Friday, October 30, 2009

50 States In An LSA!

At this summer's Oshkosh fly-in, I had the pleasure to meet an inspiring new pilot, Michael Combs, who briefed me on his plans to fly a Remos GX to every state in the US of A, beginning next spring.
Good news: Michael just finished his check ride - that's him below with his CFI, Justin Shelley of U.S. Flight Academy- and is now a happily licensed Sport Pilot. Congratulations Mike!
The odyssey flight will serve as more than just an adventurous lark, although that would certainly be enough motivation for most of us. The intrepid fledgling pilot - and a survivor of a serious illness - will make 135 stops during the inspirational mission, dubbed “Flight For The Human Spirit”, to champion what he recently described as "...proof of human capability and of accomplishing what you are able to dream."
He intends to demonstrate, in dramatic fashion, that “a Sport Pilot license is a passport to unlimited adventure...a celebration of freedom.
Mike estimates he'll have more than 100 flight hours under his belt by the time the 40-day trip launches. He'll have all the latest electronic nav gear, including XM weather and satellite tracking that will update his progress every two minutes, which you can follow on his website:
---photo courtesy Remos Aircraft

Thursday, October 15, 2009

New CESSNA Web-based Sport Pilot Course

P&P Newsroom FLASH UPDATE (okay, it's just me): Dan Johnson reports on his website that the first production SkyCatcher tabbed for delivery has arrived at Wichita. Dan reports that the delivery floodgates should open wide next year (2010). But having the first C-162 finally out there and flying is good news for Cessna - and the LSA industry in general.
Back to our regular BlogCast...
Cessna Aircraft
partnered up with video flight training guru John King of King Schools for it's new Cessna Sport/Private Pilot Course. It's a web-based system, available through Cessna Pilot Centers.
A driver for the program is the imminent release to market of the C-162 SkyCatcher SLSA later this year, part of the company's stated goal of making flying more accessible and re-energizing its flight program.
Cool thing about its webbiness is the flexibility it gives students and instructors. All aspects of the student's training are tracked, and can be customized to reflect the student's local conditions. All training materials are accessible at any time, such as videos, exam reviews, full-motion diagrams and more. There are 280 Cessna Pilot Centers across the country.
---photo courtesy Cessna Aircraft

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I Christen Thee VENTERRA!

Had a chat with Randy Schlitter of Rans Aircraft about his SLSA, the S-19, today. It's new name is the Venterra, which, says Randy, means open over the earth. Kinda poetic and a fitting moniker for such a fun, responsive, open-view low winger like the S-19.
Look for my article on Randy's incredible 25 years as an aircraft manufacturer (more than 4,500 kits and ready-to-fly planes sold!) in the next issue of Pilot Journal magazine. Randy's also been designing and building recumbent and other innovative bicycles for more than 35 years and his products are known and respected worldwide. I own two myself, they're beautifully engineered and built and a lot more fun to ride than the traditional back-aching, hard seat prostate pounders the French tricked us into riding all those decades ago.
Randy's a fascinating, Gyro Gearloose kinda guy, that rare combination of brilliant innovator/designer and savvy businessman. He's an honest-to-goodness throwback to that great tradition of American entrepreneurs who built empires from scratch.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Times, They Are A-changin'

Just got off the horn with Mike Zidziunas, who's Mike Z Sport Aviation, Plant City, Florida, is a viable model of how a small LSA flight training operation can thrive.
Mike started ops in 2005 and during the busy seasons (any time it's not sweltering), has had as many as 9 students taking lessons in his Ikarus C42 trainer at one time. A dozen of his students have gone all the way through to get their Sport Pilot licenses.
In what he calls a bit of a "scoop", he told me that Plant City Airport, the FBO where Mike hangs his shingle, has seen the light.
Plant City, just five air minutes away from Lakeland Linder Regional, Florida’s host airport for the annual EAA Sun ‘n Fun Fly In, is a popular place for vendors such as Diamond and Cirrus to demo their planes. I've photographed many, many airplanes over the years out of Plant City, renting their Cessna's and capable pilots for my missions on behalf of P&P.
Anyway, next year (April, 2010), says Mike, Plant City is so eager to attract LSA attention, it is offering LSA distributors use of the airport for its flight demos during the show for free. All they ask is that the aircraft refuel there.
You heard it here first, folks.


Pumpkin time is coming early to the LSA ranks with two new ASTM-certified SLSA swelling
the already-well populated list (103 now!) of two-seat light sport aircraft. The new offerings span the price and performance range of the LSA spec.
The first (#102) is the Trident, put out by Ramphos. Dan Johnson reports in his blog that the company was hanging on by it's toenails after spending all its money to get the cert for the boat-hulled, amphibious LSA.
Then along came China, throwing lots of money, machines, engineers and builders around to help the Aussie-based company make big noise with several of its upcoming LSA designs.
Now get this: Ramphos has the right idea in these challenging times, with two versions (Rotax 582 or 912) coming in at $40K and $50K respectively!
Dan also reports that China is pushing sport aircraft hard by building airports and supporting manufacturers to grow their markets in Asia and abroad.

Next is the TL 3000 Sirius, a new SLSA distributed by SportAirUSA, which also carries the low-wing Sting S3 we just covered in dead-tree P&P.
Sirius is the number #103 ASTM-certified light sport and they've done a lovely job. Just a few features: carbon-composite construction, 48" wide cabin (almost a foot wider than a Cessna 172 - an airplane it bears more than a passing resemblance to), range of 800 miles, good 116-knot cruise to go with it and loaded with electronics and a Galaxy emergency 'chute to boot, priced at just under $131,000.
Things That Caught My Eye Dept: Twin yokes (the Cessna Factor), tush-pleasing contoured seats, that four-foot wide cabin!, electric flaps, lots of baggage room (something many top LSA are deficient in).
I also like the engine/cabin synergy: the Rotax 912 ULS (100 HP) and cabin design deliver a low 58 dbA noise rating. FYI, loud conversations such as a dyspeptic spousal unit come in at 50-65 dbA, while heavy traffic is 90.
The carbon fiber-reinforced cockpit cage has integral rollover protection, and fiberglass main gear should be up to the rigors of student ops.
Can't wait to get some time in these two exciting additions to the fleet (or flotilla).
---photos courtesy Ramphos and SportAirUSA