Thursday, December 31, 2009

Hangin' In The Mall - A Fable For 2010

Once upon a time, there was a purveyor of flying machines and a trainer of pilots in the great kingdom of Texas that wondered why more people hadn't come to fly the Planes of Sport.
"I have an idea," said the Duke of U.S. Aviation Group. "Let us sally forth to the local market mall at the waxing of the moon, and offer Flights of Discovery for one full moon cycle. Only then, if we still have unsatisfactory student numbers, shall we biotcheth and moaneth our dire and hopeless fate."
And so his loyal band of sky serfs and flight vassals transported a Remos GX to a busy mallway, manned the booth with eager promoters night and day, and lo and behold, one moonth later, the Duke was happy to report that 170 Flights of Discovery had been sold, along with 130 leads on partnerships as well as several potential solo purchasers.
The Duke was surprised to learn, after reviewing the comments left by the many good people of the kingdom, that many thought the license to be a Pilot of Sport cost $12,000, rather than the truer number of $4,000.
“We learned...that many people think about aviation, but fail to act on the impulse,” said the Duke (aka Justin Shelley, Director of Aircraft Sales). “By putting an aircraft in their line of sight, they stopped by and engaged in a discussion about licensing or ownership.”
The moral of the tale for the New Year is simple: there is no lack of interest or willingness in the desire to gaze upon the kingdom from lofty heights - only a dearth of imagination in how to bring that vision to the people.
Happy New Year to all, and may the vision of flight inspire you to new heights in 2010!
---photo courtesy Sir James, Knight of Olde Chatham

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Euro Eco Meet

Here's one of those great events that bring out garage geniuses and newtechies alike - and in time lead to entire new industries: the Eco-Marathon Ulm.
Think of this event/competition as a call to young designers and engineers to craft minimally-fueled flying machines. Brings to mind the European aviation meets of a century ago, where passionate tinkerers and leading-edge technical thinkers gathered to show their flying machines and inspire each other to keep pushing all the envelopes.
The happening invites everyone with prototypes or modified production models of European-standard microlight aircraft.
The competition features a GPS-tracked course with measurement of fuel usage at the goal. The skimpiest sipper of fuel for the rectangular 2000 meter x 250 meter course, to be flown three times consecutively at Vichy, France, will be the winner.
A plethora of energy sources is allowed for in the rules: Unleaded fuel, Liquefied petroleum, gas to liquid, hydrogen (!), pressurized air (!!), solar, battery, hybrid (gas engine/electric motor). Wot a hoot!
The Eco Marathon Ulm Association is a "major educational project" aimed at fostering innovation in aviation fuel efficiency and helping young aeronautical whizbrains discover their career tracks.
BTW: the aircraft pictured are the Woopy and the Pipistrel.
---photos courtesy Eco Marathon ULM

The Shape of Things To Come

Things we'll be watching for in 2010:

The Cessna SkyCatcher entering local skies nationwide. (Company CEO's wife, Mrs. Jack Pelton, just took delivery of the first production model last week.

Further development of the Icon A5, slated for market in 2011.

The MySky MS-1 Mentor all-composite, fighter-style LSA . First delivery targeted for Nov 2010.

More exciting buzz (sorry) around electric flight, including this new company:
Bye Energy, a Colorado company founded to develop alternative aviation energy sources (renewable biofuels and electric aircraft propulsion systems)- which linked up recently with Vertical Power, Inc., maker of solid-state electrical systems for experimental aircraft.
The stated purpose in their MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) is to develop a practical, efficient, light-weight EHPS, (Electric Hybrid Propulsion System).
Initial focus for the companies: experimental and light sport aircraft, with a long-range target of certified aircraft and (of course) military applications.
No pix or drawings yet, but this visionary statement of purpose on the website caught my eye:
"Bye Energy's research...(concludes) that ...battery units combined with a highly efficient electric motor is the most adaptable solution for aviation utility. Battery technology...has advanced considerably over the past 10 years...and...has now matured enough to provide adequate energy to meet the requirements of a typical internal combustion powered aircraft."
Now that's an electrifying (groan) manifesto, skychicks and bros.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Winter Ops

I'm sitting at my desk, gloom and doom outside the window as the snow flakes fall, wishing I had one of these: a Legend SkiCub.
I confess I succumbed to a nostalgic moment, remembering the wonderful trip I had with Darrin Hart and the boys from the Legend factory in Texas down to Sun 'n Fun in Florida a couple years back. Wish I had a Cub nearby on skis, because right now, that's a stylin' way to go.
Glad to see Legend's hanging in there through the tough economy.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

No Trouble In Paradise

Paradise USA just marked the 10th Anniversary of its P1 design with some positive and encouraging signs for the industry:
* The Paradise P1, which I did a story on this year, is now certified in the U.S., Brazil (it's home company has a new 75,000 sq. ft. factory there), Australia and South Africa.* My story in the mag focused on Dylan Redd, who flies a specially-modified P1 with hand controls for paraplegic pilots.
* The Sebring-based U.S. arm of the company markets the P1, an excellent SLSA that's based on a four-seat design, so for one thing it's got a lot of room behind the seats for baggage, something that's not that common for the industry.
* Paradise has designed and marketed eight different aircraft since 1985.
Here's a big congrats to Chris and crew and best wishes for another 10 years of successful LSA design and marketing.
---photo courtesy Paradise USA

Thursday, December 24, 2009

FK Group Opens 2nd Factory

Two decades of hard work, sharp design and marketing vision, and keeping a high bar for quality production recently brought FK Group, German makers of three European "ultralights", an award from Aerokurier magazine for best manufacturer. FK beat out Remos and other top light sport builders.
The latest good news from the FK 9 MK IV producer, (a lovely ASTM-approved LSA I'm eager to jump a hop in), is the newly completed second factory that will complete the company's goal of producing 100% of its aircraft, from fab to outfitting to painting, all in-house.
A company release praises FK's association with Cirrus, (lamentably in suspension of its own low-wing Polaris LSA project - also manufactured by FK - to marshal efforts on its Vision jet), for the "huge production knowledge" in expanding its facilities.
The company also grew its workforce by 40% this year - and that in a down economy!
I encourage you to check out this company and the FK 9. More than 400 have shipped so far throughout the world - most impressive.
I'm hoping the FK 9 will soon be joined in ASTM certification by its sister ships: the Polaris and the FK 12 Comet, a racy-looking biplane LSA that is back in production in Europe and moving toward ASTM approval.
Keep your eye on these folks. Over 20 years they've built a solid reputation.
---photos courtesy FK Lightplanes

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

New Illinois LSA Academy

In the upcoming Learn To Fly issue of dead tree Plane and Pilot, I wrote an overview article covering the Sport Pilot license.
Helping me out with some valuable insights was Jim Sweeney, well-known ultralight/Light Sport teacher/expert who really knows his FAA regs.
One comment Jim made: FBOs have been slow to embrace LSA flight training for a variety of reasons, including reticence to invest in aircraft and training aids for fears the movement would wither on the vine like the Recreational license.
So I was happy to have Jim note this year's increase in LSA training nationwide.
In that vein, Kandace McCoy, in an unusually accurate (for the media) story in the Mt. Vernon News-Register, brought good Christmas tidings for midwesterners: the opening of Southern Illinois LSA Flight Academy, a new school two years in the making that will operate out of Mt. Vernon, IL's Outland Airport.
The Academy, run by SRT Aviation, offers comprehensive
LSA training. SRT prez Rich Carney is quoted as saying the school has four flight instructors and several students lined up.
Local officials hold up the new school as a sign of the airport's progressive vision of aviation innovation and economic benefit (local motels, restaurants, car rentals etc.)
A spanking new Jabiru J230 with all-glass cockpit, XM satellite weather, traffic collision avoidance and autopilot will carry the training duties.
The Academy is even spreading the word in a Trade-a-Plane online ad quoting
$3325.98 for a Prepaid Light Sport Pilot Package. (Where do you think that $.98 comes in?)
We wish the new school and all LSA training operations the best of success in 2010!
---photo courtesy Jabiru USA

Monday, December 21, 2009

Whatever Works!

Never Say Die Dept: A St. Louis, MO. dealer calling itself the Renegade Light Sport Mall offers several LSA for sale, and the company's not shy about finding the market wherever it's hiding.
I stumbled across this listing on Ebay for the FALCON Light Sport Aircraft, which Renegade champions in the auction as THE BEST LIGHT SPORT AIRCRAFT ON THE PLANET.
We're glad to see the Falcon hanging in there. It's a very attractive U.S.-made airplane with a Lycoming engine. We've had our eye on it for some time but haven't been able to get a flight in yet...maybe at Sebring.

Latest News on Electric Flight

Here's a couple tidbits from my latest websearches on electric aircraft.

The Solar Impulse had it's maiden "flea hop" flight in Switzerland this month. The team was ecstatic, though it was just a short 350-meter, 1-meter-high test hop. The goal? A round-the-world flight next year, powered solely by the sun! Very exciting.
Good blurbs on the project here and here (cool video)

And here's a blogsite about a minimal-fuel contest originating in France that has a page with images of most of the electric LSA and ultralight flight projects out there.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Neiman Marcus: "ICON A5 Is Top Gift!"

Right in line with Icon's high-viz marketing push for its A5 amphib LSA comes the announcement that iconic big-ticket shopping purveyor Nieman Marcus has the futuristic waterplane as the number one (and priciest) fantasy gift in its 2009 Christmas Book.
The Icon is currently in extensive flight testing at Tehachapi, Ca, one of the soaring meccas of the west but also near Lake Isabella, so both the land and water chops of the A5 can be thoroughly wrung out.
An interesting sidenote mentioned in the piece: Matthew Gionta, ICON's chief technical officer, is quoted as saying 33% of the A5's current customer base has "never flown before."
That's a testimony to the vision of the company's founder, Kirk Hawkins, who believes the ICON will bring new pilots to aviation with its glossy marketing of the A5 as a kind of flying jet-ski you can easily trailer to your holiday getaways.
The Neiman Marcus Christmas Book package that Icon created includes the airplane with exterior and interior luxury upgrades, custom trailer and FAA-certified sport pilot licensing for two. Just pony up $250,000 and its yours.
BTW, it's the priciest gift in the entire catalog.
North Pole scuttlebutt has it that Santa himself is considering the package. The question remaining is whether Old St. Nick can fit his rotunditude into any LSA cockpit. Stay tuned for further updates.
Meanwhile, ICON reports 466 sales to date! Most impressive for a ship that won't be delivered until at least late 2011.
Here's a couple more links to the catalog announcement: Luxist and Dallas Business Journal.
---web page copy courtesy Neiman Marcus

Friday, December 18, 2009

Pre-Xmas Roundabout

Ramping up to the big day when that jolly red-flightsuited Sport Pilot in his original LSA -a two-place, roof-landing, 8 RP (reindeer power) flivver - will fly all those XC legs to good little pilot's chimneys, herewith some stocking stuffer newsies and tidbits to help wind down 2009.

Kennedy Aircraft Service & Repair serves up a blog with tasty tidbiti about the SeaRey amphibian which is (forgive me) making a splash on the water-fly-sport scene.

An interesting info site called The FAA Buzz (not affiliated with FAA) has a blurb about Virginia Aviation, provider of FAA-approved E-LSA inspection courses. V.A. is now cleared by the fedgov to conduct an LSA repairman’s course (LSRM) on weight shift control aircraft.

Speaking of bugs-in-teeth flight, Precision Windsports has a quick-read page on the relative merits of E-LSA vs. Amateur-Built kits. Browse around the site, they've got lots of good trike info and pix (as seen here).
---trike photo courtesy Precision Windsports

Public awareness of the Icon A5 watersport amphib is beginning to find its way into the web and blogosphere. Some fun and cogent reader comments here and a blog item with video here.

Care to brush up on The Rule? Read Roger Tunsley's basic primer on learning to fly under FAA's Sport Pilot rule.

LSA in the NEWS dept: Gaudy British tabloid The Sun reports on the exploits of Martin Bromage, who'll fly his QuikR trike 12,000 miles to Australia. His goal: to raise £150,000, almost $300,000, for injured UK soldiers, through the Help The Heroes charity. The Sun is sponsoring the trip. Godspeed, Martin!

Talk about tasty tidbits, if you're a web-video freak, (and who isn't at least part-time?), Lightsport Aircraft Videos is the place to slake your thirst for short, tasty intros to the galaxy of LSA and other sport aircraft out there. Our favorite guru Dan Johnson does topnotch duty as your friendly LSA video host on several segments.

Speaking of Dan, head over to his SPLOG for other breaking stories, including Rotax's increase in TBO (Time Before Overhaul) of its LSA-ubiquitous 912 engine to 2,000 hours, raising it to the same endurance league with general aviation powerplants. (The spec includes 80 and 100 hp versions and the 914 mill too).
This should further help dispel the "gotta have a spam can engine" safety bias that still pops up now and then against the tried and proven Rotax brand.

Speaking of brands, also on Dan's Splog is an item about the folding of EAA's Sport Pilot magazine into EAA's Sport Aviation. A new e-letter/online newsletter called Light Plane World will take up the slack. We wish its new editor Dan Grunloh all the best in the new year.
And a special thanks! to Mary Jones for all her good work running Sport Pilot and other pubs over at EAA for 25 years.

Snack time, more later!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


I was out in L.A. last week and had the distinct pleasure to hop a flight out of Santa Monica Airport, an old haunt of mine, with Flight Design USA's California sales rep, Karine Noel.
Karine was a perfect hostess. She's just set up shop to demo the company's top-o'-market line of LSA.
But she's more than just another pretty face.
Her GA chops include a stint flying for JetDirect Aviation and CFI/CFII, IFR and Commercial Multi ratings.
That pedigree should prove a real asset when showing and translating the virtues and nuances of Light Sport flight to GA pilots, who often underestimate the sophisticated handling and performance of LSA.
We launched in Karine's CTLS demonstrator on a clear, cool morning, flew out over famed Malibu colony, then climbed to 5,000 ft over the wonderful Santa Monica Mts. to boat around at 120 knots for awhile.
Now how much better does it get than zipping through butter-smooth skies with a lovely pilot in a new LSA?
Karine operates out of long-time FBO Kreuger Aviation at Santa Monica. She's part of Flight Design's newest distributor, Flight Design West, a division of Lone Mountain Aircraft Sales which operates in Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Montana.
Prospective buyers can contact her here for information and a demo flight. Karine can also arrange for LSA flight training in the area.
Flight Design West has also set up repair centers in Santa Monica and Portland, OR to support the more than 300 CT aircraft already flying in the U.S. (There are 1400 operating worldwide).

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Remos "Insolvency"

Remos, German makers of the popular Remos GX composite SLSA, has been the subject of a lot of wagging tongues the last few days. Rumors abound as to what it all means, with innuendo-slinging around the company's alleged lack of timely disclosure surrounding its financial difficulties.
The man who seems to have his finger on the pulse of the story and its nuances is LAMA President and Light Sport go-to dude Dan Johnson, who I talked with at length about the subject this morning.
Dan's jam-packed aviation info website has the scoop in his Splog (Sport pilot's blog) so rather than do a thinly veiled rehash of what he told me, you can go here and get it straight from the old Pegasus's mouth himself, and also read the company's official release today right here.
Short tell: word got out that Remos had a cash flow problem, was subsequently required under German finance law to file for insolvency status (not the same nor as dire a portent of financial ailment as a U.S. bankruptcy), then received another infusion of investor capital, and according to company spokesmen is sailing brightly once again into the future.
We can all hope Remos turns the corner as the importance of its contributions to the LSA industry's robustitude and image is undeniable.
---photo courtesy Remos

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Two Jabirus Fly to the Land of the Long White Cloud

The newspaper Bay Of Plenty Times just posted a story bylined by Julia Proverbs that the popular Australian SLSA Jabiru has migrated to its down-under neighbor New Zealand. A flight school run by Euroflight International of Tauranga, (north island) just bought and flew two Jabiru LSA models to replace the school's aging Cessna 150s.
Pilots Tim Holland and Ross Crawford made the formation flight of around 1500 nm over the Tasman Sea in a new J230 and a slightly used J120 .
Gutsy Call Dept: Holland reportedly doesn't swim! Talk about confidence in your aircraft. (SAT phones, rafts and other survival gear were on board, so we know he's not completely crazy).
"Earlier this year , we decided to upgrade our fleet," said Holland's wife,
Euroflight co-owner Anita Holland. "We were looking for something which would make flight training safe, affordable and fun...(and decided on a) composite aircraft ...due to strength, durability and no risk of the dreaded corrosion.
The delivery makes the Jabiru the first LSA to be registered in NZ, fresh on the heels of the Light Sport category just being officially adopted in Kiwi country.
In the article, the Jabiru were praised, in the face of local fuel prices that have quadrupled, as higher-performing, cheaper-flying flight training alternatives to their fleet of Cessna 150s.
Tim Holland was quoted as saying he looks forward to offering lessons at 1999 prices again.
---photos courtesy Jabiru Aircraft and

Friday, December 4, 2009

Yankee Price Buster!

Rans Aircraft seems determined to reverse the trend in ever-higher SLSA prices with a new package for its long-popular (2000 flying worldwide), constantly refined bird: the S-6ELS Coyote II.
The 26 year old Kansas company, highly successful purveyors of more than 4,500 kit and ready-to-fly aircraft (and a thriving bicycle builder as well) offers the turnkey Coyote II for $63,000.
That's half or less what many Euro-built SLSA are priced at.
But the side-by-side two-seater is no mile-mannered local-patch ultralight: cruise with the 80hp Rotax 912 (100 hp power package also available) is 105 mph, with a 950 fpm climb and 41 mph stall. Landing Rollout is a scant 260 ft.
The Coyote comes with a steam gauge (round analog dial) panel and you can have it in tricycle or taildragger gear flavors.
Step up a few large, and you can buy the deluxe version for $69,995. That bumps you into a 100-hp Rotax 912S with a 3-blade prop, intercom and Icom radio, cabin heat and dual hydraulic brakes and larger tires to go with it.
Lots more info here. (ck all the links on the green-type menu bar)
A final note: I hope to take a very long XC flight with the Coyote this winter. Randy Schlitter, (founder and head honcho of Rans) says it's heater is "a good one!" Sure hope so...I'll post a full report on the trip.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Catching Up With The Legend

American Legend, makers of the popular fun flivver Legend Cub SLSA and Texas Sport kit version, aren't letting any bad-economy moss grow under their Cub-yellow tennies.
First, the top-selling American LSA maker received ASTM certification and has completed versions available as we speak for its Amphibious Float Cub.
The web-footed little bear is based on a lightweight version of the Cub. Baumann Floats makes the water gear.
A couple of FloatCub's advantages over other Cubs and seaplanes are the both-side doors for ease of docking, and an electric starter - no more shaky dockside hand-propping ops!
Cost complete is $159,000.
Next, Legend's “Cash For Junkers” rebate program is still going strong. The company kicks back $4,500 after purchase of a new Cub or kit. To get the rebate, just trade-in your old moth-eaten bird, flying or not.
BTW, the “Junkers” reference pays homage to the German Junkers & Co. that built some infamous airplanes, including the JU-87 Stuka dive bomber.
Finally, for Christmas Cubbie shopping fun, check out the online store. Lots of goodies there for Cub lovers, and who doesn't love Cubs?
---photo courtesy Legend Aero

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

China Certifies First LSA

An important development in the globalization of sport flight was just announced by Flight Design, the German maker of the CT line of LSA that leads in sales here in the U.S.
The parent company announced its CT line had received Type Design Approval TDA-LSA-0001A from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), as well as a Chinese Production Certificate.
That number is important: the CT will forever be the very first foreign LSA allowed to be sold in China. Although the SkyCatcher is in fact manufactured for Cessna in China, it is not yet certified to be sold and flown in China, though that day can't be too far down the road.
The potential benefit to sport aviation is huge.
Not only is China reportedly building general aviation airports all over the huge nation - a significant change from earlier domestic policy to help its exploding middle class enjoy the fruits of its labors - but its willingness to allow foreign manufacturers to sell their wares signals the first wave of what could prove to be a huge market worldwide.
American manufacturers are surely going to want to be in on this potential boom as it unfolds.
Flight Design's CEO Matthias Betsch noted that the company underwent a full certification audit process for the approval. Chinese authorities, according to the news release, were complimentary of Flight Design for its high production quality, good flying track record and ongoing attention to improving the CT line.
More than 1,500 Flight Design aircraft are now operational in 39 countries world wide.
And with LAMA, EASA, ISO TUV Nord and now CAAC approval, the company's global prestige can't help but expand.
We're not just in Kansas any more, Toto.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Post-Turkey Day Update

"It's a bird! It's a plane! Actually, it's both...and edible!"

Fresh but larger in girth from the great American pastime of massive calorie infusions and days of leftovers (turkey sandwich/curried Turkey/cranberry yogurt surprise (don't ask) etc., let's see whassup around the old info-hangar.

Looking to e-gab with other light sport enthusiasts? There are some cool sites around with lots of hands-on topics such as training, maintenance, fun flying and more. Here are a couple I've come across that seem well-attended: Sport Pilot Talk and South Africa's AvCom with a look at Light Sport and GA flying in the southern Hemisphere

Lots of links here to tons of general LSA sites : Light Sport Aircraft HQ

Flight training resource guide: Pilot Journey

Experimental/homebuilt and light sport discussions (Jabiru and Rotax forums here): Wings Forum

BTW: Sebring's annual Light Sport Aviation Expo is kicking off Jan. 21-24, read all about this ever-growing LSA-exclusive show that kicks off the year's flying events.

Here's a nice general piece by Dan Pimentel, still timely, that looks at the Sport Pilot demographic on the Aircraft website.

A lively blog, Aviation Critic, has an interesting riff on our recent article on the ICON A5 plus lots of other cool topics.

The Big Daddy: Aviation Week has been around for longer than I can remember (I drew pictures from their photos in my teens in the '60s) and covers pretty much everything of global aviation import. For instance, here's a piece they just did on AVIC, the Chinese air defense monolith that includes Shenyang, the company that's making, you guessed it, Cessna's SkyCatcher!

Speaking of the C-162, the general press is catching on.

Stay tuned, there's more to come, flyfolk!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Super Drifter: New Tail for Oldie-but-Goodie

Lockwood Aircraft's Super Drifter open-cockpit kitbuilt plane, the resurrection of the Drifter design that was the basic concept for Phil Lockwood's AirCam twin-engine airplane, (a unique camera platform first created for National Geographic), is getting a new set of tailfeathers.
I first flew a Hummer ultralight, designed by Klaus Hill, back in the fall of 1980 at Crested Butte, CO. It belonged to hang gliding pal Gil Kinzie.
We were in CB for a soaring contest and he let several of us fly it, though most of us had no general aviation training. Ah, those wild and wooly days of free flight.
As such, the Drifter was one of the very first viable ultralights and presented a unique flying feel to its pilots: you sat out on the end of a long fuselage keel tube with everything - wings, motor, wheels - behind you!
Once you got over the initial floating-in-space challenges to your comfort zone, you fell in love with the incredibly open, free feeling.
But I digress.
Lockwood Aircraft has brought back the beloved design as the Super Drifter, with an 81hp Rotax 912UL - which gives the 495 lb. (empty wgt.) bird a real kick in the pants!
Specs and a blurb are here.
The tail mod, due next March, has two feet more horizontal span to augment pitch stability and elevator authority for float-equipped models. Lots of folks fly Super Drifters on floats.
Increasing the horsepower pops the Super Drifter off the water quickly and at low speeds, for shorter water takeoff runs. Low-power cruise makes for quiet flight, the power reserve is impressive and fuel efficiency is reputed to be super. The bird cruises between 55 and 75 mph.
The new horizontal stabilizers will be available as a retrofit kit for existing float-equipped Super Drifters and standard on new kits going on floats, according to Lockwood's go-to guy George Weber.
If you like to bolt things together and have a spare $45K or so laying around, the Super Drifter is one great way to go for purely fun flight.
---Super Drifter photo courtesy Lockwood Aircraft
---Gil Kinzie photo courtesy John Coe

Monday, November 23, 2009

Knockin' Around The Campus

With the holiday season about to land on our heads, who's got time to see who's doing what around the industry? Me, that's who.

Hit the links below to some recent news and events:

Chesapeake Sport Pilot hosted an event recently on its home turf, to celebrate opening a new 6,000 sq. ft. building for its light sport training ops. CSP claims 70 active LSA flight students and 300 LSA renters.

Many years ago I built an experimental Kitfox (s.n. #124 - last I heard it's still flying, 22 years later!) The company has been through several iterations and owner changes since then but it's back to the future and running strong as Kitfox Aircraft LLC, run by John McBean of Homedale, ID. Now they've got an SLSA version of the lovely taildragger, base price around $83K, also available in tricycle gear. Check it out.

CubCrafters has jumped into the +100 sales club this fall, according to industry watchdog Dan Johnson and in this economy that's no mean feat. Only Flight Design, American Legend, Tecnam and Remos had broken the century mark before. Congrats folks!

Popular flight instrument maker Dynon has set prices for the new SkyView 10" and 7" PFD and Engine Monitor EFIS displays.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Keeping Up With Flight Design

My former rock-and-rollin' Sport Pilot flight instructor and flying buddy John Lampson and I took advantage of the gorgeous New England fall weather yesterday to sharpen up with a Flight Design CTSW thanks to another old flying pal, Flight Design USA prez Tom Peghiny.
John and I revisited the spirited handling of the SW by jumping up to 3,000 feet and cruising through glass-smooth air over the lovely Connecticut and Massachusetts countryside, cloaked now in the gray wiskers of leafless trees.
I also caught up with some of the latest developments for the company, including the new postage stamp released in China featuring the CTLS.
The CT is the only LSA in the aviation stamp series, which also included GA aircraft from Cessna, Cirrus and Diamond.
I wonder if President Obama is being made aware that private aviation is beginning to happen in China, as airstrips and infrastructure are being built all over the country for a burgeoning middle class that wants to fly.
India is also growing a private aviation sector. The first two CTLS were just registered in India and will be used for flight training.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Flight Design USA added three new flight schools to its Flight Design Pilot Center (FDPC) network. The company now numbers 19 flight schools using its LSA, and 38 flight instructors specifically trained to teach in the CT line.
The latest additions are LSA New England, Hampton, NH, Copper City Aviation Services, Brisbee, AZ and Pilot's Choice Aviation, Georgetown, Texas.
Flight Design believes they've set up the largest LSA flight center program in the U.S.
Finally, to counter those naysayers you come across now and then who suggest LSA are not up to the rigors of regular flight training, Flight Design offers this interesting rebuttal: a German-registered CT2K, the long-wing, first-gen model of the best-selling CT line, just logged its 13,268th landing!
The milestone event went down at Jesenwang (say that three times fast) airfield in Germany, where it's been in service as a flight school basic trainer since 2003. The plane has racked up almost 3,000 hours of flight time, is on its second Rotax engine and still operates daily at the 1,300-foot strip.
In consideration of the global economic crisis, Tom P. notes in a recent release that "We have quite a few airplanes in daily revenue generating operations...It only takes about five active students to make this plane completely self funding."
FD Germany adds that the general word from the field is CTs spend very little time in the shop. That's good news for any flight operation.
Bringing it all home, I learned to fly in the CTLS but, as John L. and I rediscovered yesterday whilst hopping in and out of Rob Albright's grass strip at Crow Island, MA, the CTSW remains one sweet, fun, fast, sporty LSA that really is fun to fly.
---photos courtesy Flight Design. CTSW photo shot by John Dunham

Monday, November 16, 2009

FAA Recommendation: Ground All Zodiacs!

The hubbub continues to brew around airworthiness concerns for the AMD Zodiac 601 and it's sibling 650 model. Scroll down this page for background on the story.
Spicing up worries over Zodiac airworthiness comes news of a potential conflict between NTSB and FAA regarding what level of action the fedgov should have taken - months ago.
For the first time ever, FAA ordered no new airworthiness certificates will be issued for the entire fleet of Zodiac CH-601XL series aircraft until safety mods are installed.
Friday: NTSB, in an advisory news release, reported yet another Zodiac in-flight break-up - and fatality. The Board took the opportunity to remind us that it had urgently recommended to FAA - back in April 2009 - that it ground the design, after numerous crashes and fatalities, until the problem was effectively addressed by the manufacturers (AMD for SLSA, Zenith for kits).
FAA had already implemented, last week in its Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin (SAIB CE-10-08 - see blog entry below) a de facto grounding of those aircraft not in compliance with modifications put out by AMD, to resolve aerodynamic flutter and other related concerns.
But: FAA’s action only addressed manufactured versions not in compliance with the mods. It did not include experimentally-built versions, of which there are hundreds out there flying or being built. Only voluntary grounding of homebuilts was advised by FAA and Zenith.
The Kicker: this latest Zodiac crash was indeed a homebuilt version of the troubled design. NTSB in its release seems to be saying, “Told you so - now please do something about it!”
FAA’s position in April was that there was insufficient justification to ground the entire fleet.
Another Zodiac pilot is dead. The obvious question: Could that life have been saved by sterner FAA intervention last Spring?
Meanwhile, Zenith , FAA and EAA now recommend - but still do not require - that all Zodiac CH-650 and CH-601XL aircraft remain grounded until mods are effected.
If no stronger directive is forthcoming, "It can't happen to me" types might not make the mods, keep flying, and pay the ultimate price.
If ever there was a time for mandatory grounding, wouldn't this be that time?
Again I ask the question - what precisely is the rationale for not installing parachutes in every LSA - or GA aircraft for that matter - when available?
How many of the dozen or so Zodiac deaths around the world this last year might have been prevented if ballistic 'chutes had been aboard?
No way to know.
But when it comes time for you to make that call, picture this equation:
the grieving faces of your loved ones vs. whatever small gain in performance you get by not carrying a chute.
I rest my case.
---photo of Zodiac courtesy of Zenith

Friday, November 13, 2009

Cessna's "First Lady" gets SKYCATCHER #1

For those who missed the announcement back in 2007 when the Cessna C-162 SkyCatcher was first announced, the planned delivery of the very first production airplane will stay in the Cessna family, as the happy owner is none other than Rose Pelton of Wichita, Kan.
In case that name sounds familiar, it should: hubbie Jack Pelton is Cessna's CEO.
“When I first saw the Skycatcher mockup at Oshkosh in 2007, I knew that was the aircraft I wanted to learn to fly in,” said Mrs. P. “I couldn’t be more excited...”
More than 1,000 of the new, all-metal, Continental O-200D-powered SLSA have been ordered.
Also in the next issue of Plane&Pilot, you'll want to check out the story of King Schools' new Web-based training system for sport and private pilot certificates. It'll be available through the Cessna Pilot Center network of flight schools.
Side-Note Dept: Here's an interesting back-and-forth between the John and Martha King and Evektor VP Jim Lee on the King's blog about the spin testing on the C-162, which led to two separate crashes. As Lee attests, the SkyCatcher isn't the only spin-tested LSA - the Evektor SportStar had 400 spin tests!
Makes me want to know how many other SLSA have had spin testing, though ASTM doesn't require it for the LSA certificate. More on that as I do some digging...
Meanwhile, we wish Mrs. Pelton many happy hours in her new Skycatcher. That airplane should be highly valuable one of these days for its place in Light Sport history.
---photos courtesy Cessna Aircraft

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

ZAP! Goes An Electric Record

More haps on the electric flight front: At Yuneec Aircraft's new 250K sq. foot factory airfield in Shanghai, China, Gerard Thevenot, the pioneering French hang glider designer and pilot who blazed foot-launched trails starting in the 1970s, set an electric-flight endurance record in a Yuneec-powered hang glider.
Flying his own trike design, the go-juice came from a new "longer version" of Yuneec's Power Drive 10Kw motor system. The flight lasted 1 hour 16 minutes.
The news here for LSA followers is the ongoing commitment Yuneec has to powering all types of light sport aircraft, from hang gliders, paragliders and trikes like Thevenot's to the ongoing development of the e-430 two-seat LSA we've talked about this year in Plane & Pilot.
According to Yuneec's website, Thevenot reportedly made just a couple test flights, then jumped up and set the record. He's hoping to increase the duration to 1 1/2 hours any day now.
I don't know about you, but the thought of plugging in my airplane overnight, then flying around for an hour or so without all that mess and bother with fossil fuels has me counting battery sheep at night.

---photos courtesy Yuneec Aircraft

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

FAA Recommends Safety Mod for Zodiac CH601XL

AMD, makers of the Chris Heinz-designed Zodiac CH601XL and CH650 light sport/experimental built aircraft, just got some bad news from the FAA.
In its Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin CE-10-08, FAA urged pilots and current builders not to fly either model until they make structural modifications to the aircraft.
Yet another accident involving a CH601XL brings the number to five in the U.S. and several overseas, with numerous fatalities reported. Consistent reports of control surface flutter and in-flight structural failure have plagued descriptions of the accidents.
FAA directed its recommendation at: "all serial numbers, including special light-sport category aircraft (S-LSA), experimental light-sport aircraft (E-LSA), and experimental amateur-built aircraft" of the two models, citing "several areas of concern regarding the CH601XL...that may impact the overall safety of the design. Those causing the greatest concern are as follows:
Wing structure: ...the basic static strength of the CH601XL/CH650 does not appear to meet the intent of the ASTM standards...
Structural Stability: ...buckling in the wing structure, including in the center section.
Flutter: ...The FAA believes flutter may either be a first order root cause of in-flight structural failure or a secondary cause after some initial wing structural deformation or twisting.
Airspeed calibration: Calibration procedures do not appear to adequately account for basic static pressure source error due to the location of the static port...The situation could lead to the potential of operating the airplane above the maneuver speed and/or the design cruise speed, potentially leading to structural failure.
Stick force characteristics: Flight test data from foreign authorities indicates at aft center of gravity the stick forces become very light."
A Safety Directive/Safety Alert from AMD is expected soon. Recommendations will reportedly include structural changes to the airframe.
---photo courtesy AMD

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Electric UL Getting Ready for Prime Time

Hungry for something new about electric flight, I swapped emails with Tom Peghiny yesterday. Tom's the majordomo of Flight Design USA (top-selling CTLS LSA) and Flightstar (longtime maker of 3-axis control ultralights.)
e-Spyder, the electric-powered single-seat ultralight he's developing in congress with Yuneec, the powerhouse electric aircraft manufacturer that recently opened a 250,000 sq. ft. plant in China.
Tom filled me in on the evolution of the production prototype. Denny Franklin, the Gyro Gearloose (i.e. intuitively brilliant) engineer and designer behind venerable designs such as the Drifter ultralight, is working up a longer wing with a sheared tip.
Equally legendary hang glider sailmaker Steve Pearson of Wills Wing (top hang glider mfg.) is making a pattern for the new wing that will use a higher-camber airfoil than the first prototype.
Wills will make the
envelopes for the e-Spyder from a laminate covering material that's 35% lighter than the 4 oz. Dacron sailcloth traditionally used for tube-and-fabric ultralights and hang gliders.
Weight is the key
in these early days of production electric flight, so lighter 7075-T6 aluminum tubing will be used for the wing frame.
Cured Composites is tooling up to build a new, more aerodynamic front fairing and a carbon fiber motor mount and battery box. The Yuneec electric motor will be streamlined as well.
Can't wait to see this next iteration. 2009 should be a great year for electrics.
To whit: Yuneec has ordered two prototypes
and a two-seater airframe from Tom to train with in China. Could a two-seat electric ultralight be just over the horizon as well?
Stay tuned...

---photos courtesy Flightstar

Thursday, November 5, 2009

AOPA Picks LSA for Sweepstakes Giveaway

AOPA kicked off its annual Aviation Summit, in Tampa, FL this year, with a pretty cool announcement: it's annual Sweepstakes Giveaway aircraft will be an LSA: the Remos GX.
The news here is this is the very first time the pilot's membership organization has made their big prize a Light Sport airplane.
Remos is serious about becoming top dog in the LSA sales race as it continues to heavily promote its aircraft and support services far and wide. Although still #4 in overall U.S. LSA sales, Remos aircraft have been selling at a faster clip than any other manufacturer the last year or so.
Meanwhile, AOPA Prez Craig Fuller, Remos Mng. Dir. Corvin Huber, and our pal, LAMA Pres. Dan Johnson led the unveiling of the Remos before the attendees at Tampa's Convention Center this morning.
“Fun to Fly” is the theme of the sweepstakes. The winner will be announced at next year's summit in Long Beach, CA and should be a happy puppy: the Remos GX will include a ballistic parachute and air bags, Dynon MFD and autopilot, a panel-mount Garmin 496, leather seats and other upgrades to be announced down the road.
---photo courtesy Remos

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

$50/hour Flight Training?

Holy Economics 101, Batman!
just sent out a release that caught my eye.
X-Air is the Bend, Oregon-based LSA manufacturer that makes an ultralight-style flivver directly targeted at those recreational flyers and wingabees (flight-dreaming wannabes, get it?) on a tuna sandwich budget.
The tube-and-fabric, fun-flying X-Air LS has a lot to offer for those less concerned with high-bucks style and more motivated by low-cost substance, in this case saving the Benjamins during flight training.
A new X-Air LS goes for around $60,000 and burns 4 gal/hr! That translates into low-cost flight training, as well as dirt-cheap recreational-flight renting or club/shared ownership flying.
The basic Sport Pilot license, with the minimum 20 in-flight training hour requirement, is already affordable when compared with a Private Pilot's license.
Now, students could find themselves spending 50 clams per hour instead of 200 in a Skyhawk. Cutting flight costs only increases the likelihood that students will fly more, or more often, making for better, safer pilots in the long run.
I flew the X-Air a year ago but we haven't run the pilot report in the mag yet...too many airplanes, too few pages. I'll hope to hop a ride in the LS at Sebring in Jan. 2010 and bring you the report.
The short tell is the X-Air does just fine working a good part of the LSA performance envelope, with a max cruise speed of 104 mph, 39 mph stall speed and a 574 lb. useful load.
---photo courtesy X-Air