The year’s first major aviation show, Florida’s U.S. Sport Aviation Expo, went off swimmingly, if a mite frigidly in January, with good attendance, thanks to show organizer Bob Woods and his friendly volunteers. New LSA designs debuted, popular makers returned with their stable of thoroughbreds, and except for one weather-challenged day, LSA-focused enthusiasts got their fill of daily flight demos, new product displays and many chances to go toe-to-toe with the folks who build, outfit and market the light-sport fleet.
There were colorful stripes of human story at Sebring, as well. Two inspiring disabled young people flew an LSA 1,000 miles to raise funds for wounded vets to learn to fly…and they used only hand controls. Wonderful story.
Gobosh went through a change of hands (now represented by a longtime Denver training operation, Chris Dill’s Skyraider Aviation). Meanwhile, the Brazilian company that builds the Paradise P1 is enduring some change-of-hands pangs of its own, possibly. Stay tuned as that story unfolds. AOPA’s head honcho Craig Fuller traveled down from Washington to deliver a rousing talk at the LAMA (Light Aircraft Manufacturer’s Association) dinner. But surely, the most enduring tongue-wagger at the show was Piper’s dismantling of its one-
year-old marketing agreement with the Czech company that builds the beautiful PiperSport S-LSA.
New airplanes included a wild-looking ASTM-certified German warbird and a gorgeous S-LSA motorglider that handles like a dream—I was lucky enough to get 2.5 hours in it!
When the winds quit, and cleanup crews came out Monday morning, I flew the new-looking, four-year-old Kitfox that Paul Leadabrand of Stick & Rudder Aviation (Boise, Idaho) had flown down—a 4,200-mile round-tripper. Lovely airplane…and stalwart guy!
Some sales were made, and many more solid prospects logged for future contact. A group of five LSA companies flew out Sunday night on a joint marketing venture to six Florida airports.
All in all, you’d have to say light-sport aviation is alive and well and looking for more rainbows in 2011. It’s a great story: Be part of it this year!
Criquet Storch. A major hit, the stunning 75% replica Criquet Storch drew curious admirers every day. Beautifully constructed, this iconic, scaled-down copy of the German World War II liaison stalwart (L-4 Bird Dog was the U.S. equivalent) is available for $88,000 as an ASTM-approved S-LSA; 100-hour E-LSA (covered, bolt-together) kit; and experimental category 1,000-hour kit. The S-LSA version has a Rotax 912S, 100 hp engine. Flying in the Storch (German for stork) is an ultralight-like STOL experience (cruise: 80 mph) for an owner wanting a unique creature to display and fly. Stall with 40 degrees of flaps is 30 mph! Imported as components from Colombia and assembled in Deland, Fla. Contact: www.uflyit.com.
Piper Bows Out. The top question of Sebring was “Why did Piper Aircraft drop the Czech Sport Aircraft-built PiperSport?” This shocker even caught industry insiders with their wheel pants down. “Differences in business philosophies” was the official line from both companies. CSA will continue producing the SportCruiser alone. Two rumors: the Czech builder wanted Piper to market more globally; Piper might acquire another LSA, but is interested in larger profit margins through its Altaire jet. Outstanding PiperSport orders will still be delivered. Piper sold 54 in 2010. Existing service network members (such as www.ussportaircraft.com) will continue to support the airplane, whatever name it wears. CSA says to expect design changes down the road. Contact: www.piper.com.
Phoenix S-LSA. Another highly anticipated debut was the arrival of the Phoenix S-LSA certified motorglider. U.S. rep Jim Lee introduced me to its many virtues in two long flights: one with the shorter wing extensions (36-foot span) for LSA cruising fun, the other with full 49-foot-span soaring authority. So much—where to begin? Glide ratio: 32:1. Sink rate: 200 fpm. Handling? Just plain dreamy, with two-second 45-degree-to-45-degree roll reversals (shorter span) to just over three seconds (49-foot span)! Both configs have full-span ailerons. Comfort? Superb with semi-reclined support. Fit and finish? Gorgeous. Launches quick (300 feet or so), easy for a newbie to land. If soaring and powered cruising flights populate your dreams, go check this bird out! Contact: www.phoenixiarusa.com.
Viper S-LSA. Also debuting is yet another new, ASTM-approved S-LSA out of Slovakia. Low-wing, roomy, colorful, cute and well-made, the airplane could find a market for those who want a conventional approach via its all-metal airframe. The parent company, Tomark Aero, uses CAD design and CNC precision-cutting methods, which greatly enhance construction precision and consistency. Some noteworthy specs: 108-knot cruise, top speed 120 knots, 40-knot stall, 1,280 fpm climb, takeoff run of 525 feet. A relatively short span of 27′ 10” and an 18-gallon fuel capacity bring a 400 nm range. Power comes from a Rotax 912 ULS (100 hp). Contact: U.S. representative Tomark Aero USA, www.tomarkaero.com.
New SkyView Features. Dynon’s Robert Hamilton clued me in to two new software features of the increasingly ubiquitous SkyView glass avionics platform: I saw them in cockpits all over the show! Latest features include autopilot and transponder. It’s easy to use: Just tap VFR, for example, in transponder mode, and the 1200 squawk code is selected. Changing codes to ATC instructions is simple, too. And the Dynon transponder sending unit weighs only a pound, so it can live anywhere in the plane with minimal performance penalty. Dynon also offers its new worldwide navigation database through its partnership with Jeppesen. “We keep adding functionality,” says Robert. No kidding! Contact: www.dynonavionics.com.
Flight Design CTLS Clamar Floats. I had the pleasure to get webbed feet courtesy Tom Guttman and son Tom Jr. (of CT dealer Airtime Aviation). Their new CTLS sported a clean pair of Clamar amphibious floats built by famed float designer Clair Sceli, and they perform beautifully. Tom let me cycle several landings on the nearby waters of wind-whipped, whitecap-popping Lake Jackson. Solid, sturdy, functional. Drag penalty is only 18 knots at top speed—we still saw 102 knots. The floats get on-step pretty quick, and the CT still has a good strong climb rate. Contact: www.flyct.com.
Dual SkyViews for the CT. Tom Peghiny, president of Flight Design USA, also displayed a gorgeous, futuristic panel at the show: two side-by-side Dynon SkyView EFIS displays with a Garmin 696 chaser—what a cocktail! The sexy panel is a $12,000 upgrade and includes dual-system backup batteries, engine monitoring module, a backup GPS antenna/receiver module, and dual ADAHRS. The upgrade also includes an independent pitot probe. To accept the panels, the instrument console was widened. XM Weather and TIS traffic are included with the Garmin 696 to boot. Contact: www.flightdesignusa.com.
Cessna Skycatcher Catch-Up. Cessna’s Skycatcher program is really gaining production traction. By the end of 2010, 30 Skycatchers had been delivered, mostly to U.S. flight schools and Cessna Pilot Centers (CPC). “We expect to deliver 150 more by the end of this year,” according to Communications VP Bob Stangarone, “and more than that in 2012.” “With the Garmin G300 on board,” said Julie Filucci, manager of CPC, “you’ve got everything you need: airport data, automatic weight-and-balance calculator and a lot more.” Cessna’s new online sport pilot training course, available through CPCs, has tons of video and instruction by the legendary John and Martha King of King Schools. Contact: www.cessna.com.
SeaRey LSX. Kerry Richter took me up in the new SeaRey LSX he first designed back in 1992. Several design iterations later, the S-LSA version of the popular experimental-category amphib (more than 550 have been built) is expected to debut with its ASTM-certification paperwork completed by Oshkosh. One of the easiest, most goof-proof airplanes I’ve ever flown, Richter gave me a full workout with maximum maneuvers, glass-water, effortless landings and short, short takeoff runs of 300 feet or less…and remember, that’s off water. Drop the wheels, and the performance with the Rotax 914 Turbo is equally impressive on land. Strong (+6 G’s to -4 G’s ultimate load factor), the new factory-built version is an impressive waterbird market contender. Contact: www.searey.com..
The 2011 Florida LSA Tour. LSA makers eager to expand sales took to the air after Sebring in a kind of flying-auto-mall gaggle. Five top manufacturers embarked on the six-city Florida demonstration tour to attract potential customers. Cooked up by Bill Canino of SportairUSA and Legend Air’s Dave Graham, formerly with Gobosh, the idea targets one of America’s busiest private-aviation states. Legend’s Cub, Flight Design’s CTLS, SportairUSA’s Sting S3 and Sirius, the Rans S-19, and Jabiru’s J230 joined the tour’s itinerary to Naples, Miami, Orlando, Spruce Creek, Leeward Air Ranch and Tallahassee. If successful, tours like this could fill the gap until the LSA infrastructure reaches more fully across the country.
Touch-Screen EFIS. Levil Aviation’s EFIS-1831 drew a lot of attention in the display booth hangar. Does anybody doubt, with the paradigm shift brought about by Apple’s iPhone and iPad, that touch-screen cockpit displays are the future? This 10.4-inch touch-screen computer ties in all EFIS engine and navigation monitoring functions into one MFD that’s software-customizable.Voy-ager,APIC, Anywhere Map and other navigation programs will run on it just fine. Use it for the Internet, as a PFD, for weather, moving maps, engine data and more—all at the touch of a finger tip. There’s also a smaller AHRS screen (6x3x1.5 inches, 12 ounces) for separate attitude/heading reference and engine monitoring. Contact: www.aviation.levil.com.
Freedom Flight 2011. A very different venture than the LSA tour had a parallel purpose: to raise money. The goal here was to fund scholarships for wounded and disabled veterans who want to learn to fly an LSA. It was set up through Charles Stite’s Able Flight organization and Crowdrise, a web-based donation site. What’s even more commendable: the 2,000-mile round-trip mission was flown by a quadriplegic and a paraplegic in a specially outfitted Sky Arrow tandem LSA from Hansen Air Group—and solely with the pilot’s hands. The two rated sport pilots, Heather Schultz and Sean O’Donnell, are previous scholarship winners. They wanted to pay forward their opportunities, and this is how they chose to do it. Pretty special. Contact: www.ableflight.org.
FK9 ELA. One S-LSA I’ve been wanting to fly and report on (look to an upcoming issue) is this pretty, comfortable, solid-performing cruiser from Poland’s Fk Lightplanes, which has been producing quality microlights overseas for some time. The ELA (the name will probably change to avoid confusion with E-LSA kitplanes) is the fifth version of the popular carbon-fiber airplane, and it’s a real looker, with handsome lines and stable, comfortable handling. A redesigned engine cowl for the Rotax 912 ULS reduces drag and improves cooling: nice trick! New winglets reduce fuel burn and improve stall handling for U.S. LSA requirements. The many options include folding wings and wing or fuselage fuel tanks. Contact: www.hansenairgroup.com.
Alto 100. Vowing at last year’s Sun ’n Fun to deliver an Americanized, and more affordable S-LSA to our shores before a year was out, Ron Corbi and Dan Coffey did just that with this retooled Czech design, which is now S-LSA certified. The idea was a kind of preemptive maintenance approach: Corbi and Coffey hoped to eliminate those things that tend to fail in LSA. American-made Matco wheels and brakes, bucked rivets instead of pop rivets in high-stress areas, a Vertical Power electronic electrical system, Approach Hub avionics wiring and a Dynon SkyView glass panel, all for under $100,000, should bring raised eyebrows and closer looks. Contact: www.corbiair.com.
A/V-ATOR HD GPS Camcorder. I spoke with Light Sport Group’s Dave Kotick about the latest feature of its hot-selling, lightweight, aircraft-mounted HD camera system with GPS data tracking. The unit records in-flight video at 1080p resolution and also records noise-reduced audio for excellent application to flight-training operations, media creation and other applications. The new GPS version encodes speed, altitude and position data along with the video. Software included with the unit lets users play back flights, edit video and share videos online. Data also can easily port over to apps such as Google Earth for mapping flights. A highly useful unit that keeps evolving, for under $600. Contact: www.lightsportgroup.com.