...a web log of developments in Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft
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Sun 'n Fun 2015: Part 103 Ultralights Are Hot!
By Dan Johnson, April 27, 2015

M-Squared Breese owner, retired Captain Ray Anderson, donated to the Florida Air Museum his very special single seater that was highly modified in numerous ways; see our video on this amazing airplane.
Part 103 ultralight activity was not the news I expected to report from Sun 'n Fun 2015, certainly not as my first report. After an intense week shooting video interviews at Sun 'n Fun 2015, I am impressed to report that Part 103 is much more than alive and well. For those that may have missed this unique category, Part 103 ultralight vehicles (FAA's deliberate wording) are single seat flying machines of varying description that need no medical, not even a pilot license, no N-number registration, and can be sold ready-to-fly. The entire FAA regulation for them can be printed on the front and back of a single piece of paper.

Adding to the charm of rarely having to interact with a government agency in order to have some fun in your airplane are a couple similar efforts in Europe. Germany has its 120-kilogram class (264 pounds) and England has its SSDR category (Single Seat De Regulated). Between these two and the now-32-year-old Part 103, fixed wings, trikes, powered parachutes, and even helicopters that can keep their weight down to 254 pounds empty (278 with an airframe parachute; even more with floats) and can keep their max speeds to 55 knots max and 24 knots stall are given unusual flexibility in these times of government pushing to heavily regulate many activities. Celebrate 103!

Quicksilver's single seat Sprint uses the twin cylinder opposed Hirth F23 that provides 50 horsepower to achieve wonderful performance in a Part 103 ultralight.
So, with that in mind, we toured around the grounds of Sun 'n Fun making video interviews with designers and their aircraft. At vendor after vendor, we encountered something I did not expect. Several Part 103 producers were featuring new aircraft and every one I spoke to related good sales and phones ringing with interest. As longtime light aviation expert and Quicksilver specialist "Bever" Borne put it, "I'm selling airplanes to [some of the same] customers I had 30 years ago. Since then they went off and bought an Experimental, then a LSA, perhaps followed by a Cessna or Piper. Now, they're back. They tell me that after all that experience they realized the first ultralight they bought from me was still the most fun flying they had and now they want to return to their roots."

Bever is not alone in his perception. Aerolite 103 producer, Dennis Carley took over production of this charming aircraft in late 2012. For 2013 he sold 20 airplanes, not bad for a start-up year (adding to his other business of building aircraft for customers). In 2014, he sold 40 Aerolites. Now, flush with orders following airworthiness approval in Germany earned by his dealer in that country, Vierwerk, he is forecasting 60 Aerolites for 2015. "That is my current maximum capacity," Dennis related, and that's before he potentially starts offering a four-stroke-powered model. Another vendor, Chip Erwin of Aeromarine-LSA, is seeing more interest in his Zigolo (video) and he has an all-new electric propulsion unit to offer for it; I'll have more on that later. Plus, he plans to offer not one but two single place aircraft with a four-stroke engine that he says is singular.

Another fixed wing Part 103 ultralight I'll write when the project is complete is from Kolb, with their novel concept for removing the fear of taildragger flying in an upcoming new version of their Part 103 Firefly (video). Watch for more on that aircraft, too.

Evolution Trikes makes the super-deluxe Revo and now this new Rev, a Part 103 ultralight available starting at only $17,900.
Not left out of the mix, weight shift trike producers are showing better staying power than powered parachute producers that have become a bit thin ... Powrachute is still going strong but many others are curiously quiet. Powrachute, with the fanciest carriages in the business, has created a sideline of producing trike hardware for Evolution Trikes, and they all exhibit some of the finest metalwork in light aviation with numerous special features you rarely see on even the better fixed wing aircraft. Evolution showed their newest aircraft as promised at Sebring earlier this year.

Called Rev, I plan a full story on this trike as it is so unique that a paragraph cannot do it justice. When you read that story later this week, you'll see what we examined at Sun 'n Fun ... the strangest-looking contraption imaginable, until you realize its purpose. Rev — shortened from Revo, their super-deluxe trike that I consider the Cadillac or Mercedes of weight shift trikes — is a single place Part 103 machine that can go from flying to ready to roll into a trailer in six minutes, by a single person. We saw and videoed them doing precisely that. It's an amazing construction that, like their Revo, seems to leave no detail unconsidered.

I look forward to tell you more about Rev, a surprisingly complete machine with a modest and affordable starting price of only $17,900; in typical Evolution Trike style, they allow you plenty of options as you may wish.

Fly Hard's SkyCycle used a custom 15-layer-deep airbrush paint job to attempt winning its ninth-in-a-row award at Sun 'n Fun.
Thinking of highly detailed aircraft for modest prices, we also looked at and videoed the Fly Hard SkyCycle (earlier video) showing the most stunning paint job I saw any where on the grounds of Sun 'n Fun. Mike Theeke's SkyCycle on display was an out-and-out effort to win — get this! — his ninth award in as many years at the show. What do you do when you've already won eight awards in eight years? Well, you're seeing it in the nearby photo and this machine is also Part 103 and costs less than you might think ... although not with the 15-layer-deep airbrushed paint job. You see the nose cowl where the quality was easiest to photograph, but the same treatment was executed on the wheelpants, engine parts, and even the BRS parachute canister. Combined with metal-flake finish on the wingstruts, the appearance was nothing short of stunning.

On the opposite end of Part 103 in light aviation, here come the Light GA or LSA 4.0 airplanes, four seaters from LSA producers that are building like an ocean wave. In between, we see continued strength in Light-Sport Aircraft and you will read more about some of these in the days ahead and watch for new videos in the weeks ahead. Despite a still-recovering world economy, some years after the recession supposedly ended, global light aviation is doing remarkably well, in my opinion. I follow the light aircraft industry as closely as I can and I see it as healthy and vibrant though more sales and less interference would both be welcome.

A brief explanation ... Some readers sent email asking why — after we spoiled you with daily articles before and during Aero — our reporting seemed to stop. It's a reasonable question. The main culprit was the back-to-back scheduling of two major airshows, one in Germany and one in Florida. I simply ran out of time to collect and organize photos, then sit and write articles. I wish the two events would have cut us a bit more slack but so it goes. The second reason is our attention to video shooting at Sun 'n Fun plus several meetings with FAA. Videos now form one of our most important content types and we were in constant motion at Sun 'n Fun shooting 30 or more fresh videos that you'll be seeing shortly. Every remaining minute was full working on behalf of the light aircraft industry and at the end of 14-hour days, I had no energy to also write and post. The good news ... I'm back at my desk and will crank out articles as quickly as possible. THANKS for your loyal readership (and viewership)!

Bulldog Autogyro Revives a Rich, Stylish History
By Dan Johnson, April 17, 2015

Update 4/29/15 — See our just-posted video interview with Bulldog Autogyro developer Barry Jones for even more information about this airplane that has captured so much attention.

Developer Barry Jones poses alongside his distinctive Bulldog Autogyro.
In the eleven magical halls of Aero, airplanes are packed into every nook and cranny. Because of the focus of ByDanJohnson.com, most of my time was spent in the "B" halls where B-1 through B-4 are exclusively the realm of light aircraft ... a few kits but primarily ready-to-fly aircraft in a variety of descriptions. These include fixed wings and amphibians, gyrocopters, weight shift trikes, and even a few drones plus all manner of components like props, wheels, emergency parachutes, and more. About the only categories missing from the LSA segment of aviation are powered parachutes or airships.

A few light aircraft are located in the "A" halls, partly due to available space being taken in the "B" halls and possibly as those vendors prefer to be on the GA side of the event. Most of the avionics, headset, and traditional aircraft companies are in the "A" side and some light aircraft manufacturers may see those buyers as their primary market. This is especially true for more costly aircraft or those that exceed the U.S. LSA category by virtue of having retractable landing gear and in-flight adjustable props.

To cover everything in the light space I made my way around all the halls. Via numerous conversations I was encouraged to visit the exhibit of a radial-engined autogyro. I had my doubts because this seemed outside my usual focus and interest. However, once I came upon Bulldog Autogyro's distinctive and artful display, I realized this was an attraction that easily drew the eye. Perhaps you will find it as fascinating as did I.

Let's clarify. This is not Auto Gyro, the largest producer of modern gyroplanes. Neither is Bulldog a conventional gyroplane. It is an autogyro, meaning the classic taildragging, engine-in-front, more conventional airplane-looking, rotary-winged aircraft. One of the most well-known autogyros is the Pitcairn, a version that uses stubby conventional wings in addition to rotor blades. Bulldog further breaks the mold using no fixed wings.

Why pursue such a project in a age when we have many handsome gyroplanes? A proud Brit', developer and company leader Barry Jones (seen in top photo) expressed his original goal, "For those that wish to own an aircraft of magnificent beauty, our Bulldog Autogyro pays homage to decades of British aircraft design and the iconic elegance of yesteryear."

A very interesting and well-spoken fellow, Barry is a longtime military helicopter pilot who is well aware of modern gyroplanes but saw a niche and a way to show his pride in the rich tradition of British aviation. After leaving the military, he sought to pursue his dream and has done so with a panache and style not commonly seen in aviation. He chose a big round engine mounted in front of a sleek composite fuselage with a fashionable interior ending in an arcing rotor mast.

Why create such a graceful curved mast? Is it yet another feature to distinguish this unique aircraft. Yes and no. No, in that it is not just art, though it has that quality. Yes, in that it has real merit from a safety standpoint. Barry observed, "All helicopters and autogyros with tail sections to position a tail rotor or rudder to the rear of the aircraft can suffer from incidents when a rotor blade strikes the tail section. Through the Bulldog's design, we have been able to completely remove this threat to pilots."

Barry Jones' concept is a machine one flies for the sheer joy of it. Going fast is not the objective, a reason he selected wide chord rotor blades among other design decisions. His mission to preserve an period of aviation history in a modernized aircraft should attract discerning buyers. I overheard some fellow journalists saying this was an airplane for classic car enthusiast types and that may be a fair characterization. Barry isn't expecting to make thousands of these but he is expecting to make an impression on his buyers. He certainly made an impression on me and many others that often crowded around the airplane.

For a first build, Bulldog Autogyro as displayed at Aero 2015 looked terrific. Most prototypes are not so well finished. Barry has engaged several premium vendors such as a Formula I race car producer to help with the composite and a professional designer to create a fine vintage leather interior.

Barry expects to fly the Bulldog Autogyro in July 2015, just about as EAA AirVenture Oshkosh is beginning. I promised to keep watching and after he has some flying footage we may combine some of those scenes with the video interview I shot with him at Aero. Watch for it.

Radial Engine Specifications:

  • Engine Manufacturer — Rotec Radial Engines
  • Configuration — 9 Cylinder Four Stroke Radial Engine of 3600 cc displacement
  • Rated Power — 150 horsepower @ 3600 rpm
  • Recommended Fuel — 100LL Avgas or High Octane Mogas
  • Fuel Consumption — 27 liters per hour or 7.13 gallons per hour
  • Configuration — Air cooled (no radiator); Dual ignition with dual spark plugs

Exciting Development Projects at Aero 2015
By Dan Johnson, April 16, 2015

Aero is such an interesting event for many reasons. Among the most significant of these are the large number of aircraft introductions or the newest development projects one discovers in the vast gymnasium-sized halls ... eleven of them in total. It can be hard to cover all the square meters, which although not as enormous as giant outdoor American shows, are nonetheless so packed with aircraft that one gets sensory overload before you've seen them all.

The world premiere of BlackWing was such a project. Here is the first light aircraft I've seen from Sweden; others may exist but I'm not aware of them. This sleek speedster uses the ubiquitous Rotax 912 to achieve what they state as stunning speeds up to 400 kilometers per hour (250 mph or 217 knots) and this from only 100 horsepower! Of course, this won't work as a Light-Sport Aircraft but BlackWing is LSA in size and concept other than its blazing speed. She's lovely and steadily drew a crowd.

Across the way — the convention center housing Aero is two rows of giant halls, an "A" and "B" side — was the equally speedy Swiss airplane called Risen. Later we hope to put up a video interview I did with developer and company chief Alberto Porto. Risen is also aimed at the European microlight market that allows qualities not permitted on a U.S. Light-Sport. As Alberto explained, designers must achieve a maximum stall speed while keeping weight within the 472.5 kilogram limit (1,040 pounds), which number includes an airframe parachute that nearly all have because they are required in Germany.

Risen has the works all as standard equipment Alberto described: retractable gear, in-flight adjustable prop, power-opening canopy, a brilliant implementation of Fowler flaps that seem to extend forever, 48-inch-wide cockpit, three-screen Dynon SkyView, autopilot, all carbon fiber, emergency parachute, luxury interior, and I'm surely leaving something unsaid. Of course, you can expect to pay for all this, to the tune of about 200,000 euros. Yet if you want maxed out performance for the class, Risen maybe it.

Pipistrel made its usual splash showing their WattsUp electric powered trainer model, now renamed Alpha Electro conforming to the naming convention used on their previously electric Taurus Electro motorglider. Alpha was introduced as their low-priced entry as we saw in the USA a few years back. Now, they've installed an electric motor and easily-removed batteries in the compartment that otherwise holds the Rotax 912 they use on most other models and on gasoline-powered Alphas.

The Alpha Electro concept is that you fly basic flight training at or near the home field. It can make about an hour's flying on the batteries of today, but those cells can recharge in 45 minutes, plus a very wide prop aids regeneration of the batteries as you descend for landing with the now windmilling prop pushing charge back to the cells. Upon completing the training flight, a technician replaces one set of batteries with another and back up the airplane can go. Pricing is about 120,000 euros so flight schools may see merit to using electric power for instructional flights. On a video my journalist friend James Lawrence talks about his planned travel to check out this capability. Watch for it later.

Alpha Electro is here now, but I found another electric airplane project that I was tempted to pass by as merely a concept that might go nowhere. However, it was simply too impressive so I spent some time talking with principal developer and current airline pilot, David De Ridder. He and his team have formed Green Tech to develop Ypselon. My visual fascination with the project stopped me, but it was David's reasonable, honest-sounding approach that drew me in fully. He's not blowing smoke about when this can happen, giving dates of 2017 and 2019 for finalized development and reaching the market.

Like Alpha Electro, Ypselon is an electric pure play but unlike the Electro's training mission, Ypselon is aimed at the recreational user who wants a performer. Seating is tandem with even the aft seat occupant able to see down in front of the wing. Using electric power, a rear prop doesn't need a driveshaft as from a gas engine so the design can be incredibly clean. Though it will be some time before we see more, David says he has funding to proceed and as I've long maintained, the most exciting electric-powered aircraft are coming from the light end of aviation where they are possible today. I'll keep an eye on this one!

Going even further into the fuzzy future, I discovered another "wow" project from ScaleWings. If that name sounds vaguely familiar to you it may be because you remember the mind-boggling FK-51 project reported earlier (video) that makes a highly authentic P-51 lookalike that can fit both European microlight or U.S. LSA categories. Indeed, Hansen Air Group is awaiting their own FK-51; it won't be available by Sun 'n Fun, but look for it at Oshkosh and prepare to spend serious time looking over this amazing production.

Since that aircraft is coming to reality, the flying car project the ScaleWings designer showed at Aero caught my attention. One problem I have with most roadable aircraft is that they must leave their folded wings still exposed to road rash while in auto mode. That worries many folks so when I saw the ScaleWings SW91 Aeros project I got it. This surprising project employs six rotors four of which pivot back inside the car body for road use, thus no wings are exposed to that dump truck with its load of rocks. It seems pretty far out and may never get to market but the idea is certainly intriguing.

Beringer's final version Anti-Ground Loop Tail Wheel is available in two sizes.
Back down to Earth comes the final form of Beringer's Anti-Ground Loop tailwheel concept. I've written about this earlier and it is a superbly simple way for a pilot to avoid the dreaded situation of the tail wanting to get sideways during landing (if you do not keep the rudder moving to hold the taildragger straight enough). The idea was correct before but now the company — celebrating its 30th anniversary this year — displayed the final version in two sizes.

I shot a video with Beringer front person Claire Beringer at Aero and we'll hope to get that up in the future, but the final iteration is even more elegant than the original solution. They've now completed their typically gorgeous hardware to make the tailwheel a cantilevered construction (photo). This company has made inroads throughout the aviation spectrum from LSA to Cirrus and beyond. If you love the idea of taildragger flying but feared the ground looping potential, Beringer's AGL Tail Wheel can relieve your concern while yet preserving the ability to pivot around within a wingspan, through a cockpit control that unlocks the tailwheel for full swiveling but holding it to a small motion for takeoff and landing. Good job, Beringer!

First Flight of Flight Design's Four Seat C4
By Dan Johnson, April 15, 2015

Aero 2015 is open! The halls are full of shiny airplanes displayed with the usual European sense of style and panache. Visitors are backed up at the entry gates awaiting the official opening time. (We sneaky media journalists are allowed in earlier to get photos and begin interviews with vendors.) It is a great event, for Europe and for aviation.

I already have some airplanes in mind for reporting, both brand-new designs and the sort you never see in the USA. I will aim to prepare coverage of some of them and report as soon as time permits. Yet first, I want to talk about a project that is equally exciting.

I refer to the Flight Design project aimed at the general aviation world, that is, of airplanes with more seats than allowed in the LSA space ... in addition to more speed, more weight, and other capabilities. I have mentioned the C4 but in this article I have more for you. As noted in earlier articles, although C4 is not a Light-Sport or light kit, it is created by a company that earned built its brand in the LSA space so I consider it relevant for ByDanJohnson.com readers. It's also expected to be (relatively) affordable, so it fits that way as well.

On April 9th, Flight Design flew their C4 that has been in development since 2008. After a period of discussions, preliminary engineering studies, and the beginning of CAD work to create this new machine, C4 began to take shape in about 2011. While the company once thought it could fly in 2014, they got involved with a "safety box" project (basically, "crush zone" engineering for airplanes as we've seen in automobiles for years) and this worthy diversion swallowed some of the time intended to put C4 in the air. The company backed up and took another run, more recently promising to get airborne before the Aero 2015 show ... and they achieved their goal, with about four days to spare.

"C4 really performed as expected," reported Tom Peghiny, President of Flight Design USA, importer of the German company's products and test flight director for the C4 development. For the 55-minute flight, Peghiny flew alongside the C4 non-conforming prototype in a Cessna 172 chase plane. "It appeared and test pilot Damian Hischier confirmed that the C4 is stable about all axes."

Hischier also reported, "The spiral stability of C4 is good and its directional stability is good." While noting that engine operating temperatures were acceptable he acknowledged that further work may be necessary for operations in the hottest climates. "But don't change a thing aerodynamically," Hischier said supportively. Engine temperatures will be remedied primarily with cowl changes focused on cooling, yet Flight Design is pleased with the Continental IO-360-AF engine that performed very well.

all photos and video courtesy of Flight Design

"Flight Design engineers can work on reducing some friction in the controls," Hischier noted, "but leave the rest alone." Most prototype airplanes go through refinements after the initial flight verifications even while most of the group working to achieve the first flight were pleased that the new airplane performed so well.

"We observed the C4 accelerate away from the C-172 chase plane during simulated approaches to landing and in simulated go-arounds," commented Peghiny, observing from the Cessna. "I could also see that during the 30 degree bank turns the test pilot needed no control correction and he reported that pitch forces were light," added Peghiny. "The plane appeared to be on rails, it looked very stable. Damian said he was comfortable getting close to us for the photos and videos shot during the maiden flight." On board avionics are supplied by Garmin with the G3X Touch augmented with TSO analog instruments. Garmin has become a vital partner to Flight Design as C4 moves forward.

"Very few first flights proceed through the entire test card," explained flight director Peghiny. "Yet we completed all of the points permitted under the EASA-established Flight Conditions as specified in our initial Permit to Fly authorization."

Flight Design C4 First Flight Preliminary Data & Impressions:

  • Fight Configuration — Flaps set at 10 degrees for entire flight and speed limited to 105 knots
  • Maneuvers Performed — Max 30 degrees bank; approach to stalls, power off; approach to landing with go-arounds
  • Observed Flight Qualities, Stability — Good directional and spiral stability
  • Observed Flight Qualities, Handling — Good overall harmony and characteristics
  • Observed Flight Qualities, Other — Easy to takeoff and land; low noise; engine temps acceptable
  • General Performance — Very good compared to Cessna 172, even with 10 degrees flaps

In this short (80-second) video you can see a few scenes from C4's first flight, compliments of Flight Design and shot by Tom Peghiny:

First Glimpses of Aero’s Interesting Aircraft
By Dan Johnson, April 14, 2015

Though looking rather lonely in a nearly-empty immense hall — one of several at Aero — the Van's Aircraft display appears all ready, days before opening.
The great halls of Aero are beginning to be populated with aircraft, even as most of the gymnasium-sized spaces remain significantly empty. It was only Monday and the show does not open until Wednesday, so with common airshow nonchalance ... "Oh, plenty of time remains." After being an airshow regular for more years than I care to count — several decades' worth — the situation is par for the course. Even the night before a show opens, the exhibit area appears in a state of pandemonium. Year after year, I can see no way it could all come together in time for the first day when the entry gates are unlocked, yet when the sun rises on opening day, sure enough, nearly everything seems in place, people are streaming in, vendors are dressed in airshow logowear and are ready to talk airplanes or flying gear. It never ceases to amaze me.

So, with a whole two days yet remaining, Aero's nearly empty halls are not a major surprise. Airplanes will be trailered or hand towed into position, displays will be finished, literature will be set out for the taking (at least for those that haven't gone virtual with electronic-only "hand-outs," as is becoming increasingly common), the protected plastic sheeting will be removed from the carpets, and visitors will never know the chaos that reigned only hours before. The magic of airshows is about to begin again.

The following photos were taken of airplanes already in position. Their show mates will soon surround them but for a Monday, these images grabbed my attention either for their distinctive features or their eye-catching paint jobs. Enjoy!

One final component of the pre-airshow rush are those airplanes that are latter stages of development, some completed barely enough to be made ready for display to show futuristic concepts and others nearer to production as defined by their maiden voyage aloft.

One of the latter was the Flight Design four seat, to-be-certified C4 (see bottom photo) ... from the company that still leads the fleet with more LSA flying than any other producer (their CT series).

Posing proudly for my camera in their casual set-up garb, later to be replaced with business suits and such, the Flight Design team was carefully positioning their non-conforming prototype C4 that had just taken its first flight a few days before following years of planning, fabrication, assembly, and careful preflighting. This is no mockup; it is the real flying machine. I'll have more about this and other developments as the show blossoms into mature airshow stage with immense hall after hall full of airplanes and flight hardware and software of every description. Aero is one of Europe's largest aviation events and always finds a way to be interesting and relevant. I am sure 2015 will prove to be no different but the only way you will know is to attend or click back for more details day after day.

Atol LSA Seaplane Makes Maiden Flight
By Dan Johnson, April 13, 2015

First flight for the renewed and upgraded Atol LSA seaplane! all photos courtesy Atol Avion
"This was my best birthday present. All went well with no surprises," reported an excited Anssi Rekual, sales manager and front man for the Finland-based builder of the LSA seaplane called Atol. An airline pilot today, Anssi added, "I have only one year to go with Finnair and then I can focus fully on Atol."

The head of design and company CEO, Markku Koivurova flew for 26 minutes and reported that aircraft was easy and convenient to fly and everything worked normally. Approach to stall and slow flight characteristics were tested on Atol registered in Finland as OH-XNA followed by a perfect landing. Markku flew at Rovaniemi international airport (EFRO) at the Arctic Circle.

Speaking on behalf of the Atol team, Anssi was relating news that the reborn Atol took its maiden flight on Tuesday, April 9, 2015, just in time for the company to have significant bragging rights at the German Aero Friedrichshafen show set to open in two more days. I am already present at the convention hall attending ASTM meetings that occur before the show opens.

Congratulations to Anssi and his team from Atol Aviation, Ltd.!

Earlier Atol completed its water testing without taking flight.
I use the term "reborn" because Atol is not a new design, unlike several other exiting new LSA seaplanes in various stages of development. In 1984, designer Markku Koivurova started development of Atol, then a wood composite amphibious aircraft. The original model's first flight happened 27 years ago in August of 1988 in Rovaniemi, Finland. The first flight on water was achieved a few months later off nearby Lake Norvajärvi on October 20th.

Martekno Finland, Ltd., began production of the original model in 1990 and the first deliveries were made in 1991.

Leap forward twenty years to 2011, Atol AvionAtol Avion, Ltd., was established. Anssi explained, "I contacted Markku then and talked him into restarting the business. It took four years to complete the design changes, build a prototype and redo all drawings after completing fresh calculations needed for certificates." He explained that Atol Avion is a small group with modest funding. "We have on average three hired staff and mostly just our own savings to use."

The refreshed group began building a new prototype with a longer fuselage and numerous other changes. "The manufacturing technology of the structure and systems and the level of aircraft finish has been further improved," Anssi related. "Design of the engine cowling and fuselage extension has been refined. The nose, canopy and upper fuselage are redesigned for optimal aerodynamics and to reduce twirling in the tail." Admirably, and despite all the recent changes made to the refreshed design, Atol Avion promised to continue to support Atol aircraft manufactured by the first Martekno organization.

Preparing for flight at dawn near the Arctic Circle.
That pioneering Atol model was and is sold in Europe as a ultralight or microlight kit with a gross weight of 495 kilograms or 1,090 pounds. Now conforming to the ASTM standards using the 1,430 pound (650 kg) weight for seaplanes, Anssi said, "Our Atol 650 LSA is converted from Markku's original by extending the fuselage by a meter and redesigning cockpit area and engine installation. Basic material is still wood composite but fibers, including carbon fiber, has been used also and all details have been updated."

Find a full description and specifications for the revised and upgraded Atol here.

Atol Avion reports that they have also sold three planes and will deliver those to clients this summer. "We have also confirmed a financial program that enables us to now totally focus on assembly," Anssi wrote. Tapping into modern social media methods, he continued, "We are opening a crowdfunding process to finance our production, so all aviators and wannabes can buy a share or two of Atol Avion, Ltd." He said the company will add more about the fund raising effort on their homepage soon!

Just in time for popular European show, Anssi communicated, "We got our first Atol Mobile Hangar trailer and are packing the aircraft in it and will soon begin our trip to Friedrichafen!"

Packed in the Atol Mobile Hangar, the team begins the drive to the Aero show in southern Germany.
Ever the gentleman, Anssi asked to give credit where due. "Our technical office team is composed of two Bachelors of Science degree holders with majors in aeronautical engineering plus two students. They made huge progress with certifications and establishing connections with EASA, FAA and Trafi (Finnish aviation authorities). We have been lucky to also have a group of great aviators who have given their expertise and knowledge without compensation" He was quick to add, "Not to forget two great ladies, Sinikka Koivurova and Pia Rekula have backed us and allowed all late nights to be spent to finish Atol 650."

Atol 650 is presently en route to Friedrichafen, Germany in the far south border of the country where visitors can see the freshly flown aircraft.

Dynon’s “Pocket” EFIS Now Has a Lower Price
By Dan Johnson, April 11, 2015

If you love Light-Sport Aircraft or light kit aircraft, odds are you love Dynon Avionics. This company, almost single-handedly, changed the game of glass cockpits for airplanes that cost a a fraction of most new general aviation aircraft. The company has acted like a Silicon Valley tech company meaning that it moves at Internet speed. Other avionics companies have been challenged to keep up with the Dynon dynamo.

Based in Woodinville, Washington, Dynon Avionics began business in January of 2000 with the development of the D10 EFIS, which began shipping in March 2003 to a warm reception. One of the cool early installations of a D10 system was on the Space Ship One, the first private aircraft to reach outer space. The company was founded John Torode, a former tech executive and a pilot who keeps a couple seaplanes docked in front of his home on Lake Washington.

As so often happens in the field of electronics, Dynon's nifty little "pocket" EFIS, has taken a price tumble. Better stuff; lower price ... what's not to keep loving about Dynon?

Officially name D2 Pocket Panel Portable EFIS, the wee — one inch thick by three and a half inch — mini-glass panel comes with WiFi and a G-meter. List price drops to $1,095 from $1,495, a 27% discount that will allow more pilots to, as Dynon put it, "add a modern, affordable backup safety device to supplement their often unreliable legacy certified instrumentation."

"D2 is the only self-contained attitude indicator that is truly portable," said Michael Schofield, Dynon's marketing manager. D2 features the same AHRS (attitude heading reference system) system as their larger-screen Dynon SkyView EFIS used in so many LSA and kit aircraft. "An internal receiver provides GPS ground speed, altitude, vertical speed, and ground track," Mike said, and "a G-meter display page shows a graphical round dial with the current G-load factor indicated by a needle." D2 also records and displays the minimum and maximum Gs since being reset by the pilot.

Here's another interesting feature of this tiny gizmo: D2's WiFi delivers attitude, ground speed, altitude, Gs, and ground track to iPads and Android tablets, all in real time. Apps such as WingX Pro7, Seattle Avionics FlyQ, iHUD Remote, and Air Navigation Pro can show such info on compatible devices, according to Dynon.

Installing D2 demands no tools, important for operators of Type Certified GA aircraft that cannot bolt stuff on without FAA approval. Stick it to a window by suction cup or clamp it into a vacant panel hole formerly occupied by an analog dial. D2 has an internal, rechargeable lithium-ion battery lasting 4-8 hours in typical use, the company said.

For those with the glorious SkyView panel-mount glass in one of two sizes, Dynon said a SkyView 12.2 software update will release in late April. The upgraded software will include fresh code for SkyView's SV-XPNDR-261 transponder, adding support for the ADS-B+ data format required to use the Garmin GTN and GNS (WAAS versions) IFR navigators as a GPS position source for FAA 2020 ADS-B mandate compliance credit.

Spy Cam’ Catches Flight Design C4 in Taxi Test
By Dan Johnson, April 10, 2015

Flight Design's nearly-ready-for-flight four seat C4 seen in taxi testing.
We are heading into a weekend with a couple wonderful airshows immediately ahead. The dry spell since Sebring is over and Aero Friedrichshafen in Germany starts next week — preceded by meetings of the ASTM committee that writes the LSA standards. A couple days after Aero ends, Sun 'n Fun starts. Whew! This is a tight schedule but what could be more enjoyable than going to airshows and finding lots of new airplanes about which to write and shoot new videos. I hope you'll click back regularly to see the latest.

Meanwhile I have some fun bits of news to report here. Perhaps the best is that we obtained "spy photos" of Flight Design taxi testing their C4 in anticipating of their first flight (more below). Plus, Van's Aircraft, the world's largest producer of kit aircraft, set a new record. Let's get started.

Flight Design has been at work on their four seater C4 for several years and it is finally nearing conclusion. We expect to have news of the first flight very soon. The aircraft is a spacious four seater with three doors, the aft of which was planned to be a rear-hinging door. Sometimes called a "coach door" the configuration should make for much easier entry to the rear seat, however, for safety the aft door cannot be opened without opening the front door. Performance is expected to substantially exceed a Cessna 172 while using less fuel and selling for $150,000 less than a new Skyhawk. C4 is powered by Continental Motor's newly certified IO-360-AF, and alternative fuel engine.

AeroJones President Jones Chen (L) shown with Flight Design GmbH CEO, Matthias Betsch (C) and Flight Design USA President, Tom Peghiny (R).
Flight Design was recently in the news for their new factory in China that is currently preparing to build CTLS Light-Sport Aircraft. They are currently working with the CAAC (China's FAA) to obtain what is called Type Design Approval (TDA).

"Now that AeroJones has completed building four prototypes culminating in a fully conforming article, they can begin the effort for serial production," explained Christian Wenger, a director of Flight Design in Germany. He added, "AeroJones's manufacturing work builds on an organization foundation by Daniel Guenther and Andrey Yavniy of Flight Design. "Andrey was the man who doubled Ukraine production [of CT LSA] during 2005 to 2007 with more than 250 aircraft delivered in 2007."

"AeroJones parent company GSEO, based in Taiwan, has worked in China for 20 years building high-tech optical products," said Flight Design CEO Matthias Betsch. "GSEO customers are known as very demanding buyers who go to great lengths to assure vendors match design quality. GSEO President Jones Chen brought his experience and his passion for aviation into AeroJones."

"In cooperation with the province of Jiangsu, AeroJones is breaking ground on a 250,000 square foot, brand-new production facility based in Changzhou," added Betsch. AeroJones will produce airframes for the Light-Sport CTLS as well as Flight Design's four seat C4.

Now, for something completely different ... Just today Van's Aircraft reported a first-flight report from Mr. Thomas Damm, of Billund, Denmark. "Thomas' RV-8 became the 9,000th RV kit to be completed and flown by a customer," exclaimed Van's.

"Mr. Damm bought the barely-started kit from a close friend and completed it over a span of nine years." Thomas flies airlines for Scandinavian SAS and made his first flight on April 8, 2015. "On the first flight I saw 170 knots at 5,000 feet at [less than full power]. You guys produce great airplane kits," Tom wrote to Van's Aircraft.

The folks in Van's Aircraft's engineering department, obviously very pleased by reaching this benchmark, assembled a few of what they called "thought pictures." They noted that assuming an average wingspan of 27 feet with no gaps, 9,000 RV aircraft parked wingtip to wingtip would form a line of aircraft 46 miles long ... and, a rectangular grid of airplanes would be roughly 2,788 feet by 2,362 feet that, with a couple inches of space between wingtips, would cover about 151 acres ... and, assuming an average of 180 horsepower per RV, the total fleet of 9,000 aircraft would generate 1,620,000 horsepower.

That should power you through the weekend.

BREAKING NEWS! — On April 9th, Flight Design successfully flew their C4 in a 40-minute initial flight that reportedly went very well, with the C4 at reduced throttle outrunning a Cessna 172 chase plane at full throttle. I'll have more as soon as the company releases it. Congratulations to the whole Flight Design team!

Glasair’s Merlin LSA Takes First Flight
By Dan Johnson, April 9, 2015

What an amazing day! I heard of — count 'em — no less than three first flights. I don't ever recall getting that kind of news in such a batch, but hooray! More airplanes to report on and more for customers to consider for their flying enjoyment. First up is the Glasair Merlin. I looked at the mockup of this new design at AirVenture 2014 (see video) and now she's flying.

Glasair Aviation announced that their new Light-Sport Aircraft entry named Merlin "took its first flight through the skies above Arlington Municipal Airport Tuesday, April 7, 2015." After many months of development work, the company put the new two seater through a regimen of preflight validation testing that included engine run-up, high-speed taxi, and ground roll lift off. Having completed this important set of tasks the team at Glasair watched as Merlin departed the surface with test pilot Grant Smith at the controls. Merlin's first flight lasted 57 minutes. Grant put the plane through a full test flight profile covering engine reliability, flight control characteristic exploration and conducting standard flight maneuvers.

"While nothing can replace the sheer wonder of witnessing the birth of a child, the introduction and maiden flight of a new airplane design is a close second," said Glasair Development Manager Ted Setzer. Also observing Merlin's first flight was Glasair Aviation engineer, Chuck Hautamaki, and the Glasair Aviation team (photo). "Flight testing will continue throughout the coming weeks," the company said.

Merlin is a composite high-wing, tricycle gear aircraft designed to gain FAA acceptance based upon ASTM standards. Using a Rotax 912iS engine with Dynon's Skyview glass-panel avionics, Glasair designed Merlin to adapt an optional BRS parachute system. The SLSA will also be the company's first FAA-approved aircraft; it does not require kit assembly as do all other Glasair designs.

"Our goal was to design an LSA with exceptional flying characteristics, performance, great visibility, aesthetically pleasing lines with easy access," said Chuck Hautamaki. Merlin's cockpit is a 45 inches wide with side-by-side seating. As I saw in the mockup visibility forward and to the side is very good. "Merlin has one of the largest windshields in the entire LSA fleet," said Glasair.

Pictured L-R: Jarrett Speith, Coby Young, Ted Setzer, Chuck Hautamaki, and Harol Rosales. all photos courtesy Glasair Aviation
"Merlin LSA fits perfectly into our product line, rounding out a rich history of successful product launches that started in 1980 with the revolutionary Glasair," said Ted Setzer. More recently, Glasair has brought Sportsman and Sportsman Diesel to join the original Glasair speedster. The company was founded in 1979 as Stoddard-Hamilton Aircraft and has been a world leader in kit-plane manufacturing for 35 years. The company was acquired in 2012 by Hanxing Group based in Jilin City, Jilin Province, China.

Congratulations to Glasair's whole team for getting Merlin airborne in a few months of work since we saw her first debuted as a mockup at Oshkosh last year.

Readers will want to return soon as I report two more important first flights. I bet you can't guess what they are but you will know very soon.

eAirplanes at Aero 2015 Plus Major Motor News
By Dan Johnson, April 8, 2015

photos by Jan Fridrich, LAMA Europe
With Aero mere days away now, excitement is growing for the electric aircraft event-within-the-event. Visitors can tour around the entry foyer hall where the e-flight-expo will be located. This year offers a few highlights, provided to me from my publisher friend Willi Tacke in Germany.

One aircraft not many Europeans and even fewer Americans have seen is the Chinese RX1E made by the Liaoning Ruixiang General Aircraft Manufacturing Company. An electric motorglider, RX1E earned its CAAC Type Design Approval (TDA) earlier this year using ASTM standards (article). Willi reported, "The Chinese team lead by chief developer Professor Dr. Yang Fengtian is now seeking certification in other countries such as Germany or France.

Some companies will not be attending not because their projects have stopped but because they are at critical junctions. Among those missing will be the Volocopter from e-Volo nor any man-carrying aircraft display by Yuneec — which last year showed their eSpyder that had just won German approval. However, the company will be present with their drone/UAV models and their electric powered skateboards, the latter seen at AirVenture 2013.

Martin Stepanek from the Czech company Phoenix will show his electric powered Phoenix motorglider. This lovely aircraft has been sold successfully in the USA by Jim Lee but we have not seen the electric version on this side of the Atlantic. Fortunately, you can catch our video on it.

Willi wrote, "A newcomer at the e-flight-expo is Chip Erwin from Florida. His company Aeromarine-LSA has developed a new light electric drive with a new brushless motor. He uses this device to power the Italian tube and fabric ultralight, Zigolo." Chip told Willi that his new motor weigh 6 kilos (13 pounds) and has up to 30 kW (40 horsepower). That ought to make this super lightweight aircraft perform amazingly well.

"The global market leader of gyrocopters, AutoGyro, will show, like last year, its joint venture with Bosch General Aviation," reported Willi. "This project is supported by the EU and shall research if and how e-motorization will be possible for gyros with their higher need of power compared to fixed wing planes." Bosch is adapting components for aviation that were previously used in automobiles. See our AutoGyro Video Pilot Report here.

The biggest news in this category is the aviation market entry by a megacorporation, Siemens (2014 revenue: $98 billion). "Siemens is choosing a different way to enter, compared to Bosch," wrote Willi. "In 2011 Siemens started a program to become a supplier of motors, because the company is confident of a future market for hybrid electric motor devices for planes with two to 100 seats. A Siemens division based in Erlangen, Germany has been working with miscellaneous aviation manufacturers of general aviation aircraft and airliners, for example such companies as Pipistrel and Boeing."

At Aero, Siemens will show a much more powerful electric motor. The company has been testing a 261 kW or 255 continuous horsepower motor that weighs only 50 kilograms (110 pounds). "We will put this motor in the air this year," promised Frank Anton, who is head of aviation development at Siemens and is also responsible for other electric drive systems especially for railways. Siemens is focused not only on the motor but on the full propulsion system: motor, hybrid combustion motor, generator, batteries, and the controls.

Aero has become known to many of us who make the annual pilgrimage as a place where you can find interesting ideas that are not commonly seen at American airshows. The e-flight-expo will be a key element of this but I will attempt to keep readers aware of other interesting developments. Join me as I report from Aero 2015 next week.

Get Ready for 2010 ... the Plane (not the Year)
By Dan Johnson, April 7, 2015

Tecnam has become widely known for its extensive fleet of Light-Sport Aircraft designs (meeting ASTM standards) and for their popular twin-Rotax 912 Twin model (using traditional certification). At Sun 'n Fun 2015, visitors can expect to lay eyes on the P2010 or as Tecnam usually calls it, "P Twenty Ten."

I have told you that ByDanJohnson.com expects to cover Light GA Aircraft — or LSA 4.0, as my journalist pal Marino Boric christened them — in addition to our on-going coverage of Light-Sport Aircraft, light kit-built aircraft, and ultralights including microlights and electric-powered aircraft. You can hardly miss the theme: "light" aircraft but the coverage is meant to be of affordable aircraft brands this website often covers — and is supported by — including all American and international producers of LSA.

As you look at the photos in this article and compare them with the P2008 (bottom photo), you see the resemblance clearly. One evolved from the other. "P" refers to Pascale, specifically Professor Luigi Pascale, the 90-year-old designer of all Tecnam aircraft, a diminutive but impressive man who I am told still does the test flying of his latest and greatest. His output is marvelous.

all images courtesy of Tecnam
Today, Tecnam announced that the company will celebrate the first anniversary of its North American facility in Sebring, Florida with the "U.S. debut and special pricing for the P Twenty-Ten, Lycoming IO-360 powered, four-seat aircraft at Sun 'n Fun 2015."

A year ago, at Sun 'n Fun 2014, Tecnam announced establishing a center in a 21,000 square foot hangar and offices at the home airport to the Sebring Affordable Aircraft Expo, the new moniker for what most of us still call the Sebring LSA Expo. "Tecnam's facility serves as showroom, training center, maintenance center, spare parts warehouse and support for the North American sales and service centers," the company said.

At their space at Sun 'n Fun, expect to see P2010, the Twin, and several Tecnam LSA including the high wing P2008 (photo below) and low-wing Astore (video). Another Tecnam will be on display in the LSA Mall in Paradise City.

Tecnam's four seat P2010 looks surprisingly similar to the LSA P2008 model (video).
"P Twenty-Ten is an all-new IFR high wing aircraft that uses a carbon fiber fuselage with a metal wing," Tecnam said. Deliveries have already begun to customers in Europe under an EASA standard type certificate. "The combination of carbon fiber and metal allows for an expansive cabin with three large entry doors without sacrificing the flight qualities of a metal wing." Some ready customers can take advantage of a special offer to order the Garmin G1000-equipped aircraft at substantial savings. List price for the P2010 is $379,500, but the first 10 customers to place an order at Sun 'n Fun will be eligible for a special Sebring-facility anniversary price of $345,000.

Test pilot Peter Collins recently commented, "P Twenty-Ten was genuinely a real pleasure to fly and future owners will be inspired by the aircraft's combination of advanced avionics, very short field performance, exceptional useful load capability and excellent cross-country range."

Tecnam's team, lead by Shannon Yeager, Director of Sales for Tecnam US, can be located at main aircraft display space MD-27 in Lakeland, FL during April 21 to 26, 2015. If you can't wait or want to get your name in line for one of the specially-price P2010s contact Tecnam US at 863-655-2400 or email Tecnam.

A Jet You Can Actually Afford!
By Dan Johnson, April 3, 2015

Be honest with yourself. You always wanted to fly a jet, didn't you? Having your very own jet to rocket around the sky would be so cool, right? C'mon ... who wouldn't love that? The trouble is affording one of the darn things and then paying through the nose to fuel and maintain it.

Well, the good folks at Sonex Aircraft have long prided themselves on (and have achieved the goal of) offering modestly priced airplane kits that the rest of us can afford. How about a jet airpane (kit) for less than many ready-to-fly LSA? Yep, Sonex says "base price" is $130,000 and while that may still be a chunk of change for many, you have to admit it is reasonably affordable as jets go.

Those of you planning to attend Sun 'n Fun 2015 — and I hope that is many of you! — will be able to check out SubSonex JXS-2 Personal Jet and you can catch its first-ever airshow act. You may have seen it fly at their home field of Oshkosh but you ain't seen nothin' yet!

all images courtesy Sonex Aircraft
After being absent since 2006, Sonex Aircraft is returning to Sun 'n Fun with an official exhibitor presence at the 2015 event in Lakeland, Florida. Look for the company's distinctive yellow airplanes in the North East Exhibit area, booth NE-29 where they will have an AeroVee Turbo-powered Sonex Sport Acro along with SubSonex.

The Wisconsin kit manufacturer also plans several forums including one for prospective SubSonex Personal Jet owners (on Friday, April 24th). Check this link for Sonex events plus their forums at Sun 'n Fun 2015.

SubSonex JSX-2 is available as a kit aircraft and the company noted the first seven customer kits were delivered in early 2015, with production slots still open for delivery by year-end. The microjet aircraft is powered by the PBS TJ-100 engine, producing 247 pounds of thrust. It features a larger cockpit, larger instrument panel, fully retractable landing gear, a BRS whole airframe emergency parachute, higher fuel capacity in a rotationally molded cross-linked polyethylene fuel cell, easily removable wings, and a more sculpted and aesthetically pleasing nose section.

Sonex announced that their SubSonex Air Show, flown by renowned performer Bob Carlton, will make its worldwide debut at the 2015 Sun 'n Fun show, saying that Bob is scheduled to perform on Tuesday, April 20th and Sunday, April 26th.

The company said their SubSonex air show routine will feature maneuvers previously unheard of in a jet aerobatic routine. "The SubSonex microjet is capable of speeds of 300 mph," said Bob Carlton, "and can perform all the classic aerobatics, including maneuvers like tailslides, normally considered taboo in a jet. However, it's not just about high speed. With its incredibly wide speed range, the SubSonex can turn tight and stay close so that air show spectators aren't waiting for a turnaround."

Sold only as a quick-build kit, SubSonex includes almost everything required to fly with the exception of avionics and paint. Available options for the JXS-2 include MGL Avionics' iEFIS touchscreen, a Mountain High oxygen system, Aveo PowerBurst LED position and strobe lighting, heated leather upholstery, cabin heat, and a Triton TC 167 enclosed trailer modified to transport the SubSonex. Transition Training is available; contact the company for details.

Electric Flight Events to Advance State-of-the-Art
By Dan Johnson, April 1, 2015

A new season of airshows is about to erupt now that April has arrived. Among all the gasoline-powered aircraft that show visitors can see will be a growing collection of electric aircraft. As I often repeat, the pioneering development of electric propulsion will come first in light aircraft ... at least until batteries go through a major breakthrough in energy density, as today's best cells still weigh far too much for larger aircraft to use them effectively.

First up, in mere days, is the e-flight-expo, organized in cooperation with Flying Pages, the company operated by European publisher Willi Tacke who is well known for his Directory of Leisure Aviation.

Aero officials said "e-flight-expo will again be a major section at Aero Friedrichshafen 2015." They note that as in other industries such as automobiles and drones, electric power continues to gain in importance in the man-carrying aviation sector. "In order to better meet future sustainability requirements in aviation, alternative methods of propulsion are indispensable." As an alternative to conventional propulsion systems, electric propulsion aims to move away from increasingly expensive fossil fuels while also reducing environmental pollution and minimizing noise.

"The 'e' in e-flight stands for ecological, electrical, evolutionary to promote ecological sustainability and progress in aviation," added Aero promoters. In addition to a special exhibition for the e-flight expo, Aero will present dedicated e-flight lectures. "High caliber speakers will talk about the history and development of electric flight."

image courtesy FlyVolt via CAFE
Immediately following Aero starts Sun 'n Fun 2015, making for a stuffed-full month for those of us that need to go to both events. Unfortunately that will exhaust my traveling for a while but otherwise I'd love to attend the CAFE Electric Aircraft Symposium at the very beginning of May.

On May 1st and 2nd, 2015, leading experts from around the globe will head to California — near Sonoma wine country — for the Ninth Annual CAFE Electric Aircraft Symposium or EAS IX. The gathering of electric aircraft engineers and developers represents a major aerospace scientific meeting to discuss and advance technologies pertaining to electrically powered aircraft.

"The diverse, international CAFE EAS faculty of innovators and visionaries will present graduate-level lectures on the latest breakthroughs that are enabling electric aircraft of all types," said CAFE organizers. "This meeting drives the design and building of transformative new aircraft and their propulsion, energy-storage, safety and guidance systems." For those interested in attending, registration is open now but they caution seating is limited.

Eric Raymond's Sunseeker Duo seen in flight, literally covered with solar cells. Get more info about this project in our video.
"All of the ingredients for emission-free flight will be covered, including linkages to EV and driverless car markets, sustainability, solar and wind power, battery breakthroughs, 3D printing, civil and peaceful use of UAVs ('Sky Transit'), nanotechnology, and integration with high speed rail and hyper-loop," said CAFE. "This event will help define the future world of aviation."

The list of speakers includes several known to enthusiasts of light aircraft: Baraby Wainfain, a longtime writer in Kitplanes magazine; Calin Gologan of Electra One fame; Pipistrel engineer Tine Tomazic; and, Eric Raymond, creator of the Sunseeker Duo (nearby photos) and director of Solar Flight Inc.

Among the keynote presentations by an impressive collection of seasoned electric aircraft experts, topics will include:

  • 5X battery breakthrough news from NREL, NTSB, and several universities
  • Highly advanced new aircraft motor designs
  • Swarming sentient and cooperative robots
  • Regional, zero-emissions "Sky Transit" without roads or rails
  • Affordable electric aircraft for general aviation

See how fueling your ePlane can work in this video of the CAFE Electric Aircraft Charging Station:

MVP Traveling to Europe and Touring USA
By Dan Johnson, March 29, 2015

Find additional MVP details in this earlier article.
In the first decade of Light-Sport Aircraft we saw a new model emerge nearly every month; some months brought more than one model. SLSA approvals reached 136 aircraft, most of them land-based aircraft (our SLSA list describes each type).

To general aviation pilots used to a genuinely new aircraft model once a decade or so, this LSA development outpouring was phenomenal. Cirrus SR20 was certified 17 years ago in 1998; how many other all-new GA models can you name since?

By 2015, the torrid pace has slowed for various reasons and now we see more incremental changes on Light-Sport Aircraft, by which I mean new engines, interior changes, new avionics or other features, and so forth. This is much like in the GA world and I see nothing wrong with that, but it is less inspiring than a constant flow of brand-new concepts.

Rushing into this all-new-design gap like a tsunami filling a Pacific atoll are LSA seaplanes. Most storied among them is the A5 but Icon Aircraft has competitors hot on their tail. One of the most versatile of these is MVP, in fact, "Versatile" is literally its middle name.

all images courtesy MVP.aero
Since seeing is believing, we have two solutions for you. One is that MVP is going on tour. The progressive company is going to Boeing Field in Seattle over April 24 and 25, 2015 and to the Palo Alto airport in Silicon Valley May 1 & 2. The company is also traveling across the Atlantic.

MVP.aero (yep, that's the company name) built a static mockup display that is a full size replica of the MVP Model 3 aircraft. "Many of the mockup hull parts and interior cockpit parts are made from the same molds as the upcoming flying prototype," said company officials. They say — and our video shows — the mockup gives you a very close feel as to the dimensions of the aircraft, its cockpit, and the seating. Even the side catwalks — which can be used to move from cockpit to engine or tail while powered down on the water — are functional.

"You are welcome to come and hear about MVP," said MVP.aero. European pilots traveling to Aero Friedrichshafen in Germany can look for MVP representatives in the exhibit building's Foyer East entry hall, space 03B over April 15-18, 2015. [Update March 30] At Aero, the company will have video and information but they are not shipping their mockup.

MVP is a feature laden aircraft, yet many readers may wonder how that's possible given that Icon went to FAA seeking additional weight so they could deliver all the desirable qualities airshow visitors saw on their mockups. How does MVP.aero handle the same matter?

"Putting more features (and weight) on an already weight-restricted airplane literally required a paradigm shift from traditional thinking," said MVP.aero. "This different approach is the key to understanding how we are going to achieve the goals set for the MVP." As observed by company design engineer Mike Van Staagen — the same man who led the Cirrus Vision jet development for several years — "MVP is not an amphibious airplane that has a number of new features added to it. Instead, it is a highly integrated collection of features, pieces, and parts that [join] to become an airplane." Mike's work with the earlier Cirrus SR-series and later the single engine jet project gave him a strong background in doing things differently.

Van Staagen is backed by an impressive team that company founder Darrell Lynds carefully recruited over the recent years. This brain trust put much thought into their MVP.

With training in software and a background as an entrepreneur, MVP.aero president Darrell Lynds (R) also had years of experience with the Searey LSA amphibian. Son Mike Lynds is an A&P and accomplished builder handling digital marketing.
According to company reps, "MVP's most compelling feature is that it transforms into a versatile floating platform." The canopy hinges up and back freeing the nose of the MVP to resemble the front of a familiar bass fishing boat. The design is clever though; even with the canopy open MVP's engine can operate so as to continue to shore, dock, or the next fishing spot. In the canopy-retracted configuration a passenger can step up onto the forward deck to assist in docking or beaching.

MVP's Instrument panel also retracts to allow more maneuvering room and to protect avionics from water damage. Four folding panels that MVP.aero calls the "origami deck" can be deployed in two halves to fully cover the seats of the cockpit, enabling a completely flat floor from the bow to the back of the baggage compartment. "This amazingly big surface on a relatively little airplane is large enough for two people to stretch out and sleep," said Lynds. "Deploying a custom-fitted tent and inflating air mattresses makes spending the night a delight."

MVP's on-the-water manually folding wings are another interesting design creation. "Taxi up close to the marina, shut down the engine, fold the wings, and propel MVP towards a slip using an on-board trolling motor," suggests MVP.aero. "Integrated within the bilge is a useful bow thruster to help make docking a breeze."

Flanking both sides of the MVP are nose-to-tail catwalks that enable movement around the MVP. Done on the water to preflight the engine or inspect the tail and wing control surfaces, MVP.aero said the design is stable enough that both occupants can be on one side without upsetting the seaplane.

The airplane has such unusual features, I recommend this brand-new video to see more:

Exploring LSA 4.0 ... & Other Tecnam Developments
By Dan Johnson, March 27, 2015

Tecnam had a strong year last year with reasonable sales of Light-Sport Aircraft plus larger, certified airplanes into the U.S. market. Around the world, according to the report released by GAMA and confirmed personally by Managing Director Paolo Pascale, Tecnam shipped nearly 200 airplanes in 2014. While ByDanJohnson.com readers are focused on recreational aircraft primarily from LSA and light kit manufacturers, more of these companies are joining Tecnam by preparing to offer what my journalist friend Marino Boric has dubbed "LSA 4.0," meaning four seat LSA-type aircraft.

I am keenly aware that regulars to this website are focused on Light-Sport, light kit aircraft, ultralights — generally, aircraft flown primarily for fun. However, an entire new legacy is being written as producers of those aircraft types are charging ahead into LSA 4.0 aircraft. Since these new aircraft are from brand names well known to me, I intend to cover what I will call "Light GA" as well.

Tecnam is leading this charge with the 2006-era Tecnam Twin that uses two Rotax 912 engines, but they have since gained regulatory approval for their single engine four seater, P2010. (Tecnam models indicate the year the design was initiated.) The company is also going further upscale with a design seating eleven and they are joined by other LSA builders in this goal but we will delve into that story later.

Recently Tecnam reported, "P2006T Twin has successfully achieved certification to enable it to carry passengers for hire." Twin is a four seater, not the larger P2012 Traveler, but they know it is certainly capable of hauling paying passengers (photo). "[We] will promote P2006T Twin for charter and air-taxi usage."

The first Tecnam P2006T Certificate for Passenger Transportation is operated by Russia-based Chelavia. Established in 2003, ChelAvia currently operates nearly 100 Tecnam aircraft and is actively engaged in training commercial pilots for some Russian airlines.

The Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation authorized Chelavia to use its fleet of Tecnam P2006T Twins for commercial activities. This approval enabled Chelavia to add the P2006T to its Air Operator's Certificate to enable it to offer the aircraft for both passenger and airfreight operations.

Khalid Al Khater Thani (L), of Aviation Home with Sheik Thani Al-Thani are the proud owners of the first Middle East-based Tecnam P2010. photo courtesy of Tecnam
In single engine work, Tecnam has also gained approval for its four seat P2010 and recently delivered the first one to a customer. Registered as A7-TBA, the new P2010 joins a range of Tecnam aircraft already in service with Aviation Home, Tecnam's dealer for both the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Other Tecnam models operated by Aviation Home include Astore, P2006T Twin, plus a number of P2002JFs.

Tecnam refers to the four seater as "P Twenty Ten." The sleek aircraft which looks like a big brother to their very similar P2008 LSA model, joins a carbon fiber fuselage with metal wings, stabilator, and rudder (just like P2008). The new aircraft won certification under Europe's EASA CS-23 program that is recognized by FAA for reciprocal Part 23 approval. Tecnam USA said American pilots will be able to examine a P2010 at U.S. airshows in 2015.

However, working on their Twin and P2010 is apparently not enough to keep everyone busy at Tecnam, so they have another fascinating project, this one with NASA in America and involving — get this! — 18 motors! That gives new meaning to the multi-engine rating.

Tecnam's P2006 Twin airframe was selected by NASA for an 18-motor experimental project. Here is some of the out-of-the-box thinking that speculates that an aircraft fitted with a long string of small electric motors can theoretically perform well.

NASA loves its abbreviations and trick phrases so the program is called LEAPtech with LEAP standing for Leading Edge Asynchronous Technology. The aim is reported as being "developing safer, more energy efficient, lower operating cost and greener General Aviation aircraft."

NASA will fit an experimental 31-foot aircraft wing with 18 electric motors placed along the leading edge onto a Tecnam P2006T aircraft frame (photos). The electric motors are powered by lithium iron phosphate batteries. American companies ESAero and Joby Aviation will manufacture and integrate wing and motors on the P2006T airframe. Tecnam said, "Researchers hope to fly the modified Tecnam P2006T piloted X-plane within the next couple years."

Icon Reported Scheduling First 20 A5s for Delivery
By Dan Johnson, March 26, 2015

According to a report in the North Bay (San Francisco) Business Journal, Icon will build its first 20 A5 LSA seaplanes before the end of 2015. Certainly in the LSA space, this can best be described as "much-anticipated event."

At an annual meeting of the Solano Economic Development Corporation, the Business Journal reported, guest speaker Kirk Hawkins of Icon provided an update on the production of the A5. "The first Icon Aircraft production planes are currently undergoing flight verification testing, and 20 of our A5 aircraft are scheduled to roll off the Vacaville production floor in 2015," the Journal quoted. They added that Hawkins said production will follow the completion of construction at the facility in August, 2015.

Icon technicians are photographed building one of the A5 prototypes seen flying in the image above. This work has taken place at the company's Tehachapie facilities.
Earlier the California company reported taking more than 1,250 aircraft deposits, which they said represents nearly $300 million in backlog. "By comparison, Tesla Motors had approximately $100 million in order backlog just prior to its production start," Hawkins noted to the business development group.

More recently a man told me that he had placed an order and was given number 1526 though he could not confirm how the numbering started or advanced. Regardless of the actual order count, Icon has earned bragging rights as the LSA company taking the most orders of any company in the Light-Sport space. Even Cessna didn't quite hit 1,000 Skycatcher orders and that project fizzled before production reached 300 units. For another number comparison (as reported in our 2014 LSA market share report), GAMA has stated that total single engine production worldwide was 986 aircraft in 2014.

Icon's Vacaville, California factory is portrayed in this artist rendering.
"We want to scale our solution, not scale problems that may be found along the way," Hawkins said, as reported by the Business Journal. "That is why we're starting production with only 20 aircraft this year, rising to an estimated 400 deliveries in 2016 and eventually up to approximately 1,000 aircraft annually in the future, as we establish global awareness and a brand presence in the marketplace."

Hawkins told the business development meeting attendees that he sees a "deep and pervasive global interest. Some 30 percent of our customers today are outside the U.S., and there is an aviation gold rush in China equal to that in the States."

Hawkins told the group that Icon presently has 100 employees but that the company expects to ramp up to 500 within the next year and a half. In return for incentives offered by the community, job creation is an activity locals will follow very closely.

Several times I have visited Icon at their headquarters Los Angeles. In 2008 I toured their research and development and initial production facilities in Tehachapi, California. Now, the Journal reported, "In the third quarter of this year, all these functions will be consolidated in Vacaville when [plant] construction activities are completed."

Along with many others, I wish Icon well at starting deliveries of this highly anticipated aircraft. I'm sure we will be hearing more as AirVenture approaches. They company has made the Oshkosh event their primary contact point.

Just Aircraft SuperSTOL “Stretched”
By Dan Johnson, March 25, 2015

Just Aircraft's SuperSTOL Stretch XL blasts off the ground during test flying.
Boeing does it. Why not Just Aircraft? Of course, a stretched Boeing only transports more people somewhere. The experience is not more fun ... maybe less so. Flying in a Just airplane will put a huge grin on your face and now it is a lot more likely to do so. Having experienced SuperSTOL with 100 horsepower, I can't wait to get a shot at one with (trumpets blare here) 180 horsepower. Hoo-Rah!

"To accommodate larger engines," the company announced, "we introduce our new SuperSTOL Stretch XL." By adding an extra two feet to the aft section of the fuselage and six inches up front, the SuperSTOL Stretch XL can now accommodate the new UL Power 520 engine series or Lycoming's O-320 engine series that outputs 150-160 hp.

A plain old — but still exciting — SuperSTOL is powered by the 100 horsepower Rotax 912 which weighs approximately 165 pounds, with accessories, or the 115 hp Rotax 914, weighing 175 pounds. UL Power's six-cylinder 520 model weighs 255 pounds and the Lycoming O-320 is 315 pounds. Such a significant weight and power increase required Just Aircraft designers to lengthen SuperSTOL into the "Stretch" model. The new model allows installation of other engine types weighing up to 315 pounds the company said. "Appropriate engine mounts and redesigned cowlings will accompany the SuperSTOL Stretch XL kits."

When propelled by a UL Power 520 engine, SuperSTOL Stretch XL can climb 3,000 feet per minute!
After completing phase one flight testing Harrison Smith said, "This is one of the first aircraft in the world with a UL Power 520 engine, rated at 180 horsepower." He reported an increase in the rate of climb and cruise speeds.

The additional length in SuperSTOL Stretch XL provides handling similar to a high horsepower Super Cub, indicated Just Aircraft. "What's really nice is that the UL Power 520 can burn automobile gas with up to 15 percent ethanol," Harrison noted. He also observed that the UL Power engine has six cylinders that "virtually eliminates vibration." (See UL Power video.)

With an extra two and a half feet the SuperSTOL Stretch XL is now 21.5 feet long. Rate of climb with the UL 520 is an astounding 3,000 fpm. Just said the potent new model will cruise 109 mph (95 knots) at 2600 rpm and its landing speed is in the low 30s. Rollout with the UL 520 is 75 feet. If you are like me you will want to examine the SuperSTOL Stretch XL and you can do so at the Sun 'n Fun Fly-In where the company will publicly debut their newest creation. Sun 'n Fun runs April 20-26, 2015.

SuperSTOL has been impressing pilots since its debut. photo by Wayne Whitley; Stretch XL photos courtesy of Just Aircraft
Even with a major boost in power, SuperSTOL is not meant to be a speedster. You want fast? You are lucky; you have many other choices. Just's SuperSTOL delivers a particular kind of flying pleasure: fast takeoffs, thrilling climbs, and the shortest, softest landing you can imagine. You literally have to experience this aerial phenomenon to truly grasp its capabilities. Our video helps explain the configuration and convey the feeling.

Speed is not the only objective for pilots even while it may be a passion for many. A recent survey of AOPA members reported in the big association's eBrief news aggregator reported answers to the question, "How far do you fly on a typical flight?" The answers appear below and suggest most pilots (61%) could be mighty happy tooling around in Just Aircraft's SuperSTOL. (Sign up for eBrief.)

  • "[I commonly fly] 50 to 100 miles" — 36%
  • "Around the pattern or local area" — 25%
  • "101 to 250 miles" — 23%
  • "More than 250 miles" — 16%

LSA Market Shares — Fleet and Calendar 2014
By Dan Johnson, March 22, 2015

As spring approaches and with major airshows like Aero Friedrichshafen in Germany and Sun 'n Fun in Florida about to trigger a new season of recreational flying, it is time for an annual update of Light-Sport Aircraft market shares. Our well-known "fleet" chart appears nearby; this table refers to all Special LSA registered with FAA in the United States since the first aircraft was accepted by FAA almost ten years ago (on April 5, 2005).

We again post our Calendar 2014 tally that shows the success only in that year as a means of drawing attention to those brands and models performing the best in the last twelve months. We remind you that these charts use as their source the FAA registration (N-number) database, that is then carefully studied and corrected to make the most reliable report possible. However, two points: (1) this report will still have some errors as the database on which we rely has some faulty information ... though we believe this to be modest and, as noted, we correct it where we can; and, (2) aircraft registrations are not likely to be perfectly in sync with company records of sales for a variety of reasons. Other organizations ask companies to report deliveries and this, too, can have weaknesses, but we stand by our chart and the text report as the most factual details we can locate.

It is also worth noting that we only attempt to tally the Top-20 for ranking yet we draw your attention to the "All Other Producers" category that, by itself, represents the largest segment at 15.7% or about one in six aircraft. Further, we repeat the chart notes that these figures are only fixed-wing airplanes, which leaves out weight shift, powered parachutes, gliders, gyroplanes, and other worthy categories. We wish to include them but the information has proven too unreliable so in the interest of the most accuracy we can report, we regretfully omit these interesting aircraft.

As you can see from the nearby Calendar Year 2014 Report, CubCrafters again lead the field. They have done well for several years, however, the most notable movement of the year was from worldwide kit airplane manufacturer, Van's Aircraft who works with Synergy Air to build ready-to-fly RV-12s. Seemingly overnight, Van's appeared on our fleet chart and rocketed up to the #13 spot. Given the Van's RV-series popularity and the existence of a large number of RV-12 kits, it seems clear Van's will overtake several other producers in the years ahead and rise to near the top of the chart. More on that below.

Another up and comer, not even on last year's fleet chart, is Progressive Aerodyne's Seayrey amphibian SLSA. Over many years this company has delivered more than 600 kit versions of its amphib. They won FAA audit approval to make SLSA models in late 2013 and went right to work filling demand. They've also won Chinese TDA approval and may break into that market, which many expect to explode. Clearly, Searey is leading the charge on LSA seaplanes even while some other interesting designs go through design and production exercises.

Regular top players such as Flight Design, Tecnam, Aerotrek, American Legend, Czech Sport Aircraft, and Pipistrel — some of the top and best-established brands — also fared well in 2014. Yet another appearing for the first time is Quicksilver Aeronautics. They won FAA audit approval to sell SLSA versions of their immensely popular kit aircraft in late 2014 and notched up their first Special LSA sales. The company can boast more than 15,000 kit aircraft flying.

A couple other honorable mentions go to Bristell (BRM Aero), which though new, is seeing good interest; Sling, which is rising and has a four seater kit to offer as well; and deluxe motorglider Phoenix. Their numbers were not big but these companies are ones to watch, we believe. Others holding up their brands include Evektor with its sleeker Harmony, Aeroprakt, and Jabiru (the last went through a manufacturing evolution and can offer even better pricing).

As we show an image of the handsome Van's RV-12, we want to bring your attention to the small print alongside the Van's rank. This company, known for their kit-making prowess — with more than 9,000 delivered and flying — has registered 314 kit versions of RV-12 for a total impact of 364 aircraft. Were we to combine these, they would vault to second place, ready to challenge longtime leader Flight Design for the largest LSA fleet in the country.

You may also note that our chart this year, for the first time, incorporates a number for "identifiable" kits, either as Experimental LSA (ELSA) or Experimental Amateur Built (EAB) models. The figure we felt we could correctly identify amounted to 797 airplanes (again ... no weight shift, powered parachutes, or gyros), which represent an additional 29%. If we could gather reliable details on the WS, PPC, and gyro fleet, we might add another 25% or so. Based on the greater EAB community in the USA, kit LSA aircraft may begin to add significant numbers and if we can tally them accurately we will continue to reference them.

Image of Searey in flight by Searey Canada.
As we consider Searey's strong performance in 2014, we again note that this is a company that cut its teeth with kit production. Over 600 have been sold and more than 500 are reportedly flying. Searey kit owners make a very strong and closeknit group of seaplane pilots with one of the largest amphibious populations anywhere.

As most readers will know, we can expect several other interesting seaplanes in the years ahead, from companies like Icon, MVP, and Vickers plus others. We are also aware of several other landplane LSA designs in the works and then will come electric aircraft (assuming FAA can find a way to invite these aircraft into the LSA fleet, which unfortunately is far from certain at this time).

Yet all we present above is only the American market. The USA may be the largest single market but the rest of the world invites comparison to the famous 80/20 rule. The USA has roughly 20% of all recreational aircraft but other countries are excellent markets for lower-cost, fuel efficient, and modern airplanes. When we add them all, using powerplant production as a measuring stick, we believe the total market for light aircraft exceeded 3,000 airplanes in 2014. With GAMA reporting 986 single engine piston general aviation aircraft for the same year, it is clear the light aircraft segment is substantially larger and for these aircraft, we believe the global future is bright.

LSA at Embry Riddle Training Aircraft Symposium
By Dan Johnson, March 17, 2015

Meeting of the minds ... National Training Aircraft Symposium at Embry Riddle.
Yesterday, filling my role as President of the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association, I joined Tecnam and Van's Aircraft as a group of about 100 collegiate educators met in their annual NTAS or National Training Aircraft Symposium. This annual gathering assembled an impressive group of academics who manage flight training for their university students.

It was a day of presentations with a special focus on the ADS-B Out mandate from FAA. For university flight programs operating dozens to hundreds of airplanes each, equipping their certified airplanes represents a major cost. Additionally, maintenance shops qualified to handle this cannot handle a large number of installations if owners wait until the deadline is near. It is estimated that an average of 34 hours of labor is needed per airplane. AEA estimates 105-166,000 U.S. aircraft still need to be equipped in the next five years. It can be done, they said, but not if many owners wait to the last minute to start.

Besides the central ADS-B issue, main NTAS organizer Peter Morton had as one goal the task of opening the eyes and minds of flight program leaders to the idea of Light-Sport Aircraft. We of the LSA community are grateful for his focus. So, how did that go?

Tecnam presented their P2008 and Twin to university flight school administrators from around the USA.
At the end of the first day, following presentations from Cessna, Piper, Diamond, Cirrus, and Sporty's (which has a refurbished 172 project), Tecnam and Van's also got a chance to speak to their capabilities and offerings. During a free-exchange session at the end, it did not look promising for LSA use.

These big flight school operations have serious matters to consider before they try Light-Sport: cost and the investment cycles of larger organization (they don't simply buy new aircraft on a whim); fitting a new aircraft into a fleet usually composed of many of the same airplanes; simulator integration (important as about a third of training is now done using sims); plus the attitude of students' parents and what they think of Johnny or Susie learning to fly in a brand of airplane the parents don't know. These are real concerns, so how might LSA providers enter the club?

Interesting to me, the answer came when Morton pushed a bit harder. After frank and honest discussions, the result was that if LSA manufacturers could provide an airplane and assistance for a period of time, several flight schools attending NTAS would give them a try. I considered this a breakthrough that made the couple-day event worthwhile.

I recognize that such an undertaking is no small matter for a LSA builder. Having to supply an airplane, to move it around, and having a well-qualified person employed to present the airplane with that individual's travel expense can be a rather large investment. However, the payoff is that a successful effort could result in multiple orders and a new potentially long-lasting customer. Only a few of the larger LSA companies can tackle this but they and the university flight school operations could benefit.

Leading kit aircraft manufacturer and now SLSA producer, Van's Aircraft showed their RV-12 as a trainer schools can consider.
Main meeting organizer Peter Morton wrote before the event started, "...[hearing about LSA] may be a useful wake up call for the educators, some of whom may have a prejudice that the way they have done things before is the way of the future. However, what is different now from the past is the capability and experience of the LSAs [and] the fact that new rules require between 700 and 1,200 hours of 'practice flying' for the portion of flight students who are not able to get a job being paid for instructing or other flying. Therefore, the contribution to reduced student costs for the education from LSAs in the early part of the curriculum and the [expense of] 'practice flying' is much more significant than it was before the new rules."

The presentation I gave and those from Tecnam's Shannon Yeager and Van's Aircraft's Wally Anderson spoke pointedly to the lower acquisition and operation cost of LSA plus the ability of manufacturers to be more nimble in making changes to their airplanes to better suit the collegiate flight training environment. Only time will tell if the effort will have a payoff, but it was great of Morton, NTAS, and Embry Riddle to let the LSA companies have a shot at the business. I also wish to credit the incumbent GA suppliers for maintaining a professional attitude about new competitors. Overall, the experience was worthwhile and educational.

Piedmont Airlines has an attractive offer for employees who want airline flying jobs. Piedmont's parent is US Airways, which merged with American Airlines.
Thinking about students needing to build time to capture airline or other pro pilot jobs, Piedmont Airlines recently made an offer to employees that sounds inviting. The Salisbury, Maryland company will pay qualified employees to build pilot flight hours. Employees who are pilots can seek to build time for flight crew positions and Piedmont will reimburse accepted participants up to $130 per flight hour for up to 300 hours. That's a $39,000 commitment to each such Piedmont employee and shows the interest airlines have in developing the next batch of First Officers. For the offer, an employee would need to commit to fly as a Piedmont pilot one year for every 100 hours of reimbursed flight time.

Piedmont has a number of Embraer regional jets on order. The company partners with American Airlines and noted, "An employee who begins flight training at Piedmont today could be flying for American Airlines in five to seven years. There's no faster pathway." Reflecting on the NTAS group and the thousands of university students they train, the future seems bright for tomorrow's airline pilots.

To ADS-B Out or Not to -B — AoAs on LSA
By Dan Johnson, March 15, 2015

OK, it's the weekend so indulge my sense of playfulness with the somewhat inexplicable headline above. Even though I've written about ADS-B Out before (article) and have covered Angle of Attack indicators on LSA (article), FAA feels the issue needs more attention. Some of the motivation for extra effort is FAA's 2020 deadline for all aircraft operating in the airspace system — meaning under ATC supervision in segments of controlled airspace, though not necessarily in the vast chunks of uncontrolled airspace around the country.

It has been reported in various aviation media that all the maintenance shops in the country no longer have sufficient time remaining to install this equipment in every aircraft even if owners currently possess the hardware ... which they do not. I will not seek to verify that problem but in the LSA space, this is a relative non-event, in my humble opinion. Let me explain why.

Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast (ADS-B) is the FAA NextGen answer to current methods used by ATC (Air Traffic Control). The idea is progressive in that technology is now capable of performing certain functions that are presently done by an army of well-paid, well-pensioned, and well-benefitted FAA personnel; translation — those services cost a lot. Plus, technology might actually do a better job. I know when I fly behind my Dynon SkyView screen that reports traffic, I commonly see traffic first on screen and subsequently in the flesh, or the aluminum or composite.

My recent article in General Aviation News and their online outlet "The Pulse" brought a number of comments from folks, some of whom worried about drones (or RPAs, UAVs, UASs, or whatever you choose to call them) and the possibility of having one of them go splat on your windscreen or helmet faceplate. For better or ill, that's bound to happen sooner or later anyway, but technology — both on drones and on your manned aircraft — may help it to (hopefully!) be an extreme rarity. So, maybe FAA is right to beat the drum on ADS-B Out uptake in LSA and light kit aircraft.

FAA's man in the Small Aircraft Directorate, Terry Chasteen, wrote, "I am in the process of sending ... email and attachments to all active airplane and glider SLSA manufacturers." While the agency wants to "continuously improve light-sport aircraft (LSA) safety," they also note in their letter to manufacturers that, "SLSA have been operating in the United States' National Airspace System (NAS) for over ten years with an expected level of safety."

FAA continued saying that accident reviews, "... consistently indicate a leading occurrence category of SLSA fatal accidents to be loss of control (LOC) in flight" and they believe this can be improved by the addition of AoA systems. On a recent flight, my LSA copilot and I observed the AoA indicator that can be found on our Dynon SkyView instrument (photo below). I see how it can help but it's just one more tool in the arsenal that every pilot needs to fly safely. FAA is advising (not mandating) AoA indicators saying, "... installation of an angle of attack (AoA) system may also aid in preventing LOC accidents in SLSA."

The red arrow points to the Angle of Attack indicator on a Dynon SkyView screen. ••• This runway view is kind of fun. That's the look Shuttle astronauts might have seen. On the right days, NASA permits a low-elevation pass down the famed runway though without a touchdown. Not many pilots will ever see this view.
The agency is insistent about ADS-B, however. FAA reminded LSA manufacturers of their rule and wrote, "This means that each affected SLSA must have a path forward for the initial installation and airworthiness approvals of ADS-B "Out" equipment." While AoA may be easy and already prevalent in the better-equipped LSA, ADS-B will take some expenditure, but as noted in the earlier article, this need not be particularly burdensome nor costly.

The best news is that while certified aircraft owners may have to shell out much bigger bucks, LSA producers and their customers should spend as little as $1,000 to gain the benefits of both AoAs and ADS-B Out. That's yet another of the great things about LSA and light kits; a lower regulatory hurdle saves real dollars for pilots while gaining all the benefits such as free traffic and in-flight weather.

If any producers are still behind the times in adapting these technologies and want more input on FAA suggestions or requirements, they can contact Aircraft Program Manager, Terry Chasteen at 816-329-4147 or email him.

Please note the contact methods above are intended for manufacturer use. Customers or owners should go through their suppliers or Terry's phone line may become very congested. He's a pleasant and easy-going fellow; don't force him to spend the rest of his career on the phone or email.

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




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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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