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This year celebrates 15 years of Light-Sport Aircraft and its companion pilot certificate, Sport Pilot. This year also celebrates the 12th year of LAMA providing the LSA Mall. What a fascinating ride it has been!
For 2019, LAMA will again host its special location at the big spring celebration of flight that is Sun ‘n Fun. LAMA is able to mount this attraction thanks to longstanding support from Sun ‘n Fun management and many industry players.
The purpose of the LSA Mall is twofold: (1) present aircraft to visitors in a convenient, enjoyable setting, and (2) showcase the light aircraft industry in one location. The LSA Mall is not limited to Special Light-Sport Aircraft but features Sport Pilot-eligible kit aircraft and ultralights plus specialty light aircraft that may be of interest to pilots.
For 2019, the LSA Mall will add a few previously-owned LSA, as this part of the light aircraft market is developing. I’ve written about used LSA as a way to offer highly airworthy but more affordable aircraft. Not only does this benefit buyers with different budgets but it supports new aircraft sales because pilots seeking something brand new often have a used aircraft they need to sell before they can complete the new purchase.
For years, airshow organizers have been impressed that sellers of LSA and Sport Pilot kits have been willing to display in close formation with one another. I find it a tribute to this aviation sector that they realize each aircraft has appeal to certain pilot buyers and it may not always be their aircraft. Conversely, someone looking at their competitor may also examine what they have and a kind of cross pollination can occur. Good for all!
For Sun ‘n Fun 2019, we are expecting the following aircraft, a dozen strong…
LSA and Sport Pilot Kits
- US Sport Planes — will feature not one, but two of their speedy high wing composite models powered by Jabiru
- Aeromarine LSA — entries including Merlin and Zigolo; both will be available with electrical propulsion
- Bristell USA — the sleek, luxurious low wing from BRM Aero enjoyed a strong year of sales in 2018
- Fly High — this newer company will display a surprise entry from TL Ultralights, maker of smooth carbon fiber LSA
- SWT Aviation — presenting the super-popular CarbonCub that has risen toward the top of the sales charts
- Dreams Come True — offering a closer look at the deluxe Evektor Harmony with a special price on the one displayed
- Pipistrel — see a long-winged, long-gliding Sinus and learn about the entire line available such as Virus SW
- Viking Aircraft Engines — see a Rans S-12 with the Viking 90 installed; their planes are always eye-catching
- Florida LSA — examine a CTsw (the “hot-rod” version of this popular model) and check out a good price point
- Sport Aero Services — representing a very clean Breezer, another attractively priced LSA available for immediate delivery
In addition to dozen Light-Sport Aircraft and Sport Pilot kits all parked wingtip-to-wingtip, LAMA will also again host a display of engines used on Light-Sport Aircraft and Sport Pilot kits.
Pilots have a understandable fascination with engines and the display in the LAMA tent at the LSA Mall in Paradise City is the one-and-only place where you can see them all in close proximity to one another.
Light Aircraft Engines
Rotax — maker of the new 915iS plus many other 9-series models widely used in LSA and Sport Pilot kits
Continental Motors — the builder of the 180-horsepower Titan engines that have taken LSA and SP kit by storm
Jabiru — maker of thousands of engines used around the world; see one of their several popular models.
Viking Aircraft Engines — based on Honda‘s advanced components, Viking has a range of engines available at excellent prices
AeroMomentum — based on Suzuki latest automobile engines, AeroMomentum offers wonderful value
Need a Free Ride?
If you visit the core area of Sun ‘n Fun, you know it is a fair walk to Paradise City. Yet it is a great draw as many see that Sun ‘n Fun’s “alternate airport” in Paradise City represents something of an airshow-within-an airshow.
As with AirVenture, Sun ‘n Fun is a sprawling affair and it takes a while to hoof it from one location to another. Thanks to Rotax Aircraft Engines, LAMA is again pleased to offer a free ride on one of two 6-seater golf carts.
Operated by volunteers from Paradise City, you can catch a ride from the foot court area of Sun ‘n Fun’s main area to the Rotax exhibit at the main entry gate for the show and from that point to the LSA Mall. These golf cart shuttles run back and forth all day at no cost to rider.
Look for the golf carts with the Rotax logo prominently displayed and stick your thumb out for a ride.
I hope you are coming to Sun ‘n Fun 2019. If you cannot, check back here for news as I find it.
In late February, Texas Aircraft invited me to an unveiling ceremony. As it’s always wonderful to witness the arrival of a new aircraft and sense the excitement and enthusiasm of its developers, I jumped at the opportunity.
Now that they’ve taken off the wraps, I am pleased to offer readers a first close look at the Colt 100.
Known as Texas Aircraft Manufacturing, the company hosted an event to inaugurate its new development and production facility at South Texas Regional Airport in Hondo, Texas.
Our hosts were Texas Aircraft Manufacturing CEO Matheus Grande and company partners Caio Jordão, Diego Jordão, Carlos Barros and Samantha Almeida.
In his opening remarks Grande said, “Thank you very much for being a part of this special, historic moment. It is our honor to have all of you with us. Today, we are here to celebrate the first important step of this company and we are so very proud to present our new facility to you.”
“Soon we will be launching our new Light-Sport Aircraft into the world market, and we invite all of you to join us at EAA Oshkosh AirVenture in July 2019 for that official introduction,” Grande said.
Company partner Carlos Barros cut a ceremonial red ribbon officially inaugurating the new building. “The best words I can say are gratitude and thankfulness for the warm reception we have received from everyone here in Hondo,” he said.
“We cannot thank the people of Hondo enough for the loving welcome we have received since coming here,” Barros said. “The leadership and people of Hondo have made this possible. We are proudly genuine sons and daughters of Hondo. We are confident that we will make Hondo deeply proud of us.”
“We are a company with a clear vision and very consistent energy. Our mission is to always keep our values and our solid principles of honesty, integrity, service, love and respect,” Grande stated. “May God give us the reason and humanity to guide us according to His will, so we can really make a difference in this world.”
In addition to Hondo city officials including the mayor, Lyndsey Dennis represented Texas Governor Gregg Abbott’s Office of Economic Development and presented a certificate signed by the Governor congratulating the Texas Aircraft Manufacturing team with their accomplishment.
Founding Texas Aircraft Manufacturing in 2017 Grande, Barros, aircraft designer Caio Jordão and their team blended new equipment with modern technologies and materials to produce this new-generation light aircraft, hoping to encourage pilots to achieve their dream of aircraft ownership.
Their new Colt 100 Light-Sport Aircraft will be fully fabricated and assembled at the Hondo airport where many former U.S. military aircraft technicians are available. The Hondo airport was a military field for many years and offers an experienced talent pool plus qualified suppliers in the area.
Powered by a Rotax 912 swinging a Sterno composite prop, Colt is an all-metal, tricycle gear design based on a previous-generation aircraft that Caio Jordão created at Indústria Paulista de Aeronáutica. While Colt is a fresh take on the configuration, the design brings a successful history to the LSA sector.
Because Colt 100 is just entering its flight test regimen and is completing the ASTM compliance testing and documentation, Texas Aircraft did not release any data about the aircraft. In the meantime our video walk-around will show you more.
Here’s an exclusive first-ever look at the Texas Aircraft Colt 100:
Something old. Something new. Hang glider pilots I know are very familiar with Horten designs, a form of validation for modern hang gliders …flying wings, aircraft with no tail or fuselage structures. Yet many pilots don’t know Horton and have only a sketchy understand of flying wing stability.
World War II History
As the second great war progressed, Germany sought more advantage as fanatical government leaders pursued their ambitions. The war was dragging on and they needed better war equipment.
In 1943, Reichsmarschall Göring issued a request for design proposals to produce a bomber that was capable of carrying a 1,000 kilogram (2,200 pound) load over 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) at 1,000 kilometers per hour (620 mph) — the so-called “3×1000 project.” Conventional German bombers could reach Allied command centers in Great Britain, but were suffering devastating losses from Allied fighters.
At the time, no aircraft could meet these goals. Junkers turbojet engines could provide the required speed but had excessive fuel consumption.
Walter and Reimer Horten concluded that a low-drag flying wing design could meet all of the goals. By reducing drag, cruise power could be lowered to the point where the range requirement could be met. They put forward their private project, the H.IX, as the basis for the bomber.
The Government Air Ministry approved the Horten proposal, but ordered the addition of two 30-mm cannons because they felt the aircraft would also be useful as a fighter as its estimated top speed was significantly higher than that of any Allied aircraft.
In short, flying wings are lean and make efficient use of the weight of their structure. That sounds like worthy qualifications for a Light-Sport Aircraft or Sport Pilot kit.
Near Future Announcement
After three years of development, German aircraft manufacturer Horten Aircraft will unveil its prototype flying wing that is already undergoing flight testing as the nearby photos attest. “This aircraft is a highly modern economical two-seat tailless light aircraft without a fuselage,” said the company.
“Due to its low aerodynamic resistance, the flying wing flies farther and faster than a comparable aircraft with a fuselage,” said Bernhard Mattlener, Managing Director of the company that belongs to the Lift Air group. Lift is also the owner of Flight Design and their CT series plus the Rotorvox luxury gyroplane.
“The design of the airframe makes it easily adaptable for installing new propulsion technologies we anticipate will become available in the future,” added Mattlener. Horten Aircraft plans further developments, such as multi-seat and unmanned versions of its current prototype.
The aircraft will be built at the company’s headquarters at Kindel Airfield near Eisenach, Germany where Lift is headquartered.
At the beginning of the 20th century — in 1910, a mere seven years after the Wrights flew their Kitty Hawk Flyer off the North Carolina sand dunes — Hugo Junkers received a patent for his work on flying wings. The modern company name honors the visionary aircraft designer, Dr. Ing. Reimar Horten (1915-1994). “He is regarded as a pioneer in the field of flying wings and made the most significant contributions to the development of the forerunner prototypes,” said Mattlener.
At this time, the company is not disclosing any pertinent data about the aircraft but I will be at Aero Friedrichshafen 2019 and will report further from the event.
While this is not a Flight Design LSA project, the Horten will become part of the Lift family of recreational aircraft. I also expect to report on other aircraft developments from the German producer.
“You just saved my life!” It’s not often anyone, even a medical doctor, hears those words. Back in the ’90s I was sometimes on the receiving end of a call when a pilot phoned BRS to report a “save,” a sparing of a life by the use of a parachute. It is a humbling experience to have someone exclaim that you (and your fellow workers) are the reason they are alive.
A few days ago, it happened again, for the 400th time. BRS Aerospace documented the 400th and 401st lives saved, a worthy milestone in aviation safety.
“This milestone and all of the lives saved are a testament to Boris Popov, who conceived the idea and whose vision for the company he founded overcame initial resistance to the very idea of aircraft parachutes from some naysayers,” said BRS President and Director, Enrique Dillon. “The concept’s legacy are the pilots and passengers who survived to continue to live fruitful lives and the thousands of families who have enjoyed added peace of mind when their loved ones fly.”
The system is designed to be a last resort for pilots and passengers when all other attempts to recover the airplane in case of emergency or pilot incapacitation have failed.
Numbers 400 and 401 entered the BRS save logbook when the pilot of a Cirrus aircraft with an engine out deployed the whole aircraft rescue system over water more than 20 miles from Grand Turk Island in the Turks and Caicos. BRS reported that pilot and passenger were uninjured and that they were picked up by a cruise ship.
The BRS parachute system is deployed in life threatening situations by a rocket to slow the aircraft in the airstream and then lower it and occupants to the ground in a measured descent (artwork). The parachute and solid propellant ballistic rocket assembly are enclosed in a canister mounted inside the fuselage that is activated manually or automatically.
With more than 30,000 systems installed during the past 35 years on sport aircraft, certified aircraft, and military trainers, approximately one of every 120 systems has been activated as a last resort for pilot and passenger safety in potentially lethal situations.
“The idea of saving an entire aircraft through a deployable parachute system is an ingenious invention that deserves its place in the history of safer flight,” said Richard McSpadden of AOPA’s Air Safety Institute.
Numerous European and U.S. ultralight and experimental aircraft use the system, including Lancair, Carbon Cub, Kitfox, Glassair, Flight Design, Rans, Van’s RV 7/9/10, Kolb, Zenair, and Quicksilver. The BRS whole aircraft parachutes are available for light sport aircraft including CTSW, CTLS, Piper Sport Cruiser, Cessna Skycatcher, Bristell, FK-9 and Icon A5. Certified general aviation aircraft that fly with the system include Cessna 150, 152, 172, 182, and Symphony. Such a system is standard equipment on the Cirrus SR20 and SR22.
Check this video interview with Boris Popov:
Light-Sport Aircraft have accomplished much in the 15 years this new class of aircraft have existed: • Lower purchase cost — with choices spread over a wide variety of aircraft. • Lower operational cost and ability to use auto gas, available everywhere on Earth. • Pilots no longer required to achieve an aviation medical. …and much more.
Light-Sport Aircraft may have enabled more than you know …literally enabled.
One significant way has been to offer the dream of flight to those who have lost some abilities. One organization has been in the vanguard of this positive development thanks to its capable, persistent, and motivated leader, Charles Stites. That entity is Able Flight, a worthy group that has attracted many friends and supporters (among them your humble reporter).
Able Flight Teams Up
with Sun ‘n Fun & ACE
Recently, Charles was able to announce a new agreement with the well-known airshow event and its education arm.
“Our new training partnership with Sun ‘n Fun Inc’s Aerospace Center For Excellence (ACE) provides an outstanding opportunity to build upon our successful relationships with Purdue University and The Ohio State University,” noted Charles. “Able Flight can now send flight training scholarship winners to three training locations. Florida delivers an ability to train almost year round,” observed Stites, adding, “Able Flight student pilots will benefit from the expertise of dedicated aviation professionals who have built a unique program.”
Sun ‘n Fun was pleased to lend support. “Aerospace Center for Excellence, the educational component of Sun ‘n Fun, Inc., is excited to announce its partnership with Able Flight, a unique organization that shares a similar belief that learning to fly is a life changing experience,” said Ed Young, Executive Director of ACE. “The partnership with Able Flight is a perfect marriage. Our mission at ACE is to engage, educate and accelerate the next generation of aerospace professionals. Able Flight’s success educating individuals with disabilities in flight training is unparalleled. We have the opportunity to truly change lives by combining our core competencies.”
The partnership is supported by Zenith Aircraft, which is providing ACE with a Zenith 750 kit that will be modified with adapted hand controls for use by Able Flight student pilots. The plan is to build the airplane in the Buehler Restoration Center on the ACE campus during Sun ‘n Fun with the help of the Lakeland Aeroclub, the youth flying club on the ACE campus. Young said. “We are planning to name the aircraft the Spirit of Lakeland.”
Tribute to a Friend
“It is safe to say that Able Flight would never have existed without the influence of Jon Hansen, wrote Charles. “After a career as a Navy carrier pilot and then airline captain, Jon was instrumental in getting the FAA to approve the Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) category and Sport Pilot certificate. That made it possible for Able Flight to offer scholarships and training to people with physical disabilities.”
“Just as importantly,” Charles continued, “Jon imported the first LSA with adapted hand controls and that prompted the creation of Able Flight. He was a generous supporter and friend who believed in our mission from the beginning, and his legacy lives on in every Able Flight pilot.”
Jon’s help to Able Flight was not his only support. He was also a great benefactor of Light-Sport Aircraft in general, to LAMA as an organization representing LSA, and to efforts on behalf of the LSA industry such as the LSA Mall at Sun ‘n Fun. It is also safe to say these organizations would be less well off without Jon’s interest along with that of his sons, Mike and Mitch, and his brother, Ron.
Jon passed away on February 15th at the age of 83. Aviation lost a good man after many productive years. Rest in peace, old friend.
Jon and Ron, twin brothers like Jon’s sons Mike and Mitch, last year made another donation, this one to Mt. Vernon Airport, home of the Midwest LSA Expo where Jon was a regular participant. See the “jet on a stick” story here.
Learn more about Jon Hansen, SkyArrow, and Able Flight in this video from 2012.
We again have the pleasure of a flight review from British aviation journalist, Dave Unwin. Here’s his report on SD-1… —DJ
Having strapped the SD-1 on (well, that’s what it feels like) I gesture at the fuel sight tube. “Looks like around five gallons,” I said to UK agent Jiri Krajca. “So, how much playtime do I have, about an hour and a half?”
“Approximately four hours,” Jiri replied with a grin.
While some aircraft companies seem determined to price themselves out of existence it’s always refreshing to discover a new, fun aircraft that is genuinely affordable: the SD-1, which can be flown away for the equivalent of less than $30,000. In the USA, this is available as a kit that further lowers the investment (see video below).
Visually, SD-1 looks a bit like TEAM’s Mini-Max although it is actually a clean-sheet design from Igor Spacek intended to meet Britain’s SSDR rules (very similar to FAA’s Part 103).
The test SD-1 was powered by an air-cooled, vee-twin, a 820-cc engine is based on a Briggs & Stratton design (photo). It produces 33 horsepower at 3600 rpm.
The wings are built from a composite main spar with carbon caps which carries glued ribs made of extruded polystyrene and covered with very thin plywood and composite, upturned wingtips. Almost the entire trailing edge of each wing consists of full-span flaperons.
SD-1 uses an all-flying tail or stabilator. Flaperons and stabilator are actuated by a combination of pushrods and bellcranks, with the mixer for the flaperons under the seat. Cables actuate the rudder, while springs (also under the seat) are used for pitch trim.
Flying SD-1 Minisport
Jiri recommended using a soft field technique with take-off flaps, so I slowly open the throttle with the stick on the backstop, and then just ease it forward as the elevator starts to bite, with the aim being to hold the nosewheel just clear of the ground.
Controls feel crisp, taut and powerful. Handling is very good, with plenty of control around all three axes and no discernible break out forces.
Examining the stability reveals Minisport to be positive directionally, neutral laterally, and just barely positive longitudinally. In fact, having pitched up to lose 10 knots from a comfortable 80 knot cruise and then releasing the joystick, I wonder for a couple of seconds if it is actually divergent in pitch as the ground began to loom through the windscreen. About the time I figured that as the airspeed was still increasing so perhaps I’d better intervene, the nose slowly rises and after several oscillations SD-1 reluctantly returns to the trimmed speed. Mnisport is quite short-coupled, and the slightly soft longitudinal stability is probably exacerbated by the all-flying tail.
Moving on for a look at the cruise is particularly impressive. At around 3000 rpm, IAS reads 80 knots at 3,500 feet, for a TAS of 87 and a fuel flow of about 1.25 gph. That’s close to 100 air miles per gallon!
Slowing down for a look at the stall takes a while. Minisport is a slippery little beast, and the low flap-extension speed (56 knots) doesn’t help. For the first stall I leave the flaps up, and at around 45 it starts to mush earthward with an increasing sink rate. A departure stall with take-off flap and power is also quite innocuous. However, the full flap stall is a little disconcerting, basically due to flaperons reducing roll authority at slow speeds.
Back in the pattern I take care to ensure the speed is below 60, and also apply plenty of nose-up trim before lowering the first notch of flaps as suggested in the POH. For pilots converting onto the SD-1 from more traditional types such as Cessnas and Pipers, it cannot be emphasized enough to control speed carefully on lightweight aircraft. Given Minisport’s low flap-extension velocity, your speed must be monitored carefully and the flaps retracted promptly in the event of a missed approach.
On approach, the field of view is excellent and the SD-1 slides down towards the runway as if on rails; my first landing is eminently satisfying. If you need to lose added height and don’t want to take your hands off the controls to reach for the flaps I discovered Minisport slips nicely.
I could’ve cheerfully spent all afternoon performing touch and goes on Fenland’s delightful grass runways but — with some reluctance — I conclude that perhaps I’d better let Jiri get home in the daylight, as Minisport doesn’t have lights. For the final landing, I deliberately land slightly long, completely ignore the brakes and still have to add power to turn onto the taxiway that parallels 36/18. You don’t need much runway with an SD-1!
I really was rather taken with the Minisport and would love to own one. I’d probably go old school and have an open cockpit (if possible), tailwheel undercarriage and analogue instruments plus I’d love having an electric starter! Repeating… American buyers assembling a kit can choose many options not available elsewhere.
Spacek SD-1 Minisport
- Wingspan — 19.6 feet (5.98 m)
- Wing Area —65.6 square feet (6.10 m²)
- Empty weight (including BRS) — 286 pounds (130 kg)
- Gross Weight — 529 pounds (240 kg)
- Useful Load — 243 pounds (110 kg)
- Fuel capacity — 9.24 gallons (35 lit)
- Never-Exceed Speed — 137 mph / 119 knots
- Cruise Speed — 98 mph / 85 knots
- Stall, Flaps Extended — 39 mph / 34 knots
- Climb Rate — 750 feet per minute
- Take Off to 50 feet — 863 feet (260 m)
- Land Over 50 feet — 863 feet (260 m)
- Engine: SE-33 air-cooled, four-stroke, vee-twin
- Power — 33 horsepower (25 kW) at 3600 rpm
Americans should view the following video to learn more about SD-1 Minisport in the USA.
“We are Arizona’s newest aircraft manufacturer,” said Garrett Komm when we finally located him and his bright blue and silver aircraft.
A fan of this particular flying machine had approached me at Copperstate and said, “You gotta go see this airplane. Tell him Russell sent you!” (Thanks, Russell!)
After wrapping up a couple other video interviews, Videoman Dave and I left the main exhibit area to seek out Russell’s discovery. As we came upon it, parked among other transients to the light aircraft area at Copperstate, we both found it vaguely familiar. Well, it was vague for me. Dave was sure right away.
That’s because Gair-Planes‘ Mule started life as the Merlin from Canada and Dave was associated with the project for a time. Garrett had also worked with the Canadian designer so they compared notes for a few minutes.
I’d flown one of these for an hour or so many years ago. I’ve since enjoyed many more, hence my vaguer recollection. Dave had actually worked with the founder of the company, explaining his instant and deeper recognition. (This combination is why Dave and I make a good team; a couple veterans who have seen most of everything in this space, experience that helped us as we made 600-and-counting videos.)
Garrett is a Canadian national living in Arizona on a visa so he wants to produce kits and therefore employ some Americans to extend his welcome. It’s a common tactic of value and given Mule’s low price and durable STOL behavior, Gair-Planes can achieve this goal, forging ahead. Pilots like Russell are happy about that.
Merlin to Mule
Canada to Florida to Arizona
Merlin is a Canadian design introduced in 1990 by John Burch, a Canadian ultralight instructor. In other words it was built for flight instruction in Canada, where landings on unimproved runways would (wisely) be part of regular training.
“Merlin was one tough little aeroplane,” said Dave Loveman. “John Burch was a Canadian ultralight instructor and needed a better aircraft for his flight school. The 42 inch wide cabin is quite comfortable for even the largest of pilots.” Mule is a bit wider at 46 inches.
After Burch’s Canadian operation, Merlin was for a period offered by AeroComp on Florida’s Atlantic coast, at the Merritt Island airport. Now Gair-Planes is offering the kit from Arizona, all part of the interesting migration of designs that prove their worth.
As with Merlin, Mule is built around a welded 4130 chromoly steel fuselage and tail structure, all fabric covered. Wings use aluminum D Cell construction, with styrofoam ribs. The result was tested by the Canadian creator to +4 and –2 Gs.
Mule is a taildragger, in a tractor configuration, with side by side seating. Controls are standard stick and rudder with a center Y-stick.
“We are not the fastest airplane out there,” observed Garrett, “but we believe that we are one of the best for low and slow backcountry flying.”
Powered by a Rotax 912, climb rate is 1,000 feet per minute off the runway, said Garrett. He’s using the 912 but the airframe can work with engines from the 65-horsepower Rotax 582 up to 120 horsepower.
Cruise is 85 mph, Garrett said, with slow stall below 30 mph. Mule earns its STOL designation by taking off or landing solo in 150 feet.
With an airframe kit price of $18,700, adding an engine for a similar amount, plus paint and basic avionics, you should be able to get a Mule airborne for less than $50,000.
“Building time is about 400 hours,” said Garrett, though agreeing that this can depend on builder experience and how detailed the builder wants to go.
Mule Is Not All…
Gair-Planes appears to be a new active player in the kit aircraft game and it won’t be just a one-horse show. Another very interesting design is coming together pretty quickly, it appears.
Check Garrett’s YouTube channel to get a glimpse of his next 62%-replica project, already well along. No moss is gathering on this fellow.
Learn even more, directly from the manufacturer, in our video shot at Copperstate 2019.
At a major show in China called Zhuhai visitors saw something: a new 6-axis LSA flight simulator. The developer is AeroJones Aviation, the CTLS manufacturer for the Asia-Pacific region. The company exhibited their simulator to a warm reception.
General aviation is beginning to develop in China lead by airport construction at hundreds of the country’s huge cities. As I’ve written before, I have no doubt the airports will be built, but actual flying at most of them — by Light-Sport Aircraft or other recreational aircraft — seems somewhere off in the future.
China has a massive job ahead. Chinese business people have proven very capable of building many things, but developing a culture of the citizenry flying in light aircraft still has quite a distance to go. However, AeroJones new simulator may help the country take a huge stride forward.
First, Simulate — Then, Go Aloft
Chinese citizens play games, including flight simulators, as much as (or perhaps even more than) Americans do. Sitting at their computer or using a mobile smartphone or tablet is commonplace.
They know this activity and it may provide a bridge to people going aloft in an actual airplane like CTLS.
Imagine if you had never, ever seen a small plane of any kind. Would you rush to fly it? It’s hard for Americans to envision this situation as we have small airplanes everywhere and airports in nearly every town in the nation.
AeroJones may truly be on to something developing their full-motion simulator.
“At the Zhuhai Airshow 2018, our AeroJones 6-axis of motion CTLS simulator was shown for the first time to the public,” said Michael Chou, who handles marketing for the company. He reported that reception to the new simulator was very enthusiastic.
“Our flying CTLS also received lots attention in the show,” said Chou. “The market is growing for Chinese general aviation. We visited with many prospective customers from flight clubs and flight schools that expressed interest in the AeroJones CTLS.”
“The cabin scale of the full-motion simulator is 1:1 of the flying CTLS,” added Mr. Chou, meaning that the simulator is an exact size copy of the actual LSA. “Our simulator is equipped with two SkyView digital instrument panels designed by Dynon Avionics in the USA. The simulator has dual control sticks and rudders so an instructor can help a student learn the procedures and perform maneuvers. For the general public, it is a great device for entertainment.”
“AeroJones Aviation owner Jones Chen was pleased with the response to our aircraft and especially for our unique full-motion simulator,” said Mr. Hsieh Chi-Tai, General Aviation Development Vice President for AeroJones Aviation Technology Co., Ltd.
AeroJones is deep into planning for their new aircraft factory in Zhenjiang, China — where, presumably, they will also build the simulator. With the new facility, all manufacturing steps will be easier, less costly, and much more efficient, which will contribute to better values for customers buying the CTLS. Flight schools or other buyers of the modern and sophisticated CTLS will be able to fly to Dalu General Airport to see the factory and take demonstrations flights to confirm their purchase.
At the time the new factory was announced, Mr. Jones Chen said, “We are very pleased about the relationship with leaders of Zhenjiang. We look forward to a long and prosperous relationship.”
Who Is AeroJones?
Please let me clarify for readers who may recall seeing the AeroJones brand at American airshows. For a time, it did appear the Taiwan-based company would sell into the USA. However, that plan changed and today, the primary markets for AeroJones Aviation include China, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Japan, Korea, and Thailand.
Because Flight Design general aviation, the original developer of the CT-series, does not currently market a full-motion flight simulator, this particular product may find its way into western nations.
Beyond their aircraft factory in Xiamen, China and the new one to come in Zhenjiang — not far from the well-known megacity of Shanghai — AeroJones also operates a flying field, flight school, and maintenance center at an airfield in Taiwan.
What made this extra special was a chance to go aloft in the Flying Legend Tucano Replica, a scaled down version of a well-known Brazilian military aircraft.
Indeed, the fighter-like shape and paint job of Tucano beckoned convincingly and I went aloft with Flying Legend USA representative, Giovanni Matichecchia …yeah, I told him I’d just call him Giovanni. He grinned and said his last name was tough even for Italians. This capable 27-year-old pilot is off to the airlines one day but is doing a fine job of demonstration flying Tucano for media types like me and potential buyers of this eye-catching machine.
Flying Legend’s Tucano is a scale replica of well-regarded original. Embraer’s EMB 312 Tucano is “a low-wing, tandem-seat, single-turboprop, basic trainer with counter-insurgency capability developed in Brazil,” according to Wikipedia.
Flying Legend’s Tucano is one you can consider owning.
The Italian Tucano uses a supercharged (not turbocharged) Rotax engine, a modification of the well-known brand by an Italian company with good results over eight years of sales.
This specialty powerplant produces 140 horsepower and definitely delivered a spirited takeoff. With optional retractable gear and in-flight adjustable prop Tucano is a hot performer.
Throughout our maneuvers, Tucano felt exceptionally sturdy in the air. We did benefit from perfect conditions but it was clear this aircraft is tough enough for basic aerobatics as advertised. (We did not do any.)
Stalls were surprisingly slow considering how clean the aircraft looks, down into the high 40 knot range. A LSA version should readily meet standards for stall.
Handling was very well behaved. I found the stick a mite heavy in roll but it was exceptionally precise. Again smooth air helps but Tucano held even steeply banked 720 turns with ease and a light touch. Trimming was not necessary to hold altitude, even in 45-degree banks.
Slow flight was easily controllable suggesting landing would be very manageable. It was and my first touchdown showed this Tucano has very good manners.
Throughout all maneuvers, visibility is glorious, a panorama in any direction except straight down. From the aft seat the wing blocked my downward view though it looked better from the front seat where you solo. The downside to that expanse of acrylic is heating in the summer in places like Texas, where Flying Legend USA is based. Additional air inlets are in the works.
Our Video Pilot Report to follow will have more information recorded immediately after flight when the memories of details were the freshest, so watch for that on Light Sport and Ultralight Flyer YouTube channel.
Flying Legend has kits for fuselage, wing, empennage, flight controls, fixed landing gear, aluminium tank, and canopy plus all the hardware required for assembly. For those who prefer, a builder assist program in Archer Texas can help with the assembly.
Let’s go aloft for a short video experience in the Tucano replica.
I have to admit my pleasant surprise. This tie-up of Copperstate and Buckeye Air Fair might be exactly what is needed to generate a major show in the Southwestern USA.
Let me be fair. Other West Coast aviation events have interesting qualities but none has ever risen to the level of AirVenture Oshkosh or Sun ‘n Fun. Those two dominate general aviation events. Both are “back East.”
With big pilot and aircraft populations in California, Arizona, and Washington, why have we no major shows in the West? No one I’ve asked can explain the riddle but could Copperstate Buckeye Air Fair be the right combination? Only time will tell yet on Saturday, crowds were as thick as Oshkosh, albeit in a much smaller area. City planners offered an airshow and lots for attendees to look at plus the Copperstate trade show alongside the Buckeye Air Fair gave the public close access to pilots operating all manner of light aircraft.
Serious airplane buyers encouraged vendors on Thursday before the public attended. They came out in huge droves on Saturday. Vice Mayor Eric Orsborn, whom I interviewed on video, estimated 15-20,000 people that day. It looked like it and we have video proof. By the way, Eric is not only a city leader, he’s a pilot who just earned his ticket. His wife is also pursuing flying lessons and is going through ground school now.
If Sunday is equally strong, most will consider this pairing of city air fair with industry trade show to be a resounding success. Vice Mayor Eric said the city was very pleased about the link-up and sees good things in the future.
Flying The Airplane Factory Sling TSi
A year ago, I got to fly the 915 in Wels, Austria at a Rotax journalist event after Aero Friedrichshafen.
In two quickly linked flights, they let me compare 915 to 912iS. That was most helpful but I did not know either airframe well so it was challenging to compare performance with my earlier experiences. Now, I have a better picture.
At Copperstate a couple years ago I flew Sling 4 with Rotax’s 914 Turbo. I was very impressed, feeling it flew as well as the Sling LSA. Dare I admit I actually liked the four seater’s flight qualities better than the LSA?
Like Sling 4, Sling TSi is not a Light-Sport Aircraft. It cannot be flown with the Sport Pilot certificate. Several reasons explain why, even though the new model closely resembles the Sling LSA.
First, it’s a four seater. Secondly, it has much higher power. That’s allowed but the Rotax 915 engine currently requires a constant speed prop not permitted under LSA regulations — though perhaps in a couple years. The Turbo Intercooled 915iS energized the Sling 4 airframe much more than the 914. The difference was clear.
Acceleration was fast, we rolled less than 500 feet and climbed quickly from the start and kept going. Jean d’Assonville and I flew perhaps 300 pounds under gross but CPS Rotax specialist Bryan Toepfer said it did well when loaded to the limit on a flight he experienced. Thirdly, Sling TSi is too fast and too heavy to be a LSA.
Here’s something important… this is not Sling 4. Oh, it appears so similar that I would not have known without closer inspection. Instead, Sling TSi is a nearly brand-new aircraft from nose to tail, literally. The distinctive Sling nose cowl has also changed subtly, better accommodating the 915 and its new hardware.
Aft of the engine compartment, Sling TSi uses dimpled flush rivets on the front portion of the fuselage and on the leading edge of the wings. This clearly works to pick up the speed of Sling TSi without raising its stall speed.
The wing itself is a fresh new airfoil and wingspan is about 16 inches shorter on each side.
The tailplane has counterbalanced surfaces to reduce chances of flutter given Sling TSi’s speedier ways.
Aloft we saw 128 knots at modest cruise power and 3,500 feet MSL. Coming out to the show Jean and Wayne reported seeing better than 160 knots TAS and 180 knots GPS groundspeed, thanks to a tailwind. Fuel burn was a bit over six gallons an hour. Climb out of Buckeye (1,000 foot field elevation on a cool day) averaged 1,000 fpm and we saw 1,500-1,800 fpm on successive climbs from a touch and go.
Stalls in all configurations were very mild, even with full stick aft and no quick effort of recovery. At full power, Sling TSi would not stall and only wobbled the nose to signal the pilot — well, that and a clearly audible stall warning plus a very steep deck angle.
Handling was very responsive but steady with a light touch even in steeply banked 720 turns. My efforts at dutch rolling produced acceptable results either fast or slow.
The landing was straightforward. Sling TSi manages energy very well — an LSA-like feel, it had — making roundout and touchdown quite easy. Visibility is good, a very good thing at a busy Buckeye Municipal (KBXK) when numerous airplanes entered the pattern to pay a visit.
In all, Sling TSi is a commendable achievement, a further refinement of the original Sling LSA introduced in 2009. In that decade, Sling has delivered more than 500 aircraft, Jean indicated.
We recorded a full Video Pilot Report with cameras on and in the airplane. When it’s done in editing, this will provide much more detail and very few complaints about The Airplane Factory‘s Sling TSi. Well done, Mike Blyth and team, well done indeed!
Find more factory info on Sling TSi here and catch a video glimpse below.
The Copperstate airshow is on in Arizona! Put on by a new combination of Copperstate leadership in cooperation with the town of Buckeye Arizona — which has been hosting its own Buckeye Air Fair — the new event is off and running in its new time slot of early February. For most of its 46-year-long life Copperstate has been in October. Showing the city’s support, both Buckeye’s Mayor and Vice Mayor were present at opening evening ceremonies. Some 20,000 people are expected.
Videoman Dave and I are on-site and working. We’ve already captured a few new interviews for you. On Day 1, one aircraft in particular caught our eyes.
Wild Sky Goat
In many years of reporting on light aircraft, I have flown a lot of weight shift control trikes. I love flying trikes. I’ve flown simple ones, super-deluxe ones, tough ones, and ones that weren’t so tough. Most I enjoyed.
Yet I’ve never seen one built so sturdily as Wild Sky Aircraft‘s Goat. This is one beefy, big-boy trike.
This flying machine also escaped my ever-searching radar scan for new Special Light-Sport Aircraft approvals. Having just added it to our list since arriving in Arizona, Goat clocks in at #148 on our popular SLSA List.
“Denny Reed, owner of Wild Sky Aircraft, is an amazing engineer who for years looked for a really heavy-duty adventure aircraft,” said Sid Lloyd of Kestrel Aviation Services. “Finally he gave up and decided to build the ultimate adventure platform himself. With over 8,000 hours of instructor time in trikes, he knew exactly what he wanted.”
Sid sells aircraft from Flight Design and Aeroprakt plus Wild Sky and runs the builder-assist center for Goat kit assembly at his operation near Sedona, Arizona. While Wild Sky has SLSA approval and can fully build, Denny said he prefers his customer build their own kit.
“Talk about heavy-duty, this is simply the roughest, toughest Weight Shift Control (WSC) trike in the world,” said Sid. After my own close look at Goat, I cannot dispute his description.
“Our impact testing exceeded 6 feet high at maximum gross weight in several configurations & trajectories,” explained Denny. ASTM requires that a trike be dropped in various ways including nosewheel first …but from 16 inches, not six feet. I’ve seen these kinds of tests; they are very demanding of an airframe.
“Finally,” Denny added, “we focused on short take off & landing (STOL) with emphasis on being easy to setup & transport coupled with “easy-to-fly.”
“Goat is one of a kind, said Denny. “It doesn’t need special care. It is not fragile. It just needs good fuel, your respect, and a little love once in a while. If anybody can build something better, we’d like to be your first customers. Until then, we’re looking to build our team of true adventurers. We hope to share what we’ve learned & hope to learn from you too.”
“After all, aviation is not about the planes, it’s about what you do with them.” Who can argue with Reed’s logic?
Here’s a quick (2-minute) teaser video about Goat:
“I knew we had all the pictures we needed but I was having a blast and just wanted to keep flying Minifox,” wrote British aviation writer, Dave Unwin. In this article we welcome Dave back to give his description of a fun, highly affordable Part 103-compliant ultralight.
Minifox by Eurofly is a lot of pure flying fun, and it was just joyful to spend an agreeable afternoon on a well-tended grass strip shooting a series of touch ‘n’ goes in an open-cockpit single-seater.
Upon spotting Minifox at a show I was instantly intrigued and inquired with Dave Broom of Airplay, the UK agent for Eurofly of Italy. Dave told me that a Minifox kit could be completed for less than £19.000 or about $25,000. That’s not a lot of money for a brand-new flying machine, and it occurred to me that such a price could help reverse the current trend of making aviation ever-more expensive. In 1967, a new Cessna 172 cost around $12,750, and a Dodge Charger about $3,100. These days a top-of-the-range Charger is $52,000, but a Skyhawk SP is $307,000!
Eurofly Minifox Pilot Report
Based on Eurofly’s Firefox two seater, Minifox is a ‘pod and boom’ type, mating aluminum tube structure to chromoly steel welded frame.
The ultralight’s high wing is strut-braced and covered with semi-translucent Polyant PX5 trilaminate sailcloth. This modern synthetic material is very robust and UV-resistant.
Dave Broom indicated Minifox is an easy one-man rig incorporating a New Closing Wing System (NCWS) using special brackets to simplify alignment of the wing with the wing attach points. NCWS allows the wings to fold aft and rest on the tailplane in provided wing supports. With wings folded the aircraft is only 7.5 feet wide, towable on most American highways.
Eurofly offers several engine options for Minifox. My test aircraft is powered by the engine that Airplay recommends, a Cisco Motors 250 BullMax.
This 230-cc single cylinder two-stroke engine produces 33 horsepower at 7,400 rpm, yet only weighs 36 pounds with electric start. It turns a two-blade composite Helix prop via a Poly Vee-belt. On board fuel is a single four gallon fuel tank behind the seat. Main gear is built from 7075-T6 supporting three identical plastic wheels with solid tires and drum brakes, plus a small fourth wheel underneath the tailplane.
It all appeared very nicely made and I particularly liked the size of the control surfaces offering good control authority. Pushrods drive the ailerons and elevator, with cables for the rudder.
After a careful inspection I was eager to get airborne, and the Minifox looked like it felt the same way!
Aloft in Minifox
The only cockpit adjustment is seat cushions but a builder could fit Minifox to their size. They might also choose an optional fiberglass nosecone with small Lexan windscreen. Another option (though not on the test aircraft) is the Comelli pneumatic airframe parachute.
Once I’ve strapped it on — well, that’s what it feels like; it is literally not that much heavier than me — the controls and instruments are simplicity personified. The primary controls are rudder pedals and a centrally located stick with a handbrake. The throttle is to the left; elevator trimmer on the right. That’s all you need!
Importer Dave obligingly gives the recoil starter a hearty tug and the little engine buzzes busily into life. It is possible to do it when seated, although easier if you’re outside after setting the park brake and chocks. Being a pusher, you’re well clear of the prop.
I found the nosewheel steering worked well and soon I was pointed into a 8-10 knot breeze. As Bullmax “comes on the pipe,” acceleration is really quite good and with just a hint of back pressure Minifox is airborne after a very short ground roll. (Read more about two stroke acceleration in Dave’s full article.)
Doing touch and goes on a quiet, uncontrolled grass field on a sunny day, Minifox is already starting to work its charm on me. In a world of GPS, ADS-B and 8.33 radios, the Minifox is a real throwback to almost the dawn of powered flight.
Minifox is positively stable around all three axes, and the generously proportioned primary flight controls provide excellent control authority, being both powerful and well-harmonized. The roll rate is acceptably brisk, especially if you help it along with judicious application of the powerful rudder.
Minifox offers a field of view nothing short of exceptional. Lacking fuller instrumentation my best guesstimate is that the aircraft climbs between 400 and 500 fpm. Stall characteristics are very benign and slow flight is ridiculously slow, around 22 knots. At the other end the ASI showed 60 knots, however, to reach this velocity, the engine is running 7,400 rpm; a more practical cruise speed is 50-55 knots at 6,500 rpm. At this speed the motor is burning around 1.25 gallons an hour yielding a still-air range of about 125 nautical miles with 30 minutes reserve.
Minifox is available as a complete quick-build kit requiring around 50 hours to complete, or as a RTF (ready-to-fly) aircraft. Importer Dave claims that the kit requires no special skills and can be completed inside a week. From my review, I have to say this seems perfectly reasonable.
After Keith Wilson concludes his detail pictures, we sit outside in the sunshine enjoying a glorious day. Minifox is waiting, its nose pointing expectantly at the perfect sky. It really does seem such a waste for it to be on the ground, and Dave did say that I could have another go if I wanted…
“Hey, Keith, come and give the starter a pull, would you!”
Eurofly Minifox Specifications
- Manufacturer — Eurofly ULM in Vicenza, Italy
- Length — 20 feet
- Height — 6 feet
- Wingspan — 28 feet
- Wing Area — 108 square feet
- Empty weight — 253 pounds
- Max AUW — 507 pounds
- Useful load — 254 pounds
- Wing loading — 4.7 pounds per square foot
- Fuel capacity — 4 gallons
- Never Exceed Speed — 70 knots
- Cruise Speed — 55 knots
- Stall Speed — 22 knots
- Climb Rate — 500 fpm
- Best Glide — 11:1 @ 30 knots
- Min Sink — 400 fpm @ 37 knots
- Take Off to 50ft — 590 feet
- Land Over 50ft — 395 feet
Dave Unwin’s original article contains much more information for those who want to dig deeper. His writing style is also enjoyable and approachable.
At the recently concluded Sebring Sport Aviation Expo, I heard from a number of pilots and vendors about this website publishing fresh market share data. This clearly has value to anyone in the business but it also brings rewards for pilots trying carefully to choose a new aircraft.
Having roamed widely around the Internet to check multiple references, I can confidently state that this information is available from no other source.
Even though our information comes from FAA’s registration database, as our earlier articles about this renewed effort explained (here and here), the computer records needed some serious massaging to properly interpret a large number of make and model variations. Even a recently retired FAA official told me his former office has already begun using our Tableau Public presentation because the data is more user-friendly.
Yet again, I am motivated to give Steve Beste an enormous “Thank you!” for his dedicated effort to take FAA’s data, make complete sense of it (no small task), and to then work with the folks at Tableau to make this information available to you. Even better, you can adjust the data to your liking in ways I never envisioned with our earlier years of reporting these facts.
Thanks to Steve and his impressive skill set — and his willingness to spend his personal time — we now cover every aircraft registered since 2005, a year we picked because in April of that year FAA issued the first two Special Airworthiness Certificates (to Evektor‘s SportStar and Flight Design‘s CT).
Since 2005, more than 8,000 aircraft have been registered and that does not include about 4,000 former “fat ultralights” that FAA mandatorily turned into one-time Experimental LSA. Neither do we attempt to count aircraft with Standard (Part 23 or CAR 3) certification, which can be flown using a Sport Pilot certificate.
Because a large number of you visit this website via your smartphone, you can now see images that fit your screen better (nearby image). Given a wide variety of phone sizes, screen resolutions, and browsers, not every phone will look like these images but the data is much more accessible via smartphone than it was when we launched late last fall.
Of course, iPads and desktops or laptops with their larger screen real estate can see the data more comprehensively, but even on those larger devices or computers, the data now make more sense thanks to Steve’s continuing effort to improve the look.
The “This-Yr Ranking” screen may be one of the most viewed elements of the page because it reveals sales interest for the present year …when pilots might be preparing to hand over a deposit.
Steve noted, “The current-year rank tables now show three years instead of just one. This will be important when the first 2019 data is presented. The rankings may then appeared skewed because they will display only one quarter of a year. Showing the extra years will give useful context.”
Hint: Turning your smartphone or tablet horizontally may reveal more information, depending on your device.
Kit-Built or SLSA?
One last point: If your interest is limited to kit-built or fully-built Special LSA, you can adjust Tableau Public to show only those types by clicking in the “Cert Group” blue box (image). By default the lists show numbers for both types; click or tap to see only the ones you want.
Note that this is somewhat different than “Certification,” which offers more detailed ways to narrow the field solely to aircraft types that interest you.
The effort Steve and I have made together (well, mostly him; I primarily gave feedback or specific knowledge of aircraft) attempts to give pilots, businessmen, and government more data about the sector of aviation we enjoy most.
Any comments about how we can make this even more useful will receive careful attention.
The final day of the Sebring U.S. Sport Aviation Expo brought good flying conditions until mid-afternoon when light precipitation returned. The good start allowed us to record two Video Pilot Reports (VPR), one on the Magnus Aircraft all-carbon-fiber Fusion 212 and the other on the fully enclosed SilverLight Aviation American Ranger AR1 gyroplane. The videos will take some time to edit but I’ll provide a quick glimpse below.
One surprise arrival was Aeromarine LSA‘s Mermaid. Remember this model? This Chip Erwin creation was really the forerunner of the modern LSA seaplane category. Before Mermaid, we had Progressive Aerodyne‘s Searey and Aero Adventure‘s Aventura. Both those models have been upgraded for the time of ASTM standards compliance but early in the new millennium it was accurate to call them “ultralight seaplanes” built of gusseted aluminum structures covered with sewn Dacron surfaces.
When Mermaid arrived about as the Light-Sport Aircraft sector was given birth by FAA’s new regulation, this all-metal, clean sheet design wowed crowds at Sun ‘n Fun. Many responded by putting down deposits. For complex reasons I won’t go into here, Mermaid never made the splash many anticipated but neither has it disappeared. Here’s more on the aircraft’s history.
For the final day, Mermaid came and replaced another LSA seaplane that chose to exit their space early. The intriguing shoulder-wing design steadily attracted interested pilots. Mermaid was the first LSA seaplane to declare compliance with ASTM standards and was #28 catalogued on our popular SLSA List. It was fun to see Mermaid again.
Gone Flying …for You!
Our VPRs have proven popular with some approaching a million views and several with hundreds of thousands of views.
In my early days of writing aircraft reviews, I produced hundreds of such reports. Indeed those articles were the original foundation of this website. They date back into the 1980s and some even in the ’70s. Yet, times change.
After YouTube, Vimeo, and other video-hosting sites arrived, they drew huge viewership. YouTube is often said to be the #2 search engine on the Internet after Google.
People love videos! Videoman Dave informed an inquiring group of pilots that his Light Sport and Ultralight Flyer YouTube channel now generates 1.8 million views a month (for all his 1,000+ videos, which include all the ones in which I perform).
We joined the parade and now create VPRs, involving mounting up to eight Garmin Virb cameras as well as shooting from the ground, plus a stand-up review where I relate information immediately after flying the aircraft. Obvious, pilots enjoy these and we’ll keep making more.
Magnus Fusion — Magnus Aircraft USA is the manufacturer of a Hungarian design called Fusion 212. Designed in 2013 with first flight in 2015, and FAA acceptance as a Special LSA in 2017, Fusion is one of the newest aircraft in the SLSA List, in the #146 spot. The U.S. assembly site brings in carbon components from Hungary but the American operation is acknowledged by FAA as the official producer of the LSA version, according to boss Istvan Foldesi.
This all-carbon-fiber design is a low wing side-by-side model with dashing performance featuring quick climb rates with the Rotax 912 ULS. Fusion cruises at 110-115 knots and exhibited very accommodating handling. Watch for many more details and get plenty of views when the video is released.
SilverLight AR1 — To handle this VPR a bit differently, I asked pilot/instructor Greg Spicola to pretend I was a new gyroplane student. That’s close to accurate as I have about four hours under my belt in a variety of gyroplanes. However, except for a few differences associated with a spinning wing, AR1, like all gyroplanes, can be flown essentially as a you’d operate a fixed wing LSA.
“Power before pitch” was a mantra Greg drilled into me and that with a few other differences — such as operating the rotor pre-rotator and learning to brake the rotor disk before making abrupt turns on the ground — are easy enough to learn. It only takes a bit of “unlearning” so one’s fixed wing habits don’t result in the wrong actions by the pilot.
These aircraft are special in many ways — the ability to descend vertically (although not land that way) and to make seriously tight turns about a point — that combine with massive visibility at affordable prices …all of which explain some of the growing popularity of these aircraft types. Again, look for many more details and views when the video emerges from the edit suite.
As the show wound down, we did an interview with Executive Director Mike Willingham and Executive Assistant Bev Glarner. The longtime team are the key players behind the event these days but we also asked questions about the airport itself. Watch for that update when editing is complete, but please be patient as Videoman Dave is already working his way across the southern states en route to Copperstate 2019. This year, the long-running event has moved from from October to February. If you live in the southwest, come on out to the event and give a wave when you see us dashing about to record more great video interviews and VPRs for you.
As Day Three arrived, blue skies returned to Sebring after a damp start on Day Two and with them came the best crowds of pilots and companions of any day so far …by far. As you see in the lead photo (home page), crowds were often so thick around aircraft that a picture barely showed the flying machine. It was a fun if chilly day and the mood of pilots and aircraft reps was upbeat.
I was also informed that a number of paid sales went down and prospects are talking seriously about other purchases. Most aircraft vendors know a purchase of this size may warrant additional thought post-event but clearly some customers had come ready to deal.
For years I’ve maintained that sector-specific shows like Sebring produce more sales per visitor than the big shows. Neither pilots nor vendors can miss Sun ‘n Fun or Oshkosh and still claim to be true-blue aviators. Yet events like Sebring, Midwest, and DeLand make connections between ready-to-buy pilots and aircraft sellers at a fairly consistent rate.
Deals, Dreams, & Parties
Infinity Power Parachutes — We shot a video interview with Frank Williams of Infinity Power Parachutes. He is taking over the company from Alvie Wall but the founder will stay involved to help. They’ve been working together as Frank transitioned into the business.
We reviewed the current line-up of Infinity models. Their Challenger is a single place, Rotax 503-powered, true Part 103 aircraft that sells ready-to-fly complete with big off-runway tires, 375 square-foot canopy, and engine instrumentation for mere $17,000. Given the average price of a new car in America is now reported at $33,000, I’d said Challenger qualifies as a bargain aircraft.
You may not think of yourself as a powered parachute pilot but my personal experience is these aircraft offer the best visibility in aviation combined with slow flying speeds (30s mph) that allow you thoroughly absorb the view.
The two Commander models are powered either by the Rotax 582 (65 horsepower) or the Rotax 912 (80-100 horsepower). These tandem two place aircraft use a 500 or 550 square-foot canopy. Like Challenger, Infinity offers the two Commanders as ready-to-fly Special LSA. Delivery takes only four weeks and your aircraft will be delivered factory test-flown.
All Infinity models use a dual three-inch angle beam structure that provides exceptional strength. Frontal bars preferred by some pilots are not needed for structural integrity, said Frank.
Titan Aircraft T-51 — On Day One, I wrote about Titan Aircraft‘s sleek two place kit called Tornado. Today I want to show you an image of their subsequent — but completely different — T-51, a Mustang replica that is amazingly true to form. Look for yourself.
I had quite the experience flying the original prototype many years back and I can attest this is one interesting flying machine. I’ve also flown in a striking Stewart P-51 lookalike powered by a 450-horsepower Corvette engine but I’ve never gone aloft in a full military North American P-51 with 1,695 horsepower. However, for capable kit builders T-51 can deliver an intense sensation of nostalgia and a taste of what it must have been like for hundreds of twenty-something fighter jocks in World War II. Hoo, rah!
Although T-51 is not a Light-Sport Aircraft, it was released in the same year of the very first SLSA acceptances by FAA, 2005.
Duc Propellers USA — After reliving my vivid Mustang experience I needed to relax. What better way to do that than to attend the Duc Propellers grand opening party celebrating the French prop maker’s new USA headquarters at the Sebring airport.
The new facilities will provide North American sales, service, and maintenance for the Duc line of props. A spacious hangar has been leased at Sebring with offices and work areas provided by the airport.
Lead by their capable outreach man, Michael Dederian, Duc has made great inroads into the Light-Sport and Sport Pilot Kit space. At the kick-off party, Duc assembled an impressive number of airplanes from the Expo — each fitted with Duc props, of course — providing a mini-airshow right outside their quarters. I estimate around 250 attended their party, which was very professionally organized and catered. Go, Duc!
“Duck and cover” was a phrase to describe the morning on Thursday, Day Two at Sebring. Rain that lasted until late morning dampened turnout and you can’t blame those who stayed home because tomorrow, Friday January 25th, looks much better. It will be cooler (by Florida standards, 60°F) but clear skies are forecast. Plus, it’s Friday, so come on out and enjoy!
We took advantage of the wet weather to visit inside displays and will have videos coming on the Wingbug airdata WiFi device; about insurance for Light-Sport Aircraft, ELSA, Sport Pilot Kits from Aviation Insurance Resources; and on Whelens line of very bright LED strobes. Once they are edited and uploaded, find them on the YouTube channel of Light Sport and Ultralight Flyer. Please be patient for the videos. Soon after Sebring, Videoman Dave and I head out to Copperstate for the show now co-produced with Buckeye Air Fair at an all-new time of the calendar: February 8-9-10.
“New or Used?”
That is a question pondered by vendors. Many businesses representing airframe manufacturers cater exclusively to the new aircraft sales. Many regard used aircraft, even their own brand, as competitors.
Some, like Scott Severen of US Sport Planes, see used aircraft — especially for the Jabiru brand he represents for North America — as an alternate for his enterprise. He displayed two pristine Jabiru LSA with prices 50% under a new model. They are not the same as current new models but from my look, many buyers would find them highly desirable. Did I mention for half the price of new?
Scott and other vendors have taken a more entrepreneurial approach to used aircraft, turning the sale of used LSA into a profit center to support their business rather than fighting futilely against the presence of a growing used fleet of LSA. “I earn more with a new plane but I can do fine with used,” Scott said. “My reasoning best serves the customer, too, as a pilot looking for new isn’t interested in used and a customer who wants to spend less is motivated by a lower price (photos).”
Another veteran of the LSA business is John Hurst who represented a pair of Breezers that also look very good despite being used. Breezer Aircraft of Germany has not had a U.S. representative for several years but existing ones can certainly be given some tender loving care (home page image). “I went through the airplanes from nose to tail,” said John, while noting the exceptionally good flying characteristics. If he doesn’t move this pair of Breezer sooner, look for one in the LSA Mall at Sun ‘n Fun in a couple months.
Naturally, both Scott and John are also happy to supply brand new LSA with as many bells and whistles as you like. Scott has the whole Jabiru line for the entire USA and John represents Flight Design and its CT-series in the southeast U.S. on behalf of Flight Design USA.
New Is Nice
L600 importer Deon Lombard said he expecting his first with the Rotax 912iS. “The injected engine installation has been all worked out and the manufacturer keeps making airframe improvements,” said Deon. The two aircraft he exhibited have some hours on them criss-crossing the country from his base in Southern California, but these are two clean flying machines. See our Video Pilot Report here.
Magnus is represented here at Sebring by Istvan Foldesi, who reports fully building the Fusion in the USA using parts fabricated in Hungary. The smooth composite — mostly carbon fiber construction with an elegant dual-taper wing — is making the rounds at airshows and attracting admiring looks, I have observed. At Sebring company pilots were giving demo flights to prospective customers. (Magnus also supplied a yummy native Hungarian dessert — they literally transported a suitcase-full — and the treat was enjoyed by all exhibitors at Sebring’s exhibitor reception on Wednesday evening.)
Other companies also told us about new models or upgrades coming in the near future, perhaps as soon as Sun ‘n Fun 2019. It looks to be an exiting new year for Light-Sport Aircraft and Sport Pilot Kits.
Here’s Our Race-Around-Sebring Video
Sebring Day One was true to form for the 15th running of this grandaddy of Light-Sport and Sport Pilot Kit shows. Airport manager Mike Willingham told me opening day attendance was better than opening day last year. He and the entire Expo team certainly benefitted from good weather, a tad windy, but blue skies and temperatures hitting 80° F (27°C).
Videoman Dave and I recorded several new video interviews for you. One of the first will be our classic race-around tour of exhibits on opening day.
We also talked to many in the business.
The government shutdown appears to be having some effect on industry. One example regards FAA inability to make inspections so a vendor can get the Special Airworthiness certificate needed to complete delivery of a new SLSA (meaning final payments cannot be collected, no small matter to many LSA or SPE kit enterprises). However, few vendors actually introduced the topic suggesting the bad news may be localized.
Overall though, we heard a continued positive outlook as we surveyed at DeLand Showcase in early November last year when many in the business told us about the good year they had just finished.
Volunteer Army — As is necessary but not taken for granted was a large group of helpful volunteers. Airshows, even the giants like Oshkosh and Sun ‘n Fun, could not happen with such willing help, often people taking vacation time to put in many hours helping the details turn out right. THANKS to each and every one of them!
Cruiser Aircraft, the importer for Czech Sport Aircraft, offered their new SportCruiser LTE, a lighter, simpler, much lower cost version of the popular Light-Sport Aircraft. Powered by a Rotax 912ULS2 100 horsepower engine the LTE model has one Dynon HDX screen, cloth seats, and reduced weight. Marketing and sales manager Josh Scheid said the combination, priced in the low $140s, is aimed at flight schools looking to offer a modern new aircraft to students and reap very low operating costs. “A lot of primary training finds students throttled down doing patterns and burning only 2.5 gallons per hour of lower cost fuel,” Josh noted. He continued saying they can increase equipment to suit a flight school’s need including certified Garmin gear to allow IFR flight training.
John Williams, the longtime leader of Titan Aircraft brought one of his impressive T-51 Mustang kits and a Tornado (photo) that reveals this hot number’s long lean lines. Tornado can now be called an evolved design. From personal experience I attest to its crisp handling and lively performance. In the heyday for two place ultralights, before Light-Sport Aircraft arrived on the scene, Tornadoes in various forms were among the most dashing aircraft at shows. Its taut fuselage was often compared to a fighter jet motivating some creative builders to equip and paint their Tornadoes to enhance that imagery.
SilverLight showed off the clean execution of their removable full enclosure. American Ranger AR1 boasts a very large clean canopy that was optically superb; I saw no distortions when looking anywhere on its great expanse of acrylic. Designer and business owner Abid Farooqui explained that two people are needed for about ten minutes to remove the big enclosure for open air flying that many enjoy in pleasant months. A few more minutes are needed to install a motorcycle-sized windscreen that transforms AR1 into the open tandem seater the company first offered. SilverLight has enjoyed a good last year of business as verified in our market number page: Tableau Public
Sebring Sport Aviation Expo 2019 — I’m here. Where are you? Weather looks good for the opening tomorrow here in Sebring, Florida, where temperatures were in the mid 70s (23 C). Blue skies prevailed although the air was bumpy according to several who flew airplanes in for display.
While a good many airplanes are already here, an equal number were still not on the grounds at 6 PM, so some hustling will have to occur. …and it will!
I attend seven or eight airshows every year. I’ve done this for many years. I’m here to assure you that the night before opening, the place is utter pandemonium with no possible hope in sight of having everyone in position and ready for business by morning. It can’t happen. …yet it does!
One of the most marvelous transformations to be seen is a lonely expanse of concrete ramp turning into a colorful, energetic, ultimately cool place to hang out, look at lots of pretty airplanes of all kinds, talk flying to your old pals and new friends, catch a forum, participate in a work shop, take a demo flight if you’re in the market — heck, take several flights. That’s one of the main reasons people come to events like Sebring and the main reason vendors are here with their shiny airplanes. It’s a match made in heaven and you’re invited!
Here’s an early glance. Come on down to Sebring Expo 2019 and see how much it changes by morning.
As a new season of flying is upon us (even while northern pilots may still be still shoveling snow), one company continues their vigorous comeback. Flight Design announced completion of a new product and is offering a second. Based on the same CT-based airframe, the two are notably different.
CT Super Sport Injection
The German developer of the CT series is now planning to offer the CT Super Sport Injection in North America. CT Super Sport is the popular model sold in Europe with a cruising speed of 120 knots, VNE of 146 knots, useful load of more than 600 pounds (272 kilograms), and an affordable price.
“This variation will now be reintroduced to the Americas,” reported Tom Peghiny, President of Flight Design USA. “We have sold versions of the CTLS since its introduction in 2008 and wanted to bring back a lighter model primarily for the U.S. and Canadian markets. After consultation with our Canadian distributor, Flight Design Canada we decided to begin importing the CT Super Sport Injection, which is the model equipped with the advanced Rotax 912iS,” said Peghiny.
CT Super Sport is a derivative of the famous CTSW but has been upgraded with many features of the CTLSi including the 912iS 100 horsepower fuel-injected engine, a single beam composite “no bounce” main gear, a centrally located 10-inch Dynon SkyView Touch EFIS/EMS/Map Screen, and 2020-compliant Dynon Class One Mode S Transponder with ADS-B out. Lightly equipped as described, Flight Design said CT Super Sport Injection has a useful load of over 600 pounds (272 kilograms) can cruise at 120 knots, has a VNE of 146 knots, a maximum range of 700-800 nautical miles (1,481 kilometers) and is compliant as an SLSA in the U.S. and as an Advanced Ultralight Aircraft in Canada, as well as all other countries following the FAA-LSA regulation.
Back On Top — “After a successful 2018, Flight Design is once again at the top of the SLSA ‘All Fleet’ ranking according to the FAA registration data recently published on the Tableau Public website,” the company wrote. “With the new 2018 registration numbers that were released, Flight Design was second total (when including Experimental LSA and Amateur Built kits) and first in Special Light Sport Aircraft (ASTM-compliant, ready to fly).”
“We are excited by the news and want to thank our staff and USA dealers,” said Flight Design CEO Lars Joerges. “Flight Design was the market leader since the beginning of Light Sport Aircraft category, which was one of the reasons we acquired the company. We also want to thank Dan Johnson for his persistent support of the light end of aviation both by his website ByDanJohnson.com and his leadership of LAMA, the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association group that represents manufacturers,” added Joerges.
Flight Design general aviation is pleased to announce that on 15 November 2018, the Czech subsidiary of Flight Design was awarded EASA Part21G approved Production Organization Approval (POA) under approval number CZ.21G.0065 issued by the Civil Aviation Agency of the Czech Republic. What does this mean?
“The approval allows the company to deliver certified aircraft for delivery in Europe and the rest of the world,” said Joerges.
“This is good news for owners of CTLS-ELA aircraft currently operating under EASA’s Permit-to-Fly and for new customers looking for an advanced EASA certified light aircraft,” explained Flight Design general aviation COO, Daniel Guenther. “We can now offer owners of CTLS-ELA aircraft operating across Europe to bring their planes back to Flight Design for upgrading and conformity confirmation to allow them to have a permanent Restricted Flight Certificate (RTC).” Planning for the upgrade program is in the final stages and customers will be informed about the details in February 2019.
Flight Design observed that the company’s CT-series aircraft have been sold around the world since 2008 as Special Light-Sport Aircraft. “CTLSi-ELA brings a well proven platform, the security of an all carbon fiber airframe with an aircraft emergency rescue system and the high technology of all Flight Design aircraft,” officials said.
We’re Off to Sebring!
On Wednesday January 23rd, 2019 kicks off with the 15th running of Sebring. This year is also the 15th anniversary of FAA establishing the Sport Pilot / Light-Sport Aircraft sector in American aviation. This accomplishment was the “regulation heard ’round the world” in that many countries have now adapted the ASTM standards for use in their countries making exports from one country to another vastly easier than in the Part 23 certified aircraft world.
Sebring has become a premiere showcase for Light-Sport Aircraft and Sport Pilot Eligible (or SPE) kit-built aircraft. We’ll do our best to report daily from the event for those that cannot attend. In addition Videoman Dave and I will be transitioning to Warp Drive as we cover the grounds seeking the best video interviews. Click or tap back daily!