You need go no farther than a summer air show buzzing with a vibrant, colorful contingent of light-sport aircraft to see what the excitement has been all about and sense where it might take us. The LSA movement is a living, breathing example of the sheer innovation, quality and giddy diversity that has characterized personal flight from the very beginning in 1903. In its few short years, the LSA industry has already shown resolute determination to grow its market and service-support infrastructure while hanging tough not only through traditional general aviation economic challenges but also the nasty recession.
At heart, these are wonderful little airplanes that are ideal for fun flying. They’re affordable for a large segment of the population, ranging in price from around $50,000 to $200,000. There are nearly 100 ASTM-certified S-LSA models alone. Aircraft sales were surprisingly strong for many LSA makers in the first half of 2009. Industry thumb-on-pulse guru Dan Johnson (www.bydanjohnson.com) reports that 90% of all LSA sales as of mid-2009 (nearly 1,650 units at this writing) have gone to the top 20 makers (out of 70). That means 50 LSA companies here and abroad are struggling through various stages of “Hang in there kitty!”-ness. Not all will survive. Yet this isn’t an industry cowed by doom and gloom.
We believe the phenomenon of LSA will go forward to become an enduring cornerstone of the American, and global, light-aircraft experience. So, aeronauts, present and future, feast your eyes, imaginations and budget projections on our hangar full of top LSA goodies.
Flight Design CTLS
Weighing in at 288 total sales and still the overall U.S. market “champeen” is the composite cruiser known as the “CT” (for CTLS and the earlier models that it’s derived from). This 120-knot, long-haul (1,000-mile-range) German high-winger continues to sell well thanks to its handling, performance and utility, long-flight comfort (49-inch-wide cabin!) and solid U.S. service and support. Standard Price: $138,800. Contact: www.flightdesignusa.com.
American Legend Cub
Piper Cub–smitten? Look no further than this Texas-based builder of both S-LSA and E-LSA (kit) versions of its Legend Cub. American Legend, the top U.S. seller, has three S-LSA models, powered by Continental O-200 (100 hp) or Jabiru 3300A (120 hp) engines. Standard Price: $109,895 (with O-200). Contact: www.legend.aero.
A zippy cruiser (116-knot cruise), the low-wing Sierra and its siblings are the top-selling models from Tecnam, the Italian manufacturer of the ASTM-certified designs. The company, involved in aviation for years, has produced more than 2,000 light aircraft. The all-metal Sierra lands slowly (38 knots with flaps), yet carries a 580-pound useful load. Standard Price: $112,900. Contact: www.tecnamaircraft.com.
Currently ranked number four in U.S. sales, the GX is the latest model from Germany-based Remos. The aircraft offers a composite design with a carbon-fiber wing, plenty of storage space, good speed (112-knot cruise), excellent range (745 nm) and an impressive useful load of 650 pounds. Standard Price: $129,900. Contact: www.remos.com.
Urban Air Lambada
Imagine cruising along at 105 knots, turning off the engine under a thermal-generated cloud and watching the prop automatically feather. Then, supported by the 49-foot wings, you soar for an hour. Engine on, and back to the airport for you. For soaring enthusiasts, this is the ultimate LSA, with a 30:1 glide ratio, 210 fpm sink rate and 105-knot power-on cruise at ridiculously low fuel consumption. Standard Price: $109,000. Contact: www.urbanairusa.com.
Czech Sport Aircraft SportCruiser
The Czech Republic–built SportCruiser is certainly one of the most beautiful LSA on the market. Recent court battles over company control appear to have been resolved—good news for owners and future buyers of this fun, stylish low-wing cruiser, which comes in three models: Club, Tourer and Professional. Standard Price: $117,850. Contact: www.letsfly.org.
CubCrafters Super SportCub
Offering its own versions of the Piper Cub, CubCrafters’ latest model, the Super SportCub, focuses on raw power for climb performance. Its CC340 engine, rated at 180 hp for takeoff and climb, and 80 hp for cruise and continuous power settings, has electronic ignition, a 2,400-hour TBO…and a whopping 2,100 fpm climb rate! Standard Price: $163,280. Contact: www.cubcrafters.com.
The high-wing J250-SP, manufactured in Australia, is a long-distance runner built for cruise. Roomy, stable and comfortable, the composite bird is one of three models. Long-distance cred: Vno cruise of 110 knots plus a range of 840 nm. Standard Price: $105,900. Contact: www.usjabiru.com.
AMD STOL CH 750 LS
Aircraft Manufacturing & Design produces the CH 650 LS and LSi cruisers and the all-metal, STOL-capable CH 750 LS S-LSA in Georgia. Powered by a Continental O-200 engine, these designs are based on kit models, of which 1,000 are in operation. Standard Price: $99,900 (CH 750 LS). Contact: www.newplane.com.
SportairUSA Sting S3
With great views, performance and handling, the Sting S3 is fast (116-knot cruise), roomy (44-inch-wide cabin), leggy (790 nm with wing tanks) and safety conscious—every Sting comes with a Galaxy all-airplane ballistic parachute system as standard equipment. Standard Price: $119,900. Contact: www.sting.aero.
Flown all over the world since 1992, the Czech-built Skyboy debuted as a European microlight. Several Rotax engine models and a Jabiru 2200 offer variety in performance. With ultralight-style cruise speeds (60 to 80 knots) and modest range (200 to 300 miles), this is a pure recreational bird. Standard Price: “about” $60,000. Contact: www.interplaneaircraft.com.
Fantasy Air Allegro 2007
From the Czech Republic comes the Allegro, which has been produced for nearly 15 years and is the third-ever S-LSA to gain ASTM certification. The Kevlar-composite fuselage supports aluminum wings and a T-tail. The aircraft is Rotax-powered with a modest 350-mile range, 1,000 fpm climb, 104-knot cruise and under-35-knot stall. It’s currently out of production, but it’s expected to be produced in the United States later in 2009. Standard Price: $84,000. Contact: www.fantasyairusa.com.
The Czech-built Aerotrek, formerly EuroFox, comes in two flavors, the A220 taildragger and A240 tricycle gear. Light and speedy for a metal-cage/fabric-covered S-LSA (95-knot cruise), with no-pitch-change flaperons and a 44-inch-wide cabin, the sporty airplanes lift a surprising 591 pounds. Standard Price: $62,950. Contact: www.fly-aerotrek.com.
Designed and built in the United States, the Thorpedo offers years of aircraft construction and flight-performance savvy and refinement. The latest model has a sleek new cowl, light-emitting-diode (LED) wingtip/landing lights and a 120 hp Jabiru 3300 engine that delivers a 1,020 fpm climb. Standard Price: $85,995. Contact: www.indusav.com.
3I Sky Arrow
Italian aircraft maker 3I (Iniziative Industriali Italiane) has been building aircraft since 1947. Its FAR 23–certified aircraft morphed into the Sky Arrow 600 S-LSA, which boasts a long, huge-view tandem cockpit, carbon-fiber composite airframe, Rotax 912 engine and modular-assembly philosophy for quick replacement or repairs of wings, tail, panel and powerplant. Equipped Price: $105,000. Contact: www.hansenairgroup.com.
SkyLeader Aircraft markets this handsome all-metal, low-wing airplane, known previously as the Kappa KP-5. Made in the Czech Republic, the latest 600 model boasts new winglets, an industry-leading 50-inch-wide bubble canopy, a 28-gallon fuel capacity for seven hours of endurance, a steerable nosewheel and power from the industry-standard Rotax 912 UL, 912 ULS or 914 UL engines. Standard Price: $120,000. Contact: www.skyleaderusa.com.
Rakish, flowing lines and two lively low-wing versions (composite 800XP or all-metal 700S) position Gobosh to appeal to just about any segment of the LSA market—from training to cross-country cruising—in style. The 800XP is built in the Czech Republic; the 700S is made in Poland. Standard Price: $123,700 (800XP). Contact: www.gobosh.aero.
Rans Aircraft produces three varieties of S-LSA: the high-wing S-6LS Coyote and S-7LS Courier, and the low-wing S-19LS. “Cruisiest” is the all-aluminum monocoque construction S-19LS, which cruises at 111 knots (75% power) or 104 knots (65% power) and has a useful load of 500 pounds and a range of 610 miles. Standard Price: $123,000. Contact: www.rans.com.
Evektor SportStar Max
The very first S-LSA to receive ASTM certification, the Czech Republic–built SportStar, continues to evolve; its latest iteration is the Max. The all-metal, low-wing design features corrosion-proof anodized aluminum construction with riveted as well as bonded joints. Steerable nosewheel, hydraulic brakes and excellent performance (110-knot cruise and 1,020 fpm climb) are just the openers. Standard Price: $118,000 (SportStar BT). Contact: www.evektor-aircraft.com.
Another design from the Czech Republic, the Savage is a two-place tandem taildragger that’s reminiscent of the Piper Cub. It comes in three models (Classic, Cruiser and Cub) and offers lots of options. The TIG-welded chrome-moly-steel fuselage and aluminum-frame, fabric-covered wings (each with a nine-gallon tank) sport 35-degree flaps, a 562-pound payload, a +6/-3 G-load and a floaty 33-knot stall speed. Standard Price: $70,000. Contact: www.savageaircraftsales.com.
FPNA Valor A22
Built in the Ukraine and imported for assembly and finish in the United States, the Valor A22 and its floatplane version, the Cape Town, offer sporty design, lots of cabin room (with 52 inches at the bubbled side doors) and superb all-around visibility, especially for high-wing aircraft. The all-metal, flaperon-equipped flivvers cruise at 90 knots. Standard Price: $79,999. Contact: www.fpna.com.
T&T Falcon LS
One of the few LSA offering conventional powerplants (Lycoming O-235 or Continental O-200), the profoundly racy-looking Falcon LS also comes powered by a Rotax 912S and Jabiru 3300. The Kevlar/carbon beauty has a steerable nosewheel, electric trim and a lovely one-piece canopy. The U.S.-made Falcon is newly ASTM-certified. With the Rotax, its useful load is 552 pounds, and max cruise is 110 knots. Contact: www.tandtaviation.com.
The X-Air LS is based on a successful overseas microlight tube-and-sailcloth design that’s now 60% built in the United States and ASTM-certified. You won’t get there first with its 90-knot cruise, but you’ll get up quickly (under 300 feet), enjoy a full-fuel payload of 481 pounds and have a lot of fun along the way. Standard Price: $50,000. Contact: www.x-airlsa.com.
The SeaMax is the perfect airplane for “biwingual” enthusiasts: pilots who want both water and land flying. Made in Brazil, the amphibious beauty cruises at 100 knots, touches the water at 31 knots (flaps) and drives around like an airboat or Jet Ski! The aircraft features composite construction, a 25-gallon fuel capacity and a roomy 47-inch-wide cabin. Standard Price: $137,000. Contact: www.seamaxusa.com.
Italia MD3 Rider
One of the “friendliest” high-wing LSA out there is this cutie from Italy. It’s a very forgiving, easy-to-fly airplane—perfect for the training environment. The all-metal semi-monocoque structure is glued and blind-riveted, has full dual controls, cruises at 112 knots and stalls at 33 knots. Climb rate is impressive at 1,180 fpm, and handling is light and balanced. Equipped Price: $129,995. Contact: www.flyitalia.us.
Paradise Aircraft P-1
Beautifully finished and roomy enough (once you remove the right seat) to transport golf clubs or other large objects, this S-LSA version of the popular Brazilian homebuilt is all metal: aluminum skin over 4130 chrome-moly-steel tube structure. The aircraft is also available in a hands-only control version for handicapped pilots. Solid aluminum spring gear and a low 33-knot stall are only some of the P-1’s attractive features. Standard Price: $108,830. Contact: www.paradiseaircraft.us.
Garmin GPSMAP 696
GLASS FOR EVERY PANEL
There’s no shortage of high-tech instrumentation stuffed into many a light-sport panel. Part of that is the marvelous innovation of our technical age. Equally important: FAA certification isn’t required for LSA avionics. That has opened the floodgates to a broad and deep range of sophisticated, compact instruments from scores of companies. Most exciting are the electronic flight information systems’ (EFIS) digital display units. They come as large daytime-readable MFD and PFD units, and cost a fraction of the price of equivalent Part 23 avionics.
Two recent standouts are Garmin’s new GPSMAP 696, a portable, tablet-size (seven-inch-diagonal) MFD, and the seemingly ubiquitous dual-screen system from Dynon, FlightDEK-D180, which combines Dynon’s EFIS-D100 and EMS-D120 (engine monitoring system). The Garmin 696 is a sophisticated unit that’s compatible with XM weather and radio and includes moving map, built-in HSI, terrain alerts and 3-D map views. Dynon’s duo package integrates all flight instrument displays, G-meter, voltmeter, airspeed, vertical
Dynon Avionics FlightDEK-D180
speed and much more.
Garmin is keeping one foot firmly planted in the future with its G3X concept, which features components built around the GDU 370 and GDU 375 (the panel-mounted versions of the 696). The integrated G3X panel will show real-time weather, traffic, terrain and charts, and include an air data, attitude and heading reference system (ADAHRS), an engine information system (EIS), a magnetometer and a temperature probe.
Also available are an abundance of new “steam-gauge” conventional instrument flight packs. Digital tech has made inroads here too, with round gauges such as MGL Avionics’ 2¼-inch Infinity and 3.125-inch Velocity singles, which sport high-resolution LCD graphics.
Blue Mountain EFIS/Sport
There are even inexpensive (under $1,500) collision-avoidance alert systems, such as the Zaon PCAS XRX, that can stand alone or link to GPS units and display traffic in TCAS-like symbology.
Two impressive glass displays from Blue Mountain are the EFIS/Sport and EFIS/Lite Plus. The Sport has an 8.5-inch, sunlight-readable, vertical screen that shows the map, ADI and HSI, engine monitor, etc. The Lite Plus has a five-inch screen for ADI, HSI or GPS moving map and optional engine pages.
AFS Advanced Deck
Advanced Flight Systems (AFS) offers a variety of EFIS decks, including the new Advanced Deck with an 8.4-inch display, which can be accessed through an eight-way joystick knob. All AFS systems have full-featured voice-alert systems.
MGL Avionics offers the 10.4-inch-diagonal Odyssey “Big Daddy” EFIS platform complete with an integrated software application system and sensors such as for attitude and heading.
AvMap makes the impressive EKP IV portable navigation unit. The seven-inch display can operate in either landscape or portrait mode, utilizes a CompactFlash card for data updates, and stores up to 15 flight plans, 1,000 waypoints and custom point-of-interest settings.
AvMap EKP IV
Fancy glass decks aren’t the only news in LSA avionics. SportairUSA collaborated with I-K Technologies on its electronic GreenLine EMS. In addition to rpm, CHT, oil pressure and other digital readouts—all visible in one compact display—there’s a horizontal color bar that turns yellow or red for each monitoring segment if anything is amiss.
Let’s not forget cockpit chatter. PS Engineering’s PM3000 six-channel stereo intercom is even configurable with an iPod jack for custom in-flight entertainment. And there’s no shortage of autopilots, controlled either through EFIS modules or by stand-alone units such as the TruTrak DigiFlight II VSGV, which fits into a 2¼-inch round hole. We haven’t even talked about NAV/COMs and Mode C transponders such as Garmin’s SL30 and GTX 327. That’ll have to wait for the comprehensive LSA avionics roundup coming soon. Stay tuned!
|Advanced Flight Systems: www.advanced-flight-systems.com
Blue Mountain Avionics:www.bluemountainavionics.com
MGL Avionics: www.mglavionics.co.za
TruTrak Flight Systems: www.trutrakflightsystems.com
Zaon Flight Systems:www.zaon.aero
THE FUTURE STARTS NOW!
Four up-and-coming S-LSA designs bear watching: one for its generations of importance to general aviation, one for its razzle-dazzle marketing that hopes to create a whole new recreational class of air vehicle, one for its multifaceted “expandability” potential and one for its new approach to an old idea.
Cessna C-162 SkyCatcher: You may have read that this all-metal 152-style airplane has had two prototype spin-test mishaps that required parachute deployment. Does that mean the project is doomed? Hardly. Cessna is putting the SkyCatcher through rigorous Part 23 (GA certification–style) testing. If anybody is going to get it right, bank on Cessna. And with 1,000-plus orders on the books, once the production model is finished, the number of registered LSA will double in a very short time. That’s good for everybody. Cessna’s time-honored fit and finish, the 100 hp Continental O-200D, the 118-knot cruise speed, the 470-mile range and the sophisticated Garmin 300 glass panel will earn many devotees. Contact: www.cessna.com.
Icon A5: This composite, folding-wing, amphibious bird is flat-out gorgeous. The company seems bent on making this new class of trailerable watercraft so enticing that Jet Ski and pleasure-boat enthusiasts will scramble to add a new toy to the floating dock or garage. Power will come from the 100 hp Rotax 912 ULS. At 1,430 pounds, it’s not light, but a useful load of 430 to 530 pounds (depending on options), 46-inch-wide cabin, 300-mile range and near-100-knot cruise will get you from one pond to the next in agreeable time. Already in flight-testing, the carbon-fiber-built ship is beautiful just sitting still. Price: $139,000. Contact: www.iconaircraft.com.
Epic Focus: Happy to sport a multiple personality, the Focus S-LSA project is in the works from Epic Aircraft, known for its exciting high-tech personal jet and turboprop designs. Focus starts with a carbon-fiber, two-seat airframe that will also be spun off in three other configurations, including a 400-knot turboprop version! The aircraft’s all-up weight of 1,320 pounds will include a 615-pound useful load, 40-knot stall speed (full flaps), 115-knot cruise at 75% power and 1,050-mile range (34 gallons with a 30-minute reserve). Contact: www.epicaircraft.com.
Terrafugia Transition: It’s a bird; it’s a car; it’s…well, both. Often tried, the flying car has never really worked before, but this time it just might thanks to the brainy design team of MIT grads. Terrafugia has already successfully completed flight-testing on the proof-of-concept version. Airborne, the S-LSA will cruise up to 450 miles at 100 knots. The wingable roadster will offer a full-vehicle parachute option, as well as a glass avionics suite and side-impact protection for the ground. Wings fold electromechanically for roadwork. Car mode doesn’t mean a spinning prop: Transition has front-wheel drive, rolls along at highway speeds, gets 30 mpg and fits inside a standard garage. It’s also pretty spacious at 51 inches at the shoulders. Price: $194,000. Contact: www.terrafugia.com.