This week kicks off the truly gigantic trade show known by its sponsoring organization’s abbreviation: NBAA, or in common lingo, “Enn, Bee, Double A.” While not taking up the extensive terra firms of Oshkosh, NBAA actually has more paying exhibitors. They even tow aircraft down city streets in the dark of night so a reported 100 aircraft can be on display at the Orlando Civic Center. The show has become so large that supposedly only two U.S. convention centers are big enough to contain the sprawling affair: Las Vegas and Orlando. The latter is just down the street for me so every other year I go and look for something to report amidst my wandering around astonished at the sheer size of the event and how much money gets spent for a three-day show. I always find something of interest to the light aviation, recreational flying community. This year, I’m on the lookout for Tecnam, one of this website’s longtime sponsors and surely the largest company serving up Light-Sport Aircraft around the world.
Van's Aircraft's Immensely Popular RV-SeriesAccording to a recent report in General Aviation News, "[When] David Porter took his first flight in his RV-7 on Nov. 24, 2017, he probably didn’t know he was making history. The Martinsburg, West Virginia pilot’s kit-built airplane became the official 10,000th Van’s RV-series aircraft." Van's labeled David's first flight as "official" because more than 10,000 RV-series kit aircraft are definitely known to be flying, but the company recognizes it may not know about all of them. President of his local EAA Chapter (# 1071), David spent three and a half years building his RV-7 from a standard kit. It was the first airplane he has built. His airplane was RV-7 #1,662 to fly, according to the Oregon company. Dick van Grunsven's Van’s Aircraft began selling RV-3 plans back in 1973. From this modest start the company now calculates that over the last 44 years a new RV has taken to the air every 1.6 days on average. Now, that is one impressive achievement, I believe. “No one is exactly sure when the 1,000th RV flew — our best guess is around early 1994,” company officials said in a prepared release. “The 2,000 mark was passed in November 1998, 19 years ago. The increase from 9,000 flying RVs to 10,000 took just 33 months or under 1,000 days.” Therefore, "About one new RV airplane leaves the ground each day, with 360 taking to the skies already in 2017." Great job, Team Van's!
Garmin's One Millionth"We’re celebrating the delivery of our one-millionth certified avionics product from our manufacturing facility in Olathe, Kansas," announced the popular avionics producer. This large number does not include the huge number of sports or auto products and more made by Garmin over its three decade history. The milestone product was a GTX 3000 DI-260B compliant Mode S Extended Squitter (ES) transponder, which enables ADS-B Out transmissions, a timely offering given the last two years of push to fit GA aircraft with ADS-B Out before the 2020 FAA deadline. “Since our inception over 28 years ago, Garmin has been committed to providing superior products that are known for their innovation, reliability and intuitive design,” said Phil Straub, Garmin executive vice president, managing director of aviation. “This milestone is a testament to our long-established commitment to making significant investments in research and development, as well as the hard work and dedication of thousands of passionate Garmin team members that I have the pleasure of working with every day.” “As we celebrate this exciting accomplishment, I am very proud of how our teams have managed such significant growth, while maintaining the culture of our company as our founders set forth,” said Carl Wolf, vice president of aviation marketing and sales. “The breadth and depth of our certified aviation product line has expanded greatly over the years, allowing us to develop new markets for Garmin. This incredible milestone doesn’t even include the hundreds of thousands of portable and other non-certified products that our customers use every day. On behalf of Garmin, I wish to express my utmost gratitude to our loyal customers, our dealers and the aircraft manufacturers all around the globe, who have helped us to accomplish such a tremendous achievement in Garmin’s history.” Established by co-founders Gary Burrell and Dr. Min Kao — Gar' and Min, hence the company name — in 1989 in Lenexa, Kansas, Garmin was founded with its core roots in aviation. Today, the central U.S. corporation has evolved into five business segments with more than 11,000 employees around the globe. "From a single product," said Garmin, "the evolution of our avionics solutions has grown to serve multiple segments within the aviation industry, including general aviation, business aviation, helicopter, experimental amateur-built (EAB), defense and air transport." I'm sure Garmin meant to include LSA in that roster but many recent product releases by the company show it is pursuing the high end avionics market aggressively. In the LSA space the G3X Touch and Garmin 796 are the most popular devices with many supporting items benefitting the Garmin ecosystem of avionics. Congratulations to both Van's Aircraft and Garmin. We are lucky both company are involved in the kind aviation enjoyed by sport and recreational pilots. To close, I thought I'd again reference my friends from General Aviation News to show you their recently-offered map of where their readers are located. I submit to this Washington-state-based publication every month and know they provide a journal read enthusiastically by tens of thousands of pilots. As proof of their success at transitioning from only newsprint to electronic communication, GA News can boast the largest Facebook following (around 350,000!) of any aviation publication or organization. Great job publisher Ben Sclair and team mates! Subscribe to GA News and you can also receive their free The Pulse of Aviation e-newsletter.
Recently, a couple major benchmarks were reached by some of our important brand names. These notable achievements deserve mention given their relationship to the LSA and light aircraft sector that this website serves. One is an airframe builder and the other is a avionics giant. Van’s Aircraft’s Immensely Popular RV-Series According to a recent report in General Aviation News, “[When] David Porter took his first flight in his RV-7 on Nov. 24, 2017, he probably didn’t know he was making history. The Martinsburg, West Virginia pilot’s kit-built airplane became the official 10,000th Van’s RV-series aircraft.” Van’s labeled David’s first flight as “official” because more than 10,000 RV-series kit aircraft are definitely known to be flying, but the company recognizes it may not know about all of them. President of his local EAA Chapter (# 1071), David spent three and a half years building his RV-7 from a standard kit.
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.
However, if you want an all-composite design with a digital panel, your choices of lower-cost models is, admittedly, more restricted. It costs money to make things with more exotic materials and with fancier equipment. The great news in late 2016 is customers are getting more choices in "reasonably" priced airplanes (shown in quotes as reasonable is a term that varies from person to person).
The new model in this article will be at the DeLand Sport Aviation Showcase coming up in just over two weeks. I hope you're planning to attend. I'll be present and the first-ever show is already enticing visitors with more exhibitors than most were expecting. Obviously, it pays to hire an experienced leader — Jana Filip — and have a highly supportive airport manager in John Eiff along with town leaders that are all-in for sport aviation at their municipal airport.Jabiru North America boss Pete Krotje announced, "The FAA was here recently and issued a fresh SLSA airworthiness certificate for our new J170-D aircraft." The new addition logs in as SLSA #142 on our SLSA List.
Pete explained, "Our J170-D is the latest iteration of Jabiru's popular two-place aircraft that is widely used as a trainer in Australia and other places around the world." He added, "It is even used in South Africa as a rhino spotter and for rhino poacher patrol (photo).
No stripped-down flight school model, a standard J170-D in the USA comes equipped with the deluxe Garmin G3X Touch EFIS, a Garmin communications radio, Garmin Mode S transponder, 2020 compliant ADS-B in and out including a certified WAAS GPS, night lighting, and leather seats. All this may be fairly common for higher end LSA, but not at this price: $99,900.
You might wonder why FAA had to make a visit for an airplane we've seen in the USA before. "What changed," I wondered?"J170-D has some major changes in the airframe from the [earlier] J170-SP," Pete clarified. "The SP was a bit prone to aft CG issues if too much baggage was stowed behind the seats and a bit less stable than the larger J230-SP. Jabiru in Australia set about to remedy those problems in 2012 and the result was a longer engine mount to put the engine four inches farther out front and the new swept, airfoil shaped vertical tail." A version of the new tail shape made the J230-D highly stable but was actually first developed on the J170. See Jabiru history for the full story but Pete confirmed the result is a much more stable J170 needing much less rudder input than previously.
"We had to go treat it as a new make and model since Jabiru Aircraft Pty, Ltd., is the manufacturer instead of Jabiru USA or Jabiru North America," Pete said. "Similar to the J230-D, we could no longer manufacturer the aircraft in the USA after an FAA rule change in 2012." Pete refers to internal FAA guidance that attempted to tighten the controls over what companies could declare themselves a manufacturer."Mr. Gib Shelpman from the Atlanta MIDO (Manufacturing Inspection District Office) did the inspection since it was a first article make and model." When I inquired about any need for a formal FAA factory audit as part of the first article inspection, Pete responded, "The audit was done by CASA in Australia for ASTM compliance." On the Airworthiness Certificate FAA issued, Jabiru Aircraft Pty is listed as manufacturer and the aircraft is built by the Australian company in their South African facility. "In the USA we only install the Garmin panel and assemble the airplane out of the shipping container," Pete explained.
Canadian readers will be interested to hear J170-D can also be configured as a Canadian advanced ultralight. In that vein, I should note that DeLand, Florida can be a nice change in early November perhaps encouraging our neighbors to the north to come for a warm-up visit. If they do, they can see J170-D along with all other DeLand attendees.
"We will be at the Deland Sport Aviation Showcase in booth #82, right inside the entry gate," noted Pete. He also assured, "Demo flights will be available." J170-D will be arrive at DeLand Friday, October 28th a few days before the show. I hope to get a flight in the updated model and will look to report on that in November. C'mon down and see us in Florida. Hurricane Matthew did not bring major damage and the show will go on as planned.
The lines are separating a bit. Once we had a flock of LSA priced closer to one another than today. While some are put off by splashy marketing from companies offering LSA priced north of $200,000, your choices do include fixed wing aircraft for $50-80,000 and alternative (weight shift, gyro, and powered parachutes) LSA for even less. However, if you want an all-composite design with a digital panel, your choices of lower-cost models is, admittedly, more restricted. It costs money to make things with more exotic materials and with fancier equipment. The great news in late 2016 is customers are getting more choices in “reasonably” priced airplanes (shown in quotes as reasonable is a term that varies from person to person). The new model in this article will be at the DeLand Sport Aviation Showcase coming up in just over two weeks. I hope you’re planning to attend.
Garmin is one of the most familiar brand names in Light-Sport Aircraft. Very popular devices include handhelds like the 496 (now aera) or iPad-like 796. For those who prefer permanently panel-mounted, a top choice is now the G3X with touchscreen capability. Garmin is a multibillion-dollar company but they’ve had to work to stay ahead of smaller but nimble competitors. Their G3X Touch is a very strong play to keep in the lead. Garmin’s Jessica Cox walks us through some of the features of this grand new instrument.
For a billion-dollar, publicly-listed company Garmin (stock symbol: GRMN) has repeatedly displayed the nimbleness of a start-up enterprise. As if to prove this point Garmin announced several new products for the start of Sun ‘n Fun. And for those of us who need some introduction to these new gee-whiz gizmos, the company has a seminar tent just north of Hangar D where you can learn it all from the experts. No wonder Garmin remains one of the most trusted names in aviation. (My trusty auto Garmin will be leading me around the winding roads of Europe as we head over to Aero immediately following Sun ‘n Fun.) So … G3X Touch, now in a giant 10.6 display • GTR 20 remote comm controlled through the touchscreen • Angle of Attack (AoA) info when paired with their GSU 25 ADAHRS and GAP 26 probe • and, you can even watch VIRB (Garmin’s HD action camera) video in a PFD inset.
Tim Casey is just plain full of it. Garmin’s jovial, well-recognized manager of the instrument company’s aviation hand-held and LSA line of avionics products, is one knowledgeable character. In fact, he is so full of information that his one-hour seminar at the Midwest LSA Expo only scratched the surface of the seemingly limitless capabilities of the company’s digital instrument line. For example, synthetic vision comes preinstalled on the G3X and if you want, the Garmin unit can even be wired to show the closure of doors. *** I enjoyed his review of the Garmin G3X line used in some LSA and plenty of homebuilt aircraft. It’s a deluxe system that costs $14,500 for the full dual-screen unit… BUT, if you act before the end of 2010, you can secure a whopping 25% discount, saving you $3,600. Garmin also makes the increasingly common GPSMap 696, or the 496 used in a large number of LSA.