Once upon a time in the then-new world of Light-Sport Aircraft Flight Design lead the pack for airplanes delivered and registered. That #1 ranking lasted for a decade. Then came a pause in the juggernaut that is Flight Design, a German company with a popular design. The company’s expenses outran their revenues and a major restructuring was forced upon them by the German legal system. This was 2015 but at Aero Friedrichshafen 2019, the company was looking strong. Their prominent space in Aero’s huge gymnasium-sized exhibit halls was filled with interesting machines, including the distinctive Horten flying wing. All these today operate under the parent name, Lift, which also acquired the Rotorvox deluxe gyroplane. Attracting a lot of attention was their brand-new F-series. Displayed as the first aircraft visitors saw, F2 is an evolved version of the company’s successful CT-series, which remains in active manufacturing.
Flight Design GmbH
Email: email@example.comL.-Echterdingen, -- D-70771 - Germany
Five Months In Combined ReportThe first chart reflects both LSA and SP kit registrations through May of 2019 and also depicts the equivalent performances for the full years of 2017 and 2018. What the chart suggests is that 2019 is a solid year with the light sector on track to hit 725 aircraft for the year, up about 5% over last year and up more than 10% over 2017. For space reasons the chart only shows ranks 1–18 but all are available on Tableau Public. Digging deeper, the chart shows that longtime market leader Zenith/Zenair lead by a substantial margin in 2017 and 2018 but that gap may be narrowing for 2019. Please keep in mind that a kit company completes a sale long before the aircraft gets registered and appears on FAA's database. Also, a kit sold may never be finished. Conversely, Icon's 27 registrations this year are for ready-to-fly aircraft although that does not mean they were registered by the end customer. The leading LSA builder so far in 2019, Icon is on pace to register 65 aircraft this year, up 38% over last year. American Legend, which operates both in the RTF and kit business, is ticking upwards. They may hit 29 registrations, up 140% over last year. Arion is another both-ways manufacturer looking to have a much improved 2019 while newcomer Vashon should double last year's registrations. Strong SP kit suppliers include Kitfox, Vans, and Rans — no real surprises but here's a couple observations. Kitfox is on a pace to hit 70 registrations this year, up about 80% over 2018. Van's Aircraft is headed to 60, up 50% over last year. Rans will remain about even. Remember, we only count aircraft that can be flown by a Sport Pilot or a higher-certificated pilot with no medical. Van's, for example, sells many more kits but most won't meet that criteria.
Separating LSA from SP KitsFlight Design continues its recovery, on pace to increase from last year's low number by 50%. Now that we can separate CubCrafters RTFs from kits, the CT maker is back atop the all-years SLSA rank list. Number two producer, Czech Sport Aircraft should be about even from 2018 but is well off their 2017 registrations. Powrachute and AutoGyro slipped from stronger performances in recent years. On the downside, Glasair suspended production for their Merlin that never found reception in the market. Looking at cumulative registrations, Zenith/Zenair clearly holds the top spot among Sport Pilot kit aircraft sellers. Rans, Sonex, and Kitfox are the next big producers in the light kit space, followed by Quad City and Just Aircraft, trailed a bit further back by Searey maker Progressive Aerodyne, CubCrafters, and Quicksilver.
One More Thing: ELSA FactorYou might see that kits appear to be the larger enterprise over fully-built LSA. That's correct, but consider the kit companies have been building their business and networks for far longer and they have lower price points …although you obviously must invest a good many hours to complete a project and some will get discouraged along the way and never finish the job. Yet the real surprise comes when you look at our final chart of this article. Kits appear ascendant since 2013, especially when compared to Special LSA that seems to have found a stable registration rate of around 200 aircraft per year. However, when you combine SLSA with Experimental LSA, you can see that all LSA types number closer to 300 units per year, compared to all SP kits at just shy of 400. Specialty registrations like Experimental Exhibition are steady but at a far smaller unit count. Any ELSA must be shipped from the factory as a bolt-for-bolt copy of the SLSA model, as required under the regulation. No producer can sell an ELSA without first getting approved for a SLSA, so to my mind, combining SLSA and ELSA makes for a fairer comparison to Sport Pilot kit aircraft. If you love these numbers, please visit Tableau Public. You can learn a lot more about the vibrant light aircraft sector. Enjoy! Disclaimer: These reports rely on FAA’s registration database. We believe this to be a reliable resource but it presents data that are different than what any company reports in sales or deliveries. Over time, these two sets of data draw closer but will not precisely mirror one another. Data presented on Tableau Public are arranged according to a defined method explained on that page (see button labeled “Where the numbers come from”).
A funny thing happened on our way to quarterly reporting of LSA and Sport Pilot kit market shares. Our first quarterly report in many years should have come about April 1st. It did not. That date came as Sun ‘n Fun was getting underway separated by only one day from the German Aero show. So involved were we in those season-starting events that we just blew past the date. Five Months In Combined Report The first chart reflects both LSA and SP kit registrations through May of 2019 and also depicts the equivalent performances for the full years of 2017 and 2018. What the chart suggests is that 2019 is a solid year with the light sector on track to hit 725 aircraft for the year, up about 5% over last year and up more than 10% over 2017. For space reasons the chart only shows ranks 1–18 but all are available on Tableau Public.
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).
First, Simulate — Then, Go AloftChinese citizens play games, including flight simulators, as much as (or perhaps even more than) Americans do. Sitting at their computer or using a mobile smartphone or tablet is commonplace. They know this activity and it may provide a bridge to people going aloft in an actual airplane like CTLS. Imagine if you had never, ever seen a small plane of any kind. Would you rush to fly it? It's hard for Americans to envision this situation as we have small airplanes everywhere and airports in nearly every town in the nation. AeroJones may truly be on to something developing their full-motion simulator. “At the Zhuhai Airshow 2018, our AeroJones 6-axis of motion CTLS simulator was shown for the first time to the public,” said Michael Chou, who handles marketing for the company. He reported that reception to the new simulator was very enthusiastic. “Our flying CTLS also received lots attention in the show,” said Chou. “The market is growing for Chinese general aviation. We visited with many prospective customers from flight clubs and flight schools that expressed interest in the AeroJones CTLS.” “The cabin scale of the full-motion simulator is 1:1 of the flying CTLS,” added Mr. Chou, meaning that the simulator is an exact size copy of the actual LSA. “Our simulator is equipped with two SkyView digital instrument panels designed by Dynon Avionics in the USA. The simulator has dual control sticks and rudders so an instructor can help a student learn the procedures and perform maneuvers. For the general public, it is a great device for entertainment.” “AeroJones Aviation owner Jones Chen was pleased with the response to our aircraft and especially for our unique full-motion simulator,” said Mr. Hsieh Chi-Tai, General Aviation Development Vice President for AeroJones Aviation Technology Co., Ltd. AeroJones is deep into planning for their new aircraft factory in Zhenjiang, China — where, presumably, they will also build the simulator. With the new facility, all manufacturing steps will be easier, less costly, and much more efficient, which will contribute to better values for customers buying the CTLS. Flight schools or other buyers of the modern and sophisticated CTLS will be able to fly to Dalu General Airport to see the factory and take demonstrations flights to confirm their purchase. At the time the new factory was announced, Mr. Jones Chen said, “We are very pleased about the relationship with leaders of Zhenjiang. We look forward to a long and prosperous relationship."
Who Is AeroJones?Please let me clarify for readers who may recall seeing the AeroJones brand at American airshows. For a time, it did appear the Taiwan-based company would sell into the USA. However, that plan changed and today, the primary markets for AeroJones Aviation include China, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Japan, Korea, and Thailand. Because Flight Design general aviation, the original developer of the CT-series, does not currently market a full-motion flight simulator, this particular product may find its way into western nations. Beyond their aircraft factory in Xiamen, China and the new one to come in Zhenjiang — not far from the well-known megacity of Shanghai — AeroJones also operates a flying field, flight school, and maintenance center at an airfield in Taiwan.
At a major show in China called Zhuhai visitors saw something: a new 6-axis LSA flight simulator. The developer is AeroJones Aviation, the CTLS manufacturer for the Asia-Pacific region. The company exhibited their simulator to a warm reception. General aviation is beginning to develop in China lead by airport construction at hundreds of the country’s huge cities. As I’ve written before, I have no doubt the airports will be built, but actual flying at most of them — by Light-Sport Aircraft or other recreational aircraft — seems somewhere off in the future. China has a massive job ahead. Chinese business people have proven very capable of building many things, but developing a culture of the citizenry flying in light aircraft still has quite a distance to go. However, AeroJones new simulator may help the country take a huge stride forward. First, Simulate — Then, Go Aloft Chinese citizens play games, including flight simulators, as much as (or perhaps even more than) Americans do.
CT Super Sport InjectionThe German developer of the CT series is now planning to offer the CT Super Sport Injection in North America. CT Super Sport is the popular model sold in Europe with a cruising speed of 120 knots, VNE of 146 knots, useful load of more than 600 pounds (272 kilograms), and an affordable price. "This variation will now be reintroduced to the Americas," reported Tom Peghiny, President of Flight Design USA. “We have sold versions of the CTLS since its introduction in 2008 and wanted to bring back a lighter model primarily for the U.S. and Canadian markets. After consultation with our Canadian distributor, Flight Design Canada we decided to begin importing the CT Super Sport Injection, which is the model equipped with the advanced Rotax 912iS," said Peghiny. CT Super Sport is a derivative of the famous CTSW but has been upgraded with many features of the CTLSi including the 912iS 100 horsepower fuel-injected engine, a single beam composite “no bounce” main gear, a centrally located 10-inch Dynon SkyView Touch EFIS/EMS/Map Screen, and 2020-compliant Dynon Class One Mode S Transponder with ADS-B out. Lightly equipped as described, Flight Design said CT Super Sport Injection has a useful load of over 600 pounds (272 kilograms) can cruise at 120 knots, has a VNE of 146 knots, a maximum range of 700-800 nautical miles (1,481 kilometers) and is compliant as an SLSA in the U.S. and as an Advanced Ultralight Aircraft in Canada, as well as all other countries following the FAA-LSA regulation. Back On Top — “After a successful 2018, Flight Design is once again at the top of the SLSA ‘All Fleet’ ranking according to the FAA registration data recently published on the Tableau Public website,” the company wrote. “With the new 2018 registration numbers that were released, Flight Design was second total (when including Experimental LSA and Amateur Built kits) and first in Special Light Sport Aircraft (ASTM-compliant, ready to fly).” “We are excited by the news and want to thank our staff and USA dealers,” said Flight Design CEO Lars Joerges. “Flight Design was the market leader since the beginning of Light Sport Aircraft category, which was one of the reasons we acquired the company. We also want to thank Dan Johnson for his persistent support of the light end of aviation both by his website ByDanJohnson.com and his leadership of LAMA, the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association group that represents manufacturers,” added Joerges.
European CTLSi-ELAFlight Design general aviation is pleased to announce that on 15 November 2018, the Czech subsidiary of Flight Design was awarded EASA Part21G approved Production Organization Approval (POA) under approval number CZ.21G.0065 issued by the Civil Aviation Agency of the Czech Republic. What does this mean? “The approval allows the company to deliver certified aircraft for delivery in Europe and the rest of the world,” said Joerges. “This is good news for owners of CTLS-ELA aircraft currently operating under EASA’s Permit-to-Fly and for new customers looking for an advanced EASA certified light aircraft,” explained Flight Design general aviation COO, Daniel Guenther. “We can now offer owners of CTLS-ELA aircraft operating across Europe to bring their planes back to Flight Design for upgrading and conformity confirmation to allow them to have a permanent Restricted Flight Certificate (RTC).” Planning for the upgrade program is in the final stages and customers will be informed about the details in February 2019. Flight Design observed that the company’s CT-series aircraft have been sold around the world since 2008 as Special Light-Sport Aircraft. "CTLSi-ELA brings a well proven platform, the security of an all carbon fiber airframe with an aircraft emergency rescue system and the high technology of all Flight Design aircraft," officials said.
We're Off to Sebring!On Wednesday January 23rd, 2019 kicks off with the 15th running of Sebring. This year is also the 15th anniversary of FAA establishing the Sport Pilot / Light-Sport Aircraft sector in American aviation. This accomplishment was the "regulation heard 'round the world" in that many countries have now adapted the ASTM standards for use in their countries making exports from one country to another vastly easier than in the Part 23 certified aircraft world. Sebring has become a premiere showcase for Light-Sport Aircraft and Sport Pilot Eligible (or SPE) kit-built aircraft. We'll do our best to report daily from the event for those that cannot attend. In addition Videoman Dave and I will be transitioning to Warp Drive as we cover the grounds seeking the best video interviews. Click or tap back daily!
As a new season of flying is upon us (even while northern pilots may still be still shoveling snow), one company continues their vigorous comeback. Flight Design announced completion of a new product and is offering a second. Based on the same CT-based airframe, the two are notably different. CT Super Sport Injection The German developer of the CT series is now planning to offer the CT Super Sport Injection in North America. CT Super Sport is the popular model sold in Europe with a cruising speed of 120 knots, VNE of 146 knots, useful load of more than 600 pounds (272 kilograms), and an affordable price. “This variation will now be reintroduced to the Americas,” reported Tom Peghiny, President of Flight Design USA. “We have sold versions of the CTLS since its introduction in 2008 and wanted to bring back a lighter model primarily for the U.S.
Handiflight Goes Global into 2019Beyond the monumental task of planning such lengthy flight, this and other emergency scenarios were surely contemplated by the pilot team from Handiflight as they prepared for their circumnavigation of the globe in twin CTLS Light-Sport Aircraft. Handiflight's goal is both simple and enormous at once: "A challenging and inspiring global adventure promoting the inclusion of disabled people and values such as commitment, fraternity, and fellowship." Handiflight 2018/2019 hopes to "contribute to changing people’s perceptions of disability and combating prejudices and exclusion" and to "turn dreams into reality, face new challenges, explore new pathways, discover new horizons by flying … across the most amazing and demanding areas of our planet. An additional goal is to "strengthen the global network of disabled aviators all around the world in collaboration with the FAI and local flying clubs." CTLS aircraft with call signs Whisky Yankee Alpha and WY Bravo set off on this expedition just a few days ago. Here is the planned itinerary for their nearly 50,000-mile voyage.
- Departure — November 2018
- Australia — February 2019
- New-Zealand — March 2019
- South Pacific — April-May 2019
- South America — June 2019
- North America — July 2019
- Europe — August 2019
UPDATE 30 Dec 2018 — Sad news about a crash of one of the Handiflight aircraft with the loss of one of the pilots. See Comments. —DJ Imagine you are flying along in your well-maintained Light-Sport Aircraft with its reliable engine. You are flying a long distance over all sorts of terrain, including vast stretches of water. All is humming along and the miles or kilometers are clicking past. What an experience to fly around the world! Very, very few pilots will ever tackle such a grand challenge. Then, the unexpected happens. Your engine quits. You have a plan. You trained for this and you are experienced. You leap into action. Imagine that you find an acceptable landing area but the location is very remote. That seems rather likely when flying all the way around the planet. Touchdown goes OK. The airplane is undamaged. You are fine. However, you cannot raise anyone on the radio and you are not sure your airborne mayday call was heard.
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).
Half A World Away, Aviation Is Getting StartedLet me tell you about a specific brand fly-in, for the CTLS produced in China. While small compared to big American events, this was a healthy start. If aviation is to grow in Asia-Pacific, I think events like that hosted by manufacturer AeroJones are key. More of them is needed but here is a worthy start. In May 2018, AeroJones Aviation hosted a first-time event at their training facility in the south of Taiwan, called Pingtong Saijiain Airport. AeroJones Aviation is the manufacturer of the sophisticated light aircraft called CTLS. The aircraft factory is located in Xiamen, China. “As promised, AeroJones Aviation conducted CT Club, the first flying club reunion in Taiwan on May 19th, 2018,” said company spokesperson Jenny Chang. China and other countries have very well developed airline and military aviation but flying for fun is a relatively new activity. As the photos illustrate, the first-time function was well attended. “Around 40 participants came for the whole day event,” reported Chang. “The group included CTLS pilots, CTLS owners, and those who have intentions to become pilots.” AeroJones Aviation operates a flying field, flight school, and maintenance center in the south of Taiwan. The operation is described by foreign visitors as a prototype for what may become many such facilities across China as that nation prepares to build hundreds of brand-new airports. The new airports will allow Chinese citizens to see and experience light aviation. Few Chinese people have ever seen aircraft such as AeroJones’ CTLS and almost none have flown in one. Events like the one AeroJones hosted may be critically important to introduce literally billions of people in the Asian-Pacific region to the idea of flying for fun. “We were pleased with this first event and the number of people who came to help launch this new idea,” observed Mr. Hsieh Chi-Tai, General Aviation Development Vice President for AeroJones. “Even CT owners that could not fly their aircraft to Pingtong still showed their enthusiasm of flying.” He believes this type of activity will grow as AeroJones Aviation is able to replicate their flight school and pilots club across China in the years ahead. AeroJones acquired the rights to manufacture the German CTLS aircraft design. The company has since secured approval from the government to build and sell these LSA. China is predicted to become a major market for Light-Sport Aircraft. In addition to China and Taiwan, AeroJones Aviation is able to ship fully manufactured CTLS aircraft to other Asia-Pacific countries including Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Japan, Korea, and Thailand. Many aviation experts believe China could see rapid growth for aircraft of this type given plans from the central government in China to build hundreds of new airports during the next few years. The Air Sports Federation of China is also planning hundreds of "flying camps" where citizens can learn more about and experience aviation. ASFC personnel attended Oshkosh 2018 and met with groups to learn more about how to pursue their plans. The Xiamen, China base of AeroJones Aviation includes a manufacturing facility with full fabrication capability. More than 50 highly-trained workers build nearly every part of the airplane in Xiamen. As China may nurture entry level aviation, AeroJones appears destined to be apart of it.
EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018 is now history. You will be reading and seeing lots more about the big summer celebration of flight — it appeared very strong to most observers — and you will see lots more from OSH ’18 here and on Videoman Dave’s popular YouTube channel. As most readers know, Oshkosh is a massive event, by many measures the largest gathering of true aviation believers in the known universe. However, being big isn’t everything. Indeed, some recreational flying enthusiasts will soon begin a trek to Mt. Vernon Illinois for the Midwest LSA Expo, a far smaller event that has proven adept at linking willing buyers with ready sellers. (It’s also our very best event to capture Video Pilot Reports, so watch for news about that in about a month.) Half A World Away, Aviation Is Getting Started Let me tell you about a specific brand fly-in, for the CTLS produced in China.
Full Approval GrantedIn February 2018, the Civil Aeronautic Administration of China (CAAC) completed a successful audit of the manufacturing facility of AeroJones' Xiamen, China factory. Following the acceptance and with the blessing of Flight Design, the company can independently manufacture CTLS aircraft and sell them throughout China and other countries in the region. “We are very honored and pleased to complete the CAAC audit successfully,” observed Hsieh Chi-Tai — known to many people simply as "Tai." He is the vice president of AeroJones and the approval will lead to being granted a Production Certificate. Previous approvals by Chinese aviation authorities had secured a Chinese Type Design Approval (TDA). Now the package of government certification is complete. CAAC authorities visited AeroJones Aviation in Xiamen in November 2017 and twice in January 2018 before finishing the audit in February. “By proving our company to China’s highest civil aviation authority, we open a new door of opportunity for AeroJones Aviation and for the country of China,” noted Tai. In addition to China, AeroJones Aviation is able to ship fully manufactured aircraft to other Asia-Pacific countries that accept ASTM standards for approvals, including Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Japan, Korea, Thailand, plus additional countries in the region. The German developer — since renamed Flight Design general aviation — will supply all other nations as AeroJones Aviation serves the Asia-Pacific market. In the United States, the German producer has been represented by Flight Design USA since the beginning.
Growth MarketMany aviation experts believe China will be a nation of rapid growth with plans from the central government in China to build thousands of airports during the next few years. “We are proud and pleased that our management, engineering, and manufacturing team performed well during the February audit of our production facility,” said Jack Lin, Production Vice President of the operation. “We have been working very hard for three years to insure we can produce the highest quality aircraft.” The Xiamen, China base of AeroJones Aviation Technology Co., Ltd. includes a new manufacturing facility equipped with all the appropriate fixtures, tooling, and highly-trained workers (photo). The majority of components for the CTLS aircraft can be built on the Xiamen premises. In addition to the manufacturing operation in Xiamen, China, AeroJones also operates an engineering bureau in Wildau, Germany and an active flight school in Pingtong, Taiwan. The company hopes to replicate its flight school concept in many cities of China as the airport construction projects leads to activity in those locations. I toured the flight school facilities in Taiwan and took a flight in an AeroJones-built CTLS. The school and aircraft reflect a high level of quality and attention to detail. “We believe we have all the elements in place so we can assist China’s growth in civil, sport, and recreational aviation,” said Tai. “We have demonstrated the capability to produce high quality Light-Sport Aircraft and to sell them in our region.” Congratulations AeroJones. The company is one of a very few LSA builders to win full approval from Chinese CAA authorities.
For most years of Light-Sport Aircraft one aircraft model convincingly lead the parade. That aircraft is broadly identified as the CT-series: CT2K, CTSW, CTLS, and CTLSi. Until CubCrafters caught up and passed Flight Design while the company took a breather to reorganize, the CT-series was the best selling Light-Sport Aircraft in America. The aircraft also sold well in many other countries, concentrated in European nations; close to 2,000 are flying. One part of the world needed a different approach: Asia-Pacific, including countries such as China, Australia, New Zealand and others. For this region, CT representation needed a fresh face attuned to the local culture. In a deal started a few years ago, a Taiwan-owned / China-based company named AeroJones Aviation Technology Co., Ltd., negotiated a manufacturing license agreement with Flight Design, the German company that created the CT-series. Money changed hands, training started, and eventually AeroJones fired up their production engine.
In Their Own WordsFD-USA's Tom Peghiny helped to clarify the situation, saying, "Flight Design was acquired in July 2017 by LiftAir of Eisenach Germany. Mr. Sven Lindig, the owner of LiftAir owns and has founded a number of successful businesses in the Central and Southern areas of Germany. LiftAir now owns the Flight Design EASA Design Organization, the Flight Design aircraft production facility in Kherson Ukraine, and the design rights for all products produced by the company. "Production of aircraft and parts which was maintained at a low rate for the last year and a half are now up to four aircraft a month and a healthy backlog of aircraft orders is building for 2018," Tom said at the late 2017 DeLand show.
Two years ago, Flight Design was the number one producer of Light-Sport Aircraft in the USA backed by strong sales in other countries. The company’s CT series lead our rankings since the very beginning of LSA. In 2016, Flight Design was passed by CubCrafters when the Germany company’s production line stalled during a government-mandated reorganization. By late 2017 at the DeLand show and upcoming at 2018’s first airshow in Sebring, Florida, the company displays products, answers questions, takes new orders, talks to current and possible dealers …in other words acts like a company fully back in the game. Through all this, Flight Design USA — the Germany manufacturer’s close associate and U.S. importer — was a steady hand on the tiller, keeping customers satisfied throughout North America. It’s good to see them return with vigor and our video below lets them tell their own story.
Gone Flying!Once aloft, I try to go through a uniform regimen of evaluations. The routine can vary by aircraft, for example, flying the Pipistrel motorglider had to involve shutting down the engine and feathering the prop. You don’t, in fact are not allowed, to do the latter on most LSA. Even entering the aircraft varies if it is a high or low wing. Performance and stability checks include — but, as lawyers love to write, “may not be not limited to” — handling qualities, high speed flight, slow flight (both while checking various engine parameters such as temperatures and fuel burn), slow flight, steep turns, and a thorough group of stalls: approach and departure stalls as well as accelerated, or turning, stalls. I fly on whichever side of the aircraft the representative pilot does not wish to fly. As a former flight instructor I am comfortable in either seat. Before or after I do my routine, I generally ask the rep’ pilot to show me anything he or she would perform in a purchase demonstration flight. Once in a while this gets especially interesting. As with the videos interviews I conduct — which often result not just in a video but also a post (or even a print magazine article) — I try to ask the questions you would ask if you had the opportunity that I have. Hey! As stated at the outset, I agree I have a pretty cool job. Thanks SO much for reading posts and articles, for watching videos, and generally for supporting this work. If you really want to help, please consider membership but I’ll end the pitch and repeat my gratitude for clicking or tapping your way to this website.
Sometimes I am told I have the best job in the world. Hmm, could be. My work entails some of those things no one truly loves, like paying bills, but it also involves flying airplanes for review. That part is indeed quite a pleasure. In this post, I want to tell you what I flew at the DeLand Showcase 2017 plus a little about how we do these VPRs or Video Pilot Reports. For many years, I wrote such things for print. That still happens but most of my reporting now goes online and my more detailed pilot reports have significantly — though not exclusively — gone to video …hence “VPR.” At DeLand 2017, I went aloft six times, five to evaluate aircraft and once on a photo (and video) mission. Video reporting consumes much more time than an interview, 30 minutes or more simply to attach some or all of our eight Garmin VIRB cameras inside and outside the subject aircraft.
That Was ThenFlight Design, the German company that makes the CTLS, has been through the wringer in recent years with a series of reversals no one could have anticipated. After struggling through a combination of events — global economic slowdown; Russian saber rattling in Ukraine, where its main plant is located; and development projects consuming too many resources — Flight Design was forced into insolvency in 2016. Since then it has been operated at a low level of activity by a government-mandated receiver company, but the company was able to maintain the design's Special LSA acceptance in addition to supplying a few planes plus spare parts. All the while, Flight Design principals were looking for new options for manufacturing the CT and obtaining financing for its production. The reasons above made it hard for the company to obtain the necessary funding to purchase the company’s assets, according to Peghiny. Therefore, a recent offer to purchase all the assets by Lift Holding, a German investment group, comes as welcome news for Flight Design.
This is Now
Tom explained, "The new company will be known as Flight Design General Aviation, GmbH. After concluding the sale of all major company assets to the Lift Holding investment group, Flight Design General Aviation will be based at a new and modern facility (photo) near the historic town of Eisenach in the Thuringia region of Germany.“We have been working with the Lift folks for a year planning the comeback for the Flight Design brand and we are very excited about the developments for the future," Tom expressed. "Parts supply and support will improve and this also allows Flight Design to keep the engineering team intact. These people have a deep product knowledge plus it assures the quality management and operational safety monitoring will stay the same."
Lift is also the owner of the Rotorvox gyrocopter line. "Lift Holding will combine the technical expertise of Flight Design with their other aviation assets (Rotorvox) as part of Lift Air, GmbH. Both companies will be headquartered at the Kindel Airport (EDGE) near Eisenach." Lift Holding will assume all the assets of the former company and plans to produce the CT lineup.The Flight Design European Design Organization — approved by regulatory agency, EASA — and the production site in Kherson, Ukraine as well as the design rights for all Flight Design products including the CT series are now secured with the German company’s investment. Flight Design General Aviation (FDGA) will increase its spare parts inventory and product support. The new company will continue to produce assemblies in Ukraine, with licensed operator AeroJones Aviation also producing CT-series aircraft in China. "We are delighted to be able to take over all of Flight Design's assets and are confident we will go forward as a world leader in the development and construction of light aircraft," said Sven Lindig, Managing Director of the Lindig Group. FDGA has aircraft operating in 48 countries around the globe. The company will soon employ 20 employees in Germany — mostly highly qualified engineers and technicians — as well as about 100 manufacturing employees in Ukraine. Since the founding of the company in 1988 and the establishment of the Ukrainian production plant in 1993, the company has delivered over 1,800 aircraft. "Flight Design has some unique products and experience in the production of all carbon-composite, very efficient light aircraft. We want to invest in development of those products and also achieve leadership in customer support," said Lars Joerges, the new Managing Director of FDGA. Flight Design General Aviation also plans to continue development of the C4 four-place aircraft, although Tom Peghiny said the program would change to accommodate the efficiencies in a changing certification landscape in the United States and abroad, referring to the long-awaited Part 23 rewrite and its mirror regulation in Europe. Tom indicated that FDGA will make a return to AirVenture for the 2018 event.
After more than a year, a resolution was reached for the airplane that topped the charts in the LSA space since Day One. Although Flight Design’s CT-series was eclipsed in 2016 by CubCrafters (by a very slim margin), the aircraft remains well regarded and its many adherents are no doubt breathing a sigh of relief that the “reorganization” (what Americans might call a bankruptcy) has been resolved. All good! (Read more about this reorganization here.) During EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2017, longtime Flight Design USA representative Tom Peghiny sent news about the new owner of the brand. The crush of airshow activity let others beat us to this news, however, we will use our long history with this company to provide a more detailed report. That Was Then Flight Design, the German company that makes the CTLS, has been through the wringer in recent years with a series of reversals no one could have anticipated.
Changes in the Rankings
Besides the leaders, the Top-5 brands remained steady with CubCrafters, Flight Design, Czech Sport Aircraft, American Legend, and Tecnam holding their highest rankings. Jabiru moved up one notch, while Remos slipped one. Aerotrek (another year-after-year gainer) climbed another rank while Evektor fell one. Nonetheless the top five, these last four, and Cessna are the only brands breaking into triple digits. Although Pipistrel gives us challenges to count (some are registered as Experimental Exhibition), the Slovenian company has also exhibited an even climb and now ranks 11th in the fleet or 3rd for calendar 2016. One fooler is SportairUSA, which markets both TL Ultralights and Zlin. Neither has broken 100 yet but when combined SportairUSA has and that's before fresh excitement over their new Outback Shock. Van's continues to make more fully built RV-12s with their partner Synergy Air. Progressive Aerodyne, builder of the Searey approved in both USA and China, has had and still boasts solid years. The central Florida company is the clear leader in LSA seaplanes even while Icon's A5 finally began to show up with 13 new registrations in 2016. Finally, while our main chart focuses on the top brands, note that the largest single percentage are registrations from “All other producers.” The same is true in our calendar year chart. Sometimes called "boutique brands," these companies continue to find customers. Even as Light-Sport Aircraft matures as a niche in the aviation industry, its promise remains strong. As our ongoing reporting from Aero and Sun 'n Fun shows, new models continue to be developed and governments in more countries are embracing the ASTM standards to approve these aircraft. No wonder the general aviation world wants what LSA has. Unlike legacy aircraft producers — those making general aircraft that have changed little over half a century — the LSA space continues to supply interesting, innovative, modestly priced, good performing, superbly equipped, and yes! …safe aircraft. Now that most manufacturers have seen BasicMed has not materially affected their business the American LSA segment grows steadily while worldwide sales continue to eclipse new GA single engine piston deliveries by multiple times. Update #1 — May 1, 2017: After this article was posted, Pete Krotje of Jabiru North America wrote, "Your 2016 LSA chart shows Jabiru North America with five units last year. The number is actually seven (N733Y, N766J, N768J, N72TA, N773J, N218KC, and N772J (a J170-D)." We love when vendors aid our effort to achieve accuracy. This information was shared with Jan Fridrich. Update #2 — May 2, 2017: After Tecnam's U.S. base got a number of calls about this article, we exchanged email about the process. While we can only reliably count FAA registrations and these numbers may not precisely match a seller's data, Tecnam USA observed, "FAA registers us in different ways. Sometimes just Tecnam, sometimes Costruzioni Aeronautiche Tecnam, and sometimes Tecnam SRL C.A. So that might be why not all the Tecnams sold were included." Their sales records show the following 17 SLSA were sold in 2016: 7 Astore models, 8 P2008s, and 2 P92s. Thanks to Tecnam for sharing this and again, we forwarded the numbers to Jan.
A dozen years after FAA created aviation’s newest sector, we have a new leader among manufacturers of fully built Light-Sport Aircraft. CubCrafters has been moving upward with several years hitting 50 deliveries. In 2016 the west coast builder finally topped perennial leader Flight Design, which slipped to second place. The CT builder had occupied the #1 position since the beginning of Light-Sport Aircraft. Only four aircraft separate the two brands. Note: this article has been updated twice; see at end. —DJ In the single-year race, Czech Sport Aircraft won convincingly with almost double the next closest producer. The Czech builder performed well in 2015 but significantly increased last year. Congratulations to both companies. To explain further, our “whole fleet” market share chart — the one we have published going back to 2006 — keeps track of all Special LSA (SLSA) airplanes in the U.S. fleet. Regretfully, we are unable to properly account for weight shift trikes, powered parachutes, gyroplanes, or motorgliders because the database is too variable.
- Powerplant — 74 KW (100 HP) fuel inject- ed Rotax 912iS
- Wingspan — 10.311 m (33’9”)
- Wheelbase — 54inches (1.37 m)
- Wing Area — 129 square feet (12 sq m)
- Cockpit width— 49 inches (124 cm)
- Fuel— 34 gallons (130 l)
- Cruise Speed — 132 knots (245 km/h)
- Stall Speed @ gross, best flaps — 39 knots (72 km/h)
- Range at Cruise Speed — 722 nautical miles (1,337km)
People here at Sun ‘n Fun have been asking questions about Flight Design as the company has no exhibitor presence. However, the popular CTLS can be seen at the AeroJones Americas space. Why is this the case? On duty at Aero, reporter (and publisher of Powered Sport Flying magazine) Roy Beisswenger provided the following report. —DJ At the press conference for Flight Design president Matthias Betsch began the presentation explaining the company’s current situation. As many who follow the industry know, Flight Design has had their share of financial problems. The company is operating more or less as usual, but is in court-ordered receivership. That means many decisions the company makes need to be approved by the receiver. Fortunately, the situation is reportedly more stable than some speculate. Official and creditors want the business to remain viable by producing, selling, and supporting primary products. However, projects in development may not always survive scrutiny.
At the Midwest LSA Expo, we had a chance to speak with one of market leader Flight Design's midwestern dealer, Tom Baker. We wanted to hear Tom's comparison of the non-fuel-injected CTLS and the new Rotax iS 912 engine. So, we went flying and asked him for his thoughts ... about Flight Design and his history with it as well as the new CTLS and the latest in 912 engine technology. Tom provides a deeper view of this popular LSA that may help pilots in shopping mode.
At the Midwest LSA Expo, we had a chance to speak with one of market leader Flight Design’s midwestern dealer, Tom Baker. We wanted to hear Tom’s comparison of the non-fuel-injected CTLS and the new Rotax iS 912 engine. So, we went flying and asked him for his thoughts … about Flight Design and his history with it as well as the new CTLS and the latest in 912 engine technology. Tom provides a deeper view of this popular LSA that may help pilots in shopping mode.
We've seen AMT's FlyCool light weight, low power draw air conditioning system before in other Light-Sport Aircraft but it had not yet been done in the CTLS. Now US Aviation in Texas has made it happen. They brought the hardware to Sun 'n Fun and quickly made an installation which we got to experience. Come hear how it was done and how it works. In warm climates the FlyCool system can be a big benefit.
We’ve seen AMT’s FlyCool light weight, low power draw air conditioning system before in other Light-Sport Aircraft but it had not yet been done in the CTLS. Now US Aviation in Texas has made it happen. They brought the hardware to Sun ‘n Fun and quickly made an installation which we got to experience. Come hear how it was done and how it works. In warm climates the FlyCool system can be a big benefit.
At Sebring 2013, we made the rounds speaking to sellers of various Light-Sport Aircraft. We asked how their aircraft holds up in flight school instruction use. Some aviation journalists and some general aviation pilots believe LSA cannot withstand the rigors of training. Flight Design USA sales manager John Gilmore assures us the CTLS does very well in flight schools and one has accumulated more than 13,000 landings! Here the rest of the story in this video.
At Sebring 2013, we made the rounds speaking to sellers of various Light-Sport Aircraft. We asked how their aircraft holds up in flight school instruction use. Some aviation journalists and some general aviation pilots believe LSA cannot withstand the rigors of training. Flight Design USA sales manager John Gilmore assures us the CTLS does very well in flight schools and one has accumulated more than 13,000 landings! Here the rest of the story in this video.
Perhaps it's to be expected that the leading seller of Light-Sport Aircraft in the USA has now entered the public service aviation market with their CTLE, the "LE" standing for Law Enforcement. This specially fitted LSA has a high-tech wing mounted camera system that is controlled from the right seat where a Tactical Flight Officer sits. He can send and receive with ground units. CTLE is leading the way to a promising new market for Light-Sport Aircraft.
Perhaps it’s to be expected that the leading seller of Light-Sport Aircraft in the USA has now entered the public service aviation market with their CTLE, the “LE” standing for Law Enforcement. This specially fitted LSA has a high-tech wing mounted camera system that is controlled from the right seat where a Tactical Flight Officer sits. He can send and receive with ground units. CTLE is leading the way to a promising new market for Light-Sport Aircraft.
Flight Design has lead the Light-Sport Aircraft market since Day One, selling variations of its all-carbon fiber CT series including the present-day CTLS. The MC is the German company's new all-metal airplane. MC stands for Metal Concept. With conventional construction, repairs are easier and many mechanics are familiar with working in aluminum. This brings flight schools to look at MC, but a lower price attracts everyone.
Flight Design has lead the Light-Sport Aircraft market since Day One, selling variations of its all-carbon fiber CT series including the present-day CTLS. The MC is the German company’s new all-metal airplane. MC stands for Metal Concept. With conventional construction, repairs are easier and many mechanics are familiar with working in aluminum. This brings flight schools to look at MC, but a lower price attracts everyone.
If you've tried flying with floats (or in a boat-hulled aircraft) you already know the appeal. Those who haven't should check out the experience. You can do that by going to www.flyct.com, the website of Airtime Aviation in Tulsa Oklahoma where the CTLS Floatplane has been developed. Proprietors Tom Gutmann Sr. and Jr. offer seaplane instruction and sign-offs. Amphibious floats are fabricated by Claymar of Canada.
If you’ve tried flying with floats (or in a boat-hulled aircraft) you already know the appeal. Those who haven’t should check out the experience. You can do that by going to www.flyct.com, the website of Airtime Aviation in Tulsa Oklahoma where the CTLS Floatplane has been developed. Proprietors Tom Gutmann Sr. and Jr. offer seaplane instruction and sign-offs. Amphibious floats are fabricated by Claymar of Canada.