Here is an early, quick look at Skytrek SLSA
by Triton... China's first FAA approval.
Video sponsored by Continental Motors,
maker of the Powerful Titan X-340 Engine
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...a web log of developments in Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft
Second most recent 20 postings.


Excellent Bargain / Good Flyer—Aeroprakt A22
By Dan Johnson, August 31, 2016

Coming up NEXT WEEK! — September 8-9-10, 2016 — is the Midwest LSA Expo. I encourage you to make plans now to attend at least one of the days the event runs. Based on past years, a good number of aircraft will be available. Speaking to their representatives and taking a demo flight is as easy as it gets at any airshow. More info: Midwest LSA Expo.

A22 Importer Dennis Long said that people refer to his Aeroprakt side-by-side two seater as "the see-through airplane." Certainly, this Light-Sport Aircraft has more clear plastic in its cockpit covering than any other LSA. It's no surprise that this entry has some of the best visibility you can find in any aircraft. What you may not see while you're looking through it is the size. A22 has a cabin about 50 inches wide making it one of the roomiest models available.

Yet the one factor most folks discover is the attractive price, starting at $79,900 for a ready-to-fly Special LSA. So often I hear pilots lament that Light-Sport Aircraft were supposed to be less expensive, meaning affordable by a greater share of the population. At 80 Grand, this is still a fairly costly purchase for many potential buyers, at least when compared to an automobile: the average price of a new car is presently about $33,000 according to the Wall Street Journal. However, cars are made in production runs of literally hundreds of thousands where all the airplanes flying anywhere in the world don't add up to the number of Toyota Camry cars built in a single year. Proving the point, Toyota sold 429,185 in 2015 in the U.S. alone and this number refers solely to the "Made in America" vehicles.

My point is that no reasonable person should expect Aeroprakt — or any other aircraft producer, even the so-called big boys — to make airplanes as efficiently or as cheaply as car companies can. Airplanes are overwhelmingly hand-built machines.

Taking the expense issue a step further, people expected a LSA might cost $50-60,000 when the category was announced 2004. Given the steadily-weakening value of the dollar, that range today would be $65-78,000 after adjusting for inflation.

Therefore Dennis Long's Aeroprakt A22 at barely over $78,000 is right what the market anticipated as FAA prepared to announce their long-awaited rule. Note that these prices start out in euros so check with Dennis for the current price.

A C-note under $80,000 is the starting price. I believe many pilots could easily live with the base priced aircraft although nearly all buyers will elect some options that push it up a bit higher. What do you get for the money?

Here's a few specifications to put A22 in perspective — Cruise is 60-110 miles an hour or 52-96 knots; stall comes at 35 mph or 30 knots (slower than most LSA by a wide margin); never-exceed speed is 138 mph or 120 knots; span is 31 feet 4 inches; wing area is 136 square feet; empty weight is 700-720 pounds and with gross weight at the industry standard of 1,320 pounds, useful load is 600-620 pounds. When carrying a full load of fuel (23.8 gallons), A22 can still carry a payload of 457-477 pounds. That enough for two 200-pound occupants plus 57-77 pounds of luggage although the designated baggage area is limited to 44 pounds.

Aeroprakt uses the Rotax 912 engines to include either the 80 horsepower UL model, the 100 horsepower ULS carbureted model or the fuel injected 912 iS also producing 100 horsepower. Many potential buyers never even consider the 80 horsepower engine as it saves only a couple thousand, but this light airplane flies very well with that engine. The 912 UL can be fueled with 87 octane auto gas and though that doesn't save a great deal over premium fuel, pilots on a budget can find ways to hold down the cost with this choice.

My review of the Pilot Operating Handbook shows a conservative slant. I offer two examples. First, the takeoff run is listed at more than 300 feet with the 100 horsepower ULS engine and over 400 with the 80 horse Rotax. When I flew, we were off the surface in half that time although we did benefit from a modest headwind which clearly helps. Flying with Dennis — we're both of at least average weight — the takeoff roll was much shorter, more like 150 feet though headwind obviously affects it. The landing roll was spot on the money at about 350 feet compared to the 328 feet (100 meters) listed in the POH.

Secondly, climb rate is shown as 650 feet per minute (at best angle) or 690 feet per minute (best rate). I saw nearly 1,000 feet per minute after takeoff and we sustained a climb at around 800 feet per minute. Any pilot can appreciate a POH with numbers you can depend on more than a marketing document showing the best performance ever achieved.

Some readers will easily be able to afford the $80K a basic A22 costs but for those who prefer financing, Dennis reports he has availability based on good credit. He also reports each A22 is built to-order so you specify what you want at the time of order, though some options might be added later. Sometimes ordering afterward can add problems. For example, if you want an emergency airframe parachute it's best to order the aircraft with the support straps already built in to the airframe as adding them later is more challenging.

For those lucky enough to live in places where float flying is common, they are available; again, the factory knowing of your interest in advance — even if you don't order them with the aircraft — might make life easier later. If you live in snow country, skis are available. Order today, and Dennis might tell you delivery will follow in about four months.

You can glean a few more data point and information in the video below.


Torture Testing …Let Freedom Wing!
By Dan Johnson, August 25, 2016

The top photo of a Luscomb is a promotional photo but does show quite a load on the wing. The lower photo is a Searey undergoing load testing. The wing is inverted for positive load application.
Most pilots never probably have witnessed the testing a wing endures before designers and regulators will sign off on it, signaling that it has been adequately stressed so that pilots can depend on it. I've had the chance to see several such tests and will state that it is two things: demanding and, well ...boring (unless something breaks).

Of course, I don't mean to demean the hard work it takes. Look at the images in this article and you can see that just to set up a wing for testing can involve literally days if not weeks of work. A fixture, sometimes called a "strongbox," must be built or obtained. An actual wing must be affixed to the structure. Weights in some form — and a lot of them — must be secured to the wing to assure loads are applied in a real simulation; air loads are not uniform across the wing's span. Loading the wing is a precise task if engineers are to replicate the forces air loads will place on a wing in flight.

No one takes this casually. Lives can depend on it. A company's long-term survival may depend on doing the testing correctly and documenting the results thoroughly. The process is typically captured in photos and video and a detailed written technical report must be available to authorities or insurance companies that care deeply that the testing meets standards such as ASTM or FAA certification.

Images shows the Lockwood Aircraft Drifter in load testing. Note the tape measure used to position loads accurately. Wood is used to spread the load across the tubing structure after the Dacron covering has been removed.
No matter how seriously this effort is taken or how much is spent (in time and money) to achieve it, the testing of an aircraft wing is a largely static event.

Naturally, should a wing fails under heavy loads — just look at the immense amount of weight placed on the C4 wing — the test can become very exciting. Things can pop (loudly) and parts may go flying if the wing collapses. No one should stand nearby during an ultimate load test. However, if no failure is witnessed, the wing structure may groan and tremble but nothing much happens. As I said, the test is important, but visually dull.

Yet this is not the case with hang glider wing testing. The difference is captioned in the terms commonly used to describe the tests. An airplane wing is statically load tested where the flex wing hang glider is dynamically tested. The latter method is used because it is a proven real-environment way to simulate the loads on a flex wing.

The dynamic process was developed many years ago by HGMA, the Hang Gliding Manufacturers Association. Some very smart people worked out the techniques and equipment and, to their credit, hang glider wings can bear an immense load and not fail, even when upside down.

Flight Design's coming four seat model, called C4, is load tested with an immense amount of weight.
An airplane manufacturer — let's say of a 2,500-pound aircraft — cannot imitate the dynamic test used by a hang glider or trike wing manufacturer. Testing a metal or composite wing for a larger, faster airplane would take an extraordinarily powerful vehicle, and it would have to go very fast. However, the slower speed and lower mass of hang gliders makes dynamic testing achievable. To perform the required tests on its creations, North Wing has fitted a vehicle with a very sturdy steel structure. Cameras and recording gear are mounted.

It's worth noting that North Wing is not required to do this by FAA or other regulatory bodies in the USA. Part 103 vehicles do not have to meet government standards. These manufacturers spend the effort because other entities require it and because they want their products to find ready customers who will not buy a glider they doubt can withstand real use. Besides satisfying their customers, insurance companies, media reporters, trial lawyers and others may demand test documentation in case an accident occurs.

The hang glider community has long policed itself and done so in such a professional fashion that FAA almost ignores them. Indeed, when is the last time you heard about a hang glider or trike wing folding up in flight? It almost never happens anymore. Good for HGMA and the hang gliding and flex wing industry.

North Wing's dynamic load testing of an earlier cable-braced model. The right image is what's called the Negative 150 test, a difficult load for the wing to bear.

The test shows a positive load applied (wing in normal orientation) and the very demanding "negative 150" test. This simulates a wing that may be disturbed by violent air. The wing is mounted backwards at the appropriate angle and the heavy truck forces the wing through the air backwards in this tortuous test. As you can see, it bowed deeply but survived.

The video below shows dynamic testing North Wing did to prove their new carbon fiber structure Freedom X wing. This is North Wing's newest product. Besides hang gliders, North Wing makes a line of weight-shift trikes and is a leading supplier of wings to other trike carriage producers.

Freedom X 160 (the wing square footage) uses carbon fiber leading edges and struts and other design parameters to stretch the performance of their Freedom model series. Despite using exotic materials, Freedom X is an exposed-crossbar design, sought after because it has lighter, more responsive handling compared to full double-surface designs. "It's also quieter than the cable-braced version; you can actually hear it pass through air more smoothly," said designer and North Wing boss, Kamron Blevins. The structure also contributes to Freedom X's safety in unusual attitudes, as proven in this testing.

When a pilot takes off at the end of the clip, you almost breathe a sigh of relief at what is obviously far less load than North Wing subjected their newest creation to atop the big truck. Good job, Kamron and team!


Continental Motors Absorbs Titan X-340 Production
By Dan Johnson, August 22, 2016

Coming up in just over two weeks! — September 8-9-10, 2016 — is the Midwest LSA Expo. I hope your plans include going. Plenty of aircraft are available and taking a demo flight is no easier anywhere. I will look for you on site! More info: Midwest LSA Expo.


A Titan X-340 engine installed in American Legend's SuperCub.
Engines have changed a lot over the life of Light-Sport Aircraft. FAA's new regulation became effective in September 2004. A hard working industry has brought 140 Special LSA models to market ...in less than 12 years, one per month for every month (on average) since the rule emerged.

Engines have been similarly prolific.

In the beginning, Rotax's 65-horsepower two-stroke 582 was a often selected to power the lighter aircraft of the pre-LSA period. The 9-series engines had gained acceptance much earlier but as LSA got bigger and heavier, their success gave a tremendous push to the popular Austrian engine and it dominates to this day. The 100-horsepower 912 ULS and iS models are used on around 75% of all LSA-like aircraft worldwide. The larger 915 model to arrive in 2017 will surely continue the Austrian company's success story.

However, while Rotax is the biggest player, many others have found acceptance.

Titan will power the already-awesome Just Aircraft SuperSTOL.
I envision three categories of light aircraft engines: Alternative, Mainline, and Emerging. In the Alternative category, we have a variety of two-stroke engines and very small four-strokes. Early on, Rotax owned this category, too, with their 277, 377, 447, and 503 two-stroke engines, the latter of which was particularly well regarded. All have since been discontinued though many are available on the used market. Hirth remains active with a whole line of two-stroke engines.

If we include engines for powered paragliders and very light trikes, some wonderful small powerplant are available: Bailey — I came to enjoy this tiny, fuel-efficient, moderately-quiet four-stroke engine; see article — plus Simonini, Polini, Vittorazi, and others (article) lift the very lightest of powered aircraft.

Delving still deeper into alternative engines brings us to electric, solar electric, and hybrid electric. Then we have diesel. I have examined and reported on more than I care to mention here but the fact is, choices are ample.

Nonetheless the Mainline category has the most recognized brands: Rotax's 9-series is flanked by Jabiru's 2200 and 3300 models, Continental's popular O-200, the LSA-specific Lycoming O-233, plus others like UL Power and D-Motor are reportedly working on ASTM compliance but meanwhile are used to power homebuilt and other aircraft in growing numbers. For kit builders, auto conversions from companies like Viking and Aero Momentum among others can save money while offering impressive hardware built from recognized brands such as Honda and Suzuki.

Continental's factory floor in Mobile, Alabama is a vast facility, used to make engines since back to World War II.
Now coming to the Emerging category, we have models like the Titan with its whopping 180 horsepower. Photos with this article show several adaptations and I expect more. As well, Rotax's 135-horsepower will find a market for more power.

As reported earlier, Continental acquired ECi, originator of the X-340 Titan. For a time, they functioned as sibling but separate companies. Now, the Alabama powerhouse is consolidating.

On August 17, 2016 Continental Motors Group (CMG) announced that it "will consolidate all manufacturing operations into its advanced manufacturing centers located Alabama and Germany." This change is sweeping. "The manufacture of CMG's line of FAA approved parts for Lycoming engines, as well as the full line of Titan Experimental and Certified engines that are currently produced in CMG's San Antonio, Texas facility will be transferred as a result of this consolidation."

CMG said it has "invested significantly in advanced manufacturing equipment, processes and people while implementing manufacturing techniques and lean tools based on the Toyota Production System." Because CMG and ECi used similar processes to make similar parts and assemblies, relocating the products currently produced in San Antonio makes sense, the company explained.

Vickers Aircraft Wave, expected in 2017, will be the first LSA seaplane to employ the 180-horsepower Titan X-340 engine.
"Continental Motors has grown significantly in the past three years in both products and facilities as we strive to become the leader in propulsion for small aircraft," said CEO Rhett Ross. "However, as we have seen our business grow in the number of products, customers and operating sites, it has become apparent that changes are needed to make us more responsive to the needs of our customers.

CMG will coordinate with its Master Distributor, Aviall, to complete this move without interrupting the availability of the high quality, factory produced parts and engines within the Titan Product Family.

Continental wished to recognize the valuable contributions made by ECi employees in San Antonio. CMG promised to help those employees transition to new roles within the Continental family or to find new opportunities within the San Antonio business community. Customers or airframe manufacturers with questions may direct them to marketing boss Emmanuel Davidson.


Quicksilver... Going, Going, Gone. Or, Not?
By Dan Johnson, August 16, 2016

Coming up soon — September 8-9-10, 2016 — is the Midwest LSA Expo. Videoman Dave and I will be present to report on around 50 aircraft on display. I hope you can join us. Get more info: Midwest LSA Expo.

Many times I've written that Quicksilver is arguably THE most successful seller of kit aircraft in the world. Some aviators might retort, "No way! Van's Aircraft is the largest kit builder." In total kits, at least portions of kits, that's surely true. Van's reports more than 20,000 tail kit-type deliveries have been made. Even more impressively, their completions — aircraft fully built and registered with an N or other number — now exceed 9,460 and I would never take away from their success with multiple designs nor would I diminish their highly-regarded business integrity.

Two of Quicksilver's best-loved aircraft, the GT400 (flying) and the Quicksilver 2S. photo by James Lawrence
Nonetheless, with Quicksilver having delivered more than 15,000 full kits, the vast majority of which were built and flown, they may be the most successful deliverer of complete aircraft kits in history. Assembling a Quicksilver kit takes around 80 hours and some adept folks can do it in a week. Putting together a Van's RV-series aircraft takes a longer committment, sometimes years.

Van's continues to be a thriving force in aviation. Their contract company, Synergy Air, continues to build fully-built RV-12 LSA. Some 65 ready-to-fly aircraft were registered as of the end of 2015 and the Oregon company is moving up the charts

The Quicksilver story is not as satisfying, regretfully.

Recently I got a long "post mortem" letter from Will Escutia, the CEO of Quicksilver Aeronautics, the last company to own the iconic brand. The letter is too long to reprint here (nor did Will intend I do that), however, I can pull a few items that may be of interest.

The earliest Quicksilver was a hang glider, flown without an engine, wheels, or very much else. It inspired an incredible run of aircraft building.
"We launched an effort and obtained relatively quickly the 'compliant seal' of the FAA showing that all the kits met the 51% rule," said Will. "Dealers had complained that without it, the customer was not really certain that they could obtain the registration as Experimental Amateur Built once complete and therefore the dealers lost sales.

"We launched a worldwide campaign to increase the number of dealers ... generating interest in 20 countries. We were able to sign new dealers in California, New York, China, El Salvador, South Africa, and France. At that moment we had dealers on every continent."

He continued, "An 18-month effort that cost between $200,000 and $250,000 ended in the successful unveiling of the Sport 2SE. The aircraft was nicely equipped, strengthened, and new sharp looking wing designs were used for the first time. The ready-to-fly price was set at $40,000 although in practice we gave significant discounts." Unfortunately, sales were not as vigorous as a study had lead them to believe. I can imagine several reasons for that.

The man. The legend. It's "Bever" Borne and if you don't know him, you want to ...catch the video below and you will see why he's so likeable.
None of these and other efforts moved the needle enough. Will faults difficulty in buyers obtaining credit or insurance, regulations that are too burdensome, and the large number of used aircraft of all kinds on the market. At this point efforts are ongoing to find a manufacturer who could integrate Quicksilver SLSA production into their existing business. "We are trying to make it work," Will concluded.

However, the really great news for the legions of Quicksilver fans is that the most solid of all Quicksilver supporters is now the owner of all the essential hardware and replacement parts for this very successful set of designs. In addition, Gene "Bever" Borne has long and very successfully been a supplier of components of his own.

The video below will tell Bever's story and it should bring immense relief to all who love flying Quicksilver ...including your faithful author; I have flown every Quicksilver model except the Super and enjoyed every minute. If having a bit of fun in the air without spending a fortune is of interest to you, I encourage you to contact Air Tech and see what they can do for you. If nothing else, Bever or his son Ken will bring a smile to your face with their Louisiana-style sense of humor. I enjoy talking to these fellows and bet you will, too. The video below adds dimension.


“Will Third Class Medical Reform Hurt LSA?”
By Dan Johnson, August 10, 2016

One of the most common questions I got at Oshkosh 2016 was the title of this article. I'm only one person with an opinion, but since I work with many airframe producers in the LSA space, I heard this question fairly often, several times from airplane sellers who were curious what other producers thought.

Just shy of five years ago, EAA and AOPA caught the LSA industry off guard by announcing plans to push FAA to drop the Third Class medical. Most LSA professionals likely agree with the basic idea that FAA ought to keep their noses out of the recreational end of aviation. Many feel that the medical requirement has prevented almost no accidents. Nonetheless, this new initiative took aim at the primary reason LSA builders were then selling airplanes like crazy. If you wanted to fly without a medical you had ultralights (Part 103... and still do), or sailplane motorgliders, or Light-Sport Aircraft. I don't believe for a minute that not needing a medical is the only reason to consider a new LSA but it was a biggie, no doubt.

So, what's the answer? Will this reform harm LSA or not? How is it affecting the industry? Worthy questions, all. To read more detail about the medical proposal, see this article.

Jabiru's J-230 is based on a four seater from Australia, explaining its cavernous aft cabin complete with a third entry door. photo from Eric Evans Aviation
My response to the "will it hurt" question is, simply, "No." When the alphabets announced their intention in the fall of 2011, it had an immediate effect. Vendors I asked said they quickly got cancellations. Buyers who were probably never very serious about a new LSA purchase said things like, "Now, I can instead hold off and buy a $50,000 (30-year-old) Cessna. I no longer have to buy a new LSA."

I compare the medical question to the way the stock markets work. At the first hint of bad news (a war, recession, terrorist attack, or the Fed raising interest rates), investors quickly price-in the results they expect. Stocks plummet overnight, even though the bad news has not yet occurred and may never come to pass. The situation with LSA was similar. As soon as those reluctant LSA buyers heard they had another choice — even one that might never come and certainly not soon — they took back their dollars and held onto them. This is human nature at work.

Therefore, at Oshkosh, news that the third class medical reform was coming didn't change things much. It had already been "priced-in" to pilots' purchase decisions.

However, those who want a new airplane with all the features they desire remain interested in Light-Sport Aircraft. Purchase prices range from below $50,000 to over $200,000 but that is still far less — one eighth to one half the cost — of almost any new Type Certified GA plane. (And, YES, you can buy a fun, well assembled, ready-to-fly LSA for $40-85,000!)

Icon was awarded a weight increase for their A5 seaplane; they will fly at 1,510 pounds. photo courtesy Icon Aircraft
Nonetheless, progressive light aircraft manufacturers — of kit-built or fully-built LSA or LSA-type airplanes — saw the trend coming and several offered new or revised designs.

In my previous article, I spoke about the new Murphy Radical. I also wrote about the Titan-powered Kitfox, and we have several other entries that are similar. These aircraft, like many LSA, have been designed to carry higher gross weights. They are limited to 1,320 pounds or 1,430 pounds (for seaplanes) because of FAA constraints. Some, for example, Jabiru J-230 — which started as a four seater in Australia — or Paradise P1NG from Brazil among several others, have been designed to significantly higher gross weights than FAA allows for LSA. These aircraft have always been able to lift more weight; they were placarded at 1,320 or 1,430 because of LSA rule limits.

At Oshkosh, Rans introduced their Outbound model with a gross weight listed at 1,800 pounds that calculates to a payload of 625 pounds... "the highest payload design ever offered by Rans," said the company. This model also offers a higher speed of 150 mph cruise (LSA are speed limited at 138 mph or 120 knots). In the world of a Private Pilot no longer needing an FAA Airman's Medical, such larger aircraft may have good appeal.

One More Thing — A familiar rumor began circulating at Oshkosh, encouraged by a member organization senior leader comment heard at AirVenture. A push is supposedly afloat to increase the weight limit of Light-Sport Aircraft. We've heard this before and it has been steadfastly denied by FAA but now that Icon and Terrafugia received weight increase exemptions, who knows? If I hear more, I'll keep you informed.


Latest and Greatest LSA from Oshkosh 2016
By Dan Johnson, August 7, 2016

Actor Harrison Ford poses with Rotax Aircraft Engine manager, Christian Mundigler at Oshkosh. photo courtesy Christian Mundigler
In a show as vast at EAA's AirVenture Oshkosh, it is presumptuous to attempt covering everything of interest. What follows are some new aircraft I found in the categories I cover on this website. Other projects were certainly worthy of special note but with the goal of a fast dash through the latest and greatest, I'm keeping this one fairly lean. I'll cover other developments in subsequent articles.

So, here's three aircraft you haven't seen before AirVenture 2016 plus a revised project involving an increasingly popular engine. I'll start off with a famous guy checking out a famous engine to propel one of my favorite airplanes. We begin our quick review with Lockwood Aircraft's AirCam.

Of course, you know his face. When I once heard Harrison Ford speak, he said modestly (paraphrased), "I earn a living making faces." I never thought of acting in such simple terms, but I accept such skills are part of the job. He's made faces successfully enough in many movies to be able to afford several fun airplanes and now he's getting into an AirCam. Developer/manufacturer Phil Lockwood said, "We were keeping a low profile to preserve [Harrison's] privacy but the cat is out of the bag now." As an AirCam fan myself, I predict Ford's facial repertoire will frequently include a broad smile.

The never-before-seen SkyCruiser offered by U.S. Sport Aircraft.
The newest and perhaps most unexpected aircraft at the show was SkyCruiser offered in the USA by U.S. Sport Aircraft based in Texas. This U.S importer has long represented Czech Sport Aircraft's SportCruiser, which has ranked up high on our market share report for years. Literature for the new model makes no mention of CSA, instead referring to Czech 4 Sky. Nevertheless, U.S. Sport Aircraft boss, Patrick Arnzen indicated he would bring in the new model from CSA.

In this article I am covering aircraft that seem to be pushing the envelope but a sign of maturity in the LSA segment shows developments in all directions. One of those is a return to simpler, easy-to-fly aircraft. Looking somewhat like another very successful design, Aerotrek's A220, SkyCruiser represents a model from about one decade back. When the LSA regulation first created aviation's newest segment the typical customer was often someone seeking a carbon fiber speedster with autopilot, a full glass panel, and all manner of bells and whistles. Many developers stepped up to fill that demand and simpler (less costly) designs were left behind. Now, they're back!

SkyCruiser, as seen on U.S. Sport Aircraft's Oshkosh space, is powered by a Rotax BRP 912 ULS, and tops out at 1,232 pound gross (88 pounds less than allowed as a SLSA). At a fairly modest 723 pounds empty, the taildragger still offers a 509 pound useful load or a payload of full fuel (17.6 gallons) and two 200-pound occupants with minimal baggage. Stall is listed at a slow 34 knots and maximum cruise is 86 knots. SkyCruiser appears to come well equipped with the latest from Dynon and more.

Kitfox's Titan engine installation was particular well achieved, like most Kitfox factory aircraft.
Perhaps it is because of the success of CubCrafters, but the rush remains on for companies developing vintage-style aircraft with big engines. While Rotax continues to power the majority of light aircraft around the world using their ubiquitous 9-series engines, some builders want more. For slower airframes Cubalikes — to use a phrase coined by Bill Canino of Sportair USA, which also offers a muscular model in this same space — adding a massively powerful engine delivers supershort takeoffs and thrilling climb rates.

One engine is clearly winning the high-power race. Originally developed by Lycoming part maker Engine Components International, or ECi, the Titan X-340 has become a powerplant of choice for those seeking 180-horsepower. Other companies like UL Power and Viking also have potent engine offerings but after Continental Motors bought ECi in 2015, the Mobile, Alabama company has parlayed their famous brand into several entries in the light kit and Light-Sport space. Now enter the Kitfox Titan

One very slick Titan installation appeared on a factory Kitfox brought to Oshkosh by owner John McBean. His team always does impressive detail and finish work and the Kitfox Titan seen nearby was a prime example. An airplane that works extremely well with Rotax (still offered, of course) should be nothing short of spectacular with the big Titan engine doing the pulling. I can't wait to fly this one!

The new Triton American SkyTrek made its debut at AirVenture 2016.
It may look familiar (indeed it has some common heritage) but Triton America's SkyTrek is a significantly different airplane than those it resembles. The airframe is smoother with more sweeping lines aft of the canopy. The structure is beefed up and able to handle a higher G loading. The nosewheel has been strengthened to last better in flight school use.

A main difference in this model from others with similar overall looks is that SkyTrek is fabricated in China. Its principle designer, Tom Hsueh, has long been established in the USA and has worked with some of the largest aviation companies. Although Tom says, "I have a Chinese face," he works from offices in Washington State. His may be a new name to most readers, but I have been talking with Tom for a couple years and believe he can become a player in the U.S. marketplace as well as in China. To Triton's and Tom's credit, he reported the Chinese CAAC has certified SkyTrek for sale in that country.

Not only a new manufacturer of Light-Sport Aircraft, Tom has bigger ambitions. In 2009, Triton America, which does business as Triton Aerospace, acquired all the design rights and hardware inventory for Adam Aircraft, a company that formerly built and certified a six-seat, twin engine, twin-boom, pressurized, all-carbon-composite FAR 23 aircraft."

Murphy Aircraft is back with their new Radical, complete with dual bicycle racks. Designer Darryl Murphy is a cycling enthusiast.
To wind up this brief look of new flying machines we come back to Murphy Aircraft Manufacturing, still run by founder Darryl Murphy and still based in Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada. It's been nearly a decade since we saw any new light planes from this once-prolific producer. Darryl said that when the Canadian dollar soared high compared to the U.S. dollar, it became impossible to sell to Americans, by far his company's largest market. So, he used his large facility and impressive forming machinery to make aviation and other parts for different manufacturers. He seemed pleased about the return to building kits; welcome back, Darryl!

While showing his new Radical, Darryl indicated he's been hearing from potential customers that they'd like a Special LSA Rebel and he reports work is proceeding on that in parallel. Meanwhile he introduced a new model that goes hand-in-glove with the new batch of higher powered, higher gross weight aircraft taking several companies beyond the Light-Sport space. This may be one artifact of the EAA/AOPA push to eliminate the third class medical. Darryl acknowledged Rebel is a good foundation for the Radical, however, the new model is essentially a brand new design. "With more payload, more wing area, and capable of using engines up to 220 horsepower, [Radical] will incorporate many of the best features of the Rebel, Elite, Maverick and Super Rebel," he said.

Looking around Oshkosh, I found ultralight, light kit aircraft, and Light-Sport Aircraft all looking healthier than many seem to think. In addition, the arrival of the 180-horsepower Titan and even larger engines combined with higher gross weight/high payload designs seem created to appeal to those who no longer need a medical. The new program won't be effective for a year and still has hoops through which a pilot must jump, but it does open the door to new designs. Light aircraft engineers and manufacturers seem up to the task and customers appeared intrigued by their new offerings.

I'll have more from Oshkosh after catching up with other work, but I found the light sector very alive and doing quite well, with or without a third class medical.


Succeeding the Old Fashioned Way: Getting It Right
By Dan Johnson, July 25, 2016

Aerotrek importer boss Rob Rollison stands in front of his EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2016 display.
Media people (like me) flock to airshows looking for the new stories, new airplanes, new avionics, new company developments... whatever is new. Journalists pursue what's new because they believe that's what their customers readers want to read (or perhaps because it interests them as a writer). Nevertheless, sometimes the story is what's not new. Aerotrek, importer of the A240 and A220 has not made major changes to the aircraft.

Why? Simple. The airplanes don't need to change.*

Aerotrek's planes are very well built, fly predictably and efficiently, handle nicely and perform near the top of the category at modest operation cost. They are simpler, not fancy carbon fiber, but rely on trusted construction methods using familiar materials. As important as any quality, Aerotreks are modestly priced, affordable to many budgets.

Not breaking new ground means getting familiar ways down pat, honing the building skills and techniques to a fine degree. Aeropro in Europe can execute the aircraft in a repeatably professional manner. All this may not be as sexy as a flashy new design but once aloft, being able to depend on your flying machine is worth a lot.

One more thing. Always updating a product can add to the cost of production which has to raise the selling price.

In this panorama shot, you see the entire Aerotrek display. To the left is a handsome trailer that can house an Aerotrek under which the owner drives his late-model Corvette. Nice!

Company owner Rob Rollison is a calm businessman who moves steadily toward his goals. Deep-voiced and intimately aware of his product Rob presents authoritatively with a broad smile. He has earned the trust of many airplane owners and has built a loyal following, people who have come to really like the Aerotrek aircraft and doing business with the importer.

A few of the Aerotrek owners assisting at Aerotrek's AirVentrure 2016 pose in front of a group of airplanes representing many of of the popular model variations offered.
Rob got into LSA early. He was the Flight Design CT dealer before the LSA rule was released. He has represented several brands and types over his years in business. These learning experiences brought him to Aeropro more than 13 years ago and he remains very happy with the supplier. Through the upheaval of the recession in 2008 and subsequent roller coaster ride, Aerotrek maintained a largely steady business while other company got in trouble.

At AirVenture Oshkosh 2016, Aerotrek exhibited nine airplanes on the field, challenging any other brand for most aircraft in their exhibit. You could see A220 taildraggers, A240 tricycle gear models in a number of bright colors and fitted with different landing gear from hard surface and wheel-panted tires to large tundra tires. As Aerotrek is distributor-direct-to-customer operation, the importer was aided in their Oshkosh display by owners of the aircraft available for visitors to review.

Aerotrek models come well equipped while offering a few options to allow you to personalize. All have folding wings, a task that can be done in 10 minutes ("easily") by a single person. A folded wing still supports itself through the clever design by Dean Wilson, the original creator of a good number of airplanes that look very similar. No wonder. Dean was a brilliant, efficient designer and this planform works very well. Why change what works?

* Aeropro has made numerous refinements over the years while sticking with a basic design that works well as is.


Remos GXiS — A Mercedes of LSA
By Dan Johnson, July 24, 2016

See the new Remos GXiS, a Mercedes of Light-Sport Aircraft at AirVenture 2016; spaces 331-332 near the Theater in the Woods.
Oshkosh is on! OK, not today. The big show starts tomorrow, but you wouldn't know it as airplanes are already arriving in droves and the grounds are rapidly filling. Time for EAA's summer celebration of flight to begin!

Although I'm a longtime regular, today I did something I've never done. I flew out of KOSH and then returned. If you've never flown into Oshkosh during AirVenture, you may not know what an experience such an arrival can be. This is the world's busiest airport for one week. Airplanes arrive every few minutes and all of them do so in a unique, follow-the-plane-in-front-of-you method where no pilot uses the radio. Departing was fairly simple. Arriving is always an eye-opening experience.

I did my departure and reentry with Remos PR & Marketing guy Patrick Holland-Moritz, a former German aviation magazine writer. We flew in the brand new Remos GXiS. Flying into Oshkosh was a repeat treat for me, but I think Patrick was blown away by the flowing river of airplanes of all types. This became even more interesting when the airport had to close one runway due to an incident. As on any freeway, this backed up and snarled traffic. Airplanes were circling back to get in line and our heads were swiveling on our shoulders trying to follow the traffic gaggle around us. Whew!

GXiS features the Rotax 912 iS fuel-injected engine in what may be the best-yet implementation of the fuel efficient powerplant.
Remos remains one of the major brands in the U.S. LSA fleet but the company endured a major setback in 2014 when it was declared insolvent, roughly the equivalent of U.S. bankruptcy. In the last couple years, the German company has found new investors, reorganized, and clawed its way back into the business. Spending by their American representatives in the heydays of LSA helped trigger the problem. The revitalized company has a far more realistic plan of recovery.

One thing that didn't change much was the basic Remos GX series. They have a new model now and perhaps the period they used to reorganize came with a benefit. Remos did not immediately embrace the new Rotax 912 iS fuel-injected 912. The earliest installations by other manufacturers had some challenges (as with any new product). Remos was able to design their new install after some of the earlier bumps has been smoothed. The GXiS result was good... no, make that excellent.

I have more than 120 hours experience flying with the 912 iS. It's great like all Rotax engines but it introduced complications and I experienced them. However, now that is well sorted and Remos had time to thoroughly engineer their solutions. The German engineering team said everything from the firewall forward is new, not only the cowling and spinner that you see. All electronics along with heating and cooling and other details are fresh.

In my evaluation as a pilot, this is best implementation of the 912 iS I have seen.

GXiS flies over the Pasewalk, Germany factory producing the highly upgraded Light-Sport Aircraft. all flight photos courtesy Remos
I'm going to write about the flying qualities but first I want to tell you about the relatively mundane matter of starting a 912 iS. Boring, huh? You might not think so after you first confront Lane A, Lane B lights and some of the other new features of the 912 iS. In their efforts to ease the transition to a computer controlled engine, Rotax made the starting and run-up process similar to what pilots are used with magneto and carb heat checks. The odd thing is that the computer is essentially already doing all this for you so the pilot's workload can be reduced. Remos engineers understood this and worked hard to make it easier.

When you rent a car anywhere in the world, you expect the car to operate simply and largely as you expect, right? Airplanes aren't so simple. While we pilots might like to show off our great knowledge, why jump through unneeded hoops?

In the Remos GXiS you turn the key switch to "Avionics" which lights up the panel but does not turn on all other electrical systems. When you switch to "Engine," all electrics are engaged and then you merely push the Engine Start button. As with many modern cars, that's it. The Rotax starts instantly as always and you can carry on with flight preparations. Remos calls the system "SMARTstart"...and it is.

While the Remos team and I discussed all these changes we understood "simplification" is too basic a term and not very sexy. True to his marketing role, Patrick created the term "smartification." Bravo! A new word is needed for this renewed LSA.

Instead of delving deeply into every change made to GXiS, let me hit some highlights. The throttle is now quadrant style instead of a knob on the panel. Throttle and brake use one lever: forward to go, aft to slow. Flaps are now preset. You move the flap-shaped lever to the position you want and go to your next task. Even cabin heating is new with a system that uses the engine's warm fluid rather than drawing from air surrounding the exhaust system. Changes go deeper so interested buyers will want to contact Remos for all the details.

Meet Team Remos from Germany at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2016: (L-R) Christian, Daniel, Patrick, Jürgen (kneeling), and Paul.
Finally, the flying part. Ah, this is the best (not to diminish the other excellent upgrades to the GX series).

Briefly, GXiS flies beautifully. It's been a while since I flew Remos and this is one deluxe flying machine. As my title indicates this is a Mercedes of Light-Sport Aircraft. Overall the machine is civilized and luxurious. Handling is superlative, light but not twitchy; responsive yet stable; very nice and a form of warm tribute to original designer, Lorenz Kreitmayr.

Despite approaching amid a large flock of airplanes all anxious to land after the delays on the all-in-a-line approach path, my effort with GXiS went well although I can't claim the smoothest touchdown I've ever made. Landing on one of five large dots on a runway with someone landing ahead of you and behind has a way of distracting one's concentration. Yet in control authority, I lacked for nothing and again, that smooth, easy handling pays a benefit.

Besides the SMARTstart controls everyone will love (I predict), Remos is laid out as comfortably as the interior treatment is deluxe and handsome. GXiS is not the widest cabin in the LSA fleet but was certainly comfortable. In-flight visibility is large especially while banked thanks to the large skylight.

To give some balance to my overwhelmingly positive reaction to GXiS, I note the seats adjust in three positions but only while on the ground. Baggage is accessed by removing the seats, though that's easy enough, and you have places for gear you need in flight.

The only remaining downside to the new Remos GXiS is a price tag close to $200,000. So, this won't be for everyone, but if you would consider a fine German automobile, you should by all means check out GXiS. This SLSA should satisfy even the most discerning buyers.


Flying America’s First Homegrown Modern Gyroplane
By Dan Johnson, July 22, 2016

Taxiing out for takeoff with instructor Greg Spicola at the Zephyr Hills, Florida airport. photo by Amy Saunders of Evolution Trikes
Once upon a time... gyrocopters were an American invention. Igor Benson was such an important pioneer that many fixed wing pilots refer to all such flying machines as "Bensen gyros." Starting in the 1950s, he hit on a good combination of ideas that made the new sector flourish... for a time.

Gyros are small rotary winged aircraft that resemble helicopters in some ways — all have a spinning wing above the occupants. However, gyros work by the air moving across the blades of the rotor disk; their rotors are not powered. Most readers likely don't need a technical discussion. Suffice it to say gyros and helos are far from the same animal no matter how much they might look like one another.

Yet in the last couple decades things began to change, dramatically. Perhaps to accentuate their differences, modern producers prefer "gyroplanes" while the older Bensen types are often referred to as "gyrocopters." The old and new are different in important ways.

What's not to enjoy? The view from a gyroplane like AR1 is enormous. photo by Amy Saunders of Evolution Trikes
Europeans began to modernize older gyrocopter designs. They added solidly mounted tailplanes with greater volume, which greatly stabilized these machines. Igor Bensen's early gyros had components in the right proportion and the weight in right enough places to make his aircraft work. However, later developers made changes that lacked adequate safety enhancements and the accident rate soared. This fact alone is why many, including some in FAA, think all gyros may be unsafe; that is simply not accurate.

The Euro-style gyroplanes employ tails with larger vertical and horizontal surface area firmly attached to the rest of the carriage. Other factors are also important but the tailplane alone is a major part of why these machines are much more predictable to fly.

The Europeans also continued the development far past adding some stabilizing features. Companies across the Atlantic first partially enclosed the cockpit with half fuselages. They added better seating, instrumentation, controls, and generally improved fit-and-finish. More recently, designers have made fully enclosed models with increasing sophistication in both tandem and side-by-side seating. These improvements uncovered a ripe market.

Rotax Aircraft Engines said that in recent years, they have sold more 912 and 914 engines to the gyroplane sector than any other sector, by far. Germany's AuroGyro alone has sold more than 2,000 aircraft. Italy's Magni adds another 900 units while Spain's ELA has sold 700 units. Other producers account for another 500 making more than 4,000 sales in roughly the same time Americans have bought 3,000 SLSA of all brands.

photo by Amy Saunders of Evolution Trikes
So what is like to fly a gyro? The simplest comment is that with only a couple exceptions, you fly a gyroplane like a fixed wing. You use the stick and rudders similarly (though not identically). In my third outing — first in a Magni gyro, then an AutoGyro, and now the AR1 — I came away thinking two things. First, my fixed wing skills are highly transferrable to gyroplanes, even better than in a weight shift trike (which I also enjoy). In pursuing a full gyroplane checkout, I would not have to learn many new tricks. Secondly, gyroplanes have some clear advantages.

Something almost everyone notices at airshows is that gyroplanes can fly in winds not advised for many other aircraft. The reason, according to Greg Spicola, my instructor, is that the blades are spinning through the air at something like 400 mph. Therefore, a 25-mph crosswind is relatively insignificant. Combined with a higher wing loading, these aircraft are simply not as vulnerable to winds as most fixed wing aircraft.

Abid Farooqui's SilverLight Aviation focuses these good qualities with its American Ranger 1 by using an expanded, more effective tail arranged closer to the center of gravity thrust line. Abid explained this provides flight dynamics that reduces coupling between power and yaw and power and pitching. These changes along with a "high inertia rotor system" and a faired fuselage allow AR1 to boast a better glide ratio and energy retention, making landings easier and forgiving even for beginner pilots.

The main cautions I've heard for gyroplanes is not jamming the stick full forward (this is ill advised in a fixed wing aircraft, too). Another concern is forgetting that even after you land rather slowly, the rotor may still have quite a bit of spin remaining. If so, it is still making lift and failing to consider that could cause an upset. Likewise, a taildragger landed in a stiff crosswind also demands you handle the controls correctly. Fortunately, control actions that work in an airplane will also work for the gyro. Once the rotor is well spun down, this problem disappears.

I like gyroplane flying and I find plenty of good things to say about them. However, one of the strongest arguments involves price. SilverLight's AR1 costs only $65,000 with the 100-horsepower Rotax 912 engine. This is a kit, yes, but the build effort is modest and for a modern, comfortable, well-flying aircraft, the price is within reach of most budgets.

Since FAA has never chosen to allow Special (fully built) LSA gyroplanes, kit building is your only option. Unlike several other countries, gyroplanes like AR1 can only be sold in America as an Experimental Amateur Built kit. SilverLight said, "We have decided to offer AR1 as a package where builder assistance is offered to include airworthiness inspection fees plus the first two to three hours of test flight and tuning." An AR1 buyer travels to Zephyr Hills airport (not far from Tampa, Florida) to SilverLight's builder assist center for a nominal amount of time. The company added, "Our kit is easy and fast to put together, generally only taking two weeks to be ready for ground testing." While you put bolt A in hole B, your family can take advantage of Florida's numerous tourist attractions; it's not a bad trade and the Z-Hills airport is a fascinating place with all manner of aircraft and a very active skydiving center. C'mon down to Florida and check out the AR1 gyroplane. The view is superlative!

  • SILVERLIGHT AVIATION AMERICAN RANGER 1 (AR1)
    • Aircraft Configuration — Pusher engine, tricycle gear, tandem seating
    • Empty Weight — 628 pounds (912ULS), 650 pounds (914UL)
    • Gross Weight — 1,232 pounds
    • Minimum Speed (Vmin) — 20 mph
    • Maximum Cruise Speed — 105 mph
    • Maximum Straight & Level Speed (Vh) — with 914UL: 120 mph
    • General Cruise Speed — 55 to 100 mph
    • Never Exceed Speed (Vne) — 120 mph
    • Takeoff Roll (calm air, turf, pre-rotate to 250 RRPM) — 350 feet
    • Landing Roll — 0 to 30 feet with proper technique
    • Rate of Climb; sea level, standard conditions — 725 feet/min (912ULS)/850 feet/min (914UL)
    • Fuel Capacity — 17 U.S. gallons; welded aluminum
    • Rotor — Averso Stella, 27 feet 10 inches (larger rotor system available for high altitude flyers)


Pilots and Manufacturers... Help Rescuers Help You
By Dan Johnson, July 16, 2016

HYPOTHETICAL SCENARIO — You crash landed your airplane at an airport. You are unconscious inside. Emergency crews race to assist but they are worried about your airplane having a powerful rocket motor that might injure them as they try to extricate you. What do you do? More advisably, what should you have already done?

Plenty of smart aviators and nearly every salesperson will tell you safety doesn't sell. Pilots buy performance, range, sleek lines, comfort, and the latest instrumentation. Most take for granted that the aircraft is well-built and designed with stable characteristics and reliable systems. No matter their ultimate value, safety systems simply aren't sexy.

Tell that to Cirrus Design, the Minnesota startup (back in the late '90s) that did a terrific job of selling "that airplane with the parachute." Of course, their SR20 and SR22 also steadily acquired all the dazzling features they could incorporate but any Cirrus rep' is likely to agree the whole airframe parachute system, now called CAPS, was a leading reason why they did so well. The parachute set the SR20 apart from all other competitors as the new millennia began.

Truth in blogging notice: I was deeply involved with BRS parachutes when Alan and Dale Klapmeier's company had only 18 employees. Because Alan had survived a midair collision the brothers were adamant about their new baby airplane having a ballistic parachute. This history gives me a particular bias but the sales success of Cirrus is plain for anyone to see. Many thousands are flying and nearly every airport has one or many based on the field.

Recently a longtime friend and aviation business associate, Tom Peghiny alerted me to a request from Keith Leonhardt, the manager of operations and maintenance at Massachusetts' Hanscom Field airport. He wrote, "As an airport operator, we often provide our ARFF (Aircraft Rescue & Fire Fighting) crews with 'crash crew' charts for the type aircraft that are based at our airport." He asked Tom, the North American importer of CTs, "Would you happen to have any documentation that shows fuel capacity, battery location and BRS location for your fleet, particularly the CTLSi? We would like to use those documents to train on the Flight Design aircraft based at our airport." Keith was asking about documents like those accompanying this article.

You see, Flight Design wisely took a lesson from the success of Cirrus and at the insistence of Peghiny and Flight Design USA, the German manufacturer made airframe parachutes standard equipment on Light-Sport Aircraft delivered in the USA and Germany. It may be related, as it was for Cirrus, to the fact that Flight Design has sold more LSA than any other brand in America.

To show what he was seeking Keith sent Tom crash crew charts for two companies as examples. One was the set you see nearby for the now-defunct but still flying Cessna Skycatcher. The other was for Cirrus, whose models now appear on airfields all around the world.

Look. Here's why this otherwise rather mundane topic might be vitally important. A few years ago, I was one of the people described at the top of this article except the scenario was not hypothetical. See these two reports if interested: my accident and some reasons. BTW, that happened about 10 years ago. I'm doing fine and flying as often as possible. Kudos to the doctors and others in the health care industry.

I don't bring up this personal story for any reason except than to say, "IT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU." You may not think it will ever happen to you, and, believe me!, I certainly hope it does not. However, why jeopardize your chances of rescue? Ideally, emergency workers who may have to help you will have such aircraft-specific information.

Here's the valuable message:

MANUFACTURERS — These days nearly all producers use CAD software in their design. Making crash crew charts are thereby not a major burden. If you upload these charts to your company website, you can make airport managers aware of where to find them. Fellows like Keith Leonhardt may seek such material. Others will not be so vigilant but at least you'll have them available if a first responder organization contacts your company. The Imperative — Not only are you potentially helping a customer get rescued with greater success but you will have one more line of defense if a lawsuit occurs. I hope neither happens, but if you sell enough airplanes, it becomes increasingly likely.

PILOTS / OWNERS — Encourage your manufacturer to make such crash crew charts available. It could be very important to your life. Well informed first responders can do their job faster and more effectively... and that could be the difference between life and not. The Imperative — If you find yourself in a situation as I once did, you may be very grateful that rescuers have the guidance they need to extricate you swiftly. Consider this as insurance (that is not very costly). You hope you never need it but may be so glad you arranged it ahead of time if the need arises.


Mainstream Media Awakens to Flying Cars
By Dan Johnson, July 11, 2016
Appearing in the Wall Street Journal's "Journal Report" section on July 11, 2016 is the Terrafugia TF-X. Find out more about this futuristic design at the company website.
Perhaps like many of you, I read the newspaper most mornings. Today I was reading the Wall Street Journal. In one of their special sections was an article about flying cars. As regular readers know, I try to keep up with this niche within our niche of aviation.

Major publication reporters are finally catching up with what we have been observing for several years. People talk about the "mainstream media" disdainfully for a reason. Even though they provide the "news," their realization of all things new is not necessarily that timely. So much is happening in so many fields that mainstream media reporters cannot be expected to keep up with all developments. A website like this one is laser-focused on Light-Sport Aircraft, light kit aircraft, and ultralights. Even a billion-dollar news organization can't stay up on the latest like we can.

In fact, today's "Journal Report" — a subsection of the daily newspaper — was all about aviation. The newspaper presented stories about flying cars, autonomous aircraft (that is, flown without human input), drones, and safety efforts by FAA. This was fun for an aviation nut like me; I am not accustomed to seeing aviation stories in a daily newspaper (well, unless an aircraft crashes... they're always all over that, of course).

When non-aviation writers write about aviation, I can easily see their errors, omissions, or plain old misunderstanding. They are writing about my area of expertise while for them it is one story in a day and they can only report what they've been told. Most have little or no direct knowledge.

One part of the flying cars story mentioned Google founder Larry Page's $100 million investment in Zee.aero, the very secretive company working on what I've speculated is an electric airtaxi.

Can you imagine how far $100 mill would go in the LSA, light kit, and ultralight industry? With a few exceptions (Icon comes to mind), that amount of dough is a substantial portion of — if not more than — what has been invested into the entire industry! Paige has also investing in another company called Kitty Hawk, reported WSJ writer Robert Wall.

Related Articles: Multiple Flying Cars; Maverick; Terrafugia; AeroMobile


Toyota May Be Thinking Differently about Aerocars
By Dan Johnson, July 5, 2016

Maybe you haven't heard enough about electric-powered aircraft, flying cars, and automobiles on autopilot (presuming you're aware of Tesla's fatal accident in May). How about a shape-shifting aerocar? Huh?! I know it sounds rather crazy but Toyota, being the world's largest car manufacturer, is not a name to be dismissed when they may choose to delve into the flying car business... twice, in a few months!

Nope, I'm not kidding. The Japanese car company was awarded a patent for a "Shape Morphing Fuselage for an Aerocar." The illustrations — typical patent artwork — might fool you. This is not some 1930s silliness. The U.S. Patent office published this very recently, on June 23rd, 2016.

Perhaps it's no more than a publicity generator, much like Amazon's drone delivery aircraft — about which, by the way, Amazon claims to be sincere. Or, maybe Toyota is afraid Terrafugia might beat them to an interesting market, something like Tesla did to the big boys of auto manufacturing. Maybe they're just trying to lock up some intellectual property. I wouldn't know the answer to those questions. I simply found a shape-shifting flying car to be intriguing.

Toyota's concept allows the wings to be stored within the interior while the car is on land unlike Terrafugia's Transition.
It is probable Toyota Aerocar inventors and Michigan residents, Umesh Gandhi and Taewoo Nam, know all about Terrafugia and their work on Transition. Toyota could not be seriously worried about a small start up when the multinational company has billions to spend. Nonetheless, they appear to be taking this well beyond Terrafugia's wing-folding Transition (though not beyond Terrafugia's much different approach with their Osprey-like, electric-powered TF-X).

Here's the general description appearing on their patent: "A shape morphing fuselage and method of transitioning an aerocar from a land mode to a flight mode. The fuselage includes... flexible frame member and tensile skin... as well as an actuation system configured to bend the frame members between a contracted configuration associated with flight mode and an expanded configuration association with land mode." All this is to allow collapsing the folding wings inside the vehicle for road travel. That makes sense but the Aerocar has to store this in space that cannot otherwise be used, rather like a hardtop convertible.

Terrafugia has demonstrated — and publicly flown, at Oshkosh and other locations — their Transition that folds its wings alongside the car body. This method can leave the wings exposed to road rash. Their TF-X design goes far beyond this and does not leave major flight components exposed but that's another story.

Another online outlet, England's Daily Mail, wrote, "Toyota believes flying has always been a dream central to the history of humanity and the car manufacturer may be getting closer to making it a reality." From my read of the patent, I cannot imagine this is particularly serious, but it might be a way to claim patent exclusivity on changeable car body shapes. For an outfit used to making millions of automobiles through several brands, an Aerocar could hardly seem particularly profitable.

When the operator is ready to fly, the wings can be extended generally from the sides of the shape morphing fuselage through a hatch.
Toyota's "tensile skin" could be constructed with an elastic or stretchy membrane material, like silicone, or a shape-memory material capable of expanding and contracting to smoothly wrap around the car's frame, according to language contained in the patent application.

So when the operator is ready to fly, the wings can be unfolded and extended — this part is much like Terrafugia's Transition — from the sides of the fuselage (Mssrs. Gandhi and Nam regularly referred to the Aerocar body as a "fuselage"). However, I see one big difference.

Transition's wings remain alongside the car where road debris could strike the wings. That always looked vulnerable to many observers. Toyota's shape-shifting Aerocar brings the wings inside. They can fit because the car body or fuselage can change shapes using actuators inside to twist and tug a tensile, or stretchy, skin. On the road with wings hidden, Aerocar looks something like a minivan. Aloft it becomes more streamlined.

The vehicle "would be driven using a power system that includes a battery pack, internal combustion engine, turbine, fuel cell, or other energy conversion device" driving a propeller or ducted fan. Motive power does not seem to be Toyota's main concern, partly as illustrated by the kludgy prop at the rear that would also have to be pulled inside... and the patent has no language about that.

The fuselage could employ a tensile body that stretches between flexible frame members that optimizes shape for flight versus ground operation.
Toyota engineers Gandhi and Nam dryly note that a vehicle designed with this futuristic morphing technology "can require physical trade-offs in design in order to facilitate operations in both the land mode and the flight mode," according to the patent published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Aerocar isn't designed with the passenger's comfort in mind, but is shaped to optimize aerodynamic lift, limit drag, and support flight stability.

So, is Toyota likely to enter the flying car business? Do they have a couple (or more) engineers working on things like Google's "Moonshot" group does, where the pay-off, if any, is years in the future? Maybe they are merely exploring ideas and filing patents as a way to show they're actually working on stuff and not wasting their days updating their Facebook pages. Again, I don't know. Yet when a multinational company with billions of dollars at their ready disposal cracks open the checkbook, it could lead to something interesting.

Toyota's shape-shifting design isn't the company's first flying car proposal. In September 2015, Toyota was awarded another patent for a vehicle that placed the wings under a compartment in the roof that would deploy at the touch of a button.

Maybe this is just an ongoing fascination with a George Jetson flying car that has tantalized humans for years. Then, again, who knows? Could a shape shifting Aerocar be in your future?

Related Articles: Multiple Flying Cars; Itec's Maverick; China's CarCopter; Terrafugia's Weight Increase; AeroMobile 3.0; and, ScaleWings SW91 Aeros


Jabiru Gets an “OK” from Australian CASA
By Dan Johnson, June 30, 2016

It doesn't often happen this way. When media reporters get hold of a story that casts a company or person in a bad light, this generates headlines. The results can be disastrous for that company or person. However, if the initial article turns out to be overstated, a followup report does not always earn publication. News organizations don't gain subscribers or advertisers by saying, "All is OK now."

Perhaps this was the situation with Jabiru... the engine side of the house, not the airframe side. As you can read in our earlier report, Jabiru was taken to task for some problems down under. You should judge for yourself.

"I hope people who read [CASA's] report get the main message that well-maintained Jabiru engines were not a problem but sloppy maintenance did them in," wrote Jabiru North America boss, Pete Krotje. "CASA does not mention the group of eight flight schools where most of the problems arose and that the same maintenance company did their maintenance." He ventured further saying, "I can't imagine that the FAA would take steps similar to CASA's limitations without knowing the source of the problem."

Pete wrote, "Limitations have been lifted on engines that have been maintained according to the Jabiru manual and have complied to the 'significant' Jabiru service bulletins & service letters." He expressed that, "It is a real round about way of saying that poor maintenance practices are the real cause of Jabiru engine malfunctions." Like it or not, aircraft — like houses, autos, RVs, boats, well... pretty much everything — require regular and proper maintenance. Fail in this mission and you invite problems.

Especially Pete liked this CASA statement: "The failures experienced can generally be attributed to the maintenance practices, not necessarily poor quality of maintenance but as discussed [in the report], any deviation from the current Jabiru recommendations does appear to introduce conditions that can rapidly deteriorate the engine health to the point of failure."

Jabiru Australia, the designer and manufacturer of their line of engines, wrote to owners of their equipment saying, "We have been notified that CASA will be replacing the [document] that expires on the 30th of June with a [document] that places no limitations on Jabiru powered aircraft compliant with maintenance procedures." They added, "It is heartening to see recognition by CASA of the issues faced which are beyond our control and the steps taken by Jabiru to deal with the issues within our control."

Jabiru in Australia was also pleased to see "the dramatic increase" in compliance to Service Bulletins, Service Letters, and maintenance procedures — which likely represents the good that came from CASA's investigation. Combined with their Jabiru engine training workshops, following these procedures has resulted in fewer incidents. Jabiru then insisted, "This puts us well ahead of Rotax for reliability, the standard by which CASA based their aggressive initial actions." Around the world, Rotax sets a high bar for reliability, and the Austrian company helps achieve this by rigorously encouraging mechanics to get initial and recurrent training.

All is not perfect, however. Jabiru Australia wrote, "It is disappointing, however, that CASA still retained an Acceptance of Risk Statement within the limitations for non-compliant aircraft as the signing of this provides no enhancement to the reliability of these engines and is still damaging to our business." The negative effect of a damning report can linger on long after the problem may have been solved.

Nonetheless, Jabiru Australia remained upbeat, concluding, "We will continue to work for and with our owners and operators to strengthen and grow the Jabiru Fleet.  We have weathered the storm; it is now onwards and upwards.

CASA produced an 11-page report on their conclusions which can be obtained by asking Jabiru North America.

In the report, CASA stated, "The Jabiru engine has been designed to be lightweight for Light-Sport applications and also to be easy and efficient to maintain. From the data provided, however, it appears that the engine is very reliant on a fastidious maintenance regime and is intolerant of variation to the schedule provided by the manufacturer." In other words, mechanics must follow the instructions of Jabiru.

CASA is aware that engines may not remain in the configuration as originally manufactured. Their report said, "It is understood that 'aftermarket' parts are available for experimental aircraft, and certain Jabiru engines may have been modified in ways that involve the installation of non-Jabiru manufactured parts. All of these modifications have the potential to contribute to the reliability of the engine, in a both a positive and negative manner." They concluded, "[We] recognize that a true and complete picture of reliability can only be achieved on the basis of a consider of known configurations."

The governmental agency finished with a series of specific recommendation that interested persons and Jabiru owners can find in the report, called "Jabiru Engine Reliability Analysis."


Summertime Float Flying; Now You Can Afford It
By Dan Johnson, June 28, 2016

Merlin PSA recently took its first flight on Aeromarine 800 amphibious floats. all photos courtesy Aeromarine LSA
It's summer. It's hot. The water beckons. Yet, you're a pilot. How do you enjoy both? Get a seaplane, preferably a Light-Sport or light kit seaplane. You have several choices. The trouble is that any seaplane is priced well above landplanes of similar configuration. Some LSA seaplanes smash through the $200,000 barrier. That may represent a fair value for what you get but it exceeds the budget of many recreational pilots. How about $55,000 to $65,000? That sounds better, doesn't it?

Runway testing and cross country trials of the float-equipped Merlin PSA is complete. Aeromarine LSA owner Chip Erwin reports performing stalls, turns, climb, and cruise tests, each of which passed his criteria, although he continues in trials. The floatplane Merlin has not yet entered the water but that will happen in days after Chip finishes his initial wringing out of the float version. These floats are amphibious so land trials made sense at first.

Chip reports, "I have been using the 1730 millimeter (68 inch) DUC Hélices Flash prop because theoretically it is better for acceleration and climb which is nice to have on a seaplane." He reported good results with about a 900 foot per minute climb rate and cruise at 85-92 mph.

Yet cruise was definably better with the smaller (1660 mm / 65 inch) prop so Chip noted, "From a business perspective I really only need to offer that prop." He added that it works fine on floats or wheels and that makes inventory stocking easier. "Using the 1660 mm prop set for cruise pitch I saw 100 mph TAS at only 2,000 feet, with floats!" Given Merlin PSA's roomy solo cockpit that includes baggage space, hitting 100 mph on floats qualifies as good performance. Even backed off to 5500 rpm for better economy, speed was 96 mph TAS and 91 mph indicated, Chip reported. That's a fair pace given he plans to fly from central Florida to Oshkosh for AirVenture 2016.

Longtime light aviation entrepreneur, Chip Erwin (the original developer of the popular SportCruiser) knows a thing or two about floats. Besides developing several airplanes — one of which was a pioneering LSA seaplane called Mermaid — his then-Czech-based company also developed aluminum floats.

Chip identifies three ingredients that make for a good floatplane: (1) plenty of wing area, perhaps explaining why the Brazilian Super Petrel flies well as a biplane seaplane; (2) plenty of horsepower, clarifying why many LSA seaplane designers flocked to Rotax's new 915 that will provide 135 horsepower when ready; and, (3) big floats, which might explain why a set of Aerocet floats for a CubCrafters cost more than $50,000... only for the floats and related gear.

Merlin PSA on floats is a single seater. I'll come back to that but it makes clear why Merlin's wings qualify as big. You might not think a 65-horsepower Rotax 582 represents a lot of power but for a light single seater, it most certainly is. The wheeled version is a very lively performer. Finally, Merlin's floats support 800 pounds, each!, illustrating why a pair of them sit so high in the water. Get all Merlin specs.

What may be more surprising is that the choice of a single seater makes Merlin hit all Chip's points: its wing is large; power is high for its weight; and the floats have minimum draft... all of which make this new light kit a solid performer.

Nonetheless, I can hear your lament, "But it's only a single seater." Let me observe two things: First, most airplanes with two or even four seats are most commonly flown solo. Years of surveying told AOPA that the average occupancy of a typical (four seat) GA plane was 1.6, suggesting that overwhelmingly these aircraft are flown with only the pilot on board. Secondly, most seaplanes are flown solo. Chip likes to joke," You can spend $100,000 more than Merlin but that's a lot of money for your cellphone holder... the empty seat next to you. Seriously, think about it. How many times do you truthfully fill both or all your seats?

If you have to take someone or the whole family aloft, go rent a Cessna 172 somewhere. They are common and if you have a medical, problem solved. For all the times when you fly solo, Merlin will offer a dashing example, and one that saves you a bundle. Sold in kit form, you can start with a wheeled Merlin and basic equipment, getting aloft for $28,000 powered by the Rotax 582.

"Alright," you say, "but what if I just don't like two stroke engines?" Even if you don't accept that Rotax has sold tens of thousands of these engines that have been proven reliable in millions of hours of flying, Aeromarine LSA has a four stroke Merlin in late stages of development. By fall 2016, you should also be able to choose the HKS for about $3,000 additional. It may offer slightly less climb than the Rotax 582, but it should cruise at a similar speed and will burn half the fuel. In reality, though, many readers of this website know the Rotax 582 is as bulletproof as a two stroke gets, and the price is right. So is the nationwide, indeed worldwide, support.

As he knows floats and fitting them to various airplanes better than many aviation business owners, I asked for more float tips. Chip identified three guidelines.

The first was the pattern of a more wing area, plenty of power, and large enough floats. The second point is that floats tend to cost about 20% of climb and cruise performance and, of course, this factors in to how long it runs on water before launching; less time is always better because floatplanes can take a pounding on some water surfaces. That's why you always hear seaplane people discussing the number of seconds before they leave the surface. The third point is that, in general, you don't lose payload by adding floats. That sounds counterintuitive given the weight of floats and amphib gear, but Chip maintains that, "The floats lift themselves, using shape and angle of attack." Because seaplanes fly a bit slower, they can also tolerate turbulence reasonably well.

You can catch the video below to see — via text lines added in editing — facts about how long Merlin remains on the ground, on hard surface or turf, plus other parameters.

However, I come back to that old saw about what is the essential ingredient to make flight possible: money! Merlin PSA on floats — even equipped with BRS parachute, TruTrak ECO autopilot, ADS-B out transponder, amphibious gear, and all the features you'd expect on most recreational aircraft — will list at just $65,000. Given that is less than we expected a dozen years ago for most Light-Sport Aircraft, on wheels!, that is a definite bargain. Yes, you have to build it; it's a kit. However, the $65K price tag is for the quick-build model including builder assistance in central Florida (not far from Disney so the family can amuse themselves while you pull rivets). In a couple, three weeks you'll be close to done and that isn't bad for an airplane bound to put a smile on your face.


* Another modestly priced seaplane kit, the Aventura series, is available from Aero Adventure.


Flying Car Racing Event & Terrafugia New Weight
By Dan Johnson, June 23, 2016

If my title confuses you, regrets. The two are related in my mind but not in present-day fact. Nonetheless, I found both interesting and hope you do, too.

First, the fact. Terrafugia, of current Transition Roadable Airplane or flying car fame, won a weight exemption up to 1,800 pounds. This blows past the 1,680 pound exemption won by Icon Aircraft for their A5 LSA seaplane (only 1,510 pounds of which they chose to use). Earlier Terrafugia was granted an exemption to the seaplane LSA weight of 1,430 pounds but that didn't prove to be enough.

A problem, perhaps the major problem, for Terrafugia is contained in the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (and let's be just as government as we can be to go with the inescapable abbreviation of FMVSS). You cannot take to the air with any airplane heavier than an ultralight vehicle (254 pounds empty plus certain exceptions) without satisfying lengthy FAA regulations and you cannot put a non-kit car on the road without meeting the considerable requirements of FMVSS. OK, in truth you can't go in the air with an aircraft weighing more than a few pounds, provided that aircraft is a drone, but that's a whole other story of growing federal regulatory intrigue.

After reviewing nearly 300 comments, most of which were supportive, FAA granted Terrafugia a gross weight increase to 1,800 pounds (819 kg) and a stall speed increase to 54 knots (...because Terrafugia argued that increasing the wing size to stay at the LSA standard 45 knots was not feasible for a conforming roadworthy vehicle). So, good for Terrafugia. They can now continue developing Transition, even while pondering their dreamier TFX, that is electric powered, semi-autonomous, and VTOL.

Bert Rutan's Bipod could be an entry (though not confirmed) in the Flying Car Racing event.
Terrafugia was not, however, aware of an event to which the organizer claims to have invited them. Transition design team leader Carl Dietrich wrote, "I don't recall hearing of a "Flying Car Racing" event, but if we were invited, we would almost certainly decline — as much fun as it may be — because our focus needs to be on other things plus Transition isn't designed for racing. I would design a very different vehicle for racing if there was a customer for it.

You can go to the Flying Car Racing website and draw your own conclusions but I must admit this is mildly interesting to me. As I replied to Carl, "I don't see it so much actual racing as capabilities demonstration. Who knows? It may never happen. They're talking about an event in 2017 though I'll give them points for at least planning well ahead. On the other hand, it could generate considerable media interest, I suppose."

Most of what the organizers show is a gathering of anything and everything that might remotely be considered a "flying car." They get more points for finding quite a few candidates but miss some obvious ones, for example, the recently Special LSA approved SkyRunner (video) though that is more off-road than roadable, but who wants to split hairs?

Have I wandered out of the solar system in exploring this topic? Maybe, but it has to do with the types of aircraft normally covered on this website and it could be a media generator (already has been to some extent) so I thought I'd look into it. If it continues to be something, I'll follow up. If it fizzles, well, hopefully you enjoyed looking at it with me.

Flying Car Racing is developed in — where else? — Los Angeles, California. The first invitational is planned for 2017, they stated.

Scarab Aviation Evolution
Here are the teams they invited. Some of these entries intend to be "flying cars." Others are simply vehicles you could drive around on the ground (sort of) with wings atop their carriages.

Three categories have been established: Radio-controlled, Electric, and Unlimited. Organizers note, "Entrants must be able to operate their flying cars legally on the ground and in the air between El Mirage Dry Lake, California and Boulder City, Nevada, USA." They add, "Vehicles that are not street legal may race in restricted trials on and above El Mirage Dry Lake, California. Radio-controlled flying cars will be raced within visual range of a control area on land and in the air." The latter seems in keeping with FAA current insistence on line-of-sight control of airborne drones. No word if FMVSS has an opinion, but they may weigh in later.

The RC group is defined as "Unmanned and human-guided in real-time," while the Electric category is "Manned with electric drive." Unlimited or "manned" types include I-Tec's Maverick (video), Terrafugia's Transition (video), AeroMobile 3.0, the old Molt Taylor Aerocar, Caravellair, PAL-V, the greatly modified Sportsman PlaneDriven PD-1; Scarab Aviation's Evolution, the telescoping wing Sampson, and Zee Aero's flying taxi (or whatever it is; they're being very quiet).

Shown: artwork for Zee Aero's project about which the company is saying almost nothing beyond Google leader Larry Page's involvement. This image was modified from patent application drawings.
Of course, the whole thing could lose energy as did the once-heralded Rocket Racing League. No teams I contacted had committed to attending. In fact, they didn't even know about it so this could be no more than an overhyped dream. Yet, the concept is rather cool, I think, and it would indeed begin to separate the men from the boys by asking all competitors to travel 219 miles. That's hardly an insurmountable distance for any credible entry but reliability could be a challenge for the less developed projects.

Groups like Terrafugia, I-Tec, and Aeromobile have flown their machines and driven them on roads. Heck, a Maverick traveled by road all the way from Florida to Oshkosh one year. So a 219 trip would be child's play for some but the more questionable entries might not go the distance. I should think a 219-mile trip by radio-controlled model would be rather tiresome.

Then again, anything's possible and this just might make the mainstream media sit up and pay attention. MSM reporters seem to love driverless cars, so who knows? I say, anything that paints aviation and flying in a good light is probably worthwhile. So... gentlemen, start your engines and spin your props. Boogity, boogity, boogity! Let's go racing!


LSA “Market Failing” Statement and My Response
By Dan Johnson, June 18, 2016

This month, I had an email exchange with a leader in aviation. I debated if I should reply. For a time, I did not but I felt compelled given the person's stature. I was driven to attempt informing those this individual might influence. I further pondered if I should write an article about it, but I feel one must confront potential errors if for no other reason than to promote healthy dialogue.

Cessna Skycatcher sold briskly for a time but was withdrawn from the market after more than 270 were delivered. Is that a failure?
I am not to going reveal with whom I had this exchange. Personality isn't important to the discussion but this person expressed what I suspect represents the opinion of a fair share of general aviation pilots, at least those who have not fully explored recreational aircraft such as LSA, or light kits, or ultralights.

The following comes from our second round of email. In the first, the writer referred to LSA "market failings" and I asked what was meant. The person wrote, "As for the 'LSA market's failings,' I'll point to a few: Cessna Skycatcher dead and gone, Piper and Cirrus both abandoned the market after fitful starts."

My reply: I would not in any way call those market failings. I would call them the market functioning quite perfectly. Cessna Skycatcher was not the product the market wanted; even their own dealers or flight schools generally didn't embrace it. As they worked on the design, people told them they made poor choices (engine, vertical tail volume, more) but Cessna felt they had to do it their way. I write this a big fan of Cessna; I did much of my early flying in Cessnas, have flown them many hundreds of hours, and I've owned three.

Rather than develop their own model, Piper chose... to contract with Czech Sport Aircraft to rebadge their existing SportCruiser LSA as the PiperSport. They sold more than 70 in one year. I'm not sure that qualifies as a market failing.

Cirrus planned to represent the company-named SRS. This model flew for years before in Europe and still does as the Fk14 Polaris. It may return to the USA under the European name and will be represented by Hansen Air Group.
Cirrus also selected an existing model. However, they insisted on "Cirrus-izing" their SRS model and got so deeply into it that they never made it to market. That model, known as the FK Lightplanes FK14 Polaris is quite successful in Europe. It comes from a manufacturer still producing, one that has been in business quite profitably for nearly 30 years. Therefore, I'd hardly call that a market failing either.

I implored of this other aviation leader... "Market failing" is such a negative term, especially when it may be incorrect. I hope you will consider not repeating it. Let's keep it positive.

I could not rest with the preceding. The naysayer's general viewpoint appears to represent what I'd call a common myopia among American pilots who fail to consider the rest of the world. Here is a link to an article recently published by General Aviation News that gives more detail.

Summary factoid:  In 2014, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) reported deliveries of 969 single engine piston certified aircraft worldwide. For comparison, LSA-like aircraft sold around the world in that year exceeded 3,000 units.

The negativity continued with the other writer stating, "Several of the LSAs that remain on the market have poor flying qualities... and prices for LSAs are higher than what was anticipated at the start."

My reply: Yes, some LSA prices are much higher than we once expected but most of those are all-carbon-fiber, full glass-paneled aircraft with autopilot, ADS-B out, airframe parachutes, leather interiors, and more such deluxe equipment that customers demanded. As we all know, such fancy gear adds considerably to prices even without high certification costs.

For a few months named PiperSport, the more permanently named SporCruiser was previously and is still successfully represented by U.S. Sport Aircraft.
We also have perfectly airworthy (as judged by FAA designees) and fun to fly airplanes available for $50-75,000, which, given inflation, is actually less expensive than we forecast. Those prices are for three axis, fixed wing aircraft but if you will accept a gyroplane (still only a kit LSA, due to FAA's reluctance to fix this), a weight shift aircraft, or a powered parachute, the prices can be much lower. You may not care for those aircraft but many pilots do. They fly like a duck... etc., so any new aircraft that satisfies is a good thing — they keep pilots flying — and their prices can dip below $30,000. In 2004 dollars that's less than half what we once forecast.

Forecasts of market functions — like weather forecasting — are often wrong. In 2003 and 2004, no one, myself included, correctly guessed where the LSA market was headed.

Flying qualities can be very subjective; it depends what you want, are ready for, and what mission you have for the airplane. I've flown some certified airplanes that have less than optimal flying qualities. An H-model Beechcraft Bonanza I loved had a nightmarishly complex fuel system and my insurance check instructor absolutely forbade me from deliberately stalling it.

BushCat (along with a few other brands) is a great example of how LSA prices are actually lower than once expected if compared in constant dollars.

Finally the writer added, "Very few LSA makers are thriving financially, and several are barely hanging on."

My reply: I will not say that is wrong as I have no access to their accounting documents, but companies like Tecnam, Pipistrel, Aeropro, AutoGyro, and several others seem to be doing quite well. Would you expect every single manufacturer to thrive financially? If that is a requirement for market success by your definition, then the GA Type Certified market is not particularly healthy either.

While I would not disagree that some producers are suffering in a lethargic world economy, "hanging on" is still in business. Indeed, only a few of the 90+ manufacturers have departed the LSA market permanently. If I look at general aviation companies like Maule and Eclipse (contemporarily) or Bellanca and Navion (from days gone by), I see TC producers that are not even hanging on anymore, or marginally so.

Again, this is the market working, not failing. This is much like an economic recession being a corrective occurrence as it redirects malinvestments to better purposes.

Our exchange also included talk about FAA Part 23 rewrite project about which this person also has reservations and I responded to those comments as well. However, the above is enough for now and makes my point, I hope.

If you have comments about this article and the opinions of the other writer or my replies to that person, feel free to post them on my Facebook page, where I've posted a brief preview to this article.


Chart Sources: LAMA and LAMA Europe; ByDanJohnson.com Market Share Info; GAMA; Recreation Aviation Australia; and, other individuals that offered input.

Best Effort Statement: While care was taken and broad experience was applied to the counting, considerable interpretation was needed to create this chart. National figures are based on reports from many countries, laboriously assembled by GAMA, a study made significantly more difficult by widely varying reporting systems that define aircraft differently and group them by differing methods. GAMA's numbers were then further interpreted based on expert knowledge.

For Further Comparison: The U.S. type certified single engine piston (SEP) fleet — accounting for an estimated 80% of the global fleet of such aircraft — numbers 137,500 aircraft. Worldwide, the TC SEP fleet may count 165-175,000 aircraft; all other countries have about 20% of the global total. As we can identify about 13,000 LSA-like aircraft in the USA, America represents about 20% of all such recreational aircraft in the world; 80% are operating in other countries.


“Two Engine” SkyRunner Wins Special LSA Status
By Roy Beisswenger, June 10, 2016

Please again welcome Powered Sport Flying publisher, Roy Beisswenger, who sent the following story on the exciting new powered parachute from SkyRunner. —DJ

SkyRunner has evolved significantly. The current version is on the left; the original prototype is on the right. Size, seating, power plants, instrumentation, wing, chassis... nothing is the same.
I have been actively following SkyRunner for more than a year. The U.S. start-up company is rare in the Light-Sport world. The company's MK 3.2 entry is the first American two-seat powered parachute manufacturer to launch since the LSA regulation was issued.

Sadly, the SP/LSA rules actually ran most of the powered parachute manufacturers, dealers, instructors, and even pilots from the early 2000s out of the business and sport. It is refreshing to watch a company buck that trend!

Creating a powered parachute from the ground up is a challenge, and to build one that doubles as mighty gnarly all-terrain vehicle is even more of a challenge. SkyRunner's team did it more than once. They began their effort with a single-place model (photo) that owner and developer Stewart Hamel initially funded. The single-place edition was designed and prototyped in the United Kingdom and was to be sold here in the USA.

Hamel quickly found that the market was less interested in that aircraft and more interested in a two-place version of the powered parachute. For that and other business reasons, he brought the design work from the UK to his home town of Shreveport, Louisiana and took a more hands-on approach to development.

Features for the powered parachute were essentially "crowdsourced" with SkyRunner listening closely to what potential customers wanted. Then the military got wind of it because of its potential as a special operations platform. However, the list of features that the military was interested in was more than the typical civilian's "roll out, warm up, take off, and fly" mission profile.

What special forces operators really wanted was an aircraft that can fly, but also act as a ground tactical vehicle. They also wanted it to be multi-terrain. They wanted more payload. Since the goal was to take the aircraft into battle (or even deep behind the battle), they wanted reliability. SkyRunner MK 3.2 delivers!

Satisfying the military and first-responder wish lists makes the SkyRunner an aircraft that appeals to adventurous civilians, too. So instead of turning his focus to a "government only" design, Hamel worked from the outset to make a product that also conforms to the FAA's SLSA standards. SLSA regs — and a weight exemption similar to ones issued for the Terrafugia and Maverick flying cars — make it possible to offer the SkyRunner to the public.

While new to manufacturing, and certainly to aircraft manufacturing, Stewart is not new to business or parachutes.

He was involved in successful startup companies in the past such as ReachLocal (once a $800 million company), he understood business fundamentals well. When I visited his facility early in 2015, I was very impressed. The factory he was in was absolutely huge, being an old AT&T pay phone factory. Instead of renting the whole space, though, he only leased and fenced off a tiny fraction of the cavernous facility. As production ramps up, SkyRunner won't have to move. Stewart will simply lease more floor space and move the fence.

Getting their pink Special Airworthiness Certificate. Shown are Stewart Hamel, CEO & Founder; Doug Leinberger FAA Air Safety Investigator from the Ft. Worth MIDO; and, Cody Lackey, Director of Production for SkyRunner.
Stewart's experience under canopies came from skydiving. Once an avid jumper, a bad accident and injuries in the sport prompted his doctors to encourage a new hobby. After some looking around, Hamel found powered parachutes and pursued his new sport with a passion.

One of the lessons learned during the development process was what to build in-house and what to outsource. Initially Stewart wanted to outsource all he could and do only final assembly at his facility. During the prototyping and development work, he found that it was easier to control quality and get things done faster if he did more work in-house.

Now with initial development complete, current plans now are back to only to doing the final assembly at their Shreveport facility. "We are having the welded chassis and wiring harnesses outsourced," Hamel said. "For final assembly, a team of four can complete eight to ten SkyRunners per month," he added. "That makes production scalable. As we grow, we can bring in additional teams of four to increase production."

Even without a wing above, SkyRunner is one gnarly, exciting machine, an ATV on steroids.
Any pilot (or ATV enthusiast) wonders how SkyRunner performs.

This is actually two questions since MK 3.2 is both ground vehicle and aircraft. I only have experience with it on the ground, and I have to say that it is a thrill ride. With its wide wheelbase, light weight, and Polaris motor, SkyRunner will go places and do things that you'd never try with normal ATVs. Yes, you read that right. It has a dedicated Polaris motor for ground operations, making it an off-road bandit.

SkyRunner also has a Rotax 912. As a powered parachute MK 3.2 takes off like any other powered parachute, only easier. Four wheels, that wide wheel base, and a low center of gravity combine to make the SkyRunner almost immune to tipping over.

It also seems that the ground motor could also have a function for takeoff. Kiting (getting the parachute inflated and above the chassis) is one of the most challenging tasks for the new powered parachute pilot. Kiting in light and variable wind is even more of a challenge. If the wing comes up crooked or slides to one side, the parachute lines or risers could get caught in a spinning prop. Let it go too far and you can tip some powered parachute carriages.

With a separate ground engine, a pilot wouldn't have to turn a prop to roll forward enough to kite the parachute. As the wing rises, the four-wheeled cart can handle most any odd kiting weirdness, and when you are happy that the wing is where it belongs, you can start the prop engine for actual take-off and climb. This isn't the official text book takeoff procedure, but it appears to hold promise.

The cockpit of SkyRunner MK 3.2 has both a ground operation and an airborne set of controls.

Now with the their newly awarded SLSA airworthiness certificate, SkyRunner is kicking things into high gear. While it hasn't been a secret that they exist, they haven't aggressively promoted their product to the aviation community... yet. Nonetheless, they have delivered a couple aircraft overseas to impatient customers while working through FAA paperwork.

With the design settled and the production facility in place, deliveries are going to start taking place in the U.S. The approved design is now something that the military and other agencies can test and see if it suits their purposes. Expect to see a lot more out of this company this summer and in the future. Congratulations to Stewart Hamel and his entire crew!


Greg Koontz’s Crazy Flying Act in Titan Legend
By Dan Johnson, June 7, 2016

No, he's not going to fly into the hangar... you hope, but Greg Koontz's airshow act keeps you wondering.
Probably you've seen an act like this before. A crazy-acting farmer or a supposed drunk hops into a Piper Cub or similar aircraft after the regular pilot leaves it unattended for a few minutes. The crazy guy has no flying experience but somehow proceeds to start up the airplane and to take off in the most out-of-control manner imaginable. As he erratically careens around the sky, handling the aircraft wickedly out of control, he nearly impacts the ground over and over. The entire act takes place within a couple hundred feet of a hard-as-concrete surface.

Even though it's only an act and even if the pilot is actually a gifted aviator, it's easy to get caught up in the moment and fear that nutjob is going to whack the airplane into the ground right in front of the airshow crowd watching in fascination.

So, you may look at the act Greg Koontz performs and you might undervalue the skill involved. Yet, Don Wade worked with Greg to develop this project and reported, "Greg is one the most precise airshow pilots in world. You have no idea how difficult landing on the truck is. You have just six inches either side of the wheels!"

Most of us are pleased to make a "squeaker" landing where the landing gear kisses the tarmac oh-so gently. We beam with pride should someone witness our skill. We're pleased to do a precision landing that gets within a couple hundred feet of a preplanned target. Our flight instructor might nod approvingly. Even experienced pilots competing on spot landing contests are pleased to landing within a ten or twenty feet of their target... and their runway isn't moving! An error tolerance of six inches on a surface that is itself moving, well now... that is really something.

Approaching for landing on the "world's shortest runway."
Koontz has his American Legend, awesomely powered by the 180-horsepower Titan, painted up to say "Bob's Discount Flight School." Hmmm, is that like a discount doctor? The Dodge pickup truck on which he lands is lettered with messages to resemble a plumber's work vehicle complete with a big rack on top. We're supposed to believe this might be used for hauling pipe and it merely happens that some crazy pilot might try to land a plane on top. In truth, as our video shows, the rack is quite carefully built to allow Greg to artfully land while in motion. After he touches down he tweaks the throttle to move the main gear into curved wells sized to the Legend Cub's wheel stance.

He makes it look easy enough but you can bet this is something you should not try at home without lots of experience. Yet the result is great fun.

After Greg touches down with the mains and cautiously rolls them forward into the wheel wells, he holds the tailwheel up as the truck driver slowly decelerates, allowing the tailwheel to settle where planned. Then, as the announcer goes on with the story, the truck driver again accelerates smoothly and Greg is able to lift off and continue flying. It looks so deceptively easy but it surely is pure deception. As I watched the video footage we captured, I knew I'd never try anything so crazy.

The crowd eats it up. Even jaded airshow pilots who have seen it all have to admire the skill Greg applies (along with his capable truck driver) in making the entire act work. The 2016 version of the act — the "smallest airport" — will include 16 venues that started with Sun 'n Fun 2016 and includes that summer celebration of flight known as Oshkosh. For the show schedule and additional details visit Greg's GK Airshows website.

Landing the Titan-powered Legend Super Cub... as viewed from the truck.
American Legend entered the SLSA space early; they were the 10th LSA to achieve their special airworthiness out of a list now 140 strong. They first used the 100-horsepower Continental O-200, later mounting the 115-horse Lycoming O-233, the 120-horse Jabiru 3300 six cylinder, and later still, the still-to-come Superior diesel engine entry. However, from the view of Greg Koontz and many other pilots, the big Titan does a terrific job and, following Continental Motors' acquisition of ECi in 2015, it might be said that American Legend returned to their roots.

Titan's X-340 engine, now offered by Continental Motors, is a four cylinder, 340 cubic inch displacement engine that produces 180 horsepower. Sulphur Springs, Texas-based American Legend said their Super Legend HP with the Titan X-340, offers "fast cruise speeds and the best ever takeoff and climb performance in a Light-Sport Cub." Company boss Darin Hart explained that to qualify as Light-Sport Aircraft, maximum takeoff power must be limited to five minutes with continuous output limited to 80 horsepower.

Others have used this engine and fought mightily to keep the weight within LSA's challenging standard of 1,320 pounds. Darin explained, "Special lightweight custom paint and carefully selected panel equipment are helpful to maintain Super Legend HP empty weight at less than 904 pounds," as required by FAA to qualify as a Special LSA.

Good job, American Legend. Great act, Greg Koontz. Pilots, while you might not want to follow Greg's aerial antics, I'll be you enjoy the big Titan power that makes the act that much more entertaining.

Catch the whole act and hear from Greg in this video...


Jabiru 170D Returns, Offering Excellent Value
By Dan Johnson, June 1, 2016

Given that the Sport Pilot / Light-Sport Aircraft sector is only a dozen years old (announced July 2004 with the first Special LSA approval in April 2005), Jabiru North America seems almost an old timer with 17 years of business in their corporate logbook. During those years, the onetime Wisconsin company relocated to Shelbyville, Tennessee.

At Sun 'n Fun 2016, Jabiru North America announced their new J-170D model.

Australia's most popular LSA trainer has been noticeably improved and updated. Among other improvements, the down-under engineers redesigned the vertical stabilizer, giving it a more swept stance and a wider airfoil shape, which makes the aircraft more stable and require less rudder input than before, according to Jabiru. They believe this enhanced two seater will make an even better flight instruction airplane.

"The [previous] J170-SP has been a great trainer here in the USA, with its stout landing gear, stable handling, and fuel economy of less than 4 gallons per hour in daily use," said Pete Krotje, President of Jabiru North America. J-170D does even better.

You might need to get in line for one of these well-valued airplanes.

Jabiru North America reported, "We will be allotted one J170-D per month starting in late July 2016." That July aircraft is already sold and will be used for flight training. My guess is the Tennessee company will find more orders as they did at Sun 'n Fun 2016. They are quoting an introductory price of $99,900, which impressively includes a Garmin G3X touch-screen EFIS system; Garmin remote comm radio and Mode S transponder; 2020 compliant ADS-B in & out; and night lighting package. Optional instrumentation is available to allow instrument training.

While I know people often say SLSA seem more costly that promoted at first, Jabiru's new 170D offer a solid value, in fact being the equivalent of $78,950 in 2004 dollars. Back then we didn't even think about ADS-B and the G3X wasn't even a gleam in Garmin's eyes.

"For an aircraft that is tough enough for day after day flight training and will cruise over 100 knots (115 mph) for weekend excursions, the J170-D is a terrific bargain," said Pete. "Other LSA suitable for training [can be] double the price, and spare parts can be difficult to obtain. In contrast, all parts for the J170-D engine and airframe are readily available from Jabiru North America," he added. "The long-term relationship we've built with Jabiru allows us to offer outstanding support to our LSA owners in cases where parts, repairs or alterations are necessary."

So, what do active flight schools think of the modestly-price 170D? Chris Cooper, chief flight instructor of Hummingbird Aviation, a full-service flight school outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota, was quoted by Jabiru North America, "We are very, very happy with the J170 as a trainer and are looking into adding a third aircraft the future." Jabiru reported that Hummingbird has operated a J170-SP for several years, accumulating over 2,000 hours on its first aircraft, and recently acquired a second J170-SP to expand the business.

One imagines they'll be even happier with a J-170D offers several enhancements to the J170-SP originally offered in the USA, including a longer fuselage for more stability, the airfoil-shaped vertical stabilizer for improved turn coordination, and the latest version of the Jabiru 2200 engine with all the newest enhancements.

The list goes on... J170-D is equipped with the most advanced avionics offered for light-sport aircraft. Garmin's G3X touch-screen flight display has intuitive controls and features synthetic vision 3D terrain, GPS moving map with the capability to display geo-referenced charts, AOPA airport directory, and a 2020-compliant ADS-B package with weather and traffic display. Full electronic engine monitoring, including four-cylinder CHT, EGT, and fuel flow, is also standard.

According to Jabiru North America, the standard engine, Jabiru's 85-horsepower, direct-drive, 4-cylinder 2200 model, "offers simpler and smoother operation than the competition and features the latest Jabiru safety enhancements, including roller-bearing cam and lifters, valve-relief pocketed pistons, enlarged through-bolts, and reinforced flywheel attachment.

Flight schools and private owners alike often focus on cabin comfort and again, J-170D does well. It may look diminutive from the outside but its 45-inch-wide cabin offer six inches more width than a Cessna 172. Placing the control stick in the center console makes for easier entry and exit and I've always like the armrest to steady your control movements and reduce fatigue on longer flights. Though J-170D does not have the J-230's enormous aft cabin — a result of the larger Jabiru model being designed as a four seater in its home country — 170D offers a carpeted area behind the seats. Especially if you don't fill the large 35 gallon fuel tanks, you can carry luggage for two. Optional adjustable rudder pedals accommodate taller pilots.

While I understand $100,000 is a lot for some budgets, you have to put this in perspective to realize Jabiru is offering quite a bit of airplane for the money. If it's still too rich for your taste, you have many other new choices and a growing fleet of used airplanes. Nonetheless J-170D offers an excellent value in a proven, well equipped airplane that should work for most pilots.

  • SPECIFICATIONS FOR JABIRU J-170D
  • Wingspan — 31.7 feet
  • Cabin Width (at elbow) — 44.9 inches
  • Aircraft Empty Weight (typical) — 748 pounds
  • Maximum Gross Weight — 1,320 pounds
  • Load Factors — +4.0/-2.0 G (+7.0/ -3.5 G tested)
  • Horsepower — 85 @ 3300 rpm
  • Climb Rate at Gross Weight (average) — 500 fpm
  • Cruise Speed (75% power) — 100 knots True (115 mph)
  • Never exceed Speed — 140 knots True (161 mph)
  • Stall Speed, Full Flaps — 40 knots True (46 mph)
  • Stall Speed, No Flaps — 45 knots True (52 mph)
  • Fuel Capacity/Type — 35 gallons (100LL)


Icon Downshifts, Softens Tough-Love Contract
By Dan Johnson, May 25, 2016

On a conference call with aviation media, Icon Aircraft sought to mitigate blowback from the 40-page contract announced just before Sun 'n Fun 2016. Plenty of people took them to task and several position holders reported dissatisfaction with some of the more burdensome aspects of the lengthy legal document.

"We [messed] that up," CEO Kirk Hawkins told me at Aero 2016, adding that they would take action on it quickly. Since his comment in late April, the purchase agreement, meant to protect the company's brand, intellectual property, and legal liability, was heavily revised. Cut from 40 to 11 pages, the new agreement removes a 30-year life limit on the airframe. Neither will Icon install cockpit audio and video recorders. Numerous other changes should encourage position holders to sign the dotted line.

Several aviation news outlets have faulted the company for continuing to take orders while production appeared stalled, for issuing a contract no one could love except lawyers, and for tightly controlling the journalist flight experience. For the record, I was one of those. However, other than insisting on supplying all photos to me and limiting my flight time to 30 minutes, I was allowed to fly the airplane as I wished. Afterward, Hawkins and chief pilot Jon Karkow also solicited my opinion on changes I'd prefer.

Icon also sharply rolled back their production forecast. At Sun 'n Fun representatives were saying 175 aircraft would be produced in 2016. Today that number was dropped to 20 A5 LSA seaplanes. The news release indicated that seven have been built (photo) with eleven more currently in production. Our review of the FAA database showed a total of four as of the beginning of April.

In the conference call and in a press release, Icon also said, "These changes are part of a strategy to improve the A5 production processes and manufacturing supply chain while simultaneously supporting flight training for Icon customers." Icon reported that they have received a total of "30 composite aircraft sets." They added, "We've learned that our production process and parts of our supply chain are not yet ready for high-rate production."

Because of these major changes for the 10-year-old company, they will make "temporary workforce reductions primarily of the aircraft assembly team." In the meantime, Icon said that their investors are sticking with them and will commit to a "substantial infusion of new capital."

"Most customers can expect a delay of approximately one year from their previous estimated delivery dates." One can almost hear a collective groan from more than 1,000 customers who have already been waiting, in some cases for several years.

"I realize this news will be as big a disappointment for many of our customers as it is for us," Hawkins was quoted as saying. "I wish there were a better answer."

While the company works to make ready a more substantial production effort, they will focus on Icon Flight Centers, with locations in Texas and Florida to add to the home base one in Northern California. Several of the first 20 airplanes will be allocated to the California training facility.



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

 



 

 
 

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?


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.

J230-D & J170-D

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.



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.

Hansen Air Group represents recognized brands in the LSA
space: FK Lightplanes and their distinctive biplane Comet, FK9, and FK51 plus the great-flying Magnaghi Sky Arrow. Based in Atlanta, Georgia Hansen Air Group is an experienced player in the LSA space.
Multiple LSA

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

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.

Remos AG is the manufacturer of the next generation GXiS. This beautiful composite design built by German craftsmen offers excellent performance, light responsive handling, and a deluxe cockpit finish to please any aviator.

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.

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.

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

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

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.


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.

Sonex Aircraft is one of aviation's best-known brands offering exciting performance, easy building, prices to match the budgets of most pilots, and you will do business with some fine people. Taking years of success to new heights, Sonex debuted the "B" models with numerous upgrades.

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

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

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.

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.

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.

SilverLight Aviation created the first all-American gyroplane with modern sophistication and equipment, built by a proven expert. Gyroplanes like AR1 fly much like fixed wings but with real advantages.

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


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

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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