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.
Phone: (812) 384-4972Bloomfield, IN 47424 - USA
Oshkosh — Go or No/Go?It has become one of the most-asked question in aviation. Will the big summer celebration of flight happen or go the way of every other airshow this year? Several sources close to EAA leadership have said a decision will come in early May, however, it doesn't take a genius to figure that. EAA is grappling with matters such as when hundreds of tents or thousands of portable bathrooms must be ordered, or finalizing the call to a not-small army of volunteers to begin the trek to Wisconsin. Such major plans must be started well in advance of the event slated for July 20-26th. If you back-calendar from when EAA needs those tents and so much more to be ready I think you get to a date that is fast approaching. Cancelling a show is frightening stuff for show producers (EAA, Sun ‘n Fun, Aero, etc.), especially when the event represents a substantial share of their annual budget (a lot for Sun ‘n Fun and Aero; somewhat less so for EAA). Other than their accountants and top leadership, few know the hard facts but it is clear these events bring in plenty of the dough needed to run the enterprises that organize the shows. I have heard all sorts of comments, such as "AirVenture accounts for upwards of 60% of the EAA's annual income." Honestly, I doubt that for EAA but for Sun 'n Fun and Aero, the percentage could even be higher. Oh, my! I hope for the best for all these vital events but I’m concerned.
So Long Airbus E-FanI reported some months ago about Kitty Hawk's Flyer going down despite funding from billionaire Larry Page. This month, we see another high-profile departure from electrically-powered aircraft by an even bigger company, Airbus, which partnered with Rolls Royce and Siemens… three of the largest corporations in Europe. After a very public launch of the E-Fan X project in 2017, this month "Airbus and Rolls Royce have jointly decided to bring the E-Fan X demonstrator to an end," said Vittadini. "As with all ground-breaking R&T projects, it’s our duty to constantly evaluate and reprioritize them to ensure alignment with our ambitions. These decisions are not always easy." Her counterpart at Rolls Royce is CTO, Paul Stein, who wrote, "[The E-Fan project] involved creating a hybrid-electric power generation system … comprised of a gas turbine driving a 2.5MW generator and 3000V power electronics and an electric propulsion unit." Stein continued, "As with all such leading-edge programs, we constantly evaluate the best way forward and it has become clear to both parties that the actual requirement to carry out a test flight with all the elements integrated is not critical at this time. As an aircraft, E-Fan X was always designed to be a demonstrator only and never for actual use as a product in service." However, that's not what they said earlier. In 2015 Flying magazine wrote, "VoltAir SAS in France [is] to build a family of plug-in and hybrid-electric light airplanes." Then-editor Stephen Pope gave details, "VoltAir's immediate aim is to build a factory in the south of France and begin producing the E-Fan line of small airplanes, beginning with a two-seat trainer called the E-Fan 2.0, powered entirely by batteries and electric motors and slated to reach the market in 2018. A follow-on, hybrid-electric four-seater called the E-Fan 4.0 targeted primarily at buyers in the United States will emerge soon after and is projected to go on sale in 2019." Airbus Group enlisted Daher, of TBM 900 turboprop fame, to produce the E-Fan 2.0 and 4.0 models at a new factory in Pau, France. It once looked so alive, but obviously, these goals were never reached and now E-Fan will retire to a museum somewhere, I suppose.
New GRT Replacement InstrumentFor many years, one instrument could be found on all types of light, inexpensive aircraft. For example, nearly every powered parachute has the monochrome GRT engine monitor system. It has been a worthy element on many light aircraft, its modest $400 cost helping pilots stay aware of their engine's performance. Many other aircraft types also used the instrument. Thousands have been sold yet the original is showing its age in an era of iPhones used as avionics devices. Now, a new midwestern company has something new and fresh… This report is sufficiently early in the new product's development that I can't offer much detail, but you can see from the nearby image that is similar to the older model but features color and enhanced readability. At present the colorful EMS appears to be a panel hole-for-hole swap allowing owners of the older model to easily upgrade to the newer system. Proprietor Kyle Sulek promised to keep me informed as he pushes toward market launch. He is presently targeting release at Oshkosh, but that depends on the event progressing. Fingers crossed…
Sling Pilot Academy Steams OnwardWhile flight schools have been battered by lockdown orders, they have not been standing still. One clear success story is The Airplane Factory USA's venture into flight instruction. This west coast bunch did not tiptoe in gently; they cannonballed into the action; it appears to be working and well! Even during the lockdown, Sling Pilot Academy (SPA) is forging ahead. Leader Matt Liknaitzky said, "Our pilot academy is still operating on a skeleton crew. Our flight load is down about half. About half of our students and CFIs are still flying. We are doing all our ground school via Zoom. In the fairly short time SPA has been operating they have attracted 40 full-time students. Matt added that SPA has 15 Certified Flight Instructors and he amazed me adding, "We’re doing upwards of 1,000 hours of flight instruction every month!" "We operate 9 Slings, which we use for Private, Instrument, Commercial, CFI, CFII ratings." To address additional ratings, SPA also uses a pair of Tecnam P2006T twins for Commercial Multi and MEI ratings. This activity of airplane sales representatives or manufacturers also running flight school operations seems a new trend. Given the great need for pilot training, I expect we'll see more of this. Cessna found out decades ago that if you started flying in a Cessna 150, you tended to buy Cessna later. Will Sling (and the other brands pursuing flight training) make the same discovery? Only time can tell.
First Quarter 2020 Market SharesThrough the first two months of the year, few of us uttered the word "coronavirus." That ended abruptly when the stock market crashed on March 12th, 2020. While the following information covers only one quarter of the year and while it does not reflect much of the pandemic effects, we nonetheless found a few tidbits of interest. For the data hounds among you, we invite you to visit our market share and airplane registration database website called Tableau Public. In the first quarter of 2020, deliveries of Light-Sport Aircraft — either SLSA or ELSA — and Sport Pilot-eligible kits were up nicely over 2019 and 2018. If we extrapolate to the whole year, the industry may deliver 776 aircraft in 2020, up from 665 in 2019, a 17% gain, which was up from 635 or 5% from 2017. Though the industry appears to be in a reasonable growth mode, the virus lockdown is likely to affect the second quarter. A noteworthy point is that among all aircraft in this sector, the top five brands registering aircraft remain kit builders with one of those companies stronger in fully-built versus EAB kits. The top five are Zenith, Kitfox, Van's, Sonex, and Rans, in rank order. Van's is more vigorous in ready-to-fly models, at 14 of their 15 aircraft registered in 2020 being LSA, although 13 of the 14 were ELSA and only one was a SLSA model. None of the others recorded any LSA; they were all kits …but remember, these are registrations, not sales, deliveries, or completions. Among Special (fully-built) LSA registrations, Pipistrel lead the first quarter numbers with 9 aircraft, followed by Tecnam with 7 and The Airplane Factory's Sling with 5 units. We saw a five-way tie for the next rank at 4 units for each Aeropro/Aerotrek, Aeroprakt, Icon, Scoda (Super Petrel), and Vashon. Overall, the LSA segment (both SLSA and ELSA and exclusive of kit-built aircraft) was up 16% over 2019 when the numbers are annualized. By this measurement, it was a good start to the year and we will see how the industry faired in the more turbulent second quarter when we report again on July 1st, 2020. It's a Wrap …except for a parting comment from our wonderful "datastician" Steve Beste, "I think the term 'social distancing' is a misnomer. Physical distancing is what we're actually doing. Socially, I've been in closer touch with my family and friends… as we all check in on each other." Here at ByDanJohnson.com we wish you all the best getting through this weird period. Here's a fun ultralight airshow video to lighten your day.
In the rush of coverage of Vintage Ultralights and other late-breaking stories such as the Blackwing speed record, I had to set aside a few news items. Here’s a catch-up… I am pleased to serve a need for news during a month when we should have been covering Sun ‘n Fun and Aero Friedrichshafen. As everyone knows, those events are now rescheduled for 2021, both as a result of the global lockdown that has affected hundreds of other events. You hardly need any more coverage of the coronavirus craziness so let’s get to aviation news and take a small break from these worldwide events. But first… Oshkosh — Go or No/Go? It has become one of the most-asked question in aviation. Will the big summer celebration of flight happen or go the way of every other airshow this year?
Rotax Meets a Need with 915iSTrue to form as you might expect, Rotax followed through on a question I asked 15 months back. As reported in this review of the 915iS and 912iS the company’s top man strongly hinted at a fixed pitch version of this engine. Thomas Uhr has since moved up higher in the organization but at a journalist event last year, he answered a questions about fixed pitch on the 915 engine. He did not then answer directly but said, "Every engine Rotax has produced has been able to use a fixed pitch prop. Take from that statement what you will." Sure enough, the new powerful engine from the Austrian company will be available for used with fixed or ground adjustable prop by fall of this year. Good on Rotax and the well-spoken Mr. Uhr. Some countries allow constant speed or in-flight adjustable props but not the USA. FAA specified no in-flight adjustment in the current regulation. We believe this will change with the new reg (recent report) but that could be some years in the future. Until then, only fixed pitch can be used on American Light-Sport Aircraft. Rotax is enjoying good success with the 915iS fuel injected, turbocharged, intercooler power plant. More than 400 engines are now flying on aircraft and the number of airframe producers using the new engine continues to grow. More about Rotax success. The 915iS is also an important engine for the larger, up to four seat, aircraft to come in the LSA world as well as on kit-built aircraft and some models preparing for approval under the new version of Part 23 certification (that will use industry consensus standards modeled significantly after the LSA set of standards).
High from Low (wings, that is)Two leading companies exclusively using low wings will be introducing high wing models in the near future. One is a trade secret for now, but another was announced at Oshkosh. What's interesting here is that both companies have exclusively made low wing models in various configuration. Neither has made a high wing. One of these is also planning the new, powerful Rotax 915iS engine (though both producers are using that power plant in one of the low wing models. For more on the entry from South Africa's The Airplane Factory Sling TSi High Wing, see the video below. What's interesting is that this entry offer more seats and more capabilities. For the immediate future, Sling TSi High Wing will have to be kit built but as you read here, FAA will allow four seaters as basic Light-Sport Aircraft. Once again, TAF founder Mike Blythe is ahead of the game. He was the first producer I personally observed getting excited about what he could do with the 141-horsepower Rotax 915iS. Barely a couple years after I saw his mind working, he not only built the low wing Sling TSi but the new model promptly flew around the world, literally. I expect to see a plan for the high wing TSi to also make the globe-girdling flight.
LAMA’s Dual AwardFor only the second time, the association awarded two persons their highest honor, the Presidents Award for Outstanding Individual. A few years ago, a rare tie produced a dual award. This year, voting for the 28th year of the LAMA award, resulted in another dual award. Hundreds of members of the business community for light aircraft offered nominations. The person with the most such wins; it's a very simple system to recognize hardworking, creative people who helped move light aviation forward. One of this years winners was Kerry Ritcher. With his father, Wayne, Kerry founded three aviation companies. He started manufacturing aircraft in 1977 and his enterprises have produced a total of more than 3,000 aircraft, continuing to the present. His best known design is the SeaRey from Progressive Aerodyne based in Tavares, Florida. A Private Pilot with over 12,000 hours, Kerry has designed a dozen varied aircraft including Hi-Nuski; Cobra; King Cobra; Sea Wolf; Carrera; Carrera 180; Buccaneer SX; Catalina; Colibri; SeaRey; Stingray; and, SeaRey LSX/LS. The latter are in active production by the company he founded. The second awardee is also a LAMA board of directors member. Scott Severen started flying hang gliders in 1973 and has since been active in several aviation enterprises. He also assisted many organizations supporting light aviation including the U.S. Ultralight Association; the Airpark Owners and Operators Association; the EAA Ultralight & Light-Sport Aircraft Council, and the LAMA board. In 2004, Scott joined IndUS Aviation, and was instrumental in the effort to be the first American designed aircraft to earn SLSA certification. Severen presently owns and operates US Sport Planes, involved in LSA sales, brokerage, factory authorized maintenance and major structural repairs in Denton, Texas. In 2018, he took over as the North American representative for the Jabiru line of Light-Sport Aircraft. Scott is a private pilot and has accumulated over 2,000 hours in numerous types of aircraft.
Part 103 Success StoryMore than one fixed wing producer of conforming Part 103 aircraft expressed strong, continuing interest in these lightest flyers. Kolb and U-fly-It are both so busy building their 103 models that they are not focused on two seaters. Aerolite does not have a two-seat model and no plans for one. Kolb has the Mark III but the action is in their Part 103 models, said Kolb boss, Bryan Melborn. The good news continues… The arrival of Badland's Part 103 entry F-series in five variations adds to such popular choices as Kolb's Firefly, U-Fly-It's Aerolite 103, Just's True 103 (still in development), models from Team Aircraft and Fisher Flying Products. This listing of Part 103 prospects is not meant to be exhaustive and leaves out players like Evolution's Rev trike or Infinity's Challenger 103 powered parachute plus others. The point being, Part 103 appears not only to be surviving but thriving! Oshkosh even had an entrepreneur that has organized to provide support to Canada's Lazair. Watch for a video on this interesting development and see the nearby image if you are not familiar with this once-popular ultralight aircraft. Especially while most LSA run well into six figures, Part 103 pilots enjoy the greatest freedom in aviation. The simple rule has been unchanged since 1982 and allows flight in an ultralight vechile without a pilot certificate, N-numbers, or aviation medical. A producer can sell you a ready to fly model without getting FAA approval. As with LSA, ultralights overcame early issues to become solid members of the aviation fleet. Other countries have similar regulations.
Coolest Rig Seen At OshkoshIf you’re a good, red-blooded American pilot, I don’t see how you could not love this setup. Your luxurious motor home towing your Corvette and your Aerotrek A240 in a custom-built trailer that you can handle by yourself. I hope I didn’t drool on it as I looked it over. Built for recreation, this highly-customized trailer is towed behind the owner’s motorhome. It can hold his Aerotrek A240, requiring the tricycle gear model so as to fit the owners Corvette underneath. A clever system of ramps and winches allows him to load the aircraft and the car with no assistance. Both sides also open up to make it easier to stow the airplane ramps once the aircraft is secured and to allow proper tie-down of the Corvette. As a former Corvette owner, a former motorhome owner, and a lover of the Aerotrek aircraft, this setup looked to be about as close to aviation heaven as mere mortals can get. So, this apparatus gets my award for the Coolest Rig seen at the show.
Watch here as The Airplane Factory founder, Mike Blythe introduces the Sling TSi High Wing…https://youtu.be/I9I7_ZBUDC4
* The number 642,000 introduces different counting methods. I understand this number to mean the number of people passing through the gates, however, one person entering for several days is counted each day. Taken to task a few years ago, Sun 'n Fun now reportedly counts discreet individuals so the Florida show seems to have smaller numbers. Oshkosh is clearly a good deal larger but not as much as their reported numbers make it appear. Either counting method can be defended but this is comparing apples to oranges. And whatever the numbers, our glimpses of Oshkosh while zipping around doing videos and gathering story material strongly suggested great attendance in 2019.
The weeklong celebration of flight known around the planet as “Oshkosh” is now history. Although EAA was challenged by inclement weather before the show and as it opened, the weather gods smiled on the event and provided a wonderful week with all the action you can imagine. EAA announced attendance numbers identifying solid growth over last year, to 642,000 attendees*. That’s a ways from the 800,000 back a couple decades but is solid growth from recent years. Especially as EAA had to work hard to overcome weather issues before the event, the organization is to be commended for handling a huge number of details with professionalism. The week of Oshkosh brought outstanding weather and only brief periods of rain. Those of us from hot states enjoyed the mild temperatures and beautiful cloud-dappled blue skies (photos). So, after getting back in the saddle after an intense week, here are a few stories of interest.
Aerotrek on Clamar Floats"I do not sell Aerotrek 220s or 240s on floats," said Rob Rollison of Aerotrek when interviewed at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018. He refers to the taildragger or tricycle gear versions of the design. "I deliver on wheels but for $300, an owner can add the float option, which provides mounting brackets attached to specially-reinforced fuselage points.” Adding floats is then a matter of taking the newly certificated Aerotrek to a qualified installer who can work out the hardware and bracketry to mount straight (no wheels) or amphibious floats. Most sellers know of a few businesses who specialize in such work. A proper installer does more than supply the hardware and perform the installation. They also do critical measurements and calculations to establish the correct angle of incidence. On floats you cannot rotate for takeoff as you do on a landplane so whomever does this install needs to evaluate each aircraft based on its weight and balance in order to assure the right mounting position. This specialized skill is one obvious reason why Rollison does not sell on floats and why you must shift to ELSA status after taking delivery of your Aerotrek. To learn more about Aerotrek aircraft through many articles and videos, please visit their dedicated page here. * "Certificated" implies the earning of an Airworthiness Certificate. It does not mean "certified." Light-Sport Aircraft are technically not certified by FAA; they are "accepted" after the manufacturer has demonstrated full compliance to ASTM standards.
You have more privileges than you may know with your Light-Sport Aircraft. One of the more misunderstood aspects of FAA’s sweeping 2004 Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft regulation is ELSA or Experimental Light-Sport Aircraft. Some people call these “kit” LSA. While they can be sold that way, no percentage applies so a manufacturer could call an ELSA a kit by merely having the buyer apply a single decal. To gain its Special Airworthiness certificate, an ELSA must first be a bolt-for-bolt copy of the manufacturer’s Special or fully-built version of LSA. However, once certificated, the owner can begin to make changes on his or her own. They can also become qualified to do all manner of maintenance themselves, assuming they so desire. An Airframe and Powerplant mechanic (A&P) or Light-Sport Repairman – Mechanic (LSR-M) can also work on ELSA as they can SLSA. Once certificated and in his possession the owner can change to ELSA status allowing him or her to do almost anything …change avionics or even swap engines.
BasicMed and Focused ShowsBy another view, the push by AOPA and EAA for BasicMed appears to have hardly affected Light-Sport Aircraft interest. In fact, BasicMed may be helping. While new opportunities now exist for older pilots to keep flying their older GA airplanes, BasicMed (see earlier article with comments) has enough hoops to jump through that some are obviously electing to continue using their driver's license paired with their existing pilot certificate to fly Light-Sport Aircraft. Putting a finer point on it, I believe the reaction of many pilots demonstrates that a brand-new, affordable, high-tech, roomy, and well-performing LSA holds genuine appeal. Sebring is the granddaddy of these LSA, light kit, and ultralight shows. It has spawned similar events like the Midwest LSA Expo and the DeLand Showcase plus it has inspired shows like Copperstate and Arlington to keep a focus on more affordable, recreational aircraft. These new events are no challenge to the majors such as Sun 'n Fun (starting in barely over two months) and AirVenture Oshkosh but they have clearly won a place in the airshow circuit. Some find it curious that three of the best shows for these events are in Florida but the state is obviously a national center for recreational flying. Weather at Sebring was good this year although fairly windy on a couple of the days. However, plenty of flying still occurred and the gyroplanes in particular appeared to have no problem with the conditions. Even the Ford Trimotor * — one of two flying examples remaining — flew steadily, cancelling operations only on one afternoon. The number of exhibitors at Sebring, the volume of attendees and the seriousness of these pilots about buying, plus the range of aircraft options — in both types and cost — is but one part of the success story that is Light-Sport and experimental amateur built aircraft. For more about the continuing success of the Sport Pilot/LSA concept FAA introduced almost 14 years ago, read this article. As the last sentence suggests, the Sebring Expo owes some of its success to jumping in as LSA debuted on the aviation stage. Mike Willingham reported that while Expo has not profited from the show itself the event has nonetheless been a success for the airport by putting it squarely on the aviation map and by helping to attract several new tenants including the large facility operated by leading LSA purveyor Tecnam. (Watch for our interview with Tecnam COO, Giovanni Pascale Langer in the weeks ahead.) * For more about this fascinating corrugated metal aircraft from the 1920s, go here.
The fourteenth running of the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo is history and if this is how the rest of the year goes, I predict a stronger year for LSA sales. Vendors were smiling by the end of the show and a good many customers are now anticipating a shiny new aircraft in their hangar. Based on my unscientific survey of vendors, I would estimate at least 15 aircraft sales and possibly more as I did not query every vendor. Of course, airshow promises don’t always materialize but regardless of the precise number, it was amply clear that Sebring — and similar focused-venue shows that confine themselves to LSA, light kits, and ultralight — still offer their magic in putting customers and sellers together. Several vendors told airport executive Mike Willingham about having “pages” of solid leads. Even non-LSA exhibitors such as Cirrus reported to him that they found good prospects at the show.
Mark Your Calendar… Videos: November 1st — Show: 2nd-3rd-4thAccording to a local newspaper, "More than 6,000 people are expected on the DeLand Municipal Airport Thursday, November 2 through Saturday, the 4th, to inspect more than 100 aircraft." The reporter went on to say that DeLand expects to "top the 1,000 flight operations recorded last year." Hours all three days are 9 AM to 5 PM. General admission for adults costs $20 each day, or $40 for a three-day pass. Lower prices are available for youth aged 11-17 and kids under 10 get in free. The entrance and free parking for DeLand Showcase are off Industrial Way on the northwest side of the airport. Here's the posting schedule for the gusher of videos you can watch. All these aircraft are expected at DeLand.
- Nov. 1, 2017 5 a.m. Tecnam Astore — Tecnam's low wing update that celebrated the 65th anniversary of this leading Light-Sport Aircraft producer from Italy. Tecnam is likely the world's leading producer of these aircraft and Astore is one of their newest. https://youtu.be/oTaWXgnZHUs
- Nov. 1, 2017 6 a.m. Zenith Aircraft — The 25-year-old kit company's CH 750 Cruzer is the speedier version of their ever-popular CH-701 and CH-750 models sometimes referred to as the Sky Jeep. It may not be shapeliest light aircraft but it can get out of the shortest airstrips. https://youtu.be/ioPY_PnMbMw
- Nov. 1, 2017 7 a.m. Aeroprakt A22 — From Ukraine comes one of the great bargains in light aviation with prices well below $100,000. The aircraft is also obvious for its major use of clear panels that assure wonderful visibility. Take the yoke and see for yourself. https://youtu.be/3qhbxWFdCFA
- Nov. 1, 2017 8 a.m. Aerotrek A220 A240 — The steady-Eddie of the LSA segment may be Aerotrek run by the ever-affable Rob Rollison. Through up years and down, Rob sells Aerotrek tricycles or taildraggers on a sane, predictable schedule that buyers appear to prefer. https://youtu.be/7ISH7ZqM4-Y
- Nov. 1, 2017 9 a.m. AutoGyro USA — One class of aircraft buys more Rotax 9-series engine than any other and by a good margin. That class is gyroplanes and AutoGyro is the largest producer. Now, Andy Wall is bringing the brand to America with a fresh, new look. https://youtu.be/2EUgcO5e5jg
- Nov. 1, 2017 10 a.m. Beringer Wheels and Brakes — Everyone likes get up and go but at the end of a flight you have to get down and stop. Beringer has leading expertise in abundance and offers beautiful, versatile systems to help you roll and brake smoothly. https://youtu.be/E7nVrcl2kz8
- Nov. 1, 2017 11 a.m. Ekolot Topaz — If Topaz has not caught your eye yet, you are in for a visual treat. Ekolot's smooth composite Topaz is as nicely appointed as they come and flies pleasantly to boot. Here's one that deserves your attention. https://youtu.be/c5tzmyiUgDE
- Nov. 1, 2017 12 p.m. Evektor Harmony — Harmony follows Evektor's SportStar, which will always enjoy the distinction as the very first Light-Sport Aircraft to win FAA acceptance. Harmony takes the highly evolved SportStar to a whole new altitude as one of the sector's best engineered aircraft. https://youtu.be/WtptDzfjx5o
- Nov. 1, 2017 1 p.m. Flight Design CTLS — For nearly every year Light-Sport Aircraft have been for sale, Flight Design's CT-series has lead the sales rankings and for good reason. It's fast, roomy, clean and smooth, and superbly equipped. At DeLand 2017, come meet the new group managing this venerable brand. https://youtu.be/wPpd6nuZ7YE
- Nov. 1, 2017 2 p.m. Groppo Trail — A lot of handsome airplanes originate in Italy, known for its stylish invention. Groppo's Trail is more the rough-and-ready version able to take on less improved airstrips. Now it's available in tricycle gear or taildragger form. https://youtu.be/6qZKtIkF0vQ
- Nov. 1, 2017 3 p.m. Just Aircraft SuperSTOL — Just Aircraft was already well known for their popular Highlander but when designer Troy Woodland sharply upped the ante with SuperSTOL, eyes at airshows everywhere turned to watch this outstanding performer. Seeing is believing. https://youtu.be/bQFoznvOO_k
- Nov. 1, 2017 4 p.m. KitFox Light Sport Aircraft — One the industry's most familiar shapes is that of Kitfox, whose several models bear the original appearance even as the current company continues to refine and improve their models. Their airshow models are always superlatively finished. https://youtu.be/Gs2FUw0UsAg
- Nov. 1, 2017 5 p.m. SuperPetrel LS — This is one you tend not to forget as it is a very rare biplane seaplane. While it may have a unique look, it works as well on water as any light seaplane model I have flown. The Brazilian company has a base in Florida, not far from DeLand. https://youtu.be/Si2hkU_CwE8
- Nov. 1, 2017 6 p.m. Pipistrel Alpha — This Slovenian company is known for their smooth, slender (and long) winged models made entirely of composite structures. Alpha is their most affordable model and you should look it over carefully. https://youtu.be/litphoYQLOc
- Nov. 1, 2017 7 p.m. Powrachute Powered Parachute — Powered parachutes offer one of the best viewing platforms in all of light aviation. They are also easy to fly and have the lowest hourly requirement to get a Sport Pilot license. Powrachute is the biggest supplier and their models warrant careful examination. https://youtu.be/Rg42_i3EcEU
- Nov. 1, 2017 8 p.m. Progressive Aerodyne SeaRey — We enjoy several great LSA seaplanes but only one boasts a long track record with a large fleet and that is Searey. Made in kit form only for years, you can now buy one ready-to-fly. Searey is made near DeLand in Tavares, Florida ...right on a lake, of course. https://youtu.be/7O7t1nJGPxo
- Nov. 1, 2017 9 p.m. REV Part 103 Legal Ultralight Trike — Among trikes available, the most deluxe and finished model is Revo from Evolution Trikes. However, this Florida company also made the fabulous Part 103 Rev for those on a budget or just look for solo fun in a well-made trike. https://youtu.be/oMK8myarZ94
- Nov. 1, 2017 10 p.m. RV-12 light sport — From the world's largest producer of kit aircraft, Van's Aircraft can now offer a fully built Special LSA RV-12 version through a collaboration with longtime kit-building partner, Synergy Air. Most RV-12s have been sold as kits, at which Van's is deeply experienced. https://youtu.be/PwX8FbTWdNc
- Nov. 1, 2017 11 p.m. Sling Light Sport Aircraft — The Airplane Factory-USA represents the Sling models, including the two seat LSA model and a four seat Sling 4 model that is built as a kit. Both fly wonderfully and have proven themselves uniquely by flying around the world, multiple times. https://youtu.be/3W0xzh0F7yo
- Nov. 1, 2017 12 p.m. SportCruiser — Known to the general aviation crowd as the PiperSport (thanks to a brand they know well), SportCruiser was before and has been since Piper's involvement a good seller under its original name. https://youtu.be/QcjW_X2v9Y0
Live! Soon! Go!Catch all these videos anywhere you like, but even better, make plans now to attend DeLand Showcase 2017. The weather has cooled from summer heat but it should still be in the high '70s, low '80s so it should be a great time to look at airplanes and other gear. As you enjoy all these free videos, I encourage you to visit Videoman Dave's YouTube channel and click here to support the work. You can see most of these videos featuring Dan Johnson right here.
My video partner must be working around the clock as he prepared a blizzard of videos for release starting November 1st. As you see in the list below, 20 videos will soon be available. I hope you’ll enjoy them. Besides giving you info on various aircraft to see at the event, we hope to encourage you to attend DeLand #2. Videos are great and in them we try to ask the questions you would ask and to show you things you’d look for if you attended. Good as videos are, nothing substitutes for you being present to ask and look yourself. I hope you can. Videoman Dave and I will be on-site all three days of the event. We will likely be a blur in motion dashing from one fetching aircraft vendor to another to gather more article material and video interviews. We also hope to record more Video Pilot Reports, as we did last year.
Aerotrek has steadily risen from an unknown brand to the #9 position in the all-time-fleet market share. The brand is one of only ten that have registered more than 100 aircraft in the United States. Excellent prices help but that’s not the whole story. You hear about some of the top brands all the time but Aerotrek is a hare-and-tortoise story where steady progress wins over flashier marketing and wow features. At the heart of this success is Rob Rollison, arguably one of the most experienced men in the LSA space. Pilots Like ’em Big — It seems pilots love an ever-bigger engine. …or ever-bigger digital screens. …or ever-bigger cockpits. Indeed, pilots may like all those things bigger but tires go right along with the big thing. If “tundra” tires are good, then “Alaska” tires are better, and even bigger Alaska tires are just right. …apparently.
The Marana Regional Airport, in Marana Arizona was the site of the first annual U.S. Flight Expo May 3–6, 2017. The west coast of the U.S. appears to lack major aviation events of the sort commonly seen in the easter U.S. This is especially odd considering the large number of pilots and aircraft in western states! (Some have observed how western populations are spread over a much larger area, which possibly accounts for this disparity. —DJ) One of the most successful annual aviation events not sponsored by a member organization is the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring Florida, which will celebrate its 14th year in 2018! Others have followed (Midwest LSA Expo &DeLand) but these sector-specific shows are still concentrated in the east. So it was about time for another western event other than Copperstate, which will celebrate its 45th year in 2017. Using the template that original director Robert Woods used to make Sebring such a success, Greg Hobbs — one of the leading organizers of the U.S.
Aerotrek supplies a popular and well-priced everything but, you know, having a nice airplane isn't enough. Why not have a traveling hangar and home to go with your great Light-Sport Aircraft? With the money you save buying Aerotrek (half as much as some high-end LSA), you'll have money left over for other great toys, like a custom trailer. Your savings might not also cover the motorhome in this video, but watching may motivate you to work harder to acquire such a nice rig. Come have a look.
Aerotrek supplies a popular and well-priced everything but, you know, having a nice airplane isn’t enough. Why not have a traveling hangar and home to go with your great Light-Sport Aircraft? With the money you save buying Aerotrek (half as much as some high-end LSA), you’ll have money left over for other great toys, like a custom trailer. Your savings might not also cover the motorhome in this video, but watching may motivate you to work harder to acquire such a nice rig. Come have a look.
Aerotrek and their dual models -- the A220 taildragger and the A240 trigear -- have been an impressive performer in the market share race, steadily moving up our chart. At Sebring 2013, we spoke with U.S. importer Rob Rollison about how these handsome, very well priced Special Light-Sport Aircraft can work in a flight school environment. Having acquired more than 1,500 hours in a training environment, Rob said the Aerotrek still looks and flies great and some European models have more than 4,000 hours. Hear more in this video.
Aerotrek and their dual models — the A220 taildragger and the A240 trigear — have been an impressive performer in the market share race, steadily moving up our chart. At Sebring 2013, we spoke with U.S. importer Rob Rollison about how these handsome, very well priced Special Light-Sport Aircraft can work in a flight school environment. Having acquired more than 1,500 hours in a training environment, Rob said the Aerotrek still looks and flies great and some European models have more than 4,000 hours. Hear more in this video.
MIDWEST LSA EXPO 2012 -- One of our series of many short videos from the fall show, this one on the Aerotrek A240. We'll also consider the A220, the taildragger. Both these two Light-Sport Aircraft are selling well and no wonder. They have an excellent price (around $80,000 in 2012) yet they are made very well with quality evident with a close inspection. Join us for a few details.
MIDWEST LSA EXPO 2012 — One of our series of many short videos from the fall show, this one on the Aerotrek A240. We’ll also consider the A220, the taildragger. Both these two Light-Sport Aircraft are selling well and no wonder. They have an excellent price (around $80,000 in 2012) yet they are made very well with quality evident with a close inspection. Join us for a few details.
Aerotrek is the new name for a pair of Special Light-Sport Aircraft, the tricycle gear A240 and the taildragger A220. These reasonably priced aircraft (mid-$60,000 range) offer a good cruise in a lightweight, quick handling aircraft. The wings fold easily so you can make a trailer your hangar.
Why? Simple. The airplanes don't need to change.*
Aerotrek's planes are very well built, fly predictably and efficiently, handle nicely and perform near the top of the category at modest operation cost. They are simpler, not fancy carbon fiber, but rely on trusted construction methods using familiar materials. As important as any quality, Aerotreks are modestly priced, affordable to many budgets.
Not breaking new ground means getting familiar ways down pat, honing the building skills and techniques to a fine degree. Aeropro in Europe can execute the aircraft in a repeatably professional manner. All this may not be as sexy as a flashy new design but once aloft, being able to depend on your flying machine is worth a lot.
One more thing. Always updating a product can add to the cost of production which has to raise the selling price.
Company owner Rob Rollison is a calm businessman who moves steadily toward his goals. Deep-voiced and intimately aware of his product Rob presents authoritatively with a broad smile. He has earned the trust of many airplane owners and has built a loyal following, people who have come to really like the Aerotrek aircraft and doing business with the importer.Rob got into LSA early. He was the Flight Design CT dealer before the LSA rule was released. He has represented several brands and types over his years in business. These learning experiences brought him to Aeropro more than 13 years ago and he remains very happy with the supplier. Through the upheaval of the recession in 2008 and subsequent roller coaster ride, Aerotrek maintained a largely steady business while other company got in trouble.
At AirVenture Oshkosh 2016, Aerotrek exhibited nine airplanes on the field, challenging any other brand for most aircraft in their exhibit. You could see A220 taildraggers, A240 tricycle gear models in a number of bright colors and fitted with different landing gear from hard surface and wheel-panted tires to large tundra tires. As Aerotrek is distributor-direct-to-customer operation, the importer was aided in their Oshkosh display by owners of the aircraft available for visitors to review.
Aerotrek models come well equipped while offering a few options to allow you to personalize. All have folding wings, a task that can be done in 10 minutes ("easily") by a single person. A folded wing still supports itself through the clever design by Dean Wilson, the original creator of a good number of airplanes that look very similar. No wonder. Dean was a brilliant, efficient designer and this planform works very well. Why change what works?
* Aeropro has made numerous refinements over the years while sticking with a basic design that works well as is.
Media people (like me) flock to airshows looking for the new stories, new airplanes, new avionics, new company developments… whatever is new. Journalists pursue what’s new because they believe that’s what their customers readers want to read (or perhaps because it interests them as a writer). Nevertheless, sometimes the story is what’s not new. Aerotrek, importer of the A240 and A220 has not made major changes to the aircraft. Why? Simple. The airplanes don’t need to change.* Aerotrek’s planes are very well built, fly predictably and efficiently, handle nicely and perform near the top of the category at modest operation cost. They are simpler, not fancy carbon fiber, but rely on trusted construction methods using familiar materials. As important as any quality, Aerotreks are modestly priced, affordable to many budgets. Not breaking new ground means getting familiar ways down pat, honing the building skills and techniques to a fine degree.
When this website went live a few months before the Sport Pilot & Light-Sport Aircraft rule was announced at Oshkosh 2004, it began life as an archive of several hundred pilot reports I had written for a number of print magazines in aviation. That launch seems a long time ago … it has been eleven and a half years. (Development started only a few years after the World Wide Web emerged and ByDanJohnson.com went live in April 2004.) One year after going live, I began to add news via a blog, which I called “Splog,” for Sport Pilot web log. Videos started in 2008 and by 2015, news and video have become the primary content items. You might be surprised to hear ByDanJohnson.com predates YouTube, which began when three former PayPal employees created a video-sharing website. The Internet domain name YouTube.com was activated on February 14, 2005 and the website went public in November of that same year.
The sixth annual Midwest LSA Expo just concluded. These LSA-only events offer a more intimate setting where you can speak at length with an aircraft or other product representative. They don’t offer the dense traffic of the big shows but the valued trade off is that nearly everyone who shows is interested. People came from as far as California and I witnessed many demo flights. The Mt. Vernon airport is as good as it gets for this purpose with easy access to big broad runways and plenty of open airspace. Lead by energetic Chris Collins, a team of volunteers made it work again. When the event isn’t swallowing all their time these folks have a little fun. Don’t worry about the nearby picture; TSA and Homeland Security can calm down. This was a planned promotional venture on the side of a great new restaurant called Rare, a chop house.
Not long ago, I posted about Kitfox tending to business and expressing regret that they chose to stay home in Idaho versus making the trip to the Sebring LSA Expo 2014. Team Kitfox was not the only one, however. In addition, AeroSport didn’t bring their BushCat, nor did Aerotrek bring their A220 or A240, nor did Quicksilver show with their SLSA candidate, Sport 2S, or their joint venture Electric Motor Glider (a very cool project from the west coast about which I will do a further update in the future). The reasons for these no-shows were varied but the good news is that they’ll be at Sun ‘n Fun. Oh, and one more thing about all four aircraft mentioned below: each of them offers a purchase value that defies the current mindset about the cost of modern LSA. BushCat by SkyReach is one of those SLSA that easily answers the lament, “These LSA have become too expensive.” Too many pilots say this without considering their other choices.
You may have missed it. If so, this article provides another look at a LSA provider that I consider something of a “sleeper” … and if you do not know that term, it’s meant to be positive yet refer in this case to a company that does its thing well if somewhat quietly. I am writing about Aerotrek Aircraft and its two models, the taildragging A220 and the trigeared A240. These airplanes may look familiar — itself a good thing as they are based on a very well proven original design — yet they have seen steady updating and improvement that makes a distinct airplane as we head into 2014. Proprietor Rob Rollison has shown a very steady hand at the tiller and recently updated his company’s news. “Sales of our Aeropro planes continue to be good — sold out until late-August 2014,” wrote Rob. “We will show 10 planes delivered in calendar year 2013.” However, his company also sold one to Mexico, so that one will not show up on our third quarter 2013 market share report to be published next week. Two more Aerotreks are aboard an ocean freighter so will be counted as 2014 deliveries. Another pair are reported complete but will not be shipped until after the new year. This suggests Aerotrek will continue a steady climb up from 2013.
Our annual review of LSA Market Share brings our updated fleet chart and a second chart showing prior-year registrations. While sales of new SLSA remains below par, the market appears to be experiencing spotty but regular recovery from earlier low points. The first half the year foretold a better recovery but the last half of the year stalled somewhat. Regardless, based on traffic to this website, LSA interest is higher than ever. For January 2013, ByDanJohnson.com set all-time records in Unique Visitors and all other measuring criteria Thank you for your support! 2012 Market Share report — Nearby, we present our standard market share numbers. Our original chart remains consistent, illustrating the “installed base,” or “fleet size.” Because we know many of you seek recent-year information we are repeating the Calendar Year chart that debuted last year. For the second year in a row Cessna lead in 2012 with an impressive 94 registrations though this is down 30% from 134 in 2011.
Our roving British journalist, the always-entertaining Dave Unwin, reports on the UK’s LAA Rally event, giving ByDanJohnson.com readers a taste of light aviation in England. After an even grimmer British summer than usual — we’ve just experienced the “wettest drought” since records began; a dry spring followed by flooding rains — the weather Gods smiled benignly on the 2012 LAA Rally. The Rally is basically the UK’s version of Oshkosh (albeit several orders of magnitude smaller) and is run by the Light Aircraft Association, formerly the PFA or Popular Flying Association, which is the Limey equivalent of the EAA. The event has been staged at several different airfields over the years, and is currently held at Sywell in Northamptonshire. Despite the parlous state of the economy, this year’s Rally had a real buzz, and it wasn’t just all the two-stroke engines. In spite of EASA’s best efforts it would seem that the lighter side of UK aviation continues to thrive.
We’ve been getting requests for market share information and I am happy to provide an update, thanks to my European associate Jan Fridrich who does the hard work of sifting through FAA’s database. I remind you that his efforts are not merely tallying whatever FAA publishes. In fairness, Jan has to evaluate many pieces of information and judge accuracy of the entries. This isn’t because FAA’s registrars are bumbling fools that cannot enter data accurately. The challenges come from sheer number of brands (90) and models (127) over a mere seven years… unprecedented in aviation history. To that add the variations of Experimental Amateur Built (EAB), Special Light-Sport Aircraft (SLSA), Experimental Light-Sport Aircraft kits (ELSA) and converted two-place ultralights to LSA status. Then factor in that some standard category or homebuilt aircraft meet the LSA parameters of weight and speed and such so some people consider them “LSA,” when in fact they mean they can be flown by some possessing a Sport Pilot certificate.