Aero 2015 is open! The halls are full of shiny airplanes displayed with the usual European sense of style and panache. Visitors are backed up at the entry gates awaiting the official opening time. (We sneaky media journalists are allowed in earlier to get photos and begin interviews with vendors.) It is a great event, for Europe and for aviation. I already have some airplanes in mind for reporting, both brand-new designs and the sort you never see in the USA. I will aim to prepare coverage of some of them and report as soon as time permits. Yet first, I want to talk about a project that is equally exciting. I refer to the Flight Design project aimed at the general aviation world, that is, of airplanes with more seats than allowed in the LSA space … in addition to more speed, more weight, and other capabilities.
Flight Design GmbH C4
Phone: +49 36920 7530-11Hoerselberg-Hainich, -- 99820 - Germany
U.S. Distributor is Flight Design USA
Phone: (860) 963-7272South Woodstock, CT 06267 - USA
For more than 100 years, cars have had accidents and if they were severe enough, the results were poor (photo). This was long before seat belts, airbags, breakaway steering columns, padded dashboards, and many other features we take for granted today. It was also before the concept of crumple zones. Typically, crumple zones are located in the front part of the vehicle to absorb the impact of a head-on collision because 65% of crashes are frontal impacts, according to a British study. Crumple zones accomplish two safety goals: They reduce the initial force of the crash; and they redistribute the force before it reaches the vehicle’s occupants.This idea has been around more than 60 years and has become standard in the modern era of passenger car design. One of the first examples of crumple zone research is coming from Mercedes-Benz in the mid-1950s, so perhaps it is fitting that some of the first crumple zone technology to be applied to light aircraft has the sponsorship of the German government along with German industry players.
Something of a stealth invasion is beginning. I refer to an emerging flock of four seat Light-Sport Aircraft. Of course, most readers are aware that no such birds exist as LSA (in the FAA’s code, anyway). By U.S. regulation Light-Sport are two seat aircraft. Other nations have some different ideas. For now, suffice it to say the “LSA 4s” — as I choose to call them for this article — are on final. In the past I’ve written about Evektor’s Cobra, one of the first in this group, arriving so early that you probably would not call it a “LSA-like” airplane. The southern Czech company enjoyed success with their SportStar and Harmony, smaller siblings to a four seater they flew several years ago. After Evektor (coincidentally also the very first LSA to be approved), we began to hear about Flight Design’s C4 modeled on their LSA market-leading CT series.
Update 9/24/14 — Added to the models below, South Africa’s The Airplane Factory is also offering their four seat Sling 4. This model is flying but a decision about certifying it has not been made at this time. It is presently available as a kit-built airplane. Some of the more successful Light-Sport Aircraft producers have their eye on the market for larger aircraft, those able to seat four… or more. While continuing to manufacture their LSA models, three companies showed bigger aircraft or mockups at Aero 2011 and one other company has already done extensive test flying. Look out Cessna, Piper, Diamond, and Cirrus! Those familiar GA brands are about to get new competition. *** The first of this emerging segment was the Evektor Cobra, dating back more than four years. Previously marketed at shows like Oshkosh, Cobra was promoted with alternate powerplants of 200 and 315 horsepower. Joining Cobra in the roughly 2,500-pound gross weight category (approximately the weight of a Cessna 172) are three newcomers: Tecnam’s P2010, Flight Design’s C4, and Pipistrel’s Panthera (photos).