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.
Duc Hélices (props)
What Sets Apart Rotorvox?Structurally, the C2A is largely carbon-fiber monocoque construction. This is notably different than the majority of smooth-looking gyroplanes. Most are steel structure with a composite pod. Rotorvox's fuselage is also engineered to provide a protective cell for the occupants. A few other side-by-side seating gyroplanes are on the market, including Cavalon from AutoGyro, the far and away market leader. Rotorvox's version employs the carbon structure to provide such seating, which means it can double as a very inexpensive air ambulance. Entry is also different with a forward-hinged, three-piece canopy. Above the occupants, you see a faired pylon that supports a two-blade aluminium rotor pushed by a Rotax 914 turbocharged engine swinging a three-blade prop. As with nearly all modern gyroplanes, Rotorvox's rotor offers hydraulic pre-rotation before takeoff. Another big departure from most gyroplanes are flat-sided tail booms separated from the fuselage on lateral structures. Each boom supports a tapered fin and rudder with ventral fins. C2A has a short-legged, wide track tricycle undercarriage that should aid ground stability. The main gear uses trailing link main gear with elastomer shock absorption. Rotorvox reports two prototypes were flown during five years of development before C2A deliveries began in October 2014.
- Seating — Side by side
- Length — 18 feet fuselage; rotors 27.5 feet)
- Width — 7.24 feet
- Height — 9.3 feet
- Gross weight — 1,235 pounds
- Fuel capacity — 24 gallons
- Powerplant — Rotax 914 turbo 115 horsepower (limited duration) / 100 horsepower continuous
- Main rotor diameter — 27.5 feet, two aluminium blades with NACA 8H12 airfoil
- Propeller: 3-blade, 69 inch diameter
- Cruise speed: 90 mph / 78 knots
- Never-exceed speed: 102 mph / 89 knots
- Range: 375 statute miles / 324 nautical miles
- Endurance maximum — 6 hours
Besides LSA seaplanes, one area of furious development (and sales) is gyroplanes, the term modern industry prefers to “gyrocopter,” which was actually a branded name used since the days of Igor Benson. A new player, arriving on the scene about five years ago, is Rotorvox. Americans have not seen this aircraft but will soon get an opportunity at Sun ‘n Fun 2018 at Booth #30 in Paradise City. Demonstration flights will occur throughout the week. What Sets Apart Rotorvox? Structurally, the C2A is largely carbon-fiber monocoque construction. This is notably different than the majority of smooth-looking gyroplanes. Most are steel structure with a composite pod. Rotorvox’s fuselage is also engineered to provide a protective cell for the occupants. A few other side-by-side seating gyroplanes are on the market, including Cavalon from AutoGyro, the far and away market leader. Rotorvox’s version employs the carbon structure to provide such seating, which means it can double as a very inexpensive air ambulance.
BasicMed and Focused ShowsBy another view, the push by AOPA and EAA for BasicMed appears to have hardly affected Light-Sport Aircraft interest. In fact, BasicMed may be helping. While new opportunities now exist for older pilots to keep flying their older GA airplanes, BasicMed (see earlier article with comments) has enough hoops to jump through that some are obviously electing to continue using their driver's license paired with their existing pilot certificate to fly Light-Sport Aircraft. Putting a finer point on it, I believe the reaction of many pilots demonstrates that a brand-new, affordable, high-tech, roomy, and well-performing LSA holds genuine appeal. Sebring is the granddaddy of these LSA, light kit, and ultralight shows. It has spawned similar events like the Midwest LSA Expo and the DeLand Showcase plus it has inspired shows like Copperstate and Arlington to keep a focus on more affordable, recreational aircraft. These new events are no challenge to the majors such as Sun 'n Fun (starting in barely over two months) and AirVenture Oshkosh but they have clearly won a place in the airshow circuit. Some find it curious that three of the best shows for these events are in Florida but the state is obviously a national center for recreational flying. Weather at Sebring was good this year although fairly windy on a couple of the days. However, plenty of flying still occurred and the gyroplanes in particular appeared to have no problem with the conditions. Even the Ford Trimotor * — one of two flying examples remaining — flew steadily, cancelling operations only on one afternoon. The number of exhibitors at Sebring, the volume of attendees and the seriousness of these pilots about buying, plus the range of aircraft options — in both types and cost — is but one part of the success story that is Light-Sport and experimental amateur built aircraft. For more about the continuing success of the Sport Pilot/LSA concept FAA introduced almost 14 years ago, read this article. As the last sentence suggests, the Sebring Expo owes some of its success to jumping in as LSA debuted on the aviation stage. Mike Willingham reported that while Expo has not profited from the show itself the event has nonetheless been a success for the airport by putting it squarely on the aviation map and by helping to attract several new tenants including the large facility operated by leading LSA purveyor Tecnam. (Watch for our interview with Tecnam COO, Giovanni Pascale Langer in the weeks ahead.) * For more about this fascinating corrugated metal aircraft from the 1920s, go here.
The fourteenth running of the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo is history and if this is how the rest of the year goes, I predict a stronger year for LSA sales. Vendors were smiling by the end of the show and a good many customers are now anticipating a shiny new aircraft in their hangar. Based on my unscientific survey of vendors, I would estimate at least 15 aircraft sales and possibly more as I did not query every vendor. Of course, airshow promises don’t always materialize but regardless of the precise number, it was amply clear that Sebring — and similar focused-venue shows that confine themselves to LSA, light kits, and ultralight — still offer their magic in putting customers and sellers together. Several vendors told airport executive Mike Willingham about having “pages” of solid leads. Even non-LSA exhibitors such as Cirrus reported to him that they found good prospects at the show.
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).
Interested in Chipper?Not only are Belite's performance numbers for the Chipper shaping up well, the purchase price has also remained within the "affordable aviation" range. Here's a few figures:
- $10,495 — taildragger airframe kit (1,000 pound gross, 80-horsepower max)
- $11,995 — taildragger airframe kit (1,200 pound gross, 100-horsepower max)
- $2,595 — taildragger finishing kit (1,000 pound gross, 80-horsepower max)
- $2,995 — tricycle gear finishing kit (1,000 pound gross, 80-horsepower max)
- $3,195 — taildragger finishing kit (1,200 pound gross, 100-horsepower max)
- $3,695 — tricycle gear finishing kit (1,200 pound gross, 100-horsepower max)
This pricing is locked in with your $500 deposit, but you must take delivery this year.
- 5 gallon fuel tanks —” $900 per pair
- 14 gallon fuel tanks — $1,400 per pair
- Any Radiant instruments with purchase of a Chipper kit — 25% discount. James said, "This does not include the radio, transponder, or ELT, but you can put together a very nice Radiant panel for less than $1,000."
- Belites recommend Oratex fabric (see video) and DUC Hélices propellers.
- Some items, such as engine cowls for either Rotax engine or engine mounts will be determined later.
- Prices do not include: engine, propeller, mount, cowl, instruments, fabric, paint, glue, etc.
Belite entrepreneur James Weibe has successfully used his tech industry background to raise interest for his latest project, this time his first two seater called Chipper. (It was named Pipper but that apparently energized the anxieties of Piper Aircraft lawyers so James altered the name.) James has informed his Facebook and email readers with continual updates. After making initial flights fairly recently, he has judged the aircraft able to make a cross country flight. Chipper uses power from the 912 Rotax, but rather than the more common 100-horsepower ULS model, James is using one of my favorites, the 80-horsepower, regular-autogas-burning version. I like it because for lighter aircraft, such as Chipper, this 912 has plenty of power and it is about as trouble-free as any aircraft engine I’ve ever flown. “I flew Chipper to Angel Fire, New Mexico,” James exclaimed. “I flew nonstop one way (960 miles roundtrip) from Wichita, Kansas to Angel Fire, performed flight tests, and then returned to Marion, Kansas before the sunset.” Now that’s a good day’s flying.
Not Going to France?
The good news is, DUC props are available in the USA thanks to SportairUSA. You know this brand for their aircraft, including Sting, Sirius, and Zlin Outback and Shock but they are a full service supplier. The Arkansas company said, "SportairUSA is the United States distributor for DUC Propellers, the industry-leading forged carbon propellers from DUC Helices. There are models of DUC propellers suitable for light sport aircraft, ultralights, powered parachutes and experimental aircraft." Plus, how about this offer? "Guaranteed Satisfaction — If your airplane does not perform better with the DUC propeller, return it within 30 days for a full refund," assured people at SportairUSA. That is a remarkably sure way to know you are buying the right prop for your airplane. SportairUSA lists some of your choices in props from DUC. Swirl (photo above) is a simple, ground-adjustable propeller that performs like a complex constant-speed prop. "It is the propeller of choice for faster airplanes," said SportairUSA. How can that be? "Without movement or twisting of the blades DUC's Swirl propeller has a constant speed effect… [because] the prop takes a slimmer bite under load, and a fatter bite when cruising, without the need for complex electro-mechanical adjustments." Windspoon (lower photo) is for slower aircraft (speeds up to 80 knots for engines up to 120 horsepower). SportairUSA explained, "With its revolutionary shape [that] offers unrivaled performance, Windspoon is the ideal solution for trikes and similar aircraft." For more detail including specifications and prop ordering information, visit SportairUSA's dedicated prop page.
If you live in France or are traveling to the country (soon!), you might want to join the party… the DUC Propellers party, that is. It is happening in a few days. In December 2016 DUC Propellers moved new facilities (nearby photo) to be closer to the airfield for tests and to have a more spacious infrastructure to expedite development. To celebrate their new quarters, on Saturday, June 24th, 2017, DUC Propellers announced they will “organize an exceptional party to celebrate the inauguration of our new location on the Villefranche-Tarare Aerodrome (LFHV) in Frontenas, France.” They plan a big event with more than 500 guests expected along with participation of many operators from the airfield. “Lot of guests will arrive all long the day by plane but the party will officially start at 8 p.m. with the visit of the new facilities, a photoBooth on flying topics, a Beaujolais culinary discovery, a cocktail dinner, a music DJ, and some animations throughout the night,” said DUC representatives.
- Floatwing — removes the need for external high drag support geometries, and provides high stability
- Merged Hull Geometry — fuselage has an aerodynamic forward geometry merged with the boat hull further back for minimizing drag on the boat hull section
- Electric Motor — gives us smooth aerodynamics and lower weight at the same time; we get all the bulk and weight down in the hull for optimized stability in water
- Laminar Flow — drag is kept low over all with a laminar flow fuselage, canopy and airfoils
- Internal Combustion Engine — WST KKM 352 Wankel producing 57kW (76 horsepower) weighing 99 pounds (45 kg)
- Generator — Engiro G60 producing 60kW, water cooled weighing 33 pounds (15 kg)
- Electric Motor — Engiro M97 Electric producing 97 kW (130 horsepower) weighing 71 pounds ( 32 kg)
AirMax SeaMax — Icon A5 — Vickers Wave — MVP — Lisa Akoya… you only need look at the best promoted brands to see that arguably the most innovative ideas in light aircraft are coming from the LSA seaplane sector. Each of these is a great example of visionary engineering. Others LSA or light kit seaplane developments — Searey, Mermaid, ATOL Avion, Aero Adventure, among others — are somewhat more conventional but that’s reassuring to some potential buyers. All these names have one enormous advantage. They have practical field experience. Of the five in the first paragraph, only SeaMax has a longer period of use by owners in regular operation. Now consider Equator Aircraft P2 Xcursion, an electric hybrid seaplane with several compelling ideas. I wrote about this in an article two years ago; now we have an update.
In my experience, pilot love learning about engines. Yet without a prop, that engine may run fine, but nothing happens to the airplane other than converting a tank of fuel into noise. To get up and go, you gotta have a prop. How about a beautiful composite one? DUC Hélices New Factory — French propeller manufacturer DUC Hélices moved its facility late in 2016, relocating from Lentilly to Frontenas on the Villefranche-Tarare Airfield. Last year marked a turning point in the evolution of DUC Propellers, the company said. A relocation project was launched in April 2016 with the primary goal to move the company to the Villefranche-Tarare aerodrome to be at the heart of its business. “This move will allow [us] to expand our premises and modernize further. The move started in November of 2016 and an inauguration or grand opening will be completed by spring 2017.” Shortly after the big move, DUC was pleased to welcome engineering students from Centrale Lyon Engineering School the new site at the Villefranche-Tarare Airfield (LFHV) for a presentation of the facilities and DUC’s design and manufacturing activities (nearby photo).
Article Updated 9/7/15 — See new information at the bottom of this article. Coming up TOMORROW! — September 8-9-10, 2016 — is the Midwest LSA Expo. I’m on-site for all three days in Mt. Vernon, Illinois. More info: Midwest LSA Expo. Only six years after Steve Jobs proudly announced the first iPad, the tablet device seems to have fully conquered aviation. Airline captains routinely use iPads in lieu of bulky printed instrument charts. GA airplane owners with analog panels commonly use an iPad to join the digital revolution without needing to get FAA’s permission. And, LSA developers often accommodate the iDevice; indeed, some Light-Sports make do solely with iPads, occasionally multiple devices. Despite his visionary prowess, I bet Steve Jobs never imagined such a result. Unfortunately, he didn’t live long enough to see the cockpit transformation his gizmo caused. However, if you’ve flown with an iPad, you know you need some way to hold it that allows access to its wealth of information without interfering with airplane operation.