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

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.

Light-Sport Aircraft … Going the Distance
By Dan Johnson, September 4, 2015

Among the critiques some old school pilots employ when trying to marginalize Light-Sport Aircraft is that these aircraft are not suited to flying long distances. I've reported several around the world flights (check this article and here's another) but that's hardly all the long flights.

Michael Smith and son pose with the Southern Sun Searey.
The invitation started out, "Join all of us at Progressive Aerodyne and the City of Tavares on Friday, September 11 for a presentation by Michael Smith about his epic Searey flight from Melbourne, Australia to Central Florida. Michael will give a presentation at the beautiful Tavares Pavilion on the Lake about his incredible journey." Unfortunately, I can't attend as I'll be working the Midwest LSA Expo in Mt. Vernon, Illinois that weekend. However, many readers probably cannot attend either so here's a bit of Michael's story.

In the not-too-distant past, documenting a trip like his probably meant appealing to a magazine or publishing a book. Either would be challenging and by the time it was printed and distributed, it would be dated. Thank goodness for the Internet and a website called TravelPod that allowed many to follow in near real time.

At the outset, Michael wrote, "The plan is to loosely follow the Qantas Empire Flying Boat route of 1938 from Sydney to London in the Searey amphibian aeroplane named 'Southern Sun.'" Of course, Quantas was a giant flying boat and the S.S. Searey is tiny plus Michael would fly solo.

His blog continued, "The story of the grand flying boats on the pre-war era I found captivating. All of the research I was doing [for my flight] came together when [I visited] an excellent exhibition of the Flying Boat era in Sydney. I snapped up photos of dsplays, maps, itineraries and the like, and decided, one day, I would really like to do that."

Michael notes that his Searey has "a similar range to the flying boat airliners of 1938 ... just a little less amenity and comfort." He observed, "Those planes were conceived with [ocean-crossing] ship comfort in mind, with three levels of decks, lounge chairs, even mini golf." Then he added dryly, "I lack most of those facilities ..."

Unlike a record-setting dash, Michael chose to make his an enjoyable expedition, pausing in each city for a day or two "to seek out the old landing spots and hotels that were used" by the airline companies. For those of you who read his travel blog, you can find plenty of info with numerous photos chronicling his discoveries along the route.

While the first legs allowed more frequent stops, departing England got serious. Admitting that unlike the airlines, "I don't have the range to do Ireland to Canada direct," Michael shows his explorer side saying, "I've always been keen to see a few islands in the North Atlantic."

This comment sums up the North Atlantic crossing, "Deep down ... I was apprehensive about this flight. It was only a 575 mile leg, and while I had fueled the plane close to the gills to give me spare range, it's a long passage over some very cold water."

You might think he would simply climb to the safest altitude but that's not possible Michael discovered. "Flying VFR over the Atlantic means staying out of controlled airspace, which starts at 6,000 feet, and as [I was] heading west that meant 4,500 feet." It is more important to watch winds at various levels to minimize fuel use. Having extra height to extend a glide is less meaningful over the North Atlantic. Despite his apprehension, 9.2 hours later he landing in Iceland.

I recommend you read about Michael's long trip via his regular posts on TravelPod . He's quite an engaging writer and in this way you can follow his experiences. I found it a fascinating travelogue.

Is Michael done with these long distance flight? It certainly does not sound like it, and after a success flying half-way around the world, who knows? Here's how he ended his 53-part travel blog, "I'm flying home with Qantas on Monday. On the whole 'what's next question,' that needs some thinking, but I do note on today's track map there is an interesting island south of Florida that Americans can't currently visit ..." I'll bet we see more from Michael.

Surely a very welcome sight for two aviators who need a stretch: Majuro (PKMJ) in the Marshall Islands
Another Very Long Flight Underway ... In a completely different attempt, we continue following the flight of a Sling LSA as it circles the globe. (See earlier article.) Flying even farther than Michael Smith and the SS Searey, these fellows have no boat hull under them as they cross two oceans. However, they have experience as TAF aircraft have now three times done a circumnavigation of the Earth. So much for LSA not flying long distances (though one of the TAF flights was their four seater, presently built as a Experimental).

The U.S. Sling company wrote, "The 2015 Sling Around the World Expedition is once again underway! After a month's rest in Los Angeles, Patrick Huang of the Airplane Factory Asia was joined by Jean d'Assonville of The Airplane Factory USA, a veteran Sling circumnavigator, and the two took off from Torrance, California for Hawaii on Saturday, August 29th.

Yellow line is the route and red circle is where the Sling pilots were at the time. Yikes!
"Once situated in their trusty steed — the South African registered Sling ZU-TWN — the pair made a quick fuel stop in San Luis Obispo, CA (KSBP) and then began the non-stop flight to Hawaii. They originally planned for a stop in Maui, but after favorable tailwinds and a fuel burn of 4 GPH, they amended plans and flew even further to Honolulu, PHNL. Total flight time was around 21.5 hours and fuel used was 102 gallons.

"After a check of the weather they determined it would be best to make a quick turn around and were back in the air the very next day. They took off from Honolulu at 7:38 Pacific time on Monday, August 31st and began the long journey to Majuro (PKMJ) in the Marshall Islands. They were in constant communication with TAF's team in both the USA and South Africa, who navigated them around a few Pacific Ocean storms (image). Some favorable tailwinds were seen initially and after 19.5 hours and over 2,000 nautical miles, they landed on the beautiful coral atoll of Majuro."

The Sling trip is underway as this is written but, as with Michael Smith's voyage, you can follow the pair en route. This blog link describes the trip. Or go to TAF USA's Facebook page.

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

(Images updated 9/2/15)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updated World Ultralight Fly-In map ...

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

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

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

However, in a decade, a lot has changed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Oshkosh light aircraft news will follow ...

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




Aero Adventure offers what is likely the lowest cost boat-hull seaplane in the light aircraft space with a kit that, complete with engine, sells for less than $50,000. Add a long history to its credit and Aventura is a seaplane worthy of a close look.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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!

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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