Friday, December 30, 2011

Demystifying The Killer Turn

Everyone gets the big scare speech early on in their flight training: "If you lose power on takeoff," say our trusty CFIs, with the requisite sobering tone of voice, "DO NOT try to return to the airport if you are below X feet above ground...always find an emergency landing area somewhere ahead."
Everyone has their favorite altitude number for "X", which is a factor of many variables, including aircraft engine off glide ratio and density altitude.  Usually it's a comfortably conservative number, say 1000 feet minimum AGL.


There's a good reason for that cautionary buffer zone of course: many pilots - and passengers - have died trying to make the killer turn back to the airport from too low an altitude.
In an attempt to demystify the infamous "Impossible turn", AOPA online managing editor Alyssa J. Miller goes about the worthy business of investigating firsthand just how high one should be above launch airport altitude to feel safe about turning back for that oasis of engine-out safety: the runway.

It's all based on aviation journalist Barry Schiff's Impossible Turn Maneuver Checklist, also replicated in the article.  Miller's goal is to "find out how much altitude you need to turn around safely—not to try to turn the aircraft around in a pre-set amount of altitude."
It's an important distinction, that difference between knowing the absolute minimum altitude you'll need vs. having a mindset of "must turn in 500 feet" to wrestle with.
And she does a service thereby for all of us by accumulating some real world numbers.
Taking wing, she climbed to a safe altitude with CFI Sandy Geer, then recorded several repetitions of:
<> simulated engine failure on takeoff
<> stabilizing to best glide speed
<> turning 270 degrees (a turn left or right dictates you will need more than just 180 degrees to line back up with the runway)
<> flaring, as if performing a landing
<> then recording the total altitude lost from pulling the power.
Miller's best altitude loss number was 300 feet in a Cessna 172!  The average altitude lost for the entire group of simulations was between 300 and 500 feet.  I'm itching to try this in an LSA...especially a motorglider.
After discussing their efforts, they each settle on a minimum above ground comfort altitude: CFI Reed's is 1000 feet AGL, while Miller says she might consider 750 feet her personal minimum.
Both note that in a true emergency situation any number of distractions will lead to greater altitude loss, or as we say Webside: YRMV (Your Results May Vary).  
It's a thought-provoking read, with a helpful accompanying video.  
At Sebring next month, I'm going to add this maneuver to my pilot report flight list, which should also give me some interesting comparison figures between different models of LSA, since all flights will take place from the same airport. 
Meanwhile, you can check out the article here.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

FAA Amends Sport Pilot Examiner Medical Rule

Getting into the New Year garage cleanup spirit, the FAA has amended its Part 61 flight training rule, finalized in 2009, with some needed clarifications and corrections.
photo courtesy Aviation Advertiser
The stated purpose is to "revise the training, qualification, certification, and operating requirements for pilots, flight instructors, ground instructors, and pilot schools."
The primary change as it relates to our corner of the aviation universe: Flight examiners giving the checkride for the Sport Pilot ticket do not need a medical certificate as long as they have a U.S. driver's license: i.e. the same self-certification of competence to fly requirement that governs the Sport Pilot license qualification.

Friday, December 23, 2011

LSA Bits


photo courtesy Remos Aircraft
In 36 hours or so, Chief Pilot S. Claus will be on final for a few billion chimneys worldwide.  Here's what's popping up in one of my last looks at LSA news webwide for 2011.  Meanwhile, my best wishes for a Merry Flying Christmas and new flight horizons for all in 2012!

Cubcrafters flexes its market success muscle with a new manufacturing facility and the hiring - yes, hiring - of new personnel to build its popular LSA Piper Cub clones. 
photo courtesy CubCrafters
A newly leased 15,000-square-foot building near the Yakima, Washington airport boosts existing capacity by almost 40% and is already in operation.  Congrats to CubCrafters and we wish you continued success.
Included are a new welding shop and CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) machine shop.
The new space will make room in the main plant for an R&D facility and an updated, more centralized parts department.  
Owner Jim Richmond says, "Our planes are selling well, and if we get even a little help from the economy, we will need to increase our production rate." 
Check out those job openings here.

SportAirUSA, that broadbased purveyor of several LSA models and instrument panel goodies, adds to its avionics offerings with the Adventure Pilot iFly GPS, a 7-inch touch-screen moving map based on FAA sectional charts (I own and myself - very cool unit).

The company also reports the iFly will be standard equipment on the Snap! singleseater and an installable   option for its Sting, Sirius, Savage Cub, and SeaRey LSA. Starting price is $549.  The iFly comes loaded with the U.S. sectionals, IFR low en route charts, geo-referenced approach plates, airport diagrams, and more. 


JUSTNET, the Justice Technology Information Network and an arm of the Office of Justice, posts a  summary of the aircraft considered so far here, and more detailed looks at each aircraft evaluated here.
photo courtesy Rans Aircraft
The page is part of the Aviation Technology Program, which looks at a broad range of low-cost aviation technologies as alternatives to conventional GA aircraft in law enforcement aviation units -  typically helicopters and FAA certified aircraft. 
Some familiar SLSA models evaluated: Rans Coyote, Tecnam Eaglet, Sky Arrow.  Powered parachutes and autogyros are also considered.
The overview cites the high cost of acquiring and maintaining these aircraft (new Cessna 172: $300,000) and serves up the economic viability of various types of LSA as a dramatic alternative to  for maintaining  the long arm of the law skyward.
In particular, the report calls out Light Sport Aircraft as well as small unmanned aircraft systems (“sUAS” - how institutions love acronyms!) and moored balloons...moored balloons?  


Remos Aircraft keeps growing its dealer/service center network.  Latest addition is Light Sport West of Sacramento, California. A Remos GX was added to the GA training fleet based at Sacramento Executive Airport (KSAC).  
Light Sport West joins a growing number of FBOs nationwide who are realizing LSA offer appeal, economy and fun flying to flight students.



Monday, December 5, 2011

Knocking Around The InfoVerse

Today's Word


photo courtesy Pipistrel 
News travels fast these days: Just ask Herman Cain. New tech net scraper Gizmag just ran a blurb on the Pipistrel Alpha I highlighted here a couple weeks back. The focus of the highlight is on the low cost, which as they note is under 60K Euro.  
Now consider this: if the Euro continues to go through its troubles and drops further against the dollar, imagine a quality SLSA, like the Alpha promises to be (it's based on a years-proven design - the Vinus/Sinus - with hundreds now delivered), priced at, say, $70K.  For all of us who've decried the high costs of LSA, might  this be the price point/airplane that would help break the LSA sales logjam?


Catching Up With Dan The Man


My blogosphere bro Dan Johnson has a piece in this month's Light Aviation eZine that updates LSA manufacturers now - at last - finding some markets overseas.  
photo courtesy Dan Johnson
He details foreign sales by Arion (Lightning), Flight Design, Remos and Piper Sport/Sport Cruiser.  ASTM and type certificate approvals are being won country by country, and products are beginning to move, over thar. 
One cool story:  U. S. Sport Aircraft, the U.S. distributor that reps the Sport Cruiser, has sold what Dan believes is the first LSA in Brazil...and the company flew the airplane from Florida all 4,300 miles to deliver it!  
Aviation is booming in that country...let's hope more American companies find success in the southern hemisphere while we're waiting for the global economy to work through its identity  crisis.


Dynon SkyView Hands-On Training at Sebring


Who among us hasn't sat for the first time in a new LSA and felt brain overload when confronted with an unfamiliar EFIS display?
One of my initial - and most stressful - challenges during my Sport Pilot training was figuring out where to look and how to work those info-jammed screens while also getting to know the airplane.
photo courtesy Dynon Avionics
Helping out with that comes a promising and much needed program, to debut at next month's Sebring Light Sport Expo (that's right, kids, Sebring is just around the corner...more on that below).
Dynon Avionics will offer free courses on how to wrangle the SkyView, its runaway hit EFIS display.  
The 3.5-hour classes will be held all four mornings and the first three afternoons at Sebring.  Working SkyViews will be set up so people can get some real hands-on tutoring without having to RTFM (Read The Freakin' Manual, which apparently only 1.4% of the U.S. population can abide).
Class size will be limited to the first 15 people who sign up here.  The classes will be held at the nearby (like, walking distance from the show) Chateau Elan Hotel and Conference Center.
Kirk Kleinholz, CFII and SkyView expert, will handle the professorial duties.  This first set of classes will be free: ongoing  classes will have a fee, so get in there, pilots, and sign up!


Sebring Expo Looms!



Yes chilluns, the big winter LSA show is truly stepping it up this year, with a much-ballyhooed new presence and a much bigger feel, judging by the number of promo emails I've gotten for months now.
photo courtesy Sebring Expo
Rather than rehash the 2012 offerings, just go here and check it out for yourself.
Alright, just a couple teasers, I can't resist (and I can't wait to get down there myself!):
<> "Exotic" vacation packages will be auctioned
<> Registered exhibitors include Flight Design, which will bring its CTLE law enforcement special, NASA Green Flight Challenge winner Pipistrel with several models (alas, not the winning electric one-off Taurus Electro G4), and the EAA Piper Cub J3 Sweepstakes contest airplane.  Y'all get your tickets now, hear?
Flight Design CTLE     photo courtesy Flight Design


<> EAA's new head man Rod Hightower will give a presentation at the annual LAMA dinner.
<> Tons of events, factory and general demo flights and lots more to look forward.
Did I say I can't wait?  Now if only winter would truly arrive in the northeast (it's 58 degrees again today!) I'll have even more motivation to jet southward...not that Sebring leaves any need for that...this is simply the biggest all-LSA event in the country.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Oldest Living LSA Pilot?

Here's a story to give us all some cheer as we slide into final on the Holiday Season.
An article in Martinsburg, West Virginia's The Journal newspaper chronicles the exploits of one T. Guy Reynolds Jr. , a local pilot who just celebrated his birthday by spreading his wings in his Evektor SportStar.
"No big deal", you say?  Ah, but this gentleman is one year shy of being a centenarian...that's right, he just turned 99 years old!
J. Guy Reynolds about to do his thing.  photo courtesy The Journal
That makes him, says the article penned by John McVey, likely the oldest pilot in the state.
And we have to ask...maybe the nation?
"I wanted to fly on my 99th birthday," he said. "I enjoy it, and my airplane is very nice to fly."
The SportStar model was the first to win ASTM approval back in 2005 as a legal S-LSA and continues in its latest iteration as the Harmony...my flight report is due out in the next issue of the magazine.
Evektor's airplanes appeal to pilots like Mr. Reynolds with long aviation backgrounds, since it's a familiar, mostly-metal airframe with good long range legs and comfortable interior to back it up...these things get more important as we get older!  I've logged around 30 hours in the Evektor Max and its successor Harmony so I'm more expert on this subject than many...it's an excellent long-leg airplane for the posterior regions.
The article goes on to report that Mr. Reynolds began flying, in a Ford Tri-Motor, before most of us were even glints in our parent's eyes: in 1929!  He founded Martinsburg's Civil Air Patrol squadron and was its first commander in 1943.
Evektor SportStarphoto courtesy www.lightsportaircraft.ca
Taking on challenges late in life seem to be a habit...Reynolds had in fact laid off flying in the mid-50s in order to raise a family and didn't resume until 2004...at age 92.
He made his first parachute jump on the day he turned 93.  What a Guy!
"I keep very positive - that's how I've lived so long. I'm still happy and thank God for that every day."
Happy Birthday to you sir!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Cessna Feels The Pinch...and Pinches Back

In a recent piece on AvWeb, Paul Bertorelli takes a good look at Cessna's decision to bump the price of the Skycatcher by a cool $35K - yes, that's 35 thousand.  Okay, it's not every day we see a 31+% price hike in a retail price of anything, especially in this economy.
Yet Cessna's move should come as no surprise to anyone who knows, as Bertorelli points out, that the price of aircraft has grown faster than the rate of inflation for decades.  Thirty years or so ago, a new Cessna Skyhawk could be had for around $30,000.  Today it's 10 times that number, or more than $300,000, whereas inflation applied to that original $30K number would put the figure just north of $100,000...about three times higher.
The Sky's no limit...in greenbacks.
Meanwhile, the aviation giant has up until now done its best to keep the price close to it's original near-$100,000 level.  Most recent raise was from $112,000 to around $114,000.  
Originally announced in 2007, more than 1,000 orders were racked up in short order.  
Then came more than two years of delays - first deliveries were made last year and 150 or so Skycatchers have been delivered this year.
All along, Cessna tried mightily to hold the line on price increases even in the face of production cost increases: it of course wanted to hold onto that $75 million in orders; wholesale decimation of the Skycatcher order book would have been a heavy hit, even for Big C.
The company pressed on through at least one major tailfeather redesign to keep the program viable, and keep original placeholders on board with a gradually-climbing price that stayed close to the original ticket of just under $110,000.  
Now the scrappy Skycatcher has climbed the U.S. delivery numbers to its recent, current position of #2.  Only longtime leader board-topper Flight Design has registered more LSA in this country.  Hey, isn't that a John Cougar Mellenkamp song?: "S-L-S-A in the U-S-A!".
In this day of bait-and-switch psychology, where the bottom line justifies any financial means, I think customer service props (and recognition for savvy business acumen) go to Cessna.  Look at the price of equivalent-quality S-LSA out there: you're looking at a typical sticker-shock number of $125-150K.  Big C is only raising its product to market parity, and to help support production costs, after having worked hard at it's "holding the line" image.  Also factored in: many of the instrument options are now standard, so the price increase isn't baldly wholesale: some perks are factored in.
Still, those options are re no longer voluntary.
I wonder how deep in the red Cessna went with the delays in production, increased design and retesting costs - the company has proudly, and deservedly, boasted that it took Skycatcher through a program more rigorous than the ASTM standard, including spin testing...that's how the original design flaw was uncovered in the first place. 
Bertorelli goes on to reflect on the marketing and psychological effect of the price jump, and whether it will cause a bailout of significant numbers of remaining production number holders.  He also has some interesting insights on how Cessna has always been good at maintaining its profit margin, even if it meant raising prices and accepting the lower sales numbers that resulted.  That's how companies survive, after all
It's a good read, check it out for an insight into how big aviation business cope these days.
He concludes with a compelling question that deserves more thought and some comment: if Cessna, with it's offshore Chinese production, can't produce a relatively "low cost" S-LSA, does that put the kibosh on the notion entirely?
I have my own thoughts, viewed from a slightly different angle: look at my recent post on the Pipistrel Alpha Trainer that was just introduced around $80,000, and that's not a stripped model either.  I read an online forum thread a couple days ago in which several posters flat out decried the $80K price point.  "Impossible!" they cried.
Yet here is a lean, mean, well-oiled design/production house in Slovenia that is showing us the way of the future, perhaps.  The company just sold 200 of Alphas to India...and the production prototype is being debuted in April.
I believe the company President, Ivo Boscarol, when he says he will produce the airplane at that price: his vision all along has been that if you do things in a very targeted, innovative and efficient manner, you can produce affordable, quality aircraft that will sell, even with the Euro/Dollar exchange rate, in the $80K range in America.
Take another look at what we complain about as a "high cost" light aircraft: adjusted backwards to the before-inflation rate (1975, roughly), we're looking at $8,000!
Before we cry in our $7 microbeers, we should lament the destruction of our currency by the craziness of world economics for the last 70 or so years.  That is the real culprit. An ounce of gold still buys approximately the same goods it bought in 1950...1920...1900.  It's not that things are more expensive.  It's our currency, no longer backed by gold or silver, that's taken the hit.
Why do you think China among other national governments is buying gold like it was on fire sale?  Because it is.
Aviation companies like every other enterprise must find ever-more-efficient ways of surviving, let alone thriving, by continuing to discover how to do the impossible, even if they have to grapple with perceived realities, such as this misplaced notion that there are no cheap light aircraft.
Put another way, I'll buy an $8,000, all-composite, well-equipped, good-performing aircraft for $8K any day of the week...even if I have to find a few partners to help me out with the purchase, since my salary also buys 10% of what it did a generation ago.  But that's another, and unfolding, story.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Major New Trainer Debuts

The company I’ve been writing a lot about lately keeps finding more things for me to talk about. When I was in Slovenia last month, Pipistrel's movers and shakers told me on the QT to be ready for a major announcement soon. 
And here it is: just officially announced this morning, introducing the Alpha Trainer, a purpose-built version of the company's winning Virus SW (Short Wing) cruiser.  Designed for the flight school market, it carries an introductory price that should raise a few eyebrows: $83,000 just about everything, including delivery, shipping to the US, FAA fees etc.
Yep, I'd call that news.
Rand Vollmer of SALSA Aviation, a U.S. Pipistrel dealer, tipped me off this morning about the official release.
A Rotax 80HP engine brings strong climb and 108-knot cruise
Pipistrel makes elegant, fun-flying, functional aircraft and the Alpha (200 were recently ordered by the Indian government) should prove to be no exception.
It’s targeted at LSA Flying Schools wherever ASTM or FAA-LSA regulations hold sway.
In its release, the company states:
“With the economy the way it is most aircraft have been priced (out of) the marketplace for the average person or flight school.”
Key design features include:
<> Economies of purchase, operation, maintenance and repair.
<> Durable, with docile flight and stall characteristics for beginning students.
<> UV-resistant acrylic paint finish for outdoor storage and day-long flight operations in heat well above 100°F (composites are often knocked for not standing up to mid-day heat and sun)
<> Quiet, easy-access, roomy cockpit (43"-plus), good cabin ventilation and heating, approved strobes and lighting.
<> Quick access to reliable spare parts to keep aircraft flying
<> Reasonable cross-country training range, easy refueling, strong hydraulic brakes, adjustable dual flight controls, tricycle gear with steerable nosewheel
<> GRS Ballistic parachute system standard
A big part of Pipistrel's success: sleek, efficient aerodynamics.  all images courtesy Pipistrel

Pipistrel has built more than 1000 aircraft since it began with Ivo Boscarol’s trike design 25 years ago.  The company has won several European air games events and the prestigious NASA CAFE efficiency challenge three times in a row (including this year's stunning electric Taurus G4 that averaged 400 passenger miles per gallon at 100 mph and took the top prize of $1.35 million).
As I’ve said, this outfit is not fooling around: they are well on their way to becoming a major presence in the light sport aircraft market.  They haven’t broken out in the U.S. just yet...the Alpha may have a major impact on that.
The release isn’t even up on the website yet, so here are a few more details of this pending (April 2012 delivery) debut:
Beefed up composite undercarriage supports full fuel and an additional 500 lbs. of payload.

New nose gear strut is 2" inches shorter than the Virus, which lowers the nose and improves taxi viz...prop clearance is not compromised: the Alpha uses a smaller 63” diameter fixed pitch prop.
The 15 gallon fuel tank has a large fill opening to accommodate fast-flow avgas pumps, although ethanol-free auto avgas is still the recommended fuel for Rotax engines.
That fuel capacity still gives Alpha “at least 400 miles range with reserves” at a normal cruise just under 110 knots.
In training mode, even doing multiple pattern flights only burns around 2.5 gph max for five hours endurance.  This is no marketing hype: the Virus I flew, on which the Alpha is based, is so aerodynamically clean it gets right up to altitude with a strong 1000'-plus climb rate and a 110-115 knot speed regime...on the same 80hp the Alpha will carry.
The Alpha is propped to give a slower cruise of 108 knots to meet the LSA category without sacrificing that super climb rate.
Alpha’s airframe is built of carbon fiber, kevlar and fiberglass and was brought in 100 lbs. lighter than the SW...impressive.
Interior appointments include heavy-duty seat fabric, no wheel spats to minimize repair issues from  student “prangs”, and two-minute wheel swaps for flat tires.  Everything about this airplane is geared to the high demand training market.
The modified wing design includes flaperons with 25° of travel (two stops) and no airbrakes (standard on the Sinus and Virus motorgliders).  There's inflight elevator trim too.
Even the prop is designed and produced by Pipistrel on the monster 8-axis CNC-machining robot I saw at the factory which precision-carves the wooden pieces.  Then they're wrapped in a composite covering, the leading edges get added protection and it's painted.

A luggage rack behind the seats helps out with incidental storage needs like tie downs, water bottles and such.  Two large pockets on the sides of the panel allow inflight access.
Basic instrumentation is conventional steam gauges including tach, hobbs meter, oil pressure and temp, CHT, EGT, fuel quantity. 
Also included are a GPS Garmin Aera 500 with AirGizmo docking station, ICOM IC A210 radio with intercom, aerial and two headsets (!), Garmin GTX 327 altitude encoding transponder and Kannad 406 AF ELT.
And still more: the 34' 6" wing-span will snug nicely into most T-hangars. 
The airframe is painted in white UV-resistant acrylic.
Price for all this training goodness: €61,500, around $83,600 US at today’s exchange rate. 
But wait: there’s more!  Introductory rate for schools and individuals wanting to commit now with a $15K US deposit can lock in a price of €58,000, around $78,900.  Add on shipping, delivery and FAA fees and you’re looking at $83,000 US.  That’s a compelling price for a fully-equipped, purpose-built, new trainer.
There’s more to discuss re how well all-composite trainers can stand up to the rigors of life in a flight school.  I’ll talk with the Pipistrel folks more about how they address composite repairs, which typically are more challenging than their aluminum counterparts.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Unintentional Holiday part Deux

(Note to my readers: the first part of this tome is just below)

So here I was in Slovenia, unable to fly and three more days before I could return to my wife in Hamburg, unless I wanted to pay another $200 to change the flight.  Modern air travel, what a concept.
Undaunted and determined to enjoy my first visit to this lovely country  after two days in bed with a virus (the physical kind, not the airplane), I crawled back into the light and joined up with Rand for a thoroughly enjoyable factory tour, courtesy of Ivo's daughter Taya (she's also a partner in the firm), who speaks very good English indeed and gave us a very informative and enjoyable peek at how the company does it's day-to-day.
Yours Truly scaring the crap out of hisself
And what a factory!  High tech geothermal heat, solar power (enough to run the entire factory year round, and sell excess back to the grid) and open, sunny, airy spaces all make for a wonderful working environment.
Then Ivo invited Rand and me to join him and the entire Pipistrel crew for a "team building" weekend trip.  We followed the bus jammed full of Pipistrelians east for a couple hours and found ourselves in the middle of one of those ropes course-like facilities meant to scare the bejeezus out of people.  It's a fair-weather season facility that lives atop a ski area in eastern Slovenia.
Now remember, I was just out of a sick bed and still pretty wobbly.  And when I saw that the first task my teammates and I would have to perform was climbing up a 10 meter wooden pole (that's 33 feet, folks), lumberjack style (albeit safely belayed by ropes carabinered to a body harness), and then stand up on top of said pole, I got a tad wobblier.
The flat top of that pole was about as big around as a medium-sized pancake, maybe 9" in diameter, 10" at the most.
Are you kidding me?
After attaining that precarious perch (and not everybody did), to get max points for the team, we then had to gingerly pussyfoot our feet around on top of the pole until facing in the opposite direction.  Then we could take a leap of faith into space, expecting/trusting/hoping like hell we'd be safely arrested and lowered to the ground by our teammates who held the lifeline ropes.
Let me tell you right now: a 33-foot tall pole is an excellent harmonic device for magnifying the timid, overcorrecting uncertainties of your thigh muscle/knee joint mechanisms.
Let me say it another way: the more you shake, the more that damn pole gyrates at the top, like a plate spinner gyrating a plate atop a long stick...and you the plate!
So brother, you haven't lived until you've stood on top of an oscillating  pole, willing your legs (unsuccessfully) to stop quavering and unsuccessfully trying to convince your body to believe what your mind knows: that you're safely backed up by the rope harness...and that your teammates are paying attention.
SALSA's Rand Vollmer and the components for his soon to be built Sinus motorglider...
Looking down from almost forty feet (bugged-out eyeball elevation) to see your big boots completely eclipsing that pancake-sized pole top and, in the vast distance beyond those boots, the foreshortened bodies of people's little white heads as they look up at you to shout encouragement (in Slovenian), is one of those "WTF am I doing here?" moments in life that shouldn't be missed.
The purpose of the weekend trip of course was to give people who work so diligently together a chance to share some bonhomie away from the factory, which no one seemed to have any problem with at all.  The Pips  are a very friendly crew indeed.
...which will look like this!
Traveling out of country is great...even when you don't get to fly a single minute.  And spending that day with the crew, facing some other fun team challenges together, knocking back more than one glass of blueberry schnapps, sharing meals and tasting wine, feeling the warmth, good cheer and open amiability of all, watching groups at different tables at an ancient Slovenian winery dinner burst into song, made me wish for a spirit of nationality and camaraderie that seems missing on the American scene these days.
Anyway, no, I don't yet have a single Pipistrel flight story to share (other than the Virus I wrote up after Oshkosh which should be out in the mag very soon.)
But I do plan on getting my Private Pilot motorglider rating this winter, and escape the New England snows in the process: Rand and I hope to enlist Jim Lee of Phoenix Air USA, who impressed everyone with the Phoenix motorglider's 47 mpg performance at the GFC on conventional fuel power, to take us through the training down in Florida.
Taurus self-launching motorglider; also comes electric powered!
We'll fly Rand's 50-foot Sinus Touring Motorglider and I for one, shoveling the wet snow from our upstate New York Halloween porch just a few days ago, muttering "disgusting" to myself the entire time, can hardly wait to head south and strap on that sleek, beautiful airplane.
Meanwhile, keep your eyes on Pipistrel.  They've got a lot of excitement coming down the taxiway.
En route, I'll be looking at the virtues of getting your private pilot glider rating down the road too, since it automatically removes a lot of the Sport Pilot restrictions (10,000 altitude max for instance) with very little additional effort...and you don't need a medical to fly a glider either...even a motorized glider with retractable gear.  Not a lot of pilots are fully aware of that, so we'll be kicking it around once I start my training. 
Meanwhile here's Jim Lee's treatise on how to fly a glider without a medical certificate...or even a driver's license!  Of course as always, and as Jim notes, we want to be sure we self-certify that we are indeed fit to fly.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Unintentional Holiday

"I know that we are spending half a life at work and half a life where we sleep," says Ivo Boscarol, founder and the dynamo behind Pipistrel Aircraft, in his strong Slovenian accent.
"So it is important that the lifestyle during work hours is good, so I organize my factory the way that I feel good and my workers feel good.  They like to come to work, because actually this is quite serious business.  If something is not made well, everybody has trouble: me, my test pilots, my customers.  So we don’t put any pressure on the workers."
Ivo is tall, lean, direct and exuberantly intense, a true and tireless larger-than-life kind of guy.
Head honcho Ivo Boscarol and $1.35 million
My congenial traveling pal Rand Vollmer, head of San Antonio Light Sport Aviation (SALSA), a major dealer for Pipistrel in the states, calls Ivo a "rock star".  Indeed, after his company's Taurus Electro G4 won the recent CAFE Green Flight Challenge (and a cool $1.35 million) in impressive fashion, Ivo's not only lionized wherever he goes in Slovenia (including being feted by the President of Slovenia), but he's increasingly well-known globally.
"After our victory in Green Flight Challenge, we are invited all over the world to show the airplane. So," he says with a big grin, "we must go."
Such uncomplicated directness is just one part of what makes Ivo both likable and worthy of respect.  He's a guy you can talk with, but who knows how to get things done.
Equally magnetizing is his straight-ahead approach to aircraft design.  His approach is elemental, like fire: he gets a wild idea for a new aircraft, calls in his design team, and says "Let's build this."
At first, eyes may go wide and mouths drop open at what seems implausible, impractical or downright impossible.  But swept along by his relentless vision, enthusiasm and total confidence in their abilities, they find a way.
The breathtaking Panthera 4-seat cruiser will have Lycoming, hybrid or electric power!
A good case in point is the upcoming Panthera four-seat, all composite, Ferrari-like cruiser that is planned for debut at next spring's Aero show in Friedrichshafen, Germany.  The truly gorgeous airplane will be built in three power configurations: traditional Lycoming power, hybrid generator/electric power...and pure electric.
Some teaser specs:
Cruise: 202 kts. (Lycoming), 142 kts. (hybrid), 118 kts. (all-electric)
Range at Cruise: 1025 nm/660 nm/ 215 nm.
Expect to read a lot more about this stunning, revolutionary design in the months to come.  Meanwhile, here's a pic: don't be embarassed.  Go ahead, drool, I did when I saw the components being assembled in the factory.
In the time I spent at Pipistrel's beautiful, ultra-modern, super green factory in the small town of Ajdovšcina, just 90 minutes drive east from Venice, Italy, Ivo Boscarol candidly shared the philosophies and vision that has made the company one of the top European light aircraft makers.  I'll have much more in my next column for Plane & Pilot, as well as flight reports on their aircraft (including the Virus which I flew at Oshkosh).
Ivo's first production aircraft 24 years ago was a very successful trike (500 sold) that was flown in the waning light of dusk to avoid problems with the aviation-repressive government of Yugoslovia, of which Slovenia was once a part before the country split up.
See, in the dim light the locals thought the trike looked like a giant bat.  Ivo conscripted the notion and named his company Pipistrel, which means bat.
The Taurus Electro G4 and Pipistrel factory
Anyway, excited about visiting the factory where the prize-winning Taurus Electro G4 was created, along with several other LSA aircraft (the Sinus motorglider, Virus, Virus SW and Taurus motorglider are all recently ASTM certified and available in the U.S. as S-LSA), I booked a five-day visit to Slovenia in mid-October.
Reality check: the factory is built in a beautiful valley below a long mountain ridge that rises 3,000 foot directly above the town of Ajdovšcina.  That ridge has spun off 7 hour-plus soaring flights and is enough to make any soaring pilot happily weak in the knees.
But when the burja winds blow, the valley below that ridge acts like a perfect venturi.  Translation: they've reached hurricane strength velocity (120 mph) and can blow for days and days.  Ivo says the burja blows about 100 days a year.  Now you know why Pipistrel is building another facility in nearby Italy.
Anyway, you'll never guess what happened during my trip...yes, the burja blew so strong, there was no flying activity the entire five days I was there.  I never even saw an airplane outside of a hangar.
What?  Me worry?  Hell, let's go climb a pole.
(You'll have to check back in tomorrow to see what I mean...this post is getting too long.)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Green Flight Challenge A Teachable Moment

Posting from Istanbul, Turkey where I'm on vacation with my family, but just couldn't wait another day to talk a bit about what most everybody in aviation's been talking about these last several days: the CAFE Green Flight Challenge (GFC).
History was made when the Pipistrel Taurus Electro G4 twin-fuselage electric-powered aircraft carried four adults, around 1000 lbs. of batteries, one electric motor with a big prop, and a lot of engineering and piloting savvy to victory in the GFC.  They earned themselves $1.35 million in the process.  Huge and well-deserved congratulations to Pipistrel!
The winnah!  Pipistrel's Taurus Electro G4 Photo courtesy Pipistrel
But for my money, the deeper story is not just that they flew off with the biggest aviation dollar prize ever, or even that they accomplished the task of flying 200 miles on one battery charge while also averaging more than 100 mph for the entire flight, or that they did it while "burning" the equivalent of 1 gallon of gas per passenger, or four gallons total...but...that they accomplished all that yet consumed the equivalent of around 1/2 gallon of gas per passenger!
Looked at another way, they took off with full "tanks", and landed with just a bit less than the electricity equivalent of half a tank of gas.
And get this: The eGenius entry had similar economy numbers, though it used a very different design approach - a conventional motorglider planform - albeit with a tail mounted motor to afford a larger, more efficient prop.  It flew with two, not four, people onboard.
So here we have two teams with different aerodynamic approaches that both met the challenge, and met it easily.
And as soon as they release numbers on the Embry Riddle Aeronautical University Eco Eagle, I'll post them too, as the ERAU team also flew but as a demonstration flight - they were disqualified from competition for a couple technicalities.
But here's the deal, restated from my last post: at least two, and possibly three of the entrants didn't just meet the task that many thought wouldn't be met: they killed it!
Here are the official numbers: e- Genius (which won the second place prize of $120,000 as well as the Lindbergh LEAP award of $10,000 for quietest aircraft) tallied 375.8 passenger miles per gallon.
And the G-4?  An astounding 403.5 passenger miles per gallon!
That is nothing less than stunning.
Electric flight is here.
Up to the Challenge: eGenius takes flight photo courtesy NASA
Yes, battery tech needs to keep advancing, and dramatically, to bring e-flight into the mainstream GA hangar.  But the GFC proves that the page has been turned.  From here on in, it's a race to market affordable, practical electric airplanes.
As Eric Lindbergh, Lucky Lindy's grandson, said recently, the first company to make a viable electric trainer will usher in the new age.  The G4 accomplished its victory on around $7 worth of electricity.  Imagine the rental/training cost of an e-trainer being $125...or $130 "wet".  Kinda funny.
Dr. Calin Gologan, the Romanian designer of the PC Aero Elektra One, which won the LEAP award this year at Oshkosh, believes battery efficiency (expressed as energy density) will improve by 11% per year.  In 9 years, that's double what we have today.  Anybody want to bet it won't happen faster than that?
And one more time, kudos and bravissimos to Pipistrel, the eGenius team, the Embry Riddle team which converted a Stemme motorglider, to Jim Lee, who entered the contest with a conventionally powered Phoenix motorglider (I'm looking forward to seeing his numbers too), and all the others who originally entered but couldn't quite make it to the starting line.
They all have their place in history, and all mark the beginning days of a tide that will change aviation forever.
Look for my just-submitted story on electric flight in the upcoming December issue of Plane & Pilot, which hits the stands in Nov.
Meanwhile, check out this video of the event's highlights.



Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Green Flight Challenge Down to Final Three!

The CAFE Green Flight Challenge is at last underway - it was originally planned for mid-July - and as of the end of today's flying, just three of the original 13 entrants are still qualified to keep going for the $1.65 million prize money.
The event, centered in Santa Rosa, Calif. (between Los Angeles and San Francisco), is sponsored by Google and is seeking to advance public awareness and the technologies of electric and high-efficiency flight .  Electric-driven aircraft have garnered most of the advance press, though most of the electric entrants have either been eliminated or couldn't get their aircraft ready in time.
The eGenius all-electric CAFE Green Flight Challenge competitor.  Photo courtesy Eric Raymond
It's a pretty simple task: fly 200 miles averaging 100 mph or greater...with one teeny tiny hitch: fuel or fuel equivalent (electric or electric/hybrid) burn can only be one gallon of fuel.  That's right: one (1) gallon.  That's 200 mpg, looked at another way.  Daunting, to say the least.
Every task day there are different challenges to test the full mettle of each aircraft and pilot, such as a strictly economy run, a maximum decibel test, then the final speed/economy run on the last day.
One entry, the Eco-Eagle, in the works for 2 years from Embry-Riddle Aviation University, was just disqualified because the race rules specify a two-place airplane must fly with two people, not just a pilot and an equivalent copilot weight in the other seat.  But Embry-Riddle's rules specify only one ER participant can fly in a competition event.  The Eco-Eagle also did not have a fully functioning airframe parachute system, although one was aboard, and that violated another CAFE requirement.
The officials, with full consent of the other competitors, will allow the aircraft to fly in the race as a demonstration aircraft, and although it's not eligible for an award, it will be interesting to see how it fares against the others.
Gotta say, somebody didn't do their homework.  Those poor kids at Embry Riddle worked for two years and nobody figured out they wouldn't be legal because of a basic rule: flying with all seats filled?  Hard to figure that one, but kudos to the team and the competitors for encouraging the ER team to be part of the event: they've certainly earned it.  The aircraft was performing very well in practice runs according to varied reports from the field.
In a bit of a surprise, old friend Jim Lee in the Rotax-powered Phoenix is one of the three remaining competitors!  Jim's a master at squeezing every last bit of performance out of whatever he flies (as I've written before, he held the distance hang glider record for years back in the '80s and is an accomplished sailplane pilot).  And he really loves nibbling the thermic potentials in his elegant, high tech Phoenix motorglider, for which he's also the U.S. distributor.
Ah, my misspent youth: if only I could afford one...or  a Pipistrel Vinus or Sinus...or Eric Raymond's Sunseeker...alright kid, snap out of it.
I don't know yet what happened to the electric version, the PhoEnix, other than it couldn't be made ready for race date in time or perhaps wasn't performing up to expectations.
Many people are reporting that it's the electric version that's flying, but Jim's comments in the video below would seem to put the kibosh on that.  Too bad PhoEnix is out, it was a promising entry...but also kind of cool that a gas-powered motorglider is even in the finals.  Good hunting Jimbo!

Having the stock 100 hp Rotax-powered Phoenix in the final running should be a great PR boost too for what is already the sweetheart motorglider of the LSA genre.  Motorgliders are gaining more attention from pilots who want more than point A to point B flying on their plates.
One of the other two remaining entrants is the Pipistrel Taurus G4 (this link goes to Pipistrel's Michael Coates's gallery of GFC photos, worthy of a look).  The G4 is in essence a purpose-built joining of two Taurus G2 electric motorglider fuselages onto a larger wing with an electric powered motor-only pod at wing center - a wild jump of ingenuity because being able to carry four passengers, two in each pod, (which CAFE rules require them to do) does qualify the aircraft to carry the equivalent of four gallons of gasoline in electric power storage capacity - one gallon per person is the rule, for 200 miles at 100 mph.  The G4 may turn out to be a winning strategy, if the economy is there.
eGenius, designed by Univ. of Stuttgart engineeers.  photo courtesy Airbus
The final entrant is e-Genius, built by University of Stuttgart aeronautical engineers and students and a formidable entry in its own right.
Today's event required all entrants to meet the noise level ceiling of 78 dBA during full-power takeoff, as measured from 250 feet away. All three (four counting the non prize- qualified Eco-Eagle) met the challenge.

Monday, September 26, 2011

REMOS GXeLite: Super Diet?

Sign of the times: cut costs wherever possible.  And kudos to those LSA makers who can cut weight too!
Remos Aircraft has a lower-priced, dramatically lighter version of its flagship GX that bears closer scrutiny. 
It’s called GXeLite, and lists at $133,924.
All photos courtesy Remos Aircraft
The model is targeted at pilots, clubs and flights schools that don’t feel the need for all the latest high-tech glass and embellishments.  Typically, “loaded” models like the GX and new GXNXT models price out at well over the wallet-flattening $150K mark. 
The eLite is dramatically lighter in empty weight too: just 638 lbs. (My recent flight report on the NXT listed that model’s empty weight at 718, or 90 lbs. heavier!).  That would allow full tanks as well as some truly hefty passengers too, since the useful load is 682 lbs.!
The main steps taken to lighten the load on the eLite include reinstating the composite landing gear, using carbon fiber instead of metal wing struts, new carbon fiber seats and a new instrument panel, which is lighter as well as lower.
All of this adds up to good news for people interested in Remos.  I’ve found the GX in general to be among the easiest, most enjoyable all-around airplanes I’ve ever flown.  It has a wonderfully harmonious control balance, light, solid control feel, well-behaved takeoff and landing characteristics, and is simply a joy to fly.
This Remos panel chart also shows a FlymapL moving map.
The eLite also offers a ballistic parachute safety system as an option rather than standard equipment, along with that lower-profile panel which enhances forward visibility.
The panel still mounts a good rack of gadgets, starting off with Dynon's workhorse D-180 EFIS/EMS panel and Becker’s Com AR6201 transceiver and BXP6401 transponder.  Power comes from the proven 80 hp Rotax 912.
Even though the lower-cost electrical system eliminates interior lighting needed for night flight (something day VFR-restricted Sport Pilots don't deal with anyway), the eLite still has anti-collision, position and landing lights.
An interior storage area has been removed and there is now only one coat of paint, to help with the load-lightening engineering. 
But think about that Remos diet plan: they took an already-light weight LSA airplane and managed to trim more than 11% more! 
Owners can still opt for all the Remos options the more robust models have, but I’d like to compare this lighter version to the heavier GX to see if there’s an appreciable difference in crosswinds and turbulence. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Three If By Sea

Some bright minds at LISA Airplanes, a French company, had a great idea to take the hydrofoil concept and apply it to an LSA seaplane.  I’d often wondered why hydrofoils haven’t been done before, it’s such a great concept.
AKOYA artist's rendering...but the airplane is flying.  Photos courtesy LISA
Anyway, the airplane is the AKOYA.  The technology for the entire package is patented and called Multi-Access, not the most sizzling name but what the hey, look at how cool those little moustache water wings look sticking out from the hull!
Now get this: the company claims AKOYA operates as easily from land as from water...or snow! First, to those water wings sticking out: they’re called Seafoils, a trademarked name, which adds a little more marketing sizzle to this steak.
They’re connected to a retractable gear that can be rigged with wheels or skis, I guess, and also to motor-driven, pivoting wings!  There's also a chute onboard.  Very neat.

LISA Airplanes _ AKOYA premiere from LISA Airplanes on Vimeo.
The airplane is spec’d out at 18.5 gallons yet can fly 680 miles at 110 knots!  No restrictions to local pond hopping for this seabird.
Gérald Ducoin, a test pilot who flew the plane, praises the revolutionary Seafoils which “offer both fast lift-off and stability.  They also considerably simplify landing manevers and taking off from water.”
Spacey interior...maybe AKOYA and ICON's A5 can go on a date
With a 100 hp Rotax, the company claims a 650 foot take/landing distance.
The company is clearnly not worried about it’s high price: €300,000!  That's Euros, cousins, not greenbacks.
I hasten to add that LISA will throw in pilot training for all three modes of landing, “personalization” of the airplane, and three years of maintenance and full-time customer assistance.
The more this LSA phenomenon grows, the more interesting it gets.
Skis...wheels...water...what's not to like?
AKOYA is in flight test mode in France and announces it expects to get LSA certification by mid-2012. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Electric Whirlybird Flies!

Anyone still in doubt that we're in the midst of the birth of electric flight need look no further than this story, just posted today on the online tech zine Gizmag.
Historic hovering flight lasted 2 minutes 10 seconds.  All photos courtesy Gizmag
Pascal Chretien, an enterprising electrical/aerospace engineer and chopper pilot, made the world's first fully electric helicopter flight in the prototype he designed and built almost entirely by himself...in just 12 months!  Hang glider and ultralight trike pilots will delight in hearing a weight shift control system is involved.
For me, the big story here is once again we see that innovation lives, not just in megabuck corporate and government R&D departments but in the garages of individual megabrains as well...as it always has and we can expect always will.
Weight shift control!
Chretien, in making his 2 minute, 10 second test eggbeater flight, threw whipped eggs in Sikorsky's face since that aviation giant's well-funded electric project, in development for some time now, has yet to fly.
Gizmag quotes Chretien as he acknowledged the risks of his flight: "In case of crash I stand good chances to end up in kebab form."
Detail: power controller and battery pack (upper left)
Pascal, from case of your success, we pops cork of champagne pour vous!
The article goes on to rightly point out that the electric chopper concept faces a huge hurdle when compared to winged electric aircraft because the latter doesn't need to constantly run at higher power drain settings like helicopters do.
Practical electric helicopters will only come to pass when battery technologies advance to a much higher power-to-weight storage capacity (i.e., higher energy density) than we have now, precisely because choppers do require high power for hovering, takeoff and for descent, unlike airplanes.
Winged birds use max power for takeoff or high speed cruising, but can lope along at significantly reduced level flight power, enabling longer duration flights.  That's why we've seen so many motorglider-style electrics; once airborne, their highly efficient wings make possible extended flight times without much power burn.
Still, that takes nothing away from Pascal Chretien's achievement, (funded by the French car racing company Solution F), which is nothing short of magnificent.  His super-light, super-simple chopper serves notice that electric flight as a whole is gaining global momentum across a broad range of projects.
And once again we get a lesson in an ancient truth: the soul of invention is alive and well and knows no boundaries.

Monday, August 29, 2011

FAA Rulemaking: Sport Pilot Training To Count For Higher Ratings?

The FAA just published a petition for rulemaking from EAA, AOPA, NAFI, and GAMA that calls for sport pilot instruction hours to count toward Private Pilot and higher ratings. 
The petition calls for a change in the current regs that disqualify flight training hours for counting toward higher ratings, if those hours were taught by a CFI-S, which is a flight instructor who only has the Sport Pilot rating.
The petition addresses FAR Part 61 and seeks to simplify and harmonize all flight training areas, and beyond that, actually makes sense when you think about it.  After all, why should sport pilots have to repeat their initial flight training because they learned the basics in an LSA from an LSA-only-rated instructor?
FAA personnel upon reflection (and prodding from the above named orgs) seems to have realized the unintentional discrimination against Sport Pilot CFIs, and by extension, Sport Pilot students, among other considerations, was making a statement about Sport Pilot training (or CFI-Ss) being somehow inferior to traditional CFIs and their training methods, which is probably pretty silly when you think about it. 
Every CFI I’ve talked to affirms that a Sport Pilot student learns all the requisite flight skills in an LSA to provide a solid foundation for advanced ratings.  And since LSA are lighter in weight and therefore more susceptible to crosswinds and other nuances, you can make a good case that LSA must be flown with rather more sensitivity and skill on any given day than more traditional aircraft.  Just ask all the high time pilots who've pranged an LSA because they refused to get sufficient transition training.
So even though GA aircraft can be more complex, the basic skills learned in flight require the same attention to fundamentals.  The argument is, there’s generically no fundamental flight skill significantly unique to any GA SEL training airplane that would somehow be skipped or incompletely taught by a CFI-S but not a CFI, if that CFI-S is properly trained of course.
It’s not a law change yet, but a first step in the typically lengthy govt. process that will give anybody interested a chance to weigh in on the subject.  Which means you can comment here.
Once everybody has posted their yays and nays, we can expect this minor kerfluffle to go away entirely and we can get on to fretting about other minor kerfluffles and the occasional big kerfluffle.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Power To/From the People!

Stephan Boutenko has a big vision...and he’s taking it to E-street.
Anyone familiar with Bend, Oregon’s Lance Niebauer, the successful Los Angeles graphic artist  who decided to design an airplane and spawned the highly successful Lancair series of homebuilts, which evolved into the production Cessna Columbia composite four-seater, should check out another Oregonian with a big dream: Stephan Boutenko.
He’s boldly going directly to the internet for public contributions to fund his electric S-LSA. The company name is Alternair, and the airplane is simply called the Amp - perhaps an unintentional play on the word imp, because it is a cute little thing...but with big dreams in its electric heart.
A professional pilot and Embry Riddle grad with an Professional Aeronautical design degree, Boutenko hopes to progress the current electric-powered aircraft technology beyond demonstration-style or exotic motorglider models.
The Amp, still in the design stages, will perform comparably to the current crop of gasoline-powered LSA...at as little as 80% lower direct operating costs.  And maintenance costs, he says, should be almost negligible compared to the fuel-powered airplanes of today.
The low-wing trike will run on a 50 kW (68 hp) electric motor powered by carbon nanotube lithium polymer batteries.  Expected endurance is anticipated at two hours, pretty much at the leading edge now for similar ventures such as Calin Gologan’s one seat, one-wheel production taildragger, the Elektra One, a soon-to-be-produced electric which flew at Oshkosh before thousands of delighted showgoers.
3-view...click for larger version
Cruise will be at 90 knots with a 30-minute VFR reserve.  The wings will each carry battery packs, as well as another behind the seats. 
The designer/entrepreneur even plans to use an “aerolastic” prop that flattens in pitch for climb and relaxes to take a bigger bite during cruise, just like a constant speed prop...but without all the requisite hardware. 
Sophisticated power management electric systems and the latest glass panel avionics will echo typical LSA specs and performance: 1320 lbs. Gross weight, 440 lb. payload, 600 fpm climb, 43 knot clean stall, 39 knot stall with flaps. 
Oh, and the span will be 37 feet, to add some motorglider-like efficiency but still keep it close to the typical LSA planform of 30-35 foot span.
The plan is to get $250K of investment capital to build the prototype Amp and take it globally to all the major airshows.  All donations starting at $25 are welcome...here’s your chance to get in, literally, on the ground floor and help an American company build a competitive electric-powered airplane.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Farewell to Oshkosh 2011

By all accounts it's been a good show.  I talked with several LSA vendors who, despite the pitiful wrangling in Congress over the debt and general lack of a strong economic bounceback, either wrote some sales or were 90% certain they would.
 U.S. sales leader Flight Design even announced they'd written $11 million worth of business at the show.
 I talked with John Gilmore, the U.S. sales manager for Tom Peghiny's U.S. Flight Design operation, who briefed me on the new, four-seat, to-be-certified Flight Design C4 the other day (I'll post more in the next few days).
John also updated Dan Johnson today on the company's excellent numbers at the show:
"We have taken 40 orders for the new C4 plus another 8 orders for Light-Sport Aircraft here at AirVenture 2011," said John.
The C4 debuted in Europe in April and a full-scale mockup seen here was prominent in the display all week.  Historical note: Flight Design has topped the LSA sales leader board since the category was created in 2004, an impressive run due in large part to an excellent management style and top customer support and service.
Remos GX NXT upgrade model
I was up at the crack o' dawn to fly the new Remos NXT, which has some new features such as a new panel profile that gives more viewing room on top and more leg room underneath - very nice and it definitely feels roomier.  The avionics upgrade features Garmin Aera 500 GPS, and the Dynon SkyView glass cockpit with electronic flight instruments, embedded transponder, and engine monitoring.  Dynon is winning over cockpits left and right with the SkyView, and no wonder: it's got it all, at a price that's magnitudes cheaper than equivalent certified glassworks.
The NXT also refines placement of some control knobs in the cockpit and adds visors and air vents to keep things cool.
Personally my flight in beautiful, calm dawn air reinforced my impression from my flight report 18 months back that there is no finer LSA of the 30 or so I've flown so far in terms of sheer joyful handling.  I hadn't flown one in all that time, yet made two greaser landings with hardly any coaching from my demo host, Ryan Hernandez, who admirably handled the Oshkosh chores for Arkansas dealer Tommy Lee and his Adventure Flight dealership.
The Remos turns so smoothly, is so light on the controls yet not twitchy or oversensitive at all, and as I said back then, as soon as you lift off, you feel like you've been flying the airplane every day.  Really quite an achievement in aerodynamics for Remos.
It's beautiful interior is a testimony to the fit and finish of the entire plane.  In you're in the market for a comfortable, really fun-flying LSA, certainly put Remos on the list.  I know it's on my top ten (a list that constantly changes as I fly more airplanes...but Remos has stayed there since my first flight.
One closing note then on to the show, time to line up some last flights and say goodbye to friends and colleagues in the industry.
It's not an LSA-centric product, but this cute idea, Mutt Muffs, reminds us that any time we go flying with our sensitive-hearing furry friends means we want to help them enjoy the ride too.  'Nuff said.
Scroll down for more pix of the Remos GX NXT upgrade model below.
I'll have another pickup blog for Oshkosh probably in two-three days as I'm flying home in the new Evektor Harmony with AB Flight's Art Tarola
tomorrow...if we can get all our gear into one airplane!
Leading Edge intake for new cabin vents


Two SkyViews and an Aera 500...oh boy.

Top-notch interior features rearranged knobs, smoother workflow
















Room With A View...what a wonderful age we live in.