One sure way to know if a show works is to observe vendor participation over a number of years. As this is my 14th year attending the Midwest LSA Expo, I can tell you 2023 represents a strong turnout. Companies come back year after year because it works to connect them with interested customers. Both sides end up with smiles. In this article, I will give you a glimpse of what you can see if you can attend on Friday and Saturday. For those that cannot come, this will provide some taste of what happens in Mount Vernon, Illinois in early September. Hopefully, you can come in 2024. Every image you see below shows that vendors did not just bring one airplane to test the market. In every case, these companies brought two, three, or even four aircraft to show. That’s very rare even at AirVenture or Sun ‘n Fun. What this illustrates is that the Midwest LSA Expo (about an hour’s drive east of St.
TL Sport Aircraft
Phone: 408-883-5985Charleston, SC - USA
Sparker = mLSAYou already know Czech producer TL Ultralight. The European company dates to 1989 as the Berlin Wall fell. By 1991, TL-Ultralight began series production of a two-seat light aircraft that vaguely resembled a Rans S-6. TL 32 Typhoon was the first airplane to carry the TL trademark. By 1996 TL 96 Star was born as an all-composite low-wing monoplane. Sting arrived in North America as an LSA after the Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft rule was released in 2004. In a field that recently hit 158 models accepted by FAA, Sting was the #5 Special LSA to win approval. Sing S3/S4 was reapproved as #71 on my SLSA List and the high wing Sirius won approval at #103. Add several European approvals to see TL Ultralight is experienced in earning approval for their latest aircraft, Sparker. The last aircraft released by TL in 2015 was Stream, their elegant take on a tandem-seating LSA. I flew with Trey Murdaugh, proprietor of TL Sport Aircraft, the North American representative for the brand. Read about that experience from spring 2022. "Sparker is more than just an aircraft recertified to a higher take off weight," reported Trey. The new entry is spacious and makes good use of the space and weight capacities. Additional take-off weight allows for a large luggage area that can hold 55 pounds in a space large enough for two sets of golf clubs. A smaller area up front can handle lightweight items you need in flight. Besides the additional load, you’ll be able to access the compartment through an exterior door, eliminating one annoying aspect of loading some low-wing aircraft, requiring that you kneel on the seats and sling bags over a bulkhead. Sparker's fuselage is formed over a Kevlar shell, providing excellent protection for the crew compartment. TL engineered both Stream and Sparker to have crumple zones similar to modern autos to dissipate loads before they reach occupants. Sparker is high end throughout. TL fitted luxury heated leather seats and in-cabin heat. Electric adjustable pedals make it easy to find the perfect fit.
What to Expect in mLSA PricesYou surely realize that with a 175-knot cruise speed, a 160-horsepower modern computer-controlled engine, not one or two but three large Garmin G3X instruments, a Stratos emergency airframe parachute, and a luxurious interior — all this will not come cheap. Here's another sure to exceed the $300,000 mark. As I hear your groans over the prices we've seen in the newest Light-Sport Aircraft, please consider the prices on everything else you buy. Since Covid, many things you buy have gone up substantially in price; many items have doubled in price. That fact does not ease your financial burden and it certainly puts Sparker out of reach for some, maybe most pilots. That does not mean it is incorrectly priced; it simply may not fit your budget. Perhaps the best news about Mosaic is that it will not negatively impact the LSA you have come to know and love. Many of those airplanes remain available at much more affordable prices. In addition, a growing number of used LSA are now available at even lower cost. Yet if you have the budget or some partners, Sparker might be just the airplane to ignite your flying interests. "The first Sparkers will come in under the Experimental Exhibition category," said Trey. He and TL personnel will investigate mLSA approval after Mosaic is out. Come EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2023 in just a few weeks, we may find out if FAA's promise will be kept. Last year the Mosaic Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) was predicted by "August 2023." Once Mosaic arrives, I expect you will find TL Ultralight's Sparker to be an early aircraft to gain approval. Fortunately, pilots interested today don't need to wait until 2025 — the earliest date Mosaic could be fully available. Trey said the deluxe Sparker could be delivered in 7-8 months. Use the contact information below to obtain pricing and availability.
TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS TL Ultralight Sparker all specifications provided by the factory
- Length — 21.75 feet
- Height — 8.4 feet
- Wing Span — 29.5 feet
- Wing Area — 107 square feet
- Horizontal Tail Width — 9.7 feet
- Cabin Width — 49.2 inches
- Empty Weight (depending on options)* — 772 pounds
- Maximum Takeoff Weight** — 1,320 pounds
- Maximum Crew Weight — 440 pounds
- Maximum Luggage Capacity — 55 pounds
- Luggage Compartment Volume — 24 cubic feet
- Never-Exceed Speed — 181 knots
- Typical Cruise — 165-175 knots, per U.S. representative***
- Minimum Speed — 45 knots
- Climb Rate (at gross weight)* — 1,200 feet per minute (2,000 fpm with 915iS)
- Fuel Consumption (75% power)* — 4.25 gallons per hour (7 gph with 915iS)
- Fuel Capacity — 24 to 34 gallons
- Range — 869 statute miles
- Engines**** — Rotax 912ULS, 915iS, and 916iS
- Propeller — three-blade PowerMax
- Landing Gear — Hydraulic retractable landing gear; trailing link main gear
* Factory figure based on Rotax 912 ULS; more powerful engines are available ** TL Ultralight has increased MTOW to 1,653 pounds (750 kilograms) *** U.S. representative cruise speed based on Rotax 915iS **** TurboTech turbine powerplant (160 horsepower) is in development
At Aero Friedrichshafen 2023, visitors saw numerous aircraft that could qualify as Mosaic Light-Sport Aircraft or mLSA. In nearly every aisle of the several large halls of Aero, visitors and journalists could see entry after entry apparently made-for-Mosaic. Indeed, so many entries potentially qualify for this coming new segment that I ran out of time to examine all of them. We are headed into an interesting period of aircraft development and the subject of this article is a perfect example. Welcome to TL Ultralight’s enhanced Sparker. The model was introduced to the European 600 kilogram (1,320 pound) standard but over the last year it has gone through an extensive evaluation and upgrade to carry a 750 kilogram load (1,653 pounds). It was also revised to accommodate Rotax’s 915iS and 916iS engines. With greater capacity and with 160 horsepower available, I’d call this a mLSA or Mosaic-ready Light-Sport Aircraft.
New Aeroprakt ImporterFor several years Dennis Long has been the American face of Aeroprakt. He took over the importing and has enjoyed quite a good run. According to a quick search on Tableau Public — our source for all light aircraft N-number registrations — Aeroprakt has around 70 aircraft flying in the USA. Dennis Long sold most of them. As most readers may be aware, Aeroprakt is based in the Ukraine, specifically in Kyiv. If you weren't sure where that was in 2021, you surely know now. While the company continues to produce, said Dennis, it is operating under significant duress from the war actions. Part supplies and shipment of finished aircraft is massively disrupted by Russia's aggression in Ukraine. In this very challenging environment, Dennis is changing gears. While he will continue to help, he is turning over import duties for Aeroprakt to Andy Humphrey, a CFI, an A&P with Inspection Authorization, and a veteran of the Light-Sport Aircraft sector. Andy's Heavenbound Aviation is based in Johnstown, Ohio where he also represents Aerolite 103 and Quicksilver. Given his experience in the affordable end of aviation, it appears Aeroprakt is in good hands for the future. When Mr. Putin removes his troops from Ukraine, look for the low-cost aircraft producer to accelerate.
Evektor Goes MainstreamEvektor is back with great news for students looking for a place to get Sport Pilot (and further) training in Light-Sport Aircraft. At Sun 'n Fun 2022, I interviewed an impressive young aviator and businessman, John Mauch, Jet Access’ Chief Flight Instructor and Director of Operations. Jet Access is the 10th largest charter flight operator in the world based on flight hours and the midwestern company has extensive operations to support such aircraft. However, they also run several flight training operations. They manage their schools so well that several collegiate aviation programs have hired the company to manage their operations. Based in Indianapolis, Jet Access has multiple flight school operations now and plans several more. All of them will feature the Evektor LSA line, primarily focused on the Harmony model (video pilot report). Mauch said Jet Access chose Evektor because they have found them durable for steady flight training operations, easy-to-fly and maintain, plus they have a low fuel burn. Given today's sky-high fuel prices, this advantage has become much more important. Jet Access schools make broad use of the Evektor models. "These are technically advanced aircraft with glass cockpits and autopilots,” observed John adding, “This prepares our students for modern piloting that improves safety, while still focusing on stick and rudder skills due to cooperative flight characteristics of the Evektors. They’re also larger inside than legacy trainers with far better visibility and cabin airflow.” Jet Access ordered a dozen Evektors and plans to keep adding models as their growing operation expands. This will help many pilots seeking instruction in modern Light-Sport Aircraft.
Pipistrel Generates Million$Whatever the actual number and whatever the contract terms state, one thing seems sure. Pipistrel found Ivo Boscarol will have no trouble paying his bills. Heck, it appears he could afford his own biz jet. At Sun 'n Fun 2022 I was told Ivo sold his business for better than €200,000,000 (well over $200 million). Such high finance is way beyond my usual reporting but I'd bet those funds will be paid out on a schedule of performance. Deliver such-and-so technology to Textron by this date and you get $20 million. Deliver the next phase and get $30 million more… like that. I have no idea, of course, but however he gets paid, Ivo will be rolling in it. In all my years in light aviation, I have never heard of a higher value paid for any light aircraft company. In fact, I've never heard any number even close to that. Ivo has long proven adept at maneuvering his company and it seems he hit the jackpot this time. Some enthusiasts were grousing that Textron might never produce any Pipistrel models and who knows what the future holds. For now though, it was reported that Pipistrel will still operate its factories in Europe and Ivo will retain a 10% ownership share. Call him the Elon Musk of aviation, perhaps. It was reportedly Textron's interest in the Velis electric-propulsion version of Pipistrel that won their corporate heart. Congratulations to Ivo!
Quicksilver's Four-StrokerThis article from Day 1 of Sun 'n Fun revealed a new four-stroke engine resulting from a fascinating collaboration of two light aircraft companies — although a pairing I would not have predicted. Learn more about the engine from the earlier article. At Sun 'n Fun 2022 Air-Tech Inc's Ken Borne fired the engine up for journalists and protective buyers yet I they have not yet flown their aircraft with the Aero engine. I'll be looking for news at Oshkosh about how well that engine performed and whether it could sweep through the thousands of Quicksilvers flying. Many owners have said they prefer a four stroke powerplant. When their current two-stroke engine needs maintenance, a significant number might switch to four stroke. Owners like them because they are quieter, more fuel efficient, have longer maintenance cycles, and have a deeper sound many pilots like. In addition, some locations are clamping down on two-strokes that are perceived as "dirtier" or louder or less dependable. Air-Tech, Inc., and Blackhawk Paramotor got together at last year's Oshkosh to hatch this idea (they displayed immediately next to one another and started talking…). Now, perhaps we'll see this collaboration take to the skies. If all goes well, I predict a strong interest from buyers.
TL Sport Aircraft's FleetIn a previous article, I wrote about the TL Sport Aircraft Stream aircraft. I'll follow up with a report on the Sirius LSA, too, but these aircraft have fresh representation and new relationships. The new U.S. importer of the TL Ultralight aircraft from the Czech Republic is TL Sport Aircraft, run by a capable Trey Murdaugh. You can see him in the earlier article demonstrating Stream. He has brought stability to one of the LSA sector's most successful brands. TL Ultralight is well known for their Sting after multiple generations of development. They also make the high wing Sirius, the tandem retractable Stream, and have introduced a Stream variation in side-by-side seating called Sparker. The last two are retractable speedsters both well positioned for the changes coming in Mosaic. One of the key elements to this story has TL Sport Aircraft appointing Aerosport as a dealer for their line. I flew both Stream and Sirius at the Illinois company's DeLand, Florida operation called Aerosport South (video). In fact, DeLand appears to be developing into a powerhouse of light, affordable aircraft with the AeroSport group plus another that is planning to represent multiple brands including Aero Adventure, Seamax, Montaer, BOT, Fusion, and possibly others. Collaborative efforts make for stronger companies that can better serve their clients with a choice of aircraft and service for all of them.
Vashon Ranger's SecretFinally, I'm going to tease you without telling you anything. I have been sworn to secrecy but Vashon, builder of the increasingly popular Ranger LSA is projecting a major new announcement by AirVenture. At Sun 'n Fun I did an interview with Vashon boss Scott Taylor. He didn't mention the news in the video so you won't learn it when that work is completed. However, Vashon's news will likely be regarded as a significant announcement, especially coming out at the very time I believe FAA will draw back the curtain on Mosaic …meaning the agency may announce the NPRM; the final rule is still at least 18 months away. Stay tuned here for more, and if you can make it, come see the news and feel the airshow thunder at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2022. It's really starting to get interesting! That wraps news from Sun 'n Fun 2022. Now, get ready for news from Aero Friedrichshafen 2022, going on right now in Europe.
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.
Immersive TandemMy demo pilot, TL Sport Aircraft boss Trey Murdaugh offered the front seat but I requested the aft seat so I could better observe his actions; it also helped record video. However, the aft seat offers full controls to allow an instructor to take over as needed. This is a retractable aircraft and a gear switch is available at both seats. The same for flaps and, of course, the prop and throttle controls. Up front instrumentation is larger and you do fly solo from the front. Yet in the back, I had a seven-inch Garmin touch screen that provided the same info in a smaller package. For example, the gear position shows in both locations… although, like most digital screens, it may take a while to pick out the data you want from all that is displayed. The aft seat also has a full-featured joystick with buttons for elevator and aileron trim, push to talk and other functions. It has everything the front seat has so you can enjoy flying Stream from the back as much as the front. However, in one way the front proves superior, regarding runway visibility on approach to landing. With no flaps or with one notch deployed, I had no sight picture from the aft seat. However, with full flaps, I could easily keep an eye on the runway. An offset to the aft seat visibility looking forward is that you have an excellent straight down view that the front PIC seat lacks; the pilot up front is seated at the wing midpoint so downward visibility is restricted.
Stalls and LandingsYou will probably not be surprised to learn that Stream has speedy ways. Using a 100-horsepower carbureted Rotax 912 ULS, Stream can easily generate speeds above 140 knots TAS. At higher altitudes it can achieve some pretty impressive true airspeeds as you might expect from an aircraft that has both retractable gear and in-flight adjustable prop. What you might be more surprised to learn is how gentle its stall characteristics are and how slow it can go on landing. I asked Trey to demonstrate stalls and then did some myself and in every such trial Stream was as gentle in stall response as any aircraft in the LSA space. We were not particularly aggressive as this is a clean airplane and is unfamiliar to me, but we did several stalls and every one of them demonstrated extremely benign characteristics that resulted in virtually no nose drop stall break nor any wing wobble. This is remarkably convincing stability for any aircraft in the space but certainly one aimed at the performance end of the market. Since I mentioned the aircraft speeds along quite well, I rush to say I was rather amazed that Stream could slow down into the high-30s (knots) when flaps are deployed. From 39 knots indicated to 150 knots in cruise, we start to approach that magic 4:1 stall-to-cruise target that any designer likes to achieve (it's not an easy mark to hit). As we came into land and as Trey put down the flaps, I mentioned above that the site picture improves for the aft seat when flaps are fully deployed. They go down 40°, Troy said, so these are some fairly deep flaps. On initial deployment, flaps look ordinary and rather small; in the aft seat I had a clear view of flap operations. Then I observed the Fowler flap construction as the flaps continued to deploy. That's when you see how effective this construction can be. I readily admit I was taken by surprise at the very slow speeds we achieved on landing. Trey says 400 feet of ground roll is achievable and it's possible to land even shorter with skill and correct use of the controls. I would have doubted this was possible had I not seen the excellent stall characteristics and how slow Stream could fly.
Handling and TaxiingAfter the stall regimen, I did my common Dutch roll coordination exercise. This showed that Stream is an airplane in which you lead with the rudder. On European designs this is common; we see it on many sailplanes that are rudder-dominated partly due to their very wide wingspans. After observing the control effects, it became pretty straightforward to do 30°-to-30° wing reversals while maintaining a straight longitudinal line (the goal of a properly done Dutch roll). I often rely on this coordination exercise to show me the basics of how an airplane flies. Then, through a series of turns, I discovered that Stream will hold its altitude very well without power or trim adjustments of any kind. Of course, using those controls will make handling even better I suspect, but stick pressures remained light and it was simply unnecessary to employ those controls in order to produce turns that maintained altitude and speed. These are wonderful characteristics for Stream to demonstrate. Back on the ground I again took the controls and found taxi steering to be responsive, further amplified by directional braking that that assures maneuvering on a ramp will be easy. Back at the AeroSport South hangar (video) at DeLand — where Stream and Sirius were spending the night — TL Sport Aircraft has entered into a business relationship with U.S. BushCat representatives, Daniela and Jeremy Knoll. They will help represent the TL family of light aircraft. After shutdown, Trey and I extricated ourselves from the Stream cockpit. It takes a bit more doing to get in and out of Stream than, for example, the very user-friendly, high-wing Sirius that I would fly next. If you have flexibility challenges, Stream may not be a particularly easy airplane to get in and out of, but once seated, the aircraft is comfortable and adequately roomy for a longer flight. Especially as Mosaic arrives with its faster speeds, adjustable props, retractable gear and more, I can see a strong future for Stream in the United States. Watch for more in our upcoming video that will offer many more details about the flight.
TL Ultralight Stream TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS all data supplied by the manufacturer or importer
- Length — 22.25 feetm
- Height — 8.15 feet
- Wingspan — 29.5 feet
- Wing area — 107.2 square feet
- Cabin width — 22.6 inches
- Never exceed speed — 180 knots
- Minimum speed — 35 knots
- Climb rate (at gross weight) — 1,170 feet per minute
- Empty weight (may vary depending on optional equipment) — 655 pounds
- Maximum take-off weight — 1,320 pounds
- Useful Load — 665 pounds
- Payload (with full fuel; before baggage) — 521 pounds
- Minimum crew weight — 132 pounds
- Maximum crew weight — 397 pounds
- Maximum luggage weight — 33 pounds
- Fuel consumption (at 75% maximum continuous power) — 4.3 gallons per hour
- Fuel tank capacity — 23.8 gallons (39 gallons with auxiliary tanks)
- Flying range — 870 statute miles
After Sun ‘n Fun 2022 ended, as pilots were flying home to bases across the USA, a couple aircraft stopped nearby at the DeLand Airport. As this is only a 25-minute drive from my office, I grabbed the chance to fly both the TL Sport Aircraft Stream and their high wing Sirius. I captured video from multiple cameras for each aircraft; watch for our video pilot report soon. While the video is in editing, I will give a short review of the Stream. This was a new experience for me. As flown, TL’s Stream is in Experimental-Exhibition category. That will suffice for a few examples, but the future involving Mosaic may be inviting for Stream, so the model could get a leg up on some competitors by establishing a U.S. presence before Mosaic becomes the governing regulation. Immersive Tandem My demo pilot, TL Sport Aircraft boss Trey Murdaugh offered the front seat but I requested the aft seat so I could better observe his actions; it also helped record video.