For years — no, make that decades — numerous pilots of light aircraft have told me the Rotax 503 was their favorite two-stroke engine. These days, it’s much more likely a pilot will go on about how great the Rotax 912 is. Yes, some grumble about the purchase price, the replacement parts cost, or the cost of an overhaul, but I’d expect to hear such groaning about almost any aviation product. Contrasting a few negative opinions is an entire world of pilots who are intensely loyal backers of the 9-series engines. Around the planet, I have identified more than 66,000 light aircraft and 70-80% of them use a Rotax 9-series engine as their powerplant. Every other brand occupies the remaining 20-30% space, including some other fine and reliable engines. No matter how you spreadsheet the numbers, Rotax is far and away the dominant brand …although no longer in two-strokes.
Aviator Paramotor (PPG)
Phone: 863-272-9907Lake Wales, FL 33859 - USA
Next Airshow: EAA AirVenture OshkoshEven while Sun 'n Fun 2021 enters the history books, light aircraft news will not stop. How was this year's event? In a word: successful, in my opinion. I saw a healthy number of vendors — around 80% of 2019's roster, according to officials. I witnessed good crowds that went huge a couple days; Wednesday and Saturday (both days featured the night airshow) were thick with attendees. Main man, John "Lites" Leenhouts said Saturday was the biggest day in their 47-year history. Fellow aviation journalist Isabel Goyer of Plane & Pilot wrote, "Automated exhibits [were] cool [but] didn’t seem to work. Exhibitions by Textron Aviation and ForeFlight and Jeppesen, among others, were well conceived and executed …and no one seemed to care (had almost no foot traffic), though we celebrate them being there at all." After being forced to cancel the 2020 edition of Sun 'n Fun and taking a massive financial hit from losing those revenues, it was certainly great to see plenty of activity in Lakeland. I'm sure organizers gave an enormous sigh of relief. The total number of paying visitors likely exceeded the number of people that could gather at two of the largest sports stadiums in the USA on popular game days. Good for Sun 'n Fun! I have more to report in the days ahead while the pilot and vendor community takes a well-deserved breather before starting preparations to attend The Big Show: Oshkosh. On that point, EAA had people in Lakeland to observe how things were being handled and how it went. After their own cancellation in 2020, all eyes will now turn to Wisconsin in July and EAA leadership is taking their task very seriously. "We won't do everything exactly the same as Sun 'n Fun, Inc.," said one top official, "but we see how well it is working in Florida and it gives us support and guidance for our event this summer." Go EAA AirVenture Oshkosh! I've made all my travel arrangements — my first airline flight in almost a year and a half, the longest I can remember going without flying the airlines in decades. I hope to see many of you in July.
Continuing News from Sun 'n Fun 2021—UL Power completed ASTM testing for their engines and expects to offer ASTM approval for their entire line. UL Power — whose North American launch was significantly supported by Zenith in the USA — has been a player for years but has been relegated to Experimental Amateur Built projects. That has been a good way to establish the brand and the Belgium-based company can now start to approach LSA builders with its FADEC-enabled engines. UL Power engines are modern air-cooled, direct drive powerplants favored by those who prefer legacy GA engines because of their more familiar revolutions and lack of liquid-cooling hardware. My interview with Robert Helms will provide more details after editing (be patient). For more info: UL Power or email Robert Helms
—The electric Aerolite 103 was unnamed at my last report (read here). It has since been named. Welcome to "Aerolite EV-103." Many more details on all versions of the popular Part 103 aircraft are available on this website. People were clearly excited to see the electric propulsion debut; some placed orders. A ready-to-fly model is about eight months out and a kit is five months, however, U-Fly-It is working with their top dealers to get more of these in-demand aircraft available for the summer flying season. For more info: Aerolite 103 or email U-Fly-It
—The much-beloved Rotax 503 will not be returning to the market. The Austrian company discontinued the popular two-stroke engine years ago, meaning many who still want one must search among used engines. The good news: many have only a few hundred (or less) hours on them; a good used engine is both a bargain and a worthy powerplant for your light aircraft kit. Now, though, a very similar engine is coming from Russia, of all places. It's called the RMZ 500. Aviator Paramotor's Eric Farewell is importing the engine and will make it available to others. When I asked about parts and service Eric said he is stocking the most common elements at his base in Lake Wales, Florida and anticipates being able to help service these new engines. If RMZ 500 is even partly as good as the much-celebrated Rotax 503, I predict more will come into the USA. For more info: Aviator Paramotor or email the Florida company
—Excalibur has been around for years but developer Tom Karr has never once displayed at Sun 'n Fun. That changed this year and many saw the aircraft prominently displayed in Paradise City, home to many light aircraft companies at the Lakeland event. Although Excalibur resembles the Challenger line, close observers will find differences. A video to follow will feature Tom discussing points about his aircraft, in production for a quarter century. Excalibur is not available fully built but it is approved by the FAA as a 51% kit. Free for the asking: a 60-minute DVD with flying scenes, construction photos, and more. For more info: Excalibur Aircraft or email Tom Karr
Many vendors I asked were pleased with the turnout and response. As I've said for years about smaller sector-specific shows (such as Midwest or DeLand), those who attended were keen to be present and many were ready to buy. Several vendors I asked said they felt somewhat hesitant before the event, yet ended up being pleased they went forward. I gather the same might not have been true for the big companies that mounted virtual displays but sent no human representatives. Ah, well… maybe next year for them. As time moves on from Sun 'n Fun 2021 toward Oshkosh 2021, I'll do my best to keep you informed about all things new in Light-Sport Aircraft, Sport Pilot kit-built aircraft, and Part 103 ultralight aircraft. It's all we do here and I was pleased to hear from many readers and viewers that they love the content.
Everyone has returned home from the first major airshow in too long (other than the wonderful sector-specific event called Midwest LSA Expo). Well… everyone went home except a substantial group of volunteers who stick around for days or even weeks afterward to clean up and prepare for next season. Thanks to all volunteers for their efforts that make these events possible! However, while we celebrate Sun ‘n Fun 2021 having a worthy success, aviation is not out of the woods yet. Just today, I learned that Aero Friedrichshafen has been cancelled for 2021 — after twice changing the dates in the effort to schedule a time that works for vendors and pilots plus assures safety for those attending. Aero will next be held in 2022. Main organizer Roland Bosch said, “We have to postpone the Summer Edition of Aero 2021. It’s hard, but it is the best solution [given these] circumstances, I think.” Europe remains much more locked down and restricted than the USA — certainly moreso than Florida, which has been open for many months.