Thanks for your visit and we truly appreciate those of you who have become members!
For the second year in a row, I was blown away with Lightning Bug. It changed enough that I tagged it Lightning Bug 2 even if designer/developer Brian Austein did not call it that.
Let me make a key point: Lightning Bug was a $3,000 aircraft project, with the cost split between two engines — model radio control aircraft engines, by the way! — and $1,000 more for the airframe. The rest was Brian’s talent and drive to design and build the ultralight.
So, let’s recap. If you had Brian’s abilities, you could have an airplane for three grand. If you don’t find that amazing in a time of $150,000 (up to $350,000!) Light-Sport Aircraft, I don’t know what impresses you.
The unique airplane certainly impressed often hard-to-convince judges who gave it not one but two awards in 2017: Grand Champion and Best Innovation.
Lightning Bug was partly an experiment to prove, as Brian said, that “I could build a [man-carrying] airplane that could fly with RC model airplane engines.” Models have gotten ever larger, converging with Lightning Bug that weighs a mere 140 pounds (no, that’s not a typo). Modifications made to accommodate a larger pilot boosted empty weight a bit but Brian indicated it’s still less than 150 pounds …104 pounds under Part 103‘s supposedly tight constraints!
This surprising little aircraft even has an auto pilot. All I could do was shake my head incredulously. As you can see in the video, it appears to fly very well.
If I could create an airplane like Lightning Bug, I would sit back and admire the result. Yet this is actually Brian’s second aircraft design. Our video below shows you his Woodpecker, another very-modest-cost design that looks more conventional. Not one to sit still, Brian hinted at more ideas his fertile mind is conceiving. I find his achievements remarkable.
Since you may not know Brian, you may not have been aware his voice was rather weak. That leads me to change the tone of this article. Please continue reading…
Can You Help a Fellow Ultralighter?
I regret this story now takes a vicious turn. In the video below you can see Brian and I talking about more super-affordable projects he has in mind. Given both Woodpecker and Lightning Bug, I can barely imagine where this man might go. But…
For the moment, Brian is not designing. He’s fighting for his very survival. …literally!
I am about to do something I never do on this website — for many reasons — but which I find worthy in this case. Let me have Brian’s good buddy Jon Bailey tell you himself.
“I am a very close friend of Brian Austein. I am writing you to inform you that the day after Sun ‘n Fun 2018 (on Monday April 16), Brian was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. It has moved into his brain. Brian is a fighter and he is fighting a tough battle right now. He is currently in Atlanta under evaluation for a second opinion. I will take him to another doctor on Tuesday (May 22nd) for his opinion.
“Please keep Brian and his family in your thoughts and prayers during this time.
“Dan, I know that you are well connected in the ultralight world and I know that a lot of ultralight people are amazed at what Brian has done. Can you share the attached Go Fund Me link? We set it up as a great way to give back and help out a man that has given so much to all of us.”
Absolutely, Jon, I will put out the request and I have already contributed myself. Here’s the GoFundMe link. Please help if you can.
Jon also encouraged, “Please feel free to call or write with any other ideas or questions. Thanks for your time.”
I also never put out an individual’s phone number but if you can help in any way or just want to offer encouragement, please call Brian’s good buddy, Jon at 662-229-8281.
For three years at Aero Friedrichshafen, the wonderful April show in the south of Germany, I have admired one genuine ultralight called Swan.
Yes, “ultralight!” Swan may not look like a U.S. “ultralight vehicle” as Part 103 rule writers deliberately named the type. Yet I use the term with care. So does the Swan producer.
The company is well aware of three national standards with which Swan neatly complies, they said: England’s SSDR or Single Seat DeRegulated, or Germany’s 120-kilogram class or FAA’s Part 103. These are all surprisingly similar (see this article for more). Swan may need to be equipped carefully to achieve this but the producer assured me it was possible.
Naturally, I get that not everyone is into ultralights and/or single seat aircraft. However, interest appears stronger than in many years. No doubt many potential buyers look closely at purchase prices they can afford while for those lucky enough to afford two airplanes, Swan could be their “sport” airplane as some spam can works to haul the family around.
Swan is the “affordable, foldable airplane,” said company owner, aeronautical engineer, and developer Radu Berceanu of Romania. His company is called Avi and they specialize in composite structures ranging from swimming pools to components for street trams and railroad trains. This diversity helps a small airplane producer build such a sleek looking product
Radu’s website only reveals their industrial products today but will be updated for their aircraft, he said at Aero 2018. Until then, the company recommends the website of their German outlet, Modern Wings.
In 2017, Avi exhibited an electric engine version with a maximum take off weight of 300 kilograms or 660 pounds. In addition to a two seater seen nearby, the Romanian company plans a float version with a slightly higher gross of 315 kilograms or just under 700 pounds.
“Every version has, after the name Swan, the empty aircraft weight in kilograms and, after the dash, the engine power in horsepower,” said the engineering-oriented company that uses the latest Catia design software for these projects. “For example, Swan 130-30 means a 130 kilogram (286 pound) empty weight version of the aircraft with an engine of 30 horsepower.”
From the beginning, Swan was planned with an enclosed cockpit so the pilot could be comfortable in low temperatures without needing a bulky flight suit. A cockpit heating system can be added as an option. Two ventilation systems are provided; one to prevent the windscreen fogging during taxi and another to supply fresh air. Alternatively, when the weather is hot, “the door can be simply removed,” said Radu.
The inside is spacious enough for quite tall or large pilots and the roomy cockpit has a large area for luggage that can be accessed during the flight.
The conventional configuration — tractor engine, tricycle gear, high wings — were chosen to make for easy transition for pilots. “The front wheel is mechanically braked by a handle on the joystick,” said Radu. “Optionally, Swan can have a single hydraulic brake or the main gear wheels can be differentially braked using the pedals.”
“A special design was chosen so that the aircraft can be easily disassembled and stored in a closed trailer, which we offer as well,” Radu said. The trailer can carry 750 kilograms (1,650 pounds) and measures a lean 6 feet by 6.25 feet by 18 feet. Even on Europe’s narrow roads, this would be quite maneuverable and many American yards or driveways could easily accommodate such a small trailer.
The process of assembling and disassembling Swan for the trailer “takes no longer than 20 minutes because only seven screws need to be removed without affecting the flight controls.”
Only a handful of Swans are flying today; Radu said 11 so far. No price is set for U.S. consumption …yet, but this may change after the aircraft becomes better known. To learn more, make direct contact by email.
I predict you will hear more about this aircraft but to hear about it from its creator, watch this interview with Radu at Aero Friedrichshafen 2018…
Dogs in the Cockpit? A few years ago, various stories began to pop in mainstream media discussing the car industry’s newest focus …no, not only on how many cup holders they could install in your new ride — but instead on accommodations for pets, mainly dogs.
Easy. Some high percentage of all auto trips include bringing the family pet along for the ride. Design to that and you sell more cars.
Does this apply to airplanes?
Think what you will of this, it’s a fact of modern life in America. Surveys reveal that 44% of American household have a dog, some 78 million critters. More than half of all dog-owning households take their pets when they travel by car. That’s a big market. Cars that can readily allow the family pup to come along — preferably not riding in the driver’s lap with its nose out the window — will find many interested buyers.
Should airplanes be different?
Dogs do love to go for a ride. Our last pooch dug it so much she wouldn’t leave the car even after we got home. She’d stay inside until you took her out.
So when Scott Severen, now the man behind Jabiru aircraft sales, gave reporters at Sun ‘n Fun 2018 a thumb drive with a bunch of photos of dogs inside, I sensed a fun story.
His J-230D LSA sport plane can easily handle the spouse and the family pooch.
No wonder really, as Jabiru sells this same airframe as a four seat kit in Australia, hence a cavernous aft cabin. Three doors is an added bonus.
Jabiru’s big third door aft of the pilot’s door makes an easy task to load your luggage unlike most low wing airplanes where it can often be challenging. Inside the J-230D you can put several bags of golf clubs or a large amount of luggage or a folding bicycle or two …or a few less bags and the family dog. Even larger dogs won’t be cramped.
I used to try this in a Cessna 150/150 (it had a 150-horse Lycoming up front). Our dog at the time weighed more than 100 pounds. Flying with two people and the dog meant a reduced fuel load but for short trips it was fine. Once inside, Sunny had plenty of room in the 150’s ample baggage area, but getting the big guy in that space was a challenge.
In flight I used the baggage tie downs and a special dog harness to be sure he didn’t get tossed around should we encounter turbulence. The harness also prevented him from distracting or interfering with the pilot. He didn’t seem to mind; a few minutes into the flight, he would lay down and sleep.
Jabiru J-230D is way better, easier on you, the dog, and the airplane than my venerable Cessna 150.
I can think of quite a few other reasons you might want to have a closer look at US Sport Planes offerings. High on that list are modest prices considering how speedy they are.
Scott was evidently right to include a bunch of dog photos on his media thumb drive. If you’re a dog lover, this should be easy on the eyes.
If dogs aren’t your thing or if you don’t need a spacious luggage area, you are the lucky one with so many LSA choices we had to create a special feature to help you narrow the field. Check out PlaneFinder 2.0.
Sun ‘n Fun 2018 ended a great event on Sunday. After traveling home Monday, plans called for a very quick turnaround to jet across the Atlantic for Aero Friedrichshafen 2018, which started Wednesday. For an aviation buff, the month of April is something like being a kid in a candy store.
So many fun airplanes. So few days to absorb the images, stories, people, and excitement.
Sandwiched in the 24 hours between getting home from Sun ‘n Fun and blasting off to Europe, one more cool thing happened: a gathering of LSA or light-kit seaplanes. Seven brands were invited by Spruce Creek Fly-In airport manager Joe Friend but rather ironically, two that are quartered closest to Spruce Creek — American Legend‘s AmphibCub and Brazil’s SeaMax — were unable to make it. The five who did make the effort right after Sun ‘n Fun were rewarded with a beautiful day and good interest.
Joe knows his light seaplanes. He’s built at least one Searey and he used to fly it daily from Spruce Creek to a lake in Tavares, Florida where Progressive Aerodyne manufactures Searey. For a couple years, Joe was CEO of the operation making him highly aware of this niche of airplanes.
Not unlike Sun ‘n Fun or Aero, the waterbird gathering extended the candy store experience. I wanted to buy them all, but like the kid, my wallet is not big enough for that. Therefore, the chance to compare them side-by-side was very useful.
As you can see in the photos, Joe’s effort paid off with a nice crowd examining the selection. For someone in the airplane selling business, Spruce Creek is what some would call a target-rich environment. That means lots of pilots, pilots with cash, and pilots with places to keep or build a light seaplane.
So despite the challenges of making an appearance immediately after a major week long air show like Sun ‘n Fun five companies were lined up and ready.
Spruce Creek Fly-In — an airport community I call home — quarters an estimated 700 airplanes, more than nearly any other airport I’ve ever visited in a career that has taken me to more aerodromes than I care to count. The chance of a sale or two or more is what prompted so many vendors to show up immediately on the heels of an air show that wore them out for seven long days.
Of course, not all resident airplane owners were present; some are focused on other airplane types.
Yet in a warm climate with bodies of water all over the place, and a generally supportive atmosphere for recreational aviation… well, no wonder all seven invited vendors have bases in Florida.
Searey — The most established of the collection is this veteran design from Progressive Aerodyne in nearby Tavares, Florida (about 45 minutes north west of Orlando). However, despite its long history and nearly 700 satisfied customers — mostly kit-built until more recently — Searey has benefited from many changes and upgrades. It has the distinction of being one of the FAA’s success stories regarding how well they prepared for their audit to become a fully built LSA. Searey was also one of the first LSA to become to win Type Design Approval in China.
AirCam — The lone floatplane of the group is also the only twin engine of the group yet this larger-than-life airplane still qualifies as a light aircraft, easily so. Given its modest weight, the presence of two Rotax 9-series engines on this kit makes it a formidable performer but one that can use that capability at slow speeds, making the airplane an absolute delight for the kind of low-elevation flying that many others aircraft should not attempt. Around 200 are flying. Kit builder Lockwood Aircraft is based in Sebring, Florida.
Aero Adventure — The Aventura model, seen here in its new S-17 configuration, dates back as far as the Searay but because of ownership changes the design also evolved uniquely. Originally known as the Buccaneer, it became of the Aventura when Carlos Pereyra added his exceptional fiberglass skills to the hull. Current owner, Alex Rolinski, has taken the design into the CAD age and beefed up its performance. The S-17 model boasts a 117-horsepower AeroMomentum Suzuki-based engine and attractive options; the package has been attracting strong interest for Aero Adventure of Deland, Florida.
Super Petrel — One of the most unique entries is the bi-wing Super Petrel LS from Scoda Aeronautica in Brazil. Another well-established model with a history involving Canada, the South American company has now opened a facility at the Ormond Beach airport to support U.S. customers. Powered by Rotax as are all these LSA seaplanes, except for Aventura S-17, Super Petrel uses side-by-side seating in an aircraft with excellent manners in the water.
Icon A5 — Thanks to sophisticated, California-style marketing, Icon Aircraft A5 is one of the best known models in the Light-Sport Aircraft space. Their prowess proved itself as the model drew steady interest during the hours on display. This particular aircraft crossed the state so Spruce Creek residents could check it out. Based in the Tampa, Florida area where Icon Aircraft operates a training and demonstration base, A5 flew in from beautiful bayside Peter O. Knight airport.
Thanks to Joe Friend for arranging and to all the vendors for attending.
What on Earth is going on in Airplane DesignerLand? Are we headed for a bifurcation, a parting of the ways among those engineering the next generation of aircraft? Perhaps. Will this affect you? How do you feel about non-fixed-wing aircraft?
I am searching for a term to generically describe these emerging flying machines; “drones” doesn’t quite do the job. More of these seemingly-weird-looking machines seem to pop up every day.
Prior experience suggests that most will never make it to market. Ones that do succeed in the eVTOL or electric-powered aircraft market may not even exist today. For that matter, it is far from certain that this will ever turn into a market, though given the huge amounts of money pouring into research projects, it seems nearly inevitable (to me) that some will survive and perhaps have a major impact on flying, both for transportation and for sport or recreation.
Along this vein, before and at Sun ‘n Fun 2018, I spoke to officials from BRS parachutes. They reported being intensely busy fielding requests for ballistic parachute systems from eVTOL creators. You know STOL and probably VTOL (Vertical Takeoff and Landing). EVTOL is the electric powered version of the latter and it’s a space where literally billions may be spent; many hundreds of millions already have been.
No wonder the interest in a parachute rescue system. While multicopter aircraft have the potential to be even safer than conventional aircraft with wings, that safety hinges on software robustness. Electric motors are much more reliable than combustion engines but an aircraft with no wings depends utterly on several spinning props doing their job. Developers say they can lose some and still get safely to the surface. I don’t doubt that but doing so leans heavily on highly capable software.
Remember how often your Windows computer crashed 20 years ago? No one wants that in their aircraft. However, modern computers and now tablets and smartphones rarely crash. The same sort of evolving development will likely happen to this merging of infotech and aircraft.
On April 30th, Workhorse’s SureFly octocopter (see our earlier article) took its first untethered flight. It lasted a mere 10 seconds but they’ve continued flying since. Workhorse co-founder and CEO Steve Burns said, “The first [untethered] flight proved to us what we needed to know: the energy used, the noise [level], the ease of control with the joystick, the balancing algorithms.”
A piston-powered SureFly is designed to fly up to 75 miles at a speed of approximately 75 mph, with an anticipated empty weight of 1,100 pounds and a maximum takeoff weight of 1,500 pounds. A 400 pound payload seems underwhelming but these developments are at an early stage.
What happens when our current batch of deeply-experienced airplane designers get involved with this new action? Will they abandon our beloved LSA airplanes, trikes, gyroplanes, powered parachutes, and motorgliders for aircraft with multiple spinning props or pivoting wings? Maybe it’s already happening.
Enter the Wave eVTOL
“It has always been my vision to move aviation forward,” said Paul Vickers, the man and name behind New Zealand’s much-anticipated Wave LSA seaplane from Vickers Aircraft. Nearby images show what he and his team have in mind.
“Wave eVTOL is a four-seat, semi-autonomous hybrid and will harvest 80% of our Wave Light Sport Aircraft model’s DNA,” said Paul. “This positions us well down the road of developing shared technology, components and tooling, R&D, materials, manufacturing processes, techniques, and facilities that we have been refining over the years for our LSA.”
“Developing an eVTOL with amphibious capabilities opens possibilities not yet explored in this space, and with the New Zealand government leading the world from a regulation standpoint, New Zealand is on track to be the first country to allow approved manned eVTOL passenger flights.”
Vickers Aircraft is working closely with the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand (CAANZ) throughout the development of the Wave LSA and eVTOL aircraft variants.
As you can see yourself, the proposed Wave eVTOL uses the multicopter approach with wing sections. They aren’t the first to do this (see this article) but the Vickers’ entry has the most artistic and graceful wings I’ve seen, swooping up and out from a tailless Wave fuselage.
Anticipating a question readers might pose, I asked Paul if this new direction meant he was easing away from the fixed wing LSA.
“The initial design for the Wave was always to have a core base that can be used on a number of different models; the second in this range is the Wave eVTOL,” Paul explained. “With facilities and technical ability already established [and with] wider government and regulatory support for the development of next generation aircraft in New Zealand, we feel confident in having a proof of concept ready by 2020.”
The Wave LSA seaplane will come much sooner though Vickers Aircraft is cautious about promises given what they’ve observed from other companies in this space. He offered no update on the fixed wing model.
However, he is enthusiastic about using years of hard work to bring a one-design company closer to the family of aircraft he always foresaw.
“The beauty of the Wave eVTOL is that it can be developed in parallel with [our] LSA, enabling us to maintain our schedule,” said Paul. “Both models will share everything from components and tooling to ergonomics and storage, as well as manufacturing procedures and material allowables that will combine to result in a rapid development cycle.”
To further communication on the new aircraft in planning, an organization called Sustainable Aviation Foundation will host a panel discussion called “Urban Planning for Sky Transit,” on May 12, 2018 in San Francisco, California.
For those who want to learn more about these new flying machines, see our just-released video review of most of the electric-powered aircraft at Aero Friedrichshafen. While this begins to look like an industry, this is just the beginning, I suspect. The video interviews European publisher Willi Tacke who has created a publication specifically for these eAircraft. It’s free to read online and is also offered in print form.
Two years ago at my favorite European airshow, Aero Friedrichshafen, Bill Canino of Sportair USA urged me to go look at a cool Part 103 project. With a general appearance resembling a Chance-Vought F4U Corsair military fighter, designer Jörg Hollmann‘s ultralight Corsair is reasonably authentic including its highly distinctive inverted gull wing design.
Two years ago when I saw the bare bones example — exhibited for this small shop design and manufacturing organization in BP Oil’s display stand — it was easy to get excited by the concept but less obvious to imagine how it might eventually look. At Aero 2018 the visual mystery was solved. Anyone who has admired F4U Corsair’s angular wings will be drawn to ultralight Corsair.
Even the engine mimics the original’s Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp, except at ultralight weights and power. Jörg chose a three-cylinder Verner radial to power his diminutive aircraft. The whole package was fascinating to those of us who enjoy single seat designs.
The truly good news for Yankees who might want to own such a creation is that Sportair USA boss Bill has placed an initial order. For a tiny company, such a launch customer greatly increases the likelihood that this unqiue entry will makes it way into American skies. Of course, Europeans also recognize both the F4U resemblance and the coolness of this design effort.
While fabric covered (also for lightness), Jörg refers to his internal carbon fiber tube structure as “a unique carbon-spaceframe technology.” He added, “This property right-protected technology combines high strength with an unequaled low weight.”
Seeking a very low weight is partly a maneuver to steer clear of tough certification rules via the Part 103 / 120-Kilo Class / SSDR unregulations.
A light design permits Jörg’s design objectives. “Due to the light weight of the structure we were able to include all the ingredients for a high performance aircraft: outstanding aerodynamics, a strong engine with a big, efficient propeller, a short and aerodynamic landing gear, as well as effective flaperons.”
The carbon-spaceframe is effective, resulting in a calculated +9 and –6g ultimate load strength. “Furthermore,” Jörg said, “the complete cockpit area is constructed as a Kevlar-reinforced safety cell.” A ballistic parachute will further enhance safety.
In our article from 2016 we unveiled Corsair in bare carbon fiber bones. That article also repeated Jörg’s prediction that it would fly before Aero 2017. That didn’t happen, however, Jörg said it is now ready for flight. “Corsair would have flown before Aero 2018 but a lack of ideal weather prevented that. We prefer calm winds and clear weather for a first flight in such a light aircraft,” he explained. Because weather at Aero 2018 was warm and sunny, he hopes to get airborne in short order.
Not only can Corsair meet USA’s Part 103, it also can qualify for Germany’s 120-kilo class and Britain’s Single Seat DeRegulated (SSDR) class (article). Jörg explained, “Corsair currently fulfills the British SSDR regulation. An adapted version will comply to FAR Part 103.”
Although Corsair has ultralight proportions, it is versatile about pilots it can contain. “The ergonomics have been optimized with the help of our local flying club,” indicated Jörg. “It is suitable for pilots ranging from 5 feet 4 inches to 6 feet 8 inches (1.60-2 meters).” The inner cockpit is 23.6 inches wide (60 cm).
Corsair’s seat is adjustable in four length/height positions. The seat back incline is independently adjustable in 11 positions. Rudder pedals are also adjustable and even the joystick offers two positions.
Following are specifications of Corsair for both Part 103 and EU deliveries, as reported by JH Aircraft:
- Wing Span — 24.6 feet / 7.5 meters
- Wing Area — 108 square feet / 10 square meters
- Length — 20.7 feet / 6.3 meters
- Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW) — 551 pounds / 250 kg
- Empty Weight — 243 t0 265 pounds / 110 to 120 kilograms (depending on national regulation)
- Useful Load — 287 pounds / 130 kilograms
- Powerplant — Verner Scarlett 3 VW radial engine
- Power Output — 42 brake horsepower at 2500 rpm
- Cockpit Width — 23.6 inches / 60 centimeters
- Stall Speed — 24 knots (U.S.) / 55 kilometers per hour (EU)
- Cruise Speed — 54 knots (U.S.) / 168 km/hr (about 104 mph)
- Max Cruise Speed: 104 mph / 168 km/hr
- Maximum Speed — more than 124 mph / 200 km/hr
- Rate of Climb — 1,000 feet per minute / 4 meters per second
April has been busy… starting with a week of Sun ‘n Fun; then a gathering of LSA seaplanes at my home airport the day after; followed by three days of Aero Friedrichshafen in Germany (it runs four days but I had to miss the first); concluding with a journalists-only event at Rotax Aircraft Engines. As a result, my posts to this website may be out of date order but the good news… I have lots to report.
I will cover many aircraft stories, but allow me to take the most recent first: flying the brand-new Rotax 915iS and comparing it to the 912iS, although not in the same airframe. Other than official Rotax pilots and select airframe builders, we were among the first to experience the powerful new engine from the world’s leading producer of engines for light aircraft.
First Impressions of 915iS
I flew in each aircraft with Rotax’s Christian Sixt, an American flight school-trained pilot with an impressive list of FAA certificates. Naturally, he is also intimate with the 915iS.
Starting was as with any Rotax 9-series engine I’ve ever flown. Immediately the engine burst to life.
One difference from prior experience was the “Stock Box” instrument (more formally, Stock Flight Systems Engine Monitoring Unit or EMU) developed by Michael Stock in collaboration with Rotax.
The Stock Box proved most helpful in observing many factors about the new engine. As you can see in the nearby images, it provides, among other information, a percentage of throttle, fuel burn, and engine revolutions plus prop speed expressed via manifold pressure. If the latter is not familiar to you, don’t worry about the detail for now but see an important point below*.
Soon after advancing the throttle, I noticed greater acceleration but two other parameters were more obvious. The climb angle seemed vigorously steep, although this was my first experience in an Aquila aircraft so I had no basis of comparison. Nothing like a 40% boost in power to launch an aircraft into the sky.
As the fast car guys say, “Speed costs money. How fast do you want to go?”
Fuel consumption was higher than I expected, but speed was also higher. To get below 3 gph, a surprisingly low consumption rate, speed dropped below 100 knots true or 85 indicated. When zipping along faster than 170 miles an hour true, consumption rose to the 7-9 gph range.
The 915iS fuel injected, turbocharged, and intercooled engine can produce 141 horsepower for five minutes, then sustain 135 horsepower indefinitely.
Once at altitude, Christian demonstrated use of the throttle and prop controls — this was not a single lever control airplane — to adjust for speed or economy. As you can see in the contrasting Stock Box images, we saw as low as 2.8 gallons per hour resulting, of course, in lower speed flight.
Christian demonstrated that you can move the throttle and prop control without my experience of adjusting each very cautiously and slowly. Christian jockeyed them around liberally without detriment. A key reason this is possible is because of liquid cooling versus my older experience in air-cooled legacy engines, for example, in a Cessna 182 Skylane.
A fellow aviation journalist — a pilot of 300 different aircraft — Dave Unwin felt the 915 started “softer.” He also felt it seemed to run slightly smoother. Rotax engine experts felt most of this is attributable to software and the same code can also be applied to the 912iS.
Compared to the 912iS
Rotax aircraft engine manager Marc Becker arranged a second flight with Christian, this time in a Diamond Katana powered by a Rotax 912iS. While from different manufacturers the two airframes I tested were more alike than different.
Although I loved the power of the 915iS with its shortened takeoff roll, thrilling climb to altitude, low-speed fuel economy, and quiet running, the 912iS is more my kind of engine. It was still powerful. Climb was 1,000 fpm. It has proven reliability. Mainly, though, I felt the 912iS engine is better suited to the light aircraft I cover on this website. To me, the 915iS is better suited to larger (heavier) aircraft or those serving particular missions, such as LSA seaplanes or aircraft operating from high elevation fields.
In flying the 915iS I revisited the task of managing throttle and prop controls. I have constant speed prop time, a fair bit of it, but that was some years in my past. What the refreshed experience told me is that FAA was right to say this is unnecessarily complex for recreational pilots. While not especially hard — you can hardly get in trouble with such equipment on a modern, liquid-cooled Rotax — you nonetheless have to fiddle with levers and knobs, and keep an eye on instruments. It is more than most sport pilots may prefer and more than some should manage perhaps. Hence the push for single lever control, a simpler way to handle in-flight prop control. Experienced pilots may prefer the control implied by working the levers just as some drivers prefer a stick shift car to an automatic transmission. For everyone else simplicity is probably best.
Now a few years after the 912iS was released, it has become a well refined engine, IF it is installed according to Rotax’s manual and instructions.
Yet for those who yearn for more power or are building an aircraft of higher capabilities, the 915iS is going to be a welcome powerplant. It does come with a few costs, as did the 912iS fuel injected engine compared to the 912ULS carbureted engine.
Marc Becker summarized, “The 915iS is about 12 kilos (26 pounds) more for the engine only; 40-50 more pounds when installed and about €3,000 ($3,750 at today’s exchange rates) more than the 914.” It is significantly more than the 912iS, as you should expect for an engine with substantially more power and the ability to use that power up to higher altitudes.
Fuel needs of both 915iS and 912iS are essentially the same. Thomas Uhr, head of Rotax’s Austria plant and a longtime engine expert and enthusiast — and also a pilot — advises the highest octane auto fuel, preferably without alcohol, to get the most power and best results.
He also explained that (perhaps surprisingly to some readers) the 915iS compression ratio is lower to allow for the turbo boost. “Stress is actually a little less therefore with the turbo engine,” he said.
Rotax’s 915iS uses the same displacement as the 912iS. In a weight-to-power comparison — grams per kilowatt hour — fuel consumption is only about 6% higher in the more powerful engine.
Entering the Market
Marc indicated that 200 915iS engines have been delivered into the Rotax network including distributors around the globe. Of these, “120 are now with end customers,” he noted. “About 20 different airframes are flying today.” Some 46 different manufacturers are working to prepare the new powerplant.
“Our expectation is to have 400 engines out in the field by year end,” Marc added.
* On the point about an in-flight adjustable or constant speed prop, Rotax Aircraft Engines top boss Thomas Uhr made an important statement when I asked about fixed pitch props on the 915, “All our engines can use fixed pitch props.” As a leader of a public company, he spoke carefully, but the suggestion was clear: Yes, a fixed pitch 915iS is coming, although today the engine is only driving an in-flight adjustable prop.
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…
SD Planes’ New Two-Seater
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.
Thanks for Our Best Day Ever
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.
Sky Arrow Aircraft (USA)
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.
Aeroeast USA and Discovery 600
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.
Viking 180 Horse on Zenith Super Duty
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.
Belite Aircraft Chipper STOL
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.
Alaska Airshows in May
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).
Just 103 Solo Proves Renewed Ultralight Interest
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:
- A boom tube will likely give way to a welded steel structure supporting the tailplane. Welded fuselages are very familiar to Just and they’re sticking with their core competency.
- Earlier plans for spoiler controls gave way to conventional ailerons but spoilers and a slotted wing may come later.
- Simpler brakes will be offered in addition to the deluxe Beringer wheels and brakes on the prototype.
- Troy also plans to fly with a brand-new Rotax 582 he has available; this would give such a light aircraft incredible performance (though it would not qualify as a Part 103 with that powerplant).
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 Mako Coming
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.
What Sets Apart Rotorvox?
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.
- Seating — Side by side
- Length — 18 feet fuselage; rotors 27.5 feet)
- Width — 7.24 feet
- Height — 9.3 feet
- Gross weight — 1,235 pounds
- Fuel capacity — 24 gallons
- Powerplant — Rotax 914 turbo 115 horsepower (limited duration) / 100 horsepower continuous
- Main rotor diameter — 27.5 feet, two aluminium blades with NACA 8H12 airfoil
- Propeller: 3-blade, 69 inch diameter
- Cruise speed: 90 mph / 78 knots
- Never-exceed speed: 102 mph / 89 knots
- Range: 375 statute miles / 324 nautical miles
- Endurance maximum — 6 hours
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’!
- Range — 13 miles or 21 kilometers
- Maximum Speed — 43 mph or 70 km/h
- Endurance — 20 minutes (with SD LiPo battery)
- Empty Weight (no batteries) — 110 pounds or 50 kilograms
- Total Weight (with batteries) — 229 pounds or 104 kilograms
- Batteries — 3 boxes with a handle 39 pounds or 18 kilograms each
- Battery charging time – 3 hours
- Battery replacement time – 1 minute
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.
Not Their First (Audit) Rodeo
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