Technology company TQ Group established a reputation for high quality engineering and precision products. The German enterprise will debut two of their general aviation products for the AirVenture attendees at the end of July 2018. One is an ADS-B transponder in the final stages of certification and the other is a VHF Transceiver that boasts a strong following in Europe. You may already know the name Dittel. Walter Dittel has been a respected manufacturer of small, high quality, low current drain aviation radios and accessories. With the acquisition of leading European avionics manufacturer Dittel in 2016 TQ was able to expand its core capabilities and expertise, while substantially enhancing its R&D resources. Through its business unit TQ-Aviation, the company has been serving the aviation sector for more than 15 years, delivering advanced electronic products to well-known aircraft manufacturers and airlines. TQ-Group now employs nearly 1,600 employees at 14 locations throughout Germany, Switzerland, China and the United States.
Opener's BlackFlyOpener issued several news releases on July 12th, evidently aimed at mainstream news who seized on the unorthodox vehicle. The company, now quartered in Silicon Valley, claims "1,400+ flights and 12,000+ miles flown" over nine years of stealthy development; most of these were remotely piloted. Manned flight is very recent. “Opener is re-energizing the art of flight with a safe and affordable flying vehicle,” said Marcus Leng, CEO. “We will offer competitive pricing in an endeavor to democratize three-dimensional personal transportation. Safety has been our primary driving goal in the development of this new technology." "Even though not required by FAA regulations," Leng continued, "BlackFly operators will be required to successfully complete the FAA Private Pilot written examination and also complete company-mandated vehicle familiarization and operator training.” In its news blitz, Opener announced Google guru Larry Page is one of the company’s strategic backers. Page also is helping to finance Kitty Hawk and its Flyer (photo below). In a CBS News article, Leng was reported saying, “When you press the thumb-stick to climb, you have absolute full control. When you stop in the middle of the air and go off the joystick, the aircraft freezes." These phrases are hardly the way a pilot would say it; perhaps he stated it this way because he was speaking to a non-pilot reporter. Although BlackFly claims full amphibious capabilities, "It is primarily designed to easily operate from small grassy areas and travel distances of up to 25 miles at a speed of 62 mph." said Opener. It presently has a 25-minute flight endurance. See more specifications; scroll down to bottom. As with most of these multicopters, BlackFly's feature list differs from most LSA:
- Software flight-envelope protection
- Automatic Return-to-Home button (localized training feature)
- Soft-landing assist (making BlackFly approachable to non-pilots)
- Comprehensive training (required for purchase)
- Geofence-capable (ostensibly preventing entry to certain airspace)
- Super Charging capable (less than 30 minutes)
- Low noise signature
- Ballistic parachute option available
- Manufactured in the USA
Are Multicopters 'Inevitable' in Aviation?"I've noticed in my career that things go from impossible to inevitable in a very short period of time," Eustace said. His thoughts and my expanding view of this new wave of designs suggests we are just seeing the beginning of a new kind of aircraft, one anybody might be able to enjoy with mimimal or no training. I know that sounds radical and ill-advised but the potential of software-enhanced flying is hard to overlook — at least once the software is judged "very robust." It is not yet, but that may follow rather quickly. “The dream of flight, which was so difficult and expensive to obtain, will soon be within the reach of millions," added Eustace. "Opener is putting the fun back into flying and opening up a new world of possibilities.” If you are attending EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in a few days, you can check out BlackFly yourself. Opener vehicles will be on display in the Innovation Showcase, booths IC-12A and 13A. https://youtu.be/Jcpq6XYYoY4
This article again delves into the changing face of aviation and in this case within the Part 103 Ultralight Vehicle sector. Infotech in Part 103 ultralight vehicles means far more than GPS or even synthetic vision digital screens (imagine an iPad mated to a Levil box … remarkable stuff and for very little money). However, digital avionics are not the point of this story. In the last few days, a formerly Canadian company, Opener, announced their new eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing), the second developer I know of to adopt Part 103’s simplicity and freedom. Like Kitty Hawk’s Flyer*, the rather unusually-named BlackFly also calls itself an “ultralight,” more precisely meaning an ultralight vehicle that can operate under Part 103. What you might like about this, compared to more than a dozen “air taxi” designs, is that BlackFly appears aimed at recreational flyers (as does Flyer).
The Good"It is with great pleasure we can report that Equator Aircraft Norway achieved first fully balanced flight with the P2 Xcursion prototype aircraft over the newly painted runway 22 at Eggemoen Technology Park in Norway," reported the company. Here's our earlier report on this fascinating project. Tested by Eskil Amdal, Equator reportedly accelerated to 70 knots before leaving the ground and flying down the runway at 100 knots at nine meters (about 30 feet, at the edge of ground effect), before landing smoothly. Amdal reported stable flight with good controllability in all axes. Two more flights were performed the following day, further establishing confidence in the flying characteristics. "The aircraft is a prototype developed by Equator with very limited means since 2010," explained the company. "It can operate from land or water, and with its small electric motor, low float wings and good aerodynamics, promises to rival land planes on performance." "Equator's core goal to make flying more available to more people, by supplying, green, silent and practical aircraft to the market," added the company. Equator benefits from a very large space inside (nearby photo), and "a simple intuitive cockpit that makes it easy to learn to fly." Equator hopes to deliver the aircraft both as a hybrid-electric and pure-electric aircraft. The current prototype is fully electric, is set up for testing only, and can fly for about 35 minutes. "Further development shows promise to deliver aircraft with at least 1 hour and 45 minutes of flight time," explained Equator. "In hybrid configuration the aircraft has [the potential for a] range of 5 to 6 hours." Equator is actively looking for investors to move into production while also seeking a larger owner to make sure it can continue the process rapidly. "It was a fantastic day for the team," said Designer and CEO Tomas Brødreskift. "This marks the real beginning of the test program for the aircraft prototype. We are now looking forward to gaining actual flight data, and not to mention look forward to putting the aircraft on the water as soon as possible. We are thrilled to see the aircraft perform as expected, and can't wait to test the aircraft further." https://youtu.be/82J7gJ_7c4w
The BadFrom a Finland online report, "A small company billed as Finland’s only plane maker saw a one-million-euro prototype of its amphibious plane go up in flames Tuesday morning after a training flight ended in a crash. Here is our last report on Atol's move to production. "Speaking at a press conference in Rovaniemi, Finland on Tuesday afternoon, Markku Koivurova, CEO Atol Avion and the designer of the aircraft, said that the plane was completely destroyed in the resulting fire, but that the two pilots on board were able to walk away from the site of the accident. "The Atol chief executive recounted the events that led up to the crash. He said a pilot instructor and his trainee ran into problems on a training flight when the amphibian's 'hood' opened up. The pilot decided to ditch the vessel. "He explained that although there was a nearby body of water, the pilot determined that it was too shallow for a landing and opted to take the plane down for a controlled emergency landing in a forested area." Atol Avian said that it is not yet clear precisely why the plane caught fire, but speculated that a fuel tank behind the left wing ruptured. Both occupants were able to walk away from the crash although both sustained some burn injuries.
The Not-So UglyThe report continued, "Koivurova said that the accident would not pose a major setback for the small plane manufacturing firm,” while adding that the company will suffer additional loss by taking one customer plane out of the production queue for further testing. The aircraft retails for 169,000 euros ($199,000 at today's exchange rate). Atol Avian currently has six planes in production. The amphibious side-by-side seating Atol 650 LSA is made out of wood composite with foldable wings. See all our earlier reports on Atol. While the LSA seaplane sector of the Light-Sport Aircraft industry is developing some of the most interesting concepts, bringing these more complex products to market appears significantly more costly and time consuming than many non-amphibious aircraft that have preceded them. From Icon's A5 that is still struggling to reach production numbers to the now-departed MVP and others, the sector is not exhibiting the same time-to-market timing as simpler aircraft.
In the fascinating LSA seaplane sector-within-a-sector, we find both good news and bad news today, though the latter can be overcome. That’s the shortest possible story. More detail follows. The Good “It is with great pleasure we can report that Equator Aircraft Norway achieved first fully balanced flight with the P2 Xcursion prototype aircraft over the newly painted runway 22 at Eggemoen Technology Park in Norway,” reported the company. Here’s our earlier report on this fascinating project. Tested by Eskil Amdal, Equator reportedly accelerated to 70 knots before leaving the ground and flying down the runway at 100 knots at nine meters (about 30 feet, at the edge of ground effect), before landing smoothly. Amdal reported stable flight with good controllability in all axes. Two more flights were performed the following day, further establishing confidence in the flying characteristics. “The aircraft is a prototype developed by Equator with very limited means since 2010,” explained the company.
Pipistrel is One of the Leaders"Serial Number 900 leaves the factory headed for Australia," glowed Michael Coates, the longtime distributor for Pipistrel aircraft in Australia and the United States. "It’s hard to believe that the time passes so quickly and here we are shipping number 900 from the Sinus/Virus family to a very excited customer in Australia." In Virus (yes, I've heard most the jokes about the name) Michael refers to the best seller of the comprehensive Pipistrel line. The reference here is to Virus SW. While the company has succeeded with a number of their other models, Virus SW — the shorter wing span and higher cruise speed variation — is the clear front runner among their production. Pipistrel started with weight shift trikes, way back in the days of Soviet-controlled eastern bloc countries. Founder Ivo Boscarol had to sneakily build his first and fly it only in the evening when few might notice. After the Berlin Wall fell and freedom came to these countries Boscarol was able to embark on an ambitious plan to build his company into the light aircraft powerhouse it is today. This is a man who can barely sit still long enough for an interview as he is managing a number of activities and appears always thinking of the next thing. Coates observed that the 900 aircraft does not include motorgliders Taurus or Apis, GA candidate Panthera, nor does it include 200 Alpha Trainers delivered to the Indian armed forces and or other government aircraft.
Pipistrel from India to Oshkosh"We achieved another significant success," added company spokesperson Taja Boscarol. "A Pipistrel Sinus 912 aircraft was certified in India as the first aircraft in the LSA class, ever," she added. This particular airplane — nicknamed "Mahi" by its owners — is part of the WE! Expedition project, in which two female pilots, a mother and daughter, intend to fly around the world. Pipistrel will no doubt promote that voyage as they've done other global circumnavigation flights. If you want to check out the Pipistrel line, you have a great chance coming soon. "This year is going to be our biggest yet," boasted Coates, "with a strong emphasis on electric aircraft and virtual reality flight Training" He said his display will include the following:
- Alpha Electro
- Taurus Electro along with the Pipistrel Solar Trailer
- Taurus 503
- Virus SW
- Sinus MAX
- X-Alpha Virtual Reality Simulator, and…
- several trailers to show how you can hanger your aircraft at home
In the world of Light-Sport Aircraft, we have more than 90 manufacturers and 145 Special LSA (see our whole list) accepted* by FAA. This huge diversity of design has given recreational pilots around the world a large number of ready-to-fly aircraft choices beyond anything we have seen in aviation since the beginning. However, the old 80/20 rule still applies where (approximately) 80% of the aircraft sold are built by 20% of the manufacturers. It is a credit to this 14-year-old industry that even the smaller companies can remain viable enterprises. Very few of the 90+ manufacturers have left the business. However, most of the airplanes are made by a few top producers, which you can see in our market share charts. Pipistrel is One of the Leaders “Serial Number 900 leaves the factory headed for Australia,” glowed Michael Coates, the longtime distributor for Pipistrel aircraft in Australia and the United States.
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Making Shock "Ultra"First, here's what remains: “double slotted” flaps (70% bigger than earlier Savage Cub models), the custom-made micro vortex generators installed inside the flap vane, larger ailerons (40% bigger than older models). These features were part of the reason for "dramatically increase the efficiency of the wing at very low speed."Ultra Shock also retain its strength. "We loaded and drop tested [Ultra Shock] up to 1,000 kilograms (2,200 pounds) from 120 centimeters (about 4 feet) above the ground without any damage." That may not sound like such a high drop height but I've seen test reports and can attest that is a very demanding test, especially at such weight. The design "virtually eliminates the touchdown rebound," Pascale said. "We proceeded from the original Savage Cub-S," Pascale continued, "reinforcing and refining the fuselage framework, increasing … the cockpit height, improving the accessibility, and generally improving ergonomics on board." In other words, he made sure larger pilots will fit well.Despite Ultra Shock's lighter weight design, Zlin said the “engine bay can accommodate different engines from the standard Rotax 912 ULS (100 horsepower) up to the Rotax 914 (115 horsepower), new Rotax 915 (>135 horsepower), and even the Titan 340 Stroker (180 horsepower).In doing all this, Pascale asked, "Why go fast? It's so much more fun to fly slow and land short." Indeed, he made sure Ultra Shock hits these fun flying goals (see specifications below)."We asked ourselves how much weight it would be possible to save, while maintaining the cost of the transformation at a reasonable level,” recalled Russo. He also wondered "to what extent the excellent performance of the Shock Cub would be affected."He managed to reach a targeted and demonstrated minimum empty weight — an impressively slim 649 pounds — with a 100 horsepower Rotax 912 with radio and basic instrumentation and a weight savings program which introduced carbon fiber elements, light weight battery, and Oratex fabric covering (a weight-saving material with already colored cloth) in place of classic heat-shrink Dacron, among other choices.It appears he succeeded well. Ultra Shock is significantly lighter than most of the other Cub-clones, which should translate to great performance with the Rotax 912 and reduced overall expense. Zlin is targeting €95,000 (about $115,000) for a well-equipped Ultra Shock but for U.S. pricing and availability, please contact SportairUSA. Whatever the final price tag for your chosen options, it is dramatically less than a CarbonCub (that commonly exceeds $200,000, according to many buyers).
- Gross Weight — 1.320 pounds (600 kilograms)
- Minimum Empty Weight — 649 pounds (295 kilograms)
- with optional light weight equipment
- Useful Load — 671 pounds (305 kilograms)
- Standard Fuel Capacity — 18 gallons (68 liters)
- Payload at Full Fuel — 563 pounds (256 kilograms)
- Wingspan — 29.5 feet (900 centimeters)
- Wing Area — 164 square feet (15.2 square meters)
- Length — 22.4 feet (684 centimeters)
- Height (on 20-inch Alaskan tires) — 7.4 feet (225 centimeters)
- Cabin Width — 27.1 inches (69 centimeters)
- Maximum Cruise Speed — 112 mph / 97 knots
- Cruise at 75% Power — 87 mph / 76 knots
- Range — 323 nautical miles
- Maximum Climb Rate — 1,000 fpm (2 meters/second)
- Minimum Flight Speed — 21 mph / 18 knots
- Minimum Takeoff Ground Roll at Gross Weight — 160 feet (50 meters)
- Minimum Landing Ground Roll at Gross Weight — 105 feet (33 meters)
After Aero 2016, we enthusiastically reported on the Zlin Shock Outback (as it is known to Americans; Shock Cub to other countries). You could fairly call it Europe’s answer to Just Aircraft’s jaw-dropping SuperSTOL, the amazing performer that captures nearly everyone’s attention from its introduction until today. Both designs go far beyond the best-selling Special LSA in the country: CubCrafters’ CarbonCub.With the original Shock Outback’s awesomely powerful Continental Titan X-340 producing 180 horsepower, pilots had a shock-and-awe response to the short takeoff roll and homesick-angel climb performance. The aircraft truly inspired many.How could Zlin go one better on this fascinating design? In a word: lighter.Admittedly, Shock Outback, sold in America by SportairUSA — with the big engine and all the other (sometimes optional) fixings such as their slatted wing, long-stroke landing gear, giant Alaskan tires — is an aircraft about as large as it could be and still fit in the LSA category.
- Wingspan — 25 feet, 11 inches (7.9 meters)
- Length — 23 feet, 4 inches (6.88 meters)
- Height — 5 feet, 6 inches (1.97 meters)
- Wing area — 118 square feet (11 square meters)
- Maximum takeoff weight (LSA) — 1,320 pounds (600 kilograms)
- Maximum takeoff weight (EAB) — 2,646 pounds (1,200 kilograms)
- Empty weight (LSA) — 750 pounds (340 kilograms)
- Empty weight (EAB) — 889 pounds (400 kilograms)
- Standard Engine (LSA) — Rotax 912iS Sport (100 horsepower)
- Optional Engine (LSA) — Rotax 915iS (141 horsepower, max)
- Powerplant choices (EAB) — see video or downloadable brochure
- Never exceed speed — 216 knots
- Maximum load factor — +6/-4 g
- Carbon reinforced composite structure with carbon pushrod linkage
- Windshield frame as rollover bar for improved occupant protection
- Aramid cockpit lining for occupant protection
- Electrically retractable landing gear (fixed gear configuration for U.S. SLSA)
- Sliding and swiveling canopy
- Hydraulic disk toe brakes front and rear with parking lock
- Leather finish to both with five-point harness
- Manually adjustable rudder pedals
- Electric trim all axis
- Fuel capacity — 2 x 13.2 U.S. gallon (50 liter) wing tanks
- Electrically Retractable Landing Gear
- Baggage compartments:
- Front (before windshield) 33 pounds (15 kilogram) with external baggage door
- Rear (behind cockpit) 33 pounds (15 kilogram)
Many pilots who first set eyes on the SW51, a precisely faithful 70%-scale imitation of the famous North American Aviation P-51 Mustang managed to utter a single word: “WOW!” Can you blame them? Look at this bird. The shape is classic and the detail is exquisite, finished down to the last rivet to mimic the famous World War II American fighter. Except, it’s a kind of fake. I better explain. We’ve seen this spectacular execution of Hans Schwöller before. It was then called FK51 and we reported it earlier in more detail as to its construction. Now welcome ScaleWings Aircraft. Thanks to his youthful associate, Christian von Kessel, SW51 has been refunded and reenfranchised, bringing it to reality. The earlier producer group stumbled and this amazing construction never reached market. Can you handle a machine that looks this awesome? As you hear Hans and Christian state in the video, SW51 is easy to take off and land and docile in flight.
What 3 WordsFrom the developers of this new geolocation system, “what3words is a really simple way to talk about location. We have divided the world into a grid of 3 meter by 3 meter squares and assigned each one a unique 3 word address. It means anyone can accurately find any location and share it more quickly, easily, and with less ambiguity than any other system. The service can be used with a free mobile app or an online map. The developers who created this said, “It can also be built into any other app, platform, or website, with just a few lines of code.” These two fellows, one a music event producer and his friend, a math whiz, did not create this for airplane pilots. It turns out that a huge number — billions of people — do not have a street address. This sounds odd to advanced societies with extensive addressing systems, but in much of the world such addresses simply don’t exist. Someone needing medical assistance in one of those places has no address to give to an emergency service. Pilots can certainly use this, as can all sorts of people. This is why I find this so intriguing. The three words were very carefully chosen (see video). They are also available not just in English but in many other languages, 22 at present with more to come. The words are common words and were carefully chosen not to sound like other words. I think this is a wonderfully clever system. I urge you to go to whatever app supplier you use and download it – it’s free. Then check out your own location and imagine how you might use this terrific invention were you to find yourself in that field with the crippled aircraft or, God forbid, an injured companion. This video, prepared by the developers conveys the value of addressing the entire world’s surface. In an emergency, this might be your rescue. Heck, you can even use it to find your friends at Oshkosh. https://youtu.be/a4ZBzM3L6ws
At the Rotax event for journalists allowing reporters like me to fly their new 915 engine (more about that and a 915 review here), I met Guy Leitch, publisher of SA (South Africa) Flyer aviation magazine. Guy told me of something I’d never heard of but which I see as very useful to pilots (and virtually anyone, to be sure). It involves a mere three words. Three words …and 57 trillion squares on a grid. That’s trillion with a T. I am writing about locating a place on the planet, anywhere on the planet. Why is this useful? Don’t we already have GPS coordinates — latitude and longitude — to cover this need? It’s a valid question but entering a string of numbers can be challenging and we have three methods of doing so. Although we we rely on this for navigation, the fact is a single digit error in entering those lat/long numbers could mean an error of many miles.
FX1 at Aero Friedrichshafen 2018I had some correspondence with Alfredo but we had not met until this year's Aero show in the south of Germany. Since I worked closely with my associate, Videoman Dave — whose YouTube video channel 40,000 of you obviously enjoy — we captured a video interview with the design. See that below. While FX1 clearly follows the Jetfox 97 — its overall shape, planform, and layout are very similar — the new model is very different in some ways not obvious in the nearby photos. To start, FX1 uses a chrome moly steel internal structure, with a beautifully-shaped carbon fiber exterior, and riveted aluminum wings and tail. No doubt, Alfredo's latest is a dramatic update from the one of two decades back. Today, as then, the main engine choice is the Rotax 912 ULS carbureted engine but InnovAviation will soon begin offering the Rotax 912iS Sport fuel injected version.
When in USA and How Much?While our video (below) is already up around 15,000 views in just five days after it was posted, I've also heard plenty of chatter on social media about FX1. Although lots of pilots love the look, several have said, "Well, it'll never be available here" (I don't know why they think that) or "I never see the price." We've got the answers and more. FX1 will make its first showing at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018 and even its designer, Alfredo will be present. It is being imported by Deon Lombard of AeroPilot USA, the same man who brings in the L600 that we've reported here. An 80% scale version of Cessna's 182 — at a most agreeable price — L600 a beautiful flyer (watch our Video Pilot Report here). FX1 will make a nice complement to L600. Deon expects to sell the sleek black aircraft for $135,000 and based on what we've seen for L600 it may be quite well equipped for that figure. Look for Deon, Alfredo, FX1, and L600 in the ultralight / light plane area of Oshkosh at the south end of the sprawling airshow grounds (you can take a free tram ride if the hike is too much for you). Meanwhile, enjoy our video interview and look for Videoman Dave and I at Oshkosh (though we'll be a blur as we zoom back and forth making many more of the videos you love. Specifications are shown below the video. EAA AirVenture Oshkosh is only six weeks away. It is followed by the Midwest LSA Expo in early September. https://youtu.be/rQLAICk1g0w
Weight & Dimensions
- Seating: 2
- Cabin width: 49 inches (1.26 meters)
- Wingspan: 27 feet 7 inches (8.454 meters)
- Chord: 4 feet 5 inches (1,345 meters)
- Wing area: 122.7 square feet (11.4 square meters)
- Wing loading: 10.75 pounds per square foot (56 kilograms per square meter)
- Empty weight: 728 pounds (330 kilograms)
- Max takeoff weight: 1,320 pounds (600 kilograms)
- Useful load: 592 pounds (270 kilograms)
- Payload (at full fuel): 406 pounds
- Fuel capacity: 30.9 gallons (117 liters)
- Baggage Allowance: 77 pounds (35 kilograms)
- Powerplant: Rotax ULS producing 100 horsepower (74 kilowatt)
- Propeller: E-prop 3-blade, 67 inch diameter (170 centimeters)
- Max. continuous speed (VH): 136 mph/ 120 knots (220 kilometers per hour)
- Cruise speed (75% power): 124 mph / 108 knots (200 kilometers per hour)
- Stall speed (VS0), flaps down: 40 mph / 35 knots (65 kilometers per hour)
- Never exceed speed: 150 mph / 130 knots (240 kilometers per hour)
- Range (with reserve): 559 statute miles (900 kilometers)
- Endurance (with reserve): @ cruise: 5.5 hours
- Glide ratio: 11:1
- Best glide: 80 mph / 70 knots (130 kilometers per hour)
Years ago, back in the late 1990s, I flew an aircraft called JetFox 97. It resembled the Flightstar of the day and both were modeled on talented European designer Hans Gygax’s designs. Along came Light-Sport Aircraft in 2004; years passed with not much word about the increasingly aged JetFox 97. It’s back and looking handsome, cloaked in a carbon fiber fuselage. Since this is an Italian design, it has the beauty we often associate with products from that country. I am describing Alfredo Di Cesare‘s FX1. You can read this article for more details of the history of this handsome aircraft along with many points of interest about it and some in-flight video. An earlier article provides more background from American John Hunter, a longtime light aircraft enthusiast and expert who assisted Alfredo as he completed the design. FX1 at Aero Friedrichshafen 2018 I had some correspondence with Alfredo but we had not met until this year’s Aero show in the south of Germany.
A Half Century of AchievementJohn's roots in experimental aircraft date to 1968 when he was a young school teacher. After building a highly-modified Midget Mustang he was introduced to another Oshkosh legend, Steve Wittman (after whom the city airport is named). The two pioneers enjoyed a long friendship, which resulted in the development of Sonerai I, a Formula Vee racer that was John's first design. Sonerai launched John into business. A half century later, he has many designs to his credit including several iterations of the Sonerai design, the Monerai sailplane, Moni motorglider, the world-record-holding Monex racer and a complete line of Sonex Aircraft models. Recognizing his work, John was inducted into the EAA Homebuilders Hall of Fame and is a two-time winner of the Dr. August Raspet Memorial Award. He has also received the EAA Freedom of Flight Award, the Society of Experimental Test Pilots Spirit of Flight Award among other distinctive honors. While leaving his present duties, "I am …not forsaking my passion for aviation," explained John. "I will continue to contribute where I can into the future but will be leaving day to day operations in the very capable hands of my staff." For some time — since the tragic loss of John's son Jeremy in 2015 — the company has been managed by longtime employee, Mark Schaible.
Own or Thinking Sonex?What does this leadership change mean for owners of Sonex Aircraft (more than 500 are flying) or those building kits or pilots considering building one of the company's kits? "Current and prospective customers can rest-assured," said Mark, Sonex's General Manager. "Sonex Aircraft is going strong!" Indeed, the Oshkosh enterprise reports being in its most successful period in recent years. "We have a full order book of kits including several new SubSonex Personal Jet quick build kits along with many additional delivery commitments for [other] kits & sub-kits," said Mark. "Many traditional and quick build kits have already delivered so far this year." Readers of this website and affordable light aircraft enthusiasts will be pleased to hear Sonex is doing well. The company's simple kits offer energetic performance and surprisingly modest prices, a goal of the company since its founding. Not only does Sonex offer a variety of one- and two-seat kits but they have their own line of engines under the name AeroVee (video featuring Jeremy Monnett). These kit engines further help lower the costs of building and flying your own airplane.
Sonex active all over light aircraft spaceA leader in the experimental kit aircraft industry Sonex Aircraft provides a series of sport aircraft along with the AeroConversions line of engine products. Aircraft presently offered include Sonex, Waiex, and Onex sport planes, the Xenos sport motorglider, and the SubSonex Personal Jet. "All offer wonderful performance in an easy-to-build, easy-to-fly kit package that can be purchased and completed with full technical support at an unrivaled price," boasts Sonex. For both airframes and engines, Sonex "continues to invest heavily in developing new products. Our team is committed to providing simple, elegant and low-cost solutions for sport flying." Their marketing line: "Best Performance Per Dollar." Complete airframe kits start at less than $24,000. Those interested in learning more about John can read his biography, John Monnett: from Sonerai to Sonex, written by Sonex builder Jim Cunningham and available for purchase from Sonex.
Early in June, John Monnett spoke about stepping down from Sonex Aircraft, the kit manufacturer he founded and has lead for decades. The company clarified, “After almost 50 years of involvement in the kit aircraft industry John has announced his retirement.” A Half Century of Achievement John’s roots in experimental aircraft date to 1968 when he was a young school teacher. After building a highly-modified Midget Mustang he was introduced to another Oshkosh legend, Steve Wittman (after whom the city airport is named). The two pioneers enjoyed a long friendship, which resulted in the development of Sonerai I, a Formula Vee racer that was John’s first design. Sonerai launched John into business. A half century later, he has many designs to his credit including several iterations of the Sonerai design, the Monerai sailplane, Moni motorglider, the world-record-holding Monex racer and a complete line of Sonex Aircraft models. Recognizing his work, John was inducted into the EAA Homebuilders Hall of Fame and is a two-time winner of the Dr.
Tallying Tecnam's SuccessTecnam can claim more than 6,500 aircraft flying worldwide. The majority of this fleet are European-style ultralights and Light-Sport Aircraft. Of this large number of aircraft flying the P92 model counts for close to half the total. While the company has branched out to larger aircraft and specialty aircraft, they continue to develop and build aircraft that recreational pilots enjoy.
Hybrid Tecnam with Rotax and SiemensTecnam is a big buyer of Rotax engines as well as Lycomings but they are exploring hybrid electric propulsion as well and they are doing so in collaboration with some leading brands in the game.
In mid-May 2018, Tecnam announced a program the name of which only an engineer could love: H3PS (an acronym for “High Power High Scalability Aircraft Hybrid Powertrain”). The kick-off meeting took place in Capua (Italy), at Tecnam headquarters because the airframe maker is coordinating the project.R&D departments from Tecnam, Rotax, and Siemens are joining their experience to present an alternative propulsion system that they say "will dramatically reduce environmental impact of today’s General Aviation four seat aircraft."
Dual Approvals Down UnderTecnam announced recently that the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority and the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand validated Tecnam’s four seat P2010 based on the company’s EASA type certificate using the 215 horsepower version of the Lycoming IO-390 engine. Tecnam is one of handful of manufacturers able and capable to produce Type Certified aircraft using both metal and composite components. P2010 employs an all-carbon-fiber fuselage with metal wings and stabilator. To serve down-under customers, Tecnam established a corporate presence in Australia last fall, mimicking the effort made in the company’s Sebring, Florida operation to support U.S. sales and service. Active globally, Tecnam is also pursuing other markets for their Light-Sport Aircraft, or in Canada's description, Advanced Ultralights. Here's our article on the company success with America's northern neighbor. Tecnam models are sold and serviced in more than 65 countries.
Picture PlatformTecnam also recently announced EASA and FAA certification approval for the Leica CityMapper installation on the P2006T SMP. The Leica CityMapper is specifically designed for 3D city modelling and urban mapping. It is the world’s first hybrid airborne sensor combining both oblique and nadir imaging as well as a LiDAR system. Tecnam has a large staff to accomplish these diverse projects while building as many as four aircraft a week. Even with many employees, however, this is a impressive penetration of all aviation's nooks and crannies.
The big Italian company that LSA enthusiasts know very well through models such as P92, Sierra, and P2008 has a large and growing presence in global aviation. Their developments are broad and delve into aviation segments large and small. They are also getting ready to celebrate a benchmark birthday. This year Tecnam Costruzioni Aeronautiche — most pilots simply say “Tecnam” — will celebrate its 70th birthday. Born in 1948, the company has changed names but the Pascale brothers kicked off their flying enterprise with the original Astore in 1948. If you are a Tecnam fan, you probably recognize Astore as one of their newest LSA models. Here’s our video with Tecnam boss Paolo Pascale celebrating what was then their 65th birthday, which they honored by releasing their most luxurious LSA so far …naming it after the brothers’ first airplane. Paolo is the current director of Tecnam but he follows in the shoes of one of the founding brothers, “Uncle Luigi” (Professor Luigi “Gino” Pascale).
Big Beautiful Bristell in the BushBristell in all models features a handsome interior that is one of the widest among LSA. The model boasts a 50-inch (128 cm) wide cabin that should accommodate even large occupants without pressing them up against their cockpit companion. All that space might be useful for another kind of enjoyment: bush flying, landing on river beds, camping …that sort of adventure. For the new "bush" version of TDO, BRM again did a great job of finishing the interior, both in creature comforts (as seen in the nearby photo) or equipment. To mount big Alaska tundra tires on their TDO, BRM teamed up with Beringer wheels and brakes — and shock absorber systems, and taildragger innovation, and more. Milan's son Martin flew the big-boy-tire model from their home base in the south of Czech Republic to Friedrichshafen German in about four hours, averaging about 95 knots. This is certainly not as speedy as the more streamlined, wheel-pant-equipped versions but that's not a bad cruise. What's great about the Beringer/Alaska adaptation is that it follows Milan's mantra to keep as many new innovations as possible retrofittable to older models. That works here, too, but owners get a bonus. Through the design of this Bush TDO model, Milan made sure a mechanically-savvy owner can switch back and forth. Use your fiberglass gear and wheel pants to go fast for travel but swap to bush mode when you want to fly for fun on the weekend, maybe at your cottage. Cool, huh? What wonderful versatility.
Bristell Never Slows DownBRM celebrated reaching 300 aircraft barely a year ago, and Milan said they are already at serial number 365 by mid-April 2018. This company is obviously doing very well and their continued inventiveness paired with good looks and high quality is clearly drawing new customers at a steady pace. U.S. representation is very strong with Bristell USA run by industry veteran — and inventor of the famous "Landing Doctor" technique for always making good touchdowns — Lou Mancuso. He has assembled a qualified team to work with him including John Rathmell and John Calla. With such a speedy aircraft, some buyers have asked about flying with reference to instrument. Lots of LSA sellers shy away from such sales (and if they do, that's probably appropriate for them). However, Bristell USA has researched this and is willing to offer a suitably and properly equipped aircraft. Learn more from a flight I took with Bristell USA team member, John Rathmell or, if you prefer, hear it on video. Despite being one of the newer companies in Light-Sport Aircraft (formed in 2009), BRM and its Bristell appear on course to remain a major contributor to this newest sector of aviation. Now, get the words directly from the boss, Milan Bristela at Aero Friedrichshafen 2018… https://youtu.be/R4wg_8jEvRc
BRM Aero boss and chief design, Milan Bristela, has convincingly proven his visionary credentials. Here’s an article about his company expansion over the last few years. BRM has several models of their Bristell Light-Sport Aircraft. Most models are tricycle gear as that is how most pilot are trained these days. However, for those who love “standard” gear, that is, taildraggers, BRM Aero offers a choice that remains as sleek and beautiful as all their models. The Taildragger option — or TDO, as BRM Aero named it — was introduced in 2013 and a year or so later it made its way to the USA thanks to the involvement of then-new distributor, Bristell Aircraft USA. While tricycle gear models still outsell TDO, it addresses a sweet spot for many pilots. Milan has also built a retractable version (of the tricycle gear model) for those flying in countries where such configurations are permitted and where higher allowed speeds make adding the complexity and cost of retractable gear worthwhile.
Imagine this…What if you had guests over for the holiday and one arrives in the bright blue machine pictured nearby. Would you go look at it? More importantly, what if the owner said, "Let's go for a short flight; you can see your home and neighborhood from above and it will only take a few minutes." Indeed, what if he threw you the keys and said, "You can go by yourself if you like." "But I don't know how to fly a helicopter," you plead, knowing the machine in your driveway is not a helicopter. "Oh, don't worry," your friend replies. "Just move the joystick as you'd expect. If anything goes wrong, just hit the big red button and it will safely return you to precisely where you took off." "But what about the batteries …what I run low on juice?" "Ah, don't sweat that either. The machine knows and it will land you safely before you run out of power." Would you, the expert fixed wing pilot, take the offer? Would someone else who always wanted to fly, but who was put off by the challenges of learning to fly conventional aircraft, want to take the offer?
Dare to Whisper?A French company called Electric Aircraft Concept is developing Whisper, an 8-motor, 8-rotor, 2-seater. I examined and sat in the electric rotorcraft displayed at Aero Friedrichshafen 2018. Not autonomous, this one is clearly made to be flown, as you might correctly infer from its joystick. Safety, low noise, performance, ease of control, and maintenance cost reduction are the selling points of Whisper, company officials said. They plan to move towards manufacture and marketing by 2020, hoping to sell ten machines in 2020, twenty in 2021, and forty in 2022. Those targets sound refreshingly sane to me, as opposed to other builders boasting huge volumes just over the horizon. Current flight time is up to thirty minutes, they said, but representatives — like pretty much everybody else in the electric airplane development game — expect battery life to be increased with future technology. An emergency parachute is part of the concept, however, it will also be possible to land in the case of a single rotor failure. It's actually quite believable that with eight motors/rotors, the loss of one could be fairly easily remedied with the others. It's just software …although that unveils the vulnerability in the near-future forecasts by some media.
Ready "Soon?"Others are skeptical over positive development in battery technology. Does an alternative exist? Yes, of course. I reported here on a fuel cell trike being built by Gerard Thevenot, another Frenchman who once ran one of the largest hang glider manufacturing companies called La Mouette. Developer Miles Garnett, President & CEO of Gestalt Aeronauticals, said the answer is fuel cells using hydrogen as the fuel. Indeed, this is the most plentiful stuff in the universe and it's been working fine to power the Sun for the last few billion years. The trouble is storing the hydrogen. You can use tanks with gas or liquified hydrogen but both present huge challenges. Miles and others refer to hydrogen storage using incombustible polymer. "Incombustible" sounds good, better than those persistent reports of eVehicles catching fire …perhaps not often but with real problems when a fire does start. Instead of tanks with liquid or gas, Miles and others talk about hydrogen stored "in materials," that is by binding the hydrogen to a solid. The science on this appears well developed. Miles makes his point about the advisability of fuel cell engines employing hydrogen in a material form. It potentially offers far longer flight endurance in flight and won't catch fire the same way densely-packed lithium batteries can, he wrote. Multiple sources reference the bursting-into-flames problem but perhaps chief among them in regards to battery-electric aircraft is FAA, which appears to have significant fear of lithium batteries on board aircraft. Are Miles and his hydrogen fuel cell developers the only ones singing the praises of this technology? Nope. He reported that Mazda will release their RX9 in 2019. This updated model produces 400 horsepower using a rotary engine that he said "has solved all the problems of the previous models." But here's the kicker. The new rotary engine can work with either gasoline or hydrogen. Adapting their technology should allow for a VTOL personal plane.
Future of Flight?Whatever the eventual solution, it has become more and more clear to me that multiple-rotor aircraft — some with wings that pivot to transition from vertical liftoff to speedier in-flight cruising — remain clearly in the future of flight. I admit I am slowly being swayed from my love of conventional winged aircraft that I know so well to something with spinney or flippy propulsion. Oh, I don't see anything to replace the efficiency of fixed wings, for example, in the case of a gliding/soaring aircraft (think: sailplane or hang glider) but for many kinds of powered aircraft …well, the times, they may be a-changing. I'll try not to overdo this reporting and for the next decade or so, developments will keep octocopters and such in the aerial lab, so to say. Meanwhile, the great news is that we have an embarrassment of riches with many choices of ultralights, light kit aircraft, and Light-Sport Aircraft. I hope you can enjoy one on this holiday! And now… here is our video interview: https://youtu.be/5kpsjjlR35k
UPDATE (5/28/18): Since this article was published, we’ve added our video interview from Aero 2018. For your holiday reading about flying machines, I want to veer off into the weeds for one article. Don’t worry; lots more conventional reporting will follow. After the Uber Elevate conference, mainstream media was all over eVTOLs like bees on flowers in spring. Breathless stories abound regarding how we will soon all take autonomously-flown taxis around our big cities, saving time and restoring the planet’s environmental health. Yeah, maybe… we’ll see about all that. Imagine this… What if you had guests over for the holiday and one arrives in the bright blue machine pictured nearby. Would you go look at it? More importantly, what if the owner said, “Let’s go for a short flight; you can see your home and neighborhood from above and it will only take a few minutes.” Indeed, what if he threw you the keys and said, “You can go by yourself if you like.” “But I don’t know how to fly a helicopter,” you plead, knowing the machine in your driveway is not a helicopter.
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. https://youtu.be/RKZSSdoM91U
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).
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… https://youtu.be/pYp0bXHfow8
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.
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. Why? 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.
Droolworthy CollectionNot 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.
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.
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. https://youtu.be/jPdP8Fw-vRs
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.
Corsair SpecificationsFollowing 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
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.
First Impressions of 915iSI 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. Michael is the key man behind the Aerotech/Rotax/Searey/MT Prop project to develop and refine a single lever control for light aircraft (see our video explaining this, or read our article). 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 912iSRotax 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 MarketMarc 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.
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.