As readers of ByDanJohnson.com know, we enjoy keeping a tight (though not exclusive) focus on the aircraft we love to fly. That approach is not changing but I discovered two products at DeLand Showcase 2019 that can make airplanes safer, perhaps much safer. As the show concludes tomorrow, I will resume focus on aircraft with more news and fresh video. For now, please consider these two products. Teknofibra’s Miraculous Cloth I recorded video with developer and company founder Alessandro Molteni watching as his U.S. representative Mark Harper did a demonstration like you see in the nearby photos. It looked for all the world like a visual trick — the way a magician or sleight-of-hand artist might fool you. Yet I stood right nearby watching a live person hold a blue-flame torch up to the palm of his hand, protected only by a soft cloth of 4 millimeters (about 1/6th of an inch or about a stack of 3 dime coins).
Distar's SunDancer MotorgliderMichael Tomazin flew from California with Distar Production manager Elias Khelil to attend DeLand Showcase 2019. They flew 3,000 miles to do so as they wandered around to fly over spectacles such as the Rocky Mountains, Monument Valley, and Grand Canyon. How's that for a view of America? Elias was thrilled with the experience to span this vast country, several times his home land of the Czech Republic. SunDancer may be consider two airplanes in one, partly as it can be either a very efficient and surprising speedy cruiser or a motorglider capable of genuine soaring flight, but also because it comes with two wing extensions. SunDancer motorglider can exchange removable wing extensions boosting wingspan from 42 feet 8 inches (13 meters) to 49 feet 2 inches (15 meters). Glide goes from a respectable 26:1 to 30:1. If you've never thought about what that kind of reach means, try drawing a 30:1 line on a computer or graph paper (for reference, 1:1 is a 45° slope). If you're precise what you'll see looks essentially like a horizontal line. From 6,000 feet you can glide to almost any point you can see, presuming no wind resistance. Of course, this is also the reason why speed brakes are valuable; you'd be hard pressed to land on a long runway because SunDancer might keep gliding right past the end. Clearly, cruising from the West Coast to East Coast shows SunDancer to be a serious travel machine for two occupants. Tomazin said you can range 800 miles and carry 100 pounds of baggage. SunDancer grosses at 1,320 pounds like most LSA but has a fairly light empty weight of 639 pounds. It is powered by either the 80- or 100-horsepower Rotax 912.
Special Motorglider BenefitBecause Sun Dancer can be registered as a motor glider, it benefits from a special exception from FAA. No medical is needed but even better if a pilot has been denied a medical, you can still fly a motorglider. That's not true for a Light-Sport Aircraft. According to FAA Part 61.23, "A person is not required to hold a medical certificate … when exercising the privileges of a Sport Pilot certificate with privileges in a glider or balloon," with the definition of a glider being "…a heavier-than-air aircraft, that is supported in flight by the dynamic reaction of the air against its lifting surfaces and whose free flight does not depend principally on an engine." SunDancer easily qualifies. Here's further motorglider advice compliments of Jim Hanson writing for our friends at Midwest Flyer (see his whole article here but note most motorgliders he discusses are not LSA types): "Unlike LSA aircraft, they are not restricted to altitudes of 10,000 feet." That's good since a soaring machine limited to 10,000 feet would be unnecessarily restricted. Note the photos the oxygen bottle aft of the seats. "With their large wing area, [motorgliders] offer low stall speeds, fast climb, and near-STOL capabilities. They usually employ glider-like spoilers or airbrakes for direct lift control and steep descents." Speed brakes offer both dramatic and precise lift control despite their relatively small size; one secret is the exact placement on the wing's chord. Their power and usefulness prompted Hanson to add, "Once you fly an aircraft with spoilers, you’ll wonder why every airplane doesn’t have them." No question, motor gliders have their intriguing qualities and might deserve serious attention. Priced quite reasonably (definitely so compared to motor gliders like a Stemme S-12), SunDancer is a good value at around $135,000. Here's a short video recorded at DeLand Showcase 2019. A more detailed video will follow later.
Opening day at DeLand Showcase 2019 got off to a solid start. Most of the sold-out exhibit spaces were populated with aircraft despite the rush of colder, turbulent air from the north on Wednesday. While it was not the blue sky day that often visits Florida this time of year, winds died down nicely and a decent crowd of interested pilots were on-site though not all displays attracted as many visitors. Flying activity was generous including a midday favorite from Sebring and Sun ‘n Fun: Manufacturer’s Showcase, which refers to a period of flying activity not the event. Aircraft representatives put their airplane through aerial paces one at a time, allowing more impressive demonstrations of their aircraft. All the action is close enough that attendees can see them well. This is similar to the flying on the grass strips of Paradise City or the Fun Fly Zone at Lakeland or Oshkosh.
IT’S ON! — November 14-15-16, 2019, the DeLand Showcase 2019 takes focus as the season finale for airshows. Join us as we search for the very latest news to present here and in short videos on the ByDanJohnson YouTube channel. You can find a huge, ever-growing library of LSA and Sport Pilot kit videos featuring Dan on Videoman Dave’s popular YouTube channel + view hundreds of our best videos archived here in a searchable format. Thanks for your visit. We genuinely appreciate those of you who have become members!
Seaplanes Are Costly …Or Are They?Aero Adventure's Aventura arrived on the scene in the 1990s. Around 300 are flying, so the model has lots of history. Prices depend on so many variables that it is foolish to quote exact numbers here. Please check with the company for the most recent information. However, I have inquired on several occasions to learn an Aventura kit can get airborne for just over $50,000. The base airframe kit is less than $40,000 and you have several engine options including Rotax or AeroMomentum's highly-refined Suzuki engine conversion. This is the powerplant for the company's impressive S-17 model (with 117 horsepower, the source of the model designation). The current team has been lead by Alex Rolinski for the last several years. He is closely assisted by Alex Gutierrez who runs the daily operation while the other Alex devises strategy and pursues new directions (for example, a related company's product, the fascinating WingBug). A few years ago, the company embarked on a major redesign of the manuals. As every other kit aircraft builder in the world knows very well, designing and building a kit may be easier than creating a quality manual to help builders assemble their new airplane. Alex and Alex, with help from others, report going over the entire design thoroughly and today builders credit the job. However, if you don't feel up to the task — it will take the average builder around 250-300 hours — Alex Gutierrez and crew can help you get underway or can help supervise the entire effort. As part of their expanding operation, Aero Adventure promotes another business for those ordering a kit. In the video below, you can hear Alex and Alex describe some of the kit and talk about how they can help you. Meanwhile, let me introduce you to Walstrom Aviation. As Aero Adventure focuses on new projects (more on that later but I will hint that fully-built Aventuras may become available), this Florida enterprise stepped up to assist.
Making a Splash"The kit is available as a full kit or sub assemblies to meet your time, space and budget requirements," said Walstrom. "Our customers are reporting completion rates of between 250-300 hours." They say you can complete the kit in a few months of part-time effort. Certainly any kit taking only 300 hours is a modest investment of your time and energy but especially for a seaplane — they add some complexity due to retractable gear — this time investment seems very reasonable. "Only basic shop tools are required and an assembly manual is provided with clear crisp details of each assembly," added Walstrom. "The airframe is aluminum (the structural part of the aircraft) and the hull is made from fiberglass (which simply provides flotation). All hardware and everything required to assemble the kit is included. All of the aluminum is anodized (inside and out) to maximize corrosion protection from the elements."
Walstrom is located in north of the state, not too far from Tallahassee or Panama City, in Alford, Florida. Contact them by phone at 850-630-1286 (or see link above).Once you're done, go fly from land or water. For those of you presently shivering in the northern climates, Aventura has a door option and, in a moment of need, that hull can even put down in snow. Walstrom further glowed, "These aircraft are capable of taking off and landing in less than 250 feet!" In Florida or other suitable climates, Aventura's open-sided cockpit lets the wind whistle through your hair while you rest your arm on the window sill. Retractable landing gear is standard; it’s mechanically actuated or an electric linear actuator is available as an option. Learn more by attending DeLand Showcase 2019 or by visiting Areo Adventure at the DeLand airport. Get more info in the video below.
As snow swirls in the air and piles up on the ground in the northern latitudes, perhaps it’s a good time to think of Florida… specifically, DeLand, Florida. Admittedly, the weather in the southern state is presently experiencing a chill as cold air rushes down from the north. It may not even hit 70° today! You can relax, though. It should warm up to more respectable temperatures as the show starts and continues. So this seems like a great time to attend the DeLand Showcase 2019 that starts tomorrow (November 14th). With Florida in mind, let’s talk seaplanes. To put a finer point on it, let’s talk highly affordable seaplanes from a company based right at DeLand. You might have guessed I’m talking about Aero Adventure. Along with Aerolight 103 producer, U-Fly-It, Aero Adventure is one of the light aircraft manufacturers based at the home of the DeLand Showcase.
Come to DeLandI hope many of you who frequent this website will be heading to DeLand for the event starting next Thursday. Give a wave if you do! I'll be racing around collecting more material for this website and interviewing aircraft reps on video. In the previous runnings of the DeLand Showcase, weather has been not just good but spectacularly good. One late afternoon last year experienced rain and some wind — after a full day of decent weather. However, every other day of DeLand has enjoyed temperatures in the low 80s (close to 30° for you Centigrade users) under sunny skies and with plenty of vendors to keep you looking (list below). Show Director Jana Filip, her husband Gary, airport manager John Eiff, and a significant army of volunteers do a marvelous job making sure things are set up right and run well during the event. Doing the bulk of the planning, Jana and Gary reveal years of experience, building in short order a new event that seems like it has ample experience. This is no big surprise as Jana was in charge of the Sebring Sport Aviation Expo for several years before being lured away by the City of DeLand to start up and run their new event. In addition to the Showcase event, DeLand is creating a Sport Aviation Village where businesses can not only find a suitable hangar but can benefit from an "incubator" project where, for example, airplane builders could share a paint booth or costly CNC machinery. Possibilities abound and DeLand is leaping into the space with a focus on light aviation. In addition to a sky diving industry employing some 600 workers, DeLand is home to two busy light aircraft builders: U-Fly-It and their very popular Aerolite 103, plus Aero Adventure and their best-price-of-all-seaplanes Aventura line. Both enterprises are thriving at an airport and in a community that welcomed them. I could wish this was true everywhere. Like the Copperstate/Buckeye show in Arizona, DeLand Showcase has strong support from the city that also runs the airport. Top officials from the city come out to the show and are clearly interested. Such municipal backing is key to having a long-running and well-supported show. Vendors, Forums, special speakers, cool aircraft gear, and plenty of flying. C'mon on down!
What You Can Fly at DeLandFollow this link to see all exhibitors signed up for DeLand Showcase 2019. As this website keeps a focus on aircraft you love, here's that list at present. Normally, more will show at the last minute.
- Aero Adventure — Aventura, S-17
- Aeropilot USA — L600
- Aerotrek — A220, A240
- Aviat Aircraft — Husky
- Blades Over Me — Skyblazer 1 Gyroplane, AG915
- Bristell Aircraft — Bristell, TDO (taildragger), RG
- Cruiser Aircraft — SportCruiser
- CubCrafters — CarbonCub
- Distar — SunDancer, Samba
- Evektor / Dreams Come True — Harmony
- Evolution Trikes — Revo, Rev, Revolt, RevX
- Flying Legend — Tucano
- Icon Aircraft — A5
- ICP Aircraft — Savannah, Ventura
- Infinity Powered Parachutes — Commander 912/582, Challenger 503
- InnovAviation — FX1
- Jabiru / US Sportplanes — Jabiru J230D, J170D
- Just Aircraft — SuperSTOL, Highlander
- Lockwood Aircraft — AirCam
- M-Squared — Breeze II, Breeze, CH-750
- MagniFlight — Magni gyroplane line
- Pipistrel USA — Sinus, Virus, Alpha
- Planet PPG — Powered Paraglider line (wheeled or foot)
- Seamax Aircraft — Seamax
- SilverLight Aviation — American Ranger AR1 (open or enclosed)
- Sky Reach / Sport Aircraft Canada — BushCat
- Sport Performance Aviation (SPA) — Panther, Cougar
- Stemme USA — S12 motorglider
- Super Petrel USA — Super Petrel LS
- Tecnam USA — P2008, P92, Astore, Sierra Mk 2, Twin, more
- The Airplane Factory — Sling LSA, Sling 4, Sling TSi
- Titan Aircraft — T51 Mustang replica, Tornado
- U-Fly-It — Aerolite 103
- Velocity Aircraft — TXL, XL-5, V-Twin, SE
- Zenith Aircraft — CH-750, Cruzer, CH-650, CH-701
In about one week, it all ends. Before then, DeLand Showcase 2019 is set to begin! As this is the last airshow of the year, it’s also fair to say the season ends when DeLand show concludes. This year is the fourth annual event. Since the Sebring show bid a final farewell last spring, DeLand will be the last light aircraft show until Arizona’s Copperstate/Buckeye Air Fair in February, followed two months later by Sun ‘n Fun. If you live in the eastern half of the USA, DeLand and Sun ‘n Fun are separated by five months. Yikes! You can learn more about Copperstate/Buckeye in this video with the Vice Mayor. Next week on November 14-15-16, welcome to sunny, warm Florida. Come to DeLand I hope many of you who frequent this website will be heading to DeLand for the event starting next Thursday.
Spruce …and So Much MoreWell, supplying wood to build airplanes is ancient history now, you might say. If you said this, you would not be alone but you'd be absolutely wrong. On a recent tour of the bustling enterprise headquarters in Corona, California, the first thing Bryan Toepfer showed us was the lumber shop. Even today, that shop was large and active with a longtime employee slicing lumber to order. "It's still a major part of the business," said Bryan, himself expressing some amazement at this fact. Bryan is known to many LSA owners and lots of Sport Pilot kit builders as he runs a related (but separate) business called California Power Systems. They have a busy operation representing Rotax Aircraft Engines and more. Yes, wood remains an important part of the business even though the 62,000 square foot facility was chock full of all manner of goods and gear that pilots and aircraft builders want to buy. Customers range from you and me to numerous airframe builders. Many of them buy essential materials from Spruce. The company also has a metal shop and a recently upgraded avionics shop where they can provide full wiring harnesses for nearly every kit aircraft in imagination. Of course, they have row after row of long isles with tall shelving units bursting with items all neatly organized by type and bar-coded for fast delivery. Get an order into Spruce before 4 PM and it will ship that same day. Heck, even gigantic Amazon can't do better than that.
Spruce Pops Up Everywhere (and not just their thick catalogs)Now you know why I refer to this company the "Amazon of Aviation." Also like that other mail-order outfit, Spruce has multiple locations to hasten deliveries so those builder projects are not interrupted. ("Hell hath no fury like a aircraft kit builder delayed.") Today, Spruce has operations in California, Georgia, Illinois, Alaska, and Canada. Plus, as airshow attendees know, you can find a substantial number of the most popular items at almost any event you attend. Among aviation brands, Aircraft Spruce is everywhere. More than 300 employees in those five locations provide more pilot gear than any other outfit in personal aviation. Even after decades of development and innovative operations plus acquisitions of several other enterprises, amazingly, the single product Mom Flo first offered still makes up a noteworthy share of the enterprise. "Aircraft Spruce & Specialty Company strives to carry everything a pilot could need, including pilot supplies and aircraft parts, always at the lowest prices," said company spokesmen we met on our tour. Spruce supplies components for a wide variety of homebuilt aircraft including the Lancair, Vans Aircraft, Cozy, Starduster and Europa, as well as factory built parts for Cessna, Piper, Beech, and Mooney. Yet it isn't all nuts and bolts (and wood). Indeed, products include Garmin avionics, tools, charts, propellers, software, instruments, aircraft engines and parts, aviation headsets, landing gear components, and aircraft batteries. "We carry a full line of aviation grade hardware, covering supplies, composite materials, airframe parts, electrical components, and steel and aluminum," said Spruce managers. Bob and Flo's oldest son Jim Irwin grew up in the business, working in jobs such as cutting metal and spruce, pulling and shipping orders, and managing kit programs such as the Vari-Eze back in 1975 while still in college. In 1978, Jim acquired the company and became president in 1980 joined by his wife Nanci. Today, it's a full family affair with three of Jim and Nanci's sons — Mike, Jeff and Rob — filling management positions with the company. The Irwin family remains based in Southern California but in 2004, Aircraft Spruce East moved into a new 52,000 square foot facility in Peachtree City, Georgia. As we toured the California operation, Bryan explained that the Georgia operation is identically-laid-out to the Corona warehouse and it does approximately the same amount of business. Aircraft Spruce Canada was opened in Toronto in December 2006 and now operates from a 20,000 square foot distribution center at the Brantford, Ontario Airport. In 2019, Aircraft Spruce opened two new facilities to better serve the Midwest and Alaska markets. Aircraft Spruce Midwest operates in a 50,000 square foot facility in the west suburbs of Chicago and Aircraft Spruce Alaska occupies a a 15,000 square foot building in Wasilla, Alaska. Add it up and you find a 54 year-old enterprise with a total of 400,000 square feet in five facilities. Does my Amazon comparison sound about right?
Images for this post came from a 2015 video titled, "EAA Chapter Videos—Inside Aircraft Spruce," where you can learn more about this dynamic company. https://youtu.be/FBJeL_zHm7c
You know Aircraft Spruce. So do all your flying buddies. Cutting to the chase, if you are involved in airplanes other than airlines and military, you not only know Aircraft Spruce, you’ve probably bought from them. Raise your hand if you never ordered from “Spruce,” as many abbreviate it. OK, no hands. I thought so. It wasn’t always so. When current president Jim Irwin was a lad, his mother Flo and father Bob ran Fullerton Air Parts. After a decade mom Flo Irwin started another business at home, featuring a single product: aircraft-grade lumber …hence “Aircraft Spruce.” Spruce …and So Much More Well, supplying wood to build airplanes is ancient history now, you might say. If you said this, you would not be alone but you’d be absolutely wrong. On a recent tour of the bustling enterprise headquarters in Corona, California, the first thing Bryan Toepfer showed us was the lumber shop.
SilverLight RisingAbid Farooqui's SilverLight Aviation is an emerging force in gyroplanes, adding to a growing list of American producers that got back into the game after the Europeans put their mark on these spinning-wing aircraft. SilverLight is based alongside the Zephyr Hills, Florida airport affectionately known to its many sport aircraft users as "Z-Hills." In earlier times, Bensen Gryocopter led development of these aircraft, although other developers were also active. A well-known gyro pilot name Ken Brock did impressive and convincing airshow routines that showcased the capability of these small flying machines. Interest began to bubble but so did some problems. In those days, the tailplane of gyros of the day was small and, in less experienced hands, some accidents and losses of life occurred. Aviation media may have exaggerated the danger but the damage was done and gyros retreated from visibility, even as a small cadre of enthusiasts kept the segment alive. Along came European developers like Italy's Magni Gyro and Germany's AutoGyro, followed by several others. They made numerous improvements but among them was the now-standard tailplane located further aft and with more vertical area. That and better pilot preparation resulted in a much better safety record and European pilots began to embrace these aircraft. Sales took off, so much so that leading engine producer Rotax reported more 9-series engines were being sold to gyroplane builders than any other aircraft subgroup. American entrepreneurs took note, Abid Farooqui's SilverLight among them.
Flies Like a Fixed Wing… AlmostThe video below conveys more information I learned in a training session with Greg in the fully enclosed AR-1 Ranger from SilverLight. The short answer is that fixed wing pilots will find more similarities than differences when they sample a gyroplane following years of flying conventional aircraft. Certainly, pilots with no rotary experience need transition training. A few critical differences — such as making an abrupt taxi turn while the rotor still has a lot of spin and the use of power or pitch while aloft — clarify that these aircraft are not fixed wing machines. Nonetheless, you largely fly a gyroplane much like a fixed wing. Gyros are quite distinct from helicopters. That said, FAA is to be commended for finally including fully built Special LSA gyroplanes in their proposed new regulation. Given their general ease of operation, excellent performance in winds too strong for some light aircraft, compact storage in a hangar or trailer, and the relatively modest cost of acquiring a gyroplane, it seems likely we will see more of these aircraft in the years ahead. Here's our Video Pilot Report flying the SilverLight AR-1 Ranger with full enclosure: https://youtu.be/qIJPGX0G1Tc
For years, more than a decade, the U.S. gyroplane producer community tried to persuade FAA to allow fully built Special Light-Sport Aircraft gyroplanes into the USA. “No dice,” said FAA! With perspective, it turned out only a small group was opposed but so strong was their hand at the time that FAA leadership could not break the logjam. Now, that appears to be solved. I write “appears” as we won’t know for certain until FAA releases their NPRM on the program widely known as MOSAIC. Best guess, this won’t come for at least a couple more years but the plans inside FAA are maintaining support at the highest levels of the agency and that gyroplane logjam definitely appears to be loosening. Amen! That was a long time coming. Maybe you don’t care. Maybe you aren’t interested in rotor-winged aircraft. I didn’t think I was either until I flew a few of these and most recently got some worthy instruction from Greg Spicola, who does gyro flight instruction and transition training for SilverLight.
Single Lever Control In-Flight Adjustable PropThis phrase, Single Lever Control, communicates two things: (1) that the system on the airplane seen in the video adjusts the prop to optimal pitch for the phase of flight, and (2) that the system does so based on the pilot's movement of the throttle combined with its own information about parameters of the aircraft at that time. In short, call it an "auto prop." The idea of an "auto prop" (my term) is that when you are taking off, the propeller should pitch for climb. Once aloft at altitude and when the pilot has retarded the throttle but the aircraft knows its height, the prop should automatically go to cruise pitch. Importantly to FAA and its desire for "safe, simple, easy to fly" LSA, the pilot workload is minimal. Move the throttle where you want and the airplane knows how to pitch the prop. While others will also enter this development field, RS Aerotech is the pioneer and has been accumulating test results for several years. However, Cirrus has used a SLC system for many years. A subtle difference is that Cirrus still requires a lever for mixture where a Rotax iS-series engine handles that function for the pilot… a true Single Lever Control setup. Those interested in more technical details and plans than presented in this brief post can review RS Aerotech's slide presentation (most devices should show this easily; if not use the company link above and click or tap on the "Downloads" tab).
Safety ArgumentWhen LAMA personnel went to Washington DC to advocate on behalf of pilots and producers in the light aircraft sector, we knew the argument could not be that we wanted an in-flight adjustable prop to go faster. The truth is that many LSA can already hit the speed limit enforced by the current regulation. "It's not about speed; it's about being able to safely get in or out of a shorter field yet still cruise at whatever speed the airframe was designed to reach," we told FAA. A personal experience departing the Sun 'n Fun Paradise City airstrip brought home the safety point. The 1,400-foot grass strip should be more than adequate for a LSA but the particular model (Glasair's now discontinued Merlin LSA) had been fitted with a cruise prop for the long flight from Washington State to Florida. Since this was a typically heavy prototype, this left the design with insufficient thrust on a shorter turf runway. To their credit, the FAA executives hearing the argument rather quickly agreed; after all, single lever control does not increase pilot workload therefore maintaining the "safe, simple, easy to fly" baseline.
- Single lever control of engine power and thrust; 100% fail-safe behavior through mechanical limitations
- Real time adjustment of engine and propeller parameters:
- Maximum thrust during take-off and climb and
- Maximum efficiency and endurance during cruise flight
- Up to 30% more thrust compared to fixed-pitch propeller
- Fuel savings in cruise flight (environmentally friendly, spend even more time in the air!)
- Improved situational awareness through his Power Margin Indicator instrument
- Simple installation, seamless integration into the Rotax 912iS engine system
In mid-October, FAA provided another update to the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association. It speaks to bigger — and faster — flying machines ahead for Light-Sport Aircraft. Let’s look at one aspect of the regulation-in-progress. First, a caveat: While FAA is communicating some of the ideas they are planning for LSA this is an effort of rule writing likely to see more changes. What LAMA reports to its members and what we provide here is not certain …although it remains well supported at the top of FAA. Even higher in the federal hierarchy, the Department of Transportation recently gave a go-ahead to continue their work. Not all currently planned ideas may survive either the internal debate nor the public comment period. Single Lever Control In-Flight Adjustable Prop This phrase, Single Lever Control, communicates two things: (1) that the system on the airplane seen in the video adjusts the prop to optimal pitch for the phase of flight, and (2) that the system does so based on the pilot’s movement of the throttle combined with its own information about parameters of the aircraft at that time.
2019 Is a Good Year (so far)We're only three quarters through the year but extrapolating from the first three quarters and assuming a steady pace (which is not a guarantee, of course), we see that all of 2019 should result in 724 new aircraft registrations in the light aircraft sector defined (by us) as Light-Sport Aircraft and Sport Pilot kit-built aircraft. This is up more than 10% over 2018, which was up over 2017. The industry is having a good year and more pilots are flying these aircraft. One caveat in this positive result is that the fourth quarter of the year is typically slower with winter in the north and plenty of non-flying holiday activities drawing interest. Why? We don't claim to have all the answers but regular surveying of exhibitors at airshows revealed that many sellers say, "The market is good. People are buying." Of course, this is anecdotal not scientific but we heard it from enough vendors to believe they're feeling good about their enterprises. Many pilots backed up this finding with their own, personal assessment. If you want to do your own analysis, you certainly can using our completely free-of-charge Tableau Public web page** assembled for us and maintained to perfection by Steve. We vigorously encourage you to look for yourselves. Don't take our word for it. The data comes directly from FAA's aircraft registration database, then expertly massaged by Steve so the rest of us can make sense of it. To this data source, I apply my own decades of experience in the sector to make some observations.
Breaking GoodFirst, let's look at two broad categories: First is a grouping of all Light-Sport Aircraft — both Special (fully built) and Experimental (different from Experimental Amateur Built) — and, secondly, a defined flock of Sport Pilot kit-built aircraft*. This is the first time you've seen this because earlier, we segmented SLSA from ELSA from SP kits. This made it appear kits were growing faster than the LSA groups. In fact, they are nearly matched with kit-built aircraft. Viewing all light aircraft as a group, Steve noted, "The same six brands continue to lead the pack." He refers to the full fleet of light aircraft a Sport Pilot may fly — led by kit-built aircraft producers: Zenair/Zenith, Van's, Rans, Sonex, and Kitfox plus SLSA builder, Icon. Immediately under these six powerhouses of light aviation are five close contenders Searey-maker Progressive Aerodyne, AutoGyro, Just Aircraft, Powrachute, and Magni Gyro. While Progressive Aerodyne does well in both kits and fully built seaplanes and while Powrachute sells both as well, the rest are all kit makers. To look up any producer to learn more, use our Search capability (especially "Advanced Search") or go to our ever-popular SLSA List. Kit aircraft remain strong in the USA. This segment existed for many years before LSA came along although we only count since 2005*, while Light-Sport Aircraft go back no further than 2005. Honestly, one surprise about SP Kits and LSA is how close the two primary groups are.
Diving DeeperSteve made a few other worthwhile observations. Among the increasingly active gyroplane community, "The low-cost Tango is coming on strong. It used to come with a Rotax 582 but their website says it now has a Yamaha FI engine. 4-stroke, 3-cylinder, fuel-injected, 1055cc, 130 horsepower engine." AutoGyro, Magni, and U.S.-based SilverLight lead the among gyroplanes but Tango's appearance suggests the market is open to newcomers, especially when they have good pricing. Using Tableau Public, you can go deep the weeds about any one subgroup by using the blue boxes on the left column to click or unblock lists. The site is amazingly versatile if you spend a bit of time with it. If you own an aircraft included in this analysis, you can absolutely find it; see for yourself. Another newer entry Steve highlighted was the Goat trike. He wrote, "Denny Reed’s [Wild Sky] Goat is a surprise success. He positions it as a super-tough outback machine." Denny is a deeply experienced trike pilot with more than 8,000 hours of instruction given. He finally made his own trike and it is one brute-tough machine. See more in our article and short video. Goat uses wings by North Wing, as do many other trike brands, but the Washington state producer is also having a better year for its SLSA trikes. Evolution Trikes' Revo sales are off a bit but they are highly focused on their fully-built Rev Part 103 trike and their new RevX. The latter is a kit; the former will not show up on FAA's registration database as Part 103 vehicles need not be registered.
Fixed WingersSteve is a trike owner and pilot. I also enjoy these "alternative" LSA (trikes, powered parachutes, and gyroplanes). I have enjoyed flying several models of each of these types and find much to love about them …significantly, they can be less expensive than almost any fixed wing aircraft. Are you unsure about "alternative" aircraft? You know the line: "If you haven't tried it, don't knock it." However, fixed wing continue to be, by far, the biggest group of LSA (partly as very few kit-built aircraft are "alternative" types). Among Special (fully built) LSA, Flight Design continues atop the ranking. They enjoyed a phenomenal start back in 2005-2006 and have never lost their leadership position. American Legend, Czech Sport Aircraft, CubCrafters, Tecnam, and Aerotrek (FAA still uses their Aeropro European brand name) remain very strong players in the top ten. However, some newbies are moving up the rankings. Through their start into serial production was long coming, the slickly-marketed A5 LSA seaplane has moved into the #2 position for 2019 (after Van's, which relies heavily on ELSA). Another up-and-comer is Vashon and their well-priced Ranger. BRM Aero and their Bristell are also making good strides upward. TL Aircraft, rep for the Sting and other TL models, is reviving that much-admired stable of aircraft. Meanwhile, Cessna continues to drop following the company's decision to exit the LSA space and crush all remaining aircraft, engines and all. Remos is another that is fading from its earlier strength.
A Quarter to GoAs we head into the final quarter of 2019 — and the final LSA show of the year, the DeLand Showcase — we will report the full year shortly into January 2020. The good news is that aircraft are selling, pilots are flying more than ever, and safety remains quite good. That's reason for celebration. Blue skies!
* "SP Kits" means Sport Pilot kit-built aircraft. Going deeper, "SP Kits" refer to amateur-built aircraft that can be flown by a pilot possessing a Sport Pilot certificate or exercising the privileges of Sport Pilot (meaning, for one, no aviation medical is required) while holding a Private Pilot certificate or higher. Since Sport Pilot, as a form of pilot license, only arrived in late 2004, we count all applicable kit-built aircraft that can be flown by a Sport Pilot. Although some of the same aircraft existed before January 1, 2005, we omit them as it cannot be said those older aircraft could be flown by someone with a Sport Pilot certificate. This also evenly and fairly compares SP Kits with SLSA and ELSA. ** When using Tableau Public — and please do so! — be advised this may work best on your desktop or laptop. The effort called "responsive" to make pages work on smartphones and tablets does not portray the information as conveniently.
This website seeks to offer a reliable source of market information for Light-Sport Aircraft and Sport Pilot kit aircraft as a service to the light aircraft sector. If you follow light aviation intently as many readers do, knowing what aircraft and subgroups (within LSA and SP kits*) are thriving or stumbling can be of great interest. Thanks to our fantastic “datastician,” Steve Beste, we know more now than we’ve ever known about aviation’s recreational aircraft segment. You simply cannot find this information anywhere else. With Steve’s superb help, following are a few stories within the numbers. If you don’t care about market shares and just want to hear about aircraft, we won’t keep you waiting long. However, for many, these figures are quite valuable and this is the only place you will find them. Let’s dive in… 2019 Is a Good Year (so far) We’re only three quarters through the year but extrapolating from the first three quarters and assuming a steady pace (which is not a guarantee, of course), we see that all of 2019 should result in 724 new aircraft registrations in the light aircraft sector defined (by us) as Light-Sport Aircraft and Sport Pilot kit-built aircraft.
A Savage ResponseSavage is not a term of anger but a reference to a series of models, of which Shock Ultra is the latest derivative. Let's look at this newest entry more closely. Shock Ultra has some features not found on all Zlin's other models, including double slotted Fowler flaps that help lower stall speed to almost absurdly-slow levels (for proof with your own eyes, see our video below). In addition, Shock Ultra has leading edge wing slats though these, like the "Shock options" for the Titan-powered Shock Outback, are optional. The newest variation of this design uses the oversized outboard shock absorbers similar to those first seen on SuperSTOL and then Shock Outback. They are "to tame the landings," said SportairUSA. All these design qualities combine to provide good visibility on approach thanks to a "flattened landing flare." Indeed, this all works, resulting in a "stall speed of 18 mph (solo) and 24 mph (dual)." Note that's miles an hour, not knots (15.6 and 20.8 knots respectively). It felt rather amazing to witness an airspeed indicator bumping down toward zero while we flew near gross weight. Those low speeds are aided by a basic empty weight of 725 pounds. This is more than 100 pounds lighter than some Cub clones from CubCrafters and American Legend. As many experienced light aircraft pilots believe, the lighter the airframe the better it performs and handles and the more payload you can carry onboard. Another proof of Zlin designer Pascale Russo's diligent effort to reduce weight and simplify is that Shock Ultra performs admirably with the Rotax 912 or 914, while the heavier competing models appear to require bigger engines, which add more weight, burn more fuel, and cost more. Shock Ultra is not the lowest-priced model SportairUSA offers, though it is less than the Titan-powered Shock Outback. However, if its final figure — call SportairUSA for an exact quote — is still too high for your budget, don't despair. The Little Rock, Arkansas company offers Savage models that carry much more affordable prices, albeit with less spectacular performance. Cub-like models from Zlin include the very affordable Savage. Some models might be had brand new for less than $70,000 but please check with the company for details as these figures change with currency fluctuations and equipment installed. If that still sounds like too much, SportairUSA is one of those Premium/Concierge resellers of quality used aircraft. As but one example, the company displayed a looks-like-new TL Sting (which they formerly represented as importer) for $65,000. Given the company has thoroughly gone over the aircraft — and knows the model intimately — this represents a wonderful bargain. What boxes does Shock Ultra tick? Here's how SportairUSA describes the bush plane's attributes in brief, bullet-list form:
- Short takeoffs. There’s not much runway where we’re going.
- Quick climbout. To clear surrounding terrain.
- Short landings. The shorter the better.
- Tame landings. Good control with minimal touchdown rebound.
- Safe slow flight. Low stall speed, spin resistance.
- Easy to fly. Responsive controls & ergonomic design.
- Simple, strong construction, repairable in the field.
Sustained interest in Cub-types has long amazed many of us. About the only airplane that routinely seems to inspire even more passion may be the North American P-51 Mustang. Since almost none of us can afford our own WWII fighter, Cub-a-likes may be the leading light aircraft type that pilots hope to own. Indeed, between CubCrafters and American Legend, we have two manufacturers pumping out their version of Piper’s venerable Cub. Nothing wrong with that. Indeed CubCrafters lead the parade with their carbon-accented model (to save weight) powered by the awesome 180-horsepower Titan engine. Along the way, Just Aircraft invented their SuperSTOL, based not on Cub but on their earlier Highlander. It has drawn many admiring glances and sold a number of kits (Just chose not to pursue SLSA approval for this model though their Highlander did qualify). Then we have Rans and their also-popular S-21 Outbound, a evolution of the company’s S-7 Courier and S-20 Raven.
Flying High!“Words cannot describe how it feels to have received the ASTM certification. The entire Texas Aircraft team has worked very long and hard to achieve this single goal,” Texas Aircraft Manufacturing’s co-founder, Matheus Grande said. “Receiving this document is truly a dream come true for everyone on our team. We are so proud and grateful, but the honor and glory of this achievement is to our God.” “After a very successful introduction at Oshkosh AirVenture 2019, we have continued to see increasing interest from prospective buyers as well as flight schools,” Texas Aircraft Manufacturing’s co-founder, Caio Jordão said. “We are extremely thankful that so many people continue to tell us how much they love, not only how the Colt looks, but how well it flies.” “The new-generation Colt delivers on everything that was promised when the LSA category was originally introduced – it’s easy to fly, easy to maintain and priced to make the dream of personal aircraft ownership a reality for a wide variety of pilots,” Grande said. The factory-built Colt Special Light Sport Aircraft (SLSA) is produced by Texas Aircraft at its Hondo, Texas production facility and is delivered to customers ready to fly. Because of its SLSA classification, the Colt can be maintained by either a licensed FAA mechanic or a technician holding a current FAA LSA maintenance rating.
Texas Aircraft Specifications for Colt:
- Engine Type — 100 horsepower Rotax 912 ULS
- Propeller Type — Sterna composite, three-blade
- Maximum Cruise Speed — 119 KIAS
- Cruise Speed at 75% power — 105 knots
- Stall Speed Clean — 44 knots
- Stall Speed Full Flaps — 38 knots
- Takeoff Distance (over 50 foot obstacle) — 1,085 feet
- Landing Distance (over 50 foot obstacle) — 1,044 feet
- Climb Rate (Vy) — 800 feet per minute
- Service Ceiling — 14,500 feet
* All specifications are provided by the factory and are subject to change without notice.We will have a full-length Video Pilot Report on Colt 100 coming in a week or so. Editing is being completed as this is written. Meanwhile, here's a short video to hold you until the longer one is ready.
Welcome to the newest Special Light-Sport Aircraft, the recently unveiled (at Oshkosh 2019) Texas Aircraft Manufacturing Colt 100. The all-metal, high wing, yoke-controlled aircraft enters our popular SLSA List at Number 151, a fitting number just days after the newest aircraft sector celebrated its 15th anniversary. FAA announced the regulation creating LSA in September 2004. The industry has gained approval for an average of 10 new aircraft designs every year for more than 15 years. On September 24th, 2019, the company based in Hondo, Texas received its Special airworthiness certificate from FAA indicating the agency has reviewed the company’s compliance with the full set of ASTM standards. Earlier, Texas Aircraft had a grand reception detailed in this article with video. I toured the company’s aircraft production facilities in Hondo and found them able to match other strong operations I have visited. The company has wisely hired outside talent as needed, for example, to gain their Special airworthiness certificate.
Wave Usability FactorAs Icon moved the price of their deluxe A5 well past the $350,000 mark, the slickly-marketed LSA seaplane made room for a company like Vickers to enter the market. Icon also won a weight increase, to 1,650 pounds, but A5 is presently placarded at 1,510 pounds, 80 pounds over the standard seaplane/float plane gross of 1,430 pounds. In contrast Wave can weigh 420 pounds more. That's a lot of extra margin. "The aviation industry is known for its high barriers to entry," said Paul. "While everyone sees the final product (the aircraft) flying, what they don’t see are the years of work that go into the company structure behind it." Vickers related tasks to meet business regulations plus health and safety requirements, environmental considerations, design, flight and manufacturing criteria as well as aviation authority regulations prior to the first aircraft even operating. "With this in mind, the last 12 months has seen Vickers not only progress the aircraft design but also move into an employment phase to bring in the necessary people to meet all of our regulatory requirements," Paul explained. He said this means a doubling of the Engineering (Design) Team numbers and the employment of a Quality and Systems Manager. Increased staffing levels allowed engineering to move into the stress testing phase of the design program to prove the strength of the design. This phase includes physical coupon testing to demonstrate Vickers can manufacture the parts to the design strengths and to verify our structural analysis. "This phase has to be completed before the flight test aircraft is manufactured to ensure it operates as expected," Paul noted. During this time, finishing touches put into the manuals and processes ensure that Vickers meets all of its regulatory requirements. "We are using technology to do it smarter and quicker," said Paul. "Vickers is creating a paperless work environment from engineering to the manufacturing facility to customer support. Ensuring that all data is generated and stored electronically cuts down on development time and physical storage space while providing improved levels of control of the build of individual parts and aircraft." Vickers notes use of portable electronic devices such as phones and tablets to allow staff to directly monitor the manufacturing equipment such as ovens and freezers. This technology also enables the approval of work and the ordering of parts and materials electronically. "The benefits to the customer are that our team can quickly retrieve this data both onsite and offsite, immediately understanding the configuration of any aircraft we have built" said Paul. "This provides accurate and fast response times to customers anywhere in the world. There will be no more needing to wait until the office opens in the morning." That will be valuable as New Zealand operates on a very different time than, for example, the USA.
Civil Aviation Authorities Cooperating"This period has also seen increased discussions with the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand and FAA," said Paul. "ensuring a common understanding between all three parties of the path to market that the Wave will take. These conversations allow all parties to plan in advance and to remove any surprises that can arise along the way." Vickers was invited to present on the LSA industry at the recent 21st FAA Asia-Pacific Bilateral Partners Conference." What's coming next for Wave? "Our work will be focused on gaining our CAA Manufacturing Certificate," stated Paul. "We will also obtain CAA approval of our flight test program and continue to build the business structure behind the Wave, to ensure we hit the ground running." It's a common turn of phrase — "hit the ground running" — but more likely seaplane pilots will want to see Wave rising up from the water. Wave has been closely followed by a large number of pilots all over the globe. Vickers said first flight was approaching. Wave's price has not been set but Vickers expects to be "competitive." For an advanced LSA seaplane, that may prove compelling. Oh, and it should be a very powerful LSA, too, but that's a story for some time in the future..
It’s big. It’s bold. It’s beautiful. It’s loaded with snazzy custom features. And it’s gonna be powerful. You might think those words don’t apply to many Light-Sport Aircraft. Certainly, “big” is not a word most pilots associate with LSA. A number are actually rather compact, though with standardized rules, aircraft parameters don’t differ as much as some might think. Wave is different …at least in one particular way. The newest LSA seaplane in development in the Southern Hemisphere has something special. What is it? Vickers recently announced winning a weight increase exemption for their deluxe Wave. As other producers wait to read FAA’s coming regulation regarding aircraft size, Wave can begin leveraging their higher gross weight to increase capability and power. Principal Paul Vickers stated, “After many months we can finally announce that Vickers Aircraft has received our FAA weight exemption for the Wave™ LSA. This will allow a MTOW of 1,850 pounds (839 kilograms), so we can incorporate additional safety features that will set the Wave apart and help us achieve our long-term goal of moving aviation forward.” He added, “Some of these safety features include water maneuvering thruster, CrossOver Landing gear, increased horsepower, and the required fuel capacity to ensure the Wave is operated safely and can perform its mission.” Paul continued, “We have designed the Wave for this increased MTOW and have incorporated the required additional structure.” He feels this sets up Wave to smoothly transition into the LSA rule changes that are on the horizon, new definitions that will include adjustments regarding the weight of Light-Sport Aircraft.
Gone Colt Flying!As I usually do, I asked Quirin to treat our flight as if it was you — yes, YOU! — in the cockpit. I told her to demonstrate for me what she would do for any prospective customer. You want to do this; I was fortunate enough to do it for you. The idea is that since you could not go aloft in Colt I wanted to do what you'd have done had you been at Midwest LSA Expo (which I hope you will be next year; it is simply perfect for demonstration flights… the best of any airshow we attend). Through many years of experience, I have learned to start these Video Pilot Reports by asking the factory pilot to show me exactly what they'd show you if you were the one sitting in my seat. Karin did that, so we ran through taxiing, basic takeoff and climb to altitude, followed by maneuvers. We did cruise speed evaluations, slow flight, and stalls. After she showed me what Colt could do, I requested the controls and I performed my usual evaluation starting with some dutch rolls, a non-aerobatic exercise I use to learn the handling characteristics. If I can do reasonably coordinated dutch rolls pretty quickly, as I did in Colt, that tells me this is a well-handling flying machine. Unlike most LSA, Colt uses a yoke rather than conventional or side stick. I'm a joystick lover but I acknowledge most pilots trained in the last few decades may be more comfortable with a yoke. Some prefer it so much they will tell you an airplane is easer to handle with a yoke. I think it's a personal preference but if you prefer a yoke, Texas Aircraft's Colt is one that may please you. Colt is an all-aluminum construction, meaning any repair work needed after a purchase can be done by a great many mechanics anywhere in the world. It is powered by the Rotax 912 ULS carbureted, 100 horsepower engine. Texas Aircraft chose a three-blade Sterna prop. You may not be familiar with this Asian brand but it appears very well made. Dynon provided the avionics and auto pilot. We rotated at 50 knots after a takeoff roll of 400-500 feet, common for many Light-Sport Aircraft. Remember that this is a prototype Colt. The number two model is currently going through the process of gaining Special LSA approval and a third, conforming example is under construction in the company's home base in Hondo, Texas. Prototypes are usually somewhat heavier than final production examples and N105TX was no exception. In standard production models, I would expect takeoff roll to be marginally shorter and the climb to more robust than the 700-800 feet per minute we averaged on a day slightly warmer than standard atmospheric conditions. Colt's aluminum skin — fuselage, wings, tail, and control surfaces — is supported by a welded chromoly steel safety cell. The construction techniques have been proven by designer Caio Jordão's model from a different company called Conquest 180. Jordão's work has resulted in more than 300 planes that have amassed 150,000 flight hours. His son Diego assists him. In final form, Colt will offer cruise at about 110 knots though we saw less at lower altitudes and without final optimization of prop and engine, plus the added prototype weight. Stalls occurred at very slow speeds — high 30 knots to low 40 knots indicated air speeds — and were all very well behaved. In all maneuvering that I did, Colt felt very solid and secure. It should be a great aircraft choice for those who want that classic Cessna experience in a Light-Sport Aircraft.
Speed Specs for Colt 100
- Never Exceed — 134 knots / 154 mph
- Max Speed at Max Continuous Power — 120 knots / 138 mph
- Max Speed in Turbulent Conditions — 105 knots / 120 mph
- Maneuvering Speed — 90 knots / 103 mph
- Best Angle of Climb Speed — 60 knots / 69 mph
- Stall Speed, Flaps Retracted — 44 knots / 50 mph
- Stall Speed, Flaps for Landing — 38 knots / 44 mph
* What does it take to edit a Video Pilot Report?Let's start by considering we mounted six cameras that ran for an hour each, two hand held cameras used to shoot 45 minutes more, plus a series of still shots. Then add the audio track from multiple cameras. First task: watch and log every minute of every video — that's around nine hours merely to observe what you have available to use in assembling the video. Are you exhausted yet? You haven't even begun editing. Then scour the Internet for more useful footage and review a thumb drive the company provided. You have now spent about two full workdays and you still haven't even started editing. Pulling it all together will consume more days …all for a single video. That's probably more than you wanted to know but hopefully you get the idea that these popular Video Pilot Reports represent a lot of work. Please be patient while Videoman Dave does his job.
While you wait on the formal VPR, here's a mini-video to whet your appetite: https://youtu.be/vJa-9NOLA6s
You know you have a great job when… you get to fly a brand new Light-Sport Aircraft on a bright, beautiful, blue sky day at a Sport Pilot-friendly airport. The job: writing this story and making a video. The task: Go fly (duh!). The airport: Mt. Vernon (KMVN), the award-winning Illinois facility that hosts the Midwest LSA Expo lead by the most customer-attentive airport manager one can imagine. What’s not to love? The specific task in this case: Fly the Texas Aircraft Manufacturing Colt 100, now in the final stages of gaining its Special Airworthiness certificate as a Special Light-Sport Aircraft. See our earlier article. The day could not have been more lovely and the air has never been smoother. The only thing I needed to make the experience a complete success was pleasant cabin mate as we went aloft to check out the Colt.
CT SuperSportIf SuperSport looks familiar to you, it should. It's based on the CTSW but joins several elements of the newer CTLS. In Europe, Flight Design has continued to deliver a lighter model from the CT series to conform to the microlight or European ultralight parameters. SuperSport is something fresh as it takes a CTSW fuselage and grafts on the CTLS wing; adapts construction from the CTLS gear while still doing it with a single piece, like CTSW; employs tail structure from the newer model; and drafts the Rotax 912iS fuel-injected engine. Even that list doesn't cover all the upgrades. Flight Design describes CT SuperSport as, "the new high performance version of the Flight Design CT, one of the most popular and innovative light aircraft in the world. The Super comes equipped with a single 10-inch Dynon D1000 EFIS/MFD with Synthetic Vision, Dynon comm and transponder, ADS-B Out, and ballistic parachute system." CT SuperSport can be delivered with a 710 pound empty weight that puts it well below many Light-Sport Aircraft and more than 100 pounds lighter than the longer CTLS. "This weight reduction was accomplished by using simplified avionics and equipment plus some lighter parts from the European version of the CT," said Flight Design. CT SuperSport has the same spacious and wide interior of the CT series but it returns to the "mushroom" instrument panel that does not extend all the way to the cockpit exterior. Seeming to rise out of the floor, you know, like a mushroom, the panel produces a feeling of much greater visibility, especially forward. Re-entering the CTSW cabin reminded me of the helicopter-like vision afforded by the cockpit design. This came in handy while I flew with the father and son team named Tom Gutmann …both of them. One is "Senior" and one is "Junior," though if you've met them you know "junior" is quite a misnomer. Both fellows are big, strapping Americans. Yet Tom Jr. and I fit in CT SuperSport with several inches between us and without pushing up against the door to make that claim. CT SuperSport is some 13 inches shorter than CTLS, Tom Jr. noted and it does not have the hat rack or aft cabin windows of CTLS. CT SuperSport also uses an electric trim for pitch only while CTLS has pitch, aileron, and rudder trim by wheels. The new, lighter CT model is what I'd agree to call a performance model. It runs close to the top end of the permitted speed range, can fly around 1,000 statute miles, climbs 1,000 feet per minute, yet sips fuel at rates of four gallons per hour, even less if you retard the throttle slightly. It is a lively handling aircraft that still exhibits mild stall characteristics proven by our performing a full regimen of approach and departure stalls plus accelerated stalls in each direction. Base price of CT SuperSport is: $135,000, some $40,000 less than the flagship CTLS. "Options include night flight equipment and autopilot with Level button," said Flight Design. Father and son Gutmanns run Airtime Aviation — with the wonderfully short "FlyCT.com" web address. Airtime is perhaps the largest non-manufacturer seller of aircraft in light aviation worldwide. Their enterprise has delivered more aircraft than many manufacturers have ever made (greater than 200) yet they remain loyal to — and highly knowledgeable about — Flight Design aircraft. They've been active since the beginning of Light-Sport Aircraft. Learn more from the Video Pilot Report that will follow; be patient, these productions involve many days of editing.
I hoped to post a mini-video from the photo mission in the CTSS and CTLS. Alas, I ran out of time and energy. Plus, I think I have enough cool footage that I wanted to do it right. I'll get it up on the ByDanJohnson YouTube channel as soon as possible but the nearby still photos show what a lovely day it was for flying. You have two more days of MWLSA. If you are within a reasonable flight or drive, come on out and see the marvelous things Chris Collins has done with the Mt. Vernon airport. This fellow may qualify for the airport manager of the decade award. He's already won the trophy in my mind. Tomorrow, we tackle the InnovAviation FX1 for a Video Pilot Report …and we're just getting started!
What a great day to start off the Midwest LSA Expo! (And what a contrast to the hurricane just stared down by my Florida neighbors!) The 2019 running of this event about an hour east of St. Louis kicks off its second decade. On Day One, Videoman Dave and I did our Video Pilot Report routine on three Light-Sport Aircraft: Flight Design‘s CT SuperSport, Sportair USA‘s Shock Ultra, and Texas Aircraft’s Colt. All three are quite different, each was delightful in its own way. Doing three of these VPRs took the entire day …and that’s before the big job of editing begins. CT SuperSport If SuperSport looks familiar to you, it should. It’s based on the CTSW but joins several elements of the newer CTLS. In Europe, Flight Design has continued to deliver a lighter model from the CT series to conform to the microlight or European ultralight parameters.
The Rev' Line from EvolutionFirst came Revo. Like Tesla, they put out their strongest product first. Then came the little Rev that can make Part 103 if you don't choose all the options Evolution can deliver. After Rev came Revolt, another two seater. It uses the trademarked attributes and hardware that made Revo famous but is a simpler construction that costs less. Finally comes RevX. Larry said about Rev that it is a delightful trike that he has thoroughly enjoyed since it was released four years ago. However, it is a calm weather flyer. I see nothing wrong with that but the lightweight airframe of Rev means it is somewhat more vulnerable should conditions pick up strength. Enter RevX. Larry said three attributes distinguish the newest in his "Rev" line. RevX still folds in six minutes flat and, yes, Evolution has video to prove it (plus see our video below). That system was developed with Rev but when Larry says it folds up he also means it can be transported this way. Rev and RevX both fold quickly while still supporting the structure completely. Most trikes fold up (although few do so as fast) but once folded the wings are not perfectly supported by structure that was purpose-designed to do so. RevX also brings full suspension to the Rev-type design. This was not reasonable on Rev as it tried to stay within the tight constraints of Part 103's 254-pound empty weight (before emergency parachutes or floats, for which extra pounds are allowed). Third, RevX shares with Rev the wide-open visibility of having no structural forward strut. Many trike observers think that forward strut is no visual impediment, but they may not have flown a fully-open trike like Rev or RevX. Evolution designed their structure so that the forward strut was not necessary and double value is achieved when the forward strut need not be removed to facilitate fold-down.
Higher Wing LoadingRevX tips the scales at 410 pounds as seen in the video below. Now, that's for an accessory-loaded trike including an airframe parachute but that empty weight is well past the Part 103 limit so you must build and register your RevX kit aircraft and you must have a Sport Pilot license or better to fly it. For those that may not realize, a Part 103 ultralight vehicle (specifically not called an an "aircraft" to avoid normal FAA requirements) does not require a pilot certificate, N-numbers, or any sort of medical plus it can be delivered ready-to-fly. However, in exchange for some building effort RevX buyers will get a quite capable trike with impressive performance. "Another big change is that the wing on RevX is 25% smaller than on Rev. The RevX wing is 12.0 square meters (129 square feet) with a 28 foot span, where Rev's Part 103 wing is 15 square meters (161 square feet) with a 31.5 foot span," clarified Larry. The higher wing loading makes for crisp handling but more windspeed capability than the more lightly loaded Rev. A smaller but still single-surface wing is paired with the much more potent Rotax 582 engine with 65-horsepower. "Climb rate is 1,200 feet per minutes," beamed Larry. "I tell pilots about to fly RevX that they should start moving the bar forward immediately because acceleration is so fast that RevX will be ready to fly very soon after you advance the throttle." This appears to make RevX well suited to shorter field operations though such things should still be carefully evaluated. "The single surface RevX wing has a limited speed range," Larry explained. "Pilots will see stall at 28 mph, normal cruise at 45 mph and the wing maxes out at 58 mph," he noted but the handling of a single surface wing is superior. As you'll see in the video, not only is Larry a gifted trike pilot but the machine seems willing to allow handling to delight most trike pilots.
Here's our video interview with developer Larry Mednick shot at Sun 'n Fun 2019 when RevX was introduced… https://youtu.be/G8TnXCJH05c
Evolution Trikes celebrated their 10th anniversary at Sun ‘n Fun 2019. That show and this company have enjoyed a long relationship, one meaningful enough that the two principals, Larry Mednick and Amy Saunders, exchanged their wedding vows at Sun ‘n Fun 2018 with show boss John “Lites” Leenhouts conducting the ceremony. Now, that’s commitment (to each other and to the big spring airshow). Larry Mednick is a happily married man now but he remains a restless designer, always striving for a new variation on the exquisite theme he started with Revo ten years ago. Since the ultra-deluxe Revo was introduced a decade back it has set a new benchmark for being the best-equipped, most-customized construction, with carefully-designed wings. The weight shift market enjoys several quality brands (though we did lose P&M earlier this year) and some are more affordable but none more sophisticated then Revo. However, that level of engineering and manufacturing costs money and all the many Revo features and appointments add to its expense.
Sky Arrow Ready for TakeoffFor years, Sky Arrow was ably represented in the USA by Hansen Air Group, lead by LSA enthusiast, retired airline captain, and general good guy, Jon Hansen. Regretfully, Jon passed away earlier this year. Thanks to his work with more good folks at Able Flight, Sky Arrow has firmly established itself as an ideal trainer for persons who have lost the use of their legs. Able Flight, in concert with Purdue University and others, has provided scholarships to people needing a hand-controlled airplane. Their successes have been significant and the organization lead by Charles Stites continues strongly in this field. One reason why Able Flight, Purdue, and Hansen Air Group promoted Sky Arrow is great flight characteristics. I flew with Jon Hansen in the East and with a former partner in the Western U.S. My quick reaction was that Sky Arrow is a terrific flying aircraft, full of good qualities and exhibiting no bad habits. No wonder Sky Arrow was able to win Part 23 approval for Sky Arrow. This achievement is unusual because — at least until the rewritten Part 23 becomes law — the process that put tens of thousands of GA airplanes in the air has been breathtakingly expensive. Cirrus claimed the effort took tens of millions of dollars after the design work was completed. That's too expensive for LSA builders. If you think some LSA are too costly now, let me try assure you that they would have far higher prices if they had to meet Part 23. Yet, here we have Sky Arrow, with full Part 23 approval accepted by FAA.
Very Capable AircraftOne of the hoped-for attributes of the new LSA regulation is a potential for "aerial work" or "commercial use." Presently LSA are restricted, not only to 1,320 pounds of gross weight, but to flight instruction, rental, and towing as accepted "comp/hire" activities FAA permits for a Special LSA. As most of the industry waits for FAA to complete their work, Sky Arrow USA has some luxury of time to plant their seeds. Helping seeds grow is something Sky Arrow USA is presently focused on like a laser beam. Agricultural use of Sky Arrow is a present goal for U.S-built models. "We have completed paperwork for a production certificate," said Marco Cavazzoni, Chairman of Sky Arrow USA. "Next we'll build a conforming aircraft and validate our build process and our facility." He is serious about manufacturing in America, but this is not the stretch it has been for other would-be U.S. builders. Magnaghi Aeronautica is a "minority partner" of Sky Arrow USA, Marco clarified. Since the Italian manufacturer is a shareholder, the U.S. operation is in control of the design, a key requirement for FAA to consider a U.S. operation to be the official manufacturer of a design. This is essential as it allows them to make changes as needed to quickly address market desires. "For the LSA market, we are nearly ready. We are creating a sales team and seeking distributors for all the Americas from the north of Canada to the tip of South America." At the same time, their Part 23 aircraft focus is on "precision agriculture," Marco noted. This employs a system where sophisticated sensors, cameras, and technology aids the pilot to spray crops with great exactness. "Our technology can direct the spray system where to spread, where not to spray, and it can log places where the farmer needs to inspect more carefully." The big difference here is that Sky Arrow may get in the business years ahead of other LSA players because Magnaghi already has Part 23 approval so they can perform commercial operations years before a manufacturer wanting to do so with a Light-Sport Aircraft model. "Also, because our airframe is tested to a 2x factor of safety, where most aircraft meet a 1.5x factor, we can carry the loads and do the work with greater assurance," Marco explained. "We basically have a Part 23 aircraft operating at LSA weights and speeds. We offer a sturdy aircraft that can deliver the goods while also providing a stable, secure platform to do the imaging that is a big part of precision agricultural work." While the working capability of Sky Arrow should help the company grow their business, it is the sheer joy of flight that will attract buyers to Sky Arrow. Watch for U.S. rep Marco Cavazzoni at airshows in 2020 and take a flight when you can. You may not smile as broadly as Able Flight's scholarship winners, but I'm betting you will love the experience. Examine the aircraft more fully and come along for a flight in the subject aircraft in this short video… https://youtu.be/UQ_PklduEvw
One of our most popular articles of 2019 involves FAA’s plans for refreshed regulation. To save you a click or tap, my best guess is that we will see an NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rule Making) in 2021. Though it could possibly be sooner, it’s still many months in the future. Sky Arrow producer Magnaghi Aeronautica of Italy will be ready before the regulation is ready. That’s because the builder of this handsome composite aircraft already has a very rare approval: Part 23. Part 23 is also going through a major rewrite so some companies planning to enter this space are continuing their development work while they wait the final version of the regulation. The current Part 23 has been used to approve every Cessna, Piper, and Cirrus for decades. Similarly, LSA producers are digesting the news about sweeping changes that have potential to greatly improve the LSA market.
Thoroughly Modern Ultralight; Now a SLSAWe knew the FX1 from its ancestral JetFox series culminating in the JetFox 97, well… in 1997. See more of its history and background in this article. Here's an earlier report as FX1 completed development. The older JetFox models were more clearly ultralights. These were European ultralights, which are somewhere between a Part 103 ultralight vehicle and LSA of today. The design always caught my eye and I very much enjoyed flying the late '90s model. However, I did not enjoy worming my way into the cockpit around tubing structure and throwing a leg over the stick. You needed to be something of a contortionist to enter and I did not do so very gracefully. Times change. Along came modern LSA in all manner of aircraft and along came carbon fiber, digital instrumentation, crashworthy designs, and modern engines like Rotax's 912iS. Longtime JetFox/FX1 designer Alfredo di Cesare made incremental changes to the JetFox series but he kept aware of the changing design of light aircraft and moved forward with an entirely fresh creation. Virtually every part of InnovAviation's FX1 is new compared to JetFox 97. What FX1 retains is a similar shape and configuration. If that shape looks familiar to you, it should. In the JetFox 97 days — see this full-length pilot report of the 1990s design in an article written before SP/LSA was announced — the Italian aircraft significantly resembled the Flightstar series, which had evolved from designs by prolific Swiss designer, Hans Gygax.
FX1, the SLSAAlfredo and his team took the advice of Videoman Dave and me to take FX1 to Mt. Vernon, Illinois after Oshkosh. We assured him he and his airplane would be taken care of in the professional and enthusiastic manner of airport manager, Chris Collins. Chris created the Midwest LSA Expo (coming up on September 5-6-7, 2019), an event entering its second decade. We tell all aircraft producers they should go as this event is the No. 1 place for Dave and I to do Video Pilot Reports. These video productions are too demanding and time consuming to attempt at events like Sun 'n Fun or Oshkosh but, thanks to Chris, we can do whatever it takes to make our popular VPRs at his airport. You should attend. It's laid back but that means you can get all the time you want with the aircraft representative. Alfredo and Team InnovAviation did much more than bring their airplane. Read what Chris had to report… "The InnovAviation FX1 made its inaugural flight in the United States at Mt. Vernon Outland Airport! "The long path to the air started with the aircraft on static display at Airventure Oshkosh last week, a late-night arrival at KMVN on Monday, nearly 40 straight hours of assembly and testing, and the inspection and sign off by the Federal Aviation Administration on August 1st. "At the controls were southern California-based reps for the aircraft, Pete Schutte and Deon Lombard. In the post-flight photograph are (from left to right) Deon Lombard, AeroPilot USA; Paolo Silvestrini, InnovAviation Chief Engineer; Pete Schutte, AeroPilot Chief Pilot; Alfredo Di Cesare, CEO InnovAviation (and the aircraft’s designer), and Umberto Di Cesare, InnovAviation Chief Operations Officer. "The aircraft and assembly team hails from Corropoli, Italy. The aircraft is sure to be a hit at the Midwest LSA Expo in early September. It was great hosting Alfredo, Umberto, and Paolo over the last three days. Thank you Deon and Pete for allowing KMVN this honor."
You're Invited to MWLSA!I've already bought my ticket and will be on hand all three days of the Midwest LSA Expo. I hope you can make it, as well. MWLSA is located about an hour's drive east of St. Louis. The airport is all LSA, Sport Pilot kits, and ultralights for the show days. You can visit with about 40 aircraft vendors (weather permitting and it usually is good) and you can take a demo flight in mere minutes. The airport has forums, air conditioned inside displays, food, regular bathrooms, and a ramp full of fun airplanes. The town has plenty of restaurants and hotels, all reasonably priced. What's not to love? Here's a short video image about FX1 at Oshkosh and Mt. Vernon. Enjoy!
* Lots of people get this wrong. We've been conditioned by many years of FAA "certifying" airplanes, like Cessna, Cirrus, Piper and so forth. However, Special LSA are not "certified." They are "accepted" by FAA after proving in very detailed form that the design meets ASTM standards and the company uses standard "best practices" in the manufacture of the aircraft.
If you are an ultralight enthusiast (as I certainly am!), then you are probably celebrating with me as FX1 joins the Special LSA fleet — which it does as Number 150 on our popular SLSA List. Here’s a secret: the SLSA List is one of the most-visited features on ByDanJohnson.com. Those who frequent that page know they can find all the Special LSA that have been accepted by FAA with links to the manufacturer, their importer if appropriate, contact info and all our content about any of the long list of aircraft. We are nearly at the 15-year anniversary since FAA released the regulation for what is now known as Sport Pilot / Light-Sport Aircraft; the rule came out in early September 2004. It was grandly previewed at Airventure Oshkosh that summer. The first approvals — Evektor‘s SportStar and Flight Design‘s CT2K — were granted in April of 2005 at the Sun ‘n Fun event.
Rotax Meets a Need with 915iSTrue to form as you might expect, Rotax followed through on a question I asked 15 months back. As reported in this review of the 915iS and 912iS the company’s top man strongly hinted at a fixed pitch version of this engine. Thomas Uhr has since moved up higher in the organization but at a journalist event last year, he answered a questions about fixed pitch on the 915 engine. He did not then answer directly but said, "Every engine Rotax has produced has been able to use a fixed pitch prop. Take from that statement what you will." Sure enough, the new powerful engine from the Austrian company will be available for used with fixed or ground adjustable prop by fall of this year. Good on Rotax and the well-spoken Mr. Uhr. Some countries allow constant speed or in-flight adjustable props but not the USA. FAA specified no in-flight adjustment in the current regulation. We believe this will change with the new reg (recent report) but that could be some years in the future. Until then, only fixed pitch can be used on American Light-Sport Aircraft. Rotax is enjoying good success with the 915iS fuel injected, turbocharged, intercooler power plant. More than 400 engines are now flying on aircraft and the number of airframe producers using the new engine continues to grow. More about Rotax success. The 915iS is also an important engine for the larger, up to four seat, aircraft to come in the LSA world as well as on kit-built aircraft and some models preparing for approval under the new version of Part 23 certification (that will use industry consensus standards modeled significantly after the LSA set of standards).
High from Low (wings, that is)Two leading companies exclusively using low wings will be introducing high wing models in the near future. One is a trade secret for now, but another was announced at Oshkosh. What's interesting here is that both companies have exclusively made low wing models in various configuration. Neither has made a high wing. One of these is also planning the new, powerful Rotax 915iS engine (though both producers are using that power plant in one of the low wing models. For more on the entry from South Africa's The Airplane Factory Sling TSi High Wing, see the video below. What's interesting is that this entry offer more seats and more capabilities. For the immediate future, Sling TSi High Wing will have to be kit built but as you read here, FAA will allow four seaters as basic Light-Sport Aircraft. Once again, TAF founder Mike Blythe is ahead of the game. He was the first producer I personally observed getting excited about what he could do with the 141-horsepower Rotax 915iS. Barely a couple years after I saw his mind working, he not only built the low wing Sling TSi but the new model promptly flew around the world, literally. I expect to see a plan for the high wing TSi to also make the globe-girdling flight.
LAMA’s Dual AwardFor only the second time, the association awarded two persons their highest honor, the Presidents Award for Outstanding Individual. A few years ago, a rare tie produced a dual award. This year, voting for the 28th year of the LAMA award, resulted in another dual award. Hundreds of members of the business community for light aircraft offered nominations. The person with the most such wins; it's a very simple system to recognize hardworking, creative people who helped move light aviation forward. One of this years winners was Kerry Ritcher. With his father, Wayne, Kerry founded three aviation companies. He started manufacturing aircraft in 1977 and his enterprises have produced a total of more than 3,000 aircraft, continuing to the present. His best known design is the SeaRey from Progressive Aerodyne based in Tavares, Florida. A Private Pilot with over 12,000 hours, Kerry has designed a dozen varied aircraft including Hi-Nuski; Cobra; King Cobra; Sea Wolf; Carrera; Carrera 180; Buccaneer SX; Catalina; Colibri; SeaRey; Stingray; and, SeaRey LSX/LS. The latter are in active production by the company he founded. The second awardee is also a LAMA board of directors member. Scott Severen started flying hang gliders in 1973 and has since been active in several aviation enterprises. He also assisted many organizations supporting light aviation including the U.S. Ultralight Association; the Airpark Owners and Operators Association; the EAA Ultralight & Light-Sport Aircraft Council, and the LAMA board. In 2004, Scott joined IndUS Aviation, and was instrumental in the effort to be the first American designed aircraft to earn SLSA certification. Severen presently owns and operates US Sport Planes, involved in LSA sales, brokerage, factory authorized maintenance and major structural repairs in Denton, Texas. In 2018, he took over as the North American representative for the Jabiru line of Light-Sport Aircraft. Scott is a private pilot and has accumulated over 2,000 hours in numerous types of aircraft.
Part 103 Success StoryMore than one fixed wing producer of conforming Part 103 aircraft expressed strong, continuing interest in these lightest flyers. Kolb and U-fly-It are both so busy building their 103 models that they are not focused on two seaters. Aerolite does not have a two-seat model and no plans for one. Kolb has the Mark III but the action is in their Part 103 models, said Kolb boss, Bryan Melborn. The good news continues… The arrival of Badland's Part 103 entry F-series in five variations adds to such popular choices as Kolb's Firefly, U-Fly-It's Aerolite 103, Just's True 103 (still in development), models from Team Aircraft and Fisher Flying Products. This listing of Part 103 prospects is not meant to be exhaustive and leaves out players like Evolution's Rev trike or Infinity's Challenger 103 powered parachute plus others. The point being, Part 103 appears not only to be surviving but thriving! Oshkosh even had an entrepreneur that has organized to provide support to Canada's Lazair. Watch for a video on this interesting development and see the nearby image if you are not familiar with this once-popular ultralight aircraft. Especially while most LSA run well into six figures, Part 103 pilots enjoy the greatest freedom in aviation. The simple rule has been unchanged since 1982 and allows flight in an ultralight vechile without a pilot certificate, N-numbers, or aviation medical. A producer can sell you a ready to fly model without getting FAA approval. As with LSA, ultralights overcame early issues to become solid members of the aviation fleet. Other countries have similar regulations.
Coolest Rig Seen At OshkoshIf you’re a good, red-blooded American pilot, I don’t see how you could not love this setup. Your luxurious motor home towing your Corvette and your Aerotrek A240 in a custom-built trailer that you can handle by yourself. I hope I didn’t drool on it as I looked it over. Built for recreation, this highly-customized trailer is towed behind the owner’s motorhome. It can hold his Aerotrek A240, requiring the tricycle gear model so as to fit the owners Corvette underneath. A clever system of ramps and winches allows him to load the aircraft and the car with no assistance. Both sides also open up to make it easier to stow the airplane ramps once the aircraft is secured and to allow proper tie-down of the Corvette. As a former Corvette owner, a former motorhome owner, and a lover of the Aerotrek aircraft, this setup looked to be about as close to aviation heaven as mere mortals can get. So, this apparatus gets my award for the Coolest Rig seen at the show.
Watch here as The Airplane Factory founder, Mike Blythe introduces the Sling TSi High Wing…https://youtu.be/I9I7_ZBUDC4
* The number 642,000 introduces different counting methods. I understand this number to mean the number of people passing through the gates, however, one person entering for several days is counted each day. Taken to task a few years ago, Sun 'n Fun now reportedly counts discreet individuals so the Florida show seems to have smaller numbers. Oshkosh is clearly a good deal larger but not as much as their reported numbers make it appear. Either counting method can be defended but this is comparing apples to oranges. And whatever the numbers, our glimpses of Oshkosh while zipping around doing videos and gathering story material strongly suggested great attendance in 2019.
The weeklong celebration of flight known around the planet as “Oshkosh” is now history. Although EAA was challenged by inclement weather before the show and as it opened, the weather gods smiled on the event and provided a wonderful week with all the action you can imagine. EAA announced attendance numbers identifying solid growth over last year, to 642,000 attendees*. That’s a ways from the 800,000 back a couple decades but is solid growth from recent years. Especially as EAA had to work hard to overcome weather issues before the event, the organization is to be commended for handling a huge number of details with professionalism. The week of Oshkosh brought outstanding weather and only brief periods of rain. Those of us from hot states enjoyed the mild temperatures and beautiful cloud-dappled blue skies (photos). So, after getting back in the saddle after an intense week, here are a few stories of interest.
M24 OrionItalian company Magni Gyro calls their M24 Orion model an "enclosed side-by-side two-seat factory built gyroplane." Currently in the USA, all models of Magni gyroplanes must be built as kits but until the new regulation arrives, dealers in the USA are prepared to assist this relatively modest effort. Orion is structurally based on a "chrome-alloy aeronautical 4130 steel that is TIG welded," said Magni. The fully enclosed model has a carbon fiber fuselage, undercarriage, wheel pants, and rudder. Integral fuel tank manufactured in epoxy resin reinforced with fiberglass hold 21.5 gallons, a fuel capacity that allows flights of up to four hours at a cruise speed of 75 to 95 mph. In this article you can read about a flight from Texas to Cuba by a pair of Magni gyros, proving the range capability of these flying machines. Power on M24 Orion comes from a turbo Rotax 914 providing 115 horsepower from the four cylinder, four stroke, water-cooled engine fitted with a mechanical rotor blade pre-rotator. Orion's three-blade carbon fibre propeller can be optimized by ground adjustable pitch. Magnin goes beyond some gyro producers — the company makes its own 28-foot diameter, two-bladed rotor from composite materials. Orion's instrument panel is equipped with rotor revolution counter, altimeter, air-speed indicator, vertical compass, a digital engine monitoring system, and fuel level gauge. Additional, optional instrumentation can be added as desired. For controls, Orion offers full dual joystick and pedals for each occupant. Standard equipment includes electric trim. M24 Orion is attractive and roomy inside. For carriage, Orion is equipped with three easily-accessed baggage compartments. Its cabin heating system combined with full enclosure allows M24 to remain comfortable even on cold winter days. From either seat the view is enormous, a key benefit of gyroplanes without nearby wing structure to block your view. Orion would definitely be more comfortable for long flights or in chilly weather but the open cockpit M16 Trainer or M22 Voyager models deliver an even more expansive view. Combined with a gyroplane's unique handling and performance, these machines make wonderful viewing platforms.
Magni's "Plus" SeriesIn the last year, Magni Gyro introduced use of the new Rotax 915iS turbocharged 141 horsepower, fuel injection-powered engine. Models with the most powerful Rotax yet are designated by the suffix, "Plus." "An innovative and avant-garde choice," Magni said, "[915iS] brings to the whole range a considerable increase in cruising and climbing performance, with fuel consumption comparable to the Rotax 914." One of Magni's American customers, identified only as M.B., wrote the company to say, “As the proud owner of the first Magni M16 Plus in the USA, I can tell you the performance is like none other. Takeoff, climb and speed performance exceeded my expectations. This gyroplane has incredible power reserve, more than enough for every aspect of flight. Takeoffs are breathtaking, cruise is smooth and landings are gentle. The Magni M16 Plus is an incredible flying machine!” One final comment of worthy note: In late 2016, the Magni Gyro factory in Besnate, Italy produced the company’s 1,000th gyroplane. See lots of video experiences in Magni gyros at this link. — Come along for a flight as we perform a Video Pilot Report in an M16 Magni gyroplane with representative and expert gyro pilot, Greg Gremminger. You will clearly see a series of interesting in-flight maneuvers. https://youtu.be/dOcua9uyFfo
For more than 15 years one class of Light-Sport Aircraft has been held down in America even while it has been burgeoning in other parts of the world. The class is LSA gyroplanes, for a decade and half prevented from selling a fully-built model in the USA. How well is the category doing in other parts of the world? The answer draws on reports from dominant engine producer, Rotax Aircraft Engines, which has reported for years that the class of aircraft buying the most engines has been gyroplanes. Considering the many fixed wing designs also use that engine brand, Rotax’s statement carries tremendous weight. The story about why gyroplanes were denied the full privileges of Special LSA — and therefore have to be built as Experimental Amateur Built (EAB) kits in America — is a long, sad story …but it is one that appears to be ending, thank goodness! As described in this recent article about FAA’s plans for revised regulation of LSA (as well as other non-LSA segments), the leash around the neck of gyroplane producers is set for release.
Sunward Aurora Specifications (per factory):
- Gross Weight — 1,320 pounds
- Empty Weight — 750 pounds
- Useful Load — 570 pounds
- Payload (with full fuel) — 380 pounds
- Length — 22.6 feet
- Wing Span — 28 feet
- Never Exceed Speed — 146 knots
- Cruise Speed — 118 knots
- Stall Speed — 39 knots
- Maximum Climb Rate — 1,080 feet per minute
- Takeoff Distance — 590 feet
- Landing Distance — 590 feet
- Powerplant — Rotax 912 ULS (carbureted)
- Fuel Capacity — 31.7 gallons
- Range — 745 statute miles
Welcome to the newest Special Light-Sport Aircraft, entering our popular SLSA List at number 149. The newest is also unique among all 149 entries in one way. Sunward’s Aurora is the first entry from China. The company has been producing aircraft since 2013 and reported delivering 100 aircraft in that time, all in China, averaging about one a month. The U.S.-registered entry seen at Oshkosh (N871LS) is the first outside China. Here is link to the Aurora information. You need a specific link because Sunward is a conglomerate active in diverse fields, for example, large earth movers and excavators. The photo of their expansive facility tells a thousand words. This is not uncommon in China. Many of that country’s acquisitions of major American aviation companies were done by still larger enterprises in China. Mostly these are private businesses, not the more staid state companies. Assembled discreetly in Denton, Texas, Sunward quietly earned its Special Airworthiness Certificate — verified by examining the printed document kept in the aircraft — just in time for American Chief Pilot Patrick Keeling to take off and fly to Oshkosh.