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

Fly/Drive Concept Introduces Flying by LSA
By Dan Johnson, March 4, 2014

My wife Randee poses by our Florida Keys LSA.
This last weekend I did something I've never done before. It worked much better than I expected and I want to pass along the idea for others to consider. It won't always work but it could help introduce more people to the pleasure of flying. Four friends and I took a trip from my home near Daytona Beach, Florida to the Florida Keys with a stay in Marathon Key plus ground and aerial tours of Key West. This trip was some time in planning; I referred to it as a fly/drive vacation. We used the long weekend trip to celebrate a special birthday. You can likely interpret what "fly/drive" means quite easily but let me put some detail to the story.

For the flight I used a four-partner-owned Flight Design CTLSi so the first step was to schedule the plane with the owners. No problem as we were leaving Friday and would return Monday. This particular LSA is not used for flight instruction so it was easy enough to reserve the time. Since five people were traveling, even a trip by, let's say, a Cessna 172 or 182 could not have carried everyone. We also needed a way to get around once we arrived in the Keys. Sure, we could have rented a car but transporting what everyone wanted to bring might not have fit in a four seater. In a LSA, of course, we had only two seats but in some ways this was perfect. The direct, nonstop flight time would have been 2.5 hours (versus 7-8 hours driving) but for many non-pilots, even the shorter trip is a rather long time to be in an airplane, especially if it's a little bumpy. (It was quite pleasant flying but smooth air is hard to predict.)

My four traveling companions each took a flight segment to and from the Florida keys. All enjoyed touring by air. They sit in front of the southernmost point in the USA.
I planned the trip down to Marathon (about 30 minutes shy of going all the way to Key West) to have four stopping points. All airports — Vero Beach, Lantana, Tamiami, and the destination of Marathon — were picked to make equal flight segments. I also wanted each airport to be close to the road the car would travel. Each waypoint was convenient, though we pilots often forget how challenging it can be to find a specific place on an airport if you drive. An airline terminal may be well marked on the road, however, smaller airports can be a puzzle to find such-and-so FBO ... and for that matter, "What's an FBO?" ... "It's a Fixed Base Operator." ... "What's that?" See the problem? Since the airplane always arrived ahead of the car, my segment passenger and I would go into the FBO or other facility and get a physical address, which we would text to the car. It proved a workable solution.

Sunset in Key West draws a crowd every day, many of whom held their smartphones high for a photo. Note the biplane towing a banner promoting rides.
Each person got one leg down and a different leg back, and I can tell you that each of them enjoyed it immensely. This may be no surprise to pilots, but remember, most people never see their destination from the air except maybe out an airliner window for a few minutes, if that. As we pilots know, a destination, or the travel route, looks remarkably different from the air and offers a perspective the vast majority of the population never sees. I took Saturday off from flying and on Sunday did four one-hour air tours from Marathon around Key West and back. The Navy base and Key West International were wonderfully accommodating. Each passenger saw the islands at different times of day and snapped plenty of photos. Since each got a unique view, we're looking forward to another session where we all put our photos up on a big screen TV. We plan to share photos among us so each has a complete set (thank goodness for the ease of trading digital photos).

Key West is the end of the line for U.S. Highway 1 that runs 2,400 miles on America's East Coast.

The LSA burned fewer gallons of fuel than the automobile and each passenger enjoyed getting out of the car for one of the four legs each way. LSA are also great viewing platforms with broad visibility and most are roomy so no one felt cramped. The fly/drive trip was such a hit that we plan a repeat soon and may do several over the months and years ahead. None of my passengers are likely to take up flying nor buy an aircraft. Yet they will assuredly tell their friends about the unique mode of travel they experienced. Others who witness their feeling of excitement may become interested in flying. I didn't plan this as a means of showcasing the wonder and efficiency of flight but that was the result nonetheless. You can bet these four friends will each tell several more friends about how cool it was to go by LSA and those stories will also be passed along. I think that's worthwhile. Of course, I was happy to log 11.5 hours of flying after carefully checking weather and aircraft as I sought to ensure a positive experience for all. I encourage you to try it sometime ... just plan well and see to your passenger's comfort and safety.

Take a short tour of the Miami skyline by LSA. ATC put us at 500 feet AGL, below the tops of some buildings but the reliable Rotax 912iS never missed a beat. The hotel at the end is the famous Breakers seen in several movies. Enjoy:

Lightning XS Contrasts with FK131 Jungmann
By Dan Johnson, February 28, 2014

In my previous post I made a passing mention of a coming flock of four seat aircraft loosely based on the two seat LSA that five manufacturers are presently building. As promised, more on that later. In this post I want to focus on two alternative directions. First is the Arion Aircraft Lightning XS, a kind of big brother to the Lightning LS, which can be flown as a SLSA, ELSA or EAB kit. You don't need a medical to fly LS. You will for the XS (or "Excess") and you will have to build it, but the newest variation from Arion promises to be a hot performer realizing the potential this all-American design has always possessed.

With its nose cowl unpainted and without wheelpants or other fairings, Lightning XS still easily managed 130 knots. Full XS potential will be revealed with more test flying.
Arion boss Nick Otterback said, "We flew our new kit the Lightning XS [that] is based on our popular Jabiru powered Lightning kit but with several design changes incorporated." XS has been designed to allow engines up to 160 horsepower. Along with a taller stance on longer gear legs Arion's team can use engines spinning bigger diameter props. Also standard are 40 gallon fuel tanks and a gross weight of up to 1,650 pounds. N320XS is powered by a Superior XP320 160 horsepower engine similar to the Lycoming design. "The first flight was a kick in the pants for the little bird," said Nick. He indicated that 130 knots came easily at a 2150 rpm throttle setting and that's on an aircraft without fairings, wheels pants, or a clean-up kit. They are using the carbon ground adjustable prop from Sensenich. "We have yet to tune [the prop] to the plane," suggesting that Arion expects considerably more speed. "With a normal cruise range of 2300-2500 rpm it will be very interesting to see where the XS finally settles in at speed when cleaned up and with a tuned prop." Importantly, Lightning XS opens the door for kit customers who want engine choices and higher performance. "Our standard Lightning LSA-compliant kit with the 120 horsepower Jabiru 3300 remains available and is selling well," Arion reported.

Peter Funk is a talented and prolific aircraft designer with a proven ability to grab wide attention at airshows.
Across the Atlantic, European design guru Peter Funk reported on his fascinating FK131 Jungmann replica first reported after Aero 2013. Peter said, "With the beginning of 2014 B&F Speyer delivered the first two customer aircraft of the Light-Sport FK131." Created from drawings of the Bücker 131A version, the new/old model from this talented designer won immediate strong interest at Aero, the 2014 edition of which follows immediately after Sun 'n Fun 2014. Where the original Jungmann 131A had been powered by an 80 horsepower Hirth HM60 engine, the replica FK131 uses a 82 horsepower Walter engine produced in the Czech Republic. The basic design of this engine dates to 1935 like the airframe, but it has been updated in many details to current technology.

FK131 Jungmann replicas are beginning deliveries to customers. The design was announced less than one year ago.
"The main part of the flight test program has been completed," Peter reported, as the design moves toward type certification in Germany as light aircraft. FK131 is also being produced in kit form for kit builders and as a Light-Sport. "The recorded performance data are coming very close to the original design. Also static flutter tests had been completed; they prove the design to be free of flutter up to over 400 kilometer per hour (250 mph)!" A row of following Jungmanns are scheduled to be delivered during 2014. At present the demand is exceeding the production capacities, Peter said. Production FK Lightplane models such as FK9 and FK12 Comet (video) are represented in the USA by Hansen Air Group For examples of Peter Funk's other attention-getting designs, see these posts:

The “Real” LSA Market & Future Growth
By Dan Johnson, February 24, 2014

In talks I give at airshows, I've begun to focus on what I term the "real" LSA market. Many folks are confused and even our ByDanJohnson.com statistics and articles about market share ranking add to the fog obscuring the big picture. The chart below attempts to burn off that fog and provide a clearer understanding. However, the table — meant for use when I proceeded line by line in a live presentation — needs some explanations.

The chart attempts two tricks. The first goal was to contrast general aviation (GA) with Light-Sport aviation. We compare only to single engine piston GA aircraft as we saw that as the closest match. So the chart has at top left, a figure of 790, which is the number of Type Certified general aviation aircraft delivered in 2012, the latest full year of information at the time of the chart's creation. Come down one line to see the total of Special LSA airplanes registered in 2012, again noting that LSA report registrations where the GA industry states deliveries; these two stats are not identical but are close enough for the purposes of this discussion. As you can see, the industry registered 259 aircraft. The term "Ratio" relates 259 to 790, showing LSA registrations to be about a third of GA single engine piston aircraft delivery. The term "Share" means the LSA portion of the sum of 790 + 259 or 1,049 total single engine piston aircraft.

Secondly, however, SLSA "airplanes" are not all the "aircraft" in the LSA fleet. "Airplanes" refer to fixed wing, three axis ... basically more conventional aircraft. "Alternative LSA" refers to weight shift, powered parachute, gyroplane, and glider categories that add more registrations. We do not include the latter group in our market share rankings as the FAA database on these aircraft are suspect. The reason is the many different models and names and a general lack of database entry clerk awareness of them coupled with registration applications that likely confuse those clerks with different naming conventions. For example, a trike with a different wing is a somewhat different model but could use the same or a different name. Powered parachutes can be equally baffling to the uninitiated. Even though we can't count them reliably (so we skip them, with regrets to those enthusiasts), they are real and they are being sold. They add an average of another 50 or more SLSA per year, which represents a bit over 6% of all GA aircraft sold.

Then, we have to add ELSA or Experimental (not factory built) LSA. More are coming but Van's Aircraft's RV-12 presently dominates this field, having registered 203 units by the end of 2012. All told, ELSA add an average of 74 units per year, which is nearly 10% of all general aviation single engine pistons delivered.

Sum these groups and you have an estimated 383 registrations of LSA types in 2012, a figure that is nearly half of the GA single engine pistons and a third of all aircraft manufactured in 2012. Yet, as the late night infomercials boast, "That's still not all!" Adding to the total of LSA aircraft are many former two seat ultralights that were registered as a kind of special ELSA during a grace period. That period ended some years ago, so no more will be added, but we estimate that at least 4,500 examples are still flying. Add them all and you see more than 8,000 Light-Sport Aircraft, which accounts for about 5% of the entire single engine piston fleet in the USA ... but that still doesn't fully describe the sector.

We finish the picture by noting that many Experimental Amateur Built (the so-called 51% rule airplanes) can be flown by someone possessing a Sport Pilot certificate or using a higher certificate without a medical to operate as a Sport Pilot. We don't provide an estimate, but cautiously call this "thousands" more. Many people call these "Light-Sport Aircraft" but they are not; they are EABs. Likewise some folks still call the Sport Pilot certificate a "Light-Sport license," which is an incorrect term. We prefer to call these "Sport Pilot-eligible" aircraft using a phrase coined by EAA staffer Ron Wagner.

We hope the chart above helps to clarify the true size of the LSA market. Remember, these figures only refer to the United States. Many thousands more fly in other countries. Next, let's look to the future.

The graphical chart comes from Barr Group Aerospace. Chart lovers can find many more at this website focused on general aviation (most of the info is for larger, working aircraft). The following chart shows the history — including the plunge from 2007 figures to the depths of 2010, a slide of greater than 50%. It also gazes into a crystal ball and attempts to show future trends. Right or wrong, the view of the statisticians behind this chart suggests a strong role for Light-Sport Aircraft at about 23% of all aircraft including jets and Experimentals. Jets are expected to grow as are Experimentals. It looks less rosy for piston and turboprop perhaps as LSA and EABs will capture some of these sales. Then, we have to contemplate the arrival of a new wave of four seat or larger aircraft from the flock of non-legacy companies currently building two seat LSA ... but that's a story for another article.

Sebring No-Show Bargains Will Attend Sun 'n Fun
By Dan Johnson, February 22, 2014

Not long ago, I posted about Kitfox tending to business and expressing regret that they chose to stay home in Idaho versus making the trip to the Sebring LSA Expo 2014. Team Kitfox was not the only one, however. In addition, AeroSport didn't bring their BushCat, nor did Aerotrek bring their A220 or A240, nor did Quicksilver show with their SLSA candidate, Sport 2S, or their joint venture Electric Motor Glider (a very cool project from the west coast about which I will do a further update in the future). The reasons for these no-shows were varied but the good news is that they'll be at Sun 'n Fun. Oh, and one more thing about all four aircraft mentioned below: each of them offers a purchase value that defies the current mindset about the cost of modern LSA.

Photographed before snow invaded the Midwest, you see the very distinctive BushCat in Safari-wear.

BushCat by SkyReach is one of those SLSA that easily answers the lament, "These LSA have become too expensive." Too many pilots say this without considering their other choices. Sure, if you want all-carbon fiber with huge glass panels, autopilots, and endless bells and whistles, you'll need to be prepared to pay for those goodies. They'll cost you a literal fraction of what the same gear on a new Type Certified aircraft will cost (for example, a new Cessna 172 lists for more than $400,000!). Yet if you need to watch your budget but desire a capable aircraft, BushCat offered in the USA by AeroSport has an answer. President Daniela Knoll wrote, "Unfortunately we had to cancel our flight to Sebring. The brutal temperatures we have been having in the Midwest are just horrendous." At the extreme temperatures the Midwest has seen this winter problems can arise with engines and other hardware so AeroSport made a decision based on safety. "We plan on being able to make it down for Sun 'n Fun as we also have a booth reserved," finished Daniela. Be sure to check out this modestly priced aircraft with its numerous unique features that make it stand out from the herd.

Aerotrek is available in trigear or taildragger for a modest price.

Another no-show that wanted to be at Sebring was the also-reasonably-priced Aerotrek. Proprietor Rob Rollison wrote, "As much as I appreciate every opportunity and venue to display and promote our Aerotrek aircraft, [we are fortunate to be] sold-out until late-August 2014." Rob has been a steady participant at Sebring, and said, "Over the years the Sebring event has been very worthwhile because it is an event focused on LSA-type aircraft. So, even though we skipped Sebring for the first time this year, we have every intention of being there next year." Rob hasn't been sitting around idly though. He added, "At Sun 'n Fun 2014, we are increasing our aircraft display area. We'll be right across from Cessna at the East end of the Main Area." Why buy such a large space? Well, some ideas aren't ready for public distribution yet but a primary one we can talk about is the effort to create, as Rob put it, "a sort of an annual 'Aerotrek fly-in' for as many of our aircraft owners as can make it to this great event. So, we need lots more room for lots more planes at our display.

The unique offering from Adventure Aircraft is going through flight trials (see video).

One more company that was absent at Sebring but will be present at Sun 'n Fun is Quicksilver Aeronautics, and their joint venture with Adventure Aircraft and their Electric Motor Glider or EMG (see video below). Quicksilver, the producer of more than 15,000 kits over the years, has been head-down to earn their SLSA approval from FAA. The company was audited in December and is tweaking final elements to gain agency acceptance. They hope to roll out their new SLSA-version of the ubiquitous Sport 2S at Sun 'n Fun. The EMG is a fascinating project from LSA maintenance gurus Brian and Carol Carpenter. Their website has a great deal of info on their project but the goal is no less than a Part 103 electric-powered motorglider ... one that can accommodate other powerplants so as to remain versatile while electric power continues its furious pace of development. Thinking of aircraft like EMG, Chip Erwin — who debuted his superlight (Part 103-legal) and low priced Zigolo at Sebring — may show at Sun 'n Fun with the electric power version of this charming aircraft from Italy. You'll have lots to see at Sun 'n Fun 2014; I hope to see you in the Sunshine State!

Here's a compilation video of the new EMG project:

Flight Design Expands to Accommodate Growth
By Dan Johnson, February 19, 2014

Since the beginning of Light-Sport Aircraft almost ten years ago — this summer at EAA AirVenture, the SP/LSA sector will celebrate its tenth anniversary with special functions — Flight Design has continuously led the fleet size statistics as seen in our market share charts. In recent years, along with most other LSA manufacturers, a tough global economy slowed the enterprise. However, as 2013 began to show renewed sales activity and with positive forecasts for 2014 and 2015, Flight Design and many other of the LSA "majors" have been again growing their staff, inventory, and physical facilities. Recently the German company sent photos of its new quarters in Kamenz (pronounced like "commons") in eastern Germany almost directly north of Prague in the Czech Republic.

Most senior staff moved from the company's Stuttgart, Germany base to the new facility and the Light-Sport models including the CT series and more are now housed in a spacious hangar on an airport. Previously the growing company had operations in multiple locations, which can affect efficiency. The new Kamenz location helps. "We are now occupying a big hangar plus a smaller structure used for pre-delivery flight testing. The new quarters are located at a former military base, 100 miles (160 km) south of Berlin with a 3,000 foot (1.000 m) paved runway," noted Flight Design GmbH board member and company director, Christian Wenger. "We are able to use the large hangar to stage finished aircraft after routine production and flight testing is complete. Once approved by engineers, Light-Sport Aircraft and European Ultralight aircraft are prepared for shipment to dealers in other countries or for pick up by European dealers and customers." Departments include work shops for avionics and engine installation, composite repairs and painting, plus final assembly after receiving major components from another division outside Germany.

Flight Design's Kamenz facility takes over all responsibilities of Flight Design's former Stuttgart center, the company noted, to further streamline operations, optimize costs, and reduce complexity in the manufacturing and distribution of CTLS Light-Sport Aircraft. Inside the main building referred to as "Hangar 1" the company reported having ample office space for the EASA Part 21J Design Organization (including engineering and flight test) and EASA Part 21G Production Organization (including quality management staff and production management). The upper floor on the northeast side is occupied by Finance & Administration, including meeting room and Directors office. Why all this new space and those obscure new regulatory designations? "Presently we employ 18 people in Kamenz," Wenger said, "with 10 of them working on aircraft completion and delivery. The German company continues to own and operate a large component fabrication facility in Ukraine, which is constantly monitored and supervised by Flight Design personnel.

Flight Design is one of an expanding group of LSA manufacturers that are pushing into larger aircraft with four seats or more. Evektor was one of the first with their four seat Cobra and close behind is Italian giant, Tecnam, which has a four seater in progress (P2010). The company is presently marketing its dual-Rotax-engine Twin and has announced plans for larger commuter-sized aircraft. Pipistrel has flown their sleek retractable four seater, Panthera. The Airplane Factory is flying their four-occupant Sling 4. Others not yet publicly unveiled are in the works. Flight Design is also working steadily in the sector with their four-seat, all carbon-fiber C4 among other ideas under consideration. With legacy producers like Cessna focused on jets and other working aircraft, the new breed of four seaters might emerge powerfully from the LSA space and Flight Design is preparing for that future with their move into the new quarters in Kamenz.

"Engine that Changed Aviation" — Rotax 912
By Dan Johnson, February 14, 2014
The first Rotax 912 in 1989. See FAQs for the newest model: 912 iS. all photos courtesy Rotax BRP

The big company bills the now-iconic Rotax 9-series engines as "The Engine that Changed Light Aviation." Today, few would dispute the claim that the 912 altered light aviation with its low weight and modern design, although Continental Motors, Lycoming, and others have long supplied powerplants for the light aircraft of earlier periods. On Valentine's Day 2014, Rotax BRP celebrates the 25th Anniversary of its Rotax 912 engine. The four cylinder engine series that now dominates the light aircraft landscape got started in 1989 and was introduced to Americans a couple years later. The company started production of aircraft engines in 1973. Their first certified aircraft engine was delivered in 1975.

The first aircraft to fly with a Rotax engine. To mark the 25th anniversary of the Rotax 9-series engines, BRP is organizing the second Rotax Fly-In June 5 to 7, 2014 at the airport in Wels, Austria.

In answering the question about the potential for a new aircraft engine, Rotax BRP said it perceived, "... market demand ... for a modern, reliable engine that would meet the expected performance. In 1985, the company started the development of a two-cylinder flat engine especially for the aircraft business. Though the performance of 65 horsepower was substantially higher than current aircraft engines [that were producing] 40 horsepower, BRP expected more. With the development of a four-cylinder flat engine, BRP wanted to reach the next level: the 80 horsepower engine category." BRP's Rotax 912 development was a project dedicated to the aircraft market. "For the very first time, all conditions needed on an aircraft engine were considered," the company noted, particularly power-to-weight ratio.

Francois Tremblay, director, Rotax aircraft engines.

Compared to many powerplants of the late 1980s, the 9-series incorporated liquid cooling and a gear box that slowed the higher-revving engine to usable propeller speeds. The fresh design produced a physically small but powerful engine that brought quieter operation. "A lot of our engineers were pilots and they could share their personal experience and theory. Above all that, they understood the essential requirements of an aircraft engine," said Francois Tremblay, director, Rotax aircraft engines. Because "about 20 of our employees on the aircraft team are pilots ... we are very close to our market and know about the demands in the field," he added.

Rotax introduced its new 912 iS in 2013. See our video interview about the first 912 iS to operate in the USA.

The first flight tests with the Rotax 912 engines were conducted on an airfield in Wels near the company's large production plant in Gunskirchen, Austria, using a Falke glider from the German Scheibe company. Later, the engine was installed into a Dimona model from the Hoffmann company (now called Diamond Aircraft). The company recalled, "For the altitude flight test in 1993, the Rotax 912 engine was modified and equipped with a turbocharger. The airplane — an HK36 Super Dimona model — powered by the Rotax 912 engine with turbocharger reached an altitude of 33,000 feet (11,000 m). As a result of this flight test, the Rotax 914 engine prototype (a Rotax 912 engine with turbocharger) was built. The concept was successful. The company started the development of the Rotax 914 engine and production began a short time later." In 2013 Rotax BRP introduced its latest variation, the 912 iS fuel-injected engine. About the new model, the company reported, "Real-life flight results are showing an improved fuel economy of up to an average of 30% (vs. the Rotax 912 ULS engine) compared to the 21% improvement mentioned at its launch." The Rotax 912 iS engine automatically improves its fuel efficiency by switching to a lean ECO mode once the throttle is pulled back to a throttle setting below 97% after the aircraft's start and climb phases. This results in lower operating costs and an improved carbon footprint due to lower carbon dioxide emission levels.

New Pipistrel Benchmarks: 25 Years / 600 Aircraft
By Dan Johnson, February 14, 2014

One of the top LSA manufacturers and a coming producer of four seaters is Pipistrel, which I visited last year. Recently the company announced that it completed and delivered its 600th aircraft, after which they shipped it halfway around the globe to Australia. The down under country, presently in its summertime (a warm thought while the Eastern USA digs out from yet another heavy snowstorm), fully accepts ASTM standards. On the occasion of its production of Pipistrel number 600, the Slovenian company with an LSA facility in nearby Italy, also celebrated its 25th anniversary. The twin achievements gave an opportunity for the Pipistrel team of 80 members to pose with aircraft number 600. Regular factory visitor and Australian distributor (also the rep for the United States), Michael Coates joined the photo. Michael has been a Pipistrel distributor for over 15 years and was chosen as the "Distributor of the Year" in 2012.

Today Pipistrel is recognized for its sleek composite designs but the company got its start making weight shift aircraft, or trikes. Including all aircraft types, Pipistrel stated they have built "well over 1200 different aircraft." The Coates distribution organization boasts of selling more than 100 of these employing his team of promoters and dealers on two continents (Australia and the USA). Pipistrel's company network of distributors and dealers operates in 40 countries and the company reported that "our aircraft fly in 67 countries." Pipistrel said it will mark the celebration of its 25th anniversary throughout the year with "special events, achievements and world record attempts." The added, "We are proud to announce that our entire yearly production for 2014 has been sold out already so aircraft number 700 will also be produced [in 2014]!

See our video interview with company founder Ivo Boscarol at Aero 2013.

Proving STOL Means "Short Takeoff & Landing"
By Dan Johnson, February 12, 2014
New Zealand is a land of great variety from mountains to beaches.

Among Light-Sport Aircraft enthusiasts, certain qualities of our wonderful airplanes are compelling. While fuel efficiency is high on the list as are great visibility and modest prices, another characteristic often rises high in the minds of aviators: STOL, shorthand for Short Takeoff and Landing. Now honestly, virtually all our aircraft exhibit much shorter takeoffs and landings than nearly any general aviation airplane, owing to the light weight and high power-to-weight ratio of LSA. However, even among the standard good performance, some machine rise more quickly than others. For decades, Zenith Aircraft has sold the CH 701 and now the CH 750 that offer some of the best short field performance of any light plane. Recently the company described an event down under (where it is summertime). "Down under" in this case means New Zealand.

Deane Philip in his STOL CH 701, powered by a 100-hp Rotax 912ULS engine, demonstrated a STOL takeoff. photos courtesy Zenith Aircraft

Every year pilots gather in Omaka, New Zealand for the Healthy Bastards STOL Competition. This year Zenith reported their aircraft took first and second place in the microlight or LSA 1,320 pound category. Third place went to a Carbon Cub while a pair of Rans — S7S and S6S — took fourth and fifth place. Altogether 41 aircraft joined in the competition. Sebastien Heinz, president of Zenith Aircraft, congratulated the winning pilots, Deane Philip and Jock Struthers. "The STOL CH 701 is an easy airplane to fly with its tricycle configuration, side by side seating and superb visibility." Heintz said. "Those factors enhance any pilot's chances in a spot landing competition. [Our 701] continues to offer outstanding performance even when compared to special-purpose tube-and-fabric taildraggers."

Why is the contest called "Healthy Bastards?" Zenith explained that it is named after a video produced by a flying doctor service in New Zealand. The video is said to capture what "people on the street" think about health and what actually makes a "Healthy Bastard." The video, offered for sale, also gives viewers an insight into the magnificence of New Zealand and some of the unusual but wonderful people that live in the country. It addresses Dr. Dave Baldwin's mission of trying to find "the healthiest bastard in the bush." The video was developed from book "Healthy Bastards" both of which combine not-politically-correct humor with serious health messages. Zenith warned, "Beware, as this movie 'ain't for the faint hearted'."

See the in-flight video below to see how short takeoff and landing was when done by winner Deane Philip in his Zenith STOL CH 701 at the annual "Healthy Bastards Bush Pilot" contest.

Going, Going, Gone ... So Long, Skycatcher?
By Dan Johnson, February 10, 2014

In the last few days, I was informed about a most unusual negotiation. A group that I agreed not to identify approached Cessna Aircraft with an offer to buy all remaining Skycatcher LSA. Various reports identify more than 80 aircraft parked around Wichita, home to the aviation giant. Some Skycatchers are allegedly complete, some supposedly lack engines or other components. The group with which I communicated made a multimillion dollar offer to acquire all this static inventory. Cessna took it seriously enough to send some executives to discuss the offer in person. "We thought we had it done," I was told by the leader of the group making the offer. "Eventually they got back to us and said it was a no-go. I think they plan to use the aircraft and parts they represent to maintain the existing Skycatcher fleet," my source said. Cessna has a proud tradition of supporting all their models for the long run. It is said you can still get parts for a Cessna 195, production of which ended 60 years ago.

AOPA's LSA-friendly journalist, Al Marsh, reporting on the organization's website wrote, "Cessna Aircraft officials have decided that the remaining 80 two-seat Skycatcher light sport aircraft will not be sold, but rather will be used for spares. The decision came in late January when dealers were notified that the aircraft is no longer in the Cessna lineup. Cessna CEO Scott Ernest declared last fall [at the National Business Aircraft Association convention] that the Skycatcher had 'no future.' The Skycatcher no longer appears on the Cessna website." See earlier articles on the brouhaha created by Ernest's vehement dismissals of the Cessna LSA's future here and here.

Our LSA market report shows 275 Skycatchers have been registered, including those still in Cessna's name. Subtracting 87 aircraft claimed to be sitting idle, this suggests 188 have been delivered to customers. My source indicated that Cessna experienced challenges with Shenyang Aircraft in China and might see the value in using unsold aircraft as a parts bin for those customer airplanes. Back when Cessna made the decision to contract with Shenyang to build Skycatchers, a wave of malcontent erupted with many Americans denouncing the move. (See our two articles here and here.) The company appeared to surmount that problem but as the 162 model finally got into customers hands some weren't impressed. When new CEO Ernest replaced Jack Pelton and sharply raised the price from $115,000 to $149,000, many took them up on the opportunity to get back their $5,000 deposit. Skycatcher never recovered and the once-strong order book numbering close to 1,000 withered dramatically.

Al Marsh continued, "There was a brief effort to approve the Skycatcher in the Primary category for delivery in Europe [where a reported 80 orders were on the books; see article], but changes demanded by the FAA that would have required additional expensive flight testing halted those plans. Efforts to sell all remaining Skycatchers failed because Cessna officials did not want customers to be frustrated by a lack of parts." (See Al's full report at the link above.) One commenter to the AOPA story wrote, "It's a shame that the market can't support these newer low cost planes." While I hear his lament, I believe the market can and does support lower cost airplanes; in fact, much lower cost SLSA than Cessna's Skycatcher are available. And LSA sales are finally showing growth after some very sluggish years. The uncomfortable truth is Skycatcher didn't grab the market as the big company expected and now it appears to be flying off into the sunset. Legacy producers Cessna, Piper, and Cirrus may have all departed the LSA space but plenty of others are ready to fill the skies including huge kit builder Van's Aircraft plus numerous U.S. and foreign manufacturers. The next phase of this invasion by brands you never knew until the last decade may be in the four seat space where LSA companies are moving aggressively to develop much more cost effective four seaters (and even larger aircraft) to add to their two-seat LSA designs.

Sunseeker Duo … Ultimate Solar Electric Aircraft?
By Dan Johnson, February 9, 2014

Years ago when we were just getting started in our flying careers, one fellow I paid attention to was Eric Raymond. Eric was a very talented hang glider pilot who strove to fly in the highest performing aircraft ... at that time the Manta Fledgling, a "fixed wing" hang glider with a category leading glide angle in those days. (Today's "flex wing" hang gliders significantly surpass the Fledge'.) Eric was also a daring aerobatic hang glider pilot long before most folks knew you could fly a hang glider in that manner. In other words he's been a leading edge pilot for a long time. In recent years he's been flying an all electric, solar-boosted glider across Europe. Yet he remained restless, seeking the very most he could do with electric power, which as most readers know, is still in the rapid development, not-quite-ready-for-market stage. Thanks to Flight Design USA boss Tom Peghiny for alerting me to Raymond's latest progress. Tom was a contest-winning hang glider pilot some years back; he remains active today and closely follows developments like Sunseeker.

Eric's website — Solar Flight — reported, "Flight testing of Sunseeker Duo is underway." He indicated the goal is, "to achieve maximum performance without using fossil fuels." As Eric describes it, Sunseeker Duo is "not only the fastest solar-powered airplane ever built; it is the first solar powered airplane to offer a seat for passengers." Duo incorporates the best features of Eric's earlier Sunseeker I and II aircraft while adding numerous refinements. That Sunseeker Duo bears a resemblance to the exotic Stemme S10 motorglider is a credit to Raymond's project (in fact, Solar Flight lists Stemme as one of their "partners"). Stemme features a most unusual retracting propeller on a tractor engine; the prop blades pull inward and the forward fuselage closes up to completely hide the existence of an engine.

More than a lovely, two-seat aircaft, Sunseeker Duo employs improved electric-aircraft technologies. "The solar cells used by the Duo are 50% more efficient than those used by Sunseeker II," Eric stated. "While Sunseeker II is able to cruise in level flight on direct solar power, the Duo will have enough power to maintain a steady climb on direct solar power." A tricycle landing gear arrangement familiar to all pilots ensures that the Duo will operate normally at any airport in the world. In addition the shapely long wings fold to give the airplane a hanger footprint no larger than a Cessna 172, the developer said. The airplane can also be quickly disassembled and packed into a custom trailer.

Eric and Irena Raymond hail from Ramona (California, USA). See our video interview with Eric.

Sunseeker Duo is advanced enough to achieve Solar Flight's dream of a "practical, high performance, two-place solar powered airplane." Sunseeker Duo weighs 616 pounds empty, has a wingspan of 71.5 feet, has a 20 kW (29.5 hp) electric motor powerplant, and is supplied by solar cells achieving 22.8% efficiency. With the US and Western Europe already well explored by Sunseeker I and II, Solar Flight said it is "looking towards the dramatic landscapes of Eastern Europe and Western Asia for possible expeditions with the new airplane." The Yankee inventor active in European skies these days added, "Whether it is a day of local flying above the clouds, or a transcontinental adventure freed from the constraints of fossil fuels, the Sunseekers are ready."

Kitfox Stays Home to Build More Airplanes
By Dan Johnson, February 7, 2014
Kitfox hails from Homeland, Idaho in the Great American West. It's a long way from Sebring.

Folks at Sebring 2014 noted some unoccupied exhibit spaces. As always, a few thought exhibit sales were down but another explanation are no-shows. With the northlands enduring one of the more cold and snowy winters of recent memory, a few aircraft that planned to display never left their hangars. I'll follow with about the whys and wherefores for other companies, too, but one notable miss was Kitfox, a company that for years has made the long trek from Homedale, Idaho. You might think they just didn't want to fly diagonally across nearly the entire U.S. in a hard winter and who could blame them? Yet the company offered a more nuanced explanation.

Yes, floats can work on snow. Northern states have seen an abundance of the white stuff this winter.

"Our decision to not attend the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Florida was a tough one, but was driven by our desire to deliver the best customer service possible. [Sebring] has been a valuable show for us in the past but due to our backlog of orders and the fact that our small, dedicated team of professionals hand crafts each Kitfox SLSA and Kitfox kit, we would have diminished manpower just as our product back order has been increasing." That's good news for Kitfox and is a common situation for LSA providers as they experience growing sales after some slow years. Manufacturers have to balance the costs involved with attending a show with the need to keep staff working to build and deliver airplanes. "Kitfox has been attending this great event for many years and enjoyed some terrific island hoping in the Bahamas as a reward for those working the show," said John. "We will really miss the fun of greeting folks and getting away from the Idaho winter, but meeting our delivery commitments comes first." Good for the Kitfox Team for sticking to business, though of course the crowds at Sebring missed seeing their shiny, affordable airplanes.

Team Kitfox stayed home from Sebring 2014 to continue cranking out kits and fully built SLSA.

To compensate, Kitfox offered a show special as if they attended. For example, the company includes reimbursement credits when buyers visit their expanded plant in Idaho. "It's like a mini vacation, with flying thrown in," John said, plus they offer some free options. A kit version of the Kitfox — already a value purchase — is further enhanced by the show special deal. Since long before LSA burst on the scene, Kitfox has been a pioneer in kit airplanes. They didn't miss a beat when LSA came along, meeting the ASTM standards for a fully-built SLSA version. Now, with nearly 30 years of manufacturing experience, Kitfox features refinements that continue the reputation of a backcountry performer while adding a respectable 120 mph cruise speed to a range of over 600 miles. Being American made doesn't hurt either. We have a lot of fine LSA from overseas but Yankees still like buying American when the product is as gleaming and polished as Kitfox. Give Kitfox Aircraft a ring or send an email to hear how their Sebring show special can save you money.

Blue Skies Over the Bluest Water Imaginable
By Dan Johnson, February 4, 2014
Joyful unloading in Bimini Bahamas after crossing the ocean. photo by Jessica Peed

On the Fourth Bahamas Fly Out in January 2014, a group of four Light-Sport Aircraft and one Cessna 172 made the short hop to Bimini Island of the Bahamas from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It may only be 50 nautical miles but at a cruising altitude of 3,000-5,500 feet you definitely fly out of sight of land ... yes, thousands of miles of ocean and no land to be seen from the cockpit. Do I have your attention yet? Even the ever-dependable Rotax 912 that powered all four LSA seems to run rough shortly after land disappears behind you. A pilot briefing from a Bahamas flying expert gave all pilots the preparation to deal with a problem en route but an actual emergency would be a major dilemma for those on board.

A selfie (well ... selfie & pilot) shows Randee Laskewitz and Dan Johnson aloft over the Atlantic. photo by Randee Laskewitz

Fortunately no such challenges arose. Experts were also on hand to help pilots file the international flight plans that have become much more complicated since 9/11. Ironically, only the FAA Type Certified Cessna 172 Skyhawk experienced problems. A magneto went out of service and the communications radio went quiet, delaying the arrival of three members of the 2014 Bahamas fly out. The problem was quickly remedied with a new part flown in from California overnight and the last of the group arrived a day later. All four LSA — two Flight Design CTLS, one Evektor Harmony LSA, and one Just Aircraft Highlander — arrived without incident or delay.

A Cessna 172 and four Light-Sport Aircraft made successful round trips to Bimini island. photo by Jessica Peed

As this was my third trip (twice in a Flight Design CTLS and once in a Breezer), I didn't hear the rough-Rotax sound that first time pilots always think they detect. Still, we wore life jackets (photo) for the whole 36-minute trip as donning these life jackets after you are in the water can be much harder. Plus, CTLS in the United States are sold with an airframe parachute as standard equipment providing a very comforting backup. Our fuel-injected Rotax 912 iS engine ran flawlessly over and back ... twice. I made two trips the first day, ferrying back across that 50 nautical miles to retrieve Aaron Will who could not go in the Cessna due to useful load limits. It was my shortest-ever visit to another country, a total of 15 minutes to clear customs, pay the $50 arrival fee, drop my wife, and depart again. These waters are an active shipping lane so over and back, you see ample boat traffic should the unthinkable become reality. Plus, the gulf stream current brings warm water from the Caribbean north between Florida and Bimini so if you did go into the drink, at least icy cold water will not be your problem. Despite the odds stacked in your favor, losing sight of land the first time is an eerie experience.

Unimaginably blue waters surround the narrow island of Binimi (it's actually two islands). photo by Randee Laskewitz

In 2014, Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft will celebrate a Tenth Anniversary. In 2010 on the occasion of the first Bahamas Fly Out, Sport Pilot certificate holders were able to use this entry level pilot license in the Bahamas. The island nation became the first country outside the USA to accept Sport Pilots. Most of the 40 pilots that have made these Bahamas expeditions have held higher level pilot certificates, but it's nonetheless wonderful that Bahamian authorities accept the simpler license.

Leaving Bimini after four wonderful days, we say good-bye to that incredibly blue water. photo by Randee Laskewitz
Truly, the Bahamas government decision is understandable. This is a country consisting of more than 700 islands, of which 30 are inhabited. The two main tourist destinations are Grand Bahamas and Nassau, which are often visited by airliners and cruise ships that propel the main industry of tourism. However, the 28 "out islands" are visited most often by small 8-15 seat airliners and private aircraft. It is the privately-owned, owner-flown airplanes that bring most tourists to the smaller islands, even more than boats which also frequent these waters known for their excellent fishing and water sports like scuba and snorkle diving. Since airplanes transport more visitors to the out islands, it is no surprise that every populated island has an airport.

Fuel is another matter, though. Cargo transport to small islands is limited so most have no aviation gas and auto fuel could be of questionable purity. Thus, the commonly long range of Light-Sport Aircraft make these trips that much easier and safer. Flying to the Bahamas is a thrilling over-ocean experience and a joy on arrival with warm weather, pleasant Bahamian people, good food and good sport. Someday you should try it and see for yourself the bluest water you can imagine. Thanks to Aviators Hot Line and AHL's Light Aviation for again organizing the ocean flight.

Ah, Go Fly a Car! (Or Drive an Aircraft?)
By Roy Beisswenger, February 1, 2014
Aloft over Sebring 2014 in the I-TEC Maverick. Author Roy Beisswenger occupies the rear seat.

Special thanks to Roy Beisswenger for this first-impressions report on the I-TEC Maverick. It is part of a comprehensive story Roy prepared for Sebring 2014 that will be coming soon in the February issue of Powered Sport Flying! Roy is a highly experienced powered parachute pilot, instructor, and Designated Pilot examiner. He is also gaining experience in gyroplanes — both types of aircraft are primary subjects of the magazine he publishes with Vickie Betts. Roy begins ...

Maverick uses a T-bar support with a long carbon fiber mast holding the parachute when on the ground and a lateral cross bar to better support the flexible wing.

I have to admit that I thought that climbing into the back seat of the Maverick flying car would be a fun and OK experience. I really didn't expect it to be much more than fun and OK, though. Granted, I'm in a regular auto-like seat (worse, the back seat) and I'm flying. I can't see the wing anywhere. Oh well, like that hasn't happened before. After all, having been a powered parachute pilot for a couple of decades and a gyroplane pilot for several months, I'm completely used to not seeing a wing on my aircraft. One wing is high enough up that I forget about it and the other is moving so fast that I can't see any part of it after takeoff. So the car leaping into the sky with no visible means of support shouldn't have been that surprising. Maybe part of the problem was that I was jonesing a little bit for some sky. I hadn't been up even commercially for a few months. Still, there was something about taking off in the Maverick that was a great deal of fun.

Maverick comes in for a touchdown on its four, road-worthy wheels.

First of all, it was remarkably effortless. Even if I'm just doing a check ride or training someone in a powered parachute, it is always a hectic first minute getting the chute kited, centered, and ready for takeoff. Even a gyroplane has a handful of levers, releases, and things to monitor to turn a couple of thin blades into a serviceable wing. As an over-trained passenger, I'm always living acutely through the efforts that others are putting into their takeoffs. With the Maverick, the parachute is already overhead and ready to go. You can tell that plenty of effort went into the parachute deployment system. A carbon fiber mast with sailboat rigging technology are involved plus a little bit of bathroom technology. The actual parachute hangers (photo) remind one of hooks on a shower curtain. I-TEC's effort on the mast system really works. The Maverick sits on the runway without any worries that the wind will tip it over before the pilot is ready or even sitting in it. When it is time to go, the takeoff is effortless and casual. I-TEC pilot Troy Townsend looked up to check the parachute before adding power. I couldn't share that experience because I was in the back seat and all I had to look at above me was canvas located several inches away instead of Lexan and zero porosity fabric several feet away.

Whizzing around the grounds at Sebring, Maverick shows its land vehicle prowess.

This also counts as the first time I've ever flown in even a semi-enclosed powered parachute. That enclosure was certainly appreciated in the cool evening since I wasn't wearing anything more than I was wearing the rest of the day. The other big aesthetic differences had to do with the Maverick really being a car. It looks like a dune buggy on the inside with a tubing structure, canvas covering, steering wheel and two huge road-worthy tires visible in front outside the door on either side. Unfortunately, the sun was getting low and I was the last fly of the day. It really was a great taste of future possibilities of the car flying kind. On the ground with the parachute stowed, Vickie jumped in with me (it is a three-seat "car," after all) and Troy drove us around to get a feel for its dunebuggyness. It is a hoot on the ground, too. I-TEC is the Dunnellon, Florida company that developed the Maverick for mission work in countries with very poor road systems. The purpose-built vehicle works well off-road and really-off-road. That also makes it ideal for recreation.

Special rigging allows Maverick to operate from rough fields that could snag a ground-dragging powered parachute wing. all photos courtesy Roy Beisswenger of Powered Sport Flying magazine
Two persons can sit in the rear when Maverick is a car; one one sits aft when it flies as an LSA. Seen in the rear are author Roy Beisswenger and magazine editor Vickie Betts.

SkyCraft Updates Progress on their SD-1 Minisport
By Dan Johnson, January 31, 2014
SD-1 Minisport is presently going through taxi testing at Spanish Fork Airport (U77).

After making a big splash at AirVenture Oshkosh 2013, the young team from SkyCraft Airplanes went home, rolled up their sleeves, and have been burning the midnight oil preparing the affordably priced single seater to meet ASTM standards and gain FAA's nod for production. For those less informed, meeting the new industry consensus standards to earn government acceptance is a sharp deviation from FAA Type Certification. The task nonetheless represents a very significant work effort involving dozens of detailed tests and 100 hours of flight testing supported by hundreds of pages of documentation (read our earlier assessment of the costs involved). Even a well heeled organization like Icon has taken years to get all the pieces in place.

Read our introduction report on SD-1 Minisport and its several singular qualities.

However, sometimes a smaller, more nimble organization with very clear goals can go more speedily through the process. SkyCraft Airplanes is composed of an energetic group lead by CEO Tyler Ives. Recently Director of Marketing Paul Glavin sent an update on progress to goal. "It's been a busy winter for SkyCraft Airplanes as we move closer to SLSA Certification for the SD-1 Minisport," he said. Earlier the company noted Minisport was being equipped with an ethanol-resistant fuel system, which allows the engine to run on premium unleaded from your local gas station. "Since then we've upgraded the exhaust and computer systems on our fuel-injected Hirth F-23 which will increase the efficiency of the engine, allow for a smoother idle, and reduce engine vibrations throughout the aircraft." Paul added that flight testing will continue in February after installation of these upgrades is complete.

SkyCraft made a splash at AirVenture 2013 with their single seat SLSA candidate.

The $55,000 SD-1 Minisport is one of the true bargains in the LSA fleet and that's for an aircraft with interesting standard equipment and services. SkyCraft Airplanes has worked to reduce operational costs as well with exceptional fuel efficiency, removable wings for trailer storage, free engine and propeller overhauls, and the ability to run on unleaded automotive gas. Yet $55 grand is still a chunk of change to lay out and the company has a solution for budget-constrained pilots. Now the Utah-based company is now offering financing for the SD-1 Minisport, making it affordable to an even wider audience. Finance terms allow for minimum payments of under $500 a month following a 50% down payment (or about $30,000). See more details on SkyCraft financing.

Got Bitcoins? You can now pay for your SD-1 Minisport with the cryptocurrency.

The young and motivated SkyCraft team has also secured minimum liability insurance for the SD-1 Minisport costing just $200 a year. The policy covers up to $1,000,000 in bodily injury and property damage. This adds only $2.50 an hour to the plane's real cost of ownership based on flying 80 hours a year. Complete hull coverage can be added for $1,375 a year, putting the monthly cost of a fully covered Minisport at just over $130. Finally, one bit of news that again shows these youthful fellows are thinking out of the usual aviation box. "In December 2013, SkyCraft became the first airplane manufacturer to sell its planes for Bitcoin, the Internet's most valuable digital currency." They report the decision sparked excitement in the Bitcoin community, as SkyCraft was featured by several Bitcoin news outlets, including the Bitcoin Examiner. "Since the announcement, orders for the SD-1 Minisport have nearly doubled," said Glavin. See SkyCraft's website for more on the Bitcoin opportunity.

The Other LSA Revolution (Except Not SLSA)
By Dan Johnson, January 29, 2014
Launching an AutoGyro Calidus; video flight report to follow.

Wings that go around in circles enjoy their own special niche in American Light-Sport aviation. Yankees can buy ultralight helicopters — including the Mosquito that can fit into Part 103, which is amazing in itself — and Americans can buy kit-built gyrocopters or gyroplanes (the terms are used interchangeably). The good news is Americans do indeed buy and build; AutoGyro USA sold some 30 examples in the last couple years. However, due to an apparent (and somewhat mysterious) intraagency dispute, fully built Special LSA gyroplanes were never allowed by FAA. Some say it was a turf war between the Small Aircraft Directorate and the Rotorcraft Directorate; though others disagree this was the problem. Whatever the explanation, no ready-to-fly LSA gyros are available in the USA despite years of effort by ASTM committee members, which has a standard ready. This is a shame as I rediscovered for myself on a flight at Sebring.

German producer AutoGyro GmbH is said to be the world's largest buyer of Rotax 912 engines.

On a pretty day at the Sebring U.S. Sport Aviation Expo 2014, I finally went aloft with Robert Snyder of AutoGyroUSA. We talked about flying together at AirVenture and my chance finally came. I have one other such experience with ASTM gyro chairman, Greg Gremminger in the Magni Gyro. That Italian design is an open cockpit tandem seating experience that opened my eyes to the fact that a fixed wing pilot can make a reasonably fast transition to rotorcraft ... so long as we're talking gyroplane. To make another of our video pilot reports, Bob and flew around for nearly an hour. I was reintroduced to the ease of flying gyros and introduced to the AutoGyro family. The German company is reportedly the largest buyer of Rotax 912 engines of any airplane producer on the planet and they are having a great run overseas. Their models include the open cockpit tandem MTO Sport, fully enclosed tandem seating Calidus, and deluxe side-by-side seating Cavalon (interior photo). One thing is sure: these are not your Benson gyros of years past. The Europeans have shepherded these flying machines into the new millennium and they are some impressive works of construction.

The deluxe side-by-side seating Cavalon from AutoGyro is their top-of-the-line model.

Building an AutoGyro kit will consume about 40 hours, said Robert. They offer a guided program at their Stevensville, Maryland facility and like to start people first thing on a Monday morning so a kit can be finished at the end of a single week (naturally depending somewhat on the aptitude of the builder). So while you must build and cannot buy ready-to-fly other than as a used aircraft, the kit endeavor is one of the shortest in aviation. Prices are good, too, running from around $70,000 for a very complete MTO Sport to about $88,000 for the enclosed Calidus to roughly $120,000 for the top-of-the-line Cavalon. At below $90-grand, the model I flew represents a good value in a most interesting aircraft. Especially given a gyro's ability to handle winds much more easily than a light fixed wing (let alone powered parachutes or weight shift trikes), and since gyroplanes fly significantly like a fixed wing, I found myself wanting more. You can get training from Robert via their link to Chesapeake Sport Pilot and a Sport Pilot certificate is acceptable to fly gyros.

Until video producer SportAviationMagazine.com finishes production on our video pilot report done on the Sebring flight, here are two other videos we've done on the company's Calidus and MTO Amphibian.

A Bulgarian gyro in development, called Niki 2009.

In case you think you know it all about gyroplanes, how about this different execution from Niki Rotor Aviation? The model, still in development, is another side-by-side machine with one truly innovative difference: the propeller is inline similar to what we've seen occasionally but never to my knowledge on a gyro. The Bulgarian company reported that in June 2013, "Niki 2009 made its first flight in Ihtiman, an airport close to Sofia. The machine demonstrated excellent flying performance and ... test pilot Niki Nikolov and his team are now focused on further improvement of the prototype." No word was given on completion nor availability to other countries but those who want to follow Niki Rotor Aviation can do so online.

First Wrap-Up of Sebring 2014; Aircraft Debuts
By Dan Johnson, January 21, 2014
Rans' S-20 Raven flies over the Sebring LSA Expo. photos by Jim Koepnick provided courtesy of Sebring U.S. Sport Aircraft Expo

It was cool but abundant sunshine provided good conditions for an excellent event at the tenth Sebring. Morning winds died down and allowed plenty of demo flying opportunities and even for those who didn't go aloft, the Manufacturer's Showcase allowed visitors to see numerous aircraft doing low fly-bys. The combination of readily available demo flights that could be conducted with a minimum of hassle thanks to great support from contract tower personnel and the display of most LSA or light kits in recreational aviation offered ample opportunity for buyers to step up ... and sales action appeared quite strong, a sure sign of improving conditions after years of sluggishness.

The Van's Aircraft / Synergy Air RV-12 flies above the Expo.

Many exhibitors reported multiple sales, proven by deposits changing hands and orders being written. Ken Scott of Van's Aircraft — which works closely with Synergy Air, builder of the ready-to-fly RV-12 SLSA — said it was the best show ever for his company. "We brought two aircraft to the show and I'm estimating we gave at least 50 demo flights," Scott said. "That's the beauty of this event; they make it easy to get our airplanes out to give demo flights and that helps sell airplanes." A wide variety of aircraft flew most of the day each of the four days. Obviously some very talented photographers were present as seen in Jim Koepnick's superb images presented with this article. He was joined by other professional journalists from several news organizations.

Expo public relations people noted, "Four aircraft debuted at Expo [including] Ran's Aircraft's S-20 Raven, Tecnam Aircraft's new Sea Sky on floats, the only such model in the U.S., the Zigolo Ultralight Motorglider from Aeromarine-LSA, and the Super Petrel LS from Florida Light Sport Aviation." In addition, we saw the first public appearance of Progressive Aerodyne's Searey Elite powered by the 115-horsepower Rotax 914 turbo. Although Sonex staffers have attended with an inside display in prior years, the 2014 event saw the Wisconsin company that makes such affordable Sport Pilot eligible kits mount an aircraft display (photo).

Photographer extraordinaire, Jim Koepnick and his big lens.

Bill Canino, President of SportairUSA, also called the event a successful one for his company. "We talked with many serious prospects and have a long list of folks who were willing to give us their information, indicating a serious interest in buying an aircraft. Our list from this event is longer than we gathered at other major air shows last year." Canino also had kind words for the helpfulness of some 240 volunteers. "They bend over backwards to help you with anything you need." Airport manager Mike Willingham and key man Gary Filip also praised the work of Air Boss, Inc., which managed air traffic operations. "All the pilots spoke very highly of how Air Boss managed air traffic flow and how cooperative they were, and we will definitely be bringing them back next year," Filip said. "George Cline and his team did a great job."

Expo Director Jana Filip announced the theme for Expo 2015 as "The Next Ten for the Next Gen," referencing that next year will kick off the Expo's second 10-year run now that the event completed its first ten years and has firmly established itself in the aviation calendar of events. The 2015 dates are January 15-18. A primary original goal of the Expo — which like most airshows works hard to pay its bills — was to attract attention to the airport and its capability as a potential base of operations. This tenth year may have seen the success of that goal as Willingham also hinted at a big announcement that Sebring Regional Airport will be making soon about a new major tenant. Stay tuned for more on that and other news from Sebring 2014.

This article was prepared and uploaded from Bimini island in the Bahamas where I am attending the fourth Bahamas LSA fly-out arranged by Aviators Hot Line and AHL's Light Aviation Edition. Another flock of Light-Sport Aircraft flew over the Atlantic to the only other country that accepts pilots using the Sport Pilot certificate.

Last News Rush Before Sebring 2014 ...
By Dan Johnson, January 14, 2014

People are starting to arrive in Florida. Today, we had a pleasant lunch conversation with Dynon's president Robert Hamilton. He observed that Dynon enjoyed their best year ever in 2013 and they continue bringing new avionics innovations at modest prices. Fellow Dynon staffer Kirk Kleinholz was in the state even earlier traveling around offering tech support. Great work, Dynon-ers! As we all enter the last-minute rush to head to the tenth Sebring, a few news items arrived and I'll run through them so you have some idea of what will be present at the LSA event.

Progressive Aerodyne's Searey Elite won FAA airworthiness with the Rotax 914 engine.

Progressive Aerodyne announced they received FAA acceptance for the Elite version of their Searey Amphibious LSA. Searey Elite is mightily powered with a Rotax 914 turbocharged engine; you can see a short video of it launching in this article. "This stylish aircraft offers many advanced features such as a large sliding canopy that can remain open while flying. The Searey Elite also has the very latest in-flight, GPS, [Angle of Attack indicator] and Gear Position warning systems, a wide cabin, and much more," said the company. Airworthiness certification for the Searey Elite was issued in December 2013, and the first two airplanes will go to private owners in January 2014 at a ceremony to be held at Progressive Aerodyne's manufacturing facility in Tavares, Florida. Searey Elite will also be on display at Sebring 2014. Adam Yang, CEO of Progressive Aerodyne, had this to say about the certification of the Searey Elite, "We are so pleased and excited about being able to offer our Searey Light Sport Amphibious Elite to the market. We believe that our airplane fulfills a much anticipated desire for those customers who want to experience the fun and adventure of flight, both in the air and on water, with ease." Unlike some intriguing LSA seaplanes, you can buy a ready-to-fly Searey or Searey Elite now.

And now for something completely different: Aeromarine-LSA's Zigolo MG-12.

Something completely new: Aeromarine-LSA — a company name you may not know though you know some of their products such as Mermaid amphibious LSA -- from a familiar name in the industry, Chip Erwin. Aeromarine-LSA announced the first American flight of the new Zigolo SSDR concept motorglider. A Single Seat De-Regulated (SSDR) aircraft, Zigolo does not require any license, medical, registration, or certification to fly it. SSDR is a European initiative that closely resembles Part 103 but at 225 pounds empty, this superlightweight flying machine will have no trouble qualifying. The 36-foot span Zigolo is powered by a 25-horsepower gasoline engine, however, the company said an electric-powered option is close to completion. Electric power will provide self-launching capability for gliding or quiet and smooth dawn patrols and evening flights and still met the SSDR criteria. Zigolo is available in a classic kit for only $14,500. This price includes the engine and a complete aircraft rescue parachute system. Build time is only 100 hours. An even better option is the Almost-Ready-To-Fly aircraft referring to a finished Zigolo disassembled and packed in one easy-to-ship crate. "Some Assembly required" means a pictogram assembly manual and an afternoon to put it together! The Almost RTF Zigolo includes everything you need to fly plus a complete aircraft parachute rescue system all for only $16,000, just $1,500 more than the 100-hour kit.

Aeromarine provided this video of the Zigolo MG12 performing flight maneuvers including wing mounted viewpoints.

Rotax expert Phil Lockwood will give his signature engine presentations at Sebring 2014.

The Rotax guy that Rotax mechanics seek for advice is Phil Lockwood. As the largest Rotax distributor and service center in the country, he and his team have learned the old fashioned way about problems ... by working on hundreds of engines and seeing any problems for themselves. Lockwood also has a direct connection forged over many years with Kodiac guru Eric Tucker and the folks at the factory in Austria always check in with Lockwood to see what's happening with their engines in the field. So when it's THIS guy, Phil Lockwood, who offers you his advice for free in an airshow forum, people flock to the venue. Phil will be doing his standing-room-only presentation again at Sebring: Rotax 912 series on Thursday the 16th and Saturday the 18th in Forum Area 2 from 10:45 am to 12:00 noon. A Rotax two stroke forum will be held on Friday the 17th from 10:45 am to 12:00 noon in Forum Area 2. Phil also added, "Lockwood Aviation Supply will offer special extended hours for customers who would like to shop and pick up parts during the Sebring US Sport Aviation Expo. The company's warehouse is located at 1 Lockwood lane just a few hundred yards to the south from the show on the Ramp at the Sebring Airport." Hours are Saturday from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM and Sunday from 8:00 AM till 2:00 PM.

Super Petrel LS Is (Almost) the Newest SLSA
By Dan Johnson, January 13, 2014

In the beginning ... OK, a few years ago, FAA went around to a couple dozen LSA producers to evaluate the state of the then-new LSA industry. The agency teams did not conduct an audit, they emphasized. More intensive examinations, actual audits, followed in recent years. Last year the agency issued new guidance to help them and everyone else judge who really was and was not a manufacturer. If the need for such a definition surprises you, remember, the brave new world of Light-Sport Aircraft threw curves to government regulators, captains of industry, aircraft design geniuses, plus all we rank and file customers. Everyone learned a great deal as an entirely new sector of aviation was given birth ... one, by the way, with a worldwide impact as more countries sign on to the ASTM standards method of assuring airworthiness. The LSA industry is now a few months away from its tenth birthday and the gears of production are beginning to mesh more smoothly than ever.

In flight photo of Super Petrel LS by Kevin Porter / JetPhotos.net

A CASE IN POINT: Just today, while I visited with importer Brian Boucher of Flight Light Sport Aviation, he received a call from FAA saying that a letter will go out in the next day or so confirming that Brazilian manufacturer Edra Aeronautica successfully completed their audit. One more step remains — a visit from an FAA MIDO ASI (Air Safety Inspector to those of you not intimate with the agency's abbreviation-coded titles) — to provide the final review of the first Super Petrel LS in the USA. After that, Brian will be able to offer ready-to-fly examples of the handsome biwinged amphibian. Following the ASI examination — presuming all goes well, as it should since FAA just microscoped the company via their in-Brazil audit — Super Petrel LS will become number 134 on our SLSA List. Although slightly premature, we already added it because we're like many others scrambling to depart for the Sebring LSA Expo to start Thursday this week. Congratulations to Edra and Brian!

See our latest video on the Super Petrel LS.

It was almost exactly one year ago when I first wrote about this airplane, but that makes it sound like something new. The truth is, Petrel is quite an established name. Some 20 years ago, while I was working with BRS Parachutes, we became familiar with an earlier iteration of this design. The Super Petrel is significantly evolved from that more basic amphibian. The LS tag that now follows the name attests to the airplane's aim at the Light-Sport market. Two wings and amphibians aren't common but as you ponder what seaplanes need to accomplish, the idea makes plenty of sense. Getting off the water as quickly as possible is preferable because pounding through waves is hard on any water bird, certainly one built lightly to fit LSA parameters. Super Petrel wings have 161 square feet of area, giving a wing loading of only 8.2 pounds per square feet. More wing area provides more lift and the lower wing helps amplify ground effect. Sponsons can be securely fitted to the lower wing rather than on long tubes as is common. Finally, the biwing design allows a short 28 foot span, which helps in maneuvering the aircraft on water. More than 200 aircraft are reported flying in 22 countries.

Brian Boucher (center) is the U.S. importer of Super Petrel LS. He is flanked by famous aviation journalists Dave Unwin (L) and James Lawrence (R) near his home at the Spruce Creek Fly-in.

Brian indicated he has potential customers waiting for Super Petrel LS to pass its audit and become available for sale. Those folks have but a short wait now. Meanwhile Brian and team are working furiously to prepare the roomy seaplane for the viewing pleasure of those headed to Sebring. If you're one of the lucky ones — especially if you can escape the "Polar Vortex" cold that recently descended on so much of America — look up Super Petrel LS at Sebring as you peruse all the great Light-Sport models you'll see on display. Remember Sebring is a great place for demo flights, so get your name on the schedule with the planes of your choice and get your smile cranked up and ready.

Zenith Now Shipping CH 750 Cruzer
By Dan Johnson, January 13, 2014
Zenith showed Cruzer for the first time for at Sun 'n Fun 2013. See our video interview that also discusses the UL Power engine.

Zenith Aircraft based in Mexico ... Missouri, to be clear, is one of the most solid and impressive kit producers in the light aircraft world. Chris Heintz designs were previously manufactured as fully built LSA by another company. Though that organization discontinued some years back the kit supplier and its models have thrived as before, every year delivering a number of airplane kits that could make other producers jealous. Last year Zenith introduced their newest model as a variation of their very popular "Sky Jeep," known officially as the CH 750 STOL. Giving the airplane more cross cruising capability resulted in an airplane logically named Cruzer. Simply put by 20-year Zenith demo pilot veteran Roger Dubbert, "Some of our customers wanted an aircraft that would go a little faster." The total change added about 20% to cruise speed compared to the 750 STOL. Recently, Zenith announced shipment of the first CH 750 Cruzer kits.

This photo from Zenith allows a comparison of the CH 750 STOL and the CH 750 Cruzer.

First shown to pilots at Sun 'n Fun in April 2013, Cruzer is what the company calls "on airport version" of the Short Takeoff and Landing (STOL) CH 750 that was originally designed for back country flying, according to company officials. Preceding the widened 750 for many years was the CH 701, the model that earned the "Sky Jeep" tag. Unlike its bushplane older brother, Cruzer is built for runways, so it uses smaller wheels available with optional wheel fairings and a new wing and tail designs to achieve a higher cruise speed. A single faired strut replaces the dual struts of the CH 750 STOL and the fuselage has changed shape subtly resulting in a lifted and enlarged empennage (photo). Cruzer seats are comfortable enough for longer flights and with the wide door and overhead skylight, visibility is very broad in the new model.

Zenith has kit building down pat and uses match-hole techniques to assure homebuilder precision.

Designed for first-time builders, the new kits employ computer aided design (CAD) and computer aided manufacturing (CNC) technologies, which assured complete construction of the airframe with simple hand tools and minimal skills that can quickly be acquired at one of Zenith's monthly factory workshops, company officials noted. The CNC machinery allows the company to supply what's called "match hole" skins that have pilot holes located so a homebuilder does not need extensive tools or jigs to achieve precision in the joining of numerous metal skins. Except for limited components such as the nose cowl or wheel pants the entire Cruzer design is metal, primarily aluminum.

all photos courtesy Zenith Aircraft

"It will take about 400 hours to construct the all-metal airframe," said Sebastien Heintz, president of Zenith. "People are going to be surprised by how quickly it goes together and how much fun it is to work on it." Beside their regular workshops at their facility so many of the company's kits are flying that owners across the country and around the world may be available to give guidance to first-time builders. To power their aircraft like Cruzer, CH 750 STOL, and their low wing CH 650 Zenith offers a half dozen powerplant options, complete with engine mounts and cowling. The Cruzer prototype is powered by a 130-horsepower UL 350iS engine (video) and features the Dynon SkyView glass panel. As equipped, the aircraft has an empty weight of 780 pounds, giving it a useful load of 540 pounds, which keeps it at the LSA limit of 1,320 pounds required for Sport Pilots. Climbing at 1,200 fpm, Cruzer can achieve 118 mph at cruise altitude yet the airplane shows its STOL roots by stalling at 39 mph.

See Cruzer up close in flight through this company video:

Jabiru Schedules Engine Seminar in Florida
By Dan Johnson, January 12, 2014
Jabiru's six cylinder 120-horsepower engine.

In the LSA space, we presently have five engine suppliers that either have ASTM approval or FAA certification approval that grants them the chance to power Light-Sport Aircraft. The five brands are: Rotax, Continental, Jabiru, Lycoming, and HKS. For customers who like doing their own maintenance or for mechanics who want to have all the knowledge they need, company-presented seminars are invaluable. Since they have decades of history and a have been used on Type Certified airplanes, Continental and Lycoming enjoy broad awareness of mechanics around the world. Rotax has also pursued regular training for mechanics to work on their engines. Jabiru has also done these and their U.S. distributor just announced their latest in the Sunshine State of Florida.

Jabiru U.S. installed their six cylinder engine in a Rans S-19. See a review of this aircraft and engine.

Peter Krotje of Jabiru USA Sport Aircraft, LLC, sent notice of a two day seminar to take place over February 7th and 8th, 2014 at Voyager Aviation Services on Merritt Island (street address for GPS-equipped drivers: 475 Manor Drive; zipcode 32952). This east coast airport is about an hour south of Daytona Beach and north of the Space Center in Titusville or Cocoa Beach, Florida. To schedule a position at the event, contact Pete at Jabiru by calling 931-680-2800. More contact info can be found on the Jabiru Referral Page.

On Friday, February 7th, the seminar will cover: Introduction; Parts Identification; How Systems & Parts Work; Installation Considerations; Routine Maintenance Tasks; and Bing Carburetor Tuning & Maintenance. Continuing on Saturday February 8th, the seminar will delve into: Electrical System; Instrumentation; Manuals & Bulletins; and, Class Engine Assembly. If you have a Jabiru powerplant, either on a Jabiru aircraft or one of the many kit-built aircraft that use the four cylinder 81-horsepower or six cylinder 120-horsepower engines, you may wish to contact Pete Krotje as soon as possible. No capacity was stated in the announcement but these seminars often fill up, so act soon and become better informed.

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




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

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!

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Aeromarine-LSA represents an economical Part 103 ultralight that is within reach of almost any budget. For local fun flying, or for those who enjoy soaring flight Zigolo is light enough to be lifted by even the most gentle thermals.

Jabiru USA builds the spacious and speedy J-250 and more recently J-230 plus the training-optimized J-170, each certified as Special LSA. The Tennessee-based company also imports and services the popular Jabiru engine line.

Corbi Air represents the Made-for-Americans Direct Fly Alto 100. Created in the Czech Republic, Alto 100 was upgraded for USA sales and the result is a comfortable, handsome low wing, all-metal LSA with features you want.

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

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?

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

Pipistrel has designed and manufactures a range of beautiful, sleek aircraft that have found markets around the world. Starting with gliders and motorgliders, Pipistrel now offers a line of powered aircraft using multiple power sources.

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

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.

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

CubCrafters is the best selling Light-Sport Aircraft in recent years. Their success formula: reinvent an iconic design using computer analysis and modern materials, give it more power, features and a finer finish, upgrade it steadily, and do it all in the USA.

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

SkyCraft Airplanes is America’s first Light-Sport Aircraft single seater. SD-1 Minisport is affordably priced, very well equipped, and was designed to exhibit docile handing qualities. It can be flown for less than $12 per hour.

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.

Tecnam is the world's leading manufacturer of Light-Sport-eligible aircraft offering five models. The world's fastest-selling light twin, a four seat single engine model, and an 11-seat twin complete the range.

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.

Phoenix Air USA imports the beautiful Phoenix Special Light-Sport Aircraft, a performance motorglider that can cruise swiftly and serve both functions with excellent creature comfort. Given its clever wing extension design, you get two aircraft in one!

free counters
Search our site
Copyright © 2001- by Dan Johnson