Thanks to powerful Cubalike airplanes — those vintage yellow taildraggers types with huge engines up front to make them perform more energetically — 2014 saw increased attention to the Savage Cub S. The Czech company offered their 180-horsepower version of the Cubalike phenomenon albeit at a more affordable price. The leading brand of Cub-like airplanes has pushed prices beyond $200,000, which strikes plenty of people as paying a premium, though most agree the design is handsomely achieved. They continue to sell well so vintage style appears to hold appeal. Meanwhile, Zlin engineers aren’t sitting still. This company has quite a flock of intriguing models, including Savage Classic, Savage Cruiser, Savage Cub (marketed as iCub in the U.S.), Savage Cub S, and Bobber. All these are now represented in America by SportairUSA, which also imports the TL Ultralight Sting and Sirius as well as selling Searey amphibious kits among a variety of other products of services they’ve assembled.
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The sixth annual Midwest LSA Expo just concluded. These LSA-only events offer a more intimate setting where you can speak at length with an aircraft or other product representative. They don’t offer the dense traffic of the big shows but the valued trade off is that nearly everyone who shows is interested. People came from as far as California and I witnessed many demo flights. The Mt. Vernon airport is as good as it gets for this purpose with easy access to big broad runways and plenty of open airspace. Lead by energetic Chris Collins, a team of volunteers made it work again. When the event isn’t swallowing all their time these folks have a little fun. Don’t worry about the nearby picture; TSA and Homeland Security can calm down. This was a planned promotional venture on the side of a great new restaurant called Rare, a chop house.
It was cool but abundant sunshine provided good conditions for an excellent event at the tenth Sebring. Morning winds died down and allowed plenty of demo flying opportunities and even for those who didn’t go aloft, the Manufacturer’s Showcase allowed visitors to see numerous aircraft doing low fly-bys. The combination of readily available demo flights that could be conducted with a minimum of hassle thanks to great support from contract tower personnel and the display of most LSA or light kits in recreational aviation offered ample opportunity for buyers to step up … and sales action appeared quite strong, a sure sign of improving conditions after years of sluggishness. Many exhibitors reported multiple sales, proven by deposits changing hands and orders being written. Ken Scott of Van’s Aircraft — which works closely with Synergy Air, builder of the ready-to-fly RV-12 SLSA — said it was the best show ever for his company.
The go-up-faster competition in Light-Sport aviation just got more boisterous. SportairUSA loves their S-planes and they just announced a new one: Cub-S. Why do I call them the S-planes people? How about this? They sell the Sting, Sirius, Savage, Snap, and now Cub-S with the Titan Stroker IO-340 engine producing a whopping 180 horsepower. The company is SportairUSA, U.S. distributor for aircraft manufactured by Zlin Aviation of the Czech Republic and they plan to showcase their new Cub-S at AirVenture 2013. “Look for the SportairUSA site at #295 Knapp Road, located just off of Celebration Way, between the Lycoming display and the EAA Welcome Center, said the company publicist. Here’s another company using Lycoming engines, a move we’ve increasingly seen in the last couple years, adding to Renegade, Arion Aircraft, and Tecnam. “With its best-in-category power-to-empty weight ratio of 4.74 pounds per horsepower (7.33 pounds per horsepower even at MTOW), the Cub-S climbs at up to 2,100 fpm,” said Bill Canino of SportairUSA.
Snap! Crackle! Pop! It’s not just for breakfast anymore. Among the vast array of light aircraft I am only aware of a few other single seat models … Here’s a U.S. example (video) and here’s some European single seaters. None of these has yet gone through the process to become Special LSA but that might be changing now that Italian giant Tecnam acquired a, well … snappy little bird with a catchy name. Tecnam already has the broadest number of models in the LSA space but just to be sure of keeping this title, the company recently announced their new low wing Astore and now they follow with Snap. Americans have seen Snap before, but Tecnam gives it much more market presence. Snap is a single seat, low wing, fixed landing gear aircraft with a high power-to-weight ratio and the capability to perform aerobatics with low operating costs.
We were busy at Aero Friedrichshafen 2013, knocking out more than 30 videos for your viewing information and entertainment. That’s more than seven videos per day and a sum of more than five hours total running time (more than three Hollywood movies in minutes of viewing time). With these and all the videos shot at Sun ‘n Fun the week before Aero started, we expect to offer more than 300 videos on our LSA Video page. I’d like for you to understand how much effort that represents. I’d also like to thank BRS Parachutes, ICP North America, and Renegade Light Sport Aircraft for providing financial assistance to Lightsport and Ultralight Flyer. Without their support, these videos would not likely have been made. Today, I uploaded more than a dozen new videos to ByDanJohnson.com. We have many more coming. The newest ones include • Introduction to Aero and what you’ll see • Tecnam’s aerobatic Snap • FlyEco’s Diesel engine • FK 51 replica Mustang • Yuneec’s electric-powered eSpyder • lightweight electric aircraft • Zlin’s customizable Bobber • ICP’s Savannah taildragger and new engine • BOT SpeedCruiser with D-Motor • BRM Aero’s Bristell taildragger • Phoenix Air’s electric-powered ePhoenix • Nando Groppo tri-gear and, • one from AirVenture 2012 on the Zenith CH-650.
Sportair USA thinks the American Cub replicas — those from CubCrafters or American Legend — are rather expensive. After all, when LSA started and the European aircraft began arriving, those across-the-Atlantic manufacturers enjoyed very low wage rates and lower general costs allowing them to sell at prices below that U.S.-based producers could match. *** A couple years before the first European LSA arrived, a euro and a dollar had roughly the same value. Then things started to change. Wages began to rise in eastern Europe. Simultaneously, the dollar began to lose value… or the euro began to gain (it doesn’t really matter which way you look at it). The two conspired to cause the price of European-built LSA soar in cost to American buyers. *** Today, at least one (Allegro) and perhaps as many as four more European aircraft will be built in the USA.
Plenty of folks think LSA are mainly carbon fiber speedsters with autopilots and huge computer screen instrumentation. No doubt, we have some beauties that are equipped like luxury sport planes. If you’ve got the budget, the Light-Sport industry has the aircraft. Yet not everyone can afford those birds and not everyone wants one. *** FAA pretty much eliminated ultralights when they came out with the SP/LSA rule… well, except for genuine ultralights of the single place variety. The latter still exist, and yes, you can still buy a ready-to-fly ultralight “vehicle” for which you need no N-number, no medical, and no pilot license. Those 254-pound (max empty weight) aircraft prove America remains the land of the free and I, for one, love to fly them. *** On our way north for AirVenture my wife, Randee, and I made a series of stops. In Alabama — just a mile apart — we hit two fixed wing producers of “ultralights” that qualify as official SLSA.
It’s a great thing when a plan comes together. Consider an extension of the LSA Tour that debuted after Sebring 2011. Then, five or six brands flew around to a half dozen Florida airports and showed their LSA to groups of varying sizes. It was a first attempt, planned rather late without sufficient time to promote. *** The next tour is also working to pull itself together but the group has plans including summer tours, a website and more. The concept definitely works and here’s a fact: Most pilots don’t attend all the airshows. So why not bring the show where the people are? *** The Florida LSA Tour that took place the week after Sebring was principally organized by Bill Canino and Dave Graham. Bill’s early logic was, “We’re in Florida already and we have to fly home through the state after Sebring ends. Since everyone can’t come to Sebring, we thought we’d take the show to them.” *** The idea, involving several competitors working cooperatively, proved to be a success in the way that matters most to sellers and buyers: airplanes sold.
Every now and then the marketing geniuses in Light-Sport aviation have an exceptionally good idea. Here’s one of them. Initially organized by SportairUSA’s Bill Canino and now-American Legend marketer Dave Graham (formerly of Gobosh), a flock of planes including five of the most popular brand names will set off for Sebring-After-Sebring… or what they are calling The 2011 Florida LSA Tour. *** “We’re in Florida already and we have to fly home through the state after Sebring ends,” explained Canino. “Since everyone can’t come to Sebring, we thought we’d take the show to them.” *** Bill and Dave established a strategically-planned series of stops, contacted EAA chapters at several locations and asked them for an invitation, and offered them a cash incentive to assist with pulling out the members for the date of arrival. I hope this works well as it’s a grand idea in the LSA tradition of open and friendly competition.
If you want to have a rocking good time without ever leaving your seat, check out this video clip of an upcoming film titled, “No Second Chances.” Billed as “an Alaskan bush adventure on steroids” if this teaser is any indication, ho shee mama, this ought to be some flick! *** The bigger news, as Dan Johnson covered earlier with some interesting historical perspective, is the announcement by SportairUSA of the Bush iCub. *** Dan points out that the new LSA isn’t another Cub Clone a la the Legend or CubCrafters versions, but an evolution of the Savage Cub, Cruiser and Classic line of light sport airplanes put out by the Czech Republic’s Zlin Aviation since 1999. *** I’d like to get my hands on the Bush version and go do some dirt-whompin’. It’s got a 7-inch extended landing gear, 1.25-inch axles, big fat bush wheels and other mission-specific enhancements.
SportairUSA, run by proprietor Bill Canino, has long been an innovator in the LSA business. His company doesn’t build Light-Sport airplanes but Bill has triggered several interesting add-ons: he was one of the first (along with Flight Design USA) to install parachutes on all StingSports; he developed the GreenLine engine monitor system, he offered the Straight & Level button to help those caught unexpectedly in no-visibility conditions; and last year at AirVenture he rolled out the ForeSight enhanced visibility system… and this list is not exhaustive. *** For AirVenture 2010 just six weeks away, he’s got a whole new concept. First is iCub. Previously distributed under the model name Savage (still retained for some models), the sorta-Cub-like taildragger manufactured by the Zlin company of Czech Republic will now be distributed by SportairUSA, adding to their low-wing Sting series and their high-wing Sirius , both built by TL Ultralight in Czech.
Not a company to rest on their laurels, TL Ultralight — represented in America since the beginning of LSA by Sportair USA — debuted their Sting S4 at the German Aero show in April. Besides developing an all-new high-wing design (the TL-3000 Sirius …photo inset) — the S4 is the newest generation of the Czech company’s popular low wing, all-carbon-fiber Sting. Sting was the #5 SLSA ever certified and it has developed a solid U.S. following. *** TL designers know how to mold smooth lines into their designs, but they have also been dedicating hours of work to further refine one of the more evolved LSA on the market. Here’s a short list of the new developments for the Sting S4: * A stiffer-framed, better-sealed canopy improves ventilation with a vent port built right in the canopy frame; * A new instrument panel better accommodates large screen systems like Dynon’s SkyView (lower photo); * The top of the instrument panel now provides a couple handholds to assist entry/exit plus a central cavity that can hold a few small items; * Adjustable rudder pedals range 10 inches via an easy control between your lower legs (see in lower left photo in front of joystick); * Baggage capacity has been increased to 55 pounds, the compartment has been upholstered, and has a cargo net; * The entire tri-gear has been completely redesigned to provide better shock absorption and ground handling; * A new engine cowling improves cooling; * the vertical tail has been enlarged to improve stability; and, * Manual flaps have given way to easy-to-use electric flaps with the controller placed in a slightly enlarged center console.
Most folks following the Light-Sport Aircraft development know the Sting, refreshed for the U.S. market with the S3 model. I covered the development announcement of TL Ultralight’s new high wing. Now, welcome to the TL3000 Sirius as the newest SLSA to hit the market in a blur of new offerings seemingly triggered after the industry hit #100. *** Importer SportairUSA maneuvered their low-wing, all-carbon-fiber Sting S3 into one of the best-equipped LSA on the market. Adding a high wing gives the company new versatility to meet market interest. *** I see the potential for keen demand from GA pilots, especially those legions trained in high-wing, yoke-controlled Cessna models. Sirius’ 48-inch wide cabin is nine inches wider than a C-172 and it can haul 420 pounds of payload even when topped off with 30 gallons of fuel that can take you 800 miles (numbers will vary depending how you equip a Sirius).
Given how she flies, I really don’t know why the Zlin developers settled on the name Savage. It simply isn’t “savage” despite being a taildragger that challenges some tricycle-gear-trained pilots. Sure you’ll need training or prior experience to qualify for insurance but it’s no more challenging than Legend Cub, Sport Cub, or Rans’ S-7LS. Savage exhibits very cooperative handling down to low stall speeds (below 40 mph indicated). You can read a sidebar or look for full-length articles to be posted on this website. Coming next for Zlin’s Savage is a bushplane option perhaps to be named the Sport. The new model will include reinforcements to withstand the rigors of bush flying and landings on rougher surfaces. Additional X bracing has been added, the gear extended three inches to allow huge Alaskan Bushwheels (photo), plus you can order a belly pod for camping gear. If you want floats, you should select the left side door option.
Triplet LSA Cubs entering the market show the popularity of this venerable design. First approved as an SLSA was the Legend Cub which offers many features desired by those who love J-3 Cubs. Shortly after Legend came approval for the Savage Cub and the CubCrafters Sport Cub should follow soon. Watch for my review of all three in EAA’s October 2005 Sport Pilot and Light-Sport Aircraft magazine. One differentiating factor between the three are their choices of engine. Both Legend and CubCrafters use the 100-hp Continental O-200 while Legend plans to offer the 120-hp Jabiru 3300 as well. Savage offers the 100-hp Rotax 912S. All offer electric starting (not on an original Piper J-3) and each has significantly improved performance and comfort.
Recently I visited Cirrus Design. I saw progress on the Cirrus Vision jet and the new Garmin Perspective panel for the SR22. Both aircraft are full of high-end avionics. *** Down here in the world of Light-Sport Aircraft, we have far less costly choices for flat-screen avionic displays (panels in the Vision or SR22 literally cost more than an entire LSA). Yet the data each set of instruments uses is identical. LSA are also often equipped with autopilots…again, far less expensively compared to the certified units GA builders install. *** Recently SportairUSA announced their new “Straight & Level” button. If you find yourself in the soup unexpectedly, the pilot or passenger can push one button causing the autopilot to take over by guiding the airplane while the occupants assess their next move. It’s a brilliant idea to give pilots a breather. “The Straight and Level system is a significant advance in flight safety for Sting owners,” says Bill Canino, operator of SportairUSA, “That’s why we are providing it at no additional cost on all of ourTruTrak EFIS/autopilot equipped Stings.” The SL button even turns the autopilot on if it was off…a mighty smart airplane at a fraction of the cost of similarly equipped GA airplanes.
You might say it’s Sirius when TL-3000 takes to the air for the first time. Kidding aside, the new model’s U.S. importer is seriously happy about their composite high wing making its initial flight. Czech producer TL-Ultralight makes the sleek low-wing StingSport that SportairUSA has been selling since the first SLSA lifted into American skies. In development since 2006, TL president Jiri Tlusty recently flew the carbon fiber TL-3000 for the first time. *** SportairUSA boss Bill Canino was recently in Czech Republic making arrangements to market the TL-3000 alongside the Sting S3, an advanced generation version of the TL’s successful low wing model. The Arkansas-based importer says the 46-inch wide Sirius is powered by the 100-hp Rotax 912S, has a useful load of 600 pounds, and extended range with fuel capacity of more than 30 gallons. *** As with StingSport and Sting S3, TL-3000 will come standard with high-end safety features such as a Galaxy rocket-deployed parachute system, PCAS collision avoidance, and AmSafe 4-point inertial-reel seat belts.
Sun ‘n Fun 2008 is history, but planning is already underway for the 2009 event. Event boss John Burton confirmed we will again have the LAMA-hosted LSA Mall right at the front gate next April 21-26. A major success at this year’s Lakeland, Florida airshow, the industry Mall presentation featured 17 Special Light-Sport Aircraft. Weather prevented Fantasy Air’s Allegro from attending. Two days before the event, a tornado crushed a Sting S3 planned for display. And work at Quicksilver Manufacturing postponed the exhibit of the GT500 (they’re finishing SLSA approval, reports national sales manager, Todd Ellefson). *** The 17 who were in the ’08 LSA Mall enjoyed significant traffic all week and virtually every visitor to Sun ‘n Fun was at least exposed to Light-Sport Aircraft in a wide variety (although we were not able to enlist any trike or powered parachute companies).
Lots of folks are wondering about, or complaining about, the seemingly high prices of Light-Sport Aircraft. Recently a prior editor-in-chief of EAA publications, Scott Spangler, wrote a blog on JetWhine. Scott focused on expensive avionics as one reason LSA cost so much. While a factual observation, I believe the price increase is more complex. *** First, LSA suppliers install equipment like autopilots because buyers ask for them. A large chunk of all LSA are sold to “retiring” GA pilots used to such equipment in their Cessna or Bonanza. Simpler LSA are available; most suppliers have one. But customers are buying the loaded-panel jobs. *** Let’s look closer at those rising prices. Five years ago, in the pre-dawn of SP/LSA, a CT was selling for $60,000. Today it’s $125,000. By far the largest piece of that doubling is the euro’s soaring value compared to the dollar. Were the currencies at parity, that $125,000 would be $80,000.