We will be onsite reporting live from each in an effort to keep readers who cannot attend up to speed on the latest and greatest in light aviation..
We sincerely appreciate your visit and thank those of you who have become members!
We will be onsite reporting live from each in an effort to keep readers who cannot attend up to speed on the latest and greatest in light aviation..
We sincerely appreciate your visit and thank those of you who have become members!
Since I saw what had to be Randy Schlitter’s first appearance at Sun ‘n Fun, and since he is celebrating the 35th anniversary of the first flight of his S3 single-place Coyote I …well, we’ve been in this game for a good amount of time. And a “good time” is exactly what it has been.
The videos (linked and below) capture the company and airplane story and I believe it is best to tell the Rans and Coyote story in this way.
Nonetheless, since I’ve had the pleasure to fly nearly all Rans designs over the years, I want to say that I am pleased this company and its one-of-a-kind owner have continued to pursue light aviation.
In Randy’s own words from his Facebook page (where he is quite prolific), “This Saturday (March 17, 2018) is the 35th anniversary of the first flight of the Rans Coyote I ultralight. This craft launched Rans into the world of kit and certified planes.”
He continued about the Coyote S-3, “I still fly ole number 1 and it humbles me to do so. In fact … we posted a video showing off this old bird. It flies better today than back in ’83,” Randy finished. “Enjoy.”
“I am really thankful for such a long and successful career,” Randy wrote, “and for all the wonderful friends we have met along the way. As always, fly safe, have a blast! The 10 year video (below) is good for many a laugh, some trials, failures, but the successes outdid the fails.”
With more than 4,000 Rans aircraft flying, I’d say Randy has already delivered plenty for pilots to enjoy! He has every reason to be proud of what he has achieved over 35 years in light aviation.
Congratulations, Randy and Team Rans!
Here is Darrel‘s compilation of a decade of Rans history.
For most years of Light-Sport Aircraft one aircraft model convincingly lead the parade. That aircraft is broadly identified as the CT-series: CT2K, CTSW, CTLS, and CTLSi. Until CubCrafters caught up and passed Flight Design while the company took a breather to reorganize, the CT-series was the best selling Light-Sport Aircraft in America.
The aircraft also sold well in many other countries, concentrated in European nations; close to 2,000 are flying. One part of the world needed a different approach: Asia-Pacific, including countries such as China, Australia, New Zealand and others. For this region, CT representation needed a fresh face attuned to the local culture.
In a deal started a few years ago, a Taiwan-owned / China-based company named AeroJones Aviation Technology Co., Ltd., negotiated a manufacturing license agreement with Flight Design, the German company that created the CT-series. Money changed hands, training started, and eventually AeroJones fired up their production engine.
I visited this company in December 2017 and found a first-class production organization.
However, AeroJones was still a remote facility for Flight Design. They needed the German company to approve aircraft before they could sell directly. Now, that’s changed.
In February 2018, the Civil Aeronautic Administration of China (CAAC) completed a successful audit of the manufacturing facility of AeroJones’ Xiamen, China factory. Following the acceptance and with the blessing of Flight Design, the company can independently manufacture CTLS aircraft and sell them throughout China and other countries in the region.
“We are very honored and pleased to complete the CAAC audit successfully,” observed Hsieh Chi-Tai — known to many people simply as “Tai.” He is the vice president of AeroJones and the approval will lead to being granted a Production Certificate. Previous approvals by Chinese aviation authorities had secured a Chinese Type Design Approval (TDA). Now the package of government certification is complete. CAAC authorities visited AeroJones Aviation in Xiamen in November 2017 and twice in January 2018 before finishing the audit in February.
“By proving our company to China’s highest civil aviation authority, we open a new door of opportunity for AeroJones Aviation and for the country of China,” noted Tai.
In addition to China, AeroJones Aviation is able to ship fully manufactured aircraft to other Asia-Pacific countries that accept ASTM standards for approvals, including Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Japan, Korea, Thailand, plus additional countries in the region.
The German developer — since renamed Flight Design general aviation — will supply all other nations as AeroJones Aviation serves the Asia-Pacific market. In the United States, the German producer has been represented by Flight Design USA since the beginning.
Many aviation experts believe China will be a nation of rapid growth with plans from the central government in China to build thousands of airports during the next few years.
“We are proud and pleased that our management, engineering, and manufacturing team performed well during the February audit of our production facility,” said Jack Lin, Production Vice President of the operation. “We have been working very hard for three years to insure we can produce the highest quality aircraft.”
The Xiamen, China base of AeroJones Aviation Technology Co., Ltd. includes a new manufacturing facility equipped with all the appropriate fixtures, tooling, and highly-trained workers (photo). The majority of components for the CTLS aircraft can be built on the Xiamen premises.
In addition to the manufacturing operation in Xiamen, China, AeroJones also operates an engineering bureau in Wildau, Germany and an active flight school in Pingtong, Taiwan. The company hopes to replicate its flight school concept in many cities of China as the airport construction projects leads to activity in those locations.
I toured the flight school facilities in Taiwan and took a flight in an AeroJones-built CTLS. The school and aircraft reflect a high level of quality and attention to detail.
“We believe we have all the elements in place so we can assist China’s growth in civil, sport, and recreational aviation,” said Tai. “We have demonstrated the capability to produce high quality Light-Sport Aircraft and to sell them in our region.”
Congratulations AeroJones. The company is one of a very few LSA builders to win full approval from Chinese CAA authorities.
The aviation industry — led by a flock of alphabet member organizations — is clinking champagne glasses over the “defeat” of ATC Privatization. To some observers, this looks like a case of contented naval-gazing. Meanwhile, another development made the mainstream news today. It may not be reported in the aviation press.
Most of the above-referenced alphabets fought the battle — ostensibly against the airlines — over access to the air traffic control system that means so much to those flying, say, their Cirrus SR22 Turbo from Chicago to Washington, DC. IFR support from ATC may be somewhat less vital to recreational flyers.
While sport aviators also go cross country and a few employ the IFR system, most of us who fly for fun probably spend more time knocking around the airspace close to home, spotting fun things on the ground, giving short rides to friends, or pairing up with our flying buddies to trek off to a pancake breakfast or for a too-expensive hamburger. The truth is, we simply need ATC to enter Class B airspace less often.
Although the smiley-faced alphabets are happy to have beaten back the hated and vilified Privatization (which it was not, as any decent free-market economist could explain in a sentence or two), something else is happening in air traffic control. I just found out about it and you may not know until now.
Over 1,000 people attended a conference on …get this — a completely (and genuinely) private air traffic control effort. What do I mean?
Here’s today’s lead in an article in the Wall Street Journal: “The commercial drone industry wants to create a privately funded and operated air-traffic control network, separate from the current federal system, to enable widespread operations at low altitudes.”
And by “commercial drone industry,” we’re talking about some truly immense companies, not dinky light aircraft corporations… like Diamond, Cirrus, or Mooney (all Chinese owned, as a side comment). The enterprises supporting this much-truer “privatization” include such towering behemoths as Amazon, Google, Airbus, and Boeing. These entities have many billions of dollars at their ready disposal.
“Proponents envision one day using automated cellular and web applications to track and prevent collisions among swarms of small unmanned aircraft flying a few hundred feet above the ground,” wrote WSJ’s Andy Pasztor.
“The intent is to develop a ‘totally different, new way of doing things,’ Parimal Kopardekar, NASA’s senior air-transport technologist who first suggested the idea of an industry-devised solution.”
Pasztor continued his story, “The FAA — which has relied on designing and deploying custom-built technologies and often taken a decade or more to belatedly roll them out — would not finance or run the anticipated system for drones.”
ATC without FAA? Really!?
“For many of the engineering challenges, ‘the technology to do this is basically off the shelf,’ including communication principles and software repurposed from cellphone companies, according to Gur Kimchi, vice president of Amazon Prime Air,” who added that “answers for some of the most vexing technical questions could ‘take a year or two.’” Think how seamlessly you are handed off from cellphone tower to tower and you motor around the metro area.
Just “a year or two?” That may represent the difference between private groups doing things compared to FAA’s publicly-funded, multi-decade Next Gen development.
Why the rush? “Recreational operators have registered more than a million unmanned aerial vehicles with the FAA, and many times that number are expected to use domestic airspace by the end of the decade. Some 70,000 U.S. drones are registered for commercial purposes.
The alphabets that are trying to assure speedy, transport-oriented GA planes get fair and affordable access to ATC may not care too much about what happens at low altitudes. Sport flyers may feel differently, though.
If you spend your time flying around at 1,000-1,500 feet AGL, you may be in between the other spaces — ATC’s higher altitude, in-the-clouds operation or drones buzzing hither and yon at 400 feet. Our smaller airplanes operating a lower altitudes might be impacted more significantly by delivery drones.
Pasztor continued, “The pace and scope of such [drone ATC] advances are ‘really not an FAA decision,’” according to Jay Merkle, a senior FAA program manager and airspace planner. Any new approach to air-traffic control is a decision for the entire drone community, he told the conference, and success is bound to ‘depend on how well the industry will come together.'”
Here’s an important aspect of this article: “Amazon and other companies have explicitly said industry will shoulder the bulk of the costs,” wrote Pasztor.
“To promote broad-based support,” he explained, “Amazon and other companies with big ambitions in the drone world stress that their focus is on finding answers to serve the widest possible range of operators.”
I hope that last part remains true and that it includes those of us flying manned aircraft for fun.
Because we promote this website as focused on “affordable aviation,” one of our favorite companies is Sonex. (OK, fine, we like a lot of companies but we are blessed with many doing a good job at holding down prices.)
With a big smile, I am pleased to wish Sonex Aircraft a very happy 20th birthday, as the company just announced. But wait, is that right? Is it only 20 years old?
Well… yes, and no. Sonex founder John Monnett has been building kits for much longer, more than twice as long in fact. His first homebuilders project called Monerai was a sailplane he developed in the 1970s.
The sleek machine was a conventional pod-and-boom design with a V-shaped tail and a shoulder-lever cantilevered wing. The soaring enthusiast in me loves the look of this glider that later also became a powered, self-launch sailplane.
Not long afterward came Sonerai, a completely different VW-powered homebuilt aircraft that is an obvious predecessor to the Sonex of today. Sonerai began to compete as a single-seat, mid-wing, Formula-V racer created in 1972. Later, the aircraft evolved into a two-seat Sonerai II followed later by a low-wing Sonerai IIL, a tricycle gear Sonerai IILT, and finally the stretched Sonerai IILS and IILTS.
Many Sonerais were built by those seeking a low-cost experimental aircraft with good speed and maneuverability.
After more than 20 years in the homebuilder enterprise, John took a first flight on February 28, 1998 in a completely new aircraft: Sonex serial number 1, or SX1 (image from EAA Sport Aviation).
John Monnett is amazingly productive. Not only did he create aircraft design after design, he also delved deeply into powerplants.
Sonex has long been a very rare airframe company that also makes an engine that works very well. More than that, Sonex also offers the AeroVee engine as a kit, too (video of AeroVee with Jeremy Monnett), all part of their grand plan to make aviation as affordable as they can.
Along the way, John and his growing team at Sonex Aircraft — these days headed by the very capable Mark Schaible — experimented with electric propulsion, dabbled in military drone aircraft, and even added a “jet for the rest of us” called SubSonex …always a clever aircraft name ready to emerge from this Wisconsin company.
Twenty years in, Sonex aircraft include the Sonex, Waiex, and Onex sport airplanes, Xenos sport motorglider, and SubSonex Personal Jet, all offered as kit packages that can be “purchased and completed with full technical support,” as the company put it in their 20-year-anniversary announcement.
To celebrate their birthday, Sonex is offering you a present. You don’t have much more time but if you have been thinking about it and if you act soon, you can save 10% off all Sonex and AeroConversions products (other than third party products) until Friday, March 9th. This could save you literally thousands of dollars but the clock is ticking…! Check the Sonex Web Store to see what qualifies (hint: it’s a lot!).
Sonex Aircraft also plans a new and improved Sonex Web Store and Sonex Builder Database in the near future. The company is beloved by its customers no doubt as they take good care of their builders.
Nonetheless, it is the inspiration of people like John Monett, who with a nearly ever-present smile on his face, keeps coming up with new innovations even while running a business selling very well-priced aircraft and engines to aviators.
As the 2018 flying season launches, a long-awaited powerplant from Rotax Aircraft Engines is beginning to arrive in the USA and to be shipped on to customers for installation.
Pilots and builders seeking more power can welcome the Rotax 915iS fuel-injected, turbo-charged, intercooler-equipped 135-horsepower engine. Talk about a kick in the pants!
The engine recently won certification for use on aircraft where such approvals are valuable.
“California Power Systems is proud to announce the first customer delivery of a Rotax 915iS going to Mark and Alina Pringle of Rocky Mountain Kit Planes to install in a Rans S-21 Outbound,” reported Bryan Toepfer, operations manager of CPS, an enterprise related to mail order behemoth, Aircraft Spruce.
“We have another one shipping today for a customer building a Just Aircraft SuperSTOL,” Bryan noted.
He continued, “Two more are on the way from Rotax in Austria to be installed in a couple of gyros.”
According to California Power Systems — a major supplier and service organization for Rotax — customer demand has been high. “We have had many customers excited for this engine,” Bryan explained. “I am very pleased to see this new market evolve for Rotax as well as CPS.”
We’ve reported that several airframe manufacturers — “OEMs” in Rotax’s preferred language — have been flying with the newest engine from market-leading Rotax. Enthusiasm for the 915iS is broad. The rollout of this engine was carefully planned by Rotax to ensure good end-customer experiences. As the powerplant has added complexity with the turbo charger and intercooler and carries a higher price tag, good preparation is essential.
Bryan enthusiastically reported, “I had a recent opportunity to fly with the 915is on Rotax guru, Ronnie Smith‘s Rans S-7 that he is testing. I was very impressed!” Ronnie, proprietor of South Mississippi Light Aircraft has been a Rotax expert for many years and you can often see him and his signature smile — and his Mississippi drawl — in the Rotax booth just inside the main entrance at Sun ‘n Fun.
Bryan is likewise doing his job as head of operations for CPS. “I was also able to visit the factory in October 2017 to do some training on the new engine.” I am very pleased with the design and performance it offers.”
So keen is his approval that Bryan added, “I am sure within the next few months one of these beautiful wooden crates will be arriving with my name on it.” Can you feel his smile?
For pilots, builders, or repair shops interested in information on the 915is, or for those ready to place an order please visit the California Power Systems website, or call 800-247-9653.
From Washington State arrives a fresh, new airplane created from scratch to enter the Special LSA space. You don’t know the company but you may know the people, at least indirectly. Welcome to Vashon and their new Ranger R7!
Ranger R7 is an all-metal, two-place, high-wing, single engine airplane equipped with tricycle landing gear and castering nose wheel. The company says Ranger has been in development for five years and has been flying for more than two.
Vashon Aircraft was founded by John Torode, and the Ranger R7 was designed by Pacific Northwest aeronautical engineer, Ken Krueger. Does the name Torode sound familiar? It should. This is the man behind Dynon Avionics. Other key players are General Manager Scott Taylor and Marketing Manager Amy Bellesheim.
According to Bellesheim, “Ranger R7 is a clean-sheet design. Ken Krueger, our chief design engineer, comes to us from many years at Van’s where he worked on the RV-12. He consulted with our owner John Torode on coming up with an airplane that had big flight control surfaces, a giant cantilever wing, and bigger than normal vertical stabilizer.” She clarified, “Ranger is not based on any of Van’s aircraft.”
The team picked the name Vashon Aircraft because “we wanted to give it a Pacific Northwest rugged, utilitarian ‘jeep’ feel,” said Bellesheim. “You can go out in nature, get dirty, and get back in the airplane without worrying about messing the airplane up. We live among national parks so the name Ranger comes from [these] parks. We chose R7 because it sounds modern and cool.”
The design goal appears to be a rugged outdoor-action airplane but with sophiciated avionics, a natural if unlikely pairing resulting from the close relationship to Dynon Avionics. Aiding the rough-and-ready approach are easy-loading doors that open 180 degrees; seats that fold down 90 degrees to facilitate camping and large cabin volume capable of holding such gear.
“Another thing that we wanted to accomplish with the airplane was to make very rugged landing gear,” said Bellesheim. The main landing gear is a fiberglass leaf. It’s very similar to what Jim Bede did on the Grumman American airplanes.
A key goal was holding down the price. Owner and CEO John Torode expressed, “I firmly believe cost is the biggest inhibitor of aviation today and our goal was to build an airplane under $100,000 that was very capable [with features] today’s customers really want: autopilot, glass cockpit, radio navigation capabilities.”
Torode further clarified, “I started Dynon to bring affordable, advanced technology to the aviation community, yet there still remains a need to innovate beyond the panel to bring affordable flight to more people. With Vashon Aircraft, I hope to empower the next generation of pilots with the tools they need to take to the skies.”
Vashon manufactures about 90% of its own parts, the company suggested. “We invested heavily in the manufacturing side so that we could build parts as efficiently and effectively as possible,” said Bellesheim. “This allows us to control the cost.”
Vashon claims to be one of the first companies to form pre-painted metal. “We purchase sheets of stock aluminum that have been painted and then form them into parts using a modern turret punch, laser, and hydropress technology. Because of that we have taken a whole step out of the airplane building process by eliminating the need to paint after assembly,” reported Bellesheim. “We also spent a lot of time developing painted rivets so that they match the airplane.”
For power, Vashon chose Continental‘s O200-D 100-horsepower engine swinging a Catto composite fixed pitch propeller.
Ranger R7 was designed, engineered, and tested, and will be manufactured at the Vashon Aircraft factory headquarters near Seattle, Washington. The new model will be assembled at Paine Field “…just down the
taxiway from the Boeing wide body plant.”
As Ranger has been kept a secret, only select people have flown it. “The handling qualities are very smooth and forgiving,” said Scott Taylor, Vashon’s General Manager. “[It’s] easy to fly [and has] very little friction in the control system. Stalls are benign and predictable.”
With a castering nosewheel, steering is by differential braking. Dual toe brakes are supplied and pilot height is accommodated with adjustable rudder pedals. Ranger’s cabin is 46.7 inches wide.
Vashon released dimensions on the airplane: Wingspan — 29 feet 6 inches; Wing Area — 135.6 square feet; Empty Weight — 875 pounds; Gross Weight — 1,320 pounds; Useful Load — 445 pounds; Fuel capacity — 28.1 gallons
Performance Data: Takeoff distance — 315 feet; Landing Distance — 475 feet; Rate of Climb — 1,035 feet per minute; Top speed at gross weight — 119 knots; Cruise Speed at gross weight, 2750 RPM, 7,500 feet density altitude — 117 knots; Range at gross weight — 430 nautical miles.
Significant Speeds: Stall with Full Flaps at gross weight — 41 knots; Normal Operating Range (green arc) — 45-103 knots; Maneuvering — 90 knots; Never exceed — 131 knots; Best angle of Climb — 60 knots; Best Rate of Climb — 75 knots
Pricing for the “Yellowstone” base model is $99,500. Ranger comes with complete Dynon SkyView HDX-equipped panel including two-axis autopilot, 2020-compliant ADS-B Out, and ADS-B Traffic and Weather. For a full list of what is included, visit Vashon’s website.
The prototype Ranger has “canvas slate gray upholstery, light gray floor and sidewalls, a gray instrument panel, and gray center console. At higher price points, you can add other colors and accents. As they move into producing additional aircraft, “the colors for interior will be either gray or black or a combination of both.”
In progressive upgrades, you can get more goodies in their “Glacier” package for $107,500; or their “Redwood” upgrade for $114,500, or the “Appalachian” for $129,500, a variant described as their “flight school model.”
“We won’t take deposits,” said Vashon. “We won’t take your money until we have an airplane for you.”
Learn more about Vashon Aircraft and the Ranger R7 and see some video clips of the new bird in flight. The official launch and public unveiling will be at AirVenture Oshkosh 2018.
Forever, Evektor will remain the very first Special Light-Sport Aircraft approved by the FAA, beating Flight Design’s CT series by a small margin. Both were the first SLSA ever accepted* by FAA and that will never change. Just like in the Olympics, it’s good to come in first. People remember.
More recently, Evektor continued their prowess at gaining the seal of approval from regulatory authorities, and in two other regions besides the USA. If you’ve ever inspected a SportStar or Harmony, you might quickly see why the Czech company keeps passing the test; they produce some beautiful aircraft.
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) recently certified* Evektor’s SportStar RTC — which the company calls its “training aircraft” — with the popular Garmin G3X Touch Glass Cockpit, reported Evektor. G3X Touch is a digital integrated avionics system built with a native infrared touchscreen interface. G3X offers advanced capabilities including synthetic vision technology with terrain and obstacle alerting, detailed moving map, and advanced air traffic information.
SportStar RTC G3X Touch is equipped with two 10.6-inch G3X displays offering dual Air Data and Attitude and Heading Reference System (ADAHRS) and Engine Monitoring System (EMS). SportStar RTC further includes a Garmin GNC 255 Nav/Com radio and a Garmin GTX328 transponder. The Kansas company’s Aera 500 is optional.
The first SportStar RTC so wonderfully equipped will be delivered to Aeroklub Montpelier in France this February with a second in March. Evektor reported having another 10 such aircraft in production.
“SportStar RTC enjoys growing popularity among flight training organizations and air clubs globally,” stated the company.
In September 2017, a team of the inspectors from the Certification Division of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) audited Evektor with focus on production of details and assembly, storage processes, material flow, and design organization support. A CAAC audit team reviewed quality systems throughout the factory located in the south of the Czech Republic, an area rich with aviation enterprises.
“Evektor delivers to China its CAAC Certified Light Sport Aircraft SportStar SL that enjoys growing popularity among the air clubs on the Chinese market,” said the company. “A regular CAAC audit reconfirmed Evektor is in full compliance with all CAAC requirements for further deliveries of SportStar SL to the Chinese market.”
Evektor has now been “quality audited by the CAAC of China together with aviation production certified by Czech Civil Aviation Authority and the European EASA according to Part 21 … [proving] the basis for the quality of Evektor aircraft”, stated Jaromír Matuška, Quality Manager of Evektor-Aerotechnik.
In the USA, Evektor is represented by Art Tarola and his A-B Flight company and by Steve Minnich‘s Dreams Come True company. Evektor-Aerotechnik boasts almost 50 years experience in aircraft production and has a fleet of 1,300+ aircraft operating in 50 countries.
* In the case of EASA and CAAC “certified” may be the correct term, but in the USA, Special Light-Sport Aircraft are not “certified.” Instead they are “accepted” by FAA. This differentiates SLSA from Type Certified models, such as those created by Cirrus or Cessna.
The great spring airshow everyone knows as Sun ‘n Fun starts in about six weeks. One day after the big event kicks off (on April 10th), Time Trials are planned. Such trials are not new but this year brings something new.
For 2018… “Sport Pilot-eligible aircraft* cruising 120 knots or less may compete in the Sport 20 Time Trials,” wrote Sprint Chairman, Craig Payne. “Classes will be established for land, amphibious, bush planes, and gyros.” He added that this event is intended for Sun ‘n Fun exhibitors and their sponsored entries as a means to show off their aircraft in front of the crowd. In prior time trials, private individuals have also run the course.
Immediately following the Sport 20 comes the Sprint 20 for aircraft capable of cruising over 120 knots.
The “Gentlemen, start your engines” auto-racing line does not precisely apply as the aircraft race against the clock not each other. “From side-by-side staging on the runway, competitors will be flagged off, one at a time at 30-second intervals. One nautical mile down the runway, timing will begin and terminate when returning overhead.” Additional details will be briefed to participating pilots.
Instead, Craig explained, “Both contests require sharp navigation and precision course heading changes to achieve the best results.”
“A modest, non-refundable entry fee will be charged to cover the cost of trophies and incidentals,” however, this is primarily a volunteer activity.
Knowledgeable narrators will man the announcer’s microphone so that the crowd can follow the action, Craig said. The Sport 20 Time Trials sounds good for vendors hoping to promote their aircraft and it’s also good for customers who want to compare performance of various models of interest to them.
“But…” someone may say, “If ‘Sport Pilot-eligible’* aircraft can only go 120 knots, what’s the point of racing?” My observation is that this is less about speed and more about precision flying.
Competitors will run a 20-mile course for time, starting from the main runway at Sun ‘n Fun. Launching in 30-second intervals, the timing starts one mile after takeoff so aircraft are up to speed. “Recovery” or their landing after running the course will likely happen at the Paradise City turf runway.
An observer will be positioned at each turn point to provide assistance to anyone running the course. A helicopter will also be aloft for additional safety, Craig indicated.
The takeoff and the finish line will all be highly visible to Sun ‘n Fun crowds so this represents a wonderful opportunity to promote your wares or to learn more about an airplane that may interest you.
This is the sixth year of the Sprint 20 Time Trials, but this is the first year to feature a category for Light-Sport and light kit aircraft. If you are interested or your company wishes to participate — or if you want your company to participate so you can better understand their aircraft — I encourage you to contact Craig about entry.
The Sport 20 Time Trials event #1 are only a few weeks away so don’t drag your tailwheel getting involved. The following video provides more info…
* I applaud Craig for using “Sport Pilot-eligible” correctly. Some people say “Light-Sport” aircraft when referring to a kit-built aircraft. They probably mean an aircraft that fits the LSA parameters (speed, weight, etc.) and can be flown by someone using a Sport Pilot certificate. FAA uses “Experimental Amateur Built” to identify these aircraft. Sure, it’s just words, but I’m happy to recognize the more accurate “Sport Pilot-eligible” term first heard from Ron Wagner, a key EAA employee at the time the SP/LSA regulation was released.
While I doubt airliner behemoths Boeing or Airbus are aiming to create aircraft you might buy, their work along with other developers, may nonetheless lead to something new in the future for recreational aircraft pilots and buyers.
According to a report in Wired magazine, “On the morning of January 31, eight buzzing rotors lifted a black bubble of an aircraft off the ground for the first time … Vahana Alpha One spent 53 seconds aloft, under its own power and autonomous control. It reached a height of 16 feet. The flight may not sound like much, but the team from Airbus … and aerospace experts say such flights of experimental aircraft mark the start of a fundamental change in the way we get around.”
Writer Jack Stewart goes on to state, “Alpha One … is a full-scale demonstrator of a single-person, vertical take-off and landing aircraft. The idea … is to remake the way we fly. Instead of piling dozens or hundreds of people into big jets that fly back and forth between airports, these little VTOL aircraft would work much like personal cars, taking a few people (or just one) on short trips in and around cities.”
Thirty Vahana engineers, funded by $150 million* from Airbus, worked for two years to make their aircraft ready for its January flight. The Wired article noted, “Now the Vahana team faces a challenge more beguiling than making this funky thing fly: convincing the bureaucrats to let it loose in American skies.”
Meanwhile, in an early pairing with Boeing, ride hailing pioneer Uber reportedly plans to launch air taxi networks in Dubai and Dallas as soon as 2020.
You probably don’t want an air taxi …even if you might take one sometime in the future just as we’ve learned to do with the Ubers and Lyfts of the world. Air taxis, whatever their size, serve a transportation role.
I see nothing wrong with that, but those of us involved with recreational flying prefer to do the piloting, to enjoy the skies in our own personal way.
However, does that mean you would not fly a quad- or octocopter, especially if it was mass produced and affordable?
What if this thing could be flown with regular controls like the ultralight, light kit, or LSA you presently love? What if it turned out to be a hoot to fly? What it if had capabilities beyond your fixed wing, gyroplane, trike, or powered parachute. My own radio-controlled drone flies well in wind. Its gyro stabilized camera is amazingly smooth even in gusty conditions …and mine is a antique, a whole two years old.
Will the future of recreational flying be transformed the way Vahana developers and Uber envision? A look at electric autos lead by Tesla with its Autopilot capabilities suggest driving in the future may be remarkably different, possibly safer, possibly more eco-friendly, possibly even more fun in ways we cannot currently imagine.
Could tomorrow’s sport aircraft be radical revolutions. Or will this all die down and we’ll just keep flying the aircraft we have today? I’m very certain recreational flying isn’t threatened by these new developments but the aircraft we fly might evolve to become vastly different than what we have at the start of 2018. Stay tuned…!
You can see several more projects in development in this article from New Atlas. It’s full of pictures and promise but only time will tell what will succeed in the marketplace.
* $150 million may rival the investment made by all LSA companies combined.
One word can make a huge difference. This unassailable logic was recently put forth by Michael Coates of Australia regarding the LSA regulation. The offensive word? —Reciprocating.
It sounds so innocent until you consider what that word prevents in the USA. Like so many laws and regulations, the original idea didn’t work out anything like what was intended.
In its ground-breaking — I’m tempted to write “daring” — Sport Pilot / Light-Sport Aircraft regulation of 2004, FAA specified that all LSA must use only a reciprocating engine. Their stated goal was to avoid turbines that were thought too complex for the “simple aircraft flying in simple airspace” mantra of the day. (For the record, numerous airline pilots I know confirmed that turbines are far simpler than any reciprocating engine. They do require different techniques that are not familiar to recreational-only pilots but they are actually very easy engines to operate, say these professional pilots.)
Regardless, FAA’s word choice not only prevented turbine engines but unknowingly prevented electric propulsion as well. Few considered electric motors as powerplants in 2004 so FAA might be forgiven yet that one word “reciprocating” now turns out to be slowing progress.
More accurately, it slows things in the USA …but not in Australia or Canada, or many European countries, or China, or…
Agency staff admit they never intended to preclude electric but “now it’s the regulation and we can’t change it without a major effort.” (LAMA is working to alter that situation and some progress has been noted but the effort continues. For Part 103 ultralights a solution might come even sooner but that’s a story for another post.)
As a Slovenia-based company, Pipistrel been a leader in electric propulsion, winning (literally!) millions from NASA for their success with electric propulsion. However, they cannot sell an electric-propelled SLSA in the United States. They can in Australia and Canada. Recently the down-under country approved Electro for use by a flight school.
This Alpha Electro “is a normal production Pipistrel Alpha Electro and was commissioned on January 2nd 2018,” wrote Coates. “The aircraft was awarded an SLSA certificate by CASA and it is used at the fifth busiest airport in the southern hemisphere, mostly for flight training. The operators now have around 70 hours in temperatures above 35°C (95°F).
Michael explained, “The Australian aviation standards do not have the word ‘reciprocating’ when describing the engine system of an LSA aircraft so the plane can be registered as a ‘certified’ LSA for flight training in Australia, unlike the USA.”
In normal pattern flying the fight school is logging 60-minute flights and completing between 8 and 10 takeoffs and landings per training session. Recharging is taking between 45 minutes and 1 hour 15 minutes depending on the temperatures. Michael said that when the temperatures rises above 35°C charging slows down to keep the batteries under their maximum temperature.
According to a recent report by Flying online, “Transport Canada [approved] Pipistrel’s Alpha Electro earlier this month.” Writer Rob Mark continued, “In Canada, the Alpha Electro was certified as an Advanced Ultra-light, a category that doesn’t exist in the USA. Electros are flying in America, but under a Experimental LSA certificate that makes them ineligible to be used for hire.”
As Rob reported, “Electro is powered by a 60-kW electric motor equivalent to an 80-horsepower gasoline engine. Roughly the size of a Cessna 150, the Alpha Electro weighs considerably less, just over 1,200 pounds. At cruise, Electro tops out at 85 mph.”
The Southern Hemisphere flight school got a rush of news coverage in Australia. Here’s a series or reports that also shows the aircraft in flight. You can hear it as well.
We started a few shows back doing a drive-by shooting (except in a good way). In this effort, we pair up on a golf cart with Videoman Dave running the camera and yours truly trying my best to keep up and not flub my lines.
All this is extemporaneous (a fancy word for un-scripted) so if I stumble now and again with an airplane fact, please pardon the error. We like to knock these out and that doesn’t allow for retakes. I think I got most of it right or at least Dave managed to edit out any disqualifying errors I may have made.
According to new Sebring Expo Program Manager, Janice Rearick, we have a few facts to pass along from Sebring 2018.
More than 100 exhibitors displayed their wares. As mentioned in our earlier report, a good number of aircraft were sold and Janice indicated, “Several vendors we surveyed waved long sheets of leads collected at the show.” When vendors succeed, we pilots get more and better aircraft choices with better service from healthier companies.
Overall activities were aided tremendously by a small army of 300 volunteers. Many airshow regulars have often heard that these shows cannot happen without those volunteers so when the chance presents itself, give a thank-you to any volunteer you meet.
Over 700 people attended more than 60 forums in four tents (though some may have been counted twice if they attended more than one).
Nearly 1,000 kids were transported to Sebring’s Expo as part of their YAZ, or Young Aviators Zone. I observed several of these flocks and it’s always great to see young people being exposed to aviation.
The 2nd annual drone races happened in the Drone Zone, an area populated by about 115 racers, each of whom were supported by two or three people as they vied for prizes of several thousand dollars. The racers formed 11 teams and the area itself had about 40 volunteers. Anyone who looked could see drone racing is a possible way to reach out to young people interested in flight, even if their interest may not present include what pilots in that area call “full-size aircraft.”
Finally, welcome also to new airport manager, Zach Easton, reporting to longtime airport director, Mike Willingham. Zach will likely take the title of Expo Director, said Janice.
If you can attend Sebring Expo in 2019 the dates have been announced as January 23-26. For those who could not attend the 2018 event, here’s our race-around video.
I urge you to visit Videoman Dave’s YouTube channel and, more importantly, subscribe to help support the production of these videos that people love. He reported the channel is now generating 2.5 million minutes per month of viewing!
Let’s be clear. Boeing, Airbus, Google, Amazon, and other immensely deep pockets are not seeking to build fun flying machines for you and me. Well… not initially, at least. And even that statement is somewhat wrong based on the development of the Kitty Hawk Flyer (video below).
Big money doesn’t begin investing hoping to sell 100-200 aircraft per year. Such a performance would be more than acceptable to most manufacturers of Light-Sport Aircraft, light kit aircraft, or ultralights. Indeed, 200 deliveries a year would qualify as a major success for most such builders.
The billionaire class dreams much bigger, probably thinking they can sell many thousands of aircraft or much higher cost aircraft than we recreational aviators want to buy. Most will center on doing transportation or package delivery. Most will not seek to increase your weekend flying fun.
You know what, though? Neither did the Wright Brothers or the other pioneers of flight have recreation in mind. Even Francis Rogallo‘s work that lead to modern hang gliders was done to help NASA bring back payloads from space. Recreation came later.
As with most developments in a dynamic economy, spin-offs happen. One idea fails but produces another that catches fire. Discoveries in one field can lead to progress in a seemingly unrelated field.
I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to think we may be on the cusp of a new revolution in flight.
I have spent an entire career in recreational aviation. I was on the front lines for hang gliders as they became amazingly sophisticated. I was deeply involved as engines were added to hang gliders to become ultralights, which themselves gradually became increasingly capable. Most recently, I’ve been a cheerleader for Light-Sport Aircraft and light kit-but aircraft as they ushered in numerous developments that are now being considered for Type Certified aircraft.
This history — which I would not trade for anything — leads me to wonder if we might be on the verge of a new chapter in flying for fun. Could it be electric? Might it be a multi-copter? Is it possible the next aviation revolution will not look like those aircraft that previously gave me pleasure? Perhaps!
Will that still be “real” flying? Such a judgment depends on the beholder. I considered hang gliding to be extremely “real” flying. I was similarly inspired by ultralights (even if I did lose some hearing after flying with two-stroke engines). Likewise, I’ve been highly impressed with LSA designers who have thought up dozens of variations, some of which are remarkably handsome aircraft.
Each time the new kid arrived on the block, somebody from the previous generation was dismissive. I’m trying not to be one of those as I observe these new creations. I hope you will join me in keeping an open mind.
I can hear multiple gripes about the Kitty Hawk Flyer in the video below but I have to say that I’d love to give this thing a try once I believe it be sufficiently wrung out by braver pilots than me. Honestly, on a hot Florida day while having fun with friends at one of the state’s many lakes, Flyer looks like a hoot. The video below is rather Hollywoodized but nonetheless shows how developments by big boys with their pockets bulging with money could… just might lead to things I’d enjoy flying in the future.
Special deals are unusual in aviation, an industry of hand-built flying machines sold in modest quantities. This is the paramount challenge in keeping aviation affordable. Challenging, but not impossible.
Mainly due to the fluctuation in government currencies, The Airplane Factory USA has little choice but to raise prices by about 10%, however, they are offering a chance to capture the current price if you can make a decision before March 1st, 2018.
TAF-USA has two choices depending on your wishes. I’ve experienced both models and find them both highly desirable. The Sling 2 — their Special LSA entry — can be had either fully built or in kit form. The four-seat Sling 4 is available only as a kit. Either is available as a quick build (QB) kit or standard. Either will save you some money in exchange for a few hundred hours of your time.
Since we focus on “affordable aviation,” just how much will you part with to own a Sling 2 or 4?
The ready-to-fly SLSA Sling 2 runs from $132,000 for a basic model to $165,000 for a “Garmin IFR” version. You may not consider that “affordable,” but it helps identify the savings with a kit.
According to TAF-USA, a Sling 2 kit runs $38,000 for the airframe kit (including interior and finishing) or $83,000 with avionics, engine, and prop. That saves you more than $50,000 in exchange for 900 hours of your time. If you value your time more highly, a $17,500 QB kit will tip the scales at just over $100,000 …but even that saves $30,000, and it saves you 400 hours of your (yielding about $45/hour for your labor).
TAF-USA’s Sling 4 kit adds more cost but also adds more capability, specifically two more seats and the turbo Rotax 914 that adds a few knots even with the heavier load. A Sling 4 airframe kit sells for $50,000 or $115,000 with engine, avionics, and prop. Sling 4 will take more time to build: 1,200 hours. You can shave off 500 hours with the $20,000 QB kit.
Act before March 1st — and save about 10%, making the offer worth about $4,000 to over $13,000 depending on which model and type interests you. Call 424-241-0341 (west coast time) or send an email for more details or to place an order.
TAF-USA’s all-metal CNC-accurate components come significantly completed (photo). Control surfaces are nearly finished. Wings are almost complete. Key elements like fuel tanks are finished and sealed, and where driven rivets are used, those components come already fabricated.
Here’s an especially modern idea, thanks to the young staff at TAF and TAF-USA. The South African producer allied with the U.S. importer helps builders with more than building manuals. They’ve created an iPhone/iPad app that reads the bar codes attached to every part in the kit. You scan the code and the app will display information for that part including the part’s name, where in the plans that part is used, how many parts should be included. It even keeps a running inventory of how many of those parts are used and how many are left. Prior builders may recognize how handy is the use of this modern technology.
TAF-USA is closely associated with MGL Avionics line (also from South Africa) so I urge you to check out these fine instruments and radios while you ponder a Sling 2 or Sling 4 kit purchase.
Sebastien Heintz of Zenith Aircraft in Mexico, Missouri is one of the more vigorous promoters in light aviation. He and his 25-year-old company are all over social media and advertise in big magazines. This week his news came from about as far away as possible, from way down under in New Zealand.
“A Zenith STOL, expertly piloted by Deane Philip, was the winner of the New Zealand Bush Pilot Championships in Omaka, New Zealand, on Saturday, February 3, 2017,” reported Sebastien. Deane won with a take-off distance of just 12.6 meters (41.3 feet) and a landing roll of 14.7 meters (48.2 feet). See the video below.
By any measure, that is very, very short.
“Another Zenith STOL aircraft, piloted by Chris Anderson, took second place,” bragged Sebastien. In third place was a Rans S6 for third place in the Sport Pilot (under 1,325 pound) category.
This fifth annual STOL competition — officially called the “Healthy Bastards Bush Pilot Championships” — is a precision landing, STOL Takeoff and Landing competition held annually at Omaka Airfield, Blenheim, New Zealand.
Deane Philip (photo) hails from Christchurch, New Zealand. He has been flying for five years, logging 570 hours in his Zenith STOL over that time. How does he succeed?
“Every take off and landing is a focused precision attempt,” Deane related. “All of my flying is off-airport and the places we land and take-off from you need to be on point. Even when leaving and arriving at my home field I use the runway threshold line as a target point to continually hone my skills. An average outing will consist of 10 to 20 off field landings instead of just flying from A to B. This is the type of flying where the Zenith STOL truly excels.” That training is how to win STOL competitions. Well done, Deane!
Talk about your short takeoff… I just witnessed the successful launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch, a test flight aiming to transport a Tesla Roadster to Mars. Because I live near Daytona Beach, Florida, I often get to observe rocket launches live.
Sheesh! These two accomplishments could hardly be further apart and I don’t mean geographically. The space geek in me is always drawn outside to my back yard to get a wonderful view of a launch. I’ve been privileged to see many, including all the final Space Shuttle launches.
With my neighbors who live on the 12th fairway of the golf course at Spruce Creek Fly In, we stood on a pleasantly warm day to see this ground-breaking launch. While we could not see the return of all three rockets, they landed successfully, two on terra firma and one on SpaceX’s barge at sea.
Because we are about 50 miles away, the sound of these (count ’em) 27 rocket motors traveled to Daytona in about four minutes. The rumbling from those huge motors throbbed on and on, longer than any launch I can remember. The winds need to be rather calm for the sound to travel this far and today we got lucky.
Cool! Go private space companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and others. I’m a NASA fan, too, but I want to see these private enterprises take the baton and race outward to the planets …and it’s happening.
I just hope that Tesla can find a parking spot when it gets to Mars orbit.
Is your aviation horizon is getting confused by quadcopters, electric aircraft, and airliners?
What’s going on, anyway? Airbus supporting a glider? BRS building emergency parachutes for an aircraft hoping to fly to 90,000 feet, on the edge of space? Boeing investing in a battery start-up?
What will flying become in the future? This is impossible to know but here’s something to think about: If “Beam-me-up, Scotty” technology ever arrives, airlines may disappear quickly. Sport aircraft, however, should survive because they are flown to experience joy aloft, not for transport. Meanwhile…
Progress toward new aviation frontiers continues. Airbus has generated media attention for several out-of-the-box projects they are supporting. Pursuing new directions may lead to an electric propulsion airliner of the future. Only time knows how that may turn out, but meanwhile companies from our sector of aviation are making some inroads to these new developments. One of these businesses is BRS Aerospace.
The South St. Paul. Minnesota company “recently completed the installation of a ballistic whole aircraft parachute into the Perlan 2 experimental space glider as part of preparations for the 2018 season of Airbus Perlan Mission II.” The words “space” and “glider” are not commonly used together.
In September 2017, the Perlan 2 sailplane accomplished a record-setting powerless flight to 52,000 feet over the Andes. “Later this year, the Airbus Perlan Mission II all-volunteer team will be attempting to soar the aircraft to over 90,000 feet to set a new world record for winged aircraft in sustained flight,” reported BRS.
“Perlan 2 has a drogue parachute to slow and stabilize the aircraft in case of high altitude emergency, and a ballistic BRS whole aircraft parachute system for lower altitude recovery and landing,” said Ed Warnock, CEO of The Perlan Project. “This gives chief pilot Jim Payne and pilot/project manager Morgan Sandercock, as well as our whole team of pilots and their families, additional peace of mind on these very high altitude missions.”
Since the 1980s, BRS reports delivering more than 35,000 airframe parachutes to LSA, experimentals, ultralights, unmanned vehicles, military aircraft, and general aviation aircraft. The company has documented 376 lives saved through the use of these systems.
Not to be left out by their European rival, this week Boeing HorizonX Ventures‘ dove more deeply into battery development as the aerospace giant announced this week its first investment in an energy storage company, Berkeley, California-based Cuberg.
Although batteries can power an ultralight today with reasonable success, a major stumbling block in the development of larger electric-propelled aircraft is battery technology, which is currently delayed by energy sources that weigh too much and produce too little power.
“Cuberg’s battery technology has some of the highest energy density we’ve seen in the marketplace, and its unique chemistries could prove to be a safe, stable solution for future electric air transportation,” said Steve Nordlund, vice president of Boeing HorizonX, which previously announced an investment in another startup, Zunum Aero, a company developing “hybrid to electric aircraft.”
After a busy week at Sebring — a show that exceeded my expectations …and probably also for several vendors who logged sales to kick off the year in a great way — I have a couple alternative messages for readers.
Those aircraft buyers at Sebring have a few weeks to wait before they get their shiny new LSA or kits but, as noted in three earlier posts, plenty of smiles were seen despite a bit more wind than many would have liked.
If you follow Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, or Instagram as many pilots do, you may have noticed we’ve been rather quiet on those platforms.
This website and Videoman Dave’s YouTube channel form our primary outlets and nothing changes that, especially now that ByDanJohnson.com has been made fully “responsive,” a tech industry term that means the BDJ2 web format now adapts readily to smartphones, tablets, TVs, or computers. Stats show that around two-thirds of you view our content on a small screen so we’re pleased to look pretty good whatever device you use. Use comments to offer any input you may have on that.
Recently, we added a line of social media icons below each article. Those of you active on any of those social media platforms can now easily share an article of interest with your flying friends.
We hope you’ll do that. We get plenty of good comments (and a few gripes) about what we do here and on YouTube and I want to say we are grateful for that feedback. Hearing good words motivates us to do more and criticisms help us further improve our product. Both are appreciated.
If you like what we do, please, share the words or video with your friends and help up reach further. You likely know the drill: simply click the social media of your choice, which opens a portal allowing you to use your membership on that platform to send your friends or followers our article or video.
The following video was made first just to show personal family and friends what I did on a pre-Christmas trip to China and Taiwan. It was modified when our travel sponsor, AeroJones Aviation, showed an interest in sharing this in their Asia-Pacific market and sphere of influence.
The final result proved fairly watchable, generating around 2,500 views so far.
Since others seemed to like it, I thought I’d share it here. It’s seven minutes long and compresses a week’s travel into a short window. I hope you might enjoy it.
The purpose was to try to assist sport and recreational aviation in China and I think we did some good. You may not care but the manufacturer of your favorite airplane probably does. As I’ve said before, a bigger market for the maker of your aircraft brand means they can be more stable financially and could generate more income to allow them to improve current models and design new aircraft.
That’s good for everyone!
The fourteenth running of the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo is history and if this is how the rest of the year goes, I predict a stronger year for LSA sales. Vendors were smiling by the end of the show and a good many customers are now anticipating a shiny new aircraft in their hangar.
Based on my unscientific survey of vendors, I would estimate at least 15 aircraft sales and possibly more as I did not query every vendor. Of course, airshow promises don’t always materialize but regardless of the precise number, it was amply clear that Sebring — and similar focused-venue shows that confine themselves to LSA, light kits, and ultralight — still offer their magic in putting customers and sellers together.
Several vendors told airport executive Mike Willingham about having “pages” of solid leads. Even non-LSA exhibitors such as Cirrus reported to him that they found good prospects at the show. This reflects what I perceived as very good foot traffic on all days of the event.
While vendors form the information side of these views, the fact is that aviator buyers are still flocking to the many great choices in this segment of affordable aviation.
By another view, the push by AOPA and EAA for BasicMed appears to have hardly affected Light-Sport Aircraft interest. In fact, BasicMed may be helping. While new opportunities now exist for older pilots to keep flying their older GA airplanes, BasicMed (see earlier article with comments) has enough hoops to jump through that some are obviously electing to continue using their driver’s license paired with their existing pilot certificate to fly Light-Sport Aircraft.
Putting a finer point on it, I believe the reaction of many pilots demonstrates that a brand-new, affordable, high-tech, roomy, and well-performing LSA holds genuine appeal.
Sebring is the granddaddy of these LSA, light kit, and ultralight shows. It has spawned similar events like the Midwest LSA Expo and the DeLand Showcase plus it has inspired shows like Copperstate and Arlington to keep a focus on more affordable, recreational aircraft.
These new events are no challenge to the majors such as Sun ‘n Fun (starting in barely over two months) and AirVenture Oshkosh but they have clearly won a place in the airshow circuit. Some find it curious that three of the best shows for these events are in Florida but the state is obviously a national center for recreational flying.
Weather at Sebring was good this year although fairly windy on a couple of the days. However, plenty of flying still occurred and the gyroplanes in particular appeared to have no problem with the conditions. Even the Ford Trimotor * — one of two flying examples remaining — flew steadily, cancelling operations only on one afternoon.
The number of exhibitors at Sebring, the volume of attendees and the seriousness of these pilots about buying, plus the range of aircraft options — in both types and cost — is but one part of the success story that is Light-Sport and experimental amateur built aircraft. For more about the continuing success of the Sport Pilot/LSA concept FAA introduced almost 14 years ago, read this article.
As the last sentence suggests, the Sebring Expo owes some of its success to jumping in as LSA debuted on the aviation stage.
Mike Willingham reported that while Expo has not profited from the show itself the event has nonetheless been a success for the airport by putting it squarely on the aviation map and by helping to attract several new tenants including the large facility operated by leading LSA purveyor Tecnam. (Watch for our interview with Tecnam COO, Giovanni Pascale Langer in the weeks ahead.)
* For more about this fascinating corrugated metal aircraft from the 1920s, go here.
Day two of the year’s first show, Sebring was a bit cooler and windier but still a fine day as the photos show. I would guess crowds were as good or better than yesterday not even counting a large contingent of ROTC candidates visiting for the day.
Zenith continued to garner lots of attention for their supersized SuperDuty CH-750 variant. Larger wings (six feet more span) and tail feathers are mated to a common 750 fuselage (construction time for which has been reduced through higher tech). The SD is powered by an Aero Sport Power IO-375 producing 205 horsepower. The show example was a three seater that grosses at 1,900 pounds. An 1,100 pounds empty results in an 800 pound useful load. This is the model with the distinctive Unpanel™ instrument system that works like a swivel-mounted flat screen TV in your living room (but better because it’s in your airplane). Video will be coming…
Aeroprakt USA displayed an A22LS model, the Ukraine design featuring vast expanses of clear plastic that deliver massive visibility. The show model had tundra tires with rather unique “footwear” as its tricycle gear used surfaces closer to fenders than wheel pants. They won’t provide any drag reduction but will help keep mud or debris splatter off the wings and fuselage. The A-22 also had sliding windows useful for aerial photography.
AutoGyro USA is now a regular at airshows as the clear European market leader showed their line of models, including their very handsome Cavalon done in a brilliant blue. This model is rare in gyroplanes by offering two-place side-by-side seating. Despite the full enclosure, visibility is broad thanks to wide swaths of artfully curved clear plastic. The German company has evolved their designs while producing large numbers of units and it shows throughout the design. The company also displayed their open cockpit MTO Sport variation with the protective side rails.
It was fun to get caught up with John Williams of Titan Aircraft. After making more than 800 of his Tornado light kits in various configurations, his Ohio company has focused on his T-51 Mustang replica. Starting with a 100-horsepower Rotax 912 T-51 has evolved all the way up to 400-horsepower Corvette engine that produces 4,000 fpm climb rates yet manages to burn only 10-12 gallons an hour at cruise. Around 200 have been sold and more than 100 are flying. Video will be coming…
Indoor displays benefitted from those getting out of the wind. We shot a video interview with Duc Hélices propellers to learn about their super-easy prop pitch adjustment allowing you to fine tune the blades for specific performance. Using a special allen wrench in a single motion, changes in half-degree increments can be made by an owner while traveling; very slick. The French company plans a U.S. facility in the next year to better serve a growing customer base in America.
Beringer debuted a new wheel for aircraft doing bush duty using big-boy Alaska tires. As always the hardware is gorgeous from this best-in-class French company supported by a U.S. operation. A special brake unit fits the split hub wheel, which allows fitting of the tire without jamming a tire iron against the wheel edge. Airframe builders keen on the new wheel include Just Aircraft, CubCrafters, Rans, American Legend, and more.
Day two logs us half way through Sebring 2018 and the weather forecast continues good. If you’re in the state, come have a look.
For all who could not attend, our title forms a common question. On day one of the fourteenth running of the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo, even many onsite asked how the first day went; I’ll bet I heard the question a dozen times.
Short answer: A great start! The airport that hosts the annual event lucked out with a day of gorgeous weather, in the high 70s (25° C). Clear blue skies and modest breezes made for a beautiful beginning. They booked a full display of more than 100 vendors and plenty of shiny aircraft to examine.
Morning hours looked to have reasonably good attendance; the parking lot was on its way to a good fill at 8:30 AM. These shows rarely seem crowded — and that’s not a bad thing if you want to talk to an aircraft designer or take a demo flight — but at times various aircraft were surrounded by visitors. It looked pretty healthy.
Four vendors reported sales by mid-morning. Perhaps these buyers had already decided to act and just wanted one more look or to ask one more question but how is that different than any other show? (Do you really think any airline places a billion dollar order at the Paris Air Show because they finally saw what they liked? Of course not, purchases are planned in advance but they use the show to help the buy make the news.)
Some non-airframe equipment vendors reported a solid day to Mike Willingham, the airport director and man in charge of the 14-year-old event.
We saw a rare sighting of an Icon A5 on display with another on a lake doing demo flights. The California company has in several recent years limited its airshow appearance to a splashy big tent at Oshkosh. It was good to see the team from the factory’s flight school and operation in Tampa, Florida make a showing.
Scott Severen as US Sport Planes made his first appearance as the new man handling sales nationally for Jabiru, focused on their J230-D and J170-D models. Scott has played many important roles in light aviation and he’s a veteran choice to take over from Pete Krotje and his Shelbyville, Tennessee team as Pete slides gracefully into a well-deserved retirement, as he has planned for a couple years.
Aeropilot USA boss, Deon Lombard, reported a solid first year with six sales of the L600. He also added a dealer in the east while he handles the west from his California base. From what I could see, interest is growing for this handsome 80%-scale 182 lookalike done in composite.
Videoman Dave and I are charging around scooping up videos and knocked out seven or eight on Day One. Look for plenty of fresh video in the weeks ahead to follow Dave’s deluge of videos in advance of Sebring.
Tomorrow’s forecast: another fine day (or two or three) ahead, weatherwise with airplane noise first thing and all day! C’mon down if you can…