How about this? Among the loudest “buzz” at Aero Friedrichshafen 2022 was the introduction of turbine engines on Light-Sport Aircraft. At least three well-known LSA producers are experimenting with turbines. OK, I know turbines are not allowed on present-day LSA. Could that be changing as Mosaic slowly works its way through the FAA? We won’t know until FAA releases their NPRM at this year’s Oshkosh (I predict). However, some language provided by the agency to guide ASTM standards writers has suggested that the ban on turbines might not last. A irony to this possibility is that turbines were the specific reason why electric wasn’t permitted. Uh… what?! Yep, in the effort to prevent turbines, FAA rule writers specified reciprocating engines only. That kept out turbines, alright, but it also scratched electric propulsion. Back in the early 2000s, government authorities weren’t pushing electric vehicles so rule writers didn’t feel the political pressure they do now.
BRM Aero, s.r.o.
Phone: (420) 773-984-338Uherské Hradiště , -- 68605 - Czech Republic
The need for speed is hard wired into humans, it seems. Even those of us who enjoy flying slow also love the idea of eating up the miles in some fast cruiser. A flight that turns a three-hour driving ordeal into a 25-minute aerial jaunt becomes a bragging right for any pilot. Other than the pure thrill of logging a high groundspeed, going fast is only useful when you’re going somewhere. If perhaps your goal is aerial sightseeing then slow (and probably low) is the way to go. If you have to go fast, remember that old saying from auto racing: “Speed cost money; how fast do you want to go?” This equally applies to aviation. FAA actually drew a speed line back in the early 2000s when the SP/LSA rule was being written (just as now with the LSA 2023 rule in the works). No, I don’t refer to the 120-knot speed limit we’ll discuss below.
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.
More from Aero as Day 3 closes. Because of the number on display — and because several readers asked — this post will focus on electric propulsion in two distinct forms. Whatever you think about electric as a means of lifting aircraft aloft, escaping its approach appears impossible. Experimentation is happening in all quarters. The following review is far from exhaustive; many other examples could be found at Aero Friedrichshafen 2019. Most agree that batteries are the weak link in the chain and despite repeated promises of annual increases in energy density of 5-8%, it hasn’t happened over ten years I’ve followed this fairly closely. That does not preclude certain effective uses, for example, local area primary flight training or aerobatic flying. Yet flying cross country on batteries remains somewhere in the future. Nonetheless, projects abound and solutions may be upon us. Here’s what I saw today. Hybrid Power from Tecnam, Rotax, and Siemens — I had no choice but to drop big names because these three powerhouses are joining forces on a hybrid system.
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.
LSA are getting more power, to wit, Rotax’s new 915iS with 135-horsepower and the Continental Titan line with 180 horsepower. I do not think this is the end of the horsepower boosts …plus LSA speed and/or weight changes could conceivably follow in the USA but are currently not limitations in other countries that accept the ASTM standards as a basis for approval or certification.
I'd like to talk about power. With LSA restricted to 120 KIAS, it seems unlikely we'll get much engine development to increase power unless regulations change to either allow an increase in speed or gross weight.
What would be the point of more powerful engines on LSA?
Well, that topic could take us down quite a lengthy path. Let me offer a somewhat shorter reply. You are right about many tech developments — and on that I point you to an article published recently in General Aviation News' "The Pulse of Aviation." Two thoughts: (1) I believe the LSA sector has reached an interesting level of maturity. The pace of major innovations may have slowed but the most important developments are now common on most LSA (and light kits). This situation is not so different than smartphones that totally upended mobile a decade ago with the introduction of the iPhone. In a similar time period, that industry has also matured and development has lost its torrid pace. (2) The funny thing about innovation is you often don’t know how or when it might emerge. Electric propulsion is one possibility and then we are seeing the first glimmer of a new class of aircraft with a collection of spinning blades or rotating wings. Who can guess where precisely that is headed? Whatever the coming changes, they will work first on lighter aircraft. My article referenced above tries to speculate a bit.
There's already a lot of technology in LSA thanks to the need to save weight, which has me wondering where the sector is going. Can you provide me with some thoughts?
One definition of composite is "made of various materials." In the past "composite" implied fiberglass. LSA already rely on fiberglass, aluminum, and steel but add high-tech materials such as Kevlar, carbon fiber, and titanium. Today, the most advanced designs have significantly carbon fiber airframes, partly for weight but also strength as well as aerodynamic efficiency and design beauty.
Composite versus metal. Is there something else? What type of composites are in common use and what types are under development? What drives composite development? Does metal still have a future in LSA? Is mix-and-match of both the way to go?
That's one beauty of fiberglass and carbon. You can have beautiful shapes and strength with weigh savings. Assembly ease is a factor, too. Those materials will surely persist for those reasons and for future production efficiencies. However, since nearly all airplanes are low-production — essentially hand-built with modest use of robotics, even at the Boeing or Airbus level — prospects for genuine mass production seem distant.
What are the major construction methods? Is there room for the construction method to contribute to the aircraft performance in terms of weight saving? Aircraft like the Ekolot Topaz have fuselages formed in two halves then adhered together like a Revell P-51 model. Is this the way of the future? Is there room for mass production?
Avionics development has seen technology cascade down from GA, but there is some that has been designed from scratch for the LSA sector, such as AoA Indicators. Which way will the technology flow in the future? Is EFIS going to become standard for LSAs or do the traditional clocks still have a place? Have we reached a pinnacle in LSA simply because the sector can operate without technology such as HUDs?
Perhaps we are pushing some boundaries if new ideas and materials are not forthcoming. However, they are forthcoming. I’m not too worried about it. For example, crush zone technology in cars did not add weight — in fact removed it compared to other methods — and this greatly added to safety.
Weight-saving is always an issue for manufacturers. In Australia a land-based LSA can lift no more than 600 kg (1,320 pounds), so what can manufacturers do to increase their useful load? Are we reaching a dangerous situation where the aircraft are getting too light or are too heavy to include some desirable safety features, such as parachutes?
Are regulations stifling LSAs? Should LSAs be able to fly at up to 750 kg MTOW (1,650 pounds gross) to give manufacturers more design freedom? Is there anything that has to change to enable more technology to be used in LSA, and if so, what is it?
You are right that LSA is leading the innovation charge in many ways. Where can the industry go from here? We (LAMA) have spoken to FAA a lot in the last three years as we seek new opportunities within the present regulatory framework. It is perfectly clear that LSA were a significant reason why FAA went ahead with the Part 23 rewrite and use of industry consensus standards. To answer the future question, I again refer you to this recent article. The freshest new tech in aviation may come from outside aviation but I would never discount the passionate, imaginative, and motivated designers and developers operating in light aviation today.
There's a lot there, but there's also a lot to think about. Until the rewrite of FAR23, the LSA sector led general aviation in technology, especially in the use of composites. The new FAR23 is sort of like catch-up regulation for GA, but where does the technology leader, LSA, go to from here?
Recently I had an exchange with Australian Flying magazine editor, Steve Hitchen. He asked some great questions and after giving my responses I realized some of his question were common ones I hear being discussed. So why not share our give-and-take? Steve’s questions are in blue. I’d like to talk about power. With LSA restricted to 120 KIAS, it seems unlikely we’ll get much engine development to increase power unless regulations change to either allow an increase in speed or gross weight. LSA are getting more power, to wit, Rotax’s new 915iS with 135-horsepower and the Continental Titan line with 180 horsepower. I do not think this is the end of the horsepower boosts …plus LSA speed and/or weight changes could conceivably follow in the USA but are currently not limitations in other countries that accept the ASTM standards as a basis for approval or certification.
I believe you should applaud Milan Bristela. Now a veteran of the Light-Sport Aircraft sector, he has steadily built a successful aircraft manufacturing enterprise — BRM Aero — that recently rolled out Bristell #300. With its first delivery to a customer in 2011, this represents an average pace of 50 aircraft per year, a wonderful business size for a LSA manufacturer. Every company starts smaller and grows, so assuming a spooling up of their production engine, BRM is now completing between one and two aircraft per week. Good job, Milan and team! BRM Aero started in 2009 with two employees. Over the course of several years the team has grown to 50 employees, they report. When growth demanded, they moved into larger quarters but they’ve also maintained a family feel with father Milan and son Martin running the enterprise as partners. The full name of their very handsome aircraft is Bristell NG 5 LSA.
- 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.
Update 12/6/16 — According to AOPA Online, "The Federal Aviation Administration has reviewed the AOPA Air Safety Institute's aeromedical online course and confirmed that it meets the third class medical reform requirements that Congress created last summer. Pilots would need to complete the course, which AOPA will offer for free, every two years in addition to seeing their personal physician every four years to operate under the law.
These steps are NOT required for anyone flying a LSA or Sport Pilot-eligible kit aircraft.—DJ
What issues are "most important" to general aviation pilots for 2017? Are "general aviation" pilots different than those of you who read ByDanJohnson.com? The second question can only be answered by each of you, independently.
My guess is that while you might consider yourself a GA pilot, you might also — or distinctively — consider yourself a "recreational" or "sport" pilot. Whatever label you prefer, I found the following chart of interest. The question was posed in an earlier edition of Aviation eBrief and after some compilation they released the results. I don't know the current count of eBrief readers but it was once something like 65,000. Neither do I know, nor do they state, how many responses were used to compile these stats. My guess is that it was a large enough sample to be valid.The survey asked about "third class medical reform" even though this has already been done... well, done in the sense that the plans are now laid but not yet fully implemented.
AOPA reported, "Medical reforms have been passed by the House and Senate, and signed into law." This action occurred on July 15th, 2016, even before last summer's Oshkosh. The survey was done since that time.
So, still the biggest single issue is "Third class medical reform?" Hmm, seems odd to me but I found it on the Internet so it must be true.
The number two issue — hot on the heels of the number one issue — was the "Cost of flying." It was not defined what cost this meant. Perhaps it was the overall cost. Or cost of operation. Or both. Likely, this was somewhat in the eye of the beholder.
Conclude what you will but I found it fascinating that the medical and the cost of flying comprised two-thirds of the pilots responding. The values sum to 100% so you were permitted one answer.BOTH issues have been squarely addressed by Light-Sport Aircraft for more than a dozen years, yet these remain the leading issues for GA pilots? Have they not looked at LSA? Do they not consider LSA "real" enough airplanes? I ask these questions without knowing the answers, but it seems to me some pilots are overlooking capabilities and values of LSA and light kit aircraft
Sure, I know some LSA are priced beyond what many pilots can afford. Yet lower cost options abound, with prices well below $100,000 and a few selections closer to $50,000 and even that is for fully-built, ready-to-fly aircraft. What about kits, some of which can get airborne for $30,000. If you accept alternatives like trikes, powered parachutes, or gyros, the "cost of flying" can be held quite low. At even lower cost are ultralights, some below $20,000, less than the average price of a new car.
I have to wonder what these two-thirds of respondents are saying. Keep your aircraft choice under 1,320 pounds and you address both top issues. Do you get it? I don't.
If you don't receive Aviation eBrief and if you want it, you can sign up here. It is free. All of it may be of interest but it tends to focus on general aviation (i.e., certified aircraft) and only occasionally delves into recreational aviation or Light-Sport Aircraft.
Update 12/6/16 — According to AOPA Online, “The Federal Aviation Administration has reviewed the AOPA Air Safety Institute’s aeromedical online course and confirmed that it meets the third class medical reform requirements that Congress created last summer. Pilots would need to complete the course, which AOPA will offer for free, every two years in addition to seeing their personal physician every four years to operate under the law. These steps are NOT required for anyone flying a LSA or Sport Pilot-eligible kit aircraft.—DJ What issues are “most important” to general aviation pilots for 2017? Are “general aviation” pilots different than those of you who read ByDanJohnson.com? The second question can only be answered by each of you, independently. My guess is that while you might consider yourself a GA pilot, you might also — or distinctively — consider yourself a “recreational” or “sport” pilot. Whatever label you prefer, I found the following chart of interest.
Light-Sport Aircraft are awesome. Many pilots want one but not all can afford one. Now Lou Mancuso of Bristell USA has a wonderful program for partner ownership, sometimes called fractional ownership. Honestly, it sounds so good it seems almost too good to be true ... but it's for real. Presently available in three locations with more to follow, pilots living on the east coast can join the fun. Hear Lou describe his fascinating plan in this interview.
Light-Sport Aircraft are awesome. Many pilots want one but not all can afford one. Now Lou Mancuso of Bristell USA has a wonderful program for partner ownership, sometimes called fractional ownership. Honestly, it sounds so good it seems almost too good to be true … but it’s for real. Presently available in three locations with more to follow, pilots living on the east coast can join the fun. Hear Lou describe his fascinating plan in this interview.
Milan Bristela is the man behind BRS Aero and his the company is recognized in America thanks to his new generation Bristell aircraft. However, at Aero 2013 we saw a new version, a taildragger model. In our video we speak with the designer and ask him about his family-run company and the newest model he is bringing to the market.
Milan Bristela is the man behind BRS Aero and his the company is recognized in America thanks to his new generation Bristell aircraft. However, at Aero 2013 we saw a new version, a taildragger model. In our video we speak with the designer and ask him about his family-run company and the newest model he is bringing to the market.
Bristell is a new Light-Sport Aircraft name and a handsome bird it is. Our video will take you through some of the many carefully considered details but it's worthwhile to know that this is a fifth-generation design. Creator Milan Bristela was deeply involved with the SportCruiser/PiperSport and after leaving that company worked on other similar designs. Come have a look and watch for a mini pilot report on this website.
Bristell is a new Light-Sport Aircraft name and a handsome bird it is. Our video will take you through some of the many carefully considered details but it’s worthwhile to know that this is a fifth-generation design. Creator Milan Bristela was deeply involved with the SportCruiser/PiperSport and after leaving that company worked on other similar designs. Come have a look and watch for a mini pilot report on this website.
The great show of Europe called Aero Friedrichshafen is about to begin. It starts officially tomorrow and runs through Saturday (April 20-23, 2016). I’ve lost count, but believe this is my 20th year of attending, far more than any other European show. As he worked to help exhibitors and manage the million details of his event, boss Roland Bosch said the event started in 1977, meaning next year would be its 40th, but… Aero alternated years from 1977 through 1991 (as do many European airshows). With the 1993 event it went annual, meaning this is the 31st Aero. On Monday, the vast 11 halls of the Messe (the facility name) were largely empty but slowly becoming populated with airplanes. In all of the gymnasium-sized halls with their elegant curved wood roofs, workers assembled displays. In Halls B1, B2, and B3 — where the light aircraft I follow are concentrated — displays are more elaborate than anything we typically see at U.S.
BRM Aero‘s Bristell got off to a good start in the USA two years ago. Unfortunately, after an initial burst of positive reviews and good response from pilots, the distributor at the time stumbled. A failed association with the now-defunct Aviation Access Project undermined the efforts but that association had nothing to do with the Czech aircraft producer. So, after a year or so of discussions and evaluation, BRM Aero found a new, high-quality representative. In early December 2014, Bristell Aircraft, a New York corporation, officially accepted the appointment to represent the aircraft of BRM Aero. “Bristell Aircraft is an American company whose roots go deep into the highly-structured world of FAA-certified aircraft,” said Lou Mancuso, director of Bristell Aircraft. Over the last year, Lou has worked directly with BRM Aero “to develop, customize, and standardize aircraft specifically for the North American market.” Lou and his team bring 68 years of aviation sales, service and training success and appear well suited to the endeavor.
Taildraggers may be among the least understood and most feared aircraft available in the LSA space … or for that matter throughout general aviation. While we have many good choices that I’ll list below, I have nonetheless heard from many readers or airshow visitors that they are uncertain about their operation of an aircraft that has no nosewheel. If you have no taildragger skills, you’ll also find it a challenge to get proper flight instruction in a “standard” aircraft. For those seeking new skills in flying, however, taildraggers may provide high satisfaction. Most who have crossed the barrier to taildragging subsequently look very fondly at such aircraft, seeing a sleeker yet gutsier, more rugged appearance. Of course, nosewheels dominate general aviation as they can be easier to land, especially in crosswinds, but once you learn the lesson of “happy feet” — or keeping your feet active on the rudder pedals throughout approach and touchdown — you may always yearn for more taildragger time.