This article was updated with additional photos; see at bottom. Midwest LSA Expo held a special ceremony to honor two men in their donation of a beautiful LSA-like aircraft now permanently displayed on an striking pedestal near the airport entrance. Lots of airports have military aircraft mounted on pedestals. Even AirVenture, base of the homebuilders, has military fighters on raised displays — including the famous “jet-on-a-stick” near the show entrance. These displays honor a warbird heritage but those aircraft aren’t what most members fly. Enter Light-Sport Aircraft. While some have gotten deluxe far beyond the original concept — with prices to match — many affordable aircraft still make up the category of Light-Sport Aircraft, light kit aircraft, and ultralight aircraft. These aircraft are what “real” people fly. Midwest LSA Expo has now reached its 10th birthday, staying focused on showcasing this sector of aircraft. So, perhaps it is fitting that today they had a ceremony honoring a donation of a futuristic jet LSA design (technically “LSA-like”).
Here's How A32 Looks and FeelsYou'll get the full treatment when Videoman Dave finishes production for his YouTube channel that so many of you love. Here's I'll hit the highlights of what I learned. First blush: This is a great flying airplane, reflecting Aeroprakt's experience producing more than 1,000 of the predecessor A22LS, once also known as the A22 Valor. In A32, engineers have incorporated many refinements. The general appearance is similar but the changes are many. One measure of success is a widening of the flight envelope. Top speed increased to 130 mph, as we witnessed in a low-altitude upwind and downwind run with the carbureted Rotax 912 ULS at 5500 rpm. A-22 would max out at about 105 mph, so this was a pretty solid 20% bump. Yet A32 retains the earlier design's low speed capabilities. We saw stall in the low 40 mph bracket and witnessed airspeed into the high 30s without loss of control. Of course, these exercises were preparing for stall evaluations, which proved to be some of the most benign I've experienced in a Light-Sport Aircraft. Stall break was extremely mild with little fall-through and while a wing dipped, it recovered itself. I never added power for recovery to normal flight and altitude loss was minimal. Excellent! When deploying or retracting flaps, the pitch change is very minor. True, two notches is only 20° of flaps but deploying them made quite an aerodynamic change, just not a pitch change. On one landing I made with no flaps, I had to raise the nose significantly high to put A32 on the ground. A32 uses a full flying stabilator, a change from A22 and it was more responsive than the former. It will take a bit longer to get used to but it is a powerful surface. On takeoff, importer Dennis Long demonstrated how immediate the stabilator will lift the nose off the ground. In fact, that's his preferred takeoff technique: power to full, almost immediately pull aft on the Y-stick, control the nose so it sits a few inches off the runway, and let A32 then fly herself into the air. I followed his method and it worked wonderfully well. A32 uses the identical wing from A22 from the fuselage root out. However, the many clean-ups of the fuselage — and they are many, which you will see more fully in the Video Pilot Report to follow after editing — make the new model more efficient. A pilot literally has to work at getting it back on the ground …and that's a good thing. I reduced power to 3000 rpm abeam my touchdown target and then began to retard speed, lowering one notch of flaps after we got in flap speed range (<93 mph). On base leg I had both notches in and was monitoring my speed carefully. Using 60-65 mph was fine on base turning final but I moved it to 55-60 on short final and was ideally at 50-55 over the numbers. With two notches of flaps and with a modest headwind, A32 landed very short. You have excellent visibility on landing as you do in flight in A32 Vixxen. It lacks a skylight but otherwise offers a wide view all around. I could even watch as the main gear touched down (when Dennis was controlling the aircraft). Takeoff and landing has been quoted at "under 100 meters" (300 feet) and I believe it. No question it was short, assuming, of course, decent technique. A32 Vixxen was easy to fly with a joystick that provided enough feedback yet offered crisp response. In flight, I found the aircraft very well behaved and suitable for less experienced flyers, naturally assuming proper instruction and transition training. In all, I think Aeroprakt has a winner. Dennis Long equipped this particular example with most available options, including the Magnum airframe parachute system and Dynon HDX digital instrument plus autopilot. The still-available A22 starts at around $85,000 and even this deluxe A32 is a reasonably modest $135,000 — lower cost A32s are possible if you don't need all the fancy gear. You might like the short video as a taste of the bigger, better ones to come… https://youtu.be/m7EBsuCWWDE
Many pilots expect the first appearance of a new model at the biggest airshows, but here’s one of those times when the sector-specific shows win. It’s all about timing and the new Aeroprakt A32 just won it’s SLSA approval (#147 on our SLSA List). The Midwest LSA Expo is the first show after getting its documents, so here it is! Videoman Dave and I spent the morning working on a Video Pilot Report. We captured all the video, spent an hour flying with multiple cameras mounted, and recorded what we call the “stand up.” This segment comes after the flight when I — can you guess? — stand by the the airplane and review it on the ground. We loaded A32 Vixxen with six of our Garmin Virb cameras plus Dave’s new Garmin 360 cam. It was our first with the latter and, no promises, but that may hold some user-controllable footage so you can go along in an even more realistic way.
LSA Show Season Is Here! Welcome Midwest LSA Expo 2018I blasted up in a human mailing tube to St. Louis, Missouri, drove one-hour drive East to Mt. Vernon, Illinois and I'll be on site Thursday morning at KMVN airport where I will link up with Videoman Dave to do what we do best: record video interviews about fun, affordable light aircraft. We also get to do our best work capturing what we call Video Pilot Reports. The Midwest LSA Expo is our number one favorite location to do these as we can go anywhere on the airport to capture great video and can also cover the most airplanes. Video pilot reports take a lot longer to accomplish but the longer format appeals to those getting serious about an aircraft purchase. We'll also get other updates from vendors about what's new or upgraded from them. Midwest is having a noteworthy anniversary this year. It's the tenth anniversary for Chris Collins and his merry crew of volunteers and helpers. Chris is the longtime airport manager, a superbly well-liked gentleman who works as hard as anyone I've ever seen trying to make sure all the early-arriving vendors are well served and then opening the doors to welcome a flock of visitors. The midwest U.S. has a thick blanket of interest in recreational aircraft (think: Oshkosh). However, every year some attendees come from as far away as California and Washington state and even a few international visitors might be expected. I've attended every Midwest LSA Expo except last year, when a hurricane threatened my home and I had to assist in preparations. I'm pleased to be in town for the 10th anniversary event. Naturally, we can't predict the weather but this time of year has worked well.
But Wait, There's More…!Midwest kicks off what I'm calling the LSA Show Season. One I put in the circuit is Copperstate, which has a whole new time of the year to go along with their brand-new venue. But first… In between and up next: DeLand Showcase over November 1-2-3, 2018. That third-year event will be followed by Sebring, the grandaddy of these sector specific shows on January 23-26, 2019. Sebring will celebrate it 15th year and it still going strong, setting the pace for the others. A month later, February 8-9-10, is the new Copperstate show now combined with the Buckeye Air Fair. Copperstate is more than 45 years old, one of the longest-running in the circuit, but it has been looking for the kind of support they will now get from the town of Buckeye, just west of Phoenix. Buckeye has had their own event and the two will now combine. City fathers embrace this event as do the leaders of DeLand, Sebring, and Mt. Vernon. Wonderful! U.S. Regions are rather well represented by these four events — Midwest, DeLand, Sebring, Copperstate — with one in the aviation-active midwest, another out west, and two in Florida, which many believe to be most recreational aviation-active state in the nation. We start in September, pop up two months later in Florida, kick off the new year two months later in central Florida, and anticipate spring a month later in Arizona. In all, I'd call this an active schedule serving much of the recreational flying community. I'd hope you could make at least a couple of these if not all four. If you do, wave when you see Dave and I whizzing about shooting video of all the coolest airplanes we can find. We'd love to see you on site — by all means, say "Hi!" — but if you can't make them all, we'll do our best to cover them. Then, as spring really gets going, we return to Sun 'n Fun, followed by Aero and Oshkosh. What fun!
The biggest airshows in recreational aviation are history for 2018. I refer to Sun ‘n Fun, EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, and Europe’s Aero Friedrichshafen. Now comes the sector-specific shows, sometimes called LSA Shows. I love the truly big events as do most attendees and vendors. They are so well executed that I enjoy referring to them as “Disneyland for Airplanes,” (with a polite nod to the Magic Kingdom and its high-end theme park entertainment). I may have outgrown Disney but airplanes hold huge appeal for me and many, many others. The big shows boast hundreds of thousands of attendees throughout their event. That’s great! The sector specific shows are much smaller. That’s a good thing. Arguably, the most interesting shows are the smaller ones, those with more modest venues but where you can get more face time with company leaders or pilots. Not only can you have longer, more productive conversations but you can fly more aircraft.
What is happening and why?RV-12 SLSA airplanes will now be built and delivered by Van’s Aircraft at its Aurora, Oregon facility. Several years ago, Van’s set out to implement a comprehensive SLSA program. Synergy and Van’s partnered to build the various components of the complete SLSA program. Synergy worked with Van’s from the onset of the program to apply their expertise related to the marketing and aircraft assembly portions of the program. The natural evolution and success of both businesses has brought us to where we are today. Synergy has become even more focused on the business of assisting Van’s Aircraft’s customers in building their RV airplanes. As the SLSA program has matured, Van’s has expanded its workforce and capabilities to include marketing and aircraft construction. This change represents the next logical step in both companies’ successful business growth.
How does this affect Synergy?Synergy will focus on its popular builder-assist program, which has become that company’s key area of business emphasis and expansion over the past couple years.
What about earlier SLSA purchases? Who will provide support?All SLSA aircraft have been and will continue to be fully supported by Van’s Aircraft. That will not change. Van’s technical and business support teams remain ready to support every customer that owns and flies our airplanes. The Van’s support team serves as your point of contact for any support needs you may have related to the RV-12.
Will the price change? How do I communicate with Van's?Van's does not anticipate or plan to make any price changes as a result of this business change. Just as before, you can contact Van’s Aircraft at 503-678-6545 or you can email the SLSA support team.
What should I expect?You can and should expect excellent quality from a business that continuously strives to improve its products and services. Van's approach is to delivering the highest quality products. Our aircraft assembly and delivery department — a dedicated team focused on just that portion of our business — is staffed by experts with years of RV-12 building experience. Van's will, as always, strive to adopt and leverage new, innovative processes and technology to drive its ongoing quality program.
I have an airplane ordered already. How will this affect delivery?As part of this change, Van's is staffing a dedicated SLSA build team that is co-located at our Oregon factory, the design of which will allow us to increase throughput and enable even quicker delivery of RV-12iS SLSA aircraft. Van's will leverage its existing people, experience and processes to optimize our future ability to deliver more efficiently, as well. We do not anticipate schedule delays as a result of the change in production staffing and location. Any RV-12iS currently in production with Synergy will be finished at Synergy’s Eugene facility. Any aircraft not yet started will be completed at and by Van's Aircraft. Van's anticipates delivering aircraft that are already on the schedule on or before the estimated delivery dates we’ve previously communicated to individual customers.
Was there a problem between the businesses?No, not at all. This change is the result of mutual successes, and represents a natural and positive evolution of both businesses. It will enable both companies to deliver even more, both in partnership and separately.
What about builders assist at Synergy?Just as it makes sense for Van's to take on SLSA assembly work at this time, it also makes sense for Synergy to focus on its growing and key business: builder-assist services for people who are building their RVs. In fact, Synergy is growing and recently expanded beyond its Eugene, Oregon facility when it opened a second builder-assist center in Georgia. The company concluded, "These changes are great for Van's Aircraft, great for Synergy Air, and good news for our mutual customers."
Building kits for homebuilders and assembling fully built aircraft are two very distinct business models. In the early days of Light-Sport Aircraft, European producers enjoyed a head start in fully-built aircraft as their regulations were more accommodating. American producers were the kings of kits, an effort that calls for good assembly instructions and technical support plus groups that can help each other. These two activities represent night and day differences. However, in the years since the regulation arrived, American companies have significantly caught up. Indeed, as September and the 14th anniversary of the SP/LSA rule arrived, Van’s released news of a major change. “Van’s Aircraft is excited to announce that it is establishing its own aircraft assembly facility and team at its company headquarters in Aurora, Oregon,” the world’s largest kit producer said. “Future RV-12iS and RV-12-iST SLSA aircraft models will be assembled and delivered at this new facility.” As many readers know, nearby Synergy Air was Van’s assembly partner for several years.
Affordable Legal EaglesBetter Half VW, the company behind the Legal Eagle series, offers a welded fuselage and a materials package. However, to keep the price extremely low, builders will have to do some scrounging, said Leonard Milholland, the designer. How low can the price go? According to the company and its proprietor, Leonard Milholland, the cost to build a Legal Eagle is $3,000 to $5,000 …depending on your scrounging ability. "I have less than $500 hard cash in mine but I had the engine and most of the tubing, etcetera," said Leonard. Will a kit be made available? "No," said Leonard, "that probably won't ever happen." He added, "The whole idea of this design is to keep it economical. You can afford it if you want to do the work." If that isn't for you, well, you have many fine choices in fully built aircraft although you may be able to find a Legal Eagle somebody else built. A simple machine, Legal Eagle is for pilots looking to have a little fun in the air on the most modest of budgets. You buy a set of plans for $50 and invest six to nine months of your time. Other packages offer a series of videos and more details. Some builders will choose the welded fuselage and a materials kit though these will increase costs beyond the bare minimum. Leonard reported, "I started [my company by supplying] the Better Half VW 2 Cylinder Engine conversion in about 1993, and so far have sold about 5,000 plans of this conversion. One unique feature is the fact that there is no need to cut that case!" He added, "Somewhere between 450 and 600 of these engine conversions have been built and are flying today... including on dozens on flying Leagle Eagles.
Legal Eagle Ultralight Specifications *
- Weight — 244 pounds (dry)
- Wing Span — 281 inches (23 feet, 5 inches)
- Wing Cord — 55 inches
- Wing Area — 107 square feet
- Height — 66 inches
- Fuel — 5 gallons, gravity feed system
- Propeller — fixed pitch wood
- Gear — Tuffy Bicycle Wheels and shopping cart tail wheel.
- Speed — limited to legal ultralight speed (55 knots) but can do up to 60 MPH
- Stall speed — approximately 25 MPH
Perhaps not every pilot needs for aircraft to be affordable but a great many do. Plus, does not every pilot — every customer — appreciate a bargain? In this article, I am writing about one of most affordable aircraft you can build. Legal Eagle is not available either fully built or in a full kit. A genuine, qualifying Part 103 ultralight vehicle, Legal Eagle ultralight weighs only 244 pounds. The three axis aircraft is designed around the four stroke half VW engine producing 30 horsepower, more than enough power for most applications. A slightly enlarged version of the original, the Legal Eagle XL Ultralight can handle a 275 pound pilot yet has an empty weight of just 246 pounds …so it also makes the grade as an ultralight. The original Legal Eagle limited the pilot weight to 225 pounds. Physically bigger pilots also needed a wider, taller seat plus more wing area and span was needed to carry the added pilot weight.
New E-series ChallengersAs proof this company has found a way after the demise of Dave Goulet, Quad City is introducing the new E-series Challenger. Get more details here, but a summary is… Quad City’s partner, National Ultralight, said “[Our new] EL-65 is a long wing, two seat, high power, high lift aircraft well suited for amphibious floats, heavy loads and high density altitudes. The new ES-65 is a clip wing derivative of the EL-65 optimized for speed with a wing four feet shorter. The first single seat Challenger ultralight a third of a century ago evolved into a full line of kit-built aircraft with a wide mix of models, options and accessories. A new Challenger 103 expands the line back to the grass roots and the new Challenger Light Sports are the line's most dramatic ever step forward. (Note that Quad City does not offer a fully-built SLSA model despite use of the Light Sport term; all Challengers are kits.) “Affordable” is a variable term that depends on an individual’s budget. What one pilot might afford another cannot. Yet how about this offer from Quad City? “Quick-build packages including airframe, instruments, engine, prop, […everything you need] start at $29,975.” I have to judge that a remarkable bargain in light aviation.
Big Celebration”Join us in Erie, Illinois on September 14-16, 2018 to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Challenger.” The company has done this before at earlier benchmarks and attracted hundreds of Challenger enthusiasts and dozens of aircraft near their home base. People attending the Midwest LSA Expo over September 6-7-8 could travel a modest distance and catch this complimentary event. For more about Quad City and Challenger, see all reports on this website here. Watch for an upcoming video interview at Oshkosh 2018 soon.
One essential visit at AirVenture Oshkosh 2018 was to the Quad City booth in the Fun Fly Zone. This iconic company in the very light aircraft sector is celebrating 35 years in business. Hearty congratulations to this midwestern USA company for supplying highly affordable aircraft for more than three decades. Even after the loss of their founder, Dave Goulet, the enterprise has carried the torch to the delight of many pilots. Today, after all those years, the company can report more than 4,000 Challengers are flying. Along with a few other giants of light aviation, this is one of the great success stories in fly-for-fun aircraft. All have built as kits and one reason for this achievement is care in making the kit an easy project. For its entire existence, Quad City has followed an admirable system: “Our philosophy is for [the factory] to do all the important and demanding structural work, including installing the controls.
Core-Four-Plus-OneIn June 2018, a series of many meetings that began in 2014 came to an early but very promising point. Here is what I think this means for the Light-Sport Aircraft manufacturing industry and those who own and operate LSA. LAMA took a long list of suggestions about the then-10-year-old industry and reduced it to four initiatives. We were wisely counseled that too long a list would go nowhere. On the tightest of budgets*, we have been pursuing these objectives for four and a half years. The four core goals are:
- Encouraging FAA to allow special Light-Sport Aircraft to perform aerial work (beyond flight instruction and towing)
- Introducing the safety benefits (and performance gains) that come with adjustable propellers controlled solely by a single lever
- Urging FAA to permit electric propulsion and instruction in aircraft designed for such motors
- Solving the longstanding problem that requires modern gyroplanes to be built only as kits (with the attendant problem that no commercial training is possible).
Things are looking up for Light-Sport Aircraft, rather fantastically so in my admittedly biased opinion. While this space is usually dedicated to cool new airplanes — not boring government policy reviews …yawn! — this article will provide some rays of light to an industry approaching its 15th birthday (in September 2019). I think some of this may surprise you. LAMA, the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association (kind of a GAMA for the light aircraft sector) and its partner — USUA, the U.S. Ultralight Association — have been heads-down working on improving the opportunities for LSA. Core-Four-Plus-One In June 2018, a series of many meetings that began in 2014 came to an early but very promising point. Here is what I think this means for the Light-Sport Aircraft manufacturing industry and those who own and operate LSA. LAMA took a long list of suggestions about the then-10-year-old industry and reduced it to four initiatives.
Ryan History LessonT. Claude Ryan was the founder of the Ryan Aeronautical Company. You know this man even if you may not recognize the name. Another of his companies, Ryan Airlines, was the manufacturer of the Ryan NYP, more famously known as the Spirit of St. Louis. The first Ryan ST flew for the first time on June 8th, 1934 and production began the following year, when nine aircraft were delivered. Production rates remained low — about one aircraft every two weeks — but this changed in 1940 when deliveries to military forces began in earnest to support the war effort. Total production of civil and military aircraft before WWII numbered 315. Another 1,253 military versions were produced in '42-'43 totaling 1,568 aircraft of all models. Hear Nick describe his creation in this video. https://youtu.be/uLxKNwAkvZs
One aircraft at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh really caught my eye. OK, truth be told, dozens of aircraft caught my eye but this shiny example seemed to be looking back at me. We simply had to do a video interview with the developer of the 1930s-era Ryan ST because of its fascinating history and its handsome good looks. If you love vintage aviation, this should grab your attention as it did mine. Nick Pfannenstiel is a young developer with a mission, to create or, more accurately, re-create the Ryan ST. He began the design phase of his 95% scale Ryan ST in June 2015 and construction began in early 2016. By 2018, you see the aircraft is nearly finished form. Ryan’s ST featured two open cockpits in tandem seating with a semi-monocoque metal fuselage. A main steel ring forms the backbone of the Ryan ST replica but most of the fuselage uses aluminium alloy The project is not merely a personal fascination for Nick.
Seamax M-22SeaMax Aircraft describes M-22 as a high-performance Light-Sport Aircraft with global sales. Manufactured in Brazil for more than 17 years it has sold more than 150 units to more than 20 countries. Seamax won aeronautical awards, such as the prestigious "Outstanding Commercial SLSA” at Sun 'n Fun in the United States and the Schneider Cup in Italy. It has been featured in more than 40 specialized magazines around the world. Seamax pioneered as one of the early Light-Sport amphibious aircraft to win FAA acceptance in the category — it appears in the #63 spot on our popular SLSA List. "Made of composite materials, Seamax uniqueness relies upon its ability to remain light, granting exceptional performance, large range, and one of the highest useful loads in the category," wrote SeaMax Aircraft. See much more about SeaMax on this page.
The LSA seaplane sector is one of the most intriguing areas of the diverse Light-Sport space. Development has introduced many fresh ideas to this class of airplane. At present a few companies are actively delivering airplanes that have proven themselves over several years of operation. One of those is SeaMax, formerly delivered by a company known by its Portuguese name, Airmax Construções Aeronauticas. Now, welcome the simpler SeaMax Aircraft. The manufacturer of the SeaMax M-22 announced a company rebranding last week. As part of its strategy to enter into the U.S. market, the company changed its logo and named the company after its prominent aircraft model. “Our new brand, SeaMax Aircraft LTDA, captures the identity of a legendary and globally known aircraft and incorporates [the model] into the spirit of our company, consolidating market recognition,” said Shalom Confessor, Executive Director of the company headquarters in the United States. The company now known as SeaMax Aircraft reports manufacturing 152 of its amphibious aircraft.
Great Showing and ShowAmy reported, "We were overwhelmed with positive feedback" at Oshkosh. "We are up to 57 deposit holders," she beamed. That's quite admirable for a fresh-out-of-the-gate design entering a marketplace with more than 140 Special Light-Sport Aircraft appearing on our popular list. Following the event, the west coast producer kept up their pace, putting N133VR in the hands of a private owner. "Our first Ranger was delivered the Monday after Oshkosh and flown to its new home in Kansas," reported Amy, one of four pilots moving a small fleet of Rangers to the show and back home to their base in Woodinville, Washington state. "Our team has been extremely busy since we've been back from Oshkosh," added Amy. "Traveling to the show in four of our Ranger R7s was an awesome experience and we had an easy arrival into Wittman Airport Saturday morning." Arriving two days before the show began proved wise when heavy arrival traffic delayed many inbound aircraft as the show was starting. "We flew from Everett, Washington (KPAE) to [Wittman Field], stopping at several airports along the way," Amy continued. She said "the public release of our aircraft at Oshkosh had been in the plans for years. To have the chance to show off our airplanes was indescribable." Now that the staff is back home, Amy finished, "We have our work cut out for us … [as we] continue building and delivering these amazing airplanes!" Even more recently, another Vashon LSA was delivered. "We delivered our second Ranger to a local flight school right at our home airport at Paine Field," boasted Amy! Northway Aviation is the new operator. One criticism that has been observed is an empty weight that limits payload compared to other LSA. Fortunately for Vashon and other manufacturers, FAA is now actively working on regulation change that could lead to a higher gross weight for Light-Sport Aircraft …but that's a topic for another article. Amy and John review Ranger details in the video below, shot at Oshkosh 2018. https://youtu.be/hOy58rP7kYo
UPDATE: Video on Ranger at bottom… Often at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh we see improved models among vast displays of showplanes. What we see less of are brand new offerings. Yet given the sheer number of aircraft, something brand new can surprise. You probably already know about Vashon Aircraft’s Ranger (we reported it here) but attendees saw it for the first time at the big summer airshow. We shot video with Vashon marketing maven Amy Bellesheim and owner John Torode at the event and you’ll learn more about Ranger from this duo when editing is completed. We recorded our usual large batch of fresh video; please be patient during the editing phase and check Ultralight News YouTube channel to see the latest. Great Showing and Show Amy reported, “We were overwhelmed with positive feedback” at Oshkosh. “We are up to 57 deposit holders,” she beamed.
Award Winner?This unusual arrangement was prepared for EAA's tough judges. However it fared in that evaluation, this clearly wins an award in my mind for being highly original, unique, super affordable, and OK… it is rather delightfully weird, not that that I see anything wrong with that. What you are seeing in the nearby photos and videos below is Peter Sripol's man-carrying scratch-built aircraft project. Peter is a longtime modeler and homebuilder with a popular YouTube channel that boasts more than 650,000 subscribers! He brought his foam homebuilt ultralight project to Oshkosh 2018 and we found it in the ultralight area, now rebadged as the "Fun Fly Zone." EAA reported, "Peter’s first project was inspired by a visit to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2017, and he’s applying lessons learned from that ultralight, which featured wings built with foam board insulation, to his newest model." The unorthodox ultralight — I cannot recall ever seeing a biplane twin engine aircraft …certainly not with electric motors — was built from foam board insulation, fiberglass, wood, and some pieces of aluminum. He is so frugal that some of his controls are contained in cardboard boxes. The aircraft weighs around 215 pounds, well under the Part 103 limit of 254 pounds. Part 103 ultralight vehicles can use two or more engines/motors. The fuel source is a series of nine batteries driving dual model-airplane engines. Peter built a first ultralight that EAA reported "was minimally planned, in contrast to [this] design, which [he] took time to design in CAD." The first video explains why the motors have the wood constructions holding them along with other design considerations. The second video, Peter's, shows some of the other building effort. Think what you will of this project but I admire his skill, tenacity, originality, and his… well, "go for it" attitude. We interviewed Peter at AirVenture Oshkosh 2018. See that below but stay tuned for more… https://youtu.be/55FOgq7rWDU Next you can enjoy Peter's video about building the project. It's cleverly done just like his unique aircraft: https://youtu.be/eNSN6qet1kE
For your enjoyment, here is arguably the most unique airplane I found on the grounds of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018 …and with around 3,000 show planes, that is truly saying something. This aircraft is made almost entirely of foam sheets that you can buy at Home Depot or Lowe’s. It uses two electric motors for thrust. The aircraft is a biplane taildragger. Batteries provide the fuel. Plus, yes, it actually flies! Catch some of the action in two videos below. Award Winner? This unusual arrangement was prepared for EAA’s tough judges. However it fared in that evaluation, this clearly wins an award in my mind for being highly original, unique, super affordable, and OK… it is rather delightfully weird, not that that I see anything wrong with that. What you are seeing in the nearby photos and videos below is Peter Sripol‘s man-carrying scratch-built aircraft project. Peter is a longtime modeler and homebuilder with a popular YouTube channel that boasts more than 650,000 subscribers!
Half A World Away, Aviation Is Getting StartedLet me tell you about a specific brand fly-in, for the CTLS produced in China. While small compared to big American events, this was a healthy start. If aviation is to grow in Asia-Pacific, I think events like that hosted by manufacturer AeroJones are key. More of them is needed but here is a worthy start. In May 2018, AeroJones Aviation hosted a first-time event at their training facility in the south of Taiwan, called Pingtong Saijiain Airport. AeroJones Aviation is the manufacturer of the sophisticated light aircraft called CTLS. The aircraft factory is located in Xiamen, China. “As promised, AeroJones Aviation conducted CT Club, the first flying club reunion in Taiwan on May 19th, 2018,” said company spokesperson Jenny Chang. China and other countries have very well developed airline and military aviation but flying for fun is a relatively new activity. As the photos illustrate, the first-time function was well attended. “Around 40 participants came for the whole day event,” reported Chang. “The group included CTLS pilots, CTLS owners, and those who have intentions to become pilots.” AeroJones Aviation operates a flying field, flight school, and maintenance center in the south of Taiwan. The operation is described by foreign visitors as a prototype for what may become many such facilities across China as that nation prepares to build hundreds of brand-new airports. The new airports will allow Chinese citizens to see and experience light aviation. Few Chinese people have ever seen aircraft such as AeroJones’ CTLS and almost none have flown in one. Events like the one AeroJones hosted may be critically important to introduce literally billions of people in the Asian-Pacific region to the idea of flying for fun. “We were pleased with this first event and the number of people who came to help launch this new idea,” observed Mr. Hsieh Chi-Tai, General Aviation Development Vice President for AeroJones. “Even CT owners that could not fly their aircraft to Pingtong still showed their enthusiasm of flying.” He believes this type of activity will grow as AeroJones Aviation is able to replicate their flight school and pilots club across China in the years ahead. AeroJones acquired the rights to manufacture the German CTLS aircraft design. The company has since secured approval from the government to build and sell these LSA. China is predicted to become a major market for Light-Sport Aircraft. In addition to China and Taiwan, AeroJones Aviation is able to ship fully manufactured CTLS aircraft to other Asia-Pacific countries including Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Japan, Korea, and Thailand. Many aviation experts believe China could see rapid growth for aircraft of this type given plans from the central government in China to build hundreds of new airports during the next few years. The Air Sports Federation of China is also planning hundreds of "flying camps" where citizens can learn more about and experience aviation. ASFC personnel attended Oshkosh 2018 and met with groups to learn more about how to pursue their plans. The Xiamen, China base of AeroJones Aviation includes a manufacturing facility with full fabrication capability. More than 50 highly-trained workers build nearly every part of the airplane in Xiamen. As China may nurture entry level aviation, AeroJones appears destined to be apart of it.
EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018 is now history. You will be reading and seeing lots more about the big summer celebration of flight — it appeared very strong to most observers — and you will see lots more from OSH ’18 here and on Videoman Dave’s popular YouTube channel. As most readers know, Oshkosh is a massive event, by many measures the largest gathering of true aviation believers in the known universe. However, being big isn’t everything. Indeed, some recreational flying enthusiasts will soon begin a trek to Mt. Vernon Illinois for the Midwest LSA Expo, a far smaller event that has proven adept at linking willing buyers with ready sellers. (It’s also our very best event to capture Video Pilot Reports, so watch for news about that in about a month.) Half A World Away, Aviation Is Getting Started Let me tell you about a specific brand fly-in, for the CTLS produced in China.
Aerotrek on Clamar Floats"I do not sell Aerotrek 220s or 240s on floats," said Rob Rollison of Aerotrek when interviewed at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018. He refers to the taildragger or tricycle gear versions of the design. "I deliver on wheels but for $300, an owner can add the float option, which provides mounting brackets attached to specially-reinforced fuselage points.” Adding floats is then a matter of taking the newly certificated Aerotrek to a qualified installer who can work out the hardware and bracketry to mount straight (no wheels) or amphibious floats. Most sellers know of a few businesses who specialize in such work. A proper installer does more than supply the hardware and perform the installation. They also do critical measurements and calculations to establish the correct angle of incidence. On floats you cannot rotate for takeoff as you do on a landplane so whomever does this install needs to evaluate each aircraft based on its weight and balance in order to assure the right mounting position. This specialized skill is one obvious reason why Rollison does not sell on floats and why you must shift to ELSA status after taking delivery of your Aerotrek. To learn more about Aerotrek aircraft through many articles and videos, please visit their dedicated page here. * "Certificated" implies the earning of an Airworthiness Certificate. It does not mean "certified." Light-Sport Aircraft are technically not certified by FAA; they are "accepted" after the manufacturer has demonstrated full compliance to ASTM standards.
You have more privileges than you may know with your Light-Sport Aircraft. One of the more misunderstood aspects of FAA’s sweeping 2004 Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft regulation is ELSA or Experimental Light-Sport Aircraft. Some people call these “kit” LSA. While they can be sold that way, no percentage applies so a manufacturer could call an ELSA a kit by merely having the buyer apply a single decal. To gain its Special Airworthiness certificate, an ELSA must first be a bolt-for-bolt copy of the manufacturer’s Special or fully-built version of LSA. However, once certificated, the owner can begin to make changes on his or her own. They can also become qualified to do all manner of maintenance themselves, assuming they so desire. An Airframe and Powerplant mechanic (A&P) or Light-Sport Repairman – Mechanic (LSR-M) can also work on ELSA as they can SLSA. Once certificated and in his possession the owner can change to ELSA status allowing him or her to do almost anything …change avionics or even swap engines.
Kolb Aircraft Firefly on FloatsIn the nearby images you see a customer's Kolb Aircraft Firefly on Puddle Jumper floats. It could cost as little as $25,000 on straight or non-ampibious floats. Land and water options plus added equipment will increase that number but compared to any new seaplane anywhere, Firefly on floats represents a spectacular bargain. For a well performing fixed wing with a wonderful brand name, FireFly on Puddle Jumper floats makes a great choice. (Add too many options and not only your price goes up but your aircraft may no longer fit in Part 1o3, should the freedom of FAA's simplest regulation be important to you.) If you must have two seats, FireFly loses out, being designed expressly to be a single seater. Nonetheless, if budget is a primary driver for your airplane purchase, as it is for most people, the FireFly on floats looks to be a highly attractive option. Kolb's Firefly (video) flies wonderfully well. It fulfills the Kolb brand — begun by an industry pioneer named Homer Kolb, since deceased — by offering superb handling and great performance in one of the easiest-to-fly taildraggers offered to pilots. If you think I'm being too kind to Kolb, you probably haven't flown one. Homer's achievement is like that of Dick van Grunsven, creator of the RV series of Kitplanes, the world's most popular kit-built airplane series of of all time. Van's has sold more but Kolb has a record of which it can be very proud. At an affordable price for a great flying aircraft with a wonderful history, you can hardly get more enjoyment per dollar invested than Kolb Firefly on floats. If you wish to read the full, unedited text of FAA's guidance to field offices regarding Part 103, click this link for a PDF version of FAA's official word on float weight (and parachute weight, and more). Click this link for Kolb's factory information about FireFly. Watch for our video interview with Kolb boss Brian Melbourne as soon as editing can be completed. (Please be patient: we're still at Oshkosh and the editing effort runs two days to a week per video; we will likely record well over 30 new videos in the week of AirVenture 2018.)
Maybe you never flew a floatplane or seaplane (the latter implying a hull). If that’s true you are missing one of the singular pleasures of flying. Landing on water is almost unreal. It seems unlikely but when you find yourself about to touchdown on a lake, you know you have arrived in a way few people in history have ever considered much less achieved. Alas, the cost of having that dream become reality is substantial. A general aviation floatplane easily runs half a million dollars new, probably much more. Even used, a floatplane is a very costly purchase. Because of their scarcity, a seaplane (with a hull) will cost you even more. Even the most modestly-priced LSA on floats can be a rather expensive proposition. Along comes Part 103 to save the day. While Light-Sport are affordable compared to, say, a new Cessna 172 on amphibious floats, nothing can compare with Part 103 ultralight vehicles on wheels or floats.
Specifications for Magnus Fusion 21
- Gross Weight — 1,320 pounds (600 kilograms)
- Fuel Capacity — 23.7 gallons (90 liters)
- Cockpit Width — 46 inches (1.17 meters)
- Cruise Speed — 116 knots
- Never Exceed Speed — 151 knots
- Stall Speed (no flaps) — 48 knots
- Stall Speed (best flaps) — 45 knots
- Takeoff Distance — 400 feet (120 meters)
- Landing Distance — 500-600 feet (150-200 meters)
- Range — 500-600 miles (800-1,000 kilometers)
All specifications provided by Magnus Aircraft
A new-to-Americans Light-Sport Aircraft made its debut showing at AirVenture 2018. Here is the Magnus Aircraft Fusion 212. It appears another SLSA snuck by my penetrating radar for such achievements. U.S. chief pilot Charlie Snyder told me that the first Fusion earned its Special Airworthinews certificate back in September 2017 thereby joining our SLSA List at number 146. Magnus hails from Hungary, home to more aircraft manufacturers than you may be aware, including such as ApolloFox fixed wing and Apollo weight shift trikes. American representation for Magnus Aircraft USA is handled by Snyder and Magnus president Istvan Foldesi. We recorded a video interview with both men at AirVenture 2018. Both live in the USA while the company CEO Laszlo Boros runs the Hungary operation in a new manufacturing plant near Pecs-Pogany Airport. Snyder and Foldesi exhibited their brightly painted low wing that uses mostly carbon fiber construction and a dual taper wing.
Hawk Single and UltraAt AirVenture 2018 I met and interviewed Bob Santom and his son, LB. Another son is also involved making the enterprise a family affair. Preparing for our video recording, I learned about their plans. The Santoms will take over production and sales of the single place Hawk models including the Part 103 model and the Ultra, a somewhat beefier model that is built as an Experimental Amateur Built (EAB). My discussion with Bob and LB was encouraging. I was impressed to hear the enthusiasm from father and son for keeping this series of Hawks available. This is great news for Hawk fans. The two place models Terry Short and son have been assembling look great and will continue. This includes the FAA-accepted LSA model powered by the Rotax 912. Terry is busy enough that the single place models were lower on his to-do list so in stepped the Santoms who will assure the single place models get extra attention. "We're located on an airport community about 60 miles from Terry's Lake Wales Airport location," said Bob. This will make it easy on both enterprises as the Santoms will lean on Terry's fabrication abilities as they use many parts that are interchangeable between the single and two-seat models of Hawk. "We talked to many Hawk enthusiasts at recent shows and we were pleased to hear of genuine interest in the single place models," Bob added. As you can see by the bare bones Hawk they exhibited, the new operation is just getting underway so a new website is not yet available but you can can email for more info.
CGS Hawk is one of our most storied brands of ultralight and light aircraft. Built in one and two seat varieties in several variations for 35 years, more than 2,000 are flying. Hawk has proven a significant contributor to the light aircraft fleet. Lots of owners I’ve spoken to simply love their Hawk. After many years of production by the company named after its founder Chuck Slusarczyk — the “C” in CGS — the well known brand is now on its third …and fourth, owners. It’s all good, though. Let me explain. Current brand owner is Terry Short (article). He will remain key to the manufacture of these aircraft but in fall 2017, he struck an agreement with a new group. Hawk Single and Ultra At AirVenture 2018 I met and interviewed Bob Santom and his son, LB. Another son is also involved making the enterprise a family affair.
On my first day on Wittman Field here in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, we took the privilege to drive around the grounds and capture video scenes as hundreds of exhibitors arrive and set up their displays. Despite attending a great many over the years, these events have always amazed me and they still do. With less than a day remaining to set up, it appears a hopeless amount of work remains. Nonetheless, at show after show, by opening gate the place looks quite ready, the crowds flood in, and exhibitors smile as they show off their wares. We will have lots more to report and will capture many videos for you, but here’s a little five-minute glimpse of what it looks like as the show unfolds before our eyes. To those who have attended, the scenes may refresh memories. To those that have never been, here’s what you’re missing and why you might want to plan for this in the future.
Respected Com Radios and Transponder
This article has been updated… Technology company TQ Group established a reputation for high quality engineering and precision products. The German enterprise will debut two of their general aviation products for the AirVenture attendees at the end of July 2018. One is an ADS-B transponder in the final stages of certification and the other is a VHF Transceiver that boasts a strong following in Europe. You may already know the name Dittel. Walter Dittel has been a respected manufacturer of small, high quality, low current drain aviation radios and accessories. With the acquisition of leading European avionics manufacturer Dittel in 2016 TQ was able to expand its core capabilities and expertise, while substantially enhancing its R&D resources. Through its business unit TQ-Aviation, the company has been serving the aviation sector for more than 15 years, delivering advanced electronic products to well-known aircraft manufacturers and airlines. TQ-Group now employs nearly 1,600 employees at 14 locations throughout Germany, Switzerland, China and the United States.
Opener's BlackFlyOpener issued several news releases on July 12th, evidently aimed at mainstream news who seized on the unorthodox vehicle. The company, now quartered in Silicon Valley, claims "1,400+ flights and 12,000+ miles flown" over nine years of stealthy development; most of these were remotely piloted. Manned flight is very recent. “Opener is re-energizing the art of flight with a safe and affordable flying vehicle,” said Marcus Leng, CEO. “We will offer competitive pricing in an endeavor to democratize three-dimensional personal transportation. Safety has been our primary driving goal in the development of this new technology." "Even though not required by FAA regulations," Leng continued, "BlackFly operators will be required to successfully complete the FAA Private Pilot written examination and also complete company-mandated vehicle familiarization and operator training.” In its news blitz, Opener announced Google guru Larry Page is one of the company’s strategic backers. Page also is helping to finance Kitty Hawk and its Flyer (photo below). In a CBS News article, Leng was reported saying, “When you press the thumb-stick to climb, you have absolute full control. When you stop in the middle of the air and go off the joystick, the aircraft freezes." These phrases are hardly the way a pilot would say it; perhaps he stated it this way because he was speaking to a non-pilot reporter. Although BlackFly claims full amphibious capabilities, "It is primarily designed to easily operate from small grassy areas and travel distances of up to 25 miles at a speed of 62 mph." said Opener. It presently has a 25-minute flight endurance. See more specifications; scroll down to bottom. As with most of these multicopters, BlackFly's feature list differs from most LSA:
- Software flight-envelope protection
- Automatic Return-to-Home button (localized training feature)
- Soft-landing assist (making BlackFly approachable to non-pilots)
- Comprehensive training (required for purchase)
- Geofence-capable (ostensibly preventing entry to certain airspace)
- Super Charging capable (less than 30 minutes)
- Low noise signature
- Ballistic parachute option available
- Manufactured in the USA
Are Multicopters 'Inevitable' in Aviation?"I've noticed in my career that things go from impossible to inevitable in a very short period of time," Eustace said. His thoughts and my expanding view of this new wave of designs suggests we are just seeing the beginning of a new kind of aircraft, one anybody might be able to enjoy with mimimal or no training. I know that sounds radical and ill-advised but the potential of software-enhanced flying is hard to overlook — at least once the software is judged "very robust." It is not yet, but that may follow rather quickly. “The dream of flight, which was so difficult and expensive to obtain, will soon be within the reach of millions," added Eustace. "Opener is putting the fun back into flying and opening up a new world of possibilities.” If you are attending EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in a few days, you can check out BlackFly yourself. Opener vehicles will be on display in the Innovation Showcase, booths IC-12A and 13A. https://youtu.be/Jcpq6XYYoY4
This article again delves into the changing face of aviation and in this case within the Part 103 Ultralight Vehicle sector. Infotech in Part 103 ultralight vehicles means far more than GPS or even synthetic vision digital screens (imagine an iPad mated to a Levil box … remarkable stuff and for very little money). However, digital avionics are not the point of this story. In the last few days, a formerly Canadian company, Opener, announced their new eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing), the second developer I know of to adopt Part 103’s simplicity and freedom. Like Kitty Hawk’s Flyer*, the rather unusually-named BlackFly also calls itself an “ultralight,” more precisely meaning an ultralight vehicle that can operate under Part 103. What you might like about this, compared to more than a dozen “air taxi” designs, is that BlackFly appears aimed at recreational flyers (as does Flyer).
The Good"It is with great pleasure we can report that Equator Aircraft Norway achieved first fully balanced flight with the P2 Xcursion prototype aircraft over the newly painted runway 22 at Eggemoen Technology Park in Norway," reported the company. Here's our earlier report on this fascinating project. Tested by Eskil Amdal, Equator reportedly accelerated to 70 knots before leaving the ground and flying down the runway at 100 knots at nine meters (about 30 feet, at the edge of ground effect), before landing smoothly. Amdal reported stable flight with good controllability in all axes. Two more flights were performed the following day, further establishing confidence in the flying characteristics. "The aircraft is a prototype developed by Equator with very limited means since 2010," explained the company. "It can operate from land or water, and with its small electric motor, low float wings and good aerodynamics, promises to rival land planes on performance." "Equator's core goal to make flying more available to more people, by supplying, green, silent and practical aircraft to the market," added the company. Equator benefits from a very large space inside (nearby photo), and "a simple intuitive cockpit that makes it easy to learn to fly." Equator hopes to deliver the aircraft both as a hybrid-electric and pure-electric aircraft. The current prototype is fully electric, is set up for testing only, and can fly for about 35 minutes. "Further development shows promise to deliver aircraft with at least 1 hour and 45 minutes of flight time," explained Equator. "In hybrid configuration the aircraft has [the potential for a] range of 5 to 6 hours." Equator is actively looking for investors to move into production while also seeking a larger owner to make sure it can continue the process rapidly. "It was a fantastic day for the team," said Designer and CEO Tomas Brødreskift. "This marks the real beginning of the test program for the aircraft prototype. We are now looking forward to gaining actual flight data, and not to mention look forward to putting the aircraft on the water as soon as possible. We are thrilled to see the aircraft perform as expected, and can't wait to test the aircraft further." https://youtu.be/82J7gJ_7c4w
The BadFrom a Finland online report, "A small company billed as Finland’s only plane maker saw a one-million-euro prototype of its amphibious plane go up in flames Tuesday morning after a training flight ended in a crash. Here is our last report on Atol's move to production. "Speaking at a press conference in Rovaniemi, Finland on Tuesday afternoon, Markku Koivurova, CEO Atol Avion and the designer of the aircraft, said that the plane was completely destroyed in the resulting fire, but that the two pilots on board were able to walk away from the site of the accident. "The Atol chief executive recounted the events that led up to the crash. He said a pilot instructor and his trainee ran into problems on a training flight when the amphibian's 'hood' opened up. The pilot decided to ditch the vessel. "He explained that although there was a nearby body of water, the pilot determined that it was too shallow for a landing and opted to take the plane down for a controlled emergency landing in a forested area." Atol Avian said that it is not yet clear precisely why the plane caught fire, but speculated that a fuel tank behind the left wing ruptured. Both occupants were able to walk away from the crash although both sustained some burn injuries.
The Not-So UglyThe report continued, "Koivurova said that the accident would not pose a major setback for the small plane manufacturing firm,” while adding that the company will suffer additional loss by taking one customer plane out of the production queue for further testing. The aircraft retails for 169,000 euros ($199,000 at today's exchange rate). Atol Avian currently has six planes in production. The amphibious side-by-side seating Atol 650 LSA is made out of wood composite with foldable wings. See all our earlier reports on Atol. While the LSA seaplane sector of the Light-Sport Aircraft industry is developing some of the most interesting concepts, bringing these more complex products to market appears significantly more costly and time consuming than many non-amphibious aircraft that have preceded them. From Icon's A5 that is still struggling to reach production numbers to the now-departed MVP and others, the sector is not exhibiting the same time-to-market timing as simpler aircraft.
In the fascinating LSA seaplane sector-within-a-sector, we find both good news and bad news today, though the latter can be overcome. That’s the shortest possible story. More detail follows. The Good “It is with great pleasure we can report that Equator Aircraft Norway achieved first fully balanced flight with the P2 Xcursion prototype aircraft over the newly painted runway 22 at Eggemoen Technology Park in Norway,” reported the company. Here’s our earlier report on this fascinating project. Tested by Eskil Amdal, Equator reportedly accelerated to 70 knots before leaving the ground and flying down the runway at 100 knots at nine meters (about 30 feet, at the edge of ground effect), before landing smoothly. Amdal reported stable flight with good controllability in all axes. Two more flights were performed the following day, further establishing confidence in the flying characteristics. “The aircraft is a prototype developed by Equator with very limited means since 2010,” explained the company.