Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sebring Day Four: Garmin "Supersizes" G3X

Garmin's Tim Casey debuted two spiffy new software packages for owners of the G3X glass cockpit.
The first package brings expanded monitoring of flight functions and engine performance to the unit/s (you can gang in up to three screens on your panel).
Tres cool: the G3X is completely user-customizable, perfect for LSA and experimental owners.
Some of the monitoring functions:
* Manifold pressure
* oil temperature and pressure
* Coolant temperature and pressure
* Fuel pressure
* Up to six CHT inputs
* Up to six EGT inputs
* Carburetor temperature
* Dual voltage inputs
* Fuel flow (single or differential)
* Trim position (three-axis)
* Flap position
* Fuel quantity inputs
Engine sensor kits will work with Lycoming, Continental, Rotax, and Jabiru engines.
The other upgrade brings mode interface, allowing remote control of the G3X to TruTrak autopilots.
Both packages will be available to owners for free download in about two weeks, says Garmin.

Sebring Day Four: High, Wide and Sunny

After five days of hustle and bustle to get the talking, shooting, flying and writing done at Sebring (I'm an Air Force of One), I got a real treat: pal Dave Graham, who's worked tirelessly since the beginning to bring the Gobosh line of LSA to America and get the two lovely low-wing models they represent on the map (Gobosh currently ranks 15th on Dan Johnson's market list), offered me the left seat in a Gobosh 700S so up we went.
We tooled around beneath the broken clouds in the waning yellow-orange afternoon light, chattering away about all things LSA, and life in general -- real smell-the-roses time.
Dave, a native of Ireland, is a well-read, very bright guy who's got a clear pov about all kinds of things and is a tirelessly engaging conversationalist.
He's been a pilot for 20 years and is passionate about aviation, plain and simple.
We flew all over, rolling and darting around the clouds in the rain-washed skies, turning the 700S on a dime over blue lakes, rural towns, warm emerald-green swampland and orange groves for almost an hour -- the perfect way to end the show.
The 700S, as Dave likes to describe it, is indeed "alive": it's responsive, yet stable, gives you great feedback, feels like an airplane should, and is one of those LSA that's always and completely an absolute pleasure to fly. Can't wait to go up again.
Thanks Dave!

Sebring Day Four: O Say, Can You Fly!

Is this a heart-warming story or what? It brings out my deepest love of country - where else but in America could we even be talking about this?
Details: Tampa Bay Online ran a story this morning about a gentleman named Gregory Lawrence (no relation). Greg, 61, was at Sebring and I'm really sorry I didn't meet him because although he's been deaf from childhood, get this: he intends to be the first deaf flight instructor!
The story linked above gives you more details, just wanted to tag this because it inspired me. What a tribute to the spirit and love of aviation, and the freedom America bestows on all of us to dream a dream so magnificent!
I'll be in contacting Greg for a followup story on this: the challenges are daunting, no doubt, but the potential rewards? Indescribably, wonderfully human. Bless you sir and Godspeed!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sebring Day Three: To The Max

Evektor USA's main man Jim Lee took me up for an enjoyable float above the clouds today in the SportStar Max, the top-line evolution of the SportStar which won the first ASTM SLSA designation back at the beginning of the category.
Above the line of scud clouds murking things up below 2500' or so, we cruised around for awhile in smooth air, doing some stalls, playing with the TruTrak EFIS, enjoying the solid, easy handling of the bird, and talking about the simple joy of flying as we gazed down upon the beautiful green earth.
I'll be writing up my review of the Max for an upcoming issue. Meanwhile, more eye candy.
(That's Jim standing by the airplane).
Attendance for the show seemed pretty good today, although no official numbers yet.

Sebring Day Three: Fog, Sun, Wind, Clouds

The day started at 6 with a drive up to the airport in the fog. I sat with Jim Koepnick and friends, waiting for the fog to lift for our 7 a.m. shoot with the PiperSport.
Never happened.
Jim's the long-time head of EAA's photo department: if you've seen some of the zillions of gorgeous photos filling their publications over the last couple decades or so, you've seen his top-notch work.
Jim and EAA editor Mary Jones were gracious enough to offer me a seat in their Cessna 210 photo ship, and we'll try again tomorrow morning.
The sun finally broke out, bringing the wind and puffy scud clouds.
Piper's long-time unsung hero Bart Jones, with whom I've flown countless photo missions over the years (along with P&P's veteran Senior Ed. Bill Cox), took me up for a demo flight in the lovely new PiperSport.
What a treat!
We're running the story in the next issue but here's a couple highlights:
* a delight to fly
* beautifully appointed inside and out
* lands like a dream.
* Excellent toe-brake pedal plates make castering nosewheel system easily controllable.
* Hops off the ground and lands at very low speeds.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Sebring Day Three:

Scott Severen of Indus Aviation took me through a bunch of upgrades to its T211 Thorpedo -- the first U.S. SLSA to earn ASTM certification.
Among the numerous enhancements include:
* curved glare shield
* numerous instrument panel changes including a stall warning light and horn
* digital compass
* GA-style circuit breakers
* cabin heater
that "actually works!" says Scott.
* removed side panels to give more effective cockpit room

A locking canopy has been added, as well as lumbar-contoured seats which have 3" more supine inclination, a contoured stick with a palm rest and adjustable headrests. I sat in the Thorpedo and found it very comfortable.
The IFR-equipped (for training) Thorpedo is meant as a flight school airplane.
Dang nice paint job too!

Sebring Day Three: Sportster Nears Market

Anyone familiar with the Jess Anglin Spacewalker homebuilt from the 1980s will see its genetic pedigree in the new low-wing Sporster that's been a kit airplane for some time and is undergoing ASTM development, to be offered before long as an SLSA.
For now (I need some sleep) here some eye candy to whet your appetite.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Sebring Day Two: Tecnam Throws Down The Gauntlet

61-year-old Italian aircraft manufacturer Tecnam has a whole fleet of LSA and general category aircraft at the show, serving notice they're here to stay.
At a reception tonight, U.S. Distributor Heart of Virginia and the Tecnam executive team, lead by CEO Phil Solomon, made a bold prediction: they intend the company to be the top-selling LSA maker by 2014.
Everybody was drooling over the P2008 LSA so I asked Phil to educate me on the gorgeous high winger.
"It blends a metal wing and Tecnam's traditional expertise in building metal aircraft with a composite fuselage. The idea was to make the best possible plane they could along with the strength and lightness of carbon fiber. It's also clear that people are getting larger around the world, so there's definitely a premium on a wider aircraft. People wanted more luggage space too, and more luxury."
"That's really what Tecnam is trying to address with the P2008: a top-of-the-range, ultimate LSA. The principal market we're addressing is those who've maybe stepped down from a Bonanza or similar, and are simply looking for the best, and willing to pay for it."
Price point with the "preferred package" is "just under $170,000". That includes all the equipment you'll ever need: Advanced flight Systems twin glass panel, autopilot with altitude hold, XM weather, backup GPS, and more. The idea being there isn't a lot else an owner is going to want."
Call it the Mercedes of LSA. Congratulations are in order: for a stunning airplane, and for its first sale, made here at the show. First deliveries are expected in April or May."

Sebring Day Two: Breezer Notches Sale

Breezer dealer Mike Zidzunias had a double-good day.
First, a potential buyer he'd been working with whipped out a blank check and said, "How much do I fill it in for?"
Congratulations Mike!
He also announced the German company has named him sole U.S. Distributor for the Breezer II, which he'll take over from Sportsplanes.com. He'll do business as Breezer Aircraft U.S.A.
Owner Dirk Ketelsen and marketing rep Wolfgang Nitschmann joined the celebration and lauded Mike's deep background in LSA engine repair and maintenance, flight training, and assembly/final test flying of imported aircraft.

Sebring Day Two: Flight Design Update

I was lucky enough to get Matthias Betsch, Flight Design's CEO, all to myself for a few minutes and here's what he had to say:
* General update: "A hard year but better than we expected. In the last two to three months, we've had quite a pickup. Here in the States dealers sold their stock so they have to buy more airplanes...they have to buy more so I think that is good!"
* The year ahead: "I don't think we'll get back to 2007-2008 this year, but I do think it will be a 30% recovery. The rest we will do in 2011."
* On the new Flight Design MC: "It's a different character. The LS is more sporty, speedy, responsive. The airplane feels much heavier than it is. That's what we wanted: an airplane for flight schools which is very forgiving, easy to land, to fly. It's also ideal for older pilots who are used to very stable airplanes."
* MC vs. LS sales: "I still think the CT will be 2/3 of the business, and the MC 1/3. It's primarily a trainer. But if you learn on the MC, why not buy one? It's not as agile as a CTLS, and easier to fly, and very roomy inside". (52" wide cabin)
* Re adding metal fabrication to composite expertise: "We imported the composite technology to the Ukraine for the CT when we set up the factory. But the Ukraine was traditionally very good at building metal airplanes. We also sent Denny Franklin to help set up tooling and develop ideas for building. For instance, the metal sheet thickness for big Antonov airplanes is much greater than for LSA!"
* Realistic all-up weight: "It's an honest 825 lbs. with all the equipment on it, so the rest is pure payload. Also it's not a fancy airplane you're afraid to put your hands on. It's very solid. It's a workhorse also."
* Production rate: "Now that the design is done, and we've begun marketing, we hope to be producing 4 to 6 per month by the end of the year. We didn't want to create demand we couldn't meet."
* When will the first ones arrive in the U.S.? "Flight Design USA should have one in the next two weeks."
* Response after demo flights: "We were surprised by how much people like it. We didn't try to sell them on the MC, we just asked them 'What did you find, what did you like or not like: we wanted them to be completely honest. And we heard good things."
* In Europe: "We are working on the type certificate by late summer for the CTLS. We don't have an LSA-type category yet. Also, we sold the same number of airplanes in 2009 in Europe as in 2008! There is no reason we could see, so we just accept it!"
* What's new with the CTLS? "A new interior, with two-tone painting. And the Dynon SkyView or Garmin G3X panel for those transitioning beyond LSA training to GA airplanes with Garmin panels."

Sebring Day Two: Dynon SkyView

Friday attendance seemed lighter than last year. Blame Thunderstorm Morning! One downpour sent sheets of water an inch deep flowing across the exhibition tarmac.
But nothing dampens sky-bound enthusiasts for long -- before long, we drowned rats re-emerged and started aviating as the skies slowly cleared and sunlight finally popped out around 4 pm.
Highlights of my day:
* Robert Hamilton of Dynon Avionics took me through a quick tour of the new Skyview System avionics platform. Very impressive.
Their number one seller: the FlightDEK-D180, closely followed by the original EFIS-D10A, which fits into 3 1/8" hole -- ideal for retrofitting a steam-gauge panel for a complete flight system or to backup a big-panel EFIS system.
Safety feature: The D-10A has a 1-hour battery life. Even if you lose all electrical power in flight, you can have instruments for landing.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Sebring: Day One Postscript

A gusty, blustery day at Sebring Airport. Warm, humid, winds pushing 20 or more all day, didn't dampen the spirits of pilots, who flew all day.

Light Aircraft Manufacturer's Association (LAMA), led by Pres. Dan Johnson, had its annual manufacturer's and distributor's dinner on the field, including what Dan promised would be "no long and boring" speeches by industry notables, which included EAA's Earl Lawrence, Flight Design's Tom Peghiny with a rousing, unforgettable call to submit nominees for the Larry Burke Award for distinguished contribution to the movement, Sebring Expo organizer Robt. Wood, NTSB accident investigator Gregg Ferguson and others.
As some wag with a couple beers under his flight suit put it, "Yeah, no short boring speechs either Dan!" A good time was had by all.

More notes gleaned from my recorder before I sack out, with visions of flying the PiperSport tomorrow morning dancing through my dreams:

PiperSport owners will be supported by:
  • a five year warranty;
  • a broad dealer network, made up of some current Piper and SportCruiser dealers and perhaps some new
  • parts worldwide through a broad distribution network (Aviall);
  • Piper personnel spent a lot of time in the Czech Republic studying Czech Sport Aircraft's (CSA) manufacturing techniques before they made the decision
  • CEO Kevin Gould stated Piper feels the economic downslide is flattening; that there have been a lot of people sitting on the sidelines who were waiting for something like this to get them to "jump into the pool"; sure hope he's right.
  • Piper will only offer SLSA. CSA may still produce kits on its own but Piper owns the licensing for SLSA exclusively
The sporty, solid German-made Breezer now numbers 100 worldwide. Mike Zidzunias has changed the name of his Mike Z Aviation LSA sales and service repair station to Island Bird Flying Service. He'll have some important announcements for me later in the show about the Breezer too.

Enter the PiperSport!

Piper Aircraft's Prez/CEO Kevin J. Gould made it official today at Sebring: the company has entered into a new, worldwide-exclusive distributor licensing agreement with Czech Sport Aircraft that will bring the SportCruiser to market - by April! - under the new name PiperSport.
As I reported yesterday, Piper did not buy into the company as had been rumored.
Piper representatives told me there will be some changes to the aircraft, such as refining control harmonies, to optimize its conformability to Piper's long heritage of entry-level airplanes.
But by and large, this is still the SportCruiser, which is a fine, Euro-proven design that is not only an excellent training airplane but most definitely a lot of fun to fly, and a dream to land.
CEO Gould and other Piper personnel addressed a gathering of public and media to make the important announcement.
Gould began his remarks by evoking the original Piper Cub, what he described as "one of the original 'LSA' aircraft of its time."
"Piper is entering what is undeniably one of the most exciting market segments in general aviation," he continued. "This burgeoning segment is becoming vital to our industry and playing an ever-increasing role in developing general aviation's next generation of pilots."
"The PiperSport is an amazing entry-level aircraft that will bring new customers into Piper and lead the way...into more sophisticated and higher performance aircraft within our line over time."
Some highlights of the deal, and the airplane:
  • three models are on sale as of today: The basic PiperSport ($119,000), PiperSport LT (primary trainer at $129,000), and PiperSport LTD (professional model, $139,000).
  • first deliveries are promised by April of this year!
  • parts for existing SportCruisers will still be available.
  • parts for PiperSport will be available through supplier Aviall, Piper's partner.
The interior's new leather seats are gorgeous.
Piper did not signal any intention to put a heavier "GA" engine into the PiperSport, as Cessna has done with the SkyCatcher, choosing to stay with the Rotax 912, 100hp engine.
One thing I was happy to hear: a BRS airframe recovery parachute system is standard equipment on every airplane.
Other aircraft features:
  • 1,200 fpm climb rate
  • cruise of 115 Kts
  • 600 lbs. useful load
  • premium auto "mogas" (unleaded fuel) or 100LL avgas
  • aircraft has metal, not plastic, fuel lines: impervious to ethanol in mogas, which can eat away at plastic
  • 30-gallon fuel capacity, 144 lbs. total baggage (cabin and wing locker storage)
  • range: 600 nm
The basic PiperSport model comes with:
Just in case you missed the link above, here's the page, which just popped up on the website at the same time as the announcement in Sebring.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sebring Set-up Highlights

Roaming the grounds as many exhibitors are setting up.
  • Cessna is here with the Skycatcher and a C-172.
  • Vans brought its RV-12 E-LSA (The company is looking seriously into producing the 12 as an SLSA.
  • I flew Flight Design's MC all-metal trainer tonight at sunset. Loved it!
More on these stories to come.

But the big news is Cessna's generations-long rival, Piper Aircraft, which has a large display area out on a prominent the grass next to the ramp.
  • In exactly 12 hours, Piper will confirm the rumor - what a spokesman for the company jokingly referred to as "The worst-kept secret in aviation!" - of its entry into the Light Sport movement.
The airplane they've chosen: the beautiful, popular Czech Sport Aircraft SportCruiser.
At the press conference, we'll find out just what Piper's involvement and vision is, and I'll report it here.
Meanwhile, everyone I spoke with about it today: distributors, manufacturers and pilots, all believe that Piper's entry into LSA can only be beneficial for the movement.
Tom Peghiny of Flight Design USA: "It's a vote of confidence for the ASTM standard and a shot in the arm for LSA in general."
Pete Krotje of Jabiru USA: "I believe Piper will have to modify it significantly, and they may go to a Continental engine which more fits the historical Piper way of doing things
LSA Sky Cred: moving up the charts.
---photo courtesy Czech Sport Aircraft

Sebring Starts Tomorrow

I'm down at Sebring, Florida, waiting for the LSA Expo to begin tomorrow, and the weather is smiling: it's lots warmer than the crop-freezing temps of a week or so ago.
Out at the field, many exhibitors are setting up as I write this, hoping to start the year off right by scooping their share of the buzz and making some sales and strong leads. It's been a tough year for almost everybody.
I know of at least one big announcement on Thursday. I'm sworn to secrecy until then so let's just say it should have a strong and positive effect on the entire LSA industry.
Meanwhile, AvWeb reports this morning that deliveries of the Cessna SkyCatcher will be delayed half a year or more, due to design changes after two spin accidents during the exhaustive flight test program.
Discouraging no doubt to the 1,000 eager ticket holders who've bought delivery positions, but Cessna states its intention that SkyCatchers, like all its other models, stick around in service for a long, long time. Can't argue with that kind of integrity.
The first production model, owned by CEO Jack Pelton's wife Rose, will be on display at the show.

Monday, January 18, 2010

E430 Electric Design Award Finalist

One of my favorite designs of 2009 for sheer mouth-watering beauty was the Yuneec E430 Electric two-seat LSA.
Now, Brit Insurance Designs of the Year, based at its internationally-renowned Design Museum in London, has given LSA recognition a fresh charge by nominating the design for its top award.
The org looks worldwide for "the most innovative, interesting and forward-looking new work in design".
It's hard not to argue the E430 is one of the most graceful pieces of winged eye-candy to come along in many years.
The exhibition presents around 100 projects, nominated by a group of
internationally respected design experts, curators, critics, practitioners and enthusiasts.
The nominated designs fall into seven categories - architecture, fashion, furniture, graphics, interactive, product and transport.
A winner for each category will be selected by an international jury and one overall winner will be awarded the Brit Insurance Design of the Year 2010 at an awards dinner in March.
Go Yuneec!
---photo courtesy Yuneec International
Tom Peghiny's Flight Designs USA keeps trucking down the infrastructure superhighway by adding another four flight schools to its stable of Flight Design Pilot Centers (FDPC).
The network now numbers 21. The company maintains its lead in sales even though, as Dan Johnson reports in his latest Market Shares Report, 2009 was not a great year for aviation sales in general, even though LSA sales were slightly better than GA's.
The new training centers are:
Flight Design's comprehensive approach all along has included growing the network of training sites and stocking them with new CTLS (and soon, the all-metal MC - I'm scheduled to fly one at Sebring this week).
Training for Sport Pilot and beyond is a natural for the designs: they bring the full potential of LSA functionality to recreational pilots with full glass cockpits, standard BRS airframe parachutes, three-axis trim, electric flaps and very roomy cockpits. (almost a foot wider than a C-172, and I can tell you from many hours personal experience that extra room is very much appreciated during both training and cruising missions.)
---photo courtesy Flight Designs

Friday, January 15, 2010

Sebring LSA Expo Next Week!

Anybody who's got an LSA bee in their bonnet knows that "Sebring", like Sun 'n Fun and Oshkosh, has become synonymous with Light Sport aviation's very own special show.
Sebring: home of the famous endurance car race. Sebring: the first big aviation show of the year, and it's all LSA! I can't wait!
LSA doyen Dan Johnson has a great laundry list of highlights on his LSA website so I'll briefly reprise and add a couple tidbits of my own.

First off, it's the sixth year for the show, officially dubbed Sebring U.S. Sport Aviation Expo. Last year was an attendance record-setter. This year who can say with the economy? But Sebring should be notable for some key developments in the exciting expansion of the Sport Pilot/Light Sport phenomenon that's revitalizing GA almost singlehandedly.
First, who's coming?
Lots of major players, and none is generating more buzz than Piper Aircraft.
The Big Question: Will Piper announce an LSA program, (SportCruiser or another?)
More highlights:
And in the avionics dept.:
And I just heard from SportairUSA's Bill Canino who tells me that, alas, the new TL-3000 won't be at Sebring as they're selling too well in Europe -- they can't spare any!
That's the kind of problem the whole industry needs.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

New 2-Stroke Oil From Shell

Just got off the horn with Phil Lockwood of Lockwood Aviation today about Shell's announcement, which kicks off at the Sebring LSA Expo next week, about its newest lubricant, AeroShell Oil Sport PLUS 2.
Phil is the go-to guy for anything Rotax. He built his company from scratch into the Mecca for engines, parts, service, maintenance, training and a lot more. He also produces the AirCam and Drifter sport aircraft, sells LSA and I could go on for pages. Super guy too.
Anyway, here's Phil's take on this new 2-stroke engine oil:
"It's actually a big deal for people who use 2-strokes -- that's about 10,000 aircraft. We used Pennzoil, (now owned by Shell), before that, but the formulation constantly changed due to chemicals in it becoming unavailable."
One problem was severe carbon packing around high performance rings, requiring regular decarbonizing.
"When Pennzoil came up with a formula in the '90s that allowed us to go to TBO without decarbonizing, that was a big deal. But that formula eventually wasn't producible either."
Recently, Shell came to Lockwood to test the new formulation -- PLUS 2 -- on five new Rotax 582 engines.
"We ran them for 300 hours, picked the best one, did a 50 hour flight-test, tore down the engines and signed off on the formula."
"Shell told us they'd guarantee it will be a constant formula from now on."
That's real good news for all those Kitfoxes, Quicksilvers, Drifters and other ultralight and experimental planes that run Rotax two-strokes such as the 447, 503, 582 engines and discontinued models (parts still available) 277, 377, 532 and 618.
Phil signed off with an eye toward a resurgent ultralight market.
"We all started with ultralights in the late '70s and early '80s and saw them evolve into LSA, and the ultralight market disappeared."
"Now, prices of many LSA are out of reach to a whole new generation of would-be pilots who would love ultralights, but don't know much about them."
"I can see a return to ultralights, including electric-powered models like the E-Spyder. Think about it: No video game or outdoor sports vehicle comes close to giving the pleasure of flying through the air."
---Photos courtesy Kitfox Aircraft and Flightstar Sportplanes

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Piper To Jump Into LSA?

My tin can and string spyphone is vibrating with news that the quiet little rumor circulating for months is about to become reality: Piper Aircraft appears to have inked a deal with Czech Sport Aircraft (CSA), which successfully took control of the former Czech Aircraft Works, and will import and distribute the beautiful SportCruiser SLSA to the American market!
This on the heels of Piper's thorough hands--on evaluation of the airplane last summer.
If it pans out, this is huge news, not only for Piper, which gives it a matching ace in the hole to Cessna's C-162 SkyCatcher, just now hitting the market, but also for Sport Pilots who have anxiously waited to see how the bitter SportCruiser flap would finally settle out.
Briefly, there was a power struggle, CSA won out, but lately there have been more innuendos of slack maintenance issues around landing gear wearing out and other complaints from SportCruiser owners.
With Piper's imprimatur backing the U.S. play, those worries should vanish.
Word is the venerable U.S. manufacturer ponied up $30 Mil for 49% of CSA. The merger would make it the largest light aircraft maker in the world.
The story was reportedly picked up by European news sources today, although I haven't yet to dig up verifying links. Stay tuned.
But this piece from Flight International names sources saying the deal is done and details may be released by Piper at the Sebring U.S. Sport Aviation Expo next week -- or sooner!.
Meanwhile, the piece serves up some tasty commentary on the shift in vision at Piper after the departure of CEO Jim Bass last year. It's a good read, have at it.
I'll be flying a SportCruiser locally on Thursday, frigid weather permitting, for dead tree Plane and Pilot and will update with the Piper news both here from the field and for the article, as it comes.
Let's hope Piper's picked the right LSA company to get in bed with.
Sweet dreams!

Monday, January 11, 2010

LAMA: FAA Survey Does Not An FAA Endorsement Make

LAMA President Dan Johnson released the manufacturer organization's first newsletter of 2010 with some interesting news. There's lots in there: I'll endeavor to summarize:
In the beginning, there was FAA, and FAA created Light Sport, and saw that it was good.
And FAA decided it could rest, but first it said, "We shall smile down and only monitoreth thee...so long as thou provideth third-party oversight."
"Forsooth, thou shalt police thine own act to maintain compliance with The Rule, lest fedgov lightning bolts shall rain down in the form of aggressive compliance auditing and other regulatory interferences."
To forestall FAA's wrath, third-party oversight is offered by LAMA through extensive audits of LSA company procedures and documentation.
An initial LAMA audit costs roughly $7,000. Several - but not nearly all - manufacturers have signed up for LAMA audits.
Evektor, European producer of the SportStar, was the first company to successfully complete a LAMA audit.
Meanwhile, FAA conducted a spot survey of 30 manufacturers and importers, (U.S. only). Purpose? To provide a snapshot of industry compliance. Result? Not bad...but the industry needs to do better...much better.
The LAMA newsletter summarizes FAA's survey report, as analyzed by FAA Evaluations and Special Projects Manager Brian Cable, who notes: "SLSA manufacturers and importers are trying hard to follow requirements...but many companies are falling short."
Relax, Chicken Littles. Light sport flivvers will not fall from the sky. Cable says much of the discrepancies have to do with paperwork. Specifically, incomplete or improperly done paperwork.
Some details:
In general, Cable highlights shortcomings in airworthiness documentation, maintenance procedures and documentation, assembly procedures and documentation, and compliance with design standards.
One key observation: although LAMA audits are intended to help members resolve problems before they become issues for the FAA, it appears companies were under the impression that they had done well on the (FAA) survey—which didn't cost anything - and therefore wouldn't need an independent audit.
Not true. The one-day survey by design could only hit the highlights. Yet, although 22 LAMA members signed up for audits before the survey, most subsequently declined to follow through.
Wrong conclusion.
LAMA's caveat: a reasonably good survey result does not an FAA endorsement make.
LAMA enjoins manufacturers not to cavort too long before the golden idol (shirking audits to save money) lest fire and brimstone (mandatory -and vastly more expensive - oversight by the almighty FAA itself) descend down upon the land.
Okay, I know this is a lot of dry stuff, but here's what to take from this: the LSA experiment is meant to find out whether aviation can keep its own sandbox clean. It's not guaranteed to go on forever, especially if airplanes do start falling out of the sky for lack of proper compliance with the rule.
So when you see that LAMA sticker on the LSA you're thinking of flying or buying, think "Good Housekeeping Seal": it means that manufacturer is doing everything it can to make sure you fly safe, legal, and with minimal government intrusion.
Ask your LSA sales rep if his/her company plans on getting an LAMA audit. If the answer comes back "No", ask why not. If you don't like the answer, consider looking elsewhere.

Friday, January 8, 2010

ELSA Trainer Owners - 1/31 Deadline!

Jan 31 (about 3 weeks away) is an important date for anybody who owns an E-LSA aircraft that's used for training, whether or not they actually use it for training operations.
If owners don't apply for the amended certificate by the 1/31/2010 deadline, their current airworthiness certificate will expire, and another will not be issued!
Kinda serious stuff.
Not sure your ELSA falls under this category? Check your airworthiness certificate. On the right side under the serial number and model is the word "expiry". If the box has "unlimited" in it, you're golden. But if it has the date "January 31, 2010", it was originally given the operating limitations for flight training, and you must renew it!
The fedgov rationale in play here: you cannot amend a certificate if it's expired. After Jan. 31, you're toast.
Quick background: Apparently the ruleworks involved in permitting flight training in ELSA to continue in general is bogged down at FAA. But ELSA owners who think that will allow them to coast, beware: you won't have a legal airplane if you procrastinate past Jan. 31.
After the deadline, only SLSA and certificated GA planes will be allowed to conduct training, unless the FAA does ultimately craft training provisions into the ELSA category.
Note: this does not mean people who own Experimental or ELSA aircraft can't be trained - but it must be in their own airplanes. The caveat is only about the for hire use of those types of aircraft. Savvy?
The deadline is part of the transition process that has been systematically moving ultralights and their pilots under the Sport Pilot umbrella since the rule became law in 2004. It affects for example aircraft like the Experimental Light Sport Quicksilver Sport 2s, an evolution of the original Quick ultralight.
Contact your local FSDO (Flight Standards District Office) if you have any doubt about your ELSA.
Thanks to Carol at Rainbow Aviation, an ultralight-style LSA dealer/school in Corning, CA.

---photos courtesy Rainbow Aviation

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

In A Sling - And Happy!

The more I look into the story about those two wild and crazy South African dudes (post below) who flew around the world in the LSA of their own design and manufacture, the more interesting it gets.
Just heard back from James Pitman who offered this:
"We're just getting into production at this instant here in SA and will deliver the first 20 planes to local buyers. We absolutely intend to be in the US thereafter - hopefully commencing in the second half of this year. We have an established close friendship with Matt Liknaitsky, who is the distributor for MGL Instruments in the States, and we'll be getting help and advice from him on how to best serve the US market...Thanks for the good wishes for the year - we've got a hang of a lot of work ahead of us, but we're excited about the prospects and are having a good time, both working and flying."
Can't do much better than that, eh?
A few more details about Sling 002's globe-circling flight, which are available in depth on this page:
* The standard inner leading edge tanks (19.8 gal. each on the production version) were augmented by outer leading edge and behind-spar tanks, to increase capacity for the trip to 118.9 gal.
that gave a 24-hour endurance per fillup!
* 15 extra layers of fiberglass were used to beef up the main gear for the extra weight
* seats were modified to lie flat (kids, don't try this at home)
* powerplant was a 912 ULS Rotax (100hp)
* two MGL Avionics Voyager MFDs made up the ‘glass cockpit’
* other instruments
Now the only question is, what's next for these guys...a flight to Mars?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Around The World In 40 LSA Days

Last July I ran an item here on the grand LSA adventure of two South Afrikaaners, James Pitman and Mike Blyth, who set out to fly around the world - in an LSA!
Happy to report the boys finished the epic flight, all 45,150 km (27,090 miles) with a stop at EAA Airventure 2009 to boot - in 40 days!
One memorable highlight: two friends of the pilots greeted the return landing in Full Monty mode: they waved large So. African flags, wearing boots...and nothing else! (ck out those merry buffsters at left).
The story was just carried on the official Johannesburg, S.A. website, written by Makoena Pabale.
Anybody who doubts the durability and utility of LSA, take note: the chariot of choice was the Sling, built by The Airplane Factory right in Joburg.
BTW: the company is their own startup, and the Sling is their first design. Now that's confidence for you.
The attractive metal low-winger can be built from a kit or bought ready-to-fly. It's not certified for the U.S. - yet - but does conform to ASTM standards with a 1320 lb. max weight and a clean stall of 44 kts. It's also powered by the ubiquitous Rotax engine (two 912 models and the 914).
James Pitman is quoted in the story as saying, "The experience was just amazing."
The westward odyssey included stops in Hawaii, Brazil, New Guinea and 10 other countries.
One thing that stood out to me (until I did the math): the story reports the dynamic duo reached Oshkosh in just 10 days and five stops from South Africa, then went on to complete the circumnavigation in only nine more stops!
These boys either have sturdy bladders or kit-built relief tubes.
Meanwhile, the math: that's an impossible range per tankful, almost 2000 miles...naw, can't be right - company specs call for 800 nm. Well, author Pabale, nobody's perfect.
UPDATE! My bad. Although not mentioned in the story, Mssrs. Pitman and Blyth outfitted the Sling with 118 gallons of onboard fuel for the flight only. The potential 1900 mi-plus legs was indeed accurate. Which takes me back to the bladder question!
Meanwhile...Well done, lads!
---photos courtesy The Airplane Factory