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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sebring 2011: Rays Of Hope Ahead?

The planes and people came...and light-sport keeps on truckin’

Criquet Storch. A major hit, the stunning 75% replica Criquet Storch drew curious admirers every day. Beautifully constructed, this iconic, scaled-down copy of the German World War II liaison stalwart (L-4 Bird Dog was the U.S. equivalent) is available for $88,000 as an ASTM-approved S-LSA; 100-hour E-LSA (covered, bolt-together) kit; and experimental category 1,000-hour kit. The S-LSA version has a Rotax 912S, 100 hp engine. Flying in the Storch (German for stork) is an ultralight-like STOL experience (cruise: 80 mph) for an owner wanting a unique creature to display and fly. Stall with 40 degrees of flaps is 30 mph! Imported as components from Colombia and assembled in Deland, Fla. Contact: www.uflyit.com.

Piper Bows Out. The top question of Sebring was “Why did Piper Aircraft drop the Czech Sport Aircraft-built PiperSport?” This shocker even caught industry insiders with their wheel pants down. “Differences in business philosophies” was the official line from both companies. CSA will continue producing the SportCruiser alone. Two rumors: the Czech builder wanted Piper to market more globally; Piper might acquire another LSA, but is interested in larger profit margins through its Altaire jet. Outstanding PiperSport orders will still be delivered. Piper sold 54 in 2010. Existing service network members (such as www.ussportaircraft.com) will continue to support the airplane, whatever name it wears. CSA says to expect design changes down the road. Contact: www.piper.com.

Phoenix S-LSA. Another highly anticipated debut was the arrival of the Phoenix S-LSA certified motorglider. U.S. rep Jim Lee introduced me to its many virtues in two long flights: one with the shorter wing extensions (36-foot span) for LSA cruising fun, the other with full 49-foot-span soaring authority. So much—where to begin? Glide ratio: 32:1. Sink rate: 200 fpm. Handling? Just plain dreamy, with two-second 45-degree-to-45-degree roll reversals (shorter span) to just over three seconds (49-foot span)! Both configs have full-span ailerons. Comfort? Superb with semi-reclined support. Fit and finish? Gorgeous. Launches quick (300 feet or so), easy for a newbie to land. If soaring and powered cruising flights populate your dreams, go check this bird out! Contact: www.phoenixiarusa.com.

Viper S-LSA. Also debuting is yet another new, ASTM-approved S-LSA out of Slovakia. Low-wing, roomy, colorful, cute and well-made, the airplane could find a market for those who want a conventional approach via its all-metal airframe. The parent company, Tomark Aero, uses CAD design and CNC precision-cutting methods, which greatly enhance construction precision and consistency. Some noteworthy specs: 108-knot cruise, top speed 120 knots, 40-knot stall, 1,280 fpm climb, takeoff run of 525 feet. A relatively short span of 27' 10'' and an 18-gallon fuel capacity bring a 400 nm range. Power comes from a Rotax 912 ULS (100 hp). Contact: U.S. representative Tomark Aero USA, www.tomarkaero.com.

New SkyView Features. Dynon’s Robert Hamilton clued me in to two new software features of the increasingly ubiquitous SkyView glass avionics platform: I saw them in cockpits all over the show! Latest features include autopilot and transponder. It’s easy to use: Just tap VFR, for example, in transponder mode, and the 1200 squawk code is selected. Changing codes to ATC instructions is simple, too. And the Dynon transponder sending unit weighs only a pound, so it can live anywhere in the plane with minimal performance penalty. Dynon also offers its new worldwide navigation database through its partnership with Jeppesen. “We keep adding functionality,” says Robert. No kidding! Contact: www.dynonavionics.com.

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