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.