Vickers Aircraft has created one of the most distinctive new LSA seaplanes yet to emerge. Powered by the 180-horsepower Titan IO-340CC by Continental Motors, their Wave model is like no other seaplane ever introduced with multiple features to set it apart from the crowd.
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Earlier this month, Light-Sport Aircraft celebrated a birthday. The date was September 1st, when FAA made the then-new Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft rule “effective” (to employ FAA-speak). So… happy birthday, LSA.
In those dozen years — the newest aircraft segment is not even a teenager yet — quite a bit has changed. If you are a parent, you may not notice your child getting older as you see them daily. However, the distant uncle or grandparent who only gets to visit infrequently may be astounded how much the little guy or gal has grown. I suspect those close to LSA may have a similar perspective deficit, so let me make some contrasts.
The nearby images are from a talk I gave at the recently concluded Mid-West LSA Expo. I went into more detail than this article permits but I’ll bet you get the points.
AIRFRAMES — Today, we accept that we have some marvelous, sleek, high-tech, well-equipped, well-performing models.
Coming up in just over two weeks! — September 8-9-10, 2016 — is the Midwest LSA Expo. I hope your plans include going. Plenty of aircraft are available and taking a demo flight is no easier anywhere. I will look for you on site! More info: Midwest LSA Expo.
Engines have changed a lot over the life of Light-Sport Aircraft. FAA’s new regulation became effective in September 2004. A hard working industry has brought 140 Special LSA models to market …in less than 12 years, one per month for every month (on average) since the rule emerged.
Engines have been similarly prolific.
In the beginning, Rotax‘s 65-horsepower two-stroke 582 was a often selected to power the lighter aircraft of the pre-LSA period. The 9-series engines had gained acceptance much earlier but as LSA got bigger and heavier, their success gave a tremendous push to the popular Austrian engine and it dominates to this day.
CubCrafters made the Titan engine well known to Light-Sport Aircraft enthusiasts when it added the 180-horsepower engine to their line of Cub-like airplanes. It made a rather docile flying machine into a macho machine and that appears to have helped the company increase their sales. However, now you can also find this engine in the American Legend Cub-type airplanes as well as Sportair USA’s Outback model manufactured by Zlin. All three models now boast this impressive performing engine, and more airframe users are coming.
Probably you’ve seen an act like this before. A crazy-acting farmer or a supposed drunk hops into a Piper Cub or similar aircraft after the regular pilot leaves it unattended for a few minutes. The crazy guy has no flying experience but somehow proceeds to start up the airplane and to take off in the most out-of-control manner imaginable. As he erratically careens around the sky, handling the aircraft wickedly out of control, he nearly impacts the ground over and over. The entire act takes place within a couple hundred feet of a hard-as-concrete surface.
Even though it’s only an act and even if the pilot is actually a gifted aviator, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and fear that nutjob is going to whack the airplane into the ground right in front of the airshow crowd watching in fascination.
So, you may look at the act Greg Koontz performs and you might undervalue the skill involved.
In my many years in aviation, I’ve learned this about light aviation pilots: If 80-horsepower is good, then 100-horsepower is better, and even more is best of all. It explains why interest was so high when Rotax announced their new 915iS that will provide 135 horsepower. It also illustrates why the 180 horses of the Titan X-340 is succeeding in the Light-Sport Industry.
Interest from LSA producers started with CubCrafters adopting the engine several years ago. When that company’s boss, Jim Richmond, held a press conference at Sun ‘n Fun, the reception was somewhat cool. Of ten persons in the audience, only four of us were journalists. The other six (yes, 6!) people were from FAA. No wonder, perhaps, as ASTM standards at the time brought questions to mind regarding the use of such a powerful engine. Those standards have since been modified somewhat.
Indeed, the western producer instructed users that the engine could only be used at full power for takeoff or climbing, but otherwise had to be set to lower power.
I always love traveling to Aero Friedrichshafen because of the new aircraft I will see. We media types live for the new stuff (because it’s what we believe our readers or video watchers want to consume). I made my last dash through the hall on Saturday — Aero ran from April 20-23, 2016 — and I am now in Zurich, Switzerland awaiting my flight back to the USA.
I saw many aircraft worthy of closer examination. I will prepare articles on those and more detail about the ones below, too. Later on, some of my Aero videos will hit YouTube after some editing. While the memories are fresh, though, I want to give an early peek at four aircraft that grabbed my attention …and that of many others, judging from the challenge to get near them during opening hours. I present these in no particular order.
Zlin Savage Shock — Shock definitely created awe at Aero.
Every year before the big shows, I often hear from journalist friends working for other publications. This year as other years, they need advance knowledge to get things started for print publications working on longer deadlines than those of us in the online publishing game. To help my fellow writers, I’ve been keeping a tally of what I expect at Sun ‘n Fun 2016. Here we go…! By the way, these are not order of importance or impact. Please don’t assume.
U-Fly-It, producer of the popular and agreeably-priced Aerolite 103 (ready-to-fly for well under $20,000) is well along in planning for a kit version. While running their facility at or near capacity, this move may help get airplanes to people faster plus allowing those who want features that will not qualify as a Part 103 ultralight to go Experimental Amateur Built.
Thinking of modestly priced aircraft, Quicksilver will be represented at Sun ‘n Fun at the Air-Tech space.
Article updated 2/16/16 — In a freshly-edited video (see at end), Just Aircraft key fellows Gary Schmidt and Troy Townsend provide extra comments and we add additional footage of SuperSTOL climbing strongly with the Titan.
Even before Continental Motors took over the former ECi, that company’s Titan engine has been turning heads. CubCrafters was first to this party, installing the 180-horsepower engine on their Cubalike LSA, demonstrating very short takeoff rolls before climbing steeply. Since then, quite a few other producers have embraced the potent engine and more are coming. This development is sufficiently interesting that I am at work on an article about three “divisions” of powerplants for LSA, light kits, and ultralights.
However, all other users of the Titan are unlike Just Aircraft’s SuperSTOL, which itself has turned many a head at airshow demonstrations. SuperSTOL was able to rivet pilots’ attention when it performed with the 100-horsepower Rotax 912, so imagine the neck-snapping twists that will occur when people get a chance to see how this moveable-slats airplane on tall, telescoping gear performs with 180 horses doing the pulling.
Big power is not just for LSA taildraggers anymore. A few years back, CubCrafters surprised the LSA world with its installation of the most powerful engine in the LSA space. The western U.S. company mounted a Titan engine from ECi making the modest Cub-like airframe perform far better than the old versions from the Piper company.
At the time, this potent powerplant raised eyebrows for two reasons.
First, it seemed an excess of power for the then-new lightweight class of airplanes FAA had just regulated into existence. Most had been using one of the 9-series engines from Rotax, which in some cases was itself a move up from a two-stroke Rotax 582 providing 65 horsepower. CubCrafters limited power after takeoff to maneuver within the regs, though, honestly, who would continue using so much power in cruise or while sight seeing?
Secondly, the Cub-style airframe is already near the upper LSA empty weight calculation so CubCrafters’ engineers had to add many costly carbon fiber elements to keep the empty weight low enough to fit in the class.