THIS WEEK Sebring Expo #14 starts (January 24-27). Join us as we report on the most interesting aircraft we can find.
We sincerely appreciate your visit and thank those of you who have become members!
THIS WEEK Sebring Expo #14 starts (January 24-27). Join us as we report on the most interesting aircraft we can find.
We sincerely appreciate your visit and thank those of you who have become members!
Two years ago, Flight Design was the number one producer of Light-Sport Aircraft in the USA backed by strong sales in other countries. The company’s CT series lead our rankings since the very beginning of LSA.
In 2016, Flight Design was passed by CubCrafters when the Germany company’s production line stalled during a government-mandated reorganization.
By late 2017 at the DeLand show and upcoming at 2018’s first airshow in Sebring, Florida, the company displays products, answers questions, takes new orders, talks to current and possible dealers …in other words acts like a company fully back in the game.
Through all this, Flight Design USA — the Germany manufacturer’s close associate and U.S. importer — was a steady hand on the tiller, keeping customers satisfied throughout North America. It’s good to see them return with vigor and our video below lets them tell their own story.
FD-USA’s Tom Peghiny helped to clarify the situation, saying, “Flight Design was acquired in July 2017 by LiftAir of Eisenach Germany. Mr. Sven Lindig, the owner of LiftAir owns and has founded a number of successful businesses in the Central and Southern areas of Germany. LiftAir now owns the Flight Design EASA Design Organization, the Flight Design aircraft production facility in Kherson Ukraine, and the design rights for all products produced by the company.
“Production of aircraft and parts which was maintained at a low rate for the last year and a half are now up to four aircraft a month and a healthy backlog of aircraft orders is building for 2018,” Tom said at the late 2017 DeLand show.
“We were very pleased to acquire the complete assets of Flight Design,” said Mr. Lindig, “and [we] are committed to keeping the company in its leading position in the design and manufacturing of advanced light aircraft.”
Some folks may have concerns. Tom addressed those squarely, “Delivery times for new orders are now quoted at three months from receipt of a 12% deposit to completion and test flown at the Kindel airport. All deposits are held in an escrow account and guaranteed by LiftAir’s parent company, Lift Holding. Final payment is only due after the aircraft is completed, final inspected and test flown.”
What is the company offering for 2018? Tom reported, “For 2018 Flight Design general aviation is offering the CTLSi GT which is a lightly upgraded version of the CTLSi Flight Design USA has been importing since 2012. The primary change is offering an upgraded Dynon avionics package including the Dynon 10-inch SkyView Touch HDX screens which are very bright and high definition for the EFIS and Map screens (left and right) and a 7-inch SkyView Touch HDX at the top of the center stack which is used alternately for EMS and autopilot control.”
Now you have basic info and if you are able to attend Sebring (or Sun ‘n Fun in April… or Aero in Europe later that same month) you can ask more detailed questions. Until then, hear directly from Flight Design’s leadership in this video.
This website was born in 2004 after a few years of laboriously uploading a large number of written pilot reports that had appeared in aviation print magazines over the years before. It was tougher to do then than it is now.
The project started in late 1999, barely four years after the World Wide Web was built on the Internet. Tools were crude then and it proved to be a multi-year project to convert from print to web. Today, such a task is vastly easier and we hope you are enjoying the refreshed ByDanJohnson.com that was launched in spring 2017.
In this new millennium of intense change, print has slowly but steadily yielded to online (aviation magazines have actually faired reasonably well, but print in forms such as newspapers has badly eroded). We got lucky as we were early and we established a solid presence for this website that today reaches most of the owners of the 66,000+ LSA or LSA-like aircraft sold around the world, with the majority of those aircraft delivered since 2000.
In that time, one big, huge, enormous change was video.
Think about this. In 1999, Google was hardly known; it formed in September 1998. Facebook started in February 2004 and YouTube went live a year later in February 2005. Apple’s iPhone ushered in the era of smartphones in fall 2007.
Today, video is everywhere and I’m proud we’ve kept up with the times — even having our own video library. When ByDanJohnson.com launched in April 2004, YouTube didn’t exist and neither did Light-Sport Aircraft. My, oh, my…!
In the video below, you can join me as I take you around and inside the L600 from Aeropilot in the Czech Republic, represented here in America by Aeropilot USA. In the next few days, I’ll give you a similar tour of the Evektor Harmony LSA and we’ll talk with folks from Flight Design to hear how that well-known producer is doing as 2018 begins.
These video pilot reports have largely replaced text-and-photo pilot reports although reporting in that form will continue as shorter articles here on the home page. Video pilot reports can provide actual views of an aircraft performing some of the evaluations I talk about in the narrative portion. In this way, a print article simply cannot compete with video. So, “lights, camera, action” — let the fun begin!
Also, please remember all the hyperlinks embedded in articles take you all over this website with its 1,500 or so pages packed to the edges with all kinds of info about Light-Sport Aircraft, light kit-built aircraft, and ultralight aircraft …our singular focus in aviation.
Aeropilot USA sells L600 starting below $100,000 at which price it makes a great value in a sleek yet familiar shape. You can check it out further if you attend Sebring 2018.
As the world appears to shift into overdrive about electric cars, planes, and drones, what is happening in this dynamic, unfolding sector in aviation?
Recent news from Pipistrel spoke to their continued development of their Alpha Electro. This Slovenian company has long pursued this and may be leading in commercialization but — as with electric autos — this remains a minuscule part of total sales. However, it attracts outsized attention from mainstream media, regulators, and others.
Recently, my friend and LAMA Europe associate, Jan Friedrich, alerted me to a new success story.
The Skyleader company is somewhat known in the USA although perhaps by their earlier name Kappa. The more correct name was and is Jihlavan Airplanes but Skyleader is a better marketing name.
Americans have seen examples of the company’s top-of-the-line Skyleader 600 — here’s our video review of the model — but sales have not taken off in this country. The company always mounts a large, handsome display at Aero Friedrichshafen …coming up in about three months, and we will report from Germany on news at that show. The size and cost of their display suggests they are doing at least reasonably well, so perhaps interest will grow in the USA.
Meanwhile, rather quietly, Skyleader made first flights on their pure electric (that is, not hybrid) light aircraft.
Based on their intermediate model, Skyleader 400, you can see for yourself — and hear for yourself — that the aircraft appeared to fly well.
About the regular, Rotax-powered model, Jihlavan/Skyleader said, “The SL400 a racy ‘sports car-inspired’ aircraft with new features such as side opening canopy, aggressive cowling and easily-maneuverable fixed gear. Having trapezoidal wings with 120 liters (about 32 gallons) of fuel endurance, available fuel injection and simple instrument panel, it appeals directly to sport aviation enthusiasts.”
I believe no doubt exists that the first successes of electric aircraft will be those that are lightest. Electric already works well in genuine Part 103 ultralights. Pioneer Randall Fishman and Mark Bierle have been flying with electric power for years. An article from eight years ago proves how long this has been true.
Electric LSA or LSA-like aircraft are already flying as this article further demonstrates. At present, they are limited in duration, but here’s what I always say, “Any major breakthrough in battery energy density — that is, batteries providing more range, more duration aloft — may start an avalanche of electric-powered aircraft. Exciting times are ahead!
Meanwhile, here is video evidence of the work by Jihlavan/Skyleader:
And here’s a little more detail about the electric propulsion components from last year’s Aero:
In December 2017, South Korea’s Vessel Co. won what was described as “safety certification” from the Transport Ministry for their new two-seat light aircraft called KLA-100. After gaining this approval, the company reported plans to start mass producing the light recreational aircraft.
Vessel’s side-by-side aircraft claims a maximum cruise speed of 245 kilometers per hour (133 knots; 10% faster than allowed by FAA in the U.S.) and a range of 1,400 kilometers (875 miles) over six hours with full fuel of 34 gallons.
KLA-100 is a modern design featuring majority carbon construction. As CTLS developer Flight Design was hired to help design the new aircraft, some readers may see similarities to the high wing model the Germany company produces.
Working with Flight Design, Vessel spent four years to develop the light aircraft. Pilots have carried out test flights over the last seven months and at the end of the year just concluded, their prototype was cleared for production.
It was reported that the South Korean company may employ this airframe as it pursues a drone project for “public services,” according to an unnamed Vessel official. The publicly-owned company is listed in the South Korean Kosdaq exchange and its stock rose 5.04 percent (to $6.67) on the news.
Then in the midst of its corporate reorganization, Flight Design showed the new low-wing at Aero Friedrichshafen 2017. First flights had been made only days earlier. Engineers from both companies coordinated to prepare KLA-100 for this public debut nine months ago.
A clean-sheet design, Flight Design announced KLA-100 was created as a Light Sport Aircraft for sale in countries that accept ASTM-compliant aircraft. Winning South Korean approval is the first step.
Vessel’s KLA-100 claims a new proprietary airfoil, “Stall-Safe” drooped leading edge, long-span slotted flaps, and blended winglets. The new aircraft is powered by the fuel-injected Rotax 912iS and has a Garmin G3X avionics suite plus a Stratos Magnum airframe parachute system integrated into the airframe.
KLA-100’s carbon-aramid composite cockpit safety cell helps to protect all occupants. The engine mount and carbon fuselage attach points reduce the possibility of engine intrusion into the occupant’s safety cell.
No announcement was made regarding U.S. approval (which would require modest changes to slow it slightly) or importation into America. For more details on this and other Flight Design products, contact Flight Design USA.
Amazingly, “Holy Batcopter!” was not one of the 368 different “Holy…” exclamations uttered by the Robin character in the 1960s TV series. The iconic Bell 47 chopper — without Robin or Batman — will make an appearance at the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo in just a couple weeks. The event runs January 24-27 this year.
“Relive the 1960’s era at Sebring’s Aviation Expo with a ride on the original N3079G Batcopter from the Batman TV series,” encouraged promoters of the 14-year-old event.
In 1996, pilot Eugene Nock bought the famous helicopter, which was used in the 1966 “Batman” movie and several TV shows.
“What we have is an icon in the aviation world as well as the collectable toy world,” Nock said. “It is a one-of-a-kind aircraft, absolutely internationally recognized.”
That’s why Nock — an airline transport pilot who has logged more than 14,000 hours — will be flying this vintage flying machine at the upcoming Sebring Expo. Nock hopes to inspire young people to find a future in either law enforcement, military, or becoming a pilot, said Sebring Expo’s PR agency.
A noon show featuring the Batcopter and Batmobile is scheduled for Friday, January 26 and Saturday, January 27.
Rides in the three-seat chopper can be purchased at the event with no need to reserve in advance. Cost: Adults $100; children & students (17 & under) $70.
Nock, who’s been a pilot since age 17, said his father was in the entertainment business and worked with Adam West (the original Batman) in the 1960s in California. Nock said he met West in the late ’60s.
The first appearance of the Batcopter was in the 1966 film Batman. Unlike the Batmobile, the Batcycle, and the Batboat, Batcopter was never intended for use in the 1960s Batman television series, which did not have the budget to create such elaborate vehicles. While the other vehicles were bought by 20th Century Fox, the Batcopter was only leased for the movie. It cost Fox $750 a day for five days from April 7 to April 11, 1966. Given the dollar’s precipitous decline since those times, that equates to more than $5,600 today.
The Batcopter was a functional helicopter provided by National Helicopter Service. It was based on the Bell 47, which was designed by Bell Helicopter Textron in 1941. The Batcopter was a G3B-1 model, which had previously been used in “Lassie Come Home” and “ABC News.”
To make the model look more like a superhero vehicle, it was fitted with canvas-covered tubular frames and was painted red. The head of a bat was painted in the front while the Batman symbol was painted on the side. The most dangerous design change was the wings, which reduced power by nearly 50%.
For the scenes at sea, the Batcopter was taped at Marineland of the Pacific in Palos Verdes, California. Most of the shots were relatively far away as the pilot was Harry Haus, not Adam West, the actor playing Batman. Hubie Kerns donned the Batman outfit to perform the stunts, namely climbing the rope ladder attached to the helicopter while kicking an exploding shark.
* Thanks to Wikipedia for all the BatInfo.
Here in Florida, home to ByDanJohnson.com, we take hurricanes very seriously. While you know they are coming, unlike a tornado, they are nonetheless incredibly powerful forms of destruction.
Hurricane Maria produced winds of 200 mph, enough that the weather gurus talked about creating a new category of storm called a Category 6; Cat-5 is presently the maximum. Whatever the label you apply to it, this was a major storm of almost incomprehensible proportions.
We got lucky here in the Daytona Beach area. Once a hurricane comes over land, it begins to lose power. By the time it reached us, it was still pretty scary but not remotely like what had been seen in south Florida or in the Caribbean.
As most of us have heard, Puerto Rico was massively hit, enduring those 200 mph winds (four times as potent as 100 mph winds, which are already mighty frightening).
In September 2017, Hurricane Maria entered Puerto Rico like a battering ram, sweeping through the southeastern coastal city of Humacao and into the island’s history as its worst natural disaster.
Via Facebook, I heard from a reader asking questions about an ADS-B solution from uAvionix. At the end of our exchange, I asked, “How are things in Puerto Rico? U.S. media has gone rather quiet after much reporting on how bad things were, post-hurricane. What’s the real situation?” As a fellow aviator, I knew I’d get good info and he supplied details and photos about what happened to the island’s sport flying community.
Rafael Cortés kindly answered my inquiry. His remarks follow with modest editing.
“About half the island is still without electricity, mostly in the rural east areas, and about 15% still have no running water. I am one of the lucky ones with both services.” Note that this is more than 100 days after the hurricane clobbered the island.
“Communications are up in most places,” Rafael added, “but we have very slow access to the Internet with a lot of fiber cuts that caused communications failures around the island. There are still some refugees because of lost homes and they are still awaiting on help from FEMA. A lot of people lost their roofs.
“However, most people seem motivated and are getting back to some normality, but many businesses are still closed — some permanently — so there’s a lot of people without jobs. It’s been tough for most people, but we’re hanging in there.”
Regarding sport flying on the island, Rafael added, “In the aviation area there were many, many losses. Sport aviation is almost non-existent now as about 90% of Light-Sport Aircraft and kit aircraft suffered damage that will be costly to repair (if repairs can even be done), and we don’t have any aviation insurance companies in Puerto Rico for non-commercial aviation.
“On the positive side, food, supplies, and fuel are back to normal for most of the island.”
Surprised by his comment about insurance, I inquired further, “Have aviation insurance companies departed Puerto Rico or were they never available? Do you know why not? How many aircraft were damaged”
“There has never been insurance for GA,” explained Rafael, “much less sport aviation in Puerto Rico, and U.S. companies cannot provide coverage because of a lack of local legislation allowing it.” I’ve heard about political leadership on the island being less than inspiring and this seems to reinforce that impression.
“There were at least 25 Light-Sport Aircraft damaged,” he reported, “out of about 30-35 that were flying prior to the hurricane, plus the GA airplanes that I have no account of.”
Thanks for the report, Rafael. I hope sport flying can eventually return to normal on this island that many tourists have viewed as a “paradise.” It is sad to see this level of destruction. I hesitate to report such misery but I’m sure mainstream media outlets will never cover this segment and I felt it was important.
Pictures were taken by Arland Miller, and Jose Amid Torres, and were publicly shared on Facebook. Thanks to all and best of luck, fellow pilots!
When I first saw this news story I thought it was one we reported earlier involving a similar aircraft and parachute. However, what grabbed my attention was the clarity of the still photo seen nearby.
It was, and it was not the earlier story. Let me explain…
The deployment event recently reported is not new even if that’s how the mainstream media portrayed it. Many months ago, a test flight got into an uncontrolled flight situation — a “normal” occurrence, that being what test flights are intended to discover. A successful parachute deployment followed. However, this provides an opportunity to learn more about airframe parachutes.
I know something of this because for 18 years, I worked closely with BRS Parachutes of South St. Paul, Minnesota. An airframe parachute system makes a compelling story that media reporters loved. At one time, BRS and its whole-airplane parachute systems were featured on seven (yes, 7!) different TV documentaries at about the same time. Since I was the media specialist, I was busy with one TV crew after another. Print loved us, too. The World Wide Web was barely in development at this time.
While I loved helping to spread the word, what I always lacked was good photos or video. Almost no one is ready for such an event. Rarely were any photos available, other than an airplane on the ground with a parachute laid out nearby. When airborne view were captured, they were usually poor, blurry images. Video was even more precious. (For more info, see several BRS-related articles here.)
This deployment can be viewed through a video from inside the cockpit. It’s fairly poor but does show a pilot trying other solutions but when unable to regain control, he deploys the parachute. If you check BRS’ Facebook page, you can watch this video that went viral, earning more than 750,000 views, 900+ comments, and 6,300+ shares. This video is not related to the still photos seen with this article.
However, the photo capture is one of the best I’ve seen so it provides a teachable moment about parachute technology, specifically, the “slider” ring. This modest innovation is strikingly simple and effective. In short, it keeps the main life-saving canopy from rupturing if deployment happens at high speed. The slider only functions when airflow is high.
This is a good time to advise, “Please fly safely and work to avoid situations where a parachute is your only option. If you cannot, I hope you had the foresight to add a parachute.” I believe in them. I hope you do or will, too. We don’t want to lose any of you to preventable accidents.
Here are some portions of the article, which relates, “At the start of the clip the pilot is seen trying to steady the plane as it rapidly descends while spinning around.” Remember, this is a test pilot exploring the flight qualities and performance parameters of a Light-Sport Aircraft, which I agreed not to name (but it was obvious to me that this was not the aircraft in the still picture Daily Mail used).
“The dizzying video shows the aircraft spinning faster and faster as the scenery speeds past. The pilot … was forced to deploy the safety measure during a spin recovery test.
“He escaped uninjured and the aircraft was fixed and ready to fly the following day.”
Daily Mail goes on to report [BRS] company founder Boris Popov as saying about the clip, “The pilot wants to remain anonymous as well as the location but we can say it was filmed in Asia and the plane was flying the next day.”
I know a little more but the actual airplane or incident is less the story than the success of the parachute product. These devices have saved many lives — BRS alone has logged nearly 400 “saves” and other companies like Magnum add to the number. I hope you will consider such a system for your aircraft. If you elect not to, then, please fly as safely as you can.
Happy New Year, everyone! I wish you many happy hours aloft in 2018 and I hope you never have to see your parachute.
I don’t really know when the Leon family sleeps. They must, of course, but their steady output of high-quality, reasonably-priced products that pilots need must make for many long workdays.
BOM and other Levil products are great and have seen great acceptance by LSA and EAB pilots. Yet every airplane owner has an FAA mandate to follow: ADS-B Out. If you want to fly into many kinds of airspace by 2020 you must have some device to work with FAA’s long gestating NextGen airspace control system.
Adding ADS-B Out can be very costly, anywhere from a few thousand dollars to potentially many thousands on more complex, certified aircraft. Conventionally-certified airplane owners have little choice but to invest more, however, LSA and EAB pilots now have a new solution at the best price I’ve heard. Consider Levil’s Beacon.
The video below features Levil’s Ananda Leon explaining the concept of Beacon. She also gives some Levil history and speaks to her own significant capabilities including creating software that makes these little devices do their magic for you.
Beacon is a largely self-contained solution. That’s excellent as the cost of adding ADS-B Out capability involves both hardware purchase and installation expense or effort.
Most ADS-B Out devices are some kind of box installed in the cockpit. That box must then be “plumbed” to gather data from other devices or boxes and then connected to an antenna located outside the cockpit. No wonder the cost can run into the thousands.
No matter the expense, FAA is demanding you install this or stay out of airspace you may wish to enter.
Beacon is a welcome light in this darkened space. Presently priced at $1,395 retail, the small antenna has all the elements needed to perform its function. You only need to bring power to it and connect it to a GPS antenna (which you probably already have on your LSA or EAB). All the hardware pieces are contained in this small antenna, and I watched its production to see this is carefully built to withstand the rigors of weather, vibration, and time.
Beacon has an internal GPS chip and all the other hardware elements needed to supply ADS-B Out to FAA remote towers so other airplanes and ATC can “see” you — just as you can presently see them with the ADS-B In capability you may already have.
I admire this family-run business of Levil. Founder Ruben Leon left Venezuela before things got to their present, depressing state. He walked away from a business, leaving it to employees, escaping the troubled country to make his way in America.
Restarting from scratch, it appears Reuben and Levil Aviation are succeeding grandly but what’s important to you is their fine products at great prices. Check out Beacon to address the requirement for ADS-B Out without having to mortgage your house to afford it. Thanks Levil!
My guess is most readers do not care particularly about recreational aviation or sport flying in China. After speaking to many pilots at airshows, I know Americans are somewhat aware of flying in other nations but we enjoy so much freedom to fly in the USA and we have so many choices of aircraft, airports, and flying gear that the rest of the world seems almost irrelevant.
We most definitely are the lucky ones. We can and do take for granted the idea of hopping in your airplane — whether ultralight, LSA, or a speedy four passenger GA aircraft — and flying to a pancake breakfast or for one of those $100 hamburgers. We can fly almost anywhere we want, anytime we choose, for hour after hour if we like. Sure, some airspace is closed to us or perhaps too congested but, by and large, we can do what we want in the air. I love it. You love it. People in other countries want to love it.
Chinese aviation enthusiasts simply marvel at that level of freedom. With their government tightly controlling all manner of activities, flying around their beautiful country to see it as we can America, is a dream of the future and possibly one that may never match our freedom to fly.
Nonetheless, China may be THE growth market for recreational flying. I recently made a trip to China and Taiwan to offer officials and magazine writers my vision for how sport flying in China could develop.
After carefully considering the repercussions and after asking local friends for advice, I offered several influential people and groups a friendly challenge: Create 1 million pilots in ten years. To my surprise and delight, some immediately accepted the challenge.
You see, the central government — which has immense power and control — has placed a very strong focus on creating airports …thousands of them, perhaps 20,000! Whatever the number, I find this a fascinating national objective.
I have zero doubt China can build the airports. It is perfectly obvious this industrious country can build anything — literally anything — they want. I’ve never seen so many construction cranes and this is true nearly everywhere you look.
In the central city of Anyang, billing itself as the sport flying capital of China, I toured a massive construction development. It will include the usual collection of very large buildings complete with a handsome new airport and runway but also an airport flying community, roughly imitating the one in which I live: Spruce Creek Fly-In. It will also include — get this! — an aviation theme park. I marvel at their ambition.
All this will create structures but it does not speak to the use of those airports. China desparately needs guidance on building an aviation infrastructure. I leaned on my experience to suggest the creation of flying clubs, flight schools, and a fleet of sport aircraft. This does not pose any threat to a nation used to 100% control of its airpace and it offers the Chinese citizen a new form of recreation and education plus a wholesome family activity that may prepare some for a respected occupation as professional pilots.
You may still not care. I understand that. But to builders of aircraft and other aviation enterprises, a million new pilots would be like winning the lottery. Today, in all countries of the world and for all forms of flying, we have something north of one million pilots …in the entire world …combined.
Could China create that many new pilots all by itself? It has the population, the national drive, the money, and the land to achieve this. Will it? Only time will tell.
I tried to do my part as it could benefit the industry I love and which has sustained me for years. Best of luck, China. I hope you find your path to the sky.
Meanwhile, Merry Christmas to readers of ByDanJohnson.com. I wish each and every one of you warm and wonderful holidays.
What a great Christmas present for the Rotax Aircraft Engine team members (lower photo). The latest powerplant from the Austrian company that supplies a large majority of the powerplants for aircraft covered on this website will soon become available.
The company announced from their headquarters in Gunskirchen, Austria that on December 19th, 2017, they received a European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) Type Certificate (TC) for its new Rotax 915 iSc3 engine.
Some companies, such as BRM Aero, have been testing the new advanced, fuel injected, intercooled engine. It is the most powerful model ever for light aircraft from Rotax. All airframe makers will probably be surprised that the final version yields even more power.
“The EASA TC allows BRP-Rotax to [begin] producing the certified 915 iSc3 A engine for the European market thus allowing us to fulfill the request of our customers for a more powerful Rotax aircraft engine with proven reliability,” said Thomas Uhr, general manager BRP- Rotax, vice president Powertrain BRP. “Not only has the certification been achieved within the promised time schedule but the engine has been certified to even higher power than originally announced. Instead of 135 horsepower maximum power, the engine will offer 141 horsepower maximum power instead and 135 maximum continuous horsepower.”
Having earned approval from EASA — roughly the equivalent of FAA for the European Union — BRP’s Rotax team will concentrate on getting the FAA certification*. Other countries will follow as each has its own validation process.
The increased 141 maximum horsepower is available up to at least 15,000 feet, said Rotax making the Rotax 915 iSc3 A engine a perfect powerplant for all fixed wings, gyrocopters, and more.
They added, “It will also offer the possibility to carry up to four persons” for aircraft such as The Airplane Factory‘s Sling 4 and similar models by other builders. When the 915 was first announced at Oshkosh 2016, TAF’s Mike Blythe showed keen interest in the new engine.
“Up to this date,” Rotax noted, “12 airframe manufacturers — Tecnam, BRM Aero, Niki Rotor Aviation, BlackWing, and Zlin Aviation — have integrated the engine and will make aircraft available [with the new engine] very soon.” An additional 47 manufacturers are also already in the final stages of the integration of this engine.
With more than 180,000 engines sold in over 40 years, Rotax aircraft engines lead the Light-Sport and ultralight aircraft market. Worldwide, 19 authorized distributors and a network of more than 220 sales and repair centers support customers. “Rotax aircraft engines are supplied to more than 80% of all aircraft manufacturers in its segment,” claimed the company.
* FAA certification is different from demonstrating ASTM compliance. Rotax has long made sport versions and certified versions of their powerplants, so they can be used on a wider variety of aircraft. The engines are essentially the same but go through further documentation to achieve full certification.
Continental Motors powerplants are manufactured in Mobile, Alabama, which is now also home to an assembly plant for Airbus airlines. That would seem pretty stiff competition for an award for manufacturing.
You know this decades-old company for their popular 100-horsepower O-200 engine that remains a common powerplant for Special Light-Sport Aircraft. After their purchase of the 180-horsepower Titan engine line, we increasingly began to see their engines in the light aircraft space. An growing number of airframe developers have selected the Titan X-340 to power their models.
So perhaps you’ll join me in applauding Continental Motors Group after the city’s Chamber of Commerce named Continental Motors as its “Manufacturer of the Year” for 2017. This annual award recognizes companies for their economic growth and commitment to the local community.
“Continental has long been the cornerstone of our ever-growing aviation sector,” said Troy Wayman, the Chamber’s Vice-President of Economic Development, Mobile Chamber of Commerce. “Their world-class engines and reputation shine a spotlight on Mobile on the international stage. Continental has played an integral role in helping Mobile’s aerospace cluster grow and flourish. We are proud that Continental calls Mobile home. They are the perfect example of how manufacturing continues to thrive in Alabama,” he added.
Continental moved from Michigan to Mobile, Alabama, in 1966 and established its manufacturing, engineering, sales, and technical support operations at the Mobile Downtown Airport (know now as Brookley Aeroplex). The company has produced more than 100,000 aircraft engines to power small aircraft around the world. Continental renewed its commitment to Mobile, Alabama and the General Aviation community earlier this year with the announcement of a major multi-year investment to build a brand-new factory, office and technical support center at the same location.
“We are extremely honored by this award that recognizes the hard work of our team. We have a deep commitment to the Mobile Bay area [having] been rooted in [the area] for 51 years. We plan our future in the same place while modernizing our infrastructures and continuing to invest in our future,” said Rhett Ross, the company’s President and CEO.
Continental’s brand-new building will cover a surface area of over 260,000 square feet and will be complete by the end of 2018. Here’s our tour of the facility to be retired.
The new quarters will include office and manufacturing spaces and Continental Motors plans to invest more than $70 million in the latest manufacturing equipment, a modern new building, advanced manufacturing processes, quality management systems, and customer support.
Continental Motors Group is a subsidiary of AVIC International Holding Corporation of Beijing, China. The Alabama manufacturer offers gasoline and diesel piston engines, spare parts, engine and aircraft services, avionics equipment and repairs as well as pilot training for the general aviation marketplace. Continental is an international operation employing approximately 450 staff in Mobile, Alabama, 200 more in St. Egidien, Germany; and another eight in Beijing, China.
Established in 1979, AVIC International Holding Corporation boasts 80,000 employees across 400 subsidiaries spread over 50 countries.
For many years the brand name Jabiru — both airframes and engines — has been associated with Pete Krotje and his family and other team members, doing business as Jabiru North America. Pete began in the business near Oshkosh, Wisconsin before seeing the appeal of milder weather in Shelbyville, Tennessee.
Now, the familiar brand from down-under Australia is headed further south in the USA. The brand with the funny-sounding name will end up being represented by another light aircraft industry veteran, Scott Severen.
The official news release on this change declared, “In a move initiated by Jabiru North America, LLC, US Sport Planes of Denton, Texas has been appointed as the North American importer and distributor for Jabiru Light Sport Airplanes for North America.” The two businessmen reported US Sport Planes (USSP) will be the exclusive importer and market the full line of LSA airplanes manufactured by Jabiru Aircraft Pty, Ltd.
Based in faraway Australia, Jabiru Aircraft Pty., has sold more than 2,000 aircraft and more than 6,000 engines worldwide since 1988. That success over 29 years has translated to North America with Jabiru ranking the seventh-highest-selling LSA in America.
As the longtime owner of Jabiru North America, Pete Krotje noted, “US Sport Planes has been a Jabiru Service Center for many years. Their experience makes this a perfect fit to advance the sales of Jabiru Light Sport Aircraft throughout North America.” Pete continued, “I’m eagerly looking forward to the energy and creativity that Scott Severen and US Sport Planes (USSP) will bring to Jabiru Aircraft.” He added that Jabiru North America will continue to provide technical and customer support for the entire fleet from their central Tennessee base.
“US Sport Planes has assumed all North American sales and marketing activities for the Jabiru LSA at our Denton, Texas location (KDTO),” commented Scott, the owner of US Sport Planes. “All new aircraft inquiries will be directed, fulfilled, and delivered through USSP.”
For several years, Scott has provided valuable services to a flock of the top-selling LSA brands in America. The fit to take on new aircraft deliveries proved to be a workable complement to the existing enterprise Scott has built. When Pete Krotje indicated he wanted to step away from this central activity, the two gentlemen came to agreement that should satisfy all American customers, past and future.
“[Selling new Jabiru aircraft] complements our brokerage, acquisition, and pre-owned sales business,” explained Scott. However, this does not mean US Sport Planes will stop working with other brands.
Scott clarified, “We will continue repair and maintenance services for Jabiru aircraft and engines as well as Rotax engines plus factory-authorized service for Flight Design, Tecnam, and most major LSA aircraft. The expansion will increase Jabiru customer support overall.”
Unusual to Light Sport Aircraft is the three-door entry ease and interior roominess of the J230-D Jabiru aircraft. The model started out as a four seater kit aircraft in Australia and was repositioned as a two-seat model to fit American FAA regulations for Special Light-Sport Aircraft. “With the new, improved J230-D model and Jabiru’s new Gen IV engine,” Scott added, “I’m pleased to help more pilots get into these ‘Cabin Class’ Light-Sport Aircraft.”
Pete Krotje and Jabiru North America has been the Jabiru importer for North America for 18 years. His business will continue its current activity of engine and firewall forward sales as well as providing parts, service and technical support for all Jabiru products from its current location in Shelbyville, TN. For more information, Contact Pete Krotje at Info@jabiruna.com or dial 931-680-2800, or Scott Severen at Scott@ussportplanes.com or call 940-597-6860.
The son of a career Air Force fighter pilot, Scott learned early about aviation as a lifestyle. He began building and flying hang gliders in 1973 and joined USHGA, United States Hang Gliding Association. In the early 1980s, he founded and operated Lone Star Airpark to provide facilities, services and flight instruction for ultralights, and eventually became a USUA, United States Ultralight Association AFI, Advanced Flight Instructor, AFI Examiner, and AFI Seminar Presenter. Scott also volunteered as a director and interim president of USUA, United States Ultralight Association.
In the early 1990s, he and his family moved to Tennessee where he served as president of TEAM Aircraft.
Always willing to help the industry Scott assisted the AOOA, Airpark Owners and Operators Association as its first president. In the mid-nineties he served as president of LAMA, Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association and in 2017 he rejoined LAMA to serve on the board of directors.
Scott also participated as a charter member of the Part 103 FAA ARAC, Aviation Rule-making Advisory Committee that eventually created the Light-Sport Aircraft and Sport Pilot regulations.
Recently, a couple major benchmarks were reached by some of our important brand names. These notable achievements deserve mention given their relationship to the LSA and light aircraft sector that this website serves. One is an airframe builder and the other is a avionics giant.
According to a recent report in General Aviation News, “[When] David Porter took his first flight in his RV-7 on Nov. 24, 2017, he probably didn’t know he was making history. The Martinsburg, West Virginia pilot’s kit-built airplane became the official 10,000th Van’s RV-series aircraft.”
Van’s labeled David’s first flight as “official” because more than 10,000 RV-series kit aircraft are definitely known to be flying, but the company recognizes it may not know about all of them.
President of his local EAA Chapter (# 1071), David spent three and a half years building his RV-7 from a standard kit. It was the first airplane he has built. His airplane was RV-7 #1,662 to fly, according to the Oregon company.
Dick van Grunsven‘s Van’s Aircraft began selling RV-3 plans back in 1973. From this modest start the company now calculates that over the last 44 years a new RV has taken to the air every 1.6 days on average. Now, that is one impressive achievement, I believe.
“No one is exactly sure when the 1,000th RV flew — our best guess is around early 1994,” company officials said in a prepared release. “The 2,000 mark was passed in November 1998, 19 years ago. The increase from 9,000 flying RVs to 10,000 took just 33 months or under 1,000 days.”
Therefore, “About one new RV airplane leaves the ground each day, with 360 taking to the skies already in 2017.” Great job, Team Van’s!
“We’re celebrating the delivery of our one-millionth certified avionics product from our manufacturing facility in Olathe, Kansas,” announced the popular avionics producer. This large number does not include the huge number of sports or auto products and more made by Garmin over its three decade history.
The milestone product was a GTX 3000 DI-260B compliant Mode S Extended Squitter (ES) transponder, which enables ADS-B Out transmissions, a timely offering given the last two years of push to fit GA aircraft with ADS-B Out before the 2020 FAA deadline.
“Since our inception over 28 years ago, Garmin has been committed to providing superior products that are known for their innovation, reliability and intuitive design,” said Phil Straub, Garmin executive vice president, managing director of aviation. “This milestone is a testament to our long-established commitment to making significant investments in research and development, as well as the hard work and dedication of thousands of passionate Garmin team members that I have the pleasure of working with every day.”
“As we celebrate this exciting accomplishment, I am very proud of how our teams have managed such significant growth, while maintaining the culture of our company as our founders set forth,” said Carl Wolf, vice president of aviation marketing and sales. “The breadth and depth of our certified aviation product line has expanded greatly over the years, allowing us to develop new markets for Garmin. This incredible milestone doesn’t even include the hundreds of thousands of portable and other non-certified products that our customers use every day. On behalf of Garmin, I wish to express my utmost gratitude to our loyal customers, our dealers and the aircraft manufacturers all around the globe, who have helped us to accomplish such a tremendous achievement in Garmin’s history.”
Established by co-founders Gary Burrell and Dr. Min Kao — Gar’ and Min, hence the company name — in 1989 in Lenexa, Kansas, Garmin was founded with its core roots in aviation.
Today, the central U.S. corporation has evolved into five business segments with more than 11,000 employees around the globe.
“From a single product,” said Garmin, “the evolution of our avionics solutions has grown to serve multiple segments within the aviation industry, including general aviation, business aviation, helicopter, experimental amateur-built (EAB), defense and air transport.”
I’m sure Garmin meant to include LSA in that roster but many recent product releases by the company show it is pursuing the high end avionics market aggressively. In the LSA space the G3X Touch and Garmin 796 are the most popular devices with many supporting items benefitting the Garmin ecosystem of avionics.
Congratulations to both Van’s Aircraft and Garmin. We are lucky both company are involved in the kind aviation enjoyed by sport and recreational pilots.
To close, I thought I’d again reference my friends from General Aviation News to show you their recently-offered map of where their readers are located. I submit to this Washington-state-based publication every month and know they provide a journal read enthusiastically by tens of thousands of pilots.
As proof of their success at transitioning from only newsprint to electronic communication, GA News can boast the largest Facebook following (around 350,000!) of any aviation publication or organization. Great job publisher Ben Sclair and team mates!
Sometimes I am told I have the best job in the world. Hmm, could be.
My work entails some of those things no one truly loves, like paying bills, but it also involves flying airplanes for review. That part is indeed quite a pleasure.
In this post, I want to tell you what I flew at the DeLand Showcase 2017 plus a little about how we do these VPRs or Video Pilot Reports.
For many years, I wrote such things for print. That still happens but most of my reporting now goes online and my more detailed pilot reports have significantly — though not exclusively — gone to video …hence “VPR.”
At DeLand 2017, I went aloft six times, five to evaluate aircraft and once on a photo (and video) mission.
Video reporting consumes much more time than an interview, 30 minutes or more simply to attach some or all of our eight Garmin VIRB cameras inside and outside the subject aircraft. Especially, securing cameras on an aircraft’s exterior has to be done with care. Taking all the cameras and mounts off is far faster.
The photo/video shoot gave Videoman Dave the footage he needs for a video about Flight Design’s CTLSi.
Gathering the flying experience and the footage are up-front exercises but then the real video work begins: editing. I think you should be very glad Dave is willing to sit in a darkened office for hour after hour after hour to assemble these videos. Your interest in them makes the work worthwhile and your support of this website and Videoman Dave’s YouTube channel are deeply appreciated.
Once aloft, I try to go through a uniform regimen of evaluations. The routine can vary by aircraft, for example, flying the Pipistrel motorglider had to involve shutting down the engine and feathering the prop. You don’t, in fact are not allowed, to do the latter on most LSA. Even entering the aircraft varies if it is a high or low wing.
Performance and stability checks include — but, as lawyers love to write, “may not be not limited to” — handling qualities, high speed flight, slow flight (both while checking various engine parameters such as temperatures and fuel burn), slow flight, steep turns, and a thorough group of stalls: approach and departure stalls as well as accelerated, or turning, stalls.
I fly on whichever side of the aircraft the representative pilot does not wish to fly. As an former flight instructor I am comfortable in either seat.
Before or after I do my routine, I generally ask the rep’ pilot to show me anything he or she would perform in a purchase demonstration flight. Once in a while this gets especially interesting.
As with the videos interviews I conduct — which often result not just in a video but also a post (or even a print magazine article) — I try to ask the questions you would ask if you had the opportunity that I have.
Hey! As stated at the outset, I agree I have a pretty cool job.
Thanks SO much for reading posts and articles, for watching videos, and generally for supporting this work. If you really want to help, please consider membership but I’ll end the pitch and repeat my gratitude for clicking or tapping your way to this website.
Years ago, back in the early days of the Light-Sport Aircraft sector exploding into the world of aviation, of affordable aviation, one of the early entries was SeaMax, from a Brazilian-based company called AirMax.
An old friend in the business and a supremely capable pilot named Carlos Bessa helped SeaMax successfully prove standards compliance to win approval as a Special LSA (#63 of 143 on our SLSA List). Although Chip Erwin’s Mermaid was attracting a lot of attention at the time, SeaMax was an attractive offering.
Another longtime friend in the business, Tom Peghiny — the man behind Flight Design USA but also an astute observer of light aircraft — urged me to go examine the SeaMax. He thought it possessed qualities I would appreciate. He turned out to be spot on.
Subsequently I flew SeaMax for about four hours with Carlos, spread over a few days. Carlos was a very cautious demo pilot and his careful pace meant I took a while to master the airplane. It performed better than many LSA of that time (and I’m sure it still does). However, it was a bit more to handle than slower, more ponderous light seaplanes of the day. However, man!, did that SeaMax perform. It struck me as a seaplane that land pilots could also enjoy because it performed quite consistently with a land LSA.
SeaMax also has dashing looks. I likened it to a high-end speedboat …one that flies! Plus, it was comfortable to get in and to be in. All good.
Yet a problem subsequently arose. The 2008 financial meltdown happened, sales slowed, and Carlos moved on to other flying. Sometime later, SeaMax attracted the interest of another player, whose involvement ironically served to dampen interest. The interim party promised changes (probably unnecessary) and possibly caused prospective buyers to think, “Well, I’ll wait to see those changes and then maybe I’ll go for it.” Those changes never came.
Flash forward to late 2017.
All the confusion that reigned for a few years is now officially over. I’ve seen copies of court documents that prove designer and company leader Miguel Rosario is now back at the helm. This clarifies the situation for buyers.
In addition, with support from U.S. representative, Shalom Confessor, SeaMax has entered into an agreement with the world’s leading aeronautical university, Embry Riddle (a mere seven minutes from the world headquarters of ByDanJohnson.com). This association further reinforces the stability of the future for this handsome seaplane.
At the DeLand Showcase 2017, SeaMax announced, “We displayed the Seamax M-22 Serial Number 149 at DeLand in Florida. The amphibious aircraft that conquered the world’s hearts now is ready for deliveries in the United States.” As the serial number shows, more than 148 SeaMax amphibs are active in several countries.
“We are now accepting orders for the SeaMax M-22 year 2018,” they continued. The base price for the model without folding wings starts at $139,500. A folding wing version starts at $149,500.
Especially against the contrast of Icon’s A5 now based priced in the mid-$200,000s and well equipped at a breathtaking $350,000 or so, SeaMax looks like a Thanksgiving Day bargain.
Does this dashing LSA seaplane interest you? Find out more here (or read an older but detailed report here) or shoot an email to the company. Even Christmas deals don’t last forever and this one might not either.
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 question 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 sneer 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% of 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!