The end of the year is approaching. We just wrapped Halloween and now begin the headlong rush into the holiday season. However, before all that retail excitement starts, here comes the third running of the DeLand Showcase. This is my new favorite airshow for one reason everyone seems to understand instantly. Why would I put one airshow above another given that I love them all? Easy …I get to sleep in my own bed every evening. Sweet! Yep, DeLand airport is a mere 25 minutes from my home, on another airport, the Spruce Creek Fly-In. How much better could it get? Lots of shiny new airplanes and lots of very knowledgeable people to help answer all your questions. My personal comfort is good for me, but why should YOU be making your way to DeLand? Here’s Our Top-5 Reasons Reason #5 — It will be a few months before the next show, when the Sebring Sport Aviation Expo starts in late January.
DeLand Is Home BaseBeyond Showcase and a gazillion skydivers, DeLand is an active field. A brand new terminal building attests to both the activity level and John’s management skill. The central Florida airport is home to Aero Adventure, makers of the Aventura line of seaplanes that you can afford. OK, affordability is different for everyone; I get that. Yet if you want a new seaplane, Aero Adventure is unquestionably the place to go for a good value. Their top-of-the-line S17 Aventura retails for $112,000. If you price compare, you will quickly find that even this premiere model from Aero Adventure is far less than any other new seaplane. Here's what the company says, "Our S17 is the top of the line when it comes to Aventura flying. It has a fuel injected, computer controlled, 117 horsepower engine. coupled with an infused hull. This aircfraft weighs under 900 pounds and can carry 600 pounds all day!” Their powerful S17 may be the flagship, but Aero Adventure has much lower cost alternatives. These are all assembled from kit, for now, but the project is not so time consuming and they offer a build center to help. In addition to their side-by-side two seaters, the company is returning to the one-place seaplane market. "The Aventura UL is a blast to fly using the MZ 201 engine and with no pilot license required makes for a very popular plane," reported Aero Adventure. Those with a smaller budget should pay extra attention as the opening price of $25,000 is quite remarkable for a seaplane. "Yes, that's right, [we're building] a single seater,” they said. “We are in the process of assisting some great Aero family members making one of the most awesome single seat aircraft on the market!" They promised to keep me advised and I'll report more as this emerges. Under leadership from Alex Rolinski, the Florida company has been exhibiting great energy in the pursuit of its enterprise. Check out the full line of Aventura seaplanes at this link. They are also doing more than building airframes. To further their enterprise they now offer pilot training, probably a smart thing for a company in the seaplane business. Aero Adventure said, "Welcome Howard 'Buddy' Fleming, our Chief Flight Instructor. Buddy has many years flying various aircraft and has mastered the Aventura! We offer tailwheel and amphibian endorsements, as well as Sport Pilot licenses." DeLand airport is also home to another bargain, the Aerolite 103 from U-Fly-It but that's a story for another post. Meanwhile I hope to see you at DeLand Showcase 2018 in just a few days!
In mere days now, DeLand Showcase starts. The new event closes out the year’s shows. Find out more at their website. DeLand is a thriving year-round sport and recreational flying airport. It has very long been established as one of the world’s premiere skydiving centers. More than 30 parachuting-oriented enterprises employing hundreds of people keep DeLand humming all year with skydiving activity. It is known around globe by enthusiasts. Matter of fact, the timing of the DeLand Showcase leaned heavily on what Showcase director Jana Filip found upon collaborating with the skydiving community as she chose a date. Early November offers reasonably predictable weather and, true to form, the first two years of this show were wonderful with temperatures in the low 80s and lots of blue sky. I have my fingers crossed for a repeat of this year, but its hard to dispute years of carefully kept records by the skydivers — who also depend on good weather.
Build, Buddy, BuildFull disclosure. Merlin is a kit. It is not a Light-Sport Aircraft. You have to build it. The good news is Merlin is a surprisingly fast-build kit. I have often stated that I am not a builder but to become a better educated journalist, I went to a location where Chip was helping a customer build his. I watched his effort and asked him many questions. As Chip notes in the video below, Merlin comes in from the fabricator in Europe significantly assembled. See the nearby photos to see the state of build at the beginning of the kit assembly. It already looks like an airplane not merely a collection of many small parts and aluminum sheets. This level of completion is FAA approved; Merlin is ready to go on the 51% kit aircraft list. I don't want to minimize the work effort as that could diminish the efforts of those who do the work. Indeed, plenty of details remain from what you see in the images. Yet the task is made much easier by one giant step provided by the Europeans. By now many readers are familiar with the term matched-hole construction. This means the holes where a rivet will be secured are so accurately punched by CNC machinery that no jigs are needed. You line up the holes, drill to rivet size, pop in a rivet, and move to the next. Next comes precision-matched-hole where the holes are so perfect that no further drilling of pilot holes is needed. They are ready for the rivet as delivered. Merlin goes a further step beyond. The holes already have special, colored rivets that hold the parts in place. A builder removes them, does the under-skin work as needed — wiring, linkages, fuel lines — and re-rivets. I watched some of this occur and it is fairly amazing as a process. I might even attempt it and I'm not a builder. With dedication and especially with some professional assistance as is possible today, a builder can finish the project in as little as two weeks. Is that work effort worth it, considering you can hold the price below the once-expected price of a LSA? Only you can answer that question but Erwin's Aeromarine-LSA company based in central Florida has brought affordability back into the picture. Is a single seater enough for you? It very well may be considering airplanes are frequently flown solo. Learn even more in the following video recorded at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018. https://youtu.be/24ShnUX4Kpg * The dollar amounts are generated using the U.S. government's Consumer Price Index.
A popular American childhood story called “The Little Engine that Could” relates to this article. The Merlin PSA (Personal Sport Aircraft) from Aeromarine-LSA is a modern single place airplane that does everything you want — well, other than carry two people — while remaining highly affordable. Given that some Light-Sport Aircraft shoot past $200,000 (some even past $300,000!), Merlin looks very reasonably priced for the rest of us. A large number of LSA enthusiasts have complained that present-day LSA have become way too expensive for their budgets. Back when we were still awaiting Light-Sport Aircraft many pilots thought LSA would cost $50-60,000 and it seems not many choices are available in that range. Some are, but most are quite a bit more costly. It’s important to be accurate. Understand that $60,000 in 2002 — when people were speculating about the price of a LSA — is the same as $83,000 today, when you calculate the purchasing power of either number at those times.* Now think of Merlin’s price tag.
Business Around the GlobeWhile Traveller is their foray into NBAA's glittering world, Tecnam remains highly active in aircraft that readers of this website recognize. Tecnam has been busy this year; here are a few of their recent successes at delivering their light aircraft all around the globe. Greece — Hellenic Air Force Academy, based at an air base near Athens, is a unit of the Hellenic (Greek) Air Force. A recent delivery is the first of 12 Tecnam P2002JF trainers HAFA ordered. The Academy selected the Tecnam model as its next-generation screening/primary training aircraft. P2002JF is a two-seat, single-engine, low-wing aircraft powered by the Rotax 912 and fitted with the latest avionics from Garmin. Tecnam is familiar with supplying government air forces. In 2016 Tecnam delivered eight P2002JF aircraft to the Argentina Air Force. "This [South American] fleet has amassed a total of over 6,000 hours and performed 16,000 landings to date," noted Tecnam. ByDanJohnson.com readers know this model as the Sierra. Poland — Tecnam announced today that the Polish Medical Air Rescue (PMAR) has placed an order for three Tecnam P2008JC Mk II airplanes. PMAR is a very active organization using a fleet of aircraft to perform nearly 10,000 flights in the first eight months of this year alone. P2008JC is comprised of a carbon-fiber fuselage with metals wings and stabilator. "This combination of composite and metal resulted in a more fuel efficient and much quieter aircraft," said Tecnam. The MkII version of P2008JC features a number of significant enhancements including a new avionic suite with a refreshed interior design. Australia — This summer, Tecnam announced the sale of eight P2008 light sport aircraft training aircraft to Soar Aviation of Melbourne, Australia. Soar claims to be Australia’s largest private flying school with with over 500 students. It operates a fleet of 48 Rotax-powered training aircraft and has a team of 100 employees, including more 67 instructors. Soar has facilities at the Moorabbin Airport in Melbourne, Australia and at the Bankstown and Bendigo airports in Sydney, stated Tecnam. France — The same month as the Aussie sale, Tecnam said they took an order for four P2010 MkII four-seat aircraft from Air Paris Academy based at the Tours Airport. Tecnam describes their P Twenty Ten as "the first new single-engine, high-wing, four-seat aircraft from Tecnam that brings together an advanced technology all carbon fibre fuselage with a metal wing and stabilator." Just a month earlier, Tecnam announced that Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority and the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand validated the Tecnam P2010 based on the EASA Type Certificate including a 215 horsepower version of the Lycoming IO390-C3B6 powerplant. Tecnam's large portfolio of aircraft from LSA and sport aircraft to four seat GA aircraft to twin engine personal aircraft to the new 11-seat regional airliner makes for an active company rapidly growing to be one of the world's aviation powerhouses.
This week kicks off the truly gigantic trade show known by its sponsoring organization’s abbreviation: NBAA, or in common lingo, “Enn, Bee, Double A.” While not taking up the extensive terra firms of Oshkosh, NBAA actually has more paying exhibitors. They even tow aircraft down city streets in the dark of night so a reported 100 aircraft can be on display at the Orlando Civic Center. The show has become so large that supposedly only two U.S. convention centers are big enough to contain the sprawling affair: Las Vegas and Orlando. The latter is just down the street for me so every other year I go and look for something to report amidst my wandering around astonished at the sheer size of the event and how much money gets spent for a three-day show. I always find something of interest to the light aviation, recreational flying community. This year, I’m on the lookout for Tecnam, one of this website’s longtime sponsors and surely the largest company serving up Light-Sport Aircraft around the world.
Other Quality ReportingBeside my own investigation with sources in FAA working on this specific regulation, AVweb journalist Paul Bertorelli also followed up on this story. Read his report here; his article contains a link to a podcast. The short summary: No NPRM will come out in three months. Paul interviewed EAA's VP of advocacy and safety, Sean Elliot, who agreed that FAA's work is "unlikely to yield any specific Notices of Proposed Rule Making until at least 2020, if not beyond." Good! Whatever the eventual content of FAA's proposed rulemaking, an absolutely essential ingredient is discussing changes with industry and other key participants first, revising the proposal, and allowing various government and non-governmental groups to offer their input. FAA does not rush a proposal to NPRM status because doing so could generate lots of unfavorable comment, and in such case, regulators would have to go back to the drawing board. In addition and as I already reported, this is a very sweeping regulation that touches on many parts of the current Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) and all that language change must be carefully considered. Updates for LSA are only one part of this large regulatory project.
Q&A on Weight and MoreTo other specific questions I've been asked, I have further responses… Specific Weight? — The number 3,600 pounds has been reported. It will not be a specific, fixed number and the formula that will produce a gross weight has not yet been finalized. Yes, it could be that high; no one knows yet …but the formula will likely involve engine power, stall speed, and probably other parameters. More Seats? — Yes, this is also a possibility. It is not specifically an attempt to bring Cessna 172s and other legacy aircraft into LSA. It is an attempt to bring this new regulation closer to that established for Basic Med. Many aircraft — such as weight shift, powered parachutes, gyroplanes, and motorgliders — don't need or want (or maybe can't handle) four seats. Even those airframes that can accommodate more seats will surely then be more expensive. Higher Speed? — Yes, higher speed may also be on the agenda. Nothing is particularly sacred about 120 knots (138 mph). However, like all parts of this regulation proposal, it is only in discussion stages at this time. Again, this has to do with trying to align the new regulation with the earlier one for Basic Med. What Medical? — At this time, no change is expected for LSA. Your Sport Pilot certificate will still only require a driver's license and self-signoff, or use that medical approach with your higher level certificate and exercise the privileges of Sport Pilot. Again, as with all parts of this rule-in-progress, the plans are subject to change. Adjustable Propeller? — Yes, again. As reported in LAMA's earlier report, single lever control was favorably received by FAA management and the association is hopeful this will be part of the resulting new regulation. SLC is a type of automatic prop adjustment, similar to that found on every Cirrus aircraft. What's Important? — LAMA wants FAA to listen to the LSA producer community and the LSA user community. Give the industry and pilots a chance to provide input and the result will be a better product. That takes time and that's why the absurd date only three months away was so unrealistic. Finally, I want to again point you to the LAMA advocacy report. The industry association continues to work with FAA to advance several goals mentioned in that report. These bear a short review. Another goal is aerial work or commercial use for LSA. Most readers will recognize SLSA can already be used for commercial work: professional flight instruction, rental of LSA to students and others, and towing. LAMA merely wants to add to that list — and honestly, more gross weight will add to the work value of these aircraft in addition to giving sellers and buyers new opportunities to use LSA productively. Finally, we aren't giving up on SLSA gyroplanes although I will admit this one is proving to be the toughest, with ongoing resistance from the rotorcraft branch of FAA — meaning no professional flight instruction is allowed. Yes, training can be done with a LODA (Letter of Deviation Authority), if you can get one, but that method does not allow a student to solo in the aircraft being used for his or her training. THE GOOD NEWS… industry groups like LAMA and member organizations like EAA, among others, have more time to continue work with FAA and more time for agency personnel to listen to the community of users and the professionals serving them.
An article from last weekend’s news about a massive jump in LSA weight propelled this website to an all-time record as light aviation enthusiasts from around the nation and the globe signed on to make comments and shared the article with their friends. Words you read on this website proved to be correct as more information emerges. Specifically, one large error was a quoted date for a new NPRM on this subject. Some outlets reported it would be released on January 19, 2019. NPRM is an abbreviation for Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and precedes any new regulation, allowing for comment and revision. Before such a NPRM is released, FAA has normally spoken to many parties that could be affected. That largely has not happened yet and for a good reason. The NPRM is nowhere-near ready to be published, certainly not on such a specific date as January 19th next year.
Stop the PressesThis news was flabbergasting to many and upsetting to others. Having worked rather closely with FAA over the last four and a half years, in my role as LAMA president, I was sure parts of this were incorrect. I reached out to contacts in the agency and got a reply even though government is closed for Columbus Day. Here's what I learned from the group tasked with preparing this rule. First — The announced date of "January 19, 2019" simply cannot happen. The team creating the rule does not possibly have the time to complete work by then. In fact, it is more likely "three to four years away." The new rule is a huge, sweeping effort that touches on many FAR parts; it cannot be completed on such a rushed schedule, nor would doing so be prudent. Second — An effort is being made to align this major new regulation with the Basic Med rule, meaning that, yes, gross weight may go as high as was stated — and extra seats may be added — but, this is by no means determined yet. It will not even go before FAA's high level rulemaking council for initial determination until December …if then. At this time, "this is just at the discussion stage," reported my contact. Third — LSA gross weight will rise but "not to a hard number" like 3,600 pounds. It will involve a maximum horsepower, a given stall speed, among other considerations, all of which will rely on the laws of physics to keep the aircraft design reasonable. In July, in this report, I described changes that FAA told us were coming. That report was shown to the rule-writing group before publication and they replied, "No changes necessary." It still stands as a valid report.
Naturally, Industry Is ConcernedRemember in the fall of 2011, when EAA and AOPA announced a change in aviation medicals? The surprise announcement — which subsequently took years to enact (becoming what we call Basic Med) — caused an immediate drop in orders. Orders already placed were cancelled. Other orders never got placed as pilots began to ponder what would happen next. About this weekend's news, one U.S. supplier said, "I’m pretty worried." He's concerned people may hold off a purchase, waiting to see what happens. "I’ve seen it before," he added. However, since the new rule remains years away, no buyer ought to halt the joy of acquiring and flying a new aircraft. Another industry expert said, "I hate being caught flat-footed like this." He remembered clearly what happened with the early announcement of medical changes. While all the buzz today may be about gross weight, the light aircraft industry has other concerns about the regulations that LAMA and USUA will continue to vigorously pursue.
This weekend a firestorm erupted out of the blue. A wave of questions is ringing my phone, piling up text messages, and populating my social media accounts. Because it seems premature, I preferred not to weigh in on LSA weight but given the volume of comments, neither can I remain silent. In addition, a shockingly near-term timeline for FAA to issue rulemaking further enforces the need to speak out now. I will provide information gleaned just an hour ago. In case you missed the story, here’s what AOPA reported: “EAA chairman and CEO Jack Pelton [was invited] onto the stage. On January 19, 2019, Pelton said, the FAA will publish a notice of proposed rulemaking that seeks to raise the weight limit for Light-Sport Aircraft from the current 1,320 pounds to 3,600 pounds.” AOPA went on to quote Pelton, “That will allow you to fly in a 172, have four seats in the airplane, and fly 150 mph.” Stop the Presses This news was flabbergasting to many and upsetting to others.
Introducing a Fractional A5At this summer's Oshkosh event, Icon announced a new "Managed Fractional Program." They describe it as one "to allow easier and lower-cost access to A5 ownership."
One More ThingIf you feel the fractional program doesn't work for you, yet you admire what Icon has done …well, one more possibility exists for your involvement. Can your interest be turned into a money-making proposition? Yes, it can. You can be an Icon Advocate. Enroll in their program and refer someone who buys — you could make $10,000. Refer someone who wants to offer A5 flight training, become a Service Provider, or join as a Sales Advocate and you can earn $15,000. Do this a few times — no limit is imposed on the program — and you might earn enough for your own airplane, though admittedly you'll have to do this many times to afford your own A5. While I could wish an A5 hadn't reached such top-of-the-category pricing*, I do applaud the California company's effort to cope with their pricing issues and the airplane is indeed a well-thought-out beauty.
Here's my review of Icon's A5https://youtu.be/ONzOx6tEay4
* A Carbon Cub isn't priced much less than an A5 yet has steadily risen to be the top selling Light-Sport Aircraft in America.
Have you noticed how much LSA seaplanes pop up on this website and all over the web and print world? I admit to fascination with the developments these versatile aircraft are bringing to market but my attitude is shared by many others. For example, I enjoyed reading AOPA journalist Dave Hirschman‘s account of his solo trip crossing the width of the United States in an A5. Read the whole story here. Dave is an excellent writer and an experienced pilot. His account is very positive, yet balanced. Having flown the A5, I found his observations largely matched mine. However, a problem exists. As time passed, Icon has steadily raised the price of A5. What started as an affordable seaplane with innovative features has progressed to be an aircraft that even founder Kirk Hawkins agrees can only be bought by rather wealthy owners. That same scenario can be used for Cirrus Aircraft and its SR20 and SR22 (their most expensive model that accounts for a solid majority of their sales).
Crazy, or Real? …but FascinatingOur preceding article about a Lighter-than-Air LSA looks fairly tame compared to Scorpion. I know many readers are doubtful about either development …and that's OK. Pilots being skeptical is a preservation instinct: don't go fly any old thing that comes along; applying logic, analysis, and a serious measure of doubt may keep you alive. Some readers who read the earlier Scorpion article thought the close proximity of spinning props to the occupants legs was nuts (even if protections were in place). Others wrote that sitting above the blades was equally weird (although the first Kitty Hawk Flyer used a similar concept). I can understand all sorts of questions — or outright dismissal — but it appears multicopters are here to stay, even if their form may change radically in the years ahead. To their credit Hoversurf did consult FAA as this letter from Principal Maintenance Inspector Wilbert Robinson proves. Hoversurf explains some of their ideas, "We have designed a monocoque frame created using different types of carbon fiber technology. The whole frame is made by a single element, which gives the stiffness of the structure … while reducing the weight by a factor of two compared to our previous aluminum model. … Dimensions of the hoverbike allow it to be rolled in a standard doorway while also having ability to take-off and land from an ordinary parking space. … [Scorpion] weighs (253 pounds) … reducing the weight of the frame … allowed us to install a more capacious battery. Our safe flight altitude is 16 feet above ground, but the pilot can adjust the limit to their comfortability. … Maximum speed is limited to 60 mph or 52 knots according to the requirements of the law." If you want to read more about the company's view of Scorpion, go here. A few points need to be clarified:
- In one video the company representative speaks of "no limits," saying you can fly as high as you like or as fast as you like. Of course, most readers know a Part 103 vehicle is limited to 55 knots or 63 mph. The website acknowledges this but the video was evidently produced before the Part 103 decision was made. The quote in the paragraph above shows company officials may have also backed away from the "fly as high as you like" comment.
- In a couple other videos, Scorpion's price is quoted at $59,900, which less doubtful buyers might pay. Yet the website states the asking price at $150,000. At the latter figure, I imagine the number of buyers of an unproven vehicle will be very minimal (other than police or military buyers), though I could be wrong.
- What might be more workable and acceptable is a drone version that carries goods instead of a human. The website has information about this but that use is much less impactful than showing manned flight.
So far, at least three entries* in the multicopter sweepstakes qualify themselves as Part 103 ultralight vehicles. I’m guessing that lead FAA rule writer, Mike Sacrey, never envisioned this idea back in 1982 when he and his team created aviation’s least-regulated aviation sector. In those days, FAA had only recently moved away from requiring that such aircraft demonstrate foot launching. Mike would have needed a genuine crystal ball to foresee something like Scorpion 36 years ago. Let’s briefly put this in perspective — most readers had yet to buy their first computer; we were still 13 years away from the World Wide Web; it was a quarter century before the iPhone; even Light-Sport Aircraft were 22 years in the future. Had Mike written a regulation back then to include multicopters like Scorpion he would surely have been relocated to some remote post where his craziness would not be obvious.
FAA’s Light-Sport Aircraft category involves quite the intriguing mixture of aircraft. Fixed wing aircraft of many descriptions, weight shift, powered parachute, gyroplanes, motorgliders, seaplanes, of course, and, lighter-than-air. Every niche has been well explored …except for that last one. Now comes FlyDoo from France, an LSA-category-fitting hot-air balloon. Designer Leandro Corradini thought he could deliver something that didn’t exist in the market so he set up shop to supply envelope, basket, burner, and more in a practical, lightweight, compact, and easy-to-transport and -store package. FlyDoo breaks down compactly enough that you could easily store it in your house or apartment. He even shows pictures of transporting it to a flying field by adding a wheel and tow bar kit to the gondola making the aircraft into a small trailer that can be towed by a bicycle. Leandro observes that established balloon manufacturers are accustomed to working in the FAA or CAA certified aircraft environment, often building large balloons used commercially to give rides.
Welcoming Steve Beste"I'm a retired computer guy and trike pilot who loves databases," Steve told me. He used his special set of skills to download FAA's aircraft registration database to compile statistics on gyroplane registrations, focused on the new European-style gyroplanes. As you can see, AutoGyro is the clear market leader at 52% with 163 aircraft of 312 gyroplanes registered with FAA. The German builder is trailed by Magni in the #2 slot at 18% with 56 registrations. A new American manufacturer, SilverLight Aviation, has quickly tied Spanish producer ELA for third at 8% with 26 aircraft registered for each. After that it trails off more quickly as Steve's chart shows. More details about other brands will be chronicled in an article to follow. For 2018 through July 23rd, Magni shows its strength by slightly beating AutoGyro U.S. registrations. As always, note that confirmed sales and registrations may not match precisely. In addition, much more of 2018 remains. In slightly more than half a year, gyroplanes registered 58 aircraft putting them on track to exceed 100 for the year. To offer perspective, this figure is approaching half as many as SLSA fixed wing registrations in recent full years. So far this year, Magni has 15 registrations to AutoGyro's 14 for 26% and 24% shares totaling half of total U.S. gyroplane registrations. SilverLight has registered 8 aircraft in 2018 for a 14% yearly share of 2018 to date. A less well recognized U.S. producer, Tango, is having a respectable year, with 9 registrations accounting for 16% in 2018 so far. Tango is trailed by ELA with 6 registrations (10%), Australia's Titanium and Italy's Brako tied at 3 for 5% each. One interesting point: only Tango and Brako offer a single place gyroplane; all others are two place machines.
Much More Data to Follow!Steve Beste and I have been discussing him providing database research to allow this website to continue providing LSA Market Share Info. Many visitors have written to ask; indeed, we are way behind on this effort. The delay is ending. After Steve gets time to study the previous work and methods, he has proposed some wonderful improvements. About the special skills he can offer, Steve wrote, "I'm a retired computer guy and trike pilot who loves databases." Well, that certainly sounds perfect to me. "I'm also the president of Flying Club 1, which was the original USUA Chapter 1," Steve added. "Regarding the FAA database, I'd very much like to reach beyond just [fixed wing] airplanes, partly because I'm a trike pilot, myself. I think that's entirely possible." Given this background, his obvious enthusiasm for this work, and the keen interest of many in light aviation, I am exceedingly pleased to welcome Steve to this website. "[However, FAA's] data is not clean," Steve observed. I am well aware of this problem. Uncertainty about data accuracy of "alternative" LSA is why we have reported fixed wing Special LSA, only offering guesses for weight shift trikes, powered parachutes, gyroplanes, motorgliders, and more. However, we hope that will now change and our market share reporting will be more inclusive. Hurray! Problems in FAA's database is not caused by incompetent clerks. Agency personnel must sort through inconsistently-reported aircraft. If, as Steve pointed out in one example, the registered name of the aircraft is slightly different, it won't show up on a casual investigation. He added, "There's no end of that kind of thing …just so we know the limitations on this exercise. But with that understanding, I love this kind of thing, I have the skills to do it, and would be honored to support your good work for the sport." All such reporting will be available on the home page when fresh and catalogued on its own space found by this link. Wonderful, simply wonderful! Please welcome Steve Beste as a new contributor to ByDanJohnson.com!
UPDATE September 26, 2018 — In the article above, I inadvertently suggested SilverLight and their American Ranger gyroplane was the first or only U.S. producer of such aircraft. That is not what I intended but some readers viewed it that way. Allow me to bring your attention to two other producers.
Sport Copter & Rotor Flight DynamicsBased in Oregon, Sport Copter is a long established, second-generation family business started in 1958. Chuck Vanek was one of the early pioneers of gyroplane design and development beginning his work in 1957. Chuck's son Jim Vanek took over the business and revamped the Vancraft designs. He said his "award-winning, world’s-first, two-place gyroplane took the prestigious Charles Lindbergh award at the Oshkosh airshow in 1985." The company also reports his Sport Copter II design was voted as one of the Top Ten Best Designs at AirVenture in 2011. An airshow performer, Jim said he wrote the parameters and guidelines for gyroplane looping for the FAA in 1998 after performing the world’s first loop in a conventional gyroplane, in 1997. The company's website reports, "He is the only gyro pilot in the world that holds an International Council of Air Shows card for gyroplane looping and rolling." Don't even think about trying this yourself, however. Rotor Flight Dynamics, founded and run by Ernie Boyette, produces a two place and single variations of their Dominator line. Sold as kit aircraft, the two-place model can be powered by Hirth four-cylinder engines, Subaru/AutoFlight EA-81, or the 115-horsepower Rotax 914 Turbo. The company said, "We offer 22 thru 28 foot rotor blades of our own design with a lift capability from ultralight thru 1,200 pounds gross weight." They added, "We are the only manufacturer that test flies all blade sets prior to shipping." For export, Rotor Flight will fully build their aircraft but in the USA, FAA will only permit them to deliver kits, the same as all gyroplane producers. As with all the modern gyroplanes, Rotor Flight uses a substantial tailplane. "The Dominator [series of one and two-place machines] incorporate the Tall Tail design for stability." Asked how their product differs, the company's website states, "What makes the Dominator so unique is its high profile design. It sits up very high off the ground."
Updated September 26, 2018 — This article has been updated to include more producers. See at bottom. —DJ Over many years, you have found LSA market share information on this website. Many have found this of interest …from businesses learning more about their market; to customers doing careful investigation before paying tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for a new aircraft; to government fulfilling its task of regulating industry; to insurance companies assessing risk of providing their product; and many other actors in the blockbuster movie that is light, recreational aviation. I will have more to say about the broader LSA market share reports below but now I want to present the best information I have seen for Light-Sport Aircraft Gyroplanes. …uh, except for one problem. No such aircraft category exists, SLSA gyroplanes, that is. FAA has denied fully-built Special LSA status to rotary winged aircraft such as gyroplanes.
Years in the Making
"Simplification and demystification of the flying experience has been one of our main goals" stated Tomas. That helps explain a very small instrument and control console. "It contains what you need to get the job done in a minimized fashion, to keep your focus where its should be; on the outside of the aircraft," added Tomas. Supporting that goal is a large canopy offering a wide-open field of view.
Further innovation is a fly-by-wire rudder and drive-by-wire nosewheel. "Both are experimental technologies, Tomas explained, "that we believe may make it simpler for the prospective owner and pilot to learn how to fly. No more hand and foot coordination, here you can put your feet up high and use your hands only for all control inputs."
Power, Power, Power!
P2 Xcursion's thrust is provided by an unusual aviation powerplant involving three elements: a motor spinning the prop; an electric generator supplying the motor and batteries; and an internal combustion engine powering the generator. At this time, P2 has both a test and boost battery plus it has the required electronic control unit (ECU).
If you are like me and used to Rotax, Continental, Jabiru, UL Power, Viking, Hirth, or AeroMomentum all this might sound strange. Yet it may be the way of the future …even if that future remains somewhat over the horizon.
Engiro M97 Electric is a 97 kW (130 horsepower) water- and air-cooled motor weighing only 32 kilograms (70 pounds). The manufacturer notes maximum power is available for three minutes, enough to break the water surface and start a climb; continuous power is 60 kW or 80 horsepower.The internal combustion engine is a WST KKM 352 Wankel Multi Diesel producing 57 kW (76 horsepower). It weighs 45 kilograms (about 100 pounds). In between is a Engiro G60 outputting 60 kW (80 horsepower), a water cooled generator weighing 15 kilograms (about 33 pounds). As a sum, the three elements weigh 233 pounds, roughly the weight of a legacy 100 horsepower aviation powerplant. Batteries and controllers add to the weight, perhaps explaining the gross weight of 750 kilograms or 1,653 pounds. This weight and electric propulsion would eliminate P2 Xcursion except FAA is presently considering both electric power and a different way to calculate gross weight that would disregard the current 1,430 pound (650 kg) LSA seaplane weight limit. See more on FAA's future regulation plans.
Developing P2 XcursionTomas was inspired by first Equator builder, Günter Pöschel. Tomas wrote, "Günter was CEO of Equator Aircraft Company. He made remarkable aircraft (multi-passenger photo) that were way ahead of their time from 1969 to 1985. His substantial knowledge and stories were too good to overlook." Many years later, Equator's P2 Xcursion first took flight in spring of 2018. That accomplishment, while no doubt immensely satisfying, opened the next chapter: raising the money to go forward with the project. "We are delighted and very proud to announce that Equator Aircraft AS has successfully achieved its Seedrs crowdfunding initial target investment," the company wrote. "The Equator team expresses a huge thank you to nearly 400 investors who share Equator's vision and have committed almost €160,000 (about $185,000) to date." While a tiny fraction of what Icon Aircraft has generated, this sum will evidently allow Tomas and team to proceed. You can help if you are so motivated using this link. Learn more and see more about Equator P2 Xcursion in this video from Aero 2018. In it, I interview electric flight expert and publisher, Willi Tacke, who filled in while Equator's personnel were about to take their first flight. Check out eFlight Journal (here's a PDF issue). P2 Xcursion specification appear below the video. https://youtu.be/0a-7FY33y_I
- Seating — 2, side-by-side
- Gross Weight — 750 kilograms (1,653 pounds)*
- Useful Load ("dry" weight) — 240 kilograms (529 pounds)
- Maximum Cruise Speed — 130 knots
- Economy Cruise Speed — 118 knots
- Fuel Consumption — 20 liter/hour (about 5 gallons/hour )
- Stall Speed (no flaps) — 52 knots
- Stall Speed (with flaps) — 48 knots
- Range — 845 nautical miles
- Avionics — MGL iEFIS with remote transponder and radio
- Propeller — DUC Flash, with custom DUC hub and spinner
- Controller — Sevcon size 8; 2 components, 8 kilograms (18 pounds) per controller, water cooled
- Boost Battery — Custom LiIon pack; 6 kWh, 32 kilograms (70 pounds)
- with separate battery management system
- Test Battery — LiPo pack; 18 kWh, 100 kgs (220 pounds)
- EMS — Sevcon & Equator Aircraft custom screen solution
- Engine Cooling — Common automotive heat exchangers, 4 elements
This article has been updated with a new image; a minor correction was made. LSA seaplanes have provided some of the most interesting new developments in aviation. Perhaps interest stems from the vast numbers of landable waterways compared to runways. Perhaps it’s the versatility of amphibians. Maybe people are simple drawn by the good looks or unique qualities of entries. Among the several projects, one of the most fascinating has been the hybrid electric seaplane called Equator P2 Xcursion, from Norway. I have reported on P2 Xcursion before; here’s the earlier article. Years in the Making CEO and lead designer Tomas Brødreskift reports the company has invested some 30,000 man-hours into the Equator Aircraft project. An engineer, private pilot, and recreational flying enthusiast, he acquired a passion for flying that most readers know well. Like many of them, he saw in the aircraft he was flying a lack of modern design.
New Owners and New ManagementMore than a relocation, Paul went on to say, "A Brunswick Maine private equity group led the acquisition of Clamar Floats with support by Coastal Enterprises, Inc. After the change, Paul will head Clamar’s Brunswick Landing operation. "Clamar’s new manufacturing facility will leverage a recently commissioned, advanced composites manufacturing center which includes an environmentally controlled layup room, high temperature processing oven, paint booth and advanced machining suite," said Paul. “I’ve been fascinated by water flying my entire life,” said Clair Sceli. ”I’ve been flying for over 50 years and for the past 20 focused on designing and building the best composite floats in the world. It is gratifying to see my products on 28 different airframes and the Clamar brand has been so widely accepted that my current facility was bursting at the seams trying to keep up." Clair continued his explation, "Undertaking a capital expansion at my stage of life seemed like the wrong decision so I sought out people who could support my customers from a world class facility and was fortunate to partner with Paul Richards and the folks in Brunswick, Maine.” Clamar's product line ranges from LSA (the 1400 series was designed for the Flight Design CTLS) to a 3500 class for heavier aircraft. “I’ve known Clair for many years and his products are fantastic, but his attention to quality and customer service are just as important," said Paul, "and we are excited to have Clair stay on in a senior consulting role to make sure we maintain his high standards." The Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority (MRRA) was established to transition the Brunswick Naval Air Station to civilian use and Steve Levesque has been its Executive Director since its formation in 2007. “Although aviation is not our only mission” states Levesque, “the Navy left us a hugely valuable asset and we strive to attract companies like Clamar Floats to take advantage of the taxpayer’s investment. Clamar’s move to Brunswick could not be more perfectly matched to this mission.” Other supporters of the Brunswick development include former FAA administrator Barry Valentine. Currently, Valentine is the Chairman of the Maine Aviation Business Association (MABA). Here's are two video interviews with Clair Sceli posted in 2016 and 2014… https://youtu.be/9BR1Il6FwL8 https://youtu.be/xBoMjxwPD9s
While weather starts to cool in the northern USA, in the sub-tropical south, it is still warm enough to enjoy float flying. However, even up north — Maine, in this case — seaplane activity continues to pace the LSA market. Recently, seaplane enthusiast and businessman Paul Richards informed us of a move for a leading producer of floats for light aviation: Clamar. Paul wrote, “Clamar Floats designs and produces straight and amphibious floats for experimental aircraft using high-tech materials and vacuum infusion technology to produce the lightest and strongest floats available.” Until this announcement, the company has been located in London, Ontario Canada. However, Paul reported that Clair Sceli, founder of Clamar Floats, announced the upcoming relocation of Clamar’s manufacturing operations to Brunswick Executive Airport on the campus of Brunswick Landing in Midcoast, Maine. He said, “This is a 3,500-acre campus is the former Brunswick Naval Air Station now operated by the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority.” The onetime military facility includes an 8,000 foot runway while the seaplane-accessible Androscoggin River water is less than two miles from the departure end of runway 01.
More Video Pilot ReportsAlthough weather all around Mt. Vernon foiled the arrival of several paid vendors, the airport itself has been flyable nearly all of both days so far. Saturday, the 8th is the third and concluding day. Vendors in attendance logged steady demo flights to prospective customers. I've written that Midwest LSA Expo is our very best location to do Video Pilot Reports (VPRs) and the same applies to getting a demo flight before you complete an order for a new aircraft. The show and Mt. Vernon airport are extremely good at providing this opportunity. I'll present reports ASAP but time is precious, so I'll just say now that we've now logged four VPRs. On opening day we did the Aeroprakt A32 Vixxen and Rans Aircraft's S-21 Outbound. Today, we captured the AeroEast Discovery 600 and a 914-powered Magni M-16 Gyroplane. Tomorrow, we hope to repeat. It takes a few hours to mount all the cameras, do a series of recorded landings and fly-bys, go evaluate the aircraft for an hour or so, and then record a video recap of the flight and the aircraft. Getting two of these done is an honest day's work. (…then the editing starts — many more hours). At dinner tonight we discussed the 10th year of Midwest LSA Expo with airport manager and Expo leader, Chris Collins. While he's frustrated about the weather east and west Mt. Vernon and those who could not fly in because of it, those that did display gave a steady stream of demo flights and we captured video we hope you will like. I'm calling it a winner. Keep watching Videoman Dave's You Tube channel as these VPRs are uploaded for your viewing entertainment and education.
More Images of the SW21 Jet DedicationAirport manager Chris Collins forwarded more photos of the ceremony dedicating the SW21 Jet to the Mt. Vernon airport. Of the one with Jon Hansen reverently touching the main support for the aircraft he donated to the airport, Chris said, "I love this shot!"
Mayor SpeaksIn the second Mt. Vernon Mayor John Lewis makes a few remarks while brothers Jon and Ron Hansen wear their trademark broad smiles. In the lower image, Chris identified all the parties that helped make this unusual light aircraft display possible.
Display CrewStanding left to right are: Fabricators Addison and Brad Sharp, Airport Board Vice Chairman Mike Ancona, Airport Administrative Assistant Sheila Jolly-Scrivner, Ron Hansen, Jon Hansen, Airport Board Treasurer Eddie Lee, Airport Board Chairman Gary Chesney, City Manager Mary Ellen Bechtel, Assistant City Manager Nathan McKenna, and Mayor John Lewis. Chris Collins is seated in front.
This article was updated with additional photos; see at bottom. Midwest LSA Expo held a special ceremony to honor two men in their donation of a beautiful LSA-like aircraft now permanently displayed on an striking pedestal near the airport entrance. Lots of airports have military aircraft mounted on pedestals. Even AirVenture, base of the homebuilders, has military fighters on raised displays — including the famous “jet-on-a-stick” near the show entrance. These displays honor a warbird heritage but those aircraft aren’t what most members fly. Enter Light-Sport Aircraft. While some have gotten deluxe far beyond the original concept — with prices to match — many affordable aircraft still make up the category of Light-Sport Aircraft, light kit aircraft, and ultralight aircraft. These aircraft are what “real” people fly. Midwest LSA Expo has now reached its 10th birthday, staying focused on showcasing this sector of aircraft. So, perhaps it is fitting that today they had a ceremony honoring a donation of a futuristic jet LSA design (technically “LSA-like”).
Here's How A32 Looks and FeelsYou'll get the full treatment when Videoman Dave finishes production for his YouTube channel that so many of you love. Here's I'll hit the highlights of what I learned. First blush: This is a great flying airplane, reflecting Aeroprakt's experience producing more than 1,000 of the predecessor A22LS, once also known as the A22 Valor. In A32, engineers have incorporated many refinements. The general appearance is similar but the changes are many. One measure of success is a widening of the flight envelope. Top speed increased to 130 mph, as we witnessed in a low-altitude upwind and downwind run with the carbureted Rotax 912 ULS at 5500 rpm. A-22 would max out at about 105 mph, so this was a pretty solid 20% bump. Yet A32 retains the earlier design's low speed capabilities. We saw stall in the low 40 mph bracket and witnessed airspeed into the high 30s without loss of control. Of course, these exercises were preparing for stall evaluations, which proved to be some of the most benign I've experienced in a Light-Sport Aircraft. Stall break was extremely mild with little fall-through and while a wing dipped, it recovered itself. I never added power for recovery to normal flight and altitude loss was minimal. Excellent! When deploying or retracting flaps, the pitch change is very minor. True, two notches is only 20° of flaps but deploying them made quite an aerodynamic change, just not a pitch change. On one landing I made with no flaps, I had to raise the nose significantly high to put A32 on the ground. A32 uses a full flying stabilator, a change from A22 and it was more responsive than the former. It will take a bit longer to get used to but it is a powerful surface. On takeoff, importer Dennis Long demonstrated how immediate the stabilator will lift the nose off the ground. In fact, that's his preferred takeoff technique: power to full, almost immediately pull aft on the Y-stick, control the nose so it sits a few inches off the runway, and let A32 then fly herself into the air. I followed his method and it worked wonderfully well. A32 uses the identical wing from A22 from the fuselage root out. However, the many clean-ups of the fuselage — and they are many, which you will see more fully in the Video Pilot Report to follow after editing — make the new model more efficient. A pilot literally has to work at getting it back on the ground …and that's a good thing. I reduced power to 3000 rpm abeam my touchdown target and then began to retard speed, lowering one notch of flaps after we got in flap speed range (<93 mph). On base leg I had both notches in and was monitoring my speed carefully. Using 60-65 mph was fine on base turning final but I moved it to 55-60 on short final and was ideally at 50-55 over the numbers. With two notches of flaps and with a modest headwind, A32 landed very short. You have excellent visibility on landing as you do in flight in A32 Vixxen. It lacks a skylight but otherwise offers a wide view all around. I could even watch as the main gear touched down (when Dennis was controlling the aircraft). Takeoff and landing has been quoted at "under 100 meters" (300 feet) and I believe it. No question it was short, assuming, of course, decent technique. A32 Vixxen was easy to fly with a joystick that provided enough feedback yet offered crisp response. In flight, I found the aircraft very well behaved and suitable for less experienced flyers, naturally assuming proper instruction and transition training. In all, I think Aeroprakt has a winner. Dennis Long equipped this particular example with most available options, including the Magnum airframe parachute system and Dynon HDX digital instrument plus autopilot. The still-available A22 starts at around $85,000 and even this deluxe A32 is a reasonably modest $135,000 — lower cost A32s are possible if you don't need all the fancy gear. You might like the short video as a taste of the bigger, better ones to come… https://youtu.be/m7EBsuCWWDE
Many pilots expect the first appearance of a new model at the biggest airshows, but here’s one of those times when the sector-specific shows win. It’s all about timing and the new Aeroprakt A32 just won it’s SLSA approval (#147 on our SLSA List). The Midwest LSA Expo is the first show after getting its documents, so here it is! Videoman Dave and I spent the morning working on a Video Pilot Report. We captured all the video, spent an hour flying with multiple cameras mounted, and recorded what we call the “stand up.” This segment comes after the flight when I — can you guess? — stand by the the airplane and review it on the ground. We loaded A32 Vixxen with six of our Garmin Virb cameras plus Dave’s new Garmin 360 cam. It was our first with the latter and, no promises, but that may hold some user-controllable footage so you can go along in an even more realistic way.
LSA Show Season Is Here! Welcome Midwest LSA Expo 2018I blasted up in a human mailing tube to St. Louis, Missouri, drove one-hour drive East to Mt. Vernon, Illinois and I'll be on site Thursday morning at KMVN airport where I will link up with Videoman Dave to do what we do best: record video interviews about fun, affordable light aircraft. We also get to do our best work capturing what we call Video Pilot Reports. The Midwest LSA Expo is our number one favorite location to do these as we can go anywhere on the airport to capture great video and can also cover the most airplanes. Video pilot reports take a lot longer to accomplish but the longer format appeals to those getting serious about an aircraft purchase. We'll also get other updates from vendors about what's new or upgraded from them. Midwest is having a noteworthy anniversary this year. It's the tenth anniversary for Chris Collins and his merry crew of volunteers and helpers. Chris is the longtime airport manager, a superbly well-liked gentleman who works as hard as anyone I've ever seen trying to make sure all the early-arriving vendors are well served and then opening the doors to welcome a flock of visitors. The midwest U.S. has a thick blanket of interest in recreational aircraft (think: Oshkosh). However, every year some attendees come from as far away as California and Washington state and even a few international visitors might be expected. I've attended every Midwest LSA Expo except last year, when a hurricane threatened my home and I had to assist in preparations. I'm pleased to be in town for the 10th anniversary event. Naturally, we can't predict the weather but this time of year has worked well.
But Wait, There's More…!Midwest kicks off what I'm calling the LSA Show Season. One I put in the circuit is Copperstate, which has a whole new time of the year to go along with their brand-new venue. But first… In between and up next: DeLand Showcase over November 1-2-3, 2018. That third-year event will be followed by Sebring, the grandaddy of these sector specific shows on January 23-26, 2019. Sebring will celebrate it 15th year and it still going strong, setting the pace for the others. A month later, February 8-9-10, is the new Copperstate show now combined with the Buckeye Air Fair. Copperstate is more than 45 years old, one of the longest-running in the circuit, but it has been looking for the kind of support they will now get from the town of Buckeye, just west of Phoenix. Buckeye has had their own event and the two will now combine. City fathers embrace this event as do the leaders of DeLand, Sebring, and Mt. Vernon. Wonderful! U.S. Regions are rather well represented by these four events — Midwest, DeLand, Sebring, Copperstate — with one in the aviation-active midwest, another out west, and two in Florida, which many believe to be most recreational aviation-active state in the nation. We start in September, pop up two months later in Florida, kick off the new year two months later in central Florida, and anticipate spring a month later in Arizona. In all, I'd call this an active schedule serving much of the recreational flying community. I'd hope you could make at least a couple of these if not all four. If you do, wave when you see Dave and I whizzing about shooting video of all the coolest airplanes we can find. We'd love to see you on site — by all means, say "Hi!" — but if you can't make them all, we'll do our best to cover them. Then, as spring really gets going, we return to Sun 'n Fun, followed by Aero and Oshkosh. What fun!
The biggest airshows in recreational aviation are history for 2018. I refer to Sun ‘n Fun, EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, and Europe’s Aero Friedrichshafen. Now comes the sector-specific shows, sometimes called LSA Shows. I love the truly big events as do most attendees and vendors. They are so well executed that I enjoy referring to them as “Disneyland for Airplanes,” (with a polite nod to the Magic Kingdom and its high-end theme park entertainment). I may have outgrown Disney but airplanes hold huge appeal for me and many, many others. The big shows boast hundreds of thousands of attendees throughout their event. That’s great! The sector specific shows are much smaller. That’s a good thing. Arguably, the most interesting shows are the smaller ones, those with more modest venues but where you can get more face time with company leaders or pilots. Not only can you have longer, more productive conversations but you can fly more aircraft.
What is happening and why?RV-12 SLSA airplanes will now be built and delivered by Van’s Aircraft at its Aurora, Oregon facility. Several years ago, Van’s set out to implement a comprehensive SLSA program. Synergy and Van’s partnered to build the various components of the complete SLSA program. Synergy worked with Van’s from the onset of the program to apply their expertise related to the marketing and aircraft assembly portions of the program. The natural evolution and success of both businesses has brought us to where we are today. Synergy has become even more focused on the business of assisting Van’s Aircraft’s customers in building their RV airplanes. As the SLSA program has matured, Van’s has expanded its workforce and capabilities to include marketing and aircraft construction. This change represents the next logical step in both companies’ successful business growth.
How does this affect Synergy?Synergy will focus on its popular builder-assist program, which has become that company’s key area of business emphasis and expansion over the past couple years.
What about earlier SLSA purchases? Who will provide support?All SLSA aircraft have been and will continue to be fully supported by Van’s Aircraft. That will not change. Van’s technical and business support teams remain ready to support every customer that owns and flies our airplanes. The Van’s support team serves as your point of contact for any support needs you may have related to the RV-12.
Will the price change? How do I communicate with Van's?Van's does not anticipate or plan to make any price changes as a result of this business change. Just as before, you can contact Van’s Aircraft at 503-678-6545 or you can email the SLSA support team.
What should I expect?You can and should expect excellent quality from a business that continuously strives to improve its products and services. Van's approach is to delivering the highest quality products. Our aircraft assembly and delivery department — a dedicated team focused on just that portion of our business — is staffed by experts with years of RV-12 building experience. Van's will, as always, strive to adopt and leverage new, innovative processes and technology to drive its ongoing quality program.
I have an airplane ordered already. How will this affect delivery?As part of this change, Van's is staffing a dedicated SLSA build team that is co-located at our Oregon factory, the design of which will allow us to increase throughput and enable even quicker delivery of RV-12iS SLSA aircraft. Van's will leverage its existing people, experience and processes to optimize our future ability to deliver more efficiently, as well. We do not anticipate schedule delays as a result of the change in production staffing and location. Any RV-12iS currently in production with Synergy will be finished at Synergy’s Eugene facility. Any aircraft not yet started will be completed at and by Van's Aircraft. Van's anticipates delivering aircraft that are already on the schedule on or before the estimated delivery dates we’ve previously communicated to individual customers.
Was there a problem between the businesses?No, not at all. This change is the result of mutual successes, and represents a natural and positive evolution of both businesses. It will enable both companies to deliver even more, both in partnership and separately.
What about builders assist at Synergy?Just as it makes sense for Van's to take on SLSA assembly work at this time, it also makes sense for Synergy to focus on its growing and key business: builder-assist services for people who are building their RVs. In fact, Synergy is growing and recently expanded beyond its Eugene, Oregon facility when it opened a second builder-assist center in Georgia. The company concluded, "These changes are great for Van's Aircraft, great for Synergy Air, and good news for our mutual customers."
Building kits for homebuilders and assembling fully built aircraft are two very distinct business models. In the early days of Light-Sport Aircraft, European producers enjoyed a head start in fully-built aircraft as their regulations were more accommodating. American producers were the kings of kits, an effort that calls for good assembly instructions and technical support plus groups that can help each other. These two activities represent night and day differences. However, in the years since the regulation arrived, American companies have significantly caught up. Indeed, as September and the 14th anniversary of the SP/LSA rule arrived, Van’s released news of a major change. “Van’s Aircraft is excited to announce that it is establishing its own aircraft assembly facility and team at its company headquarters in Aurora, Oregon,” the world’s largest kit producer said. “Future RV-12iS and RV-12-iST SLSA aircraft models will be assembled and delivered at this new facility.” As many readers know, nearby Synergy Air was Van’s assembly partner for several years.
Affordable Legal EaglesBetter Half VW, the company behind the Legal Eagle series, offers a welded fuselage and a materials package. However, to keep the price extremely low, builders will have to do some scrounging, said Leonard Milholland, the designer. How low can the price go? According to the company and its proprietor, Leonard Milholland, the cost to build a Legal Eagle is $3,000 to $5,000 …depending on your scrounging ability. "I have less than $500 hard cash in mine but I had the engine and most of the tubing, etcetera," said Leonard. Will a kit be made available? "No," said Leonard, "that probably won't ever happen." He added, "The whole idea of this design is to keep it economical. You can afford it if you want to do the work." If that isn't for you, well, you have many fine choices in fully built aircraft although you may be able to find a Legal Eagle somebody else built. A simple machine, Legal Eagle is for pilots looking to have a little fun in the air on the most modest of budgets. You buy a set of plans for $50 and invest six to nine months of your time. Other packages offer a series of videos and more details. Some builders will choose the welded fuselage and a materials kit though these will increase costs beyond the bare minimum. Leonard reported, "I started [my company by supplying] the Better Half VW 2 Cylinder Engine conversion in about 1993, and so far have sold about 5,000 plans of this conversion. One unique feature is the fact that there is no need to cut that case!" He added, "Somewhere between 450 and 600 of these engine conversions have been built and are flying today... including on dozens on flying Leagle Eagles.
Legal Eagle Ultralight Specifications *
- Weight — 244 pounds (dry)
- Wing Span — 281 inches (23 feet, 5 inches)
- Wing Cord — 55 inches
- Wing Area — 107 square feet
- Height — 66 inches
- Fuel — 5 gallons, gravity feed system
- Propeller — fixed pitch wood
- Gear — Tuffy Bicycle Wheels and shopping cart tail wheel.
- Speed — limited to legal ultralight speed (55 knots) but can do up to 60 MPH
- Stall speed — approximately 25 MPH
Perhaps not every pilot needs for aircraft to be affordable but a great many do. Plus, does not every pilot — every customer — appreciate a bargain? In this article, I am writing about one of most affordable aircraft you can build. Legal Eagle is not available either fully built or in a full kit. A genuine, qualifying Part 103 ultralight vehicle, Legal Eagle ultralight weighs only 244 pounds. The three axis aircraft is designed around the four stroke half VW engine producing 30 horsepower, more than enough power for most applications. A slightly enlarged version of the original, the Legal Eagle XL Ultralight can handle a 275 pound pilot yet has an empty weight of just 246 pounds …so it also makes the grade as an ultralight. The original Legal Eagle limited the pilot weight to 225 pounds. Physically bigger pilots also needed a wider, taller seat plus more wing area and span was needed to carry the added pilot weight.
New E-series ChallengersAs proof this company has found a way after the demise of Dave Goulet, Quad City is introducing the new E-series Challenger. Get more details here, but a summary is… Quad City’s partner, National Ultralight, said “[Our new] EL-65 is a long wing, two seat, high power, high lift aircraft well suited for amphibious floats, heavy loads and high density altitudes. The new ES-65 is a clip wing derivative of the EL-65 optimized for speed with a wing four feet shorter. The first single seat Challenger ultralight a third of a century ago evolved into a full line of kit-built aircraft with a wide mix of models, options and accessories. A new Challenger 103 expands the line back to the grass roots and the new Challenger Light Sports are the line's most dramatic ever step forward. (Note that Quad City does not offer a fully-built SLSA model despite use of the Light Sport term; all Challengers are kits.) “Affordable” is a variable term that depends on an individual’s budget. What one pilot might afford another cannot. Yet how about this offer from Quad City? “Quick-build packages including airframe, instruments, engine, prop, […everything you need] start at $29,975.” I have to judge that a remarkable bargain in light aviation.
Big Celebration”Join us in Erie, Illinois on September 14-16, 2018 to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Challenger.” The company has done this before at earlier benchmarks and attracted hundreds of Challenger enthusiasts and dozens of aircraft near their home base. People attending the Midwest LSA Expo over September 6-7-8 could travel a modest distance and catch this complimentary event. For more about Quad City and Challenger, see all reports on this website here. Watch for an upcoming video interview at Oshkosh 2018 soon.
One essential visit at AirVenture Oshkosh 2018 was to the Quad City booth in the Fun Fly Zone. This iconic company in the very light aircraft sector is celebrating 35 years in business. Hearty congratulations to this midwestern USA company for supplying highly affordable aircraft for more than three decades. Even after the loss of their founder, Dave Goulet, the enterprise has carried the torch to the delight of many pilots. Today, after all those years, the company can report more than 4,000 Challengers are flying. Along with a few other giants of light aviation, this is one of the great success stories in fly-for-fun aircraft. All have built as kits and one reason for this achievement is care in making the kit an easy project. For its entire existence, Quad City has followed an admirable system: “Our philosophy is for [the factory] to do all the important and demanding structural work, including installing the controls.
Core-Four-Plus-OneIn June 2018, a series of many meetings that began in 2014 came to an early but very promising point. Here is what I think this means for the Light-Sport Aircraft manufacturing industry and those who own and operate LSA. LAMA took a long list of suggestions about the then-10-year-old industry and reduced it to four initiatives. We were wisely counseled that too long a list would go nowhere. On the tightest of budgets*, we have been pursuing these objectives for four and a half years. The four core goals are:
- Encouraging FAA to allow special Light-Sport Aircraft to perform aerial work (beyond flight instruction and towing)
- Introducing the safety benefits (and performance gains) that come with adjustable propellers controlled solely by a single lever
- Urging FAA to permit electric propulsion and instruction in aircraft designed for such motors
- Solving the longstanding problem that requires modern gyroplanes to be built only as kits (with the attendant problem that no commercial training is possible).
Things are looking up for Light-Sport Aircraft, rather fantastically so in my admittedly biased opinion. While this space is usually dedicated to cool new airplanes — not boring government policy reviews …yawn! — this article will provide some rays of light to an industry approaching its 15th birthday (in September 2019). I think some of this may surprise you. LAMA, the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association (kind of a GAMA for the light aircraft sector) and its partner — USUA, the U.S. Ultralight Association — have been heads-down working on improving the opportunities for LSA. Core-Four-Plus-One In June 2018, a series of many meetings that began in 2014 came to an early but very promising point. Here is what I think this means for the Light-Sport Aircraft manufacturing industry and those who own and operate LSA. LAMA took a long list of suggestions about the then-10-year-old industry and reduced it to four initiatives.
Ryan History LessonT. Claude Ryan was the founder of the Ryan Aeronautical Company. You know this man even if you may not recognize the name. Another of his companies, Ryan Airlines, was the manufacturer of the Ryan NYP, more famously known as the Spirit of St. Louis. The first Ryan ST flew for the first time on June 8th, 1934 and production began the following year, when nine aircraft were delivered. Production rates remained low — about one aircraft every two weeks — but this changed in 1940 when deliveries to military forces began in earnest to support the war effort. Total production of civil and military aircraft before WWII numbered 315. Another 1,253 military versions were produced in '42-'43 totaling 1,568 aircraft of all models. Hear Nick describe his creation in this video. https://youtu.be/uLxKNwAkvZs
One aircraft at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh really caught my eye. OK, truth be told, dozens of aircraft caught my eye but this shiny example seemed to be looking back at me. We simply had to do a video interview with the developer of the 1930s-era Ryan ST because of its fascinating history and its handsome good looks. If you love vintage aviation, this should grab your attention as it did mine. Nick Pfannenstiel is a young developer with a mission, to create or, more accurately, re-create the Ryan ST. He began the design phase of his 95% scale Ryan ST in June 2015 and construction began in early 2016. By 2018, you see the aircraft is nearly finished form. Ryan’s ST featured two open cockpits in tandem seating with a semi-monocoque metal fuselage. A main steel ring forms the backbone of the Ryan ST replica but most of the fuselage uses aluminium alloy The project is not merely a personal fascination for Nick.