Plane & Pilot
Saturday, November 1, 2008

Oshwatch!


A snapshot compendium of LSA overview, new aircraft and dish-the-dirt scuttlebutt


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.
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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.





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