When Rotax moved their 912 iS Sport project from engineering to production, the big Austrian engine manufacturer elevated their already-immensely-popular 9-series engines to a higher level. Beside fuel injection, the company added electronic engine controls more advanced than any other in their inventory. If you’ve flown with the iS Sport as I have you know it has terrific performance — torque was increased through an enlarged airbox along with other minor refinements — plus it gives even better fuel consumption. When flying with Aerosports‘ Jeremy Knoll at DeLand 2017, I heard that his trip from Wisconsin to Florida in the TAF Sling yielded fuel consumption rates of 2.7 gallons per hour at cruise. Man! That is some fuel efficient flying and that is part of what Rotax achieved with their iS model. They will use that technology plus more on their coming 135-horsepower 915 iS due on the market next year.
If you did not get to DeLand Showcase 2017, the second running of this new LSA, light kit aircraft, and ultralight show, we’ve given coverage with more to follow, but you might really like the quick view of most aircraft on exhibit at the event just concluded. As some were starting to pack out on the later hours of the last day, Videoman Dave and I did a quick race around all the airplane exhibits. We’ve done this before and viewers seem to like it as it provides a bit of information about many airplanes while providing an overview of how the event appeared. The video speaks for itself and we hope you enjoy. I marvel at how efficiently and quickly Videoman Dave assembles these videos. This one was especially fast but he will be putting some major hours assembling a whole batch of perhaps 30 new interviews plus several fresh Video Pilot Reviews (VPRs).
Fly 2 BuyWhen we customers get questions answered, we make purchase decisions. If we get to fly aircraft, we move closer to a flying machine catching that can fulfill our dreams. DeLand succeeded in this important respect. Several vendors with whom I visited near the end of DeLand #2 said they had sold aircraft and/or gotten good leads. Of course those folks will return next year — show dates were announced: November 1-2-3, 2018. In my view as a reporter who attends 8-10 shows a year, what makes these smaller, focused-venue events worthwhile is precisely that they do not have immense crowds. Two main reasons explain why. First, those who do attend are clearly interested since, for example, these events have no aerobatic airshow acts or flocks of warbirds to admire. If you go to Midwest, DeLand, or Sebring, it is because you like light aircraft kits, LSA, ultralights, or the gear used on these flying machines. Others come for the forums or workshops oriented to these aircraft types. Yes, it's true that people who go the the giant airshows to see warbirds may, probably by chance, see a shiny new LSA they could end up buying. However, the odds are far greater that they'll walk right past the LSA or kit-built lightplane by en route to the warbirds or whatever other aviation sector attracts their interest. Does that huge amount of foot traffic do a vendor any good? I'm not sure it does. Do you have to pay for it? Absolutely… both vendors and attendees spend more at the big shows. The payoff can be that a company gets more media attention or some other benefit, but the cost is a sure thing. Smaller shows cost less. The people trying to sell us the most affordable aircraft have to watch expenses closely. Secondly, customers who attend these focused shows can generally get all the face time they want with the representative of a certain aircraft brand or flying accessory developer. They can ask detailed questions and get relaxed, friendly, thorough responses. At big events like Sun 'n Fun or Oshkosh, the crowds are often so thick that you can't get to a company rep' or they can't take the time to give a full answer to your question. Taking a demo flight at the biggest shows can be very time consuming — although it's much better at the lightplane areas contained in each of the major events. I love the big shows just as most of us do. They are certainly important events. Yet the smaller shows are where the action is given their focus on a single sector (light planes). Thanks to Midwest, Copperstate, and DeLand this fall. Welcome to Sebring 2018 in January!
The second year of the DeLand Showcase is over. Most folks I asked judged it a success. Year #2 year of this three-day event again logged weather that could not have been better. Sunny blue skies dappled with puffy Cumulus clouds, modest winds, and temperatures in the 80s (high 20s C° for our metric readers). DeLand is two for two! What more could you ask? Well, that depends. Customer traffic “was up every day over the same day last year,” observed show director Jana Filip. That is certainly trending the right direction. Was it enough growth to satisfy a key component of these shows, the vendors? That depends on whom you ask. One prominent company told me they did not know if they’d be back next year, but few will be surprised to see them return anyway. After spending money on the exhibit space and the logistics of moving aircraft, preparing for the show, and housing staff on-site, vendors seem ever to yearn for more “foot traffic.” While acknowledging the yearning, most sales pros know that the question that truly counts is… Did enough customers show enough interest that you took orders or at least obtain qualified leads?
- LSA lead in aircraft deliveries around the globe
- LSA greatly aided development of Type Certified aircraft
- LSA stimulated new instrumentation
- LSA popularized new safety systems
- LSA lead powerplants into the new millennia
- LSA encouraged use of modern materials
- LSA benefit their local communities
DEFENDING the CLAIMS1—LSA lead Aircraft deliveries around the globe. Does that sound hard to believe? You must look globally. While the American fleet is around 4,000 aircraft plus used LSA (nothing to smear at, IMHO), in less than two decades more than 65,000 LSA or LSA-like aircraft have been delivered around the world. This is 3:1 compared to TC Aircraft — 2015 data shows 969 Type Certified single engine piston aircraft delivered versus 3,000 LSA / LSA-like. For more detail, see our chart, which tries to account for all these. 2—LSA have aided Type Certified aircraft development. Really? Yes! How? As FAA agreed to rewrite Part 23 rules (used to certify new Cessnas and such), the agency agreed to use ASTM industry consensus standards and used the LSA F37 committee as a guideline to establish the new GA-oriented F44 committee. FAA would not have done this if they didn't think the LSA idea worked quite well. You're welcome, GA industry. 3— LSA massively stimulated new instrumentation. From the first GPS use on hang gliders (surprised?) and the first digital engine instruments on ultralights, we now have gorgeous flat screens on LSA, touch screen digital devices in full color with more information than we ever dreamed… an all while most TC aircraft are still dominated by round analog dials. Plus this explosion of visual data came at vastly reduced prices. As the late night infomercial urge, “But wait, there’s more…” LSA also encouraged developers of synthetic vision, cheap autopilots, cheap AoAs, and more. 4—LSA introduced and popularized new safety systems, most notably whole airframe parachute systems but also “crush zone” (safety cells) technology and more. Airframe parachutes were first invented for ultralights. Today they are widely used in LSA and Germany even has a rule mandating them Hundreds of lives have been spared by their use giving pilots one more option if things go badly aloft. Yes, Cirrus adopting parachutes certainly helped popularize these systems, but they didn’t lead the parade. 5—Engineers have introduced new concepts in LSA powerplants. Engines lead by market leader Rotax brought concepts like liquid cooling, geared output, high efficiency (with much smaller displacement engines, Rotax nonetheless produces the same power as an O-200). Lighter, smaller packages made aircraft design easier and sleeker. Most recent developments include the electronically-controlled, fuel injected 912 iS, iS Sport, and 915 iS engine (which also incorporates a turbocharger and intercooler). Next: electric propulsion, which will work best on light aircraft like ultralights and LSA initially. 6—LSA promoted use of modern materials. Today Boeing’s Dreamliner is a current example of high-tech material use. Cirrus is another modern success story. Their SR-series used composite but limited carbon fiber. LSA have been using carbon for years; some have more than 90% or the superstrong, lightweight material. 7—LSA benefit their local communities in several important ways. Despite some losses, the LSA safety record has been described by the FAA as “acceptable” …high praise from a regulatory agency. Once LSA manufacturers got used to the system of ASTM standards, manufacturer compliance is good and safety followed. Training systems were improved to aid transition (driven by insurance, not FAA, by the way). LSA are environmentally friendly demonstrated by low fuel use thanks to high-tech, electronically-controlled engines with fuel burns of most engines in the 4-6 GPH range. Modern electronic engines will soon also allow upload of data to help pilots discover engine issues before the problem even shows itself in flight. Finally, LSA are quieter with low noise signatures. You may not care abut that too much but airport neighbors certainly do! If we want to base closer to city centers and don't want a long drive to fly our LSA, we must be accepted by the community.
Can we go further yet?Yes we can, in fact we may be at the beginning of greater developments. Why do I think this? My belief stems from my work with the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association and its four initiatives being lobbied to FAA:
- Gyroplane SLSA — given their popularity the time has come for factory-built aircraft
- Single Lever Control (SLC) — an idea to provide in-flight adjustable props to gain a potent safety advantage with zero pilot workload, thanks to modern engines and new development work
- Electric propulsion for 103 ultralights soon and possibly for LSA in the near future
- Aerial Work for LSA — this could be big for builders and users of LSA; some commercial applications are reasonable and LSA are excellent candidates for specific kind of aerial work
[from a talk given at DeLand Showcase 2017…] After more than 13 years of LSA, I believe the industry can stand tall and proud… Even with more than 140 attractive, innovative, and roomy LSA of every description, much of what makes LSA a strong and worthy addition to aviation is less obvious to many. Sure, pilots love the nuts and bolts and hearing about performance or flight characteristics of our favorite aircraft but what has really brought LSA to the forefront of aviation… worldwide? I’m lucky. I’ve had a front row seat to what I consider to be the greatest modern story in aviation. Since the 1970s, I watched hang gliders evolve into ultralights and ultralights transform into LSA. Then I watched as a worldwide fleet launched into the skies over the past 15-20 years. This has been humbling to experience and a source of constant delight …as well as a source of material for thousands of articles and hundreds of video.
We have more articles coming from DeLand 2017 and a whole batch of fresh videos to follow once they have been edited. The next show featuring LSA, light kits, and ultralights is the Sebring Expo in its 14th year. Once again, Videoman Dave and I will be on-site capturing more video. Sebring is followed by by Sun ‘n Fun and Aero Friedrichshafen. For 2018 and 2019, we will report from both. We sincerely appreciate your visit and thank those of you who have become members!
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.
Kolb's TriGear FireStar to the RescueOffered after years of a tandem setup, Kolb's FireStar II SS is a side-by-side version of the FireStar II. More recently, the company offered a tricycle gear version …one that retains the tailwheel even if you don't use it. This gives a landing gear versatility almost unmatched in aviation. You can land on three front wheels or use the tailwheel if you wish to explore this difference. FireStar II delivers "great climb performance with the Hirth 3202 engine but can be fitted with the Rotax 582 engine," said Kolb's Bryan Melborn. Hirth is the standard engine for the FireStar II SS mated to a 2.58:1 gear reduction drive swinging a 66-inch diameter fixed pitch propeller. This combination gives outrageous climb performance (as our video below demonstrates) with a top speed of 80 mph. "It takes very little power to maintain minimum flying speed in a FireStar II SS," Bryan added, "and such slower flying is more enjoyable because of engine noise and fuel consumption are at a minimum." Handling Kolb aircraft is a wonderful experience. Like all Kolb models, FireStar II SS uses traditional cable and push-pull tube controls which yield a solid feel. Half-span ailerons offer good roll authority at higher speeds while still being powerful enough at lower speeds to retain roll control even through a stall. "Optional hydraulic brakes provide for sure stops so the FireStar II SS can be landed and stopped in very tight areas," noted Bryan. Differential braking using heel pedals allows for a tighter turning radius which further improves excellent ground handling. Previous customers who built the older tandem configuration are not left out. Bryan said, "We use stock FireStar wings and tail feathers, so if you own a FireStar II tandem seat, you can purchase a new cage and a boom tube from Kolb Aircraft and fit your wings, tail feathers, engine, and instruments to it and convert to side by side. Call the factory for details or send an email. Like all Kolb aircraft, the FireStar has folding wings and tail which allow for easy storage or trailering. "The tail folds up and the wings fold back along the fuselage in about 15 minutes by one person," Kolb advises. "Everything stores right on the airframe." With gross weight of 850 pounds and slow stall speed, a two-place FireStar II is sold as an Experimental Amateur Built aircraft. It qualifies to be flown using a Sport Pilot certificate or your higher certificate exercising the privileges of Sport Pilot.
Broadening the Tri-Gear LineupAt Sun 'n Fun 'n Fun, we did a video interview with Bryan to announce that Kolb now offers the Part 103-legal Firefly model with the tri-gear setup. Hear and see more below… https://youtu.be/PUupn9BdAIA
In the world of kit aircraft a few companies stand out for having delivered many kits that have launched into the air. Leading the success stories is Van’s Aircraft at nearly 10,000 flying — with around double that number of kits shipped. Van’s is trailed by Rans Aircraft, Kitfox Aircraft, and Kolb Aircraft. Kolb estimates about 8,000 of their various models are flying today, a strong enough figure to make the Tennessee company one of the shining lights in the field of light kit aircraft. However, Kolb has always had a problem. They build taildraggers. After generations of pilots were trained in tricycle gear airplanes, many pilots aren’t sure about their ability to handle a taildragger. When landed other than straight and true, a tricycle gear airplane auto-corrects, swinging toward the nosewheel. A taildragger can, if handled poorly, result in the dreaded ground loop, meaning that the tail can swing to the side, potentially causing a wingtip to touch the ground.
Room for Another SolutionOne man is working to change the "youth problem" in his own unique way. You may already know him from his days directing the Aviators Hot Line enterprise and its Light Aviation division. His name is Jacob Peed and following are his words about his newest project, which I am pleased to support.
Every pilot I know… every aviation organization… every aviation government official… all acknowledge the same requirement for the future of aviation. We need more younger people entering this activity that we current pilots enjoy so much. I feel sure you agree. However, despite the efforts of many smart people over many decades, the number of younger folks in aviation is smaller than we might like. Now, let’s be clear. This is not an epic failure. We do have younger pilots involved today. Do you doubt this statement? If so, you are not alone but you may be wrong. Consider this part of an article I published earlier: “Most pilots I know think the pilot population is graying quickly and that we may be in danger of running out of pilots. [The statistics on American aviators] say otherwise. The biggest single category may be [the one] you expect with those aged 50-64 counting 179,277 pilots.
What's Valuable about this Work?Before any of the light aircraft shows, Dave releases a veritable flood of new videos that highlight specific aircraft you can expect to see at these events. The upcoming DeLand Showcase — starting in less than a month, running November 2-3-4, 2017 — is no exception. Below you see one of the first but listen to this. He has already produced and uploaded another seven videos and plans to continue this pace right up until DeLand starts. See a new one every other day! I hope you can attend this final show of the calendar year but it is one of several great light aviation events happening during the September to January period (in date order: Midwest LSA Expo, Copperstate, DeLand, and Sebring LSA Expo). If you attend any of these, you are likely to see Videoman Dave and me running hard from exhibit to exhibit covering the best and most interesting aircraft at these shows. (If we don't stop to say hello, please excuse us; we try to get the most out of every day and that means we are in nearly constant motion.) Here's Videoman Dave's first promo for DeLand. Then, every other day, look for another. …incredible! https://youtu.be/MYYQ8BklUck If you like the videos you see on Videoman Dave's YouTube channel, I urge you to subscribe and help keep them coming. If you've ever tried to edit a video you know how many hours are invested to produce a single 5-minute video. Now remember he has done more than a thousand on aircraft and topics of particular interest to the light aircraft enthusiast crowd. Subscribe annually or pay once for lifetime access (a terrific, money-saving deal, BTW). You'll be supporting a most worthy effort, in my humble opinion!
Are you a YouTube fan? I don’t mean the company or its owner Google/Alphabet (which has removed videos for reasons only a YouTube censor could comprehend). What I’m a fan of is YouTube content creators. Like literally billions of other people, I’ve come to depend on YouTube videos, whether for pure entertainment or when I’m trying to fix something in my house or on my car. As you probably know, YouTube will almost certainly have not one video to help or delight you, but dozens …on the same topic. More than 300 hours of video are uploaded to Google’s computers every minute of the day, 24×7. Amazing! More than 5 billion videos are watched every day by more than 1.3 billion people (and that’s without China’s 1.3 billion people as the government does not allow YouTube in that nation). However, this post is not to sing the praises of YouTube but to bring to your attention the yeoman’s work done by my video partner, Dave Loveman, whom I’ve come to call “Videoman Dave,” because unlike yours truly, he tends to shy away from being the on-camera guy or even promoting his name.
What Airplanes to SeeI won't try to predict all you might get to see, but here are three aircraft of particular interest, each in its own way. Seamax LSA Seaplane — We welcome back to the LSA space Brazil's Seamax M-22, now with folding wings. After emerging from under a takeover cloud Seamax is roaring back in business, complete with a new U.S. base of operations. The company "will be displaying and delivering our aircraft Serial Number 149 at this year's DeLand Showcase." They added, "Our Brazilian team, including Seamax designer Miguel Rosário will be ready to answer your questions." Launching their U.S. presence, "Seamax will be delivering the M-22 regularly, landing our first M-22 at DeLand [and] ready to accept orders as our production in Brazil is ramping up." Shortly after the new year starts, Seamax will start final assembly operations in Daytona Beach, Florida. "We will ship the Seamax, manufactured in Brazil, to be assembled in the USA." Factory-trained staff will add engine, prop, and avionics at their facilities at Daytona Beach, on the campus of Embry Riddle Aero U. "Our new building, located in São João da Boa Vista’s airport in São Paulo, is allowing us to ramp up production fast so we can satisfy our future customers soon," finished the company statement. Flight Design USA — One of the most successful U.S. importers is a Connecticut-based company, run by one of the most respected names in Light-Sport aviation, Tom Peghiny. If you feel you haven't heard enough about them and him lately, that's because Flight Design, the German company has been through a top-to-bottom reorganization. Now, they're back and you can see them at DeLand! We saw AeroJones representing the company at DeLand #1 (2016) and that Taiwan enterprise continues strongly as it enlarges CTLS production to serve customer sales in many countries, including China. I'll have more about AeroJones early in the new year. Flight Design USA is the name that kept the CTLS and CT-series atop the market share chart for a dozen years, before bowing to CubCrafters in 2016 while undergoing the German court-ordered reoranization. If you've been waiting to get the latest news about this important brand, come speak to Tom and new Flight Design director, Lars Jörges at DeLand. Aeropilot L600 and New FX1 — I've been telling you about L600, a scale-model representation of Cessna's popular Cessna 182 Skylane …only at a fraction (something like one-eighth!) of the cost. You can see L600 at DeLand but you can also hear what U.S. importer Deon Lombard has to say about a new entry headed America's way. Deon recently visited Italy with another pilot to examine and fly the FX1 and reportedly came away excited and impressed. I've written about this handsome Italian aircraft, a follow-on to their 1990s era JetFox97. I recently spoke with Designer Alfredo Di Cesare by phone and I am more than a bit intrigued to see and fly this latest iteration of a proven design. Aeropilot USA will not yet have an FX1 on display in DeLand. Alfredo said he is finalizing work to comply to the ASTM standards that allow FAA acceptance. He's already earned German "ultralight" approval, a good preparation for showing compliance with ASTM. Last year, DeLand had a full roster of airplanes both new and familiar. The event, organized by Jana aided by (husband) Gary Filip with oversight from airport manager John Eiff, put on a superb first-year event. I expect DeLand #2 to be even better. I'll be present every day shooting new YouTube videos with Videoman Dave and capturing article material. I hope to see you in Florida …soon!
Given a successful Midwest LSA Expo, you could say the “LSA show season” is underway. This is proven by the upcoming DeLand show — the second annual event — followed by the 14th Sebring LSA Expo. Even before DeLand, for those in western U.S. states, is Copperstate (which is not a pure play LSA event but does have a good representation of them). Why go to DeLand over November 2-3-4 of this year? Several reasons come to mind. First, Showcase executive Jana Filip — who earned her stripes managing Sebring for several years — said exhibitor sign-up has been strong, meaning you can see many great light aircraft …more on that below. Second, weather in early November in Florida should be marvelous, even as the northern states head toward winter. Third, DeLand is one of those aviation-sports airports featuring one of the world’s most active sky diving operations.
- 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.
Ninth Annual Midwest LSA Expo 2017Mount Vernon Airport (KMVN) airport manager, Chris Collins, is a key reason why Midwest has firmly anchored itself in the aviation event universe. Chris works very hard to assure all vendors are made to feel wanted and welcome. Attendees to the show see his work and that of his volunteers. The airport terminal facility is excellent with indoor exhibits housed inside right where you enter. The restaurant serves good food all day and Chris always arranges for some special food service. Even the bathrooms are indoors and clean, just like home. In a phrase, what's not to like? These events are not known for having immense crowds but all of those attending clearly want to be present and came knowing they'll find things they like. This is not the curious, non-buying public (though some of them attend, too). Mostly, this is a dedicated assemblage of light aircraft vendors and light aircraft enthusiasts. Perfect! Manager Chris summed up the event nicely and I present all his words below just as he wrote them: "I just wanted to send a quick follow up on the 2017 Midwest LSA Expo. For those that made the trip to Mt. Vernon, Illinois – Thank You! There were many positives:
- Three days of the most beautiful weather an event host could ask for! Clear skies, light winds, and comfortable temperatures translated to an incredible amount of aircraft operations — a large percentage being demo flights.
- Relevant aviation topics covered by the finest in the industry made for packed forums/seminars. Thank you Carol Para at the Illinois Department of Transportation Division of Aeronautics for managing this segment of the event.
- Swift Fuels hit a home run! Thank you Brian Stirm for keeping us supplied. We sold double the amount of MoGas as previous years.
- Camping was a hit! The number of people taking advantage of the free camping continues to grow. Beautiful scenery, numerous electrical hookups, showers, and lots of room combined for an overall positive package. The nights featured temperatures in the 50s and full moons!
- Airport View launched on an industry wide scale at Midwest LSA Expo. Check it out at www.AirportView.net. Thank you Dreams Come True Aviation, Aviation Insurance Resources, Matco Wheels and Brakes, and Full Torque Propellers for your partnership! Thank you Jacob Peed for using Midwest LSA Expo as an example!
- The Global War on Terror Traveling Wall of Remembrance was erected on Saturday morning. Although not industry related, the Wall reminded us of the lives lost (military and civilian) in the war we will most likely be fighting the rest of our lives.
- Patch Lee and Grandma Deb’s BBQ kept the crowd on site until after 6:00 p.m. on Thursday. The opening day hospitality party was one for the Midwest LSA Expo record books. Maybe it was the Patch Lee concert, maybe it was the food, maybe it was the great weather – something kept the crowd on site longer than previous parties.
- Demonstration Flights, Demonstration Flights, Demonstration Flights! I know I mentioned this in point #1, but this is what Midwest LSA Expo is all about. Most exhibitors spent a large amount of time in the air. It is the hope of all of us at Midwest LSA Expo that some of these demonstration flights will produce fruit somewhere in the immediate future.
It’s over …yet it’s just begun. I refer to the Midwest LSA Expo, which, you might say, kicks off the LSA show season including light kits and ultralights in addition to LSA. Midwest runs in the first weekend in September, followed by Copperstate in October, followed by DeLand in November, and climaxing with the granddaddy of these shows, Sebring, in January. Copperstate has more than LSA and light kits but it has a focus on those aircraft. The organizers enjoy such light recreational flying machines so they focus on this segment. That show is coming soon. DeLand will later host the second-annual event. Sebring will be hosting its 14th event. The last is the largest and best established of these and, indeed, has been the wellspring from which the others of these evolved …except for Copperstate, which will celebrate its 45th year in 2017 — impressive!
A few days back, Tecnam announced that Transport Canada, their equivalent to FAA, confirmed that the P2008 has been added to the Eligible to Be Registered Advanced Ultralight Listing (although the Tecnam model has not been added to their website list at this writing)."P2008 aircraft may be registered in Canada as of this date," wrote Civil Aviation Safety Inspector, Craig Davis of Transport Canada on August 14, 2017.
An "Advanced Ultralight" is not an American ultralight vehicle nor a European Ultralight — sometimes called Microlight. The last is limited to a weight of 472.5 kilograms (1,040 pounds) with an airframe parachute, as required in Germany. An American ultralight is limited to 254 pounds empty weight, with some allowances for airframe parachutes or float gear.
In Canada, a two-seat Advanced Ultralight is limited to 1,232 pounds, whereas in the USA, Tecnam's sleek P2008 can weigh 1,320 pounds (600 kilograms).According to Transport Canada's regulations an advanced ultra-light aeroplane (AULA) is an aeroplane which:
- Is propeller driven;
- Is designed to carry a maximum of two persons, including the pilot;
- Has a maximum take-off mass of 350 kilograms (770 pounds) for a single place aeroplane, or 560 kilograms (1,232 pounds) for a two place aeroplane;
- A maximum stalling speed in the landing configuration at manufacturer's recommended maximum take-off mass (weight) not exceeding 72 km/h (20 m/s, 45 mph) (IAS); and,
- Is limited to non-aerobatic operations.
America’s neighbor to the north is USA’s largest trading partner …yes, bigger than China, or any other single country. It may be hard to accept that exchanges with a nation of 36 million population exceeds China by almost a third, despite that Asian nation’s 1.37 billion persons and its export-promoting government. Nonetheless, it’s true. Canada is also the #2 nation bringing regular reader to this website. Gotta love those Canadians. Armed with those facts, I was intrigued to see the announcement from the big Italian company, “Tecnam P2008 now available in Canada.” A few days back, Tecnam announced that Transport Canada, their equivalent to FAA, confirmed that the P2008 has been added to the Eligible to Be Registered Advanced Ultralight Listing (although the Tecnam model has not been added to their website list at this writing). “P2008 aircraft may be registered in Canada as of this date,” wrote Civil Aviation Safety Inspector, Craig Davis of Transport Canada on August 14, 2017.
When I started this website back in 2004, even before Light-Sport Aircraft officially arrived on the aviation scene, I began by uploading hundreds of pilot reports that had appeared in various aviation magazines. Most were very detailed descriptions of many ultralights (both single and two seaters) and light kit aircraft. After flying nearly 400 models, I had information that most buyers lacked, so I often took questions that were similar to, “You’ve flown all these airplanes. Which one should I buy?” The question turns out to be impossible to answer. It is something like asking me, “Which color car is best?” The answer depends on what you want. What I like is nearly meaningless unless your desires are almost identical to mine …and that’s very unlikely. If we spoke long enough at an airshow, perhaps I could learn enough about you — your experience, your home location, your expected use of an aircraft, your spending budget, and much more — such that I might advise you what might work for you.
- Technical characteristics of the charging station: — Capable of charging two electric aircraft at the same time — Current strength: 2 x 20 kW — Charge speed: one hour to fully charge Alpha Electro — Operating voltage 3 phase 400 volts alternating current — WiFi connection to the network
Big Boys of Light AviationIn Pipistrel's 25 years, the Slovenian company has produced 600 aircraft of the Sinus-Virus family (the ones most familiar to Americans) plus 120 aircraft of the Taurus-Apis family (motorgliders and gliders). Together with approximately 500 weight shift trikes — the aircraft that started this company back in Soviet times — Pipistrel has manufacturered about 1,300 aircraft. Update 9/18/17: According to Pipistrel's Australian dealer, Michael Coates, the numbers on the company website are dated and the aircraft produced total is now 1,260 units. Adding the 500 trikes, their total shipments some 1,750 aircraft. A few producers have delivered even more in the LSA or LSA-like space, but not many. Italy's Tecnam is the clear leader, well ahead of all others, followed by German builders such as Flight Design, Icarus Comco, and gyroplane builder, AutoGyro. Honorable mentions are deserved for other players in fully-built aircraft: The Airplane Factory and Jabiru. Big as Cessna and Piper may be in GA aircraft, their success in LSA sales is far smaller than the others mentioned. Based on deposits, Icon may be a future volume leader but their ramp-up is still in process. We are unable to factor in kits from producers like Americans such as Sonex, Van's, Rans, or Zenith as they are difficult to accurately count, given widely varying names for each (a homebuilt has the builder's name as its manufacturer, for example). FAA N-number registration data entry clerks can be excused for not knowing each of these many variations. With similar regrets and for the same reason, we do not include figures for weight shift trikes, powered parachutes, powered paragliders, or gyroplanes but these add measurably to the total LSA or LSA-like aircraft flying all over the globe. Will electric aircraft producers change this ranking order? Only time will tell. Meanwhile you can follow our market share data at this link.
Article Updated: 9/18/17 (see below) Electric airplanes continue to catch the headlines… but don’t impact the market much (yet). That may be changing. You rarely see advertising for Pipistrel, the Eastern European builder of several very sleek Light-Sport Aircraft. The company feels they generate interesting-enough news that media organizations will cover their accomplishments. As this and other articles prove, perhaps they’re right although most publications depend on advertiser support to allow them to provide coverage. An example of how Pipistrel seduces the aviation press is with an announcement proclaiming their partnership with ride-sharing giant, Uber …specifically about that tech company’s aerial ambitions. At the recent Uber Elevate Summit in Dallas, Texas, “Uber signed a partnership with Pipistrel aircraft producer for large-scale deployment of electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles (VTOLs).” Pipistrel said initial vehicles [will] be used in a flight demonstration by 2020. “Pipistrel is the only company in the world that builds and sells electric aircraft today … they are a valued partner in making Uber’s VTOL network a reality,” said Mark Moore, Director of Engineering for Aviation.
- 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.
"Aluminum at its Best"
Breezer Sport is focused on speed, said the company. "The B400/B600 design philosophy had its roots in the ease of building for the homebuilder market back in the early days," noted Wolfgang.
"Today, we can do things differently and that’s why the Breezer Sport has a totally different approach. Plus, the current integration of 3D CAD/CAM systems enables us to create form factors meeting the expectations of strength and performance." Breezer Sport is not only an enhancement of the B400/B600, series they say. "It is a completely new aircraft with totally different technology approaches."
"Aluminium is our core competence," said Wolfgang, "so it had been a fascinating task to design a round fuselage. It was all done on computer making the first article close to the proposed production version. The new aircraft has several distinctive qualities compared to earlier models.
- Counter-sunk rivets support the clean design in smooth surfaces.
- Tapered wings are new in all aspects from profile to main spar.
- Breezer Sport uses a spar in a center section connecting to the landing gear.
- The Sport model's wings are shorter and are attached to the main section.
- To support low-speed behavior, Fowler flaps provide additional lift.
- Breezer Sport is designed to accept Rotax engines including 912 UL, 912 ULS, 912 iS and even the new 135-horsepower 915 iS.
- The new engine cowling is shaped to generate less drag and allows a large opening for coolants or intercooler. The visual dominance in the future is the large side intake.
In a eNewsletter to what they call “Breezerians,” the German company with the same name as their model reported a festive debut to their newest model called Breezer Sport. At their home field and despite weather problems for arrivals coming from the south, the airport got “overloaded” with traffic. The Breezer event was “not too hot, not too cold, great clouds for such an event, and little wind,” reported Wolfgang Nitschmann. “In short, a dream; even the catering was excellent.” Among a collection of airplanes, rare and contemporary, Wolfgang and team unveiled their new Breezer Sport, joining other models called LSA Elegance and LSA Attraction. All Breezer models are available as B400 or B600 editions, the former being those conforming to Europe’s Ultralight Class, limited to 472.5 KG (with a parachute system, as is mandatory in Germany). The latter are the 600 kilogram Light-Sport Aircraft models. Here’s our earlier looks at Breezer when first announced in the U.S.
Article updated… Stuck as I am in Florida preparing for the onslaught of Hurricane Irma… with great regret, I am missing for the first time the Midwest LSA Expo in Mount Vernon, Illinois (about an hour east of St. Louis). Yet the good news is that some airplanes for which I expected to do Video Pilot Reports will still be in attendance even if I am not. My ever-present videographer Dave Loveman is also onsite, coming all the way from Canada, so those cross country flying efforts will not be in vain. Traveling from Arizona is Ed Ricks and the Paradise. Flying even a bit further from California is the Aeropilot L600. Those of you able to attend Midwest LSA Expo 2017 this year can examine those aircraft and a ramp full of other top brands that have so faithfully attended this event (see the layout and exhibitors here).
Interested in Chipper?Not only are Belite's performance numbers for the Chipper shaping up well, the purchase price has also remained within the "affordable aviation" range. Here's a few figures:
- $10,495 — taildragger airframe kit (1,000 pound gross, 80-horsepower max)
- $11,995 — taildragger airframe kit (1,200 pound gross, 100-horsepower max)
- $2,595 — taildragger finishing kit (1,000 pound gross, 80-horsepower max)
- $2,995 — tricycle gear finishing kit (1,000 pound gross, 80-horsepower max)
- $3,195 — taildragger finishing kit (1,200 pound gross, 100-horsepower max)
- $3,695 — tricycle gear finishing kit (1,200 pound gross, 100-horsepower max)
This pricing is locked in with your $500 deposit, but you must take delivery this year.
- 5 gallon fuel tanks —” $900 per pair
- 14 gallon fuel tanks — $1,400 per pair
- Any Radiant instruments with purchase of a Chipper kit — 25% discount. James said, "This does not include the radio, transponder, or ELT, but you can put together a very nice Radiant panel for less than $1,000."
- Belites recommend Oratex fabric (see video) and DUC Hélices propellers.
- Some items, such as engine cowls for either Rotax engine or engine mounts will be determined later.
- Prices do not include: engine, propeller, mount, cowl, instruments, fabric, paint, glue, etc.
Belite entrepreneur James Weibe has successfully used his tech industry background to raise interest for his latest project, this time his first two seater called Chipper. (It was named Pipper but that apparently energized the anxieties of Piper Aircraft lawyers so James altered the name.) James has informed his Facebook and email readers with continual updates. After making initial flights fairly recently, he has judged the aircraft able to make a cross country flight. Chipper uses power from the 912 Rotax, but rather than the more common 100-horsepower ULS model, James is using one of my favorites, the 80-horsepower, regular-autogas-burning version. I like it because for lighter aircraft, such as Chipper, this 912 has plenty of power and it is about as trouble-free as any aircraft engine I’ve ever flown. “I flew Chipper to Angel Fire, New Mexico,” James exclaimed. “I flew nonstop one way (960 miles roundtrip) from Wichita, Kansas to Angel Fire, performed flight tests, and then returned to Marion, Kansas before the sunset.” Now that’s a good day’s flying.
What Is a LSRM?LSRM is shorthand for Light-Sport Repairman–Maintenance. When FAA created the LSA category in 2004, part of it addressed maintenance. Instead of burdening mechanics with the need to earn a two-year, 2400-hour A&P (Airframe and Powerplant) rating, they offered an alternative system and let private providers offer courses. A simpler inspection rating is available by attending a 16-hour, two-day repairman course. On completion, you are called a repairman but are limited to performing an annual inspection on a Experimental Light-Sport Aircraft you own.. The maintenance rating is only available by attending a much longer 80-120 hour Repairman course. Get a deeper explanation by going to Rainbow's web page for this.
- Here's a key point: A person who has earned a Repairman–Maintenance rating can perform maintenance and inspections on any Special LSA or Experimental LSA and can charge for his or her services.
As we work on PlaneFinder 2.0, our one-of-a-kind method to help pilots find the best Light-Sport Aircraft — watch for it in a few more days — we have another list-in-waiting. It is our FIRM List or FI.R.M List, meaning it helps you find Flight Instruction (FI), Rental (R), or Maintenance (M). These two — PlaneFinder 2.0 and FIRM List — complement our currently operating SLSA List as guides to help people interested in light, affordable aircraft. Even the SLSA List will go through further refinement; these steps were necessary after we moved from an old website built in the early days of the World Wide Web to a thoroughly modern website you can read on any device you have from desktop to smartphone. Meanwhile, Rainbow Aviation has a new offering for those of you seeking a trained, qualified mechanic to help you keep your Light-Sport Aircraft in top-top flying shape.