NEXT SHOWS: …both Sun ‘n Fun, and Aero Friedrichshafen are postponed due to coronavirus! Fortunately, you can enjoy fresh, virus-free content here and short videos on the ByDanJohnson YouTube channel. Plus, you can find a huge, ever-growing library of LSA and Sport Pilot kit videos featuring Dan on Videoman Dave’s popular YouTube channel + view hundreds of our best videos archived here in a searchable format. Thanks for your visit. We genuinely appreciate those of you who have become members!
Why "Norden?""The plane is just the sum of my experience in this sector," wrote Zlin Aviation developer Pasquale Russo.
Describing NordenThis refined backcountry aircraft is 23 feet long with a wing span of just under 30 feet. Norden's basic empty weight is a fairly light (for this type and among many LSA) of 793 pounds. The new model will be available as a LSA in the USA and other Countries and fit the new European Ultralight 600-kilogram class. Norden features a completely new and bigger fuselage, with new shapes for the vertical stabilizer and rudder plus the vertical now has ribs to increase efficiency and stability. The newest Zlin has a completely new metal wing with traditional spars and more advanced airfoil, equipped with an electrically-retractable slat system and manual double slotted flaps to ensure excellent performances both in cruise speed and landing. New wing tips were designed to help the aileron's efficency at low speed and to increase aerodynamic efficiency at cruise or top speed. Slats and the low landing speeds ensured by the large double slotted flaps — that create enough pitch moment to increase the forward visibility — enhance the safety factor for the pilots during STOL operations. Norden's wing struts were redesigned with stronger and separate attachments to the fuselage. Fuel tanks will be available in three volumes: 26, 37, and 47 gallons ensure an extended range for longer trips, aided by new fuel indicator system. The trim system has been modified, increasing the total vertical travel of the yoke and allowing more trim range to the elevator to compensate a larger spectrum of speeds. A very large optional cargo area, built using carbon, has an external access door. This can be extended further, allowing one pilot to sleep inside the plane. Norden boasts a completely revised cabin layout assuring easier access for both occupants using a larger door as well as greater distance between the two seats. The adjustable carbon seats are matched with premium leather available in 18 different colors. Seat belts can be ordered using different colors to match. New rudder pedals will ensure better control on the ground. Larger ailerons are now controlled by push-pull tubes inside the wings, giving a more precise feedback to the pilots. Flaps are now controlled by a torsional tube and push-pull rods.
Had not both shows been cancelled or postponed, I would be gearing up for Sun ‘n Fun and Aero Friedrichshafen. The important spring events were due to start in less than a week. Now, Aero is put off until 2021 and Sun ‘n Fun is about three weeks away from a Lakeland city-imposed final decision date (on April 17) regarding the new planned date of May 5-10, 2020. (I’m keeping my hopes up that our friends at that event will be able to launch their spring celebration of flight.) To help all of us through the next few weeks, I will be posting virtual airshow material — that is, I’ll write about aircraft you would have seen had you been able to attend the show. Companies work very hard to get new products ready for these big spring events. To not lose momentum as governments around the world impose all manner of rules, I’ll take the shows online… hence, “Virtual.” Why “Norden?” “The plane is just the sum of my experience in this sector,” wrote Zlin Aviation developer Pasquale Russo.
Centrally-Based Rainbow AviationAfter training more than 5,000 students from nearly every U.S. state and from more than 20 different countries, Rainbow Aviation's Light Sport Maintenance training programs have become internationally known as the premier light sport aviation maintenance training programs. Their two principal offerings include the two-day Light Sport Repairman Inspection (LSR-I) course and the Light Sport Repairman Maintenance Certificate (LSR-M) course. If you aren't sure which is right for you, read Carol Carpenter's explanation. The LSR-I classes are taught across the entire country as well as internationally and allow students to obtain an FAA-approved Light Sport Repairman Certificate to complete an annual condition inspection on a Experimental Light-Sport Aircraft that they own. Once you have this certificate, it does not need to be renewed. The typically weekend class provides a lot of great information to an aircraft owner. Learn what this short course involves (scroll down slightly). Rainbow's 15-day Light Sport Repairman Maintenance Courses are taught in their new home facility in Kingsville, Missouri. These courses allow the students to obtain an FAA Light Sport Repairman Certificate with a Maintenance Rating (LSR-M), giving them the equivalent privileges of a Airplane and Powerplant (A&P) with an Inspection Authorization (IA), but limited to light sport aircraft. Unlike the simpler, shorter LSR-I course, a person completing the longer, more involved LSR-M course may perform maintenance and inspections on anyone’s Special LSA or Experimental LSA and may charge for their services. No prerequisites are needed for the LSR-M course. A Repairman with a Maintenance rating does not need to be a pilot and the Repairman may also keep a portfolio of his work and apply for authorization to take the A&P written and practical exams for general aviation after working in the field for 30+ months under his or her own supervision. That represents a significant privilege and opportunity for LSR-M certificate holders. In addition, the LSR-M certificate may also serve as a stepping-stone to the DAR (Designated Airworthiness Representative). This FAA designation covers those who go inspect new SLSA to provide them the certificate every Special LSA needs before it enters the aircraft fleet. Therefore, demand is good and this can provide earnings for the certificate holder while serving the consumer by making this essential service easier to obtain. What can you do if you take the 120-hour (15-day) LSRM Maintenance Program?
- Operate commercially, earn money for providing maintenance and repair services.
- Work on Special Light-Sport Aircraft
- Work on Experimental Light-Sport Aircraft
- Perform annual inspections
- Perform 100-hour inspections
- Perform routine maintenance on SLSA and ELSA
- Perform major repairs on SLSA and ELSA
- Do avionics installations
- Gain a pathway to an FAA-issued A&P Certificate
- Work on Experimental Light-Sport Aircraft
- Annual your own aircraft
- Improve your safety
- Reduce your maintenance problems
- Gain a greater awareness of your aircraft
Coronavirus or not, departures from the Golden State of California continue unabated. Before this novel virus “plague” brought isolation around the world, one of our top Light-Sport Aircraft service companies picked up sticks and moved more than halfway across this big country to Kingsville, Missouri (about one hour southeast of Kansas City). Years ago at the very beginning of Light-Sport Aircraft and Sport Pilot, Rainbow Aviation entrepreneurs Brian and Carol Carpenter started what would become the nation’s largest and most productive repairman training courseware provider. I recall this husband and wife team coming to EAA headquarters in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. At the time I was consulting to the organization as they prepared for the arrival of the new regulation. Brian and Carol showed up at EAA to brief them on their plans. That was 16 years ago and today Rainbow is the leading supplier of repairman classes. As the new rule was announced back in 2004, one aspect was the Light Sport Repairmen section, including LSR-Inspection and LSR-Maintenance privileges.
Psych' Up ⬆️A recent Facebook post showed a pilot flying solo, clearly enjoying himself with a caption something like: "I find many of my favorite hobbies involve social distancing." I grinned at his use of the new ubiquitous phrase but in the background of his image, the sky looked beautiful and his joy at being aloft was a welcome change of pace from the nonstop bummer news. Another great online comment was posted by Jabiru importer, Scott Severen, who reasoned that flying your Light-Sport Aircraft (or Sport Pilot kit or 103 ultralight) is a better way to have a look at the countryside. Same for traveling while the airlines are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Faster LSA are good for covering some distance and flying yourself sure beats waiting in TSA lines that have stretched to seven hours in some extreme cases, or getting on an airliner with hundreds of strangers (though seats are not all full now, by a wide margin). Scott's hopeful expressions included: "Industry might see an uptick as small aircraft are terrific for regional travel." He says they can be a time saver (think: no TSA). Further he notes, "Traveling by LSA is more 'point-to-point' with local airports generally closer the destination. Our smaller aircraft can access most every airport in the USA." Even in this tough period, when I called Scott for permission to use his words, he was completing a Jabiru sale. Finally, Scott observed, "Lower interest rates are opening the selection of aircraft for those looking at an acquisition… aircraft buyers [can help] stabilize the economy." I love the point of Scott's comments, which might be surmised as: When all you have are lemons, make lemonade. Follow Scott and Jabiru in America on Facebook for more.
What To Do, NOWYou can do aviation-oriented things after you've worn out self-quarantining, social distancing, incessantly washing your hands, searching in vain for masks and hand sanitizer (and toilet paper), and perusing infection rate charts. Since nearly every media outfit is publishing advice about how to stay healthy (that's good!), we want to encourage you to stay happy as well. Here are some ideas:
- Read more websites like this one, which we guarantee is 100% coronavirus-free.
- Watch more YouTube such as The Ultralight Flyer channel and the ByDanJohnson.com YouTube channel; no virus here either.
- Go fly! You'll be out-of-doors, which is good. You'll get aloft, which is even better. Skip taking anyone with you; flying solo is great fun and you can't be exposed.
- Now might be a great time to buy (as Scott hinted above); he's making sales this week!
- Go to your shop and work on your aircraft kit, or to your hangar to pull some maintenance.
- Be aeronautically active in ways that don't spread infection …good for the local, state, and national economy.
“This, too, shall pass…” said my neighbor, Bill Chernish, who flies for Southwest Airlines. His industry is unusually battered by the coronavirus pandemic. His calm and forward-looking view is refreshing amidst the fear seen, well… everywhere. For everyone around the globe, the word “coronavirus” or the clumsier “Covid-19” disease it causes, has been the major topic of conversations. Rarely have we seen one theme so dominate all the peoples of the planet. What comes afterward? I have no crystal ball but two recent posts online gave me a lift. Perhaps you can feel similarly. Psych’ Up ⬆️ A recent Facebook post showed a pilot flying solo, clearly enjoying himself with a caption something like: “I find many of my favorite hobbies involve social distancing.” I grinned at his use of the new ubiquitous phrase but in the background of his image, the sky looked beautiful and his joy at being aloft was a welcome change of pace from the nonstop bummer news.
Delay, postpone, or cancel — that seems to be the question organizers of events faced in the current pandemic scare.Some, like the Twelve Hours of Sebring endurance auto race (not the former Sebring Sport Aviation Expo) or the Sun 'n Fun airshow, elected to postpone and announce alternative dates in 2020. Sebring quickly checked for a calendar opening and rescheduled for November, which presently looks safe. Sun 'n Fun postponed until May 5-10, which everyone hopes will be post-coronavirus. Seeing that China's infection rates are now rapidly declining gives hope that the American situation could start to improve in the weeks ahead (I write hopefully).
No Aero Until Next Year"Our world has been turned upside down," stated longtime Aero Friedrichshafen lead organizer, Roland Bosch. "Nevertheless," he continued, "it is still imperative for Messe Friedrichshafen (the exhibit operator's business name) to look to the future. "Since the coronavirus forced us to postpone the Aero Friedrichshafen scheduled for April 1 to 4, 2020, we have considered many possible options for rescheduling the event to take place at a later date," Bosch explained. The result of these deliberations is that the next edition of the leading trade fair for general aviation will take place from April 14 to 17, 2021. “Neither the calendar of Messe Friedrichshafen nor the events taking place within the industry would have allowed easy rescheduling to the summer or fall of this year. After considering all the pros and cons, we found that a date in 2021 would be the only reasonable and acceptable way forward for the entire industry,” concluded Bosch. Like tens of thousands of others, I so enjoy this event and was looking forward to the show that was to begin in just a couple weeks. I was able to back out of most booked travel and will start planning for the 2021 event. Meanwhile, stay tuned here for more developments and we promise to keep uploading more light aviation content. That way you can still enjoy flying even if you're quarantined in your ______ (fill in your own blank). —Thanks to good friend, Jan Fridrich, for making us aware of this news.
Delay, postpone, or cancel — that seems to be the question organizers of events faced in the current pandemic scare. Some, like the Twelve Hours of Sebring endurance auto race (not the former Sebring Sport Aviation Expo) or the Sun ‘n Fun airshow, elected to postpone and announce alternative dates in 2020. Sebring quickly checked for a calendar opening and rescheduled for November, which presently looks safe. Sun ‘n Fun postponed until May 5-10, which everyone hopes will be post-coronavirus. Seeing that China’s infection rates are now rapidly declining gives hope that the American situation could start to improve in the weeks ahead (I write hopefully). No Aero Until Next Year “Our world has been turned upside down,” stated longtime Aero Friedrichshafen lead organizer, Roland Bosch. “Nevertheless,” he continued, “it is still imperative for Messe Friedrichshafen (the exhibit operator’s business name) to look to the future. “Since the coronavirus forced us to postpone the Aero Friedrichshafen scheduled for April 1 to 4, 2020, we have considered many possible options for rescheduling the event to take place at a later date,” Bosch explained.
New Dates AnnouncedSun 'n Fun 2020 Version 2 will now be held on May 5-10. The organization said, "With the full support of Polk County, the City of Lakeland, Lakeland Linder International Airport, and the FAA, at this time we are planning to postpone the 2020 Sun ‘n Fun Aerospace Expo until May 5-10. We appreciate the unwavering support of our airport and community and hope everyone will make plans to join us here this May." For many, this will bring a sigh of relief …even while the SnF crew is certainly overworked and stressed by recent events and having to reschedule a grand exposition. Hopefully, by early May the scourge of this virus business will be behind us or fading fast and people will be anxious to attend the event and do something fun other than washing your hands constantly and looking at anyone sneezing or coughing with uncertainty. C'mon on down and get a huge dose of healing Vitamin D — sunshine, that is! We will be on-site to report everything we can (see our next post for some aircraft to expect).
Relax, folks. We’re not going anywhere fast. Across all industries, shows and events have been “falling like dominos,” as publisher Ben Sclair put it when I called to discuss Sun ‘n Fun 2020. I knew Ben would be watching very closely as his company produces the daily show paper. Yesterday, the Twelve Hours of Sebring — attended by 150,000 race fans — “delayed” their event, although in an extraordinarily deft move on their part, Sebring Raceway already rescheduled for November. This is impressive planning on short notice that reportedly came only after interacting with other scheduled racing events to find an open place on the calendar. Later yesterday both the giant Florida theme parks Disney and Universal announced they will close Sunday through the end of the month. These Orlando-area businesses along with other theme parks draw 75 million visitors annually with a $75 billion economic impact, said officials, so even a few weeks of closure is a serious decision.
Not Just China's Problem"As Head of Aero Friedrichshafen, I have experienced many situations during the last 30 years which have affected the global economy and the aerospace industry in a negative way," started Roland Bosch, the longtime leader of this very popular European airshow. "But never before has an incident had such a strong impact on the global economy like the new coronavirus. He also noted, "I always believed in the saying: There is no total safety. There are only various levels of uncertainty." For a couple weeks, I have received several calls from companies in Europe — more specifically, it turns out, they were all from or have business in Italy. These folks expressed concerns, which grew to deeper doubts, and finally to full conviction that the show would be canceled or postponed. It turns out they were correct. As anyone following the news should know, Italy has been hit harder than most (along with Iran, South Korea, and of course, China). The country took the major step of closing all schools. (Japan has since done likewise.) My journalist friend, Marino Boric who speaks to many Italian companies, reported that busy streets and business centers are eerily quiet. "Hardly a car is moving where traffic is normally very heavy," reported Marino. "Thanks for the support of Aero Friedrichshafen," concluded Roland. "In aviation we have to stick together in tough times, therefore I hope that you remain a loyal partner for the upcoming editions of the show." Since Aero was only postponed, not canceled, the staff at Aero are probably now scrambling to determine when next to try scheduling the event. A million details await them; I don't relish their jobs. Yet first things first — the darn coronavirus has to be seen in clear decline before it even makes sense to reschedule.
Sun 'n Fun 2020?I called Sun 'n Fun boss, John "Lites" Leenhouts, to find out what might happen to another show scheduled for exactly the same week. "We're still on," he confirmed! "We have coordinated with the state of Florida, and with big tourist attractions like Disney, SeaWorld, and others about the right strategy," said Lites on our call. "We want to ensure the safest possible environment for our guests. We will have extra hand sanitizer everywhere. Our medical staff has been briefed; we will help to remove any sick guests and get them help." Here is the essence of Sun 'n Fun's official response: "Sun 'n Fun is working closely on a daily basis with local, state, and federal agencies to plan for a safe event with appropriate precautions and safeguards in place. As a result of this dialogue and the recommendations of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) for large events and festivals, we are proceeding [to assure] the health and safety of our attendees, staff, and volunteers as our top priority. "Currently, we are taking the following actions on-site: provision of disinfectant wipes and spray, hand sanitizer for restrooms, common area spaces and activity spaces, microphone wipe downs, and outreach to all meeting spaces, venues, and hotels. We are providing training for over 3,500 volunteers, and dedicated response teams will be standing by to quickly clean up spills, trash, and other potential hazards. Regular sanitizing of restrooms and food prep areas will also be performed. "The best practices of scientific and health resources are being followed as we prepare for our 2020 event. At a recent World Health Organization press conference, Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated, 'Our greatest enemy right now is not the virus itself. It’s fear, rumors and stigma. And our greatest assets are facts, reason and solidarity,'” concluded Sun 'n Fun. All my plans have changed from attending Aero to focusing completely on Sun 'n Fun.
Some Good News…We are expecting some aircraft you've never seen at Sun 'n Fun. Videoman Dave and I will be onsite to cover every aircraft of interest to you readers. Stick with us. ByDanJohnson.com will not be affected by the coronovirus. 😎
That was several hours of my life I will never get back — booking airline, rental car, and a series of hotel rooms… and then cancelling all of them! Drat! Yet my frustration in scuttling travel plans to attend and work Aero Friedrichshafen is minor compared to the effort by the people running Aero and the 700 vendors that all must now change their plans. Even noting this does not count the hundreds of small businesses from gas stations to restaurants to hotels and more that will suffer sharp revenue losses, possibly resulting in many jobs being terminated. What a mess! Not Just China’s Problem “As Head of Aero Friedrichshafen, I have experienced many situations during the last 30 years which have affected the global economy and the aerospace industry in a negative way,” started Roland Bosch, the longtime leader of this very popular European airshow. “But never before has an incident had such a strong impact on the global economy like the new coronavirus.
How does one LSA brand rise and stay above others?
Many reasons can be introduced; all possibly valid. However, it doesn't hurt when a brand has a distributor that itself rises above all the rest.In case you think I am torturing the "above all the rest" metaphor, well, you may not have met the Gutmann team in the flesh. Once you do, I think you'll see my point very clearly.
Looking Up to Tom & TomMy tongue-in-cheek subtitle comes from the perspective of an average-sized pilot talking to the father and son team of Tom Sr. and Tom Jr. Gutmann. These gentle giants stand so tall above me that even Tom Cruise's acting box would not let me look this pair eye-to-eye. Indeed, it is a tribute to the spaciousness of CT-series interiors that both these beefy fellows fit inside comfortably. Don't try that in a Cessna 150 (or even a 172)! Flight Design's CT-series is roomy inside, 49 inches wide, a full 10 inches more than a Cessna 172. It also has super visibility. These facts are true of both CTLS, the current flagship of the German producer, and for the newest CT Super Sport, as seen in most of the nearby photos. The image of the two of us in the cockpit clearly shows that Tom Jr. and I have several inches between our shoulders and we were not smashed up against the door to produce this view. Tom and I flew Super Sport at the Midwest LSA Expo (see video below) where I renewed my enthusiasm over the earlier CTSW model. While it has been a few years since I flew CTSW, I clearly recall it had dashing performance that the more luxurious (read: heavier) CTLS cannot quite match. Super Sport continues that, weighing as it does around 100 pounds less than CTLS and its 1,000 fpm climb rate supports the worth of that weight reduction. Super Sport is an upgrade from CTSW, however, as it uses three primary elements of the sophisticated CTLS and CTLSi. Super Sport has the wings, entire tailplane, and the main landing gear of CTLS. In my humble opinion, these were smart additions and created a new plane from two prior models. What you don't get with CT Super Sport is the back window and hat rack cabin space of CTLS. The slight enlargement of the longer, fancier LS does indeed make the cabin feel roomier and you have less space for things you need in the cockpit — though the floor compartments in front of both seats will suffice for most things you may want to access during flight. Both models keep the ample storage area aft of the cabin but you cannot access that while flying. For this review, Super Sport was equipped with the Rotax 912 iS Sport engine that delivers such wonderful fuel economy. That's why the tail shows "Super Sport i."
Airtime for AllWhatever Flight Design offers aviators, one U.S. distributor can always supply. That's the Gutmann's Airtime Aviation enterprise, based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Airtime Aviation Inc. — also found by the simple, easy-to-remember FlyCT.com — is operated by father and son team of Tom (Senior) and Tom (Junior) Gutmann. Airtime Aviation has delivered more than 200 CT aircraft to customers around the United States. Coordinating closely with Flight Design USA, lead by Tom Peghiny, the Gutmanns are intimately aware of all things Flight Design. You can engage either Tom by phone call (try: 918-630-5927 or 918-625-5442).
More About Super SportThe CT-series has long offered several compelling safety attributes. The "egg-shaped" design offers a protective "safety cell" cabin known in the automotive world as a "crush zone." Simplisitically, this means forces of an impact are directed around the occupants to protect them. Since its introduction as a LSA, every CT model has come standard equipped with an emergency airframe parachute. You may never need this capability, but it provides peace of mind for pilot and encourages less-certain passengers to go aloft with you. A slippery all-carbon fiber exterior allows Super Sport to reach the LSA speed limit of 120 knots. We commonly saw 115 knots at a shade over 75% power yet burned only 4-5 gallons per hour of auto fuel or avgas; you can use either in any mixture, which is true for all 912 engines. The speed figures come from flying at lower altitudes (2,000-3,000 feet AGL). Given its voluminous 34 gallon fuel tanks Super Sport can manage a non-stop flight of more than 1,000 statute miles! Super Sport comes standard with a single Dynon SkyView screen that can be used in conjunction with an optional autopilot. Air-bulb-adjustable seat backs and cushions aid human comfort as does cabin heat and plenty of fresh-air ventilation.
How does one LSA brand rise and stay above others? Many reasons can be introduced; all possibly valid. However, it doesn’t hurt when a brand has a distributor that itself rises above all the rest. In case you think I am torturing the “above all the rest” metaphor, well, you may not have met the Gutmann team in the flesh. Once you do, I think you’ll see my point very clearly. Looking Up to Tom & Tom My tongue-in-cheek subtitle comes from the perspective of an average-sized pilot talking to the father and son team of Tom Sr. and Tom Jr. Gutmann. These gentle giants stand so tall above me that even Tom Cruise’s acting box would not let me look this pair eye-to-eye. Indeed, it is a tribute to the spaciousness of CT-series interiors that both these beefy fellows fit inside comfortably. Don’t try that in a Cessna 150 (or even a 172)!
Which Is Bigger?The total SEP GA fleet numbers approximately 135,000 aircraft, 15 times larger than LSA/SP kits (by our criteria, about 9,000 aircraft) but the bigger number includes aircraft made since the 1940s and significantly in the '60s and '70s. As most aviators know, the GA fleet averages better than 40 years old where the entire LSA/SP kit fleet is less than 15 years old. It will be decades before LSA/SP kits catch up with the GA fleet, if ever …although that's before the LSA sector undergoes a major transformation and likely expansion in 2023 (more on that here, and we will offer regular updates). The size difference takes on a different view when we compare only the period from 2005 forward. This is when the first LSA started winning FAA acceptance signaling the official start of the industry. Given this history, all our data points start in 2005; we count nothing before even if that aircraft would today be called a Sport Pilot kit aircraft. (To save space, I will use "LSA/SP kits" to represent Special, fully-built LSA plus Experimental LSA plus Experimental Amateur Built Sport Pilot kit aircraft.) When you go global with these two aviation sectors, you find the USA has 80% of the GA fleet with the entire rest of the globe flying the other 20%. The table is turned upside down for LSA/SP kits, where the USA has about 20% of the global total and all other countries account for 80%. However, the U.S. share appears to be increasing gradually since the recession of 2007-2009. As you can note that recession hit GA very hard; the GA industry has yet to recover to pre-recession registrations.
Since 2005Viewed in total, the numbers for GA compared to LSA/SP kits are remarkably close. For all of 2019, the LSA/SP kit market registered 690 aircraft (up 8.3% over 2018) while GA registered 729 single engine aircraft (up 3.5% over 2018). Although SEP GA registered about 6% more aircraft in 2019, a major share of that count comes from one brand, Cirrus Design. The Minnesota company alone accounts for close to 40% of all GA airplanes registered last year. Cirrus registrations have been quite steady over the last three years, though 2019 was the lowest of the three. As always, please remember registrations will not precisely equal a manufacturer's reported deliveries perhaps due to year-end paperwork delays that affected at least two producers of light aircraft in 2019. Take Cirrus out of the count and GA registered 448 aircraft from 15 producers, only 65% as many as all LSA/SP kit producers registered. Although we have clear leaders in LSA/SP kits (see chart), the 690 aircraft come from an impressive list of 171 producers, more than 11 times more manufacturers than for SEP GA aircraft. This clearly illustrates what happens when you free up the design energy and productive spirit of small aviation companies. Given a means of market entry, we saw the arrival of a new batch of manufacturers with a flock of new models to satisfy the diverse interests of pilots: from those seeking speedy cross country cruisers to back country taildraggers to special flying machines like gyroplanes, weight shift trikes, and powered parachutes. Go LSA and Sport Pilot kits!
Again a shout-out to Steve Beste, our supreme "datastician." The GA info presented here was stimulated after an exchange between Steve and General Aviation News publisher, Ben Sclair. All data is from FAA's registration database but, other than the tables and charts, all statements in this article are mine alone.
If you like airplane statistics and facts, this article may interest you. Some pilots don’t follow such things while others eat it up (you know who you are). For these readers, we have a new perspective that many may find intriguing. The comparisons below relate to the numbers of Single Engine Piston (SEP) general aviation (GA) aircraft on the U.S. registry compared to an umbrella group including SLSA, ELSA, and kit-built aircraft that Sport Pilots may fly (or those using a different certificate but exercising the privileges of Sport Pilot) …in other words, all the aircraft we cover on this website. Even after more than 15 years of LSA and the kits that Sport Pilots can fly, the GA fleet still seems immeasurably larger. The truth is, we can measure it; in fact, we have up-to-date info and both are as accurate as FAA’s database allows. Which Is Bigger? The total SEP GA fleet numbers approximately 135,000 aircraft, 15 times larger than LSA/SP kits (by our criteria, about 9,000 aircraft) but the bigger number includes aircraft made since the 1940s and significantly in the ’60s and ’70s.
Mike Jefferson — Hang Gliding Instructor —Taking someone with you in a hang glider demands some level of cooperation from the student. FAA permits two place hang glider for instructional purposes, and believe me, every one going for a flight is going to learn plenty. Still, an instructor needs to know his or her student and preflight coaching is essential. To achieve a perfect safety record, Mike has clearly set some proper techniques to work for him. Check this figure — Over his years in business, Mike reports taking more than 5,000 tandem flights from hills around San Francisco. For comparison, imagine giving 5,000 Young Eagle flights. In that context, 5,000 becomes a very big number. You can do your own math on how long it takes to achieve that. Each of Mike's tandem flights isn't walking out on the airport ramp and hopping in a plane for an hour. Coaching, driving up to the launch site, setting up the glider, launching into flight, and retrieving from landing consumes much more than an hour even if the flight itself may be short. Doing this thousands of times with excellent success speaks to using best practices. So, Mike comes to flying AirBike via a different path than most (though, ironically, your author also flew hang gliders extensively some years before flying AirBike). Mike got his powered aircraft training from Bobby Bailey, iconic designer of the Dragonfly tug that was specially created to tow hang gliders. Many are in regular airborne tractor duty around the USA and the world.
Mike Jefferson — AirBike Pilot —In the last year, Mike discovered his AirBike. Needing some care, he took the project and went over the whole aircraft. I know he did well as I brought Scott Severen over to look at it. Scott has developed AirBike back in the early 1990s while he was president of TEAM Aircraft. Scott examined Mike's AirBike as well as possible in the field and gave a thumbs up. Look at that cockpit view (a different angle shows in the video). What more could you need? Mike keeps his AirBike on the same airport as SLSA Dragonfly producer Ed Pittman of Pittman Air. Red Bluff, California (well north of San Francisco) to Buckeye Arizona for Copperstate 2020 meant 900 miles by routes dictated by a small amount of fuel. The stories we media types tend to follow, well in my case at least, focus on airplanes and the hardware of flight. Of course, people are behind every product but pilots seem to like the nuts and bolts of the story. Every now again, when the story is good, it's fun to talk about somebody doing something interesting in aviation. Mike Jefferson did that with an AirBike journey that probably averaged a shade over 50 mph. As I write these words, he's still probably making his way home. * A common hang point where the payload is suspended is part of the whole stability system of a modern flying wing hang glider. Two persons outweigh the glider by 3X or more. In case you haven't kept up, modern hang gliders enjoy an admirable safety record recognized by FAA.
Update 2/17/20 — From a commenter whose handle is “Concerned Citizen” on Videoman Dave’s YouTube channel comes this update on Mike’s flight home: “Mike left Copperstate Sunday morning and made three legs, stopping in Blythe, Bermuda Dunes, then Banning due to severe winds and rain. After a two-day layover with strong wind gusts, Mike made a hop to Rosamond, then the next day, an incredible dawn-to-dusk day, flying from Rosamond, near Edwards Air Force Base, to Corning, California! …nearly 500 miles and eleven hours in a single day! The little Rotax 447 was flawless the whole trip. Mike. Is. Da. MAN!” —DJ Most motorcyclists say 900 miles on a bike is a long trip. Seems reasonable. How about when it’s an aerial motorcycle? …out in the breeze, smelling the air, feeling the hot or cool — hmmm, sounds interesting, doesn’t it? Meet a man who recently made such a flight, over three days, and taking 17 hours of flight time to reach Copperstate 2020 with his legs out in the breeze (pretty true to the motorcycle metaphor, don’t you think?).
Flying Legends Tucano …with Rotax 915iSJust one year ago, I flew Tucano for the first time. The small-scale fighter-like aircraft was dashing with its modified Rotax 912 producing 140 horsepower. This year, that experience was updated with the Tucano 915iS. The newest from Austrian aircraft engine leader, Rotax, adds only one additional horsepower but with its turbocharger and intercooler, the comparison was striking. In a phrase: Tucano 915 climbs enthusiastically from take off to 10,000 feet without a decaying rate of climb. As you can see in the image below, Tucano 915 easily maintained well over 1,000 fpm; we went to about 9,500 feet. All the way, 915 appeared to easily compensate for the change in altitude that my ears confirmed was happening. Before I can write about cruise speed or fuel economy with Tucano 915, I want to again remark that Tucano conveys a visceral appeal. It feels like you think a fighter cockpit should feel. The two I've flown were finished with military gray inside and you sit lower in the cockpit, covered by a huge, very sturdy canopy that affords a very wide field of view. Handling of Tucano is very pleasant, responsive but not in the least abrupt. Pitch is a bit more sensitive than roll but in steep turns, I hardly needed any back stick pressure and almost too easily held altitude. Tucano loves to turn. Approach to landing is done at somewhat higher speeds than many Light-Sport Aircraft, however, our test Tucano is a different class with retractable gear and a constant speed prop. Those components add weight over a fixed gear, fixed pitch LSA model that is available. Despite those differences, my expectation is that the LSA model might perform quite close to the retractable/propped kit model, assuming the same engine is installed. The LSA model might be a few knots slower but this airframe likes to slip through the air. We were at 85 knots on downwind — gear and flaps can be deployed below 90 — and transitioned to 75 on final. My first touchdown was good. As our slow flight and stalls showed, Tucano retains lots of control at low speed, exhibiting stable, solid manners. Pitch control is responsive and powerful; a few landings will help optimize your approach. Touchdown comes around 60-65 knots. Back on the ground, Tucano feels like a military aircraft with a firm footing and ride. However, this is another proof of how solid this airframe is; no wing flex can be seen in the air or on the ground. You may enjoy a short video on flying Tucano 915; the longer, more detailed version will be out later.
Copperstate is proving to be as valuable for the collection of Video Pilot Reports as Midwest and DeLand. We are reporting from the new and improved show for the second year in a row, and it’s looking good for Copperstate to earn a new, regular slot on our show calendar. Some very positive developments were discussed though it’s far too soon to write about them. This year, attendees could hit 30,000 for the city-sponsored event (see this article for more about Copperstate linking up with Buckeye Air Fair). Still, focused shows like those above allow more time and friendlier ground operations to permit us to capture a couple VPRs a day. Pilots who attend also realize they can more thoroughly investigate a new (or new-to-them) LSA or Sport Pilot kit because the vendor is not always swamped. At the smaller shows it’s far easier to take a demo flight.
Gair-Planes MuleAfter discovering the model a year ago, we did a interview with Garret Komm at last year's Copperstate. We followed up with more at EAA AirVenture Oshklosh last year as well. The two interviews have been seen some 70,000 times (both videos) and have introduced his Mule experimental amateur built kit to the many who enjoyed watching. At Copperstate 2020, we set out to do more. Specifically, we recorded a Video Pilot Report. You'll have to wait for that more involved — and more informative — presentation but you may enjoy a short flight (see below) that provides cockpit views and records a couple landings on the Copperstate ultralight runway. Short Take: Mule is not a speedy cross country cruiser but it should provide many hours of enjoyment flying over scenic areas or checking our your home region. Mule proved to be a stable-flying aircraft with zero evil bones in stall situations, handles with a light touch, and can touch down on some definitely off-airport landing areas. Check out Mule further here and use website references to contact Garrett for more details.
One of the reasons why Videoman Dave and I attend smaller events is because we can do a particular kind of work while visiting: Video Pilot Reports. We’ve now done many dozens of these (among some 700 total videos on Light-Sport Aircraft, Sport Pilot kit aircraft, and ultralights). Interviewing developers, pilots, and enthusiasts about all sorts of airplanes is our stock-in-trade. People approach us at shows all the time expressing how much they enjoy these YouTube videos. These range 7-15 minutes long, take an hour or so to shoot and a day or two (sometimes more) to edit and publish on Dave’s popular YouTube video channel. Contrarily, Video Pilot Reports, or VPRs, take much more time: two or three hours or even more at the show. That’s only the time to collect the video and still shots plus fly for an hour. Once back in the office, Dave puts in a large number of hours logging all the video shot (watching every minute of raw footage), collecting additional video, assembling these elements, adding text, graphics, tweaking sound effects, and finally uploading to YouTube.
Gone Flying!To start this year's event, Videoman Dave and I wanted to review the Arion Aircraft Lightning Classic kit aircraft, plus we wanted to pay a visit to the build center run so enthusiastically by Greg and Crystal Hobbs. Their base near Marana, Arizona, was only a 35-minute flight away. On a beautiful day, I went aloft with builder and pilot Marc Holcomb (photo). We were chased by Videoman Dave flying in the Flying Legends Tucano piloted by Giovanni Matichecchia. See more (article and video) about Giovanni, Tucano, and my experience flying that impressive aircraft at last year's Copperstate. Marc's Lightning Classic kit took him 70 days to build at Greg Hobbs' Geronimo Experimental Aircraft build center. Those were 10-12-hour days and Marc has some experience and history that contributed skills, but this was his first kit aircraft. He became another of the very satisfied customers that have worked with Greg and his group at Geronimo. More than 55 kits have already been assembled under the close guidance of Greg and others, such as his partner, Jack Norris. You can learn much more in a couple videos coming after Videoman Dave can edit them, but the short video below will give you an early taste of what is to come. I hope you enjoy and keep returning here to learn more about aircraft on display at Copperstate 2020. Watch for more in the days ahead and keep visiting The Ultralight Flyer YouTube channel for many other videos on light aircraft.
Copperstate is officially the show that starts off the new aviation year these days. The 47-year-old event — one of the longest lasting aviation events in the Western USA — was for many years held in October. More recently, Copperstate organizers linked up with the municipal airport in Buckeye, Arizona, the westernmost community in the greater Phoenix area. The Buckeye Air Fair happens in February and welcomed the partnership with Copperstate, giving the enduring show a new home …and a new date. Buckeye Air Fair is free and open to the public. Since the town promotes it well, last year drew more than 30,000 visitors. Many came to watch the air show or visit one of many booths, including a whole sector aimed at young kids, but all these visitors could also review the many sport and recreational aircraft that attend. Gone Flying! To start this year’s event, Videoman Dave and I wanted to review the Arion Aircraft Lightning Classic kit aircraft, plus we wanted to pay a visit to the build center run so enthusiastically by Greg and Crystal Hobbs.
Long, Illustrious History"We’re celebrating 100 years of Rotax," observed company officials. Anyone wanting to shape/explore the future needs to have a clear picture of their past. "So, journey back with us to the origins of the Rotax brand and experience the successful development of our company from its founding to the present day and beyond." Readers can see a beautifully achieved visual history and story behind this well-known company that dominates engines for light aircraft. Of course, the company also annually builds many tens of thousands of engines for other uses as well. "Rotax aircraft engines stand for outstanding performance, reliability, low fuel consumption and reduced emissions," declared Rotax. This mission appears to pervade every powerplant the company has made. Located in Gunskirchen, Austria, Rotax BRP is a leader in the development and production of innovative four- and two-stroke high performance engines for a wide range of products including Ski-Doo and Lynx snowmobiles, Sea-Doo watercraft, Can-Am on- and off- road vehicles as well for motorcycles, karts and recreational aircraft. In the last 50 years, the company has developed more than 350 engine models for recreational vehicles and produced over 9 million engines. To aviators, the company's compact and light weight engines are seen on many kinds of aircraft, supplied by more than 250 OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers). "Our goal is always to maximize the fun and to minimize the weight," said Rotax. "Our experienced engineering team and a wide spectrum of R&D facilities guarantee Rotax can deliver customer-oriented solutions and exceed customer expectations."
Numerically SpeakingMore than 190,000 Rotax aircraft engines have been sold since 1973. Of this number, more than 50,000 were 4-stroke engines from the well-known 912/914 series. From a global fleet of more than 66,200 LSA or LSA-like aircraft, it is clear Rotax is extremely important for recreational airplanes of many types. All Rotax aircraft engines "are approved for operation with Ethanol 10, automobile gasoline, and aviation-grade fuels." In many countries where avgas is hard to find or unavailable, premium auto gas can be used — in fact, expert repair stations often report engines run on auto gas look even cleaner when brought in for inspection or maintenance. "Low running costs and a design that pioneers power-to-weight ratio is why a majority of aircraft manufacturers worldwide place their trust in our technology," boasted Rotax. Distribution and service of the tens of thousands of Rotax aircraft engines and parts is performed by 200 authorized distributors, service centers and repair centers all over the world. "As the largest producer of small gasoline aircraft engines in the world, our aircraft engines are the first choice of more than 250 aircraft manufacturers around the globe."
It started with a seemingly simple product. Since long before recreational aircraft arrived, the invention that launched the Rotax brand was a “rotary axle,” a freewheeling hub that advanced the then-state-of-the-art in bicycles. Get it? ROTary AXle. This goes way back; a patent was issued in 1906 to entrepreneur designer, Friedrich Gottschalk, only three years after Orville and Wilbur Wright (also bicycle guys) made their first flight. Gottschalk owned a successful bicycle components factory in Dresden, Germany at the turn of the previous century. A cyclist himself, he became a full-support producer, making everything needed for bicycles: brakes, tires, seats, and more. “Anyone who considered themselves as a cyclist wanted a bicycle with a Rotax freewheel hub,” said the Austrian company. Long, Illustrious History “We’re celebrating 100 years of Rotax,” observed company officials. Anyone wanting to shape/explore the future needs to have a clear picture of their past.
A handsome high-wing, side-by-side two seater, Scout’s lineage goes back to 1983, when Dean Wilson’s trendsetter-to-be Avid Flyer was first introduced. His often-imitated design was the basis for Kitfox, Rocky Mountain’s Ridge Runner and the Flying K Sky Raider. The latter morphed into the Just Aircraft Escapade. When The Light Aircraft Company — TLAC — bought the design in 2013 the first thing Paul Hendry-Smith and his team did was implement a significant number of improvements to both its design and construction. They improved stability, pitch authority, and decreased adverse yaw. After a year of flight testing various revisions, they enlarged both the elevator and rudder, cleaned up the junction between the wing root and flaps, added gap seals and implemented several other aerodynamic tweaks.
Describing ScoutRenamed the Sherwood Scout, TLAC currently market it as either a ready-to-fly factory-built microlight or as a kit or fast-build kit. The overall construction is TIG-welded 4130 steel tube, while the wings use aluminum spars and plywood ribs. The fuselage, wings and tail are all covered with Oratex (see at end) and power can be supplied by either the 80 or 100-horsepower Rotax 912, 85-horsepower Jabiru 2200, 95-horsepower UL260i or a 95-horsepower D-Motor. Scout can be configured with either a tricycle or tailwheel undercarriage (converting takes only two hours) and is fitted with wings that can be quickly and easily folded aft with no control disconnection. Of course, the folding mechanism adds both weight and complexity (two things that light aircraft designers generally try to avoid), but the trade-off in this instance is worth it; the wing-fold mechanism does not add much weight or complexity. Scout’s constant chord wings are braced by V-struts, with about half of the trailing edge taken up by the large, single-slotted mechanically-actuated flaps with four positions: 0°–10°–25°–40°. Ailerons extend to the cambered tips, which feature large LED position lights. The tail consists of a very slightly swept-back fin and large rudder, a tailplane braced by a combination of struts and wires, and separate elevators. Primary controls are actuated by a mixture of pushrods, bellcranks, and cables. Longitudinal trim is provided by a large tab set into the trailing edge of the left elevator. The main undercarriage uses bungees for shock absorption and is fitted with tundra tires and slotted hydraulic disc brakes. The pneumatic tailwheel steers through the rudder pedals up to about 30° each way; beyond that it breaks out and free-castors. If fitted with a nosewheel it free-castors with steering provided by differential braking. All Scout’s fuel is carried in two 9-gallon metal tanks located in the wings, which feed into a fuselage-mounted one gallon header tank to give a total capacity of 20 gallons although a pair of 13-gallon long-range tanks are an option. Access to the cockpit is good. The front-hinged doors are enormous — they open 180° — and the surrounding frame is comfortably low. The doors are skinned with Perspex, and the top half hinges upward. If it’s warm you can fly with the top half open, or simply remove the entire door! With a maximum width of 44 inches Scout’s cockpit and the extensive glazing gives it a very airy feel. The baggage bay behind the seats has an impressive volume of 17 cubic feet, and its open floor area can take up to 77 pounds. Unusually for an aircraft in this class the seats adjust, secured in position with a positive locking pin. In another indicator of the high build spec there are toe brakes for both pilots. The tall, slightly curved sticks feel very natural, while levers for the flaps and trim are between the seats. The plunger-type throttle is mounted centrally just below the instrument panel, an easy reach from either seat. Flight and engine instruments are a mixture of analog and digital — an MGL Discovery-Lite IEFIS — which shows both flight and engine information and even synthetic vision, with the analogue ASI and altimeter to its right. A Trig transceiver and transponder are mounted in the center of the panel along with the circuit breakers and electrical switches and analog oil pressure and temperature, coolant temperature and voltmeter on the right. On the left is the Master and a key-operated rotary unit for the mags and starter. It’s all neatly and logically laid out, with very little to criticize. With the flaps deployed the trim lever isn’t quite so accessible while as fuel quantity remaining is only shown by sight-tubes in the wing roots. The 912 starts easily (it is fitted with the "soft start system") and runs smoothly, but I am soon reminded of what may be the worst feature of any 9-series Rotax: the powerful throttle springs. These are arranged to give full power should the throttle cable break, so unless you have the throttle friction wound right down, then the second you let go of the throttle that’s what happens. Of course, like most of us I generally keep my hand on the throttle when I’m on the ground, but even briefly setting the flaps, adjusting the trim, or any other task, can have the engine accelerating alarmingly quickly. Conversely, if the friction is wound right down, you have no finesse.
Preparing to FlyWith the minimal pre-take off checks complete and 25° of flap set I line up on runway 25 and smoothly open the throttle. I wouldn’t describe Keith and I as “overweight” — more “underheight” — but even with full tanks we’re still about 45 pounds below the 1,098-pound maximum all-up weight. Ambient conditions are slightly above standard atmospheric, with an airfield elevation of 196 feet and an outside air temperature of 66°F. We had about ten knots on the nose, the grass is short and the acceleration excellent. I doubt we used even the first 300 feet of the 2,700 available. Scout’s climb rate was equally impressive, the best rate of climb of 55 knots produced around 900 fpm. Aloft, I commenced my evaluation with an examination of the general handling, and a couple of steep turns and reversals reveal crisp, authoritative controls with delightfully pleasant stick forces. Controls all seemed agreeably light and reasonably frictionless, with low breakout forces and control around all three axes is very good, with the roll rate being particularly noteworthy. It’s fun to fly. Visibility in the turn — and indeed every phase of flight — was very good for a high-wing aircraft. An exploration of the stick-free stability around all three axes revealed it to be strongly positive longitudinally, weakly positive directionally and positive laterally. Slowing down to examine the stall confirms what I already suspected: this is a very well-mannered flying machine. As the flaps extend they produce a very slight nose-down pitching moment that is easily trimmed out. There is no stall warning but the speeds are so slow and the deck angle so high that it’s obvious that something isn’t going well. With any flap deployed and irrespective of the power setting it always broke straight ahead, although with the flaps fully up it did have a slight tendency to drop the left wing. With full flaps and a hint of power we got the IAS down to 31 knots. At the other side of the speed scale I got the distinct impression that it would probably exceed Vne in straight and level flight, though we didn’t try due to some turblence. With Keith diligently taking notes, an examination of the cruise revealed that 5,100 rpm at 3,000 feet produced a TAS of 96 knots with a fuel flow of a bit more than four gph. This means that the range at fast cruise is around 360 nm with at least 30 minutes’ fuel left. Pulling the power down to 4,000 rpm saw the fuel flow drop to a bit over two gph. Fit the optional long range tanks and the maximum endurance rises to a butt-bruising eleven hours! Back at launch airfield I discovered that, as with just about every other aspect of flying the Scout, it’s a very honest aircraft in the pattern, with perhaps the single caveat that pilots converting to it from older, heavier machines need to bear in mind that it has considerably less inertia than a Cessna 152 or Piper Tomahawk. Indeed, for the first few hours it’s probably prudent to stay away from using full flaps because speed bleeds away quickly. Maintain speed at 50 knots over the fence and Scout will touch down where you want it every time. Having got comfortable landing on the long runway 25 I finish off with a smooth three-pointer on the shorter length of turf that parallels the taxiway. Great fun! One more thing: Folding Scout’s wings is both a quick and simple process while all the controls remain connected. That's great for those who want to use less hangar space or wish to trailer their Scout.
Conclusions?I honestly feel that TLAC has got a winner here! Obviously care needs to be taken with the weight and balance of the lightest version, but with a typical useful load in excess of 517 pounds the larger Scout is a very practical machine, with good numbers for speed, range and endurance, and the ability to carry a good load into and out of rather short strips. The folding wings are a big plus, while the ability to reconfigure from a nosewheel to a tailwheel quickly and easily could also be very useful. I liked it, a lot.
Sherwood Scout The Light Aeroplane Company Ltd
- Length — 19 feet
- Height — 5.75 feet
- Wing Span — 28.5 feet / wings folded — 8 feet
- Wing Area — 120 square feet
- Empty Weight — 578 pounds
- Gross Weight — 1,098 pounds
- Useful Load — 522 pounds
- Payload (with full standard fuel) — 402 pounds
- Wing Loading — 10.47 pounds per square foot
- Power Loading — 11 pounds per horsepower
- Fuel Capacity — 20 gallons
- Baggage Capacity — 77 pounds
- Never-Exceed Speed — 115 knots
- Maximum Cruise (True Air Speed) — 95 knots
- Economical Cruise — 80 knots
- Stall — 34 knots
- Climb Rate — 1000 feet per minute
- Take Off Distance over 50 foot obstacle — 600 feet
- Landing Roll over 50 foot obstacle — 600 feet
- Powerplant — Rotax 912ULS 100hp
- Propeller — Composite three-blade fixed pitch
Oratex No-Paint CoveringDeveloped in Germany, Oratex is a water-based, solvent-free, pre-colored aircraft covering system that is available in two different weights, depending on the size of aircraft. It is claimed to offer several significant advantages over legacy covering products such as Ceconite, Diatex, and Polyfiber. Unlike earlier systems, it is non-toxic and, being pre-colored, makes Oratex quicker and safer to work with, while the covered aircraft is invariably lighter, as you don’t have to paint it.
Welcome to the two-seat Sherwood Scout. We previously presented Sherwood’s single-place Kub. Now, our favorite British writer, Dave Unwin — master pilot of many aircraft of widely varying types — reviews the UK company’s Scout model. All photos are by UK photographer extraordinaire, Keith Wilson. Thanks to both gentlemen. Enjoy! —DJ A handsome high-wing, side-by-side two seater, Scout’s lineage goes back to 1983, when Dean Wilson’s trendsetter-to-be Avid Flyer was first introduced. His often-imitated design was the basis for Kitfox, Rocky Mountain’s Ridge Runner and the Flying K Sky Raider. The latter morphed into the Just Aircraft Escapade. When The Light Aircraft Company — TLAC — bought the design in 2013 the first thing Paul Hendry-Smith and his team did was implement a significant number of improvements to both its design and construction. They improved stability, pitch authority, and decreased adverse yaw. After a year of flight testing various revisions, they enlarged both the elevator and rudder, cleaned up the junction between the wing root and flaps, added gap seals and implemented several other aerodynamic tweaks.
2019 In ReviewOverview — Here's the top line view: "It's been a good year," wrote Steve, as he noted aircraft registrations for our categories grew by 793 aircraft in 2019, a 10% increase from the year prior. Counting all types, the fleet enlarged from 8,028 at the end of 2018 to 8,821 by end of year 2019. While not as boisterous as the stock market was last year, this nonetheless suggests satisfying numbers for the light aircraft industry. Compared to 2018, Steve observed, "Sport Pilot kit aircraft are gaining on LSA though not by much; the kit market slightly closed the gap with the LSA market comprised of both Special, fully-built LSA and Experimental, kit-built LSA." Sport Pilot kits do not meet ASTM standards but have less regulations and the owner, having built his or her plane, is allowed to maintain it without oversight by an A&P. As Steve uncovered, the market leaders involve the same seven brands that have been leading the pack. However, as he added, "All did not have the same experience. Kitfox registrations increased by 60% (as the Idaho company appeared to lose some momentum in 2018). Van's Aircraft grew by 44% and Rans by 20% but Zenair/Zenith and Sonex were modestly off their previous pace (see chart below)." For reference, here is our 3Q19 market share report with additional details you might find interesting. LSA Seaplanes — Icon continues to do well (but see the next paragraph). The last quarter of 2019 was good for SeaMax and Super Petrel. The latter gained two new owners in the last quarter while SeaMax gained three. Both companies are based in Brazil but SeaMax has been working hard on their U.S. presence (see more here) and, apparently, it is paying off.
Alternative Aircraft (all other than Fixed Wing)In general terms, Steve noted, "Alternate aircraft offer a mixed picture." He reported, "We have no change from our third quarter 2019 report: Gyroplanes registrations are slowing slightly but are still hot. Trike registrations are holding steady. Powered parachutes registrations are off a bit (nearby chart). Gyroplanes — "The low-cost Tango is coming on strong," said Steve. Tango is quoted quite well equipped for just $43,500. "It used to come with a Rotax 582 but their website says it now has a Yamaha engine that they say provides a four-stroke, three-cylinder, fuel-injected, 1,055 cubic centimeter engine outputting 130 horsepower." That engine is part of the low price tag but even if you added every option shown on their website, you still might not break $50,000. No wonder it is attracting some attention. Of course, until the FAA's new LSA regulation comes out, all gyros — other than AutoGyro's Primary Category entry — must be built as a kit. (See chart below.) Steve notes a new gyroplane entry, "The database now shows Airgyro and their AG-915. It’s a derivative of the Celier Xenon obviously, but with many changes."
We have a new year upon us. With our new reporting capabilities for LSA and SP kit market shares, we can now quickly report results from 2019. A huge thanks to our supreme “datastician,” Steve Beste for making such swift and accurate reporting possible. I assure you that I’ve looked high and low for every year LSA have existed to find no comparable information. As always, be advised that our data comes from FAA’s aircraft registration database. That means it is impartial — hopefully meaning reliable and dependable — but it also means some massaging of the information is needed to be completely accurate. (See this article for more detail on the effort involved; it is not trivial.) Steve’s valuable ability to manipulate database resources combines with his knowledge of light aircraft to make an unbeatable combination. As much as any data allows — and as the saying goes… “you can take this info to the bank.” It’s solid!
Texas Aircraft“I cannot express how happy and proud I am of our entire team. Just a year ago, the Colt LSA was still in development, and we had just opened the doors at our facility here in Hondo, Texas,” Texas Aircraft Manufacturing’s co-founder, Matheus Grande said. “To be here today and to deliverour first Texas-built Colt is truly a blessing.” “It is also exceptionally gratifying to have Colt number one going to Ricky, a young man who exemplifies what Light-Sport Aircraft are all about,” Matheus added. “He and his father were looking for an aircraft that they can both enjoy flying. Ricky is a Private Pilot and his father has a Sport Pilot certificate." Texas Aircraft believes Colt fits their needs as a modern, capable and safe airplane. "Colt is not only fun to fly, but extremely efficient for their frequent recreational flights.”
Why Colt?“We looked at several new LSA, and while they all had their merits, the all-new Colt really stood out as something special,” Ricky said. “The Colt flies like a much larger aircraft, so the transition from the 172 to the Colt was very easy for me.” Among other attributes, Colt uses control yokes that have been experienced by nearly all students in the last few decades. “While the new Dynon EFIS and airframe parachute were strongly in the Colt’s favor, the biggest advantage [became clear] when my father and I visited the factory in Hondo, Texas. We saw the pride and passion that went into building the Colt,” Ricky expressed. “They truly made the whole experience delightful for my family and me. That kind of passion and attention to detail has to create an outstanding airplane.” “Texas Aircraft is raising the bar on quality, safety, and service,” said Ricky's father, Richard Youschak, Sr. “Their professional staff made the experience of buying our airplane fun from the design phase through delivery, and their exceptional service didn’t end there. I’m extremely happy with our Colt and Texas Aircraft.”
Go Gators!One of the special touches provided by Texas Aircraft was an orange and blue paint scheme, inspired by the school colors of the University of Florida Gators. “I’m studying Nuclear Engineering at UF, so I am really looking forward to showing off my ‘Gator Pride’ at all the airports as my father and I fly throughout northern Florida, the Bahamas, and to and from my family home in Fort Myers in the southwest of the state,” Ricky said. “My father and I enjoy flying together and our new Colt will be the perfect airplane for us to share our airborne adventures for years to come.” “I can’t tell you how happy everyone at Texas Aircraft is about being able to help Ricky and his family achieve their dream of aircraft ownership. Giving people the gift of affordable, reliable, and safe aircraft operation was the reason we developed the Colt S-LSA in the first place,” Grande said.“We are extremely grateful to the entire Youschak family for putting their faith and trust in Texas Aircraft.”
Facts about the Texas Aircraft Colt-SL
- Semi-cantilever, high-wing design, approved as a Special LSA
- All aviation-grade aluminum airframe with all solid metal rivets
- Wide cabin with welded Chromoly passenger safety cell
- Engine Type — 100 horsepower Rotax 912 ULS
- Propeller Type — Sterna composite, three-blade
- Maximum Speed at Sea Level — 119 KIAS
- Cruise Speed at 75% power — 105 KIAS
- Stall Speed, Clean — 44 knots
- Stall Speed, Full Flaps — 38 knots
- Takeoff Distance (over 50 foot obstacle) — 1,085 feet
- Landing Distance (over 50 foot obstacle) — 1,044 feet
- Climb Rate (Vy) — 800 feet per minute
- Four-point passenger safety harnesses
- Airframe ballistic parachute system
- Dynon 10-inch SkyView HDX touchscreen display with Synthetic Vision with 3D graphics
- Dynon Mode-S Transponder with ADS-B Out/In and TIS traffic
- Dynon WAAS enabled GPS Receiver
- Dynon digital autopilot with Level Button
- Dynon Electronic Engine Monitoring System
Take your pick: our short (3-min.) video or the following longer Video Pilot Report, both recorded at the Midwest LSA Expo 2019. https://youtu.be/DkPD07-z0Wc
How about this for a great way to start off the new year — a brand-new airplane? Both pilot and manufacturer are smiling and with good reason: both are winners in this transaction, as it should be. Hondo-based Texas Aircraft Manufacturing announced today that the new Light-Sport Aircraft builder delivered its first new-generation Colt to Richard “Ricky“ Youschak, of Gainesville, Florida. Colt has a history. While a clean-sheet design, the all-metal high-wing aircraft follows a successful design from Brazil, the Conquest 180. Built especially for the LSA market, Colt benefits from the earlier manufacturing exercise. Approximately 300 were delivered by the older Brazilian builder. Colt gained its Special LSA approval last year. More details are available in this earlier article. Texas Aircraft “I cannot express how happy and proud I am of our entire team. Just a year ago, the Colt LSA was still in development, and we had just opened the doors at our facility here in Hondo, Texas,” Texas Aircraft Manufacturing’s co-founder, Matheus Grande said.
Wait, Weight! Do Tell MeA common misconception is that "FAA is raising the weight of LSA." Nope, they are not. They are creating a Power Index that will describe the aircraft's size while trying to keep LSA "safe, simple, and easy to fly" yet encourage them to grow and develop. That short phrase is FAA's stated goal, so, simplistically, larger airplanes will require larger wings to keep their flight qualities docile. Aircraft will indeed be permitted to be heavier, perhaps even as high as the 3,600-pound number once stated (though more likely topping out at 3,000 pounds). The fall 2019 speculation was wrong but weights of LSA will indeed rise. FAA's goal here is not to fit Cessna 150s and 172s or Pipers or other legacy GA airplanes into the mix (though they may qualify), but rather to increase the capability of LSA and to "bridge the gap between present-day LSA and certified aircraft meeting Part 23" (which itself is changing), said FAA personnel. One hard number associated with FAA's Power Index — basically a formula that hopes to assure agency goals — is stall speed. While horsepower may also be capped at 200 horsepower, it is nearly certain that stall speed will be limited to 50 knots while using devices like flaps and other wing modifications. Many LSA do NOT need to get heavier. I think of weight shift trikes, powered parachutes, gyroplanes, and motor gliders. Many fixed wing designs are also perfectly fine as they are. A heavier aircraft, requiring more raw material and needing more power will surely be more costly although they should offer additional capabilities. Some producers strive to keep prices low and affordable so they might stay at 1,320 pounds or their present weight… nothing wrong with that, of course.
Other BenefitsI reported that LSA may also get: • in-flight adjustable props, • more seats, • higher speeds, • electric or hybrid propulsion, • fully-built gyroplanes should arrive, and — the big one: we hope for • commercial use of LSA. Some pilots will see this as a chance to pursue a new business and manufacturers may embrace this as a way to sell more aircraft. Many have asked about retractable gear. While I did not report this earlier, that configuration is also in planning. However, as stated earlier, none of this is certain even if it is likely. Several other FAA departments have to weigh in and then it will (later, perhaps in 2021?) be released for public comment, which could further change it.
FAQs from the Video BelowAs you can read for yourself if you wish, many comments were posed after the video was uploaded. Here is a brief summary of what I read among the comments: Higher speeds — Yes. While not 200 knots, it seems entirely possible LSA may be allowed to zoom past 120 knots, perhaps to 140 or more. As with all parts of the proposed rule, this is still being decided and any number of FAA entities, including the tough Legal Department, have to (hopefully) add their blessing. Why Build Now? — One commenter asked, "Why produce something under the old standards if there are changes coming?" As mentioned above, some aircraft do not need to change; I can think of many that are ideal as they are now. However, an ambitious manufacturer will see new markets to explore with larger, faster, more capable aircraft. Just because a 2024 LSA could weigh 3,000 pounds doesn't mean it must. However, if a builder does wish to pursue a new model, they need information sooner than later. Why Buy Now? — Impending rule change can cause market paralysis, which would be a most regretful result. Please, potential buyers… remember that this rule will not become effective for around four years. If you wait for something later, you will miss out on lots of good flying over those years. You can always sell what you have now or may acquire during the next four years; used LSA sales are a growing phenomenon and offer more affordable prices. If you cannot live without an in-flight adjustable prop or retractable gear or four seats or other promises, well, you're stuck. You must buy a much-more costly (probably older) certified aircraft. Others could spend the hours to build a kit or buy one some other person built. If you fly for fun, you have so many choices now it's hard to choose the ideal one for you. Need help deciding? Try PlaneFinder 2.0; it's fun and may help you select your perfect LSA. Won't Current LSA Lose their Value? — Legacy Cessnas, Cirruses, or Pipers have faced this music for decades. Anything new — car, boat, RV, etc. — will lose some value after purchase. However, LSA will hold up much better than your current computer or TV, both of which will lose nearly all their value within weeks after you take it home. You are urged to keep in mind that enjoying a present-day LSA is a thing of joy… now! If you wait, think about all the great flights you will miss. You have 150 models to choose between: see our SLSA List. Flying GA Airplanes with a Sport Pilot certificate (without an aviation medical) — A commenter asked, "Will this new rule will allow planes like the Piper Cherokee to be considered as acceptable for LSA status and [can owners] change their certification [to LSA]?" Simply, we don't know yet. I am quite sure the effort to allow weight to rise and to add other features was not to bring in legacy GA designs to become LSA. FAA's usual pattern is that when an aircraft is certified or accepted as one type, it generally cannot be changed to another classification. Perhaps more to the point, will FAA allow you to fly a 2,500-pound GA airplane with a Sport Pilot certificate …without getting a Class 1-2-3 medical? Alternatively, can a Sport Pilot fly a 3,000-pound new LSA? We don't know this either. Our hope is that FAA will allow the Sport Pilot certificate to be used to fly heavier, more capable aircraft perhaps using the logbook endorsement method employed today. For example, a basic SP certificate does not allow flight into Class B airspace until the pilot has received additional training for this. However, after getting more instruction, a SP ticket holder can fly into Class B once securing only a logbook endorsement (no further testing is needed). Multiple Engines on LSA — A commenter asked, "How about a multiengine LSA?" LAMA has posed this question to FAA and it may be possible. At least for electric propulsion, the idea of what's often called "distributed lift" — that is, multiple motors/props driven by a common energy source — is being considered by rule writers. Bad FAA? — Although a number of commenters threw darts at FAA for not being more responsive or for taking too long with this regulation, LAMA advocates for industry have seen FAA be very open to new ideas for LSA and for letting industry handle more of the approval process. The agency has been remarkably receptive to every idea LAMA has presented and they specifically say they want to be "less restrictive, less prescriptive." Yes, 2023 seems a long way off now, but two points are worthwhile: (1) to be all completed by the end of 2023, dictated by a congressional mandate attached to FAA budget funding, rule writers must complete their final drafts by the end of 2021 or so; (2) this is a sweeping, comprehensive rule with lots of detail. I have observed FAA personnel working diligently on this but it will take a couple years more to sort out hundreds of points… especially as this significantly changes how FAA does business (giving industry more leeway to devise methods and standards). I urge patience. Changing Part 103 Ultralight Vehicles — (A fair number of comments spoke to Part 103 ultralights.) Nope, no changes coming. While some think this is imperative, many experts feel certain that to ask for changes will be to upset the least-regulated form of manned flight in the USA. Other countries have adopted similar hands-off rules (SSDR in England; 120-Kilogram Class in Germany, etc.). Many believe that asking for any change to Part 103 could potentially ruin the charm of these lightest-of-aircraft… 'er "vehicles." Perhaps later, but no change to Part 103 is sought at this time. The good news about Part 103 is you have several good choices now (Kolb Firefly, Aerolite 103, Badlands F-series, and others plus a number of trikes or PPCs or PPGs). Those aircraft are selling well enough that the first two mentioned are backed up trying to satisfy demand. More? — It's great that pilots are reacting to this news and that manufacturers are studying everything they can as they plan their next steps. Indeed, the next four years will be very exciting — both positively and confusingly. Change is coming. Our mission is to give you more info, to help you stay informed, and hopefully all will see ways the coming changes will be good for them. Nonetheless, to repeat, LSA manufacturers are building some fine aircraft today, in a dizzying number of models and configurations. Pilots have never seen a better time to buy and fly something you love. So, get out and do so — but be smart and safe in your enjoyment.
Happy New Year!
https://youtu.be/XY1PttWHEqc The lead photo seen on the home page was of a Progressive Aerodyne Searey LSX dubbed "Phaeton" and owned by Robert Richardson. It depicts the Maryland state flag in its graphics. A Searey is used by RS Aerotech's project to develop single lever control for an in-flight adjustable prop.
As we kick off a new year and a new decade, it feels like the starter’s timer has just been clicked into action. The next four years should prove to be highly interesting — and for all of aviation, not only Light-Sport Aircraft, Sport Pilot kit aircraft, and ultralights. Change can be difficult, but it’s coming. For the most part, I feel this is heading in a great direction even if some may struggle with elements of the new rule. Earlier, an often-shared report discussed the changes FAA plans as part of a “deregulation” of Light-Sport Aircraft. Below, you can see a video that stimulated numerous comments. An updated report is still being prepared from a late-fall 2019 discussion with FAA rule writers. That will be sent to LAMA members first with specific details. Other industry pros will get a simpler update so all the makers of our great aircraft can be prepared when the rule is issued no more than four years from now.
Now, Back to AircraftI have been writing about seaplanes even as the snow flies in northern latitudes because… well, why not? Plus, this is a good time to enter an order for a new one so you get it as lakes thaw and the sun warms the Earth in spring and summer 2020. One of the most anticipated of these new Light-Sport Aircraft seaplanes is the Vickers Wave. As earlier did Icon Aircraft and their carefully engineered A5, the Vickers Aircraft and staff have kept their heads down, sweating the details of this innovation-packed design. This coming new year is when Wave will leave the water on its first flight. As you will read below, Wave will launch more energetically than most other LSA seaplanes because they've settled on their engine choice with more power. The newest Rotax will assure their heaviest-to-date LSA amphibian has a strong push into the skies. "As 2019 draws to a close, we are pleased to announce a new strategic partnership with Rotax Aircraft Engines," announced boss Paul Vickers. "Rotax engines have become the first choice for more than 220 aircraft manufacturers worldwide; they are the premier aircraft engine manufacturer across the Light-Sport industry." Rotax’s latest offering, the 915iS "is the culmination of 40 years of aircraft engine development." Paul continued, "Offering 141 horsepower from a compact, modern, fuel efficient engine, the Rotax 915iS is the perfect match for our Wave. The turbocharged powerplant gives the Wave all 141 horses up to 15,000 feet with no performance loss, unlike naturally aspirated engines. We are very pleased to welcome the reliable, total package that is the Rotax 915iS to the Vickers journey." Earlier, as Vickers' team anticipated a higher weight — as did Icon's A5 engineers and other designs like Terrafugia's flying car LSA — the New Zealand manufacturer was leaning toward Continental's super-potent 180 horsepower Titan. That would surely have offered more-than-ample power but it is a larger, heavier powerplant. "The compact size of the Rotax powerplant has allowed us to modify the design of the rear fuselage/engine cowling area," explained Paul. "This has significantly improved airflow over the propeller, further enhancing the performance of Wave." Nearby images unveil the Wave engine nacelle redesign. "We cannot wait to share more with you. Stay tuned in early 2020 for more announcements on further strategic partners as we quickly approach first flight," finished Paul. Team Vickers will take a short break for Christmas but 2020 is shaping up to be a big year for the Vickers Aircraft Company. Count on ByDanJohnson.com keeping you informed and up-to-date.
Merry Christmas, Everyone!
The last airshow (DeLand) is over. Recreational aircraft across the snow belt are secured in their hangars. Santa Claus and his reindeer have an imaginary TFA imposed over the rooftops of all homes with young kids. Our festive Christmas season has center stage… With that our warmest wishes for your holidays and wishing you a prosperous happy new year with all the flying you could want. We are pleased to have served you another year as we enter into our 17th of providing news, reviews, and videos for your entertainment and information. THANKS to each and every one of you who visited in 2019. Please come back next decade! 😎 Now, Back to Aircraft I have been writing about seaplanes even as the snow flies in northern latitudes because… well, why not? Plus, this is a good time to enter an order for a new one so you get it as lakes thaw and the sun warms the Earth in spring and summer 2020.
It's Holiday Time What Could You Ask Santa to Bring?How about WingBug as a stocking stuffer? This thing is pretty amazing. I admire developer Alex Rolinski and partner Bryan Tittle for pursuing such a project to a high state of the art. The good folks at Levil have a different entry (the B.O.M.) but WingBug has an advantage in that they also developed an app to support the hardware. The app and product are darned impressive and the video below will tell you all you need to know plus give you a close-up look to see how it functions. (This was a rare solo effort of video recording on my part but it has been made totally professional thanks to the talented YouTube publisher Videoman Dave who could not attend DeLand this year.)
Going Faster in the Future?"Here is some newsworthy information for your website," related Deon Lombard, who imports the Aeropilot L600 and InnovAviation FX1. "As we believe this aircraft will qualify for the new Light-Sport Aircraft rules to come (perhaps)," this kit could find a market in the USA. Until that rule arrives — probably in late 2023 — "Whisper can be a nice step up in airspeed and weight limits within the Experimental Amateur Built class." Deon's now-Florida-based operation will offer Whisper in kit form or quick-built kit. It can be completed as a taildragger or tricycle gear (nearby photos). Deon said Whisper will require about "half the airframe build time of an RV or Lancair in a very strong composite sandwich material, with UV and lightning protection." He reported the structure has been tested to handle a 12G load. One is already approved and flying in the USA, Deon reported, using a slightly smaller Lycoming engine at present. Some 25 are presently flying in South Africa. Whisper is, he added, "a fast and roomy aircraft, with a lower profile, making it about 10 knots faster than a RV 7." See additional factory specifications here. The price is also very competitive, Deon maintained. "We will be offering an owner builder-assist program conducted by the factory guys, in Florida." Deon said it takes only a 14-day period when assembled at their U.S. facility. He promised to advise a hangar address early next year and hopes to have a demo plane ready for Sun 'n Fun 2020. See Whisper at the Aeropilot booth at the April event.
In case I don’t get another post up before (gosh, this is a busy time of year, isn’t it?)… let me wish all visitors and viewers a very warm and wonderful holiday. We so appreciate your visits to ByDanJohnson.com! We begin a new year shortly and will keep our focus on the many enjoyable light airplanes. This industry and the pilots it serves have an exciting four years ahead as FAA’s huge new regulation comes to completion. For some this will add excellent new opportunities such as using an LSA of the future to do various kinds of aerial work — and much more. For others — those of you who enjoy pure recreational flying — the new rule will also be beneficial as FAA pulls further back to let industry take the lead in new directions. I find this very foresightful of the aviation agency and I’m thrilled to report more as we learn details of the new rule.