Monday, March 30, 2009


To quell the confusion many have around the name of the fabric-covered taildragger and tri-gear LSA models produced by Aerotrek Aircraft (AKA Rollison Light Sport Aircraft), the company just announced a name change: Goodbye EuroFox, hello Aerotrek A220 and A240.
The Aerotrek A220 and A240 are factory-built two-seaters manufactured in Europe by Aeropro CZ and set up for the U.S. market by Aerotrek in Bloomfield, IN. Aeropro has produced nearly 300 aircraft since 1990.
The EuroFox lineage, like so many other similar looking aircraft from a number of makers, derives from the Avid Flyer which started the whole thing off way back yonder. One clone was the Kitfox (which, the company wants known, is not related in any way to Aerotrek's airplanes).
The Aerotrek models are significantly upgraded SLSA versions of those fun homebuilts of yore.
But really, what's in a name? With that boffo price of $62,950 in today's still-Euro-dominated market, call it what you want, just show me the dotted line!


One of the top SLSA manufacturers is out with a new bird, the Tecnam P2008, that boasts some impressive features.
The racy high winger has metal wings and stabilator and - of particular interest here - a carbon fiber fuselage and vertical stabilizer.
The idea was to max the benefits of both materials: traditional, flexible, bump-smoothing metal for the wings and stab, and streamlined, roomier interior without compromising strength that composite construction delivers.
Other highlights as noted by Tecnam:
semi-tapered wing with Frise-type ailerons for high roll rate
• Large doors and excellent visibility
• An exceptionally quiet cabin
all-moving stabilator
Tecnam describes a near-elliptical wing.
Nose gear is free castering, tubular steel and faired for low drag.
The P2008 will carry around 28 gallons of fuel in the wings.
The company plans to certify in LSA, ULM, PtF and coming ELA1 categories
Stay tuned for developments.

(graphics courtesy Tecnam)


Here's an update on the second Cessna 162 SkyCatcher crash mentioned below.
The culprit, according to Cessna: once again, an unrecoverable spin that required another ballistic parachute deployment. Both times the PIC survived, although the BRS failed during the first incident, requiring the pilot to depart the airplane and pull his own chute.
As noted earlier, Cessna's design team had modified the vertical tail after the first incident.
The official language: Company CEO Jack Pelton said the aircraft was undergoing “a very aggressive spin test regime – power on and cross-controlled – when it entered a spin that was not immediately recoverable.”
The test was one of more than 500 using combinations of center-of-gravity positions, power settings, flap settings and control inputs.
“We test all our aircraft well beyond the limits of what is expected in normal operation,” said Pelton, who reassured customers who've already ordered that Cessna was moving forward on the program.
But no dates for production can of course be predicted at this time, as they've got a problem and they know it, even if they don't know exactly what to do about it yet.
Some reports said the SkyCatcher crash #2 pilot also bailed out. Not true: The savviest report I've read says that once the aircraft stabilized after the BRS deployment, the pilot tried to use the cutaway device Cessna had rigged, but it failed, and he was too low to bail then so he rode it out.
After "landing", the pilot got out. The strong Kansas winds reinflated the chute and dragged the airplane 1/2 mile before it hit a fence and flipped upside down.
We wish Cessna success in sorting out this technical and PR setback. The LSA industry benefits greatly in public perception from the Cessna name. But bad news travels fast too, so we all hope the solution is arrived at quickly.

Friday, March 20, 2009


No details yet from Cessna on the crash of its second Skycatcher (AKA Cessna 162). According to numerous online reports, the SLSA production prototype crashed March 19 while on a flight test near Wichita, Kan.
A Kansas cable tv news channel posted a story online that claimed the plane landed under a BRS ballistic airframe parachute canopy, hit a fence and flipped over.
Good news: the pilot was not injured.
That's about all the good news though for Cessna, which had reworked the vertical stabilizer and rudder after its first prototype crashed in a stall-spin accident last fall.
According to Cessna personnel, the company had conducted further wind tunnel tests after the first crash, then picked one of two aerodynamic solutions which led to the tail mod.
A Cessna spokesman also commented on a recent online video that Cessna had begun production on the Skycatcher at the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation, China plant. No news yet whether production will be halted, or if so, for how long.
Cessna had hoped to have first deliveries for the more than 1,000 orders in the second half of 2009. All that appears to be in limbo for at least the next few days to weeks, until the cause of this latest crash is revealed by NTSB investigators.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Terrafugia, an enterprising company made up of MIT grads, announced the successful maiden flight of the Transition® Roadable Aircraft Proof of Concept. Or, the flying car. Congrats to the company, I wish them success with the two-seater.
The big idea here of course is one that's been tried before without success: a road-worthy, street-legal vehicle that, after unfolding the wings, can be flown as a legal LSA from any local airport.
Lest I forget to mention it, no, you can't take off from the street in front of your house - unless you live in an airport community and your street is a legal runway.
The flight followed six months of static, road and taxi testing, says Terrafugia. The car/plane is designed to cruise up to 450 mi. at more than 115 mph, ride at highway speeds with wings folded (which takes, they say, 30 sec.), and fits in a household garage.
Motation is by front wheel drive on the road and a pusher prop in the air.
And how cool is this? You can drive up and fuel it at a gas station: the engine runs on unleaded.
The first hop pilotage was provided by Col. Phil Meteer, USAFR (Retired). Scene of the crime was Plattsburgh International Airport in Plattsburgh, NY.
Of course, roadable or not, you can only fly this sculptured beauty legally with a Sport Pilot license.
Once this Proof of Concept vehicle completes advanced flight and drive testing, a pre-production prototype will come next, to be ASTM certified before first delivery.

all photos courtesy Terrafugia

Thursday, March 5, 2009


Here's a new show kicking off this weekend (Mar. 7) for all you LSA enthusiasts of the Texan persuasion. The Heart of Texas LSA Expo debuts on Saturday at the airfield in Bryan. Here's the link to the airport.
This should be welcome news for those in the southwest and central region who find Sebring, Oshkosh or Sun 'n Fun bridges too far, travelwise.
Many LSA exhibitors will be there, including the friendly folks from American Legend with their Cub line, industry leader Flight Design and its all-composite CTLS, Indus Aviation with the low-wing Sky Skooter and other Thorp kitplane-derived SLSAs, Cub Crafters with its own line of Piper Cubalike LSAs, and Northwing, makers of light sport and ultralight trikes.


Look for my flight report in the May issue on the Paradise P1 and its SP version, a hands-only-control paraplegic model developed by Paradise designer Noe Oliveira for owner Dylan Redd (left), the inspiring young man I profiled below from the Sebring Expo in January.


Chris Regis, dynamo head of sales for Paradise Aircraft, the Brazilian SLSA and kitplane maker making news in the industry with its growing US presence, told me today he just sold a plane to two Cessna 310 owners. "This husband and wife were fed up with the high cost of flying their twin", says Chris. "They just spent $25,000 on an overhaul!" That and the 20 gph fuel burn (some 310s burn more than 30 gph) was all she wrote.
The new owners represent an increasing migration of recreationally-minded pilots who want to keep flying without breaking the bank.
"The couple also signed up for maintenance classes at Lockwood Aviation so they can do their own work on the P1." Chris says they're taking delivery with a Garmin 696 GPS and a TruTrak DigiFlight II autopilot.
Meanwhile, Chris reports that the Paradise P1 is close to the magic number of 100 flying aircraft. Most of those are active in Brazil and especially popular with ranchers who need to economically patrol vast tracts of land.
"And we have two P1s arriving in the U.S. in two weeks that are already spoken for, as well as three we just sold in Australia and two in South Africa."

Zap! Goes The Waiex

Given half a chance to sound an optimistic note in these times, we jump on it, so here you go: There's lots of positive energy, pardon the pun, going into electric powered LSA.
Long time kit designer/builder John Monnett has created classic experimental-built aircraft for decades, among them the Monerai sailplane, Moni motorglider, $25,000 Sonex E-LSA monoplane kit, and now the electric-powered Waiex. That Waiex link takes you to the site of e-Flight Initiative, put up by AeroConversions, the powerplant division of Sonex. The e-Flight site describes the company's research and development of electric power plants.
Monett says, in this video, that he's hoping for 1-hour flight
duration from this first powerplant. It's a 50 lb. brushless electric motor, with a 200 lb. battery.
BTW, smaller versions of brushless motors are all the rage in electric RC models these days. The link takes you to RC Toys, one of many online vendors who sell electric models, engines, servos, controllers, batteries and all the other stuff that has revolutionized model aircraft in the last decade.

Ready, Kilowatts?

Sport Pilot pal and industry guru Dan Johnson reports this week in his thumb-on-the-pulse SPLOG (Sport Pilot Log) about Mark Beirle's in-development Earthstar Aircraft eGull. It's based on the aircraft at left, single and two-seat versions of what Dan describes as "one of my all-time favorite airplanes, the Gull 2000."
The Gull 2000 would seem to be a perfect candidate for electric power. At the empty (ultralight category) weight of 248 lbs., it gets the most out of its 28 hp Hirth F33 powerplant. The sporty little wing spans only 20 feet, yet the single-seat Gull has a service ceiling of 14,000 feet! More news as we get it.