Welcome 2018 — it’s gonna be a great year of flying! In mere days, Sebring Expo #14 starts (January 24-27). We’ll be onsite to report on the most interesting aircraft we find. In April comes Sun ‘n Fun and Aero Friedrichshafen, two great shows for our favorite flying machines. We sincerely appreciate your visit and thank those of you who have become members!
In December 2017, South Korea’s Vessel Co. won what was described as “safety certification” from the Transport Ministry for their new two-seat light aircraft called KLA-100. After gaining this approval, the company reported plans to start mass producing the light recreational aircraft. Vessel’s side-by-side aircraft claims a maximum cruise speed of 245 kilometers per hour (133 knots; 10% faster than allowed by FAA in the U.S.) and a range of 1,400 kilometers (875 miles) over six hours with full fuel of 34 gallons. KLA-100 is a modern design featuring majority carbon construction. As CTLS developer Flight Design was hired to help design the new aircraft, some readers may see similarities to the high wing model the Germany company produces. Working with Flight Design, Vessel spent four years to develop the light aircraft. Pilots have carried out test flights over the last seven months and at the end of the year just concluded, their prototype was cleared for production.
Holy Bat History*The first appearance of the Batcopter was in the 1966 film Batman. Unlike the Batmobile, the Batcycle, and the Batboat, Batcopter was never intended for use in the 1960s Batman television series, which did not have the budget to create such elaborate vehicles. While the other vehicles were bought by 20th Century Fox, the Batcopter was only leased for the movie. It cost Fox $750 a day for five days from April 7 to April 11, 1966. Given the dollar's precipitous decline since those times, that equates to more than $5,600 today. The Batcopter was a functional helicopter provided by National Helicopter Service. It was based on the Bell 47, which was designed by Bell Helicopter Textron in 1941. The Batcopter was a G3B-1 model, which had previously been used in "Lassie Come Home" and "ABC News." To make the model look more like a superhero vehicle, it was fitted with canvas-covered tubular frames and was painted red. The head of a bat was painted in the front while the Batman symbol was painted on the side. The most dangerous design change was the wings, which reduced power by nearly 50%. For the scenes at sea, the Batcopter was taped at Marineland of the Pacific in Palos Verdes, California. Most of the shots were relatively far away as the pilot was Harry Haus, not Adam West, the actor playing Batman. Hubie Kerns donned the Batman outfit to perform the stunts, namely climbing the rope ladder attached to the helicopter while kicking an exploding shark. * Thanks to Wikipedia for all the BatInfo.
Amazingly, “Holy Batcopter!” was not one of the 368 different “Holy…” exclamations uttered by the Robin character in the 1960s TV series. The iconic Bell 47 chopper — without Robin or Batman — will make an appearance at the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo in just a couple weeks. The event runs January 24-27 this year. “Relive the 1960’s era at Sebring’s Aviation Expo with a ride on the original N3079G Batcopter from the Batman TV series,” encouraged promoters of the 14-year-old event. In 1996, pilot Eugene Nock bought the famous helicopter, which was used in the 1966 “Batman” movie and several TV shows. “What we have is an icon in the aviation world as well as the collectable toy world,” Nock said. “It is a one-of-a-kind aircraft, absolutely internationally recognized.” That’s why Nock — an airline transport pilot who has logged more than 14,000 hours — will be flying this vintage flying machine at the upcoming Sebring Expo.
Sport Flying and Aircraft in Puerto RicoRegarding sport flying on the island, Rafael added, "In the aviation area there were many, many losses. Sport aviation is almost non-existent now as about 90% of Light-Sport Aircraft and kit aircraft suffered damage that will be costly to repair (if repairs can even be done), and we don't have any aviation insurance companies in Puerto Rico for non-commercial aviation. "On the positive side, food, supplies, and fuel are back to normal for most of the island." Surprised by his comment about insurance, I inquired further, "Have aviation insurance companies departed Puerto Rico or were they never available? Do you know why not? How many aircraft were damaged" "There has never been insurance for GA," explained Rafael, "much less sport aviation in Puerto Rico, and U.S. companies cannot provide coverage because of a lack of local legislation allowing it." I've heard about political leadership on the island being less than inspiring and this seems to reinforce that impression. "There were at least 25 Light-Sport Aircraft damaged," he reported, "out of about 30-35 that were flying prior to the hurricane, plus the GA airplanes that I have no account of." Thanks for the report, Rafael. I hope sport flying can eventually return to normal on this island that many tourists have viewed as a "paradise." It is sad to see this level of destruction. I hesitate to report such misery but I'm sure mainstream media outlets will never cover this segment and I felt it was important. Pictures were taken by Arland Miller, and Jose Amid Torres, and were publicly shared on Facebook. Thanks to all and best of luck, fellow pilots!
Here in Florida, home to ByDanJohnson.com, we take hurricanes very seriously. While you know they are coming, unlike a tornado, they are nonetheless incredibly powerful forms of destruction. Hurricane Maria produced winds of 200 mph, enough that the weather gurus talked about creating a new category of storm called a Category 6; Cat-5 is presently the maximum. Whatever the label you apply to it, this was a major storm of almost incomprehensible proportions. We got lucky here in the Daytona Beach area. Once a hurricane comes over land, it begins to lose power. By the time it reached us, it was still pretty scary but not remotely like what had been seen in south Florida or in the Caribbean. As most of us have heard, Puerto Rico was massively hit, enduring those 200 mph winds (four times as potent as 100 mph winds, which are already mighty frightening). In September 2017, Hurricane Maria entered Puerto Rico like a battering ram, sweeping through the southeastern coastal city of Humacao and into the island’s history as its worst natural disaster.
The story as reported…Here are some portions of the article, which relates, "At the start of the clip the pilot is seen trying to steady the plane as it rapidly descends while spinning around." Remember, this is a test pilot exploring the flight qualities and performance parameters of a Light-Sport Aircraft, which I agreed not to name (but it was obvious to me that this was not the aircraft in the still picture Daily Mail used).
"The dizzying video shows the aircraft spinning faster and faster as the scenery speeds past. The pilot … was forced to deploy the safety measure during a spin recovery test."He escaped uninjured and the aircraft was fixed and ready to fly the following day." Daily Mail goes on to report [BRS] company founder Boris Popov as saying about the clip, "The pilot wants to remain anonymous as well as the location but we can say it was filmed in Asia and the plane was flying the next day." I know a little more but the actual airplane or incident is less the story than the success of the parachute product. These devices have saved many lives — BRS alone has logged nearly 400 "saves" and other companies like Magnum add to the number. I hope you will consider such a system for your aircraft. If you elect not to, then, please fly as safely as you can. Happy New Year, everyone! I wish you many happy hours aloft in 2018 and I hope you never have to see your parachute.
When I first saw this news story I thought it was one we reported earlier involving a similar aircraft and parachute. However, what grabbed my attention was the clarity of the still photo seen nearby. It was, and it was not the earlier story. Let me explain… The deployment event recently reported is not new even if that’s how the mainstream media portrayed it. Many months ago, a test flight got into an uncontrolled flight situation — a “normal” occurrence, that being what test flights are intended to discover. A successful parachute deployment followed. However, this provides an opportunity to learn more about airframe parachutes. I know something of this because for 18 years, I worked closely with BRS Parachutes of South St. Paul, Minnesota. An airframe parachute system makes a compelling story that media reporters loved. At one time, BRS and its whole-airplane parachute systems were featured on seven (yes, 7!) different TV documentaries at about the same time.
Now, Enter BeaconBOM and other Levil products are great and have seen great acceptance by LSA and EAB pilots. Yet every airplane owner has an FAA mandate to follow: ADS-B Out. If you want to fly into many kinds of airspace by 2020 you must have some device to work with FAA's long gestating NextGen airspace control system. Adding ADS-B Out can be very costly, anywhere from a few thousand dollars to potentially many thousands on more complex, certified aircraft. Conventionally-certified airplane owners have little choice but to invest more, however, LSA and EAB pilots now have a new solution at the best price I've heard. Consider Levil's Beacon. The video below features Levil's Ananda Leon explaining the concept of Beacon. She also gives some Levil history and speaks to her own significant capabilities including creating software that makes these little devices do their magic for you. Beacon is a largely self-contained solution. That's excellent as the cost of adding ADS-B Out capability involves both hardware purchase and installation expense or effort. Most ADS-B Out devices are some kind of box installed in the cockpit. That box must then be "plumbed" to gather data from other devices or boxes and then connected to an antenna located outside the cockpit. No wonder the cost can run into the thousands. No matter the expense, FAA is demanding you install this or stay out of airspace you may wish to enter. Beacon is a welcome light in this darkened space. Presently priced at $1,395 retail, the small antenna has all the elements needed to perform its function. You only need to bring power to it and connect it to a GPS antenna (which you probably already have on your LSA or EAB). All the hardware pieces are contained in this small antenna, and I watched its production to see this is carefully built to withstand the rigors of weather, vibration, and time. Beacon has an internal GPS chip and all the other hardware elements needed to supply ADS-B Out to FAA remote towers so other airplanes and ATC can "see" you — just as you can presently see them with the ADS-B In capability you may already have. I admire this family-run business of Levil. Founder Ruben Leon left Venezuela before things got to their present, depressing state. He walked away from a business, leaving it to employees, escaping the troubled country to make his way in America. Restarting from scratch, it appears Reuben and Levil Aviation are succeeding grandly but what's important to you is their fine products at great prices. Check out Beacon to address the requirement for ADS-B Out without having to mortgage your house to afford it. Thanks Levil! https://youtu.be/T0-jO9HPrBE
I don’t really know when the Leon family sleeps. They must, of course, but their steady output of high-quality, reasonably-priced products that pilots need must make for many long workdays. Recently, our friend Jim Moore of AOPA wrote about Levil’s BOM (Broadcasting Outer Module — and here’s our video about that). BOM is an innovative, self-powered device that you merely hang on the wing and without further installation, it offers a wide variety of information to an iPad or Android tablets (several of them at once), transforming these relatively-low-cost consumer devices into full-blown ADAHRS instrument panels. Pilots flying Type Certified Cessnas and other GA aircraft love this solution as it is effective and cheap, and does not violate their airplane’s Type Certificate. BOM offers LSA and Experimental Amateur Built pilots a way to keep their investment far lower while largely keeping up with our most deluxe Light-Sport Aircraft running Dynon, Garmin, or MGL’s fine panel-mounted instruments.
My guess is most readers do not care particularly about recreational aviation or sport flying in China. After speaking to many pilots at airshows, I know Americans are somewhat aware of flying in other nations but we enjoy so much freedom to fly in the USA and we have so many choices of aircraft, airports, and flying gear that the rest of the world seems almost irrelevant. We most definitely are the lucky ones. We can and do take for granted the idea of hopping in your airplane — whether ultralight, LSA, or a speedy four passenger GA aircraft — and flying to a pancake breakfast or for one of those $100 hamburgers. We can fly almost anywhere we want, anytime we choose, for hour after hour if we like. Sure, some airspace is closed to us or perhaps too congested but, by and large, we can do what we want in the air.
What a great Christmas present for the Rotax Aircraft Engine team members (lower photo). The latest powerplant from the Austrian company that supplies a large majority of the powerplants for aircraft covered on this website will soon become available. The company announced from their headquarters in Gunskirchen, Austria that on December 19th, 2017, they received a European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) Type Certificate (TC) for its new Rotax 915 iSc3 engine. Some companies, such as BRM Aero, have been testing the new advanced, fuel injected, intercooled engine. It is the most powerful model ever for light aircraft from Rotax. All airframe makers will probably be surprised that the final version yields even more power. “The EASA TC allows BRP-Rotax to [begin] producing the certified 915 iSc3 A engine for the European market thus allowing us to fulfill the request of our customers for a more powerful Rotax aircraft engine with proven reliability,” said Thomas Uhr, general manager BRP- Rotax, vice president Powertrain BRP.
Continental Motors powerplants are manufactured in Mobile, Alabama, which is now also home to an assembly plant for Airbus airlines. That would seem pretty stiff competition for an award for manufacturing. You know this decades-old company for their popular 100-horsepower O-200 engine that remains a common powerplant for Special Light-Sport Aircraft. After their purchase of the 180-horsepower Titan engine line, we increasingly began to see their engines in the light aircraft space. An growing number of airframe developers have selected the Titan X-340 to power their models. So perhaps you’ll join me in applauding Continental Motors Group after the city’s Chamber of Commerce named Continental Motors as its “Manufacturer of the Year” for 2017. This annual award recognizes companies for their economic growth and commitment to the local community. “Continental has long been the cornerstone of our ever-growing aviation sector,” said Troy Wayman, the Chamber’s Vice-President of Economic Development, Mobile Chamber of Commerce.
More About Scott SeverenThe son of a career Air Force fighter pilot, Scott learned early about aviation as a lifestyle. He began building and flying hang gliders in 1973 and joined USHGA, United States Hang Gliding Association. In the early 1980s, he founded and operated Lone Star Airpark to provide facilities, services and flight instruction for ultralights, and eventually became a USUA, United States Ultralight Association AFI, Advanced Flight Instructor, AFI Examiner, and AFI Seminar Presenter. Scott also volunteered as a director and interim president of USUA, United States Ultralight Association. In the early 1990s, he and his family moved to Tennessee where he served as president of TEAM Aircraft. Always willing to help the industry Scott assisted the AOOA, Airpark Owners and Operators Association as its first president. In the mid-nineties he served as president of LAMA, Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association and in 2017 he rejoined LAMA to serve on the board of directors. Scott also participated as a charter member of the Part 103 FAA ARAC, Aviation Rule-making Advisory Committee that eventually created the Light-Sport Aircraft and Sport Pilot regulations.
For many years the brand name Jabiru — both airframes and engines — has been associated with Pete Krotje and his family and other team members, doing business as Jabiru North America. Pete began in the business near Oshkosh, Wisconsin before seeing the appeal of milder weather in Shelbyville, Tennessee. Now, the familiar brand from down-under Australia is headed further south in the USA. The brand with the funny-sounding name will end up being represented by another light aircraft industry veteran, Scott Severen. The official news release on this change declared, “In a move initiated by Jabiru North America, LLC, US Sport Planes of Denton, Texas has been appointed as the North American importer and distributor for Jabiru Light Sport Airplanes for North America.” The two businessmen reported US Sport Planes (USSP) will be the exclusive importer and market the full line of LSA airplanes manufactured by Jabiru Aircraft Pty, Ltd.
Van's Aircraft's Immensely Popular RV-SeriesAccording to a recent report in General Aviation News, "[When] David Porter took his first flight in his RV-7 on Nov. 24, 2017, he probably didn’t know he was making history. The Martinsburg, West Virginia pilot’s kit-built airplane became the official 10,000th Van’s RV-series aircraft." Van's labeled David's first flight as "official" because more than 10,000 RV-series kit aircraft are definitely known to be flying, but the company recognizes it may not know about all of them. President of his local EAA Chapter (# 1071), David spent three and a half years building his RV-7 from a standard kit. It was the first airplane he has built. His airplane was RV-7 #1,662 to fly, according to the Oregon company. Dick van Grunsven's Van’s Aircraft began selling RV-3 plans back in 1973. From this modest start the company now calculates that over the last 44 years a new RV has taken to the air every 1.6 days on average. Now, that is one impressive achievement, I believe. “No one is exactly sure when the 1,000th RV flew — our best guess is around early 1994,” company officials said in a prepared release. “The 2,000 mark was passed in November 1998, 19 years ago. The increase from 9,000 flying RVs to 10,000 took just 33 months or under 1,000 days.” Therefore, "About one new RV airplane leaves the ground each day, with 360 taking to the skies already in 2017." Great job, Team Van's!
Garmin's One Millionth"We’re celebrating the delivery of our one-millionth certified avionics product from our manufacturing facility in Olathe, Kansas," announced the popular avionics producer. This large number does not include the huge number of sports or auto products and more made by Garmin over its three decade history. The milestone product was a GTX 3000 DI-260B compliant Mode S Extended Squitter (ES) transponder, which enables ADS-B Out transmissions, a timely offering given the last two years of push to fit GA aircraft with ADS-B Out before the 2020 FAA deadline. “Since our inception over 28 years ago, Garmin has been committed to providing superior products that are known for their innovation, reliability and intuitive design,” said Phil Straub, Garmin executive vice president, managing director of aviation. “This milestone is a testament to our long-established commitment to making significant investments in research and development, as well as the hard work and dedication of thousands of passionate Garmin team members that I have the pleasure of working with every day.” “As we celebrate this exciting accomplishment, I am very proud of how our teams have managed such significant growth, while maintaining the culture of our company as our founders set forth,” said Carl Wolf, vice president of aviation marketing and sales. “The breadth and depth of our certified aviation product line has expanded greatly over the years, allowing us to develop new markets for Garmin. This incredible milestone doesn’t even include the hundreds of thousands of portable and other non-certified products that our customers use every day. On behalf of Garmin, I wish to express my utmost gratitude to our loyal customers, our dealers and the aircraft manufacturers all around the globe, who have helped us to accomplish such a tremendous achievement in Garmin’s history.” Established by co-founders Gary Burrell and Dr. Min Kao — Gar' and Min, hence the company name — in 1989 in Lenexa, Kansas, Garmin was founded with its core roots in aviation. Today, the central U.S. corporation has evolved into five business segments with more than 11,000 employees around the globe. "From a single product," said Garmin, "the evolution of our avionics solutions has grown to serve multiple segments within the aviation industry, including general aviation, business aviation, helicopter, experimental amateur-built (EAB), defense and air transport." I'm sure Garmin meant to include LSA in that roster but many recent product releases by the company show it is pursuing the high end avionics market aggressively. In the LSA space the G3X Touch and Garmin 796 are the most popular devices with many supporting items benefitting the Garmin ecosystem of avionics. Congratulations to both Van's Aircraft and Garmin. We are lucky both company are involved in the kind aviation enjoyed by sport and recreational pilots. To close, I thought I'd again reference my friends from General Aviation News to show you their recently-offered map of where their readers are located. I submit to this Washington-state-based publication every month and know they provide a journal read enthusiastically by tens of thousands of pilots. As proof of their success at transitioning from only newsprint to electronic communication, GA News can boast the largest Facebook following (around 350,000!) of any aviation publication or organization. Great job publisher Ben Sclair and team mates! Subscribe to GA News and you can also receive their free The Pulse of Aviation e-newsletter.
Recently, a couple major benchmarks were reached by some of our important brand names. These notable achievements deserve mention given their relationship to the LSA and light aircraft sector that this website serves. One is an airframe builder and the other is a avionics giant. Van’s Aircraft’s Immensely Popular RV-Series According to a recent report in General Aviation News, “[When] David Porter took his first flight in his RV-7 on Nov. 24, 2017, he probably didn’t know he was making history. The Martinsburg, West Virginia pilot’s kit-built airplane became the official 10,000th Van’s RV-series aircraft.” Van’s labeled David’s first flight as “official” because more than 10,000 RV-series kit aircraft are definitely known to be flying, but the company recognizes it may not know about all of them. President of his local EAA Chapter (# 1071), David spent three and a half years building his RV-7 from a standard kit.
Gone Flying!Once aloft, I try to go through a uniform regimen of evaluations. The routine can vary by aircraft, for example, flying the Pipistrel motorglider had to involve shutting down the engine and feathering the prop. You don’t, in fact are not allowed, to do the latter on most LSA. Even entering the aircraft varies if it is a high or low wing. Performance and stability checks include — but, as lawyers love to write, “may not be not limited to” — handling qualities, high speed flight, slow flight (both while checking various engine parameters such as temperatures and fuel burn), slow flight, steep turns, and a thorough group of stalls: approach and departure stalls as well as accelerated, or turning, stalls. I fly on whichever side of the aircraft the representative pilot does not wish to fly. As an former flight instructor I am comfortable in either seat. Before or after I do my routine, I generally ask the rep’ pilot to show me anything he or she would perform in a purchase demonstration flight. Once in a while this gets especially interesting. As with the videos interviews I conduct — which often result not just in a video but also a post (or even a print magazine article) — I try to ask the questions you would ask if you had the opportunity that I have. Hey! As stated at the outset, I agree I have a pretty cool job. Thanks SO much for reading posts and articles, for watching videos, and generally for supporting this work. If you really want to help, please consider membership but I’ll end the pitch and repeat my gratitude for clicking or tapping your way to this website.
Sometimes I am told I have the best job in the world. Hmm, could be. My work entails some of those things no one truly loves, like paying bills, but it also involves flying airplanes for review. That part is indeed quite a pleasure. In this post, I want to tell you what I flew at the DeLand Showcase 2017 plus a little about how we do these VPRs or Video Pilot Reports. For many years, I wrote such things for print. That still happens but most of my reporting now goes online and my more detailed pilot reports have significantly — though not exclusively — gone to video …hence “VPR.” At DeLand 2017, I went aloft six times, five to evaluate aircraft and once on a photo (and video) mission. Video reporting consumes much more time than an interview, 30 minutes or more simply to attach some or all of our eight Garmin VIRB cameras inside and outside the subject aircraft.
So, announcing…!At the DeLand Showcase 2017, SeaMax announced, "We displayed the Seamax M-22 Serial Number 149 at DeLand in Florida. The amphibious aircraft that conquered the world’s hearts now is ready for deliveries in the United States." As the serial number shows, more than 148 SeaMax amphibs are active in several countries. "We are now accepting orders for the SeaMax M-22 year 2018," they continued. The base price for the model without folding wings starts at $139,500. A folding wing version starts at $149,500. Especially against the contrast of Icon's A5 now based priced in the mid-$200,000s and well equipped at a breathtaking $350,000 or so, SeaMax looks like a Thanksgiving Day bargain. Does this dashing LSA seaplane interest you? Find out more here (or read an older but detailed report here) or shoot an email to the company. Even Christmas deals don't last forever and this one might not either.
Years ago, back in the early days of the Light-Sport Aircraft sector exploding into the world of aviation, of affordable aviation, one of the early entries was SeaMax, from a Brazilian-based company called AirMax. An old friend in the business and a supremely capable pilot named Carlos Bessa helped SeaMax successfully prove standards compliance to win approval as a Special LSA (#63 of 143 on our SLSA List). Although Chip Erwin’s Mermaid was attracting a lot of attention at the time, SeaMax was an attractive offering. Another longtime friend in the business, Tom Peghiny — the man behind Flight Design USA but also an astute observer of light aircraft — urged me to go examine the SeaMax. He thought it possessed qualities I would appreciate. He turned out to be spot on. Subsequently I flew SeaMax for about four hours with Carlos, spread over a few days.
When Rotax moved their 912 iS Sport project from engineering to production, the big Austrian engine manufacturer elevated their already-immensely-popular 9-series engines to a higher level. Beside fuel injection, the company added electronic engine controls more advanced than any other in their inventory. If you’ve flown with the iS Sport as I have you know it has terrific performance — torque was increased through an enlarged airbox along with other minor refinements — plus it gives even better fuel consumption. When flying with Aerosports‘ Jeremy Knoll at DeLand 2017, I heard that his trip from Wisconsin to Florida in the TAF Sling yielded fuel consumption rates of 2.7 gallons per hour at cruise. Man! That is some fuel efficient flying and that is part of what Rotax achieved with their iS model. They will use that technology plus more on their coming 135-horsepower 915 iS due on the market next year.
If you did not get to DeLand Showcase 2017, the second running of this new LSA, light kit aircraft, and ultralight show, we’ve given coverage with more to follow, but you might really like the quick view of most aircraft on exhibit at the event just concluded. As some were starting to pack out on the later hours of the last day, Videoman Dave and I did a quick race around all the airplane exhibits. We’ve done this before and viewers seem to like it as it provides a bit of information about many airplanes while providing an overview of how the event appeared. The video speaks for itself and we hope you enjoy. I marvel at how efficiently and quickly Videoman Dave assembles these videos. This one was especially fast but he will be putting some major hours assembling a whole batch of perhaps 30 new interviews plus several fresh Video Pilot Reviews (VPRs).
Fly 2 BuyWhen we customers get questions answered, we make purchase decisions. If we get to fly aircraft, we move closer to a flying machine catching that can fulfill our dreams. DeLand succeeded in this important respect. Several vendors with whom I visited near the end of DeLand #2 said they had sold aircraft and/or gotten good leads. Of course those folks will return next year — show dates were announced: November 1-2-3, 2018. In my view as a reporter who attends 8-10 shows a year, what makes these smaller, focused-venue events worthwhile is precisely that they do not have immense crowds. Two main reasons explain why. First, those who do attend are clearly interested since, for example, these events have no aerobatic airshow acts or flocks of warbirds to admire. If you go to Midwest, DeLand, or Sebring, it is because you like light aircraft kits, LSA, ultralights, or the gear used on these flying machines. Others come for the forums or workshops oriented to these aircraft types. Yes, it's true that people who go the the giant airshows to see warbirds may, probably by chance, see a shiny new LSA they could end up buying. However, the odds are far greater that they'll walk right past the LSA or kit-built lightplane by en route to the warbirds or whatever other aviation sector attracts their interest. Does that huge amount of foot traffic do a vendor any good? I'm not sure it does. Do you have to pay for it? Absolutely… both vendors and attendees spend more at the big shows. The payoff can be that a company gets more media attention or some other benefit, but the cost is a sure thing. Smaller shows cost less. The people trying to sell us the most affordable aircraft have to watch expenses closely. Secondly, customers who attend these focused shows can generally get all the face time they want with the representative of a certain aircraft brand or flying accessory developer. They can ask detailed questions and get relaxed, friendly, thorough responses. At big events like Sun 'n Fun or Oshkosh, the crowds are often so thick that you can't get to a company rep' or they can't take the time to give a full answer to your question. Taking a demo flight at the biggest shows can be very time consuming — although it's much better at the lightplane areas contained in each of the major events. I love the big shows just as most of us do. They are certainly important events. Yet the smaller shows are where the action is given their focus on a single sector (light planes). Thanks to Midwest, Copperstate, and DeLand this fall. Welcome to Sebring 2018 in January!
The second year of the DeLand Showcase is over. Most folks I asked judged it a success. Year #2 year of this three-day event again logged weather that could not have been better. Sunny blue skies dappled with puffy Cumulus clouds, modest winds, and temperatures in the 80s (high 20s C° for our metric readers). DeLand is two for two! What more could you ask? Well, that depends. Customer traffic “was up every day over the same day last year,” observed show director Jana Filip. That is certainly trending the right direction. Was it enough growth to satisfy a key component of these shows, the vendors? That depends on whom you ask. One prominent company told me they did not know if they’d be back next year, but few will be surprised to see them return anyway. After spending money on the exhibit space and the logistics of moving aircraft, preparing for the show, and housing staff on-site, vendors seem ever to yearn for more “foot traffic.” While acknowledging the yearning, most sales pros know that the question that truly counts is… Did enough customers show enough interest that you took orders or at least obtain qualified leads?
- LSA lead in aircraft deliveries around the globe
- LSA greatly aided development of Type Certified aircraft
- LSA stimulated new instrumentation
- LSA popularized new safety systems
- LSA lead powerplants into the new millennia
- LSA encouraged use of modern materials
- LSA benefit their local communities
DEFENDING the CLAIMS1—LSA lead Aircraft deliveries around the globe. Does that sound hard to believe? You must look globally. While the American fleet is around 4,000 aircraft plus used LSA (nothing to sneer at, IMHO), in less than two decades more than 65,000 LSA or LSA-like aircraft have been delivered around the world. This is 3:1 compared to TC Aircraft — 2015 data shows 969 Type Certified single engine piston aircraft delivered versus 3,000 LSA / LSA-like. For more detail, see our chart, which tries to account for all these. 2—LSA have aided Type Certified aircraft development. Really? Yes! How? As FAA agreed to rewrite Part 23 rules (used to certify new Cessnas and such), the agency agreed to use ASTM industry consensus standards and used the LSA F37 committee as a guideline to establish the new GA-oriented F44 committee. FAA would not have done this if they didn't think the LSA idea worked quite well. You're welcome, GA industry. 3— LSA massively stimulated new instrumentation. From the first GPS use on hang gliders (surprised?) and the first digital engine instruments on ultralights, we now have gorgeous flat screens on LSA, touch screen digital devices in full color with more information than we ever dreamed… an all while most TC aircraft are still dominated by round analog dials. Plus this explosion of visual data came at vastly reduced prices. As the late night infomercial urge, “But wait, there’s more…” LSA also encouraged developers of synthetic vision, cheap autopilots, cheap AoAs, and more. 4—LSA introduced and popularized new safety systems, most notably whole airframe parachute systems but also “crush zone” (safety cells) technology and more. Airframe parachutes were first invented for ultralights. Today they are widely used in LSA and Germany even has a rule mandating them Hundreds of lives have been spared by their use giving pilots one more option if things go badly aloft. Yes, Cirrus adopting parachutes certainly helped popularize these systems, but they didn’t lead the parade. 5—Engineers have introduced new concepts in LSA powerplants. Engines lead by market leader Rotax brought concepts like liquid cooling, geared output, high efficiency (with much smaller displacement engines, Rotax nonetheless produces the same power as an O-200). Lighter, smaller packages made aircraft design easier and sleeker. Most recent developments include the electronically-controlled, fuel injected 912 iS, iS Sport, and 915 iS engine (which also incorporates a turbocharger and intercooler). Next: electric propulsion, which will work best on light aircraft like ultralights and LSA initially. 6—LSA promoted use of modern materials. Today Boeing’s Dreamliner is a current example of high-tech material use. Cirrus is another modern success story. Their SR-series used composite but limited carbon fiber. LSA have been using carbon for years; some have more than 90% of the superstrong, lightweight material. 7—LSA benefit their local communities in several important ways. Despite some losses, the LSA safety record has been described by the FAA as “acceptable” …high praise from a regulatory agency. Once LSA manufacturers got used to the system of ASTM standards, manufacturer compliance is good and safety followed. Training systems were improved to aid transition (driven by insurance, not FAA, by the way). LSA are environmentally friendly demonstrated by low fuel use thanks to high-tech, electronically-controlled engines with fuel burns of most engines in the 4-6 GPH range. Modern electronic engines will soon also allow upload of data to help pilots discover engine issues before the problem even shows itself in flight. Finally, LSA are quieter with low noise signatures. You may not care abut that too much but airport neighbors certainly do! If we want to base closer to city centers and don't want a long drive to fly our LSA, we must be accepted by the community.
Can we go further yet?Yes we can, in fact we may be at the beginning of greater developments. Why do I think this? My belief stems from my work with the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association and its four initiatives being lobbied to FAA:
- Gyroplane SLSA — given their popularity the time has come for factory-built aircraft
- Single Lever Control (SLC) — an idea to provide in-flight adjustable props to gain a potent safety advantage with zero pilot workload, thanks to modern engines and new development work
- Electric propulsion for 103 ultralights soon and possibly for LSA in the near future
- Aerial Work for LSA — this could be big for builders and users of LSA; some commercial applications are reasonable and LSA are excellent candidates for specific kind of aerial work
[from a talk given at DeLand Showcase 2017…] After more than 13 years of LSA, I believe the industry can stand tall and proud… Even with more than 140 attractive, innovative, and roomy LSA of every description, much of what makes LSA a strong and worthy addition to aviation is less obvious to many. Sure, pilots love the nuts and bolts and hearing about performance or flight characteristics of our favorite aircraft but what has really brought LSA to the forefront of aviation… worldwide? I’m lucky. I’ve had a front row seat to what I consider to be the greatest modern story in aviation. Since the 1970s, I watched hang gliders evolve into ultralights and ultralights transform into LSA. Then I watched as a worldwide fleet launched into the skies over the past 15-20 years. This has been humbling to experience and a source of constant delight …as well as a source of material for thousands of articles and hundreds of video.
Enjoy this quick look at Harmony LSAhttps://youtu.be/ARGiIrs946Y
We spent the first day of the second year of this event zooming around DeLand Showcase 2017 shooting several videos for you and I have a sample MiniVideo for you to view. This short take is modest compared to the more professionally-edited ones my video partner SportAviationMagazine.com will produce from the footage we shot today. Here’s the link to Videoman Dave’s YouTube channel where you can find hundreds more. Long days at the show filled with interviews, photo taking, and discussions with industry leaders and aircraft representatives swallow most of the available time. Yet these brief videos provide quick views and I hope to add more at DeLand and other events. Offer a comment if you like them. The Evektor Harmony LSA is represented in the USA by Dreams Come True, run by Steve Minnich (who by the way has flown the subject aircraft some 700 hours …though the aircraft obviously has received plenty of care and attention).
Mark Your Calendar… Videos: November 1st — Show: 2nd-3rd-4thAccording to a local newspaper, "More than 6,000 people are expected on the DeLand Municipal Airport Thursday, November 2 through Saturday, the 4th, to inspect more than 100 aircraft." The reporter went on to say that DeLand expects to "top the 1,000 flight operations recorded last year." Hours all three days are 9 AM to 5 PM. General admission for adults costs $20 each day, or $40 for a three-day pass. Lower prices are available for youth aged 11-17 and kids under 10 get in free. The entrance and free parking for DeLand Showcase are off Industrial Way on the northwest side of the airport. Here's the posting schedule for the gusher of videos you can watch. All these aircraft are expected at DeLand.
- Nov. 1, 2017 5 a.m. Tecnam Astore — Tecnam's low wing update that celebrated the 65th anniversary of this leading Light-Sport Aircraft producer from Italy. Tecnam is likely the world's leading producer of these aircraft and Astore is one of their newest. https://youtu.be/oTaWXgnZHUs
- Nov. 1, 2017 6 a.m. Zenith Aircraft — The 25-year-old kit company's CH 750 Cruzer is the speedier version of their ever-popular CH-701 and CH-750 models sometimes referred to as the Sky Jeep. It may not be shapeliest light aircraft but it can get out of the shortest airstrips. https://youtu.be/ioPY_PnMbMw
- Nov. 1, 2017 7 a.m. Aeroprakt A22 — From Ukraine comes one of the great bargains in light aviation with prices well below $100,000. The aircraft is also obvious for its major use of clear panels that assure wonderful visibility. Take the yoke and see for yourself. https://youtu.be/3qhbxWFdCFA
- Nov. 1, 2017 8 a.m. Aerotrek A220 A240 — The steady-Eddie of the LSA segment may be Aerotrek run by the ever-affable Rob Rollison. Through up years and down, Rob sells Aerotrek tricycles or taildraggers on a sane, predictable schedule that buyers appear to prefer. https://youtu.be/7ISH7ZqM4-Y
- Nov. 1, 2017 9 a.m. AutoGyro USA — One class of aircraft buys more Rotax 9-series engine than any other and by a good margin. That class is gyroplanes and AutoGyro is the largest producer. Now, Andy Wall is bringing the brand to America with a fresh, new look. https://youtu.be/2EUgcO5e5jg
- Nov. 1, 2017 10 a.m. Beringer Wheels and Brakes — Everyone likes get up and go but at the end of a flight you have to get down and stop. Beringer has leading expertise in abundance and offers beautiful, versatile systems to help you roll and brake smoothly. https://youtu.be/E7nVrcl2kz8
- Nov. 1, 2017 11 a.m. Ekolot Topaz — If Topaz has not caught your eye yet, you are in for a visual treat. Ekolot's smooth composite Topaz is as nicely appointed as they come and flies pleasantly to boot. Here's one that deserves your attention. https://youtu.be/c5tzmyiUgDE
- Nov. 1, 2017 12 p.m. Evektor Harmony — Harmony follows Evektor's SportStar, which will always enjoy the distinction as the very first Light-Sport Aircraft to win FAA acceptance. Harmony takes the highly evolved SportStar to a whole new altitude as one of the sector's best engineered aircraft. https://youtu.be/WtptDzfjx5o
- Nov. 1, 2017 1 p.m. Flight Design CTLS — For nearly every year Light-Sport Aircraft have been for sale, Flight Design's CT-series has lead the sales rankings and for good reason. It's fast, roomy, clean and smooth, and superbly equipped. At DeLand 2017, come meet the new group managing this venerable brand. https://youtu.be/wPpd6nuZ7YE
- Nov. 1, 2017 2 p.m. Groppo Trail — A lot of handsome airplanes originate in Italy, known for its stylish invention. Groppo's Trail is more the rough-and-ready version able to take on less improved airstrips. Now it's available in tricycle gear or taildragger form. https://youtu.be/6qZKtIkF0vQ
- Nov. 1, 2017 3 p.m. Just Aircraft SuperSTOL — Just Aircraft was already well known for their popular Highlander but when designer Troy Woodland sharply upped the ante with SuperSTOL, eyes at airshows everywhere turned to watch this outstanding performer. Seeing is believing. https://youtu.be/bQFoznvOO_k
- Nov. 1, 2017 4 p.m. KitFox Light Sport Aircraft — One the industry's most familiar shapes is that of Kitfox, whose several models bear the original appearance even as the current company continues to refine and improve their models. Their airshow models are always superlatively finished. https://youtu.be/Gs2FUw0UsAg
- Nov. 1, 2017 5 p.m. SuperPetrel LS — This is one you tend not to forget as it is a very rare biplane seaplane. While it may have a unique look, it works as well on water as any light seaplane model I have flown. The Brazilian company has a base in Florida, not far from DeLand. https://youtu.be/Si2hkU_CwE8
- Nov. 1, 2017 6 p.m. Pipistrel Alpha — This Slovenian company is known for their smooth, slender (and long) winged models made entirely of composite structures. Alpha is their most affordable model and you should look it over carefully. https://youtu.be/litphoYQLOc
- Nov. 1, 2017 7 p.m. Powrachute Powered Parachute — Powered parachutes offer one of the best viewing platforms in all of light aviation. They are also easy to fly and have the lowest hourly requirement to get a Sport Pilot license. Powrachute is the biggest supplier and their models warrant careful examination. https://youtu.be/Rg42_i3EcEU
- Nov. 1, 2017 8 p.m. Progressive Aerodyne SeaRey — We enjoy several great LSA seaplanes but only one boasts a long track record with a large fleet and that is Searey. Made in kit form only for years, you can now buy one ready-to-fly. Searey is made near DeLand in Tavares, Florida ...right on a lake, of course. https://youtu.be/7O7t1nJGPxo
- Nov. 1, 2017 9 p.m. REV Part 103 Legal Ultralight Trike — Among trikes available, the most deluxe and finished model is Revo from Evolution Trikes. However, this Florida company also made the fabulous Part 103 Rev for those on a budget or just look for solo fun in a well-made trike. https://youtu.be/oMK8myarZ94
- Nov. 1, 2017 10 p.m. RV-12 light sport — From the world's largest producer of kit aircraft, Van's Aircraft can now offer a fully built Special LSA RV-12 version through a collaboration with longtime kit-building partner, Synergy Air. Most RV-12s have been sold as kits, at which Van's is deeply experienced. https://youtu.be/PwX8FbTWdNc
- Nov. 1, 2017 11 p.m. Sling Light Sport Aircraft — The Airplane Factory-USA represents the Sling models, including the two seat LSA model and a four seat Sling 4 model that is built as a kit. Both fly wonderfully and have proven themselves uniquely by flying around the world, multiple times. https://youtu.be/3W0xzh0F7yo
- Nov. 1, 2017 12 p.m. SportCruiser — Known to the general aviation crowd as the PiperSport (thanks to a brand they know well), SportCruiser was before and has been since Piper's involvement a good seller under its original name. https://youtu.be/QcjW_X2v9Y0
Live! Soon! Go!Catch all these videos anywhere you like, but even better, make plans now to attend DeLand Showcase 2017. The weather has cooled from summer heat but it should still be in the high '70s, low '80s so it should be a great time to look at airplanes and other gear. As you enjoy all these free videos, I encourage you to visit Videoman Dave's YouTube channel and click here to support the work. You can see most of these videos featuring Dan Johnson right here.
My video partner must be working around the clock as he prepared a blizzard of videos for release starting November 1st. As you see in the list below, 20 videos will soon be available. I hope you’ll enjoy them. Besides giving you info on various aircraft to see at the event, we hope to encourage you to attend DeLand #2. Videos are great and in them we try to ask the questions you would ask and to show you things you’d look for if you attended. Good as videos are, nothing substitutes for you being present to ask and look yourself. I hope you can. Videoman Dave and I will be on-site all three days of the event. We will likely be a blur in motion dashing from one fetching aircraft vendor to another to gather more article material and video interviews. We also hope to record more Video Pilot Reports, as we did last year.
Kolb's TriGear FireStar to the RescueOffered after years of a tandem setup, Kolb's FireStar II SS is a side-by-side version of the FireStar II. More recently, the company offered a tricycle gear version …one that retains the tailwheel even if you don't use it. This gives a landing gear versatility almost unmatched in aviation. You can land on three front wheels or use the tailwheel if you wish to explore this difference. FireStar II delivers "great climb performance with the Hirth 3202 engine but can be fitted with the Rotax 582 engine," said Kolb's Bryan Melborn. Hirth is the standard engine for the FireStar II SS mated to a 2.58:1 gear reduction drive swinging a 66-inch diameter fixed pitch propeller. This combination gives outrageous climb performance (as our video below demonstrates) with a top speed of 80 mph. "It takes very little power to maintain minimum flying speed in a FireStar II SS," Bryan added, "and such slower flying is more enjoyable because of engine noise and fuel consumption are at a minimum." Handling Kolb aircraft is a wonderful experience. Like all Kolb models, FireStar II SS uses traditional cable and push-pull tube controls which yield a solid feel. Half-span ailerons offer good roll authority at higher speeds while still being powerful enough at lower speeds to retain roll control even through a stall. "Optional hydraulic brakes provide for sure stops so the FireStar II SS can be landed and stopped in very tight areas," noted Bryan. Differential braking using heel pedals allows for a tighter turning radius which further improves excellent ground handling. Previous customers who built the older tandem configuration are not left out. Bryan said, "We use stock FireStar wings and tail feathers, so if you own a FireStar II tandem seat, you can purchase a new cage and a boom tube from Kolb Aircraft and fit your wings, tail feathers, engine, and instruments to it and convert to side by side. Call the factory for details or send an email. Like all Kolb aircraft, the FireStar has folding wings and tail which allow for easy storage or trailering. "The tail folds up and the wings fold back along the fuselage in about 15 minutes by one person," Kolb advises. "Everything stores right on the airframe." With gross weight of 850 pounds and slow stall speed, a two-place FireStar II is sold as an Experimental Amateur Built aircraft. It qualifies to be flown using a Sport Pilot certificate or your higher certificate exercising the privileges of Sport Pilot.
Broadening the Tri-Gear LineupAt Sun 'n Fun 'n Fun, we did a video interview with Bryan to announce that Kolb now offers the Part 103-legal Firefly model with the tri-gear setup. Hear and see more below… https://youtu.be/PUupn9BdAIA
In the world of kit aircraft a few companies stand out for having delivered many kits that have launched into the air. Leading the success stories is Van’s Aircraft at nearly 10,000 flying — with around double that number of kits shipped. Van’s is trailed by Rans Aircraft, Kitfox Aircraft, and Kolb Aircraft. Kolb estimates about 8,000 of their various models are flying today, a strong enough figure to make the Tennessee company one of the shining lights in the field of light kit aircraft. However, Kolb has always had a problem. They build taildraggers. After generations of pilots were trained in tricycle gear airplanes, many pilots aren’t sure about their ability to handle a taildragger. When landed other than straight and true, a tricycle gear airplane auto-corrects, swinging toward the nosewheel. A taildragger can, if handled poorly, result in the dreaded ground loop, meaning that the tail can swing to the side, potentially causing a wingtip to touch the ground.