Aero 2015 is open! The halls are full of shiny airplanes displayed with the usual European sense of style and panache. Visitors are backed up at the entry gates awaiting the official opening time. (We sneaky media journalists are allowed in earlier to get photos and begin interviews with vendors.) It is a great event, for Europe and for aviation. I already have some airplanes in mind for reporting, both brand-new designs and the sort you never see in the USA. I will aim to prepare coverage of some of them and report as soon as time permits. Yet first, I want to talk about a project that is equally exciting. I refer to the Flight Design project aimed at the general aviation world, that is, of airplanes with more seats than allowed in the LSA space … in addition to more speed, more weight, and other capabilities.
Flight Design GmbH
Phone: +49 36920 7530-11Hoerselberg-Hainich, -- 99820 - Germany
Much of what we hear and know about airplane populations is centered on America. Yet in the world of sport and recreational aviation, the rest of the world equates to at least a 1:1 relationship, that is, for every American aircraft flying, many experts agree another flies internationally. It may be more significant than that … consider Germany. In mid-August, our friends at Aerokurier, Germany’s leading aviation magazine, assembled an article about the top 10 ultralights in that country. A European ultralight, as you may know, is not the same as an American ultralight that is today limited to a single seat and no more than 254 pounds of empty weight. In Germany and elsewhere around the European Union, “ultralight” refers to an airplane much like a U.S. Light-Sport but limited in weight to 472.5 kilograms or 1,041 pounds. Originally the weight limit had been 450 kilograms or 992 pounds but because emergency airframe parachutes are mandatory in Germany the weight was increased a few years ago to cover this component.
For more than 100 years, cars have had accidents and if they were severe enough, the results were poor (photo). This was long before seat belts, airbags, breakaway steering columns, padded dashboards, and many other features we take for granted today. It was also before the concept of crumple zones. Typically, crumple zones are located in the front part of the vehicle to absorb the impact of a head-on collision because 65% of crashes are frontal impacts, according to a British study. Crumple zones accomplish two safety goals: They reduce the initial force of the crash; and they redistribute the force before it reaches the vehicle’s occupants.This idea has been around more than 60 years and has become standard in the modern era of passenger car design. One of the first examples of crumple zone research is coming from Mercedes-Benz in the mid-1950s, so perhaps it is fitting that some of the first crumple zone technology to be applied to light aircraft has the sponsorship of the German government along with German industry players.
Something of a stealth invasion is beginning. I refer to an emerging flock of four seat Light-Sport Aircraft. Of course, most readers are aware that no such birds exist as LSA (in the FAA’s code, anyway). By U.S. regulation Light-Sport are two seat aircraft. Other nations have some different ideas. For now, suffice it to say the “LSA 4s” — as I choose to call them for this article — are on final. In the past I’ve written about Evektor’s Cobra, one of the first in this group, arriving so early that you probably would not call it a “LSA-like” airplane. The southern Czech company enjoyed success with their SportStar and Harmony, smaller siblings to a four seater they flew several years ago. After Evektor (coincidentally also the very first LSA to be approved), we began to hear about Flight Design’s C4 modeled on their LSA market-leading CT series.
Since the beginning of Light-Sport Aircraft almost ten years ago — this summer at EAA AirVenture, the SP/LSA sector will celebrate its tenth anniversary with special functions — Flight Design has continuously led the fleet size statistics as seen in our market share charts. In recent years, along with most other LSA manufacturers, a tough global economy slowed the enterprise. However, as 2013 began to show renewed sales activity and with positive forecasts for 2014 and 2015, Flight Design and many other of the LSA “majors” have been again growing their staff, inventory, and physical facilities. Recently the German company sent photos of its new quarters in Kamenz (pronounced like “commons”) in eastern Germany almost directly north of Prague in the Czech Republic. Most senior staff moved from the company’s Stuttgart, Germany base to the new facility and the Light-Sport models including the CT series and more are now housed in a spacious hangar on an airport.
Festivals of Speed is not your “everyman” show tour. Aimed at wealthy folks, Joe Sabatini’s FoS extravaganza is quite different than the usual airshow fare. Some very distinctive aircraft drew plenty of attention … if you could tear your eyes away from a large gathering of magnificent supercars or scores of beautiful people. The event was based at the Orlando International Airport, which meant flying a few Light-Sport Aircraft into the Class B jetport and assembling in and around the giant hangar at Galaxy Aviation FBO. Opening night was hob-nobbing with the well-to-do types that can supposedly afford the goods on display. Via silent auction, Festival of Speed also benefits charities such as Arnold Palmer Hospital For Children. For the first time, Light-Sport Aircraft were invited (and not asked to pay what surely is a steep price of entry). Representing the fleet were Progressive Aerodyne‘s SeaRey and Flight Design‘s CTLSi.
Across the northern U.S. states and across much of Europe it was a lousy, cold, snowy winter. It seemed everyone I spoke to at Aero in Friedrichshafen, Germany complained about the crappy winter and their laments mirrored those from America’s northlands. However, the weather appears to be going directly from winter to summer. It was warm in Slovenia when we visited Pipistrel and it’s now getting hot across much of the USA. That’s great, perhaps, as it foretells an active flying season. However, as the weather warms, it can get mighty hot in the cockpit and not only because you’re on short final on a gusty day in a responsive LSA. US Aviation previewed their integration of the AMT FlyCool air conditioning system in the Flight Design CTLS at Sun ‘n Fun 2013. The Dallas-area, Texas company partnered with FlyCool to develop an installation for the Flight Design CTLS.
Patty Wagstaff and LSA? This week brings the start of the Sebring U.S. Sport Aviation Expo and excitement is high. Following are some news items to those who follow this event and the light, recreational aircraft space. On Friday, January 18th, Sebring EAA Chapter 1240 is sponsoring a dinner featuring aerobatic expert Patty Wagstaff who will perform at the event … with such an airshow being a first for Sebring. Proceeds will support youth aviation education programs. •• The Sebring EAA chapter has engineered a rare partnership between the chapter, the airport, and the local school board to provide educational activities for kids. This sufficiently impressed aviation philanthropist James Ray that he ended writing a check for the entire structure, a new 60 x 70-foot building at the Sebring Airport with classrooms and facilities including a large hangar space where high school children are involved in restoring two aircraft.
After flying more than 350 different aircraft models, I became rather adept at what some pilots call “stick wiggling.” The reference is for all the actions you take to physically fly the plane. Heck, it’s about all you do on very basically-equipped ultralight aircraft that I still love to fly. Modern LSA, however, typically offer loaded instrument panels and while I check out stalls, flight qualities and landings of a Light-Sport Aircraft, I rarely get any time to play with the panel goodies. Fortunately, a recent experience in a brand-new Flight Design CTLSi provided a three-hour window to wiggle the stick plus a whole lot more. Like a majority of late-model LSA, this aircraft was equipped with a full glass panel, comprised of dual 10-inch Dynon Sky View screens on either side of a Garmin aera 796. Checking me out was Brian Boucher, an airline pilot who operates Florida Light-Sport Aircraft from my home airport at Spruce Creek.
Yes, as the pics show, I did indeed take advantage of a rare, calm, beautiful, warm (for winter) day in New England to drive over to Tom Peghiny‘s Flight Design USA and take my first hop in a fuel-injected Rotax-powered LSA: the new CTLSi. Company Chief Pilot Jonathan Carter did me the honors as we went for a spin the last hour of the clear-sky, gorgeous day: no bumps, no ATC to deal with, just that good smooth, strong CT climb up and away from the company’s little paved strip in Woodstock, Connecticut. CTLSi, latest version of the industry-leading CT line (the company’s been at the front of the pack for 7 years), is noteworthy primarily for its new powerplant, which dramatically improves fuel economy, starts easier, and runs smoother. I’ll have a full flight report on the airplane in the spring issue of the magazine. But I don’t want to wait to say that for me, this is a wonderfully refined airplane and a real step forward from the version I flew four years ago when I got my Sport Pilot rating with instructor rock ‘n rollin’ CFI John Lampson (he moonlights with a popular rock band, Stealing Jupiter, in the Northeast).
The first iLSA are flying in the USA. Springboarding from Apple’s famous iDevices, why not iLSA? This stands for “i” Light-Sport Aircraft, meaning they’re fuel injected, which today suggests Rotax’s new 912 iS engine. Tecnam has announced P2008s with the new powerplant. Pipistrel has iS models, too. Others will follow, although Remos indicated they are taking a wait-and-see approach to the new powerplant. All models remain available with the carbureted version of the 912s in 80 or 100 horsepower. (See this earlier article about the newest Rotax and this one with a video.) Market leader Flight Design has iLSA arriving in all corners of the country under the slightly changed name of CTLSi. Flight Design USA president Tom Peghiny recently assembled a couple of these airplanes and logged several flights on them. He offered a series of comments on how his newest LSA is an improvement in last year’s model.
Good to Go in China Things are happening in China. “So, what’s new,” you say? “We’ve been hearing about China for months.” Things may move slowly in China but this week, Airshow China is happening in the southern city of Zhuhai and my colleague, Jan Fridrich is present. He reports that some LSA are displayed including Triton’s Mermaid and SC3D (based on the SportCruiser), Flight Design’s CTSW, Colyaer’s Freedom, and some other aircraft he is working to identify. Watch for a followup article. Triton is the new China-based factory run by Chip Erwin. ••• LSA leader CubCrafters gained Type Certificate approval in China for their Part 23-certified Top Cub. General Manager Randy Lervold said they have taken no steps with the LSA models but that they expect to pursue that in the future. Meanwhile, though the company announced the sale of two Carbon Cubs in Europe, they are taking a similarly measured approach using Permit to Fly privileges for now.
My European associate and friend, Jan Fridrich, coined a phrase a few years ago: “Global LSA,” he said, meaning the ASTM standards set could be used in any country and thereby create a worldwide market for recreational aircraft. Already a few accept the standards and many are considering or are already using some variant. So, in this post, let’s review some international successes for LSA. Tecnam is one of the most prolific of all LSA producers and not just because they have multiple approved models. Recently, they sold a pair of P2008s to New Zealand. Waikato Aero Club CEO Richard Small said, “The new planes have a number of advantages over traditional aircraft. Manufactured from modern materials [Tecnam] planes are more fuel efficient and quieter. They also have full electronic flight display screens. Our pilots are thoroughly enjoying the upgrade.” Pipistrel has logged sales globally as well and booked four orders for their new Alpha Trainer into Russia.
Anyone who has tried to borrow money in the last five years knows how tough it has become. Banks supported by government guarantees practically gave money away before the subprime meltdown but are now being much more careful. That’s a good thing but it means even some credit-worthy customers can’t get the loan they need. Commonly rejected are flight schools. Flight training enterprises across the nation are struggling to obtain financing to buy new aircraft to replace aging fleets of trainers. *** Despite the challenges, one LSA outfit has found at least a partial answer. Thanks to a solid customer (and onetime dealer), Flight Design USA has been able to offer a limited number of schools a method called leaseback. Training students today are three leased back CTLS Light-Sport Aircraft but this business success is only one part of a genuine human interest story. *** “We are pleased to announce the third CTLS leased to a flight school was used by Iraq war veteran Adam Kisielewski, an Able Flight scholarship recipient who recently earned his Sport Pilot certificate,” said Tom Peghiny of Flight Design USA.
Flight Design of Germany — in cooperation with U.S importer Flight Design USA — just signed an agreement with emergency parachute maker, BRS, to provide the 1350 LSA ballistic system on all CT aircraft sold in the USA. The importer, a related business of Flightstar Sportplanes, has long been a supporter of such safety ‘chutes and will now offer the BRS system as standard equipment. The parachute company likens the move by Flight Design as similar to Cirrus Design, which produces the best selling SR-22 GA airplane…that also comes standard with an airframe parachute. Use of the systems has resulted in the saving of 181 lives to date, BRS says. Only one other LSA company currently encourages parachutes with each airplane sale: the StingSport available from SportairUSA. The Arkansas-based company is the U.S. dealer for Galaxy parachute systems.
Video info and entertainment is burgeoning these days. YouTube has become one of most-visited Internet websites; you can watch videos on subjects of every conceivable description (plus many you could not have conceived). *** In the aviation world, videos are also common. AOPA, EAA, AvWeb, Aero-TV, Loop-TV, and others offer video to further your knowledge and enjoyment of aviation. Folks just seem to love watching videos. Now, we are pleased to offer you something a little different from the others and in so doing we promise to remain true to Light-Sport and all Sport-Pilot-eligible aircraft. *** After producing more than 100 shorter-length video reports on Light-Sport Aircraft and other Sport Pilot-eligible flying machines, the Light Sport and Ultralight Flyer and I are pleased to collaborate on the first two-pilot, full-length, all-video pilot report. Here you’ll find almost an hour’s worth of flying footage and detail commentary from a couple experienced evaluation pilots that can help decide which airplane you want to buy.
Since the beginning of LSA time, way back in 2005 (when the first LSA was approved), LSA have arrived on American shores from overseas factories. American producers also sold airplanes to Yankees, but none went overseas as governments of other nations had not yet accepted ASTM certification standards. In the last year, a lot has happened. *** At least four companies are selling LSA in other countries with aircraft defined by U.S.-originated parameters and meeting ASTM standards. LSA Global developments are reported by Arion Aircraft, U.S. Sport Aircraft (representing Czech Sport Aircraft), Remos Aircraft, and Flight Design. *** Yankee First? Arion Aircraft is one of the first all-American companies to go global with its production. The Marysville, Tennessee company — a related company to Jabiru U.S., which supplies the J230 and other high wing models to LSA buyers in the USA — has sent aircraft to Australia. The down-under country was one of the first to use ASTM certification after the new approval method was introduced by FAA in America.
Light-Sport Aircraft can be working aircraft (think: flight instruction and rental, each potentially a commercial activity) but read about this new twist. *** Recently, Flight Design USA delivered a customized Light-Sport Aircraft to a sheriff’s department in California. A CTLS fitted with police camera, radios, and custom controller was dubbed CTLE for “Law Enforcement.” The specially equipped CTLS was completed at Flight Design USA headquarters. Near the end of August 2011, two police officers from Tulare County, California traveled to Connecticut and then flew the special LSA back across the country. *** Commonly police departments have used helicopters or larger general aviation aircraft for activities like surveillance work. Helicopters are especially expensive… to buy, to operate, and to maintain. Realizing this, Flight Design USA’s big distributor, Airtime Aviation worked with Roger Crow of Echo Flight Resources on a second CTLE modified with a pod for the CTLS right wing.
Update 9/24/14 — Added to the models below, South Africa’s The Airplane Factory is also offering their four seat Sling 4. This model is flying but a decision about certifying it has not been made at this time. It is presently available as a kit-built airplane. Some of the more successful Light-Sport Aircraft producers have their eye on the market for larger aircraft, those able to seat four… or more. While continuing to manufacture their LSA models, three companies showed bigger aircraft or mockups at Aero 2011 and one other company has already done extensive test flying. Look out Cessna, Piper, Diamond, and Cirrus! Those familiar GA brands are about to get new competition. *** The first of this emerging segment was the Evektor Cobra, dating back more than four years. Previously marketed at shows like Oshkosh, Cobra was promoted with alternate powerplants of 200 and 315 horsepower. Joining Cobra in the roughly 2,500-pound gross weight category (approximately the weight of a Cessna 172) are three newcomers: Tecnam’s P2010, Flight Design’s C4, and Pipistrel’s Panthera (photos).
The LSA movement may have struggled along with the rest of civilian aviation over the last three years. *** Still, there’s no stopping folks who see how useful Light-Sport Aircraft can be for work at a lower cost than traditional aircraft. *** Overall U.S. LSA sales leader Flight Design (1,500 now flying worldwide) just told us about a fire fighting department (situated at 8,300 feet MSL) in the Andes mountains of Ecuador that is using a CTLS as an aerial support unit. *** John Hurst and Jeremy Endsley of Sebring Aviation went to the South American country to assist the Basin Fire Department at Mariscal La Mar Airport. *** Hurst and Endsley trained fire department employees in the assembly, maintenance, and flight training of the CTLS. *** The group operating the LSA is called the Air Volunteer Fire Department of Basin.