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


Lightplane Flying Over North Korea
By Dan Johnson, December 13, 2015

Here's something you simply never hear about ... lightplanes in North Korea and flying one above the country. My LAMA Europe associate and friend Jan Fridrich alerted me to the existence of a handsome light aircraft allegedly developed and built in that isolated country.

I don't know what your thoughts are about North Korea. Our government officials, media, and other critics have related stories of terrible human abuse by the ruling elite. I have no doubt this is indeed a repressive regime and I certainly don't condone coercion. However, neither do I have any first-hand information about the country; I only know what I can see and read elsewhere.

Yet like most of you, I love airplanes and I enjoy viewing especially attractive airplanes. The one in the nearby images qualifies and according to those who have visited — and evidently gone aloft in it — this is a North Korean-designed aircraft. About the machine, Jan said, "The plane looks like combination of [the Italian] Pioneer with [Germany's] Fascination and [Slovak's] Dynamic." However, this is a four seater, unlike those European LSA-like designs.

Singapore-based photographer Aram Pan publishes a website featuring photography of North Korea. He reports spending several years creating photos and video of the isolated, secretive nation. Aram also offers tours of the country and his latest feat is arranging what he calls "the first foreigners to fly over Pyongyang in a North Korea-built light airplane."

A PetaPixel article on Aram's work contains a 15-minute YouTube video of his pioneering aerial photo shoot. The airborne scenes depict the nation's largest city, which looks comparable to any other national capital.

"We work together to ... push the limits of what can be achieved in North Korea," Mr. Pan told the PetaPixel website. "We work with the local officials to constantly make our requests known. Since 2013, I have been allowed to do things not previously possible and have opened up the avenues for new media possibilities."

PetaPixel said that Aram shot the world's first collection of 360-degree virtual tours back in 2013 and the first state-sanctioned GoPro footage in 2014.

Starting last year, Aram began petitioning the North Korean government for permission to shoot aerial photos and videos over Pyongyang, the capital city. In November 2015, the country launched the first helicopter joyrides in which picture-taking was allowed. Pan was personally invited by North Korean officials to take an exclusive ride on a one-of-a-kind locally-made light plane, reported PetaPixel.

The aircraft is not named or described anywhere and I could uncover no more about it. Another article shows an image of Kim Jung Un near what appears to be a Cessna, but no reference could be found of the airplane pictured in this article.

If any ByDanJohnson.com visitors know more about this mystery aircraft, please advise me and I'll update this article. For now, at least we have some evidence of lightplane flying in North Korea.

All images here and more to be seen at the article link above are by Aram Pan. You can see some wonderful "spherical" photos of the inside of a Russian Ilyushin Il-1 on his website. I've been seeing some of this kind of imagery in Wall Street Journal (they make spherical videos which are quite interesting to observe on a mobile device as you can actually spin around and see all around you in every direction). Aram's spherical still photos are excellent quality.

For the more adventurous among you, he is offering a tour to North Korea in April 2106. I have no idea if Americans are welcome on this tour but for those who may wish to inquire, you can visit his website for more details. The cost is surprisingly modest. Aram has already visited North Korea eight times.

On his website shows, Mr. Pan wrote, "Using photography as an outreach for peace and understanding, I have come to realize that all it takes is a wide smile and an outstretched arm to change the way people react and treat you." I like his positive approach.

If you're a social media fan, you can visit Mr. Pan's Facebook page for more info and images.

I may be getting on some government list, having done an article about a Light-Sport Aircraft built in Iran and now a story about flying in North Korea. However, I think more knowledge of aviation around the world is a good thing.


Glowfly Update; Clever Name—Clever Project
By Dan Johnson, December 7, 2015

What's in a name? I like Glowfly, as a sort of double entendre. It could suggest "Go fly," or it might refer to glow as in the spark employed to start a turbine engine. Yup, in case you didn't see our earlier article by Dave Unwin, the newly renamed Glowfly is a jet-powered sailplane that uses electric-powered main wheel propulsion to assist. How's that for — as my favorite British comedy troupe, Monty Python, used to say — "something completely different?"

Formerly called GloW (which nearly everyone was sure to misspell; certainly your smarty-pants smartphone would never get the capitalization right), Glowfly is moving along smartly. Here's an update the folks at ProAirport sent along.

"The first public reveal — Project Glow becomes Glowfly," glowed the ProAirport team.

In the last weekend of November at the Flyer Live show, ProAirport said, "We were overwhelmed by the number of visitors to the ProAirsport stand.  It was truly fantastic to meet and talk to all these extremely interested people who had made a beeline for us after hearing and reading all about Project Glow [the project's earlier name]."  They reported that many interested pilots specifically came to see Glowfly live, as the show name suggests.

"We were very proud to have Glowfly on display and showcase our unique hybrid product in all its glory." Unique is an often abused word that is properly deployed in this case. I know of no project quite like Glowfly.

Everybody wanted to know when ProAirport forecasts Glowfly will fly. "Of course, that's what we are focused on right now," they said. The team reports finishing the flight control installations, refining the ergonomics of the dual motor control systems, among "all the little jobs to finish."

Roger Hurley, CEO of ProAirsport noted, "We've received continuously high quality press coverage over the past year with many positive articles." Nonetheless, they report still-surprised faces when pilots discover the hybrid propulsion that combines a compact turbine and useful electric assist (nearby photo).

"We certainly raised eyebrows ... in a positive way, we have to add," said Roger. "Glowfly is official! Serial number 001 now has flight insurance and a UK civil registration G-CIUR which we will apply to the fuselage and wing shortly." (I'll bet the unceasing British plane spotters will be all over that one ... but those peculiar Brits' are a whole other story.)

For the Flyer Live show we added some color flashes and the sharp eyed amongst [readers] will notice we removed the landing gear doors so visitors could get a better look at our e-drive." ProAirport also showcased a trial version of what will become their glass panel.

Current pricing is about $66,000 (converted from £43,950). That may not strike all readers as a low price but compared to any other self-launching motorglider, it is quite a good value, especially for one that can be flown without much regulatory hassle.

all images courtesy ProAirport
ProAirsport was established in June 2014. The company said that it "exists to build innovative light aircraft in deregulated or lightly regulated environments, worldwide." Glowfly applies high performance glider design principles to a microlight aircraft to create a high performance hybrid microlight and a moderately performing self-launching sailplane, one many more soaring-interested buyers may be able to afford. "Glowfly is all about simplicity, operational convenience, self-sufficiency and lower cost," they said. That description certainly applies to most of what we cover here on ByDanJohnson.com.

Check the ProAirport website to keep up with activities before our next report. If you simply cannot contain yourself, send email to Roger Hurley or Liz Mayne.

"I am now officially the Project GloW Test Pilot," wrote Dave Unwin, who is a well-known and very experienced aviation journalist. "We're hoping I'll make the maiden flight soon, but with such a unique aircraft we're not rushing and are taking things one step at a time." He promised to ... "let you know how it goes."


What Will 15 Days and $15,000 Get You?
By Dan Johnson, December 6, 2015

Zigolo gets around. Designed in Italy by Aviad. Marketed from America by Aeromarine LSA. Flown in Peru. And introduced to China ... as a Part 103 aircraft, according to Chip Erwin.
This website focuses on the affordable end of aviation. However, "affordable" is a relative term. I've written about Icon's A5, which may set the bar highest among Light-Sport Aircraft at around $247,000 for a well-equipped LSA seaplane. (See our Video Pilot Report.) If you had the money would you buy an A5 or a Cessna 172 Skyhawk for around $400,000. You probably have a response but then, the question is rhetorical because most readers likely don't have a quarter-million to do drop on a LSA, no matter how magnificent it may be.

I've also written about the $16,000 (or so) fully-built Aerolite 103. Some think that's a wonderful deal on a very nice single seat airplane. Yet at least one person wrote on my Dan Johnson Media / Affordable Aviation Facebook page that even Aerolite is too expensive. Fair enough. We all have different budgets. Some people can buy an $800,000 single engine Cirrus. For others five grand is closer to what they want to spend. Aviation enthusiasts are all kinds of people.

However, with the average price of a new car around $33,000 these days (according to Kelly Bluebook), $15,000 for an airworthy motorglider seems to represent a mighty fine value. Recently Aeromarine LSA's Chip Erwin told me about such an aircraft delivered to South American to customer, Marco Peter.

Marco Peter (L) & Chip Erwin in Marco's garage in Lima, which offered just enough space to fully assemble the aircraft.
Let's jet down to Lima Peru and visit the project. Nearby images show the Zigolo going together and taking flight over Peru.

"Zigolo was built from a kit in only 15 days in the basement garage of the owner Marco Peter," said Chip. The finished aircraft was then transported to a small desert airstrip just south of Lima for the test flight.

"The mission was to finish the Zigolo build, test fly, and show Marco how to fly all in the short term of Nov 3 to 23, 2015. That's just 20 days less two Sunday afternoons off to watch the Packers," said Chip. He hails from Florida these days, but grew up in Wisconsin and those Packer loyalties run deep and last long. Even with time out for football, Chip reported, "This mission was accomplished with a day to spare."

First test flights were made by Chip with Marco making several flights in his new ultralight motorglider afterward but all in the short window of time. For another perspective on how Zigolo flies, read this evaluation by famous British journalist text pilot, Dave Unwin.

The mission proved the Part 103-capable Zigolo can be built as quickly as advertised. What Chip didn't mention was the bargain price of the machine.

In Lima, Peru, the first Zigolo ultralight motor-glider in the country takes to the skies. all images courtesy Aeromarine LSA
As we told you at its first U.S. appearance — see the second half of this article — Zigolo is another three axis bargain. Sold as "almost ready to fly" for less than $16,000, you can save even more by assembling the lightweight airplane in less than 100 hours for a mere $14,500 (though prices change over time so check with Aeromarine LSA for the newest pricing but read on ...). Through Chip's tireless efforts Zigolo also introduced versatility.

Zigolo can also be purchased to fly with pure electric power and even that package will be available ready-to-fly for less than $20,000. Hear more about the eZigolo in this video "The electric Zigolo is now in flight testing," said Chip. "Clean, smooth, reliable, and quiet electric flight is coming soon!" Visit Aeromarine LSA to follow developments and read the latest news on their electric-powered aircraft.

Marco's Zigolo was a gas-powered edition. "Zigolo is a Part 103 ultralight that doubles as an inexpensive motorglider," explained Chip. "Marco's friend Alex flew Zigolo on the nearby ridge and saw 600 FPM climb with the engine at idle. Prices for the Zigolo start at only $12,000 engine & propeller included! Total cost of the paint was $20! We used a high-quality exterior latex paint with UV protection."

So, 15 days and $15,000 can put you in the sky. Is it for you? Check out this video:


Lightweight Autopilot from TruTrak & Levil
By Dan Johnson, December 1, 2015

In 2004, when the SP/LSA regulation was announced, who would have forecast that on light aircraft, autopilots would be a common feature. Such gear seemed fanciful as autopilots were costly, rather heavy, a maintenance hassle ... and besides, weren't you supposed to "hand fly" a light aircraft so you could truly enjoy flight? Is punching a button to take over the flying chores what we wanted to do?

In nearly a dozen years since FAA's reg established aviation's newest and fastest-growing sector, autopilots have become common. Much as I love hand flying, winging about the sky, if I am traveling somewhere and especially if I really need to pay sharp attention to radio work and staying precisely on course — for example, to avoid hot MOAs or Class B airspace — an autopilot can be a mighty handy feature. What used to be way expensive and heavy has changed dramatically and one company had a lot to do with that change: TruTrak.

Founded in 1999 by Jim Younkin and Chuck Bilbe, the Arkansas company hired Andrew Barker as TruTrak's first employee in September 2000. Zap forward 15 years and today, Andrew is owner of the company, which has sold more than 10,000 autopilots. An innovator in the experimental and Light-Sport Aircraft autopilot market, TruTrak Flight Systems introduced the first digital autopilot (Digiflight). TruTrak autopilots are installed in a wide variety of experimental aircraft, for example, the autopilot in Virgin Atlantic's Global Flyer and this year's Solar Impulse. Catch up to this point with this video.

Eco is a fresh 2015 approach to two-axis autopilots (pitch and bank). Conventional systems involve heavier servos that need more care in installation and maintenance. Eco uses different method that cuts weight by 60 percent. Prices are also refreshing. For a short time, a special introductory price of $999 is available but the planned regular price is only $1,200. At either cost Eco is affordable on many aircraft in the Light-Sport and light kit aircraft space.

However, Andrew is a clever fellow and imagined something more after he struck up a conversation with Ruben Leon of Levil Aviation.

Eco now offers a new concept created by TruTrak and Levil. Rather than using a standard autopilot servo which connects to the primary aircraft controls, Eco attaches as a secondary servo tab on the control surface (much like a trim tab). Eco also uses very lightweight, high quality, high velocity, metal gear, waterproof, miniature servos. "Using commercially available servos, we can reduce the cost of an autopilot system significantly," said Andrew. "The tabs are also sized such that at maximum deflection, should a servo fail or 'runaway,' the forces can easily be over-ridden by the pilot." A nearby photo shows an example of a servo tab. The tab pictured is 10 inches long and four inches wide. Production servo tabs will weigh approximately three ounces.

Andrew hastened to add credit to his development associate Levil Aviation saying, "The all new Eco autopilot was created in cooperation with Levil Technologies." If TruTrak already had something of a corner on the light aircraft autopilot market, why was Levil valuable? Because Eco can do more than merely serve as an autopilot.

Beside being an affordable, simple, two-axis autopilot Eco has an added function called Automatic Envelope Protection (AEP). AEP allows the pilot to set a safe bank angle and pitch angle of his or her choosing. When armed, AEP will use the TruTrak autopilot to monitor the angles. "If any exceed the preset limits," Andrew said, "the autopilot will apply pressure to the controls and move the aircraft back inside the envelope."

Dynon's SkyView and other EFIS products, when combined with an autopilot, can offer a straight and level button and that's great. Angle of attack gauges can tell you when you move outside desirable ranges but they don't alter the controls. AEP does more and it does so using input from a Levil device providing AHRS (Attitude Heading Reference System) data.

"The things that we are able to do in the aircraft using such small and light-weight servo tabs are just amazing," said Andrew. "AEP is a wonderful safety feature and the way it works in this system is just incredible."

As Levil boss Ruben educated me, autopilots take two approaches. One is called a rate gyro (what TruTrak's Digiflight and most autopilots use) and the other is a position or attitude gyro. For Automatic Envelope Protection to work, it needs to know more. Built directly into the Eco unit, Levil provides an attitude signal to a level of precision the rate gyro alone can't match. Both rate gyros (that will remain part of TruTrak's line) and position gyros depend on software algorithms but the Levil position method offer a higher level of precision needed in such parameters as bank angle and pitch attitude.

Sensors such as accelerometers, magnetometers, and pressure transducers make autopilots work. Levil AHRS software completes the picture allowing TruTrak's new AEP. "For us this was a joint partnership," Andrew said, confirmed by Ruben. Both companies are pleased about the collaboration and hinted more might come from their association.

In a future article, I will tell you more about Levil, which is located a modest drive from my home airport here in Florida.

If you'd like to hear directly from the experts on how Eco and AEP work, watch our new video — shot at AirVenture Oshkosh just after the new device was introduced.


FAA’s Billion-Dollar Problem (Hint: Drones)
By Dan Johnson, November 30, 2015

Amazon's newest drone is part quadcopter, part "conventional" airplane with this prop thrusting most of the flight to your back yard.
I realize that for some readers I may be swimming upstream when I write about drones (or UAVs or RPVs, or whatever). First, many of you simply don't care; your passion is for manned flight and I completely understand. Second, some of you see real danger to your manned flying due to a growing drone population. Those who guess the future think more than a million units will be sold this holiday season. Third, we have the matter of privacy. Probably like you, I don't like the idea of some government agency or even a snoopy neighbor being able to peer into my yard against my preference.

This article presents a somewhat different, somewhat nuanced view of drone development and the reasons are financial, which may not be how you've seen this issue. Consider that FAA is — compared to most aviation businesses — an absolutely enormous organization. It has an annual budget of more than $15 billion and around 50,000 employees. Very few private airplane makers are bigger. Boeing is, as is Airbus. After that, it drops fast. Cessna's parent Textron is smaller as is Gulfstream. The vast majority of airframe builders are much, much smaller companies.

The point is that compared to more than 95% of all aviation businesses, FAA is a massive behemoth funded by the American taxpayer. Of course, I know FAA accomplishes many worthy tasks but many feel the regulations they issue interfere as much as help. Many question if those thousands of pages of regulation truly advance safety, the agency's prime goal.

Loading the package (autonomously) at the fulfillment center ...
Into this picture now come some truly mammoth entities. These are private businesses that have many tens of billions in annual sales and the sheer heft to afford armies of lobbyists and lawyers to advance their corporate mission. I don't portray this as a good thing; in fact, it contributes to cronyism ... where government gets cozy with the largest businesses. Nonetheless, when organizations the size of Google or Amazon want to bend FAA their direction, they have the might to achieve far more than your favorite airplane manufacturer.

In the Washington Post today, a story appeared about Amazon's latest drone design. Part quadcopter and part airplane it has a range of 15 miles, the company claims. They also say it "part of a growing family of drones." Expect to see lots more about the company's plans to deliver packages to you via drone. This is not mere speculation or a means to get media attention (though it certainly does that, too).

As with Internet delivery, the so-called "last mile" is the costliest, referring to delivering services or products from a distribution center to your home. So for Amazon, it may truly make sense to bring products to you via drone. Their effort to develop the right flying machine is an ongoing juggernaut that is not likely to stop.

... flying en route via more conventional means (Amazon said this an actual in-flight image, not a simulated one) |
As you may have read, FAA has established a new office to guide drone regulation. I imagine that office will be on the regular beat of Amazon's lobbyist battalion. In that future, unlike with hundreds of tiny aviation enterprises, FAA will be greeted by people who have deep pockets that even FAA cannot match. Is this going to change the game of drones? You bet!

Their pressure will cause FAA to pay plenty of attention to Amazon and the giant online retailer may achieve many of their goals due to the amount of horsepower they can apply. Your average drone-operating entrepreneur may have to meet a growing list of regs and compliance demands. Those demands can easily be met by Amazon, which can staff a compliance department, but will pose a major impediment for very small businesses.

Online journalist Mary Grady at AVweb included a letter from Tony Dziepak who wrote, "I would register my drone prior to flying it above 200 feet AGL. [However,] I think it is clear from U.S. v. Causby (1946) that the FAA has no authority to regulate "the immediate reaches of the enveloping atmosphere" of my property, which in the Causby case is at least 83 feet AGL. Just as my driveway is not part of the federal highway system, the airspace above my property, at least to my treetops, is not part of the NAS." I think Tony makes a good point. Is the air above his yard his to control or FAA's?

... and dropping off your package in your backyard, apparently at a target you'd put out (see video).
My longtime friend and fellow publisher Ben Sclair weighed in the wisdom of drone registration. Being a witty guy he makes a lot of sense when he questions if mere registration can make drone operations safer. You can read his piece here. Alternatively, you can read a non-aviation viewpoint on FAA registration of drones from one of my favorite alternative sources, Reason Magazine here.

As Reason reported, when the Academy of Model Aeronautics (which is represented on the new drone registration task force) examined the FAA data in September 2015, it found that only 3.5% of the agency's 764 recorded incidents were genuine near misses between drones and manned aircraft. Most of the "incidents" were nothing more than sightings. In any event, AMA reported, "... the most serious incidents in the FAA data — including all actual  crashes — involved government military drones, not civilian ones."

I offer all the preceding as food for thought so you can come to your own opinions about drones. I plan to keep flying mine with the aim of providing you with better content but I'll be darned careful around any manned aircraft. For the record, here and here are my two earlier articles on drones.

It is not my mission to promote Amazon (though I admit being a regular customer). I merely wish to show their vision of a drone-drenched future. Here's their YouTube promo video ...


Flying Sling 4 ... Airman’s Medical Update
By Dan Johnson, November 26, 2015

As I've indicated many times in the last couple years, this website seeks to deliver news and video about Light-Sport Aircraft, light kit aircraft, ultralights, and light GA aircraft. The latter refers to four seat (and larger) aircraft created by the same companies that make LSA or kits. Specifically, I do not plan much on Cessna, Piper, Cirrus, Diamond, and other legacy brands as every magazine already examines these every month. Instead, I plan to cover emerging models from companies that established their brand in the LSA space: Tecnam, Flight Design, Pipistrel, Evektor, Van's and The Airplane Factory. These six manufacturers are presently in the four seat game either with ready-to-fly aircraft or four seat kits. More are expected to follow.

At Copperstate 2015, I finally got a chance to fly the Sling 4 from The Airplane Factory, which I had been anticipating since enjoying the Sling LSA. The South African company has a rich history in light aircraft, with principal Mike Blyth flying weight shift trikes all over the world, including several epic journeys. He certainly "gets" all manner of light aircraft and sought to make a four seater, which, of course, he also flew around the world. Such voyages a something of a habit for Mike.

Sling 4 uses Rotax power, in this case the turbo-charged 914 model. (I'll bet they start using the 135-horsepower 915 when it becomes available. I witnessed Mike paying close attention when the new powerplant was announced at Oshkosh 2015.) Like the two seat Sling LSA, Sling 4 is all-metal excepting some composite elements.

Except for the second row of seats (see last photo), Sling 4 looks much like the Sling LSA. I'd call that a very good thing as the LSA model is a comfortable machine. Different from Sling LSA that uses a sliding canopy, Sling 4 has a couple upward-hinging doors that allow easy enough entry though you must first climb up on the wing. I didn't get in the rear but TAFer Jordan Denitz made it look easy enough.

Naturally, as TAF-USA entrepreneur Matt Litnaitzky also represents the MGL Avionics line (also from South Africa), Sling 4 uses these fine instruments and radios. Sling 4 featured twin large EFIS screens.

Unlike Sling LSA, for which we did a full Video Pilot Report that you'll see before too long, I did not do a full review of Sling 4. However, my 20-minute experience with it suggested I could really come to like the airplane. It flew very nicely and offers the extra space some covet. Useful load is significant even with — and partly because of — the small-ish Rotax engine. Sling 4 felt a bit heavier, which of course it is, but it exhibited the same wonderful handling I'd enjoyed on Sling LSA.

Perhaps best of all for those trying to not break their budget, Sling 4 is quite modestly priced, barely into six figures. Naturally, you'll have to build this model but the TAF boys say it is a reasonable project.

Inside The Airplane Factory Sling 4 (L-R): Matt Litnaitzky, Jordan Denitz, and yours truly.
Since you need a medical to fly a four seater like Sling 4, you may want to know more about the effort to move beyond the Third Class Medical. EAA states, "Third-class medical reform is closer than ever before, but it's a complex issue ..."

"Almost anyone who has held a regular or special issuance third-class medical certificate within the 10 years preceding the date the legislation is enacted will never again need to visit an aviation medical examiner (AME). If you've never held a third-class medical certificate, you will need to get a medical certificate. If your regular or special issuance medical certificate lapsed more than 10 years before the legislation is enacted, you will need to get a medical certificate. And if you develop certain cardiac, neurological, or psychological conditions, you will need a one-time-only special issuance medical."

The legislation is by no means a done deal. "A number of lawmakers made it absolutely clear that they would not support legislation that completely eliminated the third-class medical," clarified EAA. "The compromises Sen. Inhofe arrived at represent the very best deal possible for pilots while winning sufficient support in Congress to keep the legislation alive." Even if it passes in the Senate and the House and gets the president's signature, FAA then enters into rule making and a minimum of a year will pass before you can use the proposed new privileges.

The initiative's cosponsor, AOPA, wrote, "Both chambers must pass the bill and reconcile any differences before it can go the president for his signature." The big member organization added, "The original language of the Pilot's Bill of Rights 2 did not have enough support in the Senate. It was not going to pass or move forward in its original form." Being completely honest, AOPA noted, "Even with all the progress, there's still work to do. Few things move forward quickly in Congress."

To get all the info EAA (and AOPA) offers, visit this FAQ link.


Aerolite 120 Launches in Britain and Ireland
By Dan Johnson, November 19, 2015

Aerolite 103 from U-Fly-It has been on a tear for the last couple years, producing at capacity and stretching to produce even more for 2016. Some of those very attractively priced aircraft — way under $20,000 ready-to-fly! ... take that, sluggish economy! — are headed off on the longest trip of their lives. The DeLand, Florida company has been shipping units to Europe where their German-based European distributor operates.

So much for too-costly airplanes. Aerolite 103 (and a few other well-priced examples from light aircraft producers) proves an airplane doesn't have to be costly to deliver a good time. The German Aerolite 120 is somewhat costlier to account for shipping, German certification expense, etc.

"British pilots have embraced Aerolite 120," said German distributor Vierwerk Aviation. "Aerolite's proper design, very good quality, and meticulous workmanship in every detail have been praised and recognized by everyone." Aerolite 120 is the European-approved version of America's Aerolite 103. The 120 designation refers to the German 120-kilogram (264-pound) class that is remarkably similar to FAA's Part 103.

Vierwerk and their United Kingom (including Ireland) distributor Kairos Aviation, said "Kiwi" (referring to its distinctive green color) was a real eye-catcher and was presented at the LAA Rally event called Sywell 2015.

Vierwerk Aviation is a family operation led by Wolfgang Labudde (far left) and wife Thilda (second from right) with help from their son and daughter.

Aerolite 120 was tested to assure compliance with the strict German LTF-L/UL regulations, and falls well within the criteria for the UK deregulated category called SSDR (Single Seat DeRegulated). The first example sold in the UK is G-OLAS (the British version of an "N-number" registration), which was exhibited by Kairos at the recent Light Aircraft Association (LAA) Rally 2015 at Sywell.

You can read a detailed report on the experience of first UK Aerolite 120 owner Stephen Oliver at this link (some browsers will open this in a new window; others may have to download and read with Adobe Reader). The article was published in the November 2015 issue of LAA's Light Aviation and relates the impressions of someone coming to the very light Aerolite from heavier aircraft and some readers may find this instructive. It is a very straightforward description with something of a surprise ending.

Some of Stephen's comments from the article are selected below.

"For a very light aircraft (only 120 kilograms (264 pounds) and a MTOW of 250 kilograms (550 pounds), the Aerolite 120 carries little momentum, so she responds rapidly to control inputs and airspeed bleeds off very quickly; consequently, you have to keep the power on to some extent right through to the flare." I don't find that to be the case, but I have plenty of light aircraft experience, unlike Stephen.

"[On takeoff] I applied full power from the Polini Thor 200 Evo air-cooled engine, which had easily started first time, every time, and I steadily climbed flapless out of the airfield, heading north over Pitsford. Best rate of climb is 41 knots (47 mph), which gives 1.6 meter per second (320 fpm) [of climb]; that's pretty much with full power at over 7200 rpm, [while] keeping a close eye on the temperatures.

"With so little weight, even with me on board, there's little momentum to slow its response to control inputs; it all makes for a lively experience. The stall is quite benign at 35 knots (39 mph) clean."

Much more detail appears in Stephen's full-length report found at the link above. Also, you can watch a video below for the first flight of Aerolite 120 in England.


Two LSA Manufacturers Score Overseas
By Dan Johnson, November 18, 2015

American readers of ByDanJohnson.com may be surprised to hear that more than a third of all visitors are from outside the United States. In a related fact, America has more pilots than any other country (very roughly half of the world aviator population) but more light aircraft are sold in other country by a ratio of around 10:1. These figures are fuzzy for a number of reasons but the point is that for LSA, the world is their market.

That statement is further proven by two recent successes.

Evektor reported it successfully passed the audit of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) for production at the company's Kunovice, Czech Republic plant. "CAAC's audit team inspected the production facilities of Evektor-Aerotechnik focused on quality assurance, engineering and manufacturing, and quality inspections of fixed wing light sport aircraft," said Evektor.

This Czech company — the first to obtain FAA acceptance back in 2005 — was able to prove compliance with CAAC requirements for Light-Sport Aircraft, meaning Evektor is fully authorized by the CAAC for deliveries of SportStar SL aircraft to the Chinese market. While not required by Evektor's U.S. representatives, it represents further bragging rights about the design and its manufacturing processes.

"The Quality Management System audited by the CAAC of China [in concert] with the FAA and the European EASA Part 21 Design & Production Organization Approvals represents the continuous compliance of Evektor's Quality Management System with the highest general aviation quality standards and is the basis for the high quality of Evektor's aircraft," stated Jaromír Matu|ka, Quality Manager of Evektor-Aerotechnik.

Slovenian LSA builder Pipistrel claimed to have signed the largest single-point contract for delivery of 194 of their Virus SW models to the Indian Armed Forces. The model will be called SW80 Garud for use by the Indian military. Garud is a bird from Hindu mythology.

Pipistrel reportedly beat ten other competitors for the contract. The Garuds will be used to train cadets of India's Air Force, Navy and National Cadet Corps spread across 100 locations in the country. Deliveries are to begin in eight months with the contract specifying that Pipistrel must deliver all 194 aircraft within 30 months of the first. Upon learning of their victory, Team Pipistrel must have celebrated enthusiastically but nearly 200 aircraft over two and a half years is a serious order, especially as the contract stipulates spare engines, ground support equipment and tools, 10 years of product support, plus training for aircrew, instructors, and technical staff.

Garud aircraft will be powered by the 80 horsepower version of the Rotax 912 engine, which Pipistrel claims will provide a cruise speed of 133 knots with fuel consumption of only 3.6 gallons per hour. To achieve such speed and fuel economy infers an in-flight adjustable pitch prop. Garud is to be built for operation from semi-prepared surfaces and will include a ballistic parachute rescue system, digital avionics, energy-absorbing seats and a Kevlar-reinforced cockpit.

After two years of intense negotiation, some experts see challenges. One wrote, "Doing business with the Indian government, with all their red tape, bureaucracy and corruption makes for tough duty." Penalties for non-compliance may be substantial and our expert noted, "The Indian government will find areas of non-compliance. Further, he supposed Pipistrel had to cut their margins to earn the contract. Finally, "A contract for six or seven aircraft per month may soak up their production for other markets."

Congratulations to Evektor and Pipistrel for these accomplishments!


DeLand Airport to Host Air Race March 12
By Dan Johnson, November 17, 2015

Our title was the headline for a news article in the my hometown Daytona Beach News-Journal newspaper recently. That's rather unusual. Anytime Light-Sport Aircraft make the local headlines — and not due to an accident, that has to be a good thing.

Let me set the stage ... Daytona Beach is a major race venue with the Daytona 500 commonly ranked as one of the top auto races in the world. It draws huge numbers of people. Estimates say 250,000 people attend the '500 inside the track with a vast number tailgating outside. For comparison, seating at even the biggest football games is less than half that count. Whatever the actual numbers, a great many people come to Daytona to enjoy auto racing.

An even larger event in Daytona is Bike Week. According to Wikipedia, "Approximately 500,000 people make their way to the rally area for the 10-day event." This number is almost equal to all the pilots in the USA.

SPAR organizer, Doc' Bailey
As reported by Daytona's News-Journal, "The inaugural Sport Pylon Air Races event is set for DeLand Municipal Airport on March 12, the final Saturday of the 75th annual Bike Week motorcycle rally that runs March 4-13, 2016."

The newspaper report continued ... "We hope to capitalize on all the people and national media already here," said Christopher 'Doc' Bailey, the air race's organizer. "Right now we are piggybacking on Bike Week for the first event, but we want to make this a winter series across the country that starts and ends in Volusia County."

Can SPAR attract some of that immense audience? Only time will tell but nearby air racing certainly has a chance. The idea has been some time in the making with an earlier report stating that entrepreneur Bailey hoped to launch SPAR in 2013. Doc' is persistent, though, and this air race for the light aircraft crowd may be nearing reality.

According to the News-Journal reporter the inaugural SPAR event runs from 10 AM to 5 PM and will feature timed heats of Light-Sport airplanes flying at 120 knots through a twisting and turning course of pylons — also referred to as "gates." More than a dozen pilots from throughout the country are expected to compete in the event which will feature races in different categories of LSA.

The newspaper reported FAA is allowing spectators at the air race event to sit about 500 feet from the course, which will be 70 feet above the airport's runways. "This makes our event much more fun and interactive than sitting a mile away with binoculars," Doc' said.

FAA officials are expected to visit DeLand in the next 60 days to inform airport officials what preparations and actions the federal agency will require for the event. The air races will not stop most other airport activities but will "inconvenience" some, said John Eiff, who manages DeLand Municipal Airport.

The inaugural SPAR will also feature food and drink vendors, aircraft displays, skydiving and short-takeoff-and-landing aircraft demonstrations, the newspaper article continued. Post-event activities are also being planned. Tickets will be $25 per person and $20 for a couple. Children age 12 and under, and military veterans with an identification card, will be admitted free, Bailey said.

"[SPAR] will also help highlight the Sport Aircraft Village [a LSA business area planned for] DeLand Municipal Airport and the city's outreach to attract the sport plane industry, as was done when making DeLand a leading skydiving and parachute industry center," said Nick Conte Jr., executive director of the DeLand Area Chamber of Commerce.


Rans’ S-6 Evolves; Remains a Great Bargain
By Dan Johnson, November 13, 2015

all photos courtesy Rans, Inc.
With my good friends over at General Aviation News, I recently published an article about Light-Sport Aircraft available for less than $96,000. While that is still a good chunk of change, it is far less than the top-tier LSA that can run $150,000 to more than $200,000. Yet brand-new, fully-built LSA don't have to be so costly. You can read the article at this link.

The four aircraft I picked for my article are not the only well-priced choices in the Special LSA world. They happened to be four airplanes I had flown recently but I did mention at the end that buyers have even more choices in SLSA that were good values, some down below $50,000 ... although those choices will not be carbon fiber speedsters with full glass panels and autopilots.

Keep this in mind: When the SP/LSA regulation first came out in 2004, plenty of potential buyers expected prices in the $50,000 to 60,000 range. Of course, those numbers never included dual screen digital instruments, autopilots, airframe parachutes, leather interiors, or state-of-the-art, fuel-injected engines. Even so, given the effects of inflation, $60,000 in 2004 is the same value as $76,000 in late 2015. Therefore, some of my choices in the article referenced above do indeed sell for the price once expected.

"I saw a great article by you about SLSA planes [available for] well under $100,000," wrote Rans CEO, Randy Schlitter. "I would like to let you know we now have a nice plane on the market for only $79,000. It is our venerable S-6ES [the kit version] called the S-6ELS [the fully built version]."

"If you check out our specifications and price list, you will find it comes with a very nice panel and the very reliable 80 horsepower Rotax," Randy added. "Many pilots are fans of the S-6 Coyote II and for this price in ready-to-fly form it rivals the amount of dollars kit builders are spending for parts in a box."

"S-6ELS also has one of the highest payloads LSA on the market," he added. Indeed, based on a full fuel load of 18 gallons, S-6ELS has a 537 pound allowance for people and luggage, enough for 30 pounds of gear and two 253 pound occupants. "We are currently building the 2016 version" Randy continued. "It now includes an updated interior, similar to the S-20LS, and we have dropped the sailcloth laced-up covering for conventional dope and fabric."

He also noted that S-6ELS is available in tricycle gear or as a tailwheel plane. Click this link to see a PDF page showing all specifications for the S-6.

How well equipped is a $79,000 S-6ELS? Rans says their base price is for a "deluxe analog day VFR" aircraft with radio, intercom, GPS, transponder, three-inch airspeed indicator, altimeter, vertical speed indicator, compass, ELT, and the 80 horsepower Rotax 912UL engine with two-blade Warp Drive prop. For many buyers that could be all you need and would allow you to fly cross country with ease.

However, many pilots like to personalize their airplane or want more goodies, so pick from the following:

  • Lighting Package — $2,500
  • ...includes nav, strobe, position, instrument and taxi/landing lights
  • Canopy Cover — $500
  • Tru-Trak auto pilot (only available with analog panel) — $5,000
  • ADS-B — $900
  • Passenger elevator trim — $500
  • Headrests — $200
  • Gear leg fairings — $800
  • Aft baggage (30-pound capacity) — $1,000
  • Taildragger, including gear leg fairings and 6X800 tires, with 8-inch tailwheel — $2,000
  • Canopy cover — $500
  • Rotax 912ULS (100 horsepower) with 3-blade Whirl Wind prop — $3,500

Those of you know or have talked to Randy at an airshow might imagine the friendly grin on his face when he added, "We are hoping to be a leader in value and are planning even more exciting combinations of price-busting planes for the LSA market from both existing and designs under development."

Years ago, Randy used to show up at every Sun 'n Fun event with a new model, earning him such fawning comments as "airplane-of-the-month-club designer." A prolific creator of more than 20 distinct aircraft — while simultaneously operating a bicycle manufacturing business (since sold) — Schlitter remains an essential person to watch.

With more than 4,000 aircraft in the Rans fleet in countries around the world, Rans is one of America's leading producers of both kit aircraft and ready-to-fly models.

While the GA News editor since corrected the article in its online form (sign up for free), I originally wrote the Aeroprakt A-22 sold for $88,500. That was information from a previous distributor and the new representative Dennis Long clarified that the current base price is $68,500, or about $80,000 with a good number of options.


Open Air Pilots of the World ... UNITE!
By Dan Johnson, November 12, 2015

Around the world, starting early for many like this Louisiana paraglider, pilots joined the virtual flying called World Ultralight Fly-In or WUFI. It went so well a 2016 event is planned.
After many years in aviation and being a regular on the (trade) airshow circuit, I know one thing: it is darn hard to start a new event. So when The World Ultralight Fly-In announced its ambitious run at a Guinness Book world record, I thought it was a very fun idea but probably quite hard to assemble.

That was before key promoter Paul Lindamood began putting out what seemed hourly updates to the group's Facebook page. The power of social media is unveiled for serious events such as Arab Spring or whimsical photo flash mobs. In our world of recreational aviation, WUFI '15 proves the new media is also very useful.

Good for Paul and the WUFI gang of open air pilots. My tongue-in-cheek title notwithstanding — I am definitely not a Marx enthusiast — WUFI surely qualifies as the project that put more open-air (and other) ultralights or ultralight-types in the air on one day, all around the world. To see where they all launched, see the map below.

"One Day. One Sky. Be a part of it." That was the slogan and invitation from the Dayton Ultralights WUFI. With the drumbeat of social media encouragement and with the second, ambitious goal of entering the Guinness Book of Records ... how did they do?

Pilot and WUFI participant Doug Smith showed the true colors of a fellow ultralight enthusiast.
According to main man Paul, "The final numbers to date (a few days into November 2015), 900 virtual pins were located on the map, with a pin being pilots who previewed their location on the world map showing their intent to fly, weather permitting." This significant population hailed from 46 countries.

"What a great way for pilots to come together all over the world to share their love of aviation," said Doug Smith (painted face photo). The organized effort has also done great things for membership in the group known as Magnificent Men and their Flying Machines (abbreviated as MagMen). As this article posted, main man Paul said the group had grown to nearly 2,000 members. Clearly the idea has been motivating.

Organizers say the first World Ultralight Fly-in was picked up by numerous TV news stations, publications, and online resources. Anecdotal stories include these: "We had guy from Mexico who wanted to fly WUFI so bad he flew to his wedding rather than miss it! Another guy flew four different categories of light aircraft (paramotor, tandem paramotor, skydive, and sailplane) during WUFI day on October 10." Tim Heylbut, an avid flyer from Australia said, "This has been (and is) the greatest action taken towards uniting ultralight pilots around the globe."

Participating aircraft owners got into the WUFI event in various ways; this gyro pilot put the logo and slogan on the underside of his flying machine.
But what about that record book attempt? "We are still counting actual certificated 2015 flyers for Guinness — it's over 532 and we're not done." They are presently verifying each one, as required. "We had an amazing start, but what we are finding is a real enthusiasm across the world for a sense of community among these pilots."

Paul explained that the idea was to have an event for the grassroots types of machines. Such machines can't as easily attend venues like Oshkosh due to speed, range, and weather limitations. "However, they can share the same sky on the same day," exclaimed Paul! "We're finding that language, location and political barriers all but disappear within the smiles of this unique brotherhood of flyers ... and the sisters as well.

"The Guinness response is still pending," Paul said. "It goes very slowly and we can't do much but wait. They say on their website they get 1,000 entries a week."

As they prepare for a second effort next year, Paul stated, "We are developing a world wide team of WUFI 'captains' — individuals who will recruit from their individual countries — plus WUFI experts in all primary segments of recreational, open air aircraft from powered parachutes to weight shift trikes to gyro, to airplanes and beyond." The group plans to execute an even more comprehensive WUFI 2016.

In this fetching image WUFI participant Dave Kukura flies his stealthy black Beaver in a low pass. All WUFI '15 pilots got a handsome certificate like the one shown for principal organizer Paul Lindamood.
For the successful 2015 event, Paul wrote, "Thanks to all the WUFI captains!" He listed Marc Carofano, USA east — Thomas Fleming, USA south — Rafael Cortés, Puerto Rico — Yf Yen, Malaysia — Michel Mahler, France — J'm Smith Lobo, China — John Bullpin, UK — Paul Escott, Australia — Adolfo Bikkesba, South America — Jacqueline Costa, Portugal — Tobie Lépine, Canada — plus representatives in Indonesia and Wales."

More "captains" will follow. Indeed, being a good promoter, Paul and his Ohio-based group are already soliciting for more leaders and participants for WUFI 2016.

Co-creators, Bill Esker and Paul Lindamood from the USA with Koen Van de Kerckhove from Belgium were extremely gratified by the exceptional turnout and enormous amount of support worldwide. The event spanned virtually every category of recreational aircraft imaginable, with pilots as varied as the countries they represented.

Kerckhove said, "The goal of the flying event was to show that grassroots, open air aviation is alive, attainable and affordable." He added, "It is also a love and a bond that bridges all geographical boundaries. We look forward to the 2016 event and expect a tremendous increase in the participants.


Aircraft of Copperstate 2015 Continued (Part 2)
By Dan Johnson, November 6, 2015

Copperstate 2015 crowds were good on Friday and Saturday as shown by a throng examining this Scoda Aeronautics Super Petrel LS seaplane.
In this Copperstate Part 2 article we resume the list of aircraft Videoman Dave and I reviewed at the show south of Phoenix, Arizona in Casa Grande. To remind you, this was the 43rd running of this show that invites all sorts of aircraft — and many dozens did fly in each day plus others did fly-over demonstrations.

However, Copperstate generates a particularly strong response from manufacturers and representatives of Light-Sport Aircraft, light kit aircraft, and utralights. That makes it a must-go show for our team at ByDanJohnson.com and Dave's SportAviationMagazine.com YouTube channel that so many of you seem to enjoy.

Like other shows, many of you approached us at the event and expressed your ongoing interest in the video content we create. We are very pleased about your loyal viewership and will continue to work hard to build our growing video library ... already at 400+ videos and moving steadily to 500 and beyond. Dave started his channel before I joined the party and his channel now offers around 1,000 videos ... lots to enjoy!

Kitfox's new STi model with John McBean and Dan preparing to go aloft for a Video Pilot Report.
KITFOX STi — Around the globe, everybody knows Kitfox. Some 6,000 kits have been sold and owner John McBean is sure of more than 4,000 flying all over the world. (Many countries don't report such things so he was estimating conservatively.) No matter the precise count, Kitfox qualifies as one of the most successful kit aircraft of all time.

John and his group have also achieve Special LSA status for the Super Sport model, sometimes referred to as Series 7. Dating back nearly three decades Kitfox is a very familiar shape, but what you might not know is all the updates that have occurred over the years. While early Kitfoxes had a reputation of being very light on the controls and a bit jumpy in yaw, that's all ancient history for the models produced under John and Debra McBean's careful guidance.

Yet making the aircraft more refined and more enjoyable to fly is not all the Kitfox'ers have been doing. At Copperstate I went aloft with John in the STi, which stands for "STOL inspired." With substantial changes to the wing (more chord, for example) and 29-inch tundra tires, the STi left the runway in even less distance than a typical Kitfox, which is no slouch in that department. The flight with John proved he is a consummate professional with very adept in-flight practices that show his years of experience. I believe you'll enjoy the VPR this flight created.

Sling LSA was one of two The Aircraft Factory models we flew at Copperstate 2015.
SLING LSA and SLING 4 — From way down under in South Africa comes the Sling. Ha! That long distance is no big deal, really. This company has flown multiple models all the way around the world | not once, not twice, but three times! I guess that answers all questions about the cross country capability of this handsome design | or designs. Yep, at Copperstate, I got to fly the Sling LSA but also the Rotax 914-powered Sling 4, their kit-built four-seater entry.

Sling was a bit late to the LSA party. While The Airplane Factory had been operating in South Africa and selling in other countries, The Airplane Factory USA only brought in the first Sling in 2012, SLSA #125 out of 136 so far. When it arrived, Sling displayed some very interesting lines; I especially like the angular engine cowl shape. Obviously, the designers believe the craft is very solid as they were willing to make 'round the world flight #1 almost immediately after the design was completed and built. That's confidence! Main man Mike Blythe brings tons of experience to the table and it shows.

However, The Airplane Factory's presence in the USA owes a debt to Matt Litnaitzky and his team. While also tending to the build-up of MGL Avionics , Matt has calmly and steadily nurtured TAF's models now including a Sling SLSA and EAB kit in both tricycle gear and taildragger plus a roomy four seat Sling 4 kit that boasts 1,000 pounds of useful load. I got to fly both at Copperstate and we did a fourth VPR on the LSA model. Look for it when the editing chores are done.

Just Aircraft's SuperSTOL painted in the colors Rotax BRP uses for their fuel-injected 912 iS Sport engine.
JUST SUPERSTOL — At the Flying Magazine Aviation Expo in Palm Springs, California the week before, Videoman Dave and I sharpened our focus on women in aviation. We shot four new videos about women pilots and aviation participants and we continued that at Copperstate in Casa Grande, Arizona.

We didn't fly in SuperSTOL as we had already done that at Sun 'n Fun (video) with Just Aircraft designer, Troy Woodland. Instead we focused on this SuperSTOL because Hutch Hudgins was aided by wife Ann Summerton in building this example. Their five month effort on six days a week moved to even longer hours every day of the week before they needed to head back to Montana. Every step of the way, this aircraft was a husband and wife project. Sharp readers may observe that this SuperSTOL is painted in the colors Rotax uses for their fuel-injected 912 iS.

A nurse by profession, Ann was no delicate flower guilted into helping her husband. With obvious pride, she threw herself into the project just like Hutch and the result is first a vastly greater familiarity with literally every part on the SuperSTOL but also a deep and genuine interest in the airplane. Now the couple will host builders of SuperSTOL at a builder assist center they are creating where folks can come assemble their kit with supervision from Hutch and Ann (when she's not helping other folks in her nursing role). More info will appear in the video that follows.

We have more videos coming about women in aviation that we think you'll enjoy! Click back often.


VPRs & More at Copperstate 2015 (Part 1)
By Dan Johnson, November 4, 2015

The main view above was taken toward the end of the day. On Friday and Saturday the ramp was packed with show planes and a large number of aircraft that flew in for the day.
Updated 11/5/15 with video at end ...

We went. We flew (and flew). We shot video ... lots of video. Videoman Dave's dual hand held cameras got a workout as did our six Garmin VIRB cameras. We did more of our popular interviews but we also captured multiple angles on several aircraft as we continue to build our expanding library of VPRs or Video Pilot Reports.

Nearly always hard at work on terra firma, Dave went aloft (photo) to get some air and to capture aerial images. Dave took a seat in the twin-engined AirCam with company designer and boss, Phil Lockwood so you can see Copperstate 2016 from the air.

Honestly, I can hardly imagine how Dave keeps track of those hours and hours of video much less organize them into the productions you enjoy to the tune of 1.5 million minutes a month of viewing. Quite a number of you came up and offered Dave and I appreciation for this effort and we most assuredly like the encouragement this represents. Don't worry. We'll keep making more!

Started 43 years ago in 1973 Copperstate Fly-In has been a stalwart of western shows supporting a large pilot population in Arizona and surrounding states. Copperstate is a volunteer run, non-profit organization, which they describe as "dedicated to promoting recreational and general aviation through events, scholarships, and public education." Copperstate's leadership added, "Proceeds from the Copperstate Fly-In help support scholarship programs for youth seeking careers in the aerospace industry."

Between 5,000 and 7,000 people come out to view aircraft and more, this year including (on Saturday) a large collection of gorgeous vintage automobiles. Late October in Arizona is a beautiful time of year with abundant sunshine but lacking the scorching heat of summer.

Videoman Dave takes his camera aloft in the AirCam with Phil Lockwood.
AIR CAM — This constant flying of airplanes for Video Pilot Reports ... it's hard work but somebody has to be willing to do it. OK, that was a tongue-in-cheek comment as I take very little encouragement to climb into the front seat of an AirCam. Doing so over the beautiful landscape (to my eyes, anyway) surrounding Copperstate was pure pleasure. That this is also my job just proves the right kind of work can be a joy.

Before the event started, I went aloft with Lockwood Aircraft main man, Phil Lockwood. This was our first VPR since the Midwest LSA Expo in early September and we had to fiddle with our flock of VIRB cameras to get everything set. Phil and his sales manager, Robert Meyer were very patient but we finally went airborne with all cameras recording both video and our audio conversations while aloft. We hope you'll enjoy this when it is posted. (Please be patient; video editing is very time consuming work.)

AirCam is such a pleasure to fly. Of course, it performs extraordinarily well with 200 horsepower pushing it enthusiastically into the sky. However, I learned from Phil that in modest cruise, he can reduce fuel consumption to 3.5 gph ... and that's for BOTH engines. AirCam can also fly slowly with full authority thanks in part to its huge vertical fin. It looks right-sized on this aircraft but in my opinion looks aren't what matter. Flying qualities are superb on this aircraft and that big tail is a major reason why. I look forward to tell you more on the VPR.

A couple members of Videoman Dave's fan club wanted to pose for a photo in front of the Bumblebee Revo that we fly for a Video Pilot Report. Amy Saunders (L) and Nicole DeLuca both fly the Revo. Nicole is in training and Amy has flown from Florida to Oshkosh and to the West Coast and back. The Bumblebee-themed Revo belongs to Henry TrikeLife.
REVO — Speaking of powerful machines with good performance, how about Revo? Hoo yah! I've described Revo as the most deluxe weight shift trike built by anyone and I stand by that comment after experiencing not one but two Revos at Copperstate. Revo is also one of the best performing trikes I've flown. This rig will blaze along faster than 100 mph, the virtual sound barrier for weight shift aircraft.

Now in talking to other trike enthusiasts at the event, some said more than $100,000 for a tricked out Revo is too much and that it's too fast. That's fair. If you want something more modestly priced, you have many choices including some desirable aircraft from North Wing and others ... but also from Revo maker, Evolution Trikes. Their single seater Rev, which I have yet to fly, can be had for much less than $20,000 ready-to-fly as a Part 103; many options are available, which will increase cost and move it out of 103 but the point is you have several choices from Evolution.

Price aside, even after six years of observing Revo, I remain amazed at the level of detail Larry Mednick and his team have engineered into their top-of-the-line aircraft. The trike carriage is a brilliant melding of art and function but I want to mention the wing. Also their own configuration, some believe a trike this heavy cannot handle well. Indeed, that's been true with several other trikes, but Revo handles with remarkable ease and it's trim systems (pitch and yaw) work beautifully. If you never tried a weight shift, here's one to consider early although it may spoil you for any other model. See more in the VPR when it's ready.

In Copperstate Part 2, I'll cover our work on the Kitfox STi, a pair of Slings, and more women in aviation as we look at a special SuperSTOL. Click back soon!

Catch one of our first Women-in-Aviation videos with Amy Saunders of Evolution Trikes below ...


Here Is My “I Have a Drone” Speech
By Dan Johnson, October 27, 2015

I have a confession to make. I ... have a drone (with a nod to Dr. King and his "Dream" speech). No, I have not abandoned my love of flying inside the cockpit; far from it. However, in my role as an aviation journalist and with my goal of creating great content, I wanted to explore the new realm.

I believe we can capture great video, for example, of airplanes taking off in ways not possible with either ground-based cameras or via air-to-air photography. Love them or hate them, drones can produce certain images that are simply not possible any other way. Plus, I wanted to investigate and learn about this new range of aircraft.

My primary goal is to take my drone to airshows and, after securing permission from the show organizer, use it to give you a better perspective. When it can be used safely, a drone should allow more intriguing viewpoints of Light-Sports, light kits, or ultralights during take off and landing.

The dji (brand) Phantom 2 Vision+ drone and gyro-stabilized camera.
With assistance and support from new website sponsor Drone Source, I acquired a dji-brand Phantom 2 Vision+ drone. The quadcopter comes with a three-axis gyro-gimbal stabilization that allows smooth filming even in windy or moderately turbulent conditions. The Vision 2+ holds a tiny video camera that produces 1080p-quality video and/or 14-megapixel still photos. Using on-board Wi-Fi Vision+ sends what is called first person view (FPV) to your Apple iOS or Android device that is held by clamp to the remote controller. The smartphone screen shows what the camera is seeing along with other data such as height, distance, battery life, orientation, and more.

Drone Source proprietor Ron Bishop wisely counseled my use of prop guards as I learned to fly the Phantom. The good news is that if you let go at any time and don't bump the two joy sticks (one for throttle and yaw; the other for fore/aft, right/left), Vision 2+ will hover smoothly and hold altitude and position until you give it a further command.

Phantom is remarkably smart. Should you lose radio signal, Vision+ rises to about 55 feet, above common obstacles, and then will fly back to the launch point completely on its own. You can program the Phantom to autonomously (without human input) fly a course of up to 16 waypoints. If the battery gets low Vision 2+ comes home and lands without input. All this costs about $1,000 and prices will inevitably fall as drones develop at "Internet speed."

Learning to fly the Phantom 2 Vision + with prop guards to prevent problems.
"The world's largest retailer by revenue recently asked the FAA for permission to use outdoor unmanned aircraft to test everything from package delivery to inventory management," reported the Wall Street Journal. "Wal-Mart's interest in drones [follows] ... industries such as farming, filmmaking, and construction."

Amazon, Google, and DHL are testing drones for the final leg of package delivery, often said to be the most inefficient and expensive part of delivery logistics. Although the agency seemed to move lethargically at first, FAA has established a new office headed up by former EAA LSA champion, Earl Lawrence. Things are moving faster now. Wall Street Journal reported, "FAA has issued more than 2,000 approvals in the past year to use drones commercially and the agency has recently accelerated such approvals."

Manna from heaven or pizza from Domino's?
Cool as flying and using drones may be, it is increasingly more complicated as authorities insert themselves. Purchase prices are the least of your concerns. My drone ran a bit north of $1,000 and you can spend $3-10,000 for more professional units. This pales in comparison to shooting photos with a helicopter.

However, if you want to use a drone professionally, to be paid for the images you create, you will need a 333 Exemption. I am currently in this process with assistance from others. Typical of efforts to gain a license or other government approval, the task is tedious at best.

Next you'll need to obtain a pilot's license if you don't already have one. Powered Parachute instructor and Designated Pilot Examiner, Roy Beisswenger, has had a busy summer training pilots who seek to fly drones to, for example, take real estate photos. The fastest way to a Sport Pilot certificate is through powered parachutes, which require only 12 hours (assuming good aptitude).

Now, FAA wants to register drones ... sigh! OK, I'll do it all and perhaps all the regulatory steps will bring order and enhance safety. Certainly, I'll learn a lot. Fortunately, it is quite enjoyable to fly one of these things and the FPV is exceptional. The resulting images are excellent. Watch for some good visuals on this website and in our videos. Drone on ...


BREAKING NEWS - Quicksilver Closing Factory but...
By Dan Johnson, October 20, 2015

Aviation news outlets and social media are buzzing with the news that Quicksilver Aeronautics is closing its factory. For example, Aero-News Net — always a quick reporter of such news — is calling the event a "dissolution." This is not incorrect; it comes directly from a document previously issued by Quicksilver's lawyers (see more below). However, letters from lawyers often portray things in very black and white terms and the situation is somewhat more nuanced than that.

For several years, I have known the principals of the company — Will Escutia and Daniel Perez — and spoke with both of them this morning (Tuesday, October 20th, 2015). What follows is directly from the horse's mouth, as they say.

In any such fluid situation, the news is more difficult to accurately report because not every decision is made. For example, if the company was bankrupt and going completely out of business (which phrase was used by another aviation reporter), the predicament might simply be reported as such. Yet that is not the case according to Quicksilver president, Will Escutia.

"We will not manufacture from our California plant," started Will. "We cannot support the structure of a physical plant in California." Many businesspeople know that running an enterprise in the Western state is very complex, with extensive regulation of even the smallest company. California also presents a very challenging employment environment, where an employee can cost much more than the hourly wage or salary they are being paid.

Quicksilver is also using equipment to manufacture that is increasingly aged. Those tools are fine for the job and anyone who seen a Quicksilver kit can instantly recognize the quality. However, times have changed and older manufacturing hardware has given way to new methods so while dealing with higher cost labor, Quicksilver has to maintain factory implements that demand more attention.

All this became too much to support by the business available. Sales of aircraft, which had been more robust, became insufficient when volume turned down even a small amount.

The official words blessed from company lawyers are succinct, "The international corporation, Flying Spirit Aircraft, that owns the intellectual property rights, is working through third party suppliers to make it possible for customers to continue receiving support including technical support for its SLSA.

"It is contemplated to provide replacement parts through third party companies and based on demand, these third party companies may elect to supply full kits later on. An auction will be held on November 3rd, 2015 to talk with interested parties in Temecula, California."

Dan Perez functioned as COO or General Manager. He recently informed dealers and other insiders, "Running a business that includes a strong manufacturing component is complex. Fixed costs are quite high since we have two buildings, personnel to operate equipment, and engineers to solve problems. We have to pay for maintenance, building insurance, utilities and other overhead." Anyone who has operated any kind of manufacturing plant knows exactly what Dan wrote although private buyers may not recognize the day-to-day difficulties.

"In order to offset these costs, sales of aircraft are needed in addition to the usual replacement parts, otherwise the stress on the business becomes unbearable," Dan continued.

"Although we saw an increase in aircraft sales from 2012 to 2014, 2015 has turned out to be a year with lower demand. Tremendous efforts were placed in order to reduce costs dramatically. However, this has not been enough and therefore a very significant reorganization of the company is underway in order to have a much, much leaner company with much lower fixed costs."

"In 2015, we were operating below breakeven so our debt was increasing," said Will. Instead, he stated, "We plan to follow an outsource model," which he explained means that they are negotiating with third parties, including some very longtime Quicksilver outlets such as Lousiana's Air-Tech. Indeed, Air-Tech principal Gene "Bever" Borne has been associated with Quicksilver aircraft decades longer than the current owners.

"Liquidation became the way to go, so we can do something else," continued Will. "We will liquidate the inventory and tools to pay off debt, but we will continue to work with third parties."

All photos with this article were shot by pro aviation photographer James Lawrence, whom interested parties can contact through his website.
"First, we want to assure availability of parts and components," added Will. It is presently unknown how the company will handle fully-built aircraft. As reported here, Quicksilver won FAA acceptance in July 2014 to make a Special LSA version of their Sport 2S.

While most readers and nearly everyone in aviation knows Van's Aircraft is perhaps the largest seller of kit aircraft (at more than 20,000 delivered, according to last reports), Quicksilver is the kit giant of aviation. More than 15,000 of their kits have been delivered and nearly every one of these is flying all over the world. Van's is nearing the 10,000 mark of completed aircraft. While those RV models are more complex aircraft, the build effort for which is more significant, the fact remains that Quicksilver is aviation's success story regarding kits that are owner flown in large numbers.

However the story unfolds in the weeks and months ahead, I expect Quicksilver aircraft models to continue to fly and to be sold. If owners Escutia and Perez are successful in selling the assets in an auction coming up on November 3rd, Quicksilver manufacturing may go on relatively smoothly. Regardless of the auction outcome, some enterprise or collection of enterprises are certain to continue to make parts and service a fleet of many thousands.

I will keep reporting this news as it develops. Please click back often.

Watch our video interview with longtime Quicksilver national sales representative, Todd Ellefson to see a beautiful GT500 restoration, an example of how these desirable aircraft will continue flying despite the current turmoil.


Racing Down Electric Avenue ... Here Comes Airbus
By Dan Johnson, October 19, 2015

At the recently concluded Palm Springs Expo, a keynote address was provided by George Bye, the man behind the Sun Flyer project that aims to put electric two seaters into flight schools. Pipistrel is already selling into this market with its Electro (video) and while only a small number of aircraft are in use, the race is on for more ... much more.

Airbus made big news back in July when a race developed to see who would cross the English Channel first in an electric powered airplane. Of course, the whole thing was a bit moot because it had been done years before. Longtime electric pioneer Eric Raymond of Sunseeker Duo noted, "It was already done in 1981 by the Solar Challenger, which flew from Paris to London at 14,000 feet. [Famous hang glider pilot and manufacturer Gerard] Thevenot even flew an electric trike across.

Both 2015 flights crossing the English Channel (around 20 miles over water or a bit over 30 as E-Fan flew) seem rather modest compared to the ocean-spanning attempt by Solar Impulse 2.

Airbus' E-Fan 1.0 flew 46 miles to Calais in France in 36 minutes at an altitude of about 3,500 feet. The tandem two-seat E-Fan uses a wingspan of 31 feet that produces a 16:1 glide. Its twin ducted electric motors with variable-pitch propellers are powered by a series of 250-volt lithium-ion polymer batteries. Hugues Duval's miniature airplane, the Cri Cri, beat E-Fan to Calais by about 12 hours. The tiny aircraft has only a 16 foot wingspan lifted by two 35-horsepower Electravia electric motors. Cri Cri flew at 65 mph. According to reports, Duval's Channel crossing took only 17 minutes, which was good as his battery life was said to be 25 minutes. He benefitted from being launched by another airplane (see earlier article).

A third electric Channel-crosser, Pipistrel, was denied a chance to beat them both when electric motor maker, Siemens, suddenly refused to allow the company to fly its motor over water (though one wonders how the motor was supposed to know it was no longer over land where it performed just fine). Here's an earlier article about Pipistrel's WATTsUP, since renamed Electro.

All the corporate race-across-the-Channel drama notwithstanding, the future for electric power has the smell of inevitability, if for no other reason than giant Airbus dropping tens of millions into their development. Why would they make such an investment? Simple: electric airliners are in their future. Airbus stated its goal of creating a 100-passenger electric hybrid planes that could enter service by 2030. I'll discuss that below (also see image).

The advantages of electric propulsion are several, according to Airbus: lower noise that doesn't bother airport neighbors; reduced carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (NOx), and particulate emissions; and, reduced vibration. All three benefit the pilot as well. For example, when I flew the eSpyder, lower noise was more pleasant and made me aware of noises on the ground that I would never have heard with a headset on and a reciprocating engine roaring. Less vibration is also not only a lesser wear factor for airframes but also for engines and the pilot will benefit physiologically. You might not notice reduced emissions as viscerally but cleaner air surely benefits everyone.

Airbus Group plans what they call the "world's first series production electric planes," specifically E-Fan 2.0 and 4.0 aircraft, the latter being a four seater. Work on the new all-electric, battery-powered two-seater pilot training version and the four person hybrid electric motor/combustion engine version will be pursued by Voltair SAS, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Airbus. The two models will be built at a 16,000 square foot facility located at Pau Pyrénées Airport in the southwest of France, sometimes called "Aerospace Valley."

Construction of the E-Fan assembly line is to start next year and a first E-Fan 2.0 should fly in late 2017. Airbus Group committed about $22 million for development of the E-Fan 2.0 production aircraft. They will build to European CS-LSA certification using ASTM standards at a gross weight of under 600 kg (1,320 pounds). So, the two seater will be a Light-Sport Aircraft even if it may not be called that. The hybrid four seat E-Fan 4.0 is targeting 2019.

Spending by jet engine maker Rolls Royce began in 2012 with nearly a billion dollars for metals, composites, vehicle integration, electronics, systems engineering and information technologies. Airbus joins with Rolls Royce and others, all captioned under something called the DEAP project for Distributed Electric Aerospace Propulsion. Their goals include reducing CO2 emissions by 75%, NOx by 90%, and noise by 65% compared to standards in 2000.

As the nearby image shows, the airliner concept involves three ducted fan motors on each side of the fuselage (looking much like the E-Fan's motors though much larger). Such a system will obviously required a far higher level of integration with the airframe than just slinging a high bypass jet engine under the wing. An advanced gas-powered unit would provide power for the six motors buried in the wings. Airbus refers to this a "serial hybrid propulsion system."

Coming back to the present day to the smaller airplanes that fascinate readers of this website (and those who watch our YouTube videos), you might wonder, "Why spend time on projects aimed at 2030 to 2050?" All you need do is consider how giant companies spending many hundreds of millions of dollars can result in developing technologies useful for Light-Sport Aircraft, light kits, and ultralights.

Although we already have electric-powered ultralights that work quite well for single pilots (see short article here and here; a video; or, a full-length article) and while we have emerging LSA that should do duty as flight trainers and local area fun flying, taking bigger strides is necessary for an airline design. Such esoteric ideas as superconducting machines (motors) and cryogenic cooling intended for airline use may be tested on LSA and light GA planes.

While all this sounds rather far-out, a kind of science fiction story, the urgency for lower emitting, quieter airliners, and what will surely be escalating fuel costs may drive some interesting concepts that small airplane makers can use.

Small companies can be very nimble and may more quickly employ ideas behemoth companies like Airbus and Rolls Royce can't put into use for years. I can't fully imagine where this electric future leads us but electric power for aircraft is certainly coming.


Flying a Sling Taildragger in America
By Dan Johnson, October 13, 2015

Light-Sport Aircraft comprise an diverse gaggle of some beautiful airplanes. Choices are available in a dizzying array of configurations and variations. In fact, so many selections are available to you (as Special LSA) that I created PlaneFinder 2.0 to help folks narrow the decision to a few that might best suit your needs, interests, experience, and budget.

If you haven't checked out this cool feature, you should do so. You can click on and off more than 20 different aircraft characteristics, all simple yes-or-no type entries. As you do so, the "Matching List" changes to show the aircraft that meet your criteria. From that list you'll see links that let you read more content (written and video) available on this website. You must register to use PlaneFinder 2.0 (your email is all that is required and after you do so we'll send you a regular English-word password that you can change), however, PlaneFinder 2.0 is completely free, like most of our content. Go have fun!

Many LSA are available as nose wheel, tricycle gear airplanes. Some are taildraggers. Some go both ways. If you're not sure about your ability to fly a taildragger I have two things to say: (1) LSA taildraggers are not that challenging to fly for a variety of reasons (some of which I'll mention below), and, (2) taildraggers look so cool.

So, I don't know about you but when I heard about the Sling taildragger I almost started an involuntary Pavlovian drool. I've enjoyed flying Sling in nosedragger form — see this article — but, ooh la la, a taildragger ... now that get's my blood flowing freely.

"I flew about 20 hours in the Taildragger while it was here [at our Torrence, California facility]," said U.S. importer Matt Litnaitzky of The Airplane Factory USA. He also reported flying a few more hours in South Africa a year ago. The Airplane Factory is a South African producer of Sling, Sling 4 — their four seater — and who knows what else might be coming from this hard-working manufacturer.

"The Sling Taildragger is almost identical to the regular [tricycle gear] Sling LSA, save for the landing gear configuration," Matt continued. "It features dual toe brakes, whereas the tricycle version is delivered standard with direct steered nosewheel and hand-operated brake."

As a taildragger, differential braking such as with toe brakes, is important to allow better ramp maneuverability. However this introduces the potential for the dreaded ground loop. So, let me address this for a few lines.

For those that may be new to taildraggers, a ground loop is not really a "loop" in the common aeronautical use of that word. It means that, due to the mass of aircraft aft of the main gear, should the pilot let the tail end move too far toward either side with some element of momentum in that movement, the tail can come more aggressively to the side.

With a high wing or low, a sideways moving tail can cause a wing tip to strike the ground, whether somewhat gently or more forcefully. When a wingtip located far from the aircraft center of mass drags on the ground, leverage causes even more movement the wrong way and that can result in quite a twirl on the ground ... the "ground loop."

Usually the damage is not too significant and it is the pilot's ego that is more seriously wounded. However, with enough force and speed involved, it can be quite a bit worse. Being relatively light aircraft usually landing at fairly slow speeds, and often having a lower deck angle — meaning the nose is not particularly high compared to the horizontal — LSA ground loops are much less likely and not as much bad stuff happens when one occurs.

The solution, instilled by a quality taildragger checkout from a knowledgeable instructor or experienced pilot, often involves what is called "happy feet." If you keep your feet moving on the rudder pedals — using a series of small regular movements, to prevent the tail from getting too far to one side or the other — the ground loop is easily avoided. On something like a DC-3 this is a very big deal. On most LSA, it simply shouldn't dissuade you from trying a taildragger. Did I mention they look SO cool?

Until I can fly Sling taildragger, I'm happy to pass along Matt's further comments.

"During taxi, the Sling Taildragger provides sufficient visibility down the runway to see straight ahead without S-turning," said Matt. He elaborated, "The gear geometry is such that when the tail comes up on the takeoff roll, the aircraft remains extremely steady on the runway, with very little steering input required.

"In flight she shares the same light control harmony that the standard Sling has, since it is the same airplane. Three-point landings are a breeze in the Sling Taildragger and control is easily maintained on the rollout.

"The Sling LSA Taildragger [sells for] approximately the same price as the Sling LSA (starting at $135,000), but the gorgeous lines of the Sling are accentuated by the aggressive nose-up stance on the ground.

All photos with this article were captured by photographer Evan Byrne, whom interested parties can contact at his aerial photography web address. Thanks, Evan!


Tomorrow (Starting Today) Is Huge for Ultralights
By Dan Johnson, October 9, 2015

It's already tomorrow (Saturday, October 10th) somewhere. Here in the USA, I write this on Friday the 9th, and tomorrow in America is going to be big, big day for small aircraft owners. As Facebook juggernaut, Paul Lindamood has promoted with multiple Facebook posts per day for weeks, it is nearly time for WUFI ... the World Ultralight Fly-in. Actually, that time is now! Whoo hoo!

Since most ultralights are relatively slow flying, sub-87 knot, airplanes (and that's a good or great thing say enthusiasts including yours truly), it isn't practical to gather perhaps thousands of ultralights at a single field to fly them all at once. Nor would trying be safe. Yet in the age of social media and Internet communication, it is possible to request that thousands of ultralight owners around the globe prepare their flying machines and get them into the air on the same day. Could it be a record-setting event? Maybe.

Tomorrow is already underway on the other side of the International Date Line, so as Hammed Malik of Kilcoy, Australia shows in the nearby photo, he's already aloft on October 10th. He may be one of the first but this is going to occur again and again over the next 36 hours or so as the planet spins around to face the sun at different times, thanks to the tireless effort of Paul and his social media flying compatriots.

As the sponsoring Dayton (Ohio) Ultralight group advised earlier, "Ultralight enthusiasts anywhere on the planet are invited, including any aircraft considered an 'ultralight' — aircraft such as fixed wing ultralights, powered parachutes, weight shift trikes, powered paragliders, hang gliders, or, "any imaginative, magnificent flying machine."

If you have an ultralight and want to get in on the action — and possibly help WUFI make it into the Guinness Book of Records — post your photo to the group's Facebook page.

Casey Moseley said his airplane is prepped and ready to join the fun on October 10th.
As you can see on the worldwide map below, a large number of pilots have indicated they will join the airborne party and hopefully even more will choose to act as the deadline draws near. The more the merrier ... and the more likely of earning a place in the record book.

Nonetheless, one important message came from Jim Konst, who wrote on the Facebook page, "Some of us have not flown recently, but now have a deadline. Some of us will have iffy weather, but will fly anyway. Keep in mind that your flight does not have to be an epic cross country. You have to leave the ground and take a picture. That is all. I imagine gusts and crosswinds will be our biggest challenge. We all know how to fly, we all know when to fly, and we all need to remember when to stand down. Be safe."

Having often flown "for the camera" myself, I add my memory of a few close encounters to Jim's advice to be careful. This idea here is to fly for fun and, Guinness record or not, make sure you only fly if the situation is safe and you and your magnificent flying machine are fully ready for the flight! Then ... go have a ball!


Continental's Titan Engine to Power Vickers Wave
By Dan Johnson, October 6, 2015

Big power is not just for LSA taildraggers anymore. A few years back, CubCrafters surprised the LSA world with its installation of the most powerful engine in the LSA space. The western U.S. company mounted a Titan engine from ECi making the modest Cub-like airframe perform far better than the old versions from the Piper company.

At the time, this potent powerplant raised eyebrows for two reasons.

First, it seemed an excess of power for the then-new lightweight class of airplanes FAA had just regulated into existence. Most had been using one of the 9-series engines from Rotax, which in some cases was itself a move up from a two-stroke Rotax 582 providing 65 horsepower. CubCrafters limited power after takeoff to maneuver within the regs, though, honestly, who would continue using so much power in cruise or while sight seeing?

Secondly, the Cub-style airframe is already near the upper LSA empty weight calculation so CubCrafters' engineers had to add many costly carbon fiber elements to keep the empty weight low enough to fit in the class. Compared to the Rotax 912, Titan beefy engine adds considerable weight so the airframe diet represented considerable work. All the handsome carbon fiber also boosted the price of the CarbonCub to breathtaking levels.

Nonetheless, the company made it work so well that they have set the pace for airplane deliveries in the LSA space for several years. Since they broke the mold, however, other companies such as American Legend and Zlin have installed the engine to offer essentially the same performance characteristics ... and they've been able to push the price down to levels ByDanJohnson.com readers are more likely to embrace.

However, one strongly emerging class of airplane is the LSA seaplane, and you might think that this higher-empty-group of designs could benefit from more power. Indeed, Rotax recently announced their new 915 model (video) offering 135 horsepower. Given the Austrian company's vast global network and overwhelming market acceptance, the 915 seems destined to be a success story.

However, 915 won't arrive on the market until 2017, the company detailed at their Oshkosh press conference. In the meantime, another LSA seaplane has seen an opportunity.

In May 2015, Continental Motors Group, a division of China aviation giant, AVIC, announced it purchased all the asset of Engine Components International, or ECi, maker of the Titan engine and other engine parts. Simply put, the Titan 300-series is now part of Continental Motors, giving the powerplant added funding and a massive international network. The acquisition gives Continental a strong foothold in the experimental market via ECi's Titan line of engines, which includes the X320, X340 and X370 models, which, interestingly, are all based on Lycoming type designs.

In our video below (or click here) ECi's Miguel Soto tells you more about the Titan engine used by Vickers.

Vickers is completing all component elements including the CNC bullet sump (top) and tooling for the fuselage.
I've followed and written about Vickers Aircraft's coming Wave here and here. Along with Icon and MVP.aero, Wave appears to be a third generation design in the 11-year-old LSA world. All three models have superb design ideas — each different in their own ways — and represent state-of-the-art creations among Light-Sport Aircraft.

With a new announcement, Wave is increasing the ante significantly.

On September 29th, 2015 Continental Motors announced that Vickers Aircraft has selected their Titan IO-340CC to power its Wave amphibian. "We are extremely proud to have been selected as the engine provider for Vickers' Wave. [They] needed a real aviation engine that offered more than the traditional four cylinder motors available on the market," said Johnny Doo, executive vice-president of marketing and sales for Continental.

"The Titan engine offers a unique combination of power, low weight, and modern technology accessories (fuel injection, ignition system, light weight starter and powerful alternator)," added Mr. Doo. "It is easily integrated with ... the Dynon Skyview [that] will display all engine parameters and allow pilots to manage their engine."

Wave designer Paul Vickers elaborated, "Titan is a modern engine ... and has a stellar track record regarding reliability. Now backed by Continental Motors, we benefit from the financial stability ... and from their powerplant expertise. We looked at all the solutions available and found that Titan was able to deliver on all the subjects that really matter to us.

"The weight characteristics of the Titan IO-340CC were another factor that drove our decision," continued Paul. "The weight savings are enough to allow us to comply with the LSA ASTM standards without compromising reliability or safety. The use of magnesium alloys in certain parts brings weight savings of 20% compared to the original configuration. In addition, the whole Continental Motors team sees the potential and shares the vision for our aircraft and is backing us 100%, and for this I am very appreciative," he added.


Going Aloft in Paradise Aircraft's New P1NG
By Dan Johnson, October 3, 2015

Yes, they call it "Ping" among themselves but it is actually P1 NG, as in Next Generation. "Ping" has a few American user-friendly changes from the earlier P1 brought about by comments from U.S. representatives of the Brazilian design.

I'll get into the aircraft changes in a moment but first let me remind you what Paradise Aircraft has done. The brand is well established in the southern hemisphere country where they manufacture a line of two and four seat aircraft. These designs have found favor with Brazilian farmers some of whom operate vast operations that are distant from the population areas so they use aircraft to manage their enterprises.

If you've followed the news, you may know the natural-resources-rich Brazil has experienced an economic decline as commodity prices have fallen, driven heavily by China's pullback on those purchases while its economy cools. The government of Brazil did not keep up with the changing times and current president Dilma Rousseff is suffering from very low approval ratings. I discuss this not to review geopolitics but to help explain why companies like Paradise chose to set up shop at the Sebring airport in Florida.

During 2014 Paradise investigated opportunities around central Florida, looking at facilities at the Sun 'n Fun airport in Lakeland and at the Sebring airport. Like Tecnam, they settled on the latter, joining longtime Sebring resident, Lockwood Aircraft Supply and their AirCam kit manufacturing operations.

After announcing this decision in January 2015 and moving some initial aircraft to Sebring, things went quiet. At a local EAA chapter meeting at my home airport of Spruce Creek (7FL6), I was asked by a couple about Paradise and why no more news was forthcoming. A call to main U.S. representative Bert Motoyama ended up producing a visit with a chance to fly the newest model, P1NG.

Bert and his associate Randy "RW" Burnley flew up and, over coffee, explained that they had to prove their operation to FAA before they could proceed which overall effort took more time than anticipated. The reason relates to the planned assembly of Brazilian fabricated aircraft. As Sebring will substantially participate in the manufacturing effort, FAA regarded the operation as a "remote manufacturer" resulting in a more detailed examination. Bert and RW prepared carefully and successfully passed the review.

Because of a punishing 35% export tax, Paradise will send airframes which the Sebring group will complete. They'll add many components including the engine as less value shipped from Brazil lowers their tax bill. This makes sense and it is also efficient to source many American parts in-country rather than ship them back and forth.

After the business discussion, RW invited me to go fly with him and I jumped at the chance. It's been a few years since I flew the earlier Paradise P1 and I anticipating renewing the experience. Our video below (or click here) discusses some of the changes.

Let's start with entry to P1NG, which is much easier. Why? Although not particularly visible, Paradise extensively redesigned P1. Noe and his engineers made the door four inches taller and six inches wider (front to rear). Though you still need to duck your head a bit on entry, just like most other high wing airplanes, the less flexible among us will find it much easier to get in P1NG.

The door windows are no longer shaped with a teardrop cut-out, but the overall window area is larger, aiding visibility. The plexiglass is also bowed or bubbled out to give more room inside.

Paradise has always had a quality interior finish, but P1NG is even more polished with an automobile-like interior. What dominates your view, though, is the dual yokes. While most LSA elect joysticks (that many of us admittedly like), yokes are the most common control in aviation, which may ease the transition of Cessna and Piper pilots to Light-Sport. Some argue you have more lateral control with a yoke than with a joystick that can bump into your legs on full deflection.

"RW" Burnley points to changes in the door window and showed how the larger door aids entry and exit.
The interior is roomy up front, but it's the aft cabin that sets P1NG apart from most other aircraft, somewhat resembling the volume of a Jabiru, and for the same reason: this airframe can be a four seater in its native country.

Paradise has long supported a model with hand controls and Bert said such a version of P1NG is on its way. The large aft area could carry a wheelchair with ease, after assuring proper anchoring and weight and balance loading.

P1NG flies as good or better than the original, which is to say very well. Refreshing my experience recalled the Paradise flies much like a Cessna 150 except with better performance. It felt very solid with responsive yet cooperative handling to which any Cessna pilot will adapt almost immediately. It takes off and lands predictably like the discontinued model from the Wichita giant.

Stalls occurred at almost ridiculously low speeds, in the high 30s power on or down into the 20s power off, at which speeds ASIs become notoriously suspect. When the airplane stalled, one wing dipped ever-so-slightly and recovery was almost immediate even without adding power.

You can see and hear more about P1NG in our video below but suffice it to say that Paradise has lost none of its original appeal and has gained in several worthy ways. With the U.S. operation getting up to speed, I predict we'll again start seeing more "Pings" in the air. I'll be keeping my eye on this company for you.



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

 



 

 
 

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.


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

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.

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.

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.

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!

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!
CTLSi

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

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

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

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

The New J-230D

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

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.


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


Rans, Inc., is one of the most successful brands in light aviation having shipped more than 5,000 units. A longtime airplane kit supplier, Rans also offers three fully-built SLSA models with a range of prices, starting at only $79,000!

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.

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.

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?

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

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!


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.

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.

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

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.

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.

Super Petrel LS, manufactured by Scoda 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.

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.

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.


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

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

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