Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Official Comment on Evektor Deploy

Enlightening news today from Vit Kotek, Marketing Manager for Evektor, that ties up the loose ends on the recent parachute deployment of an Evektor SportStar.
Vit’s statement, edited only for clarity:
“An accident of the SportStar RTC aircraft occurred during flight tests at Kunovice airport (LKKU) on 18th May, 2011.  The test pilot was performing spin testing at aft C.G.  The pilot successfully completed the program, after completing 30 spins.
Then he decided to perform a maneuver, which we’re still not fully clear about, which put the airplane into a flight condition the pilot could recover from.
He activated the ballistic parachute system which deployed successfully.
The airplane suspended below the parachute landed on a lake close to the airport and sunk after five minutes. The pilot swam safely to the shore. The airplane was fished out after six hours. The pilot was not injured.
The event proves the proper functioning of the ballistic recovery system and its installation, even though the airplane was partially damaged. 
The accident is being investigated by the Czech Air Accidents Investigation. Evektor-Aerotechnik wants to note that the accident happened during flight tests and not during normal airplane operation.
Further, more than 800 successful spins have been completed on the Eurostar and SportStar type since 2001 and tested airplanes always demonstrated very good spin recovery characteristics.
The last successful spin testing of the SportStar type was performed less than a year ago, and all required abnormal control use techniques for spin recovery were tested.
Microlight and Light Sport Airplanes are spin prohibited in normal operation.”
Thanks to our good friend Art Tarola of AB Flight in PA, the Northeast Evektor guy, for that update, and we’re glad the factory confirms the pilot wasn’t hurt.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Evektor SportStar Chute Deploy

An Evektor SportStar under canopy and descending to the water.
An anonymous source sent me an account (in Czech) and photos of an incident in Czech Republic that reportedly occurred when an Evektor SportStar, flown by an "experienced pilot", was unable to recover from a spin.  
It happened on May 18 over a lake near Ostrozska ​​VesYou can see the pilot climb out of the cockpit once it hit the water, before the aircraft sunk.
These are some of the best photos I've ever seen of an actual deployment, rivaling the YouTube video I ran a ways back of a Rans stunt plane that suffered a wing loss in negative G yet was saved by the airframe 'chute at an extremely low altitude -- a real heart stopper, that one. 
The ambulance staff called to the scene treated the pilot for bruises and exposure.  He was otherwise uninjured...very good news!

Because Lake Ostrozska is an important source of drinking water for a large surrounding population, there was considerable concern that the 17-plus gallons of gas still onboard might escape from the plane and kick off an "environmental disaster," according to an online Czech news source.
But the coolheaded pilot reportedly shut off the fuel as the aircraft descended under canopy.
Police divers from Brno located the wreckage underwater around 7:30 that night about a quarter mile offshore, then used inflatable bags to gradually raise the aircraft to the surface and bring it closer to shore.  
Around midnight firefighters called in a crane to lift the plane and swing it to land.   Accident investigations by Czech Republic's equivalent of the NTSB are under way.  
The report goes on to say Evektor staff immediately began to disassemble the machine and transport it to the nearby factory.  

Note pilot in water to right of sinking airplane.
Marketing Manager Vit Kotek is quoted as saying,  "I will follow the investigation.  The plane looks almost undamaged."  
He noted this is the first such event for an Evektor.  An airframe parachute is standard equipment on the SportStar, which
The SportStar about to be hoisted to shore by crane
has been extensively spin tested according to company sources.  I've queried the U.S. distributor for comment on the accident, but he's still digging for info and hasn't reported back yet.

Whatever the problem with the airplane or its pilot turns out to be, here's yet another compelling case for the value of airframe parachutes to save lives after unforseeable or unavoidable peril.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Electric Prototype and Pilot Lost

Martin Wezel, left and Tian Yu.  Behind is the tandem-powered E1000.
As I write an article on the current state of electric flight worldwide, sad word comes that prolific, talented German aeronautical engineer Martin Wezel has died in the crash of the prototype Yuneec International E1000 electric airplane.
Wezel's company, Flugzeugtechnik Wezel, was well respected for its gliders and microlights, which included the Sting and Sirius S-LSAs.  His Apis and Viva designs were also being developed by Yuneec for electric power.
The E1000 design may also have been Wezel's.
A new, tandem-motored four-seat design, it was being developed for market by Yuneec but also to compete in the NASA CAFE Green Flight Challenge, the $1.65 million-prize competition I've been writing about here that's coming up in July.
It was also entered in EAA's upcoming Electric Aircraft Competition (Oshkosh 2011 in late July).  Not evident at this point is whether another E1000 was built or will be tested.
Details are sketchy for what was just the airplane's second flight.  Launching from Yuneec's home airport in southern China, it suffered a catastrophic failure of the tail section at 130 feet altitude just seconds later.  The empennage, which was possibly of a V-tail configuration as seen in the photo above and similar to the company's E430 electric two-seat LSA tail, was "caused by ground testing"according to Yuneec's Chairman Tian Yu.
The aircraft reportedly crashed into a lake next to the runway.  Wezel died two hours later at a local hospital.
The ballistic parachute system on board may have been deployed.  It likely would not have had enough altitude to completely deploy: most ballistic airframe "saves" occur at a minimum of 400 feet.
Mr. Yu eulogized Wezel on the company website:
“I, personally, feel extremely sorry to have lost Martin.  He was an extremely competent collaborator and most of all a very dear friend. Martin's passion for flying was a constant inspiration to all.  My deepest sympathies and condolences to Petra, Martin's wife, the Wezel family and all who knew and worked with Martin Wezel.”
We echo Mr. Yu's comments in extending our condolences to Martin Wezel's family and friends.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

REMOS Aircraft sends out advance word that its new GX NXT will debut at Oshkosh this year. 
The current GX Aviator II model will not be replaced: this new NXT version reflects a new instrument panel and price (base: $129,961, a significant drop from the Aviator II).
REMOS GX NXT: new panel, lower price
Dynon's SkyView, as with an ever-expanding number of other LSA, provides the anchor point for the streamlined new deck, which has been reworked to bring more leg room and better visibility over the nose to the cockpit.
SkyView's ever-upgrading software suite combines
 Panel drawing w/optional two
SkyView panel and Garmin 696   
EFIS/EMS/ Synthetic Vision/ Transponder in one unit.  An optional second SkyView installation is available as well as Garmin 696 and Dynon autopilot.
The GX NXT will offer com or nav/com and a wide range of exterior paint schemes.
The GX is a lovely airplane to fly.  I like the folding wing capability of the GX too.  You can also fly with the doors completely off the airplane: lots of fun on those balmy spring, summer and fall days to ahead.
REMOS quotes an empty weight of 718 pounds and a useful load of 602 lbs. (470 with full fuel), which they claim is tops in the industry.
The airframe, performance and handling are the same as the Aviator II.
Delivery is quoted at 90 days and they're taking orders now.
The GX is made in Germany.
         []  illustration and photos courtesy REMOS Aircraft

Thursday, May 12, 2011

LSA in the News

In this post there's both good news and bad news.

First up: blog reader Pete Zaitcev commented on my blog yesterday that the Front Range Airport (FTG) visit, on May 14, by the LSA Tour #3 will coincide with the Rocky Mountain LSA Expo.
FTG is about 25 miles east of Denver at Watkins, CO.  The event is sponsored by the Colorado Pilots Assoc.
Looks like a fun time and a smart call for the Tour to plan a stop there.  Thanks Pete!

Cessna is on track to ship 150 Skycatchers this year
More good news:  Cessna Aircraft delivered 106 aircraft in the first quarter, up from 80 a year ago, and much of the increase comes from deliveries of the 19 Skycatchers.  Cessna's Bob Stangarone has told me the company expects to have delivered 150 by year's end.
The unhappy news concerns two LSA crashes.
A PiperSport crash cost a young CFI his life in Florida.  Various news reports citing eyewitnesses indicated a possible in-flight fire, flat spin, loss of a wing in flight and the crash, with subsequent fire and secondary explosion.
The pilot's body was found 3/4 miles from the crash.  That and personal effects strewn between the crash site and the pilot's body indicate he either bailed out of the airplane without a parachute, or was ejected during flight -- horrific to contemplate either way.  The pilot was reportedly a skydiver.
Since all PiperSports during their brief manufacture under the Piper banner were delivered with airframe parachutes, inflight fire remains a compelling possibility for the crash.

Sad and sobering: condolences to the surviving family of the 24-year-old pilot.

A happier ending to another crash involves a Flight Design CT that struck a telephone guy-wire during an emergency landing on a country road in the South...and lost the entire right wing!

The good news is the pilot survived, as reported by Steven Jones for WSPA-TV (CBS) in northwestern South Carolina, after the plane ended up nosing into a ditch.  The plane is owned by Major Dude's Flying Circus of Wilmington, DE.
Jones writes that no one was injured.  "After the plane," the web story says, "a Flight Design CT model, took off...the pilot called Augusta Control and reported a 'rough running' engine.
Later, the pilot called and said he was experiencing engine failure and going down.
Two people were on board when the plane made it’s crash landing. A wing snapped off on a guy line of a nearby utility pole."
The CT is an all-composite airplane and, clearly, its cabin offers reassuring crash protection.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

LSA Tour #3 Does Colorado Tomorrow

Dave Graham of Legend Aircraft just sent out word that the next LSA Tour launches tomorrow for a 4-day swing up the front range of the Colorado Rockies.  See the list of locations below.
"We've adopted the four-day format," says Dave.  "The six-day tour is just too tiring."
     Reporting on the Tour's recent swing through the Southeast, Dave reports about 250 people came out to the Greenville, SC location.  There was a restaurant, good support from the hosting FBO, and "some business was done that day."
     Not all the venues were as cooperative as they could have been, he says, but considers this a work in progress and expects advanced planning will help sharpen up the logistics and overall experience down the road.
Here's a link to my blurb on the first Tour, which lists the participating LSA dealers.  Each dealer brings a demo airplane which gives potential customers a great opportunity to strap on the aircraft and compare apples to apples -- which can be a challenge at major airshows, with aircraft booths spread all over the place amid the background noise of other aviation attractions.
Good luck folks on your third LSA Tour!
                    LSA TOUR #3 SCHEDULE

[] Thursday, May 12, 2011
Fort Collins-Loveland Municipal Airport
Fort Collins / Loveland, Colorado - KFNL

[] Friday, May 13, 2011
Centennial Airport
Denver, Colorado - KAPA

[] Saturday, May 14, 2011
Front Range Airport
Denver, Colorado - KFTG

[] Sunday, May 15, 2011
Meadow Lake Airport
Colorado Springs, Colorado - KFLY

Friday, May 6, 2011

Electric Race Update: CAFE-Bound!

Picking up my electric aircraft coverage again with an email from Phoenix Air USA kingpin Jim Lee with the latest updates on the PhoEnix electric motorglider NASA/CAFE race entry, which just came out of the paint shop and has all its pretty parts put together...and a beautimous bird she is indeed.
Built for slipping through the air: the PhoEnix electric motorglider.
"We put the PhoEnix together," Jim tells me, "my last day in Czech so we could finally see what it looks like.  Man am I excited now!  I can't believe that I will be the one to fly such an amazing ship."
Color me green with envy.  
Jim's deep and broad soaring background should stand him in good stead tweaking every last ounce of performance from the gorgeous, one-off soaring bird.
He's also got a few more details on his Phoenix blog.  Here are some highlights: 

View from tail: Gear retracts up into normal baggage area.

Conceived for the NASA CAFE Green Flight Challenge..."A race that offers big bucks for the winner ($1.65 million total), but with a bar set so high that it is unlikely that anyone will win it. But if any aircraft can do it, the PhoEnix can!"
Electric motor installation.

Check out that shadow for a sense of the high aspect ratio.  Photo: Jim Lee

[] A modified Schempp- Hirth Discus wing installed as a shoulder wing to make room for the 
retractible gear. 
[] Gear electrically driven.  Swings back into the wheel wells (the baggage compartment of the original Phoenix.)
Photo courtesy Jim Lee
 [] wings 14.5M (47.5 ft.) span, optimized for the 100mph minimum required speed for the 200 mile race course.
[] race begins July 10 no. of San Francisco. 

Next post, I'll have a rundown, with pictures, of one of the PhoEnix's top competitors, the Pipistrel Taurus 4 twin-fuselage electric racer!

And here's Jim beaming at the end of Sun 'n Fun last month after receiving the Outstanding Fixed Wing Light Sport Aircraft Award.  
Congrats James, it's a worthy winner for sure!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Flight Design 4-Seater Heading To Market

Although this isn't an LSA story per se, it comes out of Flight Design, the top-notch, top-selling LSA company in America, so I thought you'd be interested to know the company debuted its C4 4-seater at AERO last month and just came out today with some pricing and delivery numbers along with some specs.
Perhaps the most interesting number to me is the $250,000 "target" price for the American market, along with a  €220.000 price for Europe and the rest of the world outside the U.S.
When's the last time we saw a new, state-of-the-art 4-seat airplane at a price close to that?
Also noteworthy is the minimal disparity between the overseas and U.S. prices, reflecting the company's desire to minimize (yea verily, to almost negate!) the currently soaring euro/dollar exchange rate imbalance.
Artist's rendering of the C4.  It's not your grandfather's CTLS.  Image courtesy Flight Design.

Some interesting details about the all-carbon fiber composite airplane:
[] Engine choice: two engine options to best suit fuel availability and cost in the owner's region: either a traditional aviation engine that can run on auto fuel, or a turbo diesel engine that burns Jet A fuel. Actual engine brands have yet to be finalized. 
[] Avionics suppliers are still being firmed up as well. 
[] First Delivery:  Set for 2013
[] Early Bird Buyers:  At AERO, more than 30 C4 orders were taken.  Orders and deposits are now accepted online or through Flight Design's worldwide network of dealers.
[] Specifications: (subject to flight test confirmations) include useful load of 1,320 lbs.;
[] maximum take-off weight of 1.200 kilograms (2,640 pounds);
[] max cruise of 160 knots @ 6,000 feet MSL.
[] Range of 1,200 nautical miles with the avgas engine at 65% power or...
[] 1,700 nautical miles with the diesel engine at 55% power;
[] Fuel capacity: 70 gal.
[] Cockpit dimensions: 52" wide, 47" at rear seat, head clearance in rear for a 6' 7" passenger.
C4 mockup at AERO.  Photo courtesy Loop Magazine
Matthias Betsch, CEO of Flight Design, says this:
"Our ongoing customer surveying shows us that price tops the demand list from customers and we believe our prices can result in sales volumes of 200 to 500 aircraft per year."
As I've noted here before, if you'd like to put in your $.02 in the design/configuration process, you can still do that as the final design is still in flux: Go here for the survey.
You might even win a Garmin aera 500 GPS for your trouble.
Flight Design plans to certify the C4 to several international standards ensuring compliance with both EASA and FAA regulations.
The German company has already successfully gone through several rigors including LAMA and ISO audits.  It also just gained EASA Design Organization Approval that permits it to progress on its own schedule with only oversight monitoring from EASA, which minimizes a lot of cost and time drag on the process.
Best of success to this progressive company which has done so much to help establish the LSA movement in America with its quality aircraft and broad and growing sales and service network.