I once followed judging at shows like AirVenture and Sun ‘n Fun. In fact, an aircraft I helped inspire — a modernized primary glider called the SuperFloater — won Outstanding New Design at Sun ‘n Fun 1995. Judges closely examined homebuilts, kit or restored vintage airplanes, and warbirds. If they included factory built aircraft, I was not aware of it. *** So, this year I admitted surprise after learning factory-built Light-Sport Aircraft won awards. *** To honor the hundreds or thousands of hours people put into their winners, I want to highlight some LSA and ultralights that judges liked. The Grand Champion LSA was Wayne Spring’s 2010 Predator powered parachute; Reserve Grand Champ was James Jonannes’ 2009 Arion Lightning LS-1; Grand Champion Ultralight was James Wiebe’s 2010 Belite Superlite; and, Reserve Grand Champ was Danny Dezauche’s 2010 CGS Hawk Ultra.
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Could my spot survey of just a few LSA companies at the show be the harbinger of better things to come? American Legend Aircraft prez Darrin Hart told me yesterday his company had sold three S-LSA and two Texas Star Cub kits…only three days into the show. *** Dave Graham of Gobosh reports two sales of the popular low-wing Gobosh 700. *** CubCrafters has tallied at least one sale so far. *** And Paradise Aviation’s Chris Regis had one firm sale and another one ready to ink. *** You go gang!
After a few days in a new location for 2010, the LSA Mall hosted by LAMA and supported by Aviators Hot Line / Light Aviation Edition has proven to be a hit. On Friday (day 4), crowds were especially thick. All 18 airplanes in the Mall were often surrounded several deep. *** Winds finally moderated into a beautiful Florida day. Cameras, videos, and phone cameras clicked furiously as visitors pored over the flock of shiny aircraft. *** In particular the PiperSport attracted waves of attention but all exhibitors appeared busy throughout the morning and early afternoon (when people stream into the event). I’ve taken reports from several manufacturers that sales are popping. This is notably different from Sebring where people showed interest, took plenty of demo flights, said they wanted to buy, and then… nothing! *** Sales have been dead slow in early 2010 and my best guess is that potential buyers — who often have the money to afford these airplanes — are hesitant while they wait for the economy and their financial picture to stabilize.
I’m taking a short setup break here in the LSA Mall at Sun ‘n Fun to post this SPLOG. It’s the evening before the big show opens and this is a happening place. Vendors everywhere are scurrying to turn pandemonium into a highly organized show by morning. It’s windy but beautiful with temperatures in the low 80s and low humidity. C’mon down! *** The LSA Mall is a new location and by most reports, the location is even better than last year’s dynamite spot, with walkway or road access to two long rows of Light-Sport Aircraft. We’ve got $35,000 and $40,000 SLSA (M-Squared and CGS Hawk LSA) plus top brands like Piper (top photo, and see legend for more brands present), Flight Design, Remos, and leaders like Jabiru offering special bargains. We might squeeze one more airplane but I consider the LSA Mall full to capacity and ready to please.
Cessna’s in the hunt for flight schools, like everybody else. Word comes via a city blog that Orlando Flight Training is ramping up a Sport Pilot training program that will use four Cessna Skycatchers at its Kissimmee Gateway Airport facility. *** The piece claims OFT is the first to offer the C-162 in Florida, and plans to have them operational this summer. *** While we’re at it, let’s highlight a few more Sport Pilot ops in the Sunshine State: *** ^ Another Sport Pilot training program at Apopka is Grizzly Aviation Services. It also uses a Gobosh 700S, which rents out at $97/hr. *** ^ Yet another Orlando-area operation is Orlando-Gateway Sport Pilot Training LLC, which gets things done out of Kissimmee Airport with a Remos GX and a SportCruiser. *** ^ Mike Z.
I saw this bad boy at Sebring in January and was taken with its potential for flight schools, airplane dealers, insurance companies and plain old pilot fun. *** Dave Graham of Gobosh introduced me to the go-getter guys behind it. They call themselves Light Sport Group. *** More details: *** It’s called the Contour HD A/V-ator Edition. *** It’s adapted from a popular HD helmet camera. *** It shoots in full High Definition (1080P – P is for progressive, which is the smoother-viewing of two specs, the other being I, for interlaced). *** My favorite feature (in addition to the HiDef) is the 135-degree lens that, if you mount the cam behind the pilot in a typical LSA, will show the entire cockpit, panel and what’s outside the windscreen. *** Here’s a video from the company’s website that speaks to the product’s merits all by itself: *** The system includes the camera, Light Sport Group’s proprietary noise-cancelling circuit, plug-and-play aviation headset adapters for clear cockpit audio, a Contour-specific suction cup mount, an 8GB SD memory card, and internal rechargeable battery.
After five days of hustle and bustle to get the talking, shooting, flying and writing done at Sebring (I’m an Air Force of One), I got a real treat: pal Dave Graham, who’s worked tirelessly since the beginning to bring the Gobosh line of LSA to America and get the two lovely low-wing models they represent on the map (Gobosh currently ranks 15th on Dan Johnson’s market list), offered me the left seat in a Gobosh 700S so up we went. *** We tooled around beneath the broken clouds in the waning yellow-orange afternoon light, chattering away about all things LSA, and life in general — real smell-the-roses time. *** Dave, a native of Ireland, is a well-read, very bright guy who’s got a clear pov about all kinds of things and is a tirelessly engaging conversationalist. *** He’s been a pilot for 20 years and is passionate about aviation, plain and simple.
After enduring a goodly downpour most of the day, stalwarts were rewarded with a sunny late afternoon and fresh, cool winds. This is not typical Oshkosh Airventure weather: usually we’re melting into puddles of goo from the heat and humidity. *** Strolling through the vast Airventure “campus” I ran into Dave Graham, hardworking Gobosh principal who shared the new Garmin G3X panel he’s installed into the Gobosh 700. Such a nice panel, and with dual Garmin vertical EFIS screens right in front of the pilot, and backup steam gauges and other avionics goodies, it’s an impressive panel. *** Also noteworthy is Dave’s automobile iconic symbols on the console stack that add colorful, easy-read labeling to control switches such as carb heat, fuel cutoff and choke. *** A Zaon PCAS XRX collision avoidance system is another welcome feature on this lovely tricked out G700. *** ====================================== *** Knocking around the grounds after dark was a kick.
Others have written about LSA safety but did not reveal underlying facts. While I prefer to blog about new aircraft, LSA safety is a worthy topic. Here’s the quick summary: While every loss is tragic to family and friends, LSA safety numbers are better than some predicted. Now some detail. *** According to FAA records in the four-year period from August of 2005 to June of 2009, Special Light-Sport Aircraft experienced 12 fatal accidents resulting in the loss of 18 lives. *** In 10 of the 12 accidents a licensed pilot was in control (that is, not a Sport Pilot). Altogether, 10 manufacturers were affected. Only one, variations of the CH-601 produced by three companies, had multiple accidents and that veteran design remains under investigation so conclusions would be premature. *** In 2007, a year of high sales and activity, the industry experienced five crashes and eight fatalities. All other years had half that or less.
As the challenging year for aircraft sales grinds on, Light-Sport Aircraft continue to hold their own. In tough times, when cash is tight, small enterprises may fare better than large companies. Their low expense structures, modestly compensated managers and employees, and lean manufacturing — as allowed by industry-standards certification — become strengths. *** But we see another quality. The half-million-plus general aviation pilots are more accepting of LSA today than three years ago. Organizations like AOPA are more fully embracing LSA, because their members are calling to ask questions. (Watch for a surprise LSA announcement at AOPA’s Aviation Summit in about a month!) GA pilots make up most buyers of LSA and those aviators now recognize the brands and have begun to acquire faith in companies certifying themselves (though many are still reserving judgement). *** Through August, a full month after AirVenture, the LSA fleet has grown to just under 1,700 fully-built aircraft not including ELSA kits or alternative aircraft like trikes and powered parachutes, nor any converted ultralights.