News about Sebring Expo’s shutdown captivated readers of this website. Other media outlets also picked up on the news. It may be unfortunate that bad news attracts us so powerfully but that is reality. Many readers asked a similar question: “Why?” While some other media outlets clearly speculated over the reasons for the shutdown decision, I did not buy all the explanations. One writer guessed that exhibitors had decreased. While the number of vendors buying space has fluctuated over the years, as it does for all other shows, I’m lead to believe that was not a primary reason. Another reporter said “foot traffic” was too low but that probably shows that the writer compares every aviation event to Oshkosh and if it does not draw similarly-dense crowds, then something is wrong. Instead, these events — that I call sector-specific shows — are more focused. That makes them far more accessible to serious buyers wanting extra time with the representatives of the aircraft that have drawn their interest.
Another One Bites the DustPerhaps the Sebring cancellation is a sign of the times. Another, even better-known series, is also calling it quits. Plane & Pilot magazine's online outlet reported, "For 16 years now, since its inception in 2003, the Red Bull Air Races have given the aviation world the kind of star power that other motor sports are all about. But the expensive and logistically difficult-to-produce events haven’t created household names, as is the case with other motor sports, though the company didn’t cite that as a cause for its decision." "The news came as a shock," Plane & Pilot continued, "with the company suddenly announcing on Wednesday, May 29 that 2019 will be its last year. Three races remain for this year’s series, with events in Russia, Hungary and Japan. In all, the series has included more than 90 races.”
So, with some sadness, we conclude our reporting from Sebring with many articles and videos earlier this year. More videos are still in development and people will be telling stories about Sebring for years to come. Thanks for the memories, Mike Willingham, Bev Glarner, Janice Rearick, Jana Filip, and Bob Woods (leaders of Sebring Expo over the years). You gave it your all and it was good. Blue skies! For those that want to reminisce, here's a link to our many stories from Sebring over the years.
“It’s a wrap” as the iconic LSA show called Sebring Expo (full name Sebring U.S. Sport Aviation Expo) is shutting down after 15 years. The show started the same year LSA arrived on the scene — barely a month after FAA announced the new airplane and pilot certificate category — as the event was initially held in October before shifting to January to avoid hurricane season disruptions that affected the first year. Sebring was hardly on the aviation map as the show began. A notable early success was attracting Phil Lockwood and his multiple enterprises. Those who know Phil are aware he is a particularly careful and deliberate planner so his selection of KSEF was significant and perhaps presaged the long and successful run of Sebring Expo. Over the years, airport executive director Mike Willingham and those he retained to operate the event tried various tactics including a night airshow, adding drone racing and exhibits to the mix, plus relocating the center of activity, finally ending up right in front of the new beautiful airport terminal Mike initiated during his equally long run as the man in charge.
Success Story MkIISee the P92 MkII video or images for yourself but I think you will agree this is one gorgeous aircraft. You can find several of our reports about P92 in its many forms via this link. Americans can contact Tecnam's U.S. base at the Sebring airport. "After 27 years," the company announced, "the Tecnam P92 comes back with a new version. P92 Echo MkII comes today with up-to-date technology, composite fuselage, glass avionics, and the same pleasant flying qualities …safe and easy to fly with beauty, inside and outside." As with its earlier models P92 uses metal wings and a metal stabilator. Tecnam engineers stuck with metal wings and stabilator structures "for strength, reliability, and the ability to flex in flight, thereby ensuring a more comfortable ride." However, "to produce the desired increase in cabin width and greater aerodynamic efficiency [we] chose to construct Mk2's fuselage with carbon fiber." They elaborated that they chose both materials —making this a true composite — for the optimization of aerodynamic qualities, flight characteristic, and reliability. "This addition enabled [us] to make construction decisions based on optimum design and structural integrity rather than purely the cost of production." P92 Echo MkII's interior has also been completely redone. "Doors are lined with automotive-type door seals, seats that give full support with excellent leg room, side map pockets as well as pockets in the back of the seats combine to make the MkII a very comfortable aircraft."
Looks Terrific — Still Flies GreatHow is P92 still worth your investigation even while Tecnam has a whole fleet of desirable aircraft? As the specs below show, it cruises near the top of the allowed range. P92 MkII has a low stall speed (39 knots) "with excellent response at all speeds." Tecnam has long boasted "uncompromising build quality" and P92 MkII has been built to meet requirements for Europe's CS/VLA standards for aircraft certified to this category. Tecnam offers models meeting the European ultralight category (different than the U.S. interpretation of that term), LSA ASTM standards, and Part 23 fully certified aircraft. They make models using twin Rotax power and an 11-seat regional aircraft (seen briefly in the video alongside the P92 MkII). Beside "excellent visibility, roomy space, quiet and ergonomic," P92 uses an all-movable stabilator-type horizontal tail that is traditional on Tecnam aircraft. They say this "allows excellent controllability and excellent 'hands off' longitudinal stability." My own experience backs up this claim. Every Tecnam I've ever flown (most models) have superlative handling. Inside P92 MkII, "the cabin offers newly designed seats and seat rails which are easily operated and adjustable fore and aft via a single handle with a reinforced area between the rails to make cabin access even easier." The company continued, "A roomy baggage compartment with internal access accommodates voluminous items. A comfortable armrest and USB charger round out the luxurious interior." A generously sized instrument panel provides plenty of room for digital screen avionics although a base model is available with simple analog instruments. The model you see in the images and video represent the "Glass Package" featuring avionics from Garmin and their wonderful touchscreen G3X Here are a few specifications on the renewed P92 Echo MkII when built as a Light-Sport Aircraft. Get more directly from Tecnam:
- Max Cruise Speed — 115 knots
- Stall Speed — 39 knots
- Takeoff Distance — 460 feet
- Landing Distance — 393 feet
- Rate of Climb — 755 feet per minute
- Maximum Takeoff Weight — 1,430 pounds (permits adding floats)
- Empty Wight — 750 pounds
- Useful Load — 551 pounds
- Fuel Capacity — 29 gallons
- Range — 700 nautical miles
- Wingspan — 29.5 feet
- Cabin Width — 45 inches
- Baggage Capacity — 44 pounds
I regularly attend Aero Friedrichshafen every April certain I will see aircraft I’ve never seen before — but also because I will see upgrades to existing popular models. This year my informal award for the Most-Improved category goes to Tecnam and their P92 Echo, now in MkII form. First, congratulations! — As I researched this story I discovered Tecnam had a blow-out year at Aero 2019. The company reported exceeding “all of its pre-show expectations with the sale of 51 aircraft covering Certified and Light categories.” Tecnam also celebrated its 70th birthday at Aero where a large staff manned an enormous space featuring three new models: P92 Echo MkII, P2008JC MkII, and P2002JF that is now completing full IFR certification. Success Story MkII See the P92 MkII video or images for yourself but I think you will agree this is one gorgeous aircraft. You can find several of our reports about P92 in its many forms via this link.
Flight School OwnerSunrise was founded and is personally supervised by Michael Church, a national flight training authority, honored by the FAA as Safety Counselor of the Year and recognized as a Master Flight Instructor and Master Aerobatic Flight Instructor. Church has logged more than 11,000 hours of flight instruction given. What does he have to say about his experience with LSA? "It was obvious that LSA was going to potentially revolutionize flight training by reducing expense." Mike acquired his first Evektor in 2009, only five years after LSA burst on the aviation scene. Sunrise trains to all levels, even including aerobatics, so pilots that start in LSA may transition later. Mike wondered how Sunrise students would proceed after primary training in LSA and afterward moving to larger aircraft. "SportStar is perfect. It is a great training vehicle and the transition to larger aircraft seems to be very straightforward." Mike amplified, "Flight instructors like it because it is really a great training airplane. The best trainers are light, small, maneuverable, frisky. The quicker the airplane makes the student aware of a problem, the quicker the student will recognize a maneuver that didn't look right, the easier it is to get the student involved with fixing the problem. From the flight instructor's view, it simply makes the job easier."
Experience — Then and NowAny owner can get jazzed about an airplane he or she recently bought. The excitement of a new purchase can overwhelm the pragmatic aspects of longer-term ownership. Here are Mike Church's thoughts six years ago, in 2013. Later on, we'll update his perceptions. "Cost of operation has proven to be the single biggest value." That was very important to this businessman. He specified fuel use was so much lower than what his schools was used to with Cessna 150s and 172s. Since 1978 avgas has only gotten more expensive. Lower fuel cost seems obvious, perhaps, yet endurance of the airframe is one of the problems regular GA pilots note. "Apparently the low inertia and light weight means they don't break very much," Mike observed. In just four years, he reported reaching engine overhaul in two airplanes, logging more than 2,000 hours in each. "We had very few problems." Way back then, Mike felt, "This is the training airplane to which Sunrise is now committed." So he liked Evektor. What about the Rotax engine those models use? Mike noted that his earlier aircraft went through four overhauls of their Lycoming engines. He became very confident with them. In 2013, Sunrise was still acquiring time with Rotax and Mike considered the trial ongoing but added, "to date, the Rotax engines have been remarkably trouble free." And now? In the six years since, he has become an even bigger advocate of Rotax powerplants. By January of 2019, he reported, "We now have a fleet of five Evektor [both SportStar and Harmony models], and we have accumulated more than 18,000 hours of experience on the airframes and engines." "I can say now with great assurance that the Rotax has proved to be a remarkable piece of machinery. Low cost of operation. Low cost of maintenance. I'm a fan!" Moving from Rotax to other engines means students must learn some new tasks, such as operating mixture control, but he concluded, "This is relatively simple [training] stuff to teach."
How about Mechanics?A flight school owner might be expected to be positive about purchase he made. What happens when Sunrise mechanics are asked about their views of Evektor airframes and Rotax powerplants? Sunrise mechanic Matt Wilderman is an A&P with Inspection Authorization. He relates experience since 2009. "I've never worked with an airplane that demanded so little maintenance. It's mostly been tires and brakes. We've had no major airframe issues and very minor engine issues." He enthusiastically added, "If you keep on top of them, they've been fantastically reliable, more so than any other airplane I've worked on." How does Matt feel about Rotax? "They've also been fantastic. I've never worked with a better aircraft engine." To clarify, Matt added, "We change the spark plugs, the oil, and the filters every 50 hours. Even running avgas we've had no problems with leading that some people have reported. In 2,000 hours we replaced one small spring on the sprague clutch; that's it." "We've had no lubrication issues, no ignition issues. I had questions at first, but despite hard use by students, the engines have held up exceptionally well. Most squawks that I've received have been indicators; it always seems to be the sensor but today even those problems appear to be resolved." "The airframes are so light that you don't see a lot of wear," Matt continued, and in so saying he turns the "light" problem upside down to become a positive. "They just haven't been breaking. I have nothing but praise for the whole LSA program."
What Do Instructors Think?Instructor don't own the equipment nor must they repair it. Here's a sampling of what various Sunrise instructors say. "SportStar is excellent for training. It has nice control responses." "My students love flying this [Evektor]. It's so easy to fly." They relate the students are comfortable in the airplane. "Visibility absolutely unrestricted" and their students like that. "The view is amazing." "The climb performance that Evektor provides us is incredible." Evektor has proven very cost effective. "You only spend about twenty bucks on fuel," said another CFI, referring to the cost of providing a flight lesson. When a Master CFI and owner/operator of a Part 141 flight school talks this way after a decade of experience, it would seem to carry more heft than your average Private Pilot. After building 18,000 hours of total time on a fleet of five Evektor LSA over 10 years experience, Sunrise Aviation remains committed to Evektor Light-Sport Aircraft for primary flight training. Added 5/17/19 — Listen to Sunrise Aviation owner, Mike Church tell you in his own words about his experience with Light-Sport Aircraft as training aircraft in his busy flight school. https://youtu.be/OLd720HCYhU Want more? Here is our flight review of the Evektor Harmony shot at DeLand Showcase 2017: https://youtu.be/nsxFl45FjQw
One of the controversies surrounding Light-Sport Aircraft has to do with that first word: “light.” Early on, one aircraft importer lobbied to remove the word as it was negatively viewed, he believed. Article updated (5/17/19) with newly released video with Sunrise Aviation owner, Mike Church (see below). Indeed, outside of the LSA world, many pilots I’ve spoken to believe these aircraft are too lightly built to hold up in flight training, one of the most demanding of all flight activities. “Yes, an experienced pilot may love a LSA,” they may concede, “but these aircraft cannot hold up to regular flight instruction duty.” Enthusiasts may be biased but what would an actual flight school operator say? To get it straight from the horse’s mouth, I inquired of Sunrise Aviation. This substantial flight school has for more than 40 years operated out of the very busy John Wayne airport in Orange County, California.
Builder Assist CentersNearly everyone in recreational aviation is by now well aware that the country is dotted with enterprises calling themselves a Builder Assist Center. This was not always the case. In short, a Build Center means a buyer of a kit aircraft can find assistance, tools, a facility, jigs, and more at a physical location where they can assemble their chosen kit. Build Centers have proliferated in recent years and a brief background explains why. Back in the 1950s Paul Poberezny and his entourage of airplane enthusiasts willing to build their own flying machine had a tougher path. Homebuilding was a new idea then. In the earliest days you bought plans from a designer and you "scratch built" your airplane by collecting elements and fabricated those you could not buy. Scratch building was difficult and took a long time but it was highly educational. Indeed, that's how Paul and EAA sold the idea to FAA. (Great job, Paul and fellow builders!) Companies like Van's, Rans, and many others slowly evolved the plans-built concept into kits that attempted to speed construction by offering parts, then whole subassemblies, and later, quick-build kits. It took years as FAA and industry worked out the details. Those kits continually got better, more recently including precision match-hole construction that provides parts a builder can more accurately join together without costly jigs. Homebuilding was still time consuming but the process got far easier. Finished aircraft also got better with factory-made parts fitting more perfectly than ones a homebuilder cut or welded him or herself. Over decades this lead to locations where now-qualified builders helped other builders. Finally, people got into the business of helping people. This may not have been exactly what FAA (or Paul) envisioned back in the '50s and '60s but they allowed a great expansion of the idea as part of the experimentation and education of pilot builders. Today, Experimental aircraft are a substantial part of the overall U.S. aircraft fleet (approaching 20% of all aircraft!). Some are marvelous, fast, sophisticated flying machines that Joe Homebuilder probably should not build on his or her own. FAA recognized the value of professional help and did not discourage the effort. As aircraft got more capable (faster, larger, better equipped, more complex) build centers become even more valuable. Some kits were so challenging for the average builder that professionals began to assist them. It took time but these build centers stayed within the limits of what FAA permitted under the so-called 51% rule. Now, with a new regulation in development, the agency may expand on the Professional Builder Center concept greatly.* A pilot seeking any number of fast, bush, or amphibious aircraft — commonly in kit form to deliver a vast array of configurations — will have a far easier time assembling it and the resulting aircraft will almost surely be better.
Then What?Once you've got one of these speedy aircraft built, how can you learn to fly it or transition from a different aircraft you presently fly? Can you hire someone? Yes, you can. This article details another positive change FAA has made to better serve the LSA and Sport Pilot kit community. As this series — "The Future of LSA+SP Kits" — progresses we'll cover other aspects of the regulation to come and how it may affect both producers and buyers. However, implementation of a new rule is still years in the future. Until then, you have many marvelous choices in fine fully-built LSA, kit aircraft, and ultralights …so go enjoy the skies!
* DISCLAIMER — As with following articles in this series, what is described here is the best available information at the time of publication. In spring of 2019, FAA's regulation is still in early stages of development and it is a huge, sweeping rule set that touches on many parts of the FARs. What finally emerges may or may not be as described here.
Could 2020 bring a new description of aircraft under the LSA banner? Could this include greater capabilities and opportunities? Could you get the airplane you want for less? When?! Yes, yes, and yes …but probably not as soon as you want. The regulation may not emerge in 2020 but whatever the announcement date, what could be coming and how will it affect you? We still have more to report from Sun ‘n Fun and Aero 2019 — and we will! — but numerous conversations at each event have pointed to another topic of keen interest to many: “What’s coming and when?” Manufacturers of aircraft are among the most interested to hear more, but so are individual pilots and all the organizations and other enterprises that serve the recreational aircraft market. In this article, let’s take a closer look. (More articles will follow.) EAA has adeptly branded their good work to some of these ends as MOSAIC, or Modernization of Special Airworthiness Certificates.
Front-Row ViewIt has been a great performance and I've gotten to observe from the best seat in the house. Between writing and video, the output approaches 200 stories a year. I sincerely thank each and every one of you for your visits, for your loyal support of our reporting in news and video, but mainly for pursuing your interest in flying and affordable aircraft. The latter is our entire focus. We could not publish this website without the talented folks who design, manufacture, and distribute their fine aircraft or flying gear. Please thank those whose advertisements appear on either side of this news because their support is essential. We are deeply grateful for many individual members but advertising is what pays most of our bills, just as it does for tech behemoths like Google and Facebook. It's the way of the Web. All our content is free to all viewers; all we ask is your email for features like PlaneFinder 2.0. ByDanJohnson.com does not cover certified aircraft, commercial aviation, helicopters, airships, or space travel …although I find all those categories interesting. The good news for those segments is you have many great outlets, online or in print, that cover those activities in great detail. I'm happy we have them and I wish them the best. I know most of the journalists in this space and am humbled to be one of them. I have focused this website like a laser beam on three categories: Light-Sport Aircraft, Sport Pilot kits, and Ultralights — and we will maintain our tight attention on those aircraft and them alone. We hope (and believe) you like it that way.
Then Came VideoIn 2008, Dave Loveman approached me about working with him to do video. He'd made the jump from selling a video magazine to YouTube and because he was early with that — as this website was with embracing the Web — his Ultralight News channel has risen to more than 50,000 subscribers. Search for any light aircraft and Dave's YouTube channel is likely to be the first entry on Google. Over these 11 years, I have performed more than 600 video interviews for Dave's channel. We've talked to nearly everyone in the business, many more than once, some several times. A few years later we started doing Video Pilot Reports (VPRs) and we have a growing library of in-flight reviews. Most recently, I've established the ByDanJohnson YouTube channel where mini-videos (2-3 minutes) can be found. These don't offer the full production of Ultralight News but do offer my own walk-around view of airplanes we examine at shows. My often-repeated line is… "I love what I do and I hope it shows." Based on many kind words I receive at shows, the written and video work must fill a need and I'm deeply honored to play my role.
After the rush of daily reporting from Sun ‘n Fun 2019 and Aero Friedrichshafen 2019 and after a short break following these wonderful, if intensely busy, shows — it’s slightly past due to wish this website a Happy 15th Anniversary! From a handful of readers back in 2004 — when the World Wide Web was a mere nine years old — today this website reaches a global audience that draws more than 60,000 monthly viewers. ByDanJohnson.com launched April 1st, 2004. This seemed clairvoyant when later that year, the long-awaited Light-Sport Aircraft / Sport Pilot regulation was released (in September of 2004). In that decade and a half, the LSA or LSA-like fleet around the world has swelled to more than 66,000 aircraft (see our chart) and this website communicates to nearly all of them sometime during every month. Viewed globally, this remains aviation’s fastest-growing sector and we try to cover it all.
So Many Airplanes, Not Enough Hours…ScaleWings SW51 — When I reported this aircraft in 2018, the "Walter Mitty story" went on to become one of the most popular articles of the year on this website. On social media promotions it also attracted more attention than any other aircraft that year. A year later enthusiasm is still hot. Throngs around the aircraft at Aero reinforced that view. North American's P-51 and its distinctive shape has perhaps inspired more pilots than any other aircraft in history. Therefore, ScaleWings' intricately-detailed execution of a 70% scale replica of the iconic airplane draws admiring looks that few others can hope to match. However, can they really manufacture this artistic work? Last year, I admit I wondered if the company would actually pull off the move to production. Originally known as the FK-51 because it was to be produced by FK Lightplanes' Poland facility, production ran into trouble. The Poland FK factory had various problems unrelated to this one design. Last year that older relationship was causing doubts about their sustained operation. The two went their separate ways. In the last year, ScaleWings has made many changes, upgraded its staff, added test equipment, and brought in a top production man with a background in general aviation, according to front man, Christian von Kessel. Testing has continued using an impressive "strong back," a steel cage-type apparatus built to exert loads on an airframe to prove components and construction methods. The ScaleWings version of this is the most sophisticated I've seen. Work remains but this company is looking solid. Given the keen response to the airplane, if ScaleWings can enter steady production, they might sell all they can make. To learn more, as I imagine many readers may wish to do, look at their brochure (PDF file). Blackwing 600RG — Sweden's success story in light aviation could be summed up in one company's name: Blackwing. Since it first debuted at Aero 2015 the sleek design from the Scandinavian company has drawn many admiring looks. Blackwing exhibits their retractable gear model (600RG) because regulations in most European countries have no speed limit and no ban on retractable gear when operating as European-type ultralights. Therefore many companies in the LSA-like space push speed as a primary selling tool and retractable models are part of this. Displaying his aircraft with gear retracted (photo) Blackwing Sweden Founder and CEO Niklas Anderberg presents his slippery aircraft in its best go-fast look. Current FAA regulations forbid retractable gear except on seaplanes as part of the overall goal to keep these aircraft easier to operate. The original mantra was "simple aircraft in simple airspace." FAA could not know that the new LSA sector would become a worldwide phenomenon that would circle back to help simplify Part 23 (CS-23) certification methods. As reported here several times LAMA has informed industry that significant changes are coming. Beside key regulation changes proposed by LAMA, champions like EAA have fought to expand the professional build-assist center concept. FAA has adjusted its oversight of this effort to support the idea and more accommodating rules are coming. Updated regulations can help companies like Blackwing sell aircraft that exceed the LSA speed limit until we see if FAA will expand the Light-Sport Aircraft category to permit higher speeds. Until then, as interest may express itself, Blackwing also offers a fixed gear version that could enter the U.S. market sooner. JMB Aircraft Update — "JMB Aircraft is run by two Belgium brothers," stated the company. "JMB Aircraft is the production company of the VL3, a plane designed by Vanessa Air and produced in the past by Aveko." Americans may already know this airplane although not from JMB and not called VL3. This is the Gobosh model once rebadged and sold in the USA with fixed gear and winglets. Back in 2007, Jean Marie and his brother represented Aveko models and became responsible for 85% of the producer's sales (outside the U.S). In 2012 they acquired Aveko and by 2015 had taken over production. In recent years, JMB has done well. At their company party at Aero on Friday, Jean Marie gave a short talk where he provided some company data. "We bought the company seven years ago and we now employ 100 people in the Czech Republic. With dealers and other staff, JMB now is served by 150 people. Together they have built, sold, and delivered 320 VL3 aircraft, primarily in Europe with a few in other countries (two are in the USA registered under the Aveko brand). In 2018, JMB built 50 aircraft and Jean Marie said they were planning on 5.5 per month for 2019, or 66 aircraft. By any reasonable measure this is a good performance. JMB does offer a fixed gear model but their website specifies, "Only for flight schools." As with Blackwing, since this Belgium-based company sells primarily in Europe where fast retractable are allowed, why would company leaders like Jean Marie want to show a slower model? JMB said VL3 Evolution can hit 160 knots with the Rotax 914 engine. They are seeking the right partner for America. Find our more about JMB Aircraft here. Fly Synthesis Synchro & Catalina — Fly Synthesis catches my eye every year at Aero. Causing that response is always their sharply raked Synchro that makes an art of looking fast while sitting still. Joining the speedy-looking aircraft was an entry fresh to my eyes. The Catalina NG presents a different view of amphibious LSA-style seaplanes. Despite having a flock of airplanes the brand is unknown in the USA, which reveals another way to show the size of the LSA-like market around the world. Fly Synthesis reports delivering more than 2,000 aircraft, none of which are in the USA. The company stated, "The vast experience accumulated on composite materials in years of activity [in aviation] has allowed us to explore other fields, such as renewable energy (wind power), automotive, and nautical." They also do "research and development, design and prototyping in collaboration with other companies in fields not strictly related to aviation." Despite their diversification, the Italian company offers quite a full line of aircraft beside the Synchro that always catches my eye. Indeed, Fly Synthesis offers: a high wing, Synchro; low wing, Texan; European ultralight-style, Storch; an open cockpit Rotax 582-powered ultralight, Wallaby; and a rather unique approach to seaplanes, Catalina. All these are in production now. Discontinued is the single seat ultralight, Kangaroo.
The stories from Aero — and more from Sun 'n Fun — will continue for a while longer. Selected aircraft may be featured in additional articles with more specific info to that airplane. As soon I return home and as the travel schedule settles, I'll work on a few short (≈ 2 min.) videos to follow. Thanks for following our Sun 'n Fun and Aero Friedrichshafen show coverage! —DJ
Aero Friedrichshafen is over. At the beginning, show organizers said it was their biggest yet, measured by the number of exhibitors. Aero trails AirVenture Oshkosh in this measurement but only slightly. In other words, it’s big …big enough that it’s hard to see everything of interest. In the past days, I’ve covered 16 aircraft that I found interesting and I had to skip many others. I simply did not have the hours needed to visit every exhibitor to hear their story, even if it might be a great one. The show is that rich a target environment for a journalist covering Light-Sport Aircraft, Sport Pilot kits, and ultralights. So Many Airplanes, Not Enough Hours… ScaleWings SW51 — When I reported this aircraft in 2018, the “Walter Mitty story” went on to become one of the most popular articles of the year on this website. On social media promotions it also attracted more attention than any other aircraft that year.
More from Aero as Day 3 closes. Because of the number on display — and because several readers asked — this post will focus on electric propulsion in two distinct forms. Whatever you think about electric as a means of lifting aircraft aloft, escaping its approach appears impossible. Experimentation is happening in all quarters. The following review is far from exhaustive; many other examples could be found at Aero Friedrichshafen 2019. Most agree that batteries are the weak link in the chain and despite repeated promises of annual increases in energy density of 5-8%, it hasn’t happened over ten years I’ve followed this fairly closely. That does not preclude certain effective uses, for example, local area primary flight training or aerobatic flying. Yet flying cross country on batteries remains somewhere in the future. Nonetheless, projects abound and solutions may be upon us. Here’s what I saw today. Hybrid Power from Tecnam, Rotax, and Siemens — I had no choice but to drop big names because these three powerhouses are joining forces on a hybrid system.
Aero Friedrichshafen continues, delivering a broad preview of new aircraft projects plus a glimpse into light aviation in Europe. New ideas run from the fascinating to the futuristic. Some will never make it market but they can contribute ideas to be used on other designs, enhancing overall progress. How does Europe do so much of this? Government funding often comes up in discussions with developers; this is extremely rare in the USA. Attending more than 20 Aeros, I’ve found new ideas every time. Indeed, I usually run out of time before I can get to hear every story. Aero never fails to deliver. Tecnam P92 Mk II — Speaking of progress never stopping, how about Italian juggernaut, Tecnam? Their large space included their sweeping flock of high wing and low wing sport planes, certified four seaters, military projects, their popular Twin multiengine four seater; the company even showed their 11-seat Traveller regional airliner.
Jetting straight from Sun ‘n Fun, we were able to arrive at Aero Friedrichshafen by noon on opening day. A quick swing around the most light-aircraft-filled halls (the “B” halls) brought some fresh surprises. Following are a few designs that caught my eye on an initial pass. The profusion of light aircraft we don’t see in the USA — some of which will never reach the market — is one of the main reasons Aero Friedrichshafen is my favorite show in Europe. This mostly indoor fair (as Europeans call such shows) always has many ideas of interest. Zlin Ultra with Rotax 915iS — Never one to rest Pascale Russo reintroduced his Ultra Shock from last Aero with the more powerful Rotax 915iS. Ultra Shock plays on the term “ultralight,” which means something different in Europe than in the USA (it is a reference to light aircraft quite similar to Light-Sport Aircraft).
Sun ‘n Fun is over. While staff, tent vendors and more have plenty of work to do, customers and vendors have all vacated the area, scattering off across the USA as they return to base. Some have a new airplane. Numerous vendors reported solid sales during the show. Pilots liked what they saw and a good economy is powering activity. I will follow up with a show summary soon. Following I have three more short stories. However, watch for dozens of new videos from Light Sport and Ultralight Flyer on YouTube and I will have further reporting from material gathered at Sun ‘n Fun 2019. MOAC — “Tweety” got mine and lots of well-deserved attention (photo), being the very first airplane American Legend produced, back in 2005. The original aircraft was on display at Sun ‘n Fun. Since the company has since registered 226 aircraft, Tweety launched quite a good run.
Here is our video on Rans Outbound in taildragger configuration but note this is the same airplane seen at Sun 'n Fun 2019 in tricycle gear. https://youtu.be/VxUc0Z2ixCY
Sun ‘n Fun streaks on with Blue Angels and Stearmans cracking the air. Exhibits are active. People are shopping for the right airplane. Strong crowds were present at peak times. Opening day may have set a record. Generally vendors and customers seemed to be in good spirits. Recreational aviation looks healthy. As I spoke with vendors, one comment I heard repeatedly — freely offered but never requested — was “The economy is good. People have money to spend.” This statement came up often enough to give it weight. Those of you shopping at home can have a little fun with PlaneFinder 2.0. Clicking or tapping a few categories will help you zero in on the best choices for you. Then you can click to articles or videos about them. Outbound — Rans has enjoyed quite a run with their newest, the S-21 Outbound. It is a handsome taildragger with performance to make STOL designs jealous.
Lightning FastNow, ultralight pilots (me, for instance) will go on enthusiastically about the beauty of flying slowly, of drifting leisurely over the landscape at a "human speed" that allows enough time to enjoy the expanse of an aerial view of your surroundings. Open cockpit flying adds to the joy facilitated by low airspeeds. Yet the allure of going fast is great, zipping over the countryside. I get that and when contemplating a cross country trip of any real distance, fast cannot be too fast. In addition to a higher TAS, we all yearn for a tailwind that will raise our speed by another 20 mph. Arion Aircraft boss Nick Otterback also feels that desire to fly fast. Along with his since-retired but longtime business partner Pete Krotje, Nick created the dashing, sleek and smooth Lightning, first offered as a kit and a compliant Light-Sport Aircraft. Lightning has enjoyed and continues to execute a good run but like many designers, Nick felt the design could handle more speed. He set out to bump the numbers by installing a Titan X340 with 180 horsepower. This triggered other changes such as a new cowl to accommodate the powerplant. "Our Lightning XS kit has a redesigned forward fuselage structure that gives the builder the option to choose engines up to 180 horsepower," said Nick. "Taller landing gear for bigger props, bigger brakes, and 20 gallon fuel tanks are among some of the features of this new kit." How fast does Lightning XS go? Testing is not complete yet; it recently took to the air. However, Arion is calculating 165 knots (190 mph) TAS at 8,500 feet density altitude at full gross. Climb is a stunning 2,000 fpm. Of course Lightning XS is not a Light-Sport Aircraft and will require a Private or better certificate plus a medical.
Stronger Climb–Efficient Cruise–Greater SafetyRotax, Searey builder Progressive Aerodyne, and RS Technology continue work to acquire knowledge and data about what's called Single Lever Control (SLC). They've been at it a couple years or more and RS Tech is pleased with initial results. Since I first interviewed Michael Stock about this on video, the team has changed to Rotax's newest 915iS engine that supplies 135 horsepower. Combined with the adjustable prop, this becomes an enthusiastic performer. The beauty of the system, in my mind, is that it is so simple. A literal single lever makes the pilot workload no more difficult than a conventional throttle on a fixed pitch prop yet it can deliver increased performance to shorten takeoff runs without sacrificing cruise at altitude. This is a win-win safety argument that FAA recognizes. In our discussions with top executives with the agency they proved surprisingly and pleasantly receptive to considering SLC as they rework the SP/LSA regulation. That's not a guarantee but the odds seem promising. Nonetheless, that regulation is still years away — how many years is an unanswerable question at this point but the wheels of progress are in motion (see an earlier article on this subject). In talking about regulation change, lots of folks are still asking about a speculated weight increase. Yes, one is definitely coming but not to a specific number. A formula will develop gross weight, and no, the final version of that formula is not yet established.
Lightning Bug 2 Encore AppearanceIn the LSA–Sport Pilot kit aircraft–ultralight space, we had a rising star, an emerging talent, and one of the nicest people I've met. His name was Brian Austein. Sadly, this bright young man succumbed to cancer and died since last Sun 'n Fun …a terrible loss. However, his unique legacy lives on in Paradise City in 2019. Brian's last full-sized project, the Lightning Bug 2 (the version number is mine not his), was quite remarkable. LB2 was a 150-pound empty weight aircraft — ponder that weight for a minute — powered by two model aircraft engines. It cost Brian a mere $3,000 out-of-pocket and he produced a man-carrying flying machine. I still find that story rather magical and his one-of-a-kind aircraft design to be utterly a fresh creation. I've never seen anything like LB2 and I'm not sure I ever will again. Catch this video interview with Brian about Lightning Bug. Given his prodigious design ability and inventiveness I found it fun to see some of Brian's other ideas (photo) that he worked on until he died. He bubbled over with ideas as I interviewed him and he wrote from the hospital of another new project in this same ultra-affordable aircraft space. R.I.P. Brian…
You wanna go fast? Of course you do. What pilot doesn’t want to go fast? Lightning Fast Now, ultralight pilots (me, for instance) will go on enthusiastically about the beauty of flying slowly, of drifting leisurely over the landscape at a “human speed” that allows enough time to enjoy the expanse of an aerial view of your surroundings. Open cockpit flying adds to the joy facilitated by low airspeeds. Yet the allure of going fast is great, zipping over the countryside. I get that and when contemplating a cross country trip of any real distance, fast cannot be too fast. In addition to a higher TAS, we all yearn for a tailwind that will raise our speed by another 20 mph. Arion Aircraft boss Nick Otterback also feels that desire to fly fast. Along with his since-retired but longtime business partner Pete Krotje, Nick created the dashing, sleek and smooth Lightning, first offered as a kit and a compliant Light-Sport Aircraft.
* My definition of these terms is that a "seaplane" has a boat hull where a "floatplane" is straight or amphibious floats added to a landline. The terms are not used as official designations. Home page sunset view over Seamax LSA seaplane by Randee Laskewitz
Seaplane flying is a specialty within aviation but it is one that has steady appeal and develops passionate aviators. I prefer to modify that “gear-up landing” line to… “There are pilots who love seaplane flying and there are those will love it.” Be forewarned: Once you touch your seaplane* or floatplane* to the water, it may forever change you. If you think I’m being too dramatic, you probably haven’t flown off the water. Great, so it’s magical to see the countryside from a few hundred feet up. Even better, enjoy flying low across the clear, blue, warm waters of the Bahamas. Examine the shoreline of a big lake in a way you’d never do in a landplane. Compared to airports, seaplane pilots have many times more lakes or rivers able to handle a landing. All are fair game in an emergency and many U.S. waterways will permit normal water operations. Are you convinced yet?
Videoman Dave and I never left Paradise City’s exhibits in our first day of video interviews. Yet we found several airplanes worth reviewing that fit comfortably into the affordable aviation space this website reports. Hawk Ultra — Despite some speculative rumors, all is well with the dual CGS Hawk project involving two-seat Hawk specialist and primary components fabricator Terry Short paired with the father and son team of Bob and LB Santom handling the single place Hawk 103, Hawk Ultra and Hawk Plus. Hawks developed a strong following in the U.S. and several countries with more than 2,000 flying. As the design emerged in 1983, it was only single place. Once Part 103 aircraft were growing and need for a two-seat trainer became apparent, the Hawk Arrow series debuted in several variations. With one or two seats, Hawks won a place in the hearts of many aviators and that continues unabated to this day.
Revo, Rev, Revolt, and _____?One is a new weight shift trike from the most deluxe maker of such rigs, Evolution Trikes. This Tampa Bay-area, Florida company based at Zephyr Hills airport has been a fountain of development since its start. How long has that been? Ten years as it turns out, and to celebrate, they're bringing their latest. Way back when, I wrote this full-length pilot report about Larry Mednick's first offering at Sun 'n Fun 2011, only a couple years after their original model was conceived. In my article I was exceptionally pleased with the trike's development. I wasn't the only one. Judges awarded Revo the Grand Champion Light Sport Aircraft at the 2011 Sun 'n Fun airshow. Since that colorful splash, the company has introduced their Rev (single place Part 103-capable), Revolt (two place ruggedized model) and now coming is RevX. The lone, fuzzy, distorted image that appears to have been captured by a plane paparazzi may give Evolution fans the smallest of hints (and others almost nothing) so you'll have to come to Sun 'n Fun to see for yourself. Of course, I'll report more fully here.
Now Streaming Your WayThe other fresh entry at Sun 'n Fun 2019 is one almost no Americans have seen and not to many Europeans. I saw it at Aero as did a few other Yanks, but to 99% of interested aviators, here's one out of the blue sky yonder. Welcome to Stream, a carbon fiber, low wing, tandem seating, retractable gear lightplane. Stream is clearly part of the TL family but is completely different than the preceding two models — that Americans already know. Sting has been their lead example through four iterations of the sleek low wing design: Sting-S2-S3-S4. Years ago Sting was offered with retractable gear but then came Light-Sport Aircraft rules so fixed gear became the norm. Later came the similarly built but high wing, yoke-controlled Sirius. Now, Stream… TL Ultralight has been active in the LSA world for many years and was first represented by SportairUSA. At Sun 'n Fun 2019 three very different models of Czech Republic manufacturer, TL Ultralight are on display near (and in) the LSA Mall. A big difference: the large TL display was mounted by newer representative, TL Aircraft USA, run by Michal Margolien. The U.S. based company, with roots in the origin country of Czech Republic, is displaying a Sting, a turbo Sting, the company's high wing Sirius, and Stream. The example was built as it must be for the American market as an Experimental Amateur Built model. A husband and wife team just return from a month in Czech Republic where they fulfilled all requirements for FAA approval. It is their airplane on display.
Starting Tomorrow (TU-4/2/19)Come see the new Evolution, the new Stream and who knows what else at Sun 'n Fun 2019! You can visit a whole flock of Light-Sport Aircraft, Sport Pilot kits, and the engines that power them in the LAMA LSA Mall. Catch the free Rotax XPress and see for yourself.
What’s new at Sun ‘n Fun 2019? Again, as I’ve observed for previous airshows, it appears impossible for all exhibitors to be ready by gates-open tomorrow, Tuesday April 2nd, 2019. As usual, it will somehow, magically come together and most attendees will be none the wiser. Early arrivers know the truth of which I speak. I have knowledge ahead of the fact and I promised not to leak the announcements. Sun ‘n Fun visitors can check out these new machines for themselves. I am aware of two new aircraft and they could hardly be more different. Revo, Rev, Revolt, and _____? One is a new weight shift trike from the most deluxe maker of such rigs, Evolution Trikes. This Tampa Bay-area, Florida company based at Zephyr Hills airport has been a fountain of development since its start. How long has that been? Ten years as it turns out, and to celebrate, they’re bringing their latest.
What's New for SeaMax?SeaMax is now offering the fuel-injected Rotax 912iS as an engine option. The first such was sent to Norway — where SeaMax has long had a solid base of enthusiasts — and the company reports customers from the USA are ordering this version. The first SeaMax with the 912iS arrives in America this coming May. Get more 912iS info. The Brazilian company, with operations in Daytona Beach, Florida, launched a refreshed website recently. Web surfers can find prices for all versions on the site, download a brochure, and find a redesigned support area with all technical publications to download plus a troubleshooting area. For its 2019 lineup, SeaMax engineers have redesigned the cockpit. The company is offering three standard panels at different price points (see all of them):
- Performance — All analog; keeping the plane light-weight
- Exclusive — Combining the Garmin G3X 10.6-inch Touchscreen and analog instruments, making a hybrid panel, bringing versatility and great for training
- Exclusive Dual — Two Garmin G3X 10.6-inch touchscreens plus a G5
Most Americans know the childhood story about the “Little Engine that Could,” a tale of determination, working against long odds and succeeding despite them. I think that relates to SeaMax. Visually, SeaMax looks small, low, and compact compared to some LSA seaplanes. Taking nothing away from the others, SeaMax appears ready to fill a need for something sportier, speedier. Despite its small size, SeaMax delivers comfort and capability. Learn more in my flight evaluation video below, but at Sun ‘n Fun 2019 starting in just a few days, SeaMax will be present with their staff to address more inquiries. Perhaps even more important, SeaMax Aircraft will have a airplane in the LSA Mall that will give demonstration flights to interested buyers. The flying will be done by Russ Miley with whom I flew for the Video Pilot Report (see below). I found him a wonderful instructor — I had asked him to treat me as a student.
This Just In!Follow the Sling TSi LIVE tomorrow, Sunday March 31st, 2019, as the new model flies this route: KTOA – KLAL (Coast to Coast) • Torrance, California to Lakeland, Florida, a distance of 1,900 nautical miles Intended Departure: Sunday at 4 AM Pacific • Landing Florida before 7 PM Eastern in a flight forecast to take "under 12 hours" at a predicted speed of 160 knots (184 mph), at altitude. You can track the flight on FlightRadar24. Why would the boys from The Airplane Factory USA make such a long flight non-stop? Their purpose is "to demonstrate the altitude, true airspeed, and endurance/economy of the Sling TSi." They call out a normal cruise will be at 155 KTAS at 9,500 feet burning eight gallons an hour using the Rotax 915iS. The turbocharged FADEC engine will allow the airplane to climb as high as 20,000 feet. Sling TSi has standard tanks of 45 gallons capacity or optional long-range wing tip tanks that add an additional 22 gallons plus an internal portable tanks of 20 gallons for a grand total of 87 gallons on board. Visit The Airplane Factory USA at Sun 'n Fun and see Sling TSi — you can also arrange a demo flight — at their Sun 'n Fun exhibit spaces N-082 and N-089. Until you can see it in all its aluminum glory, here is a short video to whet your appetite. Also, added since this post went live is a longer-length review of Sling TSi. Click this link to read the report in General Aviation News. https://youtu.be/JVH2Gt0BNEU
This Just In! Follow the Sling TSi LIVE tomorrow, Sunday March 31st, 2019, as the new model flies this route: KTOA – KLAL (Coast to Coast) • Torrance, California to Lakeland, Florida, a distance of 1,900 nautical miles Intended Departure: Sunday at 4 AM Pacific • Landing Florida before 7 PM Eastern in a flight forecast to take “under 12 hours” at a predicted speed of 160 knots (184 mph), at altitude. You can track the flight on FlightRadar24. Why would the boys from The Airplane Factory USA make such a long flight non-stop? Their purpose is “to demonstrate the altitude, true airspeed, and endurance/economy of the Sling TSi.” They call out a normal cruise will be at 155 KTAS at 9,500 feet burning eight gallons an hour using the Rotax 915iS. The turbocharged FADEC engine will allow the airplane to climb as high as 20,000 feet.
Three-In-a-Row SeaterNew Gen-3 model airframes will have the option of incorporating a third seat located behind the second seat and a 220-pound gross weight increase from the current 1,680-pound max gross weight to 1,900 pounds. “The new jump seat will be quickly removable to convert between cargo and and third passenger,” added Phil. The third seat can be installed in either an open-cockpit AirCam or one with the full enclosure canopy. The canopy — developed some years after AirCam first emerged — was designed from the start to accommodate the third seat. “Numerous improvements have been incorporated in the new Gen-3 model airframes to accommodate the optional gross weight increase and jump seat,” said Lockwood. “The landing gear has been strengthened to accommodate greater landing and take off weights. Landing gear modifications include new stronger gear legs, a beefed-up fuselage gearbox and upgraded Beringer wheels and brakes.” Phil Lockwood also reported AirCam’s aft section of the fuselage and tail spring have also been strengthened to accommodate the higher loads. The new fuselage incorporates a new set of foot wells to improve comfort and safety when utilizing the jump seat. These new foot wells also increase the volume of the cargo bay when not using the third seat. “You’ll also find harness attachment hard points that are built into the new fuselage for the third seat passenger,” Lockwood said. The Sebring, Florida company noted that some float-equipped AirCams have already been operating at higher gross weights, up to 2,000 pounds, based on the capacity of the amphibious landing gear and increased lift provided by the floats at high angles of attack. The Gen-3 model airframe benefits are designed to allow for increased gross weights for land planes only.
Higher Power — More Is GoodAirplanes are somewhat like sound equipment. If you get a more powerful amplifier you may need new speakers and that may require other better equipment. On an airplane if you increase capability, you may need more power, which means better engine mounts and so forth. Being Rotax experts known across the country, Lockwood's enterprise was ready to step up the potency of their twin engines. They've long offered the more powerful turbocharged Rotax 914. Most AirCams, however, work wonderfully well with a pair of the 100-horsepower Rotax 912ULS or 912iS engines. Even more could be better, you might agree. To provide the additional single engine performance needed for the higher gross weights of AirCam Gen 3 Lockwood Aircraft is offering a new, upgraded 115-horsepower Rotax 912 power package using a “big-bore kit” involving new cylinders and heavier pistons. “Customers opting for the standard 100-horsepower 912 engines will be limited to the original 1,680-pound maximum gross weight,” Lockwood clarified. “The additional 15 horsepower per engine is achieved though an increase in displacement with no increase in weight.” Customers may purchase or retrofit either a carbureted 912 ULS or fuel injected 912iS engine package to provide 115-horsepower upgrades for either engine model. Buyers or owners can opt to install the 115-horsepower package at a later date. What may be exciting for current owners of a 912ULS or iS on another airplane is that this engine upgrade is something you can achieve retroactively. The cost is about $6,000, Phil indicated, but for that money you get a substantial performance boost. If interested, contact Lockwood Supply to see if they can help you in your aircraft. Wait a couple weeks, though. As this is written, Sun 'n Fun 2019 is about to start and it will be most hands on deck at the event leaving a smaller staff at home in Sebring. Give them time to return and check out the new, powerful, non-turbo 912 with 115-horsepower. Get more details, some AirCam development history, and more in the following video: https://youtu.be/ur3Gl0COTGo
Let me admit right up front: I am a big fan of AirCam. I have flown several different examples. I have done a flight report in one with boss Phil Lockwood. I even earned my Multi-Engine Rating in one. For a longtime open-cockpit ultralight pilot like me, AirCam may be the ultimate expression of a fun aircraft in which you can do things you shouldn’t even consider in most other airplanes. So, when Phil told me about Lockwood Aircraft‘s new Gen-3 (third generation) AirCam, I was more than a little interested. Here’s the skinny. “Beginning with the opening day of Sun ‘n Fun 2019 we will be debuting major upgrades to the AirCam airframe and powerplant packages,” Phil noted. All AirCam kits incorporating the new changes will be designated as “Gen-3” models. Three-In-a-Row Seater New Gen-3 model airframes will have the option of incorporating a third seat located behind the second seat and a 220-pound gross weight increase from the current 1,680-pound max gross weight to 1,900 pounds.
"This Is a New Dawn""We’re proud to introduce you to the new name and brand identity of a company that has been a major leader in the world of aviation for over 110 years." said Continental. "With this new dawn comes a new name and brand identity for a major leader in the world of aviation. Introducing Continental Aerospace Technologies," stated their press release. However, they're busy doing much more than rebadging the company with a new, modern look. Their video below helps tell a fuller story. The new company name and graphic "clarifies Continental Aerospace's industry sector and the refreshed logo amplifies the theme by evoking flight, motion, and looking to the future." "Join us as we write the next chapter of a story that already spans over a century," continued Continental, "where our reputation for exceptional service and engine solutions is combined with new ambitions, new innovations and new foundations upon which Continental Aerospace Technologies™ can establish a new era in general aviation." Continental has a strong relationship with the city and region around Mobile, as noted in this article. Officials report the Alabama company is evolving rapidly, adding more products to their portfolio incuding gasoline and Jet-A fuel engines. "While we continue to innovate and bring new technologies to the market, we are also working to enhance our service, support and manufacturing," said Christopher Kuehn, vice president of sales, marketing, and customer support. Continental has a strong relationship with the city and region around Mobile, as noted in this article. Continental has been a leader in general aviation throughout its 115-year history. It began with radial engines in 1905. Over the ensuing years, Continental's "firsts" include bringing fuel injection, turbocharging, FADEC, and Jet-A piston engines into the general aviation market. The company's video, featuring President and CEO Rhett Ross and many employees reveals the global nature and footprint of this stalwart of aviation. In it, you see their brand-new factory under construction. https://youtu.be/Adm8yZsymhI
A few years ago, I visited Continental Motors in Mobile Alabama on the Gulf coast of the southern U.S. state. Here’s what I wrote about that tour. The factory was a World War II-vintage facility. I saw many new CNC machines and they were humming with activity. I also saw acres of the earlier generation of engine-manufacturing equipment. Nearly all of this hardware was idle even as it occupied large amounts of space. Times have changed. Continental changed, too, but the old tooling still rested in position Now, that is changing. Last year the company announced their new “green field” construction project, one of the largest in the state. It was clear that …well, let’s hear how the company describes it. “This Is a New Dawn” “We’re proud to introduce you to the new name and brand identity of a company that has been a major leader in the world of aviation for over 110 years.” said Continental.