The last airshow (DeLand) is over. Recreational aircraft across the snow belt are secured in their hangars. Santa Claus and his reindeer have an imaginary TFA imposed over the rooftops of all homes with young kids. Our festive Christmas season has center stage… With that our warmest wishes for your holidays and wishing you a prosperous happy new year with all the flying you could want. We are pleased to have served you another year as we enter into our 17th of providing news, reviews, and videos for your entertainment and information. THANKS to each and every one of you who visited in 2019. Please come back next decade! ? Now, Back to Aircraft I have been writing about seaplanes even as the snow flies in northern latitudes because… well, why not? Plus, this is a good time to enter an order for a new one so you get it as lakes thaw and the sun warms the Earth in spring and summer 2020.
BRP-Powertrain (Rotax Aircraft Engines)
Phone: (01143) 7246-6010Gunskirchen, A-4623 - Austria
Duc Propellers USA Also a Success"Designed in France. Assembled in the USA." Hmmm, sounds rather like a certain product "Designed in California, Assembled in China" from a famous brand. The high-tech French prop maker established a base in the USA where they provide full support and service for the growing line of propellers for Light-Sport Aircraft and Sport Pilot kits. Visitors to the inside displays at Deland Showcase 2019 saw a new Flash 2 four-blade prop on display in the Duc Propellers USA display at Deland Showcase 2019. "This is a four-blade, ground-adjustable prop developed expressly for the Rotax 915iS," said Gaetan Fouozing, Duc's new representative at their Sebring facility serving North America. Readers may recall the newest, most powerful engine from Rotax has only been available with props that can be adjusted in-flight. However, at AirVenture Oshkosh 2019, the Austrian company announced they would begin supplying the 915iS for fixed pitch props in fall 2019. Read more about Rotax 915iS here. Gaetan said Duc engineers studied three and four blade combinations but settled on four blades to make use of the added power delivered by 915iS (up 40% from the Rotax 912iS). He confirmed the Flash 2 4-blade product is in stock at this time. "All Duc products are held in stock at our Sebring facility," Gaetan observed. In addition to the ground adjustable capability, Duc said their new Flash 2 is "available in Hydro version for seaplanes." The French prop manufacturer said the hydro version offers high water resistance and abrasion by adding an Inconel metal leading edge The hydro prop development also includes a specific blade tip built of "structural monolithic carbon 40 millimeters (1.57 inches) thick" to "optimize cutting for splash." The metal leading edge is available at no additional cost. Priced at $4,589.50, Flash 2 four blade is fairly precious but it is designed to manage the power of the also more costly Rotax 915iS engine that outputs 141 horsepower. As the time-honored race car saying goes, "Speed costs money. How fast do you want to go?" Engines are sometimes said to the be primary component that has driven aircraft development over the decades but engines demand propellers that can transmit engine power to moving an aircraft through the air. The folks at Duc continue to apply their expertise to this essential product.
“The DeLand Sport Aviation Showcase (DSAS), conducted from November 14-16, 2019 at the DeLand Municipal Airport in Florida, has completed a careful look at ticket sales, gate receipts, exhibitor numbers and other data… and is happy to report that the 2019 Showcase eclipsed the 2018 attendance by over 20%,” reported lead organizer, Jana Filip. “Sport aviation is alive and well… and the truly dedicated flyers out there simply would not let some clouds and sporadic rain keep them from seeing and sharing in all that was new and interesting in the sport aviation universe,” explained Jana. At the fourth running of Deland Showcase, organizers boasted 26 companies new to the event. They had earlier reported a sold-out exhibitor slate. Jana will study attendee and exhibitor reports and will then confirm dates for the 2020 edition of the DeLand Showcase. A decision is expected shortly. Duc Propellers USA Also a Success “Designed in France.
Single Lever Control In-Flight Adjustable PropThis phrase, Single Lever Control, communicates two things: (1) that the system on the airplane seen in the video adjusts the prop to optimal pitch for the phase of flight, and (2) that the system does so based on the pilot's movement of the throttle combined with its own information about parameters of the aircraft at that time. In short, call it an "auto prop." The idea of an "auto prop" (my term) is that when you are taking off, the propeller should pitch for climb. Once aloft at altitude and when the pilot has retarded the throttle but the aircraft knows its height, the prop should automatically go to cruise pitch. Importantly to FAA and its desire for "safe, simple, easy to fly" LSA, the pilot workload is minimal. Move the throttle where you want and the airplane knows how to pitch the prop. While others will also enter this development field, RS Aerotech is the pioneer and has been accumulating test results for several years. However, Cirrus has used a SLC system for many years. A subtle difference is that Cirrus still requires a lever for mixture where a Rotax iS-series engine handles that function for the pilot… a true Single Lever Control setup. Those interested in more technical details and plans than presented in this brief post can review RS Aerotech's slide presentation (most devices should show this easily; if not use the company link above and click or tap on the "Downloads" tab).
Safety ArgumentWhen LAMA personnel went to Washington DC to advocate on behalf of pilots and producers in the light aircraft sector, we knew the argument could not be that we wanted an in-flight adjustable prop to go faster. The truth is that many LSA can already hit the speed limit enforced by the current regulation. "It's not about speed; it's about being able to safely get in or out of a shorter field yet still cruise at whatever speed the airframe was designed to reach," we told FAA. A personal experience departing the Sun 'n Fun Paradise City airstrip brought home the safety point. The 1,400-foot grass strip should be more than adequate for a LSA but the particular model (Glasair's now discontinued Merlin LSA) had been fitted with a cruise prop for the long flight from Washington State to Florida. Since this was a typically heavy prototype, this left the design with insufficient thrust on a shorter turf runway. To their credit, the FAA executives hearing the argument rather quickly agreed; after all, single lever control does not increase pilot workload therefore maintaining the "safe, simple, easy to fly" baseline.
- Single lever control of engine power and thrust; 100% fail-safe behavior through mechanical limitations
- Real time adjustment of engine and propeller parameters:
- Maximum thrust during take-off and climb and
- Maximum efficiency and endurance during cruise flight
- Up to 30% more thrust compared to fixed-pitch propeller
- Fuel savings in cruise flight (environmentally friendly, spend even more time in the air!)
- Improved situational awareness through his Power Margin Indicator instrument
- Simple installation, seamless integration into the Rotax 912iS engine system
In mid-October, FAA provided another update to the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association. It speaks to bigger — and faster — flying machines ahead for Light-Sport Aircraft. Let’s look at one aspect of the regulation-in-progress. First, a caveat: While FAA is communicating some of the ideas they are planning for LSA this is an effort of rule writing likely to see more changes. What LAMA reports to its members and what we provide here is not certain …although it remains well supported at the top of FAA. Even higher in the federal hierarchy, the Department of Transportation recently gave a go-ahead to continue their work. Not all currently planned ideas may survive either the internal debate nor the public comment period. Single Lever Control In-Flight Adjustable Prop This phrase, Single Lever Control, communicates two things: (1) that the system on the airplane seen in the video adjusts the prop to optimal pitch for the phase of flight, and (2) that the system does so based on the pilot’s movement of the throttle combined with its own information about parameters of the aircraft at that time.
Rotax Meets a Need with 915iSTrue to form as you might expect, Rotax followed through on a question I asked 15 months back. As reported in this review of the 915iS and 912iS the company’s top man strongly hinted at a fixed pitch version of this engine. Thomas Uhr has since moved up higher in the organization but at a journalist event last year, he answered a questions about fixed pitch on the 915 engine. He did not then answer directly but said, "Every engine Rotax has produced has been able to use a fixed pitch prop. Take from that statement what you will." Sure enough, the new powerful engine from the Austrian company will be available for used with fixed or ground adjustable prop by fall of this year. Good on Rotax and the well-spoken Mr. Uhr. Some countries allow constant speed or in-flight adjustable props but not the USA. FAA specified no in-flight adjustment in the current regulation. We believe this will change with the new reg (recent report) but that could be some years in the future. Until then, only fixed pitch can be used on American Light-Sport Aircraft. Rotax is enjoying good success with the 915iS fuel injected, turbocharged, intercooler power plant. More than 400 engines are now flying on aircraft and the number of airframe producers using the new engine continues to grow. More about Rotax success. The 915iS is also an important engine for the larger, up to four seat, aircraft to come in the LSA world as well as on kit-built aircraft and some models preparing for approval under the new version of Part 23 certification (that will use industry consensus standards modeled significantly after the LSA set of standards).
High from Low (wings, that is)Two leading companies exclusively using low wings will be introducing high wing models in the near future. One is a trade secret for now, but another was announced at Oshkosh. What's interesting here is that both companies have exclusively made low wing models in various configuration. Neither has made a high wing. One of these is also planning the new, powerful Rotax 915iS engine (though both producers are using that power plant in one of the low wing models. For more on the entry from South Africa's The Airplane Factory Sling TSi High Wing, see the video below. What's interesting is that this entry offer more seats and more capabilities. For the immediate future, Sling TSi High Wing will have to be kit built but as you read here, FAA will allow four seaters as basic Light-Sport Aircraft. Once again, TAF founder Mike Blythe is ahead of the game. He was the first producer I personally observed getting excited about what he could do with the 141-horsepower Rotax 915iS. Barely a couple years after I saw his mind working, he not only built the low wing Sling TSi but the new model promptly flew around the world, literally. I expect to see a plan for the high wing TSi to also make the globe-girdling flight.
LAMA’s Dual AwardFor only the second time, the association awarded two persons their highest honor, the Presidents Award for Outstanding Individual. A few years ago, a rare tie produced a dual award. This year, voting for the 28th year of the LAMA award, resulted in another dual award. Hundreds of members of the business community for light aircraft offered nominations. The person with the most such wins; it's a very simple system to recognize hardworking, creative people who helped move light aviation forward. One of this years winners was Kerry Ritcher. With his father, Wayne, Kerry founded three aviation companies. He started manufacturing aircraft in 1977 and his enterprises have produced a total of more than 3,000 aircraft, continuing to the present. His best known design is the SeaRey from Progressive Aerodyne based in Tavares, Florida. A Private Pilot with over 12,000 hours, Kerry has designed a dozen varied aircraft including Hi-Nuski; Cobra; King Cobra; Sea Wolf; Carrera; Carrera 180; Buccaneer SX; Catalina; Colibri; SeaRey; Stingray; and, SeaRey LSX/LS. The latter are in active production by the company he founded. The second awardee is also a LAMA board of directors member. Scott Severen started flying hang gliders in 1973 and has since been active in several aviation enterprises. He also assisted many organizations supporting light aviation including the U.S. Ultralight Association; the Airpark Owners and Operators Association; the EAA Ultralight & Light-Sport Aircraft Council, and the LAMA board. In 2004, Scott joined IndUS Aviation, and was instrumental in the effort to be the first American designed aircraft to earn SLSA certification. Severen presently owns and operates US Sport Planes, involved in LSA sales, brokerage, factory authorized maintenance and major structural repairs in Denton, Texas. In 2018, he took over as the North American representative for the Jabiru line of Light-Sport Aircraft. Scott is a private pilot and has accumulated over 2,000 hours in numerous types of aircraft.
Part 103 Success StoryMore than one fixed wing producer of conforming Part 103 aircraft expressed strong, continuing interest in these lightest flyers. Kolb and U-fly-It are both so busy building their 103 models that they are not focused on two seaters. Aerolite does not have a two-seat model and no plans for one. Kolb has the Mark III but the action is in their Part 103 models, said Kolb boss, Bryan Melborn. The good news continues… The arrival of Badland's Part 103 entry F-series in five variations adds to such popular choices as Kolb's Firefly, U-Fly-It's Aerolite 103, Just's True 103 (still in development), models from Team Aircraft and Fisher Flying Products. This listing of Part 103 prospects is not meant to be exhaustive and leaves out players like Evolution's Rev trike or Infinity's Challenger 103 powered parachute plus others. The point being, Part 103 appears not only to be surviving but thriving! Oshkosh even had an entrepreneur that has organized to provide support to Canada's Lazair. Watch for a video on this interesting development and see the nearby image if you are not familiar with this once-popular ultralight aircraft. Especially while most LSA run well into six figures, Part 103 pilots enjoy the greatest freedom in aviation. The simple rule has been unchanged since 1982 and allows flight in an ultralight vechile without a pilot certificate, N-numbers, or aviation medical. A producer can sell you a ready to fly model without getting FAA approval. As with LSA, ultralights overcame early issues to become solid members of the aviation fleet. Other countries have similar regulations.
Coolest Rig Seen At OshkoshIf you’re a good, red-blooded American pilot, I don’t see how you could not love this setup. Your luxurious motor home towing your Corvette and your Aerotrek A240 in a custom-built trailer that you can handle by yourself. I hope I didn’t drool on it as I looked it over. Built for recreation, this highly-customized trailer is towed behind the owner’s motorhome. It can hold his Aerotrek A240, requiring the tricycle gear model so as to fit the owners Corvette underneath. A clever system of ramps and winches allows him to load the aircraft and the car with no assistance. Both sides also open up to make it easier to stow the airplane ramps once the aircraft is secured and to allow proper tie-down of the Corvette. As a former Corvette owner, a former motorhome owner, and a lover of the Aerotrek aircraft, this setup looked to be about as close to aviation heaven as mere mortals can get. So, this apparatus gets my award for the Coolest Rig seen at the show.
Watch here as The Airplane Factory founder, Mike Blythe introduces the Sling TSi High Wing…https://youtu.be/I9I7_ZBUDC4
* The number 642,000 introduces different counting methods. I understand this number to mean the number of people passing through the gates, however, one person entering for several days is counted each day. Taken to task a few years ago, Sun 'n Fun now reportedly counts discreet individuals so the Florida show seems to have smaller numbers. Oshkosh is clearly a good deal larger but not as much as their reported numbers make it appear. Either counting method can be defended but this is comparing apples to oranges. And whatever the numbers, our glimpses of Oshkosh while zipping around doing videos and gathering story material strongly suggested great attendance in 2019.
The weeklong celebration of flight known around the planet as “Oshkosh” is now history. Although EAA was challenged by inclement weather before the show and as it opened, the weather gods smiled on the event and provided a wonderful week with all the action you can imagine. EAA announced attendance numbers identifying solid growth over last year, to 642,000 attendees*. That’s a ways from the 800,000 back a couple decades but is solid growth from recent years. Especially as EAA had to work hard to overcome weather issues before the event, the organization is to be commended for handling a huge number of details with professionalism. The week of Oshkosh brought outstanding weather and only brief periods of rain. Those of us from hot states enjoyed the mild temperatures and beautiful cloud-dappled blue skies (photos). So, after getting back in the saddle after an intense week, here are a few stories of interest.
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.
Lightning FastNow, ultralight pilots (me, for instance) will go on enthusiastically about the beauty of flying slowly, of drifting leisurely over the landscape at a "human speed" that allows enough time to enjoy the expanse of an aerial view of your surroundings. Open cockpit flying adds to the joy facilitated by low airspeeds. Yet the allure of going fast is great, zipping over the countryside. I get that and when contemplating a cross country trip of any real distance, fast cannot be too fast. In addition to a higher TAS, we all yearn for a tailwind that will raise our speed by another 20 mph. Arion Aircraft boss Nick Otterback also feels that desire to fly fast. Along with his since-retired but longtime business partner Pete Krotje, Nick created the dashing, sleek and smooth Lightning, first offered as a kit and a compliant Light-Sport Aircraft. Lightning has enjoyed and continues to execute a good run but like many designers, Nick felt the design could handle more speed. He set out to bump the numbers by installing a Titan X340 with 180 horsepower. This triggered other changes such as a new cowl to accommodate the powerplant. "Our Lightning XS kit has a redesigned forward fuselage structure that gives the builder the option to choose engines up to 180 horsepower," said Nick. "Taller landing gear for bigger props, bigger brakes, and 20 gallon fuel tanks are among some of the features of this new kit." How fast does Lightning XS go? Testing is not complete yet; it recently took to the air. However, Arion is calculating 165 knots (190 mph) TAS at 8,500 feet density altitude at full gross. Climb is a stunning 2,000 fpm. Of course Lightning XS is not a Light-Sport Aircraft and will require a Private or better certificate plus a medical.
Stronger Climb–Efficient Cruise–Greater SafetyRotax, Searey builder Progressive Aerodyne, and RS Technology continue work to acquire knowledge and data about what's called Single Lever Control (SLC). They've been at it a couple years or more and RS Tech is pleased with initial results. Since I first interviewed Michael Stock about this on video, the team has changed to Rotax's newest 915iS engine that supplies 135 horsepower. Combined with the adjustable prop, this becomes an enthusiastic performer. The beauty of the system, in my mind, is that it is so simple. A literal single lever makes the pilot workload no more difficult than a conventional throttle on a fixed pitch prop yet it can deliver increased performance to shorten takeoff runs without sacrificing cruise at altitude. This is a win-win safety argument that FAA recognizes. In our discussions with top executives with the agency they proved surprisingly and pleasantly receptive to considering SLC as they rework the SP/LSA regulation. That's not a guarantee but the odds seem promising. Nonetheless, that regulation is still years away — how many years is an unanswerable question at this point but the wheels of progress are in motion (see an earlier article on this subject). In talking about regulation change, lots of folks are still asking about a speculated weight increase. Yes, one is definitely coming but not to a specific number. A formula will develop gross weight, and no, the final version of that formula is not yet established.
Lightning Bug 2 Encore AppearanceIn the LSA–Sport Pilot kit aircraft–ultralight space, we had a rising star, an emerging talent, and one of the nicest people I've met. His name was Brian Austein. Sadly, this bright young man succumbed to cancer and died since last Sun 'n Fun …a terrible loss. However, his unique legacy lives on in Paradise City in 2019. Brian's last full-sized project, the Lightning Bug 2 (the version number is mine not his), was quite remarkable. LB2 was a 150-pound empty weight aircraft — ponder that weight for a minute — powered by two model aircraft engines. It cost Brian a mere $3,000 out-of-pocket and he produced a man-carrying flying machine. I still find that story rather magical and his one-of-a-kind aircraft design to be utterly a fresh creation. I've never seen anything like LB2 and I'm not sure I ever will again. Catch this video interview with Brian about Lightning Bug. Given his prodigious design ability and inventiveness I found it fun to see some of Brian's other ideas (photo) that he worked on until he died. He bubbled over with ideas as I interviewed him and he wrote from the hospital of another new project in this same ultra-affordable aircraft space. R.I.P. Brian…
You wanna go fast? Of course you do. What pilot doesn’t want to go fast? Lightning Fast Now, ultralight pilots (me, for instance) will go on enthusiastically about the beauty of flying slowly, of drifting leisurely over the landscape at a “human speed” that allows enough time to enjoy the expanse of an aerial view of your surroundings. Open cockpit flying adds to the joy facilitated by low airspeeds. Yet the allure of going fast is great, zipping over the countryside. I get that and when contemplating a cross country trip of any real distance, fast cannot be too fast. In addition to a higher TAS, we all yearn for a tailwind that will raise our speed by another 20 mph. Arion Aircraft boss Nick Otterback also feels that desire to fly fast. Along with his since-retired but longtime business partner Pete Krotje, Nick created the dashing, sleek and smooth Lightning, first offered as a kit and a compliant Light-Sport Aircraft.
This Just In!Follow the Sling TSi LIVE tomorrow, Sunday March 31st, 2019, as the new model flies this route: KTOA – KLAL (Coast to Coast) • Torrance, California to Lakeland, Florida, a distance of 1,900 nautical miles Intended Departure: Sunday at 4 AM Pacific • Landing Florida before 7 PM Eastern in a flight forecast to take "under 12 hours" at a predicted speed of 160 knots (184 mph), at altitude. You can track the flight on FlightRadar24. Why would the boys from The Airplane Factory USA make such a long flight non-stop? Their purpose is "to demonstrate the altitude, true airspeed, and endurance/economy of the Sling TSi." They call out a normal cruise will be at 155 KTAS at 9,500 feet burning eight gallons an hour using the Rotax 915iS. The turbocharged FADEC engine will allow the airplane to climb as high as 20,000 feet. Sling TSi has standard tanks of 45 gallons capacity or optional long-range wing tip tanks that add an additional 22 gallons plus an internal portable tanks of 20 gallons for a grand total of 87 gallons on board. Visit The Airplane Factory USA at Sun 'n Fun and see Sling TSi — you can also arrange a demo flight — at their Sun 'n Fun exhibit spaces N-082 and N-089. Until you can see it in all its aluminum glory, here is a short video to whet your appetite. Also, added since this post went live is a longer-length review of Sling TSi. Click this link to read the report in General Aviation News. https://youtu.be/JVH2Gt0BNEU
This Just In! Follow the Sling TSi LIVE tomorrow, Sunday March 31st, 2019, as the new model flies this route: KTOA – KLAL (Coast to Coast) • Torrance, California to Lakeland, Florida, a distance of 1,900 nautical miles Intended Departure: Sunday at 4 AM Pacific • Landing Florida before 7 PM Eastern in a flight forecast to take “under 12 hours” at a predicted speed of 160 knots (184 mph), at altitude. You can track the flight on FlightRadar24. Why would the boys from The Airplane Factory USA make such a long flight non-stop? Their purpose is “to demonstrate the altitude, true airspeed, and endurance/economy of the Sling TSi.” They call out a normal cruise will be at 155 KTAS at 9,500 feet burning eight gallons an hour using the Rotax 915iS. The turbocharged FADEC engine will allow the airplane to climb as high as 20,000 feet.
Three-In-a-Row SeaterNew Gen-3 model airframes will have the option of incorporating a third seat located behind the second seat and a 220-pound gross weight increase from the current 1,680-pound max gross weight to 1,900 pounds. “The new jump seat will be quickly removable to convert between cargo and and third passenger,” added Phil. The third seat can be installed in either an open-cockpit AirCam or one with the full enclosure canopy. The canopy — developed some years after AirCam first emerged — was designed from the start to accommodate the third seat. “Numerous improvements have been incorporated in the new Gen-3 model airframes to accommodate the optional gross weight increase and jump seat,” said Lockwood. “The landing gear has been strengthened to accommodate greater landing and take off weights. Landing gear modifications include new stronger gear legs, a beefed-up fuselage gearbox and upgraded Beringer wheels and brakes.” Phil Lockwood also reported AirCam’s aft section of the fuselage and tail spring have also been strengthened to accommodate the higher loads. The new fuselage incorporates a new set of foot wells to improve comfort and safety when utilizing the jump seat. These new foot wells also increase the volume of the cargo bay when not using the third seat. “You’ll also find harness attachment hard points that are built into the new fuselage for the third seat passenger,” Lockwood said. The Sebring, Florida company noted that some float-equipped AirCams have already been operating at higher gross weights, up to 2,000 pounds, based on the capacity of the amphibious landing gear and increased lift provided by the floats at high angles of attack. The Gen-3 model airframe benefits are designed to allow for increased gross weights for land planes only.
Higher Power — More Is GoodAirplanes are somewhat like sound equipment. If you get a more powerful amplifier you may need new speakers and that may require other better equipment. On an airplane if you increase capability, you may need more power, which means better engine mounts and so forth. Being Rotax experts known across the country, Lockwood's enterprise was ready to step up the potency of their twin engines. They've long offered the more powerful turbocharged Rotax 914. Most AirCams, however, work wonderfully well with a pair of the 100-horsepower Rotax 912ULS or 912iS engines. Even more could be better, you might agree. To provide the additional single engine performance needed for the higher gross weights of AirCam Gen 3 Lockwood Aircraft is offering a new, upgraded 115-horsepower Rotax 912 power package using a “big-bore kit” involving new cylinders and heavier pistons. “Customers opting for the standard 100-horsepower 912 engines will be limited to the original 1,680-pound maximum gross weight,” Lockwood clarified. “The additional 15 horsepower per engine is achieved though an increase in displacement with no increase in weight.” Customers may purchase or retrofit either a carbureted 912 ULS or fuel injected 912iS engine package to provide 115-horsepower upgrades for either engine model. Buyers or owners can opt to install the 115-horsepower package at a later date. What may be exciting for current owners of a 912ULS or iS on another airplane is that this engine upgrade is something you can achieve retroactively. The cost is about $6,000, Phil indicated, but for that money you get a substantial performance boost. If interested, contact Lockwood Supply to see if they can help you in your aircraft. Wait a couple weeks, though. As this is written, Sun 'n Fun 2019 is about to start and it will be most hands on deck at the event leaving a smaller staff at home in Sebring. Give them time to return and check out the new, powerful, non-turbo 912 with 115-horsepower. Get more details, some AirCam development history, and more in the following video: https://youtu.be/ur3Gl0COTGo
Let me admit right up front: I am a big fan of AirCam. I have flown several different examples. I have done a flight report in one with boss Phil Lockwood. I even earned my Multi-Engine Rating in one. For a longtime open-cockpit ultralight pilot like me, AirCam may be the ultimate expression of a fun aircraft in which you can do things you shouldn’t even consider in most other airplanes. So, when Phil told me about Lockwood Aircraft‘s new Gen-3 (third generation) AirCam, I was more than a little interested. Here’s the skinny. “Beginning with the opening day of Sun ‘n Fun 2019 we will be debuting major upgrades to the AirCam airframe and powerplant packages,” Phil noted. All AirCam kits incorporating the new changes will be designated as “Gen-3” models. Three-In-a-Row Seater New Gen-3 model airframes will have the option of incorporating a third seat located behind the second seat and a 220-pound gross weight increase from the current 1,680-pound max gross weight to 1,900 pounds.
Flying The Airplane Factory Sling TSiA year ago, I got to fly the 915 in Wels, Austria at a Rotax journalist event after Aero Friedrichshafen. In two quickly linked flights, they let me compare 915 to 912iS. That was most helpful but I did not know either airframe well so it was challenging to compare performance with my earlier experiences. Now, I have a better picture. At Copperstate a couple years ago I flew Sling 4 with Rotax's 914 Turbo. I was very impressed, feeling it flew as well as the Sling LSA. Dare I admit I actually liked the four seater's flight qualities better than the LSA? Like Sling 4, Sling TSi is not a Light-Sport Aircraft. It cannot be flown with the Sport Pilot certificate. Several reasons explain why, even though the new model closely resembles the Sling LSA. First, it's a four seater. Secondly, it has much higher power. That's allowed but the Rotax 915 engine currently requires a constant speed prop not permitted under LSA regulations — though perhaps in a couple years. The Turbo Intercooled 915iS energized the Sling 4 airframe much more than the 914. The difference was clear. Acceleration was fast, we rolled less than 500 feet and climbed quickly from the start and kept going. Jean d'Assonville and I flew perhaps 300 pounds under gross but CPS Rotax specialist Bryan Toepfer said it did well when loaded to the limit on a flight he experienced. Thirdly, Sling TSi is too fast and too heavy to be a LSA. Here's something important… this is not Sling 4. Oh, it appears so similar that I would not have known without closer inspection. Instead, Sling TSi is a nearly brand-new aircraft from nose to tail, literally. The distinctive Sling nose cowl has also changed subtly, better accommodating the 915 and its new hardware. Aft of the engine compartment, Sling TSi uses dimpled flush rivets on the front portion of the fuselage and on the leading edge of the wings. This clearly works to pick up the speed of Sling TSi without raising its stall speed. The wing itself is a fresh new airfoil and wingspan is about 16 inches shorter on each side. The tailplane has counterbalanced surfaces to reduce chances of flutter given Sling TSi's speedier ways. Aloft we saw 128 knots at modest cruise power and 3,500 feet MSL. Coming out to the show Jean and Wayne reported seeing better than 160 knots TAS and 180 knots GPS groundspeed, thanks to a tailwind. Fuel burn was a bit over six gallons an hour. Climb out of Buckeye (1,000 foot field elevation on a cool day) averaged 1,000 fpm and we saw 1,500-1,800 fpm on successive climbs from a touch and go. Stalls in all configurations were very mild, even with full stick aft and no quick effort of recovery. At full power, Sling TSi would not stall and only wobbled the nose to signal the pilot — well, that and a clearly audible stall warning plus a very steep deck angle. Handling was very responsive but steady with a light touch even in steeply banked 720 turns. My efforts at dutch rolling produced acceptable results either fast or slow. The landing was straightforward. Sling TSi manages energy very well — an LSA-like feel, it had — making roundout and touchdown quite easy. Visibility is good, a very good thing at a busy Buckeye Municipal (KBXK) when numerous airplanes entered the pattern to pay a visit. In all, Sling TSi is a commendable achievement, a further refinement of the original Sling LSA introduced in 2009. In that decade, Sling has delivered more than 500 aircraft, Jean indicated. We recorded a full Video Pilot Report with cameras on and in the airplane. When it's done in editing, this will provide much more detail and very few complaints about The Airplane Factory's Sling TSi. Well done, Mike Blyth and team, well done indeed! Find more factory info on Sling TSi here and catch a video glimpse below. https://youtu.be/JVH2Gt0BNEU
I have to admit my pleasant surprise. This tie-up of Copperstate and Buckeye Air Fair might be exactly what is needed to generate a major show in the Southwestern USA. Let me be fair. Other West Coast aviation events have interesting qualities but none has ever risen to the level of AirVenture Oshkosh or Sun ‘n Fun. Those two dominate general aviation events. Both are “back East.” With big pilot and aircraft populations in California, Arizona, and Washington, why have we no major shows in the West? No one I’ve asked can explain the riddle but could Copperstate Buckeye Air Fair be the right combination? Only time will tell yet on Saturday, crowds were as thick as Oshkosh, albeit in a much smaller area. City planners offered an airshow and lots for attendees to look at plus the Copperstate trade show alongside the Buckeye Air Fair gave the public close access to pilots operating all manner of light aircraft.
“Sling TSi was hands-down the hit of the show,” exclaimed The Airplane Factory USA. They reported one media outlet dubbed it the "Best New Sport Plane of 2018."
Builder Assistance for TSiAt an upcoming event at TAF USA’s base of operations — KTOA Airport in Torrance, California — the importer is closing a strong year by hosting one of their TAF Sling and Sling Flying Club Taco Social events. In addition to the Taco Bar treats (it is Southern California, after all, just a few miles from the Mexican border), attendees can hear about a most unusual Builder Assist experience. The “Main Event” will feature a presentation by Wayne and Matthew Toddun who traveled to South Africa to build their Sling TSi. Not only did the father and son travel half way around the world to build their Sling TSi, the aircraft was subsequently re-assembled in Oshkosh and shown to visitors before it was flown back to Los Angeles. TAF said that according to Matthew Toddun, "When my dad decided to purchase a new Sling aircraft for us to learn to how to fly, he went for the very best, the brand new Sling TSi!” Matthew continued, “When he decided [to pursue] a build assist program, he wanted the best assistance that we could get.” ”That is when our life-changing opportunity came about,” related Matthew. “[We would] travel to South Africa to build the first conforming Sling TSi. We spent a little over two weeks working side-by-side with the experienced factory crew, learning the ins and outs of our new plane, and assembling it piece by piece.” It was this Sling TSi that was revealed at Oshkosh 2018.
After Building, Learning to Fly Sling
Once you’ve built or bought a Sling aircraft, you can travel to SoCal and be trained at TAF USA’s new New Sling Pilot Academy.TAF USA also announced, “Next Year we are starting the Sling Pilot Academy to help prepare pilots for the airlines.” However, If you’re not in Southern California or don’t wish to travel to Torrence, you have another attractive alternative run by a veteran flight trainer.
“Life is grand in Carson City, Nevada at the Sport Aviation Center, said proprietor Paul Hamilton. "This has been a great year for flight training in the Sling. We have had a number of Sport Pilots go through the complete course from start to finish and successfully take their check ride.”Paul continued, “We are also teaching private pilots in the Sling LSA and now we have successfully completed three Private Pilot training and checkrides in the Sling. Additionally, two CFI long-expired certificates were reinstated with Sport Pilot CFI checkrides per 61.427. The Sling has been a reliable and tough workhorse and everybody loves how it flies up in the mountains. Check us out here.
When Rotax debuted their new 915iS engine at an Oshkosh press conference, Sling designer Mike Blyth raced forward at the end of the conference to closely examine the new power plant. It was clear to me this answered a creation he had in mind and now we can see the fruit of his ambition: the new Sling TSi. Since the Rotax 915iS remains a powerplant that requires an in-flight adjustable prop, it cannot be used on a Light-Sport Aircraft, but TSi is based on The Airplane Factory’s Sling 4 four seater so kit-built it must be. More on the builder effort below. For Oshkosh 2018, The Airplane Factory USA said, “[We are] excited to present the North American debut of the all-new Sling TSi! This kit is the airplane Sling fans have been waiting for!” The Southern California importer said TSi has all of the style, economy and practical utility of the Sling 4 but with more speed.
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.
Business Around the GlobeWhile Traveller is their foray into NBAA's glittering world, Tecnam remains highly active in aircraft that readers of this website recognize. Tecnam has been busy this year; here are a few of their recent successes at delivering their light aircraft all around the globe. Greece — Hellenic Air Force Academy, based at an air base near Athens, is a unit of the Hellenic (Greek) Air Force. A recent delivery is the first of 12 Tecnam P2002JF trainers HAFA ordered. The Academy selected the Tecnam model as its next-generation screening/primary training aircraft. P2002JF is a two-seat, single-engine, low-wing aircraft powered by the Rotax 912 and fitted with the latest avionics from Garmin. Tecnam is familiar with supplying government air forces. In 2016 Tecnam delivered eight P2002JF aircraft to the Argentina Air Force. "This [South American] fleet has amassed a total of over 6,000 hours and performed 16,000 landings to date," noted Tecnam. ByDanJohnson.com readers know this model as the Sierra. Poland — Tecnam announced today that the Polish Medical Air Rescue (PMAR) has placed an order for three Tecnam P2008JC Mk II airplanes. PMAR is a very active organization using a fleet of aircraft to perform nearly 10,000 flights in the first eight months of this year alone. P2008JC is comprised of a carbon-fiber fuselage with metals wings and stabilator. "This combination of composite and metal resulted in a more fuel efficient and much quieter aircraft," said Tecnam. The MkII version of P2008JC features a number of significant enhancements including a new avionic suite with a refreshed interior design. Australia — This summer, Tecnam announced the sale of eight P2008 light sport aircraft training aircraft to Soar Aviation of Melbourne, Australia. Soar claims to be Australia’s largest private flying school with with over 500 students. It operates a fleet of 48 Rotax-powered training aircraft and has a team of 100 employees, including more 67 instructors. Soar has facilities at the Moorabbin Airport in Melbourne, Australia and at the Bankstown and Bendigo airports in Sydney, stated Tecnam. France — The same month as the Aussie sale, Tecnam said they took an order for four P2010 MkII four-seat aircraft from Air Paris Academy based at the Tours Airport. Tecnam describes their P Twenty Ten as "the first new single-engine, high-wing, four-seat aircraft from Tecnam that brings together an advanced technology all carbon fibre fuselage with a metal wing and stabilator." Just a month earlier, Tecnam announced that Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority and the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand validated the Tecnam P2010 based on the EASA Type Certificate including a 215 horsepower version of the Lycoming IO390-C3B6 powerplant. Tecnam's large portfolio of aircraft from LSA and sport aircraft to four seat GA aircraft to twin engine personal aircraft to the new 11-seat regional airliner makes for an active company rapidly growing to be one of the world's aviation powerhouses.
This week kicks off the truly gigantic trade show known by its sponsoring organization’s abbreviation: NBAA, or in common lingo, “Enn, Bee, Double A.” While not taking up the extensive terra firms of Oshkosh, NBAA actually has more paying exhibitors. They even tow aircraft down city streets in the dark of night so a reported 100 aircraft can be on display at the Orlando Civic Center. The show has become so large that supposedly only two U.S. convention centers are big enough to contain the sprawling affair: Las Vegas and Orlando. The latter is just down the street for me so every other year I go and look for something to report amidst my wandering around astonished at the sheer size of the event and how much money gets spent for a three-day show. I always find something of interest to the light aviation, recreational flying community. This year, I’m on the lookout for Tecnam, one of this website’s longtime sponsors and surely the largest company serving up Light-Sport Aircraft around the world.
Welcoming Steve Beste"I'm a retired computer guy and trike pilot who loves databases," Steve told me. He used his special set of skills to download FAA's aircraft registration database to compile statistics on gyroplane registrations, focused on the new European-style gyroplanes. As you can see, AutoGyro is the clear market leader at 52% with 163 aircraft of 312 gyroplanes registered with FAA. The German builder is trailed by Magni in the #2 slot at 18% with 56 registrations. A new American manufacturer, SilverLight Aviation, has quickly tied Spanish producer ELA for third at 8% with 26 aircraft registered for each. After that it trails off more quickly as Steve's chart shows. More details about other brands will be chronicled in an article to follow. For 2018 through July 23rd, Magni shows its strength by slightly beating AutoGyro U.S. registrations. As always, note that confirmed sales and registrations may not match precisely. In addition, much more of 2018 remains. In slightly more than half a year, gyroplanes registered 58 aircraft putting them on track to exceed 100 for the year. To offer perspective, this figure is approaching half as many as SLSA fixed wing registrations in recent full years. So far this year, Magni has 15 registrations to AutoGyro's 14 for 26% and 24% shares totaling half of total U.S. gyroplane registrations. SilverLight has registered 8 aircraft in 2018 for a 14% yearly share of 2018 to date. A less well recognized U.S. producer, Tango, is having a respectable year, with 9 registrations accounting for 16% in 2018 so far. Tango is trailed by ELA with 6 registrations (10%), Australia's Titanium and Italy's Brako tied at 3 for 5% each. One interesting point: only Tango and Brako offer a single place gyroplane; all others are two place machines.
Much More Data to Follow!Steve Beste and I have been discussing him providing database research to allow this website to continue providing LSA Market Share Info. Many visitors have written to ask; indeed, we are way behind on this effort. The delay is ending. After Steve gets time to study the previous work and methods, he has proposed some wonderful improvements. About the special skills he can offer, Steve wrote, "I'm a retired computer guy and trike pilot who loves databases." Well, that certainly sounds perfect to me. "I'm also the president of Flying Club 1, which was the original USUA Chapter 1," Steve added. "Regarding the FAA database, I'd very much like to reach beyond just [fixed wing] airplanes, partly because I'm a trike pilot, myself. I think that's entirely possible." Given this background, his obvious enthusiasm for this work, and the keen interest of many in light aviation, I am exceedingly pleased to welcome Steve to this website. "[However, FAA's] data is not clean," Steve observed. I am well aware of this problem. Uncertainty about data accuracy of "alternative" LSA is why we have reported fixed wing Special LSA, only offering guesses for weight shift trikes, powered parachutes, gyroplanes, motorgliders, and more. However, we hope that will now change and our market share reporting will be more inclusive. Hurray! Problems in FAA's database is not caused by incompetent clerks. Agency personnel must sort through inconsistently-reported aircraft. If, as Steve pointed out in one example, the registered name of the aircraft is slightly different, it won't show up on a casual investigation. He added, "There's no end of that kind of thing …just so we know the limitations on this exercise. But with that understanding, I love this kind of thing, I have the skills to do it, and would be honored to support your good work for the sport." All such reporting will be available on the home page when fresh and catalogued on its own space found by this link. Wonderful, simply wonderful! Please welcome Steve Beste as a new contributor to ByDanJohnson.com!
UPDATE September 26, 2018 — In the article above, I inadvertently suggested SilverLight and their American Ranger gyroplane was the first or only U.S. producer of such aircraft. That is not what I intended but some readers viewed it that way. Allow me to bring your attention to two other producers.
Sport Copter & Rotor Flight DynamicsBased in Oregon, Sport Copter is a long established, second-generation family business started in 1958. Chuck Vanek was one of the early pioneers of gyroplane design and development beginning his work in 1957. Chuck's son Jim Vanek took over the business and revamped the Vancraft designs. He said his "award-winning, world’s-first, two-place gyroplane took the prestigious Charles Lindbergh award at the Oshkosh airshow in 1985." The company also reports his Sport Copter II design was voted as one of the Top Ten Best Designs at AirVenture in 2011. An airshow performer, Jim said he wrote the parameters and guidelines for gyroplane looping for the FAA in 1998 after performing the world’s first loop in a conventional gyroplane, in 1997. The company's website reports, "He is the only gyro pilot in the world that holds an International Council of Air Shows card for gyroplane looping and rolling." Don't even think about trying this yourself, however. Rotor Flight Dynamics, founded and run by Ernie Boyette, produces a two place and single variations of their Dominator line. Sold as kit aircraft, the two-place model can be powered by Hirth four-cylinder engines, Subaru/AutoFlight EA-81, or the 115-horsepower Rotax 914 Turbo. The company said, "We offer 22 thru 28 foot rotor blades of our own design with a lift capability from ultralight thru 1,200 pounds gross weight." They added, "We are the only manufacturer that test flies all blade sets prior to shipping." For export, Rotor Flight will fully build their aircraft but in the USA, FAA will only permit them to deliver kits, the same as all gyroplane producers. As with all the modern gyroplanes, Rotor Flight uses a substantial tailplane. "The Dominator [series of one and two-place machines] incorporate the Tall Tail design for stability." Asked how their product differs, the company's website states, "What makes the Dominator so unique is its high profile design. It sits up very high off the ground."
Updated September 26, 2018 — This article has been updated to include more producers. See at bottom. —DJ Over many years, you have found LSA market share information on this website. Many have found this of interest …from businesses learning more about their market; to customers doing careful investigation before paying tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for a new aircraft; to government fulfilling its task of regulating industry; to insurance companies assessing risk of providing their product; and many other actors in the blockbuster movie that is light, recreational aviation. I will have more to say about the broader LSA market share reports below but now I want to present the best information I have seen for Light-Sport Aircraft Gyroplanes. …uh, except for one problem. No such aircraft category exists, SLSA gyroplanes, that is. FAA has denied fully-built Special LSA status to rotary winged aircraft such as gyroplanes.
Tallying Tecnam's SuccessTecnam can claim more than 6,500 aircraft flying worldwide. The majority of this fleet are European-style ultralights and Light-Sport Aircraft. Of this large number of aircraft flying the P92 model counts for close to half the total. While the company has branched out to larger aircraft and specialty aircraft, they continue to develop and build aircraft that recreational pilots enjoy.
Hybrid Tecnam with Rotax and SiemensTecnam is a big buyer of Rotax engines as well as Lycomings but they are exploring hybrid electric propulsion as well and they are doing so in collaboration with some leading brands in the game.
In mid-May 2018, Tecnam announced a program the name of which only an engineer could love: H3PS (an acronym for “High Power High Scalability Aircraft Hybrid Powertrain”). The kick-off meeting took place in Capua (Italy), at Tecnam headquarters because the airframe maker is coordinating the project.R&D departments from Tecnam, Rotax, and Siemens are joining their experience to present an alternative propulsion system that they say "will dramatically reduce environmental impact of today’s General Aviation four seat aircraft."
Dual Approvals Down UnderTecnam announced recently that the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority and the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand validated Tecnam’s four seat P2010 based on the company’s EASA type certificate using the 215 horsepower version of the Lycoming IO-390 engine. Tecnam is one of handful of manufacturers able and capable to produce Type Certified aircraft using both metal and composite components. P2010 employs an all-carbon-fiber fuselage with metal wings and stabilator. To serve down-under customers, Tecnam established a corporate presence in Australia last fall, mimicking the effort made in the company’s Sebring, Florida operation to support U.S. sales and service. Active globally, Tecnam is also pursuing other markets for their Light-Sport Aircraft, or in Canada's description, Advanced Ultralights. Here's our article on the company success with America's northern neighbor. Tecnam models are sold and serviced in more than 65 countries.
Picture PlatformTecnam also recently announced EASA and FAA certification approval for the Leica CityMapper installation on the P2006T SMP. The Leica CityMapper is specifically designed for 3D city modelling and urban mapping. It is the world’s first hybrid airborne sensor combining both oblique and nadir imaging as well as a LiDAR system. Tecnam has a large staff to accomplish these diverse projects while building as many as four aircraft a week. Even with many employees, however, this is a impressive penetration of all aviation's nooks and crannies.
The big Italian company that LSA enthusiasts know very well through models such as P92, Sierra, and P2008 has a large and growing presence in global aviation. Their developments are broad and delve into aviation segments large and small. They are also getting ready to celebrate a benchmark birthday. This year Tecnam Costruzioni Aeronautiche — most pilots simply say “Tecnam” — will celebrate its 70th birthday. Born in 1948, the company has changed names but the Pascale brothers kicked off their flying enterprise with the original Astore in 1948. If you are a Tecnam fan, you probably recognize Astore as one of their newest LSA models. Here’s our video with Tecnam boss Paolo Pascale celebrating what was then their 65th birthday, which they honored by releasing their most luxurious LSA so far …naming it after the brothers’ first airplane. Paolo is the current director of Tecnam but he follows in the shoes of one of the founding brothers, “Uncle Luigi” (Professor Luigi “Gino” Pascale).
First Impressions of 915iSI flew in each aircraft with Rotax's Christian Sixt, an American flight school-trained pilot with an impressive list of FAA certificates. Naturally, he is also intimate with the 915iS. Starting was as with any Rotax 9-series engine I’ve ever flown. Immediately the engine burst to life. One difference from prior experience was the “Stock Box” instrument (more formally, Stock Flight Systems Engine Monitoring Unit or EMU) developed by Michael Stock in collaboration with Rotax. Michael is the key man behind the Aerotech/Rotax/Searey/MT Prop project to develop and refine a single lever control for light aircraft (see our video explaining this, or read our article). The Stock Box proved most helpful in observing many factors about the new engine. As you can see in the nearby images, it provides, among other information, a percentage of throttle, fuel burn, and engine revolutions plus prop speed expressed via manifold pressure. If the latter is not familiar to you, don’t worry about the detail for now but see an important point below*. Soon after advancing the throttle, I noticed greater acceleration but two other parameters were more obvious. The climb angle seemed vigorously steep, although this was my first experience in an Aquila aircraft so I had no basis of comparison. Nothing like a 40% boost in power to launch an aircraft into the sky. As the fast car guys say, "Speed costs money. How fast do you want to go?" Fuel consumption was higher than I expected, but speed was also higher. To get below 3 gph, a surprisingly low consumption rate, speed dropped below 100 knots true or 85 indicated. When zipping along faster than 170 miles an hour true, consumption rose to the 7-9 gph range. The 915iS fuel injected, turbocharged, and intercooled engine can produce 141 horsepower for five minutes, then sustain 135 horsepower indefinitely. Once at altitude, Christian demonstrated use of the throttle and prop controls — this was not a single lever control airplane — to adjust for speed or economy. As you can see in the contrasting Stock Box images, we saw as low as 2.8 gallons per hour resulting, of course, in lower speed flight. Christian demonstrated that you can move the throttle and prop control without my experience of adjusting each very cautiously and slowly. Christian jockeyed them around liberally without detriment. A key reason this is possible is because of liquid cooling versus my older experience in air-cooled legacy engines, for example, in a Cessna 182 Skylane. A fellow aviation journalist — a pilot of 300 different aircraft — Dave Unwin felt the 915 started "softer." He also felt it seemed to run slightly smoother. Rotax engine experts felt most of this is attributable to software and the same code can also be applied to the 912iS.
Compared to the 912iSRotax aircraft engine manager Marc Becker arranged a second flight with Christian, this time in a Diamond Katana powered by a Rotax 912iS. While from different manufacturers the two airframes I tested were more alike than different. Although I loved the power of the 915iS with its shortened takeoff roll, thrilling climb to altitude, low-speed fuel economy, and quiet running, the 912iS is more my kind of engine. It was still powerful. Climb was 1,000 fpm. It has proven reliability. Mainly, though, I felt the 912iS engine is better suited to the light aircraft I cover on this website. To me, the 915iS is better suited to larger (heavier) aircraft or those serving particular missions, such as LSA seaplanes or aircraft operating from high elevation fields. In flying the 915iS I revisited the task of managing throttle and prop controls. I have constant speed prop time, a fair bit of it, but that was some years in my past. What the refreshed experience told me is that FAA was right to say this is unnecessarily complex for recreational pilots. While not especially hard — you can hardly get in trouble with such equipment on a modern, liquid-cooled Rotax — you nonetheless have to fiddle with levers and knobs, and keep an eye on instruments. It is more than most sport pilots may prefer and more than some should manage perhaps. Hence the push for single lever control, a simpler way to handle in-flight prop control. Experienced pilots may prefer the control implied by working the levers just as some drivers prefer a stick shift car to an automatic transmission. For everyone else simplicity is probably best. Now a few years after the 912iS was released, it has become a well refined engine, IF it is installed according to Rotax’s manual and instructions. Yet for those who yearn for more power or are building an aircraft of higher capabilities, the 915iS is going to be a welcome powerplant. It does come with a few costs, as did the 912iS fuel injected engine compared to the 912ULS carbureted engine. Marc Becker summarized, "The 915iS is about 12 kilos (26 pounds) more for the engine only; 40-50 more pounds when installed and about €3,000 ($3,750 at today's exchange rates) more than the 914." It is significantly more than the 912iS, as you should expect for an engine with substantially more power and the ability to use that power up to higher altitudes. Fuel needs of both 915iS and 912iS are essentially the same. Thomas Uhr, head of Rotax's Austria plant and a longtime engine expert and enthusiast — and also a pilot — advises the highest octane auto fuel, preferably without alcohol, to get the most power and best results. He also explained that (perhaps surprisingly to some readers) the 915iS compression ratio is lower to allow for the turbo boost. "Stress is actually a little less therefore with the turbo engine," he said. Rotax's 915iS uses the same displacement as the 912iS. In a weight-to-power comparison — grams per kilowatt hour — fuel consumption is only about 6% higher in the more powerful engine.
Entering the MarketMarc indicated that 200 915iS engines have been delivered into the Rotax network including distributors around the globe. Of these, "120 are now with end customers," he noted. "About 20 different airframes are flying today." Some 46 different manufacturers are working to prepare the new powerplant. "Our expectation is to have 400 engines out in the field by year end," Marc added. * On the point about an in-flight adjustable or constant speed prop, Rotax Aircraft Engines top boss Thomas Uhr made an important statement when I asked about fixed pitch props on the 915, “All our engines can use fixed pitch props.” As a leader of a public company, he spoke carefully, but the suggestion was clear: Yes, a fixed pitch 915iS is coming, although today the engine is only driving an in-flight adjustable prop.
April has been busy… starting with a week of Sun ‘n Fun; then a gathering of LSA seaplanes at my home airport the day after; followed by three days of Aero Friedrichshafen in Germany (it runs four days but I had to miss the first); concluding with a journalists-only event at Rotax Aircraft Engines. As a result, my posts to this website may be out of date order but the good news… I have lots to report. I will cover many aircraft stories, but allow me to take the most recent first: flying the brand-new Rotax 915iS and comparing it to the 912iS, although not in the same airframe. Other than official Rotax pilots and select airframe builders, we were among the first to experience the powerful new engine from the world’s leading producer of engines for light aircraft. First Impressions of 915iS I flew in each aircraft with Rotax’s Christian Sixt, an American flight school-trained pilot with an impressive list of FAA certificates.
Yes, yes, I know — in-flight adjustable props are not permitted on U.S. Light-Sport Aircraft by regulation. They are allowed in many other countries, such as most of Europe, but not in America …well, yet at least. A new investigation with FAA regarding the safety possibilities — and very simple operation — of such equipment has the federal agency at least considering a way it could be introduced to Yankee pilots. That’s great news and we commend the FAA for listening. We referred the following video to agency executives so they can see how the idea works: a single throttle-like lever that not only affects engine speed but also prop pitch adjustment, without the pilot having to do anything more than specify what he or she desires by the position of that single lever control. Learn the details in this video.
Sky Arrow Aircraft (USA)Marco Cavazzoni, long associated with Boeing, told me at AirVenture 2017 that a big change was underway. Now I have fresh info and the plan is coming to fruition. Sky Arrow has long been well represented by Hansen Air Group. The Atlanta-based importer introduced Americans to the composite aircraft and has sold to and supported the U.S. buyers of this handsome and very well flying aircraft. Now, Sky Arrow USA is a company that is a subsidiary of Magnaghi ("Mag-NAH-hee"), the large Italian company that took over after the previous producer — using an Italian name often shorted to III or Triple-I for easier English-speaker reference — got into financial trouble. Magnaghi earns its main income producing complex assemblies such as landing gear legs and wheels for airliners. To such a large company, Sky Arrow must seem a hobby project but it is one they are serious about as the plane has many possibilities. Sky Arrow won its LSA acceptance by FAA (arranged by the Hansen team), but another variant has Part 23 approval due to a policy called reciprocity where a foreign certification can be accepted by FAA. This gives Sky Arrow USA many possibilities for commercial use of the aircraft and their website reflects these ambitions. Marco is the U.S. man that will run the U.S. operation for Magnaghi as he and his team work to set up full manufacturing in the USA. This is underway now. To learn more as they prepare for full activity, call 855-4-FlySky or send an email. When editing can be finished, we recorded a video with Marco in which he explains the plans more fully.
Aeroeast USA and Discovery 600At the 25th anniversary of the Rotax 912 engine, at a fine event the big Austrian company organized at their home airfield, I had a chance to fly an airplane Americans do not know. This was the Sila 450 and I flew with company boss, Matic “Mago” Milorad. Here's the article I wrote. I described this experience but soon thereafter I was called to account for allegedly trampling on the rights of a Columbian designer who claimed the Serbian company had no right to produce it. At Sun 'n Fun 2018, I was shown documents and photos that appear to show contracts were properly executed. I am not a lawyer but it certainly looks like my earlier apology may have been in error. All that aside, the original claim is mostly irrelevant as many changes have been made to the airplane now known as the Discovery 600. The American-specific Discovery 600 (the original model was the Sila 450, though it has changed a lot in four years) will be headquartered in Portage Indiana under the name Aero East USA. Flight activities will occur at the nearby Valparaiso airport. U.S. operations will be run by Danny Labovic, a 50% partner with Milorad in the new venture. We interviewed Danny and Mago in Lakeland. Initial production will be mostly done in Serbia, but as the U.S. operation gears up, raw materials such as aluminum sheet that have come from American sources will be partially prepared in the U.S., sent to Serbia for labor-intensive work by Serbians, and returned to American for final assembly and fitting of components such as avionics and engines that come from still other countries, including the USA. Though this may sound complex, it is very similar to what Boeing and Airbus do as they build airlines. It works for small companies, too. I expect to report more on both projects — Sky Arrow and Discovery 600 — as they progress but our videos will fill in gaps in the meantime. Whatever way these projects evolve, it is interesting to see manufacturing come to American shores. Mr. Trump may be smiling, but much more important is the satisfaction of American pilots who will be given more aircraft choices. Welcome to more of a famous label… Made in the USA.
When most pilots think of imports, they assume a foreign manufacturer builds an aircraft in another country, finds a U.S. representative, and sends their product here. That’s certainly the standard practice. For years, especially after the fall of Communism and the opening of Eastern European nations, rates of pay for highly qualified workers was so low that building in America was considered by many to be noncompetitive. Slowly, though, the situation has changed and now American production makes more sense, at least when the company intends to sell to Yankee pilots. At Sun ‘n Fun 2018 I uncovered two new projects; one about which I had some knowledge, another that surprised me. Sky Arrow Aircraft (USA) Marco Cavazzoni, long associated with Boeing, told me at AirVenture 2017 that a big change was underway. Now I have fresh info and the plan is coming to fruition. Sky Arrow has long been well represented by Hansen Air Group.
What Sets Apart Rotorvox?Structurally, the C2A is largely carbon-fiber monocoque construction. This is notably different than the majority of smooth-looking gyroplanes. Most are steel structure with a composite pod. Rotorvox's fuselage is also engineered to provide a protective cell for the occupants. A few other side-by-side seating gyroplanes are on the market, including Cavalon from AutoGyro, the far and away market leader. Rotorvox's version employs the carbon structure to provide such seating, which means it can double as a very inexpensive air ambulance. Entry is also different with a forward-hinged, three-piece canopy. Above the occupants, you see a faired pylon that supports a two-blade aluminium rotor pushed by a Rotax 914 turbocharged engine swinging a three-blade prop. As with nearly all modern gyroplanes, Rotorvox's rotor offers hydraulic pre-rotation before takeoff. Another big departure from most gyroplanes are flat-sided tail booms separated from the fuselage on lateral structures. Each boom supports a tapered fin and rudder with ventral fins. C2A has a short-legged, wide track tricycle undercarriage that should aid ground stability. The main gear uses trailing link main gear with elastomer shock absorption. Rotorvox reports two prototypes were flown during five years of development before C2A deliveries began in October 2014.
- Seating — Side by side
- Length — 18 feet fuselage; rotors 27.5 feet)
- Width — 7.24 feet
- Height — 9.3 feet
- Gross weight — 1,235 pounds
- Fuel capacity — 24 gallons
- Powerplant — Rotax 914 turbo 115 horsepower (limited duration) / 100 horsepower continuous
- Main rotor diameter — 27.5 feet, two aluminium blades with NACA 8H12 airfoil
- Propeller: 3-blade, 69 inch diameter
- Cruise speed: 90 mph / 78 knots
- Never-exceed speed: 102 mph / 89 knots
- Range: 375 statute miles / 324 nautical miles
- Endurance maximum — 6 hours
Besides LSA seaplanes, one area of furious development (and sales) is gyroplanes, the term modern industry prefers to “gyrocopter,” which was actually a branded name used since the days of Igor Benson. A new player, arriving on the scene about five years ago, is Rotorvox. Americans have not seen this aircraft but will soon get an opportunity at Sun ‘n Fun 2018 at Booth #30 in Paradise City. Demonstration flights will occur throughout the week. What Sets Apart Rotorvox? Structurally, the C2A is largely carbon-fiber monocoque construction. This is notably different than the majority of smooth-looking gyroplanes. Most are steel structure with a composite pod. Rotorvox’s fuselage is also engineered to provide a protective cell for the occupants. A few other side-by-side seating gyroplanes are on the market, including Cavalon from AutoGyro, the far and away market leader. Rotorvox’s version employs the carbon structure to provide such seating, which means it can double as a very inexpensive air ambulance.
Flying 915iSWe've reported that several airframe manufacturers — "OEMs" in Rotax's preferred language — have been flying with the newest engine from market-leading Rotax. Enthusiasm for the 915iS is broad. The rollout of this engine was carefully planned by Rotax to ensure good end-customer experiences. As the powerplant has added complexity with the turbo charger and intercooler and carries a higher price tag, good preparation is essential.
Bryan enthusiastically reported, "I had a recent opportunity to fly with the 915is on Rotax guru, Ronnie Smith's Rans S-7 that he is testing. I was very impressed!" Ronnie, proprietor of South Mississippi Light Aircraft has been a Rotax expert for many years and you can often see him and his signature smile — and his Mississippi drawl — in the Rotax booth just inside the main entrance at Sun 'n Fun.
Bryan is likewise doing his job as head of operations for CPS. "I was also able to visit the factory in October 2017 to do some training on the new engine." I am very pleased with the design and performance it offers."So keen is his approval that Bryan added, "I am sure within the next few months one of these beautiful wooden crates will be arriving with my name on it." Can you feel his smile? For pilots, builders, or repair shops interested in information on the 915is, or for those ready to place an order please visit the California Power Systems website, or call 800-247-9653.
As the 2018 flying season launches, a long-awaited powerplant from Rotax Aircraft Engines is beginning to arrive in the USA and to be shipped on to customers for installation. Pilots and builders seeking more power can welcome the Rotax 915iS fuel-injected, turbo-charged, intercooler-equipped 135-horsepower engine. Talk about a kick in the pants! The engine recently won certification for use on aircraft where such approvals are valuable. “California Power Systems is proud to announce the first customer delivery of a Rotax 915iS going to Mark and Alina Pringle of Rocky Mountain Kit Planes to install in a Rans S-21 Outbound,” reported Bryan Toepfer, operations manager of CPS, an enterprise related to mail order behemoth, Aircraft Spruce. “We have another one shipping today for a customer building a Just Aircraft SuperSTOL,” Bryan noted. He continued, “Two more are on the way from Rotax in Austria to be installed in a couple of gyros.” According to California Power Systems — a major supplier and service organization for Rotax — customer demand has been high.
Very Light to Very HeavyTalk about your short takeoff… I just witnessed the successful launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch, a test flight aiming to transport a Tesla Roadster to Mars. Because I live near Daytona Beach, Florida, I often get to observe rocket launches live. Sheesh! These two accomplishments could hardly be further apart and I don't mean geographically. The space geek in me is always drawn outside to my back yard to get a wonderful view of a launch. I've been privileged to see many, including all the final Space Shuttle launches. With my neighbors who live on the 12th fairway of the golf course at Spruce Creek Fly In, we stood on a pleasantly warm day to see this ground-breaking launch. While we could not see the return of all three rockets, they landed successfully, two on terra firma and one on SpaceX's barge at sea. Because we are about 50 miles away, the sound of these (count 'em) 27 rocket motors traveled to Daytona in about four minutes. The rumbling from those huge motors throbbed on and on, longer than any launch I can remember. The winds need to be rather calm for the sound to travel this far and today we got lucky. Cool! Go private space companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and others. I'm a NASA fan, too, but I want to see these private enterprises take the baton and race outward to the planets …and it's happening. I just hope that Tesla can find a parking spot when it gets to Mars orbit. https://youtu.be/RSc__x0rO9k https://youtu.be/Tk338VXcb24
Sebastien Heintz of Zenith Aircraft in Mexico, Missouri is one of the more vigorous promoters in light aviation. He and his 25-year-old company are all over social media and advertise in big magazines. This week his news came from about as far away as possible, from way down under in New Zealand. “A Zenith STOL, expertly piloted by Deane Philip, was the winner of the New Zealand Bush Pilot Championships in Omaka, New Zealand, on Saturday, February 3, 2017,” reported Sebastien. Deane won with a take-off distance of just 12.6 meters (41.3 feet) and a landing roll of 14.7 meters (48.2 feet). See the video below. By any measure, that is very, very short. “Another Zenith STOL aircraft, piloted by Chris Anderson, took second place,” bragged Sebastien. In third place was a Rans S6 for third place in the Sport Pilot (under 1,325 pound) category. Deane’s STOL CH 701 is powered by a 130-horsepower Viking engine.