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 Lightning LS-1
Phone: (931) 680-1781Shelbyville, TN 37160 - USA
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.
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
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.
A standard measuring stick for aircraft design is the ratio of minimum speed to maximum speed. Powerful jets like the Blue Angels’ F/A-18 (along with a government credit card to fuel them) can perform in airshows from 120 mph to 700 mph, almost a 6:1 ratio. But for airplanes you and I can afford, a ratio greater than 3:1 is good with 4:1 being the holy grail. In my experience, a 4:1 ratio is rare; a LSA that stalls at 40 knots and tops out at 120 knots represents only 3:1. *** Recently I flew the Arion Aircraft Lightning. Yielding a fine experience with quick yet stable handling, short takeoffs and easy landings plus mild stalls, Lightning also proved a handsome performer. Nick Otterback reports flying Lightning to better than 200 mph and I held around 40 mph in slow flight. Even assuming instrument error at slow speeds, that’s still well beyond the 4:1 ratio.