“Time to spare? Go by air!” is a familiar humor line, speaking to weather uncertainties, mechanical delays, or relaxed cruise speeds that can slow or stall a cross-country flight in our fun, recreational aircraft. One man created his own special way to log some flight hours getting to Oshkosh. Evidently this adventurous pilot never heard another popular line: “The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.” (Don’t anyone challenge me with Great Circle routes; this is about a long flight but not a globe-spanning one.) While pilots around the nation are in various stages of preparation for the flight to EAA’s big summer celebration of flight, our aerial explorer is already en route. He’s about halfway as this is posted. Ambitious Journey I’ve had the pleasure to fly into Oshkosh a number of times. I’ve also several times flown with pilots making their first entry. Ask anyone who’s done it; joining the arrival pattern to Oshkosh on the busy days right before it opens is an experience no one forgets.
Duc Hélices (props)
Designing for STOLBy now, many readers may know the name Steve Henry, who has wowed crowds with his 300 horsepower Yamaha conversion engine on his highly modified Just Highlander. All these aircraft take off in surprisingly short spaces (50 feet is possible) but Steve's purpose-built aircraft fairly leaps off the ground. It almost looks unreal. Unfortunately Steve broke an axle and ended up on his nose in Wednesdays gusty conditions. Damage was reasonably minor — an advantage of landing so slowly perhaps — and he should be back in action soon. His is not the only aircraft designed specifically to win STOL comps. Viking Aircraft Engine owner Jan Eggenfellner has competed in some of these events in his Zenith Super Duty, three seater (two forward, one aft) with large tundra tires. His flat back with red accent airplane is powered by a 195 horsepower variant of his Viking line. He swings a giant 96-inch prop custom built for him by Duc Propellers. Yet, Jan's Monster STOL is very different from most STOL competitor aircraft in very distinctive way. It's a nose wheel airplane. That's extremely rare (although this CubCrafters nosewheeler exists). Why? The answer explains the project seen in nearby photos. For an already STOL aircraft like the Super Duty, getting an extra edge may take unusual steps. In order to get enough angle of attack to lift off in incredibly short distance by big horsepower, Jan wanted to angle the nose up further. He became limited by the tail of the airplane which nearly touches the ground on aggressive takeoffs. Monster STOL solves that problem, Jan believes. His dual aft shocks on each side have 18 inches of stroke. The tires aren't tundra but they're large. And standing Super Duty up on specialized landing gear — which also helps entry into this high-off-the-ground airplane — allows Jan to create a very steep angle of attack. "I already get off the surface in 44 feet," said Jan in a video interview you'll see later. He wants to do even better and to further shorten his landings. The super beefy gear arrangement will let him plop the aircraft on the ground in the shortest possible distance. "It's fun and a little whacky," said Sebastien Heintz of Zenith Aircraft while agreeing Monster STOL is a great draw at his Sun 'n Fun booth space. While I took photos people were constantly examining this unusual entry.
Come to Paradise!If you are at Sun 'n Fun, make your way to Paradise City and the LSA Mall each evening. You can enjoy very close up and exciting flying as pilots like Jan Eggenfellner and Steve Henry compete. For those that cannot attend, I saw lots of potential YouTube videos being recorded. Stay tuned! News from Sun 'n Fun 2022 continues…
At Sun ‘n Fun, as with AirVenture Oshkosh, recent years have created a new attraction using the Lightplane airstrip at both the nation’s two largest airshows. STOL — Short Takeoff and Landing — competitions have become a huge crowd draw. On pleasant evenings, crowds can be five deep all along the runway fence. STOL comps provide exciting close-up action. At few other airports can you observe so closely, literally 100 feet away from runway centerline. After the main afternoon airshow aerobatic acts conclude, you can do one of two things. You can go to the car park and wait in long lines to get out of the lot or you can make your way to the Ultralight Area / Lightplane Area / or Paradise City and catch the evening STOL comps. When they’re done competing, the car parks are moving better and you’ll waste less time sitting in line. STOL comps were planned every evening of Sun ‘n Fun but 20 mile per hour winds blowing 90° cross to the runway over a nearby line of tress was a bit much for many competitors.
Flight Design F2In early December 2021, Flight Design in Germany announced F2 is now an EASA CS-23 certified aircraft. CS23 is a full-certification system modeled on FAA's Part 23 approval process. Achieving this is a high bar to hurdle. “We couldn’t be happier to see this important step for the F2 program, which ultimately will lead to the F4 four-seat version and the all-electric F2e,” said Matthias Betsch, Head of Flight Design's Design Organization department that created the F-Series and many of its advanced concepts. "The F2-CS23 is the next step in Flight Design’s ‘Vision Zero’ concept which incorporates all commercially available safety features appropriate for this type of aircraft," the company elaborated. "These features include: a passive stall and spin resistant airframe design; airframe emergency parachute system; Amsafe-brand airbags and inertial reel harnesses; Garmin ESP (electronic stability and envelope protection); a strong occupant-protective enclosure for the pilot and passengers; automatic fuel management; simplified controls such as a combined throttle and brake lever; and a more modern, car-like atmosphere and operation." The company CEO, Daniel Guenther, said "This is an important milestone for our business and a tribute to the hard work by the F2 design team and our different businesses within Flight Design general aviation.” F2 is imported to America by Flight Design USA, and is represented by Airtime Aviation, the leading seller of LSA in the country. The F2-CS23 comes with an long list of standard features such as an all-Garmin G3X avionics suite; two-axis autopilot; Rotax 912iS fuel-injected 100 horsepower engine with a DUC certified propeller; Beringer wheels and brakes, perforated leather seats, heat exchanger heating system; and Whelen lighting. “EASA's CS-23 category is an internationally-recognized certification standard which will allow the new F2-CS23 to be easily accepted in all markets worldwide,” said Dieter Koehler, Project Manager the F2 and F4 projects. Flight Design sees the F2-CS23 as "an excellent choice for flight schools with its wide and easy-to-enter cockpit, fuel efficiency, unique safety features, and state-of-the-art avionics suite. All new Flight Design aircraft come with carbon compensation up to TBO under Flight Design’s Pro-Climate plan." F2-CS23 follows the company's F2-LSA that began deliveries earlier in 2021.
Icon Aircraft A5California-based Icon Aircraft wants to expand their international sales and to facilitate that, the company chose to pursue Primary Category approval by FAA. Icon has already achieved SLSA approval; number 137 on our SLSA List. "In countries that do not have a Light-Sport category (Canada and others), the Type Certified version of the A5 can be imported and registered as a Primary Category aircraft," the company explained. They are searching for partners outside the U.S. that want to be Icon Aircraft dealers. Icon's Primary Category certification is well along the lengthy process. "All of our paperwork has been submitted to the FAA for review and the only remaining item on our to-do list is noise testing to ensure we are within compliance. We don’t expect this to be an issue and are planning to complete it in January." "Once that is done," the company continued, "it’s fully over to the FAA to finish reviewing our paperwork. The estimate we’ve received from the FAA and our certification team is that the project should be completed and our type certificate in hand by March or early April, 2022." Primary Category certification also has benefits in the U.S., Icon reported. One is that any A&P is authorized to work on it. Because it is not a SLSA, owners will not need to use designated Icon Service Partners, though the company will still encourage them to do so. Another benefit is international travel, for example, flying your Icon A5 to islands in the Caribbean, or to keep your A5 on a yacht when you are in another country (image). "Light-Sport Aircraft do not receive a Type Certificate," Icon explained, "so typically, special permission is required before you can fly in another country just like if you are flying an Experimental aircraft." Some exceptions exist, notably in the Bahamas, which does allow U.S.-registered LSAs. The Bahamas is further unique among other countries in that they accept FAA's Sport Pilot certificate. "International expansion has been a critical part of our business plan since day one,” said Jason Huang, President of Icon Aircraft. “People in the U.S. have been able to enjoy adventure flying in the Icon A5 for several years, and we will continue to produce the SLSA version. But now we are excited to introduce the A5 to others around the world. Type Certification is one of the many investments Icon has made to grow our capabilities and improve the A5. We know it will be appreciated by our international deposit holders and sales partners, and we are all very excited for this day to come." "Note that we will continue to make the SLSA version, as well," assured Huang. This continues the chance for American pilots to fly A5 without the need for an aviation medical, using only their driver's license in lieu of a medical approval. Why not pursue approval using the coming regulation often referred to as Mosaic? "Mosaic is an FAA initiative that doesn’t translate globally," stated the company. "Thus, pursuing Primary Category Certification is the action we needed to coincide with our global expansion plans." https://youtu.be/dxpFU7UfsQo https://youtu.be/4kBRY79lw5Y
Rather loudly and persistently I beat the drum about “affordable aircraft,” but readers also enjoy learning about other aircraft. I will never write about jets or multimillion-dollar turbines but I will continue to follow any “light” aircraft that meets LSA parameters now or after the Mosaic rule. In this article I will describe how two aircraft are pursuing conventional certification: Flight Design’s F2-CS23 and Icon’s A5. Contrary to common language, LSA are not “certified.” Instead a manufacturer declares they meet ASTM standards and FAA “accepts” that declaration. Frequently at first, FAA audited producers in a point-by-point check of their declaration plus verifying that producers use generally-accepted best practices in their manufacturing. Companies with prior approvals may not be required to undergo an audit; it’s always FAA’s choice. I’ve been involved with ASTM for many years and I can attest to these standards being very rigorous. They were welcomed by many countries where they are in active use.
Looking Further Sun 'n Fun 2021Powrachute Powerhouse — Powered parachutes (PPCs) grew nicely last yet after a dip in 2019 registrations, but nearly all of that came from the Powrachute brand. This Michigan producer — which does significant work for Evolution Trikes and manufactures parts for other producers — nearly doubled its registrations from 2019 to 2020. From its heyday back in the '90s, powered parachutes have become a "mature" segment within recreational aviation. You can get a Sport Pilot certificate in a PPC in just 12 hours (assuming an apt student). Cost of a 912-powered rig is less than $40,000 for a well-equipped 100-horsepower Rotax 912-powered Airwolf; the engine alone is nearly half the total, making this machine "affordable." Even if you are most tuned into fixed-wing flying, those facts may get your attention. Other active PPC developers and producers include SkyRunner and it’s gnarly, large, and “twin-engined” combo powered parachute and ground vehicle; several sales are underway to the U.S. government and military. Infinity Powered Parachutes has also been active at airshows, including last year's Midwest LSA Expo. If a $38,000 aircraft with perhaps the broadest viewing platform in aviation catches your interest, how are you going to learn to fly one? As powered parachute manufacturing has matured the training market has tightened …yet gotten better. Roy Beisswenger's Easy Flight — which sells the Powrachute line including Airwolf (pictured nearby) — offers a premium course in two locations: Illinois in the summer, or Florida the rest of the year. Roy knows what he's teaching …heck, he wrote the book on it, a veritable PPC Bible.
For More Info: Powrachute — A video interview with Galen Geigly of Powrachute will follow.
• • • • • • •Gyro Technic's VX1 Gyroplane — In the rush to build ever-slicker models, the gyroplane industry has dedicated itself almost exclusively to two-seat aircraft. Some are now side-by-side though much more common is tandem, fore-and-aft seating. Enclosures have become common. While the idea may have been invented many years ago in the USA, Europeans adopted the type in the 2000s and took the idea further. They also worked out flight characteristics to make these contemporary machines easier to fly. My experience with them (see this AR1 video pilot report) suggests they are almost like flying a three-axis airplane although with a few obvious differences. Gyroplanes distinguish themselves by flying cooperatively in windier conditions. Most modern gyroplanes may be two seaters …but not all. Those older American gyroplanes — think: Bensen Gyrocopter — were nearly all single seaters. Maybe that was best then, when stability was different than today. Then I discovered the VX1 at the Midwest LSA Expo. Hmmm, a modern gyroplane with all the present-day knowledge but in single seat form. Intriguing. It doesn't look like other modern gyros and the video below will explain. Lots of buyers want a second seat for a friend or their spouse yet more often than not aircraft are flown solo. A single seat aircraft has some advantages and the pilot can merely enjoy him or herself without have to assure their passenger is comfortable. Single seaters can also cost less partly because they don't need as much engine. Combine these attributes with some of the finest, beautifully-accented machine work you'll ever see and Gyro Technic truly has something in their VX1. Finally, the Minnesota company is rare in that it also makes its own rotor blades and can supply other producers.
For More Info: Gyro Technic — see video below
• • • • • • •Levil's Sticky-Backed Autopilot —Ruben Leon, the leader of Levil Aviation, nearly always wears a friendly, excited smile on his face. He also seems to always have some new development of interest and Sun 'n Fun 2021 proved this theory once again. Levil Aviation greatly empowered the role of tablets in the cockpit today by pioneering the first iPad-compatible wireless avionics suite in 2009. Today's iLevil Sport ($795) is a portable unit bringing AHRS, GPS technology, and data recording. Compatible with both iOS and Android, this friendly user device can connect with a wide variety of apps in the market. You might pair iLevil Sport with ADS-B receiver Astro Link ($599) to have real-time weather and traffic. Link both to your iPad and have a full-fledged panel for less than $2,500 that can compare to panel-mounted digital instruments costing two to ten times more in LSA. Astro Link boasts a low power consumption, has no need for remote antennas, and Levil said, "It captures the weather and traffic information even where other devices won't reach." A few years ago, by collaborating with TruTrak, Levil was a partner in developing the Eco, a simple autopilot that some have called an "anti-servo tab." This is a simple, carbon fiber, electric tab that can literally (and advisably, to avoid drilling holes) be stuck to your aileron and elevator to produce a low-cost ($2,700) autopilot. The cockpit control for the unit is itself a fairly capable instrument. "Autopilot HSI AP2000 controls the airplane by the sole use of trimtabs," said partner Aircraft Automation. "[This] makes it extremely reliable, light, safe and easy to install. It also serves as a nice backup instrument for your EFIS [or iPad]."
"Super Eco is supplied with two model airplane servos, wiring harness, pushrods, and respective trim tabs for the roll and the pitch axis," said Carlos of Aircraft Automation. "Since Trim Tabs are used for primary control there are no mechanical links with flight controls, pilots can override the trim tabs easily. Control links and cables are free to move with no additional friction since there are no conventional servos installed. The aircraft will be automatically return to trim should the autopilot disconnect."
For More Info: Levil Aviation
• • • • • • •Duc Prop Success Story — Industry observers have seen this unfold before. An international company enters the U.S. market but comes to recognize the complexities of a large, mature aviation culture as exists in America. To do it right, you really need true U.S. presence. A few years ago, Duc Hélices set up shop in Sebring, Florida as Duc Propellers USA. Up against many solid players lead by Sensenich providing vigorous competition, Duc has worked hard and it's working. Duc took the challenge in hand and found in Gaetan Fouozing (photos) the right manager for the job. The company has gone from sales in the low hundreds of thousands into a low multimillion dollar enterprise. Plus, these days, Gaetan is the man. He does it all. Of course, he is a sales and service outlet for Duc Hélices. Manufacturing occurs in Frontenas, France. According to Gaetan, the French enterprise is humming at its still-new headquarters with new space and new personnel. Good for Duc! For more about Duc props see this 2019 review or this video. Of course, think about it. Whatever the powerplant, a prop is needed. Rotax power. Continental power. Viking or Aeromentum power. Electric motor power, single engine, twin engine, multicopter …they all need props (or rotor blades) — and in the case of the multicopters, they'll need six, eight, 10, or more, a gold mine for a prop maker. Duc also makes rotor blades for gyroplanes and specialized blades for eVTOLs. To reach all this action in the USA, you gotta be here. Duc is home in America.
For More Info: Duc Propellers USA — A video interview with Gaetan Fouozing of Duc Props USA will follow.
Here are two videos on the Gyro Technic VX1 — an interview with developer Denis Schoemaker plus a fun flying video. https://youtu.be/TeaN91fQz4k https://youtu.be/ekG3DEWFhN8
We continue with further coverage from the first major airshow in almost two years… THANKS to Sun ‘n Fun 2021 for helping present these interesting aircraft and more. This article has news …about two aircraft in a category I refer to as “alternative aircraft” …about an easily-mounted autopilot you can actually afford …and the success story of a French prop maker now well established in the USA. Alternative aircraft is my umbrella term for weight shift aircraft (trikes), powered parachutes, gyroplanes, carriage-equipped powered paragliders (not the same as powered parachutes), Light-Sport motorgliders, and Light-Sport Lighter-than-Air flying machines. These unorthodox, not-mainstream aircraft have maintained a steady share of sales; around 100 new such aircraft enter the U.S. market every year. Counting all types, the “alternative aircraft” sector may account for a quarter or more of all LSA sales. Alternative aircraft have attributes that drive customer inquiries: better affordability and unique flying qualities.
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.
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.
Deals, Dreams, & PartiesInfinity Power Parachutes — We shot a video interview with Frank Williams of Infinity Power Parachutes. He is taking over the company from Alvie Wall but the founder will stay involved to help. They've been working together as Frank transitioned into the business. We reviewed the current line-up of Infinity models. Their Challenger is a single place, Rotax 503-powered, true Part 103 aircraft that sells ready-to-fly complete with big off-runway tires, 375 square-foot canopy, and engine instrumentation for mere $17,000. Given the average price of a new car in America is now reported at $33,000, I'd said Challenger qualifies as a bargain aircraft. You may not think of yourself as a powered parachute pilot but my personal experience is these aircraft offer the best visibility in aviation combined with slow flying speeds (30s mph) that allow you thoroughly absorb the view. The two Commander models are powered either by the Rotax 582 (65 horsepower) or the Rotax 912 (80-100 horsepower). These tandem two place aircraft use a 500 or 550 square-foot canopy. Like Challenger, Infinity offers the two Commanders as ready-to-fly Special LSA. Delivery takes only four weeks and your aircraft will be delivered factory test-flown. All Infinity models use a dual three-inch angle beam structure that provides exceptional strength. Frontal bars preferred by some pilots are not needed for structural integrity, said Frank. Titan Aircraft T-51 — On Day One, I wrote about Titan Aircraft's sleek two place kit called Tornado. Today I want to show you an image of their subsequent — but completely different — T-51, a Mustang replica that is amazingly true to form. Look for yourself. I had quite the experience flying the original prototype many years back and I can attest this is one interesting flying machine. I've also flown in a striking Stewart P-51 lookalike powered by a 450-horsepower Corvette engine but I've never gone aloft in a full military North American P-51 with 1,695 horsepower. However, for capable kit builders T-51 can deliver an intense sensation of nostalgia and a taste of what it must have been like for hundreds of twenty-something fighter jocks in World War II. Hoo, rah! Although T-51 is not a Light-Sport Aircraft, it was released in the same year of the very first SLSA acceptances by FAA, 2005. Duc Propellers USA — After reliving my vivid Mustang experience I needed to relax. What better way to do that than to attend the Duc Propellers grand opening party celebrating the French prop maker's new USA headquarters at the Sebring airport. The new facilities will provide North American sales, service, and maintenance for the Duc line of props. A spacious hangar has been leased at Sebring with offices and work areas provided by the airport. Lead by their capable outreach man, Michael Dederian, Duc has made great inroads into the Light-Sport and Sport Pilot Kit space. At the kick-off party, Duc assembled an impressive number of airplanes from the Expo — each fitted with Duc props, of course — providing a mini-airshow right outside their quarters. I estimate around 250 attended their party, which was very professionally organized and catered. Go, Duc!
As Day Three arrived, blue skies returned to Sebring after a damp start on Day Two and with them came the best crowds of pilots and companions of any day so far …by far. As you see in the lead photo (home page), crowds were often so thick around aircraft that a picture barely showed the flying machine. It was a fun if chilly day and the mood of pilots and aircraft reps was upbeat. I was also informed that a number of paid sales went down and prospects are talking seriously about other purchases. Most aircraft vendors know a purchase of this size may warrant additional thought post-event but clearly some customers had come ready to deal. For years I’ve maintained that sector-specific shows like Sebring produce more sales per visitor than the big shows. Neither pilots nor vendors can miss Sun ‘n Fun or Oshkosh and still claim to be true-blue aviators.
Enter MulticoptersThe little single place Kitty Hawk Flyer pictured above is one of several examples. Qualifying as a Part 103 ultralight, it may also be a multicopter you can actually buy and fly in the near future. Those many breathless stories in mainstream media about autonomously flown air taxis may paint a very different, possibly exciting image of the future of flight, but they may also be years, or decades, away. Vehicles like Kitty Hawk's Flyer could get to the market much sooner, assuming FAA throws up no roadblocks — I don't see the agency doing that, drones have registered more than a million units giving FAA extra duties but also knowledge, and leverage. Indeed, the drone/multicopter development must be music to the regulators' ears. Multicopters are also music to ears of prop makers. While Sensenich sells many propellers to Florida's air boat operators (who wear props out faster than an airplane), Duc Hélices has jumped into the rotorcraft and multicopter market. Good for them! More revenue from tech-billionaire-supported companies means more business for Duc, which should help them keep innovating for the light aircraft sector we all love. Look again at the Flyer. Here's a small, light, single-place aircraft with — count 'em — ten props whirring in dizzying circles. Ten props per plane! "Now we're talking," exclaims the boss!
Duc Hélices NewsAt the Aero Friedrichshafen 2018 show in Germany, Duc Propellers lifted the veil on their latest innovation as they presented a prototype of rotors for multicopters …eVTOLs, flying car, air taxis, and who knows what next. Last spring, Duc Hélices announced, "Our new branch, dedicated to the design and the realization of helicopter and multicopter rotors, is running at full speed." The company added, "A very large investment was required to finance four years of studies for the development of multicopter blades." They cited a new propeller production press and a series of qualification and validation tests including "form control; mechanical analysis of tensile strength/flexion/torsion; vibration tests; tests of aging; and fatigue." Complete and ready, Duc Propellers Company now offers literature and products for:
- Complete rotors for multicopter (composite blades and hub rotor head)
- Helicopter blades (up to 9 meter or 29.5 foot diameter)
- Full anti-torque rotor (RAC blades in composite and hub)
One More (New) ThingDuc Hélices has enjoyed considerable success in the U.S. market, thanks to persistent effort at airshows by their capable Michael Dederian. At LSA events these days, I see two brands all the time: Sensenich from Plant City, Florida and Duc Hélices from Frontenas, France. To better serve their growing U.S.market, Duc will open a new facility at the Sebring, Florida airport. To celebrate, Duc Propellers USA will host an official opening party in Hangar C2 (442 Hendricks Field Way). People attending the event are invited at 6 PM on Friday January 25, 2019. To confirm or ask questions about the kick-off party, contact Mrs. Héloïse Jonda at her email address.
Imagine you are in charge of marketing for French propeller manufacturer, Duc Hélices. The boss stops by your office and asks, “How are we going to sell more props?” You begin to cite statistics (maybe even this website and its market share data). With more worldwide sales of LSA and LSA-like aircraft (chart), sales could be good, you say. Successful twin engine airplanes like Lockwood’s AirCam or Tecnam‘s Twin that swing two propellers per aircraft certainly add to sales. (Rotax enjoys this, too.) Yet in the tech world, a 10% or 20% increase is nothing. Those hard-charging Silicon Valley companies have gotten used to things improving by orders of magnitude. “How can we increase sales by ten times,” demands the boss? “Well, hmmm…” you thoughtfully reply, “I think I have an idea.” Enter Multicopters The little single place Kitty Hawk Flyer pictured above is one of several examples.
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.
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.
BasicMed and Focused ShowsBy another view, the push by AOPA and EAA for BasicMed appears to have hardly affected Light-Sport Aircraft interest. In fact, BasicMed may be helping. While new opportunities now exist for older pilots to keep flying their older GA airplanes, BasicMed (see earlier article with comments) has enough hoops to jump through that some are obviously electing to continue using their driver's license paired with their existing pilot certificate to fly Light-Sport Aircraft. Putting a finer point on it, I believe the reaction of many pilots demonstrates that a brand-new, affordable, high-tech, roomy, and well-performing LSA holds genuine appeal. Sebring is the granddaddy of these LSA, light kit, and ultralight shows. It has spawned similar events like the Midwest LSA Expo and the DeLand Showcase plus it has inspired shows like Copperstate and Arlington to keep a focus on more affordable, recreational aircraft. These new events are no challenge to the majors such as Sun 'n Fun (starting in barely over two months) and AirVenture Oshkosh but they have clearly won a place in the airshow circuit. Some find it curious that three of the best shows for these events are in Florida but the state is obviously a national center for recreational flying. Weather at Sebring was good this year although fairly windy on a couple of the days. However, plenty of flying still occurred and the gyroplanes in particular appeared to have no problem with the conditions. Even the Ford Trimotor * — one of two flying examples remaining — flew steadily, cancelling operations only on one afternoon. The number of exhibitors at Sebring, the volume of attendees and the seriousness of these pilots about buying, plus the range of aircraft options — in both types and cost — is but one part of the success story that is Light-Sport and experimental amateur built aircraft. For more about the continuing success of the Sport Pilot/LSA concept FAA introduced almost 14 years ago, read this article. As the last sentence suggests, the Sebring Expo owes some of its success to jumping in as LSA debuted on the aviation stage. Mike Willingham reported that while Expo has not profited from the show itself the event has nonetheless been a success for the airport by putting it squarely on the aviation map and by helping to attract several new tenants including the large facility operated by leading LSA purveyor Tecnam. (Watch for our interview with Tecnam COO, Giovanni Pascale Langer in the weeks ahead.) * For more about this fascinating corrugated metal aircraft from the 1920s, go here.
The fourteenth running of the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo is history and if this is how the rest of the year goes, I predict a stronger year for LSA sales. Vendors were smiling by the end of the show and a good many customers are now anticipating a shiny new aircraft in their hangar. Based on my unscientific survey of vendors, I would estimate at least 15 aircraft sales and possibly more as I did not query every vendor. Of course, airshow promises don’t always materialize but regardless of the precise number, it was amply clear that Sebring — and similar focused-venue shows that confine themselves to LSA, light kits, and ultralight — still offer their magic in putting customers and sellers together. Several vendors told airport executive Mike Willingham about having “pages” of solid leads. Even non-LSA exhibitors such as Cirrus reported to him that they found good prospects at the show.
Day two of the year’s first show, Sebring was a bit cooler and windier but still a fine day as the photos show. I would guess crowds were as good or better than yesterday not even counting a large contingent of ROTC candidates visiting for the day. Zenith continued to garner lots of attention for their supersized SuperDuty CH-750 variant. Larger wings (six feet more span) and tail feathers are mated to a common 750 fuselage (construction time for which has been reduced through higher tech). The SD is powered by an Aero Sport Power IO-375 producing 205 horsepower. The show example was a three seater that grosses at 1,900 pounds. An 1,100 pounds empty results in an 800 pound useful load. This is the model with the distinctive Unpanel™ instrument system that works like a swivel-mounted flat screen TV in your living room (but better because it’s in your airplane).
Interested in Chipper?Not only are Belite's performance numbers for the Chipper shaping up well, the purchase price has also remained within the "affordable aviation" range. Here's a few figures:
- $10,495 — taildragger airframe kit (1,000 pound gross, 80-horsepower max)
- $11,995 — taildragger airframe kit (1,200 pound gross, 100-horsepower max)
- $2,595 — taildragger finishing kit (1,000 pound gross, 80-horsepower max)
- $2,995 — tricycle gear finishing kit (1,000 pound gross, 80-horsepower max)
- $3,195 — taildragger finishing kit (1,200 pound gross, 100-horsepower max)
- $3,695 — tricycle gear finishing kit (1,200 pound gross, 100-horsepower max)
This pricing is locked in with your $500 deposit, but you must take delivery this year.
- 5 gallon fuel tanks —” $900 per pair
- 14 gallon fuel tanks — $1,400 per pair
- Any Radiant instruments with purchase of a Chipper kit — 25% discount. James said, "This does not include the radio, transponder, or ELT, but you can put together a very nice Radiant panel for less than $1,000."
- Belites recommend Oratex fabric (see video) and DUC Hélices propellers.
- Some items, such as engine cowls for either Rotax engine or engine mounts will be determined later.
- Prices do not include: engine, propeller, mount, cowl, instruments, fabric, paint, glue, etc.
Belite entrepreneur James Weibe has successfully used his tech industry background to raise interest for his latest project, this time his first two seater called Chipper. (It was named Pipper but that apparently energized the anxieties of Piper Aircraft lawyers so James altered the name.) James has informed his Facebook and email readers with continual updates. After making initial flights fairly recently, he has judged the aircraft able to make a cross country flight. Chipper uses power from the 912 Rotax, but rather than the more common 100-horsepower ULS model, James is using one of my favorites, the 80-horsepower, regular-autogas-burning version. I like it because for lighter aircraft, such as Chipper, this 912 has plenty of power and it is about as trouble-free as any aircraft engine I’ve ever flown. “I flew Chipper to Angel Fire, New Mexico,” James exclaimed. “I flew nonstop one way (960 miles roundtrip) from Wichita, Kansas to Angel Fire, performed flight tests, and then returned to Marion, Kansas before the sunset.” Now that’s a good day’s flying.
Not Going to France?
The good news is, DUC props are available in the USA thanks to SportairUSA. You know this brand for their aircraft, including Sting, Sirius, and Zlin Outback and Shock but they are a full service supplier. The Arkansas company said, "SportairUSA is the United States distributor for DUC Propellers, the industry-leading forged carbon propellers from DUC Helices. There are models of DUC propellers suitable for light sport aircraft, ultralights, powered parachutes and experimental aircraft." Plus, how about this offer? "Guaranteed Satisfaction — If your airplane does not perform better with the DUC propeller, return it within 30 days for a full refund," assured people at SportairUSA. That is a remarkably sure way to know you are buying the right prop for your airplane. SportairUSA lists some of your choices in props from DUC. Swirl (photo above) is a simple, ground-adjustable propeller that performs like a complex constant-speed prop. "It is the propeller of choice for faster airplanes," said SportairUSA. How can that be? "Without movement or twisting of the blades DUC's Swirl propeller has a constant speed effect… [because] the prop takes a slimmer bite under load, and a fatter bite when cruising, without the need for complex electro-mechanical adjustments." Windspoon (lower photo) is for slower aircraft (speeds up to 80 knots for engines up to 120 horsepower). SportairUSA explained, "With its revolutionary shape [that] offers unrivaled performance, Windspoon is the ideal solution for trikes and similar aircraft." For more detail including specifications and prop ordering information, visit SportairUSA's dedicated prop page.
If you live in France or are traveling to the country (soon!), you might want to join the party… the DUC Propellers party, that is. It is happening in a few days. In December 2016 DUC Propellers moved new facilities (nearby photo) to be closer to the airfield for tests and to have a more spacious infrastructure to expedite development. To celebrate their new quarters, on Saturday, June 24th, 2017, DUC Propellers announced they will “organize an exceptional party to celebrate the inauguration of our new location on the Villefranche-Tarare Aerodrome (LFHV) in Frontenas, France.” They plan a big event with more than 500 guests expected along with participation of many operators from the airfield. “Lot of guests will arrive all long the day by plane but the party will officially start at 8 p.m. with the visit of the new facilities, a photoBooth on flying topics, a Beaujolais culinary discovery, a cocktail dinner, a music DJ, and some animations throughout the night,” said DUC representatives.
- Floatwing — removes the need for external high drag support geometries, and provides high stability
- Merged Hull Geometry — fuselage has an aerodynamic forward geometry merged with the boat hull further back for minimizing drag on the boat hull section
- Electric Motor — gives us smooth aerodynamics and lower weight at the same time; we get all the bulk and weight down in the hull for optimized stability in water
- Laminar Flow — drag is kept low over all with a laminar flow fuselage, canopy and airfoils
- Internal Combustion Engine — WST KKM 352 Wankel producing 57kW (76 horsepower) weighing 99 pounds (45 kg)
- Generator — Engiro G60 producing 60kW, water cooled weighing 33 pounds (15 kg)
- Electric Motor — Engiro M97 Electric producing 97 kW (130 horsepower) weighing 71 pounds ( 32 kg)
AirMax SeaMax — Icon A5 — Vickers Wave — MVP — Lisa Akoya… you only need look at the best promoted brands to see that arguably the most innovative ideas in light aircraft are coming from the LSA seaplane sector. Each of these is a great example of visionary engineering. Others LSA or light kit seaplane developments — Searey, Mermaid, ATOL Avion, Aero Adventure, among others — are somewhat more conventional but that’s reassuring to some potential buyers. All these names have one enormous advantage. They have practical field experience. Of the five in the first paragraph, only SeaMax has a longer period of use by owners in regular operation. Now consider Equator Aircraft P2 Xcursion, an electric hybrid seaplane with several compelling ideas. I wrote about this in an article two years ago; now we have an update.
In my experience, pilot love learning about engines. Yet without a prop, that engine may run fine, but nothing happens to the airplane other than converting a tank of fuel into noise. To get up and go, you gotta have a prop. How about a beautiful composite one? DUC Hélices New Factory — French propeller manufacturer DUC Hélices moved its facility late in 2016, relocating from Lentilly to Frontenas on the Villefranche-Tarare Airfield. Last year marked a turning point in the evolution of DUC Propellers, the company said. A relocation project was launched in April 2016 with the primary goal to move the company to the Villefranche-Tarare aerodrome to be at the heart of its business. “This move will allow [us] to expand our premises and modernize further. The move started in November of 2016 and an inauguration or grand opening will be completed by spring 2017.” Shortly after the big move, DUC was pleased to welcome engineering students from Centrale Lyon Engineering School the new site at the Villefranche-Tarare Airfield (LFHV) for a presentation of the facilities and DUC’s design and manufacturing activities (nearby photo).
Article Updated 9/7/15 — See new information at the bottom of this article. Coming up TOMORROW! — September 8-9-10, 2016 — is the Midwest LSA Expo. I’m on-site for all three days in Mt. Vernon, Illinois. More info: Midwest LSA Expo. Only six years after Steve Jobs proudly announced the first iPad, the tablet device seems to have fully conquered aviation. Airline captains routinely use iPads in lieu of bulky printed instrument charts. GA airplane owners with analog panels commonly use an iPad to join the digital revolution without needing to get FAA’s permission. And, LSA developers often accommodate the iDevice; indeed, some Light-Sports make do solely with iPads, occasionally multiple devices. Despite his visionary prowess, I bet Steve Jobs never imagined such a result. Unfortunately, he didn’t live long enough to see the cockpit transformation his gizmo caused. However, if you’ve flown with an iPad, you know you need some way to hold it that allows access to its wealth of information without interfering with airplane operation.