Friday, January 30, 2009

To The Economy, We Say... "Bah!

After a mad dash home, some brief reflections on Sebring 2009.
---The show was a real shot in the arm for exhibitors who had worried the dreary economic news would sound the toll of doom.
---Instead, enthusiastic crowds on Thursday and Friday both set attendance records for the five year event. Saturday was also well attended. Sunday, typical of previous shows, was less robust.
---Folks brought checkbooks too: at least 15 LSA were sold at the show, but I'll have final numbers once I'm able to poll all the exhibitors.
---Many thanks to the tireless, smiling volunteer staff that helped run the event, and we'll be back next year.

Sport Aviation lives!

Steven Fletcher

Some notes on a young man I was just getting to know at Sebring. Steven Fletcher, a highly respected and well-liked aviation photographer from Great Britain, was killed in the crash of an LSA Sunday morning.
We talked and shared stories about our mutual profession at the show. I liked him immediately for his ready, affable smile and genuineness.
Unsubstantiated rumors point to mis-assembly of the photo ship he was riding in as the cause of the takeoff crash. NTSB was on the scene examining the wreckage, so we won't say more until an official cause has been determined, which will likely be some time.

(update: A reader requesting anonymity emailed with his take on the accident: it was the classic stall/spin crash. He speculates the photo plane was already in flight, paralleling the airplane that was launching from the runway. When the photo plane made a 270 degree turn so the photographer could keep the other plane in view, the inside wing stalled and the photo plane was too low to recover. That would make the crash more likely to have been caused by pilot error rather than mis-assembly. )

There are always lessons to derive from tragedy. Whether the photo mission was, as according to witnesses, rushed, or the crash was caused by pilot error, these things usually happen when there's a conflict between mission urgency and mission safety .
---Those two factors should never be at odds. And guess which one always comes first? (Hint: it's not mission urgency)
---When I brief for photo missions, I routinely say, "Safety is first. If I ask you to do something and you don't feel comfortable about it, tell me. The photo is always the least important thing. "
And if misassembly turns out to be the culprit: Preflight, preflight, preflight, people!
---We’ll remember and miss Steve for his warmth and his fine work. The aviation community mourns his loss. We send our heartfelt condolences to his wife and children.
---The photo of Steve was taken at the show by his friend Ken Godin of Flight Design USA, who has helped set up a relief fund for Steve's family. Please make checks payable to: Steve Fletcher Family Fund

In the US, mail to:
Fletcher Fund
75 Hope Lane
Glastonbury, CT 06033

In the UK, mail to:
Fletcher Fund
Key Publishing
PO Box 100

For direct donations through PayPal

If you have another way you'd prefer to contribute, please contact:
(in U.S.):
(in U.K.):

Take A Ride To Cape Town

One of the nicely appointed funplanes at the show was FPNA's Cape Town (the white Valor, below, is the same aircraft with conventional tri- gear). My pal and industry guru Dan Johnson, seen in the right seat above during our photo mission, will do the writeup for a future issue.

Spirit Of A Movement

I won't deny it: I love this airplane just for it's looks.
---I finally got to ride in the CZAW Sport Cruiser, the airplane I mentioned a couple days ago here, and that I have hankered for a flight in since I first photographed it almost three years ago. This beautiful red and white job drew consistent attention throughout the show. Look for my flight report in a future issue

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Falling Leaves, Sting Sport Style

Wheeling along in butter-smooth air with Bill Canino in a Sting Sport S3, the gorgeous sunset world outside spins around us like a giant golden ball. Up into lazy wingovers, letting go of the stick, sliding down the long slide as the airplane builds up speed, eases itself out of the roll, smooth and quiet as a dream, and we feel that timeless joy that comes with true freedom. Then smooth easy back pressure, easing the stick over into another wingover the other way, and up and up we swing. The TruTrak EFIS shows our speed dropping like leaves on a windy day...90...80...70...60. We let the airplane have it's moment and down the nose slides again and we start all over, the golden/orange/gray blue sky and deep shadowed earth below swinging around the big clear bubble of our canopy like your best girl in a grand waltz.
---At end of the day, this is one of the reasons, maybe the best reason, why we fly light sport aircraft: for the pure joyful freedom of a dance through the sky.

Making A Splash

Our Publisher Mike McMann walked the showgrounds with me today and was taken with the diversity and growing maturity of the industry. He also liked this lovely amphib LSA, the SeaRey. We'll catch up with it at Sun 'n fun.
---Mike's vision, from years back, (shameless plug here) of LSA as a driving force for all of general aviation is the main reason you're seeing this blog and monthly in-depth coverage of sport aviation in Plane & Pilot. He's committed! Thanks to Mike and our Publisher-in-Chief Steve Werner for seeing the potential from the beginning.
---Steve, a wizard at spotting developing cultural trends (and creator of successful magazines like Outdoor Photographer and Digital Photo Pro), published the successful Ultralight Aircraft that I edited in the early 1980s.)

Catching Sky...And Lots Of Lookers

Great to see general aviation giant Cessna supporting the show and LSA again this year with its Skycatcher. Look for more coverage in P&P and here as the lovely Cessna 162, it's official name, moves toward final ASTM approval and a market date later this year.

Biggest Little LSA Show In The World?

---Randy Schlitter, the creative dynamo behind (and in front and all around!) RANS Aircraft, who brought his newly certified Coyote S-6 to Sebring, (that's him in the Rans S-19 at right) put his own spin on why Sebring, which had it's best day ever Friday (turnout was again strong today), is the best show for him. "I spend one tenth of what it costs me to be at Oshkosh and Sun 'n Fun, yet I do the same amount of business at Sebring as at the bigger shows."

Why Sebring Is Great

Barry Pruitt invites me in for our evaluation flight in the Evektor SportStar SL. What a wonderful, sweet-flying airplane...look for my report in an upcoming issue of dead tree P&P.
---Demo flights are a part of the warp and woof of air show convention, and LSA companies tirelessly give demos all day long, as their pilots transition from smiling, perky champions of their company's products to smiling, exhausted champions of their company's products. They are just a few of the unsung heroes of these shows and deserve all the appreciation we can give them. Thanks Barry and everybody for all you do to grow our wonderful sport!
---As our colleague and friend Dan Johnson reports on his own Splog (Sport Pilot Log), 14 aircraft have been sold so far in the first three days of the show. That's hard sales, not "I'm leaning toward buying".
---Adam Sandler, in a recent movie (You Don't Mess With The Zohan), as he waggled his naked foot in the face of an antagonist inches away, taunted him with "Smell it...smell it...smell take it!", then WHAP! across the guy's face with his foot, all the while impossibly grabbing him by the collar. That's what Sebring is doing to the economy by giving a much-needed boost to start the sport flying year off right.
---Or as Franklin Roosevelt said, "The only thing we have to fear..."

Friday, January 23, 2009


---The bone-chilling cold (well, it was for Floridians and similar warm-climate types anyway) moved on and temperature order was restored today, with clear and calm blue skies and mid-70s temps. Lovely!
---Sport Pilot enthusiasts came out in droves: exhibitors I talked to were pleased and surprised by the turnout. Planes were dodging each other all day in the, shall we say, interesting traffic pattern they have set up here. On our return from my air2air session with the Brasilian Paradise LSA, we had eager demo divers cut in front of us on base and final...not once, but twice! it's good to keep your eyeballs peeled.
---Check out these highlights:


Long-time U.S. ultralight and experimental manufacturer CGS Aviation is at the show with their new, highly affordable Hawk SLSA. This is a tube/fabric airplane that dates from the earliest days of ultralight flying, when the original Hawk put out by pioneer Chuck Slusarczyk was the first enclosed ultralight. We all flew on various versions of powered hang gliders back then. The Hawk helped change all that.
---Impeccable workmanship at a modest price: $39,995. That's not bad for a fun daytime cruiser that'll carry 522 lbs., climb out at up to 1200 fpm, and cruise up to 80 mph.
---One worrisome note: Chuck suffered a mild stroke, but the good news is he's suffered no impairment to speech or motor functions and hopes to be back at the helm soon. Get well Chuck!


Paul Hissey turned 87 today and celebrated by treating himself to a fully tricked-out Evektor SportStar SL. He's heading west from Melbourne, FL on Monday with Evektor's U.S. honcho Barry Pruitt. Destination: Hawthorne airport in his home city of Los Angeles!
---"Flying with him on the coast-to-coast adventure," says Pruitt, "will satisfy the insurance pilot transition requirements and will make it more comfortable for Paul."
---Although Mr. Hissey has yet to fly his plane, he does have some pedigree for stick-and-rudder skills: he flew combat in World War II in a P-38 Lightning fighter!
---His new bird is loaded, alright: Tru Trak EFIS displays, Garmin 496 with weather, mode S transponder and more. "I've got more avionics in there than I had in my Cessna 182!" More power to you, sir - and happy birthday!


Avionics giant Garmin introduced its GDU 370 and GDU 375 multi-function displays (MFDs). Very very nice. They're aimed at the light sport and experimental retrofit market, are seven inches high (in portrait, not landscape config for easier fit in the panel).
---A few highlights from the handouts
  • based on Garmin’s GPSMAP 695 and GPSMAP 696
  • designed to network with other Garmin products to provide complete primary flight display (PFD) and MFD capability
  • incorporate Garmin’s latest technology for easy readability day or night
---Worth checking out for it's flexibility in designing your panel and for upgrade potential for future Garmin tech. This unit was mounted in a Flight Design CTLS and I want one.


Signifying it's clear intent to be a bigger market leader in 2009, Remos CEO Corvin Huber told a bunch of us flywriter types at a dinner last night about the new Remos GX 2009 airplane. Look for an update soon, but the highlights are a brand new chromoly landing gear, newly redesigned interior with contoured seats and carpeting, and a host of options for the panel, seats and prop.
---Three models, the Explorer, Aviator I and Aviator II host a bunch of options. Overall impression? Very spiffy. Remos seems intent on growing the sport for the entire pilot age spectrum, and it's bringing its hefty marketing budget to bear by creating a true luxury car feel for LSA.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

First Day at Sebring!

---Robert Wood, chairman of the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo that puts on the event, announced at the LAMA manufacturer's dinner tonight that the attendance for opening day was the best Thursday in the five-year event's history.
---Take that, bad economy!

Zippier CTLS?

---Flight Design Pres. Matthias Betsch of Stuttgart, Germany joined U.S. distributor Tom Peghiny and crew to display their new MC all-metal trainer. We'll fly it at Sun 'n Fun in April.
---Also announced was a refined control system for the CTLS that reportedly improves balance and responsiveness, along the lines of the sportier-handling earlier CTSW model. I got my Sport Pilot license on the CTLS. Soon as I fly it, I'll report here.

Look Ma: All Hands!

---Dylan Redd, who lost the use of his legs several years ago, took delivery at the show of his new Paradise from Brasilian maker Paradise Aircraft.
The aircraft is fitted with a unique set of two hand controls that allow Redd to fly the airplane, including rudder/nosewheel control, throttle and braking.
---An inspiring young man and an interesting story about how the controls were designed, built and refined - in only three months: look for more details in an upcoming issue of Plane & Pilot.

Czech Mate?

---Chip Erwin of embattled Czech Aircraft Works (CZAW), producers of the top LSA low-wingers Dynamic and Sport Cruiser, told me that a hostile takeover by his former colleagues in Czech Republic is in the hands of that country's court system. Ultimate ownership of the company will be determined by a highest-bidder process within six months. Erwin says "I hope it will be me."
---His travails come after he - get this - reassumed leadership of the company at the beginning of 2008 and returned it to profitability. "Productivity dropped in 2007. By the end of 2008, we delivered 157 airplanes with 50 less employees (200 instead of 250). That was an increase of 50 airplanes; our revenues went from $7.3 million to $10.8 mil in that period."

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Greetings fellow LSA fans!
Welcome to Hangar Flyin'

I'm Jim Lawrence
Light Sport Editor at Large

We're starting this blog so you'll have a webby place for your questions, burning issues, rants (keep 'em clean) and for when you just feel like dropping by to stay in touch. We're up, and we're listening.
Let us know how you feel about the LSA coverage in the magazine and here. Hope to see you in the skies this year.
High and safe,
To start things off right, here's a couple shots of the bird I trained in:
--------- the lovely Flight Design CTLS.

It's a wonderful example of the new wave of LSA machines: strong, responsive, comfortable, with great range, sturdy gear and real cross country legs with its 120 knot speed and 1000 mi range.

Into the hangar before the next storm

Sleek, pretty and sweet to fly...

My flight instructor John Lampson. Who says CFIs don't rock out? He's got his own band, Stealing Jupiter. Link

In the LSA-themed April issue you'll find:
  • detailed coverage of LSA and Sport Pilot issues
  • I'll introduce you to one of the big players in the industry, Tom Peghiny of Flight Design - that's in my regular column Light Sport Chronicles
  • We're also running the first of a three part article on my recently completed training for the Sport Pilot License called Ticket To Ride.

U.S. Sport Aviation Expo 2009

While you're waiting for the April LSA issue, check in here for my coverage of the first big event this year: the Sebring LSA show. Link
On inauguration day, I'm driving down with my hang glider to
Florida for this important LSA-only convention. If you can get there, don't miss the chance to see and try out all your dream ships side by side.
I'll be posting
shots, video and commentary daily from the show on what's hot, who's there and what you can look forward to in the months leading into the flying season ahead.

I know, it's a
tough job, but...