Perhaps you’ve noticed we have not been reporting market share information as often as we once did. Two reasons: (1) the market has matured, meaning the leaders are distancing themselves from niche producers and the rank positions aren’t moving around as much; (2) in the economic doldrums, the numbers simply haven’t been changing as quickly. *** But since the last report, some action occurred that shines a spotlight on an expected development. The aviation Big Boys are climbing upward… Piper advanced into the #3 spot, pushing also-strong CubCrafters down a notch. The legacy Florida company is closing on #2 American Legend. Secondly, while still well down the chart, Cessna moved up from #20 to #17 enroute toward the top. Based on the company’s reported 1,000+ orders, it seems only a matter of time before they outrun everyone. Or, will they…? *** Nothing is sure in business (or economies, it appears).
Czech Sport Aircraft
Phone: (208) 523-3073Prague, -- 110 00 - Czech Republic
Knocking around the ‘Net looking for signs that Light Sport is alive and well… *** Michael Combs is nearing the end of his 19,000 mile odyssey — what a vision. Latest word from PR dude Dave Gustafson is that the Flight for the Human Spirit in a Remos GX has made it to my old west coast stompin’ grounds. Five jewels of the left coast — San Diego, Burbank, San Luis Obispo, Monterey and San Jose — were on the itinerary for one magical flight day over one of the most beautiful stretches of coastal landscape in the world. God speed Michael, 18,000 miles and 45 states and you’re nearly done. • Imagine the human experience he’s having, flying all summer, meeting all the great people he’s met. I’m jealous, I admit it. • BTW, pilots are encouraged to fly along for any portion of Michael’s Flight.
If you’ve checked into Facebook since January you may know that PiperSport has its own page that you can become a fan of (I am, along with 9,200 others so far!) *** What you probably don’t know is there’s a fascinating video interview that chronicles why and how Piper decided to add social media such as Facebook and YouTube to its marketing strategy for the already-popular LSA. *** Very very interesting, and likely a sign of future marketing efforts from ad-cash-starved LSA makers. *** To date, the only other company I know that has a Facebook presence is Gobosh, and they’ve been there for some time. *** I won’t reprise the entire video clip (it’s well worth watching), but here are some of the highlights: *** Back in January, Piper’s content creators were tasked with making a video for the imminent launch of the PiperSport (the rebadged, “Piperized” CZAW SportCruiser). They also had to set up a Twitter feed, YouTube channel and the Facebook fan page.
Piper Aircraft’s Prez/CEO Kevin J. Gould made it official today at Sebring: the company has entered into a new, worldwide-exclusive distributor licensing agreement with Czech Sport Aircraft that will bring the SportCruiser to market – by April! – under the new name PiperSport. *** As I reported yesterday, Piper did not buy into the company as had been rumored. *** Piper representatives told me there will be some changes to the aircraft, such as refining control harmonies, to optimize its conformability to Piper’s long heritage of entry-level airplanes. *** But by and large, this is still the SportCruiser, which is a fine, Euro-proven design that is not only an excellent training airplane but most definitely a lot of fun to fly, and a dream to land. *** CEO Gould and other Piper personnel addressed a gathering of public and media to make the important announcement. *** Gould began his remarks by evoking the original Piper Cub, what he described as “one of the original ‘LSA’ aircraft of its time.” *** “Piper is entering what is undeniably one of the most exciting market segments in general aviation,” he continued.
What a way to start the year. Piper called a press conference at Sebring and like no other I’ve seen after attending all six Expo events, the media turned out in droves. On opening day the legacy brand unveiled their LSA entry at Sebring 2010 (it was also their first exhibitor appearance). Camera clicked constantly, videos whirred, and recording devices captured every uttered word. It may not have been as spectacular as Apple’s iPad media event, but it generated the same kind of intense buzz. Here’s a few facts I haven’t seen in the other generous media coverage. *** Piper is a 72-year-old much-storied producer of 140,000 airplanes. They have certified 160 models (50% more than the incredible output of all LSA producers combined). They span the general aviation spectrum from the $120,000 PiperSport to the $2.2 million PiperJet. The company’s iconic Piper Cub inspired two replica LSA producers (American Legend and CubCrafters), whose aircraft comprise two of the top five among all LSA manufacturers… and the only two of the top eight SLSA that are built in the USA.
Lots of other aviation news organizations embraced multimedia before ByDanJohnson.com did. We figured online was already quite lively with hyperlinks and true interactivity as represented by our exclusive PlaneFinder 2.0 feature. *** About a year ago, of UltralightNews approached me with an idea to do brief reviews of LSA. I accepted his invitation and today we are well on our way to having a 4-8 minute video mini-review for each of the 105 SLSA on the market. Other professional outlets like AvWeb, ANN, AOPA, and EAA offer multimedia topics all over the aviation map, but ByDanJohnson.com maintains a tight focus on all manner of light aircraft flown by Sport Pilots. *** With that manifesto in mind, we observe for you that we just posted new reviews on our LSA Videos page and we invite you to watch these… for free and without even having to register.
[UPDATE: 1/13/09 at 1 PM Eastern — Following reports by AOPA Online, Flight International’s Flight Global, and Jim Lawrence below… Piper stated that — contrary to reports in Czech newspapers and radio — they have not signed an agreement with Czech Sport Aircraft. Thus reports about the amount allegedly invested much less forecasts of building hundreds of aircraft, are only speculation at this time. I expect to have more info when, and if, any news is officially released. Now on to Jim’s blog…] *** My tin can and string spyphone is vibrating with news that the quiet little rumor circulating for months is about to become reality: Piper Aircraft appears to have inked a deal with Czech Sport Aircraft (CSA), which successfully took control of the former Czech Aircraft Works, and will import and distribute the beautiful SportCruiser SLSA to the American market!
A long and winding trail in the sky, this story is… Once upon a time an American traveled to the Czech Republic, founded a small business to build kit aircraft, grew that into a full-fledged LSA producer, gained an investor with whom he later disagreed, and lost his enterprise. That’s the shortest possible take on it. When Chip Erwin’s Czech Aircraft Works dissolved, the chrysalis produced Czech Sport Aircraft… the new owner of the SportCruiser (photos). As Chip takes an unplanned sabbatical from this business, the new team under Martin Zikes is taking action. *** Czech Sport Aircraft (CSA) says its roots date back to 1934 when “a group of aviation enthusiasts opened a small workshop and started to build gliders.” Around World War II a related factory was seized by the Luftwaffe and served as a repair and maintenance facility. “After the war the company worked on all types of airplanes then flying in Czechoslovakia.
With one month to go (and it’s hard to imagine a big December), we have figures to report for this most extraordinary year. We’re all (painfully) aware of the economic predicament, but how has this impacted light-sport aviation? Here’s my observations. *** In 11 months, the industry has increased fleet size by 35% to 1,510 fixed wing airplanes from 1,118 on January 1st. Annualizing the numbers, all airplane LSA should register 427 airplanes, which equates to about 35 aircraft per month, which means sales were about 20% off the monthly pace recorded since early 2006. *** Flight Design held its top spot and again delivered the most, but just barely. Remos has been the rising star of 2008 with a 147% increase over their total on January 1st. Tecnam became only the third company to pass 100 units registered. Other solid gains were logged by Czech Aircraft Works (up 69% in the year); Jabiru (up 53%); FPNA (up 55%, though from a lower number, which makes larger percentage gains easier); Aeropro (up 52%).
Through the first six months of 2008, Light-Sport Aircraft deliveries have reflected the same challenges afflicting the rest of general or sport aviation…and for that matter, the overall U.S. economy. In fact, LSA registrations aren’t off as badly as are GA deliveries, perhaps due to significantly better fuel economy in an LSA. These FAA registrations can be analyzed to show trends. *** In the first half of 2008, the LSA industry registered 248 aircraft, which is 22% of all registrations from April 2005 through December 2007 (1,118). Many find it interesting to observe how market leaders compare. If a supplier registered less than 22% of their fleet in 2008, they slipped in market share (even if they registered more total airplanes). If they exceeded that figure, they gained market share. In the first half of 2008 gainers included: Remos up 62%; Czech Aircraft Works 47%; FPNA 45%; Gobosh 38%; Tecnam 35%; Aeropro 32%; and AMD 28%.
I can identify four factors in the economy presently affecting airplane sales: Potential customers (often with plenty of assets or creditworthiness) see the value of their stock portfolio going up and down like a roller coaster; worry over their once-soaring real estate, now down markedly in some areas; witness the continuing rise of the euro-dollar exchange rate, bringing much higher prices for many LSA; and, fret over a climate of political uncertainty during another election cycle. *** Perhaps due to these factors GA single engine piston sales are off 28% compared to the same period last year, according to GAMA. LSA sales are off 30% compared to trends six months to a year ago. *** Jet and turbine aircraft sales are up, but 2008 deliveries of those aircraft stem from orders taken 2-3 years ago. Contrarily, personal and sport aircraft sales react quickly to the slightest perception of economic shakiness. *** Despite that we have some bright spots.
The U.S. economy is hardly crashing, but while slipping backwards in late 2007 and early 2008, it has been on a bumpy plateau. This unevenness causes trouble for many businesses. Even giant coffee seller, Starbucks, is rejiggering their business model to adjust for folks balking at $4 coffee while their stock portfolio lurches up and down. Light-Sport Aircraft sales also reflect that lack of consumer confidence. *** Figures for the first two months of 2008 show slightly more than 40 aircraft registrations per month. In 2007, the industry averaged 47 aircraft registrations per month. Of course, this 15% decrease also comes while many northern states have endured awful winter flying weather, partially explaining why sales are off the beat. Despite a cloudy overcast some bright spots emerge. *** CZAW‘s SportCruiser led the pack with more than 17% growth during January and February. AMD is close behind with 14% growth, and CubCrafters continues their climb with 7.5% growth.
October 2007 was the One for Sport Aircraft Works, U.S. importer of Czech Aircraft Works (CZAW) airplanes. They registered #41 SLSA with FAA, they took order #101 for their SportCruiser, and they sold a pair of SportCruisers to the #21 school to adopt the brand and become a Sport Aircraft Pilot Center. Customer deliveries reached 40 for CZAW’s best-selling SportCruiser. Sport Aircraft Works Director of Sales Bob Anderson said, “SportCruiser is one of the few aircraft sold as a Light Sport Aircraft that was designed for the 1,320-pound weight limit,” that is, it wasn’t scaled up from a European 992-pound (450 kg) microlight. The company partners with Gleim Publishing for training documents in their Sport Aircraft Pilot Centers. *** Sport Aircraft Works also represents the Aerospool WT-9 Dynamic which can be homebuilt as a retractable speedster or flown by a Sport Pilot with fixed gear and a prop that translates speed into more climb.
October 2007 brought another top finish for Jabiru USA. FAA registrations of J-250 and J-170 led the industry for the second consecutive month contributing to their rise in the ranks. Czech Aircraft Works logged a good increase and moved up in the chart. And, CubCrafters continued their steady climb. *** In a fresh look, this month’s chart has more information. Included are the top 20 brands, counting all models by those companies (four manufacturers have multiple certifications). In addition to percentages, this month we also show the number of airplanes registered with FAA. But remember, FAA registrations do not precisely equal deliveries. Finally, due to questions about how their numbers are counted, we omitted weight shift and powered parachute LSA. *** A few observations may add to your own study of this chart. Cub replicas or redesigns from three companies added together would convincingly occupy the #2 slot with 181 registered.
Most pilots know AOPA, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, has been fighting the user fee battle…and they’ve been doing well resisting the might of the U.S. government. But they must also have a connection with Mother Nature as warm, beautiful weather shined on opening day at Connecticut’s Brainard airport. *** On display: StingSport, Skylark, the new Breezer II, Allegro 2000, SportCruiser, Sigma, Thorpedo, Sport Cub, Bravo, Sierra, CTsw, Jabiru J-250, Gobosh G-700S, and Remos G-3. Contrary to earlier info, American Champion brought The Champ, Cessna displayed their Skycatcher mockup, and Cirrus flew their SRS. In all, I counted 17 LSA at Hartford. That amounts to a healthy 19% of all airplanes on display.
You can hardly doubt the headline. A cruise through our SLSA List will show almost a quarter of all (12 of 50) designs that have won certification are from the Czech Republic. Even the USA counts only 11 SLSA models so far. Yet perhaps showing global cross-pollination, at least two Czech producers are owned by Americans (Czech Aircraft Works and Interplane). Even inside the Czech Republic one company often builds parts used by others. Since the Soviets withdrew 17 years ago, the Czech Republic has embraced recreational aviation with excellent success. *** Of course, Germany, Italy, France and Spain plus East European producers in Poland, Romania, and Hungary have also made their impact in the American LSA market. So, ASTM‘s LSA committee will hold its next standards writing and review session in Prague, Czech Republic. I’ll be going as will several other American leaders, partly as a significant gathering of EU aviation officials will also meet in conjunction with the ASTM meeting.
In a year of facilitating independent audits for Special Light-Sport Aircraft, LAMA, the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association, completed reviews of six companies: IndUS (Thorpedo); Jihlavan (Kappa KP-5); Aeropro (EuroFox); Flight Design (CT); Czech Aircraft Works (SportCruiser, Mermaid, & Parrot); and Evektor (SportStar). CZAW and Evektor were announced at a press conference at AirVenture Oshkosh 2007; all the others were announced earlier. Successfully audited LSA can display individually-numbered LAMA decals. Customers appreciate and seek independently reviewed products. *** At the same press conference LAMA announced expansion of its board to seven members. New members are Jack Pelton, president and CEO of Cessna Aircraft and Jo Konrad, president of the German Ultralight Association (DULV). These impressive additions join Dave Martin, journalist and former editor of Kitplanes; Tom Peghiny, president of Flight Design USA; Phil Lockwood, president of Lockwood Aircraft Supply; Tom Gunnarson, LAMA president; and myself, serving as Chairman.
At Sun ‘n Fun 2007 and Aero 2007, LAMA announced its voluntary ASTM compliance audit program. For consumers this will be known through the LAMA decal applied to all Special Light-Sport Aircraft after a manufacturer successfully completes an audit. Admittedly a dry subject, LAMA audits give consumers additional assurance that a manufacturer actually meets the standard used to win SLSA airworthiness. *** Aviation Services proprietor Tom Gunnarson has conducted four audits already but as LAMA Chairman, I wanted to observe an audit. So, I traveled with Tom to Czech Aircraft Works just before the Prague ASTM meeting in early June. I can attest that this is a thorough (“exhausting” is another word), days-long effort that goes line by line through ASTM standards. It doesn’t guarantee a “good” aircraft but can assure buyers that the airplane is what the manufacturer says it is. LSA pilots should be pleased this occurs and should start looking for the LAMA decal on the airplane of their choice.
Over a short evaluation period of 25 months we’ve seen fairly consistent results in the top ten of LSA producers based on FAA registrations (see 5/21/07 SPLOG). But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Take Czech Aircraft Works (CZAW) and their best seller, the $75,000 Sport Cruiser. U.S. marketing and sales manager Bob Anderson reported, “CZAW raised additional equity capital last summer to finance a massive expansion.” The company is now housed in a 120,000 square-foot facility. CZAW president, Chip Erwin said, “We have skilled engineers and modern equipment in place. Our production ramp-up is not a ‘future claim.’ We’re doing it right now.” Anderson said part of the investment bought nearly a million dollars of state-of-the-art CNC equipment for matched-hole technology parts. The American-owned, Czech-based company has been delivering over 100 airplanes and kits per year from a smaller factory. They’ve shipped more than 850 aircraft to date.
|Empty weight||720 pounds 1|
|Gross weight||1,320 pounds|
|Wingspan||28 feet 11 inches|
|Wing area||131.3 square feet|
|Wing loading||10.1 pounds per square foot|
|Useful Load||600 pounds 1|
|Length||23 feet 4 inches|
|Payload (with full fuel)||420 pounds 1|
|Cabin Interior||45-plus inches wide|
|Height||6 feet 10 inches|
|Fuel Capacity||30 gallons|
|Baggage area||10.6 cubic feet, 40 pounds 2|
|Notes:||1 Figures do not take into account the standard airframe
2 Can accommodate more weight with careful weight & balance calculation, according to factory. If weight and balance will accommodate, 40 lbs. can be placed in each wing locker for a total of 120 pounds.
|Standard engine||Rotax 912ULS|
|Prop Diameter||Woodcomp 3-blade|
|Power loading||13.2 pounds/hp|
|Cruise speed||113 kts/130 mph|
|Stall Speed (Flaps)||34 kts/39 mph|
|Stall Speed||42 kts/48 mph|
|Never exceed speed||139 kts/160 mph|
|Rate of climb at gross||980 fpm|
|Takeoff distance at gross||420 feet|
|Landing distance at gross||480 feet|
|Range (powered)||6.7 hours/800 miles (No Reserve)|
|Fuel Consumption||4.5 gph|
|Standard Features||Avionics: Dynon D100 primary flight display, Garmin GPS 496, a single Garmin SL40 radio, and GTX 328 transponder; BRS parachute; 3-blade Woodcomp ground-adjustable propeller with spinner; ELT; intercom; leather seats; 30- gallon wing fuel tanks; trim and radio transmit controls on pilot control stick; electric aileron and pitch trim with position indicators; electric flaps with position indicator; 4-point seatbelt harnesses ; cabin heat; wheel pants; 2- tone paint with accent trim stripes and matching upholstery|
|Options||Second Dynon display; Dynon three-element autopilot; Garmin 695; paint options. Contact Piper for additional items added as deliveries begin.|
|Construction||Aluminum airframe, hydroformed aluminum wing ribs, all-aluminum wings and tail; composite cowling and other components. Made in the Czech Republic by a Czech-owned company; distributed by Piper Aircraft in the USA (Piper is majority owned by Singapore-based company).|
Cosmetic appearance, structural integrity, achievement of design goals, effectiveness of aerodynamics, ergonomics.
Pros - Proven LSA design now represented by a legacy general aviation company. Certified in March 2006 (#18), the SportCruiser - now PiperSport - enjoyed success in flight schools. Since its introduction, numerous improvements have been made. Factory has pursued a third-party audit by LAMA.
Cons - Company manufacturing the PiperSport (Czech Sport Aircraft) went through a difficult transition in 2009 and some owners still have questions. Piper Aircraft is not manufacturing the PiperSport; they are only a distributor.
Subsystems available to pilot such as: Flaps; Fuel sources; Electric start; In-air restart; Brakes; Engine controls; Navigations; Radio; (items covered may be optional).
Pros - Standard model well equipped by Piper; commonly optional systems (e.g., parachute) make a good value for base price. Electric trim and flaps. Dual wing tanks with 30-gallon capacity. Garmin 496 GPS is standard along with Garmin radio and transponder.
Cons - Cowling must be removed for major engine access.Wing fuel tanks, while often thought safer, require more effort during fueling than single tank. Electric flaps not as fast or certain as a mechanical lever.
Instrumentation; Ergonomics of controls; Creature comforts; (items covered may be optional).
Pros - During evolution, cockpit widened to spacious 45+ inches. Standard leather seats appreciated by most buyers, positively affecting resale. Pedal distance adjusts; can fit good range of occupant sizes. Assuming weight and balance, baggage area is unusually generous with additional wing lockers. Four-point seat restraint.
Cons - Entry to (any) low-wing airplane can present challenges for some potential buyers. Bubble canopies can get hot in warmer climates, less easily ventilated during taxi. No separate seat adjustment. Seat angles may not please everyone.
Taxi visibility; Steering; Turn radius; Shock absorption; Stance/Stability; Braking.
Pros - Differential braking augments castoring nosewheel for good ramp maneuverability. Excellent traffic visibility through quality bubble canopy. Gear has proven up to the duty of flight training. Good ground clearance.
Cons - Not all pilots like castoring nosewheel steering, possibly affecting resale. Ventilation during ground operations may require leaving canopy party open. Bubble canopy opening must be handled carefully in strong winds.
Qualities; Efficiency; Ease; Comparative values.
Pros - Fast takeoff with short ground roll and enthusiastic climb rates (more than 1,200 fpm off the runway observed) make for a great short- or soft-field performer. Visibility is excellent during all takeoff and landing operations. Can approach quite slowly. Flaps easily deployed; slips work effectively.
Cons - Electric flaps take somewhat longer to deploy than mechanical. Though previously flown on floats, low wings aren't preferred for such operations. Cannot observe main gear during touchdown.
Quality and quantity for: Coordination; Authority; Pressures; Response; and Coupling.
Pros - Excellent handling qualities, even at very slow flying speeds where ailerons remain quite effective. Dutch rolls went well, quickly attesting to easily learned handling. Adverse yaw is low; not much rudder is needed.
Cons - Some pilots have observed mild disharmony between controls; pitch is on light side of average while aileron inputs are slightly higher. Steeply banked turns tighten up without modest high-siding.
Climb; Glide; Sink; Cruise/stall/max speeds; Endurance; Range; Maneuverability.
Pros - Spirited climb rate right off runway and well sustained to medium altitudes evaluated. Good cruise speed, competitive with others in Piper's line. Great range on 30 gallons of fuel; lower fuel burn than any other Piper aircraft. Superb low-speed flight (with responsive handling).
Cons - A handful of other SLSA may be faster; the PiperSport uses a thicker wing section (which helps it fly slowly very well, even if it may take a few knots off the top). Glide also not as strong as a few other brands (though most folks will find glide more than adequate).
Stall recovery and characteristics; Dampening; Spiral stability; Adverse yaw qualities.
Pros - Very benign stall characteristics in all regimes. Very slow stall speeds; can aid short- or offfield landings. Longitudinal stability is excellent. Response to power change is as expected. Piper elected to provide airframe parachute as standard in all models (a substantial added benefit buyers often appreciate).
Cons - Test aircraft exhibited a slight pull to left at cruise (probably an adjustment on this one aircraft). Roll-out forces from steep turns required firmer stick movement. No other stability negatives.
Addresses the questions: "Will a buyer get what he/she expects to buy, and did the designer/builder achieve the chosen goal?"
Pros - Manufactured in Czech Republic, design was originated by American ownership. Even in new field of LSA, the SportCruiser/PiperSport has established itself with a good record and generally satisfied customers. Earlier SportCruiser dealers are welcomed into Piper's distribution plans; some offer good expertise in make and model.
Cons - Price increased with new representation compared to many sold by former manufacturer/distributor. Some uncertainties remain among prior customers regarding new Czech ownership (though Piper should help put these to rest). Piper will have to manage a long-distance supplier relationship.
Czech Aircraft Works (CZAW) began life in the newly freed Czech Republic not long after the history-making fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Tapping a wellspring of aeronautical training and experience that became available when the Soviets pulled out of the former Czechoslovakia, American owner Chip Erwin started CZAW in 1992. Using the highly trained but lowcost labor force available, Erwin manufactured parts for and assembled the CH 601 and CH 701 designs of Chris Heintz’s Zenair Ltd. The young company found a solid market in Europe for fully built CH 601s and CH 701s. Each year it grew in size and built ever more of the all-metal designs. As CZAW increased its production capability, it began to explore designs of its own. It found success first with its Czech Floats; many American aircraft are fitted with this all-metal amphibious system. Three years ago, CZAW partnered with Sport Aircraft Works (SAW) of Palm City, Florida, led by Danny and Zaneta Defelici, to pursue the development, sales, and marketing of light-sport aircraft (LSA).