Check out the wonderful B&F Clubman
...a huge hit at Aero Friedrichshafen 2016.
Video sponsored by Continental Motors
See them at AirVenture: spaces 229-234

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

SLSA Market Shares Report & Commentary for 2015
By Dan Johnson, April 21, 2016

Updated 4/26/16 - This chart was updated to correct a formula error. The changed line refers to the "All other producers..." figure. It was 429 airplanes and 14.7% and that was incorrect.
My associate in Europe, Jan Fridrich of LAMA Europe, has been the source for a database search for many years as I seek to report market share statistics in the USA. He scours the FAA registration information and laboriously assembles the numbers. As he and I work to produce accurate info, Jan often makes contact with selected companies when questions arise, as they often do. I also reach out to producers in our effort to make the best possible use of the registration data to create our rankings.

Jan has been one of his country's representatives in the Czech Republic's official work with the Chinese to help that nation build its lighter aviation infrastructure. He's made many trips to China in the last two years. Along with frequent travel in his job for the Light Aircraft Association time is short for him to find the hours it takes to review FAA's data. For 2015 data, he completed the effort as I headed to Sun 'n Fun and then to Aero, so... finally, here is our report with hearty thanks to Jan for doing this tedious work.

The summary view is that American LSA registrations have remained very consistent over the last three years (2013, 2014, and 2105). Most industry players believe we should be seeing higher figures but the LSA results closely mirror trends reported by GAMA for type certified aircraft. Likely reasons for lower numbers may include pilots still uncertain what will happen with the medical and a large fleet of still airworthy though increasingly older used aircraft — the average age of which is around 38 years — that are available at lower cost than a new Light-Sport Aircraft. Since I am in Europe as this is written, I can pass along that several Europeans see a similar picture here, albeit without the medical issue.

SportCruiser by Czech Sport Aircraft, sold in the USA by U.S. Sport Aircraft, moved up again with a solid 2015.
As 2016 began, America had just shy of 3,000 LSA airplanes in the registry. As we've said for years, this figure does not include weight shift aircraft, powered parachutes, motorgliders, or gyroplanes, which, if they could be accurately counted, would conservatively add 20%. Also, the figure also does not count many ELSA and should not count Experimental Amateur Built even if those aircraft are nearly identical to Special LSA. See this 2014 article for an effort to give a more accurate total of the LSA, LSA-like aircraft, and Sport Pilot-eligible aircraft operating in the United States.

Our main fleet chart above reflects all SLSA airplanes ever sold in the USA, less any that have been removed from the registry, for example, if sold outside the USA or lost in an accident.

As you can see, CubCrafters continues their climb and is now hovering just below Flight Design. Czech Sport Aircraft, American Legend, and Tecnam continue their growth making up the top five names.

We leave Cessna on the chart for now but most readers know Skycatchers are no long being produced so they will climb no further. However, companies like Icon made their first tiny impact on the list with a single registration in 2015. I visited with Kirk Hawkins at Aero; he invited me to see their production facility in a month or so. When that California airframer begins serial production, their large number of orders should thrust them upward at an increasing pace (troublesome contract problems notwithstanding).

In recent years our main chart also attempts to at least mention ELSA ad EAB where we believe we can rely on the numbers we find.

Our more recent chart of single year performance is lead again by CubCrafters although even their pace slowed for 2015. The Western U.S. producer remains well ahead but others have done credibly well: Czech Sport Aircraft, Pipistrel, Progressive Aerodyne (Searey) and Van's. SportCruiser registrations were up from 2014 as were Pipistrel's while Van's, American Legend, Aerotrek, and Flight Design were down. Tecnam's numbers reflect only registrations of their LSA models but the company reports selling a similar number of type certified aircraft so their total American market presence is greater than our charts reflect.

One you haven't seen at airshows in the last couple years is the Phoenix Air motorglider, an elegant machine but one in too-short supply, said U.S. importer Jim Lee. He has not been attending shows and will drop his advertising as delivery delays have stretched out too far despite interest he has found from American soaring enthusiasts.

While repeating another respectable year of SLSA sales (in addition to their kit sales), Searey may have become the best-selling LSA in China.
As noted, Icon added only one SLSA registration in 2015, Cessna is gone, and Quicksilver experienced their own drop from 2014 as that company reorganized. However, honorable mentions are deserved for Super Petrel (4 added), Sling (3), Brazilian Paradise is returning to the market after an absence (2 in 2015) and Topaz continues to build modestly (2).

Another interesting development just announced includes the return of Zenair and their popular CH-750 STOL aircraft that will again be assembled as a ready-to-fly SLSA by M-Squared Aircraft in Alabama.

Those readers fascinated with these numbers may wish to compare 2014 and 2013 info, so click those links to read those earlier reports.

We dropped Allegro from the top-20 ranking even though their aircraft still has a good count as we've done with a few other brands over the years.

Finally, while our main chart focuses on the top brands, note that the largest single percentage are registrations from "All other producers." So-called boutique brands still have their place in the LSA spectrum.

As always, our disclaimer is that we only count FAA registrations and only those from the USA, which leaves out the rest of the world that accounts for most sales of LSA-type aircraft. Our statistics will not be identical to what companies reports as sales and do not include aircraft retired from service for any reason. Lastly, I repeat we cannot accurately count a share of new aircraft sales that might amount to 20-25% more if the data were reliable. These observations combine to make a more conservative report than may actually be factual but we prefer to err on the side of caution.

Early Preview of Aero Freidrichshafen 2016
By Dan Johnson, April 19, 2016

The great show of Europe called Aero Friedrichshafen is about to begin. It starts officially tomorrow and runs through Saturday (April 20-23, 2016). I've lost count, but believe this is my 20th year of attending, far more than any other European show. As he worked to help exhibitors and manage the million details of his event, boss Roland Bosch said the event started in 1977, meaning next year would be its 40th, but... Aero alternated years from 1977 through 1991 (as do many European airshows). With the 1993 event it went annual, meaning this is the 31st Aero.

On Monday, the vast 11 halls of the Messe (the facility name) were largely empty but slowly becoming populated with airplanes. In all of the gymnasium-sized halls with their elegant curved wood roofs, workers assembled displays. In Halls B1, B2, and B3 — where the light aircraft I follow are concentrated — displays are more elaborate than anything we typically see at U.S. shows. However, in the A-side halls, displays are magnificent, much like what one sees at the National Business Aircraft Association events (see Continental booth photo below.)

I enjoy observing the set-up effort. I've gone to many airshows and I am always amazed at this: on the evening before the show opens, chaos appears to reign. I can envision no chance it will all be ready in time. Yet, hours later as the entrance gate opens, booth spaces (called "stands" in Euro-English) seem completely finished, serenely awaiting the rush of first attendees. It's a marvelous transformation I've witnessed again and again.

As they set up their spaces, aircraft can be seen before they are dolled up for public consumption. I caught the retractable version of the BRM Aero Bristell. We may not see this airplane in the USA as the Light-Sport regulations don't permit retractable land planes (though, obviously, amphibious LSA seaplanes use what was once called "repositionable gear." I'm guessing this Bristell is quite a speedster that likely exceeds LSA's 120-knot speed limit in America.

Pipistrel, as you will read in my market share post to follow, continues to move up the U.S. LSA market ranking and this company refuses to sit still. Today, an announcement boasted that their Virus SW 121 has achieved full EASA type certification. A limited number of other LSA producers have earned a Restricted Type Certificate (RTC) for their aircraft; Pipistrel noted their's is not that but unrestricted approval by the European Union's equivalent to the FAA.

While Pipistrel charges (pun intentional) off in all directions, they chose to feature their Alpha Electro prominently in their booth space or stand. The company has already delivered a few of these pure-electric-powered Light-Sport-like aircraft to flight schools that use them for pattern flight training. A quick swap of batteries to keep one set charging can theoretically allow for very economical, and quiet, operations. An American company is doing likewise with their Sun Flyer project but has some ways to go to catch up with Pipistrel.

Over in the A halls, specifically in A-3, we see engine producers like Rotax — right up front in the highest traffic area — and Continental Motors, now also of Titan fame (the much-appreciated sponsor of our new video in the header above). In the A halls, visitors will find a dizzying array of flying products but also the biggest airplanes at the show. Along with their larger size, these companies mount impressive displays, like the two story-exhibit workers were assembling as I poked around early in the process. Along with their GA engines and their diesel entry, Continental displayed their Titan engine that has found favor on so many LSA in America. Company marketing guru, Emmanuel Davidson, said Continental will have some major announcements on opening day and I'll be present to hear items of interest to readers of

When I first started attending Aero, it was not in these giant halls. The new Messe was built after Aero began. In the first year I attended, the largest aircraft on display anywhere was a Cessna 206. Today, jets and big business aircraft are very much a part of the overall event, though I spend most of my time with the smaller aircraft that are my focus. The little guys cannot all afford to be present every year so this even-numbered year will not see the sailplane displays. Some LSA producers also don't come annually (for example, Tecnam will not be present) to preserve funds for other marketing expenses.

Positively electrical and a glimpse of the future is how you might describe exhibits in the e-flight-expo.

The Slovenian company Pipistrel, with a facility in very nearby Italy — where it finishes Light-Sport Aircraft intended for export to the U.S. (a necessity due to government requirements) — is one active outfit. In the e-flight-expo area, in the large entry foyer on the west end of the giant complex, Pipistrel was preparing a mock-up of their supersleek four seater called Panthera with a hybrid electric propulsion system.

The e-flight-expo, significantly arranged by my publisher friend, Willi Tacke of World Directory of Leisure Aviation (WIDOLA) fame, was setting up to show off the technology achievements by enormous corporations like Siemens (supplying the motor on the Panthera mentioned above) and tiny companies, those enterprises that often lead the race in new innovative directions. I plan to spend some time in the entry foyer looking over the achievements of these companies. We don't know that electric propulsion, or hybrids, will truly arrive on the aviation scene anytime soon, but plenty of folks are rooting for such, including myself.

One thing you will not see, as the show opens on Wednesday, will be the giant semi-tractor trailers that hauled in the merchandise. In the nearby view you see the enormous dual, tandem-wheeled trailer holding Roko airplanes (a company once associated with the aircraft now produced by BRM Aero, builder of the Bristell series). American companies have more modest funding, normally using trailers or flying their aircraft to events. Not all Europeans are so well-heeled either, but some have major hauling vehicles. The custom-built rig used by TL Ultralights was steadily being unloaded of aircraft and display equipment as I snooped around on Monday, two days before opening.

When Aero open on Wednesday the 20th, I will continue my investigation of all things marvelous in light aircraft. I hope to capture some video material for later editing by Videoman Dave and I hope to post daily stories about cool aircraft and flying gear ideas I find. Stay tuned. This is going to be as interesting as ever, I predict.

Sun ‘n Fun 2016 Debrief & Summary
By Dan Johnson, April 15, 2016

Doing What We Do... Interviewing Hsieh Chi-Tai of AeroJones Aviation about his Taiwan company's manufacturing of the Flight Design CTLS for import by Flight Design USA.
The super-short summary of Sun 'n Fun 2016: weather was beautiful; even the one night of rain gave way to a sunny day and all other days were as good as it gets. No accidents occurred to my awareness. Crowds were good if not record-setting. Airplanes were sold; I conservatively estimate about 30 sales of light aircraft, based on my inquiries. What's not to love?

As with any such attempt to cover an event the size and breadth of Sun'n Fun, this article cannot include all deserving aircraft, with regrets to any not mentioned below. We also shot lots video that will follow as the editing can be done (photo).

This article is longer than I prefer but I have plenty to tell you and I was simply too engaged during the event to keep posting. So... let's get going!

AIRPLANES (three-axis control) — Sun 'n Fun drew all the wonderful light airplanes we love but a few were touting fresh news not previously reported.

Paul Mather (L) shakes hands with Zenair CEO Matt Heintz after they inked a deal to join forces in creating a new SLSA version of the popular CH 750.
One of the most significant developments was a Zenair of Canada collaboration with Alabama's M-Squared Aircraft. They inked a deal for M-Squared to fully assemble the popular "Sky Jeep" CH 750 and deliver it as a fully-built Special LSA. Some years ago AMD and then Eastman built the popular STOL aircraft (as the 701, at that time) in a partnership with Zenair but it's been a rather long time since you could buy a ready-to-fly 750. That will change by summer; M-Squared boss Paul Mather reported the first subassemblies are being manufactured now. He expects to build perhaps 10 in 2016, ramping up as demand suggests. This is a smart move by Paul who will continue to make his also-SLSA Breese 2 among other models.

I reported earlier that Progressive Aerodyne won Chinese CAAC approval for their Searey amphibian, without a doubt the most successful light seaplane. Given a (presently) small market for that populous country and with 11 aircraft already shipped, Searey may have bragging rights as the best-selling LSA in China. Congratulations to Adam Yang, Kerry Ritcher, and the Searey gang. Given Icon A5 pricing soaring past the $200,000 barrier, Searey is a relative bargain for an aircraft with more 500 already flying (most built as kits).

Jabiru North America (their new company name) boss Pete Krotje was pleased to announce the first Jabiru J170-D will appear at Oshkosh, sporting a value-oriented price tag below $100,000 for a surprisingly well equipped aircraft. It should work well in flight schools, he believes; I think individual pilots could flock to the model. Pete's company will also debut new models of engines: their 81 horsepower 2210 four cylinder and 120 horsepower 3310 six cylinder.

We saw the first U.S. appearance of the handsome all-metal low wing Viper SD4 from Tomark Aero. Work is underway to gain SLSA acceptance though this may be some time off yet. They will reportedly also debut their high wing Skyper at Aero. I'll be looking for it next week.

Flight Design USA had a "come-back" show, we heard, thanks to their new arrangement to buy completed SLSA versions of their popular CTLS from AeroJones Aviation of Taiwan. They said the first aircraft will soon be delivered to distributors. The company is offering their 202 model, all ready with ADS-B gear. However, in work with consultant John Hurst, they also announced an ADS-B Out solution for the 400 existing owners of CT-series LSA.

Fixed wing Part 103 ultralights continue to attract buyers and the choices are broadening. In this file photo we see the lightest Quicksilver Sprint.
PART 103 (ultralights) — Although too many people mistakenly believe otherwise, the world of Part 103 fixed wing aircraft is alive and well. At Sun 'n Fun, we did a video interview with Dennis Carley about his kit version of the hot-selling Aerolite 103. He's doing that to offer shorter delivery times while he facility is working to capacity (about 50 aircraft per year). Kits will also allow non-103 customization some customers want.

We also did a video interview with Kolb Aircraft's Bryan Melborn about his tricycle gear version of the Part 103 FireFly, dubbed the TriFly... and they don't mean you have to try and fly it. They can build you one for around $25,000 or save you a bit with a kit you can customize. Kolb's display TriFly had a Rotax 447 mounted; that engine is out of production but many are available in good condition and, yes!, Bryan said TriFly can make Part 103 with that engine.

Other news involving three-axis Part 103 aircraft invoke two well known brand names: Quicksilver and CGS Haw. Both are very longtime players in the light aircraft space and both have just gone through major organization changes.

Quicksilver sold all inventory and numerous fabrication tools — "several semi-trailers worth" — to Bever Borne's Air-Tech Inc., operation in Reserve, Louisiana near New Orleans. Bever has been a Quicksilver man far longer than anyone at Quicksilver so he's arguably the best choice to hold all the cards. However, the California company has reportedly also signed an agreement with Aero Adventure to manufacture kit versions of the line at their DeLand, Forida operation. We'll watch to see how this plays out since the company restructured last summer.

Terry Short bought all the inventory, tooling, and rights to the CGS Hawk line. He had a booth space to talk to prospective clients but declined to do a video interview until he is better set up; the deal only transacted a couple months ago.

Sleek, smooth, and looking jet-fast is this new P&M Aviation entry called Pulsr.
WEIGHT-SHIFT (trikes) — We saw several interesting new trikes at Sun 'n Fun 2016. Among them was the P&M Aviation Pulsr that managed to score a Light Sport Innovation Award from the judges. Congratulations to representative Tony Castillo and the British design team lead by Bill Brooks. Pulsr manages to look fast sitting on the ground with its sweeping windscreen smoothly integrated to the aft carriage and engine cowl.

Evolution Trike, with the most colorful trike hardware on the planet, had a new Polini engine installation on their single seat, Part 103-capable Rev. This fascinating lightweight engine has gear drive and a clutch to make for a smooth-running single banger packing 35 horsepower. Between Rev and Revo, this Zephyr Hills, Florida company is always one I watch closely.

Tiny and superlight — and quickly foldable to fit in your sedan or light truck — are the operative terms for the Aeros Nano Trike (ANT), made especially for hang glider pilots who no longer want to run their take-offs or landings. This highly successful producer of competition-winning hang glider wings is helping their customers fly longer more comfortably. The Ukraine company is represented in the USA by SilverLight Aviation.

Rob Rollison of Aerotrek gives an interview for the new ELA gyroplanes he is representing including this very handsome Eclipse 10.
GYROPLANES — Rotax Aircraft Engines, the dominant player, by far, supplying powerplants to the light aircraft field around the world, has in recent years said they sell more 912 engines to gyroplane producers than any other aircraft segment. Between Germany's AutoGyro (which has delivered around 2,000 units) to Italy's Magni (900 units) to Spain's ELA (700 units) and all other builders (about 500 units), this class is exploding... although in the USA, one can only say it is growing because owners have to build their aircraft from kit as FAA never completed the goal of allowing a Special LSA version.

The agency's sluggishness to remedy this situation, despite years-long efforts by industry, brought segment leader AutoGyro to pursue Primary Category approval, a significantly-costlier and more complicated process than following ASTM guidelines (standards for gyros have been done for years). As reward, the company will be able to sell fully-built gyroplanes to Americans, though that approval may not carry over to other countries.

SilverLight made a public debut with their brand-new American Ranger AR-1. Developer Abid Farooqui, with whom we shot a video interview, said he went from concept drawings to completed aircraft in barely over nine months. Having given birth, SilverLight has created the first American gyroplane in the modern European style... all "Made in the USA!" (except for rotor blades, from France). SilverLight is an unusual light plane supplier representing a fixed wing aircraft, weight shift trikes (both by Hungarian builder Apollo), and their new gyroplane. Abid is also a well qualified engineer and ASTM expert who has helped several other companies. Impressive!

Speaking of impressive, people practically drooled over the very sleek ELA Eclipse 10 gyroplane being offered by Rob Rollison's Indiana-based Aerotrek. We've seen their open cockpit gyroplanes before but Eclipse 10 made its American debut at Sun 'n Fun 2016. Only a handful are flying though the Spanish builder has a solid track record with earlier models.

Miguel Soto has it down pat, completely tearing down and reassembling the Titan 180 horsepower engine in their display — twice! — during Sun 'n Fun. Videoman Dave's camera is mounted high to capture time-lapse imagery of the whole event.
POWERPLANTS — What goes up... must have an engine to do so. We looked at several, interviewing several officials.

Market leader Rotax, represented by Aircraft Engines Manager Marc Becker reported the new 915 iS engine debuted at AirVenture 2015 has more than 50 flying hours and some thousands of hours logged on the dynamometer in their factory test cells. The engine is highly awaited by many in the LSA field and Marc noted several dozen airframes are working with the design now. The 915 iS features the fuel injection of its 912 iS sibling but adds a 5:1 turbo that will deliver a high percentage of power up to 20,000 feet or more. So potent is it that an intercooler is needed and the new equipment needs planning by airframe builders. The company is consistent in saying the new engine will be available, all certified and ASTM approved by the latter half of 2017.

Continental's super-powerful, 180-horsepower Titan line is finding increasing support. CubCrafters started the parade but is now followed by Zlin's Savage Outback, American Legend, Kitfox Aircraft, Just Aircraft, Rans, and Vickers for the Wave seaplane LSA. Continental bought developer ECi last year and all signs are full speed ahead for this powerplant with a surprisingly good power-to-weight ratio. The company did a public tear-down and rebuild of a Titan engine in their display... twice. We mounted a camera set for time-lapse imagery to record the whole process. We think you may enjoy this when ready.

Belgium's UL Power is another company with growing acceptance, with more airframe companies giving one of their models a try. U.S. representative Robert Helms — who enjoys referring to himself as a "recovering lawyer" since he ditched the suit to pursue something more gratifying — took time away from his display to moderate three of LAMA's panels (see below) and participate in one of them. Robert reported that the Belgium-based creator of these high-tech engines (even featuring FADEC) is working to meet ASTM standards that could one day result in engines being factory installed on SLSA.

In the One-More-Thing department made famous by former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, work by Aircraft Spruce deserves a mention. The company is geared up to address homebuilders who want to speed the building of panels. The publisher of a giant 1,000-page+ catalog has a division of their company that custom builds wiring harnesses making the addition of a wide variety of avionics faster, easier, and more accurate than many kit builders might manage on their own. We did a video on this subject; watch for it in the weeks ahead.

DEBATES — I'll end this rather lengthy recap with something that kicked off the event and ran the first four days. I refer to the "Great Debates in Paradise City." In its big tent in the light plane area of Sun 'n Fun 2016 — made possible with generous support from Aviators Hot LineLAMA hosted four debates.

Sixteen of the best suppliers to the light airplane industry. Top left, engines (L-R): Moderator Sebastien Heintz, Zenith Aircraft; John Heitland, Continental Motors; Robert Helms, UL Power; Marc Becker, Rotax Aircraft Engines; Pete Krotje, Jabiru ||| Top right, writers: Ben Sclair, General Aviation News; Pia Bergqvist, Flying; Robert Goyer, Plane & Pilot; Paul Bertorelli, AVweb ||| Bottom left, avionics: Matt Litnaitzky, MGL Avionics; Ian Jordan, Dynon Avionics; Andrew Barker, TruTrak; Ananda Leon, Levil Technology ||| Bottom right, apps: Angela Anderson, ForeFlight; Steve Podradchik, Seattle Avionics (FlyQ); Paul Edhlund, WingX Pro (Hilton Software); Jim Laster, Garmin Pilot. writers photo by Kathy Lubitz
The first on Tuesday featuring engines for light aircraft, including Continental Motors and their Titan line, UL Power, Rotax Aircraft Engines, and Jabiru; next on Wednesday, a debate between four top aviation journalists including writers for General Aviation News, Flying magazine, Plane & Pilot magazine, and AVweb; on Thursday, LAMA collected four leading avionics producers including MGL, Dynon, TruTrak, and Levil; and concluding on Friday were all the best-selling iPad and Android apps featuring ForeFlight, Seattle Avionics' FlyQ, WingX Pro, and Garmin's Pilot.

A sincere thanks to all 16 panelists for taking time out of their busy days to participate and to the Flying Musicians Association for arranging professional-grade public address equipment to make it work.

All four debates were captured by Videoman Dave for his YouTube channel. In the way of the Internet, all these are freely available, but I encourage you to support his efforts by subscribing annually or get a great deal on hisLifetime offer.

Tomorrow, I blast off for southern Germany and the Aero Friedrichshafen show, where I hope to make more frequent posts about cool aircraft and gear I find in Europe.

Gyronauts ... Pre-Sun ‘n Fun Wing Fling
By Roy Beisswenger, April 5, 2016

Welcome to a guest editorial by Roy Beisswenger, publisher of Powered Sport Flying magazine and a close follower of the gyroplane scene. —DJ

The new American Ranger 1 in flight. photo by Roy Beisswenger of Power Sport Flying magazine.
Bensen Days in Wauchula, Florida is our annual pre-game party leading up to Sun 'n Fun. The Sunstate Wing & Rotorcraft Club schedules this annual soiree to coincide with Sun 'n Fun. By holding their fly-in one week before SnF, they make it possible for vendors and participants to get a two-for-one deal. One trip south gets them two great sport aviation events. The scheduling certainly makes it possible for Vickie and me to participate.

Gyroplane organizations are not the huge organizations that we see sponsoring major events like Sun 'n Fun and AirVenture. There is no paid staff and no big budget. The volunteers that put it together collect fees and donations to cover their expenses and build up the kitty for the next event. That is why it is such a pleasure to see an event like Bensen Days continue on year after year. It says a lot about the gyronauts in Florida!

A selection of the gyroplanes on the ramp at the Wauchula Airport. photo by Roy Beisswenger of Power Sport Flying magazine.
Anyone who shows up gets a lot of bang for the small number of bucks it takes to participate. Want to go for a flight in a gyroplane? This event gives you several choices and little to no waiting. Want to talk about gyroplanes? Try talking about anything but gyroplanes! Want to see what is new? Because this is the first major gyro event of the year and the scheduling proximity to Sun 'n Fun, you will often see things here first.

Named after famed gyro pioneer Igor Benson, Bensen Days gives people a chance to visit with vendors and pilots in the home-built market who don't make it to the larger fly-ins. These participants are just as enthusiastic as the newer, Euro-gyro owners, but they don't have the budgets to attend the larger events.

Some of the vendors I saw there included importers or manufacturers for Titanium Explorer, Dominator, Ela, Autogyro, Xenon and SliverLight Aviation. In fact Abid Farooqui officially introduced his American Ranger 1 gyroplane at the event. The gyroplane is going to be one of the first European-style gyroplanes designed and manufactured in the United States.

Bob Snyder with Autogyro USA's naked MTO. photo by Roy Beisswenger of Powered Sport Flying magazine.
The breezy day didn't stop the flying. Light airplanes could handle the winds, but they were quite a handful for the plane I saw take to the sky. The gyroplane pilots were aware of the wind, but had no problem with it.

One of the interesting designs I saw at the event was a 'naked' MTO Sport. It is 'naked' because it has none of the normal fuselage panels — nose cone, the floor, and integrated composite shell. Instrumentation for the aircraft is contained in small nose pod.

Autogyro representative Bob Snyder offered a flight in this unique version of their MTO. On a nice, warm Florida day, my short-sleeved shirt was just fine for the open-cockpit flight. I emptied my pockets of droppable stuff and stripped my camera down to the basic frame and lens for the flight.

After a quick introduction to the aircraft, I had to ask a somewhat embarrassing question, "How do you get in?" Most gyroplanes have some structure to use when entering, but this MTO had no floor. It stands up high on some tundra tires. Answer: Just throw your leg over the seat and slide on up. I'm glad I'm taller than average. It's like mounting a short horse without the benefit of a saddle horn!

Once aboard, the taxi to the end of the runway took very little time and Bob got us quickly into the sky. What a blast! All open cockpit aircraft remind me a little of a flying motorcycle, but this one really fit the definition. I was seated in a more comfortable seat than on a bike and had on a seat belt and shoulder harness, but everything else was incredibly open.

Sun 'n Fun will feature a good selection of gyroplanes including this new-to-Americans Eclipse G10 offered by Aerotrek.
Bob gave me the full familiarization flight. He showed me the capabilities of the gyro in the practice area next to the airport and over the cattle. Then he asked me if I wanted to see some alligators. Being from the Midwest, those animals always fascinate me. We went off to the phosphate mine ponds and saw some monsters, along with other wildlife.

And remember that wind I mentioned? It was barely noticeable to me on the flight. Fast-moving rotor blades have a way of just subduing most unruly winds.

I didn't do a survey, but I expect most vendors at Bensen Days will soon be at Sun 'n Fun. For the last few years, the gyroplane vendors have been located in Paradise City and conducting flight operations off of that runway along with the airplanes. The aircraft get along together famously. So if you have a desire to fly gyroplanes, you have another chance to see a lot of different models in one place!

Thanks for that report, Roy. Sun 'n Fun 2016 starts on Tuesday April 5th and runs through Sunday, April 10th. You can occasionally find Roy Beisswenger in the LAMA Show Center Pavilion. Check the Daily Schedule here. —DJ

A Powerful Wave Is Headed Your Way!
By Dan Johnson, April 3, 2016

This a rendering of Wave's upper fuselage center of Wave. Get a more complete view of the airplane in this article.
Unless you've had your mind on other pursuits — oh, for example, preparing to head to Sun 'n Fun 2016 next week (the show runs April 5-10) — you could hardly miss the growing buzz surrounding Icon. A soft whistle of air escaping the cabin turned into a deafening roar as Aero-News.Net (always fast with news), AOPA online, AVweb and others piled on to a story about Icon's 40-page A5 purchase contract.

Credible journalistic work was done by Jim Campbell, Jim Moore, and Paul Bertorelli (respectively of each of the publications mentioned above) in documenting the behemoth contract. I have an opinion too — one part respectful of the California company's wish to protect their brand and their investment and and one part saying, "What the...?" I see no reason to delve into further than the lengthy stories my fellow writers already posted.

Instead, I like following what's new in Light-Sport Aircraft, light kit aircraft, and ultralights. I have such an abundance of story material, my task is how to present it all. Thanks to Jim, Jim, and Paul for doing their jobs but I prefer to look south... way south, all the way south to New Zealand, nearly on the other side of the planet.

I refer to Wave from Vickers Aircraft. I've been following this since near the beginning (much like I did with Icon) and I want to provide an update from the company.

The above image shows three upper fuselage carbon fiber production components, some of which are for first customer aircraft deliveries.
People are scratching their heads about Icon. Many (like me) wish them well in their goal to grow aviation but wonder what is taking so long. Meanwhile, working furiously but out of the glare of bright stage lights is Paul Vickers and his dedicated team at Vickers Aircraft. Their work demands careful planing and other elements.

First: vision. Many think Icon started something good. Certainly their airplane is handsome and flies without fault. They had vision. Over my years in aviation publishing, I've met hundreds of engineers and hundreds of artists. I find those creative folks share a common theme, that of wanting to do something excellent. Aircraft designers envision what some of us cannot. Then they start drafting. The same could be said of a sculptor looking at a massive block of granite or marble and seeing the finished work before picking up a tool.

"From the beginning our plan was to build a production aircraft using realistic techniques and real world solutions," said Vickers CEO, Paul Vickers, with whom I've been communicating steadily for more than two years. "I am pleased to say that real progress is exactly what we are achieving."

Especially in light of recent events, Paul's observation — made several days before the Icon furor started — was, "The LSA sector is screaming out for an amphibian that is real and delivers on its promises. Wave will do so, you have my personal guarantee," asserted Paul.

In this image the windscreen mold has just been cured in Vickers' oven and is now ready for the first batch of screens to be made.
Second: money. You have to have it and plenty of it to build a new-from-scratch LSA seaplane. This may be one of the toughest tasks: birthing a new airplane company... just ask Icon or many other companies.

"We secured American investors to help us bring Wave to reality," said Paul. "Their incredible support helped to shape 2015 into a year of progress and success." The images accompanying this article give visual proof of progress much better than engineering drawings can.

"Our customers continue to give us the confidence and determination to reach beyond our limits to bring our incredible product to the aviation market," Paul expressed. "With strong encouragement from our supporters we were driven to strive for excellence."

Third: tooling. In 2015 Vickers Aircraft fired up their first curing oven. "We are well underway with producing the pre-preg carbon fiber parts for the first production cycle," said Paul. He added that custom-developed PLC software enables detailed control of heating cycles and offers the full traceability that is required to manufacture aircraft. Vickers' oven is capable of producing components for 30+ aircraft per year, he said.

Team Vickers is fully in control of their process. "All components for the Wave, both aluminum and carbon fiber, are made in house by our dedicated team," Paul noted. You cannot build an all-carbon-fiber airplane without some rather exotic tools. (For comparison, Icon does not primarily use carbon fiber, though companies like Flight Design have done so for years.)

Nose components of Wave. See more complete images of the LSA seaplane and read all we offer at this link.
Fourth: manufacturing. Over my years following more companies than I can recall anymore, I've seen brilliant designers create some fantastic airplanes... and then never build them, or not very many of them. Some engineers design for production from the start and Paul Vickers relentlessly stresses this is his goal.

Paul said, "As we enter into the next stage of growth for Vickers Aircraft we have begun looking for a suitable location to base Vickers Aircraft USA, our sales, training and delivery facility in the United States." He has begun exploring sites on the East and West coasts.

As reported earlier, Wave will be powered by the 180-horsepower Titan engine, now offered by Continental Motors. This potent powerplant should do wonders compared to similar weight LSA seaplanes using 100-115 horsepower.

"Deliveries will start early 2017," promised Paul. "We are aiming to be flying late this year." Indeed, a powerful Wave is building.

Below, watch a video of production work to make carbon fiber parts for the Vickers Wave...

Two More SLSA Makes 140!
By Dan Johnson, April 1, 2016

Predictions of a great thinning of the herd... of a consolidation of LSA producers to a handful of leaders never came to pass. No wonder, when the new Special LSA acceptances keep piling up.

What I find quite fascinating is that the four newest SLSA were Made-in-American aircraft or seven of the last ten. The Yankees are coming on stronger after the Europeans owned the market for the first few years.

I have new SLSA airplane market share numbers for 2015 thanks to hours of work by my friend and LAMA associate, Jan Fridrich. With Sun 'n Fun and Aero approaching I have simply been short of time to give such important info the attention it deserves. Yet, as soon as possible...

Meanwhile I am pleased to announce the latest SLSA. Welcome to Glasair's Merlin LSA that we reported in this video with company president Nigel Mott.

Merlin images are courtesy of Glasair Aviation.
AOPA crack reporter, Al Marsh reported Merlin LSA is priced at $149,950. He noted that that this acceptance by FAA "marks the kitplane company's first entry into factory-produced aircraft." He added, "It will not be sold as a kit." Glasair said Merlin LSA meets the regulation-mandated 45-knot stall speed and claims a 104-knot (120 mph) cruise speed. The company reported the new SLSA has a useful load of 530 pounds. When filled with a full load of 24 gallons of fuel, Merlin will have a payload of 386 pounds.

Other Merlin specs: wingspan 32 feet; cabin width of 47 inches; and baggage capacity 50 pounds. The company has selected Rotax's fuel-injected fuel-sipping 912iS engine along with Dynon's SkyView Touch digital instrument. Al reported "Glasair plans to offer an optional BRS airframe parachute system."

Over at Flying magazine, Pia Bergqvist wrote, "The FAA sign-off comes less than a year after the Merlin first took flight last April and two years after the program was announced at the Sun 'n Fun 2014." She added "Glasair has taken eight deposits to date. The initial production rate is set for 18 airplanes during the first year." Glasair Aviation is owned by Jilin Hanxing Group in northern China, a mere "155 miles from North Korea" Al Marsh noted.

Please note that Glasair's Merlin LSA is different from Aeromarine-LSA's Merlin PSA. Merlin PSA is a kit-built design at present.

SkyRunner image is courtesy of the company. This does not represent the current version displayed at airshow which is a larger two-seat variety.
One that everyone in aviation appeared to miss was the SkyRunner Mk. 3.2. That is no wonder, perhaps, as Team SkyRunner has focused their airshow displays on boat shows although they did attend EAA in the Innovation Pavilion last year and the Flying magazine Expo in Palm Springs.

Article Update 4/2/16 — A correction is needed to say that SkyRunner has not received the full blessing of FAA on their Mk 3.2. In most SLSA audits, authorities have a few points in documentation they want revised. Team SkyRunner is making these adjustments; I will report the final acceptance.

While I look forward to flying both these interesting machines that occupy nearly opposite ends of the LSA spectrum, the one that truly captures my attention is SkyRunner, if only because it can drive as well as fly. Based on their videos, it appears to haul butt on a sand dune or other off-road terrain. Indeed, the company has generated interest from the military and other non-traditional customers.

The last time we spoke at length about SkyRunner, boss Stewart Hamel said his company had logged around 150 orders for this gnarly-looking contraption. We also made a video about the cool ride for your viewing enjoyment.

Anyone who says the LSA sector does not remain vibrant and fascinating is either not paying attention or has a bad attitude. As closely as I follow this industry, it seems wonderfully alive and well.

Neither Merlin nor SkyRunner will be available for examination at Sun 'n Fun next week, but attendees will have plenty to catch their attention (see article below, which is surely not a complete list). I hope to see many readers present, but for those that can't come, I'll try to stay up late enough to post news as I find it. Stay tuned!

Sun ‘n Fun Preview ... 17 Aircraft to Check
By Dan Johnson, March 30, 2016

Aerolite 103 by U-Fly-It
Every year before the big shows, I often hear from journalist friends working for other publications. This year as other years, they need advance knowledge to get things started for print publications working on longer deadlines than those of us in the online publishing game. To help my fellow writers, I've been keeping a tally of what I expect at Sun 'n Fun 2016. Here we go...! By the way, these are not order of importance or impact. Please don't assume.

U-Fly-It, producer of the popular and agreeably-priced Aerolite 103 (ready-to-fly for well under $20,000) is well along in planning for a kit version. While running their facility at or near capacity, this move may help get airplanes to people faster plus allowing those who want features that will not qualify as a Part 103 ultralight to go Experimental Amateur Built.

Thinking of modestly priced aircraft, Quicksilver will be represented at Sun 'n Fun at the Air-Tech space. Air-Tech's Quicksilver Superman, Bever Borne can support any model the company ever made (and more). Meanwhile, another plan begins to unfold. Details are still forming but pilots (and dealers) interested in arguably the most successful kit in all of aviation history will want to inquire further.

Jabiru J170-D from Jabiru North America
Many folks are buzzing about Icon Aircraft making their first Sun 'n Fun with an exhibit for their professionally-marketed A5 LSA seaplane. Since Florida has thousands of landable waterways, it seems an obviously-smart decision to mount an exhibit in Lakeland (even the city name seems to invite the California company).

Speaking of first viewings (to Americans anyway), Rob Rollison of Aerotrek fame is bringing the superbly sleek ELA Eclipse 10 from Spain. This gyroplane is literally a thing of beauty and is the top of the company's line of rotary aircraft. Of course, he'll also have plenty of great-selling Aerotrek A240s and A220s

In other gyro news, a brand new model will be seen from Abid Farooqui of Silverlight Aviation. His American Ranger AR1 has gone from sketches to a beautiful aircraft in barely over nine months, no surprise to me, given the engineer's strong credentials. Abid helped aircraft like Searey get through their FAA audit with flying colors and now he's bringing his own design.

At their centrally located booth, at a press conference, and at the LAMA Great Debate about engines on opening day in Paradise City, Rotax Aircraft Engines is prepared to give an update on their much-anticipated, fuel-injected, turbo-boosted 135-horsepower 915 iS engine. Come hear and meet engine division manager, Marc Becker, a most affable fellow.

Another closely-watched company is Flight Design. Their U.S. importer will be present to talk about their new second source for completed airframes, called AeroJones. The clouds are beginning to clear for the LSA market leader and president Tom Peghiny will be prepared to field inquiries from press and pilots alike.

Pulsr by P&M Aviation
Like Quicksilver, new owner Terry Short will be present to talk about his acquisition of the historically-important CGS Hawk line. He only recently took over the company so he will not rush to assemble an airplane but he will be available to update fans of the very affordable and well-liked aircraft line.

Paul Mather of M-Squared Aircraft reported a new plan progressing well for him to work with the Zenith/Zenair CH-750 aircraft as he seeks to make the popular "Sky Jeep" available one again as a fully-built Special LSA. We've seen this before (as the 701, at that time) from AMD and then Eastman Aviation but it's been some years since you could buy a ready-to-fly 750. Come hear more.

Continental Motors, now owners of the popular Titan series seen on several Light-Sport Aircraft and various kits will be doing a full disassembly and reassembly of one their 180-horsepower Titan engines. Technicians will do this twice during Sun 'n Fun 2016. This will provide interested parties a rare chance to see the insides of their potent powerplant.

A few new or renewed aircraft will return to Sun 'n Fun. One is the Jabiru J170 D, the somewhat smaller version of their spacious-cabin, three-door J230. The 170 model is especially appropriate for flight schools and carries a modest price of $99,900 even very well equipped. Jabiru North America proprietor Pete Krotje will also field questions about the new Jabiru engine models at his booth and at the Great Debate about engines in Paradise City.

Brand new is the significantly enclosed, and very smooth-looking Pulsr trike (no, that's not a typo; it follows their Quikr model). Other than the very impressive Evolution Revo, we haven't seen as much development in larger trikes so it will be good to see P&M Aviation showing their newest model.

ELA Eclipse 10 presented by Aerotrek
The P&M model is a larger two-seat, go-fast design, but for those interested in getting a hang glider wing aloft for soaring flight the super-light Aeros Nano Trike (ANT) will be present with a folding landing gear model.

We also look forward to updates from Super Petrel USA as the beautiful Brazilian biwinged LSA seaplane establishes it factory-owned outlet in Florida. To facilitate North American and other deliveries the southern hemisphere company has set up shop at the Ormond Beach airport (north of Daytona Beach).

Speaking of seaplanes, we understand Aero Adventure has outfitted an Aventura with a powerful Subaru engine and it could make an appearance. This company also has very some interesting plans that we hope they may be prepared to flesh out in the near future.

Finally, but hardly last are a series of changes to the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association display in the heart of Paradise City. The organization — of which I am the president... my "volunteer job" in light aviation — has for nearly a decade arranged the LSA Mall. That will scale down slightly as many former Mall participants now exhibit in Paradise City. Joining the LSA Mall, LAMA has created some other interesting activities.

New American Ranger AR-1 from Silverlight Aviation
You can use this link to download the Daily Schedule for the LAMA Show Center pavilion in Paradise City. Print it out for reference at the show or bookmark it on your favorite mobile device.

Beside the always popular LSA Mall, I wish to bring to your attention the daily "Great Debates in Paradise City." LAMA will have an engine debate (TU-4/5/16), a debate between your favorite aviation journalists (WE-4/6), you can hear from no less than four top avionics producers (TH-4/7), and the debates conclude with all the best-selling iPad and Android apps (FR-4/8). All these are free and shaded seating for 100 is available. All Debate panels start at 1 PM and will run about an hour.

On each evening — Tuesday through Saturday — the LAMA pavilion will have special events, parties, or receptions sponsored by vendors and others. Beverages and snacks will be provided. In particular, LAMA would love to have you come by Wednesday evening from 5-7 PM to help celebrate the life of our fallen friend and LAMA volunteer Gregg Ellsworth.

As always, Sun 'n Fun is what its name implies. All y'all come by and enjoy!

Jabiru Engines’ Battle With Australian Government
By Dan Johnson, March 26, 2016

A six-cylinder, 120-horsepower Jabiru 3300 installed in an American Experimental Amateur Built aircraft.
Among all the engines that lift Light-Sport Aircraft and light kit aircraft into the air, a few names dominate the field. To be used in a Special LSA, the engine has to meet all the requirements of the ASTM consensus standards. That is tough enough that currently we have Rotax, HKS, Continental, and Titan, with even the Continental (like Lycoming) qualifying by virtue of those powerplants meeting FAR 33. The other major player is Jabiru... the engine company as distinct from the airframe producer. Other engine suppliers such as UL Power, and D-Motor (and perhaps more) could possibly qualify but have not completed the ASTM process at this time.

So, it was some surprise to many readers that in December of 2014, the Australian equivalent to FAA, called CASA, implemented restrictions on the operation of Jabiru-powered aircraft in that country. In the Sport Pilot magazine published by Recreational Aviation Australia, Dave Edmunds wrote, "These restrictions required passengers to sign a waiver indicating that they were aware of potential aircraft problems." Some areas of operation of flights schools were also imposed.

"Even the most cursory examination of these restrictions indicates they have no impact on safety, do not address any structural or mechanical problems, but have a huge effect on the reputation of Jabiru," continued Edmunds.

At issue was something called IFSD or Inflight Shut Down of engines and CASA documents produced under a Freedom of Information request revealed a technical survey of engine failure rates for a two-year period. Edmunds, who obtained the documents, said the shutdowns were not filtered to include only those related to mechanical failures. For example, Edmunds wrote, "The figures used by CASA for IFDSs are raw figures, and include running out of fuel."

Chart appearing in Recreational Aviation Australia's Sport Pilot magazine.
As the nearby chart taken from the magazine supplied by Jabiru North America shows, Jabiru has the lowest number of fatalities per 100 currently registered aircraft... by a wide margin. Even the U.S. FAR 23-certified Cessna Skyhawk, with a very similar number of aircraft flying in Australia, had six times the fatalities-per-100-aircraft rate.

CASA's documents also made no reference to Jabiru addressing known modes of failure via three separate service bulletins. Problems can happen with any brand; the solution is addressing them with remedies, as Jabiru evidently did. Indeed, Edmunds wrote, "Aircraft which have had the issues addressed in the service bulletins have a dramatically lower rate of engine failure."

Other reporting anomalies appeared. Edmunds wrote, "The CASA website reported 46 Jabiru 'problems and events,' whereas Jabiru believes these were only 12 shutdowns due to mechanical failure [in the period examined]." He added, "It is not clear why CASA has used the vague and all-encompassing term, 'problems and events'."

As Edmunds continued his article — which views the editor said, "do not necessarily reflect those of RAAus" — he expressed, "CASA is rightly concerned about its responsibility for safety." Yet he added later, "...if CASA is prepared to operate on data as thin as this, then perhaps there is a great deal it is missing the aviation environment more widely."

Government agencies including our FAA are often on the hot seat to provide answers where few may exist but they also seem willing to amplify a problem to a degree that can be hard to accept. The requirement for registration of wee little drones (as light as nine ounces) with demands for a pilot license to operate them when photographing — for example, homes for sale — border on overreach. The Academy of Model Aeronautics felt so strongly about it, the AMA advised members not to immediately register their RC airplanes. We have learned to trust these agencies but they are operated and managed by ordinary humans who are not superior to the rest of us.

Articles like that of Dave Edmunds can help present both sides of the story. Those of you going to Sun 'n Fun in a matter of days can stop by the exhibit of Jabiru North America and ask more questions. See their display at space N-056 & 057 (not far from the blue FAA building).

CGS Hawk Has Found a New Florida Home
By Dan Johnson, March 21, 2016

In the beginning ... the light aviation world was void and without form. Those were the earliest days of light powered aircraft that people could truly afford. I refer way back to the late 1970s following a period when hang gliders were the darlings of the affordable aviation world. Hang gliders evolved in various dimensions, among which was the addition of an engine to a previously unpowered type of flying machine.

In those formative years one man stood large. Not only a big man in physical form, he was big in stature and bold in his goals. Some readers already know to whom I refer — the always impressive and irrepressible Chuck Slusarczyk. History about him goes back far enough that much of it precedes the World Wide Web. The earliest articles about Chuck and his enterprise never made it into the digital universe but see this link for a number that did, including some videos.

Chuck is now enjoying his retirement, having sold off his company after producing around 2,000 Hawks in various forms: Part 103 ultralights, experimental single seaters, two seater tandems, Hawks on floats, and a Light-Sport version. The history of the Hawk is so rich and varied that it would take a full article to describe it all. Fortunately, website members can read much of the history here.

After operating his company — called CGS Aviation, the letters following on his earlier Chuck's Glider Supplies — for many years, Chuck found a buyer in Alabama named Danny Dezauche. For a few years Danny kept the brand alive but more recently he sought and found a buyer to continue the iconic airplanes.

In January of 2016, after earlier suitors didn't pan out, Danny (featured in the one of videos mentioned above) sold the company to Floridian Terry Short. His enterprise, Terry Short Aviation Services, "Home of CGS Hawk Aviation," is based at the Lake Wales Airport.

Terry got his start in aviation like many youngsters, building radio-controlled airplanes back in the 1970s. After spending eight years in the U.S. Navy, Terry obtained his Private Pilot certificate in 1994. However, he said, "I preferred to fly ultralights and Light-Sport Aircraft."

"I started building scale model aircraft and competing in realistic flight and realistic scale competition in 1980s" Terry explained. His RC building efforts including a half-scale J3 Piper Cub and he reported that he won first place awards "due to detail and quality of realism" in his assemblies.

I purchased my first full-scale ultralight in 1995 at Sun 'n Fun, an Airbike from Team Aircraft," Terry recalled. "This was the start of building a variety of light planes: an Aerosport II, a Capella, a Rans, and a Kolb." He said he enjoy restoration projects a favorite of which "has always been Piper J3 Cub." Terry reports restoring six Cubs in the past 15 years. "I like to fly them, but I really enjoy the project part of it the most."

"My love for the projects led me to establish my own restoration and services business this year," Terry said, "and I will be retiring from Polk County School Board soon to focus on new business with my son, Chris."

"We will be offering support on all Hawk aircraft and will build and sell Hawk Ultra and two-place Hawk Arrow kits, as well as the two-seat Special LSA Hawk II." Given the population of hundreds of Hawks in the light aircraft fleet this is bound to be welcome news to those needing parts and service.

Over the years Chuck Slusarczyk operated the business, I believe I flew every model the pioneer created. Chuck and I were contemporaries in the early days of hang gliding and I came to know the man very well. Along with many other light aviation enthusiasts, I always looked forward to more of Chuck's highly entertaining sense of humor.

I cannot imagine Terry Short or son Chris can continue that particular part of the Hawk tradition but in a period when plenty of pilots lament the high cost of very sophisticated Light-Sport Aircraft, the CGS Hawks offer a more modest expense. These are simple airplanes but they've proven themselves over many years.

I also know several builders of kit Hawks and the project demands a lower number of hours. Flying any of the Hawk models is quite straightforward. The handling is docile and flight characteristics are predictable.

If you are headed to Sun 'n Fun in a couple weeks, you can find out more about CGS Hawk aircraft at the booth of Terry Short Aviation Services, space LP-007A in Paradise City. He reported he will not have an aircraft — "We've just received all the components and tooling and didn't want to just throw something together to show" — but he will be available to answer questions.

CPS Revs Up Rotax Classes in America’s West
By Dan Johnson, March 14, 2016

It's springtime and all across America as the weather enters an inviting phase, pilots are getting out their ultralights, light kit aircraft, and the Light-Sport Aircraft. Doing a very thorough check of the airframe is obviously important but thoughtful pilots will not overlook their engine.

For years now, all manner of light aircraft are lifted by a powerplant from one brand: Rotax.

So, where do you take your Rotax engine for qualified and quality work? A number of repair stations or mechanics have established a reputation after being trained to work on these engines. However, as the LSA sector expands around the globe and as companies far and wide began to embrace the Austrian engine, a steady growth has occurred in maintenance technicians. When engine models change and to assure approved mechanics have the latest information, recurrency training is also required.

Many owners are quite capable of doing some of their own work. Where do professionals and experienced amateurs go to get training? For those in the western states one good choice is California Power Systems, now part of the Aircraft Spruce conglomerate.

The 65-horsepower, two-stroke Rotax 582 continues to be a successful light aircraft powerplant.
March is a great month for flying and a good month to get new or updated training. California Power Systems — or simply CPS — is ready with a series of classes. This first is happening as this was written. Others are following shortly.

Occurring today and tomorrow (but sure to repeat) is the CPS Rotax 2-Stroke Service Course is for technicians wanting to rebuild or maintain all water-cooled and air-cooled 2-stroke Rotax aircraft engines such as the still-in-production and very popular Rotax 582. Emphasis is on students being able to perform a complete engine rebuild with failure analysis and a focus on preventative maintenance.

Coming up in days — on March 16-17, 2016 — is a Rotax 4-Stroke Service Class for those who want to maintain 912 series engines. This class is also geared to owners wanting to do their own scheduled maintenance. If you hold an A&P certificate or are an approved LSA Repairman, you will receive training to perform all scheduled maintenance and Level One troubleshooting procedures.

For a higher level of maintenance, mechanics need greater training. These individuals will want to take CPS's Rotax 912/914 Maintenance Class is for technicians wanting to perform serious maintenance tasks on 9-series engines. The class focuses on troubleshooting faults, removing major components for shipment to heavy maintenance rated technicians, and reassembly. "This class will be held on March 18-19, 2016," said CPS.

California Power System's series of Rotax engine classes cover the entire line including the newest fuel-injected, iS-series powerplants.
If you have already taken training from Rotax outlets like CPS, you may need the Rotax 2-Stroke Renewal Course or the 4-stroke (912 & 914) Renewal Course. These two courses are for current iRMT license holders. The renewal program will cover all new materials released within the past 24 months. This is the most inexpensive and informative way to get a 24-month extension on your current certification. The course will be held on March 20, 2016.

Finally, with professional mechanics in mind, CPS offers a Rotax 912/914 Heavy Maintenance Class , designed for those making a living as a Rotax repair technician. The class covers a complete field level teardown, inspection, and reassembly. The class will be held on March 21-23, 2016.

"All CPS classes will be held in our training facility at the Chino Airport (KCNO)," said California Power Systems. For detailed information and future schedules for any of these Rotax Classes, please visit the CPS website at the links above or call Bryan Toepfer at 800-247-9653 x302 or email Bryan.

If you can't make any of these classes, contact Bryan at CPS to hear when the next series starts.

Cruzer Prepared for FAA Kit Evaluation Team
By Dan Johnson, March 9, 2016

Watch our Video Pilot Report to get more details about the Zenith Cruzer model.
Even very familiar companies like Zenith Aircraft company, part of a family light aviation empire including Zenair in Canada, has to prepare well when FAA comes to visit. Specifically, this would be the agency's KET or Kit Evaluation Team. When various representatives of the regulatory agency visit they use a multi-page list to assure that a kit aircraft meets the requirement that 51% of the kit is built by the owner.

Formerly called Experimental Amateur Built (or EAB), many aviators simply say the "51% rule." In earlier times, kit aircraft were scratch built — meaning a builder secured raw materials that had to be formed and finished while referring to drawings, a potentially very lengthy process. To ease the effort and increase sales, an industry developed to sell component kits. These have become increasingly sophisticated with qualities such as match-hole construction using CNC machines.

Making it easier for a builder to assemble his or her aircraft is good, but the kit manufacturer must be able to clearly demonstrate how the owner will do 51% of the work, as required. As you might imagine, this demands a thorough review of the kit.

To prepare for FAA's visit, company staff spread out all the kit parts for their Cruzer model in a hangar bay at the factory, showing what the kit looks like as supplied to builders (this video addresses how Cruzer fits in Zenith's line).

You can watch a short video below that Zenith recorded; it demonstrates the part count pretty well and from the time it took just to lay them all out neatly, you may get some concept for the build effort to follow.

Freddy Heintz hovers his quadcopter over the Cruzer kit parts as part of the video shoot (see below).
Zenith kits "are supplied ready for assembly, using pulled (blind) rivets," said Zenith. "Parts are pre-formed and finished at the factory, and supplied pre-drilled, mainly final hole-size and ready for riveting. Welded assemblies are welded at the factory, and wing spars are supplied factory-finished."

"This is just the latest Zenith kit to be evaluated by the FAA so the outcome of this evaluation is really not in question," observed Roger Dubbert, company demo pilot and customer service specialist.

As an EAB owners can choose engines, avionics, and other options as they like, demonstrating the flexibility the 51% rule offers. Zenith said that popular engines include Continental, Lycoming, UL Power, Rotax, and a number of auto conversions, such as Viking. "Instrument panels can also be fully customized by the builder/owner, ranging from full IFR glass panels (Dynon, Garmin and others) to basic 'steam gauges' and/or iPad panels," added Zenith. Company president Sebastien Heintz added that his, "airplane[s] ... can still be operated by a Sport Pilot."

Photos show the company's newest model the Zenith CH 750 Cruzer, "an economical all-metal two-seat cross-country cruiser based on the hugely successful STOL high-wing designs from aeronautical engineer Chris Heintz," concluded Zenith.

The following time-lapse video shows the team carefully laying out all the airframe parts for their Cruzer model.

For those who prefer to expedite the process of building Zenair offers a builder assist center. Get more info here on Zenair's Two-Week Wonder program.

The Brazilians Are Coming ... Super Petrel in USA
By Dan Johnson, March 7, 2016

Older readers may remember, "The Russians are Coming," a silly movie about a supposed Russian invasion from 1966. It was a comedy set during the Cold War. Here in the new millennia a different sort of aviation invasion appears to be happening. This time it's the Brazilians and they are not so much invading as looking for a better place to set up shop.

A decade ago, Brazil was riding high, one of the so-called BRIC countries on the rise as new economic powerhouses. Flush with commodities revenue the government was free to dole out public money very generously and things were looking good. Here in 2016, that situation has changed dramatically. The economy is sluggish, President Dilma Rousseff has been earning approval ratings in single digits, and doing business in Brazil is said to have increasing challenges.

Maybe that's why Brazilian aviation giant Embraer started making bizjets in Melbourne, Florida ... or maybe this country is where many of their fancy Phenom jets sell. Regardless, home country issues are definitely why Brazilian SLSA maker, Paradise Aircraft, established a base at the Sebring airport.

Now witness a North American base for amphibious SLSA manufacturer Scoda Aeronautics (formerly Edra Aeronautica, though this was only a name change as the ownership remains the same). Rodrigo Scoda is the principal of the South American company. He has now joined forces with North Americans Brian Boucher and David Kyrk to create a solid U.S. presence.

"Super Petrel USA Inc., recently leased a 6,000-square-foot hangar at Ormond Beach Municipal Airport where it will open an aircraft assembly, sales, distribution, and parts center," wrote journalist Clayton Park of the Daytona Beach News Journal newspaper.

Park's article continued, "Brian Boucher, a Spruce Creek Fly-In resident who works as a commercial airline pilot, teamed up with the founder of Rio Claro, Brazil-based Scoda Aeronautica and another Brazilian businessman to form Super Petrel USA on January 1, 2016." The newly formed subsidiary company signed a three-year lease at the airport, according to airport manager Steven Lichliter.

"We were contacted by telephone and by email in October" by the owners of Super Petrel, said Lichliter, according to writer Park. "They came for a visit and were impressed with the general atmosphere." The city's economic development director Joe Mannarino, said Super Petrel USA will start with four employees.

Brian Boucher, seated, and David Kyrk pose with a Super Petrel LSA seaplane at the Ormond Beach Municipal Airport. photo by Clayton Park of the Daytona Beach News Journal
Initially Scoda Aeronautica will continue all fabrication and major assembly in Brazil, however, the principles of the company — which include Rodrigo Scoda and other Brazilians plus Port Orange- Florida-based Brian Boucher — have indicated their plans could become more ambitious, with increasing amounts of work done in the USA.

As with many imported Light-Sport Aircraft a sizeable portion of the airplane comes from the USA already. Items such as avionics, brakes, wheels, lighting, emergency parachutes, intercoms, headsets, ELTs and numerous other components are supplied from American companies. Anyone can appreciate that it makes sense not to ship these items overseas for assembly only to ship them back to the USA. Add tariffs and other government fees into the equation and it becomes even more obvious to send airplanes without those and other items, adding them once the aircraft arrives in the U.S.

Most pilots understand that doing increasing work in the USA is efficient to supply the North American market. Yet, both Super Petrel USA and Paradise Aircraft have stated that shipping products from Brazil to other overseas markets has become more difficult. So, both U.S.-based outlets have indicated their longer term plans include exporting from America to other countries. Internationally-accepted ASTM standards aid this global effort.

From the early days when LSA were overwhelmingly built overseas — often using much lower priced labor, for example, in former USSR statellite countries — the situation has changed dramatically. Not only are American producers making a growing share of LSA in the USA for U.S customers but they are beginning to export more. The Brazilian aviation entrepreneurs are merely using this dynamic to their advantage.

Super Petrel seen taxiing at the Spruce Creek Fly-In airport in Port Orange, Florida.
Edra, now Scoda Aeronautica has been building Super Petrel amphibious biplanes for 15 years, since 2001. The Brazilian company has sold more than 350 Super Petrels to pilots in 23 countries. According to a news release from the company ten of the SLSA models were sold in the US in the last six months of 2015.

At a time when expectations run high for California's Icon Aircraft to start delivery of their long-awaited A5 LSA seaplane, a window of opportunity exists for companies like Super Petrel, Searey producer Progressive Aerodyne, and startups such as and Vickers Aircraft. Icon has taken orders for a reported 1,500+ aircraft but new orders may be facing a considerable wait, opening the door for competitors.

Price is another consideration. With Icon's A5 crossing the $200,000 threshold, a Super Petrel selling for $155,000 to $170,000 is a relative bargain. Seaplanes of any airplane sector are always more costly than the land version so $155,000 is genuinely a fair value for an airplane that looks as good as the Super Petrel. Searey is also available in this price range.

Given my close proximity to the new Super Petrel USA facility, I expect to gain experience flying the biplane seaplane and will report more as developments continue.

American Legend’s Greg Koontz Truck Landing Show
By Dan Johnson, March 2, 2016

In my years as a hang glider pilot — and for many friends who enjoy unpowered paragliders — the idea of what's called a "top landing" is something of the holy grail. Such a feat can now be rather commonly achieved, especially by a slower flying paraglider, but is nonetheless quite thrilling to launch from a mountain and then land back on top of that mountain. This avoids the need to breakdown, drive back up, and set up for another launch but mainly it is just a terribly cool thing to do.

Still, landing a hang glider or paraglider back on top of the mountain is reasonably straightforward compared to landing an airplane atop a moving truck. Sure, you may have seen it done at airshows and perhaps you marveled at the skill involved. Yet I'm guessing that virtually no one reading this article has ever attempted the feat much less done so repeatedly ... and, by the way, at an airshow with lots of people watching and cameras recording everything.

American Legend announced the successful completion and testing of a new Super Legend HP aircraft to be used in Greg Koontz Airshows' World's Smallest Airport flying routine. "Pilot and performer Greg Koontz concluded the tests of the Super Legend by successfully landing the aircraft on top of a moving pickup truck," reported the Sulphur Springs, Texas manufacturer.

Koontz's new Super Legend HP is a stock aircraft that incorporates options specific to his airshow, American Legend said. "These include a Smoking Airplanes 3.5 gallon smoke system; a larger step allows easier access to the cabin ... and a 180 horsepower Titan engine," now marketed by Continental.

Don Wade of C&D Aviation worked with Koontz and American Legend on this project. He summarized Koontz' initial reactions saying, "Greg [said] the airplane flies similar to the original Piper J-3." In his previous version of this act, Koontz used the vintage model Cub. "Greg is one the most precise airshow pilots in world. You have no idea how difficult landing on the truck is. You have just six inches either side of the wheels."

Greg Koontz has been performing in airshows since 1974 when he was a member of Colonel Moser's Flying Circus. Koontz credits having learned his maneuvers from retired Air Force Colonel Ernie Moser, who he said was "the best in the business." To know where he will perform the "smallest airport" bit with his powerful Legend Cub, visit his website for a complete 2016 show schedule that includes 16 stops including Sun 'n Fun and Oshkosh.

Super Legend HP uses the increasingly popular Titan O-340 engine, a stroked derivative of the Lycoming O-320. The powerplant is a four cylinder, 340 cubic inch displacement engine producing 180 horsepower, similar to the larger and heavier O-360. The company said, "Super Legend HP, with the Titan O-340, offers fast cruise speeds and the best ever takeoff and climb performance in a Light-Sport Cub." The company explained that to qualify as Light-Sport Aircraft, maximum takeoff power must be limited to five minutes with continuous power derated to 80 horsepower. "Special lightweight custom paint and avionics packages are available to maintain Super Legend HP empty weight at less than 904 pounds," to gain acceptance by FAA as a fully-built LSA.

Super Legend was first offered with the 115-horsepower Lycoming O-233 so the Titan-powered one perhaps ought to be called Super-Duper Legend. I look forward to see it perform at 2016 airshows.

Remos Roars Back with GXiS; Aero 2016 Debut
By Dan Johnson, February 29, 2016

Article updated March 9, 2016Skybound Aviation in Cape Girardeau, Missouri has been appointed the "exclusive resource" for Remos G3 and GX parts in the USA. The company operated by Glenn "Mac" McCallister and Bev Cleair is open for service 6.5 days a week (not Sunday mornings) and is also a dealer for Remos. Contact them at 573-833-0426 or email Mac.

In our 2014 report, you read that a well-known German supplier of Light-Sport Aircraft, Remos, fell from their high perch. The company became known to nearly all Americans when the U.S. importer, closely allied with the German producer, ran a series of full page ads in the USA's biggest aviation magazines. It brought wide awareness but cost the company dearly. As their timing coincided with the global economic downturn, Remos stumbled badly and was forced to go through reorganization.

As reported, a new investor stepped up during the process and Remos has persevered. Still building airplanes in Pasewalk, Germany, the company has revitalized following their tumble and recently announced a new model that will be debuted at the upcoming Aero 2016 show in the third week of April, a couple weeks after Sun 'n Fun (thankfully for those of us who attend both events).

On February's Leap Day, the European company announced that it, "will present the next generation of its high-wing composite aircraft Remos GX at Aero Friedrichshafen from April 20th to 23rd." They specified, "The redesigned cowling [reveals] what is to be found underneath: a Rotax 912 iS Sport with electronic fuel injection." The new model named Remos GXiS offers avionics by Dynon and Garmin.

Remos GXiS in front of their Pasewalk, Germany facility.
"With this new version, [we are] heading towards the European LSA with EASA certification," added company public relations spokesman, Patrick Holland-Moritz. Until recently when the company moved away, motivating him to seek work closer to home, Patrick was a journalist for Germany's large aviation magazine, Aerokurier where he often reported on the light aircraft sector.

For the last few years, Remos manufactures and assembles in Pasewalk, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Germany. They have long promoted the design as being wholly made in Germany.

Remos engineers and leaders like the newest 9-series Rotax for its electronic fuel injection that is more fuel efficient and makes carburetor icing a thing of the past. They added, "[Pairing the 912iS Sport] with the hydraulically operated constant speed propeller from the German-based manufacturer MT-Propeller, excellent flight performance is guaranteed." Of course, such an in-flight adjustable prop will not be allowed by FAA in America but it can make for higher performance in countries that do permit such equipment. ASTM standards already exist to cover adjustable props.

To implement the updated powerplant, Remos engineers had to make many changes, as did other airframe makers since the Austrian engine maker introduced the the 912iS. "At first glance, one may see the new air intake in the redesigned cowling of the GXiS. This is just one part of the completely optimized cooling system. There are also many invisible modifications on the fuel system and on the electric system on board." They summarized that the entire firewall-forward section of the aircraft was redesigned to accommodate the Rotax.

As those of us who have flown with the iS series know, it presents differences for pilot operation, but in many ways it is easier. Remos engineers said, "The start-up procedure is as easy as it is in your car. Almost all system checks, for which the pilot had to take care before, are done automatically now."

The attractive instrument panel of the GXiS is highly modern. Its avionics suite includes a touch sensitive 10-inch-screen combined EFIS/EMS Dynon SV-D1000T/B. In the center stack we see Garmin's GTN 750, an all-in-one WAAS GPS/NAV/COM navigation system and control panel for radio, audio panel, transponder and autopilot.

Even more intriguing is the inclusion of a collision avoidance system: TRX-1500 by Air Avionics. "It receives ADS-B signals, deals with FLARM and shows the surrounding traffic on the moving map," said Remos. The transponder installed in GXiS sends ADS-B signals. Like many Remos aircraft over the years, GXiS is equipped with an emergency airframe parachute made by U.S. manufacturer, BRS.

For the U.S. market and other countries that allow it, GXiS grosses at 1,320 pounds (600 kg). In Europe, an "ultralight" model must be lighter (472.5 kg) so, "Customers may choose between several more compact avionic options," said Remos. This version will come with the well-proven fixed-pitch three-blade propeller by Neuform instead of the MT adjustable prop and this is likely the choice for American buyers as well.

Remos invites those attending Aero Friedrichshafen 2016 to see the first article GXiS that will be used for EASA flight testing at space 207 in Hall B3. I'll hope to capture a video interview on the new offering.

Rotax Q&A and the Engine Manufacturer Debate
By Dan Johnson, February 24, 2016

It was the ninth annual LAMA Dinner at Sebring 2016. Each year, the organization has tried to do something different and this year broke new ground.

In the past LAMA has brought in speakers such as AOPA then-president Craig Fuller, EAA then-president Rod Hightower, and FAA ex-administrator, Randy Babbitt. Except for the last, they were active in their roles when they spoke but this is evidence of how things change over a fairly short time. However, two things seem not to change.

America (or at least the mainstream media) continues an infatuation with electing a new leader. Every four years — though it seems more often as the election cycles increasingly jam together — the two big political parties trot out their new candidates. The other, more relevant (to readers of this website) unchanging fact is that pilots love to hear about and talk about the engines on their aircraft.

This scene depicts a small portion of the enormous main engine assembly facility at Rotax BRP's plant in Gunskirchen, Austria.
With its beta-test debate at Sebring earning warm reviews, LAMA, supported by its principal airshow sponsor, Aviators Hot Line, is moving forward with a Great Debate series at Sun 'n Fun. As those plans come together, I will report further here. Until then, you can see and hear the Sebring engine debate below.

Meanwhile, back to that fascination with engines ...

One of the regular readers of this website had some questions, the sort that might be answered at the engine debate at Sun 'n Fun. He asked, "Does Rotax have a aviation engine line? Or, are all Rotax engines made the same, be it an aviation engine or a snowmobile or land based engine?" Answer: Rotax has a line and facility dedicated solely to the assembly of aircraft engines.

In 2015 Rotax celebrated forty years of manufacturing aircraft engines.
I've visited the facility and seen the sprawling yet immaculate and highly organized plant where motorcycle and snowmobile engines are built. With robots, computer-controlled tools, and a completely automated inventory system, Rotax BRP is very impressive.

The main plant in Gunskirchen, Austria looks more factory-like while the aircraft engine line seems more of a custom shop moving at a deliberate and measured pace. I understand workers at Rotax BRP are very keen to get into the aircraft engine side, so that team is likely the best of the best building the 9-series engines and more.

My inquirer said, "I know Rotax did away with most of the two stroke line." Comment: Most, but not all. While Rotax BRP no longer builds the 447 or 503 — and long ago did away with the single cylinder 277 — the Rotax 582 continues to be in demand and sells in good volume. "When they did sell [two-stroke engines]," he continued, "did Rotax have a special section for [those] engines that went into an airplane? Answer: They are built in the same aircraft engine facility as the 9-series though on different production runs.

"How many work in this [facility]?" Answer: About 25 technicians assemble aircraft engines and they are supported by engineering, sales, and management personnel. Some components of the aircraft engines come from the big plant, but the assembly is separate.

On the 25th Anniversary of the 9-series engines, Rotax brought out their red-shirted aircraft engine team to take a bow.
"Are Rotax aircraft engines made on an assembly line?" Answer: The Austrian engine manufacturer builds aircraft engines on a primarily hand-assembly line that is less automated than the main motorcycle and other engine production. Total volumes are quite different.

In addition to designing and testing aircraft engines — for example the new 135-horsepower Rotax 915 iS is getting closer to market — the European manufacturer also supports dealers and mechanics with a training facility that I have toured. I've also visited the Continental Motors factory in Mobile, Alabama, and it is also impressive in its size and technical sophistication but Rotax in Austria is a more modern establishment.

The questions above and more will be asked and answered at the Sun 'n Fun Great Debates, held in a new much-larger LAMA tent that will be front and center in Paradise City, the Light Plane area of Sun'n Fun. If you are attending the show, come to Paradise City each day and catch a Great Debate at 1:00 PM. You may get your questions answered, too.

Get an idea how the debates will go by catching this video:

Flight Design USA Forges Ahead with CTLSi
By Dan Johnson, February 19, 2016

Breaking News ... Recently Flight Design in Germany sent a letter to their dealers including this statement, "We have applied for a planned receivership which allows for reorganization of the company." What does this mean?

Since Light-Sport Aircraft burst on the aviation scene in 2004, Flight Design built the largest fleet in the United States. Using internationally-accepted ASTM standards to good advantage, CT series aircraft also sold well in other countries. Flight Design USA president Tom Peghiny was the first ASTM Airplane Subcommittee chair for several years in the mid-2000s while Flight Design Germany's Chief Technical Officer, Oliver Reinhardt served as overall F37 chair until very recently.

Parlaying their prowess in aircraft design, testing, and certification, Flight Design engineered an all-metal version of their carbon fiber CTLS, called MC, plus a four-seat certified aircraft design named C4, among other projects.

That may sound positive, but engineering-intensive projects require costlier talent and can consume boatloads of money. Several projects were started years ago and were underway as the global economy took a sharp turn for the worse in 2009. With funds stretched, serial production of existing products slowed. Something had to give.

Faced with a "liquidity crunch," Flight Design GmbH filed for insolvency on February 11th. A local German court provided Knut Rebholz, an attorney with experience in restructuring, to be interim receiver of the German corporation. After his assessment, court appointee Robholz reported, "The order situation of the company is good and the products have a very good international reputation in the market." He continued, "[The] most urgent task to enable intensive negotiations to fund operations."

Jack Pelton, actor Harrison Ford, and Tom Poberezny prepare for remarks at an NBAA event with the EAA sweepstakes MC as a backdrop.
The problems faced by Flight Design in Germany slowed aircraft deliveries motivating Connecticut-based Flight Design USA to recently announce a new source of supply for their CLTSi models from a properly licensed and very capable builder.

Introducing AeroJones Aviation ...

AeroJones Aviation is headquartered in Taichung, Taiwan, often referred to as the "Silicon Valley" of Taiwan. AeroJones negotiated and signed an exclusive agreement to license Flight Design products. The program to begin production called for the Taiwanese company to assemble new production tooling and equipment including a five-axis CNC machine, water and Laser cutters, TIG welding, composite layup and post-cure ovens, plus a modern paint booth. AeroJones also obtained production worker training, received training to provide quality management, and gradually built up to finished airplanes, which first occurred in 2014. AeroJones' production facility has passed numerous audits including earning a Production Certificate from China's CAAC at the end of 2015.

This is not a new, small start-up company but instead one with impressive credentials. AeroJones' parent company, GSEO (Genius Electro Optical), is a manufacturer and supplier for industrial LED products and laminated lenses for many popular smartphones; it has around 20,000 employees.

AeroJones has been building CTLSi aircraft and shipments to the USA are already scheduled. This will allow Flight Design USA to move forward with its business while the German company works to restructure.

Flight Design's four seat C4 made its first flight in 2015.
Flight Design USA noted, "Roughly 35% of a CTLS presently comes from the USA — wheels, tires, brakes, radios, antennas, GPS, autopilot, EFIS and EMS systems, intercom, Whelen lights, BRS parachute, ELT, headsets, and miscellaneous parts like the gascolator." Tom Peghiny continued, "The Austrian-made Rotax engine, propeller, composite materials, windshield and windows, paint, seats, and numerous other parts come from Europe. The planes made by AeroJones Aviation should correctly be called 'world aircraft' (just like Boeing and Airbus) as only about 25% will be of non-western origin."

All these steps — Flight Design in Germany reorganizing, Flight Design USA arranging a new, second source for completed airframes, solidifying components from all over the globe, and preparing for a refreshed American operation — lead to their newest product announcement: the CTLSi "2020" Edition.

A new season of flying will feature AeroJones-produced CTLSi aircraft with fully compliant ADS-B hardware.
"For 2016 we wanted to do a light upgrade to the avionics on the CTLSi centered around dual Dynon SkyView and the Garmin 796," said Peghiny. "We asked what would we want in addition if we were the customer?"

"Working closely with John Hurst, the technical and sales director of Americana Aviation [a Flight Design USA distributor], we came up with a package we think is very appealing."

"Since 2012, we have been delivering the Dynon SkyView SV-261 Extended Squitter (ES) transponder — which sends additional info for ADS-B out use. In conjunction with the new Dynon SV-2020 GPS source, this provides an FAA Next Gen-compliant ADS-B out solution," added Tom. Many LSA have ADS-B in today but FAA requires the extra "out" data by 2020, which suggested the new CTLSi edition name Flight Design USA chose.

"For ADS-B in we are offering three options," said Tom. "Customers can choose the Dynon SV-470 ADS-B in, which has the NEXRAD weather in the cockpit, UAT traffic displayed on the screens in vertical and horizontal position and TAFs and TFRs. Alternatively, the Garmin GDL-39-3D offers both 978 UAT traffic and 1020 ES traffic, Bluetooth connectivity to other devices, and a backup ADAHRs-like panel displayed on the Garmin 796. The third option is to have a mini iPad in an AirGizmo panel mount with a USB power supply and choose the ADS-B in software such as Garmin Pilot or ForeFlight. The 2020 Edition will come with the Dynon WiFi adapters installed which also allows loading flight plans into the Dynon mapping software."

"All this refers to just the ADS-B," noted Tom. "Of course the CTLSi 2020 also comes with the Rotax 912is fuel injected engine, the Dynon SkyView autopilot, standard airframe parachute, and all the other creature comforts that Flight Design owners have always enjoyed."

While the Germany company moves to restructure, it is good to see the American LSA fleet leader showing refreshed activity and many interested pilots will look forward to examining a new AeroJones-produced CTLSi at summer airshows.

Peghiny added, "The good news is that many existing LSA using appropriate Dynon hardware can meet the ADS-B 2020 requirements quickly and with less expense.

SuperSTOL Gets Superpower with Titan’s 180 Horses
By Dan Johnson, February 15, 2016

Article updated 2/16/16 — In a freshly-edited video (see at end), Just Aircraft key fellows Gary Schmidt and Troy Townsend provide extra comments and we add additional footage of SuperSTOL climbing strongly with the Titan.

Troy Woodland blasts off an airshow strip using the Rotax 912 with 100 horsepower.
Even before Continental Motors took over the former ECi, that company's Titan engine has been turning heads. CubCrafters was first to this party, installing the 180-horsepower engine on their Cubalike LSA, demonstrating very short takeoff rolls before climbing steeply. Since then, quite a few other producers have embraced the potent engine and more are coming. This development is sufficiently interesting that I am at work on an article about three "divisions" of powerplants for LSA, light kits, and ultralights.

However, all other users of the Titan are unlike Just Aircraft's SuperSTOL, which itself has turned many a head at airshow demonstrations. SuperSTOL was able to rivet pilots' attention when it performed with the 100-horsepower Rotax 912, so imagine the neck-snapping twists that will occur when people get a chance to see how this moveable-slats airplane on tall, telescoping gear performs with 180 horses doing the pulling.

The good news is, you don't need to wait. You can get a relatively unique aft-facing, landing gear view of SuperSTOL rocketing off its factory airstrip at the end of this article. I'll bet you enjoy that!

Just Aircraft reported they started flight tests with the Titan OX-340 engine on their stretched SuperSTOL XL. "Due to a redesigned crankshaft, the Titan develops 180 horsepower with elevated torque levels," said James Ball, a principal of Engine Components, International or ECi. "Essentially, the engine started out as a 160 horsepower Lycoming, but ECi reconfigured the engine to have a larger displacement resulting in more power."

In 2015, Continental Motors announced they expanded more deeply into the Experimental and LSA sectors with the purchase of ECi, a San Antonio, Texas-based manufacturer of FAA-approved engine parts. The deal provided Continental with a strong foothold in the light aircraft market with the ECi's Titan line of engines including the X320, X340 and X370 models, all of which are based on Lycoming type designs.

While Continental already enjoyed a solid presence in LSA and light kits with their O-200 line, Titan adds a very powerful engine choice that satiates the desire of pilots for more thrust. It's no small irony that one U.S. icon now offers engines based on another American engine icon, Lycoming. Full disclosure: Continental is owned by China's AVIC.

Under the "hood" of the SuperSTOL XL first seen at Sebring 2016 is the Titan XO-340 with 180 horsepower.
Just Aircraft considers the Titan a good option for the SuperSTOL. "It's premature to discuss performance numbers," said XL designer Troy Woodland (seen in the lead photo doing what he does so well at airshows). However, Troy is quick to add, "But there clearly is an improvement in the takeoff roll and rate of climb. We brought our newest SuperSTOL to Sebring 2016 on a trailer to introduce the Titan and the response was very positive and enthusiastic. Since then, we've started flying it and we're pleased with the results."

As is often the case, Troy is being a bit laid-back and modest, as the video below testifies.

Sold as a complete kit for homebuilders, Just's SuperSTOL XL offers "unparalleled performance in short takeoffs, landings and slow flight. Configured as a high wing, with two [side-by-side] seats and tundra tires, the XL can be set down in virtually any clearing."

SuperSTOL was designed for back country flying and weekend adventures and Titan adds a new dimension to those "adventures."

Want to see how enthusiastically SuperSTOL climbs behind the Titan XO-340? Then, watch this video. To add perspective, the runway at Just Aircraft is one of the most unusual I've ever seen ... a very short, very, very steeply sloped runway, which in this video SuperSTOL barely uses, climbing amazingly fast away from the surface. Whoa!

Merlin PSA Takes “Exhilarating” First U.S. Flight
By Dan Johnson, February 14, 2016

One of the fast paced developments I've observed has been Aeromarine LSA's new Merlin PSA. "PSA" stands for Personal Sport Aircraft and the Florida company may be truly onto something interesting.

While recognizing they are very capable airplanes, many lament the cost of carbon fiber speedsters with glass cockpits and autopilots. Aeromarine LSA perceives an opening.

Introduced at the U.S. Sport Aviation 2016 event in Sebring last month, proprietor Chip Erwin said Merlin PSA drew questions: "It only costs $35,000?" and, "That price really includes the engine?"

A longtime entrepreneur in the light aircraft manufacturing game, Chip sees a way to attract buyers with a very modestly priced aircraft that is fully enclosed, made with all metal construction and with interesting powerplant choices.

The first U.S. Merlin PSA is powered with the 65 horsepower Rotax 582 that provide outstanding performance for such a light aircraft. Alternative powerplants have been part of the plan all along.

Chip Erwin did not design or "invent" the airplane he now calls Merlin PSA but he has considerably advanced the project using his long experience. When I saw this airplane at Aero five years ago, it was underpowered with an unfamiliar engine and it was not assertively marketed. That is changing.

Chip's Merlin PSA is powered by the Rotax 582 that makes it perform most energetically but he has other powerplants in mind. One is a lightweight four stroke that might generate great appeal. For those many who are intrigued with electric propulsion, Chip is well ahead of that game, too, with a motor and system he has been developing for many months (see video). Four stroke and electric are coming, he reported, but if a low-priced, modern-looking airplane with a very well established engine sounds good, you have no need to wait.

"Merlin PSA brings the sport back into sport planes with a power-to-weight ratio about 50% higher than most LSA aircraft." Plus, he added, "It will be perfect on our new amphibious floats!"

Licensed as an Experimental Amateur Built aircraft Merlin PSA easily fits within the LSA parameters of weight and speed. Therefore, it can be flown with a Sport Pilot certificate — or by a higher certificated pilot exercising the privileges of Sport Pilot, meaning no medical is needed.

A complete kit including Aeromarine-LSA's builder's assist program is only $34,900. You need to invest some labor hours but you will be guided and the effort is said to be quite rapid. An all-aluminum design, Merlin PSA is available as a quick-build kit. Because it was created using 3D CAD/CAM equipment, Merlin offers easy-to-build, matched-hole assemblies that require no fixtures. "Build time is measured in days rather than months or years," said Chip. "Builders can enjoy a couple of weeks at our Builders' Center in Florida and fly their new Merlin PSA ... not 'taxi.' Fly." That's some promise.

As debuted at Sebring 2016, Merlin PSA is nicely equipped with a digital EFIS/EMS, GPS, radio transceiver, an ADS-B out-equipped Mode S transponder, BRS parachute system, electric trim, and the new TruTrak ECO autopilot. The price? "Around $50,000," stated Chip. At the show, Chip had not yet flown the eye-catching aircraft. That changed recently.

"The first USA Merlin PSA is flying," Chip exclaimed! "Acceleration and climb rate are exhilarating." His blog reported that he rotated in 3-4 seconds using less than 200 feet of takeoff roll. See more impressions here (video tour of the airplane and in-flight views also available).

"Flight conditions were less than ideal with gusty winds and choppy turbulence but the Merlin handled these conditions perfectly," observed Chip. "The pilot sits right on the longitudinal axis and the wing loading is higher than the average LSA so it is quite comfortable to fly all day long." He reported seeing cruise speeds over 100 mph and climb rates of 1,500 feet per minute.

For those looking for something different, Merlin PSA is flying in Europe in taildragger configuration using tundra tires. "This is an available option," said Chip.

"The next step, after flying off the test program, is to install the amphibious floats," he said. Amphibious floats are finished and the gear is operating perfectly using the remote wireless Bluetooth phone app for actuation. He demonstrated this to visitors at Sebring.

Newest Special LSA Is ... Rans’ S-20 Raven
By Dan Johnson, February 8, 2016

The world of Light-Sport Aircraft has matured in the sense that we no longer have an airplane or two or three every month being added to the SLSA List. That may sound like a "industry slowdown" to some folks but I don't believe that's an accurate assessment.

A more realistic view is that the feverish rush days of 2004-2006 are over. That means not as many new SLSA are being offered though the truth is many of those 137 aircraft never found a substantial market.

Indeed, our market share list of SLSA airplanes shows the top 20 brands represent better than 85% of all sales. Regretfully, our ranking shows only airplanes as we are unable to pull good data from FAA's database for motorgliders, weight shift trikes, powered parachutes, and other "alternative" aircraft.

All that said, I am pleased to announce one of our most solid companies — Rans — continues to introduce new airplanes like their S-20 Raven and to qualify them to be accepted by FAA as a fully-manufactured Special Light-Sport Aircraft.

In general terms, Raven is something of a blend of the company's massively successful S-6 Coyote that comes in several flavors and their tandem seating S-7 Courier. The latter has long been very popular among certain Rans enthusiasts and I joined their ranks a decade ago after flying with designer Randy Schlitter at an AOPA show in Tampa, Florida.

Yet one thing held back the S-7 from even broader acceptance. Although tandems have some advantages — good visibility for both occupants to either side, and a slightly leaner shape, for example — many pilots prefer side-by-side seating. Make it so! From the prolific mind of Mr. Schlitter came S-20 Raven.

As the number implies, this is his 20th design and, to some, it may be his best yet. Rans offers quite a variety from the sleek, all metal S-19 Venterra speedster to the open-air S-18 Stinger (another tandem by the way). Yet to many recreational pilots who just love flying, Raven hits all the high points with several features not found on other Rans models. For flight qualities and more about this newest Rans model, watch our Video Pilot Review.

Interested customers have been able to buy an S-20 Rans kit for several months. Now, with a fresh airworthiness certificate, Rans can begin delivering Ravens in ready-to-fly mode.

The Rans team poses with their new certificate (held by boss Randy Schlitter) after winning FAA acceptance as a Special Light-Sport Aircraft (#137).

all photos courtesy of Rans, Inc.
Let's look at the previously available S-20 Raven kit first. A complete airframe kit with the firewall forward components lists for $27,500. An engine installation kit for the 912ULS (engine not included) is $5,000. A prop (choices available) and mounting hardware will run around $1-2,000. Add the 912 engine, paint, interior, and basic instruments and you reach around $60,000. Assuming you don't put a price tag on your labor that is a quite a good bargain for a great-flying airplane representing a contemporary design.

A Quick-Build Kit will add $9-10,000 or slightly more — depending on how you want pre-built parts painted — but may be well worth for pilots who want to fly sooner and for whom the building project is a chore rather than a pleasure.

If you just can't wait to fly Raven, a beautifully-finished, factory-built edition retails for $119,000 with deluxe analog day VFR instruments, radio with intercom, transponder, and GPS. You can choose a tricycle gear or taildragger configuration for the same price.

For powerplants, if you opt for the fuel-injected Rotax 912iS over the carbureted 912, add $5,000. Or, for Lycoming fans, Rans is now offering the 115 horsepower O-233 engine for an added $7,500 over the standard 100 horsepower 912.

Add a "deluxe digital panel" for $10,000 and a lighting package of nav lights, strobe, instrument, and landing/taxi lights for $2,500. Of course, this well established company offers a number of other options which you can find on their website. Go here to see more.

Learn to Fly and Have Fun. Is that Wrong?
By Dan Johnson, February 5, 2016

Flying is serious. You can ... well, perish, perish the thought. Of course, you are vastly more likely to die in a car or maybe even in your bathtub. We all know that. We also know that aviation has not earned an enviably good safety record by emphasizing pure fun. The "fun" part may be implied but is that a bit too dry if we hope to attract newcomers to aviation?

For many years a long while back I was involved with hang gliding. I ran a dealership and flight school in the mountains around Chattanooga, Tennessee. I want to tell you that folks who jump off mountains in hang gliders know how to have fun. OK, technically, you don't "jump off" mountains — you "launch" — and while those pilots do have fun, they are zealous about safety. In the early days, way back in the '70s, the sport suffered a rash of accidents but today you very rarely hear about a hang glider accident. Fun, however, was most definitely part of the motivation to learn the sport of flying hang gliders.

I believe this shows you can have fun in aviation even while being a stickler for safety. Recently I became more aware of how one Light-Sport company is pushing hard to make themselves look like the FUN guys in Sport Pilot training. To get an idea, check out the video below.

I trust you enjoyed that and got the humor involved in claims like, "We've been to the International Space Station." Look, I completely get what these fellows are trying to accomplish, led by rising YouTube star, Nathan Rausch — repeatedly whipping off his sunglasses in imitation of David Caruso playing Lieutenant Horatio Caine on "CSI Miami." Flying doesn't have to always be so deadly serious and many believe you should have a good time learning to fly.

Catch our own video in this SportCruiser aircraft review, one of around 500 videos we've produced since 2008.
U.S. Sport Aircraft is creating a whole series of videos to showcase their efforts. You can sign up here. People seem to like USSA's videos making comments such as: "I just watched your video last night and was dying laughing..." or "I wish I had watched your flight training series before I started training at my current school."

Team USSA say their goal with their video channel is to highlight various aspect of their company including flight training, aircraft sales, fractional ownership, aircraft maintenance, and SportCruiser flight tours. I recall the former Saturn automobile company focusing on building a community of their owners and USSA aims to do the same, referring to their "country club atmosphere."

In the age of social media, including YouTube, it makes sense to use new methods to attract new student pilots. The old way is, well, old. I want to encourage USSA's fresher approach

Flight school manager Nathan said, "When we started these videos we were aiming to educate people about aviation. Then we started to add comedy and we realized that we hit a nerve that has made us really popular among viewers. People want to be entertained."

Getting a bit dryer about what USSA offers, I want to present some points that help define the company in more concrete details ... and I promise not to metaphorically whip off my sunglasses while doing so.

In the greater Dallas/Fort Worth area, U.S. Sport Aircraft, based at the Addison airport (KADS) is about the only Light-Sport-equipped flight school in the area, Nathan confirmed.

  • USSA reports maintaining 5-10 aircraft in their flight school training fleet
  • They say they have an average of 50-75 full time students in flight training at any given time
  • They say many new SportCruisers are sold every year
  • USSA has 18,000 square feet of maintenance space
  • They offer 18,000 square feet of showroom and flight school with three classroom work areas
  • Students have the option to preflight in-hangar (out of the elements)
  • They offer monthly weekend Sport/Private certificate ground schools
  • USSA's SportCruiser Flying Club hosts 2-3 SportCruiser trips every year; generally overnight adventures to destinations 200-400 miles away drawing 10-15 participants
  • Owners can partake of USSA's SportCruiser Owner Concierge Program including aircraft fueling, washing, and hangarage

Since nearly the beginning of Light-Sport, the SportCruiser has been one of the top-ranked sellers. More than 200 aircraft appear in the FAA N-number registry. With this gang of gung-ho USSA'ers running the show and finding the time to make watchable videos, it would appear they can keep the operation running a full tilt for years to come.

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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 assembles the spacious and speedy J-230 with new, more attractive pricing making the model one of the best values in Light-Sport Aircraft.

The Shelbyville, Tennessee company also offers the Jabiru engine line with new 3310 and 2210 models in 2016.

The New J-230D

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.

U.S. Sport Aircraft Importing represents the popular SportCruiser, one of the best selling Special Light-Sport Aircraft among 130 models on the market. The Texas-headquartered importer has long represented this familiar model.

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

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.

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.

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!

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

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.

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. 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!

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

Super Petrel LS, manufactured by Scoda Aeronautica in Brazil and built by Super Petrel USA, a branch of the Brazilian company in Ormond Beach, Florida, is a unique and highly effective LSA seaplane. This biplane flying boat is well established with more than 20 years of history.

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?

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.

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

Aeromarine-LSA represents economical aircraft like Merlin PSA, fully enclosed and all-metal for less than $35,000; or Part 103 ultralights like Zigolo, a dual-purpose ultralight and motorglider with prices starting at only $12,000.

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

Evektor is Number One and always will be. The Czech company's SportStar was the number one SLSA to win approval but engineers have steadily improved the model far beyond that 2005 version that started the race.

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.

Evolution Trikes developed and continues to refine their Revo, an absolutely magnificent weight shift control aircraft (or trike). Rev is their new very affordable single place machine.

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.

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.

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.

American Legend has been in the LSA space since the beginning, offering their iconic yellow taildragger. The Texas company offers a full line of LSA and kit-built aircraft including the 180-horsepower Super Legend HP.

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