As Sun ‘n Fun 2022 comes to a close, so does my daily reporting. This happens through long days and short nights. My sleep schedule can soon get back to normal. In an article already underway, I will make some forecasts for what we’ll see at AirVenture Oshkosh 2022 based on what was displayed at Sun ‘n Fun 2022. Watch for that in a couple days after I catch my breath. Meanwhile I’m expecting to go fly in the TL Sport Aircraft high wing TL-3000 Sirius and perhaps their retractable tandem Stream. I’m also scheduled to go fly the BOT SC07 Super Cruiser. I hope to have reports on these later in April. Meanwhile, here’s a final daily report from Sun ‘n Fun 2022… Savannah by ICP What is it about orange? Several people told Savannah rep’ Walter della Nebia that it attracted them. I felt similarly. I can’t explain it but the show airplane certainly looked great and drew plenty of visitors.
Arion Aircraft, LLC
Phone: (931) 680-1781Shelbyville, TN 37160 - USA
Going, Going… Faster than Ever; Arion’s Sleek Lightning Is Ready for Blast-Off
Look No Further A Flash of LightningOf course, fast glass will never replace gnarly back-country airplanes on giant tundra tires. If you like that sort of operation, you're lucky to have many choices. Yet aviation’s leading draw may be going fast as more is always better, right? Indeed, one reason Arion makes a kit as well as their LS-1 Light-Sport model is because then they can access the excellent speed potential of this slick design. Let the drooling begin over these beautifully-contoured flying machines that can race 135 to 190 miles an hour for a fairly modest investment. Arion's LS-1 is a complying Light-Sport Aircraft that meets all the parameters and succeeded in passing a detailed FAA audit with flying colors a few years back. Lightning XS is the Experimental model on which you can install a more powerful engine. That these handsome aircraft are also 100% designed and manufactured in the USA may be sweet icing on the cake for many readers.
Bolts of LightningLightning LS-1 is an all-composite design paired with metal hardware elements. All components are made in house by Arion’s experienced staff. More than 100 Lightnings are flying American skies. The company reported 160 Lightning models are flying world wide dating back to Lightning’s first flight on March 3, 2006. “Lightning LS-1 is designed and built around Jabiru’s powerful 3300 six-cylinder aircraft engine,” noted Arion. “With a displacement of over 200 cubic inches and a direct drive crank, this compact beauty outputs 120 horsepower to deliver performance rarely matched in a Light-Sport Aircraft.” Lightning has no trouble hitting the LSA speed limit of 120 knots (138 mph). “[However, we] spent more than three years making the kit Lightning as efficient and fast as we could, so slowing down to 120 knots was a complete reversal of our thinking but one that had its benefits,” said principal and designer, Nick Otterback. “By changing the airfoil slightly and adding three feet of wing span, LS-1 stalls below 44 knots clean, giving our aircraft an impressive 52-knot approach speed.” A Jabiru 3300 delivers solo climb in excess of 1,200 fpm and owners can expect 1,000 fpm at its 1,320 pounds gross weight. At cruise speeds of 120 knots, the Jabiru burns a miserly 5.5 gallons an hour. “These are real performance numbers a pilot can rely on; not on a perfect day at sea level or flying around solo, but all loaded up,” stated Nick. Most companies list useful load, but Arion said the more meaningful payload can be up to 470 pounds. That will allow two big Americans plus some luggage, assuming weight and balance concurs. “Now standard equipped with 40 gallons of fuel, a Lightning pilot can go over 800 nautical miles with VFR reserves,” Nick added. Lightning XS is sold in kit form. The taller XS with more ground clearance offers a redesigned forward fuselage structure that gives the builder the option to choose engines up to 180 horsepower. Landing gear offering higher ground clearance permits bigger props on this new kit to allow the speedier model to hit speeds of 160 knots (184 mph) or more. Firewall aft, XS is much the same as the classic Lightning including its 42-inch wide cabin. Arion first displayed an XS powered by a Titan XIO340 at Sun ‘n Fun 2019, although the company also supports “legacy” piston engines O200 to O320 at 115 to 160 horsepower plus UL Power’s UL520is engine making 180 to 200 horsepower. Arion offers several propeller choices for the engines above. “For fixed pitch we like Sensenich wood or composite ground adjustable props,” said Arion. “We have tested in-flight adjustable props as well. For the Titan or Lycoming types, Whirlwind Aviation makes the RV200 series lightweight constant speed prop. For Jabiru or UL Power we have tested the Airmaster series.” Installation of an in-flight adjustable prop can increase performance but, of course, builders must accept added expense and plan for extra weight on the nose as they work through the build process. For those unsure about building a kit, you can always choose the LSA model and pick it up ready to fly. If you want to speed up the assembly process, Arion offers a builder assist center at their Shelbyville, Tennessee facility about an hour south of Nashville. Lightning owners in the western USA can try this deluxe Arizona builder-help center. Here's one owner's experience building Lightning at that center.
Titan-Powered Lightning XSSome pilots (me, for instance) thoroughly enjoy the beauty of flying slowly, of drifting leisurely over the landscape at a “human speed” that allows enough time to enjoy the expanse of an aerial view of your surroundings. Yet the allure of going fast is great, quickly chewing up the miles en route to your destination. When contemplating a cross country trip of a lengthy distance, fast cannot be too fast. In addition to a higher TAS, we all yearn for a tailwind that will raise our ground speed by another 20 mph. Lightning with the big Titan engine required a bulging nose cowl, Nick said. Taller landing gear for bigger props, bigger brakes, and 40 gallon fuel tanks are also among some of the features of this kit. How fast does Lightning XS go? Early testing revealed max cruise at 165 knots (190 mph) TAS at 8,500 feet density altitude at full gross. Climb is a stunning 2,000 fpm. These figures may sound boastful but but reflect real-time experience as recorded by the no-nonsense Nick Otterback. Most buyers may elect more than the basics but the fully-built Light-Sport Aircraft version of Lightning, called LS-1, is base priced at the genuine bargain of $115,000. Yet if you have time, the interest, and enjoy constructing a kit, Lightning XS has a base kit price of $39,900 with the Titan firewall-forward kit. A builder assist program is available for $4,000 extra. The program lasts four weeks. Of course Lightning XS is not a Light-Sport Aircraft and will require a Private or better certificate plus a medical, though BasicMed will suffice. If you don’t want to acquire a current medical, you can choose the SLSA version. Choices are good and Arion delivers sparkling performance with dashing good looks regardless of which variation you prefer.
Listen to developer Nick Otterback tell you lots about the superspeeder Lightning XS with 180 horsepower. A second video goes into depth about the Titan line of engines. https://youtu.be/gqOL9oZNzAw https://youtu.be/cycCQeOVwoo
You’ve heard some pilot say: “That airplane is so sleek it looks fast even when sitting parked on the ramp.” This is one of those airplanes. While most light aircraft producers concentrate on either kits or fully-built, a few swing both ways. Some builders unwilling to experiment with two very distinct business models permitted others to contract build a fully-built version while they focus entirely on kit building. Few have managed to do well with both endeavors but Arion seems to have solved the challenges. Arguably the shapeliest and smoothest aircraft in either the kit or RTF space is Arion Aircraft’s Lightning series. Nearly everyone agrees these qualify as fast-when-sitting-still types. Even one of the many electric airplane wannabe producers, Bye Aerospace, chose Lightning as its airframe template because they needed the smoothest, most modern look they could find. Look No Further A Flash of Lightning Of course, fast glass will never replace gnarly back-country airplanes on giant tundra tires.
Airshows in 2021: Better News on the Horizon but Some Early-Event Cancellations
Flyway to Highway DeLand, FloridaLead organizer Jana Filip first rescheduled the November 2020 DeLand Showcase until January, but that got scrubbed by a very cautious city of DeLand. Now, Jana will host Flyway to Highway at the end of this month. My friends at General Aviation News got the news out early, "DeLand Airport will host a one-day fly-in/drive-in event on January 30, 2021. Co-sponsored by automaker Tesla, anyone who shows up at the DeLand Airport Management Center can take a test drive in a new Tesla." Quite a few airplane companies will also display. Come check them out. I tell you what! If you haven't driven a Tesla, you may be in for a treat. I did some years back at the now-defunct Palm Springs, California show. What a hoot! I told lots of people I've never driven a car that accelerated so quickly outside of a couple race cars I've been able to take around a track. Whoa! Come see for yourself and check out the airplanes on display, including Alto, Aerolite 103, SeaMax, and Aventura, among others. I hope we might run into one another as I'll be present. The event runs one day from 9 AM to 2 PM. DATE: January 30th, 2021 • GPS address: 1000 Flightline Boulevard, DeLand, FL 32724.
Sun 'n Fun 2021 "Back" and ReadyI already wrote about Sun 'n Fun's Holiday Festival (video below), their version of cars and airplanes, held on December 4th and 5th of 2020. I went on Friday and found the site similar to their regular Sun 'n Fun airshow, for year occurring in April of each year. As everyone knows by now, Sun 'n Fun made a grand effort to reschedule amid rapidly expanding virus fears but still had to scrub when May of 2020 brought still-rising infections. This was surely a very painful decision. I understand that the six-day event provides a substantial portion (some say 70%) of the organization's annual budget. They certainly cannot absorb a second year of such devastating loss, so I've got all my fingers crossed and am holding my hopes high for them. Sun 'n Fun notes, "From humble beginnings in 1974 as a fly-in for sport aviation enthusiasts, Sun 'n Fun has grown into one of the largest and most successful aviation events — Florida’s largest annual convention of any kind drawing more than 200,000 visitors." I hope you can be one of them this year! It's simple, really. You like the event. They need you to attend. Go. Look. Fly! DATES: April 13th to 18th, 2021
Europe's Best (IMHO) Aero Friedrichshafen 2021… is ON!When I asked the main man about Aero Friedrichshafen, the show's longtime leader, Roland Bosch, wrote, "I'm very confident that the venue will held as planned. After Easter, normal life must go on." "We have a lot of confirmed exhibitors booked," Roland continued. "We also have exhibitors still waiting with their decision till February. "Vaccine and warm weather in spring will help additional. Also we have a perfect anti-corona concept which worked very well at the boat show, "Interboot," in September 2020. This marine event is held in the same city convention center as is Aero. Friedrichshafen is located on the huge Lake Constance or Bodensee. "We will also run our Aero South Africa show in July 2021." Lead by Roland, the Aero team will also visit AirVenture this year so American companies wanting to explore opportunities in Europe can speak to key Aero team members. DATES: April 21st to 24th, 2021 — Friedrichshafen, Germany (on the south border across from Switzerland).
The Big One EAA AirVenture OshkoshRecently I had dinner with a top executive of EAA. He believes the organization is ready for 2021 and that their late-July event is on a good footing. As with Sun 'n Fun, the one-week AirVenture show fuels a lot of what EAA does all year so they took a bit hit. "We had a 'rainy day fund' for exactly such eventualities," he said, "so EAA remains on a solid financial footing." However, he acknowledged that they need this to occur to shore up the future. Of course, we all hope this event goes on as presently planned. While vital for EAA, someone in my shoes is very keen on these airshows being executed so my effort of content gathering goes on unabated. EAA offices have been operating normally since August and even the EAA Museum is back to about 50% capacity, with both offices and museum implementing all the latest advice about virus protections. DATES: July 26th to August 1st, 2021
What's NOT Happening?One of the sad cancellations is the Illinois Ultralight & Light Sport Aircraft Safety Symposium. You might imagine that one state's event is not particularly significant, but this one has been going on for 40 years… yep, 40! That's about as long as the U.S. has enjoyed Part 103 ultralights. Organizer Vickie Betts wrote, "With the increasing number of Covid cases and the certainty that only a small portion of the general population will have received a vaccine by that date, we felt it was prudent to cancel the event for safety reasons." Instead, she and other organizers will focus on their 2022 symposium. Another Covid dropout is the Copperstate/Buckeye event last held in February of 2020 before the sky fell on everyone. The Phoenix, Arizona-area event — a joint venture between the 48 year-old Copperstate event (it started the year before Sun 'n Fun) and the newer but city-promoted and widely-attended Buckeye Air Fair — has worked exceptionally well the last few years. Fellow aviation enthusiast, builder-assist center partner and representative for the Flying Legends Tucano, ICP Savannah, and Arion Lightning, Jack Norris, wrote simply, "Copperstate is cancelled." Instead, organizers plan to have a limited Fly-In on Saturday, February 13th for those wanting to participate. Perspective: Attending Copperstate in February 2020 was the last time I was on an airliner. My hopes are high for much improved 2021 airshow season. I'll attend all that go forward and report from each.
UPDATE 1/14/21 — Regretfully, I must announce that DeLand has cancelled its Flyway to Highway event “due to Covid-19.” —DJ After a year of great uncertainty, the earliest airshows of 2021 are feeling the pressure. However, by spring, several organizers hope for great improvement. Here’s some review, good news first and then some cancellations. Flyway to Highway DeLand, Florida Lead organizer Jana Filip first rescheduled the November 2020 DeLand Showcase until January, but that got scrubbed by a very cautious city of DeLand. Now, Jana will host Flyway to Highway at the end of this month. My friends at General Aviation News got the news out early, “DeLand Airport will host a one-day fly-in/drive-in event on January 30, 2021. Co-sponsored by automaker Tesla, anyone who shows up at the DeLand Airport Management Center can take a test drive in a new Tesla.” Quite a few airplane companies will also display.
Building Your Own Airplane… Seem Hard? How About with Experienced, Professional Help?
Build Your DreamAided mightily by the real boss, Greg’s longtime spouse Crystal, the pair have created a idyllic setting to build your own aircraft. Located about 30 miles northwest from Tucson or a hour and a half south of Phoenix, Arizona, Greg and Crystal built with their own hands a large hangar with all the space and all the amenities needed to get your airplane kit put together. Yours and several other projects all at once. While you work at the project in time periods that work for you, the experience will be a eat-sleep-breath kit building from Day One. As Greg notes, entertainment and restaurants are a few miles away at the closest and people come to the Build Center not to go out for dinner or a movie but to build airplanes. So, build airplanes they do. They'll work with you 12 hours a day if you want, but "it's whatever the customer wants to do," clarified Greg. If eight hours maxes you out (probably understandable at first, anyway), you can collapse on one of the lounge's comfy chairs and recharge your batteries. I was told by several builders that Crystal puts out a good food spread and generally these two make you feel at home, even providing bedrooms so you can stay on the job as long as your schedule allows. "Most spend time, return home, and come back to finish the task," explained Greg. Building a Lightning — Greg observed, "All the primary fiberglass assemblies are preformed and fully fabricated including fuselage halves already bonded together with bulkheads installed; wings are substantially finished with fuel tanks installed; and all flight controls are installed." The kit also includes cowls, the prop spinner, cockpit canopy frame, seats, and baggage floors. Welded structures, such as the motor mount, spar box assembly, gear leg sockets, and various brackets, are finished and epoxy painted at the factory making them ready to install. Lightning's landing gear is machined from 7075T6 aluminum and ready to fit. An airplane like Lightning "goes together pretty fast," said Greg, continuing to say that the process takes only about three weeks. If you try this at home, plan on more time, other builders told me. The help the Build Center gives is invaluable plus it's more social than many projects. The Experimental Aircraft Build Center Arizona also helps builders create the Flying Legends Tucano and the ICP Savannah. The Build Center is 10 miles west of Marana's municipal airport, which itself is 20 miles northwest of Tucson, Arizona or about 100 miles south of Phoenix. This is baking hot country but Greg and Crystal's facility will keep you comfortable. Find out more by visiting Experimental Aircraft Build Center Arizona. As you will see and learn, you need bring nothing but your enthusiasm. Greg and Crystal — along with partner Jack Norris — will provide everything. You get a sleeping room. Crystal prepares meals and several builders told me this may be the highlight of the whole experience. The Build Center provides all the tools, jigs, and work tables you need. Let's get to work!
Let me be honest. I’ve built one aircraft in my life. It was a Quicksilver MX series, a design that can be assembled by first timer with reasonable skills in only 80 hours or so. A lot depends on your skills and interest, your basic mechanical aptitude, the space you have to work, your tools, and how much time you can put into a project. Quicksilver is a super-simple kit. What if you desire something more complex? I deeply admire those who have built some of the most beautiful aircraft I’ve ever seen. As many a manufacturer has told me, even kit manufacturers — “A homebuilder can do an even better job than we can at the factory because they can spend all the time needed to get every detail exactly right. We have a business to run and even though we’re very good at what we do, we cannot justify the hours a homebuilder may invest.” Sounds right to me… even considering how many superlative factory-built kits I’ve seen.
More Details on Swedish Light-Sport Aircraft “Speed Monster” Record Attempt
— In His Own Words —"On April 15th, a personal dream of mine came true," wrote Niklas earlier today. "We pushed the turbocharged Blackwing aircraft to a new speed record in FAI's Microlight RAL2T Category." "A few weeks earlier," he continued, "we started high-speed taxi tests. We noticed immediately that this aircraft is something special. The turbo-charged engine (Rotax's new 915iS, a 141-horsepower turbocharged and intercooled entry) in combination with a single power lever [controlling] the hydraulic MT propeller, accelerated like nothing I have tried before. Already on the second test flight, we were reaching 195 knots at 3,000 feet. We were very excited and increased the envelope every day. At 5,000 feet we were reading 200 knots on the airspeed indicator, at full power [in] level flight. With fuel consumption of 10 liters/hour [2.64 gallons per hour] we were reading 130 knots TAS. Can this really be true airspeed? On the next flights, we carried a [FAI-required] logger and confirmed the Garmin speeds. "Due to the pandemic, unique possibilities opened up. We could fly at any altitude we would like, with the support from Sweden control [ATC]. On Saturday, we practiced the world record course three times. It was challenging to fly over 200 knots (400 kilometers per hour), bank three G, and still keeping a precise altitude. We also started to fly at heights, FL90-110, and at speeds higher than we ever have flown before. It felt good to have a parachute. "On Tuesday the weather conditions were perfect. We decided to fly at 10,000 feet. The [FAI] criteria that the course could only be flown once made it even more intense. At the first turn, I climbed some 300 feet, and returning to altitude she accelerated to 219 knots (405 km/h). I felt extremely tense and had a hard time keeping the ball in the center. Overall I am happy that I managed to fly a pretty good course. On the straight course, we got 212 knots average speed. It was great to celebrate the success with my co-pilot Fredrik Lanz, and the rest of the Blackwing team. "The flight testing will continue in spring and summer. After 50 hours of flight testing, we can start taking passengers. "The aircraft used for the record is a standard BW600RG with the Rotax 915iS engine. In order to optimize the drag, we only had one outside antenna and sealed some of the gaps." Once again, my heartiest congratutions to Niklas, Fredrik, and Team Blackwing, for a job well done!
This Ain't Over YetMeanwhile, in nearby Belgium, the folks from JMB Aircraft are promoting their own speedy Light-Sport Aircraft-like equipped with the Rotax 915iS. "JMB Aircraft is proud to announce some achievements from the past few months," the company wrote recently. "After more than 100 hours of flight test with two planes, we manage with success to perform a V-dive test reaching an indicated 381 kilometers per hour and 425 km/h (229 knots) true air speed. This enable us to safely increase our VNE up to an indicated 340 kilometers per hour (184 knots)." On April 25th JMB added, "With all nominal operating parameters, we climbed to FL180 in 13 minutes with one short level off due to a too-fast climb reported by ATC. The conditions were ISO +7 degrees Celsius (45°F) and 600 kilogram MTOW. Our test pilots performed a level flight of several minutes at maximum continuous power and reached 380 km/h (205 knots) true airspeed, breaking the mythical 200 knot barrier." I suspect the LSA-like airspeed race isn't over yet, especially given the previous record holder — Risen, from a formerly Swiss, now Italian company renamed as Porto Aviation Group — is another speedy design. All these aircraft, plus others such as BRM Aero's retractable model of their Bristell line, can fly faster than what FAA may be planning for LSA 2023 but these attempts might influence rule writers to consider faster-yet speeds. As the world slowly begins to emerge from the global lockdown, who know what speed feats we'll see next.
Not to leave Americans behind, consider Arion Aircraft's Yankee speedster, the Lightning XS (currently Experimental, but who knows in 2023?). https://youtu.be/gqOL9oZNzAw
* Paul Harvey was a very popular radio commentator who donated a substantial sum to EAA for the organization to establish a video studio. Each of his broadcasts began with, "You know what the news is; in a minute you're going to hear the rest of the story."
Our most-read story of 2020 was this breaking report on Blackwing’s assault on the world speed record for the Microlight category. Since we published that article, Blackwing Sweden CEO Niklas Anderberg offered more details and — because this was a popular read for many visitors — it is worthwhile to tell you, as famous radio broadcaster (and aviation enthusiast *), Paul Harvey, used to say “…the rest of the story.” — In His Own Words — “On April 15th, a personal dream of mine came true,” wrote Niklas earlier today. “We pushed the turbocharged Blackwing aircraft to a new speed record in FAI‘s Microlight RAL2T Category.” “A few weeks earlier,” he continued, “we started high-speed taxi tests. We noticed immediately that this aircraft is something special. The turbo-charged engine (Rotax‘s new 915iS, a 141-horsepower turbocharged and intercooled entry) in combination with a single power lever [controlling] the hydraulic MT propeller, accelerated like nothing I have tried before.
Copperstate 2020 — Flying, and Building, Arion Aircraft’s Lightning Classic
Gone Flying!To start this year's event, Videoman Dave and I wanted to review the Arion Aircraft Lightning Classic kit aircraft, plus we wanted to pay a visit to the build center run so enthusiastically by Greg and Crystal Hobbs. Their base near Marana, Arizona, was only a 35-minute flight away. On a beautiful day, I went aloft with builder and pilot Marc Holcomb (photo). We were chased by Videoman Dave flying in the Flying Legends Tucano piloted by Giovanni Matichecchia. See more (article and video) about Giovanni, Tucano, and my experience flying that impressive aircraft at last year's Copperstate. Marc's Lightning Classic kit took him 70 days to build at Greg Hobbs' Geronimo Experimental Aircraft build center. Those were 10-12-hour days and Marc has some experience and history that contributed skills, but this was his first kit aircraft. He became another of the very satisfied customers that have worked with Greg and his group at Geronimo. More than 55 kits have already been assembled under the close guidance of Greg and others, such as his partner, Jack Norris. You can learn much more in a couple videos coming after Videoman Dave can edit them, but the short video below will give you an early taste of what is to come. I hope you enjoy and keep returning here to learn more about aircraft on display at Copperstate 2020. Watch for more in the days ahead and keep visiting The Ultralight Flyer YouTube channel for many other videos on light aircraft.
Copperstate is officially the show that starts off the new aviation year these days. The 47-year-old event — one of the longest lasting aviation events in the Western USA — was for many years held in October. More recently, Copperstate organizers linked up with the municipal airport in Buckeye, Arizona, the westernmost community in the greater Phoenix area. The Buckeye Air Fair happens in February and welcomed the partnership with Copperstate, giving the enduring show a new home …and a new date. Buckeye Air Fair is free and open to the public. Since the town promotes it well, last year drew more than 30,000 visitors. Many came to watch the air show or visit one of many booths, including a whole sector aimed at young kids, but all these visitors could also review the many sport and recreational aircraft that attend. Gone Flying! To start this year’s event, Videoman Dave and I wanted to review the Arion Aircraft Lightning Classic kit aircraft, plus we wanted to pay a visit to the build center run so enthusiastically by Greg and Crystal Hobbs.
Lightning LS and XS — Arion Aircraft’s Sleek and Fast “Built in America” Speedsters
Bolts of LightningLightning LS-1 is an all-composite design with welded or machined elements. All components are made in house by Arion's experienced staff. More than 100 Lightnings are flying American skies (latest data here). The company reported 160 Lightning models are flying world wide since Lightning first flew on March 3, 2006. "Lightning LS-1 is designed and built around Jabiru’s powerful 3300 aircraft engine," noted Arion. "With a displacement of over 200 cubic inches and a direct drive crank, this little beauty has over 120 horsepower on tap for performance rarely matched in a Light-Sport Aircraft." Lightning has no trouble hitting the LSA speed limit of 120 knots (138 mph). "[We] spent more than three years making the kit Lightning as efficient and fast as we could, so slowing down to 120 knots was a complete reversal of thinking that had its benefits," said principal and designer, Nick Otterback. "By changing the airfoil slightly and adding three feet of wing span, LS-1 stalls below 44 knots clean, giving our aircraft an impressive 52 knot approach speed." Solo climb is in excess of 1,200 fpm and owners can expect 1,000 fpm at 1,320 pounds. At cruise speeds of 120 knots range fuel burns runs 5.5 gallons an hour. "These are real performance numbers a pilot can rely on; not on a perfect day at sea level or flying around solo, but all loaded up," stated Nick. Most companies list useful load, but Arion said the more meaningful payload can be up to 470 pounds. That will allow two big Americans plus some luggage assuming weight and balance confirms. "Now standard equipped with 40 gallons of fuel, you can go over 800 nautical miles with VFR reserves," Nick added. Lightning is offered only in tricycle-gear configuration — as most pilots prefer — but a taildragger version has been created by a builder. Read about that here. Lightning XS, available only in kit form, offers a redesigned forward fuselage structure that gives the builder the option to choose engines up to 180 horsepower. At Sun 'n Fun 2019, Arion displayed an XS powered by the Continental Motors Titan XIO340, although the company also supports "legacy piston engines O200-O320 at 115 to 160 horsepower and UL Power's UL520is at 180 to 200 horsepower. Taller landing gear permits bigger props on this new kit to allow the speedier model to hit speeds of 160 knots (184 mph). Firewall aft XS is much the same as the classic Lightning including its 42-inch wide cabin. Arion also offers several propeller choices for the engines above. "For fixed pitch we like Sensenich wood or composite ground adjustable props," said Arion. "We have tested in-flight adjustable props as well. For the Titan or Lycoming types, Whirlwind aviation makes the RV200 series light weight CS prop. For Jabiru or UL Power we have tested the Airmaster series." Installation of an in-flight adjustable prop can increase performance but, of course, builders must plan for the extra weight on the nose during the build process. Pricing and other questions are answered on Arion's FAQ page. For those unsure about building a kit, you can always choose the LSA model and pick it up ready to fly. If you want the extra speed, Arion offers a builder assist center at the Shelbyville, Tennessee facility about an hour south of Nashville. As the video mentions, Lightning was selected by Bye Aerospace as the airframe for its electric propulsion project. The sleekness of the model is a perfect mate for electric power (here's an earlier article about that project). https://youtu.be/6B90OEtC7jg
Most pilots love a fast-looking aircraft that looks as good on the ramp as it does in the air? Sure, gnarly backwoods airplanes on huge tires and tall gear struts have huge appeal, and float-equipped aircraft and seaplanes also draw strong interest. Yet aviation’s leading draw may be speed …more is better, right? If that’s an accurate assessment, then let the drooling begin over this beautifully contoured flying machine that can race 135 to 185 miles an hour for a fairly modest investment. I’m writing about Lightning from Arion Aircraft, available as either a Light-Sport Aircraft or an Experimental Amateur Built version. That these handsome aircraft are also 100% designed and manufactured in the USA may be sweet icing on the cake for many readers. LS-1 is a true Light-Sport Aircraft that meets all the parameters and survived a detailed FAA audit a few years ago. In the field owners I’ve spoken to love Lightning and its speedy ways.
What’s Coming to Light-Sport Aircraft and Sport Pilot Kit Aircraft in 2020 (or so)?
Builder Assist CentersNearly everyone in recreational aviation is by now well aware that the country is dotted with enterprises calling themselves a Builder Assist Center. This was not always the case. In short, a Build Center means a buyer of a kit aircraft can find assistance, tools, a facility, jigs, and more at a physical location where they can assemble their chosen kit. Build Centers have proliferated in recent years and a brief background explains why. Back in the 1950s Paul Poberezny and his entourage of airplane enthusiasts willing to build their own flying machine had a tougher path. Homebuilding was a new idea then. In the earliest days you bought plans from a designer and you "scratch built" your airplane by collecting elements and fabricated those you could not buy. Scratch building was difficult and took a long time but it was highly educational. Indeed, that's how Paul and EAA sold the idea to FAA. (Great job, Paul and fellow builders!) Companies like Van's, Rans, and many others slowly evolved the plans-built concept into kits that attempted to speed construction by offering parts, then whole subassemblies, and later, quick-build kits. It took years as FAA and industry worked out the details. Those kits continually got better, more recently including precision match-hole construction that provides parts a builder can more accurately join together without costly jigs. Homebuilding was still time consuming but the process got far easier. Finished aircraft also got better with factory-made parts fitting more perfectly than ones a homebuilder cut or welded him or herself. Over decades this lead to locations where now-qualified builders helped other builders. Finally, people got into the business of helping people. This may not have been exactly what FAA (or Paul) envisioned back in the '50s and '60s but they allowed a great expansion of the idea as part of the experimentation and education of pilot builders. Today, Experimental aircraft are a substantial part of the overall U.S. aircraft fleet (approaching 20% of all aircraft!). Some are marvelous, fast, sophisticated flying machines that Joe Homebuilder probably should not build on his or her own. FAA recognized the value of professional help and did not discourage the effort. As aircraft got more capable (faster, larger, better equipped, more complex) build centers become even more valuable. Some kits were so challenging for the average builder that professionals began to assist them. It took time but these build centers stayed within the limits of what FAA permitted under the so-called 51% rule. Now, with a new regulation in development, the agency may expand on the Professional Builder Center concept greatly.* A pilot seeking any number of fast, bush, or amphibious aircraft — commonly in kit form to deliver a vast array of configurations — will have a far easier time assembling it and the resulting aircraft will almost surely be better.
Then What?Once you've got one of these speedy aircraft built, how can you learn to fly it or transition from a different aircraft you presently fly? Can you hire someone? Yes, you can. This article details another positive change FAA has made to better serve the LSA and Sport Pilot kit community. As this series — "The Future of LSA+SP Kits" — progresses we'll cover other aspects of the regulation to come and how it may affect both producers and buyers. However, implementation of a new rule is still years in the future. Until then, you have many marvelous choices in fine fully-built LSA, kit aircraft, and ultralights …so go enjoy the skies!
* DISCLAIMER — As with following articles in this series, what is described here is the best available information at the time of publication. In spring of 2019, FAA's regulation is still in early stages of development and it is a huge, sweeping rule set that touches on many parts of the FARs. What finally emerges may or may not be as described here.
Could 2020 bring a new description of aircraft under the LSA banner? Could this include greater capabilities and opportunities? Could you get the airplane you want for less? When?! Yes, yes, and yes …but probably not as soon as you want. The regulation may not emerge in 2020 but whatever the announcement date, what could be coming and how will it affect you? We still have more to report from Sun ‘n Fun and Aero 2019 — and we will! — but numerous conversations at each event have pointed to another topic of keen interest to many: “What’s coming and when?” Manufacturers of aircraft are among the most interested to hear more, but so are individual pilots and all the organizations and other enterprises that serve the recreational aircraft market. In this article, let’s take a closer look. (More articles will follow.) EAA has adeptly branded their good work to some of these ends as MOSAIC, or Modernization of Special Airworthiness Certificates.
Sun ‘n Fun Day 3 — Lightning Fast Kit Aircraft, LSA Regulation Questions, and a Tribute
Lightning FastNow, ultralight pilots (me, for instance) will go on enthusiastically about the beauty of flying slowly, of drifting leisurely over the landscape at a "human speed" that allows enough time to enjoy the expanse of an aerial view of your surroundings. Open cockpit flying adds to the joy facilitated by low airspeeds. Yet the allure of going fast is great, zipping over the countryside. I get that and when contemplating a cross country trip of any real distance, fast cannot be too fast. In addition to a higher TAS, we all yearn for a tailwind that will raise our speed by another 20 mph. Arion Aircraft boss Nick Otterback also feels that desire to fly fast. Along with his since-retired but longtime business partner Pete Krotje, Nick created the dashing, sleek and smooth Lightning, first offered as a kit and a compliant Light-Sport Aircraft. Lightning has enjoyed and continues to execute a good run but like many designers, Nick felt the design could handle more speed. He set out to bump the numbers by installing a Titan X340 with 180 horsepower. This triggered other changes such as a new cowl to accommodate the powerplant. "Our Lightning XS kit has a redesigned forward fuselage structure that gives the builder the option to choose engines up to 180 horsepower," said Nick. "Taller landing gear for bigger props, bigger brakes, and 20 gallon fuel tanks are among some of the features of this new kit." How fast does Lightning XS go? Testing is not complete yet; it recently took to the air. However, Arion is calculating 165 knots (190 mph) TAS at 8,500 feet density altitude at full gross. Climb is a stunning 2,000 fpm. Of course Lightning XS is not a Light-Sport Aircraft and will require a Private or better certificate plus a medical.
Stronger Climb–Efficient Cruise–Greater SafetyRotax, Searey builder Progressive Aerodyne, and RS Technology continue work to acquire knowledge and data about what's called Single Lever Control (SLC). They've been at it a couple years or more and RS Tech is pleased with initial results. Since I first interviewed Michael Stock about this on video, the team has changed to Rotax's newest 915iS engine that supplies 135 horsepower. Combined with the adjustable prop, this becomes an enthusiastic performer. The beauty of the system, in my mind, is that it is so simple. A literal single lever makes the pilot workload no more difficult than a conventional throttle on a fixed pitch prop yet it can deliver increased performance to shorten takeoff runs without sacrificing cruise at altitude. This is a win-win safety argument that FAA recognizes. In our discussions with top executives with the agency they proved surprisingly and pleasantly receptive to considering SLC as they rework the SP/LSA regulation. That's not a guarantee but the odds seem promising. Nonetheless, that regulation is still years away — how many years is an unanswerable question at this point but the wheels of progress are in motion (see an earlier article on this subject). In talking about regulation change, lots of folks are still asking about a speculated weight increase. Yes, one is definitely coming but not to a specific number. A formula will develop gross weight, and no, the final version of that formula is not yet established.
Lightning Bug 2 Encore AppearanceIn the LSA–Sport Pilot kit aircraft–ultralight space, we had a rising star, an emerging talent, and one of the nicest people I've met. His name was Brian Austein. Sadly, this bright young man succumbed to cancer and died since last Sun 'n Fun …a terrible loss. However, his unique legacy lives on in Paradise City in 2019. Brian's last full-sized project, the Lightning Bug 2 (the version number is mine not his), was quite remarkable. LB2 was a 150-pound empty weight aircraft — ponder that weight for a minute — powered by two model aircraft engines. It cost Brian a mere $3,000 out-of-pocket and he produced a man-carrying flying machine. I still find that story rather magical and his one-of-a-kind aircraft design to be utterly a fresh creation. I've never seen anything like LB2 and I'm not sure I ever will again. Catch this video interview with Brian about Lightning Bug. Given his prodigious design ability and inventiveness I found it fun to see some of Brian's other ideas (photo) that he worked on until he died. He bubbled over with ideas as I interviewed him and he wrote from the hospital of another new project in this same ultra-affordable aircraft space. R.I.P. Brian…
You wanna go fast? Of course you do. What pilot doesn’t want to go fast? Lightning Fast Now, ultralight pilots (me, for instance) will go on enthusiastically about the beauty of flying slowly, of drifting leisurely over the landscape at a “human speed” that allows enough time to enjoy the expanse of an aerial view of your surroundings. Open cockpit flying adds to the joy facilitated by low airspeeds. Yet the allure of going fast is great, zipping over the countryside. I get that and when contemplating a cross country trip of any real distance, fast cannot be too fast. In addition to a higher TAS, we all yearn for a tailwind that will raise our speed by another 20 mph. Arion Aircraft boss Nick Otterback also feels that desire to fly fast. Along with his since-retired but longtime business partner Pete Krotje, Nick created the dashing, sleek and smooth Lightning, first offered as a kit and a compliant Light-Sport Aircraft.
Sexy Arion Lightning Taildragger; a Beautifully-Done Homebuilder Project
How did Mike Lotz do it?"While doing first basic construction steps, I kept toying with the tail wheel idea. I started researching plans and books: Tony Bingelis' Sportplane Builder and my favorite, Ladislao Pazmany's Landing Gear Design For Light Aircraft. "While in construction, I decided I would commit to the tail wheel conversion. At the same time, just to see if it could be done, I decided to modify Lightning's controls to create center stick, another thing the factory had not done. I thought this would make entry easier and also let my wife have her own uncluttered space. This was my first project and at the rate I was going, I figured I wasn't going be doing too many of these so I wanted to do this one exactly how I wanted it. "I contacted Nick and got some better clarity on center of gravity and possible wheel positions and applied them to Pazmany's formulas until everything came in within the guidelines. Theoretical weight and balance and prop clearance were also considerations. I am a retired machinist, so the metal work and fixturing was very familiar to me although I did have to 'tune' up my welding for about a year and a half before I attempted the landing gear legs and supports. "At this time I've got about 2,500 hours into it. Although the empty CG moved a little more than an inch aft with the tail wheel, we are still well within the envelope and Light-Sport limit with two people and 20 gallons of fuel. "I'm using the Jabiru 3300 and without the nose wheel, I hope to add a few miles an hour in cruise and lose a couple on landing." Wisely, Mike hasn't decided if he'll do the test flight on his Lightning TD. "I've spent more time building than flying lately," Mike admitted. This is a common, smart move… to let a person other than the builder do the test flight. Mike continued, "Buzz Rich, who is very involved with Nick at Lightning and has a ton of time in the Lightning and tail wheels, has offered to do the first flights and it would be a kick to get his take on my project if we can work it out. I'll be flying amateur built but Lightning TD will come within Light-Sport limits. "This is way more plane than I could have ever imagined for myself." Make is both clever with technical skills and is diplomatic as he added an essential thank-you note. "Thanks to my wife Kathy for the great seats she sewed, for helping me move, lift, hold, and generally assist in the barn and for tolerating airplane parts in rooms around the house for seven years now. In fact, I think she misses the propeller not being in the living room anymore." Mike also added thanks to Nick, Mark, and Buzz at Arion Aircraft. So, now that you know Mike's story, what will you do this weekend?
I readily admit I find Arion’s Lightning LS-1 (the Special LSA model designation) one of the most handsome in the Light-Sport fleet …which is saying something as we enjoy dozens and dozens of quite beautiful aircraft in this sector. It’s also all-American, referencing its design and manufacturing. Lightning lives up to its name, running easily to the 120-knot maximum for LSA, especially when powered with a very muscular six-cylinder, 120 horsepower Jabiru 3300 powerplant. Every Lightning to date has been a tricycle gear airplane and, honestly, for most pilots, that is the right choice. However, like many aviators, I love the look of a tail dragger so when I stumbled across the one you see in the photos, I did a double take. Whoa! That looks hot! What you see here is a product of seven years of work by builder/owner Mike Lotz. I asked him to tell me about it and he offered enough that I’m going to let him tell his story.
US Flight Expo Wraps First Year Event in Arizona
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.
See Light-Sport Aircraft and Light Kits at US Flight Expo
US Flight Expo light aviation vendors
- Czech Sport Aircraft (Cruiser Aircraft)
- Aeroprakt USA
- Aeropilot USA
- Just Aircraft
- Sensenich Propellers
- Aircraft Spruce
- Guardian Avionics
- Aviators Hot Line
- …and others
- Greg Hobbs 520-405-6868
- Jack Norris 703-307-6775
- Email: US Flight Expo
- Media Coordination Volunteer Jacob Peed • 515-408-3763
Sun ‘n Fun is not even over; a final day remains (Sunday, April 9th). Yet already, airplane sellers are looking at another show, this one out West. Welcome to the new US Flight Expo. Less like Sun ‘n Fun and AirVenture with their airshow components and vast acreage of airplanes of all types, US Flight Expo will perhaps more closely resemble Sebring, Midwest LSA Expo, or DeLand …all arguably part of an emerging trend toward sector-focused shows that offer more manageable crowds giving easier contact with aircraft vendors and superb access to aircraft demo flights. Coming up very soon, US Flight Expo runs May 3-4-5-6, 2017 at the Marana Regional Airport (KAVQ) near Tucson, Arizona and about an hour south of Phoenix. Organized by Arion Lightning dealer and light aviation enthusiast Greg Hobbs, the sector we usually cover here on ByDanJohnson.com looks to be well represented.
A Lightning Bolt You Can Catch: LS1
In each case above and for those many others in the $125-175,000 range, we're talking about real money. Balancing that, all LSA in the $125K and up price range are impressive aircraft with more bells and whistles than most GA airplanes (and even some airliners!). They are hand-built works of art using carbon fiber; digital cockpits; wide, luxurious cockpits with amazing visibility; and emergency airframe parachutes. They are marvels with autopilot, synthetic vision, gas-sipping (and very modern) engines, and so much more.
Virtually every LSA — no matter how impressively equipped — still remains at half to one third or even less of the cost of even the most affordable Part 23 general aviation airplanes. Good heavens; even a Cessna 172 Skyhawk now costs more than $400,000!
Nonetheless, as fantastic and as decent a value as I believe our top-tier Special LSA represent, $150K to $250K is a big chunk of change for many recreational pilots who merely want to get some airtime.This article presents another solution: Arion Aircraft's SLSA Lightning LS1. If you don't know this airplane, you haven't really been shopping hard enough in my humble opinion. For years, Arion has been making kits, SLSA, ELSA, and Experimental Amateur Built aircraft that exceed the parameters of Light-Sport Aircraft. For the SLSA model, the company has been through an intensive FAA audit and emerged with a worthy product.
You may also choose some very nice flying aircraft at much more affordable prices running from well under $100,000 down into the $30-40,000 range. (That's not an exaggeration and I can prove it.) Now, you might not care for such aircraft with fabric coverings and simpler panels and, in some cases, different controls. However, if observing your locale from above is your main goal, these inexpensive aircraft can do the job efficiently, and economically. Ain't nothing wrong with that... even if these airplanes may not be your choice.
Arion offers you quite an amazing deal, I believe. I'll get into some specifics below but just look at the airborne images of this plane. The lines of LS1 lines are sexy and shapely, its speed is top-of-the-category, its appointments are comfortable, its interior spacious, its engine powerful, and to top it off, this is a Made-in-America Light-Sport. When you call, you talk to Americans in the heartland and its components are made by American workers.I imagine you agree Lightning LS1 is a handsome design, whether it is a kit, and ELSA or a fully-built Special LSA. Now, thanks to a change in their composite manufacturing — an outsourced set of key components, moved from their former supplier to one closer to Arion's facility in Shelbyville, Tennessee — Arion is able to make the purchase more affordable. In concert with the supplier change, Arion boss and principal designer, Nick Otterback, said, "A more streamlined in-house assembly and finish process helps us to further lower the cost."
Nick added, "A base-price Lightning will be EFIS equipped with 8.5-inch GRT sport system, Garmin's GTR200 com radio and GTX327 transponder, a PM1000 intercom, plus back up airspeed indicator. Standard base equipment still included from pervious years includes dual hydraulic toe brakes, AeroLEDs Pulsar XP wing tip navigation lights and strobes, faux-leather interior, electric flaps and pitch trim, adjustable rudder pedals, and 40-gallon fuel capacity." Available options are Dynon's SkyView system, Garmin's G3X, autopilot, and ADS-B.
Lightning looks good, comes well equipped ...but what is that price?How about this for an even number you can remember: $100,000 for a 2017 ready-to-fly Lightning LS1?
A $10,000 deposit provides you with a production slot. You pay installments during the build process at major events, such as when the structure is complete, when the paint is done, and when your LS1 is ready for delivery. Nick said current delivery times are 120 to 150 days after your deposit is received.
A two-tone grey or tan interior is custom made to suit your chosen paint scheme. Arion advised, "You can pick your paint scheme and colors; we work to design a scheme for you." Nearby photos present the interior look.
The $100K model is sufficiently well equipped to allow full enjoyment for local flying or cross country travel. You can spend more if you want the options. Since Lightning is good for longer distance flying, ADS-B will be of interest if you play to enter controlled airspace. However, even with an option or two, LS1 can still be quite an excellent value.
I applaud Arion for refining their supply chain and processes to lower the SLSA Lightning to a affordable level. If you are in the market for a beautiful American-made Light-Sport, here's one worth a much closer look.
Over and over I’ve heard about the cost of Light-Sport Aircraft. Indeed, some are approaching $200,000 and at least four have smashed through that barrier (CubCrafters, Icon, Terra Fugia, and Lisa). Now, I’ll grant you $200K+ for a two seater is fairly breathtaking. But… In each case above and for those many others in the $125-175,000 range, we’re talking about real money. Balancing that, all LSA in the $125K and up price range are impressive aircraft with more bells and whistles than most GA airplanes (and even some airliners!). They are hand-built works of art using carbon fiber; digital cockpits; wide, luxurious cockpits with amazing visibility; and emergency airframe parachutes. They are marvels with autopilot, synthetic vision, gas-sipping (and very modern) engines, and so much more. Virtually every LSA — no matter how impressively equipped — still remains at half to one third or even less of the cost of even the most affordable Part 23 general aviation airplanes.
Arion Aircraft — Lightning Kit with 160-hp (7/13)
Arion Aircraft is well known for its very smooth and handsome LS1 that qualifies as a SLSA, ELSA, or Experimental Amateur Built kit. That's great versatility but more is possible. All you have to do is add more power, so that's exactly what Arion principal designer Nick Otterback is doing. In this video he shows us around the latest variation with a 160-hp Superior Air Parts Lycoming engine.
Arion Aircraft is well known for its very smooth and handsome LS1 that qualifies as a SLSA, ELSA, or Experimental Amateur Built kit. That’s great versatility but more is possible. All you have to do is add more power, so that’s exactly what Arion principal designer Nick Otterback is doing. In this video he shows us around the latest variation with a 160-hp Superior Air Parts Lycoming engine.
Arion Aircraft — Lightning, Improved (2012)
Many of us have long admired the supersleek Lightning LS-1 and now it's better than ever. We spoke to co-designer and company leader Nick Otterback about changes to the aircraft and also about Arion's 2012 FAA very thorough audit. That's good reassurance for buyers but what's more fun is a newly enlarged tail. Nick tells us how this affects and improves an already great Light-Sport Aircraft (also available as a kit).
Many of us have long admired the supersleek Lightning LS-1 and now it’s better than ever. We spoke to co-designer and company leader Nick Otterback about changes to the aircraft and also about Arion’s 2012 FAA very thorough audit. That’s good reassurance for buyers but what’s more fun is a newly enlarged tail. Nick tells us how this affects and improves an already great Light-Sport Aircraft (also available as a kit).
Arion — Lightning LS-1 (2009)
One of the newest SLSA is an all-American design, from Arion Aircraft and it's called the Lightning LS-1. Winning its approval just before Sun 'n Fun 2009, LS-1 was preceded by some 80 kit Lightnings the company has sold in the last three years; more than 40 are already flying. I found the Lightning great fun. You might, too.
CORRECTION: In this video, I refer to a "retractable" version of the Lightning in kit-built aircraft form, however, that is an error. The model was never designed with such equipment
One of the newest SLSA is an all-American design, from Arion Aircraft and it’s called the Lightning LS-1. Winning its approval just before Sun ‘n Fun 2009, LS-1 was preceded by some 80 kit Lightnings the company has sold in the last three years; more than 40 are already flying. I found the Lightning great fun. You might, too. CORRECTION: In this video, I refer to a “retractable” version of the Lightning in kit-built aircraft form, however, that is an error. The model was never designed with such equipment
Sun Catches Lightning – Sun Flyer Rollout
The one notable difference — and in fact this is the whole story — is the electric motor up front allowing Sun Flyer to look even a bit more streamlined than the dashing outline of Lightning. This is a first article aircraft as photos don't yet show any solar cells on the wings, as promised by Aero Electric.
Regardless of how AEAC develops Sun Flyer down the line, it was wonderful to see them linking up with Arion Aircraft whose LSA and kit models have been admired for their gracefully smooth shape for some years.In its unveiling at AirVenture 2014, Aero Electric showed a single seater. This was actually the Elektra One, designed and created by Calin Gologan, who also predicts an all-electric four-seat GA airplane in the next ten years. That was 2010, so we have time for AEAC to get their two seater ready and move onward. (We'll see how that turns out.)
Paying tribute to Calin, George Bye of Aero Electric said, "[Our] two-seat solar-electric light sport aircraft project was created under license agreement from German technology partner, PC-Aero, which introduced the Elektra One single-seater."
Readers seeking a broader view are invited to read my survey of electric airplanes from a few years ago: electric airplane review. A year earlier, we had this earlier article about Elektra. Now, you have some of the history.Most of the electric airplane projects currently capturing media attention are pure electric plays, although Aero 2016's e-flight-expo organized by German publisher Willi Tacke showed a hybrid (gas & electric) project. Other than some fascinating one-off projects, pure electric mostly means batteries to supply the current needed to spin the engine and prop.
AEAC's Sun Flyer is the first "commercial" project proposing to incorporate solar cells as a power-gathering apparatus. The company stated, "Solar energy collection from solar cells affixed to the composite wing skin, produces electric power that is combined with Lithium Ion batteries to run the electric propulsion system."
Flying the eSpyder a couple years ago showed it was both easy and different for the pilot. While operation was simple, I had unfamiliar information references I needed to track. They were not intuitive for someone used to fuel flow, magneto operation, tank capacity, and power settings. You can read my flight impressions aloft in eSpyder. Alternatively, watch this video with airframe developer, Tom Peghiny, after eSpyder became the first electric airplane to win German certification.Speaking to the pilot operation of Sun Flyer, Aero Electric reported, "The electric motor's throttle is very intuitive with one control lever. [The pilot has] no need to adjust mixture richness and monitor cylinder head temperature as in aircraft with internal combustion engines; a throttle computer control unit is responsible for optimum motor operation, battery status and the entire power system."
Beyond its quiet, drip-free operation, "fuel burn" is another saving grace of electric. AEAC said, "Only about $1 of electricity is needed for each flying hour." We've heard this number from other producers and it seems to suggest this could be great for flight schools trying to operate efficiently. Even the fuel miserly Rotax 912 iS burns four gallons an hour and even at today's somewhat lower auto gas prices, that still translates to at least $10 per hour for fuel alone.
Swapping out battery sets (and fast charging) could keep an electric flight school plane flying almost continuously, augmented by Sun Flyer's solar cells, but of course, batteries are some of the most expensive components so to buy at least two sets per airplane on top of the cost of a new airplane may be a deal breaker for smaller flight schools. AEAC has hinted at a price of $180,000, a bit precious for many flight schools. A breakthrough in energy storage (i.e., better batteries) could dramatically alter the landscape but we're still waiting for long-lasting, fast-charging batteries that don't cost a fortune.Regardless, the appeal of quiet, trouble-free electric propulsion generates significant interest from many both in the pilot community and from neighbors, community leaders, and various interest groups. The move to electric seems inexorable driven even faster by the arrival of names like Airbus and its Voltair subsidiary (for more, read this and this) or giant Siemens. AEAC and its Sun Flyer may be coming in to view at just the right time. We'll keep watching them.
In this ANN video, company boss George Bye gives his vision for the future of Sun Flyer and electric propulsion.
Recently, aviation titles chronicled the rollout of Sun Flyer’s prototype electric powered airplane. To careful observers, the aircraft might appear somewhat familiar. Good eyes, folks. The prototype was built for Aero Electric Aircraft Corporation by Arion Aircraft. The beautiful sweeping lines of the Sun Flyer are nearly identical to the Lightning LS-1. The one notable difference — and in fact this is the whole story — is the electric motor up front allowing Sun Flyer to look even a bit more streamlined than the dashing outline of Lightning. This is a first article aircraft as photos don’t yet show any solar cells on the wings, as promised by Aero Electric. Regardless of how AEAC develops Sun Flyer down the line, it was wonderful to see them linking up with Arion Aircraft whose LSA and kit models have been admired for their gracefully smooth shape for some years.
Open Houses, Airshow-Built Planes, and a Birthday
Last weekend Zenith Aircraft held another of their open house events. At the Midwest LSA Expo a few weeks beforehand I asked factory pilot guru, Roger Dubbert how many people the company expected. His answer: a rather amazing “700.” According to Zenith president Sebastien Heintz it was indeed another strong event, one they’ve repeated every year since setting up shop in Mexico, Missouri. “By all accounts and measurements, the 23rd annual Hangar Day was an incredible winner,” summarized Sebastien. Among the highlights of the two-day festivities was the arrival of EAA’s two Zenith aircraft. One was an EAA staff-built version of the CH 750 Cruzer (watch for our video pilot report to be posted soon) and the second was the One Week Wonder CH 750 that was completed during AirVenture with participation from over 2,500 people. As Arion Aircraft‘s Nick Otterback put it, “Since this month seems to offer many open houses I wanted to share ours.
Lightning XS Contrasts with FK131 Jungmann
In my previous post I made a passing mention of a coming flock of four seat aircraft loosely based on the two seat LSA that five manufacturers are presently building. As promised, more on that later. In this post I want to focus on two alternative directions. First is the Arion Aircraft Lightning XS, a kind of big brother to the Lightning LS, which can be flown as a SLSA, ELSA or EAB kit. You don’t need a medical to fly LS. You will for the XS (or “Excess”) and you will have to build it, but the newest variation from Arion promises to be a hot performer realizing the potential this all-American design has always possessed. Arion boss Nick Otterback said, “We flew our new kit the Lightning XS [that] is based on our popular Jabiru powered Lightning kit but with several design changes incorporated.” XS has been designed to allow engines up to 160 horsepower.
Simple Aircraft (Like LSA) Need Simple Rules
In this post I’m going to do something potentially risky. I am going to make some statements about the politics of aircraft certification. While rather dull, this subject is nonetheless something pilots and others feel rather strongly about as the safety of aircraft — for persons in or under aircraft — is involved. Doesn’t everyone except a handful of thrill seekers care deeply about safety? I certainly do yet I feel it’s time for some new directions. I fully expect not everyone will agree, but I feel strongly that these statements need to be made. So, here goes … My term as Membership Secretary of ASTM’s F37 LSA committee will complete later this year; I will be term limited out. That’s perfectly fine … I’ve done my duty for several years. ASTM’s F37 committee is the group that wrote and updates the standards used to gain acceptance for Light-Sport Aircraft. F37 is populated by some exceptional people that are largely unsung heroes for all the hard work they’ve done with little recognition.