At Midwest LSA Expo on Day Three, I interviewed two leading sellers in the LSA or Sport Pilot kit space, one imported model and one U.S. brand. They represent different approaches to the business yet each has been successful, one for 35 years and one for 40 years. These conversations were a great way to end Midwest 2023 on a high note… and on an exceptionally beautiful day. I use the phrase “Mosaic-Ready” when talking about this Jabiru Elite because importer Scott Severen of US Sport Planes believes this company is poised and ready to be a Mosaic LSA or mLSA. Right after I interviewed Scott, I spoke with Michelle Schlitter of Rans, who noted their S-21 Outbound, which qualifies as a SLSA today at 1,320 pounds, can quickly be “Mosaic-Ready” at 1,800 pounds at which it’s already been tested. Other producers are also close to or at Mosaic-readiness.
Elite DescriptionMaking a close-up examination of the Jabiru Elite that US Sport Planes exhibited at Midwest 2023, it was clear this was a cut above. While the familiar J-230D model is professional in equipment and appointments, it is less luxurious than seen in Jabiru Elite. Scott summed up the Elite model this way: "Premium interior, color-coordinated and double-stitched upholsteries with headrests, and map pockets. It uses more luxurious textiles that offer better insulation and has more robust noise reduction." He pointed out top-grade carpet, side panels, headliners, and binders …all prepared by a nationally-known shop. It displays fine workmanship. Not to miss a touch, Jabiru Elite includes sun visors and dual cup holders per seat plus convenient roof-mounted headset hangers that keeps them safely out of the way and not scratching the windshield. On Jabiru Elite's panel, US Sport Planes specified a Garmin Suite composed of two G3X touch screens with Garmin Flight Director, Autopilot, ESP (Electronic Stability Protection, which assists with overbanking, overpitching, over- or under-speeding), traffic and weather on screen, two COM radios, USB A and/or C ports, panel lighting… plus some particular interesting deployment of digital safety capabilities discussed below. Jabiru Elite's deluxe equipment should satisfy even a demanding pilot. Your copilot or passenger will enjoy the deluxe interior comforts and safety features.
Smart SafetyModern digital screens are quite remarkable in the sheer quantity of information they can display in a bright, colorful format which can be set up to show the pilot whatever they wish. Devices like Garmin's G3X are so capable that, like your computer, they take time to learn and you must keep your skills up to use them effectively. Yet as with your computer or smartphone, an effort to learn is usually worth the time you invest. However, the clever people who designed and manufactured these wonderful devices have taken it all a big step further by allowing that information to be fed directly to your airplane so that it can do things for you. Previously, Garmin incorporated information that can be used for a Level button. You already know about these; they've been around and can help a pilot who may have gotten disoriented or found themselves in an unanticipated cloud without an instrument rating. Another example, we've had a 180 button useful to send you back where skies were clearer. Those examples now seem simple in comparison. As you see in the nearby picture, Jabiru Elite comes with a panel-mounted Smart Glide button. Here we encounter a remarkable use of the technology, almost like AI for LSA. In one of those undesirable situations such as engine loss, the pilot can push the Smart Glide button and the software will take over. "It will take you to the best airport, not necessarily the closest, and put you at 200 feet at the approach end of the runway, where the pilot must take over," Scott explained. "When I have operated this button, it is somewhat surprising but it instantly takes over, banking as needed to maximize airplane performance in pursuit of getting you to a safe landing." This technology is not new. I wrote about "Runway Seeker" back in 2012. Originally developed for use in LSA where FAA approval was faster, company developer Mark Ausman needed substantial investment to earn Part 23 certififcation so he marketed to the LSA community. He was probably too early as LSA had not universally adopted glass cockpits then. Today, the product is well refined. Jabiru adds to the development by taking device capabilities and presenting a simple-to-find button on the instrument panel. The Smart Glide feature even sets up the radio to the correct channel to get assistance when you arrive (one reason why the closest airport might not be the best airport for an emergency). When flown normally, an Altitude Advisor calls out AGL below 500 feet down to 2 feet. Jabiru Elite even offers an active CO2 detector.
Mosaic-Ready PricesWhen I show the "Christmas in July" slide of my "What's In It for You" Mosaic presentation, I enjoy noting the many upgrades will become available to Mosaic LSA. Yet I have to ask, "Each one of those capabilities will add to the price. How many do you want?" When you choose upgraded materials and elect top-end avionics and other premium options, of course, the price is going to rise. Yet Jabiru Elite's price is modest for its class — and, as I repeat all the time in 2023, you know how prices of everything you buy have gone up significantly in the last three years. Airplanes are also subject to economic rules. While a J-230D lists for $179,900 in September 2023, US Sport Planes is quoting "in the $220s" for their top-of-the-line Jabiru Elite. If you ordered one in the near-term, "Availability is early in the second quarter of 2024," representing about an eight-month lead time at the time this article was posted. After asking numerous vendors at AirVenture in late July and more at Midwest in early September, I heard lead times commonly stated at more than one year, many well beyond that, and at least one quoting five years out. In this long lead-time environment, any Special LSA that can be delivered in well under a year has an advantage. Jabiru offers choices to suit different pilots but those who lookingg for a top-line choice should consider Jabiru Elite.
- US Sport Planes is the importer for Jabiru aircraft, link with contact info and articles on this website
- Jabiru Australia, link to manufacturer's website with contact info and articles on this website
- Video Review of Jabiru's J-230D, on this website, recorded at Midwest 2019
- Earlier article about "Runway Seeker," a predecessor to "Smart Glide," on this website