As we rush toward the Christmas holiday period and get excited about a new season of flying (after a few more weeks of snow and ice), we have some news to report. Fortunately, you can stay where it’s warm and just watch — thanks to new videos from DeLand. While I missed my YouTube partner Videoman Dave at the show, I managed to fly solo and shoot video interviews and more on my own. Thank goodness, Dave remains at his video editing equipment and I am pleased to post a couple fresh videos below. A mere three weeks since Deland Showcase 2019 ended the airshow season for the year, fresh videos are flowing to provide information and entertainment. DeLand Race Around We started these quick-tour videos a few years ago and to a certain segment of visitors and viewers, these are hits as they show most of the airplane exhibitors plus give a sense of the event.
Panel Line BroadeningAt DeLand, TQ representatives displayed the company's latest radio and transponders. These new models complement a range of components available in various form factors to fit the wide variety of aircraft in which they may be installed. The newest shape conforms to the common center stack in many GA aircraft. A new benefit is a screen that can be read in bright sunlit using "transflective" technology, different from readouts in the smaller form factor radios and transponders TQ offers. Performance didn't change, according to Sebastian. Learn about all TQ products at this web page.
- Transflective color display
- Direct sunlight compatible
- Light weight
- Minimal power consumption
- Integrated voice-controlled two-place intercom,
- ADS-B out FAA 2020 mandate compliant
- Transflective color display
- Suitable for direct sunlight
- Adapter for connection to other radios
- Light weight
- Minimal power consumption
In this short video, watch the Dornier fire up and fly away plus see the TQ radio line in various form factors… https://youtu.be/wtwCGRN0Uzc
When your product fits a small space in the instrument panel, how do you show off such a small product in a more visible way at airshows. TQ Sales Director Sebastian Glück had an idea. He worked with TQ Aviation managers to acquire a beautiful Dornier Do 27 and applied the bright blue TQ logo to the airplane. Did it work? Absolutely. The handsome aircraft (it is far from a Light-Sport Aircraft) was prominently parked during the DeLand Showcase 2019 and TQ could be pretty certain every single attendee saw the aircraft. Dornier Do 27 is a light single-engine six-seat STOL multi-purpose transport aircraft produced by the German manufacturer Dornier-Werke GmbH. Instead of four passengers, Sebastian and his associate Karl-Heinz Reichmann used the huge aft doors to load all their airshow exhibit gear. The space was full but loading it looked very straightforward except for hoisting it up high.
Duc Propellers USA Also a Success"Designed in France. Assembled in the USA." Hmmm, sounds rather like a certain product "Designed in California, Assembled in China" from a famous brand. The high-tech French prop maker established a base in the USA where they provide full support and service for the growing line of propellers for Light-Sport Aircraft and Sport Pilot kits. Visitors to the inside displays at Deland Showcase 2019 saw a new Flash 2 four-blade prop on display in the Duc Propellers USA display at Deland Showcase 2019. "This is a four-blade, ground-adjustable prop developed expressly for the Rotax 915iS," said Gaetan Fouozing, Duc's new representative at their Sebring facility serving North America. Readers may recall the newest, most powerful engine from Rotax has only been available with props that can be adjusted in-flight. However, at AirVenture Oshkosh 2019, the Austrian company announced they would begin supplying the 915iS for fixed pitch props in fall 2019. Read more about Rotax 915iS here. Gaetan said Duc engineers studied three and four blade combinations but settled on four blades to make use of the added power delivered by 915iS (up 40% from the Rotax 912iS). He confirmed the Flash 2 4-blade product is in stock at this time. "All Duc products are held in stock at our Sebring facility," Gaetan observed. In addition to the ground adjustable capability, Duc said their new Flash 2 is "available in Hydro version for seaplanes." The French prop manufacturer said the hydro version offers high water resistance and abrasion by adding an Inconel metal leading edge The hydro prop development also includes a specific blade tip built of "structural monolithic carbon 40 millimeters (1.57 inches) thick" to "optimize cutting for splash." The metal leading edge is available at no additional cost. Priced at $4,589.50, Flash 2 four blade is fairly precious but it is designed to manage the power of the also more costly Rotax 915iS engine that outputs 141 horsepower. As the time-honored race car saying goes, "Speed costs money. How fast do you want to go?" Engines are sometimes said to the be primary component that has driven aircraft development over the decades but engines demand propellers that can transmit engine power to moving an aircraft through the air. The folks at Duc continue to apply their expertise to this essential product.
“The DeLand Sport Aviation Showcase (DSAS), conducted from November 14-16, 2019 at the DeLand Municipal Airport in Florida, has completed a careful look at ticket sales, gate receipts, exhibitor numbers and other data… and is happy to report that the 2019 Showcase eclipsed the 2018 attendance by over 20%,” reported lead organizer, Jana Filip. “Sport aviation is alive and well… and the truly dedicated flyers out there simply would not let some clouds and sporadic rain keep them from seeing and sharing in all that was new and interesting in the sport aviation universe,” explained Jana. At the fourth running of Deland Showcase, organizers boasted 26 companies new to the event. They had earlier reported a sold-out exhibitor slate. Jana will study attendee and exhibitor reports and will then confirm dates for the 2020 edition of the DeLand Showcase. A decision is expected shortly. Duc Propellers USA Also a Success “Designed in France.
Here's Seamax, LSA SeaplaneIf you can buy boats in Minnesota when the temps are minus-20°, why not consider a sweet little seaplane like Seamax. I call it "little" deliberately, not just to be charming (though I think that adjective qualifies as well). Seamax designer, Miguel Rosario, acknowledged my judgment that Seamax is a performance aircraft within the LSA seaplane category. How does the aircraft earn such a call? In one simple way: empty weight is surprisingly low 715 pounds. Fabric-covered wings are one of many ways Miguel keeps Seamax weight on a diet. Indeed, Miguel believes the 100-horsepower, carbureted, Rotax 912 ULS is a beautiful engine choice with a lower price tag, lower weight, and less complexity that makes for easier installation. He did acknowledge that the ULS might be even better with a single curb — one that would require no balancing between the two present-day carbs — but otherwise he loves the older engine. Nonetheless, because many do like the idea of the newer, more fuel-efficient, fully electronically-controlled engine from Rotax, Seamax aircraft displayed a fresh new model with a 912iS engine and loaded with a beautiful dual screen Garmin G3X Touch instrument panel. Even the seats still had plastic protective covers on them as you’ll see in the video below.
Embry Riddle and DeLand Sport Aviation VillageBecause I heard a Seamax delegation investigated the new incubator project at the Deland airport. I inquired if they would remain in their position at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University.
The answer is yes, because Embry Riddle offers them, for example, access to a wind tunnel that few other light airplane producers can employ. In addition, students at the university assisted with a Seamax customer survey that was valuable to the company. Having such a prestigious address associated with their name is never a bad thing.
Yet for the messier process of manufacturing these airplanes in the U.S. — which remains a goal — DeLand’s new development across the field from the Showcase event is a worthwhile exploration for the Brazilian company. Because DeLand and Daytona Beach-based Embry Riddle are only a 20 minute drive apart, this can be a workable combination.
Talking to Miguel and U.S.-based Shalom Confessor, both acknowledged that after a gradual start to establishing an American outlet they are seeing more activity from U.S. buyers. They seem pleased with the state of sales development in America.When I asked Miguel about his Norway market, a country that gave a nice boost initially to Seamax, he said interest was still strong in that Nordic country but the USA now represents their largest single target market. Manufacturing in the USA is an activity that could also support export sales to other countries. The process may be easier for worldwide distribution then from Brazil, which retain some of its exporting difficulties. Presently, more than 150 Seamaxes are flying around the world. Miguel seems one of those always-on designers, never resting. While I agreed not to reveal any plans in the works, the years ahead could foresee interesting new developments for this company and this designer. Having achieved so much already, it’s worth paying attention to what Miguel Rosario does. I will certainly do so. See our flight review video from last year at DeLand in this longer video, but right below, I hope you’ll enjoy this short video shot this year revealing a pair of SeaMaxes at DeLand Showcase 2019. Stay tuned for more!
Saturday was the final day of the last airshow of 2019. DeLand Showcase 2019 suffered its chilliest weather of the four years it has been operating. Nonetheless, my unscientific survey of airshow vendors jibed with numerous comments from individual pilots: despite the less-than-ideal weather this year, sales of aircraft and other aviation gear proceeded. These smaller, sector-focused shows clearly remain successful. I rush to observe November is commonly a very predictable time of year in Florida, with temperatures in the high 70s / low 80s with clear blue skies. This year not so much but I’ll bet next year will return to normal. Temperatures are already back to almost 80° today. Deland Showcase is much like the boat shows I used to marvel at in my former home of Minnesota. In that northern, almost-Canada state, huge boat shows were staged in the dead of winter, when snow and ice covered the surface and most boats were hidden in warm storage facilities.
As readers of ByDanJohnson.com know, we enjoy keeping a tight (though not exclusive) focus on the aircraft we love to fly. That approach is not changing but I discovered two products at DeLand Showcase 2019 that can make airplanes safer, perhaps much safer.
As the show concludes tomorrow, I will resume focus on aircraft with more news and fresh video. For now, please consider these two products.
Teknofibra's Miraculous Cloth
I recorded video with developer and company founder Alessandro Molteni watching as his U.S. representative Mark Harper did a demonstration like you see in the nearby photos.
It looked for all the world like a visual trick — the way a magician or sleight-of-hand artist might fool you. Yet I stood right nearby watching a live person hold a blue-flame torch up to the palm of his hand, protected only by a soft cloth of 4 millimeters (about 1/6th of an inch or about a stack of 3 dime coins). That was the only barrier between tender human skin and a hot fire of more than 2,000°F.
Mark admitted to being nervous before doing this demonstration the first time but he seemed no worse for the wear after applying the scorching torch to the cloth on his hand for more than 30 seconds.
To say I was impressed would be gross understatement.
Working with Teknofibra
The magical material is made of carbon fiber (about 80%) and the balance a closely-guarded secret. Soft to the touch, something like felt, Teknofibra cuts easily with a scissors and does not produce fibers that are harmful.
Ceramic fibers may have similar heat resistance but working with such material requires a breathing filter, gloves, and other protective clothing. If you've ever rubbed again fiberglass insulation with bare skin, you know how uncomfortable that is and it can itch for days. Ceramic fiber is said to be much worse. Teknofibra seems innocent in comparison.
Taking the material directly from Mark after his blowtorch demo, the cloth felt only slightly warm. It appeared completely unaffected and is comfortable enough against the skin that you could make fire retardant clothing from it, I imagine.
Uses of Teknofibra
Mark Harper is not an aviation guy. His business supplies high-end motorcycle racing. One use is to protect fiberglass body parts from hot exhaust pipes near the bodywork. Alessandro said it is widely used in auto racing and customers include a wide range of top names in that field. The uses are potentially endless.
For pilots… the uses are arguably even more valuable because of the seriousness of an in-flight fire. A firewall protected with material about 8 mm thick (a little more than a quarter inch) can be mated to a thin foil on one side and with an adhesive on the other. Recall it can easily be cut to fit precisely.
In addition electrical wires and fuel lines can be wrapped with material. Teknofibra supplies this in pre-made tubes of many dimensions. For an airplane manufacturer or kit builder, this would be a great finish. Airplanes already flying can use a sheet form of the material with strategically-placed adhesive so you can wrap the wires or fuel lines.
Still Not All the Value
Fire resistance is certainly a worthy application of Teknofibra but it also has very significant sound deadening capabilities. A test stand involving an 8-inch wide tube into which was inserted a sheet of the 8 millimeter (or so) material such that it filled the inside diameter of the tube. At the bottom was an electric bell.
When the Teknofibra was in the tube I could hear the bell ringing but it was clearly muted. When Mark pulled out the Teknofibra inner cylinder, the bell was at least twice as loud, maybe more.
Imagine not only the firewall but your cockpit side panels, floor, and ceiling being lined with Teknofibra before the interior finish was applied. You might quiet your cockpit fairly dramatically and that can reduce pilot fatigue.
Technically-inquisitive readers can go to Teknofibra's page, which explains how the material works.
Ah, but such a remarkable material must be very expensive, yes? Nope. A firewall for a common Light-Sport Aircraft might cost around $100-150. Surrounding the entire cockpit with the miracle fiber might run $1,000 but you'd have one of the quietest (and safest) cockpits anywhere. Compared to the cost of many LSA today, that seems a modestly-priced and worthy option. Contact Mark at his website to learn more.
Anti-Explosion Fuel Tank
I did not get to examine this in the same way as Teknofibra, but the Skyblazer 1 gyroplane from Italy has a special fuel tank under the aft seat. This seems another worthy development to consider. The idea is not new but imagine experiencing an aircraft accident where no fuel can be spilled. Fire danger drops sharply.
These cost more than standard fuel tanks, but I was told by a reliable source that a completely filled anti-explosive tank — sometimes called a "safety tank" — can sustain a drop from 100 feet without rupturing. Several light aircraft makers use such tanks to increase safety.
Put anti-explosive tanks and Teknofibra together and you significantly increase fire safety for airplane occupants. Doesn't that seem worth further consideration?
As readers of ByDanJohnson.com know, we enjoy keeping a tight (though not exclusive) focus on the aircraft we love to fly. That approach is not changing but I discovered two products at DeLand Showcase 2019 that can make airplanes safer, perhaps much safer. As the show concludes tomorrow, I will resume focus on aircraft with more news and fresh video. For now, please consider these two products. Teknofibra’s Miraculous Cloth I recorded video with developer and company founder Alessandro Molteni watching as his U.S. representative Mark Harper did a demonstration like you see in the nearby photos. It looked for all the world like a visual trick — the way a magician or sleight-of-hand artist might fool you. Yet I stood right nearby watching a live person hold a blue-flame torch up to the palm of his hand, protected only by a soft cloth of 4 millimeters (about 1/6th of an inch or about a stack of 3 dime coins).
Distar's SunDancer MotorgliderMichael Tomazin flew from California with Distar Production manager Elias Khelil to attend DeLand Showcase 2019. They flew 3,000 miles to do so as they wandered around to fly over spectacles such as the Rocky Mountains, Monument Valley, and Grand Canyon. How's that for a view of America? Elias was thrilled with the experience to span this vast country, several times his home land of the Czech Republic. SunDancer may be consider two airplanes in one, partly as it can be either a very efficient and surprising speedy cruiser or a motorglider capable of genuine soaring flight, but also because it comes with two wing extensions. SunDancer motorglider can exchange removable wing extensions boosting wingspan from 42 feet 8 inches (13 meters) to 49 feet 2 inches (15 meters). Glide goes from a respectable 26:1 to 30:1. If you've never thought about what that kind of reach means, try drawing a 30:1 line on a computer or graph paper (for reference, 1:1 is a 45° slope). If you're precise what you'll see looks essentially like a horizontal line. From 6,000 feet you can glide to almost any point you can see, presuming no wind resistance. Of course, this is also the reason why speed brakes are valuable; you'd be hard pressed to land on a long runway because SunDancer might keep gliding right past the end. Clearly, cruising from the West Coast to East Coast shows SunDancer to be a serious travel machine for two occupants. Tomazin said you can range 800 miles and carry 100 pounds of baggage. SunDancer grosses at 1,320 pounds like most LSA but has a fairly light empty weight of 639 pounds. It is powered by either the 80- or 100-horsepower Rotax 912.
Special Motorglider BenefitBecause Sun Dancer can be registered as a motor glider, it benefits from a special exception from FAA. No medical is needed but even better if a pilot has been denied a medical, you can still fly a motorglider. That's not true for a Light-Sport Aircraft. According to FAA Part 61.23, "A person is not required to hold a medical certificate … when exercising the privileges of a Sport Pilot certificate with privileges in a glider or balloon," with the definition of a glider being "…a heavier-than-air aircraft, that is supported in flight by the dynamic reaction of the air against its lifting surfaces and whose free flight does not depend principally on an engine." SunDancer easily qualifies. Here's further motorglider advice compliments of Jim Hanson writing for our friends at Midwest Flyer (see his whole article here but note most motorgliders he discusses are not LSA types): "Unlike LSA aircraft, they are not restricted to altitudes of 10,000 feet." That's good since a soaring machine limited to 10,000 feet would be unnecessarily restricted. Note the photos the oxygen bottle aft of the seats. "With their large wing area, [motorgliders] offer low stall speeds, fast climb, and near-STOL capabilities. They usually employ glider-like spoilers or airbrakes for direct lift control and steep descents." Speed brakes offer both dramatic and precise lift control despite their relatively small size; one secret is the exact placement on the wing's chord. Their power and usefulness prompted Hanson to add, "Once you fly an aircraft with spoilers, you’ll wonder why every airplane doesn’t have them." No question, motor gliders have their intriguing qualities and might deserve serious attention. Priced quite reasonably (definitely so compared to motor gliders like a Stemme S-12), SunDancer is a good value at around $135,000. Here's a short video recorded at DeLand Showcase 2019. A more detailed video will follow later.
Opening day at DeLand Showcase 2019 got off to a solid start. Most of the sold-out exhibit spaces were populated with aircraft despite the rush of colder, turbulent air from the north on Wednesday. While it was not the blue sky day that often visits Florida this time of year, winds died down nicely and a decent crowd of interested pilots were on-site though not all displays attracted as many visitors. Flying activity was generous including a midday favorite from Sebring and Sun ‘n Fun: Manufacturer’s Showcase, which refers to a period of flying activity not the event. Aircraft representatives put their airplane through aerial paces one at a time, allowing more impressive demonstrations of their aircraft. All the action is close enough that attendees can see them well. This is similar to the flying on the grass strips of Paradise City or the Fun Fly Zone at Lakeland or Oshkosh.
Seaplanes Are Costly …Or Are They?Aero Adventure's Aventura arrived on the scene in the 1990s. Around 300 are flying, so the model has lots of history. Prices depend on so many variables that it is foolish to quote exact numbers here. Please check with the company for the most recent information. However, I have inquired on several occasions to learn an Aventura kit can get airborne for just over $50,000. The base airframe kit is less than $40,000 and you have several engine options including Rotax or AeroMomentum's highly-refined Suzuki engine conversion. This is the powerplant for the company's impressive S-17 model (with 117 horsepower, the source of the model designation). The current team has been lead by Alex Rolinski for the last several years. He is closely assisted by Alex Gutierrez who runs the daily operation while the other Alex devises strategy and pursues new directions (for example, a related company's product, the fascinating WingBug). A few years ago, the company embarked on a major redesign of the manuals. As every other kit aircraft builder in the world knows very well, designing and building a kit may be easier than creating a quality manual to help builders assemble their new airplane. Alex and Alex, with help from others, report going over the entire design thoroughly and today builders credit the job. However, if you don't feel up to the task — it will take the average builder around 250-300 hours — Alex Gutierrez and crew can help you get underway or can help supervise the entire effort. As part of their expanding operation, Aero Adventure promotes another business for those ordering a kit. In the video below, you can hear Alex and Alex describe some of the kit and talk about how they can help you. Meanwhile, let me introduce you to Walstrom Aviation. As Aero Adventure focuses on new projects (more on that later but I will hint that fully-built Aventuras may become available), this Florida enterprise stepped up to assist.
Making a Splash"The kit is available as a full kit or sub assemblies to meet your time, space and budget requirements," said Walstrom. "Our customers are reporting completion rates of between 250-300 hours." They say you can complete the kit in a few months of part-time effort. Certainly any kit taking only 300 hours is a modest investment of your time and energy but especially for a seaplane — they add some complexity due to retractable gear — this time investment seems very reasonable. "Only basic shop tools are required and an assembly manual is provided with clear crisp details of each assembly," added Walstrom. "The airframe is aluminum (the structural part of the aircraft) and the hull is made from fiberglass (which simply provides flotation). All hardware and everything required to assemble the kit is included. All of the aluminum is anodized (inside and out) to maximize corrosion protection from the elements."
Walstrom is located in north of the state, not too far from Tallahassee or Panama City, in Alford, Florida. Contact them by phone at 850-630-1286 (or see link above).Once you're done, go fly from land or water. For those of you presently shivering in the northern climates, Aventura has a door option and, in a moment of need, that hull can even put down in snow. Walstrom further glowed, "These aircraft are capable of taking off and landing in less than 250 feet!" In Florida or other suitable climates, Aventura's open-sided cockpit lets the wind whistle through your hair while you rest your arm on the window sill. Retractable landing gear is standard; it’s mechanically actuated or an electric linear actuator is available as an option. Learn more by attending DeLand Showcase 2019 or by visiting Areo Adventure at the DeLand airport. Get more info in the video below.
As snow swirls in the air and piles up on the ground in the northern latitudes, perhaps it’s a good time to think of Florida… specifically, DeLand, Florida. Admittedly, the weather in the southern state is presently experiencing a chill as cold air rushes down from the north. It may not even hit 70° today! You can relax, though. It should warm up to more respectable temperatures as the show starts and continues. So this seems like a great time to attend the DeLand Showcase 2019 that starts tomorrow (November 14th). With Florida in mind, let’s talk seaplanes. To put a finer point on it, let’s talk highly affordable seaplanes from a company based right at DeLand. You might have guessed I’m talking about Aero Adventure. Along with Aerolight 103 producer, U-Fly-It, Aero Adventure is one of the light aircraft manufacturers based at the home of the DeLand Showcase.
Come to DeLandI hope many of you who frequent this website will be heading to DeLand for the event starting next Thursday. Give a wave if you do! I'll be racing around collecting more material for this website and interviewing aircraft reps on video. In the previous runnings of the DeLand Showcase, weather has been not just good but spectacularly good. One late afternoon last year experienced rain and some wind — after a full day of decent weather. However, every other day of DeLand has enjoyed temperatures in the low 80s (close to 30° for you Centigrade users) under sunny skies and with plenty of vendors to keep you looking (list below). Show Director Jana Filip, her husband Gary, airport manager John Eiff, and a significant army of volunteers do a marvelous job making sure things are set up right and run well during the event. Doing the bulk of the planning, Jana and Gary reveal years of experience, building in short order a new event that seems like it has ample experience. This is no big surprise as Jana was in charge of the Sebring Sport Aviation Expo for several years before being lured away by the City of DeLand to start up and run their new event. In addition to the Showcase event, DeLand is creating a Sport Aviation Village where businesses can not only find a suitable hangar but can benefit from an "incubator" project where, for example, airplane builders could share a paint booth or costly CNC machinery. Possibilities abound and DeLand is leaping into the space with a focus on light aviation. In addition to a sky diving industry employing some 600 workers, DeLand is home to two busy light aircraft builders: U-Fly-It and their very popular Aerolite 103, plus Aero Adventure and their best-price-of-all-seaplanes Aventura line. Both enterprises are thriving at an airport and in a community that welcomed them. I could wish this was true everywhere. Like the Copperstate/Buckeye show in Arizona, DeLand Showcase has strong support from the city that also runs the airport. Top officials from the city come out to the show and are clearly interested. Such municipal backing is key to having a long-running and well-supported show. Vendors, Forums, special speakers, cool aircraft gear, and plenty of flying. C'mon on down!
What You Can Fly at DeLandFollow this link to see all exhibitors signed up for DeLand Showcase 2019. As this website keeps a focus on aircraft you love, here's that list at present. Normally, more will show at the last minute.
- Aero Adventure — Aventura, S-17
- Aeropilot USA — L600
- Aerotrek — A220, A240
- Aviat Aircraft — Husky
- Blades Over Me — Skyblazer 1 Gyroplane, AG915
- Bristell Aircraft — Bristell, TDO (taildragger), RG
- Cruiser Aircraft — SportCruiser
- CubCrafters — CarbonCub
- Distar — SunDancer, Samba
- Evektor / Dreams Come True — Harmony
- Evolution Trikes — Revo, Rev, Revolt, RevX
- Flying Legend — Tucano
- Icon Aircraft — A5
- ICP Aircraft — Savannah, Ventura
- Infinity Powered Parachutes — Commander 912/582, Challenger 503
- InnovAviation — FX1
- Jabiru / US Sportplanes — Jabiru J230D, J170D
- Just Aircraft — SuperSTOL, Highlander
- Lockwood Aircraft — AirCam
- M-Squared — Breeze II, Breeze, CH-750
- MagniFlight — Magni gyroplane line
- Pipistrel USA — Sinus, Virus, Alpha
- Planet PPG — Powered Paraglider line (wheeled or foot)
- Seamax Aircraft — Seamax
- SilverLight Aviation — American Ranger AR1 (open or enclosed)
- Sky Reach / Sport Aircraft Canada — BushCat
- Sport Performance Aviation (SPA) — Panther, Cougar
- Stemme USA — S12 motorglider
- Super Petrel USA — Super Petrel LS
- Tecnam USA — P2008, P92, Astore, Sierra Mk 2, Twin, more
- The Airplane Factory — Sling LSA, Sling 4, Sling TSi
- Titan Aircraft — T51 Mustang replica, Tornado
- U-Fly-It — Aerolite 103
- Velocity Aircraft — TXL, XL-5, V-Twin, SE
- Zenith Aircraft — CH-750, Cruzer, CH-650, CH-701
In about one week, it all ends. Before then, DeLand Showcase 2019 is set to begin! As this is the last airshow of the year, it’s also fair to say the season ends when DeLand show concludes. This year is the fourth annual event. Since the Sebring show bid a final farewell last spring, DeLand will be the last light aircraft show until Arizona’s Copperstate/Buckeye Air Fair in February, followed two months later by Sun ‘n Fun. If you live in the eastern half of the USA, DeLand and Sun ‘n Fun are separated by five months. Yikes! You can learn more about Copperstate/Buckeye in this video with the Vice Mayor. Next week on November 14-15-16, welcome to sunny, warm Florida. Come to DeLand I hope many of you who frequent this website will be heading to DeLand for the event starting next Thursday.
Spruce …and So Much MoreWell, supplying wood to build airplanes is ancient history now, you might say. If you said this, you would not be alone but you'd be absolutely wrong. On a recent tour of the bustling enterprise headquarters in Corona, California, the first thing Bryan Toepfer showed us was the lumber shop. Even today, that shop was large and active with a longtime employee slicing lumber to order. "It's still a major part of the business," said Bryan, himself expressing some amazement at this fact. Bryan is known to many LSA owners and lots of Sport Pilot kit builders as he runs a related (but separate) business called California Power Systems. They have a busy operation representing Rotax Aircraft Engines and more. Yes, wood remains an important part of the business even though the 62,000 square foot facility was chock full of all manner of goods and gear that pilots and aircraft builders want to buy. Customers range from you and me to numerous airframe builders. Many of them buy essential materials from Spruce. The company also has a metal shop and a recently upgraded avionics shop where they can provide full wiring harnesses for nearly every kit aircraft in imagination. Of course, they have row after row of long isles with tall shelving units bursting with items all neatly organized by type and bar-coded for fast delivery. Get an order into Spruce before 4 PM and it will ship that same day. Heck, even gigantic Amazon can't do better than that.
Spruce Pops Up Everywhere (and not just their thick catalogs)Now you know why I refer to this company the "Amazon of Aviation." Also like that other mail-order outfit, Spruce has multiple locations to hasten deliveries so those builder projects are not interrupted. ("Hell hath no fury like a aircraft kit builder delayed.") Today, Spruce has operations in California, Georgia, Illinois, Alaska, and Canada. Plus, as airshow attendees know, you can find a substantial number of the most popular items at almost any event you attend. Among aviation brands, Aircraft Spruce is everywhere. More than 300 employees in those five locations provide more pilot gear than any other outfit in personal aviation. Even after decades of development and innovative operations plus acquisitions of several other enterprises, amazingly, the single product Mom Flo first offered still makes up a noteworthy share of the enterprise. "Aircraft Spruce & Specialty Company strives to carry everything a pilot could need, including pilot supplies and aircraft parts, always at the lowest prices," said company spokesmen we met on our tour. Spruce supplies components for a wide variety of homebuilt aircraft including the Lancair, Vans Aircraft, Cozy, Starduster and Europa, as well as factory built parts for Cessna, Piper, Beech, and Mooney. Yet it isn't all nuts and bolts (and wood). Indeed, products include Garmin avionics, tools, charts, propellers, software, instruments, aircraft engines and parts, aviation headsets, landing gear components, and aircraft batteries. "We carry a full line of aviation grade hardware, covering supplies, composite materials, airframe parts, electrical components, and steel and aluminum," said Spruce managers. Bob and Flo's oldest son Jim Irwin grew up in the business, working in jobs such as cutting metal and spruce, pulling and shipping orders, and managing kit programs such as the Vari-Eze back in 1975 while still in college. In 1978, Jim acquired the company and became president in 1980 joined by his wife Nanci. Today, it's a full family affair with three of Jim and Nanci's sons — Mike, Jeff and Rob — filling management positions with the company. The Irwin family remains based in Southern California but in 2004, Aircraft Spruce East moved into a new 52,000 square foot facility in Peachtree City, Georgia. As we toured the California operation, Bryan explained that the Georgia operation is identically-laid-out to the Corona warehouse and it does approximately the same amount of business. Aircraft Spruce Canada was opened in Toronto in December 2006 and now operates from a 20,000 square foot distribution center at the Brantford, Ontario Airport. In 2019, Aircraft Spruce opened two new facilities to better serve the Midwest and Alaska markets. Aircraft Spruce Midwest operates in a 50,000 square foot facility in the west suburbs of Chicago and Aircraft Spruce Alaska occupies a a 15,000 square foot building in Wasilla, Alaska. Add it up and you find a 54 year-old enterprise with a total of 400,000 square feet in five facilities. Does my Amazon comparison sound about right?
Images for this post came from a 2015 video titled, "EAA Chapter Videos—Inside Aircraft Spruce," where you can learn more about this dynamic company. https://youtu.be/FBJeL_zHm7c
You know Aircraft Spruce. So do all your flying buddies. Cutting to the chase, if you are involved in airplanes other than airlines and military, you not only know Aircraft Spruce, you’ve probably bought from them. Raise your hand if you never ordered from “Spruce,” as many abbreviate it. OK, no hands. I thought so. It wasn’t always so. When current president Jim Irwin was a lad, his mother Flo and father Bob ran Fullerton Air Parts. After a decade mom Flo Irwin started another business at home, featuring a single product: aircraft-grade lumber …hence “Aircraft Spruce.” Spruce …and So Much More Well, supplying wood to build airplanes is ancient history now, you might say. If you said this, you would not be alone but you’d be absolutely wrong. On a recent tour of the bustling enterprise headquarters in Corona, California, the first thing Bryan Toepfer showed us was the lumber shop.
SilverLight RisingAbid Farooqui's SilverLight Aviation is an emerging force in gyroplanes, adding to a growing list of American producers that got back into the game after the Europeans put their mark on these spinning-wing aircraft. SilverLight is based alongside the Zephyr Hills, Florida airport affectionately known to its many sport aircraft users as "Z-Hills." In earlier times, Bensen Gryocopter led development of these aircraft, although other developers were also active. A well-known gyro pilot name Ken Brock did impressive and convincing airshow routines that showcased the capability of these small flying machines. Interest began to bubble but so did some problems. In those days, the tailplane of gyros of the day was small and, in less experienced hands, some accidents and losses of life occurred. Aviation media may have exaggerated the danger but the damage was done and gyros retreated from visibility, even as a small cadre of enthusiasts kept the segment alive. Along came European developers like Italy's Magni Gyro and Germany's AutoGyro, followed by several others. They made numerous improvements but among them was the now-standard tailplane located further aft and with more vertical area. That and better pilot preparation resulted in a much better safety record and European pilots began to embrace these aircraft. Sales took off, so much so that leading engine producer Rotax reported more 9-series engines were being sold to gyroplane builders than any other aircraft subgroup. American entrepreneurs took note, Abid Farooqui's SilverLight among them.
Flies Like a Fixed Wing… AlmostThe video below conveys more information I learned in a training session with Greg in the fully enclosed AR-1 Ranger from SilverLight. The short answer is that fixed wing pilots will find more similarities than differences when they sample a gyroplane following years of flying conventional aircraft. Certainly, pilots with no rotary experience need transition training. A few critical differences — such as making an abrupt taxi turn while the rotor still has a lot of spin and the use of power or pitch while aloft — clarify that these aircraft are not fixed wing machines. Nonetheless, you largely fly a gyroplane much like a fixed wing. Gyros are quite distinct from helicopters. That said, FAA is to be commended for finally including fully built Special LSA gyroplanes in their proposed new regulation. Given their general ease of operation, excellent performance in winds too strong for some light aircraft, compact storage in a hangar or trailer, and the relatively modest cost of acquiring a gyroplane, it seems likely we will see more of these aircraft in the years ahead. Here's our Video Pilot Report flying the SilverLight AR-1 Ranger with full enclosure: https://youtu.be/qIJPGX0G1Tc
For years, more than a decade, the U.S. gyroplane producer community tried to persuade FAA to allow fully built Special Light-Sport Aircraft gyroplanes into the USA. “No dice,” said FAA! With perspective, it turned out only a small group was opposed but so strong was their hand at the time that FAA leadership could not break the logjam. Now, that appears to be solved. I write “appears” as we won’t know for certain until FAA releases their NPRM on the program widely known as MOSAIC. Best guess, this won’t come for at least a couple more years but the plans inside FAA are maintaining support at the highest levels of the agency and that gyroplane logjam definitely appears to be loosening. Amen! That was a long time coming. Maybe you don’t care. Maybe you aren’t interested in rotor-winged aircraft. I didn’t think I was either until I flew a few of these and most recently got some worthy instruction from Greg Spicola, who does gyro flight instruction and transition training for SilverLight.
Single Lever Control In-Flight Adjustable PropThis phrase, Single Lever Control, communicates two things: (1) that the system on the airplane seen in the video adjusts the prop to optimal pitch for the phase of flight, and (2) that the system does so based on the pilot's movement of the throttle combined with its own information about parameters of the aircraft at that time. In short, call it an "auto prop." The idea of an "auto prop" (my term) is that when you are taking off, the propeller should pitch for climb. Once aloft at altitude and when the pilot has retarded the throttle but the aircraft knows its height, the prop should automatically go to cruise pitch. Importantly to FAA and its desire for "safe, simple, easy to fly" LSA, the pilot workload is minimal. Move the throttle where you want and the airplane knows how to pitch the prop. While others will also enter this development field, RS Aerotech is the pioneer and has been accumulating test results for several years. However, Cirrus has used a SLC system for many years. A subtle difference is that Cirrus still requires a lever for mixture where a Rotax iS-series engine handles that function for the pilot… a true Single Lever Control setup. Those interested in more technical details and plans than presented in this brief post can review RS Aerotech's slide presentation (most devices should show this easily; if not use the company link above and click or tap on the "Downloads" tab).
Safety ArgumentWhen LAMA personnel went to Washington DC to advocate on behalf of pilots and producers in the light aircraft sector, we knew the argument could not be that we wanted an in-flight adjustable prop to go faster. The truth is that many LSA can already hit the speed limit enforced by the current regulation. "It's not about speed; it's about being able to safely get in or out of a shorter field yet still cruise at whatever speed the airframe was designed to reach," we told FAA. A personal experience departing the Sun 'n Fun Paradise City airstrip brought home the safety point. The 1,400-foot grass strip should be more than adequate for a LSA but the particular model (Glasair's now discontinued Merlin LSA) had been fitted with a cruise prop for the long flight from Washington State to Florida. Since this was a typically heavy prototype, this left the design with insufficient thrust on a shorter turf runway. To their credit, the FAA executives hearing the argument rather quickly agreed; after all, single lever control does not increase pilot workload therefore maintaining the "safe, simple, easy to fly" baseline.
- Single lever control of engine power and thrust; 100% fail-safe behavior through mechanical limitations
- Real time adjustment of engine and propeller parameters:
- Maximum thrust during take-off and climb and
- Maximum efficiency and endurance during cruise flight
- Up to 30% more thrust compared to fixed-pitch propeller
- Fuel savings in cruise flight (environmentally friendly, spend even more time in the air!)
- Improved situational awareness through his Power Margin Indicator instrument
- Simple installation, seamless integration into the Rotax 912iS engine system
In mid-October, FAA provided another update to the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association. It speaks to bigger — and faster — flying machines ahead for Light-Sport Aircraft. Let’s look at one aspect of the regulation-in-progress. First, a caveat: While FAA is communicating some of the ideas they are planning for LSA this is an effort of rule writing likely to see more changes. What LAMA reports to its members and what we provide here is not certain …although it remains well supported at the top of FAA. Even higher in the federal hierarchy, the Department of Transportation recently gave a go-ahead to continue their work. Not all currently planned ideas may survive either the internal debate nor the public comment period. Single Lever Control In-Flight Adjustable Prop This phrase, Single Lever Control, communicates two things: (1) that the system on the airplane seen in the video adjusts the prop to optimal pitch for the phase of flight, and (2) that the system does so based on the pilot’s movement of the throttle combined with its own information about parameters of the aircraft at that time.
2019 Is a Good Year (so far)We're only three quarters through the year but extrapolating from the first three quarters and assuming a steady pace (which is not a guarantee, of course), we see that all of 2019 should result in 724 new aircraft registrations in the light aircraft sector defined (by us) as Light-Sport Aircraft and Sport Pilot kit-built aircraft. This is up more than 10% over 2018, which was up over 2017. The industry is having a good year and more pilots are flying these aircraft. One caveat in this positive result is that the fourth quarter of the year is typically slower with winter in the north and plenty of non-flying holiday activities drawing interest. Why? We don't claim to have all the answers but regular surveying of exhibitors at airshows revealed that many sellers say, "The market is good. People are buying." Of course, this is anecdotal not scientific but we heard it from enough vendors to believe they're feeling good about their enterprises. Many pilots backed up this finding with their own, personal assessment. If you want to do your own analysis, you certainly can using our completely free-of-charge Tableau Public web page** assembled for us and maintained to perfection by Steve. We vigorously encourage you to look for yourselves. Don't take our word for it. The data comes directly from FAA's aircraft registration database, then expertly massaged by Steve so the rest of us can make sense of it. To this data source, I apply my own decades of experience in the sector to make some observations.
Breaking GoodFirst, let's look at two broad categories: First is a grouping of all Light-Sport Aircraft — both Special (fully built) and Experimental (different from Experimental Amateur Built) — and, secondly, a defined flock of Sport Pilot kit-built aircraft*. This is the first time you've seen this because earlier, we segmented SLSA from ELSA from SP kits. This made it appear kits were growing faster than the LSA groups. In fact, they are nearly matched with kit-built aircraft. Viewing all light aircraft as a group, Steve noted, "The same six brands continue to lead the pack." He refers to the full fleet of light aircraft a Sport Pilot may fly — led by kit-built aircraft producers: Zenair/Zenith, Van's, Rans, Sonex, and Kitfox plus SLSA builder, Icon. Immediately under these six powerhouses of light aviation are five close contenders Searey-maker Progressive Aerodyne, AutoGyro, Just Aircraft, Powrachute, and Magni Gyro. While Progressive Aerodyne does well in both kits and fully built seaplanes and while Powrachute sells both as well, the rest are all kit makers. To look up any producer to learn more, use our Search capability (especially "Advanced Search") or go to our ever-popular SLSA List. Kit aircraft remain strong in the USA. This segment existed for many years before LSA came along although we only count since 2005*, while Light-Sport Aircraft go back no further than 2005. Honestly, one surprise about SP Kits and LSA is how close the two primary groups are.
Diving DeeperSteve made a few other worthwhile observations. Among the increasingly active gyroplane community, "The low-cost Tango is coming on strong. It used to come with a Rotax 582 but their website says it now has a Yamaha FI engine. 4-stroke, 3-cylinder, fuel-injected, 1055cc, 130 horsepower engine." AutoGyro, Magni, and U.S.-based SilverLight lead the among gyroplanes but Tango's appearance suggests the market is open to newcomers, especially when they have good pricing. Using Tableau Public, you can go deep the weeds about any one subgroup by using the blue boxes on the left column to click or unblock lists. The site is amazingly versatile if you spend a bit of time with it. If you own an aircraft included in this analysis, you can absolutely find it; see for yourself. Another newer entry Steve highlighted was the Goat trike. He wrote, "Denny Reed’s [Wild Sky] Goat is a surprise success. He positions it as a super-tough outback machine." Denny is a deeply experienced trike pilot with more than 8,000 hours of instruction given. He finally made his own trike and it is one brute-tough machine. See more in our article and short video. Goat uses wings by North Wing, as do many other trike brands, but the Washington state producer is also having a better year for its SLSA trikes. Evolution Trikes' Revo sales are off a bit but they are highly focused on their fully-built Rev Part 103 trike and their new RevX. The latter is a kit; the former will not show up on FAA's registration database as Part 103 vehicles need not be registered.
Fixed WingersSteve is a trike owner and pilot. I also enjoy these "alternative" LSA (trikes, powered parachutes, and gyroplanes). I have enjoyed flying several models of each of these types and find much to love about them …significantly, they can be less expensive than almost any fixed wing aircraft. Are you unsure about "alternative" aircraft? You know the line: "If you haven't tried it, don't knock it." However, fixed wing continue to be, by far, the biggest group of LSA (partly as very few kit-built aircraft are "alternative" types). Among Special (fully built) LSA, Flight Design continues atop the ranking. They enjoyed a phenomenal start back in 2005-2006 and have never lost their leadership position. American Legend, Czech Sport Aircraft, CubCrafters, Tecnam, and Aerotrek (FAA still uses their Aeropro European brand name) remain very strong players in the top ten. However, some newbies are moving up the rankings. Through their start into serial production was long coming, the slickly-marketed A5 LSA seaplane has moved into the #2 position for 2019 (after Van's, which relies heavily on ELSA). Another up-and-comer is Vashon and their well-priced Ranger. BRM Aero and their Bristell are also making good strides upward. TL Aircraft, rep for the Sting and other TL models, is reviving that much-admired stable of aircraft. Meanwhile, Cessna continues to drop following the company's decision to exit the LSA space and crush all remaining aircraft, engines and all. Remos is another that is fading from its earlier strength.
A Quarter to GoAs we head into the final quarter of 2019 — and the final LSA show of the year, the DeLand Showcase — we will report the full year shortly into January 2020. The good news is that aircraft are selling, pilots are flying more than ever, and safety remains quite good. That's reason for celebration. Blue skies!
* "SP Kits" means Sport Pilot kit-built aircraft. Going deeper, "SP Kits" refer to amateur-built aircraft that can be flown by a pilot possessing a Sport Pilot certificate or exercising the privileges of Sport Pilot (meaning, for one, no aviation medical is required) while holding a Private Pilot certificate or higher. Since Sport Pilot, as a form of pilot license, only arrived in late 2004, we count all applicable kit-built aircraft that can be flown by a Sport Pilot. Although some of the same aircraft existed before January 1, 2005, we omit them as it cannot be said those older aircraft could be flown by someone with a Sport Pilot certificate. This also evenly and fairly compares SP Kits with SLSA and ELSA. ** When using Tableau Public — and please do so! — be advised this may work best on your desktop or laptop. The effort called "responsive" to make pages work on smartphones and tablets does not portray the information as conveniently.
This website seeks to offer a reliable source of market information for Light-Sport Aircraft and Sport Pilot kit aircraft as a service to the light aircraft sector. If you follow light aviation intently as many readers do, knowing what aircraft and subgroups (within LSA and SP kits*) are thriving or stumbling can be of great interest. Thanks to our fantastic “datastician,” Steve Beste, we know more now than we’ve ever known about aviation’s recreational aircraft segment. You simply cannot find this information anywhere else. With Steve’s superb help, following are a few stories within the numbers. If you don’t care about market shares and just want to hear about aircraft, we won’t keep you waiting long. However, for many, these figures are quite valuable and this is the only place you will find them. Let’s dive in… 2019 Is a Good Year (so far) We’re only three quarters through the year but extrapolating from the first three quarters and assuming a steady pace (which is not a guarantee, of course), we see that all of 2019 should result in 724 new aircraft registrations in the light aircraft sector defined (by us) as Light-Sport Aircraft and Sport Pilot kit-built aircraft.
A Savage ResponseSavage is not a term of anger but a reference to a series of models, of which Shock Ultra is the latest derivative. Let's look at this newest entry more closely. Shock Ultra has some features not found on all Zlin's other models, including double slotted Fowler flaps that help lower stall speed to almost absurdly-slow levels (for proof with your own eyes, see our video below). In addition, Shock Ultra has leading edge wing slats though these, like the "Shock options" for the Titan-powered Shock Outback, are optional. The newest variation of this design uses the oversized outboard shock absorbers similar to those first seen on SuperSTOL and then Shock Outback. They are "to tame the landings," said SportairUSA. All these design qualities combine to provide good visibility on approach thanks to a "flattened landing flare." Indeed, this all works, resulting in a "stall speed of 18 mph (solo) and 24 mph (dual)." Note that's miles an hour, not knots (15.6 and 20.8 knots respectively). It felt rather amazing to witness an airspeed indicator bumping down toward zero while we flew near gross weight. Those low speeds are aided by a basic empty weight of 725 pounds. This is more than 100 pounds lighter than some Cub clones from CubCrafters and American Legend. As many experienced light aircraft pilots believe, the lighter the airframe the better it performs and handles and the more payload you can carry onboard. Another proof of Zlin designer Pascale Russo's diligent effort to reduce weight and simplify is that Shock Ultra performs admirably with the Rotax 912 or 914, while the heavier competing models appear to require bigger engines, which add more weight, burn more fuel, and cost more. Shock Ultra is not the lowest-priced model SportairUSA offers, though it is less than the Titan-powered Shock Outback. However, if its final figure — call SportairUSA for an exact quote — is still too high for your budget, don't despair. The Little Rock, Arkansas company offers Savage models that carry much more affordable prices, albeit with less spectacular performance. Cub-like models from Zlin include the very affordable Savage. Some models might be had brand new for less than $70,000 but please check with the company for details as these figures change with currency fluctuations and equipment installed. If that still sounds like too much, SportairUSA is one of those Premium/Concierge resellers of quality used aircraft. As but one example, the company displayed a looks-like-new TL Sting (which they formerly represented as importer) for $65,000. Given the company has thoroughly gone over the aircraft — and knows the model intimately — this represents a wonderful bargain. What boxes does Shock Ultra tick? Here's how SportairUSA describes the bush plane's attributes in brief, bullet-list form:
- Short takeoffs. There’s not much runway where we’re going.
- Quick climbout. To clear surrounding terrain.
- Short landings. The shorter the better.
- Tame landings. Good control with minimal touchdown rebound.
- Safe slow flight. Low stall speed, spin resistance.
- Easy to fly. Responsive controls & ergonomic design.
- Simple, strong construction, repairable in the field.
Sustained interest in Cub-types has long amazed many of us. About the only airplane that routinely seems to inspire even more passion may be the North American P-51 Mustang. Since almost none of us can afford our own WWII fighter, Cub-a-likes may be the leading light aircraft type that pilots hope to own. Indeed, between CubCrafters and American Legend, we have two manufacturers pumping out their version of Piper’s venerable Cub. Nothing wrong with that. Indeed CubCrafters lead the parade with their carbon-accented model (to save weight) powered by the awesome 180-horsepower Titan engine. Along the way, Just Aircraft invented their SuperSTOL, based not on Cub but on their earlier Highlander. It has drawn many admiring glances and sold a number of kits (Just chose not to pursue SLSA approval for this model though their Highlander did qualify). Then we have Rans and their also-popular S-21 Outbound, a evolution of the company’s S-7 Courier and S-20 Raven.
Flying High!“Words cannot describe how it feels to have received the ASTM certification. The entire Texas Aircraft team has worked very long and hard to achieve this single goal,” Texas Aircraft Manufacturing’s co-founder, Matheus Grande said. “Receiving this document is truly a dream come true for everyone on our team. We are so proud and grateful, but the honor and glory of this achievement is to our God.” “After a very successful introduction at Oshkosh AirVenture 2019, we have continued to see increasing interest from prospective buyers as well as flight schools,” Texas Aircraft Manufacturing’s co-founder, Caio Jordão said. “We are extremely thankful that so many people continue to tell us how much they love, not only how the Colt looks, but how well it flies.” “The new-generation Colt delivers on everything that was promised when the LSA category was originally introduced – it’s easy to fly, easy to maintain and priced to make the dream of personal aircraft ownership a reality for a wide variety of pilots,” Grande said. The factory-built Colt Special Light Sport Aircraft (SLSA) is produced by Texas Aircraft at its Hondo, Texas production facility and is delivered to customers ready to fly. Because of its SLSA classification, the Colt can be maintained by either a licensed FAA mechanic or a technician holding a current FAA LSA maintenance rating.
Texas Aircraft Specifications for Colt:
- Engine Type — 100 horsepower Rotax 912 ULS
- Propeller Type — Sterna composite, three-blade
- Maximum Cruise Speed — 119 KIAS
- Cruise Speed at 75% power — 105 knots
- Stall Speed Clean — 44 knots
- Stall Speed Full Flaps — 38 knots
- Takeoff Distance (over 50 foot obstacle) — 1,085 feet
- Landing Distance (over 50 foot obstacle) — 1,044 feet
- Climb Rate (Vy) — 800 feet per minute
- Service Ceiling — 14,500 feet
* All specifications are provided by the factory and are subject to change without notice.We will have a full-length Video Pilot Report on Colt 100 coming in a week or so. Editing is being completed as this is written. Meanwhile, here's a short video to hold you until the longer one is ready.
Welcome to the newest Special Light-Sport Aircraft, the recently unveiled (at Oshkosh 2019) Texas Aircraft Manufacturing Colt 100. The all-metal, high wing, yoke-controlled aircraft enters our popular SLSA List at Number 151, a fitting number just days after the newest aircraft sector celebrated its 15th anniversary. FAA announced the regulation creating LSA in September 2004. The industry has gained approval for an average of 10 new aircraft designs every year for more than 15 years. On September 24th, 2019, the company based in Hondo, Texas received its Special airworthiness certificate from FAA indicating the agency has reviewed the company’s compliance with the full set of ASTM standards. Earlier, Texas Aircraft had a grand reception detailed in this article with video. I toured the company’s aircraft production facilities in Hondo and found them able to match other strong operations I have visited. The company has wisely hired outside talent as needed, for example, to gain their Special airworthiness certificate.
Wave Usability FactorAs Icon moved the price of their deluxe A5 well past the $350,000 mark, the slickly-marketed LSA seaplane made room for a company like Vickers to enter the market. Icon also won a weight increase, to 1,650 pounds, but A5 is presently placarded at 1,510 pounds, 80 pounds over the standard seaplane/float plane gross of 1,430 pounds. In contrast Wave can weigh 420 pounds more. That's a lot of extra margin. "The aviation industry is known for its high barriers to entry," said Paul. "While everyone sees the final product (the aircraft) flying, what they don’t see are the years of work that go into the company structure behind it." Vickers related tasks to meet business regulations plus health and safety requirements, environmental considerations, design, flight and manufacturing criteria as well as aviation authority regulations prior to the first aircraft even operating. "With this in mind, the last 12 months has seen Vickers not only progress the aircraft design but also move into an employment phase to bring in the necessary people to meet all of our regulatory requirements," Paul explained. He said this means a doubling of the Engineering (Design) Team numbers and the employment of a Quality and Systems Manager. Increased staffing levels allowed engineering to move into the stress testing phase of the design program to prove the strength of the design. This phase includes physical coupon testing to demonstrate Vickers can manufacture the parts to the design strengths and to verify our structural analysis. "This phase has to be completed before the flight test aircraft is manufactured to ensure it operates as expected," Paul noted. During this time, finishing touches put into the manuals and processes ensure that Vickers meets all of its regulatory requirements. "We are using technology to do it smarter and quicker," said Paul. "Vickers is creating a paperless work environment from engineering to the manufacturing facility to customer support. Ensuring that all data is generated and stored electronically cuts down on development time and physical storage space while providing improved levels of control of the build of individual parts and aircraft." Vickers notes use of portable electronic devices such as phones and tablets to allow staff to directly monitor the manufacturing equipment such as ovens and freezers. This technology also enables the approval of work and the ordering of parts and materials electronically. "The benefits to the customer are that our team can quickly retrieve this data both onsite and offsite, immediately understanding the configuration of any aircraft we have built" said Paul. "This provides accurate and fast response times to customers anywhere in the world. There will be no more needing to wait until the office opens in the morning." That will be valuable as New Zealand operates on a very different time than, for example, the USA.
Civil Aviation Authorities Cooperating"This period has also seen increased discussions with the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand and FAA," said Paul. "ensuring a common understanding between all three parties of the path to market that the Wave will take. These conversations allow all parties to plan in advance and to remove any surprises that can arise along the way." Vickers was invited to present on the LSA industry at the recent 21st FAA Asia-Pacific Bilateral Partners Conference." What's coming next for Wave? "Our work will be focused on gaining our CAA Manufacturing Certificate," stated Paul. "We will also obtain CAA approval of our flight test program and continue to build the business structure behind the Wave, to ensure we hit the ground running." It's a common turn of phrase — "hit the ground running" — but more likely seaplane pilots will want to see Wave rising up from the water. Wave has been closely followed by a large number of pilots all over the globe. Vickers said first flight was approaching. Wave's price has not been set but Vickers expects to be "competitive." For an advanced LSA seaplane, that may prove compelling. Oh, and it should be a very powerful LSA, too, but that's a story for some time in the future..
It’s big. It’s bold. It’s beautiful. It’s loaded with snazzy custom features. And it’s gonna be powerful. You might think those words don’t apply to many Light-Sport Aircraft. Certainly, “big” is not a word most pilots associate with LSA. A number are actually rather compact, though with standardized rules, aircraft parameters don’t differ as much as some might think. Wave is different …at least in one particular way. The newest LSA seaplane in development in the Southern Hemisphere has something special. What is it? Vickers recently announced winning a weight increase exemption for their deluxe Wave. As other producers wait to read FAA’s coming regulation regarding aircraft size, Wave can begin leveraging their higher gross weight to increase capability and power. Principal Paul Vickers stated, “After many months we can finally announce that Vickers Aircraft has received our FAA weight exemption for the Wave™ LSA. This will allow a MTOW of 1,850 pounds (839 kilograms), so we can incorporate additional safety features that will set the Wave apart and help us achieve our long-term goal of moving aviation forward.” He added, “Some of these safety features include water maneuvering thruster, CrossOver Landing gear, increased horsepower, and the required fuel capacity to ensure the Wave is operated safely and can perform its mission.” Paul continued, “We have designed the Wave for this increased MTOW and have incorporated the required additional structure.” He feels this sets up Wave to smoothly transition into the LSA rule changes that are on the horizon, new definitions that will include adjustments regarding the weight of Light-Sport Aircraft.
Colt 100 from Texas Aircraft Manufacturing based in Hondo, Texas is a Brazilian Light-Sport Aircraft design. Based on an earlier design from the southern hemisphere country, Colt has been highly refined for the U.S. market. Colt is almost all aluminum, is powered by the Rotax 100 horsepower 912 ULS engine, and uses avionics from Dynon. In this short video, you get a full look at the new design and we go aloft. Soon — as you can tell from the cameras mounted all over Colt — you will be able to enjoy a full length Video Pilot Report but here’s a short video to whet your appetite.
Gone Colt Flying!As I usually do, I asked Quirin to treat our flight as if it was you — yes, YOU! — in the cockpit. I told her to demonstrate for me what she would do for any prospective customer. You want to do this; I was fortunate enough to do it for you. The idea is that since you could not go aloft in Colt I wanted to do what you'd have done had you been at Midwest LSA Expo (which I hope you will be next year; it is simply perfect for demonstration flights… the best of any airshow we attend). Through many years of experience, I have learned to start these Video Pilot Reports by asking the factory pilot to show me exactly what they'd show you if you were the one sitting in my seat. Karin did that, so we ran through taxiing, basic takeoff and climb to altitude, followed by maneuvers. We did cruise speed evaluations, slow flight, and stalls. After she showed me what Colt could do, I requested the controls and I performed my usual evaluation starting with some dutch rolls, a non-aerobatic exercise I use to learn the handling characteristics. If I can do reasonably coordinated dutch rolls pretty quickly, as I did in Colt, that tells me this is a well-handling flying machine. Unlike most LSA, Colt uses a yoke rather than conventional or side stick. I'm a joystick lover but I acknowledge most pilots trained in the last few decades may be more comfortable with a yoke. Some prefer it so much they will tell you an airplane is easer to handle with a yoke. I think it's a personal preference but if you prefer a yoke, Texas Aircraft's Colt is one that may please you. Colt is an all-aluminum construction, meaning any repair work needed after a purchase can be done by a great many mechanics anywhere in the world. It is powered by the Rotax 912 ULS carbureted, 100 horsepower engine. Texas Aircraft chose a three-blade Sterna prop. You may not be familiar with this Asian brand but it appears very well made. Dynon provided the avionics and auto pilot. We rotated at 50 knots after a takeoff roll of 400-500 feet, common for many Light-Sport Aircraft. Remember that this is a prototype Colt. The number two model is currently going through the process of gaining Special LSA approval and a third, conforming example is under construction in the company's home base in Hondo, Texas. Prototypes are usually somewhat heavier than final production examples and N105TX was no exception. In standard production models, I would expect takeoff roll to be marginally shorter and the climb to more robust than the 700-800 feet per minute we averaged on a day slightly warmer than standard atmospheric conditions. Colt's aluminum skin — fuselage, wings, tail, and control surfaces — is supported by a welded chromoly steel safety cell. The construction techniques have been proven by designer Caio Jordão's model from a different company called Conquest 180. Jordão's work has resulted in more than 300 planes that have amassed 150,000 flight hours. His son Diego assists him. In final form, Colt will offer cruise at about 110 knots though we saw less at lower altitudes and without final optimization of prop and engine, plus the added prototype weight. Stalls occurred at very slow speeds — high 30 knots to low 40 knots indicated air speeds — and were all very well behaved. In all maneuvering that I did, Colt felt very solid and secure. It should be a great aircraft choice for those who want that classic Cessna experience in a Light-Sport Aircraft.
Speed Specs for Colt 100
- Never Exceed — 134 knots / 154 mph
- Max Speed at Max Continuous Power — 120 knots / 138 mph
- Max Speed in Turbulent Conditions — 105 knots / 120 mph
- Maneuvering Speed — 90 knots / 103 mph
- Best Angle of Climb Speed — 60 knots / 69 mph
- Stall Speed, Flaps Retracted — 44 knots / 50 mph
- Stall Speed, Flaps for Landing — 38 knots / 44 mph
* What does it take to edit a Video Pilot Report?Let's start by considering we mounted six cameras that ran for an hour each, two hand held cameras used to shoot 45 minutes more, plus a series of still shots. Then add the audio track from multiple cameras. First task: watch and log every minute of every video — that's around nine hours merely to observe what you have available to use in assembling the video. Are you exhausted yet? You haven't even begun editing. Then scour the Internet for more useful footage and review a thumb drive the company provided. You have now spent about two full workdays and you still haven't even started editing. Pulling it all together will consume more days …all for a single video. That's probably more than you wanted to know but hopefully you get the idea that these popular Video Pilot Reports represent a lot of work. Please be patient while Videoman Dave does his job.
While you wait on the formal VPR, here's a mini-video to whet your appetite: https://youtu.be/vJa-9NOLA6s
You know you have a great job when… you get to fly a brand new Light-Sport Aircraft on a bright, beautiful, blue sky day at a Sport Pilot-friendly airport. The job: writing this story and making a video. The task: Go fly (duh!). The airport: Mt. Vernon (KMVN), the award-winning Illinois facility that hosts the Midwest LSA Expo lead by the most customer-attentive airport manager one can imagine. What’s not to love? The specific task in this case: Fly the Texas Aircraft Manufacturing Colt 100, now in the final stages of gaining its Special Airworthiness certificate as a Special Light-Sport Aircraft. See our earlier article. The day could not have been more lovely and the air has never been smoother. The only thing I needed to make the experience a complete success was pleasant cabin mate as we went aloft to check out the Colt.
CT SuperSportIf SuperSport looks familiar to you, it should. It's based on the CTSW but joins several elements of the newer CTLS. In Europe, Flight Design has continued to deliver a lighter model from the CT series to conform to the microlight or European ultralight parameters. SuperSport is something fresh as it takes a CTSW fuselage and grafts on the CTLS wing; adapts construction from the CTLS gear while still doing it with a single piece, like CTSW; employs tail structure from the newer model; and drafts the Rotax 912iS fuel-injected engine. Even that list doesn't cover all the upgrades. Flight Design describes CT SuperSport as, "the new high performance version of the Flight Design CT, one of the most popular and innovative light aircraft in the world. The Super comes equipped with a single 10-inch Dynon D1000 EFIS/MFD with Synthetic Vision, Dynon comm and transponder, ADS-B Out, and ballistic parachute system." CT SuperSport can be delivered with a 710 pound empty weight that puts it well below many Light-Sport Aircraft and more than 100 pounds lighter than the longer CTLS. "This weight reduction was accomplished by using simplified avionics and equipment plus some lighter parts from the European version of the CT," said Flight Design. CT SuperSport has the same spacious and wide interior of the CT series but it returns to the "mushroom" instrument panel that does not extend all the way to the cockpit exterior. Seeming to rise out of the floor, you know, like a mushroom, the panel produces a feeling of much greater visibility, especially forward. Re-entering the CTSW cabin reminded me of the helicopter-like vision afforded by the cockpit design. This came in handy while I flew with the father and son team named Tom Gutmann …both of them. One is "Senior" and one is "Junior," though if you've met them you know "junior" is quite a misnomer. Both fellows are big, strapping Americans. Yet Tom Jr. and I fit in CT SuperSport with several inches between us and without pushing up against the door to make that claim. CT SuperSport is some 13 inches shorter than CTLS, Tom Jr. noted and it does not have the hat rack or aft cabin windows of CTLS. CT SuperSport also uses an electric trim for pitch only while CTLS has pitch, aileron, and rudder trim by wheels. The new, lighter CT model is what I'd agree to call a performance model. It runs close to the top end of the permitted speed range, can fly around 1,000 statute miles, climbs 1,000 feet per minute, yet sips fuel at rates of four gallons per hour, even less if you retard the throttle slightly. It is a lively handling aircraft that still exhibits mild stall characteristics proven by our performing a full regimen of approach and departure stalls plus accelerated stalls in each direction. Base price of CT SuperSport is: $135,000, some $40,000 less than the flagship CTLS. "Options include night flight equipment and autopilot with Level button," said Flight Design. Father and son Gutmanns run Airtime Aviation — with the wonderfully short "FlyCT.com" web address. Airtime is perhaps the largest non-manufacturer seller of aircraft in light aviation worldwide. Their enterprise has delivered more aircraft than many manufacturers have ever made (greater than 200) yet they remain loyal to — and highly knowledgeable about — Flight Design aircraft. They've been active since the beginning of Light-Sport Aircraft. Learn more from the Video Pilot Report that will follow; be patient, these productions involve many days of editing.
I hoped to post a mini-video from the photo mission in the CTSS and CTLS. Alas, I ran out of time and energy. Plus, I think I have enough cool footage that I wanted to do it right. I'll get it up on the ByDanJohnson YouTube channel as soon as possible but the nearby still photos show what a lovely day it was for flying. You have two more days of MWLSA. If you are within a reasonable flight or drive, come on out and see the marvelous things Chris Collins has done with the Mt. Vernon airport. This fellow may qualify for the airport manager of the decade award. He's already won the trophy in my mind. Tomorrow, we tackle the InnovAviation FX1 for a Video Pilot Report …and we're just getting started!
What a great day to start off the Midwest LSA Expo! (And what a contrast to the hurricane just stared down by my Florida neighbors!) The 2019 running of this event about an hour east of St. Louis kicks off its second decade. On Day One, Videoman Dave and I did our Video Pilot Report routine on three Light-Sport Aircraft: Flight Design‘s CT SuperSport, Sportair USA‘s Shock Ultra, and Texas Aircraft’s Colt. All three are quite different, each was delightful in its own way. Doing three of these VPRs took the entire day …and that’s before the big job of editing begins. CT SuperSport If SuperSport looks familiar to you, it should. It’s based on the CTSW but joins several elements of the newer CTLS. In Europe, Flight Design has continued to deliver a lighter model from the CT series to conform to the microlight or European ultralight parameters.
The Rev' Line from EvolutionFirst came Revo. Like Tesla, they put out their strongest product first. Then came the little Rev that can make Part 103 if you don't choose all the options Evolution can deliver. After Rev came Revolt, another two seater. It uses the trademarked attributes and hardware that made Revo famous but is a simpler construction that costs less. Finally comes RevX. Larry said about Rev that it is a delightful trike that he has thoroughly enjoyed since it was released four years ago. However, it is a calm weather flyer. I see nothing wrong with that but the lightweight airframe of Rev means it is somewhat more vulnerable should conditions pick up strength. Enter RevX. Larry said three attributes distinguish the newest in his "Rev" line. RevX still folds in six minutes flat and, yes, Evolution has video to prove it (plus see our video below). That system was developed with Rev but when Larry says it folds up he also means it can be transported this way. Rev and RevX both fold quickly while still supporting the structure completely. Most trikes fold up (although few do so as fast) but once folded the wings are not perfectly supported by structure that was purpose-designed to do so. RevX also brings full suspension to the Rev-type design. This was not reasonable on Rev as it tried to stay within the tight constraints of Part 103's 254-pound empty weight (before emergency parachutes or floats, for which extra pounds are allowed). Third, RevX shares with Rev the wide-open visibility of having no structural forward strut. Many trike observers think that forward strut is no visual impediment, but they may not have flown a fully-open trike like Rev or RevX. Evolution designed their structure so that the forward strut was not necessary and double value is achieved when the forward strut need not be removed to facilitate fold-down.
Higher Wing LoadingRevX tips the scales at 410 pounds as seen in the video below. Now, that's for an accessory-loaded trike including an airframe parachute but that empty weight is well past the Part 103 limit so you must build and register your RevX kit aircraft and you must have a Sport Pilot license or better to fly it. For those that may not realize, a Part 103 ultralight vehicle (specifically not called an an "aircraft" to avoid normal FAA requirements) does not require a pilot certificate, N-numbers, or any sort of medical plus it can be delivered ready-to-fly. However, in exchange for some building effort RevX buyers will get a quite capable trike with impressive performance. "Another big change is that the wing on RevX is 25% smaller than on Rev. The RevX wing is 12.0 square meters (129 square feet) with a 28 foot span, where Rev's Part 103 wing is 15 square meters (161 square feet) with a 31.5 foot span," clarified Larry. The higher wing loading makes for crisp handling but more windspeed capability than the more lightly loaded Rev. A smaller but still single-surface wing is paired with the much more potent Rotax 582 engine with 65-horsepower. "Climb rate is 1,200 feet per minutes," beamed Larry. "I tell pilots about to fly RevX that they should start moving the bar forward immediately because acceleration is so fast that RevX will be ready to fly very soon after you advance the throttle." This appears to make RevX well suited to shorter field operations though such things should still be carefully evaluated. "The single surface RevX wing has a limited speed range," Larry explained. "Pilots will see stall at 28 mph, normal cruise at 45 mph and the wing maxes out at 58 mph," he noted but the handling of a single surface wing is superior. As you'll see in the video, not only is Larry a gifted trike pilot but the machine seems willing to allow handling to delight most trike pilots.
Here's our video interview with developer Larry Mednick shot at Sun 'n Fun 2019 when RevX was introduced… https://youtu.be/G8TnXCJH05c
Evolution Trikes celebrated their 10th anniversary at Sun ‘n Fun 2019. That show and this company have enjoyed a long relationship, one meaningful enough that the two principals, Larry Mednick and Amy Saunders, exchanged their wedding vows at Sun ‘n Fun 2018 with show boss John “Lites” Leenhouts conducting the ceremony. Now, that’s commitment (to each other and to the big spring airshow). Larry Mednick is a happily married man now but he remains a restless designer, always striving for a new variation on the exquisite theme he started with Revo ten years ago. Since the ultra-deluxe Revo was introduced a decade back it has set a new benchmark for being the best-equipped, most-customized construction, with carefully-designed wings. The weight shift market enjoys several quality brands (though we did lose P&M earlier this year) and some are more affordable but none more sophisticated then Revo. However, that level of engineering and manufacturing costs money and all the many Revo features and appointments add to its expense.
As I turn onto final James Milnes’ voice suddenly crackles in my headset, “Golf Oscar Kilo Uniform Bravo, don’t forget it’s a tailwheel today!” The reason for James’ timely reminder was that when I’d flown the same aircraft a few weeks previously it had been configured as a trike, but today it’s a taildragger! Like most things in life, sport flying isn’t getting any cheaper. Hangarage, insurance, maintenance and fuel are all getting more expensive. But what if you had an aeroplane that lived on a road-legal trailer and fitted in your garage? One you could fly from practically any friendly farmer’s field while burning only eight liters (about 2 gallons) of mogas an hour and that you could do all the maintenance on? I give you the Sherwood Kub. Built by The Light Aircraft Company (TLAC) at Little Snoring Airfield in Norfolk, the Kub is a high-wing, single seater which falls into the snappily-titled Single Seat Deregulated category, or SSDR. As the name implies, an SSDR aircraft can only have a single seat, and in the UK it must stall at less than 35 knots and have a MAUW (maximum all up weight) no greater than 300 kilograms (some countries alternatively specify an empty weight of either 115 or 120 kilograms — the U.S. Part 103 number of 254 pounds or 115 kilograms). Before going flying, a look around the TLAC facility reveals quite a few Kubs in various stages of construction, and the large lift (which wouldn’t look entirely out of place on an aircraft carrier) that conveys completed aircraft from the production line on the first floor down to the ground. Unlike some of the SSDRs that I’ve tested over the years, the Kub looks very well made, and also quite robust. TLAC boss Paul Hendry-Smith explained that although SSDR aircraft don’t need specific approvals from a national aviation authority or administration, as the Kub is descended from the Reality Aircraft Kid, it is built to British Civil Airworthiness Requirements, uses aircraft-quality materials and is “a proper aeroplane.”
Kub, the MachineWandering out to look at the test machine reveals an interesting anomaly; unlike any other aircraft I’ve ever flown (but similar to the Kolb TriFly), "Golf Oscar Kilo Uniform Bravo" appears to have both a nosewheel and a tailwheel! TLAC’s Chief Pilot James Milne explains that the Kub shares several similar features as its big brother the Scout, including being offered with different engine options, having quick-folding wings and being easily reconfigured with either a nosewheel or tailwheel undercarriage. “The mainwheels are set up for a nosewheel” he explains, “but we thought we’d leave the tailwheel on for a laugh; to see if you’d notice!” Currently offered by TLAC as either a basic kit, "Fast-Build" kit or as a RTF factory-built SSDR microlight, the Kub is of classic rag ‘n’ tube design. Construction is primarily of TIG-welded 4130-gauge aircraft grade steel tube that is then powder-coated. The fuselage has a triangular cross-section aft of the cockpit, while the wings use Avid Flyer/Kitfox-style tubular aluminium spars and plywood ribs. Oratex UL600 covers the fuselage, wings and tail, with composites used for the cowling, which half-covers the Hirth F23 engine. The Hirth F23 is an air-cooled horizontally-opposed two-stroke twin, which produces 50 horsepower at 6150 rpm and turns the three-blade, fixed-pitch prop via a wide Polyflex V-belt drive with a reduction ratio of 2.2:1. James explains that initially G-OKUB (British "N-numbers" start with a "G") had been fitted with a Hirth F33 single-cylinder two-stroke of only 33 horsepower, but this was soon replaced with the F23, which, he grinned, “has transformed it!” Now, I’m not a huge fan of two-stroke aero-engines. In fact, even my lawnmower’s engine is a four-stroke, so I regard the F23 with a slightly jaundiced air. It’s quite an interesting, almost contradictory little engine, as despite Hirth having replaced the old-school magnetos with dual Capacitive Digital Ignition (CDI) units you still must mix the two-stroke oil into the petrol by hand. I believe automatic oil injection is an option, but even my Yamaha RD400 motorcycle had the oil automatically injected as standard in 1978. The Hirth does have an excellent power to weight ratio though – 50 horsepower from an aero-engine that only weighs 35 kilograms (77 pounds, including the electric starter and twin expansion-chamber exhaust) is not to be sniffed at. It's fed from a pair of wing tanks with a combined capacity of 47 litres (12 gallons) via a fuselage-mounted four-litre (1 gallon) header tank. The main undercarriage is of the split-vee type fitted with chubby low-pressure tires and heavily slotted Shimano cable-actuated disc brakes. Bungees are used for shock absorption. As both ‘third wheels’ were fitted, it made this particular preflight unique, at least in my experience. The large pneumatic nosewheel is carried by a welded steel-tube frame and free-castors, while the small solid tailwheel is suspended from a single leaf spring and steers via springs through the rudder pedals, up to about thirty degrees each way. A mixture of struts and wires brace the tailplane, which carries separate elevators with a large trim tab set into the trailing edge of the starboard one. The big fin is pleasingly rounded and carries an equally large rudder. The constant-chord wings are braced by vee-struts and fold aft using a similar system to the Scout’s, but what really catches my eye are the large, single-slotted mechanically-actuated flaps. These have four positions, 0°, 10°, 25°, and 40° but are they really necessary? This thing has a MAUW of only 300 kilograms (661 pounds) and with a wing area of 10.5 square meters (113 square feet) the wing loading is very low, so why would it need flaps? It’s obvious that without some sort of hinged trailing edge it wouldn’t be possible to fold the wings, as they’d foul the fuselage. But does it really need lift-and-drag producing aerodynamic flaps? Only one way to find out: fly it!
In-Flight EvaluationAccess to the cockpit is via a split window/door on the starboard side. The door opens forward and is quite small, while the upward-opening window is big. Most Kubs also have an identical window to port. Unsurprisingly, neither the seat nor pedals adjust, but luckily it fits me quite nicely, so once firmly strapped in with the well-made Willians four-point harness I study the surprisingly large cockpit’s controls and instruments. Quite predictably it’s an exercise in minimalism. The tall stick carries twin bicycle-type brake levers, while levers for the throttle, trim and flaps are on the port sidewall by your left knee, hip and elbow respectively. The panel continues the minimalist motif with a centrally-mounted MGL Stratomaster Xtreme EFIS as the primary instrument for both flight and engine information, with a back-up analog altimeter and ASI below it and a slip-ball between them. The ASI reads in mph and somewhat optimistic (about a third of the scale is basically superfluous) and the altimeter not ideal, as it only has a single pointer. There are only four circuit breakers and four toggle switches (for the master, avionics master and CDI units), plus a large button for the starter — and that’s pretty well it for the electrical services, as the handheld-type Icom transceiver doesn’t count as installed equipment. Now it’s time for my mea culpa moment. James had turned on the master and avionics to brief me on the EFIS, and then said, “off you go,” so I set throttle and choke, shouted “clear prop” and pressed the starter. The propeller whirled most convincingly, but the motor didn’t even cough. Further attempts were equally unsatisfactory, then realisation dawned on James and I simultaneously – maybe turning on the dual ignition systems might help? This was the first time I’d ever made this fundamental mistake on a test flight! Lesson learned: if someone else has turned on some of the systems it’s always best to turn off everything and then start from the start, before trying to start! Incidentally, the choke isn’t great (but they’re working on it). It's spring-loaded to the off position and as there’s no parking brake, you run out of hands as you also need to press the starter and guard the throttle. Taxiing out using the hand-operated differential brakes is quite easy, once I’d remembered that — as with all aircraft fitted with a castoring nosewheel — its easier if you keep the speed up a bit. As you may readily appreciate, the pre-take checks continue the simple theme because the F23 is a two-stroke so it doesn’t need warming up and you can’t even check the oil temperature or pressure. Consequently, my generic SEP "flow check" is quickly completed but — as it always does when flying a two-stroke — the small "Master Caution" light in my brain flickers once or twice. “Have I missed something," I wonder? To be certain, I waited until the CHTs rise slightly then run through the pre-takeoff checks again. Finally convinced I really haven’t forgotten anything, it’s time to fly. I saw no need to taxi round to runway 25; I simply set the flaps to 10°, opened the throttle and took off from the taxiway. Ambient conditions are above ISA, with an airfield elevation of 196 feet and an OAT of 20°C (68°F). With both tanks full G-OKUB is about 44 kilograms (97 pounds) below the 300 kilogram MAUW. I had a slight crosswind from port but the acceleration is so brisk that the Kub is up and away after about fifty meters (165 feet). The climb rate is equally impressive, the Vy of 45 knots producing over 1,000 fpm. The weather was not good for air-to-air picture taking, so photographer Keith stayed on the ground while I headed off to the west to explore the general handling, control, and stability. Initial impressions were all good. Kub handling is fine around all three axes, with low break-out forces and little "stiction." Unsurprisingly, slow flight is slow. The strut-braced wing uses a relatively high-lift aerofoil and the loading is quite light, barely half that of a Cessna 150. Stalls — power on or off — are very benign. There is no artificial stall warner, but adequate natural pre-stall buffet. Furthermore, as you approach the stall a reasonable amount of backpressure on the stick is required. Recovery is quick and easy – just release the backpressure. Flaps up Kub stalls at around 28 knots, and although with full flap and some power you can get it down to around 22 knots it's almost academic, as a sensible approach speed is well above stall. Trim is quite precise, although it did seem to run out of aft trim at my weight. Regarding stick-free stability, the Kub is stable around all three axes, being quite positive longitudinally, softly positive directionally and just barely positive laterally. The roll rate is, as you’d imagine, quite nippy while the visibility in the turn (and most phases of flight) is quite good for a high-wing aircraft. Cruise performance is also pretty well what you’d expect. A comfortable cruise speed is 50-55 knots, and although you can bump it up to 60 knots, the engine is buzzing quite frenetically and you’ll be burning (relatively) a lot more fuel. For example, at 50 knots you’re only burning around 10 liters an hour (2.6 gph), so the full 51 liters (13.5 gallons) provide a still-air range (including 30 minutes’ reserve fuel) of around 250 nautical miles. If you pull the power right back you can certainly improve the endurance; it’s just that if there’s any appreciable headwind at all then you won’t actually be going anywhere! However, when flying an aircraft like a Kub the journey is at least as important as the destination. For my first landing I opt for runway 25, which is wider, longer, and directly into wind. This goes well, and as I can see Keith has positioned himself by the mown grass strip (Runway 28) next to the taxiway to shoot some take-off and landing shots I fly several for the camera. This is great fun. The simple pleasure of a well-flown approach never grows old, while the subtle and seamless transference of weight from wing to wheel and back again has never paled, especially if you’ve got an open cockpit (or large window open) and the runway is grass. (This sentence alone is enough to appreciate Dave, don't you think?) As mentioned earlier the test aircraft had a third wheel at both ends and just for laughs (and with a bit of application) I even managed a three-pointer. I typically use about 45 knots on final, and although if it’s flat calm you could probably safely shave off another five knots, I’d advise against it. A Kub has plenty of drag and not much inertia; the speed soon washes off. Plus, it sideslips superbly. Furthermore, when landing into just a stiff breeze the speed at touchdown is very slow, possibly less than 10 knots. Brakes are only for taxiing. I also examine the take-off and landing performance with various flap settings and eventually tried the ultimate test by inverting all normal procedures by taking off with full flap and then landing with no flap. Conclusion: you don’t need any flap at any time, except when folding the wings! My experiments had convinced me that the weight and complexity of the flap system’s lever, cables, pulleys and bell cranks is unnecessary and that — and particularly for the 50 horsepower version — simple pip-pins could be used to hold the flaps in place when rigged for flight. A few weeks later Keith and I are back, and the weather is great. This time G-OKUB lost the the "training [tail]wheel" and is configured as a taildragger. It looks a lot better, I think. In fact, it looks a little bit like a single seat miniature Aeronca Champ. Slightly chubby and cheeky-looking, it exudes fun. Taxiing out was if anything (and unusually) easier in the taildragger then the trike. S-turning is unnecessary, as visibility over and each side of the nose is good and the tailwheel steers through the rudder pedals whereas the castering nosewheel requires differential braking. While best rate of climb is 45 knots, once I rose above 500 feet I sped up to 55, as this not only improves the view over the nose but also gets me clear of the airfield and chasing the camera Cessna 152 a bit quicker. The air-to-airs with the C-152 carrying Keith and James were not easy as the Kub has practically no overtake, so I have to use a lot of geometric cut-off for the re-joins. With all the pictures recorded I briefly re-flew some of the items off the flight test card to see what — if any, changes in performance and handling had been produced by removing the nosewheel. Unsurprisingly, directional stability is stronger (less keel area in front of the center of pressure) but longitudinal stability weaker (more weight aft of the centre of gravity, exacerbating the limited aft trim). It also seems slightly faster (less drag). It’s also definitely better looking! During my two test flights I had a lot of fun with the Kub — it’s an absolute hoot! Even the two-stroke engine impressed me; it really does pull well and the rate of climb is spectacular. It really was great fun to bumble about the sky with my elbow out the open window. The handling is crisp, the roll rate nippy and its just… well, fun, for there's something very special about flying rag ‘n’ tube taildraggers from grass; something that is difficult to explain and hard to resist. So, would a Kub work for you? Ultimately, the only question you need to ask yourself is, “Do I go flying for sixty miles, or for sixty minutes? (At this time, TLAC's Kub is not offered for sale in the USA.)
Sherwood KUB Specifications
- Price as tested — £34,250 (about $42,000 at current exchange rates)
- Aircraft can be fitted with a variety of engines and a nose or tailwheel undercarriage.
- Length — 16 feet
- Height — 5.2 feet
- Wing span — 29 feet / 8 feet (folded)
- Empty weight — 297 pounds
- Gross Weight — 661 pounds
- Useful load — 364 pounds
- Fuel Capacity — 13.6 gallons
- Baggage Capacity — 22 pounds
- Vne — 86 knots
- Cruise — 50 knots
- Stall — 22 knots
- Climb Rate — 1000 fpm
- Takeoff over 50 feet — 325 feet
- Land over 50 feet — 325 feet
While occupied on some travel, I am pleased to provide a pilot report on a Part 103-type from across the Atlantic in the United Kingdom. Who better to report this to you than my counterpart in Britain, Dave Unwin. Dave has flown a huge number of aircraft of all sizes. When he writes about lighter aircraft, I enjoy presenting his views. Comments in italic are my amplifications. This time I present Dave’s article with minimal editing so you can enjoy his British style. This means it is longer than our usual fare but I found it a fun read and I hope you will, too… All the great pictures were shot by photographer extraordinaire, Keith Wilson. Thanks to Dave and Keith for a great story. —DJ As I turn onto final James Milnes’ voice suddenly crackles in my headset, “Golf Oscar Kilo Uniform Bravo, don’t forget it’s a tailwheel today!” The reason for James’ timely reminder was that when I’d flown the same aircraft a few weeks previously it had been configured as a trike, but today it’s a taildragger!