What a weird season, or non-season, if we think about all the airshows we should be attending …but are not! However, entrepreneurs do what they must and pilots remain as interested in flying as ever. Given both forms of determination, I expect those who tour with their airplanes will largely be warmly welcomed — although those still deeply worried about Covid may not venture out to the airfield. The good news, the concerned folks don’t have to attend yet those keen on pursuing their love of flight can at least check out a new airplane. You can stand physically distant if you wish and, of course, you can wear a mask although you may elect not to go aloft given a fairly small cabin. Nonetheless, I suspect most flyers will welcome Blackwing CEO Niklas Anderberg, as he takes his beautiful and very fast Light-Sport Aircraft around a series of airports in Europe.
Blackwing Sweden AB
Phone: +46 (72) 707 26 00Eslöv, 241 38 - Sweden
— In His Own Words —"On April 15th, a personal dream of mine came true," wrote Niklas earlier today. "We pushed the turbocharged Blackwing aircraft to a new speed record in FAI's Microlight RAL2T Category." "A few weeks earlier," he continued, "we started high-speed taxi tests. We noticed immediately that this aircraft is something special. The turbo-charged engine (Rotax's new 915iS, a 141-horsepower turbocharged and intercooled entry) in combination with a single power lever [controlling] the hydraulic MT propeller, accelerated like nothing I have tried before. Already on the second test flight, we were reaching 195 knots at 3,000 feet. We were very excited and increased the envelope every day. At 5,000 feet we were reading 200 knots on the airspeed indicator, at full power [in] level flight. With fuel consumption of 10 liters/hour [2.64 gallons per hour] we were reading 130 knots TAS. Can this really be true airspeed? On the next flights, we carried a [FAI-required] logger and confirmed the Garmin speeds. "Due to the pandemic, unique possibilities opened up. We could fly at any altitude we would like, with the support from Sweden control [ATC]. On Saturday, we practiced the world record course three times. It was challenging to fly over 200 knots (400 kilometers per hour), bank three G, and still keeping a precise altitude. We also started to fly at heights, FL90-110, and at speeds higher than we ever have flown before. It felt good to have a parachute. "On Tuesday the weather conditions were perfect. We decided to fly at 10,000 feet. The [FAI] criteria that the course could only be flown once made it even more intense. At the first turn, I climbed some 300 feet, and returning to altitude she accelerated to 219 knots (405 km/h). I felt extremely tense and had a hard time keeping the ball in the center. Overall I am happy that I managed to fly a pretty good course. On the straight course, we got 212 knots average speed. It was great to celebrate the success with my co-pilot Fredrik Lanz, and the rest of the Blackwing team. "The flight testing will continue in spring and summer. After 50 hours of flight testing, we can start taking passengers. "The aircraft used for the record is a standard BW600RG with the Rotax 915iS engine. In order to optimize the drag, we only had one outside antenna and sealed some of the gaps." Once again, my heartiest congratutions to Niklas, Fredrik, and Team Blackwing, for a job well done!
This Ain't Over YetMeanwhile, in nearby Belgium, the folks from JMB Aircraft are promoting their own speedy Light-Sport Aircraft-like equipped with the Rotax 915iS. "JMB Aircraft is proud to announce some achievements from the past few months," the company wrote recently. "After more than 100 hours of flight test with two planes, we manage with success to perform a V-dive test reaching an indicated 381 kilometers per hour and 425 km/h (229 knots) true air speed. This enable us to safely increase our VNE up to an indicated 340 kilometers per hour (184 knots)." On April 25th JMB added, "With all nominal operating parameters, we climbed to FL180 in 13 minutes with one short level off due to a too-fast climb reported by ATC. The conditions were ISO +7 degrees Celsius (45°F) and 600 kilogram MTOW. Our test pilots performed a level flight of several minutes at maximum continuous power and reached 380 km/h (205 knots) true airspeed, breaking the mythical 200 knot barrier." I suspect the LSA-like airspeed race isn't over yet, especially given the previous record holder — Risen, from a formerly Swiss, now Italian company renamed as Porto Aviation Group — is another speedy design. All these aircraft, plus others such as BRM Aero's retractable model of their Bristell line, can fly faster than what FAA may be planning for LSA 2023 but these attempts might influence rule writers to consider faster-yet speeds. As the world slowly begins to emerge from the global lockdown, who know what speed feats we'll see next.
Not to leave Americans behind, consider Arion Aircraft's Yankee speedster, the Lightning XS (currently Experimental, but who knows in 2023?). https://youtu.be/gqOL9oZNzAw
* Paul Harvey was a very popular radio commentator who donated a substantial sum to EAA for the organization to establish a video studio. Each of his broadcasts began with, "You know what the news is; in a minute you're going to hear the rest of the story."
Our most-read story of 2020 was this breaking report on Blackwing’s assault on the world speed record for the Microlight category. Since we published that article, Blackwing Sweden CEO Niklas Anderberg offered more details and — because this was a popular read for many visitors — it is worthwhile to tell you, as famous radio broadcaster (and aviation enthusiast *), Paul Harvey, used to say “…the rest of the story.” — In His Own Words — “On April 15th, a personal dream of mine came true,” wrote Niklas earlier today. “We pushed the turbocharged Blackwing aircraft to a new speed record in FAI‘s Microlight RAL2T Category.” “A few weeks earlier,” he continued, “we started high-speed taxi tests. We noticed immediately that this aircraft is something special. The turbo-charged engine (Rotax‘s new 915iS, a 141-horsepower turbocharged and intercooled entry) in combination with a single power lever [controlling] the hydraulic MT propeller, accelerated like nothing I have tried before.
Smokin' Lightning Blackwing BW600RGFounded in 2011, Blackwing Sweden AB made its worldwide debut at Aero 2015. This drop-dead gorgeous design from the Scandinavian country impressed everyone and its main man, Niklas Anderberg, with his ready smile, wonderful command of English, and his Scandinavian blond hair stood out almost as much as his airplane. When he wasn't answering a million questions, we snuck in a short conversation where he told me the sign on the wall (photo) stating "200 Knots TAS" was not mere bragging. He said they would do it. OK, I accepted his statement, captured a few more photos when people let me have a view, and moved on to other attractions at the show. Niklas is obviously both a man of his word and intimately knowledgeable about his design. On April 15, 2020, sure enough, Blackwing released the following news: "Yesterday, flight history was written… in Sweden! The country's pride, Blackwing, has always had high ambitions and, in addition, achieved the proof, that the aircraft is really out of the ordinary," the news release glowed! "It was proven when the previous world record for top speed was completely pulverized — Blackwing reached a staggering 393.4 kilometers per hour (approximately 212 knots) as an average speed on a 15 kilometer (9.3 mile) stretch, flying in both directions." "That's just over 60 kilometers per hour (about 30 knots) more than the previous record," reported a very enthused Niklas! Not only did Niklas and team best the previous record, they also challenged the record for a closed circuit of 50 kilometers (31 miles) and, "the old record was beaten, by far." Blackwing achieved an average speed of 352.9 kilometers per hour (approximately 190 knots), which is almost 70 kilometers per hour (approximately 37 knots) faster than the previous record. Usually, records are beaten by small margins but Niklas blew right past the old mark. The aircraft was a BW600RG with a Rotax 915iS. "The combination of airframe and powerplant may well be described as a 'speed monster' that requires a quick and educated judgment from the pilot," reported the company. As shown nearby, onboard were Niklas and Fredrik Lanz, founder and co-worker at Blackwing. The two pilots from the south of Sweden set two new world records and have filed for FAI (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale) recognition. Niklas (pilot and CEO of Blackwing) and Fredrik reported their record attempt… "On Tuesday, April 14th, weather conditions were excellent in Landskrona to try to set a world record," they said. "We flew in cold air, which made the conditions of 10,000 feet for our turbocharged Blackwing 600 RG almost optimal," said Anderberg. While laying claim to two new world records, to gain proper recognition of their achievement, the performance must now be checked and approved by the International Aviation Sports Association, FAI. The Swedish Aviation Sports Association congratulated Niklas and Fredrik for fantastic results. The records won will sure help this fairly new company, Blackwing, as they prepare for production and global sales. "Flight days and exhibitions have been canceled due to the coronavirus where our goal has been to get orders for BW 600 RG," noted Niklas. "We hope that the attention around these world records can aid incoming orders," he explained.
Previous FAI-Recognized RecordFor the official record in Class UL aircraft RAL2T (Movable Aerodynamic Control / Landplane / Flown with two persons / Thermal Engine), previously recognized record holders include:
- Speed over a closed circuit of 50 km: 15 Dec 2019 283.62 kilometers per hour; pilot Alberto Rodolfo Porto (Italy) with crew Elisa Tomasi (Italy) aircraft Siren
- New [pending] record: April 14, 2020 348 kilometers per hour; pilot Niklas Anderberg (Sweden) with crew Fredrik Lanz (Sweden)
- Speed over a straight course (15 km): 15 Dec 2019 330.45 kilometers per hour pilot; Alberto Rodolfo Porto (Italy) with crew Elisa Tomasi (Italy) aircraft Siren
- New [pending] record 14 April 2020: 377 kilometers per hour; pilot Niklas Anderberg (Sweden) with crew Fredrik Lanz (Sweden)
Five years back at my favorite airshow in Europe — Aero Friedrichshafen — I could not pass the supersleek blue and black low wing from Sweden, my father’s ancestral home. A stunner, it caught my eye and that of everyone else such that taking pictures of it without people surrounding it was difficult. During this coronavirus mess, Sweden has been in the news because authorities did not fully lock down the country. Some closures were recommended and certain folks (older, immune-deficient… you’ve heard all this repeatedly) were encouraged to self-isolate. Yet pictures show restaurants, streets, and other public venues with plenty of people. Sweden has had deaths, of course, every one of them tragic. Yet it will provide a good baseline with which to judge the effectiveness of lockdown procedures from draconian to… well, Swedish. However, the greater freedom enjoyed by Swedes allowed an impressive flight only a few days ago.
Builder Assist CentersNearly everyone in recreational aviation is by now well aware that the country is dotted with enterprises calling themselves a Builder Assist Center. This was not always the case. In short, a Build Center means a buyer of a kit aircraft can find assistance, tools, a facility, jigs, and more at a physical location where they can assemble their chosen kit. Build Centers have proliferated in recent years and a brief background explains why. Back in the 1950s Paul Poberezny and his entourage of airplane enthusiasts willing to build their own flying machine had a tougher path. Homebuilding was a new idea then. In the earliest days you bought plans from a designer and you "scratch built" your airplane by collecting elements and fabricated those you could not buy. Scratch building was difficult and took a long time but it was highly educational. Indeed, that's how Paul and EAA sold the idea to FAA. (Great job, Paul and fellow builders!) Companies like Van's, Rans, and many others slowly evolved the plans-built concept into kits that attempted to speed construction by offering parts, then whole subassemblies, and later, quick-build kits. It took years as FAA and industry worked out the details. Those kits continually got better, more recently including precision match-hole construction that provides parts a builder can more accurately join together without costly jigs. Homebuilding was still time consuming but the process got far easier. Finished aircraft also got better with factory-made parts fitting more perfectly than ones a homebuilder cut or welded him or herself. Over decades this lead to locations where now-qualified builders helped other builders. Finally, people got into the business of helping people. This may not have been exactly what FAA (or Paul) envisioned back in the '50s and '60s but they allowed a great expansion of the idea as part of the experimentation and education of pilot builders. Today, Experimental aircraft are a substantial part of the overall U.S. aircraft fleet (approaching 20% of all aircraft!). Some are marvelous, fast, sophisticated flying machines that Joe Homebuilder probably should not build on his or her own. FAA recognized the value of professional help and did not discourage the effort. As aircraft got more capable (faster, larger, better equipped, more complex) build centers become even more valuable. Some kits were so challenging for the average builder that professionals began to assist them. It took time but these build centers stayed within the limits of what FAA permitted under the so-called 51% rule. Now, with a new regulation in development, the agency may expand on the Professional Builder Center concept greatly.* A pilot seeking any number of fast, bush, or amphibious aircraft — commonly in kit form to deliver a vast array of configurations — will have a far easier time assembling it and the resulting aircraft will almost surely be better.
Then What?Once you've got one of these speedy aircraft built, how can you learn to fly it or transition from a different aircraft you presently fly? Can you hire someone? Yes, you can. This article details another positive change FAA has made to better serve the LSA and Sport Pilot kit community. As this series — "The Future of LSA+SP Kits" — progresses we'll cover other aspects of the regulation to come and how it may affect both producers and buyers. However, implementation of a new rule is still years in the future. Until then, you have many marvelous choices in fine fully-built LSA, kit aircraft, and ultralights …so go enjoy the skies!
* DISCLAIMER — As with following articles in this series, what is described here is the best available information at the time of publication. In spring of 2019, FAA's regulation is still in early stages of development and it is a huge, sweeping rule set that touches on many parts of the FARs. What finally emerges may or may not be as described here.
Could 2020 bring a new description of aircraft under the LSA banner? Could this include greater capabilities and opportunities? Could you get the airplane you want for less? When?! Yes, yes, and yes …but probably not as soon as you want. The regulation may not emerge in 2020 but whatever the announcement date, what could be coming and how will it affect you? We still have more to report from Sun ‘n Fun and Aero 2019 — and we will! — but numerous conversations at each event have pointed to another topic of keen interest to many: “What’s coming and when?” Manufacturers of aircraft are among the most interested to hear more, but so are individual pilots and all the organizations and other enterprises that serve the recreational aircraft market. In this article, let’s take a closer look. (More articles will follow.) EAA has adeptly branded their good work to some of these ends as MOSAIC, or Modernization of Special Airworthiness Certificates.
So Many Airplanes, Not Enough Hours…ScaleWings SW51 — When I reported this aircraft in 2018, the "Walter Mitty story" went on to become one of the most popular articles of the year on this website. On social media promotions it also attracted more attention than any other aircraft that year. A year later enthusiasm is still hot. Throngs around the aircraft at Aero reinforced that view. North American's P-51 and its distinctive shape has perhaps inspired more pilots than any other aircraft in history. Therefore, ScaleWings' intricately-detailed execution of a 70% scale replica of the iconic airplane draws admiring looks that few others can hope to match. However, can they really manufacture this artistic work? Last year, I admit I wondered if the company would actually pull off the move to production. Originally known as the FK-51 because it was to be produced by FK Lightplanes' Poland facility, production ran into trouble. The Poland FK factory had various problems unrelated to this one design. Last year that older relationship was causing doubts about their sustained operation. The two went their separate ways. In the last year, ScaleWings has made many changes, upgraded its staff, added test equipment, and brought in a top production man with a background in general aviation, according to front man, Christian von Kessel. Testing has continued using an impressive "strong back," a steel cage-type apparatus built to exert loads on an airframe to prove components and construction methods. The ScaleWings version of this is the most sophisticated I've seen. Work remains but this company is looking solid. Given the keen response to the airplane, if ScaleWings can enter steady production, they might sell all they can make. To learn more, as I imagine many readers may wish to do, look at their brochure (PDF file). Blackwing 600RG — Sweden's success story in light aviation could be summed up in one company's name: Blackwing. Since it first debuted at Aero 2015 the sleek design from the Scandinavian company has drawn many admiring looks. Blackwing exhibits their retractable gear model (600RG) because regulations in most European countries have no speed limit and no ban on retractable gear when operating as European-type ultralights. Therefore many companies in the LSA-like space push speed as a primary selling tool and retractable models are part of this. Displaying his aircraft with gear retracted (photo) Blackwing Sweden Founder and CEO Niklas Anderberg presents his slippery aircraft in its best go-fast look. Current FAA regulations forbid retractable gear except on seaplanes as part of the overall goal to keep these aircraft easier to operate. The original mantra was "simple aircraft in simple airspace." FAA could not know that the new LSA sector would become a worldwide phenomenon that would circle back to help simplify Part 23 (CS-23) certification methods. As reported here several times LAMA has informed industry that significant changes are coming. Beside key regulation changes proposed by LAMA, champions like EAA have fought to expand the professional build-assist center concept. FAA has adjusted its oversight of this effort to support the idea and more accommodating rules are coming. Updated regulations can help companies like Blackwing sell aircraft that exceed the LSA speed limit until we see if FAA will expand the Light-Sport Aircraft category to permit higher speeds. Until then, as interest may express itself, Blackwing also offers a fixed gear version that could enter the U.S. market sooner. JMB Aircraft Update — "JMB Aircraft is run by two Belgium brothers," stated the company. "JMB Aircraft is the production company of the VL3, a plane designed by Vanessa Air and produced in the past by Aveko." Americans may already know this airplane although not from JMB and not called VL3. This is the Gobosh model once rebadged and sold in the USA with fixed gear and winglets. Back in 2007, Jean Marie and his brother represented Aveko models and became responsible for 85% of the producer's sales (outside the U.S). In 2012 they acquired Aveko and by 2015 had taken over production. In recent years, JMB has done well. At their company party at Aero on Friday, Jean Marie gave a short talk where he provided some company data. "We bought the company seven years ago and we now employ 100 people in the Czech Republic. With dealers and other staff, JMB now is served by 150 people. Together they have built, sold, and delivered 320 VL3 aircraft, primarily in Europe with a few in other countries (two are in the USA registered under the Aveko brand). In 2018, JMB built 50 aircraft and Jean Marie said they were planning on 5.5 per month for 2019, or 66 aircraft. By any reasonable measure this is a good performance. JMB does offer a fixed gear model but their website specifies, "Only for flight schools." As with Blackwing, since this Belgium-based company sells primarily in Europe where fast retractable are allowed, why would company leaders like Jean Marie want to show a slower model? JMB said VL3 Evolution can hit 160 knots with the Rotax 914 engine. They are seeking the right partner for America. Find our more about JMB Aircraft here. Fly Synthesis Synchro & Catalina — Fly Synthesis catches my eye every year at Aero. Causing that response is always their sharply raked Synchro that makes an art of looking fast while sitting still. Joining the speedy-looking aircraft was an entry fresh to my eyes. The Catalina NG presents a different view of amphibious LSA-style seaplanes. Despite having a flock of airplanes the brand is unknown in the USA, which reveals another way to show the size of the LSA-like market around the world. Fly Synthesis reports delivering more than 2,000 aircraft, none of which are in the USA. The company stated, "The vast experience accumulated on composite materials in years of activity [in aviation] has allowed us to explore other fields, such as renewable energy (wind power), automotive, and nautical." They also do "research and development, design and prototyping in collaboration with other companies in fields not strictly related to aviation." Despite their diversification, the Italian company offers quite a full line of aircraft beside the Synchro that always catches my eye. Indeed, Fly Synthesis offers: a high wing, Synchro; low wing, Texan; European ultralight-style, Storch; an open cockpit Rotax 582-powered ultralight, Wallaby; and a rather unique approach to seaplanes, Catalina. All these are in production now. Discontinued is the single seat ultralight, Kangaroo.
The stories from Aero — and more from Sun 'n Fun — will continue for a while longer. Selected aircraft may be featured in additional articles with more specific info to that airplane. As soon I return home and as the travel schedule settles, I'll work on a few short (≈ 2 min.) videos to follow. Thanks for following our Sun 'n Fun and Aero Friedrichshafen show coverage! —DJ
Aero Friedrichshafen is over. At the beginning, show organizers said it was their biggest yet, measured by the number of exhibitors. Aero trails AirVenture Oshkosh in this measurement but only slightly. In other words, it’s big …big enough that it’s hard to see everything of interest. In the past days, I’ve covered 16 aircraft that I found interesting and I had to skip many others. I simply did not have the hours needed to visit every exhibitor to hear their story, even if it might be a great one. The show is that rich a target environment for a journalist covering Light-Sport Aircraft, Sport Pilot kits, and ultralights. So Many Airplanes, Not Enough Hours… ScaleWings SW51 — When I reported this aircraft in 2018, the “Walter Mitty story” went on to become one of the most popular articles of the year on this website. On social media promotions it also attracted more attention than any other aircraft that year.
What a great Christmas present for the Rotax Aircraft Engine team members (lower photo). The latest powerplant from the Austrian company that supplies a large majority of the powerplants for aircraft covered on this website will soon become available. The company announced from their headquarters in Gunskirchen, Austria that on December 19th, 2017, they received a European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) Type Certificate (TC) for its new Rotax 915 iSc3 engine. Some companies, such as BRM Aero, have been testing the new advanced, fuel injected, intercooled engine. It is the most powerful model ever for light aircraft from Rotax. All airframe makers will probably be surprised that the final version yields even more power. “The EASA TC allows BRP-Rotax to [begin] producing the certified 915 iSc3 A engine for the European market thus allowing us to fulfill the request of our customers for a more powerful Rotax aircraft engine with proven reliability,” said Thomas Uhr, general manager BRP- Rotax, vice president Powertrain BRP.
- Maximum Cruise: 280 km/h — 175 mph — 152 knots
- Eco (lower fuel consuming) Cruise: 260 km/h — 163 mph — 141 knots
- Fuel Burn in Eco mode: 23 liters/hour — 6 gallons per hour
- Fuel Translation: 27.16 statute miles per gallon at 163 mph
Surely all readers know that Rotax-brand engines dominate the light aircraft landscape. The company owns something like 75% or more of the global market and close to that in the USA. Some worthy competitors are keeping the pressure on, but Rotax continues forward. The engine-to-follow is their new turbo-intercooler-fuel injected 135-horsepower 915 iS variant. Rotax Aircraft Engines first announced this new model at AirVenture 2015; see our video interview for details and go to the official 915 iS page for even more. In the press conference where the engine was unveiled, many in the standing-room-only audience were airframe manufacturers. As soon as the management and engineering team was done presenting, they quickly swarmed over the powerplant. You could almost see the wheels turning in their minds as they contemplated how they could fit and use this machine in their aircraft. That was almost two years ago — AirVenture Oshkosh is only about 75 days away!
Aero is such an interesting event for many reasons. Among the most significant of these are the large number of aircraft introductions or the newest development projects one discovers in the vast gymnasium-sized halls … eleven of them in total. It can be hard to cover all the square meters, which although not as enormous as giant outdoor American shows, are nonetheless so packed with aircraft that one gets sensory overload before you’ve seen them all. The world premiere of BlackWing was such a project. Here is the first light aircraft I’ve seen from Sweden; others may exist but I’m not aware of them. This sleek speedster uses the ubiquitous Rotax 912 to achieve what they state as stunning speeds up to 400 kilometers per hour (250 mph or 217 knots) and this from only 100 horsepower! Of course, this won’t work as a Light-Sport Aircraft but BlackWing is LSA in size and concept other than its blazing speed.