The last airshow of 2021 is over. The Christmas holidays are beginning to dominate everyone’s calendar. Yet recreational pilots — being enthusiastic aviators — are thinking about flying in 2022. The Covid pandemic of 2020/2021 appears not to have slowed enjoyment of flying for fun… for most of us anyway. I sincerely regret anyone who suffered during this period but sport aviation has held up surprisingly well. In this article, I will tackle a couple reader questions, the sort I hear all the time. To answer several people with one response, I asked reader John Joyce if I could use his question and name. He consented, so here we go… Buyers Without Remorse John started, “Skyleader 600 looks like a great aircraft. I had actually just noticed this model a couple days ago because there is a used one listed for sale on the Web. As a potential first time buyer, I would be interested to have you address the question of service for these smaller manufacturers.
Cruiser Aircraft, Inc.
Phone: 772-918-8242Sebastian, FL 32958 - USA
Sebring Day One was true to form for the 15th running of this grandaddy of Light-Sport and Sport Pilot Kit shows. Airport manager Mike Willingham told me opening day attendance was better than opening day last year. He and the entire Expo team certainly benefitted from good weather, a tad windy, but blue skies and temperatures hitting 80° F (27°C). Videoman Dave and I recorded several new video interviews for you. One of the first will be our classic race-around tour of exhibits on opening day. We also talked to many in the business. The government shutdown appears to be having some effect on industry. One example regards FAA inability to make inspections so a vendor can get the Special Airworthiness certificate needed to complete delivery of a new SLSA (meaning final payments cannot be collected, no small matter to many LSA or SPE kit enterprises). However, few vendors actually introduced the topic suggesting the bad news may be localized.
Flying light aircraft to Cuba seems to be a kind of new normal. Whatever the politics of the relations between governments, the fact remains that pilots enjoy using their aircraft and want to fly to interesting destinations. To many, Cuba is one of those places, a reasonably short flight from the USA… albeit over a stretch of mighty ocean. “Exploring new destinations and sharing the joy of flight are two of the key driving forces behind Cruiser Aircraft Inc. So when plans were announced for the first VFR Air Rally,” the company announced, “Cruiser Aircraft.eu CEO Oscar Starinsky and Thomas Schrade president of the company’s U.S. presence knew they had to be a part of it.” Cruiser Aircraft is a relatively new entity — seen earlier this year at the Sebring Expo. The new enterprise is the exclusive western hemisphere importer of Czech Sport Aircraft’s SportCruiser. Starinsky and Schrade saw the rally as an opportunity to forge new relationships and take the first steps in revitalizing the once vibrant general aviation community in Cuba.
This month, I had an email exchange with a leader in aviation. I debated if I should reply. For a time, I did not but I felt compelled given the person’s stature. I was driven to attempt informing those this individual might influence. I further pondered if I should write an article about it, but I feel one must confront potential errors if for no other reason than to promote healthy dialogue. I am not to going reveal with whom I had this exchange. Personality isn’t important to the discussion but this person expressed what I suspect represents the opinion of a fair share of general aviation pilots, at least those who have not fully explored recreational aircraft such as LSA, or light kits, or ultralights. The following comes from our second round of email. In the first, the writer referred to LSA “market failings” and I asked what was meant.
(Article udated) One of the most recognized aircraft in the LSA space is the SportCruiser, which ranks high on our LSA Market Share ranking (2012 figures). Solid in the #4 spot, they are likely to move up with another decent year in 2013, thanks to what some might call the “halo effect” of having had the Piper name on the airplane (photo) for a year, and now, a new owner. Don Ayers retired and handed the reins to his partner and new company president, Patrick Arnzen. Some thought that Piper’s quick in and out might be a negative, but that would be incorrect. Ayers once told me that his operation was the key company before Piper, during Piper, and after Piper so not much really changed other than temporarily wearing the Vero Beach company’s colors and gaining from their promotion. In a recent conversation, Patrick explained the various activities that keep them busy including a bustling flight school operation in Addison, Texas (KADS).
Roving reporter Dave wraps up coverage of the Rocky Mountain LSA Expo event. —DJ |||| “Cessna is one of the most recognized names in the aviation industry. Last year it lead the LSA market for new registrations. So I was surprised to hear again and again, ‘Look, there’s a Skycatcher; this is the first time I’ve ever seen one.’ Honestly, I heard that phrase or one very similar to it at least 30 times! *** “Flights, Inc., was at the Rocky Mountain Light Sport Aircraft Expo for the first time. They operate one of the largest Part 141 flight schools in Colorado, teaching with Cessna 172s and 182s, Piper Seminoles, and now, the Cessna Skycatcher. ‘The Skycatcher is the only light sport aircraft built by a mainline aircraft manufacturer,’ reported the big flight school. ‘It is also one of the few light sport aircraft powered by a Continental 0-200 engine.’ They elaborated, ‘This gives Skycatcher a better power-to-weight ratio than a 172, with the 100 horsepower calculating to 13.2 pounds per horsepower.’ Flights Inc., added that this gives the Skycatcher excellent short field landing and take off performance and, remember, we’re talking about a mile-high location with soaring density altitude.
In stunning news just before the Sebring LSA Expo starts, Piper Aircraft announced they will be terminating their business relationship with Czech Sport Aircraft, the Czech republic-based manufacturer of the PiperSport (previously known as the SportCruiser from initial developer Czech Aircraft Works). *** “After a year working with Czech Sport Aircraft, Piper determined that it is in our company’s best long-term interests to discontinue the business relationship…” said Piper CEO Geoffrey Berger. “Clearly, the company has a different business perspective and approach to the market than Czech Sport Aircraft,” he added. The company stated that “it became clear that Piper’s core strengths and that of Czech Sport Aircraft were mismatched.” *** This follows a year that saw Piper register more new SLSA than any other company, almost reaching their sales target announced at last year’s Sebring. (see note at bottom) “We at Piper have a close affinity with this emerging segment of the marketplace and we have great expectations for the LSA industry.
Piper Aircraft’s Prez/CEO Kevin J. Gould made it official today at Sebring: the company has entered into a new, worldwide-exclusive distributor licensing agreement with Czech Sport Aircraft that will bring the SportCruiser to market – by April! – under the new name PiperSport. *** As I reported yesterday, Piper did not buy into the company as had been rumored. *** Piper representatives told me there will be some changes to the aircraft, such as refining control harmonies, to optimize its conformability to Piper’s long heritage of entry-level airplanes. *** But by and large, this is still the SportCruiser, which is a fine, Euro-proven design that is not only an excellent training airplane but most definitely a lot of fun to fly, and a dream to land. *** CEO Gould and other Piper personnel addressed a gathering of public and media to make the important announcement. *** Gould began his remarks by evoking the original Piper Cub, what he described as “one of the original ‘LSA’ aircraft of its time.” *** “Piper is entering what is undeniably one of the most exciting market segments in general aviation,” he continued.
What a way to start the year. Piper called a press conference at Sebring and like no other I’ve seen after attending all six Expo events, the media turned out in droves. On opening day the legacy brand unveiled their LSA entry at Sebring 2010 (it was also their first exhibitor appearance). Camera clicked constantly, videos whirred, and recording devices captured every uttered word. It may not have been as spectacular as Apple’s iPad media event, but it generated the same kind of intense buzz. Here’s a few facts I haven’t seen in the other generous media coverage. *** Piper is a 72-year-old much-storied producer of 140,000 airplanes. They have certified 160 models (50% more than the incredible output of all LSA producers combined). They span the general aviation spectrum from the $120,000 PiperSport to the $2.2 million PiperJet. The company’s iconic Piper Cub inspired two replica LSA producers (American Legend and CubCrafters), whose aircraft comprise two of the top five among all LSA manufacturers… and the only two of the top eight SLSA that are built in the USA.
[UPDATE: 1/13/09 at 1 PM Eastern — Following reports by AOPA Online, Flight International’s Flight Global, and Jim Lawrence below… Piper stated that — contrary to reports in Czech newspapers and radio — they have not signed an agreement with Czech Sport Aircraft. Thus reports about the amount allegedly invested much less forecasts of building hundreds of aircraft, are only speculation at this time. I expect to have more info when, and if, any news is officially released. Now on to Jim’s blog…] *** My tin can and string spyphone is vibrating with news that the quiet little rumor circulating for months is about to become reality: Piper Aircraft appears to have inked a deal with Czech Sport Aircraft (CSA), which successfully took control of the former Czech Aircraft Works, and will import and distribute the beautiful SportCruiser SLSA to the American market!
A long and winding trail in the sky, this story is… Once upon a time an American traveled to the Czech Republic, founded a small business to build kit aircraft, grew that into a full-fledged LSA producer, gained an investor with whom he later disagreed, and lost his enterprise. That’s the shortest possible take on it. When Chip Erwin’s Czech Aircraft Works dissolved, the chrysalis produced Czech Sport Aircraft… the new owner of the SportCruiser (photos). As Chip takes an unplanned sabbatical from this business, the new team under Martin Zikes is taking action. *** Czech Sport Aircraft (CSA) says its roots date back to 1934 when “a group of aviation enthusiasts opened a small workshop and started to build gliders.” Around World War II a related factory was seized by the Luftwaffe and served as a repair and maintenance facility. “After the war the company worked on all types of airplanes then flying in Czechoslovakia.
You can hardly doubt the headline. A cruise through our SLSA List will show almost a quarter of all (12 of 50) designs that have won certification are from the Czech Republic. Even the USA counts only 11 SLSA models so far. Yet perhaps showing global cross-pollination, at least two Czech producers are owned by Americans (Czech Aircraft Works and Interplane). Even inside the Czech Republic one company often builds parts used by others. Since the Soviets withdrew 17 years ago, the Czech Republic has embraced recreational aviation with excellent success. *** Of course, Germany, Italy, France and Spain plus East European producers in Poland, Romania, and Hungary have also made their impact in the American LSA market. So, ASTM‘s LSA committee will hold its next standards writing and review session in Prague, Czech Republic. I’ll be going as will several other American leaders, partly as a significant gathering of EU aviation officials will also meet in conjunction with the ASTM meeting.
In a year of facilitating independent audits for Special Light-Sport Aircraft, LAMA, the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association, completed reviews of six companies: IndUS (Thorpedo); Jihlavan (Kappa KP-5); Aeropro (EuroFox); Flight Design (CT); Czech Aircraft Works (SportCruiser, Mermaid, & Parrot); and Evektor (SportStar). CZAW and Evektor were announced at a press conference at AirVenture Oshkosh 2007; all the others were announced earlier. Successfully audited LSA can display individually-numbered LAMA decals. Customers appreciate and seek independently reviewed products. *** At the same press conference LAMA announced expansion of its board to seven members. New members are Jack Pelton, president and CEO of Cessna Aircraft and Jo Konrad, president of the German Ultralight Association (DULV). These impressive additions join Dave Martin, journalist and former editor of Kitplanes; Tom Peghiny, president of Flight Design USA; Phil Lockwood, president of Lockwood Aircraft Supply; Tom Gunnarson, LAMA president; and myself, serving as Chairman.
Over a short evaluation period of 25 months we’ve seen fairly consistent results in the top ten of LSA producers based on FAA registrations (see 5/21/07 SPLOG). But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Take Czech Aircraft Works (CZAW) and their best seller, the $75,000 Sport Cruiser. U.S. marketing and sales manager Bob Anderson reported, “CZAW raised additional equity capital last summer to finance a massive expansion.” The company is now housed in a 120,000 square-foot facility. CZAW president, Chip Erwin said, “We have skilled engineers and modern equipment in place. Our production ramp-up is not a ‘future claim.’ We’re doing it right now.” Anderson said part of the investment bought nearly a million dollars of state-of-the-art CNC equipment for matched-hole technology parts. The American-owned, Czech-based company has been delivering over 100 airplanes and kits per year from a smaller factory. They’ve shipped more than 850 aircraft to date.
With their fourth Special Light-Sport Aircraft approval, Czech Aircraft Works (CZAW) and their U.S. partner, Sport Aircraft Works, have taken the lead for one company to win SLSA certificates for the most models. Tecnam has been tied with CZAW at three until Friday, March 24th when Sport Aircraft Works made the announcement. Sport Cruiser also rounds out the line for CZAW. The new design resembles the CH-601 on which the comany had earlier gained SLSA approval. CZAW manufactures Zenith aircraft under license for European sale. For U.S. sales, the American-owned Czech company can boast a high wing (Parrot, approved as a SLSA in November 2005), the amphibious Mermaid (SLSA in February) and now the low wing SportCruiser in March. AMD of Georgia also has a SLSA certificate for their Zodiac CH-601 XL with the Continental engine; CZAW aircraft use Rotax. I hope to fly all three CZAW/Sport Aircraft Works airplanes right before Sun ‘n Fun.