Price matters. While pilots enjoy a huge range in aircraft types, capabilities, descriptions, and price points, the fact remains that some aircraft will always be too expensive for some buyers. A smaller number tilt the other way, thinking a too-cheap aircraft might be, well… cheap, as in cheaply built. Airplane buying is as subjective as any other purchase. It has to work for you! If, for purchase consideration, you examine any of the LSA industry’s leaders, odds are the price of a new aircraft may require partners, financing, or a thicker wallet. However, one other factor enters into the decision: warranty. Really? Have you considered this when seeking a new airplane? Perhaps not, at least not the same way you consider a new auto warranty. The latter usually have a longer timeframe (especially in the last couple decades) yet warranty can be significant if a major problem arises. Now Read This… We have an “Unbeatable Warranty,” declared Scott Severen, the representative for Jabiru in the USA under the business name US Sport Planes!
Brazilian InvasionAmong nations that embrace non-commercial aviation, America leads the parade. Europe has a very large aviation community and like most non-U.S. regions, the concentration is on sport or recreational aircraft. America overwhelmingly dominates "general aviation" with about 80% of the world's GA fleet.* However, in sport or recreational aircraft, the USA represents around 20% of the world's aircraft population (chart link at bottom). Evidence of Brazil's prowess in creating aircraft that fit the LSA category include the excellent SeaMax LSA seaplane, Super Petrel LS, Pelican, the new Texas Aircraft Colt, Paradise P1, plus a handful of older designs. What's particularly amazing to some is that SeaMax, Super Petrel, Colt and now Hero have set up U.S. operations, most with aspirations of doing most or all manufacturing in America. André described his new entry to the LSA sweepstakes. Hero is "all 2024-T3 aluminum with cantilever wings and carbon fiber fairings. This model uses the fuel-injected Rotax 912iS engine with wheels and anti-skid brake system from Beringer and provides a Garmin panel." Hero uses unique yoke-mounted joystick somewhat reminiscent of Cessna's joystick in Skycatcher except better achieved. Hero's interior is large with its internal space "planned for world height standards without compromising the performance of the aircraft." He reports it has "great access to the interior with doors opening upwards." "I had many partners and sponsorships during development," André continued, "the largest being Dassault Systems SolidWorks with all software and engineering support, Bose Aviation, Akzo Nobel with extensive aerospace links, and others who supported the project." André acknowledged, "We are now in the flight test phase for ASTM compliance with ANAC Brazil (the country's version of FAA)."
- All aluminum 2024-T3 used for main spar
- Landing gear employs 7075-T6511 alloy
- Cantilevered (no struts) high wing design
- All rivets are flush mounted (AN426)
- All fairings are made of carbon fiber
- Rotax fuel-injected 912iS Sport engine
- Wheels and brakes supplied by Beringer
- Garmin's touchscreen G3X with dual screen panel with PA and G5 backup
- Bose A20 headphones
- Sensenich three-blade propeller
- Yoke-mounted joystick with HOTAS (Hands On Throttle-And-Stick)
- Stall Speed, no flaps — 43 knots
- Top Speed — 120 knots
- Cruise Speed — 110 knots
- Takeoff Distance — 360 feet
- Landing Distance — 533 feet
- Climb Rate — 1,400 feet per minute
- Range — 730 nautical miles
- Wing Span — 34 feet 5 inches
- Length — 22 feet
- Empty Weight — 816 pounds
- Cabin Width — 43 inches
- Fuel Capacity — 26.4 gallons
From Brazil comes a new Hero, an aircraft most Americans have never seen. Outside of the South American country, few know of Hero in its two models. That’s about to change with this article. The cantilevered all-metal design has excellent ramp appeal, good specifications, and approval as a Special Light-Sport Aircraft is underway at this time, the developer said. He also added, is coming to the USA, to Florida, to be manufactured. The Brazilian invasion continues… For this article, I exchanged communications with André Godoy, Sector Aircraft‘s CEO and aircraft designer. He explained, “I have experience building LSA for other companies in Brazil but I am now working on my new design and company. His project is “Hero, a new high wing LSA.” Brazilian Invasion Among nations that embrace non-commercial aviation, America leads the parade. Europe has a very large aviation community and like most non-U.S. regions, the concentration is on sport or recreational aircraft.
East and West Coast Flight OpsBoth Sling Pilot Academy (SPA) and Sebring Flight Academy (SFA) are relatively recent starts but both already have students well trained enough that they can begin taking some of the chores of training the next batch, under controlled and highly supervised leadership, of course. This is serious stuff. These students could be piloting the airliner in which you are flying in just a few years. When students earn their credentials and are ready for more, SPA uses a pair of recently-acquired dual-Rotax-engine Tecnam Twins. SFA uses the well-proven Piper Seneca twin. Both places appear to be humming with activity! SPA has evolved from a modest, quiet flight school into a bustling operation. "We're just getting started," said SPA boss, Matt Litnaitzky. "Four new aircraft are on their way, we've added an additional hangar, as well as nearly quadrupling our staff. The first academy class is already airborne well on their way to a dream career." SPA said students are expected to complete their ratings in nine months and finish building their 1,500 hours in a year and a half. By utilizing efficient Rotax-powered aircraft with state-of-the art modern avionics, SPA students will be entering the airlines with glass cockpit experience at a fraction of the cost. Across the continent at Sebring Flight Academy, they are using Lou Mancuso's ingenious system of elevating their freshly-certificated students into flight training under the supervision of seasoned pros. As a former instructor myself, I can confirm a CFI learns every bit as much as each student he or she trains. SFA offers a full package of nearby lodging (they bought a house not far from SEF airport) and a work opportunity as ways to hold down the cost and concentrate the student's payment into actual training rather than lodging and transportation expense. Likewise, SPA has a whole web page dedicated to showing the savings they can offer. Both of these modern schools are very keenly aware that, as SPA reported, "The hot topic of every FBO around is 'a pilot shortage is upon us'..." Indeed, Boeing predicts over the next 20 years that North America alone will need 206,000 airline pilots. Globally that figures rises dramatically to some 800,000 pilots. Students getting into professional courses like those offered by SPA and SFA have very bright futures in my opinion. Airlines have great need, but so do corporate bizjet departments and military aviation divisions. China's military — even given its immense population — is increasing recruitment as they face upcoming shortages. Then, we have eVTOL air taxis in hot development and all manner of remote pilot positions. It's not just pilots either. Although it's a story worthy of another article, mechanics are predicted to have even higher job opportunities with pay scales increasing to entice trained workers. This is a great time to be a young person pursing aviation, better than I've seen in many decades of following aviation closely. It's wonderful to see Sling Pilot Academy and Sebring Flight Academy rewriting the old rules of how a flight school should be operated. I'm exceptionally proud of both enterprises. Current pilots can contact The Airplane Factory USA or Bristell USA to learn more about the aircraft they represent.
For years, I have been interviewing suppliers of Light-Sport Aircraft about how functional and durable their SLSA are for flight training. Contrary to what many think many SLSA actually make good trainers (see this recent article). Old timers might think you have to stick with Cessna or Piper to have an airframe built robustly enough to handle student flight training. Those who feel that way are behind the times. LSA are here and now in flight schools. This is a tale, not of two cities, but of two coasts, the Pacific and Atlantic yet the story is unfolding in several other locations, too. Based on multiple flight schools deep into using LSA (as portrayed in the linked article above), current LSA appear more than up to the job. That has been ongoing for some time. The new development that is popping up on the coasts and elsewhere in between are entirely new flight schools, ones organized completely around Light-Sport Aircraft as primary trainers.
Many Deserving PersonsI think we are very lucky aviators. Americans, Europeans, and aviators in many countries have literally hundreds of great Light-Sport Aircraft or Sport Pilot kits to choose between. The list is so extensive that making a choice of the one you can probably afford is challenging, enough so that we created PlaneFinder 2.0 to help airplane shoppers narrow the list. (It's fun; give it a try, no cost involved.) Many of the Award winners have been aircraft designers and/or manufacturers. Others who have won this award serve the light aircraft industry in other ways. For example… In 2018, LAMA honored Adam Morrison, the steady hand at the tiller of the ASTM committee that writes and updates the industry consensus standards that allow LSA to fly in America and other countries without having to go through terribly expensive Part 23 (Type Certificate) level approval. For his service to the light aircraft community, Adam Morrison was chosen after numerous nominations were received from hundreds of people. For several recent years, Adam Morrison has led the F37 Committee for ASTM in what is a challenging and rather thankless task but one essential to the approval of new LSA. Like nearly all who work on this committee, Adam volunteers his time. Adam successfully converted a childhood love for flying into a career focused on helping aircraft manufacturers prepare their designs for the market. Many of the leading companies have benefitted from his deep knowledge and expert guidance. His company, Streamline Designs, has been in operation for more than 20 years.
Presenting at OshkoshEvery year at the big summer celebration of flight called "Oshkosh," LAMA presents its newest recipient with a plaque to take home and engraves the winner's name on an obelisk that EAA generously displays on a permanent basis in the marvelous EAA Museum. If you never gone, you might want to put this on your bucket list; it's a fascinating and professionally-achieved display of recreational aviation and more. For this 28th year of this award, aviation professionals have been invited to submit a name for consideration. From all the nominations received, the one with the most votes wins. Very simple rules guide the vote. As LAMA founder, Larry Burke, told pros, "Select any individual you wish from the aviation community … someone you think has made significant contributions to the light aviation field." During or after AirVenture 2019, LAMA will announce the newest recipient of the organization's highest award.
- 2018: Adam Morrison (Streamline Design & ASTM)
- 2017: Sebastien Heintz (Zenith Aircraft)
- 2016: Professor Luigi Pascale (Tecnam)
- 2015: Jeremy Monnett (Sonex Aircraft); posthumous award
- 2014: Roy Beisswenger (Powered Sport Flying magazine and USUA) AND Laura Vaughn (Sun ‘n Fun convention director); first dual award given
- 2013: Bill Canino, (SportAir USA)
- 2012: Jan Fridrich (Chairman, LAMA Europe)
- 2011: Jack Pelton, (Cessna Aircraft)
- 2010: Tom Gunnarson (FAA Small Airplane Directorate)
- 2009: Mary Jones (Experimental Aircraft Association)
- 2008: Matthias Betsch (Flight Design, Germany)
- 2007: Eric Tucker (Rotax)
- 2006: Dan Johnson (ByDanJohnson.com)
- 2005: Earl Lawrence (EAA)
- 2004: Phil Lockwood (Lockwood Aviation Supply)
- 2003: Mike Loehle (Loehle Aircraft)
- 2002: Chuck Slusarczyk (CGS Aircraft)
- 2001: Chris Heintz (Zenair Aircraft)
- 2000: Darryl Murphy (Murphy Aircraft)
- 1999: Bob Gavinsky (Stoddard-Hamilton Aircraft)
- 1998: Tom Peghiny (Flightstar Aircraft)
- 1997: Dennis Soder (Kolb Aircraft)
- 1996: Homer Kolb (Kolb Aircraft)
- 1995: Phil Reed (Skystar Aircraft)
- 1994: Lance Neibauer (Lancair Aircraft)
- 1993: Randy Schlitter (Rans Aircraft)
- 1992: Dick VanGrunsven (Van’s Aircraft)
Every year, the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association asks industry professionals to nominate a deserving person to receive the LAMA President’s Award. Rest assured this has nothing to do with the POTUS spectacle about to begin. Instead this vote is for an individual that has made significant contributions to the light aviation field and is perhaps more relevant to your daily enjoymemt of the art of flying. Many Deserving Persons I think we are very lucky aviators. Americans, Europeans, and aviators in many countries have literally hundreds of great Light-Sport Aircraft or Sport Pilot kits to choose between. The list is so extensive that making a choice of the one you can probably afford is challenging, enough so that we created PlaneFinder 2.0 to help airplane shoppers narrow the list. (It’s fun; give it a try, no cost involved.) Many of the Award winners have been aircraft designers and/or manufacturers.
How Long to Build?At recent Oshkosh events, two "One-Week Wonders" were built using a kit from Zenith with power from Rotax or a Van's RV-12 with another Rotax 9-series engine. These were amazing efforts as this video describes, but Dennis and his Aerolite thinks they can do it quicker — far quicker. Plus, a deal awaits some lucky buyer. "We have a 'super offer' in conjunction with AirVenture in Oshkosh next month," announced Dennis in June 2019. "We will be assembling an Aerolite 103 during the show from a Quick Build Kit, and the aircraft is for sale (you can purchase it now, and pick it up at the end of the show or we can deliver it to you on the way back to Florida). If we have not sold it prior to the show, you can buy it at any time while it is being assembled)." Now — get this — a $3,000 Oshkosh discount applies! After he put this on his Facebook page, this "show" airplane will surely sell long before Oshkosh 2019 starts. Assembly will take place in the Workshop Tent — next to the Red Barn in the Ultralight Area, now known as the Fun Fly Zone — Tuesday through Saturday, during 9-11 AM and 2-4 PM. It will be completed and ready to taxi on Saturday afternoon. I'll do the calculation for you. In a mere 20 hours — during "banker's hours," some might say — an Aerolite 103 will go from kit to flyable aircraft. Bang! Compare that to the large gang of people who built the Zenith 750 or Van's RV-12 at Oshkosh (although they were amateurs, not experts). "The new owner can load it up on Saturday afternoon/evening," Dennis finished, "or we can deliver it to you. Delivery is free if you are someplace close to our route home (nominal delivery charge if you are not close to our route back to Florida)." The Oshkosh 2019 Super Wonder Aerolite 103 will be equipped with these options or upgrades:
- Hirth F33 engine
- Electric start
- Lightweight lithium battery
- Culver pProp
- EIS panel
- Hydraulic brakes
- 6-inch wheels and tires
Super affordability. Super Wonder. “Super?“ — surely, I exaggerate, right? Hmmm, I don’t think so. Let me explain. In an age where many Light-Sport Aircraft run $150,000, to well… possibly much more, “affordability” becomes something of a tortured word. What might seem affordable to a pilot that can buy a nearly one million dollar Cirrus SR22 is vastly different from what is affordable to most readers of this website. So, how affordable can Aerolite be to warrant my claiming “super affordability?” Rob Tuttle, following Aerolite on Facebook, posed a similar question, “How much minus delivery?” U-Fly-It owner Dennis Carley replied, “The normal price for this aircraft, assembled and ready to fly as it is equipped, is $21,680 without the parachute, $25,065 with the chute.” Airshows can bring even better prices but continue with this story for an even more unbelievable value. Consider this perspective. Automobile companies, building tens or hundreds of thousands of a single model, have an average U.S.
What's New? …Everything!As you look at our short video below, you can see that the baggage area aft of the two seat is huge, rivaling the capaciousness of even Jabiru's roomy J-230D. This voluminous aft compartment may suggest a natural progression to the four seater F4 that will follow but it is not just a large baggage area that looks different. The entire airframe is new as a quick glance confirms. F2's cabin is 3.1 inches wider — now 51 inches wide, among the broadest in the category — and two inches taller than the CT series’ cabins. Door dimensions have also been increased, making for easier entry and exit. The entry door is set 2.3 inches lower than those in the CT series and pilots who are less flexible will appreciate these changes. Four cabin windows and a sunroof in the rear give the cockpit an open feeling and improve overall visibility, boasts Flight Design. F2 is available with either a 100-horsepower Rotax 912 iS engine or, for the European market, a 141-hp turbocharged Rotax 915 iS engine (915 presently requires an in-flight adjustable prop not allowed under current U.S. regulations for LSA). Rotax's 912 iS engine delivers excellent fuel economy resulting in a maximum range of about 750 nautical miles for F2 from 34 gallons of fuel onboard. Deliveries of the new model were expected to begin in August 2019. While they will not be bargain-priced, F2 models come well equipped; standard features include AmSafe panel-mounted airbags, three-point inertia-reel harnesses, a ballistic parachute recovery system, and Garmin’s G3X Touch flight display. "Sculpted winglets reduce induced drag, improve climb and cruising range," noted Flight Design spokespersons. "The smooth cantilever strutless wing also reduces drag and allows maximum visibility from the cockpit. The highly optimized airfoil of the F2 allows generous internal volume for the fuel tanks and is also structurally efficient. Aerodynamic features have significantly improved the F2′s stability, control and its overall ease of flying." Pilots used to a full avionics suite should be pleased with the Garmin G3X panel including PFD, EMS and Map functions and a battery backup. With a Garmin GTX 345 transponder F2 is compliant with the FAA’s ADS-B “Out” required by 2020. Options can further outfit an F2. See the entire equipment list and pricing on the company's dedicated F2 page.
Charged Up for FlightSince the Aero Friedrichshafen show, on June 5, 2019, the first public flight of the Flight Design F2e took place at the Strausberg, Germany airfield using its innovative electric propulsion system. On its first successful first flight, Flight Design said, "Energy consumption for take-off and cruise was within the expected range, and the temperatures in the system were more positive than expected." Flight Design created F2e with partners Siemens eAircraft, the manufacturer and developer of the propulsion technology, and APUS, a Strausberg-based company specializing in the development and integration of aviation propulsion systems. F2e is based on standard components that are used in the Rotax 912iS-powered version of F2. "Flight Training is one area that generates the best opportunity for improvment in the environment for nature, nearby residents and airfields as noise emissions are concentrated in that one place, the airfield, where future pilots spend a lot of time flying," stated the company. The propulsion system employs a 55 kW (approximately 75 horsepower) electric direct-drive motor, inverter, and electronic control systems. This propulsion system has already been extensively tested in laboratory and ground tests as well as flight tested for hundreds of flight hours under the supervision of Siemens eAircraft, reported Flight Design. At this time, development of the electric propulsion continues while regulatory bodies around the world decide how they will handle approval of e-powered aircraft. Following is our short video look at F2 as displayed at Aero Friedrichshafen 2019… https://youtu.be/wuUUbP4imNE
Once upon a time in the then-new world of Light-Sport Aircraft Flight Design lead the pack for airplanes delivered and registered. That #1 ranking lasted for a decade. Then came a pause in the juggernaut that is Flight Design, a German company with a popular design. The company’s expenses outran their revenues and a major restructuring was forced upon them by the German legal system. This was 2015 but at Aero Friedrichshafen 2019, the company was looking strong. Their prominent space in Aero’s huge gymnasium-sized exhibit halls was filled with interesting machines, including the distinctive Horten flying wing. All these today operate under the parent name, Lift, which also acquired the Rotorvox deluxe gyroplane. Attracting a lot of attention was their brand-new F-series. Displayed as the first aircraft visitors saw, F2 is an evolved version of the company’s successful CT-series, which remains in active manufacturing.
Five Months In Combined ReportThe first chart reflects both LSA and SP kit registrations through May of 2019 and also depicts the equivalent performances for the full years of 2017 and 2018. What the chart suggests is that 2019 is a solid year with the light sector on track to hit 725 aircraft for the year, up about 5% over last year and up more than 10% over 2017. For space reasons the chart only shows ranks 1–18 but all are available on Tableau Public. Digging deeper, the chart shows that longtime market leader Zenith/Zenair lead by a substantial margin in 2017 and 2018 but that gap may be narrowing for 2019. Please keep in mind that a kit company completes a sale long before the aircraft gets registered and appears on FAA's database. Also, a kit sold may never be finished. Conversely, Icon's 27 registrations this year are for ready-to-fly aircraft although that does not mean they were registered by the end customer. The leading LSA builder so far in 2019, Icon is on pace to register 65 aircraft this year, up 38% over last year. American Legend, which operates both in the RTF and kit business, is ticking upwards. They may hit 29 registrations, up 140% over last year. Arion is another both-ways manufacturer looking to have a much improved 2019 while newcomer Vashon should double last year's registrations. Strong SP kit suppliers include Kitfox, Vans, and Rans — no real surprises but here's a couple observations. Kitfox is on a pace to hit 70 registrations this year, up about 80% over 2018. Van's Aircraft is headed to 60, up 50% over last year. Rans will remain about even. Remember, we only count aircraft that can be flown by a Sport Pilot or a higher-certificated pilot with no medical. Van's, for example, sells many more kits but most won't meet that criteria.
Separating LSA from SP KitsFlight Design continues its recovery, on pace to increase from last year's low number by 50%. Now that we can separate CubCrafters RTFs from kits, the CT maker is back atop the all-years SLSA rank list. Number two producer, Czech Sport Aircraft should be about even from 2018 but is well off their 2017 registrations. Powrachute and AutoGyro slipped from stronger performances in recent years. On the downside, Glasair suspended production for their Merlin that never found reception in the market. Looking at cumulative registrations, Zenith/Zenair clearly holds the top spot among Sport Pilot kit aircraft sellers. Rans, Sonex, and Kitfox are the next big producers in the light kit space, followed by Quad City and Just Aircraft, trailed a bit further back by Searey maker Progressive Aerodyne, CubCrafters, and Quicksilver.
One More Thing: ELSA FactorYou might see that kits appear to be the larger enterprise over fully-built LSA. That's correct, but consider the kit companies have been building their business and networks for far longer and they have lower price points …although you obviously must invest a good many hours to complete a project and some will get discouraged along the way and never finish the job. Yet the real surprise comes when you look at our final chart of this article. Kits appear ascendant since 2013, especially when compared to Special LSA that seems to have found a stable registration rate of around 200 aircraft per year. However, when you combine SLSA with Experimental LSA, you can see that all LSA types number closer to 300 units per year, compared to all SP kits at just shy of 400. Specialty registrations like Experimental Exhibition are steady but at a far smaller unit count. Any ELSA must be shipped from the factory as a bolt-for-bolt copy of the SLSA model, as required under the regulation. No producer can sell an ELSA without first getting approved for a SLSA, so to my mind, combining SLSA and ELSA makes for a fairer comparison to Sport Pilot kit aircraft. If you love these numbers, please visit Tableau Public. You can learn a lot more about the vibrant light aircraft sector. Enjoy! Disclaimer: These reports rely on FAA’s registration database. We believe this to be a reliable resource but it presents data that are different than what any company reports in sales or deliveries. Over time, these two sets of data draw closer but will not precisely mirror one another. Data presented on Tableau Public are arranged according to a defined method explained on that page (see button labeled “Where the numbers come from”).
A funny thing happened on our way to quarterly reporting of LSA and Sport Pilot kit market shares. Our first quarterly report in many years should have come about April 1st. It did not. That date came as Sun ‘n Fun was getting underway separated by only one day from the German Aero show. So involved were we in those season-starting events that we just blew past the date. Five Months In Combined Report The first chart reflects both LSA and SP kit registrations through May of 2019 and also depicts the equivalent performances for the full years of 2017 and 2018. What the chart suggests is that 2019 is a solid year with the light sector on track to hit 725 aircraft for the year, up about 5% over last year and up more than 10% over 2017. For space reasons the chart only shows ranks 1–18 but all are available on Tableau Public.
Bolts of LightningLightning LS-1 is an all-composite design with welded or machined elements. All components are made in house by Arion's experienced staff. More than 100 Lightnings are flying American skies (latest data here). The company reported 160 Lightning models are flying world wide since Lightning first flew on March 3, 2006. "Lightning LS-1 is designed and built around Jabiru’s powerful 3300 aircraft engine," noted Arion. "With a displacement of over 200 cubic inches and a direct drive crank, this little beauty has over 120 horsepower on tap for performance rarely matched in a Light-Sport Aircraft." Lightning has no trouble hitting the LSA speed limit of 120 knots (138 mph). "[We] spent more than three years making the kit Lightning as efficient and fast as we could, so slowing down to 120 knots was a complete reversal of thinking that had its benefits," said principal and designer, Nick Otterback. "By changing the airfoil slightly and adding three feet of wing span, LS-1 stalls below 44 knots clean, giving our aircraft an impressive 52 knot approach speed." Solo climb is in excess of 1,200 fpm and owners can expect 1,000 fpm at 1,320 pounds. At cruise speeds of 120 knots range fuel burns runs 5.5 gallons an hour. "These are real performance numbers a pilot can rely on; not on a perfect day at sea level or flying around solo, but all loaded up," stated Nick. Most companies list useful load, but Arion said the more meaningful payload can be up to 470 pounds. That will allow two big Americans plus some luggage assuming weight and balance confirms. "Now standard equipped with 40 gallons of fuel, you can go over 800 nautical miles with VFR reserves," Nick added. Lightning is offered only in tricycle-gear configuration — as most pilots prefer — but a taildragger version has been created by a builder. Read about that here. Lightning XS, available only in kit form, offers a redesigned forward fuselage structure that gives the builder the option to choose engines up to 180 horsepower. At Sun 'n Fun 2019, Arion displayed an XS powered by the Continental Motors Titan XIO340, although the company also supports "legacy piston engines O200-O320 at 115 to 160 horsepower and UL Power's UL520is at 180 to 200 horsepower. Taller landing gear permits bigger props on this new kit to allow the speedier model to hit speeds of 160 knots (184 mph). Firewall aft XS is much the same as the classic Lightning including its 42-inch wide cabin. Arion also offers several propeller choices for the engines above. "For fixed pitch we like Sensenich wood or composite ground adjustable props," said Arion. "We have tested in-flight adjustable props as well. For the Titan or Lycoming types, Whirlwind aviation makes the RV200 series light weight CS prop. For Jabiru or UL Power we have tested the Airmaster series." Installation of an in-flight adjustable prop can increase performance but, of course, builders must plan for the extra weight on the nose during the build process. Pricing and other questions are answered on Arion's FAQ page. For those unsure about building a kit, you can always choose the LSA model and pick it up ready to fly. If you want the extra speed, Arion offers a builder assist center at the Shelbyville, Tennessee facility about an hour south of Nashville. As the video mentions, Lightning was selected by Bye Aerospace as the airframe for its electric propulsion project. The sleekness of the model is a perfect mate for electric power (here's an earlier article about that project). https://youtu.be/6B90OEtC7jg
Most pilots love a fast-looking aircraft that looks as good on the ramp as it does in the air? Sure, gnarly backwoods airplanes on huge tires and tall gear struts have huge appeal, and float-equipped aircraft and seaplanes also draw strong interest. Yet aviation’s leading draw may be speed …more is better, right? If that’s an accurate assessment, then let the drooling begin over this beautifully contoured flying machine that can race 135 to 185 miles an hour for a fairly modest investment. I’m writing about Lightning from Arion Aircraft, available as either a Light-Sport Aircraft or an Experimental Amateur Built version. That these handsome aircraft are also 100% designed and manufactured in the USA may be sweet icing on the cake for many readers. LS-1 is a true Light-Sport Aircraft that meets all the parameters and survived a detailed FAA audit a few years ago. In the field owners I’ve spoken to love Lightning and its speedy ways.
Why Did Sebring Shut Down?One man very close to the Sebring Expo knows more than journalists, attendees, and other vendors. I asked Phil Lockwood for his thoughts. He's been involved since before Day One and was consulted by airport executive director Mike Willingham when this decision drew closer. Following are Phil's thoughts presented with his permission. Disclaimer: I caution readers that Phil does not speak for the Sebring Airport Authority but his information is highly reliable. People that know Phil are aware he speaks carefully and tends not to speculate about things he does not know. Phil wrote, "I think the following presents four primary factors that killed it." (1) "Sebring has always struggled with the local weather during the show, which has not always been friendly, greatly affecting attendance," Phil said. "Maybe three out of five shows have suffered from unseasonably lousy weather during the history of the show. It's an unpredictable and uncontrollable variable that makes the entire process a big gamble. In addition to the local weather issues, we have [often] been hit with a nasty line of intense weather blocking off Alabama and Georgia prior to and during the show, which prevented many small planes and vendors from making the trip into Florida." In our conversation, Phil observed that he has frequently been out on the ramp prior to and after the show to experience beautiful weather and calm winds, the kind Florida has in abundance while the U.S. northern states are suffering through winters like the one just passed. However, when a three-day show starts it can easily be held hostage to a single weather front passing through. Phil noted a week-long show can suffer a couple poor weather days and still be successful but a shorter show can be completely inhibited by lousy conditions.
News about Sebring Expo’s shutdown captivated readers of this website. Other media outlets also picked up on the news. It may be unfortunate that bad news attracts us so powerfully but that is reality. Many readers asked a similar question: “Why?” While some other media outlets clearly speculated over the reasons for the shutdown decision, I did not buy all the explanations. One writer guessed that exhibitors had decreased. While the number of vendors buying space has fluctuated over the years, as it does for all other shows, I’m lead to believe that was not a primary reason. Another reporter said “foot traffic” was too low but that probably shows that the writer compares every aviation event to Oshkosh and if it does not draw similarly-dense crowds, then something is wrong. Instead, these events — that I call sector-specific shows — are more focused. That makes them far more accessible to serious buyers wanting extra time with the representatives of the aircraft that have drawn their interest.
Another One Bites the DustPerhaps the Sebring cancellation is a sign of the times. Another, even better-known series, is also calling it quits. Plane & Pilot magazine's online outlet reported, "For 16 years now, since its inception in 2003, the Red Bull Air Races have given the aviation world the kind of star power that other motor sports are all about. But the expensive and logistically difficult-to-produce events haven’t created household names, as is the case with other motor sports, though the company didn’t cite that as a cause for its decision." "The news came as a shock," Plane & Pilot continued, "with the company suddenly announcing on Wednesday, May 29 that 2019 will be its last year. Three races remain for this year’s series, with events in Russia, Hungary and Japan. In all, the series has included more than 90 races.”
So, with some sadness, we conclude our reporting from Sebring with many articles and videos earlier this year. More videos are still in development and people will be telling stories about Sebring for years to come. Thanks for the memories, Mike Willingham, Bev Glarner, Janice Rearick, Jana Filip, and Bob Woods (leaders of Sebring Expo over the years). You gave it your all and it was good. Blue skies! For those that want to reminisce, here's a link to our many stories from Sebring over the years.
“It’s a wrap” as the iconic LSA show called Sebring Expo (full name Sebring U.S. Sport Aviation Expo) is shutting down after 15 years. The show started the same year LSA arrived on the scene — barely a month after FAA announced the new airplane and pilot certificate category — as the event was initially held in October before shifting to January to avoid hurricane season disruptions that affected the first year. Sebring was hardly on the aviation map as the show began. A notable early success was attracting Phil Lockwood and his multiple enterprises. Those who know Phil are aware he is a particularly careful and deliberate planner so his selection of KSEF was significant and perhaps presaged the long and successful run of Sebring Expo. Over the years, airport executive director Mike Willingham and those he retained to operate the event tried various tactics including a night airshow, adding drone racing and exhibits to the mix, plus relocating the center of activity, finally ending up right in front of the new beautiful airport terminal Mike initiated during his equally long run as the man in charge.
Success Story MkIISee the P92 MkII video or images for yourself but I think you will agree this is one gorgeous aircraft. You can find several of our reports about P92 in its many forms via this link. Americans can contact Tecnam's U.S. base at the Sebring airport. "After 27 years," the company announced, "the Tecnam P92 comes back with a new version. P92 Echo MkII comes today with up-to-date technology, composite fuselage, glass avionics, and the same pleasant flying qualities …safe and easy to fly with beauty, inside and outside." As with its earlier models P92 uses metal wings and a metal stabilator. Tecnam engineers stuck with metal wings and stabilator structures "for strength, reliability, and the ability to flex in flight, thereby ensuring a more comfortable ride." However, "to produce the desired increase in cabin width and greater aerodynamic efficiency [we] chose to construct Mk2's fuselage with carbon fiber." They elaborated that they chose both materials —making this a true composite — for the optimization of aerodynamic qualities, flight characteristic, and reliability. "This addition enabled [us] to make construction decisions based on optimum design and structural integrity rather than purely the cost of production." P92 Echo MkII's interior has also been completely redone. "Doors are lined with automotive-type door seals, seats that give full support with excellent leg room, side map pockets as well as pockets in the back of the seats combine to make the MkII a very comfortable aircraft."
Looks Terrific — Still Flies GreatHow is P92 still worth your investigation even while Tecnam has a whole fleet of desirable aircraft? As the specs below show, it cruises near the top of the allowed range. P92 MkII has a low stall speed (39 knots) "with excellent response at all speeds." Tecnam has long boasted "uncompromising build quality" and P92 MkII has been built to meet requirements for Europe's CS/VLA standards for aircraft certified to this category. Tecnam offers models meeting the European ultralight category (different than the U.S. interpretation of that term), LSA ASTM standards, and Part 23 fully certified aircraft. They make models using twin Rotax power and an 11-seat regional aircraft (seen briefly in the video alongside the P92 MkII). Beside "excellent visibility, roomy space, quiet and ergonomic," P92 uses an all-movable stabilator-type horizontal tail that is traditional on Tecnam aircraft. They say this "allows excellent controllability and excellent 'hands off' longitudinal stability." My own experience backs up this claim. Every Tecnam I've ever flown (most models) have superlative handling. Inside P92 MkII, "the cabin offers newly designed seats and seat rails which are easily operated and adjustable fore and aft via a single handle with a reinforced area between the rails to make cabin access even easier." The company continued, "A roomy baggage compartment with internal access accommodates voluminous items. A comfortable armrest and USB charger round out the luxurious interior." A generously sized instrument panel provides plenty of room for digital screen avionics although a base model is available with simple analog instruments. The model you see in the images and video represent the "Glass Package" featuring avionics from Garmin and their wonderful touchscreen G3X Here are a few specifications on the renewed P92 Echo MkII when built as a Light-Sport Aircraft. Get more directly from Tecnam:
- Max Cruise Speed — 115 knots
- Stall Speed — 39 knots
- Takeoff Distance — 460 feet
- Landing Distance — 393 feet
- Rate of Climb — 755 feet per minute
- Maximum Takeoff Weight — 1,430 pounds (permits adding floats)
- Empty Wight — 750 pounds
- Useful Load — 551 pounds
- Fuel Capacity — 29 gallons
- Range — 700 nautical miles
- Wingspan — 29.5 feet
- Cabin Width — 45 inches
- Baggage Capacity — 44 pounds
I regularly attend Aero Friedrichshafen every April certain I will see aircraft I’ve never seen before — but also because I will see upgrades to existing popular models. This year my informal award for the Most-Improved category goes to Tecnam and their P92 Echo, now in MkII form. First, congratulations! — As I researched this story I discovered Tecnam had a blow-out year at Aero 2019. The company reported exceeding “all of its pre-show expectations with the sale of 51 aircraft covering Certified and Light categories.” Tecnam also celebrated its 70th birthday at Aero where a large staff manned an enormous space featuring three new models: P92 Echo MkII, P2008JC MkII, and P2002JF that is now completing full IFR certification. Success Story MkII See the P92 MkII video or images for yourself but I think you will agree this is one gorgeous aircraft. You can find several of our reports about P92 in its many forms via this link.
Flight School OwnerSunrise was founded and is personally supervised by Michael Church, a national flight training authority, honored by the FAA as Safety Counselor of the Year and recognized as a Master Flight Instructor and Master Aerobatic Flight Instructor. Church has logged more than 11,000 hours of flight instruction given. What does he have to say about his experience with LSA? "It was obvious that LSA was going to potentially revolutionize flight training by reducing expense." Mike acquired his first Evektor in 2009, only five years after LSA burst on the aviation scene. Sunrise trains to all levels, even including aerobatics, so pilots that start in LSA may transition later. Mike wondered how Sunrise students would proceed after primary training in LSA and afterward moving to larger aircraft. "SportStar is perfect. It is a great training vehicle and the transition to larger aircraft seems to be very straightforward." Mike amplified, "Flight instructors like it because it is really a great training airplane. The best trainers are light, small, maneuverable, frisky. The quicker the airplane makes the student aware of a problem, the quicker the student will recognize a maneuver that didn't look right, the easier it is to get the student involved with fixing the problem. From the flight instructor's view, it simply makes the job easier."
Experience — Then and NowAny owner can get jazzed about an airplane he or she recently bought. The excitement of a new purchase can overwhelm the pragmatic aspects of longer-term ownership. Here are Mike Church's thoughts six years ago, in 2013. Later on, we'll update his perceptions. "Cost of operation has proven to be the single biggest value." That was very important to this businessman. He specified fuel use was so much lower than what his schools was used to with Cessna 150s and 172s. Since 1978 avgas has only gotten more expensive. Lower fuel cost seems obvious, perhaps, yet endurance of the airframe is one of the problems regular GA pilots note. "Apparently the low inertia and light weight means they don't break very much," Mike observed. In just four years, he reported reaching engine overhaul in two airplanes, logging more than 2,000 hours in each. "We had very few problems." Way back then, Mike felt, "This is the training airplane to which Sunrise is now committed." So he liked Evektor. What about the Rotax engine those models use? Mike noted that his earlier aircraft went through four overhauls of their Lycoming engines. He became very confident with them. In 2013, Sunrise was still acquiring time with Rotax and Mike considered the trial ongoing but added, "to date, the Rotax engines have been remarkably trouble free." And now? In the six years since, he has become an even bigger advocate of Rotax powerplants. By January of 2019, he reported, "We now have a fleet of five Evektor [both SportStar and Harmony models], and we have accumulated more than 18,000 hours of experience on the airframes and engines." "I can say now with great assurance that the Rotax has proved to be a remarkable piece of machinery. Low cost of operation. Low cost of maintenance. I'm a fan!" Moving from Rotax to other engines means students must learn some new tasks, such as operating mixture control, but he concluded, "This is relatively simple [training] stuff to teach."
How about Mechanics?A flight school owner might be expected to be positive about purchase he made. What happens when Sunrise mechanics are asked about their views of Evektor airframes and Rotax powerplants? Sunrise mechanic Matt Wilderman is an A&P with Inspection Authorization. He relates experience since 2009. "I've never worked with an airplane that demanded so little maintenance. It's mostly been tires and brakes. We've had no major airframe issues and very minor engine issues." He enthusiastically added, "If you keep on top of them, they've been fantastically reliable, more so than any other airplane I've worked on." How does Matt feel about Rotax? "They've also been fantastic. I've never worked with a better aircraft engine." To clarify, Matt added, "We change the spark plugs, the oil, and the filters every 50 hours. Even running avgas we've had no problems with leading that some people have reported. In 2,000 hours we replaced one small spring on the sprague clutch; that's it." "We've had no lubrication issues, no ignition issues. I had questions at first, but despite hard use by students, the engines have held up exceptionally well. Most squawks that I've received have been indicators; it always seems to be the sensor but today even those problems appear to be resolved." "The airframes are so light that you don't see a lot of wear," Matt continued, and in so saying he turns the "light" problem upside down to become a positive. "They just haven't been breaking. I have nothing but praise for the whole LSA program."
What Do Instructors Think?Instructor don't own the equipment nor must they repair it. Here's a sampling of what various Sunrise instructors say. "SportStar is excellent for training. It has nice control responses." "My students love flying this [Evektor]. It's so easy to fly." They relate the students are comfortable in the airplane. "Visibility absolutely unrestricted" and their students like that. "The view is amazing." "The climb performance that Evektor provides us is incredible." Evektor has proven very cost effective. "You only spend about twenty bucks on fuel," said another CFI, referring to the cost of providing a flight lesson. When a Master CFI and owner/operator of a Part 141 flight school talks this way after a decade of experience, it would seem to carry more heft than your average Private Pilot. After building 18,000 hours of total time on a fleet of five Evektor LSA over 10 years experience, Sunrise Aviation remains committed to Evektor Light-Sport Aircraft for primary flight training. Added 5/17/19 — Listen to Sunrise Aviation owner, Mike Church tell you in his own words about his experience with Light-Sport Aircraft as training aircraft in his busy flight school. https://youtu.be/OLd720HCYhU Want more? Here is our flight review of the Evektor Harmony shot at DeLand Showcase 2017: https://youtu.be/nsxFl45FjQw
One of the controversies surrounding Light-Sport Aircraft has to do with that first word: “light.” Early on, one aircraft importer lobbied to remove the word as it was negatively viewed, he believed. Article updated (5/17/19) with newly released video with Sunrise Aviation owner, Mike Church (see below). Indeed, outside of the LSA world, many pilots I’ve spoken to believe these aircraft are too lightly built to hold up in flight training, one of the most demanding of all flight activities. “Yes, an experienced pilot may love a LSA,” they may concede, “but these aircraft cannot hold up to regular flight instruction duty.” Enthusiasts may be biased but what would an actual flight school operator say? To get it straight from the horse’s mouth, I inquired of Sunrise Aviation. This substantial flight school has for more than 40 years operated out of the very busy John Wayne airport in Orange County, California.
Builder Assist CentersNearly everyone in recreational aviation is by now well aware that the country is dotted with enterprises calling themselves a Builder Assist Center. This was not always the case. In short, a Build Center means a buyer of a kit aircraft can find assistance, tools, a facility, jigs, and more at a physical location where they can assemble their chosen kit. Build Centers have proliferated in recent years and a brief background explains why. Back in the 1950s Paul Poberezny and his entourage of airplane enthusiasts willing to build their own flying machine had a tougher path. Homebuilding was a new idea then. In the earliest days you bought plans from a designer and you "scratch built" your airplane by collecting elements and fabricated those you could not buy. Scratch building was difficult and took a long time but it was highly educational. Indeed, that's how Paul and EAA sold the idea to FAA. (Great job, Paul and fellow builders!) Companies like Van's, Rans, and many others slowly evolved the plans-built concept into kits that attempted to speed construction by offering parts, then whole subassemblies, and later, quick-build kits. It took years as FAA and industry worked out the details. Those kits continually got better, more recently including precision match-hole construction that provides parts a builder can more accurately join together without costly jigs. Homebuilding was still time consuming but the process got far easier. Finished aircraft also got better with factory-made parts fitting more perfectly than ones a homebuilder cut or welded him or herself. Over decades this lead to locations where now-qualified builders helped other builders. Finally, people got into the business of helping people. This may not have been exactly what FAA (or Paul) envisioned back in the '50s and '60s but they allowed a great expansion of the idea as part of the experimentation and education of pilot builders. Today, Experimental aircraft are a substantial part of the overall U.S. aircraft fleet (approaching 20% of all aircraft!). Some are marvelous, fast, sophisticated flying machines that Joe Homebuilder probably should not build on his or her own. FAA recognized the value of professional help and did not discourage the effort. As aircraft got more capable (faster, larger, better equipped, more complex) build centers become even more valuable. Some kits were so challenging for the average builder that professionals began to assist them. It took time but these build centers stayed within the limits of what FAA permitted under the so-called 51% rule. Now, with a new regulation in development, the agency may expand on the Professional Builder Center concept greatly.* A pilot seeking any number of fast, bush, or amphibious aircraft — commonly in kit form to deliver a vast array of configurations — will have a far easier time assembling it and the resulting aircraft will almost surely be better.
Then What?Once you've got one of these speedy aircraft built, how can you learn to fly it or transition from a different aircraft you presently fly? Can you hire someone? Yes, you can. This article details another positive change FAA has made to better serve the LSA and Sport Pilot kit community. As this series — "The Future of LSA+SP Kits" — progresses we'll cover other aspects of the regulation to come and how it may affect both producers and buyers. However, implementation of a new rule is still years in the future. Until then, you have many marvelous choices in fine fully-built LSA, kit aircraft, and ultralights …so go enjoy the skies!
* DISCLAIMER — As with following articles in this series, what is described here is the best available information at the time of publication. In spring of 2019, FAA's regulation is still in early stages of development and it is a huge, sweeping rule set that touches on many parts of the FARs. What finally emerges may or may not be as described here.
Could 2020 bring a new description of aircraft under the LSA banner? Could this include greater capabilities and opportunities? Could you get the airplane you want for less? When?! Yes, yes, and yes …but probably not as soon as you want. The regulation may not emerge in 2020 but whatever the announcement date, what could be coming and how will it affect you? We still have more to report from Sun ‘n Fun and Aero 2019 — and we will! — but numerous conversations at each event have pointed to another topic of keen interest to many: “What’s coming and when?” Manufacturers of aircraft are among the most interested to hear more, but so are individual pilots and all the organizations and other enterprises that serve the recreational aircraft market. In this article, let’s take a closer look. (More articles will follow.) EAA has adeptly branded their good work to some of these ends as MOSAIC, or Modernization of Special Airworthiness Certificates.
Front-Row ViewIt has been a great performance and I've gotten to observe from the best seat in the house. Between writing and video, the output approaches 200 stories a year. I sincerely thank each and every one of you for your visits, for your loyal support of our reporting in news and video, but mainly for pursuing your interest in flying and affordable aircraft. The latter is our entire focus. We could not publish this website without the talented folks who design, manufacture, and distribute their fine aircraft or flying gear. Please thank those whose advertisements appear on either side of this news because their support is essential. We are deeply grateful for many individual members but advertising is what pays most of our bills, just as it does for tech behemoths like Google and Facebook. It's the way of the Web. All our content is free to all viewers; all we ask is your email for features like PlaneFinder 2.0. ByDanJohnson.com does not cover certified aircraft, commercial aviation, helicopters, airships, or space travel …although I find all those categories interesting. The good news for those segments is you have many great outlets, online or in print, that cover those activities in great detail. I'm happy we have them and I wish them the best. I know most of the journalists in this space and am humbled to be one of them. I have focused this website like a laser beam on three categories: Light-Sport Aircraft, Sport Pilot kits, and Ultralights — and we will maintain our tight attention on those aircraft and them alone. We hope (and believe) you like it that way.
Then Came VideoIn 2008, Dave Loveman approached me about working with him to do video. He'd made the jump from selling a video magazine to YouTube and because he was early with that — as this website was with embracing the Web — his Ultralight News channel has risen to more than 50,000 subscribers. Search for any light aircraft and Dave's YouTube channel is likely to be the first entry on Google. Over these 11 years, I have performed more than 600 video interviews for Dave's channel. We've talked to nearly everyone in the business, many more than once, some several times. A few years later we started doing Video Pilot Reports (VPRs) and we have a growing library of in-flight reviews. Most recently, I've established the ByDanJohnson YouTube channel where mini-videos (2-3 minutes) can be found. These don't offer the full production of Ultralight News but do offer my own walk-around view of airplanes we examine at shows. My often-repeated line is… "I love what I do and I hope it shows." Based on many kind words I receive at shows, the written and video work must fill a need and I'm deeply honored to play my role.
After the rush of daily reporting from Sun ‘n Fun 2019 and Aero Friedrichshafen 2019 and after a short break following these wonderful, if intensely busy, shows — it’s slightly past due to wish this website a Happy 15th Anniversary! From a handful of readers back in 2004 — when the World Wide Web was a mere nine years old — today this website reaches a global audience that draws more than 60,000 monthly viewers. ByDanJohnson.com launched April 1st, 2004. This seemed clairvoyant when later that year, the long-awaited Light-Sport Aircraft / Sport Pilot regulation was released (in September of 2004). In that decade and a half, the LSA or LSA-like fleet around the world has swelled to more than 66,000 aircraft (see our chart) and this website communicates to nearly all of them sometime during every month. Viewed globally, this remains aviation’s fastest-growing sector and we try to cover it all.
So Many Airplanes, Not Enough Hours…ScaleWings SW51 — When I reported this aircraft in 2018, the "Walter Mitty story" went on to become one of the most popular articles of the year on this website. On social media promotions it also attracted more attention than any other aircraft that year. A year later enthusiasm is still hot. Throngs around the aircraft at Aero reinforced that view. North American's P-51 and its distinctive shape has perhaps inspired more pilots than any other aircraft in history. Therefore, ScaleWings' intricately-detailed execution of a 70% scale replica of the iconic airplane draws admiring looks that few others can hope to match. However, can they really manufacture this artistic work? Last year, I admit I wondered if the company would actually pull off the move to production. Originally known as the FK-51 because it was to be produced by FK Lightplanes' Poland facility, production ran into trouble. The Poland FK factory had various problems unrelated to this one design. Last year that older relationship was causing doubts about their sustained operation. The two went their separate ways. In the last year, ScaleWings has made many changes, upgraded its staff, added test equipment, and brought in a top production man with a background in general aviation, according to front man, Christian von Kessel. Testing has continued using an impressive "strong back," a steel cage-type apparatus built to exert loads on an airframe to prove components and construction methods. The ScaleWings version of this is the most sophisticated I've seen. Work remains but this company is looking solid. Given the keen response to the airplane, if ScaleWings can enter steady production, they might sell all they can make. To learn more, as I imagine many readers may wish to do, look at their brochure (PDF file). Blackwing 600RG — Sweden's success story in light aviation could be summed up in one company's name: Blackwing. Since it first debuted at Aero 2015 the sleek design from the Scandinavian company has drawn many admiring looks. Blackwing exhibits their retractable gear model (600RG) because regulations in most European countries have no speed limit and no ban on retractable gear when operating as European-type ultralights. Therefore many companies in the LSA-like space push speed as a primary selling tool and retractable models are part of this. Displaying his aircraft with gear retracted (photo) Blackwing Sweden Founder and CEO Niklas Anderberg presents his slippery aircraft in its best go-fast look. Current FAA regulations forbid retractable gear except on seaplanes as part of the overall goal to keep these aircraft easier to operate. The original mantra was "simple aircraft in simple airspace." FAA could not know that the new LSA sector would become a worldwide phenomenon that would circle back to help simplify Part 23 (CS-23) certification methods. As reported here several times LAMA has informed industry that significant changes are coming. Beside key regulation changes proposed by LAMA, champions like EAA have fought to expand the professional build-assist center concept. FAA has adjusted its oversight of this effort to support the idea and more accommodating rules are coming. Updated regulations can help companies like Blackwing sell aircraft that exceed the LSA speed limit until we see if FAA will expand the Light-Sport Aircraft category to permit higher speeds. Until then, as interest may express itself, Blackwing also offers a fixed gear version that could enter the U.S. market sooner. JMB Aircraft Update — "JMB Aircraft is run by two Belgium brothers," stated the company. "JMB Aircraft is the production company of the VL3, a plane designed by Vanessa Air and produced in the past by Aveko." Americans may already know this airplane although not from JMB and not called VL3. This is the Gobosh model once rebadged and sold in the USA with fixed gear and winglets. Back in 2007, Jean Marie and his brother represented Aveko models and became responsible for 85% of the producer's sales (outside the U.S). In 2012 they acquired Aveko and by 2015 had taken over production. In recent years, JMB has done well. At their company party at Aero on Friday, Jean Marie gave a short talk where he provided some company data. "We bought the company seven years ago and we now employ 100 people in the Czech Republic. With dealers and other staff, JMB now is served by 150 people. Together they have built, sold, and delivered 320 VL3 aircraft, primarily in Europe with a few in other countries (two are in the USA registered under the Aveko brand). In 2018, JMB built 50 aircraft and Jean Marie said they were planning on 5.5 per month for 2019, or 66 aircraft. By any reasonable measure this is a good performance. JMB does offer a fixed gear model but their website specifies, "Only for flight schools." As with Blackwing, since this Belgium-based company sells primarily in Europe where fast retractable are allowed, why would company leaders like Jean Marie want to show a slower model? JMB said VL3 Evolution can hit 160 knots with the Rotax 914 engine. They are seeking the right partner for America. Find our more about JMB Aircraft here. Fly Synthesis Synchro & Catalina — Fly Synthesis catches my eye every year at Aero. Causing that response is always their sharply raked Synchro that makes an art of looking fast while sitting still. Joining the speedy-looking aircraft was an entry fresh to my eyes. The Catalina NG presents a different view of amphibious LSA-style seaplanes. Despite having a flock of airplanes the brand is unknown in the USA, which reveals another way to show the size of the LSA-like market around the world. Fly Synthesis reports delivering more than 2,000 aircraft, none of which are in the USA. The company stated, "The vast experience accumulated on composite materials in years of activity [in aviation] has allowed us to explore other fields, such as renewable energy (wind power), automotive, and nautical." They also do "research and development, design and prototyping in collaboration with other companies in fields not strictly related to aviation." Despite their diversification, the Italian company offers quite a full line of aircraft beside the Synchro that always catches my eye. Indeed, Fly Synthesis offers: a high wing, Synchro; low wing, Texan; European ultralight-style, Storch; an open cockpit Rotax 582-powered ultralight, Wallaby; and a rather unique approach to seaplanes, Catalina. All these are in production now. Discontinued is the single seat ultralight, Kangaroo.
The stories from Aero — and more from Sun 'n Fun — will continue for a while longer. Selected aircraft may be featured in additional articles with more specific info to that airplane. As soon I return home and as the travel schedule settles, I'll work on a few short (≈ 2 min.) videos to follow. Thanks for following our Sun 'n Fun and Aero Friedrichshafen show coverage! —DJ
Aero Friedrichshafen is over. At the beginning, show organizers said it was their biggest yet, measured by the number of exhibitors. Aero trails AirVenture Oshkosh in this measurement but only slightly. In other words, it’s big …big enough that it’s hard to see everything of interest. In the past days, I’ve covered 16 aircraft that I found interesting and I had to skip many others. I simply did not have the hours needed to visit every exhibitor to hear their story, even if it might be a great one. The show is that rich a target environment for a journalist covering Light-Sport Aircraft, Sport Pilot kits, and ultralights. So Many Airplanes, Not Enough Hours… ScaleWings SW51 — When I reported this aircraft in 2018, the “Walter Mitty story” went on to become one of the most popular articles of the year on this website. On social media promotions it also attracted more attention than any other aircraft that year.
More from Aero as Day 3 closes. Because of the number on display — and because several readers asked — this post will focus on electric propulsion in two distinct forms. Whatever you think about electric as a means of lifting aircraft aloft, escaping its approach appears impossible. Experimentation is happening in all quarters. The following review is far from exhaustive; many other examples could be found at Aero Friedrichshafen 2019. Most agree that batteries are the weak link in the chain and despite repeated promises of annual increases in energy density of 5-8%, it hasn’t happened over ten years I’ve followed this fairly closely. That does not preclude certain effective uses, for example, local area primary flight training or aerobatic flying. Yet flying cross country on batteries remains somewhere in the future. Nonetheless, projects abound and solutions may be upon us. Here’s what I saw today. Hybrid Power from Tecnam, Rotax, and Siemens — I had no choice but to drop big names because these three powerhouses are joining forces on a hybrid system.
Aero Friedrichshafen continues, delivering a broad preview of new aircraft projects plus a glimpse into light aviation in Europe. New ideas run from the fascinating to the futuristic. Some will never make it market but they can contribute ideas to be used on other designs, enhancing overall progress. How does Europe do so much of this? Government funding often comes up in discussions with developers; this is extremely rare in the USA. Attending more than 20 Aeros, I’ve found new ideas every time. Indeed, I usually run out of time before I can get to hear every story. Aero never fails to deliver. Tecnam P92 Mk II — Speaking of progress never stopping, how about Italian juggernaut, Tecnam? Their large space included their sweeping flock of high wing and low wing sport planes, certified four seaters, military projects, their popular Twin multiengine four seater; the company even showed their 11-seat Traveller regional airliner.
Jetting straight from Sun ‘n Fun, we were able to arrive at Aero Friedrichshafen by noon on opening day. A quick swing around the most light-aircraft-filled halls (the “B” halls) brought some fresh surprises. Following are a few designs that caught my eye on an initial pass. The profusion of light aircraft we don’t see in the USA — some of which will never reach the market — is one of the main reasons Aero Friedrichshafen is my favorite show in Europe. This mostly indoor fair (as Europeans call such shows) always has many ideas of interest. Zlin Ultra with Rotax 915iS — Never one to rest Pascale Russo reintroduced his Ultra Shock from last Aero with the more powerful Rotax 915iS. Ultra Shock plays on the term “ultralight,” which means something different in Europe than in the USA (it is a reference to light aircraft quite similar to Light-Sport Aircraft).
Sun ‘n Fun is over. While staff, tent vendors and more have plenty of work to do, customers and vendors have all vacated the area, scattering off across the USA as they return to base. Some have a new airplane. Numerous vendors reported solid sales during the show. Pilots liked what they saw and a good economy is powering activity. I will follow up with a show summary soon. Following I have three more short stories. However, watch for dozens of new videos from Light Sport and Ultralight Flyer on YouTube and I will have further reporting from material gathered at Sun ‘n Fun 2019. MOAC — “Tweety” got mine and lots of well-deserved attention (photo), being the very first airplane American Legend produced, back in 2005. The original aircraft was on display at Sun ‘n Fun. Since the company has since registered 226 aircraft, Tweety launched quite a good run.
Here is our video on Rans Outbound in taildragger configuration but note this is the same airplane seen at Sun 'n Fun 2019 in tricycle gear. https://youtu.be/VxUc0Z2ixCY
Sun ‘n Fun streaks on with Blue Angels and Stearmans cracking the air. Exhibits are active. People are shopping for the right airplane. Strong crowds were present at peak times. Opening day may have set a record. Generally vendors and customers seemed to be in good spirits. Recreational aviation looks healthy. As I spoke with vendors, one comment I heard repeatedly — freely offered but never requested — was “The economy is good. People have money to spend.” This statement came up often enough to give it weight. Those of you shopping at home can have a little fun with PlaneFinder 2.0. Clicking or tapping a few categories will help you zero in on the best choices for you. Then you can click to articles or videos about them. Outbound — Rans has enjoyed quite a run with their newest, the S-21 Outbound. It is a handsome taildragger with performance to make STOL designs jealous.