Saturday, November 1, 2008
A snapshot compendium of LSA overview, new aircraft and dish-the-dirt scuttlebutt
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.
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