Update 1/15/19: Thanks to reader feedback — a resource we value very highly — we have updated our statistics to correct another naming challenging. “Zodiac” turned up 53 more registrations since 2005: 52 601s and one 650. “Of the 53 additions, four were registered in 2018. That bumps our total fleet to 8,027,” wrote Steve Beste. Check Tableau Public for the latest data. —DJ “What about my plane,” a number of you asked? “I didn’t see [XYZ brand] of aircraft,” a few others wrote. “How come you didn’t include what I fly,” several inquired? You spoke (or wrote). We listened. The result? 7,974 aircraft (up from 6,305) is our refreshed count of all Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft flying machines registered in America. My advisor and consultantant in this deep data dive, IT expert Steve Beste and I decided to enlarge the “universe.” While sticking to the 2005 date when FAA accepted the first SLSA, we can now broaden the aircraft registration database search to include brands like Kolb, Quad City, Sonex, Titan, Murphy, Aero Adventure, Sport Performance and more, plus additional kit aircraft models from companies that do both SLSA and Experimental Amateur Built (EAB) deliveries.
We are barely over one week away until the Sebring Sport Aviation Expo 2019, opening January 23rd. Join us! Find more than 1,000 videos on Ultralight News YouTube, (which continues to grow: +47,000 subscribers!) — Hundreds of our best videos are archived here for your viewing pleasure. Thanks for your visit. We genuinely appreciate those of you who have become members!
Introducing Tableau!Using a new service that our associate Steve Beste engaged, check out the "Dashboard" look at the LSA industry at Tableau Public. At a glance, view a quantity of information you've never seen before. You will find colorful charts, lists, and maps but the truly great aspect of this is that you can modify what data shows with a few clicks or taps. You can rearrange the data to your interest and the charts will change to depict your selections. For those focused on market share ranks such as this article relates, use this Tableau Market Share Rank for full lists. (Note that the two Tableau links present the data differently. Further note that so much info is available at these links that smartphones will be challenged to show it all.) All data is up-to-date through the end of 2018 — which is by far the fastest we've ever presented this information. Through a significant investment of time, Steve made this new dataset easier to compile, so that we can now report more frequently than in the past. Unlike other groups, we do not rely on company reports of sales, billings, or deliveries. Instead we go direct to FAA's aircraft registration database, the folks that issue N-numbers. As always, we advise you this information will not precisely match what a company may report for their sales but over time, the two sets of numbers should become very close. Using professional grade tech skills, Steve added his personal interest in light aviation to create a wonderful, fresh resource. You can read in precise language how he arrives at the numbers we now report. Steve and I went back and forth creating rules to collect the right data from FAA's database and we are satisfied that the current system represents all companies and brands as fairly and consistently as possible. In the interest of accuracy, we are keen to hear from any producer that can improve our information (note that Tableau visitors can identify every aircraft we counted if you care to drill that deep). Because this data display is so different and so comprehensive, we will present additional articles on using this new resource. Now, let's get to details that readers often seem to enjoy. What aircraft registered the best numbers for 2018? What aircraft are the most popular since LSA were introduced? It's all here and much more.
By the NumbersBig Numbers First — For our categories of "Light-Sport Aircraft, Light Kit Aircraft, and Modern Gyroplanes," the total swelled to 6,305 U.S. Aircraft Registrations, a much larger number than our last report (with data through 2016). We report details in two primary ways for two primary periods. The periods are "All-Fleet," meaning all LSA or other Sport Pilot-Eligible aircraft that have been registered since 2004 when the rule was released; and, "Calendar Year" meaning the January to December period of the previous year. We have been doing both for several years but our reports were confined to fixed wing or "Airplane" Special Light-Sport Aircraft. That is now changing to a broader view that includes all registrations (see next).
Here We Go…!All-Fleet Rankings — Our familiar category of fully-built SLSA are slightly more numerous (3,245/51%) than Kit/Other (3,060/49%), for a total fleet of 6,305 aircraft of all types, SLSA and kit. Among SLSA builders of ready-to-fly aircraft, Flight Design returned to its lead position in All-Fleet at 328 aircraft, followed by Czech Aircraft Works (271), CubCrafters (245), and Tecnam (203). Trailing these leaders are American Legend (194), Jabiru (115), Remos (107), Progressive Aerodyne (97), Aeropro/Aerotrek and Pipistrel (96 each), and Evektor (89). See all brand ranks here. (Note Cessna was omitted after the company ceased selling their Skycatcher and destroyed all unsold examples.) In the Kit/Other category, Zenair/Zenith (616) leads Van's Aircraft (531) and Rans (436). The trio of leaders are well ahead of the next tier that includes AutoGyro (167), Progressive Aerodyne (153), CubCrafters (144), Kitfox (119), Powrachute (110), Just Aircraft (102), and Arion (77). Dig deeper here. For SLSA or kits, our rule is to count only aircraft models that have ever declared compliance to ASTM standards and been accepted by FAA. "All-Fleet" counts cumulative registrations since 2005, when the first LSA model was approved, essentially every aircraft that meets our formula. Read our prior article about the work behind the numbers. Calendar 2018 Rankings — Last year, kits slightly beat Special LSA 298 (50.6%) to 291 (49.4%) for a total of 589 aircraft registered. Calendar-year leader, Icon Aircraft logged 57 new ready-to-fly SLSA registrations. They were trailed by Progressive Aerodyne (21) and BRM Aero (15 Bristells), which tied with Pipistrel. Evolution trikes and American Legend tied (14), followed by Czech Aircraft Works (13), Flight Design and Tecnam (12 each), and The Airplane Factory with 9 Slings. See the whole list here (then click the box to show only SLSA). Among kit builders, Zenair/Zenith lead with 75 units registered followed by Van's (44), Rans (35), AutoGyro (24), Magni Gyro (20), Powrachute (19), and SilverLight (12). See the whole list here. Above, we reported fully-built aircraft separately from kits and other types in this post but you can combine them using Tableau. You can also arrange in several other ways or look at a single or few brands. Both fully-built LSA and kit aircraft — using our ASTM compliance qualifier — can be flown by someone using a Sport Pilot certificate. Therefore, we include all LSA-like aircraft that are technically not a Special Light-Sport Aircraft — Experimental Amateur Built kits, for example — as "Sport Pilot Eligible (SPE)," a term coined by a former EAA representative, Ron Wagner. Not only can we rank Special LSA and SPE kit builders separately — as we should; they are very different business models — but we trust you observed that we can also include weight shift control "trikes," powered parachutes, motorgliders, Lighter-than-Air, all the classes of LSA beside fixed-wing airplanes. We further accommodated modern-style gyroplane as SPE kits because they are strong sellers could qualify as Special LSA if FAA decides. We were never able to include all aircraft types in the past due to data entry challenges that Steve Beste solved by his rigorous definition and execution of how we collect the numbers. See his explanation here. You are free to comment on this technique, but rest assured we discussed this at some length before arriving at our current methods. As a product of these major changes, these reports now reflect a larger number of aircraft than ever before to show the real impact light aviation is having on U.S. and global aviation. Perhaps you remember from previous reporting, the USA accounts for about 20% of all LSA-like aircraft worldwide (chart), the mirror opposite of Type Certificated general aviation aircraft where America is home to 80% of the global fleet. We believe this release of information represents the most complete picture of light aviation in America… EVER! We hope you enjoy and will study the information as much as you like. Feedback is welcome; use the comment feature. * Naturally, not everyone is excited about statistics. With Steve‘s permission I enjoy relating his personal experience as he labored to assemble all this information. Steve wrote, “I confess that no one in my family has the slightest interest. Their eyes glaze over. They look for the exits.” You don't have to love this information, of course, but if you do love the data …I trust we scratched your itch. 😁
If you like Light-Sport Aircraft and if you like statistics, you are going to love this article.* Our wholly refreshed look at aircraft registrations marks the return of our popular market share rankings and now includes much more information. We also provide more aircraft classes in various tables and charts and much of this is user-configurable. Yet, as late night TV advertisers might exclaim, “That’s not all. It gets even better!” You have always been able to consume all our market share info that includes articles about the industry and enterprise of light aviation conveniently grouped on its own page. With the relaunch of this popular and vital component of ByDanJohnson.com, you gain new ways of looking at the information. Let’s call it LSA Market Info 2.0 Introducing Tableau! Using a new service that our associate Steve Beste engaged, check out the “Dashboard” look at the LSA industry at Tableau Public.
Infotech + Aircraft = Multicopters What Happens When Infotech Meets Air Traffic Control?Jabiru importer Scott Severen alerted me to the Motherboard article but it was about more than Lift's new aircraft. The article addressed the challenges of air traffic control in the new age, that new age that may herald a coming swarm of multicopters. Consider the following…
According to the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), there are about 5,000 passenger aircraft in the sky at any given time, which require 521 aircraft towers, 25 air route traffic control centres, and 6,000 airway transportation systems specialists to coordinate. Meanwhile, the FAA also predicts that the number of unmanned drones registered in its database could surge to more than 6 million by 2021—a fleet of robot that will have to be taken into account when we’re divvying up the skyline."Divvying up the skyline" where skyline means airspace sounds rather threatening to current pilots. Many pilots have told me they worry about drones or multicopters interfering with the enjoyment of their aircraft, or worse, causing safety problems. Those concerns may be real but the new flying machines identify the weakness in our current ATC system, great as it has been for aviation safety. It simply takes so many highly-paid controllers with hundreds of facilities and a need for ever-increasing equipment sophistication. That paragraph quoted above sends a message. ATC depends on up to 6,000 workers to move 5,000 aircraft around the skies safely. Imagine millions of new flying machines and the old system begins to look creaky. Already, many criticize FAA for using out-dated computers and other equipment and federal employment system that creates high costs. Can the tech world improve on this? Every day, the FAA's Air Traffic Organization provides service to more than 43,000 flights and 2.6 million airline passengers across more than 29 million square miles of airspace. See this FAA page for more infographics on services FAA performs. That, too, may be changing. Motherboard reported, "NASA is already developing an air-traffic control framework that could track unmanned flying cars that fly under 500 feet. As reported in Skift, the NASA system is meant to be automated. [NASA will] finish its research by 2019, and hand over ideas for the FAA to implement no later than 2025." A Brave New World could start in 2019.
Throughout the 115 years since the Wrights took their Flyer into the skies for the first time, aviation has enjoyed remarkable progress. Wing design, engine design, instrumentation changes, safety enhancements… we have witnessed many dramatic changes in how aircraft ply the skies and do so with increasing efficiency and with less danger to occupants or those on the ground. All of us who enjoy flight know much about this, but things are changing and perhaps fast enough to push many of us current-aviation experts into a discomfort zone. As you have seen on this website and just about any media outlet reporting on new developments, multicopters are looming ever larger on the horizon. More and more startups — many funded with tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars! — are jumping into the game. Huge aviation names such as Boeing and Airbus are deep into work on new-style flying machines.
Friends in the SkyBesides the great airplanes I am privileged to fly and report, I have the opportunity to meet many fascinating people. The Seamax LSA seaplane image shows me (still draped with or holding camera gear after doing a Video Pilot Report) along with very-talented Brazilian design Miguel Rosario (center) and William "Rocky" Roquemore (right), the generous owner of this flying machine who was kind enough to let me take his plane and receive about an hour's worth of flight instruction in handling Seamax on the water and in the air. Pictured nearby are aircraft reviewer, designer, and owner …three people essential to conducting a video pilot review. Of course this leaves out two other equally essential people. You also need a qualified CFI who knows the subject airplane intimately well and Russ Miley fit the bill perfectly. I've flown with a lot of other pilots and Russ performed his role exceptionally well. The final key player — without whom these videos you love would simply not happen — is videographer and YouTube channel owner, Dave Loveman. Thanks to all for their respective contribution.
MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!Here's to 2019 being a great year of flying for thousands of pilots around the world and a successful year of business for those who make the airplanes we love. Thanks to Tomas Brødreskift and the team at Equator for the home page and social media photo used to promote this article.
As pilots clear the skies so Santa and his flying reindeer can go about their mission, it seems fitting to offer a word of thanks to all of you who have frequently visited this website. Our surveys show more than 65,000 Light-Sport Aircraft and LSA-like aircraft around the globe and we are proud to reach most of these pilots at some time every month. Pilots have often told me that I have the best job in the world and they may be right. Certainly I enjoy what I do and hope it shows on this website and in the hundreds of videos on which I have interviewed talented people or reviewed aircraft. See the best of them here and all of them (and more) on Light Sport and Ultralight Flyer. As 2019 approaches, we near the 15th anniversary of the Light-Sport category and the Sport Pilot certificate.
Handiflight Goes Global into 2019Beyond the monumental task of planning such lengthy flight, this and other emergency scenarios were surely contemplated by the pilot team from Handiflight as they prepared for their circumnavigation of the globe in twin CTLS Light-Sport Aircraft. Handiflight's goal is both simple and enormous at once: "A challenging and inspiring global adventure promoting the inclusion of disabled people and values such as commitment, fraternity, and fellowship." Handiflight 2018/2019 hopes to "contribute to changing people’s perceptions of disability and combating prejudices and exclusion" and to "turn dreams into reality, face new challenges, explore new pathways, discover new horizons by flying … across the most amazing and demanding areas of our planet. An additional goal is to "strengthen the global network of disabled aviators all around the world in collaboration with the FAI and local flying clubs." CTLS aircraft with call signs Whisky Yankee Alpha and WY Bravo set off on this expedition just a few days ago. Here is the planned itinerary for their nearly 50,000-mile voyage.
- Departure — November 2018
- Australia — February 2019
- New-Zealand — March 2019
- South Pacific — April-May 2019
- South America — June 2019
- North America — July 2019
- Europe — August 2019
UPDATE 30 Dec 2018 — Sad news about a crash of one of the Handiflight aircraft with the loss of one of the pilots. See Comments. —DJ Imagine you are flying along in your well-maintained Light-Sport Aircraft with its reliable engine. You are flying a long distance over all sorts of terrain, including vast stretches of water. All is humming along and the miles or kilometers are clicking past. What an experience to fly around the world! Very, very few pilots will ever tackle such a grand challenge. Then, the unexpected happens. Your engine quits. You have a plan. You trained for this and you are experienced. You leap into action. Imagine that you find an acceptable landing area but the location is very remote. That seems rather likely when flying all the way around the planet. Touchdown goes OK. The airplane is undamaged. You are fine. However, you cannot raise anyone on the radio and you are not sure your airborne mayday call was heard.
Electric Airplanes and DronesNot many years ago, such a title would have provoked raised eyebrows or confusion. We didn't have any electric airplanes until around 2007 when Randall Fishman showed up at Oshkosh with his very credible single place (Part 103) trike ultralight powered by battery-supplied electric motors. But wait… is that right? The truth is, electric aircraft go way back, to even before the Wrights' famous flight 115 years ago. An article about the newest LSA candidate — a first Lighter-than-Air category — also uses electric power for horizontal movement but FlyDoo developer Leandro Corradini was far from the first. Back in the late 1800s. the earliest airships also used electric power, decades before Flyer's success at Kitty Hawk. Kevin Desmond demonstrates this most convincingly with his new book — "Electric Airplanes and Drones, A History." As the full title suggests, he begins with a historical perspective that imparted a slack-jawed look to my face. Kevin unearthed facts of early flight (real or fanciful) that I'd never heard or even imagined. With a vast range, Kevin's book goes literally from prehistoric times to futuristic developments and about everything imaginable in between. The 300-page book starts from the most foundational efforts to the invasion of electric motors on RC models, to solar power, to Lithium batteries, to the three Hs (hybrid, hydrogen, helium), to drones, to flying cars, and into tomorrow. Based in France prolific writer Kevin (27 books and 300 articles) traipses all over the planet to follow developments of electric power on flying machines. Dense pages packed with information are accented with many illustrations, a couple of which are presented nearby. "Electric Airplanes and Drones" isn't cheap at $49.95 but it is a monumental effort describing the whole of the field in ways I have never seen documented. Bravo, Kevin! Get more info or order at McFarland Books.
Roy's Powered Parachute BookStop! Don't quit reading here because you're a fixed wing or trike guy or gal that does not care about powered parachutes. Indeed, as our new market info guy, Steve Beste, has shown (and you will soon get to read), powered parachutes continue to sell in stronger numbers than you may have known. These unwieldy-looking flying machines are also some of the best priced and funnest aircraft you can consider. Plus, FAA regs say you can get a Sport Pilot certificate in a powered parachute in a mere 12 hours, the lowest requirement of any Light-Sport Aircraft. These facts make powered parachutes among the most approachable of any aircraft. Roy Beisswenger's monumental effort — the large format (9 x 12 inches) volume contains about 400 pages — is significantly applicable to all forms of flight. The book contains Federal Aviation Regulations, test guides, and a glossary that almost any sport pilot would value. If you've seen Roy's Powered Sport Flying magazine, you already know his prodigious talent in illustration. (If you haven't seen PSF, I urge you to subscribe.) Roy's book also features extensive use of his artistic ability and hundreds of photos (nearly all of which he took himself). The book is lavishly illustrated with diagrams and images to help explain Roy's easy-reading words and it is all presented in a ready-to-absorb magazine-style layout that showcases Roy's creativity in multiple ways. If your loved one is the least bit interested in powered parachutes, "Roy's Powered Parachute Book" is the ultimate Christmas gift (also available on Amazon). Like Kevin Desmond's book it isn't cheap but this is — far and away — the most comprehensive book on the subject ever written. Fantastic job, Roy! https://youtu.be/CMNpIfEQyOc
UPDATE 12/20/18 — Video added regarding the second book below. See at bottom of post… Unlike most aviation outlets, I’ve refrained from putting out a Christmas gift guide for pilots. I prefer to stick closely to aircraft as that’s what you pilots want the most. I learned this lesson many years ago when I starting writing light airplane reviews and found a market that lead to this website. However, as a content creator I admire the work of other writers and in this post I have a couple for your consideration. Possible Christmas gifts or otherwise, these offer good wintertime reading when the snow flies and temperatures drop below freezing. Electric Airplanes and Drones Not many years ago, such a title would have provoked raised eyebrows or confusion. We didn’t have any electric airplanes until around 2007 when Randall Fishman showed up at Oshkosh with his very credible single place (Part 103) trike ultralight powered by battery-supplied electric motors.
“Sling TSi was hands-down the hit of the show,” exclaimed The Airplane Factory USA. They reported one media outlet dubbed it the "Best New Sport Plane of 2018."
Builder Assistance for TSiAt an upcoming event at TAF USA’s base of operations — KTOA Airport in Torrance, California — the importer is closing a strong year by hosting one of their TAF Sling and Sling Flying Club Taco Social events. In addition to the Taco Bar treats (it is Southern California, after all, just a few miles from the Mexican border), attendees can hear about a most unusual Builder Assist experience. The “Main Event” will feature a presentation by Wayne and Matthew Toddun who traveled to South Africa to build their Sling TSi. Not only did the father and son travel half way around the world to build their Sling TSi, the aircraft was subsequently re-assembled in Oshkosh and shown to visitors before it was flown back to Los Angeles. TAF said that according to Matthew Toddun, "When my dad decided to purchase a new Sling aircraft for us to learn to how to fly, he went for the very best, the brand new Sling TSi!” Matthew continued, “When he decided [to pursue] a build assist program, he wanted the best assistance that we could get.” ”That is when our life-changing opportunity came about,” related Matthew. “[We would] travel to South Africa to build the first conforming Sling TSi. We spent a little over two weeks working side-by-side with the experienced factory crew, learning the ins and outs of our new plane, and assembling it piece by piece.” It was this Sling TSi that was revealed at Oshkosh 2018.
After Building, Learning to Fly Sling
Once you’ve built or bought a Sling aircraft, you can travel to SoCal and be trained at TAF USA’s new New Sling Pilot Academy.TAF USA also announced, “Next Year we are starting the Sling Pilot Academy to help prepare pilots for the airlines.” However, If you’re not in Southern California or don’t wish to travel to Torrence, you have another attractive alternative run by a veteran flight trainer.
“Life is grand in Carson City, Nevada at the Sport Aviation Center, said proprietor Paul Hamilton. "This has been a great year for flight training in the Sling. We have had a number of Sport Pilots go through the complete course from start to finish and successfully take their check ride.”Paul continued, “We are also teaching private pilots in the Sling LSA and now we have successfully completed three Private Pilot training and checkrides in the Sling. Additionally, two CFI long-expired certificates were reinstated with Sport Pilot CFI checkrides per 61.427. The Sling has been a reliable and tough workhorse and everybody loves how it flies up in the mountains. Check us out here.
When Rotax debuted their new 915iS engine at an Oshkosh press conference, Sling designer Mike Blyth raced forward at the end of the conference to closely examine the new power plant. It was clear to me this answered a creation he had in mind and now we can see the fruit of his ambition: the new Sling TSi. Since the Rotax 915iS remains a powerplant that requires an in-flight adjustable prop, it cannot be used on a Light-Sport Aircraft, but TSi is based on The Airplane Factory’s Sling 4 four seater so kit-built it must be. More on the builder effort below. For Oshkosh 2018, The Airplane Factory USA said, “[We are] excited to present the North American debut of the all-new Sling TSi! This kit is the airplane Sling fans have been waiting for!” The Southern California importer said TSi has all of the style, economy and practical utility of the Sling 4 but with more speed.
Electric Aircraft UpgradedXin Gou often reports via Twitter regarding Chinese light aircraft developments. Xin works with Willi Tacke, a well-known German publisher, electric flight enthusiast, and emerging China magazine entrepreneur. Xin and Willi work together on Flying China magazine. I actively follow Xin on social media where he is prolific posting items of interest to aviators. Reporting from the recently-concluded Zhuhai air show, Xin tweeted, "Liaoning GA Institute, China has upgraded their electric LSA called RX1E-A" — the "-A" denotes this change. "The brochure claims a two-hour charging time and a maximum duration of two hours." Both are worthy achievements. "The electric motor comes from a European supplier," reported Xin. "Liaoning engineers have also installed a whole airframe parachute. The organization received 10 orders from a Chinese operator." Read more about electric aircraft, Willi, and Aero in this article from 2015, which includes coverage of RX1E. Xin also works with Willi to publish the e-flight-journal, which extensively reports these developments. I believe it to be the leading publication in this space. I reported earlier on the RX1E (without the "-A"). It was an impressive construction but in 2015 it was still a work in progress, according to representatives at Aero Friedrichshafen LINK in Germany. In the ensuing three years, Liaoning made several changes. Xin added in a subsequent Tweet, "I forgot to mention… a four seater fully electric model is also in development! It will be quite different from this LSA model."
This short video will give you a brief tour of the earlier version of RX1E:https://youtu.be/xtOPhu5gYVE For lots more videos about electric aircraft use this link to the Light Sport and Ultralight Flyer YouTube channel.
China Opens the Door to Kit BuildingBesides the electric aircraft from Liaoning, Xin tweeted, "China is also opening the door for kit-built aircraft." While these have not been officially recognized until very recently, that is changing as the populous country cautiously embraces the ideas of private aviation. The nearby image shows the first experimental category aircraft in China. Approval was given to this aircraft from Europe. Note the "B-X001" tail number, Xin observes. "CAAC (the Chinese FAA) established the news experimental category in May 2018," reported Xin. "More kit-built airplane models will be built in China," he predicted. If you'd like to follow Xin on Twitter, search for @chineseflyer. His command of English is superb and he is a true aviation enthusiast reporting professionally on the growth of general and sport aviation in China. As noted, his work with Willi keeps him very in-the-know about electric aircraft, not only in China but around the globe.
One year ago, I was touring around China thanks to my good friends at AeroJones, the China-based manufacturer of the popular CTLS for the Asia-Pacific region. It was my second trip halfway around the world and I learned more about this country and its move to enter light aviation. In this article, I want to spotlight the newest model of an all-electric aircraft called the RX1E, plus the very first kit-built aircraft in the country, and Continental Motors’ support of another kit project. Electric Aircraft Upgraded Xin Gou often reports via Twitter regarding Chinese light aircraft developments. Xin works with Willi Tacke, a well-known German publisher, electric flight enthusiast, and emerging China magazine entrepreneur. Xin and Willi work together on Flying China magazine. I actively follow Xin on social media where he is prolific posting items of interest to aviators. Reporting from the recently-concluded Zhuhai air show, Xin tweeted, “Liaoning GA Institute, China has upgraded their electric LSA called RX1E-A” — the “-A” denotes this change.
Continental Motors Group's Titan Engine Powers Top CubThe availability of the Top Cub as a kit aircraft, powered by a Titan kit engine, marks the opening of the experimental market in China. Top Cub Aircraft and Continental are the first companies to offer a complete aircraft in kit form, after the Chinese CAAC agreed to allow experimental building in China. Wolfgang Qian, CEO of Liaoning Cub Aircraft Corp, said “The combination of the Titan IO-360 engine with our airframe offers the best power to weight ratio that we could hope. The strategic partnership with Continental Motors Group allows us to offer a highly reliable engine to our customers and to provide them with industry leading technical support. We are convinced that the experimental market will expand rapidly in China."
Continental Motors, part of China’s Avic International Holding, announced recently that they have entered a strategic partnership with Liaoning Cub Aircraft Corp to be the engine provider for the Top Cub, which the company said is the first kit aircraft built in China, for the Chinese market. The experimental Top Cub is based on the Part 23 certified Top Cub CC18-180, originally designed by CubCrafters and acquired by Top Cub Aircraft Inc., a subsidiary company of Liaoning, in 2015. Continental Motors Group’s Titan Engine Powers Top Cub The availability of the Top Cub as a kit aircraft, powered by a Titan kit engine, marks the opening of the experimental market in China. Top Cub Aircraft and Continental are the first companies to offer a complete aircraft in kit form, after the Chinese CAAC agreed to allow experimental building in China. Wolfgang Qian, CEO of Liaoning Cub Aircraft Corp, said “The combination of the Titan IO-360 engine with our airframe offers the best power to weight ratio that we could hope.
Enter MulticoptersThe little single place Kitty Hawk Flyer pictured above is one of several examples. Qualifying as a Part 103 ultralight, it may also be a multicopter you can actually buy and fly in the near future. Those many breathless stories in mainstream media about autonomously flown air taxis may paint a very different, possibly exciting image of the future of flight, but they may also be years, or decades, away. Vehicles like Kitty Hawk's Flyer could get to the market much sooner, assuming FAA throws up no roadblocks — I don't see the agency doing that, drones have registered more than a million units giving FAA extra duties but also knowledge, and leverage. Indeed, the drone/multicopter development must be music to the regulators' ears. Multicopters are also music to ears of prop makers. While Sensenich sells many propellers to Florida's air boat operators (who wear props out faster than an airplane), Duc Hélices has jumped into the rotorcraft and multicopter market. Good for them! More revenue from tech-billionaire-supported companies means more business for Duc, which should help them keep innovating for the light aircraft sector we all love. Look again at the Flyer. Here's a small, light, single-place aircraft with — count 'em — ten props whirring in dizzying circles. Ten props per plane! "Now we're talking," exclaims the boss!
Duc Hélices NewsAt the Aero Friedrichshafen 2018 show in Germany, Duc Propellers lifted the veil on their latest innovation as they presented a prototype of rotors for multicopters …eVTOLs, flying car, air taxis, and who knows what next. Last spring, Duc Hélices announced, "Our new branch, dedicated to the design and the realization of helicopter and multicopter rotors, is running at full speed." The company added, "A very large investment was required to finance four years of studies for the development of multicopter blades." They cited a new propeller production press and a series of qualification and validation tests including "form control; mechanical analysis of tensile strength/flexion/torsion; vibration tests; tests of aging; and fatigue." Complete and ready, Duc Propellers Company now offers literature and products for:
- Complete rotors for multicopter (composite blades and hub rotor head)
- Helicopter blades (up to 9 meter or 29.5 foot diameter)
- Full anti-torque rotor (RAC blades in composite and hub)
One More (New) ThingDuc Hélices has enjoyed considerable success in the U.S. market, thanks to persistent effort at airshows by their capable Michael Dederian. At LSA events these days, I see two brands all the time: Sensenich from Plant City, Florida and Duc Hélices from Frontenas, France. To better serve their growing U.S.market, Duc will open a new facility at the Sebring, Florida airport. To celebrate, Duc Propellers USA will host an official opening party in Hangar C2 (442 Hendricks Field Way). People attending the event are invited at 6 PM on Friday January 25, 2019. To confirm or ask questions about the kick-off party, contact Mrs. Héloïse Jonda at her email address.
Imagine you are in charge of marketing for French propeller manufacturer, Duc Hélices. The boss stops by your office and asks, “How are we going to sell more props?” You begin to cite statistics (maybe even this website and its market share data). With more worldwide sales of LSA and LSA-like aircraft (chart), sales could be good, you say. Successful twin engine airplanes like Lockwood’s AirCam or Tecnam‘s Twin that swing two propellers per aircraft certainly add to sales. (Rotax enjoys this, too.) Yet in the tech world, a 10% or 20% increase is nothing. Those hard-charging Silicon Valley companies have gotten used to things improving by orders of magnitude. “How can we increase sales by ten times,” demands the boss? “Well, hmmm…” you thoughtfully reply, “I think I have an idea.” Enter Multicopters The little single place Kitty Hawk Flyer pictured above is one of several examples.
Since shortly after ByDanJohnson.com went live (on April Fool’s Day 2004, just a few months before the LSA rule was released), one regular website feature has earned positive reviews. Our LSA market shares and ranking information was an instant hit with business people seeking data to use in running their LSA enterprises. Before long, pilots and customers began to value the effort. Later, I discovered people in government agencies in the USA and other countries were following these reports. With that support and attention from other media outlets, our LSA Market Share reporting became a staple of this website. Oddly (it seemed to me), this was the only place you could find it.* More and more of you have been asking about this data …and I am pleased to say it’s coming back! Our longtime data investigator, Jan Fridrich, got an offer he couldn’t refuse to help China grow their nascent general aviation market and his time is now too committed to perform the tedious and time consuming survey of FAA’s N-number database.
DeLand 2018 By the NumbersThe key number that everyone seems to focus on is attendance. Jana Filip announced, "The total attendee count for Showcase 2018 was 5,500 over the course of the three day event." Some organizations — including the biggest shows — count each person entering through a gate each day, even if the same person comes every day (meaning one individual could be seven "persons" if the show runs for a week. Many call that legitimate; they may buy something each day. Other observers think that is only one person attending seven times. In the end, what matters is consistency as you could argue either method is correct. However DeLand's 5,500 visitors are tallied, it's a net positive. Most attendees likely did not come all three days but what really matters is that virtually every attendee is clearly interested in what is exhibited or presented as no airshow entertainment is offered (other than the nearly non-stop skydiving). While the quantity doesn't compete with the giant shows, the quality of attendees is sky high; every one is motivated to be present. Jana continued, "All revenues were up from the prior year, from the Souvenir Shop to the admission gates, equating to a steady growth three years in a row. The Saturday of Showcase 2018 was our break-thru day, with perfect weather and more attendees than ever before.” I can affirm (and wrote that) Saturday was strong. Reports were the front gate ran out of wrist bands on Saturday and had to request more. Of course, shows like DeLand, Sebring, and Midwest also hope to promote their airport and its development. This has worked extremely well for Sebring, the grandaddy of these sector-specific shows. The Central Florida airport has new tenants and flight operators because of producing the show. Likewise, DeLand is promoting its "DeLand Sport Aviation Village, a 40-acre commerce park" where businesses can get hangar space in an incubator-like concept. They also reported a brand-new airport administration building is almost complete. The Showcase will have offices in this new structure. One More Thing… Because this post is about airshows and because 2018 events are now history, our left column has all the correct 2019 dates for your planning. If you can make it, please wave when Videoman Dave and I zoom by en route to more fresh video recordings. If you cannot attend… well, at least we will be at all these events capturing new interviews and Video Pilot Reports (VPRs).
DeLand proclaimed another success for 2018. As one of the “troops in the trench,” I can attest to a satisfactory event, as I chronicled in Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3 articles. Of particular note, DeLand can boast nine of nine days of wonderful weather. OK, fine, it rained one evening and winds blew somewhat furiously for a short while, but the precipitation came after show hours and no aircraft were damaged (although a couple tents took a nose dive). I’ve opined how the thick crowds of the giant shows are not necessary and may not even be desirable. At smaller events, customers get more face time — and air time, through many demo flights launched. Exhibiting vendors got actual orders, made deliveries, and connected with pilots who may act later. When both customers and suppliers are happy, I’d call that a success.
Handiflight to Depart SoonAnother way this storied company shows its global approach to business is by sponsoring a worthy effort called Handiflight. Flight Design said this "is a daring adventure by physically challenged pilots to fly around the world starting very soon, on November 18, 2018. Company CEO Lars Joerges announced that the German manufacturer is a contributing sponsor to the undertaking. The flight will be conducted using a CTLS aircraft. According to Flight Design, the globe-girdling flight will start from Geneva, Switzerland and will plan to visit 40 countries in five continents while traveling more than 49,000 miles. The flight plans to make “150 stops to meet, share, inspire and promote the inclusion of disabled people worldwide,” organizers said. The goal is to raise funds for Handicap International and is further sponsored by the Lions Clubs International, a fraternal organization that raises money for worthy causes. Handiflight is a non-profit association formed in Gruyère, Switzerland in 2007. The organization hosts what they call the biggest fly-in for disabled pilots from all around the world. After 10 years of successful events, Handiflight is now tackling a new goal: “To fly around the world to explore new horizons, look for new challenges, combat prejudices and promote the inclusion of disabled people.” “We met with Daniel Ramsier, one of the organizers of the Handiflight,” said Joerges. "We were very inspired by his vision and wanted to be part of this adventure.” Primary pilots Paolo Pocobelli, Guillaume Féral and Mike Lomberg will lead an international team of more than 15 pilots with physical disabilities. Upon the completion of this flight it will mark the third flight around the world for a CT-series aircraft. The first time occurred in 2007 by two pilots from India to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of the Indian Air Force. The second round-the-world flight was Azimuth 270, a flight by Yannick Bovier and Francisco Agullo, two Swiss Airbus pilots who flew a westward flight around the equator of the Earth in 2010. Soon will begin this great and inspiring flight by Handiflight! * LAMA is beginning an advocacy effort to encourage Canada to accept Light-Sport Aircraft but for now LSA producers must offer aircraft that meet the 1,232-pound limit of Advanced Ultra Light in Canada. The nation used the number first proposed by FAA but the U.S. agency later went to 1,320 pounds (land planes; seaplanes are 1,430 pounds)
At the season ending DeLand Showcase show, Flight Design was ably represented by John Hurst. We interviewed this longtime LSA veteran; watch for that as editing is completed. What we did not get was an update from the company, as we did with several other vendors (see earlier reports). Flight Design USA president Tom Peghiny since reported that his import enterprise enjoyed a reasonably good year in 2018 with a few weeks remaining. Indeed, he communicated while flying a new CTLS up to Canada for delivery under their Advanced Ultralight program*. New unit volume is lower than the early gold-rush days of Light-Sport Aircraft (2005-2007) — the same as for other companies — but new sales are returning for Flight Design; in addition, their service, factory parts. and used business bolsters the longtime U.S. operation. Longtime market leader Flight Design took something of a breather in 2016 and 2017 as the German company reorganized under new leadership (article).
The Used LSA FactorOne conversation happened many times. While sellers of new LSA seek those customers, the almost 15-year-old LSA industry has now accumulated a solid and growing supply of quality used aircraft. Sellers are realizing that their enterprise can be composed of both. Used LSA can serve two important goals: First, they give buyers with tighter budgets more choices. Secondly, they give sellers more product to offer. Think of any automobile dealership. If you ask the owner, he or she will likely say they actually make more on used cars while satisfying customers who don't choose to pay the price of brand new. Everyone seems fairly well served by this approach. A year ago I had a conversation with main representative Robert Meyer of Lockwood Aircraft. He and boss Phil Lockwood are always attentive to the best used AirCams they can find and regularly acquire them for resale. Robert reported this does not detract from their new AirCam sales and serves two goals: First, it gives some customers a chance to buy a ready-to-fly AirCam. Secondly, it give Lockwood Aircraft more product augmenting their new kit business. As the factory they can choose the best used examples and give them factory makeovers (as needed). They turned a problem into a solution. Not bad! John Hurst is another Florida LSA expert making this idea work. He was at DeLand representing longtime market leader Flight Design and their high-tech CTLS. While John sells new CTLSs, he also brokers in used aircraft and this proves useful to his enterprise. Scott Severen is the new North American representative for the Jabiru line of aircraft. Before he got involved with new aircraft he brokered used Light-Sport Aircraft, an activity he continues even as he logged more new sales in his first year than he projected. As with Lockwood and Hurst, Scott reports used aircraft sales are a viable partition of his enterprise. Many general aviation types wonder how Light-Sport Aircraft purveyors — small businesses of one to a dozen or more people — can build a sustainable business model and the answer almost surely involves multiple activities; new and used aircraft can complement one another very well.
Still, Questions About 3,600-Pound LSAFrequently at DeLand, I had discussions about news from last month concerning a huge weight increase for Light-Sport Aircraft. I did an interview with AVweb's Paul Bertorelli, who also interviewed other industry leaders. And Videoman Dave recorded my commentary. Both should emerge soon on YouTube. I hope these and other efforts will quiet the concerns or pilots and airplane sellers by presenting real information and less of the sensational stories of early October.
DeLand Showcase 2018 is over, which signals the airshow season is over for this calendar year. At the end, many concluded the show was good for customers and vendors. Pilots placed orders for new aircraft and left with smiles on their faces; I spoke to a few of them. Many of you also said hello during the event; that’s always fun. Despite my positive words, some feel these “regional shows” aren’t as meaningful as the large shows. Is that right or not? It depends on the observer to some extent. I venture to say that if you could evaluate orders placed with cash and create a ratio of those people compared to the number of persons coming in the gate, DeLand (or the other LSA- and light kit- specific shows) would smoke all others. No question the big shows with their thick crowds satisfy the soul of attendees and vendors alike.
2018 Results Keep Adding UpYesterday's Day One post related several conpanies giving satisfactory results for their sales this year. Perhaps encouraged by a buoyant economy, pilots are choosing new LSA but in parallel more importers and manufacturers are helping to move used LSA. The fleet has grown enough to generate a good supply of low-time, desirable Light-Sport Aircraft. Any representing looking to sell new machines can boost their enterprise by also facilitating the sale of used aircraft. In either new or used transactions, pilots win as they can acquire aircraft that interest them. It's all good and 2018 is proving to be a respectable year. Seamax is another company pleased with their U.S. developments. We interviewed lead designer and business owner Miguel Rosario to find his lightest-of-the-LSA-seaplane-fleet Seamax is developing their business on the campus of Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. With care and long experience, Miguel has built an active enterprise that has supplied more than 150 aircraft around the globe with about 10% flying in the USA. That number is sure to grow with the Brazilian company's American operation, an excellent price point among LSA seaplanes, and sprightly performance SuperPetrel reports delivery of eight units in the last year after establishing their U.S. base. Global sales over many years are now approaching serial number 400 according to representatives from the Ormond Beach, Florida enterprise of Brazilian investors associated with Scoda Aeronautica. This seaplane maker is also growing its installed base in America for this long-established design that was thoroughly updated when Scoda (formerly Edra) Aeronautica took over Super Petrel. An FAA audit proved the quality of their work as they earned SLSA credentials. Inside the tent, we did an interview with Sensenich president Don Rowell. The very popular maker of wood, metal, and composite props reported strong business that is challenging the company to keep propellers in stock. To address the demand, Sensenich is expanding and bringing new CNC equipment. We will be visiting the factory just before Sun 'n Fun 2019 to give viewers a tour of their new facility and equipment. As with yesterday's report, this is not an exhaustive review of each exhibiting company. Yet the sum of reports from company after company reinforces the view that 2018 qualifyies as a solid year. I see the happy smiles of new pilot owners on the field.
At a reception ending Day Two, DeLand Showcase Director Jana Filip reported that front gate receipts were greater on Thursday than either Thursday of the two prior years of the Showcase. Then she announced Friday’s gate was greater than the two previous Fridays. DeLand Showcase 2018 is the third running of the event. Showers rolled in threatening Showcase’s perfect weather record although the rain didn’t start until exhibitors and sponsors had gathered in the main show center tent. Under shelter, live music was presented by the Flying Musicians Association, lead by professional music man, Gary Filip. A catered dinner fed the group and as the evening concluded, the rain died off as if on cue. A couple tents were damaged by strong winds including one in the Dreams Come True booth of Steve and Debbie Minnich and an EAA Chapter food tent. No airplane damage was reported.
Who Is Succeeding?In one day, we did not speak to every vendor and we did not get to the inside booths yet. However, those we did approach for news and updates provided feedback that was significantly on the positive side. Here is a partial recap (again cautioning that this is not inclusive): Icon Aircraft's production engine appears to be firing on all cylinders, according to Tampa Regional Sales Director Scott Rodenbeck. We heard about delivery numbers growing from five aircraft a month to 10 a month and a forecast for 15 shipments in December. These numbers will show up on our market share report based on N-number registrations. Increased production has reduced the delivery wait to only seven or eight months, down from literally years back when the California company was taking deposits left and right but not yet manufacturing. Bristell USA is having a banner year that should end close to 20 units sold for the deluxe and superbly equipped Bristell LSA, reported company leader Lou Mancuso and right hand man, John Rathmell. Beside delivering strong sales for Czech producer, Milan Bristela, Lou's growing enterprise is also establishing a flight academy at the Sebring airport to offer younger pilots a lower cost path to careers as pilots. We will have video on this development. Duc Hélices is another company choosing Sebring for their operation, reported Michael Dederian, the company's main face at airshows — after a few seasons nearly all producers know him. The popular French prop maker is opening a subsidiary in early 2019 to better serve U.S. customers. They plan to celebrate the American enterprise at the Sebring Sport Aviation Expo on January 25th. Van's Aircraft made a big change this year. After bringing in ready-to-fly manufacturing to the world's largest manufacturer of aircraft kits — the immensely popular RV line — Van's is backed up for nearly a year, reported Atlanta-based, Vic Syracuse. That wait may come down as the company ramps up its new in-house production, but it's clear RV-12 is a success story. We recorded an interview with Vic about the new model, now known as RV-12iS. Yes, it uses the Rotax engine but that's not all the changes in the renewed model. Paul Mather of M-Squared Aircraft is opening new doors. He continues to build his M-Squared models as he has for many years but now the longtime veteran of light aircraft manufacturing has diversified to provide builder assistance to owners wanting a Zenith CH-750 Cruzer powered by the Continental Motors O-200D engine. After a slow start activity has picked up and Paul is pleased with the aircraft he's added to his stable. We plan a Video Pilot Report using the model seen at DeLand Chip Erwin of Aeromarine-LSA also reported growing sales for his well-priced, fast-assembling Merlin PSA (Personal Sport Aircraft). Besides sales to customers, he is using the single place aircraft for some government duties and these activities are keeping the Florida businessman on the move, literally, and from a business evaluation. We shot a video with Jay Kurtz of South Lakeland Airport (which many Sun 'n Fun attendees know very well). After building 40 (yes, 40!) aircraft, his most recent project has been the Quick-Build Merlin. After just a single day, I'm excited to see what happens in two more days of the DeLand Showcase 2018. Look for another report tomorrow.
Day One of the third running of DeLand Showcase is complete. As Videoman Dave and I scoured the show grounds looking for good stories, we spoke to a few vendors reporting that 2018 has been a good year. Our video news gathering exercise brought a pleasant discovery. Many companies are reporting a solid year of sales. The light aviation industry is composed of many small companies. None are corporations the size of Cessna or Cirrus so they don’t require hundreds of unit sales to break even. A U.S. importer delivering 20 aircraft can experience a good year from sales and other services they offer. When several companies report noteworthy sales success it suggests the market is healthy and customers are buying airplanes they want to enjoy. In parallel, the used LSA market also appears active and a virtuous circle begins to take form. The show itself enjoyed the great organization we have come to expect from director Jana Filip.
Here's Our Top-5 ReasonsReason #5 — It will be a few months before the next show, when the Sebring Sport Aviation Expo starts in late January. Here's your last chance this calendar year to see a great collection of aircraft in one convenient, pilot-friendly location. Showcase is held at the DeLand Municipal Airport (KDED). Reason #4 — DeLand has enjoyed sparkling, warm weather with clear skies every day it has run so far. While the northern states start to hunker down for winter, a slower time for recreational flying, Florida is just revving up. Weather is never a guarantee, of course, but DeLand can boast a perfect record so far. Reason #3 — Lots to do from airplanes to engines to flying gear to forums to special presentations by notable speakers to food and to pilots talking excitedly with one another about flying. In the evenings, DeLand has some of the most interesting restaurants in the area and Daytona Beach is a short drive away. Reason #2 — A great collection of affordable aircraft will be available from one end of the light aviation spectrum to the other. The group changes a little each year. Come and see what's new for 2018. …and Reason #1 — Fly the airplanes, investigate engines for your kit project, see how various airplanes fit you, carefully examine the airplanes that most interest you, talk to the people representing or manufacturing them, have those longer conversations you cannot have at the big shows where vendors can be overwhelmed by tire kickers and others. Talk seriously about an airplane purchase or upgrade or service or options with the experts. But remember, this show is about flying those airplanes you like …so GO FLY! You can probably add a few more reasons of your own, but the key is to show up and enjoy yourself while checking out a good flock of Light-Sport Aircraft, light kit-build aircraft, and ultralights. Inside the display tent you will find a good collection of accessories, tools, and other gear pilots want. Oh, here's one more reason. Come see Videoman Dave and me making fresh videos like the one below. If you can't make this year's DeLand Showcase, at least you will get to see lots of videos. Really, though… the fun is being present. C'mon down south folks, the weather's great! https://youtu.be/cycCQeOVwoo
The end of the year is approaching. We just wrapped Halloween and now begin the headlong rush into the holiday season. However, before all that retail excitement starts, here comes the third running of the DeLand Showcase. This is my new favorite airshow for one reason everyone seems to understand instantly. Why would I put one airshow above another given that I love them all? Easy …I get to sleep in my own bed every evening. Sweet! Yep, DeLand airport is a mere 25 minutes from my home, on another airport, the Spruce Creek Fly-In. How much better could it get? Lots of shiny new airplanes and lots of very knowledgeable people to help answer all your questions. My personal comfort is good for me, but why should YOU be making your way to DeLand? Here’s Our Top-5 Reasons Reason #5 — It will be a few months before the next show, when the Sebring Sport Aviation Expo starts in late January.
DeLand Is Home BaseBeyond Showcase and a gazillion skydivers, DeLand is an active field. A brand new terminal building attests to both the activity level and John’s management skill. The central Florida airport is home to Aero Adventure, makers of the Aventura line of seaplanes that you can afford. OK, affordability is different for everyone; I get that. Yet if you want a new seaplane, Aero Adventure is unquestionably the place to go for a good value. Their top-of-the-line S17 Aventura retails for $112,000. If you price compare, you will quickly find that even this premiere model from Aero Adventure is far less than any other new seaplane. Here's what the company says, "Our S17 is the top of the line when it comes to Aventura flying. It has a fuel injected, computer controlled, 117 horsepower engine. coupled with an infused hull. This aircfraft weighs under 900 pounds and can carry 600 pounds all day!” Their powerful S17 may be the flagship, but Aero Adventure has much lower cost alternatives. These are all assembled from kit, for now, but the project is not so time consuming and they offer a build center to help. In addition to their side-by-side two seaters, the company is returning to the one-place seaplane market. "The Aventura UL is a blast to fly using the MZ 201 engine and with no pilot license required makes for a very popular plane," reported Aero Adventure. Those with a smaller budget should pay extra attention as the opening price of $25,000 is quite remarkable for a seaplane. "Yes, that's right, [we're building] a single seater,” they said. “We are in the process of assisting some great Aero family members making one of the most awesome single seat aircraft on the market!" They promised to keep me advised and I'll report more as this emerges. Under leadership from Alex Rolinski, the Florida company has been exhibiting great energy in the pursuit of its enterprise. Check out the full line of Aventura seaplanes at this link. They are also doing more than building airframes. To further their enterprise they now offer pilot training, probably a smart thing for a company in the seaplane business. Aero Adventure said, "Welcome Howard 'Buddy' Fleming, our Chief Flight Instructor. Buddy has many years flying various aircraft and has mastered the Aventura! We offer tailwheel and amphibian endorsements, as well as Sport Pilot licenses." DeLand airport is also home to another bargain, the Aerolite 103 from U-Fly-It but that's a story for another post. Meanwhile I hope to see you at DeLand Showcase 2018 in just a few days!
In mere days now, DeLand Showcase starts. The new event closes out the year’s shows. Find out more at their website. DeLand is a thriving year-round sport and recreational flying airport. It has very long been established as one of the world’s premiere skydiving centers. More than 30 parachuting-oriented enterprises employing hundreds of people keep DeLand humming all year with skydiving activity. It is known around globe by enthusiasts. Matter of fact, the timing of the DeLand Showcase leaned heavily on what Showcase director Jana Filip found upon collaborating with the skydiving community as she chose a date. Early November offers reasonably predictable weather and, true to form, the first two years of this show were wonderful with temperatures in the low 80s and lots of blue sky. I have my fingers crossed for a repeat of this year, but its hard to dispute years of carefully kept records by the skydivers — who also depend on good weather.
Build, Buddy, BuildFull disclosure. Merlin is a kit. It is not a Light-Sport Aircraft. You have to build it. The good news is Merlin is a surprisingly fast-build kit. I have often stated that I am not a builder but to become a better educated journalist, I went to a location where Chip was helping a customer build his. I watched his effort and asked him many questions. As Chip notes in the video below, Merlin comes in from the fabricator in Europe significantly assembled. See the nearby photos to see the state of build at the beginning of the kit assembly. It already looks like an airplane not merely a collection of many small parts and aluminum sheets. This level of completion is FAA approved; Merlin is ready to go on the 51% kit aircraft list. I don't want to minimize the work effort as that could diminish the efforts of those who do the work. Indeed, plenty of details remain from what you see in the images. Yet the task is made much easier by one giant step provided by the Europeans. By now many readers are familiar with the term matched-hole construction. This means the holes where a rivet will be secured are so accurately punched by CNC machinery that no jigs are needed. You line up the holes, drill to rivet size, pop in a rivet, and move to the next. Next comes precision-matched-hole where the holes are so perfect that no further drilling of pilot holes is needed. They are ready for the rivet as delivered. Merlin goes a further step beyond. The holes already have special, colored rivets that hold the parts in place. A builder removes them, does the under-skin work as needed — wiring, linkages, fuel lines — and re-rivets. I watched some of this occur and it is fairly amazing as a process. I might even attempt it and I'm not a builder. With dedication and especially with some professional assistance as is possible today, a builder can finish the project in as little as two weeks. Is that work effort worth it, considering you can hold the price below the once-expected price of a LSA? Only you can answer that question but Erwin's Aeromarine-LSA company based in central Florida has brought affordability back into the picture. Is a single seater enough for you? It very well may be considering airplanes are frequently flown solo. Learn even more in the following video recorded at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018. https://youtu.be/24ShnUX4Kpg * The dollar amounts are generated using the U.S. government's Consumer Price Index.
A popular American childhood story called “The Little Engine that Could” relates to this article. The Merlin PSA (Personal Sport Aircraft) from Aeromarine-LSA is a modern single place airplane that does everything you want — well, other than carry two people — while remaining highly affordable. Given that some Light-Sport Aircraft shoot past $200,000 (some even past $300,000!), Merlin looks very reasonably priced for the rest of us. A large number of LSA enthusiasts have complained that present-day LSA have become way too expensive for their budgets. Back when we were still awaiting Light-Sport Aircraft many pilots thought LSA would cost $50-60,000 and it seems not many choices are available in that range. Some are, but most are quite a bit more costly. It’s important to be accurate. Understand that $60,000 in 2002 — when people were speculating about the price of a LSA — is the same as $83,000 today, when you calculate the purchasing power of either number at those times.* Now think of Merlin’s price tag.