One of the stalwarts of the light aircraft sector is Kitfox, a brand known widely around the globe. First flown in November 1984 by Dan Denney, nearly 5,000 aircraft in various models have been produced. Nearly all were built from kits but the company also achieved Special Light-Sport Aircraft status allowing flight instruction for compensation. Kitfox, like all that appear somewhat similar, evolved from the original Avid Flyer by Dean Wilson in 1983. The Kitfox brand went through various owners after Denney sold and today resides with John McBean though the company has always hailed from Idaho. “Working from the very successful and robust Kitfox S7 Super Sport, we created a clipped wing, aerodynamically refined, and superbly stylized taildragger Speedster that is guaranteed to get the heart rate up to redline,” said McBean in news announced just before Airventure 2017 is set to begin (next Monday, July 25th).
We spoke with John McBean of Kitfox Aircraft to hear first about his new installation of the Rotax 912 iS engine on a Kitfox flown from Idaho to Florida. But we also spoke about the durability of the Kitfox in a flight training environment. Hear about one airframe with more than 1,700 hours and more than 5,000 landings, all in flight instruction. At Sebring we examined several LSA to dispel the mistaken rumor that LSA can't hold up in flight instruction.
We spoke with John McBean of Kitfox Aircraft to hear first about his new installation of the Rotax 912 iS engine on a Kitfox flown from Idaho to Florida. But we also spoke about the durability of the Kitfox in a flight training environment. Hear about one airframe with more than 1,700 hours and more than 5,000 landings, all in flight instruction. At Sebring we examined several LSA to dispel the mistaken rumor that LSA can’t hold up in flight instruction.
One of light aviation's standard-bearers is the Kitfox. With more than 3,000 flying worldwide, this kit success story is now available as a ready-to-fly Special Light-Sport Aircraft than can be and is used in taildragger flight schools. This video looks at a very clean example of a Kitfox that does flight training for tailwheel and back country operations. We talk with company owner John McBean and the flight school operator, Paul Leadabrand.
One of light aviation’s standard-bearers is the Kitfox. With more than 3,000 flying worldwide, this kit success story is now available as a ready-to-fly Special Light-Sport Aircraft than can be and is used in taildragger flight schools. This video looks at a very clean example of a Kitfox that does flight training for tailwheel and back country operations. We talk with company owner John McBean and the flight school operator, Paul Leadabrand.
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.
In this Copperstate Part 2 article we resume the list of aircraft Videoman Dave and I reviewed at the show south of Phoenix, Arizona in Casa Grande. To remind you, this was the 43rd running of this show that invites all sorts of aircraft — and many dozens did fly in each day plus others did fly-over demonstrations. However, Copperstate generates a particularly strong response from manufacturers and representatives of Light-Sport Aircraft, light kit aircraft, and utralights. That makes it a must-go show for our team at ByDanJohnson.com and Dave’s SportAviationMagazine.com YouTube channel that so many of you seem to enjoy. Like other shows, many of you approached us at the event and expressed your ongoing interest in the video content we create. We are very pleased about your loyal viewership and will continue to work hard to build our growing video library … already at 400+ videos and moving steadily to 500 and beyond.
We and many other journalists have arrived in EAAworld and are gearing up for another big event. Here are two aircraft announcements of interest and one avionics offering. More will follow. Jabiru USA has news prices and new gear for their speedy line of kits and LSA. Jabiru USA Sport Aircraft is celebrating ten years in the Light-Sport Aircraft market by offering a new large-screen Garmin G3X Touch avionics package as standard equipment for its J230-D high-performance composite LSA while lowering the price of the fully-loaded aircraft to $119,900. The Australian-designed Jabiru J250/230 series has been flying in the U.S. since 2005 and is known for its speed, easy handling and large baggage capacity. “By simplifying our overhead, we are now able to offer the new fully-equipped J230-D with the Garmin system for $119,900, a price cut of nearly $20,000,” said Jabiru USA general manager Pete Krotje.
Folks at Sebring 2014 noted some unoccupied exhibit spaces. As always, a few thought exhibit sales were down but another explanation are no-shows. With the northlands enduring one of the more cold and snowy winters of recent memory, a few aircraft that planned to display never left their hangars. I’ll follow with about the whys and wherefores for other companies, too, but one notable miss was Kitfox, a company that for years has made the long trek from Homedale, Idaho. You might think they just didn’t want to fly diagonally across nearly the entire U.S. in a hard winter and who could blame them? Yet the company offered a more nuanced explanation. “Our decision to not attend the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Florida was a tough one, but was driven by our desire to deliver the best customer service possible. [Sebring] has been a valuable show for us in the past but due to our backlog of orders and the fact that our small, dedicated team of professionals hand crafts each Kitfox SLSA and Kitfox kit, we would have diminished manpower just as our product back order has been increasing.” That’s good news for Kitfox and is a common situation for LSA providers as they experience growing sales after some slow years.
Again, I heard a common refrain. This time was at the recently concluded AOPA Summit 2012 in Palm Springs, California. I was speaking with some GA fellows, the kind — like so many — that know well of Light-Sport Aircraft but have opinions about them based on speculation or heresay. This time it was the familiar, “LSA are nice little airplanes, but they are too lightly built to hold up to the duty of a traditional flight school environment.” I’ve heard this statement so many times I’ve lost count. Right before the above conversation, I had been visiting with my editor/publisher friend Ben Sclair of GA News fame and Kitfox Aircraft co-owner John McBean. Ben and I were admiring a handsome tundra tire-equipped, taildragging Kitfox that looked immaculate — as John’s airplanes usually do. Truly, it looked almost new. It was not. I told the GA “experts” in the opening conversation that they needed to go look at this particular Kitfox to see how well a LSA can endure flight training.
REPORTING FROM SUN ‘N FUN — The season-launching Sun ‘n Fun airshow starts in one day and the countdown to SLSA Number 100 rushes onward. Welcome to Kitfox Aircraft — a U.S. brand you already know (now LSA producer Number 70) — and their new Super Sport LSA, Number 97 on the SLSA List. *** Kitfox Aircraft is the current owner of a legacy brand in light aviation. A major success story with more than 4,500 aircraft accumulating more than a million flight hours, Kitfox is celebrating its 25th year in business. Kitfox boss John McBean called from Texas as he was enroute to Sun ‘n Fun to confirm the airworthiness certificate he forecast a few days earlier. *** Base priced at $83,495, this all-American brand comes with many of the same features seen on costlier LSA. Its moderate price provides basic flight instruments but interesting safety qualities such as an Angle of Attack indicator (a system which compares differential pressure of the upper and lower wing surfaces) and 25 years of history with never a structural failure.
|Empty weight||730 pounds|
|Gross weight||1,232 pounds 1 2|
|Wing area||132 square feet|
|Wing loading||9.3 pounds/square foot|
|Useful Load||502 pounds 1|
|Payload (with full fuel)||340 pounds (394 pounds @ 18 gallon tab) 1|
|Cabin Interior||43 inches|
|Fuel Capacity||27 gallons|
|Baggage area||150 pounds, 8 cubic feet|
|Notes:||1 Gross weight will be dependent on the final
SP/LSA rule; the Series 7 was designed for
1,550 pounds gross. If the allowed LSA weight
is greater than 1,232 pounds, as originally proposed,
the useful load will rise along with the
2 The kit-built Series 7 can weigh 1,550 pounds when these limits apply.
|Power loading||12.3 pounds/hp|
|Max Speed||125 mph|
|Cruise speed||90-120 mph|
|Stall Speed||41 mph|
|Rate of climb at gross||1,200 fpm|
|Takeoff distance at gross||300 feet|
|Landing distance at gross||300 feet|
|Range (powered)||600 miles|
SkyStar reorganizes to offer ultralights, homebuilts and special LSAs under “one” roof. For the new SkyStar Aircraft Corp., the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel is not a locomotive; it’s the coming of a bright new day in light aviation. As the publication of the final sport pilot and light-sport aircraft (SP/LSA) rule looms on the horizon, business is looking better for SkyStar and most other manufacturers and suppliers of light aviation equipment. The two-place SkyStar Series 7 will have multiple personalities. SkyStar Sport Planes will manufacture a variation of this model as a ready-to-fly special LSA. Depending on the parameters of the final rule, SkyStar Sport Planes may sell an experimental LSA kit (more than 51-percent complete). When flown as an LSA, the Series 7 will be limited to the Rotax 912S engine as its powerplant. SkyStar Aircraft will continue to offer the Series 7 as a 51- percent amateur-built kit, with a variety of engine options, including the 914 Turbo version shown here.