We’re off to the races … OK, the race track … OK, we’re off to Sebring, which happens to be alongside the Sebring International Raceway. Yep. It’s January so it’s again time for the Sebring Expo, this time number 11, the 2015 edition of the popular Florida show. I’ll be onsite for the four days, which this year is one day sooner, running Wednesday through Saturday. The plan makes it easier for vendors to stay to the end on Saturday and still have time to get home on Sunday so they can be back in their businesses on Monday.
Every time I head to a show people contact me, including journalists from publications that don’t follow Light-Sport, light kits, ultralights, or light GA as closely as we do). The question is always the same. What new aircraft or products will we see at the show? …Uh, let me think.
Even I don’t hear everything early, though perhaps my awareness is fuller than others. Developers are often busy trying to finish their new project in time. Perhaps they want to keep it secret until they unveil it. Either way, it takes time to inform journalists. Think how carefully Apple tries to keep people from knowing what new iGizmo they will introduce at their media extravanganzas. (It doesn’t always work as a entire army of nosey people is constantly probing around to find out what they’ll unveil.)
However, I know a few things, so I’ll give you some ideas and present some photos with this article to help excite your interest in attending. I hope many will make it to this year’s event. It is raining hard right now, but the weather prognosis looks good, if possibly a bit on the cool side.
Look for the Aerolite 103 with its new Briggs and Stratton four stroke engine. You can see my earlier article for details but I’m thrilled that someone is offering a four stroke, legal Part 103 three-axis ultralight. You have not seen this one and it deserves a look especially given its low-low price tag. How low? You’ll have to swing by their space and ask but this company makes airplanes that sell for less than $16,000 fully-built and ready-to-fly. No wonder they are selling and building “to manufacturing capacity.”
Steve Minnich of Dreams Come True said, “We’ll be showing something we’ve wanted for a long time at Sebring.” He said it was not “Earth shattering” but it may be important to some buyers. “Evektor has previously stayed with the tried and true, low weight simple adjustment at the pedal, which also kept people from adjusting pedals in flight.” However, he said, “Hearing public request and arriving at an engineering design they are satisfied with, they have released a new pedal adjustment system where the rudder pedals can be adjusted while seated.”
SportairUSA boss Bill Canino has been running a contest to rename their airplanes formerly known by using the word “Cub.” Another company owns that name (no, not Piper) and they’re putting a stop to it. So, being a reasonable sort, Bill decided to let pilots help rename his birds. He’ll announce who the winners of iPads and stuff are at Sebring, but the names are no longer a secret. He said, “The previous Titan 180-horsepower Cub S will be named Outback. A plane he made somewhat famous by using an iPad for the main instrument, appropriately called iCub, will be named Nomad.” The latter uses a 100-horsepower Rotax 912. Come to Sebring and see who won the prizes.
You can some look for the new Paradise P1NG, as the Brazilian brand makes a reentry to the U.S. market after several years absence. In fact, they’re making quite a splash with not only a new airplane but a factory-owned outlet housed at Sebring. Paradise joins Tecnam at selecting the Sebring airport for their new quarters, from which they’ll supply the USA but also export to other countries. Read the earlier story for more details.
Another new model I’m excited to see fully finished and flying is the Bristell TDO, or Tail Dragger Option. I saw this at Aero 2014 but it was a plain fuselage with no paint or interior. Producer BRM Aero makes a truly handsome, well-flying LSA and, like many others, I think taildraggers look oh-so cool. New U.S. distributor Lou Mancuso said, “Bristell TDO gives owners the utility of a back country aircraft with greater speed and useful load than traditional back country LSA flyers, and optional 26-inch tundra tires allow the TDO to land on very rough surfaces.”
A useful feature of the Bristell TDO is a “Sleeper Sleeve” option. Lou said, “Developed for the Australian market, where pitching a tent in the company of some of the world’s most poisonous snakes and spiders isn’t pleasant, Bristell’s solution is elegantly simple: sleep in the aircraft cockpit.” He explained that all the pilot need do is, “Lower the seats, cover the baggage area, and expose the rear fuselage. A completely flat area is available for sleep. At 51″ wide, it’s just two inches narrower than a normal full-size mattress.” You’ll want to see it at Sebring.
LSA taildraggers seem hotter than ever. Bearhawk Aircraft announced today its Bearhawk LSA will make a first-time visit to Sebring. It will be the first Bearhawk completed as a Quick Build kit by owner Mark Goldberg. He sums it up as a “rugged, sweet-handling airplane, designed for a gross weight of 1,500 pounds,” giving it a good safety margin when flown at LSA gross weight of 1,320 pounds. It is also quite a performer. At AirVenture 2014, designer Bob Barrows competed in the Valdez STOL competition in his prototype LSA. He reported a takeoff distance of 96 feet with a landing distance of 130 feet, excellent numbers for a plane with a speedy 118-mph cruise, quick for the bushplane category.
Speaking of STOL, the extreme example is Just Aircraft‘s breathtaking SuperSTOL. I reported from last year’s Midwest LSA Expo that the South Carolina company had added spoilers to further extremify SuperSTOL and now the kit is available. “The addition of spoilers significantly enhances slow flight control, especially in undesirable wind conditions. They represent the latest step in advancing the short takeoff and landing capabilities of the SuperSTOL.” Yeah, like it needed more … whew! Yet if something is good, then more must be better. Surprisingly, SuperSTOL flies quite docilely.
Designer and flight tester Troy Woodland said, “Once a pilot discovers the advantage of spoilers in slow flight and turbulent air, he won’t want to fly without them. They go a long way toward taking the rock and roll out of rough air on final, and they open up new areas for landings.” The kits, which connect the spoilers to the ailerons, take about 40 hours to install. With all its wing features — high-lift airfoil, vortex generators, and fowler flaps — allow SuperSTOL to fly at very high angles of attack without stalling. “This allows a touchdown speed in the low 20s in calm conditions,” said Just Aircraft. Come see it at Sebring.
I hear we might witness the Flying Platform in flight. Hmmm …we’ll see, but it’s certain you have to attend Sebring to see the newest and coolest.
On the Sebring show grounds, the big Show Center tent gives you a place to eat, rest, meet and visit with friends, hear engaging speakers, find show staffers. This year you will also see something I think you’ll find mighty interesting. Come see a glass panel like you’ve never seen. See a whole new implementation of autopilot. Look at electric propulsion done most impressively.
What is it? You’ll have to come to the Show Center tent at Sebring to find out. See you in Sebring!