Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Light-Sport Chronicles: Snowmobile Engine...NOT!

Kicking the Rotax myth in the head once and for all

"One thing that should help dispel that myth:" Phil told me, "Rotax has now delivered more than 40,000 '9' series engines. I believe that makes it the top-selling dedicated aircraft engine in the world. It's hard to knock that level of success!"

The 912 comes in two versions: the 912ULS, which meets the ASTM design standard, and the 912S, a fully certified engine. The ULS powers most S-LSA and experimental aircraft.

"The four-stroke '9' series engines were designed from the start for aircraft," says Phil. "Once you've gone to all the trouble and testing to meet FAR 33, it's hard to call it a snowmobile engine."

Are there differences between the ASTM and certified versions?

"Very few—they are essentially the same engine, with the main difference being in the paperwork and additional traceability required for certification."

Phil, one of the most agreeable, easygoing guys in the business, has been in the game for a long time. He studied flight technology and aviation business at Florida Institute of Technology, then signed on with a leading maker of ultralights, Maxair, as Director of Sales and Marketing from 1983 to 1988.

When the company sold, he took a year off to travel and do consulting work, and fell into a relationship with Des and Jen Bartlett, who were filming a National Geographic documentary in Africa that, in time, won an Emmy. He helped them with various aspects of aerial photography; then when he heard his previous customers from Maxair were having trouble getting parts for their aircraft and Rotax engines, he contacted Ron Shettler, the North American Rotax distributor, to set up a service center in Florida.

"I wanted to take care of my old customers."

After securing the East Coast territory, he went back to Canada in 1989 to take one of the first "9" series Rotax engine schools ever given, right after the 912UL debuted. Phil's aviation acumen and timing were spot on: Before long, Lockwood Aviation had outgrown a three-car garage and then a rental hangar. He moved into the current facility he built at Sebring Airport in 1994.


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