My moment of truth is fast approaching. Will I succeed or fail to predict the future? I have been repeating my forecast that FAA will announce a draft of their newest regulation, called an NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rule Making) at EAA’s big summer celebration of flight. I’m not betting the farm, though. I think it’s a fairly safe prediction. To win an increase in their budget a few years back, FAA agreed to complete a new regulation by December 31, 2023. That new reg is widely known as Mosaic; its full name is Modernization of Special Airworthiness Certification. Because FAA has said the agency needs 16 months to read every comment and adjust the final regulation language accordingly, seeing the future is simple math. Go back in time 16 months from the end-of-year deadline in 2023 and you end up at… yep! — AirVenture Oshkosh 2022. We will see if they meet their goal.
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Icon Will Continue ProductionIt's very rare for an aircraft in the space I always report to appear in the Wall Street Journal that I read for mainstream news. However, one of the paper's articles discussed a case brought before CFIUS, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., by a group led by original Icon founder, Kirk Hawkins. "Feuding investors … are firing off allegations against each other," started one of two lengthy articles by Kate O'Keeffe. "A group of American shareholders fell out with Chinese investors who hold a dominant stake in Icon, alleging they are improperly transferring the company’s technology to China." After Icon raised money from various investors, Chinese funds became the dominant source of cash for the California developer of the A5 LSA seaplane. Find the original article here (but only WSJ paid subscribers can read the full article). In filing a lawsuit appealing to Cfius, which reviews deals on national-security grounds, dissenting shareholders told the panel that Icon’s technology has possible military applications. O'Keffee wrote that Hawkins and the others cited "a previously confidential Pentagon program looking at turning Icon’s planes into unmanned aerial vehicles." Icon’s Chinese backer is Shanghai Pudong Science and Technology Investment Co., a government-backed firm known as PDSTI. Kirk remains on Icon’s board even after PDSTI ousted him as chief executive. Icon's current leadership answered saying, "A5 is suitable for spending a fun afternoon on a lake, not for military missions." "PDSTI’s investment in Icon started out small in 2015," O'Keeffe reported "but by 2017, it had amassed its current nearly 47% stake, according to filings to Cfius and in the separate Delaware lawsuit by the American shareholder group." According to O'Keeffe's article, the minority shareholders were seeking as much as a $60 million buy-out of their interest by PDSTI, though this is not from official court documents. “No unresolved national security concerns,” were found by Cfius noted O'Keeffe as she reported the latest news on March 1, 2022. The panel added that action with respect to the deal “is concluded.” Lawsuits and government regulatory decisions are serious matters but they pale in comparison to bomb threats…
Flight Design and its Ukraine FactoryI hardly need to say more than Flight Design does its primary fabrication in a town called Kherson in the south of Ukraine. Until very recently, you may not of been able to find that on a map, but recent events have changed perspectives significantly. It's also changed how business is done for Flight Design. To inform the situation, Flight Design USA importer, Tom Peghiny made the rounds with large aviation outlets via a video appearance on AOPA TV and though an interview reported online by the newly-reformulated Flying magazine. AOPA — Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association journalists Dave Hirschman and Tom Horne wrote about difficulties for Flight Design after Russia began their attack. "The Flight Design factory is located in Kherson, a city of 300,000 people in the southeastern portion of Ukraine, where Russian troops took control after overcoming days of resistance in a spirited defense by Ukrainian defenders," wrote AOPA. "Russian tanks patrolled the streets on March 2, Reuters reported, though Kherson remained the only city under Russian control." “At this point, there are about 10 to 12 airframes at the Kherson plant,” Peghiny said to AOPA. "Ordinarily, the airframes would be sent to Flight Design’s final assembly and completion center in the city of Šumperk in the Czech Republic." “We’ve found a new, 25,000-square-foot site [in Šumperk that is] suitable for use as a production and paint shop, and will use that in the future,” Peghiny said in the AOPA article. Engineering work is also conducted in Šumperk. "Flight Design is offering to move its Ukraine staff and their families to the Šumperk facility," AOPA wrote. "Peghiny said that the Kherson plant will function as long as conditions allow. However, tooling currently remaining in Kherson will have to be replaced by newly manufactured tooling for use in Šumperk. The company will fund new tooling, but it may take six to nine months to build." AOPA TV had Tom on to talk about Ukraine. Follow this link and see timecode 4:08–7:04 for the whole interview. As Tom notes in his remarks, this is personal not only for Flight Design employees suffering through this military action. Officially, they are behind Russian lines and are OK but what lies ahead is uncertain. Flying magazine — "A week into the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Flight Design USA’s president Tom Peghiny reports that — with the Russian forces occupying Kherson three days ago — work has ceased as the company looks to ensure the safety and wellbeing of its workforce," wrote Julie Boatman for Flying magazine (full original article). "Flight Design employs just under 200 technicians, assemblers, and engineers currently at the Kherson plant," continued Boatman, "and according to Peghiny, the company has been ramping up that number. 'We were hiring more aggressively in the past year because of the popularity of the F2, but the other models in the range have been selling well in Europe — simpler, lighter models in particular,' Tom said." Of course, Tom refers to the CT-series including CTLS that is one of the most popular LSA in America. “We know [our employees] very well,” Peghiny said in Boatman's article. “Some have been with the company more than 20 years. We’re good friends, and we take this very personally.”
Aeroprakt Also AffectedAOPA also contacted Dennis Long, importer for the well-selling A22 and A32 LSA made in Kyiv, Ukraine that is presently under attack. Dave Hirschman wrote, "Dennis Long, a dealer for Aeroprakt… said he spoke with factory officials who said they plan to remain on the job. 'They told me they’re going to keep making airplanes until they can’t'," AOPA reported. 'For the time being, it’s business as usual, although my next two airplanes will likely have to be shipped from Poland because the port of Odessa [in Ukraine] is closed.'” Aeroprakt has steady registered more aircraft with the FAA. When asked by AOPA's writer, Dennis said, "Right now, due to all the uncertainty, I’m not taking any new deposits. I’m more concerned about the people over there than the airplanes at this moment." My View — I have personally visited Aeroprakt in Kyiv and Flight Design in Kherson, Ukraine. While the battle rages on between political and military leaders in Russia and the Ukraine, the regular citizens building the airplanes many Americans enjoy are under immense duress. I hope you'll join me in wishing for the safety of these airplane builders. The sooner hostilities end, the better.
Two wildly divergent events occurred in the last few days. They are completely unrelated yet they show the global interplay in modern light aviation. One story involves relative newcomer Icon Aircraft and their A5 LSA seaplane. The other revolves around the producer of the most successful LSA in America, Flight Design. Both airplane producer stories made it into mainstream media. If we go way back in time, to 2003, that is, before Light-Sport Aircraft, we saw a world where Americans flew kit-built airplanes while European pilots were flying what they called ultralights or microlights. Of course, this is an oversimplification but we had no idea the two methods of production would converge as they have in the last two decades. Using widely-accepted consensus standards, Light-Sport Aircraft can operate in multiple countries — thanks to the useful work of many volunteers that assembled and maintain ASTM standards embraced by FAA and other CAAs all over the planet.
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.
Light-Sport AircraftBefore I launch into an analysis, I must extend grateful thanks to Datastician Extraordinaire, Steve Beste, who does such a comprehensive job compiling and demystifying data from FAA's aircraft registration database. I've told you before how much sorting and sifting must be done to take this publicly-available information and make it into the charts and graphs you see on Tableau Public (where you can drill down through all the data right to the individual airplanes being counted). It bears repeating. You can go poke around FAA's database yourself …but while you access the same information you won't get the same details as we have here without a lot of work. What you see here is thanks to Steve's noteworthy skills at organizing data and solving the puzzles made by aircraft with varying registration information. To better understand Steve's marvelous work, read this early article after we began working together. Data hounds (you know who you are) may also want to read how Steve does his work. Steve summarized, "Some [producers] are doing stupendously better than last year. Others, not so much." Some, like "Most Improved" Texas Aircraft, which more recently arrived on the market with their Colt, registered their first SLSA in 2019 so a very small increase in registrations makes for a big percentage increase." See the nearby chart to see which companies are soaring high in 2020 along with those matching last year's pre-Covid results. As you can see, quite a few companies are surviving this economic punishment quite well. On the downside, Pipistrel and Icon have dropped sharply in registrations during 2020.
Sport Pilot Kit Aircraft"Sport Pilot kits" is a term I invented to designate those kit-built designs that can be flown by someone with a Sport Pilot certificate or a pilot using those privileges, for example, not needing a medical nor having to qualify for BasicMed. Using the term Sport Pilot kits omits aircraft that are too fast, too heavy, or too complex. Contrarily, Sport Pilot kit models compare fairly to and can be correctly associated with Light-Sport Aircraft.
"Kit aircraft have a long delay between sale and registration, so for them, we're looking at a very lagging indicator here," Steve wrote. As a proxy for sales, registration data in any given year is more timely for factory-built makes.Among kit builders, Sonex, Just, Zenith, Kitfox, Quad City, Progressive Aerodyne, Van's, and Rans are holding their dominant positions. Among what I call "Alternative Aircraft," Magni gyroplanes, Powerachute powered parachutes, and weight shift manufacturer Evolution Trikes are all having a solid year. Evolution's Larry Mednick was particularly upbeat in an interview I recorded with him at Midwest LSA Expo (watch for that video soon). His biggest success? Single place trike models, many of which don't show up in the nearby chart as they are Part 103 vehicles. Conversely, CubCrafters and American Legend are not as strong as in recent years, a problem shared by gyroplane producers AutoGyro and SilverLight. For pilots, this indicates you won't need to wait as long to get a new aircraft. On the other hand, one busy kit manufacturer recently quoted 18 months for delivery. That customer doesn't want to wait a year and half to start building and will look elsewhere, he said.
Regretfully, No Part 103I have long loved Part 103 machines as they enjoy far less restrictions. One non-requirement is to register your ultralight vehicle with FAA. As a result we have no data on these aircraft — a terrible shame because they appear to be one of the most active aircraft segments in recent years. In 2020, I might guess, based on interviews with several producers, that Part 103 is a leading element in this strange year's achievements. However, we can compare registrations of the major GA single-engine piston aircraft with those of our LSA-like aircraft. Another term, "LSA-like," groups fully-built SLSA with kit version ELSA with 51%-rule kits to form a unique segment. It is this bunch, along with ultralights, that keeps my complete focus. "We see that overall, registrations of LSA-like aircraft account for more than half of the single-engine piston aircraft registered so far this year," wrote Steve after analyzing data for all single-engine piston aircraft registrations in the United States. "Comparing charts — with-GA and without — I see 506 registrations of LSA-type aircraft in 2020 and 358 registrations of GA aircraft in 2020," Steve noted. "Thus, registrations of LSA-type aircraft account for more than half of the single-engine piston aircraft registered in 2020, 59% from data analyzed for this report." He further observed that he ignored single-engine kit aircraft that cannot be flown by a Sport Pilot (for example, Lancair and Van's Aircraft's faster models). Cirrus (161 registrations in nine months of 2020) and Cessna (92) still register more airplanes than any single LSA make. Piper (27) , Aviat (15), Champion (10), and Beechcraft Bonanza (6) are much smaller and after that it tapers off sharply. Singling out Piper, the low-wing aircraft builder has seen their single engine piston sales plummet from 172 last year to a projected 36 this year, a drop of almost 80%. In all, however, the light aircraft industry appears to be surviving the Covid mess better than I might have expected. That means better health for industry and more smiles for pilots. ?
By any measure 2020 has been an unusual year. While millions were thrown out of work by lockdowns to prevent the virus from spreading, we all read or hear that plenty of other workers can work from home or have businesses that cannot be restricted by government decrees. In this context, how might the aviation industry be holding up? We read — and some brave travelers have experienced first-hand — how the airline industry is in a deep hole, prompting large layoffs. In this third quarter report for the calendar year, I’ll look at some numbers for general aviation manufacturers as well as the light aviation industry that has my full focus. The short answer: some are doing surprisingly well. Light-Sport Aircraft Before I launch into an analysis, I must extend grateful thanks to Datastician Extraordinaire, Steve Beste, who does such a comprehensive job compiling and demystifying data from FAA’s aircraft registration database.
Broad View of MarketAs Steve notes from his study of the current data, "Overall, registrations are down 11% year-to-date from what they were at this time a year ago." Total registrations declined rom 387 to 344 aircraft of all types. This still speaks to a year with around 700 aircraft registered. However, Steve further observed, "The decrease is all in ready-to-fly aircraft. Kit registrations have actually increased a bit." He continued, "This data is consistent with a [statement] that says that people [may be] buying fewer new aircraft this year, but kit builders are continuing to work on their projects. Indeed, they're completing slightly more projects than they were last year." Considering recent events, he added, "This is just what you'd expect for a time of economic downturn and quarantines." Looking at the big picture for overall numbers, when comparing the first half of 2020 to the first half of 2019, we see total registrations are down by 11%, almost identical to GAMA's first quarter 2020 figures. Piston GA aircraft deliveries were down 11.7%; their second quarter info should be out before long and we can wonder if they will take a harder turn south. However, an interesting aspect to the story is that kit-built light aircraft registrations are up for 2020, from 207 last year to 217, both representing 6-month totals, an increase of 4.8%. Please remember that registrations — especially for kit-built aircraft — represents completions of kits not sales of kits. The two are displaced by 1-3 years or more of work to take a kit from assembly to flight. The suffering comes as Light-Sport Aircraft kits and fully built models were down from 180 in last year's first half compared to 127 this year, a reduction of 29%.
Most Notable: IconOne well-known company heads our list of most-changed …and unfortunately, not for the best. You guessed it: Icon Aircraft and their handsome, if troubled, A5 LSA seaplane. After two relatively steady years of registering around 50 aircraft a year, enough to rise near the top of the fully-built Special LSA segment, Icon's 2020 registrations plummeted from 44 in 2019 to 6 so far in 2020. Do please remember that these numbers are for the first half of 2020, a very difficult time, and with any luck, the last half of this weird year may improve. As if Icon was not facing strong headwinds, it just got more turbulent as Aero News-Net reported. Original founder and visionary, Kirk Hawkins — described by the company as being "on sabbatical leave" — is suing the Chinese company that is the primary stockholder of the California builder with extensive operations in Mexico. The last Chief Operating Officer has resigned and been replaced by another but the company is struggling to right the ship. Their aircraft is the most expensive, by far, in the LSA industry. They have two large facilities and more than 300 personnel on the payroll (although two thirds are in Mexico where wages are surely much lower than in California). That much overhead and payroll cannot be sustained with a dozen aircraft a year so Icon's new leader certainly has his work cut out for him. As Steve discovered, "Icon registrations have dropped off a cliff, from 44 in 2019 to six so far in 2020." No question this is the biggest change in light aviation prompting Steve to ask, "What is going on there?"
Good News Leaders
Gyroplanes Go "Inside"Combing the database thoroughly, Steve added a closing thought: "Looking elsewhere, I see that among gyroplanes, the enclosed side-by-side models are [now] favored over the tandem and open models, that is, AutoGyro's Cavalon is their top model, as is the M-24 Orion for Magni. Thanks a million to Steve Beste and his efforts to keep us all informed. Please go visit Tableau Public for much more information, which you can shape and change at will — see the blue boxes at the left of your screen, especially the bottom two that may be most helpful, plus the tabs across the top.
Our fastest-with-the-mostest partner tracks the health and performance of the light aircraft industry and is once again punctual. Datastician Steve Beste has proven his capabilities to collect the registration data quickly, accurately, and with an insider’s viewpoint. Steve is a trike pilot, so he is “one of us.” In his former life he was a database expert in the tech field explaining his great facility with these systems. Here we are reporting facts for the period of April, May, and June 2020. Given the spectacular upheaval around the world, I’m happy to see the recreational aircraft industry holding its own fairly well. Reporting for the companies making larger, heavier aircraft, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association also reported sales are down. I cannot imagine anyone is surprised. If I was reporting numbers for the restaurant, bar, hotel, airline, theater, sports, or concert industries it would be an ugly bloodbath. This report is far less glum and beaten-down than those enterprises.
Here's How A32 Looks and FeelsYou'll get the full treatment when Videoman Dave finishes production for his YouTube channel that so many of you love. Here's I'll hit the highlights of what I learned. First blush: This is a great flying airplane, reflecting Aeroprakt's experience producing more than 1,000 of the predecessor A22LS, once also known as the A22 Valor. In A32, engineers have incorporated many refinements. The general appearance is similar but the changes are many. One measure of success is a widening of the flight envelope. Top speed increased to 130 mph, as we witnessed in a low-altitude upwind and downwind run with the carbureted Rotax 912 ULS at 5500 rpm. A-22 would max out at about 105 mph, so this was a pretty solid 20% bump. Yet A32 retains the earlier design's low speed capabilities. We saw stall in the low 40 mph bracket and witnessed airspeed into the high 30s without loss of control. Of course, these exercises were preparing for stall evaluations, which proved to be some of the most benign I've experienced in a Light-Sport Aircraft. Stall break was extremely mild with little fall-through and while a wing dipped, it recovered itself. I never added power for recovery to normal flight and altitude loss was minimal. Excellent! When deploying or retracting flaps, the pitch change is very minor. True, two notches is only 20° of flaps but deploying them made quite an aerodynamic change, just not a pitch change. On one landing I made with no flaps, I had to raise the nose significantly high to put A32 on the ground. A32 uses a full flying stabilator, a change from A22 and it was more responsive than the former. It will take a bit longer to get used to but it is a powerful surface. On takeoff, importer Dennis Long demonstrated how immediate the stabilator will lift the nose off the ground. In fact, that's his preferred takeoff technique: power to full, almost immediately pull aft on the Y-stick, control the nose so it sits a few inches off the runway, and let A32 then fly herself into the air. I followed his method and it worked wonderfully well. A32 uses the identical wing from A22 from the fuselage root out. However, the many clean-ups of the fuselage — and they are many, which you will see more fully in the Video Pilot Report to follow after editing — make the new model more efficient. A pilot literally has to work at getting it back on the ground …and that's a good thing. I reduced power to 3000 rpm abeam my touchdown target and then began to retard speed, lowering one notch of flaps after we got in flap speed range (<93 mph). On base leg I had both notches in and was monitoring my speed carefully. Using 60-65 mph was fine on base turning final but I moved it to 55-60 on short final and was ideally at 50-55 over the numbers. With two notches of flaps and with a modest headwind, A32 landed very short. You have excellent visibility on landing as you do in flight in A32 Vixxen. It lacks a skylight but otherwise offers a wide view all around. I could even watch as the main gear touched down (when Dennis was controlling the aircraft). Takeoff and landing has been quoted at "under 100 meters" (300 feet) and I believe it. No question it was short, assuming, of course, decent technique. A32 Vixxen was easy to fly with a joystick that provided enough feedback yet offered crisp response. In flight, I found the aircraft very well behaved and suitable for less experienced flyers, naturally assuming proper instruction and transition training. In all, I think Aeroprakt has a winner. Dennis Long equipped this particular example with most available options, including the Magnum airframe parachute system and Dynon HDX digital instrument plus autopilot. The still-available A22 starts at around $85,000 and even this deluxe A32 is a reasonably modest $135,000 — lower cost A32s are possible if you don't need all the fancy gear. You might like the short video as a taste of the bigger, better ones to come… https://youtu.be/m7EBsuCWWDE
Many pilots expect the first appearance of a new model at the biggest airshows, but here’s one of those times when the sector-specific shows win. It’s all about timing and the new Aeroprakt A32 just won it’s SLSA approval (#147 on our SLSA List). The Midwest LSA Expo is the first show after getting its documents, so here it is! Videoman Dave and I spent the morning working on a Video Pilot Report. We captured all the video, spent an hour flying with multiple cameras mounted, and recorded what we call the “stand up.” This segment comes after the flight when I — can you guess? — stand by the the airplane and review it on the ground. We loaded A32 Vixxen with six of our Garmin Virb cameras plus Dave’s new Garmin 360 cam. It was our first with the latter and, no promises, but that may hold some user-controllable footage so you can go along in an even more realistic way.
Coming up NEXT WEEK! — September 8-9-10, 2016 — is the Midwest LSA Expo. I encourage you to make plans now to attend at least one of the days the event runs. Based on past years, a good number of aircraft will be available. Speaking to their representatives and taking a demo flight is as easy as it gets at any airshow. More info: Midwest LSA Expo.A22 Importer Dennis Long said that people refer to his Aeroprakt side-by-side two seater as "the see-through airplane." Certainly, this Light-Sport Aircraft has more clear plastic in its cockpit covering than any other LSA. It's no surprise that this entry has some of the best visibility you can find in any aircraft. What you may not see while you're looking through it is the size. A22 has a cabin about 50 inches wide making it one of the roomiest models available.
Yet the one factor most folks discover is the attractive price, starting at $79,900 for a ready-to-fly Special LSA. So often I hear pilots lament that Light-Sport Aircraft were supposed to be less expensive, meaning affordable by a greater share of the population. At 80 Grand, this is still a fairly costly purchase for many potential buyers, at least when compared to an automobile: the average price of a new car is presently about $33,000 according to the Wall Street Journal. However, cars are made in production runs of literally hundreds of thousands where all the airplanes flying anywhere in the world don't add up to the number of Toyota Camry cars built in a single year. Proving the point, Toyota sold 429,185 in 2015 in the U.S. alone and this number refers solely to the "Made in America" vehicles.
My point is that no reasonable person should expect Aeroprakt — or any other aircraft producer, even the so-called big boys — to make airplanes as efficiently or as cheaply as car companies can. Airplanes are overwhelmingly hand-built machines.Taking the expense issue a step further, people expected a LSA might cost $50-60,000 when the category was announced 2004. Given the steadily-weakening value of the dollar, that range today would be $65-78,000 after adjusting for inflation.
Therefore Dennis Long's Aeroprakt A22 at barely over $78,000 is right what the market anticipated as FAA prepared to announce their long-awaited rule. Note that these prices start out in euros so check with Dennis for the current price.
A C-note under $80,000 is the starting price. I believe many pilots could easily live with the base priced aircraft although nearly all buyers will elect some options that push it up a bit higher. What do you get for the money?
Here's a few specifications to put A22 in perspective — Cruise is 60-110 miles an hour or 52-96 knots; stall comes at 35 mph or 30 knots (slower than most LSA by a wide margin); never-exceed speed is 138 mph or 120 knots; span is 31 feet 4 inches; wing area is 136 square feet; empty weight is 700-720 pounds and with gross weight at the industry standard of 1,320 pounds, useful load is 600-620 pounds. When carrying a full load of fuel (23.8 gallons), A22 can still carry a payload of 457-477 pounds. That enough for two 200-pound occupants plus 57-77 pounds of luggage although the designated baggage area is limited to 44 pounds.
Aeroprakt uses the Rotax 912 engines to include either the 80 horsepower UL model, the 100 horsepower ULS carbureted model or the fuel injected 912 iS also producing 100 horsepower. Many potential buyers never even consider the 80 horsepower engine as it saves only a couple thousand, but this light airplane flies very well with that engine. The 912 UL can be fueled with 87 octane auto gas and though that doesn't save a great deal over premium fuel, pilots on a budget can find ways to hold down the cost with this choice.My review of the Pilot Operating Handbook shows a conservative slant. I offer two examples. First, the takeoff run is listed at more than 300 feet with the 100 horsepower ULS engine and over 400 with the 80 horse Rotax. When I flew, we were off the surface in half that time although we did benefit from a modest headwind which clearly helps. Flying with Dennis — we're both of at least average weight — the takeoff roll was much shorter, more like 150 feet though headwind obviously affects it. The landing roll was spot on the money at about 350 feet compared to the 328 feet (100 meters) listed in the POH.
Secondly, climb rate is shown as 650 feet per minute (at best angle) or 690 feet per minute (best rate). I saw nearly 1,000 feet per minute after takeoff and we sustained a climb at around 800 feet per minute. Any pilot can appreciate a POH with numbers you can depend on more than a marketing document showing the best performance ever achieved.Some readers will easily be able to afford the $80K a basic A22 costs but for those who prefer financing, Dennis reports he has availability based on good credit. He also reports each A22 is built to-order so you specify what you want at the time of order, though some options might be added later. Sometimes ordering afterward can add problems. For example, if you want an emergency airframe parachute it's best to order the aircraft with the support straps already built in to the airframe as adding them later is more challenging.
For those lucky enough to live in places where float flying is common, they are available; again, the factory knowing of your interest in advance — even if you don't order them with the aircraft — might make life easier later. If you live in snow country, skis are available. Order today, and Dennis might tell you delivery will follow in about four months.
You can glean a few more data point and information in the video below.
Coming up NEXT WEEK! — September 8-9-10, 2016 — is the Midwest LSA Expo. I encourage you to make plans now to attend at least one of the days the event runs. Based on past years, a good number of aircraft will be available. Speaking to their representatives and taking a demo flight is as easy as it gets at any airshow. More info: Midwest LSA Expo. A22 Importer Dennis Long said that people refer to his Aeroprakt side-by-side two seater as “the see-through airplane.” Certainly, this Light-Sport Aircraft has more clear plastic in its cockpit covering than any other LSA. It’s no surprise that this entry has some of the best visibility you can find in any aircraft. What you may not see while you’re looking through it is the size. A22 has a cabin about 50 inches wide making it one of the roomiest models available.