Day One of the third running of DeLand Showcase is complete. As Videoman Dave and I scoured the show grounds looking for good stories, we spoke to a few vendors reporting that 2018 has been a good year. Our video news gathering exercise brought a pleasant discovery. Many companies are reporting a solid year of sales. The light aviation industry is composed of many small companies. None are corporations the size of Cessna or Cirrus so they don’t require hundreds of unit sales to break even. A U.S. importer delivering 20 aircraft can experience a good year from sales and other services they offer. When several companies report noteworthy sales success it suggests the market is healthy and customers are buying airplanes they want to enjoy. In parallel, the used LSA market also appears active and a virtuous circle begins to take form. The show itself enjoyed the great organization we have come to expect from director Jana Filip.
Bristell Aircraft (USA)
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.
Aircraft of InterestWe saw a rare sighting of an Icon A5 on display with another on a lake doing demo flights. The California company has in several recent years limited its airshow appearance to a splashy big tent at Oshkosh. It was good to see the team from the factory's flight school and operation in Tampa, Florida make a showing. Scott Severen as US Sport Planes made his first appearance as the new man handling sales nationally for Jabiru, focused on their J230-D and J170-D models. Scott has played many important roles in light aviation and he's a veteran choice to take over from Pete Krotje and his Shelbyville, Tennessee team as Pete slides gracefully into a well-deserved retirement, as he has planned for a couple years. Aeropilot USA boss, Deon Lombard, reported a solid first year with six sales of the L600. He also added a dealer in the east while he handles the west from his California base. From what I could see, interest is growing for this handsome 80%-scale 182 lookalike done in composite. We looked over the HKS-powered Merlin Chip Erwin brought on behalf of his Aeromarine-LSA company based in the Tampa area. Videoman Dave and I are charging around scooping up videos and knocked out seven or eight on Day One. Look for plenty of fresh video in the weeks ahead to follow Dave's deluge of videos in advance of Sebring. Tomorrow's forecast: another fine day (or two or three) ahead, weatherwise with airplane noise first thing and all day! C'mon down if you can…
For all who could not attend, our title forms a common question. On day one of the fourteenth running of the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo, even many onsite asked how the first day went; I’ll bet I heard the question a dozen times. Short answer: A great start! The airport that hosts the annual event lucked out with a day of gorgeous weather, in the high 70s (25° C). Clear blue skies and modest breezes made for a beautiful beginning. They booked a full display of more than 100 vendors and plenty of shiny aircraft to examine. Morning hours looked to have reasonably good attendance; the parking lot was on its way to a good fill at 8:30 AM. These shows rarely seem crowded — and that’s not a bad thing if you want to talk to an aircraft designer or take a demo flight — but at times various aircraft were surrounded by visitors.
I believe you should applaud Milan Bristela. Now a veteran of the Light-Sport Aircraft sector, he has steadily built a successful aircraft manufacturing enterprise — BRM Aero — that recently rolled out Bristell #300. With its first delivery to a customer in 2011, this represents an average pace of 50 aircraft per year, a wonderful business size for a LSA manufacturer. Every company starts smaller and grows, so assuming a spooling up of their production engine, BRM is now completing between one and two aircraft per week. Good job, Milan and team! BRM Aero started in 2009 with two employees. Over the course of several years the team has grown to 50 employees, they report. When growth demanded, they moved into larger quarters but they’ve also maintained a family feel with father Milan and son Martin running the enterprise as partners. The full name of their very handsome aircraft is Bristell NG 5 LSA.
- Maximum Cruise: 280 km/h — 175 mph — 152 knots
- Eco (lower fuel consuming) Cruise: 260 km/h — 163 mph — 141 knots
- Fuel Burn in Eco mode: 23 liters/hour — 6 gallons per hour
- Fuel Translation: 27.16 statute miles per gallon at 163 mph
Surely all readers know that Rotax-brand engines dominate the light aircraft landscape. The company owns something like 75% or more of the global market and close to that in the USA. Some worthy competitors are keeping the pressure on, but Rotax continues forward. The engine-to-follow is their new turbo-intercooler-fuel injected 135-horsepower 915 iS variant. Rotax Aircraft Engines first announced this new model at AirVenture 2015; see our video interview for details and go to the official 915 iS page for even more. In the press conference where the engine was unveiled, many in the standing-room-only audience were airframe manufacturers. As soon as the management and engineering team was done presenting, they quickly swarmed over the powerplant. You could almost see the wheels turning in their minds as they contemplated how they could fit and use this machine in their aircraft. That was almost two years ago — AirVenture Oshkosh is only about 75 days away!
"You cannot fly IFR in a Light-Sport Aircraft!" Is that what you think? You might be wrong. In this video Bristell USA's John Rathmell and I discuss this situation. Indeed, a path does exist for IFR operation in a Bristell and we will provide some details. (More can be found elsewhere on this website in an article published March 19, 2017.) Beside discussing IFR capabilities, join us for a flight in the wonderful Bristell, an aircraft I loved from my first flight in it.
“You cannot fly IFR in a Light-Sport Aircraft!” Is that what you think? You might be wrong. In this video Bristell USA’s John Rathmell and I discuss this situation. Indeed, a path does exist for IFR operation in a Bristell and we will provide some details. (More can be found elsewhere on this website in an article published March 19, 2017.) Beside discussing IFR capabilities, join us for a flight in the wonderful Bristell, an aircraft I loved from my first flight in it.
Think about IFR in an LSA this way: Can you fly IFR in a homebuilt aircraft? Can you do so in a Cessna 172? Does it matter that these two distinct types have not gone through a thorough IFR evaluation by FAA? If you know those answers then why should such flying be prevented in LSA?
It's true, the industry committee called ASTM F.37 issued advice on this subject to LSA producers. F.37 is the group that has labored for a dozen years to provide FAA with industry consensus standards allowing FAA to "accept" (not "certify") SLSA. The group has been working on a IFR standard for some time without arriving at consensus. Partly because the work is not done the committee urged manufacturers not to openly sell IFR capability until the standard was in place and accepted by FAA. (The agency accepts standards and aircraft under different processes.)
F.37's advice is directly related to a present lack of such a standard and possible resistance from legacy aircraft producers. However, neither the committee's advice nor the regulation creating SP/LSA prevents you from filing IFR. Instead yes-or-no relates to a manufacturer's preference plus written FAA-issued operating limitations.So, as some say, it cannot be done, right? Wrong.
An Experimental LSA starts out as a bolt-for-bolt copy of the SLSA version. Once issued its airworthiness certificate the owner can elect changes. He or she may not use an ELSA for compensated flight instruction or rental, but in other ways, they are significantly the same airplane. Am ELSA owner can change panel gear and other components (even including the engine) and need not seek permission for each change from the manufacturer.
Rather than repeat facts already reported here, I refer you to these articles: "A Raging Debate... IFR, IMC, VMC, and LSA" — "IFR and LSA: Much Ado About... What?" — "IFR 'Certification' of Avionics" — and, for those who want to examine FAA's exact words, go to "FAR Part 91.205 (required equipment for IFR)".At Sebring 2017, I flew with Bristell USA's John Rathmell. John is not only a highly experienced pilot, he is knowledgeable about Bristell's IFR option. In our video shown below, I asked John to cover some of this detail for you and he was most accommodating.
Now, I understand plenty of readers of this website or viewers of the many videos produced by Videoman Dave and myself perhaps do not care a whit about flying IFR. If you fly strictly for fun in nice weather, good for you! Have at it and enjoy! Yet, if you like the versatility of IFR, it is possible.
To fly under IFR rules, the pilot must have an IFR rating on his or her Private or better pilot certificate, that person must be current in those skills, and the airplane must be qualified by the means referenced above and maintenance must be up-to-date. You cannot — and more importantly should not — go fly into clouds simply because you have wonderful equipment on board from companies like Dynon, Garmin, or MGL.
In summary, if you are an instrument pilot, and if you are current, and if you have a medical, and if you purchase an aircraft like the Bristell and register it as an ELSA, no regulation prevents you from filing and flying IFR including into IMC. Only you can judge if that is a smart activity for you, and I hope you'll do so wisely.
Hear more about IFR in a Bristell and join John and I for a flight in this gorgeous, well flying Light-Sport Aircraft in the following video:
“It cannot be done,” is the quick dismissal from many in aviation, referring to instrument flying in a LSA. In 2017, I venture to say everyone in aviation (worldwide) knows about Light-Sport Aircraft and the Sport Pilot certificate, but a superficial knowledge can be a bad thing. The details unveil more. Think about IFR in an LSA this way: Can you fly IFR in a homebuilt aircraft? Can you do so in a Cessna 172? Does it matter that these two distinct types have not gone through a thorough IFR evaluation by FAA? If you know those answers then why should such flying be prevented in LSA? It’s true, the industry committee called ASTM F.37 issued advice on this subject to LSA producers. F.37 is the group that has labored for a dozen years to provide FAA with industry consensus standards allowing FAA to “accept” (not “certify”) SLSA. The group has been working on a IFR standard for some time without arriving at consensus.