We have more articles coming from DeLand 2017 and a whole batch of fresh videos to follow once they have been edited.
We sincerely appreciate your visit and thank those of you who have become members!
We have more articles coming from DeLand 2017 and a whole batch of fresh videos to follow once they have been edited.
We sincerely appreciate your visit and thank those of you who have become members!
When Rotax moved their 912 iS Sport project from engineering to production, the big Austrian engine manufacturer elevated their already-immensely-popular 9-series engines to a higher level. Beside fuel injection, the company added electronic engine controls more advanced than any other in their inventory.
If you've flown with the iS Sport as I have you know it has terrific performance — torque was increased through an enlarged airbox along with other minor refinements — plus it gives even better fuel consumption. When flying with Aerosports' Jeremy Knoll at DeLand 2017, I heard that his trip from Wisconsin to Florida in the TAF Sling yielded fuel consumption rates of 2.7 gallons per hour at cruise. Man! That is some fuel efficient flying and that is part of what Rotax achieved with their iS model. They will use that technology plus more on their coming 135-horsepower 915 iS due on the market next year.
However… "Houston, we have a problem. I've got a red light here on my panel." We pilots are rightfully hesitant to commit to flight with a big ole red light glowing back at us from the instrument panel. Oh, dread!
Thanks to avionics guru and pilot extraordinaire — and a friend — John Hurst of Sport Aero Services, I learned Dynon has made the red-lane-A/B-light challenge a source of knowledge rather than frustration.
I was one of those frustrated pilots, thanks to early experience with Lane A/B lights.
I had flown with a flock of Light-Sport Airplanes to the Bahamas. We had long over-water stretches. When you fly out of sight of all land in a single engine airplane, the pucker factor tends to rise.
Being a modestly-experienced Bahamas island-hopping LSA pilot, I figured to take off last from the Nassau-to-Bimini flight. The other pilots fired up, taxied out, and launched into the air. My cabin mate and I, aviation journalist James Lawrence, tried to follow but on firing up, I had a red lane B light that would not go off after doing the usual checks. I would not commit to flight over lots of water with a red light staring back at me and I had no one nearby to consult as to the problem.
Therein lies the problem. What was wrong?
It turned out to be a connector that did not maintain contact. Nothing whatsoever was wrong with the engine, explaining why the light went off later and we were able to launch and fly without incident to the other island. Nonetheless, whatever that had been nagged at me, stealing a bit of the joy of flight as I was uninformed.
No more, thanks to Dynon and guys like John Hurst who works closely with the west coast avionics provider.
Now, as the images show, you can ask your Dynon HDX Touch SkyView instrument for the reason, and it will list for you what is wrong. Some problems need to be fixed when able. Others might have to ground the flight until remedied. Wouldn't you want to know which it is?
"This update happened partly because of your early experience, Dan," clarified John. "Now the pilot can know the reason the light came on and can make an informed decision."
Thanks, John and Dynon. I'm breathing easier and future flights will have all the joy in them as promised by our love of flying light aircraft.
If you did not get to DeLand Showcase 2017, the second running of this new LSA, light kit aircraft, and ultralight show, we've given coverage with more to follow, but you might really like the quick view of most aircraft on exhibit at the event just concluded.
As some were starting to pack out on the later hours of the last day, Videoman Dave and I did a quick race around all the airplane exhibits. We've done this before and viewers seem to like it as it provides a bit of information about many airplanes while providing an overview of how the event appeared.
The video speaks for itself and we hope you enjoy.
I marvel at how efficiently and quickly Videoman Dave assembles these videos. This one was especially fast but he will be putting some major hours assembling a whole batch of perhaps 30 new interviews plus several fresh Video Pilot Reviews (VPRs). Each one of the latter can take an entire week or more of effort to edit into something you enjoy.
I urge your support of his very popular video channel (a claim I make on his behalf as folks spend one and a half million minutes a month watching!). If you like what you see, please consider supporting his channel. You can sign up for a year — an excellent value — or you can take a lifetime subscription — which is such a good deal I don't know why you haven't already acted. Do so before he changes his mind about the lifetime deal.
Meanwhile, enjoy DeLand on the last day of the event…
The second year of the DeLand Showcase is over. Most folks I asked judged it a success. Year #2 year of this three-day event again logged weather that could not have been better. Sunny blue skies dappled with puffy Cumulus clouds, modest winds, and temperatures in the 80s (high 20s C° for our metric readers). DeLand is two for two!
What more could you ask? Well, that depends.
Customer traffic "was up every day over the same day last year," observed show director Jana Filip. That is certainly trending the right direction. Was it enough growth to satisfy a key component of these shows, the vendors? That depends on whom you ask.
One prominent company told me they did not know if they'd be back next year, but few will be surprised to see them return anyway. After spending money on the exhibit space and the logistics of moving aircraft, preparing for the show, and housing staff on-site, vendors seem ever to yearn for more "foot traffic." While acknowledging the yearning, most sales pros know that the questions that truly counts is… Did enough customers show enough interest that you took orders or at least obtain qualified leads?
Customers want to know, "Will I find aircraft and aviation gear I find interesting and will I be able to speak to the representatives to get my questions answered?" Others ask, "Can I get a flight or two or three in aircraft that interest me so I can make a better purchase decision?"
The answer to both the last questions is emphatically, "Yes!" In fact, I believe these focused-venue shows are quite good at putting buyers and sellers together in helpful ways. That's why they succeed, even while being smaller in footprint and traffic.
When we customers get questions answered, we make purchase decisions. If we get to fly aircraft, we move closer to a flying machine catching that can fulfill our dreams. DeLand succeeded in this important respect.
Several vendors with whom I visited near the end of DeLand #2 said they had sold aircraft and/or gotten good leads. Of course those folks will return next year — show dates were announced: November 1-2-3, 2018.
In my view as a reporter who attends 8-10 shows a year, what makes these smaller, focused-venue events worthwhile is precisely that they do not have immense crowds. Two main reasons explain why.
First, those who do attend are clearly interested since, for example, these events have no aerobatic airshow acts or flocks of warbirds to admire. If you go to Midwest, DeLand, or Sebring, it is because you like light aircraft kits, LSA, ultralights, or the gear used on these flying machines. Others come for the forums or workshops oriented to these aircraft types.
Yes, it's true that people who go the the giant airshows to see warbirds may, probably by chance, see a shiny new LSA they could end up buying. However, the odds are far greater that they'll walk right past the LSA or kit-built lightplane by en route to the warbirds or whatever other aviation sector attracts their interest. Does that huge amount of foot traffic do a vendor any good? I'm not sure it does. Do you have to pay for it? Absolutely… both vendors and attendees spend more at the big shows. The payoff can be that a company gets more media attention or some other benefit, but the cost is a sure thing. Smaller shows cost less. The people trying to sell us the most affordable aircraft have to watch expenses closely.
Secondly, customers who attend these focused shows can generally get all the face time they want with the representative of a certain aircraft brand or flying accessory developer. They can ask detailed questions and get relaxed, friendly, thorough responses. At big events like Sun 'n Fun or Oshkosh, the crowds are often so thick that you can't get to a company rep' or they can't take the time to give a full answer to your question. Taking a demo flight at the biggest shows can be very time consuming — although it's much better at the lightplane areas contained in each of the major events.
I love the big shows just as most of us do. They are certainly important events. Yet the smaller shows are where the action is given their focus on a single sector (light planes). Thanks to Midwest, Copperstate, and DeLand this fall. Welcome to Sebring 2018 in January!
[from a talk given at DeLand Showcase 2017…]
After more than 13 years of LSA, I believe the industry can stand tall and proud…
Even with more than 140 attractive, innovative, and roomy LSA of every description, much of what makes LSA a strong and worthy addition to aviation is less obvious to many.
Sure, pilots love the nuts and bolts and hearing about performance or flight characteristics of our favorite aircraft but what has really brought LSA to the forefront of aviation… worldwide?
I’m lucky. I’ve had a front row seat to what I consider to be the greatest modern story in aviation.
Since the 1970s, I watched hang gliders evolve into ultralights and ultralights transform into LSA. Then I watched as a worldwide fleet launched into the skies over the past 15-20 years. This has been humbling to experience and a source of constant delight …as well as a source of material for thousands of articles and hundreds of video.
I wish to identify the "Triumph of LSA" through seven bold claims:
Can LSA go even further? Quick answer: YES! Yet before we talk about the future, let's look at the 13-year record.
Let me briefly prove each of these 7 claims:
1—LSA lead Aircraft deliveries around the globe. Does that sound hard to believe? You must look globally. While the American fleet is around 4,000 aircraft plus used LSA (nothing to smear at, IMHO), in less than two decades more than 65,000 LSA or LSA-like aircraft have been delivered around the world. This is 3:1 compared to TC Aircraft — 2015 data shows 969 Type Certified single engine piston aircraft delivered versus 3,000 LSA / LSA-like. For more detail, see our chart, which tries to account for all these.
2—LSA have aided Type Certified aircraft development. Really? Yes! How? As FAA agreed to rewrite Part 23 rules (used to certify new Cessnas and such), the agency agreed to use ASTM industry consensus standards and used the LSA F37 committee as a guideline to establish the new GA-oriented F44 committee. FAA would not have done this if they didn't think the LSA idea worked quite well. You're welcome, GA industry.
3— LSA massively stimulated new instrumentation. From the first GPS use on hang gliders (surprised?) and the first digital engine instruments on ultralights, we now have gorgeous flat screens on LSA, touch screen digital devices in full color with more information than we ever dreamed… an all while most TC aircraft are still dominated by round analog dials. Plus this explosion of visual data came at vastly reduced prices. As the late night infomercial urge, “But wait, there’s more…” LSA also encouraged developers of synthetic vision, cheap autopilots, cheap AoAs, and more.
4—LSA introduced and popularized new safety systems, most notably whole airframe parachute systems but also “crush zone” (safety cells) technology and more. Airframe parachutes were first invented for ultralights. Today they are widely used in LSA and Germany even has a rule mandating them Hundreds of lives have been spared by their use giving pilots one more option if things go badly aloft. Yes, Cirrus adopting parachutes certainly helped popularize these systems, but they didn’t lead the parade.
5—Engineers have introduced new concepts in LSA powerplants. Engines lead by market leader Rotax brought concepts like liquid cooling, geared output, high efficiency (with much smaller displacement engines, Rotax nonetheless produces the same power as an O-200). Lighter, smaller packages made aircraft design easier and sleeker. Most recent developments include the electronically-controlled, fuel injected 912 iS, iS Sport, and 915 iS engine (which also incorporates a turbocharger and intercooler). Next: electric propulsion, which will work best on light aircraft like ultralights and LSA initially.
6—LSA promoted use of modern materials. Today Boeing’s Dreamliner is a current example of high-tech material use. Cirrus is another modern success story. Their SR-series used composite but limited carbon fiber. LSA have been using carbon for years; some have more than 90% or the superstrong, lightweight material.
7—LSA benefit their local communities in several important ways. Despite some losses, the LSA safety record has been described by the FAA as “acceptable” …high praise from a regulatory agency. Once LSA manufacturers got used to the system of ASTM standards, manufacturer compliance is good and safety followed. Training systems were improved to aid transition (driven by insurance, not FAA, by the way).
LSA are environmentally friendly demonstrated by low fuel use thanks to high-tech, electronically-controlled engines with fuel burns of most engines in the 4-6 GPH range. Modern electronic engines will soon also allow upload of data to help pilots discover engine issues before the problem even shows itself in flight.
Finally, LSA are quieter with low noise signatures. You may not care abut that too much but airport neighbors certainly do! If we want to base closer to city centers and don't want a long drive to fly our LSA, we must be accepted by the community.
Yes we can, in fact we may be at the beginning of greater developments. Why do I think this? My belief stems from my work with the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association and its four initiatives being lobbied to FAA:
All these initiatives are still a work-in-process, but LAMA and its partner the U.S. Ultralight Association have seen growing interest from FAA decision makers.
I hope that I have been convincing with these claims. I think LSA enthusiasts need to recognize the considerable accomplishments of this industry in only 13 years. I know I'm impressed with the dedication and inventiveness of entrepreneurs in the light aircraft industry. I hope you are, too.
As you visit an airshow in 2018 and check out all the shiny objects of your flying fancy, please know that when you examine Light-Sport Aircraft you may be witnessing no less than a rebirth of aviation.
This is the Triumph of LSA!
We spent the first day of the second year of this event zooming around DeLand Showcase 2017 shooting several videos for you and I have a sample MiniVideo for you to view. This short take is modest compared to the more professionally-edited ones my video partner SportAviationMagazine.com will produce from the footage we shot today. Here's the link to Videoman Dave's YouTube channel where you can find hundreds more.
Long days at the show filled with interviews, photo taking, and discussions with industry leaders and aircraft representatives swallow most of the available time. Yet these brief videos provide quick views and I hope to add more at DeLand and other events. Offer a comment if you like them.
The Evektor Harmony LSA is represented in the USA by Dreams Come True, run by Steve Minnich (who by the way has flown the subject aircraft some 700 hours …though the aircraft obviously has received plenty of care and attention). Dreams Come True is located in Ohio. Steve's associate in American sales of Evektor products is Art Tarola of AB Flight located in Pennsylvania.
My video partner must be working around the clock as he prepared a blizzard of videos for release starting November 1st.
As you see in the list below, 20 videos will soon be available. I hope you'll enjoy them.
Besides giving you info on various aircraft to see at the event, we hope to encourage you to attend DeLand #2. Videos are great and in them we try to ask the questions you would ask and to show you things you'd look for if you attended. Good as videos are, nothing substitutes for you being present to ask and look yourself. I hope you can.
Videoman Dave and I will be on-site all three days of the event. We will likely be a blur in motion dashing from one fetching aircraft vendor to another to gather more article material and video interviews. We also hope to record more Video Pilot Reports, as we did last year.
According to a local newspaper, "More than 6,000 people are expected on the DeLand Municipal Airport Thursday, November 2 through Saturday, the 4th, to inspect more than 100 aircraft."
The reporter went on to say that DeLand expects to "top the 1,000 flight operations recorded last year."
Hours all three days are 9 AM to 5 PM. General admission for adults costs $20 each day, or $40 for a three-day pass. Lower prices are available for youth aged 11-17 and kids under 10 get in free. The entrance and free parking for DeLand Showcase are off Industrial Way on the northwest side of the airport.
Here's the posting schedule for the gusher of videos you can watch. All these aircraft are expected at DeLand.
Nov. 1, 2017 5 a.m. Tecnam Astore — Tecnam's low wing update that celebrated the 65th anniversary of this leading Light-Sport Aircraft producer from Italy. Tecnam is likely the world's leading producer of these aircraft and Astore is one of their newest.
Nov. 1, 2017 3 p.m. Just Aircraft SuperSTOL — Just Aircraft was already well known for their popular Highlander but when designer Troy Woodland sharply upped the ante with SuperSTOL, eyes at airshows everywhere turned to watch this outstanding performer. Seeing is believing.
Catch all these videos anywhere you like, but even better, make plans now to attend DeLand Showcase 2017. The weather has cooled from summer heat but it should still be in the high '70s, low '80s so it should be a great time to look at airplanes and other gear.
In the world of kit aircraft a few companies stand out for having delivered many kits that have launched into the air. Leading the success stories is Van's Aircraft at nearly 10,000 flying — with around double that number of kits shipped. Van's is trailed by Rans Aircraft, Kitfox Aircraft, and Kolb Aircraft.
Kolb estimates about 8,000 of their various models are flying today, a strong enough figure to make the Tennessee company one of the shining lights in the field of light kit aircraft.
However, Kolb has always had a problem. They build taildraggers.
After generations of pilots were trained in tricycle gear airplanes, many pilots aren't sure about their ability to handle a taildragger. When landed other than straight and true, a tricycle gear airplane auto-corrects, swinging toward the nosewheel. A taildragger can, if handled poorly, result in the dreaded ground loop, meaning that the tail can swing to the side, potentially causing a wingtip to touch the ground.
Kolb models have such a shallow deck angle (meaning the nose does not sit well above the tail) so this taildragger "problem" is almost invisible, but that doesn't change the fear many pilots have for the once-standard gear arrangement.
Offered after years of a tandem setup, Kolb's FireStar II SS is a side-by-side version of the FireStar II. More recently, the company offered a tricycle gear version …one that retains the tailwheel even if you don't use it. This gives a landing gear versatility almost unmatched in aviation. You can land on three front wheels or use the tailwheel if you wish to explore this difference.
FireStar II delivers "great climb performance with the Hirth 3202 engine but can be fitted with the Rotax 582 engine," said Kolb's Bryan Melborn. Hirth is the standard engine for the FireStar II SS mated to a 2.58:1 gear reduction drive swinging a 66-inch diameter fixed pitch propeller. This combination gives outrageous climb performance (as our video below demonstrates) with a top speed of 80 mph.
"It takes very little power to maintain minimum flying speed in a FireStar II SS," Bryan added, "and such slower flying is more enjoyable because of engine noise and fuel consumption are at a minimum."
Handling Kolb aircraft is a wonderful experience. Like all Kolb models, FireStar II SS uses traditional cable and push-pull tube controls which yield a solid feel. Half-span ailerons offer good roll authority at higher speeds while still being powerful enough at lower speeds to retain roll control even through a stall.
"Optional hydraulic brakes provide for sure stops so the FireStar II SS can be landed and stopped in very tight areas," noted Bryan. Differential braking using heel pedals allows for a tighter turning radius which further improves excellent ground handling.
Previous customers who built the older tandem configuration are not left out. Bryan said, "We use stock FireStar wings and tail feathers, so if you own a FireStar II tandem seat, you can purchase a new cage and a boom tube from Kolb Aircraft and fit your wings, tail feathers, engine, and instruments to it and convert to side by side. Call the factory for details or send an email.
Like all Kolb aircraft, the FireStar has folding wings and tail which allow for easy storage or trailering. "The tail folds up and the wings fold back along the fuselage in about 15 minutes by one person," Kolb advises. "Everything stores right on the airframe."
With gross weight of 850 pounds and slow stall speed, a two-place FireStar II is sold as an Experimental Amateur Built aircraft. It qualifies to be flown using a Sport Pilot certificate or your higher certificate exercising the privileges of Sport Pilot.
At Sun 'n Fun 'n Fun, we did a video interview with Bryan to announce that Kolb now offers the Part 103-legal Firefly model with the tri-gear setup. Hear and see more below…
Every pilot I know… every aviation organization… every aviation government official… all acknowledge the same requirement for the future of aviation. We need more younger people entering this activity that we current pilots enjoy so much. I feel sure you agree.
However, despite the efforts of many smart people over many decades, the number of younger folks in aviation is smaller than we might like.
Now, let's be clear. This is not an epic failure. We do have younger pilots involved today. Do you doubt this statement? If so, you are not alone but you may be wrong.
Consider this part of an article I published earlier: "Most pilots I know think the pilot population is graying quickly and that we may be in danger of running out of pilots. [The statistics on American aviators] say otherwise. The biggest single category may be [the one] you expect with those aged 50-64 counting 179,277 pilots. …but the surprising second-largest segment is close behind. Those aged a young 20-35 years old number 173,396 pilots. The 35-50 cohort is much smaller, perhaps as they are busy raising families and paying for mortgages and college educations for their kids."
Let me repeat for emphasis. The second-largest group of pilots in an age range (20-35 years old) is almost as large as the one we think dominates (50-64 years old). Notice that each group contains pilots from a similar age range (15 years).
Even if you accept those figures, it remains true that we need more young pilots.
EAA Young Eagles program has been an unqualified success, flying more than two million youngsters. Great job, EAA! The bad news? Not very many of those two million kids has entered aviation.
So even with aviation's best and brightest minds working on the problem, not many kids are learning to fly and making aviation their passion or their job. The airlines are certainly concerned and so are many current pilots, myself included.
One man is working to change the "youth problem" in his own unique way. You may already know him from his days directing the Aviators Hot Line enterprise and its Light Aviation division. His name is Jacob Peed and following are his words about his newest project, which I am pleased to support.
Jacob wrote, "All too often these days you see companies and organizations with no plan for the future. There is no thought to what happens down the road. Industries can also suffer the same fate as businesses when they fail to appeal to youth or attempt to solicit the next wave of young people to continue to grow their industry.
"AviNation is about the future. It’s about the next generation of aviation advocates, professionals, educators and innovators. AviNation Magazine is here to generate excitement and interest in aviation.
"I have been involved in both the publishing industry and aviation industry in one way or another for my entire life. I’ve seen how publications can truly impact and help industries thrive. AviNation Magazine is the right magazine at the right time.
"AviNation is published four times a year and is distributed to FBOs, universities and trade events throughout the country, connecting advertisers and contributors with industry professionals, enthusiasts and of course, those that will continue to push the industry forward.
"AviNation, a special opportunity for a special industry."
In case you hadn't figured it out, AviNation is a publication whose sole purpose is to work the levers needed to bring more young people into aviation. It is not some aviation magazine or website with overly-technical, jargon-riddled articles about the equipment on aircraft or the details of earning an instrument rating. Its purpose is to reach and inform younger Americans in the hope of bringing them into aviation.
I think this is a very worthy goal and I hope you will join me in supporting Jacob Peed and his AviNation. We need the charge he has chosen to lead!
Are you a YouTube fan? I don't mean the company or its owner Google/Alphabet (which has removed videos for reasons only a YouTube censor could comprehend). What I'm a fan of is YouTube content creators.
Like literally billions of other people, I've come to depend on YouTube videos, whether for pure entertainment or when I'm trying to fix something in my house or on my car. As you probably know, YouTube will almost certainly have not one video to help or delight you, but dozens …on the same topic. More than 300 hours of video are uploaded to Google's computers every minute of the day, 24x7. Amazing! More than 5 billion videos are watched every day by more than 1.3 billion people (and that's without China's 1.3 billion people as the government does not allow YouTube in that nation).
However, this post is not to sing the praises of YouTube but to bring to your attention the yeoman's work done by my video partner, Dave Loveman, whom I've come to call "Videoman Dave," because unlike yours truly, he tends to shy away from being the on-camera guy or even promoting his name.
If you are one of more than 32,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel, you already know this man is one of the most prolific videographers in all of aviation and one of the top among any group you can cite.
You get to see me in many of his videos — we've done more than 500 together, since beginning in 2008. However, I'm just the so-called "talent," where Videoman Dave is the person that assembles, edits, and publishes videos in great quantity and with excellent quality. Many people have shot video or told worthwhile stories using this medium. A smaller number of video producers have created excellent shows with high production values. Yet few to none of which I am aware have so consistently for so long produced so many videos of interest to so many pilots …especially those of us who enjoy light aviation — LSA, light kits, or ultralights.
In the light aviation community, Videoman Dave is the top performer, though I admit to some bias here.
Before any of the light aircraft shows, Dave releases a veritable flood of new videos that highlight specific aircraft you can expect to see at these events. The upcoming DeLand Showcase — starting in less than a month, running November 2-3-4, 2017 — is no exception.
Below you see one of the first but listen to this. He has already produced and uploaded another seven videos and plans to continue this pace right up until DeLand starts. See a new one every other day!
I hope you can attend this final show of the calendar year but it is one of several great light aviation events happening during the September to January period (in date order: Midwest LSA Expo, Copperstate, DeLand, and Sebring LSA Expo). If you attend any of these, you are likely to see Videoman Dave and me running hard from exhibit to exhibit covering the best and most interesting aircraft at these shows. (If we don't stop to say hello, please excuse us; we try to get the most out of every day and that means we are in nearly constant motion.)
Here's Videoman Dave's first promo for DeLand. Then, every other day, look for another. …incredible!
If you like the videos you see on Videoman Dave's YouTube channel, I urge you to subscribe and help keep them coming. If you've ever tried to edit a video you know how many hours are invested to produce a single 5-minute video. Now remember he has done more than a thousand on aircraft and topics of particular interest to the light aircraft enthusiast crowd. Subscribe annually or pay once for lifetime access (a terrific, money-saving deal, BTW). You'll be supporting a most worthy effort, in my humble opinion!
Given a successful Midwest LSA Expo, you could say the "LSA show season" is underway. This is proven by the upcoming DeLand show — the second annual event — followed by the 14th Sebring LSA Expo. Even before DeLand, for those in western U.S. states, is Copperstate (which is not a pure play LSA event but does have a good representation of them).
Why go to DeLand over November 2-3-4 of this year?
Several reasons come to mind. First, Showcase executive Jana Filip — who earned her stripes managing Sebring for several years — said exhibitor sign-up has been strong, meaning you can see many great light aircraft …more on that below. Second, weather in early November in Florida should be marvelous, even as the northern states head toward winter. Third, DeLand is one of those aviation-sports airports featuring one of the world's most active sky diving operations. It is also home to builders of light aircraft — U-Fly-It and their Aerolite 103 plus Aero Adventure and their Aventura seaplane kits. Either offers some of the most affordable prices in aviation.
Need more? How about forums, seminars, and plenty of avionics and other gear suppliers, airshow food, and special attractions. A key feature, as with Midwest LSA Expo is the quick availability for demo flights. In minutes you can be airborne. Here in Florida the natives say, "All y'all come on down!" That means you!
I won't try to predict all you might get to see, but here are three aircraft of particular interest, each in its own way.
Seamax LSA Seaplane — We welcome back to the LSA space Brazil's Seamax M-22, now with folding wings. After emerging from under a takeover cloud Seamax is roaring back in business, complete with a new U.S. base of operations.
The company "will be displaying and delivering our aircraft Serial Number 149 at this year's DeLand Showcase." They added, "Our Brazilian team, including Seamax designer Miguel Rosário will be ready to answer your questions."
Launching their U.S. presence, "Seamax will be delivering the M-22 regularly, landing our first M-22 at DeLand [and] ready to accept orders as our production in Brazil is ramping up." Shortly after the new year starts, Seamax will start final assembly operations in Daytona Beach, Florida. "We will ship the Seamax, manufactured in Brazil, to be assembled in the USA." Factory-trained staff will add engine, prop, and avionics at their facilities at Daytona Beach, on the campus of Embry Riddle Aero U.
"Our new building, located in São João da Boa Vista’s airport in São Paulo, is allowing us to ramp up production fast so we can satisfy our future customers soon," finished the company statement.
Flight Design USA — One of the most successful U.S. importers is a Connecticut-based company, run by one of the most respected names in Light-Sport aviation, Tom Peghiny. If you feel you haven't heard enough about them and him lately, that's because Flight Design, the German company has been through a top-to-bottom reorganization. Now, they're back and you can see them at DeLand!
We saw AeroJones representing the company at DeLand #1 (2016) and that Taiwan enterprise continues strongly as it enlarges CTLS production to serve customer sales in many countries, including China. I'll have more about AeroJones early in the new year.
Flight Design USA is the name that kept the CTLS and CT-series atop the market share chart for a dozen years, before bowing to CubCrafters in 2016 while undergoing the German court-ordered reoranization.
If you've been waiting to get the latest news about this important brand, come speak to Tom and new Flight Design director, Lars Jörges at DeLand.
Aeropilot L600 and New FX1 — I've been telling you about L600, a scale-model representation of Cessna's popular Cessna 182 Skylane …only at a fraction (something like one-eighth!) of the cost. You can see L600 at DeLand but you can also hear what U.S. importer Deon Lombard has to say about a new entry headed America's way.
Deon recently visited Italy with another pilot to examine and fly the FX1 and reportedly came away excited and impressed. I've written about this handsome Italian aircraft, a follow-on to their 1990s era JetFox97. I recently spoke with Designer Alfredo Di Cesare by phone and I am more than a bit intrigued to see and fly this latest iteration of a proven design.
Aeropilot USA will not yet have an FX1 on display in DeLand. Alfredo said he is finalizing work to comply to the ASTM standards that allow FAA acceptance. He's already earned German "ultralight" approval, a good preparation for showing compliance with ASTM.
Last year, DeLand had a full roster of airplanes both new and familiar. The event, organized by Jana aided by (husband) Gary Filip with oversight from airport manager John Eiff, put on a superb first-year event. I expect DeLand #2 to be even better.
I'll be present every day shooting new YouTube videos with Videoman Dave and capturing article material. I hope to see you in Florida …soon!
A good friend in aviation journalism and Editor-in-Chief of Plane & Pilot magazine is Robert Goyer. We've known each long enough to have stood around years ago at South Lakeland Airpark waiting to fly this or that new ultralight.
In his Going Direct column earlier this month, Robert wrote an editorial about FAA's Part 23 rewrite project. Using an LSA viewpoint, I wanted to add some commentary to his observations. My goal here is twofold: (1) Show how success with LSA led to good things for other aircraft sectors, and (2) Show how LSA continue to significantly outpace sales of Type Certified Single Engine Piston aircraft.
Robert wrote, "The FAA announced earlier this week that the Part 23 Rewrite has taken effect. This means that the rule, which gives manufacturers leeway to employ what are known as consensus standards to meet airworthiness standards instead of the FAA’s prescriptive rules. Those rules have been set in stone for decades [but the new regulation] will allow makers of planes that are sub-250-knot models to use industry standards. The effect will likely be a far cheaper certification process for these aircraft makers, hopefully without any decrease in safety."
My comment — For several years, industry with FAA participation has been working on standards to certify new GA planes. These people are using the significant success of Light-Sport Aircraft following this method. LSA accident rates are, to use FAA's preferred term, "acceptable" — which is fairly high praise from the agency.
Those standards, devised by industry engineers and interested private parties, have proven very solid in assuring good, reliable, airworthy aircraft. They are also credited with keeping LSA below $200,000 (with two exceptions that I know) and often under $100,000. Prices that low are far back in GA's rear-view mirror. Some folks complain about LSA prices but the most expensive of them are much less than the lowest priced Type Certified single engine piston GA airplanes.
Perhaps most importantly, these standards are not just for the USA. They are being used by a growing number of countries. This is vastly cheaper for LSA manufacturers than going country-by-country to gain approval. That gives those builders a larger, almost-global market, which keeps them afloat and helps them keep their prices more affordable, which is good for LSA buyers anywhere.
Robert wrote, "Existing models of new planes aren’t selling fast because there are only so many people with the financial ability to pay for a half- or three-quarter-million-dollar plane." He summarizes saying, "I don’t see anything in the new rule that will cut down on the expenses [of] engines, props, tires, electronics, wiring, paint, upholstery, plastics… All of those costs will be unaffected by the rule, so that won’t affect the bottom line. The thing that will affect the cost of producing new planes is the lower cost of compliance, which represents a sizable chunk of the whole, though how much is hard to say."
My comment — When I heard the price tag for a single engine, fixed gear Cirrus almost hit $1 million — for an admittedly superbly-equipped aircraft — I realized our LSA prices from $39,000 to $247,000 were much closer to the budget of most pilots I know. I'm amazed how Cirrus keeps selling so many airplanes but it is not their lesser priced models bringing their success. A new Cessna 172 Skyhawk costs more than $400,000, and while a Maule is much less, LSA is still the place where bargains on new airplanes are found.
Further, LSA are commonly equipped with instruments you rarely find in any used GA airplanes. The average age GA plane — some 40 years old — has no digital instruments, no autopilot, and no airframe parachute. They use 1950s-era engines that burn only avgas at the rate of 8-20 gallons an hour. Contrarily, nearly all LSA have flat screens or one sort or another and they fly nearly as fast as a C-172 on half the fuel, which can be auto gas for around half the price per gallon. Even ADS-B Out gear is fairly common in LSA whereas in GA, most have still not so equipped even with the deadline looming.
Robert concluded, "Why can’t a new four-seater come out built with new materials, utilizing innovative un-certified avionics, and perhaps a whole-airplane recovery parachute system? In essence, for small planes, Part 23 could be very much like Light Sport’s big brother. And by looking at LSA sales, we know pretty much how much those planes will cost: A four seater using these innovative certification and design approaches will cost $250,000 and up. That’s not cheap, but it’s a lot less than many traditionally certificated planes are going for today. Don’t misunderstand me. I hope that I’m wrong, that a slew of new manufacturers arises, putting out cutting-edge models that will go for $150,000 a copy or less. If that happens, we could see a change in the little airplane game yet, with lots of new, lower cost models. That’s a change we’d all like to see. Fingers crossed.
My comment — "Light Sport's big brother" …indeed. A few of these might be called "LSA 4" or "Light GA" airplanes but four seaters as seen in the nearby photos are basically enlarged versions of a LSA design. I think Robert is right about the price estimate and we'll see how that unfolds. Certainly, though FAA's rewrite of Part 23 should help four seater sales.
I'll close by showing our Global LSA Chart for the number of LSA operating. With annoying regularity, some underinformed people tell me they hear LSA sales are stagnating. While they are only steady in the USA (not that "steady" is a curse), you get an incomplete picture unless you include the whole world. See this article for details, but here's two important facts:
For those intrigued by the numbers here's another article on worldwide aviation statistics.
Happy flying LSA or light kit aircraft lovers! You are in aviation's sweet spot. Enjoy!
* "LSA-like" is a term describing aircraft that very much resemble America's LSA but may not be called that because each country has its own definitions.
It's over …yet it's just begun. I refer to the Midwest LSA Expo, which, you might say, kicks off the LSA show season including light kits and ultralights in addition to LSA. Midwest runs in the first weekend in September, followed by Copperstate in October, followed by DeLand in November, and climaxing with the granddaddy of these shows, Sebring, in January.
Copperstate has more than LSA and light kits but it has a focus on those aircraft. The organizers enjoy such light recreational flying machines so they focus on this segment. That show is coming soon. DeLand will later host the second-annual event. Sebring will be hosting its 14th event. The last is the largest and best established of these and, indeed, has been the wellspring from which the others of these evolved …except for Copperstate, which will celebrate its 45th year in 2017 — impressive!
All these events have been called small-venue airshows but they aren't really airshows. They are trade shows; no aerial acrobatics happen except infrequently. Their purpose: to showcase many of the great choices light aircraft buyers have and — perhaps most importantly! — to allow you to take demo flights in as many as you like.
We promote our PlaneFinder 2.0 as a way to narrow your best choices to a few airplanes but to make a smart purchase decision you need to speak to the supplier/manufacturer, examine the aircraft carefully, see how you fit insidem,and, best of all — fly your best picks. Midwest, Copperstate, DeLand, and Sebring offer some the very best places to check all those boxes according to many who attend.
Mount Vernon Airport (KMVN) airport manager, Chris Collins, is a key reason why Midwest has firmly anchored itself in the aviation event universe. Chris works very hard to assure all vendors are made to feel wanted and welcome. Attendees to the show see his work and that of his volunteers. The airport terminal facility is excellent with indoor exhibits housed inside right where you enter. The restaurant serves good food all day and Chris always arranges for some special food service. Even the bathrooms are indoors and clean, just like home.
In a phrase, what's not to like?
These events are not known for having immense crowds but all of those attending clearly want to be present and came knowing they'll find things they like. This is not the curious, non-buying public (though some of them attend, too). Mostly, this is a dedicated assemblage of light aircraft vendors and light aircraft enthusiasts. Perfect!
Manager Chris summed up the event nicely and I present all his words below just as he wrote them:
"I just wanted to send a quick follow up on the 2017 Midwest LSA Expo. For those that made the trip to Mt. Vernon, Illinois – Thank You! There were many positives:
"For those that missed the event, there is always next year. Mark your calendars for the 10th Annual Midwest LSA Expo scheduled for Thursday, September 6 – 8th, 2018. Since this will be the 10th Anniversary of the event, there will be some additional promotion.
"One thing that will not change is the focus of the event — Demonstration Flights! Uninterrupted time with exhibitors and demonstration flights will always be the focus of Midwest LSA Expo.
"See you in 2018," finished Chris!
With deep regrets, I had to miss this year's Midwest as I stayed home to cope with the arrival of Hurricane Irma, the largest storm on record. While many others were inconvenienced or worse — and while it was far more difficult for island nations south of Florida — our losses were minor and we are thankful.
However, next year, for the 10th Annual Midwest, you bet I'll be back!
America's neighbor to the north is USA's largest trading partner …yes, bigger than China, or any other single country. It may be hard to accept that exchanges with a nation of 36 million population exceeds China by almost a third, despite that Asian nation's 1.37 billion persons and its export-promoting government. Nonetheless, it's true.
Canada is also the #2 nation bringing regular reader to this website. Gotta love those Canadians.
Armed with those facts, I was intrigued to see the announcement from the big Italian company, "Tecnam P2008 now available in Canada."
A few days back, Tecnam announced that Transport Canada, their equivalent to FAA, confirmed that the P2008 has been added to the Eligible to Be Registered Advanced Ultralight Listing (although the Tecnam model has not been added to their website list at this writing).
"P2008 aircraft may be registered in Canada as of this date," wrote Civil Aviation Safety Inspector, Craig Davis of Transport Canada on August 14, 2017.
An "Advanced Ultralight" is not an American ultralight vehicle nor a European Ultralight — sometimes called Microlight. The last is limited to a weight of 472.5 kilograms (1,040 pounds) with an airframe parachute, as required in Germany. An American ultralight is limited to 254 pounds empty weight, with some allowances for airframe parachutes or float gear.
In Canada, a two-seat Advanced Ultralight is limited to 1,232 pounds, whereas in the USA, Tecnam's sleek P2008 can weigh 1,320 pounds (600 kilograms).
According to Transport Canada's regulations an advanced ultra-light aeroplane (AULA) is an aeroplane which:
Tecnam's two-place composite fuselage and metal wing P2008 has enjoyed success across the globe as an US-LSA and CS-VLA (Very Light Aircraft, a standard that allows more gross weight). "It is now welcome in Canada as an advanced-ultralight," Tecnam said.
"P2008 has found a place for either personal touring or flight school use offering a balanced flight control feel, comfortable cross country ride, and room to stretch out," the company said. For more information about the P2008 visit their dedicated website for this model.“We have seen considerable interest in the P2008 from pilots in Canada in the past two years and we are pleased that we can show our commitment to the entire North American market by making the P2008 available to those customers,” observed Paolo Pascale, Tecnam’s CEO.
When I started this website back in 2004, even before Light-Sport Aircraft officially arrived on the aviation scene, I began by uploading hundreds of pilot reports that had appeared in various aviation magazines. Most were very detailed descriptions of many ultralights (both single and two seaters) and light kit aircraft. After flying nearly 400 models, I had information that most buyers lacked, so I often took questions that were similar to, "You've flown all these airplanes. Which one should I buy?"
The question turns out to be impossible to answer. It is something like asking me, "Which color car is best?" The answer depends on what you want. What I like is nearly meaningless unless your desires are almost identical to mine …and that's very unlikely. If we spoke long enough at an airshow, perhaps I could learn enough about you — your experience, your home location, your expected use of an aircraft, your spending budget, and much more — such that I might advise you what might work for you.
I would rarely have that much time and even if I did, I only answered the question for one person. That is a definition of inefficient.
Thus came PlaneFinder. Version 1.0 was a series of three articles for EAA Sport Pilot magazine (since discontinued as a publication). The three articles were a lot of work for me, and for readers. At the end, maybe you knew what to buy …but possibly not. It was a worthy first effort, you might agree, but it was not the right solution.
So, PlaneFinder 2.0 followed. In PF2, I created 25 categories that describe aircraft. For each category, you pick a response that works best for you, for example, do you prefer high wing or low wing? All categories were simple, mostly this-or-that answers. With PF2, I tried to make it very user friendly.
If you answer enough categories, the result is you will limit the number of aircraft that match that description. You don't need to answer all 25 categories. In fact, after you address 5-8 of them, the list will be far shorter, maybe just a handful of aircraft models.
The trick is not picking the best airplane for you. It is eliminating those of lesser interest. As famed fictional detective Sherlock Holmes might say, what you are left with is the solution.
Each time you answer one category, the list shortens. Using the high wing/low wing example, you can see that many aircraft will be eliminated. A single aircraft make and model cannot be both. Then answer your choice of seating, side by side or tandem. The list shortens. In a brief time, you are left with a much shorter list and from that you may be able to find a few aircraft you need to investigate more fully. Click on a link for that aircraft to read what I've written about it or a video covering that model.
Helping you pick between 3-5 aircraft is far easier than picking between 143 aircraft models that have won FAA acceptance as Special Light-Sport Aircraft. (Note: PF2 applies only to SLSA, not to kits or ultralights.)
PF2 is a lively feature. The "Matching SLSA" list changes dynamically. It can actually be entertaining to click on or off categories to see what remains. Even pilots that are not shopping can enjoy playing with PlaneFinder 2.0.
The source of the information is my evaluation of every aircraft on the SLSA List in all 25 categories, which is almost 3,600 data points. Since most questions are clear choices, any bias I have tends not to show …after all, an aircraft is either a high wing design or it is not. Only a few categories are more subjective.
One category that is devilishly hard is Price Range. This is not hard to understand. What is the price of a Ford F150 pickup truck? Doesn't it depend on which of dozens of options you choose? An airplane is no different. Plus, prices change based on currency exchange rates and as manufacturing component costs change.
So, after we moved the older ByDanJohnson.com website (BDJ1) to a new, modern website (BDJ2) that works on smartphones, tablets, and computers, it took some time to make all the details function across all platforms. My webmaster has done a terrific job and PlaneFinder 2.0 is now available for your buying education …or just for fun. Use it however you want. To access, we ask only for your name and email address. Like most of ByDanJohnson.com PlaneFinder 2.0 is completely free. ENJOY!
Article Updated: 9/18/17 (see below)
Electric airplanes continue to catch the headlines… but don't impact the market much (yet). That may be changing.
You rarely see advertising for Pipistrel, the Eastern European builder of several very sleek Light-Sport Aircraft. The company feels they generate interesting-enough news that media organizations will cover their accomplishments. As this and other articles prove, perhaps they're right although most publications depend on advertiser support to allow them to provide coverage.
An example of how Pipistrel seduces the aviation press is with an announcement proclaiming their partnership with ride-sharing giant, Uber …specifically about that tech company's aerial ambitions. At the recent Uber Elevate Summit in Dallas, Texas, "Uber signed a partnership with Pipistrel aircraft producer for large-scale deployment of electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles (VTOLs)." Pipistrel said initial vehicles [will] be used in a flight demonstration by 2020.
"Pipistrel is the only company in the world that builds and sells electric aircraft today … they are a valued partner in making Uber’s VTOL network a reality," said Mark Moore, Director of Engineering for Aviation. He's wrong about Pipistrel being the "only company" working on such developments but the impact of his quote is nonetheless impressive.
On another front closer to home, Pipistrel announced working with academic and engineering partners for a "prototype of the first electric charging station for airplanes."
"The goal of the project was the production and installation of a (public) charging station for electric airplanes, because the need for a stationary type of charging has been shown," wrote the company.
On August 30th, 2017 the electric charging station was officially turned on at the Pipistrel company and was used to charge one of their Alpha Electro aircraft. The project was "financed by the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport and the European Union from the European Social Fund."
In Pipistrel's 25 years, the Slovenian company has produced 600 aircraft of the Sinus-Virus family (the ones most familiar to Americans) plus 120 aircraft of the Taurus-Apis family (motorgliders and gliders). Together with approximately 500 weight shift trikes — the aircraft that started this company back in Soviet times — Pipistrel has manufacturered about 1,300 aircraft. Update 9/18/17: According to Pipistrel's Australian dealer, Michael Coates, the numbers on the company website are dated and the aircraft produced total is now 1,260 units. Adding the 500 trikes, their total shipments some 1,750 aircraft.
A few producers have delivered even more in the LSA or LSA-like space, but not many. Italy's Tecnam is the clear leader, well ahead of all others, followed by German builders such as Flight Design, Icarus Comco, and gyroplane builder, AutoGyro. Honorable mentions are deserved for other players in fully-built aircraft: The Airplane Factory and Jabiru. Big as Cessna and Piper may be in GA aircraft, their success in LSA sales is far smaller than the others mentioned. Based on deposits, Icon may be a future volume leader but their ramp-up is still in process.
We are unable to factor in kits from producers like Americans such as Sonex, Van's, Rans, or Zenith as they are difficult to accurately count, given widely varying names for each (a homebuilt has the builder's name as its manufacturer, for example). FAA N-number registration data entry clerks can be excused for not knowing each of these many variations.
With similar regrets and for the same reason, we do not include figures for weight shift trikes, powered parachutes, powered paragliders, or gyroplanes but these add measurably to the total LSA or LSA-like aircraft flying all over the globe.
Will electric aircraft producers change this ranking order? Only time will tell. Meanwhile you can follow our market share data at this link.
"Oshkosh is all about airplanes, right?" asked The Airplane Factory USA's Jean d'Assonville. I loved his remark since that is how we promote ByDanJohnson.com. "It's all about the airplanes!" is how we modeled our line after Apple's Steve Jobs famously said, "It's all about the music," when promoting iPod (remember those!?) in the early 2000s.
Jean — one of the TAF heroes who has done long portions of the South African company's several (yes, several!) flights all around the globe — went on to write, "This was my third Oshkosh and what rang true for me is that Air Venture is actually all about people who love airplanes! It is the people who dream them, build them, fly them, polish them, sleep in or under them and just simply love them. Yes, it's the people!"
Jean is right. The airplanes are the main message here and at AirVenture but they exist to give satisfaction, education, and inspiration to those who fly our wonderful light aircraft.
The Airplane Factory USA assembled a team of ten to man the stand. "It's always enjoyable sharing the Sling story because it is a pilot's airplane that has been refined by pilots for pilots," observed Jean.
TAF-USA reported that their Midwest SkySports' build center had two of their beautiful Sling 2 LSA on display. In addition, the Southern California company based at the famous Torrance Airport (near Los Angeles) brought the legendary Sling 4-4-40, a four seat model that was built from a kit in 4 days by 40 people. Their main display was in the kit-centric North Aircraft Display area but TAF-USA also had an exhibit in the ultralight arena, now commonly called the Fun Fly Zone.
Jean discovered a fact of Oshkosh. "As a demo pilot during the Air Venture, it's really exciting — but quite stressful — flying in the extreme traffic with only 500 feet of vertical separation while only listening (not talking back) on the radio," he said. "It was worth it, though. Almost everyone that went for a demo flight has purchased or is in the process of purchasing a Sling aircraft or a kit."
Vastly easier demo flying can be done at events like the just-concluded Midwest LSA Expo in Mt. Vernon Illinois. "Our dealers, Midwest SkySport of Caro, Michigan and AeroSport of Wonder Lake, Illinois were present with their Sling Light-Sport Aircraft!"
Slings have mid-range pricing among all LSA but that makes them, in my opinion, fairly priced. Nonetheless, if you don't a hundred grand laying on your kitchen counter you might need an option and TAF has one.
"You can now finance a Sling LSA for less than $900 a month*," the company said. A new Sling is therefore about the same monthly payment as a luxury automobile, although with a longer payment period:
* With 20% down, 15 year term, fixed rate as low as 5.24% (4.99% with 25% down) through AOPA Finance.
To keep up with demand and spark more TAF-USA hired Barry Jay as North American Sales and Marketing Manager, who will work closely with Matt Liknaitzky and Jean D'Assonville. "Barry comes to us with decades of experience in the general aviation and automotive industries," said The Airplane Factory USA. Jay has sold new Piper and Mooney aircraft, managed Lexus national advertising and worked with Toyota's aviation business development department." A private pilot with over 900 hours, Barry has been a member of the Sling Flying Club for over four years and has been a strong promoter of The Airplane Factory brand. An FAA Safety Team Representative, Barry was also recently reelected to the post of President of the Torrance Airport Association for a twelfth term.
In a eNewsletter to what they call "Breezerians," the German company with the same name as their model reported a festive debut to their newest model called Breezer Sport.
At their home field and despite weather problems for arrivals coming from the south, the airport got "overloaded" with traffic.
The Breezer event was "not too hot, not too cold, great clouds for such an event, and little wind," reported Wolfgang Nitschmann. "In short, a dream; even the catering was excellent."
Among a collection of airplanes, rare and contemporary, Wolfgang and team unveiled their new Breezer Sport, joining other models called LSA Elegance and LSA Attraction. All Breezer models are available as B400 or B600 editions, the former being those conforming to Europe's Ultralight Class, limited to 472.5 KG (with a parachute system, as is mandatory in Germany). The latter are the 600 kilogram Light-Sport Aircraft models.
Find more about Breezer Sport, and check out the snazzy paint schemes at the top of the page. The company has often displayed very striking and artistic paint jobs at their Aero Friedrichshafen show exhibit.
Breezer Sport has not flown yet. "The weather has so far prevented it," said Wolfgang. "Pictures and videos of the first flight will come over the well-known channels," as soon as practical.
Breezer Sport is focused on speed, said the company. "The B400/B600 design philosophy had its roots in the ease of building for the homebuilder market back in the early days," noted Wolfgang.
"Today, we can do things differently and that’s why the Breezer Sport has a totally different approach. Plus, the current integration of 3D CAD/CAM systems enables us to create form factors meeting the expectations of strength and performance." Breezer Sport is not only an enhancement of the B400/B600, series they say. "It is a completely new aircraft with totally different technology approaches."
"Aluminium is our core competence," said Wolfgang, "so it had been a fascinating task to design a round fuselage. It was all done on computer making the first article close to the proposed production version. The new aircraft has several distinctive qualities compared to earlier models.
As Breezer Sport still awaits flight trials it is premature to talk about performance and other specifications. However, the earlier Breezers were reasonably speedy, flying to 120 mph, so a 915-powered, retractable gear, slimmed fuselage Sport may be quite fast. European regulations do not limit speeds of their Ultralight models and allow both retractable gear and in-flight adjustable props.
Stuck as I am in Florida preparing for the onslaught of Hurricane Irma… with great regret, I am missing for the first time the Midwest LSA Expo in Mount Vernon, Illinois (about an hour east of St. Louis).
Yet the good news is that some airplanes for which I expected to do Video Pilot Reports will still be in attendance even if I am not. My ever-present videographer Dave Loveman is also onsite, coming all the way from Canada, so those cross country flying efforts will not be in vain.
Traveling from Arizona is Ed Ricks and the Paradise. Flying even a bit further from California is the Aeropilot L600. Those of you able to attend Midwest LSA Expo 2017 this year can examine those aircraft and a ramp full of other top brands that have so faithfully attended this event (see the layout and exhibitors here).
Update: You can also watch the Mt. Vernon scene for yourself using AirportView, just installed by good friend and aviation entrepreneur, Jacob Peed on behalf of the growing AirportView network. Check this out!
"We feel the Midwest LSA Expo is the most convenient and affordable of its type in the country," said host and extremely well-liked airport manager, Chris Collins. He observed, "Mt. Vernon and the airport are within an 8 hour drive for 50% of the entire U.S. population!"
Sure, it's nothing like EAA's AirVenture Oshkosh with its massive throngs nor as large as Sun 'n Fun with its dizzying array of aircraft of all types. It also lacks the airshow both of those major events stage. However, the reason to come to Midwest LSA Expo is precisely because the lack of those grand features means you can actually spend quality time talking to the representatives of various aircraft and you can go take a demo flight within literally a few minutes. By sharp contrast, going for a demo flight at Oshkosh can tie you up for half the day and that means not many folks get the privilege.
That is one of the main reasons why I have attended eight in a row, missing only this Ninth Annual MWLSA.
It is also the reason Videoman Dave and I encourage airplane vendors to make the trip, so we can attach our collection of seven Garmin VIRB video cameras all over an airplane, inside and out, to give you the very best look at an aircraft while we flight evaluate it. The success of Dave's YouTube channel proves we capture this segment of aviation better than anyone. I'm unhappy I could not be present this year but the show will go on. I hope you can make it.
Paradise has been absent from the U.S. scene for a few years but Ed Ricks assured me yesterday that the brand will be back and, after some reorganization in its home country of Brazil, Paradise Aircraft is in fine business shape, as he reported after a weeklong visit. He and new partners will be representing the all-metal, yoke-controlled, three-door P1NG and other models starting at Midwest. They also plan a major splash at Sebring in January 2018, Ed promised. If you can't make Midwest, please plan to see them at Sebring.
Our newest supporter, Aeropilot USA took our advice after Oshkosh and brought their also-yoke-controlled L600 — the one that looks uncannily like a Cessna 182… by design — directly from Oshkosh to Midwest. The ever-graceful and always-helpful Chris Collins housed the new LSA for Aeropilot boss Deon Lombard to save him the long flights from Wisconsin to California and back to Illinois.
You won't see me if you attend — darn it! — but you can get an eyeful and take some demo flights if you attend Midwest LSA Expo 2017. I hope you make it!
Belite entrepreneur James Weibe has successfully used his tech industry background to raise interest for his latest project, this time his first two seater called Chipper. (It was named Pipper but that apparently energized the anxieties of Piper Aircraft lawyers so James altered the name.)
James has informed his Facebook and email readers with continual updates. After making initial flights fairly recently, he has judged the aircraft able to make a cross country flight.
Chipper uses power from the 912 Rotax, but rather than the more common 100-horsepower ULS model, James is using one of my favorites, the 80-horsepower, regular-autogas-burning version. I like it because for lighter aircraft, such as Chipper, this 912 has plenty of power and it is about as trouble-free as any aircraft engine I've ever flown.
"I flew Chipper to Angel Fire, New Mexico," James exclaimed. "I flew nonstop one way (960 miles roundtrip) from Wichita, Kansas to Angel Fire, performed flight tests, and then returned to Marion, Kansas before the sunset." Now that's a good day's flying.
"Angel Fire is the fourth highest elevation airport in the United States at 8,322 feet above sea level," James reported. "Density altitude was 10,400 feet." Three conditions can degrade aircraft performance at altitude: higher elevation, higher temperature, and higher humidity. The latter is not much of a problem in desert-like New Mexico but all affect aircraft performance. (Humid air, made up of water vapor, is less also dense.)
In my experience, operating at more than 10,000 feet density altitude causes a Cessna 150 or 172 to take significantly more runway to get airborne and climb performance can be sharply reduced.
"Chipper's takeoff roll length was 600 feet," said a proud James. "Why did they make the runway 8,900 feet long at Angel Fire," James wondered with a twinkle in his eye?
"Climbout was greater than 200 fpm," he added. Now that's not nearly as fast as a 80-horsepower Chipper would perform at sea level but it's better than a Cessna 150. "Everything in the pattern was normal," James continued, "it just took longer to climb."
For his evaluation, Chipper's test weight was 950 pounds. He observed that a normally-aspirated (carbureted) 80-horsepower Rotax develops 52 horsepower at Angel Fire's pattern altitude.
Not only are Belite's performance numbers for the Chipper shaping up well, the purchase price has also remained within the "affordable aviation" range. Here's a few figures:
This pricing is locked in with your $500 deposit, but you must take delivery this year.
See our Sun 'n Fun interview with James Weibe below…
Learn more about Oratex aircraft covering fabric in this video: