The final day of the Sebring U.S. Sport Aviation Expo brought good flying conditions until mid-afternoon when light precipitation returned. The good start allowed us to record two Video Pilot Reports (VPR), one on the Magnus Aircraft all-carbon-fiber Fusion 212 and the other on the fully enclosed SilverLight Aviation American Ranger AR1 gyroplane. The videos will take some time to edit but I’ll provide a quick glimpse below.
One surprise arrival was Aeromarine LSA‘s Mermaid. Remember this model? This Chip Erwin creation was really the forerunner of the modern LSA seaplane category. Before Mermaid, we had Progressive Aerodyne‘s Searey and Aero Adventure‘s Aventura. Both those models have been upgraded for the time of ASTM standards compliance but early in the new millennium it was accurate to call them “ultralight seaplanes” built of gusseted aluminum structures covered with sewn Dacron surfaces.
When Mermaid arrived about as the Light-Sport Aircraft sector was given birth by FAA’s new regulation, this all-metal, clean sheet design wowed crowds at Sun ‘n Fun. Many responded by putting down deposits. For complex reasons I won’t go into here, Mermaid never made the splash many anticipated but neither has it disappeared. Here’s more on the aircraft’s history.
For the final day, Mermaid came and replaced another LSA seaplane that chose to exit their space early. The intriguing shoulder-wing design steadily attracted interested pilots. Mermaid was the first LSA seaplane to declare compliance with ASTM standards and was #28 catalogued on our popular SLSA List. It was fun to see Mermaid again.
Gone Flying …for You!
Our VPRs have proven popular with some approaching a million views and several with hundreds of thousands of views.
In my early days of writing aircraft reviews, I produced hundreds of such reports. Indeed those articles were the original foundation of this website. They date back into the 1980s and some even in the ’70s. Yet, times change.
After YouTube, Vimeo, and other video-hosting sites arrived, they drew huge viewership. YouTube is often said to be the #2 search engine on the Internet after Google.
People love videos! Videoman Dave informed an inquiring group of pilots that his Light Sport and Ultralight Flyer YouTube channel now generates 1.8 million views a month (for all his 1,000+ videos, which include all the ones in which I perform).
We joined the parade and now create VPRs, involving mounting up to eight Garmin Virb cameras as well as shooting from the ground, plus a stand-up review where I relate information immediately after flying the aircraft. Obvious, pilots enjoy these and we’ll keep making more.
Magnus Fusion — Magnus Aircraft USA is the manufacturer of a Hungarian design called Fusion 212. Designed in 2013 with first flight in 2015, and FAA acceptance as a Special LSA in 2017, Fusion is one of the newest aircraft in the SLSA List, in the #146 spot. The U.S. assembly site brings in carbon components from Hungary but the American operation is acknowledged by FAA as the official producer of the LSA version, according to boss Istvan Foldesi.
This all-carbon-fiber design is a low wing side-by-side model with dashing performance featuring quick climb rates with the Rotax 912 ULS. Fusion cruises at 110-115 knots and exhibited very accommodating handling. Watch for many more details and get plenty of views when the video is released.
SilverLight AR1 — To handle this VPR a bit differently, I asked pilot/instructor Greg Spicola to pretend I was a new gyroplane student. That’s close to accurate as I have about four hours under my belt in a variety of gyroplanes. However, except for a few differences associated with a spinning wing, AR1, like all gyroplanes, can be flown essentially as a you’d operate a fixed wing LSA.
“Power before pitch” was a mantra Greg drilled into me and that with a few other differences — such as operating the rotor pre-rotator and learning to brake the rotor disk before making abrupt turns on the ground — are easy enough to learn. It only takes a bit of “unlearning” so one’s fixed wing habits don’t result in the wrong actions by the pilot.
These aircraft are special in many ways — the ability to descend vertically (although not land that way) and to make seriously tight turns about a point — that combine with massive visibility at affordable prices …all of which explain some of the growing popularity of these aircraft types. Again, look for many more details and views when the video emerges from the edit suite.
As the show wound down, we did an interview with Executive Director Mike Willingham and Executive Assistant Bev Glarner. The longtime team are the key players behind the event these days but we also asked questions about the airport itself. Watch for that update when editing is complete, but please be patient as Videoman Dave is already working his way across the southern states en route to Copperstate 2019. This year, the long-running event has moved from from October to February. If you live in the southwest, come on out to the event and give a wave when you see us dashing about to record more great video interviews and VPRs for you.