Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Fire Fighting LSA

The LSA movement may have struggled along with the rest of civilian aviation over the last three years. 
Still, there's no stopping folks who see how useful Light Sport Aircraft can be for work at a lower cost than traditional aircraft.

Overall U.S. LSA sales leader Flight Design (1,500 now flying worldwide) just told us about a fire fighting department (situated at 8,300 feet MSL) in the Andes mountains of Ecuador that is using a CTLS as an aerial support unit.
John Hurst and Jeremy Endsley of Sebring Aviation went to the South American country to assist the Basin Fire Department at Mariscal La Mar Airport.
Hurst and Endsley trained fire department employees in the assembly, maintenance, and flight training of the CTLS.
The group operating the LSA is called the Air Volunteer Fire Department of Basin.
Hugo Cobo, the head of the department, said: "Using the CTLS...our Fire Department has an effective tool to help in search functions, recognition and support of ground operations by providing a better service to the community of Cuenca."
Mr. Cobo adds, "The decision to buy the CTLS was made after studying different information of other aircraft manufacturers including experimental, LSA and other general aviation (aircraft). The CTLS was the only aircraft that meets the safety operation and performance requirements for the Fire Department."
Low cost ops and training were important factors in his final decision. 
The CTLS is the first and the only aircraft used in all Fire Department operations, including search and ground operations support.
Cobo estimates average monthly flight hours will be around 25, with greater use expected during wildfire season.
The department's pilots received five hours of training at Sebring and another five hours in Ecuador.
This one aircraft will not only provide quick response and accurate surveillance during emergencies but will also be used as a kind of LSA showcase of the aircraft's usefulness to other fire departments in the region.
Typical mission profile, even given the 8,300 foot altitude at takeoff, will not limit flying top only one person due to the CTLS performance, which includes a climb rate above 1,000 fpm at sea level and a top cruise of 120 knots.
Here's a couple videos of the Ecuadorian operation.
Take off -- notice how the high altitude and thin air make for a long takeoff roll...wonder what the density altitude was? --

And landing...

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Bright New Year!

To our readers and all Light Sport pilots and dreamers, we thank you for your enthusiasm and support in this year of both challenges and triumphs.  
The dream is alive, and all of us together will carry it forward this year.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to one and all!
           ~ Jim Lawrence

Friday, December 17, 2010

Maverick Goes Mega-Viral!

The dark horse, literally, to claim the Flying Car throne is the all-black I-Tec LSA-certified Maverick Sport.
We've talked about it here a lot, and now the "airable" dune buggy seems to really be catching on with the public.
I-Tec turned the flying car concept design on its head by designing a lightweight off-road car first: the ability to fly it was always the 2nd priority in the design phase.
The result is a lightweight, off-road-sturdy, flying car that will -- and this is straight from I-Tec's Steve Saint -- accelerate from 0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds.
Holy flying Jaguar XKE, Batman!
To prove it's road chops, Steve and the I-Tec crew drove it 1,500 miles to Oshkosh last summer with the paraglider-like wing tucked into its roof pouch.
In a preview of the 18-hour days they would be swamped by a fascinated public at Airventure, the crew never made a fuel stop en route that took less than an hour -- everybody had to know everything about the Maverick.
Production (already approved by FAA) is scheduled to begin by Airventure 2011).  There would seem to be no shortage of orders to drive the tooling up, either -- manna from heaven that most LSA manufacturers wish would come their way.
Now, EAA announces that its video, put together by Brady Lane from footage partially shot by I-Tec during its trek from Florida, has received more than 1 million hits!
You can see the video and several more on the Maverick video page.  Photos are here.
And there's a CNN video here.  Yep, even the MSM (Main Stream Media) is in on the action.

Is there a lesson here for airplane companies?  I-Tec has proven that money spent innovating rather than big-splash marketing can payoff in a more reasonable cost ($89,000 for the Maverick), and people will still beat a path to your door.
I'm hoping to fly it next month around the Sebring LSA Expo.
Here are a few more details:
  • speed 0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds (just had to say that again)
  • top speed above 95 mph (they haven't driven it any faster but it's got plenty muscle left)
  • the 27 foot high structural mast keeps the ram air wing off the ground and helps with crosswinds
  • mast also good for multiple takeoffs and landings
  • Dual Drive System with one engine and two drive systems is patented
  • prop drive will also be ideal for water (on pontoons, like a swamp boat) and ice/snow (skis?)
  • in-flight operations in the 40 mph range
  • Miles per gallon: 25-30 highway.  And it burns car gas, not $5/gal avgas.
  • landings and takeoffs in football field length...with enough altitude to clear the goal posts!
  • created to support I-Tec's mission to help people in roadless remote and jungle habitats, where raw survival can literally depend on the ability to fly.
  • FAA classifies Maverick as a Powered Parachute
  • Itec has tested early prototypes in African and South American frontiers
Steve Saint likes to tell the ogglers, "If you can drive a car with an automatic transmission, you can fly this."
Of course, it requires full Sport Pilot training, but I'm eager to see just how easy it is to fly -- and drive.

The company may subcontract the commercial side of Maverick production.
"We hope to get the cost down," says Steve, "to better serve the humanity missions market: that's our primary goal."

    Wednesday, December 15, 2010

    CORBI ALTO is #112 S-LSA!

    In my post after last spring's EAA Sun 'n Fun convention in Lakeland, FL, I told you a bit about the Corbi Alto 100, a new, purpose-built S-LSA that entrepreneurs Ron Corbi, a longtime figure in aviation, and Dan Coffey said should be done by the end of the year.
    True to their word, I got an excited email from Ron today that read:
    "It's finally an SLSA!!!!!!!!!"
    Congratulations to all the crew at Corbi Air, an established aircraft sales outfit in Salem, OH that's been a family business for more than 50 years.
    The Czech Republic-designed (Direct Fly) Alto was reworked by Ron and Dan to enhance what they called the aircraft's "maintainability," by including features like American-made brakes, bucked rivets replacing pop rivets, an electronic electrical system and a Dynon Skyview...all for $99,995.
    As you can see, the canopy slides forward for easy entry opening in flight. 
    Lots more to share once we get a peak in January.

    Monday, December 13, 2010

    Propsam and Then Some

    Time to pick up a few notable quotables from the world of LSA.
    Winter is alas now upon us - here in upstate NY, temps in the week ahead will never crack 30.
    So what better way, fellow propheads, than to scan the skies for things to think about as we don our 'kerchiefs and caps for our long winter's nap?

    Doug Stewart
    Life on the Home Front:  Doug Stewart, 2004's CFI of the year, has donated his time to give an underprivileged young man some free flight lessons in a (pre-PiperSport) SportCruiser.  Good on yer, sir!  And not a bad way to be introduced to flight either, eh?
    Downside of the story is a landing accident involved a renter of that very same ship: The nosegear collapsed, totaling the airplane!  Bummer...but it was insured and nobody was seriously hurt, sez Doug.
    photo courtesy Jabiru USA


    He's a Real Everywhere Man:  Our good friend and Light Sport virtuoso Dan Johnson has been a busy boy lately, fleeing the advancing snowflakes of his longtime Minnesota home with bride Randee to take up fulltime snowbird status at none other than Spruce Creek aviation community: lucky dawg.
    Photo courtesy Breezer Aircraft
    Hardworking Dan also did an excellent writeup on a lovely Rans S-19 we saw at the Midwest LSA Expo.  Neither of us recognized the airplane at first due to cowl mods to wrap the custom Jabiru engine power.
    It's in the latest issue of Light Sport and Ultralight Flying, published by another good friend Tracy Knauss, whom I first met as a contributor to his Glider Rider magazine (for hang glider drivers), back at the dawn of time.  Tracy, a man of many talents and master of them all, puts out a very nice book that sport pilots should check out, expecially if you're also interested in ultralight flying.
    Back to Dan: This guy's everywhere!  He also just completed the first organized international flight of a group of LSA to the Bahamas (our own Publisher Mike McMann went on that trip -- I couldn't make it, boo hoo), and Dan also wrote a nice piece for GA News on Able Flight, a volunteer org that helps disabled folks get air time.
    Mike Zidziunias of Breezer Aircraft put the whole Bahamas thing together and it was a big success.

    Photo courtesy Second Chantz
    Second Second Chantz:  Another old friend and longtime light-flight expert, John Dunham, is going strong again with his Second Chantz ballistic recovery system company.  Rather than rehash John's checkerboard career and latest entrepreneurial endeavor, it's all at the link above.
    Check it out: John's company has produced more than 4,000 chutes and he's back in the game running the company after selling it some years ago.

    Saturday, December 4, 2010

    Electric Waiex Makes Maiden Flight

    Followers of these exciting pioneering days of electric-powered aircraft will be happy to know the  all-electric Waiex just made its maiden flight at Wittman Field, home of Oshkosh Airventure -- and Sonex Aircraft.
    John Monnett, head honcho of Sonex, which built the proof-of-concept version of its Waiex kit aircraft as part of its E-Flight Initiative, took the controls for the flight, tasked primarily with breaking out of ground effect to analyze in-flight system performance.
    After landing, John said, "Whew.  It's different!  Lot of power."
    The program started four years ago, and involves the airplane and Sonex's development of its own proprietary motor, battery and speed controller - all vital parts of electric propulsion technology.
    John Monnett, left, and son Jeremy after 1st flight
    Jeremy Monnett, John's son and CEO/General Manager of Sonex, said the company will test the aircraft over the next several months and has already begun design work on the fourth version of the motor and twelfth version of the motor controller, which will be integrated into the current Waiex test bed.
    Sonex has been building popular kit airplanes for decades, including Light Sport-legal designs.  It also produces its own line of supporting aviation products including the AeroVee engine, which powers many of its designs.
    The standard Waiex kit was modified with an E-Flight 54kw brushless DC electric motor, E-Flight electronic motor controller, 14.5kw-hr lithium polymer battery system, E-Flight battery management system, and E-Flight cockpit instrumentation and controls.
    You can keep track of the E-Flight design team’s progress here.  For a video of the historic flight (these are the Wright Brothers days of e-flight, after all), scroll down the page here.

    Tuesday, November 30, 2010

    Final 2010 Market Report

    Graphic courtesy www.bydanjohnson.com
    Dan Johnson’s periodic Market Share report (compiled by Jan Fridrich of the Czech LAA) is out on his website and there are some interesting trends.
    For those who haven't seen these snapshots of the U.S. LSA market before, Dan focuses on FAA registrations, not sales quotes from manufacturers.  While this indicator may lag sales figures, over time it gives a more accurate view of who's actually delivering airplanes to customers.

    The not-surprising but important highlight has to be Piper's shot in the arm to overall LSA production.
    The venerable company registered 43 airplanes this year (24% of all registrations!) and will no doubt be stronger in 2011 as sales continue to mount for its sexy PiperSport.
    CubCrafters really surged this year with 37 registrations, a 20% market share, on the strength of its 180hp-powered Carbon Cub SS.  My local field has one, and it's quite a performer.
    In my recent post I mentioned Cessna's surge now that production at the China factory is in full swing.  A total 29 Skycatchers (16% of all registrations) went out this year: Cessna expects to ship 150-plus next year.
    The market leaders, including Flight Design and American Legend are hanging in there, and newcomer Jabiru/Arion with its new Lightning was a big hit with 9 registrations for the year.
    Sleepers to watch include Sportair USA's Sirius (4), Aerotrek (4), Skykits Savannah (4), FPNA A-20 (3), and 3Xtrim Navigator 600 (2).
    Dan parses the numbers and projects, to end of 2010, a further slide of 4% over 2009, which was nobody's favorite year.
    But with the economy slowly expanding again, a lot of folks are reading the tea leaves and hoping for a much stronger 2011.  Let's all keep drinking that happy tea.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010

    The Airport Kid

    On those weekends that I'm hanging out at my newly adopted country airport of Great Barrington, MA (GBR), I always look forward to seeing young Joe Solan.
    Joe's 12...going on 28, as someone at the airport affectionately quipped.
    Joe is one great kid, the kind I sometimes wish I'd been more like when I was his age.
    Joe Solan, right, giving local CFI John Lampson a ride
    When we first greet, whether he's dutifully dragging a heavy gas pump hose that weighs half what he does, answering the airport office phone or hunting up a charged handheld battery, he'll flash a friendly smile, say "Hi!", and stick out his hand like the straight-up little man he is.
    He's growing up at the airport, mentored in running the business and mentored in life by his dad Rick, a co-owner of the airport with lots of great ideas for growing its prosperity.
    Rick's also the guy who keeps American Airlines 777 drivers on the straight and narrow as a top-level inspector pilot. 
    I wrote a column recently for Plane & Pilot about GBR, extolling the charms, which are manifest, of this wonderful throwback to a kinder aviation era.
    It's melange of hangar styles, tied-down airplanes and acres of grass, surrounded by the bucolic Berkshire Hills farmland of western Mass., inspires flights of poetic as well as winged fantasy throughout the year.
    The 2600' paved runway has a grass strip right next to it, and there's another short-field strip at an angle alongside the triangle of tall corn that grows in the summer.
    The recently repaired asphalt is long enough to let fast singles and some light twins in, but short enough, with the very tall trees at the west end of the runway, to inspire routine vigilance and Plan B thinking ahead on takeoff or landing.
    Richard Solan, co-owner of GBR, American Airlines top gun...and Joe's dad.
    Back to Joe: he's one of those genuine kids you like immediately.  He doesn't come off entitled or overindulged, has an adult-like work ethic, and like GBR, is a throwback himself to an earlier time when kids were eager to help out any way they could and took no small measure of quiet pride in doing so.
    Oh, he gets to be a kid too, flying electric-powered RC models on the far side of the airport, or roaring by in the very cool Quantum Go Kart his dad just bought for him.
    Mostly though you'll see him holding the unicom station mic to give radio checks or wind and weather updates, gassing up planes and running errands.
    Last weekend was a classic late fall day in New England.  Clear and crisp, in the low '40s, no winds to speak of: the kind of flying day you just don't pass up if you can help it.
    Sure enough, lots of folks and airplanes were out.  Pilots and friends shot landings and swapped tall tales over doughnuts and coffee or munching down a tangerine from the wooden crate Rick always has on hand in the office/"clubhouse".
    I was eager to go flying but leery of hand-propping the cold J3 engine without some assistance -- and everybody else was busy.
    "I can do it," offered Joe, confidently grabbing his parka and waving me to the door.
    Outside, he offered me the right seat in his go kart.  Of course it was less than a minute's walk to the Cub, but no way was I going to pass up a chance to share that ride.
    We shot across the ramp and onto the grass, moved some planes around and rolled out the J3.  I put on some gloves against the chill and Joe hopped into the front seat.
    "Switch off," he called out, somewhat dwarfed by the big cockpit but not intimidated one bit.
    "Switch off," I said back.
    "Throttle cracked," he said.
    "Roger that."
    "Brakes on," he cried, all 100 lbs. of him applied directly to the little heel pedals to keep me safe in case the Cub surged forward.
    I gave the prop hub a good tug: didn't budge an inch.  That's my Little Big Man.
    It's not every day you trust your life to a 12 year old future pilot.
    But Joe's not your typical 12 year old.
    As Les, one of the local pilots, quipped, "This is a kid who will go far, whatever he sets his sights on."
    The engine flooded a couple times, but Joe hung in there, giving me suggestions, offering advice (he's learned quite a lot already from Rick) and after 15 minutes, that cold-soaked 65-horse mill caught and came to life.
    Joe worked the throttle just right to keep her idling, waited until I climbed into the rear seat, then hopped out, waved and drove off in the kart to help someone else.
    It's less common for kids today to have the kind of experience Joe is having.  Access to airports starts with an intimidating fence and a coded gate, the sad icons of a frightened age.
    But we can be happy there are kids like Joe Solan, and big kids like Rick Solan, who's favorite flying is in one of his J3s at the field where he learned to fly in the '70s.
    They both help keep us all young, and ever mindful to practice gratitude for the gift of flight.

    Wednesday, November 17, 2010

    Cessna Ships 50th Skycatcher

    Here's an item we've all waited for: Cessna exercising it's production mojo by shipping its 50th production Skycatcher S-LSA.
         The company manufactures and ships the C-162 from its Shenyang Aircraft manufacturing site in China to the US final assembly facility (Yingling Aviation, Wichita, KS).
         Current Cessna projections call for 30 total deliveries by year's end, with another 150 in 2011.
         The skies will be white with Skycatchers before long!
         That's welcome and none-too-early news for the industry as well as all those Skycatcher owners who've been patiently waiting delivery, which includes flight schools across the country hoping this will be the next 150/152.
         Price is holding steady at $112,000, including a Garmin G300 avionics deck and the Continental O200D engine. Cessna has also added five flight training schools to its network, which bumps its U.S. presence to more than 280 Cessna Pilot Centers.
         Five of them already use the Skycatcher for flight training duties:
    --Downtown Aviation;
    Memphis, TN
    --Eagle Aircraft; Valparaiso, IN
    --Kansas Aviation; Wichita, KS
    --Panorama Flight Service; White Plains, N.Y
    --Space Coast Aviation; Merritt Island, FL  (which also rents the C-162 for $99/hr)

    The more LSA people see, the more they'll grok that LSA are here to stay.

    Monday, November 15, 2010

    Snow Coming? Think Sebring!

    Looking out the window, I see cold gray clouds and possible precip.  Of course, it's late Fall and this is the Northeast, so we call this Situation Normal.
    Which means it's never too early to imagine warm weather and blue skies...which naturally leads our daydreams to the LSA kick-off aviation event of the year: U.S. Sport Aviation Expo, AKA Sebring: the pre-eminent happening for us sport flyin' types since it debuted in 2005.
    It's only 66 days until the show, which runs Jan. 20-23, 2011.  Start making those travel plans, flyfolk!
    Sebring's founder and head honcho, Robert Wood, is already busy wrangling the exhibitor lineup.
    "We actually have a waiting list for inside exhibit spaces and have very few outside spaces remaining for the January show," he said just a few days ago.
    Many of the top makers are already signed up, including American Legend, Flight Design, Cessna and Piper.
    This year's theme is A Salute To Military Veterans.
    A temporary FAA control tower will keep everything kosher from 9 to 5 every day (which is a good thing, as air traffic can get mighty busy with all the demo flights.)
    EAA, Avemco Insurance and other aviation notables will run several forums through the four-day event.
    Admission is a reasonable $10/day or $30 for a 4 day event pass.  You can also camp "under wing" if you like.  Plenty of parking there too, and there are motels conveniently located.
    Okay, okay, maybe it's a bit early with the holidays just ahead, but I can't wait!  Sebring is the most enjoyable pure-LSA event of the year.  Be there or be square, y'all.

    Saturday, November 13, 2010

    Remos Teams with LoPresti

    Folks with any GA background at all will know the name LoPresti...the late, great Roy LoPresti was a famous aeronautical engineer who became famous for finding ways to streamline and otherwise enhance existing airframe designs to squeeze more speed out of them.
    LoPresti Aviation (nickname LoPresti Speed Merchants), now owned by son Curt LoPresti, just announced that it is the new east coast sales, distribution and service center for Remos Aircraft, to be based at LoPresti's Sebastian Airport facilities near Palm Beach, Florida.
     It should be a good move for both companies as Remos Sales/Marketing Veep Earle Boyter and LoPresti can make good use of their longtime relationship. 
    And Sebastian Airport is ideally located in the middle of a robust year-round flying community.
    LoPresti engineers will hope to enhance the Remos GX fuel efficiency (LSA speed limit of course is a max of 120 knots) by bringing its speedifying technology to bear with things like redesigned fairings, cowls, aileron gap seals and other "clean-up" technologies it's become famous for.
    Rj Siegel (yep, that's his first name), LoPresti's COO, said "We believe the LSA market is...a sleeping giant and we have focused our engineering expertise to support it. We feel privileged that Remos is like-minded and selected LoPresti as their partner in this venture."
    Remos HQ hails from Germany.  The flagship Remos GX was heavily promoted but the tough economy played no favorites.  Let's hope the LoPresti partnership brings this top-notch airplane to U.S. airports in greater numbers.

    Monday, November 8, 2010

    I Rise, Cried the Phoenix

    Looking out the window at falling snow (and it's only Nov 8...bah!), back from a two week vacation to Europe and Turkey, and mired in writing a big LSA buyer's guide for the mag, I've only got a few minutes to splash up some photos of what to me is a big event:  the ASTM certification as an S-LSA of the Phoenix motorglider!

    Bop on over to Dan Johnson's site for his post on it, then follow his links to Jim Lee's sites for more info on the exciting news we've been waiting for some time to hear.
    The Phoenix is the more-than-worthy "sequel" to the Lambada S-LSA motorglider that turned a lot of pilots on (including me and Dan).  When two breakups last year clouded its future, a lot of us were glad to hear from Jim that the Phoenix was waiting in the wings to take its place.
    So congratulations Jim, glad to see it's a happening thing.
    He just completed a recent cross country trip and posted some beautiful shots on the soaring and motoring high above my old stompin' grounds in the Sierra Nevada Range of California...read all about it for an up close and personal account on Jim's blog.
    And even if you're in a better clime than I, don't feel bad about my snowboundedness: I'll be in sunny Florida in January hoping to fly the gorgeous Phoenix at the Sebring Sport Aviation Expo.
    Mark your calendars and start searching for accommodations: it's Jan. 20-23, 2011.

    ---all photos courtesy Jim Lee

    Wednesday, November 3, 2010

    Electric LSA as Primary Trainers?

    One of the interesting speculations in a recent Wired magazine article on the E-Spyder electric ultralight being developed by Flight Design USA's (and FlightStar Aircraft's) Tom Peghiny invokes turning the lemony limited range  of current early electric aircraft into the lemonade of broadly-applied commercial use -- specifically in flight schools.
    The first production E-Spyder, soon to be sold for around $30K, will have no more than 30 minutes of range.  Yuneec's two-seat E430, now scheduled for 2012 debut, aims for a 2 hour flight endurance.
    But two hours clearly is more than enough for the typical local flight lesson.  And with spare -- and charged -- battery pack modules ready to go to quick-swap out of electrical "fuel tanks", flight schools could run training ops as easily as their current gas engined counterparts.
    No distracting engine noise and frame vibration; no lean/enrich fuel settings; no starter motors or smelly exhausts to deal with.  No pollution.  Just quiet, satisfying, smooth flight in which the basics of flight training can be taught with, one can easily imagine, far greater efficiency and enjoyment.
    And the relative costs for students could be much, much cheaper as well.
    Yuneec postulates owner flight costs around $10/hour.  How many new pilots could be licensed, even with the same instructor fees of $30-50/hr factored in, at a significantly lower price than current flight school rates of $125/hr and up?
    Beyond the tantalizing prospect of teaching primary skills in an electric aircraft lies the Holy Grail: growing GA pilot numbers by churning out more new licensees, who would surely flock to the new tech appeal of lower-cost electriflying, since cost is the single most often identified cause of lower flight student numbers.
    It's also not hard to imagine aircraft rentals of $50 per hour or less as electrics prove themselves in day-to-day operations, further stimulating more flight hours for FBOs.
    And once the quest for greater battery storage density bears fruit -- several promising research projects already show many-fold increases per equivalent battery weight --  longer range electric aircraft will bring cross country flights, without burning any gas at all.  That's a day we can all plausibly dream about right now: it may be just a few short years ahead.
    Back to the present: Tom Peghiny recently taught non-pilot Flight Design employee Mathew Fortin to fly -- in the E-Spyder prototype.
    (Full Disclosure Dept: Tom, I am extremely envious.)
    Since the ultralight is a single-seat aircraft, Fortin made several extended taxi and on-the-deck hops to acquire the basics before Tom kicked him out of the nest, which gave the electric fledgling the distinction of becoming perhaps the very first electric student pilot ever.

    Here are some of Mathew's remarks from the Wired piece:
    “It was less intimidating having the electric motor, not some loud clanky gas engine...It really makes it easy to focus on flying.”
    Flight schools, are you listening?
    Post Script: Remember those early photos of the first days of flight with delicate, boxy-shaped biplanes like the Wright and Curtiss Flyers?  Check out this video: it shows several of Yuneec's electric-powered flying vehicles at Yuneec's factory unveiling, at what has to be the world's first all-electric meet.
    You'll notice two things at least: how well all the vehicles fly, even the power-pack paragliders, in the stiff wind (check out the smoke trails); and how you can barely hear any noise at all, even on the low passes.
    Now imagine it's 2110, and your descendants are looking at this tiny, funky old internet video and marveling that we flew such primitive electric birds.  Then try to imagine what they might be flying.  Fun, huh?

    Friday, October 29, 2010

    Top glass panel maker Dynon just updated its SkyView panels to include air traffic alert and graphic display, just like the TCAS (Traffic Collision Avoidance System) the big boys have...although for many more Grover Clevelands.
    Typical Dynon SkyView screen...TCAS symbols not yet available
    Traffic targets will show up on SkyView’s moving maps and synthetic vision displays as standard TCAS I symbols, identify the location, severity of the threat, distance, vertical separation and heading of any aircraft within the traffic system range.
    Nothing like having your own radar-like warning system in flight.
    SkyView can also receive traffic information from a Zaon XRX PCAS passive traffic receiver, a Navworx ADS-B receiver, a Trig ADS-B receiver, or any device that outputs the industry standard
    GTX 330 TIS traffic format.
    Essentially this means SkyView’s new traffic feature can be used worldwide.
    The new traffic feature comes with all Version 2.6 software, available now on all new SkyView units and downloadable for free for current SkyView owners.

    Thursday, October 28, 2010

    WIRED Gets Air-Wired

    Following up on my post two days ago, I'm happy to report Wired magazine just ran a story online about the Yuneec E-Spyder that Tom Peghiny of Flight Designs has been developing for them.  The story has several excellent photos and it's a good write-up, so click on over there to see how the mainstream media is helping push public awareness of electric aviation.
    Here's the Wired video of the E-Spyder that ought to whet your appetite for electric flight...I can't wait to get back to the states and get over to Tom's to do my own story on it.

    Tuesday, October 26, 2010

    E-Spyder Ready For Prime Time

         Everyone interested in electric flight will want to know that the E-Spyder electric-powered ultralight is poised to enter the marketplace.A few days ago Tom Peghiny invited me out to Woodstock, CT, about 3 hours drive from my house, to fly the latest prototype (v. 3) of the venerable FlightStar ultralight.
    I had to pass since I was prepping for a family visit to Germany.
    photo courtesy Yuneec Aircraft and Flying Pages
    Checking in from Hamburg, I found a post on his website from my pal and LSA colleague Dan Johnson, who scooped me on the following info:
    The E-Spyder will be marketed by Yuneec, which bought the rights to produce the design from Tom and continues development on several other projects: the graceful E430 S-LSA which has won several prizes already; E-PAC power backpack for paragliders; and electric motor systems for a variety of aviation applications.
    Originally tabbed for around a $25,000 price tag, latest word is the E-Spyder will price out under $30,000.  It's a single-seater that qualified for Part 103 ultralight status.
    Dan also reports the production prototype comes with longer wings (33 ft.) and a dresser drawer-like battery tray to completely enclose the power pack in the fuselage fairing.
    Other battery notes: fewer cells but greater overall capacity, simplifying the balancing process during charging (2-2.5 hours) which is important with lithium polymer (lipo) batteries.
    Weight-reducing modifications include thinner-wall 7075-T6 tubing, a carbon fiber sandwich fairing and a Mylar-laminate Dacron wing envelope.
    Refinements to the motor include a lower max RPM which allows it to spin a longer prop at greater torque.
    Tom wrote, "We have been flying a lot since finishing the plane in mid September."
    So far Tom and team have taken 15 flights on the upgraded version. Flight testing so far has brought these numbers: a top speed of 52 mph; stall of 22 mph - you can almost run that fast!; 35mph cruise; flight duration of 20-35 minutes, less than the hour originally expected...but Dan quotes Tom as saying "We've been able to soar it in light thermals as it really wants to go up."
    And since Tom's place of business (Flight Design USA) gets its power from a company that generates 80% of it from windmill and some hydroelectric sources, you could say the E-Spyder almost literally flies on air.

    Wednesday, October 20, 2010

    Electric Cessna Skyhawk update

    Keeping tabs on Cessna's electric C-172 project in collaboration with Bye Energy of Colorado, Bye just announced it will make a presentation at the annual NBAA (National Business Aviation Association) convention this that's going on right now in Atlanta.
    Bye Energy as I've blogged in the past is working on electric and electric-hybrid propulsion systems for LSA and light GA airplanes under the banner of its The Green Flight Project announced earlier this year.
    The latest news is the electric Skyhawk will fly in the first quarter of 2011.
    George Bye, CEO, had this to say recently: "This is an ambitious effort, but we are continuing to uncover additional efficiencies with electric-powered flight," he said. "We are grateful to Cessna for its continued collaboration and support."
    Cessna's head honcho Jack Pelton added: "Bye Energy's progress toward first flight of the electric Cessna 172 demonstrator is encouraging news for the future of mainstream general aviation."
    Backgrounder: More than 43,000 Skyhawks have com off the line since 1955. 
    The electric version could evolve to a four-hour flight time performance.  Reports are, given the sobering realities of current battery technology limitations, the first "electric" Cessna will in fact fly with a hybrid engine (jet-fuel/electric a la Toyota Prius).
    Here's a video from Bye.

    Monday, October 18, 2010

    Keeping it Neutral

    Ken Godin, an endlessly enthusiastic, high-energy entrepreneur and 30 year ultralight, LSA and GA pilot, created his own company, Composiclean, a few years back, to market a line of pH-neutral and other cleaning products that are finding their way to air shows, car shows, dealer ramps and at docksides around the world.
    Composiclean's Ken Godin, left, and Flight Design USA Pres. Tom Peghiny
    If you've scanned the Aircraft Spruce catalog recently you may have seen Ken's goods. 
    Like many innovations, Compsiclean came about through a vacuum in the market place.  Ken was a key player at Tom Peghiny's Flight Design USA operation until 2008, when he left to become Director of Sales and Service at REMOS Aircraft.
    "Tom asked me if I knew of a neutral cleaning product for his CT line of LSA.  He had seen first hand that some composite components can be negatively affected by the alkaline pH of the cleaners typically available...most cleaners are either acidic or alkaline."
    Ken's a networking guy so he went looking for a neutral-pH cleaner. 
    "But I couldn't find one anywhere!"
    Then he called chemical companies all over the country.  Still no luck. 
    Most of us would just drop it at that point.  Not Ken. 
    "I found a chemist willing to create a neutral ph cleaner for me.  That first product evolved into Bucket-Wash."  It has the same pH as clean water and so won't attack foam, or promote corrosion in dissimilar metals either (Composiclean's line isn't just for composites).
    Other products soon followed: Super Spray-Wax with Carnauba wax that stays in solution, tire dressing formulations, multi-purpose cleaners, leather and vinyl upholstery cleaners and lots of other goodies and tools for keeping airplanes,cars, motorcycles, RVs and boats looking great.
    I've used them and they really live up to their reputation, but don't take my word for it: check out the testimonial page on Ken's website. 
    He's also rebuilding, from a completely rusted wreck, a 1953 Chevy pickup as a "mascot" for his car show displays.

    Thursday, October 14, 2010

    "What Are You Doing, Maverick?!"

    The Maverick flying car I've blogged about in the past has been all over the news lately for having trumped the competition by being the first to market with a viable land/sky vehicle (it's ASTM certified S-LSA #110), at a viable price ($84,000), and in a functional, and dare I say it, wildly fun way.
    Maverick climbs out with gusto
    Technically, it's classified in the powered parachute category (PPC), eminently logical since that's what it is!
    Maverick is in essence a four-wheeled dune buggy with a big pusher prop, rugged off-road suspension, and an easily-deployed paraglider-like canopy that gives the car it's airborne capabilities, but stows neatly on top of the car when more earthly thrills, or a visit to a third-world native village to do good works, (it's designed "mission"), are desired.
    Dan Johnson put up a broader post on it recently, but I didn't want to miss the chance to share this fun video again of the Maverick in action.  Very impressive the way ti handles the sandy road, and there are other vids of the test program and airshow visits too.
    Since it's approved by the DOT (Dept. of Transportation) for travel, you're good to go on land and in the air.
    As far as the water, I'd assumed it couldn't be fit out with floats due to the difficulties (impossibility) of launching a wet para-canopy.  Au contraire, airheads.
    Two for the road
    In fact, there are floats too, for "river crossings".  Given the unimproved terrain capability the Maverick was designed for, this is an important capability.
    I thought about this for a couple seconds then had a Homer Simpson "Doh!" moment: We don't' need no steenking parasail canopy at all!  Just drive the vehicle onto the floats and boat over, using the prop for thrust, to the other shore or around a calm bay or lake.  Launches on water with the para-wing on land should be possible too...but I would imagine tricky, which means lots of folks will be trying it.  Should make for some interesting YouTube moments down the road.
    It's no doubt illegal to drive a prop-boat around on some lakes but that's another galaxy to explore on the local level.
    Anyway, now I can say, "Maverick: for land, sea and sky".  Even cooler.
    Maverick without it's Ninja suit
    Another attraction for non-pilots should be how easy it is to transfer skills they already have: steering with a wheel and using a foot pedal for power.
    As diehard PPC pilots will tell you, a few hours of basic airmanship training are all it takes for this Everyfolk vehicle to be safely flown.  Of course, complete Sport Pilot training is required to fly it legally, but while you're training, nothing to keep you from blasting around in the boonies, eh? 
    Wired Magazine reports that Itec, the parent company, says government and law enforcement agencies are looking into the Maverick.
    Seems logical with all the viable applications for this simple flying vehicle: fence line perimeter patrol for ranchers; spotting fires; patrolling pipelines and power lines; flying out to car rallies in the boonies, of course; and civil air patrol spotting at a much lower cost...being able to lope along at what are near-stall speeds for typical GA airplanes could be a real boon for search and rescue.
    With the immense popularity of paragliding and the natural, if not entirely accurate, association people make  between parachutes and safety, the Maverick could be a real sleeper that attracts a lot of buyers.
       ---photos and video courtesy Itec

    Wednesday, October 6, 2010

    FALCON 2.0 First To Fly Lycoming 0-233

    I got an email today from Christopher “Doc” Bailey of Renegade Light Sport that the Falcon 2.0 just made its maiden flights with the brand new Lycoming IO-233-LSA engine.
    A video Doc linked to me gives the salient details.  The Falcon LS was initially imported by T&T Aviation which sold the distributorship and inventory to Doc and his partners last July, as posted here earlier.
    FALCON 2.0 makes maiden flights with Lycoming IO-233-LSA, 116 hp engine
    You can read more on Doc's ambitious plans to market 100 of these beauties with standard synthetic vision EFIS panels from Grand Rapids Technologies for $125,000 in my column due out next month.
    Lycoming's new IO-233
    Falcon is the very first airplane to fly with the Lyc 233.  Renegade is working with Lycoming and Champion Electronics to develop it.
    “We’ll fly it over the next few months,” says interviewer and 35 year Aeronautical Engineering Professor Fred Schieszer, “and report back to Lycoming and Champion, which is developing the electronic ignition system.  But after today’s flights, everybody has big smiles!”
    Test pilot Rob Runyon made four hops totalling .6 hours.  “I saw in excess of 1000 AGL by the end of the 4,000 foot runway.”
    The 15 knot wind gusted to 23. 
    “The Falcon accelerated through 80 knots and climbed at 1500 feet per minute after rotation.  Liftoff took 500 to 600 ft from a standing start, about the same amount of time as it took me to throttle all the way in, under 10 seconds.”
    “Max level power came at around 2400 rpm,” he continues.  “It doesn’t wind up like the Lycoming 235, which might be a prop difference.  It accelerates to 110 knots and keeps going; in the pattern, you have to get right out of the power, like a jet, or the speed will wind up on you.  To keep it in flap range, throttle back to 2000 rpm.”
    Checking out the 233 at Midwest LSA EXPO
    Runyon used 40 degrees of flaps and stayed high on short final intentionally.  He’d been advised by Doc Bailey not to land at idle, given the gusty winds.
    “I approached at 70 and touched down around 55.”
    The Lycoming IO-233 makes the airplane a little lighter in the nose and balances within an inch of the original IO-235 installation.  The engine weighs 38 pounds less, helping keep empty weight around 800 lbs., yet it still delivers 116 hp.The maidens are an important step in bringing the Falcon 2.0 to market after a false start with the previous importers.
    And if this beauty flies half as good as it looks, and the economy gathers steam, the biggest challenge for this ASTM-certified (with the O-235) sport flyer would seem to be simply getting it into production.

    Tuesday, October 5, 2010

    SportairUSA Expands to GA

    Those hardworking Sportair guys at North Little Rock Municipal Airport (KORK) in Arkansas are serving more notice that they intend to stay around for the long haul.The purveyor of fine LSA (Sting Sport, Sirius, iCub and SeaRey amphib) is now an official FAA-certificated Repair Station for the general aviation community as well.
    The company has been in the aviation biz for 20 years.
    Ralph Murphy, former Accountable Manager for a major avionics shop, just joined the party to head the avionics department, which sells, installs, upgrades, repairs and services avionics, radios, instruments, autopilots and related airframe modifications.
    STING S4
    Sportair's President Bill Canino, an ex-USAF and National Guard pilot who's flown some of the great military airplanes of the 20th Century...and loves flying around in the iCub (that's him in the rear seat)...says “We have the facilities, the staff and the experience to keep your avionics in tip-top shape.”
    Aircraft owners can get everything from GPS systems to autopilots to glass cockpits to engine monitors and more sold and serviced.
    Larry Martin, head of marketing for Sportair, emailed to tell me there's a new website too, check it out.

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010

    Rainbow Cheetah XLS

    One of the lesser-known S-LSA I caught up with at the Midwest EXPO was the Rainbow Aircraft Cheetah XLS.  It's an ultralight-style flivver -- tube and ripstop Trylam fabric envelopes that are pre-sewn, pulled over the airframe components and laced up for tightness -- with a rakish look and some very nice features.
    For those of us challenged by aviation budget considerations, the price of $53,000 ready to fly is certainly a draw and makes it the least expensive 3-axis, traditional planform S-LSA out there, to my knowledge anyway.  There are trikes (modified hang gliders with tricycle undercarriages) for less greenbacks, but the Cheetah is the cheapest "flivver" on the U.S. market.
    The company that imports the Cheetah, Midwest Sport Aviation, was founded by three brothers who grew up going to the nearby Oshkosh airshows with their dad, a commercial-rated pilot.
    The jazzy looking airplane is an import -- from South Africa -- and has a lot to offer for pilots looking for an entry-level LSA with lots of nice features.
    Although you might be tempted to think of the Cheetah as more of a local flyer, it's far from incapable of XC flights.  Cruise at 65% power is 95 to 105 mph depending on engine choice, which ranges from an 85hp Jabiru 2200 to two Rotax models (65hp and 100hp).
    My flight impression of the Cheetah?  Pleasantly surprised.  It's responsive and lighter on the controls than I expected of a laced-envelope airplane.  It doesn't have the same solid "airplaney" control feel as the Rans S6-ELS but I thought it coordinated with less effort than the X-Air -- and it's priced several thousand dollars less than either.
    The fuel storage of nearly 25 gallons is a bit of a throwback to the early ultralight days: it's all carried in one fuselage tank behind the seats.

    Gross weight of 1245 lbs. still allows a 628 lb. useful load, or upwards of 477 lbs. with a full tank.  That's a payload a lot of heavier S-LSA would be happy to own.

    My report on the Cheetah will run in Plane & Pilot soon.
    I put it through some cranking and banking with company co-owner Jon Syvertson and here's the short tell: it's a well-built and cleverly outfitted airplane with good performance and nice handling.  
    Visibility is very good (the low overhead skylight gives a good look ahead even in medium banked turns.  
    It's comfortable, easy to fly, readily climbs out at up to 1200 fpm depending on engine size and is easy to ground handle thanks to the steerable nosewheel.
    It also sports full dual controls and four-point harnesses.  
    All told, Cheetah XLS is a feature-packed airplane that gives you a real price option.