gene "Bever" Borne has long and very successfully been a supplier of components of his own.

The video below will tell Bever's story and it should bring immense relief to all who love flying Quicksilver ...including your faithful author; I have flown every Quicksilver model except the Super and enjoyed every minute. If having a bit of fun in the air without spending a fortune is of interest to you, I encourage you to contact Air Tech and see what they can do for you. If nothing else, Bever or his son Ken will bring a smile to your face with their Louisiana-style sense of humor. I enjoy talking to these fellows and bet you will, too. The video below adds dimension.

“Will Third Class Medical Reform Hurt LSA?”
By Dan Johnson, August 10, 2016

One of the most common questions I got at Oshkosh 2016 was the title of this article. I'm only one person with an opinion, but since I work with many airframe producers in the LSA space, I heard this question fairly often, several times from airplane sellers who were curious what other producers thought.

Just shy of five years ago, EAA and AOPA caught the LSA industry off guard by announcing plans to push FAA to drop the Third Class medical. Most LSA professionals likely agree with the basic idea that FAA ought to keep their noses out of the recreational end of aviation. Many feel that the medical requirement has prevented almost no accidents. Nonetheless, this new initiative took aim at the primary reason LSA builders were then selling airplanes like crazy. If you wanted to fly without a medical you had ultralights (Part 103... and still do), or sailplane motorgliders, or Light-Sport Aircraft. I don't believe for a minute that not needing a medical is the only reason to consider a new LSA but it was a biggie, no doubt.

So, what's the answer? Will this reform harm LSA or not? How is it affecting the industry? Worthy questions, all. To read more detail about the medical proposal, see this article.

Jabiru's J-230 is based on a four seater from Australia, explaining its cavernous aft cabin complete with a third entry door. photo from Eric Evans Aviation
My response to the "will it hurt" question is, simply, "No." When the alphabets announced their intention in the fall of 2011, it had an immediate effect. Vendors I asked said they quickly got cancellations. Buyers who were probably never very serious about a new LSA purchase said things like, "Now, I can instead hold off and buy a $50,000 (30-year-old) Cessna. I no longer have to buy a new LSA."

I compare the medical question to the way the stock markets work. At the first hint of bad news (a war, recession, terrorist attack, or the Fed raising interest rates), investors quickly price-in the results they expect. Stocks plummet overnight, even though the bad news has not yet occurred and may never come to pass. The situation with LSA was similar. As soon as those reluctant LSA buyers heard they had another choice — even one that might never come and certainly not soon — they took back their dollars and held onto them. This is human nature at work.

Therefore, at Oshkosh, news that the third class medical reform was coming didn't change things much. It had already been "priced-in" to pilots' purchase decisions.

However, those who want a new airplane with all the features they desire remain interested in Light-Sport Aircraft. Purchase prices range from below $50,000 to over $200,000 but that is still far less — one eighth to one half the cost — of almost any new Type Certified GA plane. (And, YES, you can buy a fun, well assembled, ready-to-fly LSA for $40-85,000!)

Icon was awarded a weight increase for their A5 seaplane; they will fly at 1,510 pounds. photo courtesy Icon Aircraft
Nonetheless, progressive light aircraft manufacturers — of kit-built or fully-built LSA or LSA-type airplanes — saw the trend coming and several offered new or revised designs.

In my previous article, I spoke about the new Murphy Radical. I also wrote about the Titan-powered Kitfox, and we have several other entries that are similar. These aircraft, like many LSA, have been designed to carry higher gross weights. They are limited to 1,320 pounds or 1,430 pounds (for seaplanes) because of FAA constraints. Some, for example, Jabiru J-230 — which started as a four seater in Australia — or Paradise P1NG from Brazil among several others, have been designed to significantly higher gross weights than FAA allows for LSA. These aircraft have always been able to lift more weight; they were placarded at 1,320 or 1,430 because of LSA rule limits.

At Oshkosh, Rans introduced their Outbound model with a gross weight listed at 1,800 pounds that calculates to a payload of 625 pounds... "the highest payload design ever offered by Rans," said the company. This model also offers a higher speed of 150 mph cruise (LSA are speed limited at 138 mph or 120 knots). In the world of a Private Pilot no longer needing an FAA Airman's Medical, such larger aircraft may have good appeal.

One More Thing — A familiar rumor began circulating at Oshkosh, encouraged by a member organization senior leader comment heard at AirVenture. A push is supposedly afloat to increase the weight limit of Light-Sport Aircraft. We've heard this before and it has been steadfastly denied by FAA but now that Icon and Terrafugia received weight increase exemptions, who knows? If I hear more, I'll keep you informed.

Latest and Greatest LSA from Oshkosh 2016
By Dan Johnson, August 7, 2016

Actor Harrison Ford poses with Rotax Aircraft Engine manager, Christian Mundigler at Oshkosh. photo courtesy Christian Mundigler
In a show as vast at EAA's AirVenture Oshkosh, it is presumptuous to attempt covering everything of interest. What follows are some new aircraft I found in the categories I cover on this website. Other projects were certainly worthy of special note but with the goal of a fast dash through the latest and greatest, I'm keeping this one fairly lean. I'll cover other developments in subsequent articles.

So, here's three aircraft you haven't seen before AirVenture 2016 plus a revised project involving an increasingly popular engine. I'll start off with a famous guy checking out a famous engine to propel one of my favorite airplanes. We begin our quick review with Lockwood Aircraft's AirCam.

Of course, you know his face. When I once heard Harrison Ford speak, he said modestly (paraphrased), "I earn a living making faces." I never thought of acting in such simple terms, but I accept such skills are part of the job. He's made faces successfully enough in many movies to be able to afford several fun airplanes and now he's getting into an AirCam. Developer/manufacturer Phil Lockwood said, "We were keeping a low profile to preserve [Harrison's] privacy but the cat is out of the bag now." As an AirCam fan myself, I predict Ford's facial repertoire will frequently include a broad smile.

The never-before-seen SkyCruiser offered by U.S. Sport Aircraft.
The newest and perhaps most unexpected aircraft at the show was SkyCruiser offered in the USA by U.S. Sport Aircraft based in Texas. This U.S importer has long represented Czech Sport Aircraft's SportCruiser, which has ranked up high on our market share report for years. Literature for the new model makes no mention of CSA, instead referring to Czech 4 Sky. Nevertheless, U.S. Sport Aircraft boss, Patrick Arnzen indicated he would bring in the new model from CSA.

In this article I am covering aircraft that seem to be pushing the envelope but a sign of maturity in the LSA segment shows developments in all directions. One of those is a return to simpler, easy-to-fly aircraft. Looking somewhat like another very successful design, Aerotrek's A220, SkyCruiser represents a model from about one decade back. When the LSA regulation first created aviation's newest segment the typical customer was often someone seeking a carbon fiber speedster with autopilot, a full glass panel, and all manner of bells and whistles. Many developers stepped up to fill that demand and simpler (less costly) designs were left behind. Now, they're back!

SkyCruiser, as seen on U.S. Sport Aircraft's Oshkosh space, is powered by a Rotax BRP 912 ULS, and tops out at 1,232 pound gross (88 pounds less than allowed as a SLSA). At a fairly modest 723 pounds empty, the taildragger still offers a 509 pound useful load or a payload of full fuel (17.6 gallons) and two 200-pound occupants with minimal baggage. Stall is listed at a slow 34 knots and maximum cruise is 86 knots. SkyCruiser appears to come well equipped with the latest from Dynon and more.

Kitfox's Titan engine installation was particular well achieved, like most Kitfox factory aircraft.
Perhaps it is because of the success of CubCrafters, but the rush remains on for companies developing vintage-style aircraft with big engines. While Rotax continues to power the majority of light aircraft around the world using their ubiquitous 9-series engines, some builders want more. For slower airframes Cubalikes — to use a phrase coined by Bill Canino of Sportair USA, which also offers a muscular model in this same space — adding a massively powerful engine delivers supershort takeoffs and thrilling climb rates.

One engine is clearly winning the high-power race. Originally developed by Lycoming part maker Engine Components International, or ECi, the Titan X-340 has become a powerplant of choice for those seeking 180-horsepower. Other companies like UL Power and Viking also have potent engine offerings but after Continental Motors bought ECi in 2015, the Mobile, Alabama company has parlayed their famous brand into several entries in the light kit and Light-Sport space. Now enter the Kitfox Titan

One very slick Titan installation appeared on a factory Kitfox brought to Oshkosh by owner John McBean. His team always does impressive detail and finish work and the Kitfox Titan seen nearby was a prime example. An airplane that works extremely well with Rotax (still offered, of course) should be nothing short of spectacular with the big Titan engine doing the pulling. I can't wait to fly this one!

The new Triton American SkyTrek made its debut at AirVenture 2016.
It may look familiar (indeed it has some common heritage) but Triton America's SkyTrek is a significantly different airplane than those it resembles. The airframe is smoother with more sweeping lines aft of the canopy. The structure is beefed up and able to handle a higher G loading. The nosewheel has been strengthened to last better in flight school use.

A main difference in this model from others with similar overall looks is that SkyTrek is fabricated in China. Its principle designer, Tom Hsueh, has long been established in the USA and has worked with some of the largest aviation companies. Although Tom says, "I have a Chinese face," he works from offices in Washington State. His may be a new name to most readers, but I have been talking with Tom for a couple years and believe he can become a player in the U.S. marketplace as well as in China. To Triton's and Tom's credit, he reported the Chinese CAAC has certified SkyTrek for sale in that country.

Not only a new manufacturer of Light-Sport Aircraft, Tom has bigger ambitions. In 2009, Triton America, which does business as Triton Aerospace, acquired all the design rights and hardware inventory for Adam Aircraft, a company that formerly built and certified a six-seat, twin engine, twin-boom, pressurized, all-carbon-composite FAR 23 aircraft."

Murphy Aircraft is back with their new Radical, complete with dual bicycle racks. Designer Darryl Murphy is a cycling enthusiast.
To wind up this brief look of new flying machines we come back to Murphy Aircraft Manufacturing, still run by founder Darryl Murphy and still based in Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada. It's been nearly a decade since we saw any new light planes from this once-prolific producer. Darryl said that when the Canadian dollar soared high compared to the U.S. dollar, it became impossible to sell to Americans, by far his company's largest market. So, he used his large facility and impressive forming machinery to make aviation and other parts for different manufacturers. He seemed pleased about the return to building kits; welcome back, Darryl!

While showing his new Radical, Darryl indicated he's been hearing from potential customers that they'd like a Special LSA Rebel and he reports work is proceeding on that in parallel. Meanwhile he introduced a new model that goes hand-in-glove with the new batch of higher powered, higher gross weight aircraft taking several companies beyond the Light-Sport space. This may be one artifact of the EAA/AOPA push to eliminate the third class medical. Darryl acknowledged Rebel is a good foundation for the Radical, however, the new model is essentially a brand new design. "With more payload, more wing area, and capable of using engines up to 220 horsepower, [Radical] will incorporate many of the best features of the Rebel, Elite, Maverick and Super Rebel," he said.

Looking around Oshkosh, I found ultralight, light kit aircraft, and Light-Sport Aircraft all looking healthier than many seem to think. In addition, the arrival of the 180-horsepower Titan and even larger engines combined with higher gross weight/high payload designs seem created to appeal to those who no longer need a medical. The new program won't be effective for a year and still has hoops through which a pilot must jump, but it does open the door to new designs. Light aircraft engineers and manufacturers seem up to the task and customers appeared intrigued by their new offerings.

I'll have more from Oshkosh after catching up with other work, but I found the light sector very alive and doing quite well, with or without a third class medical.

Succeeding the Old Fashioned Way: Getting It Right
By Dan Johnson, July 25, 2016

Aerotrek importer boss Rob Rollison stands in front of his EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2016 display.
Media people (like me) flock to airshows looking for the new stories, new airplanes, new avionics, new company developments... whatever is new. Journalists pursue what's new because they believe that's what their customers readers want to read (or perhaps because it interests them as a writer). Nevertheless, sometimes the story is what's not new. Aerotrek, importer of the A240 and A220 has not made major changes to the aircraft.

Why? Simple. The airplanes don't need to change.*

Aerotrek's planes are very well built, fly predictably and efficiently, handle nicely and perform near the top of the category at modest operation cost. They are simpler, not fancy carbon fiber, but rely on trusted construction methods using familiar materials. As important as any quality, Aerotreks are modestly priced, affordable to many budgets.

Not breaking new ground means getting familiar ways down pat, honing the building skills and techniques to a fine degree. Aeropro in Europe can execute the aircraft in a repeatably professional manner. All this may not be as sexy as a flashy new design but once aloft, being able to depend on your flying machine is worth a lot.

One more thing. Always updating a product can add to the cost of production which has to raise the selling price.

In this panorama shot, you see the entire Aerotrek display. To the left is a handsome trailer that can house an Aerotrek under which the owner drives his late-model Corvette. Nice!

Company owner Rob Rollison is a calm businessman who moves steadily toward his goals. Deep-voiced and intimately aware of his product Rob presents authoritatively with a broad smile. He has earned the trust of many airplane owners and has built a loyal following, people who have come to really like the Aerotrek aircraft and doing business with the importer.

A few of the Aerotrek owners assisting at Aerotrek's AirVentrure 2016 pose in front of a group of airplanes representing many of of the popular model variations offered.
Rob got into LSA early. He was the Flight Design CT dealer before the LSA rule was released. He has represented several brands and types over his years in business. These learning experiences brought him to Aeropro more than 13 years ago and he remains very happy with the supplier. Through the upheaval of the recession in 2008 and subsequent roller coaster ride, Aerotrek maintained a largely steady business while other company got in trouble.

At AirVenture Oshkosh 2016, Aerotrek exhibited nine airplanes on the field, challenging any other brand for most aircraft in their exhibit. You could see A220 taildraggers, A240 tricycle gear models in a number of bright colors and fitted with different landing gear from hard surface and wheel-panted tires to large tundra tires. As Aerotrek is distributor-direct-to-customer operation, the importer was aided in their Oshkosh display by owners of the aircraft available for visitors to review.

Aerotrek models come well equipped while offering a few options to allow you to personalize. All have folding wings, a task that can be done in 10 minutes ("easily") by a single person. A folded wing still supports itself through the clever design by Dean Wilson, the original creator of a good number of airplanes that look very similar. No wonder. Dean was a brilliant, efficient designer and this planform works very well. Why change what works?

* Aeropro has made numerous refinements over the years while sticking with a basic design that works well as is.

Remos GXiS — A Mercedes of LSA
By Dan Johnson, July 24, 2016

See the new Remos GXiS, a Mercedes of Light-Sport Aircraft at AirVenture 2016; spaces 331-332 near the Theater in the Woods.
Oshkosh is on! OK, not today. The big show starts tomorrow, but you wouldn't know it as airplanes are already arriving in droves and the grounds are rapidly filling. Time for EAA's summer celebration of flight to begin!

Although I'm a longtime regular, today I did something I've never done. I flew out of KOSH and then returned. If you've never flown into Oshkosh during AirVenture, you may not know what an experience such an arrival can be. This is the world's busiest airport for one week. Airplanes arrive every few minutes and all of them do so in a unique, follow-the-plane-in-front-of-you method where no pilot uses the radio. Departing was fairly simple. Arriving is always an eye-opening experience.

I did my departure and reentry with Remos PR & Marketing guy Patrick Holland-Moritz, a former German aviation magazine writer. We flew in the brand new Remos GXiS. Flying into Oshkosh was a repeat treat for me, but I think Patrick was blown away by the flowing river of airplanes of all types. This became even more interesting when the airport had to close one runway due to an incident. As on any freeway, this backed up and snarled traffic. Airplanes were circling back to get in line and our heads were swiveling on our shoulders trying to follow the traffic gaggle around us. Whew!

GXiS features the Rotax 912 iS fuel-injected engine in what may be the best-yet implementation of the fuel efficient powerplant.
Remos remains one of the major brands in the U.S. LSA fleet but the company endured a major setback in 2014 when it was declared insolvent, roughly the equivalent of U.S. bankruptcy. In the last couple years, the German company has found new investors, reorganized, and clawed its way back into the business. Spending by their American representatives in the heydays of LSA helped trigger the problem. The revitalized company has a far more realistic plan of recovery.

One thing that didn't change much was the basic Remos GX series. They have a new model now and perhaps the period they used to reorganize came with a benefit. Remos did not immediately embrace the new Rotax 912 iS fuel-injected 912. The earliest installations by other manufacturers had some challenges (as with any new product). Remos was able to design their new install after some of the earlier bumps has been smoothed. The GXiS result was good... no, make that excellent.

I have more than 120 hours experience flying with the 912 iS. It's great like all Rotax engines but it introduced complications and I experienced them. However, now that is well sorted and Remos had time to thoroughly engineer their solutions. The German engineering team said everything from the firewall forward is new, not only the cowling and spinner that you see. All electronics along with heating and cooling and other details are fresh.

In my evaluation as a pilot, this is best implementation of the 912 iS I have seen.

GXiS flies over the Pasewalk, Germany factory producing the highly upgraded Light-Sport Aircraft. all flight photos courtesy Remos
I'm going to write about the flying qualities but first I want to tell you about the relatively mundane matter of starting a 912 iS. Boring, huh? You might not think so after you first confront Lane A, Lane B lights and some of the other new features of the 912 iS. In their efforts to ease the transition to a computer controlled engine, Rotax made the starting and run-up process similar to what pilots are used with magneto and carb heat checks. The odd thing is that the computer is essentially already doing all this for you so the pilot's workload can be reduced. Remos engineers understood this and worked hard to make it easier.

When you rent a car anywhere in the world, you expect the car to operate simply and largely as you expect, right? Airplanes aren't so simple. While we pilots might like to show off our great knowledge, why jump through unneeded hoops?

In the Remos GXiS you turn the key switch to "Avionics" which lights up the panel but does not turn on all other electrical systems. When you switch to "Engine," all electrics are engaged and then you merely push the Engine Start button. As with many modern cars, that's it. The Rotax starts instantly as always and you can carry on with flight preparations. Remos calls the system "SMARTstart"...and it is.

While the Remos team and I discussed all these changes we understood "simplification" is too basic a term and not very sexy. True to his marketing role, Patrick created the term "smartification." Bravo! A new word is needed for this renewed LSA.

Instead of delving deeply into every change made to GXiS, let me hit some highlights. The throttle is now quadrant style instead of a knob on the panel. Throttle and brake use one lever: forward to go, aft to slow. Flaps are now preset. You move the flap-shaped lever to the position you want and go to your next task. Even cabin heating is new with a system that uses the engine's warm fluid rather than drawing from air surrounding the exhaust system. Changes go deeper so interested buyers will want to contact Remos for all the details.

Meet Team Remos from Germany at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2016: (L-R) Christian, Daniel, Patrick, Jürgen (kneeling), and Paul.
Finally, the flying part. Ah, this is the best (not to diminish the other excellent upgrades to the GX series).

Briefly, GXiS flies beautifully. It's been a while since I flew Remos and this is one deluxe flying machine. As my title indicates this is a Mercedes of Light-Sport Aircraft. Overall the machine is civilized and luxurious. Handling is superlative, light but not twitchy; responsive yet stable; very nice and a form of warm tribute to original designer, Lorenz Kreitmayr.

Despite approaching amid a large flock of airplanes all anxious to land after the delays on the all-in-a-line approach path, my effort with GXiS went well although I can't claim the smoothest touchdown I've ever made. Landing on one of five large dots on a runway with someone landing ahead of you and behind has a way of distracting one's concentration. Yet in control authority, I lacked for nothing and again, that smooth, easy handling pays a benefit.

Besides the SMARTstart controls everyone will love (I predict), Remos is laid out as comfortably as the interior treatment is deluxe and handsome. GXiS is not the widest cabin in the LSA fleet but was certainly comfortable. In-flight visibility is large especially while banked thanks to the large skylight.

To give some balance to my overwhelmingly positive reaction to GXiS, I note the seats adjust in three positions but only while on the ground. Baggage is accessed by removing the seats, though that's easy enough, and you have places for gear you need in flight.

The only remaining downside to the new Remos GXiS is a price tag close to $200,000. So, this won't be for everyone, but if you would consider a fine German automobile, you should by all means check out GXiS. This SLSA should satisfy even the most discerning buyers.

Flying America’s First Homegrown Modern Gyroplane
By Dan Johnson, July 22, 2016

Taxiing out for takeoff with instructor Greg Spicola at the Zephyr Hills, Florida airport. photo by Amy Saunders of Evolution Trikes
Once upon a time... gyrocopters were an American invention. Igor Benson was such an important pioneer that many fixed wing pilots refer to all such flying machines as "Bensen gyros." Starting in the 1950s, he hit on a good combination of ideas that made the new sector flourish... for a time.

Gyros are small rotary winged aircraft that resemble helicopters in some ways — all have a spinning wing above the occupants. However, gyros work by the air moving across the blades of the rotor disk; their rotors are not powered. Most readers likely don't need a technical discussion. Suffice it to say gyros and helos are far from the same animal no matter how much they might look like one another.

Yet in the last couple decades things began to change, dramatically. Perhaps to accentuate their differences, modern producers prefer "gyroplanes" while the older Bensen types are often referred to as "gyrocopters." The old and new are different in important ways.

What's not to enjoy? The view from a gyroplane like AR1 is enormous. photo by Amy Saunders of Evolution Trikes
Europeans began to modernize older gyrocopter designs. They added solidly mounted tailplanes with greater volume, which greatly stabilized these machines. Igor Bensen's early gyros had components in the right proportion and the weight in right enough places to make his aircraft work. However, later developers made changes that lacked adequate safety enhancements and the accident rate soared. This fact alone is why many, including some in FAA, think all gyros may be unsafe; that is simply not accurate.

The Euro-style gyroplanes employ tails with larger vertical and horizontal surface area firmly attached to the rest of the carriage. Other factors are also important but the tailplane alone is a major part of why these machines are much more predictable to fly.

The Europeans also continued the development far past adding some stabilizing features. Companies across the Atlantic first partially enclosed the cockpit with half fuselages. They added better seating, instrumentation, controls, and generally improved fit-and-finish. More recently, designers have made fully enclosed models with increasing sophistication in both tandem and side-by-side seating. These improvements uncovered a ripe market.

Rotax Aircraft Engines said that in recent years, they have sold more 912 and 914 engines to the gyroplane sector than any other sector, by far. Germany's AuroGyro alone has sold more than 2,000 aircraft. Italy's Magni adds another 900 units while Spain's ELA has sold 700 units. Other producers account for another 500 making more than 4,000 sales in roughly the same time Americans have bought 3,000 SLSA of all brands.

photo by Amy Saunders of Evolution Trikes
So what is like to fly a gyro? The simplest comment is that with only a couple exceptions, you fly a gyroplane like a fixed wing. You use the stick and rudders similarly (though not identically). In my third outing — first in a Magni gyro, then an AutoGyro, and now the AR1 — I came away thinking two things. First, my fixed wing skills are highly transferrable to gyroplanes, even better than in a weight shift trike (which I also enjoy). In pursuing a full gyroplane checkout, I would not have to learn many new tricks. Secondly, gyroplanes have some clear advantages.

Something almost everyone notices at airshows is that gyroplanes can fly in winds not advised for many other aircraft. The reason, according to Greg Spicola, my instructor, is that the blades are spinning through the air at something like 400 mph. Therefore, a 25-mph crosswind is relatively insignificant. Combined with a higher wing loading, these aircraft are simply not as vulnerable to winds as most fixed wing aircraft.

Abid Farooqui's SilverLight Aviation focuses these good qualities with its American Ranger 1 by using an expanded, more effective tail arranged closer to the center of gravity thrust line. Abid explained this provides flight dynamics that reduces coupling between power and yaw and power and pitching. These changes along with a "high inertia rotor system" and a faired fuselage allow AR1 to boast a better glide ratio and energy retention, making landings easier and forgiving even for beginner pilots.

The main cautions I've heard for gyroplanes is not jamming the stick full forward (this is ill advised in a fixed wing aircraft, too). Another concern is forgetting that even after you land rather slowly, the rotor may still have quite a bit of spin remaining. If so, it is still making lift and failing to consider that could cause an upset. Likewise, a taildragger landed in a stiff crosswind also demands you handle the controls correctly. Fortunately, control actions that work in an airplane will also work for the gyro. Once the rotor is well spun down, this problem disappears.

I like gyroplane flying and I find plenty of good things to say about them. However, one of the strongest arguments involves price. SilverLight's AR1 costs only $65,000 with the 100-horsepower Rotax 912 engine. This is a kit, yes, but the build effort is modest and for a modern, comfortable, well-flying aircraft, the price is within reach of most budgets.

Since FAA has never chosen to allow Special (fully built) LSA gyroplanes, kit building is your only option. Unlike several other countries, gyroplanes like AR1 can only be sold in America as an Experimental Amateur Built kit. SilverLight said, "We have decided to offer AR1 as a package where builder assistance is offered to include airworthiness inspection fees plus the first two to three hours of test flight and tuning." An AR1 buyer travels to Zephyr Hills airport (not far from Tampa, Florida) to SilverLight's builder assist center for a nominal amount of time. The company added, "Our kit is easy and fast to put together, generally only taking two weeks to be ready for ground testing." While you put bolt A in hole B, your family can take advantage of Florida's numerous tourist attractions; it's not a bad trade and the Z-Hills airport is a fascinating place with all manner of aircraft and a very active skydiving center. C'mon down to Florida and check out the AR1 gyroplane. The view is superlative!

    • Aircraft Configuration — Pusher engine, tricycle gear, tandem seating
    • Empty Weight — 628 pounds (912ULS), 650 pounds (914UL)
    • Gross Weight — 1,232 pounds
    • Minimum Speed (Vmin) — 20 mph
    • Maximum Cruise Speed — 105 mph
    • Maximum Straight & Level Speed (Vh) — with 914UL: 120 mph
    • General Cruise Speed — 55 to 100 mph
    • Never Exceed Speed (Vne) — 120 mph
    • Takeoff Roll (calm air, turf, pre-rotate to 250 RRPM) — 350 feet
    • Landing Roll — 0 to 30 feet with proper technique
    • Rate of Climb; sea level, standard conditions — 725 feet/min (912ULS)/850 feet/min (914UL)
    • Fuel Capacity — 17 U.S. gallons; welded aluminum
    • Rotor — Averso Stella, 27 feet 10 inches (larger rotor system available for high altitude flyers)

Pilots and Manufacturers... Help Rescuers Help You
By Dan Johnson, July 16, 2016

HYPOTHETICAL SCENARIO — You crash landed your airplane at an airport. You are unconscious inside. Emergency crews race to assist but they are worried about your airplane having a powerful rocket motor that might injure them as they try to extricate you. What do you do? More advisably, what should you have already done?

Plenty of smart aviators and nearly every salesperson will tell you safety doesn't sell. Pilots buy performance, range, sleek lines, comfort, and the latest instrumentation. Most take for granted that the aircraft is well-built and designed with stable characteristics and reliable systems. No matter their ultimate value, safety systems simply aren't sexy.

Tell that to Cirrus Design, the Minnesota startup (back in the late '90s) that did a terrific job of selling "that airplane with the parachute." Of course, their SR20 and SR22 also steadily acquired all the dazzling features they could incorporate but any Cirrus rep' is likely to agree the whole airframe parachute system, now called CAPS, was a leading reason why they did so well. The parachute set the SR20 apart from all other competitors as the new millennia began.

Truth in blogging notice: I was deeply involved with BRS parachutes when Alan and Dale Klapmeier's company had only 18 employees. Because Alan had survived a midair collision the brothers were adamant about their new baby airplane having a ballistic parachute. This history gives me a particular bias but the sales success of Cirrus is plain for anyone to see. Many thousands are flying and nearly every airport has one or many based on the field.

Recently a longtime friend and aviation business associate, Tom Peghiny alerted me to a request from Keith Leonhardt, the manager of operations and maintenance at Massachusetts' Hanscom Field airport. He wrote, "As an airport operator, we often provide our ARFF (Aircraft Rescue & Fire Fighting) crews with 'crash crew' charts for the type aircraft that are based at our airport." He asked Tom, the North American importer of CTs, "Would you happen to have any documentation that shows fuel capacity, battery location and BRS location for your fleet, particularly the CTLSi? We would like to use those documents to train on the Flight Design aircraft based at our airport." Keith was asking about documents like those accompanying this article.

You see, Flight Design wisely took a lesson from the success of Cirrus and at the insistence of Peghiny and Flight Design USA, the German manufacturer made airframe parachutes standard equipment on Light-Sport Aircraft delivered in the USA and Germany. It may be related, as it was for Cirrus, to the fact that Flight Design has sold more LSA than any other brand in America.

To show what he was seeking Keith sent Tom crash crew charts for two companies as examples. One was the set you see nearby for the now-defunct but still flying Cessna Skycatcher. The other was for Cirrus, whose models now appear on airfields all around the world.

Look. Here's why this otherwise rather mundane topic might be vitally important. A few years ago, I was one of the people described at the top of this article except the scenario was not hypothetical. See these two reports if interested: my accident and some reasons. BTW, that happened about 10 years ago. I'm doing fine and flying as often as possible. Kudos to the doctors and others in the health care industry.

I don't bring up this personal story for any reason except than to say, "IT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU." You may not think it will ever happen to you, and, believe me!, I certainly hope it does not. However, why jeopardize your chances of rescue? Ideally, emergency workers who may have to help you will have such aircraft-specific information.

Here's the valuable message:

MANUFACTURERS — These days nearly all producers use CAD software in their design. Making crash crew charts are thereby not a major burden. If you upload these charts to your company website, you can make airport managers aware of where to find them. Fellows like Keith Leonhardt may seek such material. Others will not be so vigilant but at least you'll have them available if a first responder organization contacts your company. The Imperative — Not only are you potentially helping a customer get rescued with greater success but you will have one more line of defense if a lawsuit occurs. I hope neither happens, but if you sell enough airplanes, it becomes increasingly likely.

PILOTS / OWNERS — Encourage your manufacturer to make such crash crew charts available. It could be very important to your life. Well informed first responders can do their job faster and more effectively... and that could be the difference between life and not. The Imperative — If you find yourself in a situation as I once did, you may be very grateful that rescuers have the guidance they need to extricate you swiftly. Consider this as insurance (that is not very costly). You hope you never need it but may be so glad you arranged it ahead of time if the need arises.

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




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.

Vickers Aircraft has created one of the most distinctive new LSA seaplanes yet to emerge. Powered by the 180-horsepower
Titan IO-340CC by Continental Motors, their Wave model is like no other seaplane ever introduced with multiple features to set it apart from the crowd.

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.

Remos Aircraft is the manufacturer of the next generation GXiS. This beautiful composite design built by German craftsmen offers excellent performance, light responsive handling, and a deluxe cockpit finish to please any aviators.

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

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.

Jabiru USA assembles the spacious and speedy J-230 with new, more attractive pricing making the model one of the best values in Light-Sport Aircraft.

The Shelbyville, Tennessee company also offers the Jabiru engine line with new 3310 and 2210 models in 2016.

J230-D & J170-D

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.

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

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!

Super Petrel LS, manufactured by Scoda Aeronautica in Brazil and built by Super Petrel USA, a branch of the Brazilian company in Ormond Beach, Florida, is a unique and highly effective LSA seaplane. This biplane flying boat is well established with more than 20 years of history.

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.

Aeromarine-LSA represents economical aircraft like Merlin PSA, fully enclosed and all-metal for less than $35,000; or Part 103 ultralights like Zigolo, a dual-purpose ultralight and motorglider with prices starting at only $12,000.

The Airplane Factory (TAF) produces the Sling series of world-circling aircraft (literally) and now this fine-flying, all-metal beauty is available in the United States as a Special Light-Sport Aircraft. Here is an LSA to follow.

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

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

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.

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.

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.

Aerolite 103 is a remarkably well priced (way below $20,000), well-equipped, Part 103 ultralight that flies beautifully. Several hundred are airborne and production has never been more solid. Here is an airplane every pilot can love and afford.

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. 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!

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.

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.

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

SilverLight Aviation created the first all-American gyroplane with modern sophistication and equipment, built by a proven expert. Gyroplanes like AR1 fly much like fixed wings but with real advantages.

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.

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