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

Aerolite 120 Launches in Britain and Ireland
By Dan Johnson, November 19, 2015

Aerolite 103 from U-Fly-It has been on a tear for the last couple years, producing at capacity and stretching to produce even more for 2016. Some of those very attractively priced aircraft — way under $20,000 ready-to-fly! ... take that, sluggish economy! — are headed off on the longest trip of their lives. The DeLand, Florida company has been shipping units to Europe where their German-based European distributor operates.

So much for too-costly airplanes. Aerolite 103 (and a few other well-priced examples from light aircraft producers) proves an airplane doesn't have to be costly to deliver a good time. The German Aerolite 120 is somewhat costlier to account for shipping, German certification expense, etc.

"British pilots have embraced Aerolite 120," said German distributor Vierwerk Aviation. "Aerolite's proper design, very good quality, and meticulous workmanship in every detail have been praised and recognized by everyone." Aerolite 120 is the European-approved version of America's Aerolite 103. The 120 designation refers to the German 120-kilogram (264-pound) class that is remarkably similar to FAA's Part 103.

Vierwerk and their United Kingom (including Ireland) distributor Kairos Aviation, said "Kiwi" (referring to its distinctive green color) was a real eye-catcher and was presented at the LAA Rally event called Sywell 2015.

Vierwerk Aviation is a family operation led by Wolfgang Labudde (far left) and wife Thilda (second from right) with help from their son and daughter.

Aerolite 120 was tested to assure compliance with the strict German LTF-L/UL regulations, and falls well within the criteria for the UK deregulated category called SSDR (Single Seat DeRegulated). The first example sold in the UK is G-OLAS (the British version of an "N-number" registration), which was exhibited by Kairos at the recent Light Aircraft Association (LAA) Rally 2015 at Sywell.

You can read a detailed report on the experience of first UK Aerolite 120 owner Stephen Oliver at this link (some browsers will open this in a new window; others may have to download and read with Adobe Reader). The article was published in the November 2015 issue of LAA's Light Aviation and relates the impressions of someone coming to the very light Aerolite from heavier aircraft and some readers may find this instructive. It is a very straightforward description with something of a surprise ending.

Some of Stephen's comments from the article are selected below.

"For a very light aircraft (only 120 kilograms (264 pounds) and a MTOW of 250 kilograms (550 pounds), the Aerolite 120 carries little momentum, so she responds rapidly to control inputs and airspeed bleeds off very quickly; consequently, you have to keep the power on to some extent right through to the flare." I don't find that to be the case, but I have plenty of light aircraft experience, unlike Stephen.

"[On takeoff] I applied full power from the Polini Thor 200 Evo air-cooled engine, which had easily started first time, every time, and I steadily climbed flapless out of the airfield, heading north over Pitsford. Best rate of climb is 41 knots (47 mph), which gives 1.6 meter per second (320 fpm) [of climb]; that's pretty much with full power at over 7200 rpm, [while] keeping a close eye on the temperatures.

"With so little weight, even with me on board, there's little momentum to slow its response to control inputs; it all makes for a lively experience. The stall is quite benign at 35 knots (39 mph) clean."

Much more detail appears in Stephen's full-length report found at the link above. Also, you can watch a video below for the first flight of Aerolite 120 in England.

Two LSA Manufacturers Score Overseas
By Dan Johnson, November 18, 2015

American readers of ByDanJohnson.com may be surprised to hear that more than a third of all visitors are from outside the United States. In a related fact, America has more pilots than any other country (very roughly half of the world aviator population) but more light aircraft are sold in other country by a ratio of around 10:1. These figures are fuzzy for a number of reasons but the point is that for LSA, the world is their market.

That statement is further proven by two recent successes.

Evektor reported it successfully passed the audit of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) for production at the company's Kunovice, Czech Republic plant. "CAAC's audit team inspected the production facilities of Evektor-Aerotechnik focused on quality assurance, engineering and manufacturing, and quality inspections of fixed wing light sport aircraft," said Evektor.

This Czech company — the first to obtain FAA acceptance back in 2005 — was able to prove compliance with CAAC requirements for Light-Sport Aircraft, meaning Evektor is fully authorized by the CAAC for deliveries of SportStar SL aircraft to the Chinese market. While not required by Evektor's U.S. representatives, it represents further bragging rights about the design and its manufacturing processes.

"The Quality Management System audited by the CAAC of China [in concert] with the FAA and the European EASA Part 21 Design & Production Organization Approvals represents the continuous compliance of Evektor's Quality Management System with the highest general aviation quality standards and is the basis for the high quality of Evektor's aircraft," stated Jaromír Matu|ka, Quality Manager of Evektor-Aerotechnik.

Slovenian LSA builder Pipistrel claimed to have signed the largest single-point contract for delivery of 194 of their Virus SW models to the Indian Armed Forces. The model will be called SW80 Garud for use by the Indian military. Garud is a bird from Hindu mythology.

Pipistrel reportedly beat ten other competitors for the contract. The Garuds will be used to train cadets of India's Air Force, Navy and National Cadet Corps spread across 100 locations in the country. Deliveries are to begin in eight months with the contract specifying that Pipistrel must deliver all 194 aircraft within 30 months of the first. Upon learning of their victory, Team Pipistrel must have celebrated enthusiastically but nearly 200 aircraft over two and a half years is a serious order, especially as the contract stipulates spare engines, ground support equipment and tools, 10 years of product support, plus training for aircrew, instructors, and technical staff.

Garud aircraft will be powered by the 80 horsepower version of the Rotax 912 engine, which Pipistrel claims will provide a cruise speed of 133 knots with fuel consumption of only 3.6 gallons per hour. To achieve such speed and fuel economy infers an in-flight adjustable pitch prop. Garud is to be built for operation from semi-prepared surfaces and will include a ballistic parachute rescue system, digital avionics, energy-absorbing seats and a Kevlar-reinforced cockpit.

After two years of intense negotiation, some experts see challenges. One wrote, "Doing business with the Indian government, with all their red tape, bureaucracy and corruption makes for tough duty." Penalties for non-compliance may be substantial and our expert noted, "The Indian government will find areas of non-compliance. Further, he supposed Pipistrel had to cut their margins to earn the contract. Finally, "A contract for six or seven aircraft per month may soak up their production for other markets."

Congratulations to Evektor and Pipistrel for these accomplishments!

DeLand Airport to Host Air Race March 12
By Dan Johnson, November 17, 2015

Our title was the headline for a news article in the my hometown Daytona Beach News-Journal newspaper recently. That's rather unusual. Anytime Light-Sport Aircraft make the local headlines — and not due to an accident, that has to be a good thing.

Let me set the stage ... Daytona Beach is a major race venue with the Daytona 500 commonly ranked as one of the top auto races in the world. It draws huge numbers of people. Estimates say 250,000 people attend the '500 inside the track with a vast number tailgating outside. For comparison, seating at even the biggest football games is less than half that count. Whatever the actual numbers, a great many people come to Daytona to enjoy auto racing.

An even larger event in Daytona is Bike Week. According to Wikipedia, "Approximately 500,000 people make their way to the rally area for the 10-day event." This number is almost equal to all the pilots in the USA.

SPAR organizer, Doc' Bailey
As reported by Daytona's News-Journal, "The inaugural Sport Pylon Air Races event is set for DeLand Municipal Airport on March 12, the final Saturday of the 75th annual Bike Week motorcycle rally that runs March 4-13, 2016."

The newspaper report continued ... "We hope to capitalize on all the people and national media already here," said Christopher 'Doc' Bailey, the air race's organizer. "Right now we are piggybacking on Bike Week for the first event, but we want to make this a winter series across the country that starts and ends in Volusia County."

Can SPAR attract some of that immense audience? Only time will tell but nearby air racing certainly has a chance. The idea has been some time in the making with an earlier report stating that entrepreneur Bailey hoped to launch SPAR in 2013. Doc' is persistent, though, and this air race for the light aircraft crowd may be nearing reality.

According to the News-Journal reporter the inaugural SPAR event runs from 10 AM to 5 PM and will feature timed heats of Light-Sport airplanes flying at 120 knots through a twisting and turning course of pylons — also referred to as "gates." More than a dozen pilots from throughout the country are expected to compete in the event which will feature races in different categories of LSA.

The newspaper reported FAA is allowing spectators at the air race event to sit about 500 feet from the course, which will be 70 feet above the airport's runways. "This makes our event much more fun and interactive than sitting a mile away with binoculars," Doc' said.

FAA officials are expected to visit DeLand in the next 60 days to inform airport officials what preparations and actions the federal agency will require for the event. The air races will not stop most other airport activities but will "inconvenience" some, said John Eiff, who manages DeLand Municipal Airport.

The inaugural SPAR will also feature food and drink vendors, aircraft displays, skydiving and short-takeoff-and-landing aircraft demonstrations, the newspaper article continued. Post-event activities are also being planned. Tickets will be $25 per person and $20 for a couple. Children age 12 and under, and military veterans with an identification card, will be admitted free, Bailey said.

"[SPAR] will also help highlight the Sport Aircraft Village [a LSA business area planned for] DeLand Municipal Airport and the city's outreach to attract the sport plane industry, as was done when making DeLand a leading skydiving and parachute industry center," said Nick Conte Jr., executive director of the DeLand Area Chamber of Commerce.

Rans’ S-6 Evolves; Remains a Great Bargain
By Dan Johnson, November 13, 2015

all photos courtesy Rans, Inc.
With my good friends over at General Aviation News, I recently published an article about Light-Sport Aircraft available for less than $96,000. While that is still a good chunk of change, it is far less than the top-tier LSA that can run $150,000 to more than $200,000. Yet brand-new, fully-built LSA don't have to be so costly. You can read the article at this link.

The four aircraft I picked for my article are not the only well-priced choices in the Special LSA world. They happened to be four airplanes I had flown recently but I did mention at the end that buyers have even more choices in SLSA that were good values, some down below $50,000 ... although those choices will not be carbon fiber speedsters with full glass panels and autopilots.

Keep this in mind: When the SP/LSA regulation first came out in 2004, plenty of potential buyers expected prices in the $50,000 to 60,000 range. Of course, those numbers never included dual screen digital instruments, autopilots, airframe parachutes, leather interiors, or state-of-the-art, fuel-injected engines. Even so, given the effects of inflation, $60,000 in 2004 is the same value as $76,000 in late 2015. Therefore, some of my choices in the article referenced above do indeed sell for the price once expected.

"I saw a great article by you about SLSA planes [available for] well under $100,000," wrote Rans CEO, Randy Schlitter. "I would like to let you know we now have a nice plane on the market for only $79,000. It is our venerable S-6ES [the kit version] called the S-6ELS [the fully built version]."

"If you check out our specifications and price list, you will find it comes with a very nice panel and the very reliable 80 horsepower Rotax," Randy added. "Many pilots are fans of the S-6 Coyote II and for this price in ready-to-fly form it rivals the amount of dollars kit builders are spending for parts in a box."

"S-6ELS also has one of the highest payloads LSA on the market," he added. Indeed, based on a full fuel load of 18 gallons, S-6ELS has a 537 pound allowance for people and luggage, enough for 30 pounds of gear and two 253 pound occupants. "We are currently building the 2016 version" Randy continued. "It now includes an updated interior, similar to the S-20LS, and we have dropped the sailcloth laced-up covering for conventional dope and fabric."

He also noted that S-6ELS is available in tricycle gear or as a tailwheel plane. Click this link to see a PDF page showing all specifications for the S-6.

How well equipped is a $79,000 S-6ELS? Rans says their base price is for a "deluxe analog day VFR" aircraft with radio, intercom, GPS, transponder, three-inch airspeed indicator, altimeter, vertical speed indicator, compass, ELT, and the 80 horsepower Rotax 912UL engine with two-blade Warp Drive prop. For many buyers that could be all you need and would allow you to fly cross country with ease.

However, many pilots like to personalize their airplane or want more goodies, so pick from the following:

  • Lighting Package — $2,500
  • ...includes nav, strobe, position, instrument and taxi/landing lights
  • Canopy Cover — $500
  • Tru-Trak auto pilot (only available with analog panel) — $5,000
  • ADS-B — $900
  • Passenger elevator trim — $500
  • Headrests — $200
  • Gear leg fairings — $800
  • Aft baggage (30-pound capacity) — $1,000
  • Taildragger, including gear leg fairings and 6X800 tires, with 8-inch tailwheel — $2,000
  • Canopy cover — $500
  • Rotax 912ULS (100 horsepower) with 3-blade Whirl Wind prop — $3,500

Those of you know or have talked to Randy at an airshow might imagine the friendly grin on his face when he added, "We are hoping to be a leader in value and are planning even more exciting combinations of price-busting planes for the LSA market from both existing and designs under development."

Years ago, Randy used to show up at every Sun 'n Fun event with a new model, earning him such fawning comments as "airplane-of-the-month-club designer." A prolific creator of more than 20 distinct aircraft — while simultaneously operating a bicycle manufacturing business (since sold) — Schlitter remains an essential person to watch.

With more than 4,000 aircraft in the Rans fleet in countries around the world, Rans is one of America's leading producers of both kit aircraft and ready-to-fly models.

While the GA News editor since corrected the article in its online form (sign up for free), I originally wrote the Aeroprakt A-22 sold for $88,500. That was information from a previous distributor and the new representative Dennis Long clarified that the current base price is $68,500, or about $80,000 with a good number of options.

Open Air Pilots of the World ... UNITE!
By Dan Johnson, November 12, 2015

Around the world, starting early for many like this Louisiana paraglider, pilots joined the virtual flying called World Ultralight Fly-In or WUFI. It went so well a 2016 event is planned.
After many years in aviation and being a regular on the (trade) airshow circuit, I know one thing: it is darn hard to start a new event. So when The World Ultralight Fly-In announced its ambitious run at a Guinness Book world record, I thought it was a very fun idea but probably quite hard to assemble.

That was before key promoter Paul Lindamood began putting out what seemed hourly updates to the group's Facebook page. The power of social media is unveiled for serious events such as Arab Spring or whimsical photo flash mobs. In our world of recreational aviation, WUFI '15 proves the new media is also very useful.

Good for Paul and the WUFI gang of open air pilots. My tongue-in-cheek title notwithstanding — I am definitely not a Marx enthusiast — WUFI surely qualifies as the project that put more open-air (and other) ultralights or ultralight-types in the air on one day, all around the world. To see where they all launched, see the map below.

"One Day. One Sky. Be a part of it." That was the slogan and invitation from the Dayton Ultralights WUFI. With the drumbeat of social media encouragement and with the second, ambitious goal of entering the Guinness Book of Records ... how did they do?

Pilot and WUFI participant Doug Smith showed the true colors of a fellow ultralight enthusiast.
According to main man Paul, "The final numbers to date (a few days into November 2015), 900 virtual pins were located on the map, with a pin being pilots who previewed their location on the world map showing their intent to fly, weather permitting." This significant population hailed from 46 countries.

"What a great way for pilots to come together all over the world to share their love of aviation," said Doug Smith (painted face photo). The organized effort has also done great things for membership in the group known as Magnificent Men and their Flying Machines (abbreviated as MagMen). As this article posted, main man Paul said the group had grown to nearly 2,000 members. Clearly the idea has been motivating.

Organizers say the first World Ultralight Fly-in was picked up by numerous TV news stations, publications, and online resources. Anecdotal stories include these: "We had guy from Mexico who wanted to fly WUFI so bad he flew to his wedding rather than miss it! Another guy flew four different categories of light aircraft (paramotor, tandem paramotor, skydive, and sailplane) during WUFI day on October 10." Tim Heylbut, an avid flyer from Australia said, "This has been (and is) the greatest action taken towards uniting ultralight pilots around the globe."

Participating aircraft owners got into the WUFI event in various ways; this gyro pilot put the logo and slogan on the underside of his flying machine.
But what about that record book attempt? "We are still counting actual certificated 2015 flyers for Guinness — it's over 532 and we're not done." They are presently verifying each one, as required. "We had an amazing start, but what we are finding is a real enthusiasm across the world for a sense of community among these pilots."

Paul explained that the idea was to have an event for the grassroots types of machines. Such machines can't as easily attend venues like Oshkosh due to speed, range, and weather limitations. "However, they can share the same sky on the same day," exclaimed Paul! "We're finding that language, location and political barriers all but disappear within the smiles of this unique brotherhood of flyers ... and the sisters as well.

"The Guinness response is still pending," Paul said. "It goes very slowly and we can't do much but wait. They say on their website they get 1,000 entries a week."

As they prepare for a second effort next year, Paul stated, "We are developing a world wide team of WUFI 'captains' — individuals who will recruit from their individual countries — plus WUFI experts in all primary segments of recreational, open air aircraft from powered parachutes to weight shift trikes to gyro, to airplanes and beyond." The group plans to execute an even more comprehensive WUFI 2016.

In this fetching image WUFI participant Dave Kukura flies his stealthy black Beaver in a low pass. All WUFI '15 pilots got a handsome certificate like the one shown for principal organizer Paul Lindamood.
For the successful 2015 event, Paul wrote, "Thanks to all the WUFI captains!" He listed Marc Carofano, USA east — Thomas Fleming, USA south — Rafael Cortés, Puerto Rico — Yf Yen, Malaysia — Michel Mahler, France — J'm Smith Lobo, China — John Bullpin, UK — Paul Escott, Australia — Adolfo Bikkesba, South America — Jacqueline Costa, Portugal — Tobie Lépine, Canada — plus representatives in Indonesia and Wales."

More "captains" will follow. Indeed, being a good promoter, Paul and his Ohio-based group are already soliciting for more leaders and participants for WUFI 2016.

Co-creators, Bill Esker and Paul Lindamood from the USA with Koen Van de Kerckhove from Belgium were extremely gratified by the exceptional turnout and enormous amount of support worldwide. The event spanned virtually every category of recreational aircraft imaginable, with pilots as varied as the countries they represented.

Kerckhove said, "The goal of the flying event was to show that grassroots, open air aviation is alive, attainable and affordable." He added, "It is also a love and a bond that bridges all geographical boundaries. We look forward to the 2016 event and expect a tremendous increase in the participants.

Aircraft of Copperstate 2015 Continued (Part 2)
By Dan Johnson, November 6, 2015

Copperstate 2015 crowds were good on Friday and Saturday as shown by a throng examining this Scoda Aeronautics Super Petrel LS seaplane.
In this Copperstate Part 2 article we resume the list of aircraft Videoman Dave and I reviewed at the show south of Phoenix, Arizona in Casa Grande. To remind you, this was the 43rd running of this show that invites all sorts of aircraft — and many dozens did fly in each day plus others did fly-over demonstrations.

However, Copperstate generates a particularly strong response from manufacturers and representatives of Light-Sport Aircraft, light kit aircraft, and utralights. That makes it a must-go show for our team at ByDanJohnson.com and Dave's SportAviationMagazine.com YouTube channel that so many of you seem to enjoy.

Like other shows, many of you approached us at the event and expressed your ongoing interest in the video content we create. We are very pleased about your loyal viewership and will continue to work hard to build our growing video library ... already at 400+ videos and moving steadily to 500 and beyond. Dave started his channel before I joined the party and his channel now offers around 1,000 videos ... lots to enjoy!

Kitfox's new STi model with John McBean and Dan preparing to go aloft for a Video Pilot Report.
KITFOX STi — Around the globe, everybody knows Kitfox. Some 6,000 kits have been sold and owner John McBean is sure of more than 4,000 flying all over the world. (Many countries don't report such things so he was estimating conservatively.) No matter the precise count, Kitfox qualifies as one of the most successful kit aircraft of all time.

John and his group have also achieve Special LSA status for the Super Sport model, sometimes referred to as Series 7. Dating back nearly three decades Kitfox is a very familiar shape, but what you might not know is all the updates that have occurred over the years. While early Kitfoxes had a reputation of being very light on the controls and a bit jumpy in yaw, that's all ancient history for the models produced under John and Debra McBean's careful guidance.

Yet making the aircraft more refined and more enjoyable to fly is not all the Kitfox'ers have been doing. At Copperstate I went aloft with John in the STi, which stands for "STOL inspired." With substantial changes to the wing (more chord, for example) and 29-inch tundra tires, the STi left the runway in even less distance than a typical Kitfox, which is no slouch in that department. The flight with John proved he is a consummate professional with very adept in-flight practices that show his years of experience. I believe you'll enjoy the VPR this flight created.

Sling LSA was one of two The Aircraft Factory models we flew at Copperstate 2015.
SLING LSA and SLING 4 — From way down under in South Africa comes the Sling. Ha! That long distance is no big deal, really. This company has flown multiple models all the way around the world | not once, not twice, but three times! I guess that answers all questions about the cross country capability of this handsome design | or designs. Yep, at Copperstate, I got to fly the Sling LSA but also the Rotax 914-powered Sling 4, their kit-built four-seater entry.

Sling was a bit late to the LSA party. While The Airplane Factory had been operating in South Africa and selling in other countries, The Airplane Factory USA only brought in the first Sling in 2012, SLSA #125 out of 136 so far. When it arrived, Sling displayed some very interesting lines; I especially like the angular engine cowl shape. Obviously, the designers believe the craft is very solid as they were willing to make 'round the world flight #1 almost immediately after the design was completed and built. That's confidence! Main man Mike Blythe brings tons of experience to the table and it shows.

However, The Airplane Factory's presence in the USA owes a debt to Matt Litnaitzky and his team. While also tending to the build-up of MGL Avionics , Matt has calmly and steadily nurtured TAF's models now including a Sling SLSA and EAB kit in both tricycle gear and taildragger plus a roomy four seat Sling 4 kit that boasts 1,000 pounds of useful load. I got to fly both at Copperstate and we did a fourth VPR on the LSA model. Look for it when the editing chores are done.

Just Aircraft's SuperSTOL painted in the colors Rotax BRP uses for their fuel-injected 912 iS Sport engine.
JUST SUPERSTOL — At the Flying Magazine Aviation Expo in Palm Springs, California the week before, Videoman Dave and I sharpened our focus on women in aviation. We shot four new videos about women pilots and aviation participants and we continued that at Copperstate in Casa Grande, Arizona.

We didn't fly in SuperSTOL as we had already done that at Sun 'n Fun (video) with Just Aircraft designer, Troy Woodland. Instead we focused on this SuperSTOL because Hutch Hudgins was aided by wife Ann Summerton in building this example. Their five month effort on six days a week moved to even longer hours every day of the week before they needed to head back to Montana. Every step of the way, this aircraft was a husband and wife project. Sharp readers may observe that this SuperSTOL is painted in the colors Rotax uses for their fuel-injected 912 iS.

A nurse by profession, Ann was no delicate flower guilted into helping her husband. With obvious pride, she threw herself into the project just like Hutch and the result is first a vastly greater familiarity with literally every part on the SuperSTOL but also a deep and genuine interest in the airplane. Now the couple will host builders of SuperSTOL at a builder assist center they are creating where folks can come assemble their kit with supervision from Hutch and Ann (when she's not helping other folks in her nursing role). More info will appear in the video that follows.

We have more videos coming about women in aviation that we think you'll enjoy! Click back often.

VPRs & More at Copperstate 2015 (Part 1)
By Dan Johnson, November 4, 2015

The main view above was taken toward the end of the day. On Friday and Saturday the ramp was packed with show planes and a large number of aircraft that flew in for the day.
Updated 11/5/15 with video at end ...

We went. We flew (and flew). We shot video ... lots of video. Videoman Dave's dual hand held cameras got a workout as did our six Garmin VIRB cameras. We did more of our popular interviews but we also captured multiple angles on several aircraft as we continue to build our expanding library of VPRs or Video Pilot Reports.

Nearly always hard at work on terra firma, Dave went aloft (photo) to get some air and to capture aerial images. Dave took a seat in the twin-engined AirCam with company designer and boss, Phil Lockwood so you can see Copperstate 2016 from the air.

Honestly, I can hardly imagine how Dave keeps track of those hours and hours of video much less organize them into the productions you enjoy to the tune of 1.5 million minutes a month of viewing. Quite a number of you came up and offered Dave and I appreciation for this effort and we most assuredly like the encouragement this represents. Don't worry. We'll keep making more!

Started 43 years ago in 1973 Copperstate Fly-In has been a stalwart of western shows supporting a large pilot population in Arizona and surrounding states. Copperstate is a volunteer run, non-profit organization, which they describe as "dedicated to promoting recreational and general aviation through events, scholarships, and public education." Copperstate's leadership added, "Proceeds from the Copperstate Fly-In help support scholarship programs for youth seeking careers in the aerospace industry."

Between 5,000 and 7,000 people come out to view aircraft and more, this year including (on Saturday) a large collection of gorgeous vintage automobiles. Late October in Arizona is a beautiful time of year with abundant sunshine but lacking the scorching heat of summer.

Videoman Dave takes his camera aloft in the AirCam with Phil Lockwood.
AIR CAM — This constant flying of airplanes for Video Pilot Reports ... it's hard work but somebody has to be willing to do it. OK, that was a tongue-in-cheek comment as I take very little encouragement to climb into the front seat of an AirCam. Doing so over the beautiful landscape (to my eyes, anyway) surrounding Copperstate was pure pleasure. That this is also my job just proves the right kind of work can be a joy.

Before the event started, I went aloft with Lockwood Aircraft main man, Phil Lockwood. This was our first VPR since the Midwest LSA Expo in early September and we had to fiddle with our flock of VIRB cameras to get everything set. Phil and his sales manager, Robert Meyer were very patient but we finally went airborne with all cameras recording both video and our audio conversations while aloft. We hope you'll enjoy this when it is posted. (Please be patient; video editing is very time consuming work.)

AirCam is such a pleasure to fly. Of course, it performs extraordinarily well with 200 horsepower pushing it enthusiastically into the sky. However, I learned from Phil that in modest cruise, he can reduce fuel consumption to 3.5 gph ... and that's for BOTH engines. AirCam can also fly slowly with full authority thanks in part to its huge vertical fin. It looks right-sized on this aircraft but in my opinion looks aren't what matter. Flying qualities are superb on this aircraft and that big tail is a major reason why. I look forward to tell you more on the VPR.

A couple members of Videoman Dave's fan club wanted to pose for a photo in front of the Bumblebee Revo that we fly for a Video Pilot Report. Amy Saunders (L) and Nicole DeLuca both fly the Revo. Nicole is in training and Amy has flown from Florida to Oshkosh and to the West Coast and back. The Bumblebee-themed Revo belongs to Henry TrikeLife.
REVO — Speaking of powerful machines with good performance, how about Revo? Hoo yah! I've described Revo as the most deluxe weight shift trike built by anyone and I stand by that comment after experiencing not one but two Revos at Copperstate. Revo is also one of the best performing trikes I've flown. This rig will blaze along faster than 100 mph, the virtual sound barrier for weight shift aircraft.

Now in talking to other trike enthusiasts at the event, some said more than $100,000 for a tricked out Revo is too much and that it's too fast. That's fair. If you want something more modestly priced, you have many choices including some desirable aircraft from North Wing and others ... but also from Revo maker, Evolution Trikes. Their single seater Rev, which I have yet to fly, can be had for much less than $20,000 ready-to-fly as a Part 103; many options are available, which will increase cost and move it out of 103 but the point is you have several choices from Evolution.

Price aside, even after six years of observing Revo, I remain amazed at the level of detail Larry Mednick and his team have engineered into their top-of-the-line aircraft. The trike carriage is a brilliant melding of art and function but I want to mention the wing. Also their own configuration, some believe a trike this heavy cannot handle well. Indeed, that's been true with several other trikes, but Revo handles with remarkable ease and it's trim systems (pitch and yaw) work beautifully. If you never tried a weight shift, here's one to consider early although it may spoil you for any other model. See more in the VPR when it's ready.

In Copperstate Part 2, I'll cover our work on the Kitfox STi, a pair of Slings, and more women in aviation as we look at a special SuperSTOL. Click back soon!

Catch one of our first Women-in-Aviation videos with Amy Saunders of Evolution Trikes below ...

Here Is My “I Have a Drone” Speech
By Dan Johnson, October 27, 2015

I have a confession to make. I ... have a drone (with a nod to Dr. King and his "Dream" speech). No, I have not abandoned my love of flying inside the cockpit; far from it. However, in my role as an aviation journalist and with my goal of creating great content, I wanted to explore the new realm.

I believe we can capture great video, for example, of airplanes taking off in ways not possible with either ground-based cameras or via air-to-air photography. Love them or hate them, drones can produce certain images that are simply not possible any other way. Plus, I wanted to investigate and learn about this new range of aircraft.

My primary goal is to take my drone to airshows and, after securing permission from the show organizer, use it to give you a better perspective. When it can be used safely, a drone should allow more intriguing viewpoints of Light-Sports, light kits, or ultralights during take off and landing.

The dji (brand) Phantom 2 Vision+ drone and gyro-stabilized camera.
With assistance and support from new website sponsor Drone Source, I acquired a dji-brand Phantom 2 Vision+ drone. The quadcopter comes with a three-axis gyro-gimbal stabilization that allows smooth filming even in windy or moderately turbulent conditions. The Vision 2+ holds a tiny video camera that produces 1080p-quality video and/or 14-megapixel still photos. Using on-board Wi-Fi Vision+ sends what is called first person view (FPV) to your Apple iOS or Android device that is held by clamp to the remote controller. The smartphone screen shows what the camera is seeing along with other data such as height, distance, battery life, orientation, and more.

Drone Source proprietor Ron Bishop wisely counseled my use of prop guards as I learned to fly the Phantom. The good news is that if you let go at any time and don't bump the two joy sticks (one for throttle and yaw; the other for fore/aft, right/left), Vision 2+ will hover smoothly and hold altitude and position until you give it a further command.

Phantom is remarkably smart. Should you lose radio signal, Vision+ rises to about 55 feet, above common obstacles, and then will fly back to the launch point completely on its own. You can program the Phantom to autonomously (without human input) fly a course of up to 16 waypoints. If the battery gets low Vision 2+ comes home and lands without input. All this costs about $1,000 and prices will inevitably fall as drones develop at "Internet speed."

Learning to fly the Phantom 2 Vision + with prop guards to prevent problems.
"The world's largest retailer by revenue recently asked the FAA for permission to use outdoor unmanned aircraft to test everything from package delivery to inventory management," reported the Wall Street Journal. "Wal-Mart's interest in drones [follows] ... industries such as farming, filmmaking, and construction."

Amazon, Google, and DHL are testing drones for the final leg of package delivery, often said to be the most inefficient and expensive part of delivery logistics. Although the agency seemed to move lethargically at first, FAA has established a new office headed up by former EAA LSA champion, Earl Lawrence. Things are moving faster now. Wall Street Journal reported, "FAA has issued more than 2,000 approvals in the past year to use drones commercially and the agency has recently accelerated such approvals."

Manna from heaven or pizza from Domino's?
Cool as flying and using drones may be, it is increasingly more complicated as authorities insert themselves. Purchase prices are the least of your concerns. My drone ran a bit north of $1,000 and you can spend $3-10,000 for more professional units. This pales in comparison to shooting photos with a helicopter.

However, if you want to use a drone professionally, to be paid for the images you create, you will need a 333 Exemption. I am currently in this process with assistance from others. Typical of efforts to gain a license or other government approval, the task is tedious at best.

Next you'll need to obtain a pilot's license if you don't already have one. Powered Parachute instructor and Designated Pilot Examiner, Roy Beisswenger, has had a busy summer training pilots who seek to fly drones to, for example, take real estate photos. The fastest way to a Sport Pilot certificate is through powered parachutes, which require only 12 hours (assuming good aptitude).

Now, FAA wants to register drones ... sigh! OK, I'll do it all and perhaps all the regulatory steps will bring order and enhance safety. Certainly, I'll learn a lot. Fortunately, it is quite enjoyable to fly one of these things and the FPV is exceptional. The resulting images are excellent. Watch for some good visuals on this website and in our videos. Drone on ...

BREAKING NEWS - Quicksilver Closing Factory but...
By Dan Johnson, October 20, 2015

Aviation news outlets and social media are buzzing with the news that Quicksilver Aeronautics is closing its factory. For example, Aero-News Net — always a quick reporter of such news — is calling the event a "dissolution." This is not incorrect; it comes directly from a document previously issued by Quicksilver's lawyers (see more below). However, letters from lawyers often portray things in very black and white terms and the situation is somewhat more nuanced than that.

For several years, I have known the principals of the company — Will Escutia and Daniel Perez — and spoke with both of them this morning (Tuesday, October 20th, 2015). What follows is directly from the horse's mouth, as they say.

In any such fluid situation, the news is more difficult to accurately report because not every decision is made. For example, if the company was bankrupt and going completely out of business (which phrase was used by another aviation reporter), the predicament might simply be reported as such. Yet that is not the case according to Quicksilver president, Will Escutia.

"We will not manufacture from our California plant," started Will. "We cannot support the structure of a physical plant in California." Many businesspeople know that running an enterprise in the Western state is very complex, with extensive regulation of even the smallest company. California also presents a very challenging employment environment, where an employee can cost much more than the hourly wage or salary they are being paid.

Quicksilver is also using equipment to manufacture that is increasingly aged. Those tools are fine for the job and anyone who seen a Quicksilver kit can instantly recognize the quality. However, times have changed and older manufacturing hardware has given way to new methods so while dealing with higher cost labor, Quicksilver has to maintain factory implements that demand more attention.

All this became too much to support by the business available. Sales of aircraft, which had been more robust, became insufficient when volume turned down even a small amount.

The official words blessed from company lawyers are succinct, "The international corporation, Flying Spirit Aircraft, that owns the intellectual property rights, is working through third party suppliers to make it possible for customers to continue receiving support including technical support for its SLSA.

"It is contemplated to provide replacement parts through third party companies and based on demand, these third party companies may elect to supply full kits later on. An auction will be held on November 3rd, 2015 to talk with interested parties in Temecula, California."

Dan Perez functioned as COO or General Manager. He recently informed dealers and other insiders, "Running a business that includes a strong manufacturing component is complex. Fixed costs are quite high since we have two buildings, personnel to operate equipment, and engineers to solve problems. We have to pay for maintenance, building insurance, utilities and other overhead." Anyone who has operated any kind of manufacturing plant knows exactly what Dan wrote although private buyers may not recognize the day-to-day difficulties.

"In order to offset these costs, sales of aircraft are needed in addition to the usual replacement parts, otherwise the stress on the business becomes unbearable," Dan continued.

"Although we saw an increase in aircraft sales from 2012 to 2014, 2015 has turned out to be a year with lower demand. Tremendous efforts were placed in order to reduce costs dramatically. However, this has not been enough and therefore a very significant reorganization of the company is underway in order to have a much, much leaner company with much lower fixed costs."

"In 2015, we were operating below breakeven so our debt was increasing," said Will. Instead, he stated, "We plan to follow an outsource model," which he explained means that they are negotiating with third parties, including some very longtime Quicksilver outlets such as Lousiana's Air-Tech. Indeed, Air-Tech principal Gene "Bever" Borne has been associated with Quicksilver aircraft decades longer than the current owners.

"Liquidation became the way to go, so we can do something else," continued Will. "We will liquidate the inventory and tools to pay off debt, but we will continue to work with third parties."

All photos with this article were shot by pro aviation photographer James Lawrence, whom interested parties can contact through his website.
"First, we want to assure availability of parts and components," added Will. It is presently unknown how the company will handle fully-built aircraft. As reported here, Quicksilver won FAA acceptance in July 2014 to make a Special LSA version of their Sport 2S.

While most readers and nearly everyone in aviation knows Van's Aircraft is perhaps the largest seller of kit aircraft (at more than 20,000 delivered, according to last reports), Quicksilver is the kit giant of aviation. More than 15,000 of their kits have been delivered and nearly every one of these is flying all over the world. Van's is nearing the 10,000 mark of completed aircraft. While those RV models are more complex aircraft, the build effort for which is more significant, the fact remains that Quicksilver is aviation's success story regarding kits that are owner flown in large numbers.

However the story unfolds in the weeks and months ahead, I expect Quicksilver aircraft models to continue to fly and to be sold. If owners Escutia and Perez are successful in selling the assets in an auction coming up on November 3rd, Quicksilver manufacturing may go on relatively smoothly. Regardless of the auction outcome, some enterprise or collection of enterprises are certain to continue to make parts and service a fleet of many thousands.

I will keep reporting this news as it develops. Please click back often.

Watch our video interview with longtime Quicksilver national sales representative, Todd Ellefson to see a beautiful GT500 restoration, an example of how these desirable aircraft will continue flying despite the current turmoil.

Racing Down Electric Avenue ... Here Comes Airbus
By Dan Johnson, October 19, 2015

At the recently concluded Palm Springs Expo, a keynote address was provided by George Bye, the man behind the Sun Flyer project that aims to put electric two seaters into flight schools. Pipistrel is already selling into this market with its Electro (video) and while only a small number of aircraft are in use, the race is on for more ... much more.

Airbus made big news back in July when a race developed to see who would cross the English Channel first in an electric powered airplane. Of course, the whole thing was a bit moot because it had been done years before. Longtime electric pioneer Eric Raymond of Sunseeker Duo noted, "It was already done in 1981 by the Solar Challenger, which flew from Paris to London at 14,000 feet. [Famous hang glider pilot and manufacturer Gerard] Thevenot even flew an electric trike across.

Both 2015 flights crossing the English Channel (around 20 miles over water or a bit over 30 as E-Fan flew) seem rather modest compared to the ocean-spanning attempt by Solar Impulse 2.

Airbus' E-Fan 1.0 flew 46 miles to Calais in France in 36 minutes at an altitude of about 3,500 feet. The tandem two-seat E-Fan uses a wingspan of 31 feet that produces a 16:1 glide. Its twin ducted electric motors with variable-pitch propellers are powered by a series of 250-volt lithium-ion polymer batteries. Hugues Duval's miniature airplane, the Cri Cri, beat E-Fan to Calais by about 12 hours. The tiny aircraft has only a 16 foot wingspan lifted by two 35-horsepower Electravia electric motors. Cri Cri flew at 65 mph. According to reports, Duval's Channel crossing took only 17 minutes, which was good as his battery life was said to be 25 minutes. He benefitted from being launched by another airplane (see earlier article).

A third electric Channel-crosser, Pipistrel, was denied a chance to beat them both when electric motor maker, Siemens, suddenly refused to allow the company to fly its motor over water (though one wonders how the motor was supposed to know it was no longer over land where it performed just fine). Here's an earlier article about Pipistrel's WATTsUP, since renamed Electro.

All the corporate race-across-the-Channel drama notwithstanding, the future for electric power has the smell of inevitability, if for no other reason than giant Airbus dropping tens of millions into their development. Why would they make such an investment? Simple: electric airliners are in their future. Airbus stated its goal of creating a 100-passenger electric hybrid planes that could enter service by 2030. I'll discuss that below (also see image).

The advantages of electric propulsion are several, according to Airbus: lower noise that doesn't bother airport neighbors; reduced carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (NOx), and particulate emissions; and, reduced vibration. All three benefit the pilot as well. For example, when I flew the eSpyder, lower noise was more pleasant and made me aware of noises on the ground that I would never have heard with a headset on and a reciprocating engine roaring. Less vibration is also not only a lesser wear factor for airframes but also for engines and the pilot will benefit physiologically. You might not notice reduced emissions as viscerally but cleaner air surely benefits everyone.

Airbus Group plans what they call the "world's first series production electric planes," specifically E-Fan 2.0 and 4.0 aircraft, the latter being a four seater. Work on the new all-electric, battery-powered two-seater pilot training version and the four person hybrid electric motor/combustion engine version will be pursued by Voltair SAS, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Airbus. The two models will be built at a 16,000 square foot facility located at Pau Pyrénées Airport in the southwest of France, sometimes called "Aerospace Valley."

Construction of the E-Fan assembly line is to start next year and a first E-Fan 2.0 should fly in late 2017. Airbus Group committed about $22 million for development of the E-Fan 2.0 production aircraft. They will build to European CS-LSA certification using ASTM standards at a gross weight of under 600 kg (1,320 pounds). So, the two seater will be a Light-Sport Aircraft even if it may not be called that. The hybrid four seat E-Fan 4.0 is targeting 2019.

Spending by jet engine maker Rolls Royce began in 2012 with nearly a billion dollars for metals, composites, vehicle integration, electronics, systems engineering and information technologies. Airbus joins with Rolls Royce and others, all captioned under something called the DEAP project for Distributed Electric Aerospace Propulsion. Their goals include reducing CO2 emissions by 75%, NOx by 90%, and noise by 65% compared to standards in 2000.

As the nearby image shows, the airliner concept involves three ducted fan motors on each side of the fuselage (looking much like the E-Fan's motors though much larger). Such a system will obviously required a far higher level of integration with the airframe than just slinging a high bypass jet engine under the wing. An advanced gas-powered unit would provide power for the six motors buried in the wings. Airbus refers to this a "serial hybrid propulsion system."

Coming back to the present day to the smaller airplanes that fascinate readers of this website (and those who watch our YouTube videos), you might wonder, "Why spend time on projects aimed at 2030 to 2050?" All you need do is consider how giant companies spending many hundreds of millions of dollars can result in developing technologies useful for Light-Sport Aircraft, light kits, and ultralights.

Although we already have electric-powered ultralights that work quite well for single pilots (see short article here and here; a video; or, a full-length article) and while we have emerging LSA that should do duty as flight trainers and local area fun flying, taking bigger strides is necessary for an airline design. Such esoteric ideas as superconducting machines (motors) and cryogenic cooling intended for airline use may be tested on LSA and light GA planes.

While all this sounds rather far-out, a kind of science fiction story, the urgency for lower emitting, quieter airliners, and what will surely be escalating fuel costs may drive some interesting concepts that small airplane makers can use.

Small companies can be very nimble and may more quickly employ ideas behemoth companies like Airbus and Rolls Royce can't put into use for years. I can't fully imagine where this electric future leads us but electric power for aircraft is certainly coming.

Flying a Sling Taildragger in America
By Dan Johnson, October 13, 2015

Light-Sport Aircraft comprise an diverse gaggle of some beautiful airplanes. Choices are available in a dizzying array of configurations and variations. In fact, so many selections are available to you (as Special LSA) that I created PlaneFinder 2.0 to help folks narrow the decision to a few that might best suit your needs, interests, experience, and budget.

If you haven't checked out this cool feature, you should do so. You can click on and off more than 20 different aircraft characteristics, all simple yes-or-no type entries. As you do so, the "Matching List" changes to show the aircraft that meet your criteria. From that list you'll see links that let you read more content (written and video) available on this website. You must register to use PlaneFinder 2.0 (your email is all that is required and after you do so we'll send you a regular English-word password that you can change), however, PlaneFinder 2.0 is completely free, like most of our content. Go have fun!

Many LSA are available as nose wheel, tricycle gear airplanes. Some are taildraggers. Some go both ways. If you're not sure about your ability to fly a taildragger I have two things to say: (1) LSA taildraggers are not that challenging to fly for a variety of reasons (some of which I'll mention below), and, (2) taildraggers look so cool.

So, I don't know about you but when I heard about the Sling taildragger I almost started an involuntary Pavlovian drool. I've enjoyed flying Sling in nosedragger form — see this article — but, ooh la la, a taildragger ... now that get's my blood flowing freely.

"I flew about 20 hours in the Taildragger while it was here [at our Torrence, California facility]," said U.S. importer Matt Litnaitzky of The Airplane Factory USA. He also reported flying a few more hours in South Africa a year ago. The Airplane Factory is a South African producer of Sling, Sling 4 — their four seater — and who knows what else might be coming from this hard-working manufacturer.

"The Sling Taildragger is almost identical to the regular [tricycle gear] Sling LSA, save for the landing gear configuration," Matt continued. "It features dual toe brakes, whereas the tricycle version is delivered standard with direct steered nosewheel and hand-operated brake."

As a taildragger, differential braking such as with toe brakes, is important to allow better ramp maneuverability. However this introduces the potential for the dreaded ground loop. So, let me address this for a few lines.

For those that may be new to taildraggers, a ground loop is not really a "loop" in the common aeronautical use of that word. It means that, due to the mass of aircraft aft of the main gear, should the pilot let the tail end move too far toward either side with some element of momentum in that movement, the tail can come more aggressively to the side.

With a high wing or low, a sideways moving tail can cause a wing tip to strike the ground, whether somewhat gently or more forcefully. When a wingtip located far from the aircraft center of mass drags on the ground, leverage causes even more movement the wrong way and that can result in quite a twirl on the ground ... the "ground loop."

Usually the damage is not too significant and it is the pilot's ego that is more seriously wounded. However, with enough force and speed involved, it can be quite a bit worse. Being relatively light aircraft usually landing at fairly slow speeds, and often having a lower deck angle — meaning the nose is not particularly high compared to the horizontal — LSA ground loops are much less likely and not as much bad stuff happens when one occurs.

The solution, instilled by a quality taildragger checkout from a knowledgeable instructor or experienced pilot, often involves what is called "happy feet." If you keep your feet moving on the rudder pedals — using a series of small regular movements, to prevent the tail from getting too far to one side or the other — the ground loop is easily avoided. On something like a DC-3 this is a very big deal. On most LSA, it simply shouldn't dissuade you from trying a taildragger. Did I mention they look SO cool?

Until I can fly Sling taildragger, I'm happy to pass along Matt's further comments.

"During taxi, the Sling Taildragger provides sufficient visibility down the runway to see straight ahead without S-turning," said Matt. He elaborated, "The gear geometry is such that when the tail comes up on the takeoff roll, the aircraft remains extremely steady on the runway, with very little steering input required.

"In flight she shares the same light control harmony that the standard Sling has, since it is the same airplane. Three-point landings are a breeze in the Sling Taildragger and control is easily maintained on the rollout.

"The Sling LSA Taildragger [sells for] approximately the same price as the Sling LSA (starting at $135,000), but the gorgeous lines of the Sling are accentuated by the aggressive nose-up stance on the ground.

All photos with this article were captured by photographer Evan Byrne, whom interested parties can contact at his aerial photography web address. Thanks, Evan!

Tomorrow (Starting Today) Is Huge for Ultralights
By Dan Johnson, October 9, 2015

It's already tomorrow (Saturday, October 10th) somewhere. Here in the USA, I write this on Friday the 9th, and tomorrow in America is going to be big, big day for small aircraft owners. As Facebook juggernaut, Paul Lindamood has promoted with multiple Facebook posts per day for weeks, it is nearly time for WUFI ... the World Ultralight Fly-in. Actually, that time is now! Whoo hoo!

Since most ultralights are relatively slow flying, sub-87 knot, airplanes (and that's a good or great thing say enthusiasts including yours truly), it isn't practical to gather perhaps thousands of ultralights at a single field to fly them all at once. Nor would trying be safe. Yet in the age of social media and Internet communication, it is possible to request that thousands of ultralight owners around the globe prepare their flying machines and get them into the air on the same day. Could it be a record-setting event? Maybe.

Tomorrow is already underway on the other side of the International Date Line, so as Hammed Malik of Kilcoy, Australia shows in the nearby photo, he's already aloft on October 10th. He may be one of the first but this is going to occur again and again over the next 36 hours or so as the planet spins around to face the sun at different times, thanks to the tireless effort of Paul and his social media flying compatriots.

As the sponsoring Dayton (Ohio) Ultralight group advised earlier, "Ultralight enthusiasts anywhere on the planet are invited, including any aircraft considered an 'ultralight' — aircraft such as fixed wing ultralights, powered parachutes, weight shift trikes, powered paragliders, hang gliders, or, "any imaginative, magnificent flying machine."

If you have an ultralight and want to get in on the action — and possibly help WUFI make it into the Guinness Book of Records — post your photo to the group's Facebook page.

Casey Moseley said his airplane is prepped and ready to join the fun on October 10th.
As you can see on the worldwide map below, a large number of pilots have indicated they will join the airborne party and hopefully even more will choose to act as the deadline draws near. The more the merrier ... and the more likely of earning a place in the record book.

Nonetheless, one important message came from Jim Konst, who wrote on the Facebook page, "Some of us have not flown recently, but now have a deadline. Some of us will have iffy weather, but will fly anyway. Keep in mind that your flight does not have to be an epic cross country. You have to leave the ground and take a picture. That is all. I imagine gusts and crosswinds will be our biggest challenge. We all know how to fly, we all know when to fly, and we all need to remember when to stand down. Be safe."

Having often flown "for the camera" myself, I add my memory of a few close encounters to Jim's advice to be careful. This idea here is to fly for fun and, Guinness record or not, make sure you only fly if the situation is safe and you and your magnificent flying machine are fully ready for the flight! Then ... go have a ball!

Continental's Titan Engine to Power Vickers Wave
By Dan Johnson, October 6, 2015

Big power is not just for LSA taildraggers anymore. A few years back, CubCrafters surprised the LSA world with its installation of the most powerful engine in the LSA space. The western U.S. company mounted a Titan engine from ECi making the modest Cub-like airframe perform far better than the old versions from the Piper company.

At the time, this potent powerplant raised eyebrows for two reasons.

First, it seemed an excess of power for the then-new lightweight class of airplanes FAA had just regulated into existence. Most had been using one of the 9-series engines from Rotax, which in some cases was itself a move up from a two-stroke Rotax 582 providing 65 horsepower. CubCrafters limited power after takeoff to maneuver within the regs, though, honestly, who would continue using so much power in cruise or while sight seeing?

Secondly, the Cub-style airframe is already near the upper LSA empty weight calculation so CubCrafters' engineers had to add many costly carbon fiber elements to keep the empty weight low enough to fit in the class. Compared to the Rotax 912, Titan beefy engine adds considerable weight so the airframe diet represented considerable work. All the handsome carbon fiber also boosted the price of the CarbonCub to breathtaking levels.

Nonetheless, the company made it work so well that they have set the pace for airplane deliveries in the LSA space for several years. Since they broke the mold, however, other companies such as American Legend and Zlin have installed the engine to offer essentially the same performance characteristics ... and they've been able to push the price down to levels ByDanJohnson.com readers are more likely to embrace.

However, one strongly emerging class of airplane is the LSA seaplane, and you might think that this higher-empty-group of designs could benefit from more power. Indeed, Rotax recently announced their new 915 model (video) offering 135 horsepower. Given the Austrian company's vast global network and overwhelming market acceptance, the 915 seems destined to be a success story.

However, 915 won't arrive on the market until 2017, the company detailed at their Oshkosh press conference. In the meantime, another LSA seaplane has seen an opportunity.

In May 2015, Continental Motors Group, a division of China aviation giant, AVIC, announced it purchased all the asset of Engine Components International, or ECi, maker of the Titan engine and other engine parts. Simply put, the Titan 300-series is now part of Continental Motors, giving the powerplant added funding and a massive international network. The acquisition gives Continental a strong foothold in the experimental market via ECi's Titan line of engines, which includes the X320, X340 and X370 models, which, interestingly, are all based on Lycoming type designs.

In our video below (or click here) ECi's Miguel Soto tells you more about the Titan engine used by Vickers.

Vickers is completing all component elements including the CNC bullet sump (top) and tooling for the fuselage.
I've followed and written about Vickers Aircraft's coming Wave here and here. Along with Icon and MVP.aero, Wave appears to be a third generation design in the 11-year-old LSA world. All three models have superb design ideas — each different in their own ways — and represent state-of-the-art creations among Light-Sport Aircraft.

With a new announcement, Wave is increasing the ante significantly.

On September 29th, 2015 Continental Motors announced that Vickers Aircraft has selected their Titan IO-340CC to power its Wave amphibian. "We are extremely proud to have been selected as the engine provider for Vickers' Wave. [They] needed a real aviation engine that offered more than the traditional four cylinder motors available on the market," said Johnny Doo, executive vice-president of marketing and sales for Continental.

"The Titan engine offers a unique combination of power, low weight, and modern technology accessories (fuel injection, ignition system, light weight starter and powerful alternator)," added Mr. Doo. "It is easily integrated with ... the Dynon Skyview [that] will display all engine parameters and allow pilots to manage their engine."

Wave designer Paul Vickers elaborated, "Titan is a modern engine ... and has a stellar track record regarding reliability. Now backed by Continental Motors, we benefit from the financial stability ... and from their powerplant expertise. We looked at all the solutions available and found that Titan was able to deliver on all the subjects that really matter to us.

"The weight characteristics of the Titan IO-340CC were another factor that drove our decision," continued Paul. "The weight savings are enough to allow us to comply with the LSA ASTM standards without compromising reliability or safety. The use of magnesium alloys in certain parts brings weight savings of 20% compared to the original configuration. In addition, the whole Continental Motors team sees the potential and shares the vision for our aircraft and is backing us 100%, and for this I am very appreciative," he added.

Going Aloft in Paradise Aircraft's New P1NG
By Dan Johnson, October 3, 2015

Yes, they call it "Ping" among themselves but it is actually P1 NG, as in Next Generation. "Ping" has a few American user-friendly changes from the earlier P1 brought about by comments from U.S. representatives of the Brazilian design.

I'll get into the aircraft changes in a moment but first let me remind you what Paradise Aircraft has done. The brand is well established in the southern hemisphere country where they manufacture a line of two and four seat aircraft. These designs have found favor with Brazilian farmers some of whom operate vast operations that are distant from the population areas so they use aircraft to manage their enterprises.

If you've followed the news, you may know the natural-resources-rich Brazil has experienced an economic decline as commodity prices have fallen, driven heavily by China's pullback on those purchases while its economy cools. The government of Brazil did not keep up with the changing times and current president Dilma Rousseff is suffering from very low approval ratings. I discuss this not to review geopolitics but to help explain why companies like Paradise chose to set up shop at the Sebring airport in Florida.

During 2014 Paradise investigated opportunities around central Florida, looking at facilities at the Sun 'n Fun airport in Lakeland and at the Sebring airport. Like Tecnam, they settled on the latter, joining longtime Sebring resident, Lockwood Aircraft Supply and their AirCam kit manufacturing operations.

After announcing this decision in January 2015 and moving some initial aircraft to Sebring, things went quiet. At a local EAA chapter meeting at my home airport of Spruce Creek (7FL6), I was asked by a couple about Paradise and why no more news was forthcoming. A call to main U.S. representative Bert Motoyama ended up producing a visit with a chance to fly the newest model, P1NG.

Bert and his associate Randy "RW" Burnley flew up and, over coffee, explained that they had to prove their operation to FAA before they could proceed which overall effort took more time than anticipated. The reason relates to the planned assembly of Brazilian fabricated aircraft. As Sebring will substantially participate in the manufacturing effort, FAA regarded the operation as a "remote manufacturer" resulting in a more detailed examination. Bert and RW prepared carefully and successfully passed the review.

Because of a punishing 35% export tax, Paradise will send airframes which the Sebring group will complete. They'll add many components including the engine as less value shipped from Brazil lowers their tax bill. This makes sense and it is also efficient to source many American parts in-country rather than ship them back and forth.

After the business discussion, RW invited me to go fly with him and I jumped at the chance. It's been a few years since I flew the earlier Paradise P1 and I anticipating renewing the experience. Our video below (or click here) discusses some of the changes.

Let's start with entry to P1NG, which is much easier. Why? Although not particularly visible, Paradise extensively redesigned P1. Noe and his engineers made the door four inches taller and six inches wider (front to rear). Though you still need to duck your head a bit on entry, just like most other high wing airplanes, the less flexible among us will find it much easier to get in P1NG.

The door windows are no longer shaped with a teardrop cut-out, but the overall window area is larger, aiding visibility. The plexiglass is also bowed or bubbled out to give more room inside.

Paradise has always had a quality interior finish, but P1NG is even more polished with an automobile-like interior. What dominates your view, though, is the dual yokes. While most LSA elect joysticks (that many of us admittedly like), yokes are the most common control in aviation, which may ease the transition of Cessna and Piper pilots to Light-Sport. Some argue you have more lateral control with a yoke than with a joystick that can bump into your legs on full deflection.

"RW" Burnley points to changes in the door window and showed how the larger door aids entry and exit.
The interior is roomy up front, but it's the aft cabin that sets P1NG apart from most other aircraft, somewhat resembling the volume of a Jabiru, and for the same reason: this airframe can be a four seater in its native country.

Paradise has long supported a model with hand controls and Bert said such a version of P1NG is on its way. The large aft area could carry a wheelchair with ease, after assuring proper anchoring and weight and balance loading.

P1NG flies as good or better than the original, which is to say very well. Refreshing my experience recalled the Paradise flies much like a Cessna 150 except with better performance. It felt very solid with responsive yet cooperative handling to which any Cessna pilot will adapt almost immediately. It takes off and lands predictably like the discontinued model from the Wichita giant.

Stalls occurred at almost ridiculously low speeds, in the high 30s power on or down into the 20s power off, at which speeds ASIs become notoriously suspect. When the airplane stalled, one wing dipped ever-so-slightly and recovery was almost immediate even without adding power.

You can see and hear more about P1NG in our video below but suffice it to say that Paradise has lost none of its original appeal and has gained in several worthy ways. With the U.S. operation getting up to speed, I predict we'll again start seeing more "Pings" in the air. I'll be keeping my eye on this company for you.

Video Pilot Report: Icon Aircraft A5 LSA Seaplane
By Dan Johnson, September 29, 2015

Icon has come a long way since it was first announced but the finished product is a roaring success at design, brilliantly aimed at its target market of new or returning pilots.
The Video Pilot Report below may be one of the most anticipated VPRs my video partner Dave and I have produced. I did the flying at AirVenture Oshkosh 2015 on Lake Winnebago in late July, but because Icon preferred to provide the video footage, it has taken some weeks to put it all together.

Production of one of these VPRs is a two-part effort. First, I invested some time to get to where Icon did their demo flying (away from all the other flying locations associated with Oshkosh). Weather and the company's desire to take aloft a reported 150 of their waiting owners forced a couple schedule changes. Since returning home, we worked with several helpful folks at Icon to assemble all the right video pieces. Finally, Dave invested many hours editing what you see below (or here).

Our video should show you most of what you want to see about this impressive LSA including water takeoffs and landings, in-flight maneuvering, stalls (such as they are), low flying over the water, and the interior of the airplane including Icon's highly emphasized Angle of Attack indicator. At times, the audio is a bit abrupt because the noise-canceling quality of the connection stopped when we were not talking yet I think you'll find lots to like in the 25-minute video.

Call it the Quintuple Crown of aviation marketing, capturing five magazine covers in the same month. Think about what that took to achieve.
Thanks to their very professional marketing and shrewd planning, Icon Aircraft grabbed the golden ring, capturing no less than five of aviation's top magazine covers in the same month. I've been in aviation longer than I care to admit and I don't believe I've ever seen that. It is the airplane equivalent of winning horse-racing's Triple Crown. Icon has since been flying a number of journalists from non-aviation publications.

If you read those pilot reports in print magazines, you observed that every author gave glowing reviews. Were those writers swayed by Icon's superb media handling or is A5 that good? It's a valid question. After I returned from my flight more than one person hearing my complimentary assessment said, "Aw, you just drank the Icon Kool-Aid."

You can believe I succumbed to the Icon "reality distortion field" (a phrase attributed to another great marketer, Steve Jobs) but I have overwhelmingly good things to say about A5. The LSA is artistically achieved, flies well, is comfortable, and oozes outdoor sports sex appeal. They nailed the stall characteristics that can confound new pilots, who have been the company's primary target since I first met CEO Kirk Hawkins while on the EAA Sport Pilot Tour back in 2005 ... a time when he remembers being "just one guy with a business card."

A5's interior looks like a luxury car, by very explicit design. Remember, they hope to appeal to non-pilots thus a more familiar (and handsome) interior was needed.
After my flight and before returning to Wittman Regional Airport, I sat for nearly an hour in TJ's restaurant where Icon did their demo flying so I could type notes on my iPad. What appears below are some of the balancing remarks.

I flew with Craig Bowers, an ex-military jet jock. His military training showed in various ways (as you might notice on the video below) but that background gave him a solid grounding in the use of an AoA indicator. The instrument is widely used on fighter aircraft. I have deep respect for AoAs, and Icon has done a lot to increase pilot awareness of it. However, most recreational or GA pilots are not used to flying with one and it takes some relearning. You'll hear Craig often refer to "on-angle white." This is AoA talk and perhaps the best thing I can recommend is for you to watch the AoA — the uppermost instrument in front of the pilot — as we maneuvered. While AoA use may not be automatic for pilots used to keeping a sharp eye on airspeed, most will quickly adapt to the Icon AoA presentation. I've often used the AoA indicator in Dynon's SkyView instrument — this can be added for very modest hardware cost — but I don't find their implementation as informative. Like others, they use a series of colored lines and chevrons where Icon's simple analog wing-airfoil needle is much clearer in my opinion.

A5 handling is very predictable and reassuring. I'd call it about as good as it gets for a student pilot, or for that matter, for most of us. Those of you who love aerobatics or seek feather-light handling with snappy response might be less satisfied. Icon has repeatedly said they seek those two million Americans who got their Student Pilot certificate and then abandoned the pursuit, perhaps as life got complicated for them. I sincerely hope Icon can sell every one of them an A5 and I wholeheartedly applaud the effort to go after that largely-ignored market. A5 handling should suit all returning students.

In addition to their engineering staff, Icon retained Adam Morrison of Streamline Design to consult on meeting ASTM standards, about which Morrison is an international expert. A tribute to their engineering staff and Streamline, Icon easily passed FAA audit in June 2015.
As you heard in the video, I'd prefer an altimeter better suited to seaplane flying, which is commonly done at low altitudes. The installed single pointer model moves only about one centimeter for 1,000 feet; we never went above that altitude in 25 minutes of flying. I'd also like a more tactile trim button. The installed one slid fore and aft and you had to check an indicator to know where it was set. Finally among my few gripes, a forward-opening canopy can be difficult to escape in an upset although open side windows would allow egress for determined occupants. Of course, such a problem is remedied by not forgetting to have the gear retracted on water landings. One downside of open windows — which I otherwise loved immensely — came in the rough water conditions of the day. I got doused good once when we caught a wave. Fortunately, the iPhone I had belt-clipped on the outside survived the soaking.

Some pilots yearn for the fastest airplane they can fly without a Medical and they benefit from numerous LSA choices that can hit the 120-knot (138 mph) speed limit. Icon's A5 is not one of them. A few speeds for you — cruise is 85-95 knots with what I'd call a relaxed cruise at 75-85; maximum speed (or Vh) is listed in the brochure at 95 knots or 109 mph; stall comes at 39 knots with full flaps and 45 clean. We cruised the shoreline at low altitude at 70 knots at 4500 rpm at which power setting the Rotax 912 iS burns around 3-3.5 gph. As you hear on the video, sink rate with the prop windmilling in a stalled configuration is about 900 fpm; although it would be a very firm touchdown, this is slower than the descent rate under parachute.

Come on along for our Video Pilot Report on A5, appearing just below. Before the engine even started I was already smiling. So might you.
Speaking of the latter, Icon's brochure states, "Due to Icon's exemption to the U.S. LSA weight limit ... the Icon Complete Airplane Parachute is mandatory for U.S.-registered A5 aircraft. Complete Airplane Parachute pricing is not included in the estimated price." The comment brings up the last gripe I'll offer. Any seaplane costs more than a comparable land plane. Modestly priced models like Searey or Super Petrel run $150,000 or so, already beyond many budgets. Icon with a parachute and popular options will run well over $200,000 in 2015 dollars.

Here's a few more stats — Icon said useful load is 430-550 pounds. With, say, 15 gallons of fuel, you'll have 340-460 pounds of payload. A5's baggage area can hold 60 pounds. Craig believed we flew at an empty weight of 1,075 pounds, which included four Go-Pro cameras and their mounts but an unstated amount of fuel.

In closing, I would give Icon an A-minus grade. A5 is imaginatively designed and should satisfy a large percentage of pilots or wannabes. No airplane ever designed is perfect for every buyer and neither is A5. Yet had I worked to create this flying machine I would, rightly so, be immensely proud of my achievement. I salute Team Icon's effort and wish them the best as they ramp up production to meet a record-setting order book of some 1,500 deposits.

Cleaning Your Flying Machine Without Damaging It
By Dan Johnson, September 27, 2015

Who doesn't want their favorite aircraft (or car or boat) to look all shiny and clean?
I know you like reading about aircraft. I like writing about them (and doing videos about them ... more on that soon with a very special one in final editing right now).

However, most pilots also like their airplanes to be all clean and shiny. Well, they don't get that way without effort and without the right products. The truth is, you can use the wrong cleaners on some aircraft components and it could cost you much more than you care to consider.

So, for your weekend reading, let me tell you about a couple cleaning product companies I'm glad are in the business. Welcome to Composiclean and iCloth Avionics.

Bucket Wash is one of Composiclean's primary products.
Composiclean's Ken Godin said, "[I saw] a lot of people doing damage to their airplanes using harsh products. I thought I should fix that." In the process, Ken realized he had the makings of a business that would cater to enthusiasts of any vehicle that involved composite materials.

Maria Devins is Composiclean's VP of Sales & Marketing. She noted, "The products work great on anything: planes, cars, motorcycles, and boats ... whatever you ride, drive or fly. [Our] repeat customers say it's the best stuff they've ever used."

Composiclean has been in business for almost ten years and recently scored a major success. "We have been working with strategically located dealers and our own company website ... but it's time for mass distribution," Maria said, "We are excited for the opportunity to work with a large and established distribution company as Wing Aero."

Wing Aero focuses significantly on training items but has branched out in some other directions, now including cleaning products. As a flight instructor many years back, I recall asking the occasional student to go clean up after a flight that cause the loss of lunch, making a mess of the cockpit. We didn't have the Right Cleaning Stuff in those early days but both myself and the humbled student probably wished we had.

Composiclean has some other worthy products, like the non-adhesive, stick-on solar screens you can attach anywhere or the squeegee that I see so many airshow vendors use on their showplanes; the squeegee expands to 22 inches of wipe, handy for removing morning dew.
Wing Aero national sales manager Jonathan Folds said, "We've been supplying FBOs and the general aviation industry for 29 years. We provide easy access to aviation training materials for both flight and maintenance programs, accessories, charts and now we've added Composiclean products." He added a company endorsement, "Composiclean products are wonderful. We use them ourselves."

Another product I have tried out myself is iCloth. (Yeah, big old Apple certainly has made "iThings" a part of the language, hasn't it?) Despite the me-too name, this product has much to recommend it.

According to GA flat screen provider Aspen Avionics, "Using any chemical or material other than isopropyl alcohol will void the product warranty." Whoa! That's a rather serious warning.

Avoid putting your costly touchscreen avionics at risk by cleaning them with harsh products.
Indeed, look at the nearby image. iCloth Avionics said "Someone hit this Garmin GNS430 with a harsh chemical. A factory bill will approach $1,000." On top of that, it doesn't even look clean. I'll bet that was a bummer, so take a word from the wiser. About their individually-wrapped, no-drip, no-mess wipes, iCloth said, "[Our product] does not contain damaging NPEs, ethyl alcohol, silicone or ammonia." They go on to report their mini wipes are used on aircraft built by Airbus, Boeing, Embraer, and Bombardier.

If it's good enough for airplanes costing many millions of dollars, I guess it follows that you should consider iCloth for your Dynon, Garmin, MGL, and other digital screens.

I've also found they work well on my new Honda Odyssey that has multiple touch screens, cleaning them beautifully with no damage. Plus I've tried them on my Apple iDevices (iPad, iPhone, Mac) without any mishaps.

Everyone likes a clean machine. Get the right (cleaning) stuff from Composiclean or iCloth and you'll be safer and all your flying buddies will be so impressed with your machine's shine.

American Legend Running On All (3?) Cylinders
By Dan Johnson, September 24, 2015

Under wraps at the start of AirVenture Oshkosh 2015, Superior and Legend surprised many with their rapid installation of the new offering.
We see and hear a continuing focus on electric airplanes including here at one of your (I hope) favorite websites. We'll continue to hear more about electric but the whirring motors are not the only innovation in powerplants. In true, another project with a completely different sound may be more meaningful in the short term and that statement is even more true outside the United States.

As our Sun 'n Fun 2015 video shows, we have been following Superior Air Parts new Gemini Diesel 100 engine. The latest news in this development is a launch installation on an American Legend Aircraft Company airframe shown at AirVenture Oshkosh 2015 just three months after its debut. The two companies, both from Texas, parlayed their close proximity to one another to get the install done in a short time.

Recently Legend announced they would start making the diesel available to customers. My expectations are that such an engine will especially help Legend's out-of-USA sales because in many part of the world avgas is hard to find at any price but diesels are good at burning many fuels, some of which will much more available. As Legend has ASTM approval, they can sell in a number of countries. Superior has announced they are pursuing ASTM approval for Gemini.

Darin Hart (L), of American Legend speaks with Scott Hays of Superior in our video interview.
The Sulphur Springs, Texas company announced, "We began offering a 100-horsepower Gemini Diesel engine as a factory option on the Legend Cub. The new Gemini Diesel 100 from Superior Air Parts is a high-torque, highly efficient powerplant. Mounted on the Legend Cub, the Gemini Diesel offers numerous benefits never before available to Cub operators."

American Legend observed that Gemini Diesel can run on a variety of available fuels including Jet A, diesel, and bio-diesel. "While many see diesel as the future of aviation," Legend said, "it is indeed a nearly universal and increasingly available fuel today. The Diesel-Cub combination bodes to be an extremely popular option for Legend Cub buyers and in a growing number of locations worldwide."

Superior Air Parts is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Superior Aviation Group, a leading manufacturer of FAA approved aftermarket replacement parts for Lycoming and Continental aircraft engines. The company sells a line of traditional engines often used on homebuilt aircraft. The diesel, derived from a British design, is a new foray for the experienced company.

Gemini Diesel was installed on an American Legend airframe barely three months after its debut.
Superior's Gemini 100 uniflow diesel is a distinctive design employing six pistons in a horizontally-opposed arrangement of three cylinders functioning with a two-stroke operation. "Compared to same-class avgas engines, the Gemini is lighter in weight, yet higher in torque at lower RPM," said Legend. They also believe maintenance and reliability are eased because Gemini 100 boasts fewer moving parts, like most diesels.

"At an installed weight of just under 200 pounds," Legend continued, "the Gemini Diesel is expected to deliver aircraft performance numbers comparable to the Continental O-200-powered Legend Cub." However, they note, "Gemini Diesel will produce greener operations with greater fuel efficiency." Reportedly, Gemini outputs much lower emissions, and delivers up to 20-percent lower fuel burn than avgas piston engines of comparable power."

The Sulphur Springs, Texas company has built an impressive line of Cub-like aircraft, available as Special LSA or kits.
The Gemini Diesel option on the Legend Cub will be particularly appealing to owners who operate in remote locations and in parts of the world where 100LL avgas is expensive or difficult to find. "The Gemini Diesel option will really expand the reach of Legend Cub pilots," stated Darin Hart, president of American Legend Aircraft Company.

In summary, the Gemini Diesel 100 engine advantages include:

  • High power-to-weight ratio
  • Higher engine torque at lower RPM
  • Highly efficient, two-stroke diesel power
  • Up to 20% lower fuel burn than conventional engines
  • Runs on Jet A, a global fuel solution with better availability, quality, consistency and pricing
  • Greener operations with lower emissions
  • Extended range on less fuel
  • Mechanically simpler design, with fewer moving parts
  • Available as a Legend Cub factory engine option

Hear an interview with American Legend boss Darin Hart and Superior Air Parts VP Scott Hays in one of our newest videos:

The Age of YouTube & Video Pilot Reports
By Dan Johnson, September 18, 2015

Videoman Dave almost literally bending over backwards as he checks the Garmin VIRB camera on the SkyReach BushCat.
When this website went live a few months before the Sport Pilot & Light-Sport Aircraft rule was announced at Oshkosh 2004, it began life as an archive of several hundred pilot reports I had written for a number of print magazines in aviation. That launch seems a long time ago ... it has been eleven and a half years. (Development started only a few years after the World Wide Web emerged and ByDanJohnson.com went live in April 2004.)

One year after going live, I began to add news via a blog, which I called "Splog," for Sport Pilot web log. Videos started in 2008 and by 2015, news and video have become the primary content items.

You might be surprised to hear ByDanJohnson.com predates YouTube, which began when three former PayPal employees created a video-sharing website. The Internet domain name YouTube.com was activated on February 14, 2005 and the website went public in November of that same year. Google subsequently bought it but even Google is only 17 years old; it went live on September 4th, 1998. New as it is in the world of aviation the SP/LSA rule is actually a couple months older than YouTube. I don't know about you but I find that rather amazing.

Ron Waechter poses beside his "Ferrari Red" Aerotrek as used for the VPR.
For about seven years, Videoman Dave and I have been making 5-10 minute videos about Light-Sport Aircraft, light kit aircraft, ultralights, and light GA aircraft. We have partnered on more than 400 of these and many more are coming. See most of them here, organized for easier location, or find all of Dave's 1,000+ videos on his YouTube channel. Some of these are approaching one million views and the group generates more than 1.5 million minutes of viewing every month.

Along the way we began to make what we now call Video Pilot Reports or VPRs. In the age of YouTube, this is the equivalent of detailed pilot reports or aircraft reviews I used to write for several aviation magazines. I find it exciting to return to the roots of this website albeit in the electronic form that dominates culture today. The videos are watched around the globe although I regret my Chinese readers cannot currently view these YouTube-hosted videos; perhaps things will change in that fast-evolving country.

Making VPRs is significantly more work than doing the interviews that make up the bulk of our video library. These are longer videos, up to 30 minutes or so, sometimes broken into two parts.

We look over the shoulder of SportairUSA's Bill Canino while flying the 180-horsepower Zlin Outback. Note the very light camping gear in the foreground; it all packs down small for bush duty.
As we work on these videos, we are attracted to locations like Mt. Vernon, home to the Mid-West LSA Expo. We like the airport run by the very capable and popular Chris Collins as it is far easier to achieve these video productions. The airplanes are readily available and — after we've found camera locations and mounted them — we can in literally five minutes or less climb on board and be in the air. No other event, with the possible exception of Sebring, offers such swift access to the runway. Also, the airport itself is large and wide open and the surrounding area is accessible for in-flight maneuvering without having to stray too far away. That is hugely valuable.

The work effort begins as we mount a number of cameras. We use up to seven Garmin VIRB cameras plus Dave uses his larger camera to shoot takeoffs and landings from the ground. To provide many views, VIRBs are mounted outside in multiple locations and we use three or more inside, two of which capture audio from our cockpit communications. The effort is broken into three segments.

Shot on the ground before entering the cockpit we cover ... How and where the airplane is built, its construction and materials, the powerplant, gear, canopy, and other major or distinctive features. We present a basic description and may compare the subject to other aircraft.

Onboard the "see-through" Aeroprakt A-22 with U.S importer, Dennis Long.
After entering the cockpit, we cover such "human factors" as entry, cockpit layout, visibility, seats and rudder pedal adjustment, ventilation, instrumentation, switches, and control systems along with any special characteristics of the subject aircraft.

Finally, we roll out to the runway and go aloft for a 30-60 minute flight exploring taxi, ground steering and braking, takeoff techniques and measurement, evaluate initial and en route climb. We will do a full regimen of stalls including power-off or landing approach stalls, power-on or departure stalls, and accelerated or stalls in turns. We will evaluate handling qualities in dutch roll coordination exercises, do steep turns, turns-over-a-road, aileron- or rudder-only turning, and high and slow speed handling. We will measure high and low speeds and finally return to the airport for some landings, attempting to investigate (if conditions permit) normal, short, and soft field techniques with flap use and slipping as recommended.

So, VPRs have become a valuable part of this website and the enterprise of Videoman Dave. I leave you with this thought: Every minute of the day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week ... 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube. We are pleased to be part of that tsunami of content and hope you continue to watch and enjoy. As the Frito Lay company used to advertise about their Dorito-brand snack chips ... Consume all you want. "We'll make more." Even better than Doritos, all our videos are free.

In October Dave and I are traveling to the Flying Aviation Expo in Palm Springs, California and immediately afterward to the Copperstate show south of Phoenix where we will add many more videos to the library.

We offer our videos for free but they are definitely not free to make. Your support of Dave's YouTube channel and this website are essential if we are to keep making more.

SLSA N-Number Registrations in First Half 2015
By Dan Johnson, September 9, 2015

The U.S. market for Special Light-Sport Aircraft continues to grow at steady pace, modestly better than the trend for single engine piston certified aircraft as reported by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association for the first half of 2015.

SLSA deliveries in the half-year period totaled 97 units, with 91 of those coming from 15 manufacturers, showing that the famous 80/20 rule still generally applies ... more than 80% of the market is supplied by less than 20% of the builders. It also implies the majority of those companies who previously earned FAA acceptance for their LSA models are either quite slow or inactive in the U.S. market.

We'd prefer to describe vigorous growth but the so-named Great Recession seems to be lingering on; at least it appears the much-talked-about recovery has left most of aviation still looking for improved business. Evidence of a still-troubled global economy is even clearer when you consider the wild stock market gyrations of recent weeks.

Even while some sectors and companies continue to struggle, some are more successful. In this first half 2015 LSA market share report, we'll hit some highlights and save a more detailed analysis for the full 2015 year report early next year.

One LSA businessman asked, "I know some companies out there may be claiming [many sales]." Yet other than Icon — and previously Cessna — I have never heard of any company that claimed to have sold large numbers of airplanes. Most of the more successful producers have moved steadily forward without any big leap in sales.

The laborious research done so faithfully by my friend and LAMA Europe business associate, Jan Fridrich, allows me to report first half 2015 numbers. Jan's study of FAA's N-Number registration database shows four companies with decent results. Of course, "decent" is a relative term. If you compare airplane sales — at any level from hang gliders to bizjets — to automobile sales or smartphone deliveries, the numbers look microscopic. Remember, the entire world has somewhere over one million pilots and only one in four of them might own an airplane bought any time in the last quarter to half century. Building airplanes is not a volume business and aircraft production is probably closer to that of exotic supercar manufacturers. One hundred sales in a year is a great performance and very, very few companies hit or exceed that.

Pipistrel's long-winged Sinus did quite well during the first half of 2015.
Special LSA registrations are running almost identical to 2014's figures. This can be viewed positively in the sense that it is better than GAMA's reported 12% decline for the first half of 2015. Regretfully, both sets of numbers show continued softness in aviation, whether general or sport/recreational.

Figures for the LSA industry appear to be about a quarter of GAMA's Single Engine Piston category that compares most accurately with SLSA registrations. However, as I've often observed, the U.S. market is by far the largest for general aviation airplanes where sport and recreational sell better outside the USA. When you consider the rest of the world, LSA or LSA-type aircraft may sell two to three times the number of certified aircraft sold in America. Unfortunately, widely differing national systems make it very difficult to count aircraft in other countries. We prefer to report solid information rather than guesstimates even if it makes the industry look smaller than it is. For a look at global figures see this article and this one, which was updated here.

Our numbers also reflect only fully manufactured LSA as those are the only aircraft we can reliably count when researching FAA's registration database, regretfully omitting weight shift, powered parachutes, motorgliders, and of course, gyroplanes. Nonetheless, we do have some valid information for ELSA (at least for the most recognizable companies, such as Van's Aircraft). Adding known ELSA and those Experimental Amateur Built models boosts the total.

Florida-based Progressive Aerodyne is surging in sales since winning SLSA acceptance. They have also cracked the Chinese market.
In the first half of 2015, CubCrafters remains the strongest seller logging 23 new registrations or about one a week. The western U.S. producer is steadily approaching Flight Design's once-unassailable #1 spot although Icon is a company that could dramatically alter the market share ranking if they are successful at serial production of their large order book.

Pipistrel registered 17 SLSA in the first half of 2015, which looks to be the second best performance after CubCrafters. The European company also sells a fair number of motorglider types registered differently from SLSA. Indeed 14 of the 17 were their long winged Sinus that offers interchangeable wing extensions (see video).

Progressive Aerodyne has also accelerated smartly since winning FAA acceptance of their SLSA version of their popular Searey that has been quite successful as a kit-built model. The Florida seaplane producer has also cracked the China market and may soon become the number one LSA seller in that country. They've already sold a dozen Seareys and have several more orders in the pipeline. If China grows as many anticipate, this American company could move forward quickly, especially in a region where airports remain in short supply.

Other companies that did reasonably well in the first half of 2015 include Jabiru (who also reported good sales at Oshkosh that should show up in our report covering the second half of 2105), Tecnam, SportCruiser, Flight Design, Aerotrek, American Legend (with their powerful Super Legend), Rans (S-7LS), and the lovely Phoenix LSA motorglider.

Postscript — I don't know how many of you saw AOPA writer Al Marsh's article, but the following appears to show a fairly rosy future for Light-Sport and Sport Pilot. Of course, as Al notes, FAA cannot see the future better than anyone else. Nonetheless, here's what he wrote:

"Where is general aviation headed? The truth is, nobody knows, but the FAA is paid to try to predict the future. Earlier this year the FAA released these numbers that are as good as any at predicting the future."

  • 593,499 Total number of pilots in 2014 — predicted to increase to 617,000 in 2035
  • 174,883 Number of private pilots in 2014 — predicted to drop to 163,600 in 2035
  • 120,546 Number of student pilots in 2014 — predicted to drop to 112,200 in 2035
  • 44.8 Average age of a U.S. pilot in 2014 (Note: LSA pilots tend to be markedly older)
  • 139,890 Number of aircraft in the piston-engine fleet in 2014 — predicted to drop to 125,935 in 2035
  • 198,860 GA fleet total in 2014 — predicted to increase to 214,260 in 2035
  • 2,200 Estimated Light-Sport Aircraft fleet in 2014 — predicted to increase to 5,360 in 2035
  • 5,157 Number of Sport Pilots in 2014 — predicted to grow to 14,950 by 2035

I do not know where FAA found this number since their own database shows more than 2,750 SLSA through December 2014 based on a study of the agency's registration data.

VIDEO — Check Out the Speedy Swiss Risen
By Dan Johnson, September 5, 2015

Unveiled at Aero 2015 in Germany, we were on the scene to capture fresh video for your enjoyment. Watch the video
In addition to what you can read on ByDanJohnson.com, we have a growing library of videos. When I attend airshows, I frequently hear from attendees that they thoroughly enjoy these 8-12 minute productions. I have the fun job, seeking out airplanes and speaking to the developers behind them while on camera. After that my video partner, Dave, does the big job of editing these things into what I consider to be very nice productions. You get views of the airplane, hear the details, and see more about them than any other way than attending the airshow yourself.

In this newest posted video, you see the gorgeous Risen from Sea-Avio.com (SEA is Swiss Excellence Airplanes). Now, this is not simply one more entry in the increasingly crowded Light-Sport or (European) microlight market. This may be the fastest airplane in the fleet and is certainly — if not the fastest — one of the speediest airplanes to use the Rotax 912 ULS engine. In the video you'll hear some figures from Alberto Porto, the developer of Risen. Watch the video.

Risen may be the fastest aircraft in the sky using the 100-horsepower Rotax 912 ULS. It has logged more than 300 hours in flight testing.
At several airshows a year, Videoman Dave and I chase around the grounds and conduct interview of airplanes we find that we believe are new in some way or have qualities we think you may find of interest. We commonly do between 20 and 40 of these, so while we are done gathering material before the show ends, once Dave goes home, the real work begins.

As they are done and as I get the time to post them, I will advise you of new ones of interest. However, before I do that you can find many of the new ones plus all the earlier ones on the SportAviationMagazine.com YouTube channel. When you watch these videos here you can arrange them by date posted or by alphabetical listing. That's good as we have around 400 videos and many more to come so finding them can be challenging. Each video has a short description to help you see if you want to watch it.

Please check back here often and visit the YouTube channel soon. Your support of that YouTube channel allows Videoman Dave to do his work. Please consider subscribing.

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




Lockwood Aircraft is the builder of two of light aviation's best-recognized flying machines: AirCam and the Drifter line. Most sport aviators already know the Lockwood brand, a leader in Rotax maintenance and aircraft services.

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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!

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?

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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

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.

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