The list of aviation companies involved in one way or another with China is getting so long I won’t try to show them all here. Big companies like Cirrus Design or Continental are included. So are LSA manufacturers of various brands. Some business are setting up dealerships (Quicksilver, others). Others have arranged Chinese partners to build planes in-country (Flight Design, Zenith, others). Several companies have been fully acquired by or have received substantial funding from Chinese enterprises (Icon, others) and I’m aware of more that we will hear more about in the weeks and months to follow. The U.S. government and many other nations have borrowed from the Chinese government so a nearly unfathomable amount of dollars or other currencies are parked in China. However, most of the aviation financial arrangements are private, showing that, like their government, Chinese business people have plenty of funds to invest.
Phone: 352-253-0108Tavares, FL 32778 - USA
Less than two weeks from now, the season of recreational flying is officially set in motion with the opening of Sun ‘n Fun … the 40th year of the nation’s first major airshow. It will also be year #2 for the new and much-improved Paradise City, formerly known as the Ultralight or Lightplane Area. Alongside the curvy new paved road that loops through Paradise City will sit the LSA Mall at Show Center powered by Aviators Hot Line and this is a place many will visit throughout the week to peruse LSA, light kit airplanes, and electric aircraft. Getting to the Paradise City will be much easier and faster thanks to a pair of six-seat golf carts that will rove the grounds of Sun ‘n Fun and pick up visitors who want to check out Paradise and all the action at this airshow-within-an-airshow. Demo flights for LSA shoppers will be readily available and can be conducted all day long even during the main airshow aerobatics (except for a 1-2 hour period when military teams demand “sterile airspace”).
People are starting to arrive in Florida. Today, we had a pleasant lunch conversation with Dynon’s president Robert Hamilton. He observed that Dynon enjoyed their best year ever in 2013 and they continue bringing new avionics innovations at modest prices. Fellow Dynon staffer Kirk Kleinholz was in the state even earlier traveling around offering tech support. Great work, Dynon-ers! As we all enter the last-minute rush to head to the tenth Sebring, a few news items arrived and I’ll run through them so you have some idea of what will be present at the LSA event. Progressive Aerodyne announced they received FAA acceptance for the Elite version of their Searey Amphibious LSA. Searey Elite is mightily powered with a Rotax 914 turbocharged engine; you can see a short video of it launching in this article. “This stylish aircraft offers many advanced features such as a large sliding canopy that can remain open while flying.
One of the several reasons I like living in Florida (besides no snow this time of year) is the close proximity of all kinds of aviation businesses. The central Florida town of Tavares, about 45 minutes northwest of Orlando, is home to not one but two light seaplane factories. The city named itself “America’s Seaplane City.” Last Friday, we visited both manufacturers ending our tour at the SeaRey Open House (photo). Owner Adam Yang said they had 13 SeaRey aircraft fly in despite windy conditions. Their handsome facility was full of people including many owner/builders, potential customers, friends, and the media (me). The day turned out to be pleasant and we got to watch several SeaRey aircraft taxi down the launch ramp into the lake and take off not 50 yards away. One of these was the new 914 SeaRey SLSA; more on that below. A couple years ago Progressive Aerodyne took the plunge and elected to pursue Special Light-Sport Aircraft acceptance so they could address a part of the market they never could seek: fully built SeaRey aircraft.
Consider this an entry to the “They-said-it-couldn’t-be-done” department. As regular readers know, FAA has been conducting audits with LSA producers… tough, top-to-bottom reviews of every detail in the voluminous ASTM standard set. Last April another company had no less than six FAA personnel in their building for three full days, each armed with a laptop and literally hundreds of questions. Passing one of these grueling tests is a fairly major accomplishment. Then consider FAA amped up the task by saying any new model or first LSA from a new company would probably get one of these thorough inspections before they could enter the market. Progressive Aerodyne hosted such an FAA team to examine their first SLSA candidate and — surprise! — they came out with a certificate. No followup is needed. So the heartiest of congratulations go to Progressive Aerodyne and their SeaRey. Yesterday they were issued their airworthiness certificate after a visit from five FAA personnel from both Washington, DC and the local Orlando, Florida MIDO (Manufacturing Inspection District Office).
What’s going on out in the marketplace? More than any time since the launch of Light-Sport Aircraft in 2004, I have not observed such a frenzy of activity for a particular niche, this time for LSA seaplanes. Next season, in 2013, we could see no less than nine entries; three brand new and that count does not include any LSA equipped with floats, possibly adding several more. Yet some major potholes appear in the runway… or perhaps that should be waves sloshing over the bow. One entry is a return of a LSA seaplane previously seen in the USA as the Freedom S100 (SLSA List #44) yet can it reenter the market without a full FAA audit? See Update at end. A new agency directive with the catchy name 8130.2G CHG 1 may require a FAA visit to Spain but who knows when that might occur, given the likelihood of an FAA budget cut through the political process known as sequestration, part of the so-called “fiscal cliff” the mainstream media drones on about endlessly.
I have several targets on my radar for follow-up at the big show that starts July 23rd. Here’s a beforehand review; details will follow. |||| *** LSA seaplanes will generate plenty of interest, I think, with Icon‘s latest announcements and the dreamy new Lisa Akoya (photo). Both are superslick but not to be outdone by the SeaRey, which already has nearly 600 flying. SeaRey builder Progressive Aerodyne is hard at work on SLSA status. Adding the SeaMax into the mix, LSA seaplane enthusiasts have lots of great choices… and then come the floats for other planes. Lotus is back and Zenith is a trusted supplier of many years. You’ll be able to see both sets of floats in the LSA Mall. While you’re in the LSA Mall, you can check out AMT’s air conditioning for LSA plus the Belgium D Motor.
Life is good if you like LSA seaplanes. I’ll review five LSA seaplanes, either on the market or in development. *** Today SeaRey reins as far and away the most successful and proven design with some 600 flying. While SeaRey has been an Experimental Amateur Built (EAB) model, they’ve been working diligently on SLSA approval and will eventually sell SLSA, ELSA, and EAB versions. Priced around $70,000 as a kit, SeaRey is the most affordable seaplane. Owners are intensely loyal to the brand (Progressive Aerodyne) and the model. SeaRey is having a workshop right before Sebring. More about that shortly. *** SeaMax is the next most proven and accepted seaplane. Manufactured in Brazil, about 100 are flying including a handful in the USA. SeaMax America is the new importer for the handsome LSA seaplane from prolific designer (and nice guy) Miguel Rosario. From Great Neck, New York Richard Rofe said, “We have added many new features and have moved to a much larger production facility.
Seaplane fans represent one of aviation’s most enthusiastic user groups and few brands can claim more reliable loyalty than 600 owners give SeaRey. The central Florida producer got numerous owners to come help them move when they relocated into expansive new quarters in Tavares, Florida, which has claimed the title of “America’s Seaplane City.” Even the building was financed by SeaRey owners for the benefit of the manufacturer. With that kind of backing a new leader of the enterprise begins on solid footing. *** From the beginning, Progressive Aerodyne (PA), developer and builder of the SeaRey line has been directed by the Richter family. New CEO and Chairman, Adam Yang, assumed control of PA on May 9th, 2011. Here’s what he had to say: “Kerry Richter, the founder of Progressive Aerodyne, remains as President and principal designer and will be focusing his energy on R&D, company strategy and customer relationships. Joining the team as General Manager is Joe Friend.
To the answer “Progressive Aerodyne!” comes the Jeopardy question, “What LSA company thumbs its nose at the bad economy?” *** Certainly one of the most-fun LSA flights I’ve had in some time came at the controls of that company’s SeaRey amphibian.My LSA pal Dan Johnson recently wrote up a piece on the amphib which spurred me to excerpt some highlights in advance of my own flight report on the lively sea bird coming soon in Plane & Pilot magazine. *** Wayne and Kerry Richter, second and third generation founders of Progressive Aerodyne, started back in the ‘70s with many memorable UL birds they created with dad/grandfather Stanley Richter. The company then was Advanced Aviation and it put out, among other craft, several iterations of a very popular ultralight amphib: the Buccaneer.Building on that success, as Dan notes, Progressive Aerodyne popped out 31 Experimental Amateur Built kits in 2010.
Progressive Aerodyne and their popular SeaRey amphibian represent a current-day success sufficient to generate envy in most airframe sellers. Consider these results: Searey delivered 31 kits in 2010, an average 2.5 per month during a lousy year. Plus, in just three weeks since Sebring another 14 SeaRey kits have been ordered, upping the monthly average to 4.0. True those SeaReys are Experimental Amateur Built (EAB) kit models and so don’t compare directly with SLSA sales. *** In less than three years, company spokesman and sales director Darrell Lynds (formerly with SportairUSA) took the company from one kit a month to its current pace, along the way building a list of 1,700 very interested potential buyers. He says his 2011 orders are cash-in-hand and projects a solid year for the amphibious seaplane producer. This adds to a remarkably loyal following of 600 SeaRey aircraft builders. How can the central Florida manufacturer be doing so well?
Here’s a glancing blow at some products you might want to check out in depth: *** A cute new LSA named Viper SD-4 showed up, beautifully built (in Slovenia) and should be very attractive to anyone who likes the conventional approach of an all-metal airframe done in the traditional way — with a modern technological boost. *** The parent company, Tomark Aero, uses CAD design and CNC precision cutting methods. *** US distribution will be through Tomark Aero USA, located in Frisco, TX. *** Some specifications: • Wingspan 27′ 10 1/2 ” • Max weight 1,320 pounds • Cruise 108 knots • Max speed 120 knots • Stall 40 knots • Climb 1,280 fpm • Take-off run 525 feet • Landing run 722 feet *** Wild and Crazy in a Flying Boat: that’s what I’d title a short movie I’d make of my fun ride with Kerry Richter, designer of the SeaRey amphib, took me for a way-too-fun ride over, around, onto and off of a nearby lake.
It’s a first… the acceptance of Sport Pilots into another country. I don’t refer to acceptance of Light-Sport Aircraft in other nations; that’s already happening in a dozen countries with 30 more studying the method of certification. When the Islands of the Bahamas said it would accept Sport Pilot certificate holders to pilot their LSA to the Bahamas, that was a first in another country recognizing the pilot side of FAA’s 2004 regulatory innovation. *** Thanks go to EAA for stimulating discussion and for staffers Randy Hansen and David Oord, both of whom work in EAA’s government relations office. *** At the 2010 Oshkosh event Deputy Permanent Secretary for the Bahamas’ Ministry of Tourism and Aviation, Charles Albury, told EAA AirVenture Today writer Jeb Burnside, “We felt this was another area to expand because of the growth of sport pilots in the United States.” Government and Advocacy Specialist Oord said, “We look forward to similar recognition of the sport pilot certificate by our international neighbors.” In celebration of the latest changes to Bahamian rules, EAA, the Ministry and Florida-based EAA chapters are organizing a sport-pilot fly-out to the Bahamas, planned for the near future.
Recently, I blogged about a Tennessee town that welcomed Skykits from Canada, providing a brand-new facility for them to use. A town in Florida also saw the potential of a light aircraft manufacturer and had a new building with lake access available. *** Arguably the most successful light aircraft seaplane producer is Progressive Aerodyne and their SeaRey amphibian. How successful? In January, they delivered SeaRey kit #500 to its owner in Belgium. That impressive number doesn’t tell the whole story, which centers around the tight community of SeaRey builders who often help each other and not solely with builder questions. In my years in aviation, I’ve never seen a closer group but then, as a fellow seaplane lover, that doesn’t surprise me; seaplane aviators share a common bond. Now, the SeaRey team is working hard to finish their SLSA version, giving enthusiasts a chance to buy a ready-to-fly SeaRey or a kit.
|Empty weight||880 pounds 1|
|Gross weight||1,430 pounds 2|
|Wingspan||30 feet 10 inches|
|Wing area||157 square feet|
|Wing loading||8.7 pounds per square foot|
|Useful Load||550 pounds|
|Length||22 feet 5 inches|
|Payload (with full fuel)||442 pounds|
|Cabin Interior||44 inches|
|Height||6 feet 5 inches|
|Fuel Capacity||18 gallons/108 pounds 3|
|Baggage area||60 pounds|
|Notes:||1Empty weight varies with equipment choices; shown is an
estimated typical empty weight|
2In SLSA redesign, gross weight re-engineered to 1,430 pounds from 1,370 pounds
3Optional fuel tanks raise total on board to 26 gallons
|Standard engine||Rotax 912 1|
|Prop Diameter||3-blade composite|
|Power||100 hp 1|
|Power loading||13.7 pounds per hp|
|Max Speed||98 knots/113 mph|
|Cruise speed||81 knots/92 mph|
|Stall Speed (Flaps)||35 knots/40 mph|
|Stall Speed||39 knots/45 mph|
|Never exceed speed||104 knots/120 mph|
|Rate of climb at gross||800 fpm|
|Takeoff distance at gross||375 feet|
|Landing distance at gross||300 feet|
|Range (powered)||3.5 hrs., 330 mi.|
|Fuel Consumption||5.6 gph at 75% power|
|Notes:||1Engine choices include 80- and 100-hp Rotax 912ULS and 115-hp Rotax 914 Turbo|
|Standard Features||Rotax 912 at 80 hp; analog flight and engine instruments; retractable gear; hydraulic disc brakes; retractable shoulder harness; 18-gallon fuel capacity; 3-blade composite prop; manually operated flaps; electric trim; mechanical gear retraction system; 6-inch aluminum wheels with 4-inch steerable tail wheel; fully built LSA.|
|Options||100-hp Rotax 912 or 115-hp Rotax 914; full electronic avionics including Dynon D-180 and Garmin 696; optional 26-gallon (total) fuel capacity; high-capacity wheels and brakes; ballistic parachute; interior upgrade options.|
|Construction||Aluminum airframe; fiberglass hull (carbon fiber optional); steel landing gear and other components; dope and- fabric wing coverings. US-owned company.|
Cosmetic appearance, structural integrity, achievement of design goals, effectiveness of aerodynamics, ergonomics.
Pros - Familiar, popular design from a well-established company and designer; some 500 flying (built from kits). More useful load/payload than other boathull amphibs. Substantially updated to meet ASTM standards brought a higher gross weight.
Cons - Not a particularly fast design, if that's what a buyer is seeking. Construction is familiar to ultralight pilots, but is less common among Light- Sport Aircraft. At press time, company had not completed their SLSA airworthiness certification.
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 - Loaded with systems, including retractable landing gear and uncommon things like a bilge pump. Electric trim. Mechanical flaps. Hydraulic brakes. Audio warning system for gear position.
Cons - Pilots must manage gear in the right position for land vs. water landings (though the optional warning system helps, if selected). Engine access is somewhat awkward and made harder with the nicelooking fairing.
Instrumentation; Ergonomics of controls; Creature comforts; (items covered may be optional).
Pros - Generous 44-inch-wide cabin (though other LSA seaplanes are wider still). Sliding canopies are a delight as well as a very serious safety feature because exiting an upset seaplane may be easier with dual sliding canopies. Very comfortable interior.
Cons - Entry and particularly getting up out of the seat may prove challenging to less flexible pilots (though structure around you is sturdy for handholds). Seats not adjustable. Shoulder belts only in test aircraft.
Taxi visibility; Steering; Turn radius; Shock absorption; Stance/Stability; Braking.
Pros - Taxiing on land is good with responsive tailwheel steering, or on water, thanks to a water rudder located well aft, giving a good lever arm.Water handling is excellent, like a speedboat in an experienced pilot's hands. Great ventilation, thanks to sliding canopies.
Cons - Even with a 10-inch draft you may be limited to calmer water like lakes. Gear stance places hull low to ground (though in an emergency, landing on the hull may be a good idea anyway). No differential braking to aid ground ramp maneuverability.
Qualities; Efficiency; Ease; Comparative values.
Pros - Water landings work well and appear to require relatively modest skills, making the SeaRey a good starter amphib. Short 300-foot water runs and 10 to 12 seconds. Sliding canopy allows easy pier access. Beaching appeared almost too easy. Slips worked very well.
Cons - Water landings were easier; on land, aircraft sits very low before touchdown; it takes some acclimatization (though gear is up to the task of instruction). Ground clearance is low to bottom of hull.
Quality and quantity for: Coordination; Authority; Pressures; Response; and Coupling.
Pros - The SeaRey has an excellent combination of predictable controls that are quite responsive. Roll rate was reasonably fast (about 3 seconds, 45-to-45). You never have to land crosswind on the water in a seaplane. On land, the SeaRey exhibited good control authority.
Cons - Handling in water requires additional training (insurance will also demand more training). Downwind water handling can be particularly challenging in stronger winds. No other negatives.
Climb; Glide; Sink; Cruise/stall/max speeds; Endurance; Range; Maneuverability.
Pros - Water runs are short (300 feet) and are essentially the same on land or water. Climb is reasonable at 800 fpm with the 100-hp Rotax 912 engine (650 fpm with 80 hp). Seaplane landings are generally short. Excellent slow-speed flight characteristics; especially useful for sightseeing by seaplane.
Cons - Amphibians are generally slower designs than fast land planes; cruise in a SeaRey is a modest 80 knots (though speed is not an objective of most seaplane pilots. Climb seemed a little weak, possibly owing to a higher empty weight on test aircraft.
Stall recovery and characteristics; Dampening; Spiral stability; Adverse yaw qualities.
Pros - Stalls were almost nonevents; I found no clean break to any stall practiced. Slow stall at 35 knots with flaps; 39 knots without. Longitudinal and lateral stability checks and power changes from trim, level flight revealed a benign SeaRey design.
Cons - Water operations require more training and you must mentally shift from airplane to boat. No other stability negatives discovered.
Addresses the questions: "Will a buyer get what he/she expects to buy, and did the designer/builder achieve the chosen goal?"
Pros - With 500 flying, the SeaRey is the most popular amphibian in light aviation; owners are loyal and support one another. Company is well established and has been managed by the same family since its inception in the early 1990s. The SeaRey is priced modestly compared to other LSA flying boats.
Cons - The SeaRey is still awaiting approval as a Special Light-Sport Aircraft; until then only an Experimental Amateur-Built kit is available. At about $100,000 ready-to-fly, the SeaRey won't be in everyone's budget (but EAB or ELSA kits can dramatically lower costs in exchange for your labor).
Let’s be honest. We’re into flying because we enjoy the experience, right? Flying light, sporting aircraft is not about flying to work or transporting goods or people. And if enjoyment is the main flying goal, then seaplanes are a big part of that pleasure. Of the LSA-qualified seaplanes covered this year (FPNA Cape Town A- 22 and Airmax SeaMax), the SeaRey is more familiar to readers of Light Sport and Ultralight Flying magazine and more affordable. The SeaRey is familiar because of its past in this community. It’s built and it flies as you’d expect, more so than some $135,000 carbon fiber speedster. It also costs a great deal less and it’s available as a kit to save even more dough. Make no mistake. The SeaRey LSX (the Experimental-LSA kit version) and the SeaRey Sport (the fully-built version in latter stages of certification) are advanced light planes, by which I mean SeaRey has developed significantly from its simpler 2- stroke-powered early models.
|Empty weight||318 kg., depending on engine|
|Gross weight||568 kg|
|Wing area||13.7 sq. meters|
|Wing loading||39 kg/sq. m.|
|Cabin Interior||112 cm @ shoulder|
|Load Limit||+3.8 -1.9|
|Fuel Capacity||68 liters|
|Baggage area||0.4 m3|
|Standard engine||80 hp. Rotax 912, 4-cyl., 4-stroke|
|Power loading||7.1 kg/hp.|
|Cruise speed||145 km/h|
|Stall Speed||65 km/h (58 km/h solo)|
|Never exceed speed||185 km/h|
|Rate of climb at gross||3.75 m/sec (4.75 solo)|
|Takeoff distance at gross||100 m.|
|Landing distance at gross||100 m.|
|Range (powered)||4.5 hrs. w/ 30 min. res. (650 km w/ 30 min. res.)|
|Fuel Consumption||13 l/h|
SeaRey Sets a New Standard for Floatplanes Many pilots who have flown in water-borne aircraft believe this is the finest and most enjoyable flying one can do. If that statement holds water (is true), then the beautiful SeaRey amphibian from Florida-based Progressive Aerodyne should be one of the most desirable aircraft you can buy. Pilots have spoken with their money. Since it arrived on the market in 1992, the SeaRey has sold in increasing numbers each year. Three years of Progressive Aerodyne history hardly tells the story behind the SeaRey. A father and son ownership team, Wayne and Kerry Richter have long experience in this business producing many hundreds of amphibious ultralights. The Richters were principals in a company called Advanced Aviation best known for its amphib sea plane called the Buccaneer. After another designer made the first single place Buccaneer, Kerry Richter made his name with a two place model.
After a tough winter in most parts of the USA, spring evidently arrived early with 80-degree temperatures as far north as Minnesota… all before Sun ‘n Fun. More good news: After its coldest winter since the early 1980s Florida is extremely pleasant now, warm with low humidity. *** Indications are the economy continues bearing down on Light-Sport aviation. Confronted with cautious customers, some aircraft producers have tightened their costs and are offering sharply lower prices in time for Sun ‘n Fun. *** Flight Design announced its CTLS Lite, which makes two impressive accomplishments. By slightly trimming the equipment list and making other adjustments, the market leader was able to slice $20,000 off the price, coming in at $119,800. They also cut a most impressive 50 pounds from the empty weight. *** Jabiru USA offers two models discounted for a short time. Taking $11,000 off the price of their J-170 brings the base to $85,900.
We sit on the edge of hitting triple digits of Special Light-Sport Aircraft. Just before Oshkosh started, Van’s Aircraft announced their RV-12 qualified for SLSA airworthiness (which also allows the Oregon company to sell ELSA kits). People have started to ask, “Who will offer Number 100 SLSA?” One possibility is the SeaRey from Progressive Aerodyne. *** SeaRey marketing man, Darrell Lynds reported a spectacular Oshkosh event, “We sold 11 kit SeaRey aircraft (the LSX) and four SLSA versions to be called the SeaRey Sport.” That represents quite a performance, causing me to inquire what amount of money changed hands in order to call these an order. “We collected $5,000 toward a kit and $10,000 on a fully-built SLSA,” explained Darrell. I’d call that enough cash per airplane to make for genuine orders. *** I spoke with many sellers at Oshkosh who reported “very solid leads,” and “genuinely interested buyers,” but a few complained that despite these positive comments, they were not seeing the cash.
Seaplane enthusiasts comprise a niche of American aviation but are some of the most passionate of all powered aircraft pilots. Among these, owners of almost 500 SeaRey aircraft belong to one of the tightest knit communities I’ve seen. Kerry and Wayne Richter, the son and father team that gave birth to the SeaRey (and several other models) have quietly built one of the strongest brands in light seaplanes… and now they are moving into the Special Light-Sport Aircraft space with their new LSX. Kerry says the new model, while visually similar to earlier SeaReys, possesses no fewer than 78 new or revised features including a custom interior and complete rework of the panel. *** I flew with Kerry in the new machine from my Florida home base at Spruce Creek Fly-in. We hopped LSX over to a nearby lake and Kerry executed a couple perfect water landings.