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

Western Shows: Copperstate & Flying Aviation Expo
By Dan Johnson, October 31, 2014

Two western U.S. shows are filling the aviation calendar at the end of October. They are the last two major events of 2014. Next up will be the Sebring Expo in January 2015. While I attend the Flying Aviation Expo in Palm Springs, California, I am once again amazed that the West has never truly generated any strong aviation events. The Copperstate event is one of the most long-lived at 42 years. More on that below. Yet with California alone having more pilots and aircraft than any other U.S. state — indeed, more by itself than many countries can boast — it has long puzzled me that the trend-setting state has never birthed a great aviation trade show or expo. The biggest events remain in the eastern part of the country led by AirVenture Oshkosh and Sun 'n Fun. Even in the LSA space the stronger events are in Sebring, Florida and Mt. Vernon Illinois.

I should not leave out the 45-year-old Arlington show up in Washington state nor the Golden West event near Sacramento, California but for reasons that escape me neither has grown into the very large gatherings characterized by Oshkosh or Sun 'n Fun. Arlington inhabits a lovely location and is a fine event I've enjoyed several times. However, its timing only weeks before and geographically far from Oshkosh makes it tough to get into the schedule of many companies. Neither am I ignoring convention center extravaganzas like those produced by the National Business Aviation Association (with perhaps more exhibitors than any other aviation event) or Helicopter Aviation International but these are highly focused commercial aircraft events that have limited appeal to the general aviation enthusiast.

The 2014 Copperstate Fly-In and Expo in Casa Grande, Arizona — located approximately halfway between Phoenix and Tucson — was the 42nd year for this southwestern show. It ran the weekend before the Palm Springs show on October 23-25 at Casa Grande Airport (KCGZ). Main organizer Steve Bass wrote, "We don't have any real numbers yet but I think we matched last year's [attendance] numbers." He observed that visitor traffic was down on Saturday because of the heat at 95 degrees but added, "although we did have a full ramp." As surprising to me as anything was the display of no less than 18 weight shift trikes. While these machines once were very strong at many aviation events, their numbers have been much lower in recent years. Copperstate bills itself as "the fourth largest Fly-In in the United States." Copperstate is a very recreational aviation-oriented show out west but this year it was too close to the Flying Expo and I was unable to attend both.

So that brought me to beautiful Palm Springs, a resort town in the desert east of the Los Angeles basin. The former AOPA Summit many times came to this city first popularized by movie stars back in the day and plenty of people in and out of AOPA said this was their best location drawing the most visitors. The location a couple, three hours drive (or a one hour flight) from the massive L.A. metropolis assures organizers of plenty of nearby enthusiasts. It has also long featured a parade of planes from the main airport to the convention center. The beauty of this for attendees is that the aircraft are on streets right outside the hall and you need take no transportation to go have a look at them. Under direction of Lift Management, Flying magazine editor Robert Goyer noted in his opening keynote address and panel discussion (in which I was pleased to be a participant, waving the LSA flag) that this was the publication's first event in the 87 years that title has been publishing. I write this on opening day and the hall is filled with about 120 exhibitors. People are streaming in and I want to make the rounds and see what people think. It's already scheduled for 2015 as well. If you live in the Southwest, you should put this one on your schedule. It's time for me to get back to the show.

Touring All-American Propeller Maker Sensenich
By Dan Johnson, October 27, 2014

In Light-Sport aviation, we have many international suppliers ... of aircraft, engines, instruments, and much more to include propellers. I embrace the worldwide suppliers and don't fret about America's position. The truth is, any international supplier has to have a U.S. representative so American jobs and profits are part of that global supply chain and most aircraft built overseas have a substantial percentage of U.S.-produced components. Still, as an American, it is great to see solid U.S. companies prospering. One of those is Sensenich Propellers and last week, I took a tour of this enterprise based in Plant City, Florida (near Lakeland, where Sun 'n Fun is headquartered).

I was shown throughout the facility by President Don Rowell, a 37-year employee of Sensenich (pronounced SEN-sen-ick). He directly manages the Plant City operation since 1993, after relocating from the company's founding plant in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Both facilities continue to operate and are divided by prop material. Lancaster makes aluminum props. Plant City makes wood and composite props. Both Sensenich facilities make only fixed pitch or ground adjustable props. Don explained this means that their primary competition is not Hartzell, as one example, as that company makes in-flight adjustable props. Instead a USA major competitor is McCauley, a division of Cessna and part of Textron. McCauley also makes constant speed props.

Similar to our recent article about Continental Motors, Sensenich has a long and rich history, starting with the prop-powered snow sled shown above. When the propeller on this early snow machine failed, the Sensenich brothers had little option but to create their own ... and a new company was eventually born. Formally established in 1932 to manufacture fixed pitch wood aircraft propellers, Sensenich added wood props for a growing fleet of airboats. Aluminum aircraft props were added in the 1950s. It wasn't until 1999 that the company added ground adjustable composite propellers for all the segments the company serves including airboat, aircraft, and UAVs.

The wood prop process starts with lamination beginning with a large machine the workers affectionately refer to as Clamposaurus (photo above). Gluing edges first, then grouping those birch boards, layers are firmly fastened together with large assembly of C-clamps and resorcinol glue as prop technicians have used for decades. Throughout the process of examining fresh lumber stock and after laminating begins each propeller goes through a 56-point inspection, to assure using only the strongest portions of the laminated boards.

Once the first steps are complete, the manufacturing procedure involves deeply experienced workers identifying the sections of boards that will work for a prop — portions with the grain patterns meeting specifications and being free of various blemishes. After marking off unacceptable areas, a worker uses plastic planform templates to outline where a prop can be milled to produce a wood prop. Once the glue is cured, it can be placed on the bed of a CNC milling machine. The finished prop on right shows a hand-formed brass leading edge that is cap screwed and riveted for erosion protection.

In this short video and after a different tool prepares the hub, a CNC machine "roughs" a wood prop, which is then skillfully carved to exactly match a set of blade shape templates.

As other photos show, the company also makes a whole line of composite props for airboats — a substantial part of the business started in 1949; being closer to where these craft are commonly used is a key reason the company opened the Plant City facility in 1994 — as well as wood and composite airplane props. Images here show the stores of finished prop blades for airboats (the wide ones), aircraft, and the aluminum prop hubs. Sensenich asked that I not shoot photos of the composite building process as they've learned some tricks and techniques that are proprietary.

Here's a fact I found amazing about those wide chord airboat props: Don explained that using the same engine, the airboat props generate 250% of the thrust of airplane props. "It takes a great deal of energy to move an airboat sometimes across dry land," Rowell clarified.

Although Sensenich employs modern engineering and contemporary CNC machinery, the process significantly depends on the experience and care of employees. Building a propeller remains very hands-on and something of an art. Yet new ways are also embraced. Like any company in an open market, Sensenich had to keep innovating to be competitive and to increase performance of their fixed pitch props. They also look for other ways to control quality and costs, such as this "candy bar machine" that is used to dispense supplies such as tape, brushes, and more. When an employee takes out more supplies the company is aware and supplier Fastenal automatically logs the use and eventually resupplies depleted items.

Sensenich is an iconic brand of propeller and an American standard. Look around at your local airport. You'll probably see many propellers that come from the company in Plant City, Florida.

Ownership Changes at Remos
By Dan Johnson, October 25, 2014

This is one of those bad news—good news stories. The bad news for Remos Aircraft is being forced to file for what Germany calls "creditor protection" and what Americans might regard as bankruptcy. Tough times for the onetime high flying company that ran full page ads in America's largest aviation magazines. The good news is that this is not the end of the story. A few weeks ago I heard through sources in Europe that Remos was filing documents to go out of business. In this case, the rumors turned out to be correct. However, shortly after the old company filed documents, a white knight stepped in to revive the company. This happened once before but this time the change of ownership has the experience of its predecessors. Remos AG is now emerging as the successor to Remos Aircraft GmbH Flugzeugbau. The company remains quartered in Pasewalk, located an hour's drive northeast of Berlin.

According to the company, "Michael Bauer, CEO of Remos, was forced to file for creditor protection at the end of July 2014." Under the supervision of administrator Dr. Christoph Morgen of Brinkmann & Partner of Hamburg a search for new investors was initiated. "This investment process has now been successfully concluded," noted Remos. The business was taken over by a German investor named Andreas Heeschen. You probably don't know that name but the new owner is also majority shareholder at a brand you might know: Heckler & Koch, one of the world's leading manufacturers of pistols, machine pistols, assault rifles, precision rifles, and machine guns with more than $250 million in annual revenues and 700 employees. Remos AG is not part of Heckler & Koch, however, and will operate as a stand-alone enterprise. "The Remos team remains unchanged," the revived company indicated, "and will now focus on the key tasks of developing, engineering and manufacturing high class and superb [European] ultralight and LSA aircraft."

Remos AG is assuming full support of the aircraft series including Remos G3 and GX. New aircraft are again available and spare parts will be shipped soon. Remos GX is manufactured in several versions including GXeLITE, GXnXES, GXULTIMATE and GXPERSONAL. For American customers, the appropriate LSA model is the GXnXES. Remos continues to manufacture composite parts for its aircraft and performs similar work for other customers. The company also reports doing service and repairs with modifications performed on other brands of customer aircraft at its northern Germany facilities. Those interested to learn more about Remos AG can visit their website or send email.

My thanks to German BRS representative Frank Miklis for alerting me to this news.

Touring Aviation Stalwart Continental Motors
By Dan Johnson, October 21, 2014

Continental Motors is known to generations of pilots and not just in the USA. However, I'll bet most readers do not know that the storied company once produced a radial engine. The company started business way back in 1905 as a builder of truck engines for the U.S. Army. They entered the aviation market in 1929 with the seven cylinder A-70 powerplant. A year later Continental introduced A40 that went to four horizontally opposed cylinders in what is sometimes called a boxer engine. "We were the first to introduce the horizontally opposed cylinder configuration to help increase aircraft speeds," observed the company. Rotax has generated well deserved publicity with their efficient fuel injected 912 iS but Continental noted that they were "the first to introduce both fuel injection and turbo-charging in general aviation aircraft (both in the 1960s)." They do not offer such configurations for Light-Sport Aircraft, at least not yet although in 2009 Continental threw support behind the new segment introducing the O-200 lighter weight engine that comes in at 199 pounds.

Continental has been the power for many of aviation's iconic aircraft from the unpretentious Piper Cub to the Voyager aircraft that successfully circumnavigated the globe without refueling, to a fleet of other airplanes including high-end single engine pistons such as Bonanza and Cirrus. Along with Lycoming, Continental engines are the powerplants nearly every American pilot has grown up flying. In more recent years and reflecting the uncertain future for leaded aviation fuels, Continental launched their Turbo Diesel Series engine and entered into unleaded gasoline development. Indeed their alternative fuel IO-360-AF engine (lower photo) was chosen by Flight Design for its four seat C4 as the German company expects to sell this aircraft in many countries where 100LL is unavailable at any price. Contrarily, diesel is available almost everywhere and Continental's push into engines using this fuel was surely one reason the airframe builder chose the Alabama brand.

Continental is dedicated to piston engines and manufactures all primary components themselves, including crankcase, crankshaft, cylinders, and connecting rods. Every engine is hand built. Our factory tour walked us step-by-step through the process ending up in a building holding several test cells. Here, every engine is run through a full cycle in bays that once heard the howl of Mustang Merlin engines.

In the LSA space, Continental engines have been used on CubCrafters, American Legend, and Kitfox, plus Zenith and Fisher kits among other brands. They continue to be a significant supplier to the LSA and light kit industry including Van's Aircraft although that Oregon company chose the Rotax for their RV-12 Light-Sport. Along with other reasons to select the four cylinder, 100 horsepower O-200, mechanics around the world are familiar with the brand and have training and experience for it. Contrarily, Rotax has had to work hard to encourage American A&Ps to learn the differences of their powerplants.

As we toured the facility, I was particularly impressed with one fact. As we heard about the numbering scheme that identifies various engine models, I became aware the company customizes many of their basic models to accommodate specific manufacturers. Some components are installed differently to fit in cowlings or to otherwise meet the design of airframe engineers. In my days at BRS parachutes, we had similar requests. Installing a parachute can be somewhat or significantly different for every aircraft and BRS struggled with the many aircraft variations, but Continental has made customization a common occurrence. They even advise, "We will come to you wherever you are in the lower 48 [U.S. states]. You will receive an engine quote and consultation at no cost to you." That's a great service.

In 1966 Continental moved from their original base in Muskegon, Michigan to take over former military facilities in Mobile, Alabama. Today, the southern producer builds about ten engines a day, or an annual rate of about 2,500 engines. In the post-World War II era they once created more than 34,000 engines in a year (1946) and during the 1970s heyday for general aviation the company reported producing 70 engines a day or an annual rate of 17,500 units. In 2011, Continental was bought by Technify Motors (USA) Ltd, a subsidiary of China's AVIC International Holding Corporation.

You may notice that in the photos with this article, no workers other than our tour guide are seen. The factory was functioning as we toured but the union requires that no employees are photographed while on the job. Of course, I complied with this request but it makes the facility appear unused and quiet. That's an incorrect impression, of course. To see workers at their jobs, Continental Motors has an informative Virtual Factory Tour on their website that you might enjoy. It has many images I was not able to capture.

PHOTOS (top to bottom) — Starting the factory tour • the factory floor in the machining area • older machinery is maintained for certain jobs (top half) but modern CNC equipment has taken over most work (lower half) • an engine cart has all the components ready for hand assembly (engine block not shown) • the six cylinder 180-210 horsepower IO-360-AF alternate fuel engine

AirCam Owners Know How to Have Fun
By Dan Johnson, October 19, 2014

I've been on a couple AirCam outings and I have two points about them: (1) Owners of this unusual airplane are often fairly well-off people and see a golden opportunity when invited by the good planners at Lockwood Aircraft; and, (2) These pilots know how to have fun with their airplanes, flying to some delicious locations. Previous fly-outs included Jekyll Island, Heaven's Landing, Cedar Key off Florida's west coast, and the Bahamas. If you don't know AirCam here's a video that gives a bit of the flavor of this amazing aircraft. (I readily admit to a positive bias for the machine as I have had the chance to fly a good number of hours in it and earned my multi-engine rating in one ... but that's another story.)

On the two occasions when I've joined the AirCam'ers on their fly-outs (or is that "fly-ins?"), I've discovered that these folks have uncovered some wonderful places. The Lockwood Aircraft folks, led by namesake designer Phil Lockwood, don't just hang out at the airport all day. They aerial tour the location and then visit local restaurants and homes of AirCam friends. Everyone seems to enjoy themselves immensely and the people that buy, build, and fly AirCams tend to be some very interesting folks, in my opinion. With its two Rotax engines of one model or another, these airplanes are not the cheapest kits you can build, however, twin-engine flexibility and security offer enormous appeal. Owning one isn't in my budget nor possibly yours but a partnership could be a swell way to own one if you could make it work. No question, though, AirCam allows flying as you'll probably not do in any other aircraft I can envision. If you have any chance to fly in one, by all means, take it. I predict a long-lived smile following the experience.

Next up for Team AirCam's fly-out itinerary is Marathon in the Florida Keys from Thursday to Sunday November 13-16, 2014. If you're an AirCam owner or are considering purchase of one, or just want to go hang out in a great, warm, beachside locale, contact the company and inquire (info at bottom). Demo flights are possible but limited. Those wishing to fly as a group can follow the company team as they leave Lockwood's base at Sebring airport and fly over Everglades National Park shoreline with ocean crossing at Point Sable. If you do this in most aircraft you'll want altitude for safety; the AirCam'ers will see it much better down low. Once at Marathon, the resort atmosphere offers plenty of fun activities. You can also fly from Marathon around Key West as I did on a Fly/Drive vacation with some friends. You don't have to go by AirCam; other airplanes are invited but contact Lockwood Aircraft. Or you can drive, which I'm told is also a good experience. If my history of joining the AirCam'ers is any indication, the hotel and restaurants they choose will be excellent.

While we focus most coverage on Light-Sport Aircraft, light kits, and ultralights, we also have begun to expand our envelope by keeping up with LSA-like aircraft including four seaters from LSA providers. In this spirit, the twin engine AirCam is another good candidate. I have described the flying machine as "ultralight on steroids" because it has clear roots in ultralights such as the Drifter that Lockwood also produces even while it has become very sophisticated and very capable. The latter explains its existence. AirCam was originally commissioned for some very challenging flying in a National Geographic story about Africa where few good runways exist and near-endless jungle seems to reach out to snag an airplane in trouble. After the NatGeo effort, interest developed and has never stopped. Today, close to 200 AirCam kits have been delivered and Lockwood reports a thriving business. Following are AirCam Specifications:

  • Gross Weight — 1,680 pounds (roughly that of a Cessna 150)
  • Wing Span — 36 feet
  • Overall Length — 27 feet
  • Empty Weight — 1,040 pounds
  • Stall Speed — 39 mph (it only looks too big for such a slow speed)
  • Top Speed (Vne) — 110 mph
  • Normal Cruise Speed Range — 50-100 mph
  • Rate of Climb — 1,500 fpm (solo can see beyond 2,000 fpm)
  • Single Engine Climb — 300 fpm (many twins cannot climb on one engine)
  • Fuel & Range — 28 gallons and 340 miles at 70 mph
  • Takeoff Roll — less than 200 feet
  • Landing Roll — 300 feet
  • Exhilaration Factor — off the charts

AirCam demo flight reservations must be made with Robert Meyer by November 6th. He advised, "These will be on a strict schedule and limited to those willing to sign a contract and give a deposit afterwards." If interested, email Robert or call 863-655-4242.

P1NG ... Fully Refreshed from Brazil
By Dan Johnson, October 13, 2014

Paradise P1, with 14 registered Light-Sport Aircraft models flying in the USA.

P1NG is not a sound nor golf equipment. The clever name (that's a "1" not an "i") is similar to a plane you know as the Paradise P1. Now get ready for the "Next Generation" P1, or simply, P1NG. The P1 you may have already seen was designed around a four-seat model with the aft cabin simplified to a luggage space. More on the entire family of Paradise airplanes below. P1 and P1NG offer more cubic area than most cockpits in light aviation. Besides a spacious cabin the front seats remove in a few seconds allowing an occupant to stretch out fully in its length. Alternatively, P1NG could easily carry golf clubs (you probably ought to load the American Ping brand), a family pet, camping gear, or anything else that fits within the weight & balance envelope. Though absent from the U.S. market for several years, Paradise reports good business in their native Brazil, a large and aviation-active country. Company officials say several hundred are flying in South America and other countries. Beside the new door, P1NG is wider, has a different wing section, and boasts other upgrades to keep the design current.

Designed by Noe (NO-eh) de Oliveira, P1NG is one of a family of aircraft including P1 — the Light-Sport Aircraft of which 14 are registered in the USA — a two-seat P2S, the four-seat P4, a low wing called Eagle that closely resembles the SportCruiser, and P1NG. Both P1 derivatives and the Eagle are powered by Rotax's 912 or 914 turbo engines while P2S and P4 use a 180-215 horsepower Lycoming. Noe's new P1NG offers the LSA industry's second three-door cabin — the first being the Jabiru J230-SP. Both are based on four seaters explaining the large volume aft cabin and illustrating why a third door is handy. Of course, an LSA can only have two seats but loading the spacious aft cabin of P1NG will be far easier thanks to the pilot side aft door (photos). Based on my earlier flight experience in P1, general aviation pilots used to those popular high wing planes built in Wichita will find much to like including dual control yokes, a central power quadrant, and wide visibility. I found P1 solid and forgiving with predictable flight qualities. Its long-legged 12.5:1 gliding capability offers a margin of safety. Given a few more years of development since the original importer left the business, it is reasonable to expect even better characteristics of P1NG.

Paradise of Brazil parted ways with its first U.S. importer, Paradise USA based at Sebring, about as the economy was entering the 2009 recession. Yet interest in the Cessna-like LSA did not disappear; indeed I take a call every couple months from some potentially interested pilots even though no one has promoted the design in recent years. While other parties suggested a resumption of import, agreements were apparently never settled and Paradise of Brazil provided legal documents attesting to their efforts to sever prior relationships. Meanwhile Paradise remains absent from the American marketplace, however, that will not last. Arrangements are still being finalized but the South American enterprise plans to establish a Florida presence later this year or early next. U.S. representation will be handled by Bert Motoyama, whom interested parties can reach via email or by phone: 850-758-2967.

Paradise of Brazil hails from a country with a rich aviation design heritage, featuring pioneering names like Alberto Santos Dumont. Today most Americans recognize regional airline and business jet producer Embraer and, interestingly, that major company has recently set up shop in Melbourne, Florida. As I am aware of discussions for another Brazilian company to establish manufacturing in Florida, Paradise may be engaging in a popular trend. As the U.S. plans become firm, I will plan to keep you updated but certainly by Sun 'n Fun, I expect to see Paradise back in the American marketplace.

(Nearby photo) Paradise's new P1NG has appeal to those used to popular high wing aircraft built in Wichita, complete with dual control yokes, center power quadrant, a baggage door, and plenty of room in the cabin. all images courtesy Paradise Aviation

Corvair Power at Zenith’s Open Hangar Day
By Dan Johnson, October 9, 2014

Pat and Mary Hoyt's 601XL (with 650 canopy) and a 2700-cc Corvair at Brodhead Wisconsin in 2013. They also flew to Oshkosh and the Zenith open house in Mexico, Missouri this year.
Zenith Aircraft has shipped thousands of airplane kits and have examples of Chris Heintz designs flying all over the country and around the world. The kit company run by Chris' son Sebastien has been at it nearly a quarter century in Mexico Missouri and in my humble opinion deserves the success they've achieved by operating the business professionally and by serving their customers well. Two of the many ways this happens is through their Open Hangar Day event — which they've hosted since moving to Mexico — and by supporting just about every powerplant aimed at the light recreational aircraft market. Recently I wrote about Viking engines and I've often written about Rotax, Jabiru, Continental, and UL Power. One that I've left out of the review has been William Wynne's Corvair-based powerplant and I am pleased to correct that oversight.

Five Corvair-powered Zenith kit-built aircraft flew into the 2014 Open Hangar Day event and parked together for this photo in front of the airport terminal building.

Wynne reports that he has been continuously building, testing and flying Corvair engines for 25 years, since 1989 (by the way, longer than Zenith has been located in Mexico). At last count his company reports that their engines power about 500 aircraft. William earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Professional Aeronautics and is the holder of an Airframe & Powerplant certificate from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Of his Corvair engine conversion, he wrote, "My extensive testing over the years indicates [this engine can provide] 100-120 horsepower with the degree of reliability necessary for flight engines." This power range suits it perfectly for light kit aircraft in the age of Light-Sport. You might wonder why he chose to use the Corvair engine and the answer might surprise you.

all photos courtesy of FlyCorvair.
Chevrolet's Corvair engine is a six cylinder, horizontally-opposed piston engine used in the 1960s-era Corvair automobile. Wikipedia reported, "It was a highly unusual engine for General Motors [in that] it was air-cooled and used a flat design with aluminum heads and crankcase." My video partner added this, "Few people know it, but the General Motors Corvair engine was developed for GM by a company called Eastern Aviation. GM was after a light helicopter contract from the government, and had Eastern Aviation develop this engine as a powerplant." He continued, "GM never got that contract and in an attempt to compete with the European sport/touring car manufacturers, General Motors decided to use the engine and launched a small sports car to be powered by an air-cooled engine similar to the VW Beetle. Between 1960 and 1969 GM manufactured and sold 1,700,000 of the rear-engine, compact cars. Approximately two million engines were built." Read much more detail about the Corvair engine at Light Sport Aircraft Pilot.

Before Zenith's event this year, William Wynne held another of his four-day Corvair College seminars. "We had 74 people attend and 11 of them fully assembled and test ran their engine," reported Wynne, adding that "about 25 more made good progress." He indicated that this was the second Corvair College he and Zenith Aircraft's Sebastien Heintz have collaborated on before the airplane company's open house. Working seminars of this sort are meant to assist builders but also serve education and marketing purposes. A few caveats: Most aviators and builders realize that General Motors and Chevrolet do not authorize the use of Corvair engines for use in aircraft. Wynne's FlyCorvair enterprise is not affiliated with the car company. Corvair conversions are not type certificated and have not attempted to meet ASTM standards for Light-Sport Aircraft.

In addition to putting on Corvair College, William visits his builders. "I have made hundreds of house calls," he reported. As an example, the nearby photo shows Wynne (on left) making a house call to customer Larry Winger in California. "His engine ran at Corvair College #18," said William. "Larry's aircraft is a magnificent Zenith CH-650, built from plans, not a kit. The aircraft has since been completed and has been moved to the Chino airport. Larry exemplifies many of the finest qualities in homebuilding. When he started the project, he had never built an engine, a plane and was not yet a pilot. He has since accomplished all three." According to many Corvair engine installers, Wynne often inspires his builders. You can read much more about this on the company website.

FK Lightplanes/ScaleWings SW51 Makes Maiden Flight
By Dan Johnson, October 7, 2014

At Aero 2013, I covered one of the most interesting replica airplanes I have ever seen in many years of scouring airshows for light aircraft of interest. My videographer and I did a video story about this exciting project. The airplane was again displayed at Aero 2014 though not in such a high traffic location but that hardly dampened enthusiasm. No question ... FK Lightplanes continued their approach of great showmanship in displaying the most authentically realistic reproduction of a 70% scale P-51 Mustang you can imagine. Most replicas have to approximate some qualities but FK Lightplanes and their design partner, Austria-based ScaleWings AeroTec, made what they are now calling SW51 into something different. It has detail beyond what you can envision without seeing the construction in person.

First named FK51, SW51 reproduces the 100,000 or so rivets and screws that put together an original World War II vintage P-51 Mustang. The work is all done in composite so those are not real screws or rivets but you'd have to be a P-51 mechanic to tell the difference, even when you put your hand on the skin to be sure your eyes are not deceiving you. SW51 is magnificent! "Every rivet row, every screw and every maintenance door matches the original plane," said creator ScaleWings. A reported 40,000 man hours have been invested.

Today, Jon Hansen of Hansen Air Group called to say that SW 51 flew in October 2014 and the initial flight went very well. "It looks to exceed our flight expectations for it," exclaimed Jon. Because demand is already spiking, FK Lightplanes' Poland factory will be working to build about one SW51 per week. The design has been optimized not only for a very high degree of authenticity but for swifter production. Jon explained that using modern CAD manufacturing, the assembly of the components can happen fairly fast. "When the fuselage halves go together, much of the wiring and other details will already be in place," Jon explained. A European-style ultralight version will have retractable gear and in-flight adjustable prop because such is allowed under rule in the EU. "For the USA, we will be offering a Light-Sport version with fixed gear and propped to stay within the 120 knot limit of LSA," clarified Jon. Weight, all parties have said all along, will not be a problem because the design is created for sale in Europe as well where the limits are 472.5 kilograms (1,041 pounds) to include the German required airframe parachute. SW51 is also designed to accommodate aerobatic flying.

Developer ScaleWings said, "[Our] Mustang is an absolute true to original ... replica of the legendary P-51 Mustang." What was formerly called FK51 "will be produced in a complex but extremely strong carbon-honeycomb construction ... a guarantee for an extremely lightweight construction with maximum strength. [SW51] Mustang will look deceptively similar to the original Mustang in all surface details." To be sure structures and aerodynamics were professionally engineered, ScaleWings worked closely with the founder of FK Lightplanes, Peter Funk. Using his years of experience, Peter is responsible for the aerodynamic and static design, structure layout, dimensioning, load tests, flight tests and the certification of the SW-51 Mustang, said ScaleWings. This was a smart decision as today Peter focuses on engineering and new development after turning over manufacturing over to Rolland Hallam in Poland.

We see that yellow taildragger Cubalikes sell briskly in the USA where many aviators have a sweet spot for vintage aircraft. Yet none that I recall inspire as much interest as the P-51 Mustang, easily one of the most highly regarded aircraft of all time. The problem is that only a very few people can afford an original and probably even less are qualified to fly them today. This gives an opening to creations like the 1990s Loehle all-wood 5151 Mustang, the Titan T-51 Mustang (video) and heavier versions such as the Stewart S-51. The latter, driven by a 450-hp Chevy Corvette engine was also quite costly and the Loehle was more ultralight than most folks want. Titan is successfully selling T-51 models as a 51% kit but for pure accuracy in recreating the original and in fully-built form, SW51 from FK Lightplanes and ScaleWings looks hard to beat. If this moves you as it does many, you might want to contact Hansen Air Group sooner than later. Jon Hansen told me today that he and the Poland factory expect most SW51 to sell in the USA and Jon believes they'll sell out their entire 2015 allotment in a short time. The first example in America is unlikely by Sebring but will certainly show at Sun 'n Fun.

Watch SW51 take its first crow-hop flight in this video. (Note: turn sound up for interview with FK Lightplanes director Rolland Hallam.)

Giant Companies Enter Aviation; Should You Worry?
By Dan Johnson, October 4, 2014

What do Airbus, Google, Facebook, Amazon, DHL Logistics, and Domino's Pizza have in common and why should you care? All are very big companies, considerably bigger than most aircraft builders. Here's what else they all have in common: all of them report developing aircraft and will be seeking their chunk of airspace, those same friendly skies that you and I enjoy using for our sightseeing or other airborne fun. They also have highly paid lobbyists to convince government to let them do what they want. Little airplane companies cannot afford a lobbyist. |||| On the opposite end of the spectrum are hobbyists. Amazon will sell you a drone with a camera for as little as $50 and ones for around $1,000 can easily occupy the same airspace you want to use this weekend. I don't know about you but while I like all things that fly, the prospect of drones buzzing about willy nilly gives me a case of the creeps. What with the big guys potentially spying on us — or superbly serving their customers; it all depends on your perspective — and your neighbor cavorting around to take aerial pictures of the family picnic, our skies may be getting less friendly.

Airbus calls its solar-powered Zephyr (top photo) an "Internet broadcast plane." As Airbus enters this arena, they confront competitors from widely different fields. Who would've guessed Google, Facebook, and Amazon would start developing flying machines? Airbus' Zephyr is an ultra-light aircraft weighing just 110 pounds albeit with a wingspan of 75 feet designed to fly at 65,000 feet and remain on station almost indefinitely. Zephyr's solar arrays on its wings power the vehicle's motors and two propellers, driving it along at 30 knots at altitude using about three times the electrical energy as a light bulb while also charging its lithium-sulphur batteries.

Yael Maguire, engineering director at Facebook Connectivity Lab, doesn't like to use the word "drones" when it comes to "beaming" Internet to the developing world. He prefers "planes." Whatever they're called, Facebook is looking to the skies "in order to get the last 15% of the world's population who aren't connected." These flying machines aim to fly high, above any airspace recreational pilots use but those flying machines have to get up to altitude and what happens when they fail? According to Maguire, "The size of the planes will be roughly the size of a commercial aircraft, like a 747 though much lighter, about the weight of four of the tires of a Prius." Facebook's aerial dreams are focused on low-Internet-use countries such as India, Latin America, Africa and Asia.

How will Facebook's aircraft be operated? "Right now, there's a 'one pilot per plane' rule," said Maguire while adding that their team is open to one pilot managing up to 100 of these solar-powered planes." He added the team hopes to get one of these planes in the air in 2015, with plans to test it in a to-be-determined U.S. location, which may or may not ever be revealed to the public.

Despite concerns, good news for aviators could also follow. "We have to push the edge of battery technology, of solar technology, of composite technology," explained Maguire. "There are a whole bunch of challenges that our team is super excited to work on." Their solutions, funded by a billion-dollar cash hoard, could potentially speed development of electric-powered human-flown aircraft.

Google wants to deliver via drone. This video provides an example:

Shortly after Facebook acquired Ascenta for $20 million, Google bought New Mexico-based Titan Aerospace, which is also in the solar drone business. However, the flight hazards are not all from drones. The web search giant has already started work on Project Loon, a network of balloons on the edge of space that are designed to provide internet connections in rural areas.

Today, FAA appears to be in crouch mode, trying to assess how they will regulate all the new machines aiming for the heavens. As the skies eventually fill up with camera-toting drones, solar-powered Internet broadcasters and who-knows-what-else, the million or so of us who enjoy flying ourselves around in our old-fashioned human-pilot aircraft better be looking out the window or monitoring our ADS-B gizmos.

Icon Updates Their Order Book; Forecasts Delivery
By Dan Johnson, September 30, 2014

One of the most-watched Light-Sport Aircraft is Icon's A5 seaplane. Through savvy marketing and a splashy display and events at AirVenture (the only show where Icon Aircraft regularly exhibits), the company has clearly wowed potential buyers, the general aviation public, plus media journalists and photographers. ByDanJohnson.com has followed Icon since the beginning, actually even before the beginning, so we are pleased to continue our updates on their progress. Most observers see that it has been a long road. I first met CEO Kirk Hawkins back on the EAA Sport Pilot Tour in 2005 when he was — as he put it himself — "one guy with a business card." Whatever you may think about the road long traveled, Kirk has taken his company from nowhere to one of the most closely tracked enterprises in the entire LSA space worldwide. His training for this lengthy exercise began at California's respected Stanford University Graduate School of Business where he learned the Silicon Valley way to make a big impact ... what the tech industry likes to call "creative destruction," leaving behind the old ways of methodically introducing products and embracing the Internet style of taking bold leaps forward.

Icon and its A5 are certainly not your father's LSA (for those mature enough to remember my adaptation of former car company Oldsmobile's line to herald their newest model). Hawkins and his team of ex-Scaled Composites engineers went off in several new directions, perhaps culminating in their Spin Resistant Airframe proof to FAA that gained them an exemption to the LSA weight limit. Read our earlier article or see our video with Kirk on this for a fuller explanation. The company used automobile designers to create their distinctive interior (photo) and did things like ditch the awkward outboard sponson floats for their "sea wing" interior floatation that also serves as the retractable landing gear cavities. Their powered folding wing mechanism has impressed crowds for years, even if it may have been one of those features that pushed the company to seek the weight exemption. Icon said they are targeting 1,510 pounds gross, which is only 80 pounds more than normally permitted for LSA seaplanes (1,430 pounds). They were exempted up to 1,680 pounds but apparently won't employ all that extra weight.

Icon has always made the most of their dramatic Oshkosh exhibit and it worked again in 2014. The company reported that AirVenture "proved to be [a] great success, with thousands of visitors stopping by the Icon booth. Demand for the A5 remained strong with nearly 200 orders placed [during the] week, an all-time record for the company, bringing [the delivery] position list to just over 1,500." At that level, Icon eclipses even Cessna's once-impressive order list of just under 1,000. Companies like Flight Design have delivered many airplanes but never racked up such a large order book, though naysayers will surely retort that Icon would never have reached such a number if they'd been delivering all along. My take is that a book of business filled with 1,500 deposits is a very powerful statement about the viability of the Light-Sport Aircraft market and I personally wish them all the best. "Before Icon can begin customer deliveries, the FAA will conduct an audit in which they inspect the manufacturing facility, verify the aircraft's compliance with ASTM standards, and confirm that the documentation and quality systems are in place," reported the company. "The first customer delivery is scheduled for May of 2015."

"The interior of the A5 has been significantly refined (nearby photo), and even completely re-imagined in some places, during the journey from concept to production," said Icon. Their team conducted user studies on numerous design parameters including the graphics and colors of key cockpit controls, calibration of stick and pedal travel to accommodate pilots of all sizes, and upholstery that optimizes breathability and drying time. Such consideration reflects the nature of a seaplane that can and will get wet. Readers who enjoy Facebook may wish to click over to Icon's page, which has attracted more than 850,000 likes. At this location you can find many photos and follow the company's development. As reported here earlier, Icon will be relocating to Vacaville, California, northeast of San Francisco, in 2015. Production of the A5s will start at this new center.

Located near Hollywood (for now), Icon Aircraft logically produces some great video. Check this short clip:

Viking Engine Wins STOL Competition & Customers
By Dan Johnson, September 29, 2014

Engine suppliers must love Zenith Aircraft, perhaps as much as their many airframe owners. For 23 years, the kit company based in Mexico, Missouri has supplied about 200 kits per year to buyers all over the country and around the world. That is a selling performance any light airplane company would like to boast. One reason for their success is their support of a variety of engines, no small feat considering each engines has special qualities to be considered when installing and using them. Good for Zenith for going the extra mile. One of the many engines they support is the Viking Aircraft Engine from Edgewater, Florida on the Atlantic side of the Sunshine State. Zenith also supports engines from Rotax, Jabiru, UL Power, and Continental. See the video below covering the short field takeoff and landing competition on a pretty, sunny day at the Mexico airport.

all photos courtesy of Viking Aircraft Engines
Zenith reported, "Winning performance by Jan Eggenfellner flying a Zenith STOL CH 750 powered by a Viking 110 engine." To win the competition you had to do well at both takeoff and landing, an appropriate way to show off the potential for Zenith's high-lift CH 750 STOL. Jan won the contest with a very impressive 219 feet, comprised of a takeoff at 110 feet and landing in just 109 feet. Of course, as an engine producer this was very satisfying as he flew a handsome burgundy CH-750 powered by one of his Viking engines producing 110 horsepower. As do other powerplant providers, Viking works to assist buyers with is often called a firewall forward package, sometimes containing a nose cowl that encloses the engine that can help performance. Despite some challenges beginning this company (see last paragraph), Viking has successfully installed engines on several aircraft types (nearby photo). At the Missouri Open Hangar Day event, four Viking-powered Zenith models attended including three that made the lengthy trip from Florida plus another from Ohio. Three CH 750s were joined by a low wing CH 650.

Clockwise from top left: factory fixed wing (Cessna 150); kit-built Sonex; powered parachute; and an award-winning gyroplane.
Viking offers a bit more power than the Continental or Rotax engines that lift so many Light-Sport Aircraft in the USA and around the world. UL Power can provide several engines with even more power but Viking prides itself on the performance achieved by their attractive powerplants. The Florida company reported that a Cessna 150 using a Viking engine with a custom cowling can cruise at 135 mph even without wheelpants. That's impressive. I once owned a Cessna 150 with a 150-horsepower Lycoming engine that didn't cruise that fast (though it did empty the standard fuel tanks in a couple hours). One builder of a Van's RV-12 sent airspeed indicator photo proof of cruising 145 miles an hour with the Viking, though we didn't hear the atmospheric conditions at the time. A Sonex reportedly can achieve 170 mph in the speedy, low-cost design from Oshkosh Wisconsin and a Just Aircraft model likewise sent a photo of his ASI showing 115 mph. On the other end of the spectrum, at least one powered parachute operator fitted the Viking ... but speed isn't a factor. Powered parachute speeds are dictated by the canopy wing, not engine power. The Florida engine maker reports fitting 32 air frames in their five years of existence. See our video for more details about Viking.

Jan Eggenfellner (photo) is the designer of  the Viking Aircraft Engine. For 15 years, from 1994 to 2009, he built and sold aircraft powerplants based on Subaru engines. His goal was to hold down the cost of engines, which as any homebuilder knows, can be a significant investment. By his own telling, a low profit margin and a worsening national economy drove him to bankruptcy in 2009. He wrote, "Some customers lost money. I personally lost everything, providing refunds until no money was left." In 2010, he restarted his engine business based on a Honda block and remaining Subaru parts. "Some interest was gained by showing the engine at a local airshow for Light-Sport Aircraft," he wrote. "An initial cost of $9,900 brought enough customers onboard to form a new company." The Viking engine project was started and financing secured. Today, Jan reported, "Viking Aircraft Engines, LLC is a sound company with 11 people actively working to produce engines in Florida." Reflecting on the earlier enterprise, he admits, "I am sorry that my previous company was unable to survive. I have some critics." He requests that potential customers "ask any Viking Aircraft Engine owner" and to that end, he provides comments from buyers on his website.

Catch the STOL competition fun in this video from Zenith Aircraft.

Germany’s Top 10 Ultralights by Aerokurier
By Dan Johnson, September 26, 2014

Much of what we hear and know about airplane populations is centered on America. Yet in the world of sport and recreational aviation, the rest of the world equates to at least a 1:1 relationship, that is, for every American aircraft flying, many experts agree another flies internationally. It may be more significant than that ... consider Germany.

In mid-August, our friends at Aerokurier, Germany's leading aviation magazine, assembled an article about the top 10 ultralights in that country. A European ultralight, as you may know, is not the same as an American ultralight that is today limited to a single seat and no more than 254 pounds of empty weight. In Germany and elsewhere around the European Union, "ultralight" refers to an airplane much like a U.S. Light-Sport but limited in weight to 472.5 kilograms or 1,041 pounds. Originally the weight limit had been 450 kilograms or 992 pounds but because emergency airframe parachutes are mandatory in Germany the weight was increased a few years ago to cover this component. In the following article, we present Aerokurier's article translated by computer and edited for English readers. Any errors from the original are ours. Following Aerokurier's description is our added commentary. We hope you enjoy this glance at the very active sport flying community in Germany. We'll do this in style of TV host David Letterman's Top-10, starting with #10 and working up to #1.

According to sanctioned organizations (DaEC & DULV) tasked with administrating and registering ultralights in Germany, 2,257 airplanes comprise the country's Top-10. This number is equivalent to our market share charts that show entire fleet size over the life of the category. The numbers below do not describe annual sales.

Evektor Eurostar photo by Patrick Holland-Moritz
#10 — Evektor Eurostar (94 flying) — Built by Evektor in Kunovice, Czech Republic, Eurostar is a versatile all-metal low-wing aircraft recommended for travel, training, and towing. Regular model updates ensure that the Eurostar does not look old today. Under the model name Sportstar RTC, the aircraft is also available as EASA-certified LSA [under EU rules called CS-LSA]. |||| Americans know Sportstar and now Harmony as a leading LSA company ranked at #9. Sportstar was the very first LSA to win FAA acceptance back in 2005. This highly refined aircraft has worked well as a trainer and a cross country traveler.

AeroSpook Dynamic photo by Frank Herzog
#9 — AeroSpool Dynamic (97 flying) — It's fast and belongs to the ultralight beauties at the sky. Built in Slovakia WT9 Dynamic is the epitome of a sporty composite low-wing monoplane. Capable of more than 200 km/h (125 mph) it excels at cross country flying, is comfortable, and can even tow gliders. Dynamic's flight characteristics are exemplary processing. |||| Dynamic in fixed gear form has some U.S. models flying but after Sport Aircraft Works left the business sales slowed to a stop and it never entered the Top-20 of the American LSA market.

Tecnam P92 photo by Patrick Holland-Moritz
#8 — P92 (147 flying) — Tecnam supplies the P92, a real bestseller. The all-metal high wing is offered in several variants [including floatplane and taildragger]. These products range from the spartan-equipped light version for schools and clubs through to one fitted for luxurious airplane travel. One thing they all have in common: their flight characteristics are perfectly smooth and its structure is considered indestructible. |||| Italian giant Tecnam has sold P92 for 25 years and has examples all over the world. The company, with multiple LSA accepted by FAA, is ranked #6 in the American LSA market though that does not include their certified Twin that uses a pair of Rotax 912s. In early 2014, Tecnam opened a facility in Sebring, Florida along with an customer-friendly deposit program (only 10% due until delivery is ready) that seems sure to increase their market position.

Platzer Kiebitz photo by Birk Möbius
#7 — Kiebitz (151 flying) — The biplane from designer Michael Platzer has a huge following in Germany. Hardly any other ultralight gives so much fun flying in an open cockpit. To win this jewel, owners must either build it or seek one from the used market. Only plans and individual parts are offered, however, for many the effort is worthwhile. |||| Kiebitz has no U.S. market presence yet given the interest in vintage designs like the many Cubalikes, perhaps some interest can develop. On the other hand, Americans already have many choices in the world of homebuilt vintage aircraft so we may never see a Kiebitz in the USA.

Remox GX photo courtesy Remos
#6 — Remos GX (166 flying) — Remos Aircraft started in the mid-1990s with the introduction of its composite high wing G-3 that became popular with many ultralight pilots. Professionally produced and easy to fly this ultralight earned an excellent reputation in the industry. Several years ago, the company offered an updated GX version, which was proceeding toward European LSA approval [a more complicated and costly process than in the USA]. After a difficult time in recent years, production restarted in 2013. |||| Even after stalling badly following a tremendous promotional push, Remos still owns the #7 spot in the American LSA ranking, although reports of added financial challenge continue to dog the company. The airplane was marketed more heavily than any other LSA brand and won many happy customers.

FL-Lightplane FK 9 photo by Patrick Holland-Moritz
#5 — FK 9 (202 flying) — With the FK 9 Peter and his father Otto Funk [who died in 2014] presented their first FK 9 at Aero 1989 as one of the first "cabin class" ultralights replacing earlier aircraft that were far more basic. Today, the high wing is a model of success that is enjoys great popularity with many clubs and flight schools in Germany. New model innovations ensure continued success in the market. Older models are on the second hand market remain extremely popular. Today, the aircraft is built by FK-Lightplanes in Poland. |||| FK 9 enjoys market presence and current representation by Hansen Air Group in the USA. Another popular model from this company is the folding-biwing aerobat, FK 12 Comet, and coming from FK Lightplanes and Hansen will be a rather fantastic 70% replica of the P-51 Mustang (video) that you have to see to believe; the detail work is simply amazing.

Comco Ikarus C22 photo by Jens Wiemann
#4 — C22 (229 flying) — Germany's ultralight classic C22 has a loyal following to this day. Since the 1980s the model has stayed on the market and many still authorized aircraft remain active. From today's perspective, flight characteristics and comfort may seem rather spartan, but real ultralight fans love the original flying with the proven tube & Dacron construction from Comco Ikarus based in the south of Germany. [Note that Comco Ikarus also owns the #1 position in the market making this company Germany's clear leader after many years.] |||| No C22s are flying in the USA, nor has the German market leading C42 found many customers. The C22 is very similar to the Flightstar line popular for years in the USA and this entry in Germany's Top-10 listing is the only one faintly resembling what Yankees think of as an American ultralight. No attempt has been made to enter the U.S. with C22 and it probably would not succeed as we have a number of roughly comparable models.

Flight Design CTLS photo by Patrick Holland-Moritz
#3 — CTLS (243 flying) — From generation to generation the CT series from Flight Design has become better. This cantilevered high wing, all-composite monoplane has established itself as a mature aircraft for travel, training, and glider towing. Thanks to the extra wide cabin and large fuel tanks, lengthy cross country flights are a pleasure. In both USA and in Europe as an EASA-certified holder of a Restricted Type Certificate (RTC), CT is a successful LSA with 600 kg (1,320 pound) maximum gross weight. |||| You know this one in the USA as the longtime and always market leader. Since the beginning of LSA in 2004, Flight Design's CT2K, CTSW, CTLS, and CTLSi have held the largest single market share, currently ranked #1 with 359 in our most recent market share report. At #3 in Germany and #1 in the USA plus a growing presence in China, the company enjoys a strong position.

AutoGyro MTO Sport photo by Patrick Holland-Moritz
#2 — MTO Sport (346 flying) — This gyroplane is a case of the right product at the right time. In 2004, when the first MT-03 was first built, CEO Otmar Birkner had no idea he would trigger a surprising boom with gyroplanes. Many pilots love to be in the open cockpit feel the wind in your hair and to experience the flying dynamics of an autogyro. Today AutoGyro from the north of Germany is the world's leader in the gyro business. The MT-03 and its successor MTO Sport end up together in second place in Germany's registration statistics. |||| AutoGyro and other gyro providers operate in America but as FAA cannot seem to overcome their own rules, these popular planes must be built as Experimental Amateur Built (the 51% rule). If FAA ever catches up with the trend, look for more gyros to be flying as Americans seems to like the fully enclosed two seaters in tandem and side by side form. Rotax reports that gyroplanes are the #1 buyers of Rotax 912 of any aircraft type in the world.

Comco Ikarus C42 photo courtesy Comco Ikarus
#1 — C42 (582 flying) — Germany's most popular ultralight comes from the south of Germany. C42 by Comco Ikarus secures first place with 582 licensed copies of this tube & Dacron, high wing monoplane. It has been refined repeatedly over the years and currently the manufacturer produces three versions: C42A, C42B and C42C. The aircraft is very easy to use and is widely used by flying clubs and their flight schools. |||| The clear king of ultralights in Germany has 70% more aircraft registered than the number two producer and represents more than 25% of Germany's Top-10, a stronger position than even the top two U.S. LSA producers put together. While Comco Ikarus has attempted to gain an American foothold, exhibiting at big events such as AirVenture in past years, the company has never found either the right representation nor market reception, though admittedly the U.S. market is crowded with great competition for customer attention.

As you can see, the Germany and American markets have their differences but also enjoy great similarity. Germany is one of the very strongest light aircraft markets outside the U.S., trailed in approximate order by the Czech Republic, France, Britain, Spain, Italy and others. The American market remains the world's largest for light aircraft of all types, but in the world of sport and recreation is closely trailed by other countries.

Sling 4-4-40 Flies After Four-Day Build
By Dan Johnson, September 24, 2014

James Pitman (L) and Mike Blyth hand tow the Sling 4 for its maiden voyage. all photos courtesy The Airplane Factory
A couple days ago I wrote about the Sling 4-4-40 Challenge. I believe this to be of interest for a couple reasons. One is the fast build at an airshow ... much like the intense interest surrounding EAA's One Week Wonder (video) building of a CH-750 at Oshkosh. The other is my promise to offer coverage of the "New GA" or "LSA 4" planes — which are four seaters built by LSA companies using the technologies and techniques those companies know so well. South Africa's Airplane Factory (TAF) Sling 4-4-40 challenge — in which a Sling 4 was built in 4 days by 40 workers — marked yet another milestone for the Sling manufacturer. What normally takes a kit builder 1,000 hours to complete, took place at the 2014 Africa Aerospace event in just four days. Build team leader and company boss Mike Blyth reported it took their team 854 hours from bare kit to flight, although painting and perhaps some interior finish will take a bit more time, a situation similar to the One Week Wonder project.

"It started instantly, like all Rotax engines," exclaimed Mike!
The team consisted of highly skilled workers, and even some marketing, admin and catering staff. (Good heavens! They let the marketing guys work on this ... that's brave of them!) TAF reported their team worked around the clock, with the day and night being split into 10 and 14 hour shifts, respectively. On Day 1, the center and rear fuselage were constructed and joined, the gear and undercarriage were assembled, and the engine was wired and made ready for installation. The handover to the night shift went seamlessly, TAF said, with a half hour handover period that saw 32 people working on the plane at once. The night crew then worked to get the fuselage on its wheels, engine and propeller mounted, and wings three quarters of the way complete. On Day 2, team members wired the engine and panel, the ballistic recovery parachute was installed, and the wings and empennage were nearly completed.

The "4-4-40 Challenge" Sling 4 flies (foreground) with the Sling taildragger in formation.
With 45 minutes to go on Day 3, Sling 4-4-40 was rolled out of its build area, both wings were attached, landing and strobe lights were connected and working, and the avionics were fired up. As the plane was wheeled out for a celebratory team photo (nearby), company co-founder James Pitman pointed out that it took him and Mike four years to build the first Sling. Day 4 involved a dual inspection and final paperwork. "Support from the crowds was fantastic and [all day] hordes of people crowded around the plane." Mike Blyth turned the key and the Rotax 914UL powering Sling 4 "burst to life" amid cheers and applause from the crowds. "A Sling 4 was born in 4 days," Mike declared!

On completion, the build team celebrates.
The following day Sling 4 took center stage at the Africa Aerospace show. South Africa tail number ZU-TES was assigned to and affixed to the plane and it took to the skies. The plane performed flawlessly and put on a great show for all in attendance. The Sling was then flown back to The Airplane Factory's home base and was received with warm cheers from the entire staff (video below). TAF observed the 4-4-40 Challenge was one of many accomplishments already achieved by company. Mike and James flew the Sling 2 prototype around the world in 2009 and the Sling 4 in 2011. Also in 2011, the Sling 5577 Challenge took place, in which 5 men from the factory and 5 women who never had touched a rivet gun built a Sling 2 in 7 days. The Airplane Factory USA, located in Torrance, California (KTOA), will have a Sling 4 available for demo flights starting early 2015.

Open Houses, Airshow-Built Planes, and a Birthday
By Dan Johnson, September 22, 2014

Last weekend Zenith Aircraft held another of their open house events. At the Midwest LSA Expo a few weeks beforehand I asked factory pilot guru, Roger Dubbert how many people the company expected. His answer: a rather amazing "700." According to Zenith president Sebastien Heintz it was indeed another strong event, one they've repeated every year since setting up shop in Mexico, Missouri. "By all accounts and measurements, the 23rd annual Hangar Day was an incredible winner," summarized Sebastien. Among the highlights of the two-day festivities was the arrival of EAA's two Zenith aircraft. One was an EAA staff-built version of the CH 750 Cruzer (watch for our video pilot report to be posted soon) and the second was the One Week Wonder CH 750 that was completed during AirVenture with participation from over 2,500 people.

As Arion Aircraft's Nick Otterback put it, "Since this month seems to offer many open houses I wanted to share ours. We are hosting our Seventh Annual Fly In Open House; we have held it the first weekend in October since we started Arion." As reported earlier Jabiru USA is celebrating 15 years and coordinated with Arion to hold their open houses on the same weekend. "We thought that was a great idea since most Lightning owners fly behind Jabiru power," added Nick. The company holds a cross country air race for bragging rights every year. "We have a Light-Sport Class, an Experimental Class, and an Unlimited Class, the latter for all of our fast kit friends and Arion's new XS. It has been a lot of fun over the years and made for some good ribbing among owners over the years." In the one-more-thing department, Nick noted, "If you want to see possibly the worlds largest Jenga game we've got it!" For more details, check with Nick via email or phone: 931-680-1781.

Are you wondering what on Earth is a "4-4-40 Challenge?" It got my attention, too. Following on the huge success of EAA's One Week Wonder building a Zenith Aircraft CH-750 during AirVenture 2014, The Airplane Factory is repeating an earlier challenge of their own. This time a team of 40 workers from Sling designer and manufacturer will attempt to build and fly a four seat kit called Sling 4 in only four days! The build is taking place as this is written at the 2014 Africa Aerospace and Defense Expo at the Waterkloof Air Force Base in South Africa. The team is working around the clock, with the day and night being split into 10 and 14 hour shifts, respectively. "This is not the first time that The Airplane Factory (TAF) has undertaken such an exciting project," reported company officials. Back in 2011, the Sling 5577 Challenge combined efforts of five men from the factory and five women who never had touched a rivet gun; they built a two seat Sling in seven days. This year on only the second day, TAF said, "A Sling 4 has been born ... well, just about! The team has made great progress on Day 2, so much that Mike Blyth, team leader of the build, declared that they are ahead of schedule." I'm no longer surprised by TAF projects. This company has not only built many airplanes for customers but has flown both their two seat LSA Sling and the four seat Sling 4 around the world, both shortly after the designs were completed. They should wrap up the speedy build in just four days.

Wrapping up this piece, I wish to extend a "Happy Birthday" to an old friend of mine but also a man who was instrumental in the forming of the light aircraft space as we know it today ... such space now including Light-Sport Aircraft, light kit aircraft that Sport Pilot can fly, ultralights, and even Light GA airplanes referred to as LSA 4.0 that are getting ready to invade the factory certified aircraft sector. The man and my friend is Larry Burke who just celebrated his 80th birthday though you'd never guess he's accumulated that much wisdom. Larry can't get away to all the shows as he once did but he graced Sun 'n Fun 2014 with his smiling face and he consented to a video interview that appears below. Larry Burke founded the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association back in the early 1980s and it still flourishes today thanks the solid guidance he offered back in the "wild west" days of the first ultralight aircraft. Whether you know it or not, you owe a debt of gratitude to Larry for his work over decades. In my role as president of LAMA I still often ask his counsel and he is always quick to offer his perspective as an engineer, entrepreneur, designer and builder of aircraft, and great enthusiast of light aircraft. Thanks, Larry!

Catch a number of scenes of early light aircraft assembled by SportAviationMagazine.com in this video interview with Larry Burke.

Fifteen Years for Jabiru USA; Celebrate and Save
By Dan Johnson, September 18, 2014

This composite image shows the J230 and J170 Jabiru LSA in flight.
In the Light-Sport Aircraft industry, many companies are celebrating fairly young birthdays, at least compared to 80-year-old legacy companies in the GA space. One of those is Number 8 ranked Jabiru, with more than 100 airplanes delivered in the USA. That is whole aircraft with that name, but remember, this is one only a very few companies that produces both airframes and engines under their brand. The U.S. outlet for the Australian brand (more on this below) announced, "Jabiru USA Sport Aircraft, LLC will celebrate its 15th anniversary the weekend of October 3rd through the 5th, 2014." They sent out an invitation for all Jabiru owners, both aircraft and engine, as well as anyone interested in the lighter end of aviation to join them for a celebration. The company said it "will feature a Friday evening cookout with some fun & games, a Saturday breakfast fly-out to Winchester, TN, engine maintenance sessions Saturday morning and Saturday afternoon, a presentation on avionics updates including ADS-B, and a separate session on available engine updates.

Jabiru's six cylinder 120-horsepower 3300 engine.
Some history is in order for this Shelbyville, Tennessee light aircraft producer. Jabiru USA began in Neenah, Wisconsin, just north of Oshkosh. Back in September 1999 Pete Krotje was appointed a Jabiru dealer and service center for the upper midwest area. He had been flying a Jabiru 2200 on his Titan Tornado and accepted Jabiru's offer of a dealership. Later, Jabiru Australia reorganized its marketing network for the USA and Pete became a full time Jabiru enterprise in 2001. From then through 2004 the business concentrated on sales and support of the Jabiru 2200 and 3300 engines and quickly became the world's largest Jabiru engine dealer. During that time period Pete and son Ben — who worked in the family business for many years — developed the first of many firewall forward installation kits, facilitating easier installation of the Jabiru engines into different homebuilt aircraft. For example, Zenith Aircraft has been a significant user of the Aussie powerplants.

For their 15th anniversary celebration, Jabiru is inviting all owners and anyone interested in light aviation to their Shelbyville, Tennessee headquarters.
After years in Wisconsin — and coping with the difficult winters in that state — Pete moved the business into a larger facility in Shelbyville, Tennessee (south of Nashville) in December 2004. His aim was to begin fully manufacturing Jabiru aircraft for the new Light-Sport Aircraft market that had just been announced that summer. That goal was achieved with Jabiru USA producing 120 LSA-eligible aircraft through the end of 2013. However, the period from 2008 until 2011 and beyond has been a challenging period for any company and likewise for LSA companies. The so-called Great Recession pounded many small business and the more progressive ones looked hard for ways they could improve their business model. Pete did similarly and in 2014 executed on a major change in the way he'll do business.

South Africa receives a kit and assembles it, then shipping to the USA, where Jabiru USA completes the airplane.
Pete reported, "Since early 2014, with the change in FAA approach to manufacturers, Jabiru USA now imports the Jabiru Aircraft line while still developing new firewall forward kits for new aircraft coming onto the market. Service has become a much larger part of the business as the USA Jabiru fleet of engines and airframes mature. Jabiru USA's A&P mechanics and senior mechanics with Inspection Authorization service or rebuild an engine every week at the Shelbyville location. Jabiru USA's service department repairs damaged aircraft and performs all sorts of service and inspections for many LSA and experimental amateur built aircraft. Meanwhile, Jabiru airplanes like the popular J230 will now be available for a sharply reduced price ... a savings of $25,000! Catch this video to hear more about Jabiru's new pricing. Those folks who think LSA are getting too costly ought to consider what Pete Krotje and his team have accomplished.

You can also watch this interview to hear about new improvements in the Jabiru 3300 120-horsepower engine:

Light Is Right In the Eyes of FAA and World CAAs
By Dan Johnson, September 15, 2014

Evidently, a magic number exists to authorities in various civil aviation agencies around the developed world. That magic number — more correctly a range — is 115 to 120 kilograms, or 253 to 264 pounds. FAA led this charge way back in 1982 with the introduction of FAR Part 103 codifying that an airplane, 'er ... "ultralight vehicle" with an empty weight of 254 pounds — subject to certain exceptions for emergency airframe parachutes or float equipment — could be flown without three requirements common to all other aircraft. Part 103 vehicles do not require registration (N-numbers); the pilots of these ultralights need no pilot certificate of any kind; nor do they need a medical. Such aircraft can be sold fully built, ready to fly. The entire regulation governing their use can be printed on the front and back of a single page of paper. This simply must be one of the most remarkable deregulatory efforts in all of aviation. Thanks to Mike Sacrey and his team for surmounting that Mt. Everest of obstacles to push through this remarkably brief rule. EAA even inducted Mike into the Ultralight Hall of Fame and he noted in his acceptance speech that it was probably the only time an FAA rule writer had been so honored.

Vierwerk test pilot Tim reviews the Aerolite 120 before going aloft.
While the numbers are the same or similar, the names are different. In America FAA says FAR Part 103, Germans refer to their 120 kilogram Class or "120 Class," and in England a 115 kilogram class is known as SSDR for Single Seat De Regulated. All these classifications share similar — but not identical — freedom from the burden and expense of more traditional certification methods. In the USA, an aircraft called the Aerolite 103 has been selling well and flying successfully for many years. Now hear this: even in 2014 you can buy a 32-horsepower Kawasaki 340-powered Aerolite 103 for only $15,900. This is completely assembled and ready to fly. The Kawasaki is manually started or for $590 more you can have electric starting. A 28-horsepower Hirth F-33-powered Aerolite 103 is just $16,790, again fully built and includes electric starting powered by a lightweight Lithium battery. Both models come with choice of colors, two-blade Tennessee Prop, windscreen and nose fairing, basic flight and engine instruments (airspeed, altimeter, slip indicator, tachometer, EGT, CHT), electric flaps, steerable nose wheel with suspension, four-point seat belts, a five gallon aluminum gas tank, Dacron wing and tail covering needing no paint, Azusa brakes, and a anodized aluminum airframe.

Aerolite excels at low and slow flying (even if that isn't as common in Germany).
In Germany, the costs will be somewhat higher as the German 120-Class still demands some levels of approval that are not needed in the USA, plus freight from America to Europe adds expense. The German representatives (see article from Aero last April), Vierwerk Aviation, plans to sell the Aerolite 120 for €25,000 (or about $32,000) but this includes 19% German VAT tax. Strip away the tax and the overseas shipping cost and the German Aerolite is only modestly more than we see in the USA and that extra will help pay for the cost of gaining approval. A few days ago, Vierwerk advised, "The extensive flight test program has been carried out successfully. We are very happy about the positive feed back of the test pilots." Test pilots related such comments as, "the pilot gets the feeling of a very well controllable aircraft," and "the pilot gets used to the aircraft quite quickly." Another test pilot who runs a flight school said, "I flew several flight maneuvers to simulate an inexperienced student-pilot to figure out the best methods for recovery. The amazing part was, the [Aerolite 120] always reacted ... with a good self-recovering tendency at all flight envelops with or without flaps." The latter pilot, Ronny Schäfer, added, "All documents, flight test protocols, load test protocols, videos and photos will be sent to the French Aviation Authorities by the end of this week." After their successful test program, Vierwerk announced, "We are certain to receive the EU certification [as] we have accomplished and proven all safety and quality related figures and tests according to the strict German LTF-L." They expect approval in 4-6 weeks.

Evaluating the Aerolite 103 in America; it's all good.
Too many people gripe about the cost of Light-Sport Airplanes even though they are far less costly than most new general aviation aircraft. In truth, they're lower cost brand new than many 10 or 20 year-old GA aircraft. The problem remains that a large number of interested pilots cannot afford $150,000. Hint: consider a partnership; this is an excellent way for some to have ownership. Nonetheless for many, six figures is simply more than they can stomach. Maybe it's time to think about a Part 103 or a 120-Class airplane ... perhaps the Aerolite — Aerolite 103 in America or Aerolite 120 in Germany. Let's review again: a nice, ready-to-fly airplane with most of the features you need to enjoy flying the friendly skies for less than $20,000. You may prefer a two seater or desire fancy equipment; if so, you have many great choices. Yet if you want to get airborne in a sweet-flying little airplane, Aerolite will bring a smile without emptying your retirement account.

"Ultralight vehicle" was chosen to avoid running afoul of FAA definitions, which are quite specific. By steering clear of "airplane" or "aircraft," Sacrey's FAA team was able to put into place the remarkable Part 103 rule that removes so much of the burdensome regulation that confounds traditional American and international airplane development and raises the cost of aircraft. Of course Aerolite and other "vehicles" are actually genuine aircraft and so dealt with by FAA but such a description was apparently needed to get Part 103 through the system. Present-day FAA people suggest such a regulation would never succeed now ... so enjoy the magic of Part 103.

Helping One Another: Two Aircraft ... One ‘Chute
By Dan Johnson, September 11, 2014

It wasn't supposed to work out this way, but three people in two aircraft were saved when a European ultralight used an airframe parachute to save everyone. On Sunday, September 7, 2014 — commonly, these things happen over the weekend when recreational aviation is often pursued — at the German airport Koblenz-Winningen a Zenair CH-601 and K-18 glider collided in midair. During the collision, the planes became hopelessly entangled. The pilot of the CH-601 activated his Magnum Rescue System manufactured by the Czech Stratos07 company and the aircraft descended as one safely to the ground. Two occupants aboard the CH-601 plus a 17-year-old pilot of the glider were able to walk away from the aircraft with what was reported as "slight injuries." One aircraft apparently struck the other almost perpendicularly in a classic "t-bone" mishap. Such accidents are bad enough between two cars, but when airborne such an incident can often be fatal to all aboard both aircraft. The parachute's performance was likely aided by the substantial drag afforded by two aircraft, slowing the descent speed somewhat.

The Czech-designed, German-distributed Magnum Rescue System is only designed to handle an ultralight aircraft with maximum permitted gross weight of 472.5 kilograms or 1,042 pounds (including the weight of the parachute system, about 35 pounds). Fortunately these systems are designed with safety margins and the Stratos07 canopy proved to have an ample reserve making a most unfortunate event end without loss of life. Midair collision is one of the most threatening situations referenced by sellers of airframe parachutes. No matter the faults, after such a dramatic collision (photos) these pilots had zero chance to guide their aircraft safely to an emergency landing. Other possible deployment scenarios include: engine out over unlandable terrain such as trees or water; significant loss of control such as a damaged aircraft elevator or other component; serious medical trauma for the pilot with a non-pilot passenger; or loss of engine power at night with little or no visibility. In these situations the pilot or person electing to pull the parachute handle has a tough decision that must be made swiftly under great duress: try to fly the airplane to an emergency landing with the hazard that below a minimum of about 300 feet AGL, the parachute will no longer help, or deploy and become a passenger of an unguided aircraft.

Thanks to Mary Grady of AVweb for bringing this to our attention. Find her story here. Mary requested and I passed along some names to contact but those persons were not able to help so Mary used the broad reach of the Internet to find details. In her article using information found on a German website she quoted a police spokesperson, "The 17-year-old pilot of the glider was lucky. Without the parachute [of the] ultralight ... he [would have] crashed into the ground," the police representative said. Mary reported that two people were on board the ultralight aircraft, a man and a woman, ages 29 and 32. Parachute touchdown speeds are higher than you may think. Engineers create a survivable landing at a higher rate of descent over a softer touchdown that brings with it higher cost, higher system weight, and greater bulk, all of which may be seen as negatives that can cause aircraft owners not to choose a parachute. The parachute business (in which I worked for 18 years) has a tongue-in-cheek line: "If you ever need a parachute and you don't have one, you'll never need one again." It's a bit sardonic but I know I prefer flying with a parachute whenever possible as they offer a superb final option. I'm sure all three Europeans involved are feeling mighty good about airframe parachute systems today.

Thanks also to my friend and colleague, Jan Fridrich of Czech LAA and LAMA Europe, for providing information on this scary incident.

Midwest LSA Expo 2014 Highlights
By Dan Johnson, September 9, 2014

The sixth annual Midwest LSA Expo just concluded. These LSA-only events offer a more intimate setting where you can speak at length with an aircraft or other product representative. They don't offer the dense traffic of the big shows but the valued trade off is that nearly everyone who shows is interested. People came from as far as California and I witnessed many demo flights. The Mt. Vernon airport is as good as it gets for this purpose with easy access to big broad runways and plenty of open airspace. Lead by energetic Chris Collins, a team of volunteers made it work again. When the event isn't swallowing all their time these folks have a little fun. Don't worry about the nearby picture; TSA and Homeland Security can calm down. This was a planned promotional venture on the side of a great new restaurant called Rare, a chop house. The airplane suffered a crash and the tail is all that escaped undamaged; thankfully, the pilot suffered only minor injuries. Now it's immortalized ... though the N-number was altered to protect the owner's privacy.

Be creative and win an iPad. That's the news from Sportair USA, importer of TL Ultralights (Sting and Sirius) and the Savage line of "Cubalikes," to borrow Sportair boss Bill Canino's word. Now the "Cub" part has to go. "In our enthusiasm for the Cub-S we overlooked something when we introduced it at AirVenture 2013 in Oshkosh," said the Arkansas company. "The word 'Cub' is a registered trademark in the USA [that was purchased from the originator of the name, Piper]. Even though many manufacturers of kits and ready-to-fly airplanes do use Cub in the names of their products, that word belongs to someone who asked us to stop using it." Being a respectful company, Sportair will cease using the "Cub" name. Indeed, that's why they're using a contest to rename the airplane. Sportair sells variations called Savage Cub, Bobber, and Cruiser but it was the Titan Stroker 180-horsepower Savage Cub-S that really raised the red flag for the name owner, perhaps as Cub-S is only $128,000, tens of thousands less than some other Cubalikes! So, if you come up with a winning name for this powerful variant, you could win one of three prizes worth several hundred dollars. Visit Sportair's Name The Plane page.

Looking all bush, Cub-S — as it shall be known for a short time — is capable of landing on a creek bed or a lumpy turf field. Bush capability on Light-Sport Aircraft is more available thanks to new product releases. At the Midwest LSA Expo, RANS displayed their S-20 Raven on big tundra tires (video coming) as did Just Aircraft and Aerotrek. The Indiana company that sells the affordable A240 trigear and A220 taildragger — with a list price of $88,950 — can now be ordered with large tundra tires and this is on a nose-dragger. Nearly always such bush capability comes on a taildragger which configuration is not right for everyone. Insurance companies know tailwheel training is less common than it was many years ago and therefore getting coverage may require more training or experience. With the A240 in tundra tires for the same low price, you can have bush capability without a large investment. Aerotrek is a stable and successful importer that has steadily climbed the market share ladder now appearing in 10th place nationally and their order book stays full.

Just Aircraft just can't sit still on their SuperSTOL. The airplane is selling briskly and chief designer Troy Woodland keeps improving this amazing aerial animal. It's already a fascinating airplane to watch make incredibly short takeoffs and even shorter landings. Now, it will have even more control at its crawling approach speed because Troy added spoilers to the wings (arrow), joining movable slats, vortex generators, tip plates, and large-volume flaps. My longtime interest in gliders and soaring gives me familiarity with spoilers. I feel they are an underused flight control that can have a significant effect on the wing's lift and, unlike flaps, they can be retracted quickly without adverse results. Indeed, when I flew the Cumulus ultralight motorglider extensively I became very accustomed to using them intermittently, in short on-off bursts, to control approaches to landing. For a super-short-field performer like SuperSTOL, this may prove a compelling idea and one more reason to consider this intriguing design. Just Aircraft has sold more than 500 kits and is going strong ... no wonder with this steady development work they're doing.

Rotax largely owns the LSA space so far as powerplants go at somewhere around 80% market share. Of course, Continental is never to be counted out with their O-200 series that lifts many airplanes including the new batch of "LSA 4.0" GA-like aircraft and Jabiru also serves both LSA and homebuilt fleets (the latter with no less than seven firewall forward packages). Plus, we have the D-Motor coming and Florida-based Viking remains busy in the homebuilt space. At the Midwest LSA Expo importer Robert Helm told us "most of the work is complete to make the ASTM declaration" for the UL Power engines to become available on Light-Sport Aircraft. The Belgium company hasn't made a final decision to enter fully built aircraft due to liability concerns but Robert says he's very busy handling warm response from homebuilders. He recently signed a deal with Wicks Aircraft to handle parts fulfillment, giving him more time to work with tech support for installers and maintainers.

KMVN is one of the best places for my video partner and I to shoot video pilot reports (VPRs). Over three days, we gathered footage for several new video interviews and VPRs. For the first time we used a new set of the new Garmin VIRB cameras. We installed a total of six cameras in or on each airplane plus shooting takeoffs, landings, and low-and-slow passes. Doing these VPRs takes one to two hours each — 30-45 minutes just to mount all the cameras. The slower pace of Mt. Vernon is excellent for these more comprehensive video productions. Once we leave the field, the real post-production work begins but watch for videos on the 180-hp Savage Cub-S, Rans S-20 Raven, Zenith 750 Cruzer, ICP Savannah plus several new video interviews. We hope you'll enjoy them.

Amazing LSA Seaplanes: Lisa’s Supersleek Akoya
By Dan Johnson, September 4, 2014

We just passed September 1st and that date is significant in the LSA universe. It is the day, ten years ago, that the Sport Pilot & Light-Sport Aircraft rule we have been celebrating all summer officially became part of the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs). If you're thinking, "Hey, I thought it was announced in the summertime, at AirVenture!" ... you're correct. It was, but that was just the administrator's public relations timing to get the biggest bang for the buck, at Oshkosh. As we continue the tenth anniversary celebration — looking back on the first decade — we see the astounding development of 136 models of LSA, more than one every month for ten years running. This profusion of models runs the length and breadth of aviation, from fixed wing, three axis airplanes to powered parachutes to trikes to motorgliders and from less than $30,000 to over $200,000. I fully expect designers to continue pushing the envelope in every direction but one facet of LSA development seems as energized as a Saturn V moon rocket: LSA seaplanes. Consider:

  • Chip Erwin's Mermaid ... first approved seaplane — SLSA #15
  • Freedom from Spain ... with long motorglider wings — SLSA #44
  • SeaMax from Brazil ... compact, fast, and a light handling — SLSA #63
  • Searey from USA ... FAA accepted the day it was audited, a first! — SLSA #129
  • Super Petrel from Brazil ... a highly developed biwing — SLSA #134
  • Icon's A5 from USA ... the original "wow" creation among LSA seaplanes
  • MVP.aero's Most Versatile Plane from USA ... a huge splash at AirVenture 2014
  • Vickers Wave from New Zealand ... powerful and feature laden design
  • ATOL from Norway ... well proven wood structure, freshly redesigned
  • Lisa Akoya from France ... smooth and expensive, but more "wow"

The list above does not even include numerous LSA floatplanes where amphibious or straight (unwheeled) floats are added to an existing landplane. What grabs the attention of most people is how stunning the newest designs are — they are taking LSA design into what might be called its third generation — all in the sector's first ten years (although the A5, MVP, Wave, ATOL, and Akoya have yet to arrive as deliverable aircraft). The photos give you more on Lisa's aircraft and the company recently updated their corporate message after receiving substantial funding from (where else?) China. According to other sources a 75% controlling interest in Lisa was purchased by Heima Mining Company of China for $20 million in February 2013.

Lisa Airplanes' two-seat amphibian aircraft can take off and land on multiple types of surfaces (like MVP, which calls itself a "triphibian"). Lisa test pilots report "outstanding flight performance, combining long distances and exceptional comfort." Spokespersons elaborated, "From the cockpit up to the edge of the wings, and through the Seafoils, a number of technical innovations offer elegance, operating convenience and exceptional aerodynamic performance: top speed of 156 mph, range of 1,250 miles, fuel consumption of 42 mph, and Akoya takes off and lands in as little as 650 feet." Thanks to folding wings (photo & video), Akoya can be stored in a garage or aboard your yacht. With its stratospheric price tag of $395,000, Lisa will have to market to well-heeled customers.

Lisa developers also boast of Akoya's 180-degree panoramic view through its tinted bubble canopy and a cockpit specially designed to combine both aesthetics and maximum comfort. Engineered to meet the LSA regulation, Lisa said Akoya is positioned between [European] ultralight aircraft and standard category certified aircraft. They said that while the LSA concept is still not widely known in Europe, "this new U.S. standard is becoming international" and they intend to prove compliance of Akoya to ASTM industry consensus standards. Lisa assures that a Sport Pilot certificate will suffice in the USA while Europeans can obtain a Light Aircraft Pilot License after a 20 to 30-hour training session varying slightly to meet each country's regulation. It was good to see Lisa back at AirVenture 2014 where we shot a new video that will be available soon.

Watch for our interview. Until then, here's some flying scenes courtesy of Lisa:

The Next Decade of Light-Sport & Sport Pilot
By Dan Johnson, September 2, 2014

In July I posted an article about an AOPA survey conducted through the biggest member organization's daily newsletter, eBrief (sign-up page). That provided a broad glimpse into both the mind of an AOPA eBrief reader (and responder) but might also be used to forecast some possibilities for the LSA industry. In this article, I'm going to again use the survey data but look at such information in a different manner. I suspect LSA business people will read this with interest but it may be meaningful to any pilot interested in buying or partnering their way into a LSA or in finding a Light-Sport Aircraft available for students and others to fly at flight schools and FBOs around the country. LSA are by no means limited to the USA, of course, so I'll also make some informed guesses about what I see as the global aspect to the LSA development, now beginning its second decade*.

Let's do a bit of number review to help put this in context. AOPA reports about 400,000 members, making it by far the largest pilot membership organization in the world. Let's be conservative and say only about 300,000 are active or interested in being active. (I hope the number is not this small, but I prefer to err on the side of caution in this review.) As the nearby chart shows, 12.59% of eBrief readers say they are now flying while using the privileges of the Sport Pilot certificate. While 26.4% said they were not interested in sport pilot, the largest single group responding said they could envision themselves flying as a sport pilot in the future. The two affirmative answers total 73.6 percent. I stress that these numbers come from eBrief readers and may not mirror all AOPA member opinions. However, assuming the sample size was large enough to be valid — for reference, surveys of about 1,000 are commonly used to sample the entire U.S. population — then this eBrief survey might mean the following.

engineering artwork prepared by Jaro Dostal
Assuming 300,000 "active" AOPA members, 12.59% of them represents 37,770 members. The future figure 61.01% would represent 183,030, and the two numbers sum to 220,800 members. Based on FAA registration data, we know 37,700 do not presently own a LSA nor a compatible kit aircraft nor a parameter-meeting Standard Category airplane but aircraft ownership was not the question posed. However, whether they own them or someone else does, that many pilots could be flying LSA or LSA-like aircraft that do not require a medical. Apparently many more are intrigued by flying modern, fuel-efficient, and superbly equipped LSA or other aircraft that don't require a medical. Note that beside fully built Special LSA, Sport Pilot certificate holders may fly Standard Category aircraft or homebuilt aircraft so long as those flying machines meet the parameters (1,320 pound gross weight; speed less than 120 knots, etc.). Thus, available aircraft include SLSA, ELSA, Experimental kit-built aircraft, or other Sport Pilot-eligible aircraft beyond LSA.

If at some time 220,800 AOPA members are interested in flying as a sport pilot, how many might one day consider buying a new or used Light-Sport Aircraft? This question is far fuzzier so let's soberly reduce the numbers. We can guess that only one in ten of those (or 22,080) are truly interested to buy a LSA. Of that group, we can estimate only one in six of potential buyers (3,680 or 1.67% of interested members) will act on that interest. If it took ten years to fulfill such market potential, that averages 368 aircraft per year. Based on the first decade of LSA, this figure is certainly achieveable; the industry can safely produce this number ... indeed, has produced many more in the years before the Great Recession. Are these assumptions reasonable? Who knows? The GA industry sells more single-engine piston aircraft per year so those numbers certainly aren't beyond belief when considering the potential large interest from AOPA members as reflected by responses to the eBrief survey.

For LSA producers, the estimates above are only part of the story. In the sport or recreational aircraft world, the USA is not the dominant market. It is surely the largest single-nation market but the rest of the world easily accounts for at least 1:1, that is, for every sport aircraft sold in America, at least one may be sold in some other country (though we lack hard evidence of this). As LSA are presently accepted in several other nations with more to follow, the 1:1 ratio remains conservative, I feel. Thus, 368 U.S.-delivered aircraft could translate to 736 aircraft sold globally each year for the second decade of Sport Pilot / Light-Sport Aircraft. Will this occur? The only sure way to know is to ask again in 2024 but my speculation using the AOPA eBrief survey numbers is that the future for LSA remains bright.

* The SP/LSA rule was announced July 20, 2004 but the first aircraft were not FAA accepted then delivered to customers until April of 2005. So, LSA will only reach their first full decade completed by Sun 'n Fun 2015.

Continue reading more SPLOG posts. Click here to see our index, organized by date.




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.

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

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

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 a new four seater, Tecnam offers these LSA: Echo Classic, Eaglet, Bravo, Astore, and P2008.
Many LSA
& GA models

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.

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.

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

World Aircraft Company is Columbian design expertise joined to Canadian entrepreneurship based in Paris, Tennessee USA. Welcome to World Aircraft and a brand-new short takeoff and landing (STOL) Light-Sport Aircraft, the all-metal Spirit.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

Zenith Aircraft is one of America's leading kit suppliers featuring well proven models from legendary designer, Chris Heintz. Centrally based in Mexico, Missouri, Zenith offers kit aircraft for several popular models.

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

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.

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

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.

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