Videoman Dave and I are recording videos we think you will enjoy as we seek out news and new aircraft for your reading and viewing pleasure.
Thanks for your visit and we truly appreciate those of you who have become members!
Videoman Dave and I are recording videos we think you will enjoy as we seek out news and new aircraft for your reading and viewing pleasure.
Thanks for your visit and we truly appreciate those of you who have become members!
Immediately following Sun ‘n Fun 2018 is Aero 2018. Crammed in on the lone repack day in between shows I photographed a great showing of six LSA or LSA-like seaplanes at my home airport. I’ll report more on that gathering in another post because blast off to Germany and Aero we did that afternoon.
Aero Friedrichshafen is my favorite European aviation event for one principal reason — it always delivers on new, never-before-seen aircraft. Full days means that most reports must come later but I want to keep the Sun ‘n Fun pace some readers liked by getting regular articles out regarding new things I saw at Aero. First up…
That’s the U.S. scene but in Europe, the brand has been steady under its owner and designer, Igor Spacek. After doing engineering work for other manufacturers Igor started Spacek s.r.o. (Ltd.) in 2007 to fulfill interest in his SD-1 homebuilt airplane. That design originated in the late ’90s and took its first flight in 2005.
SD-2 SportMaster is a new kit-built airplane about which its designer said, “The main emphasize is given on high performance, payload, and comfort at lowest possible price.” Who can’t love that?
Igor appears to achieved his goal.
SD Planes’ show aircraft at Aero 2018, its first production example, is powered by the Rotax 912 ULS2 engine, which should yield sprightly performance from this very light aircraft. SD-2 weighs in at a lean 578 pounds. Given a 1,320 maximum takeoff weight, it can carry 125% of its empty weight. Even with full fuel (26 gallons) SD-2 can carry a payload slightly greater than its empty weight. Few two seaters can match that feat. It’s largely wood structure is tough enough to handle a +5/-3 g limit load.
SD-2 can run at LSA speeds of around 120 knots and stalls at a low 34 knots, very close to the 4:1 holy grail of maximum to minimum speed.
Similar to SD-1 Minisport, SD-2’s fuselage employs primarily a wood truss design although the wing has a carbon main spar with composite integral fuel tank. Covered with thin (1.5 mm) plywood, SD-2 is a genuine composite aircraft. Wingtips are built of glass and PVC foam sandwich, but wood does most duty as it is low cost and proven. Big slotted flaps are made of carbon with PVC foam sandwich while counterbalanced ailerons are built of plywood and XPS foam. Wings attach to the fuselage using two main and two auxiliary pins that Spacek said allows disassembly in only 10 minutes.
Side by seats seats are equipped with in-flight adjustable pedals with 6-inch (150 mm) range, that the designer said will accommodate someone 6.6 feet tall (200 cm) tall. Inside, SD-2 is spacious with a 46-inch (117 cm) cockpit width at the shoulders. A fairly roomy baggage compartment holds 44 pounds (20 kg) behind the seats.
To discover more about SD-2 SportMaster and to learn its cost, email the company.
Sun ‘n Fun 2018 is done. The show actually closed early at about 1 PM due to forecasts of severe weather. Within hours, a bustling event began to look like a ghost town.
Despite the rushed finish, the event appeared to be a huge success. Reports were that it was a all-time record result for Sun ‘n Fun; we’ll wait to see the numbers to know more detail. My conversations with several vendors indicated strong sales interest and orders were taken, so customers and vendors both appear to be satisfied.
I spoke to many fans at the show and our conversations demonstrate to me that light aviation is very alive and well. In fact, I see this as one of the most invigorated periods in recent years. The interest is broad based and includes Part 103 ultralight vehicles, gyroplanes, modestly priced Special LSA, and top-line LSA models. On the kit side, interest also appears strong enough that backlogs are growing. For pilots who can’t wait, a deepening market is developing for used LSA, many with very low time and great equipment installed — with a growing number of businesses serving the second-hand LSA market. It’s a great time to be a buyer and flyer.
I also met dozens of folks who very graciously said they enjoy our output in words and video and I am deeply appreciative of that positive feedback.
While the severe weather never actually transpired in Lakeland, an abundance of caution is warranted with human lives and so much expensive equipment at risk. I applaud Sun ‘n Fun management — led by John “Lites” Leenhouts — for making the right decision. Certainly from a participant standpoint the decisive move was appreciated as it allowed vendors to get back to a normal week of running their enterprise and customers to return home to their jobs and families.
Showing a high level of enthusiasm from readers of this website who could not attend Sun ‘n Fun, we set an all-time record* for website views Sunday, even as things wound down. With more days like today, this website can better reach aviation aviation enthusiasts with the message of Light-Sport Aircraft, light kit-built aircraft, and ultralight aircraft.
I attribute this intensity to daily reporting of interesting aircraft. I will try to continue the pace next week at Aero Friedrichshafen. In addition, you will soon begin to enjoy numerous videos as Videoman Dave can edit them (a large task; please be patient).
We have one day at home to wash clothes, repack, and leave the following day for a flight to Germany yet I would not trade this kind of work for anything. I look forward to seeing many friends and fans in Europe as well as reporting to Americans back home plus many readers all over the planet.
It is amazing to use the technologies of just this last decade or so to provide such coverage. I’m honored to have this opportunity and I so appreciate your loyal readership. Thank you!
* Based on reader views from April 15, 2018, if this rate was sustained, ByDanJohnson.com would generate substantially more than a million views per year. While AOPA’s leading magazine, Pilot, may generate this many views in only a month or two, ByDanJohnson.com enjoys the attention of readers singularly interested in the aircraft we cover. No one is looking for warbirds or spam cans here.
When most pilots think of imports, they assume a foreign manufacturer builds an aircraft in another country, finds a U.S. representative, and sends their product here. That’s certainly the standard practice.
For years, especially after the fall of Communism and the opening of Eastern European nations, rates of pay for highly qualified workers was so low that building in America was considered by many to be noncompetitive. Slowly, though, the situation has changed and now American production makes more sense, at least when the company intends to sell to Yankee pilots.
At Sun ‘n Fun 2018 I uncovered two new projects; one about which I had some knowledge, another that surprised me.
Marco Cavazzoni, long associated with Boeing, told me at AirVenture 2017 that a big change was underway. Now I have fresh info and the plan is coming to fruition.
Sky Arrow has long been well represented by Hansen Air Group. The Atlanta-based importer introduced Americans to the composite aircraft and has sold to and supported the U.S. buyers of this handsome and very well flying aircraft.
Now, Sky Arrow USA is a company that is a subsidiary of Magnaghi (“Mag-NAH-hee”), the large Italian company that took over after the previous producer — using an Italian name often shorted to III or Triple-I for easier English-speaker reference — got into financial trouble. Magnaghi earns its main income producing complex assemblies such as landing gear legs and wheels for airliners. To such a large company, Sky Arrow must seem a hobby project but it is one they are serious about as the plane has many possibilities.
Sky Arrow won its LSA acceptance by FAA (arranged by the Hansen team), but another variant has Part 23 approval due to a policy called reciprocity where a foreign certification can be accepted by FAA. This gives Sky Arrow USA many possibilities for commercial use of the aircraft and their website reflects these ambitions.
Marco is the U.S. man that will run the U.S. operation for Magnaghi as he and his team work to set up full manufacturing in the USA. This is underway now. To learn more as they prepare for full activity, call 855-4-FlySky or send an email. When editing can be finished, we recorded a video with Marco in which he explains the plans more fully.
At the 25th anniversary of the Rotax 912 engine, at a fine event the big Austrian company organized at their home airfield, I had a chance to fly an airplane Americans do not know. This was the Sila 450 and I flew with company boss, Matic “Mago” Milorad. Here’s the article I wrote.
I described this experience but soon thereafter I was called to account for allegedly trampling on the rights of a Columbian designer who claimed the Serbian company had no right to produce it. At Sun ‘n Fun 2018, I was shown documents and photos that appear to show contracts were properly executed. I am not a lawyer but it certainly looks like my earlier apology may have been in error. All that aside, the original claim is mostly irrelevant as many changes have been made to the airplane now known as the Discovery 600.
The American-specific Discovery 600 (the original model was the Sila 450, though it has changed a lot in four years) will be headquartered in Portage Indiana under the name Aero East USA. Flight activities will occur at the nearby Valparaiso airport. U.S. operations will be run by Danny Labovic, a 50% partner with Milorad in the new venture. We interviewed Danny and Mago in Lakeland.
Initial production will be mostly done in Serbia, but as the U.S. operation gears up, raw materials such as aluminum sheet that have come from American sources will be partially prepared in the U.S., sent to Serbia for labor-intensive work by Serbians, and returned to American for final assembly and fitting of components such as avionics and engines that come from still other countries, including the USA. Though this may sound complex, it is very similar to what Boeing and Airbus do as they build airlines. It works for small companies, too.
I expect to report more on both projects — Sky Arrow and Discovery 600 — as they progress but our videos will fill in gaps in the meantime. Whatever way these projects evolve, it is interesting to see manufacturing come to American shores. Mr. Trump may be smiling, but much more important is the satisfaction of American pilots who will be given more aircraft choices.
Welcome to more of a famous label… Made in the USA.
On a single day of recording several videos at Sun ‘n Fun 2018, Videoman Dave and I came across two light kit aircraft designs operating as STOL — Short Take Off and Landing — aircraft. By itself that is hardly unusual. STOL designs are plentiful and popular.
However, when you hear that two STOL-focused airplanes will be flying from Florida to Alaska, that’s something else entirely. Flying from one corner of a big country to its diagonal opposite is a fairly significant undertaking. Depending on routes chosen, this is well beyond a 4,000-mile flight. Let’s see — at 80-90 mph an hour …well, suffice it to say, that’s a lot of flying, 40+ hours, each way, would not surprise me.
At Sebring 2018 Zenith Aircraft showed their Super Duty version of their CH750 high wing, a STOL airplane equipped with a large engine and tires to match. Zenith’s show example grosses at 1,900 pounds.
Viking Aircraft Engines takes a Honda block and sets it up as an aircraft powerplant. Many homebuilders have installed them since the company reorganized in 2010. Their powerful engines have done well at STOL competitions at the Zenith factory, so principal Jan Eggenfellner decided to increase the tempo.
The Florida company is promoting its 180 horsepower version today. To more dramatically show what their engine can do, Viking built their own Super Duty kit, painted it distinctively in red and flat black, and installed one of the big powerplants paired with giant Alaska tires. Even the nose wheel is a very large tire.
“We’re taking it from Florida to Alaska and will participate in the Valdez STOL competition,” said Jan. “We are not going [expecting] to win but we want show what our engine can do.”
He and his staff have been planning the long trek that will begin mere weeks after Sun ‘n Fun 2018 concludes.
On the other side of Sun ‘n Fun 2018, Belite Aircraft main man James Weibe has concentrated his efforts on his latest Chipper side-by-side design. This configuration may be his most successful yet with a reported 19 kits in construction and another dozen in purchase process, according to James here in Lakeland, Florida.
He has altered the wing to be all metal with a bonded adhesion that leaves the metallic upper surface as clean as a composite wing. Fat tundra tires fitted to the show example gave the taildragger a gutsy appeal.
Chipper STOL is powered by an 80 horsepower Rotax 912 UL that has provided great performance for the lightweight machine (600 pounds empty).
Equipped with added power, a more efficient wing, and leading edge cuffs, Chipper may be able to give a run to aircraft in its class in the Alaska contests.
Weibe will first return to Wichita, Kansas before setting out for Alaska. That cuts off a long leg but he will still have quite an adventure flying all the way to Anchorage and Valdez.
The events triggering the long distance migration by Viking and Chipper are the Alaska Airman show in May— held in the cavernous FedEx hangar plus outside displays — plus the Valdez STOL competition.
Now in its 21st season for 2018, the Great Alaska Aviation Gathering is Alaska’s premier aviation event with nearly 300 exhibitors and 25,000 attendees. “Alaska is the ‘flyingest’ state in the union [and can boast] more pilots and aircraft per capita than anywhere in the world,” say organizers. It will occur in 2018 on Saturday and Sunday, May 5th and 6th.
One week later comes the Valdez Fly-In and Air Show, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, May 11th, 12th, and 13th. In the 2017 running of Valdez, approximately 200 airplanes flew in and more than 2,500 people attended the event on Pioneer Field in Valdez for the 14th Valdez Fly-In and Air Show. EAA spokesman Dick Knapinkski was quoted saying, “Alaska is the epicenter of STOL activity.”
I attended the Alaska Airmen’s event some years ago to find the state southern regions emerged from winter. Days are long — I went out to go fly a trike on floats at 11 at night and flew for 45 minutes landing just before midnight with plenty of light to do so safely. Since transportation in the vast state is utterly dependent on aviation, a very high percentage of state residents are pilots and I have never seen so many aircraft on floats …or skiis if you’re brave enough to stick around until fall when winter again arrives.
After a damp opening day, the sun returned on day #2 at Sun ‘n Fun 2018. A beautiful blue sky was enjoyed by crowds that appeared to grow quickly. Many likely saw yesterday’s forecast and put off attending for that day. By the end of Wednesday, though, parking aircraft filled the grounds, nearly every one of 58 display spaces in Paradise was occupied, and campgrounds were reported so full that additional area was opened.
The LSA Mall hosted by LAMA also filled up to include quite an eclectic collection of light flying machines from a 140-pound twin-engine genuine Part 103 ultralight homebuilt (Lightning Bug), a one-of-two-in-the-USA motorglider to highly affordable choices, speedy LSA cruisers, and bush-ready aircraft.
DeLand Showcase, the new airshow in early November (1st-2nd-3rd in 2018) sponsored a reception and attracted a large crowd that was fed a wonderful meal, served drinks, and entertained by live music all within clear view of the light plane area turf runway.
Videoman Dave and I were able to collect a fresh batch of seven new videos. One of these was about Just Aircraft’s new Part 103 entry that may be called Just 103 Solo (though the name is still in discussion).
Unveiled only nine months ago, Just’s Part 103 unfinished prototype generated a surprising amount of interest, as measured by Just Aircraft comments and response to my article linked above.
Overall this seems part of a surge in Part 103 interest, for plenty of good reasons: • greater freedom (no license or registration required, • no medical of any kind needed, and • the aircraft can be delivered ready-to-fly. The best news for budget-minded flying enthusiasts is truly • low prices for these single seaters that typically fly 40-55 mph. Companies like Kolb Aircraft and U-Fly-It — maker of the Aerolite 103 — report good sales activity and a number of producers are lining up to offer choices.
Just isn’t quite done with the Solo (or whatever its final name) but they are flying the model, still powered by the Polini single cylinder engine. “It performs quite well with this engine,” said principal developer Troy Woodland. He said he has logged a few short flights of early testing and one hour-long flight. More testing will follow.
Additional changes are likely, for example:
The prototype Just 103 Solo doesn’t presently make Part 103’s tough weight limit, but Troy is sure they can trim the few pounds needed to qualify; they will also likely offer a parachute, which can “buy” a few extra pounds according to FAA guidance on the matter (Advisory Circular 103-7).
By the time a new AirVenture rolls around this summer — barely over three months away — Just should be ready to start deliveries to selected customers who will build kits and offer Just feedback on the aircraft. After a short period of evaluation, Just plans to offer fully-built models if the buyer selects appropriate engines and options.
As one who enjoys genuine Part 103 vehicles, I am excited to see this resurgence in aviation’s lightest powered flying machines and I bet Just will sell a good many of their new entry.
Weather looks good for the next few days so come join us at Sun ‘n Fun 2018. If you cannot come to Florida, stay tuned to this website for more updates (even if it does keep me up late to provide these updates). Sure, these shows make for long days but what better way to enjoy life than watching airplanes fly all day and talking to our flying buddies.
Here’s a one and a half minute swing by the LSA Mall at Sun ‘n Fun 2018:
Day One of Sun ‘n Fun got off to a solid start even if a number of light aircraft arrivals are still pending. Rans Aircraft boss Randy Schlitter is one stuck behind a solid band of weather in northern Florida and he is not the only one.
Day One also brought afternoon showers that drenched the grounds for a few hours. This didn’t dampen spirits too badly, though, and the rest of the week is looking good. If you are planning to attend, your timing seems about perfect.
Before the showers, we shot a video on the venerable Kolb Firestar and another with a first-ever U.S. sighting of Rotorvox’s C2A. Not willing to risk expensive camera gear we scrubbed video recording for the rest of the day.
In LAMA‘s LSA Mall a great crop of airplanes are in position while the big tent holds a full display of engines for light planes. More on the Mall later but all of Paradise City had a good turnout of vendors with airplanes of all types.
The first day ended in a rather special and unique way with the wedding of Evolution Trike‘s Larry Mednick and Amy Saunders. A large crowd filled a tent to help them celebrate their nuptials.
Paradise City Chairman Gary Fredell presided and Sun ‘n Fun, Inc., main boss “Lites” Leenhouts performed the ceremony. The wedding was done in the style of “Steampunk” (a few folks said they had to Google it* to know how to dress) — many rallied to the costuming, making for some interesting visuals.
Congratulations to Amy and Larry!
As the wedding reception got underway, a mini airshow took place.
At the end of a wet, mostly non-flying day, a formation of six powered paragliders got in a few pattern laps. With calm winds and sufficient cloud clearance, the six pilots did a nice job of holding their stacked, staggered pattern even throughout turns; a few even had smoke available. Good job, aviators! It was fun to watch and I saw a number of smartphones turned their way.
Here’s a very short clip of the paraglider formation.
* Steampunk is a genre of science fiction that has a historical setting and typically features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology.
After earlier news about the change of representation for Jabiru aircraft, a fresh announcement was made as Sun ‘n Fun 2018 was about to start. “Arion Aircraft, LLC has been appointed North American Distributor for Jabiru Engines, firewall-forward kits, and engine parts,” according to a joint press release issues by all parties to the arrangement. The new deal is effective immediately.
“Jabiru North America, Arion Aircraft LLC of Shelbyville, Tennessee has been appointed as the North American importer and distributor for Jabiru Engines, FWF Kits and Jabiru Parts. Arion Aircraft will be the exclusive importer and market the full line engines and parts manufactured in Australia by Jabiru Aircraft Pty, Ltd.,” the news stated.
Arion Aircraft is the builder and marketer for the Lightning SLSA and kit-built models as well as a model outside the LSA parameters.
Jabiru of Australia reports sales of more than 2,000 aircraft and 6,000 engines world-wide since 1988, with Jabiru engines powering many popular experimental aircraft in America.
Pete Krotje, owner of Jabiru North America stated: “Arion Aircraft has been a Jabiru Service Center for many years. Their experience makes this a perfect fit to advance the sales of Jabiru brand power products throughout North America. I’m eagerly looking forward to the energy and creativity that Nick Otterback and Arion Aircraft will bring to the Jabiru engine fleet in North America.”
“Arion Aircraft has assumed all North American sales and marketing activities for the Jabiru Engine product line at our Shelbyville, Tennessee location at KSYI airport,” said Nick Otterback, the owner of Arion. He added that all new engine and parts inquiries and orders will be directed, fulfilled and delivered through Arion Aircraft.
“This complements our existing kit and LSA aircraft manufacturing business,” Nick clarified. “The majority of the nearly 200 kit and LSAs we have produced are powered by Jabiru engines giving us substantial experience with the Jabiru product line.”
Nick said his enterprise will offer repair and maintenance services for Jabiru engines as well as Jabiru Aircraft from the former Jabiru North America location (located next door to Arion Aircraft). “We’re really excited about Jabiru’s new Gen IV engine and the benefits it will offer amateur builders.” Pete Krotje will continue to help with Jabiru technical support as Arion adds the Jabiru engine business.
Nick did stress, however, “We are not taking over Jabiru North America. That business is closing along with Pete’s retirement.”
Pete Krotje and his Jabiru North America operation have been the Jabiru importer for North America for 19 years and was a founding member of Arion Aircraft, LLC. Nick Otterback is the chief designer of the Lightning airplane and has worked with Pete for 15 years in the Jabiru and Arion Aircraft businesses.
Scott Severen of US Sport Planes said the announcement poses no change for his company to pursue sales for new Jabiru aircraft; his company is also displaying at Sun ‘n Fun 2018. He will work closely with Nick and Arion as both new endeavors move forward and as Pete Krotje begins to enjoy a well-deserved retirement.
One bone of contention among LSA sellers is that legacy flight schools — the sort that typically uses Cessna or Piper trainers — sometimes disregard LSA as trainer aircraft. “They’re built too lightly.” “The nose wheels are too weak.” “My mechanic doesn’t know the Rotax engine.” Some may have even more creative excuses.
I’ve interviewed many producers that are frustrated with this outdated response. Several have cited specific aircraft that have done flight school duty for thousands of hours and tens of thousands of landings.
Yet the ill-informed attitude of such school operators has not stopped sellers from trying. One such dogged entrepreneur is Michael Coates, the Australia-based largest dealer for Slovenian LSA producer, Pipistrel.
“After months and months of evaluation, writing proposals, flight tests and endless emails,” Michael wrote, “I am very proud to announce our single biggest order into the USA flight training market.”
He referenced an order for 15 Pipistrel Alpha Trainer aircraft with instrumentation configured for IFR training (photo) ordered for delivery to San Bernardino, California.
World Wide Wings (WWW) operates facilities in Florida and California that specialize in training pilots from all over the world and, in particular, Indian students. They train from first-flight through to all the certificate levels up to type ratings on Boeing 737 & Airbus A320. These are the most-widely used commercial airplanes in the Indian markets. Successful students get an FAA certificate that is recognized globally.
WWW is run by active airline pilots and has trained 500 students; they have joined with San Bernardino Valley College as their academic training partner.
“We have been looking for a suitable LSA [basic] trainer for our flight schools in Florida and California for quite some time,” stated WWW principal, Naushad Imam. “The old Cessna and Piper [aircraft] still being widely used by most flight schools in the U.S. did not fit our profile for a host of reasons.”
WWW considered SportCruiser, Tecnam, Skycatcher, Flight Design, Evektor, Pipistrel and a few others. “We leased and put some of these airplanes to work in our training environment,”
“This provided a very good understanding of their suitability in terms of safety, performance(s), maintenance, handling, durability, serviceability and up times,” the school indicated. “Feedback from students was also very helpful.”
Earlier, the Pipistrel factory sold 200 Alpha Trainers to the Indian military. “Their feedback on the aircraft durability was a consideration,” observed WWW. Another factory affective the sales was a report of a Pipistrel Alpha Trainer in New Caledonia that recently surpassed 4,000 hours of training in a challenging tropical/marine environment; the aircraft has not reported problems.
Deliveries from Pipistrel’s Italy production facility will start later this month, with delivery and commissioning in San Bernardino scheduled for the first week of June, 2018.
More than 300 Pipistrel Alpha Trainers have been produced and are flying in 35 countries including almost 50 in the USA alone, reported Coates.
Let me be clear. I have no issue with sharks in the sea. Besides, I don’t write about sea creatures.
This Shark is one I’ve long admired since meeting its creator, Jaro Dostal many years ago at the German airshow Aero Friedrichshafen …which will begin in mere days — we’ll be scouring the event for more fun flying machine discoveries.
Shark is represented in the USA by Jon Baron. He wrote, “We plan on flying south to Sun ‘n Fun in Lakeland, Florida and expect to arrive on Thursday, April 12th and stay for the rest of the show.”
Where can you find this handsome airplane? Well, not in a paid exhibit. Instead, “We’ll be in the General Aviation Camping Area,” indicated Jon. “If you want to meet up and check out the plane, please text me at (619) 794 7797, and I’ll send you a Google pin of our location.”
Shark is already a speedy, retractable gear aircraft — available in the USA only as a kit, unless you buy an already-built importer sales demonstrator. Yet the European producer is amping up Shark’s appeal further with the new powerful engine from Rotax Aircraft Engines.
A special “Mako” Shark is now available, reported an enthusiastic Jon. “The Rotax 915-powered Shark will enhance high altitude performance, increase cruising speed, and rate of climb” he said. “The first prototype is expected to be completed this summer.” The factory is now taking orders. The nearby images show new, larger cowlings to accommodate a turbocharged, intercooler-equipped 135 horsepower engine.
If you are enticed, here are two ways to acquire Shark.
Order a new aircraft — “The factory will now take €4,000 (about $5,000 but this can change) non-refundable or €15,000 (about $19,000) refundable deposit to hold a production slot. Upon receiving the deposit, the factory will assign a production slot and an expected delivery date. Progress payments will be requested at various intervals.
“The current factory backlog is between 18-24 months for a ready-to-fly aircraft or approximately 5-6 months for a kit,” wrote Jon. However, he added, “With the factory ramping up to three from one aircraft per month, the wait is expected to decrease.”
If you want the current final price and options list, contact Jon via email (see below).
If you can’t handle the long wait or don’t want to send chunks of money overseas, another way exists to own a Shark and no building is required.
“Shark UL 025, our current demonstrator aircraft, is up for sale,” wrote Jon. “It is ready for delivery in April 2018 and has all the options, has been superbly cared for and is fully up to date with the latest features.” How much? “We are asking €150,000 (about $188,000) plus delivery charges. Please contact me (via email) if interested.
Besides LSA seaplanes, one area of furious development (and sales) is gyroplanes, the term modern industry prefers to “gyrocopter,” which was actually a branded name used since the days of Igor Benson.
A new player, arriving on the scene about five years ago, is Rotorvox. Americans have not seen this aircraft but will soon get an opportunity at Sun ‘n Fun 2018 at Booth #30 in Paradise City.
Demonstration flights will occur throughout the week.
Structurally, the C2A is largely carbon-fiber monocoque construction. This is notably different than the majority of smooth-looking gyroplanes. Most are steel structure with a composite pod. Rotorvox’s fuselage is also engineered to provide a protective cell for the occupants.
A few other side-by-side seating gyroplanes are on the market, including Cavalon from AutoGyro, the far and away market leader. Rotorvox’s version employs the carbon structure to provide such seating, which means it can double as a very inexpensive air ambulance.
Entry is also different with a forward-hinged, three-piece canopy. Above the occupants, you see a faired pylon that supports a two-blade aluminium rotor pushed by a Rotax 914 turbocharged engine swinging a three-blade prop. As with nearly all modern gyroplanes, Rotorvox’s rotor offers hydraulic pre-rotation before takeoff.
Another big departure from most gyroplanes are flat-sided tail booms separated from the fuselage on lateral structures. Each boom supports a tapered fin and rudder with ventral fins. C2A has a short-legged, wide track tricycle undercarriage that should aid ground stability. The main gear uses trailing link main gear with elastomer shock absorption.
Rotorvox reports two prototypes were flown during five years of development before C2A deliveries began in October 2014.
Rotorvox Aero will act as the U.S. importer and will display C2A in Lakeland from April 10–15, 2018. Tw twin-boom gyroplane was developed and produced in Germany by Rotorvox Lift Air GmbH, now a division of Lift Air in Eisenach Germany, the same company that is majority owner of the former Flight Design and its popular CT-series.
C2A’s spacious cabin with dual controls offers what the company calls “outstanding inflight visibility that has to be seen to be appreciated.” You can check this out for yourself at Sun ‘n Fun.
“We are very excited to be participating in Sun ‘n Fun this year,” said Cobus Burger, importer and distributor for the Rotorvox products in the Americas. “I went to Eisenach, Germany to fly the C2A last fall and met the folks at Rotorvox Lift Air and came away very impressed with the C2A and the people behind it. I am very pleased to be presenting this great aircraft both in Lakeland, Florida and later in the year at EAA Airventure in Oshkosh.”
C2A is sold ready-to-fly in Europe but must be sold as an Experimental Amateur Built kit in the USA. Rotorvox Aero is based near Denver, Colorado and plans to work in association with Flight Design USA in South Woodstock, Connecticut to provide an East Coast customer build assistance center.
After Sun ‘n Fun 2018, Cobus will be flying C2A to its new base of operations at the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport (KBJC).
After you finish Easter Sunday dinner with the family, how about going out for a spin on your new Scorpion 3 Hoverbike? Is this merely an April fools joke?
Apparently not. Video appears to prove this machine, though with the state of the art in digital effects, anything you see can be fiction.
As many of us prepare for the start of Sun ‘n Fun 2018 in barely over one week, we hope to see numerous flying machines of interest. My visual partner, Videoman Dave and I will be onsite in Lakeland, Florida — and the following week at Aero Friedrichshafen in the south of Germany. Our mission is to collect a large batch of video that we hope will educate and entertain enthusiasts of light aviation.
I do not expect we will be covering Scorpion 3, but I have to admit I found the idea fascinating. It certainly shows what could happen when you merge a motorcycle with a quadcopter plus software to help control it. Even though I’m unlikely to ever fly such an apparatus, I envision doing so could be… well, electrifying (or should that be “electriflying?”).
“Hoverbike Scorpion 3 is an extreme sports machine for those who are not afraid of height and speed,” the Russian company developing the machine said. “You can store it at home or in the garage.”
“In most countries, registration or a pilot’s license is not required when the aircraft weighs below 250 pounds or 115 kilograms,” Hoversurf Inc., said. In the USA, such a vehicle qualifies under FAR Part 103. In some European countries you might fly Scorpion under the 120-kilo class (Germany) or SSDR (England).
At the full listed empty weight of Scorpion 3 hoverbike at 229 pounds or 104 kilograms with its battery, I see no reason why you could not legally operate it. Speed is listed at 43 mph, a Part 103-compliant pace that could easily be constrained with current software …similar to controls for Kitty Hawk Flyer.
The main protection against an unfortunate outcome is probably the software operating the four electric motors. Most readers have seen a quadcopter operate virtually on its own. The DJI Vision I own will fly itself back to the starting point if I simply switch off the controller. If I run it low on battery, it will take over from me (without my input) and get itself back to the starting point before the battery dies. This is likely to continue improving as the pace of development is furious with billion dollar companies pouring resources into this kind of aircraft.
“Steel duct protection” is provided, evidently to keep soft body parts from contacting spinning props, and Scorpion 3 comes with a “Safety Lock.” I suppose this keeps your 12-year-old nephew from taking it out for a spin while the rest of the family is digesting their Easter Sunday dinner.
The hoverbike is advertised for $59,900. “Reserve your Scorpion 3 today for delivery in 6 to 18 months,” the company advised. “Scorpion 3 deliveries [will begin] in the U.S. based on when you made your reservation. Reservation holders will receive an email when it’s time to place their order.” Hoversurf lists an R&D base in the Nevada and shows its headquarters in Burlingame, California.
Ready? Me? I think I’ll wait to examine one (and maybe have my head examined) before I place an order, but I must admit I found the idea intriguing. No, I’m not April foolin’!
The company indicated that flight time will be about 40 minutes after development of a new battery configuration.
The newest SLSA on our List is a weight-shift control aircraft from Evolution Trikes, the folks who put the trike world on a pedestal with their remarkably deluxe and superbly finished Revo (see our Video Pilot Report of Revo and Part 2).
Following that BMW of trikes (Revo) Evolution released Rev, a Part 103-capable single seat trike.
A year ago, the company debuted a new model, called Revolt.
In less than a year, this model went from pre-flying debut to a fully ASTM-compliant aircraft.
Evolution, lead by Larry Mednick, started ASTM work in June 2017. Testing was completed by December 15, 2017 and they felt ready for an FAA inspector but it took time to arrange a visit from an agency.
In the case of any new model, FAA in Washington, DC can choose to require an official, full-blown audit, meaning three or four full days’ work by three or four FAA staffers. Illustrating that (1) the industry has matured and now does ASTM compliance work well, and (2) that Evolution has done their job well, FAA decided no full audit was needed. Instead they sent someone from FAA’s Orlando, Florida MIDO* office.
FAA sent Tom Hayden from Orlando’s MIDO. Experienced FAA auditors Terry Chasteen and Bob Franklin gave Tom the go-ahead to do this himself.
Hayden spent about five hours at Evolution, said Larry. He looked at required documentation (maintenance manuals, quality program, and more) to find everything in order thanks partly to Evolution’s successful FAA audit of Revo two years ago. This is a great example how good, dedicated work by LSA builders pays off when they introduce new models.
Remarkably, FAA had no findings and therefore no corrections were needed. This is admirable. Normally, any company will slip up on some minor point or two (perhaps easily corrected) but it’s fairly rare for a company to get a clean bill of health immediately.
Amy Saunders, a key member of the Evolution team explained, “We prepared for a full audit.” That kind of good preparation clearly paid off.
Evolution was not only prepared but had qualified help.
Dan Saunders aided Larry and Amy as they got ready for the inspection. Dan has already earned his credentials as he worked with Abid Farooqui of SilverLight when Progressive Aerodyne underwent a full audit for their Searey amphibious LSA. They had some minor findings but all were addressed before FAA left so Searey was accepted that day. FAA big shots still refer to this achievement as a first proving that Dan and Abid know their stuff. It further shows an industry that now well understands how ASTM compliance works.
Dan was involved with using Solid Works engineering software to prepare Revolt. He was also brought in for the audit of Revo but has been involved since the beginning of Revolt. “He set up all the testing (drop tests, etc.) and certifications plus he reviewed all our documents,” said Larry.
Evolution was so sure they had this nailed — correctly as it turned out — that the Zephyr Hills airport-based Evolution has already built 10 Revolt aircraft. “We were certain we had done it correctly,” observed Larry.
“From debut to test flying to FAA approval took only about one year,” added Larry. “We had remarkably few changes to the aircraft though we’ve added a few options that were not shown at 2017 Sun ‘n Fun.”
Amy did the production test flight as required, flying in winds gusting 16 knots. For a weight shift aircraft, this can demand good skills yet Amy rose to the task.
Hearty congratulations to Team Evolution for a job well done!
* MIDO is Manufacturing Inspections District Office
Today I got a good look at the new Aventura S-17 built in DeLand, Florida — also home of the Aerolite 103 and the DeLand Showcase …plus a large volume of sky diving.
In a word, S-17 is hot! One word is not enough, though. This light kit seaplane is also an unusually good value for a long-proven airframe that Aero Adventure has significantly beefed up.
The business is Aero Adventure, run by Alex Rolinski who bought the well-known design five years ago. He’s a high-energy fellow who quit his bank officer job to go full time and the operation has plenty to keep him busy.
S-17 gets its name from the use of a AeroMomentum Suzuki-based engine outputting 117 horsepower. By using an infusion process rather than hand layup fiberglass, Aero Adventure reports saving substantial weight while maintaining strength. “Yes, it’s more work work to use this method,” said Alex but the time consuming process more than offsets the 30 or so extra pounds of AeroMomentum’s AM 15 compared to a Rotax 912.
In addition to a new technique building the hull, Alex noted that the entire aircraft has been put through a computer design analysis that evaluates every airframe component. This knowledge provided direction on beefing up the main square tube that is the gear attachment point and a key member of the lower fuselage. The root or keel tube and the main engine support tube have also been beefed up to accommodate the powerful engine that is secured with 16 bolts.
The added power gives S-17 Aventura spirited performance, especially given its lighter-than-most airframe.
“I would put up this aircraft up against any other seaplane,” Alex stated. He indicated water runs are shortened and his climb rate increased such that S-17 can operate comfortably out of relatively small lakes.
OK, so S-17 performs well, but I imagine you didn’t forget the low price comment.
Earlier reports have described pricing for a basic Aventura kit that places a seaplane within reach of many budgets — from $50,000 to 60,000 (in early 2018), depending on equipment chosen. That’s an exceptional value that all can see.
For $90,000 you can buy a very well equipped Aventura Including the 117-horsepower AeroMomentum AM 15 Suzuki engine, a full instrument panel with ADS-B in and out, and other features.
The company figures to assist four lucky buyers each year as they prepare one factory-built demonstrator for airshow use with a plan to sell the showplane by the end of the event.
Indeed, one lucky customer who travels to Sun ‘n Fun 2018 can fly away in the one I saw. That’s another good reason to attend the spring’s big airshow. Since the company displays at four shows per year, you may miss Sun’n Fun 2018 but Alex said you can try again at DeLand Showcase, AirVenture Oshkosh, or Sebring Expo 2019. Limited production has proven effective for other producers and that should be especially true with S-17 price well below $100,000 for a well-equipped and powerful seaplane.
If you want to put your name in early for the one S-17 available at Sun’n Fun 2018, contact Aero Adventure.
I also got a chance to see WingBug in action. This self-contained, easily-attached exterior unit can wirelessly transmit flight and navigational data to an iPad in the cockpit.
WingBug is offered by a company affiliated with Aero Adventure; I’ll have more about that in another article.
Scott Severen is an old friend and a longtime veteran of the light aircraft business. In addition to a long career with wide experience, Scott is a board member of the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association (LAMA). Most recently, as US Sport Planes, he took over American sales of Jabiru LSA when former importer Pete Krotje reached his planned retirement date. Scott is a great choice to represent this popular set of airplanes.
As part of his role for LAMA, Scott stepped and wrote an article I think makes several good points. It follows below. —DJ
You have many opportunities for flying these days and the different methods to become airborne — to move through the sky — are increasing even as you are reading this.
Experience shows two reasons to fly: (1) for transportation, where the flying device is a tool and, (2) as a recreational pursuit. Often, the two are blended as the complexity, discipline and logistics of the ownership, and operation of a magic carpet can be half the fun. The successful mastery of the systems integration into the airspace system, yielding quick trips across the land can be very satisfying. For many, just getting from point A to point B in the quickest fashion is the objective.
For others, the ability to acquire an aerial perspective is the objective …flying 1,500 feet over fields and rivers, catching the smell of a planted crop in the air, or freshly plowed ground, the salt air near the ocean…
As the owner of an LSA MRO (Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul) operation, I interact with many Light-Sport users. One of my customers was eloquent, saying, “There is a profound simplicity to Sport Plane ownership. There is really no need for often complex and expensive maintenance programs as maintenance is straight-forward due to fewer and less complex systems — and I can do much of the maintenance myself, if I choose! Insurance policies are simple and [can be] inexpensive. The planes don’t take up much room in a hangar, and many don’t need a tug to move them around on the ground as they are easily maneuvered by hand. Recurrent simulator training that can take a week of your time each year? Not applicable to LSA. With 2,000 hour TBOs — the standard for LSA — there is a lot of enjoyment to be had before thinking of serious maintenance.”
Is it smart to keep current, always learning about your craft and honing flying knowledge and skills? Of course it is! This is just like on the golf course or in any sport. Is maintenance really required? Of course, and the engine and airframe manufacturers have specific maintenance schedules you should follow. A fascinating provision here is that many repair and maintenance items can be performed on their Special LSA by the owner. These vary by manufacturer and are specifically authorized in the aircraft manufacturers’ maintenance manuals. The better — safer — we do something, the more we enjoy it.
Added to the simpler maintenance, Light-Sport Aircraft require a Condition Inspection every year instead of an Annual Inspection so that an A&P can perform this task rather than requiring someone with IA, or Inspection Authorization. If you want to be hands-on, you can take a 120-hour course that allows you to perform all of the maintenance and inspections on your LSA, along with other privileges as well.
What is one of the simplest things about LSA? If you have a private pilot certificate, you can simply exercise Sport Pilot privileges without doing anything else! What a simple option: just fly!
Some may not realize how advanced are the instrument panels on LSA. Full glass panels seamlessly integrate moving maps, GPS, communication, transponder with 2020 compliance and EFB transfer. Everything you can get in a Citation? Practically, yes. How about IFR capability? Yes, the technology allows it, though flying into IMC (Instrument Meteorological Conditions) is not part of the LSA parameters. However, LSA can be an excellent IFR training platform. Is it all needed for this kind of flying? No, but it sure can add to the fun, and, for those complex, twin and/or turbine operators, having a similar environment can make the transition to flying for fun quicker, easier, and safer.
From tail dragging cub clones to Italian styling to German engineering …from sleek, racy, arobatic-looking to having enough cargo space for your wife and to bring your pet along, there is truly the ability to achieve whatever kind of recreational flying mission you have.
The FAA has taken LSA seriously, auditing the aircraft manufacturers to ensure they correctly implement quality assurance systems through production, and that they utilize continued operational safety programs to ensure reliability and safety in the field.
LSA is still the only place to get brand new, factory built aircraft with the most advanced avionics and technology integration for under $200,000. Some are much less, even below $100,000.
To reach 120 knots of cruise speed burning only five gallons an hour is marvelous You can do much for so little!
Are LSA practical for flying from coast to coast? In terms of reliability, absolutely! Enjoing fun and adventure, of seeing the United Sates from 1,500 or 4,500 feet, or FL10, well… it doesn’t get any better! You can use small municipal airports, or go to big FBOs you may used to, getting the same service and amenities. You may have some landing fees at places like major airline, Class B airports — and you may need additional training to enter Class B airspace — but that is available and only takes a logbook entry, Many pilots prefer to stay clear of Class Bravo airspace, but qualified pilots can use the system just like a Jet A turbine-powered aircraft.
If your thoughts include how to enjoy flying even more, expanding your knowledge of flying, and increasing your adventure… Light-Sport may be a great prescription!
— This article will also appear on the LAMA website.
Recently I had an exchange with Australian Flying magazine editor, Steve Hitchen. He asked some great questions and after giving my responses I realized some of his question were common ones I hear being discussed. So why not share our give-and-take? Steve’s questions are in blue.
I’d like to talk about power. With LSA restricted to 120 KIAS, it seems unlikely we’ll get much engine development to increase power unless regulations change to either allow an increase in speed or gross weight.
LSA are getting more power, to wit, Rotax’s new 915iS with 135-horsepower and the Continental Titan line with 180 horsepower. I do not think this is the end of the horsepower boosts …plus LSA speed and/or weight changes could conceivably follow in the USA but are currently not limitations in other countries that accept the ASTM standards as a basis for approval or certification.
What would be the point of more powerful engines on LSA?
Well, beside pilots’ interest in having more power, aircraft operating at higher elevations and seaplane or floatplanes benefit from more power even when they cannot fly faster.
There’s already a lot of technology in LSA thanks to the need to save weight, which has me wondering where the sector is going. Can you provide me with some thoughts?
Well, that topic could take us down quite a lengthy path. Let me offer a somewhat shorter reply.
You are right about many tech developments — and on that I point you to an article published recently in General Aviation News’ “The Pulse of Aviation.” Two thoughts: (1) I believe the LSA sector has reached an interesting level of maturity. The pace of major innovations may have slowed but the most important developments are now common on most LSA (and light kits). This situation is not so different than smartphones that totally upended mobile a decade ago with the introduction of the iPhone. In a similar time period, that industry has also matured and development has lost its torrid pace. (2) The funny thing about innovation is you often don’t know how or when it might emerge. Electric propulsion is one possibility and then we are seeing the first glimmer of a new class of aircraft with a collection of spinning blades or rotating wings. Who can guess where precisely that is headed? Whatever the coming changes, they will work first on lighter aircraft. My article referenced above tries to speculate a bit.
By the way, the use of technology seeks not only to save weight. New methods are used because they can, that is, developers don’t need to jump through the regulatory hoops as demanded in Part 23. LSA developers can quickly implement new ideas and materials.
Boeing’s Aurora is one of a flock of new developments aimed at the air taxi trade but it could result in a sport model.
Composite versus metal. Is there something else? What type of composites are in common use and what types are under development? What drives composite development? Does metal still have a future in LSA? Is mix-and-match of both the way to go?
One definition of composite is “made of various materials.” In the past “composite” implied fiberglass. LSA already rely on fiberglass, aluminum, and steel but add high-tech materials such as Kevlar, carbon fiber, and titanium. Today, the most advanced designs have significantly carbon fiber airframes, partly for weight but also strength as well as aerodynamic efficiency and design beauty.
However, metal seems here to stay, being highly established and proven. Its advantages in easy repair, easier-to-determine fatigue, and a widespread familiarity of working the material — along with low weight — will keep aluminum in play.
What are the major construction methods? Is there room for the construction method to contribute to the aircraft performance in terms of weight saving? Aircraft like the Ekolot Topaz have fuselages formed in two halves then adhered together like a Revell P-51 model. Is this the way of the future? Is there room for mass production?
That’s one beauty of fiberglass and carbon. You can have beautiful shapes and strength with weigh savings. Assembly ease is a factor, too. Those materials will surely persist for those reasons and for future production efficiencies. However, since nearly all airplanes are low-production — essentially hand-built with modest use of robotics, even at the Boeing or Airbus level — prospects for genuine mass production seem distant.
Avionics development has seen technology cascade down from GA, but there is some that has been designed from scratch for the LSA sector, such as AoA Indicators. Which way will the technology flow in the future? Is EFIS going to become standard for LSAs or do the traditional clocks still have a place? Have we reached a pinnacle in LSA simply because the sector can operate without technology such as HUDs?
Actually, I don’t believe it is accurate to say instrument technology cascaded down from GA. Instead, I think the best tech has cascaded UP, if you will, from lesser-regulated machines. Many airline pilots look at a modern LSA and say, “Wow, this is as good or better instrumentation than what I have in my airline cockpit!” For example, synthetic vision has been around for years already in LSA. Today, EFIS is pretty much standard in all LSA and, to some extent, that is spreading to Type Certified aircraft in the form of iPads that can now show full ADAHARS info plus traffic and weather. Since these can be handheld or yoke mounted, they need no FAA/CAA approvals. HUD is also coming but at more affordable prices. Who can predict what future tech is on the way. AoA has been around for years as well, and commonly the cost to add an AoA system is $200± per aircraft (as the digital screens can easily adapt to minor hardware additions); this is a small fraction of the cost on TC’d aircraft. One thing I feel sure of — the newest tech will appear in the least regulated aircraft first. As one more example, the very first use I know of for GPS, anywhere in aviation, was on hang gliders of all places.
Weight-saving is always an issue for manufacturers. In Australia a land-based LSA can lift no more than 600 kg (1,320 pounds), so what can manufacturers do to increase their useful load? Are we reaching a dangerous situation where the aircraft are getting too light or are too heavy to include some desirable safety features, such as parachutes?
Perhaps we are pushing some boundaries if new ideas and materials are not forthcoming. However, they are forthcoming. I’m not too worried about it. For example, crush zone technology in cars did not add weight — in fact removed it compared to other methods — and this greatly added to safety.
Are regulations stifling LSAs? Should LSAs be able to fly at up to 750 kg MTOW (1,650 pounds gross) to give manufacturers more design freedom? Is there anything that has to change to enable more technology to be used in LSA, and if so, what is it?
As a rule, I’d rather see less regulation to encourage more innovation. Even FAA appears to agree, based on their Part 23 rewrite recently released. Many tend to think regulation makes for safer aircraft, but (1) that is matter of diminishing return — how much safety is gained from more regulation? — and, (2) regulation is not the only way safety has advanced. Insurance companies have demanded improvements that FAA didn’t consider. Media people help improve designs by their critiques. Other industries contribute tech that improves safety, if regulations don’t prevent it. Consumers are another bulwark against dumb ideas and for more creative and cost-efficient safety solutions. Finally, competition stimulates improvements, the best of which quickly flash around an industry. Look how similar airliners or smartphones appear. The most successful ideas tend to be used by everyone in time.
There’s a lot there, but there’s also a lot to think about. Until the rewrite of FAR23, the LSA sector led general aviation in technology, especially in the use of composites. The new FAR23 is sort of like catch-up regulation for GA, but where does the technology leader, LSA, go to from here?
You are right that LSA is leading the innovation charge in many ways. Where can the industry go from here? We (LAMA) have spoken to FAA a lot in the last three years as we seek new opportunities within the present regulatory framework. It is perfectly clear that LSA were a significant reason why FAA went ahead with the Part 23 rewrite and use of industry consensus standards. To answer the future question, I again refer you to this recent article.
The freshest new tech in aviation may come from outside aviation but I would never discount the passionate, imaginative, and motivated designers and developers operating in light aviation today.
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.