While I doubt airliner behemoths Boeing or Airbus are aiming to create aircraft you might buy, their work along with other developers, may nonetheless lead to something new in the future for recreational aircraft pilots and buyers. According to a report in Wired magazine, “On the morning of January 31, eight buzzing rotors lifted a black bubble of an aircraft off the ground for the first time … Vahana Alpha One spent 53 seconds aloft, under its own power and autonomous control. It reached a height of 16 feet. The flight may not sound like much, but the team from Airbus … and aerospace experts say such flights of experimental aircraft mark the start of a fundamental change in the way we get around.” Writer Jack Stewart goes on to state, “Alpha One … is a full-scale demonstrator of a single-person, vertical take-off and landing aircraft. The idea … is to remake the way we fly.
Congratulations, Pipistrel!As a Slovenia-based company, Pipistrel been a leader in electric propulsion, winning (literally!) millions from NASA for their success with electric propulsion. However, they cannot sell an electric-propelled SLSA in the United States. They can in Australia and Canada. Recently the down-under country approved Electro for use by a flight school. This Alpha Electro "is a normal production Pipistrel Alpha Electro and was commissioned on January 2nd 2018," wrote Coates. "The aircraft was awarded an SLSA certificate by CASA and it is used at the fifth busiest airport in the southern hemisphere, mostly for flight training. The operators now have around 70 hours in temperatures above 35°C (95°F). Michael explained, "The Australian aviation standards do not have the word 'reciprocating' when describing the engine system of an LSA aircraft so the plane can be registered as a 'certified' LSA for flight training in Australia, unlike the USA." In normal pattern flying the fight school is logging 60-minute flights and completing between 8 and 10 takeoffs and landings per training session. Recharging is taking between 45 minutes and 1 hour 15 minutes depending on the temperatures. Michael said that when the temperatures rises above 35°C charging slows down to keep the batteries under their maximum temperature.
Canada, Too!According to a recent report by Flying online, "Transport Canada [approved] Pipistrel’s Alpha Electro earlier this month." Writer Rob Mark continued, "In Canada, the Alpha Electro was certified as an Advanced Ultra-light, a category that doesn’t exist in the USA. Electros are flying in America, but under a Experimental LSA certificate that makes them ineligible to be used for hire." As Rob reported, "Electro is powered by a 60-kW electric motor equivalent to an 80-horsepower gasoline engine. Roughly the size of a Cessna 150, the Alpha Electro weighs considerably less, just over 1,200 pounds. At cruise, Electro tops out at 85 mph." The Southern Hemisphere flight school got a rush of news coverage in Australia. Here's a series or reports that also shows the aircraft in flight. You can hear it as well. https://youtu.be/xPN5VDHzPNo
One word can make a huge difference. This unassailable logic was recently put forth by Michael Coates of Australia regarding the LSA regulation. The offensive word? —Reciprocating. It sounds so innocent until you consider what that word prevents in the USA. Like so many laws and regulations, the original idea didn’t work out anything like what was intended. In its ground-breaking — I’m tempted to write “daring” — Sport Pilot / Light-Sport Aircraft regulation of 2004, FAA specified that all LSA must use only a reciprocating engine. Their stated goal was to avoid turbines that were thought too complex for the “simple aircraft flying in simple airspace” mantra of the day. (For the record, numerous airline pilots I know confirmed that turbines are far simpler than any reciprocating engine. They do require different techniques that are not familiar to recreational-only pilots but they are actually very easy engines to operate, say these professional pilots.) Regardless, FAA’s word choice not only prevented turbine engines but unknowingly prevented electric propulsion as well.
We started a few shows back doing a drive-by shooting (except in a good way). In this effort, we pair up on a golf cart with Videoman Dave running the camera and yours truly trying my best to keep up and not flub my lines. All this is extemporaneous (a fancy word for un-scripted) so if I stumble now and again with an airplane fact, please pardon the error. We like to knock these out and that doesn’t allow for retakes. I think I got most of it right or at least Dave managed to edit out any disqualifying errors I may have made. According to new Sebring Expo Program Manager, Janice Rearick, we have a few facts to pass along from Sebring 2018. More than 100 exhibitors displayed their wares. As mentioned in our earlier report, a good number of aircraft were sold and Janice indicated, “Several vendors we surveyed waved long sheets of leads collected at the show.” When vendors succeed, we pilots get more and better aircraft choices with better service from healthier companies.
How Far We Have ComeI have spent an entire career in recreational aviation. I was on the front lines for hang gliders as they became amazingly sophisticated. I was deeply involved as engines were added to hang gliders to become ultralights, which themselves gradually became increasingly capable. Most recently, I've been a cheerleader for Light-Sport Aircraft and light kit-but aircraft as they ushered in numerous developments that are now being considered for Type Certified aircraft. This history — which I would not trade for anything — leads me to wonder if we might be on the verge of a new chapter in flying for fun. Could it be electric? Might it be a multi-copter? Is it possible the next aviation revolution will not look like those aircraft that previously gave me pleasure? Perhaps! Will that still be "real" flying? Such a judgment depends on the beholder. I considered hang gliding to be extremely "real" flying. I was similarly inspired by ultralights (even if I did lose some hearing after flying with two-stroke engines). Likewise, I've been highly impressed with LSA designers who have thought up dozens of variations, some of which are remarkably handsome aircraft. Each time the new kid arrived on the block, somebody from the previous generation was dismissive. I'm trying not to be one of those as I observe these new creations. I hope you will join me in keeping an open mind. I can hear multiple gripes about the Kitty Hawk Flyer in the video below but I have to say that I'd love to give this thing a try once I believe it be sufficiently wrung out by braver pilots than me. Honestly, on a hot Florida day while having fun with friends at one of the state's many lakes, Flyer looks like a hoot. The video below is rather Hollywoodized but nonetheless shows how developments by big boys with their pockets bulging with money could… just might lead to things I'd enjoy flying in the future. https://youtu.be/mMWh4W1C2PM
Let’s be clear. Boeing, Airbus, Google, Amazon, and other immensely deep pockets are not seeking to build fun flying machines for you and me. Well… not initially, at least. And even that statement is somewhat wrong based on the development of the Kitty Hawk Flyer (video below). Big money doesn’t begin investing hoping to sell 100-200 aircraft per year. Such a performance would be more than acceptable to most manufacturers of Light-Sport Aircraft, light kit aircraft, or ultralights. Indeed, 200 deliveries a year would qualify as a major success for most such builders. The billionaire class dreams much bigger, probably thinking they can sell many thousands of aircraft or much higher cost aircraft than we recreational aviators want to buy. Most will center on doing transportation or package delivery. Most will not seek to increase your weekend flying fun. You know what, though? Neither did the Wright Brothers or the other pioneers of flight have recreation in mind.
As we continue to prepare articles and video from Sebring Expo 2018 our attention is turning to the next big events in sport aviation. In less than two months, we’ll be reporting from Sun ‘n Fun and Aero Friedrichshafen, two of our favorite shows. We sincerely appreciate your visit and thank those of you who have become members!
Very Light to Very HeavyTalk about your short takeoff… I just witnessed the successful launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch, a test flight aiming to transport a Tesla Roadster to Mars. Because I live near Daytona Beach, Florida, I often get to observe rocket launches live. Sheesh! These two accomplishments could hardly be further apart and I don't mean geographically. The space geek in me is always drawn outside to my back yard to get a wonderful view of a launch. I've been privileged to see many, including all the final Space Shuttle launches. With my neighbors who live on the 12th fairway of the golf course at Spruce Creek Fly In, we stood on a pleasantly warm day to see this ground-breaking launch. While we could not see the return of all three rockets, they landed successfully, two on terra firma and one on SpaceX's barge at sea. Because we are about 50 miles away, the sound of these (count 'em) 27 rocket motors traveled to Daytona in about four minutes. The rumbling from those huge motors throbbed on and on, longer than any launch I can remember. The winds need to be rather calm for the sound to travel this far and today we got lucky. Cool! Go private space companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and others. I'm a NASA fan, too, but I want to see these private enterprises take the baton and race outward to the planets …and it's happening. I just hope that Tesla can find a parking spot when it gets to Mars orbit. https://youtu.be/RSc__x0rO9k https://youtu.be/Tk338VXcb24
Sebastien Heintz of Zenith Aircraft in Mexico, Missouri is one of the more vigorous promoters in light aviation. He and his 25-year-old company are all over social media and advertise in big magazines. This week his news came from about as far away as possible, from way down under in New Zealand. “A Zenith STOL, expertly piloted by Deane Philip, was the winner of the New Zealand Bush Pilot Championships in Omaka, New Zealand, on Saturday, February 3, 2017,” reported Sebastien. Deane won with a take-off distance of just 12.6 meters (41.3 feet) and a landing roll of 14.7 meters (48.2 feet). See the video below. By any measure, that is very, very short. “Another Zenith STOL aircraft, piloted by Chris Anderson, took second place,” bragged Sebastien. In third place was a Rans S6 for third place in the Sport Pilot (under 1,325 pound) category. Deane’s STOL CH 701 is powered by a 130-horsepower Viking engine.
Battle of the GiantsProgress toward new aviation frontiers continues. Airbus has generated media attention for several out-of-the-box projects they are supporting. Pursuing new directions may lead to an electric propulsion airliner of the future. Only time knows how that may turn out, but meanwhile companies from our sector of aviation are making some inroads to these new developments. One of these businesses is BRS Aerospace. The South St. Paul. Minnesota company "recently completed the installation of a ballistic whole aircraft parachute into the Perlan 2 experimental space glider as part of preparations for the 2018 season of Airbus Perlan Mission II." The words "space" and "glider" are not commonly used together. In September 2017, the Perlan 2 sailplane accomplished a record-setting powerless flight to 52,000 feet over the Andes. "Later this year, the Airbus Perlan Mission II all-volunteer team will be attempting to soar the aircraft to over 90,000 feet to set a new world record for winged aircraft in sustained flight," reported BRS. "Perlan 2 has a drogue parachute to slow and stabilize the aircraft in case of high altitude emergency, and a ballistic BRS whole aircraft parachute system for lower altitude recovery and landing," said Ed Warnock, CEO of The Perlan Project. "This gives chief pilot Jim Payne and pilot/project manager Morgan Sandercock, as well as our whole team of pilots and their families, additional peace of mind on these very high altitude missions." Since the 1980s, BRS reports delivering more than 35,000 airframe parachutes to LSA, experimentals, ultralights, unmanned vehicles, military aircraft, and general aviation aircraft. The company has documented 376 lives saved through the use of these systems. Not to be left out by their European rival, this week Boeing HorizonX Ventures' dove more deeply into battery development as the aerospace giant announced this week its first investment in an energy storage company, Berkeley, California-based Cuberg. Although batteries can power an ultralight today with reasonable success, a major stumbling block in the development of larger electric-propelled aircraft is battery technology, which is currently delayed by energy sources that weigh too much and produce too little power. "Cuberg's battery technology has some of the highest energy density we've seen in the marketplace, and its unique chemistries could prove to be a safe, stable solution for future electric air transportation," said Steve Nordlund, vice president of Boeing HorizonX, which previously announced an investment in another startup, Zunum Aero, a company developing "hybrid to electric aircraft."
Is your aviation horizon is getting confused by quadcopters, electric aircraft, and airliners? What’s going on, anyway? Airbus supporting a glider? BRS building emergency parachutes for an aircraft hoping to fly to 90,000 feet, on the edge of space? Boeing investing in a battery start-up? What will flying become in the future? This is impossible to know but here’s something to think about: If “Beam-me-up, Scotty” technology ever arrives, airlines may disappear quickly. Sport aircraft, however, should survive because they are flown to experience joy aloft, not for transport. Meanwhile… Battle of the Giants Progress toward new aviation frontiers continues. Airbus has generated media attention for several out-of-the-box projects they are supporting. Pursuing new directions may lead to an electric propulsion airliner of the future. Only time knows how that may turn out, but meanwhile companies from our sector of aviation are making some inroads to these new developments.
Social Media UpdateIf you follow Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, or Instagram as many pilots do, you may have noticed we've been rather quiet on those platforms. This website and Videoman Dave's YouTube channel form our primary outlets and nothing changes that, especially now that ByDanJohnson.com has been made fully "responsive," a tech industry term that means the BDJ2 web format now adapts readily to smartphones, tablets, TVs, or computers. Stats show that around two-thirds of you view our content on a small screen so we're pleased to look pretty good whatever device you use. Use comments to offer any input you may have on that. Recently, we added a line of social media icons below each article. Those of you active on any of those social media platforms can now easily share an article of interest with your flying friends. We hope you'll do that. We get plenty of good comments (and a few gripes) about what we do here and on YouTube and I want to say we are grateful for that feedback. Hearing good words motivates us to do more and criticisms help us further improve our product. Both are appreciated. If you like what we do, please, share the words or video with your friends and help up reach further. You likely know the drill: simply click the social media of your choice, which opens a portal allowing you to use your membership on that platform to send your friends or followers our article or video.
Travel to ChinaThe following video was made first just to show personal family and friends what I did on a pre-Christmas trip to China and Taiwan. It was modified when our travel sponsor, AeroJones Aviation, showed an interest in sharing this in their Asia-Pacific market and sphere of influence. The final result proved fairly watchable, generating around 2,500 views so far. Since others seemed to like it, I thought I'd share it here. It's seven minutes long and compresses a week's travel into a short window. I hope you might enjoy it. The purpose was to try to assist sport and recreational aviation in China and I think we did some good. You may not care but the manufacturer of your favorite airplane probably does. As I've said before, a bigger market for the maker of your aircraft brand means they can be more stable financially and could generate more income to allow them to improve current models and design new aircraft. That's good for everyone! https://youtu.be/pZOqhEU-Seo
After a busy week at Sebring — a show that exceeded my expectations …and probably also for several vendors who logged sales to kick off the year in a great way — I have a couple alternative messages for readers. Those aircraft buyers at Sebring have a few weeks to wait before they get their shiny new LSA or kits but, as noted in three earlier posts, plenty of smiles were seen despite a bit more wind than many would have liked. Social Media Update If you follow Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, or Instagram as many pilots do, you may have noticed we’ve been rather quiet on those platforms. This website and Videoman Dave’s YouTube channel form our primary outlets and nothing changes that, especially now that ByDanJohnson.com has been made fully “responsive,” a tech industry term that means the BDJ2 web format now adapts readily to smartphones, tablets, TVs, or computers.
BasicMed and Focused ShowsBy another view, the push by AOPA and EAA for BasicMed appears to have hardly affected Light-Sport Aircraft interest. In fact, BasicMed may be helping. While new opportunities now exist for older pilots to keep flying their older GA airplanes, BasicMed (see earlier article with comments) has enough hoops to jump through that some are obviously electing to continue using their driver's license paired with their existing pilot certificate to fly Light-Sport Aircraft. Putting a finer point on it, I believe the reaction of many pilots demonstrates that a brand-new, affordable, high-tech, roomy, and well-performing LSA holds genuine appeal. Sebring is the granddaddy of these LSA, light kit, and ultralight shows. It has spawned similar events like the Midwest LSA Expo and the DeLand Showcase plus it has inspired shows like Copperstate and Arlington to keep a focus on more affordable, recreational aircraft. These new events are no challenge to the majors such as Sun 'n Fun (starting in barely over two months) and AirVenture Oshkosh but they have clearly won a place in the airshow circuit. Some find it curious that three of the best shows for these events are in Florida but the state is obviously a national center for recreational flying. Weather at Sebring was good this year although fairly windy on a couple of the days. However, plenty of flying still occurred and the gyroplanes in particular appeared to have no problem with the conditions. Even the Ford Trimotor * — one of two flying examples remaining — flew steadily, cancelling operations only on one afternoon. The number of exhibitors at Sebring, the volume of attendees and the seriousness of these pilots about buying, plus the range of aircraft options — in both types and cost — is but one part of the success story that is Light-Sport and experimental amateur built aircraft. For more about the continuing success of the Sport Pilot/LSA concept FAA introduced almost 14 years ago, read this article. As the last sentence suggests, the Sebring Expo owes some of its success to jumping in as LSA debuted on the aviation stage. Mike Willingham reported that while Expo has not profited from the show itself the event has nonetheless been a success for the airport by putting it squarely on the aviation map and by helping to attract several new tenants including the large facility operated by leading LSA purveyor Tecnam. (Watch for our interview with Tecnam COO, Giovanni Pascale Langer in the weeks ahead.) * For more about this fascinating corrugated metal aircraft from the 1920s, go here.
The fourteenth running of the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo is history and if this is how the rest of the year goes, I predict a stronger year for LSA sales. Vendors were smiling by the end of the show and a good many customers are now anticipating a shiny new aircraft in their hangar. Based on my unscientific survey of vendors, I would estimate at least 15 aircraft sales and possibly more as I did not query every vendor. Of course, airshow promises don’t always materialize but regardless of the precise number, it was amply clear that Sebring — and similar focused-venue shows that confine themselves to LSA, light kits, and ultralight — still offer their magic in putting customers and sellers together. Several vendors told airport executive Mike Willingham about having “pages” of solid leads. Even non-LSA exhibitors such as Cirrus reported to him that they found good prospects at the show.
Day two of the year’s first show, Sebring was a bit cooler and windier but still a fine day as the photos show. I would guess crowds were as good or better than yesterday not even counting a large contingent of ROTC candidates visiting for the day. Zenith continued to garner lots of attention for their supersized SuperDuty CH-750 variant. Larger wings (six feet more span) and tail feathers are mated to a common 750 fuselage (construction time for which has been reduced through higher tech). The SD is powered by an Aero Sport Power IO-375 producing 205 horsepower. The show example was a three seater that grosses at 1,900 pounds. An 1,100 pounds empty results in an 800 pound useful load. This is the model with the distinctive Unpanel™ instrument system that works like a swivel-mounted flat screen TV in your living room (but better because it’s in your airplane).
Aircraft of InterestWe saw a rare sighting of an Icon A5 on display with another on a lake doing demo flights. The California company has in several recent years limited its airshow appearance to a splashy big tent at Oshkosh. It was good to see the team from the factory's flight school and operation in Tampa, Florida make a showing. Scott Severen as US Sport Planes made his first appearance as the new man handling sales nationally for Jabiru, focused on their J230-D and J170-D models. Scott has played many important roles in light aviation and he's a veteran choice to take over from Pete Krotje and his Shelbyville, Tennessee team as Pete slides gracefully into a well-deserved retirement, as he has planned for a couple years. Aeropilot USA boss, Deon Lombard, reported a solid first year with six sales of the L600. He also added a dealer in the east while he handles the west from his California base. From what I could see, interest is growing for this handsome 80%-scale 182 lookalike done in composite. We looked over the HKS-powered Merlin Chip Erwin brought on behalf of his Aeromarine-LSA company based in the Tampa area. Videoman Dave and I are charging around scooping up videos and knocked out seven or eight on Day One. Look for plenty of fresh video in the weeks ahead to follow Dave's deluge of videos in advance of Sebring. Tomorrow's forecast: another fine day (or two or three) ahead, weatherwise with airplane noise first thing and all day! C'mon down if you can…
For all who could not attend, our title forms a common question. On day one of the fourteenth running of the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo, even many onsite asked how the first day went; I’ll bet I heard the question a dozen times. Short answer: A great start! The airport that hosts the annual event lucked out with a day of gorgeous weather, in the high 70s (25° C). Clear blue skies and modest breezes made for a beautiful beginning. They booked a full display of more than 100 vendors and plenty of shiny aircraft to examine. Morning hours looked to have reasonably good attendance; the parking lot was on its way to a good fill at 8:30 AM. These shows rarely seem crowded — and that’s not a bad thing if you want to talk to an aircraft designer or take a demo flight — but at times various aircraft were surrounded by visitors.
See Merlin at Sebring 2018.Two HKS-powered Merlins will be at Sebring, Aeromarine LSA reported. “We will bring a Merlin from our build program that isn’t yet 100% completed,” said Chip. "That will give people a chance to see how easy it is to build their own Merlin.” The fully enclosed Merlin claims to be one of the quickest-build 51% kits available. I went to observe a customer building his own Merlin to see how easy and quick it really was. I came away suitably impressed. "So complete and builder-ready is the Quick Build Kit that most major assemblies and skins are already tacked into position for shipping (using colored soft rivets)," Chip explained, "requiring the builder to actually do some disassembly to bring it to the 51% stage." “There is no 'Slow Build' option,” deadpanned Erwin in his characteristic humor. “Precision matched-hole technology means that the holes punched are not just pilot holes; the accuracy is so high that holes in the skins match the holes in the ribs and bulkheads at final size, so next to zero drilling is required," Chip said. "This precision saves dozens if not hundreds of assembly time hours.” My own eyes proved to me that this precision matched-hole technology works as advertised. The all-metal Merlin PSA is presently flying in several European countries and in the USA today powered with both the more economical Rotax 582 and the HKS powerplant. Merlin PSA quick-build kits with the HKS are now being delivered in the USA with delivery positions available for delivery this spring, Aeromarine LSA reports; some slots remain for the Builders’ Center, as well. The kit (without engine, instruments, and paint) has an introductory price of only $16,500. Depending on engine, BRS, and panel options, completed and painted aircraft cost from $35,000 to $50,000. That's quite affordable by most budgets.
Along with many others, I’m sure, I’m presently en route from Daytona Beach to Sebring, Florida as the 2018 or 14th running of the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo is about to begin. It opens tomorrow, January 24th. By the way, it’s 82 degrees today and the forecast looks reasonably good. C’mon down! Fresh news is breaking about the first flights of the HKS 700E-powered Merlin PSA from Aeromarine LSA. Reporting from Lakeland, Florida yesterday, Aeromarine LSA boss Chip Erwin observed, “[Merlin with HKS is] remarkable, the difference in the feel of the airplane.” Chip’s single seater is proving increasingly popular as he logs sales for his one-seater Merlin PSA (Personal Sport Aircraft). Having flown a number of airplanes with the smooth-running, throaty-sounding, fuel-efficient HKS, I predict continued good fortune for Aeromarine LSA. So many pilots prefer a four-stroke to a two-stroke, that — right or wrong — I imagine the Japanese engine could accelerate sales.
In Their Own WordsFD-USA's Tom Peghiny helped to clarify the situation, saying, "Flight Design was acquired in July 2017 by LiftAir of Eisenach Germany. Mr. Sven Lindig, the owner of LiftAir owns and has founded a number of successful businesses in the Central and Southern areas of Germany. LiftAir now owns the Flight Design EASA Design Organization, the Flight Design aircraft production facility in Kherson Ukraine, and the design rights for all products produced by the company. "Production of aircraft and parts which was maintained at a low rate for the last year and a half are now up to four aircraft a month and a healthy backlog of aircraft orders is building for 2018," Tom said at the late 2017 DeLand show.
Two years ago, Flight Design was the number one producer of Light-Sport Aircraft in the USA backed by strong sales in other countries. The company’s CT series lead our rankings since the very beginning of LSA. In 2016, Flight Design was passed by CubCrafters when the Germany company’s production line stalled during a government-mandated reorganization. By late 2017 at the DeLand show and upcoming at 2018’s first airshow in Sebring, Florida, the company displays products, answers questions, takes new orders, talks to current and possible dealers …in other words acts like a company fully back in the game. Through all this, Flight Design USA — the Germany manufacturer’s close associate and U.S. importer — was a steady hand on the tiller, keeping customers satisfied throughout North America. It’s good to see them return with vigor and our video below lets them tell their own story.
Aeropilot L600In the video below, you can join me as I take you around and inside the L600 from Aeropilot in the Czech Republic, represented here in America by Aeropilot USA. In the next few days, I'll give you a similar tour of the Evektor Harmony LSA and we'll talk with folks from Flight Design to hear how that well-known producer is doing as 2018 begins. These video pilot reports have largely replaced text-and-photo pilot reports although reporting in that form will continue as shorter articles here on the home page. Video pilot reports can provide actual views of an aircraft performing some of the evaluations I talk about in the narrative portion. In this way, a print article simply cannot compete with video. So, "lights, camera, action" — let the fun begin! Also, please remember all the hyperlinks embedded in articles take you all over this website with its 1,500 or so pages packed to the edges with all kinds of info about Light-Sport Aircraft, light kit-built aircraft, and ultralight aircraft …our singular focus in aviation. Aeropilot USA sells L600 starting below $100,000 at which price it makes a great value in a sleek yet familiar shape. You can check it out further if you attend Sebring 2018. https://youtu.be/ar12-jSMTdg
This website was born in 2004 after a few years of laboriously uploading a large number of written pilot reports that had appeared in aviation print magazines over the years before. It was tougher to do then than it is now. The project started in late 1999, barely four years after the World Wide Web was built on the Internet. Tools were crude then and it proved to be a multi-year project to convert from print to web. Today, such a task is vastly easier and we hope you are enjoying the refreshed ByDanJohnson.com that was launched in spring 2017. In this new millennium of intense change, print has slowly but steadily yielded to online (aviation magazines have actually faired reasonably well, but print in forms such as newspapers has badly eroded). We got lucky as we were early and we established a solid presence for this website that today reaches most of the owners of the 66,000+ LSA or LSA-like aircraft sold around the world, with the majority of those aircraft delivered since 2000.
As the world appears to shift into overdrive about electric cars, planes, and drones, what is happening in this dynamic, unfolding sector in aviation? Recent news from Pipistrel spoke to their continued development of their Alpha Electro. This Slovenian company has long pursued this and may be leading in commercialization but — as with electric autos — this remains a minuscule part of total sales. However, it attracts outsized attention from mainstream media, regulators, and others. Recently, my friend and LAMA Europe associate, Jan Friedrich, alerted me to a new success story. The Skyleader company is somewhat known in the USA although perhaps by their earlier name Kappa. The more correct name was and is Jihlavan Airplanes but Skyleader is a better marketing name. Americans have seen examples of the company’s top-of-the-line Skyleader 600 — here’s our video review of the model — but sales have not taken off in this country.
Holy Bat History*The first appearance of the Batcopter was in the 1966 film Batman. Unlike the Batmobile, the Batcycle, and the Batboat, Batcopter was never intended for use in the 1960s Batman television series, which did not have the budget to create such elaborate vehicles. While the other vehicles were bought by 20th Century Fox, the Batcopter was only leased for the movie. It cost Fox $750 a day for five days from April 7 to April 11, 1966. Given the dollar's precipitous decline since those times, that equates to more than $5,600 today. The Batcopter was a functional helicopter provided by National Helicopter Service. It was based on the Bell 47, which was designed by Bell Helicopter Textron in 1941. The Batcopter was a G3B-1 model, which had previously been used in "Lassie Come Home" and "ABC News." To make the model look more like a superhero vehicle, it was fitted with canvas-covered tubular frames and was painted red. The head of a bat was painted in the front while the Batman symbol was painted on the side. The most dangerous design change was the wings, which reduced power by nearly 50%. For the scenes at sea, the Batcopter was taped at Marineland of the Pacific in Palos Verdes, California. Most of the shots were relatively far away as the pilot was Harry Haus, not Adam West, the actor playing Batman. Hubie Kerns donned the Batman outfit to perform the stunts, namely climbing the rope ladder attached to the helicopter while kicking an exploding shark. * Thanks to Wikipedia for all the BatInfo.
Amazingly, “Holy Batcopter!” was not one of the 368 different “Holy…” exclamations uttered by the Robin character in the 1960s TV series. The iconic Bell 47 chopper — without Robin or Batman — will make an appearance at the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo in just a couple weeks. The event runs January 24-27 this year. “Relive the 1960’s era at Sebring’s Aviation Expo with a ride on the original N3079G Batcopter from the Batman TV series,” encouraged promoters of the 14-year-old event. In 1996, pilot Eugene Nock bought the famous helicopter, which was used in the 1966 “Batman” movie and several TV shows. “What we have is an icon in the aviation world as well as the collectable toy world,” Nock said. “It is a one-of-a-kind aircraft, absolutely internationally recognized.” That’s why Nock — an airline transport pilot who has logged more than 14,000 hours — will be flying this vintage flying machine at the upcoming Sebring Expo.
Sport Flying and Aircraft in Puerto RicoRegarding sport flying on the island, Rafael added, "In the aviation area there were many, many losses. Sport aviation is almost non-existent now as about 90% of Light-Sport Aircraft and kit aircraft suffered damage that will be costly to repair (if repairs can even be done), and we don't have any aviation insurance companies in Puerto Rico for non-commercial aviation. "On the positive side, food, supplies, and fuel are back to normal for most of the island." Surprised by his comment about insurance, I inquired further, "Have aviation insurance companies departed Puerto Rico or were they never available? Do you know why not? How many aircraft were damaged" "There has never been insurance for GA," explained Rafael, "much less sport aviation in Puerto Rico, and U.S. companies cannot provide coverage because of a lack of local legislation allowing it." I've heard about political leadership on the island being less than inspiring and this seems to reinforce that impression. "There were at least 25 Light-Sport Aircraft damaged," he reported, "out of about 30-35 that were flying prior to the hurricane, plus the GA airplanes that I have no account of." Thanks for the report, Rafael. I hope sport flying can eventually return to normal on this island that many tourists have viewed as a "paradise." It is sad to see this level of destruction. I hesitate to report such misery but I'm sure mainstream media outlets will never cover this segment and I felt it was important. Pictures were taken by Arland Miller, and Jose Amid Torres, and were publicly shared on Facebook. Thanks to all and best of luck, fellow pilots!
Here in Florida, home to ByDanJohnson.com, we take hurricanes very seriously. While you know they are coming, unlike a tornado, they are nonetheless incredibly powerful forms of destruction. Hurricane Maria produced winds of 200 mph, enough that the weather gurus talked about creating a new category of storm called a Category 6; Cat-5 is presently the maximum. Whatever the label you apply to it, this was a major storm of almost incomprehensible proportions. We got lucky here in the Daytona Beach area. Once a hurricane comes over land, it begins to lose power. By the time it reached us, it was still pretty scary but not remotely like what had been seen in south Florida or in the Caribbean. As most of us have heard, Puerto Rico was massively hit, enduring those 200 mph winds (four times as potent as 100 mph winds, which are already mighty frightening). In September 2017, Hurricane Maria entered Puerto Rico like a battering ram, sweeping through the southeastern coastal city of Humacao and into the island’s history as its worst natural disaster.
The story as reported…Here are some portions of the article, which relates, "At the start of the clip the pilot is seen trying to steady the plane as it rapidly descends while spinning around." Remember, this is a test pilot exploring the flight qualities and performance parameters of a Light-Sport Aircraft, which I agreed not to name (but it was obvious to me that this was not the aircraft in the still picture Daily Mail used).
"The dizzying video shows the aircraft spinning faster and faster as the scenery speeds past. The pilot … was forced to deploy the safety measure during a spin recovery test."He escaped uninjured and the aircraft was fixed and ready to fly the following day." Daily Mail goes on to report [BRS] company founder Boris Popov as saying about the clip, "The pilot wants to remain anonymous as well as the location but we can say it was filmed in Asia and the plane was flying the next day." I know a little more but the actual airplane or incident is less the story than the success of the parachute product. These devices have saved many lives — BRS alone has logged nearly 400 "saves" and other companies like Magnum add to the number. I hope you will consider such a system for your aircraft. If you elect not to, then, please fly as safely as you can. Happy New Year, everyone! I wish you many happy hours aloft in 2018 and I hope you never have to see your parachute.
When I first saw this news story I thought it was one we reported earlier involving a similar aircraft and parachute. However, what grabbed my attention was the clarity of the still photo seen nearby. It was, and it was not the earlier story. Let me explain… The deployment event recently reported is not new even if that’s how the mainstream media portrayed it. Many months ago, a test flight got into an uncontrolled flight situation — a “normal” occurrence, that being what test flights are intended to discover. A successful parachute deployment followed. However, this provides an opportunity to learn more about airframe parachutes. I know something of this because for 18 years, I worked closely with BRS Parachutes of South St. Paul, Minnesota. An airframe parachute system makes a compelling story that media reporters loved. At one time, BRS and its whole-airplane parachute systems were featured on seven (yes, 7!) different TV documentaries at about the same time.
Now, Enter BeaconBOM and other Levil products are great and have seen great acceptance by LSA and EAB pilots. Yet every airplane owner has an FAA mandate to follow: ADS-B Out. If you want to fly into many kinds of airspace by 2020 you must have some device to work with FAA's long gestating NextGen airspace control system. Adding ADS-B Out can be very costly, anywhere from a few thousand dollars to potentially many thousands on more complex, certified aircraft. Conventionally-certified airplane owners have little choice but to invest more, however, LSA and EAB pilots now have a new solution at the best price I've heard. Consider Levil's Beacon. The video below features Levil's Ananda Leon explaining the concept of Beacon. She also gives some Levil history and speaks to her own significant capabilities including creating software that makes these little devices do their magic for you. Beacon is a largely self-contained solution. That's excellent as the cost of adding ADS-B Out capability involves both hardware purchase and installation expense or effort. Most ADS-B Out devices are some kind of box installed in the cockpit. That box must then be "plumbed" to gather data from other devices or boxes and then connected to an antenna located outside the cockpit. No wonder the cost can run into the thousands. No matter the expense, FAA is demanding you install this or stay out of airspace you may wish to enter. Beacon is a welcome light in this darkened space. Presently priced at $1,395 retail, the small antenna has all the elements needed to perform its function. You only need to bring power to it and connect it to a GPS antenna (which you probably already have on your LSA or EAB). All the hardware pieces are contained in this small antenna, and I watched its production to see this is carefully built to withstand the rigors of weather, vibration, and time. Beacon has an internal GPS chip and all the other hardware elements needed to supply ADS-B Out to FAA remote towers so other airplanes and ATC can "see" you — just as you can presently see them with the ADS-B In capability you may already have. I admire this family-run business of Levil. Founder Ruben Leon left Venezuela before things got to their present, depressing state. He walked away from a business, leaving it to employees, escaping the troubled country to make his way in America. Restarting from scratch, it appears Reuben and Levil Aviation are succeeding grandly but what's important to you is their fine products at great prices. Check out Beacon to address the requirement for ADS-B Out without having to mortgage your house to afford it. Thanks Levil! https://youtu.be/T0-jO9HPrBE
I don’t really know when the Leon family sleeps. They must, of course, but their steady output of high-quality, reasonably-priced products that pilots need must make for many long workdays. Recently, our friend Jim Moore of AOPA wrote about Levil’s BOM (Broadcasting Outer Module — and here’s our video about that). BOM is an innovative, self-powered device that you merely hang on the wing and without further installation, it offers a wide variety of information to an iPad or Android tablets (several of them at once), transforming these relatively-low-cost consumer devices into full-blown ADAHRS instrument panels. Pilots flying Type Certified Cessnas and other GA aircraft love this solution as it is effective and cheap, and does not violate their airplane’s Type Certificate. BOM offers LSA and Experimental Amateur Built pilots a way to keep their investment far lower while largely keeping up with our most deluxe Light-Sport Aircraft running Dynon, Garmin, or MGL’s fine panel-mounted instruments.
My guess is most readers do not care particularly about recreational aviation or sport flying in China. After speaking to many pilots at airshows, I know Americans are somewhat aware of flying in other nations but we enjoy so much freedom to fly in the USA and we have so many choices of aircraft, airports, and flying gear that the rest of the world seems almost irrelevant. We most definitely are the lucky ones. We can and do take for granted the idea of hopping in your airplane — whether ultralight, LSA, or a speedy four passenger GA aircraft — and flying to a pancake breakfast or for one of those $100 hamburgers. We can fly almost anywhere we want, anytime we choose, for hour after hour if we like. Sure, some airspace is closed to us or perhaps too congested but, by and large, we can do what we want in the air.