Jetting straight from Sun ‘n Fun, we were able to arrive at Aero Friedrichshafen by noon on opening day. A quick swing around the most light-aircraft-filled halls (the “B” halls) brought some fresh surprises. Following are a few designs that caught my eye on an initial pass. The profusion of light aircraft we don’t see in the USA — some of which will never reach the market — is one of the main reasons Aero Friedrichshafen is my favorite show in Europe. This mostly indoor fair (as Europeans call such shows) always has many ideas of interest. Zlin Ultra with Rotax 915iS — Never one to rest Pascale Russo reintroduced his Ultra Shock from last Aero with the more powerful Rotax 915iS. Ultra Shock plays on the term “ultralight,” which means something different in Europe than in the USA (it is a reference to light aircraft quite similar to Light-Sport Aircraft).
Big Beautiful Bristell in the BushBristell in all models features a handsome interior that is one of the widest among LSA. The model boasts a 50-inch (128 cm) wide cabin that should accommodate even large occupants without pressing them up against their cockpit companion. All that space might be useful for another kind of enjoyment: bush flying, landing on river beds, camping …that sort of adventure. For the new "bush" version of TDO, BRM again did a great job of finishing the interior, both in creature comforts (as seen in the nearby photo) or equipment. To mount big Alaska tundra tires on their TDO, BRM teamed up with Beringer wheels and brakes — and shock absorber systems, and taildragger innovation, and more. Milan's son Martin flew the big-boy-tire model from their home base in the south of Czech Republic to Friedrichshafen German in about four hours, averaging about 95 knots. This is certainly not as speedy as the more streamlined, wheel-pant-equipped versions but that's not a bad cruise. What's great about the Beringer/Alaska adaptation is that it follows Milan's mantra to keep as many new innovations as possible retrofittable to older models. That works here, too, but owners get a bonus. Through the design of this Bush TDO model, Milan made sure a mechanically-savvy owner can switch back and forth. Use your fiberglass gear and wheel pants to go fast for travel but swap to bush mode when you want to fly for fun on the weekend, maybe at your cottage. Cool, huh? What wonderful versatility.
Bristell Never Slows DownBRM celebrated reaching 300 aircraft barely a year ago, and Milan said they are already at serial number 365 by mid-April 2018. This company is obviously doing very well and their continued inventiveness paired with good looks and high quality is clearly drawing new customers at a steady pace. U.S. representation is very strong with Bristell USA run by industry veteran — and inventor of the famous "Landing Doctor" technique for always making good touchdowns — Lou Mancuso. He has assembled a qualified team to work with him including John Rathmell and John Calla. With such a speedy aircraft, some buyers have asked about flying with reference to instrument. Lots of LSA sellers shy away from such sales (and if they do, that's probably appropriate for them). However, Bristell USA has researched this and is willing to offer a suitably and properly equipped aircraft. Learn more from a flight I took with Bristell USA team member, John Rathmell or, if you prefer, hear it on video. Despite being one of the newer companies in Light-Sport Aircraft (formed in 2009), BRM and its Bristell appear on course to remain a major contributor to this newest sector of aviation. Now, get the words directly from the boss, Milan Bristela at Aero Friedrichshafen 2018… https://youtu.be/R4wg_8jEvRc
BRM Aero boss and chief design, Milan Bristela, has convincingly proven his visionary credentials. Here’s an article about his company expansion over the last few years. BRM has several models of their Bristell Light-Sport Aircraft. Most models are tricycle gear as that is how most pilot are trained these days. However, for those who love “standard” gear, that is, taildraggers, BRM Aero offers a choice that remains as sleek and beautiful as all their models. The Taildragger option — or TDO, as BRM Aero named it — was introduced in 2013 and a year or so later it made its way to the USA thanks to the involvement of then-new distributor, Bristell Aircraft USA. While tricycle gear models still outsell TDO, it addresses a sweet spot for many pilots. Milan has also built a retractable version (of the tricycle gear model) for those flying in countries where such configurations are permitted and where higher allowed speeds make adding the complexity and cost of retractable gear worthwhile.
Day two of the year’s first show, Sebring was a bit cooler and windier but still a fine day as the photos show. I would guess crowds were as good or better than yesterday not even counting a large contingent of ROTC candidates visiting for the day. Zenith continued to garner lots of attention for their supersized SuperDuty CH-750 variant. Larger wings (six feet more span) and tail feathers are mated to a common 750 fuselage (construction time for which has been reduced through higher tech). The SD is powered by an Aero Sport Power IO-375 producing 205 horsepower. The show example was a three seater that grosses at 1,900 pounds. An 1,100 pounds empty results in an 800 pound useful load. This is the model with the distinctive Unpanel™ instrument system that works like a swivel-mounted flat screen TV in your living room (but better because it’s in your airplane).
Mark Your Calendar… Videos: November 1st — Show: 2nd-3rd-4thAccording to a local newspaper, "More than 6,000 people are expected on the DeLand Municipal Airport Thursday, November 2 through Saturday, the 4th, to inspect more than 100 aircraft." The reporter went on to say that DeLand expects to "top the 1,000 flight operations recorded last year." Hours all three days are 9 AM to 5 PM. General admission for adults costs $20 each day, or $40 for a three-day pass. Lower prices are available for youth aged 11-17 and kids under 10 get in free. The entrance and free parking for DeLand Showcase are off Industrial Way on the northwest side of the airport. Here's the posting schedule for the gusher of videos you can watch. All these aircraft are expected at DeLand.
- Nov. 1, 2017 5 a.m. Tecnam Astore — Tecnam's low wing update that celebrated the 65th anniversary of this leading Light-Sport Aircraft producer from Italy. Tecnam is likely the world's leading producer of these aircraft and Astore is one of their newest. https://youtu.be/oTaWXgnZHUs
- Nov. 1, 2017 6 a.m. Zenith Aircraft — The 25-year-old kit company's CH 750 Cruzer is the speedier version of their ever-popular CH-701 and CH-750 models sometimes referred to as the Sky Jeep. It may not be shapeliest light aircraft but it can get out of the shortest airstrips. https://youtu.be/ioPY_PnMbMw
- Nov. 1, 2017 7 a.m. Aeroprakt A22 — From Ukraine comes one of the great bargains in light aviation with prices well below $100,000. The aircraft is also obvious for its major use of clear panels that assure wonderful visibility. Take the yoke and see for yourself. https://youtu.be/3qhbxWFdCFA
- Nov. 1, 2017 8 a.m. Aerotrek A220 A240 — The steady-Eddie of the LSA segment may be Aerotrek run by the ever-affable Rob Rollison. Through up years and down, Rob sells Aerotrek tricycles or taildraggers on a sane, predictable schedule that buyers appear to prefer. https://youtu.be/7ISH7ZqM4-Y
- Nov. 1, 2017 9 a.m. AutoGyro USA — One class of aircraft buys more Rotax 9-series engine than any other and by a good margin. That class is gyroplanes and AutoGyro is the largest producer. Now, Andy Wall is bringing the brand to America with a fresh, new look. https://youtu.be/2EUgcO5e5jg
- Nov. 1, 2017 10 a.m. Beringer Wheels and Brakes — Everyone likes get up and go but at the end of a flight you have to get down and stop. Beringer has leading expertise in abundance and offers beautiful, versatile systems to help you roll and brake smoothly. https://youtu.be/E7nVrcl2kz8
- Nov. 1, 2017 11 a.m. Ekolot Topaz — If Topaz has not caught your eye yet, you are in for a visual treat. Ekolot's smooth composite Topaz is as nicely appointed as they come and flies pleasantly to boot. Here's one that deserves your attention. https://youtu.be/c5tzmyiUgDE
- Nov. 1, 2017 12 p.m. Evektor Harmony — Harmony follows Evektor's SportStar, which will always enjoy the distinction as the very first Light-Sport Aircraft to win FAA acceptance. Harmony takes the highly evolved SportStar to a whole new altitude as one of the sector's best engineered aircraft. https://youtu.be/WtptDzfjx5o
- Nov. 1, 2017 1 p.m. Flight Design CTLS — For nearly every year Light-Sport Aircraft have been for sale, Flight Design's CT-series has lead the sales rankings and for good reason. It's fast, roomy, clean and smooth, and superbly equipped. At DeLand 2017, come meet the new group managing this venerable brand. https://youtu.be/wPpd6nuZ7YE
- Nov. 1, 2017 2 p.m. Groppo Trail — A lot of handsome airplanes originate in Italy, known for its stylish invention. Groppo's Trail is more the rough-and-ready version able to take on less improved airstrips. Now it's available in tricycle gear or taildragger form. https://youtu.be/6qZKtIkF0vQ
- Nov. 1, 2017 3 p.m. Just Aircraft SuperSTOL — Just Aircraft was already well known for their popular Highlander but when designer Troy Woodland sharply upped the ante with SuperSTOL, eyes at airshows everywhere turned to watch this outstanding performer. Seeing is believing. https://youtu.be/bQFoznvOO_k
- Nov. 1, 2017 4 p.m. KitFox Light Sport Aircraft — One the industry's most familiar shapes is that of Kitfox, whose several models bear the original appearance even as the current company continues to refine and improve their models. Their airshow models are always superlatively finished. https://youtu.be/Gs2FUw0UsAg
- Nov. 1, 2017 5 p.m. SuperPetrel LS — This is one you tend not to forget as it is a very rare biplane seaplane. While it may have a unique look, it works as well on water as any light seaplane model I have flown. The Brazilian company has a base in Florida, not far from DeLand. https://youtu.be/Si2hkU_CwE8
- Nov. 1, 2017 6 p.m. Pipistrel Alpha — This Slovenian company is known for their smooth, slender (and long) winged models made entirely of composite structures. Alpha is their most affordable model and you should look it over carefully. https://youtu.be/litphoYQLOc
- Nov. 1, 2017 7 p.m. Powrachute Powered Parachute — Powered parachutes offer one of the best viewing platforms in all of light aviation. They are also easy to fly and have the lowest hourly requirement to get a Sport Pilot license. Powrachute is the biggest supplier and their models warrant careful examination. https://youtu.be/Rg42_i3EcEU
- Nov. 1, 2017 8 p.m. Progressive Aerodyne SeaRey — We enjoy several great LSA seaplanes but only one boasts a long track record with a large fleet and that is Searey. Made in kit form only for years, you can now buy one ready-to-fly. Searey is made near DeLand in Tavares, Florida ...right on a lake, of course. https://youtu.be/7O7t1nJGPxo
- Nov. 1, 2017 9 p.m. REV Part 103 Legal Ultralight Trike — Among trikes available, the most deluxe and finished model is Revo from Evolution Trikes. However, this Florida company also made the fabulous Part 103 Rev for those on a budget or just look for solo fun in a well-made trike. https://youtu.be/oMK8myarZ94
- Nov. 1, 2017 10 p.m. RV-12 light sport — From the world's largest producer of kit aircraft, Van's Aircraft can now offer a fully built Special LSA RV-12 version through a collaboration with longtime kit-building partner, Synergy Air. Most RV-12s have been sold as kits, at which Van's is deeply experienced. https://youtu.be/PwX8FbTWdNc
- Nov. 1, 2017 11 p.m. Sling Light Sport Aircraft — The Airplane Factory-USA represents the Sling models, including the two seat LSA model and a four seat Sling 4 model that is built as a kit. Both fly wonderfully and have proven themselves uniquely by flying around the world, multiple times. https://youtu.be/3W0xzh0F7yo
- Nov. 1, 2017 12 p.m. SportCruiser — Known to the general aviation crowd as the PiperSport (thanks to a brand they know well), SportCruiser was before and has been since Piper's involvement a good seller under its original name. https://youtu.be/QcjW_X2v9Y0
Live! Soon! Go!Catch all these videos anywhere you like, but even better, make plans now to attend DeLand Showcase 2017. The weather has cooled from summer heat but it should still be in the high '70s, low '80s so it should be a great time to look at airplanes and other gear. As you enjoy all these free videos, I encourage you to visit Videoman Dave's YouTube channel and click here to support the work. You can see most of these videos featuring Dan Johnson right here.
My video partner must be working around the clock as he prepared a blizzard of videos for release starting November 1st. As you see in the list below, 20 videos will soon be available. I hope you’ll enjoy them. Besides giving you info on various aircraft to see at the event, we hope to encourage you to attend DeLand #2. Videos are great and in them we try to ask the questions you would ask and to show you things you’d look for if you attended. Good as videos are, nothing substitutes for you being present to ask and look yourself. I hope you can. Videoman Dave and I will be on-site all three days of the event. We will likely be a blur in motion dashing from one fetching aircraft vendor to another to gather more article material and video interviews. We also hope to record more Video Pilot Reports, as we did last year.
Beringer Aero USA announced an expansion of the French company’s U.S. presence on what they call “The Last Frontier.” Known for its best-in-class wheels, brakes, and related components, Beringer opened an office at the Birchwood airport in Alaska to wide their network and offer customer support. Alaska is an airplane lover’s state. Reportedly one in 50 residents of the largest American state are pilots, compared to around one in 650 in the “lower 48.” No wonder really, as the vast state has only a handful of roads and most of them are in Anchorage or en route to Fairbanks. The rest of the enormous state is largely accessibly only by aircraft. “The Alaskan Landing Gear and a complete range of wheel and brake systems are nearing certification and will be available to all Cub owners and pilots soon,” announced Beringer. “Our wheel and brake kits raise the level of safety thanks to efficient and progressive braking action combined with the strong and reliable design of the wheels.” Weight savings comes as an added bonus, the company said.
This last week, I trekked to FAA headquarters in Washington DC, an action that consumed three days of my time. This was a third visit in six months to meet with top ranked FAA officials, as two organizations combine forces to attempt bringing useful change to light aviation. I won’t long dwell on the effort yet I admit it feels good to advance the ball down the field. The U.S. Ultralight Association (USUA) represents pilots of light aircraft. The Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association (LAMA) represents the light aircraft producer and business community. USUA, headed by Roy Beisswenger, and LAMA, chaired by your faithful reporter have made a dynamic duo since early 2014 when we embarked on a mission of advocacy. EAA and AOPA plus GAMA do some similar work and they do it well. However, they have a focus other than for recreational sport pilots and the not-certified light aircraft they fly.
Beringer is a family company that has been deeply involved with wheels and brakes in the automotive and motorcycle world. But in 2006 the family focused on aircraft (they sold the automotive part) and dedicated its energy in this area. At Aero 2013 we spoke with Claire Beringer to ask about the family business. She shows us their impressive line of premium wheels and brakes and tells us how these have been improved even further.
Aero is such an interesting event for many reasons. Among the most significant of these are the large number of aircraft introductions or the newest development projects one discovers in the vast gymnasium-sized halls … eleven of them in total. It can be hard to cover all the square meters, which although not as enormous as giant outdoor American shows, are nonetheless so packed with aircraft that one gets sensory overload before you’ve seen them all. The world premiere of BlackWing was such a project. Here is the first light aircraft I’ve seen from Sweden; others may exist but I’m not aware of them. This sleek speedster uses the ubiquitous Rotax 912 to achieve what they state as stunning speeds up to 400 kilometers per hour (250 mph or 217 knots) and this from only 100 horsepower! Of course, this won’t work as a Light-Sport Aircraft but BlackWing is LSA in size and concept other than its blazing speed.
Elements are basic components of nature. As in our first part, I see Oshkosh Elements as fascinating ideas other than airframes or engines. One such worthy idea is Beringer’s new anti-groundloop tailwheel. Before we talk about their innovation, though, let’s take a quick glance at tailwheel design popularity. Cub-like models and other taildraggers account for more than 20% of the LSA fleet today. Tricycle gear may dominate but lots of pilots believe a tailwheel aircraft is the “proper” gear for an airplane with more machismo, more bush-capability, more aerodynamic efficiency (less drag) … you name it, many pilots just love taildraggers. Tricycle gear pilots, however, not so much. The reason? Trigear landings tend to self correct regarding keeping the airplane straight on the runway. Tailwheel aircraft threaten the dreaded ground loop. Since this sounds — and can be — scary, lots of Cessna or Piper-trained pilots avoid flying taildraggers. Several other reporters covered Beringer‘s press conference and reported on the company’s tailwheel offering but none fully explained it, in my opinion.