Thursday, April 29, 2010

New Purpose-built LSA

Another LSA (and another from Czech Republic!) is about to land on our shores.  It'll be featured in my Cool Stuff overview story in the June issue of P&P, but here's a sneak preview of the cute little low wing, and why I think it could be a winner for potential owners.
It's called Corbi Air Alto 100.
Two veterans of the sport aircraft biz - Dan Coffey and Ron Corbi - have extensive backgrounds in sport aircraft maintenance and marketing.  They saw through direct experience that many LSA had weak points that came out after extensive use in the field: insufficiently sturdy nosegear, cheap foreign tires (that were also a problem to reorder quickly).
So they went to an established Czech manufacturer (Direct Fly) and asked them if they'd be willing to update their four-year-popular Euro bird with American components for ASTM-certification as an S-LSA for the states. 
Coffey’s and Corbi’s approach might be called “pre-emptive” maintenance -  they intend to design out the very things that tend to fail in LSA. 
“Our focus with the Alto is to enhance the ‘maintainability’ of the airplane,” Coffey told me in a lengthy chat at Sun 'n Fun.
“We’ve added things like American-made Matco wheels and brakes, bucked rivets to replace pop rivets in high-stress areas, Vertical Power’s electronic electrical system, and the Approach Hub avionics wiring system for plug-and-play component upgrades.”
Another good idea here is to have as many quickly available U.S.- made parts as possible to make sure no flight school or owner is ever down for long.
Another feature: Alto’s canopy slides forward for easy access to the back of the panel.
Look for the cute Globe Swift-like Alto to be ASTM-approved and shipping by year’s end.
And get this price: $99,995, which includes a Dynon Skyview EFIS!

Friday, April 23, 2010

LSA Fighter Zoomin'

I had the distinct pleasure of closing out my 8 day stay in Florida for Sun 'n Fun's airshow with a visit to the MySky company at the fabulous Spruce Creek aviation community near Daytona, FL.
My host was Prez Dieter Canje, who along with company principal and 30,000 hour pilot Tim Plunket, introduced me to the airplane.
We were all set to shoot air2air and ground photography but Ma Nature had other ideas with some rain and overcast skies.
I did the next best thing and copped a ride with Tim in the MS-1 prototype.
And boy, am I glad I did.  Or dude, am I glad I did.  Whatever.

First off, I have to say this was the best demo I've ever had, and here's why: Tim spent a good ten minutes briefing me on the flight deck, controls, knobs and levers I'd be a-twiddlin'.  Then he talked me through the maneuvers we'd be doing.
"I'll do everything first, then you'll do it," he instructed, and that's exactly what we did: stalls, high bank turns, big looping wingovers, high speed dives.
"Remember," Tim said at one point near the end of our flight, "there's no rule against going faster than 120 Knots in an LSA other than straight and level, full power."  This, while we dove for the deck at 140 knots plus, smooth and solid and not unlike, (I gotta say because I've had the pleasure), zooming down in a P-51 Mustang or Extra 300.  The feel, the narrow tandem cockpit, the fuselage right-side fighter-like control stick, the bubble canopy - oh yeah, you can see where this project is going.

I felt the urge to bark "Tally ho!  Bogies at 5 o'clock low, arm your guns!" -- because this is definitely a Top Gun experience compared to most other LSA.
The company hopes to have the airplane in delivery by the end of the year.  Prototype #2 is being built in their hangar at Spruce Creek and more refinements will be made.
But that flight with Tim stands in mind as the most thoroughly enjoyable and illuminating 24 or so minutes I've spent in an LSA yet.
Stay tuned: Dan Johnson will be writing a flight report on it for Plane & Pilot down the road.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Lost In Alligator Land

Kids, don't try this at home...or in the air.  Well, unless you leave yourself no other choice.

Whilst flying a new LSA on the day after the Sun 'n Fun airshow, my demo host and I were enjoying the puffy cloud kingdom somewhere not too far from Lakeland Linder Field in central Florida when the Garmin G3 center display went black.
No amount of coaxing, button pushing, or breaker recycling would bring it back.  We chalked it up to a new installation and the fact we'd sat on the ground for 45 minutes in the heat, in a ridiculously long line of departing airplanes - and a methodically sloooooow tower controller determined to go by the book while 30 airplanes sat watching their engine temps rise...and rise.  This guy could learn a thing or two from the boys at Oshkosh about expediting departures.
Anyway, here we were a few minutes later, tooling around the countryside, not overly concerned about losing the one display, when bip!, the other G3 display coughs, hiccups, and goes down too.
Sympathy pains maybe but Holy Hannah, whatta we do now?
"Fortunately," said my right seat companion with a confident smile, he being an ex-Air Force jet jockey, "I've got a GPS along as a backup."
I breathed a sigh of relief as he rummaged around in the baggage compartment behind the seats.
"Hmmm," he said, (and did I detect a twinge of embarrassment?), "I don't seem to have the GPS.  I must have left it on the ground."
"Well, no problem," he continued with strained joviality.  "I've got a where is that sectional?"
Several minutes later, after the sectional proved to be irretrievably buried somewhere in all the gear, we both scanned the green farmland, swamps and sand mines or whatever those big square water-filled dirt lakes are and realized we were completely and utterly lost.
I opined we were west of Lakeland.  He thought we were south.
One thing I'd never noticed: It's amazing how much one area of central Florida looks remarkably like many other parts of Central Florida.
All ended well: I whipped out my Swiss Army Knife of electronic devices -- the ubiquitous iPhone that never leaves my side unless I forget it -- tapped the GPS ap icon, and lo and behold, we had enough of a signal from below to show us right where we were...which turned out to be a little west and 20 miles south of Lakeland. 
Ah my little iPhone.

Cool Sectional-based GPS

Hands down my favorite of the entire Sun 'n Fun show was the iFly 700 GPS which has nothing to do with the iPhone but is, for pilots, just as cool for its innovative features...and really affordable price: $499!
Super easy to do a flight plan: Tap an airport with your finger on the screen and menus pop up to select a waypoint or as your final destination.
Never buy another sectional...they're continually updated as part of the $69/year subscription service, which also includes IFR enroute charts and lots of other features.
The company owner/designers told me there will be some eye-popping software upgrades coming down the pike.  These guys have the programming mojo - one designed the Orbitz travel site for example.
It comes with a suction mount, power cords, remote, carrying case and tons of features.  
Watch this company, it could be the beginning of a major product for in flight navigation.
The screen is 7", sharp and clear.  I spent half an hour there with Dan Johnson and we left very impressed.
I almost bought one...and I don't even have an airplane!  Well, not yet anyway.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

That's A Wrap!

Sun 'n Fun 2010 is history. Overcast skies and rain all day kept the crowds away -- in droves.  Still, it was a good show, with positive signs for the Light Sport Industry in the weeks and months ahead.
I'll be recapping highlights from the entire six days over the next several days; there were lots of cool events and gear I want to share with you.
The short tell: overall attendance by most exhibitor accounts seemed a bit light over the week, but several airframe manufacturers reported modest to brisk sales.
Generally, the consensus was one of guarded optimism.  Some makers like Arion (Lightning) and Piper (PiperSport) sold 7 or more airplanes each.  Others were happy with two or three.  And some long-time, well-established companies had great leads but no firm orders.
Of course, sales hyperbole is tempting to indulge in at a show: no one wants to admit to potential customers -- and especially the aviation media -- that they just spent thousands of dollars hoping to attract buyers and show the flag -- and have nothing to show for it.  It takes a lot of courage to hang in there in a down economy, and many of these folks have been running on fumes for some time now through the worst of it.
Nonetheless, as my tireless pal Dan Johnson tallied, sales were at least in the 20s and that's a good number in a recovering economy.
Likewise, the excellent placement of his LSA Mall, which was chock full of aircraft displayed side-by-side, brought thousands of people in direct contact with light sport flying.  I must have gone by the Mall 30 times during the show, and it was always busy with folks checking out these new planes they're hearing more and more about.
As in life, not every company rockets skyward; economies don't work that way.  But I spoke to enough people in the industry with smiles on their faces to give me a solid sense that we've flown out of the downdrafts and are climbing for clear blue skies again.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Honda-based Engine For Rotax Mounts

While talking to an enterprising Dutchman who markets several non-aviation, but exceptionally beautiful road machines and accessories (Can you dig a gorgeous, classic Carroll Shelby replica Cobra signed by the great man himself for $60,000?), he pointed to a man walking by and said, "There goes Eggenfellner, he makes a beautiful modified Honda engine for LSA."
A couple minutes later I wondered over to the  motorhead's booth and saw this gorgeous engine package, based on an inline 4-cylinder Honda automotive engine (he also builds a Subaru-based mill), that is finding its way into a number of experimental aircraft that take Rotax engines.
The liquid-cooled Viking HF-110 has 9 more cubic inches displacement than a Rotax 912 ULS, weighs 31 lbs. more, and produces 14 more horsepower at 75% power and 15 more hp at takeoff rpm of 5400 - 400 less than the Rotax.
It also has a 12 month/100 hour money-back guarantee (Rotax: 6 months and 100 hours) and costs $9,900 - and comes with alternator, ignition and fuel injection, exhaust, air intake, starter, radiator, prop drive unit and engine mounting brackets to align with existing Rotax airframe mounts.

Sun 'n Fun: Sales Rumor Mill, contd.

Chatting tonight with Piper's Chief Pilot Bart Jones as the fifth day of the six day airshow wound down, as our conversation drifted to our favorite LSA, I asked him, "Do you have any idea what kind of business Piper's done?"
I figured he wouldn't have much to say on the topic as these are usually internal affairs, with the timing of info releases usually left to PR depts.
So I was happily surprised (since we'd both agreed moments before that PiperSport was a mutual favorite) to hear him say, "Well, you know what?  We've sold seven PiperSports so far!"
My eyes must have widened a bit because he added, "and get this: that's without doing any demo flights!  We had a paperwork snafu, so we couldn't even fly potential customers."
Looks like my prognostications and those of other industry watchers was right on: Piper's impact on the LSA market could indeed be huge.
By the way, Bart is no company mouthpiece but a straight-up, sincere guy I've known for many years.  He flies all the most systems-intensive heavy iron for Piper - but confesses to enjoying the PiperSport as much as anything he sits left seat in. 
So when he says Piper has sold 7 of its new S-LSA, you can believe it.  "And we've still got one day of the show left," he added.
- Making the rounds of the exhibition buildings, Phil Lockwood, aka Mr. Rotax, his lovely wife Tish and gal Friday Rafaela (I never remember her exact title but it seems she does a lot of just about everything at Lockwood Aviation Supply) all said they'd been crazy busy selling all kinds of Rotax hardware for the first four days of the show - when the buying public generally comes.
Airshow watchers and the more generally interested aviation enthusiasts tend to come out on the weekends.
- Meanwhile, those enterprising dudes I reported on a couple weeks ago over at Light Sport Group unleashed its Contour HD A/V-ator Edition High Def aviation camcorder on an unsuspecting public and promptly sold out all their inventory...and have three units backordered! 
It's a cool unit, great for recording student pilot training videos but that monster-strong suction cup they have on that thing would, to paraphrase Willie Nelson, suck the anodizing off an aluminum wing.  I.e, you can mount it on a reasonably flat surface on the exterior of the airplane and get in-air shots of...yerself!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Signs Of A Stronger Economy?

Could my spot survey of just a few LSA companies at the show be the harbinger of better things to come?  American Legend Aircraft prez Darrin Hart told me yesterday his company had sold three S-LSA and two Texas Star Cub kits...only three days into the show.
Dave Graham of Gobosh reports two sales of the popular low-wing Gobosh 700.
CubCrafters has tallied at least one sale so far.
And Paradise Aviation's Chris Regis had one firm sale and another one ready to ink.
You go gang!

Skyview Lands in Gobosh

One of the earliest and most popular SLSA on the market is the Gobosh 700.  Co-Impresario Dave Graham extols its virtues of "aliveness" and my sentiments echo his: it's a friendly, comfortable, responsive and thoroughly enjoyable airplane to fly. 
Dave's installed the new Dynon Skyview into it, and calls the model the Gobosh 700DX.
"It was very easy to install," says Dave.  "The manuals for the Dynon systems are exceptionally good.  The sensor package that comes with the system worked right out of the box."
Price for the SkyView-equipped 700DX is $138,500, which represents a $3,500 upgrade from the Dynon D-180-equipped version.
Standing all day in the hot sun and dusty wind day after day is the foot soldier reality for aircraft display folks.  Everybody has their own outdoor strategy for showing wares to the public while never being too far from the plane.  Here's a shot of Dave Graham's Gobosh "office".

Carbon Cub SS On Floats Beats Water Champ

Every year at Sun 'n Fun the nearby Fantasy of Flight Museum puts on a Splash-In.  Aircraft of the waterfowl persuasion, from amphibians to seaplanes to float versions of GA, Experimental and LSA types hang out and participate in some fun contests, including spot landing, grapefruit bomb drop and...short water takeoff.
The last task is arguably the most visually exciting for its demonstration of sheer power-to-weight performance and other factors.
Enter Goliath: Phil Lockwood's legendary AirCam, a heavily modified ultralight Drifter with two engines that's legendary for it's short takeoff mojo on land and water.  It can get airborne on one engine and climb at 200-300 fpm.  Oh - and did I say that's off the water?
Enter the challenger: Although the AirCam generally competes in the above 200hp category, and the Carbon Cub has 180hp, the CubCrafters gang thought it would be fun to do.
The airplane's owner, Gary Lickle, had a grand total of 9 hours on floats, having just finished his float rating the week before.
"We thought it would be fun to see how we could do against them.  We never expected to win, so it was great fun and a surprise to beat them."

Check out this video from CubCrafters and you'll get the full picture.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sun 'n Fun Day 2: Toto, Are We...?

...back in Kansas?  Little Totomeister, I gotta say, the winds blew so strong today I saw a full chicken caesar salad in its covered plastic container sail horizontally by my head like a UFO on a mission.
I even had to postpone a photo shoot until tomorrow at dawn.  Oh joy.
- No complaints though.  It was a gorgeous day which started out with a very enjoyable hour-long demo flight in the Rans S-6ELS, a lovely airplane I've touted lately for its low price - $63,000.
My demo pilot, Mark Pringle ("Just like the potato chips," he said) took me up for some turns, dutch rolls, stalls, and a couple landings in a mildly bumpy airmass, at least for 8:30 this morning.
First impressions (look for my flight report in an issue soon) - throttle in, rolling down the runway, one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two...hey, we're airborne already?  That lightweight flivver fairly hopped into the air.
Second impression: what a beautifully harmonized control system: light (no need to muscle it), responsive (good, crisp roll rates, effective rudder makes coordinating a snap), well balanced (pitch, roll and rudder are so smooth, you feel like you know the airplane.
Landing's a breeze, the finish is beautiful, and with the Rotax 80 hp, (and 3.5 gph), we loped along nicely right around 100 knots.
A lovely, approachable, comfortable, excellent flyer, and an American-made LSA that offers a basic recreational airplane that you can enjoy locally but not fret about ranging out with - Randy Schlitter and crew flew it down from Hays, Kansas - a flight I was hoping to make with them - with nary a worry.
- Garmin announced several new products and promotions today.  Of interest to LSA pilots: Bundled database pricing for the GPSMAP® 495/496 and GPSMAP 695/696 will, sez the company, save customers up to 50% per year on database updates, starting this week.
- Also from Garmin -  a new SVX™ synthetic vision upgrade for the G300 avionics platform (seen on Cessna’s Skycatcher and other LSA.
- Two more new SLSA are at the show.  One's called the Alto, by Corbi Air, and it's an all-metal low-winger.  More later - don't mean to be coy, I just haven't caught up with them yet. 
- It's old home week for ultralight flyers.  Chuck Slusarczyk, endlessly colorful head of longtime ultralight/light sport manufacturer and supplier CGS Aviation, was back in fine form and holding court at the show after a recent stroke.  Welcome back Chuck!
And Boris Popov, founder of BRS parachute systems, is back with ballistic 'chute maker BRS after a long early "retirement".  Look for my Light Sport Chronicles column soon which updates Boris' visionary belief - long since vindicated - of the indispensable value of an airframe parachute.
I'll recount some of his amazing, chilling, ultimately life-affirming stories of saves that you won't believe - but they're true.
- Michael Combs landed his Remos GX in Frederick, MD today on the fourth day of his Flight For The Human Spirit odyssey that will eventually reach all 50 states.  He went to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, and will launch on the next leg to Long Island, NY tomorrow.  Keep track of his progress here.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sun 'n Fun: When The Going Gets Tough...

When the going gets tough, goes the old motivational phrase, the tough get going.
The LSA industry had a hard year in 2009, as did all of General Aviation...not to mention the economy.
And although news pops up here and there indicating better times are - eventually - coming, the most resilient companies keep looking for ways to stimulate their markets rather than simply holding on for better sales numbers.

Cases in point from Day 1 of Sun 'n Fun: 
1.  Piper Aircraft CEO Kevin J Gould addressed a morning press gathering to paint a thumbs-up picture for Piper and General Aviation as well.   He backed up his nuanced optimism with positive stats: Piper expects to sell 8 times as many trainers this year as last; Piper's total sales are up 75% over 2009; enthusiasm for the PiperSport is strong - the company could produce and deliver as many as 75 PiperSports this year; sales of other models from its GA fleet are showing improvement; and the three new owners of the first PiperSports took delivery of their aircraft in a well-attended ceremony at the company's flight line display.
I like that last item for several reasons, but here's my #1: Mr. Gould said in January that Piper would deliver its first PiperSports this month.  He kept his word.  We need examples just like this of leaders who talk the talk - then walk it.
---- > Piper CEO Kevin Gould (r) and new PiperSport owners
2. Flight Design CEO Matthias Betsch, and FD USA Prez Tom Peghiny and Marketing head John Gilmore talked about several new developments in existing and new products:
the CTLS Lite, the all-metal MC S-LSA (look for my flight report in the next issue of Plane & Pilot),  the new CT HL tow aircraft for Europe, where noise pollution is a real problem; ongoing development of the after-market GA hybrid engine, currently pegged at $34,000 and expected to fly this year; an all-hand control system for disabled pilots, now certified in Germany, which will be an easy - and then reversible - retrofit for any CT; and floats under development for the CT line.
Mr. Betsch also reiterated what he told me at Sebring in January: that the market "is starting back" and 2011 should be considerably stronger than 2010.
He also made a cogent point: "There is no aviation without basic aviation."  Makes sense, ja?
3. American Legend announced a new model today: the Classic J3, which is exactly what it sounds like: the original sport plane of them all, without any frills, and at a price, for an all-American made airplane, that should attract some solid interest: $94,895.  More on that later, I'm running out of room
4. Randy Schlitter of Rans Aircraft told me he's holding the line on the Coyote II, aka S-6ELS, at $63,000.  That's another attractive, all-American airplane that's about half the price of many S-LSA.
Randy also shared some insider info on his development of an all-electric aircraft: more on that later too.
As I said at the top: when the going gets tough, etc.  These four market leaders aren't waiting for the turnaround: they're helping make it happen.

Sun 'n Fun 2010 Kicks Off

The weather looks gorgeous; aircraft are landing at Lakeland Linder Field; booths are sprouting up like spring mushrooms.
Even as Aero Friedrichshafen in Germany flies into the sunset, it's the first day of America's annual spring bash in Lakeland, Florida.
Tens of thousands of daily visitors will have their chance to chase down the SLSA or kit plane or airshow performer (USAF Thunderbirds!) they've been dreaming of all winter - especially us winterbound types who are  reacquainting ourselves with that bright, warm yellow thing in the sky.

Sun 'n Fun is the place we officially kick off the airshow season.  It's a time to reconnect with old friends and make new ones.  To see dozens of LSA side by side, sit in them, take demo flights and get a real feel for what's hot, and what's not, for you and your kind of flying.
I love Sun 'n fun.  My inner airplane nut kid comes out to play here (just like he does at Sebring and Oshkosh).
Stay tuned for daily reports on the new stuff, newsy bits , new products, and who's saying what about the industry, the airplanes and the people driving it all forward.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Skycatcher Ramps Up Delivery Rate

Molly McMillin of the Wichita Eagle reports today that Cessna is speeding up its deliveries of the C-162 throughout 2010, after delays were announced early in the year.
The announcement was made at the Aero Expo in Germany today.
McMillin also writes that Cessna veep John Doman believes the piston-powered aircraft market may be stabilizing and could turn around soon to a growth profile, perhaps as early as mid-2011.  
In a related story, Shenyang Aircraft of China, the state-owned manufacturer of the Skycatcher airframe for Cessna, plans to build a new factory to expand its production volume.
An airport will also be built at the site - but original plans for a mid-2010 opening have been delayed to 2011.
Future Skycatchers will still be outfitted and test-flown in Wichita.
* UPDATE on Michael Combs Flight for the Human Spirit odyssey: he's off and flying!  The nasty Salina, KS weather that kept him on the ground for 3 days broke today and he promptly launched.
It would be great if bunches of Light Sport pilots and fans came out to greet Michael when he lands near your town.  His raison d'etre for the trip and schedule of planned stops are posted on the website here.
* And this item just in: Paradise Aircraft will install seatbelt airbags on its popular P-1 model SLSA.  The system is dubbed the AmSafe Seatbelt Airbag system.
The P-1 flies in many countries - 130 have been produced since 2001.
AmSafe's airbag system has already made a big splash - the company says more than 80% of all new single-engine GA airplanes carry it. 
The self-contained system is designed to protect pilot and passenger from serious head injury and "enhance one's ability to exit the aircraft following an otherwise survivable accident."
Deployment is up and away from the wearer - just the opposite of automobile airbags.
Overall weight?  Less than 3 lbs. 
With this setup and a ballistic airframe parachute, you've got the safety angle pretty well covered. 

---photos courtesy Cessna and AmSafe

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Fuel CellTrike Wins At Aero

French hang glider pilot and light sport innovator/entrepreneur GĂ©rard Thevenot has been a visionary all his life.  I’ve profiled him previously re his efforts to create alternative-powered sport aircraft.
He’s been testing electric trikes for Yuneec, the China company that’s developing several commercial sky-breaking electric aircraft designs. 
And last fall he set an electric trike record for sustained power flight of 1 hour 16 min.
Today comes word from Aero 2010 International Exhibition for General Aviation, the big European airshow, that Thevenot has been awarded the 2010 E-Flight Award for his hydrogen fuel cell-powered trike.
His trike is one of three fuel-cell powered aircraft exhibiting at this year’s Aero show.
A fuel cell is a power source that creates enough electricity to drive an electric motor, using, in Thevenot's case, only hydrogen fuel and oxygen
The exhaust components? Heat...and water vapor!
Fuel cells operate at low temperatures too: under 200 degrees F.
And there is no battery or accumulator, just the fuel cell itself.
The 77 lb. wing’s wingspan is 39 feet.  The 7 kW-generating motor weighs just 121 lbs, including the 1.25 gallon hydrogen tank.
Trike (hang glider plus three-wheeled buggy), fuel cell and the single pilot (Thevenot) all weigh less than 285 lbs.   "This allows it to fly,” Thevenot told Aero’s reporters, “powered only by the fuel cell and without the assistance of an auxiliary battery."
Boeing flew a fuel cell powered GA-style aircraft for 20 minutes in 2008.  Thevenot has flown his fuel cell trike more than an hour, including across the English Channel in 2009.
I’ve not been able to find out yet whether that hour represents a full tank’s worth of hydrogen or just what he’stested so far...because in 2006, Thevenot’s fuel cell-powered car won the Shell Eco Marathon with a hydrogen supply corresponding to one quart of gasoline - which went a world record distance of almost 2500 miles!  You read right: that’s mileage equivalent to 10,000 miles per gallon!
"Oh honey, did you remember to fill up the car last January?"
Of course, hydrogen is ridiculously expensive.  This is R&D time, not almost-ready-for-prime time. Likewise, for those who think “Hindenberg!” whenever the word hydrogen pops up - which is all of us, right? - there are many technologies including solid state oxice forms of hydrogen and other fuels being explored, not just hydrogen gas.
Meanwhile, congratulations to Monsieur Thevenot for his vision and execution so far.
Two other ongoing fuel cell-powered electric projects to follow: Hydrogenius, from the University of Stuttgart and Skyspark, which flew a GA-style airplane at 150 knots recently.
While a trike may seem more trivial stunt than practical application in our age of private jets, $500K GA cruisers and $100,000 LSA, that's exactly the point: first, we show the vision, then we figure out how to upscale to the market. 
For a good discussion of this topic as it relates to growing aviation in general, see Chris Finley's excellent discourse here.
This is what pioneer days look like: forward-thinking people doing their thing, and one day we all wake up and the world’s changed
Remember Wozniak and Jobs (Apple Computer, started in a garage 30 years ago), Yuneec (which made its fortune making electric motors and accessories for model airplanes) and...well, the Wright Brothers, who quietly pursued their vision in the winds of Kitty Hawk, while the world went on it’s merry way convinced man would never fly.
SIDE NOTE: A good site to keep track of: The E-Flight Expo, which shows at the Aero Expo and explores alternative power and solutions to the global challenge of internal combustion engines.
isn't this a great time to be alive?

---photos courtesy Aero Expo and Willi Tacke

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Electric Take 2

Alright, I'm succumbing to Electric Fever a bit more today, but a more-thorough reading of that excellent FlightGlobal piece I mentioned in the post below has a lengthy discussion about PC-Aero, a German firm that's coming out with its own line of electric-powered aircraft...including a four-seater for General Aviation.
The brains behind this effort live inside Mr. Calin Gologan, who predicts an all-electric four-seat GA airplane in the next ten years.  
His company is debuting his first prototype, a single-seater electric dubbed Elektra One, at the European Aero show in Friedrichshafen this week.
Apparently the tantalizing prospect of winning the $1.5 million in prize money offered by the CAFE Green Flight Challenge (in 2011) was the kicker to start Gologan down the E-Plane path.
The Electra One will be followed by an Elektra Two (two seats) and Elektra Four (four) down the road.
I don't like to be pushy, but if you're interested in what's going on in electric flight technology, be sure and read the excellent story linked above.  It's well-researched and has some very interesting things to share.
And don't forget to check out the Aero's always a playground where new technology debuts and this year will be no exception.
Meanwhile, enjoy a couple teaser concept drawings of the Elektra One and Elektra Four, courtesy PC-Aero.

Knocking Around The Sky

Dan Johnson's got a good piece today on his Splog (Sport Pilot Blog) about the rise of lower-cost LSA in a struggling economy - good reading and a good place to start for those of you heading to Sun 'n Fun looking for a bargain - and who's not looking for a bargain these days?
* Also comes word that Michael Combs is demonstrating what all pilots know: nothing's suckier than sucky weather.  He's stuck right at the beginning of his epic 50-state tour, meant to symbolize the power and importance of staying in touch with your dreams, in Salina, KS, courtesy bad Spring weather.
Tough luck Michael but we're following your adventure and know you'll be on your way before long.
His quest is called The Flight for the Human Spirit. 
The goal is to fly into all 50 states, making stops in 135 cities and towns across America.  Total mile tally: 19,400 and 40 days.  Wishing you sunlight and tailwinds: Bon Sport Voyage, Michael!
* And for you electrified fans, here's a nice bit on all-electric flight by FlightGlobal

Monday, April 5, 2010

With Three You Get Dutch Roll

Just kidding about the dutch roll, it's a play on an old movie: With Six You Get Egg Roll, about complications that come with a blended family.
But the "three" is legit, and refers to the three LSA training centers operated by Shawn Oaken in Florida. 
Shawn's blended family is called FPNA (FPNA = Float Planes aNd Amphibians) and is worthy of mention as an LSA force in its own right.
FPNA, as the acronym implies, imports, manufactures, sells and teaches in land and water-launched SLSA, (floaty-foot Capetown shown here) and also sells floats, Experimental LSA kits and generally has a good time with used aircraft, weight-shift trikes and powered parachutes.  
 If you're looking to get your land or water wings, don't overlook this outfit: they have three locations - Clearwater, Sebastian and Palm Harbor in addition to the HQ in Sebring. 
One - Clearwater - is even a FAA part 141-certified flight school with SEVIS credentials (allows foreign nationals to train in the U.S.)  Students can go from Light Sport to ATP (Airline Transport Pilot)!  Talk about one-stop shopping.
Check out their website: Shawn's a bright and enterprising guy who's got a lot of ways for you to have fun in the air, whether you launch from the tarmac or use duck feet to get your air.