Continental Motors, part of China’s Avic International Holding, announced recently that they have entered a strategic partnership with Liaoning Cub Aircraft Corp to be the engine provider for the Top Cub, which the company said is the first kit aircraft built in China, for the Chinese market. The experimental Top Cub is based on the Part 23 certified Top Cub CC18-180, originally designed by CubCrafters and acquired by Top Cub Aircraft Inc., a subsidiary company of Liaoning, in 2015. Continental Motors Group’s Titan Engine Powers Top Cub The availability of the Top Cub as a kit aircraft, powered by a Titan kit engine, marks the opening of the experimental market in China. Top Cub Aircraft and Continental are the first companies to offer a complete aircraft in kit form, after the Chinese CAAC agreed to allow experimental building in China. Wolfgang Qian, CEO of Liaoning Cub Aircraft Corp, said “The combination of the Titan IO-360 engine with our airframe offers the best power to weight ratio that we could hope.
Enter MulticoptersThe little single place Kitty Hawk Flyer pictured above is one of several examples. Qualifying as a Part 103 ultralight, it may also be a multicopter you can actually buy and fly in the near future. Those many breathless stories in mainstream media about autonomously flown air taxis may paint a very different, possibly exciting image of the future of flight, but they may also be years, or decades, away. Vehicles like Kitty Hawk's Flyer could get to the market much sooner, assuming FAA throws up no roadblocks — I don't see the agency doing that, drones have registered more than a million units giving FAA extra duties but also knowledge, and leverage. Indeed, the drone/multicopter development must be music to the regulators' ears. Multicopters are also music to ears of prop makers. While Sensenich sells many propellers to Florida's air boat operators (who wear props out faster than an airplane), Duc Hélices has jumped into the rotorcraft and multicopter market. Good for them! More revenue from tech-billionaire-supported companies means more business for Duc, which should help them keep innovating for the light aircraft sector we all love. Look again at the Flyer. Here's a small, light, single-place aircraft with — count 'em — ten props whirring in dizzying circles. Ten props per plane! "Now we're talking," exclaims the boss!
Duc Hélices NewsAt the Aero Friedrichshafen 2018 show in Germany, Duc Propellers lifted the veil on their latest innovation as they presented a prototype of rotors for multicopters …eVTOLs, flying car, air taxis, and who knows what next. Last spring, Duc Hélices announced, "Our new branch, dedicated to the design and the realization of helicopter and multicopter rotors, is running at full speed." The company added, "A very large investment was required to finance four years of studies for the development of multicopter blades." They cited a new propeller production press and a series of qualification and validation tests including "form control; mechanical analysis of tensile strength/flexion/torsion; vibration tests; tests of aging; and fatigue." Complete and ready, Duc Propellers Company now offers literature and products for:
- Complete rotors for multicopter (composite blades and hub rotor head)
- Helicopter blades (up to 9 meter or 29.5 foot diameter)
- Full anti-torque rotor (RAC blades in composite and hub)
One More (New) ThingDuc Hélices has enjoyed considerable success in the U.S. market, thanks to persistent effort at airshows by their capable Michael Dederian. At LSA events these days, I see two brands all the time: Sensenich from Plant City, Florida and Duc Hélices from Frontenas, France. To better serve their growing U.S.market, Duc will open a new facility at the Sebring, Florida airport. To celebrate, Duc Propellers USA will host an official opening party in Hangar C2 (442 Hendricks Field Way). People attending the event are invited at 6 PM on Friday January 25, 2019. To confirm or ask questions about the kick-off party, contact Mrs. Héloïse Jonda at her email address.
Imagine you are in charge of marketing for French propeller manufacturer, Duc Hélices. The boss stops by your office and asks, “How are we going to sell more props?” You begin to cite statistics (maybe even this website and its market share data). With more worldwide sales of LSA and LSA-like aircraft (chart), sales could be good, you say. Successful twin engine airplanes like Lockwood’s AirCam or Tecnam‘s Twin that swing two propellers per aircraft certainly add to sales. (Rotax enjoys this, too.) Yet in the tech world, a 10% or 20% increase is nothing. Those hard-charging Silicon Valley companies have gotten used to things improving by orders of magnitude. “How can we increase sales by ten times,” demands the boss? “Well, hmmm…” you thoughtfully reply, “I think I have an idea.” Enter Multicopters The little single place Kitty Hawk Flyer pictured above is one of several examples.
Since shortly after ByDanJohnson.com went live (on April Fool’s Day 2004, just a few months before the LSA rule was released), one regular website feature has earned positive reviews. Our LSA market shares and ranking information was an instant hit with business people seeking data to use in running their LSA enterprises. Before long, pilots and customers began to value the effort. Later, I discovered people in government agencies in the USA and other countries were following these reports. With that support and attention from other media outlets, our LSA Market Share reporting became a staple of this website. Oddly (it seemed to me), this was the only place you could find it.* More and more of you have been asking about this data …and I am pleased to say it’s coming back! Our longtime data investigator, Jan Fridrich, got an offer he couldn’t refuse to help China grow their nascent general aviation market and his time is now too committed to perform the tedious and time consuming survey of FAA’s N-number database.
DeLand 2018 By the NumbersThe key number that everyone seems to focus on is attendance. Jana Filip announced, "The total attendee count for Showcase 2018 was 5,500 over the course of the three day event." Some organizations — including the biggest shows — count each person entering through a gate each day, even if the same person comes every day (meaning one individual could be seven "persons" if the show runs for a week. Many call that legitimate; they may buy something each day. Other observers think that is only one person attending seven times. In the end, what matters is consistency as you could argue either method is correct. However DeLand's 5,500 visitors are tallied, it's a net positive. Most attendees likely did not come all three days but what really matters is that virtually every attendee is clearly interested in what is exhibited or presented as no airshow entertainment is offered (other than the nearly non-stop skydiving). While the quantity doesn't compete with the giant shows, the quality of attendees is sky high; every one is motivated to be present. Jana continued, "All revenues were up from the prior year, from the Souvenir Shop to the admission gates, equating to a steady growth three years in a row. The Saturday of Showcase 2018 was our break-thru day, with perfect weather and more attendees than ever before.” I can affirm (and wrote that) Saturday was strong. Reports were the front gate ran out of wrist bands on Saturday and had to request more. Of course, shows like DeLand, Sebring, and Midwest also hope to promote their airport and its development. This has worked extremely well for Sebring, the grandaddy of these sector-specific shows. The Central Florida airport has new tenants and flight operators because of producing the show. Likewise, DeLand is promoting its "DeLand Sport Aviation Village, a 40-acre commerce park" where businesses can get hangar space in an incubator-like concept. They also reported a brand-new airport administration building is almost complete. The Showcase will have offices in this new structure. One More Thing… Because this post is about airshows and because 2018 events are now history, our left column has all the correct 2019 dates for your planning. If you can make it, please wave when Videoman Dave and I zoom by en route to more fresh video recordings. If you cannot attend… well, at least we will be at all these events capturing new interviews and Video Pilot Reports (VPRs).
DeLand proclaimed another success for 2018. As one of the “troops in the trench,” I can attest to a satisfactory event, as I chronicled in Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3 articles. Of particular note, DeLand can boast nine of nine days of wonderful weather. OK, fine, it rained one evening and winds blew somewhat furiously for a short while, but the precipitation came after show hours and no aircraft were damaged (although a couple tents took a nose dive). I’ve opined how the thick crowds of the giant shows are not necessary and may not even be desirable. At smaller events, customers get more face time — and air time, through many demo flights launched. Exhibiting vendors got actual orders, made deliveries, and connected with pilots who may act later. When both customers and suppliers are happy, I’d call that a success.
Handiflight to Depart SoonAnother way this storied company shows its global approach to business is by sponsoring a worthy effort called Handiflight. Flight Design said this "is a daring adventure by physically challenged pilots to fly around the world starting very soon, on November 18, 2018. Company CEO Lars Joerges announced that the German manufacturer is a contributing sponsor to the undertaking. The flight will be conducted using a CTLS aircraft. According to Flight Design, the globe-girdling flight will start from Geneva, Switzerland and will plan to visit 40 countries in five continents while traveling more than 49,000 miles. The flight plans to make “150 stops to meet, share, inspire and promote the inclusion of disabled people worldwide,” organizers said. The goal is to raise funds for Handicap International and is further sponsored by the Lions Clubs International, a fraternal organization that raises money for worthy causes. Handiflight is a non-profit association formed in Gruyère, Switzerland in 2007. The organization hosts what they call the biggest fly-in for disabled pilots from all around the world. After 10 years of successful events, Handiflight is now tackling a new goal: “To fly around the world to explore new horizons, look for new challenges, combat prejudices and promote the inclusion of disabled people.” “We met with Daniel Ramsier, one of the organizers of the Handiflight,” said Joerges. "We were very inspired by his vision and wanted to be part of this adventure.” Primary pilots Paolo Pocobelli, Guillaume Féral and Mike Lomberg will lead an international team of more than 15 pilots with physical disabilities. Upon the completion of this flight it will mark the third flight around the world for a CT-series aircraft. The first time occurred in 2007 by two pilots from India to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of the Indian Air Force. The second round-the-world flight was Azimuth 270, a flight by Yannick Bovier and Francisco Agullo, two Swiss Airbus pilots who flew a westward flight around the equator of the Earth in 2010. Soon will begin this great and inspiring flight by Handiflight! * LAMA is beginning an advocacy effort to encourage Canada to accept Light-Sport Aircraft but for now LSA producers must offer aircraft that meet the 1,232-pound limit of Advanced Ultra Light in Canada. The nation used the number first proposed by FAA but the U.S. agency later went to 1,320 pounds (land planes; seaplanes are 1,430 pounds)
At the season ending DeLand Showcase show, Flight Design was ably represented by John Hurst. We interviewed this longtime LSA veteran; watch for that as editing is completed. What we did not get was an update from the company, as we did with several other vendors (see earlier reports). Flight Design USA president Tom Peghiny since reported that his import enterprise enjoyed a reasonably good year in 2018 with a few weeks remaining. Indeed, he communicated while flying a new CTLS up to Canada for delivery under their Advanced Ultralight program*. New unit volume is lower than the early gold-rush days of Light-Sport Aircraft (2005-2007) — the same as for other companies — but new sales are returning for Flight Design; in addition, their service, factory parts. and used business bolsters the longtime U.S. operation. Longtime market leader Flight Design took something of a breather in 2016 and 2017 as the German company reorganized under new leadership (article).
The Used LSA FactorOne conversation happened many times. While sellers of new LSA seek those customers, the almost 15-year-old LSA industry has now accumulated a solid and growing supply of quality used aircraft. Sellers are realizing that their enterprise can be composed of both. Used LSA can serve two important goals: First, they give buyers with tighter budgets more choices. Secondly, they give sellers more product to offer. Think of any automobile dealership. If you ask the owner, he or she will likely say they actually make more on used cars while satisfying customers who don't choose to pay the price of brand new. Everyone seems fairly well served by this approach. A year ago I had a conversation with main representative Robert Meyer of Lockwood Aircraft. He and boss Phil Lockwood are always attentive to the best used AirCams they can find and regularly acquire them for resale. Robert reported this does not detract from their new AirCam sales and serves two goals: First, it gives some customers a chance to buy a ready-to-fly AirCam. Secondly, it give Lockwood Aircraft more product augmenting their new kit business. As the factory they can choose the best used examples and give them factory makeovers (as needed). They turned a problem into a solution. Not bad! John Hurst is another Florida LSA expert making this idea work. He was at DeLand representing longtime market leader Flight Design and their high-tech CTLS. While John sells new CTLSs, he also brokers in used aircraft and this proves useful to his enterprise. Scott Severen is the new North American representative for the Jabiru line of aircraft. Before he got involved with new aircraft he brokered used Light-Sport Aircraft, an activity he continues even as he logged more new sales in his first year than he projected. As with Lockwood and Hurst, Scott reports used aircraft sales are a viable partition of his enterprise. Many general aviation types wonder how Light-Sport Aircraft purveyors — small businesses of one to a dozen or more people — can build a sustainable business model and the answer almost surely involves multiple activities; new and used aircraft can complement one another very well.
Still, Questions About 3,600-Pound LSAFrequently at DeLand, I had discussions about news from last month concerning a huge weight increase for Light-Sport Aircraft. I did an interview with AVweb's Paul Bertorelli, who also interviewed other industry leaders. And Videoman Dave recorded my commentary. Both should emerge soon on YouTube. I hope these and other efforts will quiet the concerns or pilots and airplane sellers by presenting real information and less of the sensational stories of early October.
DeLand Showcase 2018 is over, which signals the airshow season is over for this calendar year. At the end, many concluded the show was good for customers and vendors. Pilots placed orders for new aircraft and left with smiles on their faces; I spoke to a few of them. Many of you also said hello during the event; that’s always fun. Despite my positive words, some feel these “regional shows” aren’t as meaningful as the large shows. Is that right or not? It depends on the observer to some extent. I venture to say that if you could evaluate orders placed with cash and create a ratio of those people compared to the number of persons coming in the gate, DeLand (or the other LSA- and light kit- specific shows) would smoke all others. No question the big shows with their thick crowds satisfy the soul of attendees and vendors alike.
2018 Results Keep Adding UpYesterday's Day One post related several conpanies giving satisfactory results for their sales this year. Perhaps encouraged by a buoyant economy, pilots are choosing new LSA but in parallel more importers and manufacturers are helping to move used LSA. The fleet has grown enough to generate a good supply of low-time, desirable Light-Sport Aircraft. Any representing looking to sell new machines can boost their enterprise by also facilitating the sale of used aircraft. In either new or used transactions, pilots win as they can acquire aircraft that interest them. It's all good and 2018 is proving to be a respectable year. Seamax is another company pleased with their U.S. developments. We interviewed lead designer and business owner Miguel Rosario to find his lightest-of-the-LSA-seaplane-fleet Seamax is developing their business on the campus of Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. With care and long experience, Miguel has built an active enterprise that has supplied more than 150 aircraft around the globe with about 10% flying in the USA. That number is sure to grow with the Brazilian company's American operation, an excellent price point among LSA seaplanes, and sprightly performance SuperPetrel reports delivery of eight units in the last year after establishing their U.S. base. Global sales over many years are now approaching serial number 400 according to representatives from the Ormond Beach, Florida enterprise of Brazilian investors associated with Scoda Aeronautica. This seaplane maker is also growing its installed base in America for this long-established design that was thoroughly updated when Scoda (formerly Edra) Aeronautica took over Super Petrel. An FAA audit proved the quality of their work as they earned SLSA credentials. Inside the tent, we did an interview with Sensenich president Don Rowell. The very popular maker of wood, metal, and composite props reported strong business that is challenging the company to keep propellers in stock. To address the demand, Sensenich is expanding and bringing new CNC equipment. We will be visiting the factory just before Sun 'n Fun 2019 to give viewers a tour of their new facility and equipment. As with yesterday's report, this is not an exhaustive review of each exhibiting company. Yet the sum of reports from company after company reinforces the view that 2018 qualifyies as a solid year. I see the happy smiles of new pilot owners on the field.
At a reception ending Day Two, DeLand Showcase Director Jana Filip reported that front gate receipts were greater on Thursday than either Thursday of the two prior years of the Showcase. Then she announced Friday’s gate was greater than the two previous Fridays. DeLand Showcase 2018 is the third running of the event. Showers rolled in threatening Showcase’s perfect weather record although the rain didn’t start until exhibitors and sponsors had gathered in the main show center tent. Under shelter, live music was presented by the Flying Musicians Association, lead by professional music man, Gary Filip. A catered dinner fed the group and as the evening concluded, the rain died off as if on cue. A couple tents were damaged by strong winds including one in the Dreams Come True booth of Steve and Debbie Minnich and an EAA Chapter food tent. No airplane damage was reported.
Who Is Succeeding?In one day, we did not speak to every vendor and we did not get to the inside booths yet. However, those we did approach for news and updates provided feedback that was significantly on the positive side. Here is a partial recap (again cautioning that this is not inclusive): Icon Aircraft's production engine appears to be firing on all cylinders, according to Tampa Regional Sales Director Scott Rodenbeck. We heard about delivery numbers growing from five aircraft a month to 10 a month and a forecast for 15 shipments in December. These numbers will show up on our market share report based on N-number registrations. Increased production has reduced the delivery wait to only seven or eight months, down from literally years back when the California company was taking deposits left and right but not yet manufacturing. Bristell USA is having a banner year that should end close to 20 units sold for the deluxe and superbly equipped Bristell LSA, reported company leader Lou Mancuso and right hand man, John Rathmell. Beside delivering strong sales for Czech producer, Milan Bristela, Lou's growing enterprise is also establishing a flight academy at the Sebring airport to offer younger pilots a lower cost path to careers as pilots. We will have video on this development. Duc Hélices is another company choosing Sebring for their operation, reported Michael Dederian, the company's main face at airshows — after a few seasons nearly all producers know him. The popular French prop maker is opening a subsidiary in early 2019 to better serve U.S. customers. They plan to celebrate the American enterprise at the Sebring Sport Aviation Expo on January 25th. Van's Aircraft made a big change this year. After bringing in ready-to-fly manufacturing to the world's largest manufacturer of aircraft kits — the immensely popular RV line — Van's is backed up for nearly a year, reported Atlanta-based, Vic Syracuse. That wait may come down as the company ramps up its new in-house production, but it's clear RV-12 is a success story. We recorded an interview with Vic about the new model, now known as RV-12iS. Yes, it uses the Rotax engine but that's not all the changes in the renewed model. Paul Mather of M-Squared Aircraft is opening new doors. He continues to build his M-Squared models as he has for many years but now the longtime veteran of light aircraft manufacturing has diversified to provide builder assistance to owners wanting a Zenith CH-750 Cruzer powered by the Continental Motors O-200D engine. After a slow start activity has picked up and Paul is pleased with the aircraft he's added to his stable. We plan a Video Pilot Report using the model seen at DeLand Chip Erwin of Aeromarine-LSA also reported growing sales for his well-priced, fast-assembling Merlin PSA (Personal Sport Aircraft). Besides sales to customers, he is using the single place aircraft for some government duties and these activities are keeping the Florida businessman on the move, literally, and from a business evaluation. We shot a video with Jay Kurtz of South Lakeland Airport (which many Sun 'n Fun attendees know very well). After building 40 (yes, 40!) aircraft, his most recent project has been the Quick-Build Merlin. After just a single day, I'm excited to see what happens in two more days of the DeLand Showcase 2018. Look for another report tomorrow.
Day One of the third running of DeLand Showcase is complete. As Videoman Dave and I scoured the show grounds looking for good stories, we spoke to a few vendors reporting that 2018 has been a good year. Our video news gathering exercise brought a pleasant discovery. Many companies are reporting a solid year of sales. The light aviation industry is composed of many small companies. None are corporations the size of Cessna or Cirrus so they don’t require hundreds of unit sales to break even. A U.S. importer delivering 20 aircraft can experience a good year from sales and other services they offer. When several companies report noteworthy sales success it suggests the market is healthy and customers are buying airplanes they want to enjoy. In parallel, the used LSA market also appears active and a virtuous circle begins to take form. The show itself enjoyed the great organization we have come to expect from director Jana Filip.
Here's Our Top-5 ReasonsReason #5 — It will be a few months before the next show, when the Sebring Sport Aviation Expo starts in late January. Here's your last chance this calendar year to see a great collection of aircraft in one convenient, pilot-friendly location. Showcase is held at the DeLand Municipal Airport (KDED). Reason #4 — DeLand has enjoyed sparkling, warm weather with clear skies every day it has run so far. While the northern states start to hunker down for winter, a slower time for recreational flying, Florida is just revving up. Weather is never a guarantee, of course, but DeLand can boast a perfect record so far. Reason #3 — Lots to do from airplanes to engines to flying gear to forums to special presentations by notable speakers to food and to pilots talking excitedly with one another about flying. In the evenings, DeLand has some of the most interesting restaurants in the area and Daytona Beach is a short drive away. Reason #2 — A great collection of affordable aircraft will be available from one end of the light aviation spectrum to the other. The group changes a little each year. Come and see what's new for 2018. …and Reason #1 — Fly the airplanes, investigate engines for your kit project, see how various airplanes fit you, carefully examine the airplanes that most interest you, talk to the people representing or manufacturing them, have those longer conversations you cannot have at the big shows where vendors can be overwhelmed by tire kickers and others. Talk seriously about an airplane purchase or upgrade or service or options with the experts. But remember, this show is about flying those airplanes you like …so GO FLY! You can probably add a few more reasons of your own, but the key is to show up and enjoy yourself while checking out a good flock of Light-Sport Aircraft, light kit-build aircraft, and ultralights. Inside the display tent you will find a good collection of accessories, tools, and other gear pilots want. Oh, here's one more reason. Come see Videoman Dave and me making fresh videos like the one below. If you can't make this year's DeLand Showcase, at least you will get to see lots of videos. Really, though… the fun is being present. C'mon down south folks, the weather's great! https://youtu.be/cycCQeOVwoo
The end of the year is approaching. We just wrapped Halloween and now begin the headlong rush into the holiday season. However, before all that retail excitement starts, here comes the third running of the DeLand Showcase. This is my new favorite airshow for one reason everyone seems to understand instantly. Why would I put one airshow above another given that I love them all? Easy …I get to sleep in my own bed every evening. Sweet! Yep, DeLand airport is a mere 25 minutes from my home, on another airport, the Spruce Creek Fly-In. How much better could it get? Lots of shiny new airplanes and lots of very knowledgeable people to help answer all your questions. My personal comfort is good for me, but why should YOU be making your way to DeLand? Here’s Our Top-5 Reasons Reason #5 — It will be a few months before the next show, when the Sebring Sport Aviation Expo starts in late January.
DeLand Is Home BaseBeyond Showcase and a gazillion skydivers, DeLand is an active field. A brand new terminal building attests to both the activity level and John’s management skill. The central Florida airport is home to Aero Adventure, makers of the Aventura line of seaplanes that you can afford. OK, affordability is different for everyone; I get that. Yet if you want a new seaplane, Aero Adventure is unquestionably the place to go for a good value. Their top-of-the-line S17 Aventura retails for $112,000. If you price compare, you will quickly find that even this premiere model from Aero Adventure is far less than any other new seaplane. Here's what the company says, "Our S17 is the top of the line when it comes to Aventura flying. It has a fuel injected, computer controlled, 117 horsepower engine. coupled with an infused hull. This aircfraft weighs under 900 pounds and can carry 600 pounds all day!” Their powerful S17 may be the flagship, but Aero Adventure has much lower cost alternatives. These are all assembled from kit, for now, but the project is not so time consuming and they offer a build center to help. In addition to their side-by-side two seaters, the company is returning to the one-place seaplane market. "The Aventura UL is a blast to fly using the MZ 201 engine and with no pilot license required makes for a very popular plane," reported Aero Adventure. Those with a smaller budget should pay extra attention as the opening price of $25,000 is quite remarkable for a seaplane. "Yes, that's right, [we're building] a single seater,” they said. “We are in the process of assisting some great Aero family members making one of the most awesome single seat aircraft on the market!" They promised to keep me advised and I'll report more as this emerges. Under leadership from Alex Rolinski, the Florida company has been exhibiting great energy in the pursuit of its enterprise. Check out the full line of Aventura seaplanes at this link. They are also doing more than building airframes. To further their enterprise they now offer pilot training, probably a smart thing for a company in the seaplane business. Aero Adventure said, "Welcome Howard 'Buddy' Fleming, our Chief Flight Instructor. Buddy has many years flying various aircraft and has mastered the Aventura! We offer tailwheel and amphibian endorsements, as well as Sport Pilot licenses." DeLand airport is also home to another bargain, the Aerolite 103 from U-Fly-It but that's a story for another post. Meanwhile I hope to see you at DeLand Showcase 2018 in just a few days!
In mere days now, DeLand Showcase starts. The new event closes out the year’s shows. Find out more at their website. DeLand is a thriving year-round sport and recreational flying airport. It has very long been established as one of the world’s premiere skydiving centers. More than 30 parachuting-oriented enterprises employing hundreds of people keep DeLand humming all year with skydiving activity. It is known around globe by enthusiasts. Matter of fact, the timing of the DeLand Showcase leaned heavily on what Showcase director Jana Filip found upon collaborating with the skydiving community as she chose a date. Early November offers reasonably predictable weather and, true to form, the first two years of this show were wonderful with temperatures in the low 80s and lots of blue sky. I have my fingers crossed for a repeat of this year, but its hard to dispute years of carefully kept records by the skydivers — who also depend on good weather.
Build, Buddy, BuildFull disclosure. Merlin is a kit. It is not a Light-Sport Aircraft. You have to build it. The good news is Merlin is a surprisingly fast-build kit. I have often stated that I am not a builder but to become a better educated journalist, I went to a location where Chip was helping a customer build his. I watched his effort and asked him many questions. As Chip notes in the video below, Merlin comes in from the fabricator in Europe significantly assembled. See the nearby photos to see the state of build at the beginning of the kit assembly. It already looks like an airplane not merely a collection of many small parts and aluminum sheets. This level of completion is FAA approved; Merlin is ready to go on the 51% kit aircraft list. I don't want to minimize the work effort as that could diminish the efforts of those who do the work. Indeed, plenty of details remain from what you see in the images. Yet the task is made much easier by one giant step provided by the Europeans. By now many readers are familiar with the term matched-hole construction. This means the holes where a rivet will be secured are so accurately punched by CNC machinery that no jigs are needed. You line up the holes, drill to rivet size, pop in a rivet, and move to the next. Next comes precision-matched-hole where the holes are so perfect that no further drilling of pilot holes is needed. They are ready for the rivet as delivered. Merlin goes a further step beyond. The holes already have special, colored rivets that hold the parts in place. A builder removes them, does the under-skin work as needed — wiring, linkages, fuel lines — and re-rivets. I watched some of this occur and it is fairly amazing as a process. I might even attempt it and I'm not a builder. With dedication and especially with some professional assistance as is possible today, a builder can finish the project in as little as two weeks. Is that work effort worth it, considering you can hold the price below the once-expected price of a LSA? Only you can answer that question but Erwin's Aeromarine-LSA company based in central Florida has brought affordability back into the picture. Is a single seater enough for you? It very well may be considering airplanes are frequently flown solo. Learn even more in the following video recorded at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018. https://youtu.be/24ShnUX4Kpg * The dollar amounts are generated using the U.S. government's Consumer Price Index.
A popular American childhood story called “The Little Engine that Could” relates to this article. The Merlin PSA (Personal Sport Aircraft) from Aeromarine-LSA is a modern single place airplane that does everything you want — well, other than carry two people — while remaining highly affordable. Given that some Light-Sport Aircraft shoot past $200,000 (some even past $300,000!), Merlin looks very reasonably priced for the rest of us. A large number of LSA enthusiasts have complained that present-day LSA have become way too expensive for their budgets. Back when we were still awaiting Light-Sport Aircraft many pilots thought LSA would cost $50-60,000 and it seems not many choices are available in that range. Some are, but most are quite a bit more costly. It’s important to be accurate. Understand that $60,000 in 2002 — when people were speculating about the price of a LSA — is the same as $83,000 today, when you calculate the purchasing power of either number at those times.* Now think of Merlin’s price tag.
Business Around the GlobeWhile Traveller is their foray into NBAA's glittering world, Tecnam remains highly active in aircraft that readers of this website recognize. Tecnam has been busy this year; here are a few of their recent successes at delivering their light aircraft all around the globe. Greece — Hellenic Air Force Academy, based at an air base near Athens, is a unit of the Hellenic (Greek) Air Force. A recent delivery is the first of 12 Tecnam P2002JF trainers HAFA ordered. The Academy selected the Tecnam model as its next-generation screening/primary training aircraft. P2002JF is a two-seat, single-engine, low-wing aircraft powered by the Rotax 912 and fitted with the latest avionics from Garmin. Tecnam is familiar with supplying government air forces. In 2016 Tecnam delivered eight P2002JF aircraft to the Argentina Air Force. "This [South American] fleet has amassed a total of over 6,000 hours and performed 16,000 landings to date," noted Tecnam. ByDanJohnson.com readers know this model as the Sierra. Poland — Tecnam announced today that the Polish Medical Air Rescue (PMAR) has placed an order for three Tecnam P2008JC Mk II airplanes. PMAR is a very active organization using a fleet of aircraft to perform nearly 10,000 flights in the first eight months of this year alone. P2008JC is comprised of a carbon-fiber fuselage with metals wings and stabilator. "This combination of composite and metal resulted in a more fuel efficient and much quieter aircraft," said Tecnam. The MkII version of P2008JC features a number of significant enhancements including a new avionic suite with a refreshed interior design. Australia — This summer, Tecnam announced the sale of eight P2008 light sport aircraft training aircraft to Soar Aviation of Melbourne, Australia. Soar claims to be Australia’s largest private flying school with with over 500 students. It operates a fleet of 48 Rotax-powered training aircraft and has a team of 100 employees, including more 67 instructors. Soar has facilities at the Moorabbin Airport in Melbourne, Australia and at the Bankstown and Bendigo airports in Sydney, stated Tecnam. France — The same month as the Aussie sale, Tecnam said they took an order for four P2010 MkII four-seat aircraft from Air Paris Academy based at the Tours Airport. Tecnam describes their P Twenty Ten as "the first new single-engine, high-wing, four-seat aircraft from Tecnam that brings together an advanced technology all carbon fibre fuselage with a metal wing and stabilator." Just a month earlier, Tecnam announced that Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority and the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand validated the Tecnam P2010 based on the EASA Type Certificate including a 215 horsepower version of the Lycoming IO390-C3B6 powerplant. Tecnam's large portfolio of aircraft from LSA and sport aircraft to four seat GA aircraft to twin engine personal aircraft to the new 11-seat regional airliner makes for an active company rapidly growing to be one of the world's aviation powerhouses.
This week kicks off the truly gigantic trade show known by its sponsoring organization’s abbreviation: NBAA, or in common lingo, “Enn, Bee, Double A.” While not taking up the extensive terra firms of Oshkosh, NBAA actually has more paying exhibitors. They even tow aircraft down city streets in the dark of night so a reported 100 aircraft can be on display at the Orlando Civic Center. The show has become so large that supposedly only two U.S. convention centers are big enough to contain the sprawling affair: Las Vegas and Orlando. The latter is just down the street for me so every other year I go and look for something to report amidst my wandering around astonished at the sheer size of the event and how much money gets spent for a three-day show. I always find something of interest to the light aviation, recreational flying community. This year, I’m on the lookout for Tecnam, one of this website’s longtime sponsors and surely the largest company serving up Light-Sport Aircraft around the world.
Other Quality ReportingBeside my own investigation with sources in FAA working on this specific regulation, AVweb journalist Paul Bertorelli also followed up on this story. Read his report here; his article contains a link to a podcast. The short summary: No NPRM will come out in three months. Paul interviewed EAA's VP of advocacy and safety, Sean Elliot, who agreed that FAA's work is "unlikely to yield any specific Notices of Proposed Rule Making until at least 2020, if not beyond." Good! Whatever the eventual content of FAA's proposed rulemaking, an absolutely essential ingredient is discussing changes with industry and other key participants first, revising the proposal, and allowing various government and non-governmental groups to offer their input. FAA does not rush a proposal to NPRM status because doing so could generate lots of unfavorable comment, and in such case, regulators would have to go back to the drawing board. In addition and as I already reported, this is a very sweeping regulation that touches on many parts of the current Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) and all that language change must be carefully considered. Updates for LSA are only one part of this large regulatory project.
Q&A on Weight and MoreTo other specific questions I've been asked, I have further responses… Specific Weight? — The number 3,600 pounds has been reported. It will not be a specific, fixed number and the formula that will produce a gross weight has not yet been finalized. Yes, it could be that high; no one knows yet …but the formula will likely involve engine power, stall speed, and probably other parameters. More Seats? — Yes, this is also a possibility. It is not specifically an attempt to bring Cessna 172s and other legacy aircraft into LSA. It is an attempt to bring this new regulation closer to that established for Basic Med. Many aircraft — such as weight shift, powered parachutes, gyroplanes, and motorgliders — don't need or want (or maybe can't handle) four seats. Even those airframes that can accommodate more seats will surely then be more expensive. Higher Speed? — Yes, higher speed may also be on the agenda. Nothing is particularly sacred about 120 knots (138 mph). However, like all parts of this regulation proposal, it is only in discussion stages at this time. Again, this has to do with trying to align the new regulation with the earlier one for Basic Med. What Medical? — At this time, no change is expected for LSA. Your Sport Pilot certificate will still only require a driver's license and self-signoff, or use that medical approach with your higher level certificate and exercise the privileges of Sport Pilot. Again, as with all parts of this rule-in-progress, the plans are subject to change. Adjustable Propeller? — Yes, again. As reported in LAMA's earlier report, single lever control was favorably received by FAA management and the association is hopeful this will be part of the resulting new regulation. SLC is a type of automatic prop adjustment, similar to that found on every Cirrus aircraft. What's Important? — LAMA wants FAA to listen to the LSA producer community and the LSA user community. Give the industry and pilots a chance to provide input and the result will be a better product. That takes time and that's why the absurd date only three months away was so unrealistic. Finally, I want to again point you to the LAMA advocacy report. The industry association continues to work with FAA to advance several goals mentioned in that report. These bear a short review. Another goal is aerial work or commercial use for LSA. Most readers will recognize SLSA can already be used for commercial work: professional flight instruction, rental of LSA to students and others, and towing. LAMA merely wants to add to that list — and honestly, more gross weight will add to the work value of these aircraft in addition to giving sellers and buyers new opportunities to use LSA productively. Finally, we aren't giving up on SLSA gyroplanes although I will admit this one is proving to be the toughest, with ongoing resistance from the rotorcraft branch of FAA — meaning no professional flight instruction is allowed. Yes, training can be done with a LODA (Letter of Deviation Authority), if you can get one, but that method does not allow a student to solo in the aircraft being used for his or her training. THE GOOD NEWS… industry groups like LAMA and member organizations like EAA, among others, have more time to continue work with FAA and more time for agency personnel to listen to the community of users and the professionals serving them.
An article from last weekend’s news about a massive jump in LSA weight propelled this website to an all-time record as light aviation enthusiasts from around the nation and the globe signed on to make comments and shared the article with their friends. Words you read on this website proved to be correct as more information emerges. Specifically, one large error was a quoted date for a new NPRM on this subject. Some outlets reported it would be released on January 19, 2019. NPRM is an abbreviation for Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and precedes any new regulation, allowing for comment and revision. Before such a NPRM is released, FAA has normally spoken to many parties that could be affected. That largely has not happened yet and for a good reason. The NPRM is nowhere-near ready to be published, certainly not on such a specific date as January 19th next year.
Stop the PressesThis news was flabbergasting to many and upsetting to others. Having worked rather closely with FAA over the last four and a half years, in my role as LAMA president, I was sure parts of this were incorrect. I reached out to contacts in the agency and got a reply even though government is closed for Columbus Day. Here's what I learned from the group tasked with preparing this rule. First — The announced date of "January 19, 2019" simply cannot happen. The team creating the rule does not possibly have the time to complete work by then. In fact, it is more likely "three to four years away." The new rule is a huge, sweeping effort that touches on many FAR parts; it cannot be completed on such a rushed schedule, nor would doing so be prudent. Second — An effort is being made to align this major new regulation with the Basic Med rule, meaning that, yes, gross weight may go as high as was stated — and extra seats may be added — but, this is by no means determined yet. It will not even go before FAA's high level rulemaking council for initial determination until December …if then. At this time, "this is just at the discussion stage," reported my contact. Third — LSA gross weight will rise but "not to a hard number" like 3,600 pounds. It will involve a maximum horsepower, a given stall speed, among other considerations, all of which will rely on the laws of physics to keep the aircraft design reasonable. In July, in this report, I described changes that FAA told us were coming. That report was shown to the rule-writing group before publication and they replied, "No changes necessary." It still stands as a valid report.
Naturally, Industry Is ConcernedRemember in the fall of 2011, when EAA and AOPA announced a change in aviation medicals? The surprise announcement — which subsequently took years to enact (becoming what we call Basic Med) — caused an immediate drop in orders. Orders already placed were cancelled. Other orders never got placed as pilots began to ponder what would happen next. About this weekend's news, one U.S. supplier said, "I’m pretty worried." He's concerned people may hold off a purchase, waiting to see what happens. "I’ve seen it before," he added. However, since the new rule remains years away, no buyer ought to halt the joy of acquiring and flying a new aircraft. Another industry expert said, "I hate being caught flat-footed like this." He remembered clearly what happened with the early announcement of medical changes. While all the buzz today may be about gross weight, the light aircraft industry has other concerns about the regulations that LAMA and USUA will continue to vigorously pursue.
This weekend a firestorm erupted out of the blue. A wave of questions is ringing my phone, piling up text messages, and populating my social media accounts. Because it seems premature, I preferred not to weigh in on LSA weight but given the volume of comments, neither can I remain silent. In addition, a shockingly near-term timeline for FAA to issue rulemaking further enforces the need to speak out now. I will provide information gleaned just an hour ago. In case you missed the story, here’s what AOPA reported: “EAA chairman and CEO Jack Pelton [was invited] onto the stage. On January 19, 2019, Pelton said, the FAA will publish a notice of proposed rulemaking that seeks to raise the weight limit for Light-Sport Aircraft from the current 1,320 pounds to 3,600 pounds.” AOPA went on to quote Pelton, “That will allow you to fly in a 172, have four seats in the airplane, and fly 150 mph.” Stop the Presses This news was flabbergasting to many and upsetting to others.
Introducing a Fractional A5At this summer's Oshkosh event, Icon announced a new "Managed Fractional Program." They describe it as one "to allow easier and lower-cost access to A5 ownership."
One More ThingIf you feel the fractional program doesn't work for you, yet you admire what Icon has done …well, one more possibility exists for your involvement. Can your interest be turned into a money-making proposition? Yes, it can. You can be an Icon Advocate. Enroll in their program and refer someone who buys — you could make $10,000. Refer someone who wants to offer A5 flight training, become a Service Provider, or join as a Sales Advocate and you can earn $15,000. Do this a few times — no limit is imposed on the program — and you might earn enough for your own airplane, though admittedly you'll have to do this many times to afford your own A5. While I could wish an A5 hadn't reached such top-of-the-category pricing*, I do applaud the California company's effort to cope with their pricing issues and the airplane is indeed a well-thought-out beauty.
Here's my review of Icon's A5https://youtu.be/ONzOx6tEay4
* A Carbon Cub isn't priced much less than an A5 yet has steadily risen to be the top selling Light-Sport Aircraft in America.
Have you noticed how much LSA seaplanes pop up on this website and all over the web and print world? I admit to fascination with the developments these versatile aircraft are bringing to market but my attitude is shared by many others. For example, I enjoyed reading AOPA journalist Dave Hirschman‘s account of his solo trip crossing the width of the United States in an A5. Read the whole story here. Dave is an excellent writer and an experienced pilot. His account is very positive, yet balanced. Having flown the A5, I found his observations largely matched mine. However, a problem exists. As time passed, Icon has steadily raised the price of A5. What started as an affordable seaplane with innovative features has progressed to be an aircraft that even founder Kirk Hawkins agrees can only be bought by rather wealthy owners. That same scenario can be used for Cirrus Aircraft and its SR20 and SR22 (their most expensive model that accounts for a solid majority of their sales).
Crazy, or Real? …but FascinatingOur preceding article about a Lighter-than-Air LSA looks fairly tame compared to Scorpion. I know many readers are doubtful about either development …and that's OK. Pilots being skeptical is a preservation instinct: don't go fly any old thing that comes along; applying logic, analysis, and a serious measure of doubt may keep you alive. Some readers who read the earlier Scorpion article thought the close proximity of spinning props to the occupants legs was nuts (even if protections were in place). Others wrote that sitting above the blades was equally weird (although the first Kitty Hawk Flyer used a similar concept). I can understand all sorts of questions — or outright dismissal — but it appears multicopters are here to stay, even if their form may change radically in the years ahead. To their credit Hoversurf did consult FAA as this letter from Principal Maintenance Inspector Wilbert Robinson proves. Hoversurf explains some of their ideas, "We have designed a monocoque frame created using different types of carbon fiber technology. The whole frame is made by a single element, which gives the stiffness of the structure … while reducing the weight by a factor of two compared to our previous aluminum model. … Dimensions of the hoverbike allow it to be rolled in a standard doorway while also having ability to take-off and land from an ordinary parking space. … [Scorpion] weighs (253 pounds) … reducing the weight of the frame … allowed us to install a more capacious battery. Our safe flight altitude is 16 feet above ground, but the pilot can adjust the limit to their comfortability. … Maximum speed is limited to 60 mph or 52 knots according to the requirements of the law." If you want to read more about the company's view of Scorpion, go here. A few points need to be clarified:
- In one video the company representative speaks of "no limits," saying you can fly as high as you like or as fast as you like. Of course, most readers know a Part 103 vehicle is limited to 55 knots or 63 mph. The website acknowledges this but the video was evidently produced before the Part 103 decision was made. The quote in the paragraph above shows company officials may have also backed away from the "fly as high as you like" comment.
- In a couple other videos, Scorpion's price is quoted at $59,900, which less doubtful buyers might pay. Yet the website states the asking price at $150,000. At the latter figure, I imagine the number of buyers of an unproven vehicle will be very minimal (other than police or military buyers), though I could be wrong.
- What might be more workable and acceptable is a drone version that carries goods instead of a human. The website has information about this but that use is much less impactful than showing manned flight.
So far, at least three entries* in the multicopter sweepstakes qualify themselves as Part 103 ultralight vehicles. I’m guessing that lead FAA rule writer, Mike Sacrey, never envisioned this idea back in 1982 when he and his team created aviation’s least-regulated aviation sector. In those days, FAA had only recently moved away from requiring that such aircraft demonstrate foot launching. Mike would have needed a genuine crystal ball to foresee something like Scorpion 36 years ago. Let’s briefly put this in perspective — most readers had yet to buy their first computer; we were still 13 years away from the World Wide Web; it was a quarter century before the iPhone; even Light-Sport Aircraft were 22 years in the future. Had Mike written a regulation back then to include multicopters like Scorpion he would surely have been relocated to some remote post where his craziness would not be obvious.
FAA’s Light-Sport Aircraft category involves quite the intriguing mixture of aircraft. Fixed wing aircraft of many descriptions, weight shift, powered parachute, gyroplanes, motorgliders, seaplanes, of course, and, lighter-than-air. Every niche has been well explored …except for that last one. Now comes FlyDoo from France, an LSA-category-fitting hot-air balloon. Designer Leandro Corradini thought he could deliver something that didn’t exist in the market so he set up shop to supply envelope, basket, burner, and more in a practical, lightweight, compact, and easy-to-transport and -store package. FlyDoo breaks down compactly enough that you could easily store it in your house or apartment. He even shows pictures of transporting it to a flying field by adding a wheel and tow bar kit to the gondola making the aircraft into a small trailer that can be towed by a bicycle. Leandro observes that established balloon manufacturers are accustomed to working in the FAA or CAA certified aircraft environment, often building large balloons used commercially to give rides.
Welcoming Steve Beste"I'm a retired computer guy and trike pilot who loves databases," Steve told me. He used his special set of skills to download FAA's aircraft registration database to compile statistics on gyroplane registrations, focused on the new European-style gyroplanes. As you can see, AutoGyro is the clear market leader at 52% with 163 aircraft of 312 gyroplanes registered with FAA. The German builder is trailed by Magni in the #2 slot at 18% with 56 registrations. A new American manufacturer, SilverLight Aviation, has quickly tied Spanish producer ELA for third at 8% with 26 aircraft registered for each. After that it trails off more quickly as Steve's chart shows. More details about other brands will be chronicled in an article to follow. For 2018 through July 23rd, Magni shows its strength by slightly beating AutoGyro U.S. registrations. As always, note that confirmed sales and registrations may not match precisely. In addition, much more of 2018 remains. In slightly more than half a year, gyroplanes registered 58 aircraft putting them on track to exceed 100 for the year. To offer perspective, this figure is approaching half as many as SLSA fixed wing registrations in recent full years. So far this year, Magni has 15 registrations to AutoGyro's 14 for 26% and 24% shares totaling half of total U.S. gyroplane registrations. SilverLight has registered 8 aircraft in 2018 for a 14% yearly share of 2018 to date. A less well recognized U.S. producer, Tango, is having a respectable year, with 9 registrations accounting for 16% in 2018 so far. Tango is trailed by ELA with 6 registrations (10%), Australia's Titanium and Italy's Brako tied at 3 for 5% each. One interesting point: only Tango and Brako offer a single place gyroplane; all others are two place machines.
Much More Data to Follow!Steve Beste and I have been discussing him providing database research to allow this website to continue providing LSA Market Share Info. Many visitors have written to ask; indeed, we are way behind on this effort. The delay is ending. After Steve gets time to study the previous work and methods, he has proposed some wonderful improvements. About the special skills he can offer, Steve wrote, "I'm a retired computer guy and trike pilot who loves databases." Well, that certainly sounds perfect to me. "I'm also the president of Flying Club 1, which was the original USUA Chapter 1," Steve added. "Regarding the FAA database, I'd very much like to reach beyond just [fixed wing] airplanes, partly because I'm a trike pilot, myself. I think that's entirely possible." Given this background, his obvious enthusiasm for this work, and the keen interest of many in light aviation, I am exceedingly pleased to welcome Steve to this website. "[However, FAA's] data is not clean," Steve observed. I am well aware of this problem. Uncertainty about data accuracy of "alternative" LSA is why we have reported fixed wing Special LSA, only offering guesses for weight shift trikes, powered parachutes, gyroplanes, motorgliders, and more. However, we hope that will now change and our market share reporting will be more inclusive. Hurray! Problems in FAA's database is not caused by incompetent clerks. Agency personnel must sort through inconsistently-reported aircraft. If, as Steve pointed out in one example, the registered name of the aircraft is slightly different, it won't show up on a casual investigation. He added, "There's no end of that kind of thing …just so we know the limitations on this exercise. But with that understanding, I love this kind of thing, I have the skills to do it, and would be honored to support your good work for the sport." All such reporting will be available on the home page when fresh and catalogued on its own space found by this link. Wonderful, simply wonderful! Please welcome Steve Beste as a new contributor to ByDanJohnson.com!
UPDATE September 26, 2018 — In the article above, I inadvertently suggested SilverLight and their American Ranger gyroplane was the first or only U.S. producer of such aircraft. That is not what I intended but some readers viewed it that way. Allow me to bring your attention to two other producers.
Sport Copter & Rotor Flight DynamicsBased in Oregon, Sport Copter is a long established, second-generation family business started in 1958. Chuck Vanek was one of the early pioneers of gyroplane design and development beginning his work in 1957. Chuck's son Jim Vanek took over the business and revamped the Vancraft designs. He said his "award-winning, world’s-first, two-place gyroplane took the prestigious Charles Lindbergh award at the Oshkosh airshow in 1985." The company also reports his Sport Copter II design was voted as one of the Top Ten Best Designs at AirVenture in 2011. An airshow performer, Jim said he wrote the parameters and guidelines for gyroplane looping for the FAA in 1998 after performing the world’s first loop in a conventional gyroplane, in 1997. The company's website reports, "He is the only gyro pilot in the world that holds an International Council of Air Shows card for gyroplane looping and rolling." Don't even think about trying this yourself, however. Rotor Flight Dynamics, founded and run by Ernie Boyette, produces a two place and single variations of their Dominator line. Sold as kit aircraft, the two-place model can be powered by Hirth four-cylinder engines, Subaru/AutoFlight EA-81, or the 115-horsepower Rotax 914 Turbo. The company said, "We offer 22 thru 28 foot rotor blades of our own design with a lift capability from ultralight thru 1,200 pounds gross weight." They added, "We are the only manufacturer that test flies all blade sets prior to shipping." For export, Rotor Flight will fully build their aircraft but in the USA, FAA will only permit them to deliver kits, the same as all gyroplane producers. As with all the modern gyroplanes, Rotor Flight uses a substantial tailplane. "The Dominator [series of one and two-place machines] incorporate the Tall Tail design for stability." Asked how their product differs, the company's website states, "What makes the Dominator so unique is its high profile design. It sits up very high off the ground."
Updated September 26, 2018 — This article has been updated to include more producers. See at bottom. —DJ Over many years, you have found LSA market share information on this website. Many have found this of interest …from businesses learning more about their market; to customers doing careful investigation before paying tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for a new aircraft; to government fulfilling its task of regulating industry; to insurance companies assessing risk of providing their product; and many other actors in the blockbuster movie that is light, recreational aviation. I will have more to say about the broader LSA market share reports below but now I want to present the best information I have seen for Light-Sport Aircraft Gyroplanes. …uh, except for one problem. No such aircraft category exists, SLSA gyroplanes, that is. FAA has denied fully-built Special LSA status to rotary winged aircraft such as gyroplanes.
Years in the Making
"Simplification and demystification of the flying experience has been one of our main goals" stated Tomas. That helps explain a very small instrument and control console. "It contains what you need to get the job done in a minimized fashion, to keep your focus where its should be; on the outside of the aircraft," added Tomas. Supporting that goal is a large canopy offering a wide-open field of view.
Further innovation is a fly-by-wire rudder and drive-by-wire nosewheel. "Both are experimental technologies, Tomas explained, "that we believe may make it simpler for the prospective owner and pilot to learn how to fly. No more hand and foot coordination, here you can put your feet up high and use your hands only for all control inputs."
Power, Power, Power!
P2 Xcursion's thrust is provided by an unusual aviation powerplant involving three elements: a motor spinning the prop; an electric generator supplying the motor and batteries; and an internal combustion engine powering the generator. At this time, P2 has both a test and boost battery plus it has the required electronic control unit (ECU).
If you are like me and used to Rotax, Continental, Jabiru, UL Power, Viking, Hirth, or AeroMomentum all this might sound strange. Yet it may be the way of the future …even if that future remains somewhat over the horizon.
Engiro M97 Electric is a 97 kW (130 horsepower) water- and air-cooled motor weighing only 32 kilograms (70 pounds). The manufacturer notes maximum power is available for three minutes, enough to break the water surface and start a climb; continuous power is 60 kW or 80 horsepower.The internal combustion engine is a WST KKM 352 Wankel Multi Diesel producing 57 kW (76 horsepower). It weighs 45 kilograms (about 100 pounds). In between is a Engiro G60 outputting 60 kW (80 horsepower), a water cooled generator weighing 15 kilograms (about 33 pounds). As a sum, the three elements weigh 233 pounds, roughly the weight of a legacy 100 horsepower aviation powerplant. Batteries and controllers add to the weight, perhaps explaining the gross weight of 750 kilograms or 1,653 pounds. This weight and electric propulsion would eliminate P2 Xcursion except FAA is presently considering both electric power and a different way to calculate gross weight that would disregard the current 1,430 pound (650 kg) LSA seaplane weight limit. See more on FAA's future regulation plans.
Developing P2 XcursionTomas was inspired by first Equator builder, Günter Pöschel. Tomas wrote, "Günter was CEO of Equator Aircraft Company. He made remarkable aircraft (multi-passenger photo) that were way ahead of their time from 1969 to 1985. His substantial knowledge and stories were too good to overlook." Many years later, Equator's P2 Xcursion first took flight in spring of 2018. That accomplishment, while no doubt immensely satisfying, opened the next chapter: raising the money to go forward with the project. "We are delighted and very proud to announce that Equator Aircraft AS has successfully achieved its Seedrs crowdfunding initial target investment," the company wrote. "The Equator team expresses a huge thank you to nearly 400 investors who share Equator's vision and have committed almost €160,000 (about $185,000) to date." While a tiny fraction of what Icon Aircraft has generated, this sum will evidently allow Tomas and team to proceed. You can help if you are so motivated using this link. Learn more and see more about Equator P2 Xcursion in this video from Aero 2018. In it, I interview electric flight expert and publisher, Willi Tacke, who filled in while Equator's personnel were about to take their first flight. Check out eFlight Journal (here's a PDF issue). P2 Xcursion specification appear below the video. https://youtu.be/0a-7FY33y_I
- Seating — 2, side-by-side
- Gross Weight — 750 kilograms (1,653 pounds)*
- Useful Load ("dry" weight) — 240 kilograms (529 pounds)
- Maximum Cruise Speed — 130 knots
- Economy Cruise Speed — 118 knots
- Fuel Consumption — 20 liter/hour (about 5 gallons/hour )
- Stall Speed (no flaps) — 52 knots
- Stall Speed (with flaps) — 48 knots
- Range — 845 nautical miles
- Avionics — MGL iEFIS with remote transponder and radio
- Propeller — DUC Flash, with custom DUC hub and spinner
- Controller — Sevcon size 8; 2 components, 8 kilograms (18 pounds) per controller, water cooled
- Boost Battery — Custom LiIon pack; 6 kWh, 32 kilograms (70 pounds)
- with separate battery management system
- Test Battery — LiPo pack; 18 kWh, 100 kgs (220 pounds)
- EMS — Sevcon & Equator Aircraft custom screen solution
- Engine Cooling — Common automotive heat exchangers, 4 elements
This article has been updated with a new image; a minor correction was made. LSA seaplanes have provided some of the most interesting new developments in aviation. Perhaps interest stems from the vast numbers of landable waterways compared to runways. Perhaps it’s the versatility of amphibians. Maybe people are simple drawn by the good looks or unique qualities of entries. Among the several projects, one of the most fascinating has been the hybrid electric seaplane called Equator P2 Xcursion, from Norway. I have reported on P2 Xcursion before; here’s the earlier article. Years in the Making CEO and lead designer Tomas Brødreskift reports the company has invested some 30,000 man-hours into the Equator Aircraft project. An engineer, private pilot, and recreational flying enthusiast, he acquired a passion for flying that most readers know well. Like many of them, he saw in the aircraft he was flying a lack of modern design.
New Owners and New ManagementMore than a relocation, Paul went on to say, "A Brunswick Maine private equity group led the acquisition of Clamar Floats with support by Coastal Enterprises, Inc. After the change, Paul will head Clamar’s Brunswick Landing operation. "Clamar’s new manufacturing facility will leverage a recently commissioned, advanced composites manufacturing center which includes an environmentally controlled layup room, high temperature processing oven, paint booth and advanced machining suite," said Paul. “I’ve been fascinated by water flying my entire life,” said Clair Sceli. ”I’ve been flying for over 50 years and for the past 20 focused on designing and building the best composite floats in the world. It is gratifying to see my products on 28 different airframes and the Clamar brand has been so widely accepted that my current facility was bursting at the seams trying to keep up." Clair continued his explation, "Undertaking a capital expansion at my stage of life seemed like the wrong decision so I sought out people who could support my customers from a world class facility and was fortunate to partner with Paul Richards and the folks in Brunswick, Maine.” Clamar's product line ranges from LSA (the 1400 series was designed for the Flight Design CTLS) to a 3500 class for heavier aircraft. “I’ve known Clair for many years and his products are fantastic, but his attention to quality and customer service are just as important," said Paul, "and we are excited to have Clair stay on in a senior consulting role to make sure we maintain his high standards." The Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority (MRRA) was established to transition the Brunswick Naval Air Station to civilian use and Steve Levesque has been its Executive Director since its formation in 2007. “Although aviation is not our only mission” states Levesque, “the Navy left us a hugely valuable asset and we strive to attract companies like Clamar Floats to take advantage of the taxpayer’s investment. Clamar’s move to Brunswick could not be more perfectly matched to this mission.” Other supporters of the Brunswick development include former FAA administrator Barry Valentine. Currently, Valentine is the Chairman of the Maine Aviation Business Association (MABA). Here's are two video interviews with Clair Sceli posted in 2016 and 2014… https://youtu.be/9BR1Il6FwL8 https://youtu.be/xBoMjxwPD9s
While weather starts to cool in the northern USA, in the sub-tropical south, it is still warm enough to enjoy float flying. However, even up north — Maine, in this case — seaplane activity continues to pace the LSA market. Recently, seaplane enthusiast and businessman Paul Richards informed us of a move for a leading producer of floats for light aviation: Clamar. Paul wrote, “Clamar Floats designs and produces straight and amphibious floats for experimental aircraft using high-tech materials and vacuum infusion technology to produce the lightest and strongest floats available.” Until this announcement, the company has been located in London, Ontario Canada. However, Paul reported that Clair Sceli, founder of Clamar Floats, announced the upcoming relocation of Clamar’s manufacturing operations to Brunswick Executive Airport on the campus of Brunswick Landing in Midcoast, Maine. He said, “This is a 3,500-acre campus is the former Brunswick Naval Air Station now operated by the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority.” The onetime military facility includes an 8,000 foot runway while the seaplane-accessible Androscoggin River water is less than two miles from the departure end of runway 01.