Pilots heading to Sun ‘n Fun 2021 had no real idea what to expect. As evening approached on Sunday set-up day, a big black storm cloud rolled over Sun ‘n Fun’s Lakeland Airport campus, blowing guard shacks and plastic bathrooms around like pieces of paper. An omen? Hardly! The next morning… The good news is I saw no damage other than a couple cracked-up guard shacks. No airplane damage was obvious to me. The great news is final setup day was gloriously sunny and exhibit airplanes arrived steadily. By nightfall on Monday as exhibitors finished their preparations, Sun ‘n Fun was looking good and ready for pilots to descend on the Showgrounds. Several hands pitched in — thanks loudly to a great group from DeLand Showcase — to turn the LAMA LSA Mall into the regular attraction its become over the last 15 years. A fewer number of airplanes will be shown in the LSA Mall but at least one is a machine you’ve never seen before and others are head turners.
Asking Too Much?Does it seems too much ask that aviation — numbering somewhere around one million pilots globally plus the industry that supports them — provide the path back to better times? I certainly don’t know the future but we’re about to get a first real test of aviation’s resiliency as Sun ‘n Fun 2021 begins on Tuesday April 13th. Sun ‘n Fun has for years been one of Florida’s largest spectator events so even if attendance is off it still implies a very large gathering. To offset any perceived risk, Sun ‘n Fun offers several real positives: the show greatly benefits from being much more an outdoor event than an indoors one; those who wish can easily maintain social distance in most locations, visit any vendor, look at lots of airplanes, and see a great airshow; Sun ‘n Fun is following widely-accepted guidance to assure safety for visitors. Given Florida’s warm conditions, a mostly outdoor venue, and with many attendees already vaccinated, the environment is very welcoming and everyone I know is pulling for Sun ‘n Fun Inc., to log a major success. If you can attend, BRAVO! Sun ‘n Fun will welcome you with open arms (or at least elbow bumps). All their on-site staff and a small army of volunteers will certainly wave and smile. After all, the show is called “sun” and “fun.”
All Y’all, Come On Down!For those that cannot attend, I’ll do my best to buzz around continuously looking for interesting stories in light aviation. Although I'll be working solo while Videoman Dave is not allowed to leave Canada, I will do my best to post here daily if possible.
Can aviation lead us back toward normal? Globally, governments have ordered their citizens to stay at home and all the rest, as you’ve heard ad naseum. Some places — Florida, as a sunshining example — is more open than others but much of civilization remains restricted. • Article updated… see at bottom —DJ Again I ask, “Can aviation lead us back toward normal?” Asking Too Much? Does it seems too much ask that aviation — numbering somewhere around one million pilots globally plus the industry that supports them — provide the path back to better times? I certainly don’t know the future but we’re about to get a first real test of aviation’s resiliency as Sun ‘n Fun 2021 begins on Tuesday April 13th. Sun ‘n Fun has for years been one of Florida’s largest spectator events so even if attendance is off it still implies a very large gathering.
Comco Ikarus C42CThe air is like glass as the C42 accelerates into a winter sky in the United Kingdom. I took this proven, affordably-priced light aircraft aloft to evaluate flight qualities on the newest iteration of the design. Now in its "C" model configuration, C42 is one of the most successful European microlights (a category between Part 103 ultralights and LSA, but closer to the latter). Comco Ikarus has evolved the machine into a fine airplane. In England, C42 is sold by The Light Airplane Company (TLAC); boss Paul Hendry-Smith reviewed for me many changes on the newest "C" model. C42A first flew in 1996 later maturing from C42B to the C, which first appeared in 2015. More than 1,450 C42s have been delivered, and the type makes up a substantial part of the UK’s microlight fleet. Some have logged more than 8,000 hours. Tried and true elements stayed the same. Power is still provided by a 100 horsepower Rotax 912S turning a composite three-blade fixed-pitch Helix prop although the Germany company lists the 80-horsepower version as standard. One easily-noticed difference is that the cowl now features a controllable flap for the air inlet (photo). Fuel is carried in a single 17.2 U.S. gallon fuel tank made from roto-cast polyethylene located immediately behind the right seat; filling is done via a cap on top of the fuselage. An auxiliary tank is an option, which takes total fuel capacity to 100 liters (26.4 gallons). The airframe is constructed primarily of aircraft grade aluminum and is covered with non-structural molded composite sections, with all the strength in the large aluminum boom. The fit & finish of the composite panels is excellent. Comco Ikarus have invested heavily in CNC-made molds which produce composite panels to a very high standard. C42C's strut-braced wings use tubing spars front and rear but this latest model features a sharper leading edge plus winglets. The airfoil has also changed and with it, an overall drag-reduction program was instigated. C42C now has various panels to reduce drag and wingroot fillets between the fuselage and flaps, which have a slight upward reflex of about negative-5° for higher-speed cruise. Interestingly, the differential ailerons now feature spades, commonly found on aerobatic aircraft to enhance roll response. Aft of the cockpit there’s a frangible cover which the BRS rocket fires through, and a very large quickly removable panel on the port side, through which the fuel quantity can be seen and a lot of the interior structure visually inspected. The rear baggage bay can hold up to 100 pounds, weight and balance allowing. C42C's tail consists of a strut-braced tailplane and separate elevator, a slightly swept-back vertical stabilizer, which carries a broad-chord rudder and a small ventral fin tail bumper. Wings, tail, flaps and control surfaces are all covered in XLAM (a type of sturdy, dimensionally-stable fabric sailcloth) with Tanara Teflon thread (which is impervious to UV light) used for the stitching. Less obvious changes include a significant revision of the wing structure with more use of carbon fiber. C42C's cockpit roof has been completely redesigned and the doors are now hung on redesigned hinges. A sturdy hydro-pneumatic tricycle undercarriage offers nosewheel steering via the rudder pedals and carries Beringer wheels and hydraulic disc brakes. Unusually, the main gear and nosewheel are the same size. All C42C controls work via pushrods, except the rudder which uses cables. The A model I flew in 2001 had a gross weight of 992 pounds although the design is ready to have its maximum all-up weight increased to 1,235 pounds (very similar to Canada's Advanced Ultralight category) as soon as the legislation changes. Big gull-wing doors and low sills make ingress easy to C42C, particularly as the doors are held up by powerful gas struts that are strong enough to allow taxiing with the doors open. Doors cannot be opened in flight but can be removed completely. Doors seal tightly. I did not detect even a slight draft, even at high speed. Neither seat nor pedals adjust. After fastening my four-point harness, I raised the throttle into its correct position and familiarized myself with the cockpit. Throttles on both sides fold flat to aid ingress and egress. C42C's instrument panel is large and could easily carry just about every possible permutation of instrumentation, from very basic analog to the latest Garmin G3X touchscreen, which is an option. The test aircraft has (from left to right) a VSI, ASI and altimeter, with the Kanardia tachometer directly underneath the ASI. A central column braces the instrument panel and carries push/pull plungers for the choke; cabin heat and carb heat; a transceiver and transponder; and a toggle switch for the intercom. C42C's fuel selector is located at the base of the central column by the pilot’s right leg; easy to see and reach. Large map pockets are built into the doors. A center stick features a comfortable foam grip with buttons for electric elevator trim and a bicycle-type brake lever with integral park brake. The large handbrake-type flap lever is set into the roof, in front of a red T-handle for the BRS.
Flying C42CTaxiing reveals good, well-damped suspension, and the turning circle is acceptable even without differential braking. C42’s Beringer brakes are very powerful. With my solo loaded weight about 200 pounds below gross, a paved runway, and a brisk headwind, I anticipated a stellar take off and climb characteristics and I was not disappointed! The prop was pitched for cruise but you’d never guess. I reached 1,000 feet above the runway before the airfield boundary. After shooting the air-to-air photos, the camera ship departed and I took a look at C42C's general handling. All controls were nicely harmonized and authoritative. The roll rate in particular is much more sprightly than the C42A, while the stick forces felt lower than I remembered, no doubt due to the spades mounted on the ailerons. A short center stick does not provide much mechanical advantage but the spades help. Control around both pitch and yaw axes was equally effective, and keeping the slip-ball centered took only small amounts of rudder. The electric pitch trim is effective and nicely geared. Moving onto an examination of the stick-free stability around all three axes reveals the directional stability is definitely soft to the left and neutral to the right, while spiral stability is slightly positive from the right and neutral to the left. The longitudinal stability is quite strong; a 10-knot displacement from a trimmed speed of 70 knots resulting in a long wavelength low amplitude phugoid that damped itself out after three lazy oscillations. Importantly, C42C is not divergent around any axes. Slowing down to explore the slow speed side of the flight envelope revealed no unpleasant traits. As the speed reduced past 60 knots, I moved the flap lever to +2, which lowers the flaps to their maximum of 40° and causes a significant change in pitch trim, although this is easily trimmed out. With full flaps and a reasonable amount of power C42C showed no desire to stall. At modest stall entry and with the nose just above the horizon, C42C mushed and wallowed while the sink rate increased. No stall warning is provided but you feel a mild aerodynamic buffet. Hold the stick on the backstop and it hunts slightly in pitch while sinking. Adequate aileron control is available post-stall. When I used a more aggressive technique C42C stalled with a slight wing drop. At test weight, the wing drop came around 32 knots. Performing a departure stall I retracted flaps to the take-off setting of +1 (15°), opened the throttle and pitched up …and up …and up! It feels as if I’m lying on my back before the wing finally gives up and the nose falls through. Comco Ikarus reports a glide angle of 11:1 (a Cessna 150 is about 9.5:1), while minimum sink rate is around 400 feet per minute. As I’d anticipated, this C42 is considerably quicker than the earlier models, and because the air is as smooth as glass I was relaxed as the ASI needle slipped into the yellow arc. C42C was still accelerating at 5000 rpm. Top-of-the-green arc is 82 knots at 2,000 feet and 4800 rpm. At about four gallons per hour, you can comfortably plan for 300 nautical miles with a 30-minute reserve. That’s about 25 nautical air miles per gallon. As I got back to base, I did a few take offs and landing, and for the first time I found the roof-mounted flap lever slightly intrusive; you’re constantly swapping hands. It’s not a big deal, but writers have to complain about something. For a short-field landing trial, I used 48 knots with a hint of power. Over the runway I flared, chopped the throttle and C42C sat straight down. I applied strong braking and quickly stopped. Going around once more, I was light, had burned off more fuel, and had cold, dense air. Climb was almost 1,400 feet per minute, even more impressive as the prop was pitched for the cruise. When C42C can go to 1,235 pounds gross, it will boast a useful load of more than 600 pounds. At full fuel payload is more than 500 pounds. This illustrates the value of a light airframe. With eventual gross weight at 1,235 pounds (85 pounds less than nearly every LSA), C42C will have a greater payload than much more costly designs. That and a long history with commendable flight qualities makes C42C a winner. Base price in England translates to just over $80,000 in early 2021 and the Canada dealer has similar numbers though you should contact them for the latest information. As tested, this C42C was priced at $94,000. Shipping may add another $5,000 so Comco Ikarus' entry could come in at $90,000-100,000. Interested American should contact Ikarus Flight Centre; featured in the video below.
TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS Comco Ikarus C42C
- Length — 21 feet
- Height — 7.2 feet
- Wing Span — 28.5 feet
- Wing Area — 128 square feet
- Empty Weight — 500 pounds
- Gross Weight — 1,041 pounds (with parachute allowance; weight may increase to 1.235 pounds)
- Useful load — 432 pounds (higher when new gross weight is approved)
- Wing Loading — 8.14 pounds per square foot
- Fuel Capacity — 17 gallons; optional 26 gallons
- Never Exceed Speed — 121 knots
- Cruise Speed — 100 knots
- Stall Speed (best flaps) — 34 knots
- Climb Rate — 1,200 feet per minute
- Takeoff Roll — 280 feet
- Takeoff Over 50 Foot Obstacle — 525 feet
- Landing Over 50 Foot Obstacle — 675 feet
- Powerplant —Rotax 912S air; liquid-cooled, four cylinder, 100 horsepower at 5800 rpm (an 80 horsepower Rotax 912 is standard equipment)
- Propeller — Helix composite three-blade fixed pitch
In this video from four years ago, Comco Ikarus’ North American dealer describes C42. https://youtu.be/M9hIdpoQx7k
Americans have seen Comco Ikarus‘ C42 before. At least three different importers have represented C42 versions to the U.S. market. Today, Germany’s most successful light aircraft is served by a Canada-based dealer, Ikarus Flight Centre. Yet no one can dispute that C42 — once rebadged as Cyclone for American buyers — has for many years been THE success story in Germany. This southern German company celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2020. Our favorite British aerojournalist, Dave Unwin is back with another of his imaginatively written and thorough pilot reports. As some of us get ready to head to Sun ‘n Fun 2021, those still unable or unwilling to travel can enjoy this while I gear up for stories from Lakeland, Florida. Enjoy! —DJ Comco Ikarus C42C The air is like glass as the C42 accelerates into a winter sky in the United Kingdom.
Aventura SLSA Special Light-Sport AircraftYou can find more articles about all Aero Adventure's Aventura models and even the versions that preceded today's lineup by checking this link. In a series of articles and videos I have described these airplanes and given info on how they fly, how they are built, and how affordable they are. Consider this. Even today, in 2021, you can buy a complete Aventura kit for something north of $50,000. While that will be a basic machine and while you'll spend hours building it — an activity many find highly satisfying — you must put that pricing in perspective. Go online and look for a seaplane, any seaplane you can find. First, you won't find many as demand for amphibian versatility has remained strong for decades. Second, even a worn-out legacy GA airplane with an engine approaching overhaul mounted on rather banged-up floats will cost dramatically more than the same airplane on wheels. Really! Go look for yourself; I'll wait. Indeed, the most basic kit Aventura can cost little more than fifty grand — for the whole aircraft, engine, boat hull, everything — where floats alone for a Cessna 172, for example, may cost the same. Of course, a fully-built Light-Sport Aircraft meeting all FAA acceptance requirements will cost more. Aero Adventure — as with every other company selling a Special LSA — must …provide full part tracking in perpetuity …keep all customer records and be prepared to contact them if any safety actions are required …keep many parts separated from components for non-FAA-accepted aircraft (kits), keep up with ASTM standards and assure continuous operational safety monitoring …maintain factory "best practices" involving such detail as a written log of torque-wrench calibrations …and take many other actions intended to ensure these "sanctioned" aircraft remain airworthy machines for their owners. If you think all this is easy, you don't understand the task. All that monitoring and mandatory activity costs money and will be reflected in Aventura SLSA's selling price. However, I'm willing to bet you lunch at my favorite restaurant that this will still be the most reasonably priced aircraft among seaplanes. Care to take the bet? Aventura SLSA will be offered for sale for the first time at the upcoming Sun 'n Fun 2021 airshow. I hope you're planning to attend and if so, I hope you'll swing by the Aero Adventure display or come to the LSA Mall where a sweet kit-built Aventura will be positioned.
C E L E B R A T E SLSA Number 155!Please join me in congratulating Alex Rolinski and his DeLand, Florida team for achieving FAA acceptance of their Aventura two seater. The newest Special LSA now tops our popular SLSA List. The truth is — as an earlier video identified — the work to win FAA acceptance was done more than a year ago. Then… covid. When FAA was locked down, personnel were not allowed to drive less than one hour to Aero Adventure and this restriction went on for month after month. How exasperating that must have been after working hard to accomplish the many line-item demands of ASTM standards. Then, exactly as I guessed on the video from a year ago, when FAA arrived, Aero Adventure passed on the first and only visit from auditors. Alex had contracted with SilverLight Aviation to assist with engineering preparations and that obviously went swimmingly. So, at Sun 'n Fun 2021, you can see the final edition and you can order one. Not only will you save money over all other SLSA seaplanes but you might get it sooner… though that could change when other pilots become aware of its availability. Lou Mancuso, famous for selling a gorgeous LSA under the name Bristell USA (among other aviation enterprises he runs), will be the national distributor for Aventura SLSA. He's been working with the company since the powerful S17 Aventura was announced and he is all-in to continue. So, in Lakeland, you can look at these aircraft at Aero Adventure, Bristell USA, plus see one in the LSA Mall. This may be reason alone for you to attend Sun 'n Fun …yeah, as if you needed another reason to finally go to an airshow! Want to know how Aventura II flies? In this pilot report, I go into some detail. Now, this was from many years ago. The airplane has significantly changed — for the better — since that report. However, lots of the information is still valid and interested buyers may enjoy hearing some of the history of this long-running aircraft. Want to know more about the Aventura kit? Here's a report from four years ago. The same caveat applies, that this aircraft has changed a lot since this article was written in 2017.
Affordable is a word I often hear as I explore the ever-expanding world of light aircraft. From Part 103 ultralights to kit-built aircraft you can fly with a Sport Pilot license (“Sport Pilot kit”) to fully-built, FAA-accepted Special Light-Sport Aircraft… the number of choices you have is dazzling. UPDATE 4/3/21: A new video featuring an interview with Aero Adventure’s Alex Rolinski now appears at the bottom of this article. —DJ Some of these numerous choices may run way past your budget, although a growing number of pilots are learning they can share ownership in one of various ways. Doing so can help you afford what you want yet many pilots enjoy the idea of owning their very own, highly-personal flying machine. Those who want sole ownership of a seaplane will have to dig deeper into their pocket, sometimes much more deeply. Sadly, for many pilots this eliminates a chance to own a LSA seaplane all by yourself.
Aeroplanes DAR SoloEarlier I wrote about this European company and its line of light airplanes, which includes the UL, 120, and a two seat model called 23 Duo. This time my focus is solely on Solo in preparation for the coming Part 103 List. As noted, this company, in very different form and with a military mission, started almost 100 years ago in 1912 as the Bulgarian State Aircraft Workshops. In 1925 the company started producing airplanes under a name employing the letters DAR. After the fall of communism, Bulgaria in the early 1990s was a place full of hope and enthusiasm. One of those enthusiasts was Tony Ilieff, an engineer working at the Sofia airport. In 1995 he and a small group of engineers started a small ultra-light aircraft company. Tony named the company “Aerolanes DAR,” thus partially reinstating the legendary Bulgarian state aircraft workshops. Aeroplanes DAR has two Solo varieties. One is called UL for ultralight, but "ultralight" in Europe means something quite different than Part 103 ultralight in the USA. Half of all SLSA started out as European "ultralights" (most commonly meaning 450 kilograms or 992 pounds of gross weight). Solo UL gives the owner somewhat higher weight — 260 kilograms or 572 pounds gross — that can allow more options. Solo has been designed be a bit heavier than a typical Part 103 entry, but you'll need an inspection and N-numbers, a pilot certificate, and you'll have to build it from a kit. Buyers, however, are often attracted to genuine Part 103 models that can be bought ready-to-fly. Addressing a still-lighter segment of aircraft, Solo 120 got leaner to meet the German 120-kilogram class. As 120 kilograms is 264.5 pounds, this is close to the empty, dry weight of 254 pounds (115 kilograms) as allowed by FAA. With an available parachute, DAR 120 should easily qualify under the American regulation but the company posted on Facebook about a DAR 115 model they say meets Part 103. Another market, Russia, has a similar weight limit. Interest in Part 103 ultralights has been heating up according to my best information. As I seek to ask every single one of the 58 producers of Part 103-compliant aircraft about their recent sales successes I expect to learn more. Information flowing from Tony is start of what I expect and hope will be many more examples. Even though I am just getting started with the Par 103 List and my survey of the industry, I am already ready to make a risky prediction, something I rarely do, as my crystal ball does not always turn out to be accurate. My prediction — We may see more units delivered by the Part 103 industry than all Special LSA registered in the USA over the last year.* I'm willing to bet that would come as a surprise to most pilots, even those who already enjoy a Part 103 ultralight. We've had such poor (or no) information for so long, no one really knows the situation. That will change after I make contact with every producer.
Aeroplanes Dar BackgroundTony Ilieff Aeroplanes DAR enterprise is located in Bulgaria (Eastern Europe, northwest of Turkey) where he and his team produce a line of ultralight airplanes. Solo from Aeroplanes DAR is a single-seat, single-engine, high-wing ultra-light airplane. All Solo models are constructed with mixed materials involving aluminum wings and composite airframe. During development Aeroplanes DAR introduced new technologies and unique practices. "Creating such a light, affordable aircraft required an absolutely new approach to the design," said Tony. "Combining metal wings and composite airframe was a key to minimizing weight and to have excellent flight performance." Composite technology gave Ilieff a possibility to integrate different parts; for example, the central fuselage beam and vertical stabilizer are one single part (see nearby drawing). "Our leader in the lightest category, FAR 103, is DAR Solo," wrote Tony. "Solo complies with FAR 103 rules." He reported Solo has been in production since 2008. "We made several modifications through the years; the Solo we produce now is the fifth generation." Other national markets offer light aircraft regulation roughly similar to Part 103 rules: Britain has SSDR for slightly larger (than 103) aircraft and Sub-70 for very light machines. Germany has its 120-Kilogram Class for which the Solo 120 is designed. Russia has an even closer-to-Part-103 variant called the 115-kilogram category. Other nations, including China, Korea, and Brazil, also have variations on the 103 theme. All feature less regulation, which contributes to lower prices of these machines. "We have discontinued with a Canadian dealer and our sales in USA are still minimal," said Tony while also noting that four Solo aircraft are presently flying in America. "We are looking for a dealer in USA." As reported earlier, prices are good enough that the Canadian dealer offered Solo for only $18,900 — though that is no guarantee prices will remain as they were. However, this figure shows Solo to be affordable to many buyers. Aeroplanes DAR's Solo has been certified as a European-style ultralight aircraft by one of the bodies sanctioned by Germany's LBA (their equivalent of FAA). All three models — Solo 120, Solo UL, and 23 Duo, which functions as a basic trainer — remain in production in 2021. Solo is powered by engines from Polini featuring a single-cylinder, two-stroke, liquid-cooled, carbureted aircraft powerplant. On Solo UL, a Thor 250 DS produces 36.5 horsepower through a two-blade wooden prop. For those interested to earn a bit of extra weight, a Galaxy GRS 260 emergency parachute fits this light aircraft well. The somewhat lighter Solo 120, which meets German 120 kilogram rules, is powered by a Polini Thor 200 EVO producing 28 horsepower through a two blade wooden prop. For the lighter aircraft a Galaxy GRS 240 emergency parachute system is available. DAR Solo is available with a folding wing to reduce hangar costs. A folding system good for transport should be soon available, the company said. Folding wings allows the pilot to assemble the plane by him or herself and prepare it for flight within 30 minutes. Learn more on Aeroplanes DAR's website, presented in English.
While we work on a more polished video, here are some short clips from the factory: https://youtu.be/G-_Hb52IF7E https://youtu.be/uKcnfDmsTmM
* If you read carefully, I said deliveries of Part 103 ultralights. That will include international deliveries, unless I can find a way to determine only those sold in the USA. Conversely, SLSA registrations is a hard number and only applies to the USA. Therefore, I readily admit I am comparing apples and oranges.
Full Disclosure — After my first article, an owner reported problems with wing construction of an older Solo resulting in a mishap. A comment was approved and appears at the end of that article. I have no official information on the cause of the incident, any construction or design problems, and I do not know the unfortunate owner nor Tony Ilieff personally. However, the company has reported 30 ready-to-fly models are flying and I was unable to find any other accident reports. I do not perceive a problem with Aeroplanes DAR's Solo but readers should consider all useful information and make their own best judgement.
Bulgarian designer Tony Ilieff is on a mission to find new representatives for his handsome light aircraft after concluding earlier representation in Canada. Built carefully — that is, without lots of weighty options — Solo can fit the Part 103 category. Given accelerating interest in Part 103 aircraft in recent years, I’d bet someone will step up for this opportunity. “Ho hum,” you yawn. “Don’t we already have lots of Part 103 choices?” While candidate Bernie Sanders criticized stores selling numerous brands of deodorant, choice serves highly-individualized interests. We don’t all want the same things. A single make of car was a poor selection for subjects of the former Communist East Germany; the state-produced Traubant was an awful vehicle, according to numerous reports. Similarly, a lone brand, or even a few Part 103 ultralights will not satisfy all pilots. Americans in particular are accustomed to an abundance of choices.
Welcome to our favorite British writer providing in his distinctive style thoughts about flying Skyranger's Nynja. Also thanks once again to talented photographer, Keith Wilson. Why did I want this article even though Skyranger has no U.S. representation at present? With a base price in UK of $59,760, Nynja is affordable to many. Is it desirable? Dave helps you decide. —DJFor far too long, the more bigoted aviators among us considered such an aircraft to be little more an overweight hang glider powered by a second-hand lawn mower engine and barely capable of flying fast enough to kill you. Noisy, slow, and smelly — they were considerably less than satisfactory. However, times change and this class of flying machine has changed more than most. Designed by Frenchman Phillippe Prevot in the early '90s, the original Skyranger was an object lesson in KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid). Prevot’s intent was that anyone competent with basic tools could build it, as there was no bending, composites, or welding involved. It was to be covered in an equally simple material, Dacron sailcloth. Easy to build, maintain and fly, more than 1,600 have been produced; nearly 300 are registered in England alone. Beside numerous minor improvements, fundamentally Skyranger has changed little: the ventral fin has been replaced by a taller fin and the wingspan has been reduced.
Now "Made in UK"Since 2017, Britain's Flylight Airsports Ltd., has had the sole design rights and is now rightly considered the manufacturer. Owning the design rights also puts Flylight firmly in the pilot’s seat regarding future developments. (It will also be helpful for FAA acceptance, if sought. —DJ) Flylight's main subcontractor is Aeros, based in Kiev, Ukraine. Aeros make some of the world's best hang gliders; they are experts in tube and fabric work. They've built Skyrangers for many years. Today, Nynjas are assembled in the UK. Nynja's airframe is constructed primarily of straight, pin-jointed, aircraft-grade aluminum tubing, covered with a combination of non-structural composite sheets for the fuselage and pre-sewn polyester Xlam fabric for the wings and tailplane. An interesting feature (and one that flags up how speedy the Nynja is) is that the wings feature foam spacers that ensure the aerofoil retains its shape at higher speeds. All the primary controls are actuated by cables, as is the elevator trim. The tailplane is wire-braced and the strut-braced wings feature upswept winglets. An excellent option allows the wings to be folded back for ease of storage. Earlier Skyrangers were powered by several different engines, including the Jabiru 2200, HKS and BMW R100, but these days the Rotax 912 is the engine of choice. Removing the cowling to inspect the engine requires the removal of a considerable number of screws, however, Flylight plans a new cowling that features generously-sized hinged doors. The engine is fed from a pair of fuselage-mounted 8-gallon polyethylene fuel tanks behind the pilots’ seats and linked by a balance pipe, with the single filler cap on the starboard side. The two tanks feed the engine from one outlet controlled by a single fuel valve. The engine is quite closely cowled and turns a composite two-blade ground adjustable Kiev propeller. My demonstrator Nynja was loaded with about every option except a BRS (which is also an option). All three wheels feature snug fitting wheel pants. Nynja's main gear is supported by aluminium "half springs" bolted to a steel center tube and feature hydraulic Beringer disc brakes, while the nosewheel uses an oleo arrangement for shock absorption, and steers through the rudder pedals. Beringer wheels are another option. Entry to the cockpit is excellent as the sills are low, although care must be taken not to bump the large throttles. The split doors are large but seemed overly complicated and I prefer the one-piece top-hinged doors (which I believe are an option). Up to 22 pounds can be carried in a small baggage bay behind the left seat. Settling into the cockpit, the first thing that struck me was the width of the cabin. At 43 inches, Nynja is wider than a Cessna 172 and the extensive glazing actually made it feel even more spacious. Although there is no provision for adjusting the pedals, the seats can be moved. Pitch and roll control is via a single joystick mounted between the seats while each pilot has his own throttle on the side of the instrument binnacle. Nynja's trim lever and three-position flap lever are both located between the seats. The instrument panel has more than enough space built into a centrally-mounted structure with large stowage bins either side, an excellent feature. The panel has the flight instruments, tachometer and slip ball in front of the left seat and the oil pressure and temperature, coolant temperature and voltmeter on the panel's right. In the center, a mount for an iPad and a row of switches. The Rotax started readily and a quick test of the brakes with a squeeze on the control column-mounted bicycle-type brake lever revealed they not only work, but work well. A neat little catch on the control column locks the lever for use as a parking brake. Nynja's nosewheel steering has a positive feel and a reasonably-small turning circle. Rolling out onto the runway I opened the Rotax up to full power. With 13 gallons of fuel on board Nynja was right on the 992-pound gross weight. It was cool and I checked a slight crosswind from starboard. With a power-to-weight ratio of less than ten pounds per horsepower, acceleration was excellent and after what seemed a ridiculously short ground roll, the Nynja literally leapt off the runway and clawed itself skyward at an impressively steep angle. With the VSI indicating in excess of 1,200 fpm and a relatively low forward speed of only 62 knots, we crossed the airfield boundary already at more than 1,000 feet. At such an aggressive climb, Nynja's nose was quite pitched up, greatly reducing the field of view, but even lowering it to more a cruise-climb attitude still produced about 700 feet per minute of climb at 80 knots and 5,000 rpm. With light weight, plenty of power, and crisp controls joining up with Al and Keith in the EuroFox cameraship was easy; collecting the pictures in this article didn’t take long.
Nynja Flight QualitiesFlying in close formation will show up any handling deficiencies from a qualitative perspective, but when I switch over to a more quantitative evaluation I soon discover the Nynja is nicely harmonized around all three axes. Expanding the envelope with some more energetic maneuvers confirms the controls are authoritative with agreeably light stick forces. Only small amounts of rudder are required to keep the slip-ball centred, and harmony of control is as it should be, with the ailerons being the lightest and the rudder the heaviest. Breakout forces are low. For a high wing aircraft, the visibility is quite good, although as is a feature of practically all-high wing aircraft, it is a tiny bit blind in the turn. Another nice touch is the transparent panel in the roof, as if the aircraft is rolled into a very tight turn it is possible to look through the roof. The controls all seemed quite nicely harmonised and authoritative. The roll rate in particular is distinctly sprightly, while both pitch and yaw control were equally effective. Trim is effective. Moving on to an exploration of the stick-free stability around all three axes, I get the impression the Nynja is strongly positive longitudinally, weakly positive directionally, and neutral laterally. Slowing down to explore the low speed side of the flight envelope revealed no disagreeable mannerisms. Indeed, with flaps down and carrying a reasonable amount of power the Nynja showed no desire to stall at all, but a more vigorous approach to the stall with the engine off produced a more positive break at about 33 knots, combined with a slight wing drop which was easily controlled by the rudder. I increase power for a look at a departure stall and, as expected, this maneuver provoked a slightly more vigorous response, although the ensuing stall was easily recovered from with minimal height loss. Flaps up, the stall is still less than 40. The claimed glide angle is a reasonable 9:1 at 55 knots, while minimum sink is modest at around 500 feet per minute at 45 knots. Cruise is middle-of-the-range at 95 knots, achieved at 5,100 rpm, giving a true air speed of 101 knots at 3,000 feet with a fuel flow of about 4.75 gallons per hour, but the engine does sound somewhat frenetic. A much more comfortable cruise rpm is 4,000, which still gives an IAS of 70 knots (76 true) and a fuel flow of less than 2.6 gallons per hour and a still-air range of over 400 nautical miles, including Day-VFR reserves.
Touch Down!Nynja is a fabulous machine for flying traffic patterns at your airport; Nynja's strong climbs gets you back up quickly for the next. I flew several variations: full flap, half flap, no flap, glide approaches, powered approaches, steep sideslips… the whole gamut, and each one was great fun. For the last I sat up a little straighter in my seat, held the brakes on against full power and was airborne in less time than it takes to read this sentence. On approach to landing, I nailed the ASI’s needle to 50 with just a smidgen of throttle and then chopped the power. After Nynja's main wheels touched firmly I lowered the nose and applied maximum braking; I actually locked the wheels up and we skidded momentarily on the damp grass. All total I used a little over 300 feet. Overall, I thought the Nynja a great little aircraft that offers outstanding value for money. It is a lot of aircraft for the money. What a cracking little aircraft! Fast, frugal and fun, the latest iteration of the seminal Skyranger might just be the best one yet.
TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS Skyranger Nynja More about Nynja
- Length — 19.4 feet
- Height — 7.9 feet
- Wing Span — 29.2 feet
- Wing Area — 138 square feet
- Empty Weight — 573 pounds
- Gross Weight — 992 pounds (see "Coming Later" below)
- Useful Load — 419 pounds
- Payload (calculated at full fuel) — 324 pounds (see "Coming Later" below)
- Wing Loading — 7.2 pounds per square foot
- Fuel Capacity — 15.9 U.S. gallons
- Never-Exceed Speed — 132 knots
- Cruise Speed — 90 knots
- Stall Speed (flaps) — 32 knots
- Climb Rate — 1,200 feet per minute
- Takeoff over 50 foot obstacle — 920 feet
- Landing Roll over 50 foot obstacle — 930 feet
COMING LATER… Flylight Airsports said that with the increase in the allowed weight to 600 kilograms (the 1,320 pound LSA maximum at present) the company is looking at increasing Nynja's capabilities and feature set. All indications are that the UK will transition during 2021 to a 600 kilogram microlight category, matching the global LSA standard. Details are still being worked out, but Flylight has been preparing for the change. The LS model was initially approved at 500 kilograms (1,102 pounds), and work is ongoing for a higher gross weight. The wing has already been tested satisfactorily at 600 kilograms, and currently the last piece in the jigsaw for approval at the higher gross weight is a new main undercarriage. Other future plans include a taildragger version, different engine options, and electric propulsion.
“Nynja lifts off after a ridiculously short ground roll and soars skyward at a precipitously steep angle. I can’t help but grin. You can have a lot of fun with something like this,” writes longtime aviation journalist, Dave Unwin. Welcome to our favorite British writer providing in his distinctive style thoughts about flying Skyranger’s Nynja. Also thanks once again to talented photographer, Keith Wilson. Why did I want this article even though Skyranger has no U.S. representation at present? With a base price in UK of $59,760, Nynja is affordable to many. Is it desirable? Dave helps you decide. —DJ For far too long, the more bigoted aviators among us considered such an aircraft to be little more an overweight hang glider powered by a second-hand lawn mower engine and barely capable of flying fast enough to kill you. Noisy, slow, and smelly — they were considerably less than satisfactory.
Look No Further A Flash of LightningOf course, fast glass will never replace gnarly back-country airplanes on giant tundra tires. If you like that sort of operation, you're lucky to have many choices. Yet aviation’s leading draw may be going fast as more is always better, right? Indeed, one reason Arion makes a kit as well as their LS-1 Light-Sport model is because then they can access the excellent speed potential of this slick design. Let the drooling begin over these beautifully-contoured flying machines that can race 135 to 190 miles an hour for a fairly modest investment. Arion's LS-1 is a complying Light-Sport Aircraft that meets all the parameters and succeeded in passing a detailed FAA audit with flying colors a few years back. Lightning XS is the Experimental model on which you can install a more powerful engine. That these handsome aircraft are also 100% designed and manufactured in the USA may be sweet icing on the cake for many readers.
Bolts of LightningLightning LS-1 is an all-composite design paired with metal hardware elements. All components are made in house by Arion’s experienced staff. More than 100 Lightnings are flying American skies. The company reported 160 Lightning models are flying world wide dating back to Lightning’s first flight on March 3, 2006. “Lightning LS-1 is designed and built around Jabiru’s powerful 3300 six-cylinder aircraft engine,” noted Arion. “With a displacement of over 200 cubic inches and a direct drive crank, this compact beauty outputs 120 horsepower to deliver performance rarely matched in a Light-Sport Aircraft.” Lightning has no trouble hitting the LSA speed limit of 120 knots (138 mph). “[However, we] spent more than three years making the kit Lightning as efficient and fast as we could, so slowing down to 120 knots was a complete reversal of our thinking but one that had its benefits,” said principal and designer, Nick Otterback. “By changing the airfoil slightly and adding three feet of wing span, LS-1 stalls below 44 knots clean, giving our aircraft an impressive 52-knot approach speed.” A Jabiru 3300 delivers solo climb in excess of 1,200 fpm and owners can expect 1,000 fpm at its 1,320 pounds gross weight. At cruise speeds of 120 knots, the Jabiru burns a miserly 5.5 gallons an hour. “These are real performance numbers a pilot can rely on; not on a perfect day at sea level or flying around solo, but all loaded up,” stated Nick. Most companies list useful load, but Arion said the more meaningful payload can be up to 470 pounds. That will allow two big Americans plus some luggage, assuming weight and balance concurs. “Now standard equipped with 40 gallons of fuel, a Lightning pilot can go over 800 nautical miles with VFR reserves,” Nick added. Lightning XS is sold in kit form. The taller XS with more ground clearance offers a redesigned forward fuselage structure that gives the builder the option to choose engines up to 180 horsepower. Landing gear offering higher ground clearance permits bigger props on this new kit to allow the speedier model to hit speeds of 160 knots (184 mph) or more. Firewall aft, XS is much the same as the classic Lightning including its 42-inch wide cabin. Arion first displayed an XS powered by a Titan XIO340 at Sun ‘n Fun 2019, although the company also supports “legacy” piston engines O200 to O320 at 115 to 160 horsepower plus UL Power’s UL520is engine making 180 to 200 horsepower. Arion offers several propeller choices for the engines above. “For fixed pitch we like Sensenich wood or composite ground adjustable props,” said Arion. “We have tested in-flight adjustable props as well. For the Titan or Lycoming types, Whirlwind Aviation makes the RV200 series lightweight constant speed prop. For Jabiru or UL Power we have tested the Airmaster series.” Installation of an in-flight adjustable prop can increase performance but, of course, builders must accept added expense and plan for extra weight on the nose as they work through the build process. For those unsure about building a kit, you can always choose the LSA model and pick it up ready to fly. If you want to speed up the assembly process, Arion offers a builder assist center at their Shelbyville, Tennessee facility about an hour south of Nashville. Lightning owners in the western USA can try this deluxe Arizona builder-help center. Here's one owner's experience building Lightning at that center.
Titan-Powered Lightning XSSome pilots (me, for instance) thoroughly enjoy the beauty of flying slowly, of drifting leisurely over the landscape at a “human speed” that allows enough time to enjoy the expanse of an aerial view of your surroundings. Yet the allure of going fast is great, quickly chewing up the miles en route to your destination. When contemplating a cross country trip of a lengthy distance, fast cannot be too fast. In addition to a higher TAS, we all yearn for a tailwind that will raise our ground speed by another 20 mph. Lightning with the big Titan engine required a bulging nose cowl, Nick said. Taller landing gear for bigger props, bigger brakes, and 40 gallon fuel tanks are also among some of the features of this kit. How fast does Lightning XS go? Early testing revealed max cruise at 165 knots (190 mph) TAS at 8,500 feet density altitude at full gross. Climb is a stunning 2,000 fpm. These figures may sound boastful but but reflect real-time experience as recorded by the no-nonsense Nick Otterback. Most buyers may elect more than the basics but the fully-built Light-Sport Aircraft version of Lightning, called LS-1, is base priced at the genuine bargain of $115,000. Yet if you have time, the interest, and enjoy constructing a kit, Lightning XS has a base kit price of $39,900 with the Titan firewall-forward kit. A builder assist program is available for $4,000 extra. The program lasts four weeks. Of course Lightning XS is not a Light-Sport Aircraft and will require a Private or better certificate plus a medical, though BasicMed will suffice. If you don’t want to acquire a current medical, you can choose the SLSA version. Choices are good and Arion delivers sparkling performance with dashing good looks regardless of which variation you prefer.
Listen to developer Nick Otterback tell you lots about the superspeeder Lightning XS with 180 horsepower. A second video goes into depth about the Titan line of engines. https://youtu.be/gqOL9oZNzAw https://youtu.be/cycCQeOVwoo
You’ve heard some pilot say: “That airplane is so sleek it looks fast even when sitting parked on the ramp.” This is one of those airplanes. While most light aircraft producers concentrate on either kits or fully-built, a few swing both ways. Some builders unwilling to experiment with two very distinct business models permitted others to contract build a fully-built version while they focus entirely on kit building. Few have managed to do well with both endeavors but Arion seems to have solved the challenges. Arguably the shapeliest and smoothest aircraft in either the kit or RTF space is Arion Aircraft’s Lightning series. Nearly everyone agrees these qualify as fast-when-sitting-still types. Even one of the many electric airplane wannabe producers, Bye Aerospace, chose Lightning as its airframe template because they needed the smoothest, most modern look they could find. Look No Further A Flash of Lightning Of course, fast glass will never replace gnarly back-country airplanes on giant tundra tires.
Modern Pilots, Meet Airdrome AeroplanesRobert is incredibly productive. In the video below, he notes he has introduced 25 new models in 25 years. While I know several other light aircraft designers with long lists of models created, none appear to equal the sheer output of Baslee. He operates the Airdrome Aeroplanes website that is chock-full of information. "But he's just copying old designs and remaking them," said one naysayer. "Oh, really," I thought! "You actually believe Robert can glance a few old drawings and then whip out a 75%-scale version made of modern materials — and with flight characteristics that modern pilots will find acceptable? Do you you genuinely think that could be an easy task?" Anyone who concludes resurrecting these aircraft is easy greatly undervalues the effort it takes to thoroughly research and examine one of these vintage World War I flying machines and recreate them using the knowledge of the 21st century. According to several pilots who have built and flown one of Robert's many models, these are well-achieved replicas that fly well, perform according to expectations, and are delivered in kits you can build in surprisingly short times. How short? "Any one of these legendary flying machines can be yours in a reasonably short period of time, approximately 300-400 man hours," said Robert. "Construction can be accomplished in a space about the size of a one-car garage. Each of our kits have been setup to allow easy construction using only basic hand tools. All machined and welded parts come pre-done. With the aid of our construction video and unlimited builder support, even the first time builder will find construction quick, easy, and rewarding." How about operating one of these vintage aircraft? "Flying an aircraft constructed with your own hands will provide endless hours of fun and excitement," added Robert. "Imagine yourself in the cockpit, donned in a leather flying helmet, goggles, and a white silk scarf, the horizon backdropped by the warm glow of the setting sun… this is an experience that very few people will ever know." A few Airdrome pilots I've met confirm these are easy-to-fly aircraft. Readers with further questions or those ready to purchase one of Airdrome's flying machines can contact Robert by phone at 816-230-8585 or send him an email.
Airdrome UltralightsWhile working on the coming Part 103 List, I discovered that among the many models Robert has developed, Airdrome reports five can be built as Part 103s. Of course, as with most 103 ultralights, the builder will have to use care and not elect many options if he or she is going to stay compliant. Nonetheless, Airdrome ultralight candidtates are surprisingly light aircraft Models include: Fokker E-III; Fokker D-VIII; Fokker D-VI; Dream Classic; Dream Fantasy; and …yes, "Eindekker (Fokker E-III) can be built as a fully legal ultralight," confirmed Robert. How Much? This is one of the most common questions. Answers are hard for two reasons: you can configure a kit-built airplane in many ways and it's impossible to price all variations; and, these articles last a long time and the value of money changes through inflation. Yet whenever you look at them, these should qualify as very affordable ultralight models. In 2020, the Dream Classic wire-braced model airframe kit listed for only $3,495; a strut braced version is $3,995. To this you'll add an engine (used 447s and 503s in reasonably good condition sell for something similar) and prop plus paint, interior finishing, and instruments. It is very possible to get in the air for less than $10,000. Building an airplane for less than one-third the cost of the average new automobile reflects a true bargain. That such a construction will turn heads everywhere you go is icing on the cake.
TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS Airdrome Aeroplanes Dream Classic Standard Wing (a Speed Wing is also available)Dream Classic Ultralight is a three-axis aircraft with a side-mount stick. It is covered with the certified Poly Fiber process. This kit comes with all machining and required welding pre-done. Construction time is normally around 100-120 hours.
- Wing Span — 30 feet 6 inches
- Wing Chord — 48 inches
- Wing Area — 122 square feet
- Empty Weight — 241 pounds (meets 103)
- Gross Weight — 491 pounds
- Useful Load — 250 pounds
- Payload (assuming 5 gallons of fuel) — 220 pounds
- Wing loading — 4.02 pounds per square foot
- Power to Weight Ratio — 12.28 pounds per horsepower
- Stall Speed — 26 mph (meets 103)
- Cruise Speed — 57 mph
- Top Speed — 63 mph (meets 103)
- Rate of Climb — 850 feet per minute
- Takeoff Distance — 95 feet
- Engine — Rotax 447
- Engine requirements for Dream Fantasy ultralight:
- Minimum Weight — 68 pounds
- Maximum Weight — 92 pounds
- Minimum Horsepower — 28
- Maximum Horsepower — 52 (output of a Rotax 503)
We have not interviewed Robert Baslee about his ultralight models but his methods are similar for all the many airplanes he has created. Here we check out a "movie star." https://youtu.be/hcaZC5GwTjM
Recently I wrote about an American classic, Luscombe’s Model 8 LSA. We can go back even further in time and uncover a handsome flock of highly affordable airplanes that also check the vintage box. Welcome to Robert Baslee‘s amazing production of vintage early 20th Century airplanes that ordinary people can build and fly. Airdrome’s many models — five of which can be built as Part 103 ultralights — look like a page from history but fly well in the modern world. Here is one man’s very successful mission to both preserve aviation heritage and give you the chance to participate in the fun …without having to do all the research Robert does. As a bonus, many of these kits assemble much faster than many kit designs. Modern Pilots, Meet Airdrome Aeroplanes Robert is incredibly productive. In the video below, he notes he has introduced 25 new models in 25 years.
Please Welcome Montaer MC01It's easy to see the visual relationship between MC01 and Paradise's P1NG. While the new model bears a close resemblance to the earlier SLSA, that former LSA is no longer represented in the U.S. market — although several models sold earlier continue to operate. With his MC01, Bruno and Montaer are filling a void. Both models veered away from the uber-common joystick seen on most Light-Sport Aircraft. Yet yoke control has a large global following as Cessna, Piper, Beech, Mooney, and more all use yokes. Since those brands trained most Yankee pilots, it makes sense to offer them a control already familiar to so many pilots. MC01 also continues with a very popular feature: a voluminous baggage area accessed by a third door. Jabiru's J230-D has a third door but this is both very uncommon and very welcome. The Jabiru model has three doors as the large-interior-volume LSA was based on a four seater from the home country of Australia. Bruno's door simply makes access to the spacious rear area (photos) but it varies a bit from the Paradise execution. MC01's door is on the right where P1NG had it on the left. MC01 causes many observers to see a LSA that resembles a Cessna 150 but, of course, the LSA is larger and performs with substantially more energy. The very first U.S. delivery of MC01 is headed to Wisconsin where a pilot has ordered one with a very special extra: hand controls, a choice available to offer assistance to some pilots. That airplane is due to leave Brazil in March and may be seen at EAA's big summer show. MC01’s airframe is built using 4130 molybdenum steel tube (photo) providing a proven safety to the occupants. The exterior is all aeronautical aluminum fuselage and wings. A steerable nose wheel, dual toe brakes, and control yokes are just some of the features of this well built airplane. Fortunately, if you make the trip to Florida for Sun ‘n Fun 2021 — April 13-18 — you can look over MC01 in detail in the light aircraft area. Ed Ricks plans a special introductory price that can save thousands so check that out if this airplane looks as good to you as it does to me. Ed started selling ultralights in Arizona when Light-Sport Aircraft first arrived on the aviation stage. Since 2005 he represented Jabiru, Skyboy, and Paradise. He operates out of the Glendale, Arizona municipal airport (KGEU). Ed has known Bruno de Oliveira for eight years and will be in charge of sales in the USA. He is seeking dealers in certain states; if this interests you or if you want more details before Sun 'n Fun, call Ed at 623-695-9040 or send him email. Fully loaded with Garmin G3X 10-inch touch screen, G3X autopilot, and G-5 primary flight display back up, MC01 is priced at $145,000.
Montaer MC01 Special LSA TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
- Wing Span — 28 feet 10 inches
- Wing Area — 124 square feet
- Length — 21 feet
- Empty Weight — 855 pounds (varies with options)
- Useful Load — 465 pounds
- Fuel Capacity — 37 gallons
- Range — 780 nautical miles
- Cruise Speed — 120 miles per hour
- Never-Exceed Speed — 137 miles per hour
- Stall Speed (best flaps) — 45 miles per hour
Welcome our newest entry to the Special LSA fleet: Montaer’s MC01. It’s been added to our SLSA List that so many of you visit regularly. In a way, you already know this aircraft or at least its look-a-like predecessor, Paradise’s P1NG. As happens in every industry, a key engineer left a family airplane building business — Paradise, run by granddad, Noe de Oliveira — and started his own aircraft factory. The departure occurred eight years ago. Now, Bruno de Oliveira has won FAA acceptance of his Special LSA model. Brazil uses ASTM standards as well so he also got approval in the South American country. Importer Ed Ricks of Montaer USA hoped to make it to the Midwest LSA Expo in late summer 2020, but we know all-too well how strange last year was. Many hoped-for gatherings simply fell apart in the year of Covid.
Welcome Back to the Shiny SilvaireFrom its mid-century origin in Kansas City, Missouri, Luscombe moved to Trenton, New Jersey. It was was later manufactured in Dallas, Texas, then in Fort Collins, Colorado before moving to Riverside, California under the direction of John Dearden who achieved LSA acceptance for Luscombe Silvaire Model 8. Now, Luscombe Aircraft Corporation (LAC) has gone cross country again, this time to Jamestown, New York in the western part of the Empire State. Here's another brief article with more history of this iconic name. Aeronautical engineer Steve Testrake and Stephen Young acquired the Luscombe assets in June of 2019. The pair established the new corporate entity to hold the assets and build a new factory. "Our goal," said Steve, "is to revive the legacy of the Luscombe." The two Steves will start by building parts for owners of an estimated 1,600 Luscombe aircraft flying today. That will start some cash flow for the new enterprise and will surely be a great relief and a treasured resource to those present-day owners. "Then, we will start assembling complete airplanes using LSA regulations," confirmed Steve. "Built as a Light Sport Aircraft to ASTM industry consensus standards," Steve said, "the Model-8 is … an all-metal airplane originally designed and still constructed to USA CAR 4a standard airworthiness requirements." CAR standards preceded today's Part 23 rules. In New York state, Steve noted that he and his partner want to retain the vintage look of Luscombe 8F Silveraire. That doesn't mean it's old fashioned, though. Hidden behind the classic panel and glove box doors that were popular from 1942 to 1959 lies state of the art power management panel and instruments." (See panel images at bottom.)
A Different Kind of "Green"Nicknamed "Green Acres" is LAC's base-level Luscombe LSA. "It is our lowest cost in the lightest package, intended for operations the way the original Model 8 was flown: very basic," said Steve. He suggests: "Bring your own handheld radio and GPS" much as it was in days-gone-by. Standard equipment include stainless steel firewall and exhaust systems, fresh air vents, a 50-amp alternator, and Cleveland toe brakes for the pilot." Dual controls are available as an option. While the basic "Green Acres" Luscombe Model 8 is deliberately equipped in very basic instrumentation, it does come with two USB charger ports and two 12-volt auxiliary power outlets. Model 8 is powered by a Continental O-200 engine producing 100 horsepower, making the light aircraft a performer; the original had only 65 horsepower. "All of our option packages include Hooker harness safety belts, emergency locator transmitter, and carburetor heat," added Steve. "LAC has committed significant resources to sorting, inspecting, and cataloging our parts inventory," the company reported. This is no small task for such a vintage design. "We have also worked extensively with the professional aviation archivists at AirCorps Aviation in Bemidji, Minnesota to develop a digital archive of Luscombe’s large collection of historical records, engineering drawings, and production work orders. We have inspected and are refurbishing production jigs and tooling to resume production of those hard-to-find parts. LAC is developing close working relationships with the local metal working specialty shops "to leverage the rich Western New York and North Pennsylvania manufacturing base. Using the original Luscombe jigs, restorations [can be] expertly crafted in our 25,000-square-foot hangar at the Jamestown Airport (KJHW). Steve has self-financed the Luscombe program so far but he said the company will generate revenue by producing parts for the vintage Luscombe fleet. Such production has carried many established companies through lean times. Indeed… “The design has been orphaned so long that parts can be extremely hard to find,” he said. “There’s a lot of pent-up parts demand. Owners of existing airplanes have been tremendously encouraging.” Steve Testrake promised to keep me updated on the developing Luscombe plans and I will report that news to readers. We are planning a video interview for Sun 'n Fun 2021, where the new company will exhibit.
Technical Specifications Luscombe Model 8 LSA
- Maximum Stall Speed — 42 knots
- Maneuvering Speed — 100 knots
- Never-Exceed Speed — 126 knots
- Cruise Speed — 105 knots
- Demonstrated Crosswind Component — 20 knots
- Takeoff Roll (sea level) — 600 feet (add 20% on turf)
- Landing Distance Over 50 Foot Obstacle — 1,000 feet
- Fuel Capacity — 2 x 12.5 gallon tanks, total 25 gallons
- Endurance — 4 hours with 45 minute reserve
- Powerplant — Continental O-200 producing 100 horsepower
- Propeller — Sensenich, fixed pitch
- Base Price — $110,500
Of all the airplanes earning rave reviews over the years, one model stands out above most others in the distinction of handling quality. Over and over I’ve heard from pilots of a certain, umm… maturity, and Luscombe is the brand often mentioned. After flying many airplane models, I’d be hard pressed to tell you which one I thought out-handled the rest. What does that even mean? Handling can be quite personal. Some like a docile, forgiving airplane. In all honesty, that’s probably most of us. It’s annoying (and possibly threatening) to be forced to constantly stay on top of an airplane. Other pilots prefer fast response and a light touch. Luscombe offers a delightful combination of light forces with great response that will make most of us feel comfortable. That’s magic! Welcome Back to the Shiny Silvaire From its mid-century origin in Kansas City, Missouri, Luscombe moved to Trenton, New Jersey.
More on CP Falcon 503"I wanted to thoroughly test it," Andy said. Yeah, I guess! Eighteen years is a long development cycle but it was not originally intended for market. Yet, this once-personal project took on a life of its own. "Now that I think I've got it perfected," Andy expressed, "we're going to start production on this in 2021." Falcon has a lot of components so it will be more expensive. "Yes," Andy agreed, "it will be a little higher priced aircraft — it takes a lot of time to assemble — but it will fly like a Quicksilver, so those pilots who want to fly faster now have a choice." A Quicksilver-type design like the standard "Smithsilvers" that Tri-State makes from scratch typically cruise 40-60 mph where Falcon is as much as 50% faster. "Yes, this will be a little higher-priced aircraft," Andy observed, "and it must be built as an Experimental Amateur Built." Let's put it in perspective, noting that all prices mentioned below are subject to change. A standard single place Smithsilver by Tri-State Kite Sales assembled for fly away costs about $28,000, said Andy. A two-place with all the extras gets into the high $40,000s and Falcon with a Rotax 503 may come out at about $75,000 equipped as extensively as the one pictured nearby. For those with genuine power lust, a Rotax 582 is also available for about $10,000 more. Contact Tri-State (see near end) for an exact quote and delivery times. "I created Falcon to be a comfort cruiser for cross country flying," Andy related. Falcon and the other Smithsilvers may look a lot like a Quicksilver but they are fully Tri-State creations after many years of operation. Mark Smith founded the company in the late 1970s and formally organized in 1981. In those 40 years, Tri-State has delivered more than 200 complete aircraft and an uncounted number of aircraft served with replacement parts or Tri-State accessories from fiberglass nose pods to new wing covers and everything in between. Of all these, Falcon may be the most advanced and sophisticated. It may look like a simple Quicksilver or a Tri-State Smithsilver but Falcon is a step beyond on many ways, for example, creature comforts. Falcon has a full enclosure, front to back, and even has cabin heat. "I tested this down to 17 degrees ambient temperature, and you can stay about 70 degrees inside the cockpit." While the snow swirls around Tri-State and much of the country, that climate control sounds inviting. Cross country flying is one of the stated purposes. How fast can Falcon fly? "I can hit 93 miles an hour," exclaimed Andy, "and cruise is a solid 80 mph." For those unfamiliar with a standard Quicksilver or Smithsilver, that's a substantial increase, more than 20 miles an hour faster on average. As a nearby image shows, the Rotax 503 engine is nestled down in the aft wing center section because Andy wanted to lower the thrust line to a more neutral position. This means the dual-carb Rotax 503 and its 50 horses push the airplane forwards with less pitch influence, which is a significant part of how it can achieve higher speeds. "Falcon's standard instrument panel has all your flight information," explained Andy, "while all the engine instrumentation is housed on the right vertical support strut. Above your head are all the electric switches for electric flaps, ignition switches and lighting controls." Unlike every Quicksilver or Smithsilver, Falcon has a control yoke as does Quicksilver's GT500 and GT400 models. However, unlike those Quicksilver models, this yoke has been configured specially to make entry much easier. Falcon has a door that props open but when I looked at, I thought entry looked rather challenging. What I missed were the steps Andy took in designing a yoke that neatly folds out of the way. When so retracted, entering Falcon looks easy. Once in place you pull the yoke back toward you and it latches securely into position. With details like this, no wonder Any spent years getting Falcon right on paper and three more to get the pieces and parts in the right place. Falcon's cabin even has a hat rack …or in this case, a headset rack as that's what Andy puts in this location.
Want More Info?At this time, Tri-State is making a much-needed update to their website. Andy referred to the current one as a "nostalgia website" because it holds extensive commentaries written by Mark Smith, the patriarch of Tri-State. His words make a fun, and historic, read but what the vintage website does not do is provide clear navigation to the various aircraft models and component parts or assemblies that Tri-State builds. The new website will address these shortcomings while hopefully keeping all Mark's original musings. Until the new website is finished, visit Tri-State's "Hangar Talk" Facebook page. If you want more or are ready to act, use these contacts:
In this video, I interview Andy Alldredge about his Falcon at Midwest LSA Expo 2020. https://youtu.be/wEeK3GWCYMs
* Tri-State Kite Sales is a name dating to the earliest days of Quicksilver, when the company that birthed this design was called Eipper-Formance (one of the original partners was named Dick Eipper). In those formative days of the mid-1970s, hang gliders were often generically called "kites." Since the very first Quicksilver was an unpowered glider, early buyers casually called them kites as well. The name stuck even if it does not mean much these days. Another large and very successful supplier of component parts and accessories for Quicksilver airplanes is Air-Tech, Inc., run by Gene "Bever" Borne and his son, Ken. They're still at it but the Louisiana business now owns the entire Quicksilver line (excluding GT500) and continues to supply new kits, fully-built 103s, Special Light-Sport Aircraft models, and lots of parts and accessories needed by Quicksilver owners.
One of the most successful airplane designs of all time is the Quicksilver. Van’s Aircraft of RV fame has delivered more kits, yet with 10,869 RVs presently flying, Quicksilver still remains far ahead with more than 15,000 flying. Naturally, such market success spawned other builders. Those who attempted to copy and duplicate Quicksilvers have mostly faded away but some enterprises (see at bottom) built a business out of supplying parts and components that Quicksilver itself never offered. One of the most successful of these is Tri-State Kite Sales, based in Mt. Vernon, Indiana — and no, not Mt. Vernon, Illinois where the Midwest LSA Expo is held every September. Andy Alldredge started his Falcon project 18 years ago when he was a lad of 20. The airplane looked good enough that I thought it was something new but, nope. This is a well flown aircraft that has been well maintained.
Why Parachutes?Any way you look at it, an airframe parachute adds cost, weight, and bulk. These systems cost real money (thousands), add "non-functioning" weight (16 to 50 pounds depending on the airplane's weight and speed), and fill up space you might use otherwise (a BRS system for the Cessna 172 uses a substantial share of the baggage space in that model). All these things — cost, weight, and bulk — are negatives, yet pilots buy these emergency systems regularly. Companies like BRS, Magnum, and Galaxy have sold tens of thousands of these systems. Every single Cirrus (and Flight Design) comes standard with an airframe parachute, so that means almost 10,000 aircraft just in those two brands. I've flown with airframe parachutes for years and I love having such a system on board. I actually stopped flying at night in airplanes without a parachute system. One smooth night over North Carolina with my wife and two friends in a Cessna Hawk XP, Randee asked, "What would you do if the engine quit here?" It was pitch black outside and I knew from previous flights that under us were trees stretching out past the horizon. It was a valid question. Touches a nerve, doesn't it? Aren't we trained for night flying? Don't we practice engine-out procedures? Well, yes, Private Pilots can fly at night (they should be current) but the training concentrates on normal night operations. I've never known an instructor who guides students through engine-out-at-night procedures far from any airport. Whatever you think about night (or other potentially hazardous) flying, an airframe parachute may ease your mind — and achieving that means you will fly more capably. It's a personal decision, of course, but for me, I'll take a parachute anytime.
What About Parachutes?Magnum Parachutes are offered in three packaging concepts. Each serves its own purpose and offers different attributes. Parachutes are sold for aircraft of varying weights and speeds. Each installs unique to that aircraft. Softpacks — These are the lightest and least expensive units, and are therefore popular on Part 103 aircraft where their reduced weight offers advantages. While subject to weather contamination, such as rain, they are easier to inspect. The parachute inside is identical to the other packing methods. Canisters — Placing the parachute inside an aluminum canister protects it from elements and allows a pressure-packed parachute that can make the package significantly smaller. This is good when parachutes are large enough to deal with two and four seat aircraft. Most airframe parachutes have open diameters significantly wider than the span of the wings on the aircraft they are supporting. Stuffing all that densely into a canister system makes it much smaller with the canister itself adding only modestly to weight. VLS (Vertical Launch Systems) — Canisters and soft packs generally aim to the side and can fire upwards or downwards as need to avoid aircraft structure during deployment. Many aircraft, though, work best when that system can eject upwards. However, no matter which way a parachute ejects (is drawn out by its rocket motor), it always opens downwind of the aircraft — usually behind it though not necessarily if the aircraft is in an upset attitude. Buy by Weight — Two criteria dictate which parachute is used on which aircraft: weight and speed. Heavier weights require larger or multiple canopies (a Cirrus SR22 canopy is over 50 feet wide at the canopy mouth). Faster aircraft need mechanisms to slow the opening of the canopy if speeds are very high — Magnum can handle up to 199 mph! However, if that speedy aircraft is flying slowly when the canopy is deployed, opening should be faster. The self-speed-sensing "slider" (black ring on nearby image) automatically adjusts, slowing deployment — and reducing forces on sewn seams — at high speeds while not slowing the canopy opening if speed is slow. It's a smart solution. Fitting to Airplanes — Each airplane mounts somewhat differently. This increases the work effort for the parachute seller but assures each should perform optimally if needed. Mounting hardware to hold the soft pack, canister, or VLS varies by airplane as do the Kevlar connecting straps, the rocket motor activation housing, and the location of the firing handle. The latter is an important element because if you need to use a parachute, the situation will be tense and confusing and the handle should be in easy reach. Then, a mighty pull on that handle gets you nearly instantaneous action. Service — Parachutes need to be removed, inspected and repacked every few years and rocket motors are generally replaced at longer intervals. Magnum Parachutes in DeLand Florida is equipped and experienced to help service these systems. One important note: Do not try to ship a live rocket without specific equipment and advice — and, don't fire a rocket just to see if it works. These devices fire very quickly (by design, of course) and their velocity is impressive. You wouldn't try to dodge a rifle bullet. Assume a rocket is similarly fast but more powerful. To prevent down time during service Magnum has a great offer: "Loaner Canopy When Yours is Due for Repack. That's right! A a loaner canopy, of the same size and style as the one you purchase from us, is available at no charge for installation in your aircraft while your system is being inspected and repacked (repack cycles are 6 years for most systems). This allows our customers to continue to fly with a complete ballistic recovery system in their aircraft while theirs is being repacked! No other parachute company offers their customers this peace of mind!" Magnum Parachute repack costs are considerably less expensive than most other manufacturer's, said Dennis Carley, proprietor of Magnum Parachutes USA. "For our Softpack systems the repack cycles is five years instead of only one or two years with other brands. Prices run $660 to $975 so about $100 to $150 per year." Parachute-Use Scenarios — Beside loss of an engine at night, other scenarios include loss of power over unlandable terrain (water for example — ditching with fixed gear aircraft usually means coming to a stop upside down), mid-air collision, loss of control, incapacitation of the pilot, and severe weather disorientation. Most owners of these systems agree with this statement: "You may never deploy your parachute, but you use it every time you fly. You can pay full attention to safe operation knowing that if you use up all the skill your training taught you, you still have one more option. It's peace of mind." That's worth a lot. Magnum Ballistic Parachute Systems have been available in the United States since 2006. Today, representation by Dennis Carley assures buyers of a consistent, reliable sales and service provider for the Magnum models.
Here is a short video (4min 12sec) that will be followed by a fuller explanation with detail of how the system mounts on an Aerolite 103. https://youtu.be/GYfNhUiYoOU
Aviation preaches safety long and loud. This dedication within the aviation community has made flying safer than driving despite what landlubbers believe is a risky way to travel. Aviators know better, of course. We work hard at making flying safe. It’s not lucky or some accident of choice. We are all proud of our skill at taking an airplane aloft and returning it safely to terra firma. Except when we cannot… Why Parachutes? Any way you look at it, an airframe parachute adds cost, weight, and bulk. These systems cost real money (thousands), add “non-functioning” weight (16 to 50 pounds depending on the airplane’s weight and speed), and fill up space you might use otherwise (a BRS system for the Cessna 172 uses a substantial share of the baggage space in that model). All these things — cost, weight, and bulk — are negatives, yet pilots buy these emergency systems regularly.
So, Now… AffordaplaneAny design so named seems to fit our mission perfectly. Have you ever seen an Affordaplane? Don't feel bad. Neither have I, and I am constantly on the prowl for light aircraft I haven't seen. Naturally, this fact also highlights that the lightest, most affordable airplanes may often be flown in and out of places a Cirrus SR22 owner will never see. Many Part 103 ultralights seem invisible to much of conventional, legacy aviation. It's their loss. To become more aware, I explored Affordaplane's website and looked at their Facebook page. I also approached developer, Dave Edwards. Those with specific questions or seeking more information before placing an order can email Dave. Another Facebook page, a private group with more than 5,000 followers administrated by Terry Adair, is called Affordaplane Ultralight Adventures. When communicating about Affordaplane on the Part 103 List, I told Dave, "I will accept plans from producers like you but I will ask for the number of aircraft that you (and other plans suppliers) believe have taken to the air in those years, as 'delivery' doesn’t mean the same thing." Fully-built Part 103 producers will be asked to tell me their deliveries for 2019 and 2020. I added, "My request only applies to aircraft that comply with FAA guidance to be conforming Part 103 ultralights. Any of your [Affordaplane] aircraft requiring N-numbers will be counted via our main market share reporting. The Part 103 List and my surveying of the industry is an attempt to address the lack of knowledge about 103 ultralight numbers." Regarding my market questions, Dave wrote, "I am not sure that I have accurate numbers, as there is no earthly way for me to know if someone has actually built one for Part 103." I understand his message. However, he added, "That [Part 103 category] is what the Affordaplane was originally designed for, and many hundreds are flying. Now, a lot of people do [Experimental Amateur Built], but I have witnessed an explosion of new people into the sport, in the past five years." Affordable airplanes like Affordaplane are indeed reflecting the refreshed interest in Part 103, "Our facebook group has over 7,600 people in it," Dave indicated. "I think it is great what you are doing [with the Part 103 List] and I will be more than glad to help. I am very interested in your efforts," Dave finished adding, "By the way, you know who lives about two miles from me here? John Moody, the father of Ultralights!"
Affordaplane — The Beginning"I designed and flew the Affordaplane ultralight airplane starting back in 1999, and my life’s dream and mission has been to help people to fly," remembered Dave. "For over 20 years I have helped a whole lot of people build and fly their own airplanes." "To me, ultralights are the ultimate expression of freedom," he expressed. "You don’t need a license to fly them, but you do need training." "Give me a grass strip and a couple of bucks' worth of gas, and I can go flying any time I want. I don’t need a radio, don’t need an expensive transponder, and I do not need an annual inspection. I do all the inspecting myself. When you build it yourself it gives you invaluable experience and confidence in the air that you just do not get by buying a completed airplane from someone else." "Most of the materials to build the Affordaplane you can buy locally. Nowadays you can get all your metal locally, even the windscreen came from Home Depot," observed Dave. "Aircraft bolts you buy from an aircraft supply house. Your motor can come from many places, like Ebay or Barnstormers.com. The fabric to cover the wings and tail comes from Aircraft Spruce." Dave said, "The biggest 'secret' is that building an airplane like mine is easy …really easy, like building a large model airplane. You just have to pay attention to details, and … follow a good set of plans, step by step. The Affordaplane Plans package now contains 173 information packed pages, and everything you need to build your own Affordaplane aircraft is included. The Construction Manual is 68 pages of detailed photos and step by step instructions. For those who prefer, the plans can be delivered on a CD or digitally. Affordaplane’s fuselage is [based on] square aluminum tubing with flat plate gussets bolting it all together. "I designed it this way for a number of reasons," noted Dave. "One is that it’s extremely strong but light. Gyrocopters have used this method for decades. Two is you can cut it with a chop saw or jigsaw, drill it, and it is basically done. There is no welding involved at all with this airplane. You do not have to have welding equipment, and you never have to worry if your welds will hold. Plus, everything is out in the open, there is nothing hidden that can cause problems. You don’t even need to paint it." "I have helped many people build their fuselage in one single weekend," boasted Dave, "and that is unheard of in homebuilt aircraft construction. That just shows how simple this airplane really is to build." Affordaplane wings and tail are built from round aluminum tubing, the same type of construction as many other ultralight airplanes. Those surfaces are covered with Dacron, shrunk with a clothes iron, and painted with house paint. Dave reports that this method looks great and holds up for years. The airfoil used yields the most performance out of 40 horsepower. "The stall is gentle and straightforward," Dave claimed. "I designed full-span ailerons for the wings. Crosswinds are no problem at all. She goes where you point her." "If there is one thing I am most proud of, it’s how Affordaplane flies," Dave said enthusiastically. "In a word: Great! All the pilots that have flown her say she is a very sweet flying airplane." Affordaplane appears to be a solid, proven design, one that has been flying for over 20 years and has logged thousands of hours. "If you build it as an FAR 103 legal ultralight, it comes out at 254 pounds," Dave reported. "But many people now build it as a Experimental Amateur Built because they can log hours in their logbook. So it’s your choice."
Technical Specifications Affordaplane
- Empty Weight — 254 pounds
- Gross Weight — 540 pounds
- Wing Span — 27.5 feet
- Wing Area — 117 square feet
- Length — 17.25 feet
- Height — 5 feet
- Engine — 35 to 40 horsepower
- Never Exceed Speed — 75 miles a hour
- Maximum Speed — 63 miles a hour
- Cruise Speed — 55 miles a hour
- Stall — 27 miles per hour
- Range — 150 miles
- Fuel Capacity — 5 U.S. gallons
- Rate of Climb — 1,000 feet per minute
- Takeoff Roll — 150 feet
- Landing Roll — 150 feet
- Build Time — approximately 250 hours
This website promotes a focus on affordable aviation, but the word “affordable” means different things to different people at different times. For some “affordable” may include Special LSA selling for more than $200,000. After all, that’s a fraction of a loaded Cirrus SR22, for example. For others, even $20,000 is more than they wish to spend. Fortunately, you have a wide variety of choices. Our April 2020 series was composed of ten articles about used light aircraft you can buy for less than $10,000. We also continue work on our Part 103 list. From the current count of 57 producers, most have choices that are affordable to most pilots plus you get the benefit of almost no regulatory authority over your flying activity (no pilot certificate, no N-numbers, no medical, plus you can buy ready to fly and maintain any way you wish). So, Now… Affordaplane Any design so named seems to fit our mission perfectly.
2020 and Covid Surviving or Thriving?Steve Best summarized, "Registrations grew by about 4% in 2020, down from 10% growth the year before." Many may be surprised. Registrations grew? …in 2020!? Indeed, they did, and that's without counting Part 103 ultralights that do not need to be registered with FAA. We'll have lots more on Part 103s in a couple months (the effort continues to contact all 57 producers currently identified). Other than Part 103 vehicles… "The market splits into three distinct categories," Steve began. He listed: "1️⃣ Zenair/Zenith, which registered* almost twice as many aircraft (86) as anyone else in 2020, followed by 2️⃣ the next four, each with over 40 registrations in 2020, and then 3️⃣ everyone else." Trailing the longtime leader of this segment was Van's and their RV-12 (we do not cover the other models Van's sells), followed by Kitfox, Rans, Sonex, and Just. "The leading registrations were almost all kit-built planes that can be flown by someone with a Sport Pilot certificate or using those privileges with a higher certificate — hence, "Sport Pilot kits." Van's Aircraft's RV-12 can be bought factory-built as an SLSA, but of the 54 RV12s registered in 2020, only 11 were RTFs." Builders completed their kit-built planes at a good pace in 2020. In the chart below, the red line shows factory-built aircraft, SLSAs and ELSAs. The brown line shows kit-built aircraft. Steve observed, "Historically, most of 'my' kind of aircraft have been factory-built but that’s no longer true. Now factory-built and kit-built are on par." Indeed kits have been rising faster since about 2015 — where from 2005 (when the first SLSA were accepted by FAA) through 2014, ready-to-fly aircraft were pulling away. Why is this true? Many reasons might explain but affordability is a key element and, no question about it, investing your labor reduces the cash outlay to have your own airplane. At the same time, the sophistication of Special LSA has risen over the years. Features such as bigger, more powerful engines, autopilot, big fancy panel displays, leather interiors, complex manufacturing with carbon fiber, and the cost of complying with ASTM standards has increased the cost of some SLSA beyond $200,000. At this price point, some readers note a recreational aircraft can cost more than your house (not in California or New England, perhaps, but in many U.S. regions this may be true). "Look at the slope of the lines," Steve advises. "The brown (kit) line is steeper, especially last year. That means two things: First, a lot of people finished their kit planes in 2020 – more than finished them in 2019 (so that’s how they spent their lockdown time). Secondly, people are buying more kits than factory-built aircraft. Of course, there’s a lag in the data*. Some of those 2020 completions represent purchases from years before. Still, the kit segment has overtaken the factory-built segment."
Special and Experimental Light-Sport AircraftAside from fixed-wing Sport Pilot Kits, Italian gyroplane maker Magni more than doubled its registrations. Among ready-to-fly (RTF) models, Scoda's Super Petrel amphibian had a breakout year. Yet all is not well. Icon sunk from 5th place to 15th, with just 13 registrations, down from 42 last year. AutoGyro’s numbers dropped 38%. "The largest gyroplane manufacturer in the world is reportedly undergoing a 'corporate restructuring,' Steve noted. We do not cover the Primary Aircraft category where some AutoGyro models may appear after they spent generously to achieve that certification with FAA. With the coming LSA regulation preparing (we believe) to allow SLSA gyroplanes, the advantage in having Primary Category approval is diminishing. Whatever the explanation, Italy-based Magni surged from well behind the market leader to race ahead in the American gyroplane market for 2020. LSA Seaplanes — a category all its own. Two companies stand out from the rest in 2020. Datastician Steve wrote, "Progressive Aerodyne's SeaRey is the leader among amphibians now that Icon has slipped." This must be particularly delicious for those working at the Tavares, Florida airplane manufacturer. SeaRey existed long before Icon Aircraft. Once solely a kit builder, after adding SLSA models Progressive has steadily marched forward, even during ownership and management changes. Searey's steady performance year in and year out wins the match against A5. These days, the two are priced dramatically differently and Searey remains a great value. Coming in 2021, however, is New Zealand's Vickers Wave that expect first flight this spring. Although presently a kit producer, Aero Adventure will being offering a fully-built model and its price point is sure to attract new buyers for this long-proven design. One statement is true for LSA seaplanes and all other recreational segments: The ease of market entry compared to conventionally-certified "legacy" airplanes is sure to keep developers on their toes, demanding they continually make their aircraft more desirable. Brazil's Scoda Aeronautica's Super Petrel LS has joined the leaders with a breakout year in 2020. See video below.
Alternative Aircraft Trikes/Gyroplanes/Powered ParachutesFixed wing, three axis aircraft have dominated Light-Sport Aircraft since the start. However, what I term "alternative aircraft" (anything not a fixed wing three axis model) have long made up about a quarter of the total and this remains true. In this new year, I suspect we will find that Part 103 ultralights will factor in significantly. Among these lightest powered, wheeled aircraft, fixed wing, three axis will be the lion's share but alternative aircraft represent a percentage you cannot ignore. My expectation is that unit sales of Part 103 fixed wing and alternative models may exceed the total of SLSA/ELSA models sold. They are less costly by a wide margin — in some cases only one-tenth the cost of a deluxe Special LSA. Reviewing the charts and tables accompanying this report, Steve noted, "Except for Magni, gyroplane registrations were down. This hot segment seems to have cooled a bit in 2020." I would add that this could change a lot once the new regulation is announced and ready-to-fly gyroplanes can be sold by any company that earns FAA acceptance via ASTM industry consensus standards. "Trike registrations were flat overall," Steve said. However, he added, "Evolution Trikes had a big comeback in 2020. Interestingly, they registered only one of their high-end Revo trikes. Fortunately, Larry Mednick branched out into the mid-sized RevoLT and the single-seat RevX. The latter is like a high-performance ultralight, so perhaps its numbers are a side-effect of the boom in ultralight sales this year." Evolution also makes a Part 103 model called Rev that also experienced a robust year in 2020, Larry reported. "Powered parachutes (PPCs) recovered from 2019, but Powrachute brand may soon be the only company in the segment," Steve wrote. The Michigan producer — which also manufactures components for Evolution Trikes — nearly doubled its registrations from 2019 to 2020. Six Chuter came back from zero in 2019 but their numbers are small. Some other PPC producers have models that show up nowhere. SkyRunner and it's gnarly, large, and "twin-engined" combo powered parachute and ground vehicle made several sales to the U.S. government and military. These units require no FAA registration so do not appear in our tabulations. No other powered parachute make emerged into the statistics opening the door for new entrants.
• • • • • • •That's our look at affordable aircraft in 2020. Building a kit can be a largely solo activity and sport aircraft are flown solo most of the time. Therefore 2020 was not the horrid year it was for someone working in hospitality, restaurants, gyms, churches, or other "non-essential" activities. If you're one of many who kept flying in 2020, good for you! Enjoy your aerial freedom!
Scoda's Super Petrel is one producer that had a stellar 2020. The following beautifully-done video offers a quick glance at production and shipment of this unusual bi-plane LSA seaplane. https://vimeo.com/440801166
* Registrations are not sales or deliveries. Kit-built aircraft are rarely registered in the same year they were delivered so kit registrations in 2020 may not reflect 2020 sales, which could have been lower or higher. Special and Experimental LSA of any kind are likely to be registered the same year they were manufactured. Over time, registrations and deliveries tend to align.
Everyone knows 2020 was arguably the most unusual year in anyone’s recollection. In such a time of global upheaval, how did the light aircraft industry fare? This report took a bit more time as the effort to begin counting Part 103 ultralights altered our view of the FAA aircraft registration data. Most of you may prefer this simpler report, but the data hounds among readers can drill all the way down to the last aircraft on Tableau Public. As always, my sincerest thanks goes to our premier datastician Steve Beste. His work is the primary resource for this report. While I deeply appreciated the work done for years by former data guy (and personal friend), Jan Fridrich, Steve’s career in databases gave him skills that few others possess. Since he’s also “one of us” — a trike owner and pilot — Steve understands what we hope to achieve better than data experts outside affordable aviation.
Aero in JulySince its beginning in 1992, Aero Friedrichshafen has always occurred in April, a wonderful time of year in the southern German region of Bavaria. Along with nearly every other aviation event, Aero was scrubbed in 2020. One delightful exception was Chris Collins' Midwest LSA Expo that went on as usual in early September. Gosh, that was a nice break. As anyone can read everywhere you look, a new virus strain is already starting to upset things in 2021. A rescheduled Aero set its sights on April as usual. I was exceedingly pleased when leader Roland Bosch and his team placed the dates so those of us who wish could attend both Sun 'n Fun and Aero. Yay! However, it was not to be. Now, Aero has rescheduled again, this time for July 14-17, 2021 in the very south of Germany, on the Bodensee (or Lake Constance) bordered by Switzerland on the opposite coast. Aero 2021 will operate only days before EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2021 starts on July 26th. One can hope both Aero and Oshkosh happen in July and that Sun 'n Fun 2021 can go forward as planned for April 13-18, 2021.
I reported on this as recently as January 8th and then updated that article on January 14th. Here we are on the 21st and things obviously still remain fluid. I've got my fingers crossed for no more changes. ??????
After nearly a year of precious few such events, trying to plan for airshows you wish to attend in 2021 remains complicated by a variety of factors. You’ve heard about vaccines and lockdowns and executive orders until you are thoroughly exhausted by it all. Some TV networks unrelentingly tell you virus numbers that can discourage even the most ardent of optimists. We’re pilots! We want to fly! Doing so productively means keeping up with the latest hardware and software and hearing from experts on a variety of topics from kit aircraft assembly to weather to regulations. Much of this we can learn quickly, efficiently — and this is very important — enjoyably at airshows. Aero in July Since its beginning in 1992, Aero Friedrichshafen has always occurred in April, a wonderful time of year in the southern German region of Bavaria. Along with nearly every other aviation event, Aero was scrubbed in 2020.
Recreational and MoreSensenich is so common on the light aircraft that we cover on this website that some readers may not even be aware of the brand's use on FAA-certified aircraft. Of the "well over 850,000 propellers" Sensenich said they have shipped, most went on certified aircraft. They know how to meet those regulations. Recently, the company announced it was won a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) for its carbon ground-adjustable pitch STOL propeller for Piper Super Cub Aircraft. An STC is required when modifying a certified aircraft; usually handled in the field to benefit a single aircraft. This new STC allows installation on PA-18 “150” aircraft powered by Lycoming O-360 series engines, with future STCs planned for Lycoming O-320 powered Super Cubs and certain popular training aircraft. “Our Experimental Amateur-Built aircraft customers have been raving about this propeller for several years, and now we can offer the same step up in performance to our certified customers,” says Sensenich president, Don Rowell. Don continued, "This propeller’s quick and sure pitch adjustment (nearby image) gives the customer the option of maximum performance no matter what the flight profile may be." Sensenich reported that extensive testing required during the certification project in Alaska showed improved take-off, climb and cruise performance compared to what’s considered the industry standard fixed-pitch STOL propeller. "When pitched for the same climb rpm as the standard propeller, climb rate was increased by 140 feet per minute, cruise speed was identical, and full-throttle level-flight speed increased by seven miles per hour. When repitched to match the industry standard propeller's climb rate, cruise speed was increased by eight miles per hour and full-throttle level-flight speed increased by 18 miles per hour." These substantial gains appear to show the recreational aircraft industry that has used these props have long enjoyed improvements that factory-built, FAA-certified aircraft wanted. Performance is not only measured in speed or rate of climb. Weight also matters. Sensenich's new composite propeller is listed at half the weight of the legacy STOL propeller: 21 pounds for the new Sensenich prop versus 44 pounds for a metal unit. The propeller is available in diameters from 78 inches to 82 inches. The STC also covers a 12-inch diameter balanced composite spinner. This STC will be available for new-build propellers starting the first quarter of 2021. Pricing for the propeller with STC documentation is $6,350 FOB Plant City. Adding the spinner brings the price to $7,085 including STC documents. While Sensenich continues to open new markets for their well-received propellers, they remain a leading supplier to the Light-Sport Aircraft, Sport Pilot kit-build, and ultralight segments.
In the early 1930s, Sensenich began making propellers …from wood. Almost a century later, wood remains a very viable material for props and many recreational aircraft owners are happy about that because wood is light and less costly. However, times advance inexorably. Wood lead to metal which gave way to composite, a category now including carbon fiber. Through it all, Plant City, Florida-based Sensenich has managed to keep their products “right on the nose” (except for pusher configurations, of course). The company quartered only a few miles from Sun ‘n Fun introduced metal propellers in the 1940s, developed composite propellers in the late 1990s, and continues to push boundaries in the light aircraft, unmanned, and marine propulsion markets. For those unaware, Sensenich has built a substantial business making large diameter, very-wide-chord props for airboats. Recreational and More Sensenich is so common on the light aircraft that we cover on this website that some readers may not even be aware of the brand’s use on FAA-certified aircraft.
Small Airplane Specialist Aeroplanes DARAirplanes Dar is a small innovative company with a long history that started in the previous century… on June 24th, 1917. "We are proud to say that we are older than Boeing," boasted the company. "Our main activity is the production of light high quality single and two seat planes." Aeroplanes Dar's main production facility is in Sofia, Bulgaria (a few hundred miles straight north of Athens, Greece). This location has advantages, the company believes. "We stay competitive in terms of prices [because in] Bulgaria taxes are the lowest in all of Europe." Although Aeroplanes DAR goes back more than 100 years, it changed dramatically in 1995 when a man named Tony Ilieff took over the company, making serial production a priority. "Our target is mass production of single, two and four-seated ultra and light planes based on all-metal technology," said Tony. "For this purpose we created a special sheet management technology in which all aluminum details are cut by laser and shaped by CNC machines." Aeroplanes DAR is not solely an aluminum-bending company. "In addition, we are working on the use of composites in our constructions as they provide us with certain advantages: weight, strength, and price."
Family of ModelsTony's first designs were very different than today's models. As the current line emerged in 2008, it started with a two seater — the Duo — then a Part 103-compliant model weighing 115 kilograms (the U.S. Part 103 maximum), followed by a German 120-kilogram Class version as that category was established. Other countries also use similar systems aiding very light aircraft with a lower level of regulation. Both single seat, single engine ultralight airplanes called "Solo" are assembled with mixed construction: aluminum wings and composite airframe. "New advanced technologies have been introduced and the result is a remarkable aircraft of extra low weight and good flight performance," claims Aeroplanes Dar. Using their Sheet Management software, assembling elements such as metal wings and tail surfaces "is easy; the subjective factor at work has been eliminated," the company said. Composite parts in both Solo models are made by carbon, aramid and fiberglass in molds under vacuum and controlled temperature. "Using this technique, the central (front-to-back) beam and vertical stabilizer has been combined in one. Main landing gear is fiberglass built with a new two-stage vacuum process." "Originally our Solo was designed to be sold as an airplane kit," explained Tony. "That's why airfoil and assembly have been specially chosen and modified to be easily handled by customers and can be assembled on a regular workshop table. The customer receives all-important parts ready for final assembly. These important features are required for a product that will be sold as kit set, intended for private manual assembly." Dar Solo ultralight airplane available in two main versions including one appearing to meet U.S. Part 103 specifications. See the specifications for this variety below. An all-metal wing and composite fuselage elements give Solo a modern look. Solo 115 (the choice for Americans as mentioned on their Facebook page) has a maximum takeoff weight of 540 pounds and an empty weight of 254 pounds. With flaps extended, stall makes Part 103 at 24 knots and cruise speed is also where it needs to be at 50 knots. Polini is the recommended engine choice although Airplanes Dar does support others and previously used Hirth F33. With a Polini, Solo offers a 400 foot per minute climb rate. "This aircraft also meet other national regulations such as Russian 115, Korean, Brazilian, and others," said Tony. Powered by Polini Thor 200 EVO (28 horsepower). A Galaxy GRS 240 rescue system is an available option; such systems are required in Germany.
TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS DAR Solo UL
- Wing Span — 31 feet
- Overall Length — 15.6 feet
- Overall Height — 8 feet
- Wing Area — 105 square feet
- Cabin Width — 24 inches
- Empty Weight — 254 pounds (267 pounds with airframe parachute)
- Maximum Takeoff Weight — 540 pounds
- Maximum Loading — +4/–2 G
- Fuel Tank Capacity — 3.3 U.S. gallons
- Take-off Ground Roll — 460 feet
- Rate of Climb — 400 feet per minute
- Cruise Speed — 50 knots
- Maximum speed — 57 knots
- Stall Speed (clean) — 27 knots
- Stall Speed (max flaps) — 24 knots
- Fuel Consumption at Cruise — 1.7 gallons per hour
- Range — 70 nautical miles
- Engine — Polini Thor 250
Excitement surrounding Part 103 Ultralights continues. Considering what a nightmare of a year the entire world has experienced, many find it incredible that 103s are not only surviving, but thriving. We still have such models as the popular CGS Hawk and Aerolite 103 that are gusseted-tube structures with Dacron wings; this remains a great choice for light aircraft. However, we are also getting some advanced configurations. Examples reported recently here are the Aeromarine LSA Merlin Lite, Sector’s Spark, and Top Rudder’s Solo. In this article, I look at another entry after a reminder from an alert reader …one on which I had previously reported. This one has been around a few years but never established any U.S. presence. That could change as 103 types continue their growth. Small Airplane Specialist Aeroplanes DAR Airplanes Dar is a small innovative company with a long history that started in the previous century… on June 24th, 1917.
Flyway to Highway DeLand, FloridaLead organizer Jana Filip first rescheduled the November 2020 DeLand Showcase until January, but that got scrubbed by a very cautious city of DeLand. Now, Jana will host Flyway to Highway at the end of this month. My friends at General Aviation News got the news out early, "DeLand Airport will host a one-day fly-in/drive-in event on January 30, 2021. Co-sponsored by automaker Tesla, anyone who shows up at the DeLand Airport Management Center can take a test drive in a new Tesla." Quite a few airplane companies will also display. Come check them out. I tell you what! If you haven't driven a Tesla, you may be in for a treat. I did some years back at the now-defunct Palm Springs, California show. What a hoot! I told lots of people I've never driven a car that accelerated so quickly outside of a couple race cars I've been able to take around a track. Whoa! Come see for yourself and check out the airplanes on display, including Alto, Aerolite 103, SeaMax, and Aventura, among others. I hope we might run into one another as I'll be present. The event runs one day from 9 AM to 2 PM. DATE: January 30th, 2021 • GPS address: 1000 Flightline Boulevard, DeLand, FL 32724.
Sun 'n Fun 2021 "Back" and ReadyI already wrote about Sun 'n Fun's Holiday Festival (video below), their version of cars and airplanes, held on December 4th and 5th of 2020. I went on Friday and found the site similar to their regular Sun 'n Fun airshow, for year occurring in April of each year. As everyone knows by now, Sun 'n Fun made a grand effort to reschedule amid rapidly expanding virus fears but still had to scrub when May of 2020 brought still-rising infections. This was surely a very painful decision. I understand that the six-day event provides a substantial portion (some say 70%) of the organization's annual budget. They certainly cannot absorb a second year of such devastating loss, so I've got all my fingers crossed and am holding my hopes high for them. Sun 'n Fun notes, "From humble beginnings in 1974 as a fly-in for sport aviation enthusiasts, Sun 'n Fun has grown into one of the largest and most successful aviation events — Florida’s largest annual convention of any kind drawing more than 200,000 visitors." I hope you can be one of them this year! It's simple, really. You like the event. They need you to attend. Go. Look. Fly! DATES: April 13th to 18th, 2021
Europe's Best (IMHO) Aero Friedrichshafen 2021… is ON!When I asked the main man about Aero Friedrichshafen, the show's longtime leader, Roland Bosch, wrote, "I'm very confident that the venue will held as planned. After Easter, normal life must go on." "We have a lot of confirmed exhibitors booked," Roland continued. "We also have exhibitors still waiting with their decision till February. "Vaccine and warm weather in spring will help additional. Also we have a perfect anti-corona concept which worked very well at the boat show, "Interboot," in September 2020. This marine event is held in the same city convention center as is Aero. Friedrichshafen is located on the huge Lake Constance or Bodensee. "We will also run our Aero South Africa show in July 2021." Lead by Roland, the Aero team will also visit AirVenture this year so American companies wanting to explore opportunities in Europe can speak to key Aero team members. DATES: April 21st to 24th, 2021 — Friedrichshafen, Germany (on the south border across from Switzerland).
The Big One EAA AirVenture OshkoshRecently I had dinner with a top executive of EAA. He believes the organization is ready for 2021 and that their late-July event is on a good footing. As with Sun 'n Fun, the one-week AirVenture show fuels a lot of what EAA does all year so they took a bit hit. "We had a 'rainy day fund' for exactly such eventualities," he said, "so EAA remains on a solid financial footing." However, he acknowledged that they need this to occur to shore up the future. Of course, we all hope this event goes on as presently planned. While vital for EAA, someone in my shoes is very keen on these airshows being executed so my effort of content gathering goes on unabated. EAA offices have been operating normally since August and even the EAA Museum is back to about 50% capacity, with both offices and museum implementing all the latest advice about virus protections. DATES: July 26th to August 1st, 2021
What's NOT Happening?One of the sad cancellations is the Illinois Ultralight & Light Sport Aircraft Safety Symposium. You might imagine that one state's event is not particularly significant, but this one has been going on for 40 years… yep, 40! That's about as long as the U.S. has enjoyed Part 103 ultralights. Organizer Vickie Betts wrote, "With the increasing number of Covid cases and the certainty that only a small portion of the general population will have received a vaccine by that date, we felt it was prudent to cancel the event for safety reasons." Instead, she and other organizers will focus on their 2022 symposium. Another Covid dropout is the Copperstate/Buckeye event last held in February of 2020 before the sky fell on everyone. The Phoenix, Arizona-area event — a joint venture between the 48 year-old Copperstate event (it started the year before Sun 'n Fun) and the newer but city-promoted and widely-attended Buckeye Air Fair — has worked exceptionally well the last few years. Fellow aviation enthusiast, builder-assist center partner and representative for the Flying Legends Tucano, ICP Savannah, and Arion Lightning, Jack Norris, wrote simply, "Copperstate is cancelled." Instead, organizers plan to have a limited Fly-In on Saturday, February 13th for those wanting to participate. Perspective: Attending Copperstate in February 2020 was the last time I was on an airliner. My hopes are high for much improved 2021 airshow season. I'll attend all that go forward and report from each.
UPDATE 1/14/21 — Regretfully, I must announce that DeLand has cancelled its Flyway to Highway event “due to Covid-19.” —DJ After a year of great uncertainty, the earliest airshows of 2021 are feeling the pressure. However, by spring, several organizers hope for great improvement. Here’s some review, good news first and then some cancellations. Flyway to Highway DeLand, Florida Lead organizer Jana Filip first rescheduled the November 2020 DeLand Showcase until January, but that got scrubbed by a very cautious city of DeLand. Now, Jana will host Flyway to Highway at the end of this month. My friends at General Aviation News got the news out early, “DeLand Airport will host a one-day fly-in/drive-in event on January 30, 2021. Co-sponsored by automaker Tesla, anyone who shows up at the DeLand Airport Management Center can take a test drive in a new Tesla.” Quite a few airplane companies will also display.
Flying Future VehiclesIf you are well-read in light aircraft, you may recognize the name Marek Ivanov. "It sounds so familiar. Why?" you might ask. Actually this man is a very important figure from the Czech Republic where he has been involved with many airplanes you know. His Future Vehicles website shows an impressive flow of airplane photos, many of which you will recognize and all of which have Marek's fingerprints on them He didn't design all these but he contributed his engineering skills to their development. Go here to see the long list of light aircraft on which Marek has worked. As we met more than once in this millennium, and because I was working on the Part 103 List, I reached out to Marek following the advice of Flight Design USA proprietor, Tom Peghiny. Although I've had no contact with Marek in recent years, he remains a force in light aircraft design and production. "I have still in production Viera and Desire airplanes," Marek confirmed just before Christmas 2020.
Viera, Desire, Skyboy, Sparrow, and more"I think you know Viera was produced by the Interplane company," he recalled. Yes, I did know this. For those who may have forgotten, Interplane was the company behind the once-popular Skyboy. Here is my full-length pilot report on the aircraft from 2004. Marek remembered, "You and I met in Sebring in 2008. I was CEO of Interplane at that time." After American Interplane owner Ralph Mandarino retired more than a decade back, Marek said, "I produced Viera in my company, IvanovAero. In 2018, Marek transferred all activities to his new company, Future Vehicles. "I'm still offering those airplanes and we have all tools for Viera and we are ready to build it, but honestly, we haven't sold any for a long time," Marek admitted. "Usually, all sales were stopped due to transport costs. It is a light and relatively cheap airplane but it requires a 20 foot shipping container for transport to America. Of course, we can load five Vieras to the container, but I was not able to convince customers to buy five instead of one to reduce transport costs." Indeed, today, no one represents Viera in the USA but given the modern intensity of interest in Part 103, that could change. Viera is a monowheel Part 103 airplane that was also made in tricycle gear form, though I am unsure if the tri-gear version can comply with Part 103 weights and speeds. To familiarize readers, here are two short articles on Viera, one from 2007 and another from 2008. Although Americans are less familiar with monowheel-equipped aircraft, this construction is commonly used on sailplane gliders, part of their never-ending mission to reduce drag. As do many Europe-trained aeronautical engineers, Marek has experience in sailplanes. Monowheels can be particularly good for off-field landings — for which sailplanes need always to be prepared should they lose sustaining lift and have to make an out-landing. Also, in Europe, where airports commonly charge for each and every landing (imagine that, you lucky Americans!), an aircraft that does not demand a registered airport can save a lot of money. Unseen by Americans (including me), Marek said Desire is also Part 103. While it is a one-off custom design, "we can deliver it within less than 12 months if there is demand," he said. Marek referenced that capability due to the rules I've created for an aircraft to be included in the Part 103 List. To make it quicker for readers, I repeat the four rules below the video. Marek is indeed a busy fellow. He is also the man behind a two-seat 912-powered aircraft called Sparrow. If I'm fortunate enough to get to Aero Friedrichshafen 2021, I hope to see more of Marek's work and perhaps to interview him.
Here is Marek's video of his Desire design. Enjoy! https://youtu.be/dkZ1JzpZKRI
Part 103 List RulesTo be included in the coming Part 103 List, all aircraft must meet these four rules: 1️⃣ Current production aircraft only. If an aircraft is not actively being sold today, I will not include it, however, I have listed some “in development” models as they are from known producers who have made Part 103 aircraft before. Multicopter designs will notbe included as none have entered the market to-date. 2️⃣ An aircraft must be able to qualify for Part 103 according to FAA’s Advisory Circular AC-103-7. This can include a kit-built Part 103 aircraft that a buyer may register in Experimental class so long as it can genuinely comply with Part 103 parameters. Part 103 Ultralights built from plans will also be included. 3️⃣ Powered, wheeled aircraft in these configurations: fixed wing, weight shift trike, powered parachute, gyroplane, motorglider, or paraglider with wheeled carriage. 4️⃣ No one-off, custom designs or aircraft still in an early development phase. I only want aircraft that a customer can buy for delivery within the next 12 months.
As work on my Part 103 List continues, I have reached out to producers of the lightest, most affordable airplanes you can buy. The list is now 54 producers and yet I am aware more may show up to be counted. That’s good. More choice in affordable airplane benefits pilot consumers. In 2020, the most-read articles appearing on this website were about affordable aircraft — updates describing FAA’s new regulation for Light-Sport Aircraft were also popular. After a decade or more when many pilots believed Part 103 ultralights had all but disappeared, I am delighted to say those people were simply wrong. Part 103 is very alive and well, perhaps healthier than at any time since the category was created in fall of 1982. The volume of people visiting this website — up more than 50% in 2020 — and a majority of those visitors choosing to read about 103s provide numerical proof that interest in these aircraft is large and growing.
You Can Afford Your Own AircraftFAA's Part 103 is an American phenomenon, dating to 1982, when the nearly 40-year-old regulation was issued. Did lead rule writer, Mike Sacrey and his band of bureaucrats know what they were unleashing? How could they? They could not see the future any better than anyone else. Yet, four decades later, this segment is thriving beyond what many pilots are willing to believe. Now, fresh from the aviation-oriented land of Brazil comes a new entry. While Sector Aircraft works to shore up financing for their two-seat LSA Hero project, designer André Godoy completed his single seat Quantum project and is trimming weight to make it qualify as a U.S. Part 103 vehicle (more on that below). Here's how he describes his project. EAA Oshkosh 2019 — "Dan, at the last EAA event in Oshkosh in 2019 we almost met. In fact, I saw you but I was ashamed to go and talk without having pre-arranged it. At this air show, I found a great place to sit and eat a hot dog and grabbed my sketch notebook that is always with me. While eating my sandwich, I finished the main sketch of my first ultralight project, Quantum." Part 103 in Brazil — "Brazil has recently launched a standard for ultralight aircraft: RBAC-103. This standard allows an empty weight limit of 440 pounds, a maximum speed of 100 knots and an aircraft can be two-place. This configuration greatly facilitated my Quantum project and we have achieved good results within this Brazilian category. However, RBAC-103 serves few countries." Quantum Design — "When I returned to Brazil, I sat at my workstation and started working a lot on the 3D project. Using the engineering software called SolidWorks, I devised several good engineering solutions."
Describing the Project"I decided to use the fantastic Hero wings. As the two aircraft are quite different, I made some modifications. Quantum has a trapezoidal aluminum wing with a profile from engineer Harry Riblett. It was never used on any aircraft but in the initial simulations they behaved very well so I decided to use it. I removed the flaps and the machined spar of Hero and added lift struts. I kept the wing tips and the result weighs only 55 pounds per wing including aileron. At that moment I found that I was on the right path! "I made the tail with NACA-008 profile, where in Flow Simulation trials, that shape gave more control power at low speeds. I continued with the design and in November 2019 the plane was ready, as well as all software and real load tests, and we were just waiting for our engine to arrive, a Polini Thor 250DS (Sector has become the Polini dealer in Brazil). In December 2019 we started the first tests on the ground, we had a very pleasant surprise with the results but we needed adjustments and improvements in the prototype. "In January 2020 we made the first flight and started the flight tests. Because I had recently finished an LSA project (Hero), I used the ASTM-2245 standards to make Quantum, mainly following the structural load and flight items. We created a quality assurance manual, and all this experience will help when we start manufacturing the Hero. "Following ASTM standards, Quantum flight tests used the same flight test cards as we did for Hero. We logged approximately 25 hours and after this validation period we start calling friends to fly the new bird, including pilots such as Captain Bertolini, who flew many military planes and was for more than 15 years a test pilot for Embraer. His input helped me refine the design and we already have sales of Quantum in Brazil and production has started, which is very good for us."
Flying Quantum"As I prefer not to brag about my own design, I collected information from the experienced pilots who flew Quantum. "Coordination maneuvers went beautifully. Approaches to landings showed good stability even in crosswinds. Touchdown does not require exceptional effort; abrupt corrections are not needed as Quantum delivers a smooth and pleasant ride." By late November 2020, André added, "We have logged 56 hours and the experience of more than 18 pilots." Handling Qualities — "Flight controls use cables and pulleys for the ailerons and rudder, and control rods for the elevator, giving Quantum harmony and maneuverability characteristics comparable to larger, heavier planes. Making a turn with Quantum does not require corrections with the rudder as Frise-style ailerons help Quantum make well-coordinated turns. We have a docile aircraft that can accept mistakes from less experienced pilots while providing pleasurable handling to higher-time pilots."
About André GodoyAndré Godoy hails from Campinas in the state of São Paulo. "During my childhood, I lived near an aerodrome and I could see all the colorful ultralights flying over my house. At the age of seven I found my vocation; I wanted to work in aviation." "In my adolescence, I studied mechanical manufacturing processes because in Campinas, I could not take an aeronautics course. In the early 2000s I started working with SolidWorks software and then I went to work as a project manager in a company called Inpaer in Campinas — today, Americans know this company as Texas Aircraft — making the first Brazilian LSA called Conquest (today, with metal fuselage, it is called Colt). "I dedicated my life to studying manufacturing, engineering and design processes. I did little study to be a pilot. However, when Quantum … was ready [I prepared extensively] and did my solo flight on Quantum. What an immense pleasure to be able to design, build, and do my solo flight on this aircraft. Few people do this in life, like Wright Brothers in 1903 and Alberto Santos-Dumont in 1906. Of course, I don't want to compare myself to those pioneers but I think I know what they felt."
U.S. Part 103 Entry"Now we are working to make a specific ultralight to meet the American Part 103 regulation," André continued. "We will engineer a weight reduction to stay within the 254 pound limit and we will use the new Polini Thor 202 engine to have lower speeds. "As this will be a new project we will give it a new name. It will use the same wing profile as Quantum and Hero and the same tail profile. We will keep it all in aluminum and I will maintain the same flight quality. "We are working hard to have this project as soon as possible. In Brazil, in the '80s, we had a romanticism about ultralight flights at airfields. I feel that this is coming back all over the world and I want our planes to be able to bring that inspiration to all pilots again." André projected in late November 2020, that by January 2021 he will provide pictures of the new ultralight. "I need only choose a new name for him," finished André. He has since decided on the name Spark. As he worked to trim weight to fit U.S. Part 103, André said, "To reduce the last 10 pounds, [I will] change all fairings to carbon fiber including the seat. I also designed the engine mount for three options: Polini Thor 202 to fly up to 55 knots (the Part 103 limit); Polini Thor 250 to fly up 60 knots, and new Polini Thor 303 to fly up to 65 knots." It is too early for pricing to be determined. When André completes his work on Spark, it will be my pleasure to add it to the coming Part 103 List. André closed his communication suggesting we may see his work at Sun 'n Fun 2021. Let's hope!
Welcome to a New Year! …and to a new airplane, a new Part 103 entry to be specific. One of the most amazing discoveries of 2020 — the year Covid upset lives around the globe — is the particular and peculiar strength of Part 103 ultralights. In a year that has seen hundreds of thousands of small businesses fail under the pressure of executive orders, and the lockdown of an amazing percentage of the world’s individuals, the littlest airplanes have found new life. Are you surprised? I was… despite being a fan of Part 103s for several decades. What will happen in 2021 and beyond? No one has a crystal ball but I am going to guess that we will continue to see strength in the 103 segment for one primary reason: affordability. You Can Afford Your Own Aircraft FAA’s Part 103 is an American phenomenon, dating to 1982, when the nearly 40-year-old regulation was issued.