|EAA SWEEPSTAKES LSA. EAA President Tom Poberezny thanks Tom Peghiny (right), president of Flight Design USA, for the donation of the new MC LSA.|
In a recent attempt to scare myself about how old I’m getting, I calculated the total time I’ve spent at EAA’s annual air show in Oshkosh. It’s more than half a year of my life—27 visits of around a week each! Pass the orthotic, please.
Oshkosh: It’s every pilot’s Disney World—you never see it all, even though you finish the week convinced somebody took a wooden mallet to the soles of your feet and slipped mind-altering drugs into your show-bought lemonade. Yet, once home, you can’t wait to do it all over again next year.
From my corner of the aviation pie, LSA is the exciting Oshkosh segment to explore, and this year was no exception. Despite dire predictions of low attendance due to travel costs and the economy, many vendors (like Cirrus Design and Aircraft Spruce & Specialty) reported increased attendance and sales. Crowds were steady all week. The good weather didn’t hurt either: no aircraft-sucking tornadoes, no killer heat/humidity days.
So buckle up, pilgrims, let’s grab some air and check out the key haps from EAA AirVenture 2008.
All That Glitters: There sure is no falloff of enthusiasm for LSA. Exciting new aircraft in flying and prototype form popped up like mushrooms across the vast air show grounds at Wittman Field. No presence was more Hollywood super-glam than Icon’s gala pitch of its A5 amphibian, which made its maiden flight just a week before the show. Icon’s high-stakes, high-profile drive to put its winged Jet Ski–like LSA on every water-bound car trailer will be a fun journey to follow as it closes in on a late-2010 production date.
LSA Safety News Flash: David Sakrison, reporting in the AirVenture Today daily air show newsrag, quoted Pete Devaris, of the FAA’s Office of Accident Investigation, as saying that the LSA safety record, with more than two years of data reviewed, is better than both general and amateur-built aviation. Although Devaris added that the numbers (29 fatalities) don’t make the statistical case just yet for consistent LSA safety superiority, the trend is encouraging. Devaris’ data cites pilot error, not aircraft structural problems, as the prime cause of accidents. (Number 1 is loss of control; number 2 is fuel starvation.) That’s encouraging news for pilots, but also for FAA types who worried that the ASTM approval process might allow unsafe airplanes to enter the market. (The data suggests that ASTM is doing just fine, thank you.)
Full Metal Concept: U.S. sales leader Flight Design fired its latest salvo at the LSA market with its all-metal, high-wing creation, dubbed MC for “Metal Concept.” CEO Matthias Betsch flew in from Germany to help Flight Design USA President Tom Peghiny introduce the lovely airplane, its second all-new ship this year. The MC impresses with typical top-notch Flight Design quality. Betsch says production will begin immediately. Notable is the really roomy cockpit: 52 inches wide! I watched two tall, beefy guys pile in with plenty of shoulder space and headroom left over. U.S. National Sales Manager Ken Godin told me that the MC is aimed primarily at the flight-school market. “And we’re creating soup-to-nuts, all-inclusive, two-week training packages that will give dealers everything they need to attract customers: detailed cost figures for operations, student training, fuel, maintenance and more.” The MC will cruise at 105 knots with the 100 hp Rotax engine (an 80 hp mill is also available) and carry a BRS parachute.
Bad-To-Good Rumor Department: LSA watchers who’ve heard that the SportCruiser’s Czech Republic producer, CZAW, is going bankrupt can breathe easy. I contacted Chip Erwin, who owns and runs CZAW, and Susan Adams of Erwin’s U.S. distributor, Sport Aircraft Works. Both asserted that CZAW is unequivocally in no danger of bankruptcy, isn’t insolvent, is shipping aircraft every month and, in fact, says Erwin, “has a full order book going well into 2009.” Sport Aircraft Works expects 10 to 12 new airplanes, many already sailing across from Europe, by fall 2008. The rumors sprang from a hostile takeover bid by one of CZAW’s Czech financial backers. “The truth is,” says Erwin, “CZAW has shipped more than 100 SportCruisers in the first seven months of 2008 alone.” That’s U.S. and overseas sales combined. SportCruiser is one impressive LSA; it’s currently sixth in U.S. sales and should find a broader audience.
Skylarkin’ Around: Craig Vincent, director of sales for Skyview Aviation, announced the shift in production of the low-wing, all-metal Skylark LSA from Czech producer Dova to Skyview’s production facility in Tracy, Calif. Marketing will continue through Josh Foss’s Sportsplanes.com. The first U.S. production model, dubbed Skylark II, will include a larger canopy, full-span flaperons, an MGL glass panel, an autopilot and enhanced fairings and gap seals. Here’s a twist: traditional aircraft “steam” gauges will be available as an option. Three main factors drive the move: the euro/dollar exchange rate and shipping price bump; it’s easier to make mods when you’re the manufacturer; and the ease of keeping tight quality control.
It’s...The One: Nope, not talking Senator Obama or Keanu Reeves, but the MSONE from MySky. Here’s a fresh approach to low-wing monoplanes: tandem seating. I sat in the lavishly upholstered mockup—very cushy—and was told the company expects to be flying and ASTM approved by Sebring in February. The S-LSA is a clean-sheet composite ship projected to have a useful load of 610 pounds and the ability to carry 25 gallons of fuel, with long-range tanks as an option. Power will be a 120 hp Jabiru 3300. The $117,500 price tag includes a decent array of instruments and front and back EFIS (electronic flight instrument system) glass panels. Other options include AmSafe seat belts with air bags and a plush all-leather/rosewood interior.
More Class Glass: EFIS technological development continues to grow at a hellish pace. I saw more new electronic flight decks than I could shake a Wisconsin cheese log at, but here’s a couple worth mentioning for the LSA market: MGL Avionics specializes in EFIS systems for experimental and sport aircraft; it offers a variety of models and even LCD “single” instruments, as well as electronic-display radios like the MGL COM. Notable for sport pilots is its Enigma EFIS/EMS/Navigator. Its 8.35x5.5-inch screen keeps track of all the usual flight-info suspects with nine user-programmable screens: GPS moving map, voice prompts, checklists, weight-and-balance calculator and a lot more. It’s quite a powerful package at two pounds for the primary display.
I needed to brandish my iPhone simulated light saber to back off the hordes of visitors checking out the new Bendix/King AV8OR. This handheld, 5x3.23-inch, touch-screen MFD gives you en route GPS navigation routing, weather and multimedia for your airplane—and your car! XM Weather and XM Satellite Radio are options. Retail cost is just $795—no wonder the booth was swamped. Company reps told me they pretty much sold out what they brought to the show. Alas, time to sign off. Too many toys, too little time.