Special deals are unusual in aviation, an industry of hand-built flying machines sold in modest quantities. This is the paramount challenge in keeping aviation affordable. Challenging, but not impossible. Mainly due to the fluctuation in government currencies, The Airplane Factory USA has little choice but to raise prices by about 10%, however, they are offering a chance to capture the current price if you can make a decision before March 1st, 2018. TAF-USA has two choices depending on your wishes. I’ve experienced both models and find them both highly desirable. The Sling 2 — their Special LSA entry — can be had either fully built or in kit form. The four-seat Sling 4 is available only as a kit. Either is available as a quick build (QB) kit or standard. Either will save you some money in exchange for a few hundred hours of your time. Pricing the Kits Since we focus on “affordable aviation,” just how much will you part with to own a Sling 2 or 4?
The Airplane Factory
Phone: (+27) 11-455-4204Edenvale, -- 1610 - South Africa
Gone Flying!Once aloft, I try to go through a uniform regimen of evaluations. The routine can vary by aircraft, for example, flying the Pipistrel motorglider had to involve shutting down the engine and feathering the prop. You don’t, in fact are not allowed, to do the latter on most LSA. Even entering the aircraft varies if it is a high or low wing. Performance and stability checks include — but, as lawyers love to write, “may not be not limited to” — handling qualities, high speed flight, slow flight (both while checking various engine parameters such as temperatures and fuel burn), slow flight, steep turns, and a thorough group of stalls: approach and departure stalls as well as accelerated, or turning, stalls. I fly on whichever side of the aircraft the representative pilot does not wish to fly. As a former flight instructor I am comfortable in either seat. Before or after I do my routine, I generally ask the rep’ pilot to show me anything he or she would perform in a purchase demonstration flight. Once in a while this gets especially interesting. As with the videos interviews I conduct — which often result not just in a video but also a post (or even a print magazine article) — I try to ask the questions you would ask if you had the opportunity that I have. Hey! As stated at the outset, I agree I have a pretty cool job. Thanks SO much for reading posts and articles, for watching videos, and generally for supporting this work. If you really want to help, please consider membership but I’ll end the pitch and repeat my gratitude for clicking or tapping your way to this website.
Sometimes I am told I have the best job in the world. Hmm, could be. My work entails some of those things no one truly loves, like paying bills, but it also involves flying airplanes for review. That part is indeed quite a pleasure. In this post, I want to tell you what I flew at the DeLand Showcase 2017 plus a little about how we do these VPRs or Video Pilot Reports. For many years, I wrote such things for print. That still happens but most of my reporting now goes online and my more detailed pilot reports have significantly — though not exclusively — gone to video …hence “VPR.” At DeLand 2017, I went aloft six times, five to evaluate aircraft and once on a photo (and video) mission. Video reporting consumes much more time than an interview, 30 minutes or more simply to attach some or all of our eight Garmin VIRB cameras inside and outside the subject aircraft.
Mark Your Calendar… Videos: November 1st — Show: 2nd-3rd-4thAccording to a local newspaper, "More than 6,000 people are expected on the DeLand Municipal Airport Thursday, November 2 through Saturday, the 4th, to inspect more than 100 aircraft." The reporter went on to say that DeLand expects to "top the 1,000 flight operations recorded last year." Hours all three days are 9 AM to 5 PM. General admission for adults costs $20 each day, or $40 for a three-day pass. Lower prices are available for youth aged 11-17 and kids under 10 get in free. The entrance and free parking for DeLand Showcase are off Industrial Way on the northwest side of the airport. Here's the posting schedule for the gusher of videos you can watch. All these aircraft are expected at DeLand.
- Nov. 1, 2017 5 a.m. Tecnam Astore — Tecnam's low wing update that celebrated the 65th anniversary of this leading Light-Sport Aircraft producer from Italy. Tecnam is likely the world's leading producer of these aircraft and Astore is one of their newest. https://youtu.be/oTaWXgnZHUs
- Nov. 1, 2017 6 a.m. Zenith Aircraft — The 25-year-old kit company's CH 750 Cruzer is the speedier version of their ever-popular CH-701 and CH-750 models sometimes referred to as the Sky Jeep. It may not be shapeliest light aircraft but it can get out of the shortest airstrips. https://youtu.be/ioPY_PnMbMw
- Nov. 1, 2017 7 a.m. Aeroprakt A22 — From Ukraine comes one of the great bargains in light aviation with prices well below $100,000. The aircraft is also obvious for its major use of clear panels that assure wonderful visibility. Take the yoke and see for yourself. https://youtu.be/3qhbxWFdCFA
- Nov. 1, 2017 8 a.m. Aerotrek A220 A240 — The steady-Eddie of the LSA segment may be Aerotrek run by the ever-affable Rob Rollison. Through up years and down, Rob sells Aerotrek tricycles or taildraggers on a sane, predictable schedule that buyers appear to prefer. https://youtu.be/7ISH7ZqM4-Y
- Nov. 1, 2017 9 a.m. AutoGyro USA — One class of aircraft buys more Rotax 9-series engine than any other and by a good margin. That class is gyroplanes and AutoGyro is the largest producer. Now, Andy Wall is bringing the brand to America with a fresh, new look. https://youtu.be/2EUgcO5e5jg
- Nov. 1, 2017 10 a.m. Beringer Wheels and Brakes — Everyone likes get up and go but at the end of a flight you have to get down and stop. Beringer has leading expertise in abundance and offers beautiful, versatile systems to help you roll and brake smoothly. https://youtu.be/E7nVrcl2kz8
- Nov. 1, 2017 11 a.m. Ekolot Topaz — If Topaz has not caught your eye yet, you are in for a visual treat. Ekolot's smooth composite Topaz is as nicely appointed as they come and flies pleasantly to boot. Here's one that deserves your attention. https://youtu.be/c5tzmyiUgDE
- Nov. 1, 2017 12 p.m. Evektor Harmony — Harmony follows Evektor's SportStar, which will always enjoy the distinction as the very first Light-Sport Aircraft to win FAA acceptance. Harmony takes the highly evolved SportStar to a whole new altitude as one of the sector's best engineered aircraft. https://youtu.be/WtptDzfjx5o
- Nov. 1, 2017 1 p.m. Flight Design CTLS — For nearly every year Light-Sport Aircraft have been for sale, Flight Design's CT-series has lead the sales rankings and for good reason. It's fast, roomy, clean and smooth, and superbly equipped. At DeLand 2017, come meet the new group managing this venerable brand. https://youtu.be/wPpd6nuZ7YE
- Nov. 1, 2017 2 p.m. Groppo Trail — A lot of handsome airplanes originate in Italy, known for its stylish invention. Groppo's Trail is more the rough-and-ready version able to take on less improved airstrips. Now it's available in tricycle gear or taildragger form. https://youtu.be/6qZKtIkF0vQ
- Nov. 1, 2017 3 p.m. Just Aircraft SuperSTOL — Just Aircraft was already well known for their popular Highlander but when designer Troy Woodland sharply upped the ante with SuperSTOL, eyes at airshows everywhere turned to watch this outstanding performer. Seeing is believing. https://youtu.be/bQFoznvOO_k
- Nov. 1, 2017 4 p.m. KitFox Light Sport Aircraft — One the industry's most familiar shapes is that of Kitfox, whose several models bear the original appearance even as the current company continues to refine and improve their models. Their airshow models are always superlatively finished. https://youtu.be/Gs2FUw0UsAg
- Nov. 1, 2017 5 p.m. SuperPetrel LS — This is one you tend not to forget as it is a very rare biplane seaplane. While it may have a unique look, it works as well on water as any light seaplane model I have flown. The Brazilian company has a base in Florida, not far from DeLand. https://youtu.be/Si2hkU_CwE8
- Nov. 1, 2017 6 p.m. Pipistrel Alpha — This Slovenian company is known for their smooth, slender (and long) winged models made entirely of composite structures. Alpha is their most affordable model and you should look it over carefully. https://youtu.be/litphoYQLOc
- Nov. 1, 2017 7 p.m. Powrachute Powered Parachute — Powered parachutes offer one of the best viewing platforms in all of light aviation. They are also easy to fly and have the lowest hourly requirement to get a Sport Pilot license. Powrachute is the biggest supplier and their models warrant careful examination. https://youtu.be/Rg42_i3EcEU
- Nov. 1, 2017 8 p.m. Progressive Aerodyne SeaRey — We enjoy several great LSA seaplanes but only one boasts a long track record with a large fleet and that is Searey. Made in kit form only for years, you can now buy one ready-to-fly. Searey is made near DeLand in Tavares, Florida ...right on a lake, of course. https://youtu.be/7O7t1nJGPxo
- Nov. 1, 2017 9 p.m. REV Part 103 Legal Ultralight Trike — Among trikes available, the most deluxe and finished model is Revo from Evolution Trikes. However, this Florida company also made the fabulous Part 103 Rev for those on a budget or just look for solo fun in a well-made trike. https://youtu.be/oMK8myarZ94
- Nov. 1, 2017 10 p.m. RV-12 light sport — From the world's largest producer of kit aircraft, Van's Aircraft can now offer a fully built Special LSA RV-12 version through a collaboration with longtime kit-building partner, Synergy Air. Most RV-12s have been sold as kits, at which Van's is deeply experienced. https://youtu.be/PwX8FbTWdNc
- Nov. 1, 2017 11 p.m. Sling Light Sport Aircraft — The Airplane Factory-USA represents the Sling models, including the two seat LSA model and a four seat Sling 4 model that is built as a kit. Both fly wonderfully and have proven themselves uniquely by flying around the world, multiple times. https://youtu.be/3W0xzh0F7yo
- Nov. 1, 2017 12 p.m. SportCruiser — Known to the general aviation crowd as the PiperSport (thanks to a brand they know well), SportCruiser was before and has been since Piper's involvement a good seller under its original name. https://youtu.be/QcjW_X2v9Y0
Live! Soon! Go!Catch all these videos anywhere you like, but even better, make plans now to attend DeLand Showcase 2017. The weather has cooled from summer heat but it should still be in the high '70s, low '80s so it should be a great time to look at airplanes and other gear. As you enjoy all these free videos, I encourage you to visit Videoman Dave's YouTube channel and click here to support the work. You can see most of these videos featuring Dan Johnson right here.
My video partner must be working around the clock as he prepared a blizzard of videos for release starting November 1st. As you see in the list below, 20 videos will soon be available. I hope you’ll enjoy them. Besides giving you info on various aircraft to see at the event, we hope to encourage you to attend DeLand #2. Videos are great and in them we try to ask the questions you would ask and to show you things you’d look for if you attended. Good as videos are, nothing substitutes for you being present to ask and look yourself. I hope you can. Videoman Dave and I will be on-site all three days of the event. We will likely be a blur in motion dashing from one fetching aircraft vendor to another to gather more article material and video interviews. We also hope to record more Video Pilot Reports, as we did last year.
- LSA sold an estimated 3,000 aircraft in 2015 where in the same year worldwide deliveries of single engine piston certified aircraft numbered 969 units. Also, see the final chart in the above linked article.
- More than 66,000 LSA or LSA-like* aircraft are flying around the globe. Most of these have been sold in the last 15-20 years, a delivery pace far faster than all GA-SEPs. I expect this trend to continue.
* "LSA-like" is a term describing aircraft that very much resemble America's LSA but may not be called that because each country has its own definitions.
A good friend in aviation journalism and Editor-in-Chief of Plane & Pilot magazine is Robert Goyer. We’ve known each long enough to have stood around years ago at South Lakeland Airpark waiting to fly this or that new ultralight. In his Going Direct column earlier this month, Robert wrote an editorial about FAA’s Part 23 rewrite project. Using an LSA viewpoint, I wanted to add some commentary to his observations. My goal here is twofold: (1) Show how success with LSA led to good things for other aircraft sectors, and (2) Show how LSA continue to significantly outpace sales of Type Certified Single Engine Piston aircraft. Robert wrote, “The FAA announced earlier this week that the Part 23 Rewrite has taken effect. This means that the rule, which gives manufacturers leeway to employ what are known as consensus standards to meet airworthiness standards instead of the FAA’s prescriptive rules.
- Sling LSA Basic - $135,000 (approx. $880/mo.)
- Sling LSA Garmin VFR - $142,000 (approx. $920/mo.)
- Sling LSA Garmin IFR - $165,000 (approx. $1,060/mo.)
“Oshkosh is all about airplanes, right?” asked The Airplane Factory USA‘s Jean d’Assonville. I loved his remark since that is how we promote ByDanJohnson.com. “It’s all about the airplanes!” is how we modeled our line after Apple’s Steve Jobs famously said, “It’s all about the music,” when promoting iPod (remember those!?) in the early 2000s. Jean — one of the TAF heroes who has done long portions of the South African company’s several (yes, several!) flights all around the globe — went on to write, “This was my third Oshkosh and what rang true for me is that Air Venture is actually all about people who love airplanes! It is the people who dream them, build them, fly them, polish them, sleep in or under them and just simply love them. Yes, it’s the people!” Jean is right. The airplanes are the main message here and at AirVenture but they exist to give satisfaction, education, and inspiration to those who fly our wonderful light aircraft.
You should already know the Sling. The South African design set a new benchmark by coming off design and initial development to take an east-to-west trip around the globe. That showed the confidence of designers Mike Blyth and James Pittman. At Sun 'n Fun 2013, we spoke with reps from The Airplane Factory USA who answered questions about flight characteristics and future plans plus talk about the kit Sling they're assembling. Watch this video to get all the facts.
You should already know the Sling. The South African design set a new benchmark by coming off design and initial development to take an east-to-west trip around the globe. That showed the confidence of designers Mike Blyth and James Pittman. At Sun ‘n Fun 2013, we spoke with reps from The Airplane Factory USA who answered questions about flight characteristics and future plans plus talk about the kit Sling they’re assembling. Watch this video to get all the facts.
As I’ve indicated many times in the last couple years, this website seeks to deliver news and video about Light-Sport Aircraft, light kit aircraft, ultralights, and light GA aircraft. The latter refers to four seat (and larger) aircraft created by the same companies that make LSA or kits. Specifically, I do not plan much on Cessna, Piper, Cirrus, Diamond, and other legacy brands as every magazine already examines these every month. Instead, I plan to cover emerging models from companies that established their brand in the LSA space: Tecnam, Flight Design, Pipistrel, Evektor, Van’s and The Airplane Factory. These six manufacturers are presently in the four seat game either with ready-to-fly aircraft or four seat kits. More are expected to follow. At Copperstate 2015, I finally got a chance to fly the Sling 4 from The Airplane Factory, which I had been anticipating since enjoying the Sling LSA.
Among the critiques some old school pilots employ when trying to marginalize Light-Sport Aircraft is that these aircraft are not suited to flying long distances. I’ve reported several around the world flights (check this article and here’s another) but that’s hardly all the long flights. The invitation started out, “Join all of us at Progressive Aerodyne and the City of Tavares on Friday, September 11 for a presentation by Michael Smith about his epic Searey flight from Melbourne, Australia to Central Florida. Michael will give a presentation at the beautiful Tavares Pavilion on the Lake about his incredible journey.” Unfortunately, I can’t attend as I’ll be working the Midwest LSA Expo in Mt. Vernon, Illinois that weekend. However, many readers probably cannot attend either so here’s a bit of Michael’s story. In the not-too-distant past, documenting a trip like his probably meant appealing to a magazine or publishing a book.
In this Copperstate Part 2 article we resume the list of aircraft Videoman Dave and I reviewed at the show south of Phoenix, Arizona in Casa Grande. To remind you, this was the 43rd running of this show that invites all sorts of aircraft — and many dozens did fly in each day plus others did fly-over demonstrations. However, Copperstate generates a particularly strong response from manufacturers and representatives of Light-Sport Aircraft, light kit aircraft, and utralights. That makes it a must-go show for our team at ByDanJohnson.com and Dave’s SportAviationMagazine.com YouTube channel that so many of you seem to enjoy. Like other shows, many of you approached us at the event and expressed your ongoing interest in the video content we create. We are very pleased about your loyal viewership and will continue to work hard to build our growing video library … already at 400+ videos and moving steadily to 500 and beyond.
Light-Sport Aircraft comprise an diverse gaggle of some beautiful airplanes. Choices are available in a dizzying array of configurations and variations. In fact, so many selections are available to you (as Special LSA) that I created PlaneFinder 2.0 to help folks narrow the decision to a few that might best suit your needs, interests, experience, and budget. If you haven’t checked out this cool feature, you should do so. You can click on and off more than 20 different aircraft characteristics, all simple yes-or-no type entries. As you do so, the “Matching List” changes to show the aircraft that meet your criteria. From that list you’ll see links that let you read more content (written and video) available on this website. You must register to use PlaneFinder 2.0 (your email is all that is required and after you do so we’ll send you a regular English-word password that you can change), however, PlaneFinder 2.0 is completely free, like most of our content.
The “Big Show” is just days away, so of course, journalists and readers are asking what will be present? The question is worthwhile, but often the most interesting discoveries are not foretold either to maintain secrecy or due to the last minute scramble to make a new project showable. Here are four products attendees may want to investigate. Watch for more previews. “What a journey so far, wrote Jordan Denitz, spokesman for The Airplane Factory USA! Globetrotters Mike Blyth with Patrick Huang of The Airplane Factory Asia have completed their first three legs on their way around the world in a Sling powered by the Rotax 912iS. Starting in Johannesburg, South Africa, they traveled to Namibia, Ghana, and Cape Verde. On Monday they were taking a well deserved rest after 37 hours and more than 4,000 nautical miles logged so far. “They are gearing up for the biggest hop yet, crossing the Atlantic,” added Jordan.
It’s almost time! — The tents are in place. Most of the displays are built. Airplanes are already parked by the thousands in EAA voluminous parking areas. The campground and every hotel room for miles is packed full. While the usual pandemonium reigns the night before opening, it is a familiar scene that somehow, almost magically resolves into a ready-to-go show on opening day only hours away, tomorrow, Monday July 20th, the earliest start to AirVenture Oshkosh in years. Today, I got a text — thank some tech guru for inventing text, which always seems to get through quickly even when phone calls do not, with hundreds of thousands of attendees all using their smartphones at the same time. The text from The Airplane Factory USA‘s Matt Liknaitzky read, “Mike [Blythe] and Patrick [Huang] are arriving in the Sling 912 iS … if ya wanna see them.” We did, so we dashed north to the North Aircraft Display Area space.
When you deliver an airplane to an accomplished video producer you are bound to get some great photos out of the deal. The images with this article show video impresario (and my longtime friend), Paul Hamilton, flying new Sling N288SL around beautiful Lake Tahoe not far from his home base in Nevada. Paul has been around light aviation for more years that he may be willing to admit. He has long promoted weight shift aircraft and was influential in developing early LSA training documents and videos in addition to making several video productions that were enjoyable to watch. The Airplane Factory USA boss Matt Liknaitzky wrote, “It was another great showing for the Sling at Sun ‘n Fun 2015 and our team has been busy ever since.” Regarding the new delivery, he added, “In some recent exciting news, another Sling has stretched its wings! N288SL, a brand new Sling [powered by the fuel injected Rotax] 912iS, made the journey to its new home at Paul Hamilton’s Sport Aviation Center at the Carson City Airport (KCXP).
One year ago Rotax announced a contest to award a brand-new 912 engine to the flight school that achieved the first time between overhaul (TBO) of 2,000 hours on a Rotax 912 iS model that the engine builder had just released. Upon reaching the goal, the flight school had to prove the hours by sending a copy of the logbook to their local distributor and then return the used engine to Rotax BRP in Austria. At the end of January 2015, Rotax announced they had donated a copy of their newest Rotax 912 iS Sport engine to Madiba Bay School of Flight located in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, South Africa. “Madiba Bay achieved the first time between overhauls (TBO) of 2,000 hours on their Sling 2 equipped with a Rotax 912 iS engine,” said representatives of the big Austrian engine manufacturer. Flight school owner Gerhard Van Eeden said, “We are pleased to be the winner of a brand-new Rotax 912 iS Sport engine.
Taildraggers may be among the least understood and most feared aircraft available in the LSA space … or for that matter throughout general aviation. While we have many good choices that I’ll list below, I have nonetheless heard from many readers or airshow visitors that they are uncertain about their operation of an aircraft that has no nosewheel. If you have no taildragger skills, you’ll also find it a challenge to get proper flight instruction in a “standard” aircraft. For those seeking new skills in flying, however, taildraggers may provide high satisfaction. Most who have crossed the barrier to taildragging subsequently look very fondly at such aircraft, seeing a sleeker yet gutsier, more rugged appearance. Of course, nosewheels dominate general aviation as they can be easier to land, especially in crosswinds, but once you learn the lesson of “happy feet” — or keeping your feet active on the rudder pedals throughout approach and touchdown — you may always yearn for more taildragger time.
A couple days ago I wrote about the Sling 4-4-40 Challenge. I believe this to be of interest for a couple reasons. One is the fast build at an airshow … much like the intense interest surrounding EAA’s One Week Wonder (video) building of a CH-750 at Oshkosh. The other is my promise to offer coverage of the “New GA” or “LSA 4” planes — which are four seaters built by LSA companies using the technologies and techniques those companies know so well. South Africa’s Airplane Factory (TAF) Sling 4-4-40 challenge — in which a Sling 4 was built in 4 days by 40 workers — marked yet another milestone for the Sling manufacturer. What normally takes a kit builder 1,000 hours to complete, took place at the 2014 Africa Aerospace event in just four days. Build team leader and company boss Mike Blyth reported it took their team 854 hours from bare kit to flight, although painting and perhaps some interior finish will take a bit more time, a situation similar to the One Week Wonder project.
Last weekend Zenith Aircraft held another of their open house events. At the Midwest LSA Expo a few weeks beforehand I asked factory pilot guru, Roger Dubbert how many people the company expected. His answer: a rather amazing “700.” According to Zenith president Sebastien Heintz it was indeed another strong event, one they’ve repeated every year since setting up shop in Mexico, Missouri. “By all accounts and measurements, the 23rd annual Hangar Day was an incredible winner,” summarized Sebastien. Among the highlights of the two-day festivities was the arrival of EAA’s two Zenith aircraft. One was an EAA staff-built version of the CH 750 Cruzer (watch for our video pilot report to be posted soon) and the second was the One Week Wonder CH 750 that was completed during AirVenture with participation from over 2,500 people. As Arion Aircraft‘s Nick Otterback put it, “Since this month seems to offer many open houses I wanted to share ours.
Super Petrel LS from Edra Aeronautica — As described in our earlier article, Edra Aeronautica was nearly done with their acceptance by FAA to be able to sell their handsome biwing Super Petrel LS in the U.S. as a Special (fully manufactured) Light-Sport Aircraft. The “almost” is gone now and Daytona Beach, Florida-based importer Brian Boucher of Florida Light Sport Aviation has the pink Special Airworthiness card in his LSA to prove it (photo). Brian’s business also represents the Flight Design CTLSi, so he has two distinctive Light-Sport models he can demonstrate. Florida Light Sport Aviation is based at the Spruce Creek Fly-in (just like ByDanJohnson.com!); he and wife Jean will be at Sun ‘n Fun in space LP-38 past the LSA Mall in Paradise City. Another Super Petrel LS will be available for examination in the LSA Mall as will his CTLSi. Brian is an airline pilot but enjoys Light-Sport Aircraft when he isn’t jetting around the globe.
The Great Recession was the pits … for nearly all industries and most employees or small business owners. That’s hardly newsworthy. However, the recovery from the recession — that government economists insist ended years ago — has been a long time coming. For too many out-of-work pilots, that recession lingers with us yet. Fortunately, the aviation economy appears to be improving. Although registrations didn’t show it for 2013, the year provided more sales for sellers if not more airplanes for their customers. Now, the hope is that airplanes will emerge from factories faster and the general health of the industry will improve, which is good for seller and buyer alike. A couple companies have proof that things are looking up and I’d like to tell you a little about them. First is South Africa’s The Airplane Factory (TAF) and their rep’, TAF USA, led by Matt Litnaitzky and associate Ryan Ruel.
Welcome to summertime … in December, just after Christmas?!? True, down under in Australia or partway around the southern hemisphere in South Africa, weather patterns are roughly opposite of those in the northern half the globe. While it is presently cool or cold where many readers live, perhaps it is of interest to take a tour of a down-under manufacturer, in this case South Africa’s The Airplane Factory (TAF), designer and manufacturer of the Sling series of Light-Sport Aircraft, four seat models — some built ready to fly and some kits. In case you may have forgotten, the two seat Sling that now qualifies as a LSA was bravely flown around the world shortly after it was introduced by partners and frequent very long distance pilots Mike Blythe and James Pitman. TAF’s American representative is The Airplane Factory USA. The California-based importer’s main main, Matt Litnaitzky, recently visited his supplier, snapping photos and giving us some additional insight to the organization behind the Sling series.