HAPPY NEW YEAR FUN FLYER FANS! We look forward to a new year of better success for the airshows that support aviation. Our coverage is continuous in 2021. plus check our growing 3-minutes-long video library on the ByDanJohnson YouTube channel. In addition, you can find nearly 1,000 LSA and Sport Pilot kit videos featuring Dan on Videoman Dave’s “The Ultralight Flyer” YouTube channel + view hundreds of our best videos archived here in a searchable format. Thanks for your visit. We genuinely appreciate those of you who have become members!
Aero in JulySince its beginning in 1992, Aero Friedrichshafen has always occurred in April, a wonderful time of year in the southern German region of Bavaria. Along with nearly every other aviation event, Aero was scrubbed in 2020. One delightful exception was Chris Collins' Midwest LSA Expo that went on as usual in early September. Gosh, that was a nice break. As anyone can read everywhere you look, a new virus strain is already starting to upset things in 2021. A rescheduled Aero set its sights on April as usual. I was exceedingly pleased when leader Roland Bosch and his team placed the dates so those of us who wish could attend both Sun 'n Fun and Aero. Yay! However, it was not to be. Now, Aero has rescheduled again, this time for July 14-17, 2021 in the very south of Germany, on the Bodensee (or Lake Constance) bordered by Switzerland on the opposite coast. Aero 2021 will operate only days before EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2021 starts on July 26th. One can hope both Aero and Oshkosh happen in July and that Sun 'n Fun 2021 can go forward as planned for April 13-18, 2021.
I reported on this as recently as January 8th and then updated that article on January 14th. Here we are on the 21st and things obviously still remain fluid. I've got my fingers crossed for no more changes. 🤞🏼🤞🏼🤞🏼
After nearly a year of precious few such events, trying to plan for airshows you wish to attend in 2021 remains complicated by a variety of factors. You’ve heard about vaccines and lockdowns and executive orders until you are thoroughly exhausted by it all. Some TV networks unrelentingly tell you virus numbers that can discourage even the most ardent of optimists. We’re pilots! We want to fly! Doing so productively means keeping up with the latest hardware and software and hearing from experts on a variety of topics from kit aircraft assembly to weather to regulations. Much of this we can learn quickly, efficiently — and this is very important — enjoyably at airshows. Aero in July Since its beginning in 1992, Aero Friedrichshafen has always occurred in April, a wonderful time of year in the southern German region of Bavaria. Along with nearly every other aviation event, Aero was scrubbed in 2020.
Recreational and MoreSensenich is so common on the light aircraft that we cover on this website that some readers may not even be aware of the brand's use on FAA-certified aircraft. Of the "well over 850,000 propellers" Sensenich said they have shipped, most went on certified aircraft. They know how to meet those regulations. Recently, the company announced it was won a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) for its carbon ground-adjustable pitch STOL propeller for Piper Super Cub Aircraft. An STC is required when modifying a certified aircraft; usually handled in the field to benefit a single aircraft. This new STC allows installation on PA-18 “150” aircraft powered by Lycoming O-360 series engines, with future STCs planned for Lycoming O-320 powered Super Cubs and certain popular training aircraft. “Our Experimental Amateur-Built aircraft customers have been raving about this propeller for several years, and now we can offer the same step up in performance to our certified customers,” says Sensenich president, Don Rowell. Don continued, "This propeller’s quick and sure pitch adjustment (nearby image) gives the customer the option of maximum performance no matter what the flight profile may be." Sensenich reported that extensive testing required during the certification project in Alaska showed improved take-off, climb and cruise performance compared to what’s considered the industry standard fixed-pitch STOL propeller. "When pitched for the same climb rpm as the standard propeller, climb rate was increased by 140 feet per minute, cruise speed was identical, and full-throttle level-flight speed increased by seven miles per hour. When repitched to match the industry standard propeller's climb rate, cruise speed was increased by eight miles per hour and full-throttle level-flight speed increased by 18 miles per hour." These substantial gains appear to show the recreational aircraft industry that has used these props have long enjoyed improvements that factory-built, FAA-certified aircraft wanted. Performance is not only measured in speed or rate of climb. Weight also matters. Sensenich's new composite propeller is listed at half the weight of the legacy STOL propeller: 21 pounds for the new Sensenich prop versus 44 pounds for a metal unit. The propeller is available in diameters from 78 inches to 82 inches. The STC also covers a 12-inch diameter balanced composite spinner. This STC will be available for new-build propellers starting the first quarter of 2021. Pricing for the propeller with STC documentation is $6,350 FOB Plant City. Adding the spinner brings the price to $7,085 including STC documents. While Sensenich continues to open new markets for their well-received propellers, they remain a leading supplier to the Light-Sport Aircraft, Sport Pilot kit-build, and ultralight segments.
In the early 1930s, Sensenich began making propellers …from wood. Almost a century later, wood remains a very viable material for props and many recreational aircraft owners are happy about that because wood is light and less costly. However, times advance inexorably. Wood lead to metal which gave way to composite, a category now including carbon fiber. Through it all, Plant City, Florida-based Sensenich has managed to keep their products “right on the nose” (except for pusher configurations, of course). The company quartered only a few miles from Sun ‘n Fun introduced metal propellers in the 1940s, developed composite propellers in the late 1990s, and continues to push boundaries in the light aircraft, unmanned, and marine propulsion markets. For those unaware, Sensenich has built a substantial business making large diameter, very-wide-chord props for airboats. Recreational and More Sensenich is so common on the light aircraft that we cover on this website that some readers may not even be aware of the brand’s use on FAA-certified aircraft.
Small Airplane Specialist Aeroplanes DARAirplanes Dar is a small innovative company with a long history that started in the previous century… on June 24th, 1917. "We are proud to say that we are older than Boeing," boasted the company. "Our main activity is the production of light high quality single and two seat planes." Aeroplanes Dar's main production facility is in Sofia, Bulgaria (a few hundred miles straight north of Athens, Greece). This location has advantages, the company believes. "We stay competitive in terms of prices [because in] Bulgaria taxes are the lowest in all of Europe." Although Aeroplanes DAR goes back more than 100 years, it changed dramatically in 1995 when a man named Tony Ilieff took over the company, making serial production a priority. "Our target is mass production of single, two and four-seated ultra and light planes based on all-metal technology," said Tony. "For this purpose we created a special sheet management technology in which all aluminum details are cut by laser and shaped by CNC machines." Aeroplanes DAR is not solely an aluminum-bending company. "In addition, we are working on the use of composites in our constructions as they provide us with certain advantages: weight, strength, and price."
Family of ModelsTony's first designs were very different than today's models. As the current line emerged in 2008, it started with a two seater — the Duo — then a Part 103-compliant model weighing 115 kilograms (the U.S. Part 103 maximum), followed by a German 120-kilogram Class version as that category was established. Other countries also use similar systems aiding very light aircraft with a lower level of regulation. Both single seat, single engine ultralight airplanes called "Solo" are assembled with mixed construction: aluminum wings and composite airframe. "New advanced technologies have been introduced and the result is a remarkable aircraft of extra low weight and good flight performance," claims Aeroplanes Dar. Using their Sheet Management software, assembling elements such as metal wings and tail surfaces "is easy; the subjective factor at work has been eliminated," the company said. Composite parts in both Solo models are made by carbon, aramid and fiberglass in molds under vacuum and controlled temperature. "Using this technique, the central (front-to-back) beam and vertical stabilizer has been combined in one. Main landing gear is fiberglass built with a new two-stage vacuum process." "Originally our Solo was designed to be sold as an airplane kit," explained Tony. "That's why airfoil and assembly have been specially chosen and modified to be easily handled by customers and can be assembled on a regular workshop table. The customer receives all-important parts ready for final assembly. These important features are required for a product that will be sold as kit set, intended for private manual assembly." Dar Solo ultralight airplane available in two main versions including one appearing to meet U.S. Part 103 specifications. See the specifications for this variety below. An all-metal wing and composite fuselage elements give Solo a modern look. Solo 115 (the choice for Americans as mentioned on their Facebook page) has a maximum takeoff weight of 540 pounds and an empty weight of 254 pounds. With flaps extended, stall makes Part 103 at 24 knots and cruise speed is also where it needs to be at 50 knots. Polini is the recommended engine choice although Airplanes Dar does support others and previously used Hirth F33. With a Polini, Solo offers a 400 foot per minute climb rate. "This aircraft also meet other national regulations such as Russian 115, Korean, Brazilian, and others," said Tony. Powered by Polini Thor 200 EVO (28 horsepower). A Galaxy GRS 240 rescue system is an available option; such systems are required in Germany.
TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS DAR Solo UL
- Wing Span — 31 feet
- Overall Length — 15.6 feet
- Overall Height — 8 feet
- Wing Area — 105 square feet
- Cabin Width — 24 inches
- Empty Weight — 254 pounds (267 pounds with airframe parachute)
- Maximum Takeoff Weight — 540 pounds
- Maximum Loading — +4/–2 G
- Fuel Tank Capacity — 3.3 U.S. gallons
- Take-off Ground Roll — 460 feet
- Rate of Climb — 400 feet per minute
- Cruise Speed — 50 knots
- Maximum speed — 57 knots
- Stall Speed (clean) — 27 knots
- Stall Speed (max flaps) — 24 knots
- Fuel Consumption at Cruise — 1.7 gallons per hour
- Range — 70 nautical miles
- Engine — Polini Thor 250
Excitement surrounding Part 103 Ultralights continues. Considering what a nightmare of a year the entire world has experienced, many find it incredible that 103s are not only surviving, but thriving. We still have such models as the popular CGS Hawk and Aerolite 103 that are gusseted-tube structures with Dacron wings; this remains a great choice for light aircraft. However, we are also getting some advanced configurations. Examples reported recently here are the Aeromarine LSA Merlin Lite, Sector’s Spark, and Top Rudder’s Solo. In this article, I look at another entry after a reminder from an alert reader …one on which I had previously reported. This one has been around a few years but never established any U.S. presence. That could change as 103 types continue their growth. Small Airplane Specialist Aeroplanes DAR Airplanes Dar is a small innovative company with a long history that started in the previous century… on June 24th, 1917.
Flyway to Highway DeLand, FloridaLead organizer Jana Filip first rescheduled the November 2020 DeLand Showcase until January, but that got scrubbed by a very cautious city of DeLand. Now, Jana will host Flyway to Highway at the end of this month. My friends at General Aviation News got the news out early, "DeLand Airport will host a one-day fly-in/drive-in event on January 30, 2021. Co-sponsored by automaker Tesla, anyone who shows up at the DeLand Airport Management Center can take a test drive in a new Tesla." Quite a few airplane companies will also display. Come check them out. I tell you what! If you haven't driven a Tesla, you may be in for a treat. I did some years back at the now-defunct Palm Springs, California show. What a hoot! I told lots of people I've never driven a car that accelerated so quickly outside of a couple race cars I've been able to take around a track. Whoa! Come see for yourself and check out the airplanes on display, including Alto, Aerolite 103, SeaMax, and Aventura, among others. I hope we might run into one another as I'll be present. The event runs one day from 9 AM to 2 PM. DATE: January 30th, 2021 • GPS address: 1000 Flightline Boulevard, DeLand, FL 32724.
Sun 'n Fun 2021 "Back" and ReadyI already wrote about Sun 'n Fun's Holiday Festival (video below), their version of cars and airplanes, held on December 4th and 5th of 2020. I went on Friday and found the site similar to their regular Sun 'n Fun airshow, for year occurring in April of each year. As everyone knows by now, Sun 'n Fun made a grand effort to reschedule amid rapidly expanding virus fears but still had to scrub when May of 2020 brought still-rising infections. This was surely a very painful decision. I understand that the six-day event provides a substantial portion (some say 70%) of the organization's annual budget. They certainly cannot absorb a second year of such devastating loss, so I've got all my fingers crossed and am holding my hopes high for them. Sun 'n Fun notes, "From humble beginnings in 1974 as a fly-in for sport aviation enthusiasts, Sun 'n Fun has grown into one of the largest and most successful aviation events — Florida’s largest annual convention of any kind drawing more than 200,000 visitors." I hope you can be one of them this year! It's simple, really. You like the event. They need you to attend. Go. Look. Fly! DATES: April 13th to 18th, 2021
Europe's Best (IMHO) Aero Friedrichshafen 2021… is ON!When I asked the main man about Aero Friedrichshafen, the show's longtime leader, Roland Bosch, wrote, "I'm very confident that the venue will held as planned. After Easter, normal life must go on." "We have a lot of confirmed exhibitors booked," Roland continued. "We also have exhibitors still waiting with their decision till February. "Vaccine and warm weather in spring will help additional. Also we have a perfect anti-corona concept which worked very well at the boat show, "Interboot," in September 2020. This marine event is held in the same city convention center as is Aero. Friedrichshafen is located on the huge Lake Constance or Bodensee. "We will also run our Aero South Africa show in July 2021." Lead by Roland, the Aero team will also visit AirVenture this year so American companies wanting to explore opportunities in Europe can speak to key Aero team members. DATES: April 21st to 24th, 2021 — Friedrichshafen, Germany (on the south border across from Switzerland).
The Big One EAA AirVenture OshkoshRecently I had dinner with a top executive of EAA. He believes the organization is ready for 2021 and that their late-July event is on a good footing. As with Sun 'n Fun, the one-week AirVenture show fuels a lot of what EAA does all year so they took a bit hit. "We had a 'rainy day fund' for exactly such eventualities," he said, "so EAA remains on a solid financial footing." However, he acknowledged that they need this to occur to shore up the future. Of course, we all hope this event goes on as presently planned. While vital for EAA, someone in my shoes is very keen on these airshows being executed so my effort of content gathering goes on unabated. EAA offices have been operating normally since August and even the EAA Museum is back to about 50% capacity, with both offices and museum implementing all the latest advice about virus protections. DATES: July 26th to August 1st, 2021
What's NOT Happening?One of the sad cancellations is the Illinois Ultralight & Light Sport Aircraft Safety Symposium. You might imagine that one state's event is not particularly significant, but this one has been going on for 40 years… yep, 40! That's about as long as the U.S. has enjoyed Part 103 ultralights. Organizer Vickie Betts wrote, "With the increasing number of Covid cases and the certainty that only a small portion of the general population will have received a vaccine by that date, we felt it was prudent to cancel the event for safety reasons." Instead, she and other organizers will focus on their 2022 symposium. Another Covid dropout is the Copperstate/Buckeye event last held in February of 2020 before the sky fell on everyone. The Phoenix, Arizona-area event — a joint venture between the 48 year-old Copperstate event (it started the year before Sun 'n Fun) and the newer but city-promoted and widely-attended Buckeye Air Fair — has worked exceptionally well the last few years. Fellow aviation enthusiast, builder-assist center partner and representative for the Flying Legends Tucano, ICP Savannah, and Arion Lightning, Jack Norris, wrote simply, "Copperstate is cancelled." Instead, organizers plan to have a limited Fly-In on Saturday, February 13th for those wanting to participate. Perspective: Attending Copperstate in February 2020 was the last time I was on an airliner. My hopes are high for much improved 2021 airshow season. I'll attend all that go forward and report from each.
UPDATE 1/14/21 — Regretfully, I must announce that DeLand has cancelled its Flyway to Highway event “due to Covid-19.” —DJ After a year of great uncertainty, the earliest airshows of 2021 are feeling the pressure. However, by spring, several organizers hope for great improvement. Here’s some review, good news first and then some cancellations. Flyway to Highway DeLand, Florida Lead organizer Jana Filip first rescheduled the November 2020 DeLand Showcase until January, but that got scrubbed by a very cautious city of DeLand. Now, Jana will host Flyway to Highway at the end of this month. My friends at General Aviation News got the news out early, “DeLand Airport will host a one-day fly-in/drive-in event on January 30, 2021. Co-sponsored by automaker Tesla, anyone who shows up at the DeLand Airport Management Center can take a test drive in a new Tesla.” Quite a few airplane companies will also display.
Flying Future VehiclesIf you are well-read in light aircraft, you may recognize the name Marek Ivanov. "It sounds so familiar. Why?" you might ask. Actually this man is a very important figure from the Czech Republic where he has been involved with many airplanes you know. His Future Vehicles website shows an impressive flow of airplane photos, many of which you will recognize and all of which have Marek's fingerprints on them He didn't design all these but he contributed his engineering skills to their development. Go here to see the long list of light aircraft on which Marek has worked. As we met more than once in this millennium, and because I was working on the Part 103 List, I reached out to Marek following the advice of Flight Design USA proprietor, Tom Peghiny. Although I've had no contact with Marek in recent years, he remains a force in light aircraft design and production. "I have still in production Viera and Desire airplanes," Marek confirmed just before Christmas 2020.
Viera, Desire, Skyboy, Sparrow, and more"I think you know Viera was produced by the Interplane company," he recalled. Yes, I did know this. For those who may have forgotten, Interplane was the company behind the once-popular Skyboy. Here is my full-length pilot report on the aircraft from 2004. Marek remembered, "You and I met in Sebring in 2008. I was CEO of Interplane at that time." After American Interplane owner Ralph Mandarino retired more than a decade back, Marek said, "I produced Viera in my company, IvanovAero. In 2018, Marek transferred all activities to his new company, Future Vehicles. "I'm still offering those airplanes and we have all tools for Viera and we are ready to build it, but honestly, we haven't sold any for a long time," Marek admitted. "Usually, all sales were stopped due to transport costs. It is a light and relatively cheap airplane but it requires a 20 foot shipping container for transport to America. Of course, we can load five Vieras to the container, but I was not able to convince customers to buy five instead of one to reduce transport costs." Indeed, today, no one represents Viera in the USA but given the modern intensity of interest in Part 103, that could change. Viera is a monowheel Part 103 airplane that was also made in tricycle gear form, though I am unsure if the tri-gear version can comply with Part 103 weights and speeds. To familiarize readers, here are two short articles on Viera, one from 2007 and another from 2008. Although Americans are less familiar with monowheel-equipped aircraft, this construction is commonly used on sailplane gliders, part of their never-ending mission to reduce drag. As do many Europe-trained aeronautical engineers, Marek has experience in sailplanes. Monowheels can be particularly good for off-field landings — for which sailplanes need always to be prepared should they lose sustaining lift and have to make an out-landing. Also, in Europe, where airports commonly charge for each and every landing (imagine that, you lucky Americans!), an aircraft that does not demand a registered airport can save a lot of money. Unseen by Americans (including me), Marek said Desire is also Part 103. While it is a one-off custom design, "we can deliver it within less than 12 months if there is demand," he said. Marek referenced that capability due to the rules I've created for an aircraft to be included in the Part 103 List. To make it quicker for readers, I repeat the four rules below the video. Marek is indeed a busy fellow. He is also the man behind a two-seat 912-powered aircraft called Sparrow. If I'm fortunate enough to get to Aero Friedrichshafen 2021, I hope to see more of Marek's work and perhaps to interview him.
Here is Marek's video of his Desire design. Enjoy! https://youtu.be/dkZ1JzpZKRI
Part 103 List RulesTo be included in the coming Part 103 List, all aircraft must meet these four rules: 1️⃣ Current production aircraft only. If an aircraft is not actively being sold today, I will not include it, however, I have listed some “in development” models as they are from known producers who have made Part 103 aircraft before. Multicopter designs will notbe included as none have entered the market to-date. 2️⃣ An aircraft must be able to qualify for Part 103 according to FAA’s Advisory Circular AC-103-7. This can include a kit-built Part 103 aircraft that a buyer may register in Experimental class so long as it can genuinely comply with Part 103 parameters. Part 103 Ultralights built from plans will also be included. 3️⃣ Powered, wheeled aircraft in these configurations: fixed wing, weight shift trike, powered parachute, gyroplane, motorglider, or paraglider with wheeled carriage. 4️⃣ No one-off, custom designs or aircraft still in an early development phase. I only want aircraft that a customer can buy for delivery within the next 12 months.
As work on my Part 103 List continues, I have reached out to producers of the lightest, most affordable airplanes you can buy. The list is now 54 producers and yet I am aware more may show up to be counted. That’s good. More choice in affordable airplane benefits pilot consumers. In 2020, the most-read articles appearing on this website were about affordable aircraft — updates describing FAA’s new regulation for Light-Sport Aircraft were also popular. After a decade or more when many pilots believed Part 103 ultralights had all but disappeared, I am delighted to say those people were simply wrong. Part 103 is very alive and well, perhaps healthier than at any time since the category was created in fall of 1982. The volume of people visiting this website — up more than 50% in 2020 — and a majority of those visitors choosing to read about 103s provide numerical proof that interest in these aircraft is large and growing.
You Can Afford Your Own AircraftFAA's Part 103 is an American phenomenon, dating to 1982, when the nearly 40-year-old regulation was issued. Did lead rule writer, Mike Sacrey and his band of bureaucrats know what they were unleashing? How could they? They could not see the future any better than anyone else. Yet, four decades later, this segment is thriving beyond what many pilots are willing to believe. Now, fresh from the aviation-oriented land of Brazil comes a new entry. While Sector Aircraft works to shore up financing for their two-seat LSA Hero project, designer André Godoy completed his single seat Quantum project and is trimming weight to make it qualify as a U.S. Part 103 vehicle (more on that below). Here's how he describes his project. EAA Oshkosh 2019 — "Dan, at the last EAA event in Oshkosh in 2019 we almost met. In fact, I saw you but I was ashamed to go and talk without having pre-arranged it. At this air show, I found a great place to sit and eat a hot dog and grabbed my sketch notebook that is always with me. While eating my sandwich, I finished the main sketch of my first ultralight project, Quantum." Part 103 in Brazil — "Brazil has recently launched a standard for ultralight aircraft: RBAC-103. This standard allows an empty weight limit of 440 pounds, a maximum speed of 100 knots and an aircraft can be two-place. This configuration greatly facilitated my Quantum project and we have achieved good results within this Brazilian category. However, RBAC-103 serves few countries." Quantum Design — "When I returned to Brazil, I sat at my workstation and started working a lot on the 3D project. Using the engineering software called SolidWorks, I devised several good engineering solutions."
Describing the Project"I decided to use the fantastic Hero wings. As the two aircraft are quite different, I made some modifications. Quantum has a trapezoidal aluminum wing with a profile from engineer Harry Riblett. It was never used on any aircraft but in the initial simulations they behaved very well so I decided to use it. I removed the flaps and the machined spar of Hero and added lift struts. I kept the wing tips and the result weighs only 55 pounds per wing including aileron. At that moment I found that I was on the right path! "I made the tail with NACA-008 profile, where in Flow Simulation trials, that shape gave more control power at low speeds. I continued with the design and in November 2019 the plane was ready, as well as all software and real load tests, and we were just waiting for our engine to arrive, a Polini Thor 250DS (Sector has become the Polini dealer in Brazil). In December 2019 we started the first tests on the ground, we had a very pleasant surprise with the results but we needed adjustments and improvements in the prototype. "In January 2020 we made the first flight and started the flight tests. Because I had recently finished an LSA project (Hero), I used the ASTM-2245 standards to make Quantum, mainly following the structural load and flight items. We created a quality assurance manual, and all this experience will help when we start manufacturing the Hero. "Following ASTM standards, Quantum flight tests used the same flight test cards as we did for Hero. We logged approximately 25 hours and after this validation period we start calling friends to fly the new bird, including pilots such as Captain Bertolini, who flew many military planes and was for more than 15 years a test pilot for Embraer. His input helped me refine the design and we already have sales of Quantum in Brazil and production has started, which is very good for us."
Flying Quantum"As I prefer not to brag about my own design, I collected information from the experienced pilots who flew Quantum. "Coordination maneuvers went beautifully. Approaches to landings showed good stability even in crosswinds. Touchdown does not require exceptional effort; abrupt corrections are not needed as Quantum delivers a smooth and pleasant ride." By late November 2020, André added, "We have logged 56 hours and the experience of more than 18 pilots." Handling Qualities — "Flight controls use cables and pulleys for the ailerons and rudder, and control rods for the elevator, giving Quantum harmony and maneuverability characteristics comparable to larger, heavier planes. Making a turn with Quantum does not require corrections with the rudder as Frise-style ailerons help Quantum make well-coordinated turns. We have a docile aircraft that can accept mistakes from less experienced pilots while providing pleasurable handling to higher-time pilots."
About André GodoyAndré Godoy hails from Campinas in the state of São Paulo. "During my childhood, I lived near an aerodrome and I could see all the colorful ultralights flying over my house. At the age of seven I found my vocation; I wanted to work in aviation." "In my adolescence, I studied mechanical manufacturing processes because in Campinas, I could not take an aeronautics course. In the early 2000s I started working with SolidWorks software and then I went to work as a project manager in a company called Inpaer in Campinas — today, Americans know this company as Texas Aircraft — making the first Brazilian LSA called Conquest (today, with metal fuselage, it is called Colt). "I dedicated my life to studying manufacturing, engineering and design processes. I did little study to be a pilot. However, when Quantum … was ready [I prepared extensively] and did my solo flight on Quantum. What an immense pleasure to be able to design, build, and do my solo flight on this aircraft. Few people do this in life, like Wright Brothers in 1903 and Alberto Santos-Dumont in 1906. Of course, I don't want to compare myself to those pioneers but I think I know what they felt."
U.S. Part 103 Entry"Now we are working to make a specific ultralight to meet the American Part 103 regulation," André continued. "We will engineer a weight reduction to stay within the 254 pound limit and we will use the new Polini Thor 202 engine to have lower speeds. "As this will be a new project we will give it a new name. It will use the same wing profile as Quantum and Hero and the same tail profile. We will keep it all in aluminum and I will maintain the same flight quality. "We are working hard to have this project as soon as possible. In Brazil, in the '80s, we had a romanticism about ultralight flights at airfields. I feel that this is coming back all over the world and I want our planes to be able to bring that inspiration to all pilots again." André projected in late November 2020, that by January 2021 he will provide pictures of the new ultralight. "I need only choose a new name for him," finished André. He has since decided on the name Spark. As he worked to trim weight to fit U.S. Part 103, André said, "To reduce the last 10 pounds, [I will] change all fairings to carbon fiber including the seat. I also designed the engine mount for three options: Polini Thor 202 to fly up to 55 knots (the Part 103 limit); Polini Thor 250 to fly up 60 knots, and new Polini Thor 303 to fly up to 65 knots." It is too early for pricing to be determined. When André completes his work on Spark, it will be my pleasure to add it to the coming Part 103 List. André closed his communication suggesting we may see his work at Sun 'n Fun 2021. Let's hope!
Welcome to a New Year! …and to a new airplane, a new Part 103 entry to be specific. One of the most amazing discoveries of 2020 — the year Covid upset lives around the globe — is the particular and peculiar strength of Part 103 ultralights. In a year that has seen hundreds of thousands of small businesses fail under the pressure of executive orders, and the lockdown of an amazing percentage of the world’s individuals, the littlest airplanes have found new life. Are you surprised? I was… despite being a fan of Part 103s for several decades. What will happen in 2021 and beyond? No one has a crystal ball but I am going to guess that we will continue to see strength in the 103 segment for one primary reason: affordability. You Can Afford Your Own Aircraft FAA’s Part 103 is an American phenomenon, dating to 1982, when the nearly 40-year-old regulation was issued.
Scott's Green SlimerAs we move to the strange year of 2020, Alto came back, as the Alto 912 TG model thanks to entrepreneur Scott Rose. Scott knew he needed to make an impact on Alto's return to the market. "Who ya gonna call?" Why not the Slimer character of "Ghostbusters" fame? To show the design was alive and back on the market, Scott pushed to offer a highly recognizable aircraft. His solution was a bright green paint job with beautiful black accents, decorated by popular movie characters that people will remember. Kids (and quite a few of we adults) will enjoy the famous movie icons on the Alto Scott brought to Sun 'n Fun's 2020 Holiday Festival.
Focus On AltoThe good news is that even with a fancy paint scheme and Dynon's latest digital instrumentation — plus a smoke generation system — Alto is essentially the same aircraft it was before. That's good as it had some of the gentlest handling qualities among Light-Sport Aircraft. Here is an aircraft a flight instructor can love for many of his or her students. The 2020 version of Alto is equipped with the carbureted 100 horsepower Rotax 912 ULS engine. Standard equipment includes hydraulic brakes, electric flap control, and electric elevator trim. The exterior of the aircraft is painted with a single color plus accents as seen while the interior and the seats are upholstered with skin-friendly cloth. Czech producer Direct Fly reported, "More than 80 of these all-metal aircraft fly in various countries such as USA, Brazil, South Africa, Spain and many more." Appealing to more than flight school operators, Alto is "especially suitable for recreational flying, mostly thanks to its robust design and predictable flight characteristics," the factory added. The fine flying qualities of Alto 912 TG stem from the design of the wing. Its rectangular wing and a profile using a broad leading edge provide predictable stall characteristics and behavior. "The wing is a semi-monocoque structure and is equipped with built-in tanks with a capacity of 100 liters (26.4 U.S. gallons) of fuel," Direct Fly said. At the rear of the fuselage is the designer's standard cruciform tail employing curved surfaces for a smooth airflow and greatest effectiveness. All metal structures are braced by a web of diagonal members making for great strength and rigidity. The wing-fuselage joint is smoothed by an extended strake that fluidly incorporates Alto's deep-descending flaps at this important junction. Flight control movements transmit pilot inputs through pushrods and cables. Directional steering of the nosewheel is via dual pedals in front of each occupant. Brakes are hydraulically controlled by a lever located on the center console, readily accessible to either occupant. Alto landing gear is standard tricycle format and the main gear is fixed to the fuselage on flexible laminate composite legs. You enter the low wing cockpit aided by foot pegs mounted at the trailing edge of the wing on each side. The generous 43-inch wide cockpit provides plenty of room and is wider than a Cessna 172. The overhead canopy slides forward smoothly on rails allowing plenty of ventilation during taxi. The canopy is secured for takeoff and cannot be opened in flight. As the new year starts, Scott plans to visit the main airshows, kicking off with the DeLand Flyways to Highways Tesla automobile and light airplane event coming on January 30, 2021 — the first event of what we all hope will be a far better year.. Base priced at $110,000 as 2020 ends, you can examine Scott and Dan's bright green Alto 912 TG at DeLand or another airshow in the new year!
Alto 912 TG Specifications
- Length — 21 feet
- Wingspan — 27 feet
- Wing area — 114 square feet
- Height — 7.5 feet
- Cockpit width — 43 inches
- Fuel tank capacity — 26 U.S. gallons
- Engine — Rotax 912 ULS (carbureted)
- Empty weight — 635 pounds
- Maximum Takeoff Weight — 1,320 pounds
- Never Exceed Speed — 134 knots
- Cruise Speed — 107 knots
- Stall Speed (best flaps) — 41 knots
- Stall speed (clean) — 46 knots
- Maximum Climb Rate — 1,000 feet per minute
- Takeoff Distance to 50 feet — 1,330 feet
- Landing distance from 50 feet — 950 feet
- Load factor — +4, –2 Gs
Smoke system as seen in this video is from Smoke System Helper.
Back when Light-Sport Aircraft were still youngsters in aviation (LSA are teenagers now), Ron Corbi imported the Direct Fly Alto 100. In those early days, competition was fierce and only a few of the nearly 100 manufacturers who entered the race were able to rise into the top 20 best-selling brands. Then, life got more complicated for Ron and he chose to quietly bow out of representing Alto. However, Czech Republic producer Direct Fly never stopped. Indeed, the company has supplied more than 80 aircraft to dealers in places as close as Europe and as distant as Australia. Given the deluge of handsome LSA offered to Americans, Alto slipped off the radar for most Yankee pilots but not before Ron demonstrated the design’s worthy qualities. Check this video with Ron regarding a flight school using Alto 100. As we prepare to start the third decade of the new millennia, learn more by visiting Alto North America.
Ultralight Model 103 SoloWelcome to the Top Rudder 103 Solo in its standard, Part 103-compliant form. Yes, it can meet FAA's Part 103 Vehicle regulation. Tory has been working on that since the proof-of-concept was first introduced more than three years ago. Now, it's nearly ready and the South Carolina company is accepting orders. "For $7,500 you can confirm your kit reservations," stated Top Rudder. OK, the deposit is not unreasonable but what's the full price tag and when can you get one? Some readers note that it was promised a while back but other factors, such as building SuperSTOL aircraft kits as fast as they could, got in the way. A 103 Solo without engine, propeller, or avionics lists for $15,500. Alright, that sounds affordable but let's add up the essentials. A 103 Solo airframe with engine, prop, and basic instruments sells for $22,000. However, to squeeze into Part 103's tight pants, you'll need a parachute, adding $3,000. Top Rudder uses the Magnum parachute supplied from DeLand, Florida. Look for a full line review of Magnum later this month or early in January 2021. So, $25,000 for a fully equipped 103 Solo in kit form. "Yes, we plan to supply them as a ready-to-fly model," noted Troy; this is perfectly OK within the very spare Part 103 regulation. No price for the RTF version was given because it is still a bit early in the production process. "It's go time," Amy enthused! "We're taking orders now. Our first kits will ship in first quarter of next year," that is, by March 2021, she said. In this older video from Oshkosh 2017, Troy goes into more detail about 103 Solo. Also typical of Troy's projects, 103 Solo was announced with plenty of facts and figures, presented below. Description — Single seat with standard stick and rudder controls; high wing designed for back country flying and weekend adventures; Polini Thor 250 Engine, basic avionics, prop, fuselage, wing and tail components; main wheels set, Matco hydraulic disc toe brakes and tail wheel.
Specifications — 103 Solo
- Empty Weight — 254 pounds
- Gross Weight — 550 pounds
- Length — 17.5 feet
- Wing Span — 28.4 feet
- Wing Area — 122 square feet
- Design Load Limits at gross weight — +4/–2 G
- Fuel Capacity — 5 gallons
- Rotation Speed — 28 miles per hour
- Maximum Speed — 54 miles per hour at 37 horsepower (Polini)
- Never Exceed Speed — 100 miles per hour
- Cruise Speed — 50 miles per hour
- Stall Speed — 24 miles per hour
- Roll Rate — 45-degree bank to 45-degree bank in 2.5 seconds
- Take off Distance — 350 feet
- Landing Distance — 300 feet
- Rate of Climb — 650 feet per minute
- Endurance — 2 hours
- Fuel Consumption — 2 gallons per hour
- Range — 50-100 statute miles
- Minimum Sink Rate — 580 feet per minute
- Glide Ratio at 35 miles per hour — 4.6:1
- Max Crosswind Component — 10 miles per hour
- Max Wind Speed — 25 miles per hour
Create a Ruckus Kit Version (not Part 103)For those itching for more power or more options including big-boy tires, Top Rudder is also offering Ruckus. "If you want options, if you don't wish to limit yourself to Part 103, this is a good choice," Top Rudder said, although one that requires a pilot certificate, N-numbers, and a higher slate of regulations. What does Ruckus add? Top Rudder lists the advantages to Ruckus: Improved takeoff and landing performance. If you add the Rotax 582 Troy mentions in the video linked above, this lightweight aircraft is going to feel like sitting atop a NASA rocket. It can also be fitted with movable slats, not identical to SuperSTOL but designed by the same people. It will also have flaperons, deluxe Beringer brakes, and larger, bush-style tires. Place the same deposit of $7,500 for a kit without engine, prop, or avionics to see an airframe price of $19,000. Add engine, prop and avionics for a final total of $30,500 yet you can add more if you wish. Ruckus options include: Beringer brakes; locking tail wheel; upgraded windscreen; Oratex aircraft fabric (no painting required); ballistic parachute; second fuel tank; Aero Classic bush-style tires or upgrade to 26-inch Airstreak bush wheels for $2,418. That's still not all. "Options coming soon include a MTOW (Maximum Takeoff Weight) upgrade components and floats." I haven't seen Troy stop designing for years. I see no reason he'll stop now but your solo fun-flying machine is nearly ready. Contact Top Rudder for more info.
When I first reported about — and did videos about — Just Aircraft’s Part 103 entry back in 2017 and 2018, lots of readers got excited. Here was the company that astounded everyone with their thrilling SuperSTOL that can take and land on what seems little more than a postage stamp. With a background in Part 103 models from an earlier enterprise, Just seemed to be perfect to bring a new model to market …and let me remind you how active is the 103 industry. Those who watched our video (viewed more than 350,000 times), saw my article, or viewed it themselves at Sun ‘n Fun 2018 knew the new Part 103 aircraft as the Just Solo. Now welcome new producer, Top Rudder. This change represents neither a sale nor divorce. “Our 103 Solo is manufactured by Top Rudder Aircraft LLC, not Just Aircraft LLC,” explained associate Amy Minnich.
Whispering In Your Ear?"Whisper aircraft started as a hobby, producing the affordable Whisper motorglider kit," said the South African company. The hobby start evolved into an enterprise that sold 50 kits worldwide, 40 of which are flying. "A few years later, [we] introduced the Whisper X350, an affordable, two-seater, sport aircraft design for cross country trips." In late 2017, the Whisper X350 Gen II model was developed, featuring "a myriad of updates and improvements." After Whisper Motorglider was designed by Russell Phillips in 2004, Christiaan van Zyl and his sons purchased the Whisper Gen II design in 2015. For van Zyl and sons, the focus was the kit-built speedster. Motorgliders are not known for the great speed — glide and sink rate performance are more valued by pilots of such aircraft — but Whisper X350 Generation II is a creature meant to go fast. The “350” part of the name speaks to a potential top speed of 350 kilometers per hour, roughly 190 knots. In actual use, Whisper can hit 175 knots at 75% power the producer said although most cruising may be done at 155 knots or 55% power where fuel consumption can decrease to only eight gallons an hour, the manufacturer reported. Whisper is a smooth side-by-side two-seater in tailwheel landing gear with a tricycle gear option for those uncomfortable with a taildragger. Photographs reveal a new carbon fiber wing loaded to 12 Gs positive; the wing is shown very heavily loaded to arrive at this discovery. For regular use, Whisper has a design load factor limit of +6 Gs –4 Gs. Despite the short wing's obvious strength, the manufacturer said Whisper is not intended for aerobatics. Wide-span, electrically-operated flaps extend deeply to 45 degrees. Wings now in production for the Gen II iteration feature a wet-wing system capable of holding 63 gallons. Flown at the more modest 45-55% power range where Whisper remains very speedy, you could fly from the center of America to almost any point in the continental U.S. Whisper is designed to accommodate engines with as much as 200 horsepower but other evaluators have said Whisper can perform well on 160-180 horsepower. For reference, a cruise rpm of 2400 produces indicated airspeed of better than 140 knots or 160 miles an hour. Like many RVs, Whisper Aircraft recommends the Lycoming 180 horsepower engine. See images and learn more about the kit and the build effort at this link. The same page has a comparison chart stacking up Whisper against other kit aircraft you may know. The fuselage, molded in upper and lower sections, is furnished as a fully joined assembly, complete with vertical fin, rather than as two halves requiring gluing together. Working with composites requires different skills than metal or joining tubes together by bolts or welding but can be finished quicker than most RVs are done. According to Whisper Aircraft, "An X350 kit can be completed in about 500 hours depending on your current skill set." All structural components and large surfaces are shipped completed. Composite parts have a base coat already sprayed to assure product quality. "The kit ships with 90%-built wings, horizontal stabilizer, rudder, flaps, ailerons, elevators, and fuselage. Within a short time your aircraft will be ready for motor installations," said Whisper Aircraft. While the big parts apparently come substantially done, the details of engine installation, wiring and plumbing, plus finishing the exterior and interior easily assure Whisper X360 Gen II can quality as a U.S. Experimental Amateur Built aircraft. U.S. importer Deon Lombard added, "The first tricycle gear model is completed and the prototype is waiting for the South African CAA approval and proving flight. This effort has been somewhat delayed due to Covid. It will be ready in January or February 2021." A parachute option has been added as well. "We are very excited about Whisper as the completed luxury interior can be included in the kit as well," he added. Kits start at $98,000 and Deon reported that the quick-build kits supplied to the USA reduce build time and will meet the FAA 51% major portion rule. A quick-build kit represents "half the build time of metal" — with the factory willing to send factory experts to assist in creating the first ones. He noted the first demonstrator should be available in the USA by the end of April 2021. Follow Whisper X350 Gen II at AeroPilot USA.
Priced between an RV-7 and RV-14, Whisper is clearly a very similar aircraft but sleekly built of all carbon fiber composites. This was bound to happen and some readers may be delighted. While the RV series is the most popular kit-built airplane ever, it can be a demanding build for some and Whisper offers some advantages in that regard. This article goes outside our normal range but Whisper is represented by Deon Lombard of Aeropilot USA, seller of the L600 and importer of the FX1. Aeropilot USA will be moving to the newer L600 Eagle when ready; this is a spin-off from the L600 Legend with changes effected by an an engineer who departed Aeropilot. I will have more on Eagle when it is close to delivering — “soon,” Deon observed. Meanwhile… Whisper Aircraft cut its teeth building motorgliders. If you’ve ever examined any motorglider up close, you’ll know designers obsess over tiny flaws in the finish, sealing every gap that might cost a millionth of a point in glide.
On a MissionI made the short flight (45 minutes) from my home base at Spruce Creek Fly-in for several reasons. I wanted to support the folks running Sun 'n Fun as they took a tough beating this year when they were forced to cancel the event for 2020. A gathering like Festival was one of several efforts they are making to revive activity at their familiar location. Festival may be the biggest but not a rare occurrence for Sun 'n Fun, Inc. They often host other events using their facilities: the airshow operation headquarters; a first-class museum; a STEM-oriented high school with flight operations run by old friend Mike Z (few try to pronounce his last name) …plus lots of acres of land dedicated to airplanes and other fun toys. We all missed Sun 'n Fun in April but it was fun to be on familiar turf checking out the hardware and visiting with friends including many "airshow buddies."
Checking Out AltoBeside the general interest I had in supporting Sun 'n Fun, I was also keen to see the new representative of the Direct Fly Alto, once represented by Ron Corbi. Today the Czech brand is imported by Scott Rose, an energetic marketer who told me he'd have something special at Festival. How could I resist. Scott's flight to Lakeland (KLAL) was even shorter than my cross country jaunt. Alto North America is based at Plant City — also home to Sensenich props. Scott's flight was a whole eight minutes, he said. Every Alto I'd ever seen in the U.S. was white so, being a creature of habit, that's was I was scanning the exhibits for, hoping to spot Scott. Instead, what I found was a bright green airplane decked out with logos and images from the Ghost Buster movie, a favorite of Scott's. So… Slimmer green it was. In fact, the paint job was striking even without the movie logos but being a good marketer, Scott also had Slimmer tee-shirts (which my wife bought for a pre-teen lad I'll be taking aloft around Christmas), mugs, hats, and an elaborately-painted trailer that he used for his display. The design has been off the U.S. market for some years. I interviewed Scott at Sun 'n Fun's Festival and you can hear more about the airplane when that's ready. In the meantime, I'll post an article about what you can expect from this design.
Tribute to Mike TheekeAmong the most colorful aircraft at any Sun 'n Fun were beautifully airbrushed weight shift aircraft displayed by Fly Hard Trikes. I've lost track of how many awards these handsome aircraft won over the years, but regretfully, they won their last. A former Michigan resident, Michael Theeke (pronounced "Tiki") relocated to an airport I know very well, the Jasper airport outside Chattanooga, Tennessee on the way to Nashville. The airport has a wonderful location near the Nickajack Recreational Area, part of the TVA. Mike succumbed to a battle with cancer this year but I will long remember his gorgeous creations. He was also well known for being a very professional flight instructor who taught more than 200 how to fly. Rest in peace, Mike. You will be missed.
On an overcast day with mild temperatures, my wife Randee and I hopped in an RV-12 and zipped from Daytona to Lakeland, Florida, home of the famous Sun ‘n Fun campus situated on the south side of the municipal airport. The occasion: Sun ‘n Fun’s Holiday Festival, a car and airplane show. Like many of you, I’ve been having airshow withdrawal. Even with a wide-open attitude about traveling to these events, I have only made three shows this year: Copperstate at Buckeye, the Midwest LSA Expo, and this Sun ‘n Fun event. I gotta tell you it was again great to get out among the flyboys and flygirls for the day. We did not return on Saturday, which was a bright, sunny day but AviNation publisher Jacob Peed reported, “The crowd [size] was very impressive and much improved from Friday. The vendors I talked to were very happy!” With its full name, Holiday Flying Festival and Car Show, Sun ‘n Fun marketing boss Greg Gibson said the event is the nonprofit’s first large-scale holiday show.
Keep Helping, Please!If these aircraft interest you, please review the list and tell me of any additional producers I did not include. I want them all — IF — they meet these four criteria: 1️⃣ Current production aircraft only. If an aircraft is not actively being sold today, I will not include it, however, I have listed some "in development" models as they are from known producers who have made Part 103 aircraft before. Multicopter designs will not be included as none have entered the market to-date. 2️⃣ An aircraft must be able to qualify for Part 103 according to FAA's Advisory Circular AC-103-7. This can include a kit-built Part 103 aircraft that a buyer may register in Experimental class so long as it can genuinely comply with Part 103 parameters. Part 103 Ultralights built from plans will also be included. 3️⃣ Powered, wheeled aircraft in these configurations: fixed wing, weight shift trike, powered parachute, gyroplane, motorglider, or paraglider with wheeled carriage. 4️⃣ No one-off, custom designs or aircraft still in an early development phase. I only want aircraft that a customer can buy for delivery within the next 12 months. To encourage all producers to tell me their delivery numbers, I will anonymize manufacturer data in reporting results and I will protect the data with my reputation. I will not share information provided in confidence but I will summarize results aiming to report a whole-industry production figure. I will report how many aircraft in each of the aircraft types noted in the draft list below. I will report how many are designed and built the USA (see flags). If and when I am given permission, I may report on the more successful aircraft and how many the producer has delivered. This industry data will be quite different from our data on Light-Sport Aircraft, Sport Pilot kit-built aircraft, and modern gyroplanes. You can find out everything about these segments on our Tableau Public page. This data comes 100% from FAA's aircraft registration database. I believe it to be the most complete and most accurate information anyone has on these three segments. Because Part 103 ultralights are not required to be registered with FAA, I will ask each producer to tell me how many aircraft they delivered in 2019 and 2020. I will exercise my own judgement and do my own due diligence to make this information as accurate as possible. I will use my intimate knowledge of this sector to determine if numbers seem unlikely and then I will investigate further. At least over time, I believe this can provide reliable information but even in the first year, it will be the best information anyone has. I suspect the Part 103 List will become as popular as our present SLSA List. Along with PlaneFinder 2.0, the SLSA List is one of our most-visited pages and I think the Part 103 List may come to rival those two because readers of this website like affordable aircraft …and Part 103 ultralights are aviation's most affordable.
List of Ultralight Producers The Part 103 "Draft" List
This list is not in any particular order. Please attach no significance to the position in this draft list. A flag shown after the aircraft indicates both the origin of the design and the location of its manufacture is the United States. This is just for illustration and carries no particular meaning.Before the Part 103 List goes online, I will add web addresses and email addresses for all companies plus links to my articles about that aircraft or company. Here then, 53 producers strong, is the draft list that I fully expect to expand: FIXED WING / THREE AXIS AIRCRAFT This list is still in development; more entries are expected 1— U-Fly-It Aerolite 103 🇺🇸 2— Kolb Firefly 🇺🇸 3— Quicksilver Sprint, Sport 🇺🇸 4— Better Half VW Legal Eagle 🇺🇸 5— Aeromarine-LSA Merlin Lite 6— Aeromarine-LSA Zigolo 7— Badland Aircraft F-series (formerly Kitfox Lite) 🇺🇸 8— Just Aircraft 103 Solo (in development) 🇺🇸 9— Hummel Aviation UltraCruiser 🇺🇸 10— TEAM MiniMax, multiple models 🇺🇸 11— Fisher Flying Products, multiple models 12— Aero Adventure Aventura UL (formerly Buccaneer) 🇺🇸 13— JH Aircraft Corsair 14— SD Planes SD-1 (qualification pending) 15— AVI/Modern Wings Swan 120 16— Quad City Ultralight Challenger 103 🇺🇸 17— CGS Hawk 103, Ultra 🇺🇸 18— Phantom Classic X-1 🇺🇸 19— M-Squared Breeze SS 🇺🇸 20— Ekolot Elf KR-01A 21— Earthstar Gull 2000, Soaring Gull 🇺🇸 22— Carlson Sparrow (market reentry underway) 🇺🇸 23— Sherwood Kub 24— Eurofly Minifox 25— Lazair Nouveau 26— Thunderbird SNS-8 Hiperlight 🇺🇸 27— Airsport Song UL 28— Jordan Lake Aero Air-Bike 103 🇺🇸 29— Mitchell Wing A-10D 🇺🇸 30— Sector Aircraft Quantum 103 (in development) 31— Simplex Aero Zing, Cloudster 🇺🇸 32— Cloudbase Aviation Skylite, Lil’ Bitts 🇺🇸 33— Wings of Freedom Phoenix 103, Flitplane 🇺🇸 34— Tri-State Kites Smithsilver 103 🇺🇸 WEIGHT SHIFT (TRIKES) 35— Evolution Rev 🇺🇸 36— North Wing ATF, Solairus, Maverick 🇺🇸 37— Air Creation Pixel 38— AirBorne Australia T-Lite 39— Airtime Aircraft Explorer 103 (amphibious) 🇺🇸 40— Grif Italia, multiple models 41— Aeros Ant 42— FlyLight PeaBee 43— Ace Aviation Spirit series 44— Eurofly Snake POWERED PARACHUTES 45— Infinity PPC Challenger 🇺🇸 46— Six Chuter P3 Lite 🇺🇸 HELICOPTERS 47— Innovator Technologies Mosquito Helicopter GYROPLANES 48— Fusioncopter Nano gyroplane 49— Star LSA Star Bee Gyro 🇺🇸 POWERED, WHEELED PARAGLIDERS 50— Blackhawk LowBoy III, Quad 🇺🇸 51— Sky Driving Skykart 🇺🇸 52— Green Eagle, multiple models 🇺🇸 53— Fresh Breeze, multiple models
A note about our Part 103 Ultralight logo — Yes, I know this is actually a drawing of a two-seat Flightstar II. It was the most appropriate artwork I had (thanks, Rich!) of an aircraft not presently in production and one that will not return. I wanted something neutral and I thought this worked. If you noticed this "anomaly," pat yourself on the back for your sharp eye.
UPDATED (again!) 12/11/20: Still refining the list. —DJ A great many of you read the article about the new Part 103 List. Your enthusiasm plus lots of comments reflect the strong interest generated by these lightest, most-affordable, and fun-to-fly aircraft. With input from readers and through more research, I have increased the draft list to the one you see below, now 53 producers strong! Honestly… I expect even more. Many readers were surprised by the number of producers of these aircraft that too many pilots thought were dead and buried by Light-Sport Aircraft and FAA’s requirement that previous two-seat ultralight trainers had to leave paid flight instruction and become private aircraft. As the list shows — and as my plan to attempt counting the number of aircraft built every year proves — Part 103 Ultralight Vehicles are indeed alive and thriving. Keep Helping, Please! If these aircraft interest you, please review the list and tell me of any additional producers I did not include.
Lower-Priced ColtTexas Aircraft Manufacturing announced they are now offering an entry-level Colt Special LSA with a single Garmin G3X Touch flight display at a much-reduced price. The company's first offering listed for $167,000. “As we come out from under Covid-induced flight training restrictions, operators of several flight schools have come to us asking for an affordably-priced, all-metal, Garmin-equipped training aircraft,” CEO, Matheus Grande, stated. “Our solution is the highly-advanced and very-affordable entry-level Colt SLSA, which is priced at $139,900, below the cost of the fully-equipped Colt-S and Colt-SL models.” Their Texas Aircraft Colt SLSA standard package includes:
- 10.6-inch Garmin G3X Touch configurable touchscreen display with built-in Synthetic Vision
- Single Garmin communications radio
- Garmin ADS-B Out transponder
- Analog flight instruments
- Synthetic leather upholstery
- Left-side only toe breaks
- All-white exterior paint with no graphics
One More ThingI love using the old Steve Jobs line that held so many in suspense at the end of one of his wildly-popular Apple product presentations. "One more thing" became a phrase that would set the Mac Fanboy hearts pumping. "What could it be this time," they would wonder? More About LSA Costs — What I'd like to invite is your read of AVweb writer Paul Bertorelli's article, titled, "LSA or Legacy? Costs Compared" Paul always does a credible job, as you'd expect from a longtime professional journalist. His writing style is approachable. He's not afraid of some controversy. No wonder people love reading his stuff. Paul's LSA-related article is one of specific interest to ByDanJohnson.com readers (and, no, I'm not just saying that because he quotes me near the beginning of the article). In case you don't follow the link, here's a few key comments: Compared to New GA — "[New LSA] would be cheaper to buy … relative to new, standard-category [conventionally-certified] airplanes … with similar or greater capability." Purchase and Maintenance — "Are LSAs cheaper to own than equivalent legacy [used] airplanes? The answer depends on how you crunch the numbers, but if investment costs are tallied, the answer is no. If operating costs alone are considered, light sport airplanes look attractive against both legacy airplanes and definitely any new standard-category aircraft." Contrast with Cessna 150 — "Consider the last model year of the Cessna 152, 1986. Find them in the low- to mid-$40s to as much as $90,000 for a fully restored [that is, similar to new] airframe." Annual Expenses — "If anything is a constant in aviation, it’s that’s bigger, faster airplanes burn through money at a faster rate and the near-ruinous annual is always in the offing. In that respect, legacy two-seaters and LSAs are definitely less money hungry, starting with annuals." Satisfaction — "Owners who bought new or recent used Light-Sport Airplanes seem satisfied with the purchase and operating costs and report no unpleasant surprises, nor regrets in having made the purchase. These owners were a mix of step-down buyers and bucket listers who always wanted to own an airplane and found the ability to do that in an LSA." Good info. Thanks, Paul!
As regular readers know, I promote ByDanJohnson.com as the home of “affordable aviation.” I even own the domain name AffordableAviation.com. Yet “affordable” is one of those very personal words. What each of us can afford — or chooses to afford — is different than almost everyone else. Therefore, an especially wide range of choices is good. I have written a lot about very inexpensive aircraft (see many in this series of articles) and you can find lots more from $8,000 to $180,000. Yesterday, a premium supplier of Light-Sport Aircraft made their new entry more affordable. Lower-Priced Colt Texas Aircraft Manufacturing announced they are now offering an entry-level Colt Special LSA with a single Garmin G3X Touch flight display at a much-reduced price. The company’s first offering listed for $167,000. “As we come out from under Covid-induced flight training restrictions, operators of several flight schools have come to us asking for an affordably-priced, all-metal, Garmin-equipped training aircraft,” CEO, Matheus Grande, stated.
Then…In the 1990s, a pair of Canadian aircraft dominated the light aviation market in America's neighbor to the north. The two planes are known to many Americans: Beaver and Chinook. Thanks to a rescue by second owner ASAP many years ago, both continued to be manufactured in Canada's West. Long-departed Birdman Enterprises did a fine job of originating the Chinook. When ASAP took over, Canadians and ultralight enthusiasts in many places celebrated ongoing support of this aircraft. Hundreds of Chinooks were built. That is now rather distant history. Bringing Chinook not only into the present day but also into the USA is the Aeroplane Manufactory.
…and NowFor several years, ASAP sold the Chinook Plus 2, tagging the two-seater model with the “Plus” suffix after ASAP's team improved and refined the aircraft following their acquisition. In more modern times, after purchasing the Chinook design rights and inventory in 2013 (five semi loads' worth!), Aeroplane Manufactory brought the north-of-the-border design way down south to the Houston, Texas area. "We at Aeroplane Manufactory, with almost 50 years of aviation experience, strongly desire to balance the price of building and flying your own aircraft with safety, reliability and affordability," said John Couch, a deeply-experienced aviator leading the Texas kit builder with his wife, Kim. "The Chinook line of aircraft has been on the market for over 35 years, with over 900 aircraft flying in more than 30 countries." Careful to give credit where due, John noted, “Kim is more than my equal partner; she does all research, shipping, packing and handling, and purchasing.” He called her “my own Olive Ann Beech, who even works in the factory making parts!” "We offer the lowest price for the highest performing aircraft in our class," John boasted. "The quality of our parts and kits and ease of construction is paramount to our business and your success as a builder/pilot. Your dream and passion for building and flying your own aircraft is a shared dream and passion of ours. We are with you throughout the building process from start to finish." John is an airline transport rated pilot who has been a flight instructor for 41 years. He has taught flying in the U.S., UK, Australia, and the United Arab Emirates. Learning to fly gliders when he was barely a teenager, John was flying a Lear 25 at the tender age of 24. He reports having flown 140 aircraft in his long career.
More About ChinookSome have said Chinook’s wide cockpit gives it a pudgy appearance from some vantage points. Others enjoy its angular facets, a design feature rising in popularity among auto designers (think: Telsa's proposed CyberTruck). In their days, ASAP added a full Lexan enclosure for the Chinook Plus, making a virtual greenhouse surrounding the pilot and passenger with many square feet of clear plastic offering an unlimited view. In colder northern climates, that enclosure provides a reasonably comfortable environment. Entering a Chinook means lifting yourself over a gap from the outside edge of cockpit to the seat. However, once you swing into position, you’ll love the roominess. Even with a rear seat passenger’s feet on rudder pedals right alongside your seat, space is plentiful. If you’re a wide pilot, this machine might be your dream. As proof, John reports he is 6 foot 7 inches tall and weighs 220 pounds. He fits with room to spare. Since I flew Chinook more than two decades back, the formerly snug aft cabin has been widened by four inches and the lower fuselage pan has been converted to metal skins. John also engineered a change from 1.5 to 5.0 degrees of dihedral to enhance stability. He added, "It is now rock stable in the air." The massive amount of clear surrounding you means visibility from the cockpit of Chinook is sweeping, even before you leave the ground. Taxiing out on a breezy day, I appreciated the low stance of the Chinook on its original gear. You hardly feel like you were operating a taildragger because the deck angle is modest. Most pilots will be happy to hear you can handle the Chinook as though it were a tricycle-gear design. My experience flying Chinook showed it has light and powerful ailerons, which makes it easy to guide through the air. In general, the plane’s handling is quite pleasant despite, or perhaps because of, its somewhat unorthodox shape. When I flew Chinook, the aircraft recorded one of the lowest idle-thrust sink rates of any two-seat ultralight I’d flown at the time. Today, John said that a "60 mph cruise" is achieved despite the draggy but highly shock absorbing DR gear (nearby image). "Dan Reynolds is the designer of the 'DR' gear option for our Chinook line of aircraft," noted John. "Dan is a bush pilot in the Yukon, Canada and flies several modified Chinooks. He broke the world record for shortest landing in the LSA class at Valdez in 2018, and came in second place with the shortest landing at the 2020 Lone Star STOL competition in Gainesville, Texas." Among the several changes John has created, flaperons have been broadened. With its hard-working wing (note close rib spacing), he reports Chinook performs as well as a purpose-built STOL aircraft. "Chinook Plus 2 is typically equipped with a 65-horsepower Rotax 582 and is the gold standard in short/soft field capability, useful load, ruggedness, reliability, range and cockpit size with unlimited visibility" said John. "Fuel capacity with up to four fuel tanks is 22 gallons usable. Add options for tundra tires, skis, or floats and this aircraft can literally take you where no other aircraft can in its class." Airframe kits run $20-23,000 for the Chinook 2 Plus or $30-35,000 for the outback gear DR model. When using the Rotax 582 you can get a standard Chinook 2 Plus airborne for "around $32,000," said John. For roughly $10,000 more you can install a 80-horsepower Rotax 912. Here you can find Chinook Plus 2 Specifications. One model not seen in many years is a single seat version. John promised, "A Chinook Pup Part 103 entry is currently in development. He said it "will absolutely meet 103" using a Kawasaki 340. Five full-time employees pursue the Chinook line and three welders come into the shop a few times a year to make those parts. This team is capable of building about a dozen aircraft a year, John said. Keep up with developments and see loads of photos of customers work to assemble their Chinooks at the company's Facebook page.
One More ThingChinook has been my focus so far but a word about their base of operation is in order. Welcome to Gloster Aerodrome. "We are located less than an hour's drive west on I-10 from downtown Houston in beautiful southern Austin County's Brazos Valley. Our philosophy is to provide a safe and friendly environment for all levels of flying activities for sport aviation. Our field is based on an old English Aerodrome featuring Nissen-style hangars designed with the sport pilot in mind. It's perfect for homebuilt, aerobatic and production-built aircraft under 6,ooo pounds." After many years of providing flight instruction, John's specialty is transitioning from tricycle gear aircraft to tailwheel, short field landings, takeoffs over obstacles and upset training. John also teaches transition courses from general aviation to Light-Sport Aircraft. He gives several flight reviews for airmen each year." "The Gloster School of Special Flying (GSSF) is designed to teach unique skills from beginner students as well as advanced pilots."
Then… In the 1990s, a pair of Canadian aircraft dominated the light aviation market in America’s neighbor to the north. The two planes are known to many Americans: Beaver and Chinook. Thanks to a rescue by second owner ASAP many years ago, both continued to be manufactured in Canada’s West. Long-departed Birdman Enterprises did a fine job of originating the Chinook. When ASAP took over, Canadians and ultralight enthusiasts in many places celebrated ongoing support of this aircraft. Hundreds of Chinooks were built. That is now rather distant history. Bringing Chinook not only into the present day but also into the USA is the Aeroplane Manufactory. …and Now For several years, ASAP sold the Chinook Plus 2, tagging the two-seater model with the “Plus” suffix after ASAP’s team improved and refined the aircraft following their acquisition. In more modern times, after purchasing the Chinook design rights and inventory in 2013 (five semi loads’ worth!), Aeroplane Manufactory brought the north-of-the-border design way down south to the Houston, Texas area.
However… Better News"A one-day Fly-In will take place on Saturday, January 30, 2021 beginning at 9:00 AM at the new Airport Management Center and ramp. That's the opposite side of the field (East side) from the DeLand Showcase location. Many vendors already know this structure because that's where the exhibitor reception was held for the DeLand 2019 event. This makes great use of the new airport terminal building and its roomy ramp space on airside. "Tesla will provide a fleet of their powerful and intriguing cars for visitors to test drive," reported Jana. "EAA Chapter 635 will prepare their Pancake Breakfast and seating will be outside under the verandas for appropriate social distancing due to Covid." She is also arranging aircraft displays and my guess is that airplane representatives — at least the several that are located within the state — will happily come out to meet with customers and enthusiasts. DeLand's one-day Fly & Drive-style event closely resembles the Holiday Flying Festival and Car Show occurring on the Sun 'n Fun campus over December 4th and 5th, 2020. I plan to attend both events and will first report how things look in Lakeland. Here's their schedule of events. I hope many of you can attend both events to support these organizations. Both have taken a massive financial hit by having to postpone their regularly-scheduled airshows. I'm sure they would appreciate you coming out and they each plan to have cars and planes of interest. It's Florida so you can comfortably be outside where worries about Covid are much reduced. See you there!?
As 2020 nears its end, I have news about the first airshow of the new year. It was supposed to be the last airshow of this year but that was scuttled amid all the cancellations due to Covid. …sigh… What’s new? DeLand Showcase 2020 — once hopefully pushed back a couple months, rescheduled for January 2021 — is officially postponed. Like many other events that were dropped from the calendar this troubled year, DeLand’s event made a valiant effort but lost out. DeLand Showcase 2021 will instead go back on the slate for the time period used for all its prior years. Except for a yearlong wait, this may be the best plan as November is actually a great month in Florida. Weather is usually wonderful (still in the 70s or 80s but without the hot, humid summer temperatures). Plus, lodging, rental cars, airfare, and more are usually plentiful as this is considered the “off-season” in Florida.
In the earliest Light-Sport Aircraft days, nearly 70% of available models came from Europe. Slowly but steadily, U.S. producers emerged as did importers for aircraft from other countries. That continues but a parallel development occurred. International manufacturers established American operations that often lead to some level of manufacturing.Joining the movement, Seamax Aircraft announced the launch of the company assembly operations in the USA. Fabrication remains in Brazil but large and small components are shipped to Datona Beach, Florida, where the company's U.S. operation assembles the full airplane near the campus of Embry Riddle, the world's largest aeronautical university.
"In pandemic times, while most businesses are holding tight on their seatbelts, Seamax makes a bold statement to the American market by adding an 'assembled in the USA' tag to their superior performance aircraft," reported U.S. representative Shalom Confessor. The company said they have been planning this move for the past three years, following extensive market research and engineering upgrades. The join-up has been good for each side, experience has shown.Seamax officials have made good use of their location at Research Park, part of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU), "where some 100 students, both graduate, and undergraduate students tutored by business professors, prepared comprehensive business assessments," reported Shalom. The work provided useful intelligence for Seamax but also offered real-life, real-time experience for students and faculty.
While this evaluation was ongoing, engineers lead by designer Miguel Rosario developed new features for the M-22 to match the American market. One such was a new all-glass Garmin cockpit. Work also allowed Seamax to retain their FAA approval while adding the fuel-injected Rotax 912 iS engine. Seamax combined these elements as it delivered its first IFR-capable Seamax to a veteran fighter pilot customer with experience flying as captain of Boeing 767s for a major U.S. airline.
Assembled in America
"With Seamax enhanced for the American market," Shalom continued, "the company strengthened its brand and presence in the USA by adding the assembly operations, which brings factory-level support, maintenance, spare parts inventory, and training capabilities to the USA." Embry Riddle is based at the main Daytona Beach airport where Seamax's new assembly building is located. ERAU's Research Park incubator area recently added a new taxiway to provide convenient access to company facilities.
SEAMAX M-22 is flying in more than 20 countries, and holds certification in a dozen countries since manufacturing began in 2000. After 20 years of continuous engineering improvement, the product is mature enough to allow the company to transfer technology to the United States. "We took a conservative, gradual, and very well-planned approach to U.S. manufacturing," observed Shalom, the company's Executive Director for the United States.
Company CEO, Dr. Gilberto Trivelato, said "Assembling Seamax in America will allow the company to further develop the Seamax M-22 aircraft and to further accelerate our technology and business capabilities in future developments and projects."
See Seamax at Deland Showcase 2021From January 28 to 30 of 2021, the city of DeLand, FL will host its Sport Aviation Showcase 2021 event and the Daytona company signed on as an Elite sponsor. "This is the fourth year in a row that Seamax will exhibit the M-22 in this great show with the presence of our Brazilian team," added Shalom. "We will be right in the middle of the show at our traditional booth #71." The DeLand Sport Aviation Showcase (DSAS) was held in November for its first four years but had to reschedule for January to avoid conflicts associated with Covid. I'll be attending as I have every year — I hope to see many of you as well. We can all check out the new Made-in-the-USA Seamax M-22 along with a solid roster of other aircraft and aviation equipment providers.
Learn more about Seamax from designer Miguel Rosario and U.S. Director Shalom Confessor in this video. https://youtu.be/MuBFCuQ0Yac
In the earliest Light-Sport Aircraft days, nearly 70% of available models came from Europe. Slowly but steadily, U.S. producers emerged as did importers for aircraft from other countries. That continues but a parallel development occurred. International manufacturers established American operations that often lead to some level of manufacturing. Joining the movement, Seamax Aircraft announced the launch of the company assembly operations in the USA. Fabrication remains in Brazil but large and small components are shipped to Datona Beach, Florida, where the company’s U.S. operation assembles the full airplane near the campus of Embry Riddle, the world’s largest aeronautical university. “In pandemic times, while most businesses are holding tight on their seatbelts, Seamax makes a bold statement to the American market by adding an ‘assembled in the USA’ tag to their superior performance aircraft,” reported U.S. representative Shalom Confessor. The company said they have been planning this move for the past three years, following extensive market research and engineering upgrades.
Calling All Ultralights!With this blog post on ByDanJohnson.com, I am putting out a call to identify all active manufacturers of ultralight vehicles. Below you will see a list that I've identified. I'm sure I missed some. If you know of an aircraft or manufacturer not appearing on the list below, please identify it in the comments below. Do not send email. Why? Because using the comment section may stimulate others to report an aircraft I haven't listed below. Before you inform all of us… see the four-point checklist below. While I'm intrigued by earlier aircraft that could qualify (like these in our Vintage Ultralight series of articles), I will limit the Part 103 List to aircraft you can buy new today. I'm interested in aircraft from anywhere in the world, but all must comply with U.S. Part 103 parameters. Non-U.S. Readers… With one-third of all readers of ByDanJohnson.com residing outside the United States, I expect some additional entries originating in another country. They are welcome for the Part 103 List whether represented in America or not, but please only submit entries that genuinely qualify for Part 103 in the USA. Do so using the comment section; do not send email. Entries qualifying for Germany’s 120-Kilo Class and UK’s Sub-70 Class will be accepted. Others will be evaluated individually.
Counting the FleetIn addition to this announcement, I will be writing to all producers. My request is simple: How many units did you deliver to customers in 2019 and 2020? In the interest of simplicity and accuracy, I will only ask for data on the last two calendar years. As most readers know, we built a very accurate system to count all FAA-registered Light-Sport Aircraft, Experimental kits that Sport Pilots can fly ("Sport Pilot Kits"), and modern gyroplanes, most of which are registered as Experimental. You can check every single aircraft in lists, charts, and graphs on Tableau Public. However, because FAA does not require registration for ultralight vehicles — a good thing, many believe — we cannot use their database to count ultralights in the fleet. The only option is to go direct to each company and ask for information. You may ask, "Well, can't the manufacturer just lie about his unit deliveries, since you have no way to verify their claims?" Right you are. Yet I know this industry rather intimately and believe I can detect gross exaggerations. If I keep asking year after year, I will get additional information that should help cull most errors. This is important — Because many producers sell small numbers, they may not want to share their info publicly. I will respect that. To assure builders willing to provide their delivery numbers, I will not report them by company. In tech terms, I will anonymize manufacturer data in reporting results. I will present these numbers in ways I believe readers will find useful as they consider purchase of a 103 ultralight. Later, perhaps I can reveal which companies are the most successful but to encourage early responses, I will protect the data with my reputation. I will not share confidential information.
How Can Ultralights Qualify for the Part 103 List?Here is the criteria I established to make sure this list has value to pilots and future buyers. 1️⃣ Current production aircraft only. I do not want to include any ultralight that is no longer produced. Examples are: American Eagle, Easy Riser, Pterodactyl, and so on. If it isn't made today, I will not include it. Later, I may include some older models as they can still be found for sale but for now, I prefer to keep it simple, reliable, and useful. 2️⃣ The aircraft must be able to make Part 103 according to Advisory Circular AC-103-7. I don't object to a company selling Part 103-like aircraft that a buyer may register in Experimental class. However, the company must offer at least one currently-produced model that genuinely complies with Part 103 parameters. I will accept aircraft delivered either fully-built or as a kit but only if it can legitimately meet Part 103. Aircraft entries that comply with Germany’s 120-Kilo Class and UK’s Sub-70 Class will be accepted. 3️⃣ For now, I will collect info only on powered, wheeled aircraft in fixed wing, weight shift trike, powered parachute, gyroplane, or motorglider configurations. While I personally love hang gliders, foot launched powered paragliders, and unpowered gliders/sailplanes, I will not include them in this initial effort (maybe later?). A powered paraglider with wheeled carriage is acceptable. 4️⃣ I will not accept one-off, custom designs or aircraft still in an early development phase. I only want aircraft that a customer can buy for delivery within a reasonable time. At this time, neither will I include any multicopter designs, such as Kitty Hawk's Flyer or others as they have not entered the market.
List of Ultralight Producers The Part 103 List
This list is not in any particular order. Please attach no significance to the position in the list. An American flag after the aircraft signifies both the origin of the design and the location of its manufacture is the United States. This is just for illustration and carries no particular meaning. Articles about most planes in the list below can be found on this website; use the Search bar at the top.
As the the Part 103 List develops, I will add web addresses and email addresses for all companies plus links to all articles on this website about that aircraft or company. For now, we begin with this draft list …to be expanded with reader input:
- U-Fly-It Aerolite 103 🇺🇸
- Kolb Firefly 🇺🇸
- Quicksilver Sprint / Sport 🇺🇸
- Better Half VW Legal Eagle 🇺🇸
- Aeromarine-LSA Merlin Lite
- Aeromarine-LSA Zigolo
- Badland Aircraft F-series 🇺🇸 formerly Kitfox Lite
- Just Aircraft 103 Solo (in development) 🇺🇸
- Hummel Aviation UltraCruiser 🇺🇸
- TEAM MiniMax, multiple models 🇺🇸
- Fisher Flying Products, multiple models
- Aero Adventure Aventura UL 🇺🇸 formerly Buccaneer
- JH Aircraft Corsair
- SD Planes SD-1
- AVI/Modern Wings Swan 120
- Quad City Ultralight Challenger 103 🇺🇸
- CGS Hawk 103, Ultra 🇺🇸
- Phantom Classic (X-1) 🇺🇸
- Innovator Technologies Mosquito Helicopter
- M-Squared Breeze SS 🇺🇸
- Ekolot Elf KR-01A
- Earthstar Gull 2000, Soaring Gull 🇺🇸
- Carlson Sparrow (market reentry underway) 🇺🇸
- Sherwood Kub
- Eurofly Minifox
- Lazair Nouveau
- Thunderbird SNS-8 Hiperlight 🇺🇸
- Airsport Song UL, Song SSDR
- North Wing ATF, Solairus, Maverick 🇺🇸
- Evolution Rev 🇺🇸
- Fly Hard Trikes Skycycle 🇺🇸
- Air Creation Pixel
- AirBorne Australia T-Lite
- Airtime Aircraft Explorer 103 🇺🇸
- Infinity PPC Challenger 🇺🇸
- Six Chuter P3 Lite 🇺🇸
- Fusioncopter Nano gyroplane
- Star LSA Star Bee Gyro 🇺🇸
- Blackhawk LowBoy III, Quad 🇺🇸
Please remember… if you know of another aircraft that should be included, please tell me (and everyone) using the comment system. I will approve uploaded comments as quickly as time allows. THANKS!
Pilots around the world are aware of Part 103 Ultralights but many have a blurry view of the industry that produces these aircraft. Most are unaware how well this often-overlooked segment is doing in recent years, even during Covid 2020. FAA refers to these lightweight flying machines as “ultralight vehicles,” a term that creative rulewriters adopted in the early 1980s to avoid heavy regulations typical for “aircraft.” This wording helped the young industry grow and develop. It worked so well the regulation has not been altered for decades. Even ultralight enthusiasts in America and other countries may not be fully aware how popular ultralights have become in recent years. When Light-Sport Aircraft came on the scene in 2004 they knocked out the ultralight two-seater training fleet. Many believe ultralights never recovered. How wrong they were, yet who can blame them because no one truly knows how many ultralights are being built and sold these days.
F2 Arrives in AmericaI got to see prototype and introductory show-model versions of F2 and F2e, the electric aircraft that somewhat ironically was the very first to fly in Flight Design's new F-series. My early glimpses were at Aero 2019 and I wrote up what I observed; see it here. Nearly every airshow was cancelled for 2020 amidst the global economic carnage driven by lockdowns and travel restrictions to contain Covid. Well, every show was scrubbed except the Midwest LSA Expo in Mt. Vernon, Illinois. Because that one and only event happened — with no negatives regarding the virus, so far as I know — I got to see and fly Flight Design's latest and greatest, the F2. Not only was the airshow a welcome change from the social barriers everyone had faced over the last few months, but Midwest 2020 provided a venue to see and fly the new model. "CTSW was a Porsche. CTLS was a Corvette. F2 is a Cadillac," said Tom Gutmann, Jr., the younger half of the father and son Airtime Aviation team that is the largest light aircraft dealership in the world. Tom explained that F2 may look similar to CT but is a nose-to-tail, tip-to-tip refreshed design. It has been some time in development because as Tom noted, "Flight Design engineers had to rework the whole airplane. It is significantly larger than CTLS yet final production models should weigh no more." That's some accomplishment! It is also built quite differently. All CTLS are essentially "hand made" with hand-layup molds that display the skill of factory workers yet makes each one unique. For F2, Tom said, Flight Design uses molds created on 5-axis CNC shaping tools so each one is fabricated to precise specifications. You may not be able to see the difference in construction but the new method is far better for serial production. "F2 is manufactured to close tolerances in pre-impregnated carbon fiber for great structural strength and light weight," said Flight Design in Germany. With prepreg carbon fiber from American company Hexcel, F2's honeycomb-core fuselage signifies a big step forward. Likewise, F2's new wing is a major redesign; the outboard sections feature aerodynamic cuffs (nearby photo). F2’s tail is all-new as well. CTLS's full-flying stabilator is replaced with a wider stabilizer that has a discrete two-piece elevator with a center section that remains stationary forming what's often called a duck tail. This aids in meeting the ASTM handling requirement. One result is that the airplane does not pitch up during a departure stall. The altered horizontal tail works cooperatively with the wing cuffs to make a highly stall-resistant airframe, a feature FAA admires so much they gave Icon Aircraft additional weight for the A5 seaplane because the California developer redesigned to add the shape to their wings. Cirrus's SR20 and SR22 also use this design, as do other flying machines …because it works. F2's tail looks notably different than CTLS with a high-aspect-ratio vertical tail and slimmer rudder although the volume is similar. These changes — with the wing cuffs — contribute to better slow-speed handling and genuine spin resistance while still allowing a generous slip and yielding plenty of rudder authority in crosswinds.
Flying F2 — Initial Impressions
Here is a newly-released video interview with U.S. importer, Tom Peghiny from Oshkosh 2019. It describes the aircraft and the entire F-series from Flight Design. https://youtu.be/DAs_ocUd77E
➡️ Update 11/3/20 — A new video interview with Flight Design USA importer Tom Peghiny appears at the bottom of this article. —DJ In the beginning — as Light-Sport Aircraft entered the skies for the first time — German producer Flight Design brought the CTSW to American pilots. It was embraced enthusiastically and the U.S. importer Flight Design USA sold many units to aviators that had waited years for FAA to finalize their no-medical-required LSA segment. CTSW was something of a sports car, agile, quick, high performing but surprisingly roomy. Then came the sophisticated CTLS, wholly redone for the American market. It enlarged the cabin and lengthened the fuselage becoming more deluxe throughout. Now, we come to F2 in what I’m calling the third generation of the iconic shape that still leads the LSA market after almost 17 years. The one and only example presently in America is currently based at Airtime Aviation in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The most popular article of this crazy year — when people have been visiting in record numbers — was about Aeromarine-LSA's Merlin Lite. Tens of thousands of you devoured this article within days of it being posted. The word sensational is vastly overused in modern American society but in this case the word fits the intense interest in Merlin Lite. For the back story, see the article in this link. Despite obvious enthusiasm for this new Part 103 entry, many of you were skeptical. No wonder. An all-metal, fully enclosed aircraft does not closely resemble many of the other Part 103 aircraft that are selling briskly over the last few years. If you were among the doubters this post — and the video below — may serve to allay one of your concerns.
Weighing Merlin LiteDeveloper Chip Erwin came to 2020's Midwest LSA Expo prepared to tackle the hesitation in pilot's acceptance of Merlin Lite as a legitimate Part 103. He brought six bathroom scales plus a fish scale to the show. On opening day, I jumped at the chance to prove to myself and readers that Merlin could actually make weight. To be thorough, weight is not the only consideration. Merlin must also make the speeds of Part 103: a 55 knot level flight maximum speed plus a maximum 24 knot stall. As you will hear in the video, Chip needs to tweak the configuration slightly to assure Merlin Lite does not fly nor stall above limits. He referenced 75 mph cruise speed and a slow speed of of 30 mph. Both are too fast, though just slightly. In a longer video interview to follow, Chip states that he sees no problem in meeting the speed. Not going too fast can be controlled by the right prop setup, especially since the design is already close; top speed can likely be governed by a two-blade, pitch-oriented prop or other alteration. Getting stall down to 24 knots (27.6 mph, where Chip saw "30") is tougher but with full flaps, it will be closer; he reported using deep but not full flaps ("32°" when 50° is available). However, a surer way to achieve the right speeds may be a longer wing that is already built and has flown; see the engineering drawings (below video). Weight from a longer wing may require that the pilot fly without the door, but Chip believes room still exists to lighten Merlin Lite enough for buyers to have it all — full enclosure including door, engine cowl, and most or all of the options seen in the photos and video. The video documents the weighing action conducted inside a hangar that Mt. Vernon airport manager, Chris Collins generously provided so Merlin Lite was not affected by wind. Although I witnessed this using bathroom scales, I checked these with my own weight to see they were within one pound or so of one another (about one-half of one percent deviation). However, Chip will shortly perform a formal weighing using certified scales and an official observer. He's confident Merlin Lite will still qualify and based on what I saw, I agree.
Flying Merlin LiteWithin a short time of returning to his base of operations, Chip took Merlin Lite aloft for its first flight. The video below captures this and shows the aircraft performing well with its Polini Thor 250 engine. Thor 250 outputs 36 horsepower from a single cylinder that Evolution Trikes boss Larry Mednick describes as a smooth running engine that rivals Rotax's 912. That's a big statement but it appears this Polini powerplant dominates the market for the lightest aircraft. Evolution's Rev uses this same engine. Powered paragliders embraced the engine years ago and the company sells thousands of engines every year. Here is a page of full specifications on the Polini line from Miami-based Aerolite. The video spells out some detail in the weighing exercise at Midwest 2020 and provides several clips of Chip's first flight in Merlin. Enjoy…!
New video recently posted on Ultralight News YouTube channel… https://youtu.be/AmnR8qOU_t0
UPDATE Oct 28, 2020 — Video interview with Chip Erwin appears at the bottom of the page, containing more information about Merlin Lite —DJ The most popular article of this crazy year — when people have been visiting in record numbers — was about Aeromarine-LSA‘s Merlin Lite. Tens of thousands of you devoured this article within days of it being posted. The word sensational is vastly overused in modern American society but in this case the word fits the intense interest in Merlin Lite. For the back story, see the article in this link. Despite obvious enthusiasm for this new Part 103 entry, many of you were skeptical. No wonder. An all-metal, fully enclosed aircraft does not closely resemble many of the other Part 103 aircraft that are selling briskly over the last few years. If you were among the doubters this post — and the video below — may serve to allay one of your concerns.
Get It Now / Afford It NowLook, I'm well aware that what is considered "affordable" differs for every single pilot and may change daily depending on other aspects of life. A big, unexpected repair bill or any medical care bill can ruin your plan to buy a new sportplane. However, when a brand-new airplane stays or slips below the $100,000 mark, lots more pilots can think about affording it. If six figures is still way too high, please read all kinds of articles on this website for highly-affordable aircraft (I covered 10 in April 2020 alone; go here) or pick from a growing number of good second-hand aircraft. Ranger was created a few years ago by Abid Farooqui. He once sold weight shift trikes and did a stint helping represent the ApolloFox Avid-like fixed wing entry. Both those were imported. Abid saw the future, however, and turned his considerable engineering talent toward designing and then producing his own modern gyroplane. Since mid-decade he has expanded the line to include a removable full enclosure for the tandem AR-1. He offered a Rotax 912 100 horsepower model and the turbocharged Rotax 914 with up to 115 horsepower. More recently, he turned his attention to the 141-horsepower Rotax 915. This would make AR-1 an awesome performer truly only needed by someone who lives at a high elevation, anticipates fitting floats one day, or if you simply want the most potent gyroplane available. As you might expect an AR-1 powered by the 915 and with full enclosure is not your most affordable variation. Fortunately, SilverLight has aircraft in stock with low hours that can bring the acquisition cost down substantially. To learn which of these may still be available, contact SilverLight directly. Learn more about Rotax 915 in AR-1 in this article from June 2020 or check out this video for a detailed review of the work Abid did to make the 915 fit his AR-1.
Kit-Built (for Now)While gyroplanes are among the most likely additions to fully-built LSA in FAA's coming new regulation, today you must assemble AR-1 from a kit. SilverLight offers a build-assist center at their Zephyrhills airport base near Tampa, Florida. Yet the kit is not a particularly daunting task. For one, you need do no fabric work or painting, two skills that are fairly demanding of a kit builder. The good news… a kit can save money so if affordability is important to you, assembling a kit may be an opportunity, not a deterrent. As a benefit, you will know your aircraft better than someone who buys a ready-to-fly aircraft. The AR-1 kit stats at $39,500 without engine. A 100 horsepower Rotax 912 will add $22,500, or a fuel-injected 912iS adds $28,000. The 115-horsepower Rotax 914 adds $31,500 and the super-sized 915iS adds $42,000. Those price sum to $62,000 to $67,500 to $71,000 to $81,500. You'll also need a wiring harness (about $2,500), and painting of the fuselage parts adds $3,500, and avionics add a few hundred dollars to a few thousand with too many choices to list here. A few other options may tempt you, for example, the removable full enclosure for $8,500. Builder assistance — including the space and tools needed — will add $6,500 to $8,500 depending on options you choose. So you could possibly spend north of $100,000 but you'd have a fully-loaded and very powerful aircraft. Conversely, if you want to keep the cost to a minimum, you could get airborne for perhaps $75,000-80,000 and at that price, you are still in the affordable realm for a brand-new state-of-the-gyroplane-art. Factory-represented used models with low hours may save even more.
Video Flight Lesson in SilverLight Ranger AR-1I've written about my experience flying Ranger AR-1 with instructor Greg Spicola. In the second video below, I took the front seat and received a proper lesson, which I relate in some detail. The first video below, from 2016, attracted a large audience despite being one of my early solo YouTube entries. Most of the 1,000 videos in which I've appeared are done by Videoman Dave, who edited the second video and hosts it on his Ultralight News YouTube channel. I hope you'll enjoy both.
After thousands of articles, I’ve have heard over and over about two common ingredients sought by pilots who visit this website: Affordability and Availability. Once you make a decision about what to buy, you want to be able to get it quickly and you want it to fit your budget. The first requirement is understandable. It’s all fine and good to wish you could buy something but if it’s way out of your price range or if you simply cannot commit to a large purchase right now, it isn’t likely to happen… and after all, who doesn’t love a good price? The second requirement addresses human nature. Once you’ve made your decision you want it as fast as you can get it. Most of us feel that way about most products we research. Get It Now / Afford It Now Look, I’m well aware that what is considered “affordable” differs for every single pilot and may change daily depending on other aspects of life.