Put on them bibs, pardners, if you’ve got an appetite for one of the tastiest SLSA out there. Last year, Van’s Aircraft came out with its Signature Series, an even dozen fully built SLSA. They were assembled by Van’s kit builder support company Synergy Air of Eugene, Oregon. Now I’m not trying to set you up for a fall, but even though the company did just announce another 12 RV-12 batch, priced at $123,000 each (loaded), the odds are reasonable that by the time you read this, they’ll be gone too. My apologies for bringing good, then potentially bad news. My pessimism derives from the last batch. See, they were snapped up so quick that the next 50 or so eager customers on the list — with checks in hand — were turned away. By the way, that $123,000 sticker includes ADS-B, two-axis autopilot, wheel pants, and premium paint schemes with pinstripe.
Cessna’s “First Lady” gets Skycatcher #1
For those who missed the announcement back in 2007 when the Cessna C-162 Skycatcher was first announced, the planned delivery of the very first production airplane will stay in the Cessna family, as the happy owner is none other than Rose Pelton of Wichita, Kan. *** In case that name sounds familiar, it should: hubbie Jack Pelton is Cessna’s CEO. *** “When I first saw the Skycatcher mockup at Oshkosh in 2007, I knew that was the aircraft I wanted to learn to fly in,” said Mrs. P. “I couldn’t be more excited…” *** More than 1,000 of the new, all-metal, Continental O-200D-powered SLSA have been ordered. *** Also in the next issue of Plane&Pilot, you’ll want to check out the story of King Schools’ new Web-based training system for sport and private pilot certificates. It’ll be available through the Cessna Pilot Center network of flight schools.
Midwest School Gets First Skycatcher
Here’s a spot of welcome news for all those who’ve been waiting to get their hands on a Cessna 162 Skycatcher: Kansas Aviation, Inc. gets first honors for putting the long-delayed S-LSA into service for flight training and rentals. *** An interesting note: the school is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Yingling Aircraft, Inc., one of three domestic sites Cessna picked to assemble and test fly the Skycatcher once it arrives from the Chinese factory where it’s fabricated. *** The airplane was first delivered to a retail customer, Bravo Sierra Group, which leases the aircraft to Kansas Aviation for use in its Cessna Pilot Center (CPC). *** Rental rate harkens back to the day when sub-$100/hr rental rates were common: the Skycatcher is available at $98 per hour wet. *** Dave Tiday, the school’s manager and Chief Flight Instructor, believes the Skycatcher “will be key to developing the next generation of pilots.” *** Powered by a Continental O-200D, 100-hp air-cooled engine with a fixed-pitch propeller, the Kansas Aviation C-162 has a Garmin G300 avionics system with a single, split-screen PFD (primary flight display) and an MFD (multi-function display).
Cessna Ships 50th Skycatcher
Here’s an item we’ve all waited for: Cessna exercising it’s production mojo by shipping its 50th production Skycatcher S-LSA. *** The company manufactures and ships the C-162 from its Shenyang Aircraft manufacturing site in China to the US final assembly facility (Yingling Aviation, Wichita, KS). *** Current Cessna projections call for 30 total deliveries by year’s end, with another 150 more in 2011. *** The skies will be white with Skycatchers before long! *** That’s welcome and none-too-early news for the industry as well as all those Skycatcher owners who’ve been patiently waiting delivery, which includes flight schools across the country hoping this will be the next 150/152. *** Price is holding steady at $112,000, including a Garmin G300 avionics deck and the Continental O200D engine. Cessna has also added five flight training schools to its network, which bumps its U.S. presence to more than 280 Cessna Pilot Centers.
The Year of Cub Love
In case you hadn’t heard, this is the Year of the Cub…the 75th anniversary celebration of that wonderful proto-LSA, the *** Piper J3 Cub. *** All aircraft have their special places in our hearts. But was there ever anything quite like the wonderful Cub? If you haven’t had the pleasure, take some dual just to see what our forebears learned to fly in. You’ll not only gain appreciation for how much better your stick-and-rudder skills could be, but it will, I’ll wager, also infuse your soul with a real bit of love for flying, true grassroots Americana style. There just isn’t anything quite like the sensation of lifting off behind a Continental four-banger of varying horsepower (the one I rent is a Continental with 65 ponies) and struggling at a leisurely pace for altitude. *** Wikipedia has a tasty lead-off to its abstract that I want to share with you: it cuts through the flowery verbosity to capture in unadorned prose the essence of what the Cub has meant to generations of pilots: *** The Piper J-3 Cub is a small, simple, light aircraft that was built between 1937 and 1947 by Piper Aircraft.
Quick, say “Octodecacopter”…and Welcome the Future
It’s premature if not off the point to say this exotic, beautiful prototype will be the death of the helicopter. I will flat out make a prediction: a whole new type of flight is here … and it will change everything … and I mean everything about how we fly. I was musing the other day, while catching up on the latest multi-rotor RC model technology with which to populate my Christmas wish list, about how long it would take before we saw a serious effort to build a human-carrying version. Clearly I was way behind the buzz curve: talk about instant gratification! E-volo of Karlsruhe, Germany has just made a lightspeed leapfrog over pretty much every other vertical takeoff/landing design or project I’ve heard about. The gamechanger: the just-maidened VC200 Volocopter. Watch the video, then read on. This project and others like it is going to change flight as we know it, make no mistake.
Skycatcher: To Be or to Be, Not
A story posted by Daniel McCoy, a reporter for the Wichita Business Journal, claims the star-crossed Cessna 162 Skycatcher will likely not enjoy the longevity and success of other notable Cessna icons such as the C-172 and C-150/152. Skycatcher was one of the first SLSA out of the gate for the new category created by FAA in 2004. But troubles with manufacturing and two highly publicized airframe parachute deployments during flight testing, including an airframe redesign after the first one, contributed to the dark cloud that seemed to follow the once-bright promise of Cessna’s entry. The market-perceived lackluster specifications sheet and barebones/industrial interior finish relative to many other LSA entries also contributed to the steady attrition in the once-1000-plus order sheet for the Skycatcher. The news came yesterday at the NBAA (National Business Aviation Association) confab in Las Vegas. Company CEO Scott Ernest made the remark that Skycatcher had difficulty attracting market share and had lost a sizable percentage of its multi-year back orders.
Skycatcher: To Be or to Be, Not
*** A story posted by Daniel McCoy, a reporter for the Wichita Business Journal, claims the star-crossed Cessna 162 Skycatcher will likely not enjoy the longevity and success of other notable Cessna icons such as the C-172 and C-150/152. *** The Skycatcher was one of the first SLSA out of the gate for the new category created by FAA in 2004. But troubles with manufacturing and two highly publicized airframe parachute deployments during flight testing, including an airframe redesign after the first one, contributed to the dark cloud that seemed to follow the once-bright promise of Cessna’s entry. *** The market-perceived lackluster specifications sheet and barebones/industrial interior finish relative to many other LSA entries also contributed to the steady attrition in the once-1000-plus order sheet for the Skycatcher. *** The news came yesterday at the NBAA (National Business Aviation Association) confab in Las Vegas. Company CEO Scott Ernest made the remark that Skycatcher had difficulty attracting market share and had lost a sizable percentage of its multi-year back orders.
Freakish Oshkosh Weather Continues!
Yes, Airventure fans, it’s been fair, mild, low humidity, refreshing, beautiful weather…all descriptors none of us is used to using in the same sentence with the words Oshkosh and summer. *** It’s been a delight not to drop with exhaustion at the end of a long day slogging around the miles of paths and thousands of exhibits, planes and aviation sundry. *** Here’s some more cool stuff from my travels across the great cement/grass/asphalt immensity known simply as “Oshkosh.”
The Big O Photo Jam
In the wee and foot-throbbing hours after wandering the highways and byways of the vast Oshkosh Airventure showgrounds all day, here’s a taste of some of the cool things encountered so far from my abbreviated visit – my 32nd year in attendance since 1981…and every year brings new wonders and old friends: threads of gold and silver. *** *** ***
Fantasy in Paris — Electric Twin & More
“How ya gonna keep ‘em down on the farm … after they’ve seen Paree?” That’s a timely reprise of an old show tune to bring our attention to the Paris Air Show, which is sending out some ripples in the “What’s New” Dept. Chances look better every year that electric flight will be a major player in how we take the air. And for those of you who think that’s just a bunch of hot air, you could be right, too! Read on. Jason Paur who writes for Wired magazine gets to do all the fun stuff I just get to fantasize about … specifically, electric flight. He’s at Le Bourget Field in Paris and filed this report on an exciting new electric prototype that fits nicely into the Light Sport Aircraft specification. Here are some highlights and you can read the rest first hand at the link above.
The Iceman Goeth … to the South Pole
Matevz Lenarcic, a Slovenian pilot I met briefly when I was at the Pipistrel factory last fall, has raised the bar to ridiculous heights from his previous long distance exploits (including his around-the-worlder in a Pipistrel Sinus motorglider in 2004), by landing in Antarctica! *** He’s making another globe-circling, solo marathon — that’s right, the entire trip, east to west — all by himself, in a modified Pipistrel Virus SW 914 Turbo. The engine has an Intercooler unit but at least for Antarctica as well as some high-altitude reaches he has planned, engine cooling will be the lesser of his challenges. *** The epic flight in the SW (for Short Wing) began last January from Ljubljana, Slovenia where Pipistrel has its state-of-the-art sustainable energy factory (it actually sells surplus energy back to the Slovenian grid.) *** The route Matevz mapped out is by no means intended to be a short haul either, even by globe-circling standards.
Live From Sun ‘n Fun 2013
SuperStol: Able to leap tall RVs at a single bound. Drawing lots of attention is the Just Aircraft SuperStol LSA kitplane (soon to be an SLSA) that has self-deploying leading edge slats, oleo main gear shock-absorbing struts (with humongous tires), even a shock absorber for the tailwheel. I found out later I was the first flywriter to get some time in the critter. Whether true or not, I felt like a kid on his first flight again: what a fun airplane! True — and amazing — STOL performance befitting a Helio Courier-style plane. My report will be out soon in Plane & Pilot magazine. It’s the third day at Sun ‘n Fun. Breezy, hottish (high 80s), humid: in other words, classic Florida Spring weather. The attendance seems steady if not overwhelming. I’ve been hanging out a lot in the new Paradise City Light Sport/Ultralight area and grass landing strip in the southeast corner of Lakeland Linder Airport, and enthusiastically report it is vastly improved over previous years.
Getting With The (Tower) Program
Pilot Workshops of Nashua, NH is getting with the program to help ease pilot anxiety about the transition. The company just put out three free videos that are aimed to help us all refresh our memories about Non-Towered Airport operations. PilotWorkshops founder Mark Robidoux had this to say: “With the recent announcement of 149 tower closures, there will suddenly be thousands of pilots flying into and out of airports that had ATC services one day, and none the next. While all of us are trained in these procedures, it’s easy to become rusty if you aren’t using a skill. We wanted to make this refresher available to all pilots for free in the hopes that it makes flying a bit safer for all of us.” PilotWorkshops.com LLC was founded in 2005 and is best-known for its free ”Pilot’s Tip of the Week” emails received by over 100,000 pilots each week.
Update 3/22/13 … CHICAGO / Associated Press announced that the FAA put the final list of air traffic control tower closures at 149. The process of shutdown will start early in April. One key point: closures will not force the airports themselves to shut down, but all pilots will use unicom frequencies to communicate their position and intentions to other pilots in the vicinity. “We will work with the airports and the operators to ensure the procedures are in place to maintain the high level of safety at non-towered airports,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in a statement. In what could be a major impact on smaller regional airports such as Salinas Municipal in California, Lakeland Linder Regional in Florida (home of the Sun ‘n Fun show next month), and Wittman Regional in Wisconsin (home of Oshkosh Airventure), airlines have yet to say whether they will continue offering service to airports that lose tower staff.
Wrangling An Air2Air Photo Shoot
My flyin’ pal, industry leader, and co-blogger Dan Johnson suggested recently that I throw some tips your way about how I put together and do air2air photography. Since I’ve done around 600 in my 30 year career, it’s not a topic I have to research, always good news. So for those of you interested in what it takes to pull off such an undertaking, here we go. First big challenge: finding a decent photo ship. That’s tougher away from your home airport (mine was for many years Santa Paula Airport north of Los Angeles, and Long Beach Airport just south.) My birds of prey have included: single-seat ultralights, flying with one hand and holding the camera with the other – that was lots of fun although I was constantly anxious about dropping the big old Nikon SLR camera I used back in the early ’80s.homebuilt gyrocopters and choppers (airframe vibration is a big challenge here: faster shutter speeds are important)Piper Saratoga/Cherokee 6, Beech Bonanza.
50 Years with No Crashes…and 25 of them In A Quick!
It’s enough to be proud of flying a “real” airplane for 50 years without accident, incident, or citation for 50 years. But imagine if half of those years were flown in those crazy “death wish” machines: ultralights! Of course, those of us who’ve flown hang gliders, ultralights and other true bird experience aircraft know just how safe they are. Anything you fly requires skill but also flying it within its strengths and limitations – that’s the only fail-safe secret to safe flying. Nobody knows that truth better than George Karamitis. He’s just received the FAA’s Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award, for half a century of impeccable flying in both GA airplanes and the all-time best selling ultralight, the Quicksilver. George started out like a lot of us did, gawking through the fence as a kid at his home airport, Oshkosh’s Wittman Field. The veteran aviation icon and airport namesake himself, Steve Wittman, gave wee Georgie a ride one day, which sure beat hanging out in the family bathroom at home, as he liked to do, sitting on the toilet seat lid and pretending to fly with a plunger for a joystick!
LSA Industry On Life Support…ummm…Nah.
In a recent article from Flying Magazine, an editor volunteered his opinion that the Light Sport industry is on life support. There are so many good arguments to refute such a sky-is-falling assessment, it kind of makes you wonder why a respected journalist would go out of his way to attract a lot of heat in the first place … but that’s another story. Dan Johnson makes a ton of solid rebuttal remarks in this article and in a video he did with UltralightFlyer.com — check those out. Meanwhile, here’s a magnificent retort to the LSA-is-dead silliness: Airtime Aviation out of Tulsa, OK. Owners Tom Gutmann and his son Tom Jr. just delivered their Number 100 Flight Design airplane, a new CTLSi with a fuel injected Rotax 912 iS engine. At Sebring I saw a bunch of installations of the new engine: it’s really catching on.
Keeping it Neutral
Ken Godin, an endlessly enthusiastic, high-energy entrepreneur and 30 year ultralight, LSA and GA pilot, created his own company, Composiclean, a few years back, to market a line of pH-neutral and other cleaning products that are finding their way to air shows, car shows, dealer ramps and at docksides around the world.If you’ve scanned the Aircraft Spruce catalog recently you may have seen Ken’s goods. *** Like many innovations, Compsiclean came about through a vacuum in the market place. Ken was a key player at Tom Peghiny’s Flight Design USA operation until 2008, when he left to become Director of Sales and Service at REMOS Aircraft. *** “Tom asked me if I knew of a neutral cleaning product for his CT line of LSA. He had seen first hand that some composite components can be negatively affected by the alkaline pH of the cleaners typically available..most cleaners are either acidic or alkaline.” Ken’s a networking guy so he went looking for a neutral-pH cleaner.
Sebring Day Two…and our National Treasure (initials P.W.)
More airplanes made it through the winter weather blanketing much of the midwest and east. *** Pipistrel’s much-awaited Alpha Trainer arrived at 8 last night thanks to its much-fatigued pilot Don Sharp who soldiered on through the crud all the way from Indiana. *** Highlights? Too many to list, but in the wee hours meself we’ll go the photo/caption route. *** Personal fave: Patty Wagstaff’s always-amazing airshow…in the near-dark twilight, followed by the largest demonstration team in aviation , Team AeroDynamix. The 12-aircraft team is made up exclusively of Van’s RV aircraft, including RV-4s and RV-6s, two of the most popular kit planes ever. The complex and highly entertaining show lit up the darkening, overcast skies with great moves and lots of bright lights. *** Attendance seemed light today, disappointing especially with all the effort Jana Filip and crew have put in this last year to promote the show and bring in acts like Patty and the RV team.