Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Is IFR legal in LSA...or NOT?

We've all seen the ads:  "Full IFR-Equipped LSA!"
A few top-line models offer such instrument packages, such as Flight Design CTLS, Evektor MAX, Tecnam's P2008.
But is an LSA legal to fly IFR?
Quick tell: Yes -- when flown by an appropriately rated pilot.
We already know that a Sport Pilot license holder can only fly in day VFR up to 10,000 feet.  This discussion is about the airplane.
As pal Dan Johnson, who just took up this issue on his own blog, notes, ASTM's F37 committee has worked hard to create an IFR standard, but unsuccessfully so far. The committee did add a line to the latest Design and Performance (D&P) Standard (yet to be adopted) that prohibits S-LSA flight into Instrument meteorological conditions (IMC).
This does not however prevent a rated IFR pilot with a current medical from flying a currently registered SLSA into IMC, and of course let's also assume the airplane is rigged with the appropriate Full Monty: IFR instrumentation, lighting and powerplant.
That last item gives LSA watchers some pause, since most Rotax and Jabiru engine models, which power the vast majority of S-LSA, are not certified for IFR flight.  Only an FAA-certified powerplant is legal.
(Note: Rotax does indeed have certified versions such as the 912F and 912S, certified to Part 33 and used on Diamond aircraft, which are IFR legal.)
The same criteria hold for night flight: it's legal, as long as the pilot is rated and the airplane is properly equipped such as with landing lights.
Just to say it one more time: a Sport Pilot-only licensee cannot legally fly at night or into IMC.
As Dan notes, once FAA accepts the latest D&P Standard, LSA makers will be able to outfit LSA with instruments as specified in FAA regs that will allow qualified pilots to file and fly IFR...but only into VMC (Visual Meteorological Conditions). 
Ironically, many (if not all) FAA folks, sez Dan, are supporters of allowing LSA for IFR training including into IMC, which is currently verboten. 
But to sum up, the bottom line remains: all currently registered S-LSA and those that are registered before the new D&P Standard is finally approved by FAA can legally operate in IMC flight - but only if they have the proper equipment and a suitably rated pilot at the controls.
And here's yet another distinction: IFR training on LSA is also legal in the IFR airspace system - but only into VMC. Only an aircraft type-rated for IFR training in IMC can legally do so.
Head buzzing yet?  Mine is. 
This topic surfaces consistently on various pilot forums online. 
One poster recently suggested that potential IFR-equipped LSA buyers make sure they talk it all over thoroughly with the manufacturer/dealer first, to ensure everything stays kosher.
Of course, since we pilots, especially when we post on the internet, are deliberative beasts who love to parse a topic until its magnetos fry, the idea has been put forth that pitot heat should be required on any hypothetical IFR LSA, and composite versions shout have a metal mesh impregnated into the airframe to handle lightning strikes, such as on a Columbia 350.  Others, of course, disagree.
And at this point, my brain cries "Enuf!" and defers this fine topic for another day, in the interests of preserving what little cognitive power I have left for my J3 flight later this afternoon (before dark, natch).

Friday, August 27, 2010


Knocking around the net looking for signs that Light Sport is alive and well...
<>Michael Combs is nearing the end of his 19,000 mile odyssey - what a vision.  Latest word from PR dude Dave Gustafson is that the Flight for the Human Spirit in a Remos GX has made it to my old west coast stompin' grounds.  Five jewels of the left coast - San Diego, Burbank, San Luis Obispo, Monterey and San Jose - were on the itinerary for one magical flight day over one of the most beautiful stretches of coastal landscape in the world.  God speed Michael, 18,000 miles and 45 states and you're nearly done.
Imagine the human experience he's having, flying all summer, meeting all the great people he's met. I'm jealous, I admit it.
BTW, pilots are encouraged to fly along for any portion of Michael's Flight.  
<> Slow recovery?  Double-dip recession?  Not as far as Skyraider Aviation is concerned.  This hustling sport pilot flying club and training center is plenty active at Denver's busy Centennial Airport as well as at it's Erie Municipal location nearby.  A new PiperSport just joined the training and rental fleet - that's bound to perk anybody up - to share duties with two Gobosh 700s, an Evektor SportStar and a Remos G-3.
The outfit has operated for four years and claims to be the first in Colorado to offer specific Sport Pilot training.
<> Loosely Connected To Light Sport Dept., Another of those weird and wonderful experimental alternative-powered aircraft just made its maiden flight.
AeroVironment, the braintrust company begun by the late Dr. Paul MacCready, who gave us the Gossamer Albatross, first successful human-powered aircraft, back in the '70s, has begun flight test on Global Observer,an unmanned hybrid-electric surveillance prototype that will eventually be powered by a liquid hydrogen fuel system.
It launched from California's famed Edwards Air Force Base and flew for an hour at 4,000, controlled from a ground LRE (Launch and Recovery Element, officialese for a flight sim-like control booth) with a retired Air Force light colonel at the controls.  Can you say "X-Box"?
Here's an in interesting image phrase the company uses: "The future is unmanned".  Indeed, it's pioneering all kinds of hand-launched small electric-powered surveillance aircraft for the military (can mini flying grenades  be far behind?)
Global Observer will ultimately fly between 55,000 and 65,000 feet for up to a week at a time for disaster relief, reconnaissance and surveillance.  Expect some sophisticated tech fallout that will in time trickle down to general aviation from projects like this.
<> Not to be outdone by the West, a local news organ in the Greenville, South Carolina area reports that Spartanburg's downtown aircraft have discovered Light Sport aircraft and anticipate it will "fuel growth" at the airport.  The report compares the initial purchase price and operating costs between LSA and GA aircraft.
Although it was a bit wide-eyed in its example of an LSA that will fly at 120 knots for 9 hours straight, the story clearly gets the advantage the public is beginning to perceive from our piece of the personal flight pie, and that's a good thing.
<> Finishing up back on the west coast comes a news story, this time from Yakima, WA, that profiles a retired LSA pilot who flies his Challenger II from nearby Prosser Airport.  The article accurately chronicles the inception of the Sport Pilot rule and claims Light Sport training is the biggest student draw at the airport -- a "miniature boom in activity" - an increase of 50% in operations since 2007.
In this economy, it's good to see the word is getting out and people remember that instead of moping around,  there are still plenty of affordable ways to get out and enjoy life - like flying an LSA!
     --- photos courtesy  Skyraider Aviation, AeroVironment and Quad City Challenger

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Big Fall Show Looms

Oshkosh is over but wait!  There's more!
One of the surprise hits last year was Chris Collins's Midwest LSA Expo.  Held at Mount Vernon Outland Airport (MVN) in Illinois, the new show attracted 42 airplanes and 30 exhibitors and what was reported far and wide as a focused and motivated LSA crowd.
Many sales were closed in the months following the 2009 gathering.  One main factor was the psychological continuity Midwest provided after Sebring (Jan.), Sun 'n Fun (Apr.) and Oshkosh (July/Aug).  By postponing the "end of summer" flying mindset into early Fall, normally an aviation wind-down time for pilots who live in the less temperate parts of the country, potential customers got one more opportunity to refine their buying decision process.
The Midwest LSA Expo will run a week earlier this year: from Sept. 23-25. Mark your digital calendars!
Attendance should be strong: there's a huge population base in the midwestern market that stretches from Chicago to New Orleans, Denver to Charlotte.
Chris Collins hopes to grow the event and does everything to make it as enjoyable an experience as possible, including shuttles to local restaurants and lodging from the airport.
So far, more than 35 vendors are scheduled to show up and they're bringing many of the most popular LSA.
Scroll down on the home page for the current list and you'll see that quite a few of the biggest players and several others you've wanted to see up close will be there.
I'll be there too to get in some flying and flight reporting that proved to be impossible in the crush of Oshkosh.
If you're flying in, here are some particulars:
<> 6500’ x 150’ main runway
<> five precision approaches including ILS
<> 9.25  acres of concrete ramp space
<> Class “E” airspace
<> ARFF (Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting) Index A for those of you familiar with this safety index.
<> Aircraft exhibitor spaces will be right out on the main ramp to make lots of demo flights easy...that's important when you're out there kicking tires.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Watch this video.  Open your mind.  Put yourself in this cockpit.  Imagine it happening to you.  Think of the people you love and who love you.
Dan Johnson posted this yesterday on his blog (my writing home away from home) with some tasty comments based on his years at BRS parachutes, so I'll direct you there for his in-depth overview.
My purpose in posting here is more personal.  I want you to fly safely your entire, long life.
But any pilot -- and you know who you are -- who has so far convinced him/herself that an airframe parachute shouldn't be an essential component of any aircraft, please watch this video.
Then try to make a rational argument afterwards against recreational aircraft carrying onboard chutes.
Yes, the pilot is engaging in high-stress aerobatics, which the vast majority of us will never do.  And yes, you can make an argument that carrying a chute increases your likelihood of taking more chances in the air because you feel you always have a backup.
But do you drive more recklessly because you buckle up in your car?  Most of us don't.  I think this is not a strong argument against having one when you might need one...because if you don't have one, you'll never need one again.  That much we can say with certainty, as would the young pilot in this video.
Finally, who can say with certainty that nothing catastrophic will ever happen to us in flight?  Nobody.  Absolutely nobody.
I bet you know somebody who would be alive today if they'd had an airframe chute on board.  I can think of several over the years...friends and colleagues I miss, some a great deal.  I think sometimes about how their families must miss them still.  We never forget the people we love.

BRS Aerospace keeps stats on their saves.  The tally is now 253 people who are still alive because of this technology, including the young man here who walked away unhurt after losing an entire wing just 700 feet above ground.
If you want to cut to the chase, fast forward 1:50 into the video to see the breakup itself, and watch the rest for a slow-motion replay.
Here's what's remarkable to me:
<> How fast the pilot deployed the chute...and still the main lanyard connected to the chute seems to have wrapped around the fuselage at least once, which is why I think it descended -- very slowly as you'll notice -- in a nose-down attitude.
<> How quickly the chute deployed even with the high-speed rotation around the roll axis
<> How the pilot was completely unscathed, though as Dan reports the airplane caught fire after "landing" and burned up (more pix on his site).
I'm going to beat this drum until the drum breaks, then I'll get another one, because airplanes are mechanical devices.  Something, in time, will fail.  You can count on that.  We don't need to fly in fear, but we shouldn't kid ourselves either.  Why not be as safe as we possibly can?
The other day I pulled into a rest stop on the interstate, opened the door, and watched as a tide of oil ran out of my engine onto the asphalt.  I called it Mini-Gulf of Mexico because five quarts makes quite a flood.
Four hours of cleanup and an auto tow later, the mechanic told me the engine drain plug had unscrewed, although it took 2,000 miles since the last oil change -- at the VW dealer -- to do so!
Again, my point: an airplane is a mechanical device.  Something can and will fail in time, and you might not catch it in a preflight.
Or you might hit a bird or an airplane and be disabled and unable to land safely.
In the news, a high time pilot had a midair the other day and was killed.  It happens, and piloting skill or lack of it had nothing to do with his death.
With 35 lbs. of parachute on board, you've got a hole card against the unknown.
Why wouldn't you want that?  Why wouldn't your friends and loved ones want that for you?
The young pilot in this video was 5 seconds from losing his life after that wing let go.  Instead, because he was smart enough to install an airframe parachute, he's got one hell of a story to tell for the rest of his life, and a family and friends who will welcome him home for all the years ahead.
That's an incredible exchange for a few thousand bucks and 35 lbs. of weight, wouldn't you say?

Monday, August 16, 2010

ICON A5 Update

In mid-water taxi toward its anticipated production date sometime next year, ICON Aircraft was at Oshkosh again with an impressive display booth/tent/hangar, and every time I walked by, whether early morning or late at night, there were always people oggling that beautiful airplane.
The company has made two major design changes over the last few months which are interesting and worthy of attention.
1. The wing flaps are gone, ostensibly to "simplify" pilot operations
Company spokesfolk say they weren't getting sufficient benefit from the flaps to justify their weight and complexity.
2.  A desire to work in more spin resistance has led to airframe tweaks, including wing cuffs to lower the stall speed of the composite carbon fiber S-LSA.
I and others had wondered, after our first looks at that streamlined profile when the A5 debuted a couple years back, how ICON was ever going to get stall speed below the 45-knot minimum, even with flaps.
Icon already has an AOA (Angle of Attack indicator) on board so pilots will be able to monitor actual wing performance in reference to incipient stall, but the more docility the better in the Light Sport category, eh what?
Meanwhile, ICON says Liberty Aerospace of Florida, which makes the composite Liberty XL2 monoplane, and Flytech Kft. of Hungary will be the prime structural composite makers for the A5.
Stated reason for the "outsourcing" is to hasten the arrival of delivery day for the hundreds of buyers who've already plunked down deposits.
As many other U.S. LSA companies already do with foreign-produced components, ICON will assemble the entire airplane, install systems and perform all flight testing and finishing, at its Southern California plant.
The online techzine Gizmag just posted an interesting quote from ICON: the company claims fully one-third of its customers are not yet pilots!  That tells me how well ICON has penetrated the non-pilot market in its attempt to link the A5 with broadly popular recreational water sports such as jetskiing and power boating.
Current price quote to order a standard A5 is $139,000, for delivery in 2012.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


In the wake of its week long focus on electric-powered flight at the just-concluded Oshkosh AirVenture 2010, EAA just announced a $60,000 prize to "speed development of electric flight technology."
As I posted earlier here, during the World Symposium on Electric Aircraft, Erik Lindbergh awarded his LEAP prize to three companies for their contributions to the burgeoning technology: Yuneec International's E430, Alex Lange's in-production Antares 20E motorglider, and John Monett's E-flight Initiative.

Prize money will go to the individual or corporation that demonstrates the most promising level of achievement in electric-powered flight at AirVenture 2011.  "Most promising" will be more fully detailed once EAA completes its "assessment of the status of electric flight", according to the official release.

EAA President Tom Poberezny, at left with representatives of the four companies that will make equal contributions to the $60,000 prize money:AeroLEDs, Aircraft Spruce & Specialty, Dynon Avionics, and Wicks Aircraft Supply, had this to say:
“They, like EAA, recognize that much of the innovation in the aviation world has come out of homebuilders’ workshops and the creative environment that is part of AirVenture Oshkosh."
The E-Flight Prize is one of a to-be-disclosed series of programs EAA will establish over the next decade to stimulate R&D in electric flight.
Poberezny encouraged other leaders in the EAA community to augment the prize over the next year.
Entry forms and competition criteria will be posted on EAA's website or by writing EAA E-Flight Prize, P.O. Box 3086, Oshkosh, WI 54903-3806.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Lazarus Machine

Back finally from 12 days at Oshkosh and the DC-3 fly-in that preceded it, I'm cranking out images and stories gathered there but couldn't wait to get this one to you.
Below is a condensation of my column that will run in the November issue.  It involves an airplane that caught everybody's eye when it debuted a few years back, but languished from lack of development and promotion and seemed on its way to obscurity.
It was called the Phantom then, when T&T Aviation brought it to America from its native Hungary.
Cruising into the big Lycoming display at Oshkosh in search of the new 115 hp, IO-233-LSA, I was once again gobsmacked by the low-riding, beautiful Falcon LS -- the name T&T certified it under back in 2008 -- as number 82 on the current list of 109.
In the interim, Renegade Light Sport and its principal go-to guy Chris “Doc” Bailey have just bought out T&T’s interest in the LSA.  For various reasons T&T decided they couldn't fully run with the project.
Meanwhile, Doc has some big, big plans. 
Here are the highlights:
<> The supersexy Falcon LS resembles a Red Bull race plane for a good reason: its makers, Corvus Aircraft of Hungary, also build the Racer 540 that crack pilot Peter Bensenyei flies in Red Bull Air Races.
<> 15,000 hour professional pilot Doc Bailey has already ordered the first 100 Lycoming IO-233 engines and plans to put them in Falcons...and sell the first 100 for $115,000!
<> Why is that news? Every one of those Falcons will be delivered with Grand Rapids synthetic vision EFIS...with built in GPS...and built-in autopilot.  That makes the price considerably more attractive.  Can you say “loss leader?”
<> Doc plans to build the airplane entirely in Kansas City, making it an all-American product.
<> The airplane is all-composite construction, with kevlar, carbon fiber and e-glass components.
<>“We hope to give a boost to the market,” Doc says with infectious enthusiasm.  If he can pull this off, it sure won’t hurt!
<> He plans to have that first 100 Falcons out and flying “within two years – and every airplane will have the IO-233 - with fuel injection.”
<> New owners will be given checkout transition training for free...as much as they need and want.
Stay tuned...once they’ve flown off the hours, I hope to fly the airplane at the Midwest LSA Expo next month.
Meanwhile, it’s great to see the Falcon LS back in the news...it is an exciting, gorgeous LSA with a conventional American powerplant that should push a lot of LSA buyers who’ve been waiting right off the fence and into LSA ownership...because that terrific price won’t hold forever.