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

Searey Announces Financing ... Riding the Wave
By Dan Johnson, March 5, 2015

While some beautiful looking LSA seaplanes have captured lots of attention — here I am thinking of Icon's vigorously promoted A5, the unusually capable MVP, the highly innovative Wave, and Finland's ATOL ... all of which have some fascinating features — all but one of these share one feature: you can't get one yet. ATOL is preparing to deliver but A5, MVP, and Wave are all still works in progress. It takes time to develop a new aircraft but today if you want a ready-to-fly seaplane in the USA, you have basically three choices: SeaMax, Super Petrel LS, and Searey. Of those, Super Petrel has airplanes in stock in the USA and ready for delivery.

Searey stands along in my view as an LSA seaplane you can buy today and receive in a reasonable timeframe. It is also the only American-made LSA seaplane you can get today. It is available as a kit (more than 600 sold and more than 500 flying) and that gives the company a strong, reliable track record for those considering purchase. It is also, along with Super Petrel, very reasonably priced. What's reasonable? Well, a new price in the mid-$150,000 range is considered a good value by many seaplane owners. If that sounds like a lot to some readers, you should check the cost of other fixed wing, three-axis seaplanes ... some are breathtakingly more expensive. Weight shift floatplane choices and some simpler float-equipped aircraft also have good price points.

However, if you are still thinking you'd prefer one of these boat-hulled flying machines that offer choices of land or water operation, $150,000 may seem an insurmountable barrier. Progressive Aerodyne has sought out a solution and recently secured a financing program for their Searey models.

"We are excited to announce the availability of financing for Searey Elite and Searey Searey Sport SLSA aircraft," announced Progressive Aerodyne. The central Florida manufacturer has partnered with NAFCO, an affiliate of Pilot Bank, to provide loans amounting to 85% of the value of a Searey for a period of up to 20 years for qualified applicants. Progressive Aerodyne reports that NAFCO has been approving and servicing general aviation loans for over 20 years. "We are excited about the partnership," said Progressive Aerodyne. "Make your dream of owning a Searey a reality today."

Progressive Aerodyne did not break out specific numbers of such a loan. That information could vary considerably depending on numerous factors. However, just for the sake of illustration, here's a back-of-the-napkin estimate: Assuming a price of $150,000 (contact the factory an exact quote), an 85% loan means borrowing $127,500. Let's also assume a full 20-year loan period and assume a 7% interest rate. That means a buyer would put down $22,500 at the start and have payments of $989 per month. As with buying a house, you'll pay a good deal in interest over the loan period but, due to inflation, the value of money will be less in 20 years. So the payments, in theory, should be easier to make toward the end of the loan.

A well-maintained Searey should easily last 20 years and for most owners, even the Rotax engine will likely still have time left before overhaul in such a loan period. However you feel about borrowing to own your airplane, Progressive Aerodyne and NAFCO are offering a way to have a brand-new ready to fly LSA seaplane in the near future for $22,500 and a thousand dollars a month. That certainly puts such an aircraft within reach of many more buyers.

World Aircraft Features Modest Prices
By Dan Johnson, February 28, 2015

This article was updated on March 24, 2015 after communication with the company.

Would you buy a used aircraft from this man? Well, you ought to at least read his article.
World Aircraft Company is an international collaboration between a former Canadian, Eric Giles and Colombia-based designer Max Tedesco. The two teamed up following Eric's successful run with Skykits. Eric relocated to impressive new facilities in Paris, Tennessee (complete with a mockup of the Eiffel Tower) where he began manufacturing aircraft created by Max. The result is a series of airplanes including Spirit, Vision (video), Surveyor, and Freedom (in development).

The airplanes have numerous design features that demonstrate Max's long experience at this sort of thing, for example, an easy-to-maintain panel. Most are fully enclosed but enthusiasts of open cockpit flying might enjoy Surveyor.

Spirit is one of four models offered by World Aircraft Company.
ByDanJohnson.com is a website significantly about aircraft you can afford — even our domain name will eventually become AffordableAircraft.com — so it stands to reason that we care about airplanes you can actually, well, you know ... afford. Consider this: World Aircraft Company sells a ready-to-fly Spirit for just $87,995. Of course, prices change over time; please check with WAC to see the current figure.

Now despite that very reasonable base price, you may prefer to bulk it up with some accessories or features you don't feel you can live without; that's your decision. Yet manufacturer Eric and designer Max can sell you a well-flying airplane built right here in the USA, powered by the reliable Rotax 912 for less than ninety grand. By my calculation that is a quite good bargain in 2015. You can go check all the details at WAC's page about pricing.

LSA Mall at Sun ‘n Fun 2015
By Dan Johnson, February 27, 2015

We are less than two months away from Sun 'n Fun 2015 where once again the LSA Mall will be a central part of the fascinating area called Paradise City. Here is where thousands of visitors to the large season-starting event can see a flock of Light-Sport Aircraft and light kit aircraft. Prospective customers for these airplanes can also take a demonstration flight, right on the show grounds of Sun 'n Fun. See any vendor to inquire about demo flight availability.

At this 41st running of the popular event in Lakeland, Florida, LAMA, the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association is pleased to again showcase the newest sector in aviation. Visitors can enjoy the third year of the completely redesigned Paradise City, formerly known to enthusiasts as the Ultralight or Lightplane Area. Transformed in 2013 with an entirely new layout that brings visitors closer than ever to a wide variety of aircraft, Paradise City is particularly popular as you can get intimately close to the runway where a wide variety of flying machines will take off and land almost all day long (except during certain parts of the main airshow in the mid-afternoon).

The LSA Mall is made available thanks to manufacturers and their willingness to reveal their aircraft in wingtip-to-wingtip convenience, to volunteers in the LAMA tent at the center of the LSA Mall and with very special thanks to support from Aviators Hot Line, publisher of the Light Aviation Edition and organizer of the Show Center display.

Also for the third year, Rotax Aircraft Engines has again confirmed their support for a special transportation system that can whisk demo flight customers and others from the main "core area" of Sun 'n Fun to Paradise City with a stop at the Rotax main display.

Come ride the Paradise City Xpress!

Rotax BRP sponsors these golf carts to make it easy for pilots wanting to access a demo flight in a Rotax-powered aircraft. Many of these airplane companies exhibit in the main traffic area of Sun 'n Fun. Most of these companies — as well as those whose displays are in Paradise City — conduct their demo flights off the newly improved Paradise City runway. Rotax wants to help pilots and visitors get to those airplanes easily and conveniently. When seats are available — often! — you can catch a ride on the Paradise City Xpress, too ... assuming you can afford the price. I'm just kidding. It's a free ride. Thanks, Rotax!

Paradise City visitors will be able to examine all manner of affordable airplanes ... Light-Sport Aircraft, light kit-built airplanes, rotary aircraft, electric aircraft, ultralights, powered parachutes, weight shift trikes, paragliders, and more. At LAMA's LSA Mall located outside the Show Center tent — think of an auto mall with many choices available — you can see some of the very best airplanes in the LSA fleet.

This photo of Dave Piper surrounded by some of his volunteer staff was taken by my video partner, publisher of the Light Sport and Ultralight Flyer YouTube channel. Please see this link to an article on Dave.
While news about the LSA Mall is exciting and I look forward to helping organize it for another year, I have some very sad news to pass on while writing about Paradise City. On February 26th, 26-year Paradise City Chairman Dave Piper passed away from heart failure. Laura Vaughn, Sun 'n Fun's Director of Convention Administration wrote, "Dave had been not been feeling well and was taken to the hospital to undergo some tests and receive treatment, he went down hill very quickly and passed away last night."

I spoke to Dave only a few days ago. He complained of nothing and only spoke to his excitement for another year of Sun 'n Fun and Paradise City. Dave walked in a giant's shoes; his leadership skills will be very hard to replace and no one can replace the man or his spirit. He will be terribly missed this year and in the years to come but I know he was very pleased and proud of what Paradise City has become recently. I am so privileged to have known and worked with him, a feeling I am certain was shared by his many friends and nearly 200 Paradise City volunteers.

You can catch our interview with Dave in this video ...

M-Squared Aircraft a First for Sun ‘n Fun
By Dan Johnson, February 24, 2015

Amphibious float-equipped airplanes are in the wheelhouse of M-Squared Aircraft. photo courtesy M-Squared Aircraft
Sun 'n Fun is coming in less than two months. Surprised? Yes, we are now less than 60 days before the start of this season-opening event. The folks in Lakeland offer so much to do at their April celebration that you can barely jam it all in to a six day visit. No doubt this is why many arrive a few days early ... well, that and Florida being the Sunshine State which will be warm and pleasant from April 21-26, 2015. C'mon down. Get away from that snowy winter up north.

One thing you may not have done is visit the Museum on the property. All those new airplanes and products plus a major airshow keep people outside, understandably so. However, for 2015 light aircraft enthusiasts have one more reason to plan some extra time to keep the sunburn to a minimum by spending a few hours inside.

Known officially as the Florida Air Museum, FAM has quite a collection of aircraft for your review ... and no, it isn't simply a smaller version of EAA's world-class museum at Oshkosh (also worth a few hours).

Ray Anderson's magnificent flying machine will soon be on display at the Florida Air Museum. See video for a full tour of this remarkable airplane.
FAM features "Aerospace Discovery," which offers a broad display of rare and fun examples of aircraft including several one-of-a-kind designs, vintage classics and antiques, plus warbirds. However, FAM has been a bit spare in the lightest end of aviation.

That will change by the time you arrive in Lakeland, Florida for Sun 'n Fun 2015. Thanks to a generous donation from Ray Anderson, a very special — indeed one-of-a-kind — "ultralight" will be added to FAM's display. Built from an original airframe from M-Squared Aircraft, here's an airplane you have to see to appreciate. Oh, heck, even then you probably won't absorb everything Ray and the M-Squared staff accomplished with help from a local university.

Outstanding among its many features is the HKS powerplant. This is a fairly rare animal with the turbo-HKS 700T that produces 80 horsepower. On this light single seater, Ray said that engine helps him leap off the ground in one and a half airplane lengths, or about a 30-foot ground roll. HKS is better known for its 60-horsepower 700E model.

Our video walks you around this airplane so you can get a fuller idea. It may look like a simple little single seater — and it is, in a way — but it seems Ray left out only the kitchen sink in his effort to make this gray Breese SS a very special aircraft.

I am a member of FAM and encourage you to consider this as well. Here's the rates and member benefits.

Now, I want to focus on the airframer behind Captain Ray's work (he's ex-military and looks the part). M-Squared Aircraft is one of the longest-running airplane producers in the LSA space. Like myself, proprietor Paul Mather far pre-dates Light-Sport Aircraft. We were both around years before this newest aviation segment even acquired the name.

Logically then, Paul's M-Squared Aircraft business was early in declaring it met ASTM standards for Special Light-Sport Aircraft. You need to contact him to know the latest prices, but at one time, the lowest cost Special LSA you could buy was from his company. If you are one of the many who lament the high cost of carbon fiber, glass-panel, LSA speedsters ... well, I understand, but you ought to have a look at Paul's fun flying airplanes. I got a crack at Ray's HKS-powered Breese (wow!) but I think I've flown all the models in M-Squared's line and every one of them is a well-proven joy in the air.

Father and daughter go aloft to capture photos of M-Squared Aircraft's several models.
Like many of the light aviation segment businesses, M-Squared Aircraft is a small enterprise, described by some as a "mom-and-pop shop." As with many such businesses, some deep expertise is available but with few employees, such operations rely on friends of the business. Paul appears to have no shortage of supporters to help him make it all work well.

As Paul decided to upgrade his website, he called in some of those volunteers, but got some of his best support from his daughter, >b>Summer Brown. Trained in graphics, she's good with a digital camera as the new website attests. Seen in the nearby photo, Summer went aloft with Dad in every airplane comprising the M-Squared Aircraft inventory. Check out the new website and stop by their display at Sun 'n Fun 2015.

You may or may not see Paul as he spends an amazing amount of his time aloft giving demo rides. Like any other aircraft vendor he's flying those interested in purchases, but "King Paul" is a mainstay at giving flights to those who volunteer to help airshow put on their events. For airshow visitors demo flights are modestly priced and Paul Mather is one of the most expert flyers to take you up. I encourage a visit but ask soon; this guy books up fast.

NavWorx Relieves ADS-B Out Demands for LSA
By Dan Johnson, February 20, 2015

Traffic on a screen aids the eye in finding aircraft in your vicinity. On left is a screen shot from WingX Pro. With this much traffic it's great to have electronic assistance.
Across aviation segments of all types, noise is becoming shrill over FAA's demand that you install Automatic Dependent Surveillance - Broadcast equipment which not only receives but sends information. The phrase is such a mouthful that everyone just says, "ADS-B Out" though that is still a mysterious abbreviation to anyone not deeply attuned to aviation instruments.

Most alphabet organizations and many aviation writers have been outspoken about the challenges faced by owners of Type Certified aircraft. A chorus of lament wails about the high equipment cost (several thousand dollars) and high installation cost coupled with what is often described as an impossible situation. According to many experts, the number of aircraft needing ADS-B Out equipment is so great that maintenance centers no longer have time to install the equipment before the deadline.

Well, that is a troubling TC-aircraft dilemma but LSA and light kit aircraft owners recently got relief from the onerous requirement. FAA indicated that EAB homebuilt aircraft and LSA do not need to use TSO (Technical Standard Order) gear. "Non-TSO" means a piece of equipment is not certified, however, one company sells devices that are nearly identical except that they do not not have the FAA TSO approval. Why is this good for you?

NavWorx saves LSA and light kit aircraft owners a bundle compared to Type Certified aircraft.
The TSO NavWorx box is already the most economical option for GA aircraft owners, with their ADS600-B unit priced at $2,399 before installation. Yet now LSA owners can meet FAA mandate for less than 30% of that price! Sometimes it is good to be an LSA or light EAB owner, right?

Yep, for only $699 you can install the same hardware components as Type Certified aircraft must install while saving $1,700 (or even more compared to equipment from other providers). This is a crystal-clear indication of the cost of certification. Take a component and add 2.4 times the hardware expense merely to have documents (and the testing they imply) that proves it will work reliably in your TC airplane. This example is repeated throughout the LSA world, where non-certified aircraft boast an "acceptable" safety record — using FAA's preferred term for LSA safety — while featuring far lower prices. Sure, some LSA are still rather expensive but even the priciest are a fraction of their equivalent from the certified world.

Most owners are still going to have to pay a qualified mechanic to install the ADS600-EXP and some knowledgeable persons suggest installation could cost as much as the $699 NavWorx box. You'll also need an antenna, which NavWorx sells for $90-500.

However, the Rowlett, Texas company has another great idea, with more letters you need to learn.

The latest from NavWorx will become available early in March 2015.
NavWorx also offer their PADS-B with the "P" standing for "Portable." PADS-B transmits full ADS-B Out, while receiving all traffic and weather around your aircraft. Owner Bill Moffitt said, "We took the design straight out of our TSO/STC certified ADS600-B product, miniaturized it, and created the PADS-B." As with the ADS600-EXP, PADS-B is not TSO'd.

ADS-B receiver-only devices do not show all the traffic near you, said Moffitt. "FAA only sends traffic to your aircraft if you have ADS-B OUT." Users of ADS-B In equipment get traffic but it must be relayed from ground equipment or other aircraft, which is not as dependable. Moffitt said you need not compromise your safety using a receiver-only device for traffic because you can buy NavWorx PADS-B and "rest assured that the FAA is sending you traffic."

Even better is that PADS-B comes with zero installation cost. "Plug it in, place it on the glare-shield, and start receiving traffic and weather instantly," said Moffitt. Additionally PADS-B will send the full dataset to your iPad or Android app. He noted, "PADS-B works with WingX, iFly, Naviator, eKneeboard, Avilution and others but it does not work with proprietary, closed applications like Garmin and ForeFlight." PADS-B is fully self-contained with no external antenna that needs to be mounted; GPS and Wifi antennae are built-in.

NavWorx PADS-B sells for $999 but other than shipping that is your total cost to meet FAA's mandate. PADS-B will be available starting March 7, 2015.

Love Them or Not, Drones Are Coming
By Dan Johnson, February 18, 2015

See our video on the DJI quadcopter at Sebring 2015.
The good news is that most pilots I've interviewed — with a few outspoken exceptions — think drones are fine. Some are openly enthusiastic. Indeed, major drone seller Atlanta Hobby said their most effective advertising ever was on Barnstormers, an online source frequented by pilots (the sort that fly from inside the aircraft). This article will try to cast additional light on the new drone rule, FAR Part 107, that was announced over last weekend and gained wide coverage.

I contacted a subject matter expert who happens to be a longtime friend. Cliff Whitney is the fellow that first talked me into starting ByDanJohnson.com way back in 1999. Much earlier we met through a mutual interest in hang gliding and have remained friends ever since. Today, Cliff runs a multimillion dollar enterprise that sells ... well, things that fly (but with the pilot not inside). He remains an active pilot that enjoys flying several airplane types so he gets it from a pilot's perspective. We spoke for an hour just a couple days after FAA hurriedly released their NPRM news about Part 107 for UAVs.

(upper right) DJI's latest X3, carrying a three-axis stabilized camera that shoots 4K at 30 FPS (translation: very high quality video). Landing gear retracts to provide 360-degree camera angles. Most photos used in this article are courtesy of Atlanta Hobby.
In an unusual Sunday morning press conference, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta released the details of the proposed rule. Along with these two big shots of the regulatory world, Cliff was on the conference line. As both a pilot and a UAV seller, he said, "I was shocked yet extremely pleased about the proposed rule ... FAA used common sense ... [Part 107} will encourage innovation while promoting adoption" of the regulation.

Some, like Amazon — a company with ambitions about using drones to deliver packages to your doorstep — were less enamored of the rule as it excludes flight that the big online outfit will need to offer its aerial delivery service (see some of the Part 107 points below). However, even Amazon had to agree with Cliff that, "107 allows the ability to go elsewhere."

"Recreational users are exempt [from 107] ... this is hard coded and cannot be changed," Cliff observed. "If hobbyists fly recklessly, they can be penalized but this is as it was before." The regulation only applies to what Cliff calls the "industrial side." That's the main aspect of his business, accounting for 70% of sales; 30% are recreational users. He added, "Part 107 will increase the industrial share because the new regulation is so accommodating."

Let's look at some impact from this new reg. I asked Cliff about the size of the market. To understand it better, we need to divide it. Recreational user drones run $600-$2,000. These are some very capable UAV compared to "toys" that you can buy for $50-500. True working systems with back-up aircraft — needed because a company hiring you won't want to hear about a broken part that will take a week to fix — will cost $5,000 to $10,000. However, the latter amount can buy an aircraft delivering butter-smooth motion picture-quality video with very high resolution that can broadcast to a computer on the ground.

In the recreational or higher sector Cliff believes the DJI company (top image) is the leader with an estimated 70% of the market. DJI did $130 million worth of business in 2013, $260M last year and projects $600M for 2015. Calculating from average wholesale selling prices, the overall drone industry could deliver as many as a million new UAVs this year alone. In contrast, GAMA said that 986 single engine piston aircraft were sold worldwide in 2014; LSA and LSA-types delivered approximately 3,000 units around the globe. UAVs clearly represent very big business.

SHOULD PILOTS BE WORRIED? As a pilot — especially of an open cockpit ultralight or a powered paraglider — should you be worried about all this new traffic in the sky? "Such worry shows a lack of understanding," said Cliff. He explained using a humorous tale about how RC hobbyists have events where they deliberately try to run into one another, all within a 200-foot-square space. "I've seen 50 RCs fly around at low altitudes for 20 minutes without running into each other, even in a confined space ... and that's when they're trying to hit one other." He makes a good point. In my flying, while I recognize we must be vigilant to see and avoid, the skies are spacious and I very rarely see any aircraft close except near the airport.

Man-carrying quadcopter? -- We've seen others but Cecil Boyd of Technical Design Force in Hawaii has an idea for a partly weight shift controlled very light (Part 103?) multirotor called Quadralight. Intrigued? Contact Cecil.
As with most FAA proposals, the agency is asking for comments and must consider every one. For example, FAA is asking if the regs should permit operations beyond line of sight, and if yes, what are appropriate limits? Amazon may be dissatisfied with the NPRM as their proposed package-delivery drones couldn't fly over populated areas. However, the regs can change to allow such use after initial experience is gained and, of course, giant companies like Amazon and Google have lobbyists that might try to influence rule writers. Balancing corporate power are powerful forces concerned with privacy.

For another viewpoint, Reason Magazine wrote that Adam Thierer of the Technology Liberation Front noted on his blog that, "You can't read through these 200 pages of [FAR Part 107] regulations without getting sense that the FAA still wishes that private drones would just go away." Government drones are exempt from these rules.

Right or wrong, it seems as certain as tomorrow's sunrise that drones or UAVs are going to proliferate.

  • Drones must weigh less than 55 pounds
  • Commerical operators must remain within visual line of sight of the drone
  • They can only operate in the daylight with a least three statute miles visibility
  • Drones must stay below 500 feet AGL and outside of Class A airspace
  • May fly in Class B, C, and D airspace with prior permission from ATC
  • Drone must stay 500 feet below clouds and 2,000 feet horizontally
  • Drones cannot exceed 100 mph and must "see-and-avoid" other aircraft
  • Drones are not allowed over people, except those involved in the flight
  • Drone operators would have to pass an aeronautical exam and retake the test every two years
  • Background checks of some sort would be required for commercial drone operators
  • Aircraft markings (N-numbers) mandated for identification purposes

You can prepare for the exam via a study guide as offered by UAV Ground School

Produced before FAA's recent NPRM, this Reason.TV video gives the overall activity of flying UAVs a broader perspective. You also get a historical view of drones:

Rui Xiang RX1E ... Certified Electric Two-Seater
By Dan Johnson, February 12, 2015

All over the world, electric airplanes are getting remarkable amounts of attention, deservedly so as an exciting development to match work in cars and other vehicles. These days, while drones (also called UAVs, UASs, or RPVs) are made in various countries, a lot of the development comes from China ... so why be surprised to hear of a positive development in a Chinese human-occupied aircraft?

Is it the first "certified" electric? Well, "certified" is a term that can be challenging to define as the word means different things in different countries. For example, we've already produced a video covering the American-designed, Chinese-developed eSpyder from Yuneec. It won German approval in 2013. My flying experience on eSpyder is documented in this article. You can also read a more encompassing electric aircraft review article from 2011, though with the rapid pace of development such articles become dated rather quickly.

eSpyder developer Yuneec has also worked extensively on their e430, a two-seat, motorglider-like, pure-electric aircraft. Perhaps that was China's first electric two seater but now consider the Rui Xiang RX1E, a high-wing, side-by-side two-place aircraft. As does Yuneec's e430, RX1E uses high wing cantilever construction and long slender wings. According to Cafe Foundation — the group that closely monitors electric aircraft developments and hosts professional symposia — RX1E has been "designed by the Liaoning General Aviation Institute while Shenyang Aircraft Manufacturing [of Cessna Skycatcher fame] manufactures the aircraft under the Rui Xiang General name." Cafe Foundation gathered some of their facts from China News Service.

Cafe continued their report writing that RX1E is "...made of carbon fiber composite material, uses a 10 kilowatt-hour lithium battery [that is] enough for a 40-minute flight. Charging takes one-and-a-half hours and restores enough energy to make a 40-minute flight, all for about 5 yuan (80 cents).

Cafe credited Xinhua News Agency, which reported "a maximum cruising speed of up to 150 kilometers per hour (93 mph or 80 knots), and the ability to climb to 3,000 meters (10,800 feet) at a maximum takeoff weight of 480 kilograms (1,056 pounds)." RX1E is said to have a takeoff distance of 290 meters (930 feet), and a landing distance (probably over a barrier) of 560 meters (1,792 feet). Power is supplied by a 30 kW (40 hp) Sineton electric motor. Contrarily, Cafe notes, Yuneec employs a company-produced powerplant; they are famous for powerplant developments driven by their huge success in radio control models.

My source of the certification news offered to ask company officials for more details and when I have more I will update this article.

Last fall our good friend Mary Grady writing for AVweb reported that RX1E "production is expected to begin in the first half of 2015, according to China Daily. The plant will be capable of producing up to 100 airplanes per year." AVweb's report continued quoting Yang Fengtian of Shenyang Aerospace University, "The plant will be capable of manufacturing up to 100 airplanes per year within three years," said Yang. Drawing from other sources, the AVweb article stated, "The aircraft will fly about 90 minutes on a full charge," at a cost of about one dollar. "Cruising speed is about 86 knots. The price is expected to be about $163,000."

Rotax Awards Free 912 Engine to Flight School
By Dan Johnson, February 8, 2015

One year ago Rotax announced a contest to award a brand-new 912 engine to the flight school that achieved the first time between overhaul (TBO) of 2,000 hours on a Rotax 912 iS model that the engine builder had just released. Upon reaching the goal, the flight school had to prove the hours by sending a copy of the logbook to their local distributor and then return the used engine to Rotax BRP in Austria.

At the end of January 2015, Rotax announced they had donated a copy of their newest Rotax 912 iS Sport engine to Madiba Bay School of Flight located in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, South Africa. "Madiba Bay achieved the first time between overhauls (TBO) of 2,000 hours on their Sling 2 equipped with a Rotax 912 iS engine," said representatives of the big Austrian engine manufacturer.

Flight school owner Gerhard Van Eeden said, "We are pleased to be the winner of a brand-new Rotax 912 iS Sport engine. Our school flies a minimum of 400 hours monthly, a good reason why we decided to participate in this ROTAX contest as we were convinced we could win."

The contest started in February 2014. At the rate Madiba Bay racks up hours on their Sling aircraft, they were well positioned to win a powerplant that retails for well over $20,000. The school reported 400 hours per month using several airplanes and they managed to log 2,000 on at least one in less than a year. Not bad!

"It's impressive to see how obviously professional Madiba Bay School is in operating its flight school to accumulate 2,000 hours in such a short time," said Thomas Uhr, Vice President BRP-Powertrain and General Manager BRP-Powertrain GmbH & Co KG. "And, of course, it makes me proud our Rotax 912 iS Sport was a hassle-free partner for many new pilots and it will now provide valuable information to our continuous R&D efforts, delivering the best aircraft engine in its class."

The updated Rotax 912 iS Sport. photo courtesy Rotax BRP
Rotax believe that flight schools benefit using the Rotax 912 iS Sport thanks to "easier operation, longer flight range and lower operating costs. The new engine delivers 38% to 70% better fuel efficiency than comparable competitive engines," added Uhr. "For flight schools, the Rotax 912 iS Sport engine is economically extremely valuable considering that a cost-intensive part for flight schools is the vast quantity of fuel [they use]."

So, that's it. The contest is over, right? Nope! They are doing it again.

"Rotax BRP will continue last year's flight school contest and will donate a brand new Rotax 912 iS Sport to the flight school that achieves the first TBO of 2,000 hours on their Rotax 912 iS engine," the company stated in an early February news release.

The procedure is similar to the 2014 contest: Flight schools must register with an authorized Rotax distributor or with the person in charge of the point of sales in its area. The school must inform the distributor when 500, 1,000, 1,500 and 2,000 flight hour points are reached using the Rotax 912 iS engine. After reaching 2,000 hours, the school sends their logbook to their distributor, which is to inform Rotax BRP, afterwards shipping the engine to Rotax. BRP will then donate a new Rotax 912 iS Sport engine in return, and the school saves a bundle on either overhaul of their old engine or buying a new one. Madiba Bay is not allowed to participate in the contest again.

Madiba Bay School of Flight uses The Airplane Factory Sling models, which are nearly always equipped with MGL Avionics. Both have representation in the U.S.
"With more than 170,000 aircraft engines sold in almost 40 years, Rotax dominates the Light-Sport and microlight aircraft industry offering more than 200 points of sale," stated the company. "Rotax BRP supports customers worldwide and supplies Rotax aircraft engines to more than 80% of all aircraft manufacturers in its segment."

Madiba Bay School of Flight uses The Airplane Factory (TAF) Sling aircraft in their active flight school. So, besides Rotax enjoying strong support for their engines, TAF also earns credit for their aircraft holding up to duty that is often said to be one of the most demanding. Students don't learn without making mistakes so hard landings happen.

The traditional U.S. flight school community has been somewhat slow to embrace LSA because some allege that LSA are too lightly built. Indeed LSA weigh more than 300 pounds less than popular trainers like Cessna's long-discontinued 150 and 152 models. However, experiences such as Madiba Bay with their Sling fleet and many other Light-Sport models with thousands of training hours logged are proof that in the hands of quality flight school operators these fuel-efficient aircraft can be great instructional aircraft.

Video reports and articles like the following unveil the durability of LSA in flight training environments: Kitfox (video); Allegro; Europe-based Remos; and, this general article.

iPad Invades the Cockpit ... Again
By Dan Johnson, February 4, 2015

BD-17 and Levil photos by Joseph F. Marszal
If you are not an iPad user — like I am along with millions of others including a significant number of pilots — perhaps you just don't care about iPads in the cockpit. This isn't an Apple ad; they hardly need any more promotion. Yet iPads in the cockpit can do some great work for a much lower cost than anyone would have imagined less than five years ago (iPad was introduced in fall 2010).

Unless you have ignored the news since 2010, you are surely aware iPads can run slick apps like Garmin Pilot or Jeppesen's Mobile FliteDeck VFR, WingX Pro, Foreflight, FlyQ, and several others. Most of these are very useful products and even with data subscriptions they don't cost much. However, they all share one problem ... a rather big one.

Simply, cockpits weren't designed around the new technology.

You have to hold an iPad. Of course, several companies have made mounts of various types, some of which hang out from the instrument panel and swivel about like a wall-mounted TV so you can poke and prod them while flying. I've sampled a couple of these mounts and they are a bit, well ... flexible. When you touch them, especially in turbulent air, they can jiggle around and defy you to hit that tiny, little virtual button you want to select. While those mounts are superior to hand holding, they could be better. Fortunately, one already is better.

Consider FlyPad mounts. While this is currently more logical for homebuilders who design their own instrument panel layout as seen in the nearby BD-17 photo, a Special LSA manufacturer could easily incorporate the mount system. A short video at the end of this article makes the installation look straightforward.

After the panel install is complete, "...your device can be inserted and locked securely into place in seconds," said developer Crew Feighery, "and will look as if it were meant to be there from the time your aircraft left the factory floor (or your garage)."

Digital screens are widely available in many variations. Indeed, some great installations are made by Dynon, Garmin, and MGL, among others. Yet Crew makes an interesting observation. "Glass cockpits are missing the huge selection of apps available for the Apple products," he said. "With one screen you can choose between a moving map application, terrain avoidance, flight planning software, or even entertainment for your passenger."

FlyPad mounts can accommodate several Apple products with more to follow.
Crew goes on to note that you can, "...replicate all the typical functions of a expensive Primary Flight Display." Enthusiastically, he continues, "The perfect cockpit includes one full size iPad Air for your Primary Flight Display, a iPad Mini for navigation, a iPod Touch or iPhone for your backup artificial horizon, and an extra full size iPad Air to entertain your passenger while you navigate to your destination." OK, you may not want to add that many Apple devices but the installation in the BD-17 at Sebring showed how clean and tidy it can be. Plus, as the image shows and the video below highlights, popping the iPad in or out is super simple.

Apple iPad comes with a GPS receiver but for the fullest use of the panel-mounted tablet, you'll need a device like a Dual unit (160 SkyPro or XGPS 170) that works via Bluetooth or one of several Levil devices. The former are portable and small while the latter are a bit more techy and use a combination of cables and wireless to offer greater capabilities. Some Levil units can be paired with units like NavWorx's ADS-600B or Zaon's XRX to meet FAA's mandates for ADS-B Out. ADS-B Out compliance will add considerably to your cost.

Levil units power the iPad in the BD-17 to offer excellent capability.
When employing an appropriate Levil device roll, pitch, magnetic heading, rate of turn, inclination, and G-meter data are available on your iPad (or Android, though the latter tablets will not fit in the FlyPad mount). A Levil unit can deliver wirelessly to as many as 10 connected devices. Dual units also serve more than one device. Some Levil units integrate solar panels that can recharge the batteries over time or extend the eight-hour battery life to 12 hours on bright, sunny days.

Team BD neatly incorporated FlyPad and Levil in their Sebring 2015 display airplane and I heard from a few folks that this caught their attention. The FlyPad mounts run $179 to $229. One very clever and useful option is the Steam Gauge Cutout letting you install analog gauges mounted right in the panel under the iPad (photo above). Depending on mount chosen kit builders can mount 1-4 traditional gauges. Should your tablet go dark, Crew said, "...you can simply pop it out and reference the traditional gauges." Nice!

This one-minute video shows you how FlyPad mounts, demounts, and functions:

Boeing & Airbus Explore Light Aircraft
By Dan Johnson, January 28, 2015

Here are four journalists that contribute to this website. Dave Unwin and (far right) James Lawrence also write for print publications. photo by Randee Laskewitz
Recently I had a visit from my longtime friend and fellow aviation journalist, James Lawrence (photo). Among other mutual interests we share a passion for electric aircraft. We've each flown early examples and believe we see the future. From the headline above, you might interpret that to mean we anticipate electric airliners. We might ... yet we recognize such developments remain distant. Or, do they?

The electric power action today is in very light aircraft — and some are available for you to buy and fly immediately. One example is Zigolo and I've reported on eSpyder. The reason is that light aircraft rule is singular: batteries, which weigh too much to allow heavier aircraft any range. The ending video explains why.

Unless you've been off-planet for a while, you know the development of improved battery technology is drawing many billions of dollars of investment. Cars, laptops, drones and many more products or industries want better batteries. Many experts believe the green energy push cannot leap forward until better storage, i.e., batteries, is available. While aviation cannot match the massive investments by industry and government, light aviation in particular can benefit from the pursuit by those with deeper pockets.

The Airbus E-Fan 2.0 is preparing for production (details in article).
The deepest pockets in civilian aviation are Boeing and Airbus. Only two years ago, I would have scoffed at any mention that these companies would pursue truly small and light aircraft. Today, I have to shake my head in amazement as both companies put money into small aircraft projects.

Airbus E-Fan As reported earlier Airbus is already flying their E-Fan, an electric two seater that cleverly looks like a mini-bizjet with its twin ducted props. It has been suggested that the two place model could be market-ready by 2017 and a four seater is planned. This was not simply a concept airplane; they planned to produce some, though in Airbus' billion-dollar world, building a couple hundred airplanes could be little more than a fact-finding experiment.

Since our first report, Airbus said it signed a deal with Daher-Socata to become a major partner with Airbus Group's VoltAir subsidiary "for the design, development and certification of a new electric airplane ... called E-Fan 2.0." According to the airline company, "E-Fan 2.0 is intended to be a general aviation trainer," which they claimed will be the "first full-rate production electric aircraft in the world." Airbus added that one of their goals is to eventually learn more about future Airbus airliners.

Socata will be responsible for the E-Fan 2.0's entire development, including its electric engine and batteries, flight test and certification by EASA in Europe. The French company manufactures general aviation aircraft and has reportedly freed up its engineering team to focus on the new project. Airbus said E-Fan 2.0 will eventually be sold in the United States as well as international markets. Daher-Socata is well equipped for the work, having produced "more than 700 TBMs as well as thousands more piston GA airplanes under the Rallye and TB lines."

Randall Fishman (in cockpit) developed the lovely ULS reviewed in this video.
In their intense battle to sell 737s and 319s, the two giant companies always seem to go head-to-head ... so why would it be any different in one or two seat airplanes?

Boeing Hybrid Project Of course, the point of the exercise is technology development and these two companies with thousands of smart engineers on their payrolls undoubtedly realize it is light airplanes that presently offer a valid testbed for electric propulsion ideas. However, Boeing's approach is different. They teamed up with a group at Cambridge University in England led by Dr. Paul Robertson of the university's department of engineering. Robertson and a trio of students are working on a hybrid, a Toyota Prius of the air if you like.

The British team acquired a single place Song from Airsport s.r.o. This is the same basic airframe as previously used by Electric Aircraft Corporation's Randall Fishman. By my reckoning Randall is one of the pioneers of electric power, having already logged more than 130 hours on his ULS, which is a Song modified for pure electric power; photo. Song is also represented in Canada by Melody Aircraft with gasoline power only as originally designed.

The Cambridge/Boeing hybrid project is also based on the Song, as is ULS.
The Cambridge/Boeing aircraft uses a combination of a Honda four-stroke piston engine and an electric motor/generator, coupled through the same drive pulley to spin the propeller. During takeoff and climb, when maximum power is required, the engine and motor work together to power the plane. Once cruising altitude is reached, Robinson said, "The electric motor can be switched into generator mode to recharge the batteries or used in motor-assist mode to minimize fuel consumption. The same principle is at work in a hybrid car."

In addition to massive corporations like Boeing and Airbus, several other groups are also working on electric power. Even hybrid aircraft projects aren't new but some combination of these could change aviation, perhaps forever, if Jim Lawrence and I have any idea about it. This should get real interesting real soon and I'll try to keep you informed.

The following video explains the Cambridge/Boeing project quite succinctly:

Four Days of Sebring 2015
By Dan Johnson, January 21, 2015

SportairUSA's Outback wears its new name for the first time.
Sebring is history, which says the aviation year is now underway. On whole it was a good show and a solid start to 2015. Sebring's weather was overcast and cool to start though even that didn't seem to dampen buying enthusiasm. About a dozen airplanes were sold plus numerous vendors reported finding many good prospects. By Friday afternoon the skies went to deep blue and the Sunshine State earned its nickname.

"It was a great Saturday," wrote U.S. Sport Aviation Expo organizers. The 11th annual Expo nearly filled the auto parking lot and the transient aircraft parking area was hopping with activity, officials said.

While I write about the good news of Sebring, I want to pay respect to two fallen aviators. Dennis Day and Jason Spinks of the Aero Adventures company lost their lives in an unfortunate accident during the event. I offer my sincerest regret for this loss to their families and to the DeLand Airport business team.

AutoGyro USA's Calidus is backdropped with color. |||| most photos supplied by the Sebring U.S. Sport Aviation expo
As it has for several years, opening day of Expo wrapped up with the Light Aircraft Manufacturer's Association (LAMA) annual dinner in the big Aviators Hot Line Show Center tent. A full dinner was served to nearly 300 business people and LAMA members. All seemed to enjoy an evening among airshow buddies sponsored by electric car builder Tesla Motors, engine developer ULPower, and publisher Aviators Hot Line. LAMA kept secret the participation of Tesla Motors by referring to its "glass panel," "auto pilot," and electric propulsion but many folks seemed to enjoy examining the specialty auto. Music was provided by the Flying Musicians Association and one of several highlights was honoring the birthdays of Expo executive director Jana Filip and founding director Bob Wood. (Such exquisite timing makes one wonder if they deliberately scheduled their event so everyone could help them celebrate.)

RV-12 VIRBfest used eight of the company's new cameras.
Taildraggers seemed in especially plentiful supply including the surprise showing of Bristell's new TDO model. Just Aircraft's SuperSTOL, Legend's SuperCub, Bearhawk, Rans' S-20 Raven, and SportairUSA's renamed Outback (photo) provided those looking for unimproved airstrip capability with great taildragging choices.

Some of those taildraggers, including AirCam and SportCub, could be seen on four wheels as Mead Floats exhibited their 1430 and 2200 floats for light aircraft. Four wheels come from hydraulic amphibious operation. Mead joins Paradise of Brazil, Tecnam of Italy, and several all-American Lockwood enterprises as permanent residents of the Sebring airport, fulfilling the decade-long goal of leasing all available space to aviation businesses.

Among winners were those who helped name the aircraft formerly known as Cub-S and iCub. First prize went to Antonio Speed of Titusville, Florida. He took home an iPad Air with Foreflight Mobile app software. Second prize went to David Bardwell who got an iPad Mini and third prize went to Rafael Cortes of Puerto Rico.

Dynon's touch screen displays drew crowds as always.
My video partner and I scooped up another 25 or so videos to join more than 400 available on YouTube and this website.

One of the most anticipated videos of all we did was a VPR or Video Pilot Report on the Van's Aircraft RV-12 by Synergy equipped with a single large Garmin G3X Touch screen. We flew and tried to report on this popular airplane last year but the video and audio capture was not what we wanted so we arranged to try again this year.

Van's reports more than 800 RV-12 kits (of around 9,000 RV models delivered) have been sold with more than 300 flying. Fully built RV-12s assembled by Synergy now number around 50 aircraft. The king of kit aircraft is making great headway into the LSA space.

The RV-12 filming experience was a total VIRBfest with our use of no less than eight Garmin Virb cameras, seven owned by our production effort and one supplied by Van's pilot, Chris. According to Garmin, we are probably the largest user of Virb cameras and surely fitting eight of them must be some kind of record usage. The cockpit was actually a bit crowded with cameras but we think we got good material this time. Watch for the video after editing has been completed.

Tecnam's handsome Astore had a stunning interior treatment.
We also did a video first in our reporting of light aircraft. Watch for a video on a four-pound aircraft. OK, I'm teasing you. My Spruce Creek Fly-In airport neighbor and Legend Cub representative, Ron Bishop, is representing the DJI quadcopter fitted with an HD camera. At future airshows we may employ such an apparatus to capture aerial overviews of the event. As you can read in many places, these tiny drones have some impressive capability including being able to return to their takeoff spot autonomously should radio communication be lost. Even an RC novice like me can easily fly one of these gyro- and software-stabilized rigs. It was fun to experience; the video is in production.

With Sebring in the can for another year, our focus turns to Aero in Germany (April 15-18) followed only a couple days later by Sun 'n Fun (April 21-26). Stay tuned for much more flying fun!

7 Aircraft to Look for at Sebring 2015
By Dan Johnson, January 12, 2015

Shed the skiis and head south for the winter ... to Sebring, Florida where the orange groves go on forever and the skies are full of fun airplanes. photo from Lynn Reimer, of his Aerotrek A220
We're off to the races ... OK, the race track ... OK, we're off to Sebring, which happens to be alongside the Sebring International Raceway. Yep. It's January so it's again time for the Sebring Expo, this time number 11, the 2015 edition of the popular Florida show. I'll be onsite for the four days, which this year is one day sooner, running Wednesday through Saturday. The plan makes it easier for vendors to stay to the end on Saturday and still have time to get home on Sunday so they can be back in their businesses on Monday.

Every time I head to a show people contact me, including journalists from publications that don't follow Light-Sport, light kits, ultralights, or light GA as closely as we do). The question is always the same. What new aircraft or products will we see at the show? ...Uh, let me think.

Even I don't hear everything early, though perhaps my awareness is fuller than others. Developers are often busy trying to finish their new project in time. Perhaps they want to keep it secret until they unveil it. Either way, it takes time to inform journalists. Think how carefully Apple tries to keep people from knowing what new iGizmo they will introduce at their media extravanganzas. (It doesn't always work as a entire army of nosey people is constantly probing around to find out what they'll unveil.)

Zenith's Cruzer gives an aerial view of the Sebring grounds. The arrow points to the Show Center tent.
However, I know a few things, so I'll give you some ideas and present some photos with this article to help excite your interest in attending. I hope many will make it to this year's event. It is raining hard right now, but the weather prognosis looks good, if possibly a bit on the cool side.

Look for the Aerolite 103 with its new Briggs and Stratton four stroke engine. You can see my earlier article for details but I'm thrilled that someone is offering a four stroke, legal Part 103 three-axis ultralight. You have not seen this one and it deserves a look especially given its low-low price tag. How low? You'll have to swing by their space and ask but this company makes airplanes that sell for less than $16,000 fully-built and ready-to-fly. No wonder they are selling and building "to manufacturing capacity."

Bristell's handsome TDO ... stands for Tail Dragger Option. Imagine it with 26-inch tires.
Steve Minnich of Dreams Come True said, "We'll be showing something we've wanted for a long time at Sebring." He said it was not "Earth shattering" but it may be important to some buyers. "Evektor has previously stayed with the tried and true, low weight simple adjustment at the pedal, which also kept people from adjusting pedals in flight." However, he said, "Hearing public request and arriving at an engineering design they are satisfied with, they have released a new pedal adjustment system where the rudder pedals can be adjusted while seated."

SportairUSA boss Bill Canino has been running a contest to rename their airplanes formerly known by using the word "Cub." Another company owns that name (no, not Piper) and they're putting a stop to it. So, being a reasonable sort, Bill decided to let pilots help rename his birds. He'll announce who the winners of iPads and stuff are at Sebring, but the names are no longer a secret. He said, "The previous Titan 180-horsepower Cub S will be named Outback. A plane he made somewhat famous by using an iPad for the main instrument, appropriately called iCub, will be named Nomad." The latter uses a 100-horsepower Rotax 912. Come to Sebring and see who won the prizes.

You can some look for the new Paradise P1NG, as the Brazilian brand makes a reentry to the U.S. market after several years absence. In fact, they're making quite a splash with not only a new airplane but a factory-owned outlet housed at Sebring. Paradise joins Tecnam at selecting the Sebring airport for their new quarters, from which they'll supply the USA but also export to other countries. Read the earlier story for more details.

Bearhawk LSA can now be ordered as a Quick Build. See the first one so completed.
Another new model I'm excited to see fully finished and flying is the Bristell TDO, or Tail Dragger Option. I saw this at Aero 2014 but it was a plain fuselage with no paint or interior. Producer BRM Aero makes a truly handsome, well-flying LSA and, like many others, I think taildraggers look oh-so cool. New U.S. distributor Lou Mancuso said, "Bristell TDO gives owners the utility of a back country aircraft with greater speed and useful load than traditional back country LSA flyers, and optional 26-inch tundra tires allow the TDO to land on very rough surfaces."

A useful feature of the Bristell TDO is a "Sleeper Sleeve" option. Lou said, "Developed for the Australian market, where pitching a tent in the company of some of the world's most poisonous snakes and spiders isn't pleasant, Bristell's solution is elegantly simple: sleep in the aircraft cockpit." He explained that all the pilot need do is, "Lower the seats, cover the baggage area, and expose the rear fuselage. A completely flat area is available for sleep. At 51" wide, it's just two inches narrower than a normal full-size mattress." You'll want to see it at Sebring.

LSA taildraggers seem hotter than ever. Bearhawk Aircraft announced today its Bearhawk LSA will make a first-time visit to Sebring. It will be the first Bearhawk completed as a Quick Build kit by owner Mark Goldberg. He sums it up as a "rugged, sweet-handling airplane, designed for a gross weight of 1,500 pounds," giving it a good safety margin when flown at LSA gross weight of 1,320 pounds. It is also quite a performer. At AirVenture 2014, designer Bob Barrows competed in the Valdez STOL competition in his prototype LSA. He reported a takeoff distance of 96 feet with a landing distance of 130 feet, excellent numbers for a plane with a speedy 118-mph cruise, quick for the bushplane category.

Just Aircraft is offering a spoiler kit to make SuperSTOL even more appealing.
Speaking of STOL, the extreme example is Just Aircraft's breathtaking SuperSTOL. I reported from last year's Midwest LSA Expo that the South Carolina company had added spoilers to further extremify SuperSTOL and now the kit is available. "The addition of spoilers significantly enhances slow flight control, especially in undesirable wind conditions. They represent the latest step in advancing the short takeoff and landing capabilities of the SuperSTOL." Yeah, like it needed more ... whew! Yet if something is good, then more must be better. Surprisingly, SuperSTOL flies quite docilely.

Designer and flight tester Troy Woodland said, "Once a pilot discovers the advantage of spoilers in slow flight and turbulent air, he won't want to fly without them. They go a long way toward taking the rock and roll out of rough air on final, and they open up new areas for landings." The kits, which connect the spoilers to the ailerons, take about 40 hours to install. With all its wing features — high-lift airfoil, vortex generators, and fowler flaps — allow SuperSTOL to fly at very high angles of attack without stalling. "This allows a touchdown speed in the low 20s in calm conditions," said Just Aircraft. Come see it at Sebring.

I hear we might witness the Flying Platform in flight. Hmmm ...we'll see, but it's certain you have to attend Sebring to see the newest and coolest.

On the Sebring show grounds, the big Show Center tent gives you a place to eat, rest, meet and visit with friends, hear engaging speakers, find show staffers. This year you will also see something I think you'll find mighty interesting. Come see a glass panel like you've never seen. See a whole new implementation of autopilot. Look at electric propulsion done most impressively.

What is it? You'll have to come to the Show Center tent at Sebring to find out. See you in Sebring!

Evaluating the Worldwide Impact of Sport Aircraft
By Dan Johnson, January 11, 2015

As the new year dawned my good friends at General Aviation News published my article on the light aircraft industry using Rotax deliveries (and estimates of other engine brands) to estimate worldwide sales of recreational or sport aircraft. The article was presented online as 2015 began and has since appeared in a print edition. This article was updated 1/12/15 and 1/23/15.

On the "The Pulse of Aviation" (sign up here; it's free) you can read my article that generated a large number of reader comments, some of which were quite colorful. A technical glitch that took down the comments has been fixed and you can again peruse the many comments.

GA News is published 26 times a year (subscribe here) and the article was just released in the print version. Online, a few responders apparently didn't think much of LSA with some relying on outdated information. Several others were very supportive. That's the value of free speech and comment sections that permit such open exchanges in the Internet Age.

Here I present a somewhat different message. The first article was aimed at an audience including general aviation pilots, many of whom do not know the LSA or light kit community well. This one is aimed at those following light aviation more closely.

My sincere thanks to my longtime industry associate Jan Fridrich of LAMA Europe and Czech aircraft designer Jaro Dostal, creator of the Shark and other distinctive light aircraft. Charts shown with this article were prepared by these men.

As detailed in the GA News article, I reported a market for very light aircraft and Light-Sport-type aircraft that substantially exceeds 3,000 units per year worldwide. Many American pilots remain unaware that the rest of the world flies a large number of light aircraft in the recreational or sporting categories. Overseas, these are commonly referred to as Ultralights or Microlights, Very Light Aircraft, or Light-Sport Aircraft. As you probably know Euro Ultralights are quite different from the U.S. version.

Most pilots in the USA focus on what are sometimes called "traditional" general aviation aircraft for which GAMA has reported delivery numbers for many years. Regular tallies of FAA's N-number registration database show that in the USA the ratio is approximately 80/20, traditional GA airplanes to recreational aircraft. In Europe and most other countries that ratio is reversed with GA representing approximately 20% of all civilian aircraft with 80% recreational, according to people who try to assess such figures. This large percentage includes gliders (very big in Europe) but even omitting sailplanes the ratio is quite lopsided in favor of powered recreational aircraft. For most international pilots, GA aircraft are too expensive to buy and operate outside the USA.

"From 1989 through June 5th, 2014, we have sold 50,000 four-stroke engines of the 912 and 914 model designation," noted Christian Mundigler, Key Account Manager of Rotax Aircraft Engine Sales. "On the two-stroke engine side we sold all together more than 120,000 units up to now," he said.

These deliveries show Rotax is surely the most prolific producer of engines, but Continental, Jabiru, and Lycoming add powerplants used on recreational aircraft. Assuming their output is about 600 units per year — likely a conservative estimate and only considering production for the light aircraft sector — we calculate the UL/LSA/VLA sector probably reaches beyond 3,500 airframes per year.

In comparison, GAMA will likely report less than 1,100 piston-powered aircraft of all types and sizes from all association members around the globe for 2014 based on information released for the first nine months of the year.

Thus, when you include shipments to all countries, the light recreational aircraft market represents a large portion of all civilian, non-commercial airplanes being delivered.

With the American LSA and light kit market taking less than 1,000 of the Rotax's annual 3,000-plus aircraft engine production, where are all the others going?

"Averaging over a long term our main engine market, including two- and four-stroke powerplants, Europe has around half of the share," reported Mundigler. "The Americas, including North, Central, and South, has about a third of the total."

"Growing markets are Russia and China with double digit increase rates in recent years," said Mundigler.

Rotax engines run fine on auto gasoline or 100LL aviation fuel; operators can mix mogas and avgas in any proportion without concern. Jabiru also works fine with mogas and Continental has engine models that do as well. Around the world, aviation fuel is not widely available and, as American pilots know, avgas carries a substantial price premium though much less than the $10-12 per gallon in Europe.

From the figures used in this article, we can see the light, recreational aircraft industry is alive and well and makes up the largest unit volume share of all aircraft delivered each year.

Going Off to the Air Races, LSA-Style
By Dan Johnson, January 6, 2015

At first, it all seemed rather unlikely to me. I refer to the concept of racing LSA.

On the one hand you have a giant company with a global presence putting on the Red Bull Air Races. What a way to sell a caffeinated beverage. It works. It's very showy. It might even induce some race watchers to take up flying. When the aircraft are not touring the race circuit, they occupy luxurious space in the fanciest hangar on the planet, Red Bull's Hangar 7 at the Salzburg Airport in Mozart's former home town in Austria (photo).

On the other hand we have Light-Sport Aircraft, a fairly new sector in aviation, now with one decade of history. Being in the distinctly affordable end of aviation, money does not flow as it does from Red Bull. Yet that does not mean LSA will fail to join in the air race fun. Put a man like Doc' Bailey in charge and things happen despite the odds. Doc', a 15,000-hour military chopper pilot, runs Renegade Light Sport Aircraft. Relocating from Missouri, he went to Fort Pierce, Florida's municipal airport. That didn't turn out to be the right answer and he instead found a home — and a seat on the advisory board — at DeLand, Florida's airport, a place I recently visited.

Indeed, Doc' is a man who, some say, casts a big shadow in Light-Sport aviation. Bailey became known for working to install Lycoming engines on LSA like his Falcon. He's swimming upstream — but making progress — toward what he calls "SPAR," for the Sport Pylon Air Races. I admit when I first heard Doc' talk about this I thought he was spitting into to a light-aircraft-upsetting wind. However, he continues to take steps and now may have the right venue for such an event.

The DeLand Airport has welcomed Doc' and his airplane building operation. That's hardly a surprise as this is the home of a 35-year-old sky diving operation with dozens of businesses supporting or feeding off that activity plus numerous aircraft companies including U-Fly-It, Aero Adventures, and Aeroprakt America.

Recently I visited the Deland airport, to get a full tour by new airport manager (though longtime airport board member), John Eiff. More on Deland's ambitious plans in a minute. After hearing John's enthusiasm for Light-Sport Aircraft — which he sees as the growth area of aviation, an impression many others share — I can imagine the SPAR course being erected at Deland.

See the DeLand Airport Sport Aviation plan (note: this is a 9 MB download).
Deland's airport is a very short hop by plane from my home airport of Spruce Creek Fly-in, the world's large private airport and sprawling aviation community (see red dot on the nearby map image). By car, historic Deland is less than 25 minutes away. That's convenient for me but also puts the air race concept only a short drive from the world famous Daytona Raceway, an auto race enterprise that draws crowds enormous enough to dwarf even professional football (a reported 400,000 racing fans attend the Daytona 500 and the ever-expanding business hosts evens year 'round).

More than welcoming many sport aviation businesses, Deland has some grand plans for something called the Light-Sport Village — although they've since rebadged it as the Sport Aviation Village to make it better understood by the non-flying city officials who are not as well versed in aviation terms.

This might be viewed as a business incubator and light aviation companies contemplating a move may want to consider what they offer here in the Sunshine State. Those business owners can speak to John Eiff at the Renegade tent at Sebring next week (January 14-17th). I know I will be following this development and Doc's Sport Pilot Air Races. ...Gentlemen, start your engines.

Is a Four Stroke Part 103 Airplane Possible?
By Dan Johnson, December 31, 2014

Some people have long believed that Part 103-legal weight shift trikes or single place powered parachutes may be possible but I've often heard the pronouncement, "You cannot make a legal three axis Part 103 airplane." I wonder if those folks are ready to admit their error? Those attending the 2015 Sebring Expo will want to examine the new Aerolite 103 with a Briggs and Stratton four stoke, all freshly mounted and looking better than ever. That you can fly such an airplane without a pilot's license or medical, without N-number registrations, and buy one ready-to-fly for an affordable price amazes more than a few pilots. However, mostly those machines — a few have been available for some time — use two stroke engines in order to stay within the very confining 254 pounds of empty weight. If you don't care for two stroke power ... Wait no more!

You might remember seeing such a machine at Sun 'n Fun 2014. Developer/manufacturer U-Fly-It was indeed displaying such a model but proprietor Dennis Carley didn't feel it was ready for sale at the time. His appropriate caution caused some to again conclude that it simply wasn't possible. In version 2.0 (photos) Dennis indicated he has now gotten the machine flying much better.

Most obvious is the great clean up that occurred by moving the engine from on top of the wing (see bottom photo) to below the wing's upper surface. The four stroke engine is still mounted upright. Less obvious is that Aerolite 103 with a four stroke engine can still make the low empty weight of Part 103 to enjoy the benefits of less federal interference in your flying fun.

At only 22 pounds more than the Hirth F33 he often supplies but in the new lower drag position, Dennis reports a very acceptable climb rate of 600 fpm from the 22 horsepower the B&S engine. Speeds will be 50-60 mph, Dennis said, making an easy and economical cruise in the four stroke Aerolite. In addition, he said that even with straight pipes the exhaust noise is modest but he plans to add some silencing.

One big question: Can a four stroke Aerolite still make Part 103? "Yes," said Dennis, although he noted that you cannot have the strut fairings or gear leg fairings seen in the nearby photos. A parachute will also be required.

In case you're wondering if a so-called "lawn mower" engine can do the job of powering an aircraft, Dennis replied, "Well, when is the last time your lawn mower conked out or you had trouble starting it?" Indeed, much as Rotax has taken heat for being a "snow mobile engine," many don't see the problem? The reliability of the B&S engine is not the problem some may envision and you get a much lower noise signature. I look forward to trying this combination, having already become a fan of the Aerolite 103's flight qualities.

Prices have not yet been established for the Briggs & Stratton. Certainly some costs have increased but since ready-to-fly Aerolites with a Kawasaki 340 start at $15,900, it seems likely you might be able to buy a fully-built aircraft for somewhere around $20,000 and I think that is a very notable fact. Those who say new aircraft are too expensive must consider Aerolite.

Others have been signing on fast. U-Fly-It just took an eight-unit order from their German dealer Vierwerk, sold three more to Russia and processed a few fresh orders from American customers as December 2014 drew to a close. The just concluded year was an excellent one for U-Fly-It with some 40 sales logged. Dennis forecasts 2015 may record 60 sales. So, who says modestly priced, single place aircraft don't sell? If you've been one of the naysayers, I recommend you adjust your thinking.

Given the success of Aerolite in the USA and increasingly abroad, I predict the four stroke Briggs and Stratton Aerolite 103 will become a best seller for U-Fly-It. You better come to Sebring and check it out for yourself!

HAPPY NEW YEAR to you and yours!

In various articles, I've often reported three axis Part 103 airplanes. Aerolite is one of the most developed and a fairly rare one with a four stroke engine, but it is not alone in make Part 103 parameters or in having a four stroke engine. Here's another four stroke Part 103 airplane reported more than seven years ago and here's a video of another.

It's Winter, So Seaplanes Are Flying ... Uh, What?
By Dan Johnson, December 24, 2014

On this website, we zoom around the world following Light-Sport Aircraft, from near the Arctic Circle — you know, where Santa and the wee elves are pulling some heavy overtime about now — to the warm balminess of Southern California. I know of what I write, having once lived in the snow belt and now hanging with the family in Palm Springs, California for Christmas. It seems everywhere I look I see LSA seaplanes in sea trials and this is happening in the dead of winter.

Why be surprised? Perhaps you've noticed boat shows happen in the winter months. When living in Minnesota, I was always amazed that boat shows were held in January and February, a time of year when it would be months before the ice melted from the state's 10,000 lakes to allow use of those boats. Yet this is when people were shopping, I suppose anticipating an upcoming season of boating fun. So, why not seaplanes in winter?

all photos courtesy Icon Aircraft
As I recently wrote about the Atol Avion undergoing first water trials in the freezing cold waters of Finland, it seemed appropriate to update readers on continued development for one of the most watched Light-Sport Aircraft ever, Icon's A5. The company's extensive use of social marketing has netted them a million Facebook likes and they've logged a reported 1,200 orders. Just before Christmas they issued a report which I'll summarize here.

Since its completion, engineering A5 serial number one (ESN-1) has been undergoing extensive flight testing and systems performance verification, the company said. "The objective of this process is to confirm that the production version of the A5 meets or exceeds the performance of the proof of concept (PoC) aircraft, which underwent more than 700 test flights for aerodynamic, hydrodynamic, and systems development." Icon added, "The ultimate goal is to prepare the production A5 for ASTM compliance and delivery to the first customer next spring [2015]."

This full-aft-stick water landing was performed intentionally to test the A5's performance and confirm that the aircraft does not porpoise in this situation.
In these preproduction preparations, Icon's team performed several days of water testing on Lake Isabella, California. "Icon Aircraft's engineering team pushed ESN-1's design to further improve water-handling characteristics." They report that the new hull design's performance exceeds the POC's in several ways: The preproduction prototype "can land easily at a range of airspeeds and deck angles (attitude) without porpoising (a pitch oscillation exhibited by most seaplanes);" aggressive step-turns on the water can be accomplished, similar to the performance of personal watercraft; the newest A5 demonstrated that static and dynamic lateral-stability requirements have been met throughout the design envelope in a range of water conditions, gross weights, and center-of-gravity (CG) locations; water handling has been verified in rougher water and larger waves; and, "ESN-1 can cope with high-wind situations, especially maintaining water-rudder effectiveness when turning to downwind."

ESN-1 was subjected to the full range of weight loadings and CG positions including performing a full-aft-stick water landing at minimum speed. "The purpose of this exercise is to intentionally land the aircraft tail-first to determine if it will porpoise, a task that involves a highly unusual landing attitude that appears visually unsettling," observed Icon.

While testing A5, a Grumman HU-16B Albatross, dropped in for some practice landings. Albatross was produced from 1949 to 1961 and saw service in a number of military and Coast Guard roles.
The fuselage of engineering serial number two (ESN-2) has been fully instrumented with strain gauges and will undergo testing to ensure it complies with ASTM strength requirements. Icon engineers and technicians are simultaneously assembling the third production A5, called aircraft serial number one. "ASN-1 is the final aircraft which will undergo FAA inspection to ensure the A5 complies with ASTM standards." Icon's manufacturing facility, documentation, and quality systems will also be reviewed before serial production begins.

ASN-1 also marks a significant milestone as it is the first aircraft that will be delivered to a customer next spring, culminating nearly a decade of research and development leading to serial production, the company concluded in its winter 2014 report. As we admire the thoroughness Icon is demonstrating, we wish them the best in getting A5 into production.

As they gear up for production next year, Icon said it is hiring. "We are looking for talented individuals to fill key roles in Design, Engineering, Finance, Operations, and Production," said the company. Interested persons can see their Careers page on their website.

Fun, Powerful, Gnarly ... that’s AirCam
By Dan Johnson, December 20, 2014

This attention-getting "dragon" Air Cam is not Ron Owens' but it might qualify as "gnarly." As the next photo shows, this was a total treatment.
What would you like for a Christmas present, perhaps if you won big in a lottery? Well, you're a pilot so I might guess that some airplane has caught your fancy. Me, too. Like most pilots a number of desirable airplanes catch my eye but also like most pilots, I cannot afford to have one of each that appeals to me. High on my list of wished-for airplanes is Lockwood Aircraft's Air Cam. I have quite a few hours flying one example or another. I even earned my multiengine rating in one, as part of an article I wrote years ago.

As part of the required hours of training to take the flight check — no written test is involved for a multiengine rating — I engaged an old friend and multiengine instructor, Richard Johnson. An Air Cam owner, Sebring dentist Ron Owen, graciously supplied his Air Cam. Richard and I flew all over central Florida in Ron's plane as I accumulated hours and experience.

Richard and I crisscrossed the state at about 50 feet above ground level, often even lower. We flew over long stretches of orange groves barely 10 feet above the tree tops. Being a safety conscious pilot I cannot imagine doing that in, well ... any other airplane I've flown, Light-Sport, ultralight, or general aviation. When Richard and I approached an airport to do some multiengine preparation — to simulate an engine out on takeoff, for example — we had to climb. Yes, climb! After flying around at 50 feet AGL or less, you have to climb to enter the traffic pattern so you can land. Richard joked that we had to ascend to "nose bleed altitude."

The online Urban Dictionary offers these synonyms for gnarly: awesome, cool, sweet, rad' (among others). I think these words express my sentiment. Oh, sure, Air Cam is no LSA (too many engines). It's no ultralight (too many seats, too heavy). It's not certified, being a 700 to 1,500-hour kit-built aircraft. Most who look lovingly at Air Cam see it as somewhat costly (though even with two expensive engines it's priced less than many high-end LSA). Regardless, I love Air Cam as one of the most thrilling airplanes I've ever flown. If you haven't sampled it, you have a great experience ahead of you.

Of course, you should never do reckless or unsafe operations in any airplane but Air Cam behaves differently than nearly any other aircraft. I have executed a single engine take-off in the machine, just to prove it could be done. I was careful to have plenty of runway and no traffic but most twin aircraft wouldn't — indeed, cannot — even attempt such a feat. When losing an engine in Air Cam, the event is almost hard to notice ... unbelievable, perhaps, but factual. Air Cam can climb 300 feet per minute on one engine. These capabilities make flying low over orange groves an acceptable flight.

This Air Cam may have demanding duties in remote areas, but that doesn't mean the paint job has to be dull.
People who own an Air Cam are as diverse as folks who buy any other airplane. However, I've never talked to a single one who didn't report having "fun," even those who use one for some serious purpose such as aerial photography. Air Cam opens the door to flying you might never try in another aircraft and with foresightful planning, good maintenance, and accommodating weather, you can enjoy an Air Cam in ways that are simply unrivaled.

After the National Geographic Society commissioned designer Phil Lockwood in 1994 to create an aircraft to allow photographer Nick Nichols to fly over the Ndoki rain forest in Namibia, Africa, the design has been widely marketed. Nearly 200 are flying around the USA and other countries. Selling points besides twin-engine safety are its slow stall (39 mph), low fuel burn (3.5 gph at 50 mph ... for both engines), and cruise from 50-100 mph. A kit with two Rotax 912 ULS engines will set you back over $100,000 but the smile it can create is nearly priceless. Two hundred horsepower produces stunning flight qualities even those 180-hp Cubalikes can't match.

I took a wonderful trip to the Florida Keys in an experience documented in this article. We flew a single engine LSA and it was great fun but we couldn't enjoy the island chain the way you can in an Air Cam, especially one on floats (photo). Recently the company, which often hosts fly-outs for its owners, visited Marathon Key not far from Key West. With those twin engines, and even better with floats, I'm guessing those pilots and passengers saw the islands in ways nearly no one else on the planet has ever experienced. That would make a wonderful Christmas present.

Finland’s Atol Amphib Begins Water Tests
By Dan Johnson, December 15, 2014

Ah, the Christmas season is soon upon us (or already is judging by familiar music playing on every speaker you hear). It sounds like a great time to go put your new seaplane in the water ... especially if you live up by the Santa Claus toy workshop. Wait a minute! Can that be right? Yup! Atol Avion Ltd., recently notified us, "We have finally performed first water taxi tests of our production prototype on December 14th, 2014 at Rovaniemi, Finland. After thorough systems tests, water taxi tests were performed on Kemijoki River near the Arctic Circle ... just a few miles from Santa's home. Our plane worked as planned and proved to be even better than expected."

As a Florida resident, I have plenty of local acquaintances that think such an exercise sounds crazy, to be out water testing an amphibious airplane in winter. They mean here in Florida where it's on the cool side ... you know, 50s and 60s. Yet look at the photos and realize we are not showing several images that reveal the Atol airplane with ice droplets formed over its tailplane parts from cruising around in water cold enough to have mini icebergs floating.

I ran into the Atol Avion crew at last year's Aero Friedrichshafen event (another is coming over April 15-18, 2015). The group at the show was composed of a number of airline pilots and among them Anssi Rekula, whom I first met at AirVenture Oshkosh a few years ago. Anssi is a cofounder of Atol Avion. He worked as a licensed maintenance and flight engineer at the Finnish Coast Guard keeping Search-and-Rescue helicopters flying before starting a career flying airliners for Finnair.

Fresh as the photos look, the Atol airplane has been around since 1984, albeit looking quite different from the example in the nearby photos. In an age where we have amazingly sophisticated designs made of modern materials — think Icon's A5 and MVP.aero's namesake MVP as but two gleaming examples — Atol has a core made from wood. Why would they stick with such an "outdated" material?

Inset shows the wheel fairing that will come on a completed aircraft.
According to Atol Avion, "Development of wooden aircraft structures was discontinued when reinforced plastic aircraft became more popular in the 1970s." They note, however, that empty weights of gliders and motor gliders increased by 20 to 30% when they began making extensive use of the slippery new exterior finish. "When the development of Atol was started 30 years ago," the company continued, "wooden structure was selected for this very reason. Reinforced plastic displaced the wooden structure for manufacturing reasons, and its increasing popularity stopped the development of the wooden structure. We chose to continue development of wooden structure manufacturing methods and, as a result of this work, we prefer to talk of a wood composite structure."

Wood composite structure is one of Atol's strengths, Anssi told me. "The strength-to-weight ratio of wood is superior to the majority of building materials. Only plastic structures reinforced with carbon and aramid fiber exceed the qualities of wood, but at a much higher price." Also, carbon fiber structure is so strong, Atol expressed, that structures need to be over-dimensioned in lighter aircraft in order to attach them to the other structure. As a result, competitors' aircraft built of carbon fiber are much heavier than Atol. As an example, partly due to building materials and partly to offer features they believe customers want, Icon had to go obtain a weight exemption from FAA.

Speaking with authority up in the Arctic Circle, Atol stated, "Contrary to what some believe, the wooden structure posses excellent weather resistance. If the structure has been designed and built correctly, and it is stored and maintained properly, it can be used for decades." In our climate-obsessed world, a strong feature of wood structure is a smaller carbon footprint compared to other material. Also, Atol notes, "Wood binds carbon, whereas the manufacture of aluminum and reinforced plastic materials release it."

Click this link to get a good overall look at the airplane, which you can spin around with your mouse or pointing device.
Anssi was very proud of the recent water taxi testing in the icy waters of northern Finalnd. "We have been waiting for this day for a long time and surely our clients will appreciate the product they'll get." The company already has orders on the books but now offers two remaining slots for customers in the 2015 production schedule before the price of the basic plane will be raised from €125,000 (about $155,000 at today's exchange rate) to €139,000 ($172,000) for orders received after May 1st, 2015. My close examination of Atol at Aero last year revealed many clever engineering qualities. Combined with a well-established airplane that has good flight qualities, Atol deserves consideration.

BRM Aero’s Bristell Gains New U.S. Distributor
By Dan Johnson, December 10, 2014

BRM Aero's Bristell got off to a good start in the USA two years ago. Unfortunately, after an initial burst of positive reviews and good response from pilots, the distributor at the time stumbled. A failed association with the now-defunct Aviation Access Project undermined the efforts but that association had nothing to do with the Czech aircraft producer. So, after a year or so of discussions and evaluation, BRM Aero found a new, high-quality representative.

In early December 2014, Bristell Aircraft, a New York corporation, officially accepted the appointment to represent the aircraft of BRM Aero. "Bristell Aircraft is an American company whose roots go deep into the highly-structured world of FAA-certified aircraft," said Lou Mancuso, director of Bristell Aircraft. Over the last year, Lou has worked directly with BRM Aero "to develop, customize, and standardize aircraft specifically for the North American market." Lou and his team bring 68 years of aviation sales, service and training success and appear well suited to the endeavor.

"We are excited to introduce American aviators to this exceptional aircraft," said Lou. "In our flight schools we have owned and operated several brands of LSA. Without doubt the Bristell is the very best." Milan Bristela, the aircraft's designer said, "We are delighted to have the breadth of expertise and depth of resources that Lou's team brings to Bristell and North America." See this video interview with Milan shot at Aero 2013.

Conceived from the ground up for American customers, designer Milan Bristela's creation has the widest cockpit available in the fleet of more than 130 Light-Sport Aircraft. At slightly more than 51 inches wide the cabin is broader than a Cirrus SR22 that sells for more than five times as much. "Milan focused on making the aircraft extremely comfortable, easy to fly and with enviable performance and stability," noted Mancuso. With a substantial 600-pound useful load, two people can easily take off with full fuel and still have room for luggage, the importer said. Equipped with a fuel-sipping Rotax 912iS, the Bristell easily covers 600 nautical miles between fuel stops.

"This aircraft is the culmination of Bristela's decades of aircraft design experience," added Mancuso. "It's sleek lines and superb fit and finish are an outward manifestation of the thought and care that have gone into its creation. In Bristela's words, this aircraft is what his heart created. Hence his company slogan, 'Wings with heart'."

BRM Aero's TDO (Taildragger Option) is flying in Europe.
"American aviators demand a high level of quality, reliability, and support," expressed Mancuso. "Simply importing and reselling an aircraft was not an option for us." Working with BRM Aero, Bristell Aircraft selected upgraded interiors, equipped models with standardized systems and configurations like toe brakes and have standard tire sizes that are available at most FBOs. Bristell Aircraft said it maintains a comprehensive inventory of aircraft-specific parts at two east cost locations.

"We can ensure that Bristell customers enjoy ease-of-maintenance and maximum long-term serviceability," said Mancuso. The result of the collaboration of the Czech manufacturer and the New York aviation enterprise is "a premier line of Light Sport Aircraft tailored for the American aviator with the highest level of quality, fit and finish available, and backed by the longest warranty in its class," added Mancuso. Bristell offers a two year/400 hour warranty.

The Czech company offers a kit version as well; U.S. qualification has not yet been determined.
Bristell is available as a Light-Sport in either tricycle gear or taildragger configuration, A retractable model is offered in Europe. The European producer also offers a kit version and Mancuso's Bristell Aircraft may elect to represent this choice as well. Any way it is configured, Bristell is a lovely, efficient, well-flying airplane. You can read my short review in this article or watch this video after that flight.

Bristell is one of what might be called a boutique manufacturer. A small, core group associated with designer Milan Bristela performs the manufacturing of his handsome airplane available in multiple configurations.

Now you order a Bristell model from a reliable and long-established U.S. enterprise. Those who examine the Bristell closely will start to appreciate how interesting a fifth generation LSA design can be.

Fresh American LSA & Ultralight Exports
By Dan Johnson, December 9, 2014

Wait! "...Exports?" I realize that might look like a typo. Did I intend to write LSA imports? Nope, exports is the correct word. Back in the early days of Light-Sport Aircraft, circa 2005-6-7, the source countries manufacturing the LSA people were buying were of a high percentage European with the Czech Republic leading the charge. Their penetration of the market was approximately two-thirds of all LSA. Then came the global economic recession, which happened as the industry began to mature. All were affected: domestic and international companies and pilot consumers. Some handsome imported aircraft never found a market.

In any downturn, some managers adapt quicker to the changing economy. They find a way to offer new aircraft to keep the momentum. Neither were American companies sitting on their thumbs. European builders had a head start because the European-style ultralights they had been manufacturing were close to what FAA allowed as LSA, so many models could be rapidly adapted to meet the Yankee marketplace. American producers, who had previously been relegated to supplying kit airplanes, realized that making fully-built, FAA-accepted models was an entirely different business model. It took time to change gears.

Now, we leap forward a decade to find the landscape has changed significantly.

Abid Farooqui (L), consulted Progress Aerodyne on FAA and CAAC approvals. Kerry Richter is the originator and lead designer of the Searey.
So with pleasure I can now describe two approvals that further alter the landscape. One is an American LSA that has earned Chinese CAAC approval. Another is a U.S. Part 103 ultralight adapted to the German 120-Class that recently won its credential.

SilverLight Aviation, operated by Abid Farooqui (photo) has been consulting to Progressive Aerodyne, developer and manufacturer of the Searey amphibian. Abid aided the Tavares, Florida company in achieving one of the cleanest FAA audits yet of a Light-Sport Aircraft company. High ranked FAA officials publicly called out the Searey audit as a positive example. SilverLight recently said, "Through [our] engineering consulting with Progressive, we helped the Searey LSA get Type Design Approval (TDA) with the Chinese Civil Aviation Council (CAAC)." Abid added, "Searey will be the first U.S. Light-Sport Aircraft company to get this type design approval under [China regulations]." SilverLight led and guided all the technical aspects of design assurance system, aircraft structural engineering, airworthiness management, flight testing and technical documentation including defending their work in front of CAAC certification team.

Progressive Aerodyne, owned by Adam Yang, established an office in China in July of this year. Other companies gaining approval in China include Flight Design and Evektor. My LAMA counterpart in Europe, Jan Fridrich, has provided material for articles on China's emerging market for light aircraft in November last year and another from two years ago that also features several China-made LSA type aircraft.

Abid offered, "Congratulations to Searey to become the first American LSA to get this honor." CAAC's certification team was led by the Deputy Director of agency's Bejing Office."

Ultralights, that is, true American ultralights having only one seat and weighing only 254 pounds empty have not been exports, historically. European ultralights, sometimes called microlights, are usually two seaters weighing somewhat less than American LSA; they are not the same as FAA's preferred designation, "Ultralight Vehicles."

With a simple regulation (written on the front and back of a single sheet of paper!), American ultralights have been permitted since 1982. No pilot license is needed nor is a pilot's medical and no FAA registration or N-numbers are required. A Part 103 ultralight vehicle — so named deliberately to not run afoul of FAA's "airplane" definition that might trigger more rules — can be fully built and sold ready to fly. For 32 years, this rule has stood as a remarkable bit of freedom allowed American aviators.

Vierkwerk Aviation is operated by Wolfgang and Thilda Labudde. They are supplied by Aerolite 103 manufacturer Dennis Carley.
Europe also has a strong contingent of lightweight aircraft enthusiasts. England had its Sub-70 Class (under 70 kilos or 154 pounds) and much of Europe continues to have an interest in weight shift aircraft that tend to be lighter and less costly than most LSA. However, in recent years, UK has offered its SSDR (Single Seat DeRegulated) category and Germany introduced its 120-Class (120 kilos or 164 pounds). Both can work for an American ultralight like the Aerolite 103 built today by Deland Florida's U-Fly-It. Read more about the new classes.

However, just because a government allows light aircraft to suffer less regulatory burden, European nations aren't quite as progressive about letting go of the reins as was FAA back in '82. In Germany the Aerolite dealer, Vierkwerk Aviation, had to go to significant effort and time to gain approval under the 120-Class category. At Aero this year, the company debuted the Aerolite 120 and announced they were pursuing acceptance. Just a few days, ago Vierwerk announced German approval, "Aerolite 120 was certified on November 20, 2014 as the legal European version. It may be flown as a deregulated single seat aircraft at 120 kilograms MTOW."

My congratulations to Progressive Aerodyne, assisted by SilverLight Aviation and to Vierwerk and U-Fly-It for these approvals in China and Germany.

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




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.

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

Tecnam is the world's leading manufacturer of Light-Sport aircraft offering more models and variations than any other producer. Besides the world's fastest-selling light twin and their new P2010 four seater, Tecnam offers these LSA: P-92 Eaglet, Astore, and P2008.
Many Light-Sport Aircraft & General Aviation models

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

North Wing is America's leading manufacturer of weight shift LSA and Part 103 ultralight trikes. The company's wing designs are so good that most other trike manufacturers use them. Aircraft prices are highly affordable by all.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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

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?

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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