Welcome to the newest Special Light-Sport Aircraft, entering our popular SLSA List at number 149.
The newest is also unique among all 149 entries in one way. Sunward’s Aurora is the first entry from China. The company has been producing aircraft since 2013 and reported delivering 100 aircraft in that time, all in China, averaging about one a month. The U.S.-registered entry seen at Oshkosh (N871LS) is the first outside China. Here is link to the Aurora information.
You need a specific link because Sunward is a conglomerate active in diverse fields, for example, large earth movers and excavators. The photo of their expansive facility tells a thousand words. This is not uncommon in China. Many of that country’s acquisitions of major American aviation companies were done by still larger enterprises in China. Mostly these are private businesses, not the more staid state companies.
Assembled discreetly in Denton, Texas, Sunward quietly earned its Special Airworthiness Certificate — verified by examining the printed document kept in the aircraft — just in time for American Chief Pilot Patrick Keeling to take off and fly to Oshkosh. We recorded an interview with Patrick at Oshkosh that will go up on the Ultralight News YouTube channel when editing is complete.
The design appears connected to the Fly Synthesis Texan from Italy and the designer reportedly assisted Sunward as they worked on this project. Yet a glance at the Texan (at bottom) shows numerous differences.
Overall, Aurora looks more modern. The canopy was raised to accommodate larger Americans; it is smooth and with less visually-distracting support members. Texan has a steerable nosewheel while Aurora elected castoring. The latter looks better and may allow tighter turns but you taxi steer with brakes. Aurora’s engine cowl is more contoured and the spinner to cowl transition is cleaner. Inside, the hatrack and baggage space is larger and more accessible in Aurora.
All these differences suggest that if Aurora is a Texan, it is an improvement on the original. The company said Aurora is the first Chinese brand Light-Sport Aircraft to receive Chinese (CAAC) airworthiness certification.
Aurora is “designed and manufactured under the full supervision and instruction of foreign experts,” clarified Sunward. They believe their performance and quality is comparable to other advanced international brands in this market.
Aurora is nose to tail carbon fiber, uses the Rotax 912, and will offer U.S. instrumentation. Pricing is competitive with a higher end LSA in the range of $160,000.
The company and their U.S. associates at Sunward USA in Plano, Texas will gain a great deal of feedback at Oshkosh 2019 and many people got their first glimpse of an attractive aircraft from China.
Sunward Aurora Specifications (per factory):
- Gross Weight — 1,320 pounds
- Empty Weight — 750 pounds
- Useful Load — 570 pounds
- Payload (with full fuel) — 380 pounds
- Length — 22.6 feet
- Wing Span — 28 feet
- Never Exceed Speed — 146 knots
- Cruise Speed — 118 knots
- Stall Speed — 39 knots
- Maximum Climb Rate — 1,080 feet per minute
- Takeoff Distance — 590 feet
- Landing Distance — 590 feet
- Powerplant — Rotax 912 ULS (carbureted)
- Fuel Capacity — 31.7 gallons
- Range — 745 statute miles