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.
Phone: 425-527-9944Woodinville, WA 98072 - USA
Sales Running StrongPerhaps it's because Americans have been saving at a far-higher-than-usual pace in 2020 and into 2021. Perhaps it's what happens after eighteen sluggish months dominated by virus talk. Perhaps the industry has matured to such a state that more pilots have faith in the products; the LSA safety record has been "acceptable," FAA has often stated. Maybe it's simply a statement that it feels good to be getting back to normal. While EAA has signs at entry points recommending (but not mandating) face masks for unvaccinated visitors, few wore them, less than 5% use, I'd estimate. Of course, we are mostly outside, in the sunshine, with a breeze blowing. Everyone I've met outwardly celebrates a "normal" feel to the airshow. …and it's busy. I will not be surprised to hear some record numbers; fly-in airplane parking is close to using every available space. Whatever the explanations and many more are possible, it appears at least the larger, stronger Light-Sport Aircraft manufacturers are experiencing solid business. Several told me so straightforwardly. Some companies are taking orders for delivery well into 2022 — and this is not because they can't get enough computer chips (like the auto industry) or other supplies. They have enough orders in hand to cause this situation. ICON — Once-closely-watched Icon Aircraft is back at AirVenture with a large, impressive display — though far more conservative than a few years back and not right on the main walkway as they previously were. After a difficult company reorganization and subsequent personnel turnover, the company has added new staff, drawing experience from other manufacturers to rebuild their approach. Icon arrived on the scene with such gusto that they raised expectations to the moon. That's a high bar. When manufacturing costs proved higher than first expected, prices rose sharply to levels not seen among LSA. More recently, other brands have made their models more luxurious, added more advanced avionics, and powerful engines like Rotax's 915iS. This has brought their prices closer to Icon's though the A5 remains top of the price pyramid. New management is aware they have work ahead but fresh talent, adequate financing, and a resolve to move forward are a big help. Icon reported achieving Primary Category certification; this can help make sales into countries that do not use ASTM standards. VASHON — Another company reporting a full order book is West coast-based Vashon Aircraft. One area of success for the company closely associated with Dynon Avionics has been with flight school operators. That's why Vashon showed a full IFR Ranger at AirVenture 2021. Company owner John Torode acknowledged that this does not permit flight into IMC but can let Ranger be used for instrument instruction. Flight schools like the familiar, and very sturdy, construction of Ranger. They know its Continental engine. The flight school market is important for Vashon, complimenting a warm reception they've received from individual pilots. Vashon remains a relative bargain in the LSA field. Their booth buzzed with activity while I visited with John. SCALEBIRDS — Sam Watrous and his ScaleBirds team have been on a tear with their excellent scale replica light aircraft. These are Experimental Amateur Built aircraft but they've made a solid effort to make building go as easy as possible. The aircraft carefully replicate the original versions, so purists looking for that certain look can get it but in a much more affordable package than the original it mimics. Sam runs the enterprise with his son Scott and a group of support people that help them in the project. ScaleBirds was looking good in the revised North Aircraft Display area, colloquially referred to as the "Kit-Built Area." Most folks are attracted to bright polished aluminum surfaces. Certainly all that elbow grease pays off at big airshows like Oshkosh. And, speaking of area movements…
Changes AheadFUN FLY ZONE RELOCATION — It may be sign of success. Judging from a full contingent of vendors in the light plane area, with a few vendors reporting they could not get space until someone backed out, this area reflects the health of light aircraft and ultralights. As with the LSA purveyors up north on the field, the Fun Fly Zone airplane sellers are reporting solid activity in leads and sales. At least some vendors had been informed about and were therefore discussing a possible movement of the Fun Fly Zone, colloquially known as the "Ultralight Area," to a position further south on Wittman Field. Historically, this area has already moved considerably south. It was once much closer to the Vintage Aircraft area (near Theater in the Woods). Proposed with the new idea being discussed is a longer, better positioned runway. To their credit EAA and the Ultralight Area managers over the years have made the angular Ultralight Area strip work successfully. Yet to maneuver for short final, pilots must make a series of turns, all while staying well west of traffic on the main north/south runway. It is far from optimal even if good leadership and cooperative pilots have made the current runway work. This week, EAA is demonstrating once again that they know how to produce a great show so I'd expect they'll make the Fun Fly Zone relocation go well and look good.
Day 2 AirVenture began with “rain that went sideways,” according to one vendor. After a late night cranking out a report, I was grateful for an excuse to get another hour’s sleep. The overnight rain gave way to another beautiful, if hot, day in Oshkosh. Tuesday, I hiked up to the north side, where the main displays are located. Most of the higher end Light-Sport Aircraft are located in this high-traffic area. Several LSA companies have jockeyed for years to find what they consider to be the optimal location for their exhibit. Being near the main foot-traffic road is very alluring to vendors. In almost two decades of Light-Sport Aircraft (the then-new rule was announced at AirVenture 2004), LSA have integrated themselves into mainstream aircraft manufacturing …and not simply because of the aircraft offered. As late-night TV ads once said, “There’s more!” LAMA board of directors member Phil Solomon — active in the flight school business and a former importer of Tecnam — expressed that the sales of LSA and the growth and development of the industry is only one of its successes.
New, and Moving Up SmartlyWe have fresh LSA and SP kit aircraft market statistics and after some research, I will report more fully on the 3Q20 numbers. However, we know one thing already: it appears Vashon's Ranger will be the best seller among Special, fully-built Light-Sport Aircraft for this unusual year. Covid complications be damned, Vashon is putting out about two aircraft a month and it appears momentum is building. Named for a small island in the Puget Sound region of Washington state near Seattle, Vashon Aircraft is a new producer in what seemed a crowded Special LSA space. Boss John Torode, also the founder of Dynon Avionics, felt Light-Sport Aircraft were more expensive than they needed to be. To help aviation grow, John employed his experience and funds to start a new airframe company. He made most of his fortune from a semiconductor company once headquartered in the same building in Woodinville, Washington that has been reconfigured into Vashon’s home base. John grew up flying light airplanes and after doing well in semiconductors, he turned his attention to bringing modern, affordable avionics into aviation. He started in LSA where onerous certification was not required. Since the successful D-10 EFIS in 2003 Dynon Avionics has greatly expanded their line and has more recently offered products for conventionally-certified aircraft. Today, more than 20,000 aircraft have Dynon avionics gear in their panels. While Vashon is colocated with Dynon in a Woodinville industrial park, Vashon maintains a separate corporate structure. Company employees of each defend the co-owned businesses as distinct from one another. Vashon produces structural components and puts fuselages and wings together in Woodinville but these sub-assemblies are then transported to a hangar at the Paine Field Airport (KPAE) in Everett. This is the same airfield where final assembly takes place at Boeing’s massive facility.
Flying RangerRanger's doors swing open wide. Its cantilevered wings offer no lift strut obstruction to entry. The cabin is spacious like most LSA. Put it all together and this large, squarish cockpit can accommodate some good-sized occupants. To accommodate pilots of different height, Ranger's rudders adjust, but this must be done before takeoff as it employs a pin-lock system (nearby photo). Ranger has a listed empty weight of 875 pounds before adding options. That leaves a useful load of 445 pounds. With fuel tanks full of 28.1 gallons or 169 pounds, payload drops to 276 pounds. Fortunately lots of flying is done locally so half tanks are still plenty and would provide a payload of 361 pounds or a couple occupants at 180 pounds each. (Of course, this may change when FAA issues its new regulation in 2023.) With half tanks and no baggage, demo pilot Kurt Robertson and I probably flew below the gross weight limit. We could have flown for better than three hours. Vashon chose the 100 horsepower Continental O-200 engine that Americans know so well. It burns 5.5 gallons an hour in economy cruise, which is where most pilot may fly unless going cross country. Topped off full, a solo pilot could fly for better than five hours. In our flight, I saw speeds above 110 knots at a low altitude of 2,500-3,500 feet above ground. At cross country altitude, it was clear, Ranger will run close to the LSA speed limit of 120 knots so a lone pilot could travel as much as 600 nautical miles non-stop. Taxiing Ranger uses a castoring nosewheel. This means steering with brakes at low speeds, so both seat are fitted with directional foot pedals, which allow for very tight turns. Castor steering takes a bit of familiarization but ramp maneuverability is unparalleled. Flight controls involve dual joysticks and a center-mounted throttle. Takeoff was simple and straightforward. After liftoff, Ranger's rate of climb varied between 600-800 fpm to 3,500 where we practiced some stalls. Fuel burn during best rate of climb appears to be north of seven gallons an hour, about the same as a Rotax 912iS. Kurt reported he routinely sees 118 knots at altitude and burns 6-6.5 gallons an hour at this higher cruise speed. Flaps are electrically actuated with a button — one push for 20 degrees; another push deploys flaps to 40 degrees. We used one notch for takeoff and either one, both, or none for landing. Immediately, Ranger felt somewhat different from many LSA. First, the Continental emits a familiar growl to the Rotax 9-series' whine. Secondly, the heft of Ranger gives it a heavier feel, actually surprisingly like a Cessna 172. In flight, Ranger is very well behaved, no wonder as this model shares some designer heritage with the Van's series that are highly revered for great flight qualities. You need only minimal rudder entering and exiting turns. Joystick pressures are fingertip-light (photo). In stalls, the LSA can be called docile with no evil bones I could uncover despite fairly steep stall entries. Recovering from a full-stick-aft stall showed no steep break or wing drop. Ranger exhibits very modest pitch change when flaps are deployed up or down. In slow flight or on approach to landing, Ranger was very stable and my landing was quite good even for a first-ever effort. At Kurt's advice I held 65 knots down low, then slowing slightly.
Construction & InteriorRanger is built with all-metal construction although the main landing gear is a composite structure. Its cantilevered high wing with no lift-strut combines with a broad windscreen to offer an expansive view. Cockpit width is stated as 47 inches, broad compared to most GA aircraft but about standard for LSA; it was roomy for Kurt and me. One neat trick: remove the seat cushions and you can fold both seats nearly flat allowing you to camp overnight in Ranger. It measures a generous 78 inches from the aft bulkhead to the joysticks. The large space aft of the seats can hold up to 100 pounds. While most loading won't tolerate that much baggage weight, the space is large enough for sleeping bags, tents, fishing poles, and other (lighter weight) outdoor gear. Buy All-American? — The western U.S. company boasts that its Special LSA is fully American. "Ranger R7 is designed, engineered, tested, and manufactured at the Vashon Aircraft factory headquarters near Seattle, Washington, and is assembled at its Paine Field assembly and delivery center (on the same airfield as Boeing's wide body airliner factory)," said Vashon. Avionics are made by Dynon Avionics in Woodinville, Washington and the powerplant is built by Continental Aerospace Technology in Mobile, Alabama. The fully loaded demo Ranger Kurt and I flew had autopilot and two SkyView HDX screens. The introductory pricing has risen slightly but those on a budget can be well served by the base Glacier model that lists for $119,500 and includes a Dynon 10-inch SkyView HDX EFIS with two-axis autopilot, 2020-compliant ADS-B Out, and all the standard features you'd expect. Ranger also comes with a three-year warranty. Unfortunately, the under-$100,000 price tag of three years ago has disappeared. Exterior Treatment — The "Founders Design" with the Washington state scene (photos) adds $9,500 to the base price. A version with the back half looking similar and the front fuselage in white is only $2,500. A treatment on just the top half of the vertical stabilizer is included in the price. If six figures aren't in your checkbook the company observed, "Vashon Aircraft is proud to collaborate with AOPA Finance to offer our customers competitive financing options for their Ranger purchase." Check all Vashon Ranger's specifications on this dedicated page.
Thank goodness for the Midwest LSA Expo. As the one and only airshow (other than some small local gatherings) since Copperstate/Buckeye back in February, Midwest 2020 was a breath of fresh air… literally for those of us who attended (quite a few did). From my view — and to some extent for all the readers of this website — the single most valuable aspect of Midwest LSA Expo is the great ease with which one can take one or more demo flights. For me in particular, this is a unmatched opportunity to go aloft in an aircraft so I can write about it. Regretfully, my video partner Videoman Dave was not allowed by U.S. authorities to enter the country from Canada, so we did not get to capture Video Pilot Reports where several aircraft get fitted with Dave’s collection of seven Garmin VIRB cameras. Instead, my flight experience in Flight Design’s F2 and Vashon’s Ranger lack some of the wonderful video Dave assembles into the popular video on his YouTube channel.
Rare and/or New AircraftMC-01 by Montaer — We almost didn't see it. Insurance has been getting harder to find and more costly. That's true for all aircraft but the situation is especially challenging for a new design (even if it significantly resembles an earlier design). However, Gregg Ellsworth and AIR (Aviation Insurance Resources) came to the rescue so now importer Ed Ricks of Montaer USA has a good chance to get this all-new design to Midwest 2020. When you look at the image of MC-01, some of us see the Paradise P1NG. No surprise, as the designer once worked with Paradise. While the new model bears a close resemblance to the earlier SLSA, that one has largely disappeared from the U.S. market, so Montaer is filling a void. Paradise, and now Montaer, have long offered a yoke control with a voluminous three-door cabin. It makes people think Cessna 150 but larger (and it performs substantially better). The first U.S. delivery will also have hand controls, a choice available to offer assistance to some pilots. Merlin Lite by Aeromarine LSA — If you know Merlin, you should be asking, "…Lite?" Wasn't it already light? Ah, that is Merlin PSA. This is Merlin Lite …and yes, it is lighter, if you can believe that. Proprietor Chip Erwin of Aeromarine LSA is one of those can't-sit-still people and he's taking his early success with Merlin PSA even further with a lighter-yet, lower-cost-yet model powered by the Polini Thor engine that tens of thousands of powered paragliders use. The good news is you don't have to run this one off the ground. I'll have more on this, possibly before Midwest 2020 because this model is literally hot off the factory floor. Put this in perspective. Merlin PSA, also a single seater, is an all-metal, fully enclosed, well-equipped aircraft that you can assemble for around $35,000. Options and choice of engine can increase the base but it is easily one of the great bargains in aviation. A 60-horsepower four-stroke V-Twin engine will make the "bigger" Merlin soar into the sky, but just for fun, come see Merlin Lite at Midwest 2020. SmithSilver by Tri-State Kite — Owner Mark Smith's enterprise is "the nation's leading source of quality aftermarket parts for the complete line of the Quicksilver ultralight aircraft, and has been in business more than 33 years" he expressed. Mark has become a guru of the Quicksilver type, has made numerous components for them, and will have something called SmithSilver at Midwest 2020. I'm as curious as you and look forward to checking it out. BTW, are you puzzled by Mark's business name …specifically "Kites?" When hang gliders were a lot simpler than today's sophisticated models, they were often called "kites," a term that followed even earlier boat-towed rigs that literally had to be tethered like a kite. Even the first hang gliders were more than a mere kite but the name was quick and easy, and it stuck. Mark's time in the business goes back far enough that his business name could reflect that …even if today it sounds a bit odd for an aircraft company. Read for yourself Mark Smith's history of design ideas for the Quicksilver aircraft. Sparrow by Carlson — This oldie but goodie has not been seen for some time but thanks to the people behind the MiniMax series of affordable aircraft, the Sparrow is returning to the market. Lots of readers remember this once-popular model. Following the death of Ernie Carlson a few years back, the brand fell out of sight for most buyers even though Ernie's wife, Mary, kept the business running. Now with help from David Cooper of Team MiniMax (and some partners), the single place Carlson Sparrow will be returning to the market, with plans for the two-place in their mind but still on a back burner. This project is still new but come to Midwest 2020 and ask questions. F2 by Flight Design — I have reported this impressive new top-end Special LSA before but for most Americans, this will be their first viewing. I saw it in Aero 2019 but it had not flown then. It's all wrung out and approved now and I look forward to a flight in the bigger, better model. After Midwest 2020, F2 will go home with Tom and Tom Gutmann of Airtime Aviation, the world's largest dealer/distributor for Flight Design aircraft. As winter follows in a few months, Airtime's base in Oklahoma makes sense versus Flight Design USA in Connecticut. This is the first F2 in America so they're sharing the treasure. Vashon Ranger — While it's not brand new, Ranger R7 is new enough that many LSA enthusiasts have yet to see one and Vashon Aircraft has never displayed at Midwest before. The brand has done respectably well as our industry reports, as seen on Tableau Public, demonstrate. After their first deliveries in 2017, Washington-based Vashon has grown rapidly, thanks to a familiar construction at a good price (starts just below $100,000 fully built and reasonably well equipped). Through the first half of 2020, the company had already almost matched all of 2019, so despite the virus, more Rangers are taking to the sky. You should check this one out in person, but I'll be angling for a flight in the new design so we expect to report more and capture video. SD-1 (kit) By SD Planes —Readers of this website like affordable aircraft and the SD Planes single place kit is surely a great value in light aircraft. Construction is significantly wood. If you don't already know, building from wood is achievable by most, much less challenging that kits that involve welding or composite work. Check this video for more about building the airplane and for a look at the two seat model from the same designer. SD-1 is a modest project, not only from the build effort but you can keep the base price below $20,000, an amount the importer said includes the engine. If you simply can't see yourself building a single seater — no matter how much fun it might be — U.S. rep John Vining has the SD-2 Sportmaster. Both share the same ease of construction. VL3 by JMB Aircraft — This spring, we had a contest going on between three speedy European aircraft: Sweden's striking Blackwing, Switzerland's super-sleek Risen, and JMB Aircraft's VL3. Of these, only one will be at Midwest 2020: VL3. You already know this airplane under the marketing name Gobosh. It was sold as a fixed gear, fixed pitch prop Special LSA. In Europe, where no speed limit applies to what they then and still call "microlights" or European ultralights, companies like those mentioned above seek the highest speed they can achieve. All use the Rotax engine, so it becomes about airframe smoothness, wing efficiency, and getting as lean as possible, hence retractable gear. For now in the U.S., such aircraft must be built as kits but in 2023, such models will become LSA (or maybe Light Personal Aircraft, depending on what FAA eventually decides about a possible new category). Fusion 212 by Magnus — Did you wonder if this handsome aircraft disappeared? That's understandable because we haven't seen it for a short time (and, of course, not this unusual year). I did a flight in Fusion and you can check it out in this video. What could be better? You could attend Midwest 2020 and fly it yourself. At minimum, you can talk to the representatives, ask questions, and closely examine the all-composite aircraft built in Hungary but represented by Magnus USA. This list is not inclusive of all players but you can check the Midwest 2020 program to see all expected exhibitors.
Who Won't Be Present?I understand a few cannot be present and while I certainly respect their decision not to take chances, well… darn it! I'll miss these folks. Rob Rollison the proprietor of the very successful Aerotrek line has elected not to go. He cited concerns about the virus and how that can affect a show that is already modestly attended. Such things matter to vendors swayed by high traffic at shows like Sun 'n Fun or Oshkosh, but an individual pilot actually benefits from a smaller number of attendees. Although the company appears on the site layout, apparently Rans has elected not to attend after many years of doing so. This is just that kind of year, I guess. Two other aircraft are not quite ready yet. These include two entries from Deon Lombard's Aeropilot USA distributorship. He is expecting the first M-8 Eagle, rebadged as L600 Eagle to provide continuity for the earlier Aeropilot Legend/L600 Deon formerly represented (he still owns the dealership for several more months but will then switch to the L600 Eagle; I will report more on that later). In addition, Deon is bringing in from South Africa the sleek composite RV-like Whisper kit-built aircraft. Perhaps at DeLand in January or certainly by Sun 'n Fun 2021, both aircraft should be available for your inspection. Deon will have the InnovAviation FX1 we saw at Midwest 2019 (here's our video on that model). He'll also have a very special opportunity for one buyer of the same aircraft I flew. Come and see for yourself. However, while we regret missing a couple regulars, I'm pleased those who show should (fingers crossed) have plenty to look at and I expect to make several reports from the event — the last of the year since DeLand Showcase has pushed into 2021 (January 28-29-30). Travel safely and I hope to see you in Mt. Vernon!
To help you psych' up for Midwest 2020, here's a few videos assembled by Videoman Dave. He's putting up lots before this event — go to his YouTube channel to see many more. https://youtu.be/oSpq6vZ4skQ https://youtu.be/mMV824eEbRk https://youtu.be/eq0FfmDvNtE https://youtu.be/P25dFK_RCY8
I hope you can attend 2020’s Midwest LSA Expo — the last airshow in 2020. If you cannot attend, rest assured your trusty reporter will be onsite and gathering all the info on the coolest aircraft I can find. What will be available? Well, if I am honest, we will have to see when we arrive to be certain. In these virus-impacted times, things have a lousy way of changing at the last minute, however… Those who attend should see a few aircraft that few Americans have seen before. Here’s a quick take, not forgetting the statement about how arrivals can be altered beyond the wishes of any particular vendor. Rare and/or New Aircraft MC-01 by Montaer — We almost didn’t see it. Insurance has been getting harder to find and more costly. That’s true for all aircraft but the situation is especially challenging for a new design (even if it significantly resembles an earlier design).
2019 Is a Good Year (so far)We're only three quarters through the year but extrapolating from the first three quarters and assuming a steady pace (which is not a guarantee, of course), we see that all of 2019 should result in 724 new aircraft registrations in the light aircraft sector defined (by us) as Light-Sport Aircraft and Sport Pilot kit-built aircraft. This is up more than 10% over 2018, which was up over 2017. The industry is having a good year and more pilots are flying these aircraft. One caveat in this positive result is that the fourth quarter of the year is typically slower with winter in the north and plenty of non-flying holiday activities drawing interest. Why? We don't claim to have all the answers but regular surveying of exhibitors at airshows revealed that many sellers say, "The market is good. People are buying." Of course, this is anecdotal not scientific but we heard it from enough vendors to believe they're feeling good about their enterprises. Many pilots backed up this finding with their own, personal assessment. If you want to do your own analysis, you certainly can using our completely free-of-charge Tableau Public web page** assembled for us and maintained to perfection by Steve. We vigorously encourage you to look for yourselves. Don't take our word for it. The data comes directly from FAA's aircraft registration database, then expertly massaged by Steve so the rest of us can make sense of it. To this data source, I apply my own decades of experience in the sector to make some observations.
Breaking GoodFirst, let's look at two broad categories: First is a grouping of all Light-Sport Aircraft — both Special (fully built) and Experimental (different from Experimental Amateur Built) — and, secondly, a defined flock of Sport Pilot kit-built aircraft*. This is the first time you've seen this because earlier, we segmented SLSA from ELSA from SP kits. This made it appear kits were growing faster than the LSA groups. In fact, they are nearly matched with kit-built aircraft. Viewing all light aircraft as a group, Steve noted, "The same six brands continue to lead the pack." He refers to the full fleet of light aircraft a Sport Pilot may fly — led by kit-built aircraft producers: Zenair/Zenith, Van's, Rans, Sonex, and Kitfox plus SLSA builder, Icon. Immediately under these six powerhouses of light aviation are five close contenders Searey-maker Progressive Aerodyne, AutoGyro, Just Aircraft, Powrachute, and Magni Gyro. While Progressive Aerodyne does well in both kits and fully built seaplanes and while Powrachute sells both as well, the rest are all kit makers. To look up any producer to learn more, use our Search capability (especially "Advanced Search") or go to our ever-popular SLSA List. Kit aircraft remain strong in the USA. This segment existed for many years before LSA came along although we only count since 2005*, while Light-Sport Aircraft go back no further than 2005. Honestly, one surprise about SP Kits and LSA is how close the two primary groups are.
Diving DeeperSteve made a few other worthwhile observations. Among the increasingly active gyroplane community, "The low-cost Tango is coming on strong. It used to come with a Rotax 582 but their website says it now has a Yamaha FI engine. 4-stroke, 3-cylinder, fuel-injected, 1055cc, 130 horsepower engine." AutoGyro, Magni, and U.S.-based SilverLight lead the among gyroplanes but Tango's appearance suggests the market is open to newcomers, especially when they have good pricing. Using Tableau Public, you can go deep the weeds about any one subgroup by using the blue boxes on the left column to click or unblock lists. The site is amazingly versatile if you spend a bit of time with it. If you own an aircraft included in this analysis, you can absolutely find it; see for yourself. Another newer entry Steve highlighted was the Goat trike. He wrote, "Denny Reed’s [Wild Sky] Goat is a surprise success. He positions it as a super-tough outback machine." Denny is a deeply experienced trike pilot with more than 8,000 hours of instruction given. He finally made his own trike and it is one brute-tough machine. See more in our article and short video. Goat uses wings by North Wing, as do many other trike brands, but the Washington state producer is also having a better year for its SLSA trikes. Evolution Trikes' Revo sales are off a bit but they are highly focused on their fully-built Rev Part 103 trike and their new RevX. The latter is a kit; the former will not show up on FAA's registration database as Part 103 vehicles need not be registered.
Fixed WingersSteve is a trike owner and pilot. I also enjoy these "alternative" LSA (trikes, powered parachutes, and gyroplanes). I have enjoyed flying several models of each of these types and find much to love about them …significantly, they can be less expensive than almost any fixed wing aircraft. Are you unsure about "alternative" aircraft? You know the line: "If you haven't tried it, don't knock it." However, fixed wing continue to be, by far, the biggest group of LSA (partly as very few kit-built aircraft are "alternative" types). Among Special (fully built) LSA, Flight Design continues atop the ranking. They enjoyed a phenomenal start back in 2005-2006 and have never lost their leadership position. American Legend, Czech Sport Aircraft, CubCrafters, Tecnam, and Aerotrek (FAA still uses their Aeropro European brand name) remain very strong players in the top ten. However, some newbies are moving up the rankings. Through their start into serial production was long coming, the slickly-marketed A5 LSA seaplane has moved into the #2 position for 2019 (after Van's, which relies heavily on ELSA). Another up-and-comer is Vashon and their well-priced Ranger. BRM Aero and their Bristell are also making good strides upward. TL Aircraft, rep for the Sting and other TL models, is reviving that much-admired stable of aircraft. Meanwhile, Cessna continues to drop following the company's decision to exit the LSA space and crush all remaining aircraft, engines and all. Remos is another that is fading from its earlier strength.
A Quarter to GoAs we head into the final quarter of 2019 — and the final LSA show of the year, the DeLand Showcase — we will report the full year shortly into January 2020. The good news is that aircraft are selling, pilots are flying more than ever, and safety remains quite good. That's reason for celebration. Blue skies!
* "SP Kits" means Sport Pilot kit-built aircraft. Going deeper, "SP Kits" refer to amateur-built aircraft that can be flown by a pilot possessing a Sport Pilot certificate or exercising the privileges of Sport Pilot (meaning, for one, no aviation medical is required) while holding a Private Pilot certificate or higher. Since Sport Pilot, as a form of pilot license, only arrived in late 2004, we count all applicable kit-built aircraft that can be flown by a Sport Pilot. Although some of the same aircraft existed before January 1, 2005, we omit them as it cannot be said those older aircraft could be flown by someone with a Sport Pilot certificate. This also evenly and fairly compares SP Kits with SLSA and ELSA. ** When using Tableau Public — and please do so! — be advised this may work best on your desktop or laptop. The effort called "responsive" to make pages work on smartphones and tablets does not portray the information as conveniently.
This website seeks to offer a reliable source of market information for Light-Sport Aircraft and Sport Pilot kit aircraft as a service to the light aircraft sector. If you follow light aviation intently as many readers do, knowing what aircraft and subgroups (within LSA and SP kits*) are thriving or stumbling can be of great interest. Thanks to our fantastic “datastician,” Steve Beste, we know more now than we’ve ever known about aviation’s recreational aircraft segment. You simply cannot find this information anywhere else. With Steve’s superb help, following are a few stories within the numbers. If you don’t care about market shares and just want to hear about aircraft, we won’t keep you waiting long. However, for many, these figures are quite valuable and this is the only place you will find them. Let’s dive in… 2019 Is a Good Year (so far) We’re only three quarters through the year but extrapolating from the first three quarters and assuming a steady pace (which is not a guarantee, of course), we see that all of 2019 should result in 724 new aircraft registrations in the light aircraft sector defined (by us) as Light-Sport Aircraft and Sport Pilot kit-built aircraft.
Vashon Ranger FAQsThe success of Ranger R7 begged the answer to some questions submitted to the company by Kent Misegades of Seven Lakes, North Carolina. Kent posed the questions to Ken Krueger, chief engineer of the Ranger R7, to get the following answers. Krueger formed his own company called Sky Designs after leaving Van's Aircraft. Kent's questions are shown in colored text.
- Number sold and delivered since AV18. We've delivered 14 airplanes since AV 18 and we have a sizeable backlog of customers who've put down deposits.
- Estimated production numbers in 2019, if this is something you wish to divulge. We've produced 12 aircraft so far in 2019 and are working to get the production rate to 4 aircraft per month.
- Where are the delivered airplanes based, in a general sense. How are they being used? Most aircraft are personally owned and used for sport flying although our very first customer airplane went to a flight school at our home airport near Seattle. Our customers are spread across the USA, we've delivered airplanes to Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Ohio. We also have one airplane in Canada.
- Interest among flight schools to replace C150/C152? As already mentioned, our first delivery was to a flight school, but, yes, lots of interest from other flight schools and flying clubs.
- Is the R7 only for those interested in Sport Pilot/LSA? Emphatically, no. One of our design goals was to have an airplane that appeals to many different segments of the market. Ranger's cabin is large and comfortable, everyone who's flown in the airplane has praised it's flying qualities, and I think we've done a nice job of integration with Dynon avionics. Plus our price point is quite competitive.
- What have you learned since AV18? With the increasing number of customer airplanes flying, we're gaining a better understanding of what customers want and the environment they are operating their airplanes in. Also we're learning that it takes effort to efficiently build the airplanes while maintaining consistent quality.
- What new topics are you focused on at AV19? Product awareness, we are here to let folks know about the Ranger and Vashon Aircraft. As the aircraft itself is maturing, that allows time for us to develop necessary accessories like tow-bars, windscreen/cabin covers, and the like.
- What has changed in the specifications / pricing / offers since AV18, ie obvious from your web site and literature? Nothing, pricing and options remain the same as last year.
- Anecdotes from customers/operators and how you have addressed requests/problems (the true indicator of excellence). We've had a couple of ground handling mishaps with customer airplanes which resulted in bent metal. It was gratifying to go through the process of assessing the damage, deciding which parts would need replacement, and seeing the repair process move so quickly. With our pre-painted metal and since all the parts are manufactured on CNC machines, the speed and accuracy with which repairs can be made is pretty amazing.
- Where can a person get a demo flight? Here at AirVenture 2019, simply swing by our display and ask as we will be offering demo flights in our company aircraft. Otherwise, just call Vashon and talk to Kurt Robertson or Kelsey Hickman.
More FAQs See Vashon at Oshkosh 2019
- How are purchased aircraft delivered to the customer? Do they receive any introductory flight or light maintenance training? Customers can either travel to Paine Field, near Seattle, to pick-up their new airplane or we can deliver it. In any case, included with each airplane is up to ten hours of transition training with one of our CFI's.
- What sort of manuals come with the aircraft? The Pilot's Operating Handbook, Flight Training Supplement, Maintenance Manual, plus manuals for the engine, prop, and other equipment on the airplane.
- What has the reliability record been so far? Good overall. No major airframe or powerplant issues.
- Where is your exhibit located and who will a person meet there? Vashon is in the Main Aircraft Display area, booths 17 & 18. Vashon (and Dynon) CEO John Torode, General Manager Scott Taylor (each pictured nearby), Marketing Specialist Kelsey Hickman, Marketing Manager Kurt Robertson, and Chief Engineer Ken Krueger can all be found there.
- At what other public events can one see an R7 this year? We will be at the Arlington, Washington fly-in in August. With more airplanes being delivered each month, folks will start seeing Rangers dropping-into airports for fly-in events and/or fuel stops.
- What are the sales/support/service channels for the R7? Right now, all this is handled through our main office in Woodinville, Washington.
- Any plans for a kit version? Tailwheel version? Float version? Other powerplant? No current plans to offer a kit version, or tailwheel version of the Ranger. As for powerplants, we will be staying with the Continental O-200-D for the time being. We are, however, pretty excited that our prototype airplane, N219VA, has been mated to a set of Edo 1320 floats and is now flying off Lake Washington. The airplane was designed from the beginning to a floatplane and, as such, it looks great both on the water and in the air.
- What is the 'sweet spot' / advantages of the R7 compared to the competition? Affordability both in terms of purchase price as well as operational costs, integration of modern avionics, and the well proven direct-drive, air-cooled engine.
- Are any customer-owned R7s coming to AV19? Yes, we're expecting a couple of customers to fly in with their airplanes. N133VR, one of the customer airplanes seen last year is here again on display.
- What positive surprised have you experienced since AV18, beyond sales. For instance positive comments from customers who had not expected.One customer has commented to us that he has to budget at least a half-hour to fill-up his airplane. This is because wherever he stops, folks come out to look at his Ranger and ask questions.
- How well is the vinyl wrap holding up? Can a customer get any design he wants? (We don't have mountains down here in the South.) The wraps are holding up well to environmental conditions such as sun, heat, cold, moisture, and bug splats. Vinyl has been in use on cars for many years now, so it is very much a known quantity in terms of durability. It isn't a whole lot different than paint, however, in that you still need to be careful when installing/removing the cowling to avoid causing damage. As for custom designs, yes, customers can get anything they want. There have been a few custom-wrap airplanes delivered and it was fun to see people getting creative with their design.
- Anything else readers should know? We will be giving a forum at AirVenture 2019 — Friday July 26th from 11:30 am to 12:45 pm at Forum Stage 5. There will be time at the end of the presentation for questions and answers. I hope to see everyone there!
Sometimes a new Light-Sport Aircraft producer bursts on the scene in dramatic ways. Think of Terrafugia and their folding wing flying car or Icon and its sexy A5 LSA seaplane. Others enter from different positions of strength. One of the newest of these is Vashon Aircraft with their Ranger R7 (here’s our earlier reporting on Ranger). While organized as completely separate companies, Vashon shares common ownership through the name John Torode, the founder of Dynon Avionics. The two businesses work hard to stay separate but it’s clear one success might help the other just as John’s earlier success in the tech industry lead to Dynon being formed. When you check the Tableau Public tally of market share information — you can select to show only Light-Sport Aircraft, Sport Pilot kit aircraft, or modern gyroplanes, or any combination, but the link defaults to all aircraft.
Great Showing and ShowAmy reported, "We were overwhelmed with positive feedback" at Oshkosh. "We are up to 57 deposit holders," she beamed. That's quite admirable for a fresh-out-of-the-gate design entering a marketplace with more than 140 Special Light-Sport Aircraft appearing on our popular list. Following the event, the west coast producer kept up their pace, putting N133VR in the hands of a private owner. "Our first Ranger was delivered the Monday after Oshkosh and flown to its new home in Kansas," reported Amy, one of four pilots moving a small fleet of Rangers to the show and back home to their base in Woodinville, Washington state. "Our team has been extremely busy since we've been back from Oshkosh," added Amy. "Traveling to the show in four of our Ranger R7s was an awesome experience and we had an easy arrival into Wittman Airport Saturday morning." Arriving two days before the show began proved wise when heavy arrival traffic delayed many inbound aircraft as the show was starting. "We flew from Everett, Washington (KPAE) to [Wittman Field], stopping at several airports along the way," Amy continued. She said "the public release of our aircraft at Oshkosh had been in the plans for years. To have the chance to show off our airplanes was indescribable." Now that the staff is back home, Amy finished, "We have our work cut out for us … [as we] continue building and delivering these amazing airplanes!" Even more recently, another Vashon LSA was delivered. "We delivered our second Ranger to a local flight school right at our home airport at Paine Field," boasted Amy! Northway Aviation is the new operator. One criticism that has been observed is an empty weight that limits payload compared to other LSA. Fortunately for Vashon and other manufacturers, FAA is now actively working on regulation change that could lead to a higher gross weight for Light-Sport Aircraft …but that's a topic for another article. Amy and John review Ranger details in the video below, shot at Oshkosh 2018. https://youtu.be/hOy58rP7kYo
UPDATE: Video on Ranger at bottom… Often at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh we see improved models among vast displays of showplanes. What we see less of are brand new offerings. Yet given the sheer number of aircraft, something brand new can surprise. You probably already know about Vashon Aircraft’s Ranger (we reported it here) but attendees saw it for the first time at the big summer airshow. We shot video with Vashon marketing maven Amy Bellesheim and owner John Torode at the event and you’ll learn more about Ranger from this duo when editing is completed. We recorded our usual large batch of fresh video; please be patient during the editing phase and check Ultralight News YouTube channel to see the latest. Great Showing and Show Amy reported, “We were overwhelmed with positive feedback” at Oshkosh. “We are up to 57 deposit holders,” she beamed.
Starting CleanAccording to Bellesheim, "Ranger R7 is a clean-sheet design. Ken Krueger, our chief design engineer, comes to us from many years at Van's where he worked on the RV-12. He consulted with our owner John Torode on coming up with an airplane that had big flight control surfaces, a giant cantilever wing, and bigger than normal vertical stabilizer." She clarified, "Ranger is not based on any of Van's aircraft." The team picked the name Vashon Aircraft because "we wanted to give it a Pacific Northwest rugged, utilitarian 'jeep' feel," said Bellesheim. "You can go out in nature, get dirty, and get back in the airplane without worrying about messing the airplane up. We live among national parks so the name Ranger comes from [these] parks. We chose R7 because it sounds modern and cool." The design goal appears to be a rugged outdoor-action airplane but with sophiciated avionics, a natural if unlikely pairing resulting from the close relationship to Dynon Avionics. Aiding the rough-and-ready approach are easy-loading doors that open 180 degrees; seats that fold down 90 degrees to facilitate camping and large cabin volume capable of holding such gear. "Another thing that we wanted to accomplish with the airplane was to make very rugged landing gear," said Bellesheim. The main landing gear is a fiberglass leaf. It's very similar to what Jim Bede did on the Grumman American airplanes. A key goal was holding down the price. Owner and CEO John Torode expressed, "I firmly believe cost is the biggest inhibitor of aviation today and our goal was to build an airplane under $100,000 that was very capable [with features] today's customers really want: autopilot, glass cockpit, radio navigation capabilities." Torode further clarified, “I started Dynon to bring affordable, advanced technology to the aviation community, yet there still remains a need to innovate beyond the panel to bring affordable flight to more people. With Vashon Aircraft, I hope to empower the next generation of pilots with the tools they need to take to the skies.” Vashon manufactures about 90% of its own parts, the company suggested. "We invested heavily in the manufacturing side so that we could build parts as efficiently and effectively as possible," said Bellesheim. "This allows us to control the cost." Vashon claims to be one of the first companies to form pre-painted metal. "We purchase sheets of stock aluminum that have been painted and then form them into parts using a modern turret punch, laser, and hydropress technology. Because of that we have taken a whole step out of the airplane building process by eliminating the need to paint after assembly," reported Bellesheim. "We also spent a lot of time developing painted rivets so that they match the airplane." For power, Vashon chose Continental's O200-D 100-horsepower engine swinging a Catto composite fixed pitch propeller. Ranger R7 was designed, engineered, and tested, and will be manufactured at the Vashon Aircraft factory headquarters near Seattle, Washington. The new model will be assembled at Paine Field "…just down the taxiway from the Boeing wide body plant." As Ranger has been kept a secret, only select people have flown it. "The handling qualities are very smooth and forgiving," said Scott Taylor, Vashon's General Manager. "[It's] easy to fly [and has] very little friction in the control system. Stalls are benign and predictable." With a castering nosewheel, steering is by differential braking. Dual toe brakes are supplied and pilot height is accommodated with adjustable rudder pedals. Ranger’s cabin is 46.7 inches wide.
Ranger R7 SpecificationsVashon released dimensions on the airplane: Wingspan — 29 feet 6 inches; Wing Area — 135.6 square feet; Empty Weight — 875 pounds; Gross Weight — 1,320 pounds; Useful Load — 445 pounds; Fuel capacity — 28.1 gallons Performance Data: Takeoff distance — 315 feet; Landing Distance — 475 feet; Rate of Climb — 1,035 feet per minute; Top speed at gross weight — 119 knots; Cruise Speed at gross weight, 2750 RPM, 7,500 feet density altitude — 117 knots; Range at gross weight — 430 nautical miles. Significant Speeds: Stall with Full Flaps at gross weight — 41 knots; Normal Operating Range (green arc) — 45-103 knots; Maneuvering — 90 knots; Never exceed — 131 knots; Best angle of Climb — 60 knots; Best Rate of Climb — 75 knots
Pricing and TermsPricing for the "Yellowstone" base model is $99,500. Ranger comes with complete Dynon SkyView HDX-equipped panel including two-axis autopilot, 2020-compliant ADS-B Out, and ADS-B Traffic and Weather. For a full list of what is included, visit Vashon's website. The prototype Ranger has "canvas slate gray upholstery, light gray floor and sidewalls, a gray instrument panel, and gray center console. At higher price points, you can add other colors and accents. As they move into producing additional aircraft, "the colors for interior will be either gray or black or a combination of both." In progressive upgrades, you can get more goodies in their "Glacier" package for $107,500; or their "Redwood" upgrade for $114,500, or the "Appalachian" for $129,500, a variant described as their "flight school model." "We won’t take deposits," said Vashon. "We won’t take your money until we have an airplane for you." Learn more about Vashon Aircraft and the Ranger R7 and see some video clips of the new bird in flight. The official launch and public unveiling will be at AirVenture Oshkosh 2018.
From Washington State arrives a fresh, new airplane created from scratch to enter the Special LSA space. You don’t know the company but you may know the people, at least indirectly. Welcome to Vashon and their new Ranger R7! Ranger R7 is an all-metal, two-place, high-wing, single engine airplane equipped with tricycle landing gear and castering nose wheel. The company says Ranger has been in development for five years and has been flying for more than two. Vashon Aircraft was founded by John Torode, and the Ranger R7 was designed by Pacific Northwest aeronautical engineer, Ken Krueger. Does the name Torode sound familiar? It should. This is the man behind Dynon Avionics. Other key players are General Manager Scott Taylor and Marketing Manager Amy Bellesheim. Starting Clean According to Bellesheim, “Ranger R7 is a clean-sheet design. Ken Krueger, our chief design engineer, comes to us from many years at Van’s where he worked on the RV-12.