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.
Bristell Aircraft (USA),
Friendly IslandHey, I have one on my new iPhone and now Sun 'n Fun will have one, too. Apple calls their design "Dynamic Island." Sun 'n Fun is even simpler with "The Island." What could this mean? "The Island" is a new customer service center for Sun 'n Fun 2023 that illustrates how attention is shifting East on the grounds. This will not lessen the appeal or crowd density in what they once called the "core area," but is demonstrates that under new leadership the Lakeland event plans to better use the available area to the east of where Warbirds have been (however, no change to the Warbird area location). To get a better picture plus the thinking of the new big guy at Sun 'n Fun, Gene Conrad, check out the video below. The overall effect I predict: This will boost activity in Paradise City, which is now right on the way from the core area to The Island …at least via road. You can also get to this new area from airside and via a new tram route. Perhaps it is the potent combination of new leadership and bubbling pilot energy. Perhaps new attention is related to the coming Mosaic regulation. No matter, the area known to many readers as Paradise City or the Ultralight Area — or Light Planes, as Sun 'n Fun now labels it — appears newly energized for 2023. This follows a solid year in 2022 when the overall market sector I follow was up a healthy 18% (in aircraft registrations) over 2021. So, 2023 could be an exciting year in Paradise City.
Area SponsorsThis year the overall area has two major sponsors. This is not new. Sun 'n Fun has long had sponsors for the area but not of the capability of this year's pair. Everyone who has ever looked at an airplane knows Flying magazine. The new owner of this storied title is an LSA enthusiast himself so no surprise that he wanted to help this area. The magazine is giving away a high-end LSA as part of a subscription offer. The other sponsor is a new aircraft manufacturer, Junkers Aircraft. The historical German company has partnered with Waco Aircraft to build the distinctive A50 Junior as a Special Light-Sport Aircraft in Battle Creek, Michigan. Junkers will have a flight-line display at the center of Paradise City. Both Flying magazine and Junkers have big news to announce at Sun 'n Fun 2023. The LSA Mall again provides a central exhibit in Paradise City. The LSA Mall is sponsored in 2023 by several enterprises: Aero Affinity, Deland Municipal Airport, Evektor, and Bristell. As it has been for 16 years, the LSA Mall is hosted by LAMA, the Light-Sport Aircraft Aircraft Manufacturers Association. Rotax Aircraft Engines will once again sponsor two six-seat golf carts to help you get to and from Paradise City. Rotax pays for the golf carts and Paradise City volunteers drive them all day following a route from the core area (by the food court) to the LSA Mall. They can also go to "The Island" to help assure getting to Paradise City is easier than ever. This a free service thanks to Rotax. A closing thought to all attendees from our friends at AVweb, "Very important: Buy your parking pass online for $10; it’s $20 if bought at the gate." Sun 'n Fun announced tickets are selling at above-average rates, so you are advised to plan ahead and use their online ticket purchase system. AVweb also links to a couple other useful videos in their Sun 'n Fun 2023 preview article. See you in Lakeland!
- Sun 'n Fun, main airshow website
- Sun 'n Fun, online tickets link
- Flying magazine, LSA giveaway link
- Junkers Aircraft, content on this website
- Aero Affinity, content on this website
- DeLand Municipal Airport, city website for airport
- Evektor and Harmony LSA, content on this website
- Bristell USA and BRM Aero, content on this website
- Rotax Aircraft Engines, content on this website
- LAMA, Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association, organization website
Whoo, Hoo! It’s almost showtime! April 2023 seems destined to finally overcome all the Covid baggage as attendees sign up in droves for Sun ‘n Fun. With a delicious 10-day spacing between them — time to rest up a bit after a vigorous week — later in April comes Aero Friedrichshafen. Get ready for plenty of reporting from these two events. Both events have new leadership in 2023. A time for changes. Fresh ideas are emerging. What can you expect at this years airshows? With Sun ‘n Fun 2023 starting in about two weeks as this is written, let’s focus on Lakeland, Florida first. Organizers of the 49th event announced major plans for this popular airshow that kicks off the recreational flying season. My focus is on LSA, Sport Pilot kits, and ultralights. At Sun ‘n Fun, that means Paradise City, where big things are happening. You would not be wrong if you scanned this article and saw increased interest in this part of the overall Sun ‘n Fun grounds.
Aventura SLSA Special Light-Sport AircraftYou can find more articles about all Aero Adventure's Aventura models and even the versions that preceded today's lineup by checking this link. In a series of articles and videos I have described these airplanes and given info on how they fly, how they are built, and how affordable they are. Consider this. Even today, in 2021, you can buy a complete Aventura kit for something north of $50,000. While that will be a basic machine and while you'll spend hours building it — an activity many find highly satisfying — you must put that pricing in perspective. Go online and look for a seaplane, any seaplane you can find. First, you won't find many as demand for amphibian versatility has remained strong for decades. Second, even a worn-out legacy GA airplane with an engine approaching overhaul mounted on rather banged-up floats will cost dramatically more than the same airplane on wheels. Really! Go look for yourself; I'll wait. Indeed, the most basic kit Aventura can cost little more than fifty grand — for the whole aircraft, engine, boat hull, everything — where floats alone for a Cessna 172, for example, may cost the same. Of course, a fully-built Light-Sport Aircraft meeting all FAA acceptance requirements will cost more. Aero Adventure — as with every other company selling a Special LSA — must …provide full part tracking in perpetuity …keep all customer records and be prepared to contact them if any safety actions are required …keep many parts separated from components for non-FAA-accepted aircraft (kits), keep up with ASTM standards and assure continuous operational safety monitoring …maintain factory "best practices" involving such detail as a written log of torque-wrench calibrations …and take many other actions intended to ensure these "sanctioned" aircraft remain airworthy machines for their owners. If you think all this is easy, you don't understand the task. All that monitoring and mandatory activity costs money and will be reflected in Aventura SLSA's selling price. However, I'm willing to bet you lunch at my favorite restaurant that this will still be the most reasonably priced aircraft among seaplanes. Care to take the bet? Aventura SLSA will be offered for sale for the first time at the upcoming Sun 'n Fun 2021 airshow. I hope you're planning to attend and if so, I hope you'll swing by the Aero Adventure display or come to the LSA Mall where a sweet kit-built Aventura will be positioned.
C E L E B R A T E SLSA Number 155!Please join me in congratulating Alex Rolinski and his DeLand, Florida team for achieving FAA acceptance of their Aventura two seater. The newest Special LSA now tops our popular SLSA List. The truth is — as an earlier video identified — the work to win FAA acceptance was done more than a year ago. Then… covid. When FAA was locked down, personnel were not allowed to drive less than one hour to Aero Adventure and this restriction went on for month after month. How exasperating that must have been after working hard to accomplish the many line-item demands of ASTM standards. Then, exactly as I guessed on the video from a year ago, when FAA arrived, Aero Adventure passed on the first and only visit from auditors. Alex had contracted with SilverLight Aviation to assist with engineering preparations and that obviously went swimmingly. So, at Sun 'n Fun 2021, you can see the final edition and you can order one. Not only will you save money over all other SLSA seaplanes but you might get it sooner… though that could change when other pilots become aware of its availability. Lou Mancuso, famous for selling a gorgeous LSA under the name Bristell USA (among other aviation enterprises he runs), will be the national distributor for Aventura SLSA. He's been working with the company since the powerful S17 Aventura was announced and he is all-in to continue. So, in Lakeland, you can look at these aircraft at Aero Adventure, Bristell USA, plus see one in the LSA Mall. This may be reason alone for you to attend Sun 'n Fun …yeah, as if you needed another reason to finally go to an airshow! Want to know how Aventura II flies? In this pilot report, I go into some detail. Now, this was from many years ago. The airplane has significantly changed — for the better — since that report. However, lots of the information is still valid and interested buyers may enjoy hearing some of the history of this long-running aircraft. Want to know more about the Aventura kit? Here's a report from four years ago. The same caveat applies, that this aircraft has changed a lot since this article was written in 2017.
Affordable is a word I often hear as I explore the ever-expanding world of light aircraft. From Part 103 ultralights to kit-built aircraft you can fly with a Sport Pilot license (“Sport Pilot kit”) to fully-built, FAA-accepted Special Light-Sport Aircraft… the number of choices you have is dazzling. UPDATE 4/3/21: A new video featuring an interview with Aero Adventure’s Alex Rolinski now appears at the bottom of this article. —DJ Some of these numerous choices may run way past your budget, although a growing number of pilots are learning they can share ownership in one of various ways. Doing so can help you afford what you want yet many pilots enjoy the idea of owning their very own, highly-personal flying machine. Those who want sole ownership of a seaplane will have to dig deeper into their pocket, sometimes much more deeply. Sadly, for many pilots this eliminates a chance to own a LSA seaplane all by yourself.
Bristell 915iSThe successful model from the very active BRM Aero in the Czech Republic was always a favorite for its exquisite design with no detail overlooked, with some of the smoothest execution in the industry. It's wide cabin and luxurious appointments puts Bristell almost in a class of its own, with a price tag to match. Bristell with Rotax's uber-powerful, 141-horsepower 915iS fuel injected, turbocharged, and intercooler engine bumps the selling price beyond reach of many aviators while still being a fraction of its equivalent among legacy general aviation airplanes. You'll pay in the high $200,000 range for Bristell 915 but what a superlative airplane you'll receive for that money. While the price might discourage some, fear not, as main man Lou Mancuso also offers a shared ownership program that may be the best I've ever heard (details in this video). As we launched on our photo mission with Bristell going first, it was clear this machine can soar into the sky faster than almost any LSA I've seen short of much-slower-cruising STOL designs. Look for our video to follow with more information about the latest offered by Bristell USA. BRM Aero is definitely a moving target with new models in the works, but as with all the vendors featured in this virtual preview, you will have to learn about the new ideas at a later airshow. Stay tuned! ••• Get Lots More Info — Bristell USA (for North America) or BRM Aero (for other countries)
Jabiru J230DFor a very rare airframe company that also builds its own engines, welcome to the all-new Jabiru J230D with their latest Gen 4 (generation 4) Jabiru engine. The two seater LSA is also supplied as a four seater in its homeland of Australia, so this American model offers not only one of the most voluminous aft cabins in all of LSA-land but a separate, third door to access it. Representative U.S. Sport Planes, led by industry veteran Scott Severen, has demonstrated this baggage capacity with photos showing a large dog sitting comfortably aft of the pilots. Those who struggle to load a couple small bags in most airplanes may be envious of the ease of entry to the back cabin. Yet capacity is not the whole story behind J230D. This new model has refinements to make it fly even nicer. Since J230 models were already able to speed to the top of the category, improvements are focused on fit and finish and handling qualities. In addition to the updated airframe, Jabiru is now in full production on their Gen 4 engine offered in two configurations: a four-cylinder 2200 model producing 80 horsepower; and the six-cylinder 3300 model with 120 horsepower. Learn more about both Gen 4 engines. The J230D uses the later to scoot along at max LSA speed. ••• Get Lots More Info — U.S. Sport Planes
Flight Design F2Flight Design has been busy over the last year. Not only have they come out with their CTLS 2020 (fresh news) but they've put their all-new F2 through multiple tests. The German company is almost ready to begin deliveries. Since I first saw the F2 in mock up, Flight Design has redesigned the intake for two reasons: "to reduce drag as we confirmed the older version was very functional but draggy; and for aesthetic reasons," said the company. "Flight Design team designer and Head of Airworthiness, Christian Majunke, designed conceptually. He also designed a rather novel installation of the coolant and oil radiators," elaborated Flight Design USA representative, Tom Peghiny. Also new panel is an SLSA panel with twin G3X screens, a Garmin GTR 225 Com, Garmin GTX 345 ADSB in and out transponder, Garmin GMC 507 autopilot control head (with dual axis autopilot), and Garmin GMA 245 intercom. Pilot controls remain essentially as they were on the CT-series but note the combined single lever throttle and brake system. "Our F2 prototype number 002 arrived at port in Miami in preparation for display at Sun n Fun 2020," said Tom. Like most vendors, Flight Design USA hoped to go forward with the Lakeland show but will now unveil the new model at Oshkosh 2020 (assuming it remains on schedule). "After completing all SLSA required flight testing including the demanding ASTM 3180 anti-spin requirements, production has started on the first aircraft from production tooling in Germany, Ukraine and the Czech Republic," concluded Tom. ••• Get Lots More Info — Flight Design USA
Whisper X350You know the Czech Cessna-182 lookalike called L600 from AeroPilot USA. You also know the dashing FX1 from InnovAviation in Italy. Both of these interesting models are represented by Deon Lombard of AeroPilot USA, now based in Florida but with representation in California. At Sun 'n Fun 2020, Deon expected to introduce Whisper to American kit builders. Alas, as with the rest of this group, you probably won't see it until July in Wisconsin.
Whisper Aircraft in South Africa has created Whisper X350 Gen II, a two-seat, cross-country sport aircraft with a limit load factor of plus 6.0 and minus 4.0 Gs. Those are merely limit loads. This is a tough bird.
Whisper wings feature a carbon fiber structure tested to an ultimate load factor of 12.0 Gs. The Gen II’s wing tanks offer a total fuel capacity of 63 U.S. gallons, giving a range of 1,000 nautical miles and an endurance of over 6 hours.
"The aircraft also has one of the widest interiors on the market today, featuring optional leather interior and plenty of baggage room making the Gen II perfect for comfortable cross-country trips. This will make a good member of the AeroPilot USA family. A few more specs: Useful Load — 925 pounds; Speed — 175 knots; Range — 1,137 miles.••• Get Lots More Info — AeroPilot USA
Montaer MC-01It might have been one of the great flights to reach Sun 'n Fun 2020, had it occurred. That's because designer and company representative Bruno de Oliveira had planned to fly his new model all the way from Brazil to Lakeland. That alone would have been reason to examine the new Light-Sport Aircraft. Bruno will be aided in his approach to the U.S. market by longtimer, Ed Ricks, who once helped the Paradise Aircraft people with their P1NG (video). Unfortunately, that relationship faded but when Bruno, who once worked for Paradise, struck out on his own, Ed and partner were pleased to get back involved. MC-01's airframe is constructed with 4130 molybdenum steel tube providing a greater safety to the occupants. The exterior is all aeronautical aluminum fuselage and wings. A steerable nose wheel, dual toe brakes, and control yokes are just some of the features of this well built airplane. Learn more here; get more specs here. Had Ed been able to show MC-01 at Sun 'n Fun 2020 he was ready to make a special offer. While this handsome, approved, all-metal airplane normally sells for a reasonable $135,000, an introductory price of only $125,000 was to be the show special. If you're lucky, Ed may extend the offer to AirVenture Oshkosh 2020 (assuming it remains on its present schedule). ••• Get Lots More Info — Montaer USA
While I continue to worry about the cash crunch faced by two of my favorite shows, I am still driven to provide content as if those shows had occurred this year and not been postponed to 2021. Of course, I refer to Aero Friedrichshafen and Sun ‘n Fun, the latter my focus for this post. Here I will relate five aircraft you might have seen in Lakeland last week …before it was bumped to early May, but which is now off until April 2021. I admit I secretly hoped for good news in these sad cancellations that might allow me to attend both events in 2021. I had to pick one over the other in 2020 as they were exactly opposite one another. Unfortunately for my schedule, the year-long postponement didn’t change anything. Sun ‘n Fun 2021 will be 13-18 of April while Aero 2021 is planned for 14-17 April.
East and West Coast Flight OpsBoth Sling Pilot Academy (SPA) and Sebring Flight Academy (SFA) are relatively recent starts but both already have students well trained enough that they can begin taking some of the chores of training the next batch, under controlled and highly supervised leadership, of course. This is serious stuff. These students could be piloting the airliner in which you are flying in just a few years. When students earn their credentials and are ready for more, SPA uses a pair of recently-acquired dual-Rotax-engine Tecnam Twins. SFA uses the well-proven Piper Seneca twin. Both places appear to be humming with activity! SPA has evolved from a modest, quiet flight school into a bustling operation. "We're just getting started," said SPA boss, Matt Litnaitzky. "Four new aircraft are on their way, we've added an additional hangar, as well as nearly quadrupling our staff. The first academy class is already airborne well on their way to a dream career." SPA said students are expected to complete their ratings in nine months and finish building their 1,500 hours in a year and a half. By utilizing efficient Rotax-powered aircraft with state-of-the art modern avionics, SPA students will be entering the airlines with glass cockpit experience at a fraction of the cost. Across the continent at Sebring Flight Academy, they are using Lou Mancuso's ingenious system of elevating their freshly-certificated students into flight training under the supervision of seasoned pros. As a former instructor myself, I can confirm a CFI learns every bit as much as each student he or she trains. SFA offers a full package of nearby lodging (they bought a house not far from SEF airport) and a work opportunity as ways to hold down the cost and concentrate the student's payment into actual training rather than lodging and transportation expense. Likewise, SPA has a whole web page dedicated to showing the savings they can offer. Both of these modern schools are very keenly aware that, as SPA reported, "The hot topic of every FBO around is 'a pilot shortage is upon us'..." Indeed, Boeing predicts over the next 20 years that North America alone will need 206,000 airline pilots. Globally that figures rises dramatically to some 800,000 pilots. Students getting into professional courses like those offered by SPA and SFA have very bright futures in my opinion. Airlines have great need, but so do corporate bizjet departments and military aviation divisions. China's military — even given its immense population — is increasing recruitment as they face upcoming shortages. Then, we have eVTOL air taxis in hot development and all manner of remote pilot positions. It's not just pilots either. Although it's a story worthy of another article, mechanics are predicted to have even higher job opportunities with pay scales increasing to entice trained workers. This is a great time to be a young person pursing aviation, better than I've seen in many decades of following aviation closely. It's wonderful to see Sling Pilot Academy and Sebring Flight Academy rewriting the old rules of how a flight school should be operated. I'm exceptionally proud of both enterprises. Current pilots can contact The Airplane Factory USA or Bristell USA to learn more about the aircraft they represent.
For years, I have been interviewing suppliers of Light-Sport Aircraft about how functional and durable their SLSA are for flight training. Contrary to what many think many SLSA actually make good trainers (see this recent article). Old timers might think you have to stick with Cessna or Piper to have an airframe built robustly enough to handle student flight training. Those who feel that way are behind the times. LSA are here and now in flight schools. This is a tale, not of two cities, but of two coasts, the Pacific and Atlantic yet the story is unfolding in several other locations, too. Based on multiple flight schools deep into using LSA (as portrayed in the linked article above), current LSA appear more than up to the job. That has been ongoing for some time. The new development that is popping up on the coasts and elsewhere in between are entirely new flight schools, ones organized completely around Light-Sport Aircraft as primary trainers.
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.
LSA and Sport Pilot Kits
- US Sport Planes — will feature not one, but two of their speedy high wing composite models powered by Jabiru
- Aeromarine LSA — entries including Merlin and Zigolo; both will be available with electrical propulsion
- Bristell USA — the sleek, luxurious low wing from BRM Aero enjoyed a strong year of sales in 2018
- Fly High — this newer company will display a surprise entry from TL Ultralights, maker of smooth carbon fiber LSA
- SWT Aviation — presenting the super-popular CarbonCub that has risen toward the top of the sales charts
- Dreams Come True — offering a closer look at the deluxe Evektor Harmony with a special price on the one displayed
- Pipistrel — see a long-winged, long-gliding Sinus and learn about the entire line available such as Virus SW
- Viking Aircraft Engines — see a Rans S-12 with the Viking 90 installed; their planes are always eye-catching
- Florida LSA — examine a CTsw (the "hot-rod" version of this popular model) and check out a good price point
- Sport Aero Services — representing a very clean Breezer, another attractively priced LSA available for immediate delivery
Light Aircraft EnginesRotax — maker of the new 915iS plus many other 9-series models widely used in LSA and Sport Pilot kits Continental Motors — the builder of the 180-horsepower Titan engines that have taken LSA and SP kit by storm Jabiru — maker of thousands of engines used around the world; see one of their several popular models. Viking Aircraft Engines — based on Honda's advanced components, Viking has a range of engines available at excellent prices AeroMomentum — based on Suzuki latest automobile engines, AeroMomentum offers wonderful value
Need a Free Ride?If you visit the core area of Sun 'n Fun, you know it is a fair walk to Paradise City. Yet it is a great draw as many see that Sun 'n Fun's "alternate airport" in Paradise City represents something of an airshow-within-an airshow. As with AirVenture, Sun 'n Fun is a sprawling affair and it takes a while to hoof it from one location to another. Thanks to Rotax Aircraft Engines, LAMA is again pleased to offer a free ride on one of two 6-seater golf carts. Operated by volunteers from Paradise City, you can catch a ride from the foot court area of Sun 'n Fun's main area to the Rotax exhibit at the main entry gate for the show and from that point to the LSA Mall. These golf cart shuttles run back and forth all day at no cost to rider. Look for the golf carts with the Rotax logo prominently displayed and stick your thumb out for a ride. I hope you are coming to Sun 'n Fun 2019. If you cannot, check back here for news as I find it.
This year celebrates 15 years of Light-Sport Aircraft and its companion pilot certificate, Sport Pilot. This year also celebrates the 12th year of LAMA providing the LSA Mall. What a fascinating ride it has been! For 2019, LAMA will again host its special location at the big spring celebration of flight that is Sun ‘n Fun. LAMA is able to mount this attraction thanks to longstanding support from Sun ‘n Fun management and many industry players. The purpose of the LSA Mall is twofold: (1) present aircraft to visitors in a convenient, enjoyable setting, and (2) showcase the light aircraft industry in one location. The LSA Mall is not limited to Special Light-Sport Aircraft but features Sport Pilot-eligible kit aircraft and ultralights plus specialty light aircraft that may be of interest to pilots. For 2019, the LSA Mall will add a few previously-owned LSA, as this part of the light aircraft market is developing.
Who Is Succeeding?In one day, we did not speak to every vendor and we did not get to the inside booths yet. However, those we did approach for news and updates provided feedback that was significantly on the positive side. Here is a partial recap (again cautioning that this is not inclusive): Icon Aircraft's production engine appears to be firing on all cylinders, according to Tampa Regional Sales Director Scott Rodenbeck. We heard about delivery numbers growing from five aircraft a month to 10 a month and a forecast for 15 shipments in December. These numbers will show up on our market share report based on N-number registrations. Increased production has reduced the delivery wait to only seven or eight months, down from literally years back when the California company was taking deposits left and right but not yet manufacturing. Bristell USA is having a banner year that should end close to 20 units sold for the deluxe and superbly equipped Bristell LSA, reported company leader Lou Mancuso and right hand man, John Rathmell. Beside delivering strong sales for Czech producer, Milan Bristela, Lou's growing enterprise is also establishing a flight academy at the Sebring airport to offer younger pilots a lower cost path to careers as pilots. We will have video on this development. Duc Hélices is another company choosing Sebring for their operation, reported Michael Dederian, the company's main face at airshows — after a few seasons nearly all producers know him. The popular French prop maker is opening a subsidiary in early 2019 to better serve U.S. customers. They plan to celebrate the American enterprise at the Sebring Sport Aviation Expo on January 25th. Van's Aircraft made a big change this year. After bringing in ready-to-fly manufacturing to the world's largest manufacturer of aircraft kits — the immensely popular RV line — Van's is backed up for nearly a year, reported Atlanta-based, Vic Syracuse. That wait may come down as the company ramps up its new in-house production, but it's clear RV-12 is a success story. We recorded an interview with Vic about the new model, now known as RV-12iS. Yes, it uses the Rotax engine but that's not all the changes in the renewed model. Paul Mather of M-Squared Aircraft is opening new doors. He continues to build his M-Squared models as he has for many years but now the longtime veteran of light aircraft manufacturing has diversified to provide builder assistance to owners wanting a Zenith CH-750 Cruzer powered by the Continental Motors O-200D engine. After a slow start activity has picked up and Paul is pleased with the aircraft he's added to his stable. We plan a Video Pilot Report using the model seen at DeLand Chip Erwin of Aeromarine-LSA also reported growing sales for his well-priced, fast-assembling Merlin PSA (Personal Sport Aircraft). Besides sales to customers, he is using the single place aircraft for some government duties and these activities are keeping the Florida businessman on the move, literally, and from a business evaluation. We shot a video with Jay Kurtz of South Lakeland Airport (which many Sun 'n Fun attendees know very well). After building 40 (yes, 40!) aircraft, his most recent project has been the Quick-Build Merlin. After just a single day, I'm excited to see what happens in two more days of the DeLand Showcase 2018. Look for another report tomorrow.
Day One of the third running of DeLand Showcase is complete. As Videoman Dave and I scoured the show grounds looking for good stories, we spoke to a few vendors reporting that 2018 has been a good year. Our video news gathering exercise brought a pleasant discovery. Many companies are reporting a solid year of sales. The light aviation industry is composed of many small companies. None are corporations the size of Cessna or Cirrus so they don’t require hundreds of unit sales to break even. A U.S. importer delivering 20 aircraft can experience a good year from sales and other services they offer. When several companies report noteworthy sales success it suggests the market is healthy and customers are buying airplanes they want to enjoy. In parallel, the used LSA market also appears active and a virtuous circle begins to take form. The show itself enjoyed the great organization we have come to expect from director Jana Filip.
Big Beautiful Bristell in the BushBristell in all models features a handsome interior that is one of the widest among LSA. The model boasts a 50-inch (128 cm) wide cabin that should accommodate even large occupants without pressing them up against their cockpit companion. All that space might be useful for another kind of enjoyment: bush flying, landing on river beds, camping …that sort of adventure. For the new "bush" version of TDO, BRM again did a great job of finishing the interior, both in creature comforts (as seen in the nearby photo) or equipment. To mount big Alaska tundra tires on their TDO, BRM teamed up with Beringer wheels and brakes — and shock absorber systems, and taildragger innovation, and more. Milan's son Martin flew the big-boy-tire model from their home base in the south of Czech Republic to Friedrichshafen German in about four hours, averaging about 95 knots. This is certainly not as speedy as the more streamlined, wheel-pant-equipped versions but that's not a bad cruise. What's great about the Beringer/Alaska adaptation is that it follows Milan's mantra to keep as many new innovations as possible retrofittable to older models. That works here, too, but owners get a bonus. Through the design of this Bush TDO model, Milan made sure a mechanically-savvy owner can switch back and forth. Use your fiberglass gear and wheel pants to go fast for travel but swap to bush mode when you want to fly for fun on the weekend, maybe at your cottage. Cool, huh? What wonderful versatility.
Bristell Never Slows DownBRM celebrated reaching 300 aircraft barely a year ago, and Milan said they are already at serial number 365 by mid-April 2018. This company is obviously doing very well and their continued inventiveness paired with good looks and high quality is clearly drawing new customers at a steady pace. U.S. representation is very strong with Bristell USA run by industry veteran — and inventor of the famous "Landing Doctor" technique for always making good touchdowns — Lou Mancuso. He has assembled a qualified team to work with him including John Rathmell and John Calla. With such a speedy aircraft, some buyers have asked about flying with reference to instrument. Lots of LSA sellers shy away from such sales (and if they do, that's probably appropriate for them). However, Bristell USA has researched this and is willing to offer a suitably and properly equipped aircraft. Learn more from a flight I took with Bristell USA team member, John Rathmell or, if you prefer, hear it on video. Despite being one of the newer companies in Light-Sport Aircraft (formed in 2009), BRM and its Bristell appear on course to remain a major contributor to this newest sector of aviation. Now, get the words directly from the boss, Milan Bristela at Aero Friedrichshafen 2018… https://youtu.be/R4wg_8jEvRc
BRM Aero boss and chief design, Milan Bristela, has convincingly proven his visionary credentials. Here’s an article about his company expansion over the last few years. BRM has several models of their Bristell Light-Sport Aircraft. Most models are tricycle gear as that is how most pilot are trained these days. However, for those who love “standard” gear, that is, taildraggers, BRM Aero offers a choice that remains as sleek and beautiful as all their models. The Taildragger option — or TDO, as BRM Aero named it — was introduced in 2013 and a year or so later it made its way to the USA thanks to the involvement of then-new distributor, Bristell Aircraft USA. While tricycle gear models still outsell TDO, it addresses a sweet spot for many pilots. Milan has also built a retractable version (of the tricycle gear model) for those flying in countries where such configurations are permitted and where higher allowed speeds make adding the complexity and cost of retractable gear worthwhile.
Aircraft of InterestWe saw a rare sighting of an Icon A5 on display with another on a lake doing demo flights. The California company has in several recent years limited its airshow appearance to a splashy big tent at Oshkosh. It was good to see the team from the factory's flight school and operation in Tampa, Florida make a showing. Scott Severen as US Sport Planes made his first appearance as the new man handling sales nationally for Jabiru, focused on their J230-D and J170-D models. Scott has played many important roles in light aviation and he's a veteran choice to take over from Pete Krotje and his Shelbyville, Tennessee team as Pete slides gracefully into a well-deserved retirement, as he has planned for a couple years. Aeropilot USA boss, Deon Lombard, reported a solid first year with six sales of the L600. He also added a dealer in the east while he handles the west from his California base. From what I could see, interest is growing for this handsome 80%-scale 182 lookalike done in composite. We looked over the HKS-powered Merlin Chip Erwin brought on behalf of his Aeromarine-LSA company based in the Tampa area. Videoman Dave and I are charging around scooping up videos and knocked out seven or eight on Day One. Look for plenty of fresh video in the weeks ahead to follow Dave's deluge of videos in advance of Sebring. Tomorrow's forecast: another fine day (or two or three) ahead, weatherwise with airplane noise first thing and all day! C'mon down if you can…
For all who could not attend, our title forms a common question. On day one of the fourteenth running of the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo, even many onsite asked how the first day went; I’ll bet I heard the question a dozen times. Short answer: A great start! The airport that hosts the annual event lucked out with a day of gorgeous weather, in the high 70s (25° C). Clear blue skies and modest breezes made for a beautiful beginning. They booked a full display of more than 100 vendors and plenty of shiny aircraft to examine. Morning hours looked to have reasonably good attendance; the parking lot was on its way to a good fill at 8:30 AM. These shows rarely seem crowded — and that’s not a bad thing if you want to talk to an aircraft designer or take a demo flight — but at times various aircraft were surrounded by visitors.
- Maximum Cruise: 280 km/h — 175 mph — 152 knots
- Eco (lower fuel consuming) Cruise: 260 km/h — 163 mph — 141 knots
- Fuel Burn in Eco mode: 23 liters/hour — 6 gallons per hour
- Fuel Translation: 27.16 statute miles per gallon at 163 mph
Surely all readers know that Rotax-brand engines dominate the light aircraft landscape. The company owns something like 75% or more of the global market and close to that in the USA. Some worthy competitors are keeping the pressure on, but Rotax continues forward. The engine-to-follow is their new turbo-intercooler-fuel injected 135-horsepower 915 iS variant. Rotax Aircraft Engines first announced this new model at AirVenture 2015; see our video interview for details and go to the official 915 iS page for even more. In the press conference where the engine was unveiled, many in the standing-room-only audience were airframe manufacturers. As soon as the management and engineering team was done presenting, they quickly swarmed over the powerplant. You could almost see the wheels turning in their minds as they contemplated how they could fit and use this machine in their aircraft. That was almost two years ago — AirVenture Oshkosh is only about 75 days away!
"You cannot fly IFR in a Light-Sport Aircraft!" Is that what you think? You might be wrong. In this video Bristell USA's John Rathmell and I discuss this situation. Indeed, a path does exist for IFR operation in a Bristell and we will provide some details. (More can be found elsewhere on this website in an article published March 19, 2017.) Beside discussing IFR capabilities, join us for a flight in the wonderful Bristell, an aircraft I loved from my first flight in it.
“You cannot fly IFR in a Light-Sport Aircraft!” Is that what you think? You might be wrong. In this video Bristell USA’s John Rathmell and I discuss this situation. Indeed, a path does exist for IFR operation in a Bristell and we will provide some details. (More can be found elsewhere on this website in an article published March 19, 2017.) Beside discussing IFR capabilities, join us for a flight in the wonderful Bristell, an aircraft I loved from my first flight in it.
Think about IFR in an LSA this way: Can you fly IFR in a homebuilt aircraft? Can you do so in a Cessna 172? Does it matter that these two distinct types have not gone through a thorough IFR evaluation by FAA? If you know those answers then why should such flying be prevented in LSA?
It's true, the industry committee called ASTM F.37 issued advice on this subject to LSA producers. F.37 is the group that has labored for a dozen years to provide FAA with industry consensus standards allowing FAA to "accept" (not "certify") SLSA. The group has been working on a IFR standard for some time without arriving at consensus. Partly because the work is not done the committee urged manufacturers not to openly sell IFR capability until the standard was in place and accepted by FAA. (The agency accepts standards and aircraft under different processes.)
F.37's advice is directly related to a present lack of such a standard and possible resistance from legacy aircraft producers. However, neither the committee's advice nor the regulation creating SP/LSA prevents you from filing IFR. Instead yes-or-no relates to a manufacturer's preference plus written FAA-issued operating limitations.So, as some say, it cannot be done, right? Wrong.
An Experimental LSA starts out as a bolt-for-bolt copy of the SLSA version. Once issued its airworthiness certificate the owner can elect changes. He or she may not use an ELSA for compensated flight instruction or rental, but in other ways, they are significantly the same airplane. Am ELSA owner can change panel gear and other components (even including the engine) and need not seek permission for each change from the manufacturer.
Rather than repeat facts already reported here, I refer you to these articles: "A Raging Debate... IFR, IMC, VMC, and LSA" — "IFR and LSA: Much Ado About... What?" — "IFR 'Certification' of Avionics" — and, for those who want to examine FAA's exact words, go to "FAR Part 91.205 (required equipment for IFR)".At Sebring 2017, I flew with Bristell USA's John Rathmell. John is not only a highly experienced pilot, he is knowledgeable about Bristell's IFR option. In our video shown below, I asked John to cover some of this detail for you and he was most accommodating.
Now, I understand plenty of readers of this website or viewers of the many videos produced by Videoman Dave and myself perhaps do not care a whit about flying IFR. If you fly strictly for fun in nice weather, good for you! Have at it and enjoy! Yet, if you like the versatility of IFR, it is possible.
To fly under IFR rules, the pilot must have an IFR rating on his or her Private or better pilot certificate, that person must be current in those skills, and the airplane must be qualified by the means referenced above and maintenance must be up-to-date. You cannot — and more importantly should not — go fly into clouds simply because you have wonderful equipment on board from companies like Dynon, Garmin, or MGL.
In summary, if you are an instrument pilot, and if you are current, and if you have a medical, and if you purchase an aircraft like the Bristell and register it as an ELSA, no regulation prevents you from filing and flying IFR including into IMC. Only you can judge if that is a smart activity for you, and I hope you'll do so wisely.
Hear more about IFR in a Bristell and join John and I for a flight in this gorgeous, well flying Light-Sport Aircraft in the following video:
“It cannot be done,” is the quick dismissal from many in aviation, referring to instrument flying in a LSA. In 2017, I venture to say everyone in aviation (worldwide) knows about Light-Sport Aircraft and the Sport Pilot certificate, but a superficial knowledge can be a bad thing. The details unveil more. Think about IFR in an LSA this way: Can you fly IFR in a homebuilt aircraft? Can you do so in a Cessna 172? Does it matter that these two distinct types have not gone through a thorough IFR evaluation by FAA? If you know those answers then why should such flying be prevented in LSA? It’s true, the industry committee called ASTM F.37 issued advice on this subject to LSA producers. F.37 is the group that has labored for a dozen years to provide FAA with industry consensus standards allowing FAA to “accept” (not “certify”) SLSA. The group has been working on a IFR standard for some time without arriving at consensus.