Celebrating 10 Years Of Sport Aviation

The latest and greatest from the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo 2014

The 10th annual U.S. Sport Aviation Expo drew a near-record crowd of more than 20,000 to Sebring Municipal Airport (SEF) in mid-January for what has become the nation's premier sport-aircraft showcase and the kickoff to general aviation's annual calendar of events. Some 140 vendors displayed aircraft and ancillary products and services, while a full schedule of forums covering all facets of sport aviation---expanded to four from previous years' three venues---ran throughout the day. The exhibition hangar hosted streams of visitors who came to talk to the avionics manufacturers, residential airpark agents, sport-aircraft specialists and other aviation business reps who filled the booths.

Aircraft were showcased in flight at the daily 10:30 morning demonstrations and afternoon fly-bys, and throughout the day, OEMs demoed their planes for potential customers. "I'm estimating we gave at least 50 demo flights," said Ken Scott of Van's Aircraft.

The daily flight activity is the defining event of each day, and Expo Director Jana Filip plans to keep it that way. "We intend to remain a sport-aircraft product exposition, not an air show," she said.

Underscoring the increasing importance the industry places on the show, Expo also saw the introduction of several new aircraft and additional products aimed at the sport-pilot and general aviation markets. If you missed this year's show, make sure it doesn't happen again. The next U.S. Sport Aviation Expo is scheduled for January 15 to 18, 2015. Here's a look at airplanes and products that made a buzz this year.

Resembling a baby Catalina, the composite Super
Petrel LS amphibious pusher made a splashy
U.S. debut at Expo '14.

Super Petrel LS

Super Petrel LS
Resembling a baby Catalina, the composite Super Petrel LS amphibious pusher made a splashy U.S. debut at Expo '14, becoming one of the most talked about aircraft at the gathering, on the ground and in the air at Sebring Muni, and on the water at Lake Jackson. Brazilian-designed, and built to ASTM standards by EDRA Aeronautica, the original Petrel was introduced over a decade ago, and more than 250 have been sold worldwide, according to the company. The Super Petrel LS, introduced in 2009, is the sixth generation of the design. Well built and nicely upholstered, its 100 hp Rotax 912 ULS lifts the Super Petrel off the ground in some 260 feet and from the water in about 400 feet, it cruises at 112 mph with five hours' endurance, stalls at about 35 mph, lands wheels down in about 400 feet and about 330 feet on water. Brian Boucher of Flight Design distributor Florida Light Sport Aviation engineered FAA approvals process for U.S. certification over the past year. "It flies like a dream," the 20,000-hour retired airline captain says. Price: $135,000.

Green Airpark

Green Airpark, French Fly-In Community
Green Airpark is a residential airpark for the new century---in the heart of France. This soi-disant "ecological aeronautical village" will have bio-climatic, zero-energy and -waste design homes, with 33 sites on 102 acres flanking parallel 3,250-foot asphalt and grass runways. Paddy Casey, a rep for European GA publications, displayed a large folio filled with artists' computerized renderings of the homes at his company's booth, noting, "There's room for a swimming pool or tennis court." Developer Penicaud Architecture Environnement will design and build a "modern ecological villa" with integrated hangar. The low-slung glass-walled contemporary structures envisioned are all sleek modernity, set on plots between 1.2 and 2.2. Green Airpark home sites are located some 250 miles south of Paris and under "constraint-free aeronautic space" in the Poitou-Charentes region. Price: $200,000 to $215,000.

GRT Mini
GRT Avionics introduced its Mini all-in-one backup flight instruments and autopilot system, a compact, affordable unit designed for three different types of flying. You can use the Mini as a VFR EFIS system for LSAs or light kitbuilts, as a backup for a larger EFIS system or as a stand-alone autopilot and backup flight instruments display. Available in three models, all can serve as a serial altitude encoder and control head for a remote Trig TT22 transponder. At the company's booth, marketing director Katie Bosman noted the unit uses the same familiar interface as the popular GRT Horizon or Sport, and can serve as an auxiliary autopilot control head for GRT servos if the main display fails. Price: $1,195 (Mini-B); $1,395 (Mini-X, including synthetic vision and moving map); $2,100 (Mini AP, add-ons include a flight director).

iLevel Series AW

iLevil Series AW From Levil Technology
Unveiling the second model of what it calls "the magic box," Florida-based Levil Technology introduced its iLevil Series AW, a battery-powered portable ADS-B in a standalone Attitude and Heading Reference System (AHRS)/GPS/WAAS receiver, an enhanced version of the iLevil Series SW. Both pocket-sized units can turn a mobile device into a glass panel. Compatible with iPad/iPhone and Android devices, and mobile flight apps including WingX, Airtrack, Xavion and Avilution, both have 978 MHz ADS-B receiver and GPS, attitude/heading indicator (AHRS) and serial data mixer. The AW adds internal pressure sensors for Air Data integration, providing indicated airspeed, pressure altitude and VSI when connected to the pitot system. The embedded zero-drift AHRS technology is provided by Tucan Systems. Demonstrating the unit at the company's booth, Joseph Manszal says in addition to serving as portable backup for any panel unit, it can be installed permanently (remote antenna options available). Price: $1,199 (SW); $1,399 (AW).

Vizion Autopilot From TruTrak Flight Systems
TruTrak Flight Systems introduced its Vizion Autopilot system for experimental and light-sport aircraft at Expo. Utilizing the familiar interface of TruTrak's Digiflight II, the Vizion system contains all-new hardware, and is available in both single-axis option (Vizion 280) and with altitude pre-select (Vizion 380). Lucas Massengale demonstrated the system at the TruTrak booth. The Vizion 280 includes built-in Ground Track DG, Track Select mode and GPS Nav mode. The Vizion 380 adds Altitude Hold, VS Select Mode, Altitude Select, Control Wheel Steering and Pitch Trim Annunciation, and the Vizion 385 adds lateral and vertical GPSS Steering. Both units are available in either 2.25-inch round or Flat Pack configuration, in either 12- or 28-volt units. Price: $1,700 (Vizion 280); $2,800 (380).

AvMap Ultra EFIS

AvMap Ultra EFIS
AvMap's new Ultra EFIS is a light, compact and easy-to-install stand-alone unit that provides reliable and advanced AHRS for light-sport, ultra-light and experimental aircraft. It contains solid-state gyros, accelerometers, magnetic field sensors, air data sensors and a UAV Navigation motion processor. Fronted by a 3.5-inch sunlight-readable LCD display, the unit fits in a 3.3-inch panel hole and is easily connected to a GPS receiver and pitot- static system, providing attitude (roll, pitch and heading), and airspeed and altitude from the pitot-static system. At the AvMap booth, Grant Farrell pointed out the unit also features a wind indicator, sideslip indicator, vertical speed and HSI. Preloaded with Jeppesen Database for navigation backup, the Ultra EFIS also features aircraft specific V-speed reference values. Price: $1,199.

JUST Aircraft SuperSTOL

JUST Aircraft SuperSTOL
Just Aircraft's new extreme STOL LSA made its first appearance at Expo. The all-metal wing has self-deploying leading-edge slats and two-third-span fowler flaps that deflect to 45 degrees, enabling the SuperSTOL to make rotorcraft-like arrivals and departures. With a 32 mph stall speed, the hydraulic, nitrogen gas-charged suspension landing gear---both mains and tailwheel---allow the SuperSTOL to plop into relatively postage stamp-sized strips, landing and taking off in as little as 150 feet. The all-glass doors provide outstanding visibility. Standard power comes from a 100 hp Rotax 912 ULS engine, and a 130 hp turbocharged Rotax 912 ULS is an option. Put it on optional 29-inch Airstreak tundra tires for true backcountry bliss. Introduced last year, more than 60 SuperSTOL aircraft have been sold, the company says. Price: $36, 650 (kit includes a pre-welded fuselage, less panel and firewall forward.)

Rans S-20 Raven

Rans S-20 Raven
Rans Aircraft's latest design---a tube-and-fabric two-place bush kit aircraft---made its Expo debut this year. "It's a great backcountry airplane," says Rans founder Randy Schlitter, pointing out some of the features. The "huge" baggage compartment carries up to 80 in its more than 20 cubic feet, and the large wing area gives it STOL performance at high elevations. A 100 hp Rotax 912 engine is standard, but the S-20 Raven can take a 160 hp Lycoming or the new 180 hp motor from ULPower Aero Engines. The 14,500-foot service ceiling for high mountain passes, 300-foot takeoff roll and 900 fpm climb, more than five hours of endurance, 33 mph stall in landing configuration and a 340-foot rollout. This is Rans' 22nd airplane, Schlitter says, after a moment's thought, when asked. Price: $25,500 (complete airframe, less firewall forward, taildragger or trike).

Ten Years Of Sport-Pilot And Light-Sport Aircraft
On July 20, 2004, the sport-pilot and light-sport aircraft (LSA) rule was adopted, creating a new segment of the GA industry, a new class of pilots and hopes for a private aviation renaissance. The approaching 10th anniversary of the date invites reflection on its results, and what better place than the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo at Sebring, celebrating its own 10th anniversary in 2014.

The LSA rule has clearly led to innovation as intended, says veteran industry expert Dan Johnson. "That's most significant and obvious in the 134 LSA models certified to date---more than one new aircraft per month for 10 years straight. There's nothing like it in aviation history."

Phil Lockwood, designer of the Air Cam, sees the results through the prism of the advances in light engines, like the Rotax motors that have powered his twin pusher. "More than anything, it's been a huge shift, from the two-stroke to the four-stroke engine," he says.

Mary Jones, the EAA's former director of publications, notes the ASTM standards process the industry developed has been a big success. "Now, the FAA is looking at it for Part 23," possibly adopting its methods for approval and production of certificated aircraft. "The people on the ASTM team said back then that it was a trial balloon, and if the process worked, it might be used for other regulatory processes," recalls Jones. "It's taken a long time, but it's coming true."

Some say the industry has yet to deliver on affordable aircraft. "I feel like the market missed what the airplane should have been, and the airplanes are too expensive," says Lucas Massengale of TruTrack Flight Systems. "They were supposed to be fun airplanes, a cheap way to fly. Now they're all $150,000."

Dan Johnson says, noting current prices, "Nonetheless, sport flying is within reach of a much larger population of us by reducing licensing to 60% to 70%, and reducing the cost of airplanes 50% to 60% of what they otherwise would be. And," he notes, "it has prevented an even further decline in the pilot population by enabling many to keep flying, thanks to sport pilot's medical rules and LSAs' lower fuel usage."


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