Can aviation lead us back toward normal? Globally, governments have ordered their citizens to stay at home and all the rest, as you’ve heard ad naseum. Some places — Florida, as a sunshining example — is more open than others but much of civilization remains restricted. • Article updated… see at bottom —DJ Again I ask, “Can aviation lead us back toward normal?” Asking Too Much? Does it seems too much ask that aviation — numbering somewhere around one million pilots globally plus the industry that supports them — provide the path back to better times? I certainly don’t know the future but we’re about to get a first real test of aviation’s resiliency as Sun ‘n Fun 2021 begins on Tuesday April 13th. Sun ‘n Fun has for years been one of Florida’s largest spectator events so even if attendance is off it still implies a very large gathering.
New, and Moving Up SmartlyWe have fresh LSA and SP kit aircraft market statistics and after some research, I will report more fully on the 3Q20 numbers. However, we know one thing already: it appears Vashon's Ranger will be the best seller among Special, fully-built Light-Sport Aircraft for this unusual year. Covid complications be damned, Vashon is putting out about two aircraft a month and it appears momentum is building. Named for a small island in the Puget Sound region of Washington state near Seattle, Vashon Aircraft is a new producer in what seemed a crowded Special LSA space. Boss John Torode, also the founder of Dynon Avionics, felt Light-Sport Aircraft were more expensive than they needed to be. To help aviation grow, John employed his experience and funds to start a new airframe company. He made most of his fortune from a semiconductor company once headquartered in the same building in Woodinville, Washington that has been reconfigured into Vashon’s home base. John grew up flying light airplanes and after doing well in semiconductors, he turned his attention to bringing modern, affordable avionics into aviation. He started in LSA where onerous certification was not required. Since the successful D-10 EFIS in 2003 Dynon Avionics has greatly expanded their line and has more recently offered products for conventionally-certified aircraft. Today, more than 20,000 aircraft have Dynon avionics gear in their panels. While Vashon is colocated with Dynon in a Woodinville industrial park, Vashon maintains a separate corporate structure. Company employees of each defend the co-owned businesses as distinct from one another. Vashon produces structural components and puts fuselages and wings together in Woodinville but these sub-assemblies are then transported to a hangar at the Paine Field Airport (KPAE) in Everett. This is the same airfield where final assembly takes place at Boeing’s massive facility.
Flying RangerRanger's doors swing open wide. Its cantilevered wings offer no lift strut obstruction to entry. The cabin is spacious like most LSA. Put it all together and this large, squarish cockpit can accommodate some good-sized occupants. To accommodate pilots of different height, Ranger's rudders adjust, but this must be done before takeoff as it employs a pin-lock system (nearby photo). Ranger has a listed empty weight of 875 pounds before adding options. That leaves a useful load of 445 pounds. With fuel tanks full of 28.1 gallons or 169 pounds, payload drops to 276 pounds. Fortunately lots of flying is done locally so half tanks are still plenty and would provide a payload of 361 pounds or a couple occupants at 180 pounds each. (Of course, this may change when FAA issues its new regulation in 2023.) With half tanks and no baggage, demo pilot Kurt Robertson and I probably flew below the gross weight limit. We could have flown for better than three hours. Vashon chose the 100 horsepower Continental O-200 engine that Americans know so well. It burns 5.5 gallons an hour in economy cruise, which is where most pilot may fly unless going cross country. Topped off full, a solo pilot could fly for better than five hours. In our flight, I saw speeds above 110 knots at a low altitude of 2,500-3,500 feet above ground. At cross country altitude, it was clear, Ranger will run close to the LSA speed limit of 120 knots so a lone pilot could travel as much as 600 nautical miles non-stop. Taxiing Ranger uses a castoring nosewheel. This means steering with brakes at low speeds, so both seat are fitted with directional foot pedals, which allow for very tight turns. Castor steering takes a bit of familiarization but ramp maneuverability is unparalleled. Flight controls involve dual joysticks and a center-mounted throttle. Takeoff was simple and straightforward. After liftoff, Ranger's rate of climb varied between 600-800 fpm to 3,500 where we practiced some stalls. Fuel burn during best rate of climb appears to be north of seven gallons an hour, about the same as a Rotax 912iS. Kurt reported he routinely sees 118 knots at altitude and burns 6-6.5 gallons an hour at this higher cruise speed. Flaps are electrically actuated with a button — one push for 20 degrees; another push deploys flaps to 40 degrees. We used one notch for takeoff and either one, both, or none for landing. Immediately, Ranger felt somewhat different from many LSA. First, the Continental emits a familiar growl to the Rotax 9-series' whine. Secondly, the heft of Ranger gives it a heavier feel, actually surprisingly like a Cessna 172. In flight, Ranger is very well behaved, no wonder as this model shares some designer heritage with the Van's series that are highly revered for great flight qualities. You need only minimal rudder entering and exiting turns. Joystick pressures are fingertip-light (photo). In stalls, the LSA can be called docile with no evil bones I could uncover despite fairly steep stall entries. Recovering from a full-stick-aft stall showed no steep break or wing drop. Ranger exhibits very modest pitch change when flaps are deployed up or down. In slow flight or on approach to landing, Ranger was very stable and my landing was quite good even for a first-ever effort. At Kurt's advice I held 65 knots down low, then slowing slightly.
Construction & InteriorRanger is built with all-metal construction although the main landing gear is a composite structure. Its cantilevered high wing with no lift-strut combines with a broad windscreen to offer an expansive view. Cockpit width is stated as 47 inches, broad compared to most GA aircraft but about standard for LSA; it was roomy for Kurt and me. One neat trick: remove the seat cushions and you can fold both seats nearly flat allowing you to camp overnight in Ranger. It measures a generous 78 inches from the aft bulkhead to the joysticks. The large space aft of the seats can hold up to 100 pounds. While most loading won't tolerate that much baggage weight, the space is large enough for sleeping bags, tents, fishing poles, and other (lighter weight) outdoor gear. Buy All-American? — The western U.S. company boasts that its Special LSA is fully American. "Ranger R7 is designed, engineered, tested, and manufactured at the Vashon Aircraft factory headquarters near Seattle, Washington, and is assembled at its Paine Field assembly and delivery center (on the same airfield as Boeing's wide body airliner factory)," said Vashon. Avionics are made by Dynon Avionics in Woodinville, Washington and the powerplant is built by Continental Aerospace Technology in Mobile, Alabama. The fully loaded demo Ranger Kurt and I flew had autopilot and two SkyView HDX screens. The introductory pricing has risen slightly but those on a budget can be well served by the base Glacier model that lists for $119,500 and includes a Dynon 10-inch SkyView HDX EFIS with two-axis autopilot, 2020-compliant ADS-B Out, and all the standard features you'd expect. Ranger also comes with a three-year warranty. Unfortunately, the under-$100,000 price tag of three years ago has disappeared. Exterior Treatment — The "Founders Design" with the Washington state scene (photos) adds $9,500 to the base price. A version with the back half looking similar and the front fuselage in white is only $2,500. A treatment on just the top half of the vertical stabilizer is included in the price. If six figures aren't in your checkbook the company observed, "Vashon Aircraft is proud to collaborate with AOPA Finance to offer our customers competitive financing options for their Ranger purchase." Check all Vashon Ranger's specifications on this dedicated page.
Thank goodness for the Midwest LSA Expo. As the one and only airshow (other than some small local gatherings) since Copperstate/Buckeye back in February, Midwest 2020 was a breath of fresh air… literally for those of us who attended (quite a few did). From my view — and to some extent for all the readers of this website — the single most valuable aspect of Midwest LSA Expo is the great ease with which one can take one or more demo flights. For me in particular, this is a unmatched opportunity to go aloft in an aircraft so I can write about it. Regretfully, my video partner Videoman Dave was not allowed by U.S. authorities to enter the country from Canada, so we did not get to capture Video Pilot Reports where several aircraft get fitted with Dave’s collection of seven Garmin VIRB cameras. Instead, my flight experience in Flight Design’s F2 and Vashon’s Ranger lack some of the wonderful video Dave assembles into the popular video on his YouTube channel.
20 Years of Dynon"In 2000, we were frustrated with the lack of affordable modern avionics for sport aircraft," remembered Dynon, "and [we] decided to do something about it." The result? Dynon led a sea change in modern GA aircraft avionics, equipping over 20,000 sport aircraft and then venturing into the "certified" world of colorful EFIS screens for legacy airplanes. Dynon's first D-10 started shipping in 2003 and they've moved forward smartly ever since. Today, pilots forget that the first fancy computerized instruments for aircraft cost more then than an entire Light-Sport Aircraft today. Dynon almost single-handedly drove down the dizzyingly high prices to something sport pilots could afford and we embraced them enthusiastically. Dynon went on to become titanium-strong pillar of the aviation marketplace.
Join Dynon in Oshkosh Without Leaving Your Home"We’re sad that we won’t get to see you at Oshkosh ," lamented Dynon Avionics, "but we’re excited to bring you a variety of forums, 'Virtual Booth Visits,' webinars, and other live events during EAA's Spirit of Aviation Week. We'll cover everything Dynon, Dynon Certified, and Advanced Flight Systems." Dynon has more than information, problem-solving sessions, and learning presentations, however. "We will also give away prizes to those of you that participate via our Zoom or Facebook Live events," said the company. Prizes may include Dynon jackets, Aircraft Spruce gift cards, Dynon Bucks, Made-in-Washington-state products, and more. One lucky grand prize winner will receive a Dynon D3. What's that? It's what the west coast company calls their "pocket panel." You won't actually carry it in your pocket, but this is Dynon's clever idea to put EFIS avionics into the 3.125-inch round openings that most of the U.S. general aviation fleet has in their instrument panels. Learn more on their D3 page. To end it in typical Dynon fashion, welcome to Saturday's Hangar Happy Hour. "We'll take your questions and will have avionics handy. But this is a pretty casual meet and greet. We'll be sitting around chatting about all things Dynon and Advanced, drinks in hand. We invite you to join us!"
Perhaps it’s too bad the airplane sellers can’t do something similar, but avionics developers have found a way to be Almost-at-Oshkosh and they invite you to join them. See Garmin’s approach here. We’ll join our friends at Dynon while they host their version of “Virtual Oshkosh 2020” and while we’re at it, we can congratulate this Washington state company as they celebrate 20 years. 👍🏼 Let’s hop in the Way-Back Machine and beam ourselves to late 1999. The world was an analog place. Sure, we had PCs and cellphones but both were pretty clunky, costly, and slow by today’s standards. Digital cameras were just becoming accepted and nobody took pictures with a phone. Yes, the World Wide Web was available (for a whole five years) but, honestly, it wasn’t that fascinating a place back then. I know, as this was the same year I started building ByDanJohnson.com — I hope you’ll believe me when I say it was tougher then than now.
Financing — The American WayWhile cars are much less expensive thanks to their high volume production, the average price of a new car is about $38,000 these days. A superbly-equipped Colt goes for $167,000. To make their aircraft affordable to more pilots, Texas Aircraft Manufacturing said it has arranged "a new financing program for its Colt-S and Colt-SL Special LSA." Fly-Away Financing is the result of a partnership between Texas Aircraft and Hondo, Texas-based Community National Bank. According to the company, "Prospective aircraft buyers can now access an online form to calculate their down payment, loan terms and total monthly payments." Contact Texas Aircraft for details. “Imagine owning a brand-new, fully-equipped Colt-SL for about the same cost as a much older, less advanced, pre-owned aircraft,” says Texas Aircraft CEO Matheus Grande. “Our Fly-Away Financing offer doesn’t just make it affordable; Community National Bank has streamlined the loan approval process to make it as easy as possible.” I have written about Colt and you can see the article or a video (below) to learn more. Since it arrived on the scene in 2017 Texas Aircraft has been based at South Texas Regional Airport (HDO) in Hondo, Texas. With its 100-horsepower Rotax 912 ULS engine, Dynon SkyView HDX EFIS instrument combined with Dynon autopilot, whole-airframe emergency parachute, and deluxe leather interior, Colt is priced at $167,000. Before you say you can buy a house for that sum (you cannot in most places), remember all aircraft — not just Light-Sport and not only Texas Aircraft's offering — are basically hand-built airplanes carefully produced in low volumes. These are not robotically-built automobiles rolling off the line by the hundreds of thousands per year. Ford builds more F-150 pickup trucks every year than all the airplanes that exist in the entire world by far (about 900,000 units in 2019 alone — and for an average price approaching half of the Texas Colt's list price). In addition, while government agencies monitor what auto companies do, they don't perform detailed audits and demand regular maintenance on anything remotely like what airplane manufacturers must endure. Given that sizable difference, it stands to reason airplane costs will be much higher. "With the variety of special Fly-Away Financing rates we can offer," said Texas Aircraft, "pilots can own a brand-new Colt-SL equipped with touchscreen avionics, digital autopilot, airframe parachute, leather upholstery, and custom paint for under $1,200 per month." (See detail and specifications below.) The first Colt delivery went to Florida and is shown in Florida Gators team colors. Let's crush some numbers. An average-priced new car will run $500-600 a month, depending on credit worthiness and other factors. That will be for a six or seven year loan. Colt will cost about twice as much per month and for about twice as long, but the retail price is more than four times higher, so it's not unreasonable to say the two data sets compare well. Most people who finance are primarily concerned about the monthly payment and how they can manage that figure along with the other living expenses. Yet another factor looms large in this consideration. Light-Sport Aircraft, now on the market for more than 15 years, have proven to have reasonably good resale value. It is pointless to state percentage here as this would vary for each airplane and situation but a new LSA like Colt is very likely to have 50% of its value or more when it is fully paid off. You cannot say that about your car and this valuation difference is significant. The bottom line: Financing a Colt or other LSA can be very approachable and may fit your budget. Best of all, you get the full "New is nice" treatment and you can be the first to fly your brand new Colt.
Colt Equipment & Detail
- Maximum Speed at Sea Level: 119 KIAS
- Cruise Speed at 75% power: 105 KIAS
- Semi-cantilever, high-wing design
- All aviation-grade aluminum airframe with all solid metal rivets
- Wide cabin with welded Chromoly passenger safety cell
- Four-point passenger safety harnesses
- Airframe ballistic parachute system
- Dynon 10” SkyView HDX touchscreen display with Synthetic Vision with 3D graphics
- Dynon Mode-S Transponder with ADS-B Out/In and TIS traffic
- Dynon WAAS enabled GPS Receiver
- Dynon digital autopilot with Level Button
- Dynon Electronic Engine Monitoring System
- Wholly manufactured in Texas
- Purchase price: $167,500
- 5.75% interest rate
- 15% down payment
- 15-year term payment of $1,182.30 per month
- 15-year term subject to approval
This website stresses affordable aviation and that sometimes generates questions or complaints about the cost of modern Light-Sport Aircraft. All but a few pilots have to watch a budget and figure how they can acquire an aircraft of interest. I can think of three worthy methods to fly what you want: 1️⃣ Buy a used LSA, either Special or Experimental — many great choices are available and a growing number of professional sellers can help you connect to an especially good used model and then provide back-up after the sale. 2️⃣ Shared purchase or expenses — where you help an aircraft-owning friend with his cost of ownership in return for access (this is what I do). 3️⃣ Kit-built Sport Pilot certificate-eligible aircraft — especially if you are handy and have space, but even if you are inexperienced or don’t want to invest the time, many kits demand less hours and lots of them have Quick-Build options that sharply reduce the hours you must expend.
Texas Aircraft“I cannot express how happy and proud I am of our entire team. Just a year ago, the Colt LSA was still in development, and we had just opened the doors at our facility here in Hondo, Texas,” Texas Aircraft Manufacturing’s co-founder, Matheus Grande said. “To be here today and to deliverour first Texas-built Colt is truly a blessing.” “It is also exceptionally gratifying to have Colt number one going to Ricky, a young man who exemplifies what Light-Sport Aircraft are all about,” Matheus added. “He and his father were looking for an aircraft that they can both enjoy flying. Ricky is a Private Pilot and his father has a Sport Pilot certificate." Texas Aircraft believes Colt fits their needs as a modern, capable and safe airplane. "Colt is not only fun to fly, but extremely efficient for their frequent recreational flights.”
Why Colt?“We looked at several new LSA, and while they all had their merits, the all-new Colt really stood out as something special,” Ricky said. “The Colt flies like a much larger aircraft, so the transition from the 172 to the Colt was very easy for me.” Among other attributes, Colt uses control yokes that have been experienced by nearly all students in the last few decades. “While the new Dynon EFIS and airframe parachute were strongly in the Colt’s favor, the biggest advantage [became clear] when my father and I visited the factory in Hondo, Texas. We saw the pride and passion that went into building the Colt,” Ricky expressed. “They truly made the whole experience delightful for my family and me. That kind of passion and attention to detail has to create an outstanding airplane.” “Texas Aircraft is raising the bar on quality, safety, and service,” said Ricky's father, Richard Youschak, Sr. “Their professional staff made the experience of buying our airplane fun from the design phase through delivery, and their exceptional service didn’t end there. I’m extremely happy with our Colt and Texas Aircraft.”
Go Gators!One of the special touches provided by Texas Aircraft was an orange and blue paint scheme, inspired by the school colors of the University of Florida Gators. “I’m studying Nuclear Engineering at UF, so I am really looking forward to showing off my ‘Gator Pride’ at all the airports as my father and I fly throughout northern Florida, the Bahamas, and to and from my family home in Fort Myers in the southwest of the state,” Ricky said. “My father and I enjoy flying together and our new Colt will be the perfect airplane for us to share our airborne adventures for years to come.” “I can’t tell you how happy everyone at Texas Aircraft is about being able to help Ricky and his family achieve their dream of aircraft ownership. Giving people the gift of affordable, reliable, and safe aircraft operation was the reason we developed the Colt S-LSA in the first place,” Grande said.“We are extremely grateful to the entire Youschak family for putting their faith and trust in Texas Aircraft.”
Facts about the Texas Aircraft Colt-SL
- Semi-cantilever, high-wing design, approved as a Special LSA
- All aviation-grade aluminum airframe with all solid metal rivets
- Wide cabin with welded Chromoly passenger safety cell
- Engine Type — 100 horsepower Rotax 912 ULS
- Propeller Type — Sterna composite, three-blade
- Maximum Speed at Sea Level — 119 KIAS
- Cruise Speed at 75% power — 105 KIAS
- Stall Speed, Clean — 44 knots
- Stall Speed, Full Flaps — 38 knots
- Takeoff Distance (over 50 foot obstacle) — 1,085 feet
- Landing Distance (over 50 foot obstacle) — 1,044 feet
- Climb Rate (Vy) — 800 feet per minute
- Four-point passenger safety harnesses
- Airframe ballistic parachute system
- Dynon 10-inch SkyView HDX touchscreen display with Synthetic Vision with 3D graphics
- Dynon Mode-S Transponder with ADS-B Out/In and TIS traffic
- Dynon WAAS enabled GPS Receiver
- Dynon digital autopilot with Level Button
- Dynon Electronic Engine Monitoring System
Take your pick: our short (3-min.) video or the following longer Video Pilot Report, both recorded at the Midwest LSA Expo 2019. https://youtu.be/DkPD07-z0Wc
How about this for a great way to start off the new year — a brand-new airplane? Both pilot and manufacturer are smiling and with good reason: both are winners in this transaction, as it should be. Hondo-based Texas Aircraft Manufacturing announced today that the new Light-Sport Aircraft builder delivered its first new-generation Colt to Richard “Ricky“ Youschak, of Gainesville, Florida. Colt has a history. While a clean-sheet design, the all-metal high-wing aircraft follows a successful design from Brazil, the Conquest 180. Built especially for the LSA market, Colt benefits from the earlier manufacturing exercise. Approximately 300 were delivered by the older Brazilian builder. Colt gained its Special LSA approval last year. More details are available in this earlier article. Texas Aircraft “I cannot express how happy and proud I am of our entire team. Just a year ago, the Colt LSA was still in development, and we had just opened the doors at our facility here in Hondo, Texas,” Texas Aircraft Manufacturing’s co-founder, Matheus Grande said.
Starting CleanAccording to Bellesheim, "Ranger R7 is a clean-sheet design. Ken Krueger, our chief design engineer, comes to us from many years at Van's where he worked on the RV-12. He consulted with our owner John Torode on coming up with an airplane that had big flight control surfaces, a giant cantilever wing, and bigger than normal vertical stabilizer." She clarified, "Ranger is not based on any of Van's aircraft." The team picked the name Vashon Aircraft because "we wanted to give it a Pacific Northwest rugged, utilitarian 'jeep' feel," said Bellesheim. "You can go out in nature, get dirty, and get back in the airplane without worrying about messing the airplane up. We live among national parks so the name Ranger comes from [these] parks. We chose R7 because it sounds modern and cool." The design goal appears to be a rugged outdoor-action airplane but with sophiciated avionics, a natural if unlikely pairing resulting from the close relationship to Dynon Avionics. Aiding the rough-and-ready approach are easy-loading doors that open 180 degrees; seats that fold down 90 degrees to facilitate camping and large cabin volume capable of holding such gear. "Another thing that we wanted to accomplish with the airplane was to make very rugged landing gear," said Bellesheim. The main landing gear is a fiberglass leaf. It's very similar to what Jim Bede did on the Grumman American airplanes. A key goal was holding down the price. Owner and CEO John Torode expressed, "I firmly believe cost is the biggest inhibitor of aviation today and our goal was to build an airplane under $100,000 that was very capable [with features] today's customers really want: autopilot, glass cockpit, radio navigation capabilities." Torode further clarified, “I started Dynon to bring affordable, advanced technology to the aviation community, yet there still remains a need to innovate beyond the panel to bring affordable flight to more people. With Vashon Aircraft, I hope to empower the next generation of pilots with the tools they need to take to the skies.” Vashon manufactures about 90% of its own parts, the company suggested. "We invested heavily in the manufacturing side so that we could build parts as efficiently and effectively as possible," said Bellesheim. "This allows us to control the cost." Vashon claims to be one of the first companies to form pre-painted metal. "We purchase sheets of stock aluminum that have been painted and then form them into parts using a modern turret punch, laser, and hydropress technology. Because of that we have taken a whole step out of the airplane building process by eliminating the need to paint after assembly," reported Bellesheim. "We also spent a lot of time developing painted rivets so that they match the airplane." For power, Vashon chose Continental's O200-D 100-horsepower engine swinging a Catto composite fixed pitch propeller. Ranger R7 was designed, engineered, and tested, and will be manufactured at the Vashon Aircraft factory headquarters near Seattle, Washington. The new model will be assembled at Paine Field "…just down the taxiway from the Boeing wide body plant." As Ranger has been kept a secret, only select people have flown it. "The handling qualities are very smooth and forgiving," said Scott Taylor, Vashon's General Manager. "[It's] easy to fly [and has] very little friction in the control system. Stalls are benign and predictable." With a castering nosewheel, steering is by differential braking. Dual toe brakes are supplied and pilot height is accommodated with adjustable rudder pedals. Ranger’s cabin is 46.7 inches wide.
Ranger R7 SpecificationsVashon released dimensions on the airplane: Wingspan — 29 feet 6 inches; Wing Area — 135.6 square feet; Empty Weight — 875 pounds; Gross Weight — 1,320 pounds; Useful Load — 445 pounds; Fuel capacity — 28.1 gallons Performance Data: Takeoff distance — 315 feet; Landing Distance — 475 feet; Rate of Climb — 1,035 feet per minute; Top speed at gross weight — 119 knots; Cruise Speed at gross weight, 2750 RPM, 7,500 feet density altitude — 117 knots; Range at gross weight — 430 nautical miles. Significant Speeds: Stall with Full Flaps at gross weight — 41 knots; Normal Operating Range (green arc) — 45-103 knots; Maneuvering — 90 knots; Never exceed — 131 knots; Best angle of Climb — 60 knots; Best Rate of Climb — 75 knots
Pricing and TermsPricing for the "Yellowstone" base model is $99,500. Ranger comes with complete Dynon SkyView HDX-equipped panel including two-axis autopilot, 2020-compliant ADS-B Out, and ADS-B Traffic and Weather. For a full list of what is included, visit Vashon's website. The prototype Ranger has "canvas slate gray upholstery, light gray floor and sidewalls, a gray instrument panel, and gray center console. At higher price points, you can add other colors and accents. As they move into producing additional aircraft, "the colors for interior will be either gray or black or a combination of both." In progressive upgrades, you can get more goodies in their "Glacier" package for $107,500; or their "Redwood" upgrade for $114,500, or the "Appalachian" for $129,500, a variant described as their "flight school model." "We won’t take deposits," said Vashon. "We won’t take your money until we have an airplane for you." Learn more about Vashon Aircraft and the Ranger R7 and see some video clips of the new bird in flight. The official launch and public unveiling will be at AirVenture Oshkosh 2018.
From Washington State arrives a fresh, new airplane created from scratch to enter the Special LSA space. You don’t know the company but you may know the people, at least indirectly. Welcome to Vashon and their new Ranger R7! Ranger R7 is an all-metal, two-place, high-wing, single engine airplane equipped with tricycle landing gear and castering nose wheel. The company says Ranger has been in development for five years and has been flying for more than two. Vashon Aircraft was founded by John Torode, and the Ranger R7 was designed by Pacific Northwest aeronautical engineer, Ken Krueger. Does the name Torode sound familiar? It should. This is the man behind Dynon Avionics. Other key players are General Manager Scott Taylor and Marketing Manager Amy Bellesheim. Starting Clean According to Bellesheim, “Ranger R7 is a clean-sheet design. Ken Krueger, our chief design engineer, comes to us from many years at Van’s where he worked on the RV-12.
When Rotax moved their 912 iS Sport project from engineering to production, the big Austrian engine manufacturer elevated their already-immensely-popular 9-series engines to a higher level. Beside fuel injection, the company added electronic engine controls more advanced than any other in their inventory. If you’ve flown with the iS Sport as I have you know it has terrific performance — torque was increased through an enlarged airbox along with other minor refinements — plus it gives even better fuel consumption. When flying with Aerosports‘ Jeremy Knoll at DeLand 2017, I heard that his trip from Wisconsin to Florida in the TAF Sling yielded fuel consumption rates of 2.7 gallons per hour at cruise. Man! That is some fuel efficient flying and that is part of what Rotax achieved with their iS model. They will use that technology plus more on their coming 135-horsepower 915 iS due on the market next year.
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.
Dynon Avionics has become the leading seller of glass screen instruments in Lihgt-Sport Aircraft and light kit-built airplanes. One way the company has kept their leadership position in a crowded field is by constant innovation, by always taking another step (often ahead of their competition). Now, here comes HDX, a new version of SkyView that makes operating this terrific instrument that much easier, especially in situation where the sky is delivering a few bumps. Get the update from Dynon guru, Kirk Kleinholz. (9 minutes)
At every airshow I've attended vendors seem hard to satisfy about foot traffic. By afternoon each of the three days, visitors seemed to thin, nonetheless most airplane vendors reported good qualified visitors. Several companies reported "solid leads" developed at the event and apparently a few sales occurred
Attendees also seemed to enjoy themselves in the abundant sunshine and 80-degree temperatures of early November. The event ran 3-4-5 this year and has already set dates for next year with an expectation of similar weather. One thing many attendees liked was the easy access to go take a demo flight in an aircraft they might be considering to buy.
Smaller events like DeLand offer a compelling case for visitors for precisely this reason. Among such focused shows, DeLand joins a group including Sebring (coming up January 25-28, 2017), Midwest LSA Expo, and Copperstate with another in planning.I judge DeLand 2016 a solid success that clearly benefitted from long experience and hard work by director Jana Filip, her husband Gary Filip, and airport manager John Eiff. Aided by a small army of volunteers the first-ever event functioned very smoothly. Most expect traffic to grow for subsequent events given how well everything worked over three straight days of pleasant weather. DeLand is near Daytona Beach and Orlando, Florida in an easily-accessed location. The airport and the new event is strongly supported by the City of DeLand with the mayor and other officials attending. DeLand is also a particularly active sky diving airport yet even with many disparate users, things ran safely and efficiently.
One smart decision was to pick dates near the gigantic National Business Aircraft Association (NBAA) show that occurred November 1-2-3 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. The two events could hardly be more different, but NBAA attracts all the main aviation publications. DeLand hoped to draw some of these journalists since they were in the area anyway. With visits from AOPA Pilot, General Aviation News, AVweb, Aero-News Net, Plane & Pilot, Flying magazine plus a number of free lance writers and photographers, I'd say this date decision was a resounding, over-the-top success. Look for the work of those journalists as uploaded or printed.
Even though it was a tail-end-of-the-season show, DeLand attracted some products Americans had not seen before this year. These include JMB Aircraft's VL3 and Russia's SP30 STOL that first debuted in the U.S. at Oshkosh 2016 plus the Sky Tractor and a novel new avionics device called WingBug.
In addition, we saw the first installation anywhere of Dynon's new HDX. Installed in the panel of a new CTLS now produced by AeroJones Aviation, we shot a video with Kirk Kleinholz, airshow tech guru for the west coast supplier of the most popular glass screens in Light-Sport Aircraft. The new unit builds on the wonderful success of SkyView with more easily operated physical controls plus a slicker-than-ever touchscreen operation. Watch for the new video.JMB Aircraft attracted attention with their retractable LSA-like aircraft. I've seen this company in Europe at the Aero Friedrichshafen show. They are impressive marketers and they wish to use those skills to promote their faster model that smokes along at 145 knots propelled by the 100 horsepower Rotax 912 engine.
If the VL3 looks vaguely familiar to you, congratulations on your sharp eye. JMB Aircraft is the new production company of the VL3, a plane designed by Vanessa Air and produced in the past by Aveko. Truly keen readers will recognize Aveko was the builder behind the Gobosh 800XP of the earliest years of Light-Sport Aircraft. The 31.5-foot-span Aveko/Gobosh version is a fixed gear LSA model where the 27.7-foot-span retractable VL3 is allowed to perform better when registered as an Experimental Amateur Built or other experimental category. The LSA model maxes at 119 knots in max cruise where the high cruise of VL3 is 145 knots.
Russia-built SP30 STOL is clearly based on Zenith's 701/750 series although closer examination reveals a number of changes and such attributes as fully-bucked or solid rivets. A very sturdy looking machine, the example at DeLand had fat tires with chubby wheelpants that looked like they could handle fairly rough terrain yet still look at home on an airport ramp. This is a simply equipped airplane but it had a very modest price point for an all-metal aircraft.
Get more specs and descriptions on their English language page on the website of Canada-based Sky Tex Alliance.Sky Tractor by Green Eagle was tucked in a corner of the indoor exhibit tent; I almost missed it. This single place Part 103-capable powered parachute entry boasts a 36-horsepower four stroke Kohler engine. It looks lighter than most powered parachute because it's closer to a four-wheeled powered paraglider. Cleverly designed to allow reasonably easy fitting of a jump seat, Sky Tractor would then have to be approved as an Experimental Amateur Built aircraft. Sy Tractor is very modestly price barely north of $10,000 depending on options chosen.
Last but by no means least was an pre-release appearance by WingBug as this new device prepares for market in 2017. Because the product is undergoing final configuration changes leading to a design freeze, I don't want to be premature. I will have more information to follow in an article as the new season arrives and Wing Bug is ready to hit the market.
WingBug is being developed by Alex Rolinski, known to light aircraft enthusiasts for his role in a different company, Aero Adventures, maker of the reasonable priced Aventura seaplane kit.
Wing Bug is a stand-alone device that can clamp securely to any Go-Pro mount. You'll probably stick it out on a wing, away from influence by prop blast. It wirelessly (not via BlueTooth) sends air data, attitude, and heading info (ADAHRS) to the WingBug app on an iPhone or iPad. This is not simply a GPS gizmo or flight navigation app. For example, to provide airspeed, WingBug has its own pitot tube. It looks slick, can be used on certified aircraft, and may prove to be game changer. I'll have more early next year.
The video below takes you on a quick tour of most of the outdoor displays at the DeLand Showcase 2016. The first year event earned rave reviews from vendors and plenty were on hand as all 100 or so spaces were sold out. Based on this first year, the DeLand Showcase seems likely to enjoy ongoing success. Dates for the 2017 event are set: November 2-3-4. (Regrets to any company not shown; this is not a complete vendor review.)
The first-ever DeLand Sport Aviation Showcase finished on a high note with a sold-out flock of vendors giving kudos to event director Jana Filip and her team. I spoke to most exhibitors and heard zero complaints. By itself that’s rather unusual. Perhaps they were cutting the new show some slack but more likely their enthusiasm was because the show had indeed been well executed. At every airshow I’ve attended vendors seem hard to satisfy about foot traffic. By afternoon each of the three days, visitors seemed to thin, nonetheless most airplane vendors reported good qualified visitors. Several companies reported “solid leads” developed at the event and apparently a few sales occurred Attendees also seemed to enjoy themselves in the abundant sunshine and 80-degree temperatures of early November. The event ran 3-4-5 this year and has already set dates for next year with an expectation of similar weather.
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.
So, here's three aircraft you haven't seen before AirVenture 2016 plus a revised project involving an increasingly popular engine. I'll start off with a famous guy checking out a famous engine to propel one of my favorite airplanes. We begin our quick review with Lockwood Aircraft's AirCam.
Of course, you know his face. When I once heard Harrison Ford speak, he said modestly (paraphrased), "I earn a living making faces." I never thought of acting in such simple terms, but I accept such skills are part of the job. He's made faces successfully enough in many movies to be able to afford several fun airplanes and now he's getting into an AirCam. Developer/manufacturer Phil Lockwood said, "We were keeping a low profile to preserve [Harrison's] privacy but the cat is out of the bag now." As an AirCam fan myself, I predict Ford's facial repertoire will frequently include a broad smile.The newest and perhaps most unexpected aircraft at the show was SkyCruiser offered in the USA by U.S. Sport Aircraft based in Texas. This U.S importer has long represented Czech Sport Aircraft's SportCruiser, which has ranked up high on our market share report for years. Literature for the new model makes no mention of CSA, instead referring to Czech 4 Sky. Nevertheless, U.S. Sport Aircraft boss, Patrick Arnzen indicated he would bring in the new model from CSA.
In this article I am covering aircraft that seem to be pushing the envelope but a sign of maturity in the LSA segment shows developments in all directions. One of those is a return to simpler, easy-to-fly aircraft. Looking somewhat like another very successful design, Aerotrek's A220, SkyCruiser represents a model from about one decade back. When the LSA regulation first created aviation's newest segment the typical customer was often someone seeking a carbon fiber speedster with autopilot, a full glass panel, and all manner of bells and whistles. Many developers stepped up to fill that demand and simpler (less costly) designs were left behind. Now, they're back!
SkyCruiser, as seen on U.S. Sport Aircraft's Oshkosh space, is powered by a Rotax BRP 912 ULS, and tops out at 1,232 pound gross (88 pounds less than allowed as a SLSA). At a fairly modest 723 pounds empty, the taildragger still offers a 509 pound useful load or a payload of full fuel (17.6 gallons) and two 200-pound occupants with minimal baggage. Stall is listed at a slow 34 knots and maximum cruise is 86 knots. SkyCruiser appears to come well equipped with the latest from Dynon and more.Perhaps it is because of the success of CubCrafters, but the rush remains on for companies developing vintage-style aircraft with big engines. While Rotax continues to power the majority of light aircraft around the world using their ubiquitous 9-series engines, some builders want more. For slower airframes Cubalikes — to use a phrase coined by Bill Canino of Sportair USA, which also offers a muscular model in this same space — adding a massively powerful engine delivers supershort takeoffs and thrilling climb rates.
One engine is clearly winning the high-power race. Originally developed by Lycoming part maker Engine Components International, or ECi, the Titan X-340 has become a powerplant of choice for those seeking 180-horsepower. Other companies like UL Power and Viking also have potent engine offerings but after Continental Motors bought ECi in 2015, the Mobile, Alabama company has parlayed their famous brand into several entries in the light kit and Light-Sport space. Now enter the Kitfox Titan
One very slick Titan installation appeared on a factory Kitfox brought to Oshkosh by owner John McBean. His team always does impressive detail and finish work and the Kitfox Titan seen nearby was a prime example. An airplane that works extremely well with Rotax (still offered, of course) should be nothing short of spectacular with the big Titan engine doing the pulling. I can't wait to fly this one!It may look familiar (indeed it has some common heritage) but Triton America's SkyTrek is a significantly different airplane than those it resembles. The airframe is smoother with more sweeping lines aft of the canopy. The structure is beefed up and able to handle a higher G loading. The nosewheel has been strengthened to last better in flight school use.
A main difference in this model from others with similar overall looks is that SkyTrek is fabricated in China. Its principle designer, Tom Hsueh, has long been established in the USA and has worked with some of the largest aviation companies. Although Tom says, "I have a Chinese face," he works from offices in Washington State. His may be a new name to most readers, but I have been talking with Tom for a couple years and believe he can become a player in the U.S. marketplace as well as in China. To Triton's and Tom's credit, he reported the Chinese CAAC has certified SkyTrek for sale in that country.
Not only a new manufacturer of Light-Sport Aircraft, Tom has bigger ambitions. In 2009, Triton America, which does business as Triton Aerospace, acquired all the design rights and hardware inventory for Adam Aircraft, a company that formerly built and certified a six-seat, twin engine, twin-boom, pressurized, all-carbon-composite FAR 23 aircraft."To wind up this brief look of new flying machines we come back to Murphy Aircraft Manufacturing, still run by founder Darryl Murphy and still based in Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada. It's been nearly a decade since we saw any new light planes from this once-prolific producer. Darryl said that when the Canadian dollar soared high compared to the U.S. dollar, it became impossible to sell to Americans, by far his company's largest market. So, he used his large facility and impressive forming machinery to make aviation and other parts for different manufacturers. He seemed pleased about the return to building kits; welcome back, Darryl!
While showing his new Radical, Darryl indicated he's been hearing from potential customers that they'd like a Special LSA Rebel and he reports work is proceeding on that in parallel. Meanwhile he introduced a new model that goes hand-in-glove with the new batch of higher powered, higher gross weight aircraft taking several companies beyond the Light-Sport space. This may be one artifact of the EAA/AOPA push to eliminate the third class medical. Darryl acknowledged Rebel is a good foundation for the Radical, however, the new model is essentially a brand new design. "With more payload, more wing area, and capable of using engines up to 220 horsepower, [Radical] will incorporate many of the best features of the Rebel, Elite, Maverick and Super Rebel," he said.
Looking around Oshkosh, I found ultralight, light kit aircraft, and Light-Sport Aircraft all looking healthier than many seem to think. In addition, the arrival of the 180-horsepower Titan and even larger engines combined with higher gross weight/high payload designs seem created to appeal to those who no longer need a medical. The new program won't be effective for a year and still has hoops through which a pilot must jump, but it does open the door to new designs. Light aircraft engineers and manufacturers seem up to the task and customers appeared intrigued by their new offerings.
I'll have more from Oshkosh after catching up with other work, but I found the light sector very alive and doing quite well, with or without a third class medical.
In a show as vast at EAA’s AirVenture Oshkosh, it is presumptuous to attempt covering everything of interest. What follows are some new aircraft I found in the categories I cover on this website. Other projects were certainly worthy of special note but with the goal of a fast dash through the latest and greatest, I’m keeping this one fairly lean. I’ll cover other developments in subsequent articles. So, here’s three aircraft you haven’t seen before AirVenture 2016 plus a revised project involving an increasingly popular engine. I’ll start off with a famous guy checking out a famous engine to propel one of my favorite airplanes. We begin our quick review with Lockwood Aircraft‘s AirCam. Of course, you know his face. When I once heard Harrison Ford speak, he said modestly (paraphrased), “I earn a living making faces.” I never thought of acting in such simple terms, but I accept such skills are part of the job.
Garmin has a new smaller version of their very impressive G3X Touch. I examined this at Sun ‘n Fun when it was debuted in the 10-inch screen and came away highly impressed after two reviews on videos. For a billion-dollar company Garmin remains passionately inventive and surprisingly nimble. They keep the heat on now introducing a 7-inch G3X Touch display, described as “a high-resolution infrared touchscreen display designed for experimental amateur-built and Light-Sport Aircraft to compliments their existing 10.6-inch G3X Touch system.” Pilots and homebuilders concerned about instrument panel height and width constraints should be pleased to have the 7-inch option. All G3X Touch displays support Connext that allows wireless flight plan transfer between the company’s Garmin Pilot app on an iOS or select Android mobile device. “A well-equipped 7-inch G3X Touch system, which includes SVX, video input, a built-in WAAS GPS receiver, ADAHRS, magnetometer, OAT probe, interactive mapping and more, starts at $4,599,” said Garmin officials.
With the chance to fly and learn both Dynon SkyView and Garmin 796, I have become a fan of each. Dynon is dominant in Light-Sport Aircraft instrument panels for very good reasons. They work well and don’t cost an arm and a leg. Their Synthetic Vision is superb. However, much as I have come to love those big, beautiful, all-color digital instruments, you must resort to a button or joystick to make changes. Those of us spoiled by our smartphones and iPads have become accustomed to touch. So, no wonder that I also fell in love with the all-touch 796. It works a lot like my iPad and finding things is reasonably easy … a few functions are hidden behind menu layers but on whole, the 796 is a brilliant bit of engineering design. However, in bumpy air, I’ve had to learn a technique of hanging a thumb or finger on the bezel to steady my hand as I try to select certain functions by touch.
An amazing thing happened as we all prepared to go to AOPA last-ever annual show in the sprawling Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Two top suppliers to the LSA sector came out with products bearing almost the same name. However, they’re quite different, fun, and well, yes … surprisingly practical. So, are you D2? Even the Star Wars robot of a similar sounding name might have desired these gizmos, neither of which were remotely possible back in the late 1970s when that movie franchise began. Dynon’s D2 — The maker of the ubiquitous SkyView glass panels installed in so many higher end LSA has a smaller product that sells well in the GA world, where non-certified equipment cannot be mounted with FAA approval. So, just stick a D1 to the windscreen and you get a mini-Dynon panel for your older, round-gauges aircraft. Now, Dynon has introduced the D2, a second model to what they call their “Pocket Panel product line.” D2 adds WiFi connectivity to allow flight data to be sent to iPad, smartphone, and tablet aviation applications, and has a second screen with a G-Meter (photo).
Dynon gathers little moss it appears. The SkyView builder has been upgrading software, releasing new products and now, the Woodinville, Washington company has acquired Advanced Flight Systems (AFS). Dynon said they did the acquisition, “… to use Dynon’s financial strength to keep AFS strong and vibrant in the experimental community.” It appears to be a pure financial move as the two companies will continue to operate with full autonomy, according to a Dynon FAQ series. • Another reason to buy a former “friendly competitor” is to get more deeply involved with Angle of Attack (AoA) indicators, which are causing a significant buzz. “AFS holds patents on Angle of Attack (AoA) technology and has long been a leader with AoA products,” reported Dynon. As you’ll read below, Icon is pushing the instrument and others are singing the praises of AoA, yet fighter aircraft and airliners have had the technology for years.
What a Month! October was a busy month starting with the first-year LSA event Heart of America Sport Aviation Classic outside of Kansas City. The next week featured AOPA’s Summit in Palm Springs California. After a brief stop in Phoenix for a conference, the ASTM meeting followed in Atlanta, and the month finished with the big NBAA convention in Orlando. It was good to finally get back in the office and see how the month went… and, IT WENT GREAT! October was THE biggest month ever for ByDanJohnson.com. My sincerest thanks to each of you for your regular visits propelling us to this new mark. I’m pleased we’re delivering the content you want and we’ll continue to do so. Watch for more videos and news stories as we head toward Sebring in January. Spruced Up Spruce What’s the big event on Tuesday November 6th? Ha! …trick question. How about this? Major supplier Aircraft Spruce will launch a completely redesigned website today… yes, election day.