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.
The Airplane Factory Sling
Phone: (+27) 11-455-4204Edenvale, -- 1610 - South Africa
U.S. Distributor is Airplane Factory (USA), The
Phone: (310) 721-9190Torrance, CA 90505 - USA
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.
Several Florida airports have been active during the recession in their efforts to pull new clients. We reported earlier such projects but went to visit one of these over the last weekend. Renegade Light Sport Aircraft had an open house staged in their gargantuan 71,000 square foot hangar and offices on the Fort Pierce airport. Perhaps 200 attended and enjoyed proprietor Doc’ Bailey’s expertise with the barbecue grill. Certainly the facility is mighty impressive as a base of operations. Besides vast square footage, climate controlled work areas are available as is a paint booth and drying kiln. Renegade will be some time filling this large space but Doc’ reported a very special price offer with owner financing that compelled him to move from rented facilities in Missouri. Meanwhile we reviewed projects for the Lil’ Rascal carbon fiber version of the Pitts S1 to plans for the first all-American-built Falcon.
Another busy week finished a very active August that has seen high readership… for which we sincerely thank you. Following are some brief news stories in the LSA space. *** ROTAX “EMERGENCY AD?” Aviation media was all over the Rotax “Emergency AD” story, but is that entirely accurate? Aren’t LSA subject to manufacturer-issued SBs or Service Bulletins rather than Airworthiness Directives, which are normally issued by FAA for certified aircraft? Well, “yes,” said Rotax expert Phil Lockwood. He explained that the matter in question — some fuel lines that need to be replaced — was a result of a vendor change bringing some incorrect components. “Rotax issued a Service Bulletin last spring on this subject,” Phil added. The so-called “emergency AD” was triggered by an EASA issuance primarily for certified Rotax engines in Europe. Rotax BRP is a very careful company that is quick to correct problems and this was something of delayed reaction that again appears to show the certified world may not respond as quickly as the LSA sector.
*** While out west on business travel I had the chance to fly the latest SLSA on the List, the South African Sling. Earlier I’ve written about the all metal LSA’s round-the-world flight but now this low wing design is being made available for sale to Americans. *** On a gorgeous Southern California day, Matt Litnaitzky and his associate Ryan Ruel took a 25-minute jaunt from the Torrence airport to the Camarillo Airport in Ventura. (This compares marvelously to a good hour and a half drive on the seemingly endless and always crowded L.A. freeway system.) Ryan cooled his jets in the Waypoint Cafe while Matt and I went aloft in silky smooth air to see how Sling turned out. In a word: beautifully. *** Handling on the newest LSA is clearly the product of careful engineering and a patient development schedule.
Normally I don’t write about record attempts or exceptional flights until they are completed and even then only if they are significant. Too many grand voyages end prematurely. But I’ve known Mike Blyth for decades and he’s already accomplished several daring flights. For example, his South to South expedition went from the southern tip of South America up through the USA across the Atlantic through Europe and back down to South Africa, all in weight-shift trikes. Plus they made a very watchable movie from this large experience. So, if Mike says he is launching Around the World Expedition 2009 with a stop at Oshkosh on the way, we need to pay attention. Mike and his business partner James Pitman leave South Africa on July 17th and AirVenture begins the 27th. So, throttle up, boys! *** The trip is unusual in a few ways. One, their Sling LSA — from the business the two aviators co-own, called The Airplane Factory — has just completed flight testing.
Have you been thinking that it’s been some time since a new Special LSA was announced? While the torrid pace of yesteryear has abated, it ain’t over yet by a long shot. I know of at least a dozen aircraft still in progress to achieve SLSA status. Now, welcome to Sling, SLSA #125. *** Quietly back on April 18th, 2012 Sling N511NG, based at Torrance, California, received its pink Airworthiness certificate. You may recall reading about a South African Sling earlier, the aircraft completing a world-circling flight that its developers achieved in a fresh-off-the-drawing-board design. *** Sling began development in 2006 in South Africa; 60 airplanes have been delivered to other countries. “This airplane is the first U.S.-registered Sling,” stated Matt Liknaitzky, the representative of American importer The Airplane Factory USA. Sling was designed from the start to make full use of the LSA envelope and to be in compliance with ASTM standards for Special Light-Sport Aircraft.
The more I look into the story about those two wild and crazy South African dudes (post below) who flew around the world in the LSA of their own design and manufacture, the more interesting it gets. *** Just heard back from James Pitman who offered this: *** “We’re just getting into production at this instant here in SA and will deliver the first 20 planes to local buyers. We absolutely intend to be in the US thereafter – hopefully commencing in the second half of this year. We have an established close friendship with Matt Liknaitsky, who is the distributor for MGL Instruments in the States, and we’ll be getting help and advice from him on how to best serve the US market…Thanks for the good wishes for the year – we’ve got a hang of a lot of work ahead of us, but we’re excited about the prospects and are having a good time, both working and flying.” *** Can’t do much better than that, eh?
Last July I ran an item on the grand LSA adventure of two South Afrikaaners, James Pitman and Mike Blyth, who set out to fly around the world — in an LSA! *** Happy to report the boys finished the epic flight, all 45,150 km (27,090 miles) with a stop at EAA Airventure 2009 to boot – in 40 days! *** One memorable highlight: two friends of the pilots greeted the return landing in Full Monty mode: they waved large South African flags, wearing boots…and nothing else! (check out those merry buffsters in the photo). *** The story was just carried on the official Johannesburg, S.A. website, written by Makoena Pabale. *** Anybody who doubts the durability and utility of LSA, take note: the chariot of choice was the Sling, built by The Airplane Factory right in Joburg. *** BTW: the company is their own startup, and the Sling is their first design.
For most pilots flying 100 hours represents a decent year of enjoying aviation. Mike Blyth and James Pitman hit that on the first long leg of their ’round the world flight, traversing a huge expanse of ocean en route from South Africa to Oshkosh. Their total flight will see each logging nearly 250 hours of flying… in a month! *** The intrepid duo successfully arrived at AirVenture Oshkosh right on schedule. After spending a few days at this “Disneyland for Airplanes,” the pair of global adventurers will set off for California, Hawaii and the far east as they wing their way back to what should be a heroes’ welcome in South Africa. Blyth has accomplished several impressively long flights and has made movies about the experience. He and Pitman will repeat with “Sling 2009 Around the World” aerial expedition. These are no mere “There I was…” films.