Let me admit right up front: I am a big fan of AirCam. I have flown several different examples. I have done a flight report in one with boss Phil Lockwood. I even earned my Multi-Engine Rating in one. For a longtime open-cockpit ultralight pilot like me, AirCam may be the ultimate expression of a fun aircraft in which you can do things you shouldn’t even consider in most other airplanes. So, when Phil told me about Lockwood Aircraft‘s new Gen-3 (third generation) AirCam, I was more than a little interested. Here’s the skinny. “Beginning with the opening day of Sun ‘n Fun 2019 we will be debuting major upgrades to the AirCam airframe and powerplant packages,” Phil noted. All AirCam kits incorporating the new changes will be designated as “Gen-3” models. Three-In-a-Row Seater New Gen-3 model airframes will have the option of incorporating a third seat located behind the second seat and a 220-pound gross weight increase from the current 1,680-pound max gross weight to 1,900 pounds.
Lockwood Aircraft Corp.
Phone: (863) 655-4242-- - USA
Gone Flying …for You!Our VPRs have proven popular with some approaching a million views and several with hundreds of thousands of views. In my early days of writing aircraft reviews, I produced hundreds of such reports. Indeed those articles were the original foundation of this website. They date back into the 1980s and some even in the '70s. Yet, times change. After YouTube, Vimeo, and other video-hosting sites arrived, they drew huge viewership. YouTube is often said to be the #2 search engine on the Internet after Google. People love videos! Videoman Dave informed an inquiring group of pilots that his Light Sport and Ultralight Flyer YouTube channel now generates 1.8 million views a month (for all his 1,000+ videos, which include all the ones in which I perform). We joined the parade and now create VPRs, involving mounting up to eight Garmin Virb cameras as well as shooting from the ground, plus a stand-up review where I relate information immediately after flying the aircraft. Obvious, pilots enjoy these and we'll keep making more. Magnus Fusion — Magnus Aircraft USA is the manufacturer of a Hungarian design called Fusion 212. Designed in 2013 with first flight in 2015, and FAA acceptance as a Special LSA in 2017, Fusion is one of the newest aircraft in the SLSA List, in the #146 spot. The U.S. assembly site brings in carbon components from Hungary but the American operation is acknowledged by FAA as the official producer of the LSA version, according to boss Istvan Foldesi. This all-carbon-fiber design is a low wing side-by-side model with dashing performance featuring quick climb rates with the Rotax 912 ULS. Fusion cruises at 110-115 knots and exhibited very accommodating handling. Watch for many more details and get plenty of views when the video is released. SilverLight AR1 — To handle this VPR a bit differently, I asked pilot/instructor Greg Spicola to pretend I was a new gyroplane student. That's close to accurate as I have about four hours under my belt in a variety of gyroplanes. However, except for a few differences associated with a spinning wing, AR1, like all gyroplanes, can be flown essentially as a you'd operate a fixed wing LSA. "Power before pitch" was a mantra Greg drilled into me and that with a few other differences — such as operating the rotor pre-rotator and learning to brake the rotor disk before making abrupt turns on the ground — are easy enough to learn. It only takes a bit of "unlearning" so one's fixed wing habits don't result in the wrong actions by the pilot. These aircraft are special in many ways — the ability to descend vertically (although not land that way) and to make seriously tight turns about a point — that combine with massive visibility at affordable prices …all of which explain some of the growing popularity of these aircraft types. Again, look for many more details and views when the video emerges from the edit suite. As the show wound down, we did an interview with Executive Director Mike Willingham and Executive Assistant Bev Glarner. The longtime team are the key players behind the event these days but we also asked questions about the airport itself. Watch for that update when editing is complete, but please be patient as Videoman Dave is already working his way across the southern states en route to Copperstate 2019. This year, the long-running event has moved from from October to February. If you live in the southwest, come on out to the event and give a wave when you see us dashing about to record more great video interviews and VPRs for you.
The final day of the Sebring U.S. Sport Aviation Expo brought good flying conditions until mid-afternoon when light precipitation returned. The good start allowed us to record two Video Pilot Reports (VPR), one on the Magnus Aircraft all-carbon-fiber Fusion 212 and the other on the fully enclosed SilverLight Aviation American Ranger AR1 gyroplane. The videos will take some time to edit but I’ll provide a quick glimpse below. One surprise arrival was Aeromarine LSA‘s Mermaid. Remember this model? This Chip Erwin creation was really the forerunner of the modern LSA seaplane category. Before Mermaid, we had Progressive Aerodyne‘s Searey and Aero Adventure‘s Aventura. Both those models have been upgraded for the time of ASTM standards compliance but early in the new millennium it was accurate to call them “ultralight seaplanes” built of gusseted aluminum structures covered with sewn Dacron surfaces.
Droolworthy CollectionNot unlike Sun ‘n Fun or Aero, the waterbird gathering extended the candy store experience. I wanted to buy them all, but like the kid, my wallet is not big enough for that. Therefore, the chance to compare them side-by-side was very useful. As you can see in the photos, Joe’s effort paid off with a nice crowd examining the selection. For someone in the airplane selling business, Spruce Creek is what some would call a target-rich environment. That means lots of pilots, pilots with cash, and pilots with places to keep or build a light seaplane. So despite the challenges of making an appearance immediately after a major week long air show like Sun ‘n Fun five companies were lined up and ready. Spruce Creek Fly-In — an airport community I call home — quarters an estimated 700 airplanes, more than nearly any other airport I’ve ever visited in a career that has taken me to more aerodromes than I care to count. The chance of a sale or two or more is what prompted so many vendors to show up immediately on the heels of an air show that wore them out for seven long days. Of course, not all resident airplane owners were present; some are focused on other airplane types. Yet in a warm climate with bodies of water all over the place, and a generally supportive atmosphere for recreational aviation… well, no wonder all seven invited vendors have bases in Florida. Searey — The most established of the collection is this veteran design from Progressive Aerodyne in nearby Tavares, Florida (about 45 minutes north west of Orlando). However, despite its long history and nearly 700 satisfied customers — mostly kit-built until more recently — Searey has benefited from many changes and upgrades. It has the distinction of being one of the FAA’s success stories regarding how well they prepared for their audit to become a fully built LSA. Searey was also one of the first LSA to become to win Type Design Approval in China. AirCam — The lone floatplane of the group is also the only twin engine of the group yet this larger-than-life airplane still qualifies as a light aircraft, easily so. Given its modest weight, the presence of two Rotax 9-series engines on this kit makes it a formidable performer but one that can use that capability at slow speeds, making the airplane an absolute delight for the kind of low-elevation flying that many others aircraft should not attempt. Around 200 are flying. Kit builder Lockwood Aircraft is based in Sebring, Florida. Aero Adventure — The Aventura model, seen here in its new S-17 configuration, dates back as far as the Searay but because of ownership changes the design also evolved uniquely. Originally known as the Buccaneer, it became of the Aventura when Carlos Pereyra added his exceptional fiberglass skills to the hull. Current owner, Alex Rolinski, has taken the design into the CAD age and beefed up its performance. The S-17 model boasts a 117-horsepower AeroMomentum Suzuki-based engine and attractive options; the package has been attracting strong interest for Aero Adventure of Deland, Florida. Super Petrel — One of the most unique entries is the bi-wing Super Petrel LS from Scoda Aeronautica in Brazil. Another well-established model with a history involving Canada, the South American company has now opened a facility at the Ormond Beach airport to support U.S. customers. Powered by Rotax as are all these LSA seaplanes, except for Aventura S-17, Super Petrel uses side-by-side seating in an aircraft with excellent manners in the water. Icon A5 — Thanks to sophisticated, California-style marketing, Icon Aircraft A5 is one of the best known models in the Light-Sport Aircraft space. Their prowess proved itself as the model drew steady interest during the hours on display. This particular aircraft crossed the state so Spruce Creek residents could check it out. Based in the Tampa, Florida area where Icon Aircraft operates a training and demonstration base, A5 flew in from beautiful bayside Peter O. Knight airport. Thanks to Joe Friend for arranging and to all the vendors for attending.
Sun ‘n Fun 2018 ended a great event on Sunday. After traveling home Monday, plans called for a very quick turnaround to jet across the Atlantic for Aero Friedrichshafen 2018, which started Wednesday. For an aviation buff, the month of April is something like being a kid in a candy store. So many fun airplanes. So few days to absorb the images, stories, people, and excitement. Sandwiched in the 24 hours between getting home from Sun ‘n Fun and blasting off to Europe, one more cool thing happened: a gathering of LSA or light-kit seaplanes. Seven brands were invited by Spruce Creek Fly-In airport manager Joe Friend but rather ironically, two that are quartered closest to Spruce Creek — American Legend‘s AmphibCub and Brazil’s SeaMax — were unable to make it. The five who did make the effort right after Sun ‘n Fun were rewarded with a beautiful day and good interest.
This unusual looking aircraft is a twin engine taildragger. While fascinating, those two characteristics might make you wonder if you can handle it. I believe anyone can, with proper training of course. Get by those uncertainties, I advise, because once you fly AirCam you may start thinking that any other aircraft simply won’t do. For low level flying over interesting terrain or water, this is one of the safest aircaft ever. Flying the open cockpit aircraft is such a marvelous experience, I consider AirCam one of my all-time favorites. You might, too.
Of course, I don't mean to demean the hard work it takes. Look at the images in this article and you can see that just to set up a wing for testing can involve literally days if not weeks of work. A fixture, sometimes called a "strongbox," must be built or obtained. An actual wing must be affixed to the structure. Weights in some form — and a lot of them — must be secured to the wing to assure loads are applied in a real simulation; air loads are not uniform across the wing's span. Loading the wing is a precise task if engineers are to replicate the forces air loads will place on a wing in flight.
No one takes this casually. Lives can depend on it. A company's long-term survival may depend on doing the testing correctly and documenting the results thoroughly. The process is typically captured in photos and video and a detailed written technical report must be available to authorities or insurance companies that care deeply that the testing meets standards such as ASTM or FAA certification.No matter how seriously this effort is taken or how much is spent (in time and money) to achieve it, the testing of an aircraft wing is a largely static event.
Naturally, should a wing fails under heavy loads — just look at the immense amount of weight placed on the C4 wing — the test can become very exciting. Things can pop (loudly) and parts may go flying if the wing collapses. No one should stand nearby during an ultimate load test. However, if no failure is witnessed, the wing structure may groan and tremble but nothing much happens. As I said, the test is important, but visually dull.
Yet this is not the case with hang glider wing testing. The difference is captioned in the terms commonly used to describe the tests. An airplane wing is statically load tested where the flex wing hang glider is dynamically tested. The latter method is used because it is a proven real-environment way to simulate the loads on a flex wing.
The dynamic process was developed many years ago by HGMA, the Hang Gliding Manufacturers Association. Some very smart people worked out the techniques and equipment and, to their credit, hang glider wings can bear an immense load and not fail, even when upside down.An airplane manufacturer — let's say of a 2,500-pound aircraft — cannot imitate the dynamic test used by a hang glider or trike wing manufacturer. Testing a metal or composite wing for a larger, faster airplane would take an extraordinarily powerful vehicle, and it would have to go very fast. However, the slower speed and lower mass of hang gliders makes dynamic testing achievable. To perform the required tests on its creations, North Wing has fitted a vehicle with a very sturdy steel structure. Cameras and recording gear are mounted.
It's worth noting that North Wing is not required to do this by FAA or other regulatory bodies in the USA. Part 103 vehicles do not have to meet government standards. These manufacturers spend the effort because other entities require it and because they want their products to find ready customers who will not buy a glider they doubt can withstand real use. Besides satisfying their customers, insurance companies, media reporters, trial lawyers and others may demand test documentation in case an accident occurs.
The hang glider community has long policed itself and done so in such a professional fashion that FAA almost ignores them. Indeed, when is the last time you heard about a hang glider or trike wing folding up in flight? It almost never happens anymore. Good for HGMA and the hang gliding and flex wing industry.
The test shows a positive load applied (wing in normal orientation) and the very demanding "negative 150" test. This simulates a wing that may be disturbed by violent air. The wing is mounted backwards at the appropriate angle and the heavy truck forces the wing through the air backwards in this tortuous test. As you can see, it bowed deeply but survived.
The video below shows dynamic testing North Wing did to prove their new carbon fiber structure Freedom X wing. This is North Wing's newest product. Besides hang gliders, North Wing makes a line of weight-shift trikes and is a leading supplier of wings to other trike carriage producers.
Freedom X 160 (the wing square footage) uses carbon fiber leading edges and struts and other design parameters to stretch the performance of their Freedom model series. Despite using exotic materials, Freedom X is an exposed-crossbar design, sought after because it has lighter, more responsive handling compared to full double-surface designs. "It's also quieter than the cable-braced version; you can actually hear it pass through air more smoothly," said designer and North Wing boss, Kamron Blevins. The structure also contributes to Freedom X's safety in unusual attitudes, as proven in this testing.
When a pilot takes off at the end of the clip, you almost breathe a sigh of relief at what is obviously far less load than North Wing subjected their newest creation to atop the big truck. Good job, Kamron and team!
Most pilots never probably have witnessed the testing a wing endures before designers and regulators will sign off on it, signaling that it has been adequately stressed so that pilots can depend on it. I’ve had the chance to see several such tests and will state that it is two things: demanding and, well …boring (unless something breaks). Of course, I don’t mean to demean the hard work it takes. Look at the images in this article and you can see that just to set up a wing for testing can involve literally days if not weeks of work. A fixture, sometimes called a “strongbox,” must be built or obtained. An actual wing must be affixed to the structure. Weights in some form — and a lot of them — must be secured to the wing to assure loads are applied in a real simulation; air loads are not uniform across the wing’s span.
The amazing, incredible AirCam ... one aircraft you fly in ways you'd never fly in another airplane. How that? AirCam is an open cockpit twin engine airplane that can even take off with only one engine (though don't do this!). AirCam developer Lockwood Aircraft tested the new fuel-injected Rotax iS engine on one side with a carburetor 912 ULS on the other. How did that work? Watch this video while light aircraft expert John Hurst explains his experience flying this aircraft from Florida to Oshkosh.
The amazing, incredible AirCam … one aircraft you fly in ways you’d never fly in another airplane. How that? AirCam is an open cockpit twin engine airplane that can even take off with only one engine (though don’t do this!). AirCam developer Lockwood Aircraft tested the new fuel-injected Rotax iS engine on one side with a carburetor 912 ULS on the other. How did that work? Watch this video while light aircraft expert John Hurst explains his experience flying this aircraft from Florida to Oshkosh.
In 2012, Rotax brought out their new fuel-injected 912 iS engine. The leading supplier of Light-Sport Aircraft engines worked hard on this computer-controlled engine as they prepared a replacement for the venerable carburetor 912 (which remains in production). We spoke with LSA guru John Hurst who flew a twin-engine AirCam from Sebring Florida to Oshkosh and he tells about flying one of each 912 engine versions.
In 2012, Rotax brought out their new fuel-injected 912 iS engine. The leading supplier of Light-Sport Aircraft engines worked hard on this computer-controlled engine as they prepared a replacement for the venerable carburetor 912 (which remains in production). We spoke with LSA guru John Hurst who flew a twin-engine AirCam from Sebring Florida to Oshkosh and he tells about flying one of each 912 engine versions.
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.
Updated 11/5/15 with video at end … We went. We flew (and flew). We shot video … lots of video. Videoman Dave’s dual hand held cameras got a workout as did our six Garmin VIRB cameras. We did more of our popular interviews but we also captured multiple angles on several aircraft as we continue to build our expanding library of VPRs or Video Pilot Reports. Nearly always hard at work on terra firma, Dave went aloft (photo) to get some air and to capture aerial images. Dave took a seat in the twin-engined AirCam with company designer and boss, Phil Lockwood so you can see Copperstate 2016 from the air. Honestly, I can hardly imagine how Dave keeps track of those hours and hours of video much less organize them into the productions you enjoy to the tune of 1.5 million minutes a month of viewing.
What would you like for a Christmas present, perhaps if you won big in a lottery? Well, you’re a pilot so I might guess that some airplane has caught your fancy. Me, too. Like most pilots a number of desirable airplanes catch my eye but also like most pilots, I cannot afford to have one of each that appeals to me. High on my list of wished-for airplanes is Lockwood Aircraft‘s Air Cam. I have quite a few hours flying one example or another. I even earned my multiengine rating in one, as part of an article I wrote years ago. As part of the required hours of training to take the flight check — no written test is involved for a multiengine rating — I engaged an old friend and multiengine instructor, Richard Johnson. An Air Cam owner, Sebring dentist Ron Owen, graciously supplied his Air Cam.
I’ve been on a couple AirCam outings and I have two points about them: (1) Owners of this unusual airplane are often fairly well-off people and see a golden opportunity when invited by the good planners at Lockwood Aircraft; and, (2) These pilots know how to have fun with their airplanes, flying to some delicious locations. Previous fly-outs included Jekyll Island, Heaven’s Landing, Cedar Key off Florida’s west coast, and the Bahamas. If you don’t know AirCam here’s a video that gives a bit of the flavor of this amazing aircraft. (I readily admit to a positive bias for the machine as I have had the chance to fly a good number of hours in it and earned my multi-engine rating in one … but that’s another story.) On the two occasions when I’ve joined the AirCam’ers on their fly-outs (or is that “fly-ins?”), I’ve discovered that these folks have uncovered some wonderful places.
Company fly-ins are surprisingly rare despite offering a useful tool to propel new sales, to stimulate interest and camaraderie among existing owners, and to invigorate enjoyment of flying machines. This message became more obvious as a number of people joined a group of AirCam owners at Heaven’s Landing, an airpark in northeast Georgia that is surrounded by hundreds of acres of densely forested nature managed by the U.S. Forest Service. Mountains rise to 3,000 feet above sea level and form an undulating landscape of tree-covered slopes. Such an area is perfect for an aircraft like AirCam that so excels in low-level flying. Indeed, I cannot think of another aircraft I would willingly fly over terrain where landing areas are so sparse. For those who do not know, AirCam is essentially a grown-up ultralight with twin pusher engines that can easily climb — even take off! — on only one of its two powerful engines.
|Empty weight||495 pounds|
|Gross weight||1,000 pounds|
|Wing area||160 square feet|
|Wing loading||6.25 pounds per square foot|
|Kit type||Assembly kit|
|Build time||50-300 hours|
|Standard engine||Rotax 912|
|Power||81 hp at 5,500 rpm|
|Power loading||12.3 pounds per hp|
|Cruise speed||75 mph|
|Never exceed speed||85 mph|
|Rate of climb at gross||1,000 fpm|
|Takeoff distance at gross||200 feet|
|Landing distance at gross||200 feet|
|Standard Features||Rotax 912, electric starting, all stainless exhaust, flaps, ASI, altimeter, CHT, oil pressure, oil temp, Hobbs meter, tachometer, dual controls, nose fairing, dual 5-gallon fuel tanks, wide aluminum wheels, aircraft tires, hydraulic brakes, 3-blade Warp Drive propeller.|
|Options||Straight or amphibious floats, ballistic parachute system, other props and prop leading edge treatment.|
|Construction||Aluminum airframe, spring steel landing gear, presewn Dacron® wing coverings, fiberglass nose fairing. Made in the USA.|
Cosmetic appearance, structural integrity, achievement of design goals, effectiveness of aerodynamics, ergonomics.
Pros - Ownership of the Drifter is back in familiar hands (see article). In light sport aircraft (LSA) age, the Super Drifter 912 adds 4-stroke value without affecting the basics of this ultralight design. More than 1,000 Drifters reported flying. Design retained cable bracing; lighter weight and greater rigidity than struts.
Cons - Pilots interested in LSA may not like sitting on the end of a boom, though ultralight enthusiasts probably love it. Some pilots will regard the Drifter as a dated, older design. Must be assembled from a kit, which complicates resale and adds owner liability.
Subsystems available to pilot such as: Flaps; Fuel sources; Electric start; In-air restart; Brakes; Engine controls; Navigations; Radio; (items covered may be optional).
Pros - The Drifter has always offered effective flaps; easy to deploy with lever alongside pilot's thigh and comfortably reached. The Drifter 912 is well equipped (though 4-stroke engine adds considerably to cost). Stick-mounted, mini-hydraulic brake system is quite powerful. Engine access is excellent, no cowl.
Cons - Since the Drifter can fly two people with a 50-hp Rotax 503, the 912 seems much more engine than needed. No instruments installed for the rear-seat instructor, but you can carry any system you can afford; allowed when amateur building.
Instrumentation; Ergonomics of controls; Creature comforts; (items covered may be optional).
Pros - If you like wide-open visibility, the Drifter is a great choice. Four-point seat belts front and rear, especially appreciated in such a boom-and-floor pan construction. Adequate instrument panel with T-panel suffices for ultralight flying. Entry is reasonable, especially to the aft seat where other tandems are difficult.
Cons - Some pilots do not like the openness of a Drifter and when flown solo from the front, structure around you won't help acclimate. Entry to the front around the wider pod requires a technique. Rear-seat occupant is subject to considerable wind buffet. Seats do not adjust in flight.
Taxi visibility; Steering; Turn radius; Shock absorption; Stance/Stability; Braking.
Pros - Superb visibility from the front seat to spot traffic. Hydraulic brakes were quite powerful on land version. Spring steel gear offered good shock absorption even with the heavier 912 engine and two occupants. Good ground clearance. Prop well protected by floor pan.
Cons - Land version is a taildragger and therefore not for everyone. The tailwheel was rather small on Florida's sandy soil (though a larger tailwheel is optional). Suspension is limited to gear leg flex and tire inflation. No differential brakes, though they're hardly needed.
Qualities; Efficiency; Ease; Comparative values.
Pros - The Drifter visibility is unparalleled in aviation. Low landing approach speeds (40 mph) allows entry to small fields or lakes. Flaps are highly efficient and easily deployed. Slips proved surprisingly effective given the small side area. Short ground roll with the Rotax 912.
Cons - The Drifter 912 is ultralight like and can dissipate energy in ground effect; this requires better flare timing and technique (though the Drifter lands very short). No other negatives.
Quality and quantity for: Coordination; Authority; Pressures; Response; and Coupling.
Pros - While not fast, controls offer plenty of authority for crosswind operations. Response rate is about perfect for training flights. Controls were well rigged and had reasonable pressures. Steep turns went well as the Drifter holds the turn with little input. Precision turns are easy, too.
Cons - The Drifter 912 does not have a fast roll rate (though good authority); Dutch rolls worked well only to shallow angles. Full power on takeoff can cause you to run out of rudder range to counteract it. Lack of visual references in the front seat takes some acclimatization.
Climb; Glide; Sink; Cruise/stall/max speeds; Endurance; Range; Maneuverability.
Pros - More powerful Rotax 912 yields better fuel economy than the lower powered Rotax 582. Climb is breathtaking. Robust airframe has survived challenging duties in many locations. Design has long proven itself on floats. Low-over-the-field flying goes well with flaps deployed. Sink rate is excellent.
Cons - By design the Drifter is not a speedster (an open-cockpit wouldn't be very comfortable at fast speeds), so the big 912 engine only adds to climb and takeoff distance performance. Plus, powerful engines cost significantly more; a Rotax 912 costs three times as much as a Rotax 582.
Stall recovery and characteristics; Dampening; Spiral stability; Adverse yaw qualities.
Pros - Power-off stalls broke but very predictably with fast, almost automatic recovery. Power-on stalls only discernible by a tail buffet. Accelerated stalls often dropped the high wing and leveled out quickly. Longitudinal recovery from level flight was fast and straightforward, no doubt due partly to a long coupled tail with large area.
Cons - Drifters have long been fitted with emergency parachutes. Typical high thrust line response lowers nose pronouncedly on power addition (opposite of most certified aircraft). Deck angle gets extremely steep in full-power stall practice. No other negatives.
Addresses the questions: "Will a buyer get what he/she expects to buy, and did the designer/builder achieve the chosen goal?"
Pros - In a LSA world full of Rotax 912 engines, the Super Drifter 912 fits in well using this reliable 4-stroke Rotax 912 powerplant. Strong, durable airframe that has done heavy duty for years; several Drifters have thousands of hours and at least one more than 10,000. Highly recognized design; helps resale values.
Cons - The Drifter 912 is much more expensive than a 2-stroke-powered model (though those are still available). If you sell your Drifter it may take somewhat longer than a more conventional, enclosed aircraft (though a good following will help sell any well-maintained examples).
Things can change and yet stay the same. You can comprehend this paradox by considering the tandem 2-seat Drifter. Drifter production is under new management by someone many regard as a “rightful owner.” Yet the basic flying qualities of the Drifter design are basically unchanged. As 2007 started, Phil Lockwood again has all rights to the Drifter as part of a design, tooling, and inventory deal that rescued the Drifter and 2-seat twin-engine Air Cam from an uncertain future with investor Antonio Leza, who ran the operation for a few years. Lockwood is associated with the Drifter due to his many years of work with the design. He once worked for Maxair proprietor Denny Franklin who pioneered this enduring shape. In the rough and tumble days of early ultralights, Franklin lost control of Drifter ownership and for a time the design wandered. More correctly, the new owners failed to take the Drifter forward and instead merely exploited its popularity.
CESSNA’S DISCOVER FLYING I met new business leader for the Skycatcher LSA, Tracy Leopold, at Sun ‘n Fun 2012 where she confirmed the Wichita giant’s support for their lightest aircraft, now being assembled in Independence alongside other Cessna models. As summer began, Tracy’s Skycatcher group amped up their game with a program called Discover Flying Challenge. *** After hiring eight university graduate flight instructors — plus a ninth to act as dispatcher — the team took off in all directions and will reunite again at AirVenture 2012. Meanwhile, the youthful team is visiting Cessna Pilot Centers and non-CPC FBOs plus fly-ins and air shows all the while doing what college grads do these days: updating Facebook and Twitter feeds and blogging about their activities. *** “We wanted to do something different, something that would get the attention of the next generation of pilots while at the same time getting the Skycatcher in front of the public,” explained Tracy.
My good friend and Air-Cam developer, Phil Lockwood, likes to hold fly-outs for his customers. More than 160 kits have been delivered and built; each fly-out has attracted several of these owners. Phil and his Lockwood Aircraft associate George Weber have invited me several times but I’ve had to miss earlier gatherings for owners of this iconic “twin engined ultralight” (it isn’t really an ultralight but has its roots in that category). For once I got to attend. The destination was the beautiful Jekyll Island resort area of Georgia; it’s near St. Simons Island, another popular vacation destination. *** On a stunningly beautiful day, I was privileged to take my wife and two friends aloft for 30-minute tours of the Island. This was great fun for all. But what made it especially interesting is that I did this in N912LA, one of three Air-Cams badly trashed by the tornado at Sun ‘n Fun 2011 (photo).
Lockwood Aircraft‘s Super Drifter open-cockpit kitbuilt plane, the resurrection of the Drifter design that was the basic concept for Phil Lockwood’s AirCam twin-engine airplane, (a unique camera platform first created for National Geographic), is getting a new set of tailfeathers. *** I first flew a Hummer ultralight, designed by Klaus Hill, back in the fall of 1980 at Crested Butte, CO. It belonged to hang gliding pal Gil Kinzie. *** We were in CB for a soaring contest and he let several of us fly it, though most of us had no general aviation training. Ah, those wild and wooly days of free flight. *** As such, the Drifter was one of the very first viable ultralights and presented a unique flying feel to its pilots: you sat out on the end of a long fuselage keel tube with everything – wings, motor, wheels – behind you! *** Once you got over the initial floating-in-space challenges to your comfort zone, you fell in love with the incredibly open, free feeling.
Air-Cam isn’t a Light-Sport Aircraft because it has two engines. OK, it’s also a shade heavy but if Air-Cam could, it would be a LSA. Certainly it’s “light” and “sport” compared to most twins. Regardless, it’s a favorite of all the airplanes I’ve flown so I’m pleased to see its rapid progress under the leadership of Phil Lockwood, the original developer. *** The latest accomplishment is a factory-authorized amphibious float system from Montana Floats that includes all mounting hardware. As though it needed any more power — Air-Cam is the only multiengine airplane I’ve flown that can launch with one engine — the twin pusher can now be equipped with two Rotax 914 Turbos. Combined with the extra power (230 hp total), Air-Cam can be fitted with a constant speed reverse pitch prop system ideal for float-equipped Air-Cams. A new rigid mount can now accommodate High Definition video cameras…it is, after all, the Air-CAM.
Among all airplanes I’ve flown the AirCam may be the most fascinating. This superlative twin-engine “ultralight” offers flying in a way few (or no) other airplanes can. (I earned my multi-engine rating in an AirCam.) Given my interest, I’ve followed the efforts by owner Antonio Leza to sell the operation. Over the last few years several would-be buyers came and went. No deal happened. Last fall I SPLOGged that Sebring businessman Shawn Okun appeared to have it sewn up. Again, no deal. *** But that’s over now. The dust has settled and AirCam is headed back to someone I consider its “rightful owner:” Phil Lockwood. This time the sale is for real and includes all design rights, tooling, jigs, and inventory for the AirCam and Drifter. Phil has a long history with both designs; he knows each intimately. *** Phil and wife Tish have worked hard to build an expanding enterpise at Sebring.
A&P acceptance (or lack thereof) is a leading reason for Cessna’s decision to use the Continental O-200D in Skycatcher. Surveys through their Cessna Pilot Centers showed that a majority of FAA-licensed mechanics preferred an engine they already know. Most lack knowledge of the Rotax 9-series that powers the majority of the LSA fleet. And when an expert knows little about a new product, human nature compels him to resist. *** Trying to educate A&Ps on the best-selling LSA engine is one task of Rotax service center operator, Phil Lockwood. This winter, he’ll be giving hourlong presentations for A&Ps (and owners), trying to encourage to A&Ps to take a pair of two-day courses to bring them up to speed with the Austrian engines. *** Of 62 presently approved SLSA models, only 8 (13%) use another engine (Continental or Jabiru). Starting in 1973 with the ultralight market, Rotax has produced more than 125,000 aircraft engines.
When I first met Phil Lockwood, he was selling Drifters. That was more than 20 years ago. In that time the venerable Drifter ultralight went through several owners and many changes. A Drifter model even hailed from Australia for a time. But in a combined deal including the Air Cam — which Phil designed — all design rights, inventory, tooling, documentation returned home…to Lockwood enterprises (Read July 5, 2006 SPLOG). A 7,000 square-foot addition enlarges Lockwood’s facility to house the new activity. On a tour of this facility after the Sebring Expo I saw the stockpile of components that demanded a new building. Initially Phil expected only to supply Drifter parts to service about 1,000 aircraft flying around the globe. But early demand has staffers shipping a few kits even while they complete the factory. Lockwood also plans to deliver full Air Cam kits bringing this hugely delightful aircraft back to regular production.