EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018 is now history. You will be reading and seeing lots more about the big summer celebration of flight — it appeared very strong to most observers — and you will see lots more from OSH ’18 here and on Videoman Dave’s popular YouTube channel. As most readers know, Oshkosh is a massive event, by many measures the largest gathering of true aviation believers in the known universe. However, being big isn’t everything. Indeed, some recreational flying enthusiasts will soon begin a trek to Mt. Vernon Illinois for the Midwest LSA Expo, a far smaller event that has proven adept at linking willing buyers with ready sellers. (It’s also our very best event to capture Video Pilot Reports, so watch for news about that in about a month.) Half A World Away, Aviation Is Getting Started Let me tell you about a specific brand fly-in, for the CTLS produced in China.
Aerotrek on Clamar Floats"I do not sell Aerotrek 220s or 240s on floats," said Rob Rollison of Aerotrek when interviewed at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018. He refers to the taildragger or tricycle gear versions of the design. "I deliver on wheels but for $300, an owner can add the float option, which provides mounting brackets attached to specially-reinforced fuselage points.” Adding floats is then a matter of taking the newly certificated Aerotrek to a qualified installer who can work out the hardware and bracketry to mount straight (no wheels) or amphibious floats. Most sellers know of a few businesses who specialize in such work. A proper installer does more than supply the hardware and perform the installation. They also do critical measurements and calculations to establish the correct angle of incidence. On floats you cannot rotate for takeoff as you do on a landplane so whomever does this install needs to evaluate each aircraft based on its weight and balance in order to assure the right mounting position. This specialized skill is one obvious reason why Rollison does not sell on floats and why you must shift to ELSA status after taking delivery of your Aerotrek. To learn more about Aerotrek aircraft through many articles and videos, please visit their dedicated page here. * "Certificated" implies the earning of an Airworthiness Certificate. It does not mean "certified." Light-Sport Aircraft are technically not certified by FAA; they are "accepted" after the manufacturer has demonstrated full compliance to ASTM standards.
You have more privileges than you may know with your Light-Sport Aircraft. One of the more misunderstood aspects of FAA’s sweeping 2004 Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft regulation is ELSA or Experimental Light-Sport Aircraft. Some people call these “kit” LSA. While they can be sold that way, no percentage applies so a manufacturer could call an ELSA a kit by merely having the buyer apply a single decal. To gain its Special Airworthiness certificate, an ELSA must first be a bolt-for-bolt copy of the manufacturer’s Special or fully-built version of LSA. However, once certificated, the owner can begin to make changes on his or her own. They can also become qualified to do all manner of maintenance themselves, assuming they so desire. An Airframe and Powerplant mechanic (A&P) or Light-Sport Repairman – Mechanic (LSR-M) can also work on ELSA as they can SLSA. Once certificated and in his possession the owner can change to ELSA status allowing him or her to do almost anything …change avionics or even swap engines.
Kolb Aircraft Firefly on FloatsIn the nearby images you see a customer's Kolb Aircraft Firefly on Puddle Jumper floats. It could cost as little as $25,000 on straight or non-ampibious floats. Land and water options plus added equipment will increase that number but compared to any new seaplane anywhere, Firefly on floats represents a spectacular bargain. For a well performing fixed wing with a wonderful brand name, FireFly on Puddle Jumper floats makes a great choice. (Add too many options and not only your price goes up but your aircraft may no longer fit in Part 1o3, should the freedom of FAA's simplest regulation be important to you.) If you must have two seats, FireFly loses out, being designed expressly to be a single seater. Nonetheless, if budget is a primary driver for your airplane purchase, as it is for most people, the FireFly on floats looks to be a highly attractive option. Kolb's Firefly (video) flies wonderfully well. It fulfills the Kolb brand — begun by an industry pioneer named Homer Kolb, since deceased — by offering superb handling and great performance in one of the easiest-to-fly taildraggers offered to pilots. If you think I'm being too kind to Kolb, you probably haven't flown one. Homer's achievement is like that of Dick van Grunsven, creator of the RV series of Kitplanes, the world's most popular kit-built airplane series of of all time. Van's has sold more but Kolb has a record of which it can be very proud. At an affordable price for a great flying aircraft with a wonderful history, you can hardly get more enjoyment per dollar invested than Kolb Firefly on floats. If you wish to read the full, unedited text of FAA's guidance to field offices regarding Part 103, click this link for a PDF version of FAA's official word on float weight (and parachute weight, and more). Click this link for Kolb's factory information about FireFly. Watch for our video interview with Kolb boss Brian Melbourne as soon as editing can be completed. (Please be patient: we're still at Oshkosh and the editing effort runs two days to a week per video; we will likely record well over 30 new videos in the week of AirVenture 2018.)
Maybe you never flew a floatplane or seaplane (the latter implying a hull). If that’s true you are missing one of the singular pleasures of flying. Landing on water is almost unreal. It seems unlikely but when you find yourself about to touchdown on a lake, you know you have arrived in a way few people in history have ever considered much less achieved. Alas, the cost of having that dream become reality is substantial. A general aviation floatplane easily runs half a million dollars new, probably much more. Even used, a floatplane is a very costly purchase. Because of their scarcity, a seaplane (with a hull) will cost you even more. Even the most modestly-priced LSA on floats can be a rather expensive proposition. Along comes Part 103 to save the day. While Light-Sport are affordable compared to, say, a new Cessna 172 on amphibious floats, nothing can compare with Part 103 ultralight vehicles on wheels or floats.
Specifications for Magnus Fusion 21
- Gross Weight — 1,320 pounds (600 kilograms)
- Fuel Capacity — 23.7 gallons (90 liters)
- Cockpit Width — 46 inches (1.17 meters)
- Cruise Speed — 116 knots
- Never Exceed Speed — 151 knots
- Stall Speed (no flaps) — 48 knots
- Stall Speed (best flaps) — 45 knots
- Takeoff Distance — 400 feet (120 meters)
- Landing Distance — 500-600 feet (150-200 meters)
- Range — 500-600 miles (800-1,000 kilometers)
All specifications provided by Magnus Aircraft
A new-to-Americans Light-Sport Aircraft made its debut showing at AirVenture 2018. Here is the Magnus Aircraft Fusion 212. It appears another SLSA snuck by my penetrating radar for such achievements. U.S. chief pilot Charlie Snyder told me that the first Fusion earned its Special Airworthinews certificate back in September 2017 thereby joining our SLSA List at number 146. Magnus hails from Hungary, home to more aircraft manufacturers than you may be aware, including such as ApolloFox fixed wing and Apollo weight shift trikes. American representation for Magnus Aircraft USA is handled by Snyder and Magnus president Istvan Foldesi. We recorded a video interview with both men at AirVenture 2018. Both live in the USA while the company CEO Laszlo Boros runs the Hungary operation in a new manufacturing plant near Pecs-Pogany Airport. Snyder and Foldesi exhibited their brightly painted low wing that uses mostly carbon fiber construction and a dual taper wing.
Hawk Single and UltraAt AirVenture 2018 I met and interviewed Bob Santom and his son, LB. Another son is also involved making the enterprise a family affair. Preparing for our video recording, I learned about their plans. The Santoms will take over production and sales of the single place Hawk models including the Part 103 model and the Ultra, a somewhat beefier model that is built as an Experimental Amateur Built (EAB). My discussion with Bob and LB was encouraging. I was impressed to hear the enthusiasm from father and son for keeping this series of Hawks available. This is great news for Hawk fans. The two place models Terry Short and son have been assembling look great and will continue. This includes the FAA-accepted LSA model powered by the Rotax 912. Terry is busy enough that the single place models were lower on his to-do list so in stepped the Santoms who will assure the single place models get extra attention. "We're located on an airport community about 60 miles from Terry's Lake Wales Airport location," said Bob. This will make it easy on both enterprises as the Santoms will lean on Terry's fabrication abilities as they use many parts that are interchangeable between the single and two-seat models of Hawk. "We talked to many Hawk enthusiasts at recent shows and we were pleased to hear of genuine interest in the single place models," Bob added. As you can see by the bare bones Hawk they exhibited, the new operation is just getting underway so a new website is not yet available but you can can email for more info.
CGS Hawk is one of our most storied brands of ultralight and light aircraft. Built in one and two seat varieties in several variations for 35 years, more than 2,000 are flying. Hawk has proven a significant contributor to the light aircraft fleet. Lots of owners I’ve spoken to simply love their Hawk. After many years of production by the company named after its founder Chuck Slusarczyk — the “C” in CGS — the well known brand is now on its third …and fourth, owners. It’s all good, though. Let me explain. Current brand owner is Terry Short (article). He will remain key to the manufacture of these aircraft but in fall 2017, he struck an agreement with a new group. Hawk Single and Ultra At AirVenture 2018 I met and interviewed Bob Santom and his son, LB. Another son is also involved making the enterprise a family affair.
On my first day on Wittman Field here in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, we took the privilege to drive around the grounds and capture video scenes as hundreds of exhibitors arrive and set up their displays. Despite attending a great many over the years, these events have always amazed me and they still do. With less than a day remaining to set up, it appears a hopeless amount of work remains. Nonetheless, at show after show, by opening gate the place looks quite ready, the crowds flood in, and exhibitors smile as they show off their wares. We will have lots more to report and will capture many videos for you, but here’s a little five-minute glimpse of what it looks like as the show unfolds before our eyes. To those who have attended, the scenes may refresh memories. To those that have never been, here’s what you’re missing and why you might want to plan for this in the future.
Respected Com Radios and Transponder
This article has been updated… Technology company TQ Group established a reputation for high quality engineering and precision products. The German enterprise will debut two of their general aviation products for the AirVenture attendees at the end of July 2018. One is an ADS-B transponder in the final stages of certification and the other is a VHF Transceiver that boasts a strong following in Europe. You may already know the name Dittel. Walter Dittel has been a respected manufacturer of small, high quality, low current drain aviation radios and accessories. With the acquisition of leading European avionics manufacturer Dittel in 2016 TQ was able to expand its core capabilities and expertise, while substantially enhancing its R&D resources. Through its business unit TQ-Aviation, the company has been serving the aviation sector for more than 15 years, delivering advanced electronic products to well-known aircraft manufacturers and airlines. TQ-Group now employs nearly 1,600 employees at 14 locations throughout Germany, Switzerland, China and the United States.
Opener's BlackFlyOpener issued several news releases on July 12th, evidently aimed at mainstream news who seized on the unorthodox vehicle. The company, now quartered in Silicon Valley, claims "1,400+ flights and 12,000+ miles flown" over nine years of stealthy development; most of these were remotely piloted. Manned flight is very recent. “Opener is re-energizing the art of flight with a safe and affordable flying vehicle,” said Marcus Leng, CEO. “We will offer competitive pricing in an endeavor to democratize three-dimensional personal transportation. Safety has been our primary driving goal in the development of this new technology." "Even though not required by FAA regulations," Leng continued, "BlackFly operators will be required to successfully complete the FAA Private Pilot written examination and also complete company-mandated vehicle familiarization and operator training.” In its news blitz, Opener announced Google guru Larry Page is one of the company’s strategic backers. Page also is helping to finance Kitty Hawk and its Flyer (photo below). In a CBS News article, Leng was reported saying, “When you press the thumb-stick to climb, you have absolute full control. When you stop in the middle of the air and go off the joystick, the aircraft freezes." These phrases are hardly the way a pilot would say it; perhaps he stated it this way because he was speaking to a non-pilot reporter. Although BlackFly claims full amphibious capabilities, "It is primarily designed to easily operate from small grassy areas and travel distances of up to 25 miles at a speed of 62 mph." said Opener. It presently has a 25-minute flight endurance. See more specifications; scroll down to bottom. As with most of these multicopters, BlackFly's feature list differs from most LSA:
- Software flight-envelope protection
- Automatic Return-to-Home button (localized training feature)
- Soft-landing assist (making BlackFly approachable to non-pilots)
- Comprehensive training (required for purchase)
- Geofence-capable (ostensibly preventing entry to certain airspace)
- Super Charging capable (less than 30 minutes)
- Low noise signature
- Ballistic parachute option available
- Manufactured in the USA
Are Multicopters 'Inevitable' in Aviation?"I've noticed in my career that things go from impossible to inevitable in a very short period of time," Eustace said. His thoughts and my expanding view of this new wave of designs suggests we are just seeing the beginning of a new kind of aircraft, one anybody might be able to enjoy with mimimal or no training. I know that sounds radical and ill-advised but the potential of software-enhanced flying is hard to overlook — at least once the software is judged "very robust." It is not yet, but that may follow rather quickly. “The dream of flight, which was so difficult and expensive to obtain, will soon be within the reach of millions," added Eustace. "Opener is putting the fun back into flying and opening up a new world of possibilities.” If you are attending EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in a few days, you can check out BlackFly yourself. Opener vehicles will be on display in the Innovation Showcase, booths IC-12A and 13A. https://youtu.be/Jcpq6XYYoY4
This article again delves into the changing face of aviation and in this case within the Part 103 Ultralight Vehicle sector. Infotech in Part 103 ultralight vehicles means far more than GPS or even synthetic vision digital screens (imagine an iPad mated to a Levil box … remarkable stuff and for very little money). However, digital avionics are not the point of this story. In the last few days, a formerly Canadian company, Opener, announced their new eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing), the second developer I know of to adopt Part 103’s simplicity and freedom. Like Kitty Hawk’s Flyer*, the rather unusually-named BlackFly also calls itself an “ultralight,” more precisely meaning an ultralight vehicle that can operate under Part 103. What you might like about this, compared to more than a dozen “air taxi” designs, is that BlackFly appears aimed at recreational flyers (as does Flyer).
The Good"It is with great pleasure we can report that Equator Aircraft Norway achieved first fully balanced flight with the P2 Xcursion prototype aircraft over the newly painted runway 22 at Eggemoen Technology Park in Norway," reported the company. Here's our earlier report on this fascinating project. Tested by Eskil Amdal, Equator reportedly accelerated to 70 knots before leaving the ground and flying down the runway at 100 knots at nine meters (about 30 feet, at the edge of ground effect), before landing smoothly. Amdal reported stable flight with good controllability in all axes. Two more flights were performed the following day, further establishing confidence in the flying characteristics. "The aircraft is a prototype developed by Equator with very limited means since 2010," explained the company. "It can operate from land or water, and with its small electric motor, low float wings and good aerodynamics, promises to rival land planes on performance." "Equator's core goal to make flying more available to more people, by supplying, green, silent and practical aircraft to the market," added the company. Equator benefits from a very large space inside (nearby photo), and "a simple intuitive cockpit that makes it easy to learn to fly." Equator hopes to deliver the aircraft both as a hybrid-electric and pure-electric aircraft. The current prototype is fully electric, is set up for testing only, and can fly for about 35 minutes. "Further development shows promise to deliver aircraft with at least 1 hour and 45 minutes of flight time," explained Equator. "In hybrid configuration the aircraft has [the potential for a] range of 5 to 6 hours." Equator is actively looking for investors to move into production while also seeking a larger owner to make sure it can continue the process rapidly. "It was a fantastic day for the team," said Designer and CEO Tomas Brødreskift. "This marks the real beginning of the test program for the aircraft prototype. We are now looking forward to gaining actual flight data, and not to mention look forward to putting the aircraft on the water as soon as possible. We are thrilled to see the aircraft perform as expected, and can't wait to test the aircraft further." https://youtu.be/82J7gJ_7c4w
The BadFrom a Finland online report, "A small company billed as Finland’s only plane maker saw a one-million-euro prototype of its amphibious plane go up in flames Tuesday morning after a training flight ended in a crash. Here is our last report on Atol's move to production. "Speaking at a press conference in Rovaniemi, Finland on Tuesday afternoon, Markku Koivurova, CEO Atol Avion and the designer of the aircraft, said that the plane was completely destroyed in the resulting fire, but that the two pilots on board were able to walk away from the site of the accident. "The Atol chief executive recounted the events that led up to the crash. He said a pilot instructor and his trainee ran into problems on a training flight when the amphibian's 'hood' opened up. The pilot decided to ditch the vessel. "He explained that although there was a nearby body of water, the pilot determined that it was too shallow for a landing and opted to take the plane down for a controlled emergency landing in a forested area." Atol Avian said that it is not yet clear precisely why the plane caught fire, but speculated that a fuel tank behind the left wing ruptured. Both occupants were able to walk away from the crash although both sustained some burn injuries.
The Not-So UglyThe report continued, "Koivurova said that the accident would not pose a major setback for the small plane manufacturing firm,” while adding that the company will suffer additional loss by taking one customer plane out of the production queue for further testing. The aircraft retails for 169,000 euros ($199,000 at today's exchange rate). Atol Avian currently has six planes in production. The amphibious side-by-side seating Atol 650 LSA is made out of wood composite with foldable wings. See all our earlier reports on Atol. While the LSA seaplane sector of the Light-Sport Aircraft industry is developing some of the most interesting concepts, bringing these more complex products to market appears significantly more costly and time consuming than many non-amphibious aircraft that have preceded them. From Icon's A5 that is still struggling to reach production numbers to the now-departed MVP and others, the sector is not exhibiting the same time-to-market timing as simpler aircraft.
In the fascinating LSA seaplane sector-within-a-sector, we find both good news and bad news today, though the latter can be overcome. That’s the shortest possible story. More detail follows. The Good “It is with great pleasure we can report that Equator Aircraft Norway achieved first fully balanced flight with the P2 Xcursion prototype aircraft over the newly painted runway 22 at Eggemoen Technology Park in Norway,” reported the company. Here’s our earlier report on this fascinating project. Tested by Eskil Amdal, Equator reportedly accelerated to 70 knots before leaving the ground and flying down the runway at 100 knots at nine meters (about 30 feet, at the edge of ground effect), before landing smoothly. Amdal reported stable flight with good controllability in all axes. Two more flights were performed the following day, further establishing confidence in the flying characteristics. “The aircraft is a prototype developed by Equator with very limited means since 2010,” explained the company.
Pipistrel is One of the Leaders"Serial Number 900 leaves the factory headed for Australia," glowed Michael Coates, the longtime distributor for Pipistrel aircraft in Australia and the United States. "It’s hard to believe that the time passes so quickly and here we are shipping number 900 from the Sinus/Virus family to a very excited customer in Australia." In Virus (yes, I've heard most the jokes about the name) Michael refers to the best seller of the comprehensive Pipistrel line. The reference here is to Virus SW. While the company has succeeded with a number of their other models, Virus SW — the shorter wing span and higher cruise speed variation — is the clear front runner among their production. Pipistrel started with weight shift trikes, way back in the days of Soviet-controlled eastern bloc countries. Founder Ivo Boscarol had to sneakily build his first and fly it only in the evening when few might notice. After the Berlin Wall fell and freedom came to these countries Boscarol was able to embark on an ambitious plan to build his company into the light aircraft powerhouse it is today. This is a man who can barely sit still long enough for an interview as he is managing a number of activities and appears always thinking of the next thing. Coates observed that the 900 aircraft does not include motorgliders Taurus or Apis, GA candidate Panthera, nor does it include 200 Alpha Trainers delivered to the Indian armed forces and or other government aircraft.
Pipistrel from India to Oshkosh"We achieved another significant success," added company spokesperson Taja Boscarol. "A Pipistrel Sinus 912 aircraft was certified in India as the first aircraft in the LSA class, ever," she added. This particular airplane — nicknamed "Mahi" by its owners — is part of the WE! Expedition project, in which two female pilots, a mother and daughter, intend to fly around the world. Pipistrel will no doubt promote that voyage as they've done other global circumnavigation flights. If you want to check out the Pipistrel line, you have a great chance coming soon. "This year is going to be our biggest yet," boasted Coates, "with a strong emphasis on electric aircraft and virtual reality flight Training" He said his display will include the following:
- Alpha Electro
- Taurus Electro along with the Pipistrel Solar Trailer
- Taurus 503
- Virus SW
- Sinus MAX
- X-Alpha Virtual Reality Simulator, and…
- several trailers to show how you can hanger your aircraft at home
In the world of Light-Sport Aircraft, we have more than 90 manufacturers and 145 Special LSA (see our whole list) accepted* by FAA. This huge diversity of design has given recreational pilots around the world a large number of ready-to-fly aircraft choices beyond anything we have seen in aviation since the beginning. However, the old 80/20 rule still applies where (approximately) 80% of the aircraft sold are built by 20% of the manufacturers. It is a credit to this 14-year-old industry that even the smaller companies can remain viable enterprises. Very few of the 90+ manufacturers have left the business. However, most of the airplanes are made by a few top producers, which you can see in our market share charts. Pipistrel is One of the Leaders “Serial Number 900 leaves the factory headed for Australia,” glowed Michael Coates, the longtime distributor for Pipistrel aircraft in Australia and the United States.
Making Shock "Ultra"First, here's what remains: “double slotted” flaps (70% bigger than earlier Savage Cub models), the custom-made micro vortex generators installed inside the flap vane, larger ailerons (40% bigger than older models). These features were part of the reason for "dramatically increase the efficiency of the wing at very low speed."Ultra Shock also retain its strength. "We loaded and drop tested [Ultra Shock] up to 1,000 kilograms (2,200 pounds) from 120 centimeters (about 4 feet) above the ground without any damage." That may not sound like such a high drop height but I've seen test reports and can attest that is a very demanding test, especially at such weight. The design "virtually eliminates the touchdown rebound," Pascale said. "We proceeded from the original Savage Cub-S," Pascale continued, "reinforcing and refining the fuselage framework, increasing … the cockpit height, improving the accessibility, and generally improving ergonomics on board." In other words, he made sure larger pilots will fit well.Despite Ultra Shock's lighter weight design, Zlin said the “engine bay can accommodate different engines from the standard Rotax 912 ULS (100 horsepower) up to the Rotax 914 (115 horsepower), new Rotax 915 (>135 horsepower), and even the Titan 340 Stroker (180 horsepower).In doing all this, Pascale asked, "Why go fast? It's so much more fun to fly slow and land short." Indeed, he made sure Ultra Shock hits these fun flying goals (see specifications below)."We asked ourselves how much weight it would be possible to save, while maintaining the cost of the transformation at a reasonable level,” recalled Russo. He also wondered "to what extent the excellent performance of the Shock Cub would be affected."He managed to reach a targeted and demonstrated minimum empty weight — an impressively slim 649 pounds — with a 100 horsepower Rotax 912 with radio and basic instrumentation and a weight savings program which introduced carbon fiber elements, light weight battery, and Oratex fabric covering (a weight-saving material with already colored cloth) in place of classic heat-shrink Dacron, among other choices.It appears he succeeded well. Ultra Shock is significantly lighter than most of the other Cub-clones, which should translate to great performance with the Rotax 912 and reduced overall expense. Zlin is targeting €95,000 (about $115,000) for a well-equipped Ultra Shock but for U.S. pricing and availability, please contact SportairUSA. Whatever the final price tag for your chosen options, it is dramatically less than a CarbonCub (that commonly exceeds $200,000, according to many buyers).
- Gross Weight — 1.320 pounds (600 kilograms)
- Minimum Empty Weight — 649 pounds (295 kilograms)
- with optional light weight equipment
- Useful Load — 671 pounds (305 kilograms)
- Standard Fuel Capacity — 18 gallons (68 liters)
- Payload at Full Fuel — 563 pounds (256 kilograms)
- Wingspan — 29.5 feet (900 centimeters)
- Wing Area — 164 square feet (15.2 square meters)
- Length — 22.4 feet (684 centimeters)
- Height (on 20-inch Alaskan tires) — 7.4 feet (225 centimeters)
- Cabin Width — 27.1 inches (69 centimeters)
- Maximum Cruise Speed — 112 mph / 97 knots
- Cruise at 75% Power — 87 mph / 76 knots
- Range — 323 nautical miles
- Maximum Climb Rate — 1,000 fpm (2 meters/second)
- Minimum Flight Speed — 21 mph / 18 knots
- Minimum Takeoff Ground Roll at Gross Weight — 160 feet (50 meters)
- Minimum Landing Ground Roll at Gross Weight — 105 feet (33 meters)
After Aero 2016, we enthusiastically reported on the Zlin Shock Outback (as it is known to Americans; Shock Cub to other countries). You could fairly call it Europe’s answer to Just Aircraft’s jaw-dropping SuperSTOL, the amazing performer that captures nearly everyone’s attention from its introduction until today. Both designs go far beyond the best-selling Special LSA in the country: CubCrafters’ CarbonCub.With the original Shock Outback’s awesomely powerful Continental Titan X-340 producing 180 horsepower, pilots had a shock-and-awe response to the short takeoff roll and homesick-angel climb performance. The aircraft truly inspired many.How could Zlin go one better on this fascinating design? In a word: lighter.Admittedly, Shock Outback, sold in America by SportairUSA — with the big engine and all the other (sometimes optional) fixings such as their slatted wing, long-stroke landing gear, giant Alaskan tires — is an aircraft about as large as it could be and still fit in the LSA category.
- Wingspan — 25 feet, 11 inches (7.9 meters)
- Length — 23 feet, 4 inches (6.88 meters)
- Height — 5 feet, 6 inches (1.97 meters)
- Wing area — 118 square feet (11 square meters)
- Maximum takeoff weight (LSA) — 1,320 pounds (600 kilograms)
- Maximum takeoff weight (EAB) — 2,646 pounds (1,200 kilograms)
- Empty weight (LSA) — 750 pounds (340 kilograms)
- Empty weight (EAB) — 889 pounds (400 kilograms)
- Standard Engine (LSA) — Rotax 912iS Sport (100 horsepower)
- Optional Engine (LSA) — Rotax 915iS (141 horsepower, max)
- Powerplant choices (EAB) — see video or downloadable brochure
- Never exceed speed — 216 knots
- Maximum load factor — +6/-4 g
- Carbon reinforced composite structure with carbon pushrod linkage
- Windshield frame as rollover bar for improved occupant protection
- Aramid cockpit lining for occupant protection
- Electrically retractable landing gear (fixed gear configuration for U.S. SLSA)
- Sliding and swiveling canopy
- Hydraulic disk toe brakes front and rear with parking lock
- Leather finish to both with five-point harness
- Manually adjustable rudder pedals
- Electric trim all axis
- Fuel capacity — 2 x 13.2 U.S. gallon (50 liter) wing tanks
- Electrically Retractable Landing Gear
- Baggage compartments:
- Front (before windshield) 33 pounds (15 kilogram) with external baggage door
- Rear (behind cockpit) 33 pounds (15 kilogram)
Many pilots who first set eyes on the SW51, a precisely faithful 70%-scale imitation of the famous North American Aviation P-51 Mustang managed to utter a single word: “WOW!” Can you blame them? Look at this bird. The shape is classic and the detail is exquisite, finished down to the last rivet to mimic the famous World War II American fighter. Except, it’s a kind of fake. I better explain. We’ve seen this spectacular execution of Hans Schwöller before. It was then called FK51 and we reported it earlier in more detail as to its construction. Now welcome ScaleWings Aircraft. Thanks to his youthful associate, Christian von Kessel, SW51 has been refunded and reenfranchised, bringing it to reality. The earlier producer group stumbled and this amazing construction never reached market. Can you handle a machine that looks this awesome? As you hear Hans and Christian state in the video, SW51 is easy to take off and land and docile in flight.
What 3 WordsFrom the developers of this new geolocation system, “what3words is a really simple way to talk about location. We have divided the world into a grid of 3 meter by 3 meter squares and assigned each one a unique 3 word address. It means anyone can accurately find any location and share it more quickly, easily, and with less ambiguity than any other system. The service can be used with a free mobile app or an online map. The developers who created this said, “It can also be built into any other app, platform, or website, with just a few lines of code.” These two fellows, one a music event producer and his friend, a math whiz, did not create this for airplane pilots. It turns out that a huge number — billions of people — do not have a street address. This sounds odd to advanced societies with extensive addressing systems, but in much of the world such addresses simply don’t exist. Someone needing medical assistance in one of those places has no address to give to an emergency service. Pilots can certainly use this, as can all sorts of people. This is why I find this so intriguing. The three words were very carefully chosen (see video). They are also available not just in English but in many other languages, 22 at present with more to come. The words are common words and were carefully chosen not to sound like other words. I think this is a wonderfully clever system. I urge you to go to whatever app supplier you use and download it – it’s free. Then check out your own location and imagine how you might use this terrific invention were you to find yourself in that field with the crippled aircraft or, God forbid, an injured companion. This video, prepared by the developers conveys the value of addressing the entire world’s surface. In an emergency, this might be your rescue. Heck, you can even use it to find your friends at Oshkosh. https://youtu.be/a4ZBzM3L6ws
At the Rotax event for journalists allowing reporters like me to fly their new 915 engine (more about that and a 915 review here), I met Guy Leitch, publisher of SA (South Africa) Flyer aviation magazine. Guy told me of something I’d never heard of but which I see as very useful to pilots (and virtually anyone, to be sure). It involves a mere three words. Three words …and 57 trillion squares on a grid. That’s trillion with a T. I am writing about locating a place on the planet, anywhere on the planet. Why is this useful? Don’t we already have GPS coordinates — latitude and longitude — to cover this need? It’s a valid question but entering a string of numbers can be challenging and we have three methods of doing so. Although we we rely on this for navigation, the fact is a single digit error in entering those lat/long numbers could mean an error of many miles.
FX1 at Aero Friedrichshafen 2018I had some correspondence with Alfredo but we had not met until this year's Aero show in the south of Germany. Since I worked closely with my associate, Videoman Dave — whose YouTube video channel 40,000 of you obviously enjoy — we captured a video interview with the design. See that below. While FX1 clearly follows the Jetfox 97 — its overall shape, planform, and layout are very similar — the new model is very different in some ways not obvious in the nearby photos. To start, FX1 uses a chrome moly steel internal structure, with a beautifully-shaped carbon fiber exterior, and riveted aluminum wings and tail. No doubt, Alfredo's latest is a dramatic update from the one of two decades back. Today, as then, the main engine choice is the Rotax 912 ULS carbureted engine but InnovAviation will soon begin offering the Rotax 912iS Sport fuel injected version.
When in USA and How Much?While our video (below) is already up around 15,000 views in just five days after it was posted, I've also heard plenty of chatter on social media about FX1. Although lots of pilots love the look, several have said, "Well, it'll never be available here" (I don't know why they think that) or "I never see the price." We've got the answers and more. FX1 will make its first showing at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018 and even its designer, Alfredo will be present. It is being imported by Deon Lombard of AeroPilot USA, the same man who brings in the L600 that we've reported here. An 80% scale version of Cessna's 182 — at a most agreeable price — L600 a beautiful flyer (watch our Video Pilot Report here). FX1 will make a nice complement to L600. Deon expects to sell the sleek black aircraft for $135,000 and based on what we've seen for L600 it may be quite well equipped for that figure. Look for Deon, Alfredo, FX1, and L600 in the ultralight / light plane area of Oshkosh at the south end of the sprawling airshow grounds (you can take a free tram ride if the hike is too much for you). Meanwhile, enjoy our video interview and look for Videoman Dave and I at Oshkosh (though we'll be a blur as we zoom back and forth making many more of the videos you love. Specifications are shown below the video. EAA AirVenture Oshkosh is only six weeks away. It is followed by the Midwest LSA Expo in early September. https://youtu.be/rQLAICk1g0w
Weight & Dimensions
- Seating: 2
- Cabin width: 49 inches (1.26 meters)
- Wingspan: 27 feet 7 inches (8.454 meters)
- Chord: 4 feet 5 inches (1,345 meters)
- Wing area: 122.7 square feet (11.4 square meters)
- Wing loading: 10.75 pounds per square foot (56 kilograms per square meter)
- Empty weight: 728 pounds (330 kilograms)
- Max takeoff weight: 1,320 pounds (600 kilograms)
- Useful load: 592 pounds (270 kilograms)
- Payload (at full fuel): 406 pounds
- Fuel capacity: 30.9 gallons (117 liters)
- Baggage Allowance: 77 pounds (35 kilograms)
- Powerplant: Rotax ULS producing 100 horsepower (74 kilowatt)
- Propeller: E-prop 3-blade, 67 inch diameter (170 centimeters)
- Max. continuous speed (VH): 136 mph/ 120 knots (220 kilometers per hour)
- Cruise speed (75% power): 124 mph / 108 knots (200 kilometers per hour)
- Stall speed (VS0), flaps down: 40 mph / 35 knots (65 kilometers per hour)
- Never exceed speed: 150 mph / 130 knots (240 kilometers per hour)
- Range (with reserve): 559 statute miles (900 kilometers)
- Endurance (with reserve): @ cruise: 5.5 hours
- Glide ratio: 11:1
- Best glide: 80 mph / 70 knots (130 kilometers per hour)
Years ago, back in the late 1990s, I flew an aircraft called JetFox 97. It resembled the Flightstar of the day and both were modeled on talented European designer Hans Gygax’s designs. Along came Light-Sport Aircraft in 2004; years passed with not much word about the increasingly aged JetFox 97. It’s back and looking handsome, cloaked in a carbon fiber fuselage. Since this is an Italian design, it has the beauty we often associate with products from that country. I am describing Alfredo Di Cesare‘s FX1. You can read this article for more details of the history of this handsome aircraft along with many points of interest about it and some in-flight video. An earlier article provides more background from American John Hunter, a longtime light aircraft enthusiast and expert who assisted Alfredo as he completed the design. FX1 at Aero Friedrichshafen 2018 I had some correspondence with Alfredo but we had not met until this year’s Aero show in the south of Germany.
A Half Century of AchievementJohn's roots in experimental aircraft date to 1968 when he was a young school teacher. After building a highly-modified Midget Mustang he was introduced to another Oshkosh legend, Steve Wittman (after whom the city airport is named). The two pioneers enjoyed a long friendship, which resulted in the development of Sonerai I, a Formula Vee racer that was John's first design. Sonerai launched John into business. A half century later, he has many designs to his credit including several iterations of the Sonerai design, the Monerai sailplane, Moni motorglider, the world-record-holding Monex racer and a complete line of Sonex Aircraft models. Recognizing his work, John was inducted into the EAA Homebuilders Hall of Fame and is a two-time winner of the Dr. August Raspet Memorial Award. He has also received the EAA Freedom of Flight Award, the Society of Experimental Test Pilots Spirit of Flight Award among other distinctive honors. While leaving his present duties, "I am …not forsaking my passion for aviation," explained John. "I will continue to contribute where I can into the future but will be leaving day to day operations in the very capable hands of my staff." For some time — since the tragic loss of John's son Jeremy in 2015 — the company has been managed by longtime employee, Mark Schaible.
Own or Thinking Sonex?What does this leadership change mean for owners of Sonex Aircraft (more than 500 are flying) or those building kits or pilots considering building one of the company's kits? "Current and prospective customers can rest-assured," said Mark, Sonex's General Manager. "Sonex Aircraft is going strong!" Indeed, the Oshkosh enterprise reports being in its most successful period in recent years. "We have a full order book of kits including several new SubSonex Personal Jet quick build kits along with many additional delivery commitments for [other] kits & sub-kits," said Mark. "Many traditional and quick build kits have already delivered so far this year." Readers of this website and affordable light aircraft enthusiasts will be pleased to hear Sonex is doing well. The company's simple kits offer energetic performance and surprisingly modest prices, a goal of the company since its founding. Not only does Sonex offer a variety of one- and two-seat kits but they have their own line of engines under the name AeroVee (video featuring Jeremy Monnett). These kit engines further help lower the costs of building and flying your own airplane.
Sonex active all over light aircraft spaceA leader in the experimental kit aircraft industry Sonex Aircraft provides a series of sport aircraft along with the AeroConversions line of engine products. Aircraft presently offered include Sonex, Waiex, and Onex sport planes, the Xenos sport motorglider, and the SubSonex Personal Jet. "All offer wonderful performance in an easy-to-build, easy-to-fly kit package that can be purchased and completed with full technical support at an unrivaled price," boasts Sonex. For both airframes and engines, Sonex "continues to invest heavily in developing new products. Our team is committed to providing simple, elegant and low-cost solutions for sport flying." Their marketing line: "Best Performance Per Dollar." Complete airframe kits start at less than $24,000. Those interested in learning more about John can read his biography, John Monnett: from Sonerai to Sonex, written by Sonex builder Jim Cunningham and available for purchase from Sonex.
Early in June, John Monnett spoke about stepping down from Sonex Aircraft, the kit manufacturer he founded and has lead for decades. The company clarified, “After almost 50 years of involvement in the kit aircraft industry John has announced his retirement.” A Half Century of Achievement John’s roots in experimental aircraft date to 1968 when he was a young school teacher. After building a highly-modified Midget Mustang he was introduced to another Oshkosh legend, Steve Wittman (after whom the city airport is named). The two pioneers enjoyed a long friendship, which resulted in the development of Sonerai I, a Formula Vee racer that was John’s first design. Sonerai launched John into business. A half century later, he has many designs to his credit including several iterations of the Sonerai design, the Monerai sailplane, Moni motorglider, the world-record-holding Monex racer and a complete line of Sonex Aircraft models. Recognizing his work, John was inducted into the EAA Homebuilders Hall of Fame and is a two-time winner of the Dr.
Tallying Tecnam's SuccessTecnam can claim more than 6,500 aircraft flying worldwide. The majority of this fleet are European-style ultralights and Light-Sport Aircraft. Of this large number of aircraft flying the P92 model counts for close to half the total. While the company has branched out to larger aircraft and specialty aircraft, they continue to develop and build aircraft that recreational pilots enjoy.
Hybrid Tecnam with Rotax and SiemensTecnam is a big buyer of Rotax engines as well as Lycomings but they are exploring hybrid electric propulsion as well and they are doing so in collaboration with some leading brands in the game.
In mid-May 2018, Tecnam announced a program the name of which only an engineer could love: H3PS (an acronym for “High Power High Scalability Aircraft Hybrid Powertrain”). The kick-off meeting took place in Capua (Italy), at Tecnam headquarters because the airframe maker is coordinating the project.R&D departments from Tecnam, Rotax, and Siemens are joining their experience to present an alternative propulsion system that they say "will dramatically reduce environmental impact of today’s General Aviation four seat aircraft."
Dual Approvals Down UnderTecnam announced recently that the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority and the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand validated Tecnam’s four seat P2010 based on the company’s EASA type certificate using the 215 horsepower version of the Lycoming IO-390 engine. Tecnam is one of handful of manufacturers able and capable to produce Type Certified aircraft using both metal and composite components. P2010 employs an all-carbon-fiber fuselage with metal wings and stabilator. To serve down-under customers, Tecnam established a corporate presence in Australia last fall, mimicking the effort made in the company’s Sebring, Florida operation to support U.S. sales and service. Active globally, Tecnam is also pursuing other markets for their Light-Sport Aircraft, or in Canada's description, Advanced Ultralights. Here's our article on the company success with America's northern neighbor. Tecnam models are sold and serviced in more than 65 countries.
Picture PlatformTecnam also recently announced EASA and FAA certification approval for the Leica CityMapper installation on the P2006T SMP. The Leica CityMapper is specifically designed for 3D city modelling and urban mapping. It is the world’s first hybrid airborne sensor combining both oblique and nadir imaging as well as a LiDAR system. Tecnam has a large staff to accomplish these diverse projects while building as many as four aircraft a week. Even with many employees, however, this is a impressive penetration of all aviation's nooks and crannies.
The big Italian company that LSA enthusiasts know very well through models such as P92, Sierra, and P2008 has a large and growing presence in global aviation. Their developments are broad and delve into aviation segments large and small. They are also getting ready to celebrate a benchmark birthday. This year Tecnam Costruzioni Aeronautiche — most pilots simply say “Tecnam” — will celebrate its 70th birthday. Born in 1948, the company has changed names but the Pascale brothers kicked off their flying enterprise with the original Astore in 1948. If you are a Tecnam fan, you probably recognize Astore as one of their newest LSA models. Here’s our video with Tecnam boss Paolo Pascale celebrating what was then their 65th birthday, which they honored by releasing their most luxurious LSA so far …naming it after the brothers’ first airplane. Paolo is the current director of Tecnam but he follows in the shoes of one of the founding brothers, “Uncle Luigi” (Professor Luigi “Gino” Pascale).
Big Beautiful Bristell in the BushBristell in all models features a handsome interior that is one of the widest among LSA. The model boasts a 50-inch (128 cm) wide cabin that should accommodate even large occupants without pressing them up against their cockpit companion. All that space might be useful for another kind of enjoyment: bush flying, landing on river beds, camping …that sort of adventure. For the new "bush" version of TDO, BRM again did a great job of finishing the interior, both in creature comforts (as seen in the nearby photo) or equipment. To mount big Alaska tundra tires on their TDO, BRM teamed up with Beringer wheels and brakes — and shock absorber systems, and taildragger innovation, and more. Milan's son Martin flew the big-boy-tire model from their home base in the south of Czech Republic to Friedrichshafen German in about four hours, averaging about 95 knots. This is certainly not as speedy as the more streamlined, wheel-pant-equipped versions but that's not a bad cruise. What's great about the Beringer/Alaska adaptation is that it follows Milan's mantra to keep as many new innovations as possible retrofittable to older models. That works here, too, but owners get a bonus. Through the design of this Bush TDO model, Milan made sure a mechanically-savvy owner can switch back and forth. Use your fiberglass gear and wheel pants to go fast for travel but swap to bush mode when you want to fly for fun on the weekend, maybe at your cottage. Cool, huh? What wonderful versatility.
Bristell Never Slows DownBRM celebrated reaching 300 aircraft barely a year ago, and Milan said they are already at serial number 365 by mid-April 2018. This company is obviously doing very well and their continued inventiveness paired with good looks and high quality is clearly drawing new customers at a steady pace. U.S. representation is very strong with Bristell USA run by industry veteran — and inventor of the famous "Landing Doctor" technique for always making good touchdowns — Lou Mancuso. He has assembled a qualified team to work with him including John Rathmell and John Calla. With such a speedy aircraft, some buyers have asked about flying with reference to instrument. Lots of LSA sellers shy away from such sales (and if they do, that's probably appropriate for them). However, Bristell USA has researched this and is willing to offer a suitably and properly equipped aircraft. Learn more from a flight I took with Bristell USA team member, John Rathmell or, if you prefer, hear it on video. Despite being one of the newer companies in Light-Sport Aircraft (formed in 2009), BRM and its Bristell appear on course to remain a major contributor to this newest sector of aviation. Now, get the words directly from the boss, Milan Bristela at Aero Friedrichshafen 2018… https://youtu.be/R4wg_8jEvRc
BRM Aero boss and chief design, Milan Bristela, has convincingly proven his visionary credentials. Here’s an article about his company expansion over the last few years. BRM has several models of their Bristell Light-Sport Aircraft. Most models are tricycle gear as that is how most pilot are trained these days. However, for those who love “standard” gear, that is, taildraggers, BRM Aero offers a choice that remains as sleek and beautiful as all their models. The Taildragger option — or TDO, as BRM Aero named it — was introduced in 2013 and a year or so later it made its way to the USA thanks to the involvement of then-new distributor, Bristell Aircraft USA. While tricycle gear models still outsell TDO, it addresses a sweet spot for many pilots. Milan has also built a retractable version (of the tricycle gear model) for those flying in countries where such configurations are permitted and where higher allowed speeds make adding the complexity and cost of retractable gear worthwhile.
Imagine this…What if you had guests over for the holiday and one arrives in the bright blue machine pictured nearby. Would you go look at it? More importantly, what if the owner said, "Let's go for a short flight; you can see your home and neighborhood from above and it will only take a few minutes." Indeed, what if he threw you the keys and said, "You can go by yourself if you like." "But I don't know how to fly a helicopter," you plead, knowing the machine in your driveway is not a helicopter. "Oh, don't worry," your friend replies. "Just move the joystick as you'd expect. If anything goes wrong, just hit the big red button and it will safely return you to precisely where you took off." "But what about the batteries …what I run low on juice?" "Ah, don't sweat that either. The machine knows and it will land you safely before you run out of power." Would you, the expert fixed wing pilot, take the offer? Would someone else who always wanted to fly, but who was put off by the challenges of learning to fly conventional aircraft, want to take the offer?
Dare to Whisper?A French company called Electric Aircraft Concept is developing Whisper, an 8-motor, 8-rotor, 2-seater. I examined and sat in the electric rotorcraft displayed at Aero Friedrichshafen 2018. Not autonomous, this one is clearly made to be flown, as you might correctly infer from its joystick. Safety, low noise, performance, ease of control, and maintenance cost reduction are the selling points of Whisper, company officials said. They plan to move towards manufacture and marketing by 2020, hoping to sell ten machines in 2020, twenty in 2021, and forty in 2022. Those targets sound refreshingly sane to me, as opposed to other builders boasting huge volumes just over the horizon. Current flight time is up to thirty minutes, they said, but representatives — like pretty much everybody else in the electric airplane development game — expect battery life to be increased with future technology. An emergency parachute is part of the concept, however, it will also be possible to land in the case of a single rotor failure. It's actually quite believable that with eight motors/rotors, the loss of one could be fairly easily remedied with the others. It's just software …although that unveils the vulnerability in the near-future forecasts by some media.
Ready "Soon?"Others are skeptical over positive development in battery technology. Does an alternative exist? Yes, of course. I reported here on a fuel cell trike being built by Gerard Thevenot, another Frenchman who once ran one of the largest hang glider manufacturing companies called La Mouette. Developer Miles Garnett, President & CEO of Gestalt Aeronauticals, said the answer is fuel cells using hydrogen as the fuel. Indeed, this is the most plentiful stuff in the universe and it's been working fine to power the Sun for the last few billion years. The trouble is storing the hydrogen. You can use tanks with gas or liquified hydrogen but both present huge challenges. Miles and others refer to hydrogen storage using incombustible polymer. "Incombustible" sounds good, better than those persistent reports of eVehicles catching fire …perhaps not often but with real problems when a fire does start. Instead of tanks with liquid or gas, Miles and others talk about hydrogen stored "in materials," that is by binding the hydrogen to a solid. The science on this appears well developed. Miles makes his point about the advisability of fuel cell engines employing hydrogen in a material form. It potentially offers far longer flight endurance in flight and won't catch fire the same way densely-packed lithium batteries can, he wrote. Multiple sources reference the bursting-into-flames problem but perhaps chief among them in regards to battery-electric aircraft is FAA, which appears to have significant fear of lithium batteries on board aircraft. Are Miles and his hydrogen fuel cell developers the only ones singing the praises of this technology? Nope. He reported that Mazda will release their RX9 in 2019. This updated model produces 400 horsepower using a rotary engine that he said "has solved all the problems of the previous models." But here's the kicker. The new rotary engine can work with either gasoline or hydrogen. Adapting their technology should allow for a VTOL personal plane.
Future of Flight?Whatever the eventual solution, it has become more and more clear to me that multiple-rotor aircraft — some with wings that pivot to transition from vertical liftoff to speedier in-flight cruising — remain clearly in the future of flight. I admit I am slowly being swayed from my love of conventional winged aircraft that I know so well to something with spinney or flippy propulsion. Oh, I don't see anything to replace the efficiency of fixed wings, for example, in the case of a gliding/soaring aircraft (think: sailplane or hang glider) but for many kinds of powered aircraft …well, the times, they may be a-changing. I'll try not to overdo this reporting and for the next decade or so, developments will keep octocopters and such in the aerial lab, so to say. Meanwhile, the great news is that we have an embarrassment of riches with many choices of ultralights, light kit aircraft, and Light-Sport Aircraft. I hope you can enjoy one on this holiday! And now… here is our video interview: https://youtu.be/5kpsjjlR35k
UPDATE (5/28/18): Since this article was published, we’ve added our video interview from Aero 2018. For your holiday reading about flying machines, I want to veer off into the weeds for one article. Don’t worry; lots more conventional reporting will follow. After the Uber Elevate conference, mainstream media was all over eVTOLs like bees on flowers in spring. Breathless stories abound regarding how we will soon all take autonomously-flown taxis around our big cities, saving time and restoring the planet’s environmental health. Yeah, maybe… we’ll see about all that. Imagine this… What if you had guests over for the holiday and one arrives in the bright blue machine pictured nearby. Would you go look at it? More importantly, what if the owner said, “Let’s go for a short flight; you can see your home and neighborhood from above and it will only take a few minutes.” Indeed, what if he threw you the keys and said, “You can go by yourself if you like.” “But I don’t know how to fly a helicopter,” you plead, knowing the machine in your driveway is not a helicopter.
Brian Austein did it again! He drew big crowds and head-shakes of amazement at what he has created for — get this — a mere $3,000. That’s his total investment, including twin engines that cost $1,000 each. Well, OK, that small amount of cash plus a lot of brainpower and plenty of hands-on effort. What this longtime radio-control model airplane builder showed with Lightning Bug was that you could indeed build a man-carrying Part 103 ultralight using RC engines. Now, or 2018, Brian updated the original Lightning Bug to carry slight heavier pilots. It still flies great and you have to see this video to believe all its wonderful features. No wonder he won two judges awards at Sun ‘n Fun 2017.
Can You Help a Fellow Ultralighter?I regret this story now takes a vicious turn. In the video below you can see Brian and I talking about more super-affordable projects he has in mind. Given both Woodpecker and Lightning Bug, I can barely imagine where this man might go. But… For the moment, Brian is not designing. He's fighting for his very survival. …literally! I am about to do something I never do on this website — for many reasons — but which I find worthy in this case. Let me have Brian's good buddy Jon Bailey tell you himself. "I am a very close friend of Brian Austein. I am writing you to inform you that the day after Sun 'n Fun 2018 (on Monday April 16), Brian was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. It has moved into his brain. Brian is a fighter and he is fighting a tough battle right now. He is currently in Atlanta under evaluation for a second opinion. I will take him to another doctor on Tuesday (May 22nd) for his opinion. "Please keep Brian and his family in your thoughts and prayers during this time. "Dan, I know that you are well connected in the ultralight world and I know that a lot of ultralight people are amazed at what Brian has done. Can you share the attached Go Fund Me link? We set it up as a great way to give back and help out a man that has given so much to all of us." Absolutely, Jon, I will put out the request and I have already contributed myself. Here's the GoFundMe link. Please help if you can. Jon also encouraged, "Please feel free to call or write with any other ideas or questions. Thanks for your time." I also never put out an individual's phone number but if you can help in any way or just want to offer encouragement, please call Brian's good buddy, Jon at 662-229-8281. https://youtu.be/RKZSSdoM91U
For the second year in a row, I was blown away with Lightning Bug. It changed enough that I tagged it Lightning Bug 2 even if designer/developer Brian Austein did not call it that. Let me make a key point: Lightning Bug was a $3,000 aircraft project, with the cost split between two engines — model radio control aircraft engines, by the way! — and $1,000 more for the airframe. The rest was Brian’s talent and drive to design and build the ultralight. So, let’s recap. If you had Brian’s abilities, you could have an airplane for three grand. If you don’t find that amazing in a time of $150,000 (up to $350,000!) Light-Sport Aircraft, I don’t know what impresses you. The unique airplane certainly impressed often hard-to-convince judges who gave it not one but two awards in 2017: Grand Champion and Best Innovation. Lightning Bug was partly an experiment to prove, as Brian said, that “I could build a [man-carrying] airplane that could fly with RC model airplane engines.” Models have gotten ever larger, converging with Lightning Bug that weighs a mere 140 pounds (no, that’s not a typo).