Before America becomes completely consumed with Eclipse Viewing Fever, you might want to pull your (solar filter-protected) eyes away from the soon-to-darken sky to catch a few glimpses of intriguing aircraft from EAA’s summer celebration of flight. In this pre-Eclipse weekend post, I’ll show you some images of cool flying things I saw at the big event. Starting off with my fascination about spaceflight, EAA communications guru Dick Knapinski told of the challenges of arranging an 80-foot-tall flying machine on the central Boeing Plaza square. This is where you see a changing kaleidoscope of aircraft from old to new and slow to fast. However, no aircraft I’ve ever seen in this location flies as fast, stands as tall, or is more unique than the Blue Origin rocket. From the billionaire-thick wallet of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos comes this space flight company that is competing with Space Exploration or SpaceX among others in the new era of private space companies.
- We have received new investment to support our European certification, which is expected by the end of 2017.
- We have established our North American operation in Brunswick, Maine.
- We are scheduling customer demo flights in Finland as soon as the crew is back from Oshkosh 2017 where customers can see and fly the all-new cockpit design (images), and,
- We have received our first order from Australia …so all is good and very positive.
Refreshed Design"Atol's cockpit is totally newly designed and looks great," added Anssi. The long established tradition in aviation (and most industries) of adapting the good ideas of other designers shows in Atol's new MVP-like approach. Anssi explained, "Atol's new articulating canopy retracts up and back, getting out of the way, allowing pilot and passenger to stand upright and access the cockpit from the front if desired, which makes docking and beaching easy. Our avionics retract with the canopy allowing them to be out of harm’s way, avoiding water spray. The seats are removable so when operating solo you can load up with gear to take advantage of our industry leading 600 pound useful load. Carbon fiber is accented with beautifully finished wood trim providing the feel of a classic automobile… it truly is striking." Among LSA seaplanes a 600 pound useful load is also striking. Anssi explains how they achieve that, "The outer layer of our hull is Kevlar with cold-molded, foam-cored birch. This combination is extremely rugged, light and strong. We use fabric covered wings featuring Oratex. These can be lighter than carbon fiber with the added benefit of field repairable. This is a real plus for a seaplane." “Finland has 188,000 lakes," said Anssi, "so we know the joys of water flying as well as the demands. Many of these lakes are remote and require range and reliability to access so we designed the Atol 650 for this environment.” Atol's 650 designation refers to 650 kilograms, the metric equivalent of FAA's 1,430 pound seaplane weight limit.
U.S. Production SiteAnssi introduced Paul Richards, Avion's official rep and president for Atol USA, Inc. "He will be in charge for fundraising and starting production for ATOL 650 LSA in Maine," noted Anssi. "We think Atol USA is the best and fastest solution for us to be able to serve our North American customers. Our Rovaniemi factory in Finland (photo) will produce for the rest of the world and continue product development,” Anssi added. Atol USA will produce the 650 at Brunswick Executive Airport (KBXM), site of the former Brunswick Naval Air Station. A local development authority has created a manufacturing technology incubator and is "currently constructing an environmentally-controlled composites layup room, curing oven and paint booth designed to aviation standards and sized to accept wings, fuselages and other large structures. These complement our CNC machining center, welding shops, 3D printers and on-site Composites Engineering Research Lab," said development director Steve Levesque. "We make these assets available to companies throughout the State of Maine." The northeastern state has a long history with amphibious flight having been the home to Lake Aircraft for decades. We expect to deliver these airframes beginning in the first quarter of 2019 and at a firm fixed price. What price? "Current pricing is $179,000 for delivery through 2018, although most of these positions are allocated so our open slots begin in 2019," explained Paul. Want to know more? Review Atol's technical specifications here. Or, contact Paul at Paul.Richards@Atol.US or call 603-828-5373. This video shows Atol in action: https://youtu.be/fQRCKp8zgHc
“Coming to America” is a common refrain from light aircraft producers in some countries. Why? The obvious reason is that most designers perceive a huge market in the USA. Another is that shipping from the USA to other countries proves easier than shipping from their home countries. Other reasons also exist but those two are enough to decide in favor of the move. One builder of a LSA seaplane is Atol Avion, based in Finland. They have been moving steadily toward approval, production, and sale of their Atol amphibian. Anssi Rukula, co-founder of Avion and the director of sales said, “We have a lot of news and it’s centered on delivery of production airplanes. He enumerated: We have received new investment to support our European certification, which is expected by the end of 2017. We have established our North American operation in Brunswick, Maine. We are scheduling customer demo flights in Finland as soon as the crew is back from Oshkosh 2017 where customers can see and fly the all-new cockpit design (images), and, We have received our first order from Australia …so all is good and very positive.
The Plane that Never WasLee Fischer was the founder of this group of tinkerers that formed after he first showed a highly modified Robertson B1-RD. So much interest was shown in the Demoiselle style of aircraft that he decided to build a 23 Bis. At AirVenture 2015, his friend Mark Solper hinted that it would be "great project to build a pair of 'evolved' Demoiselles for a subsequent AirVenture." This suggestion led to the 24 Bis you see here. Mark, Lee, and the whole merry band machined and welded the airframe and sewed Dacron wings, all the while learning both new skills and an appreciation for what Santos Dumont and his associates had done more than a hundred years earlier. "You're not going to fly it, are you," Mark remembered his friends asking him? He did. Successfully. The aircraft you see was flown into Oshkosh. After flying airplanes from transport aircraft to ultralights and including a stint with FAA, Mark appears to be having the time of his life with this unusual winged contraption. He now serves on EAA's Ultralight & Light-Sport Aircraft Council. Skonkwerks is an honoring nod to the famed Lockheed Martin Skunkworks, the latter becoming a term widely used in a generic sense to denote a group within an organization given a high degree of autonomy to work on advanced, sometimes secret projects. The Winchester Skonkwerks uses the name "in jest to project an aura of something outside of the norm being worked on, developed, or flown while staying in touch with meager roots." With this article you see no website or phone numbers. This aircraft is not for sale but is certainly worthy of you traipsing down to Oshkosh's Fun Fly Zone (i.e., the Ultralight Area) to see for yourself. Meanwhile, here's a few facts you might enjoy:
- Weight — 240 pounds
- Wing Span — 32 feet
- Wing Area — 192 square feet
- Never Exceed Speed — 45-50 mph
- Stall Speed — 14-16
- Engine — Rotax 447
- Build Time — December 21, 2014 through June 21, 2015
Update 8/17/17: See our video interview at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2017 on this aircraft (at bottom). —DJ The aircraft you see in the photos is called “A Tribute to Alberto Santos Dumont.” Do you know who that is? In my conversations with a few other pilots, almost everyone knew the name (“vaguely”) but not one remembered what that person did. Since the 24 Bis (that’s what they call the example you see in the images) is a tribute to Alberto, let’s take a second to recall his history. Santos Dumont was a prolific aircraft designer working from 1898 to 1920. The first year was when he made his first balloon ascension, in Paris, on July 4th. Only six years later, not even three years after the Wright Brothers’ famous Kitty Hawk flight, Alberto flew his 14 Bis on November 12th, 1906. This flight won him the accolade “first person to fly in Europe.” His first production aircraft weighed in at 242 pounds.
Customer Deliveries Begin
Icon Aircraft CEO Kirk Hawkins shared a computer depiction of events leading to the crash of an A5 flown by factory chief pilot, Jon Karkow. From A5’s onboard black box Icon engineers assembled a second-by-second path for the ill-fated Light-Sport Aircraft. The data showed speed, power settings, flap position, and more. According to the Napa Valley Register relating a National Transportation Safety Board report, “Pilot error caused the crash that killed two men in a small airplane on May 8, 2017 in Lake Berryessa.” NTSB wrote, “The pilot, Jon Karkow, of Icon Aircraft in Vacaville, was flying too low, and mistakenly entered a canyon surrounded by steep rising terrain.” The investigative agency said Karkow had taken off from the Nut Tree airport in Vacaville at 8:50 a.m. accompanied by passenger, Cargi Sever, a new Icon employee. The pilot intended to take Sever on a familiarization flight in the Icon A5 amphibious Light-Sport Aircraft, said NTSB.
Now Comes JustWe don't know too much about Just 103 yet but it won't take long before we get plenty more. Designer Troy Woodland — of SuperSTOL fame — said he almost got the new bird in the air before Oshkosh and will certainly do so in the next few weeks. It should be market ready by end of year. From some folks I'd find that a rather bold promise but Troy has a proven track record of getting flying machines to market. Up front, Troy mounted the Polini Thor 250 engine, which provides 37 horsepower at 7500 rpm. With an engine weight of barely over 40 pounds and the proper Part 103 airframe weight, this Thor engine should provide spirited performance. Fuel usage is very low; remember, these engines got popular on powered paragliders where the pilot carries engine and fuel on his or her back, so big gas tanks aren't needed. Troy went with a boom tube to the tailplane to keep weight down and to maintain a genuine ultralight look. Readers who have followed this sector may recognize both the Capella Javelin and TEAM's AirBike. (Also see this Zlin airplane.) The latter comparison is especially apt because this is one of those airplanes you get on rather than in. Pilots side astride the welded steel forward fuselage with their feet on the rudder pedals out in the breeze, although at a top allowed speed of 63 mph (55 knots), that breeze won't be particularly windy. Troy indicated they have done all the analysis and much of the testing (wings are done even though they weren't brought to Oshkosh). He is sure it will make the empty weight challenge of 254 pounds. Before it even flies, no price has been set, but with an engine price well under $4,000 and a simple airframe from a very established builder, it is reasonable to think Just 103 will be quite affordable. Stay tuned! * I did not write Part 103 vehicles are the lightest powered aircraft as Part 103 also covers hang gliders and paraglider, which are commonly unpowered.
If you know the Part 103 category of the FAA regulations, you know these are the lightest aircraft in aviation (that is, man-carrying aircraft; drones excepted).* After years of disappearing, Part 103 entries have come back more recently and at AirVenture Oshkosh 2017, we saw another. This is the Just Aircraft Superlite, except that name was never certain and has (since Oshkosh) been taken off the list as a model name. Until they put a fresh name on it, I will call it Just 103. Part 103, as most readers may know, requires no pilot certificate (really, none!). They also require no FAA registration or N-numbers. Since 1982, you need no aviation medical to fly one. Plus, they can be built ready-to-fly… or in kit form of any percentage. For 35 years now — the rule went effective in September of 1982 — Part 103 ultralight vehicles have been part of the aviation firmament.
The original ByDanJohnson.com did not permit comments. Our new version — launched on the April 1st 13th anniversary of this website — has a slick system to allow this method of exchange. TIP: If you have sent a comment in the period during or since Oshkosh 2017, please check back for my response; I’ve been writing many. Most are readers seeking more info about an airplane that interests them and that’s wonderful. I will do my best to answer all of them but in some cases I have to do some research. Your patience is appreciated. We sincerely appreciate your visit and thank those of you who have become members!
That Was ThenFlight Design, the German company that makes the CTLS, has been through the wringer in recent years with a series of reversals no one could have anticipated. After struggling through a combination of events — global economic slowdown; Russian saber rattling in Ukraine, where its main plant is located; and development projects consuming too many resources — Flight Design was forced into insolvency in 2016. Since then it has been operated at a low level of activity by a government-mandated receiver company, but the company was able to maintain the design's Special LSA acceptance in addition to supplying a few planes plus spare parts. All the while, Flight Design principals were looking for new options for manufacturing the CT and obtaining financing for its production. The reasons above made it hard for the company to obtain the necessary funding to purchase the company’s assets, according to Peghiny. Therefore, a recent offer to purchase all the assets by Lift Holding, a German investment group, comes as welcome news for Flight Design.
This is Now
Tom explained, "The new company will be known as Flight Design General Aviation, GmbH. After concluding the sale of all major company assets to the Lift Holding investment group, Flight Design General Aviation will be based at a new and modern facility (photo) near the historic town of Eisenach in the Thuringia region of Germany.“We have been working with the Lift folks for a year planning the comeback for the Flight Design brand and we are very excited about the developments for the future," Tom expressed. "Parts supply and support will improve and this also allows Flight Design to keep the engineering team intact. These people have a deep product knowledge plus it assures the quality management and operational safety monitoring will stay the same."
Lift is also the owner of the Rotorvox gyrocopter line. "Lift Holding will combine the technical expertise of Flight Design with their other aviation assets (Rotorvox) as part of Lift Air, GmbH. Both companies will be headquartered at the Kindel Airport (EDGE) near Eisenach." Lift Holding will assume all the assets of the former company and plans to produce the CT lineup.The Flight Design European Design Organization — approved by regulatory agency, EASA — and the production site in Kherson, Ukraine as well as the design rights for all Flight Design products including the CT series are now secured with the German company’s investment. Flight Design General Aviation (FDGA) will increase its spare parts inventory and product support. The new company will continue to produce assemblies in Ukraine, with licensed operator AeroJones Aviation also producing CT-series aircraft in China. "We are delighted to be able to take over all of Flight Design's assets and are confident we will go forward as a world leader in the development and construction of light aircraft," said Sven Lindig, Managing Director of the Lindig Group. FDGA has aircraft operating in 48 countries around the globe. The company will soon employ 20 employees in Germany — mostly highly qualified engineers and technicians — as well as about 100 manufacturing employees in Ukraine. Since the founding of the company in 1988 and the establishment of the Ukrainian production plant in 1993, the company has delivered over 1,800 aircraft. "Flight Design has some unique products and experience in the production of all carbon-composite, very efficient light aircraft. We want to invest in development of those products and also achieve leadership in customer support," said Lars Joerges, the new Managing Director of FDGA. Flight Design General Aviation also plans to continue development of the C4 four-place aircraft, although Tom Peghiny said the program would change to accommodate the efficiencies in a changing certification landscape in the United States and abroad, referring to the long-awaited Part 23 rewrite and its mirror regulation in Europe. Tom indicated that FDGA will make a return to AirVenture for the 2018 event.
After more than a year, a resolution was reached for the airplane that topped the charts in the LSA space since Day One. Although Flight Design’s CT-series was eclipsed in 2016 by CubCrafters (by a very slim margin), the aircraft remains well regarded and its many adherents are no doubt breathing a sigh of relief that the “reorganization” (what Americans might call a bankruptcy) has been resolved. All good! (Read more about this reorganization here.) During EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2017, longtime Flight Design USA representative Tom Peghiny sent news about the new owner of the brand. The crush of airshow activity let others beat us to this news, however, we will use our long history with this company to provide a more detailed report. That Was Then Flight Design, the German company that makes the CTLS, has been through the wringer in recent years with a series of reversals no one could have anticipated.
Want to know more?The many who have expressed an interest in Vickers Wave have a golden opportunity to find out more… soon. You can hear the latest on this impressive design directly from the source. "We received confirmation from EAA on the time slot for our forum and meet & greet at AirVenture 2017 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin," said Paul. Vickers Aircraft will be at Forum Stage 2 at the Forums Plaza (Knapp St.) from 1:00-2:15 pm on Tuesday, July 25th. Here's a show grounds map to guide you. "Although the aircraft will not be present, we will be giving a short presentation about Vickers Aircraft and the Wave," said Paul. This provides an excellent time to meet with a few of Vickers' key people, including Founder and CEO, Paul Vickers.
Now that we are in the middle of winter, activity is brisk. Middle of winter!? Down under in New Zealand, residents are presently in the colder months of the year. Pilots in U.S. states currently sweating through summer may need a moment to ponder that. New Zealand may be a long ways away but the Vickers Aircraft team building Wave are bringing their fascinating aircraft ever closer. As they work, they are gaining experience with new equipment used to build Wave LSA seaplanes. “Our tooling is all in place now,” said CEO Paul Vickers. “Initial parts are coming out of molds and they are matching the CAD files perfectly.” Modern design, even of more affordable aircraft, are often fully created on computer work stations. The days of hand making a prototype are passed and the older way is nearly extinct. “We’ve also recently doubled the size of our facilities,” added Paul.
Sonex will again hold its Open House and Homecoming Fly-In the day before EAA AirVenture Oshkosh on Sunday, July 23rd, at their factory headquarters on the east side of Wittman Regional Airport. "Our 2017 event marks the 14th annual gathering for customer-built aircraft at the Sonex facility," noted the company in a pre-show announcement. "The event runs from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM and concludes with a mass taxi 'arrival' of customer and factory aircraft across Wittman field to AirVenture grounds (photo)."
This year’s Homecoming Fly-In will feature the first customer-built SubSonex Personal Jet in-attendance, as builder John Corneal will be bringing his SubSonex to AirVenture from Petersburg, Pennsylvania. The jet-powered Sonex, called SubSonex, has attracted a lot of attention. Learn how a Private Pilot can fly a jet in the video below.
More announcements from SonexSonex will also present the tricycle gear version of the new B-model Sonex for the first time. The B-models now include the Sonex, Waiex, and Xenos motorglider models but to-date all have been taildraggers. If that's not your experience, Sonex now has you covered with tricycle gear. After hearing from customers, the company has also created a mount system to accommodate the very popular Rotax 9-series engines. "Rotax Attach Bars can also be used for custom Rotax 912 engine mounts on any experimental aircraft," the company reported. "Rotax Attach Bars eliminate the need for expensive and complex Rotax ring mounts and Rotax mount rubbers. As a bed mount system, AeroConversions Rotax Attach Bars bolt directly to Rotax 912-series engines and are designed to use simple AeroConversions AeroVee Shock Mount Rubbers, eliminating the complex shock mount geometry found in other Rotax bed mount systems."
Even though Sonex employees are doing double duty during AirVenture, the company conducts daily factory tours during the event. However, if you aren't going to Oshkosh or don't want to tear yourself away from the show, you can catch our 30-minute-long factory tour with General Manager Mark Schaible.
Sonex Aircraft supplies a series of sport aircraft — Sonex, Waiex, and Onex sport planes, the Xenos sport motorglider, and the SubSonex Personal Jet — as well as their own AeroVee engine line. "Our aircraft offer outstanding performance in an easy to build, easy to fly kit package that can be purchased and completed with full technical support at an unrivaled price."Show goers can check out all things Sonex at exhibit space 622 in the North Aircraft Display Area, where most light kit-built aircraft can be found. If you can't wait, check this short video packed with details. https://youtu.be/Z34ju5tZ9OA
If you seek affordable aircraft (like most readers), then you already know Sonex Aircraft. If you have somehow missed this iconic brand, you are in for a treat. Great planes, nice people, and more enthusiasm than an airshow crowd watching an aerobatic performance. The only light aircraft producer based right at the home field of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, Sonex parlays their co-location with the big event to good advantage. Sonex will again hold its Open House and Homecoming Fly-In the day before EAA AirVenture Oshkosh on Sunday, July 23rd, at their factory headquarters on the east side of Wittman Regional Airport. “Our 2017 event marks the 14th annual gathering for customer-built aircraft at the Sonex facility,” noted the company in a pre-show announcement. “The event runs from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM and concludes with a mass taxi ‘arrival’ of customer and factory aircraft across Wittman field to AirVenture grounds (photo).” This year’s Homecoming Fly-In will feature the first customer-built SubSonex Personal Jet in-attendance, as builder John Corneal will be bringing his SubSonex to AirVenture from Petersburg, Pennsylvania.
One of the stalwarts of the light aircraft sector is Kitfox, a brand known widely around the globe. First flown in November 1984 by Dan Denney, nearly 5,000 aircraft in various models have been produced. Nearly all were built from kits but the company also achieved Special Light-Sport Aircraft status allowing flight instruction for compensation. Kitfox, like all that appear somewhat similar, evolved from the original Avid Flyer by Dean Wilson in 1983. The Kitfox brand went through various owners after Denney sold and today resides with John McBean though the company has always hailed from Idaho. “Working from the very successful and robust Kitfox S7 Super Sport, we created a clipped wing, aerodynamically refined, and superbly stylized taildragger Speedster that is guaranteed to get the heart rate up to redline,” said McBean in news announced just before Airventure 2017 is set to begin (next Monday, July 25th).
Dragonfly Grows Up
Dragonfly was designed to fly slowly. A hang glider cannot be towed safely at speeds much above 30-35 mph. Dragonfly can stall below 20 mph. It has elephant-ear-sized flaperons, a large empennage, and Vne was 55 mph on the first models. As I said: purpose-built to tow hang gliders.What else might it do? Well, plenty perhaps, and especially so should FAA allow LAMA to coordinate with industry for a test period to see if Light-Sport Aircraft can become working aircraft. More on that another time. Ed Pitman, a longtime hang glider pilot turned aircraft manufacturer, recently gained approval for a Dragonfly Rancher model as a Special LSA. "Got both 900 & 582 series Dragonfly Ranchers approved SLSA yesterday," he wrote, taking after Bobby in being frugal with words. I pried a few more from him. "We reworked the Dragonfly to make it more pilot friendly to the GA market and targeted farmers and ranchers, by making it a tax-deductible piece of farm equipment." Under current regs a farmer can use such a flying machine for his own fields. "However," Ed added, "second and third world countries are interested in it for commercial crop dusting." Every U.S. state is different when it comes to aerial application, said Ed. "Here in California, a land owner is allowed to spray their own property from the air with a standard Applicators Permit. Dragonfly Rancher is a bonafide piece of farm and ranch equipment." "Vne on Dragonfly was 66 mph (upped from those earlier models) and Rancher goes further, to 88 mph Vne." The newly beefed-up Dragonfly can carry enough payload to do micro spraying, which — if you don't know as I did not — is a legitimate method of application in some situations. "We increased the gross weight to 1,200 pounds because we will be putting it on floats, also," said Ed. "Bobby re-schemed the wings, which only gained 2.2 pounds each to get to that higher gross weight." The all-up weight went from 992 pounds (450 kg) earlier. I asked Ed to explain what they did to bump gross and Vne speed. "We reduced rudder pressure, added electric flaperons, reinforced the main gear, and improved longitudinal stability of the Dragonfly," he clarified. A nose cone and windscreen reduces fatigue for a working pilot. Yet Dragonfly remains "fun to fly," he asured. "It actually performs better with flaps up in aerobatics — spins and loops — and still does a controllable spin." "With floats it can be used for Introductory Flights as a SLSA," added Ed. Training pilots for towing required a second seat, though it is commonly, and easily, removed along with the aft joystick and pedals. Interested in micro spraying? "My website has tax calculator link to see federal tax benefits," reported Ed. (calculator is another website) Also some videos. Get more info on this hard-working aircraft on Ed's website, then click Rancher. Go here to see more of Dragonfly's history.
You may not know this Dragonfly airplane but I do. Very well. Since before it was called Dragonfly, I followed the development of this unusual aircraft by Bobby Bailey. You probably don’t know him either but he’s one of the most inventive light aircraft designers. A man of very few words, he prefers to create than to talk about it. Dragonfly is an important icon in the hang gliding community. This aircraft was purpose-built to tow hang gliders aloft. At a place near Sun ‘n Fun called Wallaby Ranch, this happens nearly every day of the year. Proprietor Malcolm Jones founded “the Ranch” in 1992. He has a fleet of Dragonflys that he uses to tow up experts, students learning to fly, or almost anyone wanting to get an introduction to hang gliding. Dragonfly has been fantastically productive, towing so many thousands of flights that I doubt they could be accurately counted.
How did Mike Lotz do it?"While doing first basic construction steps, I kept toying with the tail wheel idea. I started researching plans and books: Tony Bingelis' Sportplane Builder and my favorite, Ladislao Pazmany's Landing Gear Design For Light Aircraft. "While in construction, I decided I would commit to the tail wheel conversion. At the same time, just to see if it could be done, I decided to modify Lightning's controls to create center stick, another thing the factory had not done. I thought this would make entry easier and also let my wife have her own uncluttered space. This was my first project and at the rate I was going, I figured I wasn't going be doing too many of these so I wanted to do this one exactly how I wanted it. "I contacted Nick and got some better clarity on center of gravity and possible wheel positions and applied them to Pazmany's formulas until everything came in within the guidelines. Theoretical weight and balance and prop clearance were also considerations. I am a retired machinist, so the metal work and fixturing was very familiar to me although I did have to 'tune' up my welding for about a year and a half before I attempted the landing gear legs and supports. "At this time I've got about 2,500 hours into it. Although the empty CG moved a little more than an inch aft with the tail wheel, we are still well within the envelope and Light-Sport limit with two people and 20 gallons of fuel. "I'm using the Jabiru 3300 and without the nose wheel, I hope to add a few miles an hour in cruise and lose a couple on landing." Wisely, Mike hasn't decided if he'll do the test flight on his Lightning TD. "I've spent more time building than flying lately," Mike admitted. This is a common, smart move… to let a person other than the builder do the test flight. Mike continued, "Buzz Rich, who is very involved with Nick at Lightning and has a ton of time in the Lightning and tail wheels, has offered to do the first flights and it would be a kick to get his take on my project if we can work it out. I'll be flying amateur built but Lightning TD will come within Light-Sport limits. "This is way more plane than I could have ever imagined for myself." Make is both clever with technical skills and is diplomatic as he added an essential thank-you note. "Thanks to my wife Kathy for the great seats she sewed, for helping me move, lift, hold, and generally assist in the barn and for tolerating airplane parts in rooms around the house for seven years now. In fact, I think she misses the propeller not being in the living room anymore." Mike also added thanks to Nick, Mark, and Buzz at Arion Aircraft. So, now that you know Mike's story, what will you do this weekend?
I readily admit I find Arion’s Lightning LS-1 (the Special LSA model designation) one of the most handsome in the Light-Sport fleet …which is saying something as we enjoy dozens and dozens of quite beautiful aircraft in this sector. It’s also all-American, referencing its design and manufacturing. Lightning lives up to its name, running easily to the 120-knot maximum for LSA, especially when powered with a very muscular six-cylinder, 120 horsepower Jabiru 3300 powerplant. Every Lightning to date has been a tricycle gear airplane and, honestly, for most pilots, that is the right choice. However, like many aviators, I love the look of a tail dragger so when I stumbled across the one you see in the photos, I did a double take. Whoa! That looks hot! What you see here is a product of seven years of work by builder/owner Mike Lotz. I asked him to tell me about it and he offered enough that I’m going to let him tell his story.
When summer rolls around and the sweat rolls off, it’s a perfect time to think about float flying. In the Light-Sport Aircraft or light kit-built airplane space, you are lucky to have a broad number of choices. This includes seaplanes (with boat hulls), floatplanes (land planes equipped with floats) or either of those on aircraft such as weight-shift trikes. Legend Cub is a modernized version of the old Piper Cub. Sulphur Springs, Texas-based Legend was an early entrant to the LSA world. They’ve done well enough under the leadership of Darin Hart to occupy the #5 spot on our all-time-fleet ranking of Special LSA; they are one of only five LSA producers with more than 200 aircraft registered with FAA. American Legend flew a float-equipped Legend Cub way back on March 11, 2005 even before the first Special LSA were accepted by FAA. Legend’s floatplane offering boasts advantages. “It weighs less than comparable aircraft, cost less, and came with the added advantage of doors and windows on both sides of the cockpit,” observed the company.
A key phrase for this website is “Affordable Aviation” (in fact, we bought AffordableAviation.com for future use). Our focus is on aircraft that can work within the budgets of many recreational or sport pilots. Reading about bizjets or self-flying drones in major magazines may be interesting but those of us who love to fly prefer flying machines we can genuinely afford. A kit-built aircraft is one way to make airplanes more affordable, and more personal. The great news is you have many wonderful choices. What you may not have is time and that’s why this article covers Merlin PSA. How much time must you invest to get airborne? Would you believe a mere two weeks? Many kits ask for months, even years of your labor plus a place to do this work. If you love the craftsmanship, that may be fine but if you build so you can fly, why not have the process be easier and swifter?
Seamax will join Embry-Riddle Research Park’s Customized Business Acceleration Program, the aeronautical university based in Daytona Beach announced on July 3rd, 2017. “This partnership will allow us to integrate Seamax into Embry-Riddle’s remarkable research and devel- opment cluster to further accelerate our technological and business capabilities” said Seamax CEO Gilberto Trivelato. “It will enable our company to leverage new features to our aircraft and to introduce more reliable products to aeronautical market.” A great partner helps and the business concept with a major academic institution sounds good but what does it mean? For AirMax, which recently reentered the U.S. market after a business reorganization (see recent article). it means a new American location for the Brazilian manufacturer. The company’s U.S. office will be housed at the John Mica Engineering Aerospace Innovation Complex, called MicaPlex, at Embry-Riddle’s Research Park adjacent to the Daytona Beach Campus. This location will allow the producer to work with current Research Park tenants and resident partners as well as access research facilities, technology and resources.
The electric motors that are hidden inside the body during ground operations allow the TF-X to takeoff vertically before morphing, Osprey V-22-style, to horizontal flight, Power is to come from a 300-horsepower engine providing thrust through a ducted fan. Design estimates are for a cruising speed of 200 mph and a 500-mile flight range.
The four-seat TF-X will be semi-autonmous and use computer controls so that passengers can simply type in a destination before taking off.According to various media reports, the deep-pocketed Geely will fly the Terrafugia design under its Volvo brand, though like the TF-X, these plans remain conjecture at this time. To get itself to the point of being acquired by Volvo-owning Geely, Terrafugia allegedly raised raised around $6 million in capital through five rounds of funding. The acquisition by Geely could accelerate development efforts considering the Chinese firm's financial strength. Readers of this website probably may not care much about autonomously flown aircraft that look part-quadcopter drone and part automobile, but it's interesting to see where thinking way ahead might lead. https://youtu.be/wHJTZ7k0BXU According to London's Daily Mail online, "Just how much the Chinese automotive company paid for Terrafugia has yet to be revealed, but experts say the move could be a step toward the ultimate travel solution for commuters. Still, they estimate it will be another 10-20 years before the radical vehicles hit the streets. In the past, Terrafugia has claimed its designs could be ready to fly within the next few years. Last February, the firm said its concept vehicle TF-X could come to life as a prototype vehicle in just two years, and go on general sale within eight."
In a familiar theme, a Chinese company has acquired an American aircraft company. Past purchases include Cirrus Design, Mooney, Glasair, and Continental Motors, among others. This time news reports say a Chinese company bought a company from the light aircraft space: Terrafugia, maker of the Transition flying car, or as they prefer to call it, a roadable aircraft. Geely is an automaker based in Hong Kong that bought the famed Swedish car maker, Volvo. The Massachusetts airplane developer has put out slick video presentations of their newer-still model, the TF-X, a hybrid electric variation (video at bottom). I suspect it is this newer entry that has both automobile makers excited. Terrafugia first announced their Transition roadable airplane in 2006, flying a proof-of-concept aircraft in 2009 along with a demonstration before attendees of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in 2013. The Massachusetts company built a second-generation Transition prototype in 2012.
What do you do?I hope you never face this scenario. You probably will not. Modern engines, airframes, and instrument panels make it most unlikely. Nonetheless, it happens. Do you believe you could set down in the water in such a way that you can escape? Of course, you've never practiced a water ditching and that move by Captain Sully may not be your option. I have flown to the Bahamas with and without an airframe parachute. I never experienced even a hiccup from the engine or other systems but I'm here to tell you the flights with the parachute were far less stressful. Stress is never good and your flight over the lake when the engine quit dramatically increased your stress level. How well do you think you will perform when your heart is pounding? Disclaimer: I used to be involved with a company producing these systems. I am clearly biased in their favor. Yet in my former role I spoke to literally dozens of people who had pulled the handle and every single one of them thought it made all the difference in the world. Most said, "You just saved my life!" Certainly, if you can fly to an emergency landing, do so! Absolutely! However, sometimes, even a Captain Sully has to play the cards he's been dealt. In his case that turned out well. He became a hero. Yet if you fly in a fixed gear airplane the odds of your airplane flipping upside down are seriously high. If so, and you and your passenger are upside down in the water, will you get out in time? Look, this may not be how you choose to think about your flying. It's supposed to be fun and enjoyable and it nearly always is so. Nonetheless, you practice stalls, emergency approaches, and crosswind landings so you are ready if it turns ugly on you. Most of the time that training works great. Even better, it is rarely — very rarely — needed. Is it wise to ignore the possibility a parachute might be your only option, even once in your flying career? Check Magnum Parachutes page and see a list of some (but not all) the times when a parachute might be very valuable. Can you avoid all these situations? Yes, maybe... hopefully! Do you want to bet the farm on it? I'll tell you from my four trips to the Bahamas flying that such crossings completely out of sight of land were enormously more enjoyable with a parachute than without. I knew I had a way out if the worst happened. Magnum Parachutes offers rocket-deployed systems for a wide variety of airplanes. They are supplied from a U.S. importer who has all the credentials to do so competently and safely. Check their product line to see what Magnum offers and what a system will cost. Then do your best planning because when the engine hiccups over unlandable terrain, it's too late to buy and I don't want to lose any of my flying buddies to an avoidable incident. The video below shows a fuselage extraction test performed by manufacturer Stratos 07. https://youtu.be/DyY8Ke3LikQ
Let’s say you are flying on a wonderful cross country trip. You’ve been humming along enjoying a beautiful day. The plane is flying great and sightseeing is superb. The ease of the trip in one of our modern flying machines with a big digital screen showing the way could lull you into crossing a large lake between you and your destination. Midway across the lake, your engine unexpectedly sputters and stops. You calmly run through your checklist. Nothing appears amiss. You try restarting but the engine won’t cooperate. Anywhere you look it’s the same distance to land. You calculate you can’t glide far enough. What do you do? I hope you never face this scenario. You probably will not. Modern engines, airframes, and instrument panels make it most unlikely. Nonetheless, it happens. Do you believe you could set down in the water in such a way that you can escape? Of course, you’ve never practiced a water ditching and that move by Captain Sully may not be your option.
Aero Adventure News
Hammerhead "canard sponson" — Although it looks like (and is) an add-on feature, this could easily catch on for Aventura buyers and current owners. Dispensing with the wing-mounted sponsons you see in the nearby photos, their canard sponson offers more than a cool look. These sponsons do the same job as the wing-mounted ones, namely keep the wings out of the water on turns or in moving water. However, since you can also walk on them, they aid entry, give you a platform in the water — for fishing, as one example — and they eliminate the drag of the tubing structure to hold the wing versions. "They actually develop a small amount of extra lift," said business owner Alex Rolinski. This is no Icon A5-inspired idea. The canard sponson idea was first conceived under the leadership of Carlos Pereyra, a previous owner of this company who was something of a guru about fiberglass construction. The prototype was first fitted in early 2000 on a 1998 Aventura for a kit builder who wanted to explore the idea. The original was built of fiberglass and used an interior aluminum tubular structure. It also had extra fuel in the sponsons, but when Alex and his group brought back the canard sponson, they removed the fuel tanks. Aventura carries plenty of fuel in a tank aft of the seats. "Aventura with these canard sponsons flew fine," added Alex, "but the assembly was heavy." Eliminating the fuel tanks considerably lightened the component. "They are made of very dense and very light foam," said Alex, "The construction uses technology borrowed from boats and is very strong." Installation can be done to older Aventura seaplanes. Two 2.25-inch holes are cut in each side of hull but this is not a structural issue as the hull is independent of the airplane's structure. Nothing is fiberglassed to the hull but the assembly conforms with a snug fit. "One aluminum tube runs under your knees and another behind the seat, continuing through the hull to protrude on the other side," explained Alex. The canard sponsons extend 43 inches from each side. They have a taper from 44 inches of chord to 33 inches near the sponson. This is an all-new sponson design; it is not the wing mounted one moved inboard. "They work well in water and in-flight cruise," Alex noted. Drag is reduced due to component's overall shape as it eliminates support-tube drag from the original wing-mounted sponsons. Aventura's retractable wheels tuck behind the sponson showing slightly above the upper surface. "The sponsons have no effect on turning; you still maneuver in the water with rudder and prop blast." New Front Deck & Instrument Panel — "We have a new nose deck that you can identify with its extra hump and a larger hatch," Alex observed. A nose cavity allows a limited space for some cargo items. That new nose deck integrates with the instrument panel and Aero Adventure has some news about that as well. "When you choose one of AeroMomentum's engines, wiring is simpler, freeing up space in the panel," Alex said. Aero Adventure will also wire the panel for those that prefer not to tackle this job. Many homebuilders choose this — indeed, Aircraft Spruce has a whole division that will prewire panels for builders (see video on this) — so it fits in FAA's task-based method of determining compliance to the so-called 51% rule. Still More Developments — Other new work in development is fiberglass ribs in lieu of slide-in tubular ribs. "These do not change the wing shape or profile," said Alex, "it's still a Hershey bar-style wing." "With more than 200 aircraft flying we often hear from current customers and new customers who bought used ones," Alex added. He reports a fairly active overseas market as well as American customers. Support for Buyers — Beside making airframes in kit form, Aero Advenure does regular refurbishment of previously-built Aventuras. "We have two Aventura IIs in inventory right now. One is a 2006 model with just 74 hours on it; another is a 2009 model that has close to 400 hours logged," Alex said. I predict these won't last long but Aero Adventure will happily make more at their DeLand, Florida location (right next door to Aerolite 103 manufacturer, U-Fly-It). If you need training, Aero Adventure has a new certified flight instructor joining the team to offer flight training, transition training, and seaplane ratings. The company is organizing a club to allow such training in Experimental aircraft. Want your own Aventura seaplane? You can buy from inventory or order the kit and start work on a brand-new Aventura. The airframe without engine is $31,000 but you can buy any of 19 assemblies and get going without investing the entire piggy bank. Contact Aero Adventure and see how much fun water flying can be.
Let’s make an important point right up front. Seaplanes cost more than land planes. A fully-built, ASTM-compliant LSA seaplane starts at $150,000 and can go way up from that point. With a boat hull and retractable gear, of course, these water birds cost more to manufacture. Must seaplanes be so costly? Fortunately, no! Aero Adventure manufactures a surprisingly affordable light seaplane kit. With the Suzuki-based AeroMomentum engine, you can get an Aventura in the air for less than $50,000 …yep, nose to tail, tip to tip, including a basic panel and powerplant for $49,000. Elect the super-popular Rotax 912 and the cost rises a bit to $55,000, at which level Aventura remains one of the major bargains in light aviation. Learn more about the AeroMomentum engine in this video. AeroMomentum has a few choices for you, Alex indicated, including their 100 horsepower AM 13 model or the 117 horsepower AM 15.
Aerotrek has steadily risen from an unknown brand to the #9 position in the all-time-fleet market share. The brand is one of only ten that have registered more than 100 aircraft in the United States. Excellent prices help but that’s not the whole story. You hear about some of the top brands all the time but Aerotrek is a hare-and-tortoise story where steady progress wins over flashier marketing and wow features. At the heart of this success is Rob Rollison, arguably one of the most experienced men in the LSA space. Pilots Like ’em Big — It seems pilots love an ever-bigger engine. …or ever-bigger digital screens. …or ever-bigger cockpits. Indeed, pilots may like all those things bigger but tires go right along with the big thing. If “tundra” tires are good, then “Alaska” tires are better, and even bigger Alaska tires are just right. …apparently.
Beringer Aero USA announced an expansion of the French company’s U.S. presence on what they call “The Last Frontier.” Known for its best-in-class wheels, brakes, and related components, Beringer opened an office at the Birchwood airport in Alaska to wide their network and offer customer support. Alaska is an airplane lover’s state. Reportedly one in 50 residents of the largest American state are pilots, compared to around one in 650 in the “lower 48.” No wonder really, as the vast state has only a handful of roads and most of them are in Anchorage or en route to Fairbanks. The rest of the enormous state is largely accessibly only by aircraft. “The Alaskan Landing Gear and a complete range of wheel and brake systems are nearing certification and will be available to all Cub owners and pilots soon,” announced Beringer. “Our wheel and brake kits raise the level of safety thanks to efficient and progressive braking action combined with the strong and reliable design of the wheels.” Weight savings comes as an added bonus, the company said.