...a web log of developments in Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft
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AirVenture Wrap-Up: Shiny Part 103, Icon Rising
By Dan Johnson, July 27, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Oshkosh light aircraft news will follow ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned ... more to come!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy 40th anniversary to Rotax Aircraft Engines!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

image courtesy of Icon Aircraft

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

Riding the Wave ... Vickers' Wave, That Is
By Dan Johnson, June 28, 2015

As I've written a few times, I see a dichotomy in LSA designs. Landplanes appear to have entered a "mature" phase, where changes are incremental, evolutionary rather than revolutionary, if you will. I see nothing wrong with that. To the contrary, it speaks to an industry that knows where it is going and how to achieve design goals. Electric propulsion is still stirring things considerably (witness several recent articles here and elsewhere) but electric motors can work on landplanes or seaplanes.

To my view, it appears the lead in the most innovative design is being done in LSA seaplanes. Perhaps this was triggered by Icon and their A5. The California entry is handsome and well enough marketed to collect many orders. While finally coming to market A5 has been a decade in preparation. This left the door open for more highly innovative entries

Meanwhile existing designs such as Searey and Super Petrel have been much refined and have demonstrated meeting ASTM standards with Searey also achieving Chinese Type Design Approval. Another innovative design, called MVP, looks mighty intriguing but is still some years away from reaching the market.

CNC Billet Machined Ribs fitted to main Alloy spar prior final assembly. all images provided by Vickers Aircraft
However, rather quietly and thousands of miles away from California, Vickers Aircraft has been steadily working on their Wave. "Earlier this year we secured substantial investment," reported boss Paul Vickers. "We worked hard over the prior twelve months to seek suitable investors from the USA and we found what we needed." I can imagine that the rather dramatic and fresh design of Wave helped inspire investors to open the checkbook.

Thanks to a major injection of capital the pace has quickened as you can see in the development photos accompanying this article. "We are building a 'conforming prototype' that is production ready, meaning that no redesign work or retooling is required to enter production, said Paul. "Once we have completed the current build we will begin working on the first customer delivery, components and parts for which have already been made. The first customer delivery is scheduled for mid-2016."

"We are manufacturing all components, both alloy and carbon fiber in house," Paul noted. "This ensures complete accuracy both dimensionally and with regards to weight. We are very pleased that our design weights match actual part weights. We have opted to use prepreg carbon fiber as is generally used on supercars and Formula One race cars so that we can assure the desired repeatability during production." Many steps have been taken during the design process with an eye to serial production.

Windscreen template being test fitted, prior to trimming the first screens.
Vickers reports completing sufficient work at this point to see their fit to the marketplace. "We expect our price will be competitive due largely to keeping the unique part count to around 400, considerably less than that mentioned by other aircraft companies," Paul explained. "This coupled with a realistic investment in Vickers to-date appealed to our new American investors as it offers a stable and sustainable platform moving forward."

"We are very excited to bring this aircraft to market and we are getting closer to that reality every day," said Paul. "We are looking forward to unveiling some truly exciting innovations that will make the Wave stand alone."

One major difference in Wave from all the others is the planned use of a 180 horsepower engine that he calculates will produce a 120-knot cruise. At such speeds, Wave would be the fastest of the breed.

Pry as I might, Paul would not divulge all his secrets. Yet he did agree to share some very interesting design features if I agreed not to write about them yet, and in so saying, he further piqued my interest. This is one reason why I see LSA seaplanes as the point of the spear, design-wise.

CNC machined rear empennage and vertical tail plug taken prior to mold being produced and first article.
Vickers has lined up a number of what they call "strategic partners." For example, emergency airframe maker BRS has entered into a new developmental partnership with Vickers Aircraft.

"The truly innovative and well thought out design of the amphibious Wave aircraft, when coupled with BRS' long standing leadership role in aircraft recovery parachutes, creates an aircraft that may well set a new standard in performance, fun, and of course, safety," stated Boris Popov (video), founder and senior vice president of sales at BRS Aerospace. "BRS is honored to have been selected by Vickers for integration into this new aircraft design."

"Stand alone styling that is both smooth and strong, incredible innovations, intuitive systems wrapped in functionality for a price that will stun..." expressed Vickers CEO Paul Vickers. "That is the Wave."

I look forward to inform you further as more details and images leak out of Vickers Aircraft.

Super Duper Legend Cub with 180 Horses!
By Dan Johnson, June 26, 2015

Whoa, big boy! When you have huge power available, you need to ... well, go have fun! I've covered the Super Legend before (article & video), which had the multi-fuel, electronic ignition 115-horsepower Lycoming O-235 installed. Certainly that was and remains a solid powerplant but now the company has added a Titan engine that pulls like a team of stallions. Call it the Super Duper Legend Cub.

As sales of Legend Cubs and similar aircraft have shown, pilot interest in Cubalikes is strong. American Legend recently logged their 10th anniversary; they've been around since the LSA sector first arrived on the scene. However, they haven't simply made the same old airplane in the same old way. Now welcome Super Legend HP.

Before Sun 'n Fun 2015, the Sulphur Springs, Texas company announced they had added, "a host of new features for our Super Legend, adding functionality, comfort and safety to the lineage of Legend Cub aircraft. Standard and optionally available, these features range from advanced carbon fiber components, including the company's new carbon fiber amphibious floats, to the latest in NextGen and touchscreen electronic flight displays."

Get all the details at the company's website page for Super Legend HP.
Super Legend HP, the new top-of-the-line model for American Legend's stable of Cub aircraft, was introduced at the Lakeland, Florida event featuring a 180-horsepower Titan O-340 engine. Get this: Super Legend HP can leave the ground in a mere 35 feet and climb at 2,000 feet per minute, according to American Legend. The HP model can clear a 50-foot obstacle in 200 feet, said the company adding, "The Titan O-340 offers fast cruise speeds of up to 104 mph TAS at 2150 rpm."

"The four-cylinder, 340-cc Titan engine is a stroked derivative of the Lycoming O-320. It weighs 245 pounds, which is 20 pounds less than the similar O-360," reported American Legend. The HP derivation is an upgrade of the Super Legend that was introduced in 2011 (when the video above was shot). With more carbon-fiber components and expanded avionics options Super Legend HP is available as an LSA, with certain restrictions to comply with the rules, or as an experimental kit airplane.

To qualify as a Special LSA, Super Legend HP has a maximum takeoff power limitation of five minutes with continuous cruise operations limited to 80 horsepower. This procedure is used by other LSA that employ high-powered engines. For the SLSA model, American Legend uses a special lightweight custom paint and avionics packages to assure Super Legend HP weight stays under SLSA certification rules of 904 pounds. However, the company noted, "Super Legend's strength-tested airframe, up to 1,750 pounds." When sold as an Experimental, the same airframe may use the higher gross weight." To benefit from a higher useful load that comes with the increased gross weight, buyers will need a Medical and will build their own airplane.

Legend customer Jason is seen taking off at Narromine. all images courtesy of American Legend
A very familiar supplier to the LSA community, American Legend is a leader in a crowded Cub market. Over a decade, the Texas outfit has built well-regarded product support for its line of Legend Cub aircraft. Launched as the SP/LSA rule was introduced by FAA, American Legend has firmly established itself as one of the most successful manufacturers in the space. "We have built a reputation among our Legend Cub owners and operators, guest pilots, passengers, and within the industry for designing aircraft that are true to the Cub form yet are modern, competitively priced, and built to last," stated the company.

In addition to being a solid player in the light aircraft industry, American Legend has developed a full line of aircraft and components. Beside the open-cowl original and offering several engine choices, you can buy Legend Cubs in ready-to-fly or kit form plus you can choose AmphibCub. While floats have been available for some time, AmphibCub has recently received the full American Legend treatment and now sports in-house-designed Legend Floats.

American Legend recently completed certification of its own Kevlar and carbon fiber LF1500A amphibious float design. Purpose-built for the Super Legend, the company's amphib floats use a manual gear mechanism that also offer watertight storage compartments. Focused first on strength and performance Super Legend AmphibCub is available with a wish list of features such as the much-revered touch screen Garmin G3X display. These options are available on most Legend Cubs.

Garmin's G3X brings the latest in advanced avionics to Legend Cub aircraft. Available in 7-inch or 10.6-inch displays, G3X has been called "more advanced than modern airliners," reported American Legend. Synthetic vision, a two-axis autopilot, and fuel flow metering are just a few of the features.

Keeping their vintage-appearing aircraft fully up with the times, American Legend recently installed and received approval of an ADS-B system. The company observed, "A far cry from early Cubs that flew without radio and transponder, the installation meets the FAA's 2020 mandatory compliance requirements for NextGen ADS-B equipage. The option includes a FreeFlight Systems Model 1201 WAAS GPS sensor and a Trig Mode S and 1090ES ADS-B Out capable transponder."

Lightplane Electric Power ... Pure or Hybrid?
By Dan Johnson, June 23, 2015

With our friends at the prestigious Flying magazine putting Airbus' E-Fan on their July 2015 cover, flanked by a major story inside, it seems everyone is following electric propulsion ever more closely. We've been doing it for a while as light aircraft are clearly the first place where electric power is best applied. Airbus may be planning an electric airliner but I don't expect to see that anytime soon. Meanwhile the giant builder of airliners is indeed pushing forward with a two-and four-seat E-Fan.

However, I see another use of electric motors that strikes me as very compelling, and in the very near term. I wrote about a Spanish project earlier and here is another.

Many years ago when I was a young flight instructor, I dreamed up an idea called JERA, the Johnson Emergency Rocket Assist, born out of a small rocket engine that some gearheads were applying to go-carts on steriods. My idea was to offer just a few minutes of thrust to allow a troubled airplane to find a safe emergency landing somewhere nearby. Like so many ideas, I never executed so you never heard of it, but the idea of emergency power remains desirable much like emergency airframe parachutes.

Israel's Ashot Ashkelon, Italian hybrid propulsion specialist Efesto joined with Italian light airplane manufacturer CFM Air, to develop a new Hybrid Propulsion System (HPS). According to the development team, "The system was designed for several aviation uses [among them] enabling additional flight time to prepare for an emergency landing."

Reportedly designed as a retrofit kit for the Rotax 9-series engines, HPS incorporates a new gearbox developed by Ashot, a new propeller shaft, a power converter, and controller. Hybrid propulsion elements provided by Efesto also include a high-capacity lithium-polymer battery with power management system for power storage. The whole system adds about 30 kilograms (66 pounds) in net weight, more than an airframe parachute but possibly adding sufficient safety value to justify a reduction in payload.

CFM Air develops and manufactures light planes such as the Dardo seen in the nearby photos. The company's chief test pilot is astronaut Maurizio Cheli, who trained together with the late Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon and is also a fighter pilot in the Italian Air Force.

Dardo took its first flight less than one year ago on July 16, 2014.
Some of the main benefits of the Hybrid Propulsion System are a significant additional power for launch and climb rate enhancement. Operating both engine and motor simultaneously increases the power available, shortening takeoff run and safely clearing obstacles at the airport.

However, developers seem primarily focused on emergency use of HPS saying it adds, "a significant safety element in case of [primary engine] failure by providing extra flight time using the electric motor, also as a replacement for the Safety Parachute." Based on many years working with BRS Parachutes, I am certain HPS will not always "replace" the airframe parachute, for example, mid-air collision. Nonetheless, using HPS to solve engine failure or fuel starvation would be much less exciting than firing a ballistic parachute.

Safety is good, of course, but other uses can come with electric. For example, the Israeli/Italian team observed, "In addition, there is the thrust reversal mode for propellers using the electric motor, which makes it possible to stop quickly to shorten landing roll and extend the lifespan of the brakes, and the ability to charge the batteries and save energy."

Dardo on display at the recent Paris Air Show. images from CFM Air
On landing, they say the electric motor can be operated in counter-rotation mode, providing thrust reversal for shorter landing runs. The electric engine can also be used as an alternator for battery charging and as a starter for the main engine. Electric propulsion can also be used in the air, providing active vibration damping for smoother, low-level flight.

Developers said HPS provides the pilot with six minutes of critical flight time after engine failure, which they believe should be sufficient in which to find an emergency landing site and set down safely operating on electrical power only. HPS is currently offered for the Rotax aircraft engines used by some 200 light aircraft types worldwide.

My JERA might have been lots lighter (if a tad more dangerous with rocket fuel). Yet it never made it to market while the Hybrid Propulsion System is something you can actually consider.

Sling News & Video Maker Paul Hamilton
By Dan Johnson, June 19, 2015

When you deliver an airplane to an accomplished video producer you are bound to get some great photos out of the deal. The images with this article show video impresario (and my longtime friend), Paul Hamilton, flying new Sling N288SL around beautiful Lake Tahoe not far from his home base in Nevada. Paul has been around light aviation for more years that he may be willing to admit. He has long promoted weight shift aircraft and was influential in developing early LSA training documents and videos in addition to making several video productions that were enjoyable to watch.

The Airplane Factory USA boss Matt Liknaitzky wrote, "It was another great showing for the Sling at Sun 'n Fun 2015 and our team has been busy ever since." Regarding the new delivery, he added, "In some recent exciting news, another Sling has stretched its wings! N288SL, a brand new Sling [powered by the fuel injected Rotax] 912iS, made the journey to its new home at Paul Hamilton's Sport Aviation Center at the Carson City Airport (KCXP). Paul, an industry leader and renowned Sport Pilot Examiner and Instructor, offers primary flight training for both Sport and Private Pilot Certification."

Sling owner Patrick Huang (L) poses with Matt Litnaitzky and Paul Hamilton (R) and TAF USA members Jean and Jordan.
Paul confirmed the delivery to owner Patrick Huang of Top View Aviation, writing, "Sling has the best handling characteristics, modern glass panels, and convertible top to make this the best LSA airplane in its class. This is our primary airplane for Sport and Private training and FAA certification."

New Sling owner Patrick is also involved in establishing TAF Asia. Based in Taiwan, his operation in that part of the world recently took delivery of three aircraft with plans to assemble the Sling for the Asian market.

Paul runs a full-service operation with five full-time instructors in a location featuring excellent flying weather year 'round. He also has FAA Designated Pilot Examiners to make it easy for students or transitioning pilots to earn a Sport Pilot or Private Pilot license in airplanes or weight shift trikes. Those interested can also go on to become a Sport Pilot Certified Flight Instructor (CFIS) for either airplanes or trikes.

His Hamilton Pilot Training System is a very complete package with all you need to study for the certificates when not flying one of the Sport Aviation Center aircraft.

The Airplane Factory USA is based in southern California at the famous Torrence Airport (not far south of the main Los Angeles airport). A related enterprise offers the also South African line of MGL Avionics that you see in Slings, of course, but also in many other aircraft around the USA and the world.

TAF-USA has new and used Slings available for immediate delivery. For those contemplating a purchase but who don't want to wait months for delivery, this can be most welcome news. TAF said, "N232SL is a brand new Sling LSA, fitted with the 912iS fuel injected engine, autopilot and dual MGL iEFIS touchscreens. Parachute installation is optionally available as parachute cables are already in place." The LSA has the same color scheme and panel as the aircraft shown in photos accompanying this article. "The plane is fully registered and has its airworthiness certificate," said Matt, "She is ready for immediate delivery." If interested, send them an email.

The California importer also has a very well equipped Sling with 700 hours logged that probably won't last long. In addition to other desirable gear, this one is already fitted with an airframe parachute system.

The Airplane Factory is an ambitious lot. Not only do they offer the Special LSA Sling model, they can also deliver FAA-approved kit versions and those can include the company's four seat Sling 4 as well. As we are currently planning, I'll go up with Matt at AirVenture 2015 to see how their four seater flies.

TAF is the company whose founder, Mike Blyth, has flown around the world in both his Sling 2 and Sling 4 models, each of which globe-girdling expeditions followed some very long flights in weight shift aircraft. Beside being a successful airplane developer and manufacturer, Mike has shown great ability in producing videos of these adventures, my favorite of which is his South-to-South adventure of flying 27,000 miles from the Antarctic side of South America, up through North America, across the Atlantic and all the way back down through Europe and Africa to South Africa ... the entire way unsupported by ground crew.

In my mind that shows not only great confidence in your aircraft and your capabilities but also a spirit of exploration few of us will ever duplicate. I won't be trying to emulate Mike but I enjoy following his flying feats.

Icon Successfully Completed FAA Audit
By Dan Johnson, June 17, 2015

Let the production begin! This, um ... iconic company in the LSA space has been brewing for a long time, long enough that some aviators have been grumbling, wondering if Icon is "for real." Today, the company announced that a week ago on June 11th, they successfully completed their FAA audit. That opens the door to serial production of a reported 1,250 orders as announced earlier this year.

In addition, some media persons including yours truly, will get to fly the machine during Oshosh in just a few weeks. I'm excited to see how this well-promoted, long-in-development aircraft flies.

"The successful completion of the FAA's audit of the A5 is one of the most critical milestones in our company's history," said Icon Aircraft CEO and Founder Kirk Hawkins. "This means that after years of intense development by the Icon team, our customers and the media will finally get a chance to experience the A5 firsthand and form their own opinion. We believe we created one of the safest, easiest to fly, most fun, and coolest light aircraft on the planet, and this is just the beginning for us. Icon's mission is to help reinvent flying by making it more accessible to all those who dream of it. It's a very personal, heartfelt mission for our team, so this is another proud moment along that journey."

The California company flew the first customer aircraft for the first time on April 24th this year.

"Given the years of work to get here, it's awesome to finally see production-ready, conforming A5 aircraft in serial production," said Chief Technical Officer Matthew Gionta. "For me and much of the team, the A5 was the most challenging aircraft program we ever worked on. It's hard to fully appreciate the massive amount of intelligence and hard work that has gone into this little consumer aircraft; it's a truly amazing airplane. I'm looking forward to our customers flying it and appreciating that effort firsthand."

When FAA audits they review production plans and tooling, quality processes and manuals, plans for continued operational safety, and ASTM compliance procedures and manuals. Participants on the June audit included Aviation Safety Inspectors from the Washington, D.C., Oklahoma City, and Los Angeles offices.

"There were no major issues during the FAA inspections," said Icon VP of Engineering Bill James. The company said that it will deliver its first customer aircraft on July 20th, 2015 at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in Wisconsin. Although the FAA audit was conducted at their development facility in Tehachapi, California, Icon will transition serial production to its new 140,000-square-foot facility in Vacaville, California, in September.

Innovative Hybrid: Jet Power with Electric Motor
By Dave Unwin, June 16, 2015

Some people, myself included, love soaring flight. As the following article from Dave Unwin explains, to use his words, "Soaring flight exercises a fascination that is both difficult to explain and hard to resist, sometimes called 'three-dimensional sailing.' Flying a heavier-than-air machine for several hours and hundreds of miles by using the atmosphere as the fuel possesses an undeniable attraction." As he further explained in a longer article, the downside is getting airborne for soaring flight. Various alternatives have been explored. Some were reasonable; others were too marginal to be enjoyed. In the following piece Dave tells about a new aircraft that might solve this problem, one that can fit England's innovative SSDR 300 (kilogram) category. —DJ

Article UPDATE 6/17/15 — ProAirsport announced, "We have now released a priority price of 39,950 British pounds (about $63,000). More details can be found on our website." This is an excellent value for a motorglider. The company forecast their first delivery in February 2016.

When I heard that ProAirsport was proposing a new type of self-launching SSDR sailplane, powered by a lightweight turbojet my initial reaction was one of skepticism. Having taken a cursory glance at the specifications and weights, I doubted that this thing would have enough thrust to even taxi to the far hedge, let alone fly over it!

Then ProAirsport CEO Roger Hurley revealed that "project GloW" sitting in his computer was a hybrid, and that the wheels would be driven by a powerful electric motor. My skepticism turned to enthusiasm and I made an appointment to meet Roger at his shop. I inspected the fuselage plug and marveled at the small size of the jet engine.

Created to meet the requirements of the new UK Single Seat Deregulated (SSDR) class and the U.S. Light-Sport category GloW has a max takeoff weight of 300 kilograms (660 pounds), empty weight of about 180 kilograms (396 pounds), and can achieve a full fuel payload of 205 pounds.

GloW's fiberglass and carbon fiber fuselage carries the wing, engine, fuel tank, batteries, and the clever powered undercarriage. The shoulder-mounted wing gently sweeps at the tips with only a small amount of dihedral. Large airbrakes are fitted to the top surface of the wing.

The Titan jet engine is fixed internally behind the cockpit and features an automatic open/close intake scoop. This very neat little turbojet is less 40 centimeters (16 inches) long and weighs an astonishing 3.7 kilograms (8 pounds), yet produces a creditable 88 pounds of thrust. This should be enough to produce reasonable climb rates at around 50 knots, while the 9-gallon fuel tank should last for several further climbs.

As the Titan engine can burn a variety of fuels, from Jet A-1 and JP-4 to diesel, kerosene, and domestic fuel oil, it cannot only be readily refuelled from a variety of sources but is incredibly cheap!

As it is expected that a take-off and climb to 3,000 feet will burn a bit more than two gallons of fuel, the cost of a relatively high go-where-you-want launch will still be less than the average winch launch and much less than an aerotow! In cruise, fuel flow is predicted to be much lower.

The Titan is a standard commercial item which is used successfully in large R/C models and drones. Compared to a piston engine, turbines offer several advantages.

They are light, compact and have only a few moving parts. Vibration levels are low, and they are very reliable. Starting the jet is very simple; select start, the airscoop opens, and it starts. Shutting it down is equally simple. However, while very small jets have been used on self-sustainers for some years, they simply don't have anywhere near the static thrust required to take off in a reasonable distance.

Read ProAirsport's GloW logic for self-launch compared to towing or gasoline engine assists.
This brings us to GloW's most unconventional aspect, the undercarriage, which consists of four wheels of three different sizes mounted along the fuselage centerline: a small steerable pneumatic nosewheel, a tiny solid urethane tailwheel, and dual retractable mainwheels. GloW sits upright with wings level. This is where GloW gets really interesting, as these wheels are driven by a powerful electric motor.

Modern electric motors put out a lot of torque and this can produce incredible rates of acceleration (think: Tesla automobiles). A high-tech motor, controller. and LiFePO4 battery pack, and charging system coordinate to accelerate GloW up to take off speed. Here is the design's "secret sauce."

For take-off, GloW can be wings-level taxied, even reversed into position before starting the jet and setting full power. Clever gearing of the wheels easily and quickly accelerates the aircraft to the safe speed above which it will fly and a smooth rotation eases the motorglider into the air so it can climb using the thrust of the jet. As the electric energy required for take-off is tapped only for a few seconds, the acceleration should be outstanding.

The design certainly looked extremely professional. Roger has assembled an impressive team of pilots and engineers. Although the SSDR class is not regulated or subject to mandatory airworthiness approval, ProAirsport decided to follow ASTM standards.

Prices have yet to be announced, but its clear from the design choices made and the manufacturing methods adopted that ProAirsport's objective could place it at the low end of the self-launch market.

all images provided by Dave Unwin
I came away from my visit to ProAirsport completely converted to the idea. Imagine owning a self-launching microlight sailplane, free from regulatory hassle and able to take off from any reasonable field or strip? It could open soaring flight for many pilots.

Trade-offs exist, of course. By definition GloW is very light so although the projected best L/D is expected to be mid-30s, this will be achieved at relatively low speed. However, the same is true for the minimum sink, so GloW should climb very well indeed.

A reliable engine and easy starting means I could use it to explore gentle wave systems, sea breeze fronts and shearlines, and also to investigate hills and ridges that simply aren't accessible by pure gliders.

PSA: An Affordable Aircraft?
By Dan Johnson, June 13, 2015

The following article is a guest editorial by Chip Erwin, a name many rightfully associate with the highly successful SportCruiser LSA. A restless entrepreneur, Chip has been working behind the curtain for several years. He emerged with the Zigolo and is now proposing a fresh name for a segment that seems to have energy behind it. I have reported on England's new SSDR 300 category and I have observed the rejuvenation of Part 103 vehicles. So, on our recent travels to China, I encouraged Chip to express what he has in mind.

Article Update 6/15/15 — At the end of this article see our video shot at Sun 'n Fun 2015 regarding Chip's electric motor and plans.

The original TechPro Merlin soon to emerge with a new purpose ... as a Personal Sport Aircraft.
Is "affordable aircraft" an oxymoron? For most people, probably yes. One answer could be a class of aircraft I like to refer to as a PSA, or Personal Sport Aircraft.

Personal Sport Aircraft can describe a renewed interest in single place aircraft. These are priced far less than LSA but are not confined by the limitations of Part 103 ultralights. So what describes a PSA? Following are some worthy attributes:

  • Price target between $32,000 and $45,000 *
  • Powered by a 4-stroke aircraft engine or by electric propulsion
  • Can be flown with Sport Pilot license without a medical
  • Fully enclosed and conventional aircraft style and construction
  • Good performance and handling: cruise about 100 mph; slow stall
  • Responsive handling and intended for day VFR operation
  • Appealing appearance

  • * not much more than a Harley-Davidson or Honda Goldwing motorcycle; affordable for many

I should point out that a PSA by my definition and by cost constraints is necessarily a single-seat aircraft. Two-seat aircraft would put us right back into LSA where the engine alone costs $20,000 contributing to higher finished aircraft cost.

If someone did a study I think they would find out that the vast majority of recreational flights last around 45 minutes and are commonly flown solo so maybe having only one seat is not a bad trade-off to save six figures.

Also, honestly, if another study was done, many "significant others" would be silently relieved that they would not be able to go flying with their spouses' new toy.

Consider Mooney's Mite — The Mite was designed by Al Mooney and was intended as a personal airplane marketed to fighter pilots returning from World War II. However, it was priced 20% higher than most of the two-seat competitors at the time. Had it been priced significantly lower than the two seaters it may have been a greater success. Nonetheless, Mite enjoyed a production run of 283 units, very respectable in today's market.

A few aircraft might presently fit this new PSA class but they fail in some criteria. Many use two-stroke engines, are dated designs or construction, are unattractive to many pilots, or are too expensive.

Chip observes that for a variety of reasons modern LSA, while impressive small aircraft, have become too expensive for many limiting their appeal. —DJ

Truly affordable aircraft can be found in Part 103 ultralights but fine as some of these are, their appeal is also limited, for example, most are open cockpit designs. A void in the availability of a dependable 40-60 horsepower four-stroke aircraft engine may be one reason we see few PSA. Some development of new four-stroke engines is occurring but the ones I've examined are heavier and provide less power than popular two-stroke engines.

Guest editorial author Chip Erwin displays his new electric motor and distinctive prop. Note the unorthodox blade position.
How about electric power? — What works with electric propulsion today are low drag, lightweight aircraft that do not require much power to fly. A PSA is nearly perfect in definition. Heavier two-seat aircraft cannot offer the endurance, instilling "range anxiety," and are still too expensive. Until battery energy capacity increases significantly electric power may be limited to PSA.

My personal experience with electric power shows it can be ideal if:

  • the aircraft can carry enough battery to fly for an hour (hard to do while meeting Part 103)
  • the motor can provide enough power at low RPM (to reduce prop noise closer to electric motor noise)
  • The entire system can be designed and integrated for safe operation

I have been researching electric power, a technology with huge potential, and I believe a PSA is the perfect place to start. A new electric motor I am developing is designed specifically for aircraft use meaning it has high torque, low RPM, light weight and high reliability.

Concurrently a new battery system I am creating has one of the highest Lithium Polymer (LiPo) power densities commercially available and is integrated with the motor, controller, and battery management system to provide safe, reliable operation.

Electric power can work well using a PSA with today's technology. If properly designed, it should provide an endurance of more than one hour. Those who want to fly farther and faster could couple the electric motor with a small four-stroke aircraft engine for a viable hybrid.

FAA is pondering a regulatory approach to electric propulsion but Experimental Amateur Built rules allow customers to build whatever they want. With a simple design and modern construction methods of matched-hole and jig-less assembly build time can be measured in weeks not years.

Britain's CAA published a revised SSDR (Single-Seat Deregulated) rule that allows the sale of a finished single seat aircraft up to 315 kilograms (693 pounds) gross weight when equipped with an airframe parachute and a reasonable maximum stall speed of 35 knots (40 mph). This is a perfect PSA rule which I hope will spread to other countries.

The future may reward development of viable electric and four-stroke power systems and single seat airframes with modern construction and ramp appeal. Let's call them Personal Sport Aircraft.

Contact Chip about his new aircraft through his business, Aeromarine LSA.

Added 6/15/15: See our new video about Chip's electric motor, its innovative battery arrangement, pricing, and plans to finish the development.

Add-On Electric Motor Emergency & Boost Power
By Dan Johnson, June 9, 2015

A few years back at Aero 2009, Flight Design and Rotax teamed up on a very interesting project. Based on the R-912 engine they added an optional electric motor that could provide additional torque (a characteristic electric motors have in abundance) for takeoff and climb or for emergency power in the event of a failure. The idea more than intrigued me and many others but it quietly disappeared.

Recently a Spanish university announced it had taken this concept to the next step. The team investigating this seemed focused on the emergency factor but opened the door to combined used of electric motor and gasoline engine. In case of a conventional engine failure, while very unlikely, an electric motor can, they said, deliver another 20 kilometers or 12.5 miles of range. That would be a literally saving grace to the pilot and occupants of a troubled aircraft.

Andrés Barrado, head of the UC3M Electric Power Systems group. images taken from UC3M video.
Researchers at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) and the Axter Aerospace firm developed an electric propulsion system to install in light aircraft to deliver extra power and range in emergency situations. The group believe their new hybrid system could prevent 600 accidents a year after studying aviation accidents on two continents.

The team was lead by Andrés Barrade assisted by Miguel Ángel Suárez and Daniel Cristobal. They started with a Tecnam P92 and while the changes appear modest, you can discern the results (top photo, circle).

Barrade said, "The basic goal of this project is to improve the safety of light and light-sport aircraft, that is, two- and four-passenger planes weighing a maximum of 750 kilograms" (1,650 pounds, a value that covers all LSA and up to a Cessna 150). "We are trying to saves lives and prevent accidents related to loss of power during flight, when the engine fails or the fuel runs out," clarified Suárez. He works with Axter Aerospace, the company which collaborated with UC3M to develop this new system.

The idea is to equip the plane with an electric engine mounted aft of the propeller but outside the engine compartment (at least in the test article). Such an installation suggests this could be an add-on to existing aircraft once the company decides to commercialize their work.

"If there is a problem with the main engine, this electric engine will start to function, which will provide an additional range of about 20 kilometers, enough for the pilot to land safely," said Barrado, head of the UC3M Electric Power Systems group and one of the other promoters of this invention.

The system features an electric engine that is connected to the conventional engine, a high-efficiency lithium battery, and an electronic system that draws energy from the battery and adapts it to the needs of the plane. It also has a battery charger which operates during the flight.

The cockpit controller appears very simple with a small information screen.
"We maximize the capacity of the battery in generating movement with the electric engine, and we have found that we can also use the system as a hybrid for light aircraft; the pilot can activate it when she wants, adding up to 40 horsepower for takeoff or whatever is needed," said Daniel Cristobal, now also with Axter Aerospace and an alumnus of the UC3M. "This way, it could be used as if it were an electric turbo to increase the power of the aircraft in certain maneuvers."

So, while the UC3M/Axter team see safety as the main point, they are pursuing this idea in the same general directions as Flight Design and Rotax did six years back. Note that the Tecnam P92 has a Rotax 912 for its main powerplant.

This system, which is being marketed and patented internationally, can be installed in light aircraft, new or already operating, they said. It might also eventually be applied to other types of aircraft, such as gyroplanes, gliders, drones and other unmanned aerial vehicles. Besides saving lives and reducing financial losses resulting from accidents, the UC3M group said its architecture reduces the airplane's operating and maintenance costs, lowers fuel consumption and reduces the emission of greenhouse gases and noise pollution.

I wish to give credit to Product Design & Development website, part of Advantage Business Media where I first discovered the work of the UC3M/Axter group.

BushCat Available Several Ways, All Affordable
By Dan Johnson, June 7, 2015

Let's move right to an important point. BushCat is most interesting aircraft with unique features of interest to many and you are much more likely to afford the South African airplane with its 2015 U.S. price of $65,000. That figure covers the Rotax 100-horsepower 912 engine; you can pay somewhat less with the 80-horsepower that is more than enough engine to give this light aircraft plenty of performance. You could also save more by assembling a kit version of this Special LSA.

However, now BushCat has another feather in its cap, so to say.

SkyReach engineers were able to raise weight from 1,245 to 1,320 pounds by strengthening components like wing strut brackets, then followed by an intense program of flight testing to include an entire regimen of spin testing (the latter representing much more work than many pilots may think). What does this do for BushCat beside bringing its numbers up to the max allowed in the LSA category?

Quite significantly, BushCat's useful load now elevates to 617 pounds with 25 gallons of fuel. That means payload with full fuel is 465 pounds, which allows two 200-hundred pound occupants plus 65 pounds of cargo or other airborne gear. So, a very modest price — about what many expected eleven years ago when the SP/LSA rule was announced, all the more impressive as the time value of money has changed considerable in that period — and you get more utility for the dollars you spend. I'd call that win-win.

I find, as do many others I've asked, that BushCat is a handsome, rather gutsy looking light aircraft. Originally known by the name Cheetah, it has a distinctive cowling for a sharp look and is light and durable — empty weight is barely over 700 pounds — that helps assure robust performance. BushCat is flown with a control stick mounted between both occupants, forward of the central arm rest. As SkyReach notes, "This configuration allows the pilot to keep his or her hand on the stick at all times, freeing the other hand for the throttle and panel mounted instruments." Using a single joystick keeps control system complexity to a minimum and allows easier cockpit entry and exit.

A couple years ago, one of the bigger changes SkyReach engineers made to BushCat was a move from a more complicated braced undercarriage to a sprung undercarriage. The new design uses a slab-style aluminum spring gear that SkyReach says provides a more accommodating load dampening resulting in softer off-airport landings. This airplane does duty in South Africa fighting animal poaching and can handle rough-field operation. It also features removable doors, which may work well for the anti-poaching task but also appeals to those of use that like open cockpit on warm summer days.

BushCat uses 1400 Clamar amphibious floats.
BushCat is a sturdy airplane boasting a +6, –4 G rating. It's construction looks simple with a tube-and-gusset arrangement but such designs have proven themselves over literally decades of safe operation. Wing and fuselage use a trilaminate composite fabric covering that requires no paint, saving both effort and weight. Trilam is commonly used in the sailing industry for yacht sails and by hang glider producers. It is an incredibly strong material and has proved itself against the elements; sailboats spend a lot of time exposed to sun and salt water, both tough environmental taskmasters.

Represented in the USA by AeroSport LLC, the Wisconsin outfit has an enlarged base of operations based at the Galt, Illinois airport (identifier 10C) where the Knolls operate a flight school, maintenance shop, and a build center in addition to their SLSA showroom. BushCat is available in tri-gear, taildragger and an amphibious model can handle the allowed gross weight of 1,430 pounds. No straight floats are offered but most pilots prefer amphibious. Kits are also available both as Experimental Amateur Built or as faster-to-fly ELSA. SkyReach director Michael Gill reported at Sun 'n Fun 2015 that 160 aircraft are flying worldwide, 18 of which are in the U.S. with several kits underway.

In closing this piece, I want to pay tribute to two light aviation kit builders. In the USA, the loss of Jeremy Monnett stunned many as he and assembly mechanic Mike Clark were killed June 2nd in an aircraft accident near the company's headquarters in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Jeremy successfully lead the Sonex company in recent years and used a degree in mechanical engineering to create a design of his own, the single-seat, folding-wing Onex ("One-Ex") introduced in 2011. BushCat importer Daniela Knoll also reported some sad news from the SkyReach factory in South Africa. "Walter de Lange, General Manager of SkyReach, died last week in a weight-shift trike accident. We are all shocked by the news since Walter was a very experienced trike pilot and airfield safety officer," wrote Daniela. "A great man will indeed be missed."

I offer my sincerest condolences to the families of each man and thank both for their significant contributions to light aviation. I thought very highly of Jeremy and will miss his broad, warm smile. I did not know Walter well, but did interview him at Oshkosh in 2013.

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




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.

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

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.

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.

MVP.aero turned many heads when introducing its one-of-a-kind entry to Light-Sport Aircraft seaplanes. MVP, for Most Versatile Plane, justifies that phrase by doing more than flying off water. Here’s one to examine much more closely!

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

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.

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.

Jabiru USA builds the spacious and speedy J-250 and more recently J-230 plus the training-optimized J-170, each certified as Special LSA. The Tennessee-based company also imports and services the popular Jabiru engine line.

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.

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!

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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

Corbi Air represents the Made-for-Americans Direct Fly Alto 100. Created in the Czech Republic, Alto 100 was upgraded for USA sales and the result is a comfortable, handsome low wing, all-metal LSA with features you want.

Quicksilver Aeronautics is the world's largest producer of ultralight aircraft, selling some 15,000 aircraft. The company's designs are thoroughly tested, superbly supported, and have an excellent safety record.

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

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

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

Renegade Light Sport produces the sexy low wing, all composite Falcon in America. The Florida company has also established itself as the premiere installer of Lycoming’s IO-233 engine.

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.

Kitfox is one of the world's best selling light aircraft kits with more than 5,000 delivered. With unrivaled name recognition, Kitfox is admired for crisp handling, excellent performance, easily folded wings, and more. The design is flown around the world.

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 an economical Part 103 ultralight that is within reach of almost any budget. For local fun flying, or for those who enjoy soaring flight Zigolo is light enough to be lifted by even the most gentle thermals.

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.

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