Most pilots love a fast-looking aircraft that looks as good on the ramp as it does in the air? Sure, gnarly backwoods airplanes on huge tires and tall gear struts have huge appeal, and float-equipped aircraft and seaplanes also draw strong interest. Yet aviation’s leading draw may be speed …more is better, right? If that’s an accurate assessment, then let the drooling begin over this beautifully contoured flying machine that can race 135 to 185 miles an hour for a fairly modest investment. I’m writing about Lightning from Arion Aircraft, available as either a Light-Sport Aircraft or an Experimental Amateur Built version. That these handsome aircraft are also 100% designed and manufactured in the USA may be sweet icing on the cake for many readers. LS-1 is a true Light-Sport Aircraft that meets all the parameters and survived a detailed FAA audit a few years ago. In the field owners I’ve spoken to love Lightning and its speedy ways.
Arion Aircraft, LLC
Phone: (931) 680-1781Shelbyville, TN 37160 - USA
Builder Assist CentersNearly everyone in recreational aviation is by now well aware that the country is dotted with enterprises calling themselves a Builder Assist Center. This was not always the case. In short, a Build Center means a buyer of a kit aircraft can find assistance, tools, a facility, jigs, and more at a physical location where they can assemble their chosen kit. Build Centers have proliferated in recent years and a brief background explains why. Back in the 1950s Paul Poberezny and his entourage of airplane enthusiasts willing to build their own flying machine had a tougher path. Homebuilding was a new idea then. In the earliest days you bought plans from a designer and you "scratch built" your airplane by collecting elements and fabricated those you could not buy. Scratch building was difficult and took a long time but it was highly educational. Indeed, that's how Paul and EAA sold the idea to FAA. (Great job, Paul and fellow builders!) Companies like Van's, Rans, and many others slowly evolved the plans-built concept into kits that attempted to speed construction by offering parts, then whole subassemblies, and later, quick-build kits. It took years as FAA and industry worked out the details. Those kits continually got better, more recently including precision match-hole construction that provides parts a builder can more accurately join together without costly jigs. Homebuilding was still time consuming but the process got far easier. Finished aircraft also got better with factory-made parts fitting more perfectly than ones a homebuilder cut or welded him or herself. Over decades this lead to locations where now-qualified builders helped other builders. Finally, people got into the business of helping people. This may not have been exactly what FAA (or Paul) envisioned back in the '50s and '60s but they allowed a great expansion of the idea as part of the experimentation and education of pilot builders. Today, Experimental aircraft are a substantial part of the overall U.S. aircraft fleet (approaching 20% of all aircraft!). Some are marvelous, fast, sophisticated flying machines that Joe Homebuilder probably should not build on his or her own. FAA recognized the value of professional help and did not discourage the effort. As aircraft got more capable (faster, larger, better equipped, more complex) build centers become even more valuable. Some kits were so challenging for the average builder that professionals began to assist them. It took time but these build centers stayed within the limits of what FAA permitted under the so-called 51% rule. Now, with a new regulation in development, the agency may expand on the Professional Builder Center concept greatly.* A pilot seeking any number of fast, bush, or amphibious aircraft — commonly in kit form to deliver a vast array of configurations — will have a far easier time assembling it and the resulting aircraft will almost surely be better.
Then What?Once you've got one of these speedy aircraft built, how can you learn to fly it or transition from a different aircraft you presently fly? Can you hire someone? Yes, you can. This article details another positive change FAA has made to better serve the LSA and Sport Pilot kit community. As this series — "The Future of LSA+SP Kits" — progresses we'll cover other aspects of the regulation to come and how it may affect both producers and buyers. However, implementation of a new rule is still years in the future. Until then, you have many marvelous choices in fine fully-built LSA, kit aircraft, and ultralights …so go enjoy the skies!
* DISCLAIMER — As with following articles in this series, what is described here is the best available information at the time of publication. In spring of 2019, FAA's regulation is still in early stages of development and it is a huge, sweeping rule set that touches on many parts of the FARs. What finally emerges may or may not be as described here.
Could 2020 bring a new description of aircraft under the LSA banner? Could this include greater capabilities and opportunities? Could you get the airplane you want for less? When?! Yes, yes, and yes …but probably not as soon as you want. The regulation may not emerge in 2020 but whatever the announcement date, what could be coming and how will it affect you? We still have more to report from Sun ‘n Fun and Aero 2019 — and we will! — but numerous conversations at each event have pointed to another topic of keen interest to many: “What’s coming and when?” Manufacturers of aircraft are among the most interested to hear more, but so are individual pilots and all the organizations and other enterprises that serve the recreational aircraft market. In this article, let’s take a closer look. (More articles will follow.) EAA has adeptly branded their good work to some of these ends as MOSAIC, or Modernization of Special Airworthiness Certificates.
Lightning FastNow, ultralight pilots (me, for instance) will go on enthusiastically about the beauty of flying slowly, of drifting leisurely over the landscape at a "human speed" that allows enough time to enjoy the expanse of an aerial view of your surroundings. Open cockpit flying adds to the joy facilitated by low airspeeds. Yet the allure of going fast is great, zipping over the countryside. I get that and when contemplating a cross country trip of any real distance, fast cannot be too fast. In addition to a higher TAS, we all yearn for a tailwind that will raise our speed by another 20 mph. Arion Aircraft boss Nick Otterback also feels that desire to fly fast. Along with his since-retired but longtime business partner Pete Krotje, Nick created the dashing, sleek and smooth Lightning, first offered as a kit and a compliant Light-Sport Aircraft. Lightning has enjoyed and continues to execute a good run but like many designers, Nick felt the design could handle more speed. He set out to bump the numbers by installing a Titan X340 with 180 horsepower. This triggered other changes such as a new cowl to accommodate the powerplant. "Our Lightning XS kit has a redesigned forward fuselage structure that gives the builder the option to choose engines up to 180 horsepower," said Nick. "Taller landing gear for bigger props, bigger brakes, and 20 gallon fuel tanks are among some of the features of this new kit." How fast does Lightning XS go? Testing is not complete yet; it recently took to the air. However, Arion is calculating 165 knots (190 mph) TAS at 8,500 feet density altitude at full gross. Climb is a stunning 2,000 fpm. Of course Lightning XS is not a Light-Sport Aircraft and will require a Private or better certificate plus a medical.
Stronger Climb–Efficient Cruise–Greater SafetyRotax, Searey builder Progressive Aerodyne, and RS Technology continue work to acquire knowledge and data about what's called Single Lever Control (SLC). They've been at it a couple years or more and RS Tech is pleased with initial results. Since I first interviewed Michael Stock about this on video, the team has changed to Rotax's newest 915iS engine that supplies 135 horsepower. Combined with the adjustable prop, this becomes an enthusiastic performer. The beauty of the system, in my mind, is that it is so simple. A literal single lever makes the pilot workload no more difficult than a conventional throttle on a fixed pitch prop yet it can deliver increased performance to shorten takeoff runs without sacrificing cruise at altitude. This is a win-win safety argument that FAA recognizes. In our discussions with top executives with the agency they proved surprisingly and pleasantly receptive to considering SLC as they rework the SP/LSA regulation. That's not a guarantee but the odds seem promising. Nonetheless, that regulation is still years away — how many years is an unanswerable question at this point but the wheels of progress are in motion (see an earlier article on this subject). In talking about regulation change, lots of folks are still asking about a speculated weight increase. Yes, one is definitely coming but not to a specific number. A formula will develop gross weight, and no, the final version of that formula is not yet established.
Lightning Bug 2 Encore AppearanceIn the LSA–Sport Pilot kit aircraft–ultralight space, we had a rising star, an emerging talent, and one of the nicest people I've met. His name was Brian Austein. Sadly, this bright young man succumbed to cancer and died since last Sun 'n Fun …a terrible loss. However, his unique legacy lives on in Paradise City in 2019. Brian's last full-sized project, the Lightning Bug 2 (the version number is mine not his), was quite remarkable. LB2 was a 150-pound empty weight aircraft — ponder that weight for a minute — powered by two model aircraft engines. It cost Brian a mere $3,000 out-of-pocket and he produced a man-carrying flying machine. I still find that story rather magical and his one-of-a-kind aircraft design to be utterly a fresh creation. I've never seen anything like LB2 and I'm not sure I ever will again. Catch this video interview with Brian about Lightning Bug. Given his prodigious design ability and inventiveness I found it fun to see some of Brian's other ideas (photo) that he worked on until he died. He bubbled over with ideas as I interviewed him and he wrote from the hospital of another new project in this same ultra-affordable aircraft space. R.I.P. Brian…
You wanna go fast? Of course you do. What pilot doesn’t want to go fast? Lightning Fast Now, ultralight pilots (me, for instance) will go on enthusiastically about the beauty of flying slowly, of drifting leisurely over the landscape at a “human speed” that allows enough time to enjoy the expanse of an aerial view of your surroundings. Open cockpit flying adds to the joy facilitated by low airspeeds. Yet the allure of going fast is great, zipping over the countryside. I get that and when contemplating a cross country trip of any real distance, fast cannot be too fast. In addition to a higher TAS, we all yearn for a tailwind that will raise our speed by another 20 mph. Arion Aircraft boss Nick Otterback also feels that desire to fly fast. Along with his since-retired but longtime business partner Pete Krotje, Nick created the dashing, sleek and smooth Lightning, first offered as a kit and a compliant Light-Sport Aircraft.
How did Mike Lotz do it?"While doing first basic construction steps, I kept toying with the tail wheel idea. I started researching plans and books: Tony Bingelis' Sportplane Builder and my favorite, Ladislao Pazmany's Landing Gear Design For Light Aircraft. "While in construction, I decided I would commit to the tail wheel conversion. At the same time, just to see if it could be done, I decided to modify Lightning's controls to create center stick, another thing the factory had not done. I thought this would make entry easier and also let my wife have her own uncluttered space. This was my first project and at the rate I was going, I figured I wasn't going be doing too many of these so I wanted to do this one exactly how I wanted it. "I contacted Nick and got some better clarity on center of gravity and possible wheel positions and applied them to Pazmany's formulas until everything came in within the guidelines. Theoretical weight and balance and prop clearance were also considerations. I am a retired machinist, so the metal work and fixturing was very familiar to me although I did have to 'tune' up my welding for about a year and a half before I attempted the landing gear legs and supports. "At this time I've got about 2,500 hours into it. Although the empty CG moved a little more than an inch aft with the tail wheel, we are still well within the envelope and Light-Sport limit with two people and 20 gallons of fuel. "I'm using the Jabiru 3300 and without the nose wheel, I hope to add a few miles an hour in cruise and lose a couple on landing." Wisely, Mike hasn't decided if he'll do the test flight on his Lightning TD. "I've spent more time building than flying lately," Mike admitted. This is a common, smart move… to let a person other than the builder do the test flight. Mike continued, "Buzz Rich, who is very involved with Nick at Lightning and has a ton of time in the Lightning and tail wheels, has offered to do the first flights and it would be a kick to get his take on my project if we can work it out. I'll be flying amateur built but Lightning TD will come within Light-Sport limits. "This is way more plane than I could have ever imagined for myself." Make is both clever with technical skills and is diplomatic as he added an essential thank-you note. "Thanks to my wife Kathy for the great seats she sewed, for helping me move, lift, hold, and generally assist in the barn and for tolerating airplane parts in rooms around the house for seven years now. In fact, I think she misses the propeller not being in the living room anymore." Mike also added thanks to Nick, Mark, and Buzz at Arion Aircraft. So, now that you know Mike's story, what will you do this weekend?
I readily admit I find Arion’s Lightning LS-1 (the Special LSA model designation) one of the most handsome in the Light-Sport fleet …which is saying something as we enjoy dozens and dozens of quite beautiful aircraft in this sector. It’s also all-American, referencing its design and manufacturing. Lightning lives up to its name, running easily to the 120-knot maximum for LSA, especially when powered with a very muscular six-cylinder, 120 horsepower Jabiru 3300 powerplant. Every Lightning to date has been a tricycle gear airplane and, honestly, for most pilots, that is the right choice. However, like many aviators, I love the look of a tail dragger so when I stumbled across the one you see in the photos, I did a double take. Whoa! That looks hot! What you see here is a product of seven years of work by builder/owner Mike Lotz. I asked him to tell me about it and he offered enough that I’m going to let him tell his story.
The Marana Regional Airport, in Marana Arizona was the site of the first annual U.S. Flight Expo May 3–6, 2017. The west coast of the U.S. appears to lack major aviation events of the sort commonly seen in the easter U.S. This is especially odd considering the large number of pilots and aircraft in western states! (Some have observed how western populations are spread over a much larger area, which possibly accounts for this disparity. —DJ) One of the most successful annual aviation events not sponsored by a member organization is the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring Florida, which will celebrate its 14th year in 2018! Others have followed (Midwest LSA Expo &DeLand) but these sector-specific shows are still concentrated in the east. So it was about time for another western event other than Copperstate, which will celebrate its 45th year in 2017. Using the template that original director Robert Woods used to make Sebring such a success, Greg Hobbs — one of the leading organizers of the U.S.
US Flight Expo light aviation vendors
- Czech Sport Aircraft (Cruiser Aircraft)
- Aeroprakt USA
- Aeropilot USA
- Just Aircraft
- Sensenich Propellers
- Aircraft Spruce
- Guardian Avionics
- Aviators Hot Line
- …and others
- Greg Hobbs 520-405-6868
- Jack Norris 703-307-6775
- Email: US Flight Expo
- Media Coordination Volunteer Jacob Peed • 515-408-3763
Sun ‘n Fun is not even over; a final day remains (Sunday, April 9th). Yet already, airplane sellers are looking at another show, this one out West. Welcome to the new US Flight Expo. Less like Sun ‘n Fun and AirVenture with their airshow components and vast acreage of airplanes of all types, US Flight Expo will perhaps more closely resemble Sebring, Midwest LSA Expo, or DeLand …all arguably part of an emerging trend toward sector-focused shows that offer more manageable crowds giving easier contact with aircraft vendors and superb access to aircraft demo flights. Coming up very soon, US Flight Expo runs May 3-4-5-6, 2017 at the Marana Regional Airport (KAVQ) near Tucson, Arizona and about an hour south of Phoenix. Organized by Arion Lightning dealer and light aviation enthusiast Greg Hobbs, the sector we usually cover here on ByDanJohnson.com looks to be well represented.
In each case above and for those many others in the $125-175,000 range, we're talking about real money. Balancing that, all LSA in the $125K and up price range are impressive aircraft with more bells and whistles than most GA airplanes (and even some airliners!). They are hand-built works of art using carbon fiber; digital cockpits; wide, luxurious cockpits with amazing visibility; and emergency airframe parachutes. They are marvels with autopilot, synthetic vision, gas-sipping (and very modern) engines, and so much more.
Virtually every LSA — no matter how impressively equipped — still remains at half to one third or even less of the cost of even the most affordable Part 23 general aviation airplanes. Good heavens; even a Cessna 172 Skyhawk now costs more than $400,000!
Nonetheless, as fantastic and as decent a value as I believe our top-tier Special LSA represent, $150K to $250K is a big chunk of change for many recreational pilots who merely want to get some airtime.This article presents another solution: Arion Aircraft's SLSA Lightning LS1. If you don't know this airplane, you haven't really been shopping hard enough in my humble opinion. For years, Arion has been making kits, SLSA, ELSA, and Experimental Amateur Built aircraft that exceed the parameters of Light-Sport Aircraft. For the SLSA model, the company has been through an intensive FAA audit and emerged with a worthy product.
You may also choose some very nice flying aircraft at much more affordable prices running from well under $100,000 down into the $30-40,000 range. (That's not an exaggeration and I can prove it.) Now, you might not care for such aircraft with fabric coverings and simpler panels and, in some cases, different controls. However, if observing your locale from above is your main goal, these inexpensive aircraft can do the job efficiently, and economically. Ain't nothing wrong with that... even if these airplanes may not be your choice.
Arion offers you quite an amazing deal, I believe. I'll get into some specifics below but just look at the airborne images of this plane. The lines of LS1 lines are sexy and shapely, its speed is top-of-the-category, its appointments are comfortable, its interior spacious, its engine powerful, and to top it off, this is a Made-in-America Light-Sport. When you call, you talk to Americans in the heartland and its components are made by American workers.I imagine you agree Lightning LS1 is a handsome design, whether it is a kit, and ELSA or a fully-built Special LSA. Now, thanks to a change in their composite manufacturing — an outsourced set of key components, moved from their former supplier to one closer to Arion's facility in Shelbyville, Tennessee — Arion is able to make the purchase more affordable. In concert with the supplier change, Arion boss and principal designer, Nick Otterback, said, "A more streamlined in-house assembly and finish process helps us to further lower the cost."
Nick added, "A base-price Lightning will be EFIS equipped with 8.5-inch GRT sport system, Garmin's GTR200 com radio and GTX327 transponder, a PM1000 intercom, plus back up airspeed indicator. Standard base equipment still included from pervious years includes dual hydraulic toe brakes, AeroLEDs Pulsar XP wing tip navigation lights and strobes, faux-leather interior, electric flaps and pitch trim, adjustable rudder pedals, and 40-gallon fuel capacity." Available options are Dynon's SkyView system, Garmin's G3X, autopilot, and ADS-B.
Lightning looks good, comes well equipped ...but what is that price?How about this for an even number you can remember: $100,000 for a 2017 ready-to-fly Lightning LS1?
A $10,000 deposit provides you with a production slot. You pay installments during the build process at major events, such as when the structure is complete, when the paint is done, and when your LS1 is ready for delivery. Nick said current delivery times are 120 to 150 days after your deposit is received.
A two-tone grey or tan interior is custom made to suit your chosen paint scheme. Arion advised, "You can pick your paint scheme and colors; we work to design a scheme for you." Nearby photos present the interior look.
The $100K model is sufficiently well equipped to allow full enjoyment for local flying or cross country travel. You can spend more if you want the options. Since Lightning is good for longer distance flying, ADS-B will be of interest if you play to enter controlled airspace. However, even with an option or two, LS1 can still be quite an excellent value.
I applaud Arion for refining their supply chain and processes to lower the SLSA Lightning to a affordable level. If you are in the market for a beautiful American-made Light-Sport, here's one worth a much closer look.
Over and over I’ve heard about the cost of Light-Sport Aircraft. Indeed, some are approaching $200,000 and at least four have smashed through that barrier (CubCrafters, Icon, Terra Fugia, and Lisa). Now, I’ll grant you $200K+ for a two seater is fairly breathtaking. But… In each case above and for those many others in the $125-175,000 range, we’re talking about real money. Balancing that, all LSA in the $125K and up price range are impressive aircraft with more bells and whistles than most GA airplanes (and even some airliners!). They are hand-built works of art using carbon fiber; digital cockpits; wide, luxurious cockpits with amazing visibility; and emergency airframe parachutes. They are marvels with autopilot, synthetic vision, gas-sipping (and very modern) engines, and so much more. Virtually every LSA — no matter how impressively equipped — still remains at half to one third or even less of the cost of even the most affordable Part 23 general aviation airplanes.
Arion Aircraft is well known for its very smooth and handsome LS1 that qualifies as a SLSA, ELSA, or Experimental Amateur Built kit. That's great versatility but more is possible. All you have to do is add more power, so that's exactly what Arion principal designer Nick Otterback is doing. In this video he shows us around the latest variation with a 160-hp Superior Air Parts Lycoming engine.
Arion Aircraft is well known for its very smooth and handsome LS1 that qualifies as a SLSA, ELSA, or Experimental Amateur Built kit. That’s great versatility but more is possible. All you have to do is add more power, so that’s exactly what Arion principal designer Nick Otterback is doing. In this video he shows us around the latest variation with a 160-hp Superior Air Parts Lycoming engine.
Many of us have long admired the supersleek Lightning LS-1 and now it's better than ever. We spoke to co-designer and company leader Nick Otterback about changes to the aircraft and also about Arion's 2012 FAA very thorough audit. That's good reassurance for buyers but what's more fun is a newly enlarged tail. Nick tells us how this affects and improves an already great Light-Sport Aircraft (also available as a kit).
Many of us have long admired the supersleek Lightning LS-1 and now it’s better than ever. We spoke to co-designer and company leader Nick Otterback about changes to the aircraft and also about Arion’s 2012 FAA very thorough audit. That’s good reassurance for buyers but what’s more fun is a newly enlarged tail. Nick tells us how this affects and improves an already great Light-Sport Aircraft (also available as a kit).
One of the newest SLSA is an all-American design, from Arion Aircraft and it's called the Lightning LS-1. Winning its approval just before Sun 'n Fun 2009, LS-1 was preceded by some 80 kit Lightnings the company has sold in the last three years; more than 40 are already flying. I found the Lightning great fun. You might, too.
CORRECTION: In this video, I refer to a "retractable" version of the Lightning in kit-built aircraft form, however, that is an error. The model was never designed with such equipment
One of the newest SLSA is an all-American design, from Arion Aircraft and it’s called the Lightning LS-1. Winning its approval just before Sun ‘n Fun 2009, LS-1 was preceded by some 80 kit Lightnings the company has sold in the last three years; more than 40 are already flying. I found the Lightning great fun. You might, too. CORRECTION: In this video, I refer to a “retractable” version of the Lightning in kit-built aircraft form, however, that is an error. The model was never designed with such equipment
The one notable difference — and in fact this is the whole story — is the electric motor up front allowing Sun Flyer to look even a bit more streamlined than the dashing outline of Lightning. This is a first article aircraft as photos don't yet show any solar cells on the wings, as promised by Aero Electric.
Regardless of how AEAC develops Sun Flyer down the line, it was wonderful to see them linking up with Arion Aircraft whose LSA and kit models have been admired for their gracefully smooth shape for some years.In its unveiling at AirVenture 2014, Aero Electric showed a single seater. This was actually the Elektra One, designed and created by Calin Gologan, who also predicts an all-electric four-seat GA airplane in the next ten years. That was 2010, so we have time for AEAC to get their two seater ready and move onward. (We'll see how that turns out.)
Paying tribute to Calin, George Bye of Aero Electric said, "[Our] two-seat solar-electric light sport aircraft project was created under license agreement from German technology partner, PC-Aero, which introduced the Elektra One single-seater."
Readers seeking a broader view are invited to read my survey of electric airplanes from a few years ago: electric airplane review. A year earlier, we had this earlier article about Elektra. Now, you have some of the history.Most of the electric airplane projects currently capturing media attention are pure electric plays, although Aero 2016's e-flight-expo organized by German publisher Willi Tacke showed a hybrid (gas & electric) project. Other than some fascinating one-off projects, pure electric mostly means batteries to supply the current needed to spin the engine and prop.
AEAC's Sun Flyer is the first "commercial" project proposing to incorporate solar cells as a power-gathering apparatus. The company stated, "Solar energy collection from solar cells affixed to the composite wing skin, produces electric power that is combined with Lithium Ion batteries to run the electric propulsion system."
Flying the eSpyder a couple years ago showed it was both easy and different for the pilot. While operation was simple, I had unfamiliar information references I needed to track. They were not intuitive for someone used to fuel flow, magneto operation, tank capacity, and power settings. You can read my flight impressions aloft in eSpyder. Alternatively, watch this video with airframe developer, Tom Peghiny, after eSpyder became the first electric airplane to win German certification.Speaking to the pilot operation of Sun Flyer, Aero Electric reported, "The electric motor's throttle is very intuitive with one control lever. [The pilot has] no need to adjust mixture richness and monitor cylinder head temperature as in aircraft with internal combustion engines; a throttle computer control unit is responsible for optimum motor operation, battery status and the entire power system."
Beyond its quiet, drip-free operation, "fuel burn" is another saving grace of electric. AEAC said, "Only about $1 of electricity is needed for each flying hour." We've heard this number from other producers and it seems to suggest this could be great for flight schools trying to operate efficiently. Even the fuel miserly Rotax 912 iS burns four gallons an hour and even at today's somewhat lower auto gas prices, that still translates to at least $10 per hour for fuel alone.
Swapping out battery sets (and fast charging) could keep an electric flight school plane flying almost continuously, augmented by Sun Flyer's solar cells, but of course, batteries are some of the most expensive components so to buy at least two sets per airplane on top of the cost of a new airplane may be a deal breaker for smaller flight schools. AEAC has hinted at a price of $180,000, a bit precious for many flight schools. A breakthrough in energy storage (i.e., better batteries) could dramatically alter the landscape but we're still waiting for long-lasting, fast-charging batteries that don't cost a fortune.Regardless, the appeal of quiet, trouble-free electric propulsion generates significant interest from many both in the pilot community and from neighbors, community leaders, and various interest groups. The move to electric seems inexorable driven even faster by the arrival of names like Airbus and its Voltair subsidiary (for more, read this and this) or giant Siemens. AEAC and its Sun Flyer may be coming in to view at just the right time. We'll keep watching them.
In this ANN video, company boss George Bye gives his vision for the future of Sun Flyer and electric propulsion.
Recently, aviation titles chronicled the rollout of Sun Flyer’s prototype electric powered airplane. To careful observers, the aircraft might appear somewhat familiar. Good eyes, folks. The prototype was built for Aero Electric Aircraft Corporation by Arion Aircraft. The beautiful sweeping lines of the Sun Flyer are nearly identical to the Lightning LS-1. The one notable difference — and in fact this is the whole story — is the electric motor up front allowing Sun Flyer to look even a bit more streamlined than the dashing outline of Lightning. This is a first article aircraft as photos don’t yet show any solar cells on the wings, as promised by Aero Electric. Regardless of how AEAC develops Sun Flyer down the line, it was wonderful to see them linking up with Arion Aircraft whose LSA and kit models have been admired for their gracefully smooth shape for some years.
Last weekend Zenith Aircraft held another of their open house events. At the Midwest LSA Expo a few weeks beforehand I asked factory pilot guru, Roger Dubbert how many people the company expected. His answer: a rather amazing “700.” According to Zenith president Sebastien Heintz it was indeed another strong event, one they’ve repeated every year since setting up shop in Mexico, Missouri. “By all accounts and measurements, the 23rd annual Hangar Day was an incredible winner,” summarized Sebastien. Among the highlights of the two-day festivities was the arrival of EAA’s two Zenith aircraft. One was an EAA staff-built version of the CH 750 Cruzer (watch for our video pilot report to be posted soon) and the second was the One Week Wonder CH 750 that was completed during AirVenture with participation from over 2,500 people. As Arion Aircraft‘s Nick Otterback put it, “Since this month seems to offer many open houses I wanted to share ours.
In my previous post I made a passing mention of a coming flock of four seat aircraft loosely based on the two seat LSA that five manufacturers are presently building. As promised, more on that later. In this post I want to focus on two alternative directions. First is the Arion Aircraft Lightning XS, a kind of big brother to the Lightning LS, which can be flown as a SLSA, ELSA or EAB kit. You don’t need a medical to fly LS. You will for the XS (or “Excess”) and you will have to build it, but the newest variation from Arion promises to be a hot performer realizing the potential this all-American design has always possessed. Arion boss Nick Otterback said, “We flew our new kit the Lightning XS [that] is based on our popular Jabiru powered Lightning kit but with several design changes incorporated.” XS has been designed to allow engines up to 160 horsepower.
In this post I’m going to do something potentially risky. I am going to make some statements about the politics of aircraft certification. While rather dull, this subject is nonetheless something pilots and others feel rather strongly about as the safety of aircraft — for persons in or under aircraft — is involved. Doesn’t everyone except a handful of thrill seekers care deeply about safety? I certainly do yet I feel it’s time for some new directions. I fully expect not everyone will agree, but I feel strongly that these statements need to be made. So, here goes … My term as Membership Secretary of ASTM’s F37 LSA committee will complete later this year; I will be term limited out. That’s perfectly fine … I’ve done my duty for several years. ASTM’s F37 committee is the group that wrote and updates the standards used to gain acceptance for Light-Sport Aircraft. F37 is populated by some exceptional people that are largely unsung heroes for all the hard work they’ve done with little recognition.
Since the beginning of LSA time, way back in 2005 (when the first LSA was approved), LSA have arrived on American shores from overseas factories. American producers also sold airplanes to Yankees, but none went overseas as governments of other nations had not yet accepted ASTM certification standards. In the last year, a lot has happened. *** At least four companies are selling LSA in other countries with aircraft defined by U.S.-originated parameters and meeting ASTM standards. LSA Global developments are reported by Arion Aircraft, U.S. Sport Aircraft (representing Czech Sport Aircraft), Remos Aircraft, and Flight Design. *** Yankee First? Arion Aircraft is one of the first all-American companies to go global with its production. The Marysville, Tennessee company — a related company to Jabiru U.S., which supplies the J230 and other high wing models to LSA buyers in the USA — has sent aircraft to Australia. The down-under country was one of the first to use ASTM certification after the new approval method was introduced by FAA in America.
Accompanying this article is our customary chart showing market share of the entire fleet of LSA. I’ve received a few comments over recent months that we should emphasize current-period results. Market share for many products, computers, for example, are given as total market share (“Windows has 90% of the market.”). *** In truth, I have reported current-period results in the article text for the last few updates. We’ve collected all market reports to make reviewing them easier. Here’s a look-back with emphasis on results only for 2010. *** With 83% of the year (10 months) accounted for, Piper‘s legacy brand is convincingly leading the market. At 43 airplanes registered in 2010 (24% of all registrations), the Vero Beach, Florida company is rising rapidly. Note as always that these figures do not match actual sales activity at companies. *** Following Piper, CubCrafters is enjoying a strong year, said Jim Richmond at AOPA as his company added 37 LSA registrations (20% of all ’10 LSA).
An all-American speedster that flies as fast as the law allows The first one I saw was gorgeous, even bare of paint accents. That Arion Lightning prototype looked undeniably smooth and, well, fast as lightning. Pilots are inspired by lovely flying machines, and on the factory ramp in Shelbyville, Tenn., was one of the most fetching examples of an LSA I had ever seen. Arion Aircraft’s Lightning LS-1 (www.flylightning.net) isn’t new. Indeed, in three years, the company has sold 80 kits, and 40 already are flying. Now comes a ready-to-fly airplane, an all-American flying machine that’s able to hit the LSA max speed of 120 knots (138 mph). The Lightning’s smokin’ fast speed, however, is just one measurement of its appeal. Wherever it goes, the Lightning gathers admiring glances. That’s no surprise, as it’s an amalgam of the former Esqual from Spain with touches of Van’s RVs, the Aerospool Dynamic, various Lancair models and the also-Spanish Toxo LSA-each as shapely as a fashion model.
I once followed judging at shows like AirVenture and Sun ‘n Fun. In fact, an aircraft I helped inspire — a modernized primary glider called the SuperFloater — won Outstanding New Design at Sun ‘n Fun 1995. Judges closely examined homebuilts, kit or restored vintage airplanes, and warbirds. If they included factory built aircraft, I was not aware of it. *** So, this year I admitted surprise after learning factory-built Light-Sport Aircraft won awards. *** To honor the hundreds or thousands of hours people put into their winners, I want to highlight some LSA and ultralights that judges liked. The Grand Champion LSA was Wayne Spring’s 2010 Predator powered parachute; Reserve Grand Champ was James Jonannes’ 2009 Arion Lightning LS-1; Grand Champion Ultralight was James Wiebe’s 2010 Belite Superlite; and, Reserve Grand Champ was Danny Dezauche’s 2010 CGS Hawk Ultra.
After selling 40 aircraft under the Experimental Amateur Built (EAB) rule, Arion has now completed their SLSA approval just in the nick of time before the season-launching Sun ‘n Fun starts. Welcome to Lightning — SLSA #96 — from Arion Aircraft, which is our 69th company to enter production of Light-Sport Aircraft. *** Lightning got its start back when Jabiru-man Pete Krotje, his son Ben, plus Nick Otterback were dealers for the Spanish Esquale. That lead to the lovely low-wing Lightning though the design borrows from several light aircraft. It may sound like an organic development but the results are definitely worthy. I was highly impressed with a flight in an earlier EAB model, which did not have the speed limitations of LSA. “Extra wing area was added to bring wing loading and stall speeds into compliance with the applicable standards,” said Nick. *** Arion won approval on April 15, 2009.
In September, as the Cessna Skycatcher’s wave of orders soaked up funds that might have gone to other SLSA, Jabiru logged the most FAA registrations — 6 more J-250s, bringing the company to 44 units delivered and placing the model 9th overall among fixed wing airplanes. In second place, CT, CH-601XL, and Skyboy each added three registered units. Though the month was slower than usual for fixed wings, weight-shift added another strong month with 19 registrations (though some are wondering if these trikes are all SLSA or include ELSA conversions; we’re researching this). Combined, trikes and powered parachutes added 25 aircraft to the FAA registry while fixed wings added 27 for a total of 52 new SLSA. *** Jabiru USA has moved steadily up the market share chart. As the only aircraft company I know supplying both airframe and engine, Jabiru USA advanced steadily into the Top Ten of SLSA providers in the USA.