Two wildly divergent events occurred in the last few days. They are completely unrelated yet they show the global interplay in modern light aviation. One story involves relative newcomer Icon Aircraft and their A5 LSA seaplane. The other revolves around the producer of the most successful LSA in America, Flight Design. Both airplane producer stories made it into mainstream media. If we go way back in time, to 2003, that is, before Light-Sport Aircraft, we saw a world where Americans flew kit-built airplanes while European pilots were flying what they called ultralights or microlights. Of course, this is an oversimplification but we had no idea the two methods of production would converge as they have in the last two decades. Using widely-accepted consensus standards, Light-Sport Aircraft can operate in multiple countries — thanks to the useful work of many volunteers that assembled and maintain ASTM standards embraced by FAA and other CAAs all over the planet.
Flight Design USA
Phone: (860) 963-7272South Woodstock, CT 06267 - USA
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.
Buyers Without RemorseJohn started, "Skyleader 600 looks like a great aircraft. I had actually just noticed this model a couple days ago because there is a used one listed for sale on the Web. As a potential first time buyer, I would be interested to have you address the question of service for these smaller manufacturers. "By way of example," John continued, "there are nearly 300 SportCruisers registered in the US, as well as nearly 350 Flight Design models, but only 3 Skyleaders. I’m not picking on Skyleader; there are many manufacturers with just two, five or 20 registrations in the database." Matter of fact, our N-number database is another useful reference we offer. You can use the ByDanJohnson.com Tableau Public link to find every single LSA in the U.S. registry (you'll have to drill down a bit, but here's an infographic on how to do that). John continued, "I imagine it’s easier to find a mechanic who is familiar with something that has hundreds of units in operation, rather than just a few. If I want to buy a less common aircraft, do I have to think about availability of qualified service ahead of time? Do I need to locate a mechanic first, even before settling on a particular model? I’ve never owned an airplane before, so this is a big unknown for me." John didn't ask about insurance but that's another large question, especially these days for pilots over 70 years old. I recently interviewed on video one of the leading insurance agents, A.I.R.'s Gregg Ellsworth to get the latest info on that important topic. Regarding mechanics — If a LSA uses all-metal construction, you can find capable mechanics almost anywhere. If your dream plane is largely composite, finding a mechanic can be much harder. The larger companies like Flight Design, building their CT series from almost all carbon fiber offer varying levels of training. If a dealer or mechanical shop obtains factory training — as does Airtime Aviation, the largest seller for Flight Design anywhere in the world — their people can fix anything and may be able and willing to work on other brands. In the LSA world, the manufacturer dictates who gets to work on their airplanes so it's best to go direct to the source to learn the availability of qualified mechanics. You can find nearly any LSA company using our SLSA List (loaded with links). If your dream LSA uses a Rotax engine, you will have little trouble getting service because the big Austrian powerplant manufacturer has trained hundreds of mechanics. Continental-powered LSA can also be maintained by many Airframe & Powerplant (A&P) mechanics, virtually anywhere in the world. Jabiru engines are maintained by Arion Aircraft (also producer of the Lightning-series of kit-built or fully-built SLSA aircraft). As Jabiru engines were designed to be simple to facilitate repair, any A&P can also work on them. Other engines may be more challenging but all have some service centers, though perhaps not close to you. Some LSA organizations have focused on providing service to many brands. One such is U.S. Sport Planes located in the north Dallas, Texas metropolitan area. Run by Scott Severen — the North American Jabiru importer — U.S. Sport Planes has a long history of working with numerous brands. Others offer similarly broad service, such as Aero Adventure, which can work on multiple seaplane brands. My best advice is to contact the manufacturer or the importer of the aircraft that interests you and ask who can assist you closer to home. Please remember, though, that LSA suppliers or mechanics aren't McDonalds restaurants you can find everywhere. They are all specialized service providers. You may need to travel to them but as they are experts, it may be worthwhile to engage them versus a general A&P who may not know your particular airplane. Even after 17 years, LSA are still the "new kids on the block" so some mechanics may not wish to service them.
What IS Affordable?Another reader, Dan E., made other comments I frequently hear. He wrote, "The definition of what people consider 'affordable' varies widely." Not only does it vary by every individual; it can change depending on many other circumstances. "For me," Dan wrote, "a used $35K Cessna 150 or a $45K Piper Cherokee 140 are affordable, but a new $150-200K two-seat SLSA is not, and I have neither the time nor the interest to build my own ELSA." In truth, an ELSA (Experimental LSA) typically will not save much but can bring some other advantages. To save a more significant amount of money, you'll need to build an Experimental Amateur Built ("51% rule") aircraft. This will take a bigger investment of your time, but with the coming MOSAIC regulation professional builder-assist centers are expected to expand notably. Dan finished, "I thought that making entry-level planes more affordable through mass production to get more pilots flying was the original purpose of the LSA movement? What we ended up is a bunch of boutique manufacturers, each offering SLSA that appeal to someone who might otherwise buy a sportscar in the same price range." The truth is lots of people had expectations about the Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft regulation introduced in September 2004. "Mass production" was never one of the goals. Likewise, some membership organizations expected a huge new wave of pilots that would join their organizations. That was not a realistic assumption, either. What we did get was a simpler pilot certificate with no medical exam required and a profusion of aircraft of many types. When the choices are many, the suppliers may be smaller. In fact, I have often used Dan E's term "boutique manufacturer" and I still think that is appropriate. Since Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft was introduced, we got 156 new models and we now have many good used LSA, often with just a few hundred hours on them. If you look long enough, I'm confident you can find something worthwhile, and you can find somebody to keep it maintained for you. A central goal of ByDanJohnson.com is to help you find them.
Can Anyone Help?The good news? — After 17 years of Light-Sport Aircraft, a nationwide — even a worldwide — network of aircraft sellers, maintenance centers, flight schools, and builder-assist centers are available. You can can look throughout this website by using our Advanced Search to find them. Keep in mind you may need to travel to find the right airplane or the right mechanic. I cannot personally address every inquiry but you can find most enterprises using the resources on this website. For many years, one of our most-used features is the SLSA List, which is filled with links. Using it will work better than most search engines. Finally, in the age of social media, many aircraft types have a Facebook group that caters to that brand. Pilots who own the aircraft of your dreams can be very helpful in finding good purchases or good mechanics. Of course just because you "read it on the Internet" doesn't mean a fact is true. Please seek out second (or more) opinions before buying and before engaging a mechanic. The better companies will get great reviews from their customers. Good luck and tail winds, everyone! Fly safely and often. Here are some vintage videos showing what may now be used Light-Sport Aircraft. Visit Dave Loveman's Light Sport and Ultralight Flyer YouTube channel for hundreds more. https://youtu.be/oAV2uTIQvbY https://youtu.be/F0-XqlBeYpY And, here's a whole playlist of very affordable Light-Sport Aircraft aircraft… (28 short videos). https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLaVWZY8ydbtA_cId1itTWbgvdqpAZPy2P
The last airshow of 2021 is over. The Christmas holidays are beginning to dominate everyone’s calendar. Yet recreational pilots — being enthusiastic aviators — are thinking about flying in 2022. The Covid pandemic of 2020/2021 appears not to have slowed enjoyment of flying for fun… for most of us anyway. I sincerely regret anyone who suffered during this period but sport aviation has held up surprisingly well. In this article, I will tackle a couple reader questions, the sort I hear all the time. To answer several people with one response, I asked reader John Joyce if I could use his question and name. He consented, so here we go… Buyers Without Remorse John started, “Skyleader 600 looks like a great aircraft. I had actually just noticed this model a couple days ago because there is a used one listed for sale on the Web. As a potential first time buyer, I would be interested to have you address the question of service for these smaller manufacturers.
LSA – SP Kits – Ultralights Sold Well at OshkoshI did no survey and even if I had, what a vendor reports and what actually follows are rarely identical. However, a flow of unsolicited statements suggest that many airplane sellers reported taking multiple orders. This is not a pace I heard at Sun 'n Fun 2021, for example. That first show of the year was more tentative. People were still frightened by unrelenting news on TV and Sun 'n Fun represented a first step back toward normal. Mind you, I considered the Lakeland show another big success; many others evidently decided by late July that the situation had improved enough for pilots to open their wallets. Pilots who acted sooner scored an earlier delivery. Many at Oshkosh heard deliveries were already being quoted well into 2022. At Sun 'n Fun we didn't hear that. My measurement of how the industry is doing is not only to assess the health of suppliers but the willingness of pilot consumers to think about a new purchase. Wary buyers hold back in times of uncertainty so sales of light aircraft at Oshkosh illustrates both pent-up demand and a sense of hopefulness by pilots expecting to get out and enjoy flying. At least a dozen producers or representatives told me about two or more confirmed sales (usually meaning money exchanged hands). My back-of-the-envelope calculation projects 30-50 unit sales during the event — and most vendors report better than 1:1 sales after the event compared to sales at the event. If all these come to pass, hallelujah!, the industry is looking alive again. One segment that recorded excellent sales in the last two years is Part 103 ultralights. Based on multiple entries (see this article or a later one for examples that caught my eye), 103 is a highly active sector within light aviation. I heard less about sales in the scaled-back kit area of AirVenture, but the Big Five in this sector appear to be continuing their steady business.
Saying "So Long!" to An American IconLongtime readers of this website (very longtime readers, that is) will recall that when ByDanJohnson.com went live, hang gliding was still a significant part of our coverage. As Light-Sport Aircraft arrived in aviation and as ultralights subsequently went into a quiet period, hang gliders faded from my attention. My changed focus, however, said nothing about hang gliding. While that activity has not grown much over the years, it has remained remarkably steady. Just like EAA, membership in the national USHPA (U.S. Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association) has also stayed the course. Now, a major change is happening as those who gave birth to the industry reach retirement. The longtime leading producer of hang gliders in America, Wills Wing, saw the departure of two key leaders, Mike and Linda Meier. This change triggered a notable development: Wills Wing is moving to Mexico. "What a fun day test flying the last gliders produced in Orange, California," wrote Wills Wing president, Steve Pearson. Test flying a couple gliders before delivery to customers, a 235 Alpha and full-carbon T3, he said, "They fly so-so nice! Couldn’t have picked anything that I would have enjoyed more." Then he added, "All the focus is on Valle from here on." He refers to Valle de Bravo, Mexico. Heading up the new south-of-the-border enterprise will be Rudy Gotes, a top-ranked competition pilot, and Wills Wing's longtime distributor in Mexico. Wills Wing president Steve Pearson will be joining the new company as a partner and will provide critical support in technology, manufacturing, customer support, and product design and development. Production facilities for the new company will be headquartered in Valle de Bravo, Mexico, known around the world for its consistent, year-round flying. In announcing this historic move, Steve listed some interesting facts: Wills Wing has been in business in California for 48.5 years. Over that time, WW-brand produced an amazing 29,368 gliders for an average of 606 aircraft per year. While hang gliders are much less expensive than airplanes, building 12 gliders a week, 2.5 every day, for 50 years represents a monumental achievement in aviation. Congratulations to a job wonderfully well done for half a century to longtime Wills Wing proprietors — and personal friends of mine — Steve Pearson, Mike & Linda Meier, and Chris Wills. The lone remaining U.S. producer of hang gliders is North Wing, also a supplier of lightweight trikes plus fully-built SLSA weight shift aircraft.
Stupid Fed Tricks?Having already written (here about the coming LSA regs and here about the instruction dilemma), I want to bring two additional perspectives to assure readers these concerns are not simply my own opinion. The first is the newest info, AVweb's July 31 report from AirVenture 2021. The second is composed of two videos that explain the situation in some depth. I urge you to consider all relevant information. This entire situation exploded into pubic view during the month of July 2021. For AVweb, journalist Russ Niles reported, "FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said it will take about four years to rewrite regulations governing flight instruction in aircraft other than those in the standard category and until that’s done instructors will need extra paperwork. Speaking at the annual 'Meet the Administrator' event at EAA AirVenture last Thursday, Dickson told the generally-disappointed crowd that in the meantime instructors will need a Letter of Deviation Authority (LODA) to teach people to fly in Experimentals. If they want to teach on Limited or Primary Category aircraft, they will need a written exemption. Dickson said he agreed the process is a 'big documentation exercise, no doubt' but it is also a legal necessity. 'I am not any happier about this situation than you are,' he said." Russ continued, "The new requirement came into effect July 12, 2021, a few months after a legal battle with a Florida P-40 operator revealed a contradiction between the regs and the guidance issued by inspectors. 'We do need to rewrite the rule so that it says what we all want it to say,' stated Dickson while expressing that the agency is doing everything it can to expedite the LODAs and exemptions and most of those received so far have already been processed. He also said writing a new rule is a complex process that will take four years and that’s why the paperwork has a 48-month term."
Roy Beisswenger has taken a fresh lead in putting out great video information on FAA's actions. He was instrumental in aiding LAMA as the manufacturer organization lobbied FAA for improvements and upgrades to Light-Sport Aircraft regulations. In the following two videos Roy does a deep dive into FAA's latest stumbles. Two videos are presented below; both are helpful in understanding this situation. Both were prepared before the comments from AVweb above.) …from July 20, 2021… https://youtu.be/qIgkEohF5ck …from July 13, 2021… https://youtu.be/Am53SdP4xZE
EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2021 is one for the history books. Initial reporting from the big member organization suggests 2021 was a return to normal attendance and exhibitors were not far behind. One can always find a few empty spots and wonder if they failed to sell yet it is equally likely a company bought the space but could not attend or exhibit for a variety of reasons. To my eyes and by the numbers, Oshkosh 2021 looked to be a home-run success. Stories will continue but here I want to address two very different views of AirVenture. On one hand vendors widely reported solid sales. On the other, FAA clarified some questions but raised others. Many frowns were reported when agency boss Steve Dickson held his “Meet the Administrator” session but let’s look at the bright side first. LSA – SP Kits – Ultralights Sold Well at Oshkosh I did no survey and even if I had, what a vendor reports and what actually follows are rarely identical.
FAA Pivots Hard …making Good Changes (in my humble opinion)We were happy to have Zoom's technology in 2020 so we could meet with coworkers, bosses, friends, and family online when we not allowed to congregate in person. I observed, though, that use of Zoom tapered off after the novelty became the familiar. No matter how well that tech company did their job, faces on a screen cannot fully replace in-person meetings. It's just not the same. The magic of airshows and their ability to deliver in-person meetings showed their value yesterday at AirVenture Oshkosh. The following relates the story as best I could piece it together. Be advised this is not the final word on the subject. In fact, it is so fresh that changes are probable. Our friends in EAA's Advocacy department, lead by Sean Elliot and aided by experienced staff held a special Mosaic meeting with FAA. In such a gathering at AirVenture 2021, EAA team members reportedly pushed back on Mosaic regulations, calling it "overly complex." (I was not present at this meeting, so this report is second hand.) In the meeting, key FAA officials were present and in a remarkable development (which I am surely oversimplifying here), FAA agreed and in the space of a single meeting, listen to what occurred. The whole idea introduced in May of 2020 (see this article) set up Light-Sport Aircraft as a subset of something brand new called Light Personal Aircraft. The former would get bigger and more capable but it was the latter that appeared ready to invite still-larger aircraft, perhaps with four seats, retractable gear, faster speeds, and other abilities. Light Personal Aircraft has apparently been scrubbed — just like that, in a single meeting …but one involving key decision makers including the LSA industry's good friend, Earl Lawrence. An engineer with a strong CV, Earl has risen quickly within FAA and today is the manager of aircraft certification. He has long preferred simpler solutions and reportedly concurred that Mosaic plans for LPA were overly complex. LPA is history, barely a year after it was first invented by rule writers. (Surely, we will hear more definition about this in coming weeks, but the preceding statement looks accurate according to several persons.) Another part of the Mosaic proposals to-date is a formula method referred to as Power Index. Quite a number of you have done the math and tried to determine if one or another airplane can fit. Power Index is also "probably" history, before most of us ever understood precisely how it will work. It, too, was judged unnecessarily complex and many people more qualified in engineering than me would quickly agree. In addition, it seemed a complicated way to accomplish an objective that could be achieved by other means. The proposed 200-horsepower cap is "probably" history as well. According to reports, several FAA people recognized that the amount of horsepower is not a key determinant to FAA sticking to its LSA mantra of "Safe, Simple, and Easy to Fly." My advocacy partner, Roy Beisswenger, who attended several FAA briefings, said, "The key phrases to come out of an FAA meeting was that LSA should be defined as "easy to fly" or "docile to fly" and then let the industry define exactly what that means." He added, "Different weights and categories of aircraft would be allowed as endorsements." Endorsements have already been used with good success for basic Sport Pilots to advance their privileges. The ASTM F37 group that prepares standards for FAA to use in accepting (or not) new LSA aircraft has been furiously working to prepare for all the Mosaic changes so aircraft can demonstrate meeting the standards soon after the rule is final, allowing sales to pilots. As those volunteers do their work and as we hear more, I will report more as quickly as possible. So, Mosaic enters a new state of development but I view all these changes as positive. Keeping regulations simpler will enhance the ability of developers and users/pilots to follow them so they can perform their function efficiently. * Modern websites provide information I never dreamed of having in, let's say, the 1990s. WordPress, the open source software that helps me build this website, provides a wealth of data about where visitors are going on the website and which stories generate the most looks and shares. This data resource helps me produce the right stories that earn your attention. However, unlike some social media giants or numerous government agencies, we do not collect any personal data and we don't share any data with anyone …and we never will! To the best of our ability, we deeply respect your privacy and the rights to your own data.
As you readers must know, I prefer to focus mainly on the airplanes, on light aircraft. It’s what interests me and I’ve learned it’s what interests you* as well. I captured more cool aircraft news on Day 3 and I will return to that tomorrow. Today’s topic is different. Affordable aircraft are important to many readers. I get that completely and that’s why my Day 1 report focused on six aircraft that are very easy to own. Speedy aircraft are of also great interest. In general I like to say (modifying a view expressed by Apple Founder Steve Jobs) that — “It’s all about the airplanes.” Other high-traffic features of this website include the SLSA List, PlaneFinder 2.0, and our market statistics. However, one non-aircraft topic always draws lots of readers. When I report major moves by FAA that can have an impact on your ability to fly, you sit up at your smartphone, tablet, or laptop and pay attention.
Welcome to the New F2"Wait," you exclaim! "F2 isn't new." Excellent, you've been keeping up. What you don't know is that Flight Design's latest and greatest just earned FAA acceptance, winning a Special Airworthiness certificate as the latest Special LSA to enter the market. Announcing Number 156 on our SLSA List. Flight Design put years into this thorough evolution of their market-leading model and it has so many new qualities, we present two videos below trying to tell you about all of them.
Now Available as a Ready-to-Fly Special LSA"On July 8th, 2021 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the first production Flight Design F2-LSA to reach the USA was inspected by an FAA representative and issued a certificate of airworthiness as a Special Light Sport Aircraft," beamed Flight Design USA leader Tom Peghiny. "The aircraft is owned by a gentleman from the Milwaukee area and will be delivered this month at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2021," he added. “We were very happy to take part in this review. We’ve been waiting for nearly two years”, said Tom Gutmann Jr. of Airtime Aviation, identifying some of the challenges the globe experience over the last year and a half. “We are excited to receive the first F2-LSA in the USA and we are very impressed by the improvements made by Flight Design.” "The Special LSA version of F2 is the new high-end edition of the existing line of Flight Design aircraft, complementing the popular CTLS and CT-Super Sport models also sold in the USA," reported Peghiny. The very popular CTLSi and more affordable SuperSport remain in production and are actively being delivered. “This is an important day for our company, our customers and our dealers,” said Peghiny. "While F Series is a big step up for Flight Design, this just the first of many F-series airplanes that will come to the USA.” He clarified that the Flight Design F-series of aircraft include the F2-LSA; the F2-UL, which is a German Ultralight; the F2 CS-23, a certified version that is currently being reviewed by EASA in Europe; and soon, the F4 which is the four-place version of F-series. An electric model, F2e, is also in development. "The First Article Inspection by the FAA is a review of the documentation provided by a manufacturer to show compliance to the applicable FARs and the ASTM standards used for a particular Light-Sport model," Tom finished. FAA has the option perform a full audit or other inspections such as they first-article inspection. Since the German manufacturer has approved so many models and has a long track record with the FAA (and other government agencies), the American regulator deemed a first-article inspection was satisfactory to accept the new model. (Note that new Special LSA are not technically "certified." FAA prefers to call the process "acceptance.") With Flight Design's F-series family of models, it appears the German designer and producer is taking square aim at the Light Personal Aircraft category FAA has proposed in its new regulation. One piece of evidence: check out the carvernous aft cabin of F2.
Here are two videos further explaining the F-series from Flight Design, focused on the new F2 SLSA: https://youtu.be/dxpFU7UfsQo https://youtu.be/DAs_ocUd77E
Taking a welcome break from FAA news, let’s check out our favorite topic: cool new airplanes. Welcome to the New F2 “Wait,” you exclaim! “F2 isn’t new.” Excellent, you’ve been keeping up. What you don’t know is that Flight Design’s latest and greatest just earned FAA acceptance, winning a Special Airworthiness certificate as the latest Special LSA to enter the market. Announcing Number 156 on our SLSA List. Flight Design put years into this thorough evolution of their market-leading model and it has so many new qualities, we present two videos below trying to tell you about all of them. Now Available as a Ready-to-Fly Special LSA “On July 8th, 2021 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the first production Flight Design F2-LSA to reach the USA was inspected by an FAA representative and issued a certificate of airworthiness as a Special Light Sport Aircraft,” beamed Flight Design USA leader Tom Peghiny.
Welcome to CTLS GT 914T"Flight Design is pleased to announce the availability of the 914T option for the CTLS GT 2020," the German company announced today. "CTLS GT with the turbocharged Rotax 914 plus a large intercooler greatly improves the climb rate, cruise speed and high-altitude performance on Flight Design’s most popular model." CTLS has long been the leader in the American LSA fleet. While the company has also announced their F-series, CTLS remains a key model for the company. The CT-series already fits regulations in many countries. “We are very excited to finish development of this new variant of the CTLS GT," said Daniel Guenther, managing director of Flight Design general aviation. "The design team did a beautiful job integrating the Rotax 914 with the turbocharger and intercooler into the new longer cowling of the CTLS GT 2020. From the large NACA inlet (photo) and the custom welded aluminum piping, the engine compartment is just a thing of beauty,” said Daniel. CTLS GT Turbo incorporates all the new features of the GT 2020 model including the longer, more attractive cowling with improved cooling and cabin heating, new prop spinner, and new low drag wheel pants for improved performance. Equipped with a full Garmin avionics suite including dual G3X screens, the CTLS GT is a thoroughly modern aircraft that can reach 140 knots (TAS at altitude) and can climb at better than 2,000 feet per minute. “I was very impressed with the performance of the CTLS GT with the Rotax 914 Turbo," said Flight Design test pilot Nico Stambula. "CTLS GT Turbo climbs like a rocket and easily reaches 140 knots at altitude." Stambula added that the 914 intercooled engine maintains consistent temperatures. In addition, this is a very smooth flying package." The first CTLS GT will be shipped to an owner in South Africa, which has both high temperatures and high elevations. Flight Design believes the new model "should be just great for operating in those more challenging conditions." With the addition of the Rotax 914T option, the long-running CTLS extends its range again. Various models are available as a European 600 kilogram (European) Ultralight, an ASTM-compliant Special LSA, or as an EASA-certified aircraft. Models are available with the Rotax 912, the 912iS and now as a turbocharged performer as the CTLS GT 914T.
"What? No Rotax 915?"Someone was bound to ask why engineers didn't use the newest 141-horsepower Rotax 915 iS, so I queried the company on this question. Since the start of Light-Sport Aircraft, Flight Design has been represented in America by Tom Peghiny, proprietor of Flight Design USA. He's everyone's go-to guy for all things CT. "Flight Design chose the Rotax 914 Turbo for the CTLS 2020 GT airframe for several reasons:
- “Engine weight and size were perfect for the CTLS airframe with no structural modifications required to the existing airframe.
- “Top speed at altitude was also within the existing CTLS limits, so no long test flight program was required to make the 2020 GT turbocharged variant.
- “Because the 914 has a similar configuration to the often-installed 912ULS and 912iS, no major firewall-forward changes were needed to fit a 915.”
Here's a review of the CTLSi with the 912iS engine. Most of the video regards the airframe that remains the same on the CTLS GT 914T. https://youtu.be/se2Wm6U_MN0
Recently I interacted with a reader, someone considering a light aircraft for purchase. He inquired about the ability of ultralights or Light-Sport Aircraft to cope with high density altitude. He raised valid and worthy points but showed a certain lack of knowledge about the capabilities of light aircraft. (We are working on a more detailed article on this subject.) Here’s the simple response: light aircraft with modern (read: powerful and efficient) engines tend to perform admirably well in high elevations, higher heat, and high humidity. If you fly almost any of these aircraft in high density conditions you already know they perform sprightly. In contrast, I logged hundreds of Cessna 150 hours from my days as a flight instructor, and — with a similar amount of power as most LSA but also quite a few more pounds — that aircraft definitely does not perform as energetically. So, a higher power-to-weight ratio is good, but do limits exist?
F2 Arrives in AmericaI got to see prototype and introductory show-model versions of F2 and F2e, the electric aircraft that somewhat ironically was the very first to fly in Flight Design's new F-series. My early glimpses were at Aero 2019 and I wrote up what I observed; see it here. Nearly every airshow was cancelled for 2020 amidst the global economic carnage driven by lockdowns and travel restrictions to contain Covid. Well, every show was scrubbed except the Midwest LSA Expo in Mt. Vernon, Illinois. Because that one and only event happened — with no negatives regarding the virus, so far as I know — I got to see and fly Flight Design's latest and greatest, the F2. Not only was the airshow a welcome change from the social barriers everyone had faced over the last few months, but Midwest 2020 provided a venue to see and fly the new model. "CTSW was a Porsche. CTLS was a Corvette. F2 is a Cadillac," said Tom Gutmann, Jr., the younger half of the father and son Airtime Aviation team that is the largest light aircraft dealership in the world. Tom explained that F2 may look similar to CT but is a nose-to-tail, tip-to-tip refreshed design. It has been some time in development because as Tom noted, "Flight Design engineers had to rework the whole airplane. It is significantly larger than CTLS yet final production models should weigh no more." That's some accomplishment! It is also built quite differently. All CTLS are essentially "hand made" with hand-layup molds that display the skill of factory workers yet makes each one unique. For F2, Tom said, Flight Design uses molds created on 5-axis CNC shaping tools so each one is fabricated to precise specifications. You may not be able to see the difference in construction but the new method is far better for serial production. "F2 is manufactured to close tolerances in pre-impregnated carbon fiber for great structural strength and light weight," said Flight Design in Germany. With prepreg carbon fiber from American company Hexcel, F2's honeycomb-core fuselage signifies a big step forward. Likewise, F2's new wing is a major redesign; the outboard sections feature aerodynamic cuffs (nearby photo). F2’s tail is all-new as well. CTLS's full-flying stabilator is replaced with a wider stabilizer that has a discrete two-piece elevator with a center section that remains stationary forming what's often called a duck tail. This aids in meeting the ASTM handling requirement. One result is that the airplane does not pitch up during a departure stall. The altered horizontal tail works cooperatively with the wing cuffs to make a highly stall-resistant airframe, a feature FAA admires so much they gave Icon Aircraft additional weight for the A5 seaplane because the California developer redesigned to add the shape to their wings. Cirrus's SR20 and SR22 also use this design, as do other flying machines …because it works. F2's tail looks notably different than CTLS with a high-aspect-ratio vertical tail and slimmer rudder although the volume is similar. These changes — with the wing cuffs — contribute to better slow-speed handling and genuine spin resistance while still allowing a generous slip and yielding plenty of rudder authority in crosswinds.
Flying F2 — Initial Impressions
Here is a newly-released video interview with U.S. importer, Tom Peghiny from Oshkosh 2019. It describes the aircraft and the entire F-series from Flight Design. https://youtu.be/DAs_ocUd77E
➡️ Update 11/3/20 — A new video interview with Flight Design USA importer Tom Peghiny appears at the bottom of this article. —DJ In the beginning — as Light-Sport Aircraft entered the skies for the first time — German producer Flight Design brought the CTSW to American pilots. It was embraced enthusiastically and the U.S. importer Flight Design USA sold many units to aviators that had waited years for FAA to finalize their no-medical-required LSA segment. CTSW was something of a sports car, agile, quick, high performing but surprisingly roomy. Then came the sophisticated CTLS, wholly redone for the American market. It enlarged the cabin and lengthened the fuselage becoming more deluxe throughout. Now, we come to F2 in what I’m calling the third generation of the iconic shape that still leads the LSA market after almost 17 years. The one and only example presently in America is currently based at Airtime Aviation in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Rare and/or New AircraftMC-01 by Montaer — We almost didn't see it. Insurance has been getting harder to find and more costly. That's true for all aircraft but the situation is especially challenging for a new design (even if it significantly resembles an earlier design). However, Gregg Ellsworth and AIR (Aviation Insurance Resources) came to the rescue so now importer Ed Ricks of Montaer USA has a good chance to get this all-new design to Midwest 2020. When you look at the image of MC-01, some of us see the Paradise P1NG. No surprise, as the designer once worked with Paradise. While the new model bears a close resemblance to the earlier SLSA, that one has largely disappeared from the U.S. market, so Montaer is filling a void. Paradise, and now Montaer, have long offered a yoke control with a voluminous three-door cabin. It makes people think Cessna 150 but larger (and it performs substantially better). The first U.S. delivery will also have hand controls, a choice available to offer assistance to some pilots. Merlin Lite by Aeromarine LSA — If you know Merlin, you should be asking, "…Lite?" Wasn't it already light? Ah, that is Merlin PSA. This is Merlin Lite …and yes, it is lighter, if you can believe that. Proprietor Chip Erwin of Aeromarine LSA is one of those can't-sit-still people and he's taking his early success with Merlin PSA even further with a lighter-yet, lower-cost-yet model powered by the Polini Thor engine that tens of thousands of powered paragliders use. The good news is you don't have to run this one off the ground. I'll have more on this, possibly before Midwest 2020 because this model is literally hot off the factory floor. Put this in perspective. Merlin PSA, also a single seater, is an all-metal, fully enclosed, well-equipped aircraft that you can assemble for around $35,000. Options and choice of engine can increase the base but it is easily one of the great bargains in aviation. A 60-horsepower four-stroke V-Twin engine will make the "bigger" Merlin soar into the sky, but just for fun, come see Merlin Lite at Midwest 2020. SmithSilver by Tri-State Kite — Owner Mark Smith's enterprise is "the nation's leading source of quality aftermarket parts for the complete line of the Quicksilver ultralight aircraft, and has been in business more than 33 years" he expressed. Mark has become a guru of the Quicksilver type, has made numerous components for them, and will have something called SmithSilver at Midwest 2020. I'm as curious as you and look forward to checking it out. BTW, are you puzzled by Mark's business name …specifically "Kites?" When hang gliders were a lot simpler than today's sophisticated models, they were often called "kites," a term that followed even earlier boat-towed rigs that literally had to be tethered like a kite. Even the first hang gliders were more than a mere kite but the name was quick and easy, and it stuck. Mark's time in the business goes back far enough that his business name could reflect that …even if today it sounds a bit odd for an aircraft company. Read for yourself Mark Smith's history of design ideas for the Quicksilver aircraft. Sparrow by Carlson — This oldie but goodie has not been seen for some time but thanks to the people behind the MiniMax series of affordable aircraft, the Sparrow is returning to the market. Lots of readers remember this once-popular model. Following the death of Ernie Carlson a few years back, the brand fell out of sight for most buyers even though Ernie's wife, Mary, kept the business running. Now with help from David Cooper of Team MiniMax (and some partners), the single place Carlson Sparrow will be returning to the market, with plans for the two-place in their mind but still on a back burner. This project is still new but come to Midwest 2020 and ask questions. F2 by Flight Design — I have reported this impressive new top-end Special LSA before but for most Americans, this will be their first viewing. I saw it in Aero 2019 but it had not flown then. It's all wrung out and approved now and I look forward to a flight in the bigger, better model. After Midwest 2020, F2 will go home with Tom and Tom Gutmann of Airtime Aviation, the world's largest dealer/distributor for Flight Design aircraft. As winter follows in a few months, Airtime's base in Oklahoma makes sense versus Flight Design USA in Connecticut. This is the first F2 in America so they're sharing the treasure. Vashon Ranger — While it's not brand new, Ranger R7 is new enough that many LSA enthusiasts have yet to see one and Vashon Aircraft has never displayed at Midwest before. The brand has done respectably well as our industry reports, as seen on Tableau Public, demonstrate. After their first deliveries in 2017, Washington-based Vashon has grown rapidly, thanks to a familiar construction at a good price (starts just below $100,000 fully built and reasonably well equipped). Through the first half of 2020, the company had already almost matched all of 2019, so despite the virus, more Rangers are taking to the sky. You should check this one out in person, but I'll be angling for a flight in the new design so we expect to report more and capture video. SD-1 (kit) By SD Planes —Readers of this website like affordable aircraft and the SD Planes single place kit is surely a great value in light aircraft. Construction is significantly wood. If you don't already know, building from wood is achievable by most, much less challenging that kits that involve welding or composite work. Check this video for more about building the airplane and for a look at the two seat model from the same designer. SD-1 is a modest project, not only from the build effort but you can keep the base price below $20,000, an amount the importer said includes the engine. If you simply can't see yourself building a single seater — no matter how much fun it might be — U.S. rep John Vining has the SD-2 Sportmaster. Both share the same ease of construction. VL3 by JMB Aircraft — This spring, we had a contest going on between three speedy European aircraft: Sweden's striking Blackwing, Switzerland's super-sleek Risen, and JMB Aircraft's VL3. Of these, only one will be at Midwest 2020: VL3. You already know this airplane under the marketing name Gobosh. It was sold as a fixed gear, fixed pitch prop Special LSA. In Europe, where no speed limit applies to what they then and still call "microlights" or European ultralights, companies like those mentioned above seek the highest speed they can achieve. All use the Rotax engine, so it becomes about airframe smoothness, wing efficiency, and getting as lean as possible, hence retractable gear. For now in the U.S., such aircraft must be built as kits but in 2023, such models will become LSA (or maybe Light Personal Aircraft, depending on what FAA eventually decides about a possible new category). Fusion 212 by Magnus — Did you wonder if this handsome aircraft disappeared? That's understandable because we haven't seen it for a short time (and, of course, not this unusual year). I did a flight in Fusion and you can check it out in this video. What could be better? You could attend Midwest 2020 and fly it yourself. At minimum, you can talk to the representatives, ask questions, and closely examine the all-composite aircraft built in Hungary but represented by Magnus USA. This list is not inclusive of all players but you can check the Midwest 2020 program to see all expected exhibitors.
Who Won't Be Present?I understand a few cannot be present and while I certainly respect their decision not to take chances, well… darn it! I'll miss these folks. Rob Rollison the proprietor of the very successful Aerotrek line has elected not to go. He cited concerns about the virus and how that can affect a show that is already modestly attended. Such things matter to vendors swayed by high traffic at shows like Sun 'n Fun or Oshkosh, but an individual pilot actually benefits from a smaller number of attendees. Although the company appears on the site layout, apparently Rans has elected not to attend after many years of doing so. This is just that kind of year, I guess. Two other aircraft are not quite ready yet. These include two entries from Deon Lombard's Aeropilot USA distributorship. He is expecting the first M-8 Eagle, rebadged as L600 Eagle to provide continuity for the earlier Aeropilot Legend/L600 Deon formerly represented (he still owns the dealership for several more months but will then switch to the L600 Eagle; I will report more on that later). In addition, Deon is bringing in from South Africa the sleek composite RV-like Whisper kit-built aircraft. Perhaps at DeLand in January or certainly by Sun 'n Fun 2021, both aircraft should be available for your inspection. Deon will have the InnovAviation FX1 we saw at Midwest 2019 (here's our video on that model). He'll also have a very special opportunity for one buyer of the same aircraft I flew. Come and see for yourself. However, while we regret missing a couple regulars, I'm pleased those who show should (fingers crossed) have plenty to look at and I expect to make several reports from the event — the last of the year since DeLand Showcase has pushed into 2021 (January 28-29-30). Travel safely and I hope to see you in Mt. Vernon!
To help you psych' up for Midwest 2020, here's a few videos assembled by Videoman Dave. He's putting up lots before this event — go to his YouTube channel to see many more. https://youtu.be/oSpq6vZ4skQ https://youtu.be/mMV824eEbRk https://youtu.be/eq0FfmDvNtE https://youtu.be/P25dFK_RCY8
I hope you can attend 2020’s Midwest LSA Expo — the last airshow in 2020. If you cannot attend, rest assured your trusty reporter will be onsite and gathering all the info on the coolest aircraft I can find. What will be available? Well, if I am honest, we will have to see when we arrive to be certain. In these virus-impacted times, things have a lousy way of changing at the last minute, however… Those who attend should see a few aircraft that few Americans have seen before. Here’s a quick take, not forgetting the statement about how arrivals can be altered beyond the wishes of any particular vendor. Rare and/or New Aircraft MC-01 by Montaer — We almost didn’t see it. Insurance has been getting harder to find and more costly. That’s true for all aircraft but the situation is especially challenging for a new design (even if it significantly resembles an earlier design).
Take to the Air!Tom Peghiny, the veteran importer of the most successful LSA brand in America, has a new nose-to-tail, winglet-to-winglet Light-Sport Aircraft to show airshow attendees …except he can't. Tom has run Flight Design USA since before the category was implemented by FAA back in 2004. He was an early leader in the ASTM process — through its first three (contentious) years, he chaired the all-important Design & Performance Subcommittee that created the biggest chunk of the standards used by airplane producers today. After selling more than 300 CT-series aircraft to Americans, Tom is keen to promote his brand new model. What he lacks is a show to take it to, so what to do? After media reported a flare-up of the virus in places Tom expected to visit, he had to cut back earlier tour plans. Instead, he chose to take the airplane to some key writers, let them fly F2, and they could tell their readership. It's not as good as face-to-face conversations at airshows, but it's an excellent way to communicate with the pilot community. Soon, he'll welcome a writer for AVweb and he will fly F2 down to AOPA's home in Frederick, Maryland to let one of their senior writers have a crack at the new model. How will they like it? I asked what aspects of F2 he planned to show off to these journalists.
"Feels Bigger; Flies Great"Flying F2 since it arrived in the USA — the model was announced at Aero 2019; video below — Tom has been getting more deeply familiar with the new model. "I'm very impressed with F2. It feels like a bigger airplane, very solid in the air. More stable than I expected. Very easy to land." He's comparing to the CTLS that so many other pilots know. "F2 feels more stable in the air compared to our CTLS, which offers a sportier feel." Pressing him for details, Tom recounted the following story from a recent flight. It involved F2's autopilot. "As you know, with the Garmin (or any) autopilot, you have a few stages to get it set up. When you're ready you engage it with an 'AP' button." After several minutes of flying almost hands-off straight and level, Tom realized he'd never engaged the autopilot. "F2 behaves so steadily, that even though I had it ready, I hadn't turned it on yet," Tom said. "It's that stable." “One of the reasons stability is so important is that we are in the process of certifying F2 to Europe's CS-23 version of FAA's Part 23 and also plan to certify it for IFR flight in IMC, making it a logical choice as a training aircraft,” observed Tom. That all sounds great, but how to account for such a stride forward? At least three attributes appear to deliver the improvements:
- F2 has a longer fuselage, about a foot longer than CTLS (22.5 feet on F2 vs. 21.6 on CTLS).
- F2 has a very wide stabilizer, substantially larger than CTLS (10.3 feet vs. 7.8 for CTLS). Additionally, the newer model now uses a fixed stabilizer with discreet elevator where CTLS employs a stabilator.
- Finally, vertical height of the tailplane is impressive. F2's tall tail is approximately 6.2 feet vs. 4.6 feet for CTLS.
Pilot FriendlierWhen the fuselage stretched, it not only got longer and leaner looking but it got wider and taller, too. This increased cabin volume. F2 is two inches wider (50.5 inches) and has a much larger aft cabin than CTLS (which has a hat rack on each side; handy, but much smaller). F2's cabin is higher, better for tall pilots and larger doors allow easier entry. That big cabin is designed to protect its occupants, a long-term effort by Flight Design. "F2 has an extremely rigid cabin; at least two times more than the CT-series." Like CTLS, F2's cabin is built around a center tunnel or beam "that is very stout," Tom added. F2 is also more deluxe. It has an automobile feel to it, Tom thought. Indeed, with AmSafe air bags (interior photo; see black vertical bars), auto style inertia reel harnesses, and gas-piston-adjustable seats that adjust electrically for height adjustment, F2 is clearly a luxury model. Size doesn't come free, of course. The extra interior room, longer span, wider tail, and stretched fuselage add 107 pounds to F2 compared with CTLS, using basic empty weight facts from company brochures (717 pounds vs. 824 on F2). No doubt F2's four foot longer span wing (32.4 feet on F2 vs. 28.2 feet on CTLS) carries weight better and may be another reason, along with the new winglets, accounting for the good handling report. "F2 is very efficient," Tom said. The wing design is higher aspect, using the same chord as CTLS but a longer span. "The higher you go, the better the wing flies. It will be very good for longer cruising flights, above 8,000 feet, for example." If you look carefully (it's subtle from most angles), F2's wing uses cuffs as does the Icon Aircraft A5. I flew that LSA seaplane to find very well behaved manners almost no matter what you did with the controls and airspeed management. That safety attribute earned Icon extra gross weight; FAA granted such because those cuffs provide greatly enhanced slow speed stability. As the linked article above indicates, FAA told LAMA's board of directors that any design that could prove a "stall resistant airframe" to FAA's satisfaction could petition for a higher gross weight so it is entirely possible F2 could also request more pounds. As we discussed the two planes, Tom said he thought I could do the same maneuvers with F2 that I'd done with the Icon A5 and I'd get a similar sensation. "Departure stalls simply don't," Tom described. "With full flaps, it will 'nod' a bit, a kind of pre-stall but with neutral flaps the stick remains effective at all times." Tom worked closely with Flight Design during development of F2, playing key roles. He closed saying, "I knew we could achieve those characteristics but I didn't know how well it would fly." I could almost see his smile over the phone. I look forward to experience F2, perhaps at the Midwest LSA Expo still on schedule for September 10-11-12 in Mt. Vernon, Illinois, east of St. Louis.
Although a mirror reflection of the greater global economy, many pilots are stunned that airshow after airshow has fallen to the virus. It seems like two or three years ago when, back in February 2020, Videoman Dave and I covered the Copperstate/Buckeye show west of Phoenix. Here’s another sure sign of virus-induced time distortion. This year, 2020, was the first year that the Sebring U.S. Sport Aviation did not happen after a good run of 15 years. Yes, only seven months ago, many of us would’ve been heading to Sebring, Florida. Little did we know in those carefree times what cataclysm was to follow starting in March 2020. When cut off from usual routines, what does an inventive entrepreneur do? Take to the Air! Tom Peghiny, the veteran importer of the most successful LSA brand in America, has a new nose-to-tail, winglet-to-winglet Light-Sport Aircraft to show airshow attendees …except he can’t.
Oshkosh ReduxSometimes called "Disneyland for Airplanes," if you like things that fly — whatever form they take — you can probably find it at Oshkosh. Like a kid in a candy store, everywhere you look offers sweet temptations. Oshkosh is so sprawling you can't see it all but this post along with the video below tries to capture objects of interest to readers of this website and viewers of Dave's "The Ultralight Flyer" YouTube Channel. In a nearby photo you'll see Dave's new rig that gets the two of us around Oshkosh in head-turning style while transporting Dave's heavy stash of camera gear. In the photo, my usual riding position is occupied by Midwest LSA Expo producer, Chris Collins. AirVenture draws immense crowds — on the busiest day, the headcount may exceed a quarter million people milling around every aircraft, inside display, or outdoor food court. That makes impossible a goal of keeping every one of them six feet apart. By comparison, Midwest LSA Expo has been social distancing for more than a decade. This show allows plenty of room to keep your separation but you can still examine aircraft and have plenty of time to talk to those representing it. Join us in Mt. Vernon, Illinois this coming September 10-11-12, 2020.
Last Year OuttakesNormally I stick so closely to aircraft and engines — because that's what interests readers most — that I must leave out a number of other points of interest. Here I'll catch a few of them… Magnificent Magni — Magni Gyrocopters, the second-largest-selling gyroplane line (after AutoGyro), has been doing an admirable job of putting out news during the lockdown. No one can go to shows or gather in groups, so the Italian producer has created newsy emails. The gyro giant has been celebrating James Ketchell's around the world gyroplane flight in 2019, announcing their addition of Rotax's powerful 915iS engine, winning Spanish certification, and helping to uncover elephant poachers in Africa. More than 1,200 Magni gyroplanes have been sold, mostly in Europe but models are flying all over the world. The company's side-by-side, fully-enclosed Orion M24 model is shown nearby. ePower Zigolo — Although it seems a long-delayed project, the electric propulsion of Aeromarine LSA's Part 103-capable Zigolo continues in development. At Oshkosh, the Florida enterprise showed their Zigolo electric prototype with externally mounted battery pods that can be jettisoned in the event of problems. The super light aircraft — with a gasoline engine, it easily qualifies for Part 103 — is well described by our associate Dave Unwin in this pilot report. Any delay in Aeromarine LSA getting to larger production of an eZigolo is, in fact, normal. Note how enormously well-funded companies like Kitty Hawk or Airbus have abandoned electric propulsion as they wait on the batteries of the future. With vastly less cash, developer Chip Erwin continues to make intriguing progress in his lightest-of-all aircraft. See-Thru Lazair —Is this iconic Canadian design coming back, or not? At present, the good news is that Gene Yarbrough, proprietor of Lazair Nouveau is making parts again for the long-out-of-production light aircraft. Learn more about this popular design and Gene's enterprise but a glance at the nearby photo shows how distinct this aircraft is compared to any flying machine. Lazair was even more eye-catching back in a time dominated by Quicksilvers and CGS Hawks but even today, its clear coverings, inverted-V tail, and twin engines set this fascinating aircraft apart from most others. Nearly everything about Lazair was different, but the image shows the central structure clearly and it is easy to imagine how unique this looked when all other ultralight vehicles were so basic… and draggy. Lazair's smoothness and attention to lower drag made it work well on two tiny engines. Power was originally supplied by two modified Pioneer Chainsaw engines of approximately 5.5 horsepower each though these were later replaced by two, single-cylinder, 9.5-horsepower Rotax engines. FAA Meets with Industry — FAA has kept a tradition dating back to the beginning of Light-Sport Aircraft in 2004 — the new regulation was announced at Oshkosh that year and became official on September 1st with the first aircraft accepted by FAA at Sun 'n Fun 2005. In the Heritage Museum located near the entrance to AirVenture, FAA leadership gathers with airplane manufacturers and other interested parties to review the coming regulation widely known as MOSAIC. The Small Airplane Directorate's Terry Chasteen (seen speaking at top left in the nearby photo) also provide his annual safety briefing to those in attendance. In 2019, the yearly conclave was attended by some of the top executives in FAA. The occasion provides a rare chance for industry to have a conversation with rule writers. Talking to Reporters — For years, Americans and many others have been hearing plenty about Big Media; comments are not particularly positive. However, in aviation, media players (like yours truly) are more understanding and may portray industry's efforts in a more upbeat way. Facts and details about interesting new aircraft, are the focus of most aviation writers and videographers. In one impromtu image seen nearby, Flight Design USA's Tom Peghiny is interviewed on camera by reporters from Aero-News Network behind the media tent at EAA's AirVenture media headquarters. In many places at Oshkosh, you may notice variations on this kind of reporting. Videoman Dave and I are happy to be among those working to create content readers and viewers enjoy. The value of companies running into reporters at events like EAA AirVenture Oshkosh shows why these events are so important. With that in mind, we hope all events can return to normal for 2021. Here's our race-around tour of AirVenture 2019.
It’s almost July and any active pilot knows what that means: Oshkosh! Except not this year. ☹️ I interrupt the ongoing battle with Covid-19 to take you on a nostalgic tour of Oshkosh-19. View this excursion by video below. Hey, when you can’t go to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2020, why not simulate from the safety and comfort of your home or backyard? Just like Netflix urges you — “Watch It Again!” This brief virtual tour of aircraft and people from AirVenture last year may have you wishing you were starting to pack your bags for the big show this year …sigh!… Oshkosh Redux Sometimes called “Disneyland for Airplanes,” if you like things that fly — whatever form they take — you can probably find it at Oshkosh. Like a kid in a candy store, everywhere you look offers sweet temptations. Oshkosh is so sprawling you can’t see it all but this post along with the video below tries to capture objects of interest to readers of this website and viewers of Dave’s “The Ultralight Flyer” YouTube Channel.
Bristell 915iSThe successful model from the very active BRM Aero in the Czech Republic was always a favorite for its exquisite design with no detail overlooked, with some of the smoothest execution in the industry. It's wide cabin and luxurious appointments puts Bristell almost in a class of its own, with a price tag to match. Bristell with Rotax's uber-powerful, 141-horsepower 915iS fuel injected, turbocharged, and intercooler engine bumps the selling price beyond reach of many aviators while still being a fraction of its equivalent among legacy general aviation airplanes. You'll pay in the high $200,000 range for Bristell 915 but what a superlative airplane you'll receive for that money. While the price might discourage some, fear not, as main man Lou Mancuso also offers a shared ownership program that may be the best I've ever heard (details in this video). As we launched on our photo mission with Bristell going first, it was clear this machine can soar into the sky faster than almost any LSA I've seen short of much-slower-cruising STOL designs. Look for our video to follow with more information about the latest offered by Bristell USA. BRM Aero is definitely a moving target with new models in the works, but as with all the vendors featured in this virtual preview, you will have to learn about the new ideas at a later airshow. Stay tuned! ••• Get Lots More Info — Bristell USA (for North America) or BRM Aero (for other countries)
Jabiru J230DFor a very rare airframe company that also builds its own engines, welcome to the all-new Jabiru J230D with their latest Gen 4 (generation 4) Jabiru engine. The two seater LSA is also supplied as a four seater in its homeland of Australia, so this American model offers not only one of the most voluminous aft cabins in all of LSA-land but a separate, third door to access it. Representative U.S. Sport Planes, led by industry veteran Scott Severen, has demonstrated this baggage capacity with photos showing a large dog sitting comfortably aft of the pilots. Those who struggle to load a couple small bags in most airplanes may be envious of the ease of entry to the back cabin. Yet capacity is not the whole story behind J230D. This new model has refinements to make it fly even nicer. Since J230 models were already able to speed to the top of the category, improvements are focused on fit and finish and handling qualities. In addition to the updated airframe, Jabiru is now in full production on their Gen 4 engine offered in two configurations: a four-cylinder 2200 model producing 80 horsepower; and the six-cylinder 3300 model with 120 horsepower. Learn more about both Gen 4 engines. The J230D uses the later to scoot along at max LSA speed. ••• Get Lots More Info — U.S. Sport Planes
Flight Design F2Flight Design has been busy over the last year. Not only have they come out with their CTLS 2020 (fresh news) but they've put their all-new F2 through multiple tests. The German company is almost ready to begin deliveries. Since I first saw the F2 in mock up, Flight Design has redesigned the intake for two reasons: "to reduce drag as we confirmed the older version was very functional but draggy; and for aesthetic reasons," said the company. "Flight Design team designer and Head of Airworthiness, Christian Majunke, designed conceptually. He also designed a rather novel installation of the coolant and oil radiators," elaborated Flight Design USA representative, Tom Peghiny. Also new panel is an SLSA panel with twin G3X screens, a Garmin GTR 225 Com, Garmin GTX 345 ADSB in and out transponder, Garmin GMC 507 autopilot control head (with dual axis autopilot), and Garmin GMA 245 intercom. Pilot controls remain essentially as they were on the CT-series but note the combined single lever throttle and brake system. "Our F2 prototype number 002 arrived at port in Miami in preparation for display at Sun n Fun 2020," said Tom. Like most vendors, Flight Design USA hoped to go forward with the Lakeland show but will now unveil the new model at Oshkosh 2020 (assuming it remains on schedule). "After completing all SLSA required flight testing including the demanding ASTM 3180 anti-spin requirements, production has started on the first aircraft from production tooling in Germany, Ukraine and the Czech Republic," concluded Tom. ••• Get Lots More Info — Flight Design USA
Whisper X350You know the Czech Cessna-182 lookalike called L600 from AeroPilot USA. You also know the dashing FX1 from InnovAviation in Italy. Both of these interesting models are represented by Deon Lombard of AeroPilot USA, now based in Florida but with representation in California. At Sun 'n Fun 2020, Deon expected to introduce Whisper to American kit builders. Alas, as with the rest of this group, you probably won't see it until July in Wisconsin.
Whisper Aircraft in South Africa has created Whisper X350 Gen II, a two-seat, cross-country sport aircraft with a limit load factor of plus 6.0 and minus 4.0 Gs. Those are merely limit loads. This is a tough bird.
Whisper wings feature a carbon fiber structure tested to an ultimate load factor of 12.0 Gs. The Gen II’s wing tanks offer a total fuel capacity of 63 U.S. gallons, giving a range of 1,000 nautical miles and an endurance of over 6 hours.
"The aircraft also has one of the widest interiors on the market today, featuring optional leather interior and plenty of baggage room making the Gen II perfect for comfortable cross-country trips. This will make a good member of the AeroPilot USA family. A few more specs: Useful Load — 925 pounds; Speed — 175 knots; Range — 1,137 miles.••• Get Lots More Info — AeroPilot USA
Montaer MC-01It might have been one of the great flights to reach Sun 'n Fun 2020, had it occurred. That's because designer and company representative Bruno de Oliveira had planned to fly his new model all the way from Brazil to Lakeland. That alone would have been reason to examine the new Light-Sport Aircraft. Bruno will be aided in his approach to the U.S. market by longtimer, Ed Ricks, who once helped the Paradise Aircraft people with their P1NG (video). Unfortunately, that relationship faded but when Bruno, who once worked for Paradise, struck out on his own, Ed and partner were pleased to get back involved. MC-01's airframe is constructed with 4130 molybdenum steel tube providing a greater safety to the occupants. The exterior is all aeronautical aluminum fuselage and wings. A steerable nose wheel, dual toe brakes, and control yokes are just some of the features of this well built airplane. Learn more here; get more specs here. Had Ed been able to show MC-01 at Sun 'n Fun 2020 he was ready to make a special offer. While this handsome, approved, all-metal airplane normally sells for a reasonable $135,000, an introductory price of only $125,000 was to be the show special. If you're lucky, Ed may extend the offer to AirVenture Oshkosh 2020 (assuming it remains on its present schedule). ••• Get Lots More Info — Montaer USA
While I continue to worry about the cash crunch faced by two of my favorite shows, I am still driven to provide content as if those shows had occurred this year and not been postponed to 2021. Of course, I refer to Aero Friedrichshafen and Sun ‘n Fun, the latter my focus for this post. Here I will relate five aircraft you might have seen in Lakeland last week …before it was bumped to early May, but which is now off until April 2021. I admit I secretly hoped for good news in these sad cancellations that might allow me to attend both events in 2021. I had to pick one over the other in 2020 as they were exactly opposite one another. Unfortunately for my schedule, the year-long postponement didn’t change anything. Sun ‘n Fun 2021 will be 13-18 of April while Aero 2021 is planned for 14-17 April.
F2 and F2e
Carbon Offsets ProgramBeing particularly keen on reducing carbon in the atmosphere, Flight Design bosses wanted to take strides to further their goals in this regard.
As everyone on the planet knows by now, aviation has nary an airshow in sight. Even AirVenture Oshkosh — still planned at this writing — is hedging their bets amid the uncertainty, saying they will make additional decisions in the weeks ahead. Most of us who love (and rely on) these aviation events certainly hope OSH’20 can go on as planned. It will be wonderful to get back into a familiar routine. Meanwhile, I have been producing more content here on ByDanJohnson.com so everyone sheltering-in-place can at least fantasy fly their favorite flying machine. I will also continue with the “Virtual Aero” or “Virtual Sun ‘n Fun” articles. In fact, next up after this one will be a post about new aircraft you would have seen in Lakeland, Florida in May …before Sun ‘n Fun regretfully* called it off until 2021. One company, Flight Design ga, offered a “virtual press conference.” The company said, “As all airshows are postponed, we chose this way to inform you regarding the current developments at Flight Design.
How does one LSA brand rise and stay above others?
Many reasons can be introduced; all possibly valid. However, it doesn't hurt when a brand has a distributor that itself rises above all the rest.In case you think I am torturing the "above all the rest" metaphor, well, you may not have met the Gutmann team in the flesh. Once you do, I think you'll see my point very clearly.
Looking Up to Tom & TomMy tongue-in-cheek subtitle comes from the perspective of an average-sized pilot talking to the father and son team of Tom Sr. and Tom Jr. Gutmann. These gentle giants stand so tall above me that even Tom Cruise's acting box would not let me look this pair eye-to-eye. Indeed, it is a tribute to the spaciousness of CT-series interiors that both these beefy fellows fit inside comfortably. Don't try that in a Cessna 150 (or even a 172)! Flight Design's CT-series is roomy inside, 49 inches wide, a full 10 inches more than a Cessna 172. It also has super visibility. These facts are true of both CTLS, the current flagship of the German producer, and for the newest CT Super Sport, as seen in most of the nearby photos. The image of the two of us in the cockpit clearly shows that Tom Jr. and I have several inches between our shoulders and we were not smashed up against the door to produce this view. Tom and I flew Super Sport at the Midwest LSA Expo (see video below) where I renewed my enthusiasm over the earlier CTSW model. While it has been a few years since I flew CTSW, I clearly recall it had dashing performance that the more luxurious (read: heavier) CTLS cannot quite match. Super Sport continues that, weighing as it does around 100 pounds less than CTLS and its 1,000 fpm climb rate supports the worth of that weight reduction. Super Sport is an upgrade from CTSW, however, as it uses three primary elements of the sophisticated CTLS and CTLSi. Super Sport has the wings, entire tailplane, and the main landing gear of CTLS. In my humble opinion, these were smart additions and created a new plane from two prior models. What you don't get with CT Super Sport is the back window and hat rack cabin space of CTLS. The slight enlargement of the longer, fancier LS does indeed make the cabin feel roomier and you have less space for things you need in the cockpit — though the floor compartments in front of both seats will suffice for most things you may want to access during flight. Both models keep the ample storage area aft of the cabin but you cannot access that while flying. For this review, Super Sport was equipped with the Rotax 912 iS Sport engine that delivers such wonderful fuel economy. That's why the tail shows "Super Sport i."
Airtime for AllWhatever Flight Design offers aviators, one U.S. distributor can always supply. That's the Gutmann's Airtime Aviation enterprise, based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Airtime Aviation Inc. — also found by the simple, easy-to-remember FlyCT.com — is operated by father and son team of Tom (Senior) and Tom (Junior) Gutmann. Airtime Aviation has delivered more than 200 CT aircraft to customers around the United States. Coordinating closely with Flight Design USA, lead by Tom Peghiny, the Gutmanns are intimately aware of all things Flight Design. You can engage either Tom by phone call (try: 918-630-5927 or 918-625-5442).
More About Super SportThe CT-series has long offered several compelling safety attributes. The "egg-shaped" design offers a protective "safety cell" cabin known in the automotive world as a "crush zone." Simplisitically, this means forces of an impact are directed around the occupants to protect them. Since its introduction as a LSA, every CT model has come standard equipped with an emergency airframe parachute. You may never need this capability, but it provides peace of mind for pilot and encourages less-certain passengers to go aloft with you. A slippery all-carbon fiber exterior allows Super Sport to reach the LSA speed limit of 120 knots. We commonly saw 115 knots at a shade over 75% power yet burned only 4-5 gallons per hour of auto fuel or avgas; you can use either in any mixture, which is true for all 912 engines. The speed figures come from flying at lower altitudes (2,000-3,000 feet AGL). Given its voluminous 34 gallon fuel tanks Super Sport can manage a non-stop flight of more than 1,000 statute miles! Super Sport comes standard with a single Dynon SkyView screen that can be used in conjunction with an optional autopilot. Air-bulb-adjustable seat backs and cushions aid human comfort as does cabin heat and plenty of fresh-air ventilation.
How does one LSA brand rise and stay above others? Many reasons can be introduced; all possibly valid. However, it doesn’t hurt when a brand has a distributor that itself rises above all the rest. In case you think I am torturing the “above all the rest” metaphor, well, you may not have met the Gutmann team in the flesh. Once you do, I think you’ll see my point very clearly. Looking Up to Tom & Tom My tongue-in-cheek subtitle comes from the perspective of an average-sized pilot talking to the father and son team of Tom Sr. and Tom Jr. Gutmann. These gentle giants stand so tall above me that even Tom Cruise’s acting box would not let me look this pair eye-to-eye. Indeed, it is a tribute to the spaciousness of CT-series interiors that both these beefy fellows fit inside comfortably. Don’t try that in a Cessna 150 (or even a 172)!
CT SuperSportIf SuperSport looks familiar to you, it should. It's based on the CTSW but joins several elements of the newer CTLS. In Europe, Flight Design has continued to deliver a lighter model from the CT series to conform to the microlight or European ultralight parameters. SuperSport is something fresh as it takes a CTSW fuselage and grafts on the CTLS wing; adapts construction from the CTLS gear while still doing it with a single piece, like CTSW; employs tail structure from the newer model; and drafts the Rotax 912iS fuel-injected engine. Even that list doesn't cover all the upgrades. Flight Design describes CT SuperSport as, "the new high performance version of the Flight Design CT, one of the most popular and innovative light aircraft in the world. The Super comes equipped with a single 10-inch Dynon D1000 EFIS/MFD with Synthetic Vision, Dynon comm and transponder, ADS-B Out, and ballistic parachute system." CT SuperSport can be delivered with a 710 pound empty weight that puts it well below many Light-Sport Aircraft and more than 100 pounds lighter than the longer CTLS. "This weight reduction was accomplished by using simplified avionics and equipment plus some lighter parts from the European version of the CT," said Flight Design. CT SuperSport has the same spacious and wide interior of the CT series but it returns to the "mushroom" instrument panel that does not extend all the way to the cockpit exterior. Seeming to rise out of the floor, you know, like a mushroom, the panel produces a feeling of much greater visibility, especially forward. Re-entering the CTSW cabin reminded me of the helicopter-like vision afforded by the cockpit design. This came in handy while I flew with the father and son team named Tom Gutmann …both of them. One is "Senior" and one is "Junior," though if you've met them you know "junior" is quite a misnomer. Both fellows are big, strapping Americans. Yet Tom Jr. and I fit in CT SuperSport with several inches between us and without pushing up against the door to make that claim. CT SuperSport is some 13 inches shorter than CTLS, Tom Jr. noted and it does not have the hat rack or aft cabin windows of CTLS. CT SuperSport also uses an electric trim for pitch only while CTLS has pitch, aileron, and rudder trim by wheels. The new, lighter CT model is what I'd agree to call a performance model. It runs close to the top end of the permitted speed range, can fly around 1,000 statute miles, climbs 1,000 feet per minute, yet sips fuel at rates of four gallons per hour, even less if you retard the throttle slightly. It is a lively handling aircraft that still exhibits mild stall characteristics proven by our performing a full regimen of approach and departure stalls plus accelerated stalls in each direction. Base price of CT SuperSport is: $135,000, some $40,000 less than the flagship CTLS. "Options include night flight equipment and autopilot with Level button," said Flight Design. Father and son Gutmanns run Airtime Aviation — with the wonderfully short "FlyCT.com" web address. Airtime is perhaps the largest non-manufacturer seller of aircraft in light aviation worldwide. Their enterprise has delivered more aircraft than many manufacturers have ever made (greater than 200) yet they remain loyal to — and highly knowledgeable about — Flight Design aircraft. They've been active since the beginning of Light-Sport Aircraft. Learn more from the Video Pilot Report that will follow; be patient, these productions involve many days of editing.
I hoped to post a mini-video from the photo mission in the CTSS and CTLS. Alas, I ran out of time and energy. Plus, I think I have enough cool footage that I wanted to do it right. I'll get it up on the ByDanJohnson YouTube channel as soon as possible but the nearby still photos show what a lovely day it was for flying. You have two more days of MWLSA. If you are within a reasonable flight or drive, come on out and see the marvelous things Chris Collins has done with the Mt. Vernon airport. This fellow may qualify for the airport manager of the decade award. He's already won the trophy in my mind. Tomorrow, we tackle the InnovAviation FX1 for a Video Pilot Report …and we're just getting started!
What a great day to start off the Midwest LSA Expo! (And what a contrast to the hurricane just stared down by my Florida neighbors!) The 2019 running of this event about an hour east of St. Louis kicks off its second decade. On Day One, Videoman Dave and I did our Video Pilot Report routine on three Light-Sport Aircraft: Flight Design‘s CT SuperSport, Sportair USA‘s Shock Ultra, and Texas Aircraft’s Colt. All three are quite different, each was delightful in its own way. Doing three of these VPRs took the entire day …and that’s before the big job of editing begins. CT SuperSport If SuperSport looks familiar to you, it should. It’s based on the CTSW but joins several elements of the newer CTLS. In Europe, Flight Design has continued to deliver a lighter model from the CT series to conform to the microlight or European ultralight parameters.
What's New? …Everything!As you look at our short video below, you can see that the baggage area aft of the two seat is huge, rivaling the capaciousness of even Jabiru's roomy J-230D. This voluminous aft compartment may suggest a natural progression to the four seater F4 that will follow but it is not just a large baggage area that looks different. The entire airframe is new as a quick glance confirms. F2's cabin is 3.1 inches wider — now 51 inches wide, among the broadest in the category — and two inches taller than the CT series’ cabins. Door dimensions have also been increased, making for easier entry and exit. The entry door is set 2.3 inches lower than those in the CT series and pilots who are less flexible will appreciate these changes. Four cabin windows and a sunroof in the rear give the cockpit an open feeling and improve overall visibility, boasts Flight Design. F2 is available with either a 100-horsepower Rotax 912 iS engine or, for the European market, a 141-hp turbocharged Rotax 915 iS engine (915 presently requires an in-flight adjustable prop not allowed under current U.S. regulations for LSA). Rotax's 912 iS engine delivers excellent fuel economy resulting in a maximum range of about 750 nautical miles for F2 from 34 gallons of fuel onboard. Deliveries of the new model were expected to begin in August 2019. While they will not be bargain-priced, F2 models come well equipped; standard features include AmSafe panel-mounted airbags, three-point inertia-reel harnesses, a ballistic parachute recovery system, and Garmin’s G3X Touch flight display. "Sculpted winglets reduce induced drag, improve climb and cruising range," noted Flight Design spokespersons. "The smooth cantilever strutless wing also reduces drag and allows maximum visibility from the cockpit. The highly optimized airfoil of the F2 allows generous internal volume for the fuel tanks and is also structurally efficient. Aerodynamic features have significantly improved the F2′s stability, control and its overall ease of flying." Pilots used to a full avionics suite should be pleased with the Garmin G3X panel including PFD, EMS and Map functions and a battery backup. With a Garmin GTX 345 transponder F2 is compliant with the FAA’s ADS-B “Out” required by 2020. Options can further outfit an F2. See the entire equipment list and pricing on the company's dedicated F2 page.
Charged Up for FlightSince the Aero Friedrichshafen show, on June 5, 2019, the first public flight of the Flight Design F2e took place at the Strausberg, Germany airfield using its innovative electric propulsion system. On its first successful first flight, Flight Design said, "Energy consumption for take-off and cruise was within the expected range, and the temperatures in the system were more positive than expected." Flight Design created F2e with partners Siemens eAircraft, the manufacturer and developer of the propulsion technology, and APUS, a Strausberg-based company specializing in the development and integration of aviation propulsion systems. F2e is based on standard components that are used in the Rotax 912iS-powered version of F2. "Flight Training is one area that generates the best opportunity for improvment in the environment for nature, nearby residents and airfields as noise emissions are concentrated in that one place, the airfield, where future pilots spend a lot of time flying," stated the company. The propulsion system employs a 55 kW (approximately 75 horsepower) electric direct-drive motor, inverter, and electronic control systems. This propulsion system has already been extensively tested in laboratory and ground tests as well as flight tested for hundreds of flight hours under the supervision of Siemens eAircraft, reported Flight Design. At this time, development of the electric propulsion continues while regulatory bodies around the world decide how they will handle approval of e-powered aircraft. Following is our short video look at F2 as displayed at Aero Friedrichshafen 2019… https://youtu.be/wuUUbP4imNE
Once upon a time in the then-new world of Light-Sport Aircraft Flight Design lead the pack for airplanes delivered and registered. That #1 ranking lasted for a decade. Then came a pause in the juggernaut that is Flight Design, a German company with a popular design. The company’s expenses outran their revenues and a major restructuring was forced upon them by the German legal system. This was 2015 but at Aero Friedrichshafen 2019, the company was looking strong. Their prominent space in Aero’s huge gymnasium-sized exhibit halls was filled with interesting machines, including the distinctive Horten flying wing. All these today operate under the parent name, Lift, which also acquired the Rotorvox deluxe gyroplane. Attracting a lot of attention was their brand-new F-series. Displayed as the first aircraft visitors saw, F2 is an evolved version of the company’s successful CT-series, which remains in active manufacturing.
Five Months In Combined ReportThe first chart reflects both LSA and SP kit registrations through May of 2019 and also depicts the equivalent performances for the full years of 2017 and 2018. What the chart suggests is that 2019 is a solid year with the light sector on track to hit 725 aircraft for the year, up about 5% over last year and up more than 10% over 2017. For space reasons the chart only shows ranks 1–18 but all are available on Tableau Public. Digging deeper, the chart shows that longtime market leader Zenith/Zenair lead by a substantial margin in 2017 and 2018 but that gap may be narrowing for 2019. Please keep in mind that a kit company completes a sale long before the aircraft gets registered and appears on FAA's database. Also, a kit sold may never be finished. Conversely, Icon's 27 registrations this year are for ready-to-fly aircraft although that does not mean they were registered by the end customer. The leading LSA builder so far in 2019, Icon is on pace to register 65 aircraft this year, up 38% over last year. American Legend, which operates both in the RTF and kit business, is ticking upwards. They may hit 29 registrations, up 140% over last year. Arion is another both-ways manufacturer looking to have a much improved 2019 while newcomer Vashon should double last year's registrations. Strong SP kit suppliers include Kitfox, Vans, and Rans — no real surprises but here's a couple observations. Kitfox is on a pace to hit 70 registrations this year, up about 80% over 2018. Van's Aircraft is headed to 60, up 50% over last year. Rans will remain about even. Remember, we only count aircraft that can be flown by a Sport Pilot or a higher-certificated pilot with no medical. Van's, for example, sells many more kits but most won't meet that criteria.
Separating LSA from SP KitsFlight Design continues its recovery, on pace to increase from last year's low number by 50%. Now that we can separate CubCrafters RTFs from kits, the CT maker is back atop the all-years SLSA rank list. Number two producer, Czech Sport Aircraft should be about even from 2018 but is well off their 2017 registrations. Powrachute and AutoGyro slipped from stronger performances in recent years. On the downside, Glasair suspended production for their Merlin that never found reception in the market. Looking at cumulative registrations, Zenith/Zenair clearly holds the top spot among Sport Pilot kit aircraft sellers. Rans, Sonex, and Kitfox are the next big producers in the light kit space, followed by Quad City and Just Aircraft, trailed a bit further back by Searey maker Progressive Aerodyne, CubCrafters, and Quicksilver.
One More Thing: ELSA FactorYou might see that kits appear to be the larger enterprise over fully-built LSA. That's correct, but consider the kit companies have been building their business and networks for far longer and they have lower price points …although you obviously must invest a good many hours to complete a project and some will get discouraged along the way and never finish the job. Yet the real surprise comes when you look at our final chart of this article. Kits appear ascendant since 2013, especially when compared to Special LSA that seems to have found a stable registration rate of around 200 aircraft per year. However, when you combine SLSA with Experimental LSA, you can see that all LSA types number closer to 300 units per year, compared to all SP kits at just shy of 400. Specialty registrations like Experimental Exhibition are steady but at a far smaller unit count. Any ELSA must be shipped from the factory as a bolt-for-bolt copy of the SLSA model, as required under the regulation. No producer can sell an ELSA without first getting approved for a SLSA, so to my mind, combining SLSA and ELSA makes for a fairer comparison to Sport Pilot kit aircraft. If you love these numbers, please visit Tableau Public. You can learn a lot more about the vibrant light aircraft sector. Enjoy! Disclaimer: These reports rely on FAA’s registration database. We believe this to be a reliable resource but it presents data that are different than what any company reports in sales or deliveries. Over time, these two sets of data draw closer but will not precisely mirror one another. Data presented on Tableau Public are arranged according to a defined method explained on that page (see button labeled “Where the numbers come from”).
A funny thing happened on our way to quarterly reporting of LSA and Sport Pilot kit market shares. Our first quarterly report in many years should have come about April 1st. It did not. That date came as Sun ‘n Fun was getting underway separated by only one day from the German Aero show. So involved were we in those season-starting events that we just blew past the date. Five Months In Combined Report The first chart reflects both LSA and SP kit registrations through May of 2019 and also depicts the equivalent performances for the full years of 2017 and 2018. What the chart suggests is that 2019 is a solid year with the light sector on track to hit 725 aircraft for the year, up about 5% over last year and up more than 10% over 2017. For space reasons the chart only shows ranks 1–18 but all are available on Tableau Public.
Jetting straight from Sun ‘n Fun, we were able to arrive at Aero Friedrichshafen by noon on opening day. A quick swing around the most light-aircraft-filled halls (the “B” halls) brought some fresh surprises. Following are a few designs that caught my eye on an initial pass. The profusion of light aircraft we don’t see in the USA — some of which will never reach the market — is one of the main reasons Aero Friedrichshafen is my favorite show in Europe. This mostly indoor fair (as Europeans call such shows) always has many ideas of interest. Zlin Ultra with Rotax 915iS — Never one to rest Pascale Russo reintroduced his Ultra Shock from last Aero with the more powerful Rotax 915iS. Ultra Shock plays on the term “ultralight,” which means something different in Europe than in the USA (it is a reference to light aircraft quite similar to Light-Sport Aircraft).
First, Simulate — Then, Go AloftChinese citizens play games, including flight simulators, as much as (or perhaps even more than) Americans do. Sitting at their computer or using a mobile smartphone or tablet is commonplace. They know this activity and it may provide a bridge to people going aloft in an actual airplane like CTLS. Imagine if you had never, ever seen a small plane of any kind. Would you rush to fly it? It's hard for Americans to envision this situation as we have small airplanes everywhere and airports in nearly every town in the nation. AeroJones may truly be on to something developing their full-motion simulator. “At the Zhuhai Airshow 2018, our AeroJones 6-axis of motion CTLS simulator was shown for the first time to the public,” said Michael Chou, who handles marketing for the company. He reported that reception to the new simulator was very enthusiastic. “Our flying CTLS also received lots attention in the show,” said Chou. “The market is growing for Chinese general aviation. We visited with many prospective customers from flight clubs and flight schools that expressed interest in the AeroJones CTLS.” “The cabin scale of the full-motion simulator is 1:1 of the flying CTLS,” added Mr. Chou, meaning that the simulator is an exact size copy of the actual LSA. “Our simulator is equipped with two SkyView digital instrument panels designed by Dynon Avionics in the USA. The simulator has dual control sticks and rudders so an instructor can help a student learn the procedures and perform maneuvers. For the general public, it is a great device for entertainment.” “AeroJones Aviation owner Jones Chen was pleased with the response to our aircraft and especially for our unique full-motion simulator,” said Mr. Hsieh Chi-Tai, General Aviation Development Vice President for AeroJones Aviation Technology Co., Ltd. AeroJones is deep into planning for their new aircraft factory in Zhenjiang, China — where, presumably, they will also build the simulator. With the new facility, all manufacturing steps will be easier, less costly, and much more efficient, which will contribute to better values for customers buying the CTLS. Flight schools or other buyers of the modern and sophisticated CTLS will be able to fly to Dalu General Airport to see the factory and take demonstrations flights to confirm their purchase. At the time the new factory was announced, Mr. Jones Chen said, “We are very pleased about the relationship with leaders of Zhenjiang. We look forward to a long and prosperous relationship."
Who Is AeroJones?Please let me clarify for readers who may recall seeing the AeroJones brand at American airshows. For a time, it did appear the Taiwan-based company would sell into the USA. However, that plan changed and today, the primary markets for AeroJones Aviation include China, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Japan, Korea, and Thailand. Because Flight Design general aviation, the original developer of the CT-series, does not currently market a full-motion flight simulator, this particular product may find its way into western nations. Beyond their aircraft factory in Xiamen, China and the new one to come in Zhenjiang — not far from the well-known megacity of Shanghai — AeroJones also operates a flying field, flight school, and maintenance center at an airfield in Taiwan.
At a major show in China called Zhuhai visitors saw something: a new 6-axis LSA flight simulator. The developer is AeroJones Aviation, the CTLS manufacturer for the Asia-Pacific region. The company exhibited their simulator to a warm reception. General aviation is beginning to develop in China lead by airport construction at hundreds of the country’s huge cities. As I’ve written before, I have no doubt the airports will be built, but actual flying at most of them — by Light-Sport Aircraft or other recreational aircraft — seems somewhere off in the future. China has a massive job ahead. Chinese business people have proven very capable of building many things, but developing a culture of the citizenry flying in light aircraft still has quite a distance to go. However, AeroJones new simulator may help the country take a huge stride forward. First, Simulate — Then, Go Aloft Chinese citizens play games, including flight simulators, as much as (or perhaps even more than) Americans do.
CT Super Sport InjectionThe German developer of the CT series is now planning to offer the CT Super Sport Injection in North America. CT Super Sport is the popular model sold in Europe with a cruising speed of 120 knots, VNE of 146 knots, useful load of more than 600 pounds (272 kilograms), and an affordable price. "This variation will now be reintroduced to the Americas," reported Tom Peghiny, President of Flight Design USA. “We have sold versions of the CTLS since its introduction in 2008 and wanted to bring back a lighter model primarily for the U.S. and Canadian markets. After consultation with our Canadian distributor, Flight Design Canada we decided to begin importing the CT Super Sport Injection, which is the model equipped with the advanced Rotax 912iS," said Peghiny. CT Super Sport is a derivative of the famous CTSW but has been upgraded with many features of the CTLSi including the 912iS 100 horsepower fuel-injected engine, a single beam composite “no bounce” main gear, a centrally located 10-inch Dynon SkyView Touch EFIS/EMS/Map Screen, and 2020-compliant Dynon Class One Mode S Transponder with ADS-B out. Lightly equipped as described, Flight Design said CT Super Sport Injection has a useful load of over 600 pounds (272 kilograms) can cruise at 120 knots, has a VNE of 146 knots, a maximum range of 700-800 nautical miles (1,481 kilometers) and is compliant as an SLSA in the U.S. and as an Advanced Ultralight Aircraft in Canada, as well as all other countries following the FAA-LSA regulation. Back On Top — “After a successful 2018, Flight Design is once again at the top of the SLSA ‘All Fleet’ ranking according to the FAA registration data recently published on the Tableau Public website,” the company wrote. “With the new 2018 registration numbers that were released, Flight Design was second total (when including Experimental LSA and Amateur Built kits) and first in Special Light Sport Aircraft (ASTM-compliant, ready to fly).” “We are excited by the news and want to thank our staff and USA dealers,” said Flight Design CEO Lars Joerges. “Flight Design was the market leader since the beginning of Light Sport Aircraft category, which was one of the reasons we acquired the company. We also want to thank Dan Johnson for his persistent support of the light end of aviation both by his website ByDanJohnson.com and his leadership of LAMA, the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association group that represents manufacturers,” added Joerges.
European CTLSi-ELAFlight Design general aviation is pleased to announce that on 15 November 2018, the Czech subsidiary of Flight Design was awarded EASA Part21G approved Production Organization Approval (POA) under approval number CZ.21G.0065 issued by the Civil Aviation Agency of the Czech Republic. What does this mean? “The approval allows the company to deliver certified aircraft for delivery in Europe and the rest of the world,” said Joerges. “This is good news for owners of CTLS-ELA aircraft currently operating under EASA’s Permit-to-Fly and for new customers looking for an advanced EASA certified light aircraft,” explained Flight Design general aviation COO, Daniel Guenther. “We can now offer owners of CTLS-ELA aircraft operating across Europe to bring their planes back to Flight Design for upgrading and conformity confirmation to allow them to have a permanent Restricted Flight Certificate (RTC).” Planning for the upgrade program is in the final stages and customers will be informed about the details in February 2019. Flight Design observed that the company’s CT-series aircraft have been sold around the world since 2008 as Special Light-Sport Aircraft. "CTLSi-ELA brings a well proven platform, the security of an all carbon fiber airframe with an aircraft emergency rescue system and the high technology of all Flight Design aircraft," officials said.
We're Off to Sebring!On Wednesday January 23rd, 2019 kicks off with the 15th running of Sebring. This year is also the 15th anniversary of FAA establishing the Sport Pilot / Light-Sport Aircraft sector in American aviation. This accomplishment was the "regulation heard 'round the world" in that many countries have now adapted the ASTM standards for use in their countries making exports from one country to another vastly easier than in the Part 23 certified aircraft world. Sebring has become a premiere showcase for Light-Sport Aircraft and Sport Pilot Eligible (or SPE) kit-built aircraft. We'll do our best to report daily from the event for those that cannot attend. In addition Videoman Dave and I will be transitioning to Warp Drive as we cover the grounds seeking the best video interviews. Click or tap back daily!
As a new season of flying is upon us (even while northern pilots may still be still shoveling snow), one company continues their vigorous comeback. Flight Design announced completion of a new product and is offering a second. Based on the same CT-based airframe, the two are notably different. CT Super Sport Injection The German developer of the CT series is now planning to offer the CT Super Sport Injection in North America. CT Super Sport is the popular model sold in Europe with a cruising speed of 120 knots, VNE of 146 knots, useful load of more than 600 pounds (272 kilograms), and an affordable price. “This variation will now be reintroduced to the Americas,” reported Tom Peghiny, President of Flight Design USA. “We have sold versions of the CTLS since its introduction in 2008 and wanted to bring back a lighter model primarily for the U.S.