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.
News from the Paris Air Show probably does not interest you too much, unless you care about the airliner you will fly in eight years from now. However, one article caught my interest because of a few references. (The article I found is available here.) Here’s the parts that grabbed me: (1) “We’re hoping it can be a light-sport aircraft type of licence,” said developing company CEO Steve Burns. “We want to keep it minimal, and we believe it’s easy enough to fly to do that.” (2) It will be pilot-operated; controls are said to be minimal, with buttons for up/down altitude adjustment, and a joystick for forward, sideways and yaw. (3) The company aims to bring the SureFly to market at a price of just $200,000. OK, I get that $200 Grand is not affordable for many readers but this figure is not much more than your average high-end Light-Sport Aircraft (in fact, it’s less than the best selling LSA).
Not Going to France?
The good news is, DUC props are available in the USA thanks to SportairUSA. You know this brand for their aircraft, including Sting, Sirius, and Zlin Outback and Shock but they are a full service supplier. The Arkansas company said, "SportairUSA is the United States distributor for DUC Propellers, the industry-leading forged carbon propellers from DUC Helices. There are models of DUC propellers suitable for light sport aircraft, ultralights, powered parachutes and experimental aircraft." Plus, how about this offer? "Guaranteed Satisfaction — If your airplane does not perform better with the DUC propeller, return it within 30 days for a full refund," assured people at SportairUSA. That is a remarkably sure way to know you are buying the right prop for your airplane. SportairUSA lists some of your choices in props from DUC. Swirl (photo above) is a simple, ground-adjustable propeller that performs like a complex constant-speed prop. "It is the propeller of choice for faster airplanes," said SportairUSA. How can that be? "Without movement or twisting of the blades DUC's Swirl propeller has a constant speed effect… [because] the prop takes a slimmer bite under load, and a fatter bite when cruising, without the need for complex electro-mechanical adjustments." Windspoon (lower photo) is for slower aircraft (speeds up to 80 knots for engines up to 120 horsepower). SportairUSA explained, "With its revolutionary shape [that] offers unrivaled performance, Windspoon is the ideal solution for trikes and similar aircraft." For more detail including specifications and prop ordering information, visit SportairUSA's dedicated prop page.
If you live in France or are traveling to the country (soon!), you might want to join the party… the DUC Propellers party, that is. It is happening in a few days. In December 2016 DUC Propellers moved new facilities (nearby photo) to be closer to the airfield for tests and to have a more spacious infrastructure to expedite development. To celebrate their new quarters, on Saturday, June 24th, 2017, DUC Propellers announced they will “organize an exceptional party to celebrate the inauguration of our new location on the Villefranche-Tarare Aerodrome (LFHV) in Frontenas, France.” They plan a big event with more than 500 guests expected along with participation of many operators from the airfield. “Lot of guests will arrive all long the day by plane but the party will officially start at 8 p.m. with the visit of the new facilities, a photoBooth on flying topics, a Beaujolais culinary discovery, a cocktail dinner, a music DJ, and some animations throughout the night,” said DUC representatives.
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Though the aircraft looks rather small as you approach it, SeaMax’s interior is surprisingly roomy and its interior has a handsome speedboat-like finish with a generous 46 inch width, close to the broadest LSA and half a foot wider than a Cessna 172. Entering is simple with its widely front-opening canopy; you step on the solid floor and sit. Canopy optics were superb and you have 270-degree visibility thanks to rear quarter windows. Because you'll want the canopy closed in the water — the airplane sits low — air vents are positioned in the canopy with a second set near your head, tucked away in the wing root area. These keep air flowing inside. When taxiing on land you can leave the canopy open and the hinges are robust; even on a bumpy turf runway, the canopy moves very little. After rolling off the ramp or beach, you retract the gear in preparation for launch. SeaMax's electromechanical landing gear takes nine second to fully retract. To help you fully prepare, SeaMax offers a digital flap position indicator and digital trim position indicator. You also flip on an electrical fuel boost pump and a relatively uncommon bilge pump prior to moving the throttle forward. A 100-hp Rotax 912 AirMax moves SeaMax easily on land or water. My experience on the water at 45 mph showed SeaMax to be a great little speedboat. Turning in this configuration employs the water rudder, which extends from inside the air rudder. You use opposite aileron to keep from sticking a sponson too deeply in the water. On full application of power some water spray may contact the prop so AirMax uses a metal reinforced prop leading edge. As mentioned above cockpit side rails in SeaMax are only inches above the water line. The bottom of occupant seats are below the water line. Until your technique is experienced, I consider this a lake airplane although I heard reports of operations in one-foot waves. Such restrictions are common on smaller amphibians. My checkout pilot suggested I apply full power with the stick held full aft until breaking water or ground. As the nosewheel lifts, you relax the back pressure and let the plane fly itself off the surface. Rotation occured at about 45 mph indicated on the Dynon instrumentation. SeaMax’s hull gets on the step in about 100 feet, says AirMax. With continued acceleration takeoff follows in about 300 feet total when flying solo or about 500 feet when flying dual. Climbout at 70 mph produced about 1,000 fpm initially. SeaMax sustained climb at about 700 fpm with 10 degrees of flaps. During landings with full flaps the aircraft approaches at 50 mph. A safe downwind speed is 75-80 mph; this produces about 500 fpm down with the throttle at idle thrust. Water touchdowns proved very straightforward. SeaMax responds very well as a boat. Touchdown was at about 60 mph and it immediately started tracking true. My check pilots said it is essential to keep the stick full aft to prevent porpoising and possible upset. Airborne, the SeaMax joystick has a light touch although I recommend a few hours to optimize. My initial efforts at mild dutch rolls were sloppy suggesting handling that takes acclimatization. Rudder control took the most finesse perhaps due to close coupling behind a large cabin combined with a pusher engine. You need to use the rudder but bumps of it rather than steady pressure worked best for me. Light and responsive controls will delight pilots who take the time to get used to them. Roll rate was medium to somewhat fast. You rarely have to land crosswind on the water in a seaplane but on land, SeaMax has all the control authority it needs. To smoothen airflow around the large cabin, designer Rosario put in a long investigation into the vortex generator tabs seen in many locations. I was recommended to use 4800 rpm on the 100-hp Rotax 912 for normal cruise. That produced about 100 mph. At 4600 rpm we showed slightly less than 100 mph but these are low, fuel-conserving power settings. Push the Rotax a bit harder and SeaMax reached 115 mph, putting it high among other LSA seaplanes. Get all official specifications from the factory. Water runs are relatively short (300 ft. solo) and climb is brisk at 1,000 fpm for a few minutes after takeoff. Landings are also rather short. Stalls were mild in my trials. From most entries, stalls appeared to break benignly in the low 40 mph range though the factory says 36 mph with optimal flaps. Longitudinal stability checks and power changes showed SeaMax to be a generally stable aircraft; it recovered from mild disturbances of the stick on its own and with only a few oscillations. In summary, I'd call SeaMax a "performance LSA seaplane," peppy and demanding a bit more pilot attention but it gets up and goes. Stopped at the airport, pilots checking out SeaMax become impressed quickly. The following video interview was shot at Sun 'n Fun 2017. For more go to our LSA Video page or the Ultralight News YouTube channel. https://youtu.be/XyXXjqYBnwo
SeaMax from Brazil has been somewhat absent in recent years. I will spare you the detail but the company used a lot of energy to repel an undesired takeover. In recent months that was resolved and the company is now ready to move forward smartly. SeaMax was an early LSA to meet the consensus standards as required by FAA. The first was the Mermaid in February 2006. Second was the Colyaer Freedom on January 2007. On Christmas Day 2007, SeaMax became the third. However, of those three only SeaMax has remained in regular production for the last ten years. More recently, SeaMax was followed by SeaRey, Super Petrel, and A5 as ASTM-compliant LSA seaplanes. See our SLSA List for all aircraft shown in sortable columns. At Sun ‘n Fun 2017, I did a video interview with designer Miguel Rosario that you can watch below.
Why Should This Matter to You?
Many American pilots enjoying their pursuit of sport and recreational flying often express little interest in what is happening in China. That's understandable, perhaps. China is distant and the beginning of personal flying in the country seems far off. However, that may be overlooking a future value. If American producers of light aircraft want to grow, overseas sales are important. As companies like Apple and many others show, sales in China can significantly aid their bottom line. Interest in American-made products is very strong. ASA reported that Anyang leaders "officially signed the first batch of four sports aviation manufacturers, which will be stationed in Anyang this year, in the economic and technological development zone." Shudong added that Anyang City and ASA have agreed to set up another six overseas sports aviation manufacturers next year. "ASA's 'Anyang International Aviation City' industrial development has laid a solid foundation, and the whole project is ready to go." Revo producer Evolution Trikes, basic LSA builder M-Squared, powered parachute leader Powrachute along with powered paraglider manufacturer Blackhawk Paramotors USA made the long trip to Anyang to show their products. For M-Squared and Blackhawk this was at least their second trip If these companies and more to follow are successful at selling into China one day, that will help their business so they can create new and better aircraft that Americans (and Chinese) can buy. China may be distant but it could help red-blooded Americans get more of what they want. That seems a good thing, so thanks to ASA and Shudong for their ongoing efforts to crack open this important foreign market. More info: M-Squared Aircraft • Powrachute • Blackhawk Paramotors
One of the big hopes of the global aviation community — besides the shared wish for more young people to take up flying — is that Chinese interest in aviation grows. China has convincingly proven it can build vast numbers of bridges, apartments, railways, and all sorts of major infrastructure. Can their people develop an interest in flying? Why might this be important to Americans? To date, Chinese investors have bought all or portions of big GA companies, such as Cirrus, Mooney, Continental Motors, Glasair, and more. Yet those acquisitions do not start Chinese youth on their way to enjoy flying as Americans and Europeans do today. Real growth needs to be grassroots. Chinese leaders have staffed their airlines and their military, but from my own close-up view, the number of Chinese involved with sport or recreational flying is a very small number, microscopic compared to their immense population. One organization working to change that is Aero Sports Association, run by the tireless, ever-positive Shudong Li a former Chinese national who today lives and works in the San Francisco area.
So, I got excited when I read the Sonex Aircraft announce the new Xenos B-Model. You can order a Xenos-B now, kits are shipping, and, earlier purchasers may wish to check out the Xenos-B Conversion Kit.
The Xenos-B combines all of the great enhancements of the Sonex and Waiex B-Models with the distinctive motorglider performance and value of the Xenos. While Xenos looks very similar to the Sonex and Waiex, it is substantially different. Not only the wing obviously much longer — 46 feet in soaring configuration — but the tail has more volume and sits back another foot and a half.
The wing itself is different in multiple ways but two things stand out: no flaps are installed, and Xenos has a spoiler that can deploy to multiple positions. As the company notes, Xenos' spoilers are "surprisingly effective." I've used spoilers many times in various aircraft and I concur. Their small size tempts you to think they won't do much but when properly fitted, they exert a large influence. No flaps are needed. Kill the spoilers and the airplane seems to accelerate forward plus no sinking occurs as when flaps are retracted quickly. Deploy the spoilers full on and you jump from a very slow descent rate to well more than 1,500 fpm.
"The best part of a Sonex Aircraft is the way it flies," said General Manager, Mark Schaible, "and the B-Model Xenos will be no-exception!""Xenos follows in the Monnett tradition of bringing the cost of motor gliding to a highly affordable level," Mark continued. Xenos comes standard with "utility wing tips" that can be easily removed to fit inside a 40 foot hangar, and can be quickly interchanged with optional aerobatic wingtips. Contact Sonex to learn more about the wingtip variations.
Xenos can either be flown using a Sport Pilot certificate or it can be flown by pilots that hold a glider rating with a self-launch glider endorsement. You can operate Xenos in three mission profiles: (1) as a powered aircraft, (2) as a self-launched glider that soars with the engine off, or (3) it can "motor-soar" over long distances with excellent fuel economy.
"A B-model Xenos completely replaces the original Xenos in the Sonex Aircraft product lineup," said Mark. "However, original A-model Xenos sub-kits will still be available to those needing to complete their existing projects and all original Xenos aircraft will continue to receive full support, including legacy (A-model) parts availability," assuming you registered the purchase with Sonex Aircraft.
How does Xenos fly?Test pilot Roger Tanner wrote (about flying the A-model), "Xenos is a very forgiving well-behaved tail dragger, easy to handle on the ground with a steerable tail wheel attached to the small rudder and good visibility over the nose. Wheel brakes are applied by pulling the spoiler lever nearly full aft. The lever is located on the left side of the cockpit. Throttle, mixture and pitch trim are also located on the left side of the cockpit." Launch and handling is similar to the other Sonex models. In flight, Roger observed, "Xenos flying qualities include good control harmony, light responsive controls and good pitch and yaw damping at thermalling and traffic pattern speeds 55-70 mph." "Glide performance was evaluated by flying the Xenos (engine off, with the wingtip extensions) in formation with an Schweizer 2-33, a popular training glider. Xenos is equal to or slightly better than the 2-33 requiring an occasional small amount of spoiler to stay in formation. This puts the glide angle at approximately 24:1." I'd call that outstanding for a motorglider than can also be used for distance traveling. For a thorough check out in this motorglider, go along with Jeremy Monnett* to see how she flies. https://youtu.be/OWgq_u_KHKY?list=PLO6tMbMVaApFuqqFSAuuT3jljBfqtw8iS * Sadly, Jeremy was lost in 2015, however, he lives on in many ways including this particular video tour.
Sonex made a splash earlier when they announced their “B Models” for the Sonex and Waiex. Read about the B-model changes in this article. Now the Oshkosh, Wisconsin company has brought these same upgrades to their Xenos Motorglider. Over many years I’ve asked many pilots why they fly, what their top reason might be. The answers are nearly as numerous as the number of pilots asked. For me, it’s probably aerial sightseeing, enjoying the view from above. Right after that, though, it is easily and clearly soaring. I’ve logged hundreds of hours soaring hang gliders and the sensation of rising thousands of feet in thermals remains one I cannot top with any other kind of flying. Sonex’s Xenos is a motorglider and is quite adept at soaring. So, I got excited when I read the Sonex Aircraft announce the new Xenos B-Model. You can order a Xenos-B now, kits are shipping, and, earlier purchasers may wish to check out the Xenos-B Conversion Kit.
Adam Yang, the CEO of Progressive Aerodyne, resigned from the CEO position on May 18, 2017 and is handing the position to his successor, Geoff Nicholson. Progressive Aerodyne developed and manufactures Searey, which is a very well-recognized amphibious Light-Sport Aircraft. Adam has been chairman of the board and CEO for the past six years. Adam led the company as it evolved from a kit airplane manufacturer of more than 500 aircraft to a factory-built LSA company. In 2013, under Adam’s leadership, the company achieved Special LSA status following an audit that some FAA officials regarded as one of the most successful in the industry. “[Searey] passed FAA’s inspection with no major findings,” noted Adam. The company continues to offer kit versions as well as fully-built LSA in a variety of configurations. Searey achieved another distinction with Adam at the helm. The LSA seaplane claims to be the first LSA to obtained Type Design Approval and a Production Certificate from the Chinese aviation authority, CAAC, in 2015.
Flying light aircraft to Cuba seems to be a kind of new normal. Whatever the politics of the relations between governments, the fact remains that pilots enjoy using their aircraft and want to fly to interesting destinations. To many, Cuba is one of those places, a reasonably short flight from the USA… albeit over a stretch of mighty ocean. “Exploring new destinations and sharing the joy of flight are two of the key driving forces behind Cruiser Aircraft Inc. So when plans were announced for the first VFR Air Rally,” the company announced, “Cruiser Aircraft.eu CEO Oscar Starinsky and Thomas Schrade president of the company’s U.S. presence knew they had to be a part of it.” Cruiser Aircraft is a relatively new entity — seen earlier this year at the Sebring Expo. The new enterprise is the exclusive western hemisphere importer of Czech Sport Aircraft’s SportCruiser. Starinsky and Schrade saw the rally as an opportunity to forge new relationships and take the first steps in revitalizing the once vibrant general aviation community in Cuba.
Rights of PassageAlthough governments have eased the permissions required, the task is still rather daunting. John enlisted the aid of AirRally.com, a Canadian company that handled the effort of assuring the right steps were taken. The group had a tight schedule. Their special visas required they fly over on May 19th with mandatory return on the 22nd. Those were the assigned travel days and weather could not be an excuse for delays. “We flew at 85 knots but fought a 30-knot headwind,” recalled John Craparo. The 100 nautical mile trip plus maneuvering for traffic would consume more than two hours and the majority of their fuel supply. Therefore obtaining fuel in Cuba was a must. “We wondered if 100LL fuel or any alternative was available as, unlike the fixed wing airplanes, we lacked sufficient fuel to make the round trip.” John and the gyro team discussed the task beforehand and elected to go. Yet they didn’t know about the headwind or the air traffic control experience when they made this decision. The straight line distance was only about 100 nautical miles but with ATC vectoring, it was closer to 130 nautical. “We were told we had to cross the ADIZ by 10 AM or turn around and go back,” John noted, adding another pressure point to the plan. Crossing that much water is a serious matter. They prepared. Each aircraft had two GPS units, dual radios. life vests, personal locators, Spot trackers, flare guns, and even a knife to attempt fending off any sharks or other predators. Gyroplanes are not designed to carry a lot of baggage, so after the safety gear, “we packed very light,” explained John. “We had two pairs of underwear, socks, and shorts. We planned to do laundry on the island.”
Arriving Over CubaOther than the headwind, the crossing was uneventful, but remember, the controllers had never handled a VFR flight so vectoring and being directed into clouds resulted. “We had five or 10 minutes of uncertainty with ATC after advising them we could not do IFR flight,” John clarified. Like controllers around the world, the Cubans spoke English but the pair of gyroplanes had to work things out in the air. John’s Magni got on the ground first and successfully, but after waiting anxiously, still had no word about the other M16 gyroplane. “They had been put in a holding pattern and were ignored for a time,” related John. It was only minutes but, given the situation, seemed like hours. After pleading their fuel predicament to Cuban controllers, they were finally given clearance to land. “When the second gyroplane shut down, 1.5 gallons — 15 to 20 minutes‘ worth — of fuel remained, exclaimed John! John recorded his time from engine start in Marathon, Florida to shutdown in Havana at 2.5 hours. To compare, with calm winds on the return to America, the flight was only 1.5 hours. These Rotax engines burn between four to six gallons per hour depending on the power setting, so two and half hours equates to 12-15 gallons used. With 19 total on board, a return flight was not possible. The second gyro, delayed longer by Cuban ATC, consumed more of their supply. Being safe on the ground is good but clearly the gyro team needed to negotiate some fuel and only Jet A was commonly supplied on the airport. After lengthy discussions — including the possibility of siphoning fuel from one or more of the GA airplanes who were not fuel challenged — a solution was found with help from the AirRally people. A fuel truck was procured and the gyroplanes were fueled with what was described as 100 octane fuel at a modest price. “All things considered it seemed a good value,” John said. Payment had to be in cash; credit cards are not used in Cuba. John and partners were prepared, thanks to their own study and advice from AirRally.com. “We ran the engines for a time after uploading the fuel,” John indicated, but the fuel turned out to be good and the flight home went without incident. The experience in Cuba was excellent and interesting, according to the flight of seven. Friendship 4 will no doubt replay the trip in their minds for years to come, especially the rather tense arrival. "Thanks to everyone who cheered us on," finished John.
This article has been modified since originally posted. —DJ These days you can go to Cuba. You can even fly to the island nation. Yet one thing no one has been doing… is flying VFR to Cuba. According to John Craparo, this was the first time in at least 60 years. They were also the first-ever gyroplanes to arrive in Havana. John was joined by his three gyro friends — Dayton Dabbs, Mike Baker, and Jonathan Prickett — in a pair of Magni Gyro tandem two seaters, both M16 models. The gyroplanes were accompanied by two SportCruiser LSA, a pair of Bonanzas, and a Cirrus SR20. For the faster, fixed wing aircraft the 100-mile crossing was not a major challenge. However, any water crossing where you fly out of sight of land in a single engine airplane will earn your rapt attention. It was a bigger deal yet to cross an expanse of ocean in open cockpit gyroplanes flying less than 100 miles an hour with 19 gallons of fuel on board.
CubCrafters now leads the field for Special LSA (see this report to learn more) thanks significantly to their early installation of the 180 horsepower Titan engine. Outback Shock is starting making waves in the sky with their impressive entry. Outback with Shock options is sold in America by SportairUSA. Both these companies are to be congratulated for advancing the light aircraft field, but one aircraft really lit this space on fire: Just Aircraft and their ground-breaking SuperSTOL. Just Aircraft went beyond vintage appeal by extending SuperSTOL ability with several distinctive features. “The dual slatted wing significantly enhanced performance and slow flight control,” said design engineer Troy Woodland. His SuperSTOL wing design incorporates self-deploying leading edge slats and wide span Fowler flaps to increase stall range. SuperSTOL also uses vortex generators to further stretch slow flight performance and handling (photo). “This provides access to considerably more off-airport landing sites, making the SuperSTOL one of the most versatile backcountry machines out there,” Troy added.
Wind blows across the dunes here in Nags Head in a way that first drew the Wright Brothers 114 years ago. Indeed, a couple miles north north a memorial commemorates the famous bicycle shop owners who made history in this breezy outpost on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. For 45 years, an event has occurred on these ever-shifting dunes qualifying it as one of aviation’s longest-lasting events. To some eyes, it may also be one of the most fun, a nearly innocent way to take to the air in the lightest of wings. Many do it barefoot, and here, that’s perfectly fine. This is the grandly-named Hang Gliding Spectacular. The staff who runs it refer to it simply as “Spec.” The old saying about not flying higher that you want to fall practically defines sand dune flying on Jockey’s Ridge. The idea: fly from an 85-foot-high, rather gently sloping sand dune using the wind and your skills targeting a set of concentric rings at the base of the dunes to see who can most closely plant both feet in the bulls eye.
- Floatwing — removes the need for external high drag support geometries, and provides high stability
- Merged Hull Geometry — fuselage has an aerodynamic forward geometry merged with the boat hull further back for minimizing drag on the boat hull section
- Electric Motor — gives us smooth aerodynamics and lower weight at the same time; we get all the bulk and weight down in the hull for optimized stability in water
- Laminar Flow — drag is kept low over all with a laminar flow fuselage, canopy and airfoils
- Internal Combustion Engine — WST KKM 352 Wankel producing 57kW (76 horsepower) weighing 99 pounds (45 kg)
- Generator — Engiro G60 producing 60kW, water cooled weighing 33 pounds (15 kg)
- Electric Motor — Engiro M97 Electric producing 97 kW (130 horsepower) weighing 71 pounds ( 32 kg)
AirMax SeaMax — Icon A5 — Vickers Wave — MVP — Lisa Akoya… you only need look at the best promoted brands to see that arguably the most innovative ideas in light aircraft are coming from the LSA seaplane sector. Each of these is a great example of visionary engineering. Others LSA or light kit seaplane developments — Searey, Mermaid, ATOL Avion, Aero Adventure, among others — are somewhat more conventional but that’s reassuring to some potential buyers. All these names have one enormous advantage. They have practical field experience. Of the five in the first paragraph, only SeaMax has a longer period of use by owners in regular operation. Now consider Equator Aircraft P2 Xcursion, an electric hybrid seaplane with several compelling ideas. I wrote about this in an article two years ago; now we have an update.
A few weeks earlier, as many enthusiasts were headed to Sun 'n Fun, the company suffered another incident although no one was injured.
Normally we elect not to delve into accidents on ByDanJohnson.com but where it can be instructive and when readers are keen to learn more — and when we have direct information — discussing such matters can be useful. To say the last month has not been good for Icon Aircraft would be a gross understatement. While the company struggles to increase production of their often-ordered LSA seaplane, they now must deal with much more difficult events. Most recently, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reported, “On May 8, 2017, about 9 AM Pacific time [an] A5 impacted terrain while maneuvering near Lake Berryessa, California. The commercial pilot and passenger were fatally injured, and the airplane sustained substantial damage.” The aircraft was piloted by Icon’s chief test pilot, Jon Karkow who was taking the recently hired Director of Engineering, Cagri Sever, for a familiarization flight. “The flight was Sever’s first in the A5 and was to be his introduction to the product on which he would be working at Icon,” reported the Vacaville, California company.
Does any aviator in the country not know the name Aircraft Spruce? Odds are overwhelming that you have one of their thick catalogs chock full of every part, panel gear, tool, and aeronautical doo-dad on the market. They are known to stock many hard-to-find items. Almost as likely, you’ve bought something from Aircraft Spruce. Maybe you are regular customer. The company started out west in California and that’s still the main hub. Yet for eastern aviation enthusiasts, the company maintains a facility in the Atlanta, Georgia area. They also have a Canada-based outlet. This Saturday, May 20th, is Customer Appreciation Day (CAD) in Peachtree City. Aircraft Spruce East will host its annual event on Saturday the 20th — just a few days from now! — from 8 AM to 4 PM. Those driving in can enter 452 Dividend Drive in Peachtree City, Georgia on your GPS unit.
In the late ’90s, an earlier iteration of Remos Aircraft delivered their first aircraft, a G-3 Mirage, originally designed by the very talented Lorenz Kreitmeyer. That was twenty years ago. Recently, the Pasewalk, Germany company delivered serial number 450. Susanne and Harmut Lang, the new owners of the GXNXT — known as a GXnXES in the United States — took possession at their aircraft after it was flown to Bremgarten in southern Germany by Remos engineer Paul Foltz. The Lang’s new GXNXT is equipped with the latest avionics by Dynon and Garmin. Upon receipt of the aircraft, Harmut Lang said: “The Remos GXNXT suits our needs perfectly [and] the flight characteristics are amazing and the quality of this aircraft is well known.” If you are confused by the model name, that could be because attention has been focused on the GXiS model that won European ultralight approval recently. Even more recently, the company made news regarding its new owner, Stemme Aircraft.
- Maximum Cruise: 280 km/h — 175 mph — 152 knots
- Eco (lower fuel consuming) Cruise: 260 km/h — 163 mph — 141 knots
- Fuel Burn in Eco mode: 23 liters/hour — 6 gallons per hour
- Fuel Translation: 27.16 statute miles per gallon at 163 mph
Surely all readers know that Rotax-brand engines dominate the light aircraft landscape. The company owns something like 75% or more of the global market and close to that in the USA. Some worthy competitors are keeping the pressure on, but Rotax continues forward. The engine-to-follow is their new turbo-intercooler-fuel injected 135-horsepower 915 iS variant. Rotax Aircraft Engines first announced this new model at AirVenture 2015; see our video interview for details and go to the official 915 iS page for even more. In the press conference where the engine was unveiled, many in the standing-room-only audience were airframe manufacturers. As soon as the management and engineering team was done presenting, they quickly swarmed over the powerplant. You could almost see the wheels turning in their minds as they contemplated how they could fit and use this machine in their aircraft. That was almost two years ago — AirVenture Oshkosh is only about 75 days away!
Changes in the Rankings
Besides the leaders, the Top-5 brands remained steady with CubCrafters, Flight Design, Czech Sport Aircraft, American Legend, and Tecnam holding their highest rankings. Jabiru moved up one notch, while Remos slipped one. Aerotrek (another year-after-year gainer) climbed another rank while Evektor fell one. Nonetheless the top five, these last four, and Cessna are the only brands breaking into triple digits. Although Pipistrel gives us challenges to count (some are registered as Experimental Exhibition), the Slovenian company has also exhibited an even climb and now ranks 11th in the fleet or 3rd for calendar 2016. One fooler is SportairUSA, which markets both TL Ultralights and Zlin. Neither has broken 100 yet but when combined SportairUSA has and that's before fresh excitement over their new Outback Shock. Van's continues to make more fully built RV-12s with their partner Synergy Air. Progressive Aerodyne, builder of the Searey approved in both USA and China, has had and still boasts solid years. The central Florida company is the clear leader in LSA seaplanes even while Icon's A5 finally began to show up with 13 new registrations in 2016. Finally, while our main chart focuses on the top brands, note that the largest single percentage are registrations from “All other producers.” The same is true in our calendar year chart. Sometimes called "boutique brands," these companies continue to find customers. Even as Light-Sport Aircraft matures as a niche in the aviation industry, its promise remains strong. As our ongoing reporting from Aero and Sun 'n Fun shows, new models continue to be developed and governments in more countries are embracing the ASTM standards to approve these aircraft. No wonder the general aviation world wants what LSA has. Unlike legacy aircraft producers — those making general aircraft that have changed little over half a century — the LSA space continues to supply interesting, innovative, modestly priced, good performing, superbly equipped, and yes! …safe aircraft. Now that most manufacturers have seen BasicMed has not materially affected their business the American LSA segment grows steadily while worldwide sales continue to eclipse new GA single engine piston deliveries by multiple times. Update #1 — May 1, 2017: After this article was posted, Pete Krotje of Jabiru North America wrote, "Your 2016 LSA chart shows Jabiru North America with five units last year. The number is actually seven (N733Y, N766J, N768J, N72TA, N773J, N218KC, and N772J (a J170-D)." We love when vendors aid our effort to achieve accuracy. This information was shared with Jan Fridrich. Update #2 — May 2, 2017: After Tecnam's U.S. base got a number of calls about this article, we exchanged email about the process. While we can only reliably count FAA registrations and these numbers may not precisely match a seller's data, Tecnam USA observed, "FAA registers us in different ways. Sometimes just Tecnam, sometimes Costruzioni Aeronautiche Tecnam, and sometimes Tecnam SRL C.A. So that might be why not all the Tecnams sold were included." Their sales records show the following 17 SLSA were sold in 2016: 7 Astore models, 8 P2008s, and 2 P92s. Thanks to Tecnam for sharing this and again, we forwarded the numbers to Jan.
A dozen years after FAA created aviation’s newest sector, we have a new leader among manufacturers of fully built Light-Sport Aircraft. CubCrafters has been moving upward with several years hitting 50 deliveries. In 2016 the west coast builder finally topped perennial leader Flight Design, which slipped to second place. The CT builder had occupied the #1 position since the beginning of Light-Sport Aircraft. Only four aircraft separate the two brands. Note: this article has been updated twice; see at end. —DJ In the single-year race, Czech Sport Aircraft won convincingly with almost double the next closest producer. The Czech builder performed well in 2015 but significantly increased last year. Congratulations to both companies. To explain further, our “whole fleet” market share chart — the one we have published going back to 2006 — keeps track of all Special LSA (SLSA) airplanes in the U.S. fleet. Regretfully, we are unable to properly account for weight shift trikes, powered parachutes, gyroplanes, or motorgliders because the database is too variable.
April 2017 logged 12 years of Light-Sport Aircraft. The FAA regulation creating the category was introduced in 2004 but it was at Sun ‘n Fun 2005 that the agency presented Evektor SportStar and the Flight Design CT the first and second Special Airworthiness certificates. My friend and LAMA associate, Jan Fridrich, gave a presentation at Aero 2017 showing many graphs that examine this new airplane sector and how it has developed over the last decade. This article looks at a portion of his analysis. In those dozen years, the market has developed interestingly. In the first vigorous years of growth — filling pent-up demand for a two-seat aircraft pilots could fly without a medical — European light aircraft producers dominated the market (chart). Jan’s home country, the Czech Republic, was one of the most prolific, in the early days leading all other countries. Czech designs remain a key player but the field has shifted.